One word, two voices, a million shades of meaning.
It screamed through him with a force that beggared hurricanes.
A friend betrayed; a brother welcomed. An unrealised faith redeemed and the trust of millennia subverted. Satisfaction, disbelief, exultation, despair and a thousand other feelings tore through him and were gone, but still the tempest never slackened.
Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod was dying... Bit by bit, piece by bloody piece. The rage of Kronos in death was every bit as deadly as it had been in life. The battle of blades had been the deadliest the Highlander had ever fought - it paled beside this. An invasion, a rape, as violent as 4,000 years of terror could make it.
Four hundred years was nothing, his skill was nothing, he was nothing. He was lost, drowning, sinking fast without trace; his sense of self submerged beneath a soul so old and powerful it made history seem young. He screamed, but the sound never escaped the confines of his head. Too much. It was far, far too much. And Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod... was lost.
The weight of four millennia eased, lured away, drawn as was Duncan himself, to the light at the end of the tunnel. A magnetic pole or a gravity well, an irresistible compulsion devouring darkness and light with equal hunger.
Where Kronos' power was a tempest, a tidal wave that threatened to overwhelm the Highlander and bury him alive; this was the ocean. Churned to violence on the surface by the storm that assailed it, but ultimately swallowing its fury with only the barest of ripples in its depths. It swallowed Duncan too.
The calm at the eye of the storm, but perhaps not so calm as all that. Strong currents pulled him first one way then the other, as forceful as the battering of the storm, but with none of its brutality. It was almost... soothing.
Duncan felt himself relax almost gladly into its embrace and then he was being pushed away, forcibly expelled from his haven. The return to his own body was almost shocking in its abruptness. The enormous external forces that had wracked him conspicuous by their sudden absence. He reeled. It was over... Over.
Duncan MacLeod dropped to the ground, exhaustion dragging at his limbs. Deep inside him Kronos still struggled his last, but the power that he had possessed was gone and all that remained of this most hated of enemies was his reluctant fade to black.
Harsh, tearing sobs echoed in the darkness, but Duncan could spare no energy to care for their source or reason. He was enervated by the struggle to absorb Kronos' Quickening and he felt none of the strength yet that his success would bring him.
Heels clicking staccato on concrete and metal. The grating slide of metal against stone as something heavy was lifted from the floor. The sounds washed over Duncan and meant nothing.
"I killed Silas!" A hoarse voice that caught at the edges of Duncan's awareness with the lure of familiarity. "I liked Silas!"
"Now I'm supposed to forgive you?" Incredulous bitterness given voice. Seeing supplication where there was none, wanting to believe she was valued enough to deserve it. She always did have an over-inflated opinion of herself.
The thought seemed almost alien to Duncan in the dim recesses of his mind. His eyes saw the axe rise, but his mind didn't. Yet something pulled at him, forced him from his exhausted daze with the urgent demand that he do something. He didn't know what.
"Cassandra!" A name that meant less to him now than it ever had. He hoped it was enough to satisfy the restless fear that plagued him.
"You want him to live?" The hate-filled tones of an ages old hurt. Hell hath no fury, not when it has millennia of carefully nursed pain to contend with. All because of that thinnest of lines and he'd walked that line a few times himself in the last week.
"Yes," the simplest of answers to the most complex of questions. "I want him to live." An imperative that may have existed long before his life began, but that had taken a firm root in the quiet corner of his soul that had spent the last few years preparing for it.
"Cassandra!" She would not, could not disobey him. "I want him to live!" A plea, a request, a command, a threat, a promise. Everything she had once meant to him, everything he had been, everything he had now become. One small phrase that changed everything.
The clatter and spark of metal striking stone and the rapid retreat of revenge denied. She had taken the easy way out.
Slowly, with the infinite care of the burned, Duncan rose to his feet. His strength was returning like the tide, but still his mind refused to venture from the cocooning numbness of shock. On unsteady feet he made his way down to what he now recognised as the heart of the problem, in more ways than one.
