Acting On Instinct

by Erique

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or the concept of immortality; they belong to Rysher: Panzer/Davis. I won't make any money from this, and I do it because I can't help myself.

Warning: This story contains adult material, more specifically, homoerotic elements of the DM/M variety. If you are too young to read it, of if it offends your sensibilities, go away now. You have been warned.

Many thanks to Mel, my beta; all remaining mistakes are due to my stubbornness.

Rating: NC17 for m/m suggestions and violence. Pairing: DM/M. This is slash.

Timeline: After Alexa's death.

Notes: This is the first Highlander story I ever wrote. I recently found it on a forgotten floppy disk, and I thought I'd share it.
I'm a h/c slut. That means there is an excess of hurt (Methos) and comfort (Duncan) in this story, plus gratuitous cuddling.

With hardly a thought on her task, Amanda deftly picked the lock that would open the door to MacLeod's loft. She did have a key - Duncan had long since grown tired of her frequent demonstration of her burglar's skills each time she was in town -, but she liked to take advantage of any opportunity for practice. Not that this cheap lock presented any challenges to her centuries of experience - it simply helped her keep her hand in. She noticed minute marks of prior attempts at breaking in - not all of them her making. *Gotcha, Old Man.* Smiling fondly, she once more considered the possibility that one man in her acquaintance must have been a colleage at least once in his long life.

She had sensed the Presence of another Immortal as she approached DeSalvo's and smiled in anticipation of her reunion with Duncan. But as the elevator deposited her in the loft, she found herself in almost complete darkness, the large room only barely illuminated by a single candle on a cupboard in a far corner. She tensed, warning bells going off in her head. Incurable romantic that he was, this was not like Duncan.

"Hello?" she said softly, looking around to find the Immortal she could still sense, her hand automatically reaching for the hilt of the sword concealed in her black leather jacket.

There was no movement, but her ears picked up a soft sound from the direction of the sofa.

Her eyes were growing used to the candlelight by now, so she was able to make out the shape huddled in one corner of the sofa. Short, dark hair, pale skin. "Methos?"

The figure let its head fall back against the headrest, and Amanda saw she had guessed correctly. "Hey, Old Man, long time no see! I was thinking of you just then. Where's Duncan?" She stepped towards him, almost stumbling in the gloom. "What's going on? Are you celebrating some solitary ritual in here?"

Her smile faded when she saw something shiny on his cheeks, and suddenly she recognized the sound she had been hearing. *Methos, crying?* "Methos, what's wrong?"

He merely looked at her, and with an silent curse at her shortsightedness Amanda answered her own question. "Oh. Alexa", she said softly, remembering the terminally ill mortal and Methos' desperate attempt to save the life of the woman he loved.

The Ancient looked away, a fresh sob tearing from him.

*Great, Amanda. Ten points for delicacy.*"Oh, Methos, I'm so sorry!" She came towards him, shrugging out of her jacket. Reaching him, she sat down and took one of his long-fingered hands in hers, frowning when she noted how cold it was. He did not pull away. "When?" she asked gently.

He turned his head back towards her, making no attempt to hide his tears. "Three days ago", he whispered.

"I'm sorry", Amanda repeated, feeling inadequate yet moved. Grief was part and parcel of being Immortal, of allowing oneself to care. Being Immortal meant having to learn how to deal with the loss of loved ones. It was unsettling to find that even after 5000 years, Methos still suffered as if he were no older than his physical age. *And how old is that, anyway? Right now he looks a little over eighteen. Like a youth who's lost his first love.*

There were three bottles of beer on the table, all of them empty. *He must have been here for some time now, alone in the dark.* "Where's Duncan?" Amanda repeated her earlier question.

With the half-empty beer bottle he was holding, he wordlessly pointed toward a note lying on the table. She craned her head to read it. "M: Mi casa es tu casa. Will be back as soon as I can. D."

