Believe it or not, I actually started this puppy back in 2000! It’s been through many versions and rewrites, but finally, it’s done! I’m not sure how I ended up writing a story with Cassandra in it, but somehow she worked her way in.  I find her motivations fascinating, and over the last three years, I’ve seen her in many different lights. I think that’s part of what took me so long to finish!

Thanks to Jemma and Tammy for beta reading.

For those that follow the series, this story takes place after “Blood Ties” which can be found here

All Forever Knight and Highlander characters belong to their respective PTBs and the rest belong to my co-Bloodties creators and me.

Please only archive with permission.

Rated "R" for sexual content.

Please Do Not Read if you are under 18!!!
 


Not Without Loss
by Altariel
c. 2003
 


Triona and Sarah walked down the hall towards the inner courtyard. Word had come that yet another load of refugees had shown up at the gates wanting shelter. Triona sighed. They were getting to the point where they were going to have to start turning people away. There were more and more every day, and despite the preparations that they had made, it would never be enough.

"We're at the breaking point, Sarah." Triona looked at her, eyes despairing. "LaCroix is right, we need to start picking and choosing who will stay."

"Who will live and who will die, you mean."

"If we don't, all we have here will collapse, and then they all die. What choice is there?"

Sarah sighed. "I know. But it doesn't make it any easier."

Triona wrapped her arm around Sarah's waist as they made their way out to the courtyard. It was awash with people. Bereft, adrift -- people whose world had disappeared in a cloud of smoke, blown away by the storm of war. The sounds were always the same: the low murmur of voices in shock, the moans of the sick and dying, and, always in jarring contrast, the sounds of children at play. Campfires could be seen, beginning to glimmer in the coming dusk. Looking up, Triona could just see the Evening star beginning to make its appearance in the gray-mauve autumn sky.

Triona and Sarah both looked up at the buzz they felt, seeing Duncan approaching them, his expression grim.

"How bad is this lot?" Sarah asked Duncan as he drew near.

"Pretty bad." Duncan ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "Each group is worse than the last. Each having traveled farther and suffered more."

"Each one more of a strain on our resources," Triona said grimly.

Duncan's eyes flashed in anger, then softened. "I know that, and know this can't go on." His expression became even more troubled. "I have some other news, and you aren't going to like it."

"What now?" Triona asked, exasperated. She rubbed her temple, wishing Immortals didn't get tension headaches.

"There was an Immortal with this latest batch."

Both women's heads shot up.

"Anyone we know?" Sarah asked, concerned.

Duncan knew he just had to say it, get it over with. But he dreaded it, knowing what their reaction would be. Both women looked at him expectantly. "It's Cassandra."

Triona paled. Cassandra was the last person she ever hoped to see….

                      


San Francisco, December 2035

Triona wandered down the street, enjoying her day off from classes and determined to have a shopping spree to end all shopping sprees.  It was just after Thanksgiving and the Christmas ornaments that decked Union Square were glittering in the twilight. The window of a jewelry shop beckoned and she peered in the display window at the wares on show.

“Okay, I need some of this stuff,” she said to herself. She didn’t normally like modern designs, but these particular pieces were exquisite. A platinum torque set with green opals caught her attention in particular. The way the precious metal had been formed made it look like flowing water captured in a moment of time.

Pushing open the door of the shop, she stepped inside. A mere few steps in, the buzz of another Immortal assaulted her senses. Her eyes quickly scanned the long, narrow length of the shop. One other customer was looking in a case to her left and appeared to be unaware of anything at all. Not that that was a sure test, she knew; it was a ploy Methos often used to deflect unwanted attention. Then, a woman came from behind a curtain at the back of the store, her eyes locking on Triona’s in silent acknowledgment. Long brunette hair pulled back in a French braid, she was tall, with intense eyes. She was as tanned as Triona was pale.

As Triona was trying to decide whether or not she wanted to stay, the woman spoke. “Please, come in. Can I show you something?”

Deciding, Triona nodded, walking back towards where the other Immortal stood. Behind her, the one other patron exited the shop. “Actually, yes, you can.” She tilted her head back towards the case in the front window. “The….”

“The torque,” the woman interrupted, smiling. At Triona’s nod and look of surprise, she added, “It was made for you.”

A few moments later, Triona was looking in a mirror at the torque around her neck, admiring the beauty of it.

“The opals favour your eyes.”

“You do amazing work – art even.”

“How do you know I don’t just work here?”

Triona laughed. “No, these are your creations. It’s undeniable.”

“I guess I’m not as mysterious as I thought, how disappointing!”

“And I’m not mysterious at all,” Triona pulled her wallet out of her purse, “because you knew I was going to take it all along.”

“I had my suspicions,” she said smiling, taking the proffered credit card. Reading the name there, she looked at Triona. “Nice to meet you, Cate. I’m Sage, like the shop.” She waved her free hand at the walls.

“The seer kind, or the spice kind?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye.

“Depends on the circumstances,” Sage answered in a conspiratorial whisper.

“Pleased to meet you, Sage.” Triona extended her right hand. “I think this is going to be one of my favorite places while I’m in the Bay Area.”

Taking the proffered hand, Sage shook it firmly. “I’m glad to hear it….”


"Cassandra!" Sarah exclaimed angrily. "What the hell is she doing here?"

"She goes," Triona stated coldly. "She’s to be gone before Methos comes home." She turned on her heel, back towards the main house.

"Triona, wait!" Duncan came up beside her. "We can't just throw her out!"

"Maybe you can't. But *I* can -- and will. She made her feelings perfectly clear the last time we met. I can’t trust her, not again.” She stopped, turning to face him. "This is not negotiable, Duncan. The family will support me in this, so don't try and plead her case."

"We won't allow her to stay, Duncan. And you know the others will agree." Sarah told him, a hint of apology in her blunt pronouncement.

Damn it. Duncan had known this wouldn't be easy, but it was worse than he'd thought. He'd seen them close ranks before. This whole settlement was a testament to how they could present a united front and succeed against all odds.

"Just give me time to find a place for her to go. I know she can't stay here permanently, but I need time!" Duncan tried to make them see reason.

“She was my friend, Duncan, and she used my trust against me! How can you expect me to just give her a second opportunity?” Triona asked him, upset.

"I'm asking for this one favor, Triona. Can't you give me that?" The Scottish Immortal looked at her, his doe brown eyes pleading with her, expecting her to be compassionate.

She glared at him. He knew her so well; the man who had taught her, unstintingly giving of his knowledge, knowing she would feel an obligation to grant him this one request.

She exhaled in frustration. "One week! That's all. She does not go near the main house; she stays in the camp. She threatens no one do you understand? If she does, I'll challenge her myself, and I will win," she told Duncan in a voice that made him shiver a little. "You taught me after all, no?" Her eyes locked with his, making sure he understood perfectly what she would do if Cassandra got in her way.

"One week. This means a lot to me. I promise you I'll keep her out of sight. I don't want trouble any more than you do."

"Are you sure about this, Trie?" Sarah asked, as Duncan made his way back to the camp.

"No. But how could I refuse him a few days? After all we've been through together." She paused to consider. "But there's no reason I can't put her to some useful end..."

Sarah wondered what Triona had planned as the two women headed back to the main house. She always got nervous when her sister got that *look* in her eyes.



 

Sarah and Lauren headed into what they all jokingly called ‘the audience chamber’. A large room in the main turret, it was LaCroix's office, and the place they all met for their biweekly meetings, or for crisis management.

They were the first to arrive; it wasn't quite sunset yet. Lauren put her notes at her customary place on the table, and went over to look out the window. This vantage-point gave her a sweeping view of the valley below, and the settlement that occupied it.

"The Keep", as they had named it, was the creation of a late nineteenth century rail baron. He had attempted to recreate his family's ancestral home in Scotland, and had spent a fortune on replicating an authentic Scottish baronial keep. He had built it in the Rockies; remote and secluded, putting in a rail tie to provide supplies from town, some fifty miles away. The Keep itself rested on a rocky lip, a narrow, winding road the only entrance. It had a large walled courtyard, a water supply fed from a mountain spring, and to the back, a lush valley that the builder had used for staff quarters, and recreational facilities for his employer's guests.

But, what was an eighteen-hundred’s fantasy, was an early twenty-first century albatross. When it was decided that dark times were on the horizon, the long deserted wreck became the perfect fortress against the coming storm. It was remote, it was defensible and it offered a place to house a community. About five years before civilization imploded, the family had moved in. And had created a vision for themselves, and the mortals they had decided to protect. Something needed to survive, and LaCroix and Methos had a *very* long view. The fall and rise of civilization was old hat to them, and this time, they intended to put what they had learned to good use -- with the help of their family and a few friends.

Lauren turned back to the room when she heard Triona and LaCroix arrive. They all took their seats, several chairs empty, with half of them on the outside to gather medical supplies. Methos, Terese, Janette, Richie, and Stephanie had left a week ago, and were not expected back for at least ten days. No one had heard from Nick in several years, and Connor was still on a personal mission somewhere in Europe.

The first few minutes were taken up with each of them reporting on their various areas of responsibility and discussing needs for the future. Those matters out of the way, LaCroix moved to the new items on the agenda.

"Tell me about Cassandra, my dear." LaCroix instructed Triona. "I'm interested in hearing what possible use she could be?"

Triona nodded. "We know that we are going to have to turn out at least two thirds of the latest refugees." She looked sad, but resolute, knowing that this came as a surprise to some of them. "I'm sorry, but I've discussed this with Lucien, there is no other way. We are now well past our breaking point. We need to consider those already under our protection."

"What has this got to do with Cassandra?" Sarah asked, confused.

"We have to send them away, but I don't want to send them totally helpless. I figure, after three thousand odd years, Cassandra would be the perfect 'shepherd' for these people. We give them some supplies, tell them where we think it would be best for them to settle and let Cassandra lead them." Triona waited for the others to digest what she had planned before continuing. "It’s within her capabilities, and it gives those we turn out at least a chance of surviving the winter. If nothing else, she *is* a survivor."

LaCroix looked at the list in his hands. "And these are who you and MacLeod have chosen?" She nodded. "And have you made security arrangements?" He looked over the edge of the list, his eyes icy.

"Yes. I've increased the guard in the refugee camp, discreetly, over the next few days. I don't want to raise suspicions."

"Very good, child. Very good," he said approvingly.

"Thank you." She dropped her eyes, pleased by his praise. "I hope to have the supplies and the refugees ready to go in five days. Long before Methos and the others are due back. The last thing I want is for those two to run into each other….”



