Some hours later, Methos had finally served dinner in the sitting room, where they ate curled up on the couch in front of a roaring fire. Now Triona was sitting at her desk behind the couch, correcting Latin essays written by her fifth year students, the long sleeves of the green velvet top she now wore pushed up to her elbows. "One of those wouldn't be for me, would it?" she asked as he came back into the room holding two glasses of dessert wine, wearing what seemed to be an identical copy of his previous clothes, except that these were dust free.
"I think one just might be," he agreed as she gratefully accepted the glass of Moscato he offered her and took a sip. "Want some help with those?" He nodded towards the pile of essays.
"Really?" she asked delightedly. "If I can get them done tonight, my weekend will be free and clear."
"Really." Eyes laughing, he added, "I think you deserve some sort of reward for your stellar performance earlier."
She gasped in faux offense. "You're just lucky this is an excellent wine, or you'd be wearing it!"
Leaning over, Methos kissed her bottom lip, savouring the taste of the sweet wine on her mouth. "Then you'd just have to lick it off," he whispered, running one hand up across a velvet-clad thigh.
"You have a one track mind," she whispered back, shivering a little at his touch.
"We are newlyweds after all," he noted, smirking, as he straightened, taking half the stack of essays from the corner of the desk.
"Mmm-hmm." She shook her head, deciding not to encourage him, since it took very little to do so. Not that she was complaining, but sometimes it was hard to get any work done.
They worked in silence, the only sounds the crackling of the fire, the scratch of their pens, and the patter of rain against the windows. Finishing her last essay, Triona sighed, stretching out the kinks in her neck. Pushing back her chair, she looked over to where Methos sat in a wing chair to the side of the fireplace, watching the play of the firelight across his face as he worked on the last page in his stack. Reaching out to him through their blood bond, Triona caressed him mentally with her love for him. Smiling softly, he looked up, catching her eyes with his. "I love you too." He turned his attention back to the paper he was correcting, giving it one last red mark with a flourish. Setting it aside, he leaned back in the chair, holding out a hand to her. Accepting his silent invitation, she walked towards him, taking the proffered hand, and letting him pull her into his lap.
Reaching across to the lamp on the side table, he switched it off, leaving the room lit by nothing but the fire. Methos knew she preferred firelight or candlelight to electric. It was a vampire 'thing', she said. One of the affects of LaCroix's ill-fated attempt to bring her across nearly a decade before had been enhanced night vision. She saw much better in the dark than she did in the full light of day. "Thank you," she said softly, nestling into his arms as he stroked her long hair.
As she sat there in the comforting quiet of the night, Triona had the oddest sensation of two perspectives, then it was gone. "Methos, do you believe in ghosts?"
"Where did that come from?" he asked, surprise in his voice.
She shrugged. "Just now, I don't know... it felt like I was seeing this room, this place, through other eyes. And it isn't the first time..." she trailed off uncertainly.
"I've seen a lot of things in my life, but, honestly Triona, ghosts? No, sweet, I don't believe in ghosts." He rubbed her back softly.
"Etheldrida," she said suddenly, "your wife. Did you love her?"
"You are full of odd questions tonight, aren't you?" He sighed. "I was very fond of her. She was a fine woman, a good mother to the children, a good wife to me."
"And she loved this house." It wasn't a question, but a statement.
"Is that what this is about? You think she haunts this place?"
Triona fiddled with one of the buttons on his shirt. "No... maybe. I don't know. Immortals, vampires, why not ghosts?" She shifted, so she could look at him. "I know she was a widow, with four children, that her first husband died in an accident, but did she know about you?"
"You mean did she know I was an Immortal? No, but most of my wives didn't."
"What happened?" she asked. "I mean, when she began to notice you were very well preserved."
She felt him chuckle. "I know what you meant, love. The Third Crusade happened. 1190. Richard the Lionheart had promised his father before his death to join it. I used it as a pretext to leave. Our oldest children were grown and running a great deal of the farm as it was. They would take care of their mother after I 'died'. I arranged for her to receive word a few years later that I'd fallen in battle before the walls of Jerusalem."
"She must have missed you very much," Triona said, unaccountably sad at remembering the woman who had died here in this house many centuries before. She hadn't dwelt much on the 69 other wives that had come before her, but being here, in this house, was a frequent reminder. At least she didn't have to deal with a living ex that had to be a bright side she supposed.
"We do what we must, Triona," was his only reply and they fell once more into silence, each alone with their own thoughts.
With a start, Triona realized she'd almost been asleep, and would have been if not for something on the edge of her awareness. Gently disentangling herself from Methos' arms, she brushed her lips across his before getting to her feet to look out the front window. Glancing over at the clock on the mantel, she saw it was nearly midnight.
"What is it?" Methos asked sleepily as she peered out the rain-slicked glass into the dark garden beyond.
Cocking her slightly to the side, as if listening to something, Triona didn't immediately answer.
She looked at him, replying, "I'm not sure. I mean, it couldn't be...." Wrinkling her forehead in puzzlement, she said, "Nicholas?" Just as a knock was heard at the door. Despite herself, Triona jumped, startled.