*Probably a challenge. With Duncan, that happens more often than not.* Amanda sat down next to Methos, who still sat curled up in one corner of the sofa, arms wrapped around himself, the bottle balanced on one thigh, and was staring straight ahead, eyes lost in memories, tears coursing down his face unchecked.

*I still have this thing about crying men...* Pushing aside memories of another night of comfort that had resulted in one of her rare involvements, Amanda took the bottle from Methos' limp grasp to put her arms around him and hold him. Worry began to creep in as he let it happen without protest, no cynical comment, not even a self-ironic half smile. He simply accepted her comfort, and it was so uncharacteristic for the usually so cool Eldest that Amanda found herself searching his face for some sign of another, deeper problem.

But there was only grief. He let his tears flow, totally un-selfconscious, allowing her to hold him. Amanda started muttering comforting nonsense, things he himself probably had said and heard hundreds of times before, yet things that for some reason needed to be said at occasions like these. She was amazed at herself. Usually, she preferred other forms of giving comfort, but here and now, she didn't even think of employing her more sensuous tactics to distract him from his grief.

*Maybe it's the fact that it doesn't seem to bother him that I see him crying. Duncan would be mortally ashamed. Hell, most men would be.* It was a strangely childlike behavior, and it roused maternal feelings in her. The thought almost made her laugh. *Maternal, me!*

"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked him softly, more to distract herself from her own thoughts than in real expectation of an answer. Methos was a very private person, and he never talked about himself except when it served his purposes. But now he was so unlike his usual manipulative self that Amanda had trouble reconciling the Methos she knew with the vulnerable image he was now presenting.

He closed his eyes briefly, liberating fresh tears. "Wouldn't help", he whispered.

"Well, I guess you must know." She smiled to take the edge off her words. *Hell, I'm no good at this. I haven't been around crying men often enough to know how to deal with them.*

Methos looked at her for a moment, then laid his head against her shoulder, shifting so he was more comfortable in her embrace. "You're doing fine", he said so softly that she almost didn't hear him.

*Reads minds, too!* Amanda thought, then cut off that line of thought as she felt his arms going around her, and he snuggled against her, crying more audibly now.

She responded by stroking his hair, amazed again at how easily it came to her. *Haven't done anything like that without deeper intent in decades. Most of the time, when I hold men in my arms I have other plans than just to hold them...*

The Ancient suddenly gave a sound that was more a moan than a sob, and pressed a hand against his chest. "Oh Gods, it *hurts*."

Something convulsed within Amanda, and she realized that his anguish actually caused her pain. Unconsiously, she tightened her embrace. "I know", she said gently. "It will pass. It will heal."

He moaned again, and she rocked him gently, some part of herself looking on in amazement.

"Damn", Methos choked through his sobs, "why did she have to die? It's so... useless..." He drew a ragged breath. "And why doesn't it ever get any easier?"

She knew he didn't expect an answer, nor did she have one. Instead, Amanda bent her head towards his, then checked the motion, stunned at the impulse. *I was about to kiss his hair like I was his mother! This has *never* happened to me before!* Smiling ruefully, she completed the gesture, smiling again and even more ruefully when she noticed that it made her feel better. *Next thing I know I'll be bringing him to bed and read him a bedtime story! Must be the fact that he cries like a child...*

Another thought made her frown. *Well, they probably didn't have qualms about a man showing his feelings back when he was young, whenever that was. Bronze Age?* She tried to recall her ancient history. *No, he's older even than that. Late neolithic period. They were still painting hunting charms on stone cave walls and sacrificing to fertility goddesses. God, the mind boggles.*

When she had met Methos a couple of years ago, he had very successfully portrayed Adam Pierson, eternal grad student and harmless watcher researcher. With his lanky exterior and seemingly timid manner, no one had suspected he really was the legendary Methos whom he supposedly researched. Now Amanda tried to picture this inoffensive man in the skins and roughly woven garments of a primitive people, wild unkempt hair, maybe painted in the face, armed with flint-tipped spear and stone axe. *He'd have danced around the campfire and cowered in terror at each thunderstorm. But then again, he'd have fought the sable-toothed tiger and the mammoth, and led bloody wars against the next-door clan. And he'd have cried and screamed and laughed with all the abandon that today only children have.*

Amused at her thoughts, Amanda let her hands stroke across the hard shoulders. *He's so thin...* "When have you last eaten?" she inquired of the relic of another age in her arms.

