(1940-06-05) Many Happy Returns
Details for Many Happy Returns
Summary: Faulkner finally returns home, just missing his birthday. But, Rena has a wonderful surprise for him, regardless.
Date: 1940/06/05
Location: Faulkner Residence
Related: Mind Over Matter

How many days has it been, now? Irene can't really keep track in her mind. Everything has been a blur since the first panicked moment when she realized that Birdie and Guy must have surely been sent across the channel to give aid at Dunkirk. She's been left wondering and worrying; leaving the house to fetch the latest newspapers or else glued to the wireless that is situated conveniently near to the telephone. She could have slept in her nice, comfortable bed, but she's taken to camping out on the sofa beside the telephone… always vainly hoping (and alternately fearing) a call.
Naturally, this means that her sleep has been fitful at best, and non-existent at worst. It is no surprise that exhaustion has finally overtaken her, and she is curled up asleep on the cushions, hugging the teddy bear Faulkner gave to her on Valentine's day.

There is the sound of an engine outside - already becoming more of a rare sound these days, except for the cars painted the blue of the RAF and Navy and the drab of the Army. A familiar voice says, "Thanks for the lift, lads." And then there is the sound of some fumbling, and a key in the door. The door is hip-checked open, and Faulkner steps into the entryway, his overnight bag clutched in one hand, while a sling holds his left arm to his chest. He leaves the bag and removes his hat, then steps into the drawing room just in time to see poor Irene curled up. He walks over, drops the cap on her head, and then bends down to give her a kiss.

The sound of the engine did not make Irene stir from her fitful slumber; however, the sound of the door begins to inch its way into her mind. As Faulkner enters the room, she begins to slip into consciousness, and the kiss wakens her fully, at last. For a long, anxious moment, she gazes at her husband in disbelief. "Charles?" She whispers fearfully, brushing her soft fingers along his cheek. "Is it… can it really be you?" Truth be told, she has dreamed him home again several times already, only to find that he was a figment of her imagination. She can hardly be blamed for believing him to be another dream.

"Of course it's me. Do you let strange men into our house unannounced? I should certainly hope not!" Faulkner responds, with a grin, "Safe and sound." Well, except for the immobilized arm, but he doesn't seem to be in any particular discomfort. Once she's awake, he kisses her full on the lips, as if to prove that yes, it's really him.

For a fleeting moment, the look in Irene's eyes is almost heart-breaking. For her, the last week has been an endless hell of wondering whether he was alive or dead; but she has done a remarkable job of keeping her emotions in check. Now, the relief floods in, and she clings to him as if she were clinging to life itself, kissing him deeply and passionately.
Finally, coming up for air, she finds her voice: "I tried to believe everything would be alright. I tried to believe you would come home. But, I was so afraid I'd never see you again - afraid I'd lost you, and I couldn't bear…" Realizing something is wrong with his arm, she stops short and touches it gingerly: "Oh, Birdie, what happened to your arm? Is it broken?" She asks anxiously.

Faulkner laughs, "Funny story about that…" he says. He moves the teddy out of the way so that he can sit next to her, and says, "Would you believe that it happened in deadly one-on-one combat with the most fearsome of German Luftwaffe aces, and that he managed to wing me moments before I put two bursts through his wing and sent him spinning into the channel?" A pause, and he looks down at her - as much as he loves her, he suspects she would believe that very story, but he says, "That would be rubbish. I tripped and fell getting off a lorry back at the airfield. It's fine. Sling will be off in a few days."

Of course Irene would believe that story. She takes every word that Birdie speaks at face value. Judging by her eyes widening as he relays the made-up story, she is eating it up like the captive audience she is. However, he breaks the spell with the truth, and the moment it sinks into her mind, Irene laughs and gives him a gentle shove: "Oh g'on!" She scolds, playfully.
Not a moment later, she sobers again and lays her head against his shoulder: "I was all for flying across the channel myself if you didn't come back soon. I told you I'd always come to find you if you ever went missing. I meant it."

"Tales of aerial daring-do will have to wait, I suppose." Faulkner says, "Nothing too exciting on this trip." Of course, he probably wouldn't tell her if that were the case. Indeed, maybe it is and he's not telling her. He wraps his good arm around her shoulder and says, "You shouldn't do that. I'm more worried about you being safe. Don't be worried about me - I'm an old warhorse, I can look after myself. And Guy."

