Los Angelus, Summer 2003
Stretching out his, Adam slouched further into his chair, wishing for the peace and quiet of the library he had left behind as the din rose yet another notch. It seemed that while Giles and he had been absent, Wolfram and Hart had been invaded by a small army of slayers who were now encamped in Angel’s office. Looking around, Methos couldn’t help but think they looked less like a force of super-strong warriors and more like the escapees from a college sorority house; if, indeed, they were old enough to attend college, some of them didn’t look old enough to attend high school.
At the head of the table, Giles was deep in conversation with Wesley and a dark-haired girl who had introduced herself as Faith before dragging Giles from his side as they’d entered the room. Warily, he eyed their bowed heads and the urgent expressions on their faces, conscious that the three were probably making decisions that could possibly have consequences for Tara and, therefore, him. He debated whether he should join them, then decided against it; he knew he was an outsider and they would probably change the subject once they aware of his presence.
His mind wandered back to his conversation with Giles in the library, wondering if he had made the right decision. Methos had not told him everything, of course. He never told anyone everything…but even the fact that Giles knew his true name made him uneasy. He was well aware that the watcher had his own agenda and obligations, and he wondered uncomfortably if he would fall foul of them. He reassured himself with the thought that Giles didn’t know about the more unsavoury parts of his past. With all the talk of apocalypses, somebody might get the wrong idea if they knew about his time as a horseman…
He eyed the milling crowd, watching as the slayers talked and laughed, munching on chips and sodas as they debated about the best lipsticks, the coolest clothes, the best wood to make a stake out of…he shook his head in a brief spurt of dark amusement, it served him right for eavesdropping. He was not sure if he would ever get used to this. It was if he’d suddenly stepped into an alternative universe in which the bad guys wore horns and the good guys popped chewing gum.
Methos suddenly felt homesick for Paris, missing Joe’s face and Amanda’s flying visits. Briefly, he dwelled on Mac’s absence and wondered if the Highlander was still alive. He had disappeared before, of course, and for very similar reasons, but he would still feel better for seeing his face. Thoughts of Ahriman rose in his mind, and he kicked himself for not asking Giles about it when he had the watcher to himself…maybe later.
Looking around the room, he noted Angel’s marked absence; he had a funny feeling it might be something to do with Tara’s slayer friend, Buffy. When Tara had told him of the couple’s relationship he hadn’t known what to think, it all sounded so preposterous. Now that he’d met the vampire, he could see how it might happen; Angel reminded him only too well of Mac, right down to the bleeding heart and over active conscience. The slayer’s relationship with the other vampire was less easy to understand. Giles had informed him that Spike was now ensouled. but the relationship Tara had told him off had happened before this event. It sounded a rather doomed affair by all accounts, but perhaps, now that he was ensouled things were different… or maybe not. Willow mentioned Buffy had a new ‘friend’ – an immortal. Yet another thing to worry about.
Which brought him right back to Tara. He worriedly wondered where she was; readily admitting to himself that he’d have been a lot less concerned if Willow and Kennedy didn’t happen to be missing as well. He could see a lot of heartache and confusion in his student’s future and no way of avoiding it. When Tara had insisted she needed to see if her friends were okay, he had tried to explain to her that time had moved on, and so had Willow. But maybe it was a lesson one had to learn for one’s self. He had…several times. He shook his head ruefully, remembering the few times he had let his heart rule his head
Giles’s voice lifted above the noise and Methos straightened in his chair as the watcher raised his hands for attention. “Okay, okay, quiet down,” he shouted over the chorus of voices, “We’ve got work to do.” The din receded as the slayers gave the watcher their full attention; their faces settling into a grim façade that made then seem older than their years. For the first time, Methos realised what Tara meant when she described the lot of a slayer. He was in a roomful of warriors, not teenagers. As quiet settled upon the room, Faith got to her feet.
“Okay, people,” she drawled, “You know the situation, Standard drill, avert an apocalypse.” The slayers laughed quietly, a few shaking their heads with a combination of amusement and world-weariness. “I know some of you don’t know what the big deal is,” she continued, “And a few of you are wondering why you were pulled away from active duty in Cleveland,” she added, nodding in the direction of a small group of grim-faced slayers standing by the doorway. “But this is a big one, nearly as bad as the mess in Sunnydale, so I’d like you all to listen up and hear what Giles has to say”
“In three days time,” Wolfram and Hart are going to try and end the world,” Giles said softly as he stood. “As some of already know, this organisation is an old one and has a lot of power at its disposal. We should expect to feel the full force of that might when the hour comes. Willow, as we speak, is trying to locate an artefact which has come to our attention through a prophecy; this artefact may, or may not, aid us in our struggle. But, as you well know, in the end it will be between you and the enemy.”
