Archive: Yes to the Basement and any LG slash archive; others please ask, I rarely say no.
Title: "In Dulci Jubilo"
Author: Merri-Todd Webster
Series/Fandom: The X-Files
Rating: PG (sorry, no smut)
Feedback Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Warnings & Spoilers: Uh, none, actually. Church music warning? Christmas carol warning?
Disclaimer: Neither the characters nor the music are mine (but the church described is--I'm a member).
Comments: Well, I've finally done it. I've written an XF Christmas story. At Christmas '97, my first year of writing slash, I wrote a Voyager story. At Christmas '98, I wrote two short Sentinel stories. And now, at last, Langly and Byers kindly consented to star in an XF story. Thanks, guys.
Thanks also to: JiM, for encouraging this one, also. And to the choir of King's College, Cambridge, for their lessons and carols service. The carol Byers knows is "In Dulci Jubilo" as arranged by R.L. Pearsall.
"In Dulci Jubilo"
by Merri-Todd Webster
(22 December 1999)
It was Christmas eve in the Lone Gunmen headquarters, and not a creature was stirring except for John Fitzgerald Byers. Frohike had gone out on some mysterious errand, the purpose of which was known only to himself. Langly was online, as usual; the man was online practically every waking moment, including during meals. Byers was waiting, as he had been most of the day, for the right moment, the right moment to ask one of the most difficult questions he had ever posed. He was also about to shower and dress to go to midnight mass.
He was fiddling with the dial of the radio in his bedroom, trying to get some acceptable Christmas music--that is, a station where they weren't likely to play "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"--when Langly stuck his head in the door.
Byers looked up at... Langly. Despite more than six months of fairly frequent sexual intimacy--intimacy neither one of them shared with anyone else, so far as he knew-- he still thought of Langly primarily as Langly. Not as his friend, still less as his lover, and never as Ringo, though he occasionally used that name during their more intimate moments. Just Langly. The same old Langly with the stringy blond hair that never looked combed and the fifteen pairs of glasses, half of them broken, fished at random out of the nearest drawer every morning. Langly. Other people had friends, lovers, spouses.... John Fitzgerald Byers had Langly. And Frohike, but that was different.
"Yes?" was all he said in reply.
"You going to midnight Mass again?"
Byers nodded. Now that the right moment was upon him, his throat was closed up tighter than a scared virgin's legs. He couldn't ask. It was ridiculous. They weren't lovers, after all, this was just... Langly. Langly, the head-banger, the man who thought Rush was too commercial, wasn't going to be interested in going to midnight Mass.
"Huh. Okay." Langly hovered, shoving his glasses back up his nose with one knuckle. Byers selected a pair of socks from his sock drawer.
"I don't suppose you'd want to... come along," he managed.
"Sure. That'd be cool."
Socks in hand, Byers gaped at Langly. Just stared at the other man, mouth slightly open, until Langly flashed him a rare smile, totally different from his usual grin. "I won't wear a t-shirt, okay?"
Langly, whistling tunelessly, headed into the bathroom as Byers left it. Back in the bedroom, the public radio station was re-broadcasting carols from King's--King's College, Cambridge, England. Byers stepped neatly into his briefs, pulled on an undershirt, and then sat on the edge of the bed to put on his socks. A choral scholar with a rich tenor voice and a Northern, almost Scottish accent was reading the second lesson, from the book of the prophet Isaiah--"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light...." Long ago, John Byers had been a choirboy in an Episcopal church. He'd worn a red cassock, a long white surplice, and a little round collar, an Elizabethan-era ruff, just like the boys at King's. They had sung lessons and carols at his church, and one year, he had been the solo treble who sang the first verse of "Once in Royal David's city," the hymn with which the service traditionally opened. Three boys had studied the solo and trained to sing it, just as they did at King's, and then the choirmaster had turned to little Johnny right before the service and said, "You." Perhaps one day, he would go to a lessons and carols service again. Perhaps.
He was still sitting there, one sock on his foot and the other in his hand, when Langly knocked twice and then came in. "Hey, Fitz, what's the matter with you? Get a move on, man."
Once again Byers found himself staring at the other man, the skinny blond man with whom he had sex an average of twice a week. Gone was the faded and threadbare t-shirt proclaiming the virtues of some obscure rock band or even more obscure s-f movie, replaced by a dark green turtleneck sweater. Gone were the tattered and ripped bluejeans stained with pizza grease, replaced by black denim pants that looked stiff and new. So did the black athletic shoes. And this pair of glasses wasn't broken, wasn't taped together at the corners or secured with a paper clip. And Langly's hair... the perpetually tangled, lank, unkempt hair that Byers knew by touch was soft, fragile, easily damaged, had been washed, combed out, and pulled back from his face, exposing the angular features to a degree Byers had never seen before. He stared at Langly as if he were seeing him for the first time.
"What, have I got a wart on my nose or something? Come on, man, get dressed--you're the one always wants to be early."
Langly wandered away, muttering under his breath. Byers inhaled sharply and finished dressing in haste, only to have to knot and re-knot his tie four times before getting it right. They were not, he thought, going to be early. He rushed into the living room with his overcoat in hand and found Langly sitting on the couch, leather jacket across his lap, jittering one leg with impatience. "Let's go. We can take my car."
They said nothing on the drive to the church. He had noticed that they rarely talked when Frohike wasn't around. Conversation, such as it was, occurred amongst the three Lone Gunmen, and not, as a rule, between any two of them. They sat around over pizza and talked about good-looking celebrity babes. And then, when Frohike wasn't around, Langly drove Byers out of his mind with sexual pleasure.
