A Thing Called Forever” by Nina Gordon

     we’re the same and you don’t even know it
     we’re afraid and we try not to show it and you’re
     tired and i am too so there’s only one thing you
     can do you’ve got to hold me and tell me what
     you need don’t be afraid of what you’ re feeling
     when you know me then i’ll never want to leave
     you just hold on to me when we’re apart i still feel
     together i still believe in a thing called forever
     but we’re drifting apart it’s true and it’s breaking
     my heart in two we’ll drive away where no one
     can find us it’s time to leave those dark days
     behind us in my dreams it’s always you so there’s
     only one thing we can do
 



When Did Forever Die?
by Ithildin
c. 2001


Triona, dressed in a black kimono of some silken alien fabric, looked out the picture windows of her bedroom, watching Earth's sun rise in all its fiery glory. Once more she marveled at the technology that allowed her to stand at the window and watch. The glass of the window was actually a transparent polymer that filtered out the radiation that could be lethal to her kind.

"I still don't trust it," LaCroix commented into the quiet of the room.

Triona turned, holding her hand out to the vampire. "Be daring," she teased. As he took her hand, she drew him against her. "You look beautiful in the morning light." Slipping her hands behind his head, she leaned up, kissing him so gently that it was like a whisper against his lips.

"That should be my line, shouldn't it?" he asked, as he began pulling the pins from her hair -- still in its complex style of the night before -- one by one.

"By all means, feel free to use it anytime," she said, smiling. Closing her eyes, she let him turn her around as he continued to undo the complicated knots and braids that her long honey-blonde hair had been fashioned into. The feel of his fingers in her hair made her feel so relaxed that she thought she might fall asleep against his broad chest.

Finally, the heavy mass of her hair fell down past her shoulders and LaCroix put his hands on her upper arms, guiding her to the bed. Picking up her hairbrush on the way, he sat her down on the edge, sitting next to her. "You need a ladies maid, my dear," he said, laughter tingeing his voice as he drew the brush through her hair.

"Mmmmm," she murmured, almost purring in contentment as the brush moved through her hair with steady, firm pressure. "I was actually thinking of cutting it," she said nonchalantly, tilting her head up to see what his reaction would be.

The brush paused. "Do not even think about it," he said sternly, but with sparkling eyes.

"I'll take it under advisement." Unable to maintain her calm demeanor, she began to giggle.

"Do that." Putting aside the brush, he drew her back into his arms, settling them both comfortably against the piled pillows. "How was the party?"

The night before, Triona had attended a party hosted by Admiral Terrance Dean of Starfleet, with Captain Jean-Luc Picard as her escort. They hadn’t been in attendance even ten minutes before politics had interrupted, with Admiral Dean attempting to manipulate Triona into using her relationship with the Romulan Empire to further a Federation agenda. Much to the Admiral’s chagrin, she had been most uncooperative.

"It was…interesting." Triona paused before continuing. "Jean-Luc is gone." When LaCroix didn't respond, she went on, explaining the night's events. Finally she said, "And if Admiral Dean thinks his little revenge will go unchallenged, he's lost his mind."

LaCroix laughed. "Truly he has underestimated your penchant for meting out just desserts."

Triona sniffed. "I had a good teacher."

"Indeed." He deftly undid the tie of her robe, slipping his hands underneath the silken black fabric. "And what else did I teach you?" he asked, his voice dropping down, low and seductive.

Turning in his arms, she kissed his throat. "You never told me there'd be a test," she complained good-naturedly, gasping a little as his hands found things to occupy them.

"Oh yes, there will be several tests in fact."

"Then we'd best get started, hadn't we," she whispered against his lips.

He turned over, pinning her underneath him. "I've always admired your enthusiasm for higher learning, my love." Before she could respond, he kissed her deeply and the testing began in earnest.


"And this is from Connor," Sarah said, laughing as she held up a tiny kilted skirt in Ancient Dress MacLeod tartan from where she sat on the thickly carpeted floor.

Triona joined in the laughter as she leaned down to take the baby-sized garment from her sister. The two women were spending a quiet afternoon in the Keep’s cozy downstairs sitting room, catching up on each other’s lives. Somewhere along the way it had turned into an impromptu baby shower. "And where is your favorite Immortal anyway?"

"He's fishing with the Betazed Ambassador. In Scotland no less!" Sarah shook her head in amused disgust.

"The diplomatic life must agree with him."

Sarah, her hip length brunette hair in a braid down her back, sat on the floor, her long blue jean clad legs tucked underneath her. As the current Imladrin ambassador to the Federation, she rarely had the time to take an afternoon off. The impending birth of her niece, and Triona's current residency on Earth, gave her the opportunity she'd been waiting for.

"No, fishing agrees with him -- otherwise he's just along for the ride," Sarah said, sounding a little annoyed.

"Everything okay?" Triona asked, concerned. Connor, once Sarah’s teacher after she had become Immortal, shared an on again, off again relationship with Sarah. The last year, it had been very much *on*.

"What? Oh, yeah, we're fine. Work has been a bitch and Connor can really get on my nerves -- I tend to forget that during our time apart." She grinned. "You know how it is, you go a decade or two away from each other, and then you're a part of each other's lives again." She lay back on the floor, her legs and arms stretched out. "It just takes some adjusting."

"Actually, I don't -- but I guess I may find out just what it's like. Always supposing the being back together part happens," she added half under her breath.

Sarah looked up at her friend consideringly. "Trie, when was the last time you spoke with Methos?"

"You mean when was the last time we yelled at each other," Triona said, only half in jest. Sighing, she answered, "Almost a year ago I guess."

"A year? And in all that time, have you ever tried to contact him?"

"He left the system and didn't leave a forwarding address," she replied in a voice that clearly said she didn't want to talk about it.

Sarah ignored the unspoken warning though and pressed the issue. "So? Did you even make an attempt to find him?"

"No, I didn't! He made his feelings abundantly clear!" Jumping out of her chair, she stormed out of the room.

"Damn, Connor was right -- I should have kept out of it," Sarah swore to herself, leaping to her feet and following Triona out of the room. "Nothing for it now."

Running down the hall, Sarah caught up with Triona on the stairs. "I don't want to talk about this, Sarah!" Triona said heatedly as she reached the landing of the first floor.

Wondering if she was going to regret this, Sarah grabbed her friend's arm. After all these centuries, Sarah thought she should know better than to involve herself in one of Methos and Triona’s battles, but somehow, she couldn’t help but butt in and try and at least get the stubborn fools to listen to a little reason. "Stop and listen to me, Trie."

"Let go of me, Sarah. I mean it," she told her in a voice cold enough to crack steel.

"Or what? You're going to challenge me? Because that's what you'll have to do to stop me from saying my piece," Sarah said calmly, letting go of Triona's arm.

"Say what you have to say, Sarah. I can't stop you."

"Trie, please, I'm not trying to accuse you of anything. Honestly I'm not. It's just…." She sat down in the window seat across from the landing. "Look, I know it's none of my business -- except I love you, I love Methos, and I hate to see the both of you so unhappy."

"And you're going to butt in anyway, aren't you?" Triona asked, her arms wrapped tight around her chest.

Sarah nodded. "Do you have any idea how torn up by this he is? How afraid he is for you?"

"How could I? He wouldn't discuss any of it with me!"

"Did you really give him a chance to deal with it before you decided to just leave Imladris with Picard? You didn’t even give him a chance to absorb the decision you’d made to try and have a child."

Triona looked at Sarah in disbelief. "What were you saying about not accusing? That sounded very much like an accusation to me, Sarah!" she said angrily.

"Okay, so maybe it is. But it's a valid question. You know how Methos is -- better than anyone. How hard it is for him to be vulnerable. And you make him more vulnerable than anyone," Sarah said softly. "And the both of you are so stubborn."

Triona's shoulders slumped, her anger suddenly dissipating. "God, Sarah, I love him so much. But we manage to hurt each other so badly that sometimes I'm not sure we can ever come back from it."

"Of course you can; if you really want to. Is this relationship with Picard -- a mortal -- really worth losing Methos from your life? With all you've meant to each other and with all you’ve suffered together?"

