Sunday, April 30, 2017

Wooing Carly O'Malley


"Wooing Carly O'Malley" is another tale from the world of the real fairies, which I first visited in Just Believe. I hope you enjoy it.

~ Anne

Wooing Carly O'Malley

Jocko O'Looney leaned on the bar and looked out at the crowd filling his pub this fine Friday evening. Some of the folk on the floor weren't exactly the usual clientele, but only someone with the sight would be able to tell that. Did anyone else know the Good Folk were abroad in the world? Could anyone else see them for what they were?

He smiled. Fairies were the best customers, even if they rarely picked up a tab. Their sense of play was infectious as the plague, spreading to all the mortal folk, encouraging them to enjoy life as well.

Even Fergus Butler seemed happier tonight, his wrinkled sun-browned face not quite so wrinkled when a lovely fairy lass took his hand and dragged him to the floor to do a little toe dance for the crowd.

"Evenin', Jocko." An older man in a fine wool suit planted himself on a stool and rested his arms before himself on the bar. "Give me an ale, boyo."

"Evenin' to you, Judge Costello. How's judging treatin' you these days?" Jocko set the foamy brown ale before the judge.

"Ach, don't talk to me about work. 'Tis a fine, fair night and I intend to enjoy it." He nodded toward the floor. "Good crowd tonight, eh?"

"Aye, indeed. Maybe you can get a lovely lass to dance wi' ye?" Jocko winked at the judge.

Judge Costello smiled. "Not me, lad. Me knees don't jig like they used to." He tipped his head, studying Jocko. "'Tis yourself who should be dancin' wi' the lasses. Time for you to be getting spliced and making some little O'Looney babes to grow up and keep this place running when you're too old to pour a drink."

Jocko laughed. "I will, Judge. Just as soon as the right woman walks in that door."

"Oh, lad!" The Judge waved his hand. "That's no way to find a woman. The right one rarely walks into your life so easily. And from personal experience, laddie buck, if you take what walks through the door, you'll be sorry."

Yes, the Judge knew about that. His own wife had walked into his life, then out again, just as easily. For her. The judge still ached, for he had loved the silly woman. And from the look on his face, he still loved her.

But Jocko knew his woman would walk through the door of his pub one night. Someday. He just hoped he was still young enough to make those babes the Judge had got him thinkin' about.

~*~

"I'm so tired of fairies. Maybe I'll try a mortal this time."

Carly O'Malley stared at her friend. "Neve, you know a real man would never keep you interested. They're so, well, ordinary."

Neve Sullivan shook her long black hair behind one shoulder. "And fairy men are so superficial."

Carly laughed. "Aren't we all?" She poured Neve another mug of ambrosia and sat back with her own. "It's our nature, after all."

"I didn't say I wanted to marry a mortal. I only want to dally with one for a bit, just to see what all the hoo-rah is about. Finnvarra has been keen on mortal women for ages."

"And he quickly tires of them," Carly said as her eyes scanned the crowd for a likely supper partner. Gaelen Riley was nowhere to be seen. Pity. Gaelen was the handsomest fairy male she'd ever seen with his wheat blond hair and wide shoulders. And his wings... Carly sighed. Gaelen had been her first and was the main feature of her sweetest memories. And far from being superficial like most fairy folk, Gaelen had some depth to him. A most fascinating male. But he had tied himself in the mortal world and rarely came to gatherings of the folk. The thought occurred to Carly that Gaelen might be ashamed of his fairy roots.

How could anyone be ashamed of being fairy? It was a wonderful life, one of play and song and good drink and good friends.

"What are you thinking about?" Neve asked.

"Gaelen."

"Ah, him. He is a fine figure of a male. Such a stick in the mud though."

Carly nodded. Neve was right of course. Gaelen wasn't the male for her.

A gentle breeze brushed her cheek and she turned. To her irritation, Rory O'Brien sat down beside her, taking her hand in his and guiding her mug to his lips. After quaffing half her ambrosia, he winked at her.

"How are you this fine day, Carly O'Malley?" he said, his brogue thick as fine ambrosia.

Carly set the mug on the table. "I was fine."

She turned away from him, hoping he'd go away.

