Image, Eva P.

Disclaimer: Characters from the television series Highlander belong to Panzer-Davis productions.
Please don't sue: I've just bought myself a new amp, and I'm broke.
Lisa is not mine. Lisa is absolutely and utterly not mine, and if anyone wants her removed I shall do so immediately and with all due reverence. But I love her to bits, and there's been ne'er a word on What Happens Next.

Warnings: Seriously, for consensual BDSM and definite NC17-ness, for the random downing of a major character (no death): for Methos bottoming (and topping) and Duncan torture and angst and manipulative Amanda. Language, but frankly, if you're worried about obscenity, you shouldn't be here. Also an unhealthy obsession with colons, the grammatical sort, linen and safe, (relatively) sane and consensual sex. Or, let me say this again, this is quite plainly porn, there's no two ways round it. <grin>.
Characters: (And take this as a secondary warning) M/OMC: D/A: M/OFC: A/OFC (a different one) and A/OMC (twice, in fact.): D/M, A/OMC (not the same one as before), and just for the hell of it D/M again. I don't think I've missed anyone out.

Plot: Here be the merest dregs of one, blink and you'll miss it.



In Season

Jay Tryfanstone
May 2003


"Let me say this explicitly, at the risk of sounding foolish, that this is a valentine in its original form, a cunt held open by a woman's trusting fingers. It is a visible act of love, written for any reader who is not a traitor to her own cunt."
Pat Califia, Macho Sluts, 1988

' "I don't believe it is wrong, you see. I never believed it was wrong. No. Each of us has within him a dark chamber where the real desires flower; and the horror of it is that they never see the light of another's understanding, these strange blooms. It is as lonely as it is dark, that chamber of the heart." '
Martin Halifax, in Exit to Eden, Anne Rampling, 1985

 


Summer

There was a bee buzzing in the kitchen window. Amanda watched it for a moment, the odd juxtaposition of the bee's fat furry body and the sheer, magnificent volume of whine it produced. Amazing, she thought, that bees fly, condemned as they were by all man made laws of probability. She smiled to herself and, leaning over the kitchen sink, opened the window and let it fly free.

The kettle had boiled while she watched. She reached for the black tin with its fragrant black tea leaves and tipped a little hot water in the pot, warming it the way Rebecca had liked before emptying it adding the leaves before the boiling water. The cups were ready on the tray, and the lemon: she added a little cream from the bottle in the refrigerator that was delivered (Oh, the miracles of the English countryside) every Thursday. Then she picked up the tray and, humming to herself, shouldered through the kitchen door ("Sunshine, sunshine, a happy day") through the long cool length of the hall with its sandstone flags ("off to the cricket match I'm away") into the library with its huge, ceiling height windows all laid open ("somebody else can work for me") and out onto the terrace where Joe sat in state on a white iron-wrought chair ("I'm the happy...absentee.").

"Tea's up," she said.

Joe turned his head and smiled up at her. He looked younger, tanned to a golden shade of brown that echoed the Cotswold stone of the terrace and the house behind her, although she noted once again that all the hairs of his beard were silvered.

"Thanks, Mum," Joe said.

"Mumph," Amanda answered, pouring out a little cream and giving the teapot an exploratory shake. Whatever, she thought, and poured, the scent of the tea rising sharp and green into the honeysuckle hay smell of summer. Lemon in hers, bobbing bright against the white china of the cup. She abandoned dignity then, and took the cup in both hands, sitting with her legs dangling off the terrace and her head leaning against the cool metal of Joe's seat. From where she sat, she could hear the gentle ripple of the river at the bottom of the garden, and the clack of wood on wood from the far lawn where Duncan and Methos were playing croquet.

"I like it here," she said decisively.

"Mm?" said Joe. "I'd like it better if you'd remembered the biscuits." He glared down at her from under the tangled fringe of eyebrows grown longer with age, and she laughed back, unrepentant.

"It's better for you without."

"And since when have you worried about It's better for you?"

"It's always better for me," Amanda said.

Joe laughed then, around a mouthful of tea. "You could be right," he said, when he had finished choking, and Amanda sipped her tea and nodded. There was a little smile curling at the edges of her mouth, one that spoke of long, light nights and four poster beds and old linen that smelt of lavender, and seeing it, Joe wished for one bitter-sweet moment that he was younger and healthier than he was. Then he pushed the thought aside, for he did not believe he would trade his precious mortality with all its aches and pains for the burden of immortality that weighted even Amanda, the lightest hearted of all his charges.

There was a yelp of anguish from behind the box hedge.

"What-" said Amanda, frowning. Then she stopped, her mouth open, as a single brightly coloured ball came flying over the hedge and onto the grass in front of them. It ran busily for a moment or two, and came to a stop near a clump of dandelions that the gardener had not yet spotted and unearthed.

"Oh." She added.

Another ball came flying over the hedge and landed on the lawn.

"Do you think-" Joe said, as a strangulated sound of protest made itself known - "that-" another ball - "we should referee, before the windows come under fire?"

"No," Amanda said. She had straightened, and was watching the gap in the hedge with bright-eyed anticipation. She was not wrong.

"On guard, you lout!" came Duncan's voice, cheerful and absolute. "No, you dastard, you won't escape me this time. Put up your blade, my good man!"

There was the sound of Methos' laughter, and the hedge shook.

"Cheating, begad!" roared Duncan. "I'll have you yet. Fight, sir!"

"But I'm an honest man!" Methos said. His voice sounded closer, strained with laughter.

"Honest my arse!" replied the Highlander, with a degree of force behind the words. "Stand and fight, begorrah!"

"Wrong vernacular," said Amanda, sotto voice and smiling.

"Think of my wife and children." Methos said. "Wives, I mean."

The hedge shook again, dislodging two pigeons and a startled jackdaw.

"Come here, you little-"

Methos came through the gap in the hedge with some speed. He was wearing cricket flannels, with the shirtsleeves rolled up, and the pith hat he'd sported all day had vanished: his hair was tousled and his eyes bright. "Gotta catch me first!" he chanted, coming to an abrupt halt and hefting the croquet mallet in his fingers.

Two more balls ricocheted from behind the hedge. Methos took a long, satisfying swipe at one of them, and watched it sail towards the river with beautific glee.

"Missed!"

Duncan came charging onto the lawn like a bull elephant. His shirt was off and his flannels grass stained, bagging at the knee: he wielded his mallet with the force of a minor Norse god. "Bounder! Dunce!" he said, swinging the unwieldy wooden hammer in his hands. "Face your doom!"

"Not in a month of Sundays." Methos said. He took two steps backward, and swung the business end of his mallet at Duncan's knees in a vicious understroke. Duncan parried, sailing forwards. Methos retreated, dancing, essaying another swing as he went.

"You stood on my ball!" shouted the Highlander. He was smiling.

"Did not." Methos. He'd taken stance by the dandelions, and was hefting the wooden shaft in his hands with intent.

"Yellow-livered-!"

Methos' essay forward was parried with grace, but the reversed overstroke took the Highlander by surprise: he stepped backwards, and tripped on the croquet ball. Amanda would not have put it past Methos to have planned the whole thing. Duncan went sprawling, and Methos pounced with a handful of dandelions, smearing the acrid juice over Duncan's back as they rolled. Duncan was still shouting, the words muffled, but Methos appeared to have the upper hand. That was until fate intervened in the shape of an abandoned watering can: Duncan hit it hard, but it was Methos, on top, that the cold water covered: he let go and rolled away, choking, and when he opened his eyes Duncan was standing over him with the sharp end of a battered mallet at his throat.

"Surrender?"

"Och, aye," Methos said. "Gralloch me with besoms and hang me out to dry: it's time for tea."

"You did cheat."

"Of course I did," Methos said. He stretched under the steady threat of the mallet like a cat, offering up the line of his throat. "How else was I going to get you to stop?"

Duncan looked down at the man in front of him. His eyes narrowed, glinting: he reversed the mallet and held it steady, two feet above Methos' belly. Then he dropped it. Methos yelped and convulsed upwards in a flurry of water and torn grass, but Duncan was fifteen feet away and striding up the lawn to the tea tray.

"Sheep-shagger!"

"Aye? Smell better than goats."

"MacLeod, I never said-"

"You didn't need to," Duncan said, serenely, as the tea pot in front of him exploded with a tang of china. Amanda jumped. Joe had his eyes shut.

"You could have hit me!" Duncan said.

"It was going cold," Methos said. "Now go and get some more, and remember the biscuits this time."

The two men stared at each across the lawn, green eyes meeting brown.

"You get it."

