Thanks to Shirl Cline for beta reading and thanks to everyone who read it as it was written -- oh so slowly :)

Triona, Terese, and the Crebillin belong to me and their co-creators. The rest belong to their PTBs.

Rated PG-13 for violence and sexual situations.


Twilight Bled to Black

by Ithildin

c. 1998


She woke up -- and it wasn't a nightmare. It never was. She was still here, a prisoner; no, a slave. In her dreams she woke up back home. Sometimes Imladris, sometimes the Keep almost nine hundred years ago. Woke up in strong arms, safe and happy. But then she would really awaken, usually from a painful yank on the chains that always bound her, or if she were particularly unlucky, a jolt of current through the collar around her neck.

She tried to train herself to be awake before her captor, but the hours just past dawn usually took her unawares; the part of her that was vampire at its weakest ebb then. But in the middle of the night, when she should be sleeping, she would be wide awake, listening, remembering. Trying one more time to figure out a way to escape.

She had escaped once, before they moved her from Earth, but they had retaken her. Her one hope was that they would kill her, then maybe she could get out of the hell she found herself in. But even that was taken from her -- they didn't kill her, only made her wish they had. From then on she had been chained to the floor at night to make sure she couldn't escape again.

One more time, her mind replayed her last day of freedom.....

"Hurry! We have to get these ships off NOW!" Triona shouted to the troops that were aiding in the evacuation of as many of Earth's children from their home planet as was possible in the few hours before the enemy took total control.  She turned to Terese. "We don't have much time."

"Yeah." Terese looked at her comm pad. "They are getting way too close. I say we have fifteen minutes, if that."

Triona nodded grimly. The sounds around her were far too familiar. Children crying, mothers sobbing, weapons fire in the distance. The sounds of war. She wondered how Sarah and Lauren were doing on the Moon, and how many they would be able to save. She tried not to think of how many they wouldn't be able to save.

This shouldn't be happening. Four hundred years ago, the Federation had warded off all attackers and only the Borg had ever gotten near the Earth. But now, it was all falling apart. With no real outside threat for centuries, and technology that seemed to numb the people's brains, the Federation had started the slow spiral into decline.

It was to be expected, so LaCroix and Methos said often enough. Nothing lasts forever. But it was like she was watching her child die. The Federation, Star Fleet, had been their dream, their hope for the future. A future that was now the past. For the first time in her almost millennia, Triona felt the years, felt what she had only seen in the eyes of Methos and LaCroix. And it hurt.

The enemy had come from the Beta quadrant, a relatively unexplored area of space, the Federation and its closest neighbors inhabiting the more hospitable Alpha and Delta quadrants. They had weapons that outgunned anything the Federation currently had in readiness. Not that Star Fleet couldn't have had superior firepower, but the once proud fleet had been practically gutted -- no match for the new threat that had come calling right on Earth's front door step to find the door unlocked.

They were a culture driven by war and conquest, the Crebillin. From what intelligence they had been able to gather, they came from an inhospitable planet that was the single satellite of a Brown Dwarf star. Low light and a long night cycle had given them poor eyesight, but so far that seemed their only weakness. A gravity higher than Earth's had resulted in short, powerfully built bodies. The high radiation from their sun had given them skin  that was dark, like the color of dried apples, and eyes that were tar black.

It only seemed to prove that environment affected not only the physical, but the mental as well. Only an environment such as theirs could have produced such a violent, heartless race. LaCroix had said it reminded him of the Mongol hordes. What it reminded Methos of, none had to ask.

Triona heard the whine of the engines as the first ship made ready their escape. What was left of Star Fleet was making a last stand, trying to give the evacuees more time. As a concussion blast knocked her and Terese from their feet, she realized that the last stand had finally fallen.

As the two women got to their feet, a frantic officer made his way towards them. "Ma'am, ma'am," he shouted.

"What's wrong?" Terese asked, worried.

"That last blast, the shock wave did something to transport Delta, it's dead. And our comm links are down. What do we do?" he asked, on the edge of panic.

"Damn it!" Triona ground her teeth in frustration. "That's our largest ship -- it must have a thousand children on it!"

"We can't get them on other ships; there's no room."  An explosion ripped through the air, deafening them. "Or time!" Terese shouted.

