Chapter 01—

The Morning After

She wasn't sure whether it was the insulting presence of the sun filtering through the (albeit only half open) curtains or if it was the incessant pounding within the confines of her skull that caused her to crack an eye open.

Either way, she was now regretting the decision and wished that she'd just left well enough alone.

At a mere twenty-two years of age, our heroine wasn't that awfully familiar in dealing with, and somewhat managing, killer hangovers.

Killer hangovers that cause one to seriously contemplate suicide.

Surely suicide would be the better option in the face of the pure and unadulterated agony that she felt coursing throughout her entire being. She. Wanted. To. Die. That's all there was to it—death was simply the best option at this point.

What in the world had caused her to drink herself into such a stupor in the first place? She tried to force her fuzzy mind to begin churning the cogwheels, but found that all that did was further her headache. She felt as though she'd just repeatedly banged her head on cement.

Almost instinctively, she reached a hesitant hand out to feel the back of her head. When a quick inspection didn't reveal anything even remotely resembling blood, she figured that she was safe.

If only that blasted sun would stop shining so brightly! In her fuddled mind she was almost positive that the sun was enjoying himself immensely; he was probably having a good laugh over making her suffer even more than she already was. The sadistic bastard, she thought bitterly as she closed her eyes to try and block the unwanted rays from stinging her eyes any further.

She grabbed the edge of the coverlet and pulled upwards—intending to hide under its relative safety for as long as she possibly could. However, she was met with a bit of a protest… of the vocal kind.

Vocal? But that meant… that meant…

Either she was hearing voices inside her head, or else… well… or else she wasn't.

She abruptly shot up to a sitting position, which only served to send waves of pain and agony throughout her entire skeletal system. She mentally reminded herself to never take another drink of anything containing alcohol for as long as she lived.

Vile stuff, honestly.

As soon as the shooting pain had subsided somewhat, she looked past the yellow dots and found that she was peering upon the unmistakable body of another person.

…a man.

"Hello Kitty." A familiar voice wafted though the air.

Familiar…? It was familiar, but yet she couldn't quite place who belonged to that voice. Who could manage to combine contempt, sarcasm, bemusement, and boredom into an eloquent and almost caressing tone of voice?

Hello Kitty? Who was it again that called her that stupid nickname?

It suddenly hit her—with the force of… ironically… a horrible hangover.

"Jude!" she screeched.

"Watch it Lira, darling," he groaned into the pillows without even bothering to open an eye. "My head feels like it's about to explode. Have a little respect for the… indisposed; the poor souls unable to defend themselves against your Banshee-esque screeching."

She began sputtering stupidly, as though she'd just forgotten every vocabulary word in her mental dictionary and was now reduced to one-syllable words. It was a mix of things really, although her surprise at waking up next to Jude Keenan in bed (rather naked as the case might be, she was horrified to realize) took more precedence over her anger at the effortless insult that he'd hurled her way.

But insult one another is what they did. That was the entire basis of the relationship between Lira O'Brien and Jude Keenan. They did not (repeat: not) sleep together.


"Oh God, I'm going to be sick." Lira put her hand over her mouth.

"Mind aiming in the direction opposite of me?" Jude lazily mumbled.

The bile that had been quickly making its journey up her throat died down as Lira was overcome with the urge to smash the infuriating man's skull into the headboard until he was bleeding from his ears, eyes, and mouth.

How had he managed this in the first place? How had he managed to get her roaring drunk and drag her back to a… a… rather seedy looking motel, she noticed with disdain. If he was going to take advantage of her, one would think that, with all his money, he'd have the decency to at least soften the blow by allowing her to wake up in a nice room where there were not (repeat: not) piss stains on the wall.

Oh God, she was going to be sick.

"What the… I mean… you… me… what…?" She was mortified to realize that she simply was incapable of forming a sentence. Why she chose this fact to be mortified over when there were more pressing matters at hand, she wasn't entirely certain.

"It seems," Jude heaved the sigh of a long-suffering man, "that we—for lack of a better term—fucked each others brains out."

Color flushed to Lira's cheeks and she was enraged to realize that Jude Keenan had her blushing—blushing. She hadn't blushed since Bobby Wise kissed her behind the school gym when she was ten years old.

Jude Keenan should not have the power to make her blush.

