After I wrote this, Richie went and got whacked, but I decided to keep him alive and kicking in this universe.
This is rated PG-13 at most.
The night came early, as it was wont to do in these days after the war. In the fastness of the mountain settlement, all was quiet as it's inhabitants locked down for the night and prepared their evening meals. The food would be plain fare, but plentiful, thanks to the leaders of this small outpost of humanity. Others over the continent, over the world, were not so fortunate, scrabbling out meager existence's, ruled by despots, too weak to free themselves.
But here, it was different, one of a few free and relatively prosperous city states. Ruled by a family who had appeared just before the world collapsed in war and anarchy. Somehow, they had known just how to deal with the end of civilization. Which was fortunate for the inhabitants of this place, they and their families had survived, while so many others died. They had been taught how to survive in this new world, by their wits and by force of arms. And if their rulers were a little odd, maybe even eccentric, their subjects were far too grateful to wonder.
As the town below prepared for night and sleep, those same leaders, in the fortress dwelling above, were just beginning their day.
Terese and Lauren were poring through the wagon load of books that Stephanie and Methos had brought back from their last foray into one of the dead and deserted cities a weeks ride from the settlement. Every book and record they could save guaranteed that much more knowledge would be preserved.
Lauren heard the generator being started once more. "Good, Richie must have gotten it fixed."
Terese nodded. "It'll sure make our lives easier with it running."
Lauren sniffed the air. "Smells like dinner to me, lets go."
"Right behind you!"
The two women reached the dining hall, already hearing the sounds of a familiar argument. "They're at it again." Terese sighed, her sister nodding.
"Wasting precious resources for some idiotic science project that offers us nothing. Sometimes, my dear, you amaze even me!" LaCroix's tone was withering.
"You don't know that it offers us nothing! Is it better to not even try? Just because you're content to spend the ages in a recreation of your youth doesn't mean I am, or that our people are," Triona said passionately. "All I want is to continue to let Dr. Rice pursue her research without having to try and support herself in the fields. She's a scientist, it would be a crime to waste her mind! I don't think it's too much to ask. I don't ask for much after all."
Methos came up behind Terese and Lauren. "Are they arguing about it again?"
"Uh huh." Lauren looked at Methos. "She just accused LaCroix of wanting to live in a recreation of his youth."
"Did she?" Methos grinned. "I'm sure he appreciated that." He took an arm in each of his. "Shall we join the fray, ladies?" He led them into the room.
LaCroix scowled at Triona. "Don't take that tone with me...." He was interrupted by Methos.
"Come on you two, don't you get tired of arguing about this?" He put his hands on Triona's shoulders, squeezing them lightly.
"I wouldn't have to argue about it if you'd give me some support!" She looked up, glaring at him. "I know you agree with me!"
"Hey, you know I don't get involved in policy decisions. Not even for you, love." Methos sighed, he knew she was going to make him pay for this later. "Allocation of resources is Lucien's responsibility, not mine. You know that," he told her reprovingly.
"Fine! You stay here with your head in the sand while our future goes down the drain!" She pulled away from him. "You and LaCroix are so much alike, you're both too old to even remember what it was like to be mortal, you are content with your lives and don't care about the future of the mortals in your keeping." She glared at them both. "Well *I* still remember, and I'll do what I have to for these people even if it means leaving here to do it!" With that, she whirled and stormed from the room, almost knocking down Stephanie and Sara on their way in.
"What was that all about?" Sara asked the room at large.
"What it's always about," Terese told her. "Triona's rocket scientist, I guess LaCroix wants to cut her off for lack of visible progress."
"That's terrible! He can't be serious!"
"Serious enough that Triona threatened to leave to keep the project going."
"Triona can't leave us!" Stephanie exclaimed. "We've been together all these years, how could she?" She was visibly upset at the thought. "If Triona goes, I'm going with her!"
"No one is going anywhere!" LaCroix's voice rapped out. "If any of you seriously think I'd allow her leave...." His eyes took on a steely glint.
"You know you can't stop her if she's determined," Methos told him.
"Oh no? She is mine, I will never let her leave, you know that."
"If she decides to leave, she'll have my support. And I *will* support her," he warned.
The other women had backed off once the two men had started their disagreement, the tension thick enough to cut with a knife.
"If only you two had horns, one might think you were mountain goats butting heads at mating season," Janette's elegant voice said into the strained silence. "No one is going anywhere, not if you compromise with her, LaCroix."
