Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
“I’m so lucky to have you,” Sookie whispered to Breandan as they walked toward the Diner door. As if on impulse she turned, stopping Breandan by placing her hand against his chest. “I’m not sure how I would have made it through this,” she told him, and then reaching up, she tugged until he leaned down for her kiss.
It was a good kiss, telling the fiddler how much he meant to her. “It’s okay, Sookie,” he told her and almost stepped back, but she was having none of it. She wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled him to her. She breathed against him, her happiness and love for him almost corporeal in its manifestation. He knew he shouldn’t, but he couldn’t help pulling her right back. “They’re waiting,” he said over her head.
“Let them wait,” Sookie sighed against him. “All I know is when I’m with you like this, it’s like you keep all the bad things away just by being there.” Sookie sighed again, “I know I’m being silly, but you have to know. I love you, Breandan. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me!”
Breandan couldn’t answer. The tightness that seemed to have taken over his chest twisted in its uncomfortable way. Ever since he’d given his Father the date on which he’d deliver this woman, he’d found himself increasingly unhappy. It made no sense.
‘I don’t care for her,’ Breandan reminded himself. He recalled the cold stab he’d felt at her insult. ‘She will learn to rue the day she chose to insult a Fae!’ he repeated internally, trying to steel himself against her, but his arms chose to tighten around her anyway.
It seemed he was unable to stop betraying what he knew was the right way to be. It was easy to remember the importance of his pride when he was alone or when he had to watch Aunt Linda drilling him with her clear disapproval. During those times, Breandan knew he was right to hand Sookie over to his Father and the fate awaiting her, but then there were times like these.
Her Mother’s death seemed to have wrapped the sassy, independent woman he knew in layers of emotion, making her both soft and vulnerable. One minute she was strong, telling her Aunt Linda what her Mother wished, the next she was crying and clinging to him, thanking him for his protection. Her grief sat on her shoulder and Breandan felt his heart waver. On that first night after her Mother died, Sookie attacked him, demanding his lovemaking, telling him she needed to feel something good or she’d go crazy and the sweetness of it almost made him forgive her.
But as they lay there afterward, the sweat cooling from their bodies, he remembered again how callously she’d thrown his offer aside. He was willing to betray everything he was, all the traditions of his people for her, but it meant nothing! She wanted to wait until things were more convenient! She put her own sensibilities first, before him, as though she was his better!
There was some, small, part of Breandan that knew he wasn’t remembering it exactly as it happened, but he swept those grumblings aside. She insulted him and for a Fae, that was all that counted.
But now, standing in the cold parking lot, her arms around him, his pride didn’t seem as important. “You’re cold,” Breandan said reasonably. “Come, let’s go in.”
“Are you sure you want to take me with you?” Sookie asked instead, resisting his effort to push her forward.
“To Ireland?” She was nodding against his coat. He opened his mouth and almost said, ‘Go to Minnesota,’ freeing her. He took a breath, holding her while he sorted himself. ‘I’m not done with her,’ he realized and he began to wonder if he ever would be and the thought was not comforting. “I want you with me,” he said out loud because that, at least, was true.
“I want to be with you, too,” Sookie squeezed once more, and then stepped back, her eyes shining as if Breandan was the most wonderful man in the world. Then her lips lifted, not in that open, free way she had, but in the sadder way she was now in this world where she was an orphan. “Look at you! I’ve kept you outside with all my silliness and you’re freezing!” She turned then and hooked her arm through his, laying her head against his arm and Breandan was struck by how natural it felt.
“I thought you two were going to stand out there in the parking lot all night!” Amelia scolded once they walked inside. She rushed to Sookie, wrapping her friend in a hug, “I am so sorry, Sookie!” She’d said it when they were together before, but the words still brought tears to Sookie’s eyes and Breandan smelled them, drawn again to her sorrow.
“Come on and sit down,” Fran bustled out from the back. There was a booth set aside for them. It was the one with more room, so Sookie and Breandan easily slid in beside Sean and Kiernan, the guitarist in the band with whom Breandan played.
“We’re going to miss you, Bro,” Kiernan greeted, holding up his beer while handing another to Breandan so they could tap glasses. “Of course, I figured the only reason you came over here in the first place was to find the prettiest girl in the country and steal her and, by God, you have!”
“My family has a long history of stealing beautiful women,” Breandan teased in return, but when he looked at the woman beside him, he wasn’t sure it was so funny. He wasn’t taking her as his lover, he was taking her as his Father’s hostage. It wasn’t the same.