 

San Francisco: Spring 2036

Triona accepted the cup of steaming café au lait from Sage gratefully. She’d gotten drenched on the walk from the BART station to her friend’s apartment above the jewelry shop.  “God, that’s good!” she exclaimed, savouring the sweet hot liquid.

Over the last few months, Sage and ‘Cate’, had become good friends. Sage’s airy apartment had become a favorite haunt of the young Immortal. Outside of her family, Triona hadn’t really made many friends. The company of the female Immortal had been a new experience for her, one that she was enjoying. For the most part, neither discussed their Immortality, focusing instead on their lives here and now.

“I didn’t think you’d come over today in this storm,” Sage told her.

“I would face a hurricane to get away from my dissertation!”

Sage laughed. “What is it about again?”

Triona put her cup down and intoned, “The affect of twin paradox on warped space and the light velocity barrier.”

Sage started to reply then shook her head. “I guess we all need to pass the time somehow. I think I’ll stick to things that don’t hurt my brain!”

“What can I say? I’ve always wanted to be a rocket scientist.” Triona grinned. “And finally, I’m able to pursue my dream. What’s happening right now with the Mars mission and some of theoretical work on bypassing the light barrier; it’s just so amazing that I’m even a small part of it!”  Stopping, she raised an eyebrow. “What’s so funny?” she asked her friend who was fighting hard to hold back laughter.

‘I’m sorry. But you’re such a…. nerd!” Laughter won and soon Triona was joining in.

“You sound like my husband!” Triona accused good-naturedly.

“Remind me to get you a pocket protector for your birthday!” Sage took a sip of her coffee. “Speaking of your husband, when am I going to get to meet Brandon?”

“One of these days, I hope. Even I don’t get to see him as much as I’d like with him lecturing at Oxford this year.”

“And when you do get to see him, you’re far too *occupied* to want to take the time to drag him across the Bay to visit me,” Sage said knowingly.

A half-embarrassed smile on her lips, Triona admitted, “Something like that.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Next visit! I promise…!”



 

Triona shook her head, pulling herself back to the present. No, she definitely did not want Cassandra and Methos meeting again.

"Very well. I see you have it all under control. I leave it in your capable hands."

She nodded her understanding before LaCroix moved on to the next item.

"Lauren, you had something you wished to address?"

"Yes, General, I do." Lauren cleared her throat nervously. "Actually, this is for Stephanie too. She wanted me to bring it up." She paused, gathering her thoughts.

"Continue," he directed shortly.

Lauren nodded. "It's about the children. The orphans I mean. We want to keep them here, with us."

"Why?" He arched one expressive eyebrow in query.

His one-word utterances were making Lauren nervous. "Because they're children, LaCroix!" she exclaimed, as if that should be obvious, even to him.

LaCroix's cool blue eyes narrowed. "Sentiment is not sufficient cause for keeping such a drain on our resources." He leaned towards her. "I do hope you have marshaled a more compelling argument than that, my dear."

Sarah began to speak, but LaCroix's upraised hand forestalled her. "No, Sarah, we will allow Lauren to argue her own case."

Triona sighed quietly. She hoped Lauren had an argument prepared, or that would be the end of the matter. LaCroix would see it as a lesson in leadership. She caught Lauren's eye and gave her an encouraging smile.

Lauren, realizing what was at stake, took a deep breath. "It's true, the children -- now -- would be a drain. But we need to look at the larger picture. We've already seen the effects of the various pathogens used in the war. Especially on the newborn, if they are born at all. If that trend continues, our own people will be affected." She took a sip of water before continuing, using the pause to gather her thoughts. "We'll see a very high infant mortality rate, maybe even enough to affect our gene pool. These orphan children could be the answer to our next generation, guaranteeing genetic diversity for our people." She got so caught up in her speech that she forgot to be nervous. With a start she realized she had finished.

LaCroix considered her speculatively, steepling his fingers as he thought.

Lauren, nervous again, added, "That's what Stephanie and I think at least."

"Indeed?" he smiled slightly. "An excellent case, my dear. Very well, you may keep your children." Lauren smiled happily. "But I warn you, I expect you and Stephanie to take full responsibility for the *brood*. Is that understood?" She nodded vigorously. "Good."

"Will that be all, LaCroix?" Triona asked.

"Yes, that will be all for now." LaCroix nodded in dismissal. "Till later, ladies."
 



 

Several days passed, all of the women so busy, they had no time to worry about Cassandra. Oh, they knew she was around, but so far, Duncan had kept her far away.

Cassandra was far from their thoughts as they inspected a building that Lauren thought would be perfect for the children. The three women looked over plans, jotting down notes for the workmen. They all turned towards the door when they felt a buzz. A tall brunette woman stood in the doorway, watching them, an amused twist to her lips. They put their hands on their sword hilts as she moved farther into the building.

"What a cozy scene." She tossed her head, her expression taunting.

"In case you've already forgotten,” Sarah said in annoyance, "you aren't supposed to be in this part of the settlement."

"Oh, I haven't forgotten. Duncan explained *her* rules, " -- she glared at Triona -- "quite well. I simply choose to ignore them, considering the source." She laughed, and it was a hollow, unfriendly sound. "It's been a long time," she said to Triona, "and still warming Methos' bed I hear. I would have thought even you would have more potential than that."

Lauren shot a look at Triona, sensing her stiffen, ready to attack. She had made no move to draw her sword, but Lauren could see in her eyes that she was preparing. Gauging distance, her opponent's size and reach -- and the look: the set, cold expression that reminded Lauren of LaCroix.

"It's time to go, Cassandra," Triona told her in a voice that could have splintered ice, disregarding the older woman's taunts with effort.

Cassandra ignored her. "Tell me, what is it that makes a woman voluntarily sleep with a murdering bastard like Methos?"



 

San Francisco: Autumn 2036

“Stop grumbling, Methos! I’m asking you to have dinner with a friend, for pity’s sake! You’d think I was asking you to walk over hot coals.”

“You know I’m not fond of meeting new people, particularly new people with sharp pointy objects,” he told her witheringly.

Triona sighed. “Fine, go home. I’ll make some excuse.” Picking up her pace, she left Methos standing on the sidewalk behind her.

“Triona, stop.” Catching up to her, he grabbed her arm. “Stop, please.”

She stopped but didn’t say a word, staring straight ahead, her jaw clenched.

“Look, I’m sorry. I can be a real bastard, you know that.” Still, she didn’t say anything. ‘Please?” he said in a wheedling tone.

“If you’re going to be a jerk, then I’d just as soon you didn’t come,” she said, still angry.

He raised his right hand, palm out. “I’ll behave, Scouts honour.”

She looked up at him, not really sure she believed him. “Promise?”

“I swear that your friend Sage will find me the most charming and polite dinner companion she could ever hope for.”

Her angry expression softening, Triona said, “You always were a good actor.”

Methos thought about that last for a moment before commenting, “I’m not sure, but I think I’ve just been insulted.”

Leaning up to kiss him lightly, Triona just smiled. “Come on then, let’s get going.”

Hand in hand, they strolled the remaining block to the restaurant that was on the edge of China Town. Methos held the door open for his wife, bowing grandly as she walked through. She shook her head, laughing softly at his antics.

“Sage is meeting us in the lounge, “ Triona told him as they headed towards the bar. Both of them felt the buzz of another Immortal as she scanned the crowded room for her friend. “There she is.” She caught sight of her briefly at a table in the corner before the press of people once more blocked her from view. Holding Methos’ hand, the two wended their way through the Friday night crowd.

As they broke through at the other end, Methos came to a dead halt. Triona could feel intense emotion pouring off their blood bond. “Methos, what…?” she whispered, turning to look at him.

He shook his head, his expression carefully devoid of all emotion.  “We’re leaving now,” he told her, his voice taut.

“Why? What’s wrong?” she looked back to where Sage was sitting, finding the same expression on her friend’s face.

Methos pulled Triona away before she had time to even react, his grip unbreakable. Outside the restaurant he continued to pull her along like she was a sack of potatoes.

“Methos,” she began to protest.

“Leave it alone, Triona.” This was said in a voice that made her shiver a little. It was almost enough for her to obey, but not quite.

Planting her feet firmly on the sidewalk, she forced him to stop. “No, I won’t leave it alone! What the hell happened in there?” she asked, pulling free of his hold on her.

Pressing his lips together he shot her a look before turning his back to her. “I mean it, Triona. Leave it alone.”

“Fine, you won’t tell me what’s going on then I’ll go back to the restaurant and find out for myself!” Angrily, she whirled on her heel, determined to get answers.

“The hell you will!” Grabbing her shoulders, he pulled her around, unceremoniously propelling her around the corner into the entryway of an apartment building.

“Damn it, let go of me!”

He shook her, pressing her against the wall of the entry. “No! This time you're going to do as you're told!” he demanded. “Leave it!”

Something in his voice made her stop. Licking her lips, she looked up at him. His eyes were unreadable. Even though she’d stopped struggling, he didn’t loosen his grip on her. “Let go of me, Methos,” she asked as calmly as she could manage.

“Only if you give me your word that you won’t try and go back to the restaurant.”

“An oath under duress is hardly binding,” she pointed out coolly.

Another shake. “Triona!” His voice snapped like a whip in the night, making her wince. “If you have *any* conception of how close to the edge I am right now, you’ll shut up.”

Triona shivered. She knew he would never physically hurt her, but he was still scaring her. And just because he wouldn’t hurt you doesn’t mean he won’t knock you cold if he thinks there’s some sort of danger, she reminded herself. Deciding that discretion was indeed the better part of valour, she said, “I promise.”

Methos searched her eyes, finally nodding and releasing her. He turned away as she rubbed her shoulders where his fingers had dug into her. “We’ll stay in a hotel tonight,” he told her.

“Okay,” she agreed, placing her palm against the tightly corded muscles of his back. “I’m sorry.”

Sighing explosively, he shrugged. “It isn’t your fault, love. There’s no way you could have known.”

Biting her lip, she paused before stating the obvious. “Methos, I still don’t know,” she said quietly, without accusation or anger.

Triona froze at his strained reply. “Cassandra. That was Cassandra…”



 

Sarah put a restraining hand on Triona's arm as she took a step towards Cassandra, hand on her sword. "Trie, don't! She's baiting you -- trying to make you lose control." Triona visibly reigned in her anger, still gripping the hilt of her sword, but letting her sister pull her back.

