Desperados Waiting For a Train by mackiedockie
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Author's Notes:
Beta reading done by the immensely patient and indefatigable *adabsolutely*. All historical, grammatical and factual errors are my own!

All the characters in this story (aside from Duncan MacLeod) have a real historical basis, but their actions and words are entirely fictional and spring from my own warped imagination.

"I hear you're leaving town with light pockets, MacLeod, and I can make the trip worth your while." Charlie Siringo was a Pinkerton, and Pinkertons were trouble. But Connor had trusted him with the personal delivery of a steamer trunk full of antique books and a hidden compartment filled with gold dust all the way from Alaska. Now MacLeod was taking it on to Nantucket.

While loading his gear at the Oakland railhead MacLeod listened to the detective's overture with cautious interest. The fact was, since Amanda had departed suddenly, San Francisco had lost much of it's allure, even as he had found himself in temporarily tight financial straits. The incident with the archbishop, the actress and the mayor's wife was still making the town gossips blush and the mayor blanch, and most of Amanda's associates had already sensibly left town.

"It's 1897, MacLeod. The west has grown up. Do you know, they even have a Bell telephone in Price, Utah? They used it to call the governor when that sheriff was shot up chasing one of that so-called Wild Bunch. Just think, in fifty years, we might not even need the telegraph at all. Every town could have a telephone! And an automobile! We're riding hell-bent into the 20th century, and Butch Cassidy and his outlaws are just slowing us down." Charlie brushed absently at his Pinkerton badge, then buttoned his gray coat to conceal it from the local union and brushed at his bow tie instead.

"I'm not a bounty hunter, Charlie," MacLeod said again, patiently, as he hauled the heavy trunk onto the baggage cart at the Oakland train depot. He made sure the label properly listed Connor's warehouse in Nantucket, and surreptitiously checked to make sure all the Alaskan freight labels had been stripped. "I'm a businessman."

MacLeod was well aware he looked more like a cattle buyer than a city man--he wore a new blanket-lined Levi jacket and all-too-stiff new d'Nimes trousers for the long train ride east, tight at the waist but long in the leg. It was going to be cold crossing the Sierras in late April, but he'd be dressed in Levi Strauss' top of the line copper-riveted 501s. They'd been a risky investment in back in 1855, but Levi had surpassed all his expectations.

"I've heard tales. You're a businessman who tracks like a hungry Comanchero," Charlie pointed out. "Just like your uncle back with the Texas Rangers, way I hear it. But let's look at it this way--these outlaws are bad for business. E. H. Harriman is trying to get the railroads booming again, and that will help everyone's business--but not if the trains keep getting robbed. Why, this here trunk itself might end up decorating Butch's hideout in Robber's Roost."

MacLeod frowned. That would make Connor exceedingly unhappy. And since the Panic of '93, the bankrupted railroads weren't quite so reliable, especially where gold was concerned. Moreover, to be honest with himself, MacLeod was tired of the grifting, noise and stink of the fell alleys and dives of the old Barbary Coast. A ride through the high desert Rockies in the spring might make him feel...cleaner.

Sensing weakness, Charlie Siringo reached into his coat and plucked out the badge, pressing it into MacLeod's palm. "This will get you a free ride anywhere the Union Pacific lays it's tracks. I'll put the paperwork through myself. After all, if E. H. Harriman is willing to drop 25 million on those rusty old rails, we might as well make ourselves useful and grab a cut."

"Why aren't you taking the job?" MacLeod asked, eyes narrowed.

"I am. But I'm going after Kid Curry up Wyoming way. He hit a train in Tipton. Can't be there and Utah country, too. E. H. Harriman is putting a reward up--I'll guarantee your share, if anything comes out of your trip."

"I don't hunt men for money, Charlie," MacLeod stated sharply, as he drew up at the stock chute. He ducked under the fence to check the wrappings around the legs of a dappled grey stallion. He delayed as he loaded the purebred Arabian in the stock car. A part of him itched about the offer. He'd lost a pocket fortune in the Panic of '93, no small bit of it railroad stock.

