The Beginning of Always by hafital



Summary: If you woke up tomorrow in a strange place and an unfamiliar Immortal was there claiming to be your friend, someone you've never seen before in your life, who you have no reason to trust, would you believe him?
Rating: All Audiences
Categories: Short Stories
Characters: Amanda, Duncan, Joe, Methos
Genres: Duncan/Methos
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 01/05/16
Updated: 01/05/16


The Beginning of Always by hafital
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Author's Notes: No MacLeods were permanently harmed in the writing of this story. This is set approximately around 2003 for reasons. Title also comes from Dante. Undying gratitude to Melina for the beta.

This was written for pat_t for the 2015 Highlander Holiday Shortcuts.

In that book which is my memory,
On the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you,
Appear the words, "Here begins a new life."


--Dante Alighieri, Vita Nuova



~*~


Methos cursed as he sat in his car. The internal debate had started that morning, and had continued throughout the day -- as he dressed, as he drove across town to Joe's bar -- and now he sat in the parking lot, immobilized.

A tease of Immortal presence rippled across his nerves. Knowing he was caught didn't magically resolve his internal conflict, and he continued to stare at the darkened parking lot, the night full of roving car lights, street lamps, and the smattering of twinkling stars on the horizon.

The shadows to the left of him shifted, followed by a knuckled rap on the car window. MacLeod stood there, leaning over with a curious half-smile. Methos took in a deep breath and lowered the window.

They looked at each other and Methos saw the understanding in Mac's eyes. "Nice night," said Mac.

He suppressed a snort of laughter. "I don't know. A bit humid, isn't it?"

Mac's lips twitched, then he turned thoughtful. "It's just a beer. Doesn't have to be more than that."

That made Methos feel like a complete coward. He shook his head. "It's not that," he said, even though that could very well be the biggest lie that had ever crossed his lips. But he insisted again. "You know, it's not that," he repeated.

In the yellow light of the street lamp, MacLeod's gentle brown eyes darkened. "I'm not going to force you to get out of the car."

Methos opened his mouth to reply, but then closed it again. No, he wouldn't force him. He'd asked, late at night the week prior, over a game of chess: "Would you have a beer with me?"

Methos looked curiously at him, waving his half-empty beer bottle in Mac's face. "Aren't we having beers now?"

MacLeod laughed, nodding his head in acknowledgment. "I meant, at a bar or restaurant. Joe's or any place. The two of us."

"What? Like a date?"

The faint flush on MacLeod's cheeks answered that question and Methos choked on his swallow of beer. He almost sputtered out, "you're not serious," but stopped himself just in time. Instead, he held very still.

"I…" He fell silent, at a loss for words. "Mac?"

What he'd wanted to ask was, why now? After all these years of friendship, the weight of both their long lives, the uncertainty of the recent years, why now? They'd both played with innuendo, but never seriously.

Mac was rosy-cheeked, but he was smiling. "Didn't you ever think about it?"

"Of course I did."

"Well then?"

"I…" and Methos fell silent a second time, but frowned. "Did you think of it?" he asked in turn.

MacLeod lowered his eyes. "Of course I did," he said, repeating Methos's words back to him.

Methos wanted to say MacLeod could have fooled him, but he knew that to be a lie. The harmless, casual flirting he'd teased MacLeod with had always been returned -- he'd just hadn't seriously pursued it, and neither had MacLeod. He took a breath, finding himself wishing MacLeod had simply cornered him. He was a man of action, wasn't he? He should have just acted. It would have been a forgone conclusion if MacLeod had seduced him. But he hadn't. He'd asked instead. And that made all the difference.


MacLeod patted his shoulder. "It's okay, Methos. I understand." He started walking away.

"No," said Methos, in a rush, scrambling out of the car. "I'm sorry. This is not at all what I expected. I… I don't know what I'm doing."

MacLeod turned and they stood in the circle of light from the street lamp. A fleeting thought of how ridiculous this was floated in the back of Methos's mind.

"You're having a beer with me," said MacLeod, holding out his hand, and with barely a moment of hesitation, Methos grasped it. Together they walked to the door of Joe's bar.

~*~


MacLeod led the way through the evening crowd to a table in the corner that had a RESERVED sign on it. Methos caught sight of Joe by the stage in conversation with his band members. Joe glanced at them as they entered and gave Methos one snaggle-toothed rascally grin before continuing with whatever he was doing.

Methos huffed under his breath, pulling his seat out.

"Did you say something?" asked MacLeod.

Methos frowned at MacLeod, who was smiling as he gazed down at his menu, and snapped his own menu open, but he started smiling too.

They sipped their beers and ate the bar food served personally by Joe, who'd slapped both of them hard on the back before ambling back to the stage for the start of the first set of the evening.

It was hilariously awkward to find himself short of conversation topics, and Methos refused to even entertain the idea that he might be nervous, like a schoolgirl on a first date. MacLeod was infuriatingly relaxed beside him, listening to the music with apparent complete contentment.

"This is mad, you realize," said Methos, although he hadn't intended to speak.

MacLeod looked at him but didn't say anything. Methos didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed.

"I mean, what are we doing?" he continued, unable to stop now that he'd started. "Think on our history, on everything we've been through. How is this a good idea?" He gestured to indicate the both of them. "We carry large swords around with us in the likely event we will need to cut off someone's head."

Some strangled part of him was horrified that he seemed unable to shut up.

"I have a hard time believing that this could be… serious. That, I don't know--" he was conscious of MacLeod's unwavering gaze. "That this isn't temporary or an act of desperation. Or...."

"You think I'm, what? Deluded? Desperate? That you're my last resort?"

Methos winced. "God, when you say it like that."

"Well that is what you're saying, isn't it? Do you really think so little of us, together?"

"No, I… I guess I have a hard time believing that this could be...." A noisy bar was not the place to be having this conversation and he mentally kicked himself, once again annoyed at his inability to ever do anything right when it came to MacLeod. "That you would want…"

"You?"

MacLeod had spoken so simply, Methos couldn’t read what he was thinking. He forced himself to speak. "Remember, Mac, it wasn't that long ago you could barely stand to speak to me. I remember if you don't. What are we going to do when this explodes in our face? Maybe you'd be fine, but I don't -- I couldn't--" He stopped to breathe. "You'd hate me all over again."

"I never hated you," said MacLeod, a wrinkle between his eyebrows.

Methos started to protest, then swallowed past a lump in his throat. "No, I guess you didn't."

MacLeod leaned in. "Whatever happens between us, I need you to know at least this: I never hated you."

"I shouldn't have said that." Methos spoke quietly.

"So what if it is mad?" asked MacLeod, still pressing close so that Methos was aware of his familiar scent, making it very difficult for him to think. "I already said I wasn't going to force you. You have to want this, too."

"I can't lose you," Methos admitted, finally, what he was most afraid of.

MacLeod smiled. "Haven't lost me yet."