Now, Carly, is that any way to treat ol' Rory, who just sat down to say hello and talk over old times?"

"We have nothing to talk about."

"I think we do." He leaned across her and said, "Neve, me darlin', would you give us a wee bit o' privacy?"

Neve grinned. "Sure."

She squooshed to a pinpoint of light and flew off before Carly could stop her.

"There now." Rory rested his elbow on the arm of Carly's chair and set his hand on her wrist before she could follow Neve's example and squoosh.

"Let me go, Rory."

"Not yet, darlin'. I need to ask you some questions, like why haven't you answered my e'mails?"

"I didn't get any e'mail. My bathroom mirror's broken."

Rory leaned closer, his lips a whisper from her ear. "If I were a sensitive sort, I might think you were trying to avoid me."

"And you'd be right." Carly snatched her hand away from his grasp and squooshed. She needed some air, so she flew down the long tunnel into the dark Irish night.

She materialized outside the sidhe and leaned against the rock face of the hill that covered Finnvarra's palace. Drawing a deep breath, she tried to center herself. What was it about Rory O'Brien that so unnerved her?

Well, sure, it was the hold he'd had on her heart. And the way he'd broken it in an act of betrayal so cruel she knew she could never forgive him.

"The rotten bounder!" Carly smacked her hand against the rock, immediately regretting it as the sting inched up her arm to settle just under her wing. Maybe Neve was right. Fairy males were too superficial, caring nothing for a person's heart. Oh, there was the occasional special male, like Gaelen, who had taken his mortal life so to heart that he made it clear from the beginning there would be no lasting relationship. But others, most, like Rory, played the love game as fairies had played it for centuries.

Everyone knew fairies loved with more fervor, played with more gusto, enjoyed with more joy than mortal folk did. But mortal men, maybe because they were so short-lived, were also capable of staying in love and not flitting along to the next interlude.

Maybe Neve was right. Maybe she should try a mortal for a change. Carly glanced back into the tunnel that led to the sidhe and made her decision.

She flew in a leisurely path down the dark streets of Killis, County Roscommon, a town proud of its proximity to Finnvarra's sidhe of real Irish fairy folk. Maybe, Carly thought, that was what she needed, not a fairy, not a mortal, but maybe here in Killis she could find a man who had the best features of both races. It was worth a try anyway.

She paused before a brightly lit tavern, O'Looney's. It was packed with people, both her own and mortals. Here she might find a man worth loving with all the fervor of her fairy heart.

Anticipation tingling to the tips of her immaterial toes, she scooted down a dark alleyway before stopping and unsquooshing. With a check of her hair and a pinch to her cheeks, she smiled at her reflection in the front window and pulled open the door to O'Looney's Pub.

~*~

"So, lad, what do you say to that?" the Judge asked, as he reached across the bar and punched Jocko's arm.

"Sorry, Judge. What's that?" Jocko asked as he wiped up the ale he'd spilled when the slightly tipsy Judge had knocked him.

"This woman you're a waitin' for. Tell me about her."

"'Tis a fancy only, I fear."

"No. Tell me."

Jocko drew himself an ale and sat on the stool he kept on his side of the bar. "You'll think I'm as looney as my name."

The Judge smiled and nodded. "Most likely. Your pa was looney as well."

Jocko laughed. "All right. If you're certain you wish to hear. I have seen her. Her hair is as the sun settin' over the western horizon. Her skin as pale as milk. Her eyes--"

"Blue! Son, that's Nicole Kidman. She's married already and divorced. No good woman for a good Irish lad like yourself."

"No, her eyes are brown, Judge. Not like a doe or a puppy though. Red-brown like a good dark ale, warm, deep. Eyes a man can drown in."

A draft of air from the door opening swept over them. The Judge looked toward the door. "Hmmm. Is that her?"

"What?" Jocko asked.

"She just came in the door, Jocko."

Jocko's gaze jumped toward the door. "Begorrah," he breathed in disbelief.

The Judge was right. She'd just walked through the door of Jocko's pub and into his life.

At last.

Just like the woman in his dreams, her flaming hair swept across her perfect breasts and curled down her lithe back. Her long legs covered the little space between the door and the bar and left his heart beatin' fast.

