Triona pulled the bedcovers up to her chin, snuggling into their softness, listening for her husband's footstep in the hall. She was eager for an explanation, but she had decided to be patient and not seek him out. Finally her forbearance was rewarded. A few moments later, he gently pushed open their bedroom door. "So what was all that about?" she asked before he'd even managed to walk through the door.
"What was what about?" he asked innocently, coming to sit on the edge of the bed, pressing his lips against her forehead. She shook her head and just looked at him expectantly. He knew exactly what she was talking about. "Fine. I knew that look. You'd already convinced yourself that Margaretta was lonely and wanted her family together, and were going to agree to Nick's request before you'd even given yourself a chance to think about the ramifications."
Triona pushed herself up to sit against the headboard. "Okay, maybe I was," she agreed, a little put out. Sometimes Methos could be so irritatingly right about what she was thinking and how she would react.
"I just want you to at least sleep on it," he instructed, not at all perturbed by her obvious irritation.
Her lips twisted slightly, but despite wanting to argue with him, she knew he was right, Damn him anyway! Sighing, she nodded resignedly. "Okay, Mr. Know-it-all, I'll sleep on it."
"Good." He smirked. "See? You can be obedient every once in a while!" He was laughing when he kissed away any retort she might have made. Looking at her fondly, he said softly, "We'll talk about it in the morning."
After several hours of Triona tossing and turning, Methos finally gave up. "Okay, we'll talk about it now," he said into the dark.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. "I didn't mean to keep you awake."
Reaching over to the small lamp on the nightstand next to his side of the bed, he switched it on. "I know, love," he replied as she pressed against him, his arm going around her shoulders, pulling her closer. "I should know by now that you stew over things left unresolved."
"You were right I was thinking only of Margaretta, and how lonely I assumed she must be. Not about how Nicholas and I have never gotten along." She propped herself up on her elbow, chin in the palm of her hand. "But I really do want to try and make it better between the two of us. I know it's silly, but..." she trailed off, chewing her lower lip.
"No, it's not silly. I know you think it will make Lucien happy. But honestly love, do you think you can be in a situation where you have to interact with Nick on a daily basis?"
"I can try, can't I?" She threw herself down onto her pillow exhaling sharply. "And I'd feel selfish if I didn't agree. Put aside for the moment my assumption that Margaretta is doing this out of some familial desire. She's been trying to fill that position since the beginning of the term. If I say no, she's left short staffed for who knows how long?"
"And how much do you want to bet that Nick knows exactly how you you'd feel is counting on it?"
"And now who's being cynical?" she asked, laughing.
"Can you deny that the thought hasn't crossed your mind?" Methos shot back.
"Guilty as charged."
"But still, it's odd, isn't it?"
"Am I supposed to guess which particular one of the dozens of odd things it could possibly be that you're referring to?" This was asked more than a little sarcastically.
Triona lightly smacked his arm. "Very funny." She rolled away, getting up off the bed and going to the window, leaning her cheek against the cold glass, watching the rain. "Odd since Nicholas doesn't care much more for me than I do for him. Odd since he isn't interested in making LaCroix happy. Odd that he would want to interact with *me* on a daily basis." Crossing her arms, she looked over at Methos. "That about cover it?"
Chuckling, he said, "Just about." He held out a hand. "Come back to bed."
She went back, taking his hand and allowing him to pull her down next to him. Laying crossways on the bed, with her head on his chest, she tucked her legs up underneath her. "So why would he want to come here?"
"Nick spent centuries trying to break away, with Lucien chasing after him. Sometimes when you get what you think you want, it doesn't quite turn out the way you thought it would."
Triona shifted, turning so she could look at her husband. "What do you mean?"
"Only that it might not be Margaretta who's looking to reforge familial ties." Triona attempted to sit up at that, but Methos' arm across her kept her firmly in place as she wriggled against his hold. "Will you keep still for once, woman?" he asked in exasperation. "I swear you're like an over caffeinated cat on a hot tin roof!"
"Fine. This is me being a tortoise," she told him grumpily, keeping completely still.
Methos snorted. "A tortoise? I bet you last all of five minutes."
Pointedly ignoring him, she said, "You think *Nicholas* wants his family back?" That was something that had never occurred to her.
"I think it's entirely possible. You know what they say, 'be careful what you wish for'. Well, Nick got what he wished for didn't he? Stephanie is now LaCroix's favourite child, and you are his companion, and together we are a family, albeit a rather odd one. We've all moved on without him."
