It was dark when they left the restaurant, although that was not really so great a surprise. Methos knew that some considerable amount of time had passed during the meal - he just hadn't been paying much attention to it. That was the greatest surprise really, he mused, as he stepped out into soft yellow street lighting. Not that it was dark, but that he hadn't been paying attention to it. He was Methos, the Ever Alert. Methos, who never missed anything; whose mind was always switched on. The last time he had allowed himself to get lost in the company of another had been... a hundred, two hundred years ago? Molly, his mind filled in, even if the part of his brain that kept a watch over dates and times was currently playing truant. Yes, Molly. Now she had been worth losing himself in... Yeah, his brain told him, with its usual measure of sarcasm. But now probably isn't the best time to be thinking about old girlfriends... Which was probably a fair point. In his experience a new girlfriend could wind up being a bit annoyed if she found out that his mind was on one of her predecessors.
"Penny for them?" She had taken his hand, and was strolling along beside him with a soft smile and a spark in her eyes. He shrugged.
"Er... dinner? I was thinking about how nice it was."
"Liar. You've got that look again. If you were thinking about any meal at all, it was one that you had at least a century back. I know you, Adam. I'm your Watcher, remember?"
"Yeah." He let go of her hand so that he could pull her into a grudging embrace. "Don't you have to give that up now? It could be seen as a conflict of interest."
"Not really. I'm a Watcher, first and foremost. Besides, if me being your girlfriend is a conflict of interest, what about my father and Duncan MacLeod?"
"MacLeod isn't Joe's girlfriend." The thought made Methos grin, and Amy clouted him on the chest. "Ow."
"Well then stop twisting my words. I meant that my father is Duncan's best friend, but he's been Watching him for years now. Can you see him divulging any information to head office that might be compromising to Duncan? Yet it's supposed to be his job."
"Joe's different. Anyway, MacLeod is hardly a danger to mortality. What he does isn't necessarily important - except for all the heroic gubbins, obviously. I have five thousand years worth of being a danger to mortality, so what I do is more likely to be of interest. I think you should quit."
"And do what? I'm a Watcher! That doesn't exactly endow one with all that many transferable skills."
"You could be a schoolteacher. Used to be traditional, for a girl your age."
"Being five thousand is no excuse for sexism, you know." She made as though to thump him again, but he caught her hand this time.
"I wasn't being sexist. I was being sarcastic. I just think that--"
"You just hate having a Watcher. All those years avoiding them, and now you're stuck with us." She grinned. "Drives you mad, doesn't it."
"Given how often I manage to give you the slip, no it doesn't. Not really. Any time I wanted to lose you all permanently, I'd just hop on a bus and leave Seacouver." He frowned suddenly, realising just how much that idea stung. He really didn't want to leave his home. "And none of that changes your conflict of interest."
"As if you care." She rested her head on his shoulder. "And what were you thinking of, anyway?"
"Molly." He grinned at the top of her head. Well... why bother keeping quiet about his old girlfriends? Amy knew who he was - she couldn't really expect a five thousand year old man to be a virgin, let alone a novice in the dating game. She laughed lightly.
"Molly? Let me guess. That same restaurant, a century ago?"
"I don't think that restaurant was there a century ago. And no, anyway. Molly was..." The last woman who made me feel the way that you do? No. Way too corny, and not really his style. The last woman who made me forget where I was? No, that didn't sound right either - and besides, it was a lie. Several women since Molly had made him forget where he was, even if they had tended to do it with drink, drugs or powerful blows to the head. He settled in the end with: "She was a woman I used to know. Best relationship I'd had in centuries."
"How long ago?" The question seemed gentle enough, but he reviewed her tone of voice before he answered. He didn't mind speaking about Molly, but he didn't want to talk about it if it was all just being filed away for inclusion in the records. Amy wasn't that mercenary, usually. But Molly was special.
"I met her in 1810," he said finally. "She died in 1875, although I hadn't seen her in long time before then. She was shot in a train hold up."
"Yeah." He rested his chin on her head for a moment, and smiled. "But I really didn't intend to spend what's left of the evening talking about old girlfriends."
"Would you rather talk about my old boyfriends?"
"Oddly enough, no. I was thinking we might go back to my place and have a beer. I can drop you off back at your apartment before midnight. Shouldn't be a problem."
"My apartment? Adam..." She was laughing faintly; he could feel the movement against his shoulder. "Tell me, is it the age difference that's stopping you from taking this relationship to the next level? Because frankly I think if you're hoping for a woman your age, you're going to be waiting a long time."
"Very funny." He couldn't really tell her that he didn't want her to stay the night because of her father. She was a grown woman, and bringing Joe into it would be an insult. On the other hand, Joe was a good friend, and the last thing that Methos wanted was to lose that. He settled for a shrug. "I just want to be careful, Amy. I'm used to... well, to things being quick. Quick and simple, without any ties. I've not wanted any ties. Not for a long time. And now suddenly there's you, and... This isn't about having a quick fling and then heading off into the sunrise, is it."
"I should flaming well hope not." She sighed. "Never fall in love with an Immortal. That's what you told me."
"I was right."
"It's what Joe told me too."
"And he was right." He stroked her hair gently. "Sorry."
"Methos never apologises."
"Not terribly sincerely, no." Slowly he lifted her head so that she was looking at him. "Just let me take it slowly, Amy. I lead a very complicated life."
"I know." She smiled, and he saw that there was no harm done. "It's my job to write about just how complicated it is. Yes, okay. Your place, beer, my apartment... all very nineteen thirties and proper, I'm sure. You're weird, Adam. But..."
"But I like you. Sometimes."
"That's nice." He pulled her back into a proper embrace, and steered her down a side road, heading all the while for his home. "Thanks for tonight, by the way."
"That's not what I meant. Going out... it's like a little bit of normality. I don't get much of that. My life is all... psychopaths and swords, and that sort of thing. Bloodstains and insurance claims. It's easy to forget how to live an ordinary life. Going out for a meal, sharing a talk that doesn't involve the latest imminent threat to our lives... So thanks. I'd like to do it again."
"I'm counting on it."
"You are?" He sounded surprised. Presumably there had been girlfriends in his past who hadn't been prepared to get shot at just for the sake of an occasional meal and a casual relationship. She could sympathise. In the usual way of things, she wouldn't have chosen to fall for a man like Methos either. It was just that sometimes things happened, and there wasn't a whole lot that anybody could do about it.
"I'm not about to dump you, just because occasionally odd things happen in your presence."
"Well... fairly frequently then. You know what I mean."
"Yeah." They strolled on in silence for a while, looking at the buildings and the river, and listening to the city sounds of a normal late evening; or as normal as Seacouver got just lately. It was a nice city when it was quiet, thought Methos. When it wasn't filled with relics from his past life, returning to grab him; when it wasn't filled with Immortals looking to test themselves against the reputation of Duncan MacLeod; when it wasn't just being downright hostile, the way that it seemed to have a habit of being. Given its record for throwing peril his way, he would have left a long time ago if he had really believed that the fault lay with Seacouver. It didn't. He had been attracting trouble all over the globe for several millennia before Seacouver had even been thought of. It was just that it was easier to blame the city. It didn't tend to object.
"Your building looks nice from here," Amy told him, as they turned a corner and saw the place up ahead. Methos nodded. It was a very attractive building, and the apartment inside was nicer still. Even given the occasional annoying neighbour, he was happy there. It was spacious, comfortable, and filled with the comforts of home. It also, apparently, had the ability to turn its own lights on. He frowned, and Amy clearly felt the tension that suddenly appeared in his frame.
"What is it?" she asked. He scowled.
"My evening plans shot to hell, that's what. Company."
"I can't tell at this distance." Who would break into his house and turn the lights on? A thief would generally be more careful than that, but then the more brazen ones did tend to be the most successful. Joe was back at the club, and was unlikely to have come over here. Duncan MacLeod didn't usually let himself in when Methos was away. He preferred to lurk in the corridors, or on the front steps, hoping to set an example that Methos resolutely refused to follow. Why lurk in the corridor when there was a comfortable chair inside, with only a locked door in the way? Such logic seemed lost on MacLeod.
"Maybe we should call the police," suggested Amy. Methos shook his head.
"No. If it's thieves they'll be gone before the police get here. If it isn't..." He shrugged. "Anyway, the local police don't like me very much. They never did, really, but in recent years my standing with the boys in blue has taken a sharp nose dive. It's complicated... but I tend to avoid them now."
"All the same... There's a serial killer on the loose, Methos. Or so the newspapers say. Maybe--"
"No." He pushed her away from him gently, and gestured for her to remain outside in the street. "No, I think I know who it is."
"And if you're wrong?"
"Then I'll run like hell. I'm no hero. But if I'm right, you'd probably best not be there. I usually try to do my really bad swearing in dead languages, so there's less chance of offending any listening ears, but if it's who I think it is, things could get messy. Unpleasant. Noisy."
"You're going to fight?" She looked horrified, and he realised that she was impressed. His chest swelled. Fight? Him? Had she forgotten who he was?! All the same, if she wanted to think that, he wasn't going to disappoint her. He shrugged, and tried to look rakish.
"Maybe." He smiled. "Stay here." He frowned, hesitating, and remembering her words. There's a serial killer on the loose. Yes - and he knew exactly who it was. That didn't make Amy immune to her dangers. "Stay alert. If anything sounds suspicious... run for it. Don't stop to wonder about anything."
"I'm not an idiot, Adam." She sounded testy, and he could hear the concern in her voice. He smiled.
"Everything will be fine. I'll be back in a moment. Just keep your ears peeled in the meantime."
"I will. And be careful!" She called the words out to him as he left her, as he headed for his apartment steps with what he hoped was a suitably heroic-looking stride. Just as long as he didn't trip up the steps or something. Only when he was out of her sight and through the front doors, did he slow down and begin to think things through more carefully. He was Methos, the Ever Alert - and he was also Methos, the Always Avoid Danger Whatever The Costs. Still - he was fairly sure that he knew who his guest was. In which case he was damn well going up there, to use a few of those ancient and dead swear words. And possibly quite a few newer ones, too. He had a sizeable reserve of favourites that were about due for another airing; and he was muttering a fair few of them before the lift car had even arrived.
"Kronos!" He burst in to the room knowing exactly who he was going to see there. He had guessed long before coming into range of the unmistakably familiar aura of his oldest friend. His oldest annoyance. His oldest pain in the neck, desperately frustrating, downright bloody aggravating partner in crime. Confound the man, why choose now? Why, of all the nights in all the weeks, did he have to choose the one when Methos had a girl downstairs he wanted to impress? It wasn't as though such things happened frequently. Methos hadn't dated regularly in years - not since before Kronos had returned from his - altogether too brief, Methos was now inclined to think - sojourn into death. Any other evening would have been fine; but no. His confounded brother had had to choose this one. Of course he had. He was Kronos , after all. He had made a lifetime's career out of being a complete sod.
"Methos!" The other Immortal was sprawled in a chair, in a pose so immediately reminiscent of Methos himself that for a moment the world's oldest man was drawn up short. Was this how MacLeod felt, when he returned home to find Methos draped over the furniture? He cast the thought aside. No - he wasn't Kronos. Even when he really tried, he couldn't be that annoying. Kronos did look like him though - minus about a foot in height, granted. And ignoring all of the other physical characteristics that didn't match. He sat with the same easy grace; the same air of regal indolence. He sprawled with the same degree of contented laziness, feet on the coffee table, expression one of quiet relaxation. The only difference was that, instead of a can of beer in his hand, he had what appeared to be water, in a lead crystal goblet that looked like it was probably worth a fortune; especially if it didn't travel alone. Methos's heels skidded on the carpet as he went into sudden acceleration, going over to swipe the glass from the other man's hand. That had definitely not come from the kitchen cabinet. Methos might not bother with glasses very often, but he did know what his looked like. And they didn't look like that.
"Damn it, Kronos! Are you bringing your blasted stolen goods here again? This is not some fence's showroom. I happen to live here, and the police have a low enough opinion of me as it is. I do not want to give them any further reason to get suspicious."
"They don't think much of me, either," commented Kronos, in the sort of tone that suggested such things didn't matter, and that Methos was making a whole lot of fuss about nothing. "And hello, brother."
