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Mathematics 101

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Part One - Addition and Subtraction

 

The room glowed with candlelight, crystal goblets were filled with deep ruby wine, and the scent of the pastel-shaded freesias on the table drifted on the warm air. Amanda surveyed the scene with a contented smirk. Her birthday--well, more or less--her party, her present to herself.

This particular present was one she’d been promising herself for a while now, ever since the Keane affair when she’d persuaded [bullied] [nagged] Methos into trying to save Duncan from himself.

Amanda had chosen her dress with the same care she'd given to the rest of her planning. A deceptively simple outfit in heavy black silk that fitted like a glove and sheened at every movement. The hemline came a little above the knee, the shoestring straps were there to set off the creamy smoothness of her skin rather than hold up the bodice. The tailoring did that. Her only jewelry was a narrow gold choker with a single pendant ruby in the hollow of her throat. Her hair was back to her natural colour, a short dark cap, feather-cut to wisp about her face and neck.

Satisfied she looked stunning and stylish, she glanced at the clock. Her guests were due in about five minutes, and knowing Duncan, he'd be dead on time. Methos was another matter. She still wasn’t sure he'd be there.

A phonecall had been all it had taken to pin down Duncan to the date and time. Methos had been more elusive. Typically. It had taken days of hunting and much wheedling around a certain Watcher before she finally managed to get somewhere. Joe had smilingly refused to give her a phone number or an address for the old bastard, but had told her to come back to the bar last night. There she'd found Methos slouched on a barstool with all the careless poise of a sleepy leopard, amusement curving that contradictory mouth.

He'd said he'd turn up, but worryingly, he'd given her his sweet Adam Pierson smile when she'd pointed out that it was her birthday and he'd better show. She didn't trust Adam Pierson any more than she did Methos. In fact, there wasn't one of the ancient bastard's many personae that she'd trust as far as she could comfortably spit a rat.

Amanda gave herself a mental shake. It was too late to start worrying about the devious sod. With any luck he'd be on his best behavior. Methos could be utterly delightful when he put his mind to it. He just didn't bother very often, would let Adam be the hapless charmer, but it wasn't the same. Thank goodness Duncan was always Duncan; sweet, adorable, sexy as hell with a sensual streak a mile wide, and delightfully predictable. Oh, yes, and with that subtle edge of danger about him.

Which brought her thoughts back to Methos, and a shiver of delicious anticipation touched fingertips down her spine. Briefly she wondered if Duncan knew exactly how deadly his friend was, or if he had still to see past the Adam facade to the lethal prime ego. Adam Pierson could make Clark Kent look like the Godfather, but Methos had depths even she had yet to discover and she was not that sure she wanted to. In the past, she'd had a few glimpses of the darkness within that most ancient of men, and found it more terrifying than titillating-- Presence was suddenly a harsh scrape across her nerve-ends, and she went out to the small lobby, sword to hand, just in case.

Moments later the etched glass panel showed her a familiar silhouette and she propped the sword by the coat-rack, smoothing her pleased grin to a welcoming smile as the doorbell chimed.

"Duncan!" she purred, opening the door. "Come on in." My, but he looked good. Better than good--edible. He was wearing a black tux with a rich burgundy shirt, but the formality was cancelled out by the open collar and top few buttons unfastened to show the long, strong throat and some silky chest-hair. His mane was combed straight back into his usual ponytail, and she'd place money on it being held in place by one of his Celtic silver clasps. So predictable. He was carrying a bunch of freesias and purple lilac in one hand, champagne in the other. So endearingly predictable. Without bothering to relieve him of his burdens, she walked into his open arms and slid her arms about his waist, lifting her face for his kiss.

"Happy birthday," he murmured against her mouth.

"Mmm." She smiled. "It is, now."

"Is Methos here yet?"

"No, but he'd better turn up or I'll be after his head." Amanda sighed ruefully. "Not that I'd remove it--as if I could. It's far more interesting where it is, don't you think?" she added demurely.

Duncan chuckled. "I'll take your word for it." He kissed her again. "Amanda, you're looking more than usually stunning tonight."

"Of course." She wondered if he'd brought anything else along with the de rigueur champagne and flowers, but managed to bite back the impulse to ask. Patience, she told herself, was a virtue, and as she had very few, she ought to practice at least one occasionally. In the meantime, she wasn't in a hurry to let him go. She slid her hands down over the firm slope of his buttocks, feeling the powerful muscles tense under her light touch. "Oooh," she cooed, "have you missed me?" and pressed closer, finding the growing bulge in his pants. So meltingly predictable... her own body answered with a throb of arousal deep in her belly.

"Always," he whispered. "But champagne has to be chilled and you're raising the temperature around here."

"A good point." She and gave his ass a proprietorial pat before moving away. "Those flowers are gorgeous, and need to be in water. Thank you, Duncan. Go on through and make yourself at home while I see to these."

