Peter stuffed a change of clothes into his rucksack and made for Fitzgerald's. He found the blue door unlocked; he latched it behind him.

On the counter he spotted a hand-lettered note with a room key attached.

"Upstairs, first on left. See you at breakfast. -A"

She had remembered, but she hadn't waited up. Fair enough, though he was disappointed. He tried to step as quietly as possible as he entered tonight's sleeping quarters.

On top of the neatly-made bed, he found a warm towel and...something shaped to look like a hot air balloon. On closer inspection, it was a bottle of kids' bubble bath. He grinned with the satisfaction that this was probably not a standard amenity. Probably not left by Bishop Costello, either. Leave it to the publican to go out and find bath bubbles late at night for the sake of a running joke.

He opened the door to the tiny private bath. Considering it a matter of duty, he turned on the faucet to fill the small tub. He dropped in a few capfuls of bubbles for good measure.

"It occurs to me that we were rudely interrupted the other day when you were at the bar. I still own you for at least two hours."

He dropped the bottle. She had waited up after all.

She had waited up in a dressing gown. Not a very long one.

He swallowed. "I'm sure we could come to some sort of...arrangement."


He now saw she had arranged a bottle of prosecco on ice in the sink, and two glasses on the vanity. She turned her back now to open the seal and prise off the wire hood.

She gently wrapped the bottle in a tea towel. The cork popped quietly, with just a soft breath; a small amount of the wine gushed out. It occurred to him then that there ought to be a wall calendar of this. Twelve months of Assumpta Fitzgerald, just wearing dressing gowns and opening bubbly.

"Survived Ireland's worst carpool, I see."

He tried to sound relaxed. "Father Mac knows my intentions. We'll begin the war on ecclesiastical red tape tomorrow." Maybe not a calendar. Maybe a TV channel.

"How'd he take it?" She expertly did first pours, then waited for the fizz to subside. He got an idea.

"'Bout as well as could be expected."

She topped off the glasses and waited again. She repeated this once more before she was satisfied.

Now she lifted the two glasses and turned round to find her guest already in the bath, his clothes piled on the floor. She nearly spilt the drinks.

"What are you trying to do to me?" she gasped.

"Ohhh, I think you know," he smirked, sounding shakier than he'd have liked. "Is it working?"

She shoved one glass at him, nodding, and hastily downed the other.

"Cheers," he cracked.

"So you mean to-"

"Yes. You can't tell me you hadn't thought of it," he grinned, nodding at the various bubbling things surrounding him.

"Well, yeah, but I mean..." That blushing again. Neck, ears, cheeks...he was already responding to the sight of it. He wouldn't be able to act his way out of this one.

He prompted her: "It's natural you'd wonder; go ahead and ask."

"Have you ever...been with anyone?"

"Yes." Then, more quietly: "You know. Time's passed, but..."



"Ha ha."

"Well, hey, how would I know?"

"Well, time's passed, but...yeah." She nodded self-consciously toward the medicine cabinet. "Prepared and all, too, so."

He emptied his glass and handed it back. She set it aside with her own.


She was now totally aglow, and trembling a little. "Don't be silly."

"Mmhmm, me too."

"Come on. Why would I be nervous?" she bluffed.

"'Cos in about five seconds, I'm pulling you in here with me."

She flung her robe to safety before it was too late.

Their first time together had been passionate, reverent, strangely intuitive - and utterly exhausting. They now lay facing one another in the bed, their breathing ragged, both of them covered in gooseflesh.

"You're shivering," she said.

"So are you," he replied, drawing the top sheet and duvet up to their chins. The air disturbance tortured them with a short blast of cold, making the following warmth even sweeter. "Here." He gently rolled her over and pressed himself against her back.

"Is this really happening?" he breathed.

"It better be."

For the moment, it was all they needed to say. The enormity of the disruption ahead was not lost on either of them, but the unknown could wait for tomorrow. His arm protectively bridged over her. She had never before felt so safe as she did now, in the face of radical upheaval and total uncertainty.

She felt a kiss on the back of her neck. "I love you." Well, not total uncertainty.

"I love you, too, Peter."

In remarkably short order, both of them were out like lights.