If I should live long,
Then perhaps the present days
May be dear to me,
Just as past time filled with grief
Comes quietly back in thought.
~ Fujiwara no Kiyosuke
Paris, France, present day
Triona let Methos' kisses, the feel of his hands, wake her completely. She had puttered around the apartment for some time, catching up on work, reading, and then had let a wave of sleep take her in its gentle embrace. It had been so long since she'd truly slept well, but being here, amongst his things, the lingering scent of him reassuring in its familiarity, here she fell into a peaceful and dreamless sleep.
"Did you have a nice nap?" his voice was a soft rasp that made her catch her breath.
"Lovely. But waking up was so much better."
He lay along side her on his bed, his hip cupped against the bend of her waist, his hand brushing up across her ribs, over her breast, the tips of his fingers settling against her throat. She shifted slightly; her body molding closer into his, reveling in the warmth that he always seemed to radiate, like a cat in the sun. Patience, love, and time, she whispered silently to herself. It was a start. She felt more hopeful than she had allowed herself to be for months. They lay like that, content for just touch and the beat of their hearts together in the silence. No matter what troubles lay between them, in moments like these, she was genuinely happy to just be with him. It had been like that from the beginning, when she'd spent far too many years not recalling what simple joy was. Something not really remembered till that first morning they'd spent together, a first morning she'd thought would be their last. Gentle, sweet, and caring Adam Pierson had changed her life in a handful of hours; Methos had changed her entire universe with a few hours more.
"I think there's strawberry jam in the fridge," he whispered teasingly in her ear.
Giggling, she wrapped her arms around him, not entirely surprised his thoughts had been on that same morning as hers had been. "Maybe one day I'll let you coat me with jam, but not today!"
"More the fool me, but yes, I promise!"
"You should have let me do it then, you know." She could feel his smile against her cheek.
"So you keep telling me."
"Only because I'm right."
"I didn't realize at the time you had a strawberry jam fetish!" she protested. Holding him tighter, she sighed, not realizing she had till he began to stroke her arm.
"I know it's been difficult… I've been difficult. And I know this hasn't been easy for you."
"You don't need to justify yourself to me, Methos. I understand. But I just can't go on as we have been. Not anymore."
"I won't try and make you continue with the agreement Mac and I had. You were right, you didn't agree to it, and it's not fair to you. If he won't accept that, then we'll make other arrangements, even if I have to complete your training myself. We'll work something out."
She shook her head. "We won't have to. You and Amanda need to have a little faith!" she exclaimed. "Duncan made a commitment to me, to be my teacher. You don't think he takes that seriously? No matter that the two of you have issues, in the end, he will feel honour bound to finish what he's begun. And he will." She pulled away, sitting up. "He may grumble and glower, but in the end, he'll do as he promised."
Methos looked up at her skeptically, toying with a strand of her hair. "That easy?"
"Yes." When it seemed as if he was going to argue with her, she shushed him. "I don't want to talk about Duncan anymore."
"Fine," he agreed, a smile tugging at his lips. "Your wish is my command. It is!" he protested at her indelicate snort. "So how was your day, darling?" he asked, merriment in his eyes.
Rolling her eyes, she played along. "Oh, the usual. Went and got my hair done, picked up the dry cleaning, had a tryst with the milkman." This time Methos snorted. "Okay, so I didn't pick up the dry cleaning!"
"Your point?" She brushed her hand through his hair. "Actually, I got some work done. Moved around a few of your investments, made you enough money so you can take me on that trip to Paris you always promised." Grinning, she kissed the tip of his nose. "Oh, that's right, we're in Paris. Never mind."
Gently pulling her back down to lay next to him, he said, "This wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I said we'd travel one day, I hope you know that, love."
"Yeah well, I've learned that nothing ever goes as planned. Maybe one day we can go somewhere, just the two of us."
"I'd like that." Suddenly, he got up off the bed. "But till then…" Smiling mysteriously, he went over to a small wooden chest chased with silver filigree at the far end of the room, opening it and removing an indigo blue glass bottle. Coming back to the bed, he sat on the edge and instructed her to close her eyes.
"Why?" she asked, sitting up on her elbows, mystified by his request.
"Because," was his one word reply. He pushed her back down onto the bed. "No peeking!"
Deciding there was no harm in humouring him, she did as he asked and lay back on the pillows, shutting her eyes and listening to the small noises he made as he did whatever it was he was doing. She felt the sensation of air brushing past her face, followed by a scent that was intoxicating, like a summer garden at the end of a long hot day.
"Tell me what you smell," he commanded softly, his voice not much more than a whisper.
Not immediately answering, she first took a few gentle breaths, inhaling the scent that now seemed to permeate the air around her. She sighed a little, reminded of what it had been like to stand in the warmth of the sun, summertime walks, and autumn picnics; days that were now far behind her. Finally she replied, with a note of wistfulness in her voice, "The end of a long summer day, Japanese oranges at Christmas, the sandalwood writing chest you keep on your desk, the waft of incense in an old church."
