It was a week before they finally arrived in the parking lot of his bar in Burbank. The trip from Las Vegas to the Los Angeles valley was much, much easier and faster than the drive all the way to San Antonio. At the speed Sean Patrick drove it hardly seemed to take any time at all. Another oversized muscle car with an engine that roared like a monster and an interior that had enough space to host a dinner party for fifteen, not his old Pontiac. Bonnie knew he'd had several cars in the last ten years, but couldn't remember what all they'd been, and he’d kept several favorites, with one was back in San Antonio and another garaged at her house, the others somewhere with him in Los Angeles.
He pulled into an empty parking lot, around the back of a very large warehouse, and into a parking space in the back, under a variegated metal cover. Bonnie looked at the dark buildings around them. There was light coming from a nearby stretch of highway, along with the noises of a large city, but it was somewhat distant. "Where is it?"
"This is it, honey," he said, gesturing to the warehouse. "Not very impressive with the lights off, I'll admit, but I'm proud of it anyway." He guided her across the darkened parking lot to a small door, where he unlocked a bolt and the knob and led her in. "Careful here, honey, it's kinda dark backstage."
There was ambient lighting, the glow of an Exit light and a track of tiny lights along the floor. Bonnie let her eyes adjust. "Where are we?" she asked.
"This is the dock and the backstage area," he replied, re-locking the door behind them. "The stage is over there, and this way," he led her through another doorway where he turned on overhead lights, "the hallway out to the main room. We're still doing some renovations back here, I want to put in some game rooms and private areas for parties. This is my office.
He opened another door and turned on the lights, letting Bonnie into a plain little room with no windows, a simple desk with blotter, and a few filing cabinets. The O'Connor genealogy that had been hanging on the wall in his bedroom in Texas was hung behind the desk. "Doesn't seem much like you," she commented. "Very plain and functional."
He chuckled. "I keep telling you I AM a businessman," he said. "But here. This is the real surprise." He went to the back corner of the office, behind the desk, and reached up. Above his head was an inset niche, where he pressed a few buttons. There was a click, and a hidden door opened. "Welcome to my home," he said, and turned on another light. Bonnie could see a narrow staircase of highly-polished wood leading down, and followed him into the most beautiful, luxurious living room she'd ever seen in her life.
"Oh! It's gorgeous!" she cried, applauding. Subtle lighting showed off polished stone floors with hardwood accents, and rich leather furniture with copper studs. Of course there was a huge television dominating the room, but on the walls were some beautiful western paintings, collections of arrowheads, and a display of old west weaponry. He showed her around to a good-sized dining room, a very large kitchen and wine closet, then down the hall to a personal office more like what she expected from him, lavish and masculine and stuffed with books. Across the hall was his bedroom, dominated by the biggest bed she'd ever seen. "At last, I see the custom-made bed!" she exclaimed. "It's breathtaking, really."
"That means a lot to me, honey, that you like it," he said, and she could see in his face that he'd been anxious, concerned about her opinion.
"What was that door in the dining room? We didn't go in there."
"That's just storage, a lot of the stuff I brought with me from Texas," he replied. "And some stuff I haven't unpacked yet, pictures and photo albums and the like."
"I can't believe how really lovely this all is," said Bonnie, spinning slowly around to admire the polished stone walls.
"And the bathroom's through there, if you need to freshen up," he went on, pointing to a door next to his wardrobe.
"Thank you, darling," she said, tossing her purse on the bed before heading into the bathroom. This was all more him than even his room back at the hacienda, because he'd made it from the ground up. She realized that, like her house had been for her, it was the first place he'd ever been in that was totally and completely his, and that was why he'd needed it. There was only one tiny mirror in the bathroom, on the door of the perfectly normal store-bought medicine cabinet, so that was what Bonnie used.
When she came out, she found him stretched out on the bed. It was tall, so much so she had to heave herself up onto it, and so wide and long he could stretch out his six-foot-four frame in any direction without any part of him hanging off. Bonnie scrambled to meet him in the middle, where he wrapped an arm around her. "When the bar opens tonight we'll go up and dance. Maybe I'll sing a little and you can see what else I love about this place."
"I understand already," she said, resting her head on his shoulder. She could feel him smiling as he kissed her hair.
