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Methos wondered, idly, when MacLeod was going to kick him out this time.

MacLeod was somewhere in the top ten when it came to gracious hosts Methos had known. He might grouse when Methos took the last beer without permission, and sputter with frankly charming indignation when Methos attempted semi-legal repossessions of his barge, and narrow his eyes in not particularly mock threat when Methos insulted his taste in music, but for all that, Duncan MacLeod still let Methos sleep on his couch for a week whenever the mood took him. In return, all he asked of Methos was community service of the house-painting variety, and occasionally a bit of sage advice.

Admittedly, he'd needed a bit more sage advice than usual of late. Last night had seen the very final conclusion of a nasty bit of business with Ingrid Henning, and neither greasy late-night diner food nor a liberal application of scotch back at the loft had done anything to lift Duncan's mood. Eventually, more than a little concerned, Methos had left MacLeod to his wallowing. When the alternative was giving MacLeod the honest answer he was looking for (the one who judges you is you, Mac, and for that may all your gods have mercy on you) Methos knew when to beat a strategic retreat.

Now, in the light of morning, Methos wandered the loft alone. MacLeod was downstairs, sorting through the dojo's accounts. Methos was glad of it, if it gave Duncan something with which to occupy his mind. Unfortunately it left Methos in the position of having nothing in particular to do. He wasn't enthused at the idea of being alone with his thoughts; he'd done enough soul-searching in Nepal to last him at least until the new millennium.

In lieu of this, he sprawled amid comforters on Duncan's unmade couch, peeling the labels off empty beer bottles and considering his retreat. He'd already been in Seacouver for two eventful weeks, and though the Watchers' European HQ had been very understanding about his need to take a bit of time to himself following the debacle of Joe's tribunal, it was high time for Adam Pierson to get back on the horse.

So to speak.

Pierson, Methos knew, would be thrilled to have been in Seacouver at the same time as the fraudulent Methos. He'd have to write a passionate report debunking the pretender, with some sort of nice eulogy for the conclusion. Poor stupid bastard.

Mildly disgusted with this train of thought, Methos sprang from the couch and began prowling the loft again. He had to think of some way to cheer MacLeod up, amuse himself, and make a graceful retreat, all in a relatively short space of time. His plan of the moment was to go on the local TV trivia show Wheel of History -- the host, a semi-regular at Joe's bar, had been asking him to for almost a year -- but Methos, already careful about having his picture taken at Watcher functions, was very much undecided regarding the wisdom of appearing on any sort of broadcast. Something to think on.

Hands jammed into his pockets, he perused Mac's bookshelves. Atlases. Histories, many of them dog-eared and full of post-it notes. Some martial arts handbooks. The complete works of Shakespeare, Burns, Kipling, Byron. Methos was almost ready to concede that Duncan had passable taste when his gaze fell on a small paperback, its spine a suspiciously delicate purple. Methos tilted his head and read the title. Blade of the MacLeods by Carolyn Marsh.

"No," Methos breathed, delighted, and pulled it from the shelf. The cover was delicious: a half-naked Highland warrior in MacLeod tartan held a dramatically swooning damsel to him, in front of a vague and strangely pink castle. "Oh yes." Laughing already, Methos turned to the first-page teaser all trade paperbacks proudly sported.

The clash of swords echoed through the glade. Roxanne clutched her hands to her breast, praying with all her heart that this striking, chivalrous stranger would protect her honor from all of Terence Coventry's terrible threats. Beside the handsome Highlander, Coventry's faults were all the more hideously apparent. Even his swordplay, which had before seemed so formidable, looked clumsy and unpracticed.

In an unlucky stroke, Coventry's blade caught the stranger on the shoulder. Though he retaliated at once, Roxanne could no longer contain herself. She rushed to the stranger's side, ready to tend his wound, no matter how small or how grievous.

Coventry, the lout, saw his opportunity and seized her, with all the uncouth roughness she knew too well. "Drop your blade," he cried, "or she dies! I swear, I'll kill her where she stands."

"You coward!" the Highland warrior exclaimed, blazing with righteous splendor. "You harm one hair on her head, and you'll have to answer to Duncan MacLeod."

