Stone Fences and Heather by AD absolutely
Thanks a million to Mackiedockie for editing!
“Why are you recording me?” An hour into his rant about the Scottish vote, Duncan MacLeod had finally noticed the digital recorder in Methos' hand.
“Must be my turn to drive by now,” Methos suggested as they zipped along side Loch Linnhe, nearing Fort William. It was a rare clear day for a drive, the autumn air crisp, the dark green of the heather muted by newly forming buds. Since early morning they’d motored north on roads traversing meadows of heather and heath, soft peat ground, and miles of stacked stone fences representing centuries of labor, on their way to the Highlands.
“Nope. What are you going to do with that?”
“I'm not getting a turn am I? You've driven all the way from Edinburgh.”
“Methos! The recording?”
“I'm going to play it to you in a thousand years, though I'll need to store it in several formats just — ”
“Well you never can be sure about the various medias. They tell you the latest thing will last forever then the library burns or the cloud goes poof, but scratch a bit of graffiti on a cave wall and you hear about it for millennium!”
Duncan opened and closed his mouth twice during Methos' babbling, finally gave way to a smile. “So, in a thousand years?”
“Scotland will still be here. But governments? That's gonna change.”
“You think we'll have some Orwellian world government?”
“I'm leaning the other direction. Power more dispersed and people living where they will, in a loft above a converted factory, or a cabin in an isolated valley. An internet connected workforce. Who knows though. But it will be different, I guarantee. It's always different.”
“I'm sure you're right about that. I just hope it means more freedom, not less.”
“Mac, why don't you worry about the changing sea level for awhile?”
“OK. I think reforestation is a good step — ”
Duncan laughed and shook his head, but began searching out a good café in Fort William.
Once pleasantly replete they resumed their trip, turning west along Loch Eil, which was still dotted with sailboats despite the autumn chill, and drove toward Glenfinnan.
They found Rachel outside her inn busy covering plant boxes with mulch, anticipating the first serious snow. Now in her mid fifties, she still appeared fit and active.
A smile lifted her face at the sight of him. “Duncan! Good to see you. I didn't expect you for a couple more hours.” They hugged tightly with the strength of true fondness.
“Rachel you're a sight for sore eyes!”
“Ha! And you still look thirty- ” she cut her words off at the sight of a thin young fellow, toting a turned-wood jar, closing within earshot.
Duncan said, “It's OK. This is Adam Pierson. He's older than he looks.”
“But I'm young at heart! Nice to meet you!”
“Same!” They shook hands, both smiling. Duncan sighed with relief that the two appeared to be sizing each other up favorably considering that Rachel, never fond of outsiders, and that Methos, normally unwilling to out his immortality, could as likely not taken to each other. In the planning stage of the journey, Methos had conceded that Duncan’s observation was likely true, Rachel MacLeod's path seemed destined to intertwine with immortals. A bit like Joe Dawson that way. Inevitable.
“So you need to borrow a boat again. Duncan, you'll be filling up the loch with ashes before you're a thousand.” Rachel’s tone, while tart, was not without amusement.
Duncan felt his face heat.
“Sorry Duncan. At least tell me this one belongs to the Highlands?” She pointed to the plain wooden urn Methos carried.
Duncan recovered his humour quickly and replied, “Sorry to say I didn't know her very well.” He quirked a brow at Methos to take up the tale.
Methos began slowly, measuring each word. “Well... she could have been a Highlander. But she didn't really know. She was a traveler. With good and bad traits. Human. Tired. She'd reached her limit.”
“Awe, then, I believe Loch Shiel will accept her. Go on then, take that one,” Rachel nodded to an eight foot green rowboat moored down at her dock. “But I expect you to stay tonight — no arguing. There'll be the best shepherd's pie in all of Lochabar.”
Duncan rowed a steady beat toward deep water. “Still the purest loch in the Highlands.”
“Nutrient poor,” Methos answered.
“A half-empty day is it.”
“Tell me a happy tale, Highlander.”
“Something to do with bringing trout home and my mother proudly cooking them, or snogging a lass in a boat and over turning it? Yeah? All those things. But mostly sitting up on the hill looking down, thinking.”
“Dangerous, that thinking.”
“So you tell me.”
A good distance from shore, Methos opened the wooden urn and held it close to his chest. “Thank you, for turning the wood. She loved ash trees.”
Duncan nodded and patiently waited for his friend. When Methos' attention returned to the present, he tilted his burden over the side, slowly. The two of them watched the ash merge with water. Too much chop to leave a ring, which seemed a kinder thing.
“Thank you Duncan. I just couldn't....”
“I've been there. You've — well — you know.”
