It's All A Dream
Strife, God of Mischief, looked around Hephaestus' forge with interest. He was bored, so very bored that someone had prompted Hephaestus to invite him somewhere so he couldn't pester anyone else on Olympus. "So, where's this place anyway?" he asked casually, picking up a dagger to test it's balance and weight. "Good work," he congratulated when it was taken from his hand.
"We're going to Briton for a smith's competition," Hephaestus told him. "Every few years the Celtic smiths and I get into a competition to see who makes the best new tool." He finished packing his bag of tools and closed it, looking over at his nephew. "You really don't have to come."
"Yeah, but Unc said I should, that there'd be other Gods'a War there, or someone close anyway," he said with a shrug. "I don't argue with Unc." He grinned suddenly. "I promise not to touch whatever ya're makin'," he offered.
"You weren't getting near it anyway," Hephaestus said dryly. He laid a hand on Strife's arm and sent him the coordinates to where they were going, both of them dematerializing together. They landed in an open field, a green pasture with a pile of sand in the center with buckets of water around it. Hephaestus walked over to the firepit with his name on it, smiling at the Gods around him, nodding at the Goddesses to seem more formal. "Strife, go find a spot and squat," Hephaestus said once he was set up.
Strife wandered away, smiling at the War Gods gathered around a small fire and a table with a keg on it. "Hey," he said, nodding politely. His uncle Ares would have his hide for a rug if he started a war by being nasty to them.
"Which one are you?" one big man said, looking him over. "You're not Ares."
"No, Ares sent me," Strife told him. "I'm Strife, God of Mischief and Ares right-hand."
The other Gods laughed but one Goddess smiled at him. "It's good to see you," she told him. "I've met your mother, a most interesting woman. Is she coming also?" Strife shook his head. "I guess she's too busy."
"Nah, she's got a new mortal *friend*," he said with a smirk. The male Gods laughed, but it was more friendly this time. Strife created a seat for himself, a wood one because the Celts were really fond of wood, and sat down. He created another one for an older looking Goddess that was walking over to them. "Hey, sit," he said, looking her over. "You shouldn't be out walking around like that. Something might get thrown off a hammer."
She laughed and patted the side of his face as she sat down. "I'm safe enough, young man. Do sit. All of you."
Everyone else created chairs for themselves and sat, watching as the first blows to the metal were stuck.
"What does your Hephaestus plan on making?" Aeron, the Welsh Celt's God of War asked.
"Not a clue," Strife admitted. "I know he's been workin' on some funky sword recently but I'm not sure if he's doin' it here or not. He's pretty tight lipped about most stuff." He looked over at the large female he could see banging away on Hephaestus' left. "Who's that? I've never seen her before."
"That's Brighid," the older woman told him. "She's very good, but she doesn't do as many weapons because of her other callings."
"Hey, anything is good though, right? There's always room in the world for pretty stuff beside the sharp toys we like to play with."
The male Gods all nodded and grumbled responses, and their mugs were refilled with the beer someone had talked off the God of Alcoholic Beverages and Grains. "Here," one of them said, handing Strife a mug. "It's going to be a while. We're judging, but not until tonight."
"They have until dusk," another Goddess pointed out as she appeared. She looked Strife over, then at the older woman, then she shook her head. "If it must be, it will be," she pronounced. Strife gave her a funny look.
Teutates, the Gaul Celt's god of fertility, war, and wealth, leaned closer. "Don't worry about it, she's always saying stuff like that," he confided in a near-whisper. "Just stay away from her and it'll be fine." He sat up and cheered as his smith cursed. "It could be worse," he called out.
Strife sipped his beer and relaxed. He was going to be *so* bored by dusk. Or very drunk, one of the two.
Strife patted Hephaestus on the back, congratulating him on his second place finish, but he was staggering. "Have a beer," he slurred, handing over his mug.
Hephaestus took it gratefully and chugged its contents, smiling as it automatically refilled. "How many of these have you had?" he asked his nephew.
"Enough to not get home," Strife said with a high-pitched giggle. Some of the Goddesses looked over at him. "Think I could crash here?"
One young Goddess, one he hadn't met yet, walked over to him and put a hand on his arm. "I have a spot before my fire he can sleep. You also if you wish, Hephaestus," she told him with a smile. "Brighid will be celebrating on into the night with her new weapon's successful first test and I dare say that Goibhniu's party will be so loud as to keep most of Eire up."
Hephaestus nodded. "We'd be honored." He grabbed his bag of tools and Strife, then followed her off, easily carrying the slight God.
"Hey, the ground's tilted, no fair," Strife said as they walked off and disappeared.
Near morning, Strife woke up with a great headache, and a hand slowly stroking his bare stomach. He looked at the young Goddess beside him and frowned. "I'm in deep, aren't I?"
She laughed, a light and happy sound. "Not unless you want to be," she told him, leaning down to give him a kiss. "I have no issues with what we did last night."
"Did? We did somethin'?" he asked, trying to get past the haze in his mind.
"Our beer can be a bit strong for the uninitiated," she agreed, snuggling into his arms. "Let us enjoy this time while we have it, young Strife. You'll have to leave soon enough."
Strife gave up trying to get into his memories, why waste this time? He had a lovely woman in his arms and he wasn't going to complain. Her laughter caused Hephaestus to roll over and start snoring in a different key, but neither minded their companion on the rug.
Corra, the Scottish Celt's Goddess of Prophecy, walked up to her elder, Cailleach, six months after the smith's competition with a smile. They were standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean, watching the waves play in the dusk light. "Was I right?" she asked with a smug smile.
"Yes, damn you," Cailleach hissed. "He'll kill me."
"No, he won't. I've already told your husband about the prophecy." She laid a hand on her elder's arm. "Trust me, we need this child. She'll be the one to protect us once we're no longer here." Cailleach stared down at her. "One day, we will all be moving off this plane to somewhere safer. She will be here to guard what we leave behind, including our knowledge."
"And her father?" Cailleach asked quietly.
"He's to die," Corra said sadly. "His is the death that starts the downfall of the Greeks. They'll still be here." She touched the small lump on her elder's stomach. "Don't worry, she'll get to know her relatives over there also. We'll all be here long enough." She turned and walked away, heading back to wherever she went to be shown the future.
Cailleach sighed and rubbed over the lump herself. "Rain, I will not leave you," she whispered. "That's not fair for any child." Her husband reared up before her, riding a high wave and giving her a sad smile. "I didn't plan on it," she told him.
"I know," he said, holding out a hand. Together they went to his palace in the sea to wait for the birth.
A few months later, Gwendydd looked at her brother Merlin and sighed. "It's begun," she said quietly. "Fate has a path and is running down it toward us."
He kissed her cheek and went out to gather his books. He'd be called on soon to teach his charges and to play his role in Fate's games.
*** nearly 4000 years later ***
Methos, the world's oldest immortal, looked up from his grading as his door was knocked on. "Come!" he called imperiously. He hated midterms. The woman that walked in awakened a feeling in him that he hadn't felt in many years, she wasn't a human but not an immortal either. "What did you need?" he asked her.
"I'm Rain, the newest history GA," she told him, shaking his hand. "The Chair told me to come and offer you my services. Apparently he thinks you have problems grading your own papers and that you have it in for the Freshman class this year."
Methos smiled and handed over half of his stack of essays. "Here, start with these. The top sheet has the answers that I want to see. As long as they get somewhere close, I'll give partial credit - these are freshmen after all." She smiled and nodded so he looked around his cramped Associate Professor's office. "I think you could have the other chair if you don't mind grading on the window ledge."
She laughed and sat down in the chair, looking over the answer key. "Doctor Dortmier said that you'd welcome me openly."
"As long as you're good at grading," he corrected, going back to his senior-level midterms. "What's your area of speciality?" he asked absently.
"Celtic mythology. I'm doubling with the Classic's department." She frowned and pointed at a word. "You spelled it wrong." He looked at it and dotted what was part of a scrawled 'I'. "All right, I can interpret that." She shrugged and started on the first essay. "What's your speciality?"
"Ancient civilizations," he said, going back to his grading. "I chose not to specialize in one area." He frowned and marked through a whole paragraph, putting a question mark beside it. "I'm very glad this young woman is only taking this as a minor, she's got some very strange ideas." He shook his head and went on to the next essay. "Are you taking Ancient with Deseries this semester?"
"Yup, and Scottish culture with Doctor Sandburg, plus a composition class." She put the first test aside after giving it a final look over. "I'm just marking what I feel is wrong, is that all right?"
"Fine," he agreed absently. "I'll put a grade on it." He balled up the essay in front of him and tossed it at the door. "He and I *will* be speaking later," he muttered. "Are you taking anything from MacLeod when he comes back next term?"
"I'm not sure. I've heard he's a prick," she said bluntly. They looked up and smiled. "Fortunately I studied under one of the better Celtic scholars in my undergrad. I guess I'll have to have him on my thesis committee, but otherwise I'd like to try and avoid him." She pushed some of her slightly wavy hair back behind her ear. "I don't remember being this stupid as a freshman," she noted, holding it out. "French Revolution was fought in the Netherlands for control of the world's chocolate supply? Stated just like that, partial sentence and all."
He took it and read it over, then groaned and shook his head. He picked up his pen and wrote a comment beside the essay, then read through the rest and put the biggest 'F' he could through the essay. He handed it back. "You'll find a few of those, and they're all her friends. They've come to class twice and had to be asked to leave each time. The first because I got tired of looking at her pantiles crotch." She shuddered. "I have no respect for those girls." He turned back to his paperwork, aware that she had went back to work also. "Where are you from?" he asked finally, knowing he was going to get a lie.