Roxanne hoped that this stranger would somehow save her. But with the brutish Coventry's blade at her throat, all seemed lost ...

It was fortunate the excerpt was so short. By the end of it, Methos could barely see for his tears of laughter. Crumpling back against the bookshelf, the paperback hanging from a limp hand, he wheezed helplessly. It was too perfect. In a moment he would have to calm down, figure out why, in the name of all that was holy, MacLeod even had this book ... Calming enough to wipe his eyes, down to the occasional involuntary chuckle, Methos realized he was going about this all wrong. If he asked MacLeod what was going on, Mac might actually dare to take the book away. Unthinkable.

Methos settled back onto the couch, light with silly joy. He flipped through the book -- the point of a romance novel, after all, was overwrought descriptions and absurd sex scenes -- though he skimmed enough to get a rough sense of the plot. Roxanne Bowerman, a simple country lass of uncommon beauty, was being pursued by Terence Coventry, a brutish pig of a man who would forcibly take Roxanne as soon as wed her. Roxanne's father, understanding her distress but unable to legally defend his daughter because of Coventry's class and social clout, sent out for mercenaries who might be willing to protect her.

"You'd be better off taking your chances with Coventry," Methos informed the book, but Roxanne, blissfully fictional, ignored him entirely and went on to be protected by perhaps the one man in the world who wouldn't take unfair advantage of her: MacLeod, in all his purple-prose glory.

As he strode into the room, she felt her knees weaken. Aha. Methos grinned, and couldn't resist reading the paragraph aloud. "The dark eyes that roved over her were the color of midnight, his muscles as hard as the Highland hills that formed them, a m-mane of flowing hair to -- rival Lancelot's charger --" He barely managed the last word, and broke off into uncontrollable laughter.

The elevator cable whirred. Methos managed to prop himself mostly upright as MacLeod's presence rose up with the elevator, but he couldn't quite quell his laughter. Too bad; he could have spent hours with this book. Deciding he might as well make the best of it, Methos cleared his throat. The elevator grid slid up and MacLeod stepped out into the loft.

"This barbarian!" Methos called out to him. "This smoky-eyed Scot!"

"Oh God, you found Carolyn's book," Duncan said, sounding at least five hundred times less mortified than Methos had hoped.

"So I did," Methos agreed. He tucked the book more securely into the folds of his sweater. "How thoroughly did you go out of your mind when this was published?"

"Pretty thoroughly," Duncan admitted, unbuttoning his overshirt and throwing it on a chair. He leaned over the chair's back and regarded Methos. "Amanda's the one who discovered it, actually. And she read me that passage. That's the one with the muscles."

His resigned tone was very gratifying. Methos smirked. "Muscles like hard Highland hills, yes. I appreciate the alliteration, but I would have saved it for something a little more intimate. Although comparing chest muscles to topography is perhaps less ..." He trailed off. To his delight, MacLeod's cheeks had developed a slight flush, although he still looked otherwise composed and long-suffering. Well, well. How interesting.

"Are you going to give it back?" MacLeod asked.

"Mm, no. I haven't even reached a kissing scene." Methos cocked his head. "I assume Amanda read you a few of those, too."

"Screw it, I'm having a beer," Duncan said.

"An excellent idea." Methos decided he'd better not let go of the book, but he did get up and pad after MacLeod into the kitchen. "Is any of it true?" MacLeod, halfway into the refrigerator, turned and gave Methos a dirty look. Methos kept smirking. "The plot, MacLeod."

"No." MacLeod straightened, a beer in each hand. He grudgingly slid one across the counter to Methos. "Carolyn Marsh is Coventry's mortal lover. He trusted her with his secret, and told her about some of the things he'd done. Including, very briefly, the time when he and I crossed paths; there was a misunderstanding over a lady who had stolen his purse, and who then stole my horse. We had a drink together and I bought a new horse in the next town. End of story." Duncan opened his beer, took a drink, and shook his head, presumably at mortal folly. "I'm not clear on all the details -- ask Amanda sometime -- but Carolyn broke up with Coventry because she was intimidated or something. She was angry, so she made him the villain of the piece."

