Rated NC-17 for graphic homoerotic (m/m) and polyamorous (m/f/m) sexual content written in loving detail. If you can't handle that, don't read it. If you can't handle that and you read it anyway, don't complain to me. Highlander is a trademark of Rysher Entertainment, characters not used by permission. No infringement is intended. This work is not to be marketed for profit. Note: This story is a direct sequel to Playing With Fire. Thanks to Franki Tollefson for the title! --Kellie Matthews

Stirring the Embers
© 1996 Kellie Matthews

        Duncan finished putting away his groceries and took a beer from the refrigerator. He stood for a moment, staring blankly at the bottle, sliding a finger up and down its cool, moisture-beaded length, and for some odd reason found himself feeling aroused. After a moment the answer hit him, and he chuckled, shaking his head wryly. Beer reminded him of Methos, and Methos reminded him of sex, ergo beer reminded him of sex. A conditioned response, just like Pavlov's dog and that damned bell. He savored a long gulp of the cold, faintly bitter liquid and sighed. It didn't taste the same without someone to drink it with. He knew that was all in his head, but still, he missed Methos, missed him a lot.
        When he'd returned to Seacouver from Paris, he'd tried to talk Methos into coming with him. The older immortal had declined, pointing out that his Watcher compatriots might find it suspicious if he kept showing up wherever Duncan MacLeod was. He was right, but that hadn't made it any easier to leave him behind. Duncan still felt slightly guilty at having even thought of suggesting that Methos try to get himself assigned as his Watcher in order to allay that suspicion. Joe wouldn't be a bit pleased to be replaced, especially not by Methos. Duncan had gone home, not realizing just how used to Methos' presence he'd gotten until it was too late. Sure, he had other friends, and Richie, but it wasn't the same. It wasn't Methos. It would be nice to hear from him-- a phone call, a post card, anything.
        He sat down and took another swig of his beer, adjusting his shorts so they didn't bind across his erection. He chuckled again, thinking that he'd better learn to control that response. Getting a hard-on every time he went to Joe's for a drink might be hard to explain, and he wasn't willing to claim he'd gone on the wagon. That didn't help right now, though. Eminently practical, he knew what would help. He spread his legs slightly and reached down with one hand to stroke his cock through the soft layers of his cutoff sweats and briefs. It felt good, very good.
        He imagined another hand on him, one perhaps not quite so broad-palmed, but with long, strong fingers. He shifted, arching a little, and with his other hand lifted the beer bottle to his lips and took another drink, savoring the slick feel of the glass against his lips and the clean, earthy taste of the beer. Seconds later he almost choked as he suddenly felt Presence. He put the bottle down and reached for his sword, arousal sublimated in a rush of adrenaline. It was probably just Richie, but it never paid to be careless. A moment later a knock sounded at the door. Not Richie, then, Richie would use his key to the elevator. He quietly padded over to the narrow hallway, and wondered for the hundredth time why he had never put in a peephole. It certainly would be the smart thing to do.
        "Who is it?" Duncan queried, wondering if it might be Amanda.
        "Candygram," came the reply, in an amused male tenor.
        Duncan grinned in pleased recognition and unbolted the door. As he opened it, the doorway framed Methos' lean, slouched frame. His hair had grown out some, and in a concession to the day's warmth he was wearing a t-shirt with his jeans rather than one of the bulky sweaters he usually favored, but basically he looked just the same. Of course, how could he do otherwise? He glanced at the katana in Duncan's hand and lifted a mocking eyebrow.
        "Is that a sword in your hand or are you just happy to see me?"
        Duncan dropped the katana into the umbrella stand with an uncharacteristic lack of respect for the ancient weapon, and hauled his visitor bodily into the apartment. He shoved Methos up against the wall and took his face between his hands, holding him still for a kiss that rapidly went from welcoming to passionate as his arousal reasserted itself. As his tongue sought out the familiar taste of Methos, his body also sought the familiar, his hips moving against Methos' until he felt a response behind the interfering bulk of denim and chrome, felt the rising hardness he'd missed for nearly two months now. Methos tore his mouth away, gasping, and smiled.
        "I think that answers my question," Methos said huskily, reaching out to guide Duncan's mouth back to his.
        Their second kiss was less frantic, silken explorations of tongue against tongue, the tender slide of lips, occasional forays against the sandpaper roughness of cheek or chin. Their bodies moved together in a familiar rhythm. Duncan couldn't remember a time when the need had been this urgent, this sharp. He slid a hand down to Methos' waist and tugged his shirt out of his jeans, pushing it up so he could feel the warm satin of skin against his palms. He let his fingers explore, found a nipple and teased it, feeling Methos gasp into his mouth in response. Needing more, he let his hand move to the five slick metal buttons which were amazingly difficult to undo one-handedly. Eventually he succeeded in his quest and the heavy fabric parted, exposing the smooth hardness of Methos' abdomen, the rough silk of pubic curls, and finally the pulsing length of his erect cock.
        Breaking their kiss, Duncan went to his knees and tugged Methos' jeans down until they fell around his ankles, freeing his straining shaft from their confinement. Holding that familiar length he turned his head back and forth, dragging his lips across its heat and hardness, then finally he let his lips part and took him, filling his mouth with the salt-sweet taste of his flesh. Methos groaned and reached down to hold Duncan's head, encouraging him with the movements of his hips and hands.
        Duncan moved his free hand to the heavy weight of his balls, fingers teasing the sensitive place beneath them. With the fingers of his other hand wrapped firmly around the thick shaft, he used both mouth and hand to set a cadence he knew Methos wouldn't be able to resist. Before his jaw even began to ache, he proved that. Methos' fingers dug painfully into his hair and held him still, a small sound, halfway between a grunt and a moan escaped him, and then he was coming in long, hard pulses.


        Duncan kept him in his mouth until he was spent, then finally released him. Methos whimpered at the kiss Duncan gave his softening flesh, and then began to slowly slide down the wall, his knees finally unlocking. That was all that had kept him on his feet. Duncan moved back as much as he could in the narrow entryway to give him more room, and Methos sank into a squat, his breathing still harsh and rapid, his shirt soaked with sweat, eyes closed. A minute passed, then two, finally Methos drew a deep, ragged breath and opened his eyes.
        "Well, hello to you too," he said hoarsely, smiling as he dragged his hands through his hair. "I hope that's not the technique you use to discourage door-to-door salesmen."
        Duncan chuckled. "No, that's what the sword's for."
        "Ah, good plan." Methos swallowed hard, and took another deep breath. "Damn, if I'd known you'd greet me like that, I wouldn't have waited so long to come visit." He glanced toward the door and his eyes widened in stunned surprise as he realized it was still wide open. "Jesus, MacLeod, you didn't even close the door!"
        Mac glanced at the open door and shrugged. "No one comes up here anyway."
        "No one except Richie and Joe, and Amanda, and sometimes Anne and the baby."
        "They all use the elevator," Duncan pointed out. "Plenty of warning."
        "Not to mention various and sundry immortals in search of your head or a quick trip down memory lane." Methos continued.
        "We'd get some warning there too." Duncan shrugged.
        Methos laughed, shaking his head. "You're amazing. But I feel a bit . . . exposed."
        "There's a reason for that," Duncan said, grinning, but he got up and snagged Methos' duffle bag from the floor outside and then pulled the door shut, bolting it securely.
        Methos reached out and put his hand over the unmistakable bulge of Duncan's cock, not disguised at all by the soft fabric that covered it.
        "Missed me, eh?"
        "Like a tooth," Duncan agreed.
        Methos looked at him sharply. "Like a what?" he demanded, not sure if he should be insulted or not.
        "You know, when you lose a tooth, all you can do is keep sticking your tongue in the hole, because it feels wrong for it not to be there."
        Methos stared at him, hoping his feelings weren't written all over his face as he suspected they were. "I know what you mean. I couldn't stand it any more."
        "I'm glad." Duncan said quietly.
        Methos grinned. "I could tell." He squeezed gently, rubbing, and Duncan almost dropped the duffle bag. With a grin Methos pushed himself to his feet and stepped out of his jeans, toeing off his worn dock-shoes as he did. As he peeled off his shirt, Duncan did drop the bag, and he shoved it out of the way with his foot. As Duncan reached for him, he caught his hand with a stern look.
        "Not in the hallway."
        Duncan shot a glance toward the bedroom, then at the thick, soft Persian carpet that covered the wood floor in the living room.
        Methos chuckled, reading his glance. "That'll do."
        Within thirty seconds the green leather couch had been shoved unceremoniously out of the way and they were on the carpet. Duncan removed his tank-style shirt, as Methos slid his hands beneath the waistbands of both his shorts and briefs. Warm, hard, satin-dampness met his touch. He cupped and stroked Duncan's cock, massaging with exquisite care, feeling the jerking response of a man on the edge of losing control. Duncan lay back with a moan of pleasure, lifting his hips so Methos could slide his shorts off and toss them aside. He studied the form before him, the half-closed dark eyes, the fan of dark hair, the shading of shadow-beard following the sculptured curve of a cheekbone down to parted lips that were as sensual as a woman's.
