Bye, Bye Love


(Moonlight and Roses series #1, followed by All I Have to Do Is Dream)

"An honest man, Father? Him?" Methos hissed and punched one fist into the pillow. Hotel rooms, even those in the grand hostels, were not nearly so comfortable as his old apartment had been. The only advantage in his current situation was the sure and certain knowledge that Duncan MacLeod wouldn't be turning up unannounced on his doorstep any time soon.

He sighed. Paris was obviously not going to be big enough for the both of them and just as obviously MacLeod was not going to be the one to leave; at least, not this time. Ergo, Methos would have to do the running--again. "Bastard," he snarled and sat up, rubbing his fingers through short spikes of dark hair. There would be no sleep tonight; that much was certain. Well, if he couldn't sleep he could pack. And he could pick a destination, preferably as far away from Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod as he could get--someplace warm and sunny where he could lie on the beach and watch the natives splashing naked in the surf, maybe do a little splashing himself.

He shivered and crawled out of bed. He hated Paris in the winter. It was cold and rainy and dreary and MacLeod was right up the river and much too close for comfort. Yet another good reason to get away. He had no bloody idea why he had stayed as long as he had. Everyone knew Immortals couldn't live together for any real length of time. Robert and Gina to the contrary, it had been beyond foolish to think he and Mac were any different. They were too much opposites in nearly every way that mattered. Duncan was an idealist, Methos a pragmatist. Duncan was reckless; Methos was cautious. Duncan was stubborn; Methos was adaptable. Duncan was chivalrous; Methos was decidedly not.

He tossed his backpack and a suitcase onto the bed and began stuffing them both with clothes and books. One suitcase, his laptop, one duffel bag in which to carry his swords (all four of them) and the backpack should suffice. He wouldn't need to be gone long; Mac never stayed in Paris for more than six months at a time and then the Highlander should be heading back to Seacouver. And considering where he was going and how long he'd have to be there, he wouldn't need clothes--or at least not many of them. He'd have time to catch up on his reading and his writing; he'd be out of the proximity of any Immortals attracted to Paris by the notion of taking the Highlander's thick head. And, as an added bonus, he'd put a fair bit of distance between himself and the Scot--just in case he thought he couldn't resist the temptation of taking Duncan's head himself. That was one Quickening he really didn't need.

He smiled and continued packing, letting his feet begin a little hop and shuffle from the bed to the dresser and back again. Hell, he should have moved on months ago. He probably should have done so the day before MacLeod walked into Adam Pierson's apartment for the first time.

He stopped for a moment and logged onto the Internet, checking out airline and hotel reservations. It would be more expensive than he'd like, but he really had no choice. Not unless he didn't mind the possibility of running into MacLeod every time he stepped out of doors. Or didn't mind the possibility of one those trophy hunters taking his head by mistake while they were out looking for Duncan's.

"Adam, cher, whatever are you doing here?" Madame deLancie peered down the hallway beyond the young man standing in the doorway one potted plant in each hand and another tucked under each arm. "And so late, petit, and alone." She sighed and moved aside to let him in.

Methos smiled and stepped through the door. "It hasn't changed, has it?"

She shook her head. "But of course not, petit. Did I not promise to keep it for you? This is your home, cher, for as long as you wish." The poor, poor child! How cruel of the Scot to make such a wicked jest regarding Adam's honesty. Why Adam was easily the most honest and steadfast young man alive. Well, at least the most honest young man in Paris, she amended. She could hardly speak for the rest of the world's young men but Adam the Scot had said he would trust with his life--if not quite with his silver. The man had a very strange sense of humor. "What do you wish, petit?" she asked at last, following him over toward the sofa and from thence to the long chest of drawers where he sat the clay pots.

He looked at her solidly for a long moment, then sighed and glanced around once more. "My plants," he said finally. "And the fish. I was wondering if you'd take care of them for me." He grinned. "I've got to make a quick trip back home, talk to some people about a teaching position and...."

"You will return, cher?" she asked, alarmed. Surely he would not remain away for long. What would happen then to all the plans she and Madame Amanda and the so-stupid Scot had laid? What would happen to that same foolish Scot without cher Adam to keep him from prison? The man would be lost without Le Petit to aid him. In another time, not so very long ago, Msr. Duncan MacLeod would have been consigned to the flames for what he had done to le petit jeune fils. And her blessed Adam would have suffered the same fate for allowing it. At the very least, in those other times, they would both have been removed from Paris to the confines of a 'hospital' in the country where they might be 'cured' of their disorder.

He set his bags on the floor beside the British Airways ticket counter at Charles De Gaulle and bought a round-trip ticket to London, England on Adam Pierson's Master Card. Even a pauper like Pierson should be able to fly home for heaven's sake. The young lady behind the counter was kind enough to check with the hotel in London and verify his room reservation. He thanked her profusely and asked if he might buy her lunch. She shook her head. She was terribly sorry but she had a previous engagement.

Then, he wandered over to TWA and bought a one-way ticket to Vancouver, BC in the name of Dr. Benjamin Adams, which he knew wouldn't fool Dawson at the very least, there to connect with a flight to Honolulu, Hawaii and from thence on to Tahiti. That ought to confuse things suitably--if the Highlander had any thoughts of following him at all, which he doubted. The girl at that counter smiled as she handed him his ticket and confirmed that there was, indeed, a train that left London for Cardiff, Wales the morning after his arrival. He smiled back and asked her to join him for lunch while he waited for his flight. He was only mildly disappointed and a little surprised when she explained she, too, was meeting a friend for lunch.

The flight to Vancouver left thirty minutes later, while he was nibbling at a burger and fries in the airport MacDonald's and flirting with a pair of very pretty blonde flight attendants. The girls gave him their e-mail addresses and told him to get in touch, if he was ever in the Houston or Chicago area. Talking to them was just a way to keep his mind off MacLeod. Not entirely, of course. Nothing was going to do that. But it was a start. He knew nothing would come of it, though, even as he returned the favor, promising vaguely to look them up next time he had business in either city. Which, he thought grimly, would most likely be bloody never. If he had his way, he'd not be doing business in the bloody Northern Hemisphere any time soon, let alone the bloody United States of America.

They called his flight to England while he was washing his hands. He grabbed his computer case and backpack and hurried to the boarding gate to catch his plane. Duffel and suitcase had been checked through earlier.

He parked his bags in the overhead and his body in the aisle seat he'd requested, then leaned his head back and tried to sleep. He had no wish to stare out the window at the miles and miles of ocean floating beneath him and no wish to be trapped in an inside seat if something went horribly wrong with the plane. And, given the way his luck was running of late, he was reasonably sure it was only a matter of time before something did. He shuddered. He'd never liked drowning. He wasn't real thrilled with the idea of a fiery demise either. Though he had to admit a plane crash would be a great way for Adam Pierson to disappear. They'd never find the body.

Methos stepped off the plane at Heathrow and glanced around. No one noticed the lanky, dark-haired young man as he ambled down the aisles peering anxiously over his glasses for the baggage carousel where his duffel and a lone suitcase should be waiting for pickup. He sighed and made a quick stop at a telephone kiosk. He could call Roddy and Dominic and tell them where he was. They were his friends and they'd worry about him; they always did. Even after they'd discovered he was Immortal, they'd worried. Even after they found out he was bonging the Highlander (or Duncan was bonging him--he was never really sure which way they thought it was going and he wasn't about to ask). Surely they deserved to know. He shook his head. Whatever was he thinking? Dom and Rod were Watchers. If nothing else, they'd tell Joe who undoubtedly would tell Duncan. He didn't want Duncan to find him, did he? At least, not yet. Not until the stiff-necked, judgmental son-of-a-bitch had had plenty of time to squirm.

He grabbed a cab outside the terminal and checked into the Comfort Westminster for a brief nap and wash-up. The train from Victoria Station to Cardiff would be leaving in the morning and he wanted to make sure his new Watcher knew he was on it. He was certain they'd have a Watcher on him by this time--hopefully as Adam Pierson, new Immortal, rather than Methos but he wasn't going to stake his life on the possibility. So, he might as well make it obvious where he was staying and what plans he had for going 'home'.

After that, though, his plans called for a far more southerly destination and a rather drastic change in appearance. He could book a flight to Australia by phone for two weeks from the date he reached Wales. That should be quite long enough for them to grow complacent and careless, if he even bothered going all the way to Wales. He had half a mind to bolt at the first station and hitchhike back to London. He knew a fellow--knew a couple of fellows actually--who could provide passports, driving licenses and nearly any other form of identification one might require in practically the blink of an eye. All that was needed was to pick a name and make a few minor adjustments in his appearance for the photographs he'd need taken.

He left the hotel that evening after dinner and took the metro to Soho where he caught the new James Bond flick and ran a few errands. He bought clothes more suitable for the beaches or hiking in the Australian bush than loafing around Paris. Bought a few a bit more suitable for evenings at the theatre or sitting through boardroom meetings, too, in case he actually needed to look for work. Preferably, something safe and quiet--in a library or museum perhaps. He'd put that off as long as possible though. There was no sense rushing into things. He also stopped at the pharmacy and bought a bottle of peroxide and a box of Miss Clairol. As an afterthought, he went back inside and purchased a home perm kit then headed back to the hotel and to bed. If he was going to change his appearance, he might as well go all the way.

He made a point of asking the desk clerk, loudly and in front of witnesses, to ring him up before seven, if he would be so kind, since he had a train to catch, then paid his bill for the night and took the elevator up to his room. Dumping his purchases on the bed, he stripped and stepped into the shower. He felt only marginally refreshed when he stepped out, but he could always hope a good night's sleep would improve his outlook somewhat. Surely things would not seem as bleak in the cool light of day as they did now. Although, how anything could seem bleaker than his life did right now was a question he didn't particularly want answered at the moment; he missed Duncan already.

He stuffed his old clothes in the duffel and packed most of the new ones in his suitcase. He tossed a pair of dark jeans and a clean white T-shirt on the foot of the bed. The new tweed jacket with the leather patches on the elbows he hung over the back of the chair. The eyeglasses he set on the nightstand beside the bed along with the copy of Robert Jordan's latest he'd picked up at that little bookstore in the Square. He'd have something to read at least on the flight to Melbourne since it was certain he wouldn't be getting any sleep.