"I'm not asking you to hunt," Charlie grinned, watching MacLeod fuss over settling the horse in his private stall. "That's for the sheriffs, to do the sheriffing. I'm just scratching for news on the renegades. Making up files for the Union Pacific. All you have to do is stretch your legs. Take in the scenery. Listen to the wind. Exercise that wispy looking barb you've got there before he wastes away in some pitiful poor paddock back East."

"I'll have you know that there are blue-blooded mares from three states pining away for a bit of exercise with Damocles, here," MacLeod grinned as he swung down from the railcar, kicking dried manure from his stitched leather boots.

"And some fine, blue-blooded heiresses who own them who need exercising too?" Charlie guessed, and ducked MacLeod's swat with a grin.

"A free ride for baggage and barb, as well," MacLeod countered, "And myself for a year and a day. Anywhere the rails run." Connor had promised more deliveries from the Alaskan gold fields. MacLeod might end up saving a small fortune in freight fees.

Charlie hesitated, mostly for show. "You drive a hard bargain, Scotsman."

"They say it runs in the clan," MacLeod admitted. He thought his old teacher Connor would approve. After all, it was just good business.

MacLeod memorized the wanted posters that Charlie Siringo provided as the Union Pacific steam engine labored over the Sierras. Coal smoke choked the cars as the train rattled through the snow sheds that protected the tracks from avalanches until they finally burst out into the clear alpine air, down the east slope of Donner Pass and into Truckee. Butch Cassidy. Harry Longabaugh. Black Jack Ketchum. Elzy Lay. Gunplay Smith. Joe Walker. "Steer clear of that old rustler, MacLeod," Charlie had warned. "He shot the sheriff."

While the transcontinental railroad had been running for forty years, MacLeod still marveled at the ability to travel from ocean to ocean in days, rather than months. Even so, by the time he'd crossed the long Lovelock alkalis and the salt flats leading up to the Wasatch, he was more than ready to escape from the coal smoke and swaying seats. The train halted often to take on fuel, water and wait at the sidings for westbound trains to pass, but many of the towns were decrepit and dying, choked when the silver mines shut down and the banks closed. Not so, Castle View and Price, coal towns crowded with hard, pale men who worked heel and toe shifts in the mines 24 hours a day. The silver standard might have collapsed, and the gold mines might have played out, but the whole country still used coal.

MacLeod nearly passed on through Price, not liking it's looks, when an immortal frisson raised his hackles and inexplicably settled deep in his belly. He searched the busy street through the coal-dusted window of the car. His eyes were drawn to a rider that wove through the crowded street with only tight nudges of knee and rein. The horseman rode his Appaloosa lightly, loosely, without whip or spur, his polished boots gleaming in the rising spring sun. His black suit with ebony buttons hinted of eastern fashion with a professional polish.

Pulling the brim of his black hat down to shade his eyes, the man bent to speak with a familiar looking range-battered cowboy leading another dark Palouse horse with a striking white blanket. It could have been the other mare's twin. The old cowboy directed a surprisingly fierce look toward the train, and the odd pair stepped up their pace through the crowd, heading north. Heads turned as they passed, and more than one rough character stepped aside from their path with unspoken respect. One primly dressed family in a buckboard even smiled and waved.

MacLeod even saw a deputy draw back into a mercantile as the outlaw known as Joe Walker swung nimbly into the saddle and led his lean companion northeast. The map didn't show much in that direction that would draw an eastern dandy. All that lay that way were the cut and tumbled arroyos and canyons that guarded the badlands up by the Green River and Brown's Hole.

MacLeod could have gone on to the next town down the line, and made his inquiries peaceably and safely, but the rustler's sheer effrontery intrigued him, and Walker's well-dressed and well-favored companion nudged his curiosity. MacLeod stood and discreetly tugged his new Levi's out where they inconveniently pinched a private part, gathering his bedroll and the brown duster concealing his rifle and katana. With no guilt whatsoever he used his new badge to delay the train long enough to unload Damocles. It was sheer luck that he'd spotted a member of the gang so quickly, and MacLeod had too much respect for good omens and bad to ignore the opportunity.

