Kats (wildrider) wrote,

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Take a giant step backward to go forward

I need to get some sugar pumpkins and put them up, and then perhaps make some pumpkin bread and such like autumnal things.

Despite the fact that it's been lovely the last week, temps in the 80's and low 90's, they assure us we may have one more jump into triple-digits (and, to perhaps soothe the horror of such a thing, we are also assured that this would not be the latest on record).

Dogs + ticks = Ew. Enough said.

Dear writers of House, M.D.: Chase and Cameron are boring. Bring back 13 and Taub. (I'd agitate for Kutner, but I know he won't be coming back.) Although I will admit that Chase is better now than he was before, Cameron is still uber annoying boring.

Last night Barb made a magnificent cake, and all I got were the (admittedly delicious) crumbs.

Chapter Fourteen

It was actually not a very long flight, barely two hours, but for Bonnie they went by in seconds. She felt like she had hardly closed her eyes when Sean Patrick was shaking her awake. "Come on, honey, we're here," he was saying, close to her ear. She blinked a few times. They'd crossed two time zones, but there was still some light in the sky. The pilot dropped them down over the increasing spread of San Antonio and there was a bump as they returned to Earth.

Sean Patrick reached past Bonnie and lifted the window shade. She could see several people waiting by a large car, and recognized several tall O'Connor men among them. "Looks like Dave's here," he said, speaking of Three's next-oldest brother.

They were ready to whisk their vampire into the safety of the waiting car, but Sean Patrick paused to give the pilot a check. "Thank you," he said, polite as he always was.

"Nice doing business with you, son," replied the pilot, folding up the check and tucking it into his jacket. He nodded to Bonnie and turned back to his plane. Bonnie found herself enveloped in a warm embrace; she looked up to see David O'Connor, whom she'd only met briefly, the first time she'd come to Texas.

"Thanks for coming with him," said Three's brother, sounding as ragged as Sean Patrick did. "My brother and his wife really cared about you, Bonnie. Thanks so much."

"I loved them, too," she managed. She was led to the limo and found herself sitting between Sean Patrick and a slim, greying red-haired woman she remembered meeting some years ago.

"Joanna, isn't it?" she asked softly. The woman nodded.

"You remember my husband, Hank?"

Bonnie did; the blond, buck-toothed man was older but no less spry, his blue eyes no less sparkling. The two held hands across the space between the facing bench seats as they drove to the main house.

"I'm glad you two came," said Sean Patrick.

"I can't believe Little Matt's gone," said Joanna, letting out a long breath. "I can still see him strutting around the ranch like the cock of the walk." Tears started, and Hank tightened his grip on her hand.

"I can't believe you still call him Little Matt," said Sean Patrick, trying to smile. Joanna reached across Bonnie to grip Sean Patrick's hand. Sean Patrick bumped Bonnie with his shoulder. "He was Little Matt when my brother Matt was still alive."

"And our current Matthew was Junior," chimed in Hank. "I'm glad Three decided to alter the tradition just a little." They rode the rest of the way in silence, Bonnie leaning her head on Sean Patrick's shoulder while Hank and Joanna held hands.

When they reached the driveway, they found a lot of other cars there already. Half the family seemed to be on the porch, waiting; in the shadows she could see a hunched, thick-set figure. Someone else leaned over it a moment, then the figure rose, slowly, laboriously, to its feet. It was hard to reconcile that broken, staggering old man to the vibrant Matt she'd known, but there was no doubt it was him. He lurched forward as the limo stopped and Sean Patrick got out. For a moment the two hesitated, their long-time bickering hovering between them, and then Matt simply embraced the vampire, pulling him into a tight hug, which was returned without a word.

The big house was full of people, not only O'Connors, cousins and second cousins and Blythe's family, more Irish mixed with pure East Indian. There were actual dignitaries in attendance, reminding Bonnie that Blythe had been an ambassador's daughter; the former Ambassador himself and his lovely Indian wife were there, dressed in deep mourning and looking as lost and broken as Matt did, parents who had lost children, no matter how old said children were.

