Author: ithildyn, aka SWF Seeks Author to Claim This Story. Oh Wait, We Already Have One.
Written For: amonitrate
Author's Notes: Thanks to my awesome betas – they know who they are!
Summary: When Amanda asked Methos to take a trip to California with her, this wasn’t what he had in mind.
Life Is Short
"This isn't too bad!" Amanda said with forced cheer, a smile plastered firmly on her face as she shut the door behind them.
Methos’ only response was a chilly glare as he threw himself down on one of the double beds in the aging motel room.
"Look, there's even a fridge. That's nice, isn't it?"
"Oh yes, it makes this pit almost a dive," he replied cuttingly.
Ignoring him, she fiddled with the air-conditioning unit mounted under the room's one window, setting it to ‘coldest’. Soon, a frigid stream of air was pouring out, cooling the stuffy confines of their room. "The rental company will have a new car to us tomorrow morning and then we'll be on our way!"
Shoving a pillow up under his head, Methos snorted in disgust. "That's supposed to make me feel better? 'Take a trip with me to California, Methos', you said. Do we go to the beach? Tahoe, perhaps? Disneyland? Oh, no! Instead of any of the many fine tourist destinations the Golden State has to offer, you bring me to the armpit of California, where upon we break down in the middle of the bloody Mojave Desert in July!" His voice rose on 'July'. "July, Amanda! Do you know how hot it was out there? Do you?" He didn't give her a chance to respond, now thoroughly outraged. "And to top it all off, the tow truck brings us to this fine roadside hostelry in Nowhere, California!"
"Boron, darling," Amanda corrected. "We're in Boron."
Narrowing his eyes, he bit out, "My point exactly."
"Oh, come on! It could be worse."
"And how exactly did you come to reach that startling conclusion?"
"We could still be on the side of the road," she pointed out, wincing a little at the expression on his face. Hurrying on, she added, "It's clean," she looked around the motel room, "well, relatively..." She faltered into silence.
Methos pushed himself up off the bed. "I'm taking a shower," he said as he strode past her towards the bathroom. "Assuming, of course, there's actually water!" His final words were punctuated by a wall-shaking slam of the door.
Amanda silently held out a bottle of beer to Methos as he exited the bathroom, a white towel wrapped around his waist. Drops of water slid from his still wet hair, down his throat and across the expanse of his chest.
Taking it from her with a nod, he sank into a chair, glancing at the table next to him, now covered in white plastic grocery bags, a bottle of Merlot, and a six pack of Heineken.
“There’s five more bottles in the fridge,” she said. Then, answering his unspoken question, she added, “While you were in the shower, I walked to the gas station up the road. Since we have a microwave, I got us some frozen dinners, snacks, ice cream, and a few necessities.” She picked up the bottle of Merlot, grinning crookedly.
“This may not be the Ritz,” she glanced around the room ruefully, “but I’ve always found the application of alcohol helps immeasurably.”
He raised the bottle in a gesture of agreement. “Very true. “ Taking a deep swig of beer, he contemplated his companion silently. Another swig, then, “Why don’t you take a shower, Amanda? And I’ll see if I can manage to nuke us some dinner.”
Nodding, she accepted his olive branch. “That sounds like a plan.” Standing she snagged her black leather overnight bag from the floor on her way to the bathroom. Pausing in the doorway, she looked over her shoulder. “I’ll make it up to you, darling.”
“Oh yes, you will,” Methos promised softly as the door closed behind her.
The two silently ate their Stouffers ‘Beef Tips in Mushroom Sauce’, Amanda single-handedly drinking nearly three-quarters of the bottle of Merlot. They had reached an unspoken truce – at least through dinner.
Methos drained his bottle of beer, opening another one as he pushed his chair back, his full attention now on his companion. He had traded his towel for jeans and a tee shirt, one long leg stretched out, a bare foot hooked across the knee. Amanda gamely ignored his scrutiny for a good five minutes before she sighed and pushed her plastic food tray away.
“What?” She pouted, crossing her arms.
“What? What do you think?”