MacLeod's mood soared as he tied the duster and bedroll behind the cantle, cinched the saddle and stowed his Springfield rifle and sword in their custom scabbard. He checked the action on his Colt, and mounted. The cold saddle leather creaked as he eased into the seat, clicked his tongue and shook out the reins. Damocles threw his head, making his bit jingle. The stallion sidestepped lightly in his eagerness and moved out with an airy, floating stride. Heads turned, as MacLeod passed through the town, but no one nodded, or smiled, or waved.

MacLeod stopped near yet another telegraph line running up a rocky ravine and swung down from Damocles, stretching his haunches. San Francisco living had softened certain parts of MacLeod's anatomy rather more than he liked to admit. Studying the fresh sign left by his quarry, he frowned, checking the angle of the setting sun. The two horsemen were moving slower than he expected, and after a tricky double back down a creek and over a sandstone scarp, they began veering north, and west, well away from known outlaw haunts in the region.

Twice before, MacLeod had come upon new blazes and chips chunked out of telegraph poles leading away from Price and Castle View. He paused to examine the third more carefully, and in the light of the setting sun, fresh metal gleamed at the top of the pole. "They've cut the wires, and respliced the break to slow down the repair," he muttered to Damocles in the spirit of sharing the chase.

"Ya should've left it alone, Nosy Parker," came the response, though not from his horse. Damocles did not have a Texas accent. "Or should I call you Johnny?"

MacLeod held still as a Colt double-action cocked all too near his ear. "The name is MacLeod."

"Mebbe Johnny-behind-the-rocks suits you better. Why are you tailing me? Tired of living? No one likes bushwhackers in these parts."

"Not even other bushwhackers, Joe?" MacLeod guessed.

"Dandy. Just dandy. Being saddled with one cocky sonofabitch isn't enough, I have to end up with two," Joe Walker sighed wearily. "Ease that Peacemaker on down and stand up slow, will ya? I don't want to have to put a bullet-hole in that pretty jacket."

"Don't think he won't," a warning voice floated down out of the rocks. A strong Immortal warning crawled down his back and curled at the base of his spine. "Joe's a dab hand with a needle and thread, and hardly anyone will notice the patch." A thin shadow snaked down the hill, backlit by the blinding sunset. As the Immortal moved closer, MacLeod noted the frock coat gleamed with a fine velvet trim, and was cut generously enough to hide a sizeable Bowie knife. Not as sizeable as the sharply shining hand and a half sword he carried jauntily over the shoulder, but MacLeod made careful note anyway.

"Now what did I tell you about staying put out of sight, Doc?" Joe asked, aggravated. "I coulda took care of this, and you coulda stayed well quit of it."

"Not this one. He's one of mine, Joe. He's after me."

"Us cocky sonofabitches just like to be sociable," MacLeod allowed, flashing a fighting grin.

"Damn, not another one," Joe sounded thoroughly disgusted. "How about we just roll him into one of those abandoned mines back of Carbondale and let him dig his way out?"

While the two ambushers argued over the merits of various disposal possibilities, MacLeod also made careful note of the distance to rifle and katana, still nestled in his saddle scabbard. Damocles blew out a sharp breath, his ears straining forward at the approaching stranger. Carefully, calmly, he lowered his hands to his gun belt and slowly let out the tongue from the well-worn leather, sliding it loose through his fingers and letting it hang from the buckle.

"Whoa, Damocles, take it easy," MacLeod said in a soothing tone. His horse was rather more sensitive than some to spooking at strange swordsmen. He took an easy, loose-limbed step toward his horse as if moving to pick up the ground-tie, and then pivoted on his heel and whipped the gun-heavy belt at the outlaw behind him.

Joe Walker was quick for an old desperado, MacLeod had to give him that. He caught the belt, and nearly ducked the whipsawing pistol as well. It hit his head with an audible 'tock' and dropped him to one knee. MacLeod scrabbled for the scabbard, but Damocles was crabbing sideways, pulling at his reins.