She startled a laugh out of Methos, LaCroix however, was not amused.
"I will not, Janette, it would set a precedent, that by threatening to leave I give in to her demands. No, order must be maintained."
"Nonsense! She would never think that, nor would the others. I swear, the two of you argue more than you and Nichola ever did. But, unlike Nicola, you two always make up." She tsked in annoyance. "This is no different, she will calm down, you will make up and then you will compromise. And peace will be restored once more." Janette took her place at the table. "I believe we were about to dine?"
LaCroix, thoroughly irritated, left the room. Methos, however, joined the others at the table. "Just as well, his bad temper would curdle the milk," he said cheerily. The women giggled. "Pass the bread?"
Dinner passed quietly, all of them too hungry from their busy day to speak much. Finally, they were finished, the servant had refilled their goblets, and they all took a moment to sit back and relax.
Methos enjoyed these moments after supper, the one time of the day when they all gathered and had a chance to take a breather from their hectic lives. His gaze ran over the gathered women, watching their faces, listening to their low conversations. It always struck him at these times how true the saying, 'the more things change....'. was. It was true, even with the collapse of civilization, some things never changed. The quiet voices of women, the fellowship of a meal shared, the comfort of *family*. He still marveled at the family he had acquired, the people that had come to mean so much to him, when for so long he had shunned commitment, involvement. All because of a deal he had made with Lucien so many years ago, and the night he had decided to collect. There had been a few bobbles, but, for the most part, they had been together ever since.
Methos listened to Terese and Lauren bicker over some bit of trivia and to the low murmur of female conversation between Stephanie and Janette. Sara, however, was silent. He could tell she was thinking about something that troubled her, and he had a pretty good idea what it was.
He leaned across the table. "It'll be okay, Sara, you know that," he told her, his voice gentle.
"But what if it isn't? I think she *will* leave if LaCroix doesn't change his mind about Megan's research. I'm not sure either of you realize how much this project means to Triona," she told him, her tone quiet, but urgent. "And you know it would be very dangerous for her to leave alone!"
"I know better than anyone how dangerous it would be, Sara." He took her hands in his, squeezing them. "I won't let her go alone, you know that. I don't think it's going to come to that, honestly I don't," he tried to reassure her.
"If it does, I'm with Stephanie, I'll go as well. I agree with Triona, this is too important to let die."
He sighed. "Will you trust me to handle it, Sara? I'll talk to her, I'll smooth things over, I'll make the two of them kiss and make up, okay" He grinned as Sara giggled.
"Better you than me!"
"Gee, thanks. Why do I always volunteer for the scary jobs?" Methos asked no one in particular, sighing dramatically.
"Because you love us," Sara stated, smiling.
"Oh! That's why. Now I remember." He kissed her hand before letting it go and leaving in search of a peace accord.
Methos made his way to Megan Rice's lab-cum-home, figuring he would find his quarry there. He knocked, entering after hearing Megan's 'come in'. He made his way to the back, already knowing Triona wasn't here. "Megan, I was looking for Triona," he told the fortiesh, gaunt woman that worked over a pile of papers and bits and pieces.
She looked up at his approach. "She was here, awhile ago, we talked, then she left," she told him in her usual spare way.
"Was she upset when she left? And where did she go? She never came back to the main house."
Megan Rice looked consideringly at Methos, as if trying to decided if he deserved to know. She was fearfully loyal to Triona, to the point that she would barley deal with any of them. Especially the male members of the family. He was never sure if it was gratitude for Triona buying her away from the roving band that had captured her in a raid or if it was something more than that.
"Megan, I'm worried about her. You know that."
She relented, a flash of something passing over her face. "We talked about our options if my research is halted. I had a suggestion that she seemed to think had possibilities. But she was still angry. I tried to get her to stay, to calm down...." She glared at Methos, the venom in her gaze startling him. "But what happened with LaCroix and you had her so upset I couldn't make her see reason." She stopped, obviously having decided it was all his fault, her arms crossed tight over her chest.
He sighed in frustration. "Do you know *where* she went?" he asked a little more harshly than he intended. He regretted the tone when Megan shrank back in instinctive fear. In a calmer voice he continued, "I'm sorry Megan, I'm just a little stressed at the moment. Do you have any idea where she might have gone?"
"No." She turned away from him. "I have work to do."
Knowing he wouldn't get anymore out of her now, Methos left, heading for the perimeter fence. Maybe one of the sentries had seen her.
"Hawkins," he called to the sentry on duty, "have you seen Triona around tonight?"
