(1939-05-17) Come Home, Lass
Details for Come Home, Lass
Summary: A chance meeting between Keenan and Veruca clears the air
Date: 17 May, 1939
Location: East End of London

Spring, 1939. The rattling of sabers from Germany is getting louder by the day, and the talk all over London is of impending war and possible evacuations. While the Muggle troubles don’t have a huge bearing on the Wizarding population, at least not yet, there are some minor inconveniences. Like short supplies and a constant low buzz of tension.

It’s no surprise that it’s raining, and a bit gloomy, even for a May afternoon. London isn’t exactly the place you come if you want endless sunshine and glorious days, but it is where you go when you’re feeling nostalgic. Veruca Max, for all her Ice Queen leanings, is not above a bit of nostalgia. It’s been more than a year since she’s been in the city, and she might not even have come now but for necessity. There’s a certain shop in the East End that carries things of a particularly singular nature, and her mother, wielding the club of maternal guilt, has managed to send Rue off on an errand during her visit home. You would think that when your child returns from America for a grand family wedding, one wouldn’t be so keen to send her out on errands.

At least there’s been a break in the rain, and when she emerges from the seedy looking shop into the street, Veruca doesn’t have to bother with an umbrella. Those things are bothersome; a good charm is so much more effective. She’s typically well turned out, in navy blue, her skirt skimming her hips, touching just at her knee, dark hair impeccably styled despite the damp. It’s good to know the right charms.

A little rain never really hurts anyone. Especially not a sturdy Irish lad who spent his childhood leading a ragtag band through many a 'lake' left in the wake of the rain, and often appeared home caked in mud; or other things that it was best not to let the imagination dwell on. No longer a child, the man still indulges that inner youth at times, the habit of walking uncovered and uncharmed in the rain being one of those times.

The floating swirl of chartreuse robes is certainly not sodden, so at least some charms are at work here. But the red hair sheds a few droplets as a long fingered hand reaches up to slick it back from the healer's face. The only possible indication that the rain may be bothering him at all is the slightly mournful air of the Irish melody that whistles quietly from Keenan's lips.

There are many glaring differences between the UK and the US, but one of the most obvious can be seen in shop windows. Even now it’s apparent that Britain is bracing for war, and in America, for the most part, you’d never know it. Life goes on as usual in their self centered indulgences. Such are the thoughts that go through Veruca’s mind as she pauses to look into a dress shop window.

The whistle is what catches her attention, when it is close enough to tickle her ear, but Veruca doesn’t turn. She scans the window instead, her focus shifted from the display to the reflection of passersby behind her. From the right a figure in a particular shade of greenish yellow passes briskly, and piercing blue eyes follow it’s progress. Nothing at all changes about her outwardly, but her heart does a quick stutter in her chest as the red haired man passes. She turns to her left to lay her eyes on the robed wizard, hesitating as she debates raising her voice to call to him.

Lingering in the air around her is the light scent of perfume, mixed with the rain.

The healer hasn't been paying much attention to store fronts, not having much use for shopping; and navy is a color that blends well with the gloom of the day, nothing to to catch the green eyes slitted to keep the rain from stinging. But the familiar scent does finally catch his nose when he's a good four steps past, the brain being slow to catch the signal sent a couple steps before. He stops, even though his nose is unlikely to pick up what made him pause at this distance.

Nonetheless, he remains, for a few heart beats, the whistling stilled as he sniffs the rain. "Bhfuil tu ag a buachaill daft d'aois. M'fhiorghra le fada imithe." ((You're being daft old boy. My heart (the Irish endearment he used for Rue) is long gone.))

He turns his face up to the sky, eyes closing against the rain. No bitterness accompanies the words, only resignation to an accepted fact. He sighs, "si imithe le fada agus dearmad ort," he repeats, perhaps trying to remind himself that it's useless to turn around and look even as one foot shifts, pointing sideways as his waist rotates, shoulders turning, eyes once more open. ((She's long gone and forgotten you.))

Those few heartbeats seem like an eternity, as Rue’s eyes remain fixed on that all too familiar figure. She’d know him anywhere, from any angle, and the words to himself seal the fact that it’s the voice that speaks to her in dreams that she hates waking from. In the past year she’s lost many of the words she’d learned, but some are never forgotten, a tender endearment least of all.

