Thanks to Shirl for beta reading, and to the usual gang for ideas and support.

This story takes place directly after "Hunger". Rated R for sexual situations and violence. LaCroix, Methos, Janette, Duncan and Nick belong to their creators. The rest belong to a few others and me.

Addendum August 2006: another of the older stories tweaked a bit to fix continuity errors.


Turning the Page

by Ithildin
c.1998



Turning the Page - Part One

"But I don't understand. How could this be?" Triona, distraught, paced the length of LaCroix's Paris study in agitation, stopping to stare out the window blankly.

"In all honesty, I don't know, my dear. Neither Methos, or myself have ever even heard even a whisper of such an occurrence."

She didn't reply. He wasn't even sure she had even really heard him.

LaCroix watched his youngest child as she tried to deal with the rather unexpected results of her first quickening. First Hunger was an overwhelming experience even when expected and prepared for. As totally unforeseen as her sudden transformation was, no one, let alone Triona, had had anyway to prepare for the onslaught of emotional chaos that had taken her.

He remembered the feelings that had sung across their bond: the hunger, the desire -- the rapture of Methos' blood coursing through every fiber of her being. LaCroix had felt in that moment all that he had hoped for her, and the others. All his plans and dreams to make them one with him for eternity. Dreams that had been dashed that morning when Methos had told him that all but one of his chosen family would be Immortals.

LaCroix sighed. For all his disappointment, for all that he had reveled in his fledgling finally attaining what he had thought she never would, he regretted the actions that had made her as she was: a quirk, not whole in any world -- Human, Immortal or Vampire -- always vulnerable to all three. And that was his personal burden to bear.

He had dealt with Methos a few hours before, the ancient Immortal as bewildered as LaCroix had ever seen him. If Triona suddenly transforming into a vampire had stunned him, it had shaken Methos as few things had in five thousand years.  

LaCroix had finally convinced him to leave the chateau, to take the other women out for the evening, so he could deal with the repercussions when Triona finally awoke. He felt it best that the two have a chance to gather their thoughts apart, to adjust to the new bond they shared, before seeing each other again.

Triona had slept for almost twenty-four hours after her first feeding, awakening exactly as she had been before that fateful night -- still not whole. LaCroix had been waiting for her when she woke up, waiting till she was ready to talk.

Still, she stared out the window, not seeing the twilight lit garden, or the first stars peeping from the darkening sky. "Triona," his voice called softly, yet still compelling her to respond. Sighing, she turned to look at him.

He held out a hand. "Come, sit with me, child."

She walked to over to where he sat, taking his hand, letting him draw her down. Instead of placing her next to him as she expected, he pulled her into his lap, cradling her against his chest as if she were a child.

"What will happen next time?" She was stiff with worry against him, her anxiety palpable through their bond.

"I'm not entirely sure," he admitted. "One can only surmise the same outcome will result. Whether it will be as intense as the first, I have no idea." He stroked her hair soothingly, his fingers moving to her neck, kneading at the knots of stress he found there. "If you follow the same pattern as other fledglings, you should never again experience the mindless need of first hunger. In time, you will gain more control."

"But I couldn't control it -- couldn't stop myself. Her voice broke. "What if it had happened away from you? What if it does happen again, and I'm alone? I could kill anyone, and not even know it till it was too late. I'm a danger to you, to my family, to the Community." She was almost sobbing now. "What if the Enforcers find out? They'll never let me live. And they'd be right," she whispered.

"That isn't going to happen, do you understand me, Triona?" He shook her lightly to punctuate his point. "You are not to concern yourself with Enforcers. I am well able to deal with them. As for what will happen next time, you must trust me, and Methos, to keep you from harm." LaCroix turned her to face him, taking her face in his hands. "I will protect you, always. I ask you to trust me in this."

She nodded shakily, one tear tracing a silvery path down her cheek.

He leaned in, capturing the salty droplet with his lips, his arms pulling her to him in a tight embrace. He felt her heart speed up as he caught her lips with his, kissing her gently, then with more intensity as she returned his attentions with increasing fervor.

As he pushed her yielding body down onto the sofa, he thought, I will protect you my dearest, even if from yourself.  Already, a plan of action was forming, one that would require Janette's unique touch. In all likelihood, Triona would hate him for what he planned, but it would ensure her safety, and the family's – and in this he would not be thwarted.

Decision made, he turned his full attention back to his lover-child-companion. That was for later. Tonight, he had other, more pleasing plans with which to occupy himself….
 
                               



The place hadn't changed. Seventy years and only the fashions were different. Tonight, even the music was the same -- an "Early Days of Jazz" night.

Methos leaned back in the booth, sipping his single malt as the familiar sounds of female conversation drifted over him, mingling with the deep strains of jazz that filled the club. He smiled to himself, remembering a brat with eyes like amethyst. He hadn't seen Lexie in almost forty years and he wondered if she was well. She would breeze back into his life for a few weeks, and then would be off again. They had found that the years had not dulled the rather fiery aspects of their relationship, and that they got along much better in small doses.

He pulled himself back to the present and to his current companions. Perhaps not brats, but a trial to him a great deal of the time nonetheless. But more precious for all that -- the closest thing he'd had to a family in a very long time. He noticed the surreptitious looks the women gave him, trying to give him space, but concerned about the last day's shock and how he was taking it.

They were having their own troubles dealing with what had transpired. Not far in the back of their minds was the thought: what if it had happened when one of them had been the only source of blood? Would Triona have turned on them in the mindlessness of first hunger? And could it still happen?

"Not very cheery tonight, are we?" Methos asked the four women.

"I'm worried about Triona," Lauren admitted. "She has always been sensitive to her… well, her odd nature. What will this do to her?"

The others nodded. Sarah commented, "If this has upset us, how on earth will she feel? We all have to reassure her, to make her less self-conscious." All four nodded, then as one, turned to Methos.

"Hey!" he protested. "Why are you looking at me? Do you think I would do or say anything to upset her?"  

They all looked at each other, using that silent female language they all seemed to understand. Even after five millennia, Methos had no idea how they did it. Then they all turned to him again.

Sarah cleared her throat, giving herself time to gather her thoughts. Finally, deciding she just had to say it, she said, "Methos, it's not exactly a secret that you are… well, uncomfortable with vampire nature."

Terese continued, "What do you think it will do to her if she feels that you are repulsed by her?"

"I know how it would make me feel," Lauren added. "I'd be devastated."

"And now you have a blood bond -- anything you feel will be amplified, will hit her harder," Stephanie tried to explain. "This is new to you -- now there's a first -- so you don't know what it's like." Her eyes took on an unfocussed, dreamy quality, remembering.

Methos looked distinctly uncomfortable. He shifted a bit in his seat, an annoyed set to his face. "I have no intention of doing anything that would hurt her. I would have thought you would all think better of me than that," he told them reproachfully.

"It isn't that we think you would set out purposely to hurt her, Methos," Sarah tried to reassure him. "But you know as well as I do that sometimes it's the unintentional that hurts the most. Please, just be careful."

"Ever since LaCroix tried to bring her across," Terese said, flinching a little at the cold look that appeared in his eyes at the mention of that particular event, "and failed." She took a deep breath and plunged ahead. "She has become much more dependent on you and LaCroix, partly out of necessity and partly because you have given her no choice…."

"Duncan is the only one who doesn't treat her like she's ill or a child," Stephanie interjected darkly.

Methos looked ready to erupt at that, and Terese hurried on, not pausing for breath or for a chance for him to interrupt, "And I know you both are trying to do what's best. But I don't think you realize just what would happen if you were to leave -- leave her." She bit her lip, dropping her eyes, not wanting to see just how mad he probably was.

"I wouldn't take the moral high ground just yet, ladies," he bit out. "Don't think that I didn't know exactly what passed through your minds when you found out she would make you a snack without a moments hesitation."  He slid his chair back with a clatter, standing abruptly. "I'd examine my own conscious before preaching to mine," he told them witheringly. With one last glare, he turned away sharply and headed to the bar.

The women looked at one another, shoulders slumped in defeat. Lauren sighed. "I guess we didn't handle that very well."





LaCroix eased Triona into a deep, controlled sleep. It wouldn’t do for her to stumble across tonight's business. As mentally exhausted as she was, it had been easy to take her mind and lead it where he would.

Sure that she would sleep for hours, he pulled the covers more firmly around her, brushing her lips with his. Then, he silently left the room.

Once in his study, he made a brief call, then sat back and waited.

                            *  


Turning the Page - Part Two


"So you see, my dear, " LaCroix said, as he handed Janette a glass of wine-laced blood, "why I called you." He sat down in the chair opposite his 'daughter', raising his glass in a toast.

Janette eyed her Master consideringly, sipping delicately from her glass. She couldn't quite believe what he had told her. Triona, a vampire, even an occasional one? "You're mad," was all she said.

He narrowed his eyes. 'I didn't ask for your opinion, Janette. Merely your compliance," he said quellingly, his voice sending a shiver down her spine.

She placed her glass carefully on the end table. "I don't know that you fully realize just how badly she will react to this… plan, of yours."  She felt the sting of his anger through their link, but forced herself to continue, "However well intentioned it is -- and I do understand why you feel the necessity of this action -- she will hate you for it. Is it worth the risk? You could lose her. Maybe forever." She tried to will every ounce of her concern into her words, only hoping that he would listen.

It wasn't to be.

"Do you think I would embark on such a venture without considering the consequences? To her? To the others? Do you?" he rapped out, demanding an answer.

She sighed silently in defeat, looking him squarely in the eyes. "No, LaCroix."

He forced himself to calm. He knew she was concerned, because she cared. In a more level voice, he explained, "I don't take this step lightly and I am well aware that her reaction will more than likely be… unpleasant. However, I see no other option. I am her Master. It is I who have the ultimate responsibility for her actions." Standing, he walked over to the fireplace, staring into the flames. "And if those actions could be a danger to her, to this family, I require the knowledge to be able to plan accordingly." He fell silent, deep in thought.