Hawkins started to answer, but paused, looking slightly confused. "Sir.. I.." He stopped, thinking.
Methos had a nasty suspicion. \\She wouldn't, would she? If she had, he was going to kill her when he found her!// "It's okay. Listen, if you had seen her, it would have been , oh, half of an hour ago. She would have seemed upset. Ring any bells?"
"Damn it, I know this will sound really stupid, but that sounds familiar. But I know it didn't happen. Did it?" He became more and more bewildered.
"Never mind, Hawkins, she probably didn't come this way," Methos told the man. \\She did *lean* on his mind!// he thought angrily. He recognized the signs in the guard. Which guaranteed that she had left the compound.
Methos' furious inner dialogue was interrupted by the buzz of an approaching Immortal. His hand reached instinctively for the hilt of his sword, releasing it when he saw Duncan and Richie approach.
"Methos? What's wrong?" Duncan recognized the look in his old friend's eyes. He was furious at someone.
"What's wrong is Triona, and her little mind tricks with the sentry." Methos saw the confused look in the two men's eyes. "She left the compound, alone. And when I find her I am going to kill her," he told them, his voice tight with anger.
"Are you sure?" Duncan asked. "She knows better than that, it's one of our most important rules."
"Oh, I'm sure, and yes, she does know better. But she did it anyway. Because she's angry with LaCroix and with me, she decides to go wandering in the wilds in a fit of pique." Methos was pacing back and forth in agitation.
"I think you're being too hard on her," Richie told Methos.
"I don't remember asking for your opinion," Methos bit out.
"Well, you're going to hear it anyway!" Richie said, not caring that the ancient Immortal looked ready to kill someone at any moment. "It's not easy on any of the women. They aren't used to having to be protected and following rules we make for their protection, even though we all agreed. Stephanie and Janette are the exception of course, but they have abilities the others don't to protect themselves."
"Well I'm sorry that civilization fell and made their lives inconvenient, but that is something they will just have to deal with. Isn't it?" Methos said sarcastically.
"Richie..." Duncan warned, seeing the younger Immortal wasn't finished.
Richie ignored him. "Is that really all it is, Methos? Protecting them? I think that you old ones just reverted way too easily back to treating the women like you were used to for the majority of you lives. I think you like it this way," he told him, his young sounding voice hard.
"Richie, you know it's not that simple. All of them are vulnerable now. How many women have we rescued from virtual slavery? Can you blame Methos for not wanting that fate to befall our own women?" Duncan sighed, "I appreciate the way you feel. And you're right, it is easier for us I guess. But it's not about control, it's about caring, I think you know that."
Methos had remained silent, too busy trying to decide where she would go, to fight with Richie. And truth be told, he couldn't blame the boy for his attitude. It was hard for those raised in the latter half of the twentieth century. That one brief eye blink of time that had seen so many changes, especially for women. And then, in a flash, it was gone. The world reverting to type once more. And now, any woman capable of bearing a child, that seemed free of the genetic mutations that were the legacy of this latest world war, were prized above gold and the target of capture by any one of the dozens of roving bands that occupied the lands around them. They had seen whole settlements, the women taken, the men and boys put to the sword.
"Yeah, I guess. I'm sorry, Methos, I know you care. It's just hard for them sometimes. You know?"
"Yeah, Richie. I do know."
He nodded. "Can I help you find her?"
"No, in fact, it's just occurred to me where she has gone. Thanks guys, but I'll handle this." Methos headed out of the compound. "Oh will I handle it," he said softly to himself.
After about a fifteen minute walk, Methos reached the sheltered clearing. The buzz of another Immortal, this buzz the only distinctive one he had ever felt in over five thousand years, a result of their bloodbond, told him she was here. He saw her reflected in the moonlight, sitting against the flat rock that bordered the spring that bubbled from the ground. She looked up at his approach.
"What the HELL do you think you're doing?" Methos snapped.
"Sitting. Quietly, until now, "she snapped back.
"Sitting? That's all you have to say for yourself? Do you have any idea how worried I've been? How furious I am with you right now?" he asked her, seething.
"You're furious? YOU? I'm the injured party here, damn it!" She jumped up, glaring at him.
"If you think you're injured now, you just wait till I'm done with you."
"Don't threaten me, Methos! I won't stand for it."
