The soft light through the windows of Old Holly Ridge Farm greeted her as she made her way up the path towards the twelfth century farmhouse on the outskirts of York, the warm glow of 'home' filling her heart. As she pushed open the back door, the familiar Immortal burr of her husband completed the feeling of homecoming. So content was she at that moment in time, that she even imagined the scent of dinner wafting past her as she dropped her book bag and long green raincoat on the bench next to the door. Even though he had thrown himself into the role of 'house husband' since they had come to live here after their honeymoon seven months before, cooking was not one of his many talents, so it had to be her imagination.
The scent caught at her nose again, making her stomach growl. She wasn't imagining it! It actually smelled... edible. Delicious actually. Maybe she'd walked into the wrong house? That must be it. Laughing to herself, she made her way down the hall towards the kitchen, unbuttoning the dark-rose coloured jacket of her wool crepe suit, revealing a silk camisole top of the same colour beneath. But instead of a peaceful homecoming after a day of teaching Latin and physics, bangs, curses, and a cloud of dust greeted her.
Triona stood, momentarily speechless, in the doorway. All she could make out were a set of jean clad legs sticking out beyond the edge of the stone hearth, the body hidden somewhere inside the fireplace. Then there was a loud crash that made her jump, followed by a cloud of dust and ash issuing from the chimney.
"Ah ha! That's got it," a muffled voice said. More dust followed, a few more bangs, and then the body attached to the long legs became visible as he rolled out from the large hearth, holding a small metal box. Catching sight of Triona, Methos propped himself up against the wall of the fireplace. "It really is that time," he said, glancing out the window across the room, seeming surprised at the darkness outside.
She formulated and then discarded several replies before settling for what she hoped was a suitably disapproving glare. There was stone dust and a fine covering of ash everywhere, over every surface, including Methos. She couldn't tell if his light gray flannel work shirt was supposed to that colour, or if it was dust. His short dark hair wasn't so dark anymore either.
"What?" he asked innocently.
"What?" She threw up her hands. "What do you mean what? Look at the mess! What on earth have you been doing?"
Glancing around the room, he seemed to realize that maybe he'd been a little too enthusiastic in his quest. "I was looking for something I'd left here." He waved the box he still held in his hand.
Triona sighed. She should have known better than to agree to buy a house that Methos had lived in ten centuries before. But she had loved the place at first sight and had decided that she could deal with whatever ghosts might still remain. Perching on the edge of the worn kitchen table, she asked patiently, "And that would be?"
"Oh, a bit of a rainy day stash. Some gold," he opened the box, peering in and moving the contents around with one long finger, "oh, and a very nice emerald." He held it up between two fingers. "Matches your eyes."
"Gee, isn't that fortuitous," she commented dryly.
He grinned unrepentantly, his hazel green eyes sparkling with laughter. "Isn't it?"
Shaking her head in fond exasperation, she noted, "I hadn't noticed it was raining..." she trailed off, an expectant look on her face.
Methos pushed himself up off the floor. "It was something to do. I wondered if it was still there, the box. I put it there when I built the fireplace."
"You built the fireplace?" she asked, disbelief lacing her voice. The hearth was a massive construct, talking up half the kitchen wall. It even had an inglenook, along with various holes, grates, and shelves that had originally been used for cooking.
"I did!" He walked over to where she sat, dropping a kiss in the tip of her nose, then turning to face the large hearth across from them. ""The original chimney and hearth, at least. The inglenook was added at some later date. When I married Etheldrida, the house still had a fire pit in the center of the hall. I moved us into the twelfth century and built a real fireplace. They'd become quite popular when I'd left London a few years before."
"And why was it you left London for the wilds of York anyway? Angry husband?" she asked, laughing.
"Something like that," he admitted.
"I bet you left a lot of angry husbands in your wake."
"You think so, do you?"
She snorted inelegantly, "Oh, I don't think, I know." Triona shrieked as she was pulled back, finding herself lying across his thighs and cradled in is arms.
"Take it back!" He began to tickle her with one hand, while holding her firmly against his body with his other arm.
"No!" She tried unsuccessfully to break his hold. "You're filthy! My suit! I'm going to be covered in dust!" She shrieked again as his fingers found the spot right under the edge of her ribs that was most ticklish.
