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.
It was the morning of Michele’s third chemo treatment. The transport van arrived and Sookie looped her arm through her Mother’s as they walked toward the vehicle. They were warned that this chemotherapy session would result in the worst side effects yet. Sookie was pretty sure her Mother would need her home to take care of her for at least the first few days after they returned from the hospital, so Sookie worked every available hour possible. There was no time for romance and, for five days, Sookie canceled any plans with Breandan. Sookie was surprised at how sharply she felt the loss of seeing him. She hadn’t realized how much a part of her life the musician had become. She looked at the neighborhood around her and almost wished she was meeting him instead of being here, then felt guilty for thinking it.
“You’re missing your young man, aren’t you?” her Mother asked as they settled in the vehicle.
“Yes,” Sookie answered, “I guess I am, but this is more important. Breandan can take care of himself. He’s a grown man and besides, it’s not all that serious between us.”
“He’s been taking you out almost every day,” her Mother told her, “and you come home with a smile. You think I don’t know when something special is happening with my own daughter?” Michele leaned against Sookie, “I’ll make a confession. I spied on the two of you from the window a couple days ago. Your Breandan is very tall, but you seemed to figure out the kissing part okay.”
“I don’t think he’s ‘my’ Breandan, and yes, he’s pretty tall.” Sookie shrugged to cover her embarrassment. The driver was grinning at her in the rear-view mirror, and Sookie couldn’t help the smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
“You think I don’t notice things? You even daydream about him when you think no one’s watching. I don’t know what you call it, but where I come from, folks would say that’s pretty serious,” her Mother teased.
“I’m not sure what to think about him,” Sookie stammered. “It’s not like I’ve made it easy for him, but he keeps coming back.”
“Well,” Michele patted her hand, “I noticed you’ve avoided bringing him to meet me. Are you ashamed of him? Or is it me?”
“No!” Sookie exclaimed. “It’s not like that! You’ve been so weak, and then you caught that cold. Breandan’s around people all day. He has meetings with people who want to do business with his family, and then he’s playing in bars at night. I didn’t want to take that kind of risk with you.”
“I could point out that you’re in restaurants every night. It’s not like you’re staying away from the public, but I understand,” her Mother said. Sookie heard the slightly hurt tone in Michele’s voice and wasn’t sure her Mother did understand, but as her Mother stared out the window and Sookie thought about her reluctance to introduce Breandan to her Mother, Sookie felt less certain.
Sookie’s time with Breandan was light and happy. They laughed and never talked about anything serious. It was as if every day she could escape the hard place of her real life into an exquisite mini-vacation where a handsome, carefree man helped her forget her realities like trading her dreams for becoming a waitress and the grinding tragedy of sickness. She and Breandan never spoke of sorrow or suffering, and Sookie realized that maybe her Mother understood things better than she did.
Everything was ready when they arrived at the Cancer Center, and her Mother was soon in the bed with all her lines in place. “Why don’t you sit with me?” Michele asked Sookie. “I’d like you to tell me about this young man of yours.”
“I don’t think I really know that much about him,” Sookie told her, and then surprised them both with how much she really did.
The hours passed while Sookie told her Mother about Breandan’s family in Ireland. She told her Mother about the hotels they owned and where they were located. She told Michele about the brewery he was somehow related to and how it had started during the times of The Troubles. She told her Mother the things she’d found out by asking silly questions. She knew the kinds of things he liked to do best, and that he loved cinnamon. “So, that’s why you made those cookies!” her Mother sighed, and Sookie blushed when she remembered how she’d liked the aftereffects of the cookies just as much.
Sookie told her Mother some of the stories Breandan had shared with her about how he grew up. “It seems very old-fashioned,” her Mother commented.
“I guess I didn’t think about it that way,” Sookie agreed, “but he is an old-fashioned guy in a lot of ways. He insists he walk next to the road whenever we walk together on sidewalks, and he’s big on opening doors and pulling out chairs. I was never one for all of that, but with him? It’s kind of nice.”
Sookie told her Mother what she knew about Breandan’s Father, which wasn’t much. “He really runs the family from what Breandan’s told me. Breandan says when he gets back, he’ll be running a hotel, maybe two. I guess he spent a lot of his teenage years learning the business by being in the office and doing odd jobs.”
“It doesn’t sound like much of a childhood,” her Mother observed, “but then again, you were always too old for your years, too. I know that’s supposed to be the oldest child, but you were grown up all your life.”
“Well, I know Breandan was an only child and I guess he did grow up kind of fast. His Mother…” and Sookie almost mentioned that Breandan’s Mother had died, but she caught herself before the words passed her lips. Somehow, though, her Mother guessed.
“So, his Mother died?” Michele asked and when Sookie didn’t answer right away, Michele followed up, “Well, Sookie? Did she?”
Sookie bit her lip and nodded, but Michele just smiled. “See?” she said. “One day you’ll have that in common, too.”