        Late-afternoon sunlight poured through the windows and across the floor to highlight the taut tendons of Duncan's throat, the gleaming curve of hard-muscled chest, the scatter of dark silky hair that arrowed down to his navel, pointing like a road-sign to the thick shaft between his heavily-muscled thighs. Methos' fists clenched as he remembered how powerfully those thighs could drive his lover's body into his own, and he was surprised to find himself starting to harden again so soon. He guessed there were things other than hearts that grew fonder with absence . . . or abstinence. Despite a couple of offers, he'd not had sex since Duncan had left Paris. Methos leaned down, grazed Duncan's silky hardness with his lips, and started to take him into his mouth.
        "No, I don't want that," Duncan said suddenly, pushing up onto his elbows. "I want you."
        Methos lifted his head and read the primitive desire on Duncan's face. He shuddered in anticipation and nodded, stretched out on his side, ready to turn onto his belly.
        "Not that way either," Duncan said, coming up onto his knees. Placing a hand on Methos' hip, he pushed him over onto his back. There were a lot of possibilities, so Methos waited for more clarification.
        "I want to see your face for once, instead of the back of your head." Duncan said softly, sliding a knee between Methos' thighs, separating them. He crouched over him, his cock brushing tantalizingly against Methos' now erect member, moving in long, languid strokes. Methos caught his hips in his hands, caressing, pulling him down harder as Duncan kissed him, but too briefly. He put his lips against Methos' ear, and whispered.
        "I want to watch your face when I'm inside you, I want to see your face when you come."
        Face to face. The one thing they hadn't attempted before. The thought sent shivers of anticipation through him. It was awkward, but there were ways. Duncan leaned down to hook his arms under Methos' knees, then sat back, pulling Methos thighs around Duncan's waist. When they settled, Methos' buttocks rested on Duncan's upper thighs, and his knees were bent so that his feet were flat on the floor. He could feel Duncan's cock pulsing against his balls, and he rubbed against it, watching Duncan close his eyes in pleasure. The younger Immortal reached down and slid a finger between his cheeks, his touch a tease, never giving him what he needed. He groaned.
        "Duncan, please!"
        "You don't have to ask me. You know I'll give it to you." The teasing finger finally started to press inside, then stopped. Duncan swore. "Damn."
        "What?" Methos gasped, panting.
        "I didn't think, I'm sorry, I haven't got anything to use."
        Methos stared at him blankly. What the hell was he talking about? It wasn't like two Immortals needed to have safe sex.
        "I have some olive oil in the kitchen," Duncan offered, looking apologetic.
        Methos finally realized what he was talking about and shook his head. "We don't need it."
        "Yes we do."
        "Don't worry, I can take it."
        "I don't want you to take it, I want you to love it." He frowned, then suddenly his face cleared and he leaned forward, straining to reach the chess-table where a pile of rags, a bottle of something clear, and a wooden box gave evidence of one of Duncan's projects. He managed to snag the bottle with his fingertips and sat back with a pleased grin, brandishing the bottle. Methos read the label and grinned. Mineral oil.
        "That'll work."
        Duncan poured a generous amount into his hand, then his fingers were back where they belonged, and pressing in. Methos moaned, feeling his body yield, opening easily to that tender insistence. Twice more that sequence was repeated, then finally he felt Duncan breach him. He let his body relax completely, and felt the gentle, steady pressure as Duncan filled him. There was no pain, just that delicious feeling of becoming one. He gasped as Duncan's hands found his shaft and began to stroke firmly, unable to control the thrust of his hips into Duncan's hand. Duncan made a little 'mmmm' of pleasure, but expression was one of intense concentration, almost as if he were taking a test, not making love. Methos grinned in fond amusement at that. Duncan took everything so seriously, even sex.
        Deliberately Methos tightened his gluteal muscles. Duncan made a startled sound and thrust forward, coming a little up off his knees in response. Methos grinned and repeated the motion again and again until Duncan started to pant, his expression going slack as he stopped worrying about performance and began simply to experience. Methos had nearly all the control, and he used it, speeding up, slowing down, moving in ways he knew from long experience were a kind of ecstatic torture.
        Duncan's breathing was coming in harsh gasps, his body tense and shaking. Methos knew he was trying to control himself, trying to wait for him. Why deny him what he wanted? He let go of his own control, and moved, pushing himself down onto Duncan, feeling callused hands gentle yet insistent on his throbbing cock. What was he waiting for, anyway, he wondered? He was there, right there. With a soft moan, Methos pumped himself into Duncan's strong hands, and let go. The instant the first pulse of his orgasm hit Duncan's fingers, the Highlander shuddered and gasped.
        Methos felt heat flood inside him as Duncan lost his own battle for control, and a sound that was almost a sob escaped him. Methos reached up to touch his mouth, stroking their sensitive fullness. Another sobbing gasp broke across the older Immortal's fingertips, then a third, then finally Duncan took a deep breath and held it for a moment, then let it sigh out. Beneath Methos' hips, Duncan's thighs were trembling as if he'd just run a marathon and the muscles couldn't take any more strain. With sudden insight Methos realized that in essence that was exactly what he'd just done by supporting Methos' weight as well as his own while holding himself in that acutely flexed position. With a twist of his hips Methos lifted away and rolled to one side.
        "Stretch out before those muscles cramp up on you," he ordered firmly.
        Duncan slowly complied, his expression pained. "Too late," he said ruefully, reaching to rub his left thigh.
        Methos pushed his hands away and replaced them with his own, feeling the spasmodic tension under his fingers. "Are they both like this?"
        Duncan shook his head. "No, only that one, so far."
        Methos nodded and glanced toward the kitchen. "Where's that olive oil you mentioned?"
        "Left hand cabinet, bottom shelf."
        "Do you have any cayenne?"
        Duncan looked perplexed, but nodded. "In the pantry, on the spice rack."
        Methos got up and went into the kitchen, turning the faucet on so the water could warm up, and took several clean dishtowels out of the drawer where he remembered Duncan kept them. He dropped them into the steaming water, then got out a small bowl in which he mixed olive oil and cayenne together to form a thin paste. That done, he filled a larger bowl with hot water and put the soaked towels in it. He took a moment to use one of the wet towels to clean himself up before returning to Duncan with the two bowls.
        "How is it?"
        "About the same," Duncan answered with a grimace. "I've never understood why our healing properties don't fix things like this just as fast as they do other hurts."
        "Probably to remind us that we're still human," Methos said with a grin. "Either that or whoever designed us forgot a few things. Lie still."
        He dipped his fingers in the cayenne mixture and smeared it over Duncan's thigh, then began to massage it into the tight flesh, careful not to go too high. Duncan watched him, his mouth curving in a quirky smile.
        "Is that considered basting or marinating?"
        Methos grinned. "I'd say it's more of a glaze, myself."
        "Just don't get any on the rug, it'll cost a fortune to clean. . . ouch!" Duncan flinched as Methos' fingers found a knot of tension and dug into it firmly. "Damn it! Are you enjoying that?"
        "Of course, you know what a sadist I am. Don't be such a baby, it'll help in the long run."
        "If you say so. What's the cayenne for?"
        "You'll see." Methos finished his massage and went back into the kitchen where he washed his hands carefully, soaping them several times to remove any cayenne residue. Returning to Duncan's side, he picked up one of the towels, wrung it out, and then placed the damp, steaming fabric across Duncan's thigh. Duncan sighed with pleasure as the warmth began to penetrate his muscles. Squeezing the excess water out of a second towel, Methos flapped it in the air to cool it a little before using it to clean Duncan much as he had himself. It was interesting to handle Duncan in an unaroused state. Even at rest, his cock was gorgeous. Methos closed his eyes, remembering how it felt, remembering the pleasure.
        "Hey. . . ." Duncan sounded puzzled. "This feels weird."
        Methos smiled and opened his eyes. "I know."
        "It's hot."
        "I know." He tested the towel on the Highlander's thigh. It had cooled, so he removed it and rolled it into a ball with the other used one, and tossed both into the kitchen sink. Not a bad shot considering the angle and distance. "Two points," he said as he prepared a fresh towel.
        "It's hot even with the towel gone." Duncan said, staring curiously at his reddened thigh.
        "That's the cayenne."
        "Interesting. Where'd you learn that?"
        "I don't remember, Galen, perhaps, or Yuhanna Ibn Masawayh." He put the new towel in place. "How's the cramp?"
        "Good." Methos stood up and went over to where he'd shed his clothes and began to pick them up. As he did, he felt Presence, and turned to Duncan, who wore the distracted expression of an Immortal sensing the proximity of a like being. The elevator motor started up, its mechanical sound loud in the quiet, beginning its journey to the Dojo below.
        "Must be Richie," Duncan said, relaxing.
        Methos nodded, not particularly pleased. The young man didn't seem to like him much, who knew why? The Kristen thing, maybe or a touch of jealousy from a boy who'd had Duncan to himself for a long time and who might see the upstart Adam Pierson as a rival. Rival. Uh oh. Methos looked at Duncan.
        "Have you told him anything about us?" he asked quietly.
        Duncan looked puzzled. "Told him. . . ." he tensed again. "Shit. No, I haven't. Not for any reason, it's just that the opportunity hasn't really come up." He reached for his shorts and managed to snag them with a finger.
