A/N: Sorry for the long, long wait! That the last time I
try to take a break from writing while in the middle of the story -
I've never had such a hard time with writer's block! But I'm back
and the story continues. Just a note, this story is so planned
out that if I don't finish it, I'll go stark raving mad; it's all just
a matter of getting it written. :) Thanks to my Beta-beta for
proofing and being so patient! Happy St. Paddy's day!
Sara waited until she heard the door to the bar close before she picked up her cell phone. Moving to the window, she watched her husband, Da and Murphy climb into the car with tense looks and signs of an argument.
They were doing it again. Leaving her behind and in the dark. Eamon's sleepy sigh came from the crib and she stepped closer, brushing her fingers against his dark hair. This wasn't just about them anymore. They were no longer semi-anonymous single men in the big city. They needed to realize that this affected them all.
Dialing the number slowly, she waited for an answer as she continued to gaze down at her nearly asleep son.
"Hello?" Katie's voice was hesitant.
"Wanna tell me what's going on now, Katie?"
There was a pause, a long enough one that began to annoy Sara. She knew her friend was torn and it bothered her more than a little to know they had become this separated. When had it happened?
"Katie, please. Remember how hard it is not to know?"
"Is Ma around there, too?" Her answer came finally, after another moment.
"She's at the house, why?"
"Bring her with you. You're right. We all need to be on the same page here."
Sara nodded and sat down to slip her shoes on. "Your cottage?"
"Yeah. I'll stall 'em. Just get here soon." Katie's sigh reached her through the phone.
Moving over to the crib again, she slipped the blanket off of her son. "We'll come to the back door."
"See ya soon then." The click on the phone line came only a second before Sara hung up on her end. She allowed herself a long moment before she moved Eamon into the car seat. Picking up her cell phone, she dialed Ma's home number.
"Ma, it's Sara. I'm coming by to pick you up. We're going to Katie's." She shifted the car seat handle against her arm and headed toward the door.
"What's goin' on, m'dear?"
"I'm not sure. I just know that the twins and your husband just left in a hurry to head there."
"What are they fuckin' up ta this time? I'll be waitin' at the gate for ye. Fuckin' worthless bastards…" Ma's voice faded away and Sara found it easier to smile as the call ended. It was alarmingly simple to get Ma on her side of things.
And she knew she'd need some force with her to convince her husband she belonged there. But he needed to know that she was done with the secrets. Either they got through this as a couple, or he would end up standing alone.
Connor leaned against the counter behind Sara's chair but his eyes on his brother as they began. He hadn't seen this much nervous energy in Murphy for over a year. While his brother hadn't exactly calmed completely from his previous high-spirited nature, he'd grown up a bit and become more centered.
And it seemed now that whatever had centered Murphy had now been pulled out from underneath him. From underneath them all, really. More than eight hours had passed since Tommy's reemergence had been made clear to them and yet it was still hard for Connor to believe.
They'd left the bastard there, in Boston. Just like they'd left everything else from that rough time period. Even Sara rarely mentioned it to him anymore. Both Murphy and Katie pretended it had never happened. Only Peter and Smecker had been willing discuss the bits and pieces that still puzzled him, still bothered him.
So many questions had been put out there and there had been too few answers for his own personal taste. But everybody else seemed more than content to just let that past lie as it was, untouched and unmentioned.
And so Connor had left it alone as well. Those lingering instincts to cover all bases had seemed so unnecessary as they stared their new lives in Ireland. But now, as he stared around the room, he realized he should have trusted his gut a little more.
Then maybe they would've gone to get Tommy liked they'd planned. They wouldn't have just brushed it off as another bad taste in the back of their mouths when Smecker had mentioned that the man couldn't be found. If they had, maybe the fight would've have come there, come to their home.
As Da cleared his throat, he realized they were ready to start. It should've just been the two of them and Da discussing this. But instead, all of the women were there too. His heart had skipped a beat when Sara had walked into Katie's kitchen earlier but the look on her face told him not to argue. There was hurt in her eyes and a determined set in her jaw. And as Ma shuffled through the door behind her, Connor knew any argument he had was lost long before it began.
So they stayed. And he worked to pull the fear back around the edges of his gut as he tried to understand why they felt they needed to be there. Information was good, necessary for everybody. And as Sara had pointed out before he'd even said a word, Tommy had used their protective nature to trap them once before. They were all better, she claimed, if they all knew what was going on from the beginning.
Murphy had even mentioned bringing Aidan and Desmond in on it too. Connor had immediately disagreed and for once, Da backed him up. They'd bring in only those who were directly affected first. They'd bring in the rest only as needed.