"Ireland mostly. I've been taught by a few members of my family throughout my life." She looked up and smiled, then glanced at the door. "Don't worry, Methos, I'm not here for you." His mouth fell open and she laughed. "You'd think by now you'd have remembered me. We ran into each other way back when."
He sighed and kicked his door shut, turning to look at her. "When? I don't remember running into you...." His voice trailed off and he groaned mentally. "You're the Protector?" She nodded. "Is your name actually Rain?"
"That's what it translates to," she said happily. She leaned closer. "One of the highest holy artifacts is in town. So is Bebhionn's favorite cup for liaisons and an altar to Borvo. I'm officially watching over the altar, but someone thought it was strange that so many artifacts were turning up here."
He looked her over. "What can I do to help? I don't like such coincidences. They tend to draw trouble, which invariably comes for my head."
"Just be alert. As far as I've been told, there's only three of your kind in town and they're laying low." She punched him on the arm. "Besides, it's good to have someone to drink with," she finished with a grin.
He smiled back. "That's fine. We'll go out tonight." He turned back to his grading. "Watch out for Sandburg, his roommate is a cop. Some sort of *hero*," he semi-sneered. He hated heros. They always seemed to cause more problems than they were worth.
"You think that's good? Sandburg's an immortal like me," she said quietly. Methos looked at her. "I noticed the first time I walked into his classroom. He doesn't seem to know, but you can tell his mother's like mine."
Methos groaned and curled up a little bit in his chair. "I'm surrounded by the paranormal and I just want my life to be normal," he complained. "I finally got MacLeod and his Chosen self out of my life for a while and now I have to deal with *Gods*," he said with great disdain.
"Could be worse," she noted.
He nodded. "Yes, it could be. It could be *much* worse, but I'd like to save that happy thought for when I'm drunk." He tossed down his papers. "Want that beer now?"
"Sure," she agreed, putting down the freshman essays and following him out into the lovely March weather in Cascade, Washington.
Across campus, Jim Ellison, supercop and Sentinel, was examining the scene of a theft. The thief hadn't taken the emerald collar, or the paintings, or even the diamond-hilted dagger. No, the thief had taken a piece of material and a small vial. He looked at the rest of the crime scene, but there weren't any clues, not even with his enhanced senses could he pick up anything. He walked over to his Captain, who was chomping on his unlit cigar and shook his head. "I can't find anything, sir," he said quietly. "Have the records of what the piece of fabric and vial were come in yet?"
"The collector's coming in soon," Simon said as he looked around. "Nothing?"
"Not a thing," he agreed. "It's almost like they teleported in and then left through that window," he said, pointing at the only anomaly in the room, an open window which had drawn attention from security. There was no way up to the window, not even with a grappling hook and winch, the wall was too frail for any additional weight. The university had pulled down the roses a few years back because the roots were making the wall crack. There was no evidence of new cracking, so no one had come up that way. "I think we need to know what we're looking for, sir," Jim said quietly. "There's a lot of stuff here that's more valuable. I'm guessing that whomever took the fabric and vial had a personal connection to it, it would really only be valuable to them and the collector."
A blonde woman in a fashionable suit walked into the room and right up to Simon, frowning, her big blue eyes tearing up. "Did you figure out who took it yet?" she demanded.
"No, ma'am, we're still trying to figure out how they got in." He looked at Jim. "This is Detective Ellison, this is going to be his case. Detective, this is the collector, Mrs. Smithlove." They shook hands.
"Mrs. Smithlove, if I may, what was in the vial and why was the fabric so important?"
She sniffed. "They're relics of Ancient Greece, found in a small box of sacred artifacts," she told him stiffly. "They're of immense value, Detective."
"Thank you," he said, writing that down. "Are they of any interest to anyone outside of collector's circles? Other colleges perhaps? Or has someone asked to study them recently?" She shook her head. "Have you personally gotten any mention of the collection? Newspaper stories or the like?"
"A research initiative and grant was recently announced," she admitted. "It's giving someone in the History or Classics department money to study the collection and translate the inscriptions." She walked over to the opened case and looked down inside it, frowning. "Where's the lock of hair?"
"There was a lock of hair?" Jim asked immediately, following her over.
"Yes, there was, we recently procured it, almost a month ago actually. That was never announced, it's not exactly newsworthy." She smiled at him and Jim felt himself start to tighten up. "This was all part of a ceremonial set, said to return the dead to their lives."
Jim wrote something down and looked up at her. "Are there any dates that are of particular significance to the ceremony?" She shook her head. "Then could you think of a reason why the vial and the fabric would be stolen now? And why not the whole set?"
"Well, there *are* different rituals to bring back the dead," she admitted. "This one belongs to a few of my relatives that aren't presently available. I've taken over managing it for them while they're gone." She frowned down at the open case. "Why not take the knife though? The knife would be the most important part."
"Do you have any idea who the vial of whatever and the fabric belonged to?" Simon asked her.
"Strife, God of Mischief," she said, giving him another smile. "They were part of his tomb, buried with him until his mother, Eris, Goddess of Discord, stole them right before his tomb was sealed." Her smile brightened when she saw the disbelief on their faces. These humans would never believe her and the truth could only help here. She looked down at the case again, reaching under the platform the knife was sitting on to check the hidden compartment for the documents it contained. "The rest is all here," she told them.
Jim nodded and flipped his notebook closed. "Thank you, Mrs. Smithlove. We'll be in contact if we have information or have any more questions." He and Simon walked out together. "Another crackpot?" he quietly asked his boss.
"Her or the thief?" Simon snorted. He lit his cigar. "I want this solved quickly, this is the sort of story that the press love and it's going to be hard enough as is." He took a deep drag and held it for a second before letting it out. "Get Sandburg to start working on the myth of this reanimation ceremony. That might be the best lead we have." He headed for his car, intending to go back to the office.
Jim started across the campus to the building with the Humanities departments. He tapped on his partner's office door, giving him a smile as he walked in. "Chief, I need some help with some research," he told him, handing over the notebook.
Sandburg read it and spit his tea across the desk. "Jim, this is serious!" he said, standing up and going to grab a book. He flipped through it, then put it back on the shelf and grabbed a second one, finding the section he wanted. "This is what they were collecting for. They had two of the three traditional items needed for reincarnation."
Jim took the book and sat down in the desk chair to read, frowning the further he got. "You don't believe this will work, do you, Chief?" he asked, looking up at his partner.
Blair shrugged. "I'm not into that area of life, man. We both know I'm a 'once you pass on, have fun in your next life' sorta guy. But the people who *do* believe would believe with all their hearts and souls." He walked over and leaned closer, pointing at the picture of the knife. "The knife with the pure diamonds is to hold the soul while everything's being prepared. They'll need blood, hair or skin, and something that was personal to the victim." He stood up. "They have what they need, otherwise they wouldn't have stolen this now, Jim," he said calmly.
"That supposes that there are such things as Gods of Mischief," Jim noted dryly, closing the book and putting it on the desk. "Is there anything else you can tell me to help me find this whacko?"
"Yeah, don't go after him alone." Blair shooed Jim out of his seat and sat down. "Whoever did this believes strongly enough that they're willing to die for their beliefs."
"Sandburg, I *never* go against people like this without backup. Can you find out anything else and tell me soon?" Blair nodded so he left, forgetting his notebook on the desk.
Blair put the notebook on the book and leaned back with a sigh. This was not good. "Maybe I should pay a call to the local Artemis worshipers," he muttered, getting up and grabbing his jacket. He closed his office door and left the college, going to find the one woman he knew who could give him some real information, and might even know who had done this.
That afternoon, Rain knocked on her teacher's door, frowning when it opened under her hand. "Prof?" she called as she stuck her head around the edge of the door. "Professor Sandburg?" she tried again. When she didn't get an answer, she walked in and put her paper in the middle of his desk, stopping when she saw the notepad and book. Her stomach clenched as she read, giving her one hell of a potential headache. She ran from the office, making sure that the door really closed this time, and headed straight for her friend's office. "Crap," she sighed when she saw a student standing in there. "Professor McKinely, may I please have a word with you?" she asked, using her eyes to show how important it was.
Methos looked up and smiled, giving her a relieved look. "Yes, come in. Janine, this is Rain, my GA. She graded your test, but I agree with your grade. I'm sorry you're not satisfied with a 'B' but that last question didn't contain all the points I wanted included."
Rain sighed and looked at the essay. "It's only one point."
Methos frowned at her. "I do *not* curve." He looked at his student again. "I know you're watching your grades, but this isn't the end of the world."
"There's an extra credit three page research paper coming up," Rain told her. "It'll raise your test grade ten points." The girl looked relieved and left.
"Oh, really?" Methos asked as his door was closed. "I wasn't aware of giving any extra credit."
"Someone stole Strife's blood, hair, and a piece of his death outfit," she said without pause for a breath. He looked clueless. "'Tis part of a resurrection set, one his Ma's been keeping for centuries."
Methos stood up, staring her down. "How do you know?" he hissed.
"You forget, I'm a whelp of Trouble and the daughter of the Sea and the Weather," she reminded him. "And the notes from the break-in were on Professor Sandburg's desk. I just dropped my paper off at his office."
"He let you see them?"
"No, he wasn't there, but they were laying on his desk, and he had the book with the ritual under it." She laid a hand on his arm. "This is *so* much worse than holy artifacts from the Celtic Gods being in town. Someone's going to raise my father."
Methos sat back down with an audible 'whomp' and stared at her. "I thought your parentage was a myth," he said finally.
"And many people think you are," she countered. "We've got to stop them. Dad's not going to be happy to be pulled back from the afterlife!"
