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Chapter 5


Los Angelus, Summer of 2003


Feeling like a drowned cat, Methos hunched against the sudden onslaught of rain, "Where the hell did this come from?" he roared over the torrential downpour.

"Weather shaman," Fred shouted back helpfully, "Specialises in monsoons and hurricanes."

"Oh, well, that's all right then," Methos yelled sarcastically, "For a moment I thought it might be something serious!" An ominous crash came from above, and Methos looked up to see part of the roof missing, "How good is he at tornados" he asked nervously as he pressed himself against the wall.

"Pretty good!" Fred bellowed, "Just don't try to use any of the furniture as an anchor…"

"Why am I here?" Methos thought, reaching out to clutch at the doorframe as yet another piece of the roof spun into the air. "Oh, yes, because Tara is here…silly me…" He should have known Tara would volunteer to help, he supposed; he just hadn't counted on her jumping so quickly into the fray. So, instead of having a nice, quiet beer at the hotel bar, he was now holding on for dear life in the kitchen of a nice suburban bungalow - which just happened to be inhabited by a shaman who liked to dance up a storm for a living. "Well, I suppose this is better than the necromancer at the last house," he thought with a shudder.

"Can you see the others?" Fred bawled as she crept along the wall towards him.

Methos craned his neck and looked down the Hallway, "No," he hollered, "Not a trace."

"That can't be good."

Methos bit back the choice remark on the tip of his tongue; the kid didn't deserve to feel the brunt of his frustration…where the hell was Tara? He gave himself a mental slap for letting her out of his sight. This was the thanks he got for not kicking up a fuss when Angel divided them into teams to search the house; he with Fred, Tara with Giles. In hindsight, he realised he should have made more of an effort to be nice back at Wolfram and Hart; he knew damned well why he'd not been paired with Tara. They probably wanted to separate her from his bad influence….hmph.

It also occurred to him he was asked to search the kitchen because it was unlikely the shaman would be in it. He racked his mind, trying to remember which room Tara and Giles were assigned; ah yes, the first room to the right of the front door…the master bedroom, Angel had called it.

"Bloody interfering vampire," he muttered darkly, "If Tara has so much as one hair out of place…"

"What did you say?" Amy asked as she reached his side.

"I said the downpour really takes the charm out of the place," Methos yelled.

"Oh," Fred said doubtfully, "Yes…I suppose so…"

"Bloody 'ell, its raining cats and dogs in 'ere, innit?"

Methos shook his head ruefully as the ghostly vampire materialised in the room; another thing he still wasn't used to. With a cocky smirk, the vampire walked through the kitchen table and leaned against the wall beside them. "You seem to be in a spot of bother 'ere." He observed gleefully, holding out his palm. Not able to stop himself, Methos watched in fascination as the heavy droplets passed through his 'flesh'.

Fred pushed her sodden hair out of her eyes, "Spike, can you find out where Angel…"

"No!" Methos interrupted harshly, "Find Tara…the bloody vampire can look after himself!"

The blond vampire eyed him sharply through narrowed eyes. "Right you are, mate," he eventually muttered, seeming satisfied with whatever he'd seen in Methos' face. "I'll find the little Wiccan and report back…and then I'll find Peaches," he added as Fred opened her mouth. Silently he slid through the wall, popping up in the hall a few moments later.

"She's supposed to be in the room to the right of the front door," Methos yelled after him. Spike raised his hand in acknowledgment and strutted down the hallway.

"Tara is going to be okay, you know," shouted Fred above the din, "Giles will guard her with his life."

"No offence, but that doesn't exactly fill me with confidence," Methos answered grimly.

"If half the stories Angel and Wes have told me about him are true, Giles is a hell of a lot tougher than he looks, Mr Pierson," Fred said, "And if Angel didn't believe he was able to handle himself, he wouldn't have let him come along."

Methos eyed the delicate looking girl clinging onto the doorframe beside him and wondered how high Angel's standards were when it came to such things; his thoughts obviously showed on his face.

"I'm a lot tougher than I look too, Mr Pierson," she said as she struggled against the gale to pull herself to her full height.

"I'll have to take your word on that," he said with a glimmer of amusement, "And my name is Adam, Fred. People only call me Mr Pierson when I'm in trouble."

"And you don't think this qualifies as being in trouble," she shouted, a smile appearing on her face.

"You may have a point!" he yelled, ducking as a lamp zinged through the doorway.