Triona laughed with no humor as she sank onto the seat next to the other woman. "There is no relationship, Sarah. There never was. I'm not saying I wasn't tempted; but I never gave into that temptation. I think Methos found it easier to blame our problems on an affair than to deal with the reality."

"And so did you," Sarah offered tentatively, not wanting Triona to run off again.

Again, the same laugh. "And so did I," she agreed sadly.

"You never slept with Picard?" Sarah asked, not a little surprised.

"No, I didn't. I'm the boring, conventional one, remember? In the end, I couldn't do it. He deserves so much more than I can give him." She turned to look at Sarah. "But you don't know what it was like, Sarah. That probe; it was like living a whole other life! I came out of it loving Lucien even more -- if that were possible -- but it also changed the innocent flirtation I'd enjoyed with Jean-Luc into something more; something so much deeper. It wasn't like a dream, it was *real* to me -- real to him. No amount of rationalization could wish it away. And believe me, I tried."

Sarah put her arm around her friend, squeezing her shoulders sympathetically. "I'm so sorry, Trie. I can't imagine what it must have been like."

"And my last memory of that other women -- of me -- was losing the baby. I became consumed with wanting a child. I felt so empty and nothing Methos or anyone else could do could change that." Tears ran unnoticed down her cheeks. "When our scientists told me that they could give me that child, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Lucien understood and I thought Methos would to."

"But he didn't."

Triona shook her head violently. "I felt betrayed. I felt like he didn't care or understand how desperately unhappy I'd been. That he was jealous of the fact that I'd found some measure of comfort from someone other than him."

"Oh, Trie…." Sarah was at a loss for words.

"That last time saw him, I was going to try. Honest to god, Sarah, I was.  But instead, we ended up fighting. Horrible, hurtful things were said. It was like that time he left with Dominique. I felt like it was happening all over again and I was afraid. It made me remember everything that happened after that; Hakeem and…." Triona shuddered.

Even after almost five hundred years, Triona’s experience as a prisoner of the vampire Hakeem, an Ancient, had the power to wreak havoc in her present.

"Shhh, don't think about that. Please don't." Sarah held the now sobbing Triona in her arms. "Goddess, I'm sorry. I should never have brought this up. But I want you to be happy. And I think Methos makes you happy -- when you aren't tearing each other to pieces, that is," she added in exasperation. "The three of you: you, LaCroix and Methos, have a relationship that I can't get a handle on, even though I've been there from the beginning. But it works for you, for all of you.  I can't imagine any of you without the other, I really can't."

"Maybe so, but forever is a long time to be together." Triona pulled from her friend's embrace. "It could have run its course, don't you think?"

"Maybe. But I don't buy it." Sarah made a frustrated noise. "Remember your birthday, the year before last?" Triona nodded. "It coincided with all four moons being full at once and the night sky was like an open jewel box."

"Methos gave me a horse, a Paso Fino, from the genetic bank breeding program." Triona looked down at a white gold ring on her left hand, twisting it absently.

"Uh huh, and you, LaCroix, and Methos went riding that night, after your party," Sarah reminded her.

"We went to the meadow above the ford in the river. It was so warm and the night sky was intoxicating. It was perfect," she said softly, remembering.

"I wasn't there, but from the way the three of you acted when you came home in the morning, you weren't playing charades," Sarah said almost primly.

Triona nearly choked in surprise. Finding her voice, she replied, a little embarrassed, "We kept ourselves… amused."

Sarah snorted. "That's one way to put it! But, Trie, I saw your face; you were glowing. You were content, you were happy and you were in love. As much in love as that first day you met Methos over four hundred years ago.

“Adam, not Methos! And anyway, so what?" Triona asked stonily, pushing aside the emotions that were tearing her up. "Even if I wanted to go to him, I can't. I don't know where he is and I can't be trotting around the galaxy looking for him when the baby's birth is imminent."

"So -- Duncan is hopefully having the same conversation with Methos right now. So -- Methos is at the embassy, where he has been the last several weeks. So -- what excuse do you have now?" Sarah asked smugly.

Triona stood up then sat down again, trying to catch up with what Sarah had just told her. "He's on Earth? Not only on Earth, but in our own embassy?" Angry all over again, she snapped, "So I'm supposed to be the one to go to him? Is that what he thinks? You make me feel guilty and I'll go running to him, begging him to take me back?"

"No!" Sarah said forcefully. "He doesn't even know I'm doing this. I'd promised him I wouldn't tell you where he was." Triona looked at her sister with one expressively arched brow. "Yes, I know," she admitted ruefully. "But Duncan is a hopeless romantic and I'm just plain ornery. And besides, Methos is driving me insane! He's morose and grumpy and just plain obnoxious." Sarah looked like she'd be happy to separate the oldest Immortal's head from his neck.

"And this is different how?" Triona asked, laughing despite herself.

"Go to him, Trie, please," she pleaded, once more deadly serious. "You know you want to. Only your pride is keeping you back."

Triona stood up and nodded. "I'll think about it Sarah, I promise." Giving the other woman a quick hug, she slowly walked down the hall, deep in thought.
 


Standing nervously in the anteroom of the private quarters of the Imladrin Embassy, Triona took a deep breath, staring at the door in front of her.

After she'd left Sarah, it hadn't taken her long to decide what to do. Knowing that if she thought about it she might very likely let this chance slip past her, she'd decided to see Methos immediately. But now that she was here, she wanted to do nothing more than turn around and go straight home. He hadn't felt her yet, he would never know if she left right now.

Thoughts of their last fight raced around her memory and she felt like she couldn't breath. Clutching the fabric of her dress into her fists, Triona lost her nerve and turned away. "I can't do this," she whispered, hating herself for being a coward. She left the room at a walk when what she really wanted to do was run.

But it was too late. The feel of him saturated every part of her being as his buzz enveloped her. She stopped dead in the entry, before slowly turning towards where she knew he was.

Nervously she smoothed the fine wool of her dress where she'd crushed it. The clingy knit, the color of a fading red rose, accentuated every curve before falling straight to her ankles. A slit up one side to just below her knee revealed mid-calf height boots in a deeper red reptile print. The shawl collar framed her face, and her hair that she wore in a simple knot at the back of her head. Wearing no jewelry other than the heavy, carved, white gold band on her left ring finger that Methos had given her more than four hundred years before, Triona looked very young and very scared. No one seeing her would ever guess she was one of the most powerful women in the quadrant.

Her heart caught in her throat at the sight of him. So familiar and yet, a stranger at the same time. Triona couldn't find any words at all and the moment froze. It was as if time had stopped and the only sound was her heart pounding in the cool marble confines of the hall. She took a few hesitant steps towards him, as if pulled by some invisible string, then stopped.

Methos looked very much as he had the first day she'd set eyes on him. Jeans, off-white sweater, his hands shoved deep in his pockets. Only his dark hair was a little longer than it had been then. Still the same lithe grace that was evident even when slouching in a baggy sweater.

"Leaving so soon?" his familiar voice said into the smothering silence.

She fought down a facetious reply, the slightly mocking tone in his voice fanning the edges of her temper. If she allowed herself to respond in kind this meeting might be their last. Too much would have been said to ever fix the hurt. "I…I…." Shaking her head mutely, Triona turned away, leaning on the carved wooden table that sat in the middle of the hall. The scent of Andorian fern from the flower arrangement on the table wafted around her, making her feel ill.

She prayed silently that he would meet her halfway, knowing that she couldn’t do this alone. The sound of his boots on the marble tile rang out as he came to stand behind her. The tentative touch of his hand on her shoulder was more than she hoped for. Straightening, she leaned into the touch, and he didn't pull away. Still not looking at him, she whispered, "What happened to us, Methos?"

Squeezing her shoulder, he sighed. "We did, Triona. We did." Another sigh, this one sounding very tired. "The question is, what are we going to do about it? Or do you even want to do anything about it?" The last was devoid of all emotion.

She had no idea what he was feeling, so carefully was he clamping down on their link and she was too afraid to initiate anything herself. Afraid of what he really does feel -- or doesn't? She asked herself mockingly.

"Damn it, Methos, is that what you want? To end it?" she practically cried out. Finally, she turned to look at him. "I don't, I swear I don't."

His eyes were troubled, not meeting her gaze. "I honestly don't know any more," he finally said.