"I'm wet. I need to change."

"And whose fault was that?"

"Who raised the first word in anger?"

"Who cheated?"

Baulked, Methos stalked to the watering can and upended it. He took his shirt off and laid it, deliberately, across the base. Then he picked up Duncan's mallet and walked up the lawn. He was smiling.

Duncan walked, quickly, up the steps of the terrace and vanished into the house. Methos let the hammer fall, slightly regretful, and followed him: Amanda could hear his light step vanishing up the staircase as the Highlander, in the kitchen, began to whistle.

The pigeons had returned to the hedge, and over in the fields past the river, someone was calling a dog to heel.

She leant her head back against Joe's chair, closing her eyes under the heat of the sun.

"Joe?"

"Yes?"

"Do you think-" She stopped. "I had a phone call from Nick yesterday."

"And?" said Joe, noncommittal.

"Don't you think-"

"There are times when I do my damnedest not to," Joe said. He moved, she could feel the weight of his eyes on the back of her head.

"Someone ought to do something," she said.

"Well, it ain't gonna be me."

"But-"

"Amanda, let be. They've had years," Joe was no longer trying to hide what they were talking about.

"But maybe someone ought to, you know, push them-"

"Amanda." Joe's voice. He'd known her a long time: known her well.

Duncan came out, ducking into the sun with a tray of cups and bottles and a plate of the chocolate diabetic biscuits Methos had charmed the village shopkeeper into ordering from the Internet. Behind her, she could hear Methos' voice, singing, off-key "Pretty maids milking in the garden-"

She said nothing else.

Autumn

Damned karabiner. She pushed again at the closed catch, cursing the pull of the rope that anchored her immobile to the windowsill. It was the last hurdle, the final abseil down the gray stone of the warehouse, and the darkness had been a blessing, but she was sixty feet above the ground and a fall from this height would likely kill her. Temporarily.

She was considering cutting the rope (and, drat, it was the new .9 Ronson that had cost her seven dollars a metre) when she heard the footsteps. The windowsill was blessedly wide, but the alley narrow: sound reverberated. She huddled into the corner, trusting to the broken streetlight to keep her hidden.

Two sets of footsteps, one heavier, one stumbling a little. The noise curled around the buildings and came up to her with a strange double echo. Nearer. She tensed a little, fingers still worrying at the little catch. Something brushed her skin like a butterfly's kiss, almost - not quite- presence. Oh damn, damn, damn, she didn't want to be caught like this, trapped like a fly with its feet in honey. The chronometer in her backpack hadn't been worth loosing her head for, even if it would look perfect on Duncan's mantelpiece.

The footsteps stopped, sixty feet down and, oh, thirty feet away. She heard nothing. Clothes rustled.

"Here." A man's voice, rough, accented.

She heard then the muffled sound of wrapped metal hitting concrete. Maybe you had to be an immortal to know that sound so intimately, but the song of it sent the hairs on her body erect and fear frissioning amongst them She had to look. She moved a little, holding the ironmongery at her waist still with one hand, gripping the jammed rope with the other. Two inches, one, and she eased her head round the stonework. She could see two men, indistinct in the shadows beyond the broken light. One of them, larger, was leaning against the wall on the other side of the alley. He was the dangerous one, the one that could see her: she froze again, glad she'd blackened her face despite the mess it made on the towels, after.

The other was standing in centre of the alley, facing away from her. He had taken off his coat, and it lay puddled at his feet, a mass of black cloth with rubbish already drifting against it. His shoulders were broad, but he was whipcord thin, shirt plastered to his body by the light, cold breeze from the river. He turned his head a little, dropping it, and the gesture was so familiar that she nearly gasped. She'd been wrong about which one of them was dangerous.

Methos. This was Methos.

She let the breath out quietly, transfixed. Ten years, it had been, since that golden season in the Cotswolds, when it seemed they had laughed all summer.

"And the rest," said the other man. He had taken something out of his pockets, was playing with it in hands that were gloved against the autumn cold. He was bigger than she first thought, but not, surely, immortal: she didn't know. How far did presence reach? How much nearer would Methos need to be before he realised that she was here? She blessed the jammed karabiner that had saved her from what looked to be an awkward encounter, but she could not stop watching.

The shirt came off. Methos' skin was white, stretched over his bones: the muscles on his back were sharply defined, his spine a precise curve of shadow. He bent his head further, and she saw his hands reach to the snap on his jeans. The waistband loosened.

"Enough. Come here."

And Methos went, slowly, the infinitesimal sway of his buttocks a silent invitation that Amanda felt shiver across her own skin. He knelt at the other man's feet, and sat still, his hands spread open on his thighs, looking up. His partner leaned forward: his hands were busy at his groin, the gloves tucked into a pocket. Then he had freed his cock and she could see the shape of it white against the darkness of his clothes. The muscles of Methos' back tightened, but he did not move, as the other man played lazily with the lengthening shaft inches from his face.

"Want it?" he said. "Seven inches uncut Pittsburgh steel, slut, all for you, if you're good." The words were rougher now. "Beg me," he said, looking down, and Methos bent, silent, the black of his hair falling over the other man's boots. He'd moved his hands: they were clasped behind his back, the fingers held still.

The bigger man groaned, looking down. "Put some effort into it, boy."

Methos, what are you doing? Amanda thought, repulsed and excited at the same time. There was no affection in this, not even simple lust. Methos' head jerked, busy, he was moving, surely he was not doing what she thought he was doing. She looked away, and watched in fascination as the immortal's partner rolled a condom with practiced efficiency, finger and thumb pinching air out of the loose tip.

Then the man leaned forward to pull Methos up onto his knees, and she caught her breath. Leaning forward, the light glanced off high cheekbones, dark skin. The curve of his head, what she had thought cropped hair, reflected the light in gleaming bands: he had long hair caught back into a ponytail.

On a dark night, in an unlit alleyway, and without the warm fire of the Highlander's quickening, he could be Duncan MacLeod.

She'd stopped breathing again. Oh, Methos. Was this what it came to?

She saw Methos' back arch as he leaned upwards. The other man laughed a little, harsh: his hands were tight on Methos' hair, holding him still for the first push of cock to throat. She could see the power of that possession in the short, violent thrusts the other man made. The immortal's hands were still clasped behind his back, and Amanda shuddered when she thought of the control that took. If that were her, her own hands would be controlling thrust, angle, making a dance of it, loving the taste, the art. There was no art to this. It was short and brutal. She could hear the snapped, growling commentary: "Ah, take it, it's what you want, go on, suck it good, keep at it, ah, that's good, you know how to do this, don't you, cock sucker. Whore." The bigger man loosened a hand, drew it back: the sound of the slap echoed across the alley. The force of it rocked Methos against the imprisoning hand: his own fingers tightening. It happened again, and again, but the immortal did not stop. Amanda winced in sympathy: the old man made no sound, but even with Immortal healing, that must have hurt.

Suddenly, abruptly, it was finished. The bigger man convulsed, his spine arching, and as he did he threw Methos away from his body, sending the slighter man to lie in a sprawl of ungainly limbs on the concrete. He came silently, Methos' eyes fixed on the other man's hands and his spasming cock: he did not move. Amanda, watching, could only see the terrible stillness of the old man's body, held in place by a will that carried him through five thousand years of living.

Done at last, the other man straightened. He walked forwards, shaking the last drops of cum with the condom, dropped, from his softening penis, to stand between Methos' spread legs. "Want more?" he said.

Methos made no move, but Amanda heard the tall man laugh a little, breathless, humourless. He put his booted foot on Methos' crotch, grinding, and for the first time she heard the old man make a sound. He gasped, once, hoarse and bitten short, and the boot was removed.

"Stand up then. Against the wall. I want into that pretty little arse you've been flaunting in my face for the last hour: you wanted it, boy, you're going to get it good. Stand up!"

Methos collected his legs together and stood. He was a little unsteady, and it looked as if he might be shaking. It took him four steps to get to the wall, spread himself against it, arms wide. His head was turned against the stone, away from her, but she could see the dark grazes on his elbows and back. There was a frailty about his body, stretched and waiting, that caught at Amanda's throat. She had never really considered the old man to be vulnerable before, but like this...She swallowed, her throat dry. He had chosen this. She had no doubts that what was happening played itself out with Methos' consent.

In front of her the pony-tailed man (she could see the dark length of it now, falling down his back, longer than Duncan's had ever been) was fondling his own cock again. A tear of plastic, and she knew the second condom was being rolled on. Methos knew too, she could tell by the tensing of his back. Two steps, the man's coat swinging, and under its hem she saw Methos' jeans fall to lie, hobbling, around his feet. There was very little of Methos she could see now. The hair of his head, pressed against the stone: his feet, and one hand, tightening and loosing on the stonework with the strained, forceful thrusts the other man made into his body.