"And you the hero, complete with fabricated lover." Methos regarded the paperback in his hand with renewed interest, and a little respect. "What happened to them? Carolyn and Coventry, I mean."

"Amanda got them sorted out." MacLeod smiled lopsidedly. "As far as I know, they're still happily together. They used Carolyn's book royalties to add a new wing to the house."

"And they all lived happily ever after," Methos deadpanned, and took a long drink. Lucky bastard, Coventry. Such honesty didn't usually beget happy endings. On the other hand, Methos had been saved the indignity of being immortalized in fiction as a rapacious villain. Not by name, anyway.

"I hope so," Duncan murmured. "Want to put that away? I thought we might go have lunch with Joe."

MacLeod's willingness to get out and behave normally was very heartening. The half-anticipated existential crisis seemed well averted, so Methos felt quite safe in saying, "An excellent idea. Does he know of MacLeod, with his incredible blade and his mane-like hair and his --?"

"No," Duncan growled. "Or if he does he's nice enough not to mention it."

Five days at the most, Methos decided, observing MacLeod's half-in-jest glower. Five days and he'd be unceremoniously kicked out on his bum and happily on his way back to Paris. Methos fetched his coat and sword, smiling serenely, Blade of the MacLeods tucked securely in an inner pocket.

"Lead on, Macduff!" he said cheerfully, for the pure pleasure of watching MacLeod wince at the butchered line, and followed his friend into the elevator.

Lunch with Joe was a friendly, upbeat affair, the main topics of which were boxing (Joe and Duncan were still failing to make Methos care even a little about the sport) and the Wheel of History show (Joe seemed to think it wouldn't do any harm, and MacLeod, with clearly feigned long-suffering, offered to sit in the audience if Methos did go on). To Methos' mild surprise, MacLeod didn't make any attempt to reclaim the book from him, either during lunch or afterward; Methos suspected it was at least in part because he behaved himself.

After saying goodbye to Joe, they spent a pleasant afternoon wandering Seacouver, Duncan asking Methos increasingly specific historical questions, ostensibly in preparation for the show. Whenever Methos was unsure of the answer, which wasn't often, or suspected that Duncan was unsure of the answer, which happened with increasing frequency, Methos would respond with an absurdity. It took MacLeod all of five minutes to catch onto this strategy. He didn't do anything to discourage it, and so it happened that, by the time dusk was settling in around the city and they returned to the loft, both Duncan and Methos were side-achingly sore with laughter.

"You're helping me with dinner, you layabout," MacLeod informed Methos, while Methos, smiling so hard his face was beginning to hurt, shrugged off his coat, carefully checking to make sure the book was still secure.

"I assumed I would earn my keep somehow," Methos retorted, and set about making a salad before MacLeod could say something clever about him earning his keep as the court jester.

Dinner was quiet, filling, and comfortable. Methos relaxed in his seat, eyes half-closing, and watched MacLeod through his lashes. Duncan was relaxed too, actually leaning his elbows on the table, smiling over his glass of wine. For a moment Methos was taken with an absurd, dangerous urge to speak some truth, even though he was already well over his self-imposed limit for this particular visit. MacLeod invited it simply by existing: clean, transparent honesty begat honesty.

I will judge you, if you like. The words crowded feather-light in his throat. But you wouldn't trust absolution.

"What?" Mac asked, smiling.

"I'm glad you're better today," Methos said. Even that was more honesty than he'd meant.

But MacLeod just nodded, the smile staying in place. "It helps," he said. "Having a friend around. I thank you for that."

"To symbiosis," Methos returned lightly, raising his glass.

Duncan did so too, solemnly, and settled back with a sigh.

Methos realized that they were just sitting there, smiling foolishly at each other. He rose, deliberately breaking the moment, and began washing up. Duncan joined him. They cleaned up in companionable silence. Putting the last of the dishes away, MacLeod stretched, and, in a tone of easy invitation, said, "I'm going down to the dojo for an evening kata."