Triona silently digested what Methos had said. The thought that Nicholas would want to rejoin the family was shocking to her, to say the least. Her initial reaction was that it would make LaCroix happy, but she also was honest enough to admit her next reaction was more than a twinge of jealousy. She'd resented Nick in those early days on Janette's behalf, and that feeling had only intensified as the years passed and Triona had felt she herself would never matter as much to him as Nick, no matter what Nick did. She'd been pleased when LaCroix had finally seemed to let Nick go and had moved on. And now?
"Penny for them?" Methos asked softly.
"I'm not feeling very charitable, I'm afraid," she admitted. "I'm not sure I want to be used because all of a sudden Nicholas doesn't like the bed he made for himself."
"To be fair, I don't think Nick is consciously trying to use you. You're just the obvious choice. You're close to both Lucien and Janette, and the job with Margaretta gives him some cover, whether conscious or unconscious"
"You're probably right. But we have years worth of baggage between us, so I tend to leap to the worst conclusion. And maybe I just feel like being unfair." Her voice rose, almost angry. "Why should he get another chance? Why should I give him the opportunity to wreck what we have now? Just so he can change his mind yet again, and pull the rug out from under Lucien? I don't want Stephanie to feel second best because suddenly the 'golden child' decides to make a return. I never want her to feel as Janette did!" Or how I did, she thought to herself.
Methos stroked her arm soothingly. "She won't. Even if it turns out Nick has had second thoughts, things will never go back to the way they were." He held her closer. "And Lucien loves you," he said quietly, seeming to hear Triona's unspoken words. "Nothing Nick does will ever change that."
The next morning, Triona was making breakfast, and singing with unrestrained glee. "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh...."
"Isn't it a little early for Christmas carols?"
Triona yelped, startled at the sudden appearance of her houseguest, almost dropping the tray of scones she'd been removing from the oven. "Don't sneak up on me, or next time you'll be wearing breakfast!" She carefully placed the nearly overturned tray on the counter. She was dressed casually in an ankle length black cotton broomstick skirt, a long sleeved sapphire blue t shirt, and a gray knit men's styled cardigan sweater that was many sizes too big for her and looked like it had seen better days.
"Sorry," Nick said contritely, pulling out a stool to sit at the large old table that sat in the center of the kitchen. He was wearing jeans and a slim fitting burgundy knit pullover sweater.
Triona nodded, accepting his apology. "If you must know, it's my secret vice; singing when I'm alone in the house."
"Okay, but 'Jingle Bells'?" he asked, laughing.
"You just missed my rendition of 'Muskrat Love'."
"Sorry I missed it," he said, his tone declaring the exact opposite.
Triona didn't reply, just sniffed in mock offense.
"So where's Methos?" Nick asked, looking around the kitchen. The hearth was blazing, and some sort of cinnamon scent was coming from a cast iron pot hung near the fire. The shutters were open with a view into the courtyard and the outbuildings beyond. Though it had stopped raining, it didn't look like it would be for long.
Triona waved the tongs she was using in the general direction of outside. "Playing gentleman farmer. He knows he's safe out there till the sun goes down." At Nick's look of surprise, she added, "I'm kidding. Anyway, breakfast will guarantee his arrival anytime now."
"What are you making?" he asked. "It smells pretty good actually." Triona looked at him, one eyebrow raised enquiringly. "You know what I mean."
"Yes, I know what you mean." Many vampires didn't care for the smell of food. Nick was worse than most, and Triona often thought it was because his system was in a constant state of upheaval due to his quest to regain his mortality. Or maybe that was former quest now. Something else to try and find out. Answering his question, she said, "It's Black Pudding." She removed the last piece from the skillet, placing it on a plate. "Would you like to try some?"
Nick looked at the plate, then at her. "Uh, no thanks."
"I didn't mean you actually had to eat it."
Confused, Nick asked, "What do you mean then?"
Sighing, Triona cut a bit off the Black Pudding, speared it with a fork and sat down on the stool across from Nick. "Haven't you ever wondered what the attraction LaCroix had for me was?" Before Nick could reply, she added dryly, "Besides the obvious."
"I suppose I wondered why he didn't just bring you across in the beginning." It seemed like he would say something else, but he stopped.
