Deja Vu Jennifer Campbell Thanks to my sister Katie, who helped me through thefiner details of Buffy characterizations and offered some great suggestions. Couldn't do it without you, Kate. The characters of Methos, Joe Dawson, Angel, Buffy, Spike and Dru don't belong to me. I promise to return them all to their respective owners no worse for wear when I'm done. I make no money off this, unfortunately. Please keep in mind while reading this that at the time I wrote "Deja Vu," the Buffy Powers That Be had not yet explained much about Angel's past: When he was cursed, who he sired directly, what he was up to between the time when he was cursed to when he met Buffy. Based on all the things Joss shared with us later, some of the facts in this story are woefully out of date. =============================== Methos woke as lamps lining the passenger cabin of the airplane switched on, flooding his closed eyelids with light. He groggily opened his eyes and looked around at the other passengers preparing to disembark. Once again, he had managed to black out most of the unpleasantness of flying by sleeping through 90 percent of it. A stewardess stood at the cabin's head and spoke into the intercom. "Let me be the first to welcome you to Sunnydale. We will be disembarking in a few minutes, but please remain seated with your seat belt on until the seat-belt sign turns off ..." As her speech turned to the normal airplane drabble, Methos turned his thoughts to more important matters, like what to do next. A hotel room is in order, I suppose. But first, to find Joe and buy a good, stiff drink, he thought. Bloody watchers. Why did they have to choose a city on the other side of the world for their training session? It's not like I need training anyway. But Methos knew why he had come, and why the watchers chose Sunnydale for their happy weekend getaway. Despite Methos' extensive experience with following immortals -- or avoiding them -- Adam Pierson lacked the same advantage. And, as his superiors had so forcefully pointed out, Adam might someday have to cover for a field agent and needed proper training. So, here he was, a watcher researcher forced into a weekend retreat in a city known for its unusually large population of immortals. Perfect for Adam; bad news for Methos. He was more likely to find himself unmasked as an immortal here than in any other city on earth. And MacLeod says I don't take enough risks, he thought ruefully as he stood and unloaded his bag from the overhead compartment. At least he had Joe to turn to in an emergency. The watchers had talked the poor guy into helping run the funhouse -- 30 untrained researchers chasing immortals around Sunnydale with only a handful of veterans to keep them in line. Methos knew no matter how bad his own situation got, he wouldn't exchange places with Joe for anything short of losing his head. Because of the late hour, the terminal was almost empty. Methos slung his bag over one shoulder, claimed his sword from baggage check with surprisingly little hassle and left the terminal in search of a taxi. When he found none, he settled for a bus that would take him within a few blocks of the hotel. He watched the nght-time scenery pass by for the next few miles. Few people walked the streets, and those who braved the warm night glanced behind them frequently, as though afraid of being followed by someone, or something. Sunnydale was not a city living in peace. I left Palm Beach for this. Bloody watchers. Methos continued to stare out his window until he saw his hotel on a side street, and he got off. The bus had not driven one block away when he felt a presence, but the sensation prickling up his spine didn't originate with an immortal. It felt ... different. Methos ducked into an alley, drew his sword and waited. A few moments later, the culprit came into view at the alley's mouth, stopped and looked around. Methos loosened his grip on the sword's hilt as he recognized the figure. This was a man he hadn't seen since the Civil War and one he'd often thought about. Maybe this trip would not be a total loss if he could catch up with an old friend. In an unheard-of display of blind trust, he called out only after a moment's debate. "Angel. Over here." The figure turned, revealing his pale skin and burning eyes. A slow smile crept across Angel's face, and he laughed in delight, sending a chill down Methos' back. I think I've made a mistake, Methos thought. He looked around the alley to check for exits and found that his choice of battlefield was not ideal. It was a dead-end, and Angel blocked the only way out. "Now this is interesting," Angel said, inching toward Methos. "I do believe I am looking at the good Doctor Adams, but that's impossible, isn't it? Doctor Adams was alive a century ago and should be dead. But here you are." Angel laughed again, and his eyes burned brighter. Some instinct told Methos that although this appeared to be his friend, the man had changed. This was not the human-like vampire he had known. This was a souless creature who would kill Methos without hesitation. Methos mourned for his friend when he understood the truth: The curse was broken. Terror threatened to overwhelm the immortal as he realized he was staring into the eyes of a demon, but he sternly pushed his emotions down and raised his sword to fighting stance. Angel stopped his slow advance; his eyes flicked to the weapon, gleaming dully under the city lights. Angel shook his head scoldingly. "Now, doctor, is that any way to treat an old friend?" "You are not my friend," Methos replied quietly. "Oh, I'm hurt," Angel said, his tone dripping with sarcasm. "Well, actually, I'm not. And I hope that frog-sticker is ready for me because I am kinda hungry, and you look very appetizing." "Then come and die," Methos said. Angel launched himself at Methos feet first, ripping the sword from the immortal's hands with one powerful kick. He landed behind Methos and raised his arm to grab his opponent from behind. Methos had no time hesitate. He ducked under the vampire's arms, summersaulted to his sword, which had flown across the alley and landed on a trash heap, and rolled to his feet, ready for the next attack. He had underestimated the vampire's strength and speed, but it would not happen again. Angel smiled and clapped. "Very good, doctor. What did they teach you in medical school, anyway?" "We don't have to do this, Angel," Methos said. "Walk away." "Um, let me think for a moment. No." Methos was ready for Angel's