Eternal gratitude to Killa for the beta.
Like gossamer threads. Or water. Water flowing over and around him, stealing his breath, and leaving him with barely any sign of its passage.
"Methos. Hurry. We're going to be late."
Someone shook him to the surface and Methos woke. He blinked blearily at what looked like a MacLeod-shaped figure squatting next to the couch, nose to nose with him. "Mac." He pushed Mac away, burrowing deeper into the couch.
MacLeod dragged him to a sitting position, stripping the blankets off, leaving him cold and chilly. "Come on." Eyes closed, Methos heard Mac move away. "We have to get going."
Going? Going where? Methos was most definitely not awake, but he managed to make sense of the clock once he opened his eyes. 7:34 A.M. That's it, MacLeod was a dead man. He heard the shower start. Oh, good. The fiend was in the shower, which meant he could go back to sleep and dream of melons. Mmm, melons...
"Oh, no you don't." MacLeod grabbed him by his T-shirt and hauled him off the couch. "No time for that."
Why was the man in such a hurry? Methos found himself in the bathroom, leaning against MacLeod with his head resting on Mac's shoulder, determined to remain asleep as long as possible. This wasn't so bad, actually, he thought, breathing in the scent of MacLeod's aftershave. Kind of nice. Warm. Like dancing. Was he dreaming of dancing?
MacLeod pushed Methos away and briskly stripped him of shirt and shorts. "Hey, watch it," squealed Methos. He should have taken offense at being manhandled so rudely, but he rather liked the furious blush on MacLeod's face.
"Then help," snapped MacLeod. "Come on. In you go." MacLeod pushed him into the shower and steam billowed out.
"MacLeod, what is this? What's going on?" Methos asked from inside the shower, but there was no answer. He sighed, partly in exasperation, partly in delight as hot water enveloped him, invoking his dream. Annoyed to realize he was fully awake, Methos automatically started lathering soap, thinking thoughts of revenge.
"Here's some clothes. Meet me out in the car." Like lightning, MacLeod rushed in and out, the door clicking shut behind him.
"Mac!" Again, no answer. "Bloody hell," Methos muttered. He muttered as he washed and rinsed, both hair and body. He muttered when he turned the water off and stepped out of the shower, and all through the drying process. He muttered as he aggressively yanked on socks and underwear, pants, shirt, shoes, sweater, coat with sword; he worked himself up into a good fury as he stomped out of the barge, down to the quay, and over to Mac's car, which purred in the morning stillness. His breath fogged in front of him, the air chilly and damp against his heated skin.
"MacLeod," he said, as he jerked the passenger side door open and entered the car. Stupid Citroen. He got all the way in to yell at Mac properly.
He opened his mouth, ready to really let go. MacLeod, with a smile, stuck a chocolate eclair into Methos' mouth and thrust a cup of hot coffee into his hand.
"Hungry? Thought you might be. I got breakfast. Come on, shut the door," MacLeod coaxed, leaning across Methos to grab the handle and closed the door.
Methos quickly tucked his leg in the car before the door chopped it off. He made muffled protesting sounds around the eclair in his mouth and attempted not to spill the coffee all over himself and MacLeod.
"Did you say something?" MacLeod flashed Methos an annoyingly charming smile before shifting the car into gear and driving down the quay, up the ramp, and turning into Paris traffic.
Methos looked at MacLeod darkly as he arranged himself into a more comfortable position. He took a savage bite of the eclair, then said, "Mind telling where you're kidnapping me off to?"
MacLeod gave Methos a hurt look. "You don't remember?"
Methos paused as he took a sip of his coffee, mentally reviewing recent conversations and activities, wondering if he'd forgotten something important. He came up blank. "No, I don't."
"I asked you last night."
"No you didn't." Methos was fairly certain of this.
"Yes I did."
"No, you didn't."
"Yes, I did. I asked you last night, and you said 'yes.' You said, 'I'd love to.'"
