Down by the river, Peter sat on the same rock as he had just a few days earlier. The birds sang - altogether too cheerfully, in his opinion – as the afternoon sunlight broke through the trees. He stared ahead at the water, feeling too defeated even to throw stones into it. Again, he heard footsteps approaching, but they were rather lighter than Father Mac's.
Quietly, Assumpta came and sat beside him on the rock. After a few moments of silence, she looked over at him, and spoke.
'So, I did a fairly rubbish job of apologising, last night... I wondered if you might let me try again.'
As Peter looked down at her, the sun moved, so that its golden rays made her hair shine and her face glow. In her eyes he saw that rare vulnerability, and he knew how hard it was for her to humble herself like this. He smiled to himself. It wouldn't matter what horrible thing she said to him, he mused, there was no way he could ever be angry at something so beautiful. He doubted that anyone could.
'I'll tell you what,' he said, his voice betraying the warmth in his heart, 'let's call it even, yeah?'
Thoughtfully, Peter added, 'On one condition.'
'You have to listen to me... for five minutes. No interrupting, no fire eyes, and no running away – just listen. Deal?'
Assumpta bit her bottom lip, unsure of whether this was within her power.
Peter took a deep breath, preparing himself to completely let go before this amazing woman, and praying that she wouldn't eat him alive.
'First of all, I want to say that I really am so sorry for telling Father Mac what you told me. Believe me, Assumpta, the last thing I wanted was to hurt you. I need you to know – and I've been trying to tell you – that I didn't it to protect myself from getting into trouble with Father Mac. I would never upset you for something as stupid as that. I can prove it to you -'
'You don't have to -'
'Hey! No interrupting, remember? So, the worst Father Mac could have done was kick me out of the priesthood, right? Well, I had no reason to fear that, because I had already decided to leave.'
She couldn't help it; she was utterly shocked.
Peter put a finger to her lips, silencing her. She gave an exaggerated sigh.
'For a long time now, I haven't been able to give myself completely to my ministry, because a part of me – quite a huge part, actually – is always with you. From the moment I met you, I knew you'd cause me trouble. You were the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I knew you'd be a massive distraction, but you've come to be so much more than that... You're everything to me, Assumpta.'
Assumpta's heart had sped up to about twice its normal rate at his first sentence, and she could barely hear him over the sound of her pulse. She was awfully glad she wasn't allowed to speak, because she had no idea what on earth she would say if she could.
'When Connelly showed up here, when you told me your story and you cried while I held you, that's when I knew. All I want is to make sure that you never, ever have to hurt like that again, Assumpta. I'm not expecting anything from you. Where we go from here is completely your decision. I just wanted to tell you that you're lovely, and you deserve someone who really sees that. You deserve to be held and honoured and truly loved, and, if you'll let me, I want to be the one do those things.'
Her heart had sped up at his first sentence, but it completely stopped at his last. She stared at him in disbelief. This incredible man, always so painfully untouchable, could not seriously be sitting there offering to completely turn his life upside down, just for the privilege of loving her. This kind of thing just didn't happen in real life.
'Well, that's it,' Peter said, nervously, as he stood up and moved to lean on a tree opposite where Assumpta was sitting. 'Now you're free to shout at me, or run away or...'
'I don't want to shout at you or run away, Peter.'
Assumpta smiled up at him in such a way that made him feel like his entire body was filled with... not butterflies... more like pterodactyls.
Peter gulped, then said, 'This is probably ridiculously unromantic, but, all things considered, I think it's best to ask... Would it be okay if I kissed you?'
Assumpta laughed out loud, and rose to stand in front of him.
'You're right; that's probably the most unromantic thing I've ever heard in my life... but, yes, I think that would be okay.'
Peter placed both his hands on Assumpta's waist, and gently pulled her to him. He lifted one hand to softly touch her face. and her eyes fluttered closed. His lips found hers again; only, this time, she showed no signs of pulling away. Instead, her hands grazed his chest as she brought her arms up and wrapped them around his neck. With both of his hands now caressing her lower back, Peter held Assumpta as close as he possibly could, and he wanted her closer still.
He felt, rather than saw, her smile, as she breathlessly pulled away after a time that felt delightfully like an eternity and painfully like a second. She brought her arms down to wrap them around his waist, and rested her head on his chest, happily allowing him to hold her as he'd done the night she told him about Connelly.
'So, what happens now?' she asked.
'Well,' Peter replied, dreamily, as he played with her hair, 'hopefully, we'll do a lot more of that.'
Assumpta stepped back to give him a disapproving look.
'Peter, I'm serious! What's going to happen... with Connelly and everything?'
'Well, I think we should have enough of a case to at least have him removed from the clergy, if not criminally charged... If nobody backs out, we'll have testimonies from you, me, the women from the other parishes, Father Mac...'
'Father Mac? He believed you about what happened?'
'Oh, yeah, didn't I tell you? He'd already had his suspicions before I spoke to him.'
'No, you didn't tell me. I'd say I'm astonished, but, after the week I've had, I think it would be impossible to astonish me any more.'
'Tell me about it.'
Peter smiled down at her - that stupid, adorable, lopsided smile.
'I love you, Assumpta.'
Okay, maybe not quite so impossible after all...
So, that's it, friends! That's my first fan fiction :) I had lots of fun writing it, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. I've got loads more ideas, because I've had nothing but Ballykissangel in my head for about 16 months now (I'm sure some of you can relate!). Let me know if you'd be keen to read them. If not, I'll just keep them in my head ;)