        Methos nodded and quickly yanked his t-shirt over his head and stepped into his jeans, pulling them up and fastening them as Duncan pulled his shorts on. The elevator began to rise, and Duncan looked slightly panicked as he grabbed for his shirt. Methos handed it to him and crouched beside him on the rug.
        "Lie down and put the towel back on your leg. You pulled a muscle running, and I'm just playing doctor."
        Duncan grinned at that, and acquiesced. The groan he let out as Methos began his massage again wasn't faked, either.
        "Still hurts?" Methos queried as the elevator stopped and the gate opened.
        "Like a sumbitch," Duncan hissed through clenched teeth.
        "Don't overdo it next time. Keeping the muscles in a flexed position for too long is a surefire way to pull a muscle, or at least strain it."
        Out of the corner of his eye he saw Richie take two steps into the room and stop dead, staring. He looked up nonchalantly. "Ryan," he said, acknowledging his presence.
        Richie nodded in return, his eyes narrowed. "Pierson. When did you get into town?"
        Methos looked at his watch. "About an hour ago."
        "Hey, Rich, what's up?" Duncan asked with wonderful nonchalance.
        "Those new weights we ordered came in, thought you might like to take a look." His eyes skimmed the scene curiously as he watched Methos work on Duncan's thigh. "What happened to you?"
        "Cramp," Duncan answered.
        "Muscle strain," Methos said at the same time.
        Methos saw Duncan's lips twitch as he suppressed a smile, but he managed to keep from laughing.
        "It's not a strain, it's just a cramp," Duncan insisted.
        "Which will be a strain if you don't relax and let me fix it."
        Duncan put his hands behind his head and looked back at Richie, seeming completely at ease. "Did you finish the July books?"
        Richie nodded, a half-smile curving his mouth. "I did, and all I can say is it's a good thing you don't rely on the Dojo to keep you in beer."
        Duncan shrugged, which looked odd, since he was lying flat on his back. "Charlie would have wanted me to keep it going."
        Richie's expression softened. "I know, Mac, and we're not doing that badly, we almost broke even last month. If we keep up the self-defense classes for kids and women, we might even turn a profit this month. Especially now that you're back on the teaching roster."
        Duncan lifted his eyebrows. "What has my being back got to do with anything?"
        Richie grinned. "Don't tell me you hadn't noticed that the women's self-defense classes are always packed when you're the instructor."
        Duncan stared at Richie, and to Methos' amazement, he saw a hit of color creep out from under the beard-shadow. Duncan, embarrassed?
        "Why am I not surprised?" Methos laughed, shaking his head. "I can think of another market you're missing out on, MacLeod."
        Richie looked confused but Duncan got it, and shoved Methos' shoulder with his foot. "Shut up, Meth. . . Adam."
        Adam shot a veiled glance at Duncan's protégeé to see if he'd noticed the slip. Apparently not, he seemed to still be mulling over what market Methos might have meant. Methos didn't expect him to have to ask. Richie wasn't stupid, and he'd been on the streets for years before Duncan took him in. It was only a moment before his face lightened as he figured it out and he grinned broadly.
        "He might just be onto something there, Mac. Frankly I know some people in that market who could use some self-defense instruction. It's not a bad idea."
        "Richie!" Duncan sounded appalled. "We offer classes in self-defense, not beefcake!"
        Richie just kept grinning. "Hey, nothin' says we can't kill two birds with one stone. What's wrong with making the most of our ass. . .ets?"
        Methos groaned and fell back on the carpet, clutching his chest. "Wounded, shot clean through. Gods, that was awful!"
        Richie sketched a bow. "Why, thank you."
        "If I find you putting up ads with my picture on them, you're toast, Ryan." Duncan said warningly.
        "I wouldn't dream of it!" Richie protested ingenuously. "Word of mouth works much better, anyway."
        Richie sighed, suddenly serious. "Can we make that Rich every now and then? I think it's about time I got to grow up, don't you?"
        That question made both Duncan and Methos look at the younger Immortal. He looked quite earnest. Duncan studied him for a long moment, an odd expression on his face, then finally spoke. "I'm sorry, I should have thought of that a long time ago."
        The red-head shrugged, his expression strangely old for his youthful face. "It's what you're used to, and it's not really a problem, I just don't want to spend the rest of my life with it. It's who I was, not who I am. I know the old saying ' what's in a name?' but sometimes using a name you've outgrown is as much a lie as using a fake one." He looked pointedly at Methos as he spoke, then looked away again deliberately.
        Suddenly convinced there were more levels to his speech than met the eye, Methos sat up, eyeing him suspiciously. "What's that supposed to mean?"
        Richie gazed at him steadily. "It's supposed to mean that you can stop pretending. I figured it out."
        Methos shot a look at Duncan, who seemed equally at a loss. "Figured what out?" he asked.
        "That you're not some newbie who's just Become. I'm not sure just who you are, but I know damned well you're not just a Watcher named Adam Pierson who happens to have become the very thing he's supposed to be watching. I wish you trusted me enough to tell me the truth."
        His last sentence was clearly directed at MacLeod, and Methos couldn't let it pass. "Don't blame Duncan, it was my request. You're right. I'm not a ' newbie,' not by a long shot. By keeping my real name quiet, he's protecting me. If my identity got out, half the Immortals in the world would be after me. I probably wouldn't last ten minutes."
        "Like you're something special?" Rich scoffed.
        "Yes, he is," Duncan said quietly, sitting up and putting a hand on Methos' shoulder. "Very special."
        Richie's eyes narrowed, his gaze moving from Duncan to Methos and back before they widened in almost comical surprise. "Oh my God, you're joking!"
        Duncan shook his head. "No, I'm not."
        "You. . . and him?"
        Methos winced. This was not the right way to go about this. Richie stared at them a moment longer, shaking his head.
        "Man, I gotta sit down." He proceeded to do so, and stared at Methos again, then at Duncan. "Um, mind if I ask how long? I mean, you weren't. . . before, were you? Last time you were here?"
        Methos shook his head. "No, this is fairly recent. Just since Paris."
        Richie looked relieved. "Good. I didn't think I was that oblivious." After long seconds, he started to chuckle. "Whoever you are, I gotta admit I'm impressed. I thought Mac was so far down the straight road that he couldn't even see the bend." His gaze finally moved to MacLeod, studying him for a moment. "Well, that explains a few things, doesn't it? I wondered why you'd been so moody lately." He grinned. "You always get moodier when you've got a thing for someone but you're not gettin' any."
        "Rich!" Duncan protested, insulted.
        "Hey, you don't live with someone for five years and not twig to some of their idiosyncracies," the younger man said bluntly. "Mac, stop thinking of me as a kid. I wasn't a kid when you first took me in, and I'm sure as hell not one now. I don't blame you for that, the age thing has got to be weird from your perspective, but I'm still mad that you didn't trust me."
        "It's not that he doesn't trust you." Methos said.
        "So what is it, then?"
        "I don't trust you. I don't trust anyone."
        "Except Mac?"
        Methos shrugged. "Pretty much."
        "That's not quite true," Duncan put in. "There are a couple of others." He looked at Methos questioningly. "May I tell him?"
        Methos thought about it, and finally sighed. "I will." He looked at the wiry young man who was leaning forward in his chair, his fingers interlaced between his knees, and stifled his fear. Richie had never betrayed MacLeod. He was safe. Why was it so hard to say? He took a breath, and forced the words out. "I'm Methos."
        "Methos?" Richie repeated his name, looking thoughtful. "Methos." He looked a Duncan curiously "I don't remember hearing. . . ." his voice trailed off and his mouth dropped. "Methos? The Methos?"
        Methos made a face. "Ah, yeah, I guess you could say that, though since you're a friend of a friend, you can skip the prefix."
        Richie stared at him blankly for several seconds, then shook his head. "Well shit," he said, then he fell silent again for a bit. Finally he spoke again. "I guess I can understand you not wanting to tell a lot of people."
        Methos smiled wryly. "Yeah, it's not exactly something I want getting around. Plus there's my Watcher cover, that's my real refuge, and I don't want to lose it."
        Richie nodded, looking thoughtful, then frowned. "If that's such a big deal, how come you're always hanging around with Mac? Won't they think it's pretty strange for one of their guys to be on a latch-key basis with an Immortal?"
        Methos sighed. "That, my friend, is a very good question."
        "Joe knows, doesn't he?"
        "He does."
        "Who else?"
        Duncan looked at the floor. "Amanda."
        "Amanda!" Richie's face was a study in outrage. "You told her and you wouldn't tell me? Now I really am insulted! Geez!"
        Methos glanced at Duncan. "She found out kind of accidently. It wasn't my choice."
        "I didn't realize I should keep my mouth shut," Duncan said. "I told her, before Methos asked me not to tell anyone."
        "Ah," Richie nodded, looking slightly mollified. "I see. Yeah, that makes sense. Mac's not much for subterfuge. Sometimes I wonder how he's survived this long."
        Methos shot a glance at Duncan, who was looking offended again, and grinned. "Must be luck, though it hardly seems fair to have looks and luck both."
        Richie made a face. "You said it. Hey. . . ." he suddenly studied Methos with narrowed eyes. "If you're Methos, then it was you who knew what to do for Mac when he-- when he took Coltec's head. He told me that you, I mean Adam, found the story in one of Methos' chronicles, but since you're him, you must have gone through something similar yourself."