"I'll go." Triona cut off her protests. "It's a ninety year old ship, and one of our designs. If anyone can fix it, I can. We can't just leave them!"

"Fine, but I don't like it. You know Methos would never let you do this!"

"Well, he isn't here and he can kill me after." She attempted to add a note of levity to the almost hopeless situation. "You get the rest of the ships off, I'll go out on Delta and I'll see you on Bajor. Deal?"

Terese sighed unhappily, but knew this was the only way. "Deal."

With a last smile, she ran for the transport, running the design specs through her head. On a ship this old, a shock wave would most likely throw off the trans-matter inducer.  If that was it, she could have it fixed in ten minutes. If it wasn't....

It was, and ten minutes later, the ship was ready to begin launch proceedings. But it was ten minutes too late. The ship shuddered as an even nearer explosion rocked it.

"Ma'am." The Captain approached her. "They are bearing down on us and we need at least another ten minutes to get the engines to launch capacity."

"Then we need to stall them." She turned to the gathered crew. "Who will join me out there? We can man the neutron cannons and give the ship, and these children, a chance. I can't promise you we'll make it out though."

A few of the crew stepped forward, one for each cannon outside. "Thank you all," she said as they headed out the hatch.

"Ma'am!" the Captain protested as she turned to join the volunteers. She was Imladrin, and knew who the leader of this mission really was.

"It's all right, Captain. I can't ask others to do what I will not, can I?"

She shook his head, knowing Triona's mind was set. But she had to try. "You've already done so much. No one would fault you for staying. You're too important to lose."

"I'd fault myself. Don't count me out -- I have no intention of dying just yet." She handed her comm pad to the captain. "But, just in case. Give this to the Governor; he'll know what to do with it." She had hastily memscribed messages to her family on her way to the ship and as she had worked to repair it. "God speed, Captain."

Within moments, she was at her cannon, firing on the advancing enemy, and making every shot count. She heard the whine of the ship's engines, indicating it was within seconds of launch. "Retreat, get as far from here as you can, mix with the refugee population," she ordered her troops. "I'll be right behind you," she lied.

All the guns fell silent, except for hers. She had to give them a chance to escape. She didn't want their deaths on her hands as well. The ship roared behind her, launching to safety. Her one hope of getting out of this was that the Crebillin left the dead of their enemies where they fell. And since she was almost certainly going to die, she only had to wait till she recovered before making her way to the bolt hole that had been prepared for such an eventuality. The old Keep still had a few surprises, including several single man ships.

   **********

She groaned, head pounding, not remembering where she was. Trying to sit up, she realized that her arms were bound behind her back. A wave of dizziness hit her and she collapsed back to the ground.  Squinting in the bright sun, she heaved a sigh of relief that the 'personal solar shield' she wore was still working.

Forcing her mind to cooperate, little bits and pieces came back. Gods, she was supposed to be dead! There had been an explosion, the force of the blast propelling her, and shards of the neutron cannon, backwards. A piece must have hit her head. She vaguely remembered a searing pain, then nothing.

She heard footsteps and harsh voices, then felt a foot pushing her over onto her back. "This one is awake and healthy. Take her to the pens," one of the voices ordered. The translator implant seemed to still be working too.

Rough hands hauled her to her feet, dizziness and nausea slamming into her. The head injury must have been bad to still be bothering her, she thought. <But not bad enough to kill you!> she raged inwardly.  The hands kept her on her feet, half dragging her towards the pens where the other captives were.

Tossed unceremoniously into one of them, she fell into a crowd of other prisoners, hands grabbing her before she hit the ground.  The buzz of another Immortal hit her as they carefully laid her on the ground. <Oh, just wonderful,> she groaned to herself.

"Triona?" a familiar voice queried. "Triona!"

"Terese?"

"You look like hell."

"Thanks," she croaked. "How...?

"I was heading for my transport and one of those damn concussion blasts hit. Knocked me out. When I came to, I was a prisoner." She helped Triona sit up, untying her wrists. "What do you think they are going to do to us?"

