Old Friends: Learning

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)


Author's Notes: Ummm...I copped out of the end of this one. It's a really, really bad cop out, too. Please don't hate me! I just had this fic hanging over my head for ages and I had to get rid of it before it sucked all my creative energy away.

Acknowledgements : Mucho thanks to Ori, who helped me keep MacLeod and Methos in character (I took most of your suggestions!) and who wrote all most all of the Duncan/Methos scene. She wrote the good part...I wrote the cop out. *g* Please forgive the cop out...it got the sequel posted, right? *smile*


Mac slowly drew the knife across the palm of his hand, watching with a little wrinkle between his eyes as bright red blood welled up from the slice. The blood didn't even have time to run down his hand before blue sparks jumped across the wound, sealing it shut as if it had never been cut. Victor, sitting next to him in the plane, caught sight of the excess blood before Mac could wipe it away.

"Jesus, Mac! Would you stop doing that?"

"It still hurts," Mac observed clinically.

"Of course it still hurts," Vic said. He closed the magazine he'd been reading and turned to regard his partner. "There are still nerves and pain receptors in your skin. It hurts like hell when you die, too, so don't go experimenting with that."

"I wasn't planning to. It's just a little much to take in all at once, you know? One minute I'm doing a little surveillance with my partner, reporting to my boss and the next my boss is shooting me and no sooner do I return from the dead than I'm being hauled off to... Where the hell are we going anyway?" Mac heaved an exasperated sigh and, bowing his head, covered his with one hand.

Vic's expression softened and he reached out to take Mac's hand in his own. "Mac," he said gently. "I know it's a lot to get used to. Believe me, after my First Death I was just as confused as you are now. There wasn't anyone there for me. But once you get used to it, Immortality can be a true gift. Mortals have so little time to experience life. You have no idea how many times I've watched a mortal friend slip away and heard them protest that they hadn't finished yet."

Mac raised his head and a little of his spirit came back into his eye. "If I'm going to spend forever with you," he managed a small grin, "then you're going to have to learn Cantonese."

A slow smile curved Vic's lips as well. "And you're going to have to learn sword fighting," he answered.

"Why?" his brow crinkled in puzzlement. Vic sighed but, instead of answering him, leaned forward and tapped Duncan on the shoulder. The older Immortal turned in his seat to regard his former student.

"Yes?"

"Where are we going?"

"To a safe place," Duncan answered. "Holy ground, where we can teach Mac without worrying that other Immortals will come after us."

"Would you all shut up?" Methos said irritably from his place beside MacLeod. "By the time you've finished gossiping the whole crew will know about Immortals. Poor Joe's got enough on his plate, worrying about your boss." He glanced darkly at Mac and Vic.

"You didn't have to come along," Duncan pointed out.

"Yeah, well, who else is going to teach them some common sense?" Methos muttered.

"Adam doesn't like flying."

"I noticed," Mac commented smartly. Vic just rolled his eyes and settled in for a long flight.

***

The four Immortals jumped out of the tiny boat into the shallow waves and dragged it far enough ashore that it wouldn't be carried out by the tide. Vic closed his eyes for a moment, allowing the clean breeze to wash over him. He smelled pine, and sea salt, and he allowed himself to relax for the first time in a long time. He was on holy ground. He was safe. And, thank God, he had his sword back! He clasped the solid, comfortable weight of it in his arms and forged his way to dry land. Behind him he could hear Mac bickering with Adam. Something about the older Immortal - Vic was certain Adam was the oldest of them - just rubbed Mac the wrong way. Listening to the two of the over the past two days of travel, Vic realized that Mac's teasing of him had been all in good fun, always accompanied by a suppressed grin. Foreplay, The Director had called it. In contrast, some of the remarks he directed at Adam made Vic wince.

"Mac," Vic called, "come here." His partner made a parting jab at Adam that Vic couldn't quite hear before lengthening his stride to catch up. Vic glanced over at him and couldn't help but smile broadly.

Mac grinned knowingly back. "Feels good, doesn't it?" he asked rhetorically. "Feels good not to feel eyes on your back, or to have to dig cameras out of your light fixtures. Feels good to know the Agency is a long way away."

"Yeah," Vic agreed simply. Mac glanced curiously at the bundle Vic was holding onto but refrained from asking - again - what it was. Every time he asked, Vic just shook his head.

