Later that evening after cleaning up from supper, Triona and Methos sat in the double rocking chair in front of the kitchen hearth, finishing their wine. In the distance, the sound of a piano could be heard.
"We should have had him play while we were eating," Methos said, grinning. The south wing contained a music room with a piano. Since neither Triona nor Methos played, it was usually covered over. Nick had come across it after exploring that morning and had spent most of the day airing out and cleaning the room. After supper, he'd excused himself and had been playing ever since. "A little dinner music, some candlelight, very romantic."
"Mmm-hmm." She drew her legs up underneath her and snuggled closer to his side. "We had a heart to heart this morning."
"I think we cleared the air, and we've decided to try and do better from here on out."
"So I take it he'll be accepting Margaretta's offer?"
"Uh huh." She looked up at him. "Are you okay with that?"
"You're the one it has to be okay with," he countered.
"It is. Promise."
They sat in companionable silence for nearly an hour, listening to the music that floated in. Then silence fell. "I guess the concert is over," Methos said.
"Yeah, well we should get up anyway," Triona noted. "I know you want to check on the horses before bed, and I think the sleet has stopped." The temperature had dropped precipitously after the sun went down, and the rain had turned into sleet.
"No time like the present then." He stood up, stretching the kinks out before offering a hand to his wife. As he pulled her to her feet, he gave a sharp tug, tipping her into his arms. "But first, I need something to keep me warm out there," he said softly, lowering his lips to hers. She melted against him, fully opening their psychic link, their blood bond. At moments like this, it was hard for her to tell where she ended and he began. The sound of Nick clearing his throat interrupted the seemingly endless moment. Regretfully, Methos broke the kiss, murmuring, "I knew we should have locked him in there."
Triona giggled, giving him one last hard kiss before pulling away. "Hey there, Nicholas," she said, smiling at her houseguest. He was dressed casually in a black turtleneck sweater and black wool pants and was holding a nearly full wineglass.
"Sorry for the interruption. I'll try to remember and knock next time," Nick said, lips twitching.
"Yes, do," Methos replied dryly. "Don't mind me, I was on my way to the stables." He headed towards the hall to the back door.
"I'll make some tea," Triona offered.
"Sounds perfect. I'll see you both later," he called back. The fire briefly flared as a gust of cold wind from the opening door swirled through the room, then died down again after it closed behind him.
Triona went to the table and poured another glass of wine for herself. "I think I'll join you," she said. "Cheers!" Raising her glass to Nick, she took a sip. Nick returned the gesture. "I feel like some fresh air, how about you?"
"Sounds good," he agreed.
Following in Methos' footsteps, the two waked down the back hall, taking their coats down from the hook behind the door, holding each others' wine glasses as they put them on. Then they went outside, walking a short way down the path that led into the courtyard. They stopped at the edge of the stone wall that surrounded the back garden. The clouds had mostly cleared away, with just a few wisps of cloud scudding across the face of the nearly full moon. Nick placed his glass on the wall next to him and leaned against the cold stone.
"It's a beautiful night," he said.
Triona took a deep breath, inhaling the frigid air. "It is. I'm glad I'm here at home though, and not out on the roads. All this sleet covering the ground will make it treacherous." Her breath hung in a cloud before dissipating. "Beautiful but deadly," she said almost to herself. She took a sip of her wine, shivering a little.
Noticing, Nick said, "Maybe we should go back in?"
"What?" Triona shook her head slightly. "No, I'm fine." She took gulp of the wine this time, draining the contents and setting the empty glass next to Nick's still full one.
"You're sure?" He sounded concerned.
"Mmm-hmm." She didn't know what it was, but something about this night made her feel like someone had walked on her grave. Triona told herself firmly that she was imagining things.
The quiet of the night was broken by the screech of two cats. The cats in question came tearing across the courtyard, then over the garden wall, knocking over the wine glasses, scattering the contents of Nick's, along with shards of broken glass, across the path. Nick swore in surprise, watching the cats as the raced out of sight. "What a mess. Where do you keep the broom and dustpan?" he asked turning his attention back to Triona. But she didn't reply. "Triona?" She stood frozen, all colour drained from her face. He grasped her shoulders, shaking her gently. "What's wrong?"