She walked over to where he stood, placing a cool hand on his shoulder. "If there is no other way," she said quietly, "I will, of course, carry out your instructions."

LaCroix turned, looking down on her. "Pay Mr. Dawson a visit, use your unique abilities to procure the information I require." He absently ran one long finger down her cheek. "And then. And then…."

                               


Methos downed his scotch, trying to drown his worry, anger, and doubt in an alcoholic haze. Suddenly, the buzz of another Immortal buffeted his senses. Not now. I do not NEED this!

He quickly scanned the room: Sarah, Lauren, and Stephanie were at the table. Terese -- where was she? Damn! He began to ease away from the bar, moving towards the door. If he could get just lure whoever it was outside and away from the women….

"Running off so soon, old man?"

He whirled to the sounds of delighted giggles, finding himself face to face with the object of his earlier thoughts. "Lexie?"

"Your favourite pupil back to keep you on your toes!"

                                  



“.... So, we took the car anyway and ended up, with the damned goat still in tow, in a pension in Gascony!" Lexie finished with a flourish.


All but Terese laughed at Lexie's hilarious story. She just sat in her chair as expressionless as a stone. The others were too taken by the vivacious Immortal to notice.

"She always was a brat," Methos told the others. Lexie stuck her tongue out playfully at him.

Methos had introduced them all, and after catching up on the last forty years with her former teacher, Lexie had proceeded to regale them with tales of her and Methos when they had been together. Stephanie, Sarah, and Lauren had been instantly charmed, liking the funny, personable woman. Terese, on the other hand, had taken an instant dislike, and was all the more annoyed because her family didn't share her distaste.

"You look wonderful, Alexandra," Methos said warmly, squeezing her hand. "Would you believe I was just thinking about you not an hour ago?"

Lexie smiled fondly. "I'd believe it. This is where it all started, after all."

"And what a start it was."

She laughed, amethyst eyes twinkling. "That it was." She took a sip of her drink. "As for looking wonderful -- well I suppose you could say it was my job. I'm my own best advertisement, don't you know?"

"Oh?"

"Mmm, Lexandra Designs - Haute Couture. That's me!"

"You? A fashion designer?" He shook his head in amusement. "It suits you."

"Not just a fashion designer! One of the hottest young artists in today's fashion, I'll have you know," she informed them, grinning with glee. "All the magazines say so!"

Methos looked at the others knowingly. "Do we have someone who will love to meet you!" They all nodded.

"Oh? Who?"

"Someone very special, who probably spends most of her disposable income on your clothes. A fan."

"I can't wait. So where do I meet this wonderfully discerning person?"





Methos and the other women had taken Lexie up to a guestroom, leaving Terese with LaCroix in the sitting room.

"A delightful woman," LaCroix commented, a speculative gleam in his eye.

Terese snorted, downing her vodka.

He arched a brow. "Obviously you would disagree, my dear."

She poured herself another drink. "She's a vapid, self-absorbed brat!"

He chuckled. "The others seem to like her…."

She snorted again. "No idea why."

He took the glass out of her hand, placing it on the table next to her. "I think we should change the subject to something more pleasant then. Don't you?" he murmured, kissing her gently.

"Oh, yeah," Terese sighed, pulling LaCroix's head closer. This was definitely her idea of a more pleasant subject.





"I'd love to see your new line," Triona told Lexie, deftly sidestepping the wash of sunlight that slanted in through the window. "I suppose Methos has already told you I'm something of a clothes hound.” She grinned, handing their guest a cup of tea.

"He did mention something." Lexie grinned back.

"I just bet he did," she grumbled good-naturedly.

"He's your teacher?" Lexie changed the subject, admitting to herself she was terribly curious about Methos' life here.

"Who, Methos? No," she laughed. "He's most definitely not. Not that he didn't want to be. But we are far too emotionally involved for him ever to have the detachment needed to teach me properly."

"I see." She sipped at her tea. Indeed she did see. Veiled, but a warning nonetheless. Methos was hers -- hands off.

"Plus, we probably would have killed each other." She smiled softly to herself. "No. So he shipped me off to his friend Duncan MacLeod. In fact, I've only been home a few months."

"Then you deserve a treat. How about we go to my boutique here in Paris? I'd really like you to try on some of my new stuff; it'll suit you to a T."

Triona quickly calculated the hours till it would be safe for her to venture outside. Luckily, the waning year brought shorter days. "I have some business I must get done today. Would four o'clock be too late for you?"

"No, four would be perfect," Lexie agreed.

The two women sipped their tea in companionable silence for a few minutes, Lexie finally asking, "Where are the others? I haven't seen them since breakfast."

"Stephanie is off test driving sports cars. Sarah, Terese, and Lauren are at a special exhibit of rare artifacts from the Roman Empire at a museum that LaCroix is a benefactor of, and I have no idea where Methos has gotten himself off to. I haven't seen him for quite awhile actually." Lexie noted the worried look that flashed across the other woman's eyes at mention of Methos.

"Well, I guess it'll just be us then!" she said brightly.

"More clothes for me." Triona raised her cup to Lexie in a toast, grinning happily.

                           



Sarah, Lauren, and Terese made small talk and sipped champagne with other museum donors, and with the various and sundry VIP guests at the museum opening.

They were bored out of their minds, but this was part of their job: keeping an eye on LaCroix’s various business interests and philanthropic concerns. This special exhibition was one of them.

“How much longer?” Terese whispered slightly too loudly to Sarah.

Sarah made a shushing sound, gesturing the other two women to a nearby corner, quickly looking around to make sure no one else had heard. “A little longer. You know what LaCroix said!”

Terese muttered to herself, put out at having to waste her afternoon here, but not quite brave enough to actually defy LaCroix’s express wishes. “I know, I know.”

“Well, if you know, then stop griping!” Lauren glared, not enjoying herself any more than Terese was.

“Triona should be here. She actually likes this sort of thing,” Terese complained.

“Oh, right. A barbecued representative would really make an impression,” Sarah replied sarcastically.

“She could have been smuggled in!” Terese protested.

Lauren rolled her eyes. “Geez, Terese, what is with you? Ever since last night you’ve been a grumpy old bear! And besides, Triona does more than her share of these things, and you know darn well she doesn’t enjoy them -- she just dislikes them less than you do.”

“Yeah, well, she’s LaCroix’s damn business manager. It’s her job; not mine! And she’s had almost two years off, so why I’m here and she’s not....” Terese trailed off into inaudible mutters.

Sarah looked at Terese in amazement. “Off? You call what she’s spent the last months doing ‘off’’? I give up! You want to be bitchy and obnoxious, then go right ahead, but I’m not going to stand around listening to it! If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go look at some of those exhibits a little closer.” With one last glare at Terese, Sarah walked off.

“Well it’s true! She finally comes home, and now she’s some sort of mutant and see if LaCroix pays any attention to any of us with him fussing over her all the time! And now Methos’ little pet, Lexie, shows up. We may as well join a convent!”  Terese drained her champagne, wishing it were something stronger.

Lauren was disgusted. “I’m with Sarah. I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but I’m not going to listen to it either!”  

“Lauren....” But it was too late, she had already left. Angry at letting herself feel even the slightest twinge of guilt, Terese went off in search of more champagne. Maybe they didn’t want to listen to her now, but one day soon, she was going to get to say ‘I told you so.’

*
                  

Turning the Page - Part Three


She finished changing, smoothing down the soft wool of her long charcoal skirt and straightening her jacket. Looking at herself in the mirror, she absently brushed aside one stray strand of hair, wondering if she could see the difference -- the change. Looking for the creature she had been.

Only familiar eyes looked back at her, the same ones that had always looked back at her. No overt sign of the vampire that had existed a few nights before, the vampire that still dwelled somewhere deep within. Only the same face, ageless now, trapped in one moment of time -- a moment that had changed her more than she had ever thought possible.

The presence of another Immortal startled her from her reverie. No, not just any Immortal -- Methos. She knew it was him. Turning slowly towards the door, her gaze captured his, standing there, just watching her, like he wasn’t sure if she was really even there.

She dropped her eyes, suddenly shy. She hadn’t seen him since... since that night. Heat, hunger, need -- the feelings of that night washed over her, leaving her momentarily breathless.

As she struggled for control, she realized she felt him there with her. Not as vital a presence as LaCroix, or as familiar as the other women, but Methos’ essence was in her mind nonetheless. It was all so confusing -- so unexpected. Nothing had prepared her for a bloodlink with him. Did he feel it too?

“I’m sorry,” she finally whispered, eyes still downcast.

“It isn’t your fault. None of it is your fault.” She heard the pain in his voice, and it surprised her.  

“I... I.…” she stumbled over her words. It was so hard. “I will understand if you... if you don’t want to be with me anymore,” she finally got out. Still, she didn’t look at him.

Don’t....” he began, only to be cut off by her panicked voice.

“No, please; no platitudes. I can’t bear it. I know how you feel about vampires, how you must feel about me now, after what happened.” Her voice cracked under the weight of emotion that bore down on her. She could hear her own breath in her ears, labored and agitated. “I don’t want to see the repulsion in your eyes, the distaste when you touch me.” She couldn’t breathe, her heart beating so furiously it must surely burst under the strain.

She turned away. Oh please, let him leave now, she silently prayed.

Hands gripping her shoulders and whirling her around left her too stunned to react as hard, warm lips took hers in a bruising kiss. He pushed her against the wall, crushing his lean body into her soft curves as his hands slipped up under her jacket to find her breasts with long, warm, fingers. His mouth traced over every inch of her face, kissing and tasting the familiar lines and planes. Legs weak, she leaned all her weight against him, letting him do what he would, only wanting him to hold her like this forever.

He pulled back, looking down on her with dark eyes. “I don’t ever want to hear you say anything like that ever again.” He shook her for emphasis. “Do you understand me?” he asked, voice rough with passion and worry. “Do you?”

She curled her hands into the fabric of his shirt, shaking her head. “But you don’t have to do this, you...."