attack this time and slashed his sword down the vampire's shoulder. Taking advantage of Angel's surprise, he immediately followed with a cut across the chest, drawing a thin line of blood. Angel growled and swung at Methos with his uninjured arm, smashing the immortal against a brick wall like a rag doll. Methos quickly assessed his own damage -- two broken ribs and a twinge in his left wrist -- and noted that Angel was causing more damage than he was. If he hung around here much longer, the vampire would turn him into his next feast. Methos struggled to his feet, preparing to make a run for the street, when he heard a footstep at the alley's mouth. He and Angel both turned to see a teen-age girl standing in fighting stance, a wooden stake in one hand. "Hello, lover," she said. "Well, well, if it isn't the slayer," Angel said. "You're timing could have been better, Buffy. The doctor and I were catching up on old times, and you know how discourteous it is to break up a reunion between friends." Buffy glanced toward Methos. "Get out of here," she said. Methos didn't need to be told twice. It was obvious this girl knew how to fight a vampire. He gave Angel one last glance and walked quickly to the street. "Leaving so soon, doctor?" Methos looked back at Angel, trapped in the alley and looking somewhat like a cornered, rabid dog. He knew that an animal with nothing left to lose would become desperate, and desperation was dangerous. He couldn't just leave this girl to face him alone. MacLeod, you and your boy- scout morals are rubbing off too much for safety's sake. Methos rejoined the girl, and she looked at him as though he were crazy. "Are you hard of hearing? I told you to leave." Angel laughed. "You don't seem to realize, Buffy, that the good doctor has an overblown sense of honor, and it's gotten worse over the years." Buffy looked from Angel to Methos, and Methos shrugged. "So, he's a bad judge of character. One of the follies of youth." Buffy nodded slightly. "Sure. Whatever. You wanna help, fine, but let's do it, OK?" Methos nodded, and the two slowly advanced toward Angel, who backed farther into the alley until he was flat against the wall. "Two against one, not very sporting." "Ask me if I care," Buffy said. "I can see you don't. Well, I'd love to stay and chat, but I have business elsewhere." He looked directly at Methos with his burning gaze. "Another time, doctor." The vampire faced the wall and began climbing it's sheer face, and memories of another Angel came to Methos as he watched. That incredible strength had once destroyed an evil being -- and almost caused Methos' death. Spike had been so angry... After Angel vanished over the top of a tall building, Buffy slid the wooden stake into her coat sleeve and glared at Methos. "OK, what gives? How do you know Angel?" Methos sheathed his sword under his trench coat and headed for the street. "It's a long story." "I've got the time." He turned to look at her -- this killer in the body of a teen-ager. Like so many people, she was more than what she seemed. What had Angel called her? The slayer? She killed demons with wooden stakes and probably would fare better against Angel than he did. But that didn't matter. Whatever she was, she could never handle the truth. "I don't," he answered, and turned away, leaving her alone in the alley. =============================== "Vampires? That's just a story." "Your mouth is hanging open, Joe." "It's just hard to believe. Are you sure about what you saw? I mean, that guy could have just been some wacko off the street. There are a lot of those in Sunnydale." "Why is this so hard for you to accept?" Methos gulped from his beer bottle, sighed and leaned across the table. "Look, Joe, if there is such a thing as immortals, why not vampires?" "OK, well, what about the girl?" "What about her?" "A vampire slayer? Come on, Methos. It's crazy." This is getting annoying very quickly. Stubborn and pig-headed -- that's what you are, Joe Dawson. "If there are vampires, then why not a vampire slayer? All good stories are based on reality, and this one just happens to be closer to the truth than most. Angel is a vampire. Buffy is a vampire slayer. And somehow I've managed to tangle myself in a situation that is none of my business to be involved in." "You got that right," Joe said. He drained his glass and signaled the waitress for another drink. Joe wasn't taking this well. Methos didn't understand why a man who spent his life watching immortals was so bent out of shape when he found out that there was more than one type of immortal. Maybe he was just disappointed to discover he didn't have the monopoly on supernatural beings. I suppose now would be a bad time to bring up leprechauns and witches. "All right, Methos, let's say that you're right and there are vampires in Sunnydale. What's next?" Methos finished his beer right as the waitress brought Joe's drink. He smiled at her in his most charming manner and shook his empty bottle. "Would you be so kind as to bring me another one of these?" She smiled as she took his bottle. "No problem, cutie." As the waitress walked away, she swayed her hips and glanced over her shoulder at Methos. He grinned broadly. "Now that is an attractive woman. Do you think she likes me?" The display had no effect on Joe, who had seen Methos' barroom antics before. "Don't change the subject." Joe just doesn't know when to leave it alone. Methos couldn't stop an edge of annoyance from creeping into his response. "The truth? I don't know what happens next. With any luck, I avoid Angel and Buffy and the whole mess, and then I go back to Paris." "That's it?" "What do you want? I'm not going to hunt down Angel just so he can turn me into a blood cocktail. He's not my problem anymore." The waitress returned with his beer and a suggestive smile. Methos smiled back, but he really wasn't in the mood to pursue any conquests tonight. Too much had happened, and he just wanted to rest. Bloody vampires. "Thanks," he said dismissively. She gave him a confused look and went on to the next table. "So," Joe said, sipping from his glass, "exactly what was it between you and Angel? Were you friends?" Methos looked around the bar and remembered another saloon in New Orleans 130 years ago. He remembered the young-seeming man sitting at the corner table, in the dark, suffering from the guilt of past crimes he had never had the power to prevent. "Yeah. He was a good friend. And I'm sorry he's gone." =============================== New