Author: Athea (
Fandom: Magnificent 7, ATF universe
Pairing: Vin/Josiah
Title: The Woods Are Lovely, Dark and Deep
Series: Anchors, part 19
Challenge: Birch 2004
Date: 8 January 2005, late but better late than never, right?
********* Josiah *********

I stopped and took a deep breath. It was cold but not freezing and our annual hunt for the perfect tree for the Sisters of Mercy was underway. Vin had already narrowed our search to a three acre area at the farthest northern edge of our property. I stopped and thought about that for a long moment. These trees, the underbrush, wild animals, and all belonged to Vin and I.

Well, they belonged to themselves but we were their current stewards. That was a job both Vin and I took very seriously and we spent hours tramping over the sprawling acres of timber and meadow, looking for problems and clearing brush. I'd never known how much time that would take but I'd grown to love it. Being outdoors brought out the childlike wonder in my lover and I loved watching him play.

He'd had to grow up too fast and guard himself for too long, I thought sadly.

"Josiah, I think I found it." His excited call came from my right and I headed over there to see what he'd found. Nearing a small clearing, I found him circling a ten foot tall blue spruce that was truly magnificent. Perfectly shaped with thick branches lightly dusted with snow and brown pine cones nestled among them like Nature's version of ornaments.

"I think you're right, Vin." I circled it myself and spotted nothing at all wrong. "I kind of hate to cut it down, it's so beautiful."

He got that fey look on his face, the one I only saw once in a while. "It's already got the wasting sickness and if we let it go, it will spread to the nearby spruce grove."

I never questioned his pronouncements. He was so in tune with the forest, he was literally never wrong. If this seemingly healthy tree was sick then it was time for it to come down and grace the homeless shelter for a few weeks. I readied the axe and silently asked the tree's forgiveness for taking its life. The branches moved gently in a sudden breeze as if giving me permission and I smiled.

Once we had the tree down, we carefully loaded it on the long toboggan we'd brought with us. That reminded me of our trip the day before with Chris and Ezra. "Vin, remind me to call and see how Ezra is feeling. Chris might need us to run to the store or something."

"Will do, big guy," Vin tugged on the rope handle and with my strength added to it, we got it moving towards home. "Ezra sounded real congested by the time we left."

"True," I looked over and feasted my eyes on my shining lover. His blond-brown hair glowed in the morning sunlight. "Where is your hat, Vin?"

He innocently looked around as if it would appear in mid-air. "Gosh, I don't know, 'Siah. I had it a minute ago."

Knowing how much he hated the navy blue knit stocking cap, I harrumphed. "Check your pockets or we'll have to go back to look for it."

He pouted a little but then magically found it in his leather coat's side pocket. Pulling it on, he jammed it on his head. "There, satisfied?"

I held my tongue, knowing what was in one of the packages under the small tree in the spa. I'd gone with Chris to pick out a cowboy hat for Vin. I found an almost chocolate brown one that my former boss approved and it was waiting for my lover to unwrap. I was looking forward to Christmas for the first time in many years.

Back at the house, we carefully strapped the tree to the top of his old jeep before heading inside. A quick call to Chris and I had the definite impression that Ezra was running him ragged. I had to quell a slight feeling of satisfaction at that, remembering how surly he'd been when he was sick. They needed oranges and I promised to stop at the store. Just before I hung up, Chris suddenly added peppermint stick ice cream to the list and I had the impression the request had come from further down the hall.

Hanging up, I looked for my lover and found him in the spa looking at our decorated tree and the presents under it. Sliding my arms around him, I kissed his ear. "Wondering what Santa is bringing you?"

"Nah, I haven't believed in Santa Claus since Ma died." He leaned back against me and I held his warmth with sudden need. "Took a while before I believed in much of anything. But some of that joy came back into my life five years ago when I joined the team. I've got something new to believe in now. Hey, we better get going. Sister Theresa wanted the tree by 2 pm."

I let the odd statement go in favor of coming back to it later. That usually worked better with my complex lover. We drove into town and delivered the tree, setting it up for the good Sisters and drinking a cup of cocoa that paled in comparison to Ezra's gourmet brew. Stopping at the store, I got the oranges and ice cream for Chris and Ezra while Vin collected some last minute items for us.

We met back at the jeep and drove home. I know I relaxed as soon as we left the city limits and Vin did, too. He wasn't the only one who preferred the country. Vin took the bag of essentials to the front door and Chris answered it in a robe and nothing else. That's a good look on him and I chuckled to myself. He and Ezra were a seemingly unlikely couple who fit perfectly together.

Watching Vin walk towards me, his hunter's gait in evidence, I smiled. They were no more unlikely than Vin and me. And I thanked the gods of the universe everyday for him. Getting in, he slid a hand up my jeans covered thigh and my cock suddenly came to aching life.

"Ol' Chris is definitely being put through his paces today." Vin's chuckle was just this side of a giggle. "He said Ezra didn't have a voice this morning so he's writin' him notes. Chris said he was going to have to look up a couple of words to find out if he'd been insulted or not."

I chuckled and backed the jeep up so we could head home. "I hope Ezra gives him a run for his money."

"I 'spect he will, Josiah." His hand was warm on my thigh and he slid it a little higher with an innocent air.

My glare was mock and he knew it. "Young man, are you in teasing mode again?"

"No snow involved, 'Siah," he said with a solemn air. "And it ain't teasin' if I mean ta follow through."

"True," I gulped when long slender fingers ghosted over my extremely interested denim-covered cock. "I thought we were going to have our Solstice fire this afternoon."

"We are," Vin confirmed. "But I was thinkin' we might could give the old gods a real nice offering of our seed."