Walker was already taking aim again. His gun hand raised...and lowered. "Hoss is in the way, Doc," he complained bitterly.

"Joe's just an old softy at heart," the man in black whispered into MacLeod's ear before bringing the pommel of his sword hard up against the side of his head. After that, all went very, very dark.

MacLeod woke up to a sharp headache that faded with thankful rapidity. A generous splash of frigid spring water spurred him fully awake, if not particularly happy about it. The Doctor's face was just inches away, a hard glint in his eye, yet the hand trailing a wet lock of hair off his forehead was exquisitely gentle. "Count yourself lucky. Joe's going to have a hell of a black eye. You don't even have a bump. See?" His captor's thumb described a slow arc from his temple down his jawline, then slowly trailed around the shell of his ear, rubbing the soft skin with careful concentration. "If you had hurt Joe badly, we wouldn't be having this conversation," he added in a snake-soft whisper.

MacLeod proudly tossed his head, ignoring the peculiar feeling aroused by the dangerously delicate touch. The strange Immortal's signature buzzed in his bones and blood, in a way he hadn't experienced since leaving Darius. "I'm Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he ceremonially announced himself. "Though you find me at a disadvantage, I would appreciate an introduction before we conduct our personal business."

The man in black rocked back on his heels, and patted MacLeod's cheek reassuringly. "Don't worry, I'm not here on business. Pleasure is more my style. Doctor Pierce, at your service, sir."

"Then it is a pleasure to meet you. My apologies for not offering my hand," MacLeod answered ruefully, as he looked up at the intricate knots that secured each of his arms around the cantle and horn of his own saddle. His head was comfortably cradled by the padded leather seat. The saddle itself was cinched up hard against a downed aspen. It might take all night for him to wriggle loose. Diplomacy, then, was the watchword. His captor wasn't intent on beheading him out of hand--it would have gotten a perfectly good saddle all bloody.

Around him were the signs of a hastily-made camp--a small smokeless fire cheered an aspen hollow, well hidden from prying eyes. Damocles grazed with the two mares in a small meadow, his lead staked against straying too far. He snorted and nipped at his companions, clearly interested in making a closer acquaintance.

Walker scowled as he stirred beans heating in a small pan, and hardtack warmed on a flat rock. "Nice looking stud," he allowed reluctantly.

"Yes, he is," Dr. Pierce murmured, patting MacLeod encouragingly just below the belt buckle.

"His name is Damocles," MacLeod managed to answer Walker alone, grateful the twilight hid his flaming face. "My thanks for not shooting at him. The blood of Koheilah of Arabia runs in his veins."

"I don't care if the blood of Patches of Provo flows in his veins, if he sires a sound colt," Walker shot back, though MacLeod thought there might be an admiring gleam in his eye. "His dappling will go well with the appies, mebbe. They got some A-rab in them, way back. Mind if we let nature take its course?"

"By all means," Dr. Pierce encouraged with a devil's smile.

"By all means," MacLeod acquiesced with an ironic shrug against his bonds. "I wouldn't dream of interfering."

"Ya already interfered," Walker groused. "But if you don't make trouble, we'll let you go with all your pieces and parts in just a couple, three days. Deal?"

"Deal," MacLeod agreed. It was a decent deal indeed, considering how foolishly careless he'd been to be captured by a simple outlaw in the first place.

"Smart boy," Dr. Pierce beamed. "I might even take you on as an apprentice, if you're good. Oh, and did I mention that I'm Joe's agent? I get to collect the interest in all his dealings."

"Thus explaining his current widely sought popularity in high society."

MacLeod had toned down the sarcasm, but Pierce laid his finger over MacLeod's lips as if caressing silk. "Do not insult my friend. Unlike myself, he is a good man. And that's the price of my interest. When we let you go, you forget you've ever seen Joe Walker. Deal?"

MacLeod hesitated. "That's a matter of honor between me and Joe, don't you think?"