She approached the bar and took the stool beside the Judge.

When she raised her eyes to meet Jocko's he lost his breath.

Her eyes were red-brown. He drowned.

"Good evening," she said, her accent betraying her Yank roots. "Can a lady get an ale here, sir?"

Jocko's tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. He could only nod. As he drew the ale for her, he tried to regain control of his speech.

He set the ale before her. "Here you are, Miss."

What could he say next? Damn, he'd never had trouble talking to customers before. But this woman was different. She was the one he'd waited for all these years. Desperation to get to know her burned in him, making his tongue even more difficult to control.

The Judge took matters in hand, turning to the woman. "I'm Judge Costello, my dear. What is your name?"

"Carly O'Malley," she said, offering her hand.

The Judge held her hand, patting the back. "Welcome to Ireland, Carly O'Malley. This young tongue-tied buck is the owner of this fine establishment, Jocko O'Looney. He'll take very good care of you." He reached across the bar and grabbed Jocko's sleeve and pulled his arm over. Then he placed Carly's hand in Jocko's.

A near-visible arc shot up his arm, spearing him in his heart. And some other parts as well.

With a wink, the Judge took his ale and moved to the other end of the bar.

A sweet, champagne flow of laughter ran over Jocko's senses. Then she tipped her head, sending a wild lock of Irish red hair sweeping over her shoulder.

"You're the first tongue-tied Irishman I've ever met," she said, grinning at him, squeezing his hand again sending that flash of lust-packed electricity shooting through his body.

"I'm not normally tongue-tied, Miss."

"Carly, please."

"Carly." Her name flowed from his tongue, sweet as honey.

His reward was her smile.

She fingered the edge of the mug, and Jocko almost felt her velvet fingertips touching him. Was she using magic on him? Magic, for certain, but only the magic women had used on men since the foundation of the world.

"What are you thinking, Jocko?"

Should he tell her? Could he tell her the one part of the dream he'd withheld from the Judge? That the woman he would love for the rest of his life was not of the mortal realm?

"Jocko! We need another round here, boyo!"

Resenting the interruption, he said to her, "I'll be right back."

"I'll be right here," she answered.

~*~

What was it about this mortal that had grabbed her attention from the first?

Oh, he was handsome, with his shiny ebony hair and cobalt blue eyes marking him as black Irish. And broad strong shoulders and fine hands. She peered at him over the edge of her mug. His other parts were fine as well.

But there was something else, a feyness, setting him apart from the rest of the mortals here. When he came back to her, she heard herself ask him, "Can you sit with me for a while and talk?"

He didn't hesitate, tapping himself a pint and then waving another man over from the other end of the bar. "Keep a watch for me, Evan lad. I'm going to spend some time with Miss Carly, here."

When they were sitting at a table in the corner's dim light, Carly reached over and lay her fingers against the back of his hand. "Do you feel we know each other better than we should, having just met?"

~*~

Indeed he did. He'd dreamed of this woman for his whole life. Even before he knew about the doin's of men and women.

"Tell me about yourself, Jocko."

He chuckled. "I'm certain my life has been dull compared to yours, my sweet lady."

Her face crunched into an adorable expression of confusion. "What do you mean?"

"Let me tell you a story," he said, regaining his senses enough to put on a good show.

She leaned on the table in delicious anticipation. "Tell me."

"Me mother, a McMahon from Munster, was a descendant of the good folk. She had the sight, which she passed on to me."

A gasp proceeded her delighted smile. "So you know what I am?"

"Aye."

She glanced around. "Does anybody else?"

"I doubt it. The good people of Ireland would be right smart surprised if they knew how many fairies walked, worked, and drank among them."

"It's against our law to reveal ourselves, you know."

"I didn't know. When did that happen?" he asked.

She shrugged. "It was before I was born."

"I suppose I'm a fugitive from fairy justice then?"

Another champagne splash of laughter greeted his words. "Not at all. It doesn't apply to favorites."

"Am I a favorite, Carly O'Malley?"

"I believe you are, Jocko O'Looney." Her fingers swept along his forearm, sweeping the light hairs with sparks, making them stand straight up. "You're a favorite of mine, at least."

