torch, February 1997
flambeau@strangeplaces.net

Disclaimer: One of the featured characters belongs to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions, the other to Panzer, Davis, Rysher Entertainment (I hope I've got that right). The story... oh all right, story might be an exaggeration. This PWP, then, belongs to me. Written for Misha in celebration of her birthday, because these are two of her favorite guys. Do not archive this story without permission.

Something wicked

The bar was crowded and smelled so strongly of coffee, he thought he might overdose on caffeine just by breathing the air. He let himself be jostled in the right direction until he could catch the eye of the proprietor and order. A double espresso. Then, in another fit of the 'what the hell' mood that seemed to sum up his whole existence lately, he added, "È un Vecchia Romagna, per favor."

The crude, potent liquor invaded his mouth with its gritty sweetness, a moment of sensory overload that he savored before saving himself with a sip of espresso. It was hot in here, but he kept his leather jacket on. Better that way, although everyone had slung their stylish coats over their arms, or over the back of a chair. Everyone except one moody individual at the other end of the bar counter, who was huddled up in his trenchcoat and staring down into a glass as though it were a bottomless well where he'd just dropped his wallet.

That struck a chord. Another member of the International Union of Great Losers, maybe. Nice profile. Cute, in a bony, awkward sort of way; far too pale to be a native. He looked young, but there was something about his mouth... either experience or pain. Perhaps both. Then he turned his head and their eyes met. This sulky stranger had quite a nice line in scowls, too. Then the scowl was replaced by the most perfect come-hither look ever seen in this or any other bar.

Faced with an awkward choice, he finished his coffee and brought his glass of cognac. The idea of walking away never even entered his mind. Oh no, this looked to be exactly what he needed right now. "Buona sera. Com'è se—"

"You can call me Adam," the man interrupted him. His Italian accent was almost flawless. "And you?"

"Alex." So was his own. But Alex knew this Adam had spotted the 'almost', just as he himself had. Not that he cared. They weren't going to call each other on it. And it was quite a kick to have sex in a foreign language. "Should I buy you a drink or have you had enough?"

That earned him a bright look, overly bright. "It won't make me forget. I'd rather try something else."

Alex nodded perfectly serious agreement. He knew the truth of that. Enough alcohol might blot reality for a while, but it wasn't his drug of choice. Especially not considering the alternative that had just presented itself. "Maybe we can make each other forget."

"We can at least try." Adam picked the glass out of Alex's hand and took a sip. "This is vile, isn't it?" Alex nodded again. "But with a certain peculiar charm." A fleeting, self-mocking smile passed across the man's face. "Might be an appropriate description of myself, come to think of it."

Not very many people can get away with saying something like that, Alex thought approvingly. He studied the sudden darkness in Adam's eyes and felt a shiver run down his spine. Oh, perfect. Adam downed the rest of the drink and straightened up, shrugging his trenchcoat into place across surprisingly strong shoulders, and they headed for the door together.

Outside the streets curved in crazy loops through the city, burnt Siena at midnight. The stars were high on their own beauty. They walked slowly, side by side, communicating in silence. Passing restaurants, other bars, slices of noise and life that crossed their path and were gone again. Alex wasn't sure which one of them was leading the way, but they came to a halt in front of the cathedral, its stark black and white front softened by starlight.

It made him feel cold, nonetheless, and without thinking he reached out for Adam and pulled him close. There was no resistance, just a body pressed close to his own, and heat blossomed. Alex slid his arm around Adam's waist, underneath the trenchcoat, and felt a leg push in between his own. He chuckled. "In a hurry, are you?"

Adam's warm hand cupped around his neck, fingers brushing lightly across his skin; a touch as simple as that shouldn't have the power to be so arousing. "No questions," a whisper in his ear and hot breath made him shiver again. "No questions, your eyes are too beautiful. I might answer."

Alex wanted to laugh again, but quite differently. I was right, how perfect, he thought, how utterly perfect. "Just one," he said, leaning in to bite the man's earlobe. "Where?"

He was quite prepared to drag Adam back to the dingy hotel room where he'd left a change of underwear and a half-read Russian newspaper, but the bed was narrow and none too sturdy.

"A friend has lent me an apartment," Adam said, stroking Alex's neck and then his shoulder, and... Alex tensed, but Adam just kept moving his hand, looking as unsurprised as if there had been a left arm there. A quick flick of the eyes: he'd noticed the tension. "It happened recently, I take it."

