Un Hiver Tranquille

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by templemarker

Notes: This is set before Anne visits Rogi to speak with him about Denis. For jedi_penguin in Yuletide 2007. Read it there.

***

It wasn’t Anne’s intention to be in New Hampshire at Christmas, but there she was. Business had called her back, despite the plans she had made for some solitude and respite from the work she was doing. Satisfying as it was, it was also exhausting, and she had been looking forward to a beachside holiday on Okanagon. As popular as the cosmop world was, tourists mostly vested other, more all-encompassing sea worlds, which made Okanagon an excellent place to sequester herself from the bustling universe, if only for a time.

But of course it was not meant to be. She sighed, divesting herself of the sober-coloured jacket and pants she wore out of habit more than any particular devotion to the cloth of her faith. Lucille was overjoyed that she would be in town for the usual Remillard shenanigans, and Denis too was pleased to see her. But as much as Anne loved her parents, and her ever-growing family, what she truly wanted was some peace. Which was unlikely to be found at the farm, amidst siblings and cousins and piles and piles of nephews and nieces–who themselves had already begun to produce even more little Remillards!

Her patience grew short even thinking about it, so she sent a quick message to her father’s phone–undoubtedly turned off, which was what she wanted–saying she wouldn’t be coming out to the annual hunt for the Christmas tree that night. If she could fortify herself with some quiet tonight, perhaps she would make it through the Christmas Eve dinner, followed by service, followed by caroling and drinks, without tearing out her already-short hair.

As she settled down with a mug of chai liberally doused with brandy, she watched the snow fall outside her window. Anne hadn’t bothered to turn on more than one table lamp when she came in, seeing well enough in the dark, and the fireplace turned on with the barest brush of her TK against it. A warm scent floated in from the hallway, and abruptly Anne realized she was very, very hungry. She could order something in to make up for the lack of provisions in the kitchen, but it had been a long time since she’d trudged through snow, and besides, she didn’t know what would be open or not. With a shrug and a stretch, she set her mug aside and padded to the other room. If she was going to go out in this weather, she damn well was going to wear something comfortable–a sweatshirt she barely remembered owning was hung in her wardrobe, and she pulled it on, sliding her feet into fleece-lined boots as well. Then she put on the old flannel coat that used to belong to Adrien, and headed out into the evening.

As she walked along the quiet town square, hoping against hope that the Chinese restaurant she remembered from living in Hanover was still there, she reflexively looked to the right, at Uncle Rogi’s bookshop. She blinked in surprise: the lights on the small apartment above the shop were on, which was strange. Rogi was always a present figure at the Remillard Family Christmas Outings, and even had he elected to take the day off from tromping around in the snow looking for a tree, Anne suspected her father would have railroaded Rogi into coming along anyway. Denis particularly enjoyed Christmastime, and always made sure Rogi was closely involved.

Yet the lights were on. She paused a second, her stomach rumbling with the thought of chow mein, but then made up her mind and went to go ring the bell to Rogi’s apartment.

Unlike her brothers, rambunctious as they were and keen to play prankster on their willing uncle, Anne had never spent much time with Rogi. She was always more occupied with her father, discussing philosophy and ethics and morals and religion, all the things he found time for once his work was being carried on by his colleagues and later, his children. She took much of his time, but it was time he was happy to give, and as far she knew no one begrudged it of her.

But as a consequence, she didn’t know Rogi very well, nor had she spent much time with him. Perhaps it was time to chance that, she thought, shivering on the stop.

“Qui est-il?” came an annoyed, slightly drunken voice from the old-fashioned buzzer.

“C’est moi, Oncle,” Anne said, testing out her rusty French. “Your ni├Ęce, Anne. Let me up, it’s cold out here!”

She heard some shifting and then a click to let her know the door was open. She stamped her feet just outside the door and brushed off as much of the fallen snow as she could manage, and then trotting up the stairs where the door to Rogi’s apartment was opened for her. She let herself in and hung her coat on a wooden peg next to Rogi’s old battered leather one, and slipped out of her boots to walk on the plush rugs that littered the scarred pine floor.

“Anne!” her uncle Rogi said to her, raising a glass, “what brings you to my neck of the woods? It better not be a ‘family request,'” he said with overly-cynical air quotes and a bit of sloshing from his glass, “to come out to the farm, because I’m old and tired and it’s too far away.”

Anne held up her hands in mock defense. “Don’t worry, I’m escaping as much as you are. With all the dinners and parties and things that are planned, I needed a break before it even started.”

Rogi nodded his head at her. “That’s fair enough, mon cherie. Drink?”

“Please. And–a sandwich, if you’ve got the makings? I’m starving.”

Rogi laughed. “It’s all in the kitchen. Turkey, bread, lettuce. Make yourself at home.”

Gratefully, she set to fixing herself some food, and heard Rogi pour her a dram of whatever he’d been indulging in for her. Then soft music began pouring out from his well-hidden speakers, and she hummed along a bit. A glass of amber liquid was dropped next to her hand, and she looked up to meet Rogi’s regard.

“I didn’t know you liked this,” he said.

She smiled. “Even Jesuits have been known to like Miles Davis, Rogi. I’m certainly not the first.”

He snorted. “Good to know.” They shuffled back into the cluttered living room and settled themselves down. “I thought the poop down the Remillard family line was that you were going to be sunning it up in Okanagon’s northern hemisphere this Christmas–and yet it finds you here! Right smack in the middle of things.”

Anne smiled ruefully and answered in between bites of sandwich. “You think you’ve trained someone well enough to make the documentation changes you requested months ago, but strangely, around this time of year, things seem to fall though. The most expedient way to accomplish it was to do it myself, and so here I am.”

“So here you are,” Rogi mused.

Anne looked around the living room. There were piles of books stacked every which way, probably remainders he couldn’t sell or ones from his personal collection; interspersed with plass sheets in every colour spilling from all corners of the rooms. Knick knacks and odd trinkets dotted various surfaces, and her uncle’s cat lounged royally in a nook by the window, twitching his tail idly as he surveyed his domain. The apartment was a nod back to the 21st century, not unlike Rogi himself, who watched her look things over with a slight tilt of his head.

Suddenly Anne felt self-conscious. Perhaps she shouldn’t have intruded on his evening, on his solitude. But no, Rogi welcomed all of them with the same gruff affection, and as much as he complained about the responsibilities of being the oldest living Remillard–despite the fact that there were none!–she knew he loved it, loved them. She trusted him, in a way she trusted no one else but her father.

She sipped her drink–an especially strong Irish liquor and cream–and shifted in her chair. “Is it okay if I stayed for awhile?” she asked, breaking the comfortable silence to speak over the low whine of the trumpet.

“Of course, mon cherie,” Rogi said, taking her hand and squeezing it briefly. “Of course.”

***

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