Orleans, July 1863 Dr. Benjamin Adams entered the saloon and walked straight to the bar. He needed a drink, and he needed it fast. Losing patients was never easy, especially when he didn't know what ailed them in the first place. His mind methodically worked its way through all he'd read about the human body, sickness and cure, trying to find a logical answer, but there was none. I really need a drink. The bartender, Charles, looked up from wiping the bar as Benjamin entered. He filled a mug with Benjamin's favorite beer and set it on the counter; the doctor gratefully grabbed the mug and drained it contents without a word. "What's wrong, doc?" Charles asked. "You know Jonny Gaither?" he asked, waiting for Charles' nod. "He died about half an hour ago." The bartender's ever-present smile fell, and he smacked the bar with his open palm. "Damn. He was a good man. What killed him?" "Extensive blood loss through two small holes in his throat. His boy found him in the street earlier this evening, and he swears there was no blood at the scene. It's damn well impossible." Charles shook his head in disbelief. "So, the bloodsuckers are back." "That's a myth, Charles." Benjamin set the mug on the bar and signaled for a refill, which Charles granted. "A myth didn't kill Jonny Gaither." "No. A vampire did," said a man behind them. Benjamin and Charles turned toward the voice, which originated with a man sitting in the shadows at a corner table. Benjamin squinted, trying to see into the dark, but all he could make out were the man's bright eyes. Charles pointed at the man and nodded. "See, I told you, doc. A vampire." Only then did Benjamin notice the presence of the man. He berated himself for being so wrapped up in his own problems that he had ignored the presence of an immortal. But if this was an immortal, he radiated a sensation unlike any Benjamin had ever met -- and that was saying a lot. Benjamin walked toward the table, his full mug left forgotten on the bar. As he got closer, he saw that the man's skin was pale, almost translucent. This was no human. Methos' hands itched to reach under his coat, grab his sword and take this immortal's head, and it took quite a bit of control to overcome the urge and school his face into a passive expression. "Who are you?" he asked. The man only smiled sadly and stood. "Let's take a walk," he said and left the bar without looking back to see if Benjamin would follow. The immortal exchanged a look with Charles, shrugged and went after the pale man, who stood just outside the saloon door, hunched down in his coat. Even though the night was hot, he acted as though he were freezing. As soon as Benjamin appeared outside, the man turned and walked down the street, and the doctor almost had to run to keep up. "Enough games," Benjamin said. "Who are you?" The man smiled coldly. "My name is Angel, and I'm a vampire." Benjamin's eyebrows shot up and he felt inside his coat for the cool comfort of steel. If this man decided to attack him, he wanted to be ready. "Really. Did you kill Jonny Gaither?" "No, but I know who did. He calls himself Spike," Angel stopped and looked at the doctor, "and he will kill again." "Why should I believe you?" Angel shrugged. "It's up to you what you want to believe, but it's the truth." He walked down the street, but this time, Benjamin didn't follow. If this vampire had chosen to reveal himself to the immortal, he wouldn't vanish anytime soon. Benjamin knew he could find him if necessary. Vampires. Well, I've seen stranger, I suppose. He returned to the bar and unhitched his horse without going inside. For some reason, the beer didn't sound good anymore. Angel had given him much to think about, and he needed time to absorb the information and decide what to do next. He mounted and rode toward home, oblivious to the burning eyes of an evil vampire watching from the roof of the saloon. =============================== Methos decided that Roger Darrow, who headed the watcher bureau for the western United States, must beat most professors on how many students he could put to sleep in 20 minutes. The lecture hardly had begun, but several watchers' eyes already had glazed over. And unlike many lecturers, Darrow didn't have the experience to realize when he was losing his audience. "The key to tracking an immortal is to avoid detection," Darrow said. "Of those watchers who get caught by their immortal, only 40 percent survive to tell their superiors." Methos rolled his eyes and sighed. He was certain the man had never worked a day in the field. Tomorrow's mass venture into the city would turn into a circus if all the presenters were this exciting and insightive. In the front row of the hotel conference room, Methos noticed the back of Joe's head begin to dip forward and then shoot up as he pulled himself back from sleep. Well, at least I'm not the only one who's ready for a nap. Gods, the man is boring. "...Now who can answer my question?" asked Darrow to a sea of blank faces. "Mr. Pierson?" Methos snapped to attention and put on Adam's most confused, wide-eyed expression. He had tuned out whatever Darrow had been talking about with the expertise of an experienced student, and now he was on the hot spot. Adam looked at Darrow with his best impression of a child who'd been caught with his hand in the candy jar. "Um, can you repeat the question, please?" he asked. Darrow pursed his lips and shook his head. "What should you do when you encounter a quickening?" Any watcher who can't figure that out is too stupid to live. "You duck for cover." "Good. Why?" "Because quickenings can blast just about anything to bits, and running for cover might be the only way to avoid a large scrap of wood through the heart." "Very good. And remember, safety is the first rule..." Methos tuned Darrow out again and settled back in his chair. Wood through the heart. I guess I know what's on my mind. He closed his eyes and replayed the previous evening's events -- the joy of seeing an old friend, the terror of facing a stronger enemy, the relief of realizing he had survived. The logical part of his mind rationalized that he never was in any real danger because Angel didn't know how to kill him, but he had been frightened nevertheless. No, not frightened ... terrified ... haunted by the imagined feel of fangs closing around his vunerable neck. Other parts of his body were quick to heal but not the neck, the Achilles' heel of immortality. Methos lifted one hand and moved it slowly from his chin down to the