Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back at 2012 and a New Year's Kisses Party

Today is the last day of 2012. Obviously the world didn't end, but did anyone really think it would, or did that just become a global joke? From what I've read, the Mayans didn't intend for it to be the end of the world, but rather the start of a new world. That makes more sense.

Looking back at the passing year, there were highs and lows. To be expected. Bad people did bad things, tragedies occurred, and good was also done. For me, 2012 was a stronger year than 2011. After being unemployed for two years, I got a job with a temp agency. Although at times the work is sporadic, it's a start. I've made some friends and I've been able to make some money.

As for my writing, it's been a mixed bag as well. I cut ties with two publishers, was published by one I truly despise, and had my first release with one I edit for, with others to follow. I also self-published for the first time. I have three stories out there that I did myself. And I contracted Revelations, something I've been trying to do for years. I actually believe Revelations is the real reason I was fired from the job I held for over thirteen years, that my born-again Christian brother caught wind of it somehow (must have been through his wife, because he doesn't do FB), and he fired me, no matter what bullshit story he tells everyone else. (He tells his customers that I left to write my novel, but that is very much not true).

Also, in 2012, I began a new writing partnership with a new friend and our first story, Be My Alien - first in our Moonlit Skies series - has been contracted with Dreamspinner. I finished writing When Will I See You Again, a m/m paranormal, and subbed that to Dreamspinner on Christmas Eve. I am currently reworking Leonardo di Caprio is a Vampire and will sub that to DSP when I am done.

My kids did well this year. Michael left the navy and took a job in the private sector, making good money. He has a new girlfriend and she sounds nice. I hope to meet her someday. He came home, which was good and I was thrilled to see him, although the reason was a sad one - his father had complications from diabetes and had to undergo amputation of part of his leg.

Chris spent the summer in Kansas City, interning there, and spending time with his gf, who lives there. He's graduating from Mizzou in June and has a job lined up with Amazon in Seattle already. Katie is still happily  married and is working at losing weight and doing a good job of it. Sarah is going to community college and will be head of the campus newspaper next semester.

In 2012, I worked my last convention, at least as a staff member, cutting ties with KawaKon. In future, if I go it will be as an author. A lot less stressful that way.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the future and what I see for it, but today I'm looking back. 2012 was a good year in many ways. I think I've learned some things this year, and hope to benefit from having made mistakes. We all make them. It's what you do with them that matters.

And remember, we're all in this together, so we have to make this the best world we can!

And now for the party - I'm part of Kay Berrisford's New Year's Kissing Party. Go to her blog here and check it out. There will be kisses and prizes galore! I have an excerpt that will be hosted at Tara Lain's blog, so head on over there when you get time.

Have a wonderful New Year's Eve! Stay safe and be happy! Until next time, take care!

♥ Julie

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fanfiction Sunday: The Value of a Smile

Good morning and Happy Sunday! It's a bright, cold day here in St. Louis. The little snowfall we received is strictly on the ground, the streets are clear. Which is good, as in an hour or so we're going to go see Les Miserables.  If I had the time, I'd watch The Hobbit and Skyfall again too, but alas that isn't the case.

For today's fanfiction, I thought I would go outside of Harry Potter for a change (I do write in other fandoms lol).  Today is from Dexter. I've read all the books, but only seen the first three seasons. I hope to catch up someday. Enjoy!

The Value of a Smile

A smile could mean so very many things, with nuances as varied as the wearer whose face it graced.

Smiles came in all sizes and shapes; they were barometers indicative of the mood of the smiler. Some smiles were good, others less so, depending upon ones perspective.

For example, when Dexter smiled at his sister, or at his co-workers at the Miami Police Department, it was generally from a sense of expedience—of doing what normal people were supposed to do in order that he appear normal to the others. Except that Dexter Morgan wasn’t normal, not in the accepted sense of the word, and he knew it. And somehow Sergeant Doakes knew it too. Therefore Dexter was quite careful to smile at the sergeant on a regular basis, and to be unfailingly polite to him.

Funny how in a building crammed full of police officers, Doakes was the only one that found Dexter to be off.

And he never smiled back.

Of course, come to think of it, Dexter’s sister Deb wasn’t big on smiling either. Mainly because she was usually pissed off about something. In fact, a smile from her was often something to be wary of. It generally meant that she was contemplating some bit of evil.

It was only Dexter that couldn’t get away with being less than believable in his smile, because Dexter was the one that was living the lie, pretending to be what he wasn’t—namely, normal. Some might even say human.
Dexter wasn’t saying one way or the other. He was what he was, and he couldn’t imagine himself being any other way.

“Shit, Dex, you’re in the way. If you’re gonna do something, do it. Fuck!”

There she was now. The queen of foul language herself. He wasn’t offended by her words. Dexter felt nothing. Obligingly, he moved for her, although in all fairness he’d been there first, and he was working a crime scene here. She pushed by him with a grunt.

The corpse was propped up against the wall, still in situ. The blood smears which began a few feet up the wall were a bloody trail against the pallid wallpaper. “Excuse me, bro.” That was Angel No Relation Battista, aiming and clicking from various angles. Last photographs of the deceased, taken for posterity. Personally, Dexter preferred his slides.

“All right now,” Angel encouraged the victim. “Smile for the camera.” A click and another flash.

Dexter half expected the remains to accede to the polite request, but it was and would remain a physical impossibility, for the victim’s lower jaw had been removed by the killer. For what reason, Dexter had not yet begun to speculate. But he would ponder the possibilities. That was just who he was, and what he did. Delving into the mind of the murderer. Wondering what made him or her tick.

Of course it had something to do with the message that had been scrawled across the wall in the victim’s  own blood:  JAWBONE OF AN ASS. But what?