Exasperated, Methos snorted. "You are mad. We haven't even, you know, done anything. It could be terrible. Then we'd just be embarrassed on top of everything--"

Methos froze as MacLeod took his hand, raised it up to his lips, and kissed the back of his knuckles. He was fixated on the sensation of MacLeod holding his hand, the tingle of his skin where MacLeod had kissed him. He had a fleeting thought that, clever though he might be, he was well out of his depth when it came to MacLeod.

Making a flash decision, Methos reached across and pulled MacLeod in, planting his lips right over MacLeod's. MacLeod made a noise but then relaxed as Methos loosened his hold. A fission of energy shivered down his spine as they parted.

MacLeod, bemused, was looking at him with a charmingly smug expression.

"That answers that, I guess," said Methos. "Okay, you win."

"Well that was easy," said MacLeod, with a smirk.

~*~


A few hours later they walked out of Joe's into the crisp night air, their warm breath fogging in front of them.

"Will you come back to my place?" asked MacLeod with an expression that was open and smiling and somehow conveying that MacLeod wouldn't be offended if he said no.

Methos marveled for a moment. A mere week ago, MacLeod asking if he wanted to come over had a completely different set of expectations.

"All right," he said, and then blinked as MacLeod beamed at him.

They had a brief discussion since they'd arrived at the bar separately, deciding that Methos would follow MacLeod, not wishing to leave his car. MacLeod walked with him to where they parked.

"See you in a few," said Methos, unlocking his door.

"Yeah," said MacLeod, but he took hold of Methos's arm, turning him so they could face each other, telegraphing his intentions.

MacLeod kissed him gently, pressing close under the starlit sky, a deeper kiss than the one from before. Methos felt MacLeod's warm breath caress his cheek as he kissed along his throat, the cool night air a sharp contrast to the heat of MacLeod's lips.

After a moment, MacLeod stepped back. "Don't be late," he said, turning away.

Methos shut his car door and gripped the steering wheel, unaware of anything but the lingering memory of MacLeod's warmth. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes passed before he turned the key in the ignition.

It was a strange, surreal five miles drive to the dojo, all the more for how familiar it was.

With every second that passed, every pause at a light, or left or right turn bringing him closer to his destination, a voice in his head told him to turn back. If he was going to turn away, the time was now.

But he didn't turn around. He kept driving. And then he knew, with sudden clarity, that if given a choice he would always choose MacLeod. This had been true from their first meeting. It was true during their darkest, bitterest, most broken moments. Very likely, it would always be true, no matter what may happen, what changed between them, whatever lay in the future.

He felt a pain -- he thought it was pain -- in his chest. He fumbled for his phone, dialed MacLeod's number, and pressed the phone to his ear, breathing hard as his car idled at a light. Cars honked and drove past him.

It rang and rang, and then voicemail picked up.

"Mac? I… I just… needed to hear your voice. I'm on my way. I'm coming to you. I'm minutes away. But I had to tell you, I--God, this may be mad, but I don't care. I… I'll be right there. I'm on my way. Wait for me. I love you. Please know that."

He ended the call, and drove on, speeding through the streets.

Half a block away from the dojo, a brilliant white arc of quickening fire spiked through the night sky, bending down to spear through Methos's car. He raised his arms up just as his windshield exploded.

~*~


The quickening seemed to go on forever.

In a cold, blind panic, his car dead, Methos ran the last half-block to the dojo. The sky was bright with fire, jagged light ripping the darkness away. Again, and again, and Methos felt the lick of quickening energy rattle his bones.

Then silence.

The lights were out, and the dojo had darkened, blown out windows. As he entered the main floor, through the shadows he could see a headless body lying twisted to one side, scorch marks on the walls, the glass of the office windows scattered everywhere.

He paused only long enough to see it wasn't MacLeod. One band of unbearable pressure released around his heart. But he couldn't feel a buzz. He started yelling MacLeod's name, running for the stairs.

He couldn't feel a buzz as he tripped up the steps. He couldn't feel a buzz as he banged the door open.

There was evidence of a terrible fight: furniture overturned, glass everywhere glinting in the meager moonlight. He saw a pair of legs and pulled at the body, but it wasn't MacLeod. A second Immortal, now headless. He still couldn't feel a buzz.

Methos waded through the room, tossing aside chairs and tables, and then he found a third body, headless, not MacLeod. A third Immortal, and the implications of what must have happened began to crystallize.

Desperate, he turned in a circle. He could not feel a buzz and it was tearing him apart. He was shaking. He felt cold and hot.

There was scorch marks everywhere, the tapestry hanging over MacLeod's bed blackened, smoking.

The moonlight fell on a shiny, bright metal, and he saw the blade of MacLeod's katana lying buried under the heavy wooden bureau. He tripped in his haste, grunting to lift the bureau but let it fall back down when there was no body underneath it. He turned, and saw a pale hand lying over the threshold of the bathroom door. Methos dropped to his knees, lifting MacLeod into his arms, clutching him to his chest. He buried his face into MacLeod's whole and bloodstained neck.

MacLeod had a long stiletto knife imbedded through his skull, buried to the hilt. He was dead. But he wasn't gone.

Methos rocked MacLeod's lifeless body, shuddering with a relief so profound he could only keen in agony as he cried.

~*~


How long he sat on the bathroom floor, cradling MacLeod's body, he did not know. He couldn't seem to move, his mind blank, until a pair of gentle hands squeezed his shoulder.

"Come on, Methos. Let's get off the floor. Come on."

Methos looked up to see Joe bending down, leaning on his cane. He blinked in surprise. He hadn't heard Joe enter the loft let alone cross through all the wreckage, hadn't been aware of anything at all. "He's not dead. Not really," said Methos.

"I know, pal."

"How did you? Where did--"

"Watcher caught the light show. Phoned it in. I got here as soon as I could. Come on. You can't stay down here all night."

Together they hauled MacLeod's body out of the bathroom and onto the bed. They had a brief debate on whether they should move to Methos's apartment or to Joe's, or stay in the ruined loft, but ultimately it seemed unwise to transport an unconscious MacLeod across town.

"If I'm reading the clues right," said Joe, looking around the carnage of the loft, "MacLeod fought and killed three Immortals, fighting at least one of them with a stiletto imbedded through his skull. How is that even possible?"

Methos sighed as he climbed onto the bed, kneeling by MacLeod's head to get a closer look at the wound. "I don't know. How does MacLeod manage to do anything? Penetrating head injuries aren't always fatal. I've seen soldiers pick up and keep fighting with an arrow stuck straight through an eye socket. No one much knows how the brain works. Even in these modern times, it's still largely a mystery."

He touched all around the entrance and exit wounds. The spike had gone through the frontal bone with the tip emerging through the occipital bone. The stiletto hadn't killed MacLeod, at least not right away, but it was preventing him from reviving. He brushed aside Macleod's bloodied, matted hair. Methos shut his eyes, suppressing a shiver and trying very hard not to think back to earlier in the evening, trying not to remember how warm MacLeod had been as they kissed in the parking lot.

