Declan looked blankly at the small building that had emerged out of the blowing snow. Walls, sharply peaked roof, door, a panel that might charitably be called a window, and looming over it up into the whirling grey-whiteness of the sky was a metal tower that managed to look both spindly and sturdy at the same time. Difficult to tell at first look if the building was all metal or just the roof. The tower was pylons and girders and precipitous cat-walks. There were various lumps and hummocks dotted about the structure, nearly shapeless in the drifts, looking like they might be robot refugees with coils and antennae poking up, ice-clad and alien. If there had been a fence or gate it had long since succumbed to the depredations of the elements.
A maintenance shack, for some kind of power or communications tower. Not quite what he'd expected from the brief glimpse as their light aircraft tumbled, buffeted by the storm. Declan had pointed it out to James, trusting him to observe it so they could find it once they were down. because the plane was going down; all Declan was hoping for at that moment was that he manage to get them landed in a reasonably controlled fashion, rather than catastrophe. He'd done that, though not without damage to the aircraft. They'd had cause to be grateful for the five-point harnesses. Powdery snow was not ideal for providing drag, nor did it provide much cushion from the rocks beneath the deceptively smooth surface.
Once they'd extricated themselves from the plane, James had led them the fortunately short distance to the structure. It remained to be seen if they would be able to get in. Declan cut that thought off instantly. They would get in. There would be a means of getting warm, and of communicating to the rest of the world. If nothing else, his mobile should be able to reach the satellite once the storm was over.
The door yielded to the blandishments of Declan's multi-tool and James' superior knowledge of locks. Inside, the shack proved to be reasonably snugly built, and only minimally invaded by dirt and snow. The sheet-steel walls had been insulated and paneled, making for an immediate improvement in the odds of both survival and comfort. Along one wall was a workbench and a bank of fairly simple instruments that seemed to be monitoring wind-speed and direction as well as other less obvious things. The far corner had an assortment of mysterious tools. There was no obvious communication link, and the one window (it was a window, double-paned, with wire mesh protecting it) let in only uncertain and quickly fading light.
Shutting the door cut down the howl of the wind considerably. In the stillness, James began, softly, to laugh. Declan turned to see what could possibly have caused that reaction.
Against the other wall, behind the door, was an incongruously homey sight: a small sofa, just big enough for two, with several blankets folded over the back, an end table supporting a lamp with a pleated shade, and a wood stove. There was even a picture on the wall — a colorful, summery thing. All the comforts of home. Closer inspection proved the stove to be capable of either electric heat, or one could take the false-wood insert out and burn actual wood in the event of no power. It was such an absurd and at the same time practical thing that Declan had to laugh too.
The very simple experiment of trying the switch on the lamp resulted in a warm wash of incandescent light, proving the electricity was working. The controls for the electric fire were no more complex, and soon a cheerful red glow began to combat the sub-zero temperature inside the building. James found the earth-closet behind a simple latched panel, which was a considerable relief to both of them. There was no plumbing, of course, but a metal bucket full of snow would take care of that. Declan ducked out to fill the three buckets stacked under the workbench. When he came back in, it was perceptibly warmer.
The entire day had also somehow gone from disaster to unexpected adventure. Not that Declan was happy the plane had not been up to the force of the storm, but they had landed safely, and now had remarkably comfortable shelter. James had shed his parka, hanging it neatly on a hook near the door. He was making something of a nest of the blankets on the sofa, and Declan recognized the twinkle in his eye.
That twinkle relieved the last of Declan's worries: James stoic and being careful of his life-support mechanism was not inclined to levity or playfulness at all. "Machinery all in good order, I hope," Declan said as he put the snow-filled buckets near the stove to melt and took off his own parka. His voice was not quite as even as he might have liked. And you too; the specially-designed flight-harness did its job, but it can't have been comfortable, even with that inevitable undershirt. Declan could feel his own bruises starting to stiffen.
"I am perfectly well, Declan." It was James' mind-reading voice, the affectionate one, acknowledging and relieving concern all at once. James continued briskly, "I took the liberty of making use of your mobile to call Helen — this structure above us serves as a cell-tower, whatever else it may do — so was able to get through. She will be sending Thomas-Hyacinth along to retrieve us sometime tomorrow. She also said you were not to worry about the plane. It will all be taken care of."
By which she meant exactly what she said, but also that she expected them to take care of each other. Not that she needed to say that, of course. Declan nodded, suddenly very tired.
Of course James noticed. James always noticed. But somehow it didn't matter if James saw him tired or hurting. There were no troops here looking to him for an example; he was Sanctuary now, not SAS. Even if it was SAS training that got them here, safe and warm, it was Sanctuary that had rescue already on the way.
James patted the furl of blankets on the couch. "Take your boots off and put them by the stove to dry. We'll be warmer here on the sofa together." His voice was pragmatic, making it easy for Declan to just do as he said. After checking that the door was firmly fastened shut. They were not quite far enough north for polar bears, but there were other wildlife hazards best avoided, abnormal and otherwise.
Declan perched on the sturdy coffee-table cum footrest that James had drawn close to the couch, making it nearly a bed, and fought the laces of his boots with fingers still tingling from the cold. The down mittens over his flying gloves had done their job, but they weren't much use in fine work such as persuading stiff locks or knotted laces. Eventually the boots came off, and Declan wiggled his toes gratefully in the heat of the stove. Good wool socks never went amiss.
The cement floor was still cold through the wool, but it was only a step to the couch, and soon he and James were comfortably ensconced together, feet up near the fire, blankets cocooning them in warmth. Declan let his eyes close as James explored the cut over his cheekbone and the attendant bruise with gentle fingers. The cold had numbed it; now the warmth was making it sting.
"That should heal cleanly," James said as his touch moved from Declan's cheek to brush the damp wisps of hair off his forehead. "Though I'll want to get a better look at everything in the morning, in better light."
Declan nodded, finally allowing himself to relax into the comfort of James' nearness. The steady, almost subliminal clockwork sound of the life support mechanism was remarkably reassuring. As heat began to steal over him, Declan opened his eyes again to see James smiling one of his private, almost wry smiles. "A little more heat, too," Declan said with a smile of his own tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Perhaps some mutual inspection. Making sure all the parts are in order." He let his now warm fingers roam a little, James shifting a little to make reaching his goal easier.
James cupped the back of Declan's head and drew him into a kiss as Declan rubbed slow circles over James' half-hard cock through the fabric. There was a pleasant stirring in Declan's own cock. They were both too tired for anything urgent or athletic at the moment, but the connection, the intimacy was what mattered.
Lassitude soon followed the creeping warmth, and Declan let it take him as James reached to dim the light and settle Declan's head comfortably on his shoulder. Just before he went entirely under, Declan felt the brush of James' lips at his temple, and heard him say, very softly indeed, as if Declan were not actually meant to hear, "Oh, my dear one. Sleep well."
Declan carried the warmth and affection of those words down with him into the darkness of healing sleep.