Gabriel had stayed up later than usual, alternating between reading a book beside the fire in the library and staring out of the wide window at the smooth, sparkling covering of snow across the grounds. With a sigh, he marked the page he was on and closed the book, dropping it to the desk with a thud. Picking up the fresh candle Emily had left him before she retired for the night, he headed back towards his room.
"No..." Gabriel heard the terrified whisper as he padded down the corridor to his bedroom and paused, lingering by the door to Lazarus' room. A quiet, muffled cry followed the whisper accompanied by the rustle of the bed sheets tangling around the boy as he writhed on the large bed. Hesitantly, Gabriel pushed the door open a little further, casting his gaze over the boy curled up in the middle of the bed. He had a pillow cuddled tight against him, his head buried in it as he whimpered and fidgeted. His blonde hair seemed like a dim, dirtied halo around his head, his still-inky hands tightly clutching at the pillowcase like those of a beggar angel - dirty, yet smooth and somehow innocent in this state.
Gabriel found himself moving closer to the bed, the need to somehow comfort the boy overwhelming him. He perched on the edge, doing his best not to wake him. I don't know what I'm doing, he thought, frustrated. He knew what he wanted to achieve, but he hadn't the faintest idea of how to go about achieving it. Shuffling a little closer to his friend, he hoped that somehow he might be struck with inspiration. Lazarus sensed the movement and froze, falling silent. His head snapped up, facing Gabriel, though his eyes remained closed. The expression on his face was like that of a frightened rabbit. Gabriel moved a little closer, wondering if Lazarus might also sense who was with him.
To his dismay, Lazarus shrunk away from him, emitting a quiet whine; his grasp on the pillow tightened and he jerked a little where he lay, kicking the covers away from him. Gabriel shifted back, alarmed by the reaction his proximity had earned.
Lazarus' eyes flickered open a little, his sight latching onto a familiar figure. In the haze of sleep, he felt no qualms about wriggling over and wrapping his arm's tightly around Gabriel's waist. He was asleep almost instantly, locking Gabriel in his crushingly desperate grip. After a minute or so of struggling, he realised he was not about to get free from the boy's hold any time soon. He took another look at his friend's face, glad to see at least that his expression was a little more peaceful now, before blowing out the candle and placing it on the floor. Pulling the quilts back over them, he lay down and closed his eyes.
Late in the morning, Gabriel was awoken by Lazarus pulling his arm out from underneath him too quickly. He groaned a little as the light hit him, glancing up through half closed eyes at Lazarus' bright red face.
"I apologise, Gabriel," he cleared his throat awkwardly, avoiding the young lord's gaze, "I didn't mean- I'm sorry. I should go." That certainly caught Gabriel's attention enough to wake him up.
"I think I've outstayed my welcome. I'll be gone soon. Thank you for your hospitality. I hope you have a pleasant Christmas," the words rushed out in a jumbled mess; the unnecessary formalities and the hastily added bow before he turned to leave made it formidably clear to Gabriel that he was unlikely to see his friend again for a long while.