STF

Side Sim - A Much Needed Vacay

Posted Sept. 27, 2023, 10:33 a.m. by Lieutenant Commander Gravel Mardusk (Chief of Security) (James Sinclair)

Posted by Lieutenant Cara Esmé O’Farrell (Counselor / Education Specialist) in Side Sim - A Much Needed Vacay

Posted by Lieutenant Commander Gravel Mardusk (Chief of Security) in Side Sim - A Much Needed Vacay

Posted by Lieutenant Cara Esmé O’Farrell (Counselor / Education Specialist) in Side Sim - A Much Needed Vacay
Posted by… suppressed (47) by the Post Ghost! 👻

(snip)
The trip to Ireland was longer than it should have been, but it was fun for all. Stories and jokes were swapped and laughs were shared. It was late in the afternoon when they touched down near Cara’s family home, and Gull’dk bid farewells and lifted off when they had cleared the landing area. Gravel hoisted their bags and looked at Cara. “Think you can get us to your house without getting lost?” he teased.

Gravel

The trip was fun and full of good stories and laughter. Cara was almost sorry to see it end. She climbed out of the shuttle and walked out of the landing area and stopped. Her eyes scanned the area. It was cliché but there were dozens of shades of green stretched out. She took a deep breath. This was home. It was the place that invoked nostalgia and comfort. Cara glanced up at him and laughed. “Well if I can no fund it, the whole village will make sure I donna wander off.” She slipped her hand into his and began walking.

The walk skirted the edge of the main part of the village. There were some generally curious and friendly waves at first with whispered gossip following in their wake. Once they got closer that changed. People called her name, there were some cat calls and then, “Cara Esmé! I thought Emilia and Ada were pullin’ the wool! If ya weren’t holding his hand I’d nigh believe it! It take a man that big ta handle you!” There was laughter and a lot of it. “Ya gonna introduce us or not?”

“No, Donald, I am not! I’m taking him ta meet mam and dadai. When yer sober I’ll think about it.”

Donald’s expression was suspicious. “How ya know I been drinkin’?”

Cara kept walked but glanced over, “There’s a beer in yer hand.” That got howls of laughter as the inebriated Donald looked down at the bottle in his hand.

The moved around a bend and then a side street. Cara came ro a sudden stop and groaned. “I told ya, I apologized earlier, right?” Ahead of them there was a two story white house with a sizable yard. The most noticeable thing was a clothes line with her and Gravel’s missing clothes hanging from it. Everyone knee it was hers because of the shirt. It was burgundy and read, “I’m the Middle Sister. I am the Reason we have Rules.”

Cara

“At least they washed ‘em.” Gravel said with a chuckle. He led her closer to the house and then shouted “Emilia, you better have used fabric softener on my shirt! I’m delicate little flower, you clothes-thief!”

Gravel

The door slammed open followed by a whirlwind of bright red spiky hair. Other than that the girl looked nothing like her sisters. “YER HOME!” Cara was nearly bowled over. Emilia appeared in the doorway, her laughter probably heard the next street over. Yoss looked apologetic and shrugged helplessly.

“Hi Ada,” Cara hugged the girl who was practically the same height. Ada let her go and stepped back. She got her first look at Gravel. She looked up… and up… and up. She didn’t say anything. Emilia chuckled and Yoss poked her in the side to keep her quiet. Ada looked at Cara, clearly fighting her teenage curiosity with the manners she was taught.

“Ada, this Gravel. He’s..”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yer hangin’ yer wash together. We all know you two are gettin’ married.” Only a teenager could sound both annoyed and excited at the same time. She crossed her arms, huffed, glared up at the massive man that her sister had brought home. “And what makes you think you deserve my sister?”

Cara

Gravel looked down and scowled at the young teen. He bent down, took a knee so he was looking her right in the eyes, and said “I don’t. But I’m gonna spend every waking moment I have trying to be. Got it? And I am apparently going to have to try to be a damn good brother-in-law, too. So I have my work cut out for me. Now if you’d kindly take a step back, I’d like to shake my future sister-in-law’s hand.” and he stood up and held out a massive green hand towards the girl’s face.

Gravel

Ada looked incredibly bored as he knelt. She tried incredibly hard to maintain that aloof teenage disinterest. It was obvious to both Cara and Gravel, that whatever magic he possed, worked on Ada too. “Yeah…got it.” She did take a step back though and shook his hand. Which was massive compared to hers. “Emilia said you were some big hot shot scary Star Fleet Security guy.” She looked at Cara, “I can think of a lot of words, scary isnna one of them.”

“Stay on my good side, and you’ll never know.” he said with a grin.

“Ada Elise O’Farrell you best me mindin’ yer manners, girl. Close yer mouth. Yer catchin’ flies.” A man’s deep Irish brogue came from the doorway. “Cara Esmé! Get in this house before yer mam tries ta get outta her chair.” Cara turned Ada around with one hand on her shoulder and pushed her toward Emilia and Yoss. When they got to her father, Cara let go of Gravel’s hand and hugged him. “Hi Dadai.” The man’s eyes crinkled with happiness as he hugged her.

Her father wasn’t a small man, but compared to Gravel he was. He looked up at him and grinned. “So yer Gravel Mardusk.” He held put his hand. “You are welcome in our home.”

Cara

Gravel took the hand and shook it firmly. “I am. And thank you, sir. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He said with a smile. “You have a beautiful home.”

Gravel

He laughed, “Oh aye, I think so. It was a peaceful little haven until about 2 minutes ago, when this one got home.” He gave Cara another quick hug and a laugh at her expression. “And call me Dominik. Come on in.”

Gravel nodded once and followed as he was told.

“Cara!? Dominik is that Cara? I want ta see her. I have ta hear it from her. Emilia and Ada are just makin’ up stories.” An older woman’s voice carried through the house, quite clearly. Cara shook her head and looked at her father, “She sounds fine ta me.”

Emilia chuckled behind them. “Ya know how Mam is.” Cara nodded and taking Gravel’s hand they walked into the house. She hung her coat on a hook in the entry way and made her way down a short hall toward the living room. It was bright and felt airy with wide windows. Yoss had clearly been at work because there was a new addition to the furniture. A large comfortable and sturdy couch. Cara cast Yoss a look and her brother-in-law nodded his head with a grin.