Cassandra took a step towards Triona and Sarah, her eyes hard. "Are you always going to hide behind someone? Or does Methos still fight all your battles?"

This time, Triona let her fury to the fore. In the back of her mind, she could feel LaCroix's concern at the strong outburst of emotion that radiated down their link. She had let Cassandra walk away before because of Methos' interference -- but not this time.

"You want to fight me, Cassandra? Then let's get on with it." Pulling away from Sarah, Triona drew her sword … and felt the buzz of another Immortal.

"Cassandra, what the hell are you doing here?" Duncan shouted as he entered the building, seeing the two women faced off, swords drawn.

"Just having a little woman to woman chat," she replied with mock sweetness.

"Like hell. I told you to stay put! Pull this again and I'll throw you out myself." He turned his attention to Triona. "I won't stop you if you want to challenge her, but I'm asking you not to."

"Oh yes, Duncan, do save your little friend's head by all means," she said angrily. "Did it ever occur to you that I might be the injured party here?"

"You mistake me, Cassandra. It's your head I'm saving." Cassandra looked at him in disbelief. "Oh, believe it; she was my student, I know her capabilities. And no, it didn't occur to me," he replied to her question, matching her anger. "I vouched for you, Cassandra! And you reward my trust with this?"

He turned his attention back to his former student. "Triona?" Duncan waited for her decision.

"Get her out of here!" she snarled. As tempting as it was, she knew in her heart, that despite everything, she didn’t want Cassandra dead.

She thrust her sword back in its scabbard, watching as Duncan hustled a protesting Cassandra out of the building. Three more days and she would be gone -- three long days. Triona's one comfort was that it was long before Methos would return home.

Unfortunately, timing can be everything. The next night, Methos and the others came home.



 

Methos leaned against the guardhouse wall, exhausted. Everything was finally taken care of and now he could collapse. Terese and Richie had chosen to go get as drunk as they could, and Methos had thought joining them would be a very good thing. The horror of what they had found not halfway through their journey still haunted all of them. He had found himself almost envying Stephanie and Janette, the two vampires being able to slake their fury and horror in a frenzy of bloodlust. At one point, he had worried they had lost control completely and would be impossible to stop. But they had regained control, and had been so sated that they barely stirred on the journey home.  Methos had sent them off with the admonition to make a serious dent in LaCroix's wine cellar. He had been heartened to see small smiles on their pale faces as they left.

"Excuse me, sir," the guard said, getting his attention.

Methos opened his eyes, still slouching against the nice hard wall. "What is it, Carmichael?"

"We had orders to give you this note. In case you showed up early and all," he explained, handing Methos a folded square of paper.

"Thanks,” the Immortal said absently as he unfolded the note. He scanned the contents quickly, sighing. Triona wanted him to see her first thing he returned, should he arrive earlier than planned. It wasn't an emergency, but it was vital she see him.

He ran his hand through his hair in frustration. He knew she wouldn't ask if it weren't important. But he had promised himself not to see her until he had had a chance to decompress. But there was no help for it, something was wrong, and she obviously needed him, he thought tiredly. Methos allowed himself the comfort of the wall for a few more moments, before pushing away regretfully and heading across the outer courtyard to the Keep.

Methos entered Triona's sitting room, heading straight for the decanter of seventy-five year old single malt that was one of the luxuries they had laid away. Pouring a double shot, he swiftly drained the glass, relishing the slow burn that started in his throat and worked its way to the tips of his fingers and toes. He exhaled softly, feeling some of the tension melt away as the alcohol seeped into his blood.

Suddenly, he realized just how filthy he was. Nothing for it, he needed a shower. If I woke Triona up smelling like this, she'd keel over before telling me what is so important, he thought, smiling a little at the image it conjured.

Showering quickly, he toweled off, feeling much more human. Pulling on a clean pair of jeans, he headed back to the sideboard and the scotch. One more shot, added to the warm water of the shower, and Methos was feeling much calmer.

He gently opened the door to the bedroom, her familiar buzz surrounding him. Since that night all those years ago, when he had fed her first hunger with his blood, they had shared a bond: they both always knew who the other was. Methos could see her, outlined in the wavering light of the banked fire that smoldered in the hearth. He moved closer, standing at the foot of the bed. She stirred, but didn't waken.

He just stood there for what seemed forever, but was only in reality a few minutes. He watched her breath, watching the gentle rise and fall of her chest. He watched her small twitches, and the way her hand curled around the pillow. This was what made it all worthwhile; knowing there was a place where the people he loved were safe and warm.

Methos moved over to sit on the edge of the bed, gently, so as not to waken her, not yet. He slowly, delicately, ran his hands up her bare thighs to slip under the fabric of her gown. His hands barely skimmed her flesh as he pushed the fabric up over her stomach and breasts leaving them bare to his hungry gaze.

He hadn't intended on this when he had come here. But now, seeing her after so long, he couldn't not want her. Methos needed the solace of her body, her touch, her love, to drown out the visions of the last days. And the visions that haunted him still from so long ago. He watched her face as the tips of his long fingers glided over her skin, barely touching. The fingers reached her breasts, beginning at the edge and slowly circling in ever-smaller circles till they reached the peak.

Triona sighed a little and stirred under his touch, as if dreaming. He stroked his palms, fingertip to fingertip, back down to her hips, with slightly more pressure this time. Splaying his hands over her, entangling his fingers in her soft curls, he lowered his head to a breast. With the tip of his tongue he teased her nipple to a hard nub, before taking it in his teeth to gently nip and tug. As he labored over her breast, his fingers crept deeper into her.

She moaned a little, arching into his touch, breathing his name, "Methos..."

He looked up to watch her eyes as she awoke.

Triona was dreaming, and it was a wonderful dream. They were back home, at the estate, and there was no war, no refugees, no Cassandra. It was warm, a breeze was blowing off the lake and they were taking a *very* long lunch. It was so peaceful, lying on the grass, in the sun. In the sun? Odd, she thought. She hadn't been in the noonday sun for over fifty years. She sighed, only a dream.

As she slowly climbed from the deep well of sleep and dreaming, she realized that she still felt warm, still felt his touch on her body. She moaned, the warmth coalescing in a burst of heat through her middle.

"Methos?" she whispered, slowly opening her eyes to see him watching her intently.

Triona caught just a glimpse of Methos' haunted eyes, before his lips came down in a crushing kiss. She gasped into his plundering mouth as his fingers drove into her already slick heat. His handiwork as she slept had not been without affect, already she writhed and moaned, his body's weight half over hers keeping her tight against him.

She tangled her fingers in his still damp hair, inhaling his scent: horses, saddle leather and wood smoke, mixed with the scent of soap and water. She could feel his urgency, his need, both physically and mentally. His kiss and his touch became even more fevered, more desperate, as he ground his flesh into hers.

She ran her hands down his back to his waist, pushing at the waistband of his jeans. He levered himself off her with one arm, enough to push the jeans over his hips. Impatiently, he reached down and pulled them the rest of the way off. Methos covered her entire body with his, possessive hands touching her everywhere, his rough lips devouring hers; the fury of his passion battering her body like a mountain storm.

Strong hands pulled at her thighs, parting them. In one forceful move, he drove into her more than willing body. Methos groaned as her wet heat enveloped him in its familiar grasp. Long past coherent thought all he could do was react, surrendering to his body's desire. They were both already so close, so caught in each other's mood that it only took a few hard thrusts before Triona's moans became screams as her inner muscles clenched around his hard length.

It was more than enough to push Methos over the edge, into a vortex of fire whose flames licked at him, burning across every nerve. With one last convulsive shudder, he ground himself into her spent body. She clutched at him with fingers weak from his onslaught, barely able to get her breath. Slowly, he came back to himself, panting softly. He shifted his weight slightly from her much smaller body as she took a deep shuddering breath.

He stroked her and nuzzled her breasts as her breathing slowly became more measured. Feeling a small finger run down his cheek, he looked to see her eyes smiling at him.

"Missed me, huh?"

"Guess I did." He kissed the tip of her chin. That was when he noticed the trickle of blood down the corner of her lip, "I hurt you!" he exclaimed, stricken.

"Shhhh, no permanent damage remember?" Triona cupped the side of his beautiful face with her hand.

Methos twisted his head slightly to kiss her palm, then turned to look at her, his eyes dark with sorrow. "That doesn't make it okay. God help me if I ever hurt you again." His voice broke.

Her heart clenched a little at the pain in his voice, remembering the haunted look she had caught a glimpse of earlier. Heaven only knew what had happened out there. Whatever it was, it had been bad. And now she had to add to his burden and tell him about Cassandra.

Triona forced a smile. "And you never will." She ran her fingers through his dark hair. "You could always kiss it and make it better you know," she hinted, trying hard to keep her voice light.

"If only it were that easy," he whispered, as he lowered his head to kiss her once hurt lip.

"It is, my dearest, it is," she assured him gently, wrapping her arms around him to draw him into a tight embrace.

Methos sighed tiredly, wanting to let her just hold him, but he had come here for a reason after all. "You had something you needed to tell me?"

Triona paused. His voice was heavy with exhaustion, she just couldn't tell him; not yet. "Sleep for a bit. It'll keep for a few more hours."

"Sleep, that would be good..." his voice trailed off, half asleep already. Methos shifted, so he had his head nestled in her shoulder.

She pulled the cover over them both, wrapping her arms around him.  "Sleep now, I'll be here when you wake up."

"Mmmmm, promise?" he breathed the question, barely audible.

"Promise." She kissed him gently on the lips.

She shifted a bit, getting comfortable, snuggling into him. She heard his breathing fall into the rhythm of sleep, felt his body sag against her. Damn that woman for coming here. He didn't need this right now. She had no idea how he would take it. Triona thought back to how he had looked at her, just like the first time he had told her about Cassandra….



 

Triona paused in the door of LaCroix's study, stunned at the scene before her. She hadn't expected to find LaCroix here; he was usually asleep at this hour. And she certainly had not expected to find Methos sitting with him.

Almost a month before, Methos had put her on a plane for Toronto, telling her that LaCroix would be waiting for her on the other end. He’d had the strangest look in his eyes and it had taken her a moment to realize just what that look was; it was fear. Triona hadn’t questioned or argued, for once, she'd just done as she was told. As promised, LaCroix had been waiting for her when her plane had landed. The ancient vampire had refused to give her any information on what had scared Methos enough to interrupt her training with Duncan in Seacouver and pack her back home to LaCroix.

