Yield to Peace
"Quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo et opere," Darius translated the Latin in his head as he listened to the Abbot recite the mass, 'because I have sinned much in thought, word and deed.' Indeed. "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa." 'Oh yes. Through my fault, through my fault, through my greatest fault.'
Darius' mental translation of the Confiteor was interrupted by the unmistakable resonance of an Immortal presence. A strong one, he noted without wonder. Still, even this remote Italian monastery was sometimes host to Immortals looking for sanctuary. Refusing to look for the source of the vibration, Darius set his face and continued to follow the service, trying to banish the unsettling feelings now distracting him.
Despite his resolution, the Immortal just behind him at the back of the church inevitably drew his eye. Darius looked out over his shoulder, past the soberly bent heads of the brothers and saw him. Dear God... His posture advertised lazy relaxation to the casual observer but Darius knew the leashed strength of that lean body. Knew it only too well. The lilting words of the Kyrie went unnoticed in his turmoil.
A memory hurled itself to the forefront of his brain while he attempted to concentrate on the Creed. It was so vivid; he had to clench his fists tightly to remain focused on the present. He felt so clearly the power, the sheer maddening pleasure, of having that sleek body at his mercy. Unwillingly, he felt again the molten-silk flesh clamping tight around his own at the moment of orgasm. Shame washed hot and cold through him. At last, Darius heard the words of the Benediction although at that very moment he felt very far from blessed.
The man in question lounged negligently against the wall, near the church entrance, ignoring the curious stares of the monks as they filed past. He was dressed unremarkably for the time, Darius observed, but still there was something about the man that drew the eye. There was some quality of aloneness -- an air of separation -- that marked him as different from the herd. Guilt washed over him again as the faint stirrings of lust he'd felt, on first seeing the Immortal, grew more intense with increased proximity to weigh heavy and hot, low in his belly.
Of all the evil he had committed before his change at the gates of Paris, for some reason it was this man who so often came back to haunt him in the unquiet hours of the morning. The lingering memories were so disproportionate to the time of their acquaintance that Darius sometimes wondered why God would have it so. His dream life -- unfettered by the rules and laws of his waking life -- was alive with silken, flesh-textured images of this man that left him aroused and guilty in equal measure. As the last of the Benedictines strolled out, Darius left the pew and went to him.
"Methos," Darius began warmly, but with an uncertain smile playing about his lips. "I thought never to see you again. Is there something I can do for you?"
Methos smiled back but there was no warmth there, only malicious pleasure that spread from the appraising hazel eyes to pull small, sensual lips into a sneer. "Well, well, well. The people you run into on Holy Ground. I'd heard about this but I didn't believe it. The great Darius -- scourge of the known world -- playing monk with these brown-robed eunuchs."
Darius felt the eyes rake over his body and saw them glitter with amusement.
"And this upstart religion demands chastity too," Methos smirked, "that must indeed be a hardship for a man like you."
"All of that was a very long time ago, my friend," Darius replied without heat. He had wronged this man, as he had wronged countless others like him. No, that was not right. There was no one quite like him. In all Darius' life, Methos had been unique. Darius had taken men, as easily as he'd taken women -- Immortals too for that matter-- but none of them had haunted him in quite the way this one did, with such a strong sense of unfinished business. He tensed warily when something dark and viperish slid into Methos' aspect as he levered away from his boneless slouch against the stone wall.
Methos' voice was low and seductive as he answered, "Friend? Oh Darius, is that how you remember it?" Methos' voice dropped still more, until it was as quietly hypnotic as the hiss of an adder. Darius stood frozen, unable to move away as Methos swayed closer. "Do you remember, Darius?" Methos whispered as he came nearer, until the heat of his body radiated through the rough, homespun wool of Darius' robe.
The arousal he'd been fighting since the first second he'd laid eyes on Methos burst into aching bloom as Darius allowed himself to absorb the full effect of his closeness. He gasped as Methos' hand closed unerringly around his throbbing erection.
Triumph flickered coldly in Methos' eyes. "I think you do remember. Chastity really doesn't suit you, General." He tore the hand away. "Maybe another time." And with a final rake of eyes down Darius' body, Methos was gone.
Darius sagged against the wall and sank to the floor. 'Just as you wish, Lord,' he thought with a strong sense of bleak inevitability. 'As you wish.'
Darius wondered what was going on when he found himself summoned to the abbot's presence that day that afternoon, after vespers. When the fanfare of an Immortal's presence announced itself, he was more concerned still. Methos. It had to be. He reached the door of the abbot's office and knocked on it. As he was bid enter, the presence grew stronger.