        For a moment ancient scars ached dully, and Methos sensed Duncan's concerned gaze on him as he realized with astonishment that the old terror was almost gone. Where before even such an innocent question would have sent him spiraling into fear and depression, now he could face what pain there was with his eyes open and his heart unclouded. Duncan's hand on Methos' shoulder tightened in silent support as Methos nodded, searching for the words he needed.
        "Yes, I did. It was a very long time ago, and not exactly the same thing that Mac experienced. Still, it was similar enough that I knew what he needed to do and I was able to give him the key to that knowledge. However, it was up to him to take what I'd given and find a way to use it."
         The young man studied him for a moment, then smiled. "Guess I'm going to have to find a way to repay you bigtime. When you gave him that key, you gave me back my father."
        "Ah, Rich," Duncan's voice was thick with emotion. "How can you say that when I tried to kill you?"
        The younger immortal shook his head, gazing steadily at him. "We've been through that at least five times already, Mac. As far as I'm concerned, that was just somebody borrowing your body for awhile. The Duncan MacLeod I know would never take my head, at least not without just cause. But if I ever go over to the dark, I fully expect you to take care of the problem, one way or another."
        "Don't joke about that, don't even think about it!" Duncan grated out.
        "I mean it." Richie said evenly.
        "That's what scares me," Duncan said. "Richie. . . I mean, Rich, I still don't see how you can trust me. I can't even trust myself."
        Methos sighed. "How many times do we have to go through this, Duncan? Richie just told you the exact same thing I've told you a dozen times, and you still won't let yourself accept it! I think we all, at least the older of us, have to go through something like this in our lives. Just because it's happened once doesn't mean it's going to keep happening! You defeated it! You were stronger than the darkness!"
        "Yeah, like Conan said, ' that which does not kill us makes us stronger,'" Richie put in. When both Methos and Duncan stared at him, he looked a little wary. "What? What'd I say?"
        Methos shook his head sadly. "Duncan MacLeod, I'm ashamed of you. How could you let your own son grow up so ignorant?"
        "It's not my fault!" Duncan protested. "He was already like this when I found him!"
        "Yeah, but you know better. You know what books he should be reading!"
        "You try and make a kid read the books he should read instead of the ones he wants to read!"
        "WHAT?" Richie bellowed in exasperation. "Tell me what I did! And if you two are going to talk about me like I'm not here, I'm leaving!"
        "It's Nietzsche, Friedreich Nietzsche, not Conan the Barbarian," Methos said, rolling his eyes.
        Richie colored. "Oh. Well, that's where I heard it."
        "That's where you saw it, you mean. I've seen the movie too, you know, it was a visual, and it was credited."
        "Like I'm supposed to remember that?"
        "Yes, you are." Duncan said, shaking his head. "Methos is right. I'm going to have to at least get you to read the great books so you're not an embarrassment to yourself."
        Richie glared at him. "I didn't embarrass me, you guys did."
        "But even you have to admit that we wouldn't have had the opportunity to do so without a little help on your part." Methos said.
        Richie sent him a dark look. "Just what I needed. Someone else to tell me what to do, and even worse, to be right all the time."
        Methos held out both hands like a traffic cop trying to stop an oncoming car. "Whoa, absolve me of omniscience! I'm old enough to know there's no such thing! Look, both Duncan and I have been where you are, so yeah, on this point maybe we've learned something practical. If you want to make a good impression, you need to know what you're talking about, right?"
        Richie thought about that, and finally sighed. "Yeah, you've got a point. Okay, make me a list. I'll start reading."
        "But you won't enjoy it, right?" Methos asked, grinning.
        "Exactly." Richie agreed, grinning back. "You know, you're not as irritating as I remembered."
        Methos' eyebrows went up. "Excuse me?"
        "Last time you were here, I thought you were kind of. . . smug."
        "Oh that." Methos shrugged. "Well, I am, but once you get to know me, it's kind of endearing."
        Richie snorted. "Yeah, right. Mac, are you going to come look at those weights or not? If not, I'm going to put them away and finish up downstairs."
        "I think not right now, thanks."
        Richie nodded as he stood up. "Okay, see ya. I've got dinner with Maria, but we were thinking of going to Joe's for the late set. Maybe we'll see you there?"
        Duncan sent a questioning glance at Methos, who nodded. "We'll probably put in an appearance."
        "Great," the red-head headed back over to the elevator and stepped inside, closing the cage. "I'll just leave you two alone, then," he said with a broad wink as he pushed the down button.
        Methos chuckled as the elevator sank out of sight. "He's going to be needling us about this forever, you know."
        "I know," Duncan sighed. "Believe me, I know."
        Methos yawned and stretched. "If we're going to Joe's late tonight, I need a nap. Mind if I borrow the bed?"
        Duncan grinned. "Not at all, but be prepared to share."
        "Always, but I said nap, as in rest."
        "I heard you," Duncan said innocently. "What did you think I meant?"
        Methos shook his head, and headed for the bedroom. Duncan's voice stopped him, sounding a little wistful.
        "He called me his father."
        Methos smiled gently, knowing exactly how much that one word meant to Duncan. "I know, I heard."


        As it turned out, Richie ended up at Joe's without Maria. She'd had to go home, having just been assigned a shoot early the next day. He was glad that things had worked out for her, especially considering that he'd almost gotten her killed. He still didn't like to think how close that had been. He'd been thinking with his dick, despite Duncan's best efforts to get him to use his brain instead. If it hadn't been for Adam-- or rather, Methos, Kristen would have succeeded and Maria would be dead. Explaining that whole thing to Maria had been an exercise in creativity. He couldn't just tell her about Immortals, so he'd had to make up a lot of stuff about Kristen getting killed in a robbery attempt after she'd tried to murder Maria.
        He still couldn't believe that Adam was Methos, the legendary ' 5K' immortal. The guy looked like anyone, which might actually be the secret of his success. Being nondescript had to have some advantages. Duncan was almost too unique, people tended to remember him, and that could be dangerous. For once Richie found himself grateful for his own less flamboyant appearance. He thought again about Adam being Methos, and shook his head in amazement. Of course, there was also that other thing. It made sense that someone born five thousand years in the past would have a rather different moral standard than one born only four hundred years ago, or even a mere twenty-some, but the idea that Methos had managed to swing Duncan off the straight-and-narrow was a little staggering. He thought he'd handled it well, but it still boggled him slightly.
        He was still thinking about that as he walked into the bar. Immediately he was hit by a wall of Presence, and shook himself slightly, looking for Duncan and Methos. Oddly, he didn't see them. He glanced around and saw both Mike and Joe behind the bar. There was a slim, blonde woman sitting across from Joe, her back to Richie. Carefully trying to sense which of the bar's patrons emanated the unmistakable signature of Immortality, Richie crossed the room to the bar proper. The closer he got to Joe, the stronger the feeling got, and he was getting a little confused until the woman turned around, slowly sucking a maraschino cherry off it's stem with lips painted nearly the same color as the fruit. His jaw dropped.
        "Amanda?" he gasped, staring at the shining platinum bob she sported.
        She finished the cherry, put the stem in her mouth, and moments later withdrew it again, tied neatly in a tiny knot. Richie felt a tremor go through him, a pulse of pure stunned desire. She often had that affect on him, even though he knew she had no intention of ever following through, and he knew damned well she was Duncan's. Despite himself his gaze swept downward, and that made things worse. She was wearing a silvery knit number cut low at the top and high at the bottom, and so tight it was probably illegal in Utah. His gaze lingered on the fullness of her breasts, and then flew upward as he felt his color rise. She winked at him, then turned and smiled triumphantly as she placed the stem alongside five other, similarly tied ones. "That's six, Joe. You owe me a drink."
        Joe shook his head, chuckling. "Yes I do. What's your pleasure, ma'am?"
        She looked thoughtfully at the collection of bottles behind the bar and tapped a finger against her lips. "I believe I'll have a pousse-cafe."
        Joe groaned. "Hell, Amanda, why not ask for a Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster?"
        She giggled and shrugged. "Too difficult for you?"
        Joe narrowed his eyes. "No!" he proclaimed, turning to grab an assortment of bottles off the shelf. As he worked Amanda turned back to Richie.
        "Hello there Mr. Ryan," she purred. "I see Mac's working you hard, you're looking particularly nice these days." She ran her fingers lightly up his chest to his shoulder, making the soft silk of his shirt rub sensually against his skin. He set his teeth and wished he could adjust his jeans without her noticing, but he couldn't so he didn't.
        "Thanks, same to you. I like the new do." he pointed at her hair.
        She preened. "Do you? Other people say I should go back to dark." She looked pointedly at Joe who ignored her as he frowned over whatever concoction he was preparing.
        "I like both." Richie declared, not stupid. "This is a fun change. What are you doing out our way? Last I heard you were going to Cannes."
        She sighed and shrugged. "It's just not as fun if I can't steal anything, and I'm trying so hard to be good. Besides, I got lonely."
        Lonely. Richie froze in place suddenly, his mouth dry and his palms sweaty. Lonely. Oh no. Warily he tried a question. "Have you seen Duncan yet?"