Methos looked casually around the lobby. If you knew what to look for, he--or she--should be found easily enough. And after twelve blinking years with the Watchers, he was fairly certain he bloody well knew what to look for. Ah, yes. There he was--a doughy balding little man in tweeds and wire-rimmed glasses totally engrossed in yesterday's paper. Not one he was familiar with at all and he'd studied all the files. The old man snorted. So, they'd assigned him a rookie. No doubt the higher echelons felt a former grad-student cum research assistant--no matter how brilliant--didn't rate an experienced observer. Well, he supposed he should be grateful for small favors.

He kept his smirk carefully tucked away as he stepped lightly across the room. Stopping in front of the fellow's chair, he cleared his throat politely. "I beg your pardon," he said carefully, glancing pointedly at his watch. "Might you tell me the time?" He waited for the man to look up. "My watch seems to have stopped and I have a train to catch."

The man laid aside his copy of the Times, removing a watch from the interior pocket of his vest. "Half-past six," he stated coldly, then went back to his crossword.

Methos nodded his thanks, picked up his bags and went out to hail a cab to Victoria Station. He looked over his shoulder. No sign of Mr. Pillsbury and he felt a mild twinge of annoyance wondering if the fellow thought him not worth the bother of following or if he had somehow made arrangements to catch him up in Cardiff. Well, he was in for a bit of a surprise if that's what he'd counted on. Methos snickered again as the taxi pulled up in front of the station. He paid the cabbie and dashed inside to the trains.

For several moments he stood still, looking about him. This was it then. Once he was on that train, Adam Pierson was going to disappear--one way or another. He wondered how long it would take the Watchers to stop looking for him. Wondered, too, how long it would take Mac to stop looking--if, indeed, he ever bothered to start. He sighed, squared his shoulders and strode purposefully up to the window. "Cardiff," he said pulling out his wallet and handing over his Master Card. "Round trip. I'll be returning one week from today." His hands shook only slightly as he signed the voucher and took both card and ticket from the man behind the window. "A locker, please," he added as an afterthought. "To store the rest of my gear."

He locked his suitcase and the backpack in the locker, then boarded his train. He'd need some clothes and the computer might come in handy, whether or not he made it all the way to Wales.

He left the train at Reading, then hiked to a small hotel and rented a room for two nights--the first of which he spent in the bath, bleaching his hair to a lighter brown and streaking it with blonde highlights from the bottle of Clairol. As an extra precaution, he spent the rest of the night propped up in a chair by an open window with his hair in rollers, reading and dozing by turns.

In the morning he washed his hair again to loosen the curl, then slipped on the wire-framed glasses and a starched white shirt and checked the mirror again. He certainly didn't look much like the old Adam Pierson. Didn't look like Benjamin Adams, either, or anybody else he'd ever been. He must be desperate indeed if he'd allowed himself to be driven to this and he blamed Mac for it entirely. While his hair dried, he called a travel agent he had a more than passing acquaintance with and asked him to book a flight to Melbourne and a hotel room.

"Reservations to be booked under the name of Talbot, Laurence," he replied when his agent friend asked. "First class for the flight and a decent room for a fortnight in a first-rate hotel, this time, Terry." All the better to throw both Watchers and MacLeod off his trail--they'd never expect him to spring for first class air fare and as far as the Watchers knew Adam Pierson couldn't afford a closet in a top-notch hotel let alone a whole room. Of course, if the Watchers had discovered he was Methos, all bets were off.

The next morning, he exchanged the remainder of his Cardiff fare for a return ticket to London. Unfortunately, he now had three days to waste before his train was scheduled to depart. Three days to sit in his hotel room staring at the phone and trying not to call either Joe or Mac--just to let them know he was all right. Two nights to lie awake in bed and wonder if MacLeod was missing him half as much as he missed MacLeod.

At noon he bought a motorcycle and drove straight through to London. He dropped the cycle off at the railway station, grabbed his bags from the locker and hailed a cab back to the Comfort. At the very least, he'd have an opportunity to see how well the disguise worked when he asked the desk clerk for a room--provided, of course, the man even looked at him.

He didn't bother with dinner. His appetite seemed to have vanished and he was more than mildly apprehensive about leaving his hotel room. What if that Watcher they'd set on him hadn't gone to Cardiff? What if he was waiting right down in the lobby still? What if that fellow hadn't been his Watcher at all? He'd seen no sign of any tattoo and he'd looked. He set the alarm for 6:00 AM, then crawled under the covers and tried to sleep.

Next morning, he ordered breakfast in. Hungry or not there was little point in starving himself to death over the next several days. He nibbled at the croissants, called one of the chaps who'd handled his documents before, drank a bit of juice and four cups of coffee. Not that he really needed the caffeine; the adrenaline pumping through him should keep him awake at least long enough to take care of business. He showered and shaved, ran a quick comb through his tangled curls (he was already starting to wonder why exactly he'd felt the need to go quite so far with the disguise), then dressed and trotted down the street to Julian's to pick up his new identity.

The plane touched down in Melbourne and Methos sighed with relief. He hated long flights and this had been one of the longest--not to mention one of the bumpiest. So, why then had he opted for a non-stop from London to Melbourne for God's sakes? To get it over with? To forestall any sudden urgings to just leave the plane at the first stopover and run back to Paris? There was nothing in Paris for him now. MacLeod wanted nothing more to do with him and he wanted nothing more to do with MacLeod, did he? The Watchers were done with him--or he with them as he'd told Amanda. That hadn't been strictly true. He still hacked into their database every chance he got.

He sighed again then pulled his laptop and the backpack out of the overhead. He shifted impatiently waiting for 'families with children', 'senior citizens' and 'unattended minors' to disembark. What were 'unattended minors' doing on a transcontinental / transoceanic flight anyway? They should be at home with adults who could watch over them and keep them out of trouble. He grumbled under his breath as one of those 'families with small children' hurried past. A babe in arms screaming at the top of its tiny lungs clung to its harried mother while its two-year-old sibling whimpered over a spilled soda and a pair of five-year-olds argued over which of them had gotten to sit next to the window the longest. Daddy, Methos thought, had been smart and opted not to come along on this trip.

The last of the passengers had moved on and Methos fairly ran the distance to the baggage carousel, skidding to a stop just long enough to snatch up his bags and dash into the bathroom. His broadsword and sheath were in the duffel wrapped in his greatcoat and while he really didn't anticipate meeting another Immortal here in Australia, he didn't like the feeling being without it gave him one little bit. He didn't like that he had had to leave his pistols packed with his collection of antique knives and the bronze short-sword checked through in his suitcase either. He felt positively naked weaponless and the skin along his back crawled and itched.

He reappeared a few minutes later and ambled leisurely out to the walk where the cabs were lined up waiting to take the tourist trade wherever they wished to go--for an exorbitant fee, of course, unless you had friends willing to share. He shook his head and opted instead for the bus.

"Windsor Hotel on Spring Street," he said.

"A bit high priced for a kid like you, ain't it mate," the driver said taking in the battered leather jacket, worn hiking boots, and walking shorts.

Methos sighed. Of course, there was such a thing as being too well disguised. "I'm supposed to meet someone there, this evening 'bout a job," he lied. "Thought I'd get cleaned up and make a good impression by being a bit early. Now, can you get me there or do I find someone else to take the fare?"

The driver nodded coolly. "You'll have to catch the tram the rest of the way, though. I finish up at Spencer Street Station."

"Can I catch the tram to the hotel at Spencer Street or will I need a map to find it?" Methos asked, equally cool.

The driver looked at him thoughtfully. "Depends. Do ya mean find the hotel or find the tram?"

"Either. Both."

He grinned and shrugged. "Well, then, can ya follow directions, mate, or do you need a map?" He chuckled and Methos glared but clambered into a seat anyway making small grumbling noises under his breath.

The hotel was everything he could have wished it to be. Pleasantly situated and the rooms were just this side of luxurious. In fact, the huge Victorian-styled suite they had reserved for him was positively decadent. He shook his head and stared--stunned. Hell, the bathtub was practically big enough to swim in. Terry had actually listened for a change. More than listened, the boy had outdone himself.

He straightened his jacket and adjusted his tie, then brushed back his hair and glanced in the mirror. His own mother wouldn't know him now. Hardly surprising though, considering he wouldn't know her either. Neatly suited, glasses perched on the edge of his nose, briefcase in hand, he looked every inch the proper young British businessman. He frowned and studied his reflection more carefully. Perhaps he ought to have added a distinguishing touch of gray to his hair instead of the curls and streaks of dirty blond--just so people would take him seriously. He shook his head. Well, it was too late to worry about that. He could correct it later, if he had to. He could always pick up more coloring after all and maybe one of those hair-straightening kits. For now, all he wanted was dinner and the hotel's restaurant was said to be one of the best in the city.

Locking the door behind him--one could never be too careful after all--he moved swiftly down the hallway toward the stairs and nearly collided with a tall dark-haired young man just leaving the suite two doors beyond his own. "Excuse me," Methos said quickly, stepping nimbly out of the way. "Didn't see you coming."

"'S all right. I didn't see you either." Gray eyes twinkled behind horn-rimmed glasses as the other man held out his hand and Methos smiled back. At closer glance, the newcomer wasn't quite as young as he'd seemed at first, though he was by no means old. The shaggy hair held just a touch of gray and there were a few laugh lines around the corners of the eyes. The face was pleasantly handsome; the tall frame lean and fit, and the smooth voice was the kind that put one immediately at ease.

"Laurence Talbot," Methos said at last, taking the offered hand in his. Yeah, the gray definitely would've been a better choice. The stranger shot him a glance that was half-question and half-leer, dark brows lowering over eyes that were no longer such a clear gray. "I was just on my way to dinner," Methos continued in a rush. "Care to join me?" He nearly bit his tongue. He never picked up strangers--even mortal ones. Well, hardly ever. "I'm sorry," he stammered. "That was rather forward of me, wasn't it?"

"Tristin Murphy," his new acquaintance replied, shaking his hand and laughing. "Though most of my friends just call me Murph. And yes, if the offer's still open, I'd very much care to join you."

They went together into the hotel's lounge only to find the restaurant booked solid until much later that evening. "Damn," Methos mumbled, staring around at the crowd. "I'm half-starved. Couldn't eat a bite on the bloody plane--I hate flying--and now we'll have to wait."

Murphy chuckled, gripping his elbow and steering them both through the hotel's outer doors. "Fancy a pub crawl then?" he asked starting off down Spring St. without waiting for a reply. "There's any number of good ones within walking distance, if you're up for it." He grinned. "And some of 'em even serve real food."

