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54 Chapter Fifty Four - There is Warmth in Snowstorms

    Nathan was not one to wake slowly, nor was he usually one to linger in bed.  On this morning, he kept to the former habit, but the latter was swept away due to the scene before him.  Curled upon one side, as was his usual, unmoving position through the sleeping period of night, he did not need to move his head nor his body in order to change his view and on this morning, that view was of Ren Zexian's clear profile.  The older man slept as still as Nathan, the other had learned in these past three nights and always slept upon his back, face towards the ceiling.  Thus Nathan awoke to be witness to the smooth line of his forehead, his nose and his lips and chin, all framed by a glorious mane of midnight.

    Nathan felt his lips curl upward slightly and a warm feeling spread through his stomach.  He identified that this was not due to their combined body heat (although they were not touching each other directly, Nathan could still feel the heat of the other leaping across the distinct gap between them), however he was not sure what emotion that this feeling could be.  He did have emotions, he was not lacking like he had heard those young women employed to look after his parent's property.  He felt happy when his plants flourished beneath his care, angry when the seedlings were mistaken as weeds by those claiming that they were being 'helpful'.  Scared that time Ren Zexian was attacked by that ugly, grey person, unhappy when others invaded his space... well that didn't include everyone.  His parents, his nanny and the old gardener... the Teacher had been tolerable... and then there was Ren Zexian.

    Ren Zexian could stand close to him and not make Nathan wish to escape his presence or push him away.  Ren Zexian could touch him and not make his skin feel wrong.  Ren Zexian could speak to him and his ears would want to hear more.

    His mother had a very sharp voice, like thorns on a rose bush, which did soften to feel like the leaves upon touch should she speak directly to him.  But although this was okay, he did feel as if this was not her real voice.

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    His father had a deep, powerful voice.  He looked like a soft peach, but his voice was that hard stone inside.  It also rumbled through the listener and was loud, reminding Nathan of a petrol lawnmower.  He didn't like the lawnmower, he used to stay away when others cut the grass.  Gradually, he even claimed more of the lawn for planting so the space that was cut was smaller.  It was still a big lawn, though.  The cottage garden had no lawn at all remaining after Nathan moved in.

    Anyway, his dad was aware that his voice was often too much for Nathan to bear, so although there were times he would still need to speak to Nathan, most of the time, they exchanged conversation in gestures.  Such as splaying fingers out wide to catch Nathan's attention, let him know that his father wished to speak with him.  It was easier to cope with if he knew it was coming.  And the old man spoke in short sentences as well.

    Ren Zexian's voice was different.  Ren Zexian's voice was like a cool breeze rustling through the trees on a hot day.  It was like the soft, unscented petals of calla lilies, simple and elegant.  When Ren Zexian spoke, he wanted to listen.  When Ren Zexian was silent, Nathan wanted to hear him speak.  He didn't know the reason.  In fact, he didn't care that he didn't know the reason, it was enough to know this truth.

    But there was something else he had been curious about recently and it was only times like these, when the rest of the house was quiet and there was no urge to rise from the bed and get on with preparing himself for the day ahead, when he could think about it.  Yesterday, he had seen the rugged man, Jonah, the one like a gnarly old tree and Brooke, the girl he thought was like a stalk of foxgloves, pressing their lips together.  It's not that he hadn't seen people pressing their lips against another's skin or mouth before; his mother had a tendency to place hers upon his father's forehead and the chef from his childhood pressed lips with a woman who cleaned the rooms of the east side of the property.  He'd just never thought much about it before.

    And yet, now, his eyes were drawn to the thin lips of Ren Zexian's profile wondering about this action.  He pressed his fingers to his own mouth.  His fingertips were a bit cold and rough so he didn't find it pleasant.  He did notice though, that his lips felt different to other parts of his skin.  There was also a lingering feeling after he removed his fingers, which he couldn't place as being good or bad.  His hand retreated beneath the cover, the heat beneath warming his fingers.

    And then an impulse overcame him and his hand crept out from the warmth and up towards Ren Zexian's lips.  His fingers hovered over Ren Zexian's mouth for a moment and he felt the air moving in exhale from the man, his skin tingling as he began to slowly drop his reach lower...

    A flurry of noise pattered against the window, startling Nathan and he quickly withdrew his hand and reached for his ears.  The sound wasn't loud, though, so he didn't try and muffle it in the end.  Instead, he rolled over and sat up to glance out of the window to see if he could see what had made the noises.  Behind him, he did not notice that a stain of colour rose upon the pale skin of the man he lie with.

    *****

    Lucy was also gazing with wide eyes out of the window, despite her breath fogging up the panes of glass as it touched it.  Only when the mistiness had covered the area before her eyes did she flop back down upon the bed she was sharing.  Then she crawled over the hillock created by body and duvet and poked the tender white flesh peeking out.  A soft groan of complaint followed and that part that could be seen disappeared as the person retreated deeper into the covers.

    And so Lucy attempted to rouse the third person, who reacted in a slightly different way.

    "Put your hands in the air where I can see 'em!"

    A tangled mess of hair appeared, like a monstrous witch from a fairy tale, rising from the bed with two nail-chipped hands landing atop the covers.  The disorientated one glanced back and forth before two eyes peered out of the knotted locks and fell upon a smiling child.  "Ugh, Lu Lu," a slightly croaky, female voice spoke.  "Go back to sleep, is too early!"

    She grasped the covered in her hand and attempted to pull them back over her head, but Lucy would not allow it.  The child bounced up and down upon the bed and pointed out of the window.

    "Why so noisy?" The other occupant, also clearly a woman from the tone of her voice complained.

    In fact this pair was Monika and Autumn, who had shared a room since arriving at the small mansion.  Originally, the room contained two single beds, however when little Lucy decided that she wished to share a bed with Autumn, they had to reconsider the sleeping arrangements.  A single bed was definitely not large enough for a full bodied young woman and a child.  Monika had proposed that they simply push the beds together, then they had topped it with a spare double duvet and sandwiched between that and their own covers.  All three slept quite contentedly this way, with Lucy safely tucked between them.

    "I dunno," Monika complained, beginning to shiver with half of her body exposed to the chilly air.  Even full-sleeved cotton pajama's were no match for this bitter winter that they were experiencing and they had not been able to obtain fleece ones.  It was fortunate enough that they'd found thick bathrobes at the clothing store that time, but Monika did not want to sleep in them, too uncomfortable.  "You deal with her, I'm going back to sleep."

    "Oh," Autumn groaned and peered out from beneath the covers to see Lucy's expression, filled to the brim with expectation.  How could she be so cruel to deny the little girl when she looked at her with those eyes?  So as Monika shuffled deeper into the remnant warmth beneath the duvet, Autumn gingerly crept out of it.  Lucy saw that the woman was paying attention to her and grabbed her hands, which were warm and soft and once more pointed to the window.  Autumn glanced up to see the curtains had been drawn back, she could feel the icy air about the glass panes from here, but she dutifully looked outside.

    Her eyes widened, unaccustomed to such a sight; flakes of white were hurtling past the window almost horizontally as the fierce winds captured them in their grip and flung them about beneath the steel coloured dawn light.  She shook her head in disbelief.  Last winter, they would have been lucky to see a dusting of snow covering the ground before it melted beneath the weak morning sun and now it was Siberia in their usually temperate county.  It definitely seemed that the weather was as warped as the rest of nature after the apocalypse...
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