Methos waved him away. The last thing he needed, in this particular mood, was to have a friendly spar with Duncan MacLeod. He was usually very good at pretending that the point of the exercise was to see how long he could hold MacLeod at bay before the inevitable defeat -- his current record was fourteen minutes, and he'd made MacLeod earn every inch of that victory -- but, at this moment, swept loose by wine and easy companionship, Methos knew that he'd barely last five before he'd be willingly knocked to his knees, leaning eagerly into the cold press of Duncan's sword to his throat. That was a measure of honesty he was unwilling to give.

"Suit yourself," MacLeod said cheerfully, and clattered off down the steps to the dojo. Methos breathed out a slow breath and stood for a moment in the quiet loft.

Then he went to his coat, and retrieved Blade of the MacLeods. He regarded it, considering. The illustrated Roxanne so dramatically posed on the cover wasn't the sort of woman he could imagine the real MacLeod with. Her head was thrown back so far that it looked as though she was under the mistaken impression that she was the willing victim in a vampire novel. And the generic Highland warrior holding her, with his red cloak and impractically bared chest, looked only mildly interested in the proceedings. At least, Methos reflected with the twitch of a smile, the artist had managed to capture the completely stubborn set of Mac's chin.

Methos huffed a laugh. This was absurd, and the kindest thing to do for MacLeod was to put the book back on the shelf, where Mac had so inadvisably kept it. No nonsense, and certainly no kissing scenes.

With a sense of mild fatalism, Methos sank back onto the couch and opened Blade of the MacLeods to continue paging through it until he came across something promising. There was no harm in another good laugh, and he'd discard the book when Duncan came back, no more teasing or discussions.

"Now where ..." He paged through until his eyes fell on Her breath quickened as his mouth approached the newly bared flesh. "Aha." He found the beginning of the paragraph. His hands caressed the nape of her neck, hands that had killed, hands that could wield the mightiest sword -- yet now, they were at her service. Gentle, strong, sensitive, tracing the delicate line of her hair, down her throat ...

Methos placed a careful finger in the book and set it aside. The real danger of any literature, it seemed, was unexpected insight. How stupidly easy to lose the thread of the narrative, such as it was, and vividly picture Duncan's hands, imagine the assured weight of them, warm fingers resting at the hollow of his throat in place of the cold edge of a blade --

Damn it all, he was starting to sound like the book inside his own head. Maybe Carolyn Marsh had written some kind of private hell of soft core porn starring Duncan in a specific effort to torture Methos.

"Or maybe Amanda and I could form a bloody support group," Methos muttered. With a certain resignation, he raised the book up again, and was immediately caught by a paragraph further down the page.

Her naked flesh trembled under his touch. Slowly, slowly she lay back on the satin pillows, letting him caress her ivory skin. She was about to be transported beyond any world she had ever known. Her every breath anticipated what she knew must come. Her silken blonde tresses cascaded over both their bodies as he caressed her. She had been kissed by men before, but never like this.

"Tell me," Roxanne gasped, overwhelmed by the heat of his mouth and the force of his passion. The urgency of her desire compelled her to speak her heart. "I must know. Am I just another conquest for you?"

Duncan's fathomless eyes met hers. In their black depths she could see the fire of passion, and of something more. "On my honor," he rumbled, in his compelling brogue, "of all the women I have been with, none could ever match you. Even in a thousand years, none ever could."

Methos dropped the book. It bounced on the couch, and lay innocently by his thigh. Methos shifted, nudging at it with a stocking foot until it fell to the floor with a thump, one purple corner still not quite out of sight.

There was nothing even remotely surprising in what he'd read. Every decent romance novel, emotional pornography that it was, invited a declaration of undying love. This was standard fare. Coupled with the story MacLeod had told him of Carolyn Marsh, how she must have felt unable to compete with the Immortality and scope of her lover, that passage must have practically been therapy. Methos was even occasionally culpable of uttering such hyperboles himself; he'd certainly told Alexa that she was by far the most loved of everything in Adam Pierson's life, and for all that it was true, after its own fashion, it wasn't honest. Methos knew very well better than to promise anyone a thousand years of devotion.

But somehow, absurdly, the very idea of a fictional Duncan MacLeod pledging eternal love and honor to some fictional heroine made Methos' chest twist and constrict with unhappiness. It wasn't jealousy; not even close. It was the mockery of fiction. The real MacLeod wasn't likely to say anything of the sort.

