Sunday, January 10, 2016
Fools For Love
He was in that foggy, heavy-limbed, post-coital twilight when he heard it. A rustle here. A snapped twig there. In any other time and place, it might have been mistaken for the wind winding through the heavy foliage, or perhaps, the nocturnal activities of the local wildlife. But this wasn't just "any" place. And it sure as hell wasn't any ordinary time. Beckett froze and strained to hear the sounds drifting through the open window, one arm reaching behind the headboard for his Glock. He normally preferred to to keep it tucked under his pillow with the safety on, but Maureen called it a "mood killer" and so he had reluctantly moved it out of their bed, a decision he now felt inclined to rethink.
There was no logical reason for letting his guard down. He was trained better than that. No excuses, though in his defense, there was something about his wife that defied very ounce of common sense he'd ever possessed. It had been that way from the moment he'd met her, hair pulled back in a riot of curls, spatula in hand, looking like sugar spun sin. Not his type. Not his universe. But unbelievably drawn to her in ways he couldn't begin to understand. He looked over to where she was sleeping, hand tucked under the pillow, still trailing the satin ribbon from her wrist. She'd be relatively safe here, at least from things that could die in the usual way.
He slipped into a pair of sweats and t-shirt, both black, slinging a shoulder holster over his left arm, and tucking a knife into his boot. She stirred on the bed, but didn't wake, making things a whole lot easier. The last thing he needed was for Maureen to insist on coming along. For sure she had made progress with the basic skills, and her ability on the gun range showed mild talent, but there was no way she was ready for anything that might be waiting out there in the dark, and he wasn't taking any chances with her welfare.
The Ridre Dubh maneuvered through the room to the closet on the opposite wall, and stepping inside, thumbed a latch hidden by an over-sized shoe rack. The back panel of the closet slid away, revealing a set of stairs that led to the first floor and out to the back of the property. It was one of several hidden escape routes out of the house, and he made a mental note to give the others a quick tutorial should the need for a quick exit arise.
At the end of the tunnel, he found himself standing on the east side of the cabin, the night so dark it was almost suffocating. He blinked away spots from the dim light in the stairway, hand resting on the revolver, when behind him he felt the brush of air. He pivoted, the barrel of his revolver meeting the metal of blade.
"Stand down, Sir Knight. I mean no threat." The voice was low, and no more than a whisper
Beckett responded in suite. "Fuck! That's a good way of getting yourself shot! I don't advise sneaking up on people like that. At least not in this century."
"Worry not, Mortal. I trust the speed of my blade over any such weapon, though I do regret startling you. I wished not to give away my position. We appear to have company of sorts." Cu-Chulainn pointed the tip of his sword toward a large crop of low lying bushes. "Out yonder way."
"You heard it too, then?"
"More felt than heard. A large joining of energy. It feels mortal, but I can not be sure. Owen is much skilled in the nature of deceit."
"Then between the two of us, I'd say we're covered weapon wise." He waved the Lord Warrior forward, not waiting to see if he followed, and headed in the direction of the noise. The blackness seemed even thicker as they moved from the open area around the cabin and ventured deeper into the woods, stopping at a tangled lump of overgrown branches that seemed to move of their own accord.
Cu-Chulainn raised his sword, intent on randomly slashing away at whatever lie within. But the Ridre Dubh put a hand up to stop him, suddenly feeling the situation more odd then dangerous. Glock cocked, he pointed the barrel at the spot, which now had suddenly stopped moving.
"Whoever you are...I want you to come out with your hands on top of your hand where I can see them. Hesitate...and I'm gonna empty my entire round. "
There was a loud gasp and a collection of frantic rustling before a sheepish voice murmured from within. "Please don't shoot, Sheriff. We'll need a moment or so."
"Damn it, Ian! Is that you?" The exasperation he felt was mixed with an overwhelming sense of relief.
"Aye, Sir. Me...and Miss Roxanne."
Beside him, the Lord Warrior swore in Gaelic, sheathing his sword with more force than necessary. The young man stumbled out of the brush, barefooted with shirt and pants both unbuttoned, covered in bits of mud and dried leaves, and hands shoved into his pockets.