"That's not all you're going to be covered in," he warned before lowering his lips to hers and kissing her deeply and thoroughly. Breaking the kiss, he asked, "Surrender?"
Ignoring him, she asked, "Did I actually smell dinner when I walked in here?"
"You needn't sound so shocked," he protested, placing her on her feet.
Leaning up, Triona kissed him on the cheek. "My darling, you are clever, talented, and exceedingly handsome, " she giggled at the smug look on his face, "but you can't cook to save your life."
"I'm not that bad," he said, pouting.
Triona threw her arms around his neck and smiled up at him. "If you say so."
He really did try; she had to give him that. They'd spent their honeymoon in places with long nights and short days to compensate for Triona's inability to be in the sun. But after nearly six blissful months, they'd decided to settle down and have as close to a normal life as they could for as long as they could. Janette had put Triona in contact with a vampire acquaintance that ran a girls' boarding school at her ancestral home, Smythly Hall, just outside of York, England. In the end, Triona accepted a position at the school teaching Latin and physics. They bought the old farm, the central portion of which was the original wattle and daub construction dating from the eleven hundreds, and a place Methos had called home back when it was nearly new. Two other wings had been added in later centuries, and now the dwelling had a vaguely organic Tudor look to it. She worked, and Methos spent his days keeping house, writing the book he always said he was going to finish one day, and fussing over the horses they owned. But when it came to meals, she usually came home to find beans on toast or Indian takeaway waiting for her.
"Fine," he said rather peevishly. "Yes, you do smell dinner - Shepherd's Pie -- courtesy of Mrs. Roberts at the end of the lane."
Walking over to the jade green Aga stove she looked over at him. "Mrs. Roberts?" Grinning, she continued, "Should I be worried? Isn't it a little early in our marriage for you to be stepping out on me? And I can't even say she's a little old for you, now can I?" Mrs. Roberts was in her sixties, and lived with her husband in the small cottage at the far edge of Methos and Triona's property. Her children were grown, and she occupied her time with knitting for her many grandchildren, gardening, and keeping track of her neighbours.
"You're so amusing, you should take your act on the road, " he said witheringly.
Chuckling, she opened the door of the farmhouse oven, peeking in at the bubbling mixture of mutton, gravy, and mashed potatoes. "It smells wonderful." Closing it again, she looked back at her husband. "Don't be grumpy!" she admonished. "What am I supposed to think when the neighbor ladies start bringing you food when I'm not here?" She was trying very hard not to laugh. "First it's food, and then they'll be wanting you to come look at their etchings."
Methos snagged a dishtowel from the table, balled it up, and threw it at her. She caught it neatly, the laughter she had been tying so hard to control burbling past her lips.
"Oh, go ahead and laugh, my pretty little wife. Just remember, I have a very long memory," he threatened ominously, the smile tugging at his lips quite ruining the effect. Triona just stuck her tongue out at him. "I'll admit it was a little odd. I opened the door and she practically thrust the casserole in to my hands, with a look that would curdle milk. Said something about as much as you work, you'd appreciate something homemade."
Triona was suddenly very busy smoothing out the tea towel that she still held in her hands. "Odd," she agreed.
Suspiciously, he asked, "You wouldn't have an explanation, would you?"
"Who, me?" she asked, eyes wide with feigned innocence.
"I knew it! Come on, Triona, confession is good for the soul."
"Okay, fine, maybe she took my attempt at humour this morning the wrong way," she finally admitted.
"And?" He gestured expectantly.
"And I ran into her this morning walking to work. I stopped and chatted with her for a few minutes and she commented on how I was always walking before the sun came up." She turned around, placing the towel over the rack on the counter, tugging at it absently. "I might have said something to the affect that you thought I was getting fat and needed the exercise," she mumbled.
"What?" he shouted.
"It was a joke," she turned back to look at him, "I didn't think she'd take me seriously!"
"That's just wonderful," he griped. "By the end of the week, it'll be all over town. That poor sweet Mrs. Pierson," he said in a fair imitation of the local accent, "and that nasty layabout husband of hers. Works all day she does and he doesn't even feed her properly."
"Oh come on, it's not that bad!"
"Ah, my naive young big city wife. Allow me to share the bounty of my wisdom. This is a small town, small towns thrive on gossip, and you've just provided many months worth."
