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. The character of Marcel Brûmeau belongs to Mel, who kindly allowed me to use him in this story.
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.
This story is also unfinished. It may get finished sooner if I get some feedback. (Wasn't that subtle?)
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: Not related to anything, starts sometime after the sixth season.
Notes: This story was inspired by the Teddy Bear Stories at The Highlander Quill Club. I did not feel it belongs in the same category, though, so I'm only posting it on my own page.
I'm a h/c slut. That means there is an excess of hurt (Methos) and comfort (Duncan) in this story, plus gratuitous cuddling.
This story is for Mel, my inspiration
MacLeod looked down at his guest, who lay sprawled on the sofa, grinning up at him. "You're looking happy", he observed.
"I am happy", the oldest Immortal stated. "I have a sofa, I have beer, I have good company... what more can a man ask for?"
"Well, I could think of a few things. Besides, it's my sofa and my beer -"
"And your company." Methos grinned at him, daring him to rise to the challenge.
Finding and discarding half a dozen comebacks, the Highlander ended up simply returning the Old Man's grin.
After two month's absence, Methos had strolled into the barge unannounced, as usual, and immediately made himself at home. Unpacking his duffel bag, he had taken out a battered camping stove which he then proceeded to take apart on Mac's coffee table, all the while giving him a fascinating account of his adventures in the Amazon. Duncan had fallen in easily with the old pattern of their friendship, and he had made a game of preventing the Old Man's attempts at survival gear repair by taking away whatever Methos reached for. They ended up snatching tools and bits of stove out of each other's hands for long minutes, without Methos ever missing a beat of his outrageous account (which the Highlander was convinced he made up as he went along). Amazon women and boiling cauldrons, indeed!
In the end, Methos trashed the camping stove.
They ate, they played a game of chess, they had a fight over the remote and settled for watching an incredibly bad movie that had them both in stitches giggling, they had gotten pleasantly tipsy on wine and beer, and they had talked endlessly about a variety of topics ranging from Greek forms of entertainment to the strong points (and lack thereof) of pop music.
Now, a comfortable drowsiness had overtaken both of them, reducing the Highlander to stupidly grinning at his guest when he should have been able to at least field the volley he had just been thrown.
Methos broke eye contact first by yawning hugely. "Well", he said when he could speak again, "I think it's time for me to turn in."
*Interesting choice of words*, MacLeod noted. *Turn in, not leave. He obviously intents to avail himself of my couch again.* "Why don't you use the bed this time?" he asked, still feeling the contentment of an evening spent with this friend. "It's big enough."
"Feeling lonely, Highlander?" Methos could not resist quipping.
MacLeod suppressed a wince. That remark struck a little too close to the bone. "It's more comfortable than the couch, and it's warmer. It could hear your teeth chattering the whole night through the last time you were here. Just want to get some sleep tonight, that's all." *There, I covered that nicely.*
Methos yawned again. "No arguments", he slurred, already beginning to peel off his clothes with fingers clumsy with sleepiness. It made him appear almost childlike.
Shaking his head fondly, MacLeod left him to it and went to the bathroom.
As he closed the door behind him, the enormity of what he had done registered. It had happened. He had invited Methos into his bed. And the barge was still afloat. Not even a hint of a thunderstorm in the air.
It felt good.
He brushed his teeth, catching a reflection of himself in the mirror. "Ye sure ye noh wha' ye're doin'?" he enquired of his mirror-image.
There was no doubt in his mind that Methos was attracted to him. Hell, the Old Man had been giving him not-so-subtle hints almost since the moment they met. His whole body language had signalled "available" in bright neon signs - open-legged sprawls, wandering about Duncan's home in various states of undress, lingering glances out of deep liquid eyes... They had, of course, never talked about it, and MacLeod was sure that if he went on ignoring Methos' innuendos, the situation would simply continue indefinitely. But sometime between almost getting his fingers bruised on the Ancient's Leatherman and giggling himself silly on the sofa, he had decided that that was not what he wanted.
The Old Man had challenged Mac's viewpoints often enough in the past when the Highlander was snagged on a moral dilemma. And now, without needing to make a point and probably quite unintentionally, Methos had done it again. Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod was seriously considering getting involved with a man.
It was not that he had never had sex with a man, even discounting his adolescent gropings. It was quite usual for soldiers to come to each other's aid, and he could recall one or two hilarious instances with friend Fitzcairn as well. But that had been different. Well, of course it had. His friendship with Methos was different in many ways from any he had had before. And now, it seemed the depth of this friendship required a next step.
Giving his reflection a critical once-over and putting on a touch of eau de toilette, MacLeod was ready for whatever would happen tonight.
However, stepping out of the bathroom, Duncan realized with a fond smile that the next step would have to wait at least until morning. Methos was already in bed and fast asleep, buried beneath a heap of blankets. He got in, gently reclaimed his half of bed and blankets and followed him into the arms of Morpheus, surrounded by Methos' scent and warmth, the deep thrum of his presence buzzing in the back of his head.
Methos opened his eyes to dawn twilight, as he had each day for five thousand years. His wakening mind automatically began to register his status. *Current persona: Adam Pierson, harmless. Language: Modern English. Whereabouts: in bed with... an Immortal?!* The last cobwebs of sleep dissolving, he recalled the evening before. *Oh yes. Duncan.* He relaxed. *Wow. Didn't even notice him getting in here. Pity. I did have plans...*
A part of his mind busy with the question of why he felt so safe in the presence of one of his kind, the rest of him simply lay back to enjoy the warmth and comfort of being in Duncan's bed.
What *was* it that made him feel so safe? For as long as he could recall, the touch of another Immortal's presence had signalled danger, the need to hide, to fight, to run. To pretend. To submit. Occasionally, to scare. But never just to be. And here he was feeling like he had come home. *I can never go home*, a voice inside him whispered, because it was true. Whatever place he once might have called home was lost, even to his own memory. And yet... this was what it must feel like. Safe. Familiar. Like you could walk around with your eyes closed. No need to fight, or even to pretend.
Why was he feeling that way? He was lying next to Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, Immortal Boy Scout and Trouble Magnet. Absolutely *no* reason to feel safe in his presence. There was probably an old friend of his on their way to request the Highlander's help, or an old enemy seeking his head even now as Methos lay here feeling so bloody content. *I was safe before I met him. I sure as hell am not safe anymore.* He turned over, facing towards the sleeping form of his best friend, deliberately placing his forehead against the Highlander's shoulder.