"Why you disgusting, loathsome, vulgar…" She was shaking with indignant rage by that point.

"I think I understand your general idea," Jude interrupted—an air of boredom lacing his tone. "Really, Lira, why do you have to make a gruesome situation all the more…" he propped himself up by his elbow at this point, "…well, gruesome? Really, what does it accomplish?"

"You… you… you…"

"Disgusting? Loathsome? Vulgar?" he filled in with a lift of a blond eyebrow as his steel gray eyes shifted from her face… downwards.

She felt his gaze burning into her skin and suddenly became all too conscious of the fact that she was currently exposing her top half to the incessant and all-seeing gaze of Jude Keenan. She scowled at the sight of him lounging languidly next to her in a bed that—suddenly—had become much smaller than she initially had perceived it to be.

She yanked the coverlet up to cover her breasts and clutched it so tightly that her knuckles turned white under the pressure. She felt her entire body flushing and wished with fervor that the earth would open up and swallow her whole.

"I don't suppose you remember how any of this came—" he paused and considered his double entendre, "—no pun intended of course—" he smirked before finishing, "… about?"

"Oh besides the fact that you obviously got me all liquored up and brought me back here only to… to…"

"What are you insinuating?" he interrupted her annoying sputtering.

"I'm saying that you took advantage of me in my inebriated state." She defiantly stared at him, accusing him with every breath inside her body.

He turned his nose up at this.

"Your suggestion," he began, "is ludicrous."

"How do you figure?"

"Granted, my memory hasn't entirely returned to me yet, but I sincerely doubt that I had to take you… against your will." He said this last part with a suggestive wink.

She paled when she realized what he was doing; he was, for all intents and purposes, flirting with her. She felt like smacking that smug expression off his face. This was no time to be flirting! This was a dire situation.

"Wait a minute," a thought finally occurred to her, "what do you mean? If you don't remember anything and I don't remember anything then how… how can I be sure that you didn't… take me against my will?"

"Please tell me that you aren't accusing me of raping you?"

He said the words with his usual carelessness, but there seemed to be something lurking underneath the surface. Something that Lira couldn't exactly place. However, she knew Jude Keenan well enough to know that he'd never lay a finger on a woman unless she wanted him to.

Or was entirely too drunk to have the use of her brain.

"No," Lira simply responded.

Jude nodded his head before swinging his legs over the side of the bed and searching for his clothes. He found them lying in a crumpled heap in the corner. Sighing, he managed to drag his tired and extremely sore body away from the softness of the mattress.

Lira, meanwhile, was absolutely and completely transfixed on watching every single movement that a certain Jude Keenan was making. Her mind was too fuddled and confused to even register that she was essentially staring at the man.

His lithe body moved with a feline grace, even though she knew he was just as hungover as she was. His hair, usually impeccably groomed, was disheveled but yet still seemed to have an irritating air of order to it. Even though the silvery blond locks were in disarray, it was as though this was how it was supposed to be. Like his hair looking any other way just simply wasn't imaginable.

"Did you plan on staring at me all day, O'Brien?" Jude's voice sliced the air—effectively bringing Lira out of her jumbled musings.

She blinked twice before allowing that familiar scowl to grace her features. Jude couldn't help a smile from tugging at his lips. Really… that Lira… she was an amusing girl indeed.

"Rings! Rings? Gold…? Wedding…? Rings! Oh my dear God…"

Amusing, but quite nearly insane, he decided.

He pulled his pants up over his narrow hips, deciding that it was probably in his best interest to simply ignore the raving lunatic in the room.

"You have one too!" Lira shrieked at him. He made a mental note to rip her vocal chords out the next time she even attempted to make that horrible noise at him.

He ran a hand through his chin-length silver locks and gave a questioning look.

"Look at your wedding finger," Lira instructed him, forgetting her panic for a few seconds.

He did as was requested and found that he did indeed have a gold wedding band around the finger in question. He eyed it with a calm and measured interest—the exact opposite from Lira's reaction. It was a simple ring, not ornate in the least, but rather eye-catching all the same. He must have been the one who picked it out, seeing as how Lira—with her obsession of all things gaudy—couldn't possibly have gotten rid of years of bad taste so quickly.

"That's interesting," he finally spoke.