His heart sank to his feet, reminding him of the difficulties his heart's choice would bring. Fairies were not known for fidelity in their relationships. And nothing less would satisfy Jocko.

But Carly O'Malley was no typical fairy maid, if such a thing could be said to exist a 'tall. She was the stuff of his dreams. But his mind urged his heart to be cautious around this wild creature.

"What are you thinking about?"

He decided to be honest. "How beautiful you are."

She smiled. Fairies loved compliments. "Flatterer."

"No, indeed." Jocko flipped his hand over, catching hers, stroking her fingers. "In fact, Miss Carly, I was thinking you must be the most perfect Irish lass I've ever seen."

She cut him a look as though she thought his words empty, meaningless praise, but her lips tipped in a smile. "I'm not Irish, though. I'm American."

"Ah, but you came from the Isle, so you are still Irish, are you not?" he argued.

Her smile broadened. She held up her mug for a toast. "Indeed, me lad. I am that."

He drank with her, digging frantically for some way to find out if there was a chance for more with Carly than a fleeting time together.

Of course he realized how stupid this was. He'd just met the woman. She was American. She was fairy. What could they possibly have in common? How could he possibly be creating a life for them, even in his demented mind?

"What is it, Jocko?" she asked, her marvelous eyes full of concern.

Jocko sipped his ale, playing for time. "I was thinking how different we are." With a chuckle he added, "The thought depresses me somewhat."

"Why?" she asked, her attitude saying the answer mattered to her.

Did he dare hope?

"I never did finish my story, did I?" He took a long drink, savoring the warm ale foaming down his throat. "When I was but a wee lad, I started having this dream."

"A dream." Her smile warmed him with her anticipation of his tale.

"Aye. I dreamed I was a grown man, working behind that bar right there. One night, one perfect night, a woman walks into the bar. A woman Irish to the core, she is, porcelain skin, fresh and clear. Warm red-brown eyes, sparkling with joy at the simple act of livin'. Irish red hair waving and curling over shoulders to make a man's mouth water." He leaned toward her. "And I knew she was the woman meant for me and none other."

~*~

Carly felt her eyes widen with wonder. Then a surge of panic flushed the wonder right out. "Me?"

It was impossible, of course. Jocko was talking of more than dallying. He meant. .

She couldn't even think the word. It was impossible.

He reached for her hand. Carly jerked it away.

"Jocko, you know that's im--"

"Don't say it's impossible, Carly. I've seen it. You of all people know the power of a vision."

"It was a dream, nothing more. And as you say, I do look very Irish. There are lots of women who look like me."

"No, lass. It was you in my dream. I'm certain of it." He leaned back in his chair, studying her. "I'm certain. You need to make the decision now whether you wish to be certain as well."

Playing with a mortal was one thing. Tying oneself to one man for his whole life though... And that thought brought up a truly terrifying prospect.

If she fell in love with Jocko, as she was dangerously close to having already done, she would have to face losing him at the end of his mortal life while she'd have to live without him for the rest of her own.

"No." She pushed away from the table. "No, Jocko. As you say, there are too many differences between us. It wouldn't work. I was only thinking of--" She couldn't say the word. Now the whole idea was sordid. Here was a man proposing to pledge his heart to her. She couldn't sully that with a proposition to just fool around.

"What was it you were thinking, Carly? Tell me." His tone said he already knew, and was disappointed in her.

Her mouth worked, trying to find the right words to soften the blow she was about to deliver. Likely poor Jocko hadn't even thought of the differences in their life spans.

Rescue came from an unlikely quarter.

"Here you are," Rory said from behind her.

~*~

Jocko looked up at the fairy male standing behind Carly's chair. What terrible timing!

"And who is this?" The male pulled up a chair and sat uninvited. He offered his hand. "Rory O'Brien."

"Jocko O'Looney." He shook the fairy's hand.

"Ah, the proprietor of this fine establishment. I'm sure you have some business to attend to, Jocko. We won't keep you from it any longer. I'll look after Carly now."

Jocko was certain he would. He looked to Carly for her preference in the matter, praying she would ask him to stay and tell Rory to find himself another pub. Maybe in New York? Would that be far enough? Maybe Sydney. Or the moon.