The subliminal thrum of the other's quickening suffused him, touching his own Immortal energy, twining, becoming one with it as it followed the path that had been forged between them in Bordeaux. Methos sighed with pleasure as he felt himself relax utterly, even the deep-core alertness that had become second nature fading away as Duncan's presence washed over him. He could not recall ever having felt anything like it with another of his kind. Some age-old part of him that was long since used to loving and losing was aware of how precious this thing was even as his survivor's instincs yelled at him how much being without it was going to hurt. And he was going to be without it. All things came to an end eventually. But how could he even consider running when he was feeling so safe, so... content?
Still pondering the answer, he fell asleep again.
When MacLeod awoke the next morning, he found himself lying on his back, his arms full of Methos whose head was resting on his shoulder. Their legs were hopelessly intertwined, and the Highlander could have sworn there were more than two arms wrapped around him.
Duncan was perfectly content to remain like this forever, feeling the warm shape of his friend imprint itself in his brain, the air that moved in and out of the youthful looking ancient trailing silky fingers over his neck where Methos' nose had buried itself. Shifting just a little to find an even more comfortable position, he was delighted to find that Methos just moved with him, pliant and malleable, sighing softly and then growing still in his new cradle.
From where he lay, he could not see much of his bedmate except the dark spikes of his hair and the bridge of that mediterranean nose. *Looks Roman*, he mused, *or maybe Greek... Egyptian? Nah... Sumerian? Akkadian?* The rest of Methos was buried beneath the blankets, right up to the Ancient's nape. Mac had noticed this tendency to burrow before, the way Methos took care to keep his neck covered while he slept. *Probably makes him feel safe...*
But soon, just looking was not enough. Very carefully, he raised his free hand to rest against Methos' blanket-covered nape, his thumb gently stroking the soft hair. He was rewarded with a purring sound and a tightening of slender arms around him before Methos relaxed again.
The feeling of contentment blossomed into a warmth in his belly that spread and spread until it threatened to spill out of his eyes. Mac's breath caught, and he had to keep himself from crushing the sleeping man to his chest until he could breathe again. This was so right... If he died here and now, he would die content.
Other parts of his anatomy, however, would have nothing of those gloomy thoughts as the emotional glow transformed itself into a more physical reaction. Turning his head, Mac buried his lips in soft spiky hair, inhaling deeply. Oh yes. Torn between wanting to wake Methos and wanting to keep watching him sleep, Mac slowly moved his arms over the slender body, mapping him, learning the way he felt to his touch. The Ancient sighed and shifted, moving his face against Mac's neck in a cat-like rub.
*God, how I love this man.*
He did tighten his hold then, fighting to keep breathing normally.
Methos slowly raised his head and opened his eyes, blinking sleepily, and Mac fell in love with him all over again.
They looked at each other for a long moment. The kiss, when it happened, was as natural as waking up together had been. Just a gentle meeting of lips warm and soft from sleep, parting slightly, and the barest brush of tongue against tongue. And when it ended, they again looked at each other, stunned.
Methos moved first, shaking his head a little as if to clear it. Then he smiled shyly. "If this is a dream, I don't ever want to wake up." His voice was husky with sleep - and something else.
Wanting to say something appropriate that conveyed his feelings and the impact this situation had on him, Duncan said, "Good morning."
*Oh great*, he chided himself.
But instead of making fun of the tongue-tied Highlander, Methos smiled that shy smile again. "Indeed." He laid his head back down onto its place on Duncan's shoulder. "Wonderful morning", he said softly. "Bloody marvelous." Exhaling softly, he went completely limp.
*What now?* Still caught in the magic of the moment, Mac was unable to bring himself to take any action besides resuming his gentle stroking. The prospect of wild, sweaty sex beckoned - only he had never really had serious sex with a man, and he would never forgive himself if he destroyed this newborn bond with the Old Man by being clumsy. Yet the macho within him was urging him to take the initiative, to *do* something, already. "Uh..." he began.
"Stop fretting, Highlander", Methos mumbled against Mac's neck, barely intelligible. He still was completely motionless except for the soft in an out of his breath.
"I'm not fretting", he protested, and he wasn't. Not really. He was feeling too much at ease to be fretting. It was just that the situation called for action of some sort. "Methos..." he whispered, angling his head so he could look at the Ancient's face.
Hazel eyes opened. "Duncan."
And somehow, that covered it pretty well.
They got up a full hour later, having spent the time simply holding and softly stroking each other, drifting in and out of sleep, arousing nothing except feelings of comfort and affection. By unspoken consent, both were willing to wait and enjoy this new stage in their relationship before taking it to the next step.
But there was no doubt for either of them that soon now they would become lovers.
"Think this is a good idea?" Duncan asked over breakfast.
Methos looked up at him from where he was bending over his plate, eyes wide with his patented "I'm Adam Pierson, I couldn't hurt a fly" expression. Then he leaned back, eyes deep and earnest, smiling enigmatically. "I think it's gonna happen, whether we think it's a good idea or not. We can fight it if we want, but it's gonna happen eventually." Methos disappeared again, making room for Adam Pierson, who took a great bite out of his croissant. "I'm looking forward to it, myself", he said indistinctly.
Mac smiled hugely. "Yeah. So do I."
They ate some more.
"When do we get to it?"
"Getting impatient again, Highlander?"
"I like to plan ahead."
"Well, I can do next Saturday."
"Saturday? It's only Monday! What's wrong with tonight?"
Methos looked at him fondly. "The impatience of youth! Always rushing ahead, never stopping to enjoy things while they last - "
"If I waited for you to come around on your own, we'd still have done nothing more than hugging and kissing this time next century!"
Duncan gestured exasperatedly. "I'd like to at least have made love to you once before one of us loses his head!"
Methos paused in the stirring of his coffee. The Highlander had a point, he conceded. What he said was in perfect accord with the voice in his head that screamed at him to grab this unique chance and hold on with both hands before... well, before it was snatched away again. Before it ended, as all things had ended, or changed almost beyond recognition. *Omnia tempus habent et suis spatiis transeunt in universum sub caelo...* Suppressing a shudder, he forced a smile onto his face and his mind back to the here and now. "Okay, darling. How about tonight, then?"
Duncan smiled blindingly. "It's a date."
"But you've got to treat me to a candlelight dinner. Expensive wine, soft music, the works. On second thoughts, we could eat out and go dancing."
Mac gaped at him. *DANCING?* "Uh, how about I cook and we stay here? The weather's been atrocious lately. I could light the fireplace, and we'll be nice and cozy, just you and me and my 'All Times Classics' collection..."
Methos bent his head, looking down at his plate. "Coward", he mumbled at his croissant.
"What was that?"
Adam the Innocent looked up. "Nothing. Just surprised that you own any music other than opera."
MacLeod snorted. "Now who's the coward?"
"Are you, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, afraid to go dancing with me?" Methos challenged, not taking the bait.
