There's much excitement around the town over the latest addition to our local Garda Siochana, mostly among the women. Oh all right then, almost exclusively among the women- the only other person as interested in him as all of us is Jamie Fitzgerald, Killarmon's only openly gay fella. So you can guess why Garda John Feeley is causing all this commotion, to put it in a nutshell- he's quite simply a fine thing. He has dark curly hair, beautiful dark brown eyes, and the man's lips, well you could die for `em. Tall and slim, broad shouldered, it's been a while since this little arse of a town has seen anything this nice, let me tell you. The last time was when Pierce Brosnan was here filming a couple of scenes for a movie he was doing. But Garda Feeley is ours, he won't be moving off in a couple of days back to his glamorous Hollywood life, he's stuck here with us. For a while at least, we own him. We will speculate about him, gossip about him, dissect his every movement and word, because not only is Garda Feeley gorgeous, he has the misfortune to be single. He's a sitting duck.
I've only seen him a couple of times walking his beat around the town, quick glimpses, and I once stood behind him in the queue at the Newsagents, smiled and said hiya. He drinks in Phil Healy's with some of the other Guards, and luckily also with my boss Michael (a great friend of Sergeant Seamus O'Hara) which is where we've gotten what small bit of information we have, ie that Garda John Feeley is single. As in- no wife, and no girlfriend either. He's English, or rather he grew up over there, with a surname like Feeley you have to know his people came from here. With the dark hair and eyes he looks Irish too. Like the aforementioned Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson, all those dark Celtic types who give lie to the old chestnut that all Irish are pale redheads. He has recently left the Army, that would be the British Army, where he was stationed in Ulster. But in the present climate of good will no one's going to hold that against him. Not openly anyhow. He's friendly enough, smiles and always says hello to you, but he's not overly quick with the ol' chat like most of the locals, it must be that British reserve. And of course it only makes him all the more intriguing.

Saturday night I'm sitting in Healy's pub with a gang of my girlfriends, Laurie, Aoife, Tracy, and Val (up until Garda John Feeley came on the scene Healy's was not a pub I often chose to spend time in- I always thought it had a bit of a yuppified air to it), sitting at a table just across from the booth where he's drinking with Michael and Seamus and a couple of the other guards, sneaking glances at him and trying not to talk about him. We are not succeeding.
"What in the hell do you suppose brought him here to Killarmon anyway?" Val says.
"Probably the job- guards don't get much of a choice sometimes about where they go, do they?" I answer her.
"I think there's something funny about him leaving the Army, though. Seamus was saying something about it to Jimmy Carney," Laurie adds.
"Yeah, well- Seamus is full of shite," Tracy says, "and he shouldn't be gossiping anyway. I swear, the men are worse than we are!"
"Aren't you curious, though? I mean- a ride like that coming to a place like this, and no wife or girlfriend? Hey, you don't suppose he got thrown out of the Army for being gay, do you?"
"Oh Lord, Aoifa- they don't do that anymore, for Christ's sake!" Val tells her. "Anyway- what does it matter? It's not like any of us would have a chance with him either way."
The discussion continues, and while I don't contribute much, I can't stop myself sneaking peeks at him still. He is sitting there with the other fellas, part of the group and yet somehow not. There is something in his manner that suggests a separateness, not quite aloofness, but a need to stay slightly apart from the others. He laughs at the jokes, but tells none of his own- and sometimes I think he's seeing something other than the glasses on the table at which he's staring.
Garda John Feeley is starting to fascinate me.

The next day I'm walking my Jack Russell, Beavis, around the Black Castle grounds. It's a gorgeous Spring day, the kind we get all too few of here, but when they come they're so beautiful they make the rain and gloom seem worth it. We start around the Cliff Walk, a beautiful stretch that runs along the golf course, overlooking the Irish Sea. You can hear the waves crashing on the rocks below. I let the dog off the lead to run ahead of me, her little bit of freedom for the day. We come up over a rise and there in the near distance I see a familiar dark haired figure sitting on the grass, and I get a little thrill at seeing him in this setting, and all alone. Beavis spots him and trots in his direction.