And now Methos was here, with a glass in one hand and a nearly empty brandy decanter on the table next to him, slouched down on the sofa. LaCroix sat in a chair kitty corner, looking at Methos with, what she could only describe as, concern.

She hesitated, not knowing what to do: leave or move farther into the room. Triona didn't know what was going on, only that whatever it was it was bad.

LaCroix looked up at her, a contemplative expression on his face.  "It's all right, child. " He beckoned her over.

She nodded, moving across the room to stand by his chair.

At LaCroix's words, Methos' head shot up. "No! I told you I didn't want to see her, Lucien."  His voice was raw and slightly slurred. He took another swallow of the brandy. Then he looked at her.

Triona almost drew back at what she saw in his eyes: grief, death, rage. Old eyes, ancient eyes; eyes that had seen far too much. Although she knew in her head that Methos was ancient, she had never known it in her soul -- until now. Until she looked into eyes stripped of 'Adam Pierson', the man that had appeared on LaCroix's doorstep on a day that seemed so long ago now. There was nothing left of 'Adam' in his eyes anymore.

She could only watch him, transfixed, her mind attempting to grapple with this new reality. LaCroix's hand on hers, squeezing gently, his mind brushing hers in reassurance, broke the spell.

"Yes, I know what you said, Methos. But how likely was it, hmmm?" LaCroix asked sensibly. "Unless I stashed you in the cellars. And how civilized would that be?" He stood, putting a hand on Triona's shoulder. "Forgive me, my dear, but I must leave Methos in your capable hands. I will return later."

"Lucien, I don't *want* her here. Do you understand?" Methos said in a voice that made her shiver.

"Oh I understand all to well, my old friend." LaCroix sighed. "I can't make you stay, Methos, but don't underestimate the healing power of a pure heart."  He caught the Immortal's eyes in his as if willing him to understand.

Triona sighed inwardly -- she hated it when the two of them got enigmatic.

"And now, I must take my leave of you." LaCroix brushed cool lips over hers in farewell, and was gone.

She perched nervously on the edge of the chair, totally unsure of what to do or say. Only a few minutes ago, if faced with Methos so obviously in pain, she would have gone to him, held him, asked what was wrong.  But that was a few minutes ago -- a lifetime ago. She didn't know what to do for the man sitting there now, and it frightened her.

"Go away…please," he told her, not looking at her.

"No, I'm sorry but I can't do that." Tentatively, she reached out to place her hand on his leg.

Methos flinched at the touch, but didn't push her away. "Why not?”

“Because I love you,” she said softly.

He laughed humorlessly. “Love? Don’t try and tell me you’re staying because of love!” he said, his voice cruel. “If LaCroix hadn’t told you to stay here with me, you’d have bolted. I can feel your fear. You’re here because *he* ordered you.”

“That isn’t true!”

“Yes, it is! You blindly follow orders that leave you alone with a drunken man who carries a sword and is at the snapping point. Oh yes, you have *excellent* judgment."  He drained his glass, refilling it from the bottle at his side.

"Are you being intentionally cruel, or are you just being a jerk?" Triona asked him, trying to keep her voice from shaking. She stood up, walking over to the fireplace her arms wrapped tight around her chest.

"You have no idea how cruel I can be, no idea at all."

His voice was so cold she shivered, even next to the heat of the fire. "Then I have something to look forward to." Her voice dripped with sarcasm.

Triona turned away, not wanting to look at him anymore. Her first instinct was to flee, but she wouldn't. She would not let him drive her away; he needed someone whether he wanted it or not. She felt him as he came to stand behind her, felt his hand cup her throat, knowing he could feel her pulse hammering.

"You don't know what you're saying."

"Then tell me!" She turned, looking into his eyes this time. "Tell me so I *do* have an idea, damn it!"

"You don't want to know."

"You're wrong! I need to know, you need to tell me."

"Do you have any idea what you are asking?" His hand snaked into her hair, pulling her closer. "You could *never* understand," he told her, his voice scathing.

He was so close, she could feel his breath against her hair, smell the alcohol. "Don't! Don't tell me what I can understand. You don't have the right!" Triona shouted at him, angry and frustrated.

"Don't tell me? You don't have the right? What the hell do you know about what you should and should not know?" She tried to turn away from the fury in his voice, but Methos wouldn't let her, forcing her to look at him. "You are a *child*! How could you even begin to comprehend my life? How can you know what is best for you?" He was shouting at her.

"You're hurting me, Methos," was all she said, her eyes bright.

He practically shoved her away, his face a mask of pain. Groaning, Methos buried his face in his hands. "Please go," he whispered.

Triona pulled his hands away from his face. "I won't leave you." She kissed his hands.

"All the others did," he stated, bereft.

He sounded so forlorn, so lost; she wanted to weep for him. Triona drew him down to sit with her on the couch. "Please tell me."

Methos looked at her once, a fleeting look of hope quickly replaced by a shield of cynicism. He turned away and began his story.

Triona sat silent through the entire tale, never moving from where she sat on the couch. Methos prowled the room like a caged animal as he spoke, never once looking at her. He told her everything: the Horsemen, the killing, the raping, Cassandra. He told her about what had happened the last few weeks. He was unstinting, telling her everything, every brutal detail.

Finally, his voice hoarse, he was done. Still not looking at Triona, he leaned his head against the cool glass of the French doors. "And now you know. I won't trouble you again. I'll be gone by nightfall." His voice was toneless, empty. He had nothing left.

Then she was there, wrapping her arms around his waist. "You damn idiot. If you think that you can get rid of me that easily, you're crazy!"  Triona felt him stiffen in surprise, before he turned to look at her. If it hadn't broken her heart a little more to see the expression of stunned shock on his face, it would have been funny. "I told you I'd never leave." She shrugged, as if that said it all.

"But…." Her hands pulling his head down to hers, and a deep, hungry kiss stopped him.

Triona broke the kiss, murmuring against his lips, "No buts. We won't speak of this again, unless you want to."

Methos took her face in his hands, looking for all the world like a condemned man who had been pardoned at the last second. She shrieked, as he suddenly he lifted her off her feet, holding her tight against him. "What did I do to deserve you?"

"Made a sexist deal with LaCroix last century?" she asked wickedly.

That got an outright laugh from him. "Brat!"

"Are you going to keep talking, or are you going to make love to me?" She quirked an eyebrow inquiringly.

"What do you think?" he whispered...



 

Triona's reverie was broken by Stephanie's arrival. She could feel her cousin's presence nearby. Startled, she realized she must have dozed off, because she could see the gray light of pre-dawn out the window. Carefully, she disentangled herself from Methos' sleeping form, gently lowering his head to the pillow.

Wrapping her robe around herself she quietly opened the door to the sitting room, spying Stephanie sprawled on the couch, staring at the ceiling.

"It was bad, Trie," she said quietly.

"Yep, sweetie, I know."

"He told you?"

"He didn't have to." She sat down beside Stephanie on the couch. "I don't know the details though."

"It was awful, Triona. We were only a few days out and came to the Pine River settlement. They'd only left dead bodies behind."

"Raiders?" Stephanie nodded. Triona sighed, "No wonder Methos was so upset."

"They had taken any girls and women of childbearing age and slaughtered the rest.  I knew there was a lot of desperation in some communities about procreation, but I had no idea it was this bad." A blood tear slowly rolled down Stephanie's face. Her voice practically a whisper, she continued, "They had even killed the children, the babies. We were all horrified, but Methos lost it. He tossed our mission aside and set us out to find the raiders -- and destroy them."

Triona hugged Stephanie, keeping her arm around her cool shoulders as she continued.

"We trailed them for several days, then, when the sun set, we attacked. They never knew what hit them; they didn't stand a chance against us. Janette and I gorged ourselves. I can barely remember it, just rage and bloodlust. We didn't leave a single one of them alive, all dead."

Triona stroked her hair. "And their prisoners?"

"We rounded them up, most of them were still so much in shock they barely noticed. We put them in the wagons and headed back here."

"I guess we can add them to the orphans LaCroix decided you and Lauren can keep here."

Stephanie sat up, a smile on her face. "We can? He agreed?"

"Uh huh. In fact, we've already started fixing up a dormitory for them. Should be done soon."

"Cool!" Stephanie jumped off the sofa. "I can't believe Lauren convinced him!"

"Well, she did. And she did a wonderful job." Triona got up to look out the window, suddenly quiet. It was almost dawn, almost time to tell Methos.

"What's wrong?" she asked, concerned, knowing when something worried her cousin. "Methos will be okay, he just needs a few days," she reassured, thinking that may be the problem.

"I'm afraid he won't." Triona sighed unhappily. "Cassandra is here, she came in with the latest refugees." Triona waited for Stephanie to settle down, reminding her that Methos was sleeping. "She was to have been gone long before you got back. Now, I have to tell him when he wakes up, and after your experience, this is *not* a good time." She slammed her hand into the stone wall. "I should have taken her head when I had the chance."

"It'll be okay, Triona, as long as we keep them apart. No reason he needs to see her at all really."

"I hope you're right."



 

In the end, Triona decided she needed moral support. Before Stephanie left for bed, Triona had her take a message to Sarah and Lauren, then to the kitchen staff to have breakfast sent up. She peeked in on Methos, seeing he was still sound asleep. Softly, she closed the door and headed for the shower. As the hot water poured over her, she mulled over what she was going to say, how she was going to tell him. Sighing in frustration, she turned off the water. This wasn't getting her anywhere. As she dried off and dressed, she heard the staff setting up breakfast. By the time she left the bathroom, they were just finishing up.

"Will there be anything else, ma'am?" one asked her.

"No, that's fine," she told them as she eyed the table they had set.

They nodded respectfully before they withdrew.

She took a deep breath, Sarah and Lauren would be here soon, it was time to wake him up. Once more she entered the bedroom, and moved slowly to stand by the bed. Triona hated to wake him; he looked so peaceful lying there. Peace was something of a rare commodity these days. No more delaying, she told herself firmly. You have to get it over with.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, she stroked his arm lightly, calling softly, "Methos, it's time to wake up." She shook him slightly.

He grumbled something unintelligible at her.

"Methos, I know you're tired, but you have to wake up now," she said as she kissed him gently.

"Why?" he grumbled, not opening his eyes.

She avoided the question. "Breakfast is here, all your favorites." She ran her fingers down his chest.

He caught her hands in his. "Food wasn't what I had in mind," he growled, pulling her down and snaking a hand in her hair.

