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Christmas Bells
Pyotr entered the large Cathedral and the whole place was packed. It was typical of a Christmas Mass. Many didn't attend Mass for the whole year, but elected to go on Easter and Christmas; Pyotr was one of those. He had grown up in the Catholic Church, but as he got older, going to Mass was something he just didn't do much anymore.

Pyotr dipped his finger in the basin of holy water at the door and made the sign of the cross; even years of non-attendance hadn't taken the familiar movements from his memory. The Cathedral was full and Pyotr found it difficult to find a seat, even for one. He finally found one, and thankfully it was close to the aisle. Pyotr genuflected, and then moved into the pew. He greeted lean man with the brown hair and patchy beard that was sitting down next to him with a nod before kneeling to say his prayer.

Pyotr kept the prayer short and allowed his thoughts to drift. The past few days had been phenomenal. The Annual Christmas Dinner had gone well with the exception of Anthony spilling water on Marcus. The manager had fired Anthony for that. He had a feeling that he had made a decent impression on the Ascendancy as well. All in all, it was a good night and another boost to Pyotr's confidence.

Marcus had been unable to meet with him lately as he was busy with the life of a sigma, so Pyotr's lessons were on hold. With his confidence boosted, it wasn't as big of a deal, however. He hadn't used his Luck at all and the sickness had been kept at bay as a result.

Everyone in the Cathedral stood, and Pyotr, so wrapped on his thoughts, hadn't noticed that Mass was about to begin. He stood with the crowd, opening the hymnal to sing the opening hymn. The Mass was pretty normal even though it was a holiday. The opening rites concluded, lay ministers began reading scripture references from Isaiah 52, Hebrews 1, and the Gospel reading was from John 1. The service continued into the different Liturgies finally arriving at the sign of peace.

"The Peace of the Lord be with you always."
The priest said opening his hands.

"And with your Spirit."
Pyotr and most of those gathered responded.

"Let us offer to each other the sign of peace."

Pyotr turned the the man who he was now standing next to and offered his hand. "Peace be with you."
The extent of Jensen's knowledge of the Catholic church was what he studied in seminary. Yet after everything he'd seen these last few months, he yearned for time to worship with fellow believers as Christmas drew closer.

There was something lovely about meeting God in the immaculate houses of the Catholic church that made him feel like he stepped back in time.

When someone joined him on the bench, Jensen instinctively tried to allocate him extra room, but the lady on his right was already cramped. So he gave Pyotr an apologetic look and returned to the service.

It was clear, however that Jensen was unfamiliar with the steps of the service. He frequently stumbled to stand when they should have knelt. He was always several syllables behind in the prayers. Finally, when he turned to greet the man at his left with a handshake, he almost seemed relieved to have the break.

"And peace be with you,"
Jensen replied after tuning an ear to see if that was what those around them said as well.
The man next to Pyotr was clearly not a Catholic. He frequently stood when he was supposed to kneel and the prayers were often mumbled. Pyotr knew that it could be confusing so when they shook hands, Pyotr covered the other man's hand with his left, gave him an encouraging smile, and winked at him.

"You're doing fine."
Pyotr whispered to him.

The priest continued on, moving into the Liturgy of the Eucharist. As Pyotr moved out to receive, he wondered if the man next to him knew he wasn't supposed to participate. Pyotr recieved the Eucharist, then moved back silently to his seat and knelt once more. This part of the service was quite solemn and Pyotr's mood reflected that.

The service went on with the closing rites and the hymn. As it ended, the Priest invited those present downstairs for a Christmas lunch. Pyotr usually didn't go. It was too crowded for him.

Pyotr turned to the man next to him and said, "I don't usually go to those. It's really crowded and takes awhile to get something to eat. I'm heading to a diner down the street if you care to join."

Pyotr was surprised by his words. Pyotr wasn't good at meeting new people, but his confidence had been high. It couldn't hurt to have a new friend.
Jensen's expression broke into an embarrassed smile. "It's that obvious?"
He whispered in return.

Over the course of the rest of the service, Jensen relied heavily on the man next to him for guidance. Jensen gathered that the gentleman was about his age, but was clearly a devoted Catholic whereas Jensen had not seen the inside of a church - protestant or otherwise - in coming over four years. In fact, the last time he'd been in a church, he'd been the man behind the pulpit.

For a brief moment, he gave the Christmas lunch consideration, but he would have thought better of himself had the man next to him not invited him elsewhere.

To share a meal with another member of the service did not strike Jensen as odd at all, in fact, the gesture was about the most familiar aspect of the entire morning.

He smiled warmly and donned his coat. "I would like that very much. Thank you. And thank you for all your help."
Conversation lit all around them, but the sounds were swallowed by the large cathedral.

The woman on the other side of him was apparently wanting out of the aisle, so Jensen and his lunch companion shuffled out of the way. He offered a handshake to go with that warm smile, one that seemed to touch his eyes, at least, more so than it had in a great while. "My name is Jensen."

One last look at the immaculate cathedral around them, and Jensen strolled from the hall.
The man, Jensen decided to join him and Pyotr smiled. He wasn't someone to usually ask to go to lunch with a stranger, but he had grown a lot. Marcus had worked wonders on him.

The woman on the other side of Jensen was being impatient, so Pyotr moved to let her out as Jensen offered his hand again to Pyotr. Pyotr had trouble placing the man's accent, but it sounded American. Pyotr wondered what brought the man here.

"I'm Pyotr, nice to meet you."

Getting out was an issue as everyone was heading in the opposite direction, but Pyotr and Jensen eventually made it outside where the path was significantly less congested.

"I don't have a car, so I usually walk. Do you have a vehicle or is walking fine?"