Quick tears fell down Sookie’s cheeks, but her Mother smiled and tutted, “Now, now! I didn’t mean to make you cry. You’re talking about a man that makes your face light up, and that should never make any woman sad. Why don’t you tell me about his music? You said he’s a musician? What kind of instrument does he play?” Sookie took a deep breath, swiped at her face with the back of her hand, and launched into a description of how Breandan played fiddle. She talked about the two performances she’d seen and the way he held his instrument and the songs he sang. She talked about how people would stand up and clap and how Breandan held his own with vocals. Michele asked Sookie if she’d taken any video of the band performing, and Sookie obliged by pulling out her phone and finding the clip to run for her Mother. The light quality wasn’t good, but the sound came through, and Michele had her play the clip twice.
“He really is talented,” Michele smiled, but then she winced a little and they stopped talking as Sookie’s Mom closed her eyes and waited for the discomfort to pass. After a bit, Michele shifted on the bed, then opening her eyes said, “I really love the idea of you sitting around in the evening, everyone musical. And Irish music? You love that! I could just see you in Ireland, all cozy, listening to fiddle music into the night, couldn’t you?”
Sookie decided to ignore her Mother’s blatant pushing, instead mentioning how easily Breandan met new people. “He has the most easy way. It’s like people are just drawn to him, and he loves to talk. Before you know it, perfect strangers are like your best friend!”
“I remember when you were a little girl, all you wanted when you grew up was to travel and meet new people,” Michele reminded Sookie. “If you ended up with Breandan, you’d probably go live in Ireland. He’s here in the United States, looking at new hotels. Who knows where he might be thinking about another new hotel and you could travel with him. It could be in Europe or anywhere, and in the hotel business, you’d meet new people all the time. What a wonderful adventure that would be!” Michele rubbed the back of Sookie’s hand with her thumb. “It would make me so happy to think that after everything, how wonderful and strong you’ve been, your dreams would come true, Sweetheart.”
“It’s a lovely idea, Mom, but not very practical,” Sookie smiled. “I’m really not sure exactly how long Breandan’s planning on staying in the United States, but I’m sure his visa isn’t going to allow him to stay here indefinitely. I live here. You live here. I’m not leaving any time soon and the fact is, I probably won’t ever leave. You’re stuck with me, like white on rice. When Breandan finishes his business, he’ll go home and I’m okay with that. That’s why I’m not getting too involved. I won’t tell you I’m not having fun. I am, but when he goes, he goes and that’s the end of it.”
“My beautiful, practical girl!” Michele smiled, “But what you’re talking about could be months and months away. A million things could happen between now and then. If this Breandan O’Hara makes you happy, and I see that he does, don’t short change yourself because of something that might happen. If there’s one thing this whole mess of an experience has taught me, it’s that life is too short not to live every moment as if it counts. Take the chance, Sookie! Finding real happiness with another person doesn’t come around that often. You’d be silly to ignore it when it’s right in front of you.”
Sookie tried to reason with her Mother, but Michele was having none of it, and by the time her Mother drifted to sleep, the poison dripping into her veins, Sookie was half-convinced Breandan O’Hara and she had too many points in common to not to have some reason Fate wanted them together.
“Maybe I’m just afraid,” she told her sleeping Mother. It made sense. There was nothing about this process and the life she now led that wouldn’t frighten any sane person.
Breandan knew Sookie’s Mother had gone through another round of chemotherapy. While they hadn’t communicated in awhile, Sookie had told him the date they were scheduled to go into the hospital and she told him not to expect to hear from her after they returned. What he didn’t expect was for a day to become several days, and then a full week of total silence.
At first, Breandan told himself the reason he was anxious was about having nothing to report to his Father. Rogan had taken to calling nightly, but in the last two days, Breandan stopped thinking about his Father. He didn’t answer his Father’s calls nor listen to the voicemails he left.
Breandan had appointments today, but he blew off those meetings pleading fictional conflicts and instead, paced the length of his apartment, sending texts, and leaving his own messages that flipped immediately to the voicemail on Sookie’s phone. As soon as he heard Sean return from classes, Breandan walked across the hall, hoping his friend had news through Amelia, but Sean just shrugged and said, “Sorry, dude, Amelia hasn’t heard from her either.”
“She’s not answering my texts,” Breandan fumed. “Sookie and her Mother have been back for two days and now two nights. Why isn’t she answering me?” Breandan flipped his phone over, checking his messages again.
“I don’t know why you’re flipping,” and Sean shook his head. “You know she’s dealing with her Mother.” The look Sean was giving him spoke eloquently. Sean Callahan thought Breandan was crazy. “So, if you came over here to play, you should get your fiddle,” Sean informed him, then sat down, leaned back, and picked up his guitar. His fingers ran over the bridge of the new piece they were working on, but Sean didn’t stop staring.
“Of course,” Breandan nodded. “I’m not being rational. I’ll get it,” and he walked across the hall and returned, fiddle in hand. Sean was working through the piece, and Breandan quickly tuned the strings. Sean started to play the piece from the beginning, but when Breandan missed his cue, Sean didn’t bother to hide his irritation, “You in?”
“I guess,” and Dan brought the instrument under his chin, then turned it right back around to sit on his knee as he picked up the phone again. “You don’t think she’s avoiding me, do you?” he asked, scrolling up and down his rolodex of messages again.