sharp collarbone as if to assure himself the skin was still smooth and unbroken. It wasn't, as he already knew. His fingers stopped when they glazed over two scars, tiny circles of rougher skin at the base of his neck -- a gift from an old foe. "Mr. Pierson, you seem to know this material well enough that you feel comfortable ignoring me, so maybe you would enjoy teaching this class instead," Darrow said. Methos sat up in his chair, his eyes snapping open. He recovered in an instant and once again became Adam Pierson, annoyed that Darrow had intruded on his thoughts. This man must be every student's worst nightmare. OK, old man. Time for another acting demonstration. He smiled sheepishly and allowed an embarrassed blush to crawl up his cheeks. "Sorry, Roger. My mind seems to be elsewhere today." "Well, bring it back here, and maybe I won't make you share your obviously important thoughts with the rest of us." "Yes, sir." Mehos sighed and focused his attention on the lecture. It was promising to become a long afternoon. =============================== New Orleans After returning to his home, a small flat above his doctor's office, Methos found that he couldn't sleep. He stared out the second-story window until dawn, his mind racing through all that had happened, trying to decide on the least painful course of action. Fighting a vampire was out of the question, of course. If he were killed, he'd have to leave New Orleans the next morning. I'd have to give up my patients, and there would be no one to look after the slaves. I can't do that. He realized what he had just thought and mentally kicked himself. Staying and waiting for disaster to strike sounded a lot like suicide, something that Benjamin Adams might consider but Methos never would. He rubbed his tired eyes and walked to his bed, abandoning the golden sunrise just peaking over the city. I'm beginning to think like Benjamin. Very dangerous, old man. Maybe it's time to abandon the good doctor and start over as someone with a larger sense of self- preservation. He lay down and fell into an exhausted sleep. It seemed only minutes later that he was dragged back to consciousness by someone pounding on his front door. He looked out the window and was greeted by the last rays of sunlight vanishing to the west. He'd slept all day. Methos groaned as he surfaced from sleep and rolled to his feet, barely noticing that he hadn't changed out of his wrinkled, sweaty clothes from the night before. He stumbled downstairs and opened the door to a panicked young man. James worked for Charles, and if he were here, that could only mean something was wrong with -- Oh, gods. "James, what's happened?" He was fully awake now and found himself shaking the boy's shoulders. He forced himself to let go and adopt a calmer appearance, even as his mind sorted through what might have befallen his friend. James rubbed his shoulders and tried to catch his breath. Only then did Benjamin notice the boy's face was flushed and he was panting. He must have run all the way from the saloon. The doctor pulled on every ounce of his control to keep his patience in check. "Doctor Adams," James finally said. "You have to come to the saloon. I think Charles is dead." Benjamin needed no more urging than that. He ran to the back of the house, unhitched his horse and mounted without bothering with saddle or bridle. Even if Benjamin did not have a reputation as an expert rider, Methos could guide the animal with only the pressure of his legs. Haste was needed now, whatever the cost to his assumed identity. He galloped away from the house, leaving James standing at the front door. As he approached the saloon, he vaulted from the horse and ran inside. There he found his darkest thoughts come alive. Charles lay on the floor surrounded by a crowd that simply watched without a clue of what to do. Benjamin pushed his way through to the bartender and dropped to his knees, feeling for a pulse. There was none. Charles was dead. He buried his emotions and examined the body. No visible wounds, no blood. He pulled down Charles' collar and, as he expected, found two small puncture wounds at the base of the neck. Vampires. Angel probably had something to do with this, or his buddy Spike. Ordinarily, Methos would supress his regret and catch the next train heading north, but he felt responsible for Charles' death. He'd known what was going on and had walked away, leaving his friend to the mercy of monsters. He couldn't leave -- not until he had avenged Charles. He shook his head at the unnecessary risk he knew he was about to take. Benjamin is rubbing off too much. After this is over, he goes into quick retirement. Methos stood and left the saloon without a word, ignoring the dozen or so people who were waiting for his diagnosis. They would have to figure out on their own what had happened to Charles because Methos wasn't about to explain. He had a more important task; he needed to find Angel. He didn't have to go far. As he strode into the street, he felt the unmistakable presence of what he now knew was a vampire. He turned, reaching for his sword before he realized he'd left his weapon at the house, and relaxed as he recognized the dark figure leaning against the outside of the saloon. "Relax, doctor. I won't hurt you." "We need to talk, in private," Methos said, dropping all pretenses as Benjamin Adams. The doctor has gotten me into enough trouble for one night. Methos could barely make out Angel's nod. He mounted his horse and signaled for Angel to get on behind him, which the vampire did almost as smoothly as Methos. The immortal tensed at the feel of Angel's breath on his neck. Those teeth were too close for comfort. As if reading his thoughts, Angel chuckled quietly. "Don't worry. I broke that habit years ago." "Well, don't get any ideas." Methos swung the horse around and, after assuring himself that his passenger wouldn't fall off, galloped back to his own house. It was the only place he could think of where they wouldn't be disturbed. Methos walked inside and began searching through the dark for a lamp. He heard Angel clear his throat and turned to see the vampire standing outside. "You have to invite me in," Angel said. "It's one of the drawbacks of being of vampire." Methos gave up on finding his lamp -- they'd just have to talk in the dark -- and returned to the door. "I invite you in," he said. Angel entered and walked across the room. Before Methos' eyes had time to adjust, the vampire had located the lamp, lit