Anthony "Racetrack" Higgins had always enjoyed going to church with his family. That didnít necessarily mean it happened often. The number of Sunday mornings he spent listening to Father McGillicuddy preach dwindled as he got older, but every Christmas Eve, without fail, he would pile into the car with his parents and three brothers, and drive to the Church of Most Precious Blood. A morbid name, perhaps, but there was nothing in the world like sitting in the hard wooden pews and listening to the aged, thin voices of the elderly choir transform into a chorus of angels, the strains of the carols echoing around the wooden arches.
Liam "Spot" Conlon, however, had never been a fan of churches, and never would be. Race learned that the hard way. It had been an unpleasant experience, asking Spot to come to Christmas Eve mass with him that year. Raceís brow furrowed a bit as he thought about it. It was hard to concentrate on the lyrics to "What Child Is This?" when one was so preoccupied. It hadnít been something heíd thought about much, until this particular fight (only the latest fight in a long string of fights. Sometimes Race thought all he ever did with Spot was fight), but it was suddenly very apparent that Spot Conlon did not share his faith in a higher being. In fact, Race could see it perfectly. "I donít got faith in nothing but my brains, my fists and my feet." Spot hadnít actually said that, but it was exactly the stupid and arrogant thing Spot would say.
He snorted out loud by accident, earning himself a sharp look from his mother. He had the good graces to look sheepish and sat down with the rest of the congregation as the carol ended. Race sighed heavily and flipped through his hymnal to the next song as Father McGillicuddy began speaking again. The Good Father had apparently thought reading Matthewís account of the slaughter of the innocents by Herod was an appropriate Christmas passage. Race had to muffle another snort and shot a glance across his mother to where his younger brother sat. They had made jokes across the dinner table earlier in the evening, much to their motherís dismay, about Father McGillicuddyís senility. Race may have had faith in Christ the King, but that didnít mean he wasnít a sarcastic bastard most of the time. He could recognize that.
The organ started up again, nearly cutting the old priest off, and under the din of the music and people rising to their feet, Race thought he heard his voice being hissed. He shook his head and began singing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful." But then he heard it again, louder and closer this time. He turned his head and his eyes went wide as the source of the hissing revealed itself to be a very perturbed and rather wet Spot Conlon. Race turned back around in the pew with a heavy heart. He really couldnít have chosen a worse time to decide they needed to talk. His mother was going to kill him, possibly worse, but Race closed the hymnal and set it carefully in its shelf before sliding out into the aisle. They were only one pew from the back and Race was on the end of the bench, so slipping out was easy enough, but he could feel his motherís (very uncharitable, he thought) glare boring into the back of his head.
He grabbed Spot by the upper arm and forced him out the back door of the church. It dawned on him, the minute he pushed out into the chilly air, that the reason Spot was wet must have been that it was raining. He was soaked by the time he half turned back to grab his coat and quickly decided there was no point. He wrapped his arms around himself as he and Spot faced each other under the yellow glare of the street light. He bounced a little on the balls of his feet, unwilling to be the first one to speak. Luckily it didnít take long for Spot to give in.
"God is dumb," he blurted out and immediately looking as though he knew exactly how idiotic that sounded.
Race rolled his eyes, feeling rain creep down under his collar. "Is that why you came across Brooklyn in the rain? To tell me God is dumb?"
"No," Spot snapped, digging his hands into the pockets of his thin jacket. Race had tried to let him buy him a new coat as a Christmas gift, but Spot had said he would just give it to Goodwill, so Race hadnít bothered. That was the thing about dating Spot Conlon; he came accompanied with a whole lot of pride. "I came down here to tell you that...that...God never did anything good for me. I donít know why I should have to go to church and thank him for all the shit I donít have."
"No one is forcing you, asshole," Race scowled at him. He couldnít understand why Spot didnít understand that coming to church on Christmas Eve wasnít really about God at all. Race hadnít asked him because he thought Spot needed saving. Heíd asked because he loved Spot, but he wasnít about to admit that now.
"I know. That isnít...all I mean is I donít get why youíre so...goddamn religious. God doesnít exist. Itís a stupid concept. Way too much bad shit goes down for God to exist."
