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Death and the End of the World

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Summary: Re-post! Just moving to a new category. Willow leaves Sunnydale and winds up in Seacouver.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Highlander > Willow-Centered > Pairing: MethosStaciaFR181228,036123430,5145 Jun 036 Jun 03Yes

History lessons and dirty laundry

Methos switched on his computer as soon as he got to his apartment. / It’s time to mosey through the Watcher database. Even if they lost Cassandra, her recent travels might give me a clue about why she’s here *now.* / The old man stretched his mental hacker muscles and set to work. Half an hour later Methos sighed in frustration. There had been nothing unusual or particularly enlightening in Cassandra’s file. He even did a bit of a search to see if there were any documented connections between Immortals and witchcraft. There was somewhat of a dearth of information. Of course, there was stuff about Cassandra and her Voice. Mostly, it was about a debacle with one of her former students that she just *had* to drag Duncan into. There were a few rumors about Rebecca that Methos totally discounted. /Aside from that damned Methuselah Stone I never saw Rebecca express any interest in otherworldly pursuits, and I knew her a long time./ Methos allowed himself a moment of sadness in memory of one classy lady. He moved on in his search and ran across records of a few Immortals who were burned as witches back when that sort of thing was fashionable. / Ugh, I *hate* dying in a fire. Coming back from that is just a bitch./

Methos finally decided that he wasn’t finding anything of value and he shut the computer down. /I’ve seen a few mortals with what looked like supernatural powers. That’s how I recognized what Red did that first night. But I’ve never heard of Immortals who could do that kind of stuff. Unfortunately, the Watcher records coincide with my memory. So, I have no clue what abilities Cassandra might have in addition to her Voice. Oh wait, Darius used to have a bit of a psychic thing going on, but that was just . . . Darius. I don’t care if Cassandra is the wronged party here, she’s still no Darius. Oh hell, the best person I know to help me figure out what Cassandra might be capable of is Red. And I just acted like an ass and yelled at her. I was just trying to protect her./

Methos sighed and spoke aloud, “Maybe it’s time for me to get out of town.”

Just at that moment a tiny 2,000 year old statue of Diana toppled over in the wind and rolled to a stop against one of Methos’ journals. / Um, wind? Inside? /

“You’re not going anywhere until we talk, mister.”

Methos whirled around to face the person attached to the determined-sounding voice. He was confronted with a version of Willow that he had never imagined. The last vestiges of the otherworldly wind made Willow’s hair dance. The darkness in her eyes slowly faded and suddenly the powerful and frightening image morphed into . . . just Willow.

The newly arrived witch ran a hand through her hair and tucked a bit of it behind her ear. Then she turned on her heel and strode into the kitchen. She reappeared shortly with a cold bottle of Vodka from the freezer and two glasses. She parked herself on an overstuffed chair facing the sofa and poured a healthy dollop into each glass. Then she leaned back, took a sip of her drink and looked at the silent and motionless Immortal. She quirked an eyebrow at him.

“I know you had suggested we start off with coffee, but I think the caliber of the conversation calls for something with a kick.” She took another sip. “Besides, Joe already offered me goodies from the mini-bar, but I figured I shouldn’t drink and teleport.” Her expression became a tad bit more serious. “Not to be melodramatic or anything, but, we need to talk.”

Methos picked up his own drink. “I hope this means that you haven’t decided to hex me into oblivion, at least not right away.”

“Hey, assume much? Just ‘cause I get a little black-eyed when I work major mojo that doesn’t mean that I’m all down with the Dark Arts.” Willow said with a frown. “At least, not anymore,” she added very quietly.

Methos didn’t hear her last comment. He was too busy taking a large gulp of his drink. He shook his head. “I’m sorry I don’t know enough about witchcraft to assume anything. While I’m at it, I apologize for acting like an ass back at Joe’s.”

Willow smiled, “That’s okay, I’ve noticed that most people with extra long life lines have some patronizing tendencies. As for the witch stuff, I’m not surprised that you’re not the big knowledge guy. Immortals and the supernatural are kind of un-mixy things, like magnets.”

Methos grinned despite himself. “Un-mixy magnets?”

“You know, if you put magnets together one way they stick, but if you do it the other way they repel each other. So, I think you guys are sorta repellant. I think it has something to do with your auras. Actually, I think . . .”

“Wait just a bloody minute,” Methos interrupted, “Are you saying you knew about Immortals even before we met?”