it and set it on the table. Both men sat down. "Killing Charles was a warning, wasn't it?" Methos asked. "Spike is telling me to stay away." Angel nodded. "Did it work?" Methos decided not to share his thoughts of revenge quite yet. The two of them shared a goal in wanting to hunt Spike, but first the immortal needed to know Angel's motivations. The vampire had one shot to convince Methos, so he better make it good. "We'll see," Methos answered carefully. "First, you tell me how you know Spike." Methos met Angel's eyes in a battle of wills to determine who would be the first to show some trust, and Methos was damned sure it wouldn't be him. After a few tense seconds, Angel dropped his gaze to the table. "I'm Spike's sire," he said. "His what?" "His sire, his maker. I turned Spike into a vampire." Methos hissed in surprise. He almost grabbed for his sword right then but drew on his self-control and forced himself to stay seated and calm. There was more to this story, and Methos intended to find out what it was. If Methos' sudden change of mood surprised Angel, he didn't show it. He just traced the lines of the wood grains in the table with one pale finger as he spoke, meeting the immortal's gaze once again. "I was as evil as Spike once. Worse. I killed and tortured, and I felt no regret. But then a gypsy family cursed me for killing their daughter. It restored my human soul." This time it was Methos who looked at the table. He understood better than most the overwhelming guilt that came with a change of heart, the pain of living with an empty space inside for all the people who were dead for no reason except the pleasure of killing. He remembered those first tortured years after the Horsemen, wanting to hunt Kronos and lacking the courage to judge his former brother. He felt a strange connection to Angel through his empathy for the vampire. "So why come to me?" he asked, his voice hardly above a whisper. "You're different, stronger than any mortal I've seen. I think you have the power to ..." his voice trailed off. "...To kill Spike," Methos finished, and Angel nodded. Well, who better than a vampire to judge the strength of a vampire killer. He made his decision. "Will you help me?" Angel looked up and smiled slowly, sadly. Methos pitied the vampire but not enough to back off his request. He didn't stand a chance without Angel's help. "Help me," he said quietly. This time, Angel nodded, and Methos relaxed. "So, what do we do?" Methos asked. "I have a few ideas," Angel said after a moment of hesitation. Then, the vampire began to describe his plan, and Methos had to admit, it just might work. =============================== Methos was dreaming. Strange, half-formed images of vampires and immortals mixed with each other and attacked him from all sides. Angel was there with Spike, grinning like the demons they were. At his back were MacLeod and Kronos, standing side-by-side, advancing on him with swords unsheathed. Methos turned to face them, his sword magically appearing in his hands, but before he could swing, he felt a sharp pain at the base of his neck. Vampire teeth clamped down hard, and Methos felt the life drain from him through two impossibly small holes. He tried to scream, but all that came out was a desperate gasp for air. Methos bolted upright in his bed and almost panicked when he didn't recognize the room. He closed his eyes and slowed his heavy breathing, willing himself to remember where he was. Watcher training ... a tiny hotel room ... Sunnydale ... Angel. A quick glance at the clock told him it was 1 a.m., still the middle of the night, even though he felt he'd lived a hundred lifetimes since he drifted to sleep earlier that evening. His heart returned to a normal, calmed rhythm, and then someone pounded on his door, almost sending him through the ceiling. Gods, I'm jumpy tonight, he thought as he stood and pulled on a T-shirt. He felt no presence, which meant his late-night visitor at least was mortal, so he carefully opened the door and peeked into the hallway. "It's about time. You are way too deep a sleeper." Methos recognized the teen-age girl who forced her way into the room, which was the only reason he let her in. Buffy was dressed all in black, her blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, and her body language indicated she was all business. Methos shut the door and met her intense gaze with his own expressionless eyes. She was here because of Angel, and Methos wasn't about to give her an advantage by acting off- guard. "All right," she said, "I want to know who you are and how you know Angel." Methos allowed himself a small smile. The girl was tough, but she lacked finesse. She had followed him to the hotel, barged into his room and demanded an explanation that would probably result in her trying to punch a stake into his heart ... just to assure herself he wouldn't turn to dust. But maybe, if he played his cards right, he could get more information out of Buffy than he gave. "Is something funny?" she asked. He broadened his smile. "You are." "Oh, really. Care to explain, doctor." OK, time to push a little. "I'll answer your questions if you answer mine," he said casually, leaning back against the door. He watched Buffy consider the offer, and he could almost see the pros and cons she weighed in her mind. Finally, she nodded curtly and folded her arms in what Methos recognized as an subconscious, protective gesture. Buffy was nervous because she'd suddenly lost control of the situation, and she wasn't hiding her emotions well. "Angel is an old friend," he said carefully. "We once worked together on a project to help the community." He paused. "What happened to break the curse?" Buffy smirked, but Methos noticed the faint, tell-tale signs of pain and guilt flicker across her eyes and vanish in a heartbeat. "He had a moment of complete contentment," she said. "That's not an answer." "Neither was yours," she said. Then it clicked. The pain in Buffy's eyes, her words the night before... "Hello, lover." He shook his head in disbelief at the complete stupidity both Buffy and Angel apparently had shown. If I were that careless, I'd have lost my head centuries ago. Maybe she deserves whatever she gets. "You slept with him," he said quietly. She looked startled and sat down on the bed. He'd guessed right. "He loved you, and you turned him into a monster." "It wasn't supposed to be like that," she protested. "It just happened, and then he was gone." She recovered and stood, facing Methos