“You’re acting like a psycho!” and Sean stood. “I told you what Amelia said. Sookie called out of work and she never does that. She told Amelia before they went that this one was going to be rough. I guess it is,” and when Breandan made a noise, Sean shook his head and laid down his guitar. “Your head isn’t in this. Look, I’m going to go pick up Amelia. She’ll be off work in an hour. Just do yourself a favor and go over there. Knock on the door and talk to the girl. She can’t ignore you if you’re on her doorstep. She’ll tell you how things are going and you can get your shit together.”
“And what if she won’t open the door?” Breandan carped. “In all the times I’ve been over there, she’s never invited me in to see her place or meet her Mother.”
“Hey, maybe it’s like you’re thinking,” Sean shrugged, “maybe Sookie is dumping your ass, but at least you’ll know.” Sean pulled out his keys and tossed them at Breandan. “Here, take my car. I’ll take the T to the diner. It’ll make Amelia feel sorry for me and she’s always nicer to me when she’s feeling sorry.”
“I don’t think she’s dumping me,” Breandan hissed, but the uncertainty of the situation was making him worry. Breandan had never had to rely on his personality to get what he wanted. With the Fae, you always knew where you stood. Everyone else succumbed to glamour…except Sookie. Breandan barely threw out a ‘thanks’ before he was out the door, fiddle case in hand. If his Father had caught him at this moment and asked why he was upset about Sookie Stackhouse, Breandan didn’t think he would say it was about failing. Somehow this hybrid, mongrel, all-too-human woman had gotten under his skin and the idea that she didn’t feel the same way was confounding!
It was in the way she wasn’t distracted by how he looked, or maybe it was because she was immune to his charms. Breandan was pretty sure that, to Sookie Stackhouse, it wouldn’t matter what he looked like or how much money he had in his bank account. He was sure that what mattered to Sookie was who he was, and when he believed that she liked him, maybe even loved him a little, it made him absurdly happy. Now, he wasn’t as sure.
The drive across town didn’t take long. It was past the dinner hour and traffic had slowed. Breandan parked on the street in front of her house, even though he knew it guaranteed he’d get a ticket.
Breandan walked to the tree line near the fence and whistled. When Eric Northman didn’t appear, the Fae called out, “Here, doggie! Come here, boy!”
“I’m sure you think that’s funny,” the vampire said from behind Breandan.
“I just wanted to make sure you were still here,” Breandan told him, and then he turned to look at the house. There were lights on upstairs and a shadow passed in front of the curtained window.
“You should leave her alone,” Eric was also looking at the second-floor windows. “They have trouble. She doesn’t need more troubles at her door.”
“And you think that’s what I am?” Breandan asked.
“Are you going to tell me I’m wrong?” but the vampire didn’t look at the Fae.
“I don’t want to hurt her,” Breandan replied and he turned to hold Northman’s eyes. “I find that I care about her. I care about what will happen to her.”
“Is that what your Father told you to say?” Eric didn’t bother to hide his lack of trust.
“You don’t know anything!” Breandan snarled.
“They haven’t left the house,” Eric ignored the Fae’s outburst. “They haven’t gone out for groceries or to take out the garbage.”
Breandan stilled as he considered what the vampire was saying, “But she could have gone out during the day,” he offered.
“I would smell it,” the vampire told him. “The last time they left was three days ago, and that was for the hospital.”
Breandan stared at the vampire, and then nodded, his mind made up. Breandan started walking toward the house, his pace picking up until he was almost running. He paused on the porch, almost decided against it, and then hearing someone shuffling inside, he knocked.
He bounced on the balls of his feet as he waited through the sound of deadbolts turning and then the door swung open. The man on the other side stared at him myopically and Breandan knew this was Sookie’s landlord. “Who are you?” the man demanded.
“I’m Breandan O’Hara,” Breandan told him, not bothering to offer his hand. “I’m the boyfriend. I haven’t heard from Sookie or her Mom in a couple days, so I’ve come to check up on them.”
“Michele is sick,” Sam said.
“She’s more than sick,” Breandan corrected, “Sookie told me her Mother has cancer. I’m just going to run upstairs and make sure they’re okay.”
Sam looked confused before saying, “I don’t know if I should let you…”
Breandan tried to catch the man’s eye, but then he stopped. This man couldn’t see, so he couldn’t be glamoured. ‘What is it about this house?’ Breandan growled internally.
With no other tactic available, Breandan resorted to bullying. “So, what about it? Have you checked on them today? Have you seen whether they need help?” It was a low blow, calling out this man with his failing vision on ‘seeing’ things with his own eyes, but Breandan didn’t care. “Sookie wouldn’t ignore my texts if everything was okay. I’m worried about them,” the Fae added in a slightly pleading tone.
“Sookie told me she was seeing someone,” and Sam made it sound like an accusation.
“She is,” Breandan confirmed and he felt absurdly pleased that Sam knew about him, “and I’m that man.”
For a minute, Breandan believed Sam would slam the door in his face, but instead, he opened it and glanced in the direction of another closed door. Sam probably assumed the Fae knew the way, but the landlord’s staring made clear the second door was where Breandan needed to go. “Thanks,” he told Sam, stepping past the man and turning the second doorknob, which mercifully opened to a staircase. “I’m sure Sookie will be grateful,” and Breandan was pulling the door shut behind him and taking the stairs by twos.