The music was already playing loud when they exited his office that night, the huge main room of his bar filled with people talking, drinking, dancing, and laughing. Sean Patrick pushed open the swinging doors that led from the hallway to that bustling big room and the noise hit Bonnie like a freight train, but it was rather more invigorating than terrifying. Sean Patrick seemed to come to life as he mingling in with the crowd, smiling and shaking hands as people welcomed him back. He made his way to the bar that lined this side of the room and somehow managed to make himself heard. A bartender grinned hugely.
"Good to have you back, El Jefe."
"I couldn't get myself going when I heard the bad news, Willy," he said, his voice barely audible. Bonnie smiled as Sean Patrick drew her close to the bar and said, "This is my Bonnie. Bonnie, this is Guillame, but we call him Willy."
"About time we got to meet you," said the bartender, shaking Bonnie's hand.
"I'm glad to be here." She meant it, too, until she turned to see a young woman hurl herself into Sean Patrick's arms, kissing him possessively.
"Welcome home!" she said breathlessly when their lips parted. Her pleasant smile fell on Bonnie's shocked expression and she went on, "Cool! Is this your mom?"
For a second Bonnie's world turned upside down.
She knew, of course she knew, Sean Patrick now looked younger than she did, and had for some time. In Las Vegas occasionally people looked sideways at them when they went out, but Bonnie never paid much attention. She was, after all, only thirty-seven. She couldn't possibly look like she was old enough to have a son Sean Patrick's age.
Sean Patrick only laughed. "Good God, no. Bonnie, honey, this is Katie. She's a little scatterbrained."
"Hey!" the girl hit him on the shoulder, good-naturedly.
"How you doing, k-k-k-Katie?" he asked, stuttering her name just like the old song. Bonnie watched their banter and decided they were good friends, and good female friends to Sean Patrick were often "kissing friends."
He took to the stage with his guitar and performed a lot of the cowboy songs he loved, and the crowd loved them, too. They also seemed to love him, the girls screaming as though he were all four Beatles rolled into one. Bonnie had never really paid a lot of attention to his cowboy music, so it felt very much as though she was hearing him for the first time. It was certainly the first time she'd ever heard him backed not just by his lone acoustic guitar, but a full band of five other guys, playing that rollicking rockabilly stuff that had never so much as made a blip on her radar, and she found she wanted to dance and swing to it just like everyone else was doing, but she didn't step onto the dance floor until he took his break and came down to claim her.
They had been ballroom dancing many, many times in the last ten years; they'd also gone to some of the rock clubs in Vegas, but she'd never before danced like this with him. By the time the lights went down and the bar closed, Bonnie was more than a little tipsy, her feet were sore, and she was almost certain she had never had more fun in her entire life.
Still, at the end, in the bathroom, she found herself regarding her face in the mirror. It had been a long time since she had really studied herself, had really looked. For the last several years she knew she had been seeing herself through Sean Patrick's eyes, and gloriously enough, he found her beautiful. But now, really seeing herself, she saw the lines around her mouth and eyes. There was no grey in her hair, but was that the work of her dedicated hairdresser?
"Honey, you aren't worried about what Katie said, are you?" came his voice from behind her. He could always sneak up on her when she was looking in a mirror.
"Yes," she said. No point in lying to him. "We should take a portrait, then you can see it, too." She turned and looked at him, really studied at his young face. "You're so used to thinking of yourself as the hundred-year-old man, you've forgotten how you actually look."
"Who cares?" he waved it off. "I certainly don't. You shouldn't, either. Katie thinks everyone over the age of thirty is ancient."
Bonnie scowled at her reflection and his lack of one. Maybe if he could see himself he'd understand.
He wrapped his arms around her shoulders from behind, hugging her against his chest, and whispered in her ear, "Forget about it, honey. Let's go to bed." His tone was decidedly lascivious. Bonnie rolled her eyes and turned in his arms.
"Oh, all right." She didn't say anything more because he kissed her, picked her up, and carried her to his giant bed.
She stayed in Los Angeles longer than she expected she would, because there was just so much to do and see. Sean Patrick took her everywhere, from Disneyland to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, from moonlight walks on the beach to dinners at famous restaurants like the Brown Derby or movies at Grauman's Chinese, where she behaved like any tourist, standing in famous footprints and snapping pictures. But finally the vacation was over and Sean Patrick flew her back to Vegas with the promise that he'd come soon.