"Calm down," Methos said, looking her over. "Panicking won't help stop this." He frowned as he saw the doorknob on his door starting to turn. "Move," he whispered, grabbing his sword. "Come," he called, and the door swung open, admitting a tall man. The sword was instantly at his throat. "Who are you to intrude on a conference with a student?" he growled.
"Detective Jim Ellison, Cascade PD," he said, looking Methos in the eye. "Put it away."
Methos stepped back and looked him over again. "Why are you breaking into my office?"
"I heard someone mentioning the facts of my case," he said, looking at the woman as he closed the door. "Why did you break into Sandburg's office?"
"First, the door was open, and second I was putting my paper on his desk. You stupidly left your notes on his desk," she snorted. She frowned, then looked at Methos. "Oh, hell no," she said after sharing a look with him.
"It seems so," Methos said. He put his sword back up. "Detective, my GA has a vested interest in getting those samples back. When she saw your notes, she came to me for help. If you'd like to help her find them, then I'd be grateful not to get in the middle of a war between families."
"This is mafia related?" Jim asked. He looked at Rain again. "And what did you mean 'your father'?"
She sighed and sat on the edge of the desk. "That would require you to be *much* more open minded." She glanced at Methos, who shrugged. "I'll explain it to Sandburg and he can explain it to you."
"You'll tell me or I'll arrest you for questioning," Jim countered coolly. "I don't need translating services."
"Detective, I'm the daughter of two Gods, you're a puny mortal with delusions of knowing the truth. I am not discussing this with you. I'll gladly discuss it with a more open-minded individual. And if you try to arrest me, something bad will happen and I'll still just walk away. I had nothing to do with the theft. I'm trying to stop them, just like you are." She slid past him before he could grab her, keeping him in place with a gust of wind, and disappeared from the office.
Jim got free and looked around, then down at Methos. "You knew about this?"
"Only since she told me," he said, holding his hands up and looking innocent. "She's my Graduate Assistant, not my best friend." He sat up. "Now, if you wouldn't mind, please get out of my office and close the door behind you." Jim stormed out and Methos sighed in relief, pulling out a small flask of scotch to take a swig. "I've had enough of this," he decided and pulled his calendar over to check how many weeks he had until the end of the semester. It'd be easier to disappear over break. "Maybe a nice long trip where I wreck or something," he muttered as he flipped pages.
Rain walked into the student center, drawn there by Blair's aura. One god or demigod could always tell another. She plopped down across from him and gave him a smile.
"Hey, Rain, how's your paper?" he said, giving her a brilliant smile.
"Fine. I put it in the middle of your desk." He looked surprised but didn't say anything. "Can we talk? There's part of the story in that book that you don't know. I'm the key to them resurrecting my father."
Blair swallowed then set down his cup, looking around them to make sure no one was around. "Your father?" he asked quietly.
"I'm the daughter of Cailleach and Strife," she told him calmly. "The blood in the vial is too old." He leaned forward. "I know this is strange, but I'm...."
"You're the one who protects the leftover artifacts," Blair finished. She nodded. "How long have you known?"
"I saw the notes on your desk and it was obvious you knew." She smiled. "Then your bestest buddy overheard me panicking to someone else who knows."
Blair ran his hands through his hair as he leaned back again. "This is really strange, Rain. That makes you something like 3 millennia old."
"Closer to three-and-a-half," she admitted.
"Well, it does explain your concentration in Celtic studies," he said lightly. He stood up and tugged her up, leading her out into the weak sunlight. "Do you know who did this?" She shook her head as they headed into the formal garden's greenhouse, usually quiet and empty this time of day. "Then why are you here?"
"There's been an amassing of holy artifacts in town for the last two years. The last one they brought over was a healer's altar dedicated to Borvo. That's what caught my attention the most, it's a powerful artifact that belonged to a wonderful midwife gifted by Borvo himself." She shrugged. "I had no idea this was going to happen."
"And now this happens," Sandburg said, frowning at the path. "What did you have in mind?"
"Well, for starters, how about you get your partner off my back? I doubt he'll be able to help me much and I doubt he'd believe me either." Blair smiled at that. "Also, I'm still going to have to track down those artifacts. That much power in one place can be dangerous and my relatives could be pulled from their rest on their present plane."
"Do you think the two are related?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Not as far as I could tell. Why would a healing altar, a cup of the Goddess of Passion, and a resurrection spell be related. I could see two of the three, but not all three." Blair nodded, looking like he was thinking. "All I know is that I'm going to have to call in some help to stop the resurrection spell."
"Why? Wouldn't it be a good thing for him to come back?"
"No. Think about it, Prof. He's been dead for a while now. Being brought back like that could very well destroy the fabric of life and time. Sure, he'd gather all the chaos in the world to him and start controlling it again, but he'd have to start letting go of that power almost immediately and I doubt the world is ready for that." She gave him a sad smile. "Personally, I'd like to meet the man. He was dead before I was born. I met his mom and uncle, they're pretty cool people and like me for the most part. I just can't see a good outcome, even if humanity overcomes him coming back."
"There is a lot of chaos in the world today," Blair agreed, picking a bench and sitting down. He looked up at her. "You really want to stop this?"
"I figure there's a reason why the Goddess of Discord was made to swear on her very soul and powers to not try and resurrect him," she said with a shrug. "Besides, he'll start to make any and all artifacts active again and that'll cause even *more* problems."
"Point," Blair agreed. "But what about the positive side?"
"What positive side?" she asked through a chuckle. "He'll have to start changing the chaos, yeah, but that's not going to help the planet. Even two chaos Gods can't help all the chaos we have today. Even another one on top of the two we already have wouldn't help enough to even it out." She looked him over. "Prof, if I may ask, who's your mother?"
"Huh? You know Naomi?" he asked, not looking surprised. "She always did collect an eclectic group of friends."
"That's not her name," Rain told him gently, then leaned over to pat him on the shoulder. "One of us always knows another," she said quietly, "and I'm going to need your help with this. We've got to talk to her, she might be our only backup."
"What about the person you were panicking to?" Blair asked, looking stiff.
"His secret isn't one I can tell," she admitted. "He'll help us when we need him to. He's like that."
"It's McKinely over in History, isn't it," he said dryly. She frowned. "I knew it!" He hopped up. "I felt something from him the first day and I still get a chill every time we come in bodily contact." He grabbed her and held her still. "Is he like you?" She shook her head. "Then what is he?"
"That's something for him to tell you," a female voice said from behind them.
"Grandma Eris," Rain sighed, giving her a hug. "I'm sorry, if I had known the resurrection kit was here, I would have watched over it too." Her grandmother pushed her back. "You didn't know?" The Goddess of Discord shook her head. "Um, someone stole the old vial of blood, his cloth, and the lock of hair."
"God *damn* it!" she shrieked. "Who would do that! They *know* that anyone who tries to bring him back would bring back Dahak!" She panted, looking at the demigods. "When?" she demanded.
"Earlier this morning," Blair said calmly.
She looked him over. "Hebe," she snorted. "No wonder. Rain, you *have* to find this fucker and stop them. They don't know what they're doing. Got me?" she asked, grabbing her granddaughter and shaking her lightly. "You can't let this happen. I know someone who can help in case we're too late, but you've got to find them for him."
"Iolaus?" she asked. Eris nodded, looking confused. "I know most of the Guardians and Protectors down here, Grandmother. I've run into them while working for Mom." She shook herself. "What do I have to do? I have a ...friend who can help besides this one."
Eris stared into her eyes, reading her mind. "Methos?" she asked, looking shocked.
"You called?" a dark voice said from the doorway. The greenhouse door slammed and he walked over to them, bowing to her. "I'm sorry, Rain told me about the theft. I will help anyway I can."
"And where were you when this happened?" Eris spat.
"Across the continent." He pulled her into his arms, holding her as tightly as he could. "I tried, Eris. I came as fast as I could, but I got there after the fact, and I'm sorry for it. I wish I could have prevented him from dying," he whispered. "You know how much I felt for your son." She nodded, relaxing in his arms, and he looked over at the two demigods. "Your partner's on his way, I managed to slip past him, Sandburg. Keep him out of this."
"Jim's an excellent detective," Blair defended.
"This is a bit out of the ordinary. Do you really think he could deal with this?" Eris said, turning to look at him, keeping one hand on Methos' arm. "You three are family, you're bound to help by your parents' pledge. Do you really think a *mortal* will understand any of this?"
"He's a sentinel," Blair said quietly. "We deal with the strange every day. Give him a chance."
"No," Rain said firmly. "I faced him down with some of this and he couldn't deal then. Let him chase the mortal who stole it, we'll be tracking the items and he'll be tracking the thief. It's a fair division and plays to individual strengths." Blair nodded after a moment of thought. "Good. Where do we start?"
"You said old blood," Methos noted. "Why?"
"It's three thousand-six hundred-eighty-five years old," Eris reminded him. "There's not any spark of him in it." She looked at Rain. "You'd have to take some of hers and filter it to get his." She looked at the wall, then at Rain. "I'll go find Iolaus."
"He's on the East Coast, teaching at NYU," Blair told her. "If it's this nice guy who seems to have lived a little too long and seen too much." Eris nodded. "He's in the Latin department there." She smiled and disappeared. "What did she mean by 'Hebe'?" he asked Rain.
"Call your mother," she suggested.
Blair patted down his pockets. "She usually calls whenever I'm really stressed...." He pulled out his ringing cellphone. "Mother," he said, walking a little way away. "Who's Hebe?"
Rain looked at Methos. "You loved my daddy?"