"Oh, lord." She knew that tone; the one where he went all ancient and twelve year old at the same time. Inwardly sighing, and swearing to herself she'd never speak to another neighbour again, Triona settled in for the long haul.
Ignoring her interruption, he continued, "In two weeks, I won't be able to go into the shops without every woman there nodding and whispering when I walk by. By the end of the month, they'll all be convinced I beat you and keep you chained in the cellar!" The last was practically shouted.
Don't laugh, don't laugh, she repeated to herself, biting the inside of her cheek for good measure. Once she was sure she could keep her voice steady, she said in the meekest voice she could muster, "I promise I'll talk to Mrs. Roberts tomorrow and fix it. I swear."
"Don't bother. She'll never believe you."
"Of course she will!"
"No, she won't. Mrs. Roberts -- and her cronies -- will think I made you do it," he said, obviously disgusted. "That brute of a husband of hers making her come down to my house and try and excuse him. Poor wee thing," he said, once more mimicking Mrs. Roberts. "I can hear it all now."
Triona didn't immediately reply, instead folding the towel she'd been absently toying with for the last several minutes. She opened the oven and using the towel as a potholder, removed the casserole, placing it on a trivet on the counter. Turning around, she found Methos standing in front of her, still covered in fine stone dust, and looking rather pathetic. Wrapping her arms around his waist, she rested her cheek against his chest, inhaling his familiar scent. "The poor wee thing would like to know why you care what anyone thinks? You never have before." She tilted her head back, looking up at him.
Methos ran one hand through her hair, removing the clip that held it in a loose knot, and tossing it on the counter, letting the long mass of her honey blonde hair fall free down her back. Exhaling noisily, he replied, "Adam Pierson would care, wouldn't he? He'd be appalled to think the neighbours thought he abused his wife. Treated her as anything other than the light of his life."
"It's scary that that makes an odd sort of sense to me." She hugged him a little tighter. "Well, Mrs. Adam Pierson knows she's the light of her husband's life -- in all his incarnations," she stated firmly.
He kissed her first, then said, "Glad to hear it. Oh, and I'll be driving you to work and home again from now on. And we're getting a woman in to do the cooking and cleaning."
"Hey!" Triona protested, pulling away. "Wait just a minute! I like walking, and I don't want some stranger in my house!" Walking in the predawn and twilight hours was part of her workout routine and good for her mental health as well. She was still getting used to the fact that she had no choice but to stay indoors when the sun was out, and walking made her feel a little freer. And the thought of having someone take care of her house, touching her things, just generally creeped her out. She'd had to deal with it in LaCroix's household, both because Baker was a family retainer, and it was the ancient vampire's home not hers. But this was *her* home and she wanted to enjoy it.
"Nope, your brute of a husband has spoken. That's my final word on the subject," he proclaimed loftily.
"You think so?" She looked up at him, arms across her chest, one booted foot tapping on the slate floor. If he was looking for a fight, he was well on his way to getting one.
"Yes, " he picked out a serving spoon from the container on the counter and waved it around, "at least until after dinner."
Rolling her eyes, Triona snatched the spoon from his hand. "Whatever! Make yourself useful and set the table, and then go wash up!" She looked around at the disaster he'd made of the kitchen, and added, "And I think it goes without saying that you'll be cleaning up this mess!"
"I love it when you're bossy," he growled, reaching for her.
Ducking, she ran around the large table in the center of the kitchen, waving the spoon at him. "I'm hungry!"
"I'm hungry too," he said, leering as he lunged for her.
Gasping with laughter, she narrowly missed being caught. "Methos, remember poor wee Mrs. Pierson? She's wasting away to a shadow here," she wailed.
"If poor Mrs. Pierson would let her husband have his way with her, the faster she'd get dinner," he countered, grinning evilly.
She paused, looking at him gravely, before declaring, "I think I'd rather starve!" With that she leapt to the right, making for the door, screeching as Methos caught her wrist, spinning her into his arms.
"Any last words?" he whispered into her ear.
Sighing in contentment, she pressed closer to his body, reaching up with one hand to stroke his face. Tilting his head slightly, he pressed his lips against her fingers. As she pulled his head down to meet hers, she said softly, "That's what microwaves are for after all."