Bonnie found herself in an out-of-the-way corner, a niche by the doors that led out into the interior courtyard of the hacienda. Sean Patrick was of course surrounded by people, mostly other businessmen of the family asking for his advice and giving their own in return. Matt and Blythe's parents were holed up together in another corner, talking softly together, and everyone just hovered, waiting. They were going to bring the bodies here, from the mortuary, for services, but Three and Blythe weren't going to be interred at the family cemetery on the hacienda grounds. Instead, they would be laid to rest at a nearby city cemetery. Bonnie knew they'd been sent home from Dallas while she'd been flying here.

The rest of the family circle she felt only a vague part of, an outsider being made welcome, but not really a part of them. She sipped at the wine punch that was being served by teary-eyed Mexican servants and wondered how she'd managed to become even a tiny part of this other world, a world she knew she didn't belong to.

"Hiding?" asked a soft voice.

Bonnie looked up to see kind, sparkling hazel eyes grinning at her. They belonged to an older man, with grey at his temples, and a nice smile that bore a faint, vague resemblance to the O'Connors in the room. "Hello," she said, managing a slight smile.

"You don't remember me," he said, sitting down in the other spindly chair in the alcove.

"I'm sorry."

"It's all right. It was a while ago now, before my wife died."

"I'm sorry," Bonnie repeated.

He smiled a little, sad, but that sort of expression that said he had learned to live with the pain. "Thank you," he said. "Anyway, I don't blame you for not remembering me. I'm sort of surprised you remember anyone from that first trip. Sean Patrick threw you into the family circle without a net."

Bonnie couldn't help but smile at that. "I suppose he did."

"I'm Robert Ryan," he said, holding out his hand. "Bobby to most folks around here."

"Bobby," she said, taking his hand and shaking. "I think I do remember meeting a Bobby."

"You've met at least a half dozen, I'm afraid," he said, his smile turning real. Like his distant cousin, his eyes crinkled pleasantly at the corners. "Robert is one of the top five most used names for boys in this family, along with Sean, Patrick, Mark, and William."

"What about Matt?" she asked.

"Oh, no. Matt's reserved for the Head of the Family," he said, his tone turning briefly sober as he nodded toward the front of the room.

Bonnie thought about that, and realized that it was true; she'd met a number of Seans and Patricks, but the only Matt was the Patriarch himself and his immediate heirs. She suddenly recovered her manners. "I'm Bonnie, by the way."

"Oh, I know you, honey. You've been putting up with our vampire for a long time now," he replied.

"You said your name was Ryan. That's Maria's side of the family, right?" asked Bonnie, trying to remember the genealogy on Sean Patrick's wall, his mother's maiden name, from the Irish man who'd married her Apache mother.

"Yep." He snatched a passing tray of bacon-wrapped steak bites and started sharing it with Bonnie. "So I'm a second or third cousin, somewhere in there. We never can decide how that goes." He shrugged. "Would you like some more wine?"

"I think I'm all right." They sat for a while, chatting, watching as more people arrived, then the solemnity as the caskets were carried in and laid on the tables prepared for them. There would be a viewing, an almost public event; Bonnie could see some of the servants putting out pedestals with the guest books and white pens, where people coming through would sign and the lists of donations and gifts would be catalogued. Tears filled her eyes again. "I'm going to miss Blythe so much," she whispered.

"I know what you mean. She was pretty damned special," replied Bobby. He didn't apologize for the "damned," as Sean Patrick would have done. Bonnie rather liked it.

"Yes, she was. And so was Three."

"And not because he was a 'great philanthropist,' like the papers said," Bobby continued, letting out a long sigh. "Because he was just himself."

Bonnie nodded, thinking of Three, with his mild good humor, his friendly eyes, tousled hair, perpetual air of relaxation, his gentle manner, his giving nature, his sly sarcasm, his adoration of his wife and his kids, and she blinked a few times. "Those poor kids."