        She shook her head. "No, I rang the apartment from the airport and no one answered, so I came here instead. Sooner or later, everyone shows up here, right?"
        "Ah, right. . . Except, I think, you know, Duncan said something about going up to the cabin this weekend." It was a bare-faced lie, but he had his fingers crossed behind his back.
        She studied him, raising an eyebrow. "What's the matter with you? Anyone would think you were nervous about something."
        "Nothing!" he exclaimed much too quickly. "Nothing at all! I'm just surprised to see you here."
        "Oh." She pouted slightly. "And pleased, I hope?"
        He grinned, trying to be charming. "Of course, as always. Hey, what do you say we go out and get some dinner?"
        Joe turned. "Something wrong with the food here?"
        Richie shot him a glare, trying to somehow tell him to butt out. "I thought maybe something a little fancier might be nice. Like Ma Maison, or maybe that new place, the Blue-Star Café."
        Joe whistled. "Duncan must've given you a raise."
        Richie thought about his bank account and stifled a wince. "Um, something like that. What do you say, Amanda?"
        She thought about it for a moment, then shook her head. "To be honest I'm kind of tired of fancy cooking. What I crave is an old fashioned hamburger, with pickles and yellow mustard, and a big heap of fries!"
        Richie's heart sank. How the hell was he going to get her out of Joe's before Duncan and Methos showed up? He had no idea how she would react to the fact that her place had been usurped, and by a man at that! He just didn't think it would be pretty. Maybe his best bet was to try to warn them to stay away. He shrugged.
        "Okay, fine by me."
        "I'll put it on your tab, ' Mr. Ryan,'" Joe said with a grin.
        Richie nodded absently and made a show of looking at his watch. "Oh, darn, I uh... need to make a phone call. I forgot to tell Maria something. I'll be right back."
        He dashed for the pay phone, leaving Joe and Amanda staring after him with puzzled expressions. He shoved a coin into the slot and dialed quickly, praying he was in time. The phone rang, and rang. After six rings the machine picked up. He waited impatiently for the tone.
        "Mac, if you're there pick up!" He waited. Nothing happened. He sighed. "Mac, if you're there, you need to stay there, don't come to Joe's! Amanda's he. . . ." his voice trailed off as a new sense of Presence flowed through him. He looked up from the phone to see Duncan enter the room, followed closely by Methos. He sighed. "Never mind, too late."
        Richie hung up the phone and watched Amanda fling herself at Duncan with a happy squeal, almost like a little kid. Duncan seemed to be returning her embrace whole-heartedly, kissing her with what appeared to be great enthusiasm. Then, to his stunned surprise, as soon as Duncan released her she turned to Methos and did the same thing. They didn't kiss like acquaintances, or even just good friends. He glanced at Joe, who looked back at him with eyebrows lifted. Apparently he didn't think they were kissing like friends either.
        Duncan leaned over and whispered something in Amanda's ear. She broke off the kiss, giggling again. Methos looked smug, just the way Richie hated. Duncan looked around for a table, and spotting one, he headed for it, trailing Amanda, Methos, and Joe like the boy with the golden goose. Richie figured he might as well get in on things too, and he left the phone to join them. Duncan looked around the group, smiling as Richie stole a chair from another table and sat down.
        "Well, isn't this nice? Papa bear, Mama bear, Baby bear, Uncle Joe and Uncle Methos too!"
        Amanda's sharp gaze went from Duncan to Richie, and there was a sudden movement under the table. Duncan yelped, leaning over to rub his shin with a wounded glance at Amanda.
        "Who?" she asked sweetly. "You mean Adam? Are you still playing that silly Methos game?"
        Methos reached out and put his hand over hers. "It's okay love, he knows who I am. You don't have to kick Duncan to remind him any more."
        Duncan nodded ardently. "I'll second that. What the hell are you wearing on your feet? Sharpened shoes?"
        Amanda extended a long, shapely leg and looked critically at the pointed toe of her shoe. A hint of lace peeped out where her skirt barely came down over the thigh-band of her stocking and Richie found himself completely distracted from his surprise at Methos' endearment as Amanda spoke.
        "It was effective, wasn't it? I'll have to remember that about this pair." She tucked her leg back under the table and leaned both elbows on the table, resting her chin on her fists, suddenly looking more like a little girl than a than a two-thousand year old seductress. "I'm glad you told him. I never felt right that he didn't know."
        "Neither did I, frankly." Duncan echoed.
        Methos sighed. "I know, blame me. It's all my fault. I'm paranoid."
        Joe grinned. "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you."
        Methos tipped a salute toward the grizzled Watcher. "So true."
        Amanda looked from Methos to Duncan and back again, an odd little smile curving her mouth. "I'm surprised to find you here, Methos, instead of skulking around some dreary Watcher library in Paris." Her voice sounded just as odd as her smile looked.
        He chuckled, glancing at Duncan. "Yes, I imagine you are."
        Richie tensed, but the revelation he expected didn't come. Instead, Amanda spoke again.
        "Guess I'll just have to sleep on the couch, unless Richie or Joe will put me up." She batted her eyelashes flirtatiously.
        Duncan laughed, then tried to change it into a cough, not very successfully. "I'm sure we can make some sort of arrangement for you."
        Richie looked at Joe, who seemed just as puzzled as he felt himself. There was something weird about this conversation.
        "So, what brings you to town, Methos?" Joe asked.
        He shrugged. "I got bored in Paris. All the people I want to see are here."
        Joe chuckled. "Well, isn't that nice? I didn't know you thought of us so fondly."
        Methos smiled. "You do now."
        As the conversation continued, Richie felt the brush of a bare foot against his knee under the table, and he inhaled a startled breath, his eyes widening. Amanda sent him an apologetic glance and the foot moved away. A moment later Methos suddenly sat up a little straighter and shot a look at Amanda that spoke volumes. Richie reached into his pocket and took out a quarter, idly spinning it on the table top. After a few successful attempts, he "accidently" sent it shooting off the edge of the table and leaned down to retrieve it. As he'd half-expected, he saw Amanda's foot retreating quickly from a perch between Methos' thighs.
        Somehow he managed to not be grinning by the time he straightened, but it was a feat. Now he understood, now things were beginning to make sense. He hadn't quite been able to imagine Duncan MacLeod without a woman somewhere in the equation, but Duncan with a man *and* a woman, well that was certainly quite plausible. Damn. It was going to be awhile before he could stand up. Though he thought of Duncan in a parental fashion, he had no such filial thoughts about Amanda, and his imagination was going just a little wild. He started counting backward from one hundred and filled his mind with thoughts of watching golf, or shuffleboard. After a couple of minutes the ache began to ease and he could feel his temperature falling. He looked over at Amanda, and despite his best efforts he felt a huge grin spread across his face. She eyed him innocently for a moment, then suddenly her eyes narrowed.
        "You were trying to get me out of here before they showed up, weren't you?" she accused.
        Richie shrugged apologetically. "Guilty."
        She smiled and reached over to squeeze his hand. "Thank you, it was sweet of you to make the attempt, but it wasn't necessary."
        "No, I guess not. But they didn't tell me *that*."
        She arched an eyebrow. "Well, it's not gentlemanly, you know."
        Joe looked utterly confused now. "What are you two talking about?"
        In counterpoint harmony, Richie, Amanda, Duncan and Methos all chorused: "Nothing." They couldn't have done it better if they'd rehearsed.
        Joe's eyes narrowed. "All right, that does it. What the hell is going on around here?"
        Looks were exchanged between the three older Immortals. When no explanation was forthcoming, Joe glared at Richie.
        "Okay, then you tell me," the Watcher demanded, his expression rife with frustrated curiosity.
        Richie shook his head, spreading his hands as if to push the question away. "No way man. I want to keep my head."
        Apparently the others had experienced some sort of silent communion, for Duncan sighed. "This is off the record, Joe."
        Joe pushed back from the table a bit and leaned on the arm of his chair, studying them. "Off the record, hunh? I take it you want the Watcher hat to come off?"
        Duncan nodded. Joe stared thoughtfully at him for a moment, then chuckled and shook his head ruefully. "Oh hell, you know me. I think at this point I've left more out of your damned chronicle than I've put in. Okay, off the record."
        "We-- ah-- well." Duncan looked at Methos for help.
        Methos grinned. "Go on, you're doing so well."
        Duncan looked disgusted. "I'll get you for that later." He turned back to Joe and tried again. "When we were in Paris, we kind of-- well--"
        Amanda rolled her eyes. "We've got a thing going," she said succinctly, rescuing the hapless Scot.
        Joe lifted an eyebrow. "That's supposed to be news? You two have been an item off-and-on since, what, the sixteen-hundreds?"
        Amanda rolled her eyes. "Not us, *us,*" she waved a hand in a gesture that included both Methos and Duncan.
        Joe's elbow slipped off the arm of the chair, causing him to lurch sideways. "WHAT!" he thundered, loud enough to draw stares from all the nearby tables.
        Duncan dropped his face into his hand, probably hiding both embarrassment and amusement. Amanda patted Joe's arm soothingly as he straightened, and Methos just looked faintly amused by it all. Richie knew he was grinning again but couldn't seem to stop. Joe looked from one of the trio to the next, shaking his head slightly, then he signaled for the waitress, who came quickly, obviously curious.