It seemed to go a long time. She could hear the other man's breath hissing through his teeth, the shortening groan and rhythm of sex, but Methos was silent. Even at the end, when his hands came away from the wall and clenched, blind and empty, on the air and his head was thrown back so she could see the white skin of his throat over the other man's bent head, he was silent. Fascinated, she watched the taller man slide away from his partner's body, toss away the used condom and zip himself up. Methos had not moved, his body white and still. For a moment it looked as if the immortal's partner would reach forward and touch him, but he stopped. Turned and walked away, the sound of his boots loud on the concrete.

Methos stayed still.

She could hear something patter, and tensed again: her first thought was rats, but it was the sound of rain on concrete, light, fat drops of water that cooled her flushed skin and dampened the stonework.

Beneath her, Methos stirred at last. He bent slowly, like an old man, and dragged up his jeans one handed. No underwear, she noted. He pushed himself off from the wall and walked to the little pile of abandoned clothes. Bent again: it was clearly painful, and picked up his shirt. He turned it in his hands as if he was uncertain what it was, frowning, and for the first time Amanda considered calling out. No. No and no and no...Methos struggled into the shirt and left it unbuttoned, cuffs hanging loose. The coat went on top of the shirt, and as it enveloped him he straightened. Either healing had kicked in or he had remembered who he was. He stretched, head bent backwards under the cleansing rain: he stretched like a cat, every muscle involved, easing out shoulders and arms and finally hands, each finger in turn: and he held still for a moment, looking up at the sky. Then, cat-like still, he shook himself, spun on his heel and walked away. His steps were absolute and certain, placed just so. He was Methos, the world's oldest immortal, the cat who walked by himself. He had no need of anyone or anything.

"Whoa," said Amanda to herself. "Whoops. Jiminey cricket. Gadzooks."

It's one thing to know that your friends and acquaintances fuck strange people in alleyways and parks, another to see them do it. Amanda felt both aroused and disgusted at her arousal. Getting off on Methos getting off on some bit of rough trade...She shook herself, and tugged again at the jammed catch on the karabiner.

It came loose.

Forty-five minutes and five miles away, she promised herself that she would...when...of course, she'd never really had an opportunity to break this particular promise...

Forty-eight minutes and five miles away, she blew her nose fiercely on her handkerchief, blinked her eyes, and reminded herself that she was going to visit Joe, tomorrow. Absolutely.

 

She hated the smell of hospitals. Intellectually, she knew that the fear was irrational. There was little likelihood that she would ever end up immured in Seacover Central: it was as likely as Duncan changing his name, and the odds on that were immutable. She was smiling as she walked through the corridor, one hand on the leather bag that held the brand new shiny chronometer. It was going to be the Highlander's, of course, but she thought Joe might like to see it first, even if he would frown a little at her, tiredly, the way he always did when she had sat cream-fed and illicitly fulfilled in the bar. He never asked, which was good, because both he and she knew he would not like the answers.

She always ran up the stairs. It was a private ritual. She always parked her car in the same line, went in through the same door, ran up the steps. It was a promise to herself that if she did the same things each time, the man who waited for her would also be unchanged. Don't get older, Joe, she thought to herself: don't fade, Duncan needs you, I need you...

She was not surprised to feel Immortal presence at the door to the ward. She set hand to metal, smiling still: Duncan. The man had been dropping by every day since Joe had been taken, protesting, from the unmade bed of his untidy flat and deposited here, where people could take his blood and make him pee in bottle and fluff his pillows every hour and talk to him in tongues ("How are we today?"). She would hate it. So did he. By the second day he had been sitting up in bed, irascible, and asking for his legs, but he'd been neglecting his late-onset diabetes far too long for escape. Four more weeks, the overworked doctor with the tired eyes had said, four weeks, and he'd have stabilised. He'd had to promise away his soul to the hospital to get that reprieve.

She put it aside, she always did. She was Amanda, and her new Jimmy Choos made lovely sounds tap-tapping down the plastic floor, and her new Versace silk shirt rustled with an expensive whisper, and the scent on her skin was Chanel, and she carried riches in her bag...She got to the door of the room, and it all vanished.

The man by Joe's bed, head propped on bony wrists, black coat spread out like a crow's wings, was not Duncan.

Seven hundred years ago, she would have blushed.

Seven hundred years ago, she had been an infant, and he a visitor in the night.

"Hello, Methos," she said, and he looked up. He was not surprised. One eyebrow raised in greeting, but he said nothing, and she followed his eyes to the bed. Joe was asleep, his head fallen sideways on the pillow, his beard pointed upwards with jaunty tolerance despite the little trail of drool that ran from his opened mouth.

She sat down on the other side of the bed and reached for the wet-wipes in her bag.

"When did you get here?" It was spoken quiet: a whisper would have louder.

"Flew in this morning," Methos said. His eyes looked tired, and he was thin: she'd noticed it last night, but the lines of his face were consciously relaxed and at peace. Liar.

"Seen Duncan?"

"No. He here?"

Amanda shrugged. Of course he was here.

Under her hands Joe stirred a little, turning away from the damp tissue. She mopped impersonally, quickly, she hated any sign of weakness and so did he.

"Where are you staying?"

Methos' turn to shrug in reply.

"How long? Should I call Duncan?"

Methos shook his head, gently.

What happened? What happened what happened? Tell me...

"Where have you been?"

Another shrug. This was getting annoying: three minutes in the old man's company and she was already thinking of slugging him with the handbag, tying him to the bed and calling Duncan...

Now that was a thought. She looked at Methos across the bed, the shape of his hands and the rounding of muscle across his shoulders the crumpled greatcoat could not hide, the smoothness of his skin. She remembered the way he had looked, kneeling with his shirt off, last night. Not that she was tempted, the old man was stronger wine than she could drink, but Duncan...

Duncan had grieved, silently, for his missing friend. Sometimes, when he woke in the night and drew her close, she thought it was not her body that his hands skimmed, blind. There had been no one else but her, she knew, since Methos left, and Joe had said that the Highlander had been strangely uninterested in the opposite sex or indeed any sex at all. When she visited, sometimes, he would hold her long after the games should have begun, turning his head into her shoulder as if she was comforter rather than lover. She knew things had changed. Amanda remembered, then, the look on Duncan's face when Methos had spread himself under the croquet mallet, ten years before, in summer, in England.

Oh, Methos was stubborn and Duncan was blind: she would see the pair of them dispatched to some hell for the emotionally illiterate before she was done.

"How long's he been asleep?"

"The nurse came by half an hour ago. Twenty minutes?"

"He'll be out a couple of hours, then," Amanda said. "There's a bar down the hall: it's meant to be for the staff, but they let me in. Want a beer?"

Methos smiled, then. She could see the mask slip a little. He was tired, bone weary tired, as if he'd been stretching himself for months.

"Of course."

It was a small room, with one exit, and a little bar where Methos settled for Millers rather than Coors but Amanda had a glass of rather good Chardonnay she'd persuaded the barkeep into ordering. Half way down the glass and twenty minutes into a discussion of the marital customs of Samoa (Yeah, right, but the old man could be wickedly amusing if he tried) she went to freshen up.

She had to call Duncan hanging out of the window, the connection crackling and fading. She had thought of the equipment ("PLEASE keep your cellphone switched off") but reasoned that (a) this was an emergency and (b) technically speaking, she was outside the building, hanging on by one hand and hoping she wouldn't drop the phone from a hand that had become increasingly sweaty.

It was a short call.

"Duncan?"

"Yes?"

"It's me. Methos is here."

"What? Where?" Duncan's voice loud and rising. She held the phone a little way from her ear.

"At the hospital."

"Keep him there."

"I'm-" Hm. Trying, she said to herself, and curled herself back into the barren little washroom, clicking the phone off and splashing some more No.7 on her wrists for verisimilitude. She walked slowly back to the bar, an act of faith, but Methos was still there, frowning and picking at the label of the bottle. Sitting down, she took hold of her own glass and fortified herself with a deep draught. Ahh.

"So did you try it yourself?" she asked, and Methos looked up and grinned.

"What do you think?" he replied.