Presence grated as Amanda carried the vase of flowers into the living room. She didn't react, knowing she didn't have to. Duncan was already on his feet, katana in hand. She sighed appreciatively; no one moved quite like he did, all that power and grace in perfect harmony with body and mind.

"It better be Methos," she said, putting the lilacs and freesias on the mantelshelf. "He's already late."

"Only by a few minutes," Duncan said, smiling. "Give the guy a break, he lives on the other side of Paris, remember, and he only flew in yesterday."

"I don't remember because I don't know," she snapped. "Joe wouldn't tell me when I was trying to get hold of the old s-o-b." The door chime sounded over Duncan's snort of laughter, and she marched to the lobby, checking that her sword was still by the coat-rack. Just in case. The dark shape was Methos', and she jerked the door open. "You're late."

"I know." His smile was pure Pierson: guileless and innocent and slightly shy. And false as fool's gold, because he suddenly transmuted to Methos. A wicked glint appeared in the narrowed eyes, and the sculptured, dangerous mouth had a knowing curve to it. "I knew you'd expect me to be so I thought I'd better not disappoint you."

"Smart ass." She caught his hand and tugged him over the threshold. "I'm glad you made it." He, too, was wearing a black tux, which was a minor miracle in its own right, and his shirt was moss-green, also open at the neck. It gave his skin a deceptive pallor, and deepened the agate eyes to unreadable forest pools. His dark hair was longer than she'd seen it for several centuries, curling onto his collar and falling over his forehead in an untidy tangle that made Adam look jailbait-young and Methos dangerously attractive. She leaned in for a kiss; his mouth tasted of coffee and brandy. "Called in at Joe's?"

"Naturally. He sends his best wishes. MacLeod here?"

"Of course. He was on time."

"Isn't he always?" Methos drawled. His hands smoothed over her hips, drawing her closer for another kiss as gentle and impersonal as the first. "Happy birthday," he said and this time his smile was warm, without the sardonic twist that hinted at agendas. Well, she had agendas of her own.

Two bottles had been forced into the tux's pockets. Methos extricated them with difficulty. "I assumed MacLeod would be bringing champagne," he said, "but as I didn't know what was on the menu, I played safe and brought one of each."

A  Malbec and a Chardonnay, Amanda discovered with delight. "Duck," she said, "and prawns. These will do just fine." Then she noticed the brightly wrapped parcel he'd parked at his feet, and she hugged him.

From there the evening got even better as far as Amanda was concerned. Duncan had brought her a matching set of necklace and earrings in gold and emeralds. The design was unique, modern, dynamic and worth a fortune. She'd seen some of the artist's debut work and lusted to the extent that she was seriously considering a raid on the jewelers currently exhibiting it.

Methos' gift was a book: Bonsai for Beginners, compete with a Bonsai starter kit. Because, he said, she needed a hobby in her old age. Also inside, as well as the expected paraphernalia--for which she would extract revenge--was a small tissue wrapped package that opened out to reveal a crystal and gold phial of her favorite, highly expensive perfume.

Saying and demonstrating her thanks to each man in turn meant dinner was delayed, but it didn't matter. With the help of a very high-class caterer who specialized in intimate dining at home, Amanda had organized a meal that needed the minimum amount of effort on her part; the meats were already marinaded, and needed only a zap in the microwave. So did the rice. Then all she had to do was introduce the dressings to the salads, and serve. For dessert there was fresh fruit, crème fraîche, and the champagne.

Afterward Amanda kept the wine and conversation flowing. She knew to the last droplet how much alcohol she could pour into Duncan before he became incapable of anything other than a continuous idiotic giggle. Methos, she knew to her cost, was hollow-legged and almost impossible to drink under the table. She was far more likely to pass out before he did. But she had no intention of letting things get that far.

The two men responded beautifully to her carefully apportioned flirting, their teasing rivalry having just the right hint of sharp blades under the humour. But Amanda noticed that Methos never pushed a point, always gave ground, acknowledging that she and Duncan were the couple. It was not a new thing, of course. The three of them would often spend a convivial evening together, then, when she and Duncan began to get wrapped up in each other, Methos would crack a joke, or a snide remark, and make himself scarce. She waited for it to happen this evening.

The moment came soon after she'd put on some slow dance music and had drifted into Duncan's arms. They swayed together, Duncan nibbling delicately at her ear, and Methos yawned, stretched and got up from the couch.

"It's time this old man went home to bed," he said cheerfully. "Enjoy the night, my children." He started for the door.

Amanda turned in Duncan's arms, one hand over his so he wouldn't let her go, and hooked her fingers in Methos' shirt-front. "No," she whispered, meeting those enigmatic eyes and putting everything she had into the two words. "Stay." She pulled him to her. For a moment she had the heady satisfaction of knowing she'd managed to surprise the ancient bastard. Duncan was still investigating her earlobe with tongue and gentle teeth and probably hadn't noticed a thing.