"Real insightful, douche bag," Race sneered, "you read that in Socrates or something, because it was very eloquent."
"Fuck you, you know what I mean!" Spot took a step forward, hands coming out of his pockets. His fists were clenched, like he was holding himself back. Honestly, Race was surprised he was trying at all. Heíd received more than one black eye from Conlon, even after they started dating.
"No, I donít, Spot." Race tightened his arms around himself. The rain was slowing to a fine mist and Race was sure he could feel it getting colder. He was going to get hypothermia soon, he was sure. "Yeah, I go to church on Christmas and Easter. That donít make me religious. And even if I were, even if I went every Sunday, would that be a problem?"
Spot scowled at the pavement as though it has done him some great wrong and scuffed his soaked sneaker through a puddle. "Fuck, Race, I donít know. It just...feels like a slap in the face that you believe in...whatever. Of course you believe in God, you got..." he faded off, shaking his head.
"I got..." Race prompted, bending to try and catch Spotís eye. He was thoroughly angry now. "I got...I got...I got what, Spot?"
"You got more than me, alright?" Spot barked, looking up finally. Race was a bit taken aback by the fierceness of his boyfriendís glare, although it didnít appear to be completely directed at him. Spotís gaze rolled up unhappily to stare at the dark sky. He dragged one hand through his hair, sighing and biting his lip roughly. "I didnít want to come and watch you sit there with your family with that goofy smile on your face and think about what I donít got. God donít exist, Race. He just donít."
"He does," Race said, voice gone quiet. He couldnít be angry at Spot in the face of his unhappiness. It had gone unspoken between them for such a long time, the fact that Spotís mother had abandoned him to the foster care system at age ten and Race had a whole family to support him, that it was shocking to finally hear out loud.
"He donít, Race." Spot was glaring again, fingers tightening into fists once more.
"He does not!"
"Christ! He does not! Look..." Spot was in Raceís face now and the Italian was struggling not to laugh. He knew Spot could see it and knew it would only infuriate him more. "You see this weather, Higgins?" Spot pointed dramatically to the sky. "For the past...hell, as long as I can remember, itís rained on Christmas. We donít ever get snow here, and itís always supposed to snow on Christmas. It never does. If God existed, it would snow, right fucking now."
There was a long, pregnant silence, wherein the pair just watched each other. Cars growled by, splashing through the puddles, and distantly Race could hear the organ inside the church. Voices rose up together in the plaintive notes of "Silent Night" and then, as if on cue, a snowflake drifted down between their faces, landing tauntingly on Spotís nose.
Race stared at it in shock, jaw actually dropping. More snow began to fall around them and before a minute was out on Spotís challenge, the air was thick with it. Race forced his eyes to focus on Spotís face again. The other young man looked a bit dazed, almost contemplative. Race didnít dare speak.
"God damn it," Spot said finally, the timber of his voice even and calm. "Seriously," he said, "God damn it."
Race took a deep breath. His hand found the back of Spotís neck and he pulled him in for a chaste kiss, their mouths locking briefly before Race stepped back. "If we donít go inside weíll both get pneumonia, and if that doesnít kill me, my mother will."
Spot nodded dumbly, tipping his head back to watch the snow spiral down. He let Race lead him up the steps to the church doors and only stopped him once Raceís hand was on the latch. "Hey...can I stay with you guys tonight?" He hated asking, but it was either suffer the indignity of asking for help, or staying in the shelter. He was in between homes at the moment.
"Yeah, of course. I think my mom was expecting you for dinner anyway." Race reached up and in a rare gesture of affection, brushed a few wet strands of hair off Spotís forehead. "You like pecan pie, right?"
"I like any pie," Spot said resolutely, earning a smile from Race.
"Hey," Race said, pushing the door to the church open. The music washed over them with heated fervor and the congregation was loud, jubilant. "Merry Christmas, Conlon."
Spot looked back at him with eyes that Race had always thought seemed much too old for the eighteen year old boy. But the grey of them lightened when Spot smiled and the hollow place behind Raceís heart that always showed up when they fought filled with warmth.
"Merry Christmas, Higgins," Spot said quietly as he stepped into the embrace of the church.