A Midwinter gift from me. Hope you like it 'cos I forgot to keep the receipt in case you want to exchange it!

IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

At the end of days, it is the sound of singing, the warmth of familiar words
carried upwards on the crisp night air, that brings comfort to where it is needed.

Left to the reader to picture which brother is which.

oo-o-oo

Reaching out, carried on the chill wind and with a dash of innocent irony, the ethereal sound of voices joining together to sing of a Silent Night threaded upward through the hopes and dreams of Christmas Eve. Far below, secured within the protective curve of the valley bottom, the people of a small isolated town gathered in celebration. Standing together, shoulder to shoulder, family, friends and neighbours gave voice to long familiar Christmas carols; songs which resonated of home comings, of glittering baubles and trinkets hung in careful consideration along the branches of fresh cut spruce, of herding excitedly protesting children to bed; and of sharing gifts that told the story of I love you. Cheerful and at ease, the people of the close nit community delighted in their shared smiles and laughter. No one amongst that happy grouping having any knowledge of the audience seated so far above them.

ooo

Against the wide girth of a knarled and twisted old tree, two brothers had sought what shelter they could from the night's freezing air. Their chosen sanctuary had stood there nigh on a full two centuries, on the edge of a wild and ancient forest. During the lifetime of that broad branched monolith, the forest had spread it's way with abandon, stretching out along the summit of the nearly mountains towering high above the valley town.

And what if somehow the songsters had known? Would the knowledge of the brothers' plight have made a difference? Would the people of that pretty little town nestling below the two of them have stopped their singing? Put on hold their celebrations? Would they, in the spirit of Christmas, have moved together as one, each being prepared to face the near impossible climb up that snow covered hillside which stretched high above their homes? Would they have willingly put everything else aside, to join shoulder to shoulder in a new shared purpose; that of climbing up to the stars in search of two lost strangers?

Would even one of them step forward, proving that they had both the heart and determination to overcome the risks, face the challenges, and push themselves onwards, ever higher, in a quest to seek out and offer their help to two young men with no family but each other? Brothers who had no other loved ones to buy gifts for; no one who waited expectantly for them to return home eager to celebrate Christmas surrounded by a sea of gaily wrapped gifts, each one bearing their names. Would those good townsfolk far below have cared at all, if only they had known?

ooo

Sitting on the freezing and densely packed snow covered forest floor, his legs an age ago having become too numbed with the cold to allow him to stand, and with his back resting against the thick, rough trunk of their caretaker; the Hunter chose to think that they would. The night was less fearful that way. If the people below had only known they were up here, then hope could continue to burn. Gazing at his brother, held so tightly in his arms, the Hunter had to believe that, at this time of miracles, the people who's sweet voices he could hear would, without hesitation, have worked as one in a determined effort to climb those dangerous and ice coated slopes. That their hearts would have told them to do all they could in order to come to the young men, to tenderly guide them back down to safety, back down to the warmth, and from there into their hearts. He was certain they would ... If only they knew that the two of them were up here.

He reached out with stiffened fingers that could no longer feel and with tender clumsiness, did his best to brush away the snow that settled over his brother's cheeks and eyelashes. He worked with infinite care, before moving his hand and placing it at rest on his brother's chest.

"Do you hear that? Can you hear them singing? So clear ... It sounds beautiful, doesn't it? ... Oh ... Listen, listen ... They're singing In The bleak Midwinter ... I bet you never realised that I know you secretly love this one ... I think, maybe, it's one of my favourites too ... Earth stood hard as iron. Water like a stone ... I really wish we were down there, you know? We could go join in with them. Oh, I know what you're thinking...But I say it would be a nice thing to do. We've never done something like that before, not even when we were kids. ... Were we ever kids? ... Whatever. Lets do it. Let's go down there and join them ... Ok?"

ooo

Without loosening his hold on his brother, the Hunter shuffled and slid himself down, until he was laying on the frozen ground, alongside his brother. He paid no heed to how bitterly chilled the ground was ... hard as iron ... showed no sign of concern, gave it no thought. He couldn't feel the biting cold any more, had stopped being aware of it at some point in time beyond his recollection. Once settled, he forced his oddly numb yet painfully aching and unwieldy limbs to bring his brother even closer; adjusting his own position until their bodies joined together. Wrapping both arms tightly around his silent sibling, he again dipped into a rapidly dwindling reserve of strength and tugged at his brother; raising him up from the floor slightly, before shuffling himself so close that he came to a stop partially laying under his brother. Not yet satisfied, the Hunter continued adjusting his position until, with a small sound of triumph, he achieved his goal. Now he could use his own chest to pillow his much loved brother's head.