“I don’t understand,” said one young slayer, raising her hand, “Isn’t Angel supposed to be in charge of Wolfram and Hart now?” A low murmur of agreement rose in the room.
“He is nominally in charge of the Los Angeles branch, yes,” agreed Giles. “But Wolfram and Hart are a world wide organisation and even Angel’s hold on this branch is tenuous at best. He sighed, “Perhaps Wesley is in a better position to explain than I.”
Reluctantly, Wesley got to his feet. “I don’t really have much to add,” he admitted, “. Yes, technically we’re in charge but, in reality, we can barely keep our employees in check. Why Wolfram and Hart gave us this branch, I don’t know; but I do know it isn’t because they’ve suddenly seen the error of their ways. It’s my guess they needed our presence to further their own ends…or should I say Angel’s presence. We’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure out why, but we’ve not had any luck yet.”
“I don’t know about anyone else here,” a slayer observed, her Welsh accent colouring her words, “But that sounds like a mighty good reason to get the hell out of dodge. I mean, if they want you, shouldn’t you leave?”
“It’s not as simple as that,” Wesley sighed, “Yes, we could leave, but we have already deduced that whatever plans Wolfram and Hart have, they all point to this branch. Our position here gives us access to their plans that we wouldn’t otherwise have…. the prophecy that Giles just mentioned, for instance.”
Methos frowned; Wesley had just brought up a point he had missed before. With a polite cough, he raised his hand.
“Yes, what is it?” Wesley snapped irritably, frowning as Methos stood.
“I was just wondering…. how trustworthy is this prophecy?” Methos asked blandly, “After all, the only source you have for it is in Wolfram and Hart’s library. It seems to me we are making a lot of decisions based on a prophecy that might be the work of the enemy. Is it possible it’s a forgery, and we’re walking right into their hands?”
Methos had expected many things, but not the reaction he got. All of a sudden, the blood drained from Wesley’s face as he stiffened, “It’s possible,” he said softly as he slowly sat down, “More than possible…” he shook his head, as if to banish the cobwebs from his mind. “Where was I?” he muttered, “Oh yes, you make a good point, Mr Pierson, it might be a good idea to verify if this prophecy is true. Perhaps we could track down another copy.”
Methos examined Wesley’s face thoughtfully. Something important had just happened but he wasn’t exactly sure what it was. One thing was for sure, Mr Wyndham Price didn’t look too happy. In fact, he looked like a man who’d suddenly realised he’d had lost something. Suddenly, it clicked; Methos had seen that dazed expression before… on the faces of those Cassandra had bespelled with her voice.. A shiver of foreboding ran down his spine and he got to his feet, quietly leaving the room as the debate raged on behind him.
Paris, Winter of 2002
It was the way she danced which first caught Tara’s attention. She twirled in the middle of the floor as if it was a waltz rather than a techno beat blaring through the club’s sound system.
“It’s great, isn’t it?” Lucy hollered, pulling her further down the down grabbing her arm.
“Yeah, great,” Tara yelled back, smiling politely..
“See, I told you you’d like it. Now all we need is some bad beer and we’ll be good to go.”
“Oh…yeah.” Tara said absently, her eyes roaming back to the swaying figure on the dancefloor.
“Beer first, then dancing,” Lucy said, grinning as she followed Tara’s gaze. “I’ll show you all my moves!”
With a flick of her hair, the dancer revealed her face and Tara froze in her steps. Her hair had lost the curls she’d had in the old sepia tinted photos Spike kept, and the bloody red dress she wore looked like it just stepped off the cat walk rather than a Merchant Ivory film, but she’d recognise that face anywhere..
Swallowing, she jumped as Lucy tapped her on the shoulder.
“What’s up? “Lucy asked, concern showing on her face.
“A friend’s ex,” Tara said shortly.
“Bad break up?”
“Why do you ask?” Tara said, her eyes following Drusilla’s progress across the dance floor.
