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Happy Holidays, aviss!

Title: The Garden in Winter
Written for: aviss
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairing: Adam and Pepper (possible shades of Adam/Pepper)
Notes: It's so rare that I get the opportunity to write about these kids, and even rarer still when I get the chance to write about them all grown up (or, as the case may be, in the process of growing up). This, therefore, is a glimpse into their future - although I can't promise it's entirely comprised of warm-fuzzies! Some of you might even recognize that this is a puzzle-piece in a much, much larger picture.
Summary: How do you live when the fate of the world is eternally at your whims?

Snowfall was rare in the Cotswolds, so Adam rang Pepper and suggested that they make the most of it. How long was she home from Cambridge for the hols, then? Ah. Heading back again that evening. Swell. They'd meet in the field in an hour.

The hole in the hedge that had always been there was still Dog's favorite exit from the Youngs' front yard, although his joints and paws weren't as nimble as they had been That Summer. Adam tended to think of it in terms of capitals; it only seemed fitting, what with the number of other things in his life that required such emphasis. Dog yipped impatiently, casting an impatient backward glance as his master, who was all wellies and trailing scarf and shapeless old coat borrowed from his dad, strode down the front walk and through the front gate that, although it, too, had always been there, never squeaked. It was a fact of which Adam's mum was fiercely proud. Adam skipped a little, pleased to do his part.

The apple tree, by now twisted and venerable, stood apart from the others now that several of its neighbors had been cut down due to the onset of rot and other pestilence. When Adam got there, Pepper was already standing beneath its bare, gnarled branches. Despite the freezing cold, her head was uncovered, and it became immediately apparent why: her long, copper-red hair, once her secret pride and joy, was gone. She'd shorn it in favor of one of those pixie-cuts that seemed to be all the rage. And she was wearing a pair of dangly earrings that her mum had probably got sometime in the sixties. Strangely, the overall effect - smart black coat, fine freckles, and even finer features - was becoming. Adam wondered why he'd never really noticed her cheekbones before. Probably because her hair used to hide them.

"Nice hairdo, Pep," was all he said, grinning. "Maybe I ought to tell the groomers that's what Dog would like next time he's due for a cut. D'you think it would sit him?"

"You're bollocks," replied Pepper, gruffly, and hugged him tight.

They strolled for a while, their hands shoved deep in their pockets, comparing notes on how their first year at uni was going (so far). Pepper liked Cambridge, but she was a bit concerned about the comparatively low admission rates for women in comparison to those of Adam's institution. He shrugged, saying that he hadn't properly got the chance to decide what about Oxford upset him and what, if anything, satisfied him. Pepper frowned at him, saying surely he ought to be concerned or even happy about something.

"The thing is, I don't know if academia's where I belong," Adam explained, bending to grab a stick that protruded from the ground's icy white dusting. "I enjoy History, but I'm discovering these amazing writers all the time. I'm afraid I should've done English. Or if I'd done English, that I'd be afraid I should've done History. And then there's things with names like Peace and Justice Studies and Conflict Resolution. Surely those are more important than what I'm doing."

"But you have to understand history before you can change it," Pepper said.

Adam tossed the stick, and Dog tore off gleefully after it. "I suppose."

"No, you don't suppose. You know. I'd like to tell you something: there are a lot of things about our childhood that I remember clearly, and a lot of things that I don't. Sometimes these...snippets come back to me in dreams. Anathema and her magazines, Newt and his pins, those guys from London who still come calling every once in a while. They all happened very, very suddenly. It was late summer of '90, wasn't it? That's almost ten years ago now. For the life of me, I can't understand why they all seem so important - I mean, above and beyond the fact that we've both spent too much time babysitting the Pulsifer brats and Newt and Anathema are like everybody's eccentric aunt and uncle by now. It's...more than that. I can't close my eyes without seeing their faces. I wish Brian and Wensleydale were here today, too."

"They've got different term dates," Adam pointed out, glumly.

"Yeah, it's rubbish. But as I was saying, something about that summer seems so important in retrospect. Like we had the chance to do something huge without even knowing it. Like maybe we did something huge without even knowing it. Like maybe we'll have the chance again sometime, only we'll finally understand what it is and why. But if uni's taught me anything, Adam, it's that failure is something to fear. I'd hate for us to fail. There's nothing worse than knowing it might be up to our generation to save the world."

