“Them downstairs? They’re fucking loons.” Damien shivered as he plopped down next to Miki, nudging his best friend over so he had space on the bean bag nest Miki’d made against a dormer window. “Mad as fucking hatters, the lot of them.”
He’d rooted the singer out, finding his not-so-secret hiding place on the Morgans’ widow walk. A wide overhang kept a large portion of the loft bone dry despite the not-so-gentle deluge of San Francisco rain and when Miki unearthed a bottle of whisky he’d brought up with him, Damien nearly kissed his blood brother nearly senseless in thanks.
The thick blankets Miki’d hauled out with him didn’t hurt either.
“Pass that over, Sinjun.” Damie motioned towards the bottle as soon as he got comfortable under the quilts. He took a long drag on the bottle, hissing at the whisky’s bite. “God, this stuff’s like having an argument with you. Satisfying but a damned kick in the nuts.”
“I love you too, asshole,” Miki grumbled. “Why’d you come up here?”
“Why’d you?” Damie shot back.
It was a delicate tug-of-war they played—a cat-and-mouse game only they knew the rules to. Miki would badger, either into a hole or a growling attack then Damien would soothe or wrestle. With Kane around, the attacks were to a bare minimum. Someone had to poke furiously at Miki before he would tear them apart but the holing up, that remained the same.
As did Miki’s love of whisky.
“Your dad know you stole this?” Damie passed the bottle back.
“Who do you think gave it to me?” Miki snorted. “Best. Dad. Ever.”
A rap on the window behind startled them both and Damie peered through the frosted pane. “And speak of the Donal and so it appears.”
The dormer window creaked inward and Donal scolded them through the screen, “What are ye two doing out here? Witches’ tits are boiling hot compared to the weather now. Get inside.”
“It’s crazy down there. You people are nuts.” Damien grinned. “’Sides, he’s got whisky.”
“There’s some downstairs too. Get yer asses out of the cold in the next fifteen minutes or I’m sending Brigid out after ye.” Donal’s breath misted swirls in the air.
“One day, that trick’s not going to work, Morgan,” Damie laughed as Miki made a face.
“Says you. That’s always going to fucking work for me.” The singer nodded. “Fifteen. Got it.”
“I’ll see you then. You can help make the sweet potatoes. No hiding until the cooking’s done.” The window shut slowly, cutting off the warm air coming from the house.
“You really don’t like Brigid that much?” Damie ventured.
“Nah, she just…hugs all the time. I’m okay until she starts this whole fucking world tour of love thing and then it’s like trying to fight off an octopus. Worse if she’s had a shot or two of whatever the hell they’re calling cider downstairs.” Miki capped the bottle after taking another sip. “How is it crazy down there?”
“They’re singing. Laughing. It’s like fucking Whoville and someone shot the Grinch up in a drive-by so they know he’s not going to be around.” Leaning into his friend, Damie sighed in pleasure at the warmth of Miki’s body. “It’s kind of weird nice. They’re talking gingerbread houses and Christmas, all of them. Even Sionn. Forest’s eating it up.”
“Yeah, he likes the whole family thing.” The rueful expression on Miki’s face made Damie laugh. “What? I feel kind of guilty. Like we threw him to the lions and ran.”
“Don’t worry too much about him. He likes it. Forest was made for family. You and I—”
“We’re family,” Miki asserted. “We’ve had Thanksgivings. Good ones.”
“Blue box mac and cheese is far better than a dry piece of bird, I’ll agree to that,” Damie replied. “Sionn tells me Brigid’s never made a chalky turkey in her life so there’s hope for dinner at least.” He took a few second to study his best friend’s face. “You doing okay? If you want to go home—”
The word home seemed so foreign to them—still. The warehouses were oddly a sanctuary, a safe and happy place neither one of them ever imagined they’d have. Now the two of them had everything—nearly everything, Damie thought as he sent a small prayer for Johnny and Dave to the heavens in hope they knew their friends still remembered them. He felt guilty—surviving but the moment Miki’d spotted him across the Morgans’ kitchen, home suddenly became a reality to them both and Damien was never ever going to let it go.
“Nah, home’s downstairs too.” Miki sighed. “It’s good, right? Here? Now?”
“Yeah, Sinjun. Really fucking good.” Damien agreed.
“And besides, I’ve got to go beat the shit out of our drummer.” He stood, gathering up the blankets from around their feet.
“Why?” Damien caught the whisky bottle before it hit the hard, cold wood floor.
“Because he said I was so fucked up, I made him look normal,” Miki grumbled. “I think that needs a beating.”
“Sorry to say, Sinjun,” Damie replied ruefully. “He’s really not that far off the mark.”
The noise level was nearly like being on stage except without the humming buzz of amplifiers and the rolling push of a drum beat behind him. Still, Miki was hit by a wall of sound once he finally made it downstairs. The whisky bottle disappeared with Damien, either pilfered to be taken home or drunk secretly with Sionn someplace they could cuddle and kiss. Those two did a shit ton of cuddling and kissing, usually in the oddest places. He’d never even thought of making out with Kane in the back seat of Donal’s garaged convertible Corvette but apparently his best friend and Kane’s cousin had no such qualms.