"It seems ta me that we've got some decision ta be made t'night." Da's voice was muffled slightly as he lit his cigar, but his eyes traveled the room as he spoke, touching on each person in the room. "Whatever we decide ta do, will be final. Not up ta discussion along the way."
"We need ta fuckin' find Tommy." Murphy spoke up first from he'd finally sat across the table from Sara. Connor nodded shortly as his brother's eyes met him. That they were in agreement on.
"Aye, and how do ye figure we do that, m'boy?"
Connor reached for his coffee, taking a sip before he answered. He'd picked a piss poor week to give up cigarettes again. "We fuckin' smoke 'im out."
Da scoffed at the suggestion. "Any more specific than that, Connor?"
"Ye do it the very same way ye found Fionn Roarke's murderers, Pat." Ma's words came out as a sigh and they all glanced over quickly. Her eyes were shiny but her face was set as she simply stared at Da for an answer.
Finding his brother's long gaze, Connor raised his eyebrows slightly. Murphy had filled him in on the details of that long ago discussion with Da, but they'd never expected it to come up in conversation again. There was a long moment of silence as their Da stared at the burning end of his cigar. Leave it to their Ma to make him speechless.
"That was nearly thirty fuckin' years ago, Annabelle."
She pressed her lips together slightly. "Twenty six and three months. And it worked."
"Yeah, so fuckin' well that the next time I left this place it was for more than twenty five years."
"What'd ye do, Da?" Katie spoke up from behind Murphy. His brother reached back and made contact with her, as if he'd almost forgotten she was there in the first place.
"What I did doesn't apply here. It was a different time and a different place." His voice rose in his response and Connor felt himself bracing as he had at Uncle Sibeal's yelling as a kid. But Da never exploded the way their uncle always had. Any signs of anger from him simmered for a moment before disappearing as he raised his eyes again. "What do ye have on the kid that'll make 'im easy ta find?"
"He's got fuckin' dark hair and light skin. Not exactly gonna stand out here." Connor shrugged. The bastard was fully Irish, just like them. He'd probably even fuckin' bleed green and a dark, hidden part of Connor couldn't wait to find out.
Murphy leaned back in his chair, his movements frustrated as he reached for his coffee. "He's a fuckin' asshole."
"Real helpful, Murph." Moving toward his brother, he managed to smack him upside the head first. He caught Murphy's swinging arm with a grin. "Care ta enlighten us any further?"
"Connor…" Ma's warning trailed off and he caught the slight smile on her face before she looked away. Murphy simply elbowed him in the gut and took another long drink of his coffee.
"I know where ye sleep, Conn."
Rubbing his hand over his stomach, Connor just grinned again. "But do ye know where Tommy sleeps? Because that would be more helpful."
"His accent." Katie's voice cut off what was sure to be a colorful Murphy response.
"Aye, he's got an American one, lass. But so do half the tourists in the county."
"No." She shook her head slowly, her eyes focused on the wall across the room. "His fake Irish one."
"He has a fuckin' Irish accent?" Murphy shifted in his chair to face her and Connor moved out of his arm's reach quickly.
"It's convincing until you've heard a real one. He doesn't have the same.." She waved her hand through the air. "The same lilt as yours. The same cadence. He'll stick out like a sore thumb if he tries to use it."
"So, we're lookin' for a fuckin' American with a fake Irish accent. That outta be fuckin' easy."
"You got a better idea, Connor?" Da raised an eyebrow from across the room.
"No, Da. But I wish I fuckin' did." He breathed out slowly, pretending it was smoke for a second before putting his eyes on Da again. "But what do we do when we find 'im?"
"We…kill…him." Murphy emphasized each word slowly, narrowing his eyes at Connor. "Do we have ta spell that out ta ye?"
"No, ye fuckwit. But how do we do it? As fuckin' Saints? Or what?"
Ma gave a half laugh. "But ye are the fuckin' Saints."
"The Saints are dead. We do it as McManuses." Da tapped his cigar against the end of the ashtray.
Connor chewed on the corner of his lip. "Are ye sure, Da?"
He nodded. "I am. We won't be the first McManus men ta commit a crime."
His brother choked on another laugh. "Nor the fuckin' last at this rate. I see a juvie offender in Eamon's future."
"Don't ye be cursin' me son, Murphy." Connor gave him a half smile as he moved behind Sara again. "Wait until ye have yer own fuckin' kids. Then ye can say shite like that."