He gripped the handle, braced one hand against the back of MacLeod's head, and pulled in one smooth motion. After the stiletto was clear, his hands began to shake, his vision clouding as he dropped the knife and bent low to press his forehead against MacLeod's.

Joe was maneuvering around the room, occasionally righting furniture, but then he stopped, and Methos was aware that he was being watched. "Will he be all right?" asked Joe.

Methos looked at him but didn't answer.

There was no way to know how long it would take for MacLeod to revive. Methos helped Joe remove the bodies, a team of Watchers efficiently carrying them away. They did what they could to put the loft back to rights, but eventually Joe stretched out on the couch and closed his eyes. Methos returned to MacLeod to lay beside him, one hand over MacLeod's unmoving chest.

He lost track of the hours slipping past, dozing in and out of sleep, until with a gasp and a sudden surge of Immortal presence, MacLeod jackknifed back to life.

"Mac," said Methos, snapping fully awake and trying to grab hold of MacLeod. "It's all right."

MacLeod, chest heaving, looking at Methos with a bewildered expression that bled into fear and wide-eyed panic, glancing wildly around him. "What--where?"

"It's all right," repeated Methos. "It's me, it's Methos." MacLeod continued to look at him without recognition, his arms flailing as he pushed Methos away. He was shaking his head, looking all around as if trying to escape.

"MacLeod," said Methos, forcefully, grasping MacLeod's face to try and make him look at him. "Listen to me. It's all right. I'm your friend. I'm your friend, Mac, your friend," he repeated.

MacLeod's panic lessoned and he stopped fighting. His brow was creased in confusion as he gazed at Methos, still breathing hard.

From the couch, Joe rose and moved closer. "Finally," he said, moving around the couch, smiling. MacLeod looked at Joe, and Methos saw his expression change from one of bewilderment and fear to a hard, brutal anger.

"You," growled MacLeod, and before Methos could stop him he was off the bed, one hand grabbing Joe by the throat. "Where is she? What have you done with her?"

"MacLeod," yelled Methos, taking hold of MacLeod's arm. "Let him go."

"Tell me where she is?" demanded MacLeod, not listening.

"Duncan," said Methos, shaking MacLeod, forcing him to look at Methos. "Duncan MacLeod, let him go. You will not kill him. You will let him go. Now."

Slowly, MacLeod shifted his eyes to Methos. Something flickered there, a quick flash of recognition, then he stepped back and let go. Joe collapsed to the floor. Methos glanced down long enough to ensure that Joe was still breathing. He placed himself between them, pushing MacLeod back.

MacLeod was shaking slightly, from anger or fear, as he stumbled back onto the bed. He looked desperately up at Methos. "Where's Tessa? And Richie?"

With dawning horror, Methos knelt down. MacLeod's eyes glistened with unshed tears. "What do you remember last?"

~*~


Methos called Amanda. She listened in shock as he told her what had happened. "Can you come?" he asked. "He doesn't know me, and doesn't seem to be all that fond of Joe. But he'll know you."

"Of course. I'm on my way, but Methos, if you’re right, then the last time he remembers, when we saw each other last, well--it wasn't one of our best, to be honest. He might not be happy to see me, either."

"Did you part in anger?" asked Methos.

"Well, no, not really. But there was this business with Blaine and I may or may not have gotten MacLeod kidnapped, and then there was Tessa--"

"Amanda," Methos interrupted. "No doubt you were your usually charming self, but trust me," and he sighed, "you are what he needs right now. Will you come?"

She was on the next flight out of Paris, but it would still be several hours before she could get there.

"She's on her way," said Methos, to Joe sitting on one of the bar stools by the kitchen, still rubbing at his neck. To MacLeod, who remained on the bed exploring with shaking fingers the now healed wound sites on his skull, marked by clumps of blood-matted hair.

Methos examined Joe's neck. "He didn't mean it," he said, touching the bruises that were forming on either side of his throat. "He's not himself."

"Yeah, I know." He shook his head, his blue eyes shadowed.

Methos walked slowly back to MacLeod who sensed his approach and looked warily up at him. "Tessa?" he asked, although in such a fearful, timid way, Methos was certain MacLeod already knew the answer Methos could not bring himself to give. MacLeod nodded, eyes falling down to his bloodied and dirty hands. "Tell me what happened."

There was, finally, a note of steel in MacLeod's voice.

"As near as I can tell, you were attacked here, in your home, by at least three Immortals at once. Bad luck," he added.

MacLeod huffed.

"During the fight, this," and Methos picked up the stiletto, handing it to MacLeod, "was staked through your skull. You still managed to take all three Immortals' heads, though God knows how. It seems it, or the three quickenings, or a combination of both, affected your memory."

MacLeod visibly swallowed. "How long?" he asked with wet eyes. "Since…" But he didn't finish.

Methos didn't pretend not to understand. MacLeod was asking how long a gap there was in his memory. "About ten years, I think," he answered.

MacLeod nodded. "And Richie too?" he asked, and those wet eyes pleaded with Methos.

He could not do this. It was why he'd called Amanda, coward that he was, he could not be the one to break MacLeod's heart like this, to lay out all the horrors of these past years. MacLeod was nodding even though Methos hadn't answered, holding back tears, and Methos took a deep, shaking breath. "Mac," he said, his voice breaking. "This can wait."

MacLeod kept nodding, as if trying to accept. "You're my friend?"

Methos froze. He was cold. His chest hurt. "Yes," he whispered. "I'm your friend."

MacLeod furrowed his brow, blinked a few times. "I believe you."

~*~


Methos coaxed MacLeod into the bathroom and into a shower, and then once he was out again back into a newly remade bed to sleep. "You're still healing, Mac. The more you sleep, the better."

For a second it looked like MacLeod was going to argue or become mulish, but then, with a look at Methos and a furtive glance at Joe, he lay down on top of the covers. Rolling on to his side, he was asleep within minutes.

Methos sighed with his entire body, collapsing onto the edge of the bed and dropping his head into his hands. He heard the familiar sounds of Joe's labored steps crossing the loft.

Joe's eyes were still bruised and shadowed. "Is this permanent? Will he get his memory back?"

Methos shook his head, then looked out the window. It was dark again. Somehow an entire day had simply disappeared. "Don't ask me that question."

Joe gripped Methos's shoulder by way of apology.

"Go home, Joe. Get some rest."

"Doesn't seem right to leave."

Methos shrugged. "Not sure it's such a good idea for you to be here anyway."

Joe's face darkened, but he nodded. "Call me, if you need anything."

They gripped each other's hands before Joe made his slow, methodical way to the elevator, which was once again working. Left alone in the silent loft with a sleeping MacLeod, Methos felt the cumulative weight of the last couple of days bear down on him. He had every intention of relocating to the couch but when it came time to move he found he could not do it. Instead, he lay down beside MacLeod, as he had done earlier. This time, when he put his hand over MacLeod's chest, he felt the reassuring beat of his heart's steady rhythm.