"Oh, don't ask me, I'm just the fluff girl." she said, and smiled again. Oh Methos, I've got plans for you...She just hoped it didn't show, but it can't have, because fifteen minutes later they were into the mating habits of the lesser spotted woodpecker. It was then that Methos' head went up, seconds before she felt Immortal presence herself: he reached for his coat and she reached for his hand and Duncan found them like that, Methos leaning over the table, his mouth opening, his eyes narrowed and glinting green and Amanda smiling sweetly with her hand gripped on top of his so hard her knuckles were white down to the bone.

He stopped in the doorway. He knew this bar. The only way out was through him.

Amanda let Methos go as though his skin scorched her.

He'd gone white and pinched at the nostrils. There were shadows under his eyes, and he was thin, too thin: he was clearly furious.

"You bitch," he said to Amanda. "You little bitch."

"Takes one to know one," Amanda said with chutzpah, but she was shaking.

Methos stopped on an indrawn breath. He looked at the Highlander, his eyes a blaze of furious green, and then back at Amanda, who scooted back in her chair. Her smile had begun to tremble at the edges.

"Do you think you know what you're doing, or are you simply playing god?" he said pleasantly. "Because, believe me, I've known horses who do a better job."

"Docks. One fifteen. Last night," Amanda said. She'd moved far enough back that he couldn't touch her, and Duncan was two steps away.

Methos' head went back. His hand jerked convulsively, towards his coat, and was stilled: he looked at the silent Highlander and back at her, and Amanda knew that if Duncan hadn't been standing in the doorway she would have been dead then, hospital and barkeep and startled charge nurse in the corner notwithstanding.

"What do you want?" he hissed at her.

"Four weeks," said Amanda. It was the first thing she could think of. "Here. With Joe. With Duncan."

"Hell, make it eight," Duncan said, from the doorway.

"You little foo," Methos said. "Do you realise-" He broke off, looked again at the Highlander. "I can't stay."

"Can't or won't?" asked Duncan.

"What do you think?" For the first time, the old man seemed discomposed. He reached for his coat.

"Won't," Amanda said. "And should."

"And is," Duncan said. "Tell me, old man, did you even see Joe?"

"Yes," Methos said. There was a flush of uneven red over his cheekbones, but the rest of his face was white. "Yes, I did. We spoke. Believe me, I don't think he wants to see me again, so if that was your reason.." He looked back at Amanda.

"We missed you too," Amanda said. She did her best to look pathetic and imploring, through the fear.

"Bollocks," Methos said.

"Six weeks," Amanda said. "It's not much to ask."

"Oh, fuck you," Methos said. He turned to the Highlander. "MacLeod, I fucked someone last night, or, more correctly, someone did me last night: I don't know what his name was and I don't care. Can I go now?"

"Was it good?" Duncan asked conversationally.

There was a short pause. Four people looked at Methos. Amanda had frozen in her chair. The charge nurse had her coffee halfway to her mouth, where it had been since Duncan walked in the door: the barkeep dropped the towel.

Methos looked down at the table, at his three-quarter finished beer with the label shredded and Amanda's Chardonnay, at the little pattern of circular spills and the scar on the plastic rimmed in dirt. His eyes were hidden, but one hand clenched, once, on the overlong sleeve of the sweater that hid his wrists with the betraying, faded tattoo.

Then he looked up. He was not smiling, but the glitter had vanished from his eyes and the colour of his skin looked more like pale Caucasian than moonscape.

"Since you ask," he began, and Duncan flung up a hand in protest and walked forward from the doorway and Methos sat down and it was almost as if ten years had never happened.

Even if he refused to say where he'd been. Or where he was staying. Or if he would stay more than a week. Even if he refused, whitening again, to see Joe, although when Duncan disappeared into the ward leaving Amanda on guard (and a fat lot of good that would be, if he really wanted out of here) he questioned the other Immortal obsessively, exactly, about Joe's meds and his health and his prospects and what they were going to do when Joe could no longer live alone. It was then that Amanda told him about the way Duncan had converted the dojo into living space, two years ago, and how they'd set ramps into the building and aids in the bathroom and how Joe had grumbled but stayed, sometimes for days, and somehow that segued into the new sofa and the stove and the comforts of cashmere blankets, and when Methos walked out of the hospital between the two other Immortals he found himself sitting in the front seat of Duncan's SUV with no clear idea of how he got there but knowing exactly where he was going. He hadn't meant to do this. He was so tied, and hurting, and Duncan's presence licked at his skin cold as fire, and last night had not been enough to chase the beast from his skin. He was hurting both of them, he knew, but it was so easy, like going home.

But it was not like going home at all.

The building, outside, was the same, but the inside was so changed it felt almost like somewhere he'd never visited. The door led into a living space as big as the floor of the dojo had been: he recognised the floor under the layers of rugs. The fireplace with its French pot-bellied stove was new, and the open kitchen with its surfaces at wheelchair height. The refrigerator was the same, though, and the way Duncan hung his coat up before he opened it.

The beer was the same too.

He found that astonishing.

Amanda had already curled up on the big sofa in front of the stove, looking at the logs with a wistful expression. He might as well make himself useful, he thought, and walked forward as the Highlander popped the cap off the first bottle and set it into his hand, passing.

It was much, much later, as he lay under the light, exquisite warmth of a cashmere blanket, that he remembered he really hadn't meant to do this. Then he remembered why, and the tears came, slow and hot and hurtful. He was sniveling like a child, snotty and angry and frustrated with a world full of things he could not change. Amanda was a minx and Duncan a fool, and Joe was a stupid old man who would get older and weaker and die. And die.

And Methos turned over on the couch and reached down to his jeans, and closed his hand around the little packet of shards he'd spent years collecting. The tears were falling on his wrist, hot as beeswax, and the cuts the crystal made in his skin did not bleed the pain away.

 

Winter

She gave them the envelopes before Christmas.

She'd told Joe she was breaking the promise she'd made ten years before, in the drugging heat of a summer that went on for months. She told him when he was asleep, but she told him. She told herself that she was doing something that needed to be done, something the Highlander should have done and Methos would never do, something that would tie the old man to his soul and the Highlander to his heart.

Then she called Lisa, and three days later the envelopes arrived in the post, two of them, made of heavy parchment and sealed with crimson wax. The House was open.

For two days she kept the envelopes on her dressing table and looked at them when she brushed her hair, when she checked her lipstick, when she came back late at night and stared into her own eyes in the mirror. Then she took Duncan out to dinner. They went to a restaurant she knew well, and sat at a table where they had sat many times before, and they talked over the wine as if nothing had changed. The envelope sat in her purse. She could pretend it wasn't there, pretend she'd never made the call. But she could see the loneliness in Duncan's eyes.

After the Maitre d' had brought the petite fours with the little cups of coffee, she took the envelope out of her purse and slid it across the heavy white linen of the cleared tablecloth.

"It's your Christmas present," she said.

"Oh," Duncan answered her. He looked down. "What is it?"

"Open it," Amanda said. A little thrill of guilty pleasure shot through her. Why had she worried? This was fun.

Duncan looked down. When his fingers reached for the seal, she knew with absolute certainty that she'd won. The rest of it was just negotiation.

She watched his face, reading, the frown line that grew between his eyes and the way his mouth tightened, but he said nothing until he reached the end of the note. She wiggled in her chair. Then he started again from the top. She drummed her fingers on the tablecloth, but he didn't move a muscle. When he started reading for the third time, she'd had enough.

"Duncan-"

The Highlander dropped the letter on the table. He looked up.

(Ooops.)

"Let me see if I've got this straight," he said. "Amanda. You. Bought. Me. A. Whore. For Christmas!"
His voice had risen. Silence began to bell out around them, the silence that happens when everyone else in the restaurant is listening to your conversation.

"Yes," she said. She dimpled at him, consciously delicious.

Duncan opened and closed his mouth. He looked as if someone had hit him over the head with a mahogany two by four.

"A very expensive whore," Amanda said. "In fact, to be honest, not really a whore at all. An artist. Honestly, Duncan, this is something I really think you'd like. It's not as if you haven't done it before, and I was trying to think of something really special for you this year, and then I heard that Lisa had set up a house in Seacover, and it was just perfect.." She ran out of things to say.

"For Christmas?"

"Well, yes. But you can go anytime, look, and Lisa says she's free anytime to discuss what we want.."

"What we want?"

"Wel," Amanda said reasonably. "You don't think I'm going to be left out, do you?"

Someone dropped a fork. It landed, behind her, in an expensive clatter of silver on porcelain.

The Highlander laughed. He sat back in his chair, and really laughed, the way she hadn't seen him do for years.

Then she said: "So you'll go?" and then she said quickly "Take me to bed."