"Hello." Methos gave him back the glass, and sat down in a nearby chair. "What the hell are you doing in here? I don't remember inviting you."
"You didn't." Kronos saluted him with the goblet, and took a sip from whatever was inside. "I came anyway. Why? Am I in the way?"
"Would it make any difference?"
"No." Kronos set down the glass. "Amy, I suppose. Your pet mortal's stroppy daughter."
"She's not stroppy." Methos realised that he was starting to sound that way himself, and scowled. "What did you want, anyway? Or is this just one of your more annoying days?"
"I'm always annoying." Kronos stood up, stretching luxuriously. "Anyway, I'm almost a neighbour. It's not as if a visit from me is terribly rare these days."
"Yeah. Lucky me." Methos sighed, realising that he wasn't going to be getting rid of his guest any time soon. "Did you want something in particular? It's Wednesday. You don't usually see daylight mid week."
"It's practically the middle of the night." Kronos looked hesitant. "I wanted to talk, but..." He drifted off into silence, and his eyes slid past Methos. "I suppose now probably isn't the best of times."
"That's what I've been saying all along." Methos frowned suddenly, realising that Kronos was looking at somebody behind him. Somebody who must be a mortal, for he had felt nothing in their approach. Inwardly he groaned.
"Amy." Kronos, for all his warmongering ways and love of violence, had the ability to be utterly charming and perfectly courteous. He was like that now, switching on the most bewitching of smiles as he strode past Methos with his hand outstretched. "But it's not Miss Dawson, is it."
"No, it's..." She frowned. "I'm sorry. Do I know you?"
"No, we've not met. I know your father." He took her hand, and offered her a short, courtly bow. "Peter Kerensky. And my apologies. I seem to have inadvertently spoilt your evening."
"Oh, we didn't have anything special planned." She was won over immediately by his manners, and Methos rolled his eyes. Typical. Kronos had always been an expert manipulator, and always seemed to know exactly how to handle everybody. It was a handy skill to subvert for the purposes of terrorising his victims; but it was also very useful for winning people around. For making friends. Amy's smile lit up the room when she looked across at Methos.
"Old friend?" she asked. Methos glowered.
"The oldest. But he was just leaving."
"Oh surely not. I never meet any of your friends, Adam. My father says that you don't really have any, except for him and Duncan. How did you meet Adam, Mr Kerensky?"
"Peter, please." He smiled another of his charming, gentle smiles, and his ice blue eyes gleamed warmly. "We met in Eastern Europe, some years ago now."
"Well I want to hear all about him from you." She smiled challengingly at Methos, then took Kronos by the arm and led him back towards the chairs. "Sit down. I'll get us all a drink from the kitchen. And stop glowering like that, Adam, it'll be nice to have some extra company. Perhaps there'll be some nice embarrassing stories I can listen to."
"Quite likely." Kronos sat down, flashing a grin at his brother. Methos glared, and as soon as Amy had gone to fetch their drinks, he sat down beside Kronos, and turned the glare up several fiery notches.
"What the hell was all that about? Peter Kerensky? Kronos, I will not have you hurting her. You can play your mind games with that poor Frenchwoman you live with, but you leave Amy alone."
"Relax, brother. And you know I've been using that name. You gave it to me! It came with the body. If she finds out who I really am..." He shrugged. "Then I have to kill her. Dawson is allowed to know who I am, because I trust him. I trust him because of you. No other Watchers. Nobody else in that damned organisation is ever going to know the slightest thing about me."
"I know." Methos flopped back into the chair. "I know what's happened to the Watchers who have tried to put a tail on you recently."
"Well then. Best she just thinks I'm a mortal. Somebody as charming and as essentially pointless as she no doubt is." He saw the flicker of anger in his companion's eyes, and held up his hands to ward off comment. "Calm down. I'm only joking. Right now she's far from pointless, anyway. More like deeply annoying."
"Ah." So now the truth became clear. "You really did have some reason for coming here tonight. Sophie?"
"Yes." The younger Immortal's pale blue eyes flickered over towards the kitchen, looking out for Amy. "She knows what she is, Methos. She's finally put two and two together, and I don't know where that's going to lead."
"You're sure she's figured it out?"
"Pretty much. She was out prowling around last night, and one of our neighbours blew out her chest with a semi-automatic. Much as I usually appreciate America's relaxed attitudes to gun ownership - makes my life so much easier - I can't say that I appreciated it all that much last night."
"Ah." Methos nodded slowly. "So now she knows. How's she taking it?"
"She's a manic depressive with a fractured personality, Methos. She's taking it the same way she takes everything. By being decidedly less than sane."
"Have you had the chance to speak to her?"
"Not really. She went for me with a carving knife, then drank herself into a stupor. I thought she might have forgotten about it by the time that she woke up, but she didn't. She kept demanding answers and then refusing to listen to them." He sighed. "She's always clung to the possibility of suicide as a way out of this life, and now she feels that she's lost that. I tried to tell her that she can still die, but she didn't want to listen to that, either. I slipped her some pills in the end, and left her virtually in a coma. She always has a lot of pills around, so there's more than enough to top herself with if she gets the urge."
Methos was aghast. "So what did you give her? You know the effect pills and medications can have on our kind!"
"I'm a scientist, brother. Not a moron. When she wakes up she'll be right as rain - which isn't terribly right in her case. I just want to know what to do with her now."
"And you came to me for advice?" Methos was delighted. Delighted, surprised, and suspicious. Kronos eyed him sardonically.
"Don't be daft. I can't kill her, can I. I can't take an Immortal life now without creating a new one. I thought you might like to chop her head off or something. Do it when she's still asleep and there won't be any risk to you."
"You want me to kill her?" He remembered Amy, and lowered his voice sharply. "No! The poor woman needs help, Kronos."
"The only help MacLeod ever gives screwy Immortals is a lobotomy the hard way," pointed out Kronos. Methos glared.
"Not anymore. Not so often, anyway. And Sophie is different, anyhow. You made her, brother. You shaped that bust up head of hers. She's your monster."
"She's my burden, brother. A diversion gone rogue. She always wanted to die, so why deny her that experience? Death fascinates her. It's all that she has."
"She doesn't want to die. She wants to not want to. She told me that she took up with you because you made her feel alive. That's what she wants. Not death."
"She wants death. She's just too afraid to embrace it. She talks all day to the ghosts of the people she's killed, telling them how she wishes she could join them. The woman is insane, Methos. And if you don't kill her, I will have to. Or would you rather she carried on slicing up your neighbours in the dead of night? Seacouver is on tenterhooks; the police seem to shoot half a dozen vagrants every night, on the suspicion that they've finally found their serial killer. Your happy little world here is in danger of falling apart."
"What's falling apart?" Amy had appeared, bearing a tray of glasses and bottles of beer. There was even a bowl of nuts on the tray, which impressed Methos. He didn't normally have anything edible to hand. She set the tray down on the coffee table, and shot him a sharp look. "Don't think I didn't recognise the wrappers. Do you always steal the peanuts from Joe's club?"
"Oh." Yes of course - that was where the nuts had come from. Half a dozen small packets that he faintly remembered appropriating at some point, with a view to having something to nibble on during the televised showing of The Darkness live in New York. She smirked.
"Stop looking like a master criminal. They're only peanuts. Or were you and Peter discussing terrible secrets?"
"Just plumbing." Kronos flashed her an easy smile, that almost completely hid the distracted look in his eyes. Methos could easily believe that his wayward brother would cheerfully have twisted the mortal woman's head from her shoulders if it would have got him a solution to the problem of Sophie Laseaux any sooner. "My apartment is in the grip of some deadly renovation work. Apparently it's a bug that grips the landlord every few years."
"My sympathies." She handed him a bottle of beer. "But all the more reason why you should stay here that bit longer. So." She handed Methos a bottle as well, then sat down between them. "I want to hear all about the pair of you. And don't leave anything out."
"Anything?" Kronos flashed Methos a look that positively shone with mischief. The world's oldest man glared ferociously, but there was no point arguing. Better just go with the flow. He had beer. With enough of that, he could just about ignore everything else.
Amy proved to be annoyingly taken with Kronos. She sat beside him on the sofa, charmed, as was almost everybody who didn't know him to be a psychotic, evil genius, by his bright eyes and gentle smile. He told her old stories of his friendship with Methos, adjusted to avoid the revelation that most of the events listed had happened several hundred years ago, or longer. He played upon her natural Watcher's love for history by telling her some of the many, many things he knew of the Ancient World, claiming to be a scholar rather than a witness to the departed civilisations of which he spoke. He told small jokes, he played the part of a perfect gentleman, and he let the common North American prejudice of his well-spoken English accent do all the rest. She never dreamed for a moment that he was anything other than a polite, cultured specialist in Ancient History. A professor perhaps, visiting his friend Adam Pierson, who of course had a similar interest in history himself. Methos kept the beer coming, and a supply of coffee to go with it, and tried not to glare too forcefully. He didn't want to give anything away. Kronos was apt to be rather unpredictable, when people found out who he really was.
"I could listen to you talk about Sumeria for ages." Leaning back into the soft settee, Amy smiled one of her own charming smiles at Methos's uninvited guest. Kronos matched it, his pale blue eyes warming as he inclined his head with grace.
"Thankyou. But I really do feel that I should be leaving the two of you alone. It's getting late, and you've obviously--"
"Oh, don't go!" She put out her hand, resting it on his arm to stop him from rising. His eyes sparkled in Methos's direction for a moment, but he masked the expression from Amy's view, and merely looked faintly bashful.
"Well if you're sure..."
"Of course I'm sure." She shot Methos a combative glance. "We didn't have anything special planned."
"We'd hate to keep you, Peter." Methos put a subtle emphasis on the name, certain that only Kronos would pick up on it. "Don't you have an early start in the morning? An aeroplane to catch? A long flight to the other side of the world?"
"You're leaving?" Amy sounded genuinely sorry, and Methos could cheerfully have punched something. Preferably a bit of Kronos. A nicely sensitive bit of Kronos. The chance would be a fine thing; Kronos could flatten him before he could make a move. His brother shrugged.
"I have been thinking of leaving town. I'm not the type to stay anywhere for too long, and it's been some months since I came to Seacouver. If I thought that there was something to stay for, though..."
"Oh well there is! Adam is so tight-lipped about certain parts of his personal history, and I'd love to hear all about him from one of his friends. You obviously know so many stories. And if they're embarrassing ones, then so much the better. It'll serve Adam right for not telling me anything himself."
"Embarrassing tales?" A truly wicked grin spread itself across Kronos' face, though for once it was tempered by a glint of fun in his eyes. "Has he ever told you about the time that he tried to romance a girl in Athens?"
"Peter..." There was a warning note in Methos's voice, though he trusted that it was subtle enough to pass Amy by. Kronos frowned.
"What?" He looked and sounded entirely innocent - there were at least half a dozen tales that he could tell about Methos and girls in Athens, after all. Nonetheless, Methos knew exactly which one that he was planning to tell. He rose to his feet.
"It's late," he declared, feigning a yawn. "I said I'd get you home for midnight, Amy, and it's past that now."
"I know. I learnt to tell the time years ago." She reached up, taking his wrist and pulling him back down beside her, teasing him with the gentle force. "And I'm not tired. I'm a big girl these days, you know. I don't need a curfew, and my father isn't waiting up for me. In case it had escaped your notice, I don't actually live with him. I never have."
"I know." He sighed, leaning back against the arm of the settee, and wishing that he was somewhere else. Or somebody else; that would be good too right now. "Fine. Go ahead. Athens."
"Athens." Kronos grinned. He didn't add the details of when they had been there; that would have given the game away. Instead he merely launched straight into the story. "She was the daughter of a merchant of some kind." A freedman, Methos could have added, but didn't. To all intents and purposes Aron had indeed been a merchant; and a powerful one, too, given his class. He remembered the girl in question, and couldn't help smiling. She had been called Lyta, and had almost been worth the effort. Almost.
"She was called Lyta," Kronos was saying. "Tall girl. Brown hair. Nice smile. Adam was quite besotted."
"She was rich," put in Methos, trying to explain away his interest in mercenary terms. Amy laughed. Not the reaction he had been expecting, but a delightful one nonetheless.