This time, she shivered violently. She closed her eyes and whispered, "That scent."
"What is it?" he asked carefully.
"My soul bleeding to death." Her voice cracked and she took a deep shuddering breath trying to calm the panic that suddenly threatened to overwhelm her. "It was a night just like this. She left me to die in the cold, I could smell my own blood on the ice, and I knew I was dying; how I wanted to die."
Suddenly, Nick understood. "Divia." Triona flinched at the sound of that name. He pulled her closer, wrapping his arms around her shivering body. She didn't resist. "I thought LaCroix removed those memories?"
She pressed her clenched fists against his chest. "He did, but that time in Seacouver, when I nearly died, the memories started to come back, not fully -- some of LaCroix's manipulations of my memory remained. All the bits and pieces were very confusing, and frightened me enough that I pushed them back and tried not to think about it. And then, after what happened when Hakeem took me prisoner two years ago, I started to have nightmares of him and Divia all mixed up together, and again Lucien tried to help. He couldn't remove the memories, but he blurred the edges and I was able to put it behind me or so I thought." She took another steadying breath, pulling away from Nick.
"But tonight, the scent triggered the memory and it blindsided you." She nodded weakly. "Our sense of smell is one of the most powerful memory triggers there are, especially for a vampire."
"Yes." Triona wrapped her arms around herself and turned away. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Nick asked, perplexed.
"For letting what happened still affect me. She killed you or tried and it didn't make you a basket case," she said, her voice shaking.
"That's nonsense!" Nick said, rejecting her explanation. "You were mortal, and I have more than a few centuries on you. And most importantly, she only wanted me dead -- she didn't want to torture me. She didn't violate my mind as she did yours. Believe me, it's a miracle that not only did you survive, but that you didn't lose your mind." Triona nodded uncertainly. "Not to mention, it isn't as if you've actually had a chance to deal with what happened then. It's only now you're feeling the full force of those memories."
"Perhaps, maybe." Triona knew that what Nick was saying made sense, but it didn't help how she was feeling. She shook her head sharply. "I'm going to go for a walk. I just need some time alone."
He started to protest, not sure that being alone was best, but she interrupted, "Please, Nicholas, I'll be fine. I just need to settle my mind down a little." She gave him a small smile and squeezed his arm. "I'll be fine. I'm tougher than I look, you know."
He accepted her statement with a nod. "You know where I am if you need to talk."
"Thank you," she said simply before walking into the cold February night.
A short while later, Methos came upon Nick sweeping up the glass shards from the walk. "What happened?"
"Two cats and two wine glasses," Nick said, looking up with a grin.
"I thought I heard a yowl or two a while ago." Methos looked around. "Triona inside? Hopefully with that tea she promised," he said rubbing his hands together.
Nick straightened, looking at the older man, a serious expression on his face. "Look, Methos, I don't want to break any confidences, but..." the vampire broke off, seeming unsure as to what to say next.
Methos looked at him sharply. "What's happened?"
Seeming to come to a decision, Nick asked, "I assume LaCroix must have told you about Divia?"
The Immortal's expression became guarded. "I have some familiarity with the subject," he allowed.
"And did he tell you that Divia attacked Triona?"
"Yes, he told me. He also told me he'd removed those memories."
Nick nodded. "He did. But it turns out, it didn't stick." Sighing, he continued, "When she was in Seacouver with you, the memories started to return, but they were still somewhat muted by LaCroix's intervention. After her encounter with Hakeem, she started having nightmares about him and Divia."
Methos looked up sharply at that, narrowing his eyes. He'd witnessed those nightmares, but had no idea that Divia had played a part in them. "How exactly do you know all this, Nick?" he demanded.
"Because tonight, when the glasses shattered, the scent of the blood on the icy ground triggered a very powerful memory. I think tonight was truly the first time she'd experienced the full force of what happened to her that night - a night very much like this one. The first time all of LaCroix's modifications to her memory had been totally stripped away."