They started off sharing conversation, of a sort, and drinks at the Elms Family Hotel. Methos was more than a little surprised at his new friend's store of ghastly jokes, which he swore he'd heard from a chap he'd worked with some years past. "Anson's humor," Murphy admitted looking around at their fellow patrons, "was worse than Bodie's. Hardly fit for a family-type establishment like this. Seemed the only way we could get through some of those jobs though."

"What sort of jobs," Methos asked, realizing he knew absolutely nothing about his companion and determining to rectify that little oversight immediately. No way in hell was he getting involved, even for one night, with someone he knew nothing about. "What do you do? For a living I mean."

Murphy leaned forward on his elbows and grinned conspiratorially. "Civil Service, retired," he said softly. Methos' eyebrows shot up toward the ceiling and Murphy nodded. "'S truth," he said firmly. "Retired five years ago and went into business with me mates. They're in Paris now doing a little security set up for this club called Le Blues Bar or some such."

Methos choked on his drink. "Oh?" he sputtered wiping at his chin with his napkin while Murphy patted him solicitously on the back. "How did they happen to meet...."

His mind blanked for a moment. He didn't want to mention Joe at this point. He might not want to mention Joe at any point just in case his companion decided to mention to his friends that he'd met a friend of their client's. "How'd they land that job?" he asked innocently.

Murphy shrugged. "Not sure entirely," he answered, staring moodily at the menu. "This was one of Bodie's setups." He sighed. "Normally, I do the scouting and get things lined up but the chap who owns the bar is an acquaintance of one of Bodie's old commanders. Paras or SAS, I'm not sure which; keep getting 'em confused."

Methos didn't believe that for a minute. How could someone possibly confuse the SAS with the Paratroopers? They weren't that much alike, surely. He arched his eyebrows and smiled winsomely. "This commander and your client were in the military together?" he asked.

Murphy shook his head and smiled engagingly back. "Don't believe me, do you?" Methos shook his head. "'S truth, though. Sir Reginald's in some sort of club or somethin' with this chap; even got matching tattoos and...."

Methos sputtered again. Murphy handed him a napkin. "You sure you're all right?" he inquired solicitously. Methos nodded, thankful it was only water he was spilling and not something that stained. His friend shrugged. "If you're sure. Anyway, Sir Reg pulled a few strings to get the lads this job in Paris so they could have a second-honeymoon, as it were and make a bit of extra cash at the same time. Not that they really had a first, you understand. Honeymoon, I mean. Back then, it would've cost 'em both their jobs--two blokes getting married and all. And nobody'd have given 'em a chance in Hell of it lasting either but it has." He seemed inordinately proud of the fact and Methos barely contained a snarl.

"Married?" he croaked. Married? Two other men married when he and Duncan.... His brain refused to follow that train of thought any further.

Murphy nodded as he picked up the tab. "Not legally, of course," he said with a grin. "But they've been in each other's pockets for what seems like forever. Together in one way or another at least ever since the old man partnered 'em back in...."

He had to stop and think for a moment then. "Oh, '76 or '77, I think it was. Before my time anyway. Chalk and cheese, old Cowley used to say 'cause they got up each other's noses so bad. But they were the best damned team on the squad."

A little later they made their way to the Punch Lane Wine Bar on Little Bourke St. where Murphy ordered Grilled Fish and Iranian Saffron while Methos dined on 5 Spice Corn-Fed Chicken. "Don't want any of that high fat, high cholesterol stuff," Murphy had insisted with a sly wink and a nudge in the Old Man's ribcage. "Need to keep our girlish figures, now don't we?" Methos nodded glumly and concentrated on his meal as his companion leaned back in his chair, barely picking at his own food while he watched the old man eat.

"Hold up, old son," Murphy purred when Methos reached for the dessert menu. "No time for that if we're going to do this crawl in a proper bloody fashion." He paid their bill, then marched them both down Little Bourke St. toward Swanston St. "The Lounge Bar Club Café should be right around here somewhere," Murphy said, frowning slightly after what seemed to Methos far too long a walk with nothing even faintly resembling a pub in sight. "We can get dessert or something to nosh on there if you're still hungry. Or maybe...."

His gaze traveled back the way they'd come and he grinned cheerfully. "Perhaps it's the other way."

Methos groaned and pulled a map out of the pocket of his greatcoat. "Here," he growled. "Put on your glasses and check it, will you? I have no idea of the address and I'm not really keen on the idea of getting lost and starving to death my first evening out."

Murphy looked affronted. "Only wear the specs," he growled shaking out the map and studying it carefully, "when I'm working. Seems to smooth the way a bit, makes me seem a bit more...."

"Respectable?" Methos supplied helpfully.

Murphy nodded. "S'pose so. Relatively anyway. What's your excuse?"

Methos pretended not to hear. "Is that the reason for the gray, too?"

Murphy frowned. "Come by that honestly enough, thank you. Spent three years in the Royal Marines, two with the Met and five years playing diplomatic go-fer before joining up with CI5. Fifteen years with that mob, mate, and I've earned every one of 'em." He glanced down the street again and started walking.

They managed to find the place eventually, though Methos' mood was considerably soured by the time they arrived and even Murphy's good humor had dwindled somewhat in the wake of his acquaintance's near-constant griping. Neither man felt much like eating but sat at the bar, glaring at one another and gulping down drinks instead. Until Murphy opined loudly that he'd had enough of bad company and if Mr. Lawrence bloody Talbot wished to return to his hotel, he'd be more than happy to drop him in a cab and pay the expenses just for the pleasure of being rid of him.

The old man rejected that suggestion out of hand. He'd been promised a grand tour of Melbourne's hottest night spots, by God, and three fairly quiet bars did not constitute a decent outing by any stretch of anyone's imagination. Let alone a man with 5000 years experience behind him, he amended mentally.

They backtracked a bit, winding up at Spleen Central on Bourke St., followed by The Imperial Hotel just a bit further down that same road. Neither place particularly suited the mood they were in and so they decided to call it an evening at The Golden Age on King St. "This is more like it," Methos muttered crinkling up his nose and nursing a fizzy cocktail. "Not exactly as promised, mind you, but acceptable none-the-less." He smiled fuzzily at his companion. "Wouldn't mind doing this again sometime," he said quietly. "If you're not entirely sick of my company, that is," he added. "I know I've been...."

"Something of a prat, yes; but you're forgiven." Murphy grinned. "I'd hate to think I was derelict in my duty, though," he noted with a chuckle, good humor apparently restored for the present. "I'll check the guidebook next time before we start out--unless you have other plans?" He glanced toward his companion, eyebrows arched in inquiry.

Methos shrugged and stared into the bottom of his glass. "I don't really know," he said at last. "I should start looking for work, eventually, I suppose. Can hardly live on my savings forever, I wouldn't think." He probably could though, since his twelve-year pose as a poverty stricken grad student hadn't eaten into them that much, but he was damned if he'd let his new chum know that. Murphy might expect Methos to start paying his own tab then--or, God forbid, picking it up for both of them.

The other man tipped back his chair and stared at the ceiling. "Don't know, do I?" he admitted finally, nibbling at a hangnail and brushing his hair out of his eyes. "Depends on how well you're set up, doesn't it?" The chair legs dropped back to the floor as Murphy leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. "So, what line of work are you in, if I might ask? Not that I mean to pry, you understand," he added quickly. "Don't mean that at all. It's just...."

"Yes?" Methos asked suspiciously. Here it came. Murphy would ask about his assets and his prospects and then tally up how much he owed him for this little adventure. Of course, if Murphy were even half -observant, he'd already know he had some money. One didn't stay where they were staying for any length of time without. He sighed. It had been nice while it lasted.

Murphy paused, staring thoughtfully at his companion. "Well, I might know someone who knows someone who might have an opening, depending on your skills of course."

Methos blinked in surprise and nibbled at his lip scrambling frantically for something to say. He hadn't been prepared for that at all. How much of the truth could he, or should he, tell a new acquaintance--without it leading to all sorts of unnecessary complications? Complications were one thing he did not need in his life at this point. He had to tell him something, though, and saying 'Well, I was Death on a Horse once' didn't seem quite the sort of thing one might put on one's resume. "Research, mostly," he said at last, nodding toward the waiter who replaced his empty glass with a fresh one. "Until recently, that is, for a historical society headquartered in Paris."

"Research? Paris?" Murphy said quietly, eyes narrowing slightly as he sipped at his own drink. "Thought you said you were in from London. Which is it?"

The Old Man sighed. "I've been working in Paris for the last several years," he grunted, slogging down his drink and praying his companion didn't ask how many years he'd spent in Paris or what he'd been doing before that. He really hated starting things off with too many lies--it was so hard to remember which ones he'd told to which people. "But I did come in from London." He almost giggled. "Had to go back home for a bit and take care of some business. Needed some time to myself." He rose unsteadily to his feet and leaned across the table. "I'd like to go home now, if you don't mind?"

Murphy stood, tossing a few bills on the table and heading for the door. "Sure, mate." He took Methos' elbow and steered him toward the exit. "Home it is. Would that be home as in Paris or London? Or is it the hotel you'd be wantin?" Methos glared. "Ah," Murphy said with a smirk, increasing his pace and dragging the other man after. "The hotel it is then. Now, d'you fancy a cab, then or are you up to the walk?"

Methos stumbled along beside, peering anxiously at his guide. "Walk, I think," he muttered, blinking and wishing he were just a tad drunker than he was pretending at present. At least then he'd have an excuse for feeling maudlin. Not that missing the Highlander wasn't excuse enough for feeling miserable, but he'd never be able to explain that to Murphy who seemed a very nice chap--even if he was a suspicious bastard and nosy as hell. Duncan at his worst had never asked so many questions. In fact, Duncan had rarely asked questions at all. There'd been accusations aplenty during the Horseman debacle, but very few questions--and even fewer answers. Perhaps that had been their problem. They'd never communicated. They'd danced around issues, tossed platitudes and homilies back and forth but they had never really talked or listened to one another.

"I could probably sling you over my shoulder and carry you back to the hotel, if you're too drunk to walk," Murphy said cheerfully, slipping one arm over his shoulder. "But, if you're plannin' on lookin' for a position tomorrow, it might prove a wee bit embarrassin' bein' toted home like a sack of spuds."

The Old Man spent most of the next week either in his room, searching the classifieds and making telephone calls to set up interviews, or in various offices around Melbourne. There was any number of possibilities for a man of his experience. He sighed. None of them had seemed particularly interesting though. At this point he'd welcome even that half-serious offer from Murphy.

