Matthew was always torn on his feelings towards the weekdays, this Monday in particular. He couldn’t deny that he enjoyed the silence and time to himself he was given because of the lack of people entering the church, but with silence came boredom. He also couldn’t deny that his abundant free time was all due to his overwhelming desire to finish everything he needed to have done as soon as he could do it, and that included moving confession hours to morning instead of early evening.
Matthew had been a priest at the local church of a small town in southern England going on four years. Having been raised by a religious zealot of a father, the word of God was practically all Matthew knew. He had never attended public school, instead going to a private Catholic academy and being shipped off to church camp every summer. His free time had consisted of memorizing the Bible and sitting with his older brother in their father’s study while he recited his sermons before Sunday mass. He’d always had a quiet life and had always kept to himself, and over time he trained himself to not feel any sort of sadness or to wonder at how it would feel to spend time with someone outside of church and live the proper life of a young adult.
Although, in a way, religion had been forced upon him, he’d always found it fascinating, even as a child. So when his father told him, rather than asked, that he would become a priest, Matthew found no qualms with the decision whatsoever. He’d never known sin so he never saw any reason to be regretful of his choice to pledge celibacy, and he loved what he did at the church because he knew that those who came to hear him preach came so as to be closer to the Lord.
Granted, more often than not he was the only one in the building if it wasn’t a Sunday or Wednesday evening. He liked the isolation, though. Because he had never had what one would call a social life, and despite his current small circle of acquaintances and even smaller amount of friends, he was quite inept in terms of people skills. A lot of the time, if the flow of regulars coming in for their penance or to send a prayer was slow, he would simply lock the doors of the church a few hours early and tidy up here and there, or just head home altogether.
This Monday just so happened to be one of those quiet days. No one had come in for confession, thus making him the only person to have been in the church since yesterday. It was only another half hour until he usually went to lock the doors, the sun no longer shining through the stained-glass windows lining the length of the building, the only lighting coming from the dozens of dim candles placed at the altar, though that was enough since the church was quite small. Matthew sighed, glancing around from in front of the altar, before walking a short distance to one of the pews a few rows back. He turned, sidling down the length of the bench before he was next to the wall and with a quiet huff, plopped down onto the seat, his legs immediately thanking him from standing and pacing restlessly for most of the day.
Matthew’s stomach rumbled quietly and he silently noted to stop by the convenient store down the street on his walk home and pick up one of those pre-made sub sandwiches, his desire to fix a proper dinner plummeting along with his wakefulness.
After a few minutes, he felt his tired eyes begin to droop and he leaned his head back against the wall to his left, the warmth of the room lulling him. He thought to himself that no harm would be done with a little nap on a peaceful day, especially when he had a fifteen minute walk in the cold facing him.
Matthew didn’t know how much time had past before the sudden creak of wood on old hinges startled him awake, his head gently bumping against the wall and a small snort coming out of him. He was confused as one usually is when they wake up abruptly from a nap, and instead of refreshed, he felt as if he had been knocked unconscious. Yawning, he wiped a hand down his face before the sound of a heavy door shutting reminded him that it had even opened. Matthew turned his head to look over his shoulder, his eyebrows rising in mild confusion and interest at the person standing in the middle aisle.
He was lean, blonde, and out of place, and Matthew was positive he had never set his eyes on him before. The man stood a few steps in front of the double doors of the entrance, his arms hanging at his sides and his head tilted sideways and up as he looked around the interior of the church. He was dressed in a dark gray button down and dark trousers, a leather jacket hugging his frame, and was probably a few years younger than Matthew’s twenty-nine. His expression was blank as he observed and he began a slow walk down the aisle, completely ignoring Matthew who continued to quietly sit only a few meters from the man and, for a moment, Matthew wondered if he even realized he was there. It wasn’t until the blonde had stopped in front of the pulpit with his hands in the pockets of his jeans that it occurred to Matthew that technically it was probably past church hours and he shouldn’t be in here.
Matthew swallowed nervously, so used to conversing with people he saw every day or so that he wasn’t quite sure how to handle the stranger. Honestly, there was no harm with him being in the church; Matthew was simply tired enough to act upon selfish whim.
“The, uh, church is closed now. Sorry.” Matthew said eloquently, his voice echoing in the quiet. He bit his bottom lip in wait of reply, the man making no inclination that he heard him. “It opens again a-”
“I don’t quite understand the idea of religion.” The stranger interrupted him, his head turning towards Matthew some though his gaze remained fixated on the statue of the crucified Christ. The light from the candles seemed to reflect off of his golden hair and it looked, for a moment, as if he had a halo. After a few seconds, his eyes flickered over to meet Matthew’s, and if he wasn’t nervous before, he was now. Something was lurking behind that sideways stare, something foreign to the priest but there all the same. “The door was unlocked. Sorry.”