Then his lips were brushing hers and she shivered a little at that warm touch. He drew away, and then there was a sensation of coolness, glass brushing against the inside of her wrist, liquid spreading slowly, his fingers gently working scented oil into delicate skin. Then the process was repeated on the other wrist, his fingers trailing like feathers up the inside of her arm, lingering with a gentle swirl that made her heart skip a beat. She tried to speak, but he made a shhh sound, this time pressing his lips against her closed eyes. Now, drops were falling at the hollow of her throat, a slow trickle carrying the scented liquid down between her breasts. Triona sighed softly as once more his fingers delicately began their work, warmth seeming to spread from his hands, over her skin and through her body. Fingers skimmed just over the swell of her breast, and her sigh became a sound of frustration as the touch withdrew. It took all her willpower to lay there, still and silent, when what she wanted more than anything was to pull him to her and drown herself in his body.
The fingers stopped. "Patience is a virtue," he said, laughter in his voice.
This time she opened her eyes. "Conceited old man," she murmured huskily. Taking a deep breath, she let the scent of summer and tangerines hold her in its intoxicating fantasy for just a little longer. "Wherever that was, I'm glad I got to visit." Caressing the side of his face, her thumb skimmed across his lips.
Taking the hand in his, he started once more to massage her wrist, moving up to gently knead the palm of her hand. "There's a place, on the shores of the Mediterranean, with orange and lemon groves. I've had a home of one kind or another there for a very long time. In the summer, at the end of a long hot day, at twilight, the air is heavy with the scent of the fruit and the heat of the day. No matter how many centuries pass, its perfume is the same each and every summer. I'd hoped that this would take you there with me, even if only in memory, until we can go together one day."
"I can almost see it." Pushing herself up, she shifted to lie against his chest as he put his arms around her. "Where did you get it from? The perfume, I mean," she asked curiously.
"Get it? Why, I made it especially for you." He tapped her nose teasingly with the tip of a finger.
"You are full of surprising talents, aren't you?"
"Well, I don't like to boast or anything…"
Triona snickered. "Oh no, you're the epitome of modest."
"I like to think so," he agreed smugly. "Actually, the skill went along with being a doctor in times past; mixing elixirs and unguents, physics and tinctures. This one in particular I originally created for Catherine of Aragon."
"Henry the Eighth's first wife? That Catherine of Aragon?"
"Mmm-hmm, Catalina de Aragón, Princess of Spain, Princess of Wales, Queen Consort of England. I was court apothecary early in the reign of Henry, and visited his young queen often. During one visit, she told me how she missed the warm summers of her home in Spain, the scent of orange groves heavy in the night air. So I blended this for her, to remind a homesick young woman of those childhood summers."
"What was she like?"
Methos chuckled. "Stubborn. She would never bow to the inevitable, still loved Henry till the day she died no matter the humiliation he'd heaped upon her. She was a queen."
A chill settled over her, one that even the warmth of his body couldn't dissipate. "Love destroys everything," she whispered. She felt him go still against her, and she regretted the words; hadn't even realized she'd said them aloud till the sound had passed her lips.
"If I thought you really meant that, I'd be concerned," was all he said.
Shaking her head, she turned in his arms, sitting back on her knees. "I'm sorry, Methos, I didn't mean it the way it sounded."
"No!" Closing her eyes, she hung her head. "Maybe I did, or part of me did."
His hands to either side of her face drew her head up. "Triona, don't hide from me." It was a command and a plea. She opened her eyes. "You told me this morning you trusted me. Then show me. Tell me what is it you fear."
She couldn't speak, just stared into his eyes, unable to look away. Shaking her head mutely, a tear rolled down her face. Taking a deep shuddering breath, she exhaled a single word… "Loss." Her hands were shaking, and Methos took them in his, stilling the trembling. "You're always walking out of my life, Methos. And one day, I know you'll walk away and you won't come back. God knows I've given you enough reason to over and over again. I thought that time had finally come."
He searched her eyes. "That's what you expected when you came here this morning, wasn't it? You came here expecting the end."
She didn't deny his words. "I couldn't admit it to myself, not really. I just knew I had to see you, to see your eyes, so I'd know. I realize now that I've been preparing myself all these months - since before we left Toronto and every day that we we've been in Paris with not a word from you, for you to vanish completely from my life."
"I'm sorry." He wasn't looking at her anymore and it was as if he'd physically withdrawn. The feeling of loss came so abruptly to her that it was like a blow. The warmth and joy that had enveloped them was suddenly gone, as if it had all been a dream, and she shivered in the cold.
