THE QUIET MEN
Chapter 27: Brian's POV
Over breakfast, which is late, because Justin and I both slept in, I debate internally whether to tell Ronan about her brother. I decide not to, uncomfortable with whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing for her. Until I'm more certain, I don't want to needlessly endanger my beautiful cousin. Justin is grumpy, acting out the fact he didn't sleep well. On the other hand, I feel really good, having slept like a rock. The misty sleet from last night is gone and it's a gloriously bright day, the sun turning the cement-gray sea into a teal blue paradise. Ireland has been mostly cold, rainy or snowy, since we arrived, and the sun turns the island into a magical place of beauty. I look at Justin and snicker.
"What's so funny?" he demands and I shrug.
"You have this little red pimple right on the tip of your nose. Very attractive."
He reaches up to touch it and then frowns. "It's not a pimple. It's where a pixie kissed me last night while you were asleep. Figures it would leave a mark."
"A pixie?" I ask with a smirk and he glares at me.
"What? Is that so bizarre, given everything we've been through?"
I have to admit he has a point. "Why did it kiss you?"
"Why ask why? Why do they do anything? I don't know."
"Should I be jealous?" I'm on a roll. He's still failing to see the humor.
"It was a girl."
"That's okay, then," I say with a smile and ask for more coffee. The coffee here is almost as good as the oatmeal. "Will we ever see those red-haired shaggy cows?"
My cousin laughs. "That's Scotland, Brian, not Ireland."
"Oh," I guess I got my isles mixed up.
"Kinney, you bod!" A booming voice. All three of us look towards the door where a big man in a fisherman's sweater and muddy rubber boots blocks the light.
I have no clue who he is. "Bod?" I ask my cousin who shrugs and translates.
"Slang for 'dick'."
"He knows you," Justin jibes and I glare at him, and then at the man, who isn't looking at me, rather he's addressing a man seated at a back table with a woman and one other guy. His target responds,
"Shut yer hole, Jack Flanigan! There are ladies present."
"Ladies can kiss my rosey pink arse, Kinney. You have that tenner you owe me or not?"
My "clansman" stands. He's tall, slim, but there the similarity ends. He pulls out a little pocket purse with a snap closure and opens it. I half-expected to see moths fly out. He extracts a couple bills, and snaps it shut. "Here's your fookin' money, you lousy thief! Feisigh do thoin fein."
We both look at Ronan, who smiles and translates, "Fuck your own ass."
"I wish," I say with a snort, realizing the offended clansman seems to have forgotten about those ladies, as Justin finally manages to smile. The fisherman takes the cash from Kinney and storms out of the inn, leaving my clansman to address the rest of us with a curt,
"You have your food, eat it! This is none of your affair."
I rise and walk over to his table as he resumes his seat. "Is your name Kinney?"
"What's it to you, then?"
"My name is also Kinney."
"You and a million others. Why should I care?"
"You shouldn't," I turn to walk away, and he stops me.
"Hold on there, mate. He just put me off my mood, that piece of shite. Don't mean to be inhospitable. American, you are?"
"Come to the motherland seeking your Irish roots, have you?"
"So it would appear."
"You have kin in these parts?"
"No, the family is from Cork or Kerry, or somewhere in that area."
He laughs. "Big area, lad. Which is it? Cork or Kerry?"
"The town is called Killorglin."
The man suddenly looks cautious. "Killorglin? That town in the Ring of Kerry?"
I shrug. Sounds right. He looks at the others at his table who are staring at me like I'm more than just an oafish American. "The Kinney's of Killorglin are no kin to me and mine," he says firmly, chilling me with his gaze. "They married under the mound." With that, he dismisses me, and I return to Justin and Ronan, who give me a curious stare. I repeat what he said and Ronan shakes her head.
"The Irish often refer to the fey as the people who 'live under the mound', recalling the legends that fairies live in the earth under mounds. Marrying under the mound means mortal families who are interbred with fairies. It's generally frowned upon. They consider people with fairy blood to be intrinsically unstable and prone to madness."