Byers went to the same church he always went to, on the rare occasions he attended; it was in the city, in the downtown area, which meant they had to circle the block four or five times before hitting on a parking space. It was an Episcopal church, of course, an old-fashioned one that used the old hymnal, the old prayers, just like he remembered. Byers accepted a service leaflet from the usher and took a seat near the back of the church, Langly at his elbow. The place was a riot of colors: dark oak pews and azure-and-coral walls festooned with the green of pine garlands, the red of potted poinsettias, the sparkle of tiny white lights. Langly sat beside him, his back unnaturally straight, and looked around at everything, apparently curious, as the pews filled up and the choir drifted by twos and threes to the back of the church.
It was an Episcopal church, but it did not have a men and boys choir. It was a mixed choir, women and men in red cassocks and white surplices, no ruffed collars, with here and there an academic hood hanging down a chorister's back. The organist, a short man with a red beard wearing a black cassock and a surplice with split sleeves, lifted a music stand into place and gathered the choir around him to sing the prelude.
Byers was disappointed not to recognize the first few carols--he always told himself he came for the music--but the choir sang beautifully. The women's voices were clear and straight and true, much like a boy's, not like the heavy vibratos of opera singers. Byers had never cared for opera, or for vibrato. And the men had rich tones, some dark like maple syrup, some gold like honey, all strong and all in tune.
Langly listened with bowed head, now and then rocking a little in time to the music as he always did. Byers watched his face, but the other man did not get the bored expression Byers feared. Then the choir divided into halves, facing one another, and as a gust of cold air swept the back of the church, they began a carol Byers did know.
"In dulci jubilo,
Let us our homage show,
Our heart's joy reclineth
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O,
Alpha es et O."
He had sung soprano of the second chorus, long ago--the other half of the choir began the second verse, and his lips moved softly in memory, though he did not notice it.
"O Jesu parvule,
I yearn for thee alway,
Hear me, I beseech thee,
O princeps gloriae,
My prayer let it reach thee,
O puer optime.
Trahe me post te,
Trahe me post te."
A soprano, an alto, and a bass went into the trio verse, their voices intertwining sweetly like the way the white lights were threaded through the branches of the tall evergreen tree at the front of the church. Byers lost himself in the overlapping harmonies as both choirs took up the tune, tossing lines back and forth as children might toss a ball, smiles on their faces despite their obvious concentration. He glanced at Langly and got another unexpected smile.
The beauty of the familiar carol stayed with Byers throughout the long service, through the other familiar carols like "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come, All Ye Faithful," through the rather disorganized sermon, through the elaborate Kyrie and Gloria, Sanctus and Benedictus and Agnus Dei, accompanied by violins, cello, bass, two flutes, and the organ. The music and the old words, the "thee's" and "thou's", washed over him and brought a measure of peace, peace that was deepened by Langly's lean shoulder almost touching his.
At Communion, the priest made a little speech, inviting all baptized and believing persons to take Communion whether or not they were Episcopal. When Byers got up to go the altar rail, he was surprised to see Langly go out ahead of him instead of stepping aside.
"I was baptized," Langly muttered.
But do you believe? Byers thought, folding his hands in front of him from long habit. Do I believe? What do I believe? Do I believe anything?
They knelt side by side and received the bread, the wine, while the choir sang the quiet Christmas hymns of the old hymnal, "Here betwixt ass and oxen mild," "A babe lies in the manger," "In the bleak midwinter." The music flowed over their heads in a sweet tide, and Byers felt he was drowning, but Langly seemed to know what to do. They filed out together, following the other communicants, and returned to their pew. Byers knelt, awkwardly, and tried to put some words together, while Langly sat and looked at his folded hands.
Langly offered to drive on the way home, and Byers let him. He had much to think about. Langly found a jazz station that was playing Christmas music, and Byers had no complaints. A few flurries came down as they drove.
"Ho ho ho!" Frohike greeted them boisterously, a red Santa hat jammed on his greasy hair and a glass of eggnog (no doubt spiked) in his hand. "How was mass, choirboys?"
"It was fine," said Langly, taking off his jacket and hanging it up. "Sermon sucked, but good singing."
Byers looked back and forth from Langly to Frohike, not quite sure what was going on. Communion wine was not supposed to make you drunk, yet he felt bizarrely intoxicated.
"Merry Christmas!" With a wobbly flourish, Frohike presented two packages wrapped in red and gold paper. He held them out toward the other two, and they reached out and grabbed the gifts before he dropped them.
"Hey, thanks, man!" Langly tore the paper off yet another destroy-the-earth computer game. How did they have enough gigs for work with all the games they had stored on the system?
Byers carefully unwrapped a book which turned out to be a biography of Carlo Broschi, better known as Farinelli, the greatest castrato singer of the eighteenth century. Frohike winked at him. "Had to go waaaaay beyond Amazon.com to get that thing. Hope you like it."
Byers was still stammering his thanks when Langly spoke.
Byers turned around, surprised. Langly had never called him that in front of Frohike before. "I got something for you, too, man," Langly said.
Byers held out his open hands, empty, nothing to give in return to the two men who had unexpectedly gifted him this Christmas. Langly took those hands, firmly, pulled Byers close, and kissed him.
It was the softest, sweetest kiss Ringo Langly had ever given John Fitzgerald Byers. It was slow, and wet, and tender, and the most unexpected Christmas gift he had ever received. In front of Frohike, yet, who was making very fake gagging noises and mumbling, "Get a room, you two, get a room!"
Head spinning, he stared at... Ringo? still gripping the blond man's lean, strong hands.
"Merry Christmas, John Fitzgerald."
He blinked. "Merry Christmas, Ringo."
Merry Christmas, folks!