“Jeez, Angel, you’re fucking morbid,” Deb complained. She shook her head and punched Dexter in the arm. He wanted to protest that he’d not been the one to say it, but realized it would do no good.

“You finished here, Dex?” his sister asked.

He rubbed his arm and nodded.  “Yeah, I got what I need.”

“Good, let’s get the fuck outta here so they can take that away.” She waved one hand vaguely at the corpse, before exiting the premises, Dexter trotting obediently behind her.

“Can we stop for lunch?” he asked hopefully, but he got no immediate response. Why was it, he wondered, as he took his spot in the passenger seat of Deb’s official vehicle, that normal people could be mirthless and out of sorts as often as they liked and no one gave it a second thought, but he, Dexter, had to be more human than them and smile when he didn’t even understand why he should other than it was part of the rules as set down by Harry.

That was all he needed, he supposed. To remember the rules and to live by them.

Deb stopped into a small lunch place they both liked, and Dexter ordered the Cuban sandwich he craved. When the waitress brought it, he remembered that gratitude was one reason that people smiled. So he gave her a big one.

“Jesus, Dexter, you trying to fuck her?” Deb asked before she pushed half a sandwich into her face.

Smiles. One of life’s mysteries, Dexter decided, biting into his own food in a more controlled manner. Go figure.

Thanks for stopping by! Until next time, take care!

♥ Julie

Friday, December 28, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday

Happy Friday! I hope everyone is well and happy today and looking forward with anticipation to the end of the year! We have a very interesting question this week, one not so easily answered. So let's get right down to it, shall we?


There are so many good books in the world. Of course, they are read for different reasons. Am I allowed to offer one of my own? I'll do that first, and then list the alternate, for those that might cry foul or self-serving.

Revelations would be my choice. Because it's a message of love, and hope and peace. Something the world could do with a healthy dose of.

But let's go with another book too, one I recently read and found very fascinating. Paradise Lost. It says a lot about mankind, and his relationship to God. Not all of it good. Very much food for thought. Also interesting if you know the author was blind and dictated it to his daughter. Also that he lived during the time of Cromwell... well, you can look that up yourself, if you're interested and so inclined.

So there you have it. Revelations and Paradise Lost.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guest Blogger Lily Sawyer

Today, my friend and fellow author Lily Sawyer has come to visit and talk about her newest release. Please give her a warm welcome!

This story struck a personal chord for me. I suffer from depression and I felt this subject just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I am hoping my story shed some light on a condition that’s very misunderstood. –Lily

Blurb:  Harry Goldberg appears ordinary. But he secretly suffers from depression–leading life alone except for his cat. Then Harry meets a new delivery man where he works–someone he is attracted to. Can anyone love him–emotional baggage and all?

Harry had a wonderful job; he worked at a deli on Long Island. He loved to watch the looks customers gave him when he served them his special mile-high sandwich. Despite the huge piles of hot pastrami and corned beef on rye with a pickle and coleslaw on the side, they somehow left a clean plate.

The people around Harry told him that he was a likeable kind of guy with a great sense of humor. All his co-workers loved him. Truth was, he had them all fooled. When he left the deli at the end of the day he went home to an empty apartment; his only company, aside from assorted houseplants, was his cat. Tom was a grey and white shorthair Harry had rescued from the local pound. No one knew about Harry’s lonely existence, just like they didn’t know he suffered with depression. The only ones who knew, aside from his immediate family, were his counselor and a support group he went to from time to time.

Most people thought it was just the blues; at least that was what his parents thought at first. His mom was the worst. When Harry was fifteen, he’d buried himself in his bed and wouldn’t come out. She kept telling him stop being lazy, get his ass out of bed, and snap out of it.

Unfortunately, they didn’t understand what it was like to feel as he did. No one knew how much Harry wanted to be normal; he didn’t want anyone’s pity. No one could know the deep pain he felt. Some days it got so bad he just wanted to lie down, go to sleep, and never wake up.

* * * *
Nicholas could never stand being cooped up inside some stuffy office building. Nope, that was never going to happen. So when his uncle offered Nicholas a job with his delivery company after he graduated high school, he jumped at the chance. That was almost ten years ago–driving a truck was in his blood now.
Stern’s trucking specialized in delivering kosher food to all the Jewish delis and kosher markets on Long Island and in the five boroughs of New York City.

He checked the manifest; there was a new restaurant on the list. He’d been to Carle Place before but never to Nosh Deli. But a job was a job. He’d done so many deliveries he could do them in his sleep.
He loaded up his truck in Queens Village and headed east to Long Island. He took the local roads, completely avoiding the Long Island Expressway.

* * * *
Harry was handling the lunch-hour-rush crowd. He’d lost count of how many pastrami and corned beef sandwiches he’d made and how much homemade coleslaw and potato salad he’d scooped out onto the plates.

“Can I have a chicken on whole wheat bread, please?” Harry stopped his automaton-like movements, taking notice of the customer behind the voice–a blonde woman who appeared to be in her thirties, dressed in business attire.

“Bless you. Thanks for breaking the monotony.”

She laughed. “You must get tired of the same old orders every day.”

Harry was on the receiving end of that brilliant smile. The woman seemed to be flirting with him. He had to admit she was an attractive woman. He noticed there was no ring on her left hand. There was one problem, though–Harry was gay. He’d known that girls didn’t do anything for him that way since he was fourteen. It was one more thing his mother had nagged him about–dating women–until he came out to his parents. He couldn’t say they were thrilled, but at least they didn’t throw him out of the house. They just didn’t talk about it. Besides, Harry hardly ever went out. He had one experimental encounter with a buddy in high school. They had given each other a hand job and that was that.