Bonnie tried to get back into her old groove but things felt strange and off. She began to notice her lack of friends and spent a lot of time on the phone with Blythe, although the young mother seemed busier than ever. "I think Three and I will come up there in a few weeks just to get away from the kids a while," she said frankly one night, sounding exhausted. Matthias keeps me busy from morning until night."
"I take it the girls are a little less trouble?" asked Bonnie with a laugh.
"Decidedly!" replied Blythe, returning the laugh. "Seana can already be trusted to take care of herself, she hates getting dirty and she loves to read. Tara, bless her little heart, is turning out to be another O'Connor musician. She's only three and she already can tell one note from the other. She barely knows the words but she can hold the tune. But Matthias, with that temper of his, and he gets into absolutely everything."
"I'm dying to see them," said Bonnie, shifting the phone to the other ear. "I've missed you all so much."
"Sean Patrick wants to have Christmas this year at his place, and we're thinking about hauling Daddy there, too. Do them both good."
"I think Matt might actually like seeing how Sean Patrick's doing," said Bonnie. "His place is just gorgeous."
"I know the pictures can't possibly do it justice." Blythe gave a yawn. "I'm sorry, honey, but I'm just about beat. How about I call you later this week?"
"Go get some rest. Talk to you later."
As Bonnie set down the cradle, she was tempted to pick it right back up again and call Sean Patrick, but considering the time, he was probably up in his bar on stage, enjoying his crowds and not thinking about her at all. She sighed and looked around her dream house, feeling distinctly like there was something missing.
Sean Patrick had been her benefactor, her friend, and her lover for more than ten years. Bonnie had been living her life around his and sometimes, even before he'd overwhelmed her mind she sometimes couldn't be sure where she started after he left off.
She started really studying her face when she washed and brushed, morning and evening, trying to remember herself, the girl she'd been before she'd been swept into the vampire's dizzying whirlpool of existence, his family and his music and his emotional entanglements. It had been far, far more than she'd ever imagined, had ever dreamed. He'd kept his promises, of course; no marriage, no pregnancies, no fear that he'd ever throw her out of her house.
But she'd never thought about making him promise to keep her from caring about him and his family as she did. It had never crossed her mind that her "benefactor" would come to mean so much to her. Bonnie turned her face one way, then the other, examining the lines that creased her skin. She took care of it, of course; she used the creams that her stylist recommended and she shopped at the good cosmetics counters, since her allowance was so generous, but she still was starting to look like a woman who was nearing forty, while her benefactor looked barely twenty.
The disparity continued to trouble her while it didn't concern Sean Patrick in the slightest. He still took her out to the nicest places in Las Vegas, although Bonnie really did start noticing the way people looked at them. "I really wish you'd stop worrying, honey," he said one night, changing out of his suit. "Seriously, if it doesn't bother me, it shouldn't bother you."
"It's not just your friend Katie anymore, Sean Patrick," said Bonnie, hanging up her dress. "The waiter thought you were my son, too."
"Maybe we need to be more publically affectionate," he replied, his tone mischievous, grinning at her. "Look, if you really want me to stop coming around, you tell me so. I'll be hurt, but I'll get over it and move on. Like I've always told you, the house is yours. If we call it quits the only change will be you won't see me here anymore."
The thought of that made Bonnie's heart sink. "No, I don't want that," she said, trying to keep her voice light rather than give vent to the panic his words inspired.
"Then stop worrying. We'll continue just like we've always done."
And so they did. They passed Sean Patrick's 116th birthday, which marked their thirteenth anniversary as a couple. It was a good year, for the most part, and Bonnie definitely relaxed her concerns after a wonderful bartender commented what a handsome couple they were. And after all, why couldn't an older woman be seen with a younger man? "Told you so," muttered Sean Patrick in her ear, leading her to the dance floor.
When they were alone, it never mattered a bit.
Bonnie was deeply asleep when the phone rang. It was early yet, but the sun was up, letting light into her bedroom but the sun was kept well off the bed where her vampire was still sleeping. He rolled over at the sound of the phone. "Don't answer it," he muttered.
"I have to," she replied. "It might be important."