"We meant no trouble, Sheriff. It's just...well...we...Miss Roxanne and I...we wanted to be alone together."
"And you couldn't find any space... in the entire cabin...to pursue that objective?"
"Privacy is an issue, Sir. My room...as well as Miss Roxanne's...well, Sir...as you are aware...they are directly across from the Reverend's quarters. And he has made the comment, several times, in fact, that he is a most light sleeper when he's away from his own bed. We did not wish for him...for he... to be disturbed. We didn't want to disturb anyone in the house. So we thought we might... well...take a walk."
Cu-Chulainn put a hand on the hilt of his sword. "Bullocks and nonsense, boy! It is grandly apparent you were intent on more than just walking." He spit loudly on the ground before continuing his tirade. "I'd like nothing more than to split your head in two, you insolent pup!"
A flash of fear filtered across the Patriot's face, but he held his own. "You would try, Lord Warrior, but I'd put up more than an easy fight, though I am willing to give it a go, Sir."
Beckett had an overwhelming urge to burst out laughing, and strangely might have done so, had he not managed to reign in some kind of self control. The Irish legend looked obviously "put out", while the kid from Revolutionary history worked at hiding his embarrassment with false bravado. It was absolutely ludicrous, reminding him of a scene from some romantic time-travel farce instead of the perilous situation it might have been. He cleared his throat to hide the weird little giggles that seemed to be brewing somewhere in his head. "Gentlemen...this is surely not the time or place to be having this discussion. May I suggest we save this disagreement for the light of day, and return to the cabin for some much needed rest?"
Both men glared at each other, then nodded their agreement. The Ridre Dubh then spoke to the crop of bushes. "Roxanne...can you please come out so we can head back?"
A small voice came from within. "I'd rather not, Sir."
"Then I'm going to make that an order, Deputy."
There was a long sigh, and then she added, "Yes, Sir." There was a bit more rustling, and Roxanne sprinted by, barefoot, with her shirt inside out, and a bird's nest of twigs and leaves stuck in her hair. She practically ran back to the cabin with both men in hot pursuit, the Black Knight following while swearing under his breath about being made the camp counselor.
While Roxanne's penance for the previous night was soul-reaching embarrassment, Ian's was more in the physical realm. Not a word was said about the adventures in the forest, but the Lord Warrior took a largely increased notice into the daily training exercises of the young man. They had only been at it for an hour, but Ian was already red-faced and sweating, his arms covered with several small cuts and bruises where the Legend's practice sword had "accidentally" met flesh.
Beckett had to give the kid credit. He was surely taking a beating, entirely exhausted and over-matched. But each time he was knocked flat on his ass, he'd get right up and take a stand, sword proudly held in proper form. The more he got to know the young man, the more he liked what he saw. Despite his youthful exuberance, he was solid in his thinking, and more responsible than most of his counter parts in the 21st Century. He found himself hoping that things worked out for the kid, now that he had made this monumental decision to stay in a time and place that wasn't his own. The timing of that thought was ironic, as the major impediment toward that happening walked directly towards him.
Fr. Kevin plopped down on the bench, and handed him a bottle of water. "What's up with the Irish guy and Ian? I've never seen him work anybody this hard...even you."
The Black Knight looked at him sideways and shrugged, wondering how much his brother-in-law knew. "The Lord Warrior does seem to be a tad aggressive today."
"A tad?! He's beating the crap out of the kid! One of us should probably say something." He waited, it being obvious he wanted the Ridre Dubh to be the one doing the saying.
Beckett shook his head. "No. I think we should just let them have at it. Ian is holding his own. If it turns to anything more than that, well...then I'll step in. But for now, I think we should mind our own business."
"If that's what you think best. You know I'm not a huge Ian fan, but I'd hate to see him get hurt. Can't figure out what set the Legend off like this. Up until now, he's pretty much ignored the kid."
He weighed his words carefully, not wanting to add fuel to an already touchy situation. "I'm guessing it has something to do with jealousy."
"Jealousy? That's weird. About what?"
