In A City Of Lights

The city was alight. All the shops were perfectly decorated to appeal to the holiday shopper, even though the weather itself was miserable, wet, and cold. It didn't matter, though, because tonight Judas would finally see Hadi again.

It wasn't Algeria.

It wasn't their home.

But, it was Milan. It was the city Hadi truly loved, and Judas didn't have it in him to deny Hadi Christmas in Italy.

He tilted his head back and closed his eyes, the icy sprinkle of rain wetting his face. His nose was beyond cold, bright red whenever he caught himself in a shop's window, but it was wonderful. The air was crisp, the streets alive with rushing people, and the warm smell of something sweet and spicy wafts out from one of the restaurants. The city was teeming with life, bright and beautiful and on the cusp of celebrating his friend.

Judas began walking once more, weaving his way through the throng of tourists and locals, making his way to the Duomo di Milano. He'd promised Hadi they'd meet after that fashion show in front of the cathedral. Christmas meant there would be the tree outside the Duomo, and Hadi wouldn't miss seeing it for the world.

And Judas wouldn't think to deny him the pleasure.

Judas stopped as he stepped into the piazza, his breath catching as he gazed up and up the brilliantly lit tree that dominated the front of the cathedral. There had been no Christmas tree the night Yehoshua was born. There hadn't been bright lights or carols or the smell of pine. The chime of a bicycle bell hadn't rung out that destined night. There had been nothing but animals and dirt and two frightened people tossed onto a path they'd not been certain of.

That didn't matter as Judas took in the sight of the tree and the cathedral and all the people milling about in the piazza. What mattered him was that, tonight, if for no other night, he could remember his dearest friend, his brother, and whisper a prayer of love to the heavens.


Judas turned and felt a smile curve his lips. Hadi was red-cheeked and grinning, rushing up to him with arms spread wide. He stepped forward to meet the embrace halfway and hugged Hadi tightly to him. "You're late," he murmured against Hadi's icy ear.

"The show ran late, but I slipped away." Hadi pulled back just a little. "I wouldn't keep you waiting long."

"No, you wouldn't." Judas kissed him softly, though it was quick and discreet. The piazza was not the place, in his mind, for passionate kisses. He turned Hadi so they both faced the tree, an arm around Hadi's waist, and one of Hadi's around his own. He smiled a little, the din of tourists getting louder the later it became. Finally, he pressed a kiss to Hadi's temple and murmured, "Shall we visit the Castello Sforzesco?"

Hadi's smile managed to grow even wider. "You're sure? There will be a lot of people."

Judas led Hadi away from the Duomo piazza, though they kept glancing behind them at the cathedral and tree. "I'm sure. Our first Christmas in Milan, we should see everything."

"Everything?" Hadi asked, tearing his eyes away from the cathedral.

"Everything and anything," Judas promised.

Hadi's eyes took on a distinctly wicked glint. "Even our hotel room?"

Judas laughed, the sound feeling good as it left him, like it, too, was a prayer of thanks to Yehoshua. "I intend for us to thoroughly inspect our hotel room."

"Then maybe we should go there... you know, just to make sure it's as festive as the Duomo," Hadi said, his eyes moving over Judas' face and body.

Just that look was enough to make Judas have absolutely no desire to visit the Castello Sforzesco. "All right, the hotel room it is, but if we can't make it to the Castello Sforzesco before we leave—"

"I will take full responsibility," Haid murmured solemnly. "Right now, the hotel room with a hot bath and your soft voice are what I want."

Judas felt his face heat even in the wet cold air, and he chuckled shyly. "Hotel it is."

As if it were a hardship.

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