He took a deep breath to calm his sobs. "Don't remember", he admitted after a moment. "Must have been days ago."

"You should eat. Then you should sleep." *There I go again. Maybe I'd make a good mother after all...*

Methos shook his head where it rested against her shoulder. "Tried that. Doesn't work. Never does until I drop from exhaustion. And I can't even think of eating."

She stroked his hair. "Well, what does work, then?"

He raised his head to look at her for a moment. "Letting it go. And this", he said, snuggling back into her embrace.

She smiled affectionately. *Well, I've always known he was a sensualist.* she thought, remembering his almost catlike ability to enjoy a good stretch and sprawl on the sofa. *Wonder what he's like in bed? Probably wild and unrestrained. And loud.* Stifling a grin, she suppressed that line of thought. "Well then, let's get more comfortable. It's getting late. Duncan may not be back until morning, and I sure could use some sleep." She waited for him to make an ironic comment, but again he disappointed her. *Poor guy's really got it bad...*

A short time later, Amanda crawled into the bed next to Methos. *Wonder what Duncan will say when he gets back...* The Ancient was lying curled up on his side with his eyes closed, but Amanda could see he wasn't asleep. At Methos' request, the candle on the far wall was still burning. *Nightmares, too*, Amanda thought with a pang of sympathy, remembering her own infrequent bouts with grief. "Come here", she whispered, and again he complied readily, settling against her with a soft sigh.

It was comfortable and strangely peaceful to be lying intimately entwined with a man with sex being farthest from her mind... well, not the first or second thought anyway. She found herself drifting in and out of sleep, feeling his ragged breathing against her neck, gently stroking the warm, wet face on her shoulder. *I could get used to this* she thought fondly.

The buzz of an approaching immortal broke through her foggy mind some time later. *That had better be Duncan* she thought, not feeling the least bit inclined to get up now. Methos stirred a bit, then settled back as if knowing who it was.

The Elevator gate was raised to admit Duncan MacLeod. To Amanda's dark-accustomed eyes, he did look like he had been in a fight, exhausted and elated at the same time. "Methos?" he asked softly as he stepped closer, then frowned as he spotted two dark heads in his bed.

"Hello, Duncan", she greeted him softly.

"Amanda?" He looked so suprised and... shocked... that it was all she could do to keep herself from laughing. "What ARE you doing there - with him?" The expression on his face darkened to somehing so close to anger that Amanda hurried to explain.

"It's not what it looks like, Duncan!" she whispered. *Damnit, now's not the time to be jealous, Duncan, even if it's only the quickening that has you acting like this!* Methos had not moved, but from the tightening of his arms around her she knew he was awake. "Besides, I talked him into this! I know how you're feeling, but don't you go being angry at him on top of everything else!"

He took a deep breath, wrestling his feelings back under control. Divesting himself of his coat, he came to kneel beside the bed. "I'm not angry at him", he said softly, reaching out to touch the Ancient's shoulder, again giving Amanda a dark glance. "Methos...?"

*My God, that's not some effect of the Quickening! I do believe he *is* jealous, and of *me*!* For a moment, she could only gape at him in astonishment, while Methos raised his head off her shoulder to look at the Highlander out of tear-stained eyes before resuming his original position.

