It was the crash that woke her.
It was still dark outside, no hint of light seeping through the bedroom curtains, but Kate's hand found her wand unerringly on the nightstand, and the blue glow of it showed her the time. 4:51 in the morning. Every sense was on instant alert, and she was careful to make no noise as she pulled back the covers, sitting up to listen.
The crash itself had sounded like breaking glass, and now she could hear movement downstairs, an oddly metallic clatter and things being rummaged with careless hands. Her heart was pounding, the taste of adrenaline sharp at the back of her throat, but her first thought was not for her own safety, but for Seamus.
If whoever it was had woken him…the boy was fearless, and even at six, she knew he wouldn't hesitate to confront even the most heavily-armed robber. But he was never subtle, the walls between their rooms were thin, and she could hear not so much as a rustle of sheets from his room. Kate let out a sigh of relief, sending up a silent thanks for her son's tendency to sleep like the dead, no matter how hard it made to wake him for school.
A flick of her wand silenced the bedsprings as she stood, and there was a cold smile on her lips as she toed around the rug until she found her slippers. Their neighborhood had been as good as South Belfast could claim when she and Patrick had moved there – never really intending to stay long anyway – but in these times, there were no 'good' neighborhoods any more unless you were truly posh; only those where the police at least were willing to still come. An easy job, it must have seemed; cover of darkness, just a single mother and her sickly little boy, but they would have no idea that the rumors that Kate Finnigan was a witch had nothing to do with her unflinchingly sharp tongue.
As she made her way down the stairs, she caught sight of a shaft of bright light coming from beneath the kitchen door, now obviously the source of the noise that continued to bang and clatter. Coi, but this was a brazen bastard. High or drunk, maybe even, to make racket enough to wake the dead and turn on the lights bold as brass in what was probably a hunt for silver they didn't have. Kate stopped at the kitchen door, raising her wand to the level of a man's chest and pressing herself to the side of the doorframe so as not to present too much target were the intruder armed.
Alohomora! The door crashed open, and she whirled into the kitchen, snapping her wand towards the first shape that moved, though her eyes were dazzled by the abrupt transition from the dark hallway. Stupify!
"Get out!" The spell must have gone wide, because there was a furious yell, and something crashed into the wall by her head. Her wand was already whipped back to fire again when it registered simultaneously that the voice and rapidly-resolving shape were those of a child.
Seamus was standing on the kitchen counter, the cupboard doors open, and a heavy brass ladle already in his hand, ready to throw after the spoon he had already launched, and the look of abject shock on his small, round face had to be a perfect mirror of her own as each recognized the other as the one they had assaulted. He let the ladle drop, frowning at her as if she had no business being in her own house. "Mam?"
The kitchen looked like a war zone. Every drawer and cupboard were open, the contents jumbled and pulled out into messy piles that nearly hid every flat surface. A jar of honey lay in pieces on the floor, streaked across several sticky feet in the strokes of a heavily clotted broom now abandoned in the goo, and flour hung in the air like mist, blanketing ever surface – including Seamus – and revealing a criss-cross of footprints across the countertop where he had gotten things from the upper shelves.
Bowls of…stuff were everywhere, jars open, and oh, mercy, the stove was on, rimmed with eggshells, and there was something that seemed to contain eggs as at least one major ingredient beginning to send up smoke. Seamus hopped down at once, scampering over to plant both hands firmly in her stomach as he attempted to push her back out of the kitchen. "Go on, Mam, makin' breakfast for ya! Issa 'sprise!"
"A surprise indeed!" she exclaimed. "Sweet mother's tears, boy, have ya been cookin' or fightin' the return o' the Fomorians? 'Tis rare I've seen such mess!"
"I'll clean it, Mam," he insisted, and although she knew that he would only make it worse if he tried – as he already had with the honey – it was impossible to look into those utterly earnest blue eyes and hold her anger. Damned if the angels faces weren't given to the ones who needed mercy most. "Go on t'bed, can't be givin' ya breakfast in bed if you're outtas."
Kate cast another forlorn look across the wreckage of her kitchen, flicking her wand over his head to extinguish the now-heavily smoking pan and seal the knobs of the stove so he couldn't turn it on again. Seamus was still shoving at her, and she shook her head as she couldn't help but smile down at him. "All right, all right, I'll go…but goodness knows, breakfast in bed weren't nothin' I were expectin'! What's the occasion?"
He stopped pushing, and his too-often-pale cheeks were rosy from the morning's exertions, his eyes shining as he beamed a grin at her that was all the more endearing for being missing all of the front teeth. "'Cause you're me Mam."
"Knew ya'd be here soon's I knew I weren't dead."
The voice wasn't even strong enough to be called a whisper, barely a shaped gasp, but it was more than enough to yank Kate awake as brutally as a hex, and she sat straight up in the uncomfortable hospital chair, swiping quickly at the crust of salt and sleep that gummed her lashes. Nothing seemed to have changed, to have moved even a fraction, and for an instant she thought she had dreamed it, but then she saw.
His eyes were open.
The same clear blue they had been the day he was born, and dashing away the almost-hopeful flickers of fantasy doubt she'd occasionally held that this stranger whose bedside she'd kept was her son. But it was, of course it was, of course it had been, and for all the changes, nothing had changed since twenty-three years past, really, because they'd said he couldn't live then and said he couldn't live now, and both times she'd seen bright blue fire defy the Healers.
More than two months early. Knife to the heart. Alive. Hers.
She couldn't begin to understand or explain the sound that twisted up from her throat as she surged to her feet, consumed by the desperate need to hold the child she had lost and lost again and again and somehow, Saints be praised, not lost at all. He was broader, heavier, more strongly muscled than she'd ever known him, fully a grown man when she'd last seen still half a boy, but her arms scooped up under the tattooed back and lifted him to her chest as if it was nothing, her hands stroking the long, matted hair. Kate wanted to say, tried to say, to ask, to tell, but it was just hushes and sobs and little noises that were meaningless because they meant so much.
Then she heard him gasp, felt his shoulders tighten, heard even over her own noises the thin cry of pain, and she pulled back, almost dropping him as she realized what she'd done. Fool! Carefully, so gently, she lowered him back down to the bed again, brushing kisses over his forehead in promises that she'd never, never meant to hurt him, she was just so glad, so very glad….
Her eyes met his, blurring a moment into a haze of color, lost against the white-blue-gray of his skin and the vivid, matching blue of the lattice on the side of his face, but when she blinked the tears away, there was a spark of cheek there, and for the first time the words sank in past the simplicity of their having been spoken.
He knew she…oh, that…that…that…that fucking little brat!
Kate's hand moved again like lightning, but this time, it was no caress passionate or gentle. Her palm struck his cheek with a crack that rang like a gunshot through the quiet ward, and her chest was heaving, the sobs ratcheting higher on tears that had turned suddenly hot on her cheeks. "Knew I'd be here, did ya! Take me for feckin' granted much? Knew I'd be here after all ya…after the years…after ya…OH! I could…I can't…how feckin' dare ya think I'd be here when ya…ya turned…ya killed…ya left…."
The handprint was livid on his cheek, but he didn't flinch back, even if he had the strength to -- which maybe, later, when she had calmed down, she would realize he didn't –and his eyes didn't close, didn't look away. His voice was too frail for any real tone, but somehow, it held the sound of the child he had ravaged all traces of, a statement of fact as simple as up and down from a time before you could be cynical about even that. "'Cause you're me Mam."