to Killa for the beta.
Methos woke when it was still dark, disoriented. Panic sliced through him and he opened his eyes. His heart battered against his chest and his hands gripped the sides of the couch, his whole body readying to leap off. But it was quiet, and calm, and the Seine slapped comfortably nearby, a hollow sound. He blinked and looked around the room, breathing deeply, easing past the adrenaline rush. It all came flooding back. O'Rourke. Amanda. Joe. He was on the barge. He'd fallen asleep on the couch. The previous night settled in his memory and he relaxed back down, blinking at the ceiling.
It had been over a year since the last time he'd slept at Mac's. He lay quiet, listening to the morning creep across the barge in the form of pale light from an obscured sun, spreading across the walls and the floor. A motor rumbled in the distance.
Sighing, he sat up and looked around; sleep was not for him. A blanket had been tossed over him and his shoes were missing. Standing, he glanced over at the bed, expecting to see both Mac and Amanda, finding only one still figure, the sheets tangled around his legs.
So, it was just Mac and him. A burst of well-known fear bloomed in the center of his chest. He could leave, he thought. He should leave. MacLeod was probably expecting him to leave. His stomach rumbled and he placed his hand over it, as if that would silence it. He knew, if he left, he would always be leaving, cementing the pattern that had been laid out with such precision by himself, by Mac as well. He looked at MacLeod, laying on his side with the pale light from the portals touching his bare shoulders and back. As always, it came down to a decision.
Methos moved in silence, looking for his shoes, finding them tossed behind the couch. His sweater was there as well, draped over the back of a chair, and he quickly pulled it over his head before sitting and tugging his shoes on. He was rumpled, but good to go.
His coat was by the door. He grabbed it and his sword, and left, slipping out into the cool, wet morning air. The sky hung low and heavy, a patchwork of gray clouds. He hurried down the gangplank and onto the quay, noting the drops of rain that speckled the pavement in a sparse and uneven pattern. He knew of a place on St. Germain that was open early, and he made for it, his footsteps his only company.
The door tinkled as Methos entered the bakery and he was instantly wrapped in the smell of baking bread. He stepped up behind the last customer, impatient to return to the barge before the rain got any worse. MacLeod would think he'd left. Would he be sad or relieved? Would he even notice? Could Methos return and face indifference in those familiar brown eyes?
I know you don't want to hear this, Methos.
Maybe he should pray for indifference, he though with more than a trace of black humor. He placed his order and watched the counter-person efficiently fill a brown bag with a couple of this and a bit of that.
"And one of those, too." Methos pointed to the chocolate eclairs.
Adding a coffee to his purchases, Methos paid and left. Outside, the air was still with the effort of condensation, hovering just on the edge of a downpour. Methos trotted carefully down the steps to the quay, grumbling at the weather. He spotted a dark figure walking in his direction and felt his heart lurch. Instantly nervous, he slowed his approach.
Presence bounced off the stone pavement and their paths met under the bridge.
"Hullo, Mac." Up close Methos saw the haphazard way MacLeod had dressed and the furious frown on his face. "Anything wrong?" he asked, as casual as he could make it.
Mac shook his head 'no.' "Thought you'd gone," he said, staring at Methos. There was no way to interpret what meaning lay behind his words. If the reality of Methos' presence went with or against his wishes, his desire.
"No. Just went for food."
Mac nodded, and it seemed they'd exhausted the full range of their communication skills. Methos observed the cracks in the brickwork of the bridge; MacLeod paced in a slow, wandering manner a short distance away.
They began at the same time.
"Mac, I can go if that's --"
"I didn't want you to--"
They stopped and laughed, the ridiculousness of their uncertainty becoming suddenly evident. MacLeod smiled at Methos and with breathtaking clarity Methos saw everything shining in Mac's eyes. Saw his sadness and his pain and his joy, his relief. It was that moment that the rain, announced by an orchestral boom, came thundering down. So fast it fell, causing a gust of cold air. Methos shivered.
They looked at the rain, silent, for several seconds. Little rivers of water flowed under the bridge.
"Methos," said Mac, and there was something new there, sparkling in his brown eyes. He raised his voice above the clatter of the rain. "There was no one there, when I woke. Joe was gone. Amanda. And you. It wasn't anything unusual, anything different. I don't know what I was expecting. But, I thought you'd be there, and when you weren't..." He shook his head. "I don't know." The rain crowded in on the silence that expanded and contracted between them. "But, of course, you're here."