He snorted. "That's one way of putting it." He gave her a hug. "We'll find and fix this situation before the heros can ever touch it," he promised her.
"You really hate heros, don't you?" she chided. "Why?"
"Because they seem to do more damage than the problem that they're fixing." He led her to the doorway and out into the afternoon weak sunlight. "Detective," he said in greeting as they passed him.
"What's this about?" he demanded. Jim glared at them both. "And why is Sandburg this upset?"
"Well, the first I tried to tell you and you didn't listen," Rain said calmly. "We're going to deal with that while you track down the thief. The second is up to him to tell you." She and Methos continued walking back to his cubbyhole of an office. "Want to finish those midterms and get a beer?" she suggested. "I always think better after a beer or three."
"Of course. I never turn down beer," he told her, giving her a fond pat. She might have been his stepdaughter after all, he could be nice and pleasant to her while he got all the information he could out of her.
Jim stormed into his boss' office and slammed the door. "You won't believe this," he hissed, turning to hit the door.
"Pull the blinds," Simon suggested as he hung up on his boss. "What happened?"
"Sandburg's gotten involved in this case. With the *daughter* of the deceased." Simon's mouth opened. "And she's a mouthy brat too, told me I was an upstart mortal. Then her *helper* agreed and told me to get out of his office!"
"*Mortal*?" Simon asked, looking worried. "Who is she? Have you run a check on her?"
The door opened and Blair walked in, smiling at his boss. "I'm here to play emissary," he told them, slamming the door. "Her name is Rain, she's a distant relative it seems." He looked at Jim. "You don't have a clue what's going on with their side of the story and neither do I. Let them do their thing and I'll tell you what we're doing."
"No. No, there's no way in *hell*, Chief. You're not going near those nuts!"
"Calm down, Jim," Blair warned.
"Would you like to include me in this discussion or should I make myself scarce?" Simon asked sarcastically.
"Simon, this isn't something you really want in your head," Sandburg told him. "It's a very strange story and you've repeatedly told me not to bring those to you."
Simon shrugged. "So? It seems I can't avoid it this time. Now, what's going on? Why is Jim so upset?"
"Because the girl that's here is really here to protect Celtic artifacts from falling into the wrong hands. Her name's Rain," Blair told him, sitting on the edge of the meeting table. Jim grunted in annoyance, the expression on his face said what he thought about this girl.
Simon relaxed. "Set up a meeting between me, this other helper Jim told me about, and this Rain woman."
"You got it," Blair said, flicking Jim's arm. "Come out of it, Jim. This isn't the time to zone."
"We will be discussing this and your involvement in it," Jim grunted, then he walked out, slamming the door behind him.
Blair waved and followed him, going to smooth the ruffled feathers. Or to stop Jim from pulling out what was left of his hair. One of the two.
Methos looked up from his beer as he felt another immortal's presence, frowning at the man walking toward him. "Banks," he said in greeting.
"Jackass," Simon said cheerfully. "I thought it might be you. I've heard rumors you were in the area."
"You wanted to meet?"
"I'm Ellison and Sandburg's Captain," he said as he sat down, waving the waitress for two beers. "Where are you standing on this theft?"
Methos sipped his beer as he thought about it. "I'd personally like to see Strife come back, some of the chaos that permeates my life would end, but I know that he can't come back without bringing a *passenger*." He shrugged. "I'd rather not have him back at all in that case." He handed his empty to the waitress and took his next beer, watching as Simon paid for it. "You're going to demand a rematch?"
"No. Your friends stopped it last time," Simon said with a wry grin.
"No, I had to go deliver a baby in a whorehouse," Methos corrected. The waitress looked over her shoulder at them but he gave her a frown. "You won't?"
"I have nothing against you. I was young and dumb back then," Simon admitted. "All I'm worried about now is all the power massing in my town. I hate feeling helpless."
"Amen," Methos agreed, saluting him with the bottle. "What are you doing?"
"I'm letting Sandburg work with you guys, but I'm keeping Jim on the original theft complaint." He took a sip of his beer. "Jim's fairly stunned at the moment, I don't think he'll deal very well with all this. His own peculiarities damn near overran his life." He took a long drink. "Does that girl know anything yet? And what's a Celtic Protector doing in on this theft?"
"She's Strife's daughter. She's talked to Strife's mother, and they can't trace anything. We do know that if they're going to try and take Strife, there's only one time to do it. Your friend Blair found the ritual and emailed it to me before I came here." He glanced around. "Who else is in town? Rain said there were three of us."
"An older one, but he's harmless. He looked me up his first night in town and said he didn't want to fight." Simon shrugged. "He's in mourning for his wife or something, came here to get away from his old life." He looked around too. "Expecting someone?"
"No, but I feel like I'm being watched." He shrugged off the feeling and took a drink of his beer. "You can't get decent beer in the States."
Simon laughed. "I know. Cigars either." He stared at the older immortal. "Is there anything you need to start this investigation? Clearance to look at the site, anything?"
Methos shook his head. "Not at all. I know what was in there, and how it was set up. I'm one of the researchers working on the project. Rain is too now, I suppose." He finished his beer and stood up, tossing down some money for the tip. "We'll contact you if we need you. I'll send Rain over if I feel she needs guarded." He walked away, heading out into the night.
Simon finished his beer, smiling in happiness.
Rain looked up as her apartment door was knocked on, getting up to answer it. "Come in," she offered, getting out of Blair's way. "What can I do for you?" she asked, trying to stay polite. It was nearly midnight.
"I know it's late," Blair said quickly. "I think I have an idea. I figure you've probably tried to search using the blood and whatever you can do. Is there anyway that you can search for something *in* the blood? That spark that made him a God?"
Rain licked her lips and thought. "I don't know. I'd have to defer to a wiser individual. I can put the idea forward." He smiled and she grinned back. "You really didn't know?"
"Not at all. I just thought my mother liked to travel, not that she was hiding me from some prophecy and her father." He plopped down on her couch. "If you can't search that way, what about a more mundane way? I got in touch with one of the worshipers of Artemis, who adores me let me tell you, and she thought that there might be another way to track something in the kit, some sort of contagion from how he died."
Rain sat down across from him, tugging her long t-shirt around to cover her naked and spread thighs. "We tried to do a contagion test earlier. We also tried to do a search with mine and his mother's blood, with the thought that his blood would be drawn to ours. We haven't found a thing though, it's too old."
"Well, how many old samples of blood are there in town?" Blair suggested. "None of the cemeteries are that old in this area. None of the native art found in the region has been dated back that far. If it's a matter of searching a mass quantity, can you do it that way?"
She shook her head. "It's so old, it's not responding. It's too dead."
Blair sighed and tugged his ponytail tighter. "Well, that blew my theory. What about the other stuff. What's the cloth made out of?"
"Really thin leather," she said with a faint smile. "We tried that, but we came up with almost three thousand hits and we can't figure out how to narrow it down by age."
"Hmm," Blair said while he thought. "Age wouldn't be easy, but what about color? Or something on it? Did it have dust?"
She looked happier. "It might have had dust on it. At least from the display area." She looked up briefly and sent the thought winging out into the ether. "Discord said she could try," she said finally, looking at him again. "She doesn't hold much hope. Even if we can narrow it down by ancient dust, there's not going to be much of it on there. The piece is only a few centimeters across."
Blair frowned. "Why that little?"
"Because his mother wanted him buried in the same outfit he died in I guess," she told him. "Either that or Strife never was a clothes horse like today's people. If we just had something of his that we could link to that piece of cloth."
"Can we get another piece of the cloth? Was any more of it saved?"
She shook her head. "And it's buried under a *large* portion of dirt. It's not been discovered yet, and probably won't be." She got a little more comfortable. "So I guess we wait."
"And we contemplate," Blair added. "Can I ask?" he asked a few minutes later. "Who your parents are? I mean on the other end?"
"Cailleach is my mother," she said quietly. "She and the rest of them left this plane just after I turned 22." She curled up a little more. "It really sucked."
"I bet. I started college at sixteen," he offered. "And we *never* stayed in one place more than a few months. Dorm life was the first stability I ever had." She laughed at that. "And I roomed with a future frat brother my first two semesters. I thought my life had been a party before." She laughed harder. "To make it better, he was dating this vapid little sixteen-year-old cheerleader from his highschool. Cheated on her constantly. I learned more about sex those eight months than I did reading the Kama Sutra."
She rolled around on the other couch, laughing. "I thought it was bad living with smiths and the occasional Godly party," she snorted once she had calmed down. "The year I was born, there was a party that lasted for sixteen months celebrating a victory in a single battle. Not a war, a battle."
Blair chuckled. "Yeah, I can understand that fully. Did you train with both sides of your family?"
"No, but my mother was good enough to let me go and meet my father's side. Ares is still pissed that I didn't take up my father's place at his side. It seems that trouble follows me around." She sobered some. "I used to think that Strife was following me around, helping me with the little things in life, but I could never prove it."
Blair leaned over and patted her knee. "You know that he knew you were there and that you missed him. That's the important part." He sat back. "Did the other guy give you the copy of the alternate ritual I found?" She shook her head. "It seems that, once every century, Hades opens his realm to anyone brave enough to come save or steal a soul from him. If they can get through the gateway and find the soul, and get back out with it, in the allotted time then he can't interfere with their restoration to the living state. Only a few have been brave enough to try, but the first part of the ritual in that book involves going in during that particular time to rescue the soul from the Underworld. If any soul can be brought out then it can be revived."
"And if they don't make it out?"
"Since they're traveling ethereally, they die," he said with a slight shrug. "Their body dies with their soul stuck in there. The next time is in four days."
