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06 August 2006 @ 01:52 pm
Fic: 'Takasago's Pines' (01/02)  



Notes: This is a story in the Bloodties series. As those of you who've read other tales in the series already know, they're crossovers between Highlander and Forever Knight, though as the years go on, they're more HL than FK for the most part. I've been writing in this series since 1996, so it has changed as the two series did, having to accommodate new canon as episodes aired, the perception and beliefs of the characters changing along with it.

This story takes place during one portion of a day in the episode Forgive Us Our Trespasses. I've never inserted a scene into a Highlander episode before, so this is a new thing for me and we'll have to see how successful my attempt was. It's also been a while since I've written anything that takes place over this particular time period in this series of stories. Most of the stories I've written in this section of the timeline I did back in 1997-98, and hopefully, I'm a better writer than I was back then if nothing else. I've tried to match the mood between this new story, and those I wrote nearly ten years back. This takes place before Hunger, and Turning the Page, and is something of the lull before the storm. Lots of bad stuff awaits them, but they don't know that yet.

Some of you may remember I was on a Japanese Death Poetry kick a few months back. Well, a lot of the mood of this story is the result, along with including pieces of said poetry as part of the story, and the title. All the poem notes will be at the end of the story.

I was writing this during the discussion of FUOT on my LJ, and came to find I had a fairly different take from everyone else on what was going on between Duncan and Methos and their relationship at the time. Not that that was too much of a surprise! Thank you to everyone who participated in that discussion. It gave me so much to think about as I was writing, and it definitely made me feel like I'd written a stronger story because of it.

Only Triona belongs to me, no one else does. But we all knew that, right?

Many thanks to ninjababe and otterevil for beta reading!

Other stories in the series can be found on my archive.

@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@


Takasago's Pines
c. 2006

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like the morning moon,
Cold, unpitying was my love.
And since we parted,
I dislike nothing so much
As the breaking light of day.