The four of them made their way up to the cabin that was tucked into the trees a short way from the shore. It looked as if it hadn't been used in years. Knowing it was one of Duncan's retreats, Vic figured that was probably the case. Once inside they found rooms for themselves, Mac and Vic taking one together by silent but nervous agreement, and set about cleaning the place up.

Vic had expected his partner to object to the task, if only in a teasing tone, but Mac seemed to sense Duncan's seriousness and paid attention to it. Vic was glad, for it was plain to him that there was more meaning, more history for him in this refuge than was readily apparent.

When the cleaning was done the sun was just starting to set. Duncan announced that he was going to start dinner and Adam trailed after his friend, more to be near the fire they'd started, Vic suspected, than to help. The ex-cop hadn't taken the immediate dislike to Adam that Mac had, but he didn't particularly like the other man. There was something about that that made Victor wary.

As he sat down on the stone steps in front of the cabin, his oil skin wrapped sword in his lap, Vic caught sight of Mac returning from the outhouse. Mac, in turn, saw what he was holding and hurried his step, eager to have the mystery dispelled. "Whatcha got there, Vic?" he asked impishly.

"My weapon," Vic couldn't help replying, his lips twitching. Mac chuckled along with him and settled himself on the cool stones. "Seriously, Mac," Vic began, "this is important. As an Immortal, your sword is a part of you. It's all that comes between you and death, in the Game."

"You said I had to learn how to sword fight," Mac said. "Has that got something to do with the Game."

"It does. Nearly all Immortals play by the Rules, and those include one-on-one combat, out of the sight of mortals. Duels between Immortals are almost always fought with swords, although there has been the occasional one who favored an ax or other edged weapon." As he spoke, Victor unwrapped his sword. His fingers traced the smooth, cold metal of the blade with familiarity. Finally he unwound the protective cloth from the quillions and hilt, a secret smile overtaking his lips as he caressed the ebony wood and shining gray iron.

The sword was just what Mac would have expected of Vic, if he'd ever thought the other man would buy such a weapon. It was bare of adornment, it's only colors the black and gray of it's materials. The blade was long and straight and looked as if it was still sharp. It startled him, however, to see Vic's absorption in the blade.

Vic suddenly needed to feel the hilt of his sword in his hand again. He stood abruptly and took two steps down to the ground. Wrapping his fingers about the smooth wood, Vic sighed and lifted it as if in salute. "Her name," he said to Mac, of the sword, "is Freedom."

Mac, curious about this new and mystifying part of Vic's life, opened his mouth to ask where the sword had gotten her name. Before he could form the question, Duncan called out from within the cabin that dinner was ready. He shrugged and waited as Vic carefully wrapped Freedom and took her to their room.

Dinner was a strained affair as Mac and Methos glared at each other and their friends tried futilely to make small talk. Finally Vic decided he'd had enough. He threw down his napkin and asked, "What the hell is wrong with the two of you?" The culprits regarded him with wide-eyed innocence. "You've been sniping at each other since the minute you met. What is it that you can't stand about each other?"

"Don't look at me," Methos protested, "I'm just reacting in self defense!" Three Immortals turned their eyes to Mac.

"He's hiding something," Mac said bluntly. "Something big. Something important. I don't trust people that keep secrets, and I don't like people I can't trust."

Methos regarded Mac calmly and, Vic suspected, with a little amusement. "You're one of the members of the top team in a 'secret government agency' and you're accusing me of having secrets? I'm just a guy." Methos smirked and stood, taking his leave. With an apologetic glance at Vic, Duncan went after him.

"I'm sorry, Vic," Mac said. "Something about that guy just..." he shrugged uncomfortably.

"It's okay," Vic said. "Come on, let's get to bed. If I know Duncan, we'll be up with the sun tomorrow."

"It's only 8:30! That's way to early to sleep."

"Did I say we were going to sleep?" Vic asked, an eyebrow raised.

Grinning, Mac followed Vic down the hall to their bedroom. He closed the door behind himself...and was hit by a case of the jitters. The ex-thief was suddenly aware that he and Vic hadn't even kissed since their declarations. They hadn't felt comfortable with Duncan and Methos watching, and they hadn't been out of the other Immortals' company since Mac's First Death.

"Have you...um..." Mac gestured and then bit his lip awkwardly.