So he took her to bed, and they had glorious rip-roaring sex, the kind that leaves your toes curling and warmth branded across your skin and spreads a grin the size of Loki's across your face in the morning. Afterwards, though, she knew that once again Duncan had tempered his strength to match hers, and it was not her face that he saw when he climaxed and lay silent afterwards, his hand stroking her hair over and over again. She made him promise then, warm with sex and whisky. Oh, she was sure she was right.

She picked her spot to speak to Methos just as carefully. He'd stayed. He'd stayed, edgy, not really with them, dropping in and out of their lives with unpredictable sarcasm. He visited Joe occasionally, she knew, but he picked times when he knew the aging watcher would be half way between sleep and uneasy, painkiller laced days. There was something between them, she knew, but Methos wasn't saying and neither was Joe. Afterwards, though, he would go to the little cafe round the corner of the block and sit staring out the window, drinking mug after mug of coffee and staring out at the people passing by. All she needed to do was be there when he was.

It took a week, but then she'd never thought he'd be easy.

Indeed, he read the letter through in silence, one hand on the coffee. Then he tossed it down on the tabletop, and said, "No." It was his wardrobe-terror-in-the-night voice, the one that could command armies but still leave space for one tolerated, pretty little thief.

"Adam-"

"What on earth were you thinking?" Methos said. He seemed genuinely puzzled.

"Is that an absolute no?" Amanda said. "Don't you think you should loosen up, have some fun?"

Methos looked at her.

"Ok. But you know who this is, right?"

"Yes," Methos said, after some hesitation.

"Do you know how much I had to promise to get this?"

The corners of Methos' mouth quirked. "No," he said. "But I can make a pretty good guess...Why, Amanda? Just because.."

"Ah."

Methos tapped his fingers on the mug. "Do you honestly think I'm not capable of getting exactly what I want? Look, Amanda, I'm touched and grateful, if a little surprised, but I'd much prefer to make my own arrangements. Sayanora."

He stood up to leave, abandoning the half-finished coffee, and she produced her secret weapon.

"They keep an album of people at the house," she said. The corners of the photograph were rubbed, where she'd been twisting it nervously in her fingers. "Look."

She dropped the photograph on top of the letter. Methos looked down. He froze, unmoving except for the way the colour fled his face, whitening around the corners of his eyes and his nostrils and the compressed line of his lips. He bleed out as if someone had cut a hole in his heart and his life's blood was draining to the floor. For a moment she thought he would hit her, but he picked up the letter and the photograph with a hand that trembled, distinctly, and was gone.

"That went well." she said to herself, and took a deep breath. Oh, he would come: he could not resist.

 

Indeed, Lisa called two days later to say that Adam had been on the phone. She grinned to herself then, and went out to buy some things she thought she might need.

Duncan surprised himself, walking up to the door. A neat, freshly painted door, a large house sitting neatly in manicured grounds behind a wall and an entrance gate where he'd proved who he was three times over and even then the porter had called through to confirm the appointment. He hadn't enjoyed the confirmations, and he felt the sweat begin to prickle at the edges of his collar: what was the man thinking? What lay behind that flat, unthinking gaze? How many men and women walked up this neat driveway, with its manicured, leafless Rose of Sharon and the sprays of frost bitten late flowering roses above the door? He pulled at his cuffs, and rang the doorbell. The door opened, and standing beside it was a small woman with a bright smile. It was too late to run. He stepped inside.

The house smelled of lavender and leather and polished wood. The stair stretched up in front of him, with the newel posts gleaming in the pale winter light, and on the first landing a tall stained glass window lit the faded Persian runners. Saint Sebastian. He followed the woman through a door to the right, and stopped on the doorstep. The room was filled with books. Books and two big sofas and a desk with an astrolabe, and a fire burning in the grate against the cold. Methos would love this, he thought, and then checked that thought, for who was he, now, with years of friendship lost (where did he fail? What could he have done?) to say what Methos would or would not like?

"Mr MacLeods" the woman said. She did not touch him. "Take a seat."

He sat, cautious, on the edge of the sofa, and looked at her. She wore a white cotton blouse, and a black skirt of some kind of soft leather. The boots that came up to the sweet curve of her knees added inches to her height, but she was not tall. Her hair was long, lustrous, and her eyes were extraordinary, large and brown and gleaming. On the third finger of her left hand she wore a wide platinum band inset with diamonds.

"You can call me Lisa, in this room," she said, and he knew then that this was indeed something out of his experience. Her voice was rich with secrets and pleasures.

"Thank you," he said, and realised without her acknowledgment that he'd said the right words. "Duncan. Mac."

"Duncan." She rolled the words on her tongue, looking at him intently. He became aware, all at once, of the weight of the sword at his back, the itch on his calf where a loose thread pulled against the hair on his legs, and the fact that he'd showered before he set out. All this, he thought, she might know. Then she looked away, and the spell was broken. She sat down in the Chippendale chair by the desk, and reached for a large leather bound book that lay on the polished surface. Opening it, she screwed the cap off a fountain pen, and wrote his name at the top of a blank page. Her writing was black and angular, forceful. He could smell roses.

"Thank you for keeping the appointment," she said, the tip of her tongue touching her full lower lip as she wrote. "I like to have some idea of what we can do for you. We are a specialist service, Mr MacLeod, and we like to do our best."

"I understand," he said.

She looked up and smiled. "There's no need to look quite so worried. I promise you, this is not a test or an obstacle course: we all serve, here, in the pursuit of pleasure. You are welcome. Can I get you anything?'

The words hung in the air, infinite possibilities.

"Coffee would be.."

"Of course," she said, and pressed a buzzer by her desk. "Coffee," she said, and he heard someone's reply, indistinct. "Now, Mr MacLeod," she said. "Relax. Just think of me as your favourite therapist...I don't bite unless asked. Tell me. What is your favourite sexual fantasy? What do you dream about, what do you wish for most?"

Duncan took a deep breath. "The usual, I suppose. I like women: I love the smell of them, the taste..." He ground to a halt, embarrassed.

"Do you like to be the one on top? Do you like to decide when, and how?"

"Yes," Duncan said. "Although sometimes, Amanda.."

"I know Amanda." Lisa smiled then, to herself. "She says that sometimes you prefer to be the one restrained?"

(What? He was going to kill her, slowly.) "I'm a strong man," Duncan said. "That way, I can be sure.."

"That you don't hurt your partner? Chivalrous, Mr MacLeod?"

"Yes," Duncan said. In for a penny.. "And I like..sometimes it's good not to be the one in charge."

"Ah," Lisa said. She wrote something down in the book. "What about costumes, Mr MacLeod?"

Duncan shrugged. "I always liked the eighteenth century." He confessed. "All those petticoats and laces and silks...It made undressing incredibly erotic, if you had all night."

"Leather? Cowgirls?"

Duncan blanched. "I'm not averse to Amanda in leather trousers," he said. "But all those studs and collars just seem a little bit forced. Cowgirls.." he shuddered, and Lisa smiled with him. She wrote busily in the book.

"What do you feel about the naked body?"

"Oh." He was on firmer ground here. "I love it. The taste, the smell...although I can do underwear too. Definitely."

"What about being watched?"

"No!" Duncan said, a little loudly.

"Ah," said Lisa, writing. "Ever slept with more than one person? Liked it?"

"Yes, and yes," Duncan said, after a moment's hesitation. God, this was erotic, formal and obscene at the same time. He wondered if the images in his head, glorious technicolor, matched what Lisa was writing.

"Men or women?"

"Women," Duncan said, and squirmed. "Maybe the usual with men, a couple of hand-jobs.."

"Liked it?"

"It was ok."

Lisa looked up and smiled. "Would you do it again?" she asked, with detached interest.

"I thought Amanda.."

"Amanda will be here," Lisa said. "In fact, she arrives for her own interview in, oh, two hours. It's you I'm interested in now."

"Yes," Duncan said, quietly, and Lisa wrote that down too.

There was a knock on the door, and a woman came in, with cups and a silver coffeepot on a tray. She wore a black dress and a white apron, her eyes downcast. Duncan could not help noticing that she wore a neat, narrow leather collar around her neck, and as she walked he could hear the metallic chime of fine chains catching against each other. He couldn't see them. Imagination fed an instant flare of pure lust. He shifted in his seat, leaning back with conscious control as she placed the cup on a side table beside him, bending gracefully to pour coffee and add thick cream, stirring the cup for him with elegant fingers. He could hear the tiny sounds of link slipping against link, and she smelled...ah, she smelled of woman, unadorned. He moved again, looked up, and caught Lisa's bright, interested gaze. He thought of dropping his eyes under hers, but did not, and the woman left the room.