“Sookie?” he called when he reached the top of the staircase. “Sookie? I don’t want to startle you. It’s me, Breandan. Are you here?” and Sookie came out of a room. Her hair was dirty and her face was pale. Her mouth was downturned, but before she could say anything, there was the sound of retching coming from the room behind her. As Breandan watched, Sookie’s face crumpled and she dashed away quick tears.
“It’s okay,” Breandan’s words sounded awkward. “Go take care of her,” and Sookie turned and walked back into the room she’d come from, shutting the door behind her.
Breandan swallowed. The apartment smelled terrible. He wanted to turn around and walk right back out the door. The sound of the woman he assumed was Sookie’s mother being sick wasn’t stopping. He could hear the low murmur he recognized as Sookie trying to comfort her. There was nothing in Breandan’s past to really prepare him for this kind of situation, but he straightened his spine anyway and acting on instinct said in a low voice, “Okay, let’s see what we’ve got.”
Instead of walking out of the apartment, he walked in further to find the small kitchen. It held a table and chairs and some basic appliances he recognized from his own apartments. There was no dishwasher and the sink, counter, and table were piled with dirty dishes. There was a washer and dryer off to the side. There were two plastic baskets overflowing with dirty laundry. Sookie walked into the kitchen with a bundle in her arms. She glanced at Breandan before pushing the soiled sheets down into one of the baskets and Breandan caught the odor.
“Now is not a good time,” Sookie said shortly, “You should go.”
The Fae glanced around. “You need help, Sookie,” he told her.
“Yes, I do!” Sookie snapped, “But there’s no insurance, and I can’t afford to pay a nurse, so it’s all on me and right now, I don’t have time to play games with you. I have something more important that needs to get done, so if you wouldn’t mind…” and she looked at him, making it clear that he needed to leave.
Breandan’s head told him Sookie was right. He should leave and return another time. His feet almost started moving toward the door. This was way more than he had bargained for and he couldn’t imagine even his Father, greedy as he was, expecting him to remain in this kind of mess. Breandan didn’t have any experience with sick people. The Fae were never sick and there was no reason for him to spend any time around sick humans. It wasn’t done, but then another tear slipped over Sookie’s cheek and she dashed it away, her face angry.
It was seeing her sadness that made something shift inside of Breandan. In the months that would follow, Breandan thought of this moment and wondered if Sookie used the same magic that had called the Selkies to her because suddenly, all Dan wanted to do was help her. Instead of leaving as she’d asked, he set his fiddle down on the empty kitchen chair, took off his coat, and proceeded to roll up his sleeves.
“What are you doing?” Sookie demanded. Breandan could hear an edge of panic in her voice and he stopped to look at her face under the light.
“When’s the last time you slept, Sookie?” He didn’t wait for an answer. Instead, he opened cabinet doors so he could see where things belonged and started to put away the few dry dishes in the dish drain.
“It doesn’t matter. My Mom’s been really sick this time,” Sookie’s voice was shaky. From the other room, they could hear Michele’s voice, thin and weak. “Look, I’ve got to go help her. She threw up on the bed and I’ve got to figure out how to make it up again,” and she looked at the overflowing basket of laundry.
Breandan nodded, “Go on,” he told her. “Everything will be all right.” When Sookie walked from the room, Breandan found the plug for the kitchen sink and some towels. While cleaning a house wasn’t anything he had ever done personally, there was something primal about helping those the Fae favored. It was something they did. They cobbled shoes and finished carpentry jobs for humans who found their favor. They churned butter and spun straw into cloth. If a Fae wished you well, it was easily done, so Breandan’s hands flew, fueled by magic and his sincere wish to help Sookie. The sink filled with hot, soapy water and the washer began its first cycle.
While technically his hands were doing the work, Breandan didn’t need to know how things were done. Machines simply worked for him and dishes guided themselves through the process. When the dish drain was full, he placed added ones on towels spread over the counters. The kitchen was almost clean by the time Sookie returned.
“How did you do this?” She walked over to Breandan and placed her hand on his arm. She was wide-eyed and all Breandan could see were the dark circles around the eyes of this vulnerable, strong, sassy woman.
“I wanted it,” he told her, then felt in that moment how true his words were. Sookie laughed a little and pulled the damp towel from where he’d tucked it into the front of his pants to serve as an apron. As she turned to set it on the counter, Breandan wrapped her in his arms and she turned to wrap her arms around him, too. She laid her head against his chest and the Fae felt his too cold heart flip and then warm.
“I’m glad you came,” Sookie whispered against his shirt and Breandan’s arms squeezed her tighter. Sookie felt that wonderful feeling, the one she’d only felt with her Father before. It was the one that promised her she was fine and everything would turn out for the best.
“Will you take a shower?” Breandan’s voice rumbled against her ear. When Sookie’s eyes turned up to him, he laughed! “You smell!” he told her, and then didn’t bother hiding his relief after Sookie laughed in return.
