The Reunion: Part Five - Broken Dreams
Once Efram was settled behind Jair, Jason led them off the main road to ride in the trees to the side. Cautiously, they rounded the bend in Crescent Canyon. Voices could be heard ahead of them on the road. Jair stood in her stirrups to get a better view, but the trees were blocking her line of sight. After much straining, twisting and turning Jair caught sight of Kronos' blood red bay.
"See Jason," Jair shouted cheerfully, "That's Kronos' horse. I told you there weren't any bandits!"
Before Jason could stop her, Jair kicked Copper into a gallop recklessly rushing through the trees towards the road. Unprepared for the sudden burst of speed, Efram flung his arms around Jair's waist and hung on tight to keep from falling off.
Jair's stomach did little flip-flops as she galloped towards Kronos' foul tempered stallion. She was surprised to see him here, but part of her was thrilled that he had ridden all this just to meet her. The last week had been interesting - what with the Portal and Jason arriving - but Jair had missed waking up beside Kronos. She couldn't wait to discuss the Portal with him, to see what he thought might have happened. It was funny how Kronos was the first person Jair wanted to share everything with. In such a short time, he had become so important to her that it scared Jair.
As she raced towards him, Jair finally came to terms with her feelings for the warrior. Regardless of how scary it seemed, she loved him. Running away hadn't changed it, hadn't made it go away, and the prospect of seeing Kronos right now some how solidified and centered the feelings. Tears welled up, misting the edges of her vision as Jair realized, easy or not, how much she loved Kronos. Copper burst out of the trees and Jair smiled as she vowed to tell Kronos she would never run away like that again.
The smile on Jair's face froze to a grimace as Jair yanked back on the reins, nearly tossing herself and Efram off the mare. The tears slowly rolled down her face until Jair wiped her eyes. Kronos was crouching next to Radzin, his green eyes locked with hers as Jair stared dumbly at the scene before her, unable to attach meaning to the images her eyes insisted she was seeing. In the clearing before her, Methos was standing over a bound and gagged Kristov. Vassili was lying at an odd angle, seemingly unconscious, with his hands and ankles tied. Mel was squatted next to the blond Cossack, gripping his chin while turning his face from side to side looking at something. Somehow, the thick bullwhip coiled next to her didn't surprise Jair.
"What the hell is going on here?!" Jair shouted, confusion making her voice squeak. Four sets of eyes turned to focus on Jair. Methos sighed in relief.
<Well, its about time Pathfinder.> The oldest immortal thought sarcastically.
It was Methos' belief something with Jair was Kronos' motivation for this "raid", then her appearance should "end" it one way or another. Maybe if the two of them had a moment to talk, Kronos would abandon this plan. Methos was disturbed by Kronos' continued evasive answers to questions about the purpose of the raid. Fighting with the Cossacks was all well and fine, but Methos knew this island would never tolerate true raiders. The Horsemen of the Bronze Age had no place in this paradise. It was something he didn't think Caspian or Silas fully comprehended, but Kronos should have. Either way, Jair's arrival should diffuse some of Kronos' fire. Methos tossed a glance at Kronos to see if his assumption was correct.
Kronos had frozen as he leaned over the nearly unconscious Cossack. He didn't even blink when a stranger galloped into the clearing behind Jair. The young man leaped off his horse, pulling a sword in one smooth move. Mel's whip cracked as the tail coiled around the stranger's blade. A deft tug and twist of Mel's wrist sent the sword sailing well out of reach.
"Oh, dear, you seem to have dropped your shiny toy." Mel commented innocently. "And to think I was aiming for an eye."
Still Kronos didn't move. Methos was becoming concerned.
"Wow, Mel," Jair whistled in awe, temporarily distracted from scene before her by the twitching leather. "I had no idea you could do that."
Mel's placid facade dropped for a moment as a wild grin dashed across
her face. Then she shrugged and went back to referee duty, watching
everyone to make sure no one else got involved in Kronos' little game.