“Uh-huh.”

“I don’t suppose you’d care to elaborate on that?”

“Well, I was doing some pretty standard demon research and I ran across this mention of these people called Immortals who hardly ever mingled with other non-humans. I finally decided that your isolation probably has something to do with the buzz that you guys get when another Immortal is coming. All you’re doing is sensing the other person’s aura. Your psychic warning system wouldn’t work very well if you were always sensing random vampires and demons. *So,* that’s why there a natural aversion to Immortal/demon cocktail parties.” Willow sipped at her drink. “But that’s just my theory.”

“Look, Red, this is all fascinating, but excuse me if I say that it seems a little far-fetched.” Methos leaned back against the couch and let his limbs relax into his customary sprawl.

“We could test my theory.”

Methos smirked, “What are you planning on doing? Do you want to find a vampire somewhere and see if he gives me the heebie-geebies?”

“No, Mr. Sarcasm Guy, we can test it using my aura.”

Methos favored Willow with a glance usually reserved for small children or over-eager puppy dogs. “There are two problems that approach. One, you’re not some supernatural bad guy, and, two, I’ve never felt any suspicious aura-tickles when you were around.”

Willow sighed, “You’re making an ass of ‘you’ and I don’t intend to let ‘me’ join the party.”

Methos’ crinkled brow signaled his confusion.

Willow continued, “You’re assuming an awful lot about me. And there’s a lot about me that’s pretty awful. I *am* a supernatural guy, well gal.” Willow gestured at herself. “Hello? I’m this big badass Wicca, with the occasional emphasis on the bad.” The last few words were said fairly softly, and Willow’s face reflected her regret. Methos watched as she purposefully pushed these emotions aside and returned to her slightly scolding tone of voice. “Anyway, you haven’t sensed anything from me because I keep myself tightly shielded. If you have power, it’s best to keep a lid on it. Otherwise, there’s always some nasty thing out there that might want to have a taste. I haven’t sensed you either, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not an Immortal. We know you are. I think you guys automatically shield out all the things that you’re working on repelling. That would mean that you only tune in to the Immortal frequency.”

Methos finished his drink and reached for the bottle to re-fill it. “I’m not saying I agree, but I think I understand what you’re getting at. There’s one hole in your theory though . . .”

“Just one?” Willow’s sharp tone easily matched the old man’s previous sarcasm.

Methos grinned, “You’ve explained why we don’t feel each other, but why aren’t we doing the magnet repelling thing?”

“It’s the same reason. I’m shielded. Your aura isn’t sending out ‘stay away’ vibes because it doesn’t realize that I’m a person of power.”

“Damn it, you’re just like MacLeod. You have an answer for everything.” Methos made a face. “So, what’s the plan?”

“I drop my shields and we see what happens.”

Methos’ eyebrows tried to touch his hairline. “That’s your well-thought-out plan?”

Willow shot to her feet. “Hey! I haven’t exactly had a lot of time to ponder the situation. I did an eensy bit of research on Immortals three or four years ago, but I hadn’t thought about it again until you made your revelation back at Joe’s. So, I’ve had,” she glanced at her watch, “somewhere in the neighborhood of forty-seven minutes to put 2 and 2 and 2 together. I’m really sorry that I don’t have everything cross-referenced and on colored index cards yet. If you don’t want my help with this Cassandra woman then I’ll just be on my way!”

Willow turned and headed for the door, but she stopped at the strangled cry of “Wait!” that came from behind her. She turned to see the old man staring at her in shock.

“You . . . want to help me?”

Willow’s expression softened, “Well, yeah, ya dingbat. Why else would I be here?”

Methos collected his scattered thoughts and made a decision. “Okay, let’s try it.”

Willow was a bit surprised by his 180° shift, but she recovered quickly and switched over to her ‘in charge’ voice. “Okay then, I’ll be right back.”

Methos watched as Willow invaded his kitchen for the second time. His thoughts whirled as he listened to her rummage through his cupboards. / I don’t think I want to know what she’s looking for. I’m sure I don’t have any eye of newt or wing of bat just lying around. I don’t want to believe that Red is right about all of this, but I suspect that’s just wishful thinking. Oh ye gods, this is hard to wrap my brain around! I am the ultimate survivor and I do adapt to new things well, but this magic stuff isn’t new! It’s probably older than I am, and I never knew that it existed, at least not to the extent that Red is suggesting. This means that there’s been a threat that I’ve been unaware of for 5,000 years and I have no idea how to start protecting myself. Okay, calm down old man. Red said she wants to help. Maybe once this mess with Cassandra is handled Red will give me some . . . magic lessons, or something. / Methos sighed. This small sound was the only indication of his inner turmoil.