“Calm down Mam. I’m here,” Cara announced as she stepped into the room. Cara’s mother sat in a high backed arm chair, with a stool for her feet and a blanket tucked around her. She was a beautiful woman. Her red hair hair was streaked with blonde rather than grey. She had crinkled around her eyes and laugh lines around her mouth. She had pale skin and a pianists fingers, and deep blue eyes. “Cara! Come here let me see you.” She held her hands out to her middle daughter as Cara made her way over.

“Mam,” Cara bent down and hugged the woman fiercely. “I want you to meet, Gravel Mardusk, my fiance.”

“It’s a true pleasure to meet you, ma’am. Cara has told me stories about you, and it’s wonderful to meet you in person.” Gravel said.

Her mother finally looked past her. Sophie’seyes went wide as they looked up and up and up. “It’s the Sidhe.” She whispered to Cara. “I always knew magick followed you, girl.” She smiled warmly and sat up a little straighter. “Well come here then, young man.”

Cara

Gravel walked over to stand next to Cara. “Well, I’ve definitely been called worse than that.” he said with a chuckle. He looked down and said, slowly and deliberately, “Tapadh leibh… airson cuireadh a thoirt… dhomh a-steach… don dachaigh agad. Agus tha fios… agam gu bheil… gaol agam air… do nighean le mo chridhe uile.” (Thank you for inviting me into your home. And know I love your daughter with all of my heart.) The Gaelic was stilted and lacked rhythm… but it was understandable.

Gravel

Cara side-eyed him. He was keeping secrets. Sneaky sidhe. She grinned though because in two very simple sentences he had completely won over her mother for life.

Sophie’s smile was radiant. “Tá áthas orainn bualadh leat ar deireadh. (We are so happy to finally meet you.)” She moved the blanket aside, and using Cara’s arm she stood, then grabbed Gravel’s arm and led him over to the large couch. “Come sit here with me. Cara is very closed mouthed,” she gave her middle child a disappointed stare, “so you must tell me everything.”

Cara rolled her eyes. She had told them everything when she called to tell them she was coming home. Her mother loved a good story though.

Dominik and Yoss chuckled. “Cara has lost him to your wife,” Yoss said quietly to his father-in-law.

Dominik laughed deeply, “Cara and Sophie might come to blows over it.” Emilia walked over and shook her head, “And while they do, Ada might try to steal him.”

Cara

Gravel laughed and took a seat next to her, but made sure to get the blanket and tuck it in around Sophie. “Everything? Ma’am, i don’t know if we have that kind of time.” and he chuckled, it sounding like far-away thunder. “But I am happy to answer any questions you have. I am an open book… read away.”

Gravel

Cara watched, her eyes dancing as her mother practically primped as he put the blanket around her. Smoothing her blouse and patting her hair. “It’s a good thing we live on a Starship, or she’d be after him to help her all day, everyday.” Emilia shook her head, “He has no idea what he’s started.” Cara chuckled, “Oh yes he does.”

“Cara I need ta talk ta ya a minute. Com’ere.” Emilia tugged on her arm.

Cara didn’t budge, “I am no leavin’ mam alone with him.” Dominik and Yoss chuckled. Emilia drug her just into the hall anyway.

Sophie looked gleeful. She had so many questions but where to start? The most pressing question of course. “How did ya ever get Cara on a date? She was always very… stubborn. Broke a lota hearts that way.”

Cara

Gravel laughed and said “Oh, it all started out innocently enough. I stopped a turbolift she was on right after she boarded. Helped her find her quarters which happened to be next door to mine. Then I offered to take her onna tour of the ship, she insulted me and then threw up, I got her some meds for her space sickness, we traded an innuendo or three-” and he laughed again, “- and then we had a nice dinner and she couldn’t get rid of me after that. I know fate when I see it, Ma’am. And Cara… Cara was fate.”

Gravel

Ada’s jaw fell open, “You threw up on him!!!??? Ewww that is so GROSS. You’re lucky he even looks at ya now.”

“I did no such thing. I threw up after he left my quarters, not on him. I managed ta at least no disgrace myself that badly.”

Sophie looked like a little girl that was just denied her bedtime story about princess, dragons, and dashing knights. Though she looked incredibly pleased by his assessment of her middle daughter. “Ya make it sound simple, and there is no one thing simple about my Cara.” She eyed Gravel up and down and smirked, “Ya must have bewitched her … Good for you!” Cara met his gaze from across the room and barely stopped herself from laughing. “Well then what are yer hobbies, favorite thing ta do? Ya can’t work all the time.”

Cara

He chuckled and said “Oh, you obviously don’t know me, then.” He gave a Cara a look of secret understanding before looking back at Sophie. “I play the bass and I try to find your daughter who is inevitably lost somewhere. And Cara tells me you are concert flautist? That’s incredible! I hope while we are here I get to hear you play.” He looked at Dominik. “And you are an archaeologist? Do you have a specialty?”

Gravel

The entire group laughed when he said he had to go find Cara because she was lost. That started a plethora of quick recounts of Cara’s escapades. “You poor thing, it’s a full time job,” Sophie said sympathetically patting his hand. They all waited to see what Sophie would say to his request. She straightened up a bit. “Well I’ve no been feelin’ well, but it is a special occasion, and I do feel better. Perhaps tomorrow after I’ve rested.”

Dominik nodded, “Natural environment. I study how the land and the people shaped and changed each other. Most especially in the prehistoric period. Technology is such now that we can really separate the remains out of different periods more exactly and even build more exact models of the terrain. Gravel would you like somethin’ ta drink?”

Cara

Gravel looked at him and smiled and said “Yes sir… I’d love a Guinness. It was a dry flight, and I’m kinda parched.” and he chuckled. He looked at Cara and silently wondered if there was a Pub in their future.

Gravel

Cara had to stop herself from telling her dad no to Gravel’s request. Really? He was gonna have Guinness now, at her parents house? He was messing with her. She grinned. “I’ll help.” She turned to follow her father towards the kitchen. If she was lucky they would not make it to a pub tonight. And never the one in town.