"So, we're looking for whomever to try it then," she said, contemplating that. "Maybe we can get some help to find them during the ceremony." She shivered and looked up, then shook her head. "There's too much dust and not enough of the original dust to distinguish it, it's even more fruitless than looking for the leather."
Blair sighed. "I tried," he said, standing up. "I'd better get home before Jim pops a blood vessel and I have to rescue *him* in four days." He smiled and patted her on the shoulder. "We'll figure it out. With the brain power in our group, we'd have to." Then he let himself out.
She got up and locked the door, turning around to find her favorite Uncle standing behind her. "Hey, Ares," she said tiredly, holding her arms up for a hug. Which she got. "We're trying," she told him.
"I know," he told her, patting her on the head. "That's what's important, that you guys try." He nodded at the door. "Is that really Hebe's son?" She nodded. "Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
Rain shuddered. "Please, no dynastic plans. I don't need children on top of my sixth dissertation, Uncle Ares. Leave the kids off until *after* I get this Ph.D. okay?" He laughed. "Good. Now, I'd better rest. Dawn comes really early."
"You're still keeping up with your sword work?" he asked, looking pleased.
"I can just see all three of my teachers coming and beating me if I don't," she quipped, smiling at her second teacher. He laughed and disappeared, leaving her alone to sleep alone.
Methos looked up as his office door opened, frowning at the detective standing there. "Yes?" he asked.
"I want the truth," Jim said, coming in and closing the door. "This is all a cult thing, right?"
Methos shook his head. "No, it's not a cult thing, Detective Ellison, not since these faiths were new and the world was old. And by the way, cult means a small religion, it isn't synonymous with brainwashing," he finished sarcastically. "As for worrying about your partner, he's better able to handle this situation than you are." He stood up. "Just find the people who stole those artifacts and let us handle the rest, it will save your mind. Now if you'll excuse me, I've still got freshmen essays to grade." He opened the door and all but pushed Jim out it, closing it in his face. "Narrow-minded twit." He sat down with a sigh and went back to trying to find the bare traces of logic the freshmen had used.
Jim walked out to his truck, meeting Blair beside it. "Am I narrow minded?" he asked out of the blue.
Blair shrugged. "It's more like you have blinders. Things that don't fit into your world view have to be explained away or ignored." He shifted some. "Did you go bother Professor McKinely?" Jim nodded. "Let me guess, you called it a cult?" Jim nodded again, starting to scowl. "It's not a cult, Jim, and it's not something that you're going to want to deal with. Let those of us who can handle it do so." He stood up, dusting off his back, the truck was kinda dirty. "Any leads on who stole it?"
"You tell me," Jim challenged.
"We've been trying to find that out since yesterday and seem to have run out of options," Blair said, sounding a little sad. "We'll have to find whoever took it in a more mundane way." He patted Jim on the chest. "That's where you fit into this, Ellison. You've got to find this guy and you've got three days to do it in. At dark in three days, the guy can open a portal and pull a soul back. That's all the time we have." He glanced around them. "If you're up to it. If not, then hand it over to Simon, please. The world depends on this, Jim, and it's your turn to save it." He walked away, heading to his office.
"No, don't put any pressure on me!" Jim called after him. He got into his truck and started it, heading for the office. He strode into Simon's office, closing the door in a more reasonable manner this time. "Blair said I have three days to find this guy," he said quietly. Simon nodded. "That later that day he can pull a soul back?"
"It appears that someone's going to be doing the spell to resurrect the person whom the blood and hair belonged to." Simon looked his best, and favorite, detective over. "Concentrate on finding them, not on why they stole it. The spell itself isn't important, the person who did it is the only one who knows why they did it. Find the person and we'll answer everything else." Jim nodded but he didn't move. "Do you have any thoughts on that?"
"No," Jim admitted, coming over and sitting down. "Sandburg said that they ran out of options of tracking him *their* way."
"Why do you think it's a him?" Simon asked.
"I don't know," Jim admitted. He shifted. "Maybe something I smelled...." He drifted off, thinking about the scene. "I need Sandburg to go over it with me."
"Done," Simon said, reaching for the phone. "Head over there." He waited until Jim had gone to call Blair. "Sandburg, Ellison needs you to do your Guide act at the scene of the crime." He listened. "All right. We'll look out for it. Have you checked the herbal shops? Will they need any?" He frowned. "Really? That common?" He sighed. "It was only an idea." He hung up and called the college, starting on getting permission. The room had been closed yesterday after the theft and no one could get into it.
Methos leaned down and picked the lock, smiling as it clicked. "Thank you, Amanda," he said quietly as he walked into the room. He walked around, going clockwise, looking for a reason. He stopped in front of the case, staring down at the small display. He touched the knife, specially made by Hephaestus for this purpose. Someone would have to create another vessel for the soul to be kept in and it had to be a gem and metal combination to hold Strife's. The spell itself was there. The collar to bind the new body until it adjusted was there. What were they missing? He turned his head as he heard steps coming his way, frowning when he heard them stop outside the door.
"Just a quick search, Chief," Jim said as he opened the door. He frowned at the man standing in front of the case. "How did you get in here?"
"A very good friend of mine is a world-class thief," Methos told him. He bowed to Blair. "I don't see how they could have made specific utensils without knowing the soul so deeply. It took almost a year to find out that the vessel had to be a gem and metal combination."
"They would have to make new items?" Jim asked, coming in and looking down at the display. "What is each one for?"
"The knife is to hold the soul," Methos said quietly, pointing at it. "The person who it was meant for would need something like them to be the vessel. In this case, Strife's soul could only be held in something that was like him."
"A weapon," Blair said wisely. "The gems would hold the soul and the metal would calm and speak to him?"
Methos nodded. "Very good assumptions. The collar is to bind and hold the body until it's used to life again. That too would have to somehow fit with the person they were trying to bring back." He looked over at Blair. "Is there anything of note yet?"
"Not that anyone could find. I put in my suggestions last night and none of them seemed to work either." He looked at Jim. "It's resting on his shoulders now." He smiled at Methos. "Can we have a few minutes alone in here?"
"Of course," Methos said, leaving them alone.
Blair looked up at his sentinel. "Okay, let's start with smell. You spent long enough to be able to weed out Doctor McKinely's scent. Search for all the scents that have been in the room recently."
Jim walked over around the edge of the room, turning up his sense of smell. He quickly found Simon's scent from yesterday and weeded it out, along with the rest of the crime scene unit. Then came a female scent, but he recognized it as Mrs. Smithlove. He came down to two unfamiliar scents, and cataloged them both. "There's two aftershave smells I can't quite get," Jim said, looking at his guide. "We should check the guard first."
"We can do that on the way out," Blair agreed. "What about sight? Check the window and the doors." He watched as Jim went through the routine, helping him focus and giving him ideas. By the time they were done, Jim had enough clues to weed out a guard and to leave a second suspect. Now all they had to do was to find him. The first stop was to get the scent.
Blair looked across the desk at the list Jim had made of what he had found, and sighed in near- despair. Everything was too common, nothing giving them a place to start. "Jim, anything?" he asked quietly.
"Not a thing, Chief," Jim admitted, looking up. "Commercial aftershave. Commercial clothes. Common dust in the shoe prints. There's not a chance I can narrow it down from here." He tossed his pen down. "No place to start with this."
"Then where should we start next?" Blair asked. "The herbs in the ...thing are readily available," he said, wanting to keep Jim focused on something other than the occult angle. "That leaves us with the vessel and the control."
"Who could make a gem-encrusted dagger?" Jim asked. Blair knew the strangest people, he would probably know.
Blair shrugged. "Not a clue. A very talented craftsman. We could try asking at some of the more upper-crust jewelry stores." He looked down at his flannel overshirt, t-shirt, and jeans then over at Jim's khakis and t-shirt. "Maybe we should change first."
Jim shrugged and gathered up the pictures of the remaining items. "They can deal with us the way we are. They're people too." He grabbed their jackets and led the way down to the truck.
"Detective, if we could," the jewelry store manager said, nodding him back to a consultation room so their clients wouldn't see the two scruffy looking men in the shop. "I've never seen work like this before." She handed back the photographs. "Whoever did it wasn't native to Cascade. Or New York, I trained out there in our store's main branch." She glanced at the pictures again. "I can give you an approximate worth if you could tell me how old they are."
"They around thirty five-hundred years old," Blair told her. "The problem is, the thief left these pieces so we have to assume that they have something similar."
She shook her head. "There's not many people in the world who could do either of those pieces today. A woman in Spain. A *very* old man in Italy. There is a new designer in Los Angeles that likes to combine weapons and art, but he's never worked with jewels that I know of." She frowned. "I'm sorry I can't help you."
"Is there anyone in Cascade that might know more?" Blair asked. "A designer? Maybe someone who does less retail and more personal purchasing?"
She shrugged, but didn't look pleased. "I've known most of Cascade's jewelry people now for ten years. No one comes to mind right off." She looked at the wall, then snapped her fingers. "There's someone up at the college that's been asking about some old chalice recently. It's supposed to have some jewels on it. Nothing that ornate, but she might be able to help. Name was some sort of weather pattern."
Blair smiled. "Thank you." He shook her hand and led Jim out of the store, ignoring the fact that the manager sprayed an air freshener once they were out the door. "Rain's here looking for some very precious artifacts," he told Jim quietly when the Detective didn't quit scowling. "One of which is a chalice that belonged to...."
Jim held up a hand. "I don't need to know, it's not part of this case." He walked around and climbed into the truck, watching as Blair climbed in and grabbed something off the seat. "What's that?"
"A note," Blair said while he read. He tucked it away in his pocket then looked at his partner. Jim didn't look like he believed him. "It was an update, there's still no progress from the other end of the case."