"Afraid? Of course not! I'm just - I don't think - I've never - You were the one who wanted to take this slow!"
The Ancient leaned forward, eyes slitted, predatory. "You are afraid."
"I am not!"
"Prove it! Or be branded a coward henceforth and for all eternity -"
"Och, all right, ye pest. We'll go dancing tomorrow. But I'll choose the place!"
Methos smiled. "Agreed. Darling."
Humming softly to himself, Methos made his way to where he had parked his car. It actually was an effort to keep from jumping up and down and shouting for joy, and that alone told him that this time he really got it bad. He let the grin he had been suppressing all morning spread on his face, enjoying the heady feeling of being on top of the world. He was invincible. Nothing could take this away from him.
*I've been in love hundreds of times, and the feeling always remains the same*, he mused. *And it always ends the same*, his customary cynicism put in. But right now, not even that could put a dent in his euphoria. *I'll get depressed after the fact, thank you very much. Right now I'm in love, and if I do this right, I might even stay in love for a few decades at least -*
His thoughts scattered apart like frightened deer as he felt the Presence of another Immortal. *Damn. And it was promising to be such a nice day.*
It was a rainy morning, and the streets were deserted. Methos cursed under his breath. If it came to a fight, it would happen right here. Quickly scanning his whereabouts, he noticed with relief that he was still too far away from his car for it to get damaged in the quickening. Then he spotted his adversary, who was advancing with his sword already drawn.
"I'm Patrique Moriot", the newcomer called, squaring his broad shoulders and settling into a fighter's stance. "Duncan MacLeod?"
The mentioning of that particular name jarred Methos all the way down from his emotional high. *Another one.* He didn't think before responding. "Aye, tha's me", he called back, trying to imitate Duncan's voice along with his accent. "Wha' is it ye're wantin'?"
Moriot launched. "Your head!"
*My, aren't we subtle.* "Come in' ge' i'."
He was good, Methos noted, but not good enough. And certainly too stupid to deserve surviving his mistakes, for every Immortal on the planet who knew Duncan MacLeod also knew that the Highlander's sword was a katana, not an thirteenth century European broadsword. Not to mention the fact that MacLeod's hair was longer. Methos didn't bother to keep up the charade, falling back on his own fighting style, which mainly consisted of making the opponent underestimate him. When the time was right, he faked a stumble in the tried-and-trusted Veranus Maneouver, utilizing the resulting opening in Moriot's defense to put his back-up short sword into the opponent's diaphragm. Moriot couldn't even curse.
*Works every time.* Methos stood back, raising his sword above his head.
Moriot raised terrified eyes to him.
"Oh", Methos said conversationally, "in case you've fogotten: There can be only one."
The quickening tore into him with the unbearable ecstatic agony that usually made him avoid challenges at all costs. It drove him to his knees, making him hang on desperately to the last remaining shreds of santity, of identity. Moriot's last stand - the attempt to take over his killer's body. It had been known to happen, and Methos could sympathize with this last-ditch effort to turn around the outcome of the fight even after it was lost. He would try the very same thing if it ever came to it.
*I AM METHOS!* he screamed into the cacophony in his mind. *THIS IS MY MIND! THIS IS MY BODY! YOU ARE DEAD! DEAD!*
At last, the defeated Immortal's quickening dispersed, losing its sense of being and becoming nothing more than accumulated knowledge and power to add to Methos' own. Aching with that bone-deep pain every quickening caused in him, Methos forced his eyes open. *Never again*, he vowed. *This was the very last time, I swear. I will lay down my sword, retire to Holy Ground, never fight again. Gods, I am too old for this shit.*
But even as he thought it, he knew he would always fight if given the right incentive. How often in the past had he chosen to live, regardless of circumstances, of gain, of actual enjoyment? No - whatever the cost, he would always choose to fight and live another day. *Besides, there are worse reasons to fight than protecting the head of the one I love.*
He coughed. *Gods, I'm getting sentimental in my old age.*
Quickly, he scanned his whereabouts, barely remembering in time to keep his face in shadow. *Watcher, Watcher, where are you? Guy's gotta have had one... where?* He losened the death grip he still had on the hilt of his sword and attempted to make it to his feet - hopeless endeavor as yet. As he shifted, another reason why he avoided fights like the plague made itself known, and he gasped aloud, curling around the tent-pole erection between his legs. The agony in every cell of his body was beginning to lessen; this other side effect, however, would remain with him for some time yet.
As the memories and the raw power of Moriot's quickening began to assimilate, Methos became aware of his own harsh gasps echoing from the dark walls around him, and he again tried to regain control over his body. He still didn't know where the other Immortal's watcher was concealing himself, but he did know that his Range Rover was parked quite a ways down the street, and if he wanted to get there before the police turned up, he'd better get moving fast.
Looking up, the Watcher acknowledged Duncan MacLeod's greeting with a smile and a casual wave before he turned back to the phone. "Yeah, I hear you", he said into the receiver. *Be right with you*, he mouthed in MacLeod's direction.
The Highlander sat down on a stool at the bar, trying not to listen in to Joe's half of the conversation. It was still early and he was the only customer. "You sure?" Joe was saying in an incredulous tone. "Yeah, got it... No, that's not necessary. Just keep me informed. Thanks. Bye." He rang off.
"What was that about, Joe?" MacLeod asked despite himself. "You're looking awfully serious, Joe."
The Watcher shook his head, still a hint of amazement in his features. "Methos. He's been fighting, again. Winning", he added quickly.
"Who was it?"
"Patrique Moriot." Joe rubbed his earlobe thoughtfully. "The name seems familiar..."
"Yeah, I ran into him in the 1880's. We didn't exactly part on good terms -"
"That's right, I remember! You caught him cheating at cards, didn't you?"
MacLeod smiled. "Right. He lost quite a bit of money because of that, and had to leave rather fast. I wouldn't be surprised if -" He broke off, comprehending. "That son of a bitch."
"Yeah", Joe said, nodding. "That's the forth one, isn't it?"
"Whatever, this can't go on, Joe. He can't keep fighting my battles for me. Can I use your phone?" The Highlander looked downright thundering now.
MacLeod dialed, waited. "He's not home."
"Well, it's only been like fifteen minutes or so. He may still be -"
"Adam, it's MacLeod. We have to talk. Meet me in that supermarché opposite Maurice's in two hours."
Closing and locking the door behind him, Methos shed his coat on the way to the bed. The rest of his clothing followed. *Shower...* he thought idly, then dismissed it. He'd have to wash the bedclothes anyway.
Falling face down onto the duvet, he ground his hips into the mattress, hugged his pillow to his bare chest and let go of the iron control that had brought him to his car and home despite the inferno raging within him.
