It started with a Jayne hat.
"For me?" Eoin said, holding the terribly bright, terribly ear-flappy hat to his chest. "I am flattered."
Hang on, though. Actually, it all started with the beanies. Beanies are easy, or at least at her skill level they're easy enough to not frustrate the piss out of her. And she does so love sorting people into Hogwarts houses.
"Hufflepuff," she declared while snugging the yellow-and-black-striped beanie down on Bradley's head, then continuing before he could protest: "And don't you dare whine about Hufflepuff, because you are a badger if I've ever seen one, and Cedric Diggory kicked arse."
Bradley blinked once, then nodded with acceptance. "True fact."
"Where's mine?" Colin asked, clearly joking, because that's how he is, and he just always had this idea that Bradley deserved all the wonderful things whereas Colin never kept any for himself. And in a way that was logical, because Bradley would immediately bound over to Colin and share with him, whatever it was. Shitheads in love, Eoin liked to say, and Katie agreed.
She shook her head, put her hands on his face, kissed his nose-- "God," Bradley scoffed with a laugh, "you're not his maiden aunt, stop it."--and pulled out a blue and bronze striped beanie.
"Ravenclaw," she declared. "Book Ravenclaw, too, none of that silly movie silver business."
Alllll the eyebrows got raised. She sighed. "I'm a geek, guys. Get used to it."
"Oh, we're used to it."
"Or, rather, we think we are, but then new layers appear."
"Does that even exist?"
"Of course it does."
"In the Magical Land of Dairy-Free Plenty, maybe."
--at which point, Katie left, because those two? Could. Go. On.
Shitheads in love, indeed. Besides, she had a Jayne hat to deliver.
('Because of the hair,' she explained when he asked why he'd got it and not a beanie, and she didn't meant it at all, she meant something else entirely, and his eyes lit up, and it was so silly, but it was also the best thing that had happened all week.)
Her knitting circle are always happy to see her, which she reflexively thinks is a bit of a farce but then she remembers she's not twelve and gangly anymore, and that maybe girls past the age of sixteen are humans instead of teenagers.
And this time is no different. "Katie!" Brenna says, jumping up to hug her.
"McGrath!" Jessica says, much more gruffly, though she stands up for a buss as well. "Welcome back from the land of the Beebs."
Diana inclines her chin, her eyes twinkling, but doesn't move her attention away from counting stitches. "34 -- 36 -- Hello Katie! -- 38 -- Be just a minute! -- 40…"
The others titter and say hello cheerfully. Katie grins and drops a curtsey, managing around both a handbag and a knitting bag. "Thank you, thank you all. It was a long journey, but I am home once more."
"And we are glad," Diana says, done counting and therefore grasping Katie's hand to pull her down to the sofa.
She settles in, reaching into her bag for the bottle of wine she always brings. "This one's called 'Our Daily Red,' ladies."
"Brilliant," Jessica says, taking it out of her hand and heading to the kitchen.
Katie laughs happily. "My reputation has stuck, I see."
"You never forget your first knitted TARDIS bikini*, all right?"
"True, true. Well," she says, pulling out the bright red and yellow coloured mess of yarn and unfinished work still on the needles, "it's nothing so scandalous this time." She unfolds the pattern, printed out on a few sheets of paper hastily at her parents' house just before coming here, and hands it off to go round the circle.
"Oh Lord," Jess laughs out loud as she sees it. She's coming back with mugs--wine glasses tip and chip from wayward needles--and an opened bottle of wine, and she hands Katie the first pour, as always. "Bam pow mittens?"
"Close enough, yeah. They're rad, right?"
"Let me have my words." She untangles the working yarns, always a pleasure with stranded knitting, then takes a large drink of wine as a reward. They knit for a while, gossiping and chugging Merlot and Katie relaxes for the first time in days, kind of floating above it all, just enjoying the hum, the energy, of the crafters around her and the yarn in her hands.
Then she gets interrupted when the conversation veers to her. "So, Katie, darling," Diana asks, looking like she's about to watch a particularly juicy episode of Fair City, "how are the boys?"
Katie tries not to smile, busying herself with her knitting, but she must fail because all the ladies crow.
"Oh, go on, then, what'd you make them this time?"
"Well," Katie says, knowing she's blushing, knowing she's got a stupid look on her face, "remember the jumpers?"
She put them in bags, with labels, just two of them, to her two Irish lads. They were all sat around set, waiting, and she handed packages to all of them, her post-hiatus presents, but two of them were special. This time only two were made by her hand.
Colin and Eoin grinned along with everyone else, expecting something silly, not thinking that she'd spent the whole of their off season with aching hands and hardening callouses. Wounds of her modern swordplay.
When they unearthed the Aran jumpers, richly cabled and clumsily warm, they laughed. "A piece of home," she said eagerly, her stomach strangely knotted.
"A piece of tourist shite, you mean," Eoin said, his tone light, teasing, irreverent but willfully affectionate.
"Oi, I-- I made them!"
"Oh, Jesus. Sorry."
And he did look sorry, and she tried, she really tried, to not look as crestfallen as she felt, but she's an awful liar, because Colin looked up, looked at her face, and got up. The kiss he planted on her cheek was sweet, so sweet she nearly cried (like she had their first week in France, when she'd cried buckets of homesickness into Colin's shoulder until he'd distracted her with stories of Ireland, by telling her of blowing Jimmy Donovan in the sacristy, and the evening had dissolved into wine, tales of youthful indiscretion, and a forever bond).
"Thank you," he said softly, his fondness and understanding clear in his eyes.
"Yeah," Eoin chimed in, giving her a crushing hug. "You're a dear."