The real MacLeod, Methos realized belatedly, was stepping out of the elevator. He'd been so preoccupied contemplating the book, he hadn't registered his sensing of MacLeod's approach. Methos' head snapped up. In the doorway, MacLeod was flushed with exertion, his shirt sticking to his chest with sweat. He met Methos' eyes. Methos had no idea what expression was on his own face. He hoped fervently that, at the very least, it was neutral, but no such luck; Duncan's eyebrows drew in, and he took a hesitant half-step forward. "Methos?"

"Good workout?" Methos asked. It sounded intensely, artificially casual.

"Yes." Duncan let the elevator grate slide closed behind him. He came toward Methos, a little warily. "I don't know what could have happened up here in the past half hour that could be so bad, but ..."

"It's nothing," Methos said, furious with himself at this uncalculated vulnerability. "My thoughts got away from me."

To his irritation, MacLeod didn't take it for the hint it was. Instead he came over and sat on the couch next to Methos, radiating heat and the not-unpleasant smell of a good workout. Methos' hands curled into slow, deliberate fists. "If you want to talk about it," Duncan said, quiet and earnest, "that's only fair. You've been really good to me these past few weeks. It's time I return the favor."

Of course. MacLeod was exactly the sort of person who kept a careful mental ledger of his perceived debts, without ever thinking that his debtors might never catch up to repaying his kindness. "There's no favor to return," Methos said firmly. "I'm here because I want to be. This is what we do."

"Fine, then this is what we do," Duncan agreed. He leaned forward a little. "So what is it?"

Honesty was still beating delicately against Methos' throat. He tried to swallow it. Don't. Don't you dare. He already knows too much. He'd given his name, his time, his physical vulnerability to MacLeod. That was already two risks too many. "It's that book."

Oh no. This happened sometimes: a sort of calm panic, when Methos said or did something without any premeditation or calculation. On the whole, things worked themselves out; over time he'd come to assume that his subconscious sometimes knew how to keep him alive and whole better than his conscious mind did. That didn't make the actual process of winging it and hoping for the best feel any more secure.

"That book?" MacLeod echoed, frowning. He glanced around; after a moment, his eyes lit on the discarded romance novel, and his face cleared. He leaned down to pick it up. "You mean this?"

"It's less amusing than I anticipated," Methos said.

"What, you mean ...?" Duncan regarded it curiously. "I've never actually read the whole thing, just heard the bits Amanda read. Is it awful?"

"It's honest." Methos shut his eyes, trying to drift on some certainty that he wasn't acting like a complete madman. "I wasn't expecting it to be honest."

"Show me," MacLeod said quietly.

Nothing for it. Methos opened his eyes and took the proffered book, paging through until he found the relevant passage. He handed it back wordlessly, and watched as MacLeod read. Some of Mac's hair had come loose and was curling gently against his temple. His eyes moved back and forth as he read the page. Methos wondered what would be worse: if MacLeod understood, or if he didn't.

After a short eternity, MacLeod looked back up and met Methos' eyes. "None could ever match you, even in a thousand years?"

Methos breathed out slowly. "Yes," he said.

Belatedly, he realized he'd just broken roughly a dozen self-imposed rules regarding giving himself away. But if he'd wanted to say no, he should have started saying it when an inconveniently inquisitive young Immortal came to Adam Pierson's apartment and thought he'd discovered Methos there. Methos had said yes then, too.

Duncan's eyes widened. "Well," he said, quiet and strangely breathless.

They sat together on the couch, within arm's reach, entirely silent. Methos had settled back into calm. What Duncan knew now, and what he chose to do with that information, was up to him. He watched some quiet internal struggle come over MacLeod's features, unreadable. Methos wondered what gentle excuse would emerge: Amanda, Methos' deliberate secrecy, modern sexuality, a determination to misunderstand that yes?

"I don't," Duncan said finally, and ran out of words.

"You don't need to do anything," Methos told him, reaching over and companionably patting his warm hand. "It just is, and now you know."

"But." MacLeod, it seemed, was still fighting that internal struggle. "I should ..."