Lisa broke the silence. "Are you familiar with concepts of dominance and submission, Mr MacLeod?" she asked. "Ever played games with power in the bedroom?"

"Amanda.."

"You."

Duncan's head went back. He thought, suddenly, of the white length of Methos' neck under the blade of his own katana. "Yes," he said.

"But not often?"

"No."

"Is it something that excites you?"

"Occasionally." His breath came just a little faster. Imagination showed him Methos' face turning towards his crotch, his mouth opening a little. Methos wet his lips, glanced up... Jesus Christ. He looked up himself, but Lisa's head was bent, writing.

"Sadism? Masochism? Deliberate pain?"

"No!" Duncan said. He caught it back. "Consent...is important. Pleasure. I won't say..."

"Just the occasional little game? Spanking, perhaps, hairbrushes?"

"A riding crop and some reins," Duncan said, surprising himself. "Amanda was very persuasive."

"I'm sure she was," Lisa said, her voice coloured with amusement. "Mr MacLeod.." She was frowning down at the book, now.

"Duncan. You're an attractive man, and I know Amanda is hardly the only sexual partner you've ever had. But you keep running to her and what she wants. What do you want?"

She looked up. A strand of hair had fallen across her forehead, and her eyelashes were amazing, long and thick, just like...

"What I want isn't possible," Duncan said flatly.

Lisa cocked her head on one side. There was something about the way she looked at him, that air of interested detachment, that reminded him so much of Methos, sitting in boneless sprawl on his sofa, across his chessboard, on a chair at Joe's, across the Highlander's own bed one morning many years ago in the old loft apartment, before. Before.

"Situation or person?" she said.

Duncan stood up.

"My apologies," Lisa said. "I didn't mean to push you so hard. It's forgotten."

"Accepted."

"I think that's all I need to know," Lisa said. She blotted the ink, shut the book. "I'll see you out."

"But-" Duncan said.

"Yes?' She was already walking to the door. He followed.

"Don't we need to arrange a date?"

"Amanda will tell you," Lisa said. "Good day, Duncan."

He found himself outside the front door without realising quite how he'd got there.

 

Inside the house Amanda was already laughing with triumph. She made a high five, skipped round the sofa. "I knew it, I knew it!"

Lisa pressed the buzzer. "Bombay Sapphire, the way I like it," she said, and sat down in the chair by the desk. "Amanda."

Amanda grinned at her, came to kneel by the chair.

"Mistress?"

She could not help but smile. "You are impossible."

"I know," Amanda answered, smugly.

 

Methos came into the house, three hours late, on a breath of freezing wind, scattering snowflakes from his coat and the muffler wound in untidy yards around his neck. The tip of his nose was red, and his eyes were watering, bright. "Ye gods, it's freezing," he said, and unwrapped the muffler with hands that were thinner and bonier than she remembered.

"Lisa, my dear."

She moved forward into the familiar oil and leather smell of his embrace. He was definitely thinner, but the affection in his eyes was undiminished. He did not appear to have aged.

"How are you? Are you well?"

He let go of her and stepped back. He never held onto anyone very long, even in the drowsy aftermath of good sex.

"And how about your handsome husband?' His eyes dropped to the platinum band that never left her finger.

"He's fine. We are fine." She could not help it, then: she dropped her hand to the waistband of her skirt, although it was a month before she would start to show. Methos' eyes followed her hand.

"No!" he said, astonishment and pleasure mixed. "Really?"

"Yes."

"Oh, congratulations, my bright one. When are you due?"

"Seven and a half months. Elliot begins to think I will break."

"Of course he does. Humour him, my girl: he loves you."

"I am. I do. Oh, it's good to see you!"

"You also. Lisa-"

"Oh, Amanda's invitation? I didn't know you knew her.."

"She doesn't know I know you."

Lisa took one look at his face and laughed, a bright peal of laughter that rang through the hall and set the white five petaled roses trembling at Saint Sebastian's feet.

"No!"

"Oh yes. Tell me she's not here. I wouldn't put it past her."

"She's not here," Lisa said. "Come through. I have beer for you, Magister. What was it that..."

 

After he had gone, though, she sat by the fire, turning the doctored photograph in her hands. She had no idea if Amanda was right to do what she was doing: she had had no notion, when the imp had called her the first time, that this was her own beloved Magister that Amanda was playing with. Adam was so unreadable. In all the years she'd known him, exacting top, exhilarating sub, she'd never known him play with the same person more than once or twice, never known him loose control or express more than passing affection.

She turned the photograph in her hands again. It was almost the image of Duncan MacLeod. In fact, it was the image of Duncan MacLeod, digitally altered to look just enough like someone else, with the cheekbones stretched just a little and the hair long instead of the collar-length cut he'd sported three days ago.

She'd closed her hand around the back of Adam's neck, earlier, reaching round his back to get the photograph album, and he'd stilled and loosened under that touch, all of him waiting. He had looked up and smiled, and she knew what he wanted this time without even asking. This could be very interesting, but it could all fall apart in her hands, and then where would she be?

She remembered, then, the scent of jasmine in a New Orleans courtyard, and the expression on Adam's face as he stared down at the photograph. And reached for the telephone, to remind herself that she was indeed loved.

 


Towards the end, there was only pain, and that was good. He forgot the rituals and the safewords that Lisa insisted on, he forgot the house and the elaborate bed and the linen sheets with their Versailles lace trim (and whose fantasy had that been? Not his.) He forgot even the face of the unknown man whose photograph Amanda had dropped on the table in the cafe and the days of shame and desire that followed. There was nothing but pain, sweet as fire, a catharsis that left him nowhere to run in the labyrinth of his mind but into his skin, and that was good. Nothing. No thought, no desire, only the pain and the surcease of pain and the changing shape of pain, hand to flogger to the precise cracks of the quirt barely touching his skin and back to the flogger, reaching him, centering him. His skin stung, ached, melted, he was on fire with pain and oh, it was so sweet. He bathed in it, storing away gratitude for later (he would buy her diamonds for this, he hadn't realised how much he needed it).

There had been no preliminaries, for neither he nor she needed them. No negotiations. He'd been naked when he walked in the room and dropped his head to her feet in the exquisite tightness of black leather boots: then he had been hers. The only thing that surprised him was that she had fastened the broad cuffs around his wrists and ankles, chaining him to the bed. They both knew that to give the illusion of force made it easier, and she'd known that he came open eyed to what he wanted. When she put on the blindfold and the collar he'd wondered if she had forgotten, for these too where things he had never required, but when her hand hit, flat palmed and hard, across his skin, he knew he would do whatever she wanted tonight.

 

Amanda was having fun.

With a little bit of help.

There was the boy with the ears like a faun's and the eminently kissable mouth, and the girl with the little golden chains spread across her thighs, and the woman with long blonde hair who did nothing but watch but always seemed to be ready with another towel or a condom just when you wanted one. There was the tray of goodies and the silk scarves and the ostrich feather, the clean toys and the electric light wand that made the most intriguing noises and crackled over skin almost like a quickening, there was the chocolate sauce and the strawberries and, oh, there was the chair.

She was very fond of the chair.

It was a sturdy chair, made out of oak, with blackened restraints set into the wood as if it had been born that way: and just at the moment it held one absolutely furious, absolutely aroused Highlander, his cock pink and clean and swollen as a washerwoman's cheeks.

She'd started with the chocolate sauce.

Actually, that wasn't true. She'd started, on her own, with the restraints and the leather cock-ring that buckled o-so-neatly around Duncan's cock and balls as if it was made to go there. And indeed, she'd bought it for that very purpose, measuring circumference around her hand under the shop assistant's envious gaze. Then she'd opened the door, and Marie had come in with the tray. They'd had to gag him then. But his cock told a different story from his mouth, and she'd gone right ahead with the sauce, and she and Marie had eaten it all up between them. After that she'd started on the strawberries while Dominic had run the light wand over Duncan's skin, very gently, and he'd jerked in his chair as if stung with pleasure. She'd looked up, and Dominic was looking down: she popped a strawberry in his mouth, and he followed her fingers.

Then Marie was stroking her skin with the feather and Duncan's eyes were fixed on her face. Marie's knowing fingers tweaked her nipples, once, twice, and then she had to, oh, she just had to kneel and taste the lovely warm charcoal-honey-salt of the woman's cunt with its tiny golden rings, all its juices running for her and Duncan. Oh, it was lovely, Marie flushing under her touch, spasming around her tongue, coming for both of them. Dominic's eyes, Duncan's face: she'd been so hungry and actually, this wasn't for her at all. But dammit, she'd done the humpety-thumpety right there on Duncan's lap with his cock pressed up against her backside and Dominic's length so good, rooting inside her. At the end, when she came (sparks!) the boy had leaned over her bent neck and kissed Duncan, and, oh yes, his cock had done the lovely twitching thing right there against her skin. He was so, so starved, poor baby, his eyes furious, his cock beet red and definitely...definitely throbbing.