There was a final bang from the kitchen, and Willow emerged carrying a container of sea salt.

“Do I want to know what you’re going to do with that?” Methos inquired.

“Just a simple ward for your apartment. When I drop my shields I don’t want to advertise my presence to any ooglie-booglies who might be around.”

Willow poured a fair amount of the salt into one hand, set the container on the coffee table, and transferred half of the salt to her free hand. She closed her eyes for a moment and then threw the salt in the air and spoke one word. Methos, despite his nearly infinite knowledge of languages, couldn’t make out what she said. / Maybe the reverberation in her voice and the sudden *thickening* of the air distracted me./ Methos snarked to himself.

“Um, where did the salt go?” he asked.

“It went poof.” She answered matter-of-factly. Willow sat down and took a deep breath. / I hate dropping my shields. Aside from the fact that my power is a big flashing all-you can-eat-at the-Willow-buffet sign, it makes me feel too free, too close to being out of control. Okay Wills, you need to chill. Time for an internal pep talk. I can handle this. It’s just for a few seconds. I can do this easy – no problem. / She looked up at Methos. “Are you ready?” He took one more swig of his drink and nodded. Willow closed her eyes, took one more deep breath, and released the dam holding back her power.

Methos grabbed at his head and screamed.

Willow opened her eyes to a disturbing sight. Methos had fallen to the floor and he was curled into a fetal position.

“Goddess.” Willow whispered. She blocked out the soft whimpering coming from the ancient Immortal and rapidly re-built her shields. Methos quieted and slowly sat up and leaned back against the sofa.

“Adam, I’m so sorry. I had no idea . . .” Willow’s voice trailed off as he raised his head and made eye contact. She was shocked to see fear reflected in his eyes. / Oh, sweet Goddess, he’s *scared* of me! What the hell happened? / Methos scrambled to his feet and snatched his sword from where it rested against the computer desk.

“Adam, I’m not going to hurt you. My shields are back up, and they’re going to stay up. It’s okay.” Willow stood as she spoke and started to take a step forward. Methos was not reassured by her soothing words. He raised his sword in her direction.

“You . . . you took his skin off . . . with your mind.”

Willow gasped. “What did you see?”

“I saw you. I think it was you. You had black hair and eyes. . . and veins across your face. And then you were in this leather dominatrix outfit with yellow eyes and oversized incisors. You were torturing people and throwing lightening bolts around like you thought you were Zeus. Was that really you?”

Willow opened her mouth, but she couldn’t seem to find any words. The momentary fear in Methos’ eyes had changed into an intense wariness with more than a touch of anger.

“*Don’t* lie to me!”

Willow sat heavily back in her chair and stared at her lap. She felt like a puppet whose strings had been cut. “Yeah, that was me. Well, the dominatrix leather-woman wasn’t me, not exactly. But the scary, veiny Willow . . . that was me. I was a little out of my mind, but I’m better now.”

“Oh really?” Methos’ sarcasm was thick enough to cut with a knife, or a sword. His Ivanhoe was still pointed at Willow.

Willow raised her head slightly. She could now see the floor, the corner of the coffee table, and a bit of Methos (from his shoes up to his knees).

“I am better.” Willow forced herself to look at Methos’ face. “When we were back at Joe’s you hinted that you’d done things in your past that you weren’t proud of. Could you, maybe, give me a chance to prove I’m not crazy-witch-lady anymore?”

Methos held his defensive position for a few more seconds. Then he sighed, relaxed his stance, and rested the blade of his sword against his shoulder. “Well, you’ve said you want to help me, and for some reason, I believe you.” The old man leaned his sword against the arm of the sofa and took a seat. “And you’re right. It is possible for a person to change. I’m certainly not in any position to throw stones about past misdeeds. My record is much longer and more gruesome than yours could ever be.”

“Did you ever try to destroy the world?”

Methos sat down, grabbed the vodka bottle off the table, and poured himself another drink. He stared into his glass. “We, my brothers and I, took what we wanted and destroyed the rest. We thought the world and all its inhabitants were simply there to serve us. I guess . . .”