Methos' eyebrows rose. "Should what?" he asked, and was pleased to discover that he was once more fully in control of the situation. "Should reciprocate? Should owe me some sort of sexual favor as a way of saying 'thank you'? I already told you: I'm here because I want to be. There's no need to worry beyond that."

"If you'll shut up for a moment!" MacLeod said fiercely. Methos drew back, blinking at him. Duncan glowered. "What I'm trying to say is that I don't know what I want. I know -- I want you to want me. And I'm pretty sure it's not because you're Methos -- you know, the Methos -- even though maybe it started out that way. And I don't know what you want either."

Ladies and gentlemen, the great lover Duncan MacLeod. Methos began to smile. Terminal honesty was a very attractive trait in other people. "Unintentional confessions aside," he said, "I'm quite happy with things as they are."

MacLeod gave him a look. "And?"

"Well." Methos settled himself more comfortably on the couch. "Kiss me or get off the couch. You're taking up space."

"You must have a real way with the ladies," MacLeod muttered, but he shifted closer, fitting comfortably and confidently into Methos' space. Methos was impressed despite himself.

"I'm sure all the stuff in that book comes from firsthand swooning testimonials," Methos said anyway.

"Methos?" Duncan said. "Shut up."

There was no point in being annoyed at MacLeod for having the last word, because MacLeod was kissing him, and that, Methos discovered, made up for a multitude of sins. He was academically disappointed that he hadn't, in fact, come across any descriptions of MacLeod's kissing in the book; a comparison might have been fun. He doubted a third-party narrative could live up to it: MacLeod's sweat-soaked t-shirt hot and damp under his hands, the faint scrape of stubble against his cheek, the devastatingly thorough way Duncan seemed determined to explore his mouth, the hands --

-- hands caressing the nape of his neck, tracing gently down to his throat, oh, wasn't that familiar --

MacLeod broke away and stared at Methos in bewilderment. Right. Conquests weren't supposed to giggle. "I'm not criticizing your technique," Methos hastened to assure him. "I'm just having, ah, flashbacks ..."

Duncan darted a glance at Blade of the MacLeods, sitting innocuously on the couch's far armrest. "Maybe I should burn it," he said thoughtfully, and turned back to Methos, fingers tracing hot and sure over the pulse point at Methos' throat.

All Methos' mocking mirth evaporated. He held very still, breathing deep and steady, while Duncan carefully explored his neck, with his hands and then with his mouth. Methos squeezed his eyes shut and tried to keep breathing normally, but after a bare minute he was pliant and gasping.

"Huh," MacLeod said, but mercifully made no further commentary.

They undressed each other, something MacLeod turned into an elegant affair by the simple expediency of drawing Methos to his feet and pulling off Methos' sweater in the same movement. They kissed; Methos drew away and reciprocated with Duncan's shirt in turn. They kissed again, Duncan drawing Methos backwards towards the bed, which was only sensible given the size of the couch. They broke, Duncan divested Methos of his t-shirt, and they came back together, skin to skin, hands exploring each other's backs. It felt perfectly choreographed without being scripted, and Methos had a sudden mad flash of desire to take MacLeod out dancing. They'd be stunning.

"You're thinking," MacLeod observed, drawing back and shoving Methos gently. Methos sprawled back on the bed and propped himself up on his elbows to watch Duncan sink down to join him, moving up over his body.

"Of course I'm thinking," Methos retorted. "You seriously expect me to become inarticulate just because some of my blood is further south than usual --" He stopped. Duncan was wearing a worryingly feral grin.

"That sounded like a challenge," MacLeod said.

"No," Methos said patiently, watching MacLeod meticulously unbutton and unzip his jeans. "A Challenge --" he obligingly lifted his hips so MacLeod could slide off his jeans and boxers -- "is when some idiot calls you out to take your nngh."

MacLeod raised his head and blinked innocently at Methos. "Sorry, what was that?"

"Your Chronicle never mentioned that you'd learned to do that," Methos said dazedly.

"Well, you can't believe everything you read," MacLeod said sanctimoniously, and resumed giving Methos the most expert blowjob he'd had in years. Methos petted Duncan's sweat-slick shoulders gratefully, and stared unseeingly up at the ceiling, because if he looked -- if he looked, he wouldn't have a single fiction left. He was already almost unable to breathe, his awareness narrowing to Duncan's hands and mouth, already stunned into bliss and, but for the last of his careful defenses, nearly ready to beg and gasp Duncan's name.