It’s not until he’s turned that her lips part, and she softly speaks one word. “Keenan.” The tone is not easily decipherable. Not quite a question, because there is no question about it, yet still not a bold declaration.

The turn completed, Keenan stands, hands to his sides, green drawn unerringly to blue, he finds her eyes despite the others passing close by and between them. Another eternity seems to pass, in the time it takes his eyes to blink once. Then there’s a dimple, with a wry twist at the corner of his mouth.

“Ye’re nay content teh simply haunt me from my dreams, lass? Ye have tae come teh London and do it in person?” A matching dimple to the other side has yet to appear, and the voice seems mildly curious, an attempt to mask the gleam kindling in his gaze.

It isn’t often that Veruca Max is at a loss for what to say or do. She stands like stone, eyes held with his, until he speaks to her. Her lips quirk, one dark brow lifting, responding in the laconic challenge from their first meeting at a bar. “Every haunting needs the personal touch, now and then.” She’s found her voice, but she’s been knocked slightly off her pins by this unexpected encounter. She’d thought about trying to get in touch, but for all she knows his interest turned. Absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder. While a part of her wants to close the distance between them, her wariness holds her in place.

“If ye wish tae do it properly,” Keenan agrees, holding her eyes with no intent to let them go. “An’ no one has accused Miss Max o’nae doing something properly. Whether ‘tis haunting them or putting them in their place. Poor Finn’s yet tae recover his manhood.” He pauses a moment, his voice dropping to a softer tone, but one that can somehow still carry to her ears. “An’ I’ve been sore close tae losin’ my own this past year or more.”

“Poor Finn,” Veruca commiserates in echo. “I’m sure he’ll get over it eventually.” It’s been too long since she’s been able to look into Keenan’s eyes, and for a moment that’s all she does, weighing his words. It takes a pure effort of will for her to finally drop her eyes, taking in his garb in a sweeping gaze that returns, inevitably, to his. “Going to work?” They aren’t very near to Mungo’s, nor to Keenan’s flat above the apothecary.

The green gaze studies Veruca as she drops her eyes, waiting for her to look up again. “House call,” he replies, his stance shifting slightly the dimple fading as she ignores his admission. “I need tae remind tha witches I’m not there on a social call, or I’d hae more tea an’ cakes in a day than is good for a man tae eat.” He’s not moving away, though. He’s not ready to give up just yet.

There’s almost a wistfulness to the words, “I remember.” His charm works in many ways, and one of them makes him irresistible to those who’d like to mother him as well as those who’d like to conquer him. Veruca isn’t showing any signs of leaving either, and she licks her lips before she ventures, “So, you have to get right back then?”

One eyebrow raises to the ice queen who keeps her distance. “I would nay be lollygagging about in tha rain if I had tae be right back,” he points out reasonably. He was first to cross the room so long ago, and as she’s hearkened back to that time in her repartee, he waits to see if she will be the first this time.

Many other women would already have made a blatant play for Keenan, but Rue was always more refined than that. Still, the same thing that always drew her to him seems to still be working quite well. “Then offer to take me across the road for a drink, for old time’s sake,” she suggests. A small pub is across diagonally from where they stand, the door propped open for a breath of fresh air.

Other women do make blatant plays for Keenan, but the man isn’t as available as he used to be. At the suggestion he glances around, then gives a shake to his head. “I’m nae thirsty at tha moment,” he considers. “However, if tha lady would be willin’ tae walk with me until I work up an appetite, I could be persuaded ta invite her tae dinner along with tha drink.” His gaze returns to hers, head tilting slightly downward in her direction to gauge her reaction to his offer, arms still loose at his sides.

A dark brow quirks. They always had ways of working up an appetite, to be sure, and she can’t help where her thought goes for a moment. Nor can Veruca help the slight smirk that pulls at her lips. She steps forward, cutting the distance finally, stopping an arm’s length from him. “Which way shall we go?”

Perhaps he had thought of something similar, because for a moment, there’s an answering smirk to hers. It is quickly schooled into a smooth, polite expression as he releases a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding when she steps towards him.