Although they sure as shit scrambled out of it when Miki said he’d tell Donal he’d caught them if they didn’t get out of the car. Sionn’s resounding slap across his back and accusing him of finally becoming a little brother nearly drove Miki to tell Donal anyway but Damie’s playful wink stopped him.
“You having fun?” Kane purred into Miki’s ear, coming up behind him then wrapping his arms around Miki’s chest. “Da said he caught the two of you on the walk like teenagers sipping stolen hootch.”
“He gave it to me,” Miki protested but he leaned back into Kane’s embrace. “No stolen about it but I think Damie’s got it now. Mine. Not his. I want it back.”
“I’ll get you another,” Kane promised. “Food’s soon. Mum’s got two twenty-five pounders in the oven. I think it’s the first time in a long while since we’ve had everyone home. I think we’ve run out of chairs for the table. There was talk about putting the bottom three at bar but Ryan said she’s too damned old to be sitting at the kiddie table so it’ll be a card table at the end and lawn furniture for them.”
“Shouldn’t we sit there?” He cocked his head back, meeting his lover’s gaze. “Me, Damie and Forest? I mean we’re not—”
“You say you’re not family and I’ll find a good use for the belt I’ve got holding up my jeans, Mr. St. John.” His cop nuzzled Miki’s neck, sending shivers down his belly. “And no, you don’t. It’s kind of feudal really. You’re our better halves, our lovers. So you kind of slide in at our birth order. Sionn’s my age and well, Con’s the oldest so the three of you pretty much get first crack at seats. It’s how things are. Well at least in our family. The Finnegans and the Morgans both. It’s a food chain kind of thing. The youngers know their place.”
“Doesn’t mean we’re all that happy about it,” Kiki muttered, sliding past them with a bowl of shelled nuts. “Come on, movie’s about to start. Da’s brought in some bean bags for the floor. Unlike the dining table, it’s first come first serve there.”
“Movie? God, what? The Sound of Music?” Miki knew he sounded horrified but he couldn’t help himself. “Jesus, you people are scary.”
“No, Morgan family tradition dictates Blazing Saddles,” Kane chuckled. “’Cause we don’t need no stinkin’ badges. Now come on, I want to get one of the love seats. I’m too old to sit on the damned floor.”
Their house was so full of…everyone, Brigid thought as she tucked her legs up under her. Donal’s arm was slung across the back of the couch, his fingers absently playing with her hair as the family got settled around them. A few feet away, Damien laid claim to one of the long couches, refusing to move his long legs as he held places for Kane and Miki. Sionn refused to get involved but Brigid caught her nephew’s foot placed on Brae’s backside then a surreptitious dislodging shove of the younger Morgan from the hotly contested sofa.
Kane waded in to the fray, dragging Miki behind him. It warmed her heart to see Miki’s fingers wrapped around Kane’s hand and she whispered a husky I love you to her husband as he moved his legs to let his brood past him.
“Oi, before you get too far, give yer Mum a kiss. Ye didn’t give me one when you came in, K.” Brigid presented her cheek for Kane who bussed her on the forehead instead. “Ah, you have shitty aim. I hope you shoot better than you kiss.”
“God I fucking hope not because he kills me every time he gives me a kiss.” Miki stopped short, staring down at Brigid. A second passed, then two and as she was about to ask him what was wrong, Miki leaned over and brushed his mouth over her right cheek.
Then he padded off behind Kane as if nothing ever happened.
She was struck dumb. No other word for it. Even Donal looked shocked for a second before he buried it under the calm, happy mask of the Morgan Da. She’d cried for Miki—cried for all of the lost boys her sons and nephew seemed to have fallen in love with but the one who broke her heart the most was Kane’s Sinjun. Too prickly to be handled and too independent to be coddled, she’d taken him into her heart only to find he didn’t want to be there. Or at least, didn’t at first.
Now, she was not so sure.
“He does love ye, a ghra,” Donal whispered into her ear. “It just takes him a while to come around. Gentle steps. Slow steps. Because I love ye but yer not so much with the gentle and slow.”
“I know. Forest loves me,” Brigid sniffed but smiled widely when Damien winked at her. “That one does too but it’s Miki I worry about the most. Boy needs… love. Family. Us.”
“He’s got us,” Donal reminded her softly. “He’s a bit like Quinn. On his own time. At his own pace. But our Miki’s here. He’s not going to leave us. Not going to leave Kane. I promise you that, just like the day I promised to love and cherish you.”
“Till death does us part. Even through the insanity we’re calling our home.” Brigid laughed. “Although I swear, if we don’t get this movie going soon, ye’ll be having a lot fewer children because they’re about to kill one another for entertainment. Start the movie, Morgan.”
“Starting the movie, Finnegan,” Donal replied then bent down to kiss Brigid to senselessness. “And for yer information, m’bride, death’s not parting us. Yer succotash might but death? Ah’m thinking it’ll just have to leave us as we are—just as yer boys love to the edges of their hearts, it’s how I love ye. Past life and beyond, Brigid Finnegan Morgan. Past life and beyond.”