"Mac," Vic said gently, placing one hand on his partner's hip and the other on his cheek. "After a hundred and ninety-eight years, there isn't much I haven't done."

Mac managed a surprised "oh" before Vic slid his hand to the back of Mac's neck and drew him in for a slow, careful kiss. With the warmth of Vic's lips against his and the gently embrace of the other man, all of Mac's awkwardness dropped away. He sighed in contentment as Vic pulled away, melting into his partner's arms and taking his mouth in a deeper, more passionate kiss.

For long moments they held each other, learning to experience the other in a way they'd never dared to before. Heat built between them, and the slow, sweet desire to feel skin slide against skin. Mac unbuttoned Vic's shirt, gasping as his lover moved his lips to his throat and shoulder. He rubbed his hand over Vic's smooth chest and felt a nipple tighten into a peak against his hand, drawing a moan from the other man.

Mac pushed the shirt from Vic's shoulders, and the waft of cool air against his skin recalled Vic to himself. He ceased his nibbling and moved to swiftly strip Mac of his own shirt. Warm skin met his touch, and he trailed his fingers over it until Mac arched forward, seeking a more definite touch. Vic bent his head to place a brief kiss against Mac's sternum, his hands going to undo the belt of his partner's pants. The ex-cop went to his knees to draw off Mac's pants and underwear. The other man caught his breath to see his beloved kneeling thus, a wave of lust burning in his blood.

Before Vic's eyes Mac's cock stood out from his belly flushed and proud. The kneeling man breathed out, and his own cock hardened to see Mac twitch in response. The breath was the only warning Mac had before Vic took the head in his mouth, and he cried out in pleasure, his hips jerking toward the hot, wet heat of their own accord. Vic slowly engulfed more of his lover, his tongue stroking up and down the shaft in a further caress.

"Vic," Mac moaned, forcing his hands to grip Vic's shoulder instead of his head. "Please..." he broke off in a gasp when Vic wrapped his hand about the base of his cock. His lover drew a moan out of the ex-thief as he began to move his mouth. Mac found himself leaning on Vic's shoulders, sure he would collapse if he did not have that support.

Mac glanced down and the sight of Vic, Vic, swallowing him was all it took to push him over the edge. He was coming before he could warn his lover but, before he could form an apology, the sight of Vic licking his cream from his lips convinced him he didn't mind, and started arousal stirring again.

"Come to bed," Vic said, his voice rough with his own lust. Mac allowed himself to be drawn to the bed, realizing then that Vic was still wearing his jeans. He took a moment to free Vic from the last of his clothing before lying down with his lover. They moved together atop the covers, legs tangled to bring their bodies closer together. Vic's hands wandered over Mac's back, gripping his shoulders for leverage as he thrust against the ex- thief. Mac's hands went to hold Vic's buttocks, encouraging his lover, and gasped as blue sparks skittered over their skin.

"Is...that...normal?" he managed to gasp.

Vic nibbled on Mac's ear and whispered huskily, "Only between Immortals...and only when it's very good." The former thief moaned his agreement.

Bending his head, Mac nipped one of Vic's nipples, smiling at the harder thrust that produced. He repeated the motion, then laved the bud with his tongue. Vic gasped his name and moved with increasing urgency. Mac massaged his ass, licking sweat from Vic's collarbone. With a sudden grin, Mac fixed his lips on the place where his partner's neck met his shoulders and sucked sharply.

Vic pressed his hips tightly against Mac and, pressing his neck into his lover's mouth, came violently. The warmth of Vic's seed washed over Mac's cock, triggering his own release. They called each other's names in ecstasy, only slowly relaxing into a loose, satiated embrace. After a moment, Vic went to the bathroom to retrieve a washcloth, which he used to wipe them both clean.

Sighing at the mess on the covers, he nudged Mac off with a smile and pulled off the duvet. Shoving it quickly into the laundry basket, Vic returned to the bed and slipped under the sheets with his beloved. Mac smiled sleepily at him and they spooned up together, Mac wrapping his arms around Vic and resting his head on his shoulder. They dropped off to sleep together.

***

"Adam!" Duncan called, running after his friend, hoping to catch him before he disappeared into the woods that were inky black after the sunset. Methos sighed and stopped to let MacLeod catch up. "Methos," Duncan said, once he was close enough to use Adam's true name without fear it would be overheard. "What is it about Mac that's gotten under your skin so easily?"