“Because you look like you’ve swallowed something nasty,” Lucy observed dryly, “Does she have something to do with your ex…”
“What…oh, no,” Tara said as she rose up on the balls of her feet to watch the vampire’s movement across the club. Where was she going?
“Listen, Tara, just ignore her, okay?” Lucy said, “Let’s just join the others and have a good time.”
“Actually, I think I feel a headache coming on…” Tara said lamely as she spotted Drusilla head for the toilets.
“U-huh, sure,” Lucy said, disbelief showing in her eyes, “Why don’t I believe you? Come on, Tara, this is the last time we’re all going to be together. A lot of us are flying home tomorrow, including me. Live a little!”
Tara smiled half-heartedly, “You go on ahead, I’ll just freshen up in the restroom; maybe a bit of water on face will banish the headache. I’ll join you in a few minutes,” she promised as she took a few steps towards the toilet.
“Five minutes,” Lucy called after her, “And then I’m coming after you!”
Tara threw a reassuring over her shoulder as she dodged the dancers on the dance floor. If she was quick, she might make it to Drusilla before she picked her next victim. Mentally she cursed herself for her complacency. It had been so long since she’d seen an actual vampire she had actually stopped carrying a stake with her.
A hand grasped her arm and she turned to see a smiling clubber gesturing at the dance floor. With a smile and a slight shake of the head, Tara tried to extricate herself from his grasp. Instead of letting go, however, the clubber’s grip tightened as he caught her eye. Tara’s blood froze; she had seen that look of hunger before. Drusilla wasn’t the only vampire in the club.
“Don’t struggle, girl,” the vampire hissed as he pulled her closer, “Come quietly.”
Gritting her teeth, Tara stomped hard on his foot and the vampire cursed in surprise. Wrenching her arm free, Tara stumbled off the dance floor. How could she have been so stupid; Drusilla, crazy as she was, was still a master vampire. The club was probably infested with her minions. Worriedly, she glanced in the direction Lucy had headed and spotted her deep in conversation with Mark, another of her classmates. At least she wasn’t alone.
Tara fumbled inside the lining of her coat for the pommel of her sword as she glanced over her shoulder. The vampire who had accosted her was already dancing with another girl. Evidently, he had decided it was easier to pick another victim rather than chase after her. Panic rose up inside her as she tried to decide what to do. This wasn’t Sunnydale; the clubbers wouldn’t look the other way if she dusted a vampire in the middle of the dance floor - and the goddess only knows what Drusilla was up.
Grimly, she came to a decision and turned to the toilets once more, frowning as she spotted the impatient line milling outside. “What’s wrong,” she asked the girl at the end of the line.
“Some idiot has blocked the door from the other side,” the girl said, pouting as she tottered on her high-heeled boots. Tara looked at the heavily made up face more closely; she looked the same age as Dawn.
Repressing the urge to ask if her parents knew where she was, Tara smiled encouragingly, “Do you know who’s in there,” she asked.
“How the hell do I know,” the teenager said impatiently, “I just got here!”
Repressing a sigh, Tara pressed her way to the head of the queue and tapped the shoulder of the girl who was banging loudly on the door, demanding entrance.
“What’s the hold up?” she asked.
“Someone’s barred the door,” the girl growled, “And this is the only toilet in the damned club…hey, you, open up in there…”
A scream on the dance floor cut through the girl’s rant and Tara turned to see the dancer’s flee from the dance floor. She was too late, the killing spree had already begun. Desperately, she looked around for something to break through the door. There still might be time to save whoever was trapped in the toilet with Drusilla; what would Buffy do? With a gasp of relief, her eyes rested on the fire-axe in its glass case beside the emergency exit.
Pushing through the crowd rushing for the exit, she slammed her elbow through the glass, setting off the alarm. Pulling the axe free, she waved it front of her, letting it part the way for her through the mad crush of panicked clubbers. With a deep breath, she slammed med the axe into the door, splintering the wood. Anchoring her foot against the doorway, she pried the axe out of the door and swung once more. The door shuddered but still wasn’t through. Desperate, Tara pulled the axe free, wincing as the muscles in her shoulders protested; Buffy made this kind of thing look so effortless.
