Los Angeles, Summer 2003
Tara stared at Amanda’s distraught face as she tried to make sense of it. “I don’t understand,” she eventually said. “What has Adam got to do with the prophecy, what’s happened to him?”
“I don’t know, darling,” Amanda said wearily. “I wish I did.”
“What do you mean you don’t know? You must know. You gave him the amulet. You practically threw it at him, for goddess’ sake! What aren’t you telling me, Amanda?”
“Tara, honey, calm down; you’re shouting,” Willow said worriedly, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“Calm down?” Tara said. “You don’t get it, do you? This is my fault. I was the one who convinced him to come here. I’m the reason he stayed, and I’m the person who said you should show the amulet to Amanda and I…I…” Tara slumped back into her chair. “It’s all my fault, I should never have come here.”
“No,” Willow said lowly. “Don’t ever say that. Don’t you know how much I missed you, how much I hurt when I thought you died. Don’t ever say that coming back was a mistake. If anything, the only mistake you made was leaving in the first place!”
Wesley coughed uncomfortably. “Perhaps Amanda could shed some light on the matter by telling us why she was so keen to examine the amulet in the first place?” he suggested.
Amanda shifted in her chair. “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
Tara felt Willow squeezed her shoulder reassuringly. “Why not?”
“Because I promised him I wouldn’t,” Amanda admitted. “He told me in confidence.”
“Who? Adam?” Tara asked, surprised. Amanda nodded. “Amanda, you’ve got to tell us what he told you,. Surely it doesn’t matter now, his life is in danger.”
“I’m sorry, Tara, but I can’t,” Amanda sighed. “It does matter to him, you see, and I can’t betray that.”
“But surely it can’t be that bad?” Tara snorted. “I mean, I already know about Cassandra, how much worse can it be?”
Amanda winced. “You’ve got to understand, darling, that Adam…Adam has been around for some time, and he’s made some choices he shouldn’t have; things he’d rather forget.
“Of course,” Giles said suddenly, grabbing the sheet the prophecy was written on. Why didn’t I see it before? Damn it, I’ve been so blind.”
“Why don’t let us in on your little epiphany, Giles,” Faith drawled. “Coz, I gotta admit, I’m still crawling around in the dark here.”
“That makes two of us,” Xander added.
Giles frowned. “I’m afraid I find myself in the same position as Amanda,” he said. “Although I now realise he didn’t tell me everything; all things considered, I suppose I can understand. It’s not exactly something you advertise on your résumé.”
“How much did he tell you?” Amanda asked, curiosity blatantly showing in her voice.
Enough for me to understand why the prophecy relates to him,” Giles said. “I just didn’t get the connection before because I was under the impression they were all dead…we had certain reports out of Bordeaux, a few years back, that indicated this?”
Amanda made a wry face. “You were three quarters right,” she said.
“Ah?” echoed Tara, folding her arms as Amanda and Giles shared a look. “Would someone care to fill me in?”
“I think Amanda is right, Tara,” Giles said. “It’s perhaps best if Adam tells you himself.”
“Well that might be little difficult, Giles,” Tara said heatedly. “In case you haven’t noticed, he’s just been swallowed by an amulet!”
“Nevertheless, I promised Adam that I would keep what he told me in confidence.”
Tara glared at him. “And what about the prophecy, are we going to ignore it just because you’ve decided that keeping you word to Adam is too important?” She rounded on Amanda. “And what about you?” she demanded. “Are you just going to sit there and do nothing?”
“Tara, even if we told you why Adam is important to the prophecy, it still wouldn’t change anything,” Giles interrupted. “Adam’s survival is totally in his hands, we cannot help him.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means we should concentrate on that which we can change, Tara,” he said softly. “Rather than worry about what we cannot.”
“Amanda,” Tara said tersely. “Please tell me you don’t agree with him?”
Amanda sighed. “I’m no expert on this kind of thing, Tara,” she said. “But I do know Adam; and there is one thing you can be sure of, he’s the consummate survivor. If there is a way he can save himself, you can be certain he will find it.”
“Yo, Tara,” Faith broke in. “I appreciate you’re worried about the guy, but if Giles says there’s nothing we can do for him, then I believe him. The Watcher is rarely wrong about this kinda thing.”
“She’s right, Tara,” Willow murmured as Tara opened her mouth to protest.
“Right, that’s settled,” Faith said, getting to her feet. “We let Adam take care of himself, and deal with we’ve got in hand. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m itching to have a little chat with Arturo.”
“I’ll go with you,” Tara said, hastily getting to her feet.
Faith eyed her dubiously. “I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. You’re a little bit…annoyed at the moment.”
“ Don’t worry, I promise not to chop his head off,” Tara said dryly. “I want answers as much as you do.”
“I’ll take you’re word for it” Faith said, grinning. “Come on, let’s go and scare the living daylights out of this guy.”
Paris, Spring of 2003
Methos cursed under his breath as he felt the approaching presence of another immortal. He’d just got off the phone with Tara, and he knew Amanda was in London so, chances were, he’d stumbled across trouble.