“No, no, no” Willow interrupted the old man’s quiet litany of his own transgressions. “I mean literally. Have you ever tried to end the world? No more people, animals, even bacteria. Just gone.”

Methos was more than a bit taken aback. “Um, no.”

“Well, I did. I mean, I tried to destroy the world. I didn’t actually do it. ‘Cause if I had ended everything we wouldn’t really be having this conversation.” Willow’s voice trailed off at the end.

“Why?”

/ Goddess, how do I answer that? ‘My lover died and I went psycho.” That glosses over some of the finer points. ‘The magic took over.’ That makes it sound like I wasn’t responsible for what I did. Oh, hell, I guess I’m going to have go for the ‘it’s a long story approach.’ /

Methos sat in silence while Willow mulled over how to answer his simple, yet, incredibly complicated question. / Bloody hell, I cannot believe that this quiet and shyly determined young woman is the same person as the terrifying and powerful creature I saw in that vision. Which one is the real Willow? Maybe they both are. Now *there’s* a scary thought. /

“It’s a long story.” Willow said finally. “I’m going to try to hit the high points. I’m warning you, some of this is going to sound really weird, but everything I tell you is absolutely true. This will be a lot easier if you just accept what I say and ask me about the ‘whos,’ ‘whys,’ and ‘hows’ later. Okay?”

Methos nodded, “I’ll try.”

“Great. I grew up in Sunnydale, California. It was a fairly average kind of town except for the fact that there was a hellmouth beneath the high school.” Willow held up a hand and forestalled Methos’ question. “A hellmouth is pretty much what it sounds like, a portal to hell. A lot of evil vibes leak out and attract ickyness – demons, vampires, Napoleonic high school principals. It also was the reason one of my best friends moved to Sunnydale. Buffy is the Slayer, a.k.a. the Chosen One. She was born with supernatural speed and strength and a few other things because it’s her destiny to fight all the undead-men-walking. She came to Sunnydale because it’s bad guy central. After I became friends with her I found out about the hellmouth and realized that there was a reason why our newspaper had an obituary page instead of just a column. You with me so far?”

Methos stared at the redhead. Then he shook his head and waved a hand in her direction. “Go on.”

“I started getting interested in magic in high school. I started out pretty slowly. Floating pencils - that sort of thing. I also got a boyfriend around that time, Oz.”

“Wait a minute, a boyfriend? I thought you were gay?”

“I am gay. I just hadn’t figured everything out yet. I was a computer geek and I didn’t have much dating experience. Oz was the first person who ever made me feel special. I loved him. I still do. He was my first love, and that will always be precious to me. But he left me shortly after we got to college. He had reasons, and they were even good reasons, but I was crushed. I diverted my energy into school and getting better at controlling my magic. I even joined the campus Wicca group. The group itself was a bust – a bunch of wanna-blessed-be’s – but I met Tara there. Tara was . . . the other half of my soul. She was my everything, my always. I didn’t realize exactly how I felt about her until Oz came back. Then I had to choose. But there was no choice, not really. She was my girl.” Willow’s voice caught. She waited a moment, took a deep breath and continued. “Tara was a witch too. Together we became stronger and more powerful witches. We used our magic to help Buffy fight the good fight. But then a hell-god named Glory came to town. She hurt Tara and I turned to black magic to get my vengeance. I did hurt Glory, but I didn’t kill her. I think this was when I started down the road to ending the world. Once you dabble in the Dark Arts it can get addictive really quickly. You start to think that you can do anything. Eventually, Buffy defeated Glory and I was able to heal Tara. Buffy died in the fight with Glory, but I brought her back to life. I’m not talking about doing CPR on her or something. I forced Osiris to do my will. I brought her back to life – three months after she died.”

“Oh my gods.” Methos was stunned.

“It was incredibly dangerous, but I didn’t consider that. I wanted my friend back. I convinced myself that it was okay because the world needed Buffy. I knew that I could do it, so I did it. After that I went downhill pretty quickly. I was abusing the magics. Tara tried to talk to me about it, but I brushed her off. We fought about it, and I did a spell to make Tara forget about the fight. I still can’t believe I did that to her. Eventually, she moved out. She wanted to help me, but I wasn’t listening. I thought I was just fine and everybody, even Tara, was out to get me. It got really bad then. I almost killed Buffy’s little sister because I was high on the magics. That’s when I quit. I went cold turkey – no more spells. I went through some horrible withdrawals. I was really trying, and I was making progress. Tara and I started seeing each other again. I was finally regaining her trust. She moved back in, and I was so happy. I felt like a piece of myself had been missing.”

