Pairings/Characters: Mel/Johnny, Sister Frances, Billy Scoggins
Fandom: Public Enemies
Genres: Angst, AU, Challenge, Drama, Holiday
Summary: Mel is feeling lonely on Christmas Eve.
Date Of Completion: December 12, 2010
Date Of Posting: December 23, 2010
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1351
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Happy Holidays, siriusfanatic! This is for your Wish List request. Since your life has been so chaotic lately, I thought I’d write something a little peaceful. I hope you like it! :)
Also written for my 2010 Guns_Fedoras Public Enemies Fic/Art Winter Holidays Challenge. Prompt: Christmas Eve.
And winter sun,
On the run.
Mel shivered on the steps of the old stone building, his gloved hands gripping the handles of the shopping bags he carried. The heavy oakwood door opened and the black-garbed figure smiled as she greeted him, bright blue eyes friendly, her face framed by her white wimple. A silver-and-jet rosary dangled from her belt, a silver crucifix worn like a necklace.
“Mr. Purvis, good to see you.”
“Sister Frances,” he said as he inclined his head.
“Come in, you’ll catch your death.”
The faint hint of an Irish lilt was pleasing to the ears, and Mel gratefully got in out of the Chicago cold into the warmth of the house. He followed the nun to a small anteroom, the hall paneled with dark wood. A blown-out lightbulb made it even darker.
Fortunately the anteroom’s bulb was working. Sister Frances smiled. “Oh, the children will love these toys!”
“I’m glad. Happy to help out.”
“You’re a blessin’, to be sure.”
They stored away the boxes. Back out in the hall, Mel was invited to see the children.
“Don’t you worry, the Sisters and I will put everything under the tree tonight after the children have gone to bed.”
Mel spent sometime with the children, all of them eager to see a ‘genuine G-Man’, as Billy Scoggins put it.
“You still huntin’ down Baby Face Nelson and John Dillinger?” asked Billy, his shock of brown hair tumbling into hazel eyes.
Mel laughed. “Absolutely! I’m always on Dillinger’s tail.”
After playing with the children for an hour, Mel spoke to Sister Frances before he left. “I think I’ll stop in at the church. Thank you for the fine afternoon, Sister.”
“And thank you for the toys, Mr. Purvis. You’re going to make our children very happy.”
Mel smiled and left the orphanage, pulling up his collar against the cold. The sky was no longer clear, clouds obscuring the stars. It looked like snow was coming.
His lips curled in amusement. He had learned very quickly to ‘feel’ when snow was on the way, deep in his bones, just like a Chicago native! Johnny said he had a gift for it, considering he wasn’t native-born to the North.
He walked over to the church next door, the stone edifice soaring toward the sky. A copper plaque bore the date 1896.
Mel pushed open the heavy wooden door festooned with a large wreath, topped by a red bow.
Inside the vestibule was dark. Mel dipped his fingers into the basin and crossed himself with holy water.
The nave of the church smelled faintly of incense. It was decorated for Christmas, wreaths and garlands’ fresh evergreen scent mingling with the incense.
Mel walked down the center aisle past the wooden pews, marble pillars, and Stations of the Cross on the walls. The stained glass windows sparkled in the muted lighting of a few overhead lights and the flickering light from the votive candles banked on each side of the altar.
Mel genuflected while crossing himself, slipping into the pew. He knelt on the hard wooden kneeler, gaze traveling over the statue of the Virgin Mary, white poinsettias at her feet. Saint Joseph flanked the other side of the altar, red poinsettias at his feet.
The altar was elaborate, marble and gold-painted, with candles and poinsettias and wisps of incense drifting out from the gold censer.
Every Catholic church worth its salt tried to be as elaborately Romanesque as possible, even if their congregations were made up of poor immigrants. His own church back home had a small coterie of upper-class folks, but the need to help the poor was still the same.
Mel allowed his gaze to rest on the Virgin Mary statue. She was cool and serene, draped in white and blue, and Mel felt a measure of peace settle over him.
He and his family had always donated to the orphanages back home. He had also quietly done so to the Negro orphanage on the edge of town, going to see Father Mulcahy and asking him to take care of the anonymous donation.
He wasn’t sure why he did it, unless it was some sort of guilt. He’d grown up in a culture that said colored folk were inferior. As a race, he wasn’t sure if Negroes could ever measure up to white folks, but he suspected it was more a case of the weight of history and current restrictions. How could people get ahead if they were constantly forced to attend rundown schools or only be hired for menial jobs?
He’d learned a lot in the last year about conventional wisdom not being so wise. Stereotypes were handy shortcuts but not always true. A case-by-case basis was the way to go.
Mel said his prayers, taking out a ruby-and-silver rosary, his fingers slipping over the jewel-like beads, then settled back onto the pew when he was finished.
Yes, he’d learned a lot. Gangsters were viewed as brutal, dangerous thugs determined to tear down society. Some were exactly that: Baby Face Nelson was the prime example, but others fell into the criminal life for many different reasons: poverty, laziness, greed…many didn’t want to work twelve-hour days in factories for a few cents an hour, if they could get a job at all.
Desperation pushed people into lives of crime, too, especially these days. A man with an empty belly and a family to feed would be willing to take risks.
Mel watched the votive candlelight flickering. He’d learned that not every gangster was the animal that Jayee portrayed.
His heart ached. Right now the mansion back home was full of people, good food, and laughter as the musicians played and the guests danced. The house would smell of evergreen, mixed with the mouth-watering smells from the buffet.
What I wouldn’t give for a sweet roll or a slice of pecan pie.
He was feeling lonely on Christmas Eve.
Nonsense! You’re not one of those orphans or people in breadlines. You’re fortunate.
But he still wished that he could be with someone tonight, someone who mattered. He’d even sent his manservant President home so that he could spend time with his family.
Mel folded his hands, absorbing the peace of the church. His beloved Johnny would be celebrating with his gang, imbibing whiskey and rum and dancing with girlfriends and wives and exchanging gifts. A far cry from the splendor of the plantation, but the fellowship was the same.
He slid back to his knees, praying that Johnny would be protected. His life was so precarious.
Mel did not care that the Church considered him a sinner for loving Johnny.
Well, maybe I do feel guilty, but damnit, there’s so little love in this miserable world, why should I turn it away?
He rubbed his forehead, his eyes closed. A siren whined in the distance, probably a fire truck.
It’s not like we’ll be settin’ up house together. How can we have a life together? We have to grab time when we can.
He sensed someone kneeling beside him. Perhaps someone early for Mass?
A hand on his shoulder startled him. He opened his eyes, registering the spicy cologne and exclaiming softly, “Johnny!”
Mel looked into warm amber eyes and clasped his lover’s hand. “What are you doin’ here, honey?” Johnny’s fedora and coat were dusted with fresh snow. He smelled fresh and clean, with a little evergreen.
“Well, now, I couldn’t have you far from home and all alone on Christmas Eve, now could I?”
Tears sprang to Mel’s eyes. “But what about your boys?”
“I had a little party with them earlier. You and me for tonight, though.”
Mel smiled. He squeezed Johnny’s hand and they sat back on the pew, absorbing the quiet. Johnny’s cologne mingled with the scent of incense and evergreen.
“Merry Christmas, Sunshine,” Johnny whispered.