Harry’s self-esteem was in the basement. Who in their right mind would want to date a guy who was a killjoy? Depression robbed Harry of being able to really enjoy life. He was glad no one at work was aware of the sad sack in their midst–and no one would find out if he could help it.

He buried himself in work, fixing orders for people like the woman who stood before  him–he wouldn’t let anyone get too close.

* * * *
About the Author:

Lily Sawyer has to credit her late mother for her interest in reading and writing. She used to take her to the library and opened up to her the world of books. She took a writing class in an adult enrichment program and got hooked. She started off writing stories set in various fandoms she was interested in like Star Trek and Brokeback Mountain. After getting some encouragement from family members and friends, she finally decided it was time to write her own original stories. Lily recently returned to drawing and was in an art class. Also loves to garden and loves everything about nature. Including going to the beach and looking up at the stars

You can purchase Lily's book at Silver Publishing!

Thanks for stopping by, Lily!

Until next time, take care!

♥ Julie

Wednesday Briefs: We're Stronger Than One

How fast this year has gone! Happy Wednesday, time for another Wednesday Brief! Last week, we showcased our Christmas prompts, this week is New Year's!  The prompts were given to us again, courtesy of Cia:  Dear Baby New Year... or 5...4...3...2...1... or use: toast, kiss, hangover or use: night, chance, fireworks,  or include a sparkly hat worn at a jaunty angle or a piece of paper with a single sentence on it.

Last week, I gave you a Gift for Jesus, that starred some of the characters from my upcoming novel, Revelations. Now the conclusion, We're Stronger Than One. Enjoy! And don't forget to visit the other Wednesday Briefers, whose links follow my tale! Also, after  my tale, I've included a bonus!

We're Stronger Than One

“Have you chosen a song?”

I glance up, startled, from the keyboard, to find Thomas standing beside me. I hadn’t realized he stayed behind. The others have all gone to pick up Mary M at the airport. She’s joining us tonight; as a spectator, not a performer.  She knows we’ll be singing together, Jesus and I, and told him she wouldn’t miss that for the world. Oh joy. Not that I begrudge her being there—I don’t—but because I don’t need any more performance anxiety than I now have.

No comments, please.

I shake my head. I’ve sifted through a lot of sheet music that I downloaded and printed out, and rejected everything. Too fast. Too slow. Too romantic. Not romantic enough. If it were anyone else, I’d say to hell with it and refuse to do it. But it’s not, it’s Jesus, and I’ll be damned if I can say those words to him, now or ever. Why he even wants to do this, I don’t know. He’s the singer in the family, not me.  But he asked, and I agreed. First and last performance.

“Still thinking.” I brush my fingers across the keys, feel them vibrate beneath my fingertips. I’ve taught myself to play—a little—over the years. Something else I’d never do in public. Or with them.

“Don’t worry so much, Judas, you’ll do fine.” He pats my shoulder reassuringly. “You have a nice voice.”

I do? News to me. He’s just being nice, and I know it. He’s the only one of them that ever is, though, and I appreciate him. I manage a smile as he riffles through some of the discarded selections.

“What about this one?” He holds out a piece. I take it, glance at the title. Doesn’t look familiar.

“I don’t know it.”

“The words are nice. Pick it out?”

What have I got to lose? I tap at the keys, surprised at how much I like the tune. But can I learn it so quickly? And what of Jesus? Can I take the chance?

I don’t know.

“Think he might—”

I look up and he’s gone. I shrug and return to the music, letting it play over and over in my head. The song reminds me of my Jesus. His image warms me, producing fireworks in my heart. Maybe this will work…

Hours later, the concert’s begun, and I’m standing beside Mary M on the floor near the stage, keeping an eye on things. No animosity between us, but a new understanding and appreciation.

“Where’s your buddy?” she jokes, glancing about us. “You know, Mr. Lassiter?”

I snort. She means Lucifer. “He’s had some stick up his ass lately. Maybe he’s having it removed.”

That elicits a guffaw.

Shit. It’s time to go. “Try not to laugh too hard,” I admonish her as I climb up on the stage. Jesus is already there, and he’s beaming at my approach. If I’m nervous, he’s Mr. Cool. Glad one of us is.

He takes my hand and pulls me in for a kiss. “Ready, Jude?” he whispers, placing one hand over his wireless mic.

Ready as I’ll ever be. I imagine he’s even more so.

I’ve dressed in pale blue robes tonight, to match Jesus and the band. Jesus wears white, symbolic of his pure heart.

“Are you sure?” I question and he nods.

“We have something special for you all.” Jesus addresses the audience. “My husband Jude is going to sing with me.” A polite smatter of applause, more for him than me, I’m sure. Did I mention he has a beautiful voice? He does.

I glance toward the band, waiting for them to begin, but they’re not there. Now I’m confused. A spotlight blossoms, and I spy Thomas sitting at the keyboard. At a nod from Jesus, he begins to play, and I recognize the melody I’ve been practicing all afternoon, as Jesus affixes a second mic to my robe and begins to sing.
All of my doubts fall away at the sound of his lovely voice, as it flows through me and around me, and I join my own to his, caught up in the words and the melody.

“Let me carry you, when you’re tired, you can carry me when I’m sad. Lean on me, I’ll lean on you, for together we’re stronger than one.”

A hush seems to have fallen around us, and nothing else exists but he and I, and here and now, and our love, this two thousand year old love that burns as hotly as any star in the firmament.

“Walk with me, on this path, this life that we’ve just begun,  and keep smiling, smile for me, show the world that you are my love, and together we’re stronger than one.”

