She'd called him a lummox
for leaping in to defend her. And she was crying and trembling because she was happy or relieved. Padraig resolved now that he would never quite understand her. She was a puzzle, a mystery, and so were her emotions. And yet he couldn't fault her for it. Instead he loved her all the more.
"What else was I to do? Stand and watch while he snapped your neck in front of me?"
he asked, folding her smaller hands in his. "I never expected him to move that fast. It was a mistake I'll keep regretting. But if I hadn't planned what I did, I wouldn't change it either. Besides,"
he added, smiling just a little in a poor attempt to lighten the mood for her. "I gave as good as I got, didn't I?"
They both knew that the strangler would have wanted to keep her for some time, not kill her for a while but to hold her and do it at his leisure. "Chances were he wouldn't have, had he not been cornered. But cornered animals can do unpredictable things and I couldn't chance it."
And that was what the man was. An animal.
Faith had more to say though and he smiled in spite of himself. Though there was also some surprise written into his expression. "I thought you knew. That you understood and that it went without saying. But it doesn't. And I don't say it enough, and you're right. I find it difficult to talk about feelings, emotional things."
Was it because his was a mind geared to scientific things, facts and provable theories? Probably in part, but Padraig suspected he wasn't very different from most men that way.
But she deserved better. "So I can only say what I've felt all along. There's been no one else I've wanted to spend my life with but you, and won't be. Not before you, not now, not ever."
Truer words were never spoken. He just guessed he ought to more often, now and again.
The next part however was tricky, and Padraig paused over his explanation for a trill or three before giving it a try. "I hoped you would play along, because while I had a plan...sort of, until that moment I wasn't exactly sure how it might play out. I mean, I knew what the oil and the beeswax was for. But the rest?"
Well, that was where things had become complicated.
"You think it's my worst nightmare?"
Far from it, except that he'd never before now, when she was asking, really considered it. But the way she was
asking gave him further pause. Was it something she
wanted, and hadn't told him before? He shook his head, trying to sort it all out. "The truth is that story came out of nowhere. Not from any deep seated desire, uncertainty or sense of dread. I happened because my mind was racing for a way to stall him. If I'd said nothing, we were outdoors, he was on his way out and he'd have walked right past us and left us behind."
"I needed a reason to keep him there until the guards arrived, and that story is what happened. We were together in front of him and I was thinking that I didn't want him to see you as a potential victim. To then, he'd chosen women who were alone, without husbands to watch over them. Women he might see as unattached and unmarried, like Catherine had been when he'd courted her. If he thought you were married?"
he suggested then. "Then less likely he'd see you as an available prospect."
Of course it wasn't the way things had gone. Because again, cornered animals didn't act in a completely predictable way. "It was a foolish thing to do. But it was impulse, an effort to deflect his attention and nothing more. I haven't thought about marriage,"
he told her honestly. "It's a ceremonial concept, a contract that somehow needs the acknowledgment of others in order to be valid. I don't need anyone to acknowledge what we have in order for it to mean something."
"I am yours, you are mine, we are...us together,"
he added, and grinned a little at the awkwardness of what he'd just said. But it was true nonetheless. "I want no one else but you and I believe you when you say that it's only me for you and that its forever. Surely that's more valid than any contract or acknowledgment from others?"
On the other hand, if it was what she
wanted? He wanted nothing more than to make her happy. And so, "But is it what you want?"
he asked, turning the tables because he needed to be sure. "An official, public acknowledgment of what we both knew to be true?"
If she'd asked him to all of a sudden reverse his feelings about children, it would be somewhat of a tall order. But this? If it was what she truly wanted? Well after all, no one needed to stay up through the night and comfort a squalling contract that wouldn't sleep, or clean up the carnage left behind because of a concept left unattended at two or three arcs old. And so far as he knew, a marriage contract had never thrown up its last meal all over anyone's new suit or important paperwork.