        "I need a double bourbon, straight up. And get these guys whatever they want, it's on me. They deserve it, I'm not easy to surprise."
        There was a break in the conversation as orders were placed, then Joe stared around the table again, sourly.
        "You would have to make me promise not to put this in the Chronicle. All I can say is you'd better be discreet! I do not want to have to hear about this from Amanda's Watcher, or from someone who wants to know what the hell our research associate is doing in bed with two Immortals!"
        "Relax, Joe. We're the souls of discretion," Methos promised.
        Joe snorted. "Since when?" He shook his head again. "Geez, I'm gonna get whiplash at this rate. All I can say is I'm not looking forward to your first lover's quarrel."
        Amanda shrugged. "Oh, we got that out of the way ages ago. Nobody even died!"
        "Though it was hell getting the bloodstains out of the decking," Methos put in dryly.
        At Joe's shocked look, Duncan chuckled, shaking his head. "Relax, Joe, he's joking."
        Joe's expression told Richie he thought Duncan was lying, but he settled down and accepted his drink from the waitress as she returned with a laden tray. He sipped the bourbon thoughtfully and eyed his companions speculatively, then shook his head as if deciding against asking whatever he'd been planning to ask. Things got quiet, awkwardly so. Richie sipped his beer while Amanda played with her pousse-cafe, mixing it into an undrinkable mess. Methos sat looking thoughtful, he hadn't ordered anything. Duncan's gaze swept the table, then he tossed back his scotch and stood up.
        "Well, we just stopped in to say hello, I think we'll go on now."
        Joe nodded. "I thought you might."
        Methos got up as well. "Nice seeing you, I'll stop by soon."
        Joe acknowledged that and Methos turned and started toward the door. Duncan took a step, then looked at Amanda and held out his hand. "Coming?"
        The smile on her face was blinding. Richie felt a moment of pure male envy as she bounced to her feet and took Duncan's hand. She was three steps away when she suddenly stopped, tugging her hand from Duncan's as she returned to the table. She leaned down and kissed Richie on the cheek, whispering "You're sweet." before she turned to Joe and gave him a kiss too, then rejoined Duncan. As they walked away, Joe sighed deeply.
        "That's a hell of a woman there."
        Richie sighed too, and nodded agreement. "That she is."
        Joe chuckled. "I guess she'd have to be to handle those two."
        Without thinking, Richie said the first thing that came into his head. "I don't think she's all those two are handling."
        Joe turned swiftly, his blue eyes laser-bright with curiosity. "Just what does that mean?"
        Shit. Foot-in-mouth disease strikes again. "I uh... nothing."
        "Oh no you don't, you ain't gettin' away with that, Ryan. What do you know that I don't?"
        Richie sighed. "Well, see, this afternoon I almost walked in on something that would have been a little... personal. And Amanda was nowhere around."
        Joe's eyes widened. "Oh yeah?"
        Richie nodded. Joe stared off at the door again, and shook his head, smiling. "Methos and Duncan? I guess it's true what they say about still waters goin' deep."
        Richie stared at him, trying to decide if the double entendre had been deliberate, and finally decided not. He took a long drink of his beer and tried not to let his imagination kick in.


        Amanda stretched out across the back seat of the Thunderbird, having magnanimously given Methos the front since his long frame just didn't fit in the back comfortably. She looked from one to the other of the men in front of her, smiling. God, she'd missed them! At first she'd put her moping around Cannes down to the fact that she was being law-abiding, but in fact, that had little to do with it. Finally she'd admitted to herself that she'd gotten used to having them around. That had spurred her decision to find Duncan, with the idea that hopefully they could convince Methos to join them.
        She grinned, studying the back of Methos' head. That step hadn't been necessary. Apparently he'd come to a similar conclusion on his own. It was a pretty strange coincidence, though, that they'd both ended up in Seacouver on the same day. A thought suddenly occurred to her, and her eyes narrowed. Methos was a Watcher of sorts. Hmm. She leaned forward into the gap between the seats and spoke to be heard over the engine noise.
        "Isn't it funny that both Methos and I ended up here the same day?" she asked innocently.
        Methos turned toward her, though because of the seat arrangement he couldn't really look at her fully. "You know, I was thinking that very thing," he answered.
        She couldn't tell from his voice if he was lying or not. He sounded a little amused, but then, he usually did. Damn. Though the very idea of Watchers annoyed her, she sort of liked the idea that he'd kept track of her through his connections. It made her feel wanted. She had gone into the relationship mostly because of Duncan, but Methos had definitely grown on her. His ironic sense of humor and pragmatism appealed to the part of her that wasn't quite comfortable with Duncan's innate nobility.
        It was so rare to find someone older than she was who didn't just want to take her head! It was fun to be in the position of learning rather than teaching, and even more fun to do both at once-- and Methos was as apt a teacher as Duncan was a pupil. She definitely enjoyed his lessons. She shivered delicately, remembering, and wished Duncan would hurry up and get them home.
        "Not that I'm looking a gift horse in the mouth, but it does seem a bit. . . coincidental." Duncan said, and the curve of his cheek and mouth told her that he was grinning.
        Methos looked at him, then back at Amanda, and sighed. "All right, all right, I confess. It wasn't a coincidence. I heard that Amanda was on her way here and I had to decide if I wanted to stay in Paris or come here and be with you two. It was a tough decision, I really had to think about it."
        "For all of two minutes," Duncan said, amusedly.
        Methos nodded. "Believe me, it was one hundred and twenty seconds of pure hell."
        Amanda laughed and reached forward to tousle his hair. "I'm glad you came, but how are we supposed to keep you a secret if my Watcher's in town?"
        Methos grinned. "Oh, you don't have to worry about her."
        "What did you do to her?" Amanda asked breathlessly, imagining the poor girl locked up in some Parisian garret.
        "Nothing, really. We got to talking and she was complaining that she wanted to spend time with her fiance, so I did a little complaining about having to always work in the damned library. Strangely, we realized we had a perfect solution at hand! We traded jobs for awhile. I write the reports on you and submit them under her name, she does my research and submits it under mine. Voila! Everyone's happy and no one's the wiser."
        Duncan laughed. "No wonder you assured Joe that no one would find out! But won't her superiors be bound to notice a certain. . . stylistic difference?"
        "I have some of her old reports to crib style from, which should be no problem for someone of my literary talents."
        "Speaking of which, you never have told us your nom-de-plume!" Amanda complained.
        "Nor do I intend to! Critics I don't need."
        "What makes you think we'd be critics?" Duncan objected.
        "I know you two." Methos pitched his voice higher and imitated Amanda's speech-patterns. "This isn't accurate! La Pompadour's real hair was brown, not auburn, and that story about the mice in her wig was entirely fabricated!" Dropping his voice down into a lower register and assuming a Scots brogue, he played at being Duncan. "Och, mon, ye canna' go about makin' accusations like tha' about pairfectly innocent border raids, ye damned spalpeen!"
        Amanda giggled. "Okay, you're right. We probably would."
        Methos looked to Duncan, who was still smiling at the impersonation.
        "She's right, and so are you. I'm afraid it would be hard to resist."
        "I rest my case."
        Duncan concentrated on traffic for a moment as he made a left turn into the Dojo parking lot and pulled into his space. Setting the brake he looked thoughtful for a moment, then turned to Methos curiously.
        "What the hell is a spalpeen, anyway?" he asked.
        Methos shrugged. "How should I know? You're the Scot!"
        "It's a rascal," Amanda put in from the back seat. "And it's Irish, not Scottish. See? My complaints about your accuracy were entirely justified!"
        That set them all laughing as they piled out of the car and headed into the building. They went up the back stairs that led directly to the apartment. Amanda felt a burgeoning excitement as she followed Duncan up the stairs. As Duncan unlocked the door (what was taking him so long, anyway?) Amanda felt Methos standing close behind her, so close she could feel the warmth of his breath against his neck.
        She realized that he had to have bent down to do that... otherwise she'd feel it against the top of her head. She imagined his mouth hovering close to her skin and closed her eyes against the shiver that took her, and then shivered again as his lips finally touched the soft spot behind her ear. Involuntarily she reached out for support and found her hands against Duncan's back.
        Never one to waste an opportunity, she slid her hands under his arms, and splayed her fingers over the hard masculine curves of his chest, stroking him through the ancient t-shirt he wore. Sometimes his fashion sense left a little to be desired, but in this case she'd forgive him. The old fabric was silky-soft and so thin she could feel the rise of his nipples through it. For a moment they just stood there, absorbing the feel and scent of each other, then Methos lifted his head and cleared his throat.
        "Will you please get that door open, MacLeod? I am *not* doing this in the hallway again."
        ' Again?' Amanda wondered. What had they been up to before she got in? She made a mental note to find out. Duncan finally managed to get the key in the lock. . . funny, he didn't usually have that problem, she thought with a sly smile. He opened the door and they nearly fell into the apartment, ending up in a tangle of limbs and laughter. As they sorted themselves out, Methos shook his head with a wry smile.
        "You'd think at my age I'd have a little more dignity, wouldn't you?"