"That's a question," Alex pointed out, and leaned closer and captured that inquisitive mouth with his own. The first contact sent a shiver through him, so strong he could have sworn electricity sparked down his spine; he might have pulled away, except that Adam was sucking on his lower lip, and then their tongues met in intimate conversation and they were welded to each other in a kiss that lit the night sky with bright desire.

Adam broke the kiss and resisted when Alex tried to draw him in again. "Not in front of the cathedral," he said. "Come with me."

I sure as hell intend to, Alex thought with a half-smile, and reluctantly let go. He followed Adam across the piazza, wondering what he had done to deserve this encounter, this random perfection. No questions. No rejection. Could it really be this simple? Down a narrow street, around a corner. Adam walked with brisk efficiency, yet like someone who wants to remain unobserved. Perhaps, Alex thought, he should be more paranoid.

It wasn't an apartment, it was a house. They slipped in through a wrought-iron gate and crossed a small courtyard; Alex looked thoughtfully at the fountain, complete with cherub, set in its center. Adam led him through a door at the far side, up a narrow stone staircase where their footsteps should have echoed, except that both of them walked so quietly.

When they entered the first long, dimly lit room, Alex wasn't surprised to feel marble under his feet, well worn from centuries of use. There was a faint smell of dust in the air, and barely enough light to see that there were paintings in heavy gold frames hung along the walls, their subjects lost in shadows. Alex peered more closely at one, as Adam paused to persuade a creaky old door to open.

"That's a Crevelli," he said quietly, touching a finger to the frame and bringing it away sticky with dust.

"Probably," Adam said, took his hand and tugged him along. He had very warm fingers. Alex stroked his thumb lightly across the palm of Adam's hand. He savored the warmth, the small but so intimate contact, the pleasure of simply touching another human being. Other cravings were easy to control, but this, this... and it had been so long. So terribly long, and so many cold nights.

The room they finally ended up in was large and square, with a high ceiling and tall windows half hidden by dusty velvet draperies. There were only two pieces of furniture: a low table and an enormous four-poster bed. Adam let go of Alex's hand and stepped forward; there was the sound of a match being scratchily lit and then sudden, warm light as the candles in the elaborate candelaber on the table flared into life.

Adam turned around, and they looked at each other thoughtfully. At least, Alex felt thoughtful. He was alone in a huge empty house with this man, this stranger, this oh-so-perfect stranger who looked like a grad student, kissed like an angel, and moved like an assassin. He'd be a fool not to be afraid. He wasn't afraid. Alex grinned, and Adam raised an eyebrow. "I don't even feel cautious," he said and walked up to Adam, touching his fingertips to the other man's cheek, stroking his face, the line of his jaw, his throat. "If you're going to kill me, don't do it till afterwards. I want you."

He watched the man visibly suppress a question, and turn his head, trapping one of Alex's fingertips between his teeth, flicking his tongue against it. Alex grinned again. Two can play that game, he thought and moved closer. He fastened his mouth on the neck that was so temptingly exposed to him, sucked at the pale tender skin and started to slide his finger in and out of Adam's mouth. Then he bit Adam's throat, none too gently, and heard a soft moan.

Yes. Perfect.

Alex was nibbling along Adam's jaw when a hand wound itself into his hair and he was pulled into another kiss, another utterly mind-blowing kiss. Those sparks were still there and seemed to stay in him, float through his blood, like the bubbles in champagne. He slid his hand across Adam's shoulder to push the trenchcoat off and found his wrist held in a firm grip. "I think I'd better do that myself."

Pausing for a moment, Alex realized that any potential lover undressing him was likely to find a number of unpleasant secrets. He nodded slowly, and took a step backwards again. Adam slipped out of the coat carefully, but Alex thought he caught a flash of something metal. Not a gun, he reflected as he pulled off leather jacket and gun holster at once. Then he looked at Adam with a half-smile as he toed off his shoes and bent to remove his socks. The floor was cold. Alex straightened up again and started to unbutton his shirt. He liked the way Adam was watching him. As the shirt joined the jacket on the floor, Alex undid the first button of his black jeans and Adam quickly stepped closer, putting his hand over Alex's, asking permission.

"Just don't cut yourself," Alex said and then sighed as Adam caressed his erection through the thick cloth before attending to the buttons and slowly starting to slide the jeans down. If the man was curious about the knife in its leather sheath that had been hidden along the back seam, he said nothing. Instead he sank gracefully to his knees and helped Alex step out of the jeans, then kissed the inside of his thigh, about halfway up. And then again, a little higher. And again, wet, open-mouthed kisses that sent pulses of electricity straight to Alex's cock. Higher and higher, until Adam started to lick gently at the crease where thigh met torso.