He's sitting quite near to the edge of the cliff, staring out to sea, and I can tell even from this distance that he's a million miles away. That is until Beavis jumps on him, smothering him with her wet and smelly doggy kisses. He laughs and pets her, while trying to keep the lapping tongue from his face.
"Sorry!" I shout and run to drag her off, but I silently thank her.
"It's all right- she's lovely. What's her name?"
"Beavis. Don't look at me, I didn't name her."
"It's nice though- it suits her."
"Grand lovely day, - Garda Feeley isn't it?"
"I prefer John when I'm off duty. And you work for Michael Cahill in the laundry, don't you?"
"Yes- I'm Jess."
"I'll be in to see you soon. My washer has gone on me."
"Well, good for us, bad for you."
"Actually, I'm glad of the excuse to let someone do it for me."
"Well, so. Bring it on in, we open at 9 tomorrow morning."
I'm dying to think of something to say, anything at all to prolong our conversation, when he does it for me.
"You're American, aren't you?"
"Yes, I came over here from California five years ago."
"Yeah, I've been told you're a `student'," he says with the tiniest smile at the corner of his mouth, by which sign I know that he's been filled in on the little lie that allows me to stay here in Ireland long after my tourist visa expired. I feel a little embarrassed, wondering what he thinks I might have done to warrant such special consideration, but the smile seems friendly rather than sarcastic.
"People seem very fond of you around here," he says, "you're lucky to have made so many good friends." This statement astounds me, I wouldn't have thought he knew or cared a thing about what people's opinions of me were. Or thought much about me at all, for that matter. This little revelation makes me bold, so I ask him, "Did you know anyone here before you moved to Killarmon?"
"No, I didn't know a soul, just like yourself when you first came."
"How did you know that?"
"Michael told me. I did want to know something about the woman I'm apparently expected to break the immigration laws for." And now he is truly smiling, and it transforms his face from handsome to amazing, he has a smile that would really knock all the women of Killarmon on their arses, if only they ever got to see it. I can actually feel myself blushing, it's probably been years since that has happened.
"Sorry about that, I never asked them to"
"Don't apologize, I'm only teasing you a bit. It's actually quite a relief to have a post where you're allowed to be a bit creative about the rules. Sometimes it's better to break the rules than follow them to the letter, isn't it?" Something clouds his face at this, the smile is gone now, hidden behind the beautiful eyes.
"Well, I suppose that's true, but I don't really think I'd be spreading that opinion around, you'd have anarchy on your hands with all the gurriers around here," I try to tease the smile back, but only get its weaker cousin.
"I trust you to keep my secret, don't tell everyone that I'm not really the hard man I pretend to be." But somehow I sense that John Feeley can be quite the hard man when it's called for. I think maybe those gorgeous eyes have seen things I can't begin to guess at, up there in Northern Ireland.

True to his word he shows up at the laundry at 9:15, just as my boss Helen and I are having a good old gossip about my run in with him the day before. I hear the bell and when I go out front to find him standing there I just pray that he couldn't hear us. It's embarrassing enough that he has to know we all stare at him on the street and in the pub.
"Good Morning!" I greet him.
"Good morning- as promised, one bag of disgusting dirty laundry. I hope you can work miracles here." He holds up a khaki green army duffel.
"Ah well, miracles are extra, you know. If you want us to use holy water that's going to cost you."
He smiles a bit. "Well, maybe just throw a bit of extra powder in there. And, uh- you don't happen to do ironing as well, do you?"
"It's your lucky day, that we do."
"You've just made me a very happy man," he says. I wonder if he realizes the lengths that most of the women around here would go to just to hear him say those words? After I take the bag from him, give him his ticket and watch his quite nice bum going out the door, I take it to the back and Helen raises her eyebrows at me. "Boxers or briefs?" she asks, with a nod at the bag.
"Ex military- definitely boxers," I say.
"Hmm..but maybe trying to get away from the memories- I say briefs."
I win.

The next weekend I get the shock of my life. And one of the biggest thrills, too.