"Look at 'em," said Bobby, nudging her. She looked at where Matthias and Seana were clinging to their uncle. "I think he'll do a fine job by 'em, you know that?"

"I know he will," said Bonnie. "There's always been a daddy under there, waiting to get out. Tara's been put to bed, I assume?"

He nodded. "She's so young, I don't think she fully understands what's happening. Matthias, he knows."

Bonnie looked at the boy, who had been wearing a fierce expression all evening. He was practically glued to Sean Patrick's side, a scowl etched across his handsome face as though it was the only expression he knew how to wear. His sister clung to Sean Patrick's other side, still crying, Sean Patrick's hand stroking her long black hair. "I think Seana knows, too."

"She's always been the sharpest of the three, honestly," said Bobby. "Matthias is a smart boy, but Seana, she's something extra special. They're both gonna look just like their Mama, light and dark. Heartbreakers, both of 'em."

Bonnie nodded again. Matthias already had his mother's exotic good looks, dusky skin and almond-shaped brown eyes; with his blonde hair, high cheekbones, and square jaw, he undoubtedly was going to be, as Blythe said he would, the handsomest man alive; Seana was nearly a mirror image of her beautiful mother. "Doesn't matter if any of them grew up to look like Three, as long as they have his heart," she said.

"That's what I say, honey."

They talked for a long time, pausing to get up and pay their respects with the others who had come, many of them eagerly looking around the O'Connor big house even as they filed past the caskets. Bonnie stopped at Blythe's, the disaster in front of her too great for tears. Blythe was just as beautiful in death as she'd been in life, but there was something essential missing from her perfectly made up face. Bonnie didn't know what injuries she'd sustained in the accident, didn't know what the mortician had to do to recreate her beauty, but she appeared unblemished, perfect. A waxwork of beautiful Blythe O'Connor. Bonnie swallowed a hard, harsh lump and moved on to Three's casket.

Three didn't look at all like himself. He was too slicked-down, too perfect, too made up. Three had always been a little sloppy, a little rough around the edges, and it was just wrong to see him like this, in a perfectly creased suit with not a hair out of place. Bonnie struggled to keep from reaching out to rumple his hair, make him look more like himself.

Sean Patrick, on the other hand, wasn't so inhibited. "That doesn't look anything like Three," he muttered, and deliberately dragged his fingers through the carefully pomaded curls, sending them leaping out in all directions. It immediately softened the stern appearance of the body, turning it back into the man they had loved. Across the casket, Matt gave the first real smile Bonnie had seen on him all day.

"That's a lot better," he said approvingly. "I wondered what was wrong."

That was all it really took. Everyone who had known the couple seemed a little more relaxed, and while the sorrow didn't ease, at least they weren't shying away from the caskets now. After viewing, Bonnie found herself back in her niche, nibbling on hors d'oeuvres and sipping wine. There seemed to be a hundred people here, listening to the priest's litany, and the long rosary, prayers Bonnie had heard during her trips to church with Sean Patrick, but didn't know the proper responses to. After the service, Bobby returned to his chair with a plate.

"Are you Catholic?" he asked.

"No, I'm not really anything," she replied, and told him about her trips to church with Sean Patrick. "But I wasn't raised in any church."

"We're all as Catholic as they come, both sides," said Bobby with a grin. "Irish and Mexican Indian, you can't escape it."

"I've noticed," she replied, and managed a smile.

"This isn't even the real funeral service," Bobby went on, taking a sip from his wineglass and looking around. "That'll be at the church tomorrow. We Irish Catholics make the most of our losses."

"I understand a wake is considered a celebration of the life," said Bonnie.

"That's what they say," replied Bobby.

"I'd feel more like celebrating if they'd been able to live more of it." Bonnie reached for another tissue, glad the ranch servants had put out boxes on every table.