“Emilia, I know your dad only has a few bottles, why don’t we go get more,” Yoss said. “Ava want to go with us?”

“Oh! I’m feelin’ quite well. Why don’na we all go ta the pub? The fresh air sounds delightful. Then we can see everyone,” Sophia patted his hand again, considering her idea grand. Cara cussed from the kitchen. “Cara Esmé O’Farrell. Ya might be grown, but I can still wash yer mouth out for that lanuage.” Emilia and Ava hurried down the hallway before they started laughing.

Cara

Gravel looked at Sophia and grinned. “I get to take all these gorgeous ladies out on the town?” he asked. He looked in Dominik’s direction and said “I have to say, you all know how to make a guy feel welcome.” He stood up and held a hand out to Sophia. “Ma’am. I know you have been… ‘under the weather’, shall we say… so you just lean on me anytime you need to, ok? I’ve carried Cara home, it’s the least I can do for her mother.” he said with a grin and a wink.

Gravel

Sophia smiled, “Well how nice of ya ta offer.” She placed her hand in his and stood. Dominik chuckled, “I would warn ya ‘bout sayin’ such things around me girls, but yer marryin’ Cara, so I’m certain ya don’na need it.” Ava brought her mother a cardigan and helped her slip it on.

“I don’t know Sophia. You best be careful,” Yoss warned seriously. “Your new soon-to-be son-in-law apparently has tricks up his sleeve. Getting carried around by him makes Irish girls swoon and lose their memory.” He grinned over Emilia’s head at Gravel. Emilia and Yoss were the only two that saw the vid so far. A kitchen towel hit Yoss full in the face from across the room where Cara was standing. Yoss broke out into a huge comical Denobulan grin and Emilia laughed so hard Yoss thought her knees might buckle. Ava looked at her oldest sister, “What we miss?”

Gravel chuckled and said “Nothing… at least you won’t have missed it by the time we are done at the pub, I bet.”

Ava eyed the adults and got a disgruntled look. “Emilia spill! I know Cara won’t.”

Emilia chuckled and Yoss sighed. Ava hated feeling left out. “I’ll tell ya on the way.”

Cara rolled her eyes, “And here I thought I’d be happy ta be home.”

Cara

Gravel moved next to her and looked down at her and smiled. “You are. I can see it your eyes.” he said softly. His pocket buzzed and he reached in to grab the communicator. “Excuse me, please.” he said and stepped outside. A few moments later he returned and said “My mom is going to be here tomorrow evening.”

Gravel

Cara grinned, “O’ course I am.” Oh her family was going to tear the mickey out of her and the rest of the town too. She loved it. This was home and family. Well her first one. That was a weird though - they were making their own family now. Weird but happy.

She watched as he walked out, easily guessing from a short list of who it might be. Dominik walked over and put an arm around her. “Cara, my girl, you are smitten.” Cara hugged him and grinned up at him. “Oh aye, Dadai. I’m bewitched.”

“Your mam? Oh she must come for dinner. I’ll cook. And on the way ta the pub, ya must tell me all about her.” Sophie took his arm and with more liveliness than anyone had seen in awhile, led him out the door, expecting everyone to follow.

Cara

Gravel walked slowly and led Sophia down to the street. “Ok, lady… you lead, and I’ll keep the wolves at bay.” he said with a grin and a wink.

Gravel

If Cara had had a drink, it would have come out her nose. “Hey, you don’na get ta use pick up lines anymore Malachite!” She laughed.

Ava on the other hand, was walking beside Emilia and suddenly blurted out. “I’m sure he can too. I would’na mind watchin’.”

“He’s spoken for Ava. Go find yer own wolf hunter,” Cara grinned and nudged her father because Ava just realized she’d spoken out loud and had turned embarrassingly red.

Sophie smiled up at him and patted his arm in a very dotting and motherly way. “I am sure you are very good at it too. However there’s no wolves here and yer not on duty. Yer on vacation.” She led them back the way he and Cara had arrived. “Now tell me, what is yer favorite food? Oh! No, is there any dish ya been wantin’ ta try? I will make it tomorrow.”

Cara

“Wolves don’t take vacation, Ma’am… and some things are just part of ya… ya know ? And I like everything. And honestly, if someone is going to be the center of attention for a meal, it should be Cara. She is the bride, after all.” He then leaned in and said “But whatever you make, just make a lot, okay?” in a conspiratorial whisper before standing up straight and laughing. He looked back at Ava and said “Don’t let ‘em give ya any grief, kid. Cara was sitting at a formal dinner with our Captain and the entire Command team and some visiting Brass and when the conversation rolled around to how much I eat, she wanted to say ‘Hey on a good day I can out eat him.’… but she stumbled and ended putting the ‘out’ on the end of the sentence.”

Gravel grinned at Cara and then said “Kudos to the Admiral, though. He just looked at her and said ‘Im sure that would make for a very good day, Lieutenant.” and he laughed loudly.

Gravel

Sophie stopped, turned around, put her hands on her hips. “Cara Esmé! You Did Not! To an Admiral?! I told ya that mouth was goin’ ta get you in trouble. You want’a put me back un the hospital? Yer supposed ta be good with people! Always makin’ scenes. I thought ya had grown outta that by now.”

Ava stopped dead in her tracks, after having to work out what Gravel was implying and then her jaw hit the dirt path, and Yoss almost knocked her over.

Cara’s brows went up, but her eyes danced with humor. Even being yelled at like a naughty teenager by her mom made her grin. Dominik recognized the look, but wasn’t quick enough to stop Cara. “I am good with people Mam. My job is ta keep tempers even. My stumble worked quite well. Especially since the Admiral was in a foul mood and about ta make us pay for it. He was in quite a good mood after that.”

Cara

Gravel looked at Dominik and just shook his head. “Her perspective of the events. From where I sat, her face was as red as her hair.” He then looked down at Sophia and said “Shall we continue?” and held out his arm to her.

Sophie eyed her daughter. This discussion was not over. Cara grinned as her mother turned around and rook his arm again. Sophie tossed her still red but graying hair. “The bride she might be, but Cara has ways of making her own attention. We don’na have ta do it for her.”