Methos gripped her chin, forcing her head up to look at him. “Stop it! Not one more word! I am not leaving. Do you understand? Damn you!” She shrank back in his grip, he was as angry as she had ever seen him, but the wall behind her made it pointless. Her continued silence seemed to make him even angrier. “I asked you a question, and I expect an answer!”

“Yes, Methos. I understand,” she said quietly.

“Yes, Methos, I understand,” he repeated angrily. “I have half a mind to put you across my knee for even thinking such nonsense!” She looked up with startled eyes at his threat. Sighing noisily, he continued in a gentler tone, “But that will keep till later.” He drew her into his arms, nestling her head against his chest, stroking her hair. “I know we have things we will need to adjust to, sweet. But we will adjust, you have to trust me.”

Her voice muffled against his chest, she answered, “I do trust you; I always have.”

“I know that, love. And I pray I never give you cause to ever regret that trust.”

“You won’t,” she said simply, looking up at him with eyes full of faith -- faith in him. A faith he knew deep down he didn’t deserve.

He cupped her face in his hands, gently touching her lips with his. Her hands linked behind his neck, pulling him closer. “I think we should move this to somewhere more comfortable,” he said against her lips.

“Oh!” she started. “I’m supposed to be meeting Lexie....”

“I told her you were going to be late.” He began moving her towards the bed.

“You did did you?” She gasped a little as his hands slid under the waistband of her skirt, skimming the bare skin underneath. “Maybe I don’t want to be late.”

He continued to back her towards her bed. “I never considered that a serious possibility,” he breathed.

“Oh? Well, maybe you should have.” She lost her balance as he gave her a little shove, falling back onto the bed.

He knelt next to her, fingers undoing buttons and snaps. “Really? Well, then that leaves us with an interesting quandary.”  He unsnapped the front of her bra, pushing the fabric away from her breasts. She arched against him as he brushed his tongue across one nipple.

“A quandary?” she gasped.

“Mmm-hmm.” He looked at her with gleaming eyes. “We do have that unfinished business to take care of; if we aren’t going to make love, that is.” He smiled a wicked little smile as he lifted her slightly off the bed to remove her jacket and bra, tossing them aside.

Her mind raced, not liking the evil look in his eyes. Before she could respond, he flipped her over, his hands going to the zipper on her skirt, pulling it down, and gently easing the fabric over her hips and down her legs. He stroked her bottom, flicking at one garter, then running his finger under the elastic leg of her panties.

“And no matter what you decide, you’re in the perfect position.” She could hear the smile in his voice.

Suddenly, his meaning became clear. “Methos, you wouldn’t!”

“I did say it would keep till later.” He swatted her bottom lightly. “I didn’t specify when later would be, after all.”

“If you think I’m going to let you bully me, you can think again!” She tried to turn over, but his hand at the base of her spine kept her immobile. “That isn’t fair!”

“No. But it’s very enjoyable from my perspective,” he said smugly. He kissed the crease between her thigh and buttocks while his free hand delved deeper between her legs.

“Ohhhhhhhh,” she moaned as his fingers worked deeper and harder.

“Was that a ‘yes’, or a ‘no’?”

“Damn it, you bastard! Ohh!” she shrieked as he slapped her bottom again, harder this time.

“Such language!” he tsked reprovingly. “I can see you’ve picked up some bad habits with MacLeod. I’m beginning to think that this spanking may be needed more than I thought.”

“Bad habits aren’t the only thing I learned!” Suddenly, she twisted under his grip, freeing herself, and unbalancing him in the process. Pressing her advantage, she quickly straddled him, pressing down on his shoulders. “You were saying?” She quirked a brow, smiling smugly.

He grinned, cupping her bottom with his hands as she combed his dark hair through her fingers. “This.” In an eye blink, she found herself on her back, with Methos pressed against every inch of her, kissing her hungrily.

As his mouth moved to her breasts, she sighed, “Late is good....”





“All of you! Against the wall! NOW!” one of the heavily armed men yelled in badly accented French.  

Sarah did as she was told, while anxiously scanning the crowd for Lauren and Terese. She’d lost sight of them once the armed terrorists had burst into the museum in a rain of bullets. They had killed at least two guards. Even with the extra security, they had never stood a chance against the heavily armed attackers.

She wasn’t sure what they wanted, but they seemed jumpy and nervous, ready to shoot anything or anyone that moved. The one in front of her scanned the room, eyes darting here and there. They were acting like men who had little to lose, and it terrified her.

Over on the other side of the room, she could hear a woman crying hysterically, and one of the thugs demanding she shut up in what seemed to be an eastern European accent. Serbs maybe? Then she heard the sound of a fist striking flesh, and the woman began to scream.

Then she saw her, the terrorist dragging her into Sarah’s line of sight.  “Shut your mouth, or I’ll do it permanently!” he shouted, waving his gun menacingly at the prone, sobbing woman. “I said to SHUT UP!”  The man raised the butt of his automatic weapon to strike his terrified victim. That was when Sarah finally saw Lauren as she ran to the aid of the woman.

“Leave her alone!” Lauren broke from the crowd, attempting to protect the woman at the terrorist’s feet.

“Lauren! No!” Terese yelled, trying to stop her, running after her.

It all happened so fast after that. Sarah saw it all in a blur: Lauren running towards the woman, Terese following, the gunman thinking he was being attacked, the gun coming up, a spray of bullets exploding from the muzzle. Sarah heard a woman scream as the bodies of her sisters fell in the now deathly silent room.  As their presence in her mind suddenly disappeared, she slid to the floor in shock -- and realized she was the one that was screaming.

She covered her face with her hands, not able to look anymore. Dead. They can’t be dead. Only LaCroix can kill them; he’ll be so annoyed, she thought, hysteria and shock seeping through her stunned mind.

“Let that be a warning to you all!” said the one who appeared to be the leader. “They will only be the first to die this night if our demands are not met!”  Then he motioned to two of the male hostages. “Take the bodies and dump them out front. Let your government see we are serious.”

The stunned men gently picked up the two women’s bodies and carried them to the entry, covered by two armed men. As the one carrying Lauren placed her on the step, he suddenly bolted toward the police surrounding the museum, hitting the ground rolling, the police laying down a covering fire to aid his escape. The terrorists returned fire, grabbing the remaining man and dragging him back into the museum with them.

“And now… we wait,” stated the leader.

Sarah swore a blood oath to herself in that moment: I’ll see all of you dead, and if not me, then LaCroix and Methos will. I will see them avenged!




Triona lay curled against Methos, dozing contentedly, one of his hands on her breast, the other warm between her thighs. As she hovered in that place between dreams and sleep, she felt a tickle of unease, then LaCroix in her mind, unsettled and worried. She opened her eyes, not surprised to find his ice blue ones looking back at her.

“What’s wrong?” she whispered, feeling a twinge of embarrassment, as silly as that was at this point in their lives together. She had no idea what would bring LaCroix here with Methos in her bed, only that it must be bad whatever it was.

He didn’t answer immediately, his hand brushing the tousled hair away from her eyes, breathing her scent, his scent, the two of them as intertwined as their bodies were. By all the gods he wanted to drink from her at this moment! A moment he had waited years for. A moment that he would never have, as he and Methos had agreed. The Immortal was only willing to share up to a point.

The urge was almost overpowering, wanting to taste him in her blood, and her in his, the new blood link still strong from shared passion. Still silent, she looked at him with eyes still dark from lovemaking, waiting for him, letting him draw her into the spell that held him. He leaned in, kissing her slightly swollen lips. Just a nip, opening her lip, the blood welling onto his tongue.

She made a little noise, like a sigh, as his fangs made their cut, as her blood flowed. Then the spell was broken, her lip healed, LaCroix’s eyes once more ensnaring hers.

“Something is wrong," he whispered. "I don’t know what. You feel it as well?” It was a statement more than a question.

“Yes. I felt it as I slept. Then you were here.” Triona tried to disentangle herself from Methos, LaCroix handing her her robe.

“What’s going on?” Methos asked, finally awake.

“Trouble," Triona and LaCroix answered in unison.


  *

Turning the Page - Part Four


After quickly dressing, Methos and Triona made their way downstairs to meet LaCroix in the study. They found Lexie with him, their faces grave as they listened to a news report on the radio.

“What’s going on?” Triona looked at LaCroix and then to Lexie.

“There's been a hostage taking at the museum. It doesn’t sound good,” Lexie told Methos and Triona.

“We need to get over there,” Methos said.

“I will meet you there,” LaCroix agreed. A look passed between the three that Lexie couldn’t fathom.

“NO!” Triona screamed in sudden pain, collapsing to her knees, holding her head.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” Methos demanded, dropping to his knees next to her. She just held her head, shoulders shaking. He looked to LaCroix for an explanation, taken aback at the mask of pain on the ancient vampire’s face.

“They’re dead,” LaCroix said, the shock evident in his normally controlled voice.

“Lauren and Terese," she wept. "They were ripped from my mind. Gone.”

Lexie looked around in confusion. “How do you know they're dead?”

LaCroix’s eyes met Methos’, nodding slightly. LaCroix took Lexie’s hand in his, looking into her eyes. “It is nothing you need concern yourself with, my dear. In fact, you’ve had a long day. You’re very tired and you want to sleep.”

Lexie murmured, her eyelids dropping as LaCroix’s seductive voice ensorcelled her. “Tired,” she whispered.

“And when you wake up, you won’t remember anything that has passed in this study. Only that you fell asleep waiting for Triona,” he finished softly, catching her easily as she collapsed into his arms.

“It’s vital we get to their bodies before....”  Methos began.

“I’ll take care of Alexandra and will meet the two of you at the museum.”

“Are you going to be able to make it, Triona?” Methos asked in concern.

“Yes! You are not leaving me here!” She glared at him for even suggesting it.

He held up his hands in mock surrender. "Okay, okay! Then let’s get going. Before Lauren and Terese can get into even more trouble.”

                                      



They arrived at the museum, finding Stephanie there before them.

“Stephanie!” Triona hugged her young cousin, surprised at finding her here.

“I heard about it on the radio. Then I felt them die.” She sounded like she was going to cry.