Justin starts to crack a joke, but thinks better of it. Good move. I glare at my cousin. "How prejudiced is that?"
She smiles the secret smile of a woman who understands the roots of prejudice much better than my lily-white ass ever will. "What can I say? No place on earth is perfect."
"The odd thing is that modern people here just accept the fact there are fairies in Ireland and that they've interbred with mortals."
"Many do. The legends die hard. Others dismiss it as rubbish. Interesting that even here, the rumors of your family's lineage has spread."
"I thought we were from Cork. So we're from Kerry?"
"Aye, Killorglin is in Kerry, which neighbors Cork, so you're not far wrong."
"Are we ready to leave?" I ask, suddenly anxious to hit the road. I pay the bill with plastic, the universal currency, and we are walking towards the limo when my clansman stops me.
"You'd be better off going home to America without ever seeking your roots in Killorglin, lad," he warns and I stare at him. I want to say something, but the only words that pop into my head are alien to me. Irish.
"Feis ort," I snap at him and the fairy charm Ariel gave me suddenly picks up a beam of sunlight from the beautiful day and the light flashes off the diamonds, causing the man to focus on it. He makes the sign of the cross as he sees what it is, and walks away. I get into the car and my cousin stares at me.
"Do you know what you said to him?"
"Yes, I told him to fuck off."
"How did you know those words in Irish?" Justin asks and I shrug.
"I guess I heard someone say it."
"You're starting to say a lot of things in Irish," he observes and I shake my head and close my eyes, feigning an approaching nap, unwilling to discuss this any further.
The drive is mainly silent, with the occasional observation about the gloriously gorgeous scenery we drive through as we hang close to the coast. Justin insists on stopping for photo ops along the way, but I stay in the limo. Suddenly, I just want to get to Killorglin, the beauty of Ireland wasted on me. I have an overpowering need to go home, which increases in intensity the closer we get to it. At one photo op, the driver turns and addresses me while the other two are at a viewpoint.
"We can take the long way round and see the beauty of the southernmost part of the island, or we can take a more direct, inland route and cut across," he says.
"How much time do we save if we cut across?"
"Hour, maybe more."
"Do it," I feel a little guilty. After all, this is Justin's vacation, too. It's already completely fucked by all this fairy shit. Should I deprive him of his only chance at playing the tourist? "Where do you have to make your decision?"
"Cork. We'll probably stop there to refuel and get some food. At Cork, I need to know if we go west or south."
"Ask me then," I say, hoping this gnawing need in me will be calmer by then and I can give my partner the joy of seeing the sites. I take the thimble from my pocket. It's still glowing, but there's no address carved into it at all, at the moment. It still bears the three notches I made in the rim, telling me it hasn't been switched. I guess the thimble is also in transit. I then remove the orb from the pouch and the moment I hold it in my hands, the sensation it emits is so powerful, it knocks me back against the seat. No more the slightly soporific sensation I felt when I first touched it back in Wexford. Suddenly it infuses me with energy and when I look out the windows at the landscape, the view opens up. I see glowing keyholes in the coastline, small caves among the rocks that must mark an entrance to something. I see the rolling green pastures take on specific shape, gentle slopes become mounds and some of the mounds are illuminated with the same glow. As is a huge, gnarled oak tree on the horizon. Islands that weren't there before suddenly gleam off the coast. I see shapeshifters disguised as rams or travelers assume their fairy identities, some frightening, some beautiful. I see my driver as he really is, and I know he's a Ganconer, a handsome male fairy who delights in seducing mortal females. The invisible world is visible to me now, but why now and why here?
I put the orb back in my pocket and the vision fades, the world becomes normal again, dull. My heart is pounding as Justin and Ronan return to the limo.
"What's wrong?" he asks. I hand him the orb. He rolls it over and over in his hand, then gives it back with a shrug.
"Nothing happened?" I ask and he shakes his head. I put it in my pocket again, trying to understand.
"Why? What happened with you?"
"Nothing," I say dully, not wanting to go into it as the car heads out on the road to Cork.
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July 25, 2004