"Damn it!" he snarled. "There's a reason I've never liked the way vampires meddle with people's memories. Trauma needs to be dealt with at the time it happens, or something like this happens! Triona never dealt with what happened to her, and those memories weren't gone, just walled off somewhere in her brain. Now, more than a decade later, it's like it just happened." Methos looked disgusted.
"LaCroix thought it was for the best," Nick said, trying to appease the angry Immortal. "And so did I. You weren't there, Methos. If you'd known her then, I think you would have agreed that LaCroix's choice was the best one to be made at the time. It wasn't a decision he made lightly, you have to know that. As it was, it still took months for her to recover both her mental and physical strength. I honestly don't believe she would have made even a partial recovery if we hadn't decided to 'meddle'."
The Immortal scrubbed his hands through his hair in frustration. "You're right, I didn't know her then, but I do now, and now is what I need to deal with."
"I think she's going to be fine," he offered. "A lot has happened to her since that night, and she'll deal with this now, with your help." Nick sighed. "I know you and I have always had a strained relationship, and god knows, Triona and I have had our issues over the years. But I do know that you love each other and that whatever happens, that will be what helps Triona to heal. And I'll do whatever I can, whatever you need, to help her finally put this behind her."
The hard look on Methos' face softened a little. "I appreciate that, Nick." He looked around. "Which way did you say she went?"
Nick pointed towards the back edge of the property and the small copse of holly tress that shielded the house from the wind that blew off the moor. "Do you know where she went?"
"No, but I know where she'll end up." Methos headed in the opposite direction, towards the stables he'd left a few minutes before. "Thanks again, Nick," he called over his shoulder as he lengthened his stride.
She might not be at the stables now, but Methos knew she'd show up there eventually. Wherever they had lived, Triona had always had a place she went when stressed or upset. Here, at the farm, it was the stable, with the horses. As he drew even with the door, he felt her warm presence envelop him, the only distinctive Immortal buzz he'd ever experienced in his five thousand odd years. Entering the stable, he headed towards the stall that held Spindrift, knowing that's where he'd find his wife. Sure enough, she was right where he expected, her arms around the Paso Fino's neck, talking to it softly. He didn't interrupt, letting her acknowledge his presence in her own time. Watching her, he marveled yet again at the unexpected turn that his life had taken when he'd decided to go pester his 'nephew' that autumn day.
Drawing slightly away from the horse, she asked softly, "How long before she has her foal?" She scratched Spindrift behind the ears, eliciting a happy whicker from the horse.
Methos moved closer. "I'd say about three weeks."
"I bet you're looking forward to that day, aren't you, sweet thing?", she said softly to the animal. Still not looking at him, she crossed her arms tightly against her chest. "I take it Nicholas ratted me out." Her voice was neutral, and Methos knew she was fighting to keep her emotional equilibrium.
"You could say that," he agreed, reaching out and placing his hand gently on her shoulder. "He was worried about you. As am I."
Shrugging a little, she looked back at him. "I'm fine. Or I will be."
Shaking his head, he asked, "Why didn't you ever tell me about Divia?"
Triona stiffened, pulling away from him. "Talking about it would mean thinking about it, and I didn't want to do that."
"I can understand that," he said very gently, as if trying not to frighten her off.
She turned abruptly, looking at him sharply. "Can you?"
"Oh yes." Sighing, he reached out and brushed her cheek with a finger. "Maybe if I tell you something I haven't wanted to think about, let alone talk about for a very long time, you can finally tell me about what happened that night."
Looking at him quizzically, she took a step towards him. "I admit, I'm curious, but I've always thought talking about things is overrated." This time she actually smiled a little.
Methos laughed. "I had noticed." He tweaked her nose, then once more became serious, taking her hand in his. "Let's go sit over there." He nodded towards the pile of hay at the far end of the stables. As they walked, Methos snagged a horse blanket from a shelf on the wall, spreading it out for the two of them to sit on.