Alex wrapped his hand around the side of Adam's neck and pulled him to his feet, none too gently. He tugged at the knitted sweater, and Adam quickly took it off, along with the thinner shirt he wore underneath. The shoes and socks went next, and then the jeans, black jeans, almost identical. Alex touched the man's shoulder, stroked his chest and belly, side, back. Nice ass, too, warm curves through thin cotton. Very inviting. He licked his lips, saw the expression on Adam's face and smiled as lust flooded him with almost painful intensity.

"Bed," Adam suggested huskily and pulled him that way, drawing him down into that vast linen embrace. It was a little too soft, but they were hard enough, they'd manage. Kissing, they pressed close together, and Alex had to suppress a moan of utter pleasure. It had been so long; a warm, strong, willing body against his own felt like heaven. He licked at Adam's throat, ran his tongue along a collarbone and sprinkled random kisses across the man's chest before flicking a nipple with the tip of his tongue. That brought a gasp, so he did it again, then sucked at the small, hard nub, trapped it between his teeth, bit at it, gently at first and then with increasing pressure. Adam moaned.

"You like that," Alex said, not a question, and did it again, then switched to the other nipple and repeated the process. If that incoherent whimper he heard did not mean yes, he'd throw his gun away and join the Salvation Army. This was just getting better and better. He managed to prop himself up half on top of Adam, and kept tormenting the man's nipples with teeth and tongue, while his hand stroked the long, well-muscled thighs. Then Alex drew his nails along the inside, across tender skin, and Adam bucked underneath him. He cupped his hand around Adam's erection, stroking the hot shaft, feeling the wet patch where the white cotton briefs had soaked up precum. "Take these off," he said quietly. "Mine, too."

Adam sat up and slipped off his underwear and Alex's, never breaking eye contact, and Alex realized that this simple act was suddenly the hottest thing he'd ever seen. He reached out for Adam, and the next instant they were writhing against each other again, kissing, licking, and Alex took every opportunity to mark that lovely pale skin with his teeth. He loved those little desperate sounds Adam made when he was stroked and bitten and caressed and... hmmm. Experimentally he smacked one rounded ass-cheek, quite hard, and heard another whimper, and then the softest of whispers, "Yes."

There was something wrong with the calendar, Alex decided, because this had to be his birthday. Or Christmas. He ran his fingers up Adam's spine and scratched down with his nails, then smacked that lovely ass again, four or five firm slaps that had Adam writhing on the bed; then he traced the crack with a fingertip, as gently as he could. Adam moaned, and Alex went back to spanking him until that fair skin had well and truly reddened under his hand.

"I need to fuck you now," he said, voice ragged with lust, fingers dipping into the crack and brushing across the tight opening. "You need it too, don't you..." The way Adam's back arched told him more than any words could have. And before Alex could frame the question, the other man moved under his hand, stretched to reach for something, and presented him with an extremely battered, round, yellow metal jar. Alex appreciated the courtesy that had made Adam open the jar; those lids were damn near impossible to get off with one hand.

He scooped up a generous amount of vaseline and a stray thought wound through his head, something about safe sex. Alex nearly laughed. Nothing in his life was safe, never would be. Adam had spread his legs invitingly and Alex started to stroke the cool greasy lubricant onto him, into him. A soft cry made him pause and catch his breath; he'd never expected that the man who looked so cool and distant would be so willing and so hot. Need, Alex thought, that really was the right word, he needed this and Adam needed this and it was burning them up, burning through both of them, burning almost out of control.

More vaseline, he could barely stroke it onto himself, didn't want to touch himself, this was too intense as it was. He knelt back between Adam's legs and pulled him up to his knees, positioned himself and then pushed right in, one slow relentless stroke that drove all coherent thought from his mind. It wasn't just sparks now, it flared through him, he thought he heard it crackle, every hair on his body standing on end for a moment. Alex tried to keep still and catch his breath, but Adam pushed back against him, asking, then demanding. He wrapped his arm around Adam's waist and thrust back, the two of them setting a wicked pace; when Alex attempted to slow down Adam bucked in protest. "No, harder, go on... I need you in me, deep inside—"

So hot, so fast, so damn good he knew he wouldn't last long, but then neither would Adam, who was crying out in a strange language; Alex might not understand the words, but he knew that tone of voice. He didn't want it to end, but it was no use fighting; the charge was building up inside him, just looking for something to strike. They were moving frantically already, on the jagged edge, with barely enough restraint left to remember that they needed a rhythm. Adam fell silent for a breathless moment and then tossed his head back, calling a single word; his muscles clenched tight around Alex, there was a hiss and a spark, and then lightning struck. Alex quivered; ecstasy singed his nerve endings; and then everything went dark.