A hand fell on her shoulder and Tara swung around, the axe still in her hand. “Hey easy there, Tiger,” Lucy said with a startled laugh as the axe’s edge stopped just before her nose. “What the hell are you trying to do with that thing?”
“The doors been jammed and I think someone’s trapped in there,” Tara gasped, “Stand back, I’m nearly through.”
“Shouldn’t you let the cops or the fire brigade do that,” Lucy muttered worriedly, hastily stepping out of the way as Tara raised the axe.
“No time,” Tara said, smashing the axe into the door. Suddenly the door came off the hinges and Tara froze as Drusilla threw the door to one side. “Naughty, naughty,” the vampiress murmured, her hand flashing forward to grab Tara by the neck, squeezing on her windpipe.
Distantly, Tara heard Lucy’s screams as she felt the axe slip from her fingers; white dots flashed before her eyes, she was going to pass out. Drusilla lifted her off her feet and pulled her closer, her eyes gleaming softly as she examined Tara’s face.
“I know you, she murmured softly. “I’ve seen you in my dreams…all the pretty splashes of blood, and my William tryin’ to stop ‘em….only, I don’t understand that part…He’s dead, you know,” the vampire said solemnly as she suddenly released her grip. “Bye, bye, pretty witch, I’ll see you soon, when it’s the proper time.
Tara sank to the floor, her lungs grasping for air as her eyes closed against her will, “Adam is going to kill me….”
Los Angeles, 2003
Are you sure?” Kennedy asked, leaning against Wesley’s desk as she pinned Tara with her eyes.
“It’s her,” Willow said shortly, her eyes following Kennedy’s as she briefly looked up from her laptop.
“What’s she doing?” Kennedy asked softly, “She’s just been sitting on that couch and staring at that book since I’ve arrived.
Willow shrugged, “Things,” she muttered as her drifted to the laptops screen, “A lot has happened in the last year.
“So…how do you feel,” Kennedy asked tentatively.
“I’m not sure,” Willow murmured softly, “Confused, mostly, – I’m sorry, this must be hard for you,” she added, biting her lip worriedly.
A small smile graced Kennedy’s lips. “That’s one way of putting it,” she said softly, “I just like to know where I stand, Willow; this… this is killing me. I know you love me, but I’ve always suspected you loved her more. It never really bothered me before…well, no, that’s a lie. It did bother me but it’s rather tacky to be jealous of a dead person and you’re entitled to your memories and…”
Kennedy,” Willow interrupted gently, “You’re babbling.
“Yeah, I know, you must be rubbing off on me” Kennedy said, laughing softly, “I just don’t like knowing where I stand, Willow… and you can jump in and tell me not to be silly anytime, you know...”
Yes, she could, Willow told herself, so why didn’t she? Smiling sadly, she looked away from Kennedy’s searching eyes. What could she say? Don’t be silly, Kennedy, of course I love you more. That nothing has changed? She could, she supposed, but it would be a lie…
“Willow, you still here?” Kennedy joked nervously.
“Sorry,” Willow murmured, “It’s just that I…I…”
“Don’t,” Kennedy said stiffly as she straightened up.
“Kennedy—” Willow said pleadingly.
“Later,” Kennedy said, cutting her off, “I’m going to check on how Giles and Faith are doing with the other slayers. “We’ll talk tonight – when we have some privacy,” she added, glaring pointedly at Tara as she strode out of the room.
“I’m sorry,” Tara said, looking up as the door was slammed, “This is all my fault, I should never have come back.”
“You should never have left in the first place,” Willow snapped, “Then this would never have happened - should never have happened. I still love you Tara, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t care for Kennedy. She helped me through some very dark times and….and….I owe her,” she murmured softly, “Oh Goddess, she deserves so much better than this—”
“Not interrupting again, am I?” a soft voice broke in, and Willow snorted in irritation as she noticed who stood at the door.
“Nothing that can’t wait,” Tara piped up before Willow could answer, “What’s up?”
“Don’t ask me,” Adam said as he threw himself on the couch beside Tara, “I’m just a lowly professor, remember?”
“U-huh….oh, look at that, a flying pig,” Tara joked lightly.
Willow watched the exchange warily. That Tara seemed to trust Adam Pierson was obvious, and usually Tara was an excellent judge of character…but there was something about Tara’s teacher that made her nervous. “So, how did you two meet?” she asked lightly.
“In a dark alley, of course,” Adam drawled as he slouched further into the couch.