Turning sideways, Keenan holds out his arm, the very picture of a gentleman offering to escort a pretty lady about town. When he speaks again, there’s a lighter lilt to his words, as of a tour guide listing the sights to be seen nearby. “There’s a park two blocks over with a stunning array of azaleas in full bloom. Or, if daffodils are more yer interest, I can suggest the pond at Shropshire gardens. We could even see if the nesting pair of swans have returned, yet.” Tucking his chin slightly down towards her, he awaits her choice, the teasing sparkle lurking in green depths.

It’s a comfortable fit, Veruca’s arm in Keenan’s once again, and she can’t help but notice that his arms are as fit as ever. Such familiar musculature. “I do so love a walk through Shropshire,” she replies, her manner eased with the familiarity of the position. There’s a directness coming back into her eyes, and that familiar banter comes easier. “I’m sure the daffodils are lovely.” Her long legs match easily to his stride and she’s content to let him set the pace of their stroll.

Keenan inclines his head once. “As the lady wishes,” he intones in perfect tour guide politeness. The familiar feel of Veruca at his side once more sends his heart thudding against his ribs, and he’s robbed, for the moment, of light words and banter. He turns their steps towards the gardens, letting the light rain wash his face and the silence deepen.

“How is America?” he finally asks, when he can find his voice once more.

Veruca doesn’t find the silence uncomfortable. Of course, she’s slightly preoccupied with the nearness of someone she’d thought lost to her. How many times had they walked together like this and thought it nothing of particular merit at the time? The things you realize you took for granted when they are no longer there for the taking. Her response is low and thoughtful. “It’s… a bit dreadful, actually,” she admits. “Very different from life here.” The main difference being the decided lack of Keenan. “How have you been? And the family?”

An eyebrow raises at the answer, a brief flash of green tilts her way, then back to the sidewalk. "Maybe ye just haven't been properly shown around America,” he suggests. “I always found America likeable, an’ tha Colonists always seem ta swoon over an accent from tha old world.” He clears his throat and the reminiscent grin from his face. “But, then again, my visits tae America always seemed all tae brief. I never lived there.”

Their steps have brought them to the gates, and he turns their direction to enter. The bright yellow hues along the banks offer a splash of brilliance on the dreary day, while concentric circles widen and merge on the surface of the pond. The gravel paths are mostly deserted, only a few walkers that don’t seem to find the weather to be a deterrent stroll along under umbrellas. The healer and his companion do not seem to draw attention, despite the bright hue of his robes.

“It’s possible,” Veruca allows, on the speculation of her introduction to the land across the pond. “I’ve seen a lot of banks and offices. But you’re right, they are unduly fond of accents. Why did they ever bother to leave if they’re so keen on the speech?” Silly Americans. There’s no indication in her words as might have been taken from Keenan’s, although their experiences have surely been similar in many ways.

Blue eyes cut sideways as they walk, lingering for a moment on Keenan’s profile. A drop of water hangs from the tip of his nose, so appropriate to him somehow. For a moment she considers dropping her charms, braving the rain with him, but she can’t quite get there yet. “And the family?” she prompts gently.

“Hm? Oh… much tha same.” It seems that someone is in his own little world at the moment, not really even noticing the drop that hangs and falls, only to be replaced by another one. “Sorcha had tha longest relationship she’s had on record. Nice bloke, but don’ ye be tellin’ her I said that. Or him. I still have enough o’tha sadistic older brother in me that I like teh keep any guy sniffin’ around my baby sister uncertain. I thought she might actually keep him, but nah.”

Another couple of steps and he adds. “Seosiamh has another little one on the way.” Two more steps. “And yer family?” It’s polite, even if she professed to not be close, then his head lifts as a light bulb goes off. “Ahhh, the wedding. That is what brings ye back teh London.” He heaves a sigh with the realization, the shoulders dropping momentarily, but then he carries on.

Veruca listens with no little interested, having become rather attached to Keenan’s family, so very different from her own. “It’s a shame about Sorcha, but she’s young yet. There’s plenty of time ahead of her.” A smile touches her lips, “And congratulations on being an uncle yet again. I would imagine the family is very excited.”