"You--witch," Methos drawled, a smile growing. But he obeyed the imperative and took her mouth in a kiss that was neither gentle nor impersonal.

Crowded back against Duncan by the pressure of Methos' body, aware of his arousal and Methos', Amanda gave a sigh of satisfaction and triumph, and began to work on Methos' shirt buttons. She knew he wouldn't back out now, and Duncan was at the stage of inebriation that would have him going along with anything she wanted. Admittedly, she'd never sprung another man into their bed, but there was a first time for everything and it was her birthday.

One of Duncan's hands was cupping her right breast, fingers exploring the texture of silk, the other she still held. Methos found her left breast, caressing the erect nipple through the fabric, while his free hand slipped behind her, found the tag of her zipper and eased it slowly down. She heard a sharp intake of breath from the man behind her, and Amanda suppressed a giggle. Judging by where Methos and the zip now were, his knuckles would have brushed down over Duncan's erection.

Her body was moving, a slow sensual writhe between them, and Methos slid her thin straps off one shoulder while Duncan dealt with the straps on the other. Methos began to peel the black silk from her body, his mouth caressing her skin as he exposed it. Duncan's arm about her waist was holding her to him, holding her upright. Her legs were weak and trembling and all she wanted to do was lie between them and take them both into-- Methos drew a nipple into his mouth and she cried out.

At the same time, Duncan rolled its twin under his fingers and the sensations struck home between her thighs. She could feel her wetness, a potent heat that needed-- And Methos was kneeling at her feet, easing dress and panties over her hips and down to her ankles. Then he kissed her belly just above the patch of dark curls, bent his head lower and slid his tongue over her clitoris. All too soon he stood up, ignoring her yelp of protest, and kissed her mouth, tongue probing, exploring. She could taste herself in the kiss, taste the richness of wine, and gave herself to the experience.

Duncan said something, his voice a distant rumble, Methos answered, chuckling, but what the words were she neither knew nor cared. Methos stood back and disappeared from view. Duncan turned her round, kissed her, then picked her up and carried her through to the bedroom. Methos was already there, she discovered, naked on the bed, and Duncan lowered her into his arms.

The edged rivalry of the meal was gone. The two men didn’t compete with each other, they shared their worship of her body, bringing her to orgasm time and again until she was giddy and dazed and drunk on sensation. Then Methos lifted her astride Duncan, impaling her on his rigid cock. She leaned down and kissed him, knowing he was close to his edge, knew Methos had to be too, and she wanted.... A lithe body covered her, slick with sweat, and she felt the blunt head of his cock pressuring along her perineum to her vulva and slowly push in beside Duncan’s. And Duncan made an inarticulate sound that was part surprise, part pleasure, and he arched back against the pillow, eyes closing in sheer sensual enjoyment.

Amanda was stretched, filled as she so rarely had been; pleasure and pain were an intricate blend that reached something deep within her psyche. This was what she wanted. This was what she needed. Beneath her, Duncan gasped and shuddered as Methos stilled, sheathed within in her.

Methos moaned and rocked his hips, the tension of supporting his weight quivering through his arms and chest. He kissed her neck, her shoulder, then used his teeth in gentle nips. She whimpered into Duncan’s hungry mouth.

Somehow the two men timed their thrusts in perfect unison, and the gathering surge of heat began in Amanda’s limbs, flooded her belly and she convulsed, screaming, head pressed back against Methos’ shoulder. Enclosed in her spasming muscles, the men were driven to their own climaxes almost simultaneously, and she cried out again, not knowing if she was laughing or sobbing or singing a paean of victory as their come pumped into her body.

###

Carefully Amanda extricated herself from the tangle of arms and legs and slid out at the end of the bed. The two men stirred, but didn't waken, and she smiled fondly. It had been a wild night, full of tenderness, laughter and all the sensual inventiveness she'd hoped it would be. She had been their focus, their altar, and it had been--incredible. She glanced at the clock, and grinned. Morning, and her stomach was informing her it needed to be fed. When she'd finished in the bathroom, she'd make sure they woke up. She should give herself this kind of birthday present more often. They were such skilful, generous lovers....

Amanda was still smirking when she came back into the bedroom, toweling her hair dry after a leisurely shower. The men had moved in their sleep, and her place between them was no longer there. Methos had ducked his head into Duncan's shoulder, while his arm was a possessive curl over the man's ribs. Duncan's arm rested across Methos' waist and his face was turned into Methos' hair. 

They looked cute, Amanda decided; the contrast between Duncan's deep tan and Methos' lighter skin tone was nicely complimentary, and the two beautifully sculpted bodies would be an artist's dream. Make that wet-dream.

Amanda tossed the towel in the general direction of the chair, reached down and tweaked some toes. "C'mon, boys," she said. "Move over and let me in."