He studied the crowd warily, trying to pick the immortal out as he hastened down the street. If he was lucky, he might be able to give them the slip. He swiftly turned the corner and grimaced as he realised that the other Immortal was still within range; it wasn’t a coincidence, he was being followed.
“Damn it, as if I don’t have enough on my plate,” he muttered, as he went through his options. Should he stand and fight? Now that would really ruin his day. He had become less and less fond of quickenings as the years went on, and cleaning up afterwards held even less appeal. The local gendarmes tended to get all hot under the collar when they started finding headless bodies in the alleys.
“Holy ground then,” he thought, as he looked around and tried to remember where the nearest church was. A spire caught his eye, and he headed for it, ignoring the curious glances he got as he plunged through the throng.
The church came into view, and Methos breathed a sigh of relief as he spotted the churchyard. He never liked being stuck inside the four walls of a church. Too many chances someone would overhear something they shouldn’t.
He stepped inside the wall and felt the tension go out of him as the familiar comfort of holy ground settled on him and he strolled over to a bench and waited. Whoever the Immortal was, they were still in the vicinity, which meant they probably wanted to chat. “As long as it doesn’t involve a time and place,” he thought grimly. “I’m really not in the mood.”
A figure stepped onto the path, and Methos did a double take as he realised who it was. “Cassandra,” he said, getting to his feet.
“Methos,” she said flatly. “Relax, I’m not after your head. Your word might not be worth much, but mine is.”
Methos winced at the memory. “I see.”
“We need to talk,” she said, sitting on the bench stiffly.
“I thought we didn’t have anything left to talk about,” Methos said simply.
“This is not about Bordeaux,” Cassandra said abruptly. “I’m here about your student.”
Methos’s eyes narrowed. “And why are you interested in her?”
Cassandra raised an eyebrow. “Worried about her safety, are we?” she asked dryly. “Well, that’s good I suppose. Perhaps there was an element of truth in what Duncan said after all. “ She sighed wearily as she studied his blank face. “Your student is safe from me, Methos; I prefer to deal with those who have transgressed against me in person. Using another as pawn is more your style.”
“I deserve that, I suppose,” Methos drawled, relaxing. “So what is it you want to talk about?”
Cassandra shivered. “I’ve had a vision,” she admitted. “She’s in great danger, Methos.”
“And what, you ran all the way here to tell me this?” asked Methos. “Forgive me, Cassandra, but somehow I can’t make myself believe you’re that concerned about my student.”
Not everything is about you, Methos,” Cassandra said sharply. “Sometimes the greater good has to be served.”
“And what has the greater good to do with Tara, might I ask?” he said, folding his arms.
“Charming as ever, I see,” she said dryly. “How long has she been your student now…eight, nine months?
“I see you’ve been keeping track of me.”
Cassandra smirked. “I’m sure you’ve been repaying the compliment.”
Methos shrugged, not bothering to deny it. “What has the amount of time I’ve had Tara as a student to do with anything?”
“For a man who has been around a considerable amount of time, you can be remarkably blind sometimes,” Cassandra muttered. “I presume the attacks have already started?”
Methos’ breath caught in his throat. “What do know about those?”
“They want her dead, Methos, and I suspect they want you dead too. It must not be allowed to happen.”
“Isn’t this the speech you usually give MacLeod?”
Cassandra’s mouth fell into a thin line. “Fine, don’t believe me,” she said, rising to her feet. “But at least you can’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Wait, Cassandra,” Methos caught himself before he grabbed her arm.. “Let’s start this again, shall we? You were saying that Tara was in danger…?”
Cassandra shied back, obviously noticing the aborted move. “She needs to survive, Methos,” Cassandra said, not meeting his eyes. “And although I don’t approve of the concept of you taking on a student, even I have to admit that surviving is something you do very well.”
“What is it you’re not telling me, Cassandra?” he asked, as he studied her shuttered expression
Her eyes caught his, and he could see the indecision in her eyes. “Tell me, Methos, do you believe in fate?”
“I think you already know the answer to that one,” he said quietly.
“Yes, I suppose so,” She shrugged. “Do yourself a favour, horseman, hold on tight to your disbelief. It might just save your life…and hers.”
Silently, Methos watched her leave. Nearly three thousand years had passed, and the wounds had still not healed; for either of them. “Get a grip, old man,” he thought grimly. “This is not a time to become maudlin.”
Los Angeles, Summer of 2003
“Why is it that this illusion doesn’t include a horse,” Methos thought discontentedly as he climbed. “You’d have thought they would have gone for the full ensemble.” He peered across the empty landscape behind him; the only forms of life he could see were a few bedraggled tufts of scrub hugging the hill. If Tara’s friends were here then they were staying out of sight. “And I’m not too sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.”
He looked down at his clothing and flinched. Who ever this First Evil was, it knew only too well what buttons to push. It was disconcerting, to say the least, “Don’t think about it, concentrate on getting to the ridge.”
But it was hard to take his own advice, and his mind whirled as he scrambled upward. From what he remembered, they were nearly a dozen people captured here, including the vampiric Boy Scout and Willow’s girlfriend.