Suddenly realizing that they were in a public thoroughfare, Triona grabbed Methos' wrist, pulling him back into the anteroom she has just left, locking the door behind them.

Rounding on her lover, she pressed her fists into his chest, saying fiercely, "Well, I do. I *know*. Maybe I didn't when I walked in here, but I do now. You want to end it? Fine, but I'm going to fight you every step of the way!"

To her utter shock, he began to chuckle. Methos grabbed her left wrist as she began to pull away. How could he be laughing at her, after everything that had happened? She tried to pull away from him, but he kept a firm hold on her.

He kissed the top of her head. "I'm not laughing at you, love. You just reminded me of something from a long time ago."

"And are you going to share?" Her tone indicated he damn well better.

"Briganti women railing against the Roman troops that they were fighting. They didn't know when to quit -- even against insurmountable odds. And neither do you."

"I don't think I like that particular analogy," she said archly, "they died."

"Yes, well, you know those Romans -- especially the military types," he explained cheerfully.

"So I've heard," she said wryly. "But, Methos," the laughter was gone, "you haven't answered my question."

He held her left hand in both of his, one finger stroking her ring. "Do you remember when I gave you this?"

"Yes, of course I do.”

Methos had given her the ring in Seacouver, long before she’d know she was Immortal, just after he’d taken her away with him. LaCroix had thrown her out, and she’d been devastated. She had never felt more alone or more desperate. Methos had said then that the ring symbolized the life he wanted them to have together. She had worn it ever since, never taking it off, even through the worst of the times the two of them had had.

 “And I remember when you put it back on my finger on our wedding day." This time he didn't keep her from pulling away. She walked over to the ornate, Louis XVI sofa that dominated the small room and sat down, twisting the ring. "Is that what you want? A divorce? I mean, I suppose we're still married." Distracted, she didn't even notice Methos sitting down next to her. "How do Immortals get divorced anyway?"

"Messily," he answered glibly.

"Not funny, Methos." Triona glared at him and he had the good grace to look at least a little abashed.

"Sorry," he said with a little smirk. Triona didn't look like she believed him. "No, I don't want a divorce. I was just remembering how hard it was to convince you to marry me in the first place. What was it you told me? It was, 'redundant'." He took her hand again, twisting the ring around her finger. "Redundant! I mean, I thought I was a good catch. Charm, good looks…" Triona snickered, but Methos ignored her. "A great sense of humor, a little money in the bank."

"You forgot modest."

"To a fault!" he agreed enthusiastically. "I thought Lucien was going to be the one I'd have trouble convincing. I had no idea you'd be so intransigent…."



 

"Marry me."

Methos and Triona were sitting on a log at the lakeshore watching the moon set over the water. They'd returned from the Rocky Mountains just a few weeks before and had been working hard to maintain their reconciliation now that they were back in the real world. They’d gotten into the habit of taking a walk after dinner to spend time together. Neither of them ever wanted to take what they had for granted again. The enforced time they had spent snowbound in Montana had given them more than ample time to expose the hurt and anger that had been eating at their relationship for more years than either of them had been willing to admit.

Triona looked over at him, wondering how much he'd had to drink at dinner. "Yeah, sure, we should get married." She shook her head in bemusement, pulling her hat farther down over her ears and snuggling deeper into her green, down filled coat.

It was freezing in the late November, Ontario night. The wind off the lake pierced through wool sweaters and coats to snap and bite at the flesh and bone beneath. Their breath mingled in an icy cloud that was scattered with each gust of the frigid wind.

"No, really. I mean it. I think we should get married," Methos insisted.

Triona looked at him again, trying to gauge his expression. Flabbergasted, she realized he was serious. "You're not kidding, are you?"

Looking slightly miffed, he said, "No, I'm not kidding. Why? Can you only conceive of someone asking you to marry them as a joke?"

"Good god, Methos, I hadn't really conceived of *anyone* asking me to marry them -- at least not since I was a teenager!"

"So, I'm asking."

"I guess you are." Stalling for time, she said the first thing that popped into her head. "Isn't it, I don't know, a little… redundant?"

'"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" The miffed look was quickly changing into hurt. "Fine! Just forget I even brought it up, okay?" He got to his feet, pulling his black wool pea coat tighter around his slim frame. "Really stupid…." he muttered to himself.

Feeling like a total jerk, Triona leapt to her feet. "No, not stupid! I'm sorry," she put a gloved hand on his arm, "it was just so out of nowhere. If I had a list of things I wouldn't ever expect to hear, that would definitely be on it."

Methos shrugged and slouched all at the same time. "Don't let it trouble you. Being redundant, I'm sure I'll get over it," he sniped.

Damn it! Triona had no idea what the right reaction to Methos’ unexpected question should be.  What she wanted it to be was an enthusiastic ‘yes’ as if they were just a normal couple who wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. But they weren’t. Triona knew deep in her soul, that at one time, she would have greeted his proposal with nothing but unhesitating joy. She realized with a pang that the trepidation she felt instead was a sign of how far they still had to go in regaining the trust that they had shared for so long.

Shaking her head in frustration, she exclaimed, "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings! I was just totally blindsided and didn't think before I opened my big mouth. Forgive me? Please?" Leaning against him she reached up and kissed him on the cheek, her eyes pleading. "Please?"

"I suppose I might consider it," he said somewhat peevishly.

Batting her eyelashes at him, she placed the back of her hand against her forehead dramatically. "Oh, Methos, I admit it. I'm insensitive and self-centered and I don't deserve anyone as incredibly wonderful as you!"

A smile tugged at the corner of his lips. "Don't be so hard on yourself, love," he admonished. "But you're right, I probably am too good for you." This last was said with a wicked sparkle in his eyes. Triona punched him in the stomach. "Hey!" Laughter quickly overtook the both them before it was stilled by a deep and heartfelt kiss.

Triona linked her arms around Methos' neck, looking up at him thoughtfully. "You really want to marry me?" she asked, radiating uncertainty.

Brushing back a strand of hair from under the edge of her hat, his smile was like sunshine in the cold winter night. "I really do."

Still uncertain and afraid of inadvertently hurting her lover's feelings again, Triona chose her next words carefully. "But, why? I didn't put it well before, I know that, and I swear I'm not trying to hurt you, but, Methos, we've been together a decade and change... why now?"

He shrugged. “It just seemed right. Lucien is taking Stephanie away for some one on one Master/Fledgling time, and the others have started new lives. For the first time since your parents died, you aren’t responsible for anyone’s happiness or for anyone’s life, but your own.” He bent down, whispering in her ear, “Isn’t it time, Triona?”

“I suppose it is,” she said hesitantly. “But I’m not sure….”

Hugging her tight, he asked, "Do you love me?"

"You know I do!"

He nodded. "And I love you."

"Loving each other isn't in question."

"I don't know, how do they say it? I want to proclaim before God and man that I love you and want to make a life with you."

“But you don’t marry Immortals,” she reminded him.

“There’s a first time for everything.” He brushed aside her reminder lightly. “I think I’ve had enough practice with mortal wives that I should just be about able to handle you,” he said, getting ready to duck if she tried to hit him again.

This time though, all she did was smile. Fiddling with a button on his coat, she didn’t quite look at him. “Even one that’s a blood sucking demon from hell?” She tried to make it a joke, but both of them knew it wasn’t.

“I’ve learned from my mistakes, love. You know I have.” With one finger under her chin, he moved her head to look straight into her eyes. “Part of loving someone means accepting who they are. God knows you’ve accepted me, it’s long past my turn.” The finger under her chin slid up to cup her cheek with his hand. His heavy sigh exploded into the icy air. “I’m sorry, Triona, for everything.”

Triona tilted her head slightly to kiss the edge of the hand cupping her face. “I know, Methos.” Placing her hand over his, she paused a moment before saying very softly, “But you don’t have to marry me because you feel like you have to make something up to me.”

She chewed at the bottom of her lip in a familiar nervous gesture that made Methos smile a little. “Is that what you think I’m doing?” he asked gently.

Triona shrugged as she stepped back from him, shaking her head a little. “I just want you to love me, Methos. Whether we’re married or not, that’s all I want. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

The wind calmed at that moment and Methos’ chuckle filled the night. “Then we’re finally in agreement,” he told her as he pressed his lips gently against hers, “because all I want to do is love you.” Pulling her against him, he smiled. “Will you marry me, Triona?”

