Chapter Thirteen

Los Angeles, Summer 2003

Tara looked around the table as a grim silence fell on the group once Willow stopped speaking. It had taken until morning to get everyone from the old gang as well as Angel’s crew gathered in the same room. Faith had been on Patrol, and Wesley had to extricate himself from some demonic clan meeting where he’d been haggling for information

But Willow had insisted that everybody needed to know and so they waited. At least it had given me a few hours to catch some sleep, Tara thought.

“So, Arturo has the light of R’Nathnor,” Giles eventually murmured as he cleaned his glasses. “I suppose it’s too muck to ask for Buffy to actually date someone who wasn’t trying to take over the world.”

“Well. There was Riley,” Xander offered, grabbling a doughnut from the plate. “Although, there was the whole blood sucking problem, which kind of put a dampener on things.”

Tara sighed; the events of the night before had still left her a little stunned. She had known Arturo was bad news, but she’d never guessed it was on such a grand scale. “At least we now know who has it, which is good news, I suppose.”

“But he’s not talking,” Fred pointed out, worriedly. “And we’ve only got two days left.”

Xander grinned. “Hey, we can always set Adam on him again, he seemed very willing to talk last night.”

“I doubt it would work,” Adam said, dryly. “Arturo knows very well that his possession of this…artefact is the only reason he’s still alive. It’s his only bargaining chip and I don’t think he’ll give it up easily.”

“Oh, I don’t know, give me five minutes with him and I might be able to wring something out of him,” Faith drawled.

“What I want to know is what the hell he did to Buffy,” Spike said.

And Angel,” added Fred.

Spike grunted. “The poof can take care of himself.”

Wesley rolled his eyes. “Yes, I think we all know your feelings on the subject, Spike.”

“How long will the binding spell last, Willow?” Giles asked, leaning forward in his seat.

“At least another couple of days,” Willow said. “And by then it really won’t matter, will it?”

“We need to get Buffy back,” Dawn said. “Whatever is going to happen involves her and if she’s not here—” “Then it doesn’t matter whether we have the light of R’Nathnor, we’re doomed anyway,” Xander finished for her.

“Maybe we can get him to spill the beans her whereabouts, at least,” Willow suggested.

“Sounds like a plan,” Faith said, nodding. “How about we pay a little visit to his holding cell?”

Fred frowned doubtfully. “Perhaps we should think this through first?” she asked. “I don’t know about you, but I’d love to figure out what the rest of that prophecy meant.”

Xander groaned. “Did I ever mention that I really hate those things? And, lets face it, they never really help; they’re is always something a bit off abut them, and we usually end up changing them anyway.” Tara smothered a smile; trust Xander to get to the crux of the matter.

“Excuse me, sorry to interrupt, but what prophecy are we talking about?” Amanda interjected smoothly. Tara watched as Giles and Wesley exchanged a glance and caught Giles’s almost imperceptible nod.

“I’ll read it out, shall I?” Wesley murmured, as he pulled a sheaf of paper from his folder and he recited the verses.

Amanda threw Adam a cryptic look when Wesley finished. “Interesting,” she said.

“Isn’t it?” Adam said, flatly. Puzzled at the sudden tension in their voices, Tara looked at them, why did she get the feeling she was missing something?

“Later,” Adam muttered under his breath, seeing the question in her eyes.

Tara nodded unsurely; sometimes Adam seemed so full of secrets, she didn’t know where the lies ended and the truth began. It was an aspect of his personality that she’d learned to accept, but it still worried her on occasion.

“What I can’t understand is why we’re supposed to fear the Jewel of Al’keron, “Spike muttered. “I know it didn’t do much for me, but it did close the Hellmouth, didn’t it?”

Wesley stared at him,” I don’t believe I’m saying this,” he said slowly. “But you may have a point.”

Amanda suddenly leaned forward in her seat. “May I have a look at it?” she asked, smiling sweetly. “I might be able to help; I’ve had a lot of experience with jewels.”

Amanda,” Adam said, warningly.

Amanda ignored him as she used the full weight of her charm on Wesley. “Just a look,” she pleaded winningly.

“Well… I don’t know,” Wesley said. “Perhaps it would be better if—”

“Let her see it,” Tara said, ignoring the dirty look Adam threw at her. “I have a feeling it might important.”

“Tara?” Willow asked, doubtfully.

Tara looked at her, and smiled reassuringly. “Willow, I think she should examine it,” she said, thinking of the expression in Adam’s eyes. Her teacher was holding out on her, perhaps Amanda could make him talk.

Willow took a deep breath. “Okay, I trust you,” she said, eventually.

“I don’t believe this,” Adam muttered. “Amanda, don’t be stupid. It probably isn’t in the least bit related.”

Amanda smiled. “Let’s find out shall we?”