Jair's sudden appearance had stunned Kronos. Until that moment, Kronos had believed Jair had left him for the Cossack.
A week ago, when Kronos had woken up in an empty bed, he had not been surprised or upset. Jair frequently woke up early and went to check on the horses or watch the sunrise. Several mornings, Kronos had gone in search of her and found her swimming in the pool beneath the falls, but she had always come back for breakfast.
When Jair was late for breakfast, he had gotten nervous, but it had not crossed his mind that she might have left. Even when he noticed that Copper was missing, he hadn't really been concerned. It wasn't until lunch that he had started to worry. By 2:00, Kronos had saddled Raseri and gone out to look for her; worried that Jair may be hurt. He had returned home at sunset, more scared than he had been in ages.
Kronos had sat down on the sofa to pull his thoughts together, when he heard the crinkle of paper and discovered "The Note". It had simply read "I'm going to Kristov's". Jair had not given a reason for her departure. It took just one sentence for Kronos to realize Jair had slipped out in the earlier hours, and she had deliberately hid the note to delay its discovery.
For a moment, Kronos had toyed with the idea of riding after her and forcing her back, but he knew Jair would never tolerate such heavy handed tactics. Kronos had decided if Jair didn't want to be with him, he would let her go - but the Cossack who stole her would pay.... Dearly.
Everything done, everything planned in this last week had been leading up to this moment, to this battle. Kronos was to exact his revenge, his retribution, from the Cossack for stealing Jair. The horse theft was but a small portion of the price, paid for in Cossack pride and blood. For the last few days, as this raid was planned, Kronos had thought about what he would say to Jair. All his plans were for naught, because the smile that died on her face as she came out of the trees caught him completely off guard.
For a second, Kronos had been unable to think of anything save the suddenly light feeling in his heart at her smile - the smile he knew was only for him. In that fraction of a moment, Kronos *knew* Jair hadn't left, that he had been wrong about it all. The urge to jump up and shout to the heavens that everything was okay because Jair was smiling was so powerful Kronos started to rise. But before his brain could complete the command, Kronos saw the smile freeze, and the tears fall. Kronos had watched as confusion dimmed the fire and passion in her eyes.
Radzin had moaned just then, and Kronos' heart had plummeted as he watched Jair's blue eyes flick down to her friend then darken with hurt and uncertainty. Kronos nearly collapsed as the full weight of what he had done that day settled around him. This battle, fought against Jair's friends, had all been a mistake on his part. On the ground in front of him lay her favorite bear of a Cossack, beaten to near unconsciousness for a reason Kronos knew Jair would never understand.
"Is everything all right?" Efram asked, having finally recovered enough from Jair's mad gallop to lean out around Jair and glance around the clearing. With stunning speed and ferocity, Kronos launched himself over the Cossack and dragged Efram off Jair's horse.
"I am here because of this?!" he snarled as he yanked his dagger out. Fury and betrayal combined in one lethal dose to overwhelm Kronos. Unable to accept the responsibility of his own mistake, Kronos focussed all of his in anger and disbelief on this watered down version of himself - obviously the "Mystery Man" Caspian had mentioned Jair travelling with. Before anyone could move, Kronos had grabbed a fist full of the young Russian's hair, yanking his head bank to hold the dagger to his throat.
"Kronos! No!!!" Jair screamed in a panic, frozen in place by the vengeful hatred crackling in Kronos' eyes. "What are you doing?"
Kronos' harsh laughter fell in shards around Jair. Death danced with vengeance in his glittering green eyes, and for the first time ever, Jair "saw" the man that had terrorized the world for over 1,000 years. In those eyes there was nothing of the man that had laughed with her over the mud fight or held her while the sunset. Before her stood the nightmare everyone had told her existed within the man she had been sharing her bed with, and the vision terrified Jair as much as it filled her with loathing.
Jason had been watching from the trees to see what would happen. When Kronos grabbed Efram, Jason spurred his horse towards the two men. Jason sent a quick prayer to the gods as he jumped off the mare to tackle Kronos.