"It's these young ones," Methos said, shrugging. "They understand nothing. Immortality is a child's game to them. They have no concept of what it takes to survive. Mystery is a personal affront to them, every person a puzzle to be understood. I've lived this long by not allowing anyone to know me."

The full moon was out, and the silver light it cast on Methos made him look, to Duncan, ethereal. He seemed to be made of shadows, his skin even whiter in the moonlight than normally. For a moment, the elder Immortal truly looked Immortal. Duncan found himself holding his breath as he admired the fine plane of his friend's features. The moment soon passed, and MacLeod found himself replying to Methos' statement.

"I know you."

Methos looked up at him quietly. "Yes, I suppose you do, Highlander."

They walked back to the cabin in silent companionship, neither feeling words were appropriate. Muffled sounds of passion could be from Mac and Vic's room, and Methos found himself smirking. He concealed a touch of envy as he moved past their door to his own room and curled up in a chair with a manuscript he'd brought with him, knowing he'd have more time that he knew what to do with. Eventually, though, he had to slip between cold sheets. Alone.

Briefly he wished for the warmth of hazel eyes and a strong embrace, but he quickly dismissed the fancy as unattainable. It was foolish to want what you could not have.

Not far away, MacLeod lay on his own back, hands folded behind his head. It occurred to him that Methos would find the unheated cabin to cold for his taste, and he smiled at the thought of the other man curled up for heat under the covers. Duncan sighed, and wondered if Methos felt as lonely as he did.

***

The next morning, Duncan was up with the sun. He pulled on some sweat and set breakfast cooking, briefly considering waking Methos before deciding he'd let the old man sleep in for once. After all, they were here for Mac and Vic. Instead, he went to wake the other two men. The first was his student, and the second had implied that he'd appreciate a brush up, so they were subject to his routine.

A quick knock brought no response, so Duncan opened the door gently. He blinked in surprise to see the two men wrapped closely together, and then smiled. Closing the door again, he knocked harder and called out their names. "We're having breakfast and going for a run before I start with the swords," he called out when he could hear them stirring within. There was grumbling, but Vic eventually called that they would be out in a moment.

Vic dragged Mac out of bed, and left him to dress as he dug a fresh pair of clothes out of his own bag. They went to breakfast feeling not quite awake yet, but by the time they'd polished off their eggs and bacon, they were a little more aware.

Which turned out to be a good thing because, after barely enough time to allow their stomachs to settle, MacLeod had them out for a run around the island. For the first half a lap Vic kept up with his mentor easily, Mac only a step behind. By the time they returned to the place where they'd started, Vic was lagging a ways behind and Mac was just behind him.

"You're out of shape!" Duncan admonished a laugh in his voice.

"Hey, this is a big island!" Vic said defensively.

"And this path isn't entirely horizontal," Mac said, breathing hard.

"Get used to it, We'll be doing this again before they day is out." Duncan wiped his face with the towel he'd draped about his neck and led them to an open grassy area in back of the cabin. "Normally, I'd lead drills with my own sword, but I don't have one for Mac, so I guess he'll have to borrow it."

"Actually," Vic volunteered, "I have that covered." Mac and Duncan turned to look at him in surprise. Vic shrugged. "When I sensed Mac was Immortal, I knew this day would come. I thought that I might have to train him myself, despite the risk of exposing myself to the Agency. So I took care of things the next time I knew The Director wasn't watching me. Wait here a moment." Vic took off for the cabin at a jog, and Mac and MacLeod waited expectantly. When he returned, Vic wore a sword belt with Freedom sheathed on his left hip and he carried what looked like a varnished mahogany box.

Vic handed the box to Duncan, who held it while Vic carefully removed the top, set it aside, and folded back the velvet that covered the sword inside. He lifted it gently from the box and handed it hilt first to Mac. It was a streamlined, Japanese style sword with a hilt heavily carved to represent a dragon. "It's a katana," Vic explained, "a lot like MacLeod's. It's not an antique, but it's well made and just as strong. I made certain of that."

"Jesus, Vic," Mac breathed, "this must have cost a fortune!"

"It didn't cost me nearly as much as it'll be worth to you," Vic replied seriously.