“I will, Methos,” Triona answered with a matching smile. “I will.”


“All I still want to do is love you, Triona,” Methos told her softly. “Will you let me?”

She looked up at him quizzically. “Just like that? After the last year, after all the things we’ve said to each other? Can we just kiss and make up?” Triona scooted away from him, stopped by the arm of the couch. “I’m not sure we shouldn’t deal with what broke us apart. Avoiding our issues has come back to bite us before, remember?”

Leaning over her to bar her escape, he said, “Kiss now, issues later,” kissing her before she could respond.

Common sense made a futile effort to assert itself before Triona decided to hell with it. She’d never been good at mixing common sense and Methos after all.


Many hours later, in Methos’ room at the embassy, Triona drowsed in his arms. It was one of the rooms in the guest wing, comfortable but neutral. The array of grays, with splashes of white, was suited to host whatever culture or alien race might inhabit it. Even the furniture was multifunctional, and to Triona’s mind, rather nondescript. But then, she and Sarah had never had the same taste. Even the bed the two of them lay in could have been confused for an exercise mat on a slightly raised platform if stripped of the coverings the two Immortals now lay tangled in

Methos nuzzled her neck, making her shiver. “What are you thinking about?”

“How do you even know I’m awake?” she grumbled at him, the grumble becoming a giggle as he tickled his fingers over her stomach.

“I always know when you’re thinking,” he asserted.

“Do not.”

“Do to.”

“Whatever.” Triona’s tone indicating that she didn’t believe it for a second.

Methos pulled her closer. “I do!” he said insistently against her ear.

Knowing from long experience that he would cheerfully carry on like this forever if he weren’t distracted, Triona said, “I was thinking that Sarah and I definitely do not have the same taste.” She waved her free hand around at the room, laughing. "It's probably a good thing that LaCroix decided *he* was going to decorate the house on Imladris before the lot of us could start bickering over it."

Methos levered himself up on an elbow, looking down at her. “I think I should be insulted!”  The twitching of his lips ruined the glare he was giving her. “I make mad, passionate love to you, and you’re thinking about wallpaper swatches!”

She glanced up at him and shrugged. “I guess you’ll just have to do better next time,” she said airily, rolling away from him on to her side.

"Maybe I will at that," he said in almost a growl, running a possessive hand down her thigh, following with his lips. At Triona's audible sigh of pleasure, he laughed. "I love it when I make you gurgle."

Now it was Triona's turn to be affronted. "I beg your pardon! I do *not* gurgle." She threw herself onto her back with a 'harumph'. "I'll give you gurgle, really old husband of mine."  Reaching up, she snaked her arms around his neck, pulling him down for deep, searching kiss. "Take it back?" she asked after some endless measure of time when the only reality was the feeling of lips and skin melding together.

"Yeah, sure," Methos agreed, panting a little as he nestled his head into her shoulder. "Whatever you want." He reached up, tweaking her nose.

Batting his hand away she smirked. "I guess *you* aren't thinking about wallpaper swatches!"

"Conceited little minx," he grumped good-naturedly, but he didn't disagree.

"Mmmm-hmmm."

Neither one said anything else, content to just revel in the feeling of each other. After a little while, Triona looked at Methos, still resting his head on her shoulder, arms around her. His eyes were closed, but now it was her turn to ask.

"What is it?" Touching his lips with hers, she said, "I know when you're thinking too, you know." He shifted a little, but didn't answer. Behind his closed eyes, Triona knew he was still deep in thought.

Abruptly, he rolled away, pushing himself off the bed. Before Triona could react, he strode across the room, stopping at the window, his back to her, silent.

How many times had they been in this place? One or the other of them, hurt, emotionally wounded by the other. How many times had she seen him stand just like that? The corded muscles, taut with tension and suppressed emotion, in relief against the smooth paleness of his lean body. It was a scene that replayed itself across the stage that was their lives together.

 Just as silently, Triona padded across the gunmetal-grey carpet to stand behind him, softly sliding her hands around his waist and up, resting her palms against the hard, compact muscles of his chest. She shivered a little at the contrast of the warmth of his back pressed into her breasts, and the coolness of the climate controlled air of the room against her back.

 "New exercise regime?" Triona asked, ignoring, for the moment, the silence between them as she appreciatively ran gentle fingers along his chest.

 "Something like that." His almost silent laugh vibrated against her fingertips.

 "Whatever it is, I like the results," she murmured, pressing small kisses against his back.

 The laugh, this time, was louder. "I'm so glad you approve." This said in the softly sarcastic tone that was so comforting in its familiarity.

 She realized in that moment how much she’d missed him, how much she wanted them to get back to the happiness and love they’d once shared. She also realized that they couldn’t avoid dealing with what had torn them apart. Maybe she’d finally learned what avoidance and denial caused in the long run. Part of her feared that bringing up the past would destroy any chance of a future together, but regardless, it needed to be done.

 “I’m sorry.” Those two words fell softly into the room. She wanted to see his face, but couldn’t work up the courage. It took everything she had to just apologize. “I should have tried harder and I should have been honest from the very beginning, explained why I was so drawn to Jean-Luc. I shouldn’t have left you believing I was having an affair with him. I let my temper have the upper hand and I hurt you. I don’t know if you can forgive me, not really.”

He stiffened, but didn’t say a word. Biting her lip, Triona dropped her hands to her side, stepping away and fighting back the tears that threatened. “I’m sorry,” she said once more in a choked whisper before fleeing the room.


 Methos walked into the living area of the suite, now in a knee length robe of moss green cotton.  Sitting on the upholstered arm of the large chair Triona was huddled in, he laid the blanket he was holding across her shivering body. “Don’t cry, Triona,” he said softly, stroking her hair soothingly.

 He realized what it had taken for her to apologize, and kicked himself for not responding more positively. Hell, he hadn’t responded at all. Why did they do this to each other?

 The first time he’d set eyes on her, he’d known she was going to be trouble. In fact, his first inclination, when she’d opened the door that autumn day so many centuries ago, was to tell her he’d got the wrong address. But the urge to annoy Lucien and overridden his common sense – not to mention looking down into her beautiful green eyes….



 

Methos waited for someone to answer the door of Lucien LaCroix’s current home that was about two hours outside of Toronto. It was late autumn, and he was beginning to wish that he hadn’t left his coat in the car, the wind off the lake biting through his turtleneck sweater.

He felt her before he saw her, the pre-Immortal buzz softly pressing against him like the vibration of a cat’s purr startling him. Fast upon that realization, a woman who may have been anywhere from her late twenties to early thirties pulled the door open. Early thirties, he decided in a corner of his mind. Her eyes had seen too much to be any younger. The rest of his mind was occupied with taking in the slim body that was outlined by a form fitting sleeveless dark green dress that was long enough to be decent, but short enough to carry his thoughts to places that were definitely not decent.

So this was LaCroix’s latest mortal acquisition, Triona, he remembered from Lucien’s last email. She wasn’t at all what he had been expecting, being a pre-Immortal aside, she was so…. His thought wandered away, unfinished, as he became conscious of the fact she was speaking – and that he was once more looking into her dark green eyes.

“Can I help you?” she asked, for what he realized was the second time.

“How do you do,” he smiled, with what he hoped, was warmth and sincerity, “I’m looking for Lucien LaCroix.”

He noted the wariness that flickered across her face and how quickly all emotion was carefully wiped away. He was beginning to realize that Lucien had chosen her for more than just the physical. Her voice, when she replied, was cool and collected. “And you would be…?”

“Sorry, Adam Pierson. I’m an old friend of Lucien’s.” She quirked an eyebrow at his statement, but made no other reaction. “You must be Triona,” he added. This time she wasn’t able to totally hide the surprise that his knowing her name elicited.

“You don’t exactly look like the hired help,” he offered by way of explanation. The appreciative gleam in his eyes as he allowed his gaze to wander down her body and back up again seemed to momentarily fluster her unshakable composure.

"If you'll come in, Mr. Pierson." She stepped aside, allowing him to pass, once more in control.

"Adam," he corrected cheerfully.