Methos nodded. “She kept pushing. Usually I can...but not her, not to her. She told me this story...” Duncan did not interrupt to say this was the third time Methos had told him the story of her last year.
“...when I walked into the classroom my students heads were all bent down. None of the usual chattering. They were staring into the glass of their small phones. Texting, gaming, anything but conversing with each other. Why weren't they talking? And when they did speak — I understood so little of it. My time had gone.”
Duncan nodded, knowing it would be the last time they spoke of it.
“So few of us make it beyond the first thousand years.... I'll take those,” Methos eased over to the oar locks to take up the oars and row them back toward Glenfinnan. Nearing the shore, Duncan pointed out a group of six red stags browsing along the shore.
When they reached the dock Duncan tied off the boat, and they climbed ashore. “I think I’d like to take a stroll before going inside. I know a couple good paths, you up for it?”
“You go ahead, Mac, I’ll unpack the car.”
“Thanks, I’ll be back before dark.”
Duncan breathed in the crisp autumn air, it ached in his lungs, calling up memories of Debra, his cousin, and the Clan MacLeod. He hiked until he began to lose the sun and turned back, having resolved to visit his childhood home more often.
Back inside the inn he located Methos relaxing close to the fireplace, drinking a beer. They moved over to a table, hungry to try Rachel's shepherd's pie. The meal was as good as promised, and they praised it as the tastiest in all the Highlands.
“Don’t make me blush, go on back over to the fire and I’ll bring you some more beer.”
Duncan paused after standing. “Before I forget,” he pulled from the breast pocket of his jacket a small flat package wrapped in plain brown paper and handed it to Methos, “Happy birthday.”
Methos glared at him.
“It’s your birthday!” Rachel exclaimed, her smile suggesting she was on the verge of offering cake.
“No! I don't do birthdays.”
“Alright, I won't make a fuss.” Winking, she left to pull them a couple beers.
Duncan's lower lip protruded briefly before he burst out laughing. “You know you enjoy it.”
Methos scanned the room, looking anywhere but at the box clutched in his hand. The few other patrons in the inn paid them no mind, involved in their own conversations. He smiled, looked at his feet and nodded. “Thanks.”
Duncan shrugged, tilted his head toward the fireplace, and led the way, passing the wall where the MacLeod family sword was displayed. Once they were reseated next to the hearth, Methos unwrapped the box and pulled out a handsome custom made mobile telephone.
“A hint to keep up with the times?”
“Or just to stay in touch. You hadn't replaced yours yet.”
“It's only been a couple weeks. I would have replaced it eventually. But thank you for this — looks to have a learning curve.”
“Naw, you'll have no trouble.” He gave his friend a smile that said, 'We both know you're a geek at heart...' “And it has no tracking — it's amazing how complicated it can be to not include something. But it has all the other bells and whistles. No excuse not to carry it. You can call me any time. Be annoying from the other side of the planet.”
“I can do that!”
They conversed around the fireplace half the night, long after Rachel had locked the doors and wished them goodnight.
That night Duncan dreamed of lightning.
...current reached his finger tips
leaped past his shoulder
danced off his brain pan
reached 'cross to wrap 'round the other
the one called death
Realizing he was awake for the day he rolled out of bed, then wandered down the hall, knocked once on Methos' door in hopes of not having a sword vectored toward his throat. He entered, sighed when Methos failed to leap from bed.
“Bad dreams too?” A muffled voice asked, only his tousled dark hair visible amid the mountain of blankets and linen covering most of him.
Duncan didn't answer just climbed in the bed and entangled their limbs, glomming onto his friend as if he were a favorite old teddy.
“You want something?”
“No — one of us is too loud.”
“Humph! So this visit is just to drag me out of a warm bed?”
“Well we did talk last night about an early drive.”
“That was only two hours ago. Give me another hour sleep.”
“OK.” But he made no move to disentangle.
When the sky lightened Duncan and Methos drove the narrow winding road toward Tiaram castle. Once there, they stood on the sandy beach and snapped a few digitals of the ruin.
Duncan mused of the future, “If the sea level rises much in the next millennium we won't be able to wade to her from here even at low tide.”
“I take it as a good sign that you plan on still being around to complain about it.”
“How do you feel about planting trees?”
“I feel it in my back.”
“Walked right into that one didn't I.”
Shall we walk across to your pile of stone?”
“No, let's drive back to the inn, say thanks to Rachel, and start back to Edinburgh.”
On the return drive Duncan complained that Methos drove too slowly. “It's not a horse!”
“True. Doesn't mean we can't take in the sights. Tell me a story, Mac.”
