All roads lead in one direction: Percy Jackson/One Direction Cross over


2. Creation Of Niall


Maura hates Mullingar.

She hates the barracks and she hates Christ the King cathedral; she hates the Grenville Arms and she hates Oliver Plunkett Street and she hates Cassidy’s and Finn’s and Druid’s Chair and Gilleran’s and Kerrigan’s 
and Hughes’ Corner House and Danny Byrne’s and Canton Casey’s and Caffrey’s and McCormick’s 
and Wallace’s and Daly’s and Gallagher’s and Cosgrove’s 
and Con’s and Murray’s and Dolan’s 
and Cheers and Kenny’s and George Evan’s and Butler’s 
and beer.

She’s starting to hate Bobby. She doesn’t hate Greg at all, the lamb, but sometimes – and she feels so badly about this that it’s driven her to Keenan’s – she might… hate being a mother. Or at least, she hates the way that being a mother in Mullingar in 1993 makes her feel; all Gaelic football and the drone of the Dublin-Sligo line and Greg won’t keep quiet about that stupid UFO back in March and it just makes her teeth hurt, because football is no reason for Bobby not to come home and tell his son that aliens wouldn’t even bother to land in Mullingar, Ireland, for christ’s sake. 

But now the Shamrocks’ season is over and Bobby is actually at home, and he commented over tea that the bolognese seemed a bit salty and it gave Maura a bit of a sting in her back teeth, like they were struggling to say out the words she couldn’t because she’s a mum in Mullingar and it’s all well and good for Bobby to go out for months every night and have fun with the lads but what does she get? Fish Fridays and Ciara at the Scoil Mhuire parent group calling every five minutes with gossip Maura doesn’t care about and doesn’t need to have running through her head at the market and complaints about the salt in the bolognese.

Well, the Shamrocks’ season is over and he can stay home to field calls from Ciara about whose daughter is to be avoided because whose mother was out kissing whose husband so said Fiona last Saturday and fuck all, who cares? Not Maura, as she sits in Keegan’s, turning a pint glass around and around in her hands and thinking, I hate the taste of beer.

She wishes Aoife still lived in Mullingar. Beer never tasted quite so bad when she was sitting at the next barstool over.

“You don’t like the Trouble Ór?” asks an amused voice from behind her. It’s not slurring yet, but there’s something strange about it. “Aroma is mushroomy, floral, hint of butter… got some plum and papaya on the palate and oats in the finish… not bad. What’s not to like?” 

Maura turns to look up at the man; he’s got curls and a round jowl and he’s not quite handsome, but his face is harmless enough that she just shrugs. “Don’t like beer.”

He grins. “Me, neither. I’m more of a wine guy.” He sticks out his hand. “I’m D.”

Maura tilts her head. He’s American. Doesn’t seem like the sort to go on a James Joyce walking tour, but books could get all sorts of tourists, she guesses. 

She shakes his hand. “Maura.”

“What a great old Irish name.” He pulls out the barstool beside hers and gestured towards it. “Can I?”

Maura shrugs and nods – he isn’t quite handsome, but he’s magnetic and he isn’t hollering about the Shamrocks or picking a fight over snooker in the corner, so really, what does it hurt? 

Besides. She’s married.

D grins at Maura and rests his elbow on the bar and his chin against the meat of his palm. “Tell me about yourself.”

“I’m a mum,” Maura says. “My husband’s a manager at Dunnes and I have a son at Scoil Mhuire.”

“Well, now I know about your husband and your son,” laughs D, “But what about you?”

Well, that knocks Maura for six. 

“Ehm,” she fumbles, “I’ve lived in Mullingar all me life. And… I don’t like beer.”

“That’s all there is to you?” 

Maura turns her glass in her hands again. “Feels that way, yeah. I suppose.”

D considers her for a long time, and normally Maura would blush and look away – or tell him to fuck off, depending on the look in his eyes – but he just seems sad and kind of interested and his eyes are this strange color, a deep brown that’s almost burgundy and it reminds her of California, which is stupid because she’s only seen it on television, and of Tuscany, which is stupid because she’s only seen it in books. The cookbook where she got her bolognese recipe for tonight had a big photo of a huge, rolling Tuscan vineyard on the front, all green and gold and deep purple-red.

His eyes remind her of that. So she just fiddles with her glass and looks back.

Then D stands and puts his hands in his pockets as he rocks back on his heels like a hobbyhorse. “It’s kinda loud in here. You want to go somewhere?” He takes out hand back out of his pocket and holds it up, flat-palmed. “No funny business.”

Maura looks around and sees nothing but Mullingar in every bleeding inch of the bar, so she stands up and says, “Alright.”

D gets a bottle of wine from… somewhere… and after she’s downed half the dark-cherry-and-red-bramble bottle, Maura has entirely too much fun saying its Spanish name the way D does, “rrrrrrrr-ee-oh-ha.”

The end up by Lough Owel, and there’s a second bottle of wine, something white and sparkling that tickles her tongue, and Maura says, “I went to college for history, and I wanted to be an archaeologist? Travel to Greece and Rome and that and dig up old things, you know, see how people lived thousands of years ago. ‘Cause it’s just – you know, there had to be more life then, or else why would people keep on to now? Is this really all there is to living? Fish on Friday and pub on Sunday and doing science projects all week because they’re too hard for the kids and the carpet’s always full of mud and the husband’s never home, and then when he is home… what’s it worth, really? So I think thousands of years ago, you know, I wanted to go and find that more. They had gods and monsters. And we got what, the Shamrocks and Joe Dolan. I figure that there had to be a thing that made them want to keep the Earth going and do all they did. I wanted to find it.”

A few months later, Maura is helping Greg to make yet another poster about that damned UFO and outer space, and she explains to Greg that she has a baby in her tummy and he’s going to be a big brother.

Greg asks if the baby came from the stars, and Maura says yes. 

Niall – his name means ‘champion,’ because Maura believes that names say a lot about a person and she wants him to win a place outside of Mullingar one day – is born wailing. He has a thick fluff of white hair and when he blinks open his eyes, just for a second, the blue is ringed at the pupil with a soft winey gold. Just a light, sparkling blush, like the sun glancing off the brick of a Tuscan vineyard or the gilded roll of a rioja.

Maura was still a mum in Mullingar, and she still resented Bobby for never being home and complaining when he was, and there was always mud in the carpets and the parent group at Scoil Mhuire and years of science projects about outer space, 
but when Maura looks at Niall, she feels like there’s a bit more freedom in her life than she thought, and she knows that there’s more to who she is than meets the eye.

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