She catches the sigh and the droop of his shoulders, but says nothing for a few more steps. Finally, “The wedding was a suitable excuse to take the time off.” Pause. “I wasn’t sure if I should be in touch,” Veruca admits softly. “When your letters stopped coming… well.” She figured he’d found someone here in London to be with. Little does she know that her mother used her considerable pull to have their trans-atlantic mail intercepted.

There is a long silence from the man following her admission, the brows lowering over his eyes. Finally he stops, turning towards the pond without letting go of her arm and looks up towards the sky. He reaches a hand to the back of his neck, and gives it a short rub, rolling it slightly. For the first time, the words from Keenan’s mouth are cautious as they make their way to her. “Well, lass… when ye didna respond teh ma Christmas card, I thought perhaps I should no longer pester ye with ma attentions.”

Veruca looks out over the pond in the silence, waiting stoically for some acknowledgement of the letters stopping, perhaps a reason why. It’s a confused frown that is turned on him when her attention shifts. “Christmas card? I didn’t get one. I hadn’t heard from you in months… you didn’t answer my letters…”

A frown pulls down the corners of his mouth, his tongue pushing against the inside of his lower lip as he considers his reply. The corners of his eyes crease, not quite narrowing the gaze. “I would have teh receive letters in order teh answer them,” he reminds her, his words not accusing, but a simple reminder of how the whole system of exchanging letters works.

“I wrote to you,” Veruca protests, “Every week. And for weeks still after your letters stopped coming back.” While she remains typically controlled, there’s an undercurrent of emotion in her words. He remains the only person who’s been able to bring the inner feelings to the surface and out, although she’s still cautious, still holding back.

“The owls must have decided tae take a vacation in Iceland,” Keenan replies quietly. “After the second month ye were gone I’ve received no letters from ye, much less weekly.” He gives a snort, one directed towards himself. “I told myself it was ridiculous tryin’ teh send ye a card for Christmas… but I guess ‘twas the season… or somethin’.”

“I wrote,” she repeats quietly, her face softening. Veruca’s voice stays low, her eyes on Keenan’s face, “I missed you. Every moment I was gone.” Not something she says every day. Or… ever.

Veruca has seen it once before. That something that accentuates the stillness of the man, that he may not even be breathing as if her words have knocked the wind out of him. Perhaps they have. Finally, he opens his eyes, lowering his head to look around the park. Facing Veruca, he reaches a hand up, his knuckles brushing along her jawline. “Come home with me,” he urges quietly. “If we go behind tha trees over there we can apparate an’ no one will ever know.”

The familiar touch, light and gentle, seems to sizzle along her skin, making nerves dance that haven’t in quite some time. Veruca tilts her head, eyes closing briefly, only to open again and focus on Keenan. Her head nods without hesitation. “Yes.” Such a simple response, and yet so complicated. But it’s clear to her now that it hadn’t been what she had feared. He didn’t forget her.

There’s a tense moment of apprehension in Keenan’s eyes as he waits for Veruca to answer. When she does, his cheeks dimple with the first true smile since seeing her once again. His hand slips down her arm, to grasp her own tightly in his as he leads her towards the willows, pulling her inside. He turns once there, and raises his eyebrow, “think ye remember yer way?” he asks, only letting go so that she can apparate herself.

That smile has always been the cap to Keenan’s natural charm. She follows the trail he blazes, her own genuine smile coming at the question. Witches always find a place to tuck their wands, and Veruca produces hers. “As if I could ever forget.” With a flick of her wand there’s a crack, and the willows protect one less from muggle eyes.

There’s a crack as Keenan appears in his own place, and looks around to see where the witch appeared. Dropping his wand, he takes the few steps to close the distance between them (few, because his long legs can take him almost anywhere in his flat quickly when he wishes), and reaches forward to do what he’s wanted to do since he first saw her standing in the street. Namely, take her face in his hands and place his lips over hers, not hesitating or thinking that it might be unwelcome, only thinking of the sweet taste that he’s missed for so long.