with determination in her eyes. "I can't change the past, but I can fix my mistakes. I want to kill Angel, and I want your help." Methos laughed at her bluntness. "Why would you want my help?" Buffy suddenly turned thoughtful, her voice losing its angry edge. "I've faced just about every supernatural thing out there," she said. "Vampires, witches, a teacher who turn into a praying mantis -- you name it, I fought it. And I know when I encounter something that's not human." Methos narrowed his eyes and said nothing. Any denial he could make would only confirm her suspicions. Maybe I've underestimated this girl. "Besides, you carry a really big sword, and vampires don't like swords," she half-joked, releasing some of the tension that had built between them. "So, will you help me?" Methos knew that if he agreed, he would go up against an evil he'd tried to forget for more than a century. But he also knew Buffy would attack Angel with or without his help and that no matter how strong this fragile-looking girl might be, she probably would die. He couldn't help but like Buffy for her fire and passion, something Methos sorely lacked at times and always regretted the loss of. He couldn't stand to see that flame snuffed out, especially not by Angel -- not when he could prevent it. Here I go again. "If I help, you forget that you ever saw me," he said. She nodded. "Deal." Buffy then proceded to tell him the plan. Methos had to admit that it just might work. =============================== New Orleans In addition to his sword, Methos carried three wooden spikes, one beneath each sleeve and one in his coat pocket. They poked uncomfortably into his arms, but he ignored the slight discomfort and focused his attention on the deserted warehouse before him. It's not too late to turn back. I can turn around, walk away and be 30 miles north of town by daylight. But for some reason he would never understand, he didn't move. "There it is," Angel said, pointing toward the building. "Are you sure you want to do this?" In response, Methos unsheathed his sword. He held it lightly, enjoying the soothing feel of its weight in hands, and swung it couple times for show. He glanced at Angel, and walked purposefully toward the warehouse. Methos felt Angel follow him, and the vampire's voice was quiet, reaching no farther than the immortal's ear. "When this is over," he said, "you have to explain to me why you carry a sword under your coat." Methos smiled thinly. "If we survive," he said. They reached the warehouse and made their way to the back door without even the sound of a footstep. As Methos reached for the door knob, Angel's hand closed firmly around his own and pulled it away. "Before we go in, there's something else you need to know," Angel said, unable to meet Methos' eyes. Don't surprise me with anything new, Angel, he thought, but he said nothing, waiting for the vampire to continue. "Spike's not the only vampire in there," Angel said finally. Methos felt an uncontrollable, irrational wave of anger wash over him at Angel's words, which hit too close to a betrayal of trust. The immortal set his sword against Angel's throat with a snarl and pressed just hard enough to cause pain. Angel tried to pull away but found himself pinned against the warehouse wall, and part of Methos almost retched at the savage feelings of power and control that threatened to overwhelm him. But the dark part of him loved to watch the vampire squirm, and he fought with himself for one eternal second to keep from severing Angel's head. The immortal wretched the sword away, scared at his violent reaction to Angel's unwelcome information. He leaned his forehead against the warehouse and slowly regained control, pushing Methos the Horseman back into the hidden depths of his soul. Normally when he lost control like that, someone lost their head. That was too close, he thought. Still, Angel's words planted the seed of distrust in Methos. Not for the first time, Methos considered the possibility that Angel was luring him into a trap. He looked into the vampire's eyes searching for any trace of evil, but all he saw was torment. "How many?" he asked, his voice sounding harsh to his ears. "Three. Spike, Drusilla and Richard." A slight edge of panic crept into Angel's voice. "And how many are your creations?" "All three. Spike and Richard are brothers." With some semblance of control, Methos nodded and reached for the door knob again. It turned with a soft click, and Methos pushed the door open, directing the last traces of his anger toward whatever was waiting on the other side.
==============================="There's something I need to tell you before we go in." Methos turned his attention from the warehouse to Buffy. She looked worried, but the immortal already knew what she would say. Too much during the past couple days had been an echo from the past, and the scenario wouldn't be complete without two missing players who had yet to make their entrance. "Let me guess," he said. "Angel isn't alone. We're also fighting Spike and Drusilla." Her eyes widened in surprise. "What is this? Some kind of trick? Are you in league with them and plan on sticking your sword in my back the first chance you get?" Methos sighed dramatically. "If I were going to betray you, do you think I'd give myself away?" he said. Buffy scowled, and Methos knew more explanation was needed. "Let's just say I have a past with all three of them, and it's a past I would rather forget. You have to trust me, or neither of us will walk out of there alive." She glared at him for a few more seconds and then nodded, a wooden spike seeming to materialize in one hand. "Let's do it," she said. =============================== Even in the dark, Methos could see that something weird had happened to Angel's face. He looked more like a monster from a child's nightmare than a self-tortured human. But Angel had warned him this would happen. It was all part of the show. Methos felt the other vampires just as Angel set a hand on his shoulder, pulling him to a stop. Angel signaled around the corner, and Methos nodded before peeking around into a large open space. Two vampires -- a man and woman -- sat at a table lit by several candles. The woman was obsessed with situating the dress on a small doll; she carefully smoothed the doll's long blonde hair with a soft touch. The man read a newspaper and periodically looked up at the woman in a familiar way. The pair looked so human going through their morning rituals that if not for