“She needs to settle first,” Sookie glanced back at the hall. “If Mom isn’t sick again in the next fifteen minutes, she’ll be able to sleep. Then I can shower if you promise to listen for her. If she needs anything, you have to call me…” and Sookie stopped talking.
“Sounds like a plan,” Breandan assured her. Sookie’s stomach chose that moment to growl, so Breandan asked, “Have you had anything to eat today?”
“Not yet,” Sookie shrugged. “I’ve been too busy.”
Breandan released Sookie and headed to the refrigerator. “I could make you an omelet?”
“Smells can trigger her,” Sookie shrugged again, “but thanks for offering.”
Undeterred, Breandan picked up the loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter he’d seen in the cabinet. “Fine, sandwich then,” he said in his most upbeat tone.
The look on Sookie’s face was worth it. She smiled. She sat down. She said, ”Thank you,” and Breandan’s chest tightened until it expanded in a most pleasurable way. “It’s nothing,” he replied, feeling as if he was, indeed, someone noble, a knight to his Princess. He poured her milk and set it beside her.
“I’m not a child,” Sookie laughed, pointing to the milk.
“No, you’re not,” he agreed, then made a point of peeking down her shirt to emphasize his point.
Sookie caught him as she was meant to do, and laughed as she pulled her shirt closer, “Lech!” she accused.
“Hopeful,” he countered, and then turned to move things between the washer and dryer. The sheets in the basket would need rinsing in the sink first, and Sookie started to protest when he dumped them in and began to run the water. “Sit down!” Breandan ordered and pointed to the clock. “Finish your sandwich. It’s already been ten minutes; fifteen and you get in the shower. You’ll be doing me a favor.”
“Why are you doing this?” Sookie asked.
Breandan didn’t stop to think of what to tell her. He just told her the truth. “Because I feel things for you I haven’t felt for anyone in a very long time,” and the honesty of his words warmed him to the tips of his fingers.
“I feel something for you, too,” Sookie told him, “but I’m not sure where this can go. We don’t know each other well and I already know how different we are. We come from such different places. I don’t think it’s fair for me to be making you any promises.”
“I’m not asking you to,” Breandan told her, but some part of his happiness was diminished.
When Sookie walked her dish to the sink, the Fae glanced at the clock again. “Fifteen minutes,” he reminded her.
“You’re sure?” she asked again. “I won’t take long and after I’m out, please don’t have feel obligated to stay.”
Breandan laughed at her, “Believe me, I never do things out of a sense of obligation! I’m here because I wish it.”
Once she left, Breandan opened his fiddle case, wondering if playing a little music would be a problem. He decided to finish drying all the dishes and put things away first. He took his time, learning where things were stored. He sorted cans, making him curious about the kinds of things Sookie and her Mother ate. It seemed there was little about this woman that didn’t fascinate him.
Sookie had been so relieved to be able to stand under the hot spray of the shower! She felt so grateful to Breandan and, although she knew it was idealistic, her heart pulled toward him; however, seeing him rifling through her cabinets put her back on alert. “What are you doing?” Sookie all but snapped.
Breandan hadn’t realized how much time had passed and spun around, looking guilty, but then, he smiled. Sookie stood before him, her hair wet, and dressed in a soft sweatshirt, yoga pants, and socks. “I’m snooping,” he admitted happily and without a bit of shame. “More importantly, are you feeling better?”
“Yes,” she nodded. She looked around the kitchen again, her face a mixture of gratitude and grief, “You really didn’t have to…”
“I’m where I want to be,” he interrupted her, and then stepped in to pull her back against him. “You smell much better,” and he sighed at how right it felt to have her within his embrace. Sookie wrapped her arms around him, holding him tight, and then she yawned.
“You’re very tired!” Breandan scolded her. “You should sleep.”
“I couldn’t, not yet,” Sookie protested. “She’s just dropped off. She’ll be up again. It’s too soon.”
“You are exhausted,” and Breandan ran his finger down the side of her face. “Look, I frequently stay up all night. It’s a fact of the hotel industry and I’ve had plenty of sleep this week. I’ll sit up and keep an eye out. Maybe you have a television? You could get some sleep…”
“But, if she needs me…” Sookie swallowed.
“I’ll wake you,” he promised. Sookie agreed and Breandan followed her to the small sitting room they had set up between the bedrooms. There wasn’t much, a couch, a table, and a chair. There was a flat screen TV on the wall that Sookie turned on.
“It’s basic,” she apologized, “but we have some CDs and you can play them right in the set,” she showed him the slot and how the unit worked.
Breandan settled back and checked the time. It was going on one a.m. He heard Sookie shifting around in the other bedroom, and then things got quiet. “You really are an ass!” Breandan scolded himself, but he didn’t mean it. For the first time in a long time, Breandan O’Hara felt like someone who was important to someone else and it made him glow with contentment.
Not a half hour went by when he heard the moan from the opposite bedroom followed by the sounds of someone stumbling, and then feet headed across the floor. Breandan rose and peered inside the bathroom. A skeletal woman leaned over the toilet. The knobs of her spine stood in stark relief and reminded him of dinosaur bones. She turned toward him as she wiped her mouth. “Who are you?” she croaked. Her voice wasn’t as panicked as it should have been, just defeated.