The fires of unquenchable arousal burned through him, and he closed his hands around the origin of a physical need to intense that he could to nothing but ride it out. The first orgasm came quickly, but it brought only the briefest respite before he was hard again. This time, it took him a bit longer to come, and after, arousal still hummed through him like a sustained bass note; but at least he could achieve a semblance of coherent thought. It was then that he noticed the blinking light on his answering machine.
Hands working on his rock-hard shaft, he wondered idly who the caller might be. Then the need to come was again making his balls ache, but now orgasm seemed out of reach. He thrashed about on the bed, stroking himself hard and fast, desperately employing every trick he had ever learned, invoking every fantasy he could think of, gasping, then sobbing with the effort and excrutiating need. He was getting closer by increments; already the sensations just prior to release were reverberating back and forth between his center and his palms and soles of his feet. Hips pumping furiously, hands stroking, squeezing, pulling, fingers pushing inside, rotating and reaching for the pleasure point, and still... it was... not... enough...
He cried out, caught on the very edge, but after an interminable moment, the orgasm dissolved back into his body, leaving behind a sensation of carnal hunger and frustration. He sobbed again, knowing that nothing he did would bring him release now.
Taking a minute to get his breath back, he levered himself off the bed. Maybe a shower, warm water.... As he passed his answering machine, the light blinked at him, reminding him.
MacLeod's voice filled the room, bringing with it images of the Highlander's body, his face, his smile, his smell, and with a surprised gasp, Methos fell to his knees on the floor as the orgasm began to build inside him. Then the message ended. Groaning, Methos pushed the rewind button, replaying MacLeod's voice, and this time it was enough.
Gasping, covered with sweat and semen, huddled beside his bed on the floor, Methos laughed at himself. *Gods, I do hope we'll get the preliminaries out of the way fast. If just his recorded voice can make me come, serious sex should be spectacular!*
Two hours later, Duncan MacLeod had lost most of the righteous indignation he had intended to visit upon the ancient Immortal. Now he was just concerned for his friend's safety. *I have to make him leave off challenging my old enemies. He must not take risks for me. I would never forgive myself if he lost his head on my behalf...* Hitching up his bag of purchases, he resolved to do whatever was necessary to talk Methos out of this habit. *Hell, I'll invite him to a Springsteen concert it that's what it takes... or go down on my knees to plead with him. No, he'd only laugh his ass off. But there must be something - blackmail, some sort of coercion... Maybe I should just lock him up somewhere...*
As he stepped outside, a sense of Immortal presence hit him just as he spotted Methos leaning against his car. MacLeod smiled in greeting, a surge of joy washing through him. "Good to see you," he called. Then he remembered his original intention - a royal chewing out of a certain irritating five thousand year old man.
He opened his mouth to add something, when the older Immortal's eyes darted away to look at something behind the Highlander. And then Methos was running towards him, fleet as a deer, shouting a warning, then throwing him to the ground just as a loud bang like the sound of a shotgun reverberated along the narrow alley.
Feeling the ancient Immortal going heavy and limp on top of him, MacLeod struggled to gain his feet. He had felt something touch his face, and his searching fingers came away red and wet. Somewhere, voices were shouting; he heard someone calling for the police, for an ambulance. But MacLeod stood transfixed, staring at the unmoving form of his friend, at the reddish, pulpy mass that had been the back of Methos' head. Blue crackling tendrils of quickening energy were crawling over the wound. He was obviously dead.
MacLeod's mind was clear, his warrior's training preventing panic from overwhelming him. He crouched into a defensive position, shielding Methos and scanning the area for the attacker. All he could see were bystanders, the shopkeepers, patrons of a nearby street café. The unknown assailant had vanished.
Gently, MacLeod lifted the dead body, careful where he touched it, how he placed it on the back seat of Methos' car. No one hinderered him. He would take him to Joe's first, then think of something. The barge was out - too many Immortals came there to challenge him on a weekly basis, and Methos would need time to heal. Methos' own place was too far away, and Paris, on the whole, too crowded for MacLeod's taste.
At each traffic light, he craned his head to look behind him, and each time nothing had changed. The wound was not healing, not fast enough anyway. MacLeod felt his guts tightening with the leaden realization that this wound might be irreparable. There was simply nothing to repair.
When he arrived at Joe's, his hands were cold and his tongue was numb in his mouth. Lifting Methos out of the car, cradling him against his chest, he realized he was breathing too fast, yet was unable to calm down.
"Joe!" he yelled as soon as he was halfway to the entrance. "Joe, open the damn door!"
It seemed to take forever for the Watcher to reach the door and open it. "Oh my God", Dawson said softly. The Highlander was already moving past him, looking for a place to lay his burden - Joe's office, the spare bed he had there. MacLeod laid his friend face down onto the bed, adjusting cold limbs into a position that would be comfortable when he woke up. If he woke up again, ever. The ancient Immortal's healing energy was still crackling and moving over the damaged area, but there was only a pulped mass with white bits of bone where Methos' brain had been.
A series of thumping and shuffling sounds behind him told MacLeod that Joe was there. "Shotgun", he forced out. "He shoved me down, out of the way. The guy got away." He raised burning eyes to his watcher. "Tell me it will heal, Joe, please..."
The mortal reached out a hand to MacLeod's shoulder, white-faced. "Oh my God", he said again, staring at the ruined head.
They stared at each other, unable to voice it. *No...*
Then MacLeod stumbled out of the office to be violently ill.
MacLeod forced his eyes away from Methos' unmoving form. "Still nothing." He took the brandy Joe offered him, downing it gratefully.
The Watcher sat down next to him, shaking his head. "It's been too long, Mac..."
"Don't you think I know that?" It came out more sharply that he'd intended. He looked away. "Sorry, Joe."
"S'okay." He looked like he was about to add something but stopped himself.
MacLeod sighed. Joe was right. It had been almost four hours, and Methos was still dead. The terrible wound had closed, the ancient Immortal's head almost back to its usual shape. To all intents and purposes, the healing had stopped. Yet Methos' eyes remained closed, his face still and lax in death, and no first breath stirred his chest. *What if he remains like this? He's immortal, he can't die. His head is still attached to his shoulders, so he's not dead. Yet he doesn't live...* For what seemed like the hundredth time, he brushed his fingers over his friend's cheek, feeling cold, waxy skin. *So cold... he hates being cold...*
He pressed his lips together, realizing his descent into fatality. Next to him, Joe again made as if to say something.
*Please don't say it, Joe*, the Highlander thought fervently. *Just... wait a bit longer. Don't make it real by saying it. It can't be over, not like this. He's going to be okay...* But even as he thought it, he knew it for a forlorn hope. He had never heard of an Immortal taking so long to recover from an injury, and, judging from the expression on the Watcher's face, Joe hadn't either. Slowly and inexorably, a pit was opening in his stomach.