"Nothing pleasant. If we're lucky they'll put us in a labor camp, if we aren't...." She shivered despite herself. The alternative was every horror story Methos had ever pounded into their heads back at the Keep so long ago, stories to keep them from falling into the hands of raiders. <Stop it!> she told herself firmly. <No matter what happens, you will survive this!>

"Triona, you've got to hang back, act sick, you know what those last intelligence reports said."

She nodded glumly. Fair complected humans, especially females, were highly prized status symbols to the Crebillin. Such skin and hair didn't exist in their race and they valued it highly in their slaves. With her vampire white skin, she was unusual even by human standards, and by Crebillin standards…. She didn't even want to think about it. "Any way we can hack my hair off?"

"Not unless we can find a knife, and I don't think that's going to happen."

"It's going to make me all the more unique, damnit! Why did I let my hair grow so long? Why couldn't I have followed the latest fashion and cut it short?" She yanked at her long blonde braid in irritation.

"Because you and Sarah are stubborn. I'll re-braid it tight for you, and stuff it down the back of your shirt. Maybe they won't notice since they are almost as blind as bats," Terese said hopefully. "And if you hang back, they might pass you by. We can smudge you up with dirt."

"Okay, it's worth a shot," she said dejectedly. "I'm afraid they'll see my bracelets and take them. Without my PSS, I'm toast -- literally." The invention of the device had revolutionized life for Imladrin vampires, allowing them to be abroad during the full light of day. The nano-technology that made it all possible was so small, it could be incorporated into objects that appeared to be jewelry. Triona's had been fashioned as two white gold wristcuffs in a Celtic design. Without them, she was totally defenseless against the rays of Earth's sun.

"You're wearing a baggy shirt. You just need to keep your arms covered."

Triona laughed humorlessly. "If they pick me out, I won't be wearing enough clothing to hide a ring let alone my PSS bracelets."

"Don't say that! It isn't going to happen. It isn't! We'll get out of here," Terese said, trying to reassure the both of them.

Triona looked at her determinedly. "Terese, if we get separated and you get a chance to escape, you need to take it. Don't come back for me. Our best chance is for one of us to get to the escape ships, and let them know what happened to us."

"Only if you promise not to come back for me if you get out."

"I promise."

"Deal. We promise to desert each other."

The sisters hugged each other, hoping that they never had to be the one to keep their promise.

   **********

Twilight Bled to Black - Part Two

The two women stood in the middle of a crowd of prisoners, the tallest standing around them, attempting to hide them from view. Once the other prisoners had realized that the women had been the ones directing the evacuation effort, they had, on their own initiative, moved to protect them from the vengeful Crebillin.

The inspection by the guards was almost over, and so far a few humans had been culled from the group. All fair, and mostly women. They held their breath, hoping against hope they would be missed.

"I know she has to be in this group. I put her here myself," a guard complained. "She had skin like strachi crystal."

"Like strachi? I have seen some pale humans, but I don't believe one could have skin like strachi!"

"She did!" he protested. "To bring such a one to the Draklor would bring me much honor."

The women listened to the conversation with falling hearts. They were looking for Triona.

His fellow yanked a prisoner from the group. "It's easy enough to find her," he said confidently, then shouted, "We seek a woman from your group with skin the color of your snow. Come forward now, or this human dies." He kicked the man to his knees, drawing his sidearm.

Closing her eyes and saying a silent prayer, Triona squeezed Terese's hand. "Keep her safe," she whispered to their protectors. They nodded, touching and patting her in reassurance as she passed through. At least she knew that the others would keep her sister safe till Terese could escape. She *had* to, it was the only thing that would give her hope, that she would get home and bring help.

Reaching the guards, she held her head up. "See! I told you! Strachi!" he said, pleased with himself.  His companion nodded in agreement. "The Draklor will be pleased. It will bring him much status, which will reflect well on me and my tribe."

The other guard bound her hands again, then each taking an arm, led her from the pen.....

   *********

She tried to find a comfortable position on the pallet she occupied on the floor, listening to the raspy breath of her captor asleep on the bed across the room.

She found that lately she didn't even have the energy to hate him. There was no malice in his treatment, or mistreatment, of her. To him, all humans were the conquered, deserving no consideration.  If you happened to be female, you were even less worthy. She was a possession, a mark of status, nothing more, nothing less. It was her responsibility, as the vanquished, to know her place in the scheme of Crebillin society.