The vampire had been right. The smell of death clung to this woman and over rid any other scents. It was the cloying, musty, smelled of old leaves upon a forest floor and it made Breandan’s nostrils flare. “I’m Breandan,” he told her, swallowing back his revulsion. “I’m Sookie’s friend.”
“Well,” and she laid her cheek on the toilet seat, “this sure isn’t how I thought we’d meet.” Sookie’s Mother sighed, closing her eyes, swallowing hard, and then breathing through her nose. Breandan wondered for a moment if she’d dropped back off to sleep she was so still.
Breandan wasn’t sure what to do, and so he sat down on the edge of the tub next to her. He lay his hand on her back and let his magic flow into her. It wouldn’t fix her, just help her over her immediate distress.
Michele opened her eyes. She didn’t say anything, but Breandan thought she might feel what he’d done. “Could you do me a favor?” she asked.
“If I can,” he answered.
“Flush the toilet for me? I’m too weak to reach.”
The Fae stood and as he leaned over, Michele took the chance to really look at him. There was something there. He didn’t look exactly like Corbett but, the sense of a resemblance was so sharp, it made her breath catch! Michele knew she should feel anxious and embarrassed to be seen in such a state by this stranger. She knew her nightgown was stained and her hair hung dankly against her cheeks and forehead. Her mouth tasted terrible, but she just couldn’t find the energy for any of those things. “Could you get a towel?” she asked. “Just soak it in some water for me?”
Breandan did as she asked and handed it to her. “Thank you,” she sighed, and then sucked the moisture from the towel. Her throat was burning and her lips were cracked.
“Would you like me to get you a glass of water?” Sookie’s handsome suitor’s face was close to hers and he touched her again, this time her shoulder. She felt it. It was like a thin thread of energy giving her much needed strength.
“No,” Michele sighed. “No water. I’ll just throw it back up.” She closed her eyes again and then, unexpectedly, she felt her stomach shudder and she leaned over to throw up more bile.
His hand returned, pressed against her back, and then stroked her. “There, there now,” he murmured and he started humming a tune. The combination of music and the man’s touch increased the hint of well-being Michele began to feel. She thought, ‘It’s a miracle,’ as she felt her stomach settle. Turning, she sighed before asking, “Could you do me another favor? Could you go and get Sookie?”
“She’s sleeping,” Breandan told her. “What is it you need?”
“I just want to go back to my bed,” Michele whispered. “I don’t think I can get up, though. I just want to…” and Michele felt despair overcoming her.
“Well, that I can help you with,” Breandan interrupted her. He stood and slipped his hands under her shoulders. “You tell me if I’m hurting you,” he said quietly. It wasn’t comfortable, being hoisted up, but Michele managed. She took a deep breath, getting ready for the long, exhausting walk to her room when Breandan reached around her and picked her up in his arms as if she was a child.
“Oh, goodness!” Michele exclaimed and Breandan chuckled. It was a good sound and Michele found herself chuckling, too.
He carried her to her room and laid her down on her bed carefully. He pulled the sheets to straighten them, tucked her in and, when she shivered, Breandan walked to the kitchen, returning with a clean blanket. “There now,” he told her. “It that all right, then?”
“How old are you?” Michele asked him.
“Twenty-four,” Breandan replied. “Too old for you?” giving her a flirty grin.
“Just right for Sookie,” Michele replied, and then smiling wanly, she asked, “Will you sit down and talk with me?”
“If you wish,” Breandan answered. He rose and disappeared into the hallway, returning a minute later, carrying a kitchen chair.
“She likes you very much,” Michele told him.
“I like her, too,” Breandan sat back, crossing his leg over his knee. “She’s special, your Sookie, but I have to ask. It’s a curious name.”
“My husband insisted I choose the children’s names. He told me I should use old, family names, so I named Sookie for my great-aunt. I never knew her, but she was my Mother’s favorite. My Mom always said her Aunt Sookie was the strongest woman she knew, so I wanted to name my daughter for her,” Michele told him.
“What was she like as a girl? Our Sookie?” Breandan asked.
“Well, ‘our’ Sookie was adventurous,” Michele told him. “She had an independent streak a mile wide and she didn’t like to take directions from anyone. She wanted to do everything her own way. Of course,” and Michele looked out the window, “it was probably for the best. With the way we moved, Sookie never had a lot of friends. She had to be pretty self-sufficient.”
“Sookie told me her brother is in the Navy,” Breandan offered.
“He is finding his own way,” Michele nodded. “He was always more like me. He needed structure, but Sookie? She was more like my husband.”
It was the opening for which Breandan had been waiting. “Where did you meet your husband?” he asked.
“In Minnesota,” and Michele’s eyes lit up. Breandan had seen it before, the sudden energy a human in thrall would exhibit, to be as much as talking about their Fae lover. “We were in school together. You know, his Mother was Irish, from Ireland.”
“What was her name?” Breandan tried to keep his voice light, but his hands had clenched, all the same.
