Chapter twenty-seven, 1974 (part A) : It Was Always You

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John pushed his glasses back up on his long nose and wrapped his scarf around his neck carefully. He buttoned his coat up and couldn't find his gloves, cursing but too lazy to go all the way back to the closet where he and George kept winter clothes, on the first floor. He decided that this would have to do, opening the door and stepping outside, the cold hitting him in the face like a wall.

He shuddered and pushed his hands deep into his pockets, closing the door quickly and looking around for George. There was no snow but the ground still made a strange crushing sound as he crossed the front lawn, the earth frozen in cold and absolutely bare, looking quiet and somewhat desolate.

John lit a cigarette, a tiny point of heat against the vast, gray sky, mixing smoke with the fog he produced with each breath. Everything was silent and the world looked like an old photograph, all in blacks and whites and grays, colors and life sucked out of things by the long, unforgiving winter. The bare branches of the trees twisted against a sky heavy with clouds, the absolute silence around him strangely ominous. Friar Park looked dead during winter time, frozen into place until spring would make it explode with life again.

John did not mind. He liked it, even. It allowed for snowball fights (George and Julian teaming up against him when the kid had visited -you filthy little traitors! and John slipping a handful of snow down the front of George's pants later in revenge), long days spent either strolling out in a dazzlingly whitened countryside or in, keeping warm with hot cups of tea and blankets, watching TV or reading, listening to George play the guitar softly.

It was all awfully domestic and yet John found himself happy, so happy he felt like shouting it, like that time he'd jumped out of a shower right in the middle of it, ran back to the living room dripping water everywhere, stood in front of a bemused George and declared his undying love for him again. (George had moped the floor and called him a madman but John had seen the softness in his eyes. I couldn't wait, he'd grumbled as an apology. It struck me, and I couldn't wait.)

All in all, it was, John wasn't afraid to say so anymore, bloody brilliant.

He smiled as he made out George's figure in the winter garden, long and lean next to the fountain, observing the bare ground intently, bending over at times as if to check it was doing okay under the frozen crust. John whistled and grinned as George turned around, waggling his eyebrows. "Oh no, please continue, I was enjoying that..." he drawled, stepping next to George and patting his bum.

George smiled, putting his gloves back on. "Not much to see back there, I don't think," he replied good-naturally, looking over his shoulder at his bum. John slipped his hand into George's back-pocket, feeling the warmth of his skin through the fabric and giving him a squeeze.

"I've got no complaints," he stated playfully, looking at the ground George had been inspecting with such care. "Don't want to let you down, but nothin's going to grow there for a while, Georgie."

George chuckled. "I know but I was thinking of adding a Wisteria arch here. We could walk through it together in the spring, it'd be nice. We may not be able to plant anything but we could have the arch built already."

John wasn't entirely sure of what a Wisteria arch was but he nodded all the same, trying to remember the name so he would be able to check in one of George's numerous gardening magazines later on. "Sure, if you'd like," he replied easily, smiling when George bumped their shoulders together.

George knew gardening wasn't an interest of John's and he changed the subject, not wanting to bore him. "What're you doing out here, then? Keeping track of me?" he teased.

"Missed you a bit," John admitted easily, unashamed. "You were gone a while, thinking 'bout arches. I got bored."

John's desire to be with him constantly was rather endearing to George. Coming from anyone else he would have found it smothering, but they'd waited so long to be together properly that having John constantly by his side was all he wanted. They'd entered this stage of domesticity easily, much to George's surprise and satisfaction, spending all their time together, just the two of them, even declining invitations to parties to stay home.

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