Of course the problem was, she rarely complied with those expectations. She was running out of ways to try and get them to kill her. As the Ka'shratee of the Draklor, it seemed that nothing short of murder would result in her execution. And murder was an option, if only she could get free long enough to kill someone of status. One of the lower casts would not do; she held a higher monetary, though a lesser social, value than a servant, or a common soldier. Not that the death would go unpunished, just that the attitude would be as if a prized tiger had accidentally killed a keeper.

It frustrated the hell out of her. If they had been Cardassians, or even Romulans, she could have made sure she would be executed within weeks. But not these damned Crebillin. In the year she had been held, every attempt had failed, only resulting in unending hours of pain and even more confinement.  The thought that she would outlive her present captors gave her no comfort, only new worries.

On Earth, she had had at least a chance. They had left her PSS bracelets alone, their seeming value as treasure suitable as a decoration for the prized slave of the Draklor. Then, when he had left the planet in charge of one of his chiefs and returned here, to K'trells, a planet they had subjugated two centuries before, the seat of his power sphere, bringing her with him, the chances of escape seemed doomed. She wasn't even sure where the system she was being held in was.

She tried to sleep; there were still many hours till dawn. Even though there was nothing in her day to be well-rested for, she still held out the hope of escape and wanted to be alert.

As she drifted away into happier dreams, a buzz enveloped her. At first, she was sure it was her mind playing tricks on her. After all, what did she yearn for every day other than rescue? But the buzz -- his buzz -- didn't go away. Sure she was awake, she opened her eyes, heart racing, almost afraid to believe.

Her eyes tried to pierce the darkness, shadows blurring into shapes. An odd scent caught at her, like vanilla and acetone. She opened her mind, seeking him out, feeling his essence slide into her soul from where it had been so long gone. It was Methos! Oh god, it was!

Silently sobbing when he reached her, she leaned into the familiar hands that ran across her face. He kissed her once, with a longing that left her faint. Then he moved to where the chain that held her was clamped to the wall, deftly severing it.

"It's time to go home," he whispered, helping her to her feet. "But first…." He headed to the bed, knife in hand.

Realizing what he intended, she grabbed his arm. "No, you'll wake the guards," she told him in a hissing whisper, an edge of hysteria in her voice. She couldn't even let the thought they might be stopped enter her mind.

"This entire floor has been gassed with a DNA specific sedative. You can smell it," he explained reassuringly. "They'll be out till dawn and we'll be long gone." Methos stroked her face, calming her.

She looked down at the face of Krelt, the Draklor of the Scrithian Sphere, the man she had wanted nothing more than to kill the last year. And she could see him dead, right now. "No, Methos," she said tonelessly as he took the knife in a killing grip.

He stopped, then held the knife out. "You're right; you should be the one," he told her, misunderstanding.

"No." She gripped his wrist." You don't understand." Her voice was anguished. "I don't want him dead. You can't kill him."

He put a hand on her shoulder. "Listen to me, Triona. You're not thinking clearly. It's okay, it's normal," he soothed.

She shook her head violently. "You don't understand...." she began.

"Yes, I do," he interrupted. "Identifying with your captor is to be expected. It'll be okay. Trust me."

She could have slapped him if she weren't so grateful he was here. "I am not identifying!" she spat out, shaking. How could he even think she would ever be able to identify with Krelt? Forcing herself to calm down, she took a deep breath before continuing, "If he's dead, and I'm gone, the other humans here will pay the price. I can't do that. Please...."

She felt the war that raged in him: the need for vengeance against her need to protect people he didn't even know. He shook his head. "I can't let him live, not after what he..." his voice cracked, "did to you."

How could she explain in moments what it had taken her months to learn about the intricacies of Crebillin society and it's complex caste system?  If she had killed Krelt, by herself in an escape attempt, they would see it as something akin to a gun going off. If, on the other hand, they awoke from being gassed, finding their leader dead and her gone with the aid of another, who had status as one not vanquished, the other humans here would pay the price. But there was no way to convey that to him. She was barely controlling her panic, her fear, that they would be discovered and she would be a prisoner once more. She could not let him delay any longer.