“It could have been better circumstances,” Pat said. The owner of the Diner was setting down a platter of sandwiches. “We’re going to miss you,” he told Sookie. “You were one of our best workers.”
“But if anyone deserves to find her happiness, it’s you,” Fran, Pat’s wife, patted Sookie’s hand. “It’s clear as day the two of you were meant to be together. Like a fairytale, you are!”
“I love him,” Sookie said out loud.
“And it’s a good thing you do!” Pat declared, “Seeing as you’re traveling halfway around the world to be with him!”
There was some small cheering around them at Sookie’s very public declaration and Breandan pulled her to him, kissing her to cover his growing unhappiness, earning more cheers. That was the thing. He wanted to be happy. He wanted to tell her those words in return and it made his teeth grind. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be.
“So, you have a place to live already?” Amelia asked.
“My Father has an apartment set aside in the hotel in Slievemore,” Breandan told them. It was part of the plan. Sookie would have her temporary work status. She would be set to the task of learning the hotel business so she could properly fit in. She would be surrounded by ‘friends’ who would really be watchers. Breandan would be sent on longer and longer assignments and soon she would be isolated, an unknowing bird in her cage. The thought of it made his chest so tight, he almost reached up to massage it. He glanced at Sookie’s trusting face and found himself saying, “Still, I’m not taking her there straight away. I have a family cottage the next town over in Killary. It’s a bit isolated, but it’s right on the beach. I can commute into town and Sookie will have some time to learn the place.”
“I’ll be living on the ocean?” Sookie’s face shone and Breandan felt like a knight once more.
“There’s sea glass there to collect and hills you can walk. It’s a beautiful place, even in winter,” and he found himself lost in the idea of sitting with her in front of the fire, holding her in his arms.
“Got room for visitors?” Amelia interrupted Breandan’s dream.
“It’s a standard cottage,” Breandan stammered. “Two bedrooms up top under the eaves.”
“Then that’s where we’re spending winter break!” Amelia announced.
Breandan’s eyes widened. This wasn’t part of the plan and he wasn’t sure what his Father would think. Sookie’s mouth opened, but Amelia bucketed on, “It will be just after Christmas and Sean and I have the whole month for winter break. I can’t think of anyplace I’d rather celebrate our engagement than with you in Ireland! It’s all so romantic!”
“You won’t mind sharing your cottage for a couple weeks, will you?” Sean asked. “I heard that the western part of Ireland is beautiful. We could help you guys get settled.”
“Don’t say no,” Amelia laughed, “I’ve already bought the tickets. Shannon Airport, right? We’ll be there in just three weeks!”
“January on the Peninsula can be a bit dodgy,” Breandan tried to sound discouraging. “For one thing, it’s dark this time of year. It’s night almost sixteen hours a day and it rains more often than not. It gets cold, too. There’s days the mountain roads are too icy to pass. You could find yourself stuck out there and not able to get back to the airport.”
“How romantic!” Amelia squealed.
“What do people do for fun?” Sean seemed to be wavering, but before Breandan could add a few more things to discourage him, the owner of the Diner chimed in.
“They go to the pub,” Pat told Sean, then he winked. “They visit their neighbors all together in a bright place and they play music until the wee hours of the night.”
It was the perfect thing to say, so Breandan wasn’t surprised when Sean exclaimed, “Really? Count me in! Plenty of night to spend in bed with my girl and spending the rest of my time playing music and drinking? Sounds like paradise!”
It didn’t take Sookie long on the ride home to catch Breandan’s sour mood. He could see her from the corner of his eye as he drove. She was watching him and she looked worried. ‘Good,’ he thought, ‘get yourself worked up enough for a fight and I’ll have the excuse to make you disinvite them!’
Once they were inside, she still hadn’t challenged him. Instead, she hugged him and told him she was getting him some tea. “Some of the cinnamon blend you like,” she said softly, laying her hand against his cheek as she passed. When Sookie returned, she set the cup on the table in front of him, the spoon and honey beside it just as he liked. She sat close and lay her head against his shoulder before saying, “I am so sorry, Breandan. I’ve been so selfish!”
He couldn’t for the life of him figure out what she was talking about and when he remained silent, she turned to him with caring eyes, “You’ve been so wonderful throughout all of this with my Mom and my Aunt. I can’t imagine how you feel. This must remind you of how you lost your own Mother. I am sorry!”