Cara leaned on her dad’s arm. “I’m in trouble.” Dominik chuckled, “When are you not?”

It took a few minutes, but soon they were outside the local pub. Gravel held the door open and waited for everyone to go inside. As the first ones entered, the sound of voices rising in happy recognition floated outside. Gravel smiled slightly. It was always a good feeling to walk into a bar that knew you.

Gravel

Dominik took Gravel’s place beside Sophie, giving her a steady presence as they wove around the tables. “Sophie!” Several of the women and a few men made their way over. They hadn’t seen her since her surgery. They were all, of course, doting, which Sophie ate up. There were several questions pointed at Emilia, asking about Sophie’s health and recovery. The proprietor and Yoss seemed to get along well, and struck up a conversation as Yoss collected a tray of drinks. One being a pitcher.

Ava broke off and made her way across the room to where the other teenagers were. When Cara walked in just in front of Gravel they were the focus of every set of eyes. “Well well, Cara. We all thought ya got lost and would never find yer way home.” The tone was a forced jovial with a strong overlay of bully written all over it. “Some of us prayed it was true,” he muttered into his glass. Cara kept right on walking. Liam was a coward and a bulky, and never grew up. She weaved around the tables, stopping to speak to the older folks first. You never ignored your elders. “Ah shut yer trap Liam. Yer just still sore she laid ya out forbtryin’ ta take her lunch money. Grow up, pup,” a woman yelled across the room. There were nods and snickers.

The pub was typical. High polished wood, comfortable chairs, crowded, brightly lit, the temperature comfortable, and the atmosphere warm. The bar was stocked with everything imaginable and the smell of food wafted from the kitchen as the doors opened and a server balanced a large tray through the crowd.

“Well Cara, who is this?”

Cara looked up at him. Time for family number two. “Inis, this is Gravel Mardusk. No, Emilia isn’t weaving a yarn. Yes we’re gettin’ married, on Wednesday at Mahon Falls.”

The older woman looked up at him and smiled. “It is my pleasure, Gravel.”

Cara

“My pleasure entirely, ma’am.” Gravel said. He smiled and shook a few hands, and gave a long look at the ‘Liam’ character. He looked back at Cara and said “That the one you laid out when you were younger?” he asked slightly louder than was necessary, but hey… he could have not said a word and then it wouldn’t have had to be addressed.

Gravel

Cara rolled her eyes. “Aye, one of them. Difference is, the rest of ‘em grew up. He’s all bluster. Not brave or stupid enough ta really cause a scene in a crowd. Ronan,” she nodded to the bar tender, “won’na let him get drunk or cause trouble. Don’na worry about him. He’s just a sheep playin’ at bein’ a jackal.”

Cara

“Jackal?” Mardusk asked and turned to look at Liam. He then asked over his shoulder to the O’Farrells as a whole “Now, I ain’t from around here. Is a jackal… a kind of wolf?” without looking away from Liam.

Gravel

“No, it is not,” Cara answered immediately. She was going to get banned for causing trouble.

“We never had jackals in Ireland. The last sightin’ of a wolf was in… 1786,” Dominik answered.

Emilia grinned with glee. “Yes, yes they are. Smaller, more scavenger than attack predator, but yes they are in the same family as wolves.” Cara glared daggers at her sister.

Cara

Gravel nodded slowly and then said “Hmm. Good to know.” and then turned back and moved to the large table. He looked down at Sophia and Dominik. “I would never cause trouble in your guys’ pub, just so you know.” and he picked up the pitcher. “To new friends. New family. And to the people of Ireland. Sláinte.” and he held it out towards everyone.

Gravel

Dominik nodded and raised his glass to him. That got a chorus of cheers. Ronan had been setting drinks on the table. He chuckled, “Trouble? There is no way ya can cause more trouble than the O’Farrell girls. And all four of them are here.”

“Ronan, I only have three daughters, “Sophie corrected him.

“Aye, Soph, I know. And mam makes four. Oh don’t give me that look. I have a looong memory.” Yoss took one of the non-alcoholic Cidonas and opened it for Emilia and then slid the other to Cara.

“So Cara, how far did ya have to go to find a man that met your standards?” Ronan asked.

“All the way ta the Romulan boarder, almost ta where it meets the Klingon border.”

Cara

Gravel looked at Ronan and said “Yeah… but I’m worth the trip.” and he grinned and winked at the man. That brought a round of laughter from everyone save Liam… who suddenly slammed down his glass, stood up, and half-yelled “I’ll not drink with some alien! Not in my pub!” and stormed towards the door. The rest of the pub fell silent for a moment, and a few eyes fell on the Orion to see how he would react. Mardusk just shrugged and looked around in mock confusion. “Aliens? Where? No one told me the English were coming!” and the pub erupted in laughter. Liam’s face screwed itself into a visage of contorted rage and he sputtered some intelligible sounds before spinning and storming out the door. Mardusk watched for a second and then turned and looked at the pub. “Sorry. I didn’t know his family tree branched that way.” and the eruption of laughter intensified.

Gravel

Cara wanted to do something. Put Liam in his place. However, she tried very hard to grow out of the reactionary habit. Even if Liam did deserve it. She was sure though if they stayed ling enough, Liam would make a bigger idiot of himself. She watched Gravel through the whole thing and then met Emilia’s gaze and winked in an ‘I told you so’ look.

“Well will ya look at that mam.” Emilia leaned in conspiratorially toward her mother, using a far too obvious stage whisper, “He can scare jackals away too, and he didn’t even get outta his chair.” Sophie nodded, “I see that,” and then fanned herself with her hand. Dominik rolled his eyes at his wife with a huge grin.

Cara laughed out loud. She took Gravel’s hand as she looked at Ronan, “Worth every single light year.” That got another round of laughter and cheers.

“Bet your ass it is.” Gravel said with a grin and kiss to her lips.

That got even more cheers and several shrill whistles. Cara just laughed.

“Well, I was gonna offer ta have my granny make ya a good luck charm. Figured ya would need for a life with Cara, but I think ya are a match for her.” Ronan chuckled and raised a glass, “Ta a long and happy life together.” There were cheers of agreement and then some commotion as a group moved to a corner and started turning instruments.