"Methos," she forced herself to say coldly. "I am the victim here, not you.  It is *my* choice. Do you understand?" A distant part of her mind wondered why he was falling part, and she felt nothing. <Because you haven't allowed yourself to feel for a year,> a voice whispered back. <And I can't start, not yet.> "This is not about you, or your past sins."

He flinched at her tone, lowering the knife. "All right," he agreed. Her heart broke at the hurt in his eyes.

She brushed her fingers across his lips. "He will die; I promise you. And when he does, I want him to know the instrument of his death," she said fiercely. "We will win this war, even if I have to rebuild the fleet with my own hands!" He nodded, holding her tight. "Get me out of here, love. Please."

   **********

They came to the end of the stair and Methos switched on his holo-concealnet, suddenly appearing to be a Crebillin Keeper -- a guard that was entrusted with the handling of all matters dealing with a chieftain's Ka'shratee and Shratee.

She had the somewhat dubious honor of being Ka'shratee, while several women from the planet they were currently on were lesser possessions.  Shratee -- less than nothing.

"Very nice," she commented. "They've improved." Indeed, she couldn't tell the difference, even though she knew it was Methos.

"We've been trying to perfect it just for this mission. They still need to be tank grown for the person using it, otherwise, we could have rigged you out with one too. Would have been simpler." She nodded. "Now, what's the least suspicious way for a guard to be moving you?"

"To the lower level -- I guess you could call it a dungeon. You'll have to pass a guard, but he won't be surprised to see me being brought down." She shook off unpleasant memories, continuing, "Since everyone brought there is under guard, and is in no condition to cause trouble after... after...." She hurried on, her words a jumble, "The security is lax. Windows we can get out of. The guard won't expect to see you again for several hours." She didn't look at him. She didn't need to see him to feel the rage that threatened to overwhelm him.

"Is that the only way?" he asked softly, not wanting to take her there.

Nodding, she squeezed his hand. "It's our best chance. I'll be okay. You're getting me out of here -- I can take a few more knocks."

"Okay then, let's go."

The two made their way down to the lower levels, Triona giving whispered instructions on what to expect and how Methos should act. Finally, they were at the last corridor.

"Ready?" he asked.

"Ready."

He led her down the stone hall, towards the guard. He looked at them with an evil gleam in his eye. "She's back already? They only let her out three days ago!" He looked her over covetously, and she clenched every muscle, hating it.

It would have to be this guard. Most of them would barely dare to even look at the Draklor's Ka'shratee, but this one was different. And the fact he didn't recognize her guard just made him worse. He would figure he could get away with more with a new Keeper.

"I require entrance," Methos told him. But the guard ignored him.

"You need to watch out for this one, " he informed him. "She's a troublemaker. And you Keepers, you don't know how to break them. If *I* were a Keeper, she would cause no more trouble for the Draklor." His voice held ill-concealed menace.

Before Methos could react, the guard hit a button on his gauntlet sending a shock through the collar around her neck. It was the highest charge, normally only used on violent and out of control male slaves. It was never used on women. Even the Crebillin had some limits.

It almost killed her. A strangled scream was torn from her throat as she fell to the ground, convulsions twisting her body. She could hear the guards laughter, abruptly being cut off, turning to gurgles, like he was choking on his own blood -- then silence.

Then Methos was holding her, she could feel his tears falling onto her cheeks. "Here, hold on to me." He tried to help her stand, but she was paralyzed. It could take hours for her to heal. He lifted her over his shoulder, carrying her into the dungeon-like room, setting her down carefully.

She heard the sounds of dragging and realized Methos must be hiding the body of the guard -- she had no doubt he was dead.

"Okay, we need to get out of here. Can you move your legs yet?"

She tried wriggling her toes and was rewarded with some feeling. "A little," she said faintly. Abruptly she realized that the room shouldn't be dark. "But... I'm blind."

   ********

Twilight Bled to Black - Part Three
  

Methos had gotten her out the window to the ledge below. She was shaking like a leaf, not being able to see, never knowing if one misstep would send her plunging to the rocks below.

"I won't let you fall," he assured her, seeming to read her mind.

