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To Love

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He had been praying every night and morning for answers. It wasn't right. He knew that. But surely, surely there was some purpose to it. It was a form of love. He would reduce it back to that-- to simple, God-given love, and it would be used for good. 

But was it really so wicked?

He had never had cause to wonder before. That was not to say that he had never had such a notion. In prison, such things were not unheard of. But in prison, he had been a different man. He had not lived for God. And in prison, such things had never been kin to love.  

Intimacy, he knew in his heart, was sacred, was good and right when born from a pure love. Was it, then, true that some love was impure? Lust could be impure, of course, but he was not a man much given to lust. His desire was born of regard and affection, strange though that was to think on. 


Once, long ago, he had felt nothing but hate for that man; now, there was a tangled knot in his chest when they spoke. 


Fear had dominated the other sensations at first. He could be ruined. He could suffer greatly and for many years. He could lose everything he held dear. He could, frightening as the thought was, lose the man he had become. The fear was a tightness in his lungs and an arrhythmic jolting of his heart. This calmed with time. They saw one another often. He spoke politely, then curiously, then fondly. Keep your friends close, he had thought. After a month, the thought had ended there. 


His old, dear enemy was a good man. He was an honest man. He did not believe in God, but he was a faithful man, and one driven by a sense of rightness. He wished to help his fellow creatures. He was only a little misguided. Respect was a steadying solidness in his arms and hands, which no longer shook. 


The man had a sense of humor, dry and nearly vicious. He was a careful soul, contained and composed, but deeply passionate. He indulged in snuff and nothing else and kept his appearance so neat that it was nearly vanity. Fondness curled his fingers around a cool, dry hand when they parted, swelled in his chest. 


And now, perhaps a bit later than he should have, he had become aware of a new thread in the tangle. Desire. It heated his face and his fingertips whenever they touched. Perhaps the man was not handsome, but he was striking. 


It was shameful, surely. 


He prayed and prayed and the answer became clear to him slowly, like the sun dissolving a fog. The first rays of light reached his eyes when their fingers brushed in the handing of a document. He felt his own burn, and, as he watched, the opposing set dropped back to their owner's side, flexing and curling restlessly. He prayed that night again, and the next day caught the strangest gaze directed at his back, reflected in the glass of his window. He turned quickly, and the gaze was broken a second too slow. They were small things, all of them, but what they lacked in mass was compensated by their number. He prayed night after night, day after day, and then, without being certain of the moment when he realized, he simply came to know. 

He had been given a gift. This man longed for him in the same way-- this man who had never known gentleness, who had been kept out of sight of God's love. And he was here to show him, at last, and to teach him kindness. It was a gift. It was good. 


"M. Madeleine."

"Come here, if you would, Inspector."