Ode on a Grecian Urn

by loquita

(This could fit about anywhere in the second or early third series...)

Assumpta pulled the paper from Niamh's gift, a book with the title "He's Just Not That Into You." Assumpta plastered a smile across her face and gave a good effort to keep any hint of sarcasm out of her voice. "Thanks Niamh."

"There's some sound advice in there," Niamh said somberly.

Assumpta groaned on the inside, what a fine birthday this was turning out to be. She'd rather be upstairs with the blankets over her head. And it wasn't because she was another year older. It was because the surprise party Niamh had thrown her was turning into one of the most uncomfortable evenings of her life.

Just yesterday there had been another awkward moment between her and Peter, another reminder that the electricity between them not only existed but had the capacity to burn her. But here he was at her birthday party drinking a pint with everyone as if yesterday hadn't happened. He was one damn fine actor in her opinion because even she was beginning to believe him when he pretended nothing was there. She started to wonder at times like these if the entire thing was in her head alone.

Niamh was rambling on, "It's a single woman's self-help book. It says: you really like this guy but he's giving mixed messages. So you make excuses, decide he's confused, afraid of commitment, and so on. But there really is only one simple answer… he's just not that into you. The author says stop kidding yourself, let go and look for someone else who will be into you."

And there it was, exactly the advice Assumpta knew she should listen to. Move on, he doesn't want you, you're better off without him. All that sound advice that a smart, attractive, independent, successful, young woman like herself should easily follow. But why wasn't it that easy?

Padraig's gift was unmistakably a bottle of wine before she even opened it. He toasted her, "Relax and have a drink on me for a switch."

She ran a bar, Assumpta thought cynically, what did she need another bottle of wine for? She reviewed the last week in her mind briefly and didn't recall Padraig purchasing a bottle of wine from her. "Did you buy this in Cilldargan?" Padraig nodded. She narrowed her eyes and clarified, "From my competitors?"

A sheepish look crossed his face, he obviously hadn't thought of it that way until now. Brendan rescued his friend. "Happy Birthday Assumpta." And he handed over his gift to her.

As she opened it she said, "My bookshelf is fillin' up." Brendan gave her poetry each year for her birthday ever since she was eight years old.

"Keats is your favorite."

"Yes," she answered flipping the pages until she found it. `Ode on a Grecian Urn' was her favorite, the poem about figures carved on an urn and frozen forever that way. Keats contrasted the bittersweet consequences of being stuck in one moment in time. Like the lovers under the tree together, her beauty can never fade and he'll never leave her. Yet they suffer the cruel fate of spending eternity only millimeters from each other's lips, always tempted but never allowed to reach that kiss.

Assumpta glanced up about to thank him, but past Brendan she met Peter's eyes. He was looking at her in the way that always made her heart stop ever briefly. And begin again at racehorse pace. She knew what it felt like being stuck in that cruel tempted moment forever.

Forcing herself to look away she said to Brendan, "It's lovely," with genuine affection. She was aware that to Brendan poetry was the most meaningful gift one could give.

Siobhan handed over a box. "Here ya go. I didn't know what to get until just a few days ago. Then it came to me."

Once the paper was gone and the box opened, Assumpta found a bell. Hers had broken earlier in the week when the supplier set a crate on it by accident and it cracked. The old bell had been a gift from Assumpta's father to her mother. Siobhan knew beneath the couldn't- care-less demeanor that Assumpta's heart broke right along with that bell.

"Siobhan, it's beautiful." As Assumpta took the new bell from the box, its brushed nickel finish reflected the light from the fire nearby.

Padraig complained, "What're you encouraging last call for?"

Brendan quipped, "Yeah, whose side are you on Siobhan?"

Siobhan ignored them both and told Assumpta to turn it around. Assumpta laughed as she read the engraved inscription and held it up for the others to see.

The Queen Has Spoken

With mocking in her voice Assumpta reminded them all, "And don't you forget it."

Niamh brought out the cake and they sang to Assumpta, Padraig the loudest and the worst simultaneously. Peter hung at the back of the group the entire time. Finally Assumpta came over to him with pieces of cake. "Don't you want some?"

"Niamh outdid herself," Peter said as he reached for it. Their fingers brushed as Assumpta handed it over. She felt the fireworks between them travel into her fingers, through her veins, and trigger the long slow pull in her belly.