“Clare,” Michele answered him. “She was old even when I met her! I got the impression Corbett’s Father died before he was born. I don’t know why I thought that, but there were no pictures of him, not even one. I always thought it was terrible, but now…” and Michele’s eyes wandered to the ceiling, “Now, maybe, I understand.” Her eyes came back to look at Breandan, “There’s not a morning I waken when I don’t expect to see him beside me.”
“You sound as though you miss him,” Breandan said sympathetically.
“I miss him every day,” and Michele looked small and lost. Hers was a classic case and Breandan was more certain he had found Niall’s lost family. The details all seemed to fit.
“You know what hurts me most though?” Michele asked and her eyes took on a sly look. After Breandan shook his head, she continued, “It’s knowing when I’m gone, Sookie will be all alone. I worry she won’t be able to follow her dreams. I worry that all of this,” and Michele waved her hand to mean herself, “will drain the happiness out of her.”
Breandan stilled. He knew what Michele was really asking and he found he didn’t need to think through his answer. He told her the truth, “I am courting your daughter. Unless she decides to reject me, I would like her to return to Ireland with me.”
Michele stared at Breandan for a long moment. She didn’t ask Breandan about marriage or why he was making this kind of declaration so suddenly. Instead, she said “It would be best if you didn’t say that to Sookie. She’s too practical for such talk and it would only worry her. Best we keep this between us,” and then she changed the subject by saying, “Sookie tells me you play music. Do you like it?”
“I’ve never thought much about it,” the Fae replied. “It’s just a part of me,” and then, looking away, asked, “Would you like me to play you something?”
Breandan had just launched into a second waltz, his strings muted so the sound wouldn’t carry too far, when Sookie appeared at the door. “What’s going on? Mom? Are you okay?” Sookie looked disoriented and sleep befuddled, as though she’d just been pulled from a deep sleep.
“Hi, Sweetheart. I’m right as rain!” her Mother told her. “I think listening to Breandan’s playing makes my nausea better. Go figure!” and she smiled at her daughter who came in to sit on the side of the bed, her knees touching Breandan’s.
They sat there, all together, while Breandan played another song. “I’m tired,” Michele announced as the tune drew to an end. “I think I’d like to sleep now.” She smiled at Sookie and squeezed her hand, then turned to Breandan, “Thank you,” she told him. “I am so glad I finally met you, even if it was like this. Sookie told me you were special. You really are.”
Breandan glanced at Sookie and he wondered for a moment she’d really told her Mother that, but then Sookie looked at him and she was smiling, and he felt his heart expand. “Perhaps I should head for home,” he stumbled. “It’s very late.”
“Don’t be silly!” Michele told him. “If I get up first, which do you like more? Tea or coffee?” Sookie made a noise, but Michele just looked at Breandan.
“Which do you prefer?” he asked in return.
“Tea,” Michele answered and Breandan nodded.
He rose and left the room with Sookie trailing him, turning off the light, and pulling her Mother’s door closed. Breandan headed into the kitchen and laid his fiddle back in its case. There was a tea kettle on the stove. It was simmering and Breandan figured Sookie must have put it on before checking on her Mom.
Sookie still didn’t look entirely awake. She was standing in front of the stove, staring at the wall above it. Breandan watched her, wondering whether he should leave when the kettle started to whistle and Sookie jumped. She turned off the burner and grabbed the teapot’s handle but, in her exhaustion, she forgot the potholder. With a shriek, Sookie dropped the kettle and it bounced hard.
“Let me get that,” Breandan was beside her at once. He lifted the pot, putting it back on the stove, then took her scalded hand and held it flat. He blew his cool breath across it, healing it in an instant, then rubbed the uninjured sides of her hand with his thumbs, and turned his eyes to hers. “There, there, my Sookie. It will all be all right now,” he purred. When she continued to stare at him, he dipped his head and captured her lips with his own.
They seemed to kiss for a long time. His lips moved over hers and he lifted her onto the counter so her face was on the same level with his. He stroked the seam of her lips with his tongue and she opened her mouth willingly to admit him, and so they explored each other with long, lazy strokes. His hands moved over her, first lightly, then more insistently, and her hands pulled his shirt from his pants so she could run her fingers over his skin. When he hissed, she withdrew her fingers, instead reaching behind him to pull the elastic from his hair. It fell with a rush, a cascade of rich brown that flowed over her fingers to rest on Breandan’s shoulders.
“Will you have me?” he asked her and he stilled, staring into her eyes.
Sookie stared right back. She saw his full lips and the dark smolder of his eyes. “I will,” she replied and she wrapped her legs around him after he lifted her to carry her down the hall to her bedroom.
The light was streaming through her window. Sookie had been lying awake for some time, her arms crossed over her breasts under the blanket, cataloguing how her body felt. She figured with the handful of hours she’d slept and the gymnastics she and Breandan had performed earlier, she’d be sore, but she didn’t feel it. While Sookie believed she had a pretty good idea of the many ways she could be pleasured, she’d found out there were a few more.
Breandan had taken his time last night uncovering her, and then encouraging her to uncover him. He had taken her hands, begging her to explore his body. Sookie had been surprised how pleasurable it was to make him hiss and arch under her. He showed her how to hold him and how to use her nails to scratch “just a little.” He encouraged her to use her teeth, and then sucked her finger before instructing her how to insert it in his ass while he filled her.