"Just Matt yelling at me again," muttered Sean Patrick. Just last night he'd had a shouting match with the old man over the phone, and it had taken her hours to get him relaxed again. Bonnie reached over and picked up the receiver.
It was Matt, but his voice sounded odd. There was none of the usual gruff power in his tone as he quietly said, "Bonnie, honey, is Sean Patrick still there?" in a hoarse, shaking voice. For the first time since she'd met him, he sounded like the old man he was.
"He's here. Are you all right, sir?"
"Lemme talk to him, would ya, darlin'?" he just asked, his tone so quiet it didn't sound like him at all. Wordlessly, Bonnie handed the phone to Sean Patrick, who scowled at her as he took it. She shook her head at him in an attempt to tell him that there was something seriously wrong.
"Hey, Matt," he said, his expression saying he was trying to understand what she was trying to say. Then all the color drained from his face and for a moment she thought he was actually going to pass out. He sagged against her. "God, no. It can't be."
"What? What is it?"
He shook his head. "Of course. Of course. I'll get out of here as soon as I can. I'll charter a plane, I won't drive. I'll be there, Matt. I promise." He looked at Bonnie, his face grey, his eyes starting to fill with tears. "Yes, of course, she'll come. We'll be there. I don't care, I'm coming as soon as I can get a plane." He handed Bonnie the phone. She could hear the dial tone, and knew Matt had already hung up.
"What's happened?" she begged him. He clutched her hands in his, pressing his forehead against her knuckles. She could feel his agony, sweeping off him in waves, a disaster so massive he couldn't find the words. "Sean Patrick?"
"Three and Blythe... Three and... and Blythe... are dead," he stammered. Bonnie could feel her own face whiten as all the blood drained from it, her heart giving an odd, painful skip. "There was an accident... they were in Dallas... coming home from some party... Guy ran a red light, caught 'em broadside... Three died at the scene. Blythe made it to the hospital. They couldn’t do anything... She died about a half hour ago." He swallowed, his voice turning hoarse, and gasped, unable to continue.
Bonnie couldn't move, couldn't think, couldn't even wrap her arms around him and console him. Blythe was dead? That couldn't be, it just couldn't be. Blythe was so vibrant, so alive! "She was my best friend," Bonnie heard her own voice. "My only friend. Oh, God, those poor kids!" She sounded alien in her own ears, a stranger speaking.
"Bonnie... I'm their Godfather," Sean Patrick whispered.
The implications of that took a moment to sink in. She stared at her perpetual bachelor, the vampire uncle, jovial and carefree, who had always dreamed of the one thing that was forever denied him: fatherhood. "You'll take them in," she said. It wasn't a question. She knew him, he wouldn't turn away from that duty. "You'll take care of them." He nodded, then coughed.
"I have to call the airport," he said. "I have to... get ready."
"I'll pack. You do what you need to do," said Bonnie. First things first. There was business to take care of, then she could collapse, and sob her heart out at the loss of the only real friend she'd ever had. It couldn’t be true. It just couldn’t be. It was a mistake. “God,” she murmured, pleading to a deity she’d never believed in and suddenly hated for doing this to her, to him.
Blythe had never asked for anything from her but friendship, she'd shared everything and always been honest and supportive and fun. "She was only thirty-two years old," she whispered into the suitcase as she packed Sean Patrick's things. She could hear him on the phone, pulling strings only he could pull to get a private plane chartered that would get them right to the ranch in as short a time as possible. They couldn't just sit around and wait until sundown, they had to get out as soon as the plane could be fueled and ready.
"I need you ready in an hour," Sean Patrick was saying, his emotion-laded voice shaking. "I will pay you what you want for your trouble, God damn it. This is an emergency. I'll need limousine service directly onto the tarmac to meet the plane. Yes, God damn it, I am the fucking president. I don't care what it costs." It was the first time Bonnie could remember ever hearing him swear like that without apologizing for it.
He hung up the receiver, wiped his eyes, then picked it up again, this time to talk to the limo service. Then he called her maid, and his bar manager in Burbank, arranging their time away. After the last call, he gave vent to his tears, yanking several tissues from the box. He buried his face in them, his shoulders shaking with sobs.
Bonnie dropped his overnight case and sat on the bed with him, hugging him tightly. The moment she touched him, her own tears started.