Mac smiled, a beautiful smile, a breathtaking smile that, like his eyes, showed his sadness and pain, but also his joy, and relief.
That was for him, Methos realized, that relief. That smile on his lips and in his eyes -- for his presence here, on the quay, in the rain. Methos looked away, his cheeks warm, and it was difficult to speak. He looked at the wet stones beneath their feet, then over to the barge.
A soft touch at his shoulder. "Methos."
Methos couldn't not look and he raised his eyes, and there was that smile again. He thought he should say something, anything, to move past the unsettling brightness that had somehow overtaken the damp underside of a Paris bridge. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Another soft touch, this time a thumb grazing his cheek. Methos breathed in and out, shifting his purchases over so he could take Mac's hand in his.
"I was so sure you'd gone."
"I almost left."
MacLeod nodded. He tugged on Methos' hand and pulled him into a hug. Methos shivered again, feeling the warmth of Mac's cheek against his, and hugged back, careful with his coffee and his bag of pastries. He turned his head just enough for his nose to touch the warmth of Mac's neck.
MacLeod pulled away and squeezed Methos' hand. Let's go back to the barge, he said with his eyes and his warm smile, turning to go. Another moment and they would have left the cover of the bridge, but Methos didn't move and MacLeod turned back towards him, a question in his eyes.
With his heart in his throat, Methos stepped close, conscious of the weight of MacLeod's hand in his, of the way the cold breeze from the rain fluttered MacLeod's hair, of the way he was afraid to breathe in case he lost his courage. Mac stood still and Methos could feel MacLeod's body heat and smell his skin. Just a tilt of his head and their lips touched, and then touched again. Methos opened his mouth, dropping the bag and his coffee, reaching to hold Mac's head. Almost shyly, their tongues touched, sending a shock of arousal straight through Methos, and his knees buckled. He gripped Mac and the kiss ended.
"I..." he said, trying to speak, his voice ragged. "I just--" He failed again. "Mac-- Duncan." He fell silent; he dropped his head. He let go and stood there, still, with the wind flowing cold and gentle between them.
A finger brushed his cheek. Methos lifted his face and met Mac's searching eyes. What Mac found, Methos couldn't say, but there was an answering wonder on Mac's face. He smiled, warm and heady, and he glanced at Methos' mouth, stepping in close.
A flame of desire and arousal and something sweeter, almost painfully sweet, licked at Methos and slowly, so slowly they kissed again, taking time to breathe, to feel lips against lips and cheek against cheek. Hands found Methos' waist and pulled him in. Hardness met hardness with a gasp and a cry. Devouring kisses, hard and brutal and soft and sweet, taking and giving. Methos couldn't think, couldn't breathe, couldn't do anything but accept MacLeod's tongue as it drove into him, devouring him.
Pushed back against the wall. Chest against chest and cock against cock. Shaking hands held Methos' face and pushed at his clothes and burned into his bare skin.
Kisses traveled down Methos' neck to his collarbone, the sweater and shirt shoved to one side. There was a tug at his waist and a clink from his belt and, oh Christ, his pants were opened and a hand reached inside, grabbing his erection. Methos muffled a cry into MacLeod's shoulder, helplessly bucking into his hand.
He was going to do it, Methos thought feverishly. Right there on the quay, under the bridge, MacLeod was going to yank his pants down, turn him around, and fuck him against the wall for all the world to see, and Methos was going to let him. He saw it perfectly, could already feel it, and it made his cock jump. He sought MacLeod's mouth again and devoured him.
MacLeod stilled and pulled his hand away from Methos' groin, slumping against him, cheek against cheek. "Oh God, Methos." Methos swallowed a whimper, barely pulling himself back from the edge. "I could take you right here."
Yes, yes. Do it. Out of breath, panting, Methos dropped his head onto MacLeod's shoulder. "I wouldn't have stopped you."
MacLeod chuckled pleasantly against Methos. Their hands gripped each other, their hearts beating rapidly against their chests. Bit by bit, the world returned: damp stone, the smell of motor oil, the echo of the rain against the walls of the bridge. Far off Methos heard the low rumble of Paris traffic and the bells of Notre Dame ringing eight o'clock.
"The barge," said Mac.
Methos nodded, but made no move. "Just give me a minute." He gave Mac a wry smile.
Mac grinned and pulled away, adjusting Methos' sweater, reaching to redo his belt. Methos jerked involuntarily. "Sorry." Another grin, impish in nature. Bastard, thought Methos, smiling back.