Methos moved. He burrowed deeper into Duncan's shoulder and hitched his foot out of Amanda's light grasp, hooking it over Duncan's leg instead. Duncan sighed in his sleep and tightened his arm around Methos' waist.

"Hey." Amanda chuckled. "Shift." She grabbed toes again.

Methos muttered something and tried to pull free of her. She tweaked his toe once more, and Duncan's for good measure. "Let me in." Without opening his eyes, Methos rolled onto his back and she crawled up the bed. Duncan's hand lay on Methos' belly so she lifted it, wriggled between them and relaxed with a contented sigh, and placed his hand on her own stomach.

The bed was a mess, sticky and damp with red wine. Amanda had a very pleasant memory of Methos pouring burgundy into her navel and lapping, while  Duncan had anointed her breasts with it and suckled. The only thing better than one attentive lover, was two....

And now she was definitely hungry. Amanda jabbed her elbows left and right, and was rewarded with a pair of baritone grunts.

"Who's going to make me my breakfast?" she cooed sweetly, jabbing again.

"He is," both men mumbled in two-part harmony.

"Crêpes," Amanda said, poking Duncan in the ribs. "With apricot conserve," she went on, raking a fingernail down Methos' sternum. "Fresh fruit salad, hot croissants filled with ham and camembert...."

"Bugger off," groaned Methos, still half-asleep. "I don't do breakfasts. Besides," he added, abruptly waking up and rolling over, "I need a piss."

"Romance is dead!" Amanda said mournfully, and helped him on his way with a shove on his nicely taut ass. Duncan snickered. It became a yelp when Amanda pinched his inner thigh. "Crêpes," she said again, determination in her voice. "You know, those pancake things you do so well? It's still my birthday," she went on, fanning her eyelashes at him and soothing the pinched skin with teasing fingers.

"All right." Duncan sighed, and kissed her. "Methos can fix the croissants."

Methos, who had been indulging in a long stretch before heading for the bathroom, grinned at her. "Deal," he said, "as long as they're the ready-made ones." He leaned down to kiss her as well, and Amanda took the opportunity to stroke up his thigh and tease her nails along the underside of his semi-erect cock.

"Mmm," she murmured, "then we can all have breakfast in bed." For a moment she thought Methos was going to come back to her arms, but his expression became pained.

"Sometimes," he whispered, "your timing leaves a lot to be desired." And he hurried out of the room.

"When a man's gotta go," Duncan said, and stood up. "Pancake things it is."

Amanda stretched as well, taking a long luxurious time about it and listening to the reassuring breakfast-sounds coming from her small kitchen. Duncan was good at crêpes, and she'd bought the required ingredients so he could make them fresh. Then he said something, but the words were lost under the sounds of the flushing toilet and the opening-closing of the bathroom door.

"What?" she called.

"I said," he began, putting his head round the door, "do you want cream with the fruit salad?"

"Of course," said Methos, strolling towards the kitchen and croissants.

The two men met in the doorway of the bedroom. They stopped, unspeaking, and just stared at each other. Amanda sat up in bed, about to demand they remember breakfast and haul ass. They were almost the same height, but she could see most of Duncan's face over Methos' shoulder. His sleepy, early-morning smile--which she'd always considered one of delightfully unknowing seduction--suddenly took on an expression of what she could only call startled recognition. Slowly Methos raised his hand and drifted his fingers through Duncan's mane, tucking the long dark tangle back behind his ear, then stilled, palm lightly cupping the other man's jaw.

Holding her breath, Amanda watched Duncan's recognition become a besotted wonder, and she swore quietly to herself. She'd seen that look before, when he'd first introduced her to Tessa Noel, but it had never been there for her. Now his kiss-swollen mouth silently shaped two syllables. She read the word from his lips; Methos' name. His eyelids dropped slowly as if the thick lashes were too heavy to lift, and his head tilted fractionally to rest more securely in the long-fingered hand. Methos' other hand came up to frame his face as a priest holds a chalice, and they moved as one to cancel out the short distance between them, naked bodies fitting together as if their separate forms found perfect synchronicity one with the other.

Duncan's arms slid around Methos, holding him closer. They kissed, seeking each other's mouth with the gentle hunger of those who had no need to snatch at pleasure, who knew they had all the time in the world to explore each other--all the time, or no time--

Amanda shivered, and let out her breath in a sigh that was an uncomfortable mixture of irritation, jealousy and appreciative amusement. It would be interesting to see where this development would lead, how Duncan would cope--and Methos, if he didn't take off like a singed cat and disappear for the next couple of centuries.

It had been an incredible birthday, but she certainly hadn't planned on this twist. Maybe Duncan wasn't so predictable after all. But then, she acknowledged with a philosophical shrug, mathematics wasn't the exact science the experts made it out to be.

