"I love you," he said softly. Words that had taken almost 350 years to express suddenly seemed so easy, so obvious.
"You do?" She sounded surprised. "Really?"
How could she possibly be surprised? He had told her in ten thousand ways that he loved her. He had come back to her again and again and again in the face of trouble and danger and silliness and outrageous behavior. He had intervened and rescued and supported and helped, bailed out and comforted and been comforted over several centuries, and still the words were, after all that, so very important.
"You make my heart glad," he murmured, watching the glistening in her eyes brighten and hover near tears. Gladness had been a rare and precious commodity, he realized. Amanda had always brought a childlike joy to life, an innocence completely at odds with 1,000 years of nefarious deeds and mischief. His nature tended to dwell in shadow, carrying the weight of all his failures, the needs and problems of all those he cared about, the hopes of his entire Race.
He had never reserved the sentiment, never held back the fullness of his heart. But he had stored away those three special words. Hoarded them out of a misguided notion that they should only be used on those High Holy moments he had created in his mind -- those magic connections he had encountered precious few times in his life -- with Deborah, with Little Deer, with Tessa.
A sudden vision of the last time he had used those words surged in his memory bringing with it a flash of near-physical pain in his chest. The words had come so easily then and moments later Tessa was dead, her beautiful body lying in a pool of blood on a concrete sidewalk in an anonymous suburban neighborhood. Perhaps over the centuries the words had taken on near-mystical importance. They represented his most terrifying vulnerability as if their use invoked loss beyond bearing and invited Fate to laugh at him again.
You would think a 400-plus year old man would have put superstition behind him long ago, he thought in disgust. Love should never, ever be hoarded, in whatever guise it appeared. It was one of those singular commodities which enlarged and amplified with use. He had been wrong not to take that final verbal step with this wonderful, maddening, intelligent, vibrant, funny, compassionate woman he had known most of his long, long life.
Methos had taken Joe back to his hotel, leaving the two of them alone, but both were too tired and emotionally drained to make love, so they took the last half-bottle of champagne to bed and just cuddled in silence, watching the flames gradually die in the fireplace.
"Duncan?" Amanda finally murmured.
"Mmm?" He kissed the top of her head.
She twisted around so she could look into his eyes. "I just realized I didn't say it back."
"Say what back?"
"That I love you." The huge brown eyes met his fearlessly. "I loved you from the moment we met. You had a goodness and sweetness that I told myself was silly and naive, but there was such courage and nobility behind it, I knew you were special."
She felt a small chuckle rumble in his chest. "Special? As I recall, you picked my pocket, then you and Rebecca tried to get me drunk, then argued over who got to take me to bed."
"You were awake for that?" Amanda sounded slightly scandalized.
He nodded. "I figured you just wanted me for my body, but it seemed worth it at the time. I knew that, compared to you two, I was just a child. It was intimidating but very flattering."
She looked up at him, catching the glint in his eye and realized he was kidding -- mostly.
"You thought we just saw you as some kind of Renaissance Fabio?" she frowned at his dubious reaction to her attempt to explain her feelings. "It wasn't just lust, you dolt." Her voice softened, "You were my Rock of Ages. The one I could always turn to in the bad times. But I used you, Duncan. Sometimes I've used you badly," she shook her head and put her finger over his lips as he started to protest. "Yes, I know you were a willing participant, even though we both played the game of persuasion and protest. That was part of the fun," she chuckled, then her expression grew serious. "But I wanted you to know."
"I knew, 'Manda," he acknowledged quietly.
They settled down deeper into the covers, ready to drift off to sleep.
"If you ever offer up your head for me again, I'll cut it off myself!"
"I mean it!"
Mac reached under the covers and managed to give the soft flesh next to him a good solid pinch before he rolled over to go to sleep. Of course, Amanda then had to retaliate. The subsequent wrestling match made it clear that they weren't, after all, that tired, and that there might be better things to do with their time than sleep.