        "Dignity ain't all it's cracked up to be." Amanda said, proceeding to prove it as she pinched Duncan's behind. He yelped and glared at her, rubbing the offended portion of his anatomy. She grinned.
        "Love hurts?" she asked innocently.
        "No, but you're going to if you're not careful!" he returned menacingly, reaching for her.
        Amanda ducked behind Methos with a squeal. Methos looked around with a puzzled air.
        "Have you got mice, MacLeod?"
        "No mice, but I think there may be a pretty little rat in here," Duncan returned, grinning as he circled around Methos, stalking Amanda.
        Giggling, Amanda tried to keep Methos between them, but didn't count on him defecting as her shield. He grabbed her by one wrist and spun her around, pulling her back against him and holding her there with one arm across her midriff as Duncan advanced on her. She squirmed ineffectually, eyes widening as the Highlander's grin grew astonishingly evil. Where the hell had that expression come from? It was almost scary. If she didn't know him as well as she did, she might have even felt a twinge of fear. As it was, she tensed as his hands found her shoulders, then relaxed as they slid gently downward over her breasts, fingers flicking her nipples into aching erectness.
        She arched, her head falling back against Methos' shoulder as she did. Duncan leaned down and let his lips roam the exposed length of her neck, his fingers still circling her nipples. His tongue flickered out to taste her, marking a necklace of sensation across the base of her throat, right where an Immortal was most vulnerable. A shudder shook her to her core, heat blazing through her, making her insides clench with want. Duncan claimed her open mouth with his and leaned into her, sliding a knee between her thighs and forcing her upward.
        Reading his need, she reached back to curl her arms over Methos' strong shoulders for support, and brought her legs up, locking them around Duncan's hips. He was hard and heavy in the open cradle of her thighs and she could feel Methos equally erect behind her. Wildly aroused, she rolled her hips, feeling both of them react, sucking on Duncan's mouth and wanting far, far more. One of Methos' hands left her midriff and slid between her body and Duncan's, cupping her mons, separating her from the heat and pressure of Duncan. He teased her for a moment, fingers stroking the damp silk of her briefs before deliberately pulling her back against him and inexorably away from Duncan. Reluctantly she released Duncan from between her thighs, and let her mouth leave his with a sigh.
        "What'd you go and do that for?" she asked the older Immortal petulantly.
        "I said I'm not doing this again and I meant it," Methos said. "What is it with you and the damned hallway, MacLeod?"
        Duncan looked around as if just now becoming aware of their location, and chuckled, his eyes alight with desire and amusement. "Well, it's long, narrow, dark... I don't know, what do you think?"
        Against her back Amanda felt Methos laugh, but when he spoke he sounded faintly disgusted. "Spare me the Freudian symbolism and let's go to bed. I don't know about you two but I like to be comfortable."
        Duncan lifted an eyebrow. "That's an understatement if ever I heard one."
        Methos shrugged as he started for the bedroom. "Hey, after five-thousand years you get set in your ways."
        Duncan looked meaningfully at Amanda, and she read the challenge in his gaze and nodded, accepting it. He grinned that evil grin again at her nod. She looked around the room assessingly.
        "Where? The stairs?" she asked in a conspiratorial whisper.
        Duncan looked at them thoughtfully, then grimaced and shook his head. "Good thought, but I'm not really up for having hexagonal grid patterns imprinted on my butt."
        Amanda stifled a giggle and looked around again. "You know MacLeod, your apartment really doesn't lend itself to this idea."
        He nodded ruefully. "It doesn't, does it? Damn, this is harder than I thought it would be."
         "Are you two going to stand about all night?" Methos called from the bedroom.
        Amanda thought about the bedroom furnishings and couldn't come up with anything for a moment, then she grinned. "I have it!" Quickly she whispered her idea to Duncan, who winced.
        "You're an evil woman, Amanda, I like that about you. Go on in, get started. I'll be there in a bit. Tell him I'm getting drinks. I'll find something to delay me to give you time to get things set up."
        She winked and headed for the bedroom, skinning her dress off over her head as she walked.


        Methos had begun to wonder what his paramours were up to when Amanda finally came into the room. She had her dress in her hands, and he found himself gawking like an adolescent at her lithe body sheathed in nothing more than mist-gray silk bikini briefs and a pair of silvery stockings. He wondered for a moment what was holding them up, as she wore no garter belt, and finally decided they must be anti-gravity. It took him a good thirty seconds to realize Duncan hadn't followed her into the room. He looked past her, eyebrows raised.
        "Lose someone?"
        She looked over her shoulder and shrugged, which did amazing things to her breasts. "He was thirsty."
        Methos swallowed drily. "So am I."
        She dropped her dress and kicked off her shoes, then hooked her thumbs in the sides of her panties and pushed them down until they fell to the floor. "I'm sure you are," she purred silkily as she stepped out of them and advanced on him like a snow leopard on a rabbit.
        He had already taken off his shirt and shoes, and her hands went unerringly to his jeans, opening them with a sideways tug that somehow peeled open the buttons as easily as a zipper. He wondered where she'd learned that trick, then decided he probably didn't want to know. He closed his eyes as her hands skimmed his hips, pushing the denim down, then moved forward to cup his freed erection. Amanda's touch was delicate and teasing, very like her, and so different from Duncan's rough honesty. He appreciated both of them in very different ways.
        She leaned forward and put her lips against his ear, tongue licking delicately at the inner surface for a moment before she whispered. "Step out of your jeans, lover."
        He shivered a little at the heat of her breath against moist skin, and smiled, complying. Once he was free of them, she began to walk forward, forcing him backward with each step until he felt the edge of the bed behind his knees. He started to lean down, only to have her stop him, her eyebrows lifted imperiously.
        "Did I say you could sit down?"
        He shook his head mutely, trying not to grin at her "Ilse the She Wolf" mannerism.
        "I didn't think so." she continued. "Stay right where you are." She leaned forward again and ran her tongue along the seam of his lips, then drew back slightly. "Thirsty, hmmm?"
        He nodded, and she tongued him again, this time teasing his lips open, so she could slick her agile way inside. He reached for her, only to have her draw back. "Ah, ah, ah! I didn't say ' Simon says.'"
        He played along, and she leaned back in, so close her breasts flattened against his chest, and the slick scratchiness of her stockings against his thighs sent shocks of pleasure through him. Finally she kissed him again, using both hands to pull his head forward, crushing his mouth harshly against her own. The kiss went nuclear very fast, and she moved against him in a dancer's shimmy. They were shocked apart suddenly when the phone rang, and they heard Duncan swear as he picked it up in the other room.
        Panting slightly, Amanda studied him, then smiled cattily and put her hand against his shoulder, pushing lightly until he got the message and turned with her, reversing their positions. She ran a finger lightly down his chest, and then abruptly sat down on the bed, looking like a naughty Victorian postcard. He wondered briefly if she might have posed for some as she reached up to take his hands and tug him to his knees beside the bed. He didn't need instructions after that. He knew exactly what she wanted. In the background he could hear Duncan talking, obviously still on the phone, and for a moment he hesitated. Amanda shook her head, smiling.
        "He won't mind. Really. You've got to get over that."
        Methos flushed, embarrassed to be caught. "I know, it's just, I worry sometimes. . ."
        "We settled that, remember? He's learned how to share his toys."
        Methos remembered, very well in fact. Share and share alike. He gave up his worry and put his hands on her thighs, pushing them apart. She grinned and fell back on her elbows, waiting. He inched his hands upward until the nylon gave way to flesh, and she shivered as his fingers skimmed the sensitive insides of her thighs.
        "Nice." she said, encouraging him.
        He slid his hands beneath her to cup her buttocks and pull her forward to the very edge of the bed, then tipped her pelvis slightly upward. He felt her tense in anticipation, and his smile deepened. He waited, waited, until her squirm told him she was ready, and then he let his tongue open her to his mouth. She shuddered and gasped. He moved his hands, using one to keep her at the perfect angle while the other found the fluid well of her body so he could ease two fingers into her narrow sheath. She moaned and tossed, her hips rocking under his touch.
        She tasted of mystery, shadows, and laughter. Her pulse beat all around him, against his cheek, against his lips, around his fingers. His own pulse quickened, seeming to echo inside him. A sense of urgency built, his own arousal intensifying as hers did, his body hard and throbbing. He deepened his kiss, his tongue flickering over the taut pearl of sensation at the top of her cleft until he heard her sobbed command.
        "S-s-stop! Stop now!"
        He lifted his head, puzzled, and found her gazing at him with fire in her dark eyes.
        "Stand up," she whispered.
        Almost hypnotically, he complied. With her gymnast's flexibility she got her feet on the edge of the bed and lifted her hips, offering herself to him. He almost groaned, and wondered what the hell Duncan was doing on the phone when he was needed here.
        "Methos, please?" Her voice was husky with need.
        Gods. . . there was no stopping this now. He stepped into her offering and took her hips in his hands as he brushed his aching cock against the dark curls between her thighs, their darkness a startling contrast to the silver halo of her hair on the indigo bedspread. He teased for a moment until she pushed herself onto him and he had no choice but to obey her desire. Silky heat sucked him in, a rippling glide that took his breath away. He rocked, easing deeper, his breath coming faster. Suddenly a warm hand was on his shoulder, and he gasped, startled, almost pulling free. Duncan's hand slid from his shoulder to press firmly against his lower back, pushing him back into Amanda's yielding depths as his teeth nibbled at the back of Methos' neck.