He slept without dreaming, not waking, not even moving until the rattle of the elevator and the shiver of Immortal presence woke him with a start. Beside him, MacLeod was already awake and looking at him with a slightly perplexed, confused expression.

Methos felt his cheeks warm, and sat up quickly, just as the elevator landed and Amanda entered the room. Methos saw the stark relief cross MacLeod's face when he saw her. After recovering from the quickenings, nothing in this life was familiar to him -- not the loft, not Methos or Joe -- but Amanda was eternal. She sailed quickly across the room, coming to a stop in front of MacLeod.

"Oh, darling," she said, as MacLeod let himself sink into her embrace, gripping her tightly.

It was daytime again, and the light from the windows was so bright, Methos felt his eyes water. He rose from the bed, feeling very out-of-place and in-the-way.

He touched Amanda's shoulder. Her worried eyes rose up to meet his. "Tell him everything," he said. "Everything you can."

He trusted she understood that to include his past as well as MacLeod's. He wouldn't make the same mistake again, no matter the cost. She gave a shaky nod of her head before returning her attention to MacLeod. Neither noticed when Methos left, taking the stairs.

At first, he was at odds with what to do with himself after the heightened fear of the past forty-eight hours, but he eventually made his way to his apartment. He took a long shower, spending too long standing under the spray of hot water pounding relentlessly on his shoulders and back, until the water began to cool. He dressed and ate a dissatisfying meal standing up in the kitchen, unable to settle. He was just beginning to turn his attention to the many everyday tasks he'd ignored in the wake of MacLeod's life exploding once again when his phone rang.

"He's gone," said Amanda, immediately.

"What?" Methos felt his fingers grow cold.

"He left, about five minutes ago. And he didn't take his sword with him."

"Tell me everything." He was already moving, finding his shoes and struggling into his coat.

"I was trying to pace it, and not dump everything on him at once. I mean, when you start listing everything MacLeod's been through since Tessa, it's a lot, Methos. It's overwhelming."

"How far did you get?" he asked, and he had to stop himself from asking if she'd told him about the Horsemen. Whether she'd gotten to the part that had nearly ended their friendship. But this wasn't about him, as much as it tore him apart. This was about MacLeod.

"That business with the dark quickening. I was going to stop and suggest a break, you know, leave the rest for another day, and that we should get out of the loft, go somewhere, but he demanded to know more. You know how he gets. He… he demanded I tell him what happened to Richie."

Methos closed his eyes, pressing his cell phone so hard against his ear it began to ache. "He was already suspicious," he said.

"I think he remembers some things," she said. "Because as soon as I was trying to explain how Richie's death wasn't his fault, he was asking about Connor."

"Damn it," said Methos.

"I couldn't lie to him," Amanda said. "He would have known."

Methos could hear how upset she was, how stricken with the horror of convincing MacLeod that the death of those he loved by his own hands wasn't his fault, and he felt very guilty for leaving it all on her shoulders. He was silent as he forced himself to think on what to do next. "I know where he is. Or where I think he is."

She sighed.

"I'm sorry, Amanda. It was unfair to leave everything to you to explain. I just…"

"I know," she said. "I made the most sense; it had to be me. He's just so impossible sometimes."

Methos huffed a bitter laugh.

~*~


He found MacLeod exactly where he thought he would, sitting on the curb across the street from where his old antique shop used to be, where he used to live as something like a family with Tessa and Richie.

MacLeod raised his head as soon as he felt Methos's presence, then sighed and looked back down to the gravel-covered driveway.

He was already looking more like himself, thought Methos, less the bloodied haggard mess he was after the quickenings. He sat down next to MacLeod. "If you're going to run away, you should take your sword with you."

MacLeod shook his head. "I wasn't running."

"Right," said Methos, in a tone of voice that usually got MacLeod arguing, and he was indeed rewarded with an irate glower.

"It's just… Yesterday, she was alive. We were walking down the street, together. I can still feel her hand in mine."

Methos hadn't realized it was possible to feel worse. "Mac, I'm so sorry. This is not something you should have to relive again. If there had been something I could have done to stop this, I would have. Between somehow keeping the truth from you versus telling you everything, there was no way to make the right choice. I'm sorry."

MacLeod looked at him curiously, which was at least a different emotion than sadness and regret. "What are you to me?" he asked with wonder.

Methos took a moment before answering. "Like I said, I'm your friend."

MacLeod's expression darkened. "You should rethink that," he said, and his voice was very rough. "I kill all of my friends."

And there it was, the thing that was unavoidable no matter how desperately you look away, no matter the truth or the lies or the regret. "We're Immortal, MacLeod," he said. "It is a fact of our existence."

MacLeod's eyes were liquid, changing color in the growing dusk. Another day gone. Methos hated himself for being so brutal, but it did no one any favors pretending it was otherwise. Unbidden, Methos remembered his internal struggle sitting in his car just a couple of nights ago, wrestling with what he wanted to be true versus what he knew was inevitable. He knew MacLeod's hands were stained with the blood of those he loved, for Methos carried the same stains on his. It was madness to love each other. Complete madness. But here he was, sitting in the darkening night with an Immortal he would likely die for.

"I never used to believe that," said MacLeod. "We have free will. We make our own choices. We're not slaves to the game."

"And you believe it still. All of those that died at your hands, Duncan, they all had free will. They all made their own choices."

"Did Richie?" asked MacLeod, voice breaking.

Methos made a face, because if they descended into a discussion about Ahriman, things would go downhill fast. "Yes, him too. What happened with Richie was tragic. I was there. I saw what you went through. Were you to blame? Was Richie? Was I? Were any of us? We all make our choices. Richie put himself in harms way because he cared for you. It is painful to know that, but it was his choice and it dishonors his memory to say otherwise. He would have forgiven you."

MacLeod took in a big shuddering breath, and shook his head. "I don't know if I can accept that."

"No," sighed Methos. "It is a lot to take in. I probably wouldn't even try."

That curious questioning look returned to MacLeod's face.

"My standard fall back response to any given situation: do nothing," explained Methos. "Especially when faced with these big philosophical questions, trying to figure out what's 'right' and what's 'wrong.' Sure fire way to bring on a giant headache."

MacLeod looked both outraged and amused as he studied Methos. "You know," he said, his eyes traveling across Methos's face. "I never believed you existed. 'The oldest Immortal?' You're a myth, a legend."

"It's good to be a myth," said Methos, and then he held his breath as he saw MacLeod grasp at a shadow of a memory, his expression turning inward, unconsciously raising his hand in the air, as if to catch a beer can thrown casually across the space between.

Then MacLeod's eyes focused on Methos again, and he dropped his hand. "Will I stay like this?"

Methos had avoided this question, his own heart unable to contemplate the possibility that MacLeod would never remember. "I don't know," he said. Then, he spoke again, very slowly. "I… think not. Immortal healing should prevent any physical reason for permanent memory loss. Which leaves only an emotional or psychological reason. But," and he grimaced slightly as he remembered Warren Cochrane, "you have never been a man who hides from pain, Mac. You have always faced your challenges head on. It is both your greatest strength and your greatest weakness. I think your brain is still a bit scrambled, and in time, you will remember."

