They've been together, or technically together if there's room for those sort of technicalities under aliases, for two and a half years when Irene has the idea. It comes to her one late September night in Barcelona while Janine sleeps sprawled across the bed, hair fanned and skin sweaty in the heat. Irene mouths idly along her collarbone, mind too busy to sleep, and nuzzles into her throat.
Janine's been homesick for months, a longing coming into her eyes at any mention of green fields, or the ancient castle she grew up under. Irene understands it, familiar with late-night longings for London, though the place in Belgravia never felt like home at the time. She can't bear seeing Janine unhappy in any way. It's such a rare occurrence, such fleeting moments, but even that is too much.
And so, an idea takes hold.
It's a wet, windy evening when they land in Dublin Airport, sky dark at six o' clock with the weather, and the clocks having gone back an hour. Though she's known about the plan since her birthday the week before, Janine finds herself grinning. The last time she left here, she was heading back to London, to a job which she wasn't fond of but which bloody paid well. (Better than scrounging around an increasingly-boring town with people whom she wasn't very fond of either. Though, she has to admit, some of them weren't so bad.) Landing with Irene, however, is different, has an extra sense of glamour and importance as they check in and pick up the keys of the hired car. (It's a fine, sleek, black Mercedes – only the best for those two.) The Sat-Nav brings them to Trim in an hour, Janine navigating the twists and turns and roundabouts with both speed and skill in avoiding much of the traffic.
Janine slows the car as they near Trim, taking in the scenery and allowing herself to be drawn back to her childhood, revelling in the familiarity of home. Tears burn her eyes and Irene pretends not to see, making a fuss of twiddling the dial on the radio. The castle looms into view, purple ground lighting shining up on the curtain walls, causing such an aching nostalgia in Janine's chest that she can't look at it, only focus on manoeuvring the car into the car park behind the Trim Castle Hotel. She never expected to be moved like this, especially not with how much she enjoyed leaving here for England and better work, but something young and instinctive is stirred inside of her and she can't help it.
Irene wraps her arms around Janine when they step out of the car, and wipes the still-sparkling tears from her eyes and doesn't say anything, just holds on for an eternal moment before they pull apart and get the luggage.
That first night, they eat. And sleep – the castle's lights blocked with the curtains, town settling into a quietness that seems to wrap itself around the two wandering lovers.
Their first day is a day of rest, for lounging around and dozing in between the occasional fondle and kiss, slow and languorous yet oddly soothing and calm, a bottle of red wine reduced to dark rivulets down pale skin, chased by a gentle tongue. It's lips and hands and strangely soothing, the nostalgia in Janine's chest coming unknotted the longer they stay in bed relying on room service.
After dinner, for which they make the effort to shower and dress and go downstairs (and it sends shivers down Janine's back when Irene wears that black dress and that deep lipstick, and insists on running the toe of her stiletto up and down Janine's leg as they eat, raising goosebumps as she goes along. If the food wasn't enough to make her mouth water, it would water now anyway in anticipation), they forego drinks in the bar in exchange for bed. Neither want to socialise, merely rest and absorb each other's company.
(Though, in fairness, very little resting or even talking happens that night.)
Halloween itself is an enjoyable affair, in more ways than one. The day is dull, filled with the excitement and promise of a good evening so that time itself seems to drag, slowed into jelly. The two head out to the leisure centre, walking without umbrellas in spite of the rain, so that by the time they get there both are thoroughly soaked through. No matter. They have a leisurely swim before walking back to the hotel, having lunch as they look through the windows at the grey world and the castle, some of its magic lost now in daylight. It looks like disillusionment and the disenchantment of growing older. The thought briefly leads Irene to wonder how Janine will look when her hair is spun-through with grey and crow's feet frame those eyes so dark. The thought makes her smile, and she leans across the table to catch her lips in a startled kiss.
It was Irene who chose their Halloween costumes, deciding that if they were going to be here for the night then they were going to do it right. And when she sees Janine dressed up, she knows for sure that she made the right choice. Or at least, the most enjoyable one.
The dress hardly comes to Janine's knees, a one piece garment which looks like a frothy white blouse and red skirt, a series of belts over-laying the torso so that Irene has to blink several times in order to regain her composure. Not to mention the hooded cloak which hides all of that lustrously dark hair. It's vaguely steampunk, vaguely Victorian, and very, very sexy.
When Janine notes Irene's reaction - well-hidden, admittedly, but there in the eyes she casts over the ensemble - she smiles to herself, vainly pleased to see her lover so moved.
It's Janine's turn to be moved shortly after when Irene saunters out of the bathroom, clad like an old country gentlewoman with a dash of gothic mystery in the black of her tweed suit and its red lining, hair in an elegant twist and make-up simple, riding drop in her hand.
Smiling, Irene plants a kiss to Janine's cheek, whispering, "We'll be needing this later." The realisation of what that means draws a blush to those brown cheeks, and earns a kiss for Irene, each of the pair a delightful form of torture to the other.
To neither of them does it matter that the night is cool and drizzly, if anything the drizzle pleases their aesthetic, a sense of mystery and romance akin to nineteenth century adventure stories. It is Irene's suggestion that they walk the town in this garb, an attempt to prolong the intensity of the attraction found in these costumes, and as they wander she finds herself continually distracted by Janine's dress. (Janine, for her part, watches Irene out of the corner of her eye as they walk and talk, re-tracing the steps of her youth, constant memories slipping back to her, juxtaposed with this woman whom she has fallen in love with.)
A trip to a pub results in neither of them getting very drunk, instead laughing at the people they are surrounded by – pirates and magicians and even the Twelfth Doctor amongst many others – these students who have yet to see so much of life and yet still feel the need to obliterate conscious sentiment and reason. What little do they know, so caught up in their minor dramas which won't matter in a hundred years and even less. Janine remembers several similar Hallowe'ens, none of them of consequence to her now, though it all seemed so important at the time. Then again, that was before Magnussen and Sherlock and everything which has transpired since. Perhaps she shouldn't be surprised or even nostalgic about such youthful adventures in contrast to all of that. It makes her laugh all the harder now at the exploits of a ginger, moustached anarchist in his chasing of the dark-haired cowgirl with swaggering arrogance who really has no interest in him. For so long she would have been that girl, and now . . .
Now, it doesn't matter anymore. She has all of the excitement, all of the closeness, (all of the sex), she could have ever wanted. And as Irene smiles at her, she knows she feels the same way. And, really, that's more than enough. For both of them.