Cara

Gravel raised his pitcher, knocked back a third, and then looked at Ronan. “No no, please do that. I don’t think anyone is a match for her. I could use all the luck I can get.” and he grinned. He then turned and looked at the musicians, and his eyes lit up. “Oh ho… live music?” He looked at Cara. “Good drinks, good people, and live music? You’ve been holding out on me, woman.” he said with a grin.

Gravel

Cara laughed, “You should have asked me to go on vacation with you sooner. I mean Mike’s isn’t the only place that has good people and good music.”

Emilia laughed, “You took him to Mike’s place? Did she tell you I brought her to the one in New York and she was hooked ever since.”

Cara looked from Gravel to Emilia and back. “Emilia, he has a reserved seat at Mike’s… all Mike’s.”

The band started playing as Cara’s statement sank in and processed.

Cara

Gravel smiled at Emilia and said “Mike and I go way back.” and he winked at her before turning his attention fully to the music.

Emilia’s eyes went wide and her mouth did a funny little open and close thing. “You’re… the stool… oh my sidhe.” Cara didn’t bother to hide her laughter. Her mother looked confused.

“Who is Mike? Is he coming to the wedding?” Cara waved her off, “I’ll tell ya later, mam.”

When the song trailed off, Gravel stood and clapped. “Hell yeah! That was great!” he cheered.

Gravel

The band looked surprised a moment and then grinned. They mostly played for the regulars. Everyone enjoyed it, but Gravel’s enthusiasm was booming and not what they were used to. They conversed a moment. “This next song was originally by Clannad and made famous by some old movie. Now it is usually sung by our lovely Sinead,” the strains of the song began, as a woman waved, “but seein’ as how this will be the theme of our new friends life I’ll be singin’ it.”

Cara stuck out her tongue. “Stuff it, Patrick!” There was laughter at Cara’s expense.

They began to play and sing, Clannad’sI will Find You.

Cara

Gravel listened intently, tapping his booted foot in time with the music. It’s ethereal nature seemed to contradict the more punk-rock leanings of the Orion; but music was music, and if it was good… he loved it.

Gravel

It was a good song over all. Not really Cara’s style, but she’d grown up listening. At the end there were soft cheers, and a lot of eyes on them. They were saved by Ada screaming for “The Gypsy Dancer.”

Ronan brought another pitcher and set it down. Cara leaned in to whisper, “Pace yerself on that Guinness. It’ goin’ ta be a long night before we’re alone.”

Gravel looked at her and arched an eyebrow. “Really?” he whispered back. “I out drank you, remember?” and he grinned and kissed her cheek.

“I let you.” Cara laughed, she couldn’t say it with a straight face. She would remember that night, always. Except for the next morning. She leaned into him, “Drink all ya want, I’m just sayin’ it’s gonna be a long night.”

Several of the foirfeach, elders, came and spoke to them. Wanted to know how long they were staying, when was the wedding, and such. They wanted to take the true measure of the man. Her mother was on cloud nine planning a wedding for the ages that made Cara laugh and Emilia laugh harder because it wasn’t her this time.

Cara

Gravel answered their questions, talked about his family. “Yes, my mother will be coming.” “No, my father passed when I was still an infant.” “No, no siblings.” “Mom is Star Fleet, so we moved a lot. No one place to really be ‘from’.” “We met on the ship we are both assigned to.” “Yes, she still gets lost.” “No, I’m not afraid of marriage.” “No. Never been married before.” “She asked me out the first time.” “Klingons? Yeah… I know a few.” “I’m a Lieutenant Commander, so yes… I outrank her. At least for now.” “Yeah. I’ve been to Risa. Couple ‘a times.” “Yeah. I play the bass a little.” “My mom’ll be here tomorrow.” “Yes, she’s an Orion.” “We have our disagreements, but we get along.” “Don’t have a least favorite. I don’t judge folks by species; just by actions.” “Medals? A couple.” “Yeah, I’ve been in combat.” “Guinness really is my favorite, not kidding.” “No, no other Irish people, but I know my share of Scots.”

Gravel

Cara snickered at a couple of his answers. He knew ‘a few’ Klingons? She had a feeling there would be some formal Klingon events some time in their future. She laughed out loud when Evie told him to make sure he always out ranked Cara. It would make his life peaceful. “Don’na bet on that.”

Then it started, the stories. Most picking on Cara for how often she got lost and the absurd places where. “When she was just learnin’ ta crawl she got list in the walk-in closet.” “First time we walked home from school without mam. She was right there with me and then gone. Claimed she saw a fairy and went ta go see it. Didn’na find her till almost bed time. I was hysterical.” “First day of secondary she never showed up after lunch. She was in the basement, in the old boiler room, behind a padlocked door with no idea how she got in there.” “Went outside ta olay in the front yard. Didn’a leave the yard, but couldn’t find the door.” “I did NOT. That is just absurd.” “She went ta Clonmel by herself. I followed her, she made roads where people hadna gone in centuries. I still don’t jnow how she got home. Never made it ta Clonmel.” Ronan laughed, “We even had a standing search party just for her.” Patrick laughed, “Do you remember she got lost the day of the competition finals? We searched the entire fair lookin’ for her. Found her two hotels over, wrong hotel, right floor, wrong room screamin’ at the manager that someone stole her clothes and things and left someone else’s in their place.”

Cara

Gravel laughed in appreciation. “I keep threatenin’ to put a bell on her. At least that way I’d know when she’d wandered off.” The idea elicited howls of laughter from the elders and Gravel looked at Cara. “See? Told ya it was a good idea.”

Gravel

Cara glared with a non-convincing huff. “I’m no a cat. I’m no wearin’ a bell. That’s what I have a combadge for.” Sophie’s turned her gaze on Gravel and from simply pleased her look turned wicked. Apparently Cara had inherited that look from her mother. Dominik tried to hide his laughter behind a groan. Emilia leaned over and asked what she was thinking but Sophie just shook her head. Patrick laughed, “Yer in for it now, Cara. Ya might have learned from the master, but yer mam still is.” Sophie smiled, “I think I need a word in private with my future son-in-law.” She stood up and walked around the table. “Come along, Gravel. We should talk.”