He did a knock knock gesture on MacLeod's skull.

MacLeod continued to study him, and Methos saw a return of wonder and awe, a little something similar to the way MacLeod used to look at him in those early days when they first met. It chilled him, and he realized that he did not want MacLeod to look at him like that. He could not bear the thought of the inevitable disappointment. Not again.

Something must have shown on his face, because MacLeod's look of awe was gone, changing to one of understanding. He reached across and took Methos's hand in his, threading their fingers together, palm to palm.

"Do nothing?" asked MacLeod, with a hint of amused disbelief. "Is this how you do nothing? Fine example."

"Yeah, well," said Methos, grateful for the darkness that hid what must be a mortifying blush. "You seem to be the annoying exception."

Methos tried to pull his hand free but MacLeod held on. "Methos," he said, and for some reason the way MacLeod spoke his name made Methos's heart pound in his chest. It was the first time MacLeod had said it since waking with a ten-year gap in his memory. "Methos," he repeated, "Tha--"

Methos clapped his free hand over MacLeod's mouth. "Don't say it. Please don't say it," he said.

MacLeod's brow creased, but he didn't struggle. After a moment, he took hold of the hand covering his mouth, pressing it even further against his lips, closing his eyes.

Methos leaned forward. "Come on," he said, after a long moment. "Amanda's worried. Let's get you back home."

~*~


He drove MacLeod back to the dojo. As they entered, Amanda flew at MacLeod, hitting him on the chest and arms. "Don't ever do that to me again," she said.

"Amanda," said MacLeod, both chagrined and apologetic, attempting to catch her flailing arms. "I'm sorry." He was laughing a little.

"I don't see what's so funny," she said, her eyes sparking, folding her arms across her chest. Their interaction was so typical, so perfectly them that for a moment it was easy to forget the events of the past few days. Like everything was normal.

Methos stepped away, intent on making his escape.

"Wait," said MacLeod. "Methos."

He froze where he stood, turning to face MacLeod.

"Will you stay?"

He looked from MacLeod to Amanda and then back again. "I don't think I should." MacLeod began to protest. Methos cut across, interrupting. "Trust me," he said. "I'll come by tomorrow. I'm not going anywhere."

Before MacLeod could make another protest, Methos ducked away, taking the stairs. He knew that, if Amanda hadn't already told MacLeod all about their history, she was about to now.

He returned to his apartment, more at odds with himself than he had been earlier. He slept, fitfully, and then felt unrested in the morning. He attempted to go about his business, pretending that he wasn't looking at his cell phone every two minutes. He jumped when, around eleven in the morning, it actually rang. It was Amanda.

"He's fine," said Amanda. "He's here. He's asked if both you and Joe wouldn't mind coming by, say in a couple of hours?"

Methos breathed in relief. "Yes," he said. "Of course."

"He would have called himself, but both of his phones were fried. We haven't gotten around to replacing them yet."

"Right," said Methos, pretending that he hadn't been hoping it would be MacLeod who called and trying not to read too much in it. He tried not to think of what MacLeod thought of him now that Amanda had most likely told him everything. "I'll see you in a few."

When he arrived at the loft, MacLeod was sitting on the couch, looking so much like his normal self that Methos thought for one wild moment his memory must have returned. When their eyes met he knew that wasn't the case.

"Hullo," said Methos.

MacLeod merely smiled slightly, nodding at his greeting, and Methos felt all hope wither inside. He turned away, giving Amanda a kiss on the cheek as a way of hiding. When he glanced back, MacLeod’s eyes were cast down to the floor.

Joe arrived, and the room grew still as MacLeod rose and he and Joe faced each other. He took a moment before speaking. "Amanda tells me you've been a good friend," he said. "I'm sorry, for…"

"It's all right," said Joe, shaking his head, waving his hand in dismissal. "Already forgiven. No permanent damage done."

MacLeod pursed his lips, then nodded. "All right," he said. "Thanks for coming."

There was an awkward silence with all four of them looking at each other, until Amanda shifted and said, "We've been talking," she indicated MacLeod and herself. "And wondering about what happened. It's one of the reasons we asked you here, Joe. Three Immortals banding together, coming after a single Immortal like that, it's not that common."

Methos straightened. "You think it wasn't just random? Or that there might be another out there hunting you?" he asked.

MacLeod waggled his head, shrugging. "Just a hunch. Did I say anything to you, before?"

"No," said Methos. "No mention of any stray Immortal meetings. No weird spidey sense tingling. Nothing."

"What about the Watchers, Joe?" asked Amanda.

Joe shook his head. "We had a Watcher on Mac that night. That's how we knew about the fight. Those three Immortals showing up was a surprise to us too. We've since identified them, though."

Both Amanda and MacLeod moved forward. "And?" asked MacLeod.

He took a folder holding several glossy photographs, spreading them out on the kitchen island. "Kevin Silva, around 140 years old, came on the scene sometime in the late 1880s, Dakota territory. Rodrigo Barraco, goes by Rod, about 300, Spaniard. And finally, Gunnar Henrickson, about 190 or thereabouts, first died in New York City in a street brawl."

MacLeod was staring at the pictures. He picked up the photograph of Gunnar Henrickson, brows creased.

"Do they look familiar?" asked Methos. "Do you recognize any of them?"

"No," said MacLeod, setting down the photograph and picking up the picture of Silva instead. "But there's something. Something I can't quite place." He unconsciously rubbed at the top of his head, right over where the stiletto had gone through, frustrated. "I can't remember."

"Give it time," said Methos, placing a hand on MacLeod's arm, then snatching it away as if his fingers burned. MacLeod didn't seem to notice.

Amanda frowned. "If this wasn't a random attack, then maybe there was some kind of contact? They left a message or something?"

MacLeod sighed, placing both hands on the kitchen island, bending forward. "If they did, I can't remember. I would never know."

"Did you check your messages? I don't suppose an Immortal wanting to kill you is likely to leave voicemail, but you never know," said Joe. "Might as well check."

Methos didn't move. He didn't even breathe. His mind raced in every direction at once, trying to come up with a plausible reason why checking MacLeod's messages would be an unhelpful and stupid idea. But the chaos in his mind was paralyzing, and he did nothing but stand silent, frozen in place.

"My phone was destroyed in the quickenings," said MacLeod.

"You can still call in, can't you?" said Joe, then continued when MacLeod looked confused. "You don't have a physical answering machine anymore. No one does. Digital messaging. You can call in and get your messages from anywhere."

Joe took out his cell phone and began dialing MacLeod's number. "We need your code, though," he said, looking at the rest of them. MacLeod stared blankly, as did Amanda.

"It's 83772," said Methos. "It spells 'Tessa.'"

He didn't know why he'd spoken. He could have kept quiet, but he had found himself saying the numbers without really thinking.

"You know my code?" asked MacLeod.