"For what? Meeting me? Staying? Or for coming back?" Bitter tears pressed against the back of her eyelids, and a part of her couldn't believe she'd said the words. But she'd wanted to say them for years. She knew that.
He stiffened, and she felt a pang of guilt. Covering her face with her hands, she drew in upon herself. As she started to speak, he cut her off. "Don't! Don't try and apologize for saying what you believe!"
"Then tell me I'm wrong, Methos!" she cried. "Tell me you don't look at me and regret ever becoming entangled in my life!" She grabbed his hands. "Tell me that you don't wish I wasn't simply a mortal woman. A woman who would grow old and die so you could just move on!"
Pulling away from her, he didn't speak, getting off the bed to pace the room like a caged animal. The cold shuttered expression that she hated was back. She didn't know if he was angry because of her words, or because she was right. Finally he said, "Despite what you seem to believe, I don't regret having you in my life. But I won't lie to you, Triona. I wish things were different; that both of us had made other choices. But might have beens can't be." He didn't sound angry, but he did sound like a tired and beaten man.
"You haven't really forgiven me, have you?" It wasn't a surprise, not really. Methos would always see her choice to be brought across as a betrayal, no matter how he denied it. He never really understood the depths of her desperation when she'd asked LaCroix to bring her across that night last year. It had only ever been about escape from the torture her life had become as the mortal companion of a vampire; a situation she had no longer been able to bear. Of course, the result hadn't been freedom, but a cruel twist of fate that had trapped her eternally in twilight.
"This isn't about forgiveness, or blame."
"Then what? What is it about, Methos?"
"Why are you doing this now?" he demanded. "Does it really matter? What's done is done!"
"Don't you see? All you care about right now is that Duncan accepts you for who you are. Well what about me? How do you think it makes me feel when I know you don't accept me, Methos?" She looked at him pleadingly. "I can't change what I am. God knows I wish I could, but I can't. You share my bed, but you won't share my life, and that isn't enough anymore. I can't keep paying for the choice I made. Don't you think my fate is punishment enough?"
"I can't do this now, Triona!" He stared out the window, his profile in sharp relief against the dim light of the late afternoon sun.
"That's the problem, Methos." She shook her head, coming to stand behind him. "It's never the right time. There's always some reason, some interruption, some excuse."
"It's not intentional."
"Isn't it? Maybe not consciously, but we both do it. Dance around our problems, avoiding them, thinking if we don't look at them, they'll go away."
Shoving his hands in his pockets, he half turned, looking at her. "But they don't."
Shaking her head sadly, she placed a tentative hand on his arm. "Can't we start again? Please? I hate fighting, I hate being apart. I want to wake up tomorrow morning with you next to me."
"I know you do." Sighing, he brushed her face with his fingertips.
She took his hand in hers, pressing it against her cheek. "Come with me, Methos. Let's go somewhere, I don't care where, just away from here. Just this once, choose me first. Please."
"Triona…" He shook his head, turning away. His expression spoke volumes.
"No," this was whispered. "Never mind." She would never be first. "I'm going to go home now." Her voice cracked
"Maybe that would be best." His voice was flat, giving no inkling to what he was feeling.
A part of her died at his words. "Yes, of course it would be."
He touched her shoulder. "Just until this is all settled. There are just things I need to deal with first. Please try and understand."
"Don't I always?" She choked back the bitterness. "You know where to find me."
He just nodded as she walked away, snagging her coat from the chair. She stopped, hand on the doorknob, fighting the urge to plead, to beg. Taking hold of herself, she pulled the door open. Then she heard his voice soft behind her. "I need you in my life, Triona, even if you don't believe that now."
Taking a deep shuddering breath, she grasped the doorknob, steadying herself. She didn't look back as she strode away.
My black hair tangled
As my own tangled thoughts,
I lie here alone,
Dreaming of one who has gone,
Who stroked my hair till it shone.
When I think of you,
Fireflies in the marsh rise
Like the soul's jewels,
Lost to eternal longing,
Abandoning my body.
~ Izumi Shikibu
The sequel: My Soul Is Dark
'Like the Morning Moon' by Mibu no Tadamine (Early tenth century).
Uki mono wa nashi
'Alone in Bed' by Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241)
I couldn't find a Romaji version of it, I'm afraid.
'Takasago's Pines' by Fujiwara no Okikaze. (Early tenth century)
Tare o ka mo
Shiru hito ni sen
Matsu mo mukashi no
Tomo nara naku ni
'If I Should Live Long' by Fujiwara no Kiyosuke Ason (1055-1123)
Mata konogoro ya
Ushi to mishi yo zo
Ima wa koishiki
"My Black Hair Tangled' by Izumi Shikibu (974? - 1034?)
First verse in Romaji:
Kurokami no midaremo shirazu
uchifuseba mazukakiyarishi hitozo koishiki
The sequel: My Soul Is Dark