We're in Healy's again, myself and Laurie, naturally here to have our weekly fix of Garda Feeley. But just as we decide we've gazed our fill at him (besides, ever since I've washed, dried and folded the man's underwear it seems rather juvenile, not to mention intrusive, to gawk at him like this), the unbelievable happens. I'm coming back from my trip to the loo before heading off to the other end of the town to our real local, when I bump into (literally) Garda Feeley coming out of the men's.
"Well, if it isn't our favorite illegal alien-slash-washer woman," he smiles.
"Uh- not so loud with the illegal alien stuff, the walls could have ears, you know! How are those clean knickers working out for you, anyway?"
He actually laughs at this, and the huge intoxicating grin flashes across his face for a moment. God- you'd do almost anything to keep it there.
"Buy you a pint if you can guess which ones I'm wearing now," he says, and I think to myself, good God- I do believe that Garda Feeley is flirting with me!
I pretend to study his lower regions seriously (did I say pretend to?) and then finally make my guess.
"It would have to be the black thong."
He laughs again, "My goodness, and I thought I'd left that out of my bag! Okay, you win, I'll just have to buy you that pint. Will you have it now?"
I'm torn between loyalty to Laurie and the sure feeling that this is going to be my only offer of a drink with Garda Feeley. My hormones take over- I decide to abandon her for the present.
"Sure," I answer.
When we walk up to the bar I turn and catch her eye and she grins at me, gives me the thumbs up and goes over to join some other friends of hers in the corner booth- what a mate.
"Pint or a half of.?" he asks, using the English term for a small beer; we would say a glass.
"Budweiser, please, a half." I answer.
"Unless you'd like something else, a short or whatever,"
"I think I'd better stick to beer, wouldn't want to do anything to embarrass myself,"
"Prone to that are you?"
"Ah see, you haven't heard everything about me after all, then."
"Hmmm.I'm quite sure it's in your file then, I'll have to have a look."
"I have a file?" I ask, suddenly almost worried. But he laughs.
"Oh, ha ha. Very funny Garda Feeley."
"Please, won't you call me John?"
"Okay, John," I say, a bit cautiously, trying the name out. I decide I like it.
I have my glass of beer and we chat for a bit longer, just about trivia and town gossip, and then we both have to rejoin our respective parties. And after half an hour in his company, I don't know much more about Please-call-me-John Feeley than I did before. Except that he has gotten somehow more gorgeous in that short time.

After this when I see him around the town we stop and have a bit of a chat and I even coax the beautiful smile out of him a time or two, he seems more relaxed than before, and my heart stops racing to twice its normal rate when he speaks to me. I think Garda Feeley and I are becoming friends. I can see other women on the street shooting daggers at me with their eyes, and I have to admit that I rather like it. It's nice to have a gorgeous looking man half flirting with you, even if you know he isn't serious. And there is something about the uniform.

The following Friday I'm walking out of the laundry after work, and I nearly run into him again as he rounds the corner.
"Hello, Jess- all finished for another week are you then?" he smiles at me.
"Yes, and yourself, John? Just leaving work or just going?" He's wearing his blue shirt and trousers, although the tie and jacket are nowhere to be seen.
"Just finished- I find myself with a rare weekend off," he tells me, "I was just going to treat myself to a celebratory pint- start it off right. Would you care to join me?"
For a moment I'm so startled by this that I almost say no, then I come to my senses. "Oh- I think I will, actually. Thanks, John." He takes my arm, such an old fashioned gesture, and leads me across the street to the Anchor Tavern, where things are still quiet at this early hour. We find a table in the corner, and he goes to the bar. He comes back in a few minutes with two pints.
"I got you a pint, I'd say after a week of doing laundry and dealing with the public you'll need more than a half," he teases.
"Well, it can get hectic in there, still- nothing like your job."
"Oh, it's quiet around here, compared to what I'm used to."
"You were in the North before you came here, weren't you?"
"Yes, and then back home in London for a while."
"Oh, that's where you're from, is it? London?"
"Well, that's where I've spent the most time. My family moved all around when I was growing up, actually. My father was in the RAF."
"Ah- Air Force brat. He must have gone mad when you chose the Army then,"
"No- he was dead by then, so he really didn't have much to say about it. Sorry, that was morbid, wasn't it?"