He jumped to his feet, startling both himself and the Watcher, and began to pace furiously in the small confines of the office.
Joe watched him, feeling very close to despair.
During the last few years, he had watched Mac losing friends, a lover and a student. It hardly bore thinking about what losing Methos now might do to him.
MacLeod's friendship with the ancient Immortal had been unusual from the beginning. Joe knew, both from personal observation and from his studies of the Chronicles, how rare trust was between two Immortals who had just met. "I know all about your code of killing only when necessary, but aren't you even a tiny bit tempted to take his head?" he had asked his assignment in a rare moment of shared confidences, shortly after the Kalas business was over and there'd been time to talk. "His quickening would give you the edge to win the game, wouldn't it?"
The Highlander had smiled a strange twisted smile. "Probably, Joe.... I've thought about it when he tried to get me to take his head. But I didn't, and I won't. His quickening should remain where it is." He had said nothing more, and Joe had begun to wonder.
Then Methos had started to make a habit of forgetting his own loudly-proclaimed tenets of self-preservation in oder to come to Mac's aid. And just when Joe had expected the unlikely friendship to die for good, after the horsemen debacle, MacLeod had found it in him to forgive the man who had been Death on a horse, although he had killed former friends for lesser crimes.
There had been something there almost from the start - some connection, some sort of common ground that had made both of them forgive the other one things neither would have let anyone else get away with.
What would Methos' death do to Duncan?
Joe tried to be realistic, even it the Highlander was not - could not be - not yet. Head injuries were bad, even for Immortals, and Methos himself, with his medical background, would be the first to agree that a functioning brain was crucial for even so-called autonomic body functions like breathing. More than half of Methos' brain had been smashed. Even if he came back to life, he would be nothing more than a vegetable. Helpless. Killing him would be a kindness.
Meanwhile, Duncan had stopped pacing and was again sitting on the edge of Joe's old bed, stroking Methos' cheek. "Methos, please..." Joe had trouble hearing him, the Highlander's voice was so soft. "Please wake up. You can't just lie there. We had plans for the evening, remember? Come back, please, open your eyes..."
The Watcher sighed. MacLeod would never accept it. Not unless Joe could back up his views with hard scientific facts.
Just then something clicked in Joe's head, and he almost slapped his forehead. Levering himself to his feet, he grabbed the telephone and called the Sorbonne.
MacLeod looked up as he heard the even tread of someone with two healthy legs. Not Joe, then.
The man who entered Dawson's office was young, maybe early to mid thirties, and he was carrying a black bag that screamed "physician".
MacLeod rose from his place next to Methos and was just about to say something along the lines of "what the hell are you doing here", when Joe poked his head in behind the stranger.
"It's all right, Mac, he's a friend", Dawson said quickly. "Duncan MacLeod, Marcel Brûmeau. Dr. Marcel Brûmeau. He's an acquaintance of mine, and of Adam's, too, I understand. He's at the Sorbonne."
Brûmeau nodded. "Indeed. I am pleased to meet you, Monsieur MacLeod, although I would have wished for more fortuitous circumstances. Now - where's the patient?" He was already moving into the office but was brought up short by the Highlander's unmoving figure in his way.
Intelligent eyes earnestly looked into MacLeod's. "There's no need to protect your friend from me, Monsieur MacLeod. I'm on your side. I've met Adam... some years ago, and I'm here to help, not harm him."
After a long moment, MacLeod nodded and stepped aside.
Brûmeau smiled. "Thank you. Now - what happened?"
As MacLeod recounted the facts in that flat tone designed to conceal his worry, Joe watched the interplay between his assignment and the remarkable young Frenchman. MacLeod was a good judge of character, and it did not take him long to see the wisdom of Joe's decision to bring him here.
"No, I'm not a Watcher", Brûmeau was answering on of MacLeod's questions. "Let us say I'm a specialist. There is a need for medical help even among non-human humanoids. And without betraying my medical oath, I think I may safely say that you and Adam do not respresent the only type of Immortals on this earth. I've made it my calling to aid all of them."
During this little speech, he had already looked closely at his newest patient, carefully running his hands along the back of Methos' head. "How long has he been dead, Monsieur MacLeod?"
"Five hours now."
"Hm!" Brûmeau sat down on a chair next to the bed. "Can you sense him?"
"No." MacLeod resumed his seat on the edge of the bed. "There's nothing. He can't be dead, can he? He can't..." He trailed off.
The physician gave him an encouraging smile. "Do not lose hope just yet." Opening his bag, he took out an instrument and two electrodes. He placed them on Methos' body, watching the scales. "Hm! There is still electrical activity, such as would be associated with quickening energy. The wound may have closed, yet healing has not stopped. He will come back to life, I think. But as to everything else... We shall have to see."
It took another two hours for the ancient Immortal to draw his first breath. As the familiar hum of his friend's presence began to seep into his conciousness, MacLeod felt weak with relief. But instead of opening his eyes, Methos just continued to lie unmoving, his eyes closed.
Brûmeau was over him in an instant, checking reflexes, listening to various sounds in his body, testing muscle tone. Finally, he applied electrodes necessary for taking an encephalogram.
"I'm very sorry, Messieurs." The Frenchman looked grave. "There is a decision to be made, and as Adam's closest friend, you, Monsieur MacLeod, will have to be the one to make it. I have found evidence only for minimal cerebral activity. He is breathing, his heart is beating. But that is all. No digestive motion in his intestines. No reflexes. No motor activity whatsoever. He does not dream, and it is not a coma state, either. He is alive, and probably will continue to remain so until his system runs out of resources. Indefinitely, if he were to be fed artificially. But there is no evidence anymore that healing continues. He won't improve." He hesitated, looked at his hands, then up at MacLeod. "You will have to decide whether he is to be kept alive, or whether his existence is to be ended now."
"Oh my God", Joe whispered.
"There is no decision to be made", MacLeod said in a tone which brooked no argument. "Do whatever you have to do to keep him alive."
"He just needs time, Joe! I will give him that time. However long it may take, days, weeks, months.... I will only think about... releasing him... when after a year there's been no progress, and I mean absolutely none. Then we'll see. If I killed him now..."
Brûmeau nodded. "I expected nothing else. If you choose a place to bring him, a safe place, I will rig him up for artificial feeding and teach you what you need to know."
There was an old monastery not far from Paris, abandoned some years previously but still in good repair. MacLeod pulled some strings and soon enough obtained permission to use it. A few days later, Methos was transferred to his new home.