~ Mibu no Tadamine

~~~~~~~~~~~~


Part One

"What the hell are you doing here, Triona?" Methos demanded, standing in the doorway of his Paris apartment.

With some effort she bit back an angry response, glancing at Amanda, who was standing just behind him rolling her eyes and making strangling motions with her hands. Taking a deep breath, she pushed past him. "I'm selling Girl Guide cookies! Any more stupid questions?"

The door closed none too gently behind her. "Very amusing."

Amanda came over, kissing her on the cheek. "Hey, honey."

Hugging the older woman, Triona whispered, "I see he's in a mood."

She laughed softly. "You could say that."

Grabbing Triona's arm, he pulled her around, the two of them facing off with matching glares. "You shouldn't be here. We had an agreement---"

"No!" she cut him off. "You and Duncan had an agreement! I don't recall being consulted, let alone agreeing, to this ridiculous arrangement!"

"I think that's my cue to go," Amanda said. "You two have fun!"

He shot her a look. "Amanda---"

"I'm not going to rat you out to Duncan!" With a smug look, Amanda added, "especially since this was my idea!" Before Methos could muster a response she waved cheerily. "Call me about that little problem, darling!" And with that she was gone.

The sudden silence was deafening. Triona's earlier bravado had faded into nervousness. She'd known he was going to be irritated with her for showing up on his doorstep, but she hadn't expected anger. Maybe letting Amanda talk her into this hadn't been the best idea she'd had lately. And maybe her deepest fear had every reason for being; that thought whispered its way across her consciousness like so much poison.

She'd been miserable in the weeks following Duncan's ultimatum that Methos stay away if Duncan were to continue as her teacher. Not just because of his conditions, but the tension and stress that had resulted from Methos and Duncan's estrangement. It was like a weight dragging them all down. So when she'd told Amanda how unhappy she'd been when the two had met for dinner a few nights before, it hadn't taken much for the older Immortal to convince her young friend to do what Triona wanted -- not what the two men wanted.

Sighing tiredly, she rubbed her eyes. Well, there was no help for it. It was too close to dawn for her to leave now -- not that the timing hadn't seemed like the perfect plan before. You've been hanging around Methos and LaCroix too long, she chided herself. Getting just a tad manipulative, aren't you? Pushing aside her lecturing little voice, she took off her coat, tossing it over a nearby chair. "I missed you too, Methos," she said with an edge she couldn't quite soften. Instead of looking at him, she stared fixedly at the metal sculpture in the corner.

"Come here, Triona," he commanded softly.

Briefly, she considered ignoring him, but thought better of it. She didn't want to fight with him, not now. Complying, arms wrapped tightly around herself, she looked up at him defiantly. "If you're going to yell at me, then go ahead! But I'm not sorry I came!"

Shaking his head resignedly he pulled her to him sharply. "You shouldn't be here."

"So you keep saying," she replied with an attempt at nonchalance. Triona could feel how tensely he was holding himself.

"Duncan---"

"Duncan doesn't scare me! What's he going to do? Glower at me?"

He laughed, but it wasn't a happy sound. "That isn't what I want to hear." His hands tightened around her upper arms.

"Well, life is full of little disappointments, isn't it?" she sniped. She wanted to wrest out of his grip, but forced herself to calm. It wasn't as if she hadn't had plenty of practice controlling her emotions over the last few years. Forcing out her breath, she made herself relax.

"And what about me, Triona? Do I scare you?" The hands tightened a little more.

Looking him straight in the eye, she asked in return, "Is that what you'd like? To drive me away too?" Something flashed in his eyes, and then he was pushing her away, stalking across the room. Nearly stumbling at the unexpectedness of his action, she clenched her hands into fists, eyes following him. "You should know by now, I don't frighten that easily!"

His hand paused on the wardrobe door. "And you think that's a good thing?" Again, the humourless laugh.

Years spent as a mortal in the Vampire community had left her with a very high fear threshold. She knew very well that Methos thought she hadn't even the sense God gave her when it came to walking away from situations that anyone else wouldn't have even approached in the first place. When it came right down to it, that was the story of her life.

Opening the wardrobe, he pulled out a pile of clothes, quickly dressing. Triona stayed where she was, watching him silently. Finally she said, "I certainly didn't expect my presence to drive you out of your apartment." No, you expected many things, but not this. Fool.

Catching her gaze briefly, he hung his head, arms akimbo. "It's not like that."

"Isn't it?" Her voice shook a little. She'd hoped they'd moved past the events of the last year. Obviously, she'd been wrong. The last weeks had brought the inescapable realization that this arrangement with Mac suited Methos quite well. Keeping her out of the way so he didn't have to deal with her for as long as possible. But she couldn't live her life like this anymore. If this was the end, then Methos needed to tell her so, once and for all.

"No, it isn't. I just have to be somewhere." Sighing, he moved closer. "We'll talk when I come back." Still, he wouldn't meet her eyes.

Something was going on -- what was he hiding? "It's something to do with why Amanda was here, isn't it?" she demanded. "The 'little problem'. Whatever it is, it's something that's just happened, otherwise she would have never convinced me to come here tonight."

"I need to talk to MacLeod," he finally admitted.

"You need to talk to Duncan? You haven't seen me in weeks, but you need to see him right this instant? The same Duncan who has treated you like a pariah?" Shaking her head, she demanded, "What the hell is going on, Methos?"

He eyed her appraisingly for a few moments before deciding to tell her what she wanted to know. Eyes widening in disbelief as Methos explained the situation with Stephen Keane and Amanda's concern that Duncan was going to get himself killed, Triona sank into a nearby chair. "So I'm going to go talk to the pig-headed Scot and try and make him see reason," he finished.