The Hunter ignored the swathe of scarlet ground that moving his brother's body had revealed, as though simply refusing to see it. He ignored the fact that having his brother so close brought him no extra warmth, as though refusing to acknowledge it. He ignored how his sibling's eyes remained closed and unresponsive to the movement, refusingto consider it.

ooo

The sound of lyrical voices continued to drift up from the valley, bringing comfort alongside the familiar words of their song. He sighed and a soft smile formed on lips that had grown so numb that he no longer had any sense of them moving.
If I were a wise man, I would do my part.
Yet what can I give him? Give him my heart...

My heart ... "'M feelin' kinda whacked now bro'... Maybe ... Maybe if go sleep for bit?... When wake, c'n probbly gettuss down there ... Yeah ... Stay few days ... soun' good? ... I juss need'n hour s'all ...juss'n hour ...,...,... Is ...,...,... kinda nice ... layin' here ... nextyou ... with singin' ... s'peaceful ... s'warm ...,...,...,..Oh! Liss'n... Church bells! ... Muss be Christmas day bro!"

The deceitfully soft snow continued to gently fall on to the pair as the hunter bowed his head and tenderly kissed the stilled, frozen cheek of his sibling..

"P' Christmas brother ... Love you ... always ... s'much loveyou ...,..."

His vision beginning to fade, his eyes slowly drifted closed. Finally, the Hunter's weary body tremoured and stilled. Yet on his blued lips there could be seen a small smile; held captive there beyond the release of the long, soft, sigh that was the exhilaration of his final breath.

ooo

Far below, the townspeople called out to one another in cheerful season's greetings as they parted. Each strolling back to the welcoming warmth of their homes, to the joy of being with those they loved and who, in return, loved them. And as the sidewalks emptied and doors were closed against the night, the chill winds themselves stilled, as though even they had returned home to sleep and await the dawn.

In the silent snow muffled darkness now, heavy thick flakes continue to fall, settling without sound, layer upon layer, ever deeper, silently enveloping and enfolding the bodies of the two Hunter brothers within it's bitter sweet clasp. Keeping them safe, keeping them secure. A carpet of purest white, unsullied, untouched; serving to hide it's unexpected charges from any chanced discovery by the forest's roaming and hungry scavengers.

Protected as they were within their crystal tomb, both the natural and the un-natural passed them by; never to be aware of the rare and precious prize laying silent beneaththat frozen blanket. No intrusive stares nor unwanted touch penetrated the brothers' solitary winter's mausoleum. And so, for a while, their bodies entwined, theWinchester boys were allowed to rest in their hard won peace.

ooooo

There will soon be a time in the approaching new year when the snow and ice will be vanquished, forced into full retreat by the arrival of the Spring Melt. As the white and grey of winter turns into the green and blue of spring, at the base of a grand old tree, two brothers, looking as they had in life, will finally be revealed.

Already there is a small group of friends who unknowingly and from birth, have moved towards a shared destiny. They will be the ones to discover the place which had been the Hunter's sanctuary. The friends will treat the bodies with gentle care and, between them, they will carry each still and silent brother down the steep slopes and take them into the isolated town that lies nestles in the hollow between the high valley hills.

Some months later, when the hope of family or friend stepping forward to claim the two has faded; the people of that town will gladly and with love, adopt the two as their own.

It will be a day in December, close to the Christmas of that year, that the people of that pretty little town will forgo all other tasks and, instead, gather to honour their adopted sons. They will silently watch whilst the two unknown brothers take their final journey. Standing together, shoulder to shoulder, family, friends and neighbours will again be unite in shared purpose.

The good people of that close nit community, on a day of soft, silent snowfall, will mourn for their un-named sons. And when they begin to sing, their song will reach out, carried on the back of chilled winds. The sweet, ethereal sound will echo throughout the valley, sweeping upwards, touching briefly on an ancient, twisted tree, before drifting on, throughout the forest and beyond.

Amongst the small community will stand their newest member. A dark haired man with true blue eyes. At peace amongst his new found friends, he will be the first to recognise the supernatural power entwined in the song the townsfolk will sing. He will be the first to hear the message reverberating within and around the familiar words. And that message will travel throughout all the realms.

In Hell, every demon will raise their eyes as if seeking Heaven. Humans will stop and turn to one another, feeling sadness and loss in their hearts, and they will wonder why? In Heaven, groups of angels will stare down in wonder, whilst the chosen of their brethren will take up the tale. A Heavenly chorus will continue the song begun by the good people of the small town. The choir will relay the news far and wide; the a wondrous sound of their voices will ring out across the earth like Christmas bells in celebration, in sorrow, and in love.

The sound of Heaven itself will herald the final chapter's ending in the gospels of those two very human brothers who, together, saved the world ... ... and each other...

Angels and archangels may have gathered there.
Cherubin and Seraphin thronged the air... ...

FIN.

xxxXXXxxx

Chick