Midir had picked out which empty bedroom they were to occupy, and, much to his dismay, Keelia had insisted on tagging along. Something about Christmas wishes, and that rather naughty glint in her eye was more disturbing than a lot of things.
He knew she'd slept with Sam before, and fine, they were involved in a three-way relationship as well, so it wasn't like he'd never seen her with another man, but he and Michael were careful with her. They didn't want to hurt her. They kept the rougher games to themselves and so why exactly was she coming along with him and Sam?
Sam was upset by the story. Anyone could see that and what he needed was liable to turn dark and Midir didn't want her seeing that side of them. She shouldn't have to deal with that sort of behavior.
But Keelia was stubborn and gave him a look, and tried to explain that she'd seen it before. That she knew. That the first time she and Sam had been together had not been gentle, but there was only so much she could tell him before he looked like he didn't believe her and maybe, just maybe that was the Christmas wish. To break the pedestal he had her on and finally be free of it so he'd actually see her.
Or maybe it was just because the mere idea of Sam and Midir was hot and she wanted to see.
Midir looked rather suspiciously at her about that, but she just beamed and settled on the bed to wait for Sam.
I have an agent interested in Midir and Keelia's novel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Martyr's Church deems us spirits. Me and my kind and all the other magical creatures. The brownies, the pixies, the leprechauns. For some of us, it could be argued to be true. The trees and waters have spirits and in their own ways they are similar to us. More similar to us than to you, I suppose.
But they are not Sidhe. It used to mean something, to claim that heritage. The people lived in awe of us, and we taught them what we knew of metalworking and farming and civilized laws. They implemented them and they were better for it. There was no talk of spirits then. Gods, perhaps, to some. Different species to others. We lived in relative harmony.
Somewhere along the way, that changed. I'd like to lay the blame on Patrick (for Danu's sake, he tried to make my sister one of his saints and say she was a nun!). His magic was stronger than the druids and the people feared and believed. But perhaps it was before that. Times when we withdrew to the hills and many of us even further, into the west. Back to our home. I can't pinpoint when and how, but we went from being their gods to being the spirits in their hills that the priests told them not to honor, that it was pagan to do so.
The pagans are more visible now, and they call to us, resurrect us from spirits to deity again, and even as I smile at their rites, I find myself...something. Saddened. Disconnected. For the truth is somewhere in between. We aren't gods. We're...other. Perhaps the legends that say we are fallen angels, cast out of heaven for agreeing with Lucifer, perhaps those are true. Perhaps not. Our civilization, our world, it was well established by the time of my birth and Danu was gone from us to tell us from whence she came.
But we're not spirits. We're flesh and blood the same as you. We feel, we hope, we dream, we live, we love. We bleed. We can die. What happens then, I cannot say. Our command of occult knowledge may make us seem as gods, and we are the children of a goddess. There is nothing else you may claim Danu was, even those of you who follow the Martyr's ways. But we are not gods, the way so many of you see gods. Perhaps we are as the pagans see us. Perhaps we are not. We are not shaped by your belief. We do not need it to survive. You cannot banish us back to Hell, for we have never been there.
We just are, as we have always been. It still means something.
"If I kill her will it end this?"
"You can't." She didn't mean to snap at him. They were all tired and the tension in the room strung out between them.
Midir glared at her.
"Your father's decree still binds you."
"That was as a sentence. This is a..." He glanced at Fergus for help with the modern word.
"Pre-emptive strike," Fergus supplied, grateful for once for the reading he'd done on military tactics.
"Yes, exactly. Pre-emptive strike."
"Or simple defense. She attacks, we defend. If she happens to get killed in the battle she started, even the Dagda can't disapprove."
He knew he'd hired Fergus for a reason, and looked back at Keelia, smug.
"You can't kill her."
Keelia sighed, rubbing her temples. "Because if it was that simple, you would have ended this eons ago and we wouldn't be here having this discussion now."
"I haven't killed her before," he pointed out with careful logic. "It's something new."
"It won't..." She shook her head. "It won't stop anything. Not what she's set in motion. It's too...easy."
"Sometimes things are easy."
"And sometimes they're not." She watched him steadily. "Do you think she crafted something this complex and then just bound it to her life to rest on your uncertain temper?"
He thought about that for a long moment. "She might have gotten careless."
Keelia gave him an exasperated look. "For all we know, she has a backup plan that would trigger something catastrophic should anything happen to her. Far all we know, she's bound us together and if you kill her, you kill me. The simple truth is, we don't know enough and any move we make that drastic, we had better be very sure about."
Fergus nodded his agreement. Midir looked back as the seconds on the clock ticked and then finally sighed and slumped back into his chair.
"Then what are we sure of?"
Neither of them had an answer for him.
There was work to be done, but he wasn't doing well at getting it done. The window kept distracting him, with its view of the forest. If he listened hard enough he could hear her laughter as they raced the horses through it. She wasn't as proficient as Etain had been. The memories might be there, but she'd grown up this time in a city of concrete without much access to horses. He'd let her win, and she'd known it but pretended not to, laughing back at him in triumph.
Fergus stood in the doorway, fidgeting a bit. Midir glanced at him, then tilted his head with an imperious air, cloaking himself in the mantle of the King.
"You have something to report?"
