Author: Bad Faery PM
AU- Joseph MacAvoy is Middlesbrough's town drunk who's hopelessly in love with Sister Isabelle French.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Father MacAvoy & Belle - Chapters: 8 - Words: 23,045 - Reviews: 82 - Favs: 17 - Follows: 27 - Updated: 05-14-13 - Published: 02-09-13 - id: 8993091
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The door to the church was always open, no matter the hour, and Joseph was grateful for it as he slipped inside, settling himself on a pew near the front. The ambient light from the street was enough for him to see the cross, and he clumsily crossed himself, his hands shaking. He'd had enough whiskey that the sanctuary was spinning around him, but if he kept his feet on the floor and his eyes on the cross, he wouldn't fall off the pew. He'd had plenty of practice at the trick.
Once he'd dreamed of being a priest, of wearing black and helping people with their problems, returning lost sheep to the welcoming arms of the Shepherd. He would have been good at it; Joseph knew he would have been a good priest. Instead everything had fallen apart after his parents' deaths. Instead of finding God, he'd found whiskey to numb the pain and terror of being completely alone in the world. He'd dropped out of school, and his janitorial wages were enough to keep him drunk most night as long as he could find a pub that hadn't banned him. For him, that had been enough until he'd met her.
The pub's owner had flung him bodily out onto the street after he'd thrown up on the man one too many times. He'd cut his palms to hell trying to break his fall and failed anyway, the filthy puddle he landed in soaking his denim jacket. It had just been another Thursday morning in the life of Joseph MacAvoy until he'd seen her.
"Oh, you poor man! Are you hurt?" Joseph was so used to being invisible that he hadn't even realized the woman was talking to him until she'd knelt beside him, and he'd looked up into the face of an angel.
Chestnut curls framed a concerned face, and she'd taken his hands in hers without a thought to how filthy he was. "Oh, you are. I'm so sorry."
For the life of him, Joseph didn't know what she was apologizing for, but he'd been too shocked to protest as she helped him to his feet, brushing him off like it mattered that he was dirty and in pain. In truth, he'd barely noticed the way his palms stung, too busy trying to take in every inch of her.
Her clothes were modest, but well-made, a knee-length black skirt, white blouse, and black cardigan that set off a soft, curvy figure, and he nearly swallowed his tongue when she reached out to touch his arm. "Do you live near here? We should get you patched up."
Her blue eyes shone when she smiled encouragingly at him, and every thought fled his head. He couldn't have told her where he lived if his life depended on it, much less have actually brought her into his filthy apartment. "I... no. Not near here."
"Well, I do," she said decisively, taking his arm and leading him down the street, ignoring the grime and stench of alcohol and vomit that surely clung to him. "It'll just take a minute. Have you eaten today? I can make you breakfast."
Before he knew what was happening, he'd found himself sitting in a cozy little flat as she dabbed his palms with antiseptic and wrapped clean bandages around his hands. She relieved him of his jacket and rinsed it out in the sink, leaving him flushing with embarrassment at how black the water turned. He was an absolute disgrace. When was the last time he'd actually done laundry? Shaved? Showered? This woman shouldn't even be giving him the time of day.
She smiled at him over her shoulder, her dimples showing as she asked him if he wanted an omelette, and he nodded dumbly, watching in fascination as she moved gracefully around the little kitchen. "I've only been in Middlesbrough a few days. Have you lived here long?"
"Thirty years," he answered and promptly wished he hadn't. She could hardly be out of her twenties, and it wouldn't do to call attention to their age difference. A wild idea occurred to him, and he latched onto it with both hands. He could offer to show her around the town. His mind raced as he tried to think of what a high-class lady like her might like. Art probably, he could take her to the museum, maybe to the theater. He'd clean himself up, stop drinking, make something of himself, and she'd smile at him like that all the time. Being a janitor wasn't a glamourous job, but it was a respectable enough one. With her at his side, he might even manage to move up in the world. With her at his side, Joseph felt like he could do anything.
"What are you doing in Middlesbrough?" he asked, praying that she'd say she was here to stay. Nowhere in her apartment could he see any evidence of male habitation, not even a picture of her with a boyfriend. He'd remedy that.
"I'm helping Father McAllister," she explained, naming the priest at the church he called his own even though he hadn't attended Mass in years. He'd start doing that again this weekend if she was going to be there. They were both Catholic; that was perfect. "He broke his wrist in a fall a few weeks ago, and the episcopate thought he could use an extra pair of hands. He's a wonderful priest, but he's not as young as he used to be.
"It's kind of you to help," he told her, and she beamed at the compliment. "So, you're here to stay?"
"That's the plan," she agreed, placing a steaming hot omelette in front of him and a mug of tea. Generally he preferred coffee, but if she liked tea, he'd acquire a taste for it. Whatever she liked, he liked. "It's nice being out of the convent. I haven't lived on my own in years. I'd forgotten how much I like it."
Joseph nearly choked on his first bite as her words registered. "You're a nun?" he managed to croak, and she nodded, her own mouth full.
As she swallowed, she exclaimed, "I've been very rude, haven't I? I didn't even introduce myself. I'm Sister Isabelle French. Most people just call me Sister Belle though."
She extended her hand, and he took it, feeling his hopes and dreams crashing down around his ears. A nun. The woman of his dreams was a nun. "Joseph MacAvoy," he rasped, and she gave him a sweet smile.
