Ch.5 - Cemetery Conversations
Methos was starting to question his decision to accompany Buffy on her patrol. So far, they had only run into one vampire and a demon with a serious amount of excess skin named Clem.
/I still don’t understand why she admonished him and told him that he better not be playing poker. That seems like a pretty benign amusement for a demon. No matter, Mr. Wrinkly was the most interesting part of – what did she call it? Oh yes, a Guided Tour of Sunnydale Cemeteries./
Aside from those few distractions, the uncomfortable silences that took the place of conversation were, well, uncomfortable.
/I only offered to come along because Giles was starting to get a bit pissy. He wasn’t pumping Willow for every detail from her “evil dream.” Alright, he did want details from her, but he settled for vague generalities. I told him that my dream was about unpleasantness from my past. What the bloody hell else does he want? All of my deep, dark secrets, apparently. I’m going to use my centuries of accumulated wisdom and hazard a guess that he doesn’t trust me. Smart man. Unfortunately, his distrust did nothing to endear me to the Slayer./
Methos sighed, causing Buffy to quirk an inquisitive eyebrow at him.
“I was just wondering how Willow and Giles were doing with the research,” He dissembled smoothly.
“I’m sure they’re fine,” Buffy said lightly, “Giles has a new clue, the dream stuff, so that should keep him busy for a while.”
Methos stopped walking. After a couple of paces, Buffy noticed that he wasn’t keeping up. She turned with a slight huff of impatience.
Methos looked down for a moment, taking the opportunity to compose his face.
/What will work here? I could try for earnestness, without being apologetic. She won’t appreciate any bullshitting, so, an uncertain but forthcoming tone might be good – without any of the actual dirty details./
“Buffy, I hope you didn’t think that I was trying to hinder the research efforts earlier. My dream was about a . . . turbulent part of my history, and it can be very difficult to revisit those memories. I hope you understand. Everyone has a few skeletons in their closet, right?”
Buffy looked thoughtful, “Skeletons, yeah, I get that. It’s just that, here on the Hellmouth, those skeletons can literally stab you in back. I think you should at least tell Willow, then you two can compare notes – see if there’s anything similar in both dreams.”
Methos allowed some of his relief to show on his face. “I think that’s fair, and Willow already knows about this particular skeleton.”
“Well, good. That’s good. Okay then.”
They walked for a few more minutes, and the silence was considerably less strained. As they turned for the exit, Buffy spoke up, “When we get back to the house, do you want to spar?”
Methos’ eyebrows rose of their own volition. Buffy shrugged, “This patrol was really boring, and otherwise I’ll get roped into scrounging through the musty books, and I noticed last night that you have a totally kick-ass broadsword, so . . .”
Methos grinned at the appreciative tone regarding his Ivanhoe. /The girl certainly has an eye for weapons./
“I suppose I could do with a bit of a workout, as long as you promise to go easy on me. I don’t have Slayer strength, you know.”
“No, but you do have centuries of experience, so it’s a deal. Just let me kill these guys, and we can head home.”
Buffy brushed past him and sauntered up to two men dressed in a style fashionable circa 1985. Methos crossed into the shadow of a large crypt and watched Buffy dispatch the vampires. She amused herself by twirling a fair-sized tree branch around and whacking one of the vamps whenever he got too close.
/She’s just toying with them. And she still wants to go home and spar. The girl definitely has an over-abundance of energy. At least, I managed to take the edge off of her suspicions about me. That is one complication that I do NOT need./
He sighed and sat down on a nearby headstone. Buffy broke the branch in two and used one half like a baseball bat . . . with an unfortunate vampire’s head standing in for the ball.
/Dear gods, what if she handles a sword like that? Maybe I should re-think accepting her offer to spar. She’s incredibly fast and strong . . . and she has no unifying style. Fighting her would be unpredictably difficult, and that’s putting it mildly./
“Afraid, brother?” A voice reached out of the darkness to prod at Methos.
He spun around, instantly scanning the shadows as his hand reached for the hilt of his sword. A ripple of fear and disbelief shot through him as Kronos stepped into view.
“Surely, Death wouldn’t be afraid of such a tiny girl.”
/No, no, no, no, no, NO! This is not happening! Breathe, old man, just breathe./
Methos shrugged off his rising panic and plastered a smartass grin on his face. “That “tiny girl” is a Slayer, so I would be stupid to underestimate her. Oh, and don’t call me Shirley.”
Kronos ignored Methos’ half-hearted attempt at humor and assumed a condescending leer. “You really have gone soft – letting yourself be led around by a woman. You should have tamed this witch the way you did the last one. And now, here you are, involved in a fight that doesn’t concern you. That isn’t like you either. Be careful, brother, or this little witch may be the death of you.”
The not-so-veiled threat to Willow wrapped itself around his heart like a tightening fist. Methos lifted his sword and inwardly congratulated himself on the fact that his hands weren’t visibly shaking.
/There is no way in hell that he is getting anywhere near her./
He tried to project a slightly annoyed, yet nonchalant attitude. “Why don’t we skip the chit-chat and you can tell me what sort of supernatural beastie you are?”
“Don’t tell me that you don’t recognize me?” Kronos said with a mocking smile. “Methos, you cut me to the quick. Did our thousand years together mean nothing to you?”