Jim grunted and started the truck, going to another high-end jewelry store.
Rain looked over at Eris and Ares, who were sitting on the couch waiting for her to finish making herself a sandwich. "Is there anyway we can go warn Dad? The ritual Sandburg found said the spirit had to be willing to come back." She brought her sandwich and a glass of milk back to sit across from them.
Ares coughed. "We've tried to get Hades, but he appears to be hiding somewhere in his realm dealing with a problem."
"Don't you mean just hiding?" Eris said dryly.
"Only from his wife," Ares answered with a smirk. He looked over at the young Goddess, his smirk falling away. "That is a good idea though. Do you think you can travel down there ethereally to get to him? We're not allowed to go invade Hades' realm without his prior permission. Not that it's not fun, but I really don't want to have to babysit Cerberus for another century. Damned dog drooled all over my favorite clothes last time."
"All I know about traveling ethereally is that you start in a meditative trance," Rain said before taking a bite of her lunch. "I've never done it before." She looked at her favorite relatives, who both had very scary looks on their faces. "What?" she asked between chews.
"Sandburg knows," Eris told her. "He's got a Spirit Guide he regularly goes to visit."
Rain shook her head. "Nope. It was bad enough that Uncle Ares was trying to fix me up with him. I'm not going to go take lessons from a halfling who didn't even know that his mother was a Goddess three days ago."
Eris shrugged. "I don't know anyone else who can lead you down there that fast. And he's been there once. They brought him back about ten minutes after he'd died...when was it again?"
"Almost two years ago," Ares said quietly. "He is the only choice at the moment, and I think Rain is right. Strife does need to know. We know he's chained himself to Dahak to keep him down there. He's got to know so he won't be surprised when whoever is doing this tries for him."
"Have we figured out who might be trying to do this?" Rain asked them, then drank her milk. She put the empty dishes aside and curled up on her couch. "Who would want Strife back that badly after all this time?"
"Methos is helping us," Eris told Ares, who grunted in displeasure. "Hey, he *was* too far away to stop her. He's miserable, Ares," she noted quietly, putting a hand on his thigh and squeezing. "Forgive the guy already. It wasn't his fault."
"You two knew they were together?" Rain asked.
"Yeah, it was supposed to be a secret, but Strife was watched a little too closely for that," Eris said with a grin. "I personally liked the match. He kept Strife from bouncing so much."
"He kept Strife from making up some of the stupidest plans," Ares sighed, but he didn't look like he was ready to go stomp Methos now. "It was an on again-off again thing." He shrugged. "Beside him, I have no idea. I've checked with all the immortals left from our times. None of them were really in tight with Strife."
"I talked to Iolaus," Eris told them both. "He said he'd fly out today to come stop this, no matter what. When he got taken over by Dahak, he figured out a lot, including how to fight him. He'll make sure it'll only take a lot of energy and no deaths this time." She looked at her granddaughter. "You still willing to go talk to your father?"
"Sure. But do I *have* to use Sandburg? His partner's a creep."
Ares sighed. "He's been through a lot, Rain. Between his days as a Ranger, his tenure as a cop, and his heightened senses he's been screwed most of his life. Give the guy a little slack."
"He thinks this is a cult thing!" she told him. "He actually walked into Methos' office and asked him if this was a cult."
Eris shook her head. "I miss the days when mortals were more willing to believe."
Ares nodded. "Me too, but we can't help it with this one. He's seen too much and he still doesn't believe it. Didn't even believe in his own Spirit Guide until it made him choose between his senses and his life." He crossed his feet. "So? Are you willing?"
"Sure," she sighed. "But I don't want to do it at their house."
"I'm sure they'd agree," Eris told her, giving her a smile. "I'll go tell Sandburg that he needs to come anchor you while you go talk to your father." She disappeared.
Ares smiled at her. "How are you doing otherwise?"
"I'm pretty bored," she admitted. "That's why I'm actually going for a sixth Masters." She grinned. "But I guess getting to bug Methos makes up for part of that. He's fun to pick on." Her grin got brighter. "And I guess that I'll get a break sometime. It's not like anybody believes in us or the artifacts these days. All I really do is keep track of a few groups and families, who have passed down the information."
Ares chuckled. "I bet. How many artifacts are in town?"
"Three that I know of. There's six that're listed as missing. I'm pretty sure that those are in private collections or stored somewhere far from normal people." He nodded. "Other than that, the warehouse in England is pretty airtight. Even Auto couldn't get into it last year. Him or his student Amanda." She smiled. "I zapped 'em," she said happily. "They forgot *all* about the stash we set up."
Ares laughed and nodded. "Good girl. Go eat something else, you're too tiny to hold your sword." Then he too left her alone.
Rain got up and went to make herself another sandwich. Her Uncle was such a fussbudget some days.
Strife looked up in shock as a spirit approached him. None of the other dead guys liked him. He was a pariah of the most major grade. Not even the other dead Gods liked him. And this one was a chick too. Maybe she was warped. "Who're you?" he grunted in annoyance, shifting on his velvet armchair.
"Daddy, I'm here with a warning," Rain told him, grinning at him. "Just listen before you throw a hissy or somethin', kay? Anyway, there's someone tryin' to bring you back. They stole part of your resurrection kit a few days ago and it's only two days before they can come down and steal you back. We need you to fight them."
"Whoa!" Strife said, holding up a hand. "I didn't have any kids."
"Remember a really pretty Celtic Goddess?" she sighed, rolling her eyes at the distrust. He frowned and nodded. "I'm her kid, and yours, stupid. Uncle Ares said hi by the way and your mom said I was to spank you because you liked it like that." Her grin came back and she nodded at the solid stone pillar her father was chained to. "We know what you did, all of us do. Even though Uncle Ares threw a most *MAJOR* fit when he found out. Shook all of Greece. No wars, not even the little lovers spats that can be so fun." She shook herself. "Anyway," she started again. "Someone's stolen just enough of the set to make us worry that they're comin' after you this time, so we needed to warn you."
Hades appeared behind Strife and looked at her. "The time for such visitations is not for another day," he noted dryly.
"Hey, I'm just the messenger," she said, backing away a step and holding up both hands. "Someone stole part of his resurrection set and we thought he needed to know so he could fight in case the extreme idiot got out again." She pointed at the stone pillar again. "Uncle Ares and Grandma said I had to be the one to come see him because no one wanted to babysit your pooch."
Strife looked up at Hades. "I think this is an 'oh shit' time. Don't you?" Hades nodded so he looked at his daughter again. "Who was your mother anyway?"
"Cailleach, one of the old ones. She controls weather. She liked you." She shrugged. "Any guy that was kinda nice to her got screwed. I'm just a prophecy kid."
"Which one?" Hades asked.
"She's probably their protector," Strife told him. "She's obviously not moved on with them."
"Yup, I am," she said proudly. "And I'm also working beside an old buddy of yours." She walked over and gave him a hug, one spirit to another. "Methos said he missed you and wants you back, but not at this price," she whispered. Then she pulled back and looked at Hades. "Gee, you look less grim that I woulda thought." She waved. "Gotta go, the anchor's getting thin. His roommate is *such* a dick." She waved again and faded out, going back to her body.
Strife grinned at Hades. "I like her. I've got a neat kid."
"She's a lot like you," Hades said diplomatically. Then he checked the chain running between the stone and Strife's chest again. "It's still sturdy. Don't worry, no one will bring you back without the rest of us knowing and fighting."
"Who told Unc?" Strife asked him.
"Big, dumb, and dopey."
"Apollo's not that dopey," Strife reminded him after considering whom that might fit. He caught the grimace and sighed heavily. "Hercules was made a God?" Hades nodded. "Of?"
"He's over families."
Strife shook his head. "No wonder those Christian Coalition folks are the way they are." He shifted some, then decided to change the color of the velvet around him. "Hey, are any of those porno magazines still around? I need somethin' ta do."
Hades waved a hand and materialized a stack of newer pornographic magazines and books. "Sorry it's not your usual flavor, but we just got this guy down here. He's set up in his own tomb with a copy of each one around him so they came with him." He walked off, heading to go tear down an attempted bridge across the Acheron. He hated engineers, they were always trying to get around the rules of the Universe.
Strife picked up the top one, humming when he saw the women opening themselves and using some pretty extreme things to do themselves with. "Hey, it's all good to me now," he muttered, turning the magazine sideways to try and figure out how one woman had done that.
Rain woke up to a poking feeling. She glared at the mortal who *dared* to touch her, snapping her fingers and freezing him. "How do you put up with him?" she asked Sandburg, who was sitting across from her on the rug of her living room floor.
"Easy. I'm his Guide," he said with a shrug. "Free him and tell us what happened."
"Na-uh. He can't deal with it, I'll tell you. Daddy was kinda confused, apparently no one told him about me after he died. But he took the warning. Hades was kinda cool too when he showed up. He seems to think that it won't happen, but I think they got the point."
Blair nodded. "Okay." He nodded at Jim. "Get him out of that before he's frozen forever and I have to look for a new place to live." She snapped her fingers and Jim went limp before looking around. "The warning was successful," he said as he stood up. He grabbed his stuff and headed for the door, knowing Jim was going to follow him automatically, it was how his Sentinel operated. As he opened the door, the guy on the other side raised a hand to knock. "Oh, hey," he said, his eyes opening wider. "Didn't hear you walk up. Rain, visitor," he called, sliding past him and heading for the truck, Jim right behind him and silent the whole way.