* * *

The room smelled of ozone and sex. Or perhaps that was his imagination. Methos lay quite, quite still, pressed into the yielding mattress by the weight of the man slumped across his back. It was a sweet weight, really, a reassuring warmth, oddly comforting after this rough game. In the aftermath of orgasm, his muscles had turned to water. The sheet underneath his cheek was still crisp, like clean linen should be.

It had been good. Very, very good. He couldn't help wondering who this man was, this young, sweet-faced, one-armed thug who had given him so exactly what he wanted, what he needed. Picking idly at what he knew of Alex, Methos speculated about the knife, the gun, the way the man's eyes moved as though looking out for an ambush that might occur at any moment. And he made love so quietly, hardly a sound spilling from his lips.

Perhaps he, too, was afraid of calling out the wrong name.

Methos shifted, and felt Alex stir and slowly move off him, lying down at his side. Not a cuddler, clearly. He turned his head and looked at that almost innocently sweet face; the beautiful eyes were closed, that intense gaze hidden. Acting on an impulse, Methos put an arm around Alex and pulled him close, held him. Alex stiffened, more from surprise than discomfort, it seemed, and then slowly, warily, allowed his head to rest on Methos's shoulder.

Poor child, Methos thought unexpectedly, and did not try to chase down the thoughts that had brought those words to mind. Instead he slowly stroked Alex's hair, running his fingers through it over and over. He felt oddly clean, drained of guilt and pain and heartache. At least for the moment. All that remained was tired tenderness. Alex was so silent, Methos wondered if he was falling asleep. Stroking the young man's face, his neck, his shoulder, Methos thought of many things, old friends dead, new friends abandoned, and did not pay much attention to what he was doing until Alex grew taut with tension under the touch.

Oh, the arm. The one that wasn't there. That was a riddle in and of itself, because whatever had happened to it had not involved a nice, neat, modern surgical amputation. Another question that would have to go unanswered. Methos let his caress drift lower, tracing the rib cage, then sweeping up along the back. He enjoyed running his fingers along Alex's spine, between the columns of muscle. This beautiful body was still so tense. Turning, he propped himself up on one elbow and went on stroking Alex as gently as he could, touching him carefully, everywhere. Methos wasn't entirely surprised when Alex shivered.

He began to concentrate more on what he was doing, the light touches not entirely random, nor entirely comforting, any more. Methos stroked shoulders and back, teasing carefully at sensitive points, before letting his fingers drift down across Alex's chest and stomach. This young man had the look of someone who might put on a bit of weight one day, if he stopped running long enough to eat. If he lived long enough. Right now, though, he was perfect, and Methos savored that.

When Methos circled a nipple with the tip of his index finger, Alex sighed: a barely perceptible change from his even breathing, but Methos figured it was as good as a 'please' from this silent boy. He smiled, and stopped. Instead he bent closer and kissed one soft eyelid, and then the other. Now Alex was growing tenser again, but Methos ignored that and went on with the light kisses, tracing Alex's face with his lips, and then his throat, the hollow at his collar bone. Another shiver, more serious now. Perhaps it would be kinder to stop. But Alex had given him what he needed.

He kissed Alex's shoulder, and his scars, ignoring the almost violent tremor that that caused. There was something about Alex's skin, he tasted like, like... Five thousand years of experience would not bring the correct simile to mind. Something bitter and oily, something sweet and spicy, only both flavors were the same thing. And these soft tender kisses were having an unsettling effect. Alex kept his eyes closed and he was shaking his head faintly, but he didn't try to stop what was happening.

Methos ran a hand over Alex's back again, his hip, the strong length of his thigh. The pattern his lips traced across Alex's chest was not as random as it seemed. He tasted a nipple, and because he was listening for it, heard the next soft sigh; this time he went on, licking and sucking gently, switching from one puckered nub to the other. His hand had settled in the small of Alex's back but now it strayed further down. Alex was trembling. Methos moved up and kissed him slowly and tenderly.