Her mind strayed while watching him eat cake... How could he simply ignore it? He must not feel the same? ...and the thoughts made her heart sink. Assumpta scolded herself, That's what happens when you fall in love with a priest. As if she had a choice in the matter. She fought it every step of the way and yet here she was just the same. Assumpta sighed deeply to clear her thoughts away and began gathering the now empty dishes lying about.

"I'll do that." Peter came over and took the plates from her. He carried them into the kitchen.

She followed behind protesting, "No, it's fine."

"The birthday girl shouldn't clean up after her own party."

"Niamh didn't plan that far ahead apparently."

Peter looked at her oddly. "She had to go, a few minutes ago Ambrose called and said Kieran was running a fever. Doctor Ryan went with her."

Now she felt stupid. "Oh. I hope he's okay." Assumpta realized she must have missed what was going on in front of her while she was daydreaming.

"I'm sure he's fine," Peter reassured. "Parents though, you know."


"I didn't get you a gift. I'm sorry I got busy with-"

She shook her head and cut him off, "It's alright."

"I should have after those driving lessons you gave me."

"That was more charity than birthday present, Father."

He gave her a smile and handed her the plate he'd just washed and was now dripping wet. They stood shoulder to shoulder at the sink, he washed and she dried. As they worked they settled into a comfortable silence.

Suddenly Peter took the sink's water sprayer and pointed it at her, squeezing the trigger and soaking the front of her. She froze and stared at him in shock. He paused, the mischief and amusement faded from his face.

"What was that for?" She was astounded.

"Ahm, revenge for the bucket of water you threw on me in front of Father Mac." It sounded more like he was guessing then actually giving an answer.

"Right." Assumpta made an unexpected quick grab for the sprayer in his hands. She'd caught him off guard so she had a chance to swivel it around and spray him back in the face before he caught on. Peter began fighting back then, the sprayer between both their hands spewing in all directions as they pushed and pulled and struggled and she began to giggle. Assumpta almost got it out of his hands before he backed off with it.

"Truce?" he asked, laughing now as well. They were both soaked, hair, face, clothes. She looked adorable to him in this moment. Young, carefree, laughing, silly, wet to the point that her shirt clung to her curves... Peter fought the emotions rising inside.

"Truce," she agreed. Then made a second lunge at him but slipped on the wet floor. Assumpta landed hard, her left hand outstretched to stop her fall but she fell on her bum. Very graceful, she thought.

"Are you okay?" Peter dropped the sprayer and rushed to her. He took her right hand and when he pulled to help her stand, the momentum kept her going and she stumbled forward into him. He caught her around the waist to hold her steady.

"I'm fine," she insisted. But he let go with only one arm, to take her injured hand and examine her wrist carefully. All the while his other arm held her tighter against his body and Assumpta's heart began pounding wildly.

"You sure you're alright. It's not broken is it?"

"No." It was said pathetically breathless she thought, damn him for making her feel like this.

"Mum used to-" Peter interrupted his own sentence by kissing her wrist, very gently, on the inside where her veins betrayed her racing pulse. He could feel her heartbeat beneath his lips it was incredibly erotic and he was instantly aroused. Warning bells went off in his head- back up, leave her now and walk away or you may not be able too. But he didn't want to. God help me, he pleaded in his mind.

Assumpta was trying to ignore the feeling of his lips on her skin and took a hitched breath that she hadn't even realized she was holding. Assumpta fought for control and in an attempt to lighten the mood said, "I fell on my arse too, you gonna kiss that?"

He smiled, "Don't we all? On a daily basis?"

He held her so close that she had no wiggle room at all. But instead of fighting Peter off she wanted the opposite. It was her birthday and there was in truth only one gift she wanted from him at this moment. Assumpta leaned in and when he didn't protest or pull away, she took it as a sign and met his lips. And he wasn't just taking this, her mind reeled, he was kissing back greedily. It was hot and soft all at once. Until, "Assumpta!" Padraig called from beyond the door and she drew back catching sight of Peter's eyes foggy with passion and need.

No amount of acting could hide that she thought, and whispered to Peter, "Happy Birthday to me."

He seemed to gain a bit of himself back then, "That wasn't your gift."

"Oh, yeah? We're even I'd say."

She turned from him and pushed open the kitchen door saying to the punters, "It's my birthday. For once can't you get it yourselves?"

Peter watched her go, his heart pounding in his chest. He spoke to the empty kitchen, "And it certainly wasn't charity either."

*The End*