Methos frowned; now there was a complication. She hadn’t seemed too happy with Tara’s sudden comeback from the dead, not that he could blame her, he supposed. And then there was Willow; he didn’t know what to make of her. One moment she was an insecure young woman, the next…well, his opinion didn’t count, he supposed.
.”I hope you know what you’re doing, kid,” he muttered under his breath, knowing as he said it that he was avoiding the point. Love didn’t conquer all, it just discretely ignored reality, and Tara was just as much as a sucker for it as anyone else. Maybe even more so, he had a funny feeling that love didn’t play a very big part in her life until Willow came along. Somebody was going to get hurt, he just hoped it wasn’t going to be his student.
At last, he gained the ridge and he squinted against the sun to see what lay ahead. It didn’t look good. Methos sighed, and wondered if it was possible to die of thirst in an illusion; death by dehydration wasn’t pleasant.
A howl echoed in the distance and Methos tried to track the sound. Where there is life, there is sustenance. At least he hoped so; who knew how things worked here. On the upside, at least he hadn’t had any more impromptu visits from the dead. “Don’t think about that.”
A low growl rumbled, and the hairs on the back of Methos’s neck rose as he realised it had come from behind him. Slowly, he turned, reaching for the sword on his back and sliding it free. It felt strange to feel the coarse bindings of its hilt in his hand, he hadn’t held this sword in a very long time and the weight felt heavy in his hand. He would have given anything for the reassuring steel of his Ivanhoe.
He readjusted to the weight of the bronze blade as he tried to pinpoint the growl and a movement caught the corner of his eye. He rolled on instinct, and the creature hurled through the air above him, landing lightly on its feet.
Methos slowly got to his feet, careful to keep the sword between him and his attacker as he tried to figure out what it was. It was built like a man, but had claws and a strange ridge formation covered its entire face, it’s eyes looked vaguely feline but, despite the myths, cats don’t look at their prey with quite the same hunger and intelligence as this creature did. It wasn’t armed, but with claws like that, who needed a weapon? Nevertheless, Methos relaxed a bit. Claws would hurt, but they wouldn’t kill him. Not permanently, anyway.
The creature snarled, and Methos’s eyes narrowed, why wasn’t it attacking? The sound of a dislodged rock came from behind him and suddenly Methos understood.
There was something behind him.
He dodged to the side, barely getting out of the way as it blurred past him and leapt at the creature. Methos watched in amazement as they fell to the ground in a heap, snarling at each other. Where the hell did she come from?
She was covered in paint and rags, her hair in ratty tails, but there was something vaguely familiar about her. Where had he seen that face before? He wracked his brains as he watched the fight unfold before him. They had both gained their feet and were now circling each other. He noted the sharpened piece of wood in her hand and creature’s elongated fangs as it snarled; this would not be pretty. “Think, man, thing, where have you seen that face before?”
Suddenly he realised how he recognised the face, the photo that Tara kept in her pocket book…Buffy? He winced as the creature pinned her to the ground; slayer or no slayer, she was taking quite a beating.
“I don’t believe I’m about to do this?” Methos muttered under his breath as he carefully moved behind the creature, hoping that it was too distracted to notice. He needn’t have worried; the demon only had eyes for the slayer. He brought the hilt of the sword up and struck it across the head.
The creature slumped, and the slayer quickly threw him off her, reaching for the stake she’d dropped on the ground. Methos hastily stepped back, not wanting to get caught in the middle, but then stumbled as the creature’s ridges fell away, revealing human features.
“Angel? What the hell is going on here?”
He didn’t have time to think, as he noticed that the slayer didn’t seem to care that the demons features had changed. Stake in hand, she went for the kill, and Methos threw himself at her, knocking her out of the way. “I’m getting too old for this.”
The slayer snarled into his face and Methos resisted the urge to snarl back. He looked into her eyes and felt a moment of foreboding. Somehow, he didn’t think Buffy Summers was at home.
Suddenly, he was flying through the air, and he grunted as he hit the ground, his sword flying from his hands. He had forgotten about the super strength, bad mistake.
“You interrupted my kill,” she hissed, as she stalked towards him.
“So sorry about that. Believe me, it won’t happen again,” Methos muttered, as he glanced in the direction of his sword, which had fallen several feet away.
“No, it won’t.”
“Oh dear, I don’t like the sound of that,” he thought as he tried to think of something he could use as a weapon. Tara’s friend, be damned; he wasn’t going to suffer a stake through the heart for anyone.
But it was too late; the Slayer pounced on him and slammed him back into the ground. “You shall die,” she told him flatly, laying her hand firmly on his chest.
“Yeah, I get that a lot,” Methos muttered, wincing as she raised the stake. Abruptly, the Slayer froze, her eyes widening as she clutched at his chest. Methos followed her eyes and suddenly realised what she’d found; the amulet.
And the bloody thing was glowing again.
“What…” the Slayer blinked, the menace leaking away from her eyes. “Who are you?”
Methos laughed, relief flooding through him. “Buffy Summers, I presume?”
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