He glanced outside. It was a lovely day--sun shining brightly and just a hint of a breeze. Perhaps he could get a tan--if he didn't burn himself to a crisp first. He'd seen little of Murphy since that first evening--and little more of the city itself--passing only occasionally in the hall on their way to some place or another and the man rarely spoke, his mind seemingly elsewhere.

Methos stripped, grabbed a towel from the bathroom and tugged on a pair of bathing trunks. They were extraordinarily skimpy trunks and he felt almost embarrassed to be seen in them. He certainly didn't want to make a spectacle of himself on the way. People tended not to forget that sort of thing. So, he pulled on a pair of jeans and a tight black t-shirt and nylon windbreaker as a cover-up until he could make his way to the beach. He was sure there was a beach somewhere nearby. He stuffed the towel into his duffel wrapping the rough cloth around his sword, tossed in the Jordan novel, which he still hadn't finished, and left a message at the desk asking them to page him if any of his prospective employers called.

He had just locked his door and started down the hallway when he heard voices. Murphy's door was open and he was making no effort to hide his agitation. "You bastard, you didn't! Aw, come on, Ray. You're kidding, right? Tell me you're kidding." Methos peeked inside and waved. Murphy, still in his pajamas as he lounged on the big four-poster, grimaced. "Come on in," he hissed, holding one hand over the mouthpiece and waving Methos in. "I'll only be a minute." He turned back to the phone. "And what'd 'e say then when you told him?" There was a long pause during which Murphy's face flushed and paled alternately. "So, should I not plan on coming home then? Until 'e's cooled off at least? Well, did you tell 'im it was a joke finally or can I expect to have me head handed to me when I get back?" He frowned. "We discussed this before I left, Ray. You and Bodie agreed; you'd handle the Paris job and I'd go Down Under and see what I could scout up." His voice rose, but only slightly. "And I am not just doing walk-about, damn you. I've been working. Oh, sorry I've not been in touch as much as you'd like, but you haven't exactly been burning down the phone lines either, mate."

Methos stood in the doorway, unsure whether or not to intrude. Murph had said 'come on in', but the tenor of his current conversation sounded like nothing Methos wanted any part of. He sighed, frowning, and finally went to sit by the fireplace facing his friend, drawing his knees up to his chin.

Murphy shrugged and rose from the bed. "Look, I've got company and...."

Methos waved him down. "I can wait," he mouthed silently and was rewarded with a very small grin.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, it is. Oh, right. As though you care. Well, tell Mr. William Andrew Philip Bodie that I've got five jobs for us--that's five, Ray, and good money, too--lined up here starting in February so you'd better be done with this fellow's loft at least before then." He rose again and began to pace. "You know the weather's a bitch from Vancouver on down the whole Pacific coast that time of year, Ray. If there's any outside work to be done, you'll be waiting until high summer to finish it. How could you let Bodie talk you into that? You're supposed to be the one with the brains, aren't you?" He prowled the room like a tiger in a cage, growling and snarling at the man on the other line. "Don't yell at me, you stroppy little sod. I faxed the estimates to that number you gave me so you and Bodie could take a look at 'em and get back. That's why I called today, Ray; at least two of our prospective clients want answers on Monday. What am I supposed to tell 'em?" The pacing continued, Murphy's voice going dangerously quiet. "How'd you meet this guy, anyway, Ray? Who set it up? Oh, right. And just how much security does a guy who lives in the middle of the bloody Seine need fer Christ's sake?" Murphy sighed heavily and dropped into a chair, long legs sprawled out before him. "Oh, I've no doubt the man is rich as sin, Ray, and bloody gorgeous and he's treating you both like princes while I'm here slogging away in the friggin' desert beating my brains out trying to make us a living. Aren't they always? Yeah, he sure can pick 'em." His voice softened. "What are you going to do about it, Ray? Oh, yeah. I know he loves you. Okay, both of us," Murphy laughed, "just not in quite the same way, does he? And I love you, too, but still...."

Methos felt himself grow cold. It had to be Mac. Who else lived on the Seine for God's sake and had a loft in the States? Had Joe introduced Murphy's friends to the Highlander while they were setting up security for the bar? Why? Mac had never seemed terribly interested in security before--even when he owned the antique shop, but perhaps the influx of Immortals trekking to Paris and Seacouver after his head over the last seven years had induced the Scot to pay a bit more attention to his surroundings. Or perhaps he wanted to make sure Methos--once gone--would not find it quite so easy to make himself at home in the Highlander's lodgings. He scrubbed at his face with his hands. Mac would probably be asking for his keys back next.

He looked up at the sudden silence. Murphy was watching him, an odd look on his face. "Problems?"

Murphy shook his head, arms folded across his chest. "Just about to ask you the same. You look as though you've been run over by a train."

Methos levered himself to his feet. "No," he said shortly, gripping his duffel with both hands. "I'm heading down to the beach," he said on impulse. "Want to come?"

Murph began to laugh, hands clasped over his belly. "Oh, my," he gasped. "There's an offer no man in his right mind's going to refuse! Fancy picking up a couple of birds, do you?" Methos blushed and his friend slung an arm over his shoulder. "Hey, I'll just run get me suit. We are wearing suits? I mean, you're not one of those exhibitionist types, are you?" Methos' blush deepened and Murphy chuckled lewdly. "That's a lovely shade of red you're turning, old son," Murphy snickered. "What's it called--Damask Rose? Tahitian Sunset, maybe?"

"Speaking of Tahiti," Methos snarled, pulling away and glaring up at his friend. "I could have been in Tahiti right now, amidst the lovely native girls instead of here...instead of here with you."

"Oi!" Murphy groaned, clutching at his chest and staggering over to the bed. "I'm wounded I am. Cut to the quick!" One hand flew to his forehead as he swooned dramatically--and carefully--onto the duvet. "Beet Me Silly, perhaps?" he asked, raising his head and fluttering dark lashes in Methos' general direction. "Or how about Persian Melon?"

"Oh, this is much more like it," Methos sighed, sipping at his beer and glancing happily around Birdie O'Reilly's. "Reminds me of some of the places I hung out in when I was younger."

"How much younger?" Murph chuckled. "You're not as old as I am, my son. So, unless your mum sent you 'round to the pubs looking for your dad...."

Methos eyed him suspiciously. "Is that a ploy to discover my age, sirrah?" he teased. "If so, it's woefully inadequate and hardly worth the bother of answering." He tossed back the rest of his brew and motioned the waiter for another.

Murphy shook his head in mock dismay and checked the contents of his wallet. "I'm good for a few more rounds, my lad, but if you keep this up...."

Methos snickered. "If I keep this up, what? We'll have to wash dishes to pay the damage? You'll have to wire home for money? I thought you and your partners were doing so well." He sighed, fishing around for his wallet and peering at Murphy from over his glasses.

The other man blinked. "We are doing well," he said staring at something over Methos' shoulder. "We're not rich by any means but we're doing all right--which may be part of the reason this job they've signed on for in the States bothers me so much." He sighed. "They didn't even think to let me know, Laurence. Or Bodie didn't at any rate. They let me come down here and set up appointments, make proposals, tally estimates and then they go ahead and take on a big job like that without even discussing it. Just because the chap's rich and gorgeous and...."

"And," Methos prompted.

Murphy shook his head. "Nothing." He rose and lay one hand on Methos' shoulder. "I'll be right back. Have to make a phone call."

Methos sighed and called the waiter. "Just keep 'em coming until he gets back," he muttered drawing out a handful of bills. The waiter smiled, nodded, and disappeared only to reappear a moment later with two bottles of dark lager and another glass. Methos looked around--no sign of Murphy. He tipped back his head, smiling to himself. Murphy was very nice, he decided. Easy on the eyes, quiet and on the whole very pleasant company--despite his inquisitiveness. He'd had hardly a thought of Mac the whole time he and Murph were on the beach. The Highlander hadn't even crossed his mind all day--until this very moment. Well, except for a few entirely irrational flashes while Murphy talked to his friend, Ray. Admittedly, Mac had crossed his mind then, briefly. Obviously, Murphy was good for him--good for his sanity in a way MacLeod wasn't.

He wondered, vaguely, what it would take to get him to stop asking questions Methos didn't want to answer. He wondered, too--and a little less vaguely--how much liquor it would take to get him into bed. He was reasonably sure it wouldn't take much; Murphy did seem interested, after all. Although, he wasn't sure he wanted the man if he had to get him drunk first. Unlike Mac whom he wanted anyway he could get him--drunk, sober, or drugged out of his mind, if that's what it took. He shook his head and drained his glass, eyeing askance the two empty bottles sitting to the side. When had he finished those?

"Are you actually planning on putting yourself under the table here tonight?"

He glanced up. "That was quick," he said as Murphy dropped into the seat across the table. "I thought you'd be much longer."

"Why?" Murphy asked, cocking his head to one side. "I said I'd be right back, didn't I?" He sighed. "What's the matter? Does your friend generally make a break for it and sneak out the back leaving you to pick up the tab?"

Methos started then looked away a flush staining his cheeks. The signals he'd been getting from Murphy were mixed at best and he dreaded making a mistake. Although, he thought gloomily, it'd be difficult to make a mistake worse than the one he'd made with Mac. At times today, Murphy had seemed more than a little interested--flirtatious at least--but it never lasted. Several times during the afternoon, he'd felt Murphy watching him intently from behind the pages of his book; but each time he'd tried to catch the other man's eye, Murph had been busy watching the girls scampering in and out of the surf. Several times, too, he'd been sure there was more than a hint of innuendo in the verbal barbs Murphy kept tossing his way--double entendre at the very least. "What friend?" he asked quizzically.

"The one you're running from," Murphy explained patiently. "You know, the one you didn't want following you too soon because you needed some time to yourself."

"I'm not running," Methos insisted a bit too heartily. "I'm here on business. Job hunting--just like you. Can we go now?"

His friend gave a brisk nod and tossed a fistful of bills onto the table. "Sure," he said. "Whatever you want." He didn't seem particularly happy, though.

They moved from Birdie's directly to Menzie's Tavern further east on Little Collins St and from there to Charles Dickens' Tavern one block south and several blocks over. In both places, they limited their intake to three drinks at best and chose to walk to the next because, as Murphy said, "We want our legs to hold up to the hotel at least. What happens then, well, we'll let nature take its course." Methos only hoped nature's course would be in a direction he wanted to go, too. At the moment, though, he didn't hold out much hope of that.

"You finally got the hang of it, didn't you?" Methos asked as the waiter at the Fox and Hounds refilled his glass. "This was damn near perfect, Murph. Could hardly ask for a more fitting end to the day."