"Found her," Spike announced as he slid through the wall, "Safe as houses, she is; her and Giles 'ave a firm grip on that window frame…found Peaches too, he was in the room between 'ere and there," he explained, gesturing at the wall behind him. "He and the watcher boy 'ave the shaman cornered. Was touch and go for a minute, what with those lightenin' bolts and all, but he seems to running out of juice…the last one just went 'pffft'…"

As if to prove his words, the rain abruptly stopped, and Methos breathed a sigh of relief as the howling gale eased. "Well, that was…interesting," he muttered as he loosened his grip on the doorway.

"That's nothing, mate," Spike said casually, "You should see a Hellmouth open."

"I'd rather not, if it's all the same to you," Methos retorted as he stalked down the hallway.

"Just sayin'" the blond vampire said conversationally as he fell into step beside him, "No need to bite my 'ead off…or should I say 'chop it off'?" he added with a sly sideways glance.

"Somebody's been talking out of school," Methos observed darkly.

"The watcher boy may 'ave mentioned sumthin' when you were looking the other way."

"I'll just bet he did," Methos said grimly. "No doubt he was also the one who suggested Tara should be paired off with someone else on this little escapade."

"Maybe…"

"Hey guys, wait for me," Fred said as she caught up with them.

"Sorry, luv," Spike said, "I was just tryin' to keep up with Mister-in-a-hurry 'ere!"

Sighing, Methos slowed his pace as he neared the other end of the hall, "Tara?"

"Here," said Tara tiredly as she appeared in the doorway, "Giles is hurt; he was hit by a piece of flying glass."

"Is it bad?" asked Methos as he stepped by her into the room.

"Flesh wound," Giles grunted, blood seeping through his finger as he clutched his side, "But I'll need stitches soon or blood loss will be a problem."

Wordlessly, Methos pulled his hand away and opened his shirt; the watcher had made a pretty accurate self-diagnosis. "I presume you guys carry a first aid kit when you go on these little jaunts," he asked over his shoulder as he probed the wound.

"It's in the van - I'll go get it," Fred volunteered, running out of the room.

"You know how to do this?" Giles asked under his breath.

Methos nodded, "I used to have a little general practice not so far from here in the eighteen hundreds," he said with a wry smile, "Sewing up wounds like this was practically routine…all those saloon brawls, you see."

The watcher smiled thinly. "Dare I ask when you got your license?"

"Trust me; you don't want to know…not until after I patch you up, anyway," Methos said dryly.

"Is everything okay in here?" Methos looked up and raised an eyebrow as he saw Angel standing in the doorway, an unconscious body casually draped over one shoulder. Seeing his expression, Angel shrugged, "What can I say, he didn't want to come quietly - you okay, Rupert?"

"Nothing a needle and thread won't fix," Giles assured him, "How many houses do we still have on the list?"

"Another six, and then we're done," Angel told him, "But I think you're out of the ring for the rest of night."

"I'm afraid I have to agree with you," Giles said, grimacing.

"Got it," Fred announced, ducking past Angel. Quickly, she snapped open the box and knelt down beside them.

Angel readjusted the shaman's weight on his shoulder "This guy is getting a little heavy, I'll meet you in the van…coming, Tara?"

"Tara will stay with me, if you don't mind," Methos said sharply, looking up from Giles's wound.

"I think we should leave that decision up to Tara, don't you?" the vampire drawled, looking at Tara expectantly.

"Actually, I think I'm going to stay here…with Giles," Tara said softly.

Angel hesitated, before nodding slowly, "I'll see you outside," he said, pulling away from the door.

"Um…I'll wait outside too," Fred said, sensing the tension in the air.

"What was that about?" Tara asked once Fred had left the room.

"I don't know what you mean," Methos muttered as he threaded a needle.

"You know exactly what I mean, Adam," Tara said, folding her arms.

"Can we talk about this later," Methos asked as he dipped the needle in alcohol, then cleaned the wound; "I'm kind of in the middle of something, here."

"Don't mind me," Giles said through gritted teeth, "Argue away; I'm in too much pain to care at the moment!"

"Be that as it may, I'd rather have a little quiet while I do this," Methos said absently as he pierced Giles's skin with the needle.

"Fine," Tara sighed, perching on the corner of the tattered bed, "But I'm not going to let this go, you know."

"Oooh, I didn't think you would," Methos drawled sarcastically.



Paris, Autumn of 2002


"Got a hunter in town; goes by the name of Davis," were the first words out of Joe's mouth as Methos propped his elbows on the bar.

Methos glanced over his shoulder to see if Tara could hear. Seeing that she'd snagged a table near the stage, he turned to look at Joe speculatively. "Is he looking for anyone in particular," he murmured.

"He's the kind who goes for a type, not a particular person," Joe said lowly as he opened a bottle of Methos' favourite beer and placed it in front of him.

"The 'older' type?" Methos asked, raising an eyebrow.