“It’ll be okay.” She looked over Stephanie’s head at Methos, a look passing between them.

“But Terese and Lauren are dead! How can it be okay?” she sobbed.

“Shhh.” Methos stroked Stephanie’s hair. “They won’t stay dead,” he said quietly.

Stephanie looked up at Triona, wanting her reassurance that what he said was true. “It’s true, sweetie. They're like me, and Methos.”

“And now we need to find their bodies before anyone else does,” he explained.

“That,” said LaCroix suddenly, in the dark, “has been taken care of.”

“Where are they?” Methos asked.

“In that ambulance, just beyond the police line.” LaCroix turned to Stephanie. “We require a diversion, my child. Perhaps the grieving, hysterical relative?” She nodded eagerly. “And Triona, we need your unique mental control abilities to take care of the police officer standing guard. I will take care of the other.” He then looked to Methos. “You can drive the ambulance to where Stephanie has parked her new sports car,” LaCroix said in tone that promised an innocent looking Stephanie he would want a full accounting later as to just why she had bought it, “and take Terese and Lauren back to the chateau.”

As they all nodded understanding of their parts, he continued, “Triona and I shall remain here until Sarah is freed. Perhaps an opportunity will arise that may enable us to secure her release.”

“Agreed. Once Stephanie and I get them safely home, I’ll have Duncan stay with them, and I’ll return here,” Methos added.

"Good. Shall we?”  With that, LaCroix was gone, like mist in the night.

                                               



Stephanie and Methos drove up to the chateau. Duncan was already there, having been called from Stephanie's cell phone in her new car.

"Two at once," Duncan observed in exasperation. "Only your family, Methos."

"Shut up and help me get them into the house!"  he groused.

"You could try a 'please'."

"Will you two stop bickering like old fishwives!" Stephanie snapped, cutting off Methos' retort. Both men had the good grace to look abashed at her scolding. "Let's move it!"

"Yes, ma'am!" Duncan made a mock salute, leaning into the car and lifting the still dead Lauren into his arms.

Soon, the two men had Terese and Lauren lying on the sofas in the sitting room.

"Now what?" she asked uncertainly, looking back and forth between Methos and Duncan.

"Now, we wait," said Duncan.

They didn't have to wait long. Within minutes, Terese gasped, grasping her chest, sitting up on the sofa and looking around wildly. Methos was at her side instantly.

"That's it. Deep breaths. It's okay."

She gripped her head, the sudden assault of double buzzes overwhelming in their intensity.

"It'll get easier, just relax," Methos told her softly.

"Oh my god! I'm…. You're…. Damn it! Why didn't you ever tell me?" Terese cried angrily. "All of you!"

"Not me!" Stephanie protested.

"Well, she's no worse for the experience," Duncan commented wryly.

Methos nodded, grinning as he explained, "Sorry, love, it just doesn't do for a pre-Immortal to know what the future holds."

Suddenly Terese remembered. "Lauren! They shot her…. And we fought and I'll never forgive myself." She began to cry, everything crashing down on her.

"It's okay. Lauren is going to be fine," Methos soothed.

As if on cue, Lauren repeated the same process that her sister had just completed.  Methos reassured her as he had Terese before. At least this was normal. Not like what had happened to Triona…. He pushed that unpleasant memory firmly away.

"Hey you, welcome back." Methos chucked her under the chin, smiling.

"You could have told me!" Terese interrupted angrily. "Letting me think Lauren had died!"

"I'm awfully surprised to be back," Lauren admitted, ignoring Terese's tantrum, smiling. Then her face fell. "Sarah! What about Sarah?"

"It's okay. LaCroix and Triona are at the museum, and I'm heading over there now. Duncan and Stephanie will stay here with you."

"But what…?" Lauren trailed off, unwilling to put her question into words.

"She won't," Duncan assured her.

"You mean?"

"Uh huh, exactly like that. But, " Methos warned, "if she gets out of there alive, you can't say a word to her. Do you understand?"  He looked at each of them in turn, his expression leaving no doubt as to how angry he would be if any of them told.

They all nodded mutely in agreement, even Terese, who hadn't stopped grumbling since she had come to.

Stephanie hurried over to Lauren's side with a glass of soda. "Here you go! It'll make you feel better!"

Lauren smiled, the familiar drink reassuring her after the shock she'd had. "Thanks, Steph."

"Hey, if you're passing out drinks, how about one for me? And I want a real drink, thank you very much!"  Terese demanded.

Stephanie glared at her. Obviously, becoming Immortal had not improved her recent temper. "Get it yourself. You're not dead anymore!"

Duncan warded off the impending fight. "Ladies, ladies. Everyone has had a shock. Terese, I think you and Lauren should go upstairs, shower and get some undamaged clothes on."

The women followed Duncan's gaze, suddenly realizing that they were covered in their own blood.

"Good idea," Terese agreed.

"And when you're done, I'll be here until the rest return."

"Good. If everything is in hand, I'm heading back to the museum. Need to make sure LaCroix doesn't try anything stupid," Methos informed them. "Stephanie, Duncan, take care of them for me!" he tossed over his shoulder as he headed out of the room.





LaCroix suddenly reappeared; putting his hands on Triona's shoulders, and leaning down to speak quietly in her ear. "The authorities have decided to rush the building."

"What?" she asked in disbelief.

"They feel, that with the intelligence they received from the man who escaped, and the fact that the terrorists have already killed several guards and two hostages, that they have no other option."

"And how many will die in the attack?" She shook her head in disgust. "They haven't even tried!" She looked up at LaCroix, seeing his expression. "No, never mind. I know what you think, and I don't want to hear it."

His lips brushed her cheek. "I will take care of getting Sarah out once the police have assaulted the museum. When that happens, go to the car and wait for me," he instructed.

She nodded in understanding. "I will. How are you going to get her out?"

"I'm going to work as far into the building as possible before the assault. Perhaps I can dispatch a few of the terrorists before the authorities arrive," he told her in a voice full of implacable menace that made her shiver despite herself.

She turned around, leaning up on tiptoe, kissing him hard. "Be careful, please," she entreated, eyes worried.

"I shall, my dearest." He then whispered in her ear, "And I shall expect a suitable reward for my valor in battle when I return." He kissed her throat, then she felt the air 'shift' and he was gone.

                                  *


Turning the Page - Part Five


Sarah surveyed the terrorists appraisingly. When her moment came, she was going to be ready to take it. She was weaponless, but in the years she had been around Methos, Duncan, and on occasion, Amanda, she had learned more than a few self-defense tricks. And if she could use them, she wouldn't be without a weapon for long. A part of her knew it was suicidal, but the death of Lauren and Terese and the mental trauma it had caused had left her slightly unbalanced.

She slowly worked her way into a dark corner, trying to remain as invisible as possible. It wasn't too hard, because all of a sudden the gunmen seemed to have their attention drawn to the entrance of the museum, talking to each other in a language Sarah didn't recognize. She could tell from their tone that they were agitated.

Could something be happening? She stiffened, waiting for her chance. It came faster than she thought as the sound of explosions rocked the exhibit room -- explosions that brought gas canisters and a rush of bodies into the museum.

She tried not to breathe too deeply as one of the terrorists backed towards her; she'd at least take one of them out.  When he was close enough, Sarah burst out of her corner, slamming the edge of her hand down on his neck, dropping him to his knees. Her knee connected to his chin, knocking him to the floor. She realized, stunned, that this was the one that had killed her sisters. Sarah pulled the knife from his belt and without a second thought, plunged it into his chest.

She couldn't believe how calm she was. She'd just killed someone. Maybe LaCroix is rubbing off on me, she thought absently. As the sounds of bullets and screams flowed across her, Sarah realized the gas would get her soon, and that she wasn't going to make it out of here. She had work to do.

As Sarah slid around the edge of the room, something hit her hard from behind. She fell to the ground, the knife flying from her hand. Scrambling for the knife, Sarah just got her hands on it when a blinding pain pierced her head and everything went black.


                         



By the time the police stormed the museum, LaCroix was almost to the main exhibit room. Almost, but not quite. He neatly snagged one of the terrorists as he fled past, ripping into his throat and draining him within moments, then cracking his neck with one easy snap before dropping his lifeless body to the ground. He hadn't enjoyed himself this much in ages.

He entered the room just in time to see one of the gunmen bring the butt of his gun down on Sarah's head. He felt her presence in his mind, though not as strong as the others, sputter briefly, before dying.

The thug raised his rifle once more, but the blow never landed. He never even had time to scream as a vision from his nightmares with gold eyes and fangs spun him around, tearing into his throat.

He gently scooped up Sarah's lifeless body, moving quicker than the human eye could see, to the balcony above the room and out through an exit. The policeman at the door only felt a rush of wind. By the time he had turned, LaCroix and his precious burden had disappeared into the night sky.

                                              



Triona cradled Sarah's head in her lap as Baker drove them back to the house. Methos had arrived just as the police were storming the building and was following them back in Stephanie's car.

"Do you think you could get Nick to come see her before she goes away?" Triona suddenly asked in the silence. LaCroix was surprised, knowing how much she disliked his erstwhile son. "It would mean a lot to her, if he would," she explained. "And she would never ask him herself."

"I'll see what I can arrange," he promised.

Triona nodded, then stiffened, as if listening to something. Sarah arched almost off the seat, choking for breath. Triona supported her as she struggled to sit up, clutching her temples.

"Oh goddess, I'm in hell," she announced, her first sight LaCroix's face.

"Only of your own making," he said, smirking. "Hell this may be -- but you are quite alive."

"It's okay, Sarah. You're safe and so are Lauren and Terese." Triona reassured her, glaring at LaCroix in irritation.

"But, they were shot -- dead."

"Not all deaths are permanent, as well you know, my dear," he reminded her.

"All of us? Damn…." Sarah shook her head in disbelief, gingerly feeling the back of her head, the flesh still tender, but healed. "Ain't that a bitch?" she asked in wonder.

LaCroix smiled slightly, looking at Triona over Sarah's shoulder. "Indeed it is, child. Indeed it is."