Gravel raised his eyebrows and then shrugged and stood up. “Of course. But I’m telling you now… I’m taken.” The table erupted with laughter and Gravel winked at Cara and then iled at Sophie.

“Mam what are you up to?” Cara asked with more than obvious suspicion. Sophie looked at her middle daughter and smiled, “I have no idea what you mean. This is between me and Gravel. You stay and catch up.”

As they walked outside, from across the room Ada called, “See, if I ever get married I’m eloping!” That got a round of laughter. “You know I’m right Emilia!” Emilia nodded and chuckled. Cara looked at her father, “Dadai, do something.” Dominik laughed, “Well Cara, yer in for it now. I learned a long time ago to no get in yer mam’s way.”

Cara

Gravel offered his arm to Sophie and led her away from the pub. “I hope I’m not in trouble already. I usually put that off until at least my third beer.”

Gravel

Sophie patted his hand. “No worries, Lad.” After they were out of sight of the window she stopped, “This will be far enough. Cara can’na see what we’re doin’, and it will drive her ‘round the bend.” Sophie cackled. “I could’ve waited till tamorrow, but Cara will be crazy tryin’ ta figure out what I’m up ta.” She grinned, “And I’m sure ya know how ta keep a secret.” She winked at him and patted his arm again. “Now, I’m sure my daughter hasn’a told ya that it’s tradition for the bride and groom ta be given a bell on their wedding. It’s much fun at their expense. Everyone rings it and they have ta kiss. Seein’ as how it is tradition, you’ll be getting one anyway, and ya got an idea of a kind of bell ye be wantin’. So I was fancyin’ a trip inta town tamorrow with ya so ya can be pickin’ out the one ya want. Emilia will have Cara busy getting the dress altered and fixed where she let it get damaged. I promise ta have ya back before yer mam arrives.”

Sophie

Gravel thought for a moment and then grinned. “Okay… one thing you oughtta know about me. I’m part of a noble house. On Qo’Nos… the Klingon homeworld. Long story, that… but part of their tradition involves something similar, but not exactly a bell.” and he leaned down with a wicked grin on his face.

“They use a gong.”

He chuckled. “Would that work as well? Or do we need a bell specifically. ‘Cause if we do, you’re givin’ it to her. She will kick my ass if I do.” and he laughed.

Gravel

Sophie laughed, “Oh I think a gong will do just as well. It serves the same purpose. It will be nice ta share both yer traditions.” Obviously Sophie had no idea what a Klingon Noble house was, but if it was important to him she had no problem with it. “I will be happy ta give it ta her either way. It’s the least I can do after ya spent the last two years keepin’ track of that flighty minded daughter o’ mine.” She shook her head, “It’s a wonder she hasn’t been in serious trouble because o’ it. Now do ya want ta walk a bit longer or go back?”

Sophie

“It has been a hell of a past time, let me tell you.” he replied with a laugh. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way. And we can walk, if you like. But don’t push yourself, okay? Recovery is a process, okay?”

Gravel

Sophie laughed as she tucked her hand back on his arm and patted it again. “You remind me of my Dominik.” Clearly it was a compliment. “Emilia on the other hand tells me ta stop wastin’ away in bed, ta get up and move but no ta get tired.” Sophie led him around the small square that the pub faced. She pointed out businesses and talked about the people to whom they belonged. It was a very close knit community.

“Nice place you all have here. I can see why Cara is so fond of home.” Gravel said.

“Cara loves home, but it didn’a surprise me when she joined Star Fleet. She was always wanderin’ about, wantin’ ta experience the mysteries life has ta offer.” Sophie patted his arm again. It was a quirk of hers. “I hope you become fond of it as well.”

It wasn’t a long walk back to the pub, but more than she had done in awhile. She seemed to have renewed energy having the girls home.

“Now don’t overdo it, lady. I may not be your son-in-law yet, but I know how to give an order.” Gravel said with a grin.

Sophie laughed, “We are almost there and then I will sit. Save the orders for Cara. Yer goin’ ta need them when she gets wild.”

In the pub Cara answered non stop questions about how they met, when did he propose, what was her work like, were they going back, where would they settle, what did she think of his mom, was it weird that both Gravel and his mom outranked her, and how long were they staying.

Emilia and Yoss were enjoying being on the other side of the interrogation. Cara kept an eye on the door. What on Earth was her mother up to?

Cara

The door opened many minutes later and Gravel held it open for Sophie. He looked at Cara and grinned. “Your mom is awesome. I may have to trade ya.”

Gravel

There was a loud roar of laughter and approval and a wave went through the pub as hands exchanged items in bets paid and collected. Sophie walked back toward the table, Dominik sliding his arm around her waist as she sat and tucking her in to his side. Cara looked between them, “Mam?”

Cara was denied an answer as the music started again. “I do believe our new friend has discovered what we all know,” Patrick said as the music started. She ignored them a moment and looked at Gravel. “So glad yer gettin’ along. What is she up to?”

Gravel grinned at her and said “Her? Nothing. She just wanted to know if there were any wedding customs Orions had that she could incorporate.” and he winked and then listened to the music, focusing his full attention on the band.

When you come to the end of your day
And you can’t think of anyone to save your life
That can pull you through the big bad world
Then the chance is you never met a celtic girl

When your breath’s been taken away
By the sight of a lass the second she strolls past
And your hearts gone into a whirl
Then the odds are you’re lookin’ at a celtic girl

What if your world turned upside down
The earth went purple and the sky went brown
Ya need somebody that can make things sound
When ya feel like you want to go home
She could spark a fire that could guide you there
Do lie diddle lie dum

If there’s a freckle face in your mind
And you just can’t shake it cause you’ve been day dreamin’
Of A head that’s covered in curls
And the twinkle eyed beauty of a celtic girl

She can make up a proper meal in seconds flat
Drink you under the table sayin’ here’s your hat
That she’ll quote you wisdom from her great granddad
The best that you ever have known
And you better well listen or you’ll turn up missin’
Do lie diddle lie dum
Do lie diddle lie dum
Do lie diddle lie dum

If she walks with the devil in her gate
And she’ll dance for hours while her young man waits
And she cheers when the bagpipe skirl
Then You know that you found yerself a celtic girl

When you come to the end of your day
And you can’t find anyone to save your life
Who can pull ya through this big bad world
Then you know you better find yourself a celtic girl
Yep
Whoo

Boy you better get yourself a celtic girl
Celtic girl
Celtic giiiirl

Cara (with special thanks to Barleyjuice - Celtic Girl https://youtu.be/KfPpktikvyU?si=pRtOqCDkyYnCj5Hx)

Gravel laughed and smiled and clapped loudly. “Too late! Already found one!” Gravel said, and then suddenly his demeanor shifted. It wasn’t noticeable by anyone except Cara, but his energy suddenly went from happy-go-lucky… to Security Chief. He looked at Cara and leaned in, smiling, and said “The group Ava is with. You know them? Particularly the one kid sitting with the group of young bucks. Seems to be the big man on campus? Blonde hair, football jersey. Middle seat with his back to the wall.”