Willow laughed politely, “No, seriously, where did you meet?”
“Um, I was being serious, actually. We DID meet in a dark alley…though I suppose we technically met at the mouth of a dark alley and not actually in one, but you get the general idea.
“And what, exactly, were you doing in the alley?” asked Willow cautiously.
“Being dead, of course.”
“Adam, stop being obtuse,” Tara chided, elbowing him sharply in the ribs.
“Ow! That hurt!!”
Tara rolled her eyes, “He was jumped by a couple of vampires while he was in Sunnydale for an job interview,” she explained, “The, when he came to, he stumbled out of the alley and bumped into me.”
“You’re taking all the fun out of this, you know,” Adam said with a smirk.
“ And you’re just trying to wind her up to see what she’ll do,” Tara snorted, exasperation showing in her voice.
“No I’m not,” he disagreed good humouredly, “I’ve already seen what she can do. I’ve had the dubious pleasure of having a stereo sound technicolor demonstration.”
“What does that mean?” Willow asked softly, straightening up slightly in her chair.
“Last year,” he informed her. “It took me a while to make the connection as you’re no longer sporting the ‘black’ look. That was quite a display you put on, Kid. There wasn’t much left of that Police station by the time you were finished with it.”
“Willow felt her face flush as the immortal calmly met her gaze “You s-s-saw that,” she stammered, shifting uncomfortably in her seat.
“Let me guess, it’s a long story,” he murmured.
“Adam, don’t push,” chided Tara. “It’s none of you business.”
“And I am none of her business,” he countered brusquely. “You need to work a bit more on your interrogation techniques, kid,” he added, turning his gaze to Willow. “You’re a little too obvious.”
“Let’s change the subject, shall we? Tara said hastily, giving Adam a meaningful glare before getting to her feet.
“Yes, lets do?” Adam said abruptly. “Any major breakthroughs?”
“Um, nothing much yet, there is a brief description of an artefact being confiscated from a monastery in France during the second world war which sounds like the light of R’Nathnor, but I can’t be positive. Apparently, the Third Reich was a major client of Wolfram and Hart’s, and they went to great lengths to cover up that fact when it became obvious Germany was going to lose. Luckily, though, the reference caught a clerk’s eye, and he made a not of it in the file dealing with the light of R’Nathnor before destroying the original transcript,” Willow explained breathlessly.
“They had just a transcription of the acquisition, not the actual object itself? Adam pressed.
“Um, yeah, why do you ask?”
“Just a hunch. The description doesn’t include the acquisition number from the original transcript by any chance?”
“Well…yes,” Willow muttered,” But I don’t see how that would help…”
A lot of the Artefacts taken by the Third Reich were returned to their former owners at the end of the war,” Adam explained, “And those they couldn’t trace back to their owner were kept in keeping until someone stepped forward to claim them. Some were sold off to various museums, but all were recorded. If this piece was taken in France, it was probably given back to the country at the end of the war so that they could deal with it.”
“So, somewhere in France, there is a record with this acquisition number on it,” Willow interrupted excitedly.
“That would be my guess, yes,” Adam said, shrugging. “But why are you bothering with all this? Giles seemed to be under the impression that you could just wave your hands and…and …you know…” Adam ended lamely.
“Magic it here?” Willow supplied, her face quirking into a smile “Europe is a big place, Mr Pierson. It could take me weeks to locate it by magic alone, but if I can narrow down the location…well, then I might be able to do something.”
“Hmmm, I see,” Adam muttered.
“No, you don’t, but that’s okay,” Willow said, laughing as she caught the expression that fled across his face. “Most people get the wiggles when I talk about this kind of thing.”
“Fancy that,” Adam muttered, earning himself another jab in the ribs from Tara.
“Behave,” Tara scolded.
“I am behaving.”
“No you’re not. You’re being... ironic!”
“No I wasn’t, I was being <1>sarcastic; there’s a difference,” Adam pointed out.
Tara threw her hands up. “I give up.”
“GOOD TO KNOW.”
The hairs on the back of Willows neck went up as she slowly looked around the room. “Oh,oh,” she murmured.
“Oh, oh, what?” Adam said, as he followed her gaze around the room. “I don’t see anything.
BACK : NEXT
FICTION : BUFFY/ANGEL
FICTION : CROSSOVER
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