He’s looking into my eyes, and my heart swells in my chest, and by some fortuitous circumstance—or perhaps the all-knowing planning of a higher power—I hear Mary M’s voice doing a countdown.


Happy New Year!

Amidst screaming and crying and confetti and the familiar refrain of Auld Lang Syne, my husband wraps his arms around me and kisses me for the first time in this new year. I return his kiss, lost in him, as the tent goes crazy around us. When we finally pull back slightly, he murmurs in my ear, “I have a confession to make, Jude.”

Him? Confession? Seriously? I’m sure he can see my skepticism. He’s perfect, he can do no wrong.

“A slight dishonesty on my part,” he confesses. “That song…”

“What about it?”

“Thomas planted it for me.”

“He what? Why?” I’m baffled.

“I wasn’t sure you’d like it, and if I told you where it came from, I was afraid you wouldn’t be honest with me about it.”

“What do you mean? I loved it.”

His smile grows wider. “I wrote it for you, Jude. I love you.”

This is going to be a great year, I can feel it.
* * * *
Bonus – the complete lyrics to Stronger Than One
When you smile, I can see all the reasons why I fell in love
And your smile means to me more than anything in the world, my love
So keep smiling, smile for me; show the world that you are my love
For you’re everything in the world to me.

Let me carry you, when you’re tired
You can carry me when I’m sad
Lean on me, I’ll lean on you
For together we’re stronger than one.

Love is a gift that God gave to the world,
It comes in all sizes and shapes,
But the love that you taught me goes beyond everything
Now my knowledge of love is complete

Take my hand, and my heart, and keep smiling for me, my love,
Walk with me, on this path, this life that we’ve just begun
And keep smiling, smile for me, show the world that you are my love,
And together we’re stronger than one.

Yes, together we’re stronger than one.

Now see what the other Briefers are doing to ring in the New Year!

Lily Sawyer     m/m 
Cia Nordwell    m/m
MA Church    m/m
Elyzabeth VaLey      m/f
Nephylim     m/m
MC Houle      m/m

Victoria Adams     m/f

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Day has arrived at last! Today I'm going to give you a piece of one of my fanfictions, one that is set in the Harry Potter fandom. It's part of a longer story, but this chapter, which is set at Christmas, can stand alone. I'll post the whole story, Second Chances, another time.  I hope you enjoy it - my gift from me to you.

First, though, I wish to bid everyone a Merry Christmas, and to count my blessings for the people in my life. To my kids, whom I love more than anything, and who are the most amazing children, although they are each grown now. I love you very much and I'm very proud of you. To my friends - you know who you are - you are my strength and my support and I cherish the time we spend together. To my authors, the ones I've been privileged to edit for - many thanks for allowing me into your special worlds, you all hold a special place in my heart. To everyone else in the world, for although I may not know each and everyone of you, we are all related in a brotherhood that goes beyond mere genetics, and I wish you all happiness, peace, and love.

Merry Christmas to you all.

O Holy Night

"Sirius!" Remus was exasperated with his lover and tired of explaining himself for the umpteenth time. "It's only for a couple of days and I'll be back well before Christmas!"

Sirius thrust out his lower lip in his usual pout. He was never happy to see Remus leave overnight for Order business, but the timing of this trip seemed especially unfortunate. He wanted to be with his lover on Christmas—their first one together in years—and all the werewolf's assurances that he would be back in plenty of time did not comfort the distraught Sirius. "Why don't I come with you then?" he asked, grasping at straws.

Remus rolled his eyes, not deigning to even dignify that with an answer—it was far too absurd to consider.

"Is Tonks going with you, then?"

"No, I told you—I’m going alone. Tonks is busy with something else."

"What about Moody?"

"NO, Sirius, I’m going alone, and that’s that!" Remus finished putting the last few things he needed into a bag, zipped it up securely. He looked at Sirius, and his heart contracted at the sight—he really did look so sad, how could he resist? He drew the animagus to him, wrapped his arms about him gently. "I'll hurry home to you, love, I promise. We'll be together on Christmas, this one and every other one for the rest of our lives. This I promise." He pressed his lips against Sirius' tenderly.

Sirius sighed heavily. He knew there was nothing else he could do but accept it. But it didn't mean that he had to like it. He wound himself around Remus as if he never meant to let him go, pressing him down upon the bed, rubbing against him suggestively. "Do you have time to make love to me?" he whispered softly into his ear, and of course Remus couldn't resist him, so he left a little later than he’d planned, but with a happy smile on his lips.

After Remus' departure, Sirius decided rather than sit about moping to make himself useful and plan a special Christmas for #12 Grimmauld Place. He sent a carefully worded owl to Harry, full of enthusiasm, inviting his godson, as well as Ron and Hermione, to spend this first Christmas with him and Remus. And another one to Tonks, which he requested she forward to the Order members on his behalf.

He searched through the basement for all the Christmas ornaments he could find, dusting them off and polishing everything until it shone. He forced Kreacher to go out for a fresh tree, which he did, not without a great deal of grumbling, which of course set off Mrs. Black—the shrieking shrew—but Sirius ignored her. He set up the tree in a prominent place in the living room, decorated it lovingly with the ornaments he had stashed away a long time ago when he and Remus had lived together after graduation, and carefully set candles about the branches. When he found the small wolf ornament—the first one they’d ever had—he couldn't help but smile at the memories it brought back of their first Christmas in their own home. He set it on the tree where Remus couldn't fail to see it.

He was humming happily to himself when he heard the door open and the sound of quick footsteps. Looking up, he saw Harry ente the room, and Sirius smiled at his godson most cheerily. "What a surprise! I didn't expect you this soon. Where are the others, then?" He hugged Harry as he spoke.