"That wasn't a threat," he said coolly, grasping her arm. "It isn't enough that you break all the rules, but you exacerbate it by meddling with the mind of the sentry." He saw her guilty start at the mention of the sentry. "Ah, yes, you didn't think I'd find out about that did you?" He shook her a little. "Did you?"
"No." She didn't look at him.
"No. Because you know how I feel about you using that particular talent for selfish reasons. We've had this discussion before, and still, you do it," Methos said in a too calm voice.
"LaCroix doesn't seem to mind," she said, tossing her head defiantly.
"LaCroix wouldn't mind unless you left an obvious trail of dead bodies in your wake!" Methos exclaimed. He pulled her closer, she felt his breath across her hair. "But you miss the point, it isn't LaCroix you have to worry about *now*, is it?"
She shivered, anger mixing with a tinge of fright. She and Methos didn't have the combative relationship that she and LaCroix had, but they did have their moments - and when they did.... all hell usually broke loose. She refused to let him intimidate her, not this time.
Triona pulled violently away from him. "Stop treating me like a child, I have the right to do what I want, even if it's leaving the compound *by myself* if I want to. It's MY life, damn it, and I'm tired of you and LaCroix always running it!"
That was the proverbial last straw. He had made an effort to control the anger that was welling up in him, but this last bit of selfishness broke it. "You have the right? The right to break rules we have all agreed upon, the right to worry those that love you to distraction?" She started to protest, he cut her off. "Be QUIET, you're going to listen to me this time, this has gone far enough. This isn't about Megan's research, this is about you thinking you're being treated unfairly."
Deciding she didn't have a much of a choice, she sat on a log, her arms crossed, looking at a tree over his shoulder. "Oh, do please tell me what I think," she muttered.
The look Methos shot her told her that he had heard her muttered comment. "I know you chafe at the restrictions placed on you, but there is no help for it. If you were being honest instead of petulant, you'd realize that. You act as if this little rebellion of yours affects no one but you. I know you know better than that!" His voice rose until he was practically shouting at her.
"I can take care of myself, I'm not helpless," she shot back, her anger feeding off his.
"Can you? Against one, yes, probably even two or three. But what about a raiding party? Armed to the teeth. You wouldn't stand a chance, not even the chance to die. And what happens when they put you in the noonday sun and you start to burn?" His voice pummeled at her. "What happens when they decide you're some sort of demon creature? Do they stake you out in the sun to die? But of course you won't, not all at once. Slowly, over and over again you burn and die."
Methos put a hand on either side of her, leaning in. "Am I making any sort of impression yet?" He was so close, she had no choice but to look at him. "Maybe they'll decide they don't care if you are a demon, since you heal so nicely, a very convenient quality in a female slave."
Triona was so angry, it was white hot. "You'd know all about that, wouldn't you Methos?" she hissed at him. As soon as the words left her mouth, she regretted it. Never in all the years they had been together had she ever flung his past at him - till tonight. The look of loss in his eyes cut through her heart like a knife. She wasn't angry anymore. "Oh god, Methos, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it! Please," she entreated, "you must believe me." She slid to her knees at his feet, tears falling down her face.
She buried her face in her hands, sobbing, realizing he would probably never forgive her. He was silent, at this point, only the familiar *presence* of him even let her know he was still there. Then his hands were on hers, pulling them gently away from her face, fingers softly brushing the tears from her face. She slowly opened her eyes to see his eyes looking back at her, warm and loving.
"But it's true nonetheless, my love. And that's why I fear for you so." He spoke softly, matter of factly. "For you it's nothing but stories, warnings, a witness to the aftermath - like Megan. For me, it was something lived, memories that are emblazed on my mind forever. The thought of any of you as slaves, suffering so, tears me up inside so I can barely think rationally."
His hands cupped her face as he leaned in to kiss her. Her hands came up to cover his, tightening as the kiss deepened. Breaking away, he pulled her into a hard embrace. She gripped him tight, as if he might slip away from her otherwise.
"Forgive me?" she whispered, her head buried in his shoulder.
"There is nothing to forgive, love, we both beat each other up pretty well tonight."
"How can you forgive me so easily?" she whispered.
"How can I not?" he said simply. Not waiting to see if she understood, he kissed her again. This time, not so gently, pushing her back against the log, his hands roaming her body familiarly. She whimpered a protest when he pulled away from her.
"We need to get back," he told her regretfully. "By this time, the whole household will be in an uproar over your being gone."
Triona nodded in agreement. He got to his feet, extending a hand to help her to her feet. They walked for a few minutes in silence, hand in hand.