Darius was struck as he went into the small, over-heated room by how hunted Methos looked now. He'd been too stunned by Methos' sudden re-appearance to notice it earlier in the church. Even pulled from the battlefield, as he had been a thousand years ago, Methos had never had this taut, wary exhaustion hanging about his presence. His eyes were bright with hyper-alertness and Darius could sense the tension humming along the long, tightly-stretched lines of Methos' limbs. Now, although he sat sprawled in a high-backed wooden chair, there was a sense about him that he could, and would, flee at any second.
Darius," the abbot began as he motioned for Darius to sit. "Brother
Matthew here has need of our sanctuary. More of that same problem as befell
young Salvatore in
There was nothing for it but acquiescence. "Yes, Brother Umberto. Of course I will. I'm sure he will be very...useful in the Aedificium." There was an uncomfortable silence as Darius' mind went suddenly empty of appropriate things to say. Finally he fell back on meaningless pleasantry. "Thank you, Brother. Will that be all?" Darius forced a smile in the direction of the expressionless newcomer. "Come, Brother Matthew, I will show you around our abbey." Darius stood and motioned for Methos to follow him.
At the man's agreement, Darius gave a small nod and withdrew. He did not need to turn around to know that Methos followed him; the man's presence was an uncomfortable sensation at the base of Darius' skull as he walked along the stone walled hallway out into the courtyard. Once they were out in the open, Darius turned to speak to him.
"The Brothers here are good men -- simple men who do good work and I would not have them hurt."
Methos stopped and stared hard at him, clearly affronted. "I'm not here to hurt your precious 'brothers', Darius." Methos gave an ironic little laugh that Darius didn't understand. "I just need to be on Holy Ground for a while. In a few days I'll be gone, you can get back to your comfortable life and you can return to forgetting I ever existed."
'As if that could ever happen,' Darius thought sadly. God was not so merciful as to allow him the ease that forgetfulness would have brought. Instead, he remembered. He remembered every village; every fallen town, every conquered people -- they were the shades and shadows that accompanied him every day. "Come. This way, Methos. I will show you to the cell we keep for visitors."
Even though he was on Holy Ground, Darius stiffened as he sensed another Immortal while walking back from the balneary late in the evening of that same day, after compline. He'd resisted the custom at first, immersing one's self in water for the sake of health seemed such a contradiction, but now he could not imagine going without it. The herbalist's oils had been a welcome relief too, easing his tension -- until now.
The presence grew stronger and a clear voice called out, "Kronos? Show yourself, you bastard!"
The warrior in Darius recognized the fear hidden in that strident question. 'Ahh, so it really is sanctuary you seek, Methos. I wonder whom this is that you fear so, with a name from legend, Kronos, surely not the same one.'
"Who's there?" Methos called again, his voice harsher this time.
"Do not be afraid, Methos. It is only I," Darius answered, moving into a pool of moonlight to show himself.
"Afraid of you, General? Don't make me laugh." Methos affected a bitterly humorless chuckle.
"You are afraid of someone, though. You cannot deny that."
"Oh yes. That I admit. Someone who makes all the campaigns of your army look like childish games. Someone who, if he found me and brought me back to his side, could destroy everything you hold dear. If you had a scrap of sense, you'd be afraid too."
"You credit this Kronos with much power. Does he deserve it?"
"I don't give it to him, fool!" Methos snapped. "He has it and if you weren't so busy hiding on Holy Ground you would realize that! I haven't seen him in more than a thousand years and still in a matter of days he managed to destroy everything I'd built—" The clear baritone cracked a little. "Everything I cared about..."
Darius could have done no less for any wounded creature and so he went to Methos, reaching out to him in the dark. Methos' shoulder was shaking as Darius' hand closed over it. A second later Darius lay bleeding and stunned, holding a hand to his mouth where the back of Methos' hand had split it.
Methos' face was pale and stricken as he looked down on Darius where he lay on the ground. "I didn't mean..." he whispered hoarsely. "You shouldn't have touched me!" He whirled and disappeared into the night.
Of course Darius' face bore no mark of the past evening's argument when Methos presented himself to be put to working the library the next morning. But he felt the tingling aftermath of the blow as surely as if there was and wondered at the cause of Methos' pain. Still this morning Methos showed no sign of the anguish that had afflicted him the night before and for that at least Darius was glad.
Methos played the part of a Benedictine very well. He followed the forms and the customs of their observances as if they were an extension of himself, and Darius found himself relaxing a little. There was much work to occupy them both and Darius threw himself into it.
Methos certainly had made no false claims as to his abilities as a translator, Darius decided. He ploughed through scrolls and ancient manuscripts as easily as if they'd been written in Latin --the language of all monks -- and Darius found himself covertly observing Methos as he worked.