She laughed, once, then turned away.
"Wanker," Jess says without hesitation, and the others agree with murmured support.
But Diana is looking at her shrewdly. "That's not the end, is it?"
Katie clears her throat, tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. "Not nearly."
It took weeks, admittedly, and Katie was almost over it, at any rate...when she found herself alone with Eoin; looking around, she realised the throat-clearing and shuffling off of the rest of the crowd had been intentional. And that Eoin was in front of her, holding something in his hand.
It was a small box, wrapped messily in a ribbon, and her brow furrowed even as her heart thumped. "Look, you idiot, I'm not cross any more, so--"
"Just open it, yeah?"
She shook her head, but couldn't not smile as the ribbon slid apart with a tug of her hands. Who doesn't love presents, afterall?
Inside, pooled delicately, were a dozen beautiful, clearly hand-crafted stitch markers, in all shades of the rainbow, with swirls and textures and delicate designs that took her breath away. "Eoin--"
He shrugs one shoulder. "I found them at the market, some glass-blower had a booth, I think his wife made them but I couldn't really--"
She launched herself at him before he could finish his sentence. "They're beautiful," she said into his neck, holding onto him tightly whether he liked it or not.
Which apparently he did, because when he pulled back, the look in his eye was anything but haphazard, and it occurred to her that he might kiss her about a second before it happened.
She clutched at his shoulders instinctively, as kissing tended to make her a little loopy and his kisses, as it turned out, made her positively goopy. It felt surreal, yet she felt more grounded than she had in years, here in a castle in France, and she fought sudden giggles.
He smiled against her lips easily, almost ruefully, and when the kiss ended she didn't pull all the way back, instead kissing the corners of his mouth lightly, reassuringly. Then: "So."
"Not that I'm not grateful, but what brought that on?"
His hands settled on her waist, one reaching up to tangle gently with the ends of her hair. "You made me a hat," he explained simply. "You made all of us hats. I have an aunt who knits, you know, so I get it, I get how much time it takes, and skill, and patience. And yet you made us all hats."
She could feel her eyes crinkling at the corners with her grin. "I love all of you."
"All of us."
"Yes." She kissed him again, trying not to linger but failing.
He wasn't deterred, however. "But you made me a different hat."
She cleared her throat, feeling her face heat up. "Yes."
"Don't be cute."
"Don't sprain anything."
"Oh, I won't," he said with a Gwaine-worthy leer. "I have plans for later."
She laughed outright. "I pity the girl."
He shifted his hold and grabbed out her hand until she was positioned like a swooning maiden, lips close to his, body lined up just so. "You won't."
French hotel rooms, she thought offhandedly, should be the setting of every love story.
Not that this was one of those. She didn't think. Especially not when first thing, after they got the door closed and locked and stood there looking at each other, after he finally reached for her and pulled her down--he let out a yelp and pulled a 7mm double pointed needle out of the mess of sheets under him.
She laughed, because how could she not? He felt around the rest of the sheets with a raised eyebrow. "Boobytrapped?" He came up empty.
She climbed into his lap, grinning at him. "I'll never tell."
She couldn't seem to stop laughing, even as she was kissing him, smearing their smiles together. She felt a bit bad for it. Because he was lovely, he really was, despite the fact that sweat dripped down his nose and onto her cheek. And she felt lovely, too, despite the too sharp dips, too stark scars, and the fact that halfway through she came with a surprised and surely ridiculous grunt, her toes curling and her mouth in a grimace.
He laughed, delighted, and thrust harder, sending a barrage of pleasant shocks through her. "Let's see," he panted, and she gasped, caught off-guard as it started to build once more, "if we can do that again."
She wanted to laugh, and did, but it was breathless. She leaned up and pressed their lips together momentarily, breathing "Dare you" into his mouth.
He most definitely dared.
He held himself up, even after, somehow, his forehead dropped against her neck as his arms trembled, and she could feel their sweat-slicked skin sliding to find purchase, bodies rumbling against the other happily.
There's a chorus of 'Awwwww's from the ladies around her. She twists her knitting around her fingers and smiles up at them. "Ridiculous, isn't it?"
"Yes," Jess says, but Diana, always the wise auntie of the group, admonishes her.
"It's lovely, dear. Really."
"But did he never say anything about the jumper?" Caity asks, with the sympathy of one who knows firsthand about the hundreds and hundreds of hours of work that go into such a thing.
Katie grins, more than she was grinning already, somehow, and fishes her mobile out of her purse. She touches the screen a few times, then hands it off. "His mum sent me these. Apparently he's worn it since the hols started." She thinks of the pictures, of Eoin in the jumper at home, at Mass, at the shops. Everywhere. "Won't take it off for anything."
She smirks privately. Until she can get there and take it off him herself, that is.
"Thank you for the jumper."
His voice in her ear made her start, but then she laughed, and leaned up to kiss him on the cheek. "You're very welcome."
"It must've taken a long time."
"Good things do," she said, eyes twinkling. Then something caught her attention over her shoulder. "Oo, would you look at that."
The sight of Colin finally--finally-- kissing Bradley pleased her, and pleased her greatly. "I feel like the credits of the movie should start running now," she said to Eoin over her shoulder, where his chin rested.
"Over the sounds of the perky but soulful hit single."
"God, yes." She watched for a moment longer, then shook her head. "Ugh."
"They're disgusting," he agreed, sliding his arms around her waist, snugging her back against him.
He paused. Kissed her hair lightly. "No, I mean. You know-- We could. Be disgusting too."
She stilled. Then she turned, slowly in his arms, her smile bright as the sun.