Wesley slipped a heavily jewelled pendant out of an envelope and Tara leaned forward to have a better look. So this was the amulet that closed the Hellmouth? She shook her head in amazement; it looked like a piece of cheap costume jewellery.

“May I hold it?” Amanda asked softly, holding out her hand. Wesley gave her a measuring stare before dropping the piece into her palm. “Curious,” she murmured. “The diamonds alone are worth a small fortune, but I don’t recognise the stone they’ve used as a centre piece.”

“They’re not looking for a price appraisal, Amanda,” Adam sniped. “There’s nothing you can tell them that would be of any use.”

“I do believe you’re right, Adam,” Amanda drawled. “Perhaps you could do better. Here, catch!” Lightening fast, she tossed it at him, and Adam automatically snatched it from the air, his fingers curling around the edges as the room suddenly flooded with a blinding light.

“I better live to regret this, Amanda,” he said softly as the light curled around him.

Shocked, Amanda leapt out of her seat. “Adam, I—”

But it was too late; he was already gone.

“What happened? What did you do?” Tara demanded, rounding on Amanda.

Amanda slumped back into her chair, fear flashing in her eyes. “I’m not sure, but I think I may have fulfilled a prophecy,” she whispered.

Athens, 468 BCE

The familiar shiver of an Immortal’s presence stopped him in his tracks and Methos’ eyes flashed around the sun-bleached square as he tried to pinpoint the direction. He had not felt the presence of another Immortal in nearly two years, and he did not wish to repeat that experience; it had not ended well.

A hand fell on Methos’ arm and, startled, he looked at his companion. “Methodios, are you alright?” his friend asked, concern showing in his eyes.

“I am fine, Akakios, just a shiver. I think I may still be feeling the effects of last night.” Akakios snorted. “There is a first time for everything, I suppose,” he said dryly. “I swear, I have never seen you suffer the effects of overindulgence. You must have the constitution of a horse.”

“Be as that may, I think it might be best if I retire for the evening,” Methos muttered.

“And miss the new orator speak? Well, this is a surprise, you never turn down a good debate.”

Methos hesitated; Akakios was right, he had found a special joy in hearing the Athenians discuss matters of life…and the new orator, Sophocles, was supposed to be especially insightful.

But it was too soon; he was not ready to meet another of his kind yet. Too much of the horseman still clung to his soul. Methos sighed and shook his head. “My apologies, Akakios, I’m afraid I cannot join you tonight. Perhaps tomorrow, eh?”

Doubt showed in Akakios’ eyes. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked softly.

“I’m fine, Akakios, just a little tired,” Methos reassured him. “I shall see you tomorrow?” Smiling, he clapped Akakios’ on the back before he left, feeling his friend’s thoughtful stare as he retreated. He knew Akakios didn’t believe his flimsy excuse but what was he to say… the truth?

Well, you see, Akakios, the man you’ve invited into your home and made welcome amongst your friends is in reality a cold-blooded killer who slaughtered thousands for millennia. But don’t worry; I’m a reformed man….most of the time. Methos grimaced as he ducked down a side lane and made a beeline for the nearest temple. It had been nearly fifty years since he’s deserted Kronos’ unconscious body on that dirt track, but it still felt like yesterday.

He wondered how long Kronos had waited for his return before he realised that he wasn’t coming back; a day, two days, or perhaps he knew instantaneously? Methos suspected that Kronos had noticed the dimming of anger in his eyes; it more than explained his sudden interest in Cassandra, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Cassandra…he hadn’t thought of her in months. He hoped she still lived, that Kronos hadn’t hunted her down. It seemed right that she should survive…survive him.

The anger was still there of course, the thirst for blood and power still sung through his veins, but it was not as blinding as it had been, not as consuming, and Methos was glad of it. He had spent too long in the darkness; it was time to enjoy the light again in what little way he could.

The brightly coloured temple of Athena glistened in the distance and Methos hastened his step. He did not want to suffer a challenge at the moment, he was not sure he would survive it. Oh, he would win, of course, he always did…but the quickening held dangers for him he’d rather not face. He had enough demons to deal with.

He had barely gained the steps when the other immortal’s presence caught up with him and, slowly, Methos turned, already knowing who it would be.

“Something told me this is where you’d be heading to, brother,” Kronos drawled as he placed a foot on the bottom step of the temple.

“I’m surprised you didn’t try to head me off,” Methos said quietly.

Kronos shrugged as he climbed the steps. “Perhaps it is better if we meet like this,” he said. “With Athena, goddess of war, looking over us.”

“I’m not going back, it’s over.”

Kronos smiled mirthlessly. “Didn’t you know, brother, it’s never over,” he stated. “You are what you are, you cannot change that. You are Death, and you belong at War’s side.”

“I think you’re beginning to believe too much in your own speeches, Kronos,” Methos said dryly. “Our lives are not fated, there is no destiny intertwining us; just blood, and fear, and death.”