There was a moment of quiet, one that might have been almost peaceful if all of their minds weren't all focused on the same topic. Connor brushed his hands over Sara's shoulders, feeling her jump slightly at his touch and finding the tension in her shoulders. Her fingers traced the speaker edge on the baby monitor, her eyes staring at the table. Talk of killing Tommy had been light conversation compared to what they were all really concerned with. And it was his Sara who finally had the presence of mind to speak about it first.
"What do we need to do to keep us all safe?"
Her words echoed slightly through the room and Da's eyes found Ma's before he responded. "We're ta keep our eyes open. Be prepared fer anythin'."
"We're takin' you and Katie ta practice shootin' tomorrow." Murphy leaned forward, and Connor noticed that he was working to catch her eye. "That'll prepare ye."
"You going to teach Eamon to shoot, too?" Her voice was dry but Connor caught the shudder that passed through her. He squeezed her shoulders in response.
"No, we're goin' ta stay vigilant. And we're goin' ta take down the bastard before he can do anythin' more." He pressed his lips to the top of her head and she nodded slightly.
Connor raised his eyes to find Murphy watching him then and he found the same emotions in his brother's eyes that were whirling in his chest. Tommy had fucked with them enough. They needed to end this and they needed to find a course of action now.
Lots of discussion filtered in and out and Connor had to force himself to concentrate on the topic at hand. It seemed to come back easier for Da and for Murphy, and they both stayed deep in debate over how best to do it. And their Ma seemed to be waging an internal war with Da. She wanted some action taken sooner and he seemed to want to wait, to make Tommy come to them.
And Connor didn't care how it happened. He wanted the man dead and gone. He wanted to be home making his son giggle and seeing his wife smile again. And as he followed the conversation, he wondered how they'd ever managed to convince themselves this was all there was to life.
It was nearly an hour later when Katie eased away from her spot on the counter near the refrigerator and slipped out of the room. Sara had left a few minutes earlier, but came back shortly after with Eamon and his bottle. Connor wondered how long it would take his one-track-mind brother to realize his fiancé was gone.
Fifteen minutes later, Murphy reached for a beer in the fridge and stopped short as he saw her place on the counter had been vacated. "Where'd Katie go?"
"She's down the hall." Sara's tone was light and only Connor caught the flicker of worry in her eyes as she glanced up at them. "Folding laundry."
A frown crossed his brother's face as he glanced at him and Connor stood up. "Keep goin'. I'll go check on her." Murphy stayed standing and as Connor reached him, he knocked his thumb away from his mouth. "I'm out of suggestions, anyhow."
"Ye've hardly said two fuckin' words, Conn. Besides, aren't we just waitin' him out anyhow? Didn't we just fuckin' decide that?"
Connor narrowed his eyes and realized he'd missed that entire agreement. "Fuck, guess I spaced off."
"Don't ye worry, Conn. I'll just give ye the fuckin' crib notes later."
He caught the sarcasm in Murphy's tone but just nodded as he left the room. His mind had wandered more than it had followed the conversation, and now he was just happy to have a break from it. It was perfectly acceptable for his brother and his Da to plan things for once. Especially when they had no idea what to even expect at this point.
Connor had expected to find tears as he entered Katie's room. Tears or anger, just the emotion of some kind that had seemed to keep her moving from moment to moment in situations like this. But instead, he just found Katie sitting cross-legged on her bed, folding laundry, just like Sara had said she'd been doing.
"Get bored, too?" She glanced up from the pair of jeans she was folding.
"Bored isn't quite the fuckin' word I'd use. But is that why ye left?"
"I left because I've got other things going on in my life than Tommy showing up."
"Yes. It's late, Conn. I'm tired. And I've still got to get things ready for work tomorrow. " She rolled up a pair of socks and launched them toward the basket.
"Katie, we've all got other things goin' on…"
"Connor, are you here to lecture me for leaving?" She looked up at him then, her eyebrows raised. Shaking his head, he sat down on the bed and leaned against the iron bed end.
"Fuck, no. I came ta see how ye were doin'. Ta see what ye were doin'."
Her eyes fell back to the folded shirt in her lap and she moved it to one of the piles before glancing back up at him. "I'm fine."
"Ye're actin' weird."
"Who isn't acting weird? Murphy's gone quiet. You're going out of your way to tease everybody. Sara's pissed at the world. Ma's fighting for you guys to kill Tommy and Da's struggling with the idea of it."
"And what about you, Katie? What are ye doin'?" He caught the slight tremor in her hand before she steadied it and his heart sank as he heard the resignation in her tone.