"Why didn't you tell me how you were feeling?" Methos' voice broke the silence.
"Because it seemed petty considering the monumental problems we face everyday."
"You are allowed to be human occasionally you know," he chided her gently. "No one ever said you weren't allowed to feel."
"What would be the point? It won't change the fact that I'm rarely allowed to leave the compound due to my *vulnerabilities*. Why make everyone else feel bad because I'm a hindrance to any party going outside?" Triona shrugged. "Maybe that's why these projects of mine mean so much to me, I need to feel like I serve some purpose."
"That is nonsense! Just because you can't go to the outside all the time does not make you purposeless!" he told her in exasperation. "What you do here is invaluable, you know that. Damn LaCroix anyway, sometimes I don't think I can ever quite forgive what he did to you....."
Methos raced into LaCroix's bedroom, following Stephanie, who had told him what had happened. The sight that met him was worse than what he had imagined from her description. Triona lay on LaCroix's bed, her skin flushed and sweaty, her breath coming in thready gasps. LaCroix sat next to her, holding her hand and looking as lost as Methos had ever seen him.
"How could you, Lucius?" Methos asked, stunned. "When you had no idea what would happen?"
LaCroix turned to look at him. "She asked, as was her right. I had no reason to refuse her request."
"Even when I told you that I thought trying to bring her across as a pre- Immortal could be dangerous?" His eyes took on a deadly glint.
"You had no idea! It was mere supposition on your part, you had no proof. You merely thought to make sure she was yours, pure and simple," LaCroix told him caustically.
"If anyone was trying to keep her it was you, Lucien, not me. From the day I told you what she was, you have been in denial. You always intended on this path, didn't you?"
"And what if I did? She deserves better than to lead your life, always being hunted, a part of your barbaric *game*." LaCroix looked down at her. "I wanted more for her than that, so much more." Another convulsion wracked her body, interrupting any response Methos might have made. LaCroix looked up at Methos again. "And now - I believe she is dying."
Two days passed, neither man leaving her side. Neither one, with 7000 years between them had any idea as to what might save her, it was as if her body were fighting itself. Both men felt her grow ever weaker; LaCroix through their blood bond, and Methos through her pre-Immortal presence, both growing weaker as every hour passed. Finally, after much discussion, and having no clue as to what might work, it was decided to give her more of LaCroix's blood. No one knew if this would help, or just finish her off.
LaCroix sliced into his wrist, placing it once again to her lips. After what seemed ages, she swallowed, and then again, then stopped. After a few minutes she took one last gasping breath her body convulsing, lifting off the bed with it's force. She collapsed bonelessly, her link with both men gone. LaCroix heard her heart stop, he bowed his head, a single blood tear running down his cheek. Methos looked stunned, it wasn't supposed to end this way, not like this.
Suddenly, their links roared back to life, and Triona took a deep shuddering breath, opening her eyes weakly to see LaCroix and Methos above her with almost silly smiles on their faces. "What's going on?" she asked, confused.
Triona had survived, but the experience had left her changed. She was an Immortal, but with certain vulnerabilities that came from LaCroix's ill fated attempt to bring her across. Full sun would burn her, like any vampire's, she did eventually heal, but it was not a pleasant experience and it left her unable to defend herself in the sunlight. She could stand filtered sunlight on a cloudy day or near days end, but the midday sun could kill her. The only useful abilities she seemed to have received were excellent night vision, and the ability to mentally affect others, her prowess in that area equivalent to vampires much more ancient. The blood bond that she shared with LaCroix had become stronger, now that of a full fledgling. Methos was relieved to discover she had no cravings for blood, no fangs, no golden eyes. Or so they thought in the beginning. Later, it became apparent that certain situations could bring on those attributes. But it would be several years before they found that out....
Triona put her arm around Methos' waist. "It wasn't his fault. I asked him to do it, he didn't force me."
"You weren't informed enough to make that decision. He had no right, not knowing what would happen."
She sighed at the all too familiar tone. "We've been arguing about this for years, Methos. It won't change anything to keep whacking at it now, will it?"
He brushed his lips across the top of her head. "I don't suppose so, no."
"Good, then let's get home, I want to express how sorry I am in a much more intimate way." She stopped walking to pull his head down to hers, kissing him hard, before taking his hand and starting off again down the path. "And then I want to tell you about Megan's idea... about a scientist in the Montana protectorate, Zephram Cochrane. I think we may be able to help each other...."
The End.. for now.
Return to the archive.