their presences, Methos might have thought Angel had led them to the wrong warehouse. He held up two fingers to Angel, indicating that the third vampire was somewhere else. Angel nodded. Time for plan B. Angel disappeared into the dark recesses of the warehouse in search of the missing vampire, leaving Methos to deal with domestic pair. Charles, this is for you. Methos took a deep breath, raised his sword and stepped around the corner. The woman glanced up from her doll, and a serene smile slowly crossed her lips. "Spike, look," she said, her voice soft and dazed. "We have company." Spike carefully folded his newspaper and set it on the table. The eyes that met Methos' were amused but not worried. Methos knew this creature would be a formidable opponent. "So, you finally decided to drop by," Spike said, leaning back in his chair. "I was wondering how long it would take." "You sent me an invitation I couldn't refuse." "Ah, yes. The bartender." Spike made a face of distaste. "He tasted like fish, you know. That's the only problem with living in a town by the ocean -- everyone eats fish. What did you have for dinner?" "You'll never know," Methos said, pointing his blade's point at Spike for emphasis. This bastard deserves to die, he thought. Spike laughed. "I think you have a little problem there because there's one of you and two of us. Get ready to die." Spike launched himself at Methos, who automatically raised his blade to meet the vampire in the chest, but Spike changed direction at the last moment, ducking around behind the immortal. Methos dropped to the floor before his opponent could grab his neck and rolled to his feet again next to the table. He pressed the tip of his sword against Drusilla's neck, just hard enough to draw a thin trail of blood. If the vampires wanted to play rough, he'd give them a good fight. "Team up against me, and she dies right now," Methos said harshly. "Unless you give me a fair fight." After centuries of practice, the lie came easily to his lips. Methos, of course, had no intention of playing fair. He intended to make Spike pay for the blood he'd spilled, no matter what it took. "Spike?" Dru said, not taking her eyes off the blade. "Spike, help me." "It's OK, love," Spike said. Then he turned his attention to Methos. "You want to fight me one-on-one? Fine. Let her go, and we fight." Methos gave Spike his most chilling smile and pulled the blade from Dru's throat. She sighed deeply and almost glided out of range. All right, one problem solved. Now the fun really starts. Spike attacked again, and Methos went on the defensive, holding his ground and testing his opponent. More than half of the vampire's blows snaked under his guard and connected painfully with his ribs and face, but Spike also was taking his share of cuts. The vampire pulled back to catch his breath for a moment, and Methos tried to think of something that might stall Spike from pressing the attack again until his wounds had healed. Then he felt it: A wave of power swept through the room like a shockwave, so evil in nature that Methos felt his stomach churn, and then it was gone. He knew the vampires felt it as well because Dru wailed from her hiding place in the corner. Spike narrowed his eyes and growled deep in his throat, a horrifying effect when combined with his vampire features. "You bastard," Spike said. "You were here to distract me while your friend fought my brother. Who did you bring? Is it Angel?" So that's what that was. The death of a vampire. Interesting. Methos considered thanking Angel for distracting Spike when this was over but changed his mind when he saw the murderous hatred burning in the vampire's eyes. Gone was the last trace of civility, replaced with death. Now I'm in trouble. Before Methos had time to react, Spike lashed out with his open palm, smashing the immortal in the face. The blow dazed Methos for only a second, but it was enough time for Spike to grab him and sink his teeth into Methos' bared neck. The immortal gasped in surprise and pain. He dropped his sword and used both hands to push the vampire away, but Spike didn't budge. Methos began to feel lightheaded and knew he had only a few seconds before he lost consciousness. He quickly ran through what Angel had told him about killing a vampire. Wooden stake through the heart, beheading ... and fire. Methos reached for a candle still burning on the table. He dashed the flame into Spike's right eye and almost collapsed in relief when the teeth left his throat. Spike screamed and clawed at his eye as if he could rip the burn from his skin. "Spike!" Dru cried, forgetting her own safety and running to him. She wrapped her arms around her companion, who had lost all interest in everything except his wound, and shot a dark glare at Methos. "Another time, deary," she snarled. Both vampires vanished around the corner just as Methos' last reserve of strength gave out. His last thought before darkness overwhelmed him was that he hoped Angel would find him before Spike and Drusilla returned. =============================== "Angel's not there," Buffy whispered, leaning over the railing that overlooked the warehouse's interior. "You stay here. I'm going to find him." A quick glance over the ledge confirmed her words. Spike and Dru were there, but Angel was no where in sight. Still, as soon as the fighting started, he'd show up momentarily. Buffy would be foolish to go searching for trouble when it would come to her -- just another extension of her inexperience. Besides, Methos couldn't shake the memories of what had happened last time he'd split with his partner. He'd barely escaped. Those who forget the past ... He grabbed Buffy's forearm, ignoring her stiffled gasp. "Didn't anyone ever teach you that spliting your forces is not a good idea? We stay together, or I leave now." He knew throwing that ultimatum in her face was unfair, but he didn't have time for subtlety. He had to exert some control now, or he knew the whole raid would fall apart around their ears. Buffy glared at him, but she stopped pulling away from his unrelenting grip. He released her, and she rubbed her arm. "Didn't your mother ever teach you to play nice?" "Are you ready?" Methos asked, ignoring her comment. She probably wouldn't react well to a truthful answer anyway. For her response, Buffy climbed over the railing and dropped to the warehouse floor. "Hi, guys," she said to the vampires, who went rigid as she pulled a stake from her sleeve. "Hope you don't mind if I drop