Dr. Brûmeau spent the whole day there, and when he left, MacLeod was able to do whatever was necessary to ensure his friend's continued existence. Dawson, of course, had promised to be available whenever he was needed, and Brûmeau would be around regularly to check on the injured Immortal.
But at the moment, the Highlander was alone.
There was not much to do except change the drip feed and the pouch that collected bodily waste, so MacLeod had far too much time to brood. *This is not how I envisioned to get to know your body*, he mused as he carefully washed the Ancient's long lean limbs. *I wanted to get to this point slowly. Maybe drag you off to somewhere warm, sunbathing, swimming, things like that. Then slowly seduce you, undress you, make love to you...* He took a deep breath, concentrating on his task, checking to water's temperature and carefully drying the hand he had washed.
But his celtic soul would not stop the brooding. *Methos, please. Wake up. Make fun of me. Tease me for all you're worth. Drag me to a Dance Club if you have to. But don't just lie there.* "You did it for me, didn't you?" he whispered. In the utter silence of the room even the soft words rang like thunder. "You saved my life, again. And I was about to tell you not to. If you hadn't, it would be me lying there. It should have been me..."
He went on talking, held his friend's hand, stroked and gently massaged him. Despite Brûmeau's diagnosis, he was obsessed with the thought that maybe inside his paralyzed body, Methos was aware and able to hear him.
*How would I feel?* MacLeod wondered. *To come back to darkness, unable to move, maybe remembering nothing. I'd be terrified. Then to sense an Immortal.*
He shuddered, gently squeezed the slim hand in his. "You're safe, Methos. This is Holy Ground. We are alone here, you and I. I mean you no harm. I'm Duncan MacLeod, you remember me, don't you? I'm the guy you've been mooching all that beer from. You camped on my couch, fought my battles for me, shot me in the back when I wouldn't let you. Last night, you slept in my bed. We were about to..." His voice broke, but he rallied. "Remember? Now you've had a bit of bad luck. But you'll be okay. You're safe here. There's been an accident, and you haven't recovered yet. You can't move because your brain is damaged. But it's all right, Methos, it will heal. It will heal. Nothing will happen to you. I will not let anything happen to you, I swear."
And on and on he talked, until he fell asleep in his chair, still holding the lax hand in his.
When he woke up, he found that Methos' eyes were open.
A huge smile on his face, he closed his fingers tighter about the hand he was still holding. "Methos."
But his joy was short-lived. The hazel eyes did not turn to him. They moved, but did not focus on anything, as if Methos were a machine someone had forgotten to turn off.
Swallowing the pain the sight caused him, MacLeod resumed his endless talking. He told him again what had happened, why he couldn't move, couldn't see. "You're safe here, Methos", he said over and over, until his voice broke again, and this time he remained silent.
"I don't think he can see anything", Brûmeau said, putting away his penlight. "Nevertheless, this is definitely progress."
"Then he'll recover?"
The physician laid a hand on MacLeod's shoulder. "I truly cannot say. This is a first in my experience, and it is way too early for me to be making that kind of statement. A mortal would be dead, and the other... types of Immortals I know of would probably be hard put to recover from an injury of this severity as well. He may remain like this. He may progress further, then stop somewhere along the way. He may even recover completely. But", he cautioned, seeing MacLeod's overjoyed expression, "it may take years, decades. Possibly even longer."
"I don't care how long it takes! If there is even the slightest chance of complete recovery..."
"But in the meantime he'll be helpless, vulnerable, completely dependent on you. He will be an incredible burden. There will be long periods of no discernible change; he may even regress again. That is, if he progresses at all. You may grow to hate him."
MacLeod looked down at Methos, thinking of the storms they had weathered, the times when he'd been prepared to shut the Ancient out of his life, only to welcome him back again. "I already thought I'd hate him", he said softly, taking Methos' hand back in his. "There was a time when I found out things about him I never thought I could accept. But I did." He looked at the physician solemnly. "Nothing could make me hate him like that again, and there's certainly nothing he could do now, when he can't be blamed for what he does, that could be worse than what I've already forgiven him."
"Nevertheless, taking care of a helpless patient requires patience, Monsieur, not just good intentions. He will depend on you for everything from his most basic needs to his most extravagant ones. As long as he's paralyzed, you will have to move him, wash him, feed him. And it's possible that he may remain in this condition indefinitely. Then again, he may improve, yet not recover completely. He may come to hate you for not releasing him from a condition he might consider humiliating. He may ask you to kill him. He may wish it and be incapable of asking for it. Whatever may happen, there will be effort, strain and tears, and very little reward." Brûmau smiled encouragingly. "You don't have to decide today, or tomorrow. But should you decide to let him go, use this." There was a small vial in his hand. "It acts fast and is absolutely painless, and he should remain dead for two or three hours."
MacLeod was shaking his head. "No. Adam would want to live. I do know that much about him."
"Please, take it. There may be other things, complications, seizures... I do not know. Killing him may be the only mercy you can show him."
It was amazing how easily he managed this complete disruption of his old life. He had locked up the barge after moving it into a dry dock, where it would be under security surveillance. The redecorating of his - of their - new home took all of the time he did not spend taking care of Methos. Joe came to help, and even Marcel Brûmeau dropped by and was recruited into giving him a hand. And far from resenting Methos, MacLeod went about his chores with a sense of anticipation, of doing something right, something to be looked forward to. After all, he thought to himself with a smile, he was setting up house with Methos.
He would not accept the possibility that the ancient Immortal might not recover completely, and it was with a sense of defiance that he bought and put up shelves for Methos to put his books. He also refused to consider that, even should he recover, Methos might not want to move in with him; after all, he had a place of his own in Paris.
Wanting to be prepared for every conceivable contingency, MacLeod left the room he had reserved for Methos empty, so he could furnish it according to his wishes, or - God help him - so it could be turned into a padded cell.
During all his preparations, MacLeod did not leave his friend's bedside for more than half an hour at the outside, and he took care to remain within sensing range. There was no way of knowing how Methos would react to another Immortal's approach. "He may still be able to sense you", Brûmeau had said. "I have, as yet, been unable to identify the sensor responsible for picking up another Immortal's quickening, therefore I don't know it if is part of the brain or located elsewhere. It is well possible that it is undamaged." So MacLeod had not left the building, relying on his watcher and various delivery services instead.
Each time he tended to Methos' needs, shifting and massaging the slender limbs, gently bathing him or just holding his hand and talking to him, he watched out for signs of improvement. Did the empty-looking eyes stop for a moment in their incessant wanderings? Did the long fingers twitch? Did the slack mouth move when he touched the lips to blot away the drool? Did the deep hum of Methos' quickening change in any way in response to something he said? Did the rhythm of his heartbeats?