Harry returned Sirius' hug, trying not to crush the present in his hands. But then he drew back, and his eyes didn't meet the other man's, and he seemed almost guilty. "The others aren't coming, Sirius, that's why I'm here."

"Not coming?" Sirius frowned. "Is something wrong, Harry? Is there some sort of problem?"

"No, not at all," Harry reassured him, "but… well.... Ron's parents already invited us all to the Burrow, and we already accepted. In fact, I'm on my way there now. I just wanted to give you your present…" Harry's voice trailed off. He could see the disappointment in his godfather's eyes. "I'm sorry, Sirius, I really am."

"It's okay, Harry," Sirius said, covering up whatever he might have been feeling. "You go along and have a good time." He nodded cheerfully.

"Why don't you join us there?" Harry suggested. "You and Remus? I know Molly and Arthur wouldn't mind in the least?"

Sirius shook his dark head regretfully. "I’d love to, but Dumbledore has let me know in no uncertain terms that I'm not to stir from here for the moment. Not even to the Burrow, I'm afraid. So Remy and I'll just stay here and have a quiet Christmas together. It's been a long time, you know."

"Okay, if you're sure." Harry felt guilty about leaving Sirius like this, but what could he do? The demands of being in a relationship! "Where is Remus now?"

"He's off on some Order business. He'll be back in a day or two," Sirius replied.

"Would you like me to stay ‘til he gets back?" Harry asked, hesitantly.

Sirius heard the hesitancy in his voice. "No, no, that's silly." He refused the offer. "You go ahead and join Ron and the others. I'll be fine. I'm used to being here alone. I'm a big boy, Harry." He laughed, his patented Sirius laugh, which was almost a bark.

"Well, if you're sure," Harry said. "The house looks great, by the way."

"Thanks, Harry." Sirius smiled. There were still the members of the Order, he thought to himself.

Until Tonks came and told him that everyone, herself included, had already made other plans that couldn't be broken. "Wotcher, Sirius," she said softly, as she sat with him in the warm kitchen, drinking hot chocolate that he made for her shortly after her arrival. "You know I would, but I already promised Mum and I can't very well explain to her that I'm going to see you instead. Especially since she'd tell Aunt Cissa and she'd tell her creep of a husband. Who knows who it might get to that you're here? We can't risk that, you know." She patted his arm gently as she spoke.

Sirius nodded, suppressing a sigh. "It's okay," he said, "just come back some time after Christmas, will you, and say hello?"

"Of course I will!" Tonks hugged him warmly. "Want me to stay ‘til Remus gets back?"

"No, I'll be fine," Sirius reassured her. "He should be back tomorrow anyway. There's lots here to keep me busy, you know."

Tonks laughed. "You know, you could even pick up a book and read it. Just for fun."

"You sound like Remus now." He scowled.

"Is that so bad? Remus is a very smart man." Tonks replied.

"I know that. And for your information, I do read, so there," and he stuck out his tongue most childishly.

Tonks stuck hers out in return, laughing at her cousin. "Don't worry, I'll be back," she reassured him.

But Remus wasn't back the next day. Or the day after that.

Worried, Sirius owled Dumbledore and received a terse message in reply, telling Snuffles that there was no information available at the present time, and not to stir. Sirius' first impulse was to go looking for Remus—but not having any clue as to where he’d gone rather put a damper on that notion, not to mention that if Remus returned to find him gone, there’d still be hell to pay, regardless of the reason.

He took to prowling the house restlessly by day, pacing from room, unable to sit still, as if by doing so, something bad would happen to Remus. So he remained in perpetual motion, wearing himself out during the course of the day. And by night, he kept a vigil in the living room, where he could watch the front door, waiting for Remus to enter it—and not wanting to sleep alone in their bed.

It wasn't until the fifth day that Remus was overdue that the front door opened at last. Sirius jumped up at the first sound of its creaking, anxiously racing toward his lover, only to find that the dark figure which enteredwas that of Severus Snape, not Remus. Until he looked again, and found that the still figure with him, slumped over Snape's shoulder, was indeed Remus.

"Snape, what happened?" Sirius cried in alarm, following the potions master as he silently made his way upstairs, to the room which he knew they shared, gently placing Lupin on the bed. The werewolf's eyes were closed, and he appeared to be sleeping, but he was even paler than usual, and his breathing was extremely shallow.

"It was lucky for Lupin that I happened to come across him," Snape said, in an even tone of voice, "or Merlin knows what else they might have done to him. He had the misfortune of being caught by a couple of Death Eaters who were anxious to try out a new potion of the Dark Lord's, and they made him their victim. Luckily I convinced them that I would torture him even more for them, and give them the credit before their master, so they were content to allow me to take him. I knew you'd be worried, so I brought him here, rather than Hogwarts."

"Thank you," Sirius said awkwardly, sitting next to Remus on the bed, and taking his hand worriedly. "What kind of potion, what's wrong with him?" he asked anxiously. "What do we need to do to bring him out of it?" He glanced at Snape, concern written on his face.

"I'm not sure," Snape admitted, frowning. "Something to do with personality, maybe. Or maybe something far worse. I have some ideas, but I need to get back to the dungeons to implement them. In the meantime, he is in your hands. I'll return as soon as possible." And without waiting for any sort of response, Snape flew from the room and out of the house.

Sirius gazed at the pale face of his lover—so beautiful, it made his heart ache—and he wished there was something he could do. But even he had to admit that potions were not his forte, and never had been. He stroked his cheek softly. Remus stirred slightly. Feeling hopeful, Sirius bent down to whisper in his ear, hoping perhaps the sound of his voice might rouse the wolf from his slumber, "Remy? Remy, love, it's me. Wake up, Remy, please.....?" But to no avail. Remus remained still, giving no sign of having heard the other man's voice.