Gravel

Cara leaned in and grinned as she scanned the group. “Local kids. I don’t recognize the blonde. Resembles Donovan at that age a bit. Liam’s brother. He moved away years ago.”

Cara

Gravel nodded and turned and waved Ronan over. “You know the blonde kid over there? The one who knows he’s good looking?” Ronan gave a quick glance at the table of teens and looked back and then shook his head. “Aye. Reggie O’Hara. You met his uncle Liam.” He looked at Cara and said “Donovan’s second oldest. In from Dublin for a few weeks. An’ I’ll tell ya, the apple didn’t falk too far from that rotten tree, tae be sure.” Gravel nodded and then said “‘Scuse me a sec.” and he stood up and walked through the bar directly to the table.

The teens all looked his way as he approached, and Ava turned and looked shocked, but then looked at Cara with a pleading look that said Please don’t let him embarrass me!

Cara shook her head and smiled. Gravel would never embarrass her. Plus Cara knew Gravel and recognized the shift in his demeanor. Something wasn’t right.

Gravel looked down at the table and smiled. “Heya, guys. Just wanted to introduce myself. My name is Mardusk. I’m gonna be Ava’s brother in a few days.” and he locked eyes with Reggie. “And I thought I’d get started with watching out for my little sister tonight.” He reached down and picked up the glass from in front of Ava. “Now, as I’m sure you fine, intelligent young people can tell, I’m not like you. I’m a species called Orion.” Without taking his eyes off of Reggie, he lifted the glass and downed the contents in one swallow and set the glass on the edge of the table. “Oruons are really different from humans in a lot of ways.” He picked up the glass from in front of another girl; and by now the pub was quiet as everyone looked on. Cara’s father gave her a questioning look, as did Sophie.

Cara just shook her head, getting a very bad feeling while she watched. She also watched the flash of irritation on Reggie’s face as Gravel took Ava’s drink. Another boy shifted guiltily in his seat.

Gravel said “First off, we are a lot stronger than humans.” and he drank the glass and thennset it next to the first. “Also, we can take a lot more physical punishment than you humans.” He picked up a third glass from in front of another girl and drained it, setting it next to the others. With his eyes still on Reggie, he said “And what is really fascinating, and super important for you Reggie to know…” He picked up the last girl’s drink and drained it. “… is that wr are also immune to most human drugs. Especially those that are used to drug unsuspecting girls so you can do… well… whatever you planned on doing to my sister and her friends with the ahit you put in their drinks.” He smacked his lips together for a second and said “Red Haze, from the taste of it. Isn’t that illegal here on Earth?”

Cold oily dread raced down Cara’s spine at the words Red Haze. She grabbed Emilia’s arm, tugging her sister from her shock. “Yoss, go get my med kit, quick,” Emilia hissed as she stood and moved behind the bar, grabbing Ronan’s very basic med kit. “Ronan call the Garda.” Cara ordered quietly. “Don’t touch the glasses.” Ronan nodded and stepped away with his comm.

Reggie watched it all transpire and he shifted slightly as Gravel spoke. “Uh… um… I don’t really know what yo-” and Gravel cut him off. “Let me guess. You all were discussing going for ‘a walk’, weren’t you?” He looked at Ava who simply nodded. He looked back at Reggie.”Don’t. Don’t try to talk your way outta this, kid. Just go. Take your boys here and go. I may be new here, but I’m pretty sure Ronan and the rest of the folks here don’t take kindly to arrogant little shits trying to drug their daughters. That may work for you in Dublin, but you see… you’re not in Dublin. Your here with me.”

Gravel

The parents were livid. Reggie, certain this outsider couldn’t do much or prove anything, shrugged. “Whatever. This place is a drag anyway.” He shoved the boy next to him and they slid out of the booth. They didn’t get out the door before several people blocked their path. Dominik and the other fathers at the head of the human blockade. They grabbed the boys by the arms and frog-marched them out the door. Cara blocked the way staring Reggie down. “Where did ya get it?”

“I don’t know what ya mean.”

“Boyo, donn’a play games with me. Where did ya get Red Haze?” The fury rolled off her in waves, making her look like some avenging war goddess of old. She paced him down in two steps and then further, forcing him to back up into the adults behind him. Dominik put a hand on her, afraid she might hit the boy. “I can tell ya stories about Red Haze that will make ya wet the bed for the rest o’ yer life.”

“CARA!” Emilia called, “I need help. They drank some of it!”

Cara looked at her father, “Make sure the Garda arrest and detain them.” She took off toward the pub. She started grabbing vials out of Emilia’s kit and loaded them into a hypo for her. “Saoirse, open yer eyes and look a’ me.” Emilia coaxed one of the girls who was lethargic and breathing shallowly. “Cara give the other girls an innoculation to be sure. Ronan, call an ambulance!”

Cara pressed the hypo into each girl’s neck. “Did you drink any of it?” They shook their heads. Ava was crying. “Is Saoirse going to be alright? She’s already sick.” Sophie appeared beside her and hugged her. “Yer sister is an excellent doctor. She’ll take care of her.” Ava nodded nimbly and looked around. She suddenly launched herself at Gravel, not quite able to hug him and started to cry.