She looked at Methos who shrugged. "It's definitely no one I know."
She switched on the porch light and pulled open the door, not totally surprised to see the last person she ever expected to see at her door: her erstwhile 'brother', Nicholas.
* * * * *
Momentarily stunned into silence, Triona just stood there with her hand still on the doorknob.
Smiling at her uncertainly, pushing back the hood of his raincoat, Nick said, "Hello, Triona. It's been a long time. Methos," he acknowledged, as the Immortal came to stand behind his wife.
"Yes, it has," Triona finally said. His hair was longer than it had been the last time she'd seen him, and was gelled in the spiky style quite trendy for men at the moment, and it looked like he hadn't shaved in several days. Though that might have been for fashion as well -- very metrosexual, a vampire version of Ryan Seacrest. Realizing that Nick was dripping wet and still standing on the front step, she quickly added, stepping back, "Please, come in."
As he stepped into the room, Triona closed the door, exchanging a look with her husband. Shaking her head slightly, she mouthed, "It's fine." And it was. She and Nick would probably never be close, but Triona had made a real attempt to let go of the animosity she felt towards him. Mostly for LaCroix, but also because the reality was that they were part of the same family and would have to deal with each other over the years to come. They could at least be civil to one another, couldn't they?
"Nicholas, you're drenched. Let me have your coat," she instructed. "Can I get you something?" she asked as she took his wet coat from him. "I'm afraid all I have is what I keep for company." That sounded silly even to her ears. "What I mean is..."
Methos interrupted her. "What she's trying to say very ineptly," he smirked at her, " -- is what our other vampire guests drink. No cow, I'm afraid."
"Pardon me for trying to be polite," she replied tersely. He could be so annoying, she thought.
"If you can't be rude to your family, then who?" he asked, not at all perturbed. "Right, Nick?" He turned his attention to LaCroix's middle child.
Laughing, he replied, "Whom indeed?" Then to Triona, trying to sooth her ruffled feathers, "Whatever you have is fine."
She quirked an eyebrow at that, but didn't comment; the last time she'd seen Nick, he'd been on a strictly bovine diet. She wondered what had changed. "Please, sit down. I'll take your coat to the kitchen to dry and get a bottle from the cellar."
"Thank you," he said, handing her his coat.
Methos pulled Nick's coat from her hands. "I'll do it. You stay here and entertain our guest."
She nodded before turning to Nick, who was looking around the cozy room. "You have a lovely home. Though, I was a little surprised a city girl like you would be living on a farm."
"I find I like the country life. It's different, but has its own charms. I don't really miss the city, and Methos makes sure I get to London often enough to not go into complete withdrawal," she said, grinning.
"Retail therapy?" Nick asked, seating himself in the chair Methos had been in earlier
"You know it!" she replied. "So, Nicholas, how have you been?"
"Good, actually. I spent the last few years in Seattle. Painting mostly, and giving piano lessons."
"Sounds relaxing," Triona said as she sat in the chair across from him at the other end of the fireplace. "A little mellow after being a homicide detective though."
"The change was good for me," Nick told her. "And Stephanie?" he asked after her cousin, now his 'sister'.
"She emails me fairly frequently from wherever she and LaCroix are in the world. Last I heard, they were in Rio de Janeiro, and Lucien was spoiling her terribly." Triona laughed softly. "She's happy, and that's all I care about," she added, forestalling whatever Nick might have been thinking of saying in response.
"I'm glad she's doing well," was all Nick said. "And you. I hear congratulations are in order. I hope you and Methos will be very happy together."
That almost sounded sincere, she thought, then felt guilty for her less than charitable reaction. Smiling, she accepted his good wishes in the spirit in which they were intended. "The change has been good for me too," she allowed.
"Speaking of which," Nick leaned down to the large nylon bag he'd brought in with him, unzipping it and removing a gift-wrapped box, "a wedding present," he said, standing and handing the box to her.
"Thank you, Nicholas," she said as Methos reentered the room, carrying an opened wine bottle and a glass. "Methos, Nicholas brought us a wedding gift."
Glancing over at Nick, he said, "Thoughtful of you," as he put the bottle and the glass on the side table at Nick's right hand.
"Thank you," Nick said, pouring wine cut blood into the glass. "It was the least I could do. It's not everyday one of my sisters gets married, after all." Motioning towards the silver paper wrapped box sitting on Triona's lap, he asked. "Are you going to open it?"
"Of course." Triona gently removed the wrapping paper as Methos came to sit on the ottoman at her feet. "Nicholas, it's exquisite," she said sincerely, looking down at the Art Nouveau style sterling tea set. She removed the teapot from the box, looking at it admiringly. Whatever else she might think of Nick, he had always had impeccable taste.
"It's Tiffany, 1901. I saw it and it seemed to have you written all over it."
Echoing her own thought, Methos said, "You've always had good taste, Nick -- and with a perfect gift giving gene or something. Maybe I should make you my personal shopper for spousal gift occasions." He winked at Triona, who lightly bapped him on the shoulder.