His kiss left her breathless, but she couldn't allow herself to be distracted this morning. Still, it never ceased to amaze her that after all these years; Methos still had the power to reduce her to a quivering mass with just a look, not to mention a kiss.

She broke away. "I'm sorry, but not now. I promise I'll make it up to you." Triona handed him his robe.

"Slave driver," was all he said as he sat up and stretched, pulling on the robe.

Methos followed her out to the breakfast table noting it was set for four and looking at her inquiringly.

"I asked Sarah and Lauren to join us. I thought you'd like that." She didn't quite meet his eyes.

"Thoughtful of you," he told her, wondering what was going on.

He was about to ask when the arrival of the other women interrupted him. Methos hugged each of them in turn. As he released Lauren, he saw a *look* pass between Sarah and Triona. What the hell is going on? Once more, he began to ask, but was bulldozed by an outburst of female chatter that rivaled the noise of a subway at rush hour.

"I'm famished!" Sarah told everyone brightly. "Been too busy to sit down to a decent meal in days. This was such a good idea, Trie!"

"Wasn't it? I'm the same. Rush, rush, rush!" Lauren replied.

"That's what I thought, so this seemed perfect, after all, Methos needed a good breakfast, we needed to catch up, what could be better? So here we all are, and we really should do this more often," Triona said in one long burst, never pausing for breath.

Methos watched and listened, bemused. He had no idea how they managed to talk as much as they did and still eat.  Though, he noted they didn't eat very much, mostly pushed the food around their plates. Something was up, no doubt about it; he could read them like books. Then, they all stopped talking at once, looking at each other, then at him, then down at their plates.

"All right, that is enough," Methos said quietly into the sudden silence. "I want to know what is going on, and I want to know now." He swept a piecing gaze over all three women. "Now, which one of you is gong to tell me?" His tone was low, but it was one they all knew better than to trifle with.

Lauren, seeming to have found a sudden fascination with her plate, started to drag her fork through the maple syrup. Sarah fussed with her napkin, and Triona looked like she'd rather be out in the noonday sun, anywhere but here.

"Fine. I'll pick one. Triona, since you left me the note, you will tell me what is going on. Now."

Triona gulped a little, looking at the others for support. Sighing, she nodded. "Yes, Methos." Pulling her chair closer, Triona took his hand in hers. "A new group of refugees showed up a few days ago." She paused, still not knowing how to tell him.

"Yes?" Methos prompted.

"This isn't easy for me to have to tell you." She would have gotten up to pace, but Methos tightened his grip on her hand, keeping her where she was.

"Just tell me."

Taking a deep breath, she finally said, "I'm sorry, but Cassandra was with them. And she's still here, in the compound." She squeezed his hand. "I'm sorry," Triona said again, her voice unsteady.

Triona winced a little as his hand unconsciously tightened on hers. She looked at the other women worriedly, waiting for him to react.

"Methos?" Lauren asked tentatively, concerned.

He didn't seem to hear her, lost in his own dark memories.

"She is out in the compound, you never have to see her," Sarah offered. "And she'll be gone for good in a few days. Triona has it all arranged, it will all be all right," she told him, trying to get some reaction.

"I'm sorry," Triona apologized, "I should have never listened to Duncan. Never agreed to wait for even a few days." She shook her head in despair. "This is all my fault."

"No, it isn't!" Lauren objected. "It was a good plan. There was no way for you to know what would happen."

Sarah looked concerned. He was still silent, maybe he was angry with them. "Lauren's right, Methos. It isn't anyone's fault, we all agreed that Triona's plan seemed the best for us and for the refugees we have to turn out. Please don't be angry."

Triona couldn't stand it anymore. "Methos, please!" she pleaded.

He started, as if suddenly realizing they were there. "It's okay, love," he said, running his fingers down her cheek. He looked at the others. "I don't blame any of you, I know you've all done the best you can in horribly difficult circumstances," Methos said reassuringly.

Their shoulders slumped in relief. Getting up from their seats they smothered him in a group hug.



 

"I do not know why you don't just kill her and be done with it." LaCroix leaned back in his chair, his legs outstretched.

"You know why, Lucien," Methos snapped, taking another swallow of his scotch.

"Ah, yes. Your guilt." LaCroix smirked. "How quaint."

Methos glowered and slumped a little farther into the sofa. "I don't want to hear it. It has nothing to do with you!"

"It has everything to do with me," he corrected his old friend. "If it concerns Triona -- and anything that affects you affects her -- it is my concern as well." LaCroix considered for a moment, refilling his wineglass. "Did you know that Triona actually pulled a blade on her? Would have challenged the wretched woman, had MacLeod not interfered. It would appear your *guilt* has infected her as well," he finished, his voice tinged with disgust.

“Guilt has nothing to do with it,” he snapped at the vampire who just quirked a brow in disbelief. Methos shook his head. "Cassandra’s fate is not something uppermost in my mind most days. But whatever her eventual fate, I don’t want Triona to have any part in it! Don't you understand?"

"Then you'd best make sure that the you keep Triona well away from her. She would separate that woman’s head from her neck in an eye blink if she thought you were threatened," he informed him.  "And I would think twice before getting between them again should they decide to fight."

"It won't come to that. Duncan is keeping a close eye on Cassandra -- there will be no more incidents."

"I wish I shared your confidence," -- LaCroix drained his glass -- "because this is an explosion just waiting for a spark to set it off."

Methos covered his face with his hands, groaning something unintelligible before smashing his fist back against the sofa. “Damnit! How many Immortals could Triona have befriended? And out of all those, she stumbles across Cassandra! And now she shows up here. Not even World War Three can keep that woman from bedeviling me.”

LaCroix looked thoughtful. “Why does it matter so much?” he asked softly with no hint of his usual acerbic tone. “Cassandra here and now, or in the past, doesn’t change Triona’s love for you. You should realize that by now,” he chided the ancient Immortal.

“Cassandra is a face on my past. It’s one thing intellectually to accept, but quite another for it to be a real woman that you’ve come to care for.” Methos’ jaw clenched. “And what kind of a face would my past have if Triona had Cassandra’s Quickening? I won’t risk that, Lucius. I won’t risk her.”

“You worry too much, old friend. Triona accepts my nature and her feelings for you wouldn’t change no matter what residual, amorphous knowledge she might receive from a Quickening.”

The other man shook his head. “It’s not that simple, and you’re fooling yourself if you think it is!” He waved away LaCroix’s protest. “Yes, she accepts your nature…now. But you’ve changed, Lucius. Circumstances, time, changed you, as they have us all. Be honest, what would you have done if you’d met Triona a century, or two, or three ago?”

Looking away, he replied, “I don’t know.”

“Liar! You know very well – and so does she, you’re fool if you think she doesn’t – she wouldn’t have lived more than few nights at best.” Methos shook his head. “I know you, Lucius, like I know myself. We took what we wanted and used it up because we could, because we ached for the feeling of power it gave us. The man you were would have utterly consumed her, because total possession was the only way you knew to get you what you craved. Whether you’d drained her or brought her across, the result would have been the same.”

“It is foolhardy to wonder what one would do, or what one would have done, Methos. I prefer to concentrate on the here and now – and so should you,” he said pointedly.

The Immortal laughed. “The here and now is highly overrated.”



 

Triona grumbled and muttered, hunting through her closet for the third time. No, it was no use. It wasn't there. "Damn it, Terese, if you don't stop taking my clothes I swear I'll..." she slammed the closet door shut, "I'll..."

"Having a bad day are we, Triona?" LaCroix's smooth voice interrupting her stream of choice words on just what she would do to her sister one of these fine days.

Triona whirled, glaring. "And when do we have any other kind?" she said a little more forcefully than she had intended. One look at LaCroix's face told her she had better backtrack and fast. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snap. It's just I've been worried about Cassandra, and Methos coming home and well…." she trailed off, sighing. She rubbed her temples tiredly, hoping that LaCroix would accept her apology.

Suddenly he was there, tilting her head up. "You know how much I dislike your fits of temper," LaCroix reminded her. Triona shivered a little at the implacable look in his eyes.

"I am sorry, really I am. It was just the last straw in a rotten day." She decided total honesty was her best hope. "I wanted to wear my black cashmere sweater to dinner tonight. The one you gave me in Edinburgh that time…do you remember?"

LaCroix smiled slightly, letting go of her chin, "I do indeed, my dear. I remember the Highland air heightened your *appetites* considerably." His eyes weren't quite as implacable anymore, and Triona breathed a silent sigh of relief. "One day, when the world settles, we must go again." He brushed his lips lightly over hers, before returning to the subject at hand, "So, you wanted to wear the sweater?"

Triona swore silently to herself. Damn, I should have known that wouldn't be the end of it!

"Yes. And I looked and looked. But of course I couldn't find it, because Terese took it." Triona started to get irritated all over again.

"Terese took your sweater?"

"Yes!" She gulped. "Yes, she did," she said more quietly. "She's always borrowing my clothes -- that sweater in particular. And it goes so well with my pearls and well, it just irritates me no end," Triona finished, pouting.

LaCroix's reaction was not what she expected. Anger, annoyance, but not -- laughter. "It isn't funny," she protested. "How would you like it if Methos ransacked your closet on a regular basis?"

That seemed even funnier to LaCroix, causing him to laugh harder. Triona just pouted some more and looked at him truculently.

"Ah, my dear, if you only could see your face! Do you know how amusing it is that you object to sharing articles of clothing, considering what you *have* shared all these years?" LaCroix asked her, shaking his head in amused disbelief.

Triona crossed her arms. "That's different!" The humor of the situation started to get to her too, her lips curling a little in a small smile. "Besides, you have to have your priorities straight. There are some things a girl just won't share -- my cashmere sweater being one of them."

"Are you comparing Methos and myself to your sweater?" LaCroix asked in mock offense.

Triona attempted to look haughty. "Not at all. There is no comparison. I won't share my *sweater*!"  On 'sweater', she lost it, beginning to giggle.

"Then I suppose I'll have to work on becoming a worthy comparison, " he told her, his voice low. LaCroix's lips on hers, and the delicate scrape of his fangs against the soft flesh, stopped her laughter and all thoughts of sweaters.



 

The sun had just set and Triona, desperate for some fresh air, had climbed the many steps up to the top of the turret. She leaned over the edge, watching the lights in the valley settlement come on one by one. This view always reminded her of how important what they were doing here was. Her people, her family, her past and her future; it was all there spread out below her.

Straightening at the feel of an Immortal’s buzz, she turned, her hand making a smooth, unconscious move to the hilt of her sword,  and waited to see who it was. “Duncan?” she called out, seeing his familiar silhouette in the twilight. “What are you doing up here?”