"We can't. Not yet," Sean Patrick managed to gasp, trying to pull away from her. "Not yet. Too much to do. Have to get home. Then we can cry."
Bonnie nodded, but she didn't let him go. They gave vent to their sorrow for a few moments, then finally managed to get up, and get moving.
Bonnie had never seen the area of the airport where the limo took them. They drove around to an area where small planes were tethered to Earth between hangers, far from the large terminal and the big passenger jets. Sean Patrick huddled in the corner of the limo, swathed in his leather coat, wearing gloves and his cowboy hat and very dark sunglasses. The limo driver had given him an odd look, but said nothing as he accepted the twenty-dollar tip he was given. They were driven right up to a small four-seater airplane where a tall, heavyset man was waiting for them. He had an impatient look on his face, as though he'd been waiting on them, although Bonnie knew they'd made good time in the midday traffic.
Sean Patrick ducked from the dim interior of the limo and sped up the steps of the plane, out of the sun as quickly as he could, leaving Bonnie to direct the loading of their luggage onto the plane and talking to the pilot.
"We're going to San Antonio?" he gruffed at her.
"It's actually a small strip just west of San Antonio proper," said Bonnie.
"It's O'Connor Field," came Sean Patrick's voice from inside the plane. "They're expecting us. Shouldn't be too much in the way of air traffic."
"All righty, then," said the pilot, helping Bonnie aboard with an old-fashioned manner, "Let's get going."
Sean Patrick was sitting on the far side of the plane, with the shade drawn down, a scowl on his face. Bonnie sat opposite him, buckling her seat belt as the pilot strapped in and turned on the radio. She listened to the incomprehensible codes rattled off between the pilot and McCarran Tower. They had to wait behind a United flight, then took to the air. Bonnie looked out at all the construction, the new areas of the airport laid out below her. It would be huge when it was done, she mused, then pulled the shade down as the little plane banked and the sun angled through her window.
Across from her Sean Patrick was leaning on his hand, staring blankly at the back of the empty seat in front of him. His long limbs were folded up uncomfortably; no wonder he preferred large cars. He probably was used to flying first class when he flew.
"So what's the hurry?" asked the pilot once they were clear of the airport. She watched as he effortlessly leveled off. She could barely hear him over the sound of the engines.
"Death in the family," said Bonnie, gently laying a hand on Sean Patrick's knee before he could snap something he'd regret.
Bonnie met Sean Patrick's gaze. His huge eyes were so filled with pain it made her ache. Then he sagged, and leaned back in his chair. "Maybe we should try and get some rest, honey," he said, closing his eyes. Bonnie realized they had only gotten a few hours' sleep this morning before Matt's call, and weariness suddenly attacked her, the misery weighing down on her shoulders and dragging her eyelids down. She was asleep before she realized how tired she was.
Television has been hit-and-miss so far this season. I'm finding myself absolutely riveted by FlashForward, and I love Glee. I still can't get into NCIS: Los Angeles; it's just not as good as its parent show (although I'll probably still try). I hope the bring Taub back on House, because the jump back to "it's three years ago!" isn't that exciting. I don't know why it is they feel they have to keep Chase and Cameron around. The Big Bang Theory is increasingly awesome, I'm still loving How I Met Your Mother (although I haven't seen this week's yet), but it looks like they've saddled Kelsey Grammer with another crap-fest -- so far Hank hasn't made me laugh once, and this episode was vaguely insulting (either that or the writers just pulled the plot from the discard heap from some 50's sitcom, where the man simply can't handle his wife *gasp* working). On the other hand, The Middle is funny, although a lot of that is because of Neal Flynn, playing a somewhat saner version of The Janitor. The rest of my usual viewing are moving along at a normal pace, nothing staggering yet (although Dexter promises to deliver another stunning season). I wish they DID have four-channel Tivo (I swear I read about one once, but I can't find it now), because then I would be able to say something about this season of Heroes, but it was the one that fell by the wayside... something had to give.
There were strange bees in the house. Barb wonders if they were a sort of fly. There are still ticks on the dog. Ew.
It rained a little this morning. The days have been actually very pleasant, but of course it means the office is now WAY TOO FREAKING COLD.
I weigh in this morning at 161. I have 39 days until the cruise.
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