“Kronos is dead.” Methos said firmly.
“Are you sure?” The former Horseman taunted. “Your friend MacLeod has had trouble controlling the voices in his head. Maybe I just needed a little time to take over. It was pathetically easy to subdue his mind once I waded through all that guilt he carries around for killing so many of his friends. That really is a nasty habit. All things being equal, you were much safer being with me. There was always an unspoken threat that he might decide to remove you, and your moral ambiguity, from his life for good. Besides, pining away after your holier-than-thou Highlander never got you anywhere, did it? He never granted you the absolution that you’ve convinced yourself you need. You thought that if he believed you had changed, then it would be the truth.”
“Methos, my dear brother, I knew you were a gifted liar, but I never guessed at your incredible capacity to lie to yourself. Do you still think that you’ve changed? I know better. I know a part of you misses the old days . . . the absolute freedom. I can see the longing on your face, however much you try to deny it. You could have had it all. I would have been content with chaos and destruction, to be a ruler amidst the ruins, but you . . . you could have done what I never envisioned. You could have manipulated this world into serving you without destroying it first.”
Methos had been warily listening as the-thing-that-looked-like-Kronos rambled on, but now he laughed. “I don’t know what you are, but you definitely aren’t Kronos. He never would have admitted that I was more capable of world domination than he was. I was a means to an end. And that bit about me seeking redemption through MacLeod? It’s quite touching, but total and complete bollocks.”
He waved the tip of his sword in the general direction of the dead Horseman. “You’ve got the look down, but your lines could do with a re-write. And let us not forget the fact that Kronos is most emphatically dead. So, why don’t you give up the ineffective psychobabble and tell me what you are and why you’re here?”
Kronos’ gaze hardened and the last illusions of humanity slid off of him like water slipping down a drain. “You’ve always known it’s better to be the hunter than the hunted. I’m giving you the opportunity to switch teams voluntarily, but the offer won’t remain open indefinitely. If you turn me down, I may have to acquire your skills by force,” He paused, “or perhaps I’ll use the little witch. I’ll turn her . . . and then you’ll be forced to kill her when I send her after you. It’s quite a dilemma for me. She obviously doesn’t have your experience, but her raw power is astonishing. Hmm, decisions, decisions. Oh, and Methos, don’t forget – From Beneath You It Devours.”
“What?” He shouted angrily, “What is it that’s going to do this devouring?”
Kronos’ face creased into a slow and satisfied smile. He spread his arms in a falsely self-deprecating manner. Suddenly, Methos noticed a flash of silver in the other man’s hand. The spinning blade cut through the air and flew straight through his chest before disappearing.
/Apparently, he likes to say goodbye the same way he says hello. At least this time it wasn’t real./
Methos looked up just in time to see Kronos fade away like the ghost he was supposed to be.
/Why do I get the feeling that he won’t be content with rattling a few chains. Kronos did have a predilection for chains. Stop it! He’s bloody well dead, and whatever this thing is, it just knows which buttons to press. Besides - /
Methos felt a tap on his shoulder and spun around, barely managing to check his swing. Buffy stepped back out of his sword’s reach.
“A little jumpy?”
“No, it’s . . .” Methos shook his head. “I just met him . . . it.”
“It?” She sighed, “That’s never good.”
“Your new Big Bad. It just introduced itself.”
“How do you know that it wasn’t some random demon? Some of them can look awfully impressive, especially when you get into the tentacles and the horns and the slime.” Buffy tilted her head to the side, “Strangely enough, the reverse can also be true. I killed a fear demon once – he was only four inches tall, so I stomped him.”
“Buffy,” He interrupted, “I’m sure this was it. He took credit for your zippy little tag line. From Beneath You - so on and so forth.”
“Huh, did it have a big mouth with lots of teeth? Did it try to eat you?”
Methos stared at her for a moment, “No, it didn’t try to eat me. It contented itself with some mild taunting and a few dire threats.”
Buffy rolled her eyes, “Great, I just love when the evil has to get all dramatic. Well, it’s Watcher-time. We’d better go tell Giles what’s up. More clues, he’ll be thrilled.” She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “This taunting, did it have anything to do with the stuff you don’t want to talk about?”
Methos tried not to grimace. “A little bit. It was mostly a ‘join me, or die’ kind of thing.”
“Oh, so we’re talking about a Harry Potter/Voldemort/Death Eater kind of thing?”
“I’d say it’s more of a Darth-Vader-come-over-to-the-dark-side-of-the-force kind of thing, but without the redemption at the end.”
Buffy nodded in understanding, then went off on a bit of a tangent. “You know, I always thought that was a little sappy, having all the ghostly dead good guys lined up while everybody hugs, with the Ewoks playing the bongos on the storm trooper helmets.”
A small grin cracked Methos’ solemn expression, and he worked on trading witty banter with Buffy the rest of the way home. They both knew it was a defense mechanism, but they did it anyway. It was a necessary bit of bravado if they wanted to keep going. They still didn’t know all the rules, but the battle had been joined, and happy endings were the ones when you survived.
End Part 5
NB: Heartfelt apologies for the interminable length of time between updates. I recently moved, and I’ve had some mysterious health issues for literally months now. I have no intention of giving up on this fic, but I can’t promise updates with any particular speed or regularity. Huge thanks to everyone who has stuck with me this far.