Veruca landed just inside the door to his flat, where she always used to arrive and call out to see if he was home. Of course, there’s no need for calling out now. There’s no time to anyway, as Keenan approaches swiftly, and any raising of her voice would be stilled by the press of his lips to hers. She’s as bad as he is, letting her wand drop as her hands settle on his hips, pressing to his damp robes. It’s like getting another chance at a first kiss, although it’s better because it’s familiar and less hesitant. It’s like getting water in the desert.

The robes aren’t too damp, as he had charmed them, and they’re easily pushed off, as he let’s go of her with his hands, although he keeps his lips firmly to hers. Keenan’s arms return, wrapping tightly around her waist and back, his hand supporting the back of her head as almost an entire of year of longing pours out of him and into the kiss he shares with the woman he holds.

Veruca helps push the robes away, and as his arms go around her waist, hers go around his neck. She presses close, fingers diving into his wet hair, taking light purchase as they curl. His ardor is met measure for measure, the fire they always shared roaring back into life as lips part and tongues meet. There’s almost desperation in it, there is unmistakably desire, and her breath quickens with the pounding of her heart and the sweet ache of wanting him. She’s not even bothered to look around and see if he’s done anything with the flat.

As the lips part and tongues meet, a groan sounds deep in his throat, and he turns slightly. The hand behind her lifts, bracing against the wall next to her head as he leans his weight against her, pushing her to the solid plaster. He finally lifts his head, leaning it on his forearm to struggle for the self control to not just take her right here. His breath is hoarse as it falls heavily upon her ears.

When the kiss finally breaks, Veruca is breathing as heavily as Keenan is, and she nuzzles lightly at his neck while he catches his breath. Her hands roam, deft as ever as buttons on his shirt slip open, first one, then a second. It’s too slow. She takes a grip on either side of the placket and pulls, buttons popping off. Then her lips quirk in a crooked grin as she pauses.

Keenan’s arm straightens as he pushes himself away from the wall to look down to her handiwork. “Woman,” he growls as the buttons go clattering across the floor, but his lips are curved in a smile as he steps back, his head lowering to hers once more. He bends slightly, and his arm scoops under her knees, the other one going around her shoulders as he lifts her in his arms. He remembers how to carry her back to his room without banging her feet along the hallway, and then they are collapsing in a heap on the softness of his mattress.

Being carried affords Veruca the perfect opportunity to reacquaint herself with the expanse of Keenan’s neck. Her nose touches his skin lightly, scent filling her head and making it swim. She keeps her feet tucked helpfully as she nibbles, and actually giggles as they drop onto the bed. It’s been a long time since she’s done that. “Every bit the Casanova that you’ve always been, aren’t you?” she teases lightly.

Raising up to his knees, Keenan sheds his somewhat tattered shirt, and gives her a cheeky grin in response. Taking her in his arms, he rolls down onto the bed, pulling her on top of him and giving a little scootch so that his head rests on the pillow. Looking up at her, he does take a moment to slow, his hands running up her back to find the pins that keep her hair in place. Pulling them out, he tugs the dark waves down around her face. “Except for one, teeny, tiny, li’l detail,” he reminds her. “Cassanova wanted /all/ tha women. I want one woman.”

There’s no protest to the removal of the pins in her hair, Veruca even shifting, turning her head so he can get them easily, letting him free the chignon. Her eyes seem even bluer with the dark tresses framing them, and they hold on Keenan’s face. Her hands, however, have a bit of a wander, trailing well known paths, up the center of his chest, out over a shoulder and drifting down his arm until she claims the hand that was releasing her hair, bringing it to her lips to kiss his fingers. “Good,” she says simply. “I don’t like sharing.”

Keenan tightens his fingers around hers after they’re kissed, and draws her own hand towards his lips. “Rue,” his voice thickens as the green eyes gaze into hers. “Ye’re tha only woman I ever gave ma heart tae, an’ ye’re tha only woman that ever will hold ma heart.”

For a moment, Veruca just looks into the deep green eyes before she says, hesitantly, pulling the long unused words from the depths of memory. “Is breá liom tú. Is fada liom uaim tú. Ach beidh tú a shealbhú riamh mo chroí.” I love you. I miss you. Only you will ever hold my heart. It may not be perfectly said, but the depth of meaning is unmistakable, reflected in her blue eyes.