The blond man walked in and shut the door, smiling at the personal possessions spread around. "Still the same packrat, huh, Rain?" he asked. She looked over from where she was standing gulping water in the kitchen, nodding at him. "What's going on?" She held up a finger so he made himself comfortable on a couch.
She brought the glass and the filter pitcher over to the sitting area, flopping down beside him. "What do you know so far?"
"Just what Discord said while she tried to destroy my office," he said dryly. "Something about a resurrection kit and someone stealing something?"
"Ah. From the top then. Yeah, Grandma has a resurrection kit for dad. Someone stole the blood, hair, and piece of his death outfit from it. We don't know who did it yet. In another day, someone can go down to Tartarus and pull him back to be reborn. I just got back from warning him."
"Try apple juice, it works better," he suggested, looking serious. "When did they do this?"
"The same day you got visited. We've been working nonstop on this now for days," she sighed. She relaxed with her latest glass of water, sipping it slowly. "Dad's still chained to the uber- asshole. Hades was pretty cool, but disbelieving, and I don't have any apple juice in the house. It's this, coffee, or soda."
He patted her on the head. "That's okay then. What do you need me to do?"
"We know that tomorrow's the day and that someone's going to try and pull him back. We have no idea how to hurt the uber-asshole if we have to though."
"That's my job," he reminded her, standing up. "You can always count on me to jump into any fight."
She put a hand on his, giving it a squeeze. "Ian, it sucks that he left you. Why don't you call on him to talk to him? I'm sure His Grumpiness would love to see you. And before you say it, I know it's not that simple, but you and Herc have got to get back together sometime. Either that or you should take mom up on the offer and go live with them. They've still got monsters and stuff to hunt. I'm sure you'd like that."
Ian, formerly known as Iolaus, smiled down at his fellow protector. "I'll go to them once everything I'm guarding is either gone or safely in good hands." He pulled her hand up to kiss the back of it. "I'm staying at the fleatrap near the college."
"Hey, I've got couches," she offered. "No fleas or roaches. A neighbor has a pet rat but it doesn't come in here anymore, it knows I'm going to turn it into a stew."
Ian nodded. "I'll take that offer." He looked around the small apartment. "Where do you sleep?" She pointed at a doorway. "I thought that was the bathroom."
"No, that's the bedroom. The bathroom's the door that looks like a closet. We don't have closets in this building, the landlord abolished them when he split up the building into apartments. Go get your stuff. I'll be up for a while yet." He was laughing as he walked out, and she grabbed another glass of water. Traveling that way sucked ass. She was going to have to remember that for the future.
Methos saluted Simon Banks with his mug of beer, inviting him to join the small table. "Any luck?" he asked as he waved the waitress over.
"Scotch," Simon ordered. He waited until they were alone. "Not a bit. Anything on your side of the problem?"
"A small improvement. Rain decided to contact her father. She called to tell me she couldn't come help me grade today." He took a sip of his beer, then wrapped his hands around where the mug sat on the table. "Your detective can't get a clue?"
"Not a one. Whoever did this was slick. Everything they had on was very ordinary. Commercially mass available aftershave. The few threads he found are a fifty-fifty poly/cotton mix. Any herbs he might need are readily available at any good store. A few are even cooking herbs." He took his scotch and handed the woman a hundred. "Start a tab," he ordered, slugging the drink. "Not only that, but they got nowhere looking for new vessels. I miss when the world made sense and all I had to do was memorize a few lines and act."
Methos nodded but he looked grim. "I too miss the old days, Banks. I really do wish that life were as uncomplicated as it used to be." He finished off his beer and tossed a few bills down onto the table. "I'm going to go home. Did we need to hold a conference?" he asked at the confused look.
"No, but it's nice not to have to pretend," Simon pointed out, nearly pouting.
Methos patted him on the arm. "After this is over, Banks. I'll even introduce you to a Watcher- run bar where a lot of us hang out." He got up and left, heading for home. He sent a silent prayer to his former lover, wishing him a happy afterlife because his life was hell.
Simon sighed and ordered another scotch, chugging that one just as fast. Then he slowed down, moving to the weak beer that was on tap at that bar. It had been a long day.
Jim shot up as if electrocuted. He grabbed his jacket and started for the door, Simon running to catch up with him. "Where are we going?" Simon asked.
"I don't know, sir, but I just got pinched and then pushed." Jim climbed in and started the truck. "I'm still being pushed at."
"Oh. Like a directional beacon?"
Jim nodded and peeled out of the garage. He wanted the sensation to stop, no one should be able to do that to his rear. He turned to the right at the pinch to that side, shuddering at the pat. "I want them gone," he hissed, speeding up as much as he dared in the twilight rush hour. Simon flipped on the siren, allowing him to go faster. He shot his friend and captain a smile, then sped up some more, taking a corner sharply as his ass was pinched on that side.
Blair and Methos both jumped up when they heard the voice in their minds, grabbing their jackets and heading for the immortal's car - it worked better. They sped away from the college, heading to the waterside district.
Rain looked up as Eris appeared behind her, shutting her textbook and putting it aside. She stood up and waved a hand, changing her clothes to her battle outfit. "Let's go," she said quietly, heading after her grandmother to stop this sick person. Nobody was going to hurt her daddy. She appeared behind the man kneeling in front of the altar, and within seconds, the outer door opened to admit the nice man Methos had been drinking with and the mortal. "It's him," she pronounced. She looked around in confusion. There was a coffin near the altar, a large white one with ice crystals on it. She walked over and looked down inside, hissing at the sight of the beautiful woman trapped inside. "I think we made a Type I error," she noted, bringing the two cops over. Blair and Methos stormed in next, joining them at the coffin.
Methos looked from the frozen body to the man in front of the altar and back. "Can we stop him at this stage?"
"We can kill him," Rain agreed, "but it might not stop him." She walked over and looked carefully at the man, then back at Methos. "He's a lot like you guys," she told him with a shrug.
Banks walked around to look at the man's face. "That's the other immie in town. His wife just died...." He looked at the coffin then groaned. "We messed up."
Blair shook his head. "Now what? Can we let him continue?"
Rain shook her head. "Anybody that's pulled back could bring Dahak with them." She looked up as Ian appeared on the other side of the coffin. "It's not for daddy," she said, sounding a little sad. She really wanted to get to know her father. The one conversation they'd had had shown her that they were a lot alike; she had always wondered why she was never like her mother, now she knew. "Ian, your call. You've been here before."
"Why him?" Jim asked.
"Because this is *his* job," Blair said quietly. "This is what he protects, Jim."
"Not just this," Ian said, smiling at him. "Tell your mom I said hi and I still remember our night in Athens." Blair shuddered. "Sorry." He looked at Rain and shrugged. "I don't know what to do. He might not be able to pull her soul back."
The man kneeling on the floor awoke and looked at all the people. "You can't stop me," he hissed. "She's mine! I will have my love back!" He lifted the small crystal flower and laid it in the small spot of light on the altar. "My love, come back to me," he whispered. "Everything's fine now. The small tumor was removed. Everything that was hurt in the crash is now healed. Just come back to me."
Simon started for his sword, but Methos stopped him. "I know love like this," he said quietly. "A sword will not stop it." He walked forward. "Do you know what sort of complications you have just caused the world?" he asked, looking into the man's eyes. "There is an evil spirit attached to the souls of Hades' realm. You've allowed him entry. If you reanimate her, he'll take her from you."
The man shook his head. "I do not care!" he yelled. He grabbed the rose and went over to the body, shoving Simon and Blair out of his way. "She's my life," he whispered, putting the crystal rose on her chest. "Return to me, my love."
Everyone looked on helplessly as the corpse was refilled by its soul, and then as the man started to push buttons, unfreezing his love so she could be reanimated. He glanced at Rain and Methos as he pushed the button to restart her heart.
Rain grabbed Methos' arm and whispered, "Hold on." Then she pulled them both into Hades' realm. "I need Strife," she called out, trying to forestall getting a three-headed dog for a century. "We misjudged. The guy's bringing back his wife."
Hades appeared, giving them a grim smile. "Strife's on his way back," he said in quiet coldness. "Someone will have to give up their essence to him." He looked Rain over. "Who was it?"
"A young immortal," Methos told him. "She was his life." Hades nodded, he understood too. "Do you want her back?"
Hades shook his head. "Not at all. Just send back Dahak if you can." He disappeared, going to pray for some success.
Rain sped off, taking Methos with her, going to grab the resurrection kit from the college and bringing it back to the room with the newly returned woman. She laid out the dagger, the collar, and then pulled out a few pieces of her hair. Methos added a few of his hairs, and both of their blood hit the dagger at the same moment, bringing Strife flashing into existence.
"Hey, this ain't a great way to be back here," a discorporate voice noted.
"You're a God, come back as energy and take a human guise," Blair suggested. "Mom said you could do that."
"Mom?" Simon asked.
"Hebe. Sword, Simon?" Blair asked, pointing at the cutlass the other man had.
"He's like him," Strife said as he congealed, pointing at Methos. He looked at the collar, then at his daughter, then at his lover. "Not needed, guys." He walked over to the coffin, looking at the man. "If I bring her back, everyone could die," he pointed out. "We all have ta fight the bastard. You up for that?"
The immortal looked at him, tears streaming down his face. "Yes," he whispered.
Strife waved his little girl over, joining hands with her to jolt the corpse back into life. The body jumped and opened its eyes. Then it smiled at the immortal. "I knew someone would be this weak," she said in a very masculine voice.
"Dahak, return to your incarceration," Iolaus chanted, pulling something out his pocket and holding it over the body. "May the straps bind you forever this time. No chains to follow you. No feelings coming to you. No love to be your own." He dropped the purple crystal and the body shrieked. "Strife, power?" he suggested.