Methos knelt, hunched over as though to cradle his hurt to him. The wracking sobs had quietened, but still the sound encompassed every type of pain the world could know - physical, mental, emotional.
Duncan dropped heavily to his knees before the ancient Immortal, but Methos gave no indication that he had noticed. The terrible exhaustion was fading now and the slow rush of the Quickening crept along the Highlander's veins with the inevitability of the pebble that starts the landslide.
Universes birthed and died before Methos finally raised his head in acknowledgement of Duncan's presence.
Tears streaked the pale face, gleaming in the faint light, washing the high cheekbones with silver. Dark hazel eyes stared sightlessly through the Highlander. The world's eldest Immortal looked like a lost child in the aftermath of the apocalypse. It made Duncan wonder how old Methos had been when he had first died and how much of that innocent still remained within the ultimate survivor?
Without thought Duncan raised his hand to the silvered streams of sorrow, feeling the soft, damp skin so at odds with the hard, angular bone beneath.
"God," he whispered. "You are so fucking beautiful."
Part of him was amazed that he had never noticed it before; another part demanded to know what he thought he was doing; but the largest part, the part that was growing larger by the minute under the pressure of the Quickening he had taken, that just demanded that he do something.
His hands were shaking as he slid them through the close-cropped hair, dark silk to his Quickening-sensitive touch. There was something to this, something more than Quickening-inspired need, something older and far more complex than Duncan felt capable of comprehending. The child he was shied from it, closed terrified eyes and wished it away, seeking refuge in the immediacy of the physical.
When he claimed Methos' lips hungrily, he was met with no resistance and no response. The automatic acceptance was mechanical, without feeling and absolutely intolerable, but Duncan refused to give up. Trying to reclaim his life and his sanity through that touch. He pressed forward and Methos moved with him, only when the old Immortal was flat on his back beneath him did Duncan break the kiss. What was he doing?
Methos was obviously in shock, and having so recently been there himself, Duncan was horrified at the intent that now burned along his nerves. This certainly didn't qualify for any first-aid he knew. And what he wanted to do...
His cock was so hard it hurt; he could feel every tooth of the zipper it pressed against with excruciating clarity. His mind and body were a battlefield of conflicting needs and desires. And he knew, just knew that Methos was the only one who could make it better. Somehow.
Sense memories of being sheathed in the hot, tight body beneath him simultaneously sickened and excited him. In his mind's eye he could see the pale face before him daubed with blue war paint beneath smudges of blood and ash; wild, dark hair blowing in the dusty wind that lived in the desolate places of the world; and a light of fierce exultation in eyes that glittered now green, now gold. He could taste blood and ash and the elusive flavour of his brother's mouth. He could feel the pride and the joy and the power that came with another victory. And he knew it was not his own.
Kronos. The antithesis of everything the Highlander stood for. How could he even consider doing as Kronos would have done? Duncan cast the feelings and the memories from his mind in revulsion and moved to pull away. And cried out in surprise at the strong hands that suddenly gripped his hair. His eyes refocused on the face beneath him that seemed not at all shocky now. Methos' hazel eyes were intent and intense, fierce in a way he had never seen before - had he?
The lean body that pressed up against him made him every bit as aware of its arousal as he was of his own, and Duncan suddenly found himself without words or will to object to what those twin arousals demanded of him.
"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," Methos' voice was deep with arousal and power, compelling in a way Duncan had never before encountered, speaking to him not the arousal that drove him so fiercely. "Do you want this?" It wrapped around his mind the way the Quickening had coiled about his body, shackling him with chains of fear and... something too darkly bright to look at. He couldn't escape and somehow that made it alright.
Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod nodded.
Gold fire glimmered in the depths of the ancient's eyes and Duncan found himself almost hypnotised by the secrets they revealed, wishing he could understand them and strangely glad that he could not.
Methos' hand slid out and Duncan wondered how the ancient could be so calm with Duncan's weight pressing him to the concrete and the unrelenting arousal that must burn through his body as strongly as it did Duncan's. A stray thought informed him that Methos had to have taken more than his share of the Quickenings' power, if only because Duncan himself had not and he was awed by the ancient's apparent mastery of it.
