There was still icy slush in some of the deepest shadows of the tors, the Loch itself still hovering just above freezing with a cold so shocking it burned, but spring in the Highlands was a strange and fickle thing. Already, the grass had arrived on the hillsides that caught the sun most strongly, lush and sweetly ready to nourish the new lambs, and it was already so warm that it invited itself to the skin. Seamus knew he would regret it after the long winter, but the first burn of the season was inevitable, and he stripped his shirt off uncaring, leaning back to tip his face to the light. "Grand day, 'tis. Lovely."
Nestled on the grass beside him, he felt more than heard Susan's contented little answering murmur as she nuzzled her face against his bare arm, threading her own arms through to wrap his waist. She sighed, and as he looked down at her, his smile couldn't help but widen. Maybe it was just the light on her pale, perfect skin, or maybe it was true what they said about a woman who was expecting, but she did seem to be almost glowing, her black hair painted through with single threads of reflected gold. "Lovely."
If she understood that he wasn't talking about the day any more, she gave no sign, and her voice held a thick, dreamy quality. "It's strange, sometimes."
"That could be a lot o' things in lives likes o' ours…" He chuckled, brushing a kiss along the top of her head. "What're ya meanin'?"
"All of it, I suppose. I know this certainly isn't how I thought, I mean, when I was a little girl, you know? Where I imagined myself at twenty-seven." Susan's words could have been self-pity, but her tone was unchanged and carried anything but pity; more indulgence in the wanderings of a space of time so blissful as to want nothing of them. "What about you?"
"Never were no little girl meself." Seamus gave a one-shouldered shrug so as not to displace her. "Can't say."
"Oh, stop it!'
She made a face, and he laughed, but in the silence that followed, the question still seemed to linger over the glen that stretched in front of them, mulling itself gently over the feel of her against him, the smell of her hair, the sweet stalk of the clover he plucked until it finally found the surprising truth. "Didn't think o' it, actually."
Susan pulled back just enough to really look at him, an odd expression on her face as if she couldn't decide if she were being mocked. "You never thought about what you wanted to be when you grew up? Not at all?"
"Not particular, no," he admitted. "Most folk knew me, I think, was shocked enough that I did…grow up, that is. Don't think most reckoned I'd make it long's I have."
It was said casually, but she pushed herself to her knees, and for a moment he thought he had said something wrong and she was getting up to leave, but instead she sat on his lap, straddling him to cup his face in both hands with a look of surprisingly piercing intensity. "I'm glad you did."
"So's I." He turned his head to kiss her palms, reaching up to stroke his fingers gently along her arm. "But ya say this ain't what ya wanted, Sue? We don't have to –"
Her eyes widened, and she shook her head quickly. "Not like that, no! I just…"
"Didn't reckon ya'd be a widow some nine years, gettin' ready for a second husband who's technically your prisoner?"
As was often the case, she seemed momentarily stunned by his bluntness on the subject, then a slow smile spread across her full mouth. "Yeah."
There was a long pause where they just looked at one another, then Seamus lay back on the grass, pulling her to lie with him as he stared up into the vivid, cloud-dappled blue sky above. "So where'd ya see yourself, then?"
"Never mind." She snuggled into the crook of his arm, laying her head against his shoulder. "This is nice."
"No, really. I wanna know now that ya said it."
"A veterinarian," Susan answered with none of the hesitation he had expected. "I thought I'd be patching up Krups with burnt paws and owls with broken wings and have a couple of kids with a husband down in Portsmouth where I grew up."
"Not so far off, then," he observed. "Geography, maybe, but ya still get t'work with animals, and you're grand as ever ya been with that. I remember when we got that owl poor Renny sent us…ya and Terry were brilliant. I thought for sure we'd need put it down, I did. Wee thing were an ice lolly with feathers, but ya put him right and got that band off his leg, too."
"Mercury! Ernie –" She cut herself off, the cheery musings suddenly replaced by an awkwardness he could feel through the abrupt tension through her delicate body against him.
The casualness was entirely forced, still belied by the stiffness of her shoulders, and he rolled to prop himself on one elbow, looking down directly into those deep, endless dark eyes he had come to so unexpectedly love. His hand slid down her arm, wrapping hers to finger the rings she still wore and would until his own replaced them in a few months. "Ernie. It ain't like ya sudden can't mention him, Sue, just 'cause we's wound up together. I ain't jealous."
"Really?" She looked genuinely surprised and a bit suspicious, and he nodded firmly.