Sometimes 1 + 1 + 1 = 2

###

 

Part Two - The Sum of All Things

The hands that cupped his face were warm, but the mouth had a different heat, starting an all-pervasive glow that coiled through blood and bone and rooted deep in his heart as well as his groin. Awareness of his surroundings slid away. Only Methos was real. Methos and the mouth that gently fed on him, the tongue caressing its way in to seek his tongue, the lean, powerful body that molded itself to his and--

"Hey!" It was an aggrieved squawk and it jolted him back to the here and now as effectively as a deluge of cold water. "I love you guys and it's sexual dynamite watching you make out," Amanda announced as they drew reluctantly apart, "but it's still my birthday." There was a chuckle in her voice, throaty and appreciative. "You can carry on where you left off some other time."

Duncan didn't glance at her. His eyes were on Methos and the stunned expression on the man's face. Then the shutters came down; his widened eyes narrowed, his lips lost their softened line and took on an almost sardonic twist.

"You're not a bad kisser, MacLeod," Methos said, and strolled past him with casual nonchalance, and disappeared into the kitchen.

Amanda climbed out of bed and came to him. "Hey," she murmured, and put her hand to his cheek, an echo of Methos' touch. "Duncan? Don't look so pole-axed. Just pretend nothing happened and ambush the old bastard later."

It was good advice, Duncan knew. Methos' casual no-big-deal attitude was warning enough. He nodded and found a smile from somewhere.

"You conniving vixen," he murmured, gathering her into his arms. "This whole thing was a set-up."

"Not all of it," she admitted. "Only everything up to just then." Amanda turned her face into the sweep of his hair, and he could feel the soft brush of lips and breath against his throat as she spoke. "I've known Methos for centuries. He's a lot like me. He doesn't stick around for long."

"I know," Duncan whispered, ducked his head a little and kissed her. It was as good as always, teasing and enticing, and arousing. But it was not quite like the sensations that Methos' lips and tongue invoked in him. He wanted those again, needed the taste of the intriguing, infuriating mouth and the strength of that dangerous man in his arms. Needed to hold him close, to feel those powerful arms around him, holding and being held as if they would never let each other go, never be parted-- But it was Amanda's full breasts pressed against his chest, and for the first time since he'd known her, it wasn't enough.

"Mmph," she gasped against his mouth, and Duncan suddenly realised he was crushing her to him. He slackened his hold, whispering an apology that he hoped would cover everything. "Don't be sorry," she said with a breathless chuckle. "I adore strong men."

"Oi," Methos said loudly, inches from Duncan's ear, "I'm not making breakfast on my own. Pancake things, MacLeod, are your department, remember?" He pushed between them, claiming Amanda's mouth in a laughing, predatory kiss, but one of his hands stroked slowly, possessively, down Duncan's ribs and hip, then landed a stinging slap on his butt. "Chores first, play after."

Something in Duncan eased its grip and he started to laugh. "Practice what you preach, you pain in the ass!" He levered them apart and gave Methos a shove in the direction of the small kitchen. Amanda he scooped up into his arms, kissed her soundly and tossed her onto the bed. "Don't start without us," he warned, grinning.

"I was going to say that!" She gave him a fake pout. "Don't get sidetracked out there. Maybe you guys should put some pants on?"

Duncan ignored that, and headed for the kitchen. There was very little room for two tall men to move around in their various tasks, but somehow they didn't get in each other's way. A certain anticipatory tension zinged between them, a pleasant edge, but they talked of inconsequential things, joking, teasing, and Duncan watched the cynical curl disappear from Methos' mouth.

They'd had their disagreements in the not-so-distant past, and the combination of Cassandra and Kronos--and Death--had come perilously close to ending their friendship for good. Except that Duncan had not been able walk away from the deep instinct that said trust, despite all of Cassandra's urgings, and the contradicting evidences.

Had Methos been pulling strings back then? Manipulating the final confrontation with Kronos? Maybe. He'd been sure enough at the time. But now?  'I go with the winner,' Methos had said, and looking back on that scene now, Duncan was almost certain there had been something in the man's steady gaze that had added, 'and it had better be you....'

But the distrust had etched into the surface of their friendship, and it had been a while before they were at ease with each other again. It hadn't helped that Methos refused to talk about it.

That was then and this was now. Now he’d looked into those agate eyes and watched them widen with the same recognition that flooded through his own body. He had felt the gentle touch of the clever fingers through his hair, a caress that had stilled against his face. They had moved into the kiss at the same instant, coming together as naturally and inevitably as sea to shore.

Abruptly Duncan realised he'd paused in his batter-making, and was gazing at the man who had to be one of the most aggravating, intriguing and enigmatic human beings on the planet. But he couldn't tear his eyes away. Methos' sharp cheekbones were thrown into high relief by heightened tan, the legacy of sun and wind. His dark hair was an unruly tangle around his face, and Duncan reined back the impulse to reach out and trail his fingers through it.