"Yes," I laugh at him a little, "- but I do it too. My parents are both dead, I make jokes about it all the time. It's a way of coping, isn't it?"
"Especially in the military, you find yourself making jokes about the most horrible things. Most people don't understand. Sorry about your parents,"
"That's okay, you didn't kill them." And I grin at him, trying to coax the smile back. I'm rewarded with a little lopsided grin.
"Are you sure you've never been in the Army?"
"Me? God no- I'm terrible at following orders!"
"I wish I had been a bit less good at it a time or two," and the smile vanishes. I wonder what orders he had to carry out that are so distasteful to him, but I can already tell that John Feeley is not the kind of man you can pry things out of. If you're ever going to know something about him, he is going to tell you in his own good time. After this we move the conversation on to lighter topics, and the smile comes back a time or two.
We have a couple of beers and I reluctantly tell him that I have to go home and take the dog out, the poor thing has been in since lunchtime.
"I'll walk you home then," he says, "It's getting dark." I don't argue with him, although I've been managing to get myself around here without any untoward incidents for years, anything to remain in his company for a few more minutes. We stroll across the bridge and in the direction of my seafront flat; it's a lovely warm evening.
At my front door I hesitate, and we stand staring at each other. I decide to be bold- I find myself very reluctant to let him go just yet.
"John," I say, "would you like to come in for something to eat? I don't have anything fancy, but I know I could come up with something. You must be hungry." He hesitates, and I'm sure he's going to say no, but then he says, "If you're sure it's no trouble, I would love to." And my heart does a little dance.
Beavis goes mad with excitement when she sees that not only am I finally here after her long day of desertion, but that I've brought another victim for her to maul and cover with slobber. She races around the sitting room like a thing possessed, launching herself at intervals at John's legs, clawing and leaping. I try to calm her, laughing, but she only seems to get more worked up.
"For God's sake, Beavis- get down!" I shout, and she finally lands at his feet, rolling over on her back and presenting her little pink belly for rubbing. John dutifully complies.
"I think she likes me," he deadpans, and I burst out laughing again.
"Better take her out for a walk before she goes off again," I say.
After a short walk along the seafront we put together a dinner of cold chicken, salad and bread, and a nice bottle of wine that John bought at the Leinster's off-license (the pub just down the street from my flat- and don't you know his walking in and buying a cold bottle of Chardonnay on a Friday evening is going to cause some gossip around the place). The wine makes him a bit more talkative than usual, and after dinner we sit on the sofa, chatting, while he holds Beavis in his lap and strokes her ears. She's in heaven, and I'm not far from it myself. We talk about my "situation" here, and I tell him more than I probably should about my fears regarding my borderline legal status.
"You could always get married, that would solve the problem," he grins mischievously at me.
"Oh yeah, and who do you fancy for me then?"
"Well, I think Billy Hughes has his eye on you, when he can see at all that is." Billy Hughes is the town drunk, and let me tell you it takes a lot of drinking to be the town drunk around here.
"Very funny, you have a wicked streak, Garda Feeley."
"I wouldn't worry, they're too fond of you to see you pitched out just yet. This town is nice that way, takes care of its own. Not like Belfast, that's a harsh place for outsiders."
"Was it rough up North then?" I ask.
He ponders this question for a while, then says, "I suppose I had thought it was a bit rough there, before I went to Yugoslavia. After that it seemed like a day at the races."
"Yugoslavia? When were you there?"
"Ninety-two, ninety-three. During some of the worst of it."
"Oh God- that must have been awful John, I've read about some of what went on there."
"You haven't read it all, I guarantee you. Anyway, this isn't very pleasant after dinner conversation. I should really go now and get out of your hair."
"You don't have to go- we'll talk about something else if you'd like. Tell me about being an Air Force brat."
But the damage is done, whatever demons have followed John Feeley home from Yugoslavia are not to be banished so easily and I can see them there, still lurking in his eyes during the short time we remain in conversation. After a few more minutes he tells me he really must go, and I realize that I'm starting to wonder what it would feel like to make love to John Feeley. Not in the abstract, lusting from afar way that I have up to now, but to really, really wonder what his naked flesh would feel like, what his lips would feel like, and what sort of things he would whisper to you as he held you tightly and moved his hands all over you and made love to you.