"Oh, I don't think so kiddo." Mel said quickly as her whip flicked out, catching him mid-vault. The tip made a squishing snap sound as it connected with Jason's exposed stomach. Mel wasn't sure what was up with Jair and Kronos, but until she was sure, no one else was gonna get involved. Jair shrieked in wordless anguish and fear as Jason crashed to the ground, and Kronos raised the dagger.
"Krroooonnnnooooossss!" Jair wailed. "Don't do this!"
Kronos stopped and looked at Jair with emotionless eyes. Part if him wanted nothing more than to run to this woman and kiss the dark clouds out of her eyes, to whisper to her until she forgave him and smiled just once more for him. The other half wanted to wreak havoc on the world for taking this unexpected chance at happiness away. Kronos had never consciously desired to share his heart with a woman - mortal or otherwise. He had only moved in with Jair to irritate her, but somewhere along the line, Jair's quick laughter and soothing presence had become "necessary". Only now, that would never be his again. The concern in Jair's eyes was not for him, but for this Russian who so closely resembled him
"Kronos, please," Jair begged. The cold, blank look in Kronos eyes terrified Jair. Efram's eyes were wide with fear, but he wasn't struggling - something Jair was grateful for. There was no way to predict what Kronos would do if Efram tried to fight. "He's never done anything to you. Please, just let him go."
Kronos paused, dagger still poised, and watched the emotions play behind Jair's eyes. She kept up a steady stream of nonsense words, probably trying to calm him down, but Kronos just waited, hoping.
"I don't know what's going on Kronos, but we can work this out." Jair said calmly. Jason moaned as he rolled over to sit up, and Jair struggled to keep from wincing in empathy. She glanced at Mel wondering just what was motivating the other woman, but Mel's eyes were back on Vassili. "Kronos, don't do this... it won't solve anything."
"And why would you think I seek a solution?" Kronos asked coldly. Hoofbeats sounded from the canyon's exit, but Kronos never turned to look, watching Jair's reaction instead. Caspian rode into the clearing with Silas silent companion to his constant stream of curses.
"Damn it Kronos! You promised I wouldn't miss the fight! What the hell?! You've got them all tied up." Caspian screamed as he rounded on Methos. Without any further warning, Caspian threw a right hook at Methos, connecting squarely with his cheekbone and sending Methos staggering back. "This is your fault Old Man. You planned it this way on purpose."
"Enough!" Kronos called, still staring at Jair's eyes. "Caspian, you will stop, or Silas will stop you."
Silas drew his ax, a giant smile slicing across his face. Jason tried to lunge once again, but Mel's whip stopped him for the second time, twisting around his ankle and pulling his feet out from under him. Caspian tossed one final punch at Methos before stepping back sullenly.
"Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!" Jair buried her face in her hands, shaking back and forth as she shrieked out of control.
In that last moment, before Jair lost herself in her screams, Kronos knew he would never see what he had been waiting for in Jair's eyes - some flicker of concern or regret for him. Steel closed around his soul, and Kronos understood that his chance at a "happily ever after" had just passed him by.
"Will someone shut her up?" Kronos called coldly.
Jair's eyes flew up in disbelief as Caspian leaped forward, blade drawn, eager to let some blood. Kristov went berserk struggling against his ropes in a futile effort to keep the insane horseman away from Jair. Caspian stopped still as he felt the prick of a blade against his own neck.
"I believe Kronos only meant to have her gagged, not killed, Caspian." Methos said casually pushing the point of Ivanhoe into the tender flesh of Caspian's throat. Caspian's adam's apple bobbed up and down as he gulped convulsively, before slowly lowering his own blade. Kronos' eyes broke contact with Jair to pierce Caspian.
"If you had so much as nicked her, Caspian, I would have killed you myself." Kronos said with deadly calm. "The only one that will die today is this one."