Methos narrowed his eyes at MacLeod. Mac kept his attention on his driving. "I said no such thing."
"Methos, there's no use denying it. Besides, you're here, aren't you?"
"That's true enough," he muttered. "Please, refresh my memory."
"Last night, while playing chess. I said I knew of a jazz festival. I asked if you'd like to go, and you said, 'Sure, I'd love to.'"
Methos blinked at MacLeod, who continued to give all his concentration to the road. Methos vaguely recalled a conversation that resembled what MacLeod had described. "You didn't mention it was the next day."
"You didn't ask."
Methos laughed in spite of his situation. He took another bite of his eclair and looked out the window. "MacLeod, who plays jazz at this time of the morning?
"Not many, I'd wager. The festival doesn't start till 11 A.M."
MacLeod made a couple of turns, over and under and around. Paris looked damp and the skies were gray. Suddenly Methos made a connection as a signpost indicated their direction. "We're leaving Paris?"
"Well, the festival is in Lyons."
"Lyons! Are you-- Turn the car around." Methos gestured for MacLeod to pull over.
"I can't pull over here."
"Turn the car around." Methos reached for the steering wheel. MacLeod fended him off. Methos was momentarily blinded as MacLeod clapped his hand over Methos' face and pushed him back. Methos felt the car swerve slightly. He bit down.
"Ow!" MacLeod dropped his hand down to Methos' chest, holding him back with elbow and arm. "Do you mind? I'm driving here. What's wrong with Lyons?"
"Lyons is on the other side of the country, that's what's wrong with it."
"Well, why d'you think we left so early? Really, Methos, you're usually a little sharper than that."
Methos practically sputtered with indignation. In fact, he did sputter for many moments before speaking. "You have lost your mind. Did it occur to you that I might have made plans for today? That I might not want to go to Lyons with you?"
"Do you? Don't you?"
Methos opened his mouth to say "Yes!" and demand he be returned to Paris immediately. Nothing came out. Realization, like a solid weight, suddenly landed on his chest and he lost the air in his lungs. He had no real plans, Shakespeare and Co. aside. He hadn't reopened the store since his return to Paris. He'd only nominally returned to work for the Watchers. He hadn't done much of anything, beside plague MacLeod on a daily basis, and now he lived with the man. He looked down at the arm still pressing him against his seat, then over at MacLeod who was glancing back and forth between the road and Methos. He saw a gentle smile on Mac's face, and he caught his breath and sighed and smiled and rolled his eyes, all at once.
"I guess not," he mumbled, grasping at pretended ire and shrugging MacLeod's arm off.
"See? I thought as much."
"Don't overdo it."
MacLeod seemed to find that funny and chuckled softly to himself. Methos shot him various dark looks as he found his miraculously unspilt coffee and a bag of croissants.
Despite his protests, Methos found himself enjoying the morning. The car was warm and the radio played non-specific music softly, lulling him in and out of sleep, and then they were almost halfway there. The wet countryside flitted by in browns and greens. MacLeod hummed quietly while driving and it was nice. Comforting, almost. He flashed on another time, not so long ago, when he'd driven along a similar road somewhere, when the sun was shining. A quick turn of his head and he saw her, her delicate laugh caught in a moment of silence.
He sat up and peered out the window. Big drops of rain splattered against the windshield. "MacLeod, I assume this festival is outdoors?" The drops multiplied. He looked over at MacLeod.
"Um..." MacLeod looked apprehensively at the sky. Methos started laughing. Really laughing. He dissolved into laughter.
"It'll pass," MacLeod said, none too confidently.
"Uh-huh," was all Methos could manage.
"It'll pass," MacLeod said, with more force. "It's moving west." MacLeod looked up through the windshield. "Away from Lyons."
"Oh, shut up. A ha! See, it's already stopping. No problem." MacLeod gave Methos a triumphant smile.