Methos opened his mouth to say any number of things: That it had been Richie, actually, who'd programmed the code years ago, and MacLeod had never bothered to change it. That, through a rather mundane and uninteresting complication of events, MacLeod had asked Methos to check his messages once, when his hands had been slippery with butter while cooking. Instead, he simply said, "Yes."

After a beat where they all stared at Methos, Joe entered the code into the phone, then handed it to MacLeod. Both Amanda and Joe watched MacLeod as he listened to the prompts, pressing numbers on the keypad, but Methos stared down at the floor. He felt the moment when MacLeod came to his message, left the night of the quickenings, left perhaps moments before MacLeod had taken the first Immortal's head.

MacLeod straightened slightly, and turned to look at Methos. There was what felt like an endless silent moment, pulsing with the building tension in the room. Methos kept his eyes on the floor, staring down at his shoes. Then he heard the soft tones as MacLeod pressed more buttons, then handed the phone back to Joe.

"Nothing," said MacLeod to Joe and Amanda, but his voice had the characteristic roughness that was always a sign of too much emotion. Methos knew, even without looking up from the floor, that MacLeod hadn't taken his eyes off him.

Joe sighed, gathering the photographs up into a neat pile. "Well it was a long shot. I'll go back and do some more digging, see if I can't find a connection between you and any of these three bozos."

He headed for the elevator. "Wait," called Amanda, jumping up from her stool, picking up her handbag and shrugging into her coat. "I'll walk out with you."

"Where are you going?" asked MacLeod, turning away from Methos to frown at Amanda.

"Shopping," she said, as if it were obvious.

"Now? You're going shopping now?" MacLeod was both laughing and glowering, exasperated.

"Sweetheart," said Amanda, taking his face between her two hands. "This is an emergency. In one night you managed to destroy all of your linens. You have no towels. All your dishes, and your stemware, have shattered. I was forced to have a glass of wine out of a coffee mug last night. That's not even getting into everything else that was ruined. This simply cannot continue. I'll be back." She kissed his cheek, blew an air kiss in Methos's direction, then took Joe's arm as they both closed the elevator door and vanished with its familiar rattle.

Methos and MacLeod were left alone in the now silent loft. It was a long time before either one of them spoke.

"Mac," said Methos, "I'm…" He was going to apologize again, but the words got stuck in his throat and he didn't continue.

"Tell me," said MacLeod. He'd moved closer but they still had the kitchen island between them.

Methos shook his head, and looked at MacLeod for the first time since Joe had brought up checking his messages.

"Were we--are we together?" asked MacLeod.

Methos scrunched his eyes shut for a moment. "No," he said. "Not really. We were… you were--" He took a moment to inhale a deep breath. "It was quite new. In fact, it was just that night." He stopped, unable to say more.

MacLeod's eyes were shining in the lamplight. "I don't know what to say."

"You don't have to say anything," said Methos, quickly. "I'm not expecting anything. And I know," he faltered, swallowed, and looked down at his hands. "I know it must seem shocking to you, after everything you've learned."

MacLeod frowned. "I don't follow."

"Amanda told you about the Horsemen, didn't she?"

A muscle in MacLeod's jaw flexed as he spoke, a slight hardness entering his expression. "She told me," he said.

"Then, you must be wondering why you would ever… consider me like that. You must be wondering, by what madness did you ever think this was a good idea. You must be…disgusted." He forced himself to say the word.

"Methos," said MacLeod, and he moved from around the island but stopped a short distance away. "Forgive me, but do you want me to be mad at you?"

"What? No," said Methos, stricken. "Not at all."

"In the message, it sounded like you'd changed your mind. Is this why?"

Methos struggled to find words. "In part. When everything with the Horsemen happened, it wasn't an easy time, Mac, between us. I guess I thought, after hearing everything that happened, you would think any sort of relationship between us unlikely."

MacLeod took his time responding, and Methos watched as MacLeod worked through whatever it was he was thinking. "I'm not going to lie and say it was easy to hear. Almost impossible to fully believe."

Methos's mouth was dry and he nodded, swallowing.

"Clearly, it affected both of you." He shook his head, annoyed. "Both of us. Between us. What happened, it damaged something between us?" He was almost asking, seeking confirmation, but didn't stop for Methos to respond. "As I understand it, it's been a number of years, hasn't it? Years in which, despite everything, we're still friends. Isn't that right?"

"Yes, but," Methos started.

"Are you my friend, Methos?" asked MacLeod.

Methos struggled for a moment, and then said, "Yes. Of course."

MacLeod smiled. "You know. This goes back a little to what we were saying yesterday. I can't help but think of the Duncan MacLeod from a few days ago as some kind of stranger. The other guy. The other Duncan. I have to work at remembering we're actually the same person. And if we are the same person, if everything he thought and felt and fought for is something that I thought and felt and fought for, then I should," he let out a breath. "Trust in him. Trust in myself. Whatever history lay between you -- us -- he clearly cared for you a great deal."

"You're always surprising me," said Methos after he'd stopped gaping at MacLeod, hoping he didn't sound too overwhelmed.

MacLeod reached out a hand and touched Methos's arm. "I'm feeling a lot of things, but I can tell you, disgust for you is not one of them."

Methos wiped at his eyes, then turned his hand around to grasp MacLeod's arm in turn. "What are you feeling then?"

"Confusion," he said, with a twist of his lips. "Wonder." He raised one hand and carefully traced the line of Methos's eyebrow, his cheekbone. "A certain level of attraction."

And MacLeod lifted Methos's chin, his eyes on Methos's lips, before leaning in to kiss him. Methos made a noise and the next thing he knew he was pushed up against the brick wall. MacLeod was all encompassing, powerful, and Methos's nerve endings were on fire as he buried his hands in MacLeod's hair. They devoured each other, panting and hungry and aching with want.

MacLeod pulled away to mumble, "I've wanted to do that since last night."

"God, Mac," said Methos, and they were kissing again, tugging at their clothing. Methos then remembered thinking how he had wished MacLeod had just kissed him like this that night and seduced him. But, MacLeod hadn't done that. He'd said he wouldn't force Methos, and he hadn't. He'd asked, patient and knowing and with his eyes full of love. Suddenly, Methos missed MacLeod -- his Mac, his Duncan -- with such a powerful longing, he stopped and buried his face against the warmth of MacLeod's neck.

After a moment, he said, "I'm sorry."

MacLeod shifted around so they were more comfortable against the brick wall, his strong hands gentle as he massaged Methos's shoulders and held him close. "Don't be."

Methos pulled away so he could look at him. What he saw took his breath away -- Mac's glowing, dark brown eyes, and a smile full of sadness. He looked more like the MacLeod Methos knew than he had since that fateful night. He was, Methos realized, the same man.

~*~


They settled down to wait for Amanda's return or for Joe to call, sitting on the damaged couch close together, with MacLeod asking questions about his missing years that Methos was no longer afraid to answer.

He was in the middle of the story of the de Valicourt's wedding when Amanda lifted the door of the elevator and entered, carrying several large packages and beaming at both of them.