Breandan was so taken aback that when she asked how his Mother died, he found himself telling her. He changed the story a bit, leaving out the year and the particulars, but when he said she’d been shot, Sookie gasped. “How terrible! You never had the chance to tell her goodbye!”
Breandan couldn’t understand why she was saying this. Humans didn’t care about Fae, they used them for what the Fae gave and then they faded along with their beauty. Humans didn’t ask about how the Fae felt or cared about them as people. “You don’t talk about her much, but I can tell you loved her,” Sookie was stroking his chest. “What was she like? Did she look like you?”
“Why do you care?” Breandan asked.
Her hand stopped and she looked at him, first with surprise and then with such love while she told him, “Because I care about you, Breandan. I love you! I want to know everything about you. You are the most important person in my life.”
So, he told her. He told her of how his Mother loved music and how she loved to dance. He recalled things she’d told him and the ways she stood up for him against his Father. He felt so comfortable talking with this woman that he almost told her how his Mother delayed his marriage, but, luckily, he remembered where he was in time.
They talked of other things, silly stories of when Sookie grew up and how Breandan learned to defend himself. He told her a little of his extended family and she listened carefully to each name and asked questions. As the hour grew late, she drew herself into this lap. She faced him and bit her lip and when Breandan leaned forward, thinking this was a prelude to sex, Sookie pushed him back.
“When are you going to stop hiding from me?” she asked. She wouldn’t meet his eyes, but then she did.
“What do you mean?” he asked, but he knew what she meant. She confirmed it when she touched his ears, and then ran her fingers along the slanted planes of his cheeks.
“I see you,” she said carefully, “and I think you see me, too.” When Breandan didn’t respond, she said, “You don’t need to be frightened. It’s okay. At least we’ve found each other, right? I mean, I didn’t know there was anyone else like me and now, here you are!”
“You really don’t know what you are, do you?” Breandan asked. He sat back and held her eyes as he dropped his masque. He watched as her eyes grew wider. “Well?” he challenged, “What about you? Are you going to stop pretending as well?”
“I’m not sure I can slip it off so easily,” she stammered. “My Daddy told me from the time I was little to treat it like it was what was under my skin and never let it come off. He told me that it would hurt.”
“Your Father was wise,” Breandan soothed her, suddenly anxious for her to join him. “He knew that being different in this world was dangerous, but you don’t need to hide from me.” A voice within him wanted to tell Sookie he was lying, that of all creatures she needed to hide from him most of all, but, in the next moment, she was revealed before him and she was even more enchanting than he had imagined.
Of course, he had glimpsed her as she was as she had obviously seen him, but even the sharp eyes of a Fae could not see through a masque completely. Sookie’s face was beautiful, for all it wasn’t perfect. He could see the question on her face, so he answered it before she asked, “You are beautiful!”
Sookie didn’t bother to hide the relief on her face. “You asked if I knew what I was. Do you know?”
“Fae,” Breandan told her. “Or part Fae.”
“Like a Fairy?” and Sookie giggled. “Really? That’s the best you have?”
Breandan stood and pulled Sookie to the mirror. He stood behind her and pulled her hair back, revealing her ears. “Look,” he ordered her. “Did you really think all those stories were just fools’ tales? Surely a girl as smart as you knew there couldn’t be that many stories without having some kernel of truth at their core. You are Fae, so am I, and where we’re going, Sookie, there are more of us. Not many, I’ll grant you, but you’ll see them every day and now that you aren’t afraid to look, you’ll see us as we are.”
Sookie’s eyes linked with his, her reflection so hopeful. She reached up to entwine her fingers with his. “I always thought I was the only one,” she whispered, “after my Daddy died.”
“You were wrong,” Breandan replied, “and when we get to your new home, you’ll see even more just how much you belong there.”
“Do you want to kiss me?” she teased, clearly done with thinking about moving to new places and seeing new people just like her.
“No, little Miss Pointy Ears,” Breandan smirked, then leaning down to nip her neck, said, “I have other things in mind.” He lifted her and then almost dropped her before carrying her rather ungracefully to the bed and dumping her in the middle of it.
Breandan was fairly certain the walls were soundproof, but he wouldn’t have cared if they weren’t. Sookie yelled his name, begging and urging while he rose to her challenge, holding back until she came so hard she felt like a fist around him and he saw stars as he roared to his own completion. She was asleep almost at once and he held her to him, stroking her hair and watching as her masque slipped back in place, such a part of her subconscious that it was her natural state. Almost on cue, his phone buzzed. Breandan reached over to see it was his Father.