"You really don't now then? Maureen didn't say anything to you?"
"Say what to me?"
He gave some thought to how he might put it delicately as to not offend, and then pushed that notion aside. Best Kevin heard it from him, blunt and honest. "There was some kind of noise coming from the woods last night. Cu-Chulainn and I went to investigate. We thought it might have something to do with Owen. Turns out it was just Ian and Roxanne, going at it in the bushes. The Lord Warrior was not happy about the whole thing."
The red began to creep up around Kevin's ears, and for a minute or two he said nothing. Beckett could physically see the minute when the light bulb went off in the priest's head. "So...you're saying that Ian and Roxanne are...officially a couple? But what does that have to do with the Lord Warrior? What difference does it make to him."
"Apparently, Cu-Chulainn had ideas he might get to Roxanne first. He was pretty angry that Ian beat him to it."
"The Lord Warrior and Roxanne? Like...together?" His embarrassment turned to indignation. "That's just ridiculous. Out of the question. He's a...a...he's not even human! That's just...well...gross!"
"I don't profess to know the ways of the Fay, Kev, but if a guy's got a dick, he's gonna want to use it. And it's pretty obvious to me that the Fairy kind don't mind hooking up with Mortals. It's the reason we're in this mess to begin with."
"Aren't you going to do something about all of this? You're the Ridre Dubh, for Pete's sake! It's your responsibility!"
"What goes on between consenting adults...Mortal or otherwise... is none of my business. They'll figure it out on their own."
Kevin looked over to where the women were sitting, Roxanne with her head buried in a book ignoring the training, and his sister working on some kind of needlework, unusually quiet.
"Well, if you're not gong to say something, then I guess I'll have to do it. I need to talk to Rox myself."
Beckett put a hand on his arm to stop him. "Don't."
"Don't talk to Roxanne. Leave it be, Kev."
"I can't just ignore this, Ted! She's my friend. I don't want to see her screw up her life."
"Look, Kevin...if you care about her like you say, then you'll let her move on and be happy. You gotta let her go. It's time. Unless you plan on leaving the church, you have nothing to offer her. Don't make her feel guilty for moving on first."
The priest angrily shook off Beckett's hand. "You don't know what you're talking about. We're just good friends. Best friends, maybe."
"And maybe it's time you were just old friends. Leave the past in the past, O'Kenney. She deserves to be with someone who can make her happy, for however long that might be. If it's Ian..so be it. If it's someone else...then that's her decision. You're keeping her from following her own path, even though you freely followed yours."
"Look, Beckett. You may be married to my sister, but that doesn't give you the right to tell me what I should do. If I feel I need to discuss this Roxanne, then I'll do just that."
"Then I'm not asking you, O'Kenney. I'm telling you... as the Ridre Dubh. Do not discuss last night, or anything connected to it, with that woman."
"That has nothing to do with anything!"
"But it does. You took an oath as my Second. Freely... in the presence of Caladbolg. As my Second, you are responsible for following any and all orders I see fit to give. It works the same as in the military."
"That's utterly ridiculous! This has nothing to do with our Quest...or Caladbolg. This is a personal thing...between me and a friend."
"No, Kevin. That's not true. You're interference with Roxanne causes additional drama, and thus takes your focus and attention away from the real reason we're here. I need 100% of your physical and emotional fortitude put toward defeating Owen. You can't do that if you're busy poking your nose into shit that's none of your business. I expect your obedience. You owe it to me."
"But what about Ian...you giving him the same lecture?"
"No. Ian isn't my chosen Second. Or my brother. You are. The kid is here simply because he took a chance and helped me rescue Maureen. The same goes for Roxanne. She jumped at the chance to help. Took your place so you wouldn't have to risk everything you put so much stock in, and ended up seriously injured. I owe them both. Big time. As do you. You need to come to terms with that."
His Second refused to look at him, his mouth firmly clamped shut, his arms folded across his chest in defiance. He knew the man was fighting a battle in his head, but it couldn't be helped. This was all too important to let it hinge on personal emotions. The sooner Kevin realized it, the better for them all. "So, O'Kenney...will you follow orders, and leave that girl alone?"