"Quite well off, yes," continued Kronos. "And with at least half a dozen men trying to charm her. Locals mostly, and quite well off themselves."
"But only one scruffy English perpetual student," put in Amy. Kronos smiled at her.
"You know him very well," he commented lightly. Methos could have hit him. Amy just laughed.
"He has his charms," she explained. "The scruffiness is a part of it, certainly."
"I wasn't scruffy then." Methos was beginning to colour, and Amy was clearly enjoying that. Kronos was just smirking, having fun with the situation. Methos was tempted to come up with a few embarrassing tales of his own, but Kronos had a remarkable talent of avoiding embarrassment. His old friend raised an eyebrow.
"That's a matter of opinion. Anyway, Lyta seemed to like the attention, until Adam got over-enthusiastic and tried filling her room with flowers. Really filling it with flowers. The poor woman couldn't even get in through the door. She had to call for help to get some of the flowers out of the way, and when she and her..." he hesitated, unable to say 'maidservants'... "her friends finally managed to clear a path across the room, they found Adam lying on the bed wearing nothing but a crested Greek helmet and a--" He broke off, a familiar sensation running through him. Methos had frozen too. Amy just laughed, clearly delighted by the story.
"And a what?! You can't leave it there." Neither man answered her, and she frowned, finally noticing the sudden tension. "What is it?"
"I don't know." Methos got up, heading towards the door and reaching for his sword as he did so. Kronos was on his feet now too, but made no move for his weapon. He was content to let Amy continue thinking that he was a mortal, but he wanted to be ready for action anyway.
"Expecting company?" he asked, as he took up a position on the other side of the door. Methos shook his head.
"I don't think it's MacLeod."
"No, it's not MacLeod." Kronos shrugged at his questioning look. "I know him. I know the inside of his head, remember?"
"Yes, of course." Methos scowled. Damn it, this had been such a promising evening. "I suppose it could be Amanda."
"She'd be knocking at the door by now, yelling your name at the top of her voice, and putting your blood pressure up." Kronos took the door handle, ready to smash the door open and throw caution to the wind. "Watch it, brother. If you're standing right behind the door, it might just break that daft nose of yours."
"Adam?" Amy was stepping out of the line of fire of the door, her reactions instinctive. They had been speaking too quietly for her to be sure of what they were saying, but she would have to have been a fool not to have realised that Methos at least had detected somebody's approach. He wanted to tell her to head for the bedroom and hide, but he knew that she wouldn't go. Not only was she a Watcher, but she was her father's daughter. She would likely stick with him till the bitter end.
"Ssh." He held his free hand to his lips for silence, then took a two-handed hold upon his sword, and raised the weapon, nodding at the same moment to Kronos. The Immortal's hand tensed upon the door handle, then with a mighty flick of one wrist, he threw the door wide. Methos swung the sword around, and brought it up short just before it beheaded his unexpected guest. Amy gasped in shock, and Kronos swore. Methos lowered the sword.
It was Sophie, of course. Sophie Laseaux, the striking, troubled, manic protégé of Kronos; a mortal Frenchwoman, caught up in Immortal affairs and turned into one of their own. He should have guessed; lately it stood to reason that if Kronos was around, she would not be far behind him. Usually covered in somebody else's blood, and talking to the ghosts that haunted her mind. Kronos had met her when she had been trying to commit suicide, and it had all been downhill for her from there. Her morbid fascination with death, and her desperate desire to feel alive, had combined in an addiction for pain and blood and murder. Other people's, of course. And now it seemed that since the last time Methos had seen her she had only fallen further. The change in her now startled him, and left him fearing for whatever remained of her mind.
"Here you are." She sounded doped up, but he could see from her eyes that she was perfectly sober; perfectly untainted by drugs. "I missed you."
"You did?" he asked, for she had seemed to be talking to him. She nodded.
"Both of you. I knew he'd be with you. He always is, when he's not off doing whatever it is he's doing." She rubbed her temples, and left distinct traces of blood there. Amy gasped.
"I doubt it." Kronos reached out to pull the woman over the threshold, and get her out of the all too public corridor. Methos's was the only apartment on this floor, but the corridor was still a regular stopping place for the lift. Sophie resisted, though, when he pulled at her arm.
"You're not alone." Her eyes, sharply blue against her dark skin, focused only now upon Amy. "Who is she?"
"That doesn't matter," Methos told her; a note of warning in his voice. Sophie frowned at him.
"Nothing matters to you. You've killed more people than anybody will ever know. You're a destroyer; a harbinger of doom. Nothing matters to you."
"She knows who you are." Amy took a step forward, fascinated by this mad-eyed woman on the doorstep. Sophie's long hair was ragged, tied in eccentric plaits by different coloured, tattered pieces of material; she was dressed in dark blue to match her eyes, but her clothes were torn and dirty, and looked too big for her. She hadn't been eating properly; that much was clear. "Who you really are."
"No she doesn't. She's just..." He tapped his temple, trying to convey madness whilst making a token attempt to look sympathetic. "She thinks that she sees things."
"I don't need to see things." Sophie entered the room at last, her eyes everywhere, and mostly upon Amy. "I hear things. They tell me everything I need to know."
"They?" asked Amy, somewhat tentatively. Sophie smiled at her; an oddly unnerving smile, with a hint of lasciviousness in its curl.
"The people I've killed." She waved an arm in a semicircle, apparently indicating the great crowd of souls that accompanied her wherever she went. "All of them. They never leave me. We're together forever, now. For better or for worse." She smiled suddenly, and for a second it was a warm, infectious smile, that spoke of a personality lost. "Mostly worse." She shrugged. "Always worse, actually."
"Okay..." Methos made as though to take her by the arm, without actually making contact. "Time you were leaving, Sophie. Get her out of here Peter."
"Peter?" Sophie looked blankly about the room, then seemed to notice Kronos afresh, and smiled. "Oh yes. You're called that sometimes. Peter. I like Peter."
"Go home, Sophie." Kronos spoke with the sharp, cold voice that always got him noticed; the kind that was always to be obeyed. Sophie, however, was not some mortal desperate to save her life. She looked back at him, her eyes empty of all emotion, and her face all but drained of its colour. The pallor was not through fear; he could see that. It came from the confusion in her mind.
"You can't send her home. It's dark outside, and there's a serial killer out there somewhere." Amy moved closer to the other woman, her expression gentle. "Your name is Sophie? I'm Amy. Are you okay?"
"Okay?" It would have been the last word that Sophie would ever have used to describe herself, even back in the days when there was a herself that she felt up to describing. She no longer knew who or what she was, and 'okay' couldn't have been any further from the truth. Confused and disturbed, she began to laugh. "Okay. He stole my life, he stole my heart, he stole everything I came to think that I was. And now he's stolen my death, and I'm supposed to be okay? Do you know how many people I've killed? It was supposed to make me feel alive, but it didn't work. It was supposed to turn me back into myself, and now I can never be myself again. And I'm supposed to be okay?!"
"Leave her alone, Sophie. She doesn't understand." Methos tried to move between the two of them, but Amy was no more willing to be dominated than was Sophie. She stepped around him, laying a hand on his shoulder to show that he should back off.
"Is there somebody that you'd like us to call, Sophie? A friend? You seem unhappy."
"Unhappy." Sophie began to laugh. "Unhappy. You really don't have a hope in hell of understanding, do you."
"That's enough." Steering Amy out of the way with a firm force, Methos pointed at the door. "Out. Take her home, Peter."
"You live together?" Amy was frowning, confused. Kronos shot her a cold-eyed stare that momentarily took her aback.
"Stay out of this," he told her, already moving to intercept Sophie. "Are you armed?"
"Me?" Amy thought that he was still speaking to her, but of course his attention had already switched itself to Sophie, shutting out Amy as though she no longer existed. Very likely she didn't, for she was certainly of no consequence to him, and particularly in this scenario. When she realised that he was speaking instead to Sophie, she stepped back a short way, and watched him with widened eyes.
"Well?" He grabbed the new Immortal by one arm, giving her a rough shake that made her confused expression crystallise for a moment. For one brief moment she was looking out at the world from a focused and unclouded perspective; then everything broke apart again, and she frowned.
"You saved me." She lifted one hand, trailing it down his cheek, and smiling like a lover in the midst of a caress. "Pulled me back from the brink."
"Yes." He endured her touch for a moment as though it were some burden that was peculiarly his. "Now get the hell out of here before I show you a whole new place that nobody will ever be able to save you from. Understand?"
"I understand." For a second more the hand stayed on his cheek, then fell away. Amy took a step forward again, but Methos held her back.
"Keep out of it, Amy." His voice was oddly flat; this was something that he had not wanted her to see. Amy knew who he was, and knew of the things that he had done, but that was all details in files; neat words typed by unknown hands, and saved on hard drives and DVD-ROMs stored in Watcher HQ. It was a little different to seeing one of his friends apparently terrorising a disturbed woman. She looked up at him now with questioning eyes, clearly seeing him as a part of it all; somebody condoning and even co-operating with an apparent abuse.
"Quiet." He pushed her to one side, hating himself for doing it, but not sure what else he could do. "Peter, sort this out, damn it. Get her out of here. Now."
"You want me to knock her out and carry her out of here?" Kronos spoke with a voice like ice. "In a city terrified of a serial killer, in an apartment full of people who think that you're weird, with every policeman in the neighbourhood suspecting the pair of us of the heavens only know what? You've been in the middle of too much suspicious stuff to risk something like that, brother. Or perhaps you'd rather I wrapped her up and threw her down the rubbish chute?"
"Just... just sort it out." Methos grabbed for the nearest beer, realised that it was empty, and swore. "Come on, Amy. I'll take you home."
"I'm not leaving. I don't think it would be right." She looked over at Kronos, who was now steering Sophie towards the door. "Peter, I think she needs to stay here. Wherever you're planning to take her, I don't think she wants to go."
"You don't?" He spoke with the dangerous edge of amusement in his voice that warned Methos of many explosions close to being triggered. "Do you think that you know what she wants, Amy?"
"Peter..." Methos put as much force into his voice as he could without alarming his mortal girlfriend any further, but Kronos was not listening. Instead he seemed focused now upon Amy, turning to face her with hard lights in his eyes.
"You think you know what she wants? You think she's some poor soul who needs help? Well let me tell you what she really wants."
"No. Let her hear. She should know, brother. She can't be everything that she needs to be for you if she doesn't know what your life is about."
"This isn't what my life is about." Methos turned dagger eyes upon Sophie. "Leave. Now."
"Methos, no..." Amy hurried forward. "Sophie - if you don't mind me calling you that. Sit down. I'll get you a glass of water. Or some tea? Coffee?"
"Or blood?" Sophie's head tipped on one side slightly to ask the question, her eyes glinting as she surveyed Amy playfully from this new angle. Her tongue licked slowly at her lips, and she smiled horribly. "Thick, dark, venal blood. Drip, drip, drip..."
"Get out." Kronos pushed her hard, sending her staggering back towards the door. "You can make this city quake in its collective designer shoes, but your tricks are nothing here."
"I only want to play with her. It gets harder every time, you know. You do know. I just want to--"
"You have a city to play with. From now until somebody finally kills you." He pushed her onward to the door. "Go and play with your sharp knives and your mortal throats, but stay out of my sight."
"Or what? You'll kill me? He shot me! I saw my chest explode. I can't die. So that means what? Is it a reward for my work here? Does somebody want me to kill? Is immortality a reward for all the violence?"
"She shouldn't leave, Peter." Amy made as though to move closer again, but Methos held her back. "She's delusional! She needs help, and we should call the police."
"Yes. Because calling the police and telling them that the serial killer they're all looking for is currently a guest in my house, and living with my best friend, isn't going to get us all locked up indefinitely. I have to be very careful, Amy."
"Careful? They're talking about killing people, and you're worried about your reputation?"
"No, damn it! I'm worried about you, and I'm worried about me." He rolled his eyes. "Damn it, Peter, just get that bloody woman out of here! Keep your psychological experiments on a leash, or bloody well teach them how to behave. I'm going into the kitchen for a beer, and when I get back the pair of you had better be gone."
