Can't Take it Back

Disclaimer: I don't own anything from the television series Highlander and I'm not making any money from this fic

Summary: Spoilers. After Connor tricks Duncan into taking his head, Connor feels unable to continue without his mentor and friend. Methos steps in

Warning(s): Spoilers; spanking; some mentions of violence

Author's Note: Sort-of sequel to I Want Him Alive, but it can be a standalone story too

Duncan's hands trembled on the hilt of his sword as he stared at Connor's body. If he ignored the fact that the body was missing its head, he could almost imagine that what he was seeing was a temporary state; that Connor would come back to life, just like he did every other time.

But it wasn't going to happen. Connor was dead and Duncan was filled with the effects of the quickening; filled with all of the experience and feelings the older immortal had gone through during the many years he'd lived for.

But even having all of that couldn't make up for Connor dying.

The sword slowly fell from Duncan's hand, landing on the ground with a clatter that seemed to go on for a long time. He might have said his goodbyes to Connor, but that didn't mean he'd been prepared for his mentor to die. That was something he could never have been prepared for.

Duncan didn't want to leave Connor for clean-up by the watchers, but what else could he do? He couldn't take Connor's body back to Scotland for burial, even assuming that his friend and mentor would want to be returned to his home country. And Duncan knew that he was currently putting off having to walk away from the last physical remains of Connor, but he couldn't help it.

Connor shouldn't have died like this, with his head taken by his former student.

Duncan felt the buzz of another immortal approaching and turned round immediately, grabbing his sword from the ground. The next moment, he lowered the sword when he saw that the immortal standing behind him was Methos. "What do you want?"

"I was going to offer you help, but it looks like you've already had some," Methos commented. He looked past Duncan at Connor and then back at Duncan once more. "We should go. Let the watchers take care of him."

"Is that all you're worried about? Getting the mess cleaned up?" The words left Duncan before he could stop them. "Connor's dead... and it doesn't make a difference to you?"

"I've lost friends as well as enemies over the years," Methos replied, his face unchanging. "Eventually, you get used to it." He shrugged. "I've lived a very long time. Death is a part of every human's life, immortal or not."

" And you would know all about that, wouldn't you?" Duncan didn't need to say what he was talking about. And from the way Methos' eyes darkened, it was clear he knew what Duncan was talking about. A stab of guilt went through Duncan, but he refused to apologise. Methos acted like he didn't feel anything, but he carried wounds, just like the rest of them.

He wanted someone to hurt as much as he was.

The darkness in Methos' eyes faded, but his voice was still cold when he spoke. "Duncan, you are coming with me, if I have to drag you there by whatever part of your body I can grab hold of first."

Duncan's mouth opened to form a protest, but when he saw the warning look on Methos' face, he closed it again. He realised he was already pushing the older immortal far more than was healthy and even though he felt bad, he knew Methos would have no problem carrying out his threat. Slowly, he put the sword away again. "Where are we going?"

"I think your place works well enough." Methos turned to start walking.

Duncan bristled a little at the way Methos just expected him to obey, but he found his feet automatically heading after the older immortal. Unable to help himself, he glanced back over his shoulder at Connor's limp form, still not wanting to just leave his oldest friend lying on the ground without any kind of proper burial or even memorial.

But he didn't have a choice.

It took Duncan several moments to realise that he was following Methos tamely, like a prisoner being led to slaughter. Not wanting to dwell on that image, he sped up his steps, so that he was walking next to Methos. The other immortal glanced sideways at him, but didn't say anything. Even though his face revealed nothing, Duncan had the feeling that his comments had affected Methos more than he would ever admit.

Maybe he should apologise... but he couldn't find the right words.

The trip back to Duncan's apartment was a silent one. Duncan was lost in his own thoughts and he guessed Methos was doing the same... or just keeping quiet rather than losing his temper with Duncan. It was difficult to tell what Methos was thinking. Duncan might have helped him through his own negative emotions before, but that had been relatively easy to guess how Methos was feeling.

On this occasion, Duncan didn't have one single idea.