“Let's see, did I ever tell you about bringing Fitzcairn to the Highlands?”
“No. Were you also disposing of bodies?” Methos inquired, raising an eyebrow.
“No, no, we were working on the war effort. The Great War. We were escorting a young scientist who needed a secluded spot near deep water, so Highland lochs were perfect. Christopher was working on technical specs to take us beyond submersible to true submarine vessels.
“Anyway, Fitz and I, when we weren't standing by as rescue during Christopher's dive experiments, would race across the lochs in row boats. Never once did he beat me! He got so irate he said he'd never come back to the Highlands, which of course didn't turn out to be true since — ”
“Wait MacLeod, what about this Christopher's submarine experiments?”
“Oh well he didn't get it right then, but I understand that in '33 he returned with his best effort, a cleverly disguised small vessel which he tested in Loch Ness, becoming somewhat notorious....”
“Oh for crying on a broken crutch. This story sounds suspiciously like the plot to an old Sherlock Holmes movie from the '60s.”
“1970. You didn't specify a true story.” Laughter shared.
Though Methos drove more slowly south than Duncan had driven north, they still managed to reach Edinburgh in time for a nice evening meal in an unfashionable restaurant near Duncan's house.
Duncan's house in Edinburgh was yet to become a home, but he was working on it now. With Methos' help he had begun to introduce some modern art and photography amongst the heavy antiques and armory theme. He had recognized some of the pieces his friend brought in were actually from Methos' own collections. Methos quietly inquired if he felt ready to bring out of storage Tessa's sculptures. He allowed that he was on the verge.
They drank single malt in front of the fire. He teased Methos about his driving, (“World's oldest driver!”) and refilled their glasses. Leaning over Methos' shoulder, giving it a lingering squeeze, in a low voice he asked, “What do you need?”
With an irrepressible grin brightening his face, Methos asked, “Can you make me feel young?”
Duncan nodded, and leaned in for a kiss, the taste of shared whisky lingering on their tongues. “Yes. Young, and cherished, and momentarily sore in strategic places.”
Methos laughed. “How very Scottish of you.”
Duncan reached for Methos' hand and pulled him to his feet. Hand in hand they climbed the stairs, free hands braced along smooth oak banisters, slowly ascending.
“It was a good weekend. I'd like to spend more time in Glenfinnan.”
“Wonder if there are any cottages for sale on the loch,” Methos suggested.
“I'll e-mail Rachel, ask her to keep an eye open.” Duncan repositioned his hand downward, sliding it into the hip pocket of Methos' jeans.
“You can hunt real estate on-line anywhere now.” He gently kneaded Duncan's shoulder.
“Yes, but Rachel will hear of the ones that never make it to an agency.”
On the landing they paused for a kiss, slow and warm, concluded with a cheek to cheek whiskery caress.
“Shave?” Duncan offered.
“Hm — nope. I think this has possibilities.”
He laughed softly, and lead Methos to his bedroom. It was, by far, the least organized room in the house, boxes everywhere. The hold up was that while boxes of clothing had arrived by post, the furniture for the bedroom had not completed shipping. This problem, plus the age of the house (no closets) resulted in more clutter than Duncan normally tolerated. Stacks of boxes surrounded an inadequate futon on the floor.
Methos liked to joke that it was like shagging in a desert, equating the lumpy futon to a sand dune and the stacks of boxes to rock cliffs in the distance.
“The shippers promised — the end of this week!” He slid Methos' feet out from under him so that he landed on his backside, and Duncan followed.
“Uph! Slow down. Clothes, you barbarian. And that's what they promised last week.”
Duncan began fighting with the tiny buttons on Methos' shirt. “Well, they've finished their tour of France and Luxembourg and are headed for the Chunnel.”
“Had a good holiday no doubt. Hopefully your furniture isn't in the mood for a side trip to Cardiff.”
“One can only hope. Could these buttons be any tinier?”
“Sorry. Let me, I usually just open the collar and cuffs, and — ” Duncan grabbed the shirt tails and tugged it over Methos' head. “Yeah, something like that!” He laughed. Sans shirt Duncan rubbed Methos' shoulders through his undershirt. “Massage?” He smiled thanks, and quickly discarded the undershirt as well, then stretched out on his stomach.
Rubbing lightly at Methos' tense shoulders, Duncan coaxed away the muscle knots and tightness from driving several hours that day. Methos sighed in appreciation. After a bit, Duncan searched for and miraculously found the tube of lotion he'd tucked under the edge of the futon. Straddled across Methos, he kept his weight on his legs, brushing their jeans — his well worn against Methos' newer pair. He applied himself to the task of thoroughly spreading the lotion and working it in gently.