Taking Breandan into her for the first time had been perfect. He’d stretched her with his fingers beforehand, using his mouth on her to build the tension so perfectly she was begging and pleading. Sookie wasn’t a virgin, but this was different. Breandan O’Hara had brought her to orgasm so quickly, Sookie had to bite her arm to keep from crying out. He had her wrap her heels around him, the whole time whispering in her ear, making her pay attention to every sensation he dragged from her body. He turned her around and pushed her to her knees, entering her from behind, then pulled her up so her back was flush against his chest, stroking her with his fingers as he moved within her.
Each time was a revelation; Breandan’s imagination and endurance seeming to be unending. He found things in her she didn’t know she had, and Sookie exalted as he groaned and begged as affected as she was by their mutual passion.
Taking him into her mouth had proven challenging. Breandan had a hard time not moving faster and deeper than was comfortable, but then he laid her down and moved over her so that he could use his mouth at the same time she used hers and, before she knew it, Sookie was taking him almost all the way into her throat. His tongue was within her, massaging her and she moaned and, in that moment, he came, but he was tonguing her so deeply, she came, too.
“You are perfect,” he sighed as he wrapped her against him, her limbs entwined with his. “I never wish to let you go,” and she snuggled against him, feeling safe and happy as she drifted to sleep.
Below, the vampire watched as the light in Sookie’s bedroom was turned off. He couldn’t help the growl that escaped him. He had no proof, but he was certain the Brigants were up to something and that it wouldn’t be good for the Stackhouses.
Eric pulled out his phone and started making arrangements to return to Ireland. He also texted Rogan. He delivered his final report, telling the Fae King his son was now a resident of Sookie Stackhouse’s bed. Eric had no illusions. Breandan would make certain his invitation wasn’t rescinded. He would be charming and attentive. He felt his lip curl again and he stabbed at the keys, spelling out the reminder to Rogan of their deal, and Eric Northman intended to collect.
Once he hit send, he found his attention had drifted to the bedroom window again. He had half-hoped to see Breandan coming through the front door, but he knew it was a fool’s hope. “Stay safe, Sookie,” Eric said into the night, and then he turned and walked away.
“Tell me you’re awake,” Breandan whispered as he rolled toward her, his brogue thick with morning.
Sookie turned on her side and Breandan smiled. Sookie couldn’t understand how this man could look so perfect in the morning. She was sure her hair was sticking up in a rat’s nest and her eyes were a mess! His hair wasn’t much shorter than hers, but somehow it hung perfectly, framing his long-jawed face.
Breandan stroked her cheek with his thumb. “You are beautiful,” he told her and she smiled to think she had just been thinking the same thing of him.
Sookie glanced down and laughed at the evidence that Breandan was wide awake. “You need some help with that?” Sookie whispered.
“I wouldn’t mind a helping hand,” Breandan teased, then his playful face became more serious. He moved down the bed, pulling her legs toward him, and used his tongue to lick and probe. Sookie was soon moving restlessly against his mouth. When she grabbed his hair, pulling him toward her, he moved up, bringing her knees up toward her chest in the same motion. “You may be a little swollen today,” he told her and when he pushed within her, she winced.
Breandan stilled. “I’ll help,” He was aching with need, but proved he could be patient as he leaned back, bringing his knees under Sookie’s hips. He lifted her feet so they rested on either side of his thighs, spit into his own hand, and started to rub Sookie’s clit. “You should see how you look,” he purred. Sookie could feel herself opening to him, allowing him to move deeper within her. “The sight of my cock stretching you makes me hard as a rock.” Breandan’s fingers were talented and soon Sookie, too, was panting, arching, and pressing her feet against the bed to gain leverage, trying to take more of him. Breandan brought his hand to his mouth again, this time wetting his fingers, drawing them in and out of his mouth in a way that reminded Sookie of what was happening below. He reached over her and painted her nipples, which peaked in the slight chill of the room and then he pinched them before returning to pinch her clit. Breandan reached under her, massaging her other hole and her eyes flew open to look at him.
Holding her eyes with his own, he pressed his finger into her, simulating the motion of his cock and Sookie found her breath hitching up another notch as she felt the coil of her orgasm building. She was getting tighter and tighter, and then Breandan’s hands grabbed her own as he stretched out over her. His hair fell around her, framing his face so he was all she saw. Everything was sensation and warmth. Every motion drove her higher and as she felt herself reach that endless crest, only to fall, her body clenching and shuddering, she glanced at her bureau mirror. She saw Breandan’s profile and his arms framing her. She saw his clenched jaw and the ripple of his muscles while he moved over her. She opened her mouth in a final, soundless cry and, in that same moment, he threw his head back and she saw his ears and they matched her own.
For one long moment, he didn’t move, the muscles of his neck corded, his mouth open, and then he gasped, and he gasped again. Sookie could feel him pulsing within her. “I am yours, woman! I am yours,” he groaned, and although Sookie felt uneasy about the reflection she saw, she also felt an unreasonable sense of rightness as Breandan collapsed on top of her and she wrapped her arms around him, cradling his head between her breasts.