They sat across from each other on the blanket, Triona looking at him expectantly. When he remained silent, she said, "Like I said, talking is overrated." She squeezed his hand. "Why don't we just pass on the story telling portion of the evening and call it a night," she said hopefully.
Methos just shook his head. He knew she needed to deal with her memories of Divia -- and so did he. "Nice try though," he whispered, leaning in to brush his lips against hers. Straightening, he took a deep breath and began. "As you know, when I first met Lucius, he was a boy, and I was married to his aunt. As the years passed, I kept an ear out for him. He'd made quite a name for himself in the Emperor's Army, so it wasn't hard to keep up with where he was and what he was doing. After Vesuvius erupted, I assumed he'd been killed I was wrong. About twenty years later, I was in Thebes, and who should I run into one dark night, but my presumed late nephew."
"I don't think I like where this is going," she said so softly, he could barely hear her.
"Needless to say, I didn't immediately recognize him, but he knew me. It didn't take me too long to figure out that he was now a vampire. We caught up on old times, so to speak. While I was more than willing to spend some time with him, renewing our acquaintance, he seemed almost nervous and eager to be away. That should have been my first clue. But I hadn't seen him since he was a boy, so ignored it. He was just making his excuses as to why he needed to be off, when Divia appeared. I realized at that moment that he was afraid of her. Of course, by then, it was too late."
"I can figure out the rest," she interrupted, her voice strained. Her knuckles were white as she clutched the leather of her coat in tight fists. "I don't need to hear anymore."
Methos looked at her sympathetically. He knew this was the last thing she wanted to talk about, but he was determined to see this through. Covering her hand with his, he continued, "I don't know how many nights passed, I was never able to come to full consciousness to tell. She told me she found my darkness, my evil, exhilarating."
"Methos, please stop," she begged. She tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let her.
He went on, not allowing her pain at his revelations to deter him from the brutal truth. "Divia was like Kronos dozens of times over, and she amplified the suffering of my victims a hundred fold in my mind." He laughed with no humour. "Poetic justice, one might say, to inflict the terror I brought to others back onto me."
He and Triona rarely spoke of his past. She had accepted his revelations and neither of them brought the subject up unless absolutely necessary. Looking back, he realized that that hadn't necessarily been a good thing. But at the time, he had been reeling from the past he'd tried so hard to hide from blindsiding him. The fact that that Triona had even wanted to set eyes on him again after she found out, let alone actually wanted him to stay in her life, had been something he'd grasped onto like a drowning man. In the back of his mind, he'd always had the fear that Triona would wake up one day, and realize she'd made a terrible mistake. The fact she didn't seem to want to talk about it allayed those fears somewhat, so he'd thankfully followed her lead.
"After some unknown length of time, I woke up, and only Lucius was there. He told me that Divia was dead, by his own hand. We never spoke of what happened again, or of Divia until he told me what she'd done to you." His shoulders slumped, exhausted by the emotional upheaval his and hers.
Tears ran down Triona's face. "You didn't deserve what she did to you," she said fiercely. "You didn't!"
"You know that isn't true." He closed his eyes, shaking his head at her denial. "No! You've seen that side of me, the dark part of me that I can never fully subdue." They both remembered all too vividly that morning under a Paris bridge when he'd finally shattered all trust between them.
"Yes, I know what you're capable of, probably more so than almost anyone! But that doesn't mean I get some sort of pleasure from knowing what she did to you or think you deserved it!" She gripped his shoulders. "No!" she forestalled his protest. "You always tell me I don't listen to you, but that's not true. What have you always told me? We are all good and evil, rage and compassion, love and hate," she took a deep breath and looked at him intently, "murder and forgiveness. Did you think I could still love you and not have forgiven you in my heart? In my soul?"
"Honestly?" He looked tired and his eyes were pained. "Sometimes I don't know why you love me." Methos placed a finger against her lips, stopping her angry response. "I just know that you do." He rested his forehead against hers. "And it's enough," he whispered. "It's enough."