“Looking for you,” he admitted.

Sliding down the wall to sit on the floor, she patted the space next to her. “Take a seat.”

Joining her, Duncan placed a companionable arm around her shoulders. “Did it help?”

Laughing softly, Triona shook her head. “Am I that predictable?”

“Only to those that love you.” Duncan squeezed her shoulder. “Remember, in Seacouver, how you’d always sit on the roof of the Dojo when you were troubled?”

“Yeah, a million years ago.”

“Let it go, Triona.”

She didn’t pretend not to know what he was talking about. “She was my friend, Duncan. Or I thought she was.”

“She was,” Duncan said firmly. “I spent the day with her. I think a part of her regrets what happened. Maybe, if you talked to her….”

“That’s what got me in trouble before! I should have listened to Methos….”

             



 

San Francisco: Autumn 2036

Triona stood under a cypress tree, looking out at the sea of white crosses that stretched before her. Farther out, past the borders of the Presidio military cemetery, fog floated like smoke around the towers of Golden Gate Bridge, edging ever closer to land. The spotlights that illuminated the bridge cast odd shadows in the damp night sky.

She watched Sage…Cassandra, approach her from the road. Methos would kill her if he found out she’d arranged to meet Cassandra – Holy Ground or no. But she had to. Sage was her friend. She couldn’t just turn her back on her without any explanation.

The other woman drew up to where Triona stood. Neither said anything.

Taking a deep breath, Triona finally spoke. “Thank you for coming. I wasn’t sure if you would.”

“I’m surprised he let you,” Cassandra replied coolly.

“Actually, he doesn’t know I’m here,” she admitted. “He didn’t want me to see you again.” That was an understatement, she thought. Methos had been adamant that not only would she not see Cassandra again, but that they would leave town immediately. He seemed to think that Cassandra was a danger to her – something that Triona refused to believe.

Laughing with no humour, she moved closer. ‘I’m sure he doesn’t want you anywhere near me!” Cassandra looked at her intently. “But I’m glad you came. You’re my friend and you deserve to know about the man you’re married to.”

“Cassandra….” Triona began.

“No, listen to me. I know you love him, but you need to know!”

“Cassandra!” This time, she said it with much more force, forestalling the other woman. “I do know. I know everything.” A part of Triona wanted to wrap her arms around her friend. But she knew such a gesture wouldn’t be welcomed.

“He told you?” Triona nodded silently. “About his past, Kronos…” she practically choked on the name.

“Yes,” she almost whispered. “Kronos, the Horseman, your village, what he… did to you.” Triona shook her head. The pain on Cassandra’s face stabbed at her heart. “All of it, Cassandra, all of it.”

Cassandra stiffened, her expression growing hard. “He didn’t just tell you after we met at the restaurant, did he?” Her question was more like an accusation.

“No,” she admitted, shaking her head slightly. “I was Duncan’s student when Kronos found Methos again. It was only fate that you and I didn’t meet then, I suppose. After it was all over, he told me what had happened. He didn’t hold anything back.”

"How could you?" Cassandra shook her head in disbelief. "I thought I knew you. But I don't know anything about you!" she cried.

"Nothing's changed, Cassandra!" Triona wanted to reach the other woman somehow. She knew it was too much to expect that they could remain friends. But god, she hoped they wouldn't end as enemies. "Our friendship wasn't a lie. You must know that!"

"No!" she accused. "My friend would have never stayed with, let alone married, a murdering bastard like Methos!" Cassandra was panting. "I can't even comprehend how the woman I thought I knew could do any such thing."

Triona closed her eyes tiredly. This was degenerating fast, and she didn't know if it was possible to salvage anything at all. "Stop, Cassandra, this isn’t getting us anywhere. I won't defend myself to you because I love my husband. He's a good man," she said quietly.

"Good man?" The older woman made an outraged sound. "You have no idea what it's like to be...violated. To have your family killed in an instant, destroyed, and your entire life ripped apart in terror."

She stiffened at Cassandra's verbal attack, pushing back dark memories of Divia and Hakeem. Now she was angry too, despite her promise to herself to stay calm. "Do you think you have the market cornered on suffering, Cassandra? Just because I'm young, that somehow I couldn't possibly understand what it was you went through? That I haven't been in that place where all you can hope for is to finally be allowed to die; to escape the torment?" Brushing away angry tears, she put her hand against the cypress for support. "No, I guess you didn't know me at all."

"Then why? If you do understand, then it's even more inconceivable to me!"

"Why bother? You don't want to hear what I have to say. You don't want to hear about the man *I* know. How he's saved my life and my sanity, on more than one occasion. How he’s loved me and filled that empty place in my soul that I didn't even know was there." Clasping her arms across her chest, she took a deep breath.

Cassandra laughed bitterly. "You are so naive. You think he loves you? Maybe you're right; maybe he does in some small, selfish part of him. But you're deluding yourself if you think he'd put you before his own survival!"

"This is pointless," the young Immortal said in exasperation. "I should have never come. I thought I needed to at least try, but I was wrong." She’d been a fool to come here. What could have possibly possessed her to imagine she could try and affect something that happened in a time so long ago that it was barely comprehendible?

"You told me that you were in Seacouver when Kronos found Methos?" Triona nodded warily. "Then think about this: what do you think would have happened if Kronos had gotten to you first? Do you honestly think that Methos would have lifted a finger to save you?" Cassandra didn't wait for an answer, pushing past Triona, leaving her alone in the fog...



 

“And did you think about it?” Duncan asked his former student.

Triona peered up at him. “Do you *really* want to discuss this, Duncan? After all, you were less than forgiving in the beginning,” she reminded him gently. In fact, Duncan had told Methos to stay away from Triona if Duncan were to continue training her. Thankfully, it was only a few months before Methos and Mac had begun some rapprochement, but it had been an unpleasant few months for Triona.

At first she’d refused to go back to Duncan with the conditions he’d attached. But Methos had made her see reason, convincing her that he wanted what was best for her, and that was for the Highland Scot to finish her training.  Triona hadn’t been happy about it, but she’d agreed to go back.

Duncan sighed. “No, not really. But I know you, and I will bet you that you barely allowed yourself to dwell on Cassandra’s question, let alone talk to Methos about it.”

“Guilty as charged.” She shifted her legs into a more comfortable position. “What was I supposed to do? Walk up to my husband and drop it into our breakfast conversation? ‘Oh, by the way, Cassandra wants to know if you would have protected me from Kronos?’ Yeah, that would have been great.”

“I don’t know how two people who have been together as long as you can just ignore so many major issues.” Duncan shook his head.

“Damn it, Duncan, Methos was hurting and he was vulnerable. How could you expect me to bring up a subject that would most definitely bring him more pain?” Triona jumped to her feet, hands on her hips. “Just to make me feel better? To reassure myself that he loves me totally and unflinchingly? I am *not* that self-absorbed, thank you very much!”

Reaching a hand up to her, Duncan drew her back down to sit in front of him. “You’re too damn good by half for him, you know that, don’t you?” he asked fondly, tapping her nose.

“You’re just biased because I’m a girl,” she accused good-naturedly. Tilting her head slightly, she chewed her bottom lip, thinking.

“But you did think about it at least a little, didn’t you?” the Scot asked softly.

“Of course I thought about it, Duncan.” She sighed. “And you know what my answer was?” Duncan shook his head. “That I just don’t know.”

“That’s brutally honest,” he told her, squeezing her hand.

“I think he would have done his best in that convoluted manipulative way of his. But at the time, I think he would have thought the best way to protect me was for him to stay alive. “ Triona shrugged tiredly. “Methos saved me from Hakeem, but it wasn’t pleasant.”

Snorting, Duncan said, “That’s an understatement! He stabbed you to death with your own dagger!”

Patting his knee reassuringly, Triona continued, “I won’t tell you that the whole experience wasn’t horrifying, but he did it to save me.  And he did, that's what counts. I forgave him, remember?"

"And then you married him."

"And then I married him," Triona agreed, smiling. "Do you know that when he asked me, I said it was redundant?" She chortled. "He was so mad!"

Duncan joined Triona's laughter. "I remember Methos telling me about that. I could *hear* you telling him."

"And just what else has Methos told you about me?" Triona tapped her finger on the stone, arching one expressive eyebrow.

"Only how he can't believe how lucky he is that you love him." He stroked her cheek, smiling gently. "You both are lucky. I remember the night I walked you down the aisle. I envied that look of absolute love that you had only for him."

"Oh, Duncan." Triona threw her arms around him, sniffling. The buzz of another Immortal made Duncan stiffen. "It's Methos," she whispered, smiling against his ear.

"I think this is where I tell you to unhand my wife," Methos' sardonic voice floated in the Montana night. The lamp he held illuminated the small roof of the turret.

"Do I have to?" Duncan asked with mock regret, sitting back and looking up at Methos with twinkling eyes.

"Oh yes, you do." Methos took Triona's hand, pulling her to her feet. "Take this." He thrust the lamp at Duncan. "Now for you," he said in a low, heated voice, pulling her into his arms.

Matching his tone, she asked, "Is this the bit where you ravish me?" Her arms snaked around his neck, her fingers skimming into his hair.

"Okay, now I know it's time to go," the Scots Immortal said mostly to himself. "You two have fun."

"Not a problem, Mac," Methos answered, laughing softly.

"Love you, Duncan," she called out airily, giggling as he squeezed her shoulders and pressed a kiss onto the top of her head before exiting the turret roof and leaving the two lovebirds alone.

"So here we are," Methos said against her lips, pulling her closer.

"Mmm-hmmm."

"All alone." He tickled her along the ribcage, making her twitch.

"Always the observant one," she teased.

"Just watch it, miss! Need I remind you that you're all alone with me up here, and I caught you in the arms of another man?"

"It wouldn't be the first time," she replied wickedly.

Snorting, he smacked her lightly on the bottom. “What I put up with!”

“What *you* put up with?” She tossed her head.

“Yeah, whatever,” he said, laughing. Suddenly serious, Methos looked into her eyes. “Promise me you’ll stay away from Cassandra.”

Shaking her head, she began, “I can’t promise…”

“Yes, you can. I’m not asking you not to defend yourself if it comes to that, you know that.” She nodded. “But I am asking you to walk away if you can. Please.”

“Damnit, Methos, whatever you might be thinking, I honestly don’t want her dead!”