        "Couldn't wait for me?" he whispered, sounding amused. "Can't say that I blame you, not with an offer like that."
        "I wanted to wait," Methos managed, trying to maintain enough control to speak. "But you know how she is."
        Duncan chuckled, and the feel of it against his neck sent shivers down Methos' spine. "I do indeed. It's kind of a turn on to watch, you know." The hand on his back moved lower still, cupping one buttock.
        Methos bit his lip in anticipation, knowing what was coming next, hoping he knew, anyway. He almost sobbed in relief as he felt warm, slick fingers working to open him, teasing. The scent of olive oil took him back centuries, unbearably erotic in this context. Finally Duncan's hands moved to hold him steady as he pressed his entry, his own body already bare and sleek with the fragrant oil.
        The oldest Immortal had no other thought but to yield as he was entered, his being utterly infused by his lovers. They had managed to surprise him, and being trapped between them was maddeningly delicious. A single sob slipped the bounds of his control, but they all knew it didn't speak of pain. Slowly Amanda lowered her hips until they rested on bed once more, drawing the other two inexorably down with her.
        Methos nearly lost his balance and his hands shot out to brace on the bed on either side of Amanda, his eyes flying open as Duncan leaned into him, very gently beginning to move, the hard length of him nestling deep. Methos thought for just a moment that his knees would buckle, but somehow they held and the three of them began to move together, finding the way to make it work, finding the rhythm. It was good, no, beyond good, fabulous. Slow and easy, almost languid, they flowed like a sea-tide, surging and retreating.
        When the trembling began, it startled him for a moment, wondering why his legs were shaking. The absorption of their mutual pleasuring was so intense that it took him a while to realized that the heat he felt surging up his thighs and across his back was distracting, even uncomfortable. It took a moment longer to realize that what he felt was the burn of muscles reaching their limit. He shifted his feet wider, trying to change the stresses on his body, and didn't succeed. Part of him wanted to stay like this, to keep the tidal surge going until he peaked, but his body fought a losing battle against the awkwardness of the position. He shifted again, trying vainly to find a way to ease it. Duncan's hands caressed his hips, slick with oil, and he bent forward even more to put his mouth near Methos' ear.
        "Comfortable?" he asked silkily.
        Methos stared down at Amanda as the word registered, read the mischief in her gaze, and realization hit him. He groaned, shaking his head in disbelief. "You planned this!" he accused. Amanda's smile widened and she did something with her body that would have made him come if his back hadn't been hurting. "I can't believe you did this on purpose!" he gasped.
        "You can't?" Duncan asked, his hips moving, his body an erotic counterpoint to the pain.
        Methos almost laughed. "Forget I said that."
        "We will," Duncan said amiably.
        Methos swore, a splendid collection of mostly consonants that he had picked up in Sumeria. Amanda looked impressed.
        "What did you just say?" she asked, wide-eyed.
        "I cast aspersions on your antecedents, something about dung-beetles, if I remember correctly," he said. "Damn it, this is really starting to hurt."
        "Don't worry," Duncan soothed. "We would never let you suffer for long. Amanda, would you clear a spot?"
        She scowled. "Why me?"
        "I thought you might like to end up on top, not on the bottom."
        She thought about that and her expression brightened. "You're right."
        As her warmth slowly slid from around him Methos moaned, feeling cold and bereft, though Duncan's presence mitigated that more than a little. The only good thing about her absence was that he could finally straighten up. Though the muscles still trembled, the pain in his back and thighs eased. He sighed in relief, leaning back, letting Duncan take part of his weight, an act that caused certain other interesting side effects. He felt a tremor go through Duncan, and felt his hands tighten on his thighs. Methos smiled, thinking turnabout was definitely fair play.
        "God, that's nice..." Duncan sighed in his ear. They moved a few strokes, regaining some of their lost arousal, then Duncan spoke again. "Turn with me," he prompted.
        They managed, dancelike, to turn around, then Duncan slowly eased them both down onto the bed, scooting backward with incredibly erotic little movements until they were supported, half-sitting, by the pillows piled against the headboard. Amanda knelt to one side on the bed, waiting impatiently.
        "Done?" she asked when Duncan finally stopped moving, his hands massaging the last of the discomfort from Methos' thighs.
        "Nowhere near," Methos answered. "Get back over here."
        Amanda grinned and moved to straddle them, poised above him, teasing as was her wont. Methos reached for her, and she shook her finger at him and started to tell him no. Narrowing his gaze ominously he grabbed her wrist in one hand and dragged her forward, his other hand finding her hip and pushing her firmly down. Taken by surprise she gave a little squeak that reminded him of Duncan's ' pretty little rat' comment and fell forward, her breasts soft against his chest. The moist heat of her sex was pressed tight against the ache in his groin. He moved his hand from her hip to the soft curve of her buttock and pulled her forward just enough to facilitate his entry.
        She didn't resist, in fact, she pushed herself up on his chest and bore down with her hips to take him deeper. As her weight settled onto him, it pushed him down onto Duncan and he gasped, trying to sort out pain from pleasure, waiting for his body to ease. It came after a moment, and he took a deep breath and let it hiss out.
        "Okay, you win," he said hoarsely. "Comfortable doesn't matter."
        Amanda beamed. "I thought you might come around."
        "Not yet, but I'm working on it."
        Duncan groaned. "How the hell can you pun at a time like this?"
        "Talent," Methos gasped as Amanda took the initiative and began to move, her sleek heat surrounding him, internal muscles clasping him like a hand. "Oh gods..." He bit his lip, trying not to let on just how good this was. Memories of times like this had woken him in the night ever since they'd gone their separate ways. Memories of pleasure shared, and the even sweeter aftermath of being held between them, and finally, finally belonging somewhere. That was an even deeper pleasure than this.
        Amanda stroked his lip with a fingertip, teasing it from between his teeth, then leaned down to kiss him, a deep, slow kiss that combined with the other sensations swamping him, making him arch upward into her welcoming depths. Duncan's fingers on his hips pulled him back down. Amanda urged him up again, only to have Duncan draw him back yet again. Amanda took his hands in hers and put one on her breast, then tucked the other one into the wet tangle of curls where their bodies meshed. His fingers slid, searched, found, and he heard her sigh of pleasure as he manipulated the little knot of nerves there.
        Duncan's arms came around both of them, cupping Amanda's buttocks, pulling both of their bodies down harder against his, setting a newer, harsher pace. There was no breath for words, no thought of anything except this merging, everything narrowing down to the soft sounds of delight that none of them could hold back. Duncan thrust upward, his powerful thighs lifting all three of them. His teeth closed on Methos's shoulder and a moan turned to a growl deep in his throat as he peaked.
        Amanda shivered and went still above him a moment later, the sound of Duncan's pleasure pushing her over the edge. Knowing they were both replete, Methos gave himself up to his need and let it break. Ecstasy came in pulsing waves, taking every moment of self doubt and loneliness with it. The sparkling sting of healing flesh from the bite on his shoulder added a new note to the pleasure, and he felt tears on his face as he gathered Amanda close, and felt Duncan stroking his hair. They lay in silence for a long time, until finally Duncan broke the stillness.
        "God, I love you two. Why did I ever leave you?"
        For once no flippant answer rose to his lips, and Methos spoke the truth. "Because we had no choice. We can't stay this way, it's too dangerous."
        "It's not fair!" Amanda protested. "It's just not fair!"
        "No, it's not," Methos agreed, stroking the damp silver strands of her hair back away from her elfin face. "But then. . ."
        "Don't say it." Duncan asked quietly.
        Methos nodded. He was right. It didn't need to be said. They were all too aware of it anyway. He sighed, and tried to think of something to say. Nothing came. They were mute awhile longer. Finally Duncan shifted uncomfortably and Methos knew it was time to separate. Amanda read the body language as well, and she sighed and crawled off of the top of the pile and flopped down on her back next to them, freeing Methos and Duncan to move apart.
        "Maybe we could pool our money and buy a tropical island somewhere?" she mused. "Get the Universal Life Church declare it holy ground, and make sure no one could come there without our permission. It would be perfect. I could design the security system."
        Duncan smiled. "Nice idea, but that would work for a couple of months, then we'd all be bored to death. Face it, love, we need people, we need interaction."
        She wrinkled her nose at him. "Spoilsport."
        Methos stretched as he stood up and extended a hand to Duncan. "Come on, cleanup time." Duncan clasped his hand and let Methos pull him to his feet.
        Amanda yawned and waved lazily. "Have fun."
        Duncan looked at Methos, eyebrows raised. Methos grinned back, ready for a little revenge. Methos leaned over and grabbed her ankles as Duncan slid his arms under her shoulders.
        "One, two, three."
        On Duncan's 'three' they lifted her, squealing in protest, and carried her into the bathroom. Depositing her in the tub, they stepped in to join her before she could jump out.
        "One for all. . . ." Duncan said.
        "And all for one." Methos finished as he turned on the water.


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