"Her mother took her to Dublin last night to catch the plane back to New York."
His stomach clenched, but he nodded. "I know. Is there anything else?"
"My lord..." Fergus sighed, a frustrated sound. "Midir..."
"Don't." Soft. Smooth. Chilled. Final. It was enough to make Fergus nod and fall silent. "Is there anything else?"
"Most of Fuamnach's supporters seem to have fled. The court is in chaos with it. Husbands. Wives. Parents. Children. The divisions were deeper than we ever thought."
Midir nodded. Taking one last look outside, he took a deep breath and turned from the window.
His voice was firm when he spoke. "This court has been in chaos, divided by civil war for over 3000 years. It's ended now, and it is time it was done." He held out a list of names. "These are people I suspect may still have been on Fuamnach's side. Investigate them. Do it quietly, as I've no doubt they'll be expecting it. Let me know anything you find. Those loyal to us, those we know are loyal without a doubt, I want brought before the throne this afternoon. They've fought for us for too long to not be rewarded. They deserve their due." And Fergus deserved his, though Midir couldn't think what that might be right now. He watched him, standing there attentive. Questions and concern in his eyes but staying silent for now, because he'd asked it of him. "It's time we rebuilt. Turned Bri Leith into what it used to be. Gave my people their home back."
"Without their Queen?" Fergus dared the question.
He didn't even flinch. "Without their Queen. Cailean and Aurelia can share the Queen's duties in court. Cailean needs grooming to take her place as Lady when the time comes for Diarmuid to take the throne, and Aurelia I've no doubt will find herself someone to manage eventually." If he noticed Fergus' flush, he gave no sign of it. "Send them to me when you go, and keep Elysandre away from Aurelia as much as possible. Just because I acknowledge the girl as my daughter, and Keelia is gone is no reason for that harridan to think she's stepping into anyone's shoes. Make that clear to her, and remind her that she does not want me to have to make it clear. I won't be as...diplomatic as you."
Fergus bowed. "My lord."
Midir watched him for a moment. "Would you go after Alisha?" Not that he would deny him Aurelia, if she were his choice, but he wouldn't wish her mother on anyone and the girl herself was a handful.
Fergus blinked, and flushed again, looking discomfited. Apparently he really did prefer blondes. "She has her life in New York, Midir." If they were talking about his love life, he was going to be informal. "I wouldn't fit there, and I wouldn't leave you, and she wouldn't want to be here away from her city and her...Manolo Blahniks?" He tested the word out, then shrugged. "Our worlds, our hopes, our dreams are too far apart for it ever to be more than a summer's fancy."
Midir wasn't so sure, but he nodded. It was selfish, but he couldn't think of losing Fergus without mild panic.
"That's all, then." Fergus bowed one last time and took his silent leave.
It was a new day, and if the ache in his heart screamed out for him to just curl up and fade away, Midir would ignore it. His people deserved better than that, and he had neglected them for far too long.
It's such a little thing to bring such joy. A feeling as well as a sound. Something to watch for, listen for, cling to in the night when I wake terrified that it's gone. A moment that feels like an eternity, when there is no sound and no movement and I think that it's all a dream. I hold so still, straining in the darkness to see, to hear. Fingers brushing over skin, grateful for its warmth, but warmth can lie.
And then there. A flutter, a murmur at the touch, an indrawn gasp and the flesh beneath my fingers rises and falls in the same steady rhythm it has been holding that my panic blocked from my ears. Slow, steady, even as she sleeps, her own pace and the pattern of breath that feeds life into her, sends it spiraling through her blood, keeping her heart beating, her lips smiling, her body moving against mine in perfect completion of purpose.
It lets me know she's with me. That we're winning. That the time hasn't come, as it has so many times before, when the movement stops and the air ceases to flow. While she breathes, all's right in the world.
He didn’t know the significance of the day. Mortal holidays had very little meaning for him. But he’d gone into New York to see about starting to play again and all of the signs and cards and flowers had made enough of an impression for him to ask someone.
He found a card that didn’t say quite what he thought it should, but then nothing written could, and it was as close as he could find and the picture was more beautiful than anything he could have made. Flowers. He wondered if chocolates were appropriate, but then remembered that most of the box had been near going to waste after Valentine’s day until he and Michael and Noah rescued them. She forgot candy easily, it seemed.
Instead he found jewelry with a pearl and an amethyst set together in a spiral of gold. Her birthstone and Noah’s. It seemed appropriate.
When she woke up that morning, he found that what he’d brought in was easily eclipsed. A bouncing four year old landed on their bed, with a card covered in crayon scribbles and something that looked like it might have been a teacup, lumpy and oddly shaped out of clay.
Keelia sat up, pushing her hair back and smiling at the exuberant little boy.
“Is that for me?”
He nodded. “For your day.”
Her breath caught as she reached for them, carefully. “Thank you, Noah. They’re beautiful.” When she looked at the card, Midir saw tears in her eyes before she handed it to him and pulled Noah close in a tight hug that had the little boy squirming fairly quickly.
He read it and smiled, then handed it over to Michael with a slightly misty grin. It was obvious someone had helped Noah write it out, but the words were his. It had started “For Kee” but that had been scribbled out emphatically in green crayon.
Below it instead were the words “For my mama.”