“I know you don’t. But I also know how things can spiral out of control, especially when it comes to you and Cassandra. You two have a history after all, not to mention your habit of being less than honest with me when it comes to your dealings with her.”

There was no accusation in his voice, but nevertheless, Triona winced a little at the not so subtle reminder of the last time she and Cassandra had crossed paths…..
 

Heidelberg, Germany: Winter 2037

Triona glanced at her watch as she entered Methos’ office at the University of Heidelberg. Five thirty p.m., not as late as she thought she’d be. She’d gotten totally engrossed in her latest project, totally forgetting she was supposed to meet Methos at his office before meeting up with Duncan and Amanda in Frankfurt for dinner. Fortunately, Methos knew what a space cadet she could be, she thought, smiling to herself. His phone call an hour before, with an amused, “You’ve forgotten, haven’t you?” had brought her back to reality with a snap.

But she was here now – thought it appeared Methos was not. His secretary, Marta, looked apologetic as she explained, “I’m sorry, Dr. York, but he had a last minute staff meeting to attend. He asked if you would mind waiting for him here, or, if you prefer, you could go on to Frankfurt without him, and he’ll meet you and your friends at the restaurant.”

Triona sighed. All that rushing around to get ready and it turned out *she* wouldn’t be the one to make them late. She briefly considered going on ahead, but noticed Marta surreptitiously looking at her watch.

“Why don’t you go home, Marta, “ Triona suggested. “I know your children would like to have their mother home on time.” She smiled at Marta’s look of relief. “I can hold down the fort till Brandon gets back.”

“Are you sure it would be all right?” the woman asked, looking torn.

“Of course it will, Marta, “ Triona said soothingly. “Now, I insist you leave! No arguments.”

“Thank you, Doctor. I really do appreciate it. My son is singing a solo at his school recital tonight and…”

“And you need to be there,” she finished for her. “Now, shoo!”

She quickly gathered her coat and purse, thanking Triona yet again on her way out the door. “Oh, I almost forgot!” Marta stopped in the doorway. “An envelope came for Professor York just before you arrived; delivered by messenger. Would you make sure he sees it when he comes back?”

“I’ll make sure, Marta,” Triona assured her husband’s worried secretary.

Finally, she was gone, and Triona shut the door quietly behind her before making her way to the back of the small reception room, pushing open the door to Methos’ equally small office. Dropping gracefully into the leather upholstered chair behind the desk, she took a deep breath, sinking into the cushioned depths of the large old chair. With the edge of her foot, she pushed against the desk, spinning back and forth idly, wondering how long Methos would be. Stopping, she looked out the window to the left of the desk, watching the lights twinkle in dark.

She liked it here in Heidelberg, liked listening to Methos as he regaled her with stories of his time here at the very same university as a medical student centuries before. Everything seemed so peaceful, even normal.  But Triona knew it was a false calm. The world was becoming a more and more unsettled place, with wars and rumours of war. She knew too, that Methos and LaCroix were concerned and were talking about taking measures to safeguard them all should the worst befall. But even those worries seemed far away to Triona tonight, watching the lights of Heidelberg. Right now, in this moment, she was happy. And she intended to hold on to that happiness with every fiber of her being.

Turning away from the window, she glanced over the desk, shaking her head in amused despair at Methos’ bits and pieces strewn over every visible surface of the desk. Now where was that special delivery envelope that Marta had told her about? Ah hah! There it was, perched precariously on a pile of books and data pads. Rescuing it from its less than stable perch, Triona looked at it curiously. The handwriting on the envelope looked oddly familiar she thought, biting her lower lip as she tried to place it.

Realization dawned and a cold hand clutched at her heart as, without thinking, she ripped the envelope open. The cold hand turned to ice as she read the enclosed note. Leaping from the chair, the envelope falling unnoticed to the floor, Triona crushed the piece of paper in her hand violently, hurling it against the far wall. She practically flew out of the office, only stopping long enough to leave a note for Methos: ‘Gone on to Frankfurt. See you soon. Love, T’. Her hand hovered over the note, as she battled with guilt at the lie it contained. Well, it would be true, she reasoned with her little accusing voice. She would take care of this once and for all, and then she would meet Methos in Frankfurt as promised.

Satisfied with her rationalization, Triona squared her shoulders and taking a deep breath, walked out of the office, closing the door with a snap behind her.



 

Parking on the street above Heidelberg Castle, deserted in the winter night, Triona’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. She’d never sought out a fight before. Oh, she’d battled other Immortals, but only when threatened. This was different somehow; she was going to do battle with someone that had been a friend, and if she had to, kill her. She knew what LaCroix would say, “If you’re going to kill, do so without regret, and without doubt.” And what would Methos say? Her hands trembled against the steering wheel. Oh, god, what Methos would say? Did he even have to find out? Could she lie to him?

No time for that now and no place for doubt of any kind. She had to focus on what lay ahead. In the months since her last meeting with Cassandra, Triona had managed to put everything back in its proper mental compartment. And had even convinced herself that it was over, that Cassandra would leave well enough alone. What Methos thought, Triona hadn’t asked. As a couple, they’d always excelled at avoiding troublesome topics; Cassandra had just been one more to add to the list. Triona knew that a part of her resented the intrusion Cassandra had made into her life with Methos; not that the woman had become involved in her life with any ulterior motives. It had all been so innocent. Triona knew it wasn’t fair, or sensible, but that was how she felt. And now, Cassandra was back. But this time, it wasn’t innocent; the note she’d sent to Methos proved that.

Triona took a few deep breaths before getting out of the car. Instinctively, she felt for the comforting length of her sword, hidden in its sheath in her long wool coat. Squaring her shoulders, she slowly made her way down the steps that led to the castle gardens. She knew exactly where she was going; she and Methos had spent many happy summer evening hours strolling through the castle grounds and gardens. Unerringly, she made her way to the bottom terrace to the twin ponds and the hedges that made the spot private and secluded.

Cassandra had chosen well, she thought as she smoothly pulled her sword from its hiding place, slowly blocking out the surrounding area, refreshing the memories of summer walks, letting her feet remember the dips in the frozen lawn and cracks in the paving stones. Then she felt what she’d been waiting for – the touch of an Immortal’s buzz. Silently she watched the other woman approach. It was a dark night, with no moon. Only the indirect light of some nearby light posts and ground lighting illuminated their battleground. This was to Triona’s advantage, her night vision enhanced by her vampiric mutation.

Finally, Cassandra was only a few feet from her, and Triona watched with grim amusement as a look of surprise crossed her opponent’s face. “Not quite who you were expecting?”  she asked sardonically. “What can I say? I’m nosey. I have this really bad habit of opening Methos’ mail.”

Cassandra seemed taken aback at the unforeseen turn in her plans. “You aren’t supposed to be here.”

“Life’s a bitch, isn’t it?” Triona replied with a none too friendly smile on her face. “Shall we?” She gestured with her sword.

The other woman took a step back. “You don’t want to do this,” she told Triona in a soft voice, looking at her opponent intently.  “Walk away.”

“As Jabba the Hut said, your Jedi mind tricks won’t work on me.” Triona strode across the distance between her and Cassandra. “Let me show you how it’s done.” They locked eyes, and Triona’s voice took on a different timbre. “Just relax, Cassandra. You’re so tired, you don’t want to fight. Do you?” She reached out with her free hand, running one finger softly down Cassandra’s cheek. “There now, that’s it, just breath, relax.” The finger traced the line of her jaw, brushing down to rest against the pulse that beat there.

Triona felt a guilty thrill, as gently but inexorably, the tendrils of her control flowed across Cassandra’s mind. The other woman struggled against the unexpected assault, and Triona could feel her anger and her fear. To master another in this way, especially a mind as strong as the other Immortal’s, was a feeling like nothing else. There were few times that she could truly be at one with her Vampire nature, and this was one of them. It was as if her blood was on fire with emotion and power, heady and addictive.

She took a shuddering mental breath, releasing her hold over Cassandra with a snap. Whether she could have mastered Cassandra totally was something she’d never know. Ironically, it was Cassandra’s attempt to mentally control her that had exposed the older woman to Triona’s power, leaving her vulnerable to something she couldn’t have possibly expected. And no doubt, the woman would have been able to resist Triona’s mental machinations once she’d gathered her wits. Perhaps, perhaps not. She was, after all, LaCroix’s creation and had been studious in learning to utilize the powers she did have to offset the vulnerabilities of her mutation.

Quickly stepping back, Triona raised her sword. “There will be no mind tricks for either of us, Cassandra. This is going to be a fair fight with no extras.”

For a moment, she was unsteady as she shook off the remnants of Triona’s mental attack. “Why are you doing this? My battle isn’t with you!”  Cassandra began to warily circle Triona.

She followed suit, with a bark of laughter. “You can’t really believe that! Did you think I’d let you walk away if you somehow managed to kill him? That I wouldn’t hunt you down, no matter how long it took?” Triona was beginning to think that Cassandra had thought exactly that. How could the other woman have misjudged her so thoroughly? She shook her head sharply. “Why couldn’t you just leave this alone? Why couldn’t you leave us alone? Why, Cassandra?  The woman I knew, the woman that was my friend had a complete life; friends, work, a future. She would have left well enough alone!”

“What, Triona? Forgive and forget? I’m sorry I can’t oblige!”

“And I’m not asking you to! It’s none of my business! I wouldn’t presume to tell you to forgive, let alone forget. Your heart is yours. But you have to understand, the world has moved on. Methos has moved on. And part of that moving on includes me, and his family and friends.” Triona’s voice rose. “ I won’t, I can’t, allow you to destroy my home and my family no matter what justification you may have to do so!

“You don’t understand!” she replied in desperate, low voice. “You could never understand,” she declared, her voice now full of anger.

“You’re so wrong, Cassandra.” She shook her head wearily. “Give me your word that you’ll leave us alone, that you’ll stop this now, and we can both walk away.” Triona didn’t hold out much hope that she would do so, but she held her breath, waiting for what she prayed would be agreement.

Emotions chased across Cassandra’s chiseled face, as if she were waging some internal battle. Then she shook her head. Triona’s heart sank even before the words fell into the cold night. “I can’t.”

It was time to end it once and for all. Triona didn’t wait, throwing herself into battle, her sword crashing into Cassandra’s with a sound like shattering ice. It took only seconds for them to be fighting in earnest, neither of them offering quarter. Blades locked, Triona shoved the other woman back, causing her to stumble. As Cassandra regained her footing, Triona pulled back slightly, reassessing her strategy. That was when the buzz of another Immortal hammered at both of them.

