A/N: This piece is completely unimportant, but I wrote it and decided it was sweet, so I thought I may as well post it. I'm quite happy with the way it turned out, although it's short. And that's really all I have to say! ^_^
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It was the dead of night, but seeing the blazing light that brightened the area, you could almost mistake it for day. Flames licked and curled up the sides of the wooden house, dancing into the black velvet sky like the forked tongues of demons. They devoured the structure quickly, sending its strong supports buckling into each other and in a noisy spectacle, taking it to pieces. Firefighters sprayed current upon current from their hoses, trying desperately to save it, but it was beyond help. In a matter of minutes there would be nothing left, and two very hopeless people would be forced to start all over again with just the clothes on their backs and a handful of memories.
Simon was one of those two people. He sat huddled under a dampened blanket on the hood of a police car, its sirens wailing into his already ringing ears. As he watched the house fall under the pressure of the devastating fire, he replayed the evening's events over and over in his head. They'd been asleep, him and Piper, curled around each other beneath a warm down comforter, when all of a sudden the ringing alarm had jolted them back to reality. They'd gotten out through the window, jumped out into the bushes in Piper's beloved garden, but because the house was so old, and the wood so dry, they'd barely gotten to the sidewalk by the time it started to really go up. There wasn't a thing we could have done, Simon anguished. It's all over now. We have nothing left.
The house had been their sanctuary, their favourite place in the world. It wasn't awe-inspiringly grand, and it was quite old, but they'd made it their own. Piper took care of the garden, which was what he liked best; digging up the earth and planting things and tending to the flowers could keep him busy all day. Simon had something of a black thumb, so he'd done the inside in bright colours, beautiful artwork, and the best furniture they could afford. Most of the women on the street were envious of the house, and many had tried to solicit Simon's help in decorating their own living rooms or they'd asked Piper to come and make their flowerbeds for them. Their life together in the cosy little neighbourhood had been perfect, happy and comfortable and just the way they always dreamed of. Simon's throat went dry as he realized that all of that was gone now – they'd probably have to find a new home in a different area and start all over again. Dread washed over him as he began making out a mental list of things they'd lost. It wasn't just the house and the furniture and the computer and all the appliances that they would have to buy again, but the sentimental things. Decades of pictures and mementos, centuries-old family heirlooms, precious childhood toys. Things they would never be able to replace.
He looked over to his right, where Piper was talking with one of the officers. He heard a few snippets of their conversation, but wasn't listening closely enough to take in much. Simon knew that the authorities believed the fire had been a case of arson, a hate crime. The thought was almost too much for him to take; he didn't want to believe that anyone could willingly want to destroy another person's life so completely. But, of course, he also knew he couldn't kid himself. They were situated in a marginally suburban area, and although most of the other families on the street were middle aged parents with young children or teenagers, almost everybody had taken well to having a gay couple living in their midst… except for a few. There's always that one person who has to go and ruin everything, he thought bitterly. His eyes began to sting, and he rubbed them with his fists – he didn't know if it was from smoke or real tears. But whatever it was, Piper noticed.
"Don't cry, Simon. It'll be okay. This isn't the end." He sat down beside him on the hood of the car and pulled the corner of the blanket over himself, sharing it.
"I'm not crying," Simon replied stubbornly. He tried to keep his statement true, but he was beginning to have trouble convincing himself that the pain in his throat was just from yelling at the firefighters.
Piper's pale brown eyes shone as he gazed absently ahead, watching the grisly scene take place. Simon tried to read what he might have been thinking, but found it impossible. After a few moments of silence, Piper spoke again. "We'll get insurance money," he said thoughtfully. "We can buy another house, we can start over."
"I don't want to start over," Simon whispered, lowering his head to hide the tears now flowing from his reddened eyes. He felt small, childish and vulnerable, the heat and light from the fire still blazing on his face, illuminating his pain.
Making a small sympathetic noise, Piper leaned his head against Simon's shoulder. "I know you feel like we have nothing. But it's not true, sweetie. It's not."
Simon looked up and let out a frustrated cry. Piper had a habit of being too optimistic sometimes and this was one of them. "God, Piper! What is it about this that you don't understand? Everything we own is gone to ashes! Everything! Our clothes, our house, all our belongings, every single thing we ever had! How can you sit here and tell me that it's going to be okay, how can you profess to believe that we can bounce back from this? The evidence is right in front of you! The only thing left of our life is the two of us!"
"That's what I meant," Piper said quietly. He looked as though he were very taken aback by Simon's outburst; tears glistened in his eyes now too.
Simon neglected to see the shock he'd caused – he was too distraught. "What the hell do you mean, that's what you meant?" he snapped.
"I meant that we do have something. The most important thing of all."
Piper reached for Simon's hand and squeezed it tightly, and Simon found the pressure comforting. Looking up into his partner's forgiving face, he suddenly realized what he'd been talking about. There were thousands of things they could still lay claim to: candlelit dinners every year on their anniversary, a good-morning kiss shared in the early hours before they headed off to work, a warm embrace they could both rush into when things got complicated. A shared devotion and an all-encompassing love they could call their own. Simon was so used to all of that, so accustomed to Piper's unwavering companionship, that he sometimes took those things for granted. Now, as he sat staring into his lover's wide, questioning eyes, he vowed never to let it pass him by again.
"Of course we do, love," he returned gently. Warmth rushed through his body as he leaned in close to Piper, brushing the other man's lips with his own. He felt Piper smile against his touch before kissing him back, so delicately that he almost couldn't feel it. But it was enough.
The fire still blazed ahead of them, rising higher and higher into the sky as though it were stretching to touch heaven, and the firefighters still struggled to crush it under white streams of water. Simon and Piper, though, were in their own world, a world fabricated of the only thing they could take with them from this night – but the only thing that they really felt they needed.