"She needs help, Adam!" Amy was growing increasingly angry. Kronos shot her a withering glare.
"She needs death. Your death. If she watches you die, her mind will heal itself. For one second, or for one minute; if she's lucky for a whole hour. Your death will give her that. She's so broken inside that she can't feel anything unless it comes with death. Still feel sorry for her, Miss Thomas?"
"I--" She broke off, looking from Sophie to Kronos and back again. "Why would she want to kill me? She doesn't know me."
"You think she knew all the other people she's killed lately?" Kronos smiled at her; a mocking, cruel smile. On his way to the kitchen, Methos froze.
"We're going." The smile flickered into something warmer. Something less cruel and cold, but infinitely more dangerous nonetheless. He began to pull his charge towards the door. "And don't go making a scene, Sophie. If any of the locals see you and try to intervene, I'll kill them and I won't let you watch."
"I'll fight you for them." She began to laugh, slowly at first, but with more force; more speed; until she was cackling like a maniac. It was a distasteful sound, somehow; the sound of somebody who had lost the ability to control herself, and was no longer fully able to function. Methos wanted to look away.
"Just get her out of here," he muttered, no longer really bothering to make himself heard. Nearby Amy took his hand, in a move that surprised him. He had begun to think that she was falling away from him in her probably understandable sympathies for Sophie Laseaux.
"Come on." Kronos gave the woman's arm a tug, and she stumbled after him briefly, pulling back only when they were nearly at the door. She struggled then, fighting against the inexorable force, a certain panic showing in her eyes.
"I don't want to go back there. Not there." Her voice caught in her throat. "There are too many dark corners. Too many shadows. I'm scared of the dark, Kronos. I can't turn my mind off in the dark."
"Then turn the bloody lights on." He gave her another tug, almost over the threshold now, the anger beginning to show itself more in his face. He had reined it all in until now; a mark of respect, perhaps, for Methos's mortal companion - or just a desire not to draw too much attention to his own part in all of this. The less that Amy knew about him, the better. Now, though, the harshness was coming through the façade, and the charming image he had cultivated so carefully was falling away. Sophie began to whimper.
"It's always dark. Everything is dark." One of her hands found its way inside the jacket that hung so loosely over her thin frame. Methos almost called out a warning, but something about her slackness; her wet-eyed mindlessness; kept him silent. She didn't look like a threat, even if she was responsible for the deaths of so many mortals. Just now she didn't look capable of doing anything save writhe and sob. When he realised his mistake, he barely had a second to cry out a warning.
"What-?" Turning at the sound of his brother's voice, Kronos saw the gun as Sophie jerked it out of her clothing. One of his hands shot straight for her wrist, his speed as remarkable as always, but Sophie had the advantage of position. She swung the gun like a club. He dodged backwards, but the edge of the door was in the way, and the wall beside that, and the black weapon clipped his forehead with dizzying force. He was not hit as hard as she had intended, but even so he fell back, slumping against the wall, and gripping the door frame in an effort to stay upright.
"Watch her." He choked the words out, a warning to Methos to be wary. Methos, however, barely needed the warning. Nobody was more wary than the world's oldest man, and he was already moving back, pulling Amy back, heading for the nearest of the various weapons hidden around the apartment. Sophie was coming after them, though, cackling like a banshee and waving the gun around in wild, furious circles. Kronos followed her, blood running down his face, the manic look in his eyes as bright and as hot as anything that Sophie could manage. He was reaching out for her, snatching at her arm, when she turned to face him. The gun was up; the light was glinting off the long, black barrel; there was fury in Kronos' face when he saw that he was going to be just too slow to grab it. Three sharp, snapping noises burst from the weapon's now smoking end, and Kronos jerked. Amy gasped. And propelled by the force of the bullets, the Immortal staggered back as though dragged by an invisible thread. Behind him the half open window awaited, a mocking promise of a safety net that was just not up to the job. In a splintering of glass and a crash of sudden noise, Kronos fell through the window and was gone. Methos swore. There was a weapon nearby, though - he was sure of that. A gun that he always kept close to the settee, for easy reach in case of sudden danger. Sophie was distracted, wandering in stops and starts towards the window in search of Kronos, and if he could just get to the gun before she turned around, he might be able to take her out. A few well placed bullets, a little rope - then he could decide at his leisure what to do with her. He just needed that gun.
But she was turning already, and he realised that he wasn't surprised. She was mad, she was out of control - but there was a sharpness about her nonetheless. A brightness to her thoughts that had allowed her to do all of the things that she had done. That had allowed her to outwit so many, and kill so many, and remain undiscovered all the while. Methos caught a glimpse of her deathly pale face and her utterly unnatural eyes, before he swung around and ran for cover, dragging Amy in his wake. If he could reach the bedroom, then the door there was strong enough to hold Sophie out for a moment or two. He could get the gun beside his bed, then. It was never far from his pillow, and it was always loaded. He tested it regularly, for night-times were always the times to watch. People who would never try to kill during the day would come at night, when they thought there was a chance of catching somebody unawares. The weapon beside his bed was consequently one of the best that he owned, and he knew that with it in his hand he would be able to protect Amy. He just needed to reach it.
Which of course was when the gun snapped out its sharp, quiet little noise again, and he felt a rush of heat in his hand. Blood flew from a graze where the bullet had scraped him, and he flinched instinctively. A second shot answered the first, and Amy squeaked. Methos grabbed her then, pushing her in front of him. A third shot hit his ankle, and he changed direction in an attempt to buy a few more seconds. Amy stumbled in front of him, and he stumbled as well, tripping over her and trying to drag her to her feet in an attempt to continue their flight. Gunshots peppered the floor around them, scratching the furniture, catching at Methos's shoulder and other hand until he began to wonder if he would be able to hold a gun even if he did manage to reach one. He slipped on his own blood, soaking his shoe from the bullet wound in his ankle and leaving the tread useless on the polished floorboards. She was herding him, he realised then; herding him towards the window that Kronos had fallen from. He wasn't going to reach the bedroom, but his sword was near to the settee. If he could get to that instead...
"Adam!" Amy was shouting for him, and he turned, seeing Sophie too close behind him. Amy grabbed a cushion and hurled it at their pursuer; followed it with a hand-carved wooden lion and an empty bottle of beer. Sophie laughed, and lifted the gun to point directly at Amy's head. Methos thought that he shouted then, although he wasn't sure. He ran, but his foot slipped again. He tried to grab at Amy, but the pain from the bullet wounds in his hands made his fingers seize up. One shoulder screamed its objections to his movements, and he almost fell. He grabbed Amy, though; grabbed at her, ran with her, pushed her; felt a hand closing on his arm. Amy was snatching at cushions again; at anything that lay to hand, trying desperately to fight back against the woman clutching at Methos, but unable to break her grip. Methos couldn't break the grip either, for the woman was uncommonly strong; leant strength perhaps by her madness. He slipped, he fought, he yelled at Amy to make a break for the door, but he could see in her eyes that she wouldn't leave him. She might not be a born fighter; she might not be as strong as she could be, or as experienced as she needed to be here and now - but she was brave enough to make him curse in frustration. He snatched up the nearest item to hand - a large metal lamp dating from the early days of electricity - and turned around ready to do battle, only to walk straight in to a blow to the head so powerful that he had no idea how his consciousness remained. He saw Sophie, grinning at him, gun raised for another blow, and swung wildly with the lamp. He heard a grunt and thought that he had made contact, but he could hardly hold the lamp now for the pain in his hands. Damn it, he was better than this. He might not be a MacLeod, but he could fight. He could fight better than this, that was for sure. Was it her insanity, her desperation, her anxieties? Did they give her the strength and the speed that she needed here? He swiped again with the lamp, but there was a blackness swirling in front of his eyes, and he began to panic. He couldn't pass out. Amy needed him. He had stay awake.
"Damn it, Amy, run!" His voice seemed to come from miles away, and her answer from further away still. He wasn't sure what she had said, but he knew that it was a refusal. Confound her, what kind of a fool was she? Couldn't she see that he couldn't protect her anymore? He could barely stand upright; could barely see. He had been shot in both hands, in one ankle, in one shoulder; he had been hit so hard that nothing in the world made sense anymore. The lamp drooped, for he could no longer hold it up.
"Run!" He roared the word at her then, desperate that she should listen to him. "Run!" Was she running? He thought that he heard footsteps, and was suddenly afraid that Sophie might panic and shoot her. Where was Sophie? Could he reach her in time? He tried to lift the lamp again; staggered to where he thought that Amy was; and ran straight into another blow. It was harder this time, slamming into his wounded shoulder and bringing a wave of dizziness that doubled him up and sent him stumbling into the furniture. The settee, a little voice inside him screamed. The settee, where there was a weapon that just might end this. Always supposing he could see to find it. See to use it. Stay conscious long enough to be any use. A hand took his uninjured shoulder, and for a moment he thought that it was Amy, come to help him. Come to support him, and maybe get them out of this. The hand didn't feel right, but he couldn't really tell the difference anymore, and that was definitely Amy's voice that he could hear in the back of his mind. She was telling him something. Wanting him to help her? To lean on her? To save her or to follow her? Only when the hand became a sudden, harsh pressure; only when he was being propelled forward against his will; did the words crystallise. A warning. She had been trying to warn him. It was too late now. For a second there was neon light in his eyes from some distant sign; for a second the cool air of night-time was in his face. Then he was tumbling and falling, and crashing through the roof of a balcony he didn't know how many stories below, and everything that meant anything was twisted and gone. He thought that he heard a woman scream, but he didn't know where she was, or even who she was. It was too hard to tell. He tried to speak to her; tried to tell her to run and perhaps go for help, but he couldn't. Then his head seemed to explode in light, and the world went still.
"I don't suppose I can persuade you not to kill me?" Backing away from Sophie, Amy tried to keep her eyes focused upon her likely attacker. It wasn't easy. She wanted to look at the window, where two men had just disappeared, and she wanted to run to it and look down, and see if they were alright. Methos, theoretically, should be fine. She knew that. She had only rarely seen Immortal healing powers in action, but she knew what he was. It just wasn't easy not to worry at a moment like this. It had hurt her, to see him injured and in pain. In the meantime it was Kronos - Peter - that she really worried for. As far as she knew he was a mortal like herself, and Sophie's single use of his real name had not really registered. Peter had turned out to be weird and quite possibly dangerous, but she couldn't not worry about him. Not when she had seen him shot, and then knocked out of a window.
"Persuade me?" Sophie giggled nervously, then stopped abruptly. Her face was like a mask now; a stony, unemotional mask, with dead, dead, eyes. "You can try. You're not dead. I am, but you're not."
"Dead? You're not..." She fell silent, deciding that it wasn't wise to argue with the woman who had the gun. Except... how many times had she fired it? And had there been any opportunity for her to reload it? She couldn't remember, and wondered if now was the time to take the risk of finding out. Somebody would have heard something by now, after all. They would have alerted the police. At any moment trained hostage negotiators would be outside, with psychiatrists to assist, and skilled marksmen hiding nearby ready to take over if the talking didn't work. She would be safe then.
"You don't believe me. You don't understand." Sophie looked at her scathingly now. "You're worried about the others. You think they're dead."
"I..." She had been trained to maintain the secrecy of her organisation; of the Immortals and of their nature; but here she could see that all rules were different. "You know that they're not dead, don't you."
"They can't die. Kronos showed me, when we first met. He buried an axe in his chest, and my life hasn't made sense ever since." She gave an odd little shiver. "But then it never made sense before that, either, really. Nothing ever makes sense, does it."
"It depends what you mean by making sense." Amy was speaking slowly now, her eyes, torn between the window and her captor, narrowing as she tried to think. Kronos. Now that she set her mind upon it, that had not been the first time that she had heard that word tonight. Sophie had called Peter by that very name, and Amy was a good Watcher. Her Immortal might be able to give her the slip whenever the mood took him, but she knew more about him than she had ever let him know - though she hoped he respected her abilities, her thoroughness, enough to guess. She knew of his ancient past, the stories of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the other Immortal whose life had been so closely intertwined with his own. She knew of his return from the dead, too, as many Watchers now did. What none of them really knew was what he looked like, or that he had apparently been living in Seacouver for some time.