“And glory,” added Kronos heatedly. “Do you not remember, Methos, that promise we made when we first met?”

Methos closed his eyes against the look in Kronos’ eyes. “That was a long time ago, Kronos. Things change, people change.”

“But we’re not people, Methos,” Kronos said, his hand falling on Methos’ shoulder. “We’re the monsters in the night, and no matter what you tell yourself, no matter how much you bury your true nature under words and years, that will not change.”

“I’m not going back” Methos said, knocking his hand away.

For a moment, a murderous rage showed in Kronos’s eyes, and Methos was sure that this would be the moment; that Kronos would challenge him and it would all end…one way or another.

But, somehow, Kronos reined it in, shuddering at the effort “Think on it, brother,” he said. “Remember who you are. You cannot keep this charade up forever. Find me when you’re ready.”

Methos watched silently as Kronos descended the steps, his eyes never leaving the other Immortal’s back as he strutted though the Athenian crowd. I’m never going back, never…

Los Angeles, Summer of 2003

Betwixt the light and dark,

A warrior alone shall stand;

Death shall ride his heels,

And glory shall lie in his hand.

The words echoed through Methos’ head as the light swallowed him. From the moment Giles had read the prophecy aloud in the library he had hoped he’d misunderstood it… but he guessed he didn’t deserve hope.

At last you see, brother.”

Methos felt something curdle within him. “You’re dead.”

But not dead enough.”

Methos blinked as the light changed, becoming the harsh yellow sun of a desert. He looked down at his clothing, the dirty white cloth and leathers felt exactly as they did all those millenia ago. Hastily, he wiped at his face, his heart jumpimg as blue waud came away on his hands. This could not be happening…

But it is. Turn around, brother.”

Slowly, Methos turned around and looked at the apparition…because that’s what it had to be, this wasn’t real.

Kronos grinned gleefully. “Welcome back, Methos.”

You are an illusion,” Methos spat out. “Kronos is dead.”

And so are you, welcome to the afterlife, where everybody gets what they deserve,” Kronos said with a laugh. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

For a moment, doubt swelled within him, but he hastily brushed it aside. He had never believed a word that came out of Kronos’ mouth when he was alive, he wasn’t about to start now. “I never liked these games,” he said. “If you were Kronos, you’d know that.”

“Correction, you never liked these games unless you were the one pulling the strings. That I remember quite clearly. Good work with the Highlander, by the way, you played him like a string on a fiddle.”

“It wasn’t—” Methos shook his head. “What am I doing?” he muttered. “I can’t believe I’m giving you the time of day. Do you think I’m a complete idiot? I know what you are; you’re all they bloody talked about.”

“They?” Kronos echoed. “Do you mean your student and her little scooby friends? They can’t help you, I’m afraid; the only one that can help you is yourself…with the aide of that, of course.”

Methos’s eyes narrowed as the amulet suddenly shimmered into being in his hands. “My, my, you’re very helpful all of a sudden,” he drawled.

“Tut, tut, so much suspicion,” Kronos sighed. “Can I not help an old compatriot out? I know we didn’t part too well, but—”

“Stop it,” Methos said lowly. “I’m not buying it, so don’t bother.”

“It was worth a try,” Kronos said, shrugging. “Perhaps another form would please you more…” The figure morphed, and Methos felt his heart thud in his chest as Alexa’s eyes suddenly smiled at him. “Is this better?” she asked, her voice husky as she took a step forward. “You still miss her, don’t you? Those nights in Greece when she was still well enough to laugh without pain? She had such a gentle spirit, such a zest for life. If you had taken the stone when you could have, killed Amanda when she discovered you, she’d still be alive now…”

“Change back,” Methos said hoarsely. “Change back now.”

“Don’t worry, Adam, you can leave now. All you need to do is put it on, and this will all be over. Go home, my love, it isn’t time for you to die.”

The urge to so what she said was almost too much to bear, to see her face after all these years… Gods, she was so beautiful. “You’re not her,” he ground out.

The apparition stopped in its tracks, its eyes suddenly becoming cold and alien. “Put it on.”

“Why?” he said angrily. “Why are you so keen for me to wear it. I somehow doubt your concerned for my health.”

“Because they’re mine,” she hissed. “And you can’t have them.”

“What—“ Suddenly, it struck him. “They’re here, aren’t they, the Slayer and her friends?” he asked, his voice becoming firm. “Somehow, you’ve trapped them inside this illusion.”

“You were always too bright for your own good,” the apparition snarled as it slowly faded. “Not that it’ll do you much good. Find them….if you can.”

Methos swallowed, trying to erase the dryness in his throat as he scanned the arid horizon. “I’ll never tease the Highlander about seeing dead people ever again,” he muttered disgustedly under his breath.