It was the hands that drew his eye again and again. They intrigued him, those hands; they guided a stylus so deftly, handled the fragile pages so gently. Yet Darius could not forget the strength of those hands on his body -- nor the violence with which they'd struck him down only the night before. The hands were as much an enigma as the man. So much potential for both good and evil.
That same guilt-tinged desire that Darius had felt in the church, rolled through him warmly as he found himself responding to Methos' presence again. He had tossed and turned all night, plagued by too-vivid memories of their first meeting. It had been so intense -- those few, brief hours when Methos had been his to do with as he pleased: a casualty of that long-ago war.
The part of Darius that remembered those days with pleasure and not shame grinned at those memories. He was always there, that part -- the conqueror he'd once been. No matter what good he did and how little he listened to the urgings of that side of himself, the conqueror remained. The ancient one's Quickening had only changed the balance of his soul, not the composition. Darius battled every day to keep that balance intact. Some days it took all his strength.
Some days, strength wasn't enough.
Bells rang out high above them to mark the middle of the day and shortly afterwards a stammering young man came with a tray of food for Darius and Methos. The young man left the tray on an adjacent desk and then stammering a greeting and a farewell, he left them alone again.
"I think we will eat now, yes?" Darius gestured to the food.
Methos glanced at Darius, then at the food, and with wary reluctance, joined him.
Darius watched Methos eat and prayed to a god he wasn't sure was listening, to ask for strength he wasn't sure would make a difference.
Darius knew he was playing a dangerous game, coming out to the stables looking for Methos. Even to him, the excuse sounded weak. Did it really matter at all if the translation of Pliny was completed this week or next? He knew that he should stay away from the other Immortal. Even if Methos had convinced the abbot that he required sanctuary within the abbey walls, he was still dangerous. To Darius. In so many ways.
He felt the sad song of Methos' presence as he passed the stables. It drew him in, called to him like a siren on the rocks and Darius gave himself up to it. There would be consequences, of this he had no doubt, but now there was only this complex web of need and pain that lay between himself and the man he now sought.
There was a gray mare hanging her head over a stall door at the far end of the stables. Darius found Methos there, gently stroking the horse's velvet nose, speaking softly in an unfamiliar, guttural language. Methos looked up at Darius' approach and Darius could not decide who looked more wary, the man or the horse. Then the fear was gone from Methos' face and what was left was cold and hard. His hand dropped from the horse's nose to clench by his side.
"Something you wanted, General?" Methos hissed, the venom in his voice making the mare dance back into the safety of her stall.
"I'm no more a general here, than you are whatever you were when you last spoke that language," Darius answered. "Now we are just men."
"No," Methos replied scornfully, "one of us is a man and one of us is a poor excuse for a monk. Barely a man at all." Methos held his head high as he advanced on Darius, one stiff-legged step at a time.
Darius felt his heart begin to pound as Methos drew nearer, and involuntarily he started to move back. The warrior in him refused to be cowed, though, and he kept his eyes squarely fixed on Methos', even as Methos backed him further into the stables. "I came to see if you were all right."
"Compared to what?" Methos shot back bleakly, as he came closer still.
Darius knew where this was going, knew the danger of it and still he did not walk away. He stood his ground as Methos came close enough that Darius could feel the other man's breath on his skin. Even so, when Methos' hands slipped under the long sleeves of Darius' robe and closed around his forearms, the monk started as if shocked. How long had it been since he had known the touch of another's hand? His skin ached with the agony of wanting more. He swayed closer.
"I won't force you," Methos rasped almost unwillingly.
"No." It made Darius sick with shame to abandon his vows like this, but he could not force himself to walk away. A thousand years had passed since he had last touched this man, but his body had not forgotten. Need was acid burning his flesh.
"I won't have to." There was more than a trace of harsh triumph in Methos' voice.
"No." With one word, one syllable Darius let go of everything he knew.
It wasn't anything as soft as love, or as cloying as desire; it went far beyond want and longing. This madness between them had only one name: need. There was something elemental between them, working itself in ways they could only guess at. Such a strong part of him needed this to happen that he could not turn away.
Suddenly, Darius was on his back, gasping to draw the air back into his chest after his fall had knocked it out of him. Methos was down beside him, all quick, grasping hands and muttered curses. Darius yielded to it, abandoned himself to the moment and let it happen. Rough fingers stroked over his cock and the long-denied pleasure unfurling inside him made him dizzy with the need for more.
Automatically Darius cooperated when Methos lifted the robe from his body, baring his skin to the chill air and the chill hands that plucked and teased in perfunctory preparation. His cock wept in time with his heart.