Methos had been spending time in a far warmer climate than Paris', and it showed in that smooth translucent tan. Where ever he'd been, it had entailed a lot of lounging around wearing about as much as he was wearing now. No pale areas existed on his body to demark the lines of shorts or briefer swimwear. But enticing as the body was, it was Methos' features that drew his gaze. More specifically, the fathomless eyes that had seen so much for so long, and reflected a soul that was as ancient as winter and as young as spring; a soul that maybe needed to find a resting place.

It wasn't as if Duncan was truly seeing Methos for the first time, more like he was finally recognizing something that had been there ever since they’d first met. And now his life had taken on a tectonic shift.

Or was he fooling himself?

Okay, so he probably was fooling himself. The kiss had been no big deal, didn't mean a thing, if that was the way Methos wanted it. But then again, what did he, Duncan MacLeod, want?

The answer came on a small whisper from his heart. Permanence. One love in his life for the rest of his life. Someone who would always be there for him, someone he would always be there for. The two of them, side by side for more than a mortal lifetime, sharing. It was something he'd wanted--needed--for some time, Duncan admitted: the quiet companionship that went hand in glove with an all-consuming passion and would last for centuries. Like Gina and Robert de Valicourt. Until today, the anonymous figure at his side had seemed female. Now Methos stood there.

But.

What did Methos want?

Never had the man seemed more inscrutable, yet Duncan knew deep in his soul that a wrong word, a miss-step on his part, and he could lose the friendship they'd managed to salvage. Then again, everything about immortal living was a risk. Okay, he could lose a friend; he could also gain a lover, though whether that lover would be around for days or weeks, or centuries, he had no way of telling.

Duncan was prepared to take a chance on it, but not yet. He could wait. As long as the elusive bastard didn't decide to pull one of his trademark disappearing acts.

"What?" Methos demanded, startling him out of his reverie. "Why are you staring at me?" There was a challenging scowl on his face and Duncan's heart twisted.

"How did you get flour on your nose?" He spoke the second thing that came into his head. Not the first because that might well have Methos grabbing his clothes and leaving. He snatched up a cloth and swiped away the non-existent streak of flour from Methos' generous prow, and gave him a toothy grin.

A speculative glint appeared in Methos' eyes, and he stuck his fingers into the opened pot of conserve.

"What is it with my nose?" he grumbled. "I haven't forgiven you for the paint yet, and now flour. I think it's payback time." Methos made a swift darting attack, but Duncan snatched his wrist before the apricot gunk ended up on his nose. Instead he forced the trapped hand to his mouth and carefully licked the stickiness from Methos' fingers. It was startlingly erotic, and pleasure began to coil through his blood.

Methos gasped, eyes slitting with delight, and naked as he was, his growing arousal was obvious. As obvious as Duncan's.

"Are you guys getting sidetracked in there?" Amanda called, and Methos started to laugh. It was infectious, and Duncan found himself joining in. They both sounded oddly breathless to his ears, and Methos made no attempt to break free.

"We're on the brink," Methos whispered. "We can either fall or fly or step back. But not here."

"Not here," Duncan agreed, hope rising. "Croissants," he added at the same time as Methos said, "Crêpes."

Breakfast was stickily enjoyable, and Amanda made sure it led onto other things, and that she was the centre of their attention. Consequently it was nearly midday by the time Duncan yawned his way into the shower. Methos was just leaving the bathroom as he came in, and they paused in the doorway, standing close. They didn't speak, but Duncan read the promise in Methos' eyes and growing smile, and a heady exhilaration effervescing through his blood as he showered.

###

They left the apartment together, but neither of them spoke until they were down in the main lobby.

"Did you walk or drive?" Duncan asked. "If you need a lift you're out of luck, but we can share a cab some of the way if you like."

"No, thanks," Methos said, with a studied casualness. "I was planning on walking home. Come with me?"

"Yes," Duncan said simply.         

They took the Metro most of the way, then stopped for coffee in a small courtyard cafe. They didn't talk much, but Duncan found the silences comfortable. So did Methos, if the lack of those small tension signals was anything to go by: they didn't need words. Then they strolled on their way, side by side and in step, hands shoved into pockets and shoulders frequently brushing.

The sense of companionship was complete, and beneath it were the banked embers of a deeper passion that found its expression in sidelong glances, and caught breaths, names spoken quietly with no words to follow.

Duncan lost track of time, and it came as something of a shock to discover they were outside Methos' apartment block.

"Come up for a coffee?" Methos asked. He stood close, scant inches separated them. Duncan looked into his eyes and saw a need that resonated with his own.

The tectonic plates shifted again, and he nodded.