“I called earlier,” Rogan rasped, “but the phone rolled over to voicemail. Apparently, you were too busy to answer your King.”
“My apologies, Majesty,” Breandan soothed, easing himself from the bed and closing the door behind him. “We are packing. There are papers to sign. I’m using our attorney here to expedite matters. She will need to be in touch with him at least for awhile to settle the estate.”
“You said they were poor!” Rogan scoffed, “What estate could there be?”
“Not so much in possessions, but there are some life insurance policies and other legal papers. Even dying in this country is a complicated matter.” Breandan tried to gauge his Father’s mood. He wondered what his Father would say after he told him he wasn’t taking Sookie to the hotel upon their arrival.
“I’ve decided to send you back to the United States in February,” Rogan drawled. “I’ve talked with some of your contacts and they confirmed what you’ve been saying. It sounds like a good opportunity, and you know the lay of the land…”
“You’d send me away from her so quickly?” Breandan hissed.
“Why not?” Rogan challenged. “She’ll be in the hotel. I’ll make certain she’s busy. I’m sure I can arrange someone to fill her bed if you think she’ll be lonely…”
“She’s just lost her Mother,” Breandan growled. “She’s fragile. Do you really think you can shuffle people in and out of her life and she’ll remain?”
“Why are you arguing?” Rogan growled right back. “What does it matter how fragile she is? She’s human, we’ll just…”
“You can’t glamour her!” Breandan retorted. “I’ve told you, but, like always, you don’t listen! You just want your own way, but not this time! This is my responsibility and I’ll handle it.” Breandan took a deep breath, “She’s vulnerable and she’s lost her only relative and her home. It’s a perfect time to have her come to see Ireland as her new home. If we handle this properly, she’ll become too attached to be able to completely break from the place.”
When Rogan didn’t protest, Breandan continued, “You know we need her to be willing to stay. If she fights us, it will become known and Niall could use that to take her. If she’s attached, even if she has a bad day, her emotions will keep her rooted and we’ll know if there’s any attempt to steal her.” It was well known if a human wanted to stay in a Fae’s territory, even a little bit, consent would serve as a leash, holding them there.
“So, what is this plan of yours?” Rogan asked.
“I’m taking her to Killary,” Breandan told his Father. “Not for an extended period, but for a few months. There are people from Boston, her friends, who have made arrangements to visit in January. It will build memories, reasons for her to stay.”
“So, playing the human?” Rogan sneered. “What’s next? Tea parties and visits from the local garden club?”
“You chose me for this job,” Breandan countered. “I didn’t want it, but I am doing it. You wanted her in Ireland. She’s coming. You want her to stay. I am telling you how it will happen.”
“You’re certain she doesn’t have some hold on you?” his Father questioned.
“She is following me,” Breandan snarled. “And don’t write her off as some mere human! She is a hybrid. She isn’t without her own tricks.”
“Like what?” Breandan could hear the new note in his Father’s voice.
“Her tears can be powerful,” Breandan told his Father, “like a Banshee’s tears. They call you in and weaken your resolve. She’s attractive and pleasing. Even the vampire you sent to watch her formed a fondness for her. Why risk turning her loose among our people until we’re sure what affect she may have on them?”
“What else can she do?” Rogan asked.
“She is immune to glamour as I’ve told you. She can share her essence with others. I haven’t observed any other particular gifts, but she’s just learning what she is. She saw through my masque and she’s excited to know she’s part Fae and there are more like her. Her Father never explained what she was. It’s possible he didn’t know either.” Thinking of Sookie growing up, not understanding her gifts, and always hiding only made Breandan’s desire to protect her stronger. ‘It’s not real,’ he told himself. ‘It’s some kind of glamour or calling,’ but he didn’t really believe it.
“I’m keeping you on a short leash,” Rogan told him. “If I find you’ve deceived me or if you think to run with her, you’ll regret it!”
“I am your Son,” Breandan hissed. “I have obeyed you in all things! How dare you question me on this!”
“No one remains King who doesn’t question all things!” Rogan snapped back and the connection was ended.
“Breandan?” She was standing in the doorway. “Is everything all right?”
The streetlights caught her, her slight glow, her warm eyes. “It’s nothing,” he soothed.