Ignoring his correction, she said, "If you'll follow me?"

Nodding, he followed her a short way down the hall. Stopping at a door on their right she opened it, indicating he enter. He found himself in a sitting room, the opposite wall one long expanse of windows and French doors that looked out onto a perfectly manicured lawn.

"Please, make yourself comfortable," she paused, considering, "Adam." If she noticed him trying to swallow his smile, she ignored it. "I'll tell Mr. LaCroix you're here." With one last look, she spun on her heel, exiting the room, shutting the door firmly behind her.

Methos grinned at the closed door, shaking his head ruefully. No, she wasn't what he'd been expecting at all.  Looking around the room, he walked over to the mantel, picking up one of the framed photos placed there. Janette and Triona in a very arty, formal pose. LaCroix must have paid some photographer a bundle for this, he thought in amusement. But even the formality of the pose couldn't hide the affection evident between the two women, captured forever by the photographer’s lens.

Another photo, this one of a younger Triona and a teenage girl with blue eyes and curly brunette hair. The pose this time was casual, the two young women sitting on a rock, their arms around each other, the ocean and mountains in the background. Vancouver, he realized, recognizing the backdrop. He set the picture down, shoving his hands deep into his pockets. Walking over to the windows, he stared out at the rapidly darkening sky. He knew why he'd come here, but now Methos wasn't sure if he should stay. This wasn't Lucien with one of his usual vapid and brainless women; this had all the appearance of... a family.

The sitting room door opening and Triona’s soft buzz interrupted his uncertain thoughts. Turning, he watched silently as LaCroix entered, Triona hanging back behind the vampire. Arching one expressive brow, his lips bearing the slightest of smiles, LaCroix walked across the room, meeting Methos half way.

"Adam Pierson, as I live and breath."

"I was in the neighborhood, and thought I'd drop by," he said, grinning.

"To borrow a cup of sugar, no doubt," LaCroix replied dryly.

"Something like that." He looked past the vampire to where Triona stood silently, then back at LaCroix, who had visibly stiffened at his old friend's appraisal of the woman. The sudden tension in the room was thick enough to cut. "Speaking of sugar," Methos said lightly, "a cup of coffee wouldn't be amiss."

LaCroix didn't immediately answer, fixing his attention on the ancient Immortal. Triona stepped to LaCroix's side, looking up at him, then at Methos. "I'll get you some," she offered, looking back at LaCroix for permission.

"I'd appreciate it," Methos said softly, smiling down at her reassuringly. This time, he was met by an answering smile.

LaCroix, finally speaking, agreed. "If you wouldn't mind, my dear?"

"No, of course not." Nodding once at the two men, she quickly made her way from the room. Probably more than relieved to escape the emotionally charged atmosphere, Methos thought.

"She's lovely, Lucius." Methos nodded his head toward the door Triona had just shut behind her. “And she even has a personality – not like you your usual at all,” he jibed.

LaCroix just glared balefully at his 'uncle'. "Why are you here, Methos?"

Plopping gracelessly into an overstuffed armchair, Methos just smiled up at the increasingly annoyed vampire. "I'm glad to see you again too, Lucius. How is life treating you these days?" For a moment, he thought LaCroix's eyes were going to turn gold. Ah yes, this was why he'd come here. There was nothing quite like making Lucius insane.

"Methos!" LaCroix growled.

"Why do you think I'm here? There's still the small matter of your debt, in case you'd forgotten."

"You can't be serious?" LaCroix loomed over where Methos sat. "After more than a century, you expect me to believe you have decided to collect your ridiculous debt now?"

"Not ridiculous, Lucius. You owe me! There was never any time limit set." A century before, Methos had rescued the vampire from a cult intent on permanently dispatching him. In the process, the Immortal had lost the favours of a particularly delightful young lady. LaCroix’s ingratitude for Methos’ sacrifice had infuriated the Immortal and so a deal had been struck. In addition to LaCroix owing Methos a life debt, he also owed him a forfeit: one night with a woman of LaCroix’s.

LaCroix whirled away, obviously incensed. Methos knew that in the end, the vampire would have no choice but to comply. He was a man of his word, after all.

Calming himself, LaCroix turned back to Methos. "You can't honestly expect me to make Triona honour a century old deal on my behalf!"

"Why not? Haven’t you always told me that you will accept nothing but obedience from what is yours?"

"That isn't the point," he snarled.

"Isn't it?" The ancient Immortal's eyes were as cold and hard as steel, leaving no doubt that he meant to collect what was his.

Not looking at the man that sat in the chair, he asked, "And what if she objects? What if she won't obey?"

"Oh, that shouldn't be a problem now, should it?" Methos' cool tone was totally lacking in warmth or empathy.

"What is that supposed to mean?" LaCroix practically hissed. But his eyes betrayed the knowledge that he knew exactly what Methos meant.

"A little nudge here, a little whammy there -- she'll do whatever you want." He smiled thinly. "And more importantly, what I want. She doesn't even need to remember it afterwards, if it makes you feel better."

"By all the gods, Methos! Have you lost your mind?" The ancient vampire was no longer able to contain his outrage. "What in Hades has possessed you? If you think I will countenance this, this...." Methos' laughter interrupted his tirade. "You think this is amusing?" LaCroix spat out, looking ready to break his oldest friend’s neck.

"I find this hysterical, Lucius!" Methos was laughing so hard now that he could barely speak. Taking a deep breath, he continued, "I find *you* hysterical." He couldn’t remember when he'd last laughed like this.

"Would you care to share the source of your amusement," LaCroix asked with barely controlled anger.

"Oh, relax!" Methos pushed himself to his feet. "You are so easy! Really, Lucius, I'd have thought you'd be harder to wind up at your age." He looked sidelong at the vampire. "You wouldn’t actually be fond of the girl, would you?" LaCroix didn't answer, instead looking out the windows into the dark. That was all the answer Methos needed.

"Then all this about collecting on our agreement was merely to 'wind me up' as you so charmingly put it."

Standing next to LaCroix, Methos chuckled. "Oh no, Lucius, it's not quite that easy."

He shot Methos a look, but decided to wait for an explanation.

He didn't immediately explain, instead wandering over to the piano and pressing a few of the ivory keys. Just as the vampire was ready to erupt, Methos said, "I like her; Triona. I find her to be a perfectly acceptable payment for your debt. Not only is she quite lovely, but if you were so upset on her behalf, she must be something. Yes, she'll do nicely." He perched on the edge of the piano bench. "Very nicely indeed," he said half to himself.

"But only if she is agreeable," LaCroix said cautiously, still unsure of Methos' intentions.

"Yes, of course, of course. Only if the girl is agreeable." Methos looked smug.

"And you're so certain that Triona will succumb to your charms? Really, Methos, you haven’t changed. Your ego is still large enough for several men." He shook his head in longsuffering resignation.

He just smiled enigmatically. "You know I always get the girl."

LaCroix's reply was interrupted by Triona's reappearance with the coffee tray. This time, when Methos smiled at her, her responding smile was brilliant in its warmth....



 

 After that, it had been almost like he couldn’t help himself. He wanted her, deal or no deal with his old friend. And once he’d had her, he’d wanted to stay. But it didn’t take long for him to realize that he was using her, in part, to try and forget Alexa. Triona deserved so much more than that. When he’d left her, he’d known he was breaking her heart. But when he came back, it was for her and her alone. She wasn’t an escape or a replacement.

 He had begrudged the relationship she had with Lucien in those early years. Why hadn’t he met her before she’d been ensorcelled by the ancient Roman vampire? It had taken her almost being killed at the hands of another vampire, Hakeem, for Methos to realize what a fool he’d been; that she had held both he and LaCroix in her heart, not slighting either.

 But when they fought, that old insecurity would whisper and hiss its poison. Triona didn’t need him like he needed her, or so the voice whispered, and he hated it. It kept him from being the first one to bend the one to compromise. When she’d taken up with Picard, Methos had felt like his universe had been upended.

The ferocity of his emotions had taken him totally by surprise. He had long ago accepted that LaCroix would always be a part of what they were. But Picard was a betrayal; the brave and honourable starship captain was not in the rules. The tweaks of jealousy that he had felt at his wife’s minor flirtation with Picard had turned into full blown fury in the aftermath of the alien probe incident that had tied Triona, LaCroix, and the Captain together in a way that Methos couldn’t compete with. And when Methos had found out that Triona had met Picard the night of First Contact, four centuries ago, and had never told him, it was more than he could accept.