"I've been wanting to go sightseeing around, check out all this supposedly fabulous scenery," he says, breaking into my mind-wanderings. "I was wondering, if you aren't busy tomorrow, if you'd like to come for a drive with me."
I try not to answer too quickly. "Yes, I would like that, thanks."
"Lovely, I'll come and collect you about, what? Elevenish? We could get some lunch."
I think I would just about love to have lunch with John Feeley, and sit next to him in a car for a few hours. Forget about scenery, how will I take my eyes off him?

I walk him out, all the way to the footpath, and he turns and looks into my eyes. "Thanks so much, for everything. I'll see you tomorrow then." And he leans close to me, then I feel his arms go around me, his big hands on my lower back, and I put my own arms around his broad shoulders and tilt my face up, expectant. Then his lips are pressing mine, softly, then more firmly, and I'm responding with a heat that I had forgotten was in me. We stand for an age, bodies pressed together, lips exploring, lost in the sensations. Quite perfect for a first kiss. I can now report than not only is he gorgeous, not only is he a good listener and a decent salad maker- Garda John Feeley is a first class snog. And I wonder more than ever- what would he be like in bed?

John Feeley and I have been going out together for a few weeks now, and that question has been answered. He's fabulous in bed, such a gentle and passionate lover, still waters do run deep. It's after the lovemaking and the drifting off to sleep that the trouble comes. John suffers from nightmares, terrible ones that cause him to thrash about and even wake up shouting on occasion. The first night we spent together he took ten years off my life, and I'm sure the neighbors didn't come out of it unscathed. Although they haven't said a word, they probably think we just have unusually loud sex.
The first time we made love came so naturally that it could have seemed like an anticlimax (if you'll pardon the pun) if it hadn't been so lovely. We'd had a couple of very heated snogs, which had ended in him going home or me going home, or once when we were parked up at the scenic car park, in us both going home, and I was starting to wonder if there wasn't some kind of problem (although to be blunt it was easy enough to tell it wasn't THAT problem). But then about a week and a half after our first "date" we were having a snog on my sofa and he just got up and pulled me into the bedroom, shutting the door on a very annoyed looking little white dog, and proceeded to slowly undress me and kiss me all over my body. It was even nicer than I had imagined, although rather strangely quiet, and after when we were both naked and lying together on the bed, arms and legs entwined, he whispered, "It's been a very long time for me. I don't want to lose anyone else." I wasn't sure what this meant, or how to answer it, I wasn't completely sure he was even talking to me, so I just kissed him softly on the lips and snuggled closer to him.
About two hours later, when I had drifted into a very deep and comfortable sleep, I suddenly felt his arm crash across me and realized that he was talking, quite loudly, in his sleep. Something like "Can't leave them again, they'll die again," and then, shouting- "Pull over! Pull over! Through the trees!" God, my heart stopped it scared me so badly.
"John!" I started shaking him, "John wake up- you're having a bad dream!"
He sat bolt upright in the bed, shaking and sweating, his breath coming in hard rasps, looking at me but not seeing me. But then his eyes slowly came back to the present, and he rubbed his hands through his hair and said "Christ, I'm sorry. I didn't think it would happen again." I put my arms around his shoulders, cold now and covered with gooseflesh, lay my head against his back.
"Lie back down, it's okay. I'm here."
We lay down and he put his arms and legs around me, squeezing tightly, his breathing starting to calm now.
"Do you want to talk about it?" I asked, softly.
"No. Just hold me."
I think I'm falling in love with Garda John Feeley.