"Sense is sense." Not noticing that her audience was distracted, Sophie seemed happy to continue to talk. Amy wasn't inclined to stop her; it gave her a chance to let her own mind work, as well as giving her the opportunity to make a better assessment of the mind of this troubled woman. "Sense is when everything is clear. When your thoughts aren't confused, and when your head is all straight. I think I remember when things made sense, but it was a long time ago. Before Kronos. Before Poland. Before the bridge I couldn't jump off. I think things made sense when I was fifteen, and I think that in the eighties. Or maybe in 1990, and really you'd think that I would remember that, wouldn't you?"
"Lots of women would love to forget how old they are." It was a feeble attempt at humour, but she wanted to say something. She felt that it was required somehow.
"I've forgotten a lot of things. I used to be somebody else, you know. I had a job, and a home in... in Paris. I used to go for walks along the Seine, and dream about living near it, so that I would have a view of the river from my window. I wanted to sit in cafés and have long conversations about philosophy and poetry with all the artists. I was going to be one of them. I was going to be something more than myself."
"What happened?" asked Amy, cautious now. Sophie's eyes shone, but she didn't seem angry. She just stared on morosely into the recent past.
"Life went wrong," she muttered in the end, and her eyes seemed empty again. "Dead end job, couldn't afford a house by the Seine. Couldn't strike up any conversations with the artists. Couldn't find any friends, couldn't find a job I liked to do. Couldn't be successful. Couldn't get anywhere. Couldn't meet anybody. Everyone else was being promoted, getting married, having children, and I was still stuck at the bottom of the ladder. Didn't you ever think like that?"
"I like my job. I enjoy my--" She broke off, not wishing to tempt Fate by saying that she was happy with her life. Sophie might be willing to kill her out of spite just for that. "You can get help, you know. For depression."
"Depression." Sophie laughed. "I was depressed when my life started to crumble. It was more than depression that made me try to jump off a bridge in Poland. I think it must have been more than depression that took me to Poland in the first place. There are enough bridges to jump off in Paris, after all." She shivered again, more powerfully this time, and her eyes glinted and flashed. "And then there was Kronos, showing me how to live. Is it depression that makes me kill? Should I get help for depression when I'm slitting throats and stabbing hearts all over Seacouver? I'd kill the psychiatrist before he could make even a preliminary diagnosis."
"I'm sorry." Amy didn't know what else to say, but instinct told her to be sympathetic. To try to be a friend if she could. It was one of the things that was supposed to help a hostage to stay alive. Sophie laughed.
"Not you're not. You don't care. You care about the people I've killed, and about when and how I'm going to kill you. You don't care about me."
"I'm... interested." She tried to look as though she was eager to hear more; as though the details of Sophie's unravelling life were fascinating to her. Maybe the woman just wanted an audience? She seemed to be the theatrical type.
"You're going to die, you know." Sophie's voice had changed, a hard edge coming to it now, as though she was suddenly worried that she had not made her position clear enough before. "I'm not here to make friends. I came to find Kronos, but this is better. It's easier than looking for late night walkers, or open windows."
"I'm glad that I'm making your life so much easier." Amy couldn't keep the sarcasm from her voice then, suddenly finding new anger at this weird woman with her murderous mind. Sophie just laughed.
"You're an odd one," she conceded, making it sound like some strange compliment. "You're afraid of dying, so you can't be like me, but you know about Methos. You called him that, but Kronos said that they both keep their real names secret most of the time. You do know, don't you. You know what he is."
"Yes." There was no point denying it. Sophie nodded.
"Thought so. You were worried about him when he fell, but it was mostly Kronos you were worrying for. You didn't know about him."
"No." And something tells me I shouldn't let him find out that I know now. She watched the gun nervously as it wobbled in Sophie's suddenly jerky hands, and realised that the unstable woman seemed newly excited. By the sound of it, she didn't really seem to know what she was. That might be an advantage. It might give Amy a way to stall; to put off her death until help arrived. She tried to clear her mind of her fears and agitation, to be ready in case of a barrage of questions, and wished that her throat wasn't so dry. There was no point asking for a drink. She wanted a shot of whisky from Methos's well-stocked bar, but she certainly wasn't going to try walking over to it. Movement wasn't advisable when held at gun point by a woman with a definite eagerness to use the knife gripped in her other hand. She couldn't help but remember what Kronos had said, about death making Sophie feel alive. She would want to spin it out, then. It wouldn't be quick, and it was sure not to be painless. No - Amy definitely wasn't moving. It wasn't worth the risk, even if she did want that whisky now more than ever.
"Do you suppose they'll be back for you?" asked Sophie, after a moment's agitated pacing. Her movements had become very fast and very jerky; the pacing had begun and ended almost in the same second. Apparently it had something to do with the disturbance that seemed to be going on in her head, making her restless. "I think they'll come back. They might be on their way now. I could make them watch when I let all of your blood run out."
"You could..." She wanted a drink. Her throat was starting to hurt from the need for liquid, though she thought that some of that was in her mind. She couldn't get rid of the wondering; the thoughts of what it would be like to have her throat cut. She struggled to exorcise the image. "Or you could listen to me. You want to know who and what you are. You need to know. I can tell you everything. I know it all... it's my job to know."
"I'm a freak," Sophie told her, suddenly angry again. "They're coming, because they want to rescue you. Or he does, anyway. Kronos doesn't care. They'll try to save you, but they can't save me. They won't want to try. I can't die, you know."
"I know." Amy's fears were growing. Sophie seemed to be more erratic with every moment, and there was no telling when help would arrive. "But I can help you, you know. In a way. I can tell you what you are, and answer your questions. You're not a freak."
"It's a punishment, isn't it. For trying to commit suicide. I wondered if it might be a reward, but it's not. Now I can't kill myself ever, and it's when I want to the most." She smiled suddenly. "Though I can kill you instead. That'll help."
"Undoubtedly." She wanted to run, and she wanted to lash out. She wanted to yell for help or hide herself away. She wanted a weapon and a drink and somebody else nearby, so that she wouldn't be so alone; and more than anything she just didn't want to be here. But she smiled, staying calm, as though somehow that steady state would transmit itself to her captor. "But I can tell you everything about yourself, Sophie. Isn't that worth hearing?" There was no answer. She swallowed hard, and wished that her throat wasn't so dry, and then wished that the thought of it didn't make her imagine her own throat filling up with blood. "Things will be clearer then. You might understand more. I can tell you everything." And in a halting voice, battling to keep her words from shaking, she began to do just that. Sophie's eyes never left hers as she talked, but she closed her mind to the unnerving presence , and tried to replace the blood in her thoughts with whisky instead. Whisky, not blood, in her mouth and her throat. Whisky, cutting the fear away. Making her words more loose, the story flow more freely. Making everything easier. And then maybe, just maybe, if she told her story right, she would live to see Methos come back.
Methos opened his eyes to the maddened hallucinations of pain, and saw images refracting madly in front of his eyes. He blinked, thought about rubbing his eyes, and failed. He was lying on one arm, which left it useless and out of his reach - and he couldn't feel the other hand at all. He settled on blinking instead; harsh, hard, heavy blinking that made his vision blur. A few things made sense then; the refracting images he could see were things reflecting and shining back at him in the broken glass that lay all around. Glass from his window, far up above him; glass from a lamp he had hit on the way down - or possibly that Kronos had hit. Light shone on all the broken pieces, and flashed in disorientating patterns, and he groaned loudly. This was becoming a habit. There had been dizzying lights in broken glass the last time that Kronos' blasted girlfriend had got in his way. He had been shot then, too.
"Bloody woman." His voice was thick, and he realised that his throat was full of blood. Terrific. It didn't go well with what was left of the taste of beer in his mouth, and he coughed hard. Damn it, but he wanted another beer. He could visualise the several remaining bottles in his fridge, and one in particular - larger than the others, with blue stripes on its label, and a nice blue cap that needed a proper bottle opener. None of your screw cap nonsense. No, not nonsense, he conceded, when he realised that he couldn't even stand up. Right now anything that got him to his beer quicker seemed like a good idea.
"Methos." It was Kronos, standing above him and fading in and out of focus with each pulse from the neon sign across the river. Kronos, covered in blood, shirt effectively shredded on the arm that had hit the window first, and no doubt the arm beneath temporarily shredded too. There was still blood dribbling from the tips of his fingers. His feet crunched on broken glass as he moved closer to his companion, and crouched down beside him. "You fell."
"You fell first," growled Methos, just in case the comment had been meant as an insult. Kronos smiled faintly, or looked as if he did. Methos still wasn't entirely sure that his eyes were working right.
"Yes. I broke the window." He looked up, a little ruefully. "I broke most of the sun shade over this balcony too. Sorry."
"Ow." Methos looked up, seeing a candy striped canvas shade above him. So that was what had and hadn't broken his fall. He remembered crashing through it, but didn't remember it slowing him any. "Thanks."
"If it's any consolation, falling through it hurt like hell." Kronos hauled him to his feet, and brushed broken glass from his shirt like a parent tidying up a child.
"Not as much as not falling through it did." Methos rubbed his head. "We didn't fall that far, then, if we hit somebody's sun shade."
"I doubt the fall would even have killed a mortal." Kronos shrugged, then winced. "Not completely, anyway. How are you?"
"Getting better." Methos looked down at himself, mentally assessing the damage. The bullet wounds in his hands, his ankle and his shoulder now barely stung, and the many little cuts from the broken glass were already healing. One arm felt as though it was broken, but he could already feel it knitting itself back together. It would be stiff for a little while, but he could cope with that. It was just his ribs that really hurt. "We have to get back up there."
"Seems so." Kronos tipped back his head, staring up the several stories they had fallen, to where Methos's windows shone their light above all the other darkened apartments. Either everybody in this building was on holiday, or they all went to bed very early. He looked in through the doors that led off the balcony, and saw a neat, well ordered apartment decorated in a bland style. "Show rooms?"
"The building isn't fully inhabited. Several of the apartments are for show only." Methos tried the door handle, and found it locked. "At any rate, I think anybody living in this one would have come to see what was going on out here by now, if they were home."
"True enough." Kronos smashed the glass of the door with one elbow, then reached inside and fiddled with something, tripping the lock with little more than sheer brute force. The door swung open without a sign of complaint. "I don't recommend going straight back up there, though, brother. Sophie is crazy. There's no telling what she'll do to your mortal woman."
"Amy. Her name is Amy, and she is not my mortal woman. She doesn't belong to anybody. And it's precisely because Sophie is crazy that I want to get back up there. Kronos, she's got Amy, and she's waving a gun around like a nut. It's silenced, so there's no way of being sure that anybody is going to have heard anything, let alone report anything; so we don't know if the cops are going to be here making a bad situation worse, or trying to help, or arresting us again. And I'm responsible for her, damn it!"
"Calm down, old friend." Kronos led the way into the apartment, and headed straight for the front door. "Sophie won't kill Amy. Not outright. She looked like she was in a chatty mood earlier, and she's not herself at the moment anyway. She's got to get this whole immortality thing sorted out in her head before she does anything else. If Amy lets on that she knows about all of that, Sophie might well take the time to listen. Amy will be fine then."
"Yes. Until Sophie gets bored, or angry, or tired, or just decides that she needs some blood and death to make her mind work properly again. Kronos... words fail me."
"Makes a pleasant change." Forcing the door with the aid of his dagger, Kronos led the way out into the corridor. "If anybody sees us..."
"You're not killing any of my neighbours." Methos thought about Mark Stepford, a man who bored him rigid almost every morning in the lobby, and reconsidered his position on neighbourcide for a moment - then shook his head firmly and followed his brother out of the apartment. "I mean it, Kronos. No killing. I have to live here, and I intend to carry on doing so."
"You've got a complex, brother. The police can't suspect you of everything that happens around here. They've always let you out again so far, haven't they?"
"Kronos, dear brother, have you any idea how many times I've been arrested? How many times the police have been called to incidents and found me there? How many times I've been seen hanging around at the scenes of murders, and robberies? There's at least one local police detective who's spent a good deal of his off duty time trying to follow me around inconspicuously - and when I'm already being followed by a gaggle of Watchers, things can get complicated. I'm not having dead neighbours to add to the black marks slowly building up beside my name at police headquarters."