The rain was indeed letting up, but the sky remained a dappled sea of gray and white. It did not bode well for the rest of the day. Methos turned to tease MacLeod further but stopped himself when he saw the slight look of concern on MacLeod's face as he, too, looked up at the sky. Damn him, Methos thought, a strange pressure suddenly encircling his throat. He found himself hoping it wouldn't rain. Quickly turning his head, he saw the ghost of his reflection blink back at him as the countryside blurred past.
The rain fell on and off through scattered sunshine and clouds, nipping at their heels as they raced towards Lyons. MacLeod made record time and they arrived shortly before noon. The festival was outside of Lyons, in a small town called Vienne, held at an old Roman theatre. Methos hadn't been there in ages. He shot MacLeod dirty looks as they drove around looking for a parking space close to the amphitheater, finally settling on one that was not close at all. They got out and started walking up and around a hill that stood in their way. Methos noted the small basket MacLeod carried, and seriously began to wonder just how much planning had taken place.
"Don't expect me to help drive back." The grass was wet and sprayed water as they walked. It was warmer than Paris, but Methos thought April wasn't really the best time for an outdoor festival. A breeze blew, smelling of rain.
"Wouldn't dream of it."
"You brought me here, you have to take me back."
Methos stopped and looked at MacLeod. "You don't intend on returning tonight, do you?" MacLeod grinned at him. Methos shook his head and huffed his annoyance, even as he smiled and laughed at himself. "Remind me never to trust you again."
"You stay in my barge, you play by my rules. That includes impromptu visits to the south of France."
"Oh, I see, this is just an elaborate scheme to get me to move out. I get it."
MacLeod chuckled and they dropped the conversation when they rounded the hill and the music rose in volume. The lights and canopied theatre of the festival greeted them. They paid the admission and found seats, which were plentiful, though many die-hard jazz fans had braved the weather and sat scattered in the step seats. The old stone was wet and cold and Methos looked at it with a mixture of distaste and resignation, knowing all too well what his bum would feel like after a few hours of sitting. He caught MacLeod looking at him.
"Don't say a word, Methos," MacLeod whispered under the music.
"Me?" Methos replied innocently. "This is perfect, really."
MacLeod sighed and Methos felt a twinge of guilt. Silly man. Didn't he know his company was enough? There was no need to go to these great lengths. Methos sat down, pulling MacLeod down with him. "What's in the basket?"
There was wine and cheese, some paté, fruit, and bread and biscuits. There was even a little caviar. They made a small picnic and sat, leaning against the old stone, munching quietly as the jazz strains wrapped around them, piano and guitar and a woman's voice. Methos let the music speak to him. Despite everything, he was happy, eating an apple and then some cheese. He smiled at MacLeod and was glad to see the worry ease out of this friend's face. Everything was near perfect; even the sun found them, briefly, and there was a soft, diffuse glow caused by the water in the air.
It was almost a full thirty minutes of perfect. The rumble was low at first, and it took a moment for Methos to recognize the sound of impending thunder. They looked briefly at each other and then up at the sky. Suddenly, there was a loud crack, followed by a moment of suspension. The air sizzled with electricity before the heavens opened and a steady rain began to fall.
Somewhat stunned, no one moved at first. As it became certain that the rain was not going to stop, people began to move. Methos looked everywhere but at MacLeod, afraid he'd start laughing or break down into hysterics, or something. Better to just avoid eye contact all together. He pulled his coat over his head as they quickly put the cheese and bread away. An announcement was made that, due to the threat of electrocution from lightning, the jazz festival would close for the rest of the day, but that they were still there for the remainder of the week and please come back tomorrow, weather permitting.
There was a funnel effect as everyone tried to leave the seating area through one exit. Cold rain fell steadily down the sides of their faces and their clothes quickly became soaked. Methos made little choking noises from holding in laughter. They inched their way through and out.
"Oh, just go ahead and say it."
"I have nothing to say." There was no denying the mirth in his voice.
"Yes, you do."