"Are they still discussing?" Sarah asked Triona as she entered the kitchen.

"Discussing? More like arguing," Terese said in annoyance.

Triona poured herself a cup of tea and joined the other women by the large, open hearth. "Yep, still at it."

"You'd think, that since you've all known for several years that this would happen eventually, you'd have planned all this in advance." Lauren looked at Triona.

"Hey, don't look at me! Do you honestly think they would consult me?" She shook her head, irritated.

The women were gathered in the kitchen. It was late in the afternoon the day after the events at the museum. LaCroix, Methos, and Duncan were in a sometimes-heated discussion in the study on just who should undertake the women's training. The women, soon tiring of all the male posturing, had retreated to the peace and coziness of the old kitchen and its crackling hearth.

Lauren sighed. "No, I guess not. Sorry."

"It's okay. Everyone is sorta stressed out right now. Three of you at once unsettled the apple cart."  Triona sipped at her tea, sighing. "Though it's not the anger that was there when...." She stopped abruptly, taking a gulp of her tea, a look of sadness in her eyes.

"When LaCroix tried to bring you across," Sarah finished for her.

She nodded, jumping to her feet and making a production out of pouring more tea, her back to the others so they couldn't see the tears in her eyes.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know it still upset you," Sarah told her sadly.

"No one does," she whispered, "especially not LaCroix. And I don't want him to know." She put down the teapot with a clatter, abruptly turning. "What was it like? Coming back, I mean?" she asked with an odd intensity.

The three women looked at each other, rather bewildered by her unexpected question.

"It was, I don't know, like waking up from a nightmare you can't remember," Terese said quietly, making herself think about it.

Lauren nodded. "Yeah, that's a good way to put it.  I mean, when I woke up, I was scared, but couldn't remember by what. It took a few minutes to remember I'd been shot."

"Yeah, well at least you two didn't come back to life with LaCroix looking down on you!"  Triona smiled a little at that, while the others laughed. "But why do you want to know, Triona?" Sarah asked, perplexed. "You've never talked about your own experience."

Shaking her head, she moved over to the fire and slid to the floor, sitting against the wall. "I guess I wanted to know just how much of a freak I actually was." She shrugged, smiling grimly. "Morbid curiosity I guess. And as for never talking about what happened to me, I don't know, I guess I was always trying to hide how I felt, especially from LaCroix. Talking about it would make it all that much harder to keep it from him. Then I was sent away, and, well…." She leaned her cheek against the warm stones of the hearth, gazing off into space. "I guess it seemed like it didn't matter anymore."

Lauren sat down next to her sister. "But it does matter! It matters to us!" The others nodded in agreement. "I'm sorry I never asked now, but I didn't want to pry into something so personal."

"It's okay, really."

"No, it's not okay," Terese said forcefully. "It's been two years. I think it's time you were allowed to talk about it."

"Terese's right. It's time. We'll be apart for who knows how long -- alone for the first time in years." Sarah joined Lauren on the floor. "And, honestly, we've always been curious about what happened. But like Lauren said, we didn't want to pry."

While Sarah spoke, Terese went to the cupboard, pulling out a bottle and glasses and bringing them over to where everyone was sitting. "She's right. But I think we need something stronger than tea." Terese began pouring glasses of apricot brandy and handing them out.

"Thanks." Triona sipped gingerly at the potent liquor, before closing her eyes, remembering something that was always there in her mind, but that she rarely acknowledged. "LaCroix had promised me that if I desired it, he would bring me across. He asked only that I wait a few weeks before I made a final decision. Of course, at that point, I had no idea his hesitation was because Methos had warned him against even trying. Even if I'd known, I don't think my decision would have been any different. I wanted so much to be in one world -- to be whole. To be his...."





Triona paused at LaCroix's door, hand on the knob. It was time. No more doubts. Closing her eyes, she held her hand to her throat, feeling the pulse that beat there. She wanted to remember all of it.

She had spent the day doing things for the last time. Watching the sunrise, eating raspberries and chocolate, laying on the lawn, soaking in the autumn sun. She was glad it was fall, her favorite season. She would have regretted not seeing the colored leaves, feeling the crisp wind, and watching the season's sun – the light clear and sharp, like a snow fed pool -- one last time.

She had watched the sun set over the lake, its fire turning the water red, like blood. A reminder of the irrevocable step she was about to take. Resolutely she turned her back on the sun; it wasn't hers any longer.

Saying a little prayer, she pushed open the door, knowing he was within. Methos and the other women had gone out for the evening -- none of them having any idea of what she intended. If she had any regrets, it was not telling Methos. But he would never understand, and this path had been chosen for her long before he had ever entered her life. He knew that. Whether he accepted it remained to be seen.

She entered the room slowly, her heart beating far too loudly in her ears and knowing LaCroix could hear it. Moving farther into the room, she searched for him.

"So. You've decided then." She heard his silky voice behind her; felt his cool hand on her bare shoulder.

She turned towards him, his hand running up her throat as she did so. "Yes. I did as you asked. Now I want to be complete, to be with you forever. Please don't deny me again," her voice broke despite her resolve to be strong.

He shook his head. "That was never my intention, child." His slim fingers toyed with stray strands that had escaped the knot she had gathered her hair in. "It means more to me than you know that you choose to do this, with full knowledge," he told her in a warm, velvet voice. "It is a truer gift than anything you could ever give me."

Still, she sensed hesitation as he continued to toy with her hair, just looking at her with a pensive look in his eyes. "What's wrong? Why are you hesitating? Don't you want me anymore?" Her temper flared. The stress from what she was about to do finally finding outlet in anger, suddenly furious that he was doing this to her. Pulling away from him, she wrapped her arms around her bare shoulders, suddenly feeling chilled in the simple ivory silk gown she had chosen. "I won't be like this, not anymore! I deserve to be whole again. You owe that to me, Lucien!" she exploded. Her shoulders shook as she tried to reign in her escalating temper. He didn't react -- merely let her rage. "You know you do," she whispered, defeated.

Triona turned away, trying hard not to fall apart. She went to the fireplace, slamming her hand against the mantel; shoulders slumped in utter weariness. Still, he said nothing.

"I'll go to Janette, have her bring me across if you won't." It wasn't a threat, merely the last remaining option for a mortal woman pushed past all ability to bear anymore. She was exhausted. Her body, her mind, no longer able to handle the stresses that came from the years as the mortal lover of a vampire. There came a point when the frailty of the flesh, the limits of the mind, finally came to bear. Even the strongest reached a point where there was no continuing -- when twilight became a burden, a place neither of the day or night.

Silently, LaCroix placed his hands on her hips, turning her to face him. He tipped her chin up with the edge of one knuckle, leaning down to kiss her softly on the lips. The touch was gentle, sweet. No passion or need, simply affection and love, almost as a parent would comfort a child. He wiped away the tears that streaked her cheeks with his thumbs.

He stepped away, holding out a hand to her. No words were necessary. Taking the hand he proffered, she allowed him to lead her to his bedchamber. LaCroix sat her on the edge of his large bed, removing his jacket and placing it neatly on the trunk at the foot. He then sat next to her, taking her hand, seeming to know she needed to speak.

"Wh…what happens now?" She swallowed, looking up at him with wide eyes that were trusting but frightened.

Smiling slightly, squeezing her hand for reassurance, he replied, "Much as what happens any time we are together. The only difference being that when you reach the brink, I will take you past that point, to a place near death." He drew her closer, placing an arm around her shoulders. "Have no fear at whatever you may see or think you see. I will be with you as I always am and always will be. Trust in that, child…Triona," he amended, using her name as he rarely did.

She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. Placing her palm against his cheek, she looked at him, no longer afraid. "If something goes wrong…." She placed a finger over his lips, forestalling his protests. "No, I know sometimes it doesn't work. If something goes wrong," she repeated, "know that I love you, Lucien. I know you know that. But I wanted you to hear me say the words. In the years since you came into my life, I've desired you, hated you, needed you. We've fought, raged, hurt and loved each other." She leaned against him, cupping his face with her hands. "But I've always loved you, more than my life. Always and forever, my love," she whispered, reaching up and kissing him tenderly.

"Always and forever," he breathed against her lips, pulling her closer.

She slid her hands around the back of his neck, letting him pull her farther onto the bed as he deepened the kiss, their minds touching in perfect accord.  So attuned to his touch after all the years between them, so in sync with what they both wanted from this night, she needed no further preparation for what was to happen. Submitting her will to his, she gave herself to him utterly.

Gently, he pushed her down, laying her on the bed, stroking her ultra sensitive throat with cool fingers, making her shiver with a hungry longing. By the time he replaced fingers with fangs, she was past all thought, driving need replacing conscience thought.

She arched hard against him, throat extended till the muscles stood out in relief against the alabaster skin of her neck. One last time for him to feed from her mortal blood, and after this night to be forever changed. LaCroix's fangs pierced her throat, and she screamed, not in pain, but in long denied release.

Like so many times before, he drank from her, but somehow it felt different this time. There was a feeling of purpose, a resolve that she felt enfolding her as he drew the blood from her body. She felt her heart slowing, control of her body now gone. But there was no fear. With the purpose that emanated from LaCroix also came utter confidence and the assurance that she belonged to him. Nothing and no one would ever hinder that.

All thought faded away -- only feeling was left, then that too was soon gone as a veil of blackness drifted across her mind's eye….

*

Turning the Page - Part Six


Triona drained her glass. "And the rest you know. Here I am." She shrugged, refilling her glass from the bottle on the floor. "The freak. Ironic when you think about it." Lauren shook her head, not understanding. "That I begged to be brought across," she explained, "because I needed to be whole again."

The other women made sympathetic sounds, but really didn't know what else to say.

"Ah." Lauren squeezed her hand. "But was that it? I mean, everything went black, and then you woke up?" Triona dropped her head, suddenly seeming very uncomfortable. "It's okay, if you don't want to talk about it…" she trailed off, uncertain.

The three women looked at each other. Obviously, there was something else, something that she was keeping back. After their own recent experiences, they were incredibly curious about hers, but they didn't want to bring back painful memories either.