“You were fighting with your Father,” she said as a statement. “Because of me.”
“He thinks you have bewitched me,” Breandan advanced on her. “He doesn’t understand how a snip of a girl from America could have captured me so completely,” and Breandan swept her into his arms.
“I don’t think you’re all that captured!” Sookie sassed.
“You’re wrong, Mistress,” Breandan purred, “let me show you how I know,” then Breandan took her back to bed, banishing all thoughts of his Father and what was coming in the lush welcome of Sookie Stackhouse.
The apartment was cleaned out and the keys handed back to Sam.
“I’ll miss you,” he’d mumbled as Sookie said her goodbyes, and then that door closed.
Sookie walked down the concrete sidewalk toward the car one last time followed by Aunt Linda. “I guess I’ll never see this place again,” she said as she got back in the car, the enormity of what she was doing hit her.
It hadn’t taken more than a few hours to pack her clothes and clean out the rest. The furniture wasn’t theirs. There were only a handful of photographs in frames. Even the things in the kitchen belonged to Sam Merlotte. They’d traveled on a shoestring as her Mother was fond of saying, so now there was nothing.
There had been a couple surprises. There was the box of men’s clothing Sookie found under her Mother’s bed. They were things that had belonged to her Father and Sookie brought the jacket she remembered so well to her nose, hoping to smell him. Instead, she’d smelled her Mother. Sookie sat on the stripped bed, imagining her Mom doing the same thing, over and over again, until all traces of Corbett Stackhouse were gone. The tears leaked out of her as they so often did. Sookie felt like a big grief cup that just filled and filled until it overflowed and there was little she could do about it. “I miss you,” she said to the air, meaning her Mom, her Dad, Jason, and the life of a family that was gone forever.
The other surprise was a shoebox filled with photographs Sookie had never seen. Mostly, they were photographs of her Dad. There were photos of when he was a boy in Minnesota and a woman Sookie assumed was her Grandmother. There were also lots of photos of her Mom and Dad together. They had been a handsome couple and the love they felt for each other was so clear it hurt to see. There were some photos of herself and Jason, but not a lot. There was only one she could find of her Father standing with the two of them and it reminded Sookie of something she’d come to accept a long time ago; Corbett Stackhouse was her Mother’s favorite and her Mother only had one favorite. There had been times, growing up, when Sookie promised herself she would never treat her own children as second-best but, now, she wouldn’t have children, not as long as she was with Breandan, so it was a worry she no longer had.
At the very bottom of the shoebox were two documents. One was her Mother’s birth certificate, the official copy with the stamp and everything. The other was her Father’s birth certificate and Sookie’s hand trembled as she opened it.
There was her father’s name. He was Corbett Niall Stackhouse, although Sookie never remembered him mentioning he had a middle name, even when she’d teased. He was born in a house, not in a hospital, and his Mother was listed as Adele Mary Hale, not Clare as Sookie had been told. The Father’s name spaces were blank and Sookie marveled at the courage it must have taken in those days to stand up in a farming community and admit her child was illegitimate.
Sookie looked back through the pictures in the box. The older ones were black and white, but even faded and creased, it was clear Adele Hale was a handsome woman. She smiled out, holding her laughing child, her chin up and her eyes bright. “She looks like you,” Aunt Linda told her when Sookie showed her the photo.
“At least the part about her being born in Ireland was true,” Sookie nodded, taking the Kleenex her Aunt offered while she pointed to the name of the town and county carefully typed on the form.
Now the photo box was safely packed in Sookie’s two suitcases, ready for the flight overseas.
Linda stayed with them in Breandan’s apartment that last night and they talked. Breandan was out for a going away thing with his bandmates. She’d been invited, but she couldn’t see leaving her Aunt to sit alone. “Besides, I’m not in a party mood,” she’d assured Breandan. “Go have fun! I’ll see you when you get back.”
With flights just around the corner, neither of them wanted to shop for food or clean up again after cooking, so Sookie and Linda walked down a block and picked up Chinese food. “I’ll have to give him one thing. Your Breandan sure knows how to live,” Linda huffed, looking around the apartment.
“It’s his family’s money,” Sookie shrugged. “He doesn’t live like this, not really. He works. He’s not lazy.” Sookie had grown up believing that idleness was on the sin list right next to being dirty and stealing from poor people. She knew Aunt Linda felt the same.