Murphy smiled happily. "Was nice, wasn't it?" He hooked his fingers together under his chin, looked over at Methos and took a deep breath. "I really want to thank you for the invitation this morning, Laurence. Been so busy with the job and all, I've not had time to actually get out. Missed it more than I'd care to admit." He leaned closer and Methos held his breath. "I'm going hiking next Friday. Probably be gone the whole weekend. Might do a bit of climbing, if there's time." Dark lashes fluttered over cool gray eyes. "Wanna join me? Spend three days out and away from all this? Sounds a treat, doesn't it?"

Methos gawked and Murphy waited patiently. Spend three whole days in the wilderness? He glanced around the cozy bar and thought of his suite back at the hotel. Spend three days without room service, without decent meals, without a bed--without so much as a bath? He shuddered. "I'd love to," he managed at last.

"Hiking?" Methos chuckled, swinging his club and watching as the tiny white ball rolled lazily onto the fairway. "You call this hiking?"

Murphy leaned on his own club and nodded. "Qualifies, doesn't it? It's still your shot by the way. Mine's out there." He pointed towards the green and grinned. "You should be able to drop it right in...."

Methos sighed. "Right. And if I hit one of those kangaroos instead?"

"You'd be arrested most like," Murphy replied. "They think more of these lads than they do of us. After all, we're not tourist attractions."

"We could be," Methos remarked slyly, trotting after his ball and eyeing the wild fowl paddling about the lake. "Anybody ever brain one of those ducks?"

"Why? You wouldn't be imaginin' it's your friend you're swingin' at now?" Murphy laughed following close behind. "Want to make it interesting? You win and tomorrow we'll do whatever you want."

Methos eyed him suspiciously. "You've beaten me by at least a dozen strokes already and we're only on the eighth hole. You might give a fellow a chance to catch up."

The other man's eyes widened. "That'd be cheating, wouldn't it?" he asked in surprise. "Surely you'd not want me playing less than my best. Where's the sport in that?"

"Maybe I'm not the sporting type," Methos growled under his breath and swung. The ball bounced onto the green just inches from the pin.

"Tell you what," Murphy said with a leer as Methos lined up his shot. "I'll give you a break. Take this hole, never mind the whole game, and tomorrow's yours. If I win, we'll go hiking. There's some lovely falls I've been meaning to see hereabouts--truly smashing ones--and the rainforest is supposed to be a grand sight, too. If you win, we can sit by the pool and watch the birds or read. How does that sound?"

Methos held his breath as the ball rolled into the cup and Murphy readied his shot. "And what if," he suggested casually as Murphy swung back his club, "I choose to spend the day indoors screwing you into the mattress?" He snickered as the club dug into the green sending the ball well past the cup. "Ooops. Does that mean I win?"

Murphy sighed. "Can we see a bit of the falls on Sunday then?"

"You're mad." Murphy leaned against the bathroom door and hitched the towel tighter around his hips.

"You promised," Methos whined.

Murphy shrugged and reached for his shirt. "I lied."

"We had a bargain," Methos growled advancing on his friend. "You said 'whatever I wanted' and I want you."

Murphy stood his ground. "You cheated and cheaters never prosper."

Methos smile turned feral. "Really?" he inquired sweetly, long fingers trailing over the taller man's jaw. "I know some who'd dispute that--vehemently." Steven Keane was one; Morgan Walker was another. Although, he didn't consider it cheating to use every trick at his disposal to make sure he won his fights. There was nothing in the rules that said you had to fight with only one blade. Nothing that said once you were down you had to stay down and wait for whatever either. Hell, if you couldn't use the lessons you'd learned in 5000 years, what was the point in living so long?

Murphy shook his head, grinning, and stepped back. "I'm not one of them, but if you'd like to stay in today and read Laurence...."

Methos eyed him suspiciously. "What?"

The other man nodded toward the pile of books on the nightstand. "We can certainly do that." He slipped his arms into a clean white shirt and looked vaguely around the room for his trousers.

"The only thing I want," Methos purred, stalking closer and breathing in the scent of soap and herbal shampoo, "is you on that bed right now." He wrapped his hands tight in Murphy's hair, dragging his head down for a kiss. "Naked and spread-eagled."

"You really are a single-minded bastard," Murphy said with a little laugh, disengaging Methos' fingers from his scalp. Thick dark lashes fluttered briefly over gray-blue eyes, and Murphy tilted his head, rubbing forefinger and thumb thoughtfully against his chin. "Now, where did I put my knickers?"

Methos' eyes narrowed. "You don't need your knickers, Murph." He reached out gripping the taller man's shoulders and pressing him back against the wall. "You made a deal and I'm holding you to it. Now, which part are you having difficulty understanding? The 'on the bed' part or 'spread-eagled and naked'?"

"Oh, I understand you just fine, I think," Murphy chuckled spreading his legs and resting his large hands on Methos' hips. "It's not like I haven't done this before, after all." He frowned. "Maybe you'd like to repeat it, though, just to be sure I'm clear on what it is you want. Slowly, if you don't mind."

"I said," Methos began only to find himself sprawled on the floor as Murphy swept his legs out from under him. "What'd you do that for?"

"Because," Murphy drawled lazily, "I said 'no'. Wanted to be absolutely sure you understood that's what I meant." He knelt down beside the other man and offered his hand. "Need a bit of help getting up?"

Methos leaned up on his elbows and shook his head. "You'd probably just knock me down again, you cad."

"Bounder," Murphy retorted straddling his hips.

"Louse." Methos' fingers snagged the taller man's collar, tugging him close.

"Cheat." Murphy's breath ghosted over his skin.

Methos shivered and all the little hairs on the back of his neck stood to attention. Something a bit further south anatomically shivered too, demanding a little attention of its own, and his hand went automatically to his groin. "Bastard," he groaned when Murphy's hands gripped his and held him still.

"Not bloody likely," Murphy chuckled. "Mum and dad were married when I was born." He shifted, body splaying starfish-like over Methos'. "To each other." Their lips met, tentatively at first then more firmly, Murphy's teeth nipping lightly at Methos' lower lip, his tongue dipping gently into his mouth.

Methos jerked, hips flexing, shaft grinding hard against Murphy's pelvis. The other man moved then, rolling to one side and rising fluidly to his feet. Methos stared up at him, stunned. "What...."

"Enjoying yourself?" Murphy asked too easily.

Methos nodded, dumbfounded. "I was until...."

"Until," Murphy said with the ghost of a smile. Methos eyed him warily and Murphy grinned again. The man really was infuriating. "Can't have you thinking I'm easy now can I? Got my honor to protect after all."

"Honor?" Methos spat scrambling to his feet. "What do you know about honor? You gave your word, Murphy. You promised!" Murphy grinned. "You are the world's biggest fucking cock-tease."

"Sure of that are you?" Murphy snorted, dropping backwards onto the nearer of the room's two beds.

Methos stretched out beside him, tracing the fine jaw with gentle fingers. "Well," he admitted finally. "Second biggest."

"And you with so much experience and all, I'm sure."

Methos nodded sagely. "Yep, years of experience," he said quietly, leaning over and laying little kisses along the other man's temple. "A lifetime of experience." His mouth moved over high cheekbones and along the narrow jaw, settling at last alongside Murphy's mouth.

"Sorry, Laurence," Murphy murmured, pulling away and rolling onto his side. "Just don't fancy getting involved with someone who's already in love with someone else. I'm not partial to being a third or fifth wheel, if you take my meaning."

"I'm not..." Methos began only to find his own gaze trapped by cool gray eyes.

"Not?" Murphy inquired calmly. "I'd say you bloody are. Every time I bring the subject up, you change it. Doesn't that tell you anything? 'Cause it sure as hell does me."

"Love's got nothing to do with it," Methos protested. "I'm just...."

"You're just what?" Murphy asked sharply. "Going through a bad patch? Playing games?" He clambered to his feet and stood staring out the window. "Well, forgive me if I don't just jump at the chance to play games with you, mate. I'd just as soon not find myself taking a tumble with someone who's doing someone else in his head while he's doing me." He dropped down on the edge of the bed. "And love had bloody well better have something to do with it."

Methos sighed. "I don't understand. Why does love have to be involved in any of this?" He scrambled across the bed and knelt behind the other man, arms resting on Murphy's shoulders. "God, Murphy it's not like we're planning on living together or anything. I'm attracted to you. You're attracted to me, aren't you?" Murphy nodded. "Well, there you are. Where's the harm if we both have a little fun? No ties, no commitments, no promises and nobody gets hurt?" His hands slid down his friend's back, rubbing the solid muscle. "And I promise, I won't be thinking of anyone else while I'm 'doing' you. Can't imagine why you'd think I would."

Murphy turned, facing Methos again. "Been there before, haven't I? Had enough of that to last me a while, I think," he snorted indignantly. "Not the most flattering experience I've ever had."


Murphy sighed and put up a hand. "Look, Talbott, once was enough. Later, perhaps, when we know how things stand between us?" He chuckled softly. "It's not a matter of life and death you know. Hopping into bed, I mean." Methos looked doubtful. "Hell, Laurence, I've been damn near celibate for the last two years; another week or a month until we get this figured out isn't going to hurt."

"Not you, maybe," Methos muttered to himself. Aloud he said merely, "All right then. We wait, but, Murph, you're not the only one who's done without for a stretch." His friend looked disbelieving. "Honest. I've been pretty close to chaste myself over the last year-and-a-half." He thought back a bit. Actually, although he and Mac had been active enough, he and Alexa hadn't been able to do much along those lines at all. "Make that three years. No, actually, make it four." Murphy's eyebrows climbed up under his hairline and the gray-green eyes grew round as saucers.

"Chaste?" he gasped. Methos nodded. " at all?"

Methos blinked. He shook his head. It wouldn't do to push Murph's credulity too far after all. "I said practically, Murphy," he managed after a moment's mental scrambling. Luckily, his wits were a trifle sharper at the moment than his companion's were.

"Oh, you poor, bleedin' sod! How'd you stand it?" Murphy opened his arms wide. "Come 'ere luv and give us a cuddle."

Methos sat cross-legged in the center of the bed, hands folded primly in his lap, eyes closed and breathing soft and steady. If he told himself so often enough, even he might believe he was as every bit as calm as he looked. He could just hear Murphy's voice from the sitting room where he'd gone when the front desk forwarded the call that had come from Paris just as things had gotten off to a promising start. He sighed. Even when he strained to hear, he could make out only bits of his friend's side of the conversation and eventually he quit trying. He had better things to think about than Murphy's business prospects. 'I am not nervous. Mac won't care; he's got new interests. I've got a right to find new interests, too.'