"I'm accepting it."
"Katie, ye can't-" His sigh was cut off by the hard edge of her tone.
"I can. Because it didn't go away last time either." She slid off of the bed and headed toward the bathroom door. Pausing, she didn't turn to face him. "Now, I'm going to take a shower and go to bed. Just tell Murph goodnight for me."
"Ye can tell 'im yerself. I'll send him in."
"Whatever." She closed the door behind her without looking back.
Sighing, Connor got to his feet and rubbed his hand over his face. He knew that somehow things were not going to be any easier the next day either. Everybody had changed at least a little in the last year. They'd gained their sense of balance and been able to become normal again. And now everything was tilted, out of whack.
He realized that the voices had moved to the living room as he stepped into the hallway. That meant things were decided for the night and he'd missed the end of it. That should have bothered him but he just felt indifferent about it.
Murphy shot a raised eyebrow glance at him as he stepped into the room and he just shrugged in response. He certainly couldn't just tell his brother that Katie really had been just folding laundry. She'd been hiding from them all in her own way and she'd simply moved her hiding to the shower where he couldn't follow her.
Sara held out Eamon for him without a word, and he took his son into his arms before turning to his brother. "She's taking a shower and going to bed, I guess."
"It is gettin' pretty fuckin' late."
"She said ta tell ye goodnight, Murph."
The corner of Murphy's mouth quirked up and he nodded. "Good o' ye ta pass the word on, but I'll be stickin' around."
"I figured so. I'll talk Ma into stayin' at our house." He bounced Eamon slightly as he started fussing.
Sara laughed softly as she stepped up to them. "You don't have to worry about that." She and Murphy shared a grin and Connor narrowed his eyes as he looked between them.
"Da is goin' ta be stayin' there until this is cleared up. I'm not sure who is fuckin' less thrilled about it."
"Well then, I guess it's all worked out." Connor eased the baby into the car seat before looking back at Murphy. "Come by for lunch tomorrow and ye can catch me up on what I missed."
"Ye think ye'll have yer fuckin' head on straight by then?"
He could tell his brother wanted to question him further but Connor shook his head a fraction to stop him. They'd discuss it tomorrow, when Sara wasn't around and when he had a better understanding of what was going on with him himself. "I'll be ready for ye."
"Good ta know." Murphy shot him an understanding look before kissing the top of Eamon's head. "See ye tomorrow, then."
"Night, Murph." Sara patted his arm and led the way out the door. Connor followed her slowly, meeting his brother's eyes again as he neared the door.
"Ye'll be the first I call."
"Same here. G'night." The cold air surrounded him as he stepped outside and Connor pulled the car seat closer to him to block it from the wind.
It still bothered him on some level to leave Murphy behind. Despite the fact that they were older now and led somewhat different lives, he felt slightly less himself when his brother wasn't there. Especially now the Tommy was back, he didn't like not being together at all times. And Connor wondered briefly as he steered the silent car home, if he would feel the danger around Murphy like he used to. If he would still be connected enough to know when his brother needed him.
The tears surprised Katie as she stepped into the shower, but she gave into them willingly as they mixed in with the hot water spray. She wanted to go to sleep and wake up when this was over. She wanted to know that she'd reach her wedding day with Murphy still alive to marry.
The deep fear that had eaten at her all day long had only wormed its way further into her belly. And it had been accompanied more and more by an eerie surface calm that she couldn't shake off. It would be so much easier if she just gave in and didn't care. If she just wrote it off as the end and waited for it all to be over. Then maybe she wouldn't hurt so much.
She'd never been a patient person. And if she'd known that what she'd felt in the backroom of the bar earlier that day was only going to be the beginning, she might have tried harder to just end it all then.
Katie knew she needed distraction, another topic to focus on but now that she was alone in the cottage, there was no other option. Maybe she shouldn't have avoided them by disappearing back to her bedroom. And she should have asked Murphy to stick around, to stay the night.
But she'd heard the door close and the voices fade into the night before she'd even started the shower. She'd made her bed empty and now she'd have to sleep it in alone. Maybe sleep would come easily.
When she finally eased out of the shower ten minutes later, Katie stopped short to find the mug of steaming tea and a sticky note on the counter near the door. Murphy's writing flowed in dark ink and she wondered how she didn't hear him open the door.
Call me when
Finding it easy to smile as her eyes studied the note again, she shook her head against the temptation of tears. Christ, she was being selfish about this. The one thing he had always told her was that she was not alone in this. He was there.
And she'd sent him home.