"Yep." Joe didn't even raise his head from the cookpot. "Deal's done, Doc."

Pierce glared at his partner. "You two are a fantastically gullible pair to draw to," he said disgustedly. "And by the way, Joe, if you're going to keep making deals with strangers, you might want this as a souvenir. Just to remind you to look beyond a pretty face." With a flick of the thumb, MacLeod's shiny Pinkerton badge sparkled in the firelight before burying itself in the dust and ashes at Joe's feet.

"A damned union-buster. That just kills my appetite into next week." Joe spat to the side before picking it up, highly disappointed in his new guest. "I'd just pitch it in the fire to melt, were it up to me, but probly Butch will want to hang it up somewheres for target practice. Pinned to your bare hide, mebbe." Joe continued muttering under his breath, "Danged pretty-footed studhorse deserves better'n a sneak."

"I think I've been insulted."

"I'm fairly sure you've now rated yourself somewhere below cockroaches and carpetbaggers in Joe's book right now," Pierce agreed with a feral grin. "But he'll stand by his word until you break yours."

"He knows about us? All about us?" MacLeod asked quietly.

"More than he wants to. Less than he needs to." Dr. Pierce glanced back at Joe in affectionate irritation. "It's going to get him killed someday."

"You talk too much, Doc," Joe shot back.

"It's in my nature as an educator of the discerning and enlightened, Joe. And you, too, of course." Dr. Pierce ducked as a well-thrown piece of hardtack pegged the place his head had been.

Pierce continued as if uninterrupted, his eyes dancing merrily. "What about you, MacLeod? When was the last time you were a student?"

Somewhat affronted, MacLeod whispered, "I'm 305 years old!"

Pierce cocked his head and gave the bound and tied Immortal a dangerous smile. "It's a pity that one so young would believe there was nothing left to learn." Again, Dr. Pierce laid his hand below MacLeod's belt. "There is so much I could teach you, were you willing."

MacLeod froze, fully comprehending the outrageous offer, but unready to answer. A sharp cracking sound from the firepit interrupted their mute challenge, and Pierce regretfully drew away and stood.

Still fuming about the badge or the insult, Walker had crushed one of the hard biscuits against a flat rock with a bit more force than necessary. He sprinkled the surviving crumbs over the beans, stirring them in and carrying the pan over to Dr. Pierce. "I'll keep watch over our backtrail and the hosses up above the meadow. We'll leave at dawn."

"Dip your bandanna in the creek and tie it over that eye, Joe. It will keep down the swelling."

"Yeah, yeah," Joe waved him off, pulling his dusty brown hat down, shadowing his face. His averted eyes caught the gleam of the firelight. "Don't play too long with your food, Doc," he admonished sternly.

"You know me so well," the Doctor laughed softly. "Don't worry. I promise to clean up all the pans." His voice dropped, dark and velvety as his suit. "And all the pieces and parts, too."

Walker chuffed scornfully, either with disapproval or disbelief, and stalked stiffly into the night, leaving MacLeod alone with the playful Dr. Pierce.

The beans weren't bad. For beans. MacLeod had been spoiled by San Francisco haute cuisine. But Dr. Pierce's slow delivery of each spoonful fretted MacLeod's pride no end, and he found himself tugging on the ropes against his better judgement. "Enough," he growled, his temper flaring. He drew up one leg and braced it against the ground.

"No, you're right, that's enough. For now," Dr. Pierce agreed with suspect cheer. Dipping the spoon in the pan one more time, he let his own tongue run the length of the utensil, up and down, repeating the long strokes far past the allowances of any society MacLeod had ever lived in. He stared. And looked away. And kept sneaking looks until Pierce finished the pot--his increasingly hungry glances were not based on thoughts of food. He felt warm, even feverish, though the campfire was dying.

Pierce looked at him sorrowfully, and let his hand rest on MacLeod's braced leg, kneading the tight muscle above the knee. "I didn't mean to consternate a bound and helpless virgin, you know. That would be quite unethical of me. The bond between student and teacher is nearly as important as sacred ground among us, and I won't pursue your higher education if it is something you do not truly desire." Pierce met MacLeod's eye with every outward appearance of honesty. "I'm a man of many tastes, but forcing the unwilling is not currently one of my vices."

