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18 April 2006 @ 07:44 pm
Fic: Not Without Loss (01/02)  
A Bloodties Series story.

Rated "R"

With Methos, Duncan, Cassandra, LaCroix, and a cast of thousands (well, nearly!)







As I slowly transfer my older fic over here…

This was the last story I wrote before the long dry spell of nearly three years! I’ll blame Cassandra, since this was my one and only attempt to write her and figure her out. I’m rather fond of it for one particular bit of dialogue between Triona and Methos. Sometimes, they’re like children or cats… maybe fish!

Oh, and Richie is mentioned because he’d already been written alive in stories set in the time period before he was killed off in the series. Just an FYI.

This story in its entirety, and all other stories in the series, can be found here.

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

This story is rated R for adult content aka sex! You have been warned! Sorry, no slash to be found in the following pages. :)

*****************

Not Without Loss
c. 2003


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"There was an Immortal with this latest batch."

Both women's heads shot up.

"Anyone we know?" Sarah asked, concerned.

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

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

************

San Francisco, December 2035

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The opals favour your eyes."

"You do amazing work - art even."

"How do you know I don't just work here?"

Triona laughed. "No, these are your creations. It's undeniable."

"I guess I'm not as mysterious as I thought, how disappointing!"

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

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

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

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

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

Taking the proffered hand, Sage shook it firmly. "I'm glad to hear it...."

**************

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*************************

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


********************

San Francisco: Spring 2036

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

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

"I didn't think you'd come over today in this storm," Sage told her.

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

Sage laughed. "What is it about again?"

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

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

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

'I'm sorry. But you're such a.... nerd!" Laughter won and soon Triona was joining in.

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

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

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

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

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

"Uh-huh."

"Next visit! I promise...!"

******************

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

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

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

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

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

"Continue," he directed shortly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


*****************

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*************
San Francisco: Autumn 2036

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He raised his right hand, palm out. "I'll behave, Scouts honour."

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

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

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

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

Leaning up to kiss him lightly, Triona just smiled. "Come on then, let's get going."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Methos," she began to protest.

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

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

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

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

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

"Damn it, let go of me!"

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

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

"Only if you give me your word that you won't try and go back to the restaurant."

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

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

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

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

"Okay," she agreed, placing her palm against the tightly corded muscles of his back. "I'm sorry."

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

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

Triona froze at his strained reply. "Cassandra. That was Cassandra..."

***************

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

************************

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He looked up to watch her eyes as she awoke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Missed me, huh?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


*****************

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Because I love you," she said softly.

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

"That isn't true!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You don't want to know."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****************

On to Part Two
 
 
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