When they got to the door, Methos stood silently to one side, watching while Duncan took out his key and fumbled with unlocking the door. Well, that's what it looked like. Duncan was trying to convince himself that the pause wasn't because he was slightly worried about what Methos was going to do or say. He'd faced countless numbers of enemies, but right now, he felt like he was merely a child.

Finally, Duncan couldn't put it off any more and he unlocked the door of his apartment, stepping inside. Idly, he considered closing the door in Methos' face, putting off whatever the immortal planned to do – at least temporarily. That idea was quickly discarded, however, when Methos walked into the hall and closed the door behind him.

"Listen, Methos, I..."

"Save it." Methos cut him off. "Do you remember what I told you before?"

Duncan didn't have to ask Methos what he meant. He remembered what the other immortal had said very well. However, he'd thought that Methos was jesting – and even if not, why should he need Methos to switch roles with him?

"I see you do." Methos stepped closer to Duncan and wrapped a hand around his wrist. "You and I both know you need this, so let's not waste time with discussions or arguments."

Duncan thought about testing the grip on his wrist, but he somehow couldn't bring himself to. Maybe, on some level, he wanted... even needed this. He looked down at Methos' hand and found himself trailing after the older immortal as Methos led him through to the living room and seated himself on the couch, pulling Duncan forward in front of him.

Why Methos had decided to punish him in this position when Duncan had had to make do with an under-the-arm position, Duncan wasn't entirely sure. He didn't have much of a chance to think about that, though, because Methos was undoing his trousers and easing them down around his ankles, closely followed by his boxers.

Duncan let out a slight grunt when Methos pulled him forward across his lap, his hands shooting out automatically to catch his balance. Methos' thighs were firm and solid under his stomach and Duncan's backside felt horribly exposed. He waited with bated breath for the first smack and wasn't surprised when Methos' hand landed solidly on one side, the sound echoing crisply in the room and the sharp sting driving deep into Duncan's skin.

When the next hard smack landed in exactly the same place, Duncan grunted a little. He couldn't help the gasp when the next three each fell directly on top of the first two, wondering where Methos had learned this trick from.

The next smack landed on the other side of Duncan's backside, followed by another four in the exact same place, making Duncan wonder if he had two red patches on each side of his backside in the shape of hand prints. A low groan escaped through tightly clenched teeth as Methos' hand landed in a new place, along with five others. This continued all over Duncan's backside, until it felt like his whole bottom and the tops of his thighs were on fire. Tears slipped out of his eyes and down his cheeks, but he wasn't sobbing... not yet, anyway.

When Duncan heard the sound of leather being removed, he couldn't help tensing a little. Methos wrapped an arm around his waist and Duncan couldn't stop the yell as he felt the harsh, unforgiving leather of a belt land on his already-flaming backside.

Methos didn't give Duncan a chance to react further before he landed the belt a second time, directly below the first. The sting drove the burn further into his sore backside, forcing more tears out of his eyes and the first sob to catch in his throat.

There was no pause in the blazing blows, though. If anything, the sob seemed to spur Methos on and the next strike from the belt was far harder. Duncan cried out, remembering Connor's still, limp body. That, combined with the harsh licks, forced more sobs out. Duncan couldn't even tell where each individual strike landed anymore.

But a part of him welcomed the pain... welcomed the punishment. It was far less than what he deserved for failing to stop himself from murdering his friend and mentor.

Finally, Duncan just collapsed over Methos' lap, sobbing out the pain and the terrible guilt he was feeling. He didn't even notice when Methos stopped the painful punishment, but after several moments, he felt himself pulled into a hard, solid embrace.

Unable to help himself, Duncan just stayed in Methos' arms. Finally, he was able to get out a broken apology, knowing that what he had said to the other immortal had been uncalled-for.

Methos didn't say anything, but he didn't need to. Duncan knew he was forgiven, even with a backside that felt like it was on fire. And Methos was holding him with his arms wrapped comfortingly around Duncan, who figured it would be all right to just let it all go – for now, anyway.

Later, he would have other things to deal with. But right now, he just wanted to make the most of the temporary peace and try to forget what he'd done.