He was suddenly, irrationally unwilling to let go, as though that might make it real too, but it was much too late for that. His hands on Duncan's shoulders tightened reflexively, and Duncan hummed encouragement. His free hand came up and curled around Methos', entwining their fingers. That, in the end, was what tipped him over the edge: that small, unlooked-for intimacy. Methos whimpered and came, much less elegantly than anyone in a romance novel, bruising Duncan's shoulders and probably half-crushing his fingers along the way.

Duncan shifted a little and pressed a kiss to Methos' hip. "How was that?"

Methos made a disapproving noise. It was very bad form to ask, especially when the question was posed in such a smug tone. Relatively certain he'd regained the cognition necessary to speak, Methos muttered, "It didn't mention the size of your ego."

"What did it mention the size of?" MacLeod demanded, sliding up the bed so they were face-to-face.

Methos didn't dignify this with an answer. "You left my socks on."

MacLeod blinked. "I forgot 'em."

"Ridiculous invention, the modern sock." Methos tipped his head and looked sideways at Duncan. "What about you?"

"What about me?" Duncan asked. How ridiculous; while sock-free, he was still wearing his workout sweatpants, and was very much still aroused, no matter how innocent and bewildered the look on his face.

"You," Methos said, rolling sideways, "are absurd."

He leaned forward, kissing MacLeod with focus; he bit Duncan's lip to hear him gasp, and held onto it, sucking gently, until Duncan whimpered. Kissing MacLeod in earnest, and judging him sufficiently distracted, Methos worked a hand into his pants and wrapped it around MacLeod's cock. Mac jerked forward and gasped as though he was actually surprised by this.

"Methos --"

"It's not a favor," Methos murmured against MacLeod's lips. He drew back enough to meet MacLeod's eyes; after a moment, Mac focused on him, looking dazed and turned on and unfairly beautiful. What had that stupid book said about Duncan's eyes? It didn't matter; they were dark and shining, pupils blown, and Methos was close to losing himself. "All right?" he asked.

"Yes," Duncan agreed, shuddering. Hardly able to stand it, Methos leaned back in, kissing Duncan hard and twisting his wrist; MacLeod cried out into his mouth and trembled for a long suspended moment before collapsing against him.

Methos pulled his hand out and meticulously wiped it on MacLeod's sweatpants.

"Methos," Duncan grumbled, in a much more familiar voice.

"Sorry," Methos said unrepentantly.

He stretched, yawning. Duncan didn't move away, though; on the contrary, he echoed Methos' yawn and slung a warm, heavy arm over him, spooning up against Methos' back. "Is this ...?"

No. It was confinement, and therefore alarming. His sword was across the room and there was an Immortal, heavier than him, and better in combat, draped over him. Methos felt a tight band of instinctive panic begin to squeeze his chest. He must have stiffened, because Duncan murmured wordlessly and pressed a kiss to the nape of his neck, another to the junction of neck and shoulder, a third to the pulse point under his chin. Methos went slowly boneless.

"Better," he whispered.

"Good," Duncan murmured. A hesitation, and he added, almost uncertainly, "Night, Methos."

The question was plain. MacLeod must have woken at least half a dozen times to discover that his erstwhile, irritating houseguest had slipped away in the night, perhaps leaving a note in thanks. And Methos couldn't deny the temptation to do it now. He'd quickly pared his five days of grace down to one with that Blade of the MacLeods, and if he stayed ...

Methos closed his eyes, submitting to the inevitable. "Have to practice again for Wheel of History tomorrow," he muttered. "Night, MacLeod."

He was rewarded by the feel of Duncan relaxing minutely against him. In another minute, MacLeod's breathing had evened out into sleep, and even had the faintest beginning rasp of a snore. Methos smiled to himself. None could ever match you, not even in a thousand years. That was the stupid honest truth of it. It had been a long time since he'd felt so.

Maybe this time, Methos thought, on the cusp of sleep, it would go better.