Something shifted in MacLeod's expression, becoming more thoughtful. His brows furrowed. He tilted his head and looked at Methos, really looked, and Methos wondered what he saw. What was behind those questions in his eyes? Mac caressed his face, a light, feather touch across Methos' cheekbone.
"Who would you be, Methos, if you'd never known me? If I was never your friend? If I wasn't here. What would you be?"
Methos' eyes widened. He took a short, quick breath, and then looked away. The sun shone a little through the rain. What would he be? Lost. Utterly lost. But he couldn't say that. His heart beat rapidly at the thought, at the revelation. He felt breathless.
Methos looked back at Mac. He laughed a little, his careful half-smile on his lips. "Somewhere warm and dry, no doubt."
MacLeod blinked and there was something in his eyes, for a brief instant, that spoke of an ocean of loss, of a gulf of distance, and Methos physically felt MacLeod pull away although neither of them had moved. The instant passed and MacLeod smiled and rolled his eyes with friendly annoyance, but there was something different, just the barest trace of change.
Gone. Washed away by the rain. Methos could feel the empty cool air dig itself between their bodies. MacLeod turned away and in another moment it would all be over. Lost, utterly. Slipping through his fingers. Gone.
Methos grabbed MacLeod, a hard clasp around his biceps. MacLeod stopped and looked at him, brown eyes so expressive, looking straight through him. Methos took a deep breath and spoke. "I don't even want to think about it." He choked a little on the words. It was all he could say.
Mac's eyes were suddenly very bright, and he nodded, pulling Methos into his arms. Methos collapsed against him, hugging tightly, concentrating on the pressure of Mac's hands on his back, of his cheek against his, of his solid warmth.
"I'm glad you're my friend, Methos." Mac's voice was rough and full of emotion, tickling the back of Methos' neck. Oh, Duncan.
They stood in each other's arms for a long time, learning the beat of their hearts and the rhythm of their breaths.
"You dropped your coffee," said Mac.
It wasn't very funny, but it made them laugh. The mood shifted again and Methos felt dizzy from the change.
They parted and Methos looked forlornly at his puddle of coffee. The bag of pastries had survived pretty much unscathed, but the coffee was a lost cause. He picked up the bag and the now-empty paper cup.
They left the cover of the bridge, finally heading back towards the barge. Despite the rain, they didn't hurry. There was a new silence between them, and Methos found himself in no rush to pass it.
Little touches passed back and forth: a hand on the small of Methos' back, Mac's arm knocking casually against his, a quick grab of hands and fingers.
Methos didn't know quite what to do with this new MacLeod, who smiled and laughed at the rain, who took his hand and held it lovingly in his. It was disconcerting and amazing and it left Methos feeling anchored and adrift at the same time. Suddenly, Mac grabbed him close.
"Mac, it's raining. We're getting very wet."
Mac just grinned and spun them around. "A little rain won't kill you."
"What the hell are you doing? Have you lost your mind?" Methos made sure he sounded properly indignant.
MacLeod laughed and spun them around one last time, quickly. So quickly that the force of the spin tore the bag of pastries out of Methos' hand. The brown paper bag sailed through the air in a perfect arc, landing in the rain-dimpled Seine with a distinct and resounding plop.
Methos stared at his vanished breakfast, mouth agape, making little noises of dismay and astonishment. He pointed to where the bag had disappeared. There went his eclair.
"Oops," said MacLeod, showing little regret and a lot of bemused glee.
"Well, you should have held on a little harder." MacLeod ushered him towards the gangplank.
"But I was hungry."
"There's food in the barge."
"Yes. I went shopping not long ago."
"Did you even look?"
"Well, no." MacLeod gave him a look. "I didn't want to wake you," said Methos, in defense.
They'd reached the deck. Seeing the door, Methos paused. It was suddenly all very real and alarmingly frightening. He felt faintly nauseous, unable to keep up with the spinning orbit of emotions the morning had brought.
MacLeod shifted beside him. "It's okay, Methos. This doesn't have to happen."
Methos nodded. He looked at Mac, skin wet and shining, hair mussed, dripping water. "I know."
Everything and nothing converging at one spot.
"I suppose, I really should wait the rain out here," Methos said.
Like sunshine on a rainy day, MacLeod smiled. "You could do that." He touched Methos' hand. Understanding passed between them and they leaned into each other, just for a moment. MacLeod opened the door to the barge and let Methos pass before him.
Methos stopped and looked back at him. "You know, I think I heard somewhere that the weather forecast calls for three days of rain."
"Really? Three days? You
Mac smiled, closing the door behind him.