Cara

Gravel put an arm around her and held her. “Shhhh… you’re alright kiddo. You did nothing wrong. This isn’t your fault. None of you girls did anything wrong. Boys just suck.” he said. The last words coaxed a small half laugh from Ava. Gravel looked at Dominik and Ronan. “Can we get these girls some ice water?” he asked softly. He then looked at Cara. ” The spray is in Reggie’s left front pocket. Dont touch it, but let the cops know where it is. He’s the only one with it, but the other boy there, the red head, saw what he did and didn’t say anything. The short boy had no idea. Might want to send him home before the cops show up.”

The shorter boy did indeed have a confused look on his face; but it seemed that realization finally dawned on him. His eyes went wide and he looked at Ava and the other girls. “Oh lords above! I had no idea!” and then his wide eyes narrowed. Before Gravel could speak, the boy turned and attacked Reggie like a wild animal. He got a few solid shots in before the fathers grabbed him and pulled him back, leaving Reggie with a bloody nose and holding his groin as he slowly went to the floor. Through clenched teeth, the attacker said “Ya come near Ava- or any woman in this village again- I’ll kill ya where ya stand, ya bastard!” Gravel raised his voice and said “Get him outta here!” Two of the adults moved him out the side door as the sirens could be heard in the distance, and a couple of the fathers patted him on the back. Gravel looked down at Ava and said “Got yerself an avenger there, don’t ya? What is it about you O’Farrell girls and overly-loyal guys, huh?” and he gave her a squeeze.

Gravel

Sophie had an arm around the other girl who looked very pale. Most of the people looked shocked. They had their share of problems, but this was not an experience that they had encountered before. Not here in their little town anyway. “Conor has been sweet on Ava since they toddled inta each other goin’ after the same shovel in the sandbox,” Sophie said drawing a small smile from both the girls.

“Seems like a good kid. Needs to learn how to throw a proper punch, though. His fist is gonna hurt tomorrow.” Gravel said with a grin.

Ronan set a the two glasses of water on the table. “Shannon, I called yer mam. She’s said ta stay with Sophie and go ta the hospital. She’ll meet ya there.” Shannon nodded, “Is Saoirse goin’ ta be okay, Emilia?”

Emilia was still knelt over the girl. “We are going to do whatever we have to to make sure she is.” Ava looked at her friend too shocked to accept what had happened. She glanced around, “Where’s Cara?”

Cara had slipped out the door. She met the police and gave them a concise explanation of what happened. They confiscated the Red Haze from Reggie and took both boys into custody. Then she and the sergeant walked a bit of a ways off. They talked for several minutes before the sergeant headed into the pub. Cara watched the commotion as the boys were taken and the paramedics brought Ava and Shannon out. Her parents got in the truck with them and they took off. She didn’t see Emilia or Saoirse. Emilia must have called for an emergency transport. Cara took out her comm and made a call.

While the paramedics got Saoirse ready for emergency transport, Emilia loaded a hypo and held it up to Gravel. “It might not effect you, but no need to leave any lingerin’ on yer mouth and then ya kiss my sister.” She grinned making a slight joke but wad all to serious. A few minutes later the rest disappeared in swirling lights.

The sergeant entered the pub, weaving to stay out of the way of the paramedics. He spotted Gravel, by virtue of Cara’s description. Though you couldn’t miss him. He was a big boy. “Lt Cmdr Mardusk? I’m Sergeant Foley. I understand yer the one who saw what happened?”

Cara

Gravel nodded and said “That’s me, yeah. I was sitting here-” and he puta hand on the chair he was in, “- and as we were all talking, I heard one of the boys at the far table speak a bit louder than normal. He said ‘Seriously. Just look up, hold your breath, and count down from six slowly and then exhale and you’ll see flashes of light. Those flashes are identical in pattern to deep space radio waves.’ Now, I knew that was utter bulls##!t, so I glanced over. That’s when I saw him spray the girl’s drinks. I verified who he was, keeping an eye on the girls to make sure they didn’t drink. I’m guessing it wasn’t the first time he had hit the drinks, though. The girls never drank any after I saw him spray. So I… ‘intervened’.” He took a drink of water from a pitcher Ronan had brought him. “Yes, I’ll testify. And if the boy or his family wanna fight this, I’ll happily press Fleet charges for Assault on a Commisioned Officer, too. As far as the Haze goes though, Sergent, I’d recommend having a word with Reggie’s family. Spray vials of Red Haze are sold in blister packs of twelve. And it’s really expensive. Most of the ones that use it are well-to-do scumbags who can’t get a date with wit and charm, so they go to the ‘ol standby… chemical compliance. And I’ll also tell you that the way he handled that vial? This wasn’t the first time he’s done it.” Gravel ran his tongue around the inside of his mouth and made a face. “Ugh.” he said and turned to Ronan. “Hey, can I get something to eat? The trinanzipam Emilia gave me leaves a crappy taste in your mouth.” He then.looked at Ava. “Listen, your friend’ll be fine. What she drank isn’t lethal, it’s just makes you numb and unable to move and kind of out of it for a few hours. Most likely the docs will just let her sleep it off. She’ll be fine… I promise.” and he have her a reassuring smile and wink.

Gravel

Ava shook her head, “Saoirse is sick. Her birth mom did drugs while she was pregnant and all kinds of horrible things after she was born. She has seizures because of it and her body can’t tolerate any kind of opioid. When she fell of a horse and broke her arm she couldn’t have anything. Emilia said they gave her a nerve block for the pain instead.” Ava nodded though feeling better for his assurance. She hugged him again, “Thank you.” Then she and Shannon were being led out by Sophie and Dominik.

Foley was busy taking down notes, “Thank you. Do you mind staying around for a bit? One of the garda will take your official statement. I’m sure the inspector will want to speak with you herself. Where can we reach you?”

“No problem. And you can reach me at the O’Farrell’s.” Gravel said.

Ronan returned with a pot of stew. “This is all that was immediately ready. If ya be wantin’ somethin’ different, just say the word and I’ll get it started for ya.”

Cara

“That’s perfect. Thanks.” Gravel said and took a seat. The stew smelled wonderful and he picked up the spoon and took a bite. Nodding in satisfaction, he looked at Ronan and gave him a thumbs up as he chewed.

Gravel


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