"Did you buy the entire store?" asked MacLeod, amused and rising to assist her.

"Nearly," said Amanda, unapologetic. She gave Methos a far too innocent smile and he sprang from the couch, ferreted out his coat from the pile of outerwear by the door, and gave a hasty goodbye.

"Wait, Methos," said MacLeod, grabbing hold of his arm. He looked back at Amanda, and then marched Methos down the short hallway to the privacy of the stairs. "You don't have to leave."

"I know," said Methos. "But, yes I do." MacLeod started to protest but Methos shook his head. "I'm not… this isn't gallantry or, God help me, chivalry. You need time, and I need time, as well. I'll be here tomorrow, first thing in the morning."

Still looking like he wanted to argue, MacLeod nodded. "All right. Tomorrow."

MacLeod planted a big kiss on Methos before waggling his eyebrows at him and closing the door, leaving Methos stunned and open-mouthed standing on the landing.

The next day Amanda demanded they give her space to decorate. "I want to surprise you," she said to MacLeod.

"Surprise me with what?" he asked, suspicious and pausing in the act of putting his coat on.

"Never you mind," she said, pushing at him to leave. "I can't tell you. It's a surprise. Methos, help me," she said, over her shoulder. "What are you laughing at anyway?"

"The more things change, the more they stay the same," said Methos, with a smirk.

She turned to face him, exceedingly lovely in the late morning light, and shoo-ed him out the door.

"Amanda," Methos said, quietly, her dark eyes meeting his with a flash of understanding.

"I know," she said, her hand on his cheek. "I know. Now go, both of you."

Methos left with MacLeod in tow, contemplative and silent next to him. They went for a meandering walk through the neighborhood, with Macleod commenting on what had changed in the last ten years.

As they turned down a quieter street near the marina and the shipyards, the abrasive, jangling concert of several Immortal presences buzzed through the air as four different Immortals stepped out of the shadows, surrounding Methos and MacLeod.

Methos cursed under his breath. He should have been expecting something like this. Beside him, MacLeod focused on what appeared to be the lead Immortal, a tall man with dark hair and what would have been a pleasant, handsome face if it weren't for the slight glint of anger and madness in his eyes. Just then, Methos's phone began to ring. He looked down at the screen and saw that it was Joe.

"David?" asked MacLeod, with surprise and confusion. But Methos was relieved to see that MacLeod was also keeping an eye on the other Immortals, that he wasn't so taken off guard as to ignore the situation.

"Hello, Duncan," said the man. "I said I'd come for you."

MacLeod shook his head. "David, whatever this is about, I don't remember."

"I thought you were my friend, but you don't care," said David, not listening. "Jill and I were going to get married. And you killed her." He yelled, pointing his sword at MacLeod.

The other Immortals circled closer, pushing MacLeod and Methos away from the main road into an alley. Methos stepped back-to-back with MacLeod.

"I don't know what you're talking about." MacLeod looked from David to Methos, seeing that Methos didn't know anything either, and then back to David. Methos's phone rang again. "I'm sure we can talk this out."

"Afraid?" asked David, with a sneer.

MacLeod stood up taller. "You sent three Immortals to, what? Soften me up?"

"There's no shortage of Immortals who want your quickening, Duncan."

"Much good it did you," said Methos, deciding it was time to enter the discussion. "Hear that, boys? MacLeod took on three and lived. Do you really like your chances?"

The three other Immortals looked uncomfortably at each other. One even began to step back.

"Shut up," yelled David. "Enough talking."

"I quite agree," said Methos, taking a silenced pistol from the inside of his coat and shooting one Immortal in the heart, then shooting a second Immortal before aiming and shooting at the third. They all went down.

David cried out, yelling, "No!" and starting to charge when Methos shot him in the left thigh and he collapsed to the ground.

"Amateurs," said Methos with disgust, taking his sword out.

"Methos," cried MacLeod, spinning to look at the fallen Immortals, then, realizing that Methos was headed for the whimpering David, said, "Don't! Methos!"

Methos ignored him as he easily blocked David's erratic sword swinging, disarming him. He reached down, grabbed David by the collar, and placed his broadsword at his neck. "Are there any others?" he asked David.

"Duncan," yelled David, his handsome face twisted in a grimace. "You better kill me now because I swear to God I'm going to kill you. Get off of me!" He tried to twist out of Methos's confining hold.

Methos shook him hard. "Are there any other Immortals coming for MacLeod?" He bit out every word as he twisted David's sword arm up behind his back.

David looked wild-eyed at him, then back at MacLeod. "Who is this guy?"

MacLeod was looking at Methos with the expression of a man who'd just realized he'd been lied to. Methos didn't flinch away, silently saying, "I did warn you. I did try to let you know who I truly am." MacLeod's eyes hardened, and he dropped his gaze to look at David. "He's a friend," said MacLeod, and Methos felt his heart contract painfully in his chest. "And you'd better answer his question."

Methos shoved aside the cascading confusion of thoughts and emotions to concentrate on David, twisting his arm until the bones began to snap. David cried out in pain.

"You have no idea how lucky you are that I respect MacLeod as much as I do," said Methos. "Now tell me, are there any other Immortals coming for him."

Almost unable to answer, David gasped out, "No… No more."

Methos let him go, kicking him in the back so he stumbled to the ground. "He's all yours," he said to MacLeod.

MacLeod stared down at David, crouching to his level. "I'm sorry for whatever it is you think I did to you."

David gave MacLeod a filthy, angry glare. He spit on the ground.

"If you come after me again, or any of my friends, I will kill you," he said.

"MacLeod," Methos said in disbelief as MacLeod took him by the arm and they hurried away. He looked quickly back at David still struggling to rise before they turned down another street and lost him from view.

"I can't fight him like that," said MacLeod. "You shot him in the thigh and then broke his sword arm."

"Oh, I'm sorry," said Methos, exasperated and a bit primly.

"Besides," continued MacLeod as they rushed through the streets, weaving their way back to the loft. "I have no idea what this is about. The last time I saw David was over a hundred years ago. We were friendly."

Methos’s phone began to ring again. "Yeah, well maybe Joe has some answers." He pressed the talk button on his phone. "You're timing could do with a little work, Joseph."

"Hey, what do you want from me?" was Joe's immediate reply.

They took a moment, Methos senses on high alert, to huddle around Methos's cell phone as Joe recounted what had happened the last time Immortal David Keogh had come into town. Methos interrupted once to exclaim, "You let him go once before already? Unbelievable."

But he didn't harangue MacLeod further, noticing with dismay the saddened, dark-eyed look MacLeod was giving him as he realized that he yet may be forced to kill another whom he'd once called friend.

Methos took MacLeod by the arm, placed a hand to his chest. "Mac, he's dangerous, and you gave him more than enough chances to choose differently, which he is fully capable of. It's up to him now."

MacLeod nodded, although his dark-eyed look did not go away.