"I'm hardly a virgin," MacLeod burst out, highly insulted. "I've been twice around the world, and laid the lads and lasses from Glasgow to Japan, and all ports between."

"Ah, a salty man of the sea," Pierce brightened, impressed. "Then you won't be alarmed when I do this..." he trailed his hand up MacLeod's thigh, his fingernails just scratching deeply enough to tickle maddeningly through the stiff new jeans. "Or this..." and now his exploring hand traced the unmistakably eager response that MacLeod's particular part could not suppress. "You certainly are strikingly gifted." Pierce squeezed the jeans just at the lowest pinch of the seams, in order to fully show his appreciation of MacLeod's princely endowment. "Or perhaps you release your desires too quickly for a partner to fully fathom your wares."

"I'll match any lover from midnight to morn, and a rainy day after," MacLeod boasted cavalierly, and perhaps a bit incautiously, for Dr. Pierce's bright expression of anticipation outshone the rising gibbous moon. "Teach me. I'm ready. Or better yet, loose me now, and I'll teach you a trick or two," MacLeod challenged, his lips parting, his eyes deliberately raking the Doctor's body.

"You agree, then, though you already argue my methods. Hopefully, that is not a harbinger of our future studies."

"I've studied Socrates. And Plato. Isn't discourse required?"

"Cheeky boy. You would be shocked to know what Socrates required." As Pierce drew his fingers over MacLeod's mocking mouth, he turned and caught a fingertip with his strong lips, but his quarry slipped free with an amused grin, and turned his attentions to lower arenas.

"Look how your body shifts and protests, as if in discomfort." Pierce trailed his inquisitive fingers across the closely woven cloth stretched tightly over his upper thigh. "So tight and restrictive...your most natural attributes must be painfully hindered. Perhaps my closer professional attention is required," Dr. Pierce remarked in transparently suspect concern.

Even as he spoke he lazily reclined, boot to boot, hip to hip, hand to chest. He deliberately insinuated his own long leg between MacLeod's, urging them wider. "Perhaps if we loosen your clothing. Allow your natural urges the freedom of movement they desire..."

MacLeod's breathing hitched as nimble hands massaged and manipulated his straining cock through the stiff confines of his clothing. "Devil," he complimented through clenched teeth. "Demon," he added as his hips left the ground, straining for more.

"Not recently," Pierce denied. "Not in this hemisphere, anyway," he amended. "But I think you may find there is much the sinful have to teach." He fingered the stiff sewn buttons with all the patience of a saint. "Locked up tight like the Crown Jewels. Are you sure you aren't a virgin?" he teased, as the top button was finally prised open.

"Or perhaps Amazon pirates captured you in your youth, and spent your taste for women, so you lock yourself away behind these infernal knobs..." another button was overcome, and another. Pierce stroked the thin underclothing beneath in reward, pinching lightly, teasing unmercifully, before stripping the last buttons loose and allowing MacLeod's cock to bounce and bob in the cool night air. Pierce stilled, admiring his handiwork. "Exquisite."

"Joe was right. You talk too much."

"Though you share remarkable qualities, Joe is my friend, not my student. He is allowed," the doctor warned archly.

MacLeod wisely, but just barely, held his tongue.

Pierce peeled the clothing away with maddeningly slow tugs and twists, until MacLeod was bared to neck and tangled to the knee by his own jeans. Sighing in pure artistic wonder, the Doctor stroked the smooth, bare, moonlit skin of his clenching inner thighs, while MacLeod's boots scraped helplessly for purchase. He arched vainly upward toward the dark shadow of his tormenter, groaning for relief.

"Do you realize you are beautiful, MacLeod?" Pierce dipped his head and blew a thin stream of warm breath along the length of his aching cock. "I could keep you like this for centuries, and never tire of carving your deepest needs in the finest Italian marble."