"Come on, we have work to do if Mac's going to learn to keep himself alive," Duncan said briskly.

Mac and Vic moved to stand on either side of Duncan, so that they could see him clearly. Vic was pleasantly surprised to find that, while his mind had forgotten much of his skills, his muscles seemed to remember. He settled into the rhythm of the basic drill quickly, and he soon found his head clearing so that he seemed to think more quickly. Sword fighting had always had this effect on him, but it had been a long time since he'd been able to experience it.

On the other hand, Mac seemed to be struggling a little. He held the katana awkwardly, having to constantly readjust his grip. Vic sighed, and hoped Mac would be able to overcome his discomfort quickly. When they'd been through the basic drill three or four times, Vic moved a little ways away from the other two Immortals and stepped up into a more advanced drill. He knew he'd been sore later, but now he simply enjoyed the liquid movements.

They finally broke for lunch when Duncan noticed that Mac's katana was drooping, his arms too tired to take the full weight of the sword any longer. Lowering their swords, all three Immortals noticed Methos sprawled on the steps up the cabin. He looked as comfortable as he did reclining on MacLeod's couch, despite the fact that the steps were hard stone.

"Perhaps you'd care to join us next time," MacLeod prodded, using his already damp towel to wipe sweat from his brow.

"I'll join," Methos drawled, "when I have a sparring partner."

After lunch, Duncan gave them a brief respite and then hauled them off for another circuit of the island. This time, to everyone's surprise, Methos joined them. Despite the eldest Immortal's apparent indolence, he kept up with MacLeod easily and was sweating less by the time they finished. Citing limited time, Duncan had them drilling again soon after the run.

The days went by in pretty much that pattern for more than a week. By the second day Vic had refreshed his memory enough to try dueling with Methos. He lost, but he kept at it. Mac slowly overcame his awkwardness with his blade, although he wasn't entirely comfortable. His first true breakthrough came on the eighth day of training.

MacLeod was pushing Mac through one of the harder intermediate drills, and Vic could see his lover's frustration growing as his timing was off again and again. "Hold on, Duncan," Vic said after a long moment. The highlander nodded, and Mac lowered his sword, his body trembling with anger at himself. "Mac," Vic said gently standing behind him and massaging his shoulders a little, "relax. Don't try and see the sword as something you have to hold onto, as something you have to grip, but rather as an extension of yourself. No!" he stopped Mac's protest. "Here. Close you eyes. Good," he pried the katana out of tense fingers, shushing protest. "Relax. Every muscle. Slowly. There, that's right." Eventually, tense muscles relaxed. Vic murmured in his ear. "Now. You can feel energy inside yourself, right? You can feel it after a really good work out, rushing through you. You can feel it after we make love. I want you," he covered Mac's hands with his own and pressed the sword into them, "to feel that energy flowing out to the sword. Embracing it. Make it a part of you."

As he spoke, Vic removed his hands from Mac's and began gently massaging a point on his lover's lower back, all the while murmuring low words. Duncan and Methos both watched with interest. Slowly, oh so slowly, Mac's fingers shifted his grip on the hilt. His stance change very slightly, somehow bringing his entire body into better alignment. Vic kissed the base of Mac's neck and stepped away from him.

Mac was still for a moment after Vic moved, but then he began the first basic drill. He executed it perfectly, eyes still closed, and moved to the next. As he performed each of the drills, his speed increased until he was nearly moving as fast as MacLeod had been pushing him to. When he reached the end of the drills he knew, he stopped and finally opened his eyes.

"Wow," he said, surprised at himself.

"Where'd you learn that?" Methos asked Vic intently.

"After I left the States for the first time, I spent some years in Japan. I met a man there, who taught me a lot about the dance, as he called it." Vic smiled at the memory. "I learned a lot about unity from him." Methos nodded slowly, more like he was agreeing with Vic than accepting what he'd said.

That night, after they made love, Mac propped himself up on and elbow and stroked the hickey he'd made at the base of Vic's neck. He sighed as it lightened and healed completely, leaving no sigh of the love bite. "I wish I could mark you in a way that would stay for awhile," he murmured mournfully. Vic smiled sympathetically and Mac lay back on the bed. Just when Vic thought he'd fallen asleep, he asked, "Why'd you name your sword Freedom?"