"I'm as safe as can be here in this grand place," Irene answers glibly, glancing around the room. "Nobody interferes with an Air Warden doing their rounds - and as for my job, the blackout has made it a lot easier for me because I don't have to worry so much about being seen."
Pausing a moment, Irene nestles her head against Birdie's shoulder again, finally able to feel peaceful and safe because he is with her. Recalling something at length, she smiles and lifts her head. "Belated Happy birthday, darling." She says, lifting her hand and smoothing his hair gently. "I bet you didn't even remember while you were over there. But, I did. I was always thinking of you."

"Thank you. Though at my age, another year older isn't exactly something to write home about." Faulkner turns towards her a little bit, and says, "Irene… You're going to need to be very careful soon. Word from the Air Ministry is that we're expecting things to go hot around here. Especially around London. France is toppling like a building made out of sand. Then the Hun are going to turn their beady little eyes on us."

Irene is about to object to Birdie's remark about his age with a "But, I…" However, the words seem to die on her lips. Her expression shifts from eager and happy, back toward worry and distress. As a rule, she always looks pale - but now, the colour drains from her face a little more than usual.
Her mind works over his words, and her gaze drifts away from his. Understandably, something is deeply troubling her; but, it isn't exactly what Faulkner may assume it to be. "I… understand," she says quietly. "I know what I'm supposed to do and where to go if… it the worst happens. I'll be ready."

"Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. At least if the balloon goes up, I'll be up there, in a Spitfire, and I'll be able to do something about it. What more can I ask for, after all?" Faulkner pulls her tightly against him, tossing the cap away so that he can stroke her hair softly and hold her. "You have someplace safe to go, then?"

"I'll feel like such a traitor if I leave the city, if things go wrong…" Irene says, guilt already creeping into her voice. But, things being the way they are, where does her first responsibility lie? With king and country, like the good little patriotic woman she is? Or keeping herself and the baby safe? Morally, she knows the answer already.
"I know it's impossible for me to explain, but, I can be in Scotland, safe in my cottage in little more than a blink of an eye," Irene adds, finally. One could scarcely ask for more distance to be placed between her and London if things get bad. "Will that do?"

"That will be fine. I'm assuming you won't be near the Firth of Forth or any of the other places our navy cleverly conceals it's huge, haze-gray baubles." Faulkner says, with a little nod, and then leans over to kiss her again, "I worry about you darling. And I know you worry about me, too. But like I said, I'm a big boy, I can take care of myself if need be. Now, how have you been while I've been away?"

The question almost makes her feel panicked inside. Now she doesn't know what she ought to do. Before, she was so certain it was the right time to tell him, but now… If she waits, she may lose her chance. Oh, it just isn't fair!
Swallowing hard and hoping that Birdie can't sense how rapidly her heart is beating, Irene tries her best to put on a smile that masks how nervous she feels.
"Apart from worrying myself to death over you, you mean?" She asks, actually slipping away from him and rising to her feet. It might be a little easier to tell him if she's standing. "I had such a lovely present to give you on your birthday… I suppose it doesn't matter that it's late, though." She's being cryptic, now, and her smile is a little cat-ate-the-canary-ish.

Faulkner sits against the arm of the couch, crossing his legs elegantly, and then reaches into his pocket for his cigarette case and lighter. He has to do it in a bit more protracted way, only able to use one hand. He tilts his head and looks at her, "Some alone time with my wife? I'd quite enjoy that, you know." He gives her a wink, "There's something to be said for being stationed in London, if one's family happens to live there."

Irene's smile softens, and for whatever reason, she begins to look incredibly shy and self-conscious as a blush creeps into her cheeks. Looking down, a lock of wavy hair falls across her face, which she quickly brushes back with her hand. "Well…" she begins to speak, uncertain of how to put it to him. "As I said, I have a lovely present to give you for your birthday… But, I'm afraid you'll have to wait for it to get here… in about seven months."

"Seven months? What in God's name could take seven months to…" It's Faulkner's turn to be dense. Until, suddenly, it dawns on him, and he leaps to his feet to pull Irene into his arms - well, arm, and give her a spin around, "Oh, darling, that's wonderful news!"