"I know you won't. I just wish I could see! What if we need to fight our way out?" She could feel him willing his strength to her, could see his comforting face in her mind's eye. "And these damn chains keep me from using my arms properly," she said in exasperation, pulling futilely at the chains that bound her wrists.

The chains were a means of control and punishment. Ornate gold cuffs on each wrist that had a chain attached. The chains connected to a loop on a belt that was locked around  her waist. Usually, they were long enough to give a full range of arm motion; usually. In most cases they were merely decorative, another adornment to prove the power and influence of the owner. But they could also be shortened, to confine the movement of a recalcitrant wearer. Hers had been made shorter and shorter, till at this point she was just able to raise her hands to her face.

"It's just a little farther." He started edging her along the ledge again. "We'll get them off you on the ship."

"I know." She had been the one to tell Methos to leave the chains, afraid if they were stopped that the missing chains would alert the enemy.

After what seemed an eternity, he stopped her, pushing her back against the wall behind.

"Meth..." He placed his hand across her mouth, silencing her. She nodded, heart pounding. Someone must be near.

He whispered in her ear, "Don't move. I'll be back."

She nodded once more, feeling him move away from her, but not far enough for his buzz to leave her senses. Straining to hear anything, she clung to the rock face trying to block out the thought he might be captured, leaving her alone. She couldn't go back there, her mind kept repeating in a near panic.

He came back so silently that she almost jumped out of her skin, his hand back on her mouth silencing the near shriek. "Sorry," his whispered apology brushed past her ear. "It's all clear," he continued. "There's a bit of a drop. I'm going to go down first, then I'll catch you."

"Catch me?" she sputtered.

"You aren't going to be able to climb down with no sight," he explained in a hushed voice. "You're going to have to step off and let me catch you."

Her response was stopped by his lips on hers, kissing her with a gentleness and reassurance that threatened to destroy the hard fought control she had kept on her emotions this last year. She was too afraid to lose the wall she had erected, not yet, not till they were off this forsaken planet.

"Trust me," was all he said, hands cupping her face.

"Okay," she breathed.

She heard him scrambling down the rocks, then his whispered voice telling her to jump. One deep breath, then she stepped into nothingness, feeling the night air caressing her bare skin. Methos' arms enfolded her just as the fear of hitting the ground stabbed through her.

"Told you I'd catch you." She felt his smile against her lips as he set her on her feet.

"How much farther?"

"Another hour I think. We should get to the ship just before dawn -- and before the gas wears off."

"Unless someone finds the dead guard, or stumbles across a whole floor of unconscious people," she remarked dourly.

"It's good to see you're still the pessimistic member of the family," he noted with a hint of his usual acerbity.

Let's get moving then," she said, pointedly ignoring him.

She heard his stifled chuckle, but he didn't say anything, just took her arm as they headed off once more.

   *********

After several eternities, they reached the spot where Methos had hidden the ship.

"It's your baby," he told her. "The first of the Albion ships." She ran her hands over the sleek hull as he popped the hatch. "She's a beauty."

"What did you name her?"

"Actually, your sisters named her: 'The Millennium Falcon'. They thought it was a well-omened name for a rescue ship. And that it would make you smile." He was rewarded with an outright giggle. "You don't know how happy I am to hear that sound again." He ruffled her hair gently.

"We don't have to navigate through an asteroid field do we? Though," she said on reflection, grinning, "I've always wanted to try it blindfolded."

"There is only one thing you're going to be doing blindfolded," he said, brushing her lips with his, "and it isn't flying this ship."

"I'll hold you to that," she warned, inhaling his familiar scent, using all her other senses to make up for her lack of sight.

"Come on you, let's get you off this hell hole." He took her hand and led her up the ramp.

   **************

"If our luck holds we should be able to get out of the system without them even knowing we were here." Methos kicked in the power systems of the ship.

"Lucky for us they put all their eggs in the brute force basket, huh?"  She sank into the co-pilots seat, letting it's nanotech structure form around her body, more comfortable then she'd been in too, too long.

"Not a subtle race, the Crebillin."

"No," she whispered, "not subtle."

Hearing the pain in her voice, he turned sharply to look at her.  "I'm sorry, that was.…"

"It's okay," she interrupted.