"You're sure then? Absolutely sure, Ray? There's no mistake?" A long harsh sigh followed that last. "No. I've no idea how to work this out. Things are a bit complicated. That bad is it? Damn! Oh, your timing is just perfect--couldn't be better, could it?" Murphy's voice lowered to a full-throated growl. "No we haven't. I'm not sure we're bloody going to, Ray. Depends on how he feels about it now doesn't it? Of course I'm not going to tell him everything. I'm not daft after all." There was silence for a bit broken occasionally by the sounds of Murphy's harsh breathing. "Bodie's certain I suppose that my 'Laurie' is the same chap as your fellow's 'Adam'? Well, we'll just have to play it by ear then, won't we? Oh, ta very much. I do love being left to sort these out on my own while you blokes have all the fun." He paused again. "Not to worry, mate. I'll muddle through somehow. Oh, involvement's the least of my worries. He's not the least interested in that. Yeah, later."

"So, who is he?" Murphy lay on his side once more, head propped up on one hand whilst the other traced patterns along Methos' clavicle, down his sternum and over his ribs.

"Who?" the Oldest Immortal asked, reaching for his robe with one hand and a chicken leg with the other. He did so not want to get into this again.

"Your friend. The fellow you're running from." Murphy was nothing less than persistent and Methos heaved a sigh of frustration.

"I'm not running, Tris." His friend winced. "Told you already, I'm here on business." He tried to stand but the other man had his wrist in a grip like iron.

"So, it's Tristin now, is it? And here I thought we were friends. Well, that's rubbish, mate. Business my arse. You're running. Told you before 's written all over you. And I don't usually mistake something like that, do I?" Murphy grinned, levering himself up so that he knelt beside Methos, one big hand cupping the Immortal's chin. "I really hate to pry...."

The Old Man chuckled, clutching tighter at the short terry robe. It wasn't fair. Here he was, practically naked, and Murphy hadn't even taken off his boots. "Then don't." He shook his head. "You hate to pry but you've been doing little else every time we've met since dinner two weeks ago. I don't know why I agreed to this little interlude, Tristin. Should have known you wouldn't let up."

The other man roared, falling over on the bed and holding his sides. Tears poured down his cheeks as he gasped for breath. "You agreed? Forgive me, Laurence, but unless the few drinks I've had tonight have completely done me head in, you're the one who asked me up to your room. This is your room?"

Methos nodded. "It's my room. You've helped me to it times enough, haven't you?" He frowned, suddenly unsure. How many times had it been, exactly?

"Doesn't prove a thing," Murphy remarked choking on another laugh and wiping at his eyes. "I don't see anything here that's more definitely yours than anybody else's. Reminds me a bit of Bodie's place before he and Ray took up together. Most impersonal sterile place you'd ever hope to see. For all I know you're involved in smuggling of some sort and this is where you deliver or pick up the merchandise." He sat up and grinned. "Or maybe you're a spy and this is where you meet your contacts to trade government secrets."

"You've been reading too many Grisham or Clancey novels," Methos whispered, taking his hand and bringing it to his lips.

"Nah," Murphy laughed. "All those years with CI bloody 5. It's turned me into a suspicious bastard, thinking the worst of everybody. Can't go anywhere without seeing spies and smugglers now can I?"

Methos grinned and leaned closer. "Well, I'm neither, so...."

Murphy's gaze burned into him. "It might be you're carrying on some clandestine affair and this is your trysting place," he said, his voice gone so soft Methos had to strain to hear him at all.

Methos fell back onto the pillows, clutching Murphy's hand to his chest. "And just who would I be having this 'clandestine affair' with, if you please?" he asked playfully, running his fingers across the broad smooth brow. One finger trailed down Murphy's nose--such a lovely nose. Methos wished his own were more like that--straight and narrow--rather than the beak he'd been born with. His fingers swirled over Murphy's ears--such perfect, dainty ears under that cap of shaggy dark hair. He sighed. Now if his were like that instead of the sails he'd been cursed with, perhaps....

"Not sure," Murphy drawled lazily. "Sordid thought that when the one you love is pining back home."

"Oh? You've got a lover pining away at home? I thought you'd been celibate for the last year or more."

Murphy glared. "Not me, you berk; you. Your lover's the one pining away at home."

Methos snorted and leaned up on one elbow. "What makes you think he's pining?"

Murphy shrugged and stared at the walls. "Lucky guess?" The old man shook his head. "Personal experience? Hell, Talbott, I know how I'd feel if a mate ran out on me, don't I? Had it happen once, before I met Tim, and I damn near fell apart. Don't let it happen to you and your friend, Laurie. I'm sure he's suffering every bit as bad as you are."

"He's not pining," Methos snapped almost without thinking. "He's playing, damn him."

"Playing?" Murphy asked leaning closer. "Are you sure?" Methos closed his eyes and nodded glumly. "Now how would you be knowing that, Mr. Talbot? And him thousands of miles away and all?"

Methos shrugged. Not for him to break Murphy's heart by telling him he knew Mac was playing because it was his friends the Highlander was playing with. The man had enough problems without Methos adding to them in that way. And what was with that relationship anyway? At times Murphy spoke as though the other two were merely business partners--particularly trying partners at that. At others it seemed they were possibly the best friends he had in the world. And sometimes--like when he'd been on the phone the other day--it seemed as though the three of them had something much more intimate and more frustrating than friendship. He sighed. What Murphy had with his friends seemed almost like what he and Mac had had.

"They're me mates, Laurence." Murphy's voice cut into his thoughts and Methos gave a start.

"Excuse me?"

"Bodie and Ray," the other man said gently. "Mates. Love 'em like brothers but they do get up my nose sometimes--Bodie especially."

"Then you're not...."

Murphy grinned. "Not what? Lovers?" Methos nodded. "With Ray?" Methos was silent. "With Bodie?" Methos looked at him expectantly. "You weren't thinking with both, were you? Good Lord, that's quite an opinion you've got of me, isn't it? And after what I told you?"

"Why not?" Methos asked.

"Why not Bodie?" Murphy pursed his lips thoughtfully. "He can be a right thoughtless bastard when he wants something. Runs roughshod right over you--like with this job they've got lined up in the States. I know that was Bodie's doing. And stubborn--you never saw a man so stubborn when he's set his mind to something. Except for Ray, of course. Bodie can't hold a patch to Ray when it comes to stubborn which is why it surprised me so much that they took it on. I pretty much thought Ray'd keep things on track but he didn't for some reason." He sighed and leaned back against the headboard. "Hurts some, too, that they didn't even give me the courtesy of a phone call to let me know."

Methos frowned. It'd been over a week since that phone call. Why was Murphy still worrying at that like a dog with a bone? Or was it the phone call earlier that had him on edge? Perhaps it wasn't even the job that had him so prickly. Maybe it was something more personal after all. Maybe Murphy was more nervous than he was letting on about where their relationship was or wasn't going? "Why not Ray, then?" Methos prodded. "You seem more than fond of him."

"I am," Murphy agreed. "And I did for a while. But that was years ago before he and Bodie got together." He sighed, eyes drifting closed for a moment. "And then he didn't need me, did he?"

"And what about you?" Methos broke in. "Didn't you need anybody?"

"Had Tim for a while, didn't I?" Murphy said quietly and Methos raised an inquisitive brow. "He died ten months ago, Laurence, and for the last six months of his life he was so weak and hurting so bad the most we could do was hold one another. Didn't mind though. Sex was never the most important part of our relationship anyway." His eyes wandered over Methos and the Immortal felt himself blushing down to his toes. "I might be tempted to try having it on with you, though, if you weren't so infuriatingly closed-mouthed about this chap you're oh so pointedly not running from."

"I'm not running," Methos said again, hands tugging at Murphy's hair and dragging him down for a kiss. "I'm not running."

Murphy's hands gripped his shoulders. "Of course you're not. Sorry, my son, but I make it a point never to get emotionally involved with anyone who's more confused than I am. It's a rule that's stood me in good stead up to now and I've no intention of breaking it." He looked down at the old Immortal. "And you're pretty damned confused, if you don't mind my saying it."

"Rubbish," Methos snapped. "I'm not confused at all. I know exactly what I want." He did, too. He wanted to get over Mac. His eyes narrowed as he gazed back at the other man. "And who says we'd be getting involved anyway?"

"I did," Murphy said slowly, drawing back. "I don't make it a habit to make love to anyone I'm not at least marginally involved with, Mr. Talbot." Methos winced and glared at his friend. "Sorry, mate, but one-offs just don't appeal."

"Wouldn't have to be a one-off, Murphy," Methos said easing closer. "We just won't make any long-term commitments."

"Nor any short-term ones either, I'm thinking," Murphy growled sliding to the edge of the bed. "You don't owe me anything for last weekend's little excursion. I wanted company, that's all." He grinned. "And you were very good company, when you weren't trying to force your attentions on me." He stood up and started for the door, paused a moment and turned around. "Call him," he said bluntly.

"Call him?"

Murphy nodded. "You talk to him, get settled whatever's between the two of you and we'll talk about this later, if you're still interested. My guess is you won't be."

"Call him, he says," Methos muttered as he stomped out of the bathroom. "Talk to him, he says." He flopped down on the bed and dialed room service. "Call him and we'll talk about it," he grumbled as he listened to the phone ring downstairs. He glared at the menu. "All he ever wants to do is talk. I'm sick to death of talking, blast it; I want more than just talk!"

It'd been two days since Murphy had walked out on him and no sign of the man at all; there'd not even been the customary passing like two ships in the night. He'd called Mac twice only to lose his nerve at the last minute. What was he going to say? 'Hi, MacLeod. Sorry I cut and run, but...'? 'Hey, Mac. What's new? Heard you'd picked up some new friends. Anybody I might like to know?'? He knew how that would go over.

He had managed to talk to Joe--briefly--just long enough to mention the new security measures at the bar and on Duncan's barge. Odd that Joe hadn't seemed terribly surprised to discover Methos knew about those but he'd almost gotten used to the Watcher knowing things you wouldn't expect him to. He'd been very careful not to show the least bit of curiosity in the Highlander's future plans, content to let Joe bring up the subject of the impending improvements to Duncan's loft in Seacouver. He hadn't needed or wanted to hear about the dinners on the barge or the evenings at the symphony and the opera with Mr. Bodie and Mr. Doyle in tow but Joe seemed bent on giving him a detailed description of the events of the last several weeks. "He's missed you, Adam and he needs the company," Joe had explained before Methos could raise any objection. Not that he had any intention of raising an objection. After all, Duncan was a free man; Methos had no claim on MacLeod and Mac had no claim on him. If the Highlander wanted to flaunt that freedom, he was welcome to it.