She seemed lost in some dark memory, looking at the glass in her hands, staring through it.

"Triona?" Sarah tentatively touched her knee.

"Hmm? Oh...." She jumped a little, startled from her reverie. "I don't know if it really happened," she began uncertainly. "It was… like a dream. Or a hallucination is more like it. It was silly." Her haunted eyes belied her matter-of-fact tone.

"It isn't silly if it's still affecting you like this," Terese observed.

"Terese's right, but we understand if you'd prefer not to talk about it," Sarah told her, giving her an out if she wanted one.

She shook her head, trying to gather her thoughts. "I… I don't know…. It was all black, but then there was a light…."

She opened her eyes, shielding them from the sun that poured through the canopy of autumn leaves above her. Triona realized she was lying on a low dais, a swath of blood red velvet draped across her lower body. Slowly, she sat up, hair tumbling over her shoulders as she took in her surroundings.

She appeared to be in a forest clearing. Towering trees surrounded the clearing, with the foliage of fall a riot of color in the bright sun. A single stone rose from the moss to her left, a bubbling spring flowing into a deep blue pool at its base. The scent of unknown flowers drifting in the crisp, cool breeze, tickled her nose as she swung her legs over the side of the dais, standing barefoot in the dark green grass.

She looked down at herself, holding her arms out, staring at what she was wearing. A wash of sheer black chiffon covered her -- and didn't. The fabric, though abundant, was so sheer that there hardly seemed any point to wearing it at all. It twined sensuously around her legs as she walked over to the spring. Kneeling next to it, she cautiously dipped her fingers in the water.

A voice behind her made her stiffen, suddenly recalling LaCroix telling her not to heed anything she saw, or thought she saw. Was he expecting this?

"And so it comes at last."

She looked over her shoulder, for some reason not really surprised. In fact, she realized, she was taking all of this rather calmly. "Janette? But how?" Standing up, she waved her hand towards the sun. "Why are we here? And what has come at last?"

The woman smiled mysteriously. "Why indeed?" she replied, ignoring her last question. "But you mistake me. I am not Janette. I merely utilize your memories of her for my present form." She held out a hand. "Walk with me, petite."

Triona hesitated briefly before taking the elegant hand in hers, feeling suddenly vulnerable as she remembered what she was wearing. At the thought, there was a subtle shift of weight. Looking down at herself, she saw she was now clad in heavy black velvet edged with satin, the floor-length skirt trailing behind her.

Janette, or whoever she was, arched an eyebrow in amusement, but said nothing, merely tugging gently on her hand as she began to walk. She didn't speak, merely followed the path through the trees.

Path? There wasn't a path… She realized in surprise that the path was being created as they walked. Looking behind her she saw the path disappeared as soon as they passed on. They seemed to walk a very long way until finally reaching what appeared to be their destination -- the edge of a cliff that overlooked a churning sea, the waves attacking the cliffs with a raging fury. It was a startling contrast to the tranquil forest they had just left.  

Finally, the woman spoke, "A choice must be made. A path your soul must choose."

Triona looked out over the cliff's edge to the maelstrom below, then at 'Janette', quirking a brow. "This is some sort of metaphor, I take it?" The woman looked surprised. "Vampires, Immortals, this seems to go with the territory. Unless you're about to send me on a quest?"

"No, only a choice: between darkness and light, death and life. You are at a crossroads -- where that road leads is up to you."

"I chose this the first night I met him and I chose again tonight. I have no doubts -- not anymore."

"And do you choose this path for him? Or for yourself?"

"Does it matter?"

"That is for you to decide."

Becoming angry at this philosophical double talk, Triona demanded, "Who are you? What are you? You look like Janette, but you sound like Nicholas." She began to pace. "Is that it? Is this him somehow intruding on my link with LaCroix? Trying to sow doubt in my decision?" She glared at the mysterious woman. "Answer me!"

"What I am is not important. Think of me as a guide if you like; a guide to your true destiny."

"I know what my true destiny is, damn it! You say you are offering me a choice. Why would I choose death? This may sound cliché to you, but I'm too young to die."

"You know that's not true. Your body may be young, but your soul is old.  In your heart you realize this. Death for your body would mean rebirth for your soul."

"My soul is quite happy where it is, thank you very much!" Triona snapped at the Guide.

"A soul that may be forever trapped, never given rebirth. Do you give that up for the love of a being not even human?" the Guide asked in Janette's familiar accented voice, disconcerting her. "Remaking yourself in his image? To forever be beyond the light?"

"It isn't one-sided," Triona protested. "He loves me. Enough to want to make me like him."

"Loves you? Like he loved the one whose form I wear?" the Guide asked derisively. "How long did he love her before casting her aside in favor of his golden child, his Nicholas." Her voice dripped scorn.

She shook her head in denial. "It isn’t the same," she whispered, "it isn't. He isn't the same man he was then. Our relationship isn't the same," she added, the guilt she felt at that evident on her face.

"True. He obsesses over you in a way that Janette could only dream of. Ironic, no? She chooses you as hers, finally someone to ease her loneliness, and not only does he take you from her, he places you above her in all things." The Guide pointed an accusing finger at her. "And you allowed it, welcomed it in fact. How can you justify that betrayal?"

Visibly angry, Triona struggled with the guilt that the Guide had so cleverly exposed to the bright light of day. "I don't need to justify ANYTHING!" she shouted. "Especially not to you! My relationship with LaCroix, with Janette, or with anyone else is not your concern. Nor is my soul," she spat out.

Suddenly, she found herself back in the clearing, the Guide perched elegantly on top of the stone by the spring. She realized that someone was lying on the dais. Moving closer, she realized in shock that she was looking at herself, her naked body barely covered by crimson silk.

Then the mysterious woman was standing next to the dais, tilting the head of the other Triona to the side, exposing the line of bite marks that ran across her throat. "Is this what you call love?" She lifted an arm up, and Triona could see yet more. The silk fell away as the arm was raised, exposing the side of her breast and the mass of wounds along the vein. She knew without needing to see that the other side of her body would be much the same.

"He humiliated you, used you up, and cast you out. And you claim to have his love? How far will you abase yourself for this creature -- this vampire?"

She clenched her fists, shoulders shaking, being forced to remember a time she had tried hard to push to the darkest corners of her mind. "Stop it!" she hissed. "I forgave him long ago -- for all of it. We forgave each other." Tears ran unheeded down her face. "He needs me, my family needs me, and I need them."

Triona turned her back on the Guide. "It's over. I won't play your game anymore. I choose the night -- I choose love. There was never any other choice," she said quietly.

The woman sighed, the sound blending with the wind that suddenly whipped the trees. "Then I can do no more. But be warned -- the path you have chosen will not be what you envision. Only the twilight awaits you, an eternity of neither dark nor light." She paused, and Triona felt a hand on her shoulder, a breath at her ear, "If you survive…."

Once more, the dark took her, and in the distance, she could hear LaCroix calling her. She felt herself drift towards his voice. As always, its power to seduce and ensnare compelled her, even as she lay near death. "I wait for you, my child. Do not let the glamours and hallucinations of your unconscious take you from me."

Heat…. Fire… coursed through her veins, the feeling so intense, it was almost pain. On the edge of her awareness, she felt cool flesh against her lips -- and the fire that emanated from it. And still his voice entreated her, "Drink of my blood, my spirit -- as I have drunk from you. Take from me the only gift worthy of you, my lover, my child, my companion."

The trickle of blood wasn't enough; not anymore. She clasped her hands to his wrist, drinking with mindless need. LaCroix hissed in pleasure mixed with pain, feeling their bond strengthen at each drop of his blood that passed her lips. She drank until he finally pulled his wrist away, stroking her hair, and murmuring soothingly.

She felt a wave of exultation, not knowing if it was hers or his. The fire that coursed through her became sharp and icy, exhilarating her. Then a shock of incredible agony tore across her and she felt the stab of fear that shook LaCroix. Something was wrong. The final words of the Guide haunted her as another wave of pain tore across her and she was driven back into blackness, 'if you survive, if you survive….'


"And you know the rest," Triona told her rapt audience. "I remember vague snatches: voices, Methos, LaCroix, Stephanie. Pain, fear, confusion." She drained her glass. "Then there seemed to be a long time of nothingness, and then I woke up."

"I remember you walking into the sitting room -- and into the sun," Sarah said softly.

She shivered at the memory. "No one realized. LaCroix thought our stronger bond was the only result of what happened. I still remember walking into the sun, and the agony…."

…. One minute she was greeting her sisters happily, the next she lay screaming on the floor, writhing where she had collapsed, still in the sun.

She heard Sarah shouting, "It's the sun! Get her out of the sun!" And felt hands pulling her out of the flood of agonizing light. Then someone closed the drapes, plunging the room into blessed darkness. Stephanie screamed for LaCroix. Lauren kept telling her it was going to be okay. Terese propped her head up, trying not to touch the badly burned skin.

The pain went on and on, the panicked voices of the other women a senseless babble in her head. Then LaCroix was there, Sarah trying to explain what happened. "She walked into the sun and she started to burn. Goddess, what's happening to her?"

"Quiet!" LaCroix demanded. The women fell silent. He turned his attention to Triona, taking her hand in a reassuring grip. "Shhh, all will be well. You are healing already." As he spoke, he wrapped her mind with his, calming her, easing the panic and pain.

"What the hell is going on?" Methos demanded as he burst into the room, alerted by the shouts and screams he had heard.

LaCroix shot him a quelling look. "Sarah will explain -- quietly." He picked Triona up, laying her gently on the sofa as Sarah drew Methos to one side, explaining.

"What's happening to me?" she asked through cracked lips, barely able to open her damaged eyes.

"I don't know yet, child. I'm sorry… for everything," he whispered. "It was nott supposed to be like this."

"And it wouldn't be if you hadn't…. Damn you, Lucius!" Methos forced himself to stop, Sarah’s hand on his arm, urgently trying to keep him from upsetting Triona. He took a deep breath, dropping to his knees next to her. "It'll be all right, love. I'll see to that." He shot LaCroix a look that spoke volumes.