"Methos", Duncan said again, his expression now so full of concern and tenderness that Amanda's mind went into overdrive. *He's jealous of *me* for being in bed with Methos, and the way he's looking at him now, you'd almost think he's in love with him!* Experimentally, she stroked Methos' hair, making sure the Highlander saw the gesture, watching him out of veiled eyes.

She was rewarded by a tightening along MacLeod's jaw and again had to keep herself from laughing out loud. *Bingo.*

But then MacLeod hesitated and looked at her for a moment before rising back to his feet. *Great, now he's leaving it to me...* She felt another train of thought begin gathering speed. *Maybe he doesn't dare... maybe he doesn't know what he's feeling!* "Uh, Duncan", she began softly, "I was just passing through. I can as well leave. I had a prior appointment anyway."

He had turned away, pulling off his t-shirt and muttering something about being back in a minute. *Oh yes, the challenge. Blood and dirt and stuff. Probably needs a shower.* Thinking of the more physical side effects of taking a Quickening, she amended, *Probably needs a *cold* shower...* She settled back, closing her eyes, going back to stroking Methos' hair when she noticed that his breathing still had not quieted.

It worried her that he had hardly reacted to anything during the last few minutes. "You okay, Old Man?" she asked him softly.

Again, he made a sound halfway between a sob and a moan. "No... but I will be."

She hugged him tightly. "You're not alone." She smiled impishly. "I'll get our Boy Scout to help you." This time, he did react. Amused, she met his blood-shot, wide-eyed stare with a wink. "Methos, I'm not blind -"

"Amanda, don't you dare meddle in this! He's not that type! Besides, right now is hardly the time for something like that." Having dragged up the energy for his near outburst, he let his head fall back with a sound of exhaustion.

The fact that he did not protest the idea, merely its execution, proved Amanda's guess to be on the mark. She could hardly contain her excitement. "Trust me. I just saw the way he looks at you. It'll be okay."

He drew a deep, shuddering breath. "I don't believe this", he whispered. "I should have shot you the moment you came in here."

Amanda giggled. *Well, seems he's recovering his charming wit.* "It'll work out. Just keep going the way you were and let me do the rest, and before the next hour is through you'll have him in your bed - I mean in his bed... well, anyway, in your arms." She hesitated. "That's what you want, isn't it?"

He was looking at her with an expression of mixed astonishment and reluctant amusement, but then he shook his head. "I - can't", he whispered. "Not now. I've been through hell these past three days. Alexa... has not even been buried yet. How can I even consider..."

She kissed his forehead, then drew back to look at him seriously. "Now's the best time for it. Duncan won't dare do anything as soon as he feels you don't need his comfort anymore. But he does feel enough for you to be jealous of me, of *this*", she added, indicated their position in the bed, "and I'll bet he'll jump at the chance to take my place." She smiled. "Now's your chance."

He shook his head, actually giving a weak chuckle, even if it came out more like a sob. "Why, 'Manda, how come you're so generous anyway?"

She shrugged. "You deserve to be happy", she said simply. "I think you two would be good for each other."

An expression akin to respect appeared in his eyes. "Well, alright. I really don't feel like facing up to this alone any longer." He forced a smile. "I can do devastated with grief, especially now. No effort at all."

A while later, the bathroom door opened, and Duncan came into the main room tying the sash of his robe, looking refreshed and a bit exhausted. He came to stand beside the bed and looked down and his two guests thoughtfully.

Raising her head, Amanda looked at him hard, then gestured towards Methos with her eyes. *Come on, Duncan. Do it. Your place is here.* When the Highlander still hesitated, she shot him an angry look and started disentangling herself, which elicited a soft sound of protest from the Oldest Immortal. "Duncan", she mouthed soundlessly, "come here now!"

Methos chose that moment to roll over onto his back, take in a ragged breath, and proceed to curl up on his other side, facing away from Amanda.

*Perfect, Old Man. Just the right amount of 'I don't need you' and 'Help me please'.* Then, with a pang, she considered the possibility that maybe Methos wasn't acting after all.

