Honoring Old Friends

By fom

Posted By: fom, psst Welcome back SBO! <fomnumberone@yahoo.com>
(IP: hydra.providentcompanies.com)
Tuesday, 10 December 2002, at 4:30 p.m.

Just a bit of liberty with the HL:TS canon, for auld lang syne.

And I know Alexandra's diction was always absolutely beautiful, but just rarely the French accent would slip thorugh in her English, and when it did, it was always charming. So I tried to recall that here, as well.


The chapel was cold, but he had grown used to it over the years. Actually the fleece lined sweat pants and shirt he wore under his cassock kept the chill off his bones quite nicely. A smile covered his face as he surveyed his church. The evergreen garland draped along the walls and around the columns gave it a festive air, and Darius liked it, especially now, at night, when the candles were lighted in every wreath. Their soft light brought the old place to life and gave it a warmth that Darius wished could remain there year round. He resolved to do something about that, to bring in some plants, small potted evergreens perhaps. Yes, that should fill some spaces and soften the sharp stone edges, and bring some color to the cold gray church building. He loved this chapel, indeed had lived here for so many years, he felt he knew every crack and cranny in the stones. Live greenery…surely that could not be considered too frivolous once the Holy Season was past. After all, Darius argued to himself, shouldn’t every season of the year be holy and filled with life?

“How is that, Father Darius?” her voice rang out and echoed slightly off the ancient stone walls. She stepped back, the better to judge the effect of her handiwork, then tweaked a twig here and a branch there.

“Simply beautiful. I like it. I really do. Your artistic touch has made all the difference.” Despite the fact that the last parishioner volunteers had left nearly an hour ago, Darius glanced around as he walked slowly forward, then spoke more softly, “but please, don’t tell the other ladies I said so. They try so hard to do what they can every year to make the chapel lovely for Advent.”

“And it *was* lovely,” she replied quickly. “I just thought perhaps the rug for the altar area might help against the chill, Father, and add some color as well, you know…and some red bows for the garlands…”

He looked at her blue eyes, sparkling with reflected candlelight, and the sweet smile on her face, and he felt a surge of affection for her. “Tessa, I’ve told you before - -I’m ‘Darius’ to you, yes?”

Nodding, she chuckled, then motioned to him, “Wait. Go back a bit.” Tessa bent to plug in the wire she held in her hand. Suddenly hundreds of tiny white lights lit the twelve foot fir tree which she had been decorating, and with the flip of another switch, the lights they had placed around the recessed windows of the chapel, framing the stained glass, twinkled to life. And there to the right of the altar was the life size crèche she had built, complete with angel figure hovering above the cave-like structure which sheltered the Holy Family. A warm, subdued light fell on the figure of baby Jesus in the stone manger; and the figures of Mary and Joseph, backlit by Tessa’s creative lighting, glowed almost as if with a heavenly light.

Darius felt goose bumps run over the back of his neck and down his arms. He stood silently for a long moment, as did Tessa, gazing at the scene. At last she turned to Darius once again for his look of approval and found him visibly moved. He spread his arms in amazement and she went to him. He embraced her warmly and said, simply, “Thank you, Tessa.”

Her happy smile filled his heart with warmth. “It was truly my pleasure, Fath…um, Darius. Duncan and I don’t always decorate for the season, but this year, being back home in Paris, eh, I wanted to do somet’ing different, somet’ing special. And I wanted in some way, to say ’thank you’ for being such a good friend to Duncan…” a lump rose in her throat as she added in a whisper, “and to me.” Darius kissed her gently on the forehead, then stepped back and held both her hands in his.

“And that, my dear Tessa, has been my pleasure, believe me.”

The outer door of the chapel opened, cold air whooshing in, then the door closed with a bang. The sound of feet stomping on the mat in the foyer and Duncan’s lowered voice came clearly, “*Try* not to slam the door, would you, Richie?”

“Oh…oh, sorry. It was the wind, Mac. The wind is strong and the door’s heavy and I…um…ok, ok. No slamming doors in church. Got it. Hey, Mac, you *are* sure Tessa’s here, aren’t you? I mean, what if she got tired of waiting and just took off?”

The inner door to the foyer swung open. Duncan and Richie stepped into the chapel proper, then Duncan stopped, amazed at the sight that met them. Richie bumped into him, then looked up and gave a low whistle. “Wow, would you just look at this? It’s incredible! Who would ever think this drafty old place could look…so…um,” he faltered under the look Duncan shot him. Richie gulped and continued quickly, “so *beautiful* It looks really beautiful! And see, Mac?” Richie walked quickly down the center aisle; “Here’s the manger scene. Tessa, it looks great! Fantastic! Incredible! Unbelievable, even!”

Tessa rolled her eyes a little and laughed at Richie’s youthful exuberance. “Thank you Richie. I’m glad you like it. But you knew it would be good. After all, you did help me make de cave.”

Richie’s cheeks were bright with pleasure and embarrassment. “Yeah, I did, didn’t I?”

Darius turned. “Hello, Duncan, my friend. How are you? And Richie, how are you?”

“I’m fine, Darius and so is Richie. And you?” Duncan placed an affectionate hand on his friend’s shoulder.