"We'll see to that," LaCroix corrected sharply.

"I know you will," she whispered, attempting a smile. "I know you both will…."

"And they have -- they've smothered me, truth be told. Only the fear of me losing my head motivated them to send me to Duncan. It was the only fear that would pry me out of their sight." She grimaced, suddenly jumping to her feet. "Maybe now they have you to worry about, they'll leave me alone." From her voice, it didn't sound like she held out much hope.  

Terese reinforced that opinion. "But we don't turn into toast, in addition to everything else. I'm afraid it's going to take a long time for them to give you a break."

Stephanie bounded into the kitchen at that moment, forestalling Triona's reply.

"They've finally decided," she announced.

The three new Immortals looked at each other nervously, the reason they had been camped out in the kitchen back in their minds. So, they'd decided -- but what?

                              *


Turning the Page - Part Seven


In the end it was decided that Terese would go with Amanda, Lauren with Duncan, and Sarah with the only talked about Connor MacLeod.

Sarah packed her suitcase, distracted. All three men had assured her that Connor was an excellent choice, and she knew deep down it was true. Neither Methos nor LaCroix would allow anyone but the best to teach her. But the thought of being sent away to a man she had never met was enough to unsettle her -- on top of all the changes in her life, this was just one more.  

Cool hands suddenly covering her eyes brought her back to reality; and a very familiar voice drove all thoughts of packing from her mind. "Leaving so soon? And I just got here."

"Nick!" Sarah whirled around, totally surprised, but thrilled that Nick was standing here in her room. "But when? How? Why…."

His lips on hers cut off her questions quite handily. Deciding that questions could wait, she pressed herself against Nick's familiar, but long absent body.

He scooped her into his arms, carrying her to the bed and depositing her there gently. "You've had a busy week I hear," he told her, sitting on the bed next to her.

"I don't want to talk about it now, Nick." She reached up, pulling his head down to her. "In fact, I don't want to talk at all," she said huskily, kissing him hard. Nick was familiar, known. She couldn't believe he was here, when she most needed him.  And she intended to make the most of it.

Nick's hands started working on removing her clothes while returning her kiss with equal fervor. She smiled to herself; obviously he had no objections to getting right down to brass tacks.

Soon, his hands were running over her bare flesh, and she let his familiar touch take her to where she had no worries, a place of only joy and pleasure.

                    



Sarah hugged Nick, his body still damp from the shower, not caring he was getting her clothes wet. "So. Was I your first?" she asked, quirking a brow.

"First?" Nick looked confused.

"Immortal, silly!" She punched him lightly on the arm.

"Ah!" he kissed her gently on the cheek "Actually, yes, you were." He grinned, picking up a robe and putting it on.

"Good," she replied, a smug smile on her face. Changing gears, she suddenly asked, "So are you going to tell me what brought you here? How you knew?"

"LaCroix, acting for Triona, actually. They seemed to think that you might like to see me."

"And they were right! But I'm still surprised."

"Apparently, Triona likes you more than she dislikes me." Nick grinned impishly. "I owe her one, and she's going to really hate that!"

"Nick," she said, suddenly serious, "please don't antagonize her this trip. Please?"

"I was only teasing. I really do appreciate that she had LaCroix contact me." He hugged her, rubbing her back soothingly. "Is something going on that I should know about? Why are you so concerned?"

She shook her head. "It's just been a very… upsetting week for her. Some things have changed. Major, life altering type stuff. And I just would rather you didn't indulge in your usual baiting is all, okay?"

"Okay," he agreed. "And I suppose you aren't going to give me any details are you?"

"Nope."

"That's what I thought."

Sarah pulled out of his arms regretfully. "And as wonderful as this has been, I need to finish packing. Methos and I have a plane to catch this afternoon."

Nick took her hand. "I wanted to talk to you about that, actually."

"Oh?"

"I don't want you to go."

"Nick, I have to! I need a teacher and that means going away. I'm still not used to the idea, but I trust LaCroix and Methos to do what's best for me and all of us in this case."

Nick shook his head in exasperation. "Do you hear what you are saying? 'Trust LaCroix'? And what ulterior motives does Methos have? You don't even know this man they are sending you off to!"

"He's Duncan's cousin -- he trained him. Duncan trained Triona and she trusts him. He's an old friend of both Methos and LaCroix. What more do you want?" She shook her head in irritation at his set expression.

"Why buy into this at all, Sarah?" he protested. "Let me take care of you. There has to be somewhere you will be safe until we can figure a way out of this."

"There is no way out, Nick! I'm Immortal! You need to deal with that. I have, and I have no intention of denying my nature."

"Even if that means killing? I don't want blood on your hands," he entreated, needing her to see. "You deserve better."

"Blood on my hands? It's already too late for that. Didn't LaCroix tell you? I killed one of the bastards in the museum," she told him, her voice like flint.

"But you had no choice! You were defending yourself. You don't need to kill ever again." He fought to keep his voice calm, trying to reason with her.

"No, I wasn't! I was after revenge, pure and simple. He deserved to die, and I'd do it again if I had to. My only regret is that I didn't get the other one. LaCroix did though, " she said with some relish.

"This is all LaCroix's fault! He’s changed you, hardened you."

"You're so wrong, Nick." She sighed, turning away. "This has nothing to do with him. You need to either accept me and my choices, or leave -- for good. I won't have you judging me!"

"Sarah…" he began, only to be interrupted by LaCroix's unexpected arrival.

"Am I interrupting? I can come back." LaCroix looked at Sarah.

"Yes, you are!" Nick exploded.

"I don't believe my question was directed at you, Nicholas. This is Sarah Elizabeth's room after all."

Sarah Elizabeth? she thought. It must be serious. "No, please stay, LaCroix. What can I do for you?"

LaCroix smiled a little at his son's obvious annoyance before answering her question. "I have a small going away gift for you, my dear." He handed her the long leather box he had been holding.

"For me?" He nodded as Sarah set the box on the bed and gently lifted the lid, gasping at what lay inside. "Goddess, it's beautiful!"

"Though we have had our differences in the past, you have been a loyal and much cared for member of my family. I thought it only appropriate that I gift you with what will be an extension of yourself for the ages to come."

Sarah hefted the sword, the light glinting off the blade like fire. It was so exquisite; it already felt like it was hers. "Oh, LaCroix, I don't know what to say." She looked at him, then back at her beautiful sword. "No one has ever given me anything so precious."

"I am pleased that you like it, child. May it serve you well. A warrior's blade is his soul -- may this sword become yours"

"It already has." She leaned up, kissing him on the cheek. "Thank you," she whispered. She turned to Nick. "Nick?"

Nick shook his head in defeat. "I don't like it, Sarah, but I have to accept it I guess. If you ever need me…."

"I know," she said softly. "I know."





Before they knew it, the women were off to their new lives. Duncan had taken Lauren directly, and, much to Terese's annoyance, Lexie had taken her to Amanda. And before she knew it, Triona was closing up the Paris chateau and making preparations to finally go home. It had been a long time since she had been at the manor, and she couldn't wait to finally be home.

She checked one final item off of Stephanie's exhaustive list. There, that should do it.  "Steph?"

"What?" the only remaining mortal in LaCroix's family responded.

"What exactly are you supposed to be doing in South America for LaCroix?" she asked, puzzled at his sudden decision to send Stephanie off.

"Something about mining interests -- emeralds!" Her eyes gleamed in anticipation.

"It's just so sudden." She picked up Stephanie's itinerary from the desk. "And looking at property in Costa Rica?"

She shrugged. "I dunno, Triona. He seems to think we need another bolthole I guess, and no one has actually checked out the mine he owns in several years."

She shook her head. "Maybe. It just seems…. I don't know."

"What? You think something is up?" she asked, concerned.

"Don't mind me," she attempted brightly. "I just see shadows behind everything these days. I'm sure it's just what it appears -- LaCroix being the General, dispersing the troops on his latest mission. Ours is not to question why and all that."

"You're sure?"

Triona just nodded. Sure I'm sure, she tired to reassure herself. I am.

                      
*

Turning the Page - Part Eight


Baker set the tea tray down on the coffee table in LaCroix's suite. "Thank you, Baker. That will be all for now."

"Very well, madam." He turned to LaCroix. "Sir?"

"Nothing more right now," LaCroix told his butler. "You may go."

"Sir, madam." He made a slight bow, leaving the room as quietly as he had entered.

Triona smiled to herself as she poured her tea. LaCroix, noticing, commented, "You seem very happy today, my dear."

Still smiling, she looked up at him. "I am. It's so good to be home. Even if it's much quieter than I remember."

"It will be noisier once Stephanie returns. Much noisier." He rolled his eyes a little.

Triona laughed. "You know you love it. And speaking of Stephanie," she began, watching him carefully, "I was wondering when she would be returning? Her trip was unexpected."

"Perhaps it was, but the opportunity arose, and I thought it a fine time to give her more responsibility." She noticed that he didn't quite look her in the eye. "Fear not, she will return soon to turn our lives topsy-turvy once more."

She sipped at her tea, more sure than ever that he was hiding something from her. But what?

"But, in the meantime, I suggest we take advantage of the quiet. It's been a very long time since we have had time alone together." LaCroix took her hand, kissing the inside of her palm. Drawing her to him, he settled her in his lap, moving his lips from her palm to her mouth, kissing her softly….

Triona came to, gasping for breath. He'd almost killed her! He had been kissing her, then he had pierced her throat, sipping. In that moment she had felt regret and implacable purpose. She had panicked, trying to pull away. 'I'm sorry, child,' she heard whispered in her mind, then utter blackness.

She realized she was in one of the dungeon rooms, her wrist shackled to the wall. "Why are you doing this?" she asked, voice full of anguish. Now she knew why Stephanie had been sent away -- he had wanted her here, alone.

"Because I have no choice," he said quietly, brushing the hair from her face. "I regret this necessity more than you can know."

"If you regretted it, you wouldn't be doing this!" she shouted, pulling back from him.