"You've lost your mind! That's it isn't it? The stress of the last few months has addled your wits!" She shook her head, trying to process what he'd told her.

"Why? Just because I'm going to talk to him?"

"No, because you know as well as I do that it's pointless! And if you know that, then you have something else in mind, and you're insane!" Jumping out of the chair, she started to pace around in circles.

"You're borrowing trouble, Triona!"

"The hell I am! No, never mind!" she forestalled his reply. "You want me to believe that, then fine, but tell me why you even care? Why, Methos? You are the last person to put yourself in the middle of someone else's problem, and yet here you are, ready to do just that. And for what? You don't owe Duncan anything!" What on earth had possessed him? This wasn't normal, not at all. But nothing had been normal since that morning she'd walked into the sitting room in Ontario to find him with LaCroix, drunk and lost. The morning he'd stopped being Adam Pierson forever.

"Don't I?" was asked with no emotion, the words hanging in the silence.

"No!" That one word exploded from her, all the fear and anguish she felt held in it. "Why are you doing this to yourself? What have you ever been than a friend to him? Dear god, you left Alexa's side when she was dying to help him! To save him from himself! When the hell did Duncan MacLeod earn the right to be your judge and jury?" She turned away, hands at her sides, fingers held like claws. "And just when did you decide he should be?" Triona's voice broke on the last.

She shivered in the blooming light of the dawn - his chill or hers? She couldn't tell anymore. If she walked into the shaft of light moving up the windows across from her, the chill would be gone. Then she would burn. But it would only be a fleeting sensation. She would heal, and the chill, the cold, would return once more. With great effort she forced back the desperate thoughts, looked away from the sun's beckoning embrace.

Finally, his words pulled her away from where her mind had strayed. "He let me live, Triona." Now he stood right behind her, his voice so quiet that it barely brushed her senses.

Trembling, she could feel his breath against her hair. Never had she been more thankful she didn't share a mental bond with Methos as she did with LaCroix. The intensity was smothering enough as it was. Feeling it, experiencing it, would have surely broken her. She wasn't strong enough.

"Cassandra would have taken my head." His hand rested now against the back of her neck as he leaned in, lips brushing against her hair. "He asked for my life."

Choking back a sob, she fought the urge to pull away. It was like suffocating. His nearness, his touch; there was nothing she could say. There weren't the words for this, nor would there ever be. Now she leaned into him, letting out her breath slowly, closing her eyes as his arms slipped around her, holding her as if she might break if he held her too tightly. The steady beat of his heart against her back calmed her. For just a moment, she could forget reality and hold him close to her soul.

Then he was turning her around, tilting her head up, searching her eyes. "Do you still trust me?" It shocked her to realize he didn't seem to know the answer. "I know you love me, but trust? Can you still trust me, Triona?"

She wanted to scream, furious at him for asking such a thing. But instead, she replied with a simple, "Yes." There was no need for her to consider her answer - it had never changed. From the moment she'd opened the door to see him standing there that first time, through every grief, every sorrow, till this moment, the answer had only ever been yes. Holding her gaze a few moments longer, he finally nodded, as if accepting what she said. Whether he truly did or not, she had no real idea; could only hope it was so.

As if by some silent accord, they parted. Triona once more sat in the chair she'd vacated only a few minutes before, while Methos picking up his sword, went to the closet, pulling out his coat and placing the weapon in its harness.

"He won't thank you for being a busybody, you know." Her voice sounded normal now. Calm, matter-of-fact.

This time when he looked at her, he seemed more like himself, a smile half-forming on his lips. "I'm sure he won't; he's too much of a pain in the ass to appreciate my wisdom." Now he really was smiling. He went to the front door, pulling it open. "Try and keep yourself amused while I'm gone."

"Methos!" She stopped him, running across the room to hug him fiercely. "Don't be long, okay?" That was all she said, knowing that he already knew all the things she didn't say; couldn't say.

Nodding, he kissed her softly, smiling as he walked out the door.


@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@



She stared at the closed door for a time before purposefully turning away. Wandering absently around the living area, she ran her fingers across the furniture as she passed. Everywhere there were piles of books and journals. If Methos wasn't reading, he was writing, and everywhere he went he left the evidence of his favourite pastimes strewn in little piles all over, like fallen leaves in autumn. Picking up one of the brown leather-bound books, she let it fall open, scanning the pages. If it was written in a language she could actually read, she was free to do so. Triona knew that Methos saw it as a sort of game between them; motivation for her to learn new languages so she could read his journals. So far he hadn't succeeded. French, Latin, and Japanese, in varying levels of competency, suited her well enough for the moment. This however, she couldn't read - some sort of Greek she thought. Flipping a few more pages, she came across two photographs, face down, with words in Japanese written across them. This she could read.

Her father's company had assigned him to their Kyoto office when she was ten, and they'd lived in Japan for the next five years before moving back home to Vancouver. In college, she'd continued to study the language. When she'd started working, several of her clients had been based in Japan, and she had spent a great deal of time traveling back and forth for several years. While she spoke the language quite well, reading the characters was more of a challenge. She picked up the first one. It was a poem, one she recognized:

'Alone in bed
her image clearly comes--
I can see her long hair,
feel it smooth
to the touch of my palms.'