"Methos is right, you do have impeccable taste. Did they teach you that in Knight school or something?" she asked, eyes twinkling.
Methos groaned at her pun. "That was really very bad."
"He's right, that was very bad," Nick said, laughing outright. "I'm glad you like it."
"I do. Thank you again." She carefully set the box down beside her chair. "But somehow I doubt you came all the way to England to give us a wedding gift?" She was insanely curious to discover whatever the real reason for him being here was.
"True," he admitted ruefully. "I actually do need to speak to you about something as well." He leaned forward slightly, suddenly very serious. "Margaretta has asked me to take a teaching position at the school, but I told her I'd only accept her offer if it was okay with you."
Triona sat back, more than a little nonplussed. Of all the reasons she'd thought might have brought Nick here, this wasn't one of them. Margaretta Stamford was Triona's employer, Headmistress of the school she taught at, and a friend of Janette's, LaCroix's eldest child. It had been Janette who had initially arranged for Triona to meet with Margaretta when she had told Janette that she and Methos had decided to live in England. Her offering Nick a job, she assumed it was the open history position, was surprising to say the least.
"I didn't realize you two knew each other," she said instead of answering his question. "Neither Margaretta or Janette mentioned it."
"How much do you know about Margaretta?" Nick asked.
Triona shrugged. "Not a lot. She and Janette seem like good friends, Smythly Hall was her home when she was mortal, and she despises LaCroix." That had been one of the stipulations of her employment: that her Master never set foot in the Headmistress's home. Triona had told Margaretta at the time that she couldn't possibly compel LaCroix to do anything, but that she saw no reason for the issue to come up. That had seemed to satisfy her at the time.
"True, as far as it goes. But did you ever ask her why?" Nick asked curiously.
"I've learned that inquiring too closely into a vampire's affairs especially our Master's -- can be... unpleasant." Shifting slightly in her chair, so that her leg pressed against her husband's shoulder, she added, "She didn't offer and I didn't ask."
"Fair enough," Nick allowed. "Maybe it would be good if you had a little background?"
"I'm listening," she replied.
"Has LaCroix ever told you about Francesca?"
This time it was Methos who answered. "The Countess du Montagne? I remember her. I was traveling with Lucien about, oh 1345? She offered us the hospitality of her estate. A woman of varied 'appetites' if I recall."
"I so do not want to know what exactly that means," Triona told her grinning husband.
"What?" he protested all innocence. "You have such a dirty mind, Triona!" he tsked at her disapprovingly. She rolled her eyes. "I had other things to see to at the time, so I didn't stay long, but Lucien told me later that he'd brought her across."
"That would be her," Nick agreed.
Triona said, "I remember Lucien mentioning her. I was already living at the estate then, but as I recall, it had something to do with a case you working on at the time? A serial killer who claimed to be her reincarnated?"
"And didn't you kill Francesca?" Methos asked. Nick nodded stiffly. "He never did play well with others," he commented wryly, looking over at his wife.
She smacked his shoulder lightly, "Behave," she whispered sternly, though not looking very put out. He just looked at her innocently, as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
Sighing, Triona tried to bring the conversation back to the subject at hand. "What has this got to do with Margaretta?"
Taking her cue, Nick explained, "Margaretta was related to the du Montagnes on her mother's side. She was the youngest child, the youngest daughter of three. Her parents sent her to France to be a companion to her cousin Francesca in 1740. A few months after arriving in Avignon, Francesca brought Margaretta across."
She sat back in her chair, pondering what Nick had just told her. "So, we're related. I had no idea."
Nodding, Nick continued, "After Francesca was dead, I wanted to take Margaretta with us, but LaCroix wasn't happy with me."
"For killing Francesca," Triona stated.
"Since it was something I wanted, he of course wanted the exact opposite. He refused to take Margaretta with us. Janette was living in Italy at the time, so I arranged for her to go there. Janette took Margaretta under her wing, and eventually, arranged for her to take possession of Smythly Hall. She's been living here ever since."
"And now, it seems she's going for a family reunion," Methos said airily. "Where do vampires hold family reunions anyway? The usual summer barbecue in the park seems right out."
Triona snorted, amused. "A Halloween cocktail party in a crypt, of course," she replied dryly, eliciting a matching snort from Methos. Nick smiled slightly, seemingly entertained by their banter. "Maybe she is looking for a reunion," she agreed. "But maybe she's lonely too." Triona paused, a thoughtful expression on her face.
"It's late," Methos said suddenly, gently squeezing her hand. "Nick, why don't you stay here tonight? The south wing is empty, plenty of room for you. We can discuss this further tomorrow or later today, I guess it would be." He looked over at Triona. "I think that would be best," he squeezed her hand once more, looking at her intently, "don't you?"
Triona looked at him quizzically, then agreed, "It is late. Nicholas?" she asked, looking once more at the blonde vampire.
"That's very kind of you," he replied. "Thank you."
"I'll get you settled in, Methos said, standing up.
Triona decided to go along with Methos for now, though she had no idea what was on his mind, though obviously something was. "I'll say good night then."
"Till tomorrow, Triona," Nick said then followed Methos from the room.