They started down the hill, towards the car. The rain made the grass slick and they skidded a little as they made their way down.
"It was a valiant effort, MacLeod. You should be proud."
"Yeah, yeah," MacLeod groused.
Methos giggled and they looked at each other. He slipped and MacLeod grabbed him.
"Oops. Steady. Got it?"
They clutched each other, the uncertain ground sloshing beneath them. Methos looked up and caught Mac's gaze and they stood there under the rain. It was startling, the clearness of Methos' sudden peace as he gazed into MacLeod's eyes. MacLeod smiled warmly and Methos smiled back, shaking his head as he did so. The bastard was actually pleased with himself, despite everything. Insufferable, really. "Yeah, I got it."
They let go and took another step. Methos slipped again and grabbed MacLeod, who slipped as well, and they both went down in a terrific tumble, sliding all the way to the base of the hill. Methos cried out, somewhat ignobly, and MacLeod oofed and grunted, landing on top of Methos.
The rain felt softly for a moment, pattering insistently in their ears. Methos started laughing, quietly at first, tucking his head into MacLeod's shoulder in a vain attempt to hide. He laughed and laughed and his whole body shook, jiggling them both. He couldn't breathe and he couldn't stop. Rain splattered down on his face as MacLeod moved off, and Methos curled in on himself, laughing a silent "I need air" laugh. He managed a big gulp and suddenly his laughter had volume. He opened his eyes and looked at MacLeod who rested on his elbow, quietly watching him with smiling eyes and soft chuckles. Mac had wet broken leaves in his hair and a dark splatter of mud across his face. Methos sighed and his laughter eased. He lay flat on his back and raised his hand and wiped the mud from Mac's nose. Mac looked down at him and returned the favor, wiping Methos' face with his thumb. Drops fell from Mac's hair and his nose.
Methos held his breath and MacLeod leaned down and kissed him gently on the cheek. Methos closed his eyes. The cold wet ground pressed in from underneath. A finger brushed his mouth followed by warm wet lips. He felt Mac's nose press against his own, felt the wet slide of Mac's cheek, the soft, warm puff of air as Mac breathed.
Methos opened his mouth and the kiss deepened. Their tongues touched and Mac made a small sound. Methos' hand gripped Mac at the waist and pulled, his legs falling open. They kissed, long and suddenly hard, and Methos pulled Mac even closer, a little desperate. Rain fell, whispering in his ear like silent tears, and he broke the kiss, burrowing his face into the damp warmth of MacLeod's neck, still gripping him close. MacLeod held him.
Moments passed and the rain lightened to a misty haze. Methos sighed and let go, grateful for the rain on his face. MacLeod's eyes greeted him, knowing and understanding.
MacLeod nodded. Methos closed his eyes briefly and swallowed.
"I suppose we should get up, or something." Methos suddenly wondered just how much of a spectacle they'd made of themselves. He looked around and discovered no one nearby. They were alone.
"Hm." MacLeod continued to look at him and Methos looked away, up to the sky and the rain clouds above. "I made reservations at a hotel, but we can go home. Up to you."
MacLeod stood, offering Methos his hand. Methos looked at it and the man it belonged to. Both were splattered with a healthy dose of mud and twigs and bits of grass. Methos smiled and took the offered hand. Muscles strained as he was pulled to standing and there was MacLeod, strong and gentle. Methos held on to Mac's hand.
"Do you like driving in wet clothes?" he asked.
"We should at least change clothes."
Methos let Mac's hand go and they started back towards the car.
"You know, it's not safe driving in all this rain."
MacLeod chuckled. "We could wait for it to pass."
"Might as well."
They reached the car. MacLeod headed for the driver's side, but Methos stopped him. He searched for words, finding none. MacLeod raised his hand and caressed his face. Their eyes met and Methos breathed in, unsure, suddenly in uncharted country.
MacLeod simply nodded again and pulled Methos into a hug. They stood, silent, and the rain fell around them.