In desperation, MacLeod found unlocked his gritted teeth, and growled, "If you don't get on with it, I'll rip this saddle in two, and split you next..." he vowed.

"Promises, promises. But we can't have that, now. It is a very nice saddle," Pierce acknowledged, palming MacLeod's balls soothingly, rolling them through his fingers one after the other, separating them and giving just a tiny warning tug. "We can't have threats either, can we?" Pierce dipped his head again, and lightly bit MacLeod's cold-pebbled nipples until they warmed and pulsed on his tongue. MacLeod tossed his head, neck cording to contain his lust.

Pierce observed, and admired, and moved his total attention to MacLeod's vulnerable neck, nipping and sucking until slow-healing berry-colored patches dotted his skin from collarbone to gritted jaw. "What are you doing?" MacLeod's eye's widened as slow moving sparks skidded across his skin. "What have you done?"

"Taught you something new, my salty sailor man. The neck is sensitive, and slow to heal small injury, but heal it does, and the effort fires the quickening from guggle..." Dr. Pierce traced an electric line of fire from his victim's jaw slowly down his chest, through the tight fur at the base of his belly, " zatch." He traced random circles all over MacLeod's belly and balls as his hapless student began to comprehend the new nerve-raking sensation.

"When you combine that Immortal eccentricity with certain Tantric rites only found in forbidden Tibet, the experience can be quite...enlightening," Pierce managed to combine his philosophical discourse with a maddening massage to the most sensitive skin hidden behind MacLeod's full, heavy, tingling balls, and his hips rocked upward again, desperate for more contact.

He tried to spread himself wide, inviting the most intimate ministrations and explorations, but the doctor denied that mercy. "You aren't ready. I'm not ready. The harder lessons must be learned in their own time, at their own price," he consoled, breath singeing his skin.

His senses roiled and expanded, as if he stood on the brink of a Quickening--hearing sharpened, until he could discern his captor's smallest inhalation, and he could feel the very whorls and loops of his fingertips traveling over his body. Tiny charges ebbed and flowed through his body, prickling from the hollow of his neck to the base of his balls in maddening waves. "Please. Let it loose. Let it out. Let it go," MacLeod asked desperately, not quite begging. Not yet.

"Let yourself go, MacLeod," Pierce pinned his legs beneath his own and sucked hard at the hollow of his prey's neck until the skin reddened with trapped blood. "I'll ride you all night long, if that's what you desire," he promised solemnly as MacLeod bucked beneath him in unredeemed need. The moon crept slowly overhead as he remapped the constellations in carnal marks on his body, tongue and teeth remorseless.

When delicate lips closed over his aching cock, MacLeod keened to the zenith moon as he was finally, softly, safely enveloped. Now, now he was ready to beg, but he had lost all words. Nevertheless, Pierce divined his highest wish and lowest lust, caressing his length with his clever tongue and sweetly punishing his selfish, secret yearnings with the tiniest hints of suction.

Every healing blue spark that crawled across his neck seemed to sink into the core of his spine and coil downward, crowding and spinning as inexorably as the devouring hunger of a tornado. MacLeod moaned, and twisted, and reveled in the power within and the lover's touch without, as twin quickening fires crested and collided and burst free.

From the ravine ridge overlooking the meadow, Joe Walker saw ball lightning pop and singe the quaking new leaves of the aspen grove down in the dell, though there wasn't a cloud in the sky. He squeezed his good eye shut, shaking his head. "Crazy sonovabitches," he muttered, and turned over to get some sleep.

It was late morning, going on noon when MacLeod woke under an all to itchy bedroll to find Pierce stretched out at his side, laughing. Peeved at oversleeping and doubly peeved at being laughed at, he blinked, and scratched...and remembered. And still, the doctor laughed. "What's so funny?" he asked, glowering. Even a three hundred and five year old Immortal was not immune to insecurity after a night with a new partner.

Dr. Pierce got ahold of himself long enough to answer between gasps. "I tried to wake you up. You rolled over and stated quite firmly, 'Not now, Darius.' I haven't heard anything so funny since the invention of democracy."