Willow snagged her forgotten drink and took a sip, then another. “The day after Tara moved back in one of the bad guys came gunning for Buffy, literally. A stray bullet went through our bedroom window and hit Tara. She died in my arms.”

Willow looked up at Methos and unashamedly let the tears roll down her cheeks.

When Methos saw the pain and loss on Willow’s face he was suddenly sent back in time to a small hospital room in Switzerland. He had known, almost from their first meeting, that Alexa was dying. Yet, he had fallen completely in love with her. He had done some extreme things out of love for Alexa – like going after that damned Methuselah Stone. Her loss had been terrible, but expected. Methos’ mind played out the scene that Willow had just described, only with himself and Alexa as the players in a macabre re-enactment. He pushed the images out of his mind, with an intense mental effort, and focused on the weeping woman in front of him. He got up and knelt by Willow’s chair, so that they were at the same eye level. Willow had one hand covering her face. Her other arm was pressed tight against her stomach. Methos gently pressed two fingers under Willow’s chin to raise her head and make her look at him again. Her eyes were squeezed shut, but tears still managed to leak out.

“Oh, Red, I’m so sorry. I . . . I can’t know exactly what you’re feeling, but I lost someone not too long ago, so I can understand a little.”

Willow let the hand covering her face drop. That arm joined the other in the bizarre pseudo-self-hug. It was almost as if she were trying to hold herself back.

Methos’ hand now rested on Willow’s knee. He patted her in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. “Red, you have every right to feel loss and pain and anger. It’s alright.”

Willow finally opened her eyes revealing that they had gone black from corner to corner. Methos was able, somehow, to show no sign that he was uncomfortable. / If I act like I’m afraid of her, she’ll draw away from me. I really don’t think she’ll hurt me, and I’ll be damned if any fear on my face gives her another reason to castigate herself. /

Willow took a few deep breaths, and quickly got control of her tears. She got up from the chair, forcing Methos to stand and get out of her way. She snagged her drink from the table, distanced herself from the old man, and rubbed a weary hand across her forehead. A tiny blue spark danced along her fingertips. She took one more deep breath and let it out slowly.

“Mmm, I’ve got a bit of a headache. I guess that’s what a good crying jag will do to you.”

Methos started to take a step forward, “ Red . . .”

“Stop!” Willow held up one hand and Methos stopped, but not of his own volition. Willow immediately lowered her hand. “Oh, Adam, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. I just need some space right now. Getting all emotional has brought my power to the surface. I guess leaky eyes equals leaky magics.” She managed a weak smile. “What you said before, about me having a right to feel sadness and … and anger, that would normally be true. But when Tara . . . I was still addicted to the magics. I was on the wagon, and doing really well, but . . . losing her pushed me over an edge that I didn’t even know was there. I tried to bring her back, but it didn’t work. Then I went more than a little nuts.” Willow took a gulp of her drink and wiped at her still damp eyes. “I went to the magic shop and sucked all the juice from the Dark Arts books. It filled me up – gave me a purpose. Buffy had been shot too. By the time I got to the hospital she was nearly dead. I pulled the bullet from her body and healed her. Then I went after Warren. When I finally caught up with him I killed him – slowly.” She looked Methos in the eye. “That was what you saw when I dropped my shields. I flayed him alive, and then burnt him up.”

Methos was at a loss for words. / She does that to me a lot. What am I supposed to say? That it’s alright? We both know that’s not true. Should I say that eventually everything *will* be alright? Well, it might not, and I don’t think Red would appreciate any platitudes. Maybe a bit of inappropriate humor? /

“I did see that. I also saw you doing a great impression of a leather-clad dominatrix. Is she likely to show up in this story?”

Willow grinned and shook her head. “No, that was just a vampire-Willow from another dimension. She was actually the first indication I had that I might be living in girlstown. She, um, wanted the two of us to, um, snuggle.”

Methos decided to try to focus Willow on this less heart-rending topic of conversation. “So, I’m guessing you said no?”

Willow’s mouth hung open in disbelief “Of course I said no! She was all evil and skanky, and not the queen of subtle. That outfit just screamed ‘I’m a blood-sucking fiend’!”