Vic smiled into the darkness. "It's easiest to answer that question if I tell you how I first died, which I suppose you're wondering anyway." He could almost feel Mac smiling in assent in the darkness. "I was born in 1801, in the Southern States. I grew up with slavery on all sides of me, but I never particularly liked it. I had friends in the North, from trading runs, who eventually convinced me to join the Underground Railroad. I must have helped 25, 30 slaves to freedom over the years. That was a lot, considering the distance I had to take them, and how. In darkness, in secrecy, always terrified we'd be found out.

"In 1833, the issue of slavery was getting to be a very hot topic. Britain had just abolished it, and the American Anti-Slavery League worked hard for the same purpose. People were forced to take sides. I was discovered late that year, with two slaves in my wagon. I quickly discovered that those who supported me didn't feel strongly enough to come between me and a lynch mob." Vic lips twisted at the memory, and Mac stroked his flank soothingly. "They hung me right next the road where they found me, alongside the slaves I'd been trying to help. I was lucky, I suppose, in that the fall broke my neck. I didn't have to suffocate.

"My family must have felt guilty enough to come back and cut me down, though they'd have done me more of a favor not to bury me. I had to dig my way up out of my own, thankfully shallow, grave. I wandered around for more than a year after that, before Duncan found me. People fearing ghosts must have shot me at least three times, but none of the bullets killed me, and I healed fast.

"Duncan found me and took me under his wing. He gave me Freedom. We kept away from people who might recognize me. Stayed north, for the most part. He wanted me to leave the States, go further away, but I wouldn't. I knew war was coming, and I wanted to fight with the North. By the time it finally broke out, I'd learned to cover my accent well enough to join up. I must have died three, four times in that war.

"That's why Freedom has her name. I died my First Death for freedom, and a few after that. I carried her in the Civil War. When we won, I wanted to mark the occasion. So I named her."

"Christ," Mac breathed, "and I thought my First Death was hard..."

"Enough of the past," Vic replied, moving to straddle his lover, "let's just enjoy the present."

"Words I never expected you to say," Mac grinned.

They brought arousal to each other slowly, sensuously, with light touches of fingertips and mouth and skin. They shared a couple of lazy kisses and teased all the sweet spots they'd found in the last five days. But when Mac arched up against Vic to rub his cock rhythmically against this lover, Vic leaned down and whispered, "Mac..."

"Yeah."

"I want you to make love to me."

Mac's brow wrinkled, "I am..."

"No," Vic placed a finger on Mac's lips, and the other man opened his mouth and gently sucked the finger inside. "I want you inside me." He pulled his finger back gently and pushed it back into the wet warmth in imitation of the act he desired.

Mac moaned and bit the finger lightly, "Yes..."

Vic smiled and reached over to the night table, where he found an unopened tube of lube. "Always prepared... You did call me a boy scout," Vic chuckled huskily. He squeezed some of the gel onto Mac's chest and his lover hissed as cool stuff touched his heated skin. Vic coated his fingers in the lube and reached around to prepare himself, squirming a little as he did so.

The sensations were almost too much for Mac. The contrast of the cool and heat, though the gel was warming up now, the random motions of Vic's cock as the older man shifted, the sight of Vic finger fucking himself...they almost overwhelmed him. He held on with thoughts of ice and baseball scores and Dobrinski, because he wanted desperately to feel himself inside of Vic.

It seemed like forever before the ex-cop was ready, but finally he put his hands on Mac's shoulders and positioned himself over his lover's hard and aching cock. Vic lowered himself slowly, taking in Mac's cock a little at a time. When the head first slipped past the ring, Mac cried out at the incredible tight heat and forced himself not to buck up into his lover. As Vic sheathed more and more of Mac's cock, the ex-thief found himself edging closer and closer to a total loss of control.

Finally Vic was sitting firmly in Mac's lap, and he paused to give them both a chance to regain control. A tiny, encouraging thrust from Mac had Vic moving, rocking back and forth to feel his lover's cock rubbing against the bud inside him. Mac thrust into Vic again, and they quickly built up a rhythm. The two men were close, they could both feel it, and though part of Vic wanted this to last forever, he also wanted to feel his lover coming inside of him. One squeeze was all it took, and Mac was screaming his name, heedless of the others that would hear him. Vic closed his eyes and felt the hot seed of his lover filling him, and he too came screaming.