For one tiny moment, the whole world seems to fall into suspended animation while Irene waits for Birdie to react to the news. Then, all the shadows of doubt and fear dissipate into nothingness.
Caught up in his arm, a tiny squeak escapes Irene as they spin in a circle. Coming to a stop, she looks absolutely radiant, even though there is a trace of happy tears glistening in her eyes. Slipping her arms around his neck, she beams up at him: "How's that for a birthday present, then?" she asks playfully. "So, how does it feel to know that you're a father?"

"It's more important than ever that you take care of yourself, Irene. I couldn't bear the thought of you being in any danger." Faulkner says, as he holds her to him - though in her stocking feet she's probably only up to his chest. He hugs her tightly, "Oh, darling, I had so hoped. I really can't wait. We'll have to decorate a nursery, of course. And start thinking of names. I feel so badly that you'll have to deal with so much of it yourself."

Nothing could make Irene stop smiling now. She closes her eyes for now, laying her head against Birdie's chest, just relishing their moment together. It almost makes her head spin to realize that they really are going to have their own family together.
"I'll be alright, Charles," she tries to reassure him, gently. "Do you suppose perhaps… do you think that your Mother might come and help me to set things right. I don't even know where to begin." A pause, and she adds softly: "I'm so happy, but so afraid at the same time. I don't know anything about nurseries or even having a baby to begin with."

Faulkner snorts, "Don't they teach you anything practical at that special school of yours?" He's teasing, of course, and he ruffles her hair. "Yes, I'm sure that my mother would be happy to stop by and help. Or she may insist that you go out and visit the family while you're, what's the word they used to use? Confined?"

Again, Irene blushes, but she can't help laughing softly. "No, they don't really teach you much in the way of practicality at that school. Unless you're talking about practical magic, of course." Fortunately he will never know how many times students come near to being maimed or killed in Hogwarts.
Shifting a little, she looks up at Birdie and smiles: "Oh, I'd like it if she wanted me to. She's so kind… I don't mind getting along by myself with figuring things out beforehand, but, I can't bear the thought not having someone from the family with me when… when it comes to that." She pauses and furrows her brow slightly: "Brandy says it's got nothing to do with the stork. I'm scared to know what DOES happen."

"No, I am reliably informed there is no stork involved." Faulkner says to her with a grin, "As for the details, I will leave that to the womenfolk to explain. But just remember it's nothing that women haven't been doing since the beginning of time." He pauses, and leans in, "Can't… I mean, your other people, they must have ways of doing that that makes it easier, right?"

Women have been doing this forever and a day, that's true, and there is some small comfort to be found in that. As to the Wizarding world and their way of doing things, Irene's shoulders drop slightly, and she breathes a small sigh: "Yes, but… I'd be alone. I don't have family on that side of things." Biting her lip, she looks up at Birdie, pleadingly: "Please don't be annoyed with me, Birdie?" she asks suddenly. "I put in a request to the Ministry to have you vetted so you know properly about… about that side. I should have warned you, but I didn't have a chance. You've got to be terribly careful now, and pretend you don't know your married to a witch."

"I shall convince them that I've not the foggiest notion what they're talking about. Besides, the whole idea is so daft that I'm not sure I believe it now." Faulkner responds, leaning in and kissing her cheek again, "I just worry for you, that's all. And your friends are there, not so much, err… here?"

Irene's lips form into a playful pout when Faulkner admits that he's still rather doubtful about the whole thing. "Do I have to get out my wand and make more magic for you to make you believe? I could show you all sorts of things now that we're alone in our own home, together." She says impishly. Up on her toes, she tugs him to her level and kisses him lightly before slipping back from him.
"It's not important." Irene then says with an easy smile. "All that matters is you're home safe, and now you know we're going to have a baby. And I want to know just one thing… Would the father-to-be like some breakfast? Because I'm famished - I am."

"As it happens, I am absolutely starving myself. And I could do with something that isn't cooked by an RAF cook. The mess is fine, but the rations while were on flying duty were execrable." Faulkner smiles at her and pulls her up for another little spin and then a hard kiss on the lips, "And then maybe I can show you some tricks with my wand."

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