But she only glanced up at him, then away.

Jocko's heart snapped into pieces. He managed a smile. "Thank you for your company, Miss O'Malley. If you need anything--"

"We'll call you, Jocko," Rory said.

Good and dismissed that was. Jocko walked slowly back to the bar where the Judge waited, his foot tapping the air on the brass rung of the stool.

"So, boyo, what's up? Who's the bloke? Why are you over here when he's over there with your woman?"

Jocko held up a hand to dam the flow of questions. "Judge, the lady prefers the company of her own kind."

"What does that mean?"

"They're both Americans," Jocko said to cover his slip.

"Ah, Yanks. Explains her poor judgment of men."

In spite of his aching heart, a chuckle escaped from Jocko's chest. "Now, Judge, why do you say that? You know nothing of the man."

"I know he has poor manners. He is pushy and quite narcissistic, if I am any judge."

Jocko looked at the table and chuckled again, this time in true humor. Rory peered at himself in the reflection of the front window, pushing his hair up with one hand while the other held onto Carly's.

"You goin' to let that Yank take your woman without a fight?" The Judge was deep into his third or fourth pint by now and was getting more opinionated by the minute. "No way I'd let a damned Yank take a woman from me," he added somewhat loudly, causing heads to turn, including that of Carly O'Malley.

Jocko was caught in her red-brown eyes, where he saw...something, a hope, a wish? Did she want him to fight for her?

What was the story that would guide him here? But for the life of him, he couldn't think of a one where a mortal fought for a fairy maid and won.

He'd have to make up his own story for this one. What did he have to combat fairy magic? For certain he couldn't take Rory on directly.

But he didn't have to. The realization burned his brain like a brand. He didn't have to take Rory on directly. Carly was the one who would decide who won.

What he had to do was woo Carly O'Malley and win her.

With a broad Irish smile he usually saved for the tourists, Jocko wandered back to the table and sat, taking Carly's spare hand.

"O'Brien," he said, though his eyes were only for Carly. "I challenge you to a war for the love of this woman."

Rory looked nervously at Carly. "What's he saying?"

She smiled at Jocko. "You heard him."

"He knows?" Rory asked in a hushed whisper.

"He's my favorite," she replied. "Either accept his challenge or leave, Rory."

"What are the rules?"

"Where were you raised, boyo? A war for love has no rules," Jocko replied. "The objective is to prove your devotion to the lady. She must decide which man has proven it to her satisfaction."

Rory's eyes narrowed. "Then she could decide on both or neither."

"Of course," Jocko said. "Such things are always most properly the lady's decision."

"And you'll abide by her decision?" Rory asked.

Jocko nodded his assent.

"When do we start?"

"Right now. How about we start with dancin'?" Jocko kept his seat, encouraging Rory to go first.

Rory frowned. "I don't dance."

What kind of fairy didn't dance?

Carly glanced expectantly at Jocko. He smiled. He would win round one with no trouble, and a good deal of pleasure.

He pulled Carly from her seat and waved the band to strike up a merry tune. He wrapped her in his arms and they danced, whirling her in tighter and tighter circles. Carly's bubbly laugh echoed through the room and she leaned back in Jocko's arms, trusting him to hold her, and let her long red hair fly like flames behind her.

In an instant the band changed the tune, from the light Irish jig to a bluesy song, one for dancin' with a woman close to your body, moving with a man as though they were formed from the same dust.

If this wasn't heaven, it was close.

~*~

Carly melded herself to Jocko's body, aching to feel every hard plane, every warm inch of his skin. Even though it was impossible to give him what he wanted--what she wanted if she were honest--she wanted to have something with him. She wanted to be held in his arms, feel his lovemaking, know what it was to be with a mortal.

The song ended far too soon. They stood entwined on the dance floor for a long moment before Jocko removed his arms from her and took a step backward. Their eyes locked and Carly felt his hold on her strengthen.

"Okay, okay, break it up." Rory moved between them. "I know what will please Carly." He swept his arm in a wide arc, stopping before her face with a bouquet of roses, perfectly budded, beaded with dew. In a Waterford vase, no less.