It had suddenly become so clear, and Methos had felt the fool. All the lies, the omissions, the trips to Starfleet that were explained away as Imladrin business, the times he would catch her, her face drawn with worry; all of it because of Picard.

 Methos winced a little at realizing a part of him wanted Triona to hurt. To feel just a little of what he had felt this last year. She was right though; they needed to deal with the past before they’d have any chance of a future.

 “Look at me, Triona,” he said gently but with a hint of command. Wiping her face with a corner of the blanket, she did as he asked, pressing her fist against her mouth.

 Sliding off the chair arm, he nudged her over, sitting next to her. He wanted to be close, to feel her against him. As he wrapped one arm around her shoulders, he asked, “Tell me why. Tell me why you never told me about Picard, tell me why you lied.”

 Squeezing her eyes shut, she didn’t dispute his use of ‘lie’. “Lots of reasons,” she whispered. “Some I don’t really even remember.”

 “I think you remember,” Methos chided.

 Shooting him a look, she said, “Maybe I do, somewhere, but it wouldn’t make a lot of sense now all these years later.”

 “Try.” Methos could feel a tickle of resentment from her at his insistence, but he didn’t care. Now he’d started, he wanted to know why this had all happened.

 She tried to get up, but Methos tightened his hold. This was going to be done on his terms and he wanted her here, next to him. Relenting with ill-concealed irritation, Triona stayed where she was. “At first, I didn’t realize what had happened. You weren’t even there, none of you were, it was just Megan and me. I was on an emotional roller coaster. I’d just seen an alien race – Vulcans – and a ship from another planet. I was hanging back, out of the crowd, just soaking it all in. I turned around and bumped into this man. It was like… like someone walking on my grave. He looked at me with these blue eyes that seemed to know me somehow. Then Zefram came rushing up and he was acting very strangely – even for him.” She laughed, remembering the eccentric and half-crazy father of the warp drive

“Picard was the man,” Methos commented on the obvious.

Nodding, she continued her story. “Something about the whole thing nagged at me. I thought I knew everyone at the camp, but no matter who I asked, or where I looked, I could find no trace of the man I bumped into that night. And Zefram was very resistant in actually talking about his flight, which I found to be totally out of character.”

 “Zefram Cochran quiet about anything is quite a concept.” Methos wasn’t sure why he kept making these random comments. Maybe somehow he felt like it kept her explanation more normal, less emotionally charged. He felt her tense a bit before resuming her story and wondered what was coming next.

 “So, to find out what was going on, I *encouraged* Zefram to tell me everything.” Guiltily, she glanced up at Methos. “And he did. To say I was stunned was an understatement. A starship captain from four centuries in the future. We were going to make it! After all the horror, all the death, all the destruction, we were going to make it off Earth.”

 “So you didn’t tell me what happened because you knew I’d be angry. You used your abilities to compel Zefram to tell you what you wanted to know.” Methos kept the disappointment out of his voice with some effort. That all this had resulted from her doing something that she knew was wrong.

 “Yeah.” She nodded, refusing to look at him. “I knew how angry you got when I whammied unsuspecting mortals, so I didn’t tell you. I always told myself I’d tell eventually, but as with most lies, it’s harder the longer you wait. After a while, I just stopped thinking about it. I didn’t think it through, that when we finally were in Picard’s time, that it might get complicated.” Triona sighed.  “I certainly never expected to know him personally, or that the Enterprise would have to rescue our ship, or that some damn alien probe would tie us together in ways I couldn’t comprehend.”

 “But you were keeping track of him long before you first met.” It wasn’t a question. Methos had had a long time to think about Triona’s association with Picard and had realized just how long she must have been keeping an eye on him.

 Chewing her bottom lip nervously, she pressed herself farther into the chair. “I was giving a lecture at Starfleet Academy on the relationship between the Federation and Terran settled, non-Federation worlds to senior cadets. Or, I should say, ‘Claire Pierson’, my aunt, was. After the lecture, Spock had come to take me to dinner and we stopped to chat to Admiral Sulu. Hikaru was trying to convince me to stay on at the Academy for a while longer to teach a class on the philosophical and moral implications of energy weapons on warfare. He’d just read my paper on the subject and wanted me to expand on it.”

 “It was a brilliant paper,” Methos said softly. “I’m not surprised that he wanted you to teach on the subject.”

 Triona’s eyes warmed at the compliment. Smiling up at him, she went on, “Hikaru pointed out a group of lower classmen making their way across the esplanade and told me it was kids like that that needed learn what I had to teach. That they thought technology was an answer in itself, making them invulnerable. They didn’t consider the ramifications of that power at all.” She shifted a little, remembering. “It was then that I recognized one of those cadets – much younger of course – but it was him.”

 “Is that why you decided against teaching the class?”

 “Mmm-hmm. I finally was realizing how complicated it could get. I had no real idea if we would ever meet, and if we did when it would be. I got a headache thinking through the temporal ramifications of being even a small part of his life.”

 “So you came home.” Now it was beginning to fall into place. At the time, Triona had been all for more one on one contact between the Federation and Imladris, and had even managed to convince Lucien. Methos had been surprised when Triona had returned after a relatively brief sojourn on Earth and had stayed in the Imladrin system for some years after. He’d chalked it up to homesickness and not liking the public life.

“Claire Pierson left public life, and resigned as head of the Imladrin fleet to write books on military history, and a few decades later, her niece, Triona MacAlpine, became defense minister.”

“I miss good old Claire,” Methos said, grinning. “She had such lovely red hair.”

“I miss good old Adam sometimes too,” she replied, accepting the change of mood gratefully.

“But I like having Twigs around just fine,” he whispered in her ear, smirking. He knew how much she hated his pet name for her.

Back during the war, food had been scarce. Triona had looked like not much more than bones held together with a fragile layer of skin. One day, during a conversation where one of the family had called her by her nickname, Trie, Methos had commented she was more like a twig than a tree. Seeing how much it irritated her, he, of course, had started calling her ‘Twigs’ at every opportunity.

“Glad to hear it…*Benji*.” She glared at him.

Of course, his joy at twitting her with ‘Twigs’ had only lasted until he’d taken on the Benjamin Adams persona once more. It hadn’t taken Triona long to light upon an equally irritating nickname for her husband.

“I’ve actually grown quite fond of ‘Benji’,” he told her with as much sincerity as possible.

“Liar!” she accused, smacking his arm. This time when she moved to get up, Methos didn’t stop her. Wrapping the blanket around herself, she sat on the edge of the coffee table across from him. “So, are you going to tell me what you were thinking about in there?” She waved her hand at the bedroom.

Licking his lips, he dropped his eyes, not sure if he wanted to confess. Even though he knew that he’d started this and should at least have the nerve to finish. To tell her about that little voice of doubt was much harder than – and more frightening – then he’d initially thought.

“Methos?” Triona slipped off the table to kneel in front of him, her hands resting softly on his knees. “Please tell me.”

The only sound in the room was the swift intake of his breath as Methos grappled with his fear. If he couldn’t trust her with his darkest thoughts, then what was the point? She’d always accepted everything about him without reserve. Why was he demurring now? Looking at her, he finally said it. “I was thinking that you couldn’t possibly need me like I need you. And that this last year, when I’ve never felt more alone, you were going on with your life – without me.”

Triona shook her head in denial. “That’s not true! I have missed you. I *need* you. That’s never changed, never!”

“I tried to tell myself that,” he admitted, his voice rough with emotion. “In the beginning. But you have Lucien, Stephanie, and the baby on the way… and I thought you had Picard. How could you possibly miss me or need me in your life?”

Triona’s expression was a study in pain, the full impact of what Methos was telling her shaking her to the very core. Wrapping her arms around him, she melted against him, crying softly. “I’m so sorry. All this time, I’ve been so angry, so hurt, assuming you were probably relieved to be done with me. How could I not realize what this was doing to you?”