During the discussion of her vampire alter-ego the darkness in Willow’s eyes had started to fade away. She suddenly realized that she had her power completely under control once again. Her expression shifted from wry amusement to quiet resignation.

“Thanks for the little distraction, but I really need to finish telling you the rest. I hope you don’t mind if I skip the details?”

Methos shook his head silently.

“After I killed Warren I went after his two buddies. They didn’t even know that he had gone all gun-happy because they had gotten thrown in jail a few days before. It didn’t matter - I was running on magic and rage and I wanted revenge. Buffy tried to stop me. I got a magic fix from a very bad man. I drained him dry, killed him, and his dark mojo made me more powerful . . . and more crazy. I hurt my friends, and even tried to kill a few of them. One of them dosed me with the essence of true magic when I tried to drain him. It didn’t feed my killing frenzy, but it didn’t make me see reason like he had been hoping. Instead I felt the pain of everyone on the planet. I could sense everything and everyone. It was too much. It was overwhelming. The only way to end everyone’s pain was to end the world. So, that’s what I tried to do. I had enough power. I would have done it. I very nearly succeeded. But my oldest friend talked me down. The one guy who didn’t have special knowledge or powers was the only one who could save the world. I thought that I deserved to die, but instead I went through a kind of magic rehab with a coven in England. I started leaning how to control the magic. I couldn’t go cold turkey. The magic is a part of me that won’t go away. If I had just tried to ignore it, then eventually I would have gone evil again. After a while I went back to Sunnydale, helped Buffy avert the latest apocalypse, and then I took off on a road trip. I needed some Willow-time. That’s how I wound up here, working at Joe’s.”

She finally fell silent. Methos walked towards her, and she didn’t stop him this time. He took her glass from her and set it on the table. Then, without a word, he wrapped his arms around her and just held her.

After a few moments of being held in Methos’ arms Willow returned the embrace. She rested her head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat. Methos placed a soft kiss on the top of her head. They stayed that way, comforting each other, for over a minute. Finally, Willow pulled back a bit. She looked up at Methos and smiled.

“Thanks.”

“Oh, Willow, you’ve suffered more in your short life than anyone deserves.” Methos reached up and gently ran the tips of his fingers down the side of Willow’s face. His eyes widened slightly as if he just realized what he had allowed himself to do. He turned and went back to the couch. He picked up the vodka bottle and re-filled his glass yet again. “Maybe you shouldn’t get involved in my problems. The last thing you need is more pain or fear, and those things have been a recurring theme in my life.”

Willow stood silently for a moment. / He called me Willow. What happened to ‘Red’? And what was with the face-touching? He couldn’t . . . he doesn’t have kissy feelings for me, does he? / His words finally penetrated. Willow joined Methos on the couch, grabbed her own glass, and held it out to him.

“Fill ‘er up?” Methos just looked at her. Willow sighed, “Look, I get it. This thing between you and the mysterious witchy-woman could get real messy. I want to help, and I really can take care of myself. I don’t want to brag, but I’m betting I can kick her ass.” This last sentence was said with conspiratorial grin. Methos felt the corners of his mouth starting to turn up and quickly quashed his burgeoning good humor.

“Red, you’re not the only one to know darkness. If you’re going to help me then you need understand who I am and why Cassandra is after me. I’m not so sure you’ll still want to help after you hear my dirty little secrets.”

“Okay, so tell me.”

Methos glanced at the petite redhead with the earnest expression occupying the other end of the couch. “Fine. I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I’m not exactly proud of, but there was a period of time when I was extraordinarily unpleasant. I suppose you could call it my angry adolescence.”

Willow nodded. “Go on.”

“I encountered Cassandra in a time and place where there wasn’t a great deal of civilization. I was part of a band of mounted raiders. We would ride into a village and take whatever we wanted. Food, weapons, horses, . . . women. We killed the rest.”

“Adam,” Willow hesitantly interrupted, “When you say that you took women, do you mean that you . . .”

“We took them as slaves. Cassandra was my slave. We killed everyone in her tribe, including her. It was her first death. When she revived I told her that she was alive only because I wished it. I trained her to . . . please me. If she disobeyed me I would kill her, repeatedly.”

Willow had gone paler than the vampire version of herself. “Um, how long?”

“Cassandra was mine for over a year. Eventually, she became a very good slave. Too good. One of my brothers, Kronos, decided that it was time to share. I didn’t want to let him have her, but we were brothers. I couldn’t refuse him. That’s when she escaped. She stabbed him, but she didn’t know to take his head. That was the last time I saw her until two years ago. She was tracking Kronos, and in a bizarre twist of fate she ran into me. She was less than happy to see me.”