The hand returned, slender fingers dripping something dark and viscous. For a moment, in the poor lighting, Duncan thought it was blood, but the scent was wrong - motor oil, or something similar, spilled during the fight or the Quickenings afterwards. It didn't matter really.
The hand rose and stopped inches from his face, the expression in Methos' ever-changing eyes demanding license. Duncan gave it as if the choice were his to make.
The thick liquid was cool on his overheated face and Methos' touch was surprisingly delicate, so very careful as it branded Duncan's skin and memory with slick chill and soft touches.
Unable to hold that penetrating regard any longer Duncan's eyes slid closed, hiding from the things he feared he would see there, or worse, recognise. In the darkness behind his eyes he could follow the pattern of sensation easily - down his nose, over his left eye, an arch above his brow, out to his temple, then beneath his eye curling down and round. A familiar pattern he found inexplicably soothing - until he belatedly recognised its origin. The intricate detail was as alien to him as the hunger for chaos, destruction and Death that had so characterised the adversary that now shared his soul.
He opened his eyes and drew breath to protest, but before he could object, long fingers threaded into his hair and he was pulled down into a fierce, deep kiss that drove all thought from his brain.
Something dark and hot within him broke free and soared, and Duncan responded to Methos' greedy demands with a hunger that couldn't possibly be satisfied. Devouring as he was devoured, Duncan could taste blood and tears and an almost familiar flavour that some small part of him labelled 'Methos', and it was a far more intoxicating mixture than he could ever have imagined.
When it was breathe or end this pleasure with an unnecessary death, Duncan couldn't find the will to decide. Instead Methos made the decision for him, pulling back so that their harsh panting echoed in the otherwise silent base. It was only then, with the rush of air granting some measure of clarity, that Duncan realised their positions had changed. He knelt now, Methos straddling his thighs and their cocks pressed together through two layers of denim. Duncan's hands were wrapped around the ancient's waist, steadying him and preventing escape; in turn, Methos had draped his arms over Duncan's shoulders, fingers tangling in his hair.
Rocking forward so that their cocks rubbed together rhythmically, Methos began to lay small kisses and bites along Duncan's jaw and down the line of his throat. Hands strayed, stroking down the Highlander's spine and sliding around to tease his nipples through the damp cloth of his shirt. Duncan writhed under the sensual attention, unbearable after such an overload, pinned beneath the other Immortal's weight, unable to do much beyond hold on and pray for release.
Then suddenly the weight was gone, Duncan opened eyes he had been unaware of closing, in time to see Methos strip with a speed that defied belief. Before he could do any more than gape at the pale, muscular body revealed to him, Methos was moving back to straddle his lap and resume his attentions.
Duncan closed his fingers on smooth skin that felt hot enough to burn and he wanted that heat, wanted desperately to feel it pressed against his own without barriers. As if reading his mind, he felt Methos' clever fingers at the waistband of his jeans, slipping the button with ease and letting the straining length of Duncan's cock force the zip open. Duncan's sigh of relief was captured in Methos' mouth as careful fingers freed him from his dampened underwear. He wanted, God, he wanted. And if that wanting seemed somehow stronger than a single soul should be capable of, he didn't question it.
Then Methos was moving again, pulling back fractionally, and Duncan cried a wordless protest as the Ancient Immortal broke the kiss so he could spit into his palm. Warm, wet fingers spread mingled saliva and pre-come over the length of Duncan's cock and he thought he would go insane with the effort it took not to lose himself entirely in that sure touch.
A quick, almost desperate kiss and then Methos was rising up and slowly lowering himself onto Duncan's cock, impaling himself with a deliberation that belonged better on the face of some artist delivering the final finishing touch to his masterpiece.
Duncan groaned as the inadequacy of the preparation made the entrance a discomfort verging almost on pain. Methos remained silent, the only sign of strain in the trembling of his muscles and the harshness of his breath.