"How very pagan and yet appropriate, little love." I captured that knowing hand and brought it to my lips for a kiss. Nibbling on his fingers, I pulled into our garage and hit the button for the door. Laying a kiss right in his palm as a promise for later, I gingerly got out of the old car and headed to the kitchen to put away our groceries. He disappeared but I knew right where to find him.

It had long been my custom to light a candle in every window of where ever I was staying for the winter Solstice and this year in our first home together, I'd really wanted to continue the tradition. Vin had approved wholeheartedly and rather diffidently asked if I'd mind a bonfire, too. I thought it an excellent idea so he'd been gathering deadfall all autumn in a small clearing about 100 yards from the house.

It was an odd little grove of stately oaks and I almost always got a shiver when I went there. Vin loved it and often practiced his Tai Chi there. I joined him occasionally but that place always felt like I was a guest rather than a part of it, the way he was. Leaving the kitchen after checking on the progress of our stew, I headed out again to find my missing lover.

The bonfire wasn't huge but it wasn't a normal fire size either. He'd been layering in logs, branches, leaves and other burn-ables for a month now and it made a sizable pile. The silence was all encompassing as if the wind stopped at the edges of the grove, not daring to enter this sacred spot. An air of expectation sizzled in the air and the hair on the back of my neck suddenly stood straight up. Gesturing for me to stay on that side of the bonfire, Vin flicked a burning match into the heart of the wood pile.

Nothing happened for a long moment then a tiny flame appeared and another and yet another until fire began to race down and up the branches. Pops and crackles filled the still air and from where I was standing, the heat was welcome. A soft keening came from Vin and occasionally I'd be able to decipher a word or two but they made no sense to me. I know five languages fluently and six written languages that are now considered dead but Vin could still surprise me.

I was guessing it was a form of Cherokee. Watching him through the screen of red and yellow flames made me see him differently. Like the forest and wild things around us, he was a free spirit entrusted to my care for a time. I loved him so much, I sometimes felt helpless to show him the strength of my love. I didn't want to smother him but at times like this, I wanted to hold him tight and never let go.

Perhaps it was the smoke or my thoughts but suddenly it seemed a Dionysian mask took the place of his face. Then it morphed into an elf's profile and then to something almost too beautiful to be real. I blinked twice and saw only Vin's pure features. And when had he braided the long white feather into his hair? I wondered for a moment if some of the brush included a certain five-leaved plant that was illegal in every state but California.

A smile slowly dawned from his mouth to his eyes and the heated air rose in waves between us. It was almost like watching him through water and a small thought in the back of my mind nattered on about temperature and humidity and all the scientific explanations that didn't really matter in this magical place. I kept watching him and listening to the chant that was the only sound save for the crackle of the fire.

When he stopped, I waited, watching him with my heart in my eyes. He was so beautiful and he'd chosen me for a lover. Suddenly his hands rose up before him and I had just a glimpse of some of the brown pine cones from the evergreen we'd just delivered. When had he taken the time to remove some of them? Without a sound, he tossed them lightly onto the blazing fire.

A moment later, they began to pop and sizzle and the flames began to take on odd colors of green and blue and gold. I blinked twice to clear my vision but then Vin was there before me, sliding his arms around me and lifting up onto his toes for a kiss. I bent my head gladly to nuzzle his cold lips and an agile tongue slipped in to find mine. I suckled on his tasty self for a long moment before I realized his clever fingers had slipped under my coat and had almost completely opened my pants.

"Vin, it's too cold." I tried to be sensible, really I did.

"Nice and toasty here, 'Siah." He licked my chin and I shivered. "I need ya ta take me right here and now. I got all slicked up and stretched for ya while ya were puttin' away the groceries." His gloveless hand was stroking my cock and truthfully I wasn't feeling any cold at all. "I got some place nice and warm for Little Joe here."

I snorted with sudden laughter. Just lately Vin had been trying out nicknames for our cocks and this was a new one. "Little Joe appreciates all the trouble you've gone to for him. We going to do this right here?"

"Right here," he said with satisfaction, giving my shaft one last caress with something cool and wet. Then pulling away, he spun towards the fire and got down on all fours, his jeans sliding down to bunch around his thighs.

There is nothing more inspiring than that beautiful sight. The years melted away when I went to my knees behind those taut pale cheeks, gloving them with my leather clad hands and seeing the tell tale signs of lubricant around the small pink pucker. He shivered all over and moaned my name when I set my crown to that tiny hole and pushed slowly but surely inside of him.

I hope I never, ever take this privilege for granted. When I could go no farther, I stopped to savor his heat and the tight channel walls that held me tight. "Dearest Vin, thank you for letting me celebrate the Solstice with you. And thank you for the gift of your love."

"Ah-h-h, Josiah," his voice was loose with pleasure, "I was just going ta thank ya for that same gift. Ya gave me your love and a home and the chance ta be a kid again. And if everybody knew how good ya feel inside a body, they'd be beatin' down the doors to steal you away from me."

"Never, Vin," I started a gentle pull out before rocking back into him again. "I am bound with love to you and this land. I'll never leave it or you as long as I live."

He flung back his head, his long hair glinting in the firelight. "And I'll never leave ya either. Forever or until the Forest takes me."

I shivered at that vow but also felt how right it was. "Forever or until the Forest takes me, Vin. I love you."

"Love ya, too, "Siah." He pushed back a little to get me deeper. "Now burn me up like our fire is burnin'."

Chuckling, I set to work to do just that. I had an inkling that this would be just the first in many Solstices to come. Maybe for Summer's longest day we could reenact this without any clothes?

The end for now