“What happened?”

“Kronos found me. I tried to tell him that raping and pillaging weren’t my favorite pastimes anymore. I tried to tell him that I had changed. He just thought that I had gone soft. He would have killed me, permanently, so I gave him the others.”

“What do you mean?”

“Silas and Caspian, I helped him find them. He wanted us to ride again, to rule the world. He had a virus. He could have killed millions.”

“I’m guessing that plan didn’t work out.”

“No.”

“So, you were . . . what? Going along with him so that you stop him?”

Methos gave Willow an inscrutable look. “You’re awful quick to assign me noble motivations. I was surviving. That’s what I do best.”

“You wouldn’t have let him take over the world.” Willow said with conviction.

“I . . . I don’t know. I couldn’t challenge him directly. I didn’t want to become the man that I had been, but if it was the only was for me to survive I might have done it . . . changed back. The darkness was sickening, yet very tempting.”

“I know.” Willow said very quietly. Silence reigned for several moments. “So what saved you?”

“A friend.”

Willow smiled. “Something else we have in common. Who’s this friend?”

Methos rolled his eyes, “Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Self-righteous, judgmental, and . . . a very good man. He’s a good guy, for a kid.”

“A kid?”

“He’s a mere 400 years old.” Willow giggled. “He rode in like the proverbial white knight and took out Caspian. Then he challenged Kronos, and that left me to deal with Silas.” Methos closed his eyes as a pained expression passed briefly across his face. “When I was recovering from the quickening Cassandra attempted to kill me, but MacLeod stopped her. He told her he wanted me to live. I still can’t believe that he said that, or that she listened to him.” Methos rubbed at his face tiredly. “The whole mess was really complicated, but I’ve hit the high points. Now Cassandra is coming to town. I can’t think of any reason for her to be here unless she’s decided to get rid of me once and for all. I’m sure I haunt her just as much as she haunts me.”

Willow observed Methos in silence. He could almost feel her gaze on his skin.

“You’re horrified.” Methos couldn’t read the look in her eyes, but he was trying to prepare himself if she decided to leave.

“No, well yeah, it’s pretty horrible, but I’m not exactly one to throw stones, and I do believe that you’ve changed. If you were evil I would sense it. You’re incredibly sarcastic and occasionally annoying, but you’re not evil. There’s just something about your story that should be reminding me of something. Why can’t I remember?”

“Remember what?”

“I don’t know!” Willow’s frustration was plain on her face.

“Look, Red, it’s pretty simple. I was one of four guys that terrorized the world for a thousand years. We were War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death.”

“A thousand years? Goddess. Wait a minute, those names . . .you were one of the Four Horsemen, like in the Bible?” He nodded. Willow’s eyes got very big. “But that would mean that you were over two thousand years old!”

/ Gods, how do I tell her? She seems to have handled the airing of my dirty laundry pretty well. But if she thinks two millennia are impressive, what will she think of five? /

“In your research did you run across any mentions of legendary or mythical Immortals?” Methos asked.

Willow blinked at the apparent non sequitur. “Um, yeah, are you saying you’re somebody famous?” Methos didn’t answer her.

“Will you tell me if I guess right?”

He nodded. Willow acquired a far-off look as she thought, “Okay, famous Immortals. Let’s see, there was the guy who was a monk for a thousand years . . .”

“Darius.” Methos supplied his dead friend’s name.

“That’s not you?” She asked.

“No, although he was my friend. I think he would have liked you.”

“There was the Kurgan, a real nasty guy by all accounts. Also, he was supposed to be fairly psychotic, so I’m thinking that’s not you. You may not have a sterling past, but you do seem to be on the happy side of sanity.”

Methos grinned. “Thanks, and he’s dead, by the way. Good riddance.”

“Um, who else? Well, there’s the myth of the oldest Immortal, Methos, but that couldn’t be you . . .”

The aforementioned myth made a small gesture toward himself, and a mischievous grin crept across his face.

“You’re Methos?” He nodded.

“You’re five thousand years old?” Willow didn’t even try to hide her skepticism.

“Give or take a century or three.” Methos said nonchalantly.

Willow tried in vain to erase the deer-in-the-headlights expression that she knew was pasted on her face. She finally managed one word.

“Wow.”
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