"Bastard," he growled, not sure if he meant MacLeod or Murphy or perhaps both of them, just as room service finally picked up. There was a distinctly uncomfortable pause. "Sorry," Methos mumbled as he hung up. "I've changed my mind." He dragged on a pair of trousers and a clean shirt then ran a comb through his hair and trotted down the hall towards Murphy's room.

"Dinner, Murph?" he called out poking his head through the open door.

The other man looked up from his chair by the fireplace and put down his book. "Well?"

Methos sighed. "Twice," he answered and slipped in to sit beside him on the floor. Murphy arched an eyebrow.

"And?" the other man prompted. "What'd he say? More to the point, what'd you say?"

Methos cleared his throat. "He's busy with someone else at the moment," he hedged.

His friend stared at the ceiling. "Son-of-a-bitch." He looked back at Methos, who stared up at him innocent and wide-eyed, and grinned. "He told you that?"

"Not in so many words, no," Methos answered. "But I got the picture from other things said in passing."

Murphy bit at a nail. "You interested in a bit of real hiking then?" Methos opened his mouth then shut it again and waited. What the hell did hiking have to do with what they'd been discussing? "I've got to get out of here, Larry. I'm going stir-crazy waiting for them to call with a date they think we can start on the jobs here. I've already come damn close to losing two of those jobs because they're not certain when the lads'll be finished with that bloody job in the States." He ran one hand through his hair again while the other rested on Methos' shoulder. "I think clearer in the open," he said apologetically. "Less emotional garbage cluttering things up, if you must know."

"What's wrong with emotional?" Methos growled linking his fingers through Murphy's. "Some of my best decisions have been made on the spur of the moment." Of course, some of his worst ones had been made the same way but he wanted Murphy unbalanced.

Murphy shook his head. "Not mine," he said. "Biggest mistakes I ever made were ones where I didn't think things through first." He slid down on the floor and wrapped his arms around Methos' waist. "I don't want to make a mistake here, Laurie. I want this to be right--for both of us." He nuzzled the old man's neck. "Now, how're you at climbing?"

"Climbing?" Methos queried weakly, twisting around to peer closely at his friend. "What sort of climbing?"

"Rocks, hills, mountains," Murphy replied eyes sparkling with excitement.

Methos leaned back against the broad chest. "Depends on how high they are," he said. "And how rough. And whether or not we'll have guides and equipment." He lay his head against Murphy's shoulder. "And whether or not you're up to carrying me, if I get too exhausted to walk another step. I haven't done any real climbing in a couple of years." Murphy's arms tightened and the old Immortal groaned. "Watch it," he muttered. "You break it, you pay for it."

Murphy laughed. "You'll be safe enough," he said. "There's several nice day trails we can try and one or two where we might camp out overnight. It's not the Eiger or Everest exactly but I haven't done either of those in a good while either. At least there'll be no one shooting at us. This'd be a chance to work up to some real climbing again."

Methos nodded. "Okay, but promise me one thing." Murphy looked at him quizzically. "While we're out there in the wilds risking life and limb against wild kangaroos and wallabies and the occasional crocodile, you'll at least think about loosening up a bit. We don't need romance, Murph. No moonlight, no roses, no promises of undying love or even lust. Just a good time and a bit of relief for both of us?"

"Said I would, didn't I?" Murphy growled. "Go get yourself packed and we'll leave in the morning."

"See that?" Murphy stood at the top of the lookout and spread his arms out wide. "Is that or is that not one of the grandest sights you've ever seen?"

Methos paused for a moment and peered over the edge then resumed emptying the rocks out of his shoes. "I've seen grander. Not recently," he admitted. "But there have been one or two I've seen that were a bit more spectacular."

Murphy dropped down beside him with a huff. "Well, you've got to admit the falls were nice." Methos shrugged and studied his footwear. "You know, Laurence my lad," Murphy growled leaning back against the rocks. "You're a damn difficult man to please."

Methos smirked. "Not really. You may have to try a little harder, but I'm worth it."

The other man stared out at the mountains before them. "Not back to that, are we? I can't, Laurence. We can't. Not until you decide where you stand with your friend."

"I know where I stand," Methos mumbled and got a sharp look for his trouble. "Toss me one of those sandwiches, will you? I'm starved."

Murphy dug around in the pack for a bit before pulling out the cooler bag containing their sandwiches. "So, where do you stand? Is it over with him or is this just a fling while he's occupied with someone else?"

Methos growled and lunged for the bag. "Turkey or tuna?" he asked holding up one of each just out of reach. "Or perhaps you'd rather a nice egg salad?" He burrowed about in his own pack and removed the chips and a few pieces of fruit. "Apple?" he asked around a mouthful of tuna salad.

Murphy shook his head. "Look, Talbot, whatever you want's okay with me but I don't want to be going one way if you're going another."

Methos shrugged. "I don't know, Murph. Don't really want to think about it either." He leaned back on his elbows and looked out across the ravine. "I just want to relax, live one day at a time and take whatever's on offer. Do you have a problem with that?"

The other man sighed and slid closer, wrapping his arms around Methos' shoulders. "No problem. I just want to know, that's all. Don't want to get caught like before, Laurence."

Methos tilted his face back, studying his friend through his lashes, and frowned. "Before?"

Murphy nodded. "Yeah. Was a long time ago, mate; I was young and foolish." Long fingers teased through Methos' hair. "Let meself fall in love, didn't I?"

The old man rolled over on his belly, resting his head on Murphy's knee. "So, what's wrong with falling in love? You keep assuming I'm in love, which I'm not, but I've heard it's supposed to be a good thing."

Murphy chuckled, slipping his hands under Methos' sweatshirt and stroking along the smooth skin of his back and shoulders. "Oh, it is a good thing--for most people. Unfortunately, I found out when it was damn near too late, the one I was in love with was in love with someone else. He just didn't realize it yet." His hands slid 'round the front and tweaked at Methos' nipples.

Methos grimaced. "Ouch!" Murphy nuzzled his neck apologetically. "I take it, it wasn't entirely too late at least," the Immortal observed. "You were able to extricate yourself in time to avoid serious damage?"

His friend nodded. "No serious damage. Bit bruised around the ego but I recovered eventually." He nibbled a bit on the old man's ear and Methos shivered. "And the three of us are best of mates--now."

"Three of you?" Methos groaned. "Now? Took some time to get over didn't it?" He sat up, frowning at his friend. "So, who was the guy? No, wait. Don't tell me. Doyle." Murphy nodded and Methos eyed him speculatively. "So how did you? Get over it, I mean? Never mind; I don't really want to know." He stood, brushing off the seat of his pants, then hauled the taller man to his feet. "I don't know if I could go on being friends with someone who broke my heart that way."

"My heart wasn't broken," Murphy began.

"I'd harbor a grudge for years," Methos continued as though the other man hadn't opened his mouth. "Spend all my time plotting revenge and dreaming up dire consequences for the villains." He'd plotted for years to rid himself of Kronos, when he'd finally made up his mind to bail out of that relationship. It hadn't taken quite so long to find a way out of the tangle with Byron and leaving MacLeod was looking to be easier yet. Easier to leave; just not as easy to forget.

"They're not villains," Murphy exclaimed. "They're my friends. Hell, none of us realized Ray was in love with Bodie or Bodie with Ray when he and I started out. They were just partners as far as any of us knew and I don't think Ray meant me to fall in love with him; it just happened."

"You don't think he might have flirted just a bit with you to make the other one jealous?" Methos inquired sweetly. Murphy frowned and shook his head. "Aha. More than flirting was it?" Murphy nodded emphatically. "And you've been celibate since and now you've forgotten how!" Murphy growled low in his throat and tossed the old Immortal to the ground straddling his waist. "Well," Methos gasped, "that's certainly a step in the right direction." He grinned twining his fingers through the other man's shaggy locks. "You might move just a bit lower, though, and it'd be a tad more effective if we had a bit less in the way of material between us. But," he murmured massaging the tendons in Murphy's neck. "All in all it's quite a good start. Just don't let me stop you or anything."

Murphy rocked back on his heels, hands resting lightly on his hips as he stared down at Methos. "Manipulative son-of-a-bitch, aren't you?"

Methos nodded. "So I've been told." He slid out from under his friend's knees and struggled to his feet, leaving Murphy kneeling in the dust. "You getting up or shall I leave you there?" Murphy stood and Methos chuckled then swung one arm around the broad shoulders and the other through the straps of his pack. "Don't know about you, Murph, but I'm ready for a long soak in a hot bath." He caught his friend's eye and grinned. "And then, perhaps, you can show me how much you haven't forgotten?"

"I haven't forgotten anything," Murphy insisted. "My fling with Ray may have been twenty-some-odd years ago, Laurie, but Tim and I were together for five years give or take a month or two and it was only those last six months we didn't have sex."

"What did you do? Other than 'cuddle', I mean."

"For relief you mean?" Methos nodded. "Rosie Palmer and her five daughters for the most part."

"And the fifteen years in between?"

"And in between I dated--women mostly. Went with Susan for a year, Molly for another and Janet for two before I got it through my thick head that I wasn't really interested in women all that much. Then, I met this chap on an assignment and...."

Methos lifted one eyebrow eloquently. "Do go on."

Murphy grinned. "Well, I fell instantly in lust. No chance there, of course, Colin was straight as a ruler. Bloody gorgeous though and since he had nothing against blokes with my 'proclivities' he did introduce me to a friend of his. Drop-dead gorgeous, he was, with long dark hair and the most beautiful green eyes. Worked out at the local health club three maybe four times a week and it showed. That lasted for about a year and then he got engaged and asked me to be best man at his wedding."

Methos cringed. If Mac asked him to be best man at his wedding....


Murphy opened one hazel eye as Methos nuzzled at his navel. "Umm?"

"Your friends, Bodie and Ray...."

The taller man heaved himself up onto his elbows, staring down at Methos' head as it rested on his hip. "What about 'em?"

"Did they ever...."

Methos coughed slightly and ran icy fingers along the other man's inner thigh to tease his sac. Murphy yelped grabbing at Methos' hands, then pressed his legs together tight. "I mean, are they the types you think, maybe...would they take advantage of someone.... I mean, if circumstances were such that this someone seemed...."