"It's nice to meet you, Joseph." The honesty rang through her words, and he wanted to die.
He left before he could humiliate himself by flinging himself at her feet and begging her to leave the church and be with him instead. There was no other man in Belle's life for him to compete with, just the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He didn't have a chance in hell.
He stumbled through his shift and bought a bottle of whiskey, drinking himself blind in his own home for fear of seeing her again. He couldn't bear to see her again, knowing she was as forbidden to him as Eve's apple. He'd never take her out, never whisper her name while his lips nuzzled her throat, never hold her hand as they walked down the street. His Belle belonged to God, not to him.
His resolve had lasted all of two days, then he'd found himself at Mass, showered and shaved and looking his best. Belle had beamed at the sight of him, examined his scratches, and hugged him like he was her oldest friend. He'd spent the service staring at her, then gone home and jerked himself raw to the memory of having her arms around him.
He needed to stay away, but she was his siren, his greatest temptation. He attended every service his work schedule allowed, and Belle always greeted him with a hug. She'd hugged him seventy-nine times, and he hoarded the memory of every one.
It was a sin to lust, and it was almost certainly a mortal sin to lust after a bride of Christ, so instead of indulging his body's needs, he sought to drown them in whiskey, drinking himself into a stupor before staggering down the street to stare up at Belle's bedroom window and wonder what she was doing. Then he'd stumble into the church to stare at the cross instead, praying for God to deliver him from this torment.
That was what he did now as he gazed at the cross in mute plea. Belle was pure and good. If she knew that he dreamed of her touch, of feeling her lips against his, she'd be horrified. She'd certainly stop hugging him.
Closing his eyes, he stretched out on the pew- the one she sat on for every service- and dreamed of a better life. In his dreams, he was the priest he'd once hoped to be and Belle assisted him in his duties, helping him ready the church for services. They worked together, prayed together, and lived together in perfect peace and love, siblings in Christ. He was a good man, the kind of man Belle could respect and care for, and she trusted him with her every doubt and fear, which he soothed away with ease. Lust was an abstract concept, and he desired nothing more than the warmth of her smile.
The thought of Belle's smile made him whimper, and he drew up his knees, curling into a ball as his body responded. She had such a beautiful smile, and he longed to taste it, to kiss her and know that she smiled for him alone because he made her happy.
Alcohol and exhaustion made his head fuzzy, the images confused as he slipped into an uneasy sleep. Belle smiled at him and walked away as he fell to his knees, praying for her mercy. She kissed him and stroked his hair, whispering a blessing. She stretched herself out on the altar gloriously naked for him to worship.
He started awake to see her face only inches from his own, Belle crouching in front of him with her hand on his shoulder. "What are you doing here?" he whispered, "It's the middle of the night." Belle should be tucked safely up in bed at this hour, not looking after him.
"I couldn't sleep. I wanted to pray," she confessed, and his stomach twisted. Even when he tried to do right by her, he wound up screwing everything up. Now he was invading her privacy.
"I'll go." He sat up and nearly fell over as his head swam. Only Belle's quick reflexes kept him from collapsing.
"You'll do no such thing," she scolded, her voice a little rough from the late hour, and his cock twitched at the husky sound. "You're in no shape to go anywhere. Come on. You can sleep it off on my couch. You'll be more comfortable."
Before he could protest, she was hauling him to his feet, and the thought of going home with Belle was too beautiful to walk away from. Instead, he leaned on her as they traversed the short distance between the church and her flat, and he obediently drank the glass of water she handed him as she bustled about finding him blankets and a pillow.
At her urging, he lay down, cocooning himself in blankets that carried a trace of her scent, and he prayed he wouldn't embarrass himself in the night. Joseph hadn't had a wet dream in decades, but in Belle's home with Belle's scent wrapped around him, he wasn't sure he'd be able to keep control.
Instead of leaving him to return to her own bed, Belle sat down on the coffee table next to him, her fingers gently carding through his hair. "I wish you didn't drink so much," she sighed, her mouth an unhappy line, and his heart sank at the thought that he'd upset her. "You're killing yourself, Joseph."
He'd never thought of it in those terms. Part of him wondered what he had to live for, but if his drinking made Belle sad, he'd stop. Nothing was permitted to make Belle sad. "I'll quit," he promised.
She didn't smile, "Don't say that just to make me feel better. It's not right to lie."
"Not lying," he protested, trying to project how very sincere he was. "I'll check myself into rehab tomorrow." He had enough vacation time saved that he should be able to keep his job. Even if he lost it, it would be a small price to pay to make Belle happy again.
Her blue eyes glimmered with tears, but she gave him a tremulous smile, "Really?"
"I promise," he swore, and the sight of her dimpled smile gave him strength. "Will you visit me?"
"As often as you want me to," she promised him, and he wondered how she'd react if she knew he wanted her at his side always. Even if he could never touch her, he could look at her and talk to her. Her company was a blessing. "Get some sleep, Joseph."
He didn't breathe as she leaned down and pressed a kiss to his cheek and another to his forehead, her lips burning his skin. As she went off to bed, he closed his eyes and reveled in the ecstatic moment. Belle had given him seventy-nine hugs and two kisses.
No man had ever had more to live for.