They were a few feet away from the dojo when Immortal presence descended down on them fast, and before Methos could even look around for the source something hard slammed up against his head. Pain exploded, and all he knew was that he fell to the ground, gasping for breath and unable to think or see. As if from a far away distance, he thought he heard MacLeod call his name, and he struggled to rise, to shake the pain out of his head so he could answer but he could not make his arms or legs work.

Slowly, his head cleared, and he was able to roll onto all fours. He could feel the hard, pebbled asphalt underneath his palms, and the discomfort helped ground him as his eyesight and hearing popped back into existence.

He sat back and heard the unmistakable sound of swords clashing. Something warm dripped into his eyes, stinging, and he raised his hand up to touch it, his fingers coming away wet and shining with bright red blood. On the asphalt next to him, he saw a length of a two-by-four piece of wood that must have been what Keogh used to knock him out.

Struggling to rise, Methos wiped at the blood so he could see, following the sound of the sword fight leading him around behind Mac's building. The flash of metal caught the mid-afternoon sunlight, and Methos raised his hand to shield the glare.

MacLeod moved gracefully, beating Keogh back. Keogh's face was locked in a grimace, and his movements were erratic. Methos could see that MacLeod wanted to end it, and with a quick series of movements, Keogh was disarmed. MacLeod kicked his sword out of reach, then lifted Keogh's face up with the edge of the katana. He turned and saw Methos standing there, before dropping his attention to the man kneeling before him.

"I didn't want to do this," said MacLeod.

Keogh lurched for his sword, but he didn't get far as MacLeod spun around and swung. The quickening gathered and MacLeod turned once again to seek out Methos.

Methos stepped closer, then stopped as the first flash of quickening struck. MacLeod grunted, but stood his ground. Sparks flew, and wind picked up as the quickening built in power. A moment passed, and then MacLeod cried out, his hands coming up to cradle his head. He continued to yell, falling to his knees until, finally, the quickening ended.

"Mac," said Methos, approaching cautiously. MacLeod seemed unaware of his surroundings. He placed his two hands on MacLeod's shoulders, gripping him tight.

MacLeod fell forward, reaching for Methos. "It's all back," he said, his voice ragged from yelling. "It all came back. I remember everything."

And as he had done the night he found MacLeod dead but not gone, Methos gathered him into his arms.

~*~


Two days later, as the elevator took him up to MacLeod's loft, Methos felt the familiar buzz of MacLeod's presence flood over him. He raised the door and stepped into the newly redecorated loft.

He whistled. Amanda had replaced most of the furniture, changed out the rugs, upgraded the kitchen with all new appliances, all new light fixtures. Instead of a tapestry behind the bed, she'd hung up several framed art pieces. The bed, Methos suspected, was also new.

"Don't get too excited," said MacLeod with a half-smile, stepping out from the kitchen area. "I paid for it all. But she did a good job. I was probably due for a change."

"Where is the little minx?" asked Methos, accepting the glass of wine MacLeod handed him.

"Left," he said, taking a sip of his own glass, his warm brown eyes catching Methos's. "Earlier today. Said to say good-bye, and that you owe her one."

Methos snorted, covering up his sudden embarrassment by moving over to the couch. MacLeod followed. It was an upholstered couch this time, wide and deep. Methos sank into it. Okay, he might owe Amanda quite a lot just for the couch alone. They sat facing each other.

"So, here we are," said Methos.

MacLeod eyed him over his glass of wine. "What did you do today?"

Methos debated not telling him, but then sighed. "Made sure those three Immortals wouldn't be bothering us. Don't worry, I didn't go any where near them. Just made sure they left town, if they knew what's best for them."

MacLeod paused briefly, but otherwise didn't reveal what he thought or felt about the news. This MacLeod, and Methos chided himself briefly for still thinking of them as separate, but this MacLeod was harder to read than the one with fewer memories. "You didn't have to do that," said MacLeod.

"Believe me," said Methos. "It was an entirely selfish act on my part."

MacLeod smiled at that.

"And you?" asked Methos. "What did you do today?"

He rubbed at his face, stretching. "I helped Amanda in the morning. There was still a lot to do. Then, I spent some time on the phone trying to buy the remainder of David's chairs, whatever was left of his inventory."

Methos gaped at him. "You amaze me. Did you succeed?"

MacLeod blushed a little, then shrugged as if to say, "Yup, that's me." "Yes. One chair is being shipped here. The others are going to my warehouse upstate."

Methos thought on what a waste David Keogh's death was, but he held absolutely no regrets. MacLeod reached across and gently took Methos's half-empty wine glass and set it on the new coffee table, then captured both of Methos's hands in his.

Oh no, he thought, and tried to squirm away, but MacLeod held on to him firmly. "Mac, don't."

"Let me, please," he asked, and Methos held himself very still. MacLeod's hair, grown down past his ears, had fallen into his eyes. Methos thought he'd never looked better, and he drank in the sight of him. "I wanted to thank you."

Methos shook his head. "You don't have to do that."

"Yes, I do," said MacLeod, and he let go of Methos but kept his hands close by. "I've been thinking a lot on everything that happened. It's strange, to have memories of the last few days from two different perspectives. One, waking up and not knowing where I was or what had happened, and two, looking back and realizing everything that you did, and that Amanda did, and Joe." There was little crease between his eyebrows at the mention of Joe. "I could have really hurt him, and you stopped me. I'm very grateful."

"You weren't yourself. You didn't really know who he was, beyond a threat to those you loved."

"That's just it, though," said MacLeod. "I did know him. I knew when I first met Joe that he was good inside, even if I distrusted the Watchers. He wasn't a stranger to me. But you were."

"I'm not sure I understand," he said.

"If you woke up tomorrow in a strange place and an unfamiliar Immortal was there claiming to be your friend, someone you've never seen before in your life, who you have no reason to trust, would you believe him?"

"I…" started Methos, then he shut his mouth. What he wanted to say was, that if the Immortal had been MacLeod, he would have trusted him, blindly, without knowing why. Although, he probably would have fought against that trust.

MacLeod smiled slightly, and Methos figured MacLeod knew what he hadn't said. "Some part of me recognized you," said MacLeod, "And trusted you implicitly, from the first moment I woke up all the way through to when my memories came back."

"MacLeod," said Methos, and he couldn't quite look at him, a little overcome by the intimacy of his gaze, the power of what he was saying.

He felt MacLeod take his hand, and bring it up to his lips. Every nerve ending on Methos's fingers sparked like fire, and he felt what must be a bolt of quickening shoot up his arm. He inhaled, realizing as he raised his eyes to meet MacLeod's, that as much as he had loved the MacLeod who'd trusted him implicitly, who'd woken up with a ten year memory gap and accepted him as a friend without question, it was this man, this Duncan MacLeod sitting with him on the brand new couch, who set his body on fire with one simple touch.

"Come here," he said, roughly, and MacLeod wasted no time, catching Methos in a soul-rending kiss. They lay back and Methos lost himself as MacLeod covered him, holding him close.

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