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One Alone

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Dublin, Ireland, 2023
Siobhan Brody was tired to her bones, too tired even to be hungry or thirsty. But she was also happy. The outer surface of her mind, the part that had learned caution, shied away from acknowledging how rare true happiness had become. But she had it now, in the blanket-wrapped bundle in her arms. The baby, his fuzz of hair already as startling black as his father's, suckling at her breast with determination. He was beautiful, even the distant-eyed midwife had said so. Big for his age, healthy as could be. And his beauty was the image of his father.
Siobhan's eyes flickered to the man across from her. *If only it could be like this forever.* Sitting close to the stove against the chill Irish damp, their chairs side by side like an ordinary mother and father. *Or husband and wife.* But Patrick Roarke had promised her marriage, surely he'd keep that promise soon now that his son was here.
Never mind, her cautious mind said, that he'd cursed as soon as she'd started screaming in labor and retreated to the pub while a neighbor woman arranged care for Siobhan. Never mind that he was drunk this minute, if only lightly drunk. Most of all -- she'd learned that lesson well, taught by those lean yet amazingly painful fists -- never mind that he smelled of another woman. Siobhan closed her eyes, to more than the firelight.
"He's the spirit and image of you." Siobhan detached the baby a moment, wiped his milky mouth and burped him carefully. She had the way of it, she'd tended nephews and cousins and grand-nephews often enough coming up. "We've never talked about a name." She thought of her father's name, wistfully; Patrick would never allow it.
Patrick had poured himself a whiskey as soon as he's gotten home; he raised the glass. "Roarke."
"To be sure, but I was thinking of a first name..."
The blue eyes glinted dangerously; she held her breath. "Roarke, first and last. What need for more?"
She nearly said, *Roarke Roarke?* but she knew that glint. Dangerous to be foolish or womanish or annoying in front of it. "One name?" She pictured her child, a little older, playing with the other neighborhood toddlers. "What will folk call him?"
"What I say to call him." And they would, Siobhan knew. Man woman or child, no one in this part of Dublin contradicted Patrick Roarke. Not safely. Not even her. The blue eyes that had been drunken-merry a second ago were chilling.
"That's..." she fumbled. "Unique, like he himself." She found a broad smile somewhere. "Remarkable."
"Ex-actly." Patrick's enunciation was labored. He drained the rest of the glass. "Roarke's boy needs no other. He'll be my good right hand when he gets some growth to him, I can see it now. They'll say, 'who are you, boy?' and he'll say 'Roarke.' 'Who was it that sent you?' 'Roarke, my father.' Patrick grinned, the angelic one that she wanted -- how she wanted it -- to trust.
He reached out, still smiling, and patted the boy on the back. Too hard, but the sturdy child was already engrossed in the search for milk again. Patrick wove upright. "Is there more to drink in the house?"
"The white cabinet, almost a full bottle." Siobhan didn't complain. Patrick passed her like a shadow, into the kitchen.
Siobhan cradled the warm, fuzzy head in the palm of her hand. "Roarke." It wasn't worth fighting over. Nothing was. *All his name, and nothing of mine.* But the baby was hers, paid for in blood and pain. He suckled more strongly, raising a pang in her healing belly. Hers to love and tend, to work for and fight for. Her eyes flickered toward the kitchen. Against any foes, and all."*A grha,*" she whispered to the baby Roarke. "My love."