So attuned was he to minute changes that he almost jumped out of his skin when Methos began to moan.
It was a sound unlike any he had ever heard before, an unmodulated, almost animal keening. It scared the hell out of him, and when nothing he did made the gut-wrenching moans stop, he panicked and called Brûmeau.
When the physician arrived, he was amazingly nonchalant about it. "This is a most fortunate development", he said. "First eye movement, now vocal activity. His brain is beginning to reconnect to the rest of his body."
"Is he in pain?" MacLeod demanded.
"No, no, I don't think so. He may not be aware he's doing it, or do it just because he can." This last bit was said in a slightly raised voice, so he could be heard over the sounds Methos made, which had suddenly increased in volume.
Brûmeau framed his patient's face with both hands. "Yes, good! Show us you're still there. Show us you're alive. We haven't forgotten you, nor will we. Scream all you can. We hear you. Yes! Here, you talk to him", he said to MacLeod. "Let him hear your voice."
As Brûmeau moved away, MacLeod took his position with the ease of familiarity. Sitting down on the edge of Methos' bed, he propped the Ancient up against him, supporting the lolling head against his shoulder. The moans stopped as Methos was moved, then resumed. Duncan took both his hands in one of his, laying his free hand along the side of Methos' face. "I have you", he said soothingly. "Don't be afraid."
Brûmeau gave him a nod, and Duncan realized he'd stopped talking. Before, when he'd been alone, the words had just come to him, but now he couldn't think of a single word to say. Methos' moans seemed to have frozen his brains.
"He needs to hear your voice, Duncan. He's reaching out. Let him know you're there. It doesn't matter what you say. Recite poetry. The alphabet. Anything."
The moans did not stop, Methos' eyes moving in erratic jerks, lids opening and closing irregularly. Heart pounding in horrified fear, Duncan forced himself to say something. "It's all right," he said, "it's all right. Don't be afraid."
He kept repeating it, even as he felt his palms grow sweaty. The words were there, he realized, right on the tip of his tongue, waiting to be spilled out. Words of love, of fear. Words too honest to be spoken in front of a witness. *But maybe that is exactly what Methos needs to hear*, he thought suddenly. *What's more important - my dignity or his recovery?*
He took a deep breath. "Remember the day when we met?" he said haltingly. "It was a sunny day in March. All I wanted was to protect you. You looked so young and vulnerable. Too young to be what you really are. I know, I never told you that." The sounds Methos made grew softer, less urgent. Encouraged, Duncan went on. "I know now that you didn't need my protection. 'You can't fight my battles for me', remember? And did you heed your own words? No. Since that day, you've always been there for me when I needed you." His thumb gently stroked along the high ridge of the Ancient's cheekbone. "Even when I didn't want it. There was no favor I couldn't get out of you, no risk you wouldn't take for me."
It was getting easier to ignore Brûmeau's presence. He continued to talk softly while the physician made his usual tests on his patient's reflexes, now and then giving the Highlander an encouraging nod.
"And now, you were there for me one time too many. I wanted to talk to you about it, but I was too late. But I'll be there for you now. I'll repay the debt. For however long it takes. You'll be okay, Adam. One day, you'll be okay. And then we can go on where we left off."
Suddenly, the moans stopped, seemingly caught in Methos' throat. There was a gagging sound. Brûmeau rose from his kneeling position, tilted the injured Immortal's head forward while placing two fingers against his adam's apple. After a pause, Methos made a sound that somehow sounded different, and MacLeod was amazed to see his jaw working slightly.
"Excellent!" Brûmeau said with a big smile. "The swallowing reflex is working again, albeit with a bit of help. Also, we have tongue movement", he added, peering into Methos' mouth. "This is amazing. It's only been - what - six weeks. Well done." This praise was said directly to Methos. "Keep going, Adam! You'll make it. You'll get through this, and then you can go back to giving us your bullshit tales and drinking all our beer..."
MacLeod looked up from Methos to stare at him bemusedly. Joe had mentioned that Brûmeau was an acquaintance of Adam's, but he had had no idea the physician knew him all that well.
"Well", Brûmeau added, "he came to me a few years ago pretending to be a student of medicine. He wanted to borrow some equipment for a lens transplantation. When I asked him why, he told me a heart-wrenching story of his dear grandmother who was suffering from cateract. I had no reason to disbelieve him, but of course I could not allow him to practice medicine without a license, so I let him have the equipment on condition that I assisted him. We argued, and in the end he agreed. He is a very proficient surgeon, not a mere student. I saw the result of his surgery. I'd be prepared to bet that he already has the degree. I'll also bet that he is much, much older than he appears."
"Aye, that he is", Duncan said. Somewhere during Brûmeau's speech, he had decided to trust the physician. He closed his arms tighter about the limp body, holding Methos' face against his own for a moment in a sudden rush of affection. "He's a miracle", he said, trying to put his feelings into words. "He can still laugh and cry, and love. He has retained his sense of wonder. That makes him a miracle. A priceless, amazing being. That's why I won't ever be the cause of his death."
At that moment, Methos made a sound that sounded like agreement.
"So, how's the Old Man?" Joe asked as they came back from their tour of the newly furnished home.
"See for yourself." Smiling, MacLeod led his watcher into the sickroom.
Joe looked around, taking in the changes. The Highlander had been busy since he'd been here last. The room looked like a place to live in, complete with a stereo playing Methos' favorite music. Here and there, Joe recognized things he had last seen in the Old Man's apartment. MacLeod must have raided the place in an effort to make the monastery into a home, with very pleasing results.
Methos was lying on his side with his eyes closed. Joe noted that the drip feed was not connected to his hand anymore, although it was still close by. "Hey", the watcher said smiling. "Does that mean what I think it does?" At the sound of his voice, Methos opened his eyes. Joe could not contain his grin. "Mac! Look at that!"
The Highlander was already next to the bed, taking his place there and lifting Methos into a sitting position. "Yeah, I know. Joe's here, Methos. He wants to know how you're doing. Come here, Joe, take his hand. I'm not sure he can see anything yet, but I think he knows you're here."
Dawson came forward, taking a limp hand in his. Methos' eyes wandered erratically, and he blinked repeatedly, but his eyes did not settle, although Joe saw them make contact with his for a brief moment. Then Methos opened his mouth to make a sound more like a moan than a word, and still it made the Watcher smile a huge smile. "Hey, Methos. Good to see you, man." He gently squeezed the long fingers. "Think you can turn that off, Mac? We're gonna have a bit of live music here." And with that, he opened his guitar case.
"He can swallow again, so Marcel said I should stop drip-feeding him. It may trigger bowel movements, and it's more satisfying for him. So I'm using this thing." Mac pointed to a baby bottle next to an assortment of instant food.