Linda shook her head and drew a deep breath through her nose. “I can’t help it. I don’t trust your Breandan, Sookie. I know your Mother was all on board with you going overseas with him, but you’ve only known him a few months. You don’t know how things are going to turn out! It’s easy to be pleasant for a little while, but until you spend real time with him, you don’t really know who he is and by the time you do, you’ll be thousands of miles away surrounded by strangers.”
“I know how to take care of myself!” Sookie protested. “You forget! I’ve moved all my life. I’ve been surrounded by strangers every few years.”
“But you had family,” Linda challenged. “What if you find yourself in real trouble over there? You’ll speak the language, but he’ll be a native and you won’t. They’re a mostly Catholic country. You’re not and you’ll be living with this rich young man without the benefit of marriage. Pretty much everyone you meet will see you as some silly, American, floozy who deserves whatever she gets. And if he hits you? What then?”
“He’s not like that!” Sookie shook her head, “I know him! I’ll grant you, I don’t know him well, which is why I’m not going to marry him right away. I know Mom wanted me to be married, but once it’s law it’s a whole new level and I’ve yet to see a marriage law favoring the woman. I get it!” Sookie had to stop and swallow. The pain of her Mother’s passing was so fresh, just the mention of her made tears spring to her eyes. Linda reached across the table and grabbed Sookie’s hand hard. It helped the younger woman refocus. “I know going away with him is a risk, Aunt Linda. I don’t know anyone in Ireland, but I just feel like this is the right thing for me to do! I feel like I’ve been waiting to go there all my life.” Sookie couldn’t tell Linda what she now knew about herself. She couldn’t explain how excited she was to be heading to a place where she would meet more people like her. When she was being whimsical, she imagined Breandan as her own Prince Charming, coming out of nowhere to rescue her and return her to a magical place where she’d finally fit in. She was sure it wouldn’t be that easy, but she knew she had to go and find out.
What she could tell Linda was, “I want to find out where my Father’s people came from. The place where his Mom, Adele, was born, is one peninsula away from where we’ll be living. I bet I could walk there!” Sookie squeezed her Aunt’s hand back, “All those years we moved? Daddy said it was for work, but sometimes I thought we were running from something.” When Linda’s eyes narrowed, Sookie laughed, “I know! I’m probably imagining things! Mom always said I was a dreamer, but, still, I could have relatives there and I’d like to find out.”
“Wait here,” Linda told her and she walked back into the second bedroom, then returned with some papers. “I did some research at the library earlier today while you were dropping things at Goodwill.” She spread the papers on the table. They were about becoming an Irish citizen. “According to this, there’s a special arrangement between the United States and Ireland. If you can prove your grandparent was born in Ireland, you could be entitled to dual citizenship.”
“Why would I…” Sookie hesitated.
“Why?” Linda challenged. “Let’s say this is the right move for you and you want to live there. Do you really want your status to be dependent on whether Breandan O’Hara decides to marry you? You know your Mother expected him to ask you at Thanksgiving, and then he didn’t. Who knows if he ever will?”
“He kind of asked me the night before,” Sookie admitted. “I turned him down.”
“Well,” Linda said and Sookie could see she gained back some respect in her Aunt’s eyes. “Well,” she said again and poked the paperwork with her finger. “If you want to build your own life in Ireland, you will need legal standing and this could help you get it free and clear. Without this, you’d be hard-pressed to get a loan in your own name, much less buy a car. You have your Grandmother’s name and your Dad’s birth certificate. After you arrive, go to this Foreign Birth place and get things moving right away. If things don’t work out and you come home; no harm, no foul, but if you decide to stay there, then you’ll have the same rights as anyone else.”
“We really are a practical family, aren’t we?” Sookie sighed.
“Good farming stock,” Linda nodded. “Don’t come any more level-headed than Minnesota Lutherans!”
Breandan came home late, smelling of beer and whiskey. He tickled and teased until Sookie attacked him. Their love-making was fast and desperate, punctuated by sharp elbows and nips in their hurry to have each other. “I am yours,” Breandan admitted again, his head against her chest as she held him in the aftermath.
“I love you,” she assured him and Breandan wondered how long it would be before she stopped saying those words to him as the reality of Ireland began. The pain in his chest sharpened again and he shifted to try and get away from it.
“You okay?” Sookie asked, stroking his hair away from his face.
“We should sleep,” he replied. “You may have trouble sleeping tomorrow on the plane.”