"Fine. If anybody sees us, we walk on by and hope he or she doesn't notice that we look like we just came off a horror movie set." Kronos shot him a withering glare that suggested he had every intention of murdering all witnesses anyway. "Do we have a plan? A proper plan, I mean, that doesn't involve just going upstairs and hoping that Sophie left the door open and has fallen asleep?"
"That's not my plan." Methos glared at his companion's back, then quickened his step so that he could catch up and perhaps overtake. "She won't know that we're coming. There's no way that she can know what the feeling is."
"I haven't told her much. What I did tell her she didn't listen to. So just as long as Amy doesn't get over-enthusiastic with the chatter, we should still have the element of surprise, yes. But Sophie will know that we're both still alive, and that we won't stay hurt for long. She knows what we are."
"Doesn't necessarily matter." Methos rubbed his eyes, which were still misbehaving. Glass fell between his fingers, and he realised it had been caught in one eye. Great. No wonder he had been seeing so many peculiar reflections and refractions since waking up. "I don't know. Maybe it does. Maybe she'll be waiting for us at the door, and will shoot us both. She doesn't know about beheadings?"
"No. But Amy might tell her."
"Amy wouldn't tell her about that. Don't be bloody silly." Methos pushed on ahead, but Kronos merely smiled at his back.
"Depends on how pissed off at you she is, doesn't it."
"At me?! Because I'm the one with the psycho girlfriend who has a thing for sharp objects. This is your fault, brother, and if Amy is going to pissed off at anybody, then it bloody well ought to be you."
"I'm not the one planning to kill her for a bit of light entertainment." Kronos clearly couldn't resist a grin. "Well... not tonight."
"Shut up." Methos drew to a halt and turned around. "Just tell me about Sophie. About what she's likely to do, and when. What exactly is the matter with her, and what can we expect from her?"
"What's wrong with her? I don't know. Minds fracture sometimes. Disappointment, self-loathing, who the hell knows what pushes some people over the edge? I've heard her talking in her sleep, and none of it is pretty."
"Yeah, I'm sure." Methos rubbed his eyes again, partly to check for further glass, and partly to try to force his mind into focus. "You couldn't just have let her kill herself up that mountain? You had to stop her and bring her back?"
"Yes, I had to stop her." Kronos looked away. "I needed the distraction. So did she. She wasn't ready to die, and I thought I could give her something in the meantime. If she decided to end it all anyway, at least I'd have taken the fear away first. I don't know, damn it brother. I just couldn't leave her there. And it was fun, making her afraid, letting her see all the things that she was so afraid of. Death and life. I didn't know that it was all going to turn out like this, did I!"
"No, and you didn't care." Methos sighed. This was getting them nowhere. "Just tell me what she's likely to do."
"I don't know. I'm not usually there when she kills people. From what she says, though, it gets messy. She likes to talk, so there shouldn't any immediate rush unless she's having one of her more fractured days. That much I can tell you."
"One of her 'more fractured days'? You mean like when she flips after getting her chest blown out, and surviving the experience?"
"Yes, I suppose so." Kronos shrugged, infuriatingly unconcerned. "You should have learnt by now, brother. Don't get mortals mixed up in our world. They break too easily."
"This from the man with a broken mortal psychopath as a house pet." Rounding on Kronos with a fury that he would not usually have unleashed upon the man who could kill him so easily, Methos stiff-armed him in the chest, knocking him back against the wall. "If she kills Amy..."
"You'll what?" Kronos did not resist the pressure, not look unduly cross about it. "This isn't my fault, Methos. I didn't break Sophie. Her materialistic society did that for her. All that I did was show her a way to feel alive again. Rescue her from the brink of suicide. You should be congratulating me for my act of remarkable charity."
"Don't give me that crap, Kronos." Methos turned away, suddenly weary. His ribs still hurt, and he was not in the mood for any further arguments just now. "I know exactly what you did to that woman. I've seen you do it before. I've done it before. It's a cruel game, and for the record yes you did break her. You twisted her up and turned into some kind of maniac. You did it to those twins in India six centuries ago, and it was bloody stupid then. Now it's even worse, thanks to your new situation. You found her, you broke her, you set her up, and then you turned her into one of us. Well congratulations, brother! What a great game you've been having!"
"I was helping her!" Kronos caught him up, catching him by the shoulder and spinning him around. Methos was surprised to see real anger in his eyes; an anger that suggested damaged pride. "You don't understand, brother. You've never been the suicidal type."
"Oh, and you have?!"
"You know I have." The anger went from the cool blue eyes, and Kronos let him go. "Never mind. I was having fun, Methos. I admit that. I don't care if she kills fifty mortals or fifty thousand. I admit that too. Freely and happily I admit it. But my intention was to help her to find herself again. To find some love of life. It was never a game."
"So you say." For a moment Methos was silent, staring into those bright eyes and wondering exactly what it was that he was seeing in them. Then he sighed. "You screwed up, Kronos. Whatever your intentions, you screwed up. Now a woman I happen to care a lot about is suffering for it. We have to get Amy out of there alive."
"Then stop arguing with me about whose fault it is." Kronos looked away briefly. "Alright. She'll want to build up to the killing. To get the most out of it. We've got anything between ten minutes and a couple of hours, I'd say, before she gets to work. After that, there'll still be some time. She doesn't kill quickly - but then you've probably gathered that from the news reports. You know enough by now to be able to read between the official lines."
"Yes." The newspapers had not made pleasant reading, even given the amount of detail that been held back. Methos had read of each new death with a confused sense of something approaching guilt, wondering all the time what he should do. He knew who the killer was, but he couldn't go to the police with the information. If they listened to him it would be with suspicion, and then he would have to struggle to extricate himself and Kronos from the blanket of investigation. He had convinced himself not to get involved, but now of course, events had come back to bite him in the neck. There was undoubtedly a lesson to be learned from that. There usually was. In five thousand years, though, he had perfected the art of failing to learn from his mistakes. He sighed now, and rubbed at his eyes, glad to find that the glass had all worked its way out. "What do we do? Go up, smash our way in, and grab them both? She's got a gun. Will she just shoot Amy out of spite?"
"I don't know. I doubt it. She doesn't kill for revenge, you know. She kills because... well you know why she kills. She needs to be close up and personal when she's doing it. If we're quick enough breaking in, it should work out alright, but we'll have to pick our moment. Wait until she's some distance away from Amy, or the gun is pointing somewhere else. Otherwise she might well kill her, just to be sure that she can."
"So we'll have to be able to see into the room. Okay." Methos nodded. "There's a way of doing that, even if she's shut the door by now. We just have to hope that nobody has called the police."
"Your neighbours are either dead, on holiday, or experimenting with some serious medication, brother. If any of them had been anything less than comatose there would be sirens and flashing lights all over the place by now. All the same, we shouldn't waste any more time. Lift or stairs?"
"Stairs. I don't want to risk meeting anybody looking like this. I know you, and I know what you'd do to any witnesses." Methos turned away, heading for the nearest door to the rarely used stairs. It was cold in the stairwell, and badly lit, and the soft carpets and gentle wall colours of the rest of the building did not extend to such a grimly functional, no-frills place; but at least he could be sure of not encountering any of his neighbours. He started up the steps, two and three at a time, his shoes echoing in the grey and empty shaft. Kronos followed him, matching his pace but not his sense of urgency. They would get to Amy on time, or they wouldn't. They would save her life, or she would die. That was that. There was little point in being worried about it now.
It seemed to Amy that she had been talking for hours, although the clock on the wall had a rather different perspective on the passage of time. Her throat still felt dry, but the words came easily anyway. It was all information that she knew too well to have problems bringing it to mind, or giving it voice. Sophie was an unappreciative audience, pacing back and forth, alternately brandishing the gun and the knife, muttering to herself at intervals. The idea that there were many Immortals seemed to quieten her a little, but she remained certain that her undying status was a punishment. Her pacing grew more agitated at the talk of the Game and the Prize, and clearly the Rules were beyond her comprehension in her current state of mind. She frowned from time to time, and muttered to herself, looking directly at Amy only when the Watcher had at last fallen quiet.
"There are a lot of us, you say?" she asked. She didn't sound as though she believed it. Amy nodded.
"There have always been Immortals. Probably for as long as there have been humans. Or - well Homo sapiens, anyway. If there had been immortal Neanderthals, a few more people might have remembered them being around. I don't really know."
"And we're all being punished? Does everybody who tries to commit suicide become immortal?"
"No. There's no punishment involved, believe me. It's not like that. Nobody really knows where the Immortals come from, or why. Methos has a story about gods wanting one of their number to keep humans in line. You should ask him about it, though I've only heard it when he's drunk, and it doesn't always make a lot of sense."
"Kronos told me he tried to commit suicide once." Sophie seemed fixated upon the issue of suicide, failing to fully pay attention to Amy's words.
"He what?" Distracted, Amy wasn't sure that she had heard. Sophie frowned. She seemed to be trying to remember something.
"When I first met him. Before... before things became very confusing. He told me that he tried to commit suicide over some girl. So--"
"It's not a punishment." Amy rubbed at her eyes, trying to contain her temper. It was highly frustrating trying to convince the woman that her condition was simple chance. Weren't Immortals supposed to explain these things to their fellows? It shouldn't be left up to a terrified, on edge mortal hostage to answer such questions. "Sophie... I doubt very much if the world cares that you tried to kill yourself. Why would it? It was around for billions of years before you were born, and it'll probably be around for billions of years after you've gone - always supposing that you're not the One. Why would it bother to punish you? I don't mean to be insulting, but in the great scheme of things... Well you're not terribly important, are you."
"I..." Sophie frowned, apparently struggling with this concept. "I don't... it doesn't... What about God? It might be his punishment. And... it doesn't matter. Maybe it doesn't matter..." She shook her head hard, and for a moment Amy considered making a run for it. She might make it. For some reason, though, she wasn't sure that she wanted to leave.
"Sit down," she suggested, as gently as she could. Sophie glared suspiciously at her.
"Stop trying to be nice. I'm going to kill you."
"I know." Amy didn't want to listen to any more raving. "Just sit down. You need to think things through - no, not about me. I know you're going to cut my throat, or cut out my heart, or something. I've heard that a hundred times tonight. Just think about what I've told you."
"That I'm not being punished." Sophie shook her head more slowly this time. "That I'm part of some ancient game designed to choose a winner. I can't die, and there are responsibilities, and a sort of battle. It... I don't know. When Kronos showed me that he couldn't die nothing seemed to make sense anymore. It was different when it was him, though. Now that it's me as well, it's harder to accept. It's like you're asking me to believe in pixies or leprechauns."
"Leprechauns?!" Amy smiled, taking a chance on making a joke of it all. "Don't be silly." To her surprise Sophie smiled back.
"Immortality is a little too storybook for me. It's not very real, is it."
"It is to me. I've been a Watcher since I left university, and I knew about the organisation before that. The work is supposed to be a secret, but my mother wanted me to know what it was that my father did."
"So all the Immortals have Watchers?"
"All the ones that we know about. Except Kronos. I've heard stories about the things that he's done to the Watchers who have tried to follow him in the past. It's not pretty."
"I'm sure it is, in its own way. He's an artist, you know, when he wants to be. And he taught me."
"I can believe that." Amy had heard tales of Kronos and his deeds. It was all too easy to forget that so many of his crimes were also the crimes of Methos. "It was his idea, wasn't it. That you should kill people."
"He showed me how to live." Sophie was immediately defensive. "I'd forgotten how to, until he came along. He made me afraid, and I hadn't felt anything in so long. Then he showed me death, and made me understand what life was. You wouldn't understand. Have you ever been depressed? Sunk so low that nothing matters anymore? I thought that I wanted to die, until he showed me how afraid I was of death."
"But you still want to die." Amy spoke quietly, unsure how her words would be received. "Isn't that what your anger at being made immortal is all about?"
"That was later." Sophie's eyes wandered away, to stare vacantly at the wall. "After the voices. They all came back. The policemen that I killed, the night that Kronos showed me how to live again. All the civilians that I killed after that. Everybody I've killed since coming to Seacouver. They won't leave me alone. Call it conscience if you like, though I don't think I've ever regretted what I've done. I had to kill them."