“Oh, for god’s sake, Methos!” She stood up, pacing around in a circle. “I said I’d make it up to you!” Standing, her short black silk kimono was even shorter, the tie having loosened while she sat, now revealing more than a little distracting cleavage.
“Not good enough!” he snapped. “It’s time for the big reveal. I want to know why you dragged me to this hell hole!”
She looked at him truculently. “I’m going for a walk.”
“The hell!” He leapt from the chair, grabbing her arm, spinning her back to face him. “Why are we here?” he demanded.
“Fine!” Pulling away, she walked over to her bag, removing a dog-eared VIA magazine from its depths. Flipping through the pages, she folded it back, handing it to him.
Scanning the page, he looked up at her in confusion. “Calico Ghost Town?”
“The next page,” she instructed.
He flipped the magazine over. “And?”
“The locket in the photo. It’s mine.” She wasn’t looking at him.
“The locket? It’s worth maybe a few hundred dollars, with not a precious gem in sight, and you expect me to believe you dragged me out to the middle of the California desert for this?” He slapped the magazine down onto the table with snap. “Please! I wasn’t born yesterday!”
She shot him a look. “I’m telling the truth! Look, I won a stake in a silver mine back in the 1870s, so I came out to Calico to take a look at it.”
Methos sat back down in the chair he’d vacated earlier, toying absently with a bottle cap.
“There was a man—“
“Isn’t there always?” Methos interrupted acidly.
“Shut up!” Amanda picked up the magazine, staring at the photo of the locket. “William. His name was William. He was one of the co-owners of the mine. And he was sweet and kind and he never judged me. He wanted to marry me and he gave me the locket that Christmas.” Her voice had softened has she remembered. Now she sounded sad. “There were some very ruthless men who wanted our stakes. I thought I could handle it, turn the tables on them.”
The silence stretched and Methos waited for her to continue. Finally, he asked in a quiet voice, “What happened?”
She shook her head, closing her eyes. “I was wrong. William told me it wasn’t worth dying for, the mine. That we could go somewhere else, start fresh. He was right, but he died anyway.”
“They dumped our bodies out in the desert. It took a few years but I found every one of them.” Her voice was now as cold as her eyes. Methos didn’t have to ask what had happened once she’d found her lover’s murderers.
“And the locket?”
“They either took it from my body or I lost it in the struggle. A few weeks ago, I was in the Seattle airport, and picked up that magazine, and there it was, in living colour, part of the display in the museum in Calico. My locket. I hadn’t thought about it in years, Methos. But once I’d seen it again, I had to have it back.”
He shook his head. “Why didn’t you just tell me?” he asked in exasperation.
“That would be a start.”
“Because I thought if I told you, you’d laugh. That you’d think I was being a maudlin fool!”
Methos raised one very expressive eyebrow.
Amanda sat on the edge of the bed, crossing her arms. “There? You see! Never mind, Methos, I’ll go by myself.”
“Amanda!” Methos sat next to her, putting an arm around her shoulders. “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll go with you to steal your locket back. How hard can breaking into a museum in the middle of nowhere be anyway?”
She started to answer but he thought better of his question. “Never mind! Forget I asked.”
He turned her to face him, brushing her cheek with a finger. “You still haven’t told me why you asked me to come in the first place.” Methos’ voice was very gentle.
Sighing, she placed her palm against his chest. “Because sometimes, you just don’t want to visit the past alone, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.” He took her hand, squeezing it gently.
Nodding, she moved closer, brushing her lips across his. “And sometimes, you don’t want to spend the night alone either.” Her voice was barely a whisper against his mouth.
“Shhhh….” This time the kiss was long and deep. Her dark eyes met his. “I told you I’d make it up to you, darling. And I always keep my promises.” At the glint of amusement in his eyes, she amended, “Well, almost always.”
“That’s more like it.” He took a deep breath, his fingers twining in her jaw-length hair. “Amanda, it’s been centuries since I’ve shared your bed. Why now?”
Sliding into his lap, she wrapped her arms around him. “Because life is short, Methos, life is short.”
He laughed sharply, pulling her back with him onto the bed, laughter that was silenced as her lips took his once more.