Dom stared at the Sunday School bulletin board, holding still for so long that his vision was whited out around the edges. He wondered if he'd made a subconscious decision to stare at Jesus, all done in fuzzy felt. Jesus' hair and beard were all one piece, and he was wearing his dressing gown. It was oddly comforting in its familiarity.
In a Catholic church there'd be a proper antechamber for him to be standing in, something somber, with thick stone walls, a pathetic fallacy to match his heavy mood. A side apse, maybe, or an arch before the confessionals. Maybe the dark silent cove of a sepulcher, with a plaque on the floor with a disturbingly imprecise memorial, near here lies so-and-so. This particular Church of Scotland could only offer a Sunday School room, cinder block walls painted a pale yellow. Dom blinked and the rest of the scene came into focus, the green felt hills, the donkey and the smiling disciples. He squinted at the slant of their felt mouths, wondering if one of them looked a little guilty, perhaps.
Fuzzy Felt Jesus was the same in every Sunday School. He doubted that it had ever been the basis of an ecumenical gathering, but it was the truth.
His phone buzzed in his pocket and he fished it out.
Dom had texted Billy, told him I'm in the Sunday School room. It hadn't occurred to him that there might be more than one.
First one off the stairs.
The sound of footsteps was the only reply that he needed.
"Here you are then." Billy smiled at him, easy and glad. "The women all have the meeting room upstairs. I guess it's only right that we take this one." He walked over to the board that Dom had been staring at, adjusting the bridle on the little felt donkey.
"Is Jack with them?"
"Of course. Being cosseted. Elijah will be along soon. I think he's lost. Pretending not to be, as usual." He stood in front of Dom, the tips of their shoes almost touching.
Dom tried to school his features into something pleasant, neutral, even happy. He was happy, but not with the easy grace of Billy's happiness. Billy, not only now, but often, was happy in a way that seemed to light up everything around him, shared the happiness out with everyone. Dom often felt like he was holding something back, either hoarding it, as if there wouldn't be enough, or keeping something else at bay. Now it was the latter, and he could feel it on his face, it was too late to pretend otherwise.
"Dom." Billy's voice was soft, cajoling. "You're alright."
"I'm not." Dom's voice came out as a whisper, around something thick in his throat. "I'm not, because I shouldn't be needing you to tell me that I'm alright. I should just be here for you, today." He felt a hot wave of self loathing start to sweep over him. You're a horrible friend, laying this on Billy, today of all days, would it really have cost you so much to keep it to yourself?
Before he could open his mouth to say any of that he felt Billy's hand firm on the back of his neck, then cupping the back of his head, pulling him forward until their foreheads tapped together, so sharp and fast it almost hurt. Billy brushed his nose against Dom's, then let himself settle so they weren't quite touching other than the curve of their skulls balanced together.
"You are here for me, though, aren't you?"
"I am." Dom sighed, like a deep breath after crying but he hadn't been crying at all.
"It's harder than we thought it would be." Billy spoke softly, but not to the point of straining his hearing, and that one word, we seemed to open up and wrap Dom up in warmth.
"It is." Dom lifted his hands that had felt heavy before up to rest on the back of Billy's neck, thumbs brushing against his hair. "We knew this was coming though."
"It's different on the day," Billy said, and though their mouths weren't touching Dom could have sworn he felt the smile.
"Are you nervous?"
Billy mirrored Dom's hands, bringing his other hand up, fingers tracing the soft skin behind Dom's ears. "I've lived with Ali for seven years. We have a child together."
"You're not answering my question."
Billy talked through his laughter, choppy, could have been mistaken for distress if Dom didn't know him so well. "You already know the answer."
Dom started counting their breaths as they held still, felt Billy's nose just touch his, no longer just forehead to forehead, but mimicking the hongi as they'd learned it years ago in New Zealand. It wasn't in the spirit of the thing to count their breaths, as if it were a countdown, as if there might be a finite number that they would someday know.
"You're not telling me nothing's going to change," Dom said, his lower lip just catching Billy's mouth for a moment.
"If that were true, why would I be getting married?" Billy stepped back, his hands still on Dom's neck. "Your place in my life isn't going to change though."
"Does Ali know that?" They'd talked around it for months.
"She does. She agrees. She always has."
Dom felt weak with relief, almost unable to believe he'd left it this long. Billy's hands lifted him up, though, firm on the back of his head, holding him steady as Billy stepped that last bit closer, his foot slipped between Dom's, head tilted so their noses didn't bump when they kissed.
Billy tasted of strong mint and a little of coffee, but mostly only warm, clean, something that was only him, something Dom could never quite remember but never stopped wanting. He leaned his head back, let Billy kiss deeper into his mouth, giving himself up for a moment before he pushed back, hands gentle on Billy's neck even as his mouth was as rough as he dared to be.
When they parted Billy smiled at him and suddenly he was the same young man Dom had met years ago, no hint that they weren't still on the shores of New Zealand, no hint that an entire lifetime of experiences had passed between the two of them since then.
Dom couldn't help but smile back. "Yes."
Billy stepped back, letting his hands fall away from Dom's neck, but didn't step entirely away. Dom lowered his hands too, waiting, then leaned forward when Billy did, foreheads and noses pressing together firmly, no hands to steady them. He closed his eyes, tried to put all the thoughts out of his mind except for one, that he was sharing Billy's breath, that they were linked, for this moment, anyway.
They straightened at the same time. Billy fixed the flower in his lapel and looked behind himself, expectant, not afraid, but they were still alone for the moment. Dom heard steps on the stairs though, straightened his own jacket, anticipating Elijah or one of Billy's other friends.
"In case you were wondering, that's only for us," Billy said quietly. "The hongi. I don't do that with Ali."
Dom couldn't help but smile, pleased, and ready, now, for the day to continue.