Joe smiled, shaking his head sadly. Five thousand years old, and now Methos was reduced to drinking from a bottle with a rubber sucker. The ultimate survivor, the epitome of self-sufficiency, completely dependent on others.
"I know, Joe." MacLeod had been able to follow the direction Joe's thoughts had taken. "Sometimes I tell myself that maybe he isn't really aware. That he's starting over. Maybe he's at the level of a new-born child, relearning everything from recognizing things to chewing and moving his fingers. Everything. Then it wouldn't be so humiliating for him." He looked down at Methos, who seemed to be asleep. "But it would also mean that Methos is dead. That this is a child in Methos' body who will never be like he was, never remember his former life. And I can't accept that, Joe. He's still there. That's why I'm playing his music for him. Marcel says there's no way of knowing." He stroked the injured Immortal's hair. "But I do know that he's aware of me. He reacts to the sound of my voice. He's happy when I'm close to him; I can feel it in his quickening. So I'm sleeping right here, next to him. What more is there for him, Joe? He can't move, can't speak, can't see. Maybe he can hear and feel my presence. And he can be happy, or afraid, or confused, or content. All I can give him is a sense of security, of being loved, so he doesn't have to be afraid. No fear, no pain, his favorite music..." Suddenly, his voice broke.
Then the storm overtook him, and before he knew it, he was clinging to Joe and sobbing like a child.
A moan from the bed interrupted Joe's halting attempts at comfort, and immediately, the Highlander pulled himself together and turned to his charge.
Methos' eyes were open, and both men saw instantly that something had changed; the hazel regard was returning MacLeod's look steadily. And then the sharp features which had been slack and expressionsless since his accident transformed themselves into a concerned frown.
"Methos", MacLeod whispered, overcome.
The eyes darted to his lips, then back to his eyes.
"You can see me..." Grinning stupidly, he hugged him tighter and kissed his forehead.
When he drew back, Methos smiled at him, an innocent and childlike smile that made the Highlander's heart turn a somersault.
And then Methos made a sound suspiciously like a laugh, so there was nothing for it but to hug Joe, who was also laughing and returning the hug enthusiastically.
The CD had just started over when Adam made a sound MacLeod had come to call his "don't wanna" sound.
"You're right, that's quite enough of Springsteen. How about some A-ha?" He went to the stereo. "You know, you're turning me into an expert on this type of music. There, that better?"
Returning to the bed, he was greeted by a huge smile. "Thought so. And now for some snugglies, then dinner." He lay down, shuffling himself and Adam around until they were both comfortable, the ancient Immortal resting in a secure embrace with his head on Mac's shoulder. With a pang, Duncan realized that this was the exact position they had woken up together that long-ago morning, back when everything was normal, and Adam was still Methos.
It took a monumental effort to fight the pain back down. "And then Marcel will come for some poking and prodding - here, and here." He syncopated his monologue with appropriate demonstrations. "That's your back, by the way. And here we have your right shoulder. Arm, forearm. Hand. Fingers..." He laced his own through them. "Can you feel that? I'm sure you can. This is me holding your hand. And this is me stroking your hair. You need a haircut, while we're on the subject."
Adam moaned while working his jaw, and it almost sounded like he was trying to speak.
"What? Does that mean I talk too much? That you don't want a haircut?" He adjusted them so he could see Adam's face.
The ancient Immortal smiled and made a happy gurgling sound.
MacLeod hugged him close, his eyes stinging. "Yeah, I love you, too."
When Marcel came to check on his patient, the ancient Immortal was just partaking of his meal, propped up against MacLeod and sucking peacefully.
"Good afternoon", the physician greeted them. "How are you two doing?"
"Just fine, Marcel. He really like this stuff. And he's gotten the hang of sucking and swallowing." MacLeod blushed, thinking how his word sounded taken out of context.
"That's good", Brûmeau said, ignoring the innuendo. "I think we can safely forego drip feeding him, then. Tell me when he's bitten through the sucker; that's when we can start giving him real food, none of this astronaut's stuff. Any other progress?"
"Yeah, well, I guess you can call it that." The Highlander looked uncomfortable. "I've had to ask Joe to buy us some diapers."
"And..." Now MacLeod blushed furiously. "His body's been showing me it likes my touch."
Brûmeau kept his professional cool. "Nothing to be embarrassed about, Mac. On the contrary, both things indicate the same: his autonomous nervous system is back on line." He looked at the still steadily sucking Immortal. "I wouldn't be surprised if he started voluntary movements soon. Now that eye movement is back under concious control, it really should not take long. Has he spoken at all?"
"I'm not sure. Somethings I think he's mimicking my words, but so far, there's been nothing I recognize."
"Well, it'll take time. His progress so far has been nothing short of miraculous; we must not expect too much of him. Just keep encouraging him. Do you still massage him and tell him where you're touching him? It's vital for his self-awareness. There'll be no coordination of movement until his brain has an inner map of his body."
By then, there was nothing left in the bottle. Adam loudly informed them of this fact, and they laughed. Looking from one to the other, the Immortal smiled back, then resumed his tirade of demanding almost-words.
MacLeod settled him down to comply. "I hear you, Adam", he said. "You're still hungry. You're saying, 'dammit, MacLeod, I know there's more where this came from, so get your butt moving!', aren't you?" He went over to the kitchen counter and back to his charge. "Here we go, Adam. Second course. You'll like this, there's chocolate in it." He smiled ruefully. "Pity I can't give him any beer..."
"No alcohol, Mac."
"Yeah, I know. It's a poison. Don't worry." He raised the injured Immortal's upper body to lean against him, putting the sucker back into Adam's mouth.
When Marcel Brûmeau drove back to Paris that evening, he was unaware that he was being watched.
It had taken Fabien Levieux almost two months and quite a bit of money, but it seemed that all the effort had paid at last. Now he knew where the Highlander was hiding. And as an added bonus, finding MacLeod's whereabouts following his unexpected disappearance had helped to take Fabien's mind off his lover's death.
Patrique had explained it to him, and he had tried to understand this strange game his lover had been a part of. There were rules, Patrique had said. One on one, no fighting on holy ground. Well, Fabien thought, no one had ever said those rules applied to him as well. He would take his revenge on MacLeod for Patrique's death, game or no game.
So he had patiently wormed his way through the information a hired detective had gathered for him. The Highlander had left Paris. That had proved a bit of a problem, but then he had learned of a bar in Paris that MacLeod frequented. The owner seemed to have taken to travelling recently, and - surprise! - his travels took him to a small monastery outside of Paris, where MacLeod had taken up residence.
Hiding on holy ground! Well, fat lot of good it would do him.
End chapter 1
To be continued...
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