Joe shook his head, "The younger type," he muttered darkly, jerking his head in Tara's direction.

"I see," Methos said, drawing in a breath, "She's not ready for it, you know."

"I know," Joe sighed, "Which is why I'm telling you," he added, giving him a meaningful look."

"Point taken," Methos said wryly, "I don't suppose you have an address - or are you wearing your watcher hat today?"

"I wouldn't have mentioned it if I was, would I have?" Joe said softly as he slid a piece of paper over the counter, "His watcher reported in this morning. Apparently he followed a certain young woman from her class today…right to her door - your door. You'd better work fast; this guy doesn't hang around once he's acquired a target."

"Thanks, Joe," Methos murmured as he pocketed the address, "I owe you for this."

Joe shrugged, "What can I say; I've kinda grown attached to the kid. Hell, she even likes my music - want me to keep her busy while you slip out?"

"That would probably be for the best," Methos agreed, "Just don't tell her what I'm up to…"

"I think I've already figured that one out for myself," Joe said dryly as he opened a bottle of coke and grabbed a glass off the shelf, "I'll tell her Amanda is in one of her scrapes and you're going to bail her out, or something. She's heard enough stories of Amanda's escapades to believe it!"

"And most of them from Amanda," added Methos with a grin, "I'll be back as soon as I can."

"You'd better be," Joe murmured with a small smile, "I really don't want to tell Tara her teacher's dead."

"Yeah, that would be a pain in the neck, wouldn't it?"

Joe groaned. "Oh man, that was bad. "

"Do you think I need to work on my routine?" Methos asked innocently.

"Just don't give up the day job, whatever you do!" Joe said with a smirk.

With a wordless smile, Methos slid away from the counter, watching Joe intercept Tara out of the corner of his eye as he slipped out the door. Once outside, he headed for his car and jumped in. He took the piece of paper from his pocket and crumpled it the moment he memorized the address, it was a ten minute drive. Starting the engine, he pulled out of the lane and onto the main street. He figured he had an hour, maybe two, before Tara began to wonder.

He tapped his fingers on the wheel as went through his options. If he targeted new immortals, as Joe said, he'll probably keep a wary eye out for Tara's teacher…which would be him. Even the nastier immortals don't react well when their students are hunted; and part of the thrill for Davis probably was outmanoeuvring the young immortal's mentor. No, he was unlikely to take him by surprise, so he wouldn't bother trying.

He felt Davis's presence even before he got out of the car, the low hum raising the hairs on the back of his neck. Switching off the engine, he got out and eyed the unlit path which wound its way through the substantial and overgrown front garden. There was a strong possibility he would be ambushed on his way to the door. Quickly, Methos scanned the street for onlookers and, satisfied he was alone, gently slid his sword out of its scabbard as he approached the gate.

With a low, whining creak, the gate swung open and Methos winced at the noise; so much for the silent approach. Warily, he crept down the lane, eyeing each shrub and tree as he passed it. Nothing moved, but that was no guarantee Davis wasn't there.

He was a few steps from the door when he heard it, a low rustle to his left. Spinning on his heels, he raised his sword just in time to block the blade. "Davis, I presume," he bit out.

"You have me at a disadvantage," the immortal said.

"Yes, I do, don't I? Methos agreed, knocking Davis's blade aside as he jumped away from the door. The last thing he wanted was to fight with his back against a wall.

Davis obviously had the same thought, as he quickly sidestepped into the lawn. "Her teacher, I suppose," he asked rhetorically.

"Bright boy," Methos muttered, springing forward.

The night air filled with the sound of steel against steel as they both fought to gain the upper hand. Methos had a slight advantage in technique, but Davis was a large man with a lot of power behind his blows. "If this had been a fight between Davis and Tara, she'd be dead by now," Methos thought grimly.

Realising Davis was hoping to wear him down with his superior strength, Methos changed tactics and went on the offensive; picking up speed as he pressed his attack. Taken aback by Methos' sudden onslaught, the immortal backed away as he fought to parry the quick blur of Methos' blade. At last, Davis faltered, and Methos slashed at his chest. A thin line of blood seeped through Davis's shirt as he doubled over, clutching at the wound instinctively. Without hesitation, Methos raised his sword over the immortals head and struck.

With a sickening thud, the head fell to the ground, Davis's body joining it a moment later. Grimly, Methos plunged the tip of his sword into the grass and braced himself for the quickening…



Los Angelus, 2003


Weary to the bone, Tara crawled out the side-doors of the van and blinked in the light of the new dawn. Turning around, she offered her arm to Giles, who gratefully took it. "Bloody hell, I haven't been this knocked about since…well…Sunnydale," Giles muttered, "I never thought I'd be so glad to see the front door of Wolfram and Hart."