"No, it…."

"Methos, it's okay. Just get us out of here and I promise I'll forgive you anything." She forced a note of levity in her voice. "Even those damn bottle tops you throw all over." She felt the ship thrumming, building up to launch.

He chuckled, pulling back on the accelerator, arcing the little ship into the atmosphere.  "Even my socks all over the place?"

"Don't push your luck," she warned, waving a finger in his direction. The artificial gravity enveloped them as the they breached the atmosphere, pressing her gently against her seat before stabilizing to Imladrin normal.

He grinned. "You know I'm a risk taker." Checking the display, he made a few adjustments. "Almost there."

Gripping the seat arms, she waited tensely for the whine of the transwarp engines. She didn't have long to wait.

"And...." he pressed his hand onto the touch pad. "Initiate," he told the ships computer. Almost instantly, the ship launched into transwarp space leaving Crebillin far behind.

   ********

Triona closed her eyes, letting the pulse of the aquasonic shower wash away the smell and taste of her captivity -- unfortunately, the memories weren't so easily disposed of. She felt overwhelmed; not quite sure how to deal with the gamut of emotion that she was experiencing. So much had happened with no way to prepare.

She still felt overwhelming joy in learning that Terese had escaped not long after they had been separated. The thought of her sister suffering at the hands of the Crebillin had darkened her dreams throughout her captivity. Then there was the cold rage that had fueled her the last year; it had been the only emotion she had allowed herself to feel. Loneliness, sorrow, fear of what was happening to her family, her world, during her captivity -- she had tried to keep all those feelings locked in little boxes in the darkest corners of her mind. Now, every single one of those emotions wanted to be felt all at once.

Deciding she needed to deal with them one by one, she turned off the shower. Wrapping a towel around herself, she wandered down the ship's corridor looking for Methos, thankful her eyesight had finally returned. She found him in the pilot's seat, looking blankly out the viewscreen. At the sight of him, all she felt was warmth and love. Maybe that was her answer -- at least for today.

He looked up at her approach, smiling warmly. But his smile didn't hide the pain in his eyes. "Better?"

"Mmm, much. I've eaten and I've showered as ordered. Now I want you to tell me everything I've missed." She plopped into the co-pilot's seat next to him.

"There's time enough for that later. Why don't you get some sleep?" he told her, seeming distracted.

"Not a chance! Now, I'm waiting," she said expectantly, wondering what was wrong with him.

"Why don't you get dressed then. Let me finish up a few things, then we'll talk." He didn't look at her.

She crinkled her eyes, perplexed. "Methos, you aren't doing anything! You're sitting here staring at the warp field! Finish what, for pity's sake?"

He groaned in frustration. "I'm an utter jerk!" he burst out. At her raised brow of query, he explained, "You, in that towel. That very *small* towel. All I can think about…." he broke off. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be…." Her kiss cut off his tortured explanation.

"And this is a problem why?" She didn't give him a chance to reply. "It's okay, I understand now. I want you too. You have no idea how much," she whispered huskily.

"But…."

She shook her head. "Krelt was a traditionalist. He found the idea of sexual contact with a human repugnant. Of course, some of the other captives weren't so fortunate in their owners." Her voice trembled a little as she continued, "Others, like the guard you killed, were considered almost perverts. Luckily for me, it would have been his life had he ever touched me."

Methos stroked her arm. "We'd heard that some of the Crebillin were so inclined. But we had no way to know," he told her, his voice tight. "Regardless, you were still violated -- a slave. You suffered horribly." He shook his head in denial. "You need time."

Pulling the towel off and tossing it to the side, she pressed her body against his. "No. What I need is you." Looking deep into his eyes, she said, "Make love to me, Methos. Please."

He hesitated a moment, holding her face between his hands. Placing her hands over his, she leaned forward to kiss him, her breath warm against his lips. Finally, he returned her kiss, almost groaning as their mouths met. Unable to ward off his desires -- or hers -- any longer, he scooped her into his arms and carried her out of the cockpit.

    ******

Twilight Bled to Black - Part Four

"Better?" Triona said impishly, turning in his arms to kiss him on the nose.

"Brat," he said, smiling. Methos pulled the bed sheet more securely around the both of them. "Much better."