Sirius felt incredibly hopeless. Could he trust Snape to actually help them? He knew very well how much the dark wizard disliked them both, and had for years. Would he be able to put aside those ancient grudges long enough to find a cure for Sirius' stricken lover? Which feeling was stronger—the hatred and enmity of the angsty teenager or the vanity of the potions master to show off his knowledge? Sirius sincerely hoped that it was the latter.

Tenderly, he removed Remus' cloak, laying it on a chair nearby. When he moved it, something fell from the pocket, which he stooped to retrieve. It was a small package, neatly wrapped with great care, with no clue as to its contents. Sirius set it back into Remus' pocket with a shrug. That didn't matter at the moment. Nothing else mattered but bringing his wolf back to him. He carefully undressed him so that he’d be more comfortable, covering him with the soft comforters that graced their bed—the ones Remus was always making fun of him for, because Sirius insisted that he couldn't sleep when he was cold and kept several comforters on the bed year round. He’d been that way in their youth as well. Which had always been his excuse for having Remus sleep with him—the need to huddle against him and keep warm—although Remus wasn't entirely convinced that was true, but went along with it because he wanted to press up against Sirius in the night as well, a protective arm thrown across his lover's body as they slept peacefully together. James and Peter were none the wiser, of course. They cast privacy spells to prevent unwanted intrusion, and rumpled the bed of whichever one they didn't sleep in. It took Lily to point out the obvious to their two roommates, deliberately catching them in flagrante delicto one day, to their great chagrin and embarrassment. Sirius smiled to himself at the memory. James had pretended to be shocked, until Lily had told him to stuff it. Peter had been his usual self, going along with everything once he realized which way the wind blew. That was Peter—never an original thought, or action—going along with the crowd. Damn his fucking soul anyway, assuming he even had one.

Sirius never moved from Remus' side, sleeping in brief snatches here and there, mostly focusing his attention on the silent werewolf beside him, willing him to awaken. But he didn't, never moving, never giving any indication, other than the gentle rise and fall of his chest, that he was even alive. Sirius laid his head down on that slender chest now and then, just to reassure himself that he was indeed breathing, his dark curls spreading out over him. If Remy were awake, he would stroke those curls—he always loved to play with Sirius' hair. Once Sirius had teased him by suggesting that he might want to cut his hair, and Remus had gotten the most anxious expression of dismay on his face, until he realized that Sirius was only joking. To get even, he told the animagus that he’d cut his water off if he cut his hair off, and the two of them had wrestled around on the bed, until they grew weary of the foreplay and went directly to the main event—and made sweet sweet love between them for a long long time.

Late the next day, Snape returned, but only for a moment, and with nothing to suggest. He sat by the lycanthrope's bedside, observing him as Sirius anxiously watched. "Do you have any idea of what they might have used?"

"Yes, as I told you before, but I can't be sure, so I have to be cautious. If I use the wrong ingredient to counteract what they have done, the results could be catastrophic!" Snape snapped.

Sirius swallowed his next words, not wanting to fight with the man who was his only hope for waking Remus.

"Has he said anything?" Snape asked, looking from one wizard to the other.

"No, not a word," Sirius said, running his fingers through Remus' tawny hair. Not a movement did he make. Snape made a few notes on a small piece of parchment, before leaving again without another word.

Several days went by in this way. Worried that his lover wasn't able to eat, Sirius sat him up a few times a day, and held a potion to his lips—one which Snape gave him to ensure that he would not waste away—and watched as his lover swallowed reflexively, making sure he didn't drink too fast or choke. As if he were feeding a baby, he tenderly cared for him, never leaving his side.

When James and Lily had gotten married, Sirius had been their best man, and how he and Remus had danced at the wedding! Sirius had gotten happily noisily drunk and had to be carried home by a bemused Remus. Along the way, he’d managed to get sick, throwing up all over his lover and the road as well. Remus had tenderly cared for him, cleaned him up, and made sure he got back to their house safely, tucked him in and rubbed his upset stomach, watching out for him all through the night when he showed signs of being ill. And never once complained. Tears came to Sirius' eyes. He loved Remus so much that it almost hurt. It was such a physical thing between them, as well as a spiritual connection. A bond that could never be broken.

It was a week before Christmas now. Not that Sirius was paying attention to that—what difference did any of that make? Each day that passed was another day that Remus was deeper under whatever spell had been laid upon him, and Snape had once mentioned that wasn't a good thing. So he watched, and he worried—and he didn't sleep, and he didn't eat, ‘cause nothing mattered to him, nothing but the silent man in the bed beside him. Without him, his life wasn't worth living. Without him, Sirius just didn't give a great big shit.

Six days before Christmas, Snape returned with a potion which he gave to Sirius to give to Remus. Remus swallowed it obediently, making no fuss. Carefully the two men watched him for several hours, to await the effects—but nothing happened. Snape notated this clinically on his little parchment before leaving once again, and once again Sirius silently waited beside his dormant lover.

Sirius wondered what was going on in his lover's mind as he slept—what dreams, perchance, if any? His own mind wandered to the twelve years that they’d been separated—the years of his imprisonment in the hellhole that was Azkaban. He’d had to hide every happy thought he had, deep inside where the dementors could not find them—take them away from him—and they were all of Remus, and their times together.

There was the one night in January of their fifth year—damned cold it was, he would never forget it. He’d lost a bet to James—something stupid, he didn't even remember what it had been. The price he’d paid for that was that he’d had to streak around the castle in the middle of the night. This was even before he and Remus had been a couple—before he’d realized that he was in love with his best friend. Poor Remus had known, though, and had to suffer the agony of watching the boy he loved running around naked, and not only that he’d patiently held his clothes for him. How devoted he’d been, even then. Sirius couldn't help but smile at the memory.