"Nah, we's too different. Confused, sometimes, but not half jealous." Seamus felt his mouth turn irrepressibly into its usual cheeky smile, but he still felt a shiver of vulnerability with her that he still didn't know quite how to handle except with the cheek that had always been so much a piece of armor as much as sense of humor. "Can't reckon how ya could love him and then me barrin' a head injury or a spell… though 'spose it does mean ya ain't got a type."
Amazingly, her smile bore a glimmer of the same tease, and she tapped him on the nose with the tip of one finger. "I don't know, I think I do."
"What; other than both bein' men?"
"Maybe my type is men that are brave and strong –" Her hands had begun to wander now, tracing along his body with the lines of his tattoos, following the shape and ridge of each muscle to heat his skin far beyond the spring sunlight. She was trying to distract him, he was sure – and she was doing a bloody good job of it – but he still managed to find a protest.
"I ain't half t'size o' –"
"Not so big, no," she conceded, but there was no sense of accepting a flaw in her voice or in the eyes that he could swear were growing darker as he watched. "But strong in your way. More than enough to make me feel completely safe, but gentle on the inside, and you both have blonde hair and dead sexy accents."
Seamus raised an eyebrow in mock offense. "So it's just me brogue, then?"
"I did mention the hair, too," Susan retorted. "But that definitely helps. Speaking of…." The wandering hands had met behind his back, pulling him low to hover barely inches over her, and her voice had dropped to a throaty, inviting purr. "You know what day it is?"
"Ain't me birthday," he replied in as much innocence as he could feign. "That were two days ago."
She sniffed haughtily, smacking him on the back of the shoulder. "And you call yourself Irish."
"Don't reckon it matters." He put his weight wholly onto one arm, still hovering barely apart from her as he let his hand run up her thigh, bunching the smooth emerald fabric cool over the hot flesh. "Ya remembered t'wear green. Ain't got no excuse t'pinch anythin' fun."
Now she did pull him down onto her completely, and he couldn't keep the moan that escaped when her lips touched his neck; first kissing, then nibbling just below his ear almost hard enough to leave her own mark among the others. "If I'm going to have your baby, do I have an excuse to say 'kiss me, I'm Irish?'"
It took every bit of his not-inconsiderable willpower to hold still, to keep his voice something approaching casual. "'Fraid you're still English as they come, love."
"All right, then." Her hand took his where it still rested against her hip, pulling it to the buttons pressed in a row between their bodies. He could feel the heat of her, the lush curves of hips and heavy swell of her breasts, the still-soft, still-unswollen plane of her stomach; the matched, hard, ragged rhythm of the breathing they couldn't hide even in jest. Her other hand twisted in his hair, pulling a gasp that was but wasn't pain as her teeth came down on his earlobe to growl through the bite. "How about; 'fuck me, I'm not wearing anything under this?'"
"Now that I like." He grabbed her, no longer pretending anything resembling reserve as the light fabric tore open beneath his hands, and why even bother with buttons when she had been right. His eyes, his hands, his mouth drank her in like whiskey, and he was drunk all over again with something so much richer than that pale oblivion ever had been.
He had assumed, long ago, that he would need to be careful with her, made the mistake of thinking appearances meant anything at all, but she was as fierce in her passion now on this idyllic hillside as she ever had been in the wicked dark. At first, he had thought she was genuinely fighting him, but there could be no mistaking her desire, the shockingly filthy demands of those bowed lips. Susan wanted him, Dia she wanted him, but he knew she would never lie back passively and wait to be taken.
She was a prize, a treasure beyond price, and she had to be earned, fought for, demanded with a warrior's hands relentless against the china doll's skin, endured in raking nails and heels that dug the small of his back and hair seized, matched in bucking hips and grappling limbs that rolled them over until jet and gold both tangled wild with green.
For a moment he knew wouldn't last, he had her pinned, her wrists both caught in his fist, and with his other hand he grabbed a handful of black silk, yanking her head back to expose the line of her throat. His mouth came down hard where there would be no hiding it, the flushed skin instantly blooming a deep, marking red when he drew back to trace it with his tongue. "Mo cheannsa…."
Her eyes flashed, and he felt her wrists twist in his grip, and he knew that despite his greater strength, his hold would not last long. "Does that mean 'Happy St. Patrick's Day?"
Pushing against her, another mark laid to a hissing, back-arching gasp at the cusp of a nipple. "Means you're mine."
"Now that I like the sound of…if you mean it." And then she had gotten free somehow, and he was the one on his back, her thighs clamped to his hips and her hands clawed into his shoulders as her eyes promised all the heavens of hell he could ever not deserve.