by Collie

Ní tír gan teanga.

"This was a right good idea," said Amsterdam, settling down in the dirt, fingers grasping the neck of a pilfered bottle of whiskey.

Johnny slumped down next to him, head bobbing in agreement, "Aye. I'm full of 'em, it seems."

Amsterdam chuckled, swirling the bottle, it's amber depths seeming to shimmer in the candle light. The two young men were sprawled out in the dirt and dust, underneath the old brewery that loomed majestic over Paradise Square. Johnny had known it as a refuge these past years, but Amsterdam remembered it as home.

The banner outside said it was soon to be a mission; a place for those who had put their faith in the Lord God to lead them through this land. A place of sanctuary and hope. But the only faith this heathen place had ever known had died in red snow some sixteen years ago.

Here, in this very room - if one could even call it a room - was the last time Amsterdam had ever spoken to his father, before the Priest was struck down at the hands of the Butcher. Here is where Amsterdam had buried his father's blood and memory, and here is where Amsterdam had come to forget.

But only for this night.

"You been stayin' here, Johnny?" Amsterdam asked, turning half-lidded blue eyes on his friend, setting the bottle down in the space between them.

Johnny sniffed, blinking dust out of his eyes, then nodded, "Aye, from time to time. I don't much have a right place of my own, but I only stay down here when I need to keep outta sight, you know?"

Amsterdam nodded, crossing his arms and leaning back against the rock wall, staring blankly at the wall opposite them. Lost in thought.

Johnny watched him for a moment, them smiled, grabbing the bottle. He held it up, eyeing it for a moment, then glanced back over to Amsterdam, raising the bottle to him, "Sláinte chugat," he muttered, then took a sloppy drink.

Amsterdam blinked, knitting his brow, "'Eh?"

Johnny laughed a bit, wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve, "Right. You was brought here young, as I was. You wouldn't know the tongue, would you?"

Amsterdam frowned, "The tongue? And what tongue is this?"

Johnny smiled sheepishly, handing the bottle back to Amsterdam, who all but snatched it away. The frown on his face was quickly threatening to transform itself into a pout. He hated not knowing things - being left out. That was the one things he resented his father for - never including him in the important things.

"The tongue. Our native tongue," Johnny said with inflection. Amsterdam stared at him blankly. Johnny laughed and rolled his eyes, "You know, Gaeilge?"

Amsterdam blinked, his frown a bit more pronounced, "I don't know the language. I was raised here, as were you. How do you happen to know it, then?"

Johnny shrugged, "Me Da taught me. Said it was the only words we could use that would be the easiest kept private. Said not many folk here knew the language, unless they was kin. I expect your Da knew it, too."

"I expect," Amsterdam mumbled, bringing the bottle to his lips. He contemplated briefly, then turned back to Johnny, "Say somthin' else," he insisted, a small smile playing about his lips.

Johnny grinned, "What shall I say?"

Amsterdam shrugged, sliding down the rocky wall to rest on his elbow, his face only inches now from Johnny's leg, "Don't care. Whatever strikes your fancy. The words sound nice," he grinned, clutching the bottle close to his chest.

Johnny giggled a bit, then cleared his throat, "Ní cheileann meisce rún," he said, nodding to himself.

Amsterdam smiled, "What's that mean, then?"

"That drinkin' makes a tongue more loose," Johnny said, snickering to himself.

Amsterdam nodded, the smile faint on his lips, "It does that."

Johnny sighed deeply, reaching out for the bottle. Amsterdam passed it to him, glancing up at Johnny as their finger's touched, "Johnny?"

The taller boy blinked a few times, then lowered himself to the ground with Amsterdam, "The dust appears to be risin'," he muttered, his face close to Amsterdam's, "Air's better down here."

The fact that that statement was more false than the two of them claiming to be Natives registered with Amsterdam, but his drink-addled mind dismissed it. Didn't matter.

"Johnny? Say somethin' else. Somethin' pretty," Amsterdam asked, laying his head in his arms. He could feel the heat from Johnny's own head close to his, and if he moved himself, he could feel Johnny's hair brush his forehead. It wasn't altogether unpleasant.

"Somethin' pretty?" Johnny asked, laughing softly.

"Aye," Amsterdam said, his voice slightly defensive, "I was locked in Hellgate for sixteen years, wasn't I? Not much pretty in there."

He felt Johnny nod, "All right, then. Sure I can remember a verse or two of somethin'."

As Johnny began to speak, Amsterdam felt his eyelids flutter shut.


Go raibh tú daibhir i mí-áidh

He was running through the soft green grass, chasing an imaginary butterfly.

Agus saibhir i mbeannachtaí

He knew the cliff was nearby, so he should slow his pace.

Go mall ag déanamh namhaid, go luath a déanamh carad

The butterfly was gone, and it was nearing twilight.

Ach saibhir nó daibhir, go mall nó go luath

The salt tang of sea air filled his nostrils, and he was home.

Nach raibh ach áthas agat

There was Da. His embrace was warm and strong.

Ón lá seo amach.

Today was the day. They were going on the boat - To sail to the new world.


Amsterdam hadn't realized he'd been crying until he felt Johnny's fingers upon his face, pooling themselves in glistening tears.

"Amsterdam," Johnny whispered, looking stricken, "I didn't mean. I'm sorry, then. I didn't mean to make you sad."

Amsterdam sniffled pitifully, rising up to swipe at his eyes with his sleeve, bringing his face close to Johnny's, "I'm all alone, Johnny. I ain't got no one at all," he whispered, the realization that his father was actually dead and gone, finally sinking in after all these years.

Johnny's eyes widened slightly in surprise, and he shook his head, "No. no, never. You got me, Amsterdam. I won't never leave you all alone."

Amsterdam tilted his head and smiled softly at those words. He felt his heart warm as it hadn't warmed in the past score of years.

"You mean that, then?" he whispered, a spark of hope in his eye.

Johnny nodded, "Is iomaí cor sa tsaol, Amsterdam."

"Aye, there is many a strange twist to life," Amsterdam whispered, reaching out to clutch at Johnny's sleeve, not even realizing that the words had made sense to him, "And this is one of them, ain't it?" he said, meaningfully.

Johnny blushed softly, lowering his eyes, "Aye, it is. but I stick by what I said - I won't never leave you alone. Not even if you sic Hellcat Maggie on me," he giggled softly, looking back up at Amsterdam.

Amsterdam smiled, shrugging lightly, "Maybe later. Right now, I'd rather have you for myself."

Johnny returned the smile and leaned in close, kissing Amsterdam softly.

As Amsterdam felt Johnny's lips touch his, he swore he could hear the waves crashing on the rocky crags, on the cliff outside of his home in Ireland.


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