He thought that he heard Remus moan, and hurriedly bent down to listen, but nothing had changed. Remus slept on, silently, barely breathing. Sirius sighed, tears forming in his eyes at the thought that he might lose him. He brushed his lips softly over Remus'—nothing. And so he continued to wait.

Three days before Christmas, Harry arrived. Sirius looked up in surprise when his godson walked into the bedroom, his green eyes filled with concern.

"Harry, what are you doing here? I thought you were at the Burrow?"

"I was, but I found out what's going on and I wanted to be here with you and Remus," Harry said. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Thank you, Harry, all we can do is wait." Sirius smiled. "You should be with Ron, you know, you promised him after all. I can always owl you if there's any change."

"No way I'm leaving," Harry shook his head, and at that moment, Ron Weasley himself came into the room.

"I'm so sorry about Remus, Sirius, is there anything we can do?" he asked, concern all over his face.

"Thanks, Ron, Harry, I appreciate your being here, really," Sirius said, touched. "Right now all we can do is sit and wait."

"We can manage that," Harry said with a smile, and Ron nodded his agreement. "Where else would we be, but with you two?" And the two boys settled themselves into a chair, arguing over who would sit on whose lap. Sirius smiled to himself at the sight. There’d never been any question of just who was the dominant one in their relationship—that had always been Remus, for he was the alpha male, though few realized it, assuming that the more flambouyant Sirius took that role—but that's not the way it was, and never had been.

They’d been best friends from the first time they met, but it took Sirius four years to figure out that he also loved him, while Remus knew it right away, and had to hide his feelings for those same four years. But even before Sirius knew he loved Remus, he’d spent most of his waking time with him in one way or another—seeking him out at every turn. He told him everything and sought his approval for everything. It was as if in some subconscious way he knew that they belonged together, whether his conscious mind knew it or not. And when his feelings for Remus finally did come out—well, that was a night that neither one of them would ever forget.

Sirius was glad for the boys' presence. They insisted that he not fuss over them, and managed well for themselves, but he refused to let them sleep in that chair, shooing them off to one of the spare rooms instead. He never left the bedroom, though, refusing to leave Remus' side, watching his lover intently, all day and all through the night.

Two days before Christmas Tonks came, barreling into the bedroom with her usual enthusiastic presence, tempered by concern for Remus, and for her cousin. "Any change?" she asked hopefully, and was saddened to see Sirius shake his dark head. She hugged him silently, her eyes going over the still form of the former DADA professor. "Don't worry, Sirius, he'll be fine," she tried to reassure him, patting his arm. But her eyes reflected her deep concern.

The day before Christmas, Molly and Arthur Weasley appeared, with the rest of the Weasley clan in tow—Ginny and Fred and George and Percy, as well as Hermione, whom they’d run into at King's Cross Station. And Mundungus showed up after them. And Hestia Jones. And Mad Eye Moody. They all camped out at #12 Grimmauld Place, holding a sort of vigil in the living room, as there were far too many of them for the bedroom. Harry and Ron became the liaisons between those upstairs and those downstairs—but there was never any news to tell, and it was a saddened group that faced the approach of Christmas.

It had been several days since Snape had last been there, and Sirius was beginning to wonder if perhaps he’d found something—or given up. He thought about owling the potions master, but Harry talked him out of that, assuring his godfather that if there were any news, Snape would bring it, and that he was working diligently on the problem. Sirius listened, biting at his lower lip thoughtfully. And bided his time. But Remus seemed to be growing weaker, and was showing no signs of coming around, and Sirius was becoming even more worried. He hadn't slept in days, not properly, or eaten either. It was only at Molly's insistence that he was made to eat something after her arrival. She’d taken over the kitchen and was in charge of preparing proper meals for everyone. And she adamantly refused to listen to Sirius when he said that he wasn't hungry, so he had no choice but to eat. But his heart wasn't in it, and he still ate little of it.

Christmas eve arrived. Tonks offered to light the candles on the tree, but Harry smilingly took the matches away from her and did it himself, even as Ron muttered something under his breath about not needing to have the house set on fire. The gentle glow of the candles reflected the gaily wrapped presents which were piled beneath the tree, awaiting the advent of Christmas morn to be opened. It was a somber silent group which sat in the living room, talking quietly amongst themselves sporadically, and waiting. For something. Anything.

Snape ignored them all when he walked into the house. He was exhausted himself, had been pushing himself ever since he first began working on the problem. His reasons were complex and multilayered, and they were his own. Ignoring the crowd assembled in the living room, he went directly upstairs, to their bedroom. Sirius looked up at his entrance. "Have you brought something?" he asked, not seeing a vial in the potion master's hand.

"No, I haven't," Snape said, wearily. His dark eyes bored into the other wizard's. "I'm still working on it, but I think it's only right to tell you that… it doesn't look good for Lupin. As long as he's been asleep now, I'm afraid…" and his voice trailed away, but it was obvious what he meant to say.

"No!" Sirius said fiercely. "No! I refuse to accept that!" And he looked as though he might actually attack Snape. Harry, who was half-dozing nearby, made a move to run interference between the two men. But Sirius turned wearily away instead, and missed seeing the compassionate look that Snape gave him.

The potions master turned to Harry. "Can you please try to explain to your godfather what I am trying to tell him, so that he will be prepared for the worst?"

Harry nodded mutely.

"I am going to try to do what I can, but I don't know… I just don't know… " and without another word, he swooped from the room, black robes billowing.