It isn’t just Keenan that freezes. It’s the entire world, time, and everything contained therein that stands completely still as his heart slams against his ribs with more force than he ever thought possible. “M’fhiorghra,” he breathes finally, surging upwards from the pillow to wrap his arms around her, holding her close in his lap as his lips once more claim hers. Similar to that first kiss when he flirted on the edges of heated passion, he slows the flames that had been building, instead warming her lips with a fire of deeper purpose, one meant to burn for a lifetime in a far steadier glow than just that of physical passion.

Rue settles into his lap, arms wrapped tightly around him, letting the kiss taper off. She rubs her nose against his and finally admits softly, “I don’t like America. I want to come home.” The unspoken part should be clear; Keenan is home. No matter where they are, he will always be home to her. “I wasn’t doing anything all the way over there that I couldn’t do here, except be with you.” There’s a gentle curve to her lips before they find his again.

As her lips once more meet his, Keenan slowly leans back, taking her with him. When he is comfortable on the pillows once more, he lets the kiss slow, and then pause, his hand gently nudging her face from his. Smoothing the raven locks from her face, gentle dimples appear once more. “Then come home, lass,” he urges, his eyes earnestly seeking hers. “Tar Baile,” he repeats his longing from his heart in his own language.

The answer to this is simple. “Yes. It’s time.” Veruca can’t even remember why she thought it was a good idea to take the job in America in the first place. Still giving her career too much weight, thinking it too important. But she learned, over the year, what is really important. And, actually, put away a tidy sum into savings. She may not have a job to return to here in London, but that’s alright. Delicate fingers stroke Keenan’s jaw slowly, tracing the lines that she’s missed so deeply. But there’s a little twitch in the plan. “I’ll have to find a new place, I gave up the flat.” She’d started subletting it to a cousin, then decided, after correspondence stopped, to let it go. “But I don’t think that should be too difficult.”

Even though the drought of the last year is washed away in the flash flood of reaffirmed love, Keenan continues his rain dance, wishing for more. “Ye can stay here,” he offers quietly, yet there’s a firm resolution to the invitation. “We can make tha extra bedroom inta yer office, a place fer ye tae keep yer records an’ little black books straight. I might even let ye redecorate a little,” he brings a finger around to tap at her nose, the glint in his eyes teasing her now. “As long as I can still put my feet up on tha coffee table.”

Veruca nips lightly at the finger that dares to tap her nose, but she’s smiling. “You’re sure it wouldn’t be an inconvenience?” she teases lightly. “Sharing your bed. Sharing your bathroom!” She pauses, pondering for a moment, then acquiesces, “Alright, you can keep putting your feet up on the coffee table. There are worse things you could do.” In the space of little more than an hour she’s gone from thinking she wouldn’t see Keenan to making plans to live with him. Funny how the world works.

The man is torn between the serious relief of having the woman he loves back in his arms which means telling her he'd suffer anything to make sure she never leaves his side again, and the comfort of returning to things he's missed over the past year. In the end, the latter wins out and he heaves a long suffering sigh, belied by the twinkle in his eyes. " 'T will be difficult tae be sure," Keenan allows. "But I'll do me best teh bear up, an' maybe find some good tae balance tha inconvenience I'll have tae suffer."

One green eye winks incorrigibly to Veruca, and he shifts to his side, rolling her onto her back. "Although, tha sharin' tha bed part might not be so inconvenient," he murmurs, pressing his lips to her neck. His hand moves to the buttons of her blouse, but he takes the opposite approach that she did earlier. Each button is carefully undone, one by one, as his lips follow after, tasting each new glimpse of skin as it is revealed.

Sometimes you have the chance in life to experience something familiar, yet it feels like the first time. Each kiss, each breath, each soft sound of encouragement is that for Veruca. She gives Keenan the opportunity to explore her anew, but before long she’s turned the tables, and it’s she that savors every plane and angle that she knows so well and loves so dearly. Any plans either of them had for the rest of the day will go neglected, their attention turned inward, the only place on the planet that matters right here in this bedroom. Worlds explode and a new galaxy is created, mingled and never able to be separated again. By the time it’s dark, there’s quiet in the flat above the apothecary. At least for now.

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