“Our new life,” Sookie entwined her fingers with his and he lifted their joined hands to kiss hers. He wanted to reassure her, but words failed him, so he turned on his side and brought her closer, spooning against her back, and wishing silently that the happiness he felt didn’t have to end.
Linda’s plane departed around noon and Breandan put their luggage in storage at Logan. They rode the T back into town to meet Amelia and Sean for lunch downtown. Sookie had sold her car to Fran and the money was on a debit card she could use to open her own bank account once she reached Ireland. Breandan assured her it was an easy process provided she did it in person. “There’s a bank in Killary,” he told her, “and it has a branch in Slievemore, which is where my work is located and yours, too, if you’re willing.”
They hadn’t talked about Sookie working, but they both knew it was only a matter of time. Given Sookie’s nature, she wouldn’t be able to stay idle long.
They jumped off at the Aquarium and made their way to Durgin Park at Quincy Market. Sookie marveled again at how clearly she saw Breandan now. Nothing around them changed, but just knowing she wasn’t a freak, that there were others who looked like she did, made everything seem better. Sean and Amelia were standing just inside the Market building, keeping out of the cold, and they walked out to greet them. Together they walked up the stairs and into the old dining room. They were seated across from each other at the tables, their waitress surly and abrupt, and soon they were laughing, watching hapless fellow diners who didn’t know the rules being schooled by the staff.
“It’s all settled,” Amelia grinned. “We’ll be at the airport in three weeks.”
“We’ll be outside waiting for you,” Sookie grinned up at Breandan. “Just try to keep the suitcases reasonable. The cars there are smaller.”
“Bring rope!” Sean laughed. “I’ll have a duffle bag and Amelia will bring her whole wardrobe!”
“We’re going to be in Ireland for almost a whole month!” Amelia rolled her eyes. “There’s all kinds of places to see and things to do.”
“It will be Sookie traveling with you,” Breandan reminded them. “I will be expected to go to work as soon as I’m back. My Father figures I’ve had all the vacation I deserve being here as long as I have.”
“I thought you said he was pleased with the opportunities you found,” Sookie laid her hand over his. Breandan never complained, but she could tell his Father was a stern taskmaster.
“Oh, he is. He wanted me to turn right around and return here to get things moving, but I told him I wanted to stay put for a bit,” and Breandan raised Sookie’s hand to his lips so she’d know why.
“Why aren’t you getting married again?” Amelia asked.
Breandan’s eyes cut across the table and Sookie felt her face flush, “Like I told you,” Sookie stammered. “We’re taking our time.”
“Amelia!” Sean scolded, “Stop pressuring them!” He grabbed a cornbread muffin as he said, “I’d imagine renting a car is easy enough once we get there,” and the conversation turned back to Christmas and where the couple should visit while they were in the country.
After lunch, they walked the few blocks to the Black Rose and clustered around the table, ordering beers and a round of shots. “To new beginnings!” Amelia cheered.
“To lasting friendships,” Sookie added.
All too soon, they were hugging and promising to text, then Breandan and Sookie walked back to the Orange line to take the ride back out to Logan. Their plane didn’t leave until ten at night, but there were extra bags to check and Customs to clear. The terminal at Logan was comfortable and Breandan had privileges at a special lounge reserved for first class travelers with their airlines. For Sookie, who had never traveled by air before, it was all an adventure. Still, she was bleary-eyed and slow-footed when their flight was called.
Breandan settled her in their First-Class seats near the front of the plane and an attendant was there almost immediately, offering blankets and eye masks. Sookie found herself tongue-tied and suddenly afraid. “It’s going to be all right,” Breandan assured her and, for the first time, he took over. He arranged their seats and made sure she was comfortable. He pulled things from her backpack and made sure she had headphones and her book available.
When they finally took off and the lights in the cabin dimmed, Breandan raised the armrest and pulled Sookie so she could rest her head against him, taking comfort as they always did from having contact with each other. Despite her nerves, or maybe because of them, she fell quickly asleep and soon, Breandan did, too.
It seemed he’d just closed his eyes when suddenly Sookie was poking him, “Look!” she was saying. The window shade was open and light was streaming in. Her face was to the window and even without touching her, he could feel her delight.
Breandan leaned over. There were clouds below, but the sun was bright for a change and even though it was winter, there was green on the hills. “It’s beautiful!” Sookie sighed, tilting her head to kiss him.
‘You are,’ Breandan agreed silently, wishing things were different.