"Look at you," Methos growled as he spat into his hand, "desperate for it."
"Yes," Darius ground out, arching into the touch.
"No better than the rest of us."
"I never was." With that truth hanging in the air between them Darius reached out to touch his hand to the face of the man who lay tangled with him. Methos bore it for second -- his eyes closing briefly -- then he knocked the hand away.
Hard-fingered hands grasped his thighs and spread his legs apart. Darius went to turn over, moving to give what he thought was being asked of him, only to find the price had been increased.
"No," Methos said harshly, "I want to see your face."
Darius acquiesced. Later. Later there would be guilt and confession and penance, but now there was only this man and this inexplicable need he had to heal him -- to be close to him -- no matter what the cost to himself.
Methos bared just enough of his body and no more. Darius didn't need to see it. The memory of the spare, clean beauty of this man's body was burned permanently into his mind's eye. He was lost in that memory when the sting of Methos' entry seared him. The pain was necessary, a reminder to him of all that was past.
"I hate you, you know," Methos snarled, after minutes of sweat-scented silence had passed. He thrust into Darius more sharply; short jabbing thrusts punctuated by harsh animal grunts as their flesh collided.
"More than you hate yourself?" Darius shot back through the terrible joy of it.
"No," Methos snapped. "Nothing more than that." Darius bled for the hopelessness he could see in those eyes as Methos spoke.
"Forgive yourself then," Darius said gently. "Let the past lie--" his words were cut off by a quick stab of heat as Methos plunged deeper into his body. He pressed down into the sensation, helpless to resist.
"The past never just lies, it's all circular -- it all keeps on coming back," Methos rasped bitterly. "You can't change it. Not you, not your weak-kneed god of suffering and certainly not me." He pounded deeper into Darius, his lips drawn back in a rictus of pain or pleasure. "It won't leave me alone!"
"Then accept it -- let it come back -- acknowledge it -- take away its power to hurt you." Darius couldn't help punctuating his words with breathy gasps of pleasure. Methos had changed the angle of his thrust and now all Darius could feel was bright, shimmering ecstasy thrilling up his spine.
"Like a child's nightmares?" Methos sneered. "Light the candle and it will go away? The centuries have softened your wits, General." Methos grasped Darius' thighs, pressing them further apart, his fingers sinking cruelly into the flesh. He plunged harder still into Darius' body, a rhythm without mercy.
Darius never knew where he found the presence of mind to answer Methos so clearly while his whole body was aflame, but somehow he did. "Just because something is simple does not make it less true." He paused, gasping, as Methos' movements grew feverish. "If a child can see it, why not a man?"
"This man was never a child," Methos declared in a rasp and, for the first time since Methos had pushed him down on the dusty floor, Darius thought he could see vulnerability in those unusual eyes. Then in a heartbeat, it was gone.
Methos withdrew and then quickly slammed a last vicious thrust into his body and came -- fiercely, almost grudgingly giving in to the pleasure. With the final surge it was all too much to resist any longer and Darius too came with a sharp, keening cry that was almost joy, spilling untouched onto his belly. Darius lay, quiet and still, gasping for breath -- waiting. Methos was frozen in the moment, focusing inward, completely withdrawn into himself.
"It matters not what you remember, Methos," Darius answered gently, his voice still uncertain with the heaving of his breath, daring a hand to stroke the sharp line of the other man's cheekbone, "the child you were lives in you still. Just as the man you were lives there too. Everything you have ever been is still inside you and always will be -- it is the foundation we build upon."
There was a moment, briefly, when Darius thought he had reached him, when Methos' face softened and their eyes met. In that moment the infinite sadness in Methos' eyes spoke to Darius as clearly as if it had been words. Then Methos pulled away roughly and said nothing more. In an instant he stood and then he was gone in a swirl of borrowed brown robe.
Darius was deeply into his translation of Aristotle when he felt Methos enter the library. Darius, still haunted by the fingerprints on his skin, felt himself grow warm at the proximity of the other Immortal. Nevertheless, even when he knew that Methos had come so close to him that he could have leaned back and pressed his back to the broad plane of Methos' chest, still he did not turn around. Darius waited.
"I'm sorry." Methos' voice was quiet and steady, pitched low for their ears alone.
"It was not your fault. Do not blame yourself. It was my doing as much as it was yours. Perhaps more so," Darius replied in the same tone.
"I leave today."
Darius turned to look at him at last. "Will you be safe? This Kronos who hunts you -- is he still a danger?"
"Steady, General," Methos purred softly, his eyes flicking up to catch Darius'. "I might start to think you actually care."
