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St Aelred's Abbey by dee
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"Look, if we turned off there, then we should be down here somewhere." Dom's thumbnail left a small crease in the map.

"Are you trying to bring logic into this argument?" Orli wasn't even looking at the map, standing atop the rock wall that ran beside the road with his hands in his back pockets.

"Fine!" Dom declared, sweeping the map off the hood of the car and turning to lean against it, arms folded across his chest. "Then where the fuck are we, Prince of Mirkwood?"

Orlando squinted. Shrugged. Grinned with his face screwed up against the sunlight that was so bright it was unreal. "Buggered if I know."

Dom considered pushing him off the wall. But the road was too muddy between the car and the wall. Orli's boots were caked in it, leaving brown footprints as he stepped along the top. So Dom settled for bending, picking the map up before more than just one corner got soaked in a puddle. Refolding it, he opened the car door, threw himself into the passenger seat, and the map into the glove compartment.

He turned on the radio, flicked between the set stations. Nothing but static. Outside, arms spread like a tightrope walker, Orli began to sing. "Ten green grenades, sitting on a wall..." Dom scanned manually. Varying static, sometimes sharp as pins, sometimes warm and fuzzy. Once the promise of coherent words, but it faded out again. How the hell were they in a deadspot? This was not a large island.

Orli was still singing. "And if one green grenade should accidentally fall, there'd be no green grenades, and no bloody wall."

Dom climbed back out of the car, wishing he hadn't broken his sunglasses snowboarding. Wishing they hadn't decided on the scenic route back. Almost wishing he hadn't come on this weekend trip with Orli, but that would be a bit much. Because there'd still been last night.

Even if they hadn't talked about it.

Orli suddenly went up on tiptoes, almost falling off the wall in the process. Kept his balance with windmilling arms.

"What was that in aid of, prat?"

Orli showed him two fingers, looking over his shoulder at him. Almost aloof, save he had a smear of mud on his cheek. "There's something over there. Through the trees. Looked like a spire."

"What, like a church?"


Dom shrugged, and took a sidestep to close the car door, careful not to slide in the mud. "Let's check it out then. Might end up being our new home."

"Ready to swear to celibacy already?"

And that made Dom look up quickly, but Orli was already dropping off the other side of the wall. Dom swore faintly, and squelched his way across to the wall, hefted himself up and over. Dropped into damp underbrush on the other side, almost losing his footing on slick leafmold.

"Oi, nutter, over here."

He could see Orli, over to his right and a little ahead, and he pushed after him. By the time he caught up with him, under the trees, he could see the building ahead of them, mossed stone and leaded glass. The trees were dripping on his head as the wind ruffled their leaves. Something was oozing through his boots.

It was fairly easy going through the last of the trees, and they stepped out into a small clearing. They were at the back of the building, and Orli led the way, wading through long grass around the edge of the clearing towards the front. There was a path leading off to another road, even smaller than the one they'd left the car on, and a wooden sign facing away from them. Orli circled it as Dom turned to look up. A spire, all right. Not very tall - the whole building was small - but topped with the usual cross. Standard construction. If there'd been a birds' nest on the cross, it could have been any small German church, transplanted. Any small European church. Someone had told him once that no New Zealand birds flew. Hadn't they? They'd have to be able to fly to nest up there.

Orli was back beside him, staring up. Close enough. Not touching. "St Aelred's Abbey," he noted. "That's all." A moment's silence. The sky was incredibly blue behind the steeple. It was starting to sear into Dom's retina. "Let's go inside."

Dom hesitated half a second. "I don't think we should..."

Orli reached back, grabbed him. His wrist. Not quite his hand. Long fingers wrapped around, thumb on his pulsepoint, and Dom didn't resist being dragged up the few steps. Orli didn't let him go.

The door was unlocked. They pushed it open, stepped inside, let it swing shut behind them.

The silence was deep. Complete. Dom took a deep breath of dark, dense, slightly metallic silence. Let it fill his lungs. Must and leaden, tinted light. The cold knowledge of old stones, comfortable in their ways. It didn't care, but there was something reassuring in that feeling of insignificance.

The silence was so complete it swallowed them whole. Took them in and made them its own. Overcame them. Even Orlando. Though Dom could see him struggling against it, as he let Dom's wrist drop, and moved forwards, up the aisle. The place was practically empty, just rows of plain wooden benches, a heavy crucifix mounted on the far wall, above a stone dais. Dom dropped onto one of the benches close to the door and let his head drop. He could head Orli moving up the aisle, the faintest sound of his boots on the stone floor. The whispering noise travelled through the space, but the silence made it a part of its own, hushed it and soothed it and drew it in.

Dom took another deep breath, and closed his eyes. Let the silence seep the tension out of him.

He heard Orli coming back up the aisle. When Dom looked up, he was standing beside the bench. Dom slid along, left room for him to sit.

Orli sat.

"I'm not going to profess my undying love," Orli stated, and the silence held his words.

Dom shook his head. "I don't want that."

They sat without saying anything. It didn't matter in this place. And after a few minutes, Dom stood up, Orli an instant behind him.

Orli stopped Dom just inside the door, his hand on his wrist again. Dom turned to look at him, and the hand slipped down, fingers across his palm, thumb on his knuckle.

"What do you want?"

Dom smiled, and kissed him, a chaste brush of mouth on mouth in the knowing silence. He curled his fingers around Orli's. "Come on," he said, and led the way outside, back into the sunlight that was so bright, it was unreal.