The mortals in the crowd who'd not expected a magic show, applauded.

"Cheater," Jocko muttered, making Carly smile.

She stared at the flowers and then at Rory. "Thank you," she said as she took them and put them on the table. Her attention turned to Jocko.

How could he beat this one? She sure hoped he had something in mind.

"I'll be right back," he said, dashing out the front door of the pub. In moments he was back, approaching her with his hand behind his back.

What had he found?

Jocko went to one knee. "I'd intended to find you a single perfect rose, and I found one just down the street here. When I asked the rose for permission to pluck it, it asked me why. I told the rose I wished to honor a beautiful lady. The rose then wanted to know why a lady deserved such a perfect gift. So I told the rose about your flaming hair, your whiskey brown eyes, your soft, sweet lips, the joy that glows from your perfect face. The rose was ashamed, then, of doubting me and it fell apart faced with your perfection. So, I have one petal, soft as your cheek, red as your hair, warm as your eyes."

He held out his hand to her, a single, perfect rose petal on his palm.

Was it the blarney about talking to the rose, or was it his cleverness that attracted her to his gift more than to Rory's ridiculously ostentatious display? Carly didn't know, but she knew which man had won this round.

"Thank you, Jocko. I shall keep this always to remember your devotion." She placed the petal between her breasts.

The crowd applauded their boy's victory in this round.

"Now the last round. The lady will ask a question of both men to make her final decision. She is not bound by the results of the last two, but may choose either man or neither man, based on the answer to the question."

"Hey, I've never heard of this kind of thing!" Rory jumped from his chair, cheeks red. "This isn't a real fairy war."

"Who said it was?" Jocko responded calmly. "Carly, ask away. We are ready." He turned to Rory. "We are ready, aren't we, O'Brien?"

When Jocko turned to her, his eyes guileless, Carly knew exactly what her question would be. The only one that mattered.

"Why do you want me?"

Jocko graciously waved Rory forward.

"Wait I need a minute to think," Rory said.

"Well, in that case, let me go first this time," Jocko offered.

"Yeah, you go first." Rory's avid eyes watched and waited while Jocko again went to one knee before Carly and took her hand in his.

"Carly O'Malley, you are the woman of my dreams, since I was a child. And I know why you are afraid, but you needn't be. Yes, we mortal men only live a short span compared to your people, but we must cram a lot of livin' in that eighty years or so."

"Eighty?" Carly's heart cringed at the brevity of it.

Jocko smiled. "And I'm thirty already, so that only leaves us fifty years or so, so we'd better be at it."

Carly's fairy emotions took over, and her eyes filled with tears.

"Don't cry, lass. Live with me, love me, for the time we can take. Fill it with children and grandchildren--"

"Grandchildren?" She smiled through her tears. She suddenly realized she'd like to have grandchildren.

"Maybe even great-grandchildren?" Jocko kissed her palm, his warm breath shooting sparks up her arm. Surely the man had magic! "I'm only a mortal man, but marry me, Carly, and I'll give you everything I am or ever will be, and more love than you've ever known."

The whole crowd held their breaths.

It was everything she'd ever wanted to hear from any male, fairy or mortal. And yet, she couldn't say the simple word, yes.

~*~

Why didn't she just say yes? Jocko saw he'd reached her, it was in her eyes, even now, when she just stared into his.

"My turn!" O'Brien shoved Jocko aside and it was all Jocko could do to keep himself from falling in a heap on the floor.

He watched in horror as Carly smiled at the shallow fairy bastard, kneeling in false devotion at her feet.

There was no way O'Brien could beat his declaration of love. No way.

"Carly O'Malley," O'Brien began, "without you in my life, the sky will not be so blue, the hills not so green. Ambrosia will have no flavor. Music will be only noise. Only you, Carly, give my life any meaning. And," he paused for effect, Jocko was certain. "You and I are the same kind. You couldn't be truly happy with a mortal, with no magic, no wonder in your life, dreading the day when his mortal life would end, leaving you alone."

Jocko choked. O'Brien had convinced her. He could see it on her face. And by Patrick's cassock, the fairy bastard had convinced her with logic! While Jocko had spun his love into words like cotton candy that melted at a touch.