"Cheer up, you'll be back to your old hate/hate relationship with this unhallowed pile of bricks before the day is out," her teacher said as he jumped out after them and eyed the building.

Aren't you going to stay in the van and help them unload the captives in the garage?" Tara asked pointedly.

"Now why would I do that?" Adam asked amiably. "They seem to have everything covered. Besides, I thought you might need some help assisting Giles to the elevator."

Tara eyed the bland expression on Adam's face suspiciously but decided to let it drop. He had been acting oddly all night, Tara realised, but it got worse after the incident with the weather shaman. Tara shook her head; she was too tired to worry about it now, she could barely summon the energy to put one foot in front of the other. They entered the lobby, attracting attention because of their bedraggled state. Only in Wolfram and Hart could a seven foot, horned demon walk in through the door without attracting a second glance…but if it wore dirty shoes…

She didn't know what attracted her attention to the stunning brunette sitting on the lobby couch, maybe it was the look of absolute horror on her face, or maybe it was her absolute stillness; but when Giles looked up and muttered the woman's name, she was curiously unsurprised.

"Oh Tara," Giles murmured as they collectively came to a halt inside the doorway. "I'm so sorry. They were supposed to take a later flight…I thought I would have time to prepare her…and I totally forgot she would bring Kennedy with her; how utterly stupid of me..."

"It's okay," Tara interrupted gently, drawing a wobbly breath as Kennedy slowly rose from her seat, "I can…handle this. Folding her trembling hands to steady them, she stepped forward to meet Willow's new lover.

"You are who I think you are, aren't you?" Kennedy asked bluntly. "Tara?" Silently, Tara nodded, and Kennedy crossed her arms. "Well, you're not a vampire, and you're obviously not dead, so…what the hell are you?" Helplessly, Tara looked at Adam, her eyes pleading for help."

"She's human," Adam said calmly, "With a few extra quirks…much like you, from what I understand."

The slayer bristled. "Is that so? As far as I know, Slayers don't rise from the dead….well, not often, anyway," she muttered, belatedly remembering Buffy's history.

"Kennedy, she's human," Giles sighed, "Relax, take a deep breath."

The tension eased from Kennedy's shoulders as Giles spoke. "How did you expect me to react?" she said to the watcher "I mean, she's supposedly Willow's dead lover, returned from the grave. Excuse me if I'm not jumping for joy…no offence." She added, remembering Tara's presence.

Tara shrugged as she shifted uncomfortably on her feet. "Is she here?" she asked quietly.

"She's here," Kennedy admitted, her expression suspicious. "So…why are you here? Did you think you could just to stroll in here, after letting her think you were dead for an entire year, and pick up where you left off?

"It's not like that!" Tara protested, "They were…reasons."

"Reasons?" Kennedy growled, anger flashing in her eyes. "That's all you can say? You left her just when she needed you the most. Do you know what happened; do you know what she did-"

"Kennedy, that's enough!" Giles said, cutting her off.

"Giles, what is she talking about?" Tara asked hoarsely, panicking as all the various scenarios ran through her mind.

"It can wait, Tara," Giles said firmly.

"And how do figure that, Giles?" Kennedy asked sarcastically, "She's here, in the building. Any moment now, Willow's going to walk in here and find her standing here, alive and whole. How do you think she's going to react? Shestill has nightmares about what she did…." Kennedy paused to draw in a deep breath. "Sorry," she sighed, regaining some of her poise, "This is just a lot to take in."

"It can't be helped, Kennedy," Giles said softly, "What's done is done. We'll deal with it as it comes…and so will Willow."

A familiar laugh echoed though the lobby and, slowly, Tara looked up. Across the lobby, Willow's hair glinted under the electric light as she tilted her head up to look at Xander, who was walking by her side. Stifling the urge to run, Tara stood her ground as her heart drummed in her chest. Guilt flooded through her as she realised how happy Willow looked as she gossiped with her best friend. Once again, she questioned her decision to re-enter Willows life; was she being selfish? Yes, she was, Tara admitted to herself, but she still couldn't find the courage to walk away.

It was Xander who noticed her first, his jaw dropping as he came to a dead stop. Slowly, Willow followed his gaze, her hand reaching out blindly to her friend as she looked into Tara's eyes, her mouth moving soundlessly as her legs buckled beneath her. Time seemed to trickle to a stop. "I thought you were dead." Willow's finally said, not taking her eyes off Tara as Xander helped her to the couch.

Impulsively, Tara took a step forward, and Willow shrank back, her stricken eyes brimming with tears. "I killed him, you know," she whispered, her lips quivering. "He shot you, so I killed him….oh goddess, what have I done?





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