Darius looked at him for a long time before he answered, "Believe it. You are more than you know."
The soft-shoed footsteps of another monk's approach made them pull apart awkwardly even though they hadn't touched.
"Brother Matthew, I could use your assistance in arranging those scrolls in the Egyptian room," Darius said in a calm, clear voice as if nothing untoward was happening.
Which of course it was -- he could feel it in every fiber of his being. Never before had Darius felt so divided between the monk and the man. He led Methos into the small room and closed the door behind them.
Darius turned to find Methos standing very close, so close he could see the bounding of the pulse in the thick vein that snaked down the side of Methos' neck. A memory bloomed on his skin of the feel of that smooth column under his lips. Darius found the voice to speak again. "I would not have you put yourself in danger because of what happened. I want there to be peace between us," he whispered.
"Peace," Methos breathed as he shifted closer, so close the heat of his body warmed Darius to melting.
Even though Darius closed his eyes against it, he knew the kiss was coming. He could feel it in the warm honeyed rushing of his blood, the fevered prickling of his skin and finally in the inimitable press of hard muscle against his own. Still in darkness, Darius let his lips part, unerringly tilting his head to find Methos waiting for him.
The moist, silken press of lips before the firm thrust of tongue was the sudden focus of his whole body. He opened his mouth to it, hungry and desperate suddenly for this touch -- this one thing that they had never shared until this moment. Darius leaned in closer, delving deeply into the sweetness of Methos' mouth, catching the faint flavor of herbs...rosemary? He was shaking, Darius found, overwhelmed by the lush intensity, having to hold tight to the man in front of him to keep himself from falling.
Suddenly he was hard, painfully so, and a press of his body told him they both were -- hard and wanting beneath the brown anonymity of their robes. The thrust of Methos' hips against his made Darius gasp and Methos plunged his tongue deeper. Breath was caught in small gasps between the passionately hungry touches. It was searing, this wild, roaring heat that had flared so quickly, consuming thought and rationality until they were but ashes.
The rhythm of their hips grew quicker, hastily driving them towards the point of no return. Still they kissed, tongues darting quickly against the pearl sharpness of teeth, over the silk smoothness of cheek and tongue. Methos' moan, as Darius' teeth sank into the flesh of his bottom lip, vibrated through Darius' body, shaking something loose inside him. He answered the moan and ground more fiercely against the hardness before him. Slowly Darius felt Methos' hands shift over his body, felt them skim up to his face, holding it -- the long fingers splayed wide.
The sharp, exquisite prickling of the heavy fabric against sensitive flesh as Darius' cock was trapped between their bodies, added another layer to his torment. Every thrust, every undulating press of body to body drove him further and further into the unknown. Darius was still in darkness, he had closed his eyes before the kiss and they remained so even now.
He was close -- so close now -- all the wild, sparking pleasure shooting through his body was coalescing in his groin. Their rocking grew steady and coordinated and Methos was sucking Darius' tongue into his mouth as if it was his cock in Methos' sensual mouth. God...the tension...the unbelievable tautness of anticipation of being so close to the edge and yet not dropping over. It was like looking out into an abyss -- fear and wonder mixing in a thoughtless, heedless groan of pleasure dragged from deep within him.
Methos swallowed the sound and Darius felt it reverberate through the other man's body as if it was his own. So very near now. Methos' helpless shudders as he reached his own climax -- gasping and clutching -- tipped Darius over the edge into his own at last. Pleasure, warm, soothing waves of it, washed over Darius as he came. He grasped tightly to Methos, feeling the hot wetness of his own fluids bathing his skin. And even after it was finished he held Methos as if he could forestall what would inevitably follow by refusing to let go.
Inevitable because he knew. Darius knew that whatever this was -- whatever they were -- could never be again. Their ways were destined to part. But even the loss was bittersweet, there had been healing in that embrace, Darius felt it in his soul. Inexplicably true. He opened his eyes at last and found Methos looking intently at him.
"Darius?" A whispered question, fragile as the wind.
"Methos?" A second exhalation to match the first.
Their heads bent together until their foreheads touched. They embraced, for what might have been an eternity or an instant, before Methos stepped back, releasing Darius at last. The wariness was gone from the green-gold eyes and in its place was a glint of hopefulness mixed with only a tinge of regret. There was recognition there too, one soul's journey seen reflected in another's. Still for all that, Darius wasn't surprised by what came next.
"I'm still leaving," Methos said gently.
"Of course. But one day we shall meet again." Darius brushed a gentle benediction along Methos' jaw. "Until then, peace, Methos."
Methos was already halfway out the door when he turned and smiled. "Yes, Darius, peace..."