in." Bloody impatient slayer, Methos thought as he lept over the railing and landed next to Buffy. "Your mother obviously never taught you the value of patience," he said to the girl. She shrugged. Unlike Buffy, Methos understood the importance of well-timed drama, and he also knew that right about now, Spike and Dru were stunned by the appearance of an enemy who should be long dead. He played the situation to his advantage by granting them a chilling smile and slowly drawing his sword, letting its soft hiss echo throughout the room. The effect was not lost on the vampires. "I love what you did to your hair, Spike," he said. "Blond suits you. But the wheelchair just doesn't go with the image." Spike recovered first, masking his tension with a smile that never reached his eyes. "I knew there was something different about you the last time we met. I'm not too upset that you turned up, really. You still have to pay for this." He traced one finger over a scar on his right eyebrow. "Dru, be a dear and find Angel. I know he wouldn't want to miss the party." As Drusilla smiled coldly and slipped out a side door, Methos went on his guard. Spike was not stupid enough to send away his backup when faced with two enemies, so he had to be planning something. Now I just have to find out what. "That's not very wise, Spike. Two against one aren't good odds." "One against one, actually," the vampire replied, coming awkwardly to his feet, almost as if his knees were about to collapse on him. But whatever ailed the vampire, Methos didn't have time to speculate. Spike's words had sent a chill up his back. He glanced to his side and silently cursed. Buffy was gone. "You see," Spike said, walking carefully, slowly toward Methos, "I know Buffy a lot better than you do. She's obsessed with Angel. At first she was trying to get him into bed, but now, well, she just wants to kill him. I wouldn't mind so much if she succeeded, so I'm letting Dru lead her straight to him." He paused, turning his full attention on Methos. "That gives us a chance to finish what we started 130 years ago." "Then stop talking and fight," Methos said calmly, raising his sword. He sent a silent prayer to every god he could think of that this fight would end better than the last one. Spike produced a long knife from the pocket of his jeans, braced himself against a heavy crate and waited. As if to prove to himself that the past wouldn't continue to haunt his steps, Methos went on the offensive immediately. He flicked his blade expertly, inwardly thanking MacLeod for all their recent sparing sessions in Paris. His skill had been rusty last time he had met Spike, but now he had the advantage. Methos easily brushed off his opponent's strikes, but Spike refused to back away from the crate. This is getting tiring, Methos thought. He surprised the vampire with one swift move to disarm, and the knife clattered to the floor. The immortal raised his sword for the fatal blow when he felt smooth, cold hands clamp around his arms and pin them against his back. His attacker pried open his fingers, and his sword fell to the ground. "Good timing, Dru," Spike said breathlessly. He picked up his knife from the floor and pressed it against Methos' neck. The immortal struggled to break free, but Drusilla's grip was too strong. "I appreciate the help, but the kill is mine." "Spike, you're too weak for this," said the familiar, soft voice. "Go sit down, and I'll finish him for you." "No. He is strong, and you know it, Dru. This could restore me." After a short pause, Dru breathed softly against Methos' ear. "Yes. I feel his strength. Take him now." Methos cried out in pain as Spike sunk his teeth into the imomrtal's neck. At first the drainage was slow, but the vampire seemed to gain momentum as the blood flowed faster and faster. Methos struggled weakly against Dru, but his strength was gone, and he felt that if Dru released him, he would only fall to the hard concrete floor. He dimly wondered what had happened between Angel and Buffy, but even that thought faded from his mind, and he began to drift. Methos couldn't feel Spike's teeth anymore, and he floated in a strange limbo between life and death. He knew he was dying, but he didn't care, going slack against Dru's chest with a low moan. Then the darkness came, and Methos knew no more. =============================== The warehouse was empty of vampires and daylight slipped through the windows as Methos awoke with a ragid gasp for air. He groaned and rolled onto his back, feeling at his still-tender throat with his fingertips. As he sat up and looked around, he noticed his sword lying on the floor where he had dropped it ... how long ago? Repairing blood loss as he had suffered would take hours, but no more than a day or so. Methos guessed it must be the morning after. That meant no vampires, at least not for a while. Angel, Spike and Dru would all have hidden with the rising sun, unless one of them had died after Methos had lost consciousness. But I'm never that lucky. Methos crawled to his sword and used it to help pull himself to his feet. His body had repaired the wounds, but only time would restore his strength. He slowly stumbled out of the warehouse, using the sword as a cane, and blinked fiercely in the sunlight. Realizing that passers-by would look strangely on his weapon, he switched it for a solid rod of wood laying nearby, sheathed his sword and headed toward the street. The night's fiasco was over, but the fight was not. If five thousand years had taught Methos anything, it was that you can never escape your past, no matter how far or how fast you run. Methos knew he would see the trio of vampires again and again -- until they were dead, or he was. That day would not come for a long time, though, if Methos had any control over his fate at all. And maybe I don't, but who bloody well knows? I think it's time for a vacation. No vampires, no immortals ... just a quiet, sandy beach and as much sun as I can soak in. He smiled at the thought and walked slowly down the street. No one would miss one immortal for a few months, or maybe a few years. He chuckled softly, and with that one action he banished the ghosts of his past, living and dead, that had goaded him into such a dangerous mission. Kronos, my brother, you were right all along. If you wait long enough, everything comes back. Ah, Fate. She is a cruel mistress, and even I cannot escape Her. But maybe I can try ... for a while. He laughed quietly to himself all the way home. the end