 

He was barely aware of the last stroke of the cane. It was only minutes later that he realised she'd stopped, and the only sounds in the room were her breath and his, gentle and labouring. He was glad of that, in some part of him that was not flame, for he'd tried to get someone else to do this for him ("My dear...should you? Now?") and she'd refused. ("Who else, Magister?"). Now he knew she knew he was capable of noticing, for he heard the sound of the cane being broken and laid on the tray, and her steps in the vertiginous boots coming towards him. The only thing that touched him was the soft silk of her hair, lying gently across the welts on his body, drawing him together, reminding him that there were two parts to this evening. There was the part where he got the shit beaten out of him in cleansing pain, and then there was the part where he got his brain fucked out. He moved then, remembering, and felt her hands busy at his face. Ah, plastic, the thin plastic straw of a water container. He sucked gratefully, not too much, and she pulled away and ran her hair down his back again, oiled him gently in preparation. When the plastic touched his mouth a minute later he opened for it, and realised too late that what she had offered him was the ball of a gag. He hit down with the flat of his hands on the sheets - this was not, definitely not - in the contract! - but her hands had already fastened the strap and left his body. He heard her steps go to the door and pause - one last look - and the door opened and closed. She had gone.

 

When it came to undoing the restraints she was worried, for the way Duncan looked at the moment he would likely fuck anything that moved as soon as he could get his hands on it, but the blonde woman was surprisingly strong and Dominic knew what he was doing, and they had him up and out on the corridor as easy as pie. Oh, there was only one place that cock was going tonight. She was almost dancing.

 

He'd been aware from the start that there was another immortal in the house, but Lisa had told him all about it - "Amanda. I promise, Magister, she will have nothing to do with what happens in this room." She hadn't lied. He'd heard Amanda laughing from the library as he ghosted up the stairs. She sounded happy, and he had hoped then that whoever she was here with would have an equally good time.

Now he was not so certain, for he could feel the encroaching prickle of presence against his skin, and no matter how he tugged at the restraints, they held.

 

They held him against the door, Marie's hand on the handle, while she undid the gag. It was the last thing she could do for him before they threw open the door and thrust him inside, the key turned on his furious, roughened - "Amand-" She turned and ran for the stairs, and Dominic was not far behind her.

 

There was someone at the door. He could hear the thump of a body hitting wood, the muffled, angry groans of someone fighting a gag, as he was. Then the door handle clicked and suddenly there was someone in the room with him - "Amand-" and he knew who it was.

 

Silence. Silence and breathing. Then Duncan said,"Jesus Mary Mother of God."

 

What had they done?

It was Methos. He knew the shape of that back as he knew his own, the curve and wing of its shoulderblades and the deeply indented spine, the fine skin that lay like living silk across the bones of the skeleton that had carried the man for five thousand years. He knew the tufted, dark hair, and the exquisite shape of his feet, and the way the hairs on his thighs clung sparse and strong to his skin. He knew the smell of him, salt and sweat and hops and cardomen.

He could see the unhealed welts across Methos' back, the little trickle of blood from one wrist where the cuff had dug into the flesh. Methos' head was turned away from him. But he could see the black strap of the blindfold and the gag and the collar that showed up so well the cream of his neck. His own mouth was dry: he was so hot.

All he could think of was the way the gag had felt in his own mouth. He took two steps, stumbling with the weight of his unappeased erection, looked down, snapped the ring off and tripped on the rug. He landed right across Methos' body, but that didn't matter, for his hands reached up (my god, what had they done? He would kill them, he would eviscerate her, who could have guessed that Methos' skin was so soft or so hot) to the strap of the gag and he sighed himself as he threw it to the floor.

"Methos," he said. "Methos." He didn't know, hadn't guessed, how the heat of the old man's body would envelope him like this, how his hands could cup the man's shoulders as if they belonged there, how their bodies would fit so neatly, and how his own cock would slide so easily into the curves of Methos' arse.

"Methos," he said again. He would pinion them on racks, tear them with pliers.

The head turned, under his cheek, with all its mess of fine hair exquisite sensation.

"Fuck me," Methos said.

His swollen, powerful cock (oh, god, this was such as mistake) found the oiled entrance to Methos' body, sliding against the crinkled skin that gave, oh, just a little: he couldn't help it, he would apologise later, just one exploratory, tiny thrust, he could explain.

"Fuck me now, MacLeod."

There was no way on this earth he could disobey that voice when it commanded him. He reared up, and his cock slid home in one devastating, absolute thrust. Methos was so hot, so soft, so tight, he could feel the contractions around his needy and desperate flesh. The man under him shook and convulsed - "MacLeod" -and he found he could move, just, sweat dripping from his face, he was so close, and everything he had ever wanted was slipping out of his fingers like sand. He sobbed then, and the old man's body bucked under his, and it was no good. He was abruptly on that slope from which there is no turning back, thrusting like a madman, every movement sending seed out of his body in blinding waves, as if he'd never come before. He could see stars, planets, galaxies: it had never been like this, he was dying.

 

"Oh," Dominic said critically, watching. Lisa had turned away from the smoked glass when it became apparent that they really were going to be all right, Duncan had done the deed, but Amanda was still watching, guilty and enthralled.

"Well of course he's not going to last very long," she said. "Not after all that we put him through. Lisa-"

"Take her away," Lisa said to Dominic, and he did, so effectively that it was several hours later that she woke to a silent house with no sense of presence and wondered just exactly what she had wrought.

 

"Did you want this?" said MacLeod in his ear, disbelieving.

"Yes," Methos said. The Highlander weighed a fucking ton, but it wasn't important, because any minute now the man would dissolve into a wreck of sullen Scottish apoplexy and they would be right back where they started.

"Good," MacLeod answered. "Because I'm going to do it all over again."


Spring

She let herself in through the slatted wooden gate at the side of the house, cradling the awkward paper-wrapped parcel with hands that were just a little sweaty. It was April, and the sky was a clear cerulean blue, the sun hot enough to heat the wood under her fingers. She could smell lavender and sage and someone was singing, off key. "Les chansons mort, les voix aux danse-" The cool shade of the passageway lay gently across her skin, bared under the pink Joey T-shirt she'd picked up in Portobello between flights. She walked through into the garden, a riot of herbs and tulips and a terrace seeded with marigolds. There were croquet hoops set close together on the lawn. On the terrace, eyes closed and a white sun hat pulled down over his face, Joe dozed. The voice changed key, laughed and started again, deeper "La plus belle de la ville, c'est moy, c'est moy-" It was Methos. She ran up the steps and through the tall windows, set wide, into the kitchen.

He'd put on weight. The bare back was sleek and tanned to the pale brown of a fawn's underbelly, and his hair lay longer and untidy over his neck. He wore denim shorts, worn and sagging, with scarves tied through the belt loops, and his feet were bare. When he turned round he was smiling, and the peace in his eyes took her breath away.

"Amanda. You found us."

"It took long enough," she said, remembering, miffed. It had taken two months before she got a single postcard, four to negotiate the visit that brought her here to this small village ten miles outside Aix-en-Provence.

"And you brought gifts."

"You said lunch."

"I've said a number of things, in my time, and not all of them were true," Methos said. "But lunch...ah yes, I think.."

He was juggling a bowl with a mess of glistening chickpeas and lemon as he spoke, and he held a spatula in one hand. There were plates set ready on the scrubbed tabletop, with salad and olives and bread and fresh butter. She placed the parcel down in a clear space, and unwrapped it carefully. Tarte aux abricots. It came from the small bakery just off the Rue Saint Michel she knew Methos liked: it was a peace offering, of sorts.

"Mmm," Methos said, peering down. "Does that come from where I think it does?"

"Yes," Amanda said. Damn, she got nervous when he bent over her shoulder like that.

"Good flight?"

"Stopped in London: stopped in Paris."

"What did you do with the shopping?"

"Left it at the hotel-" she said, and stopped. Oh, drat, now she'd admitted she was staying. But Methos said nothing, only smiled and passed her a wide earthenware plate for the pastry.

"How's Joe?"

"He's good," Methos tilted his head to one side for a moment, as if he was listening for something. She turned her own head, unsurprised when Duncan ducked into the kitchen moments later.