"To feel alive?"
"To be alive!" Sophie rounded on her then, her eyes wild and bright. "I need to feel alive. I need to be alive. The alternative is nothingness, like I felt before Kronos came. Why shouldn't I kill people, if it helps me? Why should they be worth more than me?"
"Worth more than-?" Amy shook her head. "It's not like that. But do you really feel any better now than you did before?"
"When I'm killing, yes. And when I kill you, I'll feel better again. Looking into the eyes of a person as you kill them is the most amazing thing. The emotion that you see there. The realisation. The ending of it all. It's like a kind of magic."
"I can't imagine feeling like that." Amy had never been much more than even slightly unhappy. Hers had been a good life, with a purpose and a sense of fulfilment. She had never felt even a fraction of Sophie's frustration or disappointment, let alone anything that might lead to suicide and a complete loss of self worth. She found it hard to empathise with somebody as disconnected as this disturbed and desperate Immortal.
"Kronos could. He understood." Sophie was staring at the knife in her hand now, and Amy found that she was doing the same. The blade was probably seven or eight inches long, broad and slightly curved. There was some kind of design on the blade, and she was sure that she could see traces of blood caught in the intricate pattern. In contrast the heavy, squat gun seemed devoid of style and sophistication. Amy found that she didn't fear the gun so much anymore; not as much as she did the knife. The gun at least would bring swift death. The knife might bring any number of things.
"Kronos knew just how I felt. He showed me how to appreciate life, and he brought me here to appreciate it all the more. We've had fun. We've lived. Really lived."
"But you're not happy." Amy tore her eyes away from the knife, and her mind away from her fears and reservations. "You still hate yourself."
"I can't cope with the voices. Can't cope without them, either." For a second the gun wavered in Sophie's hand. "All the people that I've killed. They come back to get me. They talk to me. They hate me. When I kill them I feel wonderful, but then the feeling goes away, and each time it does I feel worse than I did the time before. Each time I kill somebody I think that I'm free, and that maybe the depression is gone. Then it comes back, and it brings a new ghost, and the clarity is gone again." She managed a shaky smile."But Kronos always brings it back again. He always thinks of something."
"Well he's not doing a very good job of it if you're still feeling the way you do." She was afraid as soon as she had said it, but once it was said it was said. Her eyes went back to the knife, and she shivered. Sophie smiled slyly.
" Cold," she lied. "There's quite a draught coming in through that broken window."
"There is?" Clearly Sophie hadn't noticed. "I didn't... I don't often, really. Pick up on such things, I mean. I suppose my mind is elsewhere."
"Unless Kronos is around?"
"Maybe. He helps, certainly. Keeps my mind working. Keeps the ghosts away too sometimes. I think they're afraid of him. I've never depended on anyone before. Not since I was very small."
"Wouldn't you rather not depend on him so much?" She was taking a chance now, she knew, but she had to say it. "Wouldn't you rather not need him to keep you going? Not have to keep killing people? Wouldn't you rather just be happy?"
"I can't do that." Sophie almost smiled, but her face was suddenly empty again, her voice almost a monotone. "You can't ever go back. I've killed people now, and the ghosts will never go away. Once you've started, you might as well carry on, you know. You can't undo things." She frowned down at the knife. "He saved me. He saved my life."
"He turned you into a killer."
"He stopped me from killing myself." Sophie looked up, and her eyes glittered. "And you can't ever go back. I won't go back. It might be bad when the ghosts won't leave me alone, and everything gets so dark - but it's better than it was before." She frowned. "I think. I don't really remember. I don't... I think we've talked long enough now. I don't know how long it will take them to recover. I can't kill them, and they can't kill me, but they can take you away. I can't let them do that. I need you. You understand, don't you?"
"That you're going to kill me?" Amy nodded slowly. "And you know that I'm going to try to stop you?"
"Oh yes." Sophie nodded. "That's part of the fun. The fear. Your fear. It makes the whole thing better." She stood up. "Your fear, and mine when you start to fight back. It's all part of the whole experience. I--" She broke off suddenly, and her eyes seemed abruptly to switch off. "But it's never going to be like that again, is it. 'Take away the fear', he said. And he was right. He always is."
"Kronos?" Amy was coming to hate that name. It seemed impossible to equate it with the charming and funny Peter Kerensky. "What was he right about this time?"
"He said if you can't die all the fear goes away. But if all the fear goes away, what do you do then? You're supposed to fight back, so that I think I might be the one who dies. But you can't kill me. And all the fear goes away." She sat down again, her body suddenly seeming heavy. "So I suppose I don't need to be afraid of the ghosts anymore, either. Will they go away now? I hate them, but sometimes, when Kronos isn't there, they're all that I have to keep the silence away. To stop my mind sinking back. I have to feel something! I need to be afraid."
"No you don't." Amy was confused herself now, lost somewhere between her fears and her sense of pity for this unbalanced woman. She wanted to help, she realised; and not just to save her own life. "There are other ways, you know. You could get help. Real help. Kronos isn't a psychiatrist. He's... he's a psychopath. You must realise that."
"He's not, you know." Sophie glanced up. "Really. He can be cold, and I suppose sometimes he probably seems insane. But he's so much more. He's lived for four thousand years, although he claims that he was dead once. He's special. Like a magician."
"He's a killer, and he turned you into one too. You don't want that - really - do you?"
"No." Sophie shrugged. "But I'll take what I can get. You should see the things he's showed me. The spectacle. The..." She frowned. "The Quickening. That's what he called it. It--" Her eyes cleared suddenly, and she was alert again. "The Quickening. I can die. If my head is cut off, I can die. I could lie on a railway track, or work something out using Kronos' sword. Or the axe. He gave me a big, bronze axe. I killed for the first time using that axe. It would be the right thing to kill myself with, wouldn't it." She was on her feet again in an instant, pacing with erratic speed. "But do I want to die?"
"No." Amy stood up too. "Why would you want to? Wouldn't you rather get better? Not need Kronos anymore? Not need to kill people anymore?"
"Yes. No. Maybe." Sophie looked down at her hands, weighing the weapons as though mulling over which to use first. "But there's other things. There's death. And death is so beautiful. Mine, yours. Even his. I could kill him, you know. I couldn't let him die once before, and I killed to save him, and I don't know why I didn't remember that until now. You've shown me a lot. You've shown me everything. I don't even know your name."
"Amy." Amy tried out another smile; an encouraging one this time, she hoped. "Yes, you could kill him if you wanted. You could kill him, and me, and even yourself. But how about not killing anybody at all. How about not needing to anymore? Look for help, Sophie. If it doesn't work out then yes, you can always kill yourself. But you've tried Kronos' way of staying alive, and it hasn't done you much good. Why not try another method now? All of this is because you don't really want to die. If you did you would never have let him save you in the first place."
"True, I suppose." Sophie nodded slowly. "I don't really want to die. That's why the fear works so well. And the fear won't be there anymore. How many of my victims would think to behead me, or even have to means to?"
"No." Sophie pointed the knife at her. "Who are you? It was alright before you started talking. My life might be a mess, but at least I knew what I was doing. Now you're messing everything up. I have to kill you. I have to do it now, before you twist everything else up into knots."
"Sophie, listen to me, please. You don't have to kill anybody else. You just have to--"
"Don't you understand?!" Sophie's voice rose in volume, cracking as it hit its highest point. "Don't you understand? I want to kill. I want to. It stops everything from hurting. And it works less and less every time, but it's still better, Amy. It's better than when I'm not killing." There were tears on her face now, and all of a sudden the gun had fallen from her hand. "I want to kill. I don't want therapy. It takes too long." A shiver ran through her frame, and she frowned as though losing the thread of the conversation. For some reason, led by instinct, Amy's eyes flickered over to the door. There was a shadow there, she was sure of it. Something moving just out of sight.
"Sophie..." she tried again, but the Immortal woman was clearly not listening. She had raised the knife, and was staring, transfixed, at the blade.
"You might understand, before you die. You might know what I mean. You'll feel the fear. You'll see infinity. So will I, if I look into your eyes. You'll understand then, for a moment." She took a step forward, and so, too, did the shadow that Amy still was not sure she could see.
"Sophie!" She didn't know why her first instinct was to warn her would-be murderer, but she couldn't stop herself from sounding the alarm. Sophie froze, finally understanding the sensations she was feeling; recognising that she had brought about this danger by dropping the gun. She turned towards it, reaching out - but the gun was gone before she had even focused upon it. A whirlwind seemed to have hit the room - a twin whirlwind, knocking aside a chair, grabbing the gun, pulling Amy aside, pulling Sophie aside, throwing the knife down onto the carpet. Amy gasped, struggling against arms that she had not yet identified, and yet knew anyway. Methos's voice came to her then, echoing in her ears, but failing to make her relax.
"It's alright, Amy. It's over. It's alright."
"No." She fought him, coming back to herself in a rush of panic and emotion. "No. Don't hurt her. Don't hurt her."
"Hurt her?" Methos sounded confused. He looked a mess, and Amy felt a rush of sympathy for him. He had been badly hurt, and Sophie was responsible for that. Sophie, who had tried to kill her, and had killed so many others - and yet still she wanted to make sure that the woman was alright. Kronos laughed faintly, a sound that quite set Amy's teeth upon edge.
"Kronos." Sophie was smiling, pleased to see the man who had once saved her life. "I know so much now, Kronos. I can die. I can. We all can."
"Get Amy out of here, Methos." Kronos had let go of Sophie, but his eyes were fixed upon her still. Methos nodded.
"Yeah. He's right. I should get you home, or better still get you round to Joe's place. I'm sorry. I didn't think--"
"You can't hurt her!" Suddenly afraid of what might be about to happen to Sophie, Amy stepped forward, her mind all a jumble. "I mean it, Kronos. She's not like she was. She knows she needs help, and she doesn't want to die."
"What did you call me?" Kronos was rounding on her then, sword outstretched, and Methos interjected himself quickly.
"You're not hurting her. Not her."
"Just get her out of here, brother." Kronos looked at them both with eyes that were pure blue flame. "Unless you want her to change too. Understand?"
"Kronos..." Methos looked from his brother to Sophie, then nodded sharply and took Amy by the shoulders. "We have to leave now."
"I'm not leaving! I won't walk out on her, Methos. Haven't you seen what he's done to her? He's terrorised her, and you both came back here hoping to kill her, didn't you. Well she doesn't need to die. She needs help. Psychiatric help. She--"
"We have to leave, Amy. Methos tried to push her towards the door, but she resisted.
"Promise me, Kronos! Promise me you're not going to kill her!"
"You can't kill what's already dead." His eyes scared her. "Methos, brother, unless your neighbours are the least community spirited people this side of the Pacific, this building is empty tonight. The closest mortal, remember? You don't want it to be her."
"Don't want what to be--" But Amy's question was snapped in half by Methos's sudden force.
"Leave. Now." He all but lifted her off the ground, forcing her from the apartment, hurting her and upsetting her and even frightening her as he threw her into the lift and held her still all the way down. Almost before the doors opened he was dragging at her again, pulling her through the deserted lobby, running full tilt down the street, dragging and hurting and wrestling her until they were in another street, and she was finally able to break free.
"Methos..." Her voice was broken and tearful, and she was angry with herself for it. "What the hell has got into you? What was all that about?"
"I can't tell you." He took hold of her again, gripping her arms. "But it was for you, and it was for the best. Believe that."
"He's going to kill her, isn't he." She was looking back towards the apartment building, although they could no longer see it. "It's not necessary, Methos. She needs help!"
"He's not killed her before. He might not kill her now. Honestly, Amy, I don't know. She might kill him. Apparently now she knows how."
"It was only fair that she should know that much." Her voice was defiant. He nodded.
"Maybe. Maybe. Amy... you do know that she would have killed you?"
"She put the gun down!"
"To use the knife!" He sighed, angry with himself for losing his temper with her. "She's unstable! A danger to everyone!"
"Because your friend made her that way. Do you have any idea what he did to her?"
"Yeah. Saved her life. Gave her a sense of self worth again. Showed her that life was really worth something."
"Made her a killer."