Murphy's eyes narrowed as Methos' fingers inched toward his groin once more. The fingers crept closer. "Hey, stop that! Last time I let you have a beer in bed, you bloody sadist."

Methos smirked. "It's not sadism, Murph," he crooned. "It's foreplay. Surely you remember foreplay."

"Yeah, vaguely. I remember foreplay," Murphy groaned and shifted away. "That's what you do before sex, isn't it?"

"Well," Methos said as he gripped his partner's hips and poured another trickle of dark brew down the smooth chest and across Murphy's stomach. "Consider this basking in the afterglow." Although, he'd hardly call what they'd done 'sex', he supposed a man who'd been celibate for the last year-and-change would think so. His idea of sex involved something a bit more strenuous and requiring a lot more flexibility than just a bit of stroking and kissing--nice as that might be. Of course, Murph wasn't in the first blush of youth, either. Perhaps 'strenuous' was a bit beyond him. His tongue dipped into Murphy's navel, lapping delicately at the beer pooled there. "Now about your friends, Bodie and Ray...."

"What are you going on about, Laurie?"

The old man sighed and dribbled a line of amber liquid down his friend's smooth chest. Murphy shivered. "Nothing. At least, I hope it's nothing. Have you heard any more from Ray? About the new job I mean?"

His friend gripped his shoulders and rolled him over beneath him. "Stop babbling, Laurence and make a bit of sense, will you? If there's something you want to tell me, spill it."

"It's nothing. I was just wondering how close they usually get to their clients."

Murphy frowned and kicked back the covers. "They don't," he said firmly. "That's one of the cardinal rules. We don't get involved with our clients; it's bad for business."

"Well," Methos said, tweaking at a pale brown nipple. "I'd say perhaps the rules have changed."

Murphy sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and knocking his companion to the floor. "I don't understand...."

Methos sighed and rubbed his bum. He'd expected some level of 'excitement', after all. No reason he should've been surprised at his friend's reaction. "That job they were doing," he said with a grimace. "The one on the barge in Paris?" Murphy nodded. "The one whose owner wants them to go to the States to do some work on his loft and some warehouses?" The other man glared suspiciously and went to sit in a chair beside the fireplace. Methos licked his lips, keeping his eyes fastened lasciviously on Murphy's groin, and sighed as his friend pulled on his jeans and picked up a book. "I didn't mean to kill the mood, Murph," he apologized. "But was his name by any chance Duncan MacLeod?"

"Yes," Murphy admitted slowly. "But what's that got to do with...."

He paused and stared wide-eyed at Methos. "Your friend? The one you said was 'involved' with someone else?"

Methos swallowed hard. "More than one someone, as a matter of fact." He glanced up at Murphy. "Your someone's, if that matters."

"My someone's?" Murphy asked, puzzled. "I don't have any...."

He went very still. "Bodie?" he asked and Methos nodded. "Son-of-a-bitch!" Methos scooted aside as the taller man rocketed out of his chair and began to pace. "Not enough is it the bastard's got to take on a job that'll take 'em clear across the Atlantic right around time for Christmas. Oh, no." He tossed his book across to the bed and stared down at Methos. "If he's cheating on Ray...."

Methos cringed. In all the weeks he'd known the man, Murphy had never lost his temper. "He's not."

"What?" Murph collapsed back into his chair and ran his hands through his hair. "But you said...."

"I said," Methos said guardedly, inching out of the way of Murphy's Size 12's. "He's busy with two someone's--both of 'em yours."

"Oh. Well, that's all right then. As long as all three of 'em know what they're on about." He glanced casually to where Methos sat huddled by the bed. "Oh. Bad for you, isn't it?"

Methos shook his head. "No. Mac and I didn't make any promises. I told you, I'm not big on commitment, long-term or otherwise."

"Rubbish." Murphy slid out of the chair and knelt beside him, strong arms closing gently around his shoulders. "That's a crock and don't think I don't know it." His chin rested on the top of Methos' head and the old man smiled to himself. "How long the two of you been together?"

"Only a few months," Methos sniffled wiping at his eyes. "We'd been friends for a couple of years until a bit of my past showed up." He sniffed again. "Thought we'd gotten past that when Mac asked me to move in with him but I guess I was wrong."

Murphy cuddled him a bit more, rocking him gently as if he were a child. "Wrong?"

Methos nodded leaning back against the broad shoulders and tilting his face up toward Murphy's. "Must've been a hell of a past, my son, if it put a wedge like this between the two of you. You sure he's not gotten over it?"

Methos nodded again, sliding his arms around Murphy's waist and nuzzling into the join between shoulder and neck. "What I've done, he can't forgive or so it seems anyway." He heaved a long sigh and burrowed deeper into Murphy's arms.

"What'd you do? Burn a church? Rape a nun?"

Methos flinched. "Not exactly," he muttered. Close enough, although the cloistered life hadn't been fashionable until at least a thousand years after he left the Horsemen and churches, temples and such had never been high on his list of places to burn. Pillage, yes but burn? Not bloody likely. Cassandra had certainly been no nun in any case, no matter what Mac thought.

"Have you gotten over it, Laurie?"

Methos froze. "What?" He sniffled again and wiped his nose on the handkerchief Murphy held out to him. "Gotten over Mac's attitude you mean?" He waited nearly breathless while Murphy stroked his hair.

"There is that," Murphy agreed. "But I was rather thinking of you getting over your past."

He snuffled a bit more. "Me? Haven't felt guilt in...oh, years it seems like." Centuries, if one could believe what he'd told Mac. Although, he wasn't sure even he believed everything he'd told the Highlander. He dared a glance at the other man. Murphy's lips were pressed tight together, his eyes narrowed and the heavy dark brows drawn down making little creases right above that lovely little nose. Methos sighed and rubbed gently at Murphy's forehead, trying to smooth 'em out. "Smile, Murph. It's not as bad as it looks, honestly. I may have lost MacLeod...."

"Momentarily," Murphy said softly as his fingers rubbed gently at Methos' nipples.

Methos ignored the words and relaxed against Murphy's solid bulk. "But I've found you, haven't I?"

"I suppose," Murphy agreed, fingers making a trek toward more southern climes. Methos shifted slightly his own fingers busy with Murphy's belt and the buttons on his jeans.

He paused then as the other man's words sank in. "You suppose?" he growled rolling them over and pinning Murphy to the floor. "What do you mean 'suppose'?"

"I mean," said Murphy wriggling out of his jeans and wrapping his long legs around Methos' hips. "Just what I said. Suppose you have found me, as you put it. What's going to happen when your Mac wants you back? And he will, you know. He'd be a fool not to and I doubt he's that." One hand scrabbled around under the bed and Methos raised a brow in question. "Condoms, Laurie," Murphy answered ginning as he found what he'd been searching for. "Lube," he continued lifting the tube high and waving it triumphantly. "Not going to take any chances, now are we? I mean, we're neither of us immortal after all, are we?"

"Immortal," Methos chuckled nervously wondering why the hell Murphy had picked that particular word to express his reasoning. With Mac he'd never needed to worry about things like that. "No, I don't suppose we are at that." He grinned weakly. "Good thing one of us is prepared."

"And I, for one, prefer my sex safe and comfortable." Murphy grinned, running gentle fingers along Methos' cheek and jaw. "Bed," he queried looking around the shambles they'd left of the linens, "or would you rather stay here on the floor?"

Methos gave an eloquent shrug. "Doesn't matter to me, Murph," he said with an evil leer. "But you might find it more comfortable on the bed. Old bones and all that...."

Murphy grinned. "And the sheets and all can be changed whereas the carpet can't. Right you are." He held out his hand. "Help an old man up, will you, and we'll be sensible about this whole thing."

Methos grasped the outstretched hand, hauling Murphy to his feet, then found himself flung halfway across the bed with the taller man piled on top of him. "I should have known you couldn't be trusted, Murphy," Methos gasped. He wiggled suggestively as the other man lowered his grip, hands sliding from Methos' shoulders to skim over his chest and along his waist. "Murphy?"

"You're talking too much, Laurie." Murphy's hands were busy stroking and Methos bit at his lip. "Less talk, my lad, if you don't mind."

Methos caught his breath and closed his eyes as Murphy slicked cool gel over his hardening flesh. God but that felt good. He felt the tube pressed into his hand and opened his eyes. Murphy lay sprawled face down across the bed his long legs spread wide, head resting on his arms, watching Methos expectantly. Methos licked his lips, trailing one hand across broad shoulders and down Murphy's back then over the firm buttocks.

"Like what you see, do you?" Murphy said grinning. The old Immortal nodded. "Not so bad for an old man?" Murphy raised his bum slightly. "Well, you might try showing your appreciation then, if you don't mind."

"Mind?" Methos said, planting little kisses along the smooth back. "No, I don't mind; not at all."

Tapping at the door interrupted him. "Mister Talbot, sir. There's someone here for you." Methos tried to ignore it. "Mister Talbot? It's urgent or so the gentleman says."

"Go away," Methos growled trying to revive his fading organ and ignore the buzzing in his head. Surely, if he just pretended he was elsewhere whoever it was would go away. Challenges weren't supposed to be issued in hotel rooms, after all. Especially not in front of witnesses.

Murphy chuckled. "I believe you're being paged, Laurie. Best go see what it's about."

"Not now," Methos hissed. "I'm busy at the moment."

"Out of my way," shouted an altogether too familiar voice. "Adam, I know you're in there so open this god-damned door before I break it down."

The door shuddered under heavy pounding and Methos jumped. "What the hell!" he exclaimed throwing open the door. He gaped. "MacLeod? What are you doing here?"

-- THE END -

January 2000

NOTE: Standard disclaimers apply. Duncan, Methos and Joe still aren't mine. They belong to the folks at Rysher and Mr. Panzer and Mr. Davis, for a while at least. We'll see what happens when the movie comes out--if the movie comes out. For now, I'm merely borrowing them and will return them relatively unharmed when I'm through. Of course, everything is relative. Murphy doesn't belong to me either more's the pity. He belongs to Brian Clemens and some other people who don't use him nearly enough. Mdm. DeLancy, however, does belong to me. Feel free to borrow the old bat anytime.

Many thanks are offered up on the altar of proper English grammar and coherency to my poor beleaguered betas, Olympia and Robin who've done such wonderful work with all my other stuff I'm hiring them both full-time. Without them this story would make even less sense than it does. And a double helping of thanks to Penny (aka Bodiebabe) for making sure the S'murph sounds at least marginally like himself.

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