“Because you’ve always believed that leaving was what I do best, remember?”  It was true, he knew that, but even knowing it was true, he couldn’t keep a taste of bitterness out of his voice. After all, it wasn’t the first time he’d just walked away, leaving her alone and hurt. Why wouldn’t she just fall back on old feelings and old betrayals? And how much he wished that she wouldn’t believe the worst – that she would believe in him.

“Oh god…” she whispered. Methos slid to the floor next to her, his arms coming around to envelop her.

"Do you remember when I took you to MacLeod, after your first death?" he asked softly, settling her against his chest.

"How could I forget? I was terrified of being left alone, of what my future held." She pressed closer to the warmth of his body.

"I know you were, and it tore me apart. I was so afraid for you. I knew how few young Immortals made it through their first decades, and you had so many extra vulnerabilities. I didn't know how I was going to keep you safe."

"But I did survive."

"Yes, you did," he agreed, ruffling her hair affectionately. "But that fear I felt for you after you became Immortal, was -- is -- the fear I felt when you told me about your decision to have a child. I can't keep you safe from the pain," his voice tightened with emotion, "from the grief... No one should have to outlive their own child, their own blood. But you will."

"We don't know what the future will hold," she whispered, fighting to hold back the tears that burned against her eyelids.

"There's a reason that we can't have children, Triona."

Shaking her head, she replied, "Maybe you're right, Methos, I don't know. But I do know that if we didn't love because we feared loss, you would have never loved me. No Immortal would ever love!"

He pulled her around, kissing her fiercely. "I could never not love you," he said, placing his hands on either side of her head. "Even at our darkest, I have always loved you."

"I know," she said softly. "I wish... I wish I could ask you to come home. But I won't. Knowing how you feel about this, I won’t." This time, the tears won, and Triona turned away.

Kissing her softly, and with a murmured, “Be right back." Methos got to his feet, swiftly crossing the room to open a drawer in a desk that was constructed of some black polymer. He made a soft, satisfied noise as he pulled a datapad from the drawer. Triona, wrapping the blanket around her and knotting it like a sarong, met him halfway.

Silently, Methos handed his wife the pad. She glanced up at him curiously before turning her attention to the display. Quickly, she scanned through the pictures that flashed across its smooth, compact surface. Bewildered, she sank into the sofa. "It's beautiful," Triona said of the house that had been displayed. "But what...?"

Sitting next to her, Methos took her hand in his. "After the alien probe, things began to deteriorate between us, and I didn't know how to stop it. I remembered how happy we'd been when we'd taken time to be alone together those years in Montana, before the war. I was desperate to recapture that feeling between us." Closing his eyes, Methos hung his head.

Triona leaned against his shoulder. "Oh, my love...."

Both of them remembered well the reasons that they had decided to spend time alone together, as husband and wife, all those years ago. That time, it had been Methos' betrayal that had led them to near destruction. But somehow, they'd put the pieces back together. Now, he hoped they could do it again.

"I couldn't recreate the past, but the thought came to me that maybe I could make a new past, a new beginning. So I decided to build a house," he said simply.

"Build? You *built* this house?" Triona asked, astonishment in her voice, waving the data pad she still held.

"It isn't the first time," he protested good-naturedly. Serious once more, he continued with his explanation. "After you got back to Imladris, after what happened on the Enterprise with the probe, I went to the tip of the Southern Continent, to the Popcorn Archipelago."

"You disappeared for weeks," she commented, remembering.

He'd needed the time away. Triona's experience on the Enterprise hadn't been the beginning of their problems, but the culmination. There had been cracks for months, but both of them had tried to pretend that nothing had changed. The groundwork had been laid on their first meeting with the Enterprise -- and Picard.
 

He, Triona, LaCroix, Stephanie, and Terese, had been on their way to a mutual defense summit on Carrington Station. Their ship had been attacked enroute by unknown assailants, though they suspected that the Orion Syndicate had been behind it. The Syndicate had been putting increasing pressure on non-Federation systems, Imladris in particular. One aspect of the conference they were attending was the increasing sway of the criminal organization and how to combat it. Triona, in her capacity as defense minister of the Imladrin Planetary Union, had been particularly vocal in demanding that the Federation do more to police their own outlying systems.

The Enterprise, carrying delegates to the conference, had come upon their beleaguered ship, rescuing them in the nick of time. And then, Triona had met Picard. It had been obvious to anyone with eyes to see that the two were drawn to each other. LaCroix, at his manipulative best, had used that interest to Imladris's advantage, instructing Triona to get as much information on the Federation’s position from Picard as she could. To Methos' mind, Triona undertook her task with more enthusiasm than was strictly necessary. Her flirtation with the Enterprise captain had set his teeth on edge. Lucien's obvious enjoyment of his friend's irritation swiftly turned Methos' annoyance into anger.

On returning home, Triona had been distant and Methos had swallowed his anger. It had seemed like they hardly saw each other in the daily press of duties as the weeks turned into months. Triona and LaCroix were making frequent trips out of the system, and it was on one of those trips that Triona and Captain Picard found themselves once more in each other’s company. And then they'd been irrevocably tied together by the experience they had shared with LaCroix when an alien race had set them to living lives from the vampire's mortal life in ancient Rome.

LaCroix had been the one to tell Methos what had happened on the Enterprise. The vampire had finally come to realize that things between Triona and Methos had almost reached a point of no return. It had hurt Methos, more than he cared to admit, that Triona hadn’t told him herself what had happened. Just one more secret in a long line of secrets that involved Picard.

Methos nodded. “I sailed around the archipelago, and then picked one of the larger islands and hiked in. There’s so much of our planet that we haven’t explored.” His voice held remembered excitement. “I cut through the bush and found myself in the most beautiful clearing. The beach was a perfect shade of amethyst, several shades darker than the sand we’ve normally seen. The lagoon was afire with the reflected light of the setting sun. To the right of me was a clear view across the water out to the other islands in the archipelago. In front of me was nothing but sea. Off to the left, the island rose up a soft incline to a point on a cliff that hung over the edge of the lagoon like a box in an opera house.”

“It sounds beautiful, I doubt the pictures do it justice,” she murmured, totally swept up in his description.”

Nodding, he continued, “I made my way up the hill to the cliff. I found a fresh water spring pushing up through the rock, giving life to a Garden of Eden as far back as the eye could see.”

Triona snickered. “Don’t tell me you were there too,” she teased. “I mean, I know you’re old and all….”

“You too can be dealt with,” he warned mock ominously, tapping her lightly on the tip of her nose. She just stuck her tongue out at him. Kissing her firmly, he ignored her twitting. “As I looked out across the water, I knew I wanted to bring you to see it too. More than that, I wanted it to be *our* place, like the Keep had been in the beginning. I could see the place in my head. It would be built with native stone, so it looked like part of the landscape. It would be broad and low, with open porches all around to catch the breezes. Our bedroom would reach down to where the spring was and we’d catch some of the water into a pool. It would be like sleeping in the jungle.”

“Thank goodness for force fields!” Triona laughed.

“Force fields? Didn’t I tell you? This is a no tech house. It’s time we got back to nature.” Methos kept his face perfectly straight.

She peered at him, not quite sure if he were serious. Then she laughed. “Uh huh.”

“I’m serious!” he protested.

“And I’m the Queen of England! Please, Methos, your idea of roughing it is a hotel without room service.”  Shaking her head, she added, “Weren’t you the one that told me that those who love the romance of the past should get three square meals accompanied by maggots, flies and the scent of rancid meat, not to mention people, to cure them?”

“This might have been me,” he admitted. “But I say lots of things.”

“No kidding,” she muttered, sighing long-sufferingly.

He just grinned, getting up and walking over to the refrigeration unit to get a bottle of beer. Methos hated beer from the replicator, he insisted it didn’t taste right -- of course, that was what LaCroix said about replicated blood too.

Triona was once more looking at the holopics on the data pad, a thoughtful expression on her face. Sitting back down, Methos offered her his bottle. “Want some?”

“What? Sharing your beer? I’m touched.” Grinning, she took the proffered bottle, ignoring his dirty look.

After a few swallows, Methos protested, “Hey! Don’t drink all of it!”

“You offered!” she handed him back his coveted beverage.

“But I didn’t think you’d actually take me up on it.” He smirked as she rolled her eyes.