"Made her live." He sighed. "You don't understand. He doesn't understand. Amy..."
"We have to go back there, before it's too late." She was defiant. "I was getting through to her, Methos. She was listening to me. She doesn't want to kill people anymore. We can't let him kill her."
"It didn't sound to me like she doesn't want to kill people anymore! And you can't go back there. I can't explain why, Amy, and I don't know if after tonight you trust me enough to listen. But you can't go back there."
"I don't know if I trust you enough either." She looked up at his face. "Are you serious? You won't let me go back there?"
"I'll go." He looked away. "I'll go back there, and I'll do what I can, I promise. I'd rather she died, and made all of Seacouver safer in the process, but I'll go back and I'll see what's happening, if you'll promise to go Joe's place and stay there. I'll phone as soon as I can."
"Promise?" Her eyes were cold and serious. He nodded.
"Good." She started to turn away and so did he, but he stopped and looked back before he had got very far.
"Amy? Are we still okay?" He sounded young and insecure, and very worried, but she wasn't in the mood right now. She just kept thinking of the hopeless look in Sophie's eyes, and her sad admission that in spite of everything, she didn't want to die.
"I don't know, Adam," she told him in the end. "Just get back there." And with that she turned away, hurrying off to keep her end of the bargain, and hoping all the while that she could trust him to keep his.
"She's nice," Sophie said quietly, when Amy had gone, fighting all the while against Methos's greater force. "I'm glad I didn't kill her. She tried to help me."
"Did she help?" Kronos sat down on the arm of the settee, sword lying across his lap. His eyes were no longer fearsome. Sophie smiled at him.
"Of course she didn't. Nobody really understands you and me, Kronos. Even Methos. He might know the way that you work, but he doesn't understand the way that you feel, does he. He doesn't know that you've wanted to die."
"Methos is Methos. He knows more than most people think." Kronos shrugged. "Was she right? Do you want help? Do you want 'therapy'?"
"Do I want to talk about myself, and learn to live properly again?" She laughed. "You wouldn't let me do that, would you. You can't. You're too afraid of what I might say."
"Of what you'd have to say, if it was to work." He smiled. "But I'm already wanted for murder and robbery and a hundred other crimes. I'm not afraid of what you'd say to a psychiatrist, Sophie. I'm worried about what you might realise, once your mind started working again. I'm worried about what you might know, maybe without realising it."
"About you? Or about what you're doing?"
"That would be telling." He smiled at her, and she smiled back, seeing all of the fun they had had together, all shining in the bright glint of his eyes. She had come to love his smiles, and his eyes. He had come to mean so much to her, almost without her having noticed.
"I wouldn't betray you, Kronos," she told him. He nodded.
"You do?" She relaxed a little, sitting down on the edge of the coffee table. Kronos smiled at her.
"You wouldn't talk. You won't talk. But if you ever get better, you won't be you anymore." He was moving, although she wasn't really aware of it, standing up and circling around behind her.
"And I really know things that could be dangerous?" A part of her mind was interested, trying to run back through her memories and recall all that she had seen Kronos do. All of the people that he had spoken to, and the things that they had said.
"Yes." He was lifting the sword, and staring at the back of her head, the fondness in his eyes very real. "You shouldn't have talked to her, Sophie. You shouldn't have come here tonight."
Sophie smiled, staring towards the open door of the apartment. "She told me that I could get better. It would be nice, to get better. Now that the fear is all gone."
"Yes." Kronos took a step closer, and his sword blinked in the light. "But you can't ever get better Sophie. I can't let you. Truth is, you know far too much."
Methos saw the blue light when he was running back to the apartment, and he slowed to a walk straight away. There was no longer any reason to run. Somewhere nearby, a mortal's life was changing completely, and a part at least of that was his fault. He didn't care. All he cared about tonight was Amy.
Kronos was washing blood off the windows when he got upstairs. He had at last closed the front door to shut off prying eyes - although Methos's neighbours were still conspicuous by their non-appearance. Sophie, her head placed neatly on her chest, lay on her back on the floor. It looked as though she had been laid out with some care.
"You killed her," observed Methos. Kronos shrugged.
"Never going to get around to doing it herself, was she." He wiped away a splash of blood from the wall, then threw the cloth he was using into the bowl of soapy water on the floor beside him, and wiped his hands on his shirt. "Sorry about the mess. She wasn't really powerful enough for the Quickening to be strong, but you've got a couple more broken windows. I think that vase by the door is dead, too." Methos stared back at him, not saying a word, and Kronos met his gaze without challenge. "She was going to go after you. She wanted to finish what she'd started. She kept talking about killing Amy, and I didn't think you'd want that."
"It wouldn't be the crowning glory of the evening, no." Methos frowned. "She really said that? Amy seemed to think she'd got through. That Sophie didn't want to kill anymore."
"I don't know about that." Kronos gestured to the body. "I'll come back later with some sheets. Get rid of her."
"Don't worry about it. Believe me, I have contingency plans in place. Tarpaulins are in the chest in the spare bedroom. A body will fit neatly in the laundry hamper, I've already checked. After I get her downstairs in that, it'll be easy to slip her outside, and maybe into the river. In an hour or two, just before dawn, the time will be perfect. I'll handle it."
"If you're sure."
"Pays to stay in practice." Methos shrugged. "Anyway, it's better if I do it. If anybody sees me with the laundry they'll just think I'm doing it at a weird time. They'll be more suspicious if they see a stranger."
"I suppose." Kronos nodded. "Thanks. You know, I think I'd been planning her death for weeks. Still think I'm going to miss her, though."
"You should probably have thought of that before you cut her head off."
"Maybe." Kronos smiled, but his eyes now spoke of challenges. "I didn't have any choice."
"No." Methos frowned at him, suspicions playing about in his head. "Kronos, were you trying to shut her up? Are you up to something? Another of your grand plans, like the computer thing, and the Apocalypse Virus, or--"
"No." His brother sounded perfectly sincere, which of course was usually reason for suspicion. "I could have let her go, you know. It's in my best interests for your mortal woman to die now. She knows things I never wanted her to know."
"I can vouch for her, Kronos. You're safe."
"Oh, I'm always safe." Kronos frowned for a second, watching his companion thoughtfully. "Is she alright?"
"Amy?" He nodded. "Yes, she's alright. Somebody else will have got the Quickening. But you shouldn't take risks like that."
"Looks like." He shrugged. "I'm sorry."
"Like hell you are." The old man shook his head, trying and failing to be annoyed. He didn't care about any of it himself, though, which rather prevented a sincere display of moral outrage. "Did that developing conscience die at birth, or is there still some hope for it? "
"Maybe." Kronos wandered over to stand beside him, as Methos settled down on the window ledge. "How about yours? It seems to grow and fade with every passing century. I never know how it's going to be when I next come across you."
"Consciences are too much like hard work. I'd much prefer to leave them to Highlanders." Methos looked away, but Kronos laughed gently.
"You still care about these mortals, though. I mean you really care."
"It happens sometimes. Against my better judgement. But it's only ever a handful of them, and I do my best to keep it in check. Kronos... you are planning something, aren't you."
"My mind works in certain ways, brother. It doesn't always mean that something will come of it."
"That's not an answer."
"Yes it is." Kronos smiled at him. "It's just not the answer that you want."
"I'll make you one promise, Methos. One. If I were to be planning something; if I were to be... thinking of doing something... there are two mortals I'll promise not to kill. I like Joe. I think his daughter is a liability, and I'd be happier with her lying in a grave alongside Sophie - but I won't hurt her. I won't kill her. Is that enough?"
His old friend nodded. "It's all I would ever ask. If I could, Kronos, some days I would change what I did. I'd send you back to hell, and keep Peter Kerensky instead. There are days when I see the pain you've caused, either directly or indirectly, and I could hate you for it. As much as I've hated myself in the past. And then I realise how little I care about most of the world. All of the world, some days, except for me. And on days like those... I couldn't give a damn what you're getting up to. Just as long as you're not hurting the people I love."
"That doesn't sound very friendly, brother."
"It wasn't supposed to be. You've changed, Kronos. You're not the megalomaniac stuck in the past that you used to be. I suppose I think you could be achieving so much more now, and it annoys the hell out of me when you still want to play your bloodthirsty games. You could--"
"And perhaps I will, if it pleases me. Stop trying to change me, Methos. I'm not you, I'm just your brother. And brothers are different - especially the ones who aren't actually related."
"You're a miserable sod, that's your problem."
"And you're an aggravating bastard, which apparently is my problem too." Kronos stood up. "I'm off. Altogether too much romance in the air around here."
"You're leaving?" Methos was rather taken aback. He had growled at his brother earlier for staying; he had complained to him just now about his very personality; but he hadn't really wanted him to go. Kronos grinned. It was always nice to know that his presence was appreciated in some ways, even if it was only grudgingly, and by a sourpuss.
"Yes, I'm off. There are places I want to go to. Things I want to see. I've never been good at staying in the same place for very long. Besides, you could do with some proper time alone with Amy."
"Meaning that you really are up to something." Methos couldn't quite summon the inclination to glare. Kronos was not troubled by such laziness.
"Don't push your luck, old man," he said in the end. "My sword is within easy reach. Yours isn't. And I could fight you without a weapon anyway."
"Well congratulations for being a violent head-case. That isn't necessarily something to crow about."
"It's better than being a drip."
"Don't mention it." He clapped his old friend on the shoulder. "I'll see you soon."
"Soon? What the hell does that mean?" To an Immortal, 'soon' could have any number of interpretations. Kronos shrugged.
"Proper soon. Probably. I like to rattle MacLeod's cage every now and then. And besides, you owe me a drink."
"I've bought every drink you've drunk in the last month. How do you figure that?"
"My personal brand of mathematics."
"Colour me surprised." Methos rolled his eyes. "Soon then. How about coming back for my birthday? We haven't celebrated it together in years. You do remember when it is?"
"I remember. But there's a tradition to uphold where your birthdays are concerned. You do remember that?"
"I remember." He was remembering a bank robbery as well, seven years ago now, when he had celebrated his 'birthday' last. Blood was the tradition of days like that. Blood and other such entertainments. "It's a date, then."
"It's a date." Kronos shook his head slightly, amused by his brother's insistence. The fool was getting sentimental in his old age.
"And you promise not to get yourself killed in the meantime?"
"If you'll do the same. I'd be annoyed if I came back and found you minus your head. Our conversations would probably be better, but you'd be less fun in a fight."
"Get stuffed, Kronos. And of course I promise. Not dying is a promise I make to myself all the time. Death is an experience I intend to avoid at all costs."
"Yes." For a second Methos's eyes were hard, although the smile never truly left them. "You know me."
"Yeah." Kronos couldn't not grin. "I know you. Now can I go? I'd like the world to still be there when I get back into it."
"I thought so." For a second they gripped hands, neither one really minding the farewell, for it had been made so very many times before - but enjoying making it a proper goodbye anyway. It reminded them of so many other times and places. Finally Kronos clapped his companion on the shoulder. "Good luck, brother. She has fire. She'll be trouble."
"The quiet life continually eludes me." He shrugged. "I'm becoming accustomed to that. Slowly and painfully and very regretfully."
"And it's only taken you five thousand years."
"Oh, go away Kronos. And bring me back a souvenir of your travels. Something exotic."
"A severed head?"
"Too messy. Too difficult to get through Customs."
"Not if it's the Customs guy's head."
"Oh I'm always fair." They shared a smile, then Kronos turned for the door. "So long, brother. Keep your wits about you." And with that he left, his stride quick and easy, his sword hanging brazenly at his side. Methos smiled at him as he went, then turned around and headed for the fridge. There was a beer in there that he had been looking forward to for what seemed a very long time. As he opened it, it struck him that Joe and Amy were waiting for him to call; but he decided that they could wait a while longer. They would understand. Probably. Maybe. He sipped the beer and smiled. Who cared? Falling in love wasn't going to convert a five thousand year old reprobate. He might as well be honest to them about that much. Eventually. In the meantime he had a body to dispose of, a building full of suspiciously silent neighbours to check up on, and a very good beer to drink. He smiled and stretched out on the settee, content in every nuance of his laziness. The rest would wait. And besides, a good beer always came first.