Lighting the Darkness

The loft's not decorated. He doesn't have the energy to do it properly, not this year, and the thought of a few strings of tinsel fluttering lost and lonely doesn't appeal. The few cards he's got are on his desk at work, falling over every time anyone walks by, getting in his way. They'll be discreetly swept in the trash when he goes in next.

Sandburg had looked as if he was about to say something after a commercial showing a lit-up house, a gaudy tree, but, for once, had let Jim's preemptive scowl silence him.

So they're sitting, slightly drunk, on Christmas Eve, surrounded by nothing remotely festive, unless you count the Santa hat perched rakishly on Sandburg's head, which, scarily, is beginning to look cute when viewed through a whiskey haze. There's a joke about elves in there somewhere, but Jim's too tired to work out the details.

Been a hell of a two weeks. Red and green… blood and grass, and the stink of death and pine needles as they find the bodies in the park, too late to save them, sprawled and broken.

No, he doesn't want a tree.

Sandburg goes out onto the balcony at midnight, letting in a gust of damp air, bell-scented as the churches peal out the time, sonorous and joyful.

Jim joins him with the intention of getting him inside and the door closed, and ends up standing by him looking out at the city. It's lit up tonight, the dazzle and glow of a million twinkles making it shine brightly. He looks, not at the lights, but the darkness, winding its way through the city; places where no one lives, no one cares. Places where the lights are never on, no matter what the date.

His city. And his darkness. Circling the city like a wreath.

By morning, the lights will be dim in the sunshine, or turned off. But the darkness will still be there.

Sandburg's shoulder bumps his arm and he turns into the waiting hug, given silently as the bells chime out, the fuzzy hat Sandburg's still wearing tickling his cheek.

When they break apart, Sandburg shivering, his sock-clad feet damp from the way his toes are curling, Jim takes one last look at the city. Far away, over to the west, a light blinks on in a patch of darkness as he watches; to be visible at this distance, it has to be a decorated house and one festooned with a lavish hand.

It's not much, but it's something.

Mouth twitching, he takes the hat from Sandburg's head and places it on his own, feeling the residual warmth from Sandburg's body like a fleeting touch as he tugs it into place.

The snort of amusement he gets from a man who hasn't been doing much smiling the last week, his eyes troubled, haunted by horrors, is another spark of light.

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