"You know as well as I that sometimes we have to take actions that are unpleasant, but necessary for the greater good."

"After everything, you're going to lock me up? Like some sort of madwoman? How can you do this to me?"

Suddenly, he realized what she was saying, why she thought she was here. Horrified, he dropped down to look at her. "No! You think I intend to keep you here indefinitely? Nothing is further from the truth," he assured her.

She shook her head. "Then what? Why am I here?"

"We need to determine how much control you are able to exert over the bloodlust after a quickening -- and if that control, if any, is progressive." He gently wiped her tearstained face with his fingers. "A few days, and it will all be over. I give you my word."

"What will be over? What are you going to do to me?" She clenched her hands around his arms, eyes full of fear.

LaCroix steeled himself for what was to come. He could not let himself be swayed by her fear or his love for her. "Janette," he called.

"No," she whispered, refusing to believe. "She wouldn't be a part of this."

"Janette, like you, does what is best for this family," he reminded her.

"What you order, you mean," she shot back bitterly.

As the door opened, Triona felt the buzz of another Immortal and her familial bond to Janette all at once. She pressed herself against the cold stone wall, looking past LaCroix to the large iron bound door and the two figures framed there.

"They are one and the same," he told her, seemingly unperturbed. "Bring him closer, Janette," he commanded.

Janette pushed the bound man closer and to his knees. Triona could now make him out in the dim light. His hands were behind his back, and he had the drugged, faraway look of someone in a vampire's mental grip.

"Is there no other way, LaCroix?" Janette asked without much hope.

"You know there is not," he snapped. "It is an unfortunate necessity." He turned his attention back to his youngest fledgling. "You said yourself  that your nature could prove a danger to the family, to you. This," he said, waving a hand towards the captive Immortal, "is the only path I see open to us."

"WHAT?" Triona screamed, the tension getting the best of her. "What are you going to do?"

LaCroix stood, walking behind the kneeling man. "The only way to trigger your vampire nature is, as far as we know, through a quickening. It is my intention to provide the means." He nodded towards his prisoner.

Triona shook her head violently. "You can't make me kill him. You can't!"

"I have no intention of making you the instrument of his death." He raised a hand forestalling her enraged outburst. "Listen to me, Triona. We were very careful in our choices."

She mouthed 'choices' to herself, shaking her head numbly.

"They are all men who would cheerfully take your head if given the chance. Men that your ever so honorable teacher, MacLeod, would see as his duty to rid the world of. Men that you would gladly kill if given the chance."

"Given the chance! This isn't a fight; it's an execution. This isn't right!" she raged at her Master.

"I am not about to enter into a debate over the nature of right and wrong. I have made my decision," he told her firmly. "I only regret that it will be unpleasant for you." He took the sword that Janette handed him. "No more discussion." The sword arced up in a ribbon of light, the downward sweep slicing through the neck with an economy of motion that bore witness to LaCroix's experience with a sword.

She buried herself in the cot as if trying to ward off the tendrils of misty light that sought her, even though she knew there was no escape.

The same burning pain that had taken her before once more raged through her body. Every sense was hypersensitive and hungered for just one thing. But he wouldn't let her. He was holding her back, denying her the blood she could taste in the air.

His mind sought to control hers, to mellow the animal need that consumed her. "Try and control it. Try. Control the hunger -- don't let it control you!"

For a moment, his will pierced through and she grabbed at his calm like a drowning woman. "I can't… it hurts." She tried to twist away from the hands that held her. "Stop it from hurting," she whispered plaintively. Then the bloodlust overcame the tenuous hold LaCroix held over her, slamming him back with a fury that stunned him.

Whatever her physical limitations, mentally she was as strong as many much older vampires, and used that strength to her advantage. No longer able to bear her pain, and realizing that he was unable to temper her bloodlust, he released the shackle that held her wrist and carried her to where another of Janette's *aquisitions* had been bound in the cell across from the one that held Triona.

She threw herself out of his arms towards the heartbeat that was like a siren call to her starved body. She was still feeding when LaCroix pulled her away, eliciting a violent response. She kicked and screamed as he lifted her away from her prey.

"Janette. The door." Janette hurried to open the door so he could remove her from the enticing scent and sound of her victim. "I do not want her to gorge," he explained. "Perhaps control can be gained somehow if her feeding is restricted." LaCroix didn't sound as if he held out much hope for that plan. Still, Triona struggled against his unbreakable grasp.

He carried her into the sommelier's office off the wine cellar, attempting to hold her immobile. Abruptly, she stopped struggling, and instead started kissing him. The totally new sensation of her fangs grazing his mouth made him lose his concentration and all thoughts of control to temporarily leave his mind.

As he returned her kiss, he felt a wave of exultation from her… just as he was about to release her arms. The realization of what was happening finally struck him. She was mentally manipulating him! Since she couldn't physically control her prey, she used mental control instead -- and to good effect. She had almost managed to draw him in, so unexpected was her delicate assault.

He retightened his grip, both on her body and her mind and pulled away from her hungry lips. He felt the anger, saw the rage in eyes almost red. Thwarted, exhausted, she collapsed in his hold, her hunger gnawing at him unfulfilled. He heard Janette come to the door.

"How can you bear it?" she asked softly, a note of pain in her voice. "You feel a hundred fold of what I can feel of her torment."

Looking up at his eldest child, he replied, "I only bear what she does. My gift, my burden." He looked back down to the woman he held in his arms. She was still struggling against him, but those struggles grew ever weaker. "Leave us." Unable to follow through with his intentions this time, he snatched a knife from the small table next to him, slicing open his wrist. Placing it against her lips, he felt her begin to drink. Slowly at first, but with increasing fervor as her strength returned. He heard the door close quietly as Janette obeyed him.

This time, when she moved to his throat, he didn't stop her. It was a feeling he had never dared hope to experience -- her fangs sinking into his flesh, drinking his blood. The ecstasy of it lit every cell of his being. For a few moments they were one and it was a sharing he wanted to relish and savor. Then it was over, as finally sated, she pulled away from him, already drifting into unconsciousness.  A few tendrils of their joining remained and he drew them deeper into himself, twining them around the part of his soul that would always be hers -- never to be forgotten.

As she slept nestled against his chest, LaCroix steeled himself for what tomorrow must bring.

*


Turning the Page - Part Nine


LaCroix leaned against the cell door for a moment, hardening his heart against the agony that was to follow. It had to be done -- there was no other choice. Straightening, he indicated with a wave of his hand that Janette should follow with her captive Immortal. He shoved open the heavy oak door, striding into the room.

Triona didn't look at him when he entered. She turned her head away, burying herself under the quilts that were piled on her cot. He sat on the edge of the bed, pulling the coverings away from her face. She flinched as his hand stroked her cheek. "Don't do this," she whispered.

"I'm sorry. Sorrier that you will ever know, my love."

She looked at him with eyes that knew far too much. "You're wrong, Lucien. I do know."

He shook his head. There was no answer he could give that was worthy of her. Stupid of him to have underestimated her, not to have realized she would have learned of his intentions from his blood. He opened his link to her fully, no longer shielding anything from her. There was no longer any point.

Standing, he took the sword that Janette held out to him. Once more he took on the role of executioner, neatly severing the head from his prisoner. This time, however, once the fireworks had ended, Triona still seemed to have some awareness.

"Don't leave me," she entreated, holding out a hand to him. Her eyes were rapidly turning gold, but they were still aware.  

He took the proffered hand. "I won't; I promise you." Her fear was palpable as she gripped his hand. Sitting against the wall, he drew her to him, wrapping his arms around her. "Try and control the hunger. You're doing so well, child. Fight it. I know you can -- you're strong."

Her fingers clenched at his arms. "I'm trying…. The pain…." She gasped, throwing her head back against his chest.

He tightened his hold on her, feeling the bloodlust once more taking full reign. But she had maintained control this time. It was only for a moment, but it had been there.

Janette finally realized what was happening as LaCroix made no move to relieve the hunger that was ravaging the woman he held. "You're going to let her starve to death!" she accused, shocked.

The look he shot her made her step back a little in fear. "I do what is necessary," he snarled. "She knew what I intended -- and understood why."

"How can you let her suffer so horribly, LaCroix?" she demanded, aghast at what was happening.

"Do you think I take any pleasure in this? It is because of me that she suffers. I never forget that." He glared. "If you have no stomach for what must be done, Janette, then leave!" he snapped.

"No. I will stay." She walked over to the cot, sitting next to her Master and taking one of Triona's hands in hers.

Together, they waited.





This time, she woke in her own bed, the moonlight pouring in through the windows. Disoriented for a moment, she tried to recall the nightmare that had woken her. Then it all came rushing back. It hadn't been a dream -- it was all horrifyingly real.

As she began to tremble in aftershock, a cool hand gently stroked her brow. "Shhh. It's all over."

"Janette?"

"I am here, cherie. Nothing will harm you."

Trying to remember, she asked, "What happened? In the end, I mean. It's all so blurry."

"That is for the best. Don't try and remember," she soothed.

"But LaCroix…. He was… was going to let me die. I don't remember dying and I should. Shouldn't I?" More of what had happened filtered into her mind. Feelings mostly. Details still seemed elusive.

Janette sighed. "Yes, he was. But in the end, he couldn't bring himself to do it. After hours of watching -- feeling -- you suffer, he couldn't bear any more." She closed her eyes. "I never want to relive these last few days. Can you forgive me my part in your torment?"

"Of course I can, Janette. I know you had no real choice," she said softly. Suddenly, she yawned. "I'm sorry. I'm so tired still."

"You should sleep. I will leave you now."

"No. Wait, please. Where is LaCroix?"

"He thought you wouldn't want to see him after what happened," she explained. "He wants to give you some space for now."

"I understand. Maybe he's right at that," she said sadly, not really sure how she felt about him after everything that had happened.   

Janette stroked her cheek. "Give it time, cherie. Sleep now. Tomorrow is another day, hmm?"

"Mmm-hmm," she murmured, already almost asleep. "We have time…."


End


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