Jair was too stunned to even shout. Kronos had actually "said" it - he was going to murder and innocent man. This wasn't a joke, it wasn't a game - here in this paradise the man thought she fell in love with was going to commit cold blooded murder. Jair watched in horror as Kronos raised the dagger again and Efram closed his eyes in prayer.
"Kronos," Methos warned softly. "If you do this, you will never have mud in your eyes again."
Kronos' head whipped around to stare at Methos as he remembered the day Jair had thrown mud in his face. She had laughed as she darted around him and locked the lift at the bottom. Kronos had stood in the cave stunned for several long moments. No one had ever dared such a thing before, and Kronos had been laughing at Jair audacity for a while when Methos came up the lift. Methos had been amused when Kronos had gathered up a bucket of mud, smiling in anticipation the entire time, but it was Kronos that had smiled when Jair hadn't hesitated to toss him in the river - such an indomitable spirit was something to treasure.
Only, it wasn't Kronos' treasure any longer. His eyes strayed to Jair's stricken face. There was no trace of that spirit now. The blue eyes were dull and muddled while her face bore a mix of horror and despair, and it was his fault. His actions this day had cost him something he never even knew he had or desired. Kronos tossed his sword aside in disgust then vaulted on Jason's horse. He yanked the horse around and viscously kicked it into a gallop, fleeing into the forest without looking back.
"Thank you." Methos said as he hugged Mel. "You're pretty handy with that whip. I'm glad you're on our side."
"Any time." Mel said nonchalantly. "Only next time, don't try leaving me behind - or I won't be on your side."
"Awww, come on!" Caspian whined, still angry that he had missed all the fighting. He was also struggling to control his anger and jealousy. Mel was stunning in her leather, cracking that whip - and Methos (the cowardly bastard) had just wrapped his arms around her. Caspian pointed his sword at Jason before continuing, "Just let me kill this one - Jair won't even notice he's missing."
Methos glanced at Jair. She was still sitting on the ground where she had collapsed after Kronos had left. After everyone was untied, and the wounds looked at, Methos was going to have to get Jair to talk some.
"You're not killing anyone Cas - just get over it." Mel said tiredly. "Now go untie Kris."
"How the hell did you get to fight, and not me?" Caspian grumbled as he went to untie the Cossack leader. "You just don't want me to kill him cuz you *want* him."
Mel's whip snapped lightly against Caspian's booted calf.
"Nooo - that would be this lovely blond Cossack." Mel said tenderly as she brushed a stray hair away from his face. "Methos, shouldn't he be coming around by now?"
That slight gesture was all it took. Caspian exploded. His woman was caressing some stupid Cossack, bending over so the leather stretched tight across her bottom. The damn Cossack was probably staring down her shirt. With a low growl, Caspian tossed Mel over his shoulder, muttering about showing her who she wanted, and stormed into the woods.
Jair looked up as Caspian stalked past her. Then she glanced down the path Kronos had left, before slowly rising. Without a word, Jair walked in the opposite direction, stopping only to pick up Kronos' heavy sword.
"Silas - can you handle this?" Methos asked tiredly. At the man's nod, Methos continued, "The horses can't have gone far. Bind the wounds and get the horses together. I'm going to go talk to Jair."
"I'll go, Methos." Jason said firmly. "Jair said you were here - but I didn't think I'd find you like this. So when did you turn into a raider?"
"It's a long story, and it isn't what you think." Methos said, his past weighing heavily on him. "Just go after her Jason. I'll take care of things here. Find her and follow the road southeast until you cross a bridge. From there, the road to Camelot is well marked."
"You owe me an explanation my friend." Jason said as he grasped Methos' hand in his own. "Until later."
Jason vaulted onto Methos' horse and grabbed Copper's reins before riding after Jair's retreating back. Methos turned back to the Cossacks in need of medical attention. In a short while, with Efram's assistance, ribs and other wounds were bandaged and the whole party set out after the spooked horses.
<This is gonna be one hell of a Christmas.> Methos thought as they all rode out of the canyon.
~ End of Broken Dreams ~
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