Alex's head fell back. "Don't do this to me," he whispered, but it wasn't a protest, and Methos knew Alex was only fighting with himself. He was careful not to make any sudden movements as he searched for the jar of vaseline and found it under a pillow. When he'd scooped up enough he placed one slick finger against Alex's tailbone and let it slide downwards, giving him plenty of time to say no. Alex was tight and tense, and drew a long shuddering breath when Methos probed his body, but he did not lack desire; their hard cocks were rubbing together, hot silk on silk.

Taking his time about it, Methos stroked Alex into readiness, coaxing response after quivering response out of the body in his arms, watching Alex's face the whole time, the closed eyes, the lips that pressed together and then parted to let out a ragged sigh. Another kiss got a heated response, the languorous desperation of fever. There were no objections, verbal or physical, when Methos rolled his lover over to lie on his other side, and moved up behind him and entered him oh, so easily, a smooth glide, this tight heat...

It was slow, as though they were moving under water. And the ripples that shot through Alex were part of the larger rhythm. Methos kissed the vulnerable neck, caressed every part of Alex that he could reach. He concentrated on his own breathing, on maintaining control. Alex was so terribly quiet, and he was shaking harder now.

"Give it up," Methos whispered. "Let it go." He pushed in deeper, a little faster, and despite the silence he could feel Alex responding, feel the man's breath come faster and his pulse beat a panicked tattoo. Methos closed his hand around Alex's erection and kissed his neck again. "Just let go."

The slow tension between them had been wound tighter and tighter by every shiver, and Alex was about to break. One more deep stroke, one more deep breath that caught in Alex's throat, and then a soft sound, a sob, another, and his whole body yielded. Methos could feel it start, somehow not in Alex or in himself but between and around them, a delicious and painful earthquake of the flesh. He was not the one who feared this; he fell into it and was lost.

The only sound that came to him through the warm darkness was that of Alex crying.

Eventually he collected himself enough to slide out of Alex's body, to pull the man over and hold him close. The tears were so hot Methos thought they would scald him; this grief, whatever it was, long delayed and all the more hurtful for it. He cupped his hand around Alex's head again, kissed his forehead, licked the tears from his face in apology and acknowledgement. At last, Alex looked at him.

Those eyes. They burned, too. But there was no anger in them. And then Alex kissed him very lightly, just a brush of lips against lips. Methos knew what it meant, though, and while Alex would never thank him in so many words, they had finally both gotten what they wanted. Needed.

Curled up around each other, they slept, both waking as soon as one of them shifted, to drift down into strange dreams yet again. When the grey light of dawn came filtering in through the crack in the velvet curtains, and the candles had burned down to smoking stubs, Alex moved with a more definite purpose. Methos let him go, and sat up beside him.

"You have to go," he said, and Alex nodded. Slipping out of bed, Alex started to collect his clothes and put them on with brisk efficiency. Methos watched him for a few moments, admiring the way he moved. Then he got up himself and dressed, a bit more reluctantly. "I'll come with you and have breakfast."

Alex was less shy about his gun now, but Methos still thought he'd better keep his sword out of sight. He arranged the trenchcoat across his shoulders and looked up to find Alex giving him a thoughtful look. "Bit old-fashioned, isn't it? I don't see how—" Then he broke off. "Sorry. No questions."

They walked out of the house and into the early-morning hush; the sky was a pale grey, like no color at all. In the street, people were beginning to move, opening shutters, drawing back curtains. An old woman in black was out already, sweeping her front steps with an equally ancient broom.

Without discussing it, they went back to the bar where they'd met last night. It had just opened, but was already filling up; it seemed everyone who worked in the bank next door was in here, discussing the day to come. Not until he heard them talk did Methos realize that he and Alex had switched languages at some point during the night, slipping from Italian into English. He wondered when it had happened.

Alex ordered cappucinos for both of them, with an expression that said he had noticed, too. They stood leaning against the bar in companionable silence and watched people come and go, listened to the hiss and clatter, the footsteps and voices. The everyday business of life. It sometimes made Methos feel like a voyeur, but he was surprised to see a similar look in Alex's eyes. He drew a breath but stopped himself before it translated into words. Then he almost laughed. The questions they hadn't easked each other would probably fill a book.

Preoccupied with this thought, he hadn't noticed Alex put his cup down. But when the man turned away, Methos stopped him briefly with a hand on his arm. Alex looked back at him. "Nice to have met you," Methos said, without a trace of irony.

Alex smiled briefly. "Yeah," he agreed. Then he slipped out of Methos' grip and walked out of the bar. Methos stayed where he was and watched him go. It was a grey morning, but something told him it would be a pleasant day.

* * *

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