By that time, Lira had risen from the bed, making it a point to clutch the sheet around her small frame very tightly. The last thing she needed was to expose herself to Jude. Well… anymore than she already had.

She rubbed her eyes, as though willing the entire mess to just magically clean itself up.

Yeah… as though either one of them were that lucky, Jude mused to himself, whilst playing with his newfound wedding ring.

When had they gotten married?

Better yet… why?

Talk about drinking oneself into a stupor. Only sheer stupidity would explain this… this… sudden coupling that he'd apparently done with Lira O'Brien.

"What the hell?" Lira screeched. "Married! We're married! Why are you so composed and… and… unaffected?"

He again contemplated ripping out her vocal chords. Might be a bit messy, but in the long run, he'd be doing not only himself, but the world, a favor. A silent Lira was the only kind of Lira that he liked. And even that was stretching it.

He watched as she frantically scurried about the room gathering up her various articles of clothing—making sure to keep that thin sheet pulled frustratingly tight around her form. Wait? Did he just think…? His mind was more fucked up than he'd initially thought.

"First of all, you'll find that I'm almost always composed," he began. Lira gave a panicked look around the room, apparently searching for an item of clothing that just simply didn't want to make its presence known. "And secondly… I can assure you," he spotted her black bra hanging suspiciously off a light fixture, "that I am not," he extended a long, nicely toned arm upwards, "…unaffected by this," he pulled the bra off the fixture, "… situation, as it has now become."

He handed Lira the article of clothing. She bristled a little when their fingers touched for the briefest of moments, before she quickly grabbed the bra from him and tried to hide her embarrassment.

"What do you suggest that we do?" Lira chose to enquire.

"Get some coffee for a start," Jude flatly answered her. "Maybe take a shower?"

At this, Lira abruptly looked up at her husband, a little alarmed and somewhat insulted at what he'd just implied.

"Oh get your mind out of the gutter, you lewd sex kitten," Jude tsked her. "I did mean separately of course. Unless you have other ideas, that is?" He raised an eyebrow at her in mocking.

At least, she thought it was mocking. Sometimes with Jude she wasn't quite so sure.

Lira made a mad dash for the adjoining bathroom, almost tripping on her sheet in the process. Jude laughed at her as she slammed the door shut. He soon heard water running (and a couple of objects being thrown around by the angry likes of Ms. O'Brien… or would that be Mrs. Keenan?).

Boy—that Irish temper sure was acting up. He wondered, idly, how many generations removed from the Emerald Island Lira was. Surely it was at least three or four. Apparently all the years in America hadn't watered down the O'Brien temper.

He sat down on the edge of the bed, looking at the mess that the sheets were in. Of course, they probably weren't the cleanest sheets to begin with. Looking around the room with distaste (for he was a cultured boy not at all used to seedy dives such as the… Kozy Kort? Oh dear Lord, was that a memory?), he suddenly felt very soiled and… impure.

Yes, impure was the word.

He toyed with the gold band absentmindedly, as he looked around the room further. Brown really wasn't a very becoming color, he decided. He vowed to never wear a single shade of brown again.

He rose from the bed only to be met with a loud clanging as he knocked over the nearby wastebasket with his foot. He sighed and bent down to pick up the contents (bad idea, he realized when all the blood rushed to his head and he felt like he might pass out).

He muttered under his breath as he looked at the contents of that wastebasket that were now strewn across the rank carpet.

He quickly counted seven (yes, that's seven) used condom's.


Had he really… with Lira? Seven times?

He felt queasy.

"Holy mother of God!" he heard an ear-piercing shriek come from the bathroom, followed by more objects crashing to the floor.

He held his head in sheer agony.

Heh—at least they didn't have unprotected sex. Even in an inebriated state, he was smart enough to want to minimize the chance that he'd end up siring a screaming brat or two. He figured at least that was something.

At the sound of the bathroom door being forcefully opened, he glanced over to see a towel-clad Lira (did the girl ever wear clothes?) with a very troubled frown on her face. She looked downright green, he observed.



"Do you have a tattoo?"

A what?

"…of my name, perhaps?" she finished.

He was suddenly aware of a spot on his back that was quite sore indeed.

Oh dear God…

How had things actually managed to get worse?

A/N: Ooooh, new story! I'd love it if you'd drop me a review and tell me what you think.