Anger quickly turned to a darker, longer lasting emotion. He was watching his whole life shatter into a billion shards. How could his dreams have been so wrong? How could he have failed to convince her with all his love laid at her feet?

He'd lost her.

~*~

Carly watched Jocko walk away. Almost as though their two hearts were one, she felt his loss, his heartbreak. He thought she'd decided. She lowered her gaze, taking in Rory's slight, elegant form, still on his knee before her, awaiting her word that he'd won her heart. Then her eyes sought out Jocko's broad back, wide shoulders, narrow waist. His sun-browned hands and shiny raven hair.

Her body burned with wanting this mortal. But sex wasn't everything, even for a fairy lass. She knew that. And what Rory said about being the same made a lot of sense. With Rory she wouldn't have to face the day of losing him, at least not for many decades, maybe even centuries. Their children would be one hundred percent fairy and they wouldn't have to face the life of being neither one thing or the other. Yes, all good sense and reason told her to choose Rory. She knew what she was getting.

A real fairy male.

A typical, superficial, unfaithful fairy male.

Was she nuts?

~*~

"Jocko! Don't you want to know what my decision is?" Carly asked.

"I've got a bar to run." He couldn't face her, knowing he'd lost her.

"Ah, so you're a mind reader now, are you?" she asked.

He turned on her. "I saw your face. You chose him."

"Are you so sure?" Her fascinating eyes gleamed with meaning.

His heart stopped. He couldn't even speak. His brain refused to believe it was possible...

"I chose you, Jocko O'Looney."

His lungs stopped and he was in real danger of needin' an ambulance and medical intervention.

"Why?" he asked, with the little oxygen he could summon. "He convinced you."

Carly nodded. "Yes, he did. For a moment. Then I remembered one very important thing." She stepped closer, her gaze holding his. "I don't love Rory. And I accept that I will lose you too soon, but while I have you, I'll love you with everything I have."

Jocko was certain he was about to die, because he knew he couldn't draw breath.

Carly laughed. "Breathe, Jocko." Her arms went around him, hugging him close.

His heart and his lungs started at her order as he swept her into his arms and felt the perfection of her being there. He swung her around in wild circles, while she hung onto his neck, her laughter echoing in his ear. She flew with him until his head spun and he had to stop.

Carly smiled. "You haven't kissed me yet, O'Looney. I might change my mind if it's not up to snuff."

Jocko felt a flash of panic, but her smile and gentle hands as she framed his face reassured him. He allowed her to pull him close and their lips met, matching like two puzzle pieces, created together, separated, now rematched in total perfection.

Her lips tasted of ale and honey. When her tongue swept across his lips, his body lost connection to his brain and took over. He wrapped her close while his mouth took over the kiss and showed this fairy maid how a proper mortal kiss was conducted.

When they broke apart to come up for air, she stared into his eyes.

"Wow," she whispered.

"Adequate, Carly O'Malley?"

She nodded, her eyes wide. "I think you'll do, Jocko O'Looney."

Jocko had completely forgotten his customers surrounded them until their cheers and applause exploded in congratulations.

"Well, done, lad!" Judge Costello slapped him on the back and then surrounded Carly in a bear hug and planted a kiss on her mouth. When he released her, she looked stunned.

He laughed. A fairy stunned by mortal goin's-on.

Another voice broke out over the commotion. It was Rory O'Brien, so taken by fairy emotions he cheered along with everyone else.

"Yes, well done, Jocko. I'm buying a round for the house to celebrate!"

~*~

Jocko and Carly escaped the impromptu engagement party for Jocko's little thatched cottage on the edge of town. They lay in each other's arms, warm, sated, comfortable in the bed they would share for the coming decades of their life together.

"Carly, girl," Jocko asked, suddenly thinking of something to spoil his perfect plans for the future. "Do you think you can be happy as the wife of a simple publican?"

She tipped up her head and grinned. "Now's a good time to ask that question, isn't it, O'Looney?"

He nodded. "I won't hold you to anything, you know."

Carly placed her finger against his lips. "Shut up, O'Looney. Make love to me again."