Adam considered Pepper carefully, returning her unblinking gaze. Those eyes were never a place he would have considered losing himself; but then, he'd never seen the twists and turns and endless corridors until now. And around some of those corners were terrors and wonders untold: a silvery flash and the passing-over of wings as black as a starless night. Adam recoiled, taking a moment to stare at the ground, where Dog sat waiting with the stick.

"Adam? Are you all right?"

"Yeah," Adam said, glancing back up at her. "Lots to think about, that's all. Saving the world, as you say, and whether English or History is better suited for the job." He winked, shivering a little as he turned one shoulder back in the direction of the hedge. "Do you like apple pie? Mum stores some of the old grump's surplus in the cellar every year, then uses 'em to make puddings and such."

"Very American," said Pepper, with mild distaste, "but yes. I do like it."

"Then let's head on home. It'll be done any minute, and I'm sure they'd like to see you before you head off, yeah? My sister asks after you all the time."

Adam offered his hand. Dog whined, his tail thwap-thwapping the snow impatiently.

"Yeah, all right," said Pepper, and took it.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 22nd, 2008 12:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, it was lovely, quite sweet! I like the way you portrayer Adam and Pepper and him coming to term with resposibility but still being too young... and Dog, old but still energetic. Thanks so much, I like it a lot!
Dec. 24th, 2008 01:27 am (UTC)
I think Dog will die quietly in his bed one day, having lived a full, happy, healthy canine life :) Thank you very much! Happy Holidays.
Dec. 22nd, 2008 01:31 pm (UTC)
This was lovely and vivid, Secret Author. I thought you portrayed the in-the-process-of-growing-up aspect very well.
Dec. 24th, 2008 01:27 am (UTC)
University's such a bewildering time, isn't it? Thanks - I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Dec. 22nd, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC)
This was very nice. I liked Adam's reaction to Pepper's cheekbones.
Dec. 24th, 2008 01:28 am (UTC)
Thank you! I have the feeling that girl's dead beautiful and doesn't even realize it.
Dec. 24th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)

There's so much to enjoy about this sweet little tale -- what I like most about it, though, is how you've captured this moment -- the rich details of setting... I feel like I'm right there. I love it when something I read pulls me into it so deeply.

Jan. 7th, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
Many thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it <3
Jan. 7th, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, I really liked this. There's a lovely feeling to it, and you captured Adam and Pepper (and even Dog) spot on.
Jan. 8th, 2009 10:43 am (UTC)
Thank you very much :) It's a bit of an inset for Crown of Stars universe, even, if anyone fancies reading it in another light.
Jan. 8th, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)
Yes. I couldn't help thinking of it that way. It was good to see a snippet of them together in happier times.
Sep. 6th, 2012 03:25 am (UTC)
I'm not sure what way you couldn't help thinking of it, but: thank you, even if belatedly *hugs* And, as per usual these past few weeks, there's new CoT' Verse fic waiting for you <3
Jan. 12th, 2009 12:52 am (UTC)
This is such a tender return to the Them. Dog still around but even for him time has passed. Does a Hellhound ever die?

Getting to the field by their old childhood paths, but Pepper has grown from a tomboy with a lethal hook, enough to wear stylish hair and dangle earrings, and her passions are busy longing to be focused and harnessed to some Greater Good. Both anxious to embrace it but also properly afraid. And Adam who strolled out in shapelessly comfortable old clothes still trying to figure out what's important enough for him to be doing.

You've taken a standard plot of old playmates rediscovering each other with new eyes as adults and made it singular because of just who these youngsters are and what their potential is. I'm very pleased to think these two might do it together.
Jan. 12th, 2009 10:51 am (UTC)
I'm not sure if Hellhounds ever die, to be honest. I have the weird impression that he's going to be around for as long as Adam is around, and as for Adam's lifespan, well, that's a fascinating question in and of itself...

I wrote to be an inset for A Crown of Stars, to be honest; even though it can be read as completely unconnected, I needed some sense of weight and momentousness to keep the tone right where I wanted it. I do wonder what the authors think these kids end up doing with their lives!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )


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