Changing the subject back to the matter at hand, she pointed to the data pad. “The house is amazing – inside and out – I can’t believe you did all this.”

“Mac helped. So did Stephanie.” At Triona’s look of surprise at mention of her cousin, Methos said, “We’re getting along pretty well these days.”

“I’m glad.”  Triona had a guarded expression on her face as she asked the next question. “So you came home and you never told me about this place…” It was half question, half statement.

He didn’t answer immediately, seemingly fascinated with the bottle he held in his hands. “Have you ever wondered why we don’t use, say, purple glass? It’s always brown or green.”

Triona just waited patiently for Methos to get to where he was going. “Methos,” she prompted gently when it seemed like he’d gotten lost on the way.

“Right.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “I was going to tell you about it. At least about the spot. I wanted the house to be a surprise. But when I got back, you were deep in the planning of the trade conference, and….”

“And Jean-Luc was there,” she finished for him.

“Yeah.”

Methos had been so hopeful when he’d returned from his trip. He’d wanted to share his discovery with his wife. But somehow, in the weeks he’d been gone, the distance between them had grown. Instead of healing their wounds, it had been more like rubbing salt in them. They’d fought, more than once, during the conference. Methos had even gone so far as to accuse the Federation of having a hand in the plot to assassinate Triona in an attempt to force Imladris into the Federation fold.

Of course, all Methos had succeeded in doing was to drive his wife farther away and closer to Picard. Then she’d made the announcement that she, with Picard as the biological father, was going to attempt what their scientists had said was possible: conceive a child of her own. Methos hadn’t even had time to absorb the shock before Triona had left for Earth on the Enterprise.

“I keep saying, ‘I’m sorry’,” Triona said, her voice tired. “But it seems so inadequate.”

Shaking his head sharply, he objected, “It is enough, love. I’m sorrier than you can know, for so many things. Don’t you think I know that if I hadn’t let my pride overrule my sense, that maybe things would be different?”

“No, this isn’t your fault, Methos!” She jumped up, beginning to pace in agitation. “I started this centuries ago when I kept my meeting with Picard from you. Just because I didn’t realize how complicated it would get is no excuse. It was wrong, and I knew it was wrong then – I know it now.”

Methos grabbed her arm, halting her. “Look at me, Triona. Please.” Doing as he asked, she looked him straight in the eye. “I’m not going to argue with you over who’s the most to blame.” This time, when he drew her down to sit with him, he pulled her into his lap, wrapping his arms around her. He’d always loved the feel of her body against his and he’d missed the feel of her next to him during their estrangement. Not just in bed, but the little everyday touches: holding hands over the breakfast table, curled up in front of the fireplace as a storm from the Vermilion Sea crashed and wailed against the walls of house, or caressing her thigh under the table at some interminable conference.

He wanted that back. If he hadn’t been sure when he’d felt her presence, for the first time in nearly a year, yesterday, he was sure now. Whatever it took, he was determined to fix their marriage. Triona wasn’t a woman that he could ever just be friends with. If they were to end it all, it would be for good. That thought was one he refused to contemplate.

“When you came back home, you tried to approach me, I know you did,” he admitted. He felt her stiffen at his mention of their last fight. “I’m not proud of how I acted that night. I was cruel and callous and I certainly never gave you a chance.”

In almost five hundred years, Methos knew every vulnerability, weakness, and fear, of his wife's. And he’d used that intimate knowledge to devastating effect during their last meeting….


She’d found him in his study. It was the middle of the night, but he hadn’t been sleeping much these days. He tried ignoring her presence, but being Immortals, it was pointless to pretend he didn’t know she was there.  “I’m busy, Triona,” he said before she had a chance to speak.

He heard her walk closer, until she was behind his chair. “I realize it’s late, Methos. But I just got home and I saw the light on in here…” she trailed off uncertainly.

“So you thought I’d drop everything to talk to you,” he finished. He cut off her protest. “As hard as it might be for you to believe, the rest of us do go on with our lives when you aren’t here.” He still refused to look at her. In the weeks she’d been gone, his hurt had turned into a cold fury.

“That isn’t fair,” she objected.

“The truth rarely is,” he replied coldly. “I have a translation project that I’m working on, and I really don’t have time for this.”

“Methos, please….”

“Please what?” Getting out of his chair, he rounded on her, the cold fury exploding into hot rage. She took an involuntary step back. “Please listen to my excuses and lies? Please understand why I left you without so much as a backward glance? Please understand why I’m sleeping with Picard?” The last was said with such venom that Triona blanched. She just shook her head mutely, too stunned by his attack to respond. “What, no denials, no excuses? What a concept!”

“You have it all figured out, don’t you?” she ground out, finally shaking herself out of her shock. “You have all the answers!”

He just shook his head, turning away from her.

“So that’s how this works! You accuse and then refuse to participate. I have better things to do than put up with this!” She whirled away, intent on leaving the study.

“Sure, run away, Triona. Don’t you ever get tired of not taking responsibility for your mistakes?” His voice was scathing.

Turning back, she exploded, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

He answered her question with one of his own. “Talked to Joe lately?”

She swayed, and had to take hold of the door jam to steady herself. “Joe? After all these years, you’re still blaming me for what happened? Didn’t I suffer enough for that in your estimation, Methos? It was an *accident*, you know that.”

“An accident, yes, how very convenient. If you had listened to me that day and had stayed away like I asked, if you had kept out of something that was none of your business…. But no, you had to get involved and Joe ended up a vampire.”

There were tears in her eyes now and she angrily brushed them away. “I didn’t know he was there! You know that. And even if I had, what was my alternative? Would it have made you happier if I’d let Soto take my head instead?”

"You're missing the point," he bit out. "When have you *ever* done anything I asked? When have you ever really trusted me?"

"How can you even ask that?" she cried.

"Your capacity for self-deception never ceases to amaze me." He shook his head in disgust; not caring that Triona looked like she was near emotional collapse.  "Did you trust me when you decided to be brought across? No, you didn't!" He was shouting at her now. "If you had just trusted me, had told me what you planned, everything, all of it, could have been avoided!"

All the fight had left Triona. "How could I have known what would happen, Methos? I did the best I could. You don't understand; I felt like I was left with no choice." Her voice held a note of pleading and desperation that Methos ignored utterly.

 "No, it's you that doesn't understand, Triona. You never have." Without even a backward glance, he strode from the room.....


“I came to you that night to ask you to reconsider your decision to be a biological part of Lucia's creation...." Her voice cracked. "I so desperately wanted to make it right."

"But I never gave you the chance," he said his voice full of regret for what had been lost. "I'm so sorry."

"I know now you said those things out of pain.” The pain in her voice cut like a knife. “I think I knew that then, but I was too hurt and too afraid to deal with any of it. I just threw myself into planning Lucia’s creation and birth. That, along with all my other duties didn’t leave me much time to think about us.”

“I know you thought I’d left the system, and that’s what I wanted you to think. What I did was go to the island and worked out my anger and regret on stone and wood.”

Attempting to lighten the mood, she smiled and said, “That at least explains the nice chest muscles you have going.” She let her palm linger against the warmth of his skin. “Lucien told me that I just needed to give you, give us, time. That I shouldn’t let the hurt get in the way of what we were.”

“He can be so annoying when he’s right,” Methos said ruefully. “I guess I owe him one for that.”

Triona laughed outright. “God, it’s so ironic. Who is it that always sets us back on track? LaCroix! I’m still not sure that he quite understands how he ended up with the job.”

“It’s good for him,” Methos said, joining in her laughter. Suddenly serious, he turned her to face him. “You can ask me, Triona.”

She searched his face, not quite trusting his statement. He nodded in encouragement. Swallowing, she almost whispered the question she’d wanted to ask more than anything, “Will you come home with me, Methos? Will you be a father to our daughter? She is *ours*, I so much want you to believe that.”

He didn’t answer, instead, picking up the data pad that Triona had abandoned on the coffee table. “There’s a picture in here I don’t think you saw,” he told her, handing her the slim device.

Tears began flowing down her face as she realized what the picture was of. “It’s a nursery,” she said, a stunned expression on her face.

“I’ll come, my love. And then all of us will go home,” he placed his hand over hers on the data pad, “together.”
 

Finis
 


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