Afterwards, they lay together in the bed, arms about each other, foreheads touching gently. "I love you," Mac whispered, eyes shining.

Vic smiled. "I love you, too."

They slept.

***

"I've been meaning to ask you something," Vic said to Methos as they sat watching Duncan and Mac spar carefully. Methos waited expectantly. "Most Immortals all seem the same to me, when I sense them. I can't tell you from Duncan, for instance. But I can recognize Mac's 'buzz'. Have you ever experienced anything like that?"

Methos looked puzzled. "This is strange, actually. I can't tell one Immortal buzz from another either...except for Duncan's. He and I thought it was a result of an...odd quickening we shared, but Mac hasn't even had a quickening yet..."

"I thought it might be because we're lovers," Vic offered.

Methos shook his head, "No, Duncan and I aren't lovers..."

"But not for lack of wishing," Vic guessed.

Methos shrugged one shoulder with forced casualness. "On my part, at least. You'd think after more than 400 years the man would have experimented a little, but as far as I can tell he's never even looked twice at another man."

"If I'm right," Vic said cautiously, "and our recognition of certain people is based on emotion, then you may have misread Duncan. I mean, you said...well, implied...that he recognizes your buzz as well..."

"I'd rather not get my hopes up. Duncan and I have a lot of history. There have been several times when I thought I'd lost his friendship forever, and one or two when I thought he might take my head himself. After all that, I'm not going to risk losing him over something as inconsequential as lust."

"Adam. Love is anything but inconsequential." Victor touched Methos on the shoulder and stood, seeing that his lover had finished sparring with MacLeod. They usually kept their relationship subtle around MacLeod and Adam, but now Vic kissed Mac lightly on the lips and took his hand to lead him off into the woods for a walk. Methos supposed he wanted to give him time alone with Duncan.

MacLeod picked up a towel he'd left on the steps and sat down next to his friend, wiping the sweat from his face. "He learns fast," the Highlander said. "but he needs a hell of a lot more training. Two weeks wouldn't be enough for someone already experience in swordplay," he scowled.

"Has he got a fighting chance?" Methos asked.

"As much of one as I can give him," MacLeod said grudgingly.

"Then you've done all you can do."

MacLeod paused thoughtfully. "When was the last time you had a student?"

"Do you ever think about The Gathering, MacLeod?" Methos asked. Duncan endured the change in topic.

"Yes. I have to, since I seem to be one of the foci of the cursed thing."

"Then why do you do it?" Methos glanced over to see MacLeod looking confused. "Why do you continually take on students? Why do you cultivate so many Immortal friends? Why have an Immortal lover?" he referred to Amanda. "You know, in the end, that you'll see them all die. That you may have to kill them yourself."

"I don't usually think about it," Duncan commented. "But when I do, I suppose because it's worth it. Immortality doesn't allow me to have a family of my own blood, but I've made one for myself. You, Richie, Amanda, Connor, others...you're my clan now. And, as much as it disturbs me to admit it, I know that when The Gathering comes to a close, every one of you would lay down your sword for me." A small frown twisted MacLeod's features at this last, but they both knew it to be true.

"Sometimes I envy you, MacLeod. You'll never be lonely."

"There's a difference between having company and having a companion," Duncan said softly. Startled, Methos met his eyes and for a moment he thought he could see the ache of his own soul there. Then Duncan broke the gaze and stood. A few minutes later Methos could hear the shower running in the cabin.

Later that night Mac and Vic lay curled together in bed, tired but satisfied with their day of training. They would leave the island the next afternoon. Two weeks was not nearly as much time as Vic would have preferred, but it was enough that he and Mac could sharpen their skills against each other when they returned to The Agency.

"Mac?" Vic asked eventually.

"Mmmm?"

"What do you think of Duncan and Adam?"

"That's an interesting way of putting it," Mac said, propping himself up on one arm, facing his lover. "How do you mean?"

"I mean, what do you think of them together?"

"I don't think they are."

"I know," Vic said, making a dismissive motion with his hand, "but I think they ought to be. Or want to be."

Mac shrugged. "I can't say that I see the attraction in Adam, but there's something there. The air between those two practically crackles. Still...I don't know... I don't know them well enough to say."

"Fair enough," Vic agreed, and relaxed into sleep. Mac followed soon after.