She wriggled against him, getting comfortable, his warm skin slipping against hers. "Glad to hear it." Suddenly turning serious, she asked, "How is the war going?"

He sighed tiredly. "It's a stalemate right now. The Cardassians are sitting back waiting to see what happens."

"Waiting to pick off whoever wins, you mean."

"It would be like them," he agreed. "The Romulans and the Klingons are allied with us and what is left of the Federation. I'm not sure just how long that alliance will hold. The Romulans weren't happy when you were captured."

"I'm sorry I put them out!"

He hugged her. "They were used to dealing with you when the war began -- your capture made it difficult to fill the void."

Snorting, she said, "I'm not indispensable, Methos."

"No, but you had formed relationships that took years to build. It isn't that easy just to start from scratch."

"They're just using my capture as a convenient excuse. I know how they think," she said, narrowing her eyes in annoyance. "Just like Steph always seems to be able to plug into the Klingon psyche," she added.

"And isn't that frightening?" he commented wryly.

She elbowed him in the ribs. "Now, be nice! Anyway, I'm back now."

"Yes," he said, kissing the top of her head, "you are."

"What's the current objective?"

"Our goal right now is to retake Earth. It would be an important victory both strategically and from a morale standpoint."

"How goes rebuilding the fleet?" she asked worriedly.

He shook his head. "The shipyards at home are at full capacity. Losing Mars Planetia was a real blow. Bajor has tried to take up some of the slack, but their capacity was never much even before the war."

"And we can't trust our allies enough to use their shipyards," she finished for him. "We may have no choice, Methos. If we worry too much about them taking us after the Crebillin are defeated, that may never even happen!"

"I know that, love. But the Federation Council will never agree to it."

"To hell with the council!" She leapt out of the bed, pulling her robe on. "It's their fault we're in this mess in the first place! I will *not* let them dictate how we lose this damn war!" she said, her voice dripping sarcasm.

Methos got out of the bed, scrubbing his hand through his hair. Taking her shoulders in a firm grip, he said, "I know you're frustrated, but the year you've been gone has seen so many changes in the balance of power. I don't even know where to begin. Maybe you can make some sense out of it once we get back. And…." He seemed ready to add something else, but stopped.

"What is it? Tell me."

He sighed. "I was going to get into this later, but…. There are certain segments of our population that think Imladris should be one of the powers that divvy up what is left of the Federation. They're tired of being a silent power. They think we deserve to take our place in the sun, so to speak. They say none of this would have happened if the Federation had heeded our counsel."

"They, they, they! Who are *they* anyway? And shouldn't they worry about winning before they start arguing over the spoils?" she demanded, stalking around the room. "So, who is behind this sentiment? The Community?"

"Some of it is coming from the vampire population at large. But not all of it," he said carefully.

She looked at him sharply. "LaCroix? Please don't tell me he is behind this…."

"I'm afraid I can't," he admitted, shaking his head. "He didn't take your capture well. He blamed the Federation as much as he did the enemy -- maybe more so. And in the end, a great deal of who he still is, is a Roman general. For him, it is the logical path."

She closed her eyes tiredly. "I kept myself sane all the time I was a captive thinking about what was happening back home. Hoping that all the stupidity that put me in chains had somehow been overcome. Now I find that I'm coming home to not just a war, but potential civil unrest in our own system!" Wrapping her arms around him, she leaned against his chest. "It was foolish, I know. But it was all I had."

"Not foolish -- just human. Don't lose hope just yet. Maybe once he sees you home and safe,  Lucien will be open to reason." He stroked her hair soothingly. "You've had an awful ordeal and you need time to integrate being free to act once more."

"And I will act. I won't rest until every one of our people are back home and the Crebillin are pushed back to the godforsaken planet they come from!" She looked up at him fiercely. "I have debts to repay, and I start today."

"You start tomorrow," he corrected. "Today, you're all mine -- tomorrow, the galaxy can have you." He grinned lopsidedly.

"Then you'd better make good use of your time," she suggested, smiling back and hugging him with all her strength.

"I intend to, love. I intend to." His kiss took away any words she had left. Tomorrow was soon enough. Too soon, but it was all they had.


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