"Fi, he'll be fine. Trust me."
I heard Sam's voice, and by the slight echo I determined that he was speaking outside my open bedroom door. The floorboard squeaked. I took in a breath through my nose and my sinuses hurt. I brought up a hand to probe my right cheek near the cartilage in my nose and discovered the source of the pain. I bet if I looked into a mirror I would see a vivid bruise there. My eyelids were stubborn and one opened but the other would only go part way.
"I feel terrible about this, Sam. I was mad at him last night, and I let my anger run away with me," Fiona said. The regret in her tone made my heart flutter. "Maybe I should call Campbell..."
"No! He'll be fine, Fi. Maybe you should just go and come back in a couple days when he's better. And in the meantime, think about how stupid and unproductive it was to strike out like that."
"I didn't come back here to have you lecture me, Sam."
"Well, too bad Sister, because Mike is my best friend." Sam's voice rose until each word reverberated off the walls. "You're my friend too, and I'm not gonna stand by and let you kill each other when you should be loving each other."
Fi's voice sounded so small when she said, "He hurt me."
Sam tempered his volume a little as he countered, "He's hurt me too over the years, and vice versa. We got over it, and so should you."
I focused on the sight of two of the people I loved standing in front of the door arguing, oblivious to me watching from the dark room. Sam gripped Fiona's upper arms and held her tight even as she squirmed to get away. She didn't beat him up like she did me, but then, she did look like the fight was all gone from her system.
"If you can't see that Mike rented this place and left it mostly empty because he wanted you back to forge a new life with him, maybe you didn't love him as much as he thought." He calmed and his grip loosened. "Fi, true love forgives. True love rights wrongs and endures through everything. I believe that's how Mike loves you, but if you can't reciprocate…." He sighed and released her, pushing her away. "You should just walk out that door right now and never come back. He'll suffer a broken heart for awhile, but in time he'll get over it."
Her jaw worked as she tried to justify her anger, but in the end she knew that Sam was right. I had already asked for her forgiveness, but if she couldn't give me that, we were doomed. A groan escaped me, despair hitting me harder than any of Fi's blows. She heard me, and she and Sam peered into the room.
Sam came forward with a smile. "Hey, Brother, you're awake. How are you feeling?"
"Like a truck hit me," I grumbled. I withheld the victory smile when Fiona sat on what used to be her side of the bed and leaned close to caress my sore cheek. I waited for the sharp pain, but her touch was light like butterflies flitting over my skin. I closed my eyes and basked in it.
"Michael, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done this to you." I didn't respond, and she said, "Please, open your eyes. We need to talk."
"Can I leave you two alone and trust that you'll both be alive when I come back in a half hour?"
I opened my eyes and replied, "Yes, Sam."
"Good. I swear, if I see any blood..."
"Go, Sam. We'll be fine," Fiona said with a look that said if anyone was going to bleed it would be Sam if he didn't leave at that moment.
"Okay," he held up his hands and backed away. "I'll see you guys in a half hour with breakfast. Just wanted to warn ya."
The moment Sam was gone, Fiona said, "I'm sorry, Michael. But you know, you deserved it. Sam doesn't understand what you put me through, but..."
"I know," I whispered. It hurt to raise my arm and touch her face, but I did it anyway. "Fi, I said I was sorry. If you can't forgive me, Sam is right. You need to walk out that door."
She bit her bottom lip as her eyes filled with tears. "I can't do it. Part of me still wants to hate you but most of me wants to love you."
"Love is a lot better than hate. That's the most important thing I learned in the years since I was burned. My friends and family never failed to love me no matter what I did, and I just kept pushing and pushing and pushing..." I let out a tortured breath. "And yet you came back. My Ma still loves me. Sam risked his life with me by going to Ireland for the snow globe..."
"What?" Fiona was about to lay down beside me until I said the magic words. She sat and stared at me. "You went to Ireland for a snow globe? Michael, what in God's name got into you? You could have been killed!"
"Maybe. Sean and your brothers, uh, they kinda kidnapped Sam and me and took us to some house in the country. And they escorted us to the airport."
"Sean did that?" Her lips quivered into a smile.
"They didn't make it nice and easy, though." I told her about them beating us into submission and throwing us into a trunk. By the time I finished, Fiona was crying and laughing. I scowled. "It wasn't funny, Fi. Sam got some seriously bruised ribs, and I had a few bruises of my own." I pulled up my shirt and showed her the fading marks. "See?"
"Oh, Michael, I'm sorry. It's just so typical of my brothers. No doubt it was a wee bit of payback for breakin' my heart, but it was a lesson to stay away until it was safe to enter the country again."
"I suppose." I squinted up at her. "You've got a strange family, Fiona."
Chuckling, she replied, "Well, how else do ye think I got so tough? Claire... never mind." She shook her head and got off the bed before reaching out for my hand. "Come along. I want to see the snow globe that you risked life and limb for, just for me."
I smiled and rose, and I led her into the living area. Last night they'd been in shadow, but in the light of day the globes shone on their shelves. Fiona gasped and her mouth formed a large 'o' as she studied each cubby hole. She dropped my hand, cupped hers over her mouth and nose, and her eyes spilled onto her tented fingers. I'd left her speechless for a long time. All she could do was breathe in little hiccups now and then, her blurry vision requiring her to step closer. She touched a few of them, her lips working and unable to form words. I'd expected her to be pleased, but seeing Fiona overwhelmed caused my knees to grow weak. I was glad that Sam convinced me to buy the couch.
"You... you went to all these places?" Fiona turned to face me with her eyes still streaming tears of joy.
"Unfortunately, no. Sam enlisted some of his buddies to help. We went and picked up the Italy globe and the one from Ireland."
She whirled, searched each place until she found the globe from italy. Fiona pulled it off the shelf, cradled it in her hands and pressed it close to her heart. "The Ireland one I'll always treasure because it came from home, but this one..." She fought to speak. "Michael, this one looks almost exactly like the one I lost when..."
"You saved my life by bashing Wayne over the head." I nodded and smiled. "I remembered."
To my surprise and delight, she replaced the globe in its spot and sat on the couch, being careful not to irritate my sore side. Her arm slipped across my stomach and she embraced me, her head leaning on my shoulder. "Michael... thank you. Thank you for loving me so much and giving me back my collection."
"It's not really the same, but I tried."
"I know. I see that." Her lips touched mine in a light kiss. "There's one missing, though. Paris."
"Yes," I responded and my smile grew. "I thought we could go hunt that one down together on a honeymoon. If you'll have me."
"Forever?" The word stuck in her throat.
I laughed and replied, "Yes, forever, Fi. I want to marry you."
"You really think I can put up with you for the next, oh, thirty to forty years?" She planted a hand on her hip and gave me some attitude with her words. "I don't know, that's asking a lot."
"Ah, well, I tried. I'll get over the heartache eventually," I said as I looked deeply into her eyes. "But I'll never get over you." I kissed her and stood. "Have it your way, Fi."
"Michael!" She rose, but I was already turning away from her. She grabbed my arm, spun me to face her, and wrapped her arms around my neck as she ground her lips into mine. The kiss softened when I responded, and I wrapped my arms around her. She felt so good, I moaned in delight.
I think I heard the door squeak as it opened, but it squeaked again and thumped closed. Sam left us alone, like a good buddy, so we could have a proper reunion. Of course when the day soon came I would make him my best man, because through everything, he'd been my best friend, indeed.