Duncan had known where Methos lived for a while, but he'd never been to the penthouse apartment before. He hadn't turned up on the other man's doorstep the way that Methos turned up on his. To be invited in now, with all the unresolved sexual energy flowing between them, seemed to hold a special significance. Methos had the same feeling, he guessed, because the vague wave of his hand and his, "Mi casa, and all that," was a little rushed, a little too desperately casual.

"We could always go and have lunch somewhere," he suggested, offering a get-out clause.

"Sure, why not? If that's what you want," Methos said, a brittle edge to his voice that hadn't been there before, and Duncan knew he'd made a mistake.

"I'm not stepping back," he said quietly. "I want to fly. With you. No strings, if that's what you want. A few hours or a lifetime, your choice."

"Damn you, MacLeod," Methos whispered. He might as well have said, 'I love you, MacLeod,' the same yearning avowal was in his voice. "How the hell do I answer that?"

"You don't have to, right now," Duncan said, smiling. "Think about it. Take as long as you like. Take a few hours," he repeated, "or a lifetime. I'll be around." And he underscored every word with the unspoken commitment in his heart. "You mentioned coffee?"

"Yes. Coffee." He glanced around vaguely, as if he had momentarily forgotten where the kitchen was. "Coffee. Make yourself at home, it won't be long." He disappeared though an open archway into what had to be the kitchen area.

Duncan took him at his word, and wandered around the large room. A TV and sound system was in possession of one corner, and a long, wide couch upholstered in black leather was strategically placed in front of it. This being Methos' home, a rank of bookshelves took up all of one wall, and their contents had migrated to the computer desk, and the coffee tables at each end of the couch.

The decor was a combination of brushed-steel and limed wood in what should have been an uneasy alliance with the baroque of the architecture, but wasn't. Some contemporary artworks in angular alabaster and copper were cheek by jowl with postmodern bronzes and a couple of Etruscan bowls. There were three paintings hung on the walls; two Georges Braques and a Juan Gris. Duncan inspected them. They were originals.

Light streamed in through tall windows that overlooked the street and the small park, and Duncan drifted over to them. He gazed down at the treetops for a while, then gradually became aware that he was being watched. He turned round. Methos stood in the archway, mugs of coffee in his hands, and Duncan couldn't read his expression.

"Nice view," he said, huskiness deepening his voice.

"Oh, yes," Methos agreed. "Very nice. Don't think I'll ever get tired of it." He seemed to come to a decision about something, because his mouth thinned to a determined line and he put the mugs down on the nearest coffee table. "Unfinished business," he said. "I think we should discuss it. Or at least carry on where we left off."

"Was that before or after the apricot conserve?" Duncan asked unsteadily. His heart was suddenly thudding somewhere in the region of his tonsils.

"Before," Methos whispered. "Definitely before." He walked across the room to Duncan and cupped his face. "Where were we?"

"About there."

"Yesss.... I remember...."

There was no doubt, no hesitation in the mouth that claimed Duncan's, and he responded to it without inhibition, opening for the gently probing tongue and drawing it in. At the same time he closed his arms around the man's whipcord body and locked him close. Their erections were pressed together, and they both instinctively rocked their hips to increase the pressure and escalate the pleasure. Duncan drank in Methos' moan of delight with his breath, taking the life of him deep into his lungs, acknowledging that this essence without substance was as necessary to him as air.

Slowly he broke the kiss and stood back a single pace. Then without haste he began to remove Methos' clothes, item by item, his mouth and tongue worshipping each aspect of the lean athletic form as it was revealed. He kissed the line of tendon and muscle to Methos' shoulder, traced with his lips the subtle curve of his collarbone back to the slight hollow below his throat. There he used his tongue, tasting the faint salt tang of sweat, feeling the shuddering growl that broke from Methos as a vibration that thrummed through him straight to his groin. Methos' hands tangled in his hair, fingers clenching the way a feline flexes its claws in pleasure, holding him to his self-appointed task.

Duncan sucked lightly on the prominent Adam's apple, then kissed a line down Methos' breastbone as he unbuttoned the green silk shirt and let it fall to the floor. While he unfastened Methos' waistband, he sought and found a pale nipple, already a hard nub waiting for his attention. He flicked it with his tongue tip, nipped gently with his teeth then drew it into his mouth and suckled in a slow, steady rhythm. Methos was sighing his name on every breath, shaking, and when Duncan suddenly sucked strong and hard, he cried out, hips surging forward.

Hypnotised by the desire eddying from the man, Duncan turned to the other nipple, giving it the same loving ministrations as its twin. Sinking to his knees, he trailed his tongue down the quivering abdomen as he eased Methos' pants over his hips and down, lifting first one foot and then the other, to take off pants, socks and shoes together. That left only the dark green boxers, the same colour as the discarded shirt, and Duncan hooked his thumbs under the waistband.