She turned the photo over. "I didn't even know he had this," she whispered into the quiet. Amanda must have given it to him. It had been taken several months ago, just before everything had gone to hell. Duncan had invited them all for dinner, and Amanda had a new camera that she was intent on playing with. Methos had threatened to take it away if she didn't stop flashing the wretched contraption into his eyes. Triona and Duncan, a little tired of the flash themselves, had applauded Methos on as he made good on his threat. Amanda pouted and wheedled, but she didn't get her camera back till the end of the evening. While Methos had possession, he'd taken a few pictures himself, except much more quietly, and without the flash going off. This photo was of her in profile, leaning against the wall, staring out the window into the dark. She hadn't even realized he'd taken it.

Laying it back on the pages of the journal, she picked up the second photo, translating once again. Another poem:

'Whom then are there now,
In my age (so far advanced)
I can hold as friends?
Even Takasago's pines
Are not friends of former days.'


Her throat tightened as she turned it over. This time it was a group photo: Duncan, with Amanda on his lap, Triona sitting next to them, her legs tucked under her. They were all laughing; a moment of friendship and joy captured. Would it ever be that way again? Shaking her head, she blinked back the tears that threatened as she placed the photo back the way she'd found it, closing the journal and setting it back on top of the pile. Fitting she supposed, that the only outlet he seemed to find for his grief was in the written word. Now she truly understood LaCroix's words just before she'd left for France….

Ontario, Canada, a few months before

"He is just a man. For all his great age, he has a man's sorrows, a man's hopes, and a man's fears." The sound of his voice melded with the wind that blew off the lake.

She didn't turn, just nodded, wrapping her coat tighter around herself as she stared out over the water. It wasn't a surprise that LaCroix had come to her here. It was impossible to shield the tempest of her emotions from the ancient vampire, so she hadn't even tried.

The last day had been exhausting, beginning that morning with the unexpected discovery of Methos sitting with LaCroix. Then came the revelation of his past, why he'd sent her back to Toronto, what had happened over the last few weeks. His grief over having had to kill his old companion Silas, and Duncan's seeming inability to accept his past, letting it overshadow their relationship here in the present. He'd fully expected that she would react similarly, and that expectation had made her weep inwardly for his hurt. But outwardly, she'd carefully erected a visage of calm, not letting her own uncertainties touch her reactions. In the years she'd known Methos, he'd slowly, almost imperceptibly, thrown off 'Adam Pierson', but the remnants had still been there, enough so that the realization this morning that Adam was truly gone had been one she was still grappling with. She'd left Methos, who had finally fallen into an exhausted sleep in the hours just before dawn, needing time alone in the cold and wind to try to settle the worry and sorrow that plagued her thoughts.

"That's why he came here; because he is only ever Methos to you." It was the truth. One she accepted. But it still hurt, knowing that he had come here seeking refuge in the comforting familiarity of his relationship with the ancient Roman vampire -- that her presence had been secondary, if even that. In fact, he hadn't even wanted to see her, had said so. But LaCroix had had other ideas.

He didn't deny her words. Instead, he said, "I know you have long wondered why he has never fully let you into his life, but it was not my tale to tell. I was never able to convince him that he could reveal all to you, that he was safe here with us. His fear was that even if you accepted his past, that he would lose your trust." The vampire placed a hand on her shoulder. "Give him time to adjust. He has spent more than two thousand years knowing that Kronos was out there, somewhere, and would find him again one day; even if he rarely allowed himself to consciously acknowledge that fact."

Finally, she turned, looking up at him. "I will give him whatever he needs, whatever he wants, but I don't think he's going to let me. I'll wake up one morning, and he'll be gone. That's his defense mechanism, you know that better than I. Leaving anyone and anything that makes him feel vulnerable, that makes him care. Leaving the people who love him."

LaCroix looked thoughtful. "I do not think that will be the case this time," he placed a finger across Triona's lips when she would speak, "and even if it is, you must remember, child, for us, for him, nothing is forever. Even if years pass, trust you will find him again. That is the way of our world."

Closing her eyes, she nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She knew what he said was true, but still had yet to feel the reality of her immortality in her soul. "I should go back. I don't want him to wake up alone."

LaCroix stroked her cheek with one cool finger. "Trust in yourself, Triona. With patience, love, and time, I promise you, all will be well…."





ON TO PART TWO

 
 
Music Box: KT Tunstall - Silent Sea
 
 
 
enchantersnightenchantersnight on August 6th, 2006 09:13 pm (UTC)
*gulp* tearing up again, can't wait for the second half, rec something a bit happier for me?
Ith: Methos - Book=Hotithildyn on August 6th, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC)
Do I need to do hankie warnings for you ? :)

Hmm... I don't read a lot of fic that's happy. But I'll try and think of something :)
enchantersnightenchantersnight on August 7th, 2006 07:26 am (UTC)
I think hankie warnings would be a good idea!

Ah yes angst lady I keep forgetting
Ith: Absinthe Posterithildyn on August 7th, 2006 02:37 pm (UTC)
Yep, that's me!
She went that-a-way...jinxed_wood on February 3rd, 2007 04:46 am (UTC)
Wow, this is very sophisticated piece of writing, Ith. Deceptively simple, yet full of all these lovely little details. Also, i think this is the first time I've really seen Triona, and got a good feel for her character. Wonderful!
Ith: Forever Knight - Foreverithildyn on February 3rd, 2007 05:03 am (UTC)
Thank you, Kate :) Means a lot to me that you enjoyed it.
(Anonymous) on April 13th, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
Can't wait to have my say
Hey - I am definitely happy to discover this. cool job!