The weather wasn't terrible. In fact it was seasonably warm, so walking wouldn't be an issue, and Pyotr really didn't feel like taking a cab. It was money that didn't need to be spent.

They shook hands. Jensen had a gentle, but encapsulating handshake that was glad to make Pyotr's acquaintance.

Jensen was glad for the space once they made it outside. Not only was the service incredibly full, but they seemed to be walking against the current.

With the extra space, Jensen zipped up his coat. It a short leather coat with yellow accents that fit snug around his waist. A motorcycle jacket built to keep him warm without adding bulk. He pulled on matching gloves. The weather was nicer today than it had been, but it was still below freezing. Snow remained piled against buildings even if the sidewalks were clear.

"Walking's great. I should stretch my legs anyway. I'm typically asleep this time of day, so the cold air feels good."
He stifled a yawn, "I'm usually up all night, but I am looking forward to good diner coffee."
He didn't want to say that he worked nights, because technically he didn't have a job and to suggest otherwise felt like a lie.

He followed Pyotr's general direction but while the two men kept pace with one another, neither dallied for which Jensen was thankful. The cold prickled his face like the stubble along his jaw.

"Have you always been catholic, Pyotr?"
Giordano had called Alex and said he was getting somewhere. A shop keep in the enlightened district knew Aria lived somewhere around there. He'd found some interesting things while searching for the girl. He was still searching the shops looking for the right place. He wouldn't make it back for the meal they had planned. Which was fine with Alex, she really didn't want to spend more time with her father than she had to. Nights were proving to be annoying.

Alex grabbed her coat and strolled out the door to find someplace nice to eat. She wanted to get out, and not be around if he came home too. She hadn't fully regretted calling him, but her father was always trying to be ... her father. He still thought of her as his little girl, and even more so now that Christina was gone. Vile Atharim! Alex wondered if that was the only reason she had against her half sister. If she wasn't would she have called her father? If she'd not seen the tattoo, would she have even know? Those were always thoughts that could occur when one felt guilty. Alex realized she did feel guilty about sending her father after Aria. Maybe she should have just dealt with the problem she really wanted addressed. The girl and Dane Gregory off the streets...

Alex found a diner that looked promising, She was about to go in when she saw a young boy, probably about 10 years of age, bump into a blond man. Alex saw the kid deftly put his hand the man's pocket as he ran off, the man none the wiser. Alex caught the boy's arm as he ran by. "I don't think that's yours."
Alex held out her hand for the wallet.

The boy looked up sheepishly and then handed Alex the wallet. Alex let him go and he ran off promptly. Alex would have given the boy a few dollars, but he didn't stick around, oh well.

The man who'd been the victim of the pick pocket and his companion were walking into the same diner. . She held his wallet in her hand and put her other hand on his shoulder to get his attention. "I think you dropped this."
Pyotr smiled at Jensen. "I guess you could say that. I was raised in the Catholic Church, but I don't really go to Mass much anymore. Mostly just on Christmas and Easter."

The air was cold and bit at Pyotr's clean shaven face. He thought of maybe growing a winter beard, but knew his boss would probably frown at that. He just got on the man's good side and didn't need to ruin that at this point.

At that point a young boy of about 10 bumped into him and said, "Sorry, mister."

The boy kept moving and Pyotr frowned, shrugged and opened the door to the restaurant for Jensen. A hand touched his shoulder and pointed jumped in surprise before looking over his shoulder to see a woman about thirty holding his wallet.

"I think you dropped this."
she said as Pyotr turned around to accept his wallet.

The pieces clicked together and Pyotr realized the young boy had pick-pocketed him. Pyotr look past the woman, but the boy was gone. Pyotr felt no anger - only sympathy. The young boy was probably hungry and Pyotr would have at least given him some money for food. It was Christmastime and a time for giving.

Pyotr turned back to the woman and smiled, "Thank you for returning this. I'm Pyotr and this is Jensen. We were just about to have lunch if you'd like to join us. At least let me pay for your meal or some coffee. It's the least I could do."
Likewise, Jensen was unaware of any action transpiring behind him until a new voice pricked his ear.

He turned. The woman offering Pyotr a Wallet had a kind demeanor. It took Jensen a few moments to realize the sequence of events implied, a few moments more than it took his companion as a matter of fact.

The little boy in question was long gone. If Jensen had a clue of which direction the lad took, he would have ran after him, but as it was, he was helpless to help. Thievery in one so young broke his heart. He silently prayed that the child would find what he needed.

Jensen found Pyotr's extended invitation a nice gesture. They were all obviously entering the same diner, so Jensen made certain to hold the door open for the other two as they passed within, whether or not Alex agreed to join them regardless. But he smiled and nodded along that he hoped she'd consider it. It was good to share a table with others at this time of year.

Inside, they found out that there was only one table remaining and one of their party would have to wait. Jensen turned to the good Samaritan. "That settles it. What do you say?"
Alex smiled at the offer for a meal. She was inclined to pass it up but she was hungry and she really didn't want to have to wait either. Or find someplace else. God knew where her father was. She nodded. "Sure, sounds wonderful."

The hostess sat them at a table and brought them all some water while they browsed the menu. Alex already knew what she was getting. There was no need to sit and read the menu. Alex observed the men with her, they looked like they'd come from some service or another. Her family had never been overly religious. Their differences were rather slighted upon when one found out about what they good do, being called devils or worse was not something the Pirozzi family wanted to endure. "I'm Alex."
She offered a hand in turn to each gentleman.

The waitress returned and Alex ordered the house soup and salad with a lemon tea. It was cold outside, she wanted to stay warm.

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