It's three months now that John and I have been a couple, and he's so much more to me now than the gorgeous object of lust that first came to this town. He's sweet and kind and very loving, although there are still so many closed doors in him. I know he has pain that I can't reach, those demons that pound away at some part of him relentlessly, and although I think that I can quiet them a bit with my love (though this word has not been spoken between us) I can't exorcise them from his head completely. We have a quiet life, we go out with our friends to the pub every weekend (an I can still feel the women looking daggers at the back of my head, wondering how the hell he chose me to be the one to sit next to him above all the fine young things around here. Why it's me and not them. Let them glare, because it is myself sitting here and that's pretty damned all right by me). A few times a week we have dinner together and he spends the night, or I share his bachelor bed in his Spartan flat, although I feel like I've sneaked into the barracks every time I do. It's a casually serious relationship, if that makes any sense. We both seem satisfied enough, if it wasn't for those demons I can't reach, the little bastards who continue to wake him up every few nights, shaking and shouting, you might almost say we were happy. I haven't asked John what those nightmares are about- I know that he won't tell me.
But then someone from his past shows up, and those demons really come out to play.
It's Alan James, a huge Scouse lad with the face of a ten year old boy and ancient eyes. I open the door to John's flat one rainy Saturday afternoon and there he is, all 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds of him. He seems surprised to see me and glances at the flat number as if to confirm he has the right one.
"'Scuse me- but is this where Captain Feeley lives?"
"Uh- John Feeley, yes- he lives here," but by now John has joined me at the door. His face lights into the big grin and he hugs this shaven headed behemoth like he's his long lost brother.
"Alan! Jesus, where did you come from? It's great to see you! Come in.."
God, the behemoth is nearly in tears, as is my reserved British boy, and I guess (correctly) that this has to be someone who has also had first hand experience of the demons.
The behemoth, Alan, turns out to be one of the sweetest boys you could meet. His size is deceptive, he's really gentle and soft spoken, although he has a wicked sense of humor and keeps us laughing in the pub with a story about a woman he met on the ferry over here. John seems happy to see him, and yet I can tell it's bringing back memories he'd rather keep hidden. At one point I take his hand under the table and squeeze it, and he looks into my eyes and smiles a sad little smile that nearly breaks my heart.
"Have you heard from any of the lads, sir?" Alan asks him, and John grins.
"Alan, you don't have to call me sir anymore."
"Ah yeah, sorry- force of habit. Have you heard from any of them?"
"Neil rings every now and again- they got divorced you know. That's it, I don't know where any of the rest of them are."
"Sochanic's still in Scotland trying to run that bloody farm. Hookway- he was in Liverpool a few months ago, he's just roamin' around. Doesn't know what to do with himself. I'm glad to see you're doin' so well, s John." And he looks at me and smiles.
"How about you, Alan? How are you doing?"
"Not too bad, Sandy and I got married last year you know."
John smiles again and nods, "I heard. I think that's wonderful, Alan."
"She's visitin' the relations in Limerick so I thought I'd pop over here and say hiya. See how you was getting' on, like."
"I'm glad you did, it's good to see you again."
Since I have a sofa bed in the sitting room we decide to put Alan up at my place for the night, and after the pub we get a few cans and head there. Alan is enamoured of Beavis, and of course the little slut loves anyone who will scratch her belly, so they've both found a friend. I have a cup of tea and then go to bed, leaving the two lads to drink their beer and talk late into the night. I can hear their voices out there, conversing softly, the occasional laugh, usually a more serious tone though, until I finally drop off to sleep. John finally comes to bed about 4:30- he smells of beer but he's not as drunk as I would have thought, he slides in next to me and kisses the back of my neck, then slides his mouth down between my shoulder blades while his strong hands caress the front of my body.
"It's so late, I would think you'd be falling off your feet," I whisper.
"I just need you now," he whispers back, "I just need to be with you," and he kisses me hard. We make very quick and intense love, very quiet, aware of Alan in the next room. I don't know if it's the beer or the sex or the tiredness, but he sleeps through till morning and has no bad dreams.
In the morning John creeps out through the sitting room past the sleeping Alan, Beavis planted in the middle of the gentle giant's chest, and John and I smile at each other, it's such a funny picture. He's going to the shop for the ingredients for a good old greasy fry-up, and the paper. The sound of the door shutting behind him wakes Alan though, and he rises and helps me to fold up the bed, then we sit and have a cup of tea, waiting for John's return.
"John is a good man, one of the best. He was like a rock out there in Bosnia, he kept us all together," Alan tells me.
"He hasn't talked very much about it," I admit.