"Or kill me after a few weeks?" Triona took pity on him. It wasn't as if she'd ever invited any sort of confidence between the two of them "Perhaps I should reword the question: why did he want a mortal paramour? Will you trust me for a moment?" she asked. Nick nodded. "Normally, I would have to be linked to you through blood for this to work, but being what I am, and through our family bond, I think I can demonstrate. I know you're out of practice, but close your eyes and reach for my thoughts."
He looked wary, but said, "I'll try."
"Good. Don't worry, I'll do most of the heavy lifting. I may be a freak of nature, but this part is something I excel at." She smiled encouragingly as Nick closed his eyes. Reaching out to him with her mind, she ate the piece of Black Pudding she'd been holding. She savoured it the taste, the texture, the scent. She touched Nick's mind with hers, sharing the sensations with him. Then she gently broke the connection, placing her hand over his reassuringly.
Slowly, he opened his eyes. "I could taste, really taste, it," he said in surprise, his voice barely above a whisper.
"By denying what your vampire nature can offer, you deny what makes you human," she said softly. "By accepting LaCroix's gift, and strengthening our bond, I also gave myself a freedom that you've long denied yourself."
"I've always known that you and LaCroix shared a bond we'd never had, but until now, I thought it was...." He broke of suddenly, and Triona thought that if he were capable of blushing he'd be deep red.
Laughing softly, she finished for him, "You thought it was sex."
Looking a little abashed that she'd known exactly what he'd been going to say, he nodded.
"I won't deny that definitely plays into it, but god, Nick, you're a vampire! You know that the blood is the ultimate bond. In fact, it was a very long time before LaCroix moved our relationship to a sexual one."
Nick looked surprised at that and probably surprised she was sharing so many intimate details of her relationship with their Master. Truth be told, Triona was rather surprised that she was too.
"You should try with Sarah sometime." Triona suggested. Sarah was Triona's 'sister' who had become Immortal a few years prior. Nick was the reason she'd originally gotten herself mixed up with vampires. "Personally, I think an Immortal and a vampire are the perfect pairing. Maybe that's how it was meant to be." She dared him to laugh at her for her rather unorthodox thought. It was something she'd contemplated for a while, but hadn't really voiced it to anyone before.
He didn't laugh, instead said, "I haven't seen Sarah since she left Paris to be trained by Connor MacLeod.
"Ah", was all Triona said, deciding not to pry.
Silence fell, Nick seeming to be somewhere else. Finally, he said, "I'm sorry, I know it's none of my business, but...." He shook his head.
"What do you want to know, Nicholas? After all, I did start this, didn't I?"
He took a deep breath, still not looking like he was sure he should ask. Finally, he spoke. "How on earth did you end up married to Methos?"
"Uh, the usual way; he proposed, I said yes." Her eyes twinkled wickedly.
"Sorry," she said, though she didn't sound very sorry.
But Triona's levity had broken the ice, and Nick seemed much less uneasy. "LaCroix has been as possessive of you as he has of me, and yet, here you are, married to another man. It baffled me when Methos first became a part of your life, and it still does now."
"Oh, Nicholas, I don't know how to even begin to explain it, not really." She sighed. It was so complicated, that sometimes, she didn't understand it herself. "I guess because I totally embraced what Lucien offered me. Even after Methos came into my life, I still chose to be brought across with full knowledge and acceptance of what that choice meant. And when it all went so horribly wrong," Triona closed her eyes, remembering the pain, and everything that followed, "Lucien was devastated, and Methos was so angry with him and even more so with me, though he would never admit it. I was left with a full fledgling's link with LaCroix, even though I wasn't brought fully across. Methos never really accepted what had happened, and it all festered. After it was all over, we'd all lost so much. In the end, LaCroix went along with Methos wanting to marry me because he wanted me to be happy. His way of trying to make amends for what he saw as his failure."
Nick nodded in understanding, not just because of her words, but because of the emotion he felt through the fragile link they still shared. "I'm sorry. If I'd spent less time judging you, and more time trying to be family, maybe I could have been there for you in some small way."
"It wasn't all your fault, I take my full share of the blame." She smiled ruefully. "You know, LaCroix has often commented that the two of us are very much alike in some ways: stubborn, headstrong, willful." Nick snorted. "I think that contributed to our antipathy towards each other."
"Think we can do better this time around?"
"I think so. Don't you?"
"I'd like that. And I'd like to be your family, as much as Janette and Stephanie are." Nick took her hand and smiled. "If you'll let me try?"
Triona returned his smile. "It's a deal."