"There's something about you that reminds me of him," MacLeod admitted ruefully, which only sent the doctor into paroxyms again. "It can't be the age you act," he added acidly. Dr. Pierce was certainly not exhibiting a whit of Darian dignity at the moment.

MacLeod heaved himself up to his feet, casting about to get his bearings. This particular operation seemed to amuse the good Doctor even further. MacLeod allowed a small smile in return as he got his thoughts in rational order, and stretched his arms. "Thank you for cutting me loose."

"Well, Joe did. Sneaky bastard."

"He seems like a nice guy. For a rustler," MacLeod allowed. He put his hands on his hips and then belatedly pulled up his jeans, quickly buttoning them over his still sleepy, but intact, parts and pieces. "Where is he, anyway?" he asked curiously, shooting a look around as he buttoned his shirt against the April breeze. The fire was cold. The sun was high. The meadow was peaceful. And empty. His smile fell away. "And where's my horse?"

That brought another gale of laughter from the prone Dr. Pierce. "He's gone off, and taken a shine to your horse to boot. He even left a note. See?"

MacLeod picked up a scrap of paper propped up in the previous night's bean pan, puzzling out the words. "Shudda cleent up the beans. Borrored the stud." MacLeod let the paper drift into the firepit.

"He's right. I should have cleaned up the dishes. I did promise," Dr. Pierce said with a nearly straight face.

"Did you teach him spelling, or do we visit that sin on Texas?"

"He learned his letters somewhere between Chickamauga and Gettysburg, so it's not surprising some of the fine points didn't take," Pierce replied dryly.

"I really liked that horse," MacLeod mourned, casting around for fresh tracks. "You said he was a trustworthy man."

"I said he was a good man. One of the best. But a rustler, remember?"

"I remember," MacLeod only had his own carelessness to blame. "You seem awfully happy about the situation, considering your own mare is gone, too."

"My horse is his horse," Pierce rolled languidly to his feet and shrugged. "He had work to do, and we were just in the way."

"Work to do? I thought he was an outlaw. Hanging out at the hideout. Shooting up the saloon."

"That saloon shootout was the other guy's fault. He should have known better than to tease a Confederate on Decoration Day. But yes, outlawry is surprisingly hard work," Dr. Pierce stretched his long body and adjusted his belt. "Almost as hard as academia."

MacLeod did manage to suppress a guffaw. He was learning.

"Consider this, MacLeod. Butch Cassidy is robbing the Castle View Mine payroll today. Probably right about now, actually. And before that could happen, Joe had to cut the rest of the telegraph lines and make sure a series of getaway horses were picketed and watered and fresh and sound."

"All while I've been sleeping," MacLeod sighed.

"is that what they call it nowadays?" Pierce asked innocently.

MacLeod wasn't really listening. "I think this pretty much spells the end of my career as a Pinkerton Detective." Here he was setting himself afoot on a fine spring day in the Wasatch breaks while his quarry apparently plucked payrolls in broad daylight in the middle of a company town. "At least I know where my horse is now--accessory to armed robbery."

"Just think of the stories he can tell his grandcolts."

"What about you? What will you do without a mount?"

"We're not that far from Castle View, and I walked before I rode. Let's see if I still remember how." Pierce slapped trail dust out his black coat and rolled up his bedroll. "Are you coming?"

MacLeod could think of a lot of reasons not to go to Castle View. All the telegraphs would be down. And his best horse was traveling in exactly the opposite direction. "What's in Castle View besides a mine and a siding?" he asked speculatively.

"Whisky. Something to eat that's not beans. And the chance to learn a few other interesting lessons that I only teach to willing students."

A remnant of unlocked Quickening energy sparked at the base of MacLeod's throat, shot down to his belly, and danced up his spine to raise his hackles. Even his tuckered out parts and pieces managed to quiver and take notice.

"Never let it be said that Duncan MacLeod was an unwilling student."

"We will see, MacLeod." The man in black smiled. "We will see."