"Give him time, it's rough. The things we did out there were hard, the things we saw, it's hard to get those pictures out of your head. I'm glad he has you, you're a good woman."
"Thanks, Alan. I wish he'd talk about it though, he has nightmares"
"We all have nightmares. It's a miracle we can sleep at all. Give him time," he repeats, "He'll talk to you in time. He cares a lot about you, I can tell."
"I love him, Alan." This is the first time I've said this out loud, even to myself.
"I know you do. But hehe lost someone, and it's been hard for him to open up. It isn't his nature anyway, you know. He keeps things to himself, none of us even knew" but we hear the sound of the front door opening then, and I won't hear what Alan was about to tell me. We move on to eggs and rashers and fried bread and tea, and then Alan has to leave to rejoin his little wife in Limerick. The two lads hug- a quick, brusque, slightly violent embrace that men give each other.
"I'm glad you came, Alan. Give my best to Sandy and the family. Best of luck."
"Good luck to you, too, boss. Take care of this little thing- she's allright, for a Yank." And he grins at me and ruffles my hair like a large friendly gorilla. Then he gets in his car and drives away, and John watches long after the car has gone out of sight. He puts his arm around me and leads me inside.
That night is the worst.
At about 3am I feel the familiar thrashing and hear him moaning. I try to wake him but my shaking and calling him only seems to agitate him more. While I'm trying to calm him he grabs me by the upper arm and I cry out he is squeezing so hard. It feels like he might snap my arm in two.
"John, please wake up, you're hurting me!" I cry, and this finally wakes him. He starts to cry then, and he buries his face in my breast and I can feel these huge, wracking sobs shaking him and I start to cry too. And it scares me, he scares me letting go like this, I have to admit it. It's frightening to see him, normally so in control, hurting so badly that he can't stop himself from crying. He finally stops though, more from exhaustion I think, and falls into a fitful sleep.
In the morning I wake and he's not there. His sweats are gone, but not his jacket or his wallet, and the dog is missing too, so I have an idea where he'll be.
I find them at the Castle grounds, Beavis standing beside him at the cliff, John looking out to sea again, and after last night it frightens me a bit to see him standing so close to the edge. I walk up and slip my arm through his, lay my head on his shoulder. He doesn't look at me.
"I tried to kill myself," he says. The bluntness of the words shocks me almost as much as the content of this sentence. I can't imagine this being true, John Feeley is so together, so strong, so sane.
"I got a gun and put it to my head and I was going to blow my brains out. If the lads hadn't come in then I would have done it. The Army hushed it up, for whatever reasons of their own, and put me into counseling, but they didn't really want to know. I got an honorable discharge, went home to my mother for awhile, and then I called in a few favors to get on the police force. Being a cop in London is almost as bad as being a soldier in Bosnia, you have to watch people treating each other like shit every fucking day. It never ceases to amaze me how bloody cruel people can be to each other. When I got the post here it felt like heaven. A few drunks, a few fights, a few petty thieves. Not much compared to watching people get blown to pieces, seeing kids shot in the head and burned alive. I thought I could forget. I should have known- I'll never forget. I don't even want to forget. I want to remember it all, because if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I would never really believe it could happen, and that's a dangerous attitude."
He finally looks at me then, puts his hand on my cheek and smiles.
"I didn't count on you though. It isn't fair to you, having to share this with me. I'm so afraid of losing someone else that I don't know if I can ever really give myself to you, can you understand that? I was in love with a woman out there, and I had to see her murdered. I don't know if I can ever get over that. I just want you to know, to understand. I don't want you to expect something out of me that I may not be able to give. I don't want you to be hurt, either."
I don't know how to answer him without sounding too needy, too na´ve, or dishonest. So in the end I settle for three words.
"I love you."
"I know you do."
"Is that okay? I mean, it's enough for me, right now."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes- for now."
"Okay. Then I'll try, I promise I will." He hugs me to him, tightly, and I start to cry then. The smell of him and the faint feel of his heartbeat comforts me, and I feel safe enough to cry for him now.

That night we sleep together in my bed, legs and arms wrapped around each other, and there are no bad dreams for either of us.
John Feeley may not know it yet, but he is falling in love with me.

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