“Mac, you're putting me to sleep.”
“Oh, can't have that,” and he leaned over and nipped on one relaxed trapezius, then licked slowly down the middle of his back, noting each vertebra protruding along the way to the waistband of his jeans.
“You'd be more comfortable without these.”
“My thoughts — umph!” Duncan rolled him over to get at his jeans tab. Methos smiled, and silently watched Duncan tug at the zipper, then arched his backside to assist in the swift removal.
“Yours too, Mac,” his voice deep and rumbling. A moments work accomplished that task with alacrity. Now with only boxers and briefs between them Duncan nestled hardness to hardness.
He leaned into a kiss, covering Methos' angles and planes, meeting, sharing body heat and deepening the kiss, tasting of whisky. Duncan still held his weight, though not as strictly, on his forearms, while Methos hands wandered his back and hips. He broke away from the kiss to wander down Methos' chest and stomach, exploring sensitive areas along the way. Eventually arriving at his destination he breathed against silk boxers, “Ohhh,” before tugging them down, now slightly wet and overly tight, causing a bit of a struggle to remove, finally managing without harm to either the silk or the man. He continued his exploration with a puff of warm breath followed by a kiss, inhaling the scent of him before engulfing Methos, who shivered and groaned.
Duncan lifted his head. “Shh! Relax. Just go with it,” and returned his attention, carefully, lighter licks, attempting to prolong the connection, but finally with charity he paused to ask, “What do you need?”
“Ah — to not think.”
“Your wish!” and swallowed round him, humming, dragging his unshaven cheek over sensitive skin, then removing his hands from Methos' hips so that he could move. Which he did.
“Ahh!” three, four, five times then collapse. Duncan crawled up the still body to hug and reassure him, held him through his trembling, waited until he could speak to ask, “Can I?”
Methos' laugh low, satiated, “I'm sure you can, and yes you may.”
“Sorry, English is my second language.”
“No worry, I don't even remember my second language. Say we limit the chat and get on with — ”
“Oh, aye!” He flipped Methos onto his stomach, pinning him to the futon, while searching around with the other hand for the wayward lotion tube, eventually letting go of his captive to search with both hands, allowing Methos to sit up and wrestle him over, laughing merrily, tickling his ribs. Duncan retaliated by using his greater weight to flatten him back down.
“Silly bugger, you're not being much help.”
“Sorry you make me feel silly. How can I thank you? Eyebrow lifting rakishly.
“Well, you could help me find the lube before I deem it necessary to tie you down!”
“Not in this century, Mac!”
“Then stop giggling and help me find it.”
“I don't giggle.”
Duncan laughed so uncontrollably at that lie that Methos managed another reversal. “Ah ha! Got you, you puny Scot! Don't laugh so hard, you'll hurt yourself!”
Duncan calmed his laughter to a joyful smile, now lying under Methos he jostled him about a few times. “Oh, I think I've found it, the lotion tube's under me.”
“Well that's using your assets.”
“Oh — shush.” Duncan flipped him over and retrieved the tube which he waved in minor triumph.
“Now get on with it 'fore I die,” Methos demanded.
“Can't have that. How would you like it?””
“I need to see you, Duncan. When you come your face is a work of art.”
Duncan huffed and rolled his eyes. Looked away to find a stray pillow to prop up Methos' hips.
“Not too much of that,” Methos directed as Duncan squeezed the lotion on his fingers.
“I know, I know. Friction is our friend. Hold still now.” And lent himself lovingly to the task of not applying too much, just enough to ease. A low rumble from Methos alerted him to his lucky hit after a few minutes of prep. “Ahhh... there!” Another louder groan answered.
“Enough with the fingers,” somewhere between a demand and a plea.
“Certainly.” Withdrawing his fingers, Duncan granted himself a rub of lotion to his need. He paused, allowing Methos to study his face. Smiles matched in wonder. With a breath he advanced slowly yet steadily continuing until Methos gasped, then pausing for the moments needed and breathing resumed, before a rhythm of retreat and reverse established. The yes or no. The live or die. Faster and then slower with joy until protest, until shouting in pain and ecstasy, in light and darkness. Voices and bodies merged. The little death.
In the morning light the futon had not improved, but the occupants awoke content.
“I bet, if you bought a new bed today, your furniture would arrive tomorrow,” Methos whispered in Duncan's ear.
“Magical thinking, but you're probably right.”
“Alternately, we could take this thing outside and burn it. Of course then your furniture would take that detour to Cardiff.”
“Sounds like I'd better keep you busy,” and Duncan kissed him until Methos stopped thinking.