"I'm weak, guy," Strife reminded him, but Rain was pouring all she had into the crystal, trying to suck Dahak out of her body. "Huh." He nodded and looked up. "Yo! A little help here!" he yelled.
A few flashes of light signaled the arrival of the calvary, and a motley bunch it was too. Ares beside Hercules, who was behind Hera and Discord, and a not so little Bliss off to one side, as far away from Hercules as he could get. "What's going on here?" Hercules demanded. "Iolaus?" he said in shock.
Hera thumped him on the arm. "Yes, him. He's one who can fight the asshole. Strife, step away from him. Hades said he can still take you over." She walked over, laying a hand on Iolaus' shoulder. "Bliss, Hercules, to me. Ares, you and Discord go join and suck with the young woman." She poured her powers through Iolaus, lighting him up.
Ares grabbed Rain on one side, Discord getting the other, and together they sucked the taint out of the body. Then Ares grabbed the crystal and pulverized it, sending it to Hades encased in a bubble of power so Dahak could be contained once again. "This has gotten easier," Ares told his sister. "No one had to die this time and no one's going to end up in Apollo's hands."
Rain looked at him. "Easier?" she asked in shock. "It took seven Gods to get him gone!" She hit him on the chest. "And I hate the power hangovers. Next time go through me, not *through* me!"
Hera snorted. "At least he's gone, Protector," she said quietly. She looked at the woman, then at the husband. "Your love was strong," she told them. "Cherish it. She is still mortal." She glared at the immortal. "This is your last chance."
"Then make me mortal," he begged, falling to his knees. "Let me live beside her. I nearly didn't make it last time." He looked at Ares, recognizing him. "Please, Lord Ares, you must have some say over which of us are players in the Game."
Ares shrugged. "Not my issue, it's the patriarch's decision in this case. Zeus? A ruling?" The immortal was struck with a bolt of lightening, making him scream and writhe on the floor. "Thanks!" Ares yelled. "He's gone."
Hera touched the young woman, shielding her from another attempt to take her over this way.
Hercules glared at his half-brother. "How can you be so disrespectful?" He grabbed Iolaus and dragged him off to talk to him. "Why are you here?"
"Because Rain needed me. This is my job, Hercules," Iolaus sighed, already tired of this round of the fight. "This is why I'm immortal, to fight Dahak no matter which century he appears in. Now, you can either accept this, or you can go pout for another millennium." He walked away, going to talk to Hera and make a report. Then he left in a flash of light, courtesy of Discord.
"He's in New York," Discord told Hercules. "Maybe you should try groveling. I find it works quite well on me." She hugged her son. "C'mon. We've got to go see Zeus to get you official," she sneered the last word.
"Mom," Strife complained. "I wanna talk to the little bit! She is mine after all!"
Hera chuckled. "Of course she is. She's quite a lot like you." She smiled at Rain then at Strife. "Though, I don't think you ever ran naked through Olympus as a teenager, grandson." She shrugged. "It won't take that long. Zeus has anticipated this reunion." She held out a hand. "Shall we? Then you can come back and talk to your offspring." Strife slumped but he took her hand and they all left.
Rain looked at Methos, Blair, Jim, and Simon. "Shall we go too?" she suggested lightly. "I could use a beer."
"Off into the sunset," Blair agreed, taking her arm to walk with her. "Neat outfit."
"Thanks, it was a gift from Ares on my sixteenth birthday. He said no real warrior should ever be without some armor." She ran a hand down her leather-clad thigh. "He made sure it'll always fit me and all the rips'll repair themselves."
"Man, I need that!" Blair said. "I'm forever having to buy new clothes because of Jim."
Rain considered the man she was walking out with. Sure, he was a dick, but he was a smart dick and he could keep up with her both mentally and physically. And at her age, a dick was a dick, and this was one cute dick.
Simon looked at Jim as they walked away. "You think?" he asked.
"I just want a normal life," Jim told him, still looking a little shell shocked. "She was dead, right? And then there was a guy in there?"
Simon patted him on the back. "It's all a dream, Ellison. When you wake up tomorrow, it'll all just be a really vivid dream."
Methos looked over at them. "I can insure that," he offered.
"Methos!" Strife called, coming back to jump him. He stole a kiss. "Go get ready for me, baby, 'cause I'm *BACK*!" Then he went back to Olympus and listening to people bitch, whine, and complain.
Methos walked out with a silly grin on his face, though he would deny it if anyone mentioned it.
Two months later, Duncan MacLeod walked into Methos' office, giving him a giant smile and a bag of peanuts from the flight. "So, anything interesting happen while I was gone?" he asked.
"No," Methos told him, putting down his book to open the bag of nuts. "Everything was pretty ordinary and boring."
MacLeod shook his head. "I thought you might have had some fun."
Methos grinned. "I have. I have someone I want you to meet. Strife?" he called out gently. Nothing got his lover hotter than him being soft and sweet, until he could turn naughty later.
Strife appeared in a dull flash, looking at this new guy. "Hey, how'r'ya?" He shook MacLeod's hand. "I'm the new Chair of the History department. You're MacLeod, right?"
Duncan swallowed and nodded. "Yes, I'm just back from my sabbatical and research trip to Tibet." He looked at Methos. "What happened to the old Chair, Doctor Dortmier?"
"Oh, he had an accident," Methos said between bites. He shared his nuts with Strife, and they both smiled at MacLeod. "We've also gotten a thesis candidate in your area. I think you'll like Rain. Very strong willed."
Duncan nodded, grabbing his things so he could head for his office. He found a young woman sitting there, chewing some gum and blowing bubbles. "And you are?" he asked.
"Rain," she said, holding out a hand. "Methos' GA. I was told I have to have you on my committee so I thought I'd pop over and introduce myself." She hopped up and checked her watch. "Oh, well, gotta go get some with the honey." She headed out to go find Sandburg. That man just made her hot, and all this chasing of him was *so* sweet.
Duncan set his things down on the desk and fell into his chair, looking up at the ceiling. "What's happened?" he asked his God. "Things were normal when I left. What is all this?"
"Don't worry so much, MacLeod," Methos said as he strolled past the door. "It'll all make sense soon enough. Just take a nap and have good dreams of the old days." He closed the door and walked on, teasing Strife.
Strife stalked his honey through the department, finally catching him in the copy room. "Oh, well, we needed a new one anyway," he said as he kicked the door shut.
*** Epilogue ***
Six years to the day that Jim Ellison had been shocked out of his comfortable existence, and four years since Blair had started to date the strange woman, Jim fastened the flower to his Guide's lapel. "You're sure, Chief?"
"I'm really sure, Jim," Blair agreed for the umpteenth time. "Now quit asking before I go ask Simon to beat you." He grinned and pulled his ponytail tighter, then headed out to wait for his bride. Strife had already given them his blessing, and Discord had officially married them in their family's eyes, but now came the official ceremony for everyone else. He looked up at Hera, who smiled and winked.
The doors at the back of the hall burst open and a very wobbly Rain strode down the aisle. "I'm here," she announced. "Let's do this."
Hera snickered at the bloody, alcohol stained leathers she wore but let it slide. A party the night before the wedding was a tradition, but she had never thought that Ares would throw the bash. She pointed at Rain's spot, making her just a little more sober. She smiled down at the very cute couple. "Anyone object to this marriage?" she called out, knowing that everyone wanted to make this a short ceremony so they could get on with the partying. No one said anything. "Then I now pronounce you married. Party!" Everyone left, going to Aphrodite's temple because she always had the best stuff for parties of this magnitude.
Simon coughed. "That was fast," he said finally.
Methos snorted and smiled. "You don't know the Gods, Simon. They've just opened the bar, started an orgy or three, and are now starting the fun part of the wedding rituals." He patted the man on the back and headed for his lover, giving him a subtle squeeze. "Are we attending?" he asked. "I have to listen to thesis defenses in four days."
"I can get you back in time," Strife leered, and they disappeared too.
Simon walked over and took Jim's arm, walking him out of the hall to where he could hear the loud music. "Come on, we've got the week off." Jim was still a little bit stiff, but he'd loosen up at the party, once they got him some tequila.
Rain smiled at Blair, who grinned back. "Honeymoon?" she suggested.
"Cool!" he agreed, taking her arm and going to her special room in Strife's temple. They locked the doors and made sure *no* one was getting through them, and then got down to the important part of their wedding rituals.
In the party, Ares smiled at Hebe, who was dancing with Hermes. "It worked," he told her, passing by her to go look at the virgins Aphrodite had laid out for their pleasure. "Hey, this one's not a virgin!" he yelled, and the boy disappeared to the other room. Ares headed that way too, virgins weren't really his thing. He passed by the alcove Strife and Methos were making out in, giving them a salute with his glass of vodka. "Have fun, boys." He left them alone, ignoring the chains that Strife had just put on Methos' body. They had their version of fun and he had his. He walked into the room with all the toys and smiled at the assembled people. "You!" he said, pointing to a dark-haired woman. "Here, now!" She shook her head. "No?"
"You've got to catch me if you want me that bad," she called, running from the room in the opposite direction.
Ares growled but he followed her. Yeah, she knew what she was doing and how to get him going.
Four days later, Methos and Rain faced off at her defense. She answered every question easily. He grilled her mercilessly. She zapped his incredibly sore ass and he had Strife pinch her on the tit. "Ah, family," he remarked as he signed his name on her defense form. He handed her the letter saying she had passed with a large, predatory smile. "Now what?"
"Well, gee, I was going to try and unstraighten MacLeod."
Methos laughed. "I wish you the best of luck," he said, giving her a hug. She might as well be his daughter after all.