Finally people started filing out, many of them pausing to put a hand on one or both caskets. It was getting late, and quiet; the children had all been sent to bed. Sean Patrick appeared, leaning on the wall and looking down at them. "I guess it's time to get a little sleep," he said quietly. "Hey, Bobby."

"Hey, Sean Patrick."

Bonnie rose, setting down her empty glass. She suddenly felt very tired, her short nap on the plane feeling like it was a million years ago. It had been a long and horrible day. The worst wasn't even close to being over. Soon her two dearest friends would be laid in the ground, in a city cemetery far from their loved ones here at the ranch; at least, Sean Patrick assured her, it was a family plot in the cemetery, and there were other O'Connors there, other family members. She said good night to Bobby, and to the others who were still awake, Matt and Blythe's parents, then looked up as Sean Patrick took her hand.

She was asleep almost before she landed on his narrow bed.

The actual day of the funeral was too bright and too sunny. It didn't have the decency to be dark and cold and raining; no, it was a beautiful autumn day, still warm as summer, so Sean Patrick looked peculiar in his heavy coat and gloves; no one said a word, though, not even the media from the city, come to photograph the funeral of San Antonio's great philanthropist. The children still clung to the vampire, making Bonnie feel like an outsider even though she was riding in the main limousine, right behind the hearses. The cars stretched out for miles behind them, intersections were closed off for their passage, and there were even crowds of curious onlookers as they pulled into the cemetery.

For once Sean Patrick hadn't fallen into one of his moods, and remained alert and strong for the children, despite the despair in his large, expressive eyes.

There was a canopy set up over the open graves, large enough to cover the immediate family and the all-important family vampire; Bonnie stayed back, in the bright Texas sun, watching the children sob in their uncle's arms as their parents were laid to rest. There were more prayers, more words from the many friends and family members, even the city's mayor spoke a few words about one of San Antonio's first citizens, "an endlessly generous soul, who gave of himself quietly, without fanfare, asking nothing in return; he never needed to be thanked, he got his joy from seeing happiness in the people he helped."

Bonnie wiped her eyes. It didn't really help, since more tears were crowding after the first. Just behind her, the little quartet started to play a hymn, their mournful strings accompanying the coffins into the ground. Matt stepped forward, supported by his second-oldest son, and dropped something in on top of Three's casket. Likewise, Blythe's parents stepped forward, her mother dropping bouquets of marigolds for both her daughter and her son-in-law while her father dangled a gold chain a moment, then let it go. Then, slowly, more family stepped forward with their offerings, flowers and gifts and other personal items. Bonnie felt another sob strangle her when Matthias stepped forward and dropped a stuffed toy dog, a single daisy, and a small book. Behind him, his sisters watched with wide eyes as Sean Patrick nodded encouragingly. Then Sean Patrick dropped a bouquet of flowers, gathered the children, and herded them away from the graves, ducking his head as he walked into the sun, the brim of his hat protecting his face.

Bonnie watched him worriedly, but he was doing his best to keep his delicate vampire skin away from the direct rays. He handed the children over to their grandparents, then found Bonnie. "You don't mind going home alone, do you, honey?" he asked in a soft, strained voice. "I have some things to straighten out here, and then I'm going to have to head back to Burbank to get ready for the kids."

"I understand," Bonnie replied, nodding. She knew he'd make sure she had a first-class seat back to Las Vegas. He always did. He smiled and gently kissed her cheek. It wasn't goodbye, not yet; she stayed the rest of the week, but roaming the big house without Blythe was painful, and if it made her ache inside, she could only imagine how it was for the others who wandered the formerly friendly halls like lonely spirits. Sean Patrick spent most of his time with Matt, holed away in the old man's office, and for once they didn't argue constantly.

Bonnie had to admit she was almost relieved when she boarded the red-eye and went home. She drank champagne the whole way.

Not a busy day. No mail = little work for us; still, day went by quickly and we got a lot done, so yay.

It's only 8 o'clock and I'm exhausted. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Tags: chapter fourteen, stuff and things, vampire and me
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