“Christmas Eve and no snow.“
John scratched his nose. The disappointed note in Nick’s voice had him panicking. Suppose the man decided to leave the island, bored with the endless rain and short days of winter? What was to keep him here? They’d been together such a short time, after all. Long enough for him to know Nick was the only one for him, but did that hold true for Nick? “Well, we get snow . Not often, but we do. Plenty of it on the mainland, I hear.”
Nick stared out of the window at the darkness, mouth drooping before he summoned a smile. “What the hell. It’s Christmas and we’re together. That’s what counts.”
He wanted more than resignation. He wanted joy, delight on Nick’s face; warmth in his eyes. For this first Christmas together to be special.
A memory stirred. Him with his dad one frosty night, his breath visible on the air, the ends of his fingers numb, too entranced to care. Would they be lucky tonight?
He'd risk it. Hadn't he already risked everything for Nick and had it pay off? He was the luckiest man on the island. Time to prove it.
“Come outside with me.”
Nick tilted his head questioningly. “Why? It’s nearly midnight. Too late to go visiting and the pub’s closed.”
Officially, maybe, but John knew behind locked doors there’d be plenty of drinking going on until the wee small hours.
“Trust me. And turn off the lights.”
Outside, the sky was pricked over with sharp, white sparks, stars burning coldly, their light undimmed here. No streetlights, no glowing windows, no moon.
“Close your eyes, love. I won’t let you fall.”
“If I do, I’m telling Santa to put you on his naughty list. Okay, eyes closed, no peeking.”
John took Nick’s hand and led him to the wall running around their land, surefooted even in the darkness, lending Nick his certainty of where to place each step.
“Hush,” John told him and stopped his mouth with a kiss, sweet as the sherry his mother had insisted they drink earlier. As they kissed, he turned Nick, facing him toward the north.
Facing toward the lights.
They blanketed the sky, unearthly, luminous, a shimmer of green, a surge of gold raying out to meet a vivid purple. Nature at her gaudiest, dressed to party.
“You can look now. It’s not snow, but you can get that anywhere. Even in England.”
“John—“ Nick drew in a breath. “My God, I didn’t know you could see them here.”
“Oh, aye. Many’s the time I’ve frozen my arse off staring at them.”
“So beautiful. Miraculous.”
“They are that,” he agreed, but he was peering through the darkness, watching the smile grow on Nick’s face, not the display in the sky.
That was his Christmas wish granted, right there. Nick’s smile.