"Amanda," he said. He opened his arms and she walked into them. Oh, he smelt good, warmed bread and sea salt. She didn't hold on too long, but when she let go she realised that the two men were sharing a long, wordless greeting above her head, brown eyes to green.

"And you brought us desert," Duncan said with satisfaction. "Is this ready to go, Adam? Should I wake our patient?"

"All done," Methos said. He gave the bowl in his hands a final stir, and walked out onto the terrace. "Joe? Joe? Wake, rise, beauty herself has come a-visiting.."

"My god," Amanda said reverently. "What did you do?"

"What Doctor Amanda ordered," Duncan said. The crinkles around his eyes were lined with white, as if he'd been smiling so much they hadn't tanned. "Here." He poked doubtfully at one of the bowls. "I don't know what this, but I'm sure he'll eat it. Off you go."

 

Two hours later, replete and happy with half a bottle of white burgundy lending her skin a gentle flush, she had the courage to ask again. "What did happen, after the house? I woke up and you were just gone..I felt so stupid, I was really worried. And then when you didn't call.." She looked at Duncan, but he was looking at Methos. Again. The old man lay back in his chair, his hands resting quietly on the small bottle of Trappist beer in his lap. He was smiling, and trying not to, and failing.

"I ran away," he said. "Or I tried to, at any rate.."

"You thought I was going to let you go?" Duncan said.

"You didn't have to keep me chained to the bed," Methos said.

"I was under the impression that was what it would take," Duncan said, with dignity. "And well? It worked, mon cher, did it not? And if you ever..." His voice tailed off, but the glance the two men shared was a promise cast in molten iron.

"And then we came here," Methos said.

"Oh, what?" Amanda said. "You vanish from Seacover, you practically kidnap Joe from the hospital, you-"

"That was later," Joe said. He was smiling too. Damn, it was an epidemic of happiness all round.

"Yes. And the first I knew of that was when I had the hospital on the phone.."

"Sorry," Duncan said, insincerely, but it was Methos who leant forward, serious.

"Actually, Amanda, we owe you."

"You do?" Her breath hitched in her throat: the time to start worrying was when Methos got serious.

Duncan stood up. He moved round the table, looking at Joe.

"Oh, I get it," The watcher said. "This is the bit where I disappear. See you later, boys." He stood and walked, easily, into the kitchen, the sun glinting off his white hair and the golden chain he wore under his t-shirt.

"What-" Amanda said, but Duncan's hands were already on her shoulders and Methos was undoing the scarves from his belt.

 

She'd gone past being angry. Now she could feel the heat of the sun toasting her down to the bones, the prickle of grass against her bare backside and the healing ripple of quickening on her bruised wrist. She'd given up struggling twenty minutes ago: the only way she was going to get free was if one of them stopped doing whatever it was they were doing and set her loose. The bastards. She was sorry. Oh, she was really sorry, she would be a good girl from now on, just wait and see. She was sure there was something crawling up her inner thigh. Ants? It tickled. A centipede? She struggled once again against the scarves that tied her spread-eagled to the croquet hoops (and damn, damn, damn, wasn't that a trap waiting to close? How could she be so blind?) but it was hopeless. If only she could see, but all the twisting of her head against the flat knot had been useless too. Anyone could see her like this. She just knew they were watching, laughing at her. Poor, stupid, silly Amanda, good Amanda, come on Duncan...

Ah. There it was, the tingle of approaching presence. She wiggled once, appeasingly, and it got nearer. Which one of then was it? She wouldn't put it past Methos to add some enterprising new torture.

She could hear the faint whisper of feet on grass, breathing. The chill of someone's shadow across her skin. Deft fingers undid the gag, let her breathe freely. "Get me out of here," she said. "Duncan. Untie me. I'll be good, I promise-"

Oh shit, it must be Methos, because the gag went back in and she could feel a hand on her skin, now, circling her belly with the lightest of touches. What was he-

Pressing into her belly button with a definite rhythm. Was Duncan here too? She twisted her head, blind, mute, pleading, and the hand slid up to trickle oh-so-lightly around the curve of her breasts. She was wet now, feeling the moisture gather in her cunt, the tissues warm and swell. This was awful, embarrassing, hot. The clever fingers moved on, lifted, outlined her lips, and then spread gently down the exquisitely sensitive line of her neck. She bucked, helpless, shuddering, and felt the heat of someone's mouth on her hipbone, licking into the hollows and curves of her pelvis, her belly, while the hand spread sweet fire across her breasts again. Two hands, and pressure: they cupped her breasts, and she felt the tissue swell into those callused palms, her nipples tighten. She groaned round the gag. The mouth was moving lower. Hot breath on her pubic bone, cool air blown onto her open cunt. Oh, lovely, just-ah! Stubble against her thighs, the tip of someone's tongue tracing circles above the hood of her clitoris, just the way she liked it: Duncan then, for Methos had never- Oh, oh yes, one hand spreading her labia and that lovely, muscular, mobile tongue lapping at her cunt, long, slow, broad strokes, and the thumb still making little circles on her swollen, wet clit. If this was punishment, she could take it, she'd been a very bad girl indeed.

The tongue stopped, and she realised she was pleading around the gag, moving her hips as much as the scarves would allow. Oh, she was so close, don't stop now. Then, oh blessed mother, she felt two sure fingers slid into her cunt, smooth and easy, move inside her: she could feel her body shift around them, shaping itself, and the fingers ran so deep, reaching up to her cervix. She shuddered and cried out, twisting her head, bucking up against that pressure, oh, she was undone, and when the thumb came done firmly on her clit, rubbed once, twice, she was gone, coming blind, pulling at the scarves, wanting to get closer, wanting to touch...

When she stilled she could feel the two fingers buried in her cunt, tighter now, and the thumb motionless and back above the hood of her sensitised clit. The heat of someone's body covered hers, and he was undoing the gag with hands that shook a little.

"You can do that again," Amanda said, panting.

His hands were on the blindfold. It lifted, and she looked up into a dazzle of sunshine. She blinked, blinded once again.

"Oh, I intend to," Nick said.

 

"Doesn't she look lovely like that?" Methos said. He was stretched out, loose as a cat in sunlight, across the broad reach of his lover's back. Duncan stood with his hands resting on the windowsill, looking down into the garden: Methos had his own hands folded across Duncan's neck and shoulders, and his chin tucked on top of his wrists, his head next to Duncan's so that he could watch as well. They fitted so well together, Duncan's arse warm between the curve of Methos' hips, legs strong and taut between his thighs. He loved this man.

"Mm," Duncan said. "Do you think she's been there long enough?"

"No," Methos said. He ran an exploratory tongue around the curve of Duncan's ear, and felt the Highlander shiver under him.

"Methos, it's been half an hour."

"I know," Methos said. Duncan's ear tasted slightly bitter, salty: he dipped the tip of his tongue into the well at its center. "I'm suffering."

"You're insatiable."

"But you love me."

"Och, aye, I do, mo chridhe, I do, I do," Duncan reached behind him with one hand and pressed Methos harder against him, almost too tight, but Methos didn't mind, because they had so nearly never been here in the first place. Then he felt the first warning prickle against his skin. He dropped his hands, and held Duncan hard against the windowsill even as the Highlander felt Immortal presence and reacted.

"Methos! Do you want to-"

The Highlander was struggling against his grip, but it held, it always did when he'd a mind to it. "It's all right, MacLeod. Watch."

Duncan stilled. "What have you done?" he said, groaning, and Methos licked up the back of his neck in a conciliatory caress, and then blew. Duncan shivered, and he could feel his cock harden against the Highlander's backside.

"Watch."

"I am watching."

They could hear the latch of the garden gate, and steps up the passageway. Amanda's head had lifted: she was clearly aware that someone was coming.

"Will I need to kill you for this?" Duncan groaned. Methos' fingers were busy at the buttons of his jeans.

"No. Look."

Foreshortened by the angle, Duncan watched the Immortal come into his garden. It took a second to recognise him, but Methos knew when he had: all the breath went out of the man in a silent huff of relief.

"Methos."

"Hm?" He had his hand on the lovely silk soft length of Duncan's cock. It was hardening in his fingers, filling. Nothing felt as good as Duncan's cock, nothing.

Duncan turned round in his arms. He was smiling, and one of his hands came to rest on Methos' hips, pulling him in. "Nothing," Duncan said, and his other hand twisted in Methos' hair, bringing them closer. "Methos." Their lips touched. It was fire from heaven.

Fin.

 

Image, Eva P.