winter scene

by CJ

Companion piece to On a High Holy Night

It was a week until Brian did anything but meditate and bond and learn everything there was to know about Nick. A week of Nick suddenly changing his whole life to be with Brian, too. He couldn't have been expecting the incredible to happen when he woke up to do his work early that snowy morning, but he'd taken the whole thing in stride. And Brian couldn't be happier.

And so it was a week before he was required to pick up his duties, before he began to seek out others of his order again. A week before he took the winter clothing he had left after distributing it to the less fortunate families in his own area to the sanctuary that Joshua inhabited.

"Hello?" he said softly, pushing the doors open. It was early, but odds where that Joshua was gone for the day yet. Brian himself had been out and about earlier than usual, even for him, leaving Nick sleeping soundly in the bed they now shared. But it was unlikely, too, that everyone was still asleep.

"Hello," he got in return after a moment, as someone made their way to the front door. "Oh, Brian!" he said, greeting him with open arms. "I was about to tell whoever it was that services don't begin for three hours."

"As I well know, John," he said, embracing him loosely before giving him the sack of clothing. John would know what it was. "We had extra this year," he explained. "We were lucky."

"Thank you," he said, hauling it into the building and setting it on a bench. "We can use it; the winter looks to be turning harsh very soon."

Brian nodded, though he didn't have that kind of weather sense himself. "I was sure it could be put to good use," he said. "Is Joshua about yet? I was hoping to speak with him."

"Out in the garden," said John, gesturing toward the back of the sanctuary and the grounds beyond. "Cleaning it up before the worst of the winter hits." It was just like Joshua, to leave it to the last minute.

Brian gave him a grateful nod and started down the long corridor that ran parallel to the sanctuary proper, to the heavy wood-and-bronze doors that graced the other end. The alloy was weaker than the on Brian's own doors; he could feel the nicks and pits under his hand as he pushed it open. He never would have noticed that sort of thing before, but Nick was opening his eyes to all manner of new things in the world around him -- the bronzes and woods and glasses of his sanctuary, the sculptures in his garden, little bits of art that Brian always took for granted. Nick never seemed to take anything for granted.

"Joshua?" he said, stepping out into the chilly air. Early morning mist still clung to the sides of the stone building, to the tall, ancient trees that ringed the grounds. A moment later he saw a form stand up on the other side of the building and give him a wave. "Joshua!"

It had been too long since they'd gotten together. More than a week, for certain, maybe even more than a month. Brian gave him a hearty hug after he dropped his trowel to the half-frozen ground and brushed off his hands.

"Brian," he said, his huff of breath visible in the cold, a white cloud floating up and away. "Oh, but it's good to see you. Is this business or pleasure?"

"Pleasure, at this point," said Brian. "Though if you need some help..."

Joshua sighed and gave him a sheepish look, glancing down at the ground. "No, I'm almost finished," he said finally, shaking his head, his curls flying over his shoulder. "I know this should have been done a month ago, but it's always such a sad task."

"It's not sad," said Brian, linking his arm with Joshua's as they walked back toward the doors, and the warmth of the building. "You're just impatient. You know the garden will be back in spring. It always is."

"Spring always seems so far off, though," said Joshua, leaning them back inside. "And winter so long. Well... perhaps this year will be different. I haven't heard word of you since the new year, Brian. Do you have news?"

"Do you?" Brian countered, knowing the broad smile on his own face would tell Joshua everything he had to tell. And so it did; Joshua clapped his hands delightedly and gave Brian another embrace.

"Oh, I'm so pleased!" he said. "Come, come sit." They slipped through the side door into the sanctuary and sat on the first bench they came across. "You deserve it, for what you did for me. You must tell me everything."

Brian let loose a happy laugh, resting a hand on Joshua's arm. "So I was right, about that man from the north... what was his name?"

"Howie," said Joshua with a contented sigh, letting his head loll back for a moment, against the windowsill behind them. "I don't know how you knew, but I'm very grateful you did."

"Just a feeling," said Brian, patting his arm. "Just a feeling, after talking to him. You have much in common. Is he here?" He looked around, as though Howard would suddenly appear in the sanctuary, but of course he didn't.

"He's gone home," Joshua explained, lifting his head again. "To bring his mother the news, and some things for her so... so she doesn't have to work as she does, anymore. Unless she chooses to, I suppose, but he didn't think that likely. He'll be back in a week."

"You let him go so soon?"

"He needed to go," said Joshua simply, and that was all there was to it. "He only just left yesterday morning; we did have time. Enough time." He gave Brian a little, secret smile, and his cheeks coloured lightly. "But you! Tell me how it happened!"

"It was... quiet," said Brian, closing his eyes as he thought back on that very early morning. "I'd almost given up, and then there he was. His name is Nickolas, and I think I've never met anyone sweeter in my whole life, Joshua." But then, everyone who was ever in love had perhaps said the same thing, at one time or another.

"I told you it would happen one day," said Joshua, and so he had. He'd always been full of optimism that whatever Brian felt was right, would happen for him in time. He was a good friend to have. "Did you want something to eat, or drink? I should get back to my garden, but..."

"No, no," said Brian, "but thank you. I should return soon, before Nick wakes. I brought you our extra clothing; I know you said there were many in need here this winter. I wanted to do what I could, and to see you to know what the new year brought you."

"Only good things," said Joshua, getting to his feet again and pulling Brian up with him. "One day soon we'll have to find the time to get together."

"At midwinter," said Brian. "We'll build up the fire and sit and have wine and visit. Until then, there is still much to do."

"There is always much to do," said Joshua, but neither of them would have it any other way. "Let me walk you out at least." He hooked his arm with Brian's and led him right up the middle of the sanctuary this time, past cushioned benches and ornate, carved tables and windows that Nick would have adored.

"We'll get together soon," Brian promised him as he drew his cloak closer around his body. "Before midwinter, for certain. Services next week, perhaps."

"I would like that," said Joshua, giving him one last embrace before sending him out the door and onto the street again. It was still cold, but the air was clearing and the streets were coming alive, dozens of people cheerfully going about their business as Brian walked in their midst.

Companion piece to On a High Holy Night. Nov 15, 2003

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