***

About a half-hour later, Methos found Duncan standing silently in Mac and Vic's doorway, his expression soft. Stopping beside MacLeod, Methos glanced in quietly and saw the other two men sleeping peacefully, their bodies curled together comfortably and naturally. The oldest Immortal felt an ache of longing in his heat, and for a moment he indulged it.

His eyes went involuntarily to Duncan, and he was surprised to see a touch of envy and no small amount of pain on his friend's features. So when the Highlander turned to go to his own room, Methos followed. MacLeod had lit candles in the room, for there wasn't any electric lighting in the cabin. Methos closed the door to the room behind himself and, as if that released him from the silence, Duncan spoke.

"I can't help but envy them," he let out a shaky breath. "It seems like I've been hurting forever. I lost...I lost Tessa, and before that pain could settle Anne left...and now there's no one, and it's almost as painful as the losses."

Methos could see the tension in Duncan's shoulders, and he wanted desperately to reach out, to give comfort. Then it occurred to him that perhaps this time, he could. Perhaps he should. He placed a tentative hand on the Highlander's shoulder, and that was all it took for Duncan to turn into his arms and lean his head against Methos' shoulder. MacLeod did not cry, refused to, but the way he leaned against his friend was as expressive of his pain as tears would have been. "I understand," Methos heard himself say, "you're not alone..."

Mac raised his head sharply to stare into Methos' eyes, unable to believe what he thought he heard in his voice. But he saw it the older Immortal's eyes, longing, caring, need. "Methos," he started, reaching a tentative hand toward his face before he was cut off by Methos' lips on his.

Seeing an opportunity he'd never thought to have, Methos seized it as ruthlessly as he'd raided entire civilizations three thousand years before. His mouth covered MacLeod's, not in a gentle exploration, but savagely claiming what he'd wanted for so long.

Initially startled, MacLeod was quickly caught up in Methos' passion, his own flaring to meet it. He wrapped his arms tightly around the wiry form of the oldest Immortal, pulling him closer so he could feel Methos' growing erection against his own. His hips began to move independently of his mind, twisting and grinding against the old man who met every motion with his own. Meanwhile their tongues dueled, fighting for dominance, rubbing together as they tasted each other until the need for air forced them apart.

Gasping, they stared at each other, amazed at the sudden flare up of passion each of them had been hiding and denying for months. A wry grin quirked Methos' expressive mouth.

"I guess you don't mind that I'm attracted to you then?"

Mac snorted. "What do you think?" He pressed his groin against Methos' again for emphasis.

Methos laughed, ducking his head to bit lightly at MacLeod's throat, feeling the younger man shudder at the feeling of his teeth on an Immortal's most erogenous zone. He bit a little harder, letting Mac remember that the man who had his teeth in his throat had once been known as Death to half the known world, feeling Duncan shudder with increased arousal. He laughed harshly before sliding lower, unfastening his shirt so he could taste the bronzed skin, lapping at the warm flesh while Mac leaned back against the wall and let him have his way. But only for a moment.

Suddenly the world spun as MacLeod sprang into motion, tossing Methos down on the bed and following him down, pinning him with the weight of his body. Both of them enjoyed Methos' struggles to be free, writhing under Mac, increasing their pleasure with every movement. Even as he squirmed, Methos was stripping Mac's shirt away, caressing the wide chest with trembling fingers, lightly pinching at hardened nipples, then lowering his head to bite at them.

Somehow, an unknown time later, they found themselves naked, perspiration-soaked bodies sliding together. Glazed hazel eyes met passion-darkened brown, and Methos smiled wildly, sprawling across the bed under his lover in invitation. Mac froze for an instant, struck motionless by Methos' sheer beauty in his uninhibited lust, then groaned and reached beneath his rampant cock to stroke the sensitive sac and skin behind it before moving on to the clenched ring of muscle.

"Mac," Methos said, his voice rough with both lust and impatience. "Now. I don't want to wait anymore."

Mac nodded wordlessly and reached for the lube, preparing both of them with fast, firm strokes. Then he was sliding into Methos' tight heat, the older man arching up beneath him, pushing down to meet MacLeod's strokes. Desire too long pent up was released explosively, their quickenings crackling over their skin even as their orgasms were wrung from them.

Sleep claimed another couple not long after, but they slept peacefully. There was a long life ahead. Long, but not lonely.

--End--