Getting up, she noticed Duncan's look when he saw that she was fully dressed apart from having taken off her pants. She smiled coquettishly. But his expression faded when he focused again on Methos, who had curled up into a tight ball with the covers drawn up over his head. With a sharp jerk of her head towards the bed, Amanda shot MacLeod another look and went across the dark room to linger by the door. *A new role for me. Never played matchmaker before. Disrupting partnerships is usually more in my line.*

She listened to the sounds of Duncan making up his mind and getting into the bed. *Well, that's it then. If the boy scout gets the idea now, Amanda, you'll never lie in his arms again.* She hesitated, her hand on the button for the elevator.. *But then again, who knows? Maybe he isn't averse to threesomes. And I'll bet there's very little Methos hasn't done in his 5000 years...*

With no little trepidation, Duncan lifted the coverlet, reaching a hesitant hand towards Methos who lay facing away from him. Apart from that one glance, the Eldest had not acknowledged the younger immortal's presence, and it made Duncan feel unneeded, maybe even unwanted. It was not hard for him to recall his own feelings after Tessa's death; there had been times when he had wanted simply to be left alone with his grief.

But what he had seen when he came in convinced him that Methos did not feel that way now. *And he did call me.* Duncan looked at him carefully, noticing the way he lay curled up, arms wrapped around himself, seeking comfort from his own touch now that Amanda had left. Trying to cope with it alone, the way he must have done for thousands of years. The hard shoulders were tense when Duncan touched them eventually, muscles bunched up to stark relief under the pale skin, trembling with exhaustion. There was an ache building in his chest as he heard the ragged sobs. *Three days of this! No wonder he came to me. No man should have to face that kind of pain alone.*

He remembered the surprise and sorrow he had felt when Methos had called him from Switzerland less than 24 hours ago, voice sounding small and without its usual air of cultured superiority. It had been a cry for help, and Duncan had taken no time to offer his home and his support. Then the challenge had come at an awkward moment, thwarting his plans to meet the Ancient at the airport. He knew how exhausted long-distance-flights left Methos at the best of times, and this was definitely not one of those. So Duncan had tried to end the fight as fast as possible, which fortunately had turned out to be easy enough. Amanda's presence in town, *and in my bed, for Chrissakes!*, had come as a surprise, but less so than Duncan's feelings at finding her together with Methos.

*How like her to take advantage of a situation like this! Bet she has speculated about the Old Man since she first clapped eyes on him. Well, doesn't look like it's come to anything though. Sex has got to be the farthest thing from his mind right now.*

"Methos", Duncan whispered. "Let me help."

Giving a sound somewhere between a sob and a moan, Method rolled over, right into Duncan's embrace. The Highlander wrapped his arms about him tightly, feeling awed and very humble that Methos, the oldest living Immortal and quite possibly the most powerful of their kind, should turn to him, Duncan MacLeod, for comfort. Then feeling even more humble when the Ancient at last relaxed in his embrace, the racking sobs beginning to quiet, the pain to ease.

Amanda watched surreptitiously from the door, still thoughtful and excited by the possibilities inherent in what she was witnessing. The single candle shed enough light for her to make out Duncan's face as he, too, succumbed to the urge the bury his lips in Methos' hair, an expression of such aching tenderness on his handsome features that Amanda suddenly had to fight back an intense desire to go to the bed and hug both men tightly to her. It wasn't sexual, just... companionable. The instinct to cuddle together for warmth and comfort the way most warm-blooded animals do. Primitive. Instinctive. Smiling to herself at the direction her thoughts kept taking, Amanda remained where she was. *This is Duncan's place now.*

After a few minutes, silence spread in the loft. *Methos must have fallen asleep at last*, Amanda thought, realizing the heart-wrenching sobs had stopped. *Thank God.*

With that thought, she let herself out into the night.

The End

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