It seemed an eternity before Duncan was finally sheathed completely within Methos' body, but the heat. It felt good, so very good. And then Methos moved and it felt better. Duncan's hands tightened their grip on Methos' hips, bruising the pale flesh, but he couldn't let go. Not now, not ever, not if he had any say in the matter at all.
It was inescapable pleasure spiced with pain as Methos fucked himself hard on Duncan's cock. Duncan nibbled and lapped at Methos' exposed throat, tasting sweat and loving the small whimpers it brought forth - the only sounds Methos had surrendered to him. The end caught them both by surprise in a single moment of incandescent ecstasy as their over-stressed bodies jerked convulsively in the wake of the Quickening-enhanced climax. Duncan screamed, he was sure, but he could hear nothing over the rush of blood in his ears. Lost in the surge of his own orgasm, he never saw Methos' own take him, biting his lip until it bled.
The abandoned base was as dim and quiet now as it had been in the aftermath of the fight. The distant drip of water and the soft sounds of cloth were the whole of Duncan's awareness and it took him a long minute to realise what was wrong with that. Pushing himself up from the cold concrete floor on which they had both collapsed, Duncan's first sight was Methos pulling his Henley on, as calm and collected as if the desperate fuck, seared into Duncan's memory with the force of past and present colliding, had been only a Quickening dream.
"Methos?" he called tentatively, his voice echoing loudly in the silence surrounding them.
Methos picked up his sword and turned back to the Highlander, raising an eyebrow in inquiry, his face impassive.
Duncan opened his mouth to speak and realised there were no words, not for what he felt, not for what he wanted, and not for asking what he needed to know. Did Methos care nothing for what had just happened? Did the end of the Horsemen affect him so little? Did the man feel anything at all? He closed his mouth helplessly.
Methos met his eyes and then slowly bowed his head in acknowledgement, lashes fluttering closed over unreadable eyes, as though he knew exactly what Duncan had been thinking. Duncan closed his own eyes as that simple action summoned a vivid memory - a young and vulnerable Watcher researcher sitting on the floor of his Paris apartment awaiting rescue by the noble Highlander. By the time the image had faded and Duncan had opened his eyes, Methos was long gone.
Methos sat patiently on the hillside overlooking the submarine base, by his side sat the rucksack he had carried with him into the Horsemen's lair plus one small vial. Dawn was still some way off and the air was chill, but that didn't bother him really as he listened to his walkman and waited. Minutes passed and eventually the Highlander emerged, Methos watched as he paused outside the base, looking around as though expecting someone to be waiting for him, but a moment later he shook it off and got into his car.
Methos watched Mac's car disappear over the horizon and then waited for another ten minutes before reaching into his pocket. The tiny remote detonator felt ridiculously heavy in his hand and he looked at it curiously, delaying the inevitable. He glanced again towards the road Mac had followed and wondered how long it would take the Highlander to understand what had happened there in that mass of disused concrete and metal, part of him suspected the noble Scot never would. He closed his eyes and listened; he could still feel Silas, a sleepy hum along his bones, and he could feel Kronos...
Methos exhaled noisily and opened his eyes. He'd seen this coming 3,000 years ago; he'd thought if he broke up the Horsemen it would change things, instead he had only delayed the inevitable. If he had stayed... It was far too late now for regrets, but he still had them.
With a casual flick he opened the safety cover on the detonator and pulled his headphones off. "I'm sorry Kronos, Silas. I..." Words were inadequate and meant nothing in the long run, especially to those two. "I'm sorry." And he pressed the small red button.
The explosion was deafening, sound and light a pale imitation of the fury that had occurred only a few hours before. Flames engulfed the building and several parts of the structure slid into collapse in clouds of dust. Methos watched the destruction for an endless moment and then lay back on the damp grass, staring up at the sky empty-eyed. This far from the city the stars were almost as bright as the stars of his youth, the darkness in-between as crisp and clear. The only clouds were far on the horizon and it wouldn't rain for many hours yet, but Methos didn't care, he let the tears fall anyway.