“Methos,” Triona whispered under her breath, a tumult of emotions assaulting her – both hers and his.

He stopped midway on the steps, to the left of where Triona stood, hands in his coat pockets.  “Subterfuge was never your strong suit,” he said calmly, glancing at his wife. He walked down a few more steps. “You shouldn’t leave the evidence just lying around.”

The voice was calm, but she knew he was furious with her. What did you expect? she asked herself. But Cassandra swiftly interrupted her thoughts. The other woman, recovering from her surprise, swiftly moved towards where Methos stood on the steps. “Oh no you don’t! You’re fighting me!” She threw herself between Methos and the advancing Immortal. “Or had you forgotten that, Cassandra?”

“I’ve forgotten nothing!” she hissed, looking past Triona to where Methos stood behind her.

“Then let’s get this show on the road, because you’re going to have to get through me first!”

“Enough!” Methos snarled. “This is over, right now.”

Triona heard a familiar snick behind her. She didn’t need to see him to know that one of those hands that he’d had in his pockets now held a gun. “Methos, you can’t,” she began to protest.

“Don’t you dare tell me I can’t interfere, Triona! You lost that right when you started this little adventure of yours.” His voice was withering in its rebuke and she winced inwardly.

“How typical,” Cassandra said. “Fine, you don’t want her to fight your battles for you, then don’t. Fight me now, or I fight her.” She moved closer to Triona. “It’s very simple. Or are you too much of a coward? At least she,” Cassandra pointed at Triona, “has the courage to face me.”

Methos just laughed. “You don’t have to tell me my wife has courage, I know that. And don’t you think taunting me about cowardice is just a little too grade school playground?”

Cassandra snorted. “What’s it to be, Methos?”

“I’d think that would be obvious. No one is going to die here tonight, at least not permanently. You’re going to leave quietly, and we’ll do the same.”

“And if I don’t?” she asked, quirking one expressive eyebrow.

“Then I’m going to shoot you,” came the simple reply.

Cassandra shook her head, laughing with no humour before lunging towards them with no warning. Triona began to react to the attack, but a gunshot, muffled by a silencer, made any defense unnecessary. Cassandra collapsed to the ground at her feet.

Triona whirled, her sword still in its defensive position. “And you think that fixes this?” she asked angrily.

“Yes,” he snapped. “And now, you are coming with me.” It wasn’t a request; it was a command. And Triona bristled at the tone, the adrenaline from her interrupted fight still racing through her.

“The hell I am! If you think I’m going to let her just come after you again, then you’ve totally lost your mind, Methos!” She was so angry, her words came out in pants.

“Damnit, Triona!” Methos was equally enraged. “What part of me telling you to not pull these sorts of stunts don’t you understand? How do you think I’d feel if she’d killed you?”

“It wasn’t a consideration. I would have won – and I still can, if you’d just butt out!”

Methos shook his head in disbelief. “Just like that.”

“I’m good, you know I am. Besides, I have a lot to live for.” She tilted her head back towards where Cassandra lay. “She only has a lot to die for. It makes a difference,” she said, her voice now quiet. Suddenly, she was very tired and her hand, grasping the sword hilt, trembled.

Wearily, he closed his eyes, scrubbing at his hair in agitation. When he looked at her again, he held out his hand to her. “We’re going home now. Come on.”

Still she hesitated. “Methos…”

“Triona,” he warned, his voice once again becoming stern, “don’t push your luck.”

“Or what? You’ll shoot me?” Once the words were out, she regretted them. At the look in his eyes, she wanted nothing more than to take her ill considered taunt back.

“Do you really want to find out?” he replied coolly.

She didn’t answer immediately, carrying on an internal debate as to whether he really would shoot her if she didn’t cooperate.

The debate was interrupted by an exasperated, “Yes, I would.”

Glaring, Triona ignored the still extended hand, and pushed past the ancient Immortal in offended silence, his soft laughter behind her only making her feel more persecuted. He came up to walk beside her not saying a word, but she knew if she looked at him, he’d have that damn smug smirk on his face.

They walked for a few more minutes, Triona stubbornly refusing to speak to him, or even look at him.  Finally she blurted out, “I hate you sometimes.”

‘I hadn’t noticed,” was the nonchalant reply.

“No, I don’t suppose you would have,” she muttered.

‘Hey!” Methos grasped her arm, pulling her to a halt. ‘I’ll take you hating me over standing at your grave any day.”

She stamped her foot in exasperation. “I’m so pleased you have so much confidence in my abilities!”  Pulling out of his grasp, she stomped away angrily.

Behind her, Methos growled in frustration. “In case you’ve forgotten, I’m the one that’s supposed to be angry here! You were the one that opened my mail, you’re the one that lied to me about going on to Frankfurt, you’re the one who stuck your nose in something that wasn’t any of your business!”

She stopped abruptly, whirling to face him, Methos almost crashing into her at the unexpected action.  “You always have an comeback for everything, don’t you? Well, Mr. Ancient Smarty Pants, how long do you think it’s going to take for Cassandra to show up at our front door or to waylay you on your way home from work one night? Well? At least my way, you’d have been safe!” She swallowed back the tears that threatened to fall with some effort. “I’d rather lie to you a thousand times than stand at *your* grave!”

Pulling her into a hard embrace, he said softly, ‘It’s going to be okay, love.”

“You don’t know that.” The anger was gone and all that remained was the sadness.

“This time I do. We’re going back to Montana, to the Keep.”

Triona was surprised at the sudden decision. She knew Methos and LaCroix had discussed it, but hadn’t realized they thought things were dangerous enough to warrant such a sudden move. “Do you think things are that bad?”

“I do, and so does Lucien. We need to have a safe place to sit this out, all of us.”  Methos sighed tiredly. “While we’ve both been through a few collapses of civilization, this will be the first where we could be vaporized. We’ll be safer in the mountains.”

“If it’s even possible to be safe in such times,” she whispered.

Methos didn’t answer as she sank against the solid weight of his body, their arms wrapping around each other, as if warding off all the troubles of the world.



 

 “Nothing’s changed, Methos,” she whispered. “I will still do anything I have to not to stand at your grave.”

He sighed, stepping away from her. “If you can’t give me your word, love, then you leave me no choice.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked suspiciously, grabbing his wrist before he could turn away.

He looked at her, his expression a mixture of love and resolve. “I won’t risk you in a fight with her. I’ll challenge her here and now to prevent you from doing so.”

Triona searched his eyes and realized he meant it. “No! I won’t let you!”

“This has gone on long enough. You were right in Heidelberg – it’s long past time this was ended once and for all.”

Furious and scared, Triona relented. “I promise! Damnit, Methos, I promise.”

What his response would have been, Triona would never know. At that moment, the alarm claxon sounded in the night, drowning out anything he might have said. “Raiders!” they both said in unison, running to the tower door.
 



 

Triona reached her command post, shouting orders to those Keep inhabitants who were assigned to this section in the event of an attack. The Keep itself was not in danger, but the refugee camps were much more vulnerable to the raiders who were now attacking. Quickly, Triona gathered up her best fighters and raced down the hill to where the battle was already fully engaged.

Time ceased to have any real meaning as the fight raged. The sound of gunfire and explosions intermingled with screams of the dying and the crying of children. Running out of ammunition, something there was never enough of, Triona pulled out her sword and dagger, before charging a knot of raiders that were about to break the defensive line of the refugee camp. She felt the buzz of another Immortal, and only knew it was not family. Whether it was Cassandra, or one of the raiders, she had no way to know. It was just one more thing to keep track of in the confusion.

As suddenly as it had started, it was over. The silence, after the sounds of battle, was almost deafening. But one ‘sound’ was still there – that buzz of the other Immortal.  Slowly, Triona turned, not surprised to see Cassandra standing there. The other woman looked as bedraggled as Triona felt.  Clothing torn, covered in blood, an implacable look on her face. The light of the moon cast her features in sharp angles and shadows. And, she noted wearily, Cassandra’s sword remained up, prepared to do battle.

Triona felt a wave of exhaustion pass over her as she realized that there was still one fight ahead of her this night. “Please walk away, Cassandra.” There was no anger this time, only a resigned sadness.

“I don’t know if I can.” Cassandra’s reply seemed equally resigned.

“Don’t you? Look around. Hasn’t there been enough death here tonight? Hasn’t there been enough death since the war? Enough blood spilled?” Triona lowered her sword. “I think there has.”

“It’s not that easy.” The pain in the other woman’s voice made Triona wince.

Shaking her head, Triona replied, “I know it’s not easy, I never said it was. But aren’t you tired of this? I know I am. And more than that, it tears me up for us to be enemies. You have to know I never wanted that.”

“You may not have wanted it, but it was inevitable,” she snapped, her sudden anger taking Triona by surprise.

“Only inevitable to you.” Triona held on to her calm with an iron fist. “Not to me.”

Cassandra pointed her sword accusingly at Triona. “Not to you because you are the one who has *everything*!” She took a step forward. “He has everything,” she said in a whisper.

“I don’t understand, Cassandra!” Triona shook her head in confusion.

“Methos took everything from me!” she shouted. “I’d dealt with that, long ago. But then he took you from me as well. And if that wasn’t enough, he had a family, people that loved him. He had what he took from me. And that, I couldn’t forgive.” Cassandra’s voice broke.

Finally, Triona understood.  It all made so much sense, she couldn’t understand how she never realized it before. “I’m sorry.”

Cassandra sighed tiredly. “It doesn’t change anything.”

“Maybe not, Cassandra. But you can change what your next step is going be. I don’t want to fight you. I never really have in my heart.” She reached her hand towards her onetime friend. “You said Methos took me away, my friendship away, from you. That’s not true – you did that,” she said softly. “I don’t know if we can be friends again, but we can start by not being enemies. Can’t we?”

“Can we?”

“I think we can at least try.”

Cassandra nodded, dropping her sword to her side, before walking away.

Triona didn’t move, frozen in place for what seemed an eternity as she watched Cassandra grow smaller as the distance between them grew. She heard hoof beats, then felt Methos as he drew nearer.  He drew even with her, dismounting and coming to stand next to her. “I kept my promise, Methos.” She didn’t look at him.

“And…?”

“And, it’s over.”

“How can you be sure?” He sounded worried.

“Because she can’t bear to lose anything else.” This time Triona did look at him, for a moment, before quickly dropping here eyes. “And neither can I.”

Methos didn’t try and stop her as she walked away.
 
 

End
 


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