Taking a sip of her tea, she closed her eyes against the whirl in her stomach and in her mind. She loved him. And even if everything around them wasn't even close to that simple, it was a constant to hold onto.
The worst that Tommy could do is to take Murphy away from her. And she wasn't helping that by sending him away herself.
Leaving the bathroom, Katie slipped into an old t-shirt of Murphy's and pair of sweats. She grabbed her phone from her nightstand and hit his speed dial number as she paced.
There was only one ring before he answered. "Hey."
"Hi." She was quiet for a moment, unsure of what to say and thrown off by the constant motion in her gut. "Murph, I…" Pausing again, she swallowed against the lump in her throat and gave into the words she really wanted to say. "How soon before you could be back here?"
He gave a soft laugh from his end. "Come open yer front door. I'm on the fuckin' porch."
"What?" She kept the phone to her ear as she hurried down the hall. Glancing through the window next to the door, she undid the locks and pulled the door open.
His smile was wide and his eyes grew soft as he stared down at her. "Can I come back in?"
Katie threw her arms around him and pressed her face into his shoulder. He held onto her tightly and moved them into the house, closing the door behind him. She kissed him softly. "How did you know I'd want you to come back?"
"I didn't. I just hoped ye would so I wouldn't have ta keep an eye on ye from yer cold fuckin' porch all night."
"You were going to stay out there all night?"
"Either that or wait until ye were asleep and let meself in." He grinned then as she raised an eyebrow at him. "It depended on how much I was willing ta suffer."
It was easy to laugh then, as he teasingly kissed the tip of her nose before pulling his coat off. He closed the locks again with solid clicks. Taking his hand, she pulled him down the hall. "Let's go to bed."
Murphy tugged on her hand slightly as they entered the bedroom. "Ye okay now?"
"You're here. That's all I need for now. We'll deal with tomorrow when tomorrow comes, okay?" She tilted her head at him, waiting for him to finish studying her long enough to nod. He dipped his head slightly in response and pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
Slipping into bed shortly after her, Murphy pulled her close to him, surrounding her with his arms. The sharp fear inside her began to fade as she relaxed against him. And although she knew it would come back, she didn't care. He was there now and so was she. For now that's all that could matter. And they'd deal with whatever came next together.
Visions of blood and death woke Murphy in the early morning hours. He worked hard not to gasp as reality shattered his nightmare and it was only the warmth of Katie beside him that kept him from shouting out.
It had been her blood. And he had been responsible for her death.
Shadows of the images fluttered just out of his vision and he pressed his face against the side of her pillow to shut them out. His hand sought hers and he heard the change in her breathing as she slowly woke up. Sudden tears threatened and he fought them back, managing to swallow them whole as she whispered his name.
"Murph? You okay?"
It was too soon to trust his voice, so he just moved his head against the pillow. He was fine. He'd have to be fine. It was the only way to make things okay again.
Her body slid closer to him, her worn t-shirt softly brushing against his bare chest. His arms moved on their own accord, pulling her against him and holding onto her tightly. Katie's hands slid to meet in the center of his back, making small circles just below his shoulder blades.
"Your heart is racing."
"I can't lose ye." The words choked out before he even realized they'd been on the tip of his tongue and he felt her hands pause slightly before continuing their motions.
"You won't." Her whispered response sounded heavy and she shifted in his arms to bury her face in his neck.
Murphy moved his face away from her pillow and rested his chin on her shoulder. "Ye can't fuckin' know that."
"I've got my Saints to protect me."
"And that worked fuckin' brilliantly fer Rocco."
"Murph." It was a soft edged sigh but one that betrayed her emotions as she pressed her lips over his heart. She raised her head then, moving slightly away from him. "Look at me."
His eyes found hers in the dark and he was remembered the first time she'd slept in his arms. He'd been able to see her tears through the darkness then, too. Brushing his thumb under her eyes, he caught the tears before they fell. "Katie, please don't…"
"Look at me, Murphy." She smiled slightly as she caught his eye again. "I love you, so much. And I have to believe that will get us through this. Together."
"And what if it doesn't?" His question managed to come out only after she laid down again, her eyes closed against his lingering study of her.
"It has to."
Murphy could find no words to respond, so he lay back down beside her and took her into his arms again. Her breathing evened out much sooner than he imagined it would and he found himself alone in the dark again, with no real answers to his questions and her simple words tugging on his heart.
And as he closed his eyes finally, his struggle against the blood in his memory was won only because of the warmth in his arms.
Sorry if this isn't quite up to par...it just got to the point that either I got it written or I didn't. This next chapter will be much better!