He gripped Methos' hips, holding him still while he investigated the sweat-damp navel with lazy tongue strokes. A dampness of another kind darkened the silk to near-black, marking the place where the leaking head of Methos' erection pushed against the confining fabric. The scent of arousal, of male musk, was intoxicating, and it drew him forward to press his face against the warm silk and breathe in the aroma that was uniquely Methos. He'd learned that signature last night, tasting him from Amanda's skin, and it hadn't occurred to him at the time to wonder why the soaring eroticism of the night was so far beyond anything he'd known before. Until this morning, when he'd looked into Methos' eyes and discovered the sum total of his world.

Duncan placed a kiss just below Methos' navel, and silently mouthed the words he wasn't sure that Methos would want to hear. "I love you...." He slid the silk boxers down and urged Methos to step free of them. The rigid, blood-suffused cock bobbed toward him, its slit pearled with pre-come. He gave a humming sigh, and took it into his mouth, drinking from the source the fluid he'd lapped from Amanda. Methos yelled and his knees buckled. Only the painful grip he had on Duncan's hair seemed to hold him more or less upright.

With a gentle curl of his tongue around the glans, Duncan released him and eased his lover back to the couch, lowering him to a boneless sprawl on the black leather. Dazed eyes gazed up at him, their pupils expanded so wide they were obsidian-dark.

"Stop." Methos slurred the words like a drunk. "Stop'n' I'll kill you." He tugged on the double handful of hair and pulled Duncan to him for a kiss that grew hungrier with each moment.

Duncan shared that hunger. But he prised Methos' fingers from his hair and stood up, palmed the tube of lube from his pocket, then took off his clothes with an unhurried economy of movement. All the while he watched Methos watch him. His blood was singing, a riotous celebration of life and love, and he gave himself over to it so that Methos could see, if he wanted, just how much he was loved and desired.

Naked and proudly erect, he knelt between the spread thighs and leaned forward to explore Methos' willing mouth, seeking the glide of tongue on tongue, while his hands stroked down the writhing body. One hand curved under Methos' hips, the other he pushed between them, wrapping it around the straining erection. Methos shouted and bucked beneath him, trying to begin a rhythm that would drive against Duncan's belly and bring him the release he so obviously craved.

Using his greater weight and strength, Duncan held him pinned, almost losing himself in the feel of that silken heat thrusting into his hand. Somehow he managed to retain control, and loosened his hold on Methos enough to slide his own cock into the tight channel of his palm and fingers. With a groan of ecstasy, Duncan felt again the incandescent shock of their erections pressed together in a living sheath.

Methos howled, and his long legs locked around Duncan's waist, heels digging into the backs of his thighs, riding him from beneath, urging him on. But Duncan wanted the pace to build slowly, a steady escalation towards the giddy heights. Methos had other ideas, but he had lost all coherence, and the few words he managed to form were in no language Duncan knew.

"English," he panted. "Or French--anything I can understand--"

Eyes wild, Methos glared at him and spat a few syllables that bore a vague resemblance to Greek. And to emphasize the point, he canted his hips so that Duncan's free hand had easy access to the cleft between his buttocks. The translation was simple and explicit. "In me!"

It was enough to threaten Duncan's already precarious self-control, and he reared back, pulling away from Methos for some necessary space. That won him a snarl of pure fury, but it took only a few minutes to open the lube and coat them both liberally. Now he was able to slide slick fingers into the clenched ring of muscle that guarded the opening to Methos' body.

With a yell of triumph, Methos thrust into Duncan's confining hand, then back onto the fingers that sought and found his prostate. Three times he rode the jolt, mouth open in a soundless scream, eyes squeezed shut, then Duncan removed his fingers and guided his aching cock to the stretched sphincter.

He sank into Methos' body and didn’t stop until he was buried almost to the root of his cock in the spasming channel. Methos gave a moan that was almost a snarl, and became still. The expression on his face was exultant wonder, and Duncan finally said aloud the words he'd been chanting in his heart. "I love you," he whispered into the panting mouth, and gave a thrust that changed the angle of his entry slightly, and sank deeper. Methos yowled and surged to meet him, demanding more.

Orgasm came swiftly. Pleasure took Duncan soaring, and the fiery rush left him drifting in free-fall, bodies locked together. The spread of Methos' semen was warm between their bellies, and a soul-deep peace filled Duncan's heart. He didn't want to move, though he knew Methos would probably be finding his weight uncomfortable now that passion was spent, hunger fed. He sighed, and Methos stirred beneath him, hands gentling through Duncan's hair, smoothing it back from his face.

"I don't want a lifetime," Methos said quietly, and a shard of pain entered under Duncan's ribs. "I don't want a few hours. I want forever."

Duncan breathed out on a sigh, and the pain disappeared as if it had never been. "Forever," he agreed huskily. "There will be only one; you, for me, forever."

"Only one," Methos echoed, and chuckled. "You, for me. Forever. I like simple math."