Kevin looked at him, grim-faced and pale. "I'll follow them, Beckett. But when this...Quest...is finished...you and I...we're done. I'm asking for a transfer back to Boston. Then you can do whatever the hell it is you want, and I don't have to be around to see it."
The group had called for a break, and headed to the cabin for lunch. The Lord Cu-Chulainn remained back, taking his anger out on a cloth dummy. He didn't stop to address the laughter until nothing was left of the target expect a few shredded pieces.
"I do not appreciate your merriment, my Lady. It is quite impolite to gloat, especially since you have yet won nothing."
The Fairy Queen leaned forward, the branch bending at her will, until she found herself seated on the same seat Roxane had just vacated. "Come now, my Lord Warrior. I understand your embarrassment. You have been bested. By a mortal. And just a boy at that. But that is no reason to be a sore loser. I have come to collect on my bet."
"As we both can recall, Your Majesty...nothing was said about my being the only one to plow that field. The bet was only that I would be able to seduce one of the ladies. It is too early to call a winner, don't you think?"
"You would be willing to follow the Mortal's tracks?"
"It hinders me not, your Majesty. There have been plenty of times I have made love to a Mortal woman shortly after they have left their husband's bed. In this case, I will consider it an even more satisfying victory. I believe our bet still stands."
"Then you have no qualms about upping the ante?"
"What have you in mind, Lady Queen?"
"If you do not bed the woman before this quest is complete, you will offer me four hundred years of service instead of two."
"And if I should be victorious?"
"Then I will give you Argos for your own, as well as the necklace."
"That is quite an offer, Your Majesty. I accept. I hope you will not be angered when Argos serves me instead of you."
"So sure am I that you will fail, Lord Warrior, that I will not lose one wink of sleep over this bet."
"Then we are agreed, Lady Queen. I will take double pleasure in having this mortal female. There is no way she will able to resist my charms."
"Remember, Lord Cu-Chulainn, their free will prevents you from using magic to achieve your goal. You must woo her on your own, otherwise it is cheating."
"I am insulted that you feel the need to remind me of our laws, Lady Maeve. You know that I would willingly die to uphold them."
"I am just teasing, my dear Lord. No one is more committed to our ways than you. Rest assured, I hold you in the highest regard...and deepest affection."
"Is that an offer, my Lady?"
"If you see fit, my dearest. They will not return for at least an hour or two. No need for us to be bored while we wait."
It took a great deal of patience for him to finally get her alone, and when he did, the words tumbled out of his mouth like water over rocks. "My lovely Roxanne, I feel as if you've been avoiding me all day. I've been trying to talk to you since this morning. How fare you?"
"I'm fine, Ian. Just fine. But I think we should kinda cool it for awhile. Every time I look at the Sheriff, I'm mortified."
"Yes, it was a might embarrassing, but The Sheriff is a fine man. And in love with his lady as well. That I am sure of. He knows of our need to be together."
"Damn it, Ian! You don't understand! The guy is my boss! When this is all over, I am going to have to go back to working for him. It'll be...well...awkward."
"No worries, my Lady. We will be married as soon as the good Reverend can arrange it. Then, I will provide for the both of us. You needn't worry about taking on work. I realize I am without much funds, but I am a hard worker, and not without skill. I can surely find some type of employment."
"Whoa...slow down, cowboy! No one's talking about marriage!"
"Cowboy? That is certainly a strange term of endearment, my love. I hope I do not resemble a cow?"
"No, Ian. It's just a figure of speech. It's not an endearment at all."
"I am thankful for that. Cows are stupid and homely beasts. I am glad you do not see me in that light, but yet you confuse me. I will not leave you a shamed woman, Roxanne. I love you, and you will be my wife. After last night, there can be nothing less."
"I'm not marrying you, Ian. We barely know each other. I'm...like several years older than you. I have plans for my future. It just wouldn't work out. Last night was great. Awesome, in fact...expect for the part where we were publicly humiliated, that is. But neither one of us is ready to make that kind of commitment. Not for marriage."
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus
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