Darius replied, “Couldn’t be better. It’s my favorite season of the year and the foremost sculptor of Paris has just decorated my chapel. What more could I possibly want?”

Before Duncan could reply, Richie blurted out, “Howsabout some dinner?” then muttered, “I know *I’m* starving!”

Darius grinned, “Well, Richie, I believe I could find some hard biscuits in my cabinet and I could make up some green tea for you in my room, if you like.”

“Um…well, Father Darius, thank you SO much, but actually I was thinking of something more along the lines of turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie with real whipped cream and …”

Tessa laughed again as she finished putting away her tools. “Then you might ‘ave to catch the Concorde back to de States, Richie. You are in Paris now, you know. How about a Christmas goose with cranberries and oranges, pate de fois gras, some delicious bread as only the French can make it, cheese and fruit and a lovely wine to go with it all, hm?”

Richie tried his best to hide his crestfallen expression. Darius nearly laughed outright. Duncan grinned and said, “Don’t let him fool you. Richie will eat most anything if he’s hungry enough.”

Richie threw up his hands. “Except for snails, Mac! Just don’t ask me to eat snails. All creepy, crawly, slimy…oooo yeuch!”

Duncan and Darius did laugh out loud this time. Then Duncan was moving past the few rows of chairs between him and Tessa. He reached out for her, drew her close and kissed her, and her hands slipped up to his neck, then slid under his dark hair that hung loose around the collar of his turtle neck sweater. Tessa drew back and murmured, “What you think, hm?”

“About what?” Duncan tried to nuzzle her neck, but she pushed him away.

“The church! Look! Tell me what you think!”

Duncan’s eyes were on her mouth, still glistening from his kiss. “Beautiful!” he replied and leaned toward her again. She dodged him deftly.

“The decorations, Duncan! Do they compliment the church? It’s not too much, is it?”

“Fantastic! Incredible! Unbelievable even!” Duncan quoted Richie as with a movement unseen by Darius and Richie, he smoothly grabbed at the flesh of her side under her sweater.

Tessa pushed his hand away, giggling, and said reproachfully, “Duncan!” then she hissed softly, “Behave!”

Darius hid his smile as he purposely looked away, glancing around the chapel again. He cleared his throat. “I’ve never seen St. Joseph’s look so beautiful, so inviting. Tessa, you outdid yourself.”

Tessa allowed Duncan to pull her against him and hold her in the crook of his arm. Then she poked him rather hard with her elbow and nodded with quirked eyebrow. “What? Oh! Right. Speaking of ‘inviting’, Darius, we’re here to invite you to join us for dinner.”

Darius blinked in surprise. “Well, Duncan, do you mean tonight? I do have midnight mass, you know.”

Duncan nodded, as did Tessa

Still taken somewhat aback, Darius thought to make his usual response to Duncan’s invitations, which had mostly ceased in recent years. He thought Duncan knew better than to ask him to leave the church grounds. Before he could say a word, however, Duncan spoke, “I know, I know. You won’t leave the rectory, even to have Christmas dinner with us. So we – “

“We decided to bring Christmas dinner to you!” Tessa interrupted and finished Duncan’s sentence.

“Excuse me? Do you mean…?”

“Yes, we do,” they answered together.

Just then, Richie, who had slipped away unnoticed a moment before, returned carrying a box filled with food. “Where do you want this, Mac?”

The delicious fragrance of Tessa’s Christmas goose quickly filled the chapel. Darius shook his head in surprise. “What is all this?”

Duncan clapped his friend on the back. “It’s Christmas dinner, Darius. Yes, a few days early, I know. We figured you wouldn’t leave St. Joseph’s so we brought the dinner to you. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Mind? Do I mind? Of course not! Oh my!”

Richie spoke up, “ Uh, Mac, this is getting kind of heavy.”

“Come this way, Richie,” Darius moved quickly. “My room is just over here.” Darius led the way across the chapel.

Duncan looked at Tessa whose gaze followed the very old man and the very young one as they disappeared into Darius’ quarters. Soft light from the crèche caught Tessa’s blond hair and set it to glowing golden in the dim chapel and Duncan felt his throat tighten. He leaned his chin against her temple and whispered into her hair, “You’re so beautiful.”

Tessa turned shining eyes upward, eyes made bluer tonight by the sky-blue angora sweater she wore; she gazed at Duncan who bent his head and kissed her tenderly, his full warm lips lingering longingly on hers. At last, he opened his eyes and murmured, “I love you.”

She smiled happily at him. “I know you do, Duncan.”

“Thank you for this.” He indicated the decorations with his eyes and she understood and sighed with contentment.

At last, Duncan leaned his head slightly in the direction of Darius’ room and she nodded in agreement. They walked slowly, arms around each other’s waist, across the church. She drew him to a stop just under the arch and they turned to look once more at the entire scene. She said softly, and her whisper filled his ears and his heart, “I love you forever, Duncan.”

The lights flickered in Duncan’s gaze as his eyes blurred a bit. He swallowed hard; but when her eyes met his, he was smiling and the love in his eyes made her heart ache. “Merry Christmas, sweetheart.”

“Merry Christmas, Duncan.”

They turned and walked together into Darius’ room.

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