Harry walked up to his godfather and put a compassionate hand on his shoulder. "Sirius," he began, gently, but Sirius would have none of it.

"NO!" he moaned, "I won't give up, I'll never give up! Remus isn't going to die, he can't die… he just can't..." And his blue eyes swam helplessly with unshed tears, as he turned toward the silent form of his lover.

Harry patted his arm helplessly, not sure what to do or say. He wasn't as confident as Sirius was—hopeful, yes, but sometimes common sense dictated that bad things did happen, even to good people—and he thought that Remus J. Lupin was one of the best people he knew.

"Why don't you and Ron go to bed, it's late?" Sirius said, trying to recover himself. "If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to be alone, with Remus…."

"Sure, Sirius." Harry understood. He motioned to Ron and the two boys quietly left the room, heading downstairs to join the vigil in the living room. Tonks looked at them as they came into the room, but they merely shook their heads, and the room fell silent once more, all thoughts turning to the compassionate werewolf, and praying for his welfare.

At exactly the stroke of midnight, the ancient clock began to chime, which surprisingly did not set off the harpie that was Mrs. Black. Everything was completely still, and no one felt like saying Merry Christmas.

Upstairs, Sirius watched his sleeping lover, feeling the time draining away, every precious minute, every second… and he felt completely helpless. He remembered all the times that they’d made love while at Hogwarts, hiding from all the others in order to keep their love secret—in the broom shed, behind the green house, in the astronomy tower, on the quidditch field—anywhere and everywhere. He could never get enough of Remus, and he was forever touching him. He relied on him, he depended on him—he needed him. At least, while he was in Azkaban, he knew that Remy was still out there, living his life. This was different. He couldn't go on without him; he didn't want to go on.

He couldn't stop the tears now, they fell from his eyes in a steady stream, as he lay his head on Remus' chest, holding tight to his lover, feeling completely and utterly helpless to do anything to save him. "Please, Remy, please, Remy, please.." he kept repeating, over and over like a mantra, "come back to me, come back to me, come back to me. Need you, need you, need you." He knew that if anything happened to Remus, his life might as well be over too. He wouldn't be able to bear it without him.

At first he didn't feel the soft hand in his hair, it was so weak, but then he heard the low-modulated voice, weak but audible, "Don't cry, Siri, why are you crying, love?"

He raised his head and was confronted with the sight of those beautiful amber eyes looking at him with concern.

"Remy?" he gasped, "Remy?" and he began to cry even harder, but now with joy.

"Shhh, shhh, Siri." Remus tenderly stroked his lover's beautiful curls.

"I've been so worried about you," Sirius cried, holding tight to his beautiful Remus, "I was so afraid that you were going to leave me, I couldn't stand it."

"Sirius, why would you think that?" Remus asked, confused, as he made an effort to sit up without dislodging Sirius.

"Don't sit up, lie still," Sirius insisted, "’til I make sure you're okay. You've had us all worried, you know. You've been sleeping for two weeks."

"Two weeks?" Remus frowned, trying to make sense of what Sirius was telling him.

"Yes, two weeks, love, two very long weeks." Sirius half-laughed, half-cried.

"What day is today, then?"

"It's Christmas day, love," Sirius said, kissing him softly.

"Christmas day? Damn!" He made a move as if to rise, but Sirius held him back.

"Where do you think you're going? Stay put, wolf boy," he admonished him.

"Where is my cloak?" he asked, "the one I was wearing?"

"Don't worry, it's here," Sirius reassured him. "I took it off myself."

"In the pocket. A present," Remus said softly. "Get it, please?"

Sirius reluctantly got up from his position, kissing Remus' lips once more, before finding the cloak in question, and feeling about in the pocket for the object he’d found there previously. He returned with it to Remus, holding it out in his palm. "Is this what you were looking for, Remy?" he asked.

"Yes," Remus smiled, "Merry Christmas, love."

"For me?" Sirius asked, surprised.

"Yes, you."

"But I didn't… I mean, I haven't… I don't know what to say," he stammered.

"Just open it, Sirius." Remus laughed.

Sirius did as he was told—sometimes he could be an obedient pup—and inside the package he found a ring.It was a simple gold band with two diamonds in it. On the inside of the band was engraved in a fine script—To Sirius, love always, Remus.

"Remy!" Sirius was taken aback. He’d never expected anything like this. "It's beautiful!"

"Do you really like it?" Remus' eyes gleamed as he watched his lover.

"Yes, I do, very much."

"Here, give it to me," Remus reached out one hand, and Sirius laid the ring into it. "Now, give me your hand." Sirius complied, and Remus slid the ring onto the ring finger of Sirius' left hand. "There," he said, "this ring is my promise to you that I love you now and I will love you forever. And you are mine forever."

"Yes, yours," Sirius said happily, admiring the ring on his finger; it felt so very natural. "Someday you and I will be married, Remy, I promised you that, remember?"

"I remember, love," Remus said with a soft sigh, lying back down, his limited strength spent. He held out his hands to Sirius and held his lover against his chest once more, stroking the soft curls, both of them very content.

Little did they know that as they lay there together, the others came up, one by one, to each see for themselves that Remus was indeed all right, (which had started when Harry had come up to check on them only to discover that Remus had awakened), smiling at the sight of the two lovers, and tiptoeing back down again, where they all opened their presents and wished one another a very Merry Christmas.

Remus and Sirius talked a little longer, until the werewolf had some inkling of what had happened during his missing two weeks, and what his lover had been through. He continued to stroke him gently until the exhausted Sirius fell asleep at last, and for a little while, Remus kept watch over him, until he too fell back to sleep, a natural sleep this time, and they were both very happy. And all was right with the world once again.

Until next time, take care!

♥ Julie