Matthew arched an eyebrow and glanced at the entrance out of habit, the man still watching him when he looked back, “I see.” He stared down at his hands folded in his lap, unsure of what to say, before he remembered that the stranger had said something else. He raised his eyes to find the stranger turning around to face him, his head tilting to the other side and it seemed to Matthew as if he were calculating him, trying to work him out as he planned what to say. That thought worried Matthew a little, the next words to come out of his mouth spoken were with gradual hesitation. “What…do you not understand about religion?”
A small smile curved the edges of the man’s mouth as he took a step forward. “The cult that follows it.”
Any sense of pleasantry that Matthew had been putting up disappeared, the patient expectance on his face vanishing and was immediately replaced by a slight frown of annoyance. He didn’t have time for another non-believer to start degrading on his beliefs. “I was raised to respect differing opinions, so I do not mean it rudely when I say that I am sorry, but-”
A soundless breath of a laugh left the man’s open smile, but Matthew couldn’t tell if it was actual humor or if he was mocking him. “No, my apologies. I worded that poorly. I didn’t mean to offend you; the organization of religion just isn’t my cup of tea. I do find theology rather interesting, though.” The blonde was now standing at the entrance of the pew Matthew sat in, and leaned his hip again the back of the row in front. He crossed his arms loosely across his chest and continued to stare.
Matthew was growing steadily more uncomfortable and found himself gulping, his guard still up. “Our Lord does not judge one’s individual beliefs. If you have faith and repent your sins-”
“Again, I apologize, Father. Yes, it’s interesting, but I still don’t find it very tasteful to listen to.” He gave what seemed a sincere smile and Matthew frowned again.
The priest couldn’t exactly decide what the stranger wanted or why he continued to speak with him if he didn’t want to hear what he had to say, his motives well hidden. “You seem to have a problem with interruption.”
That garnered a hushed laugh, the man breaking eye contact to look down as he grinned widely. “Yes, it seems I do. I’d say I’m sorry but in all honesty, I think I missed that day of school.” Matthew found himself snorting in dry humor at the statement, sadly realizing that his sleepiness had gone away. “Tell me something, Father…”
“Father Matthew.” The way he said his name sounded like a caress and the priest was once again nervous. “Why must celibacy be practiced?”
Matthew’s eyes bulged in shock and he coughed, looking away from the stranger in sudden embarrassment. “I-I-I’m sorry…” He shook his head in an attempt to regain his thoughts.
“Did I catch you off guard?” The man’s voice almost seemed teasing.
“Yes, you did.” Matthew inhaled slowly. “Sins of the flesh tempt man, and with sin comes corruption. To be engaged in the practice of religion requires a pure mind and pure body.”
The man had begun to ease down the row, the backs of his knees gliding along the edge of the bench as he moved towards the priest. Matthew’s body was tense, his eyes trained on the figure closing in on him. He stopped about five feet away and sat down, both of his hands pressed together between his thighs and his head facing forward. “That’s a pity.”
“To some, yes.”
An awkward – to Matthew, at least – silence lasted between them for a few moments, the priest sitting ramrod straight in the pew, his back nearly facing the wall and his legs pressed together, hands clasped tightly atop his knees.
“So have you ever kissed someone?” The man’s calm voice cut into the silence and once again Matthew was too shocked by his forwardness to speak, his worry skyrocketing when he looked at him to find that he had drawn closer by no less than a foot.
“W-What?” Matthew paused, looking at him in near awe. “I… do not believe that is any of your business.”
The man smiled, another soundless laugh escaping. “So you’re a virgin and you’ve never kissed. That’s rather endearing.”
“W-wait. Hold on. What? Pardon?” Matthew’s blue eyes were wider than when he stumbled upon two teenagers having relations in the confession booth.
“I only assumed you were a virgin by how uptight you’ve been, but your reaction just then proved to me that I was right. Besides, your eyes have dilated since I’ve drawn closer and while I know I’m attractive, only a person who has denied himself for so long would react such a way unless you’ve wanted to fuck me for awhile.”
Matthew jerked his head back at his use of profanity, his expression nothing short of bewildered. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Really, I do not.” Matthew found himself glaring at the man and his cocky smile. “Why do you say I’ve never kissed someone?”
“Oh, so you’re telling me you have?”
“What? No. Yes. No, wait, no, it doesn’t matter because it’s none of your business.”
“You seem flustered.” His grin widened.
Matthew huffed. “I’m not normally. Who are you even?”
“What are you normally like? Dominic.”
“Does it matter?” Matthew cringed slightly at the venom behind his words. He sighed after a moment. “I… am sorry. You caught me off guard; I’m not used to being asked personal questions, Dominic.”
“I forgive you, Father.” Matthew registered movement in his peripheral and saw that Dominic was sliding closer. He swallowed tightly and found his eyes rising against his will to meet the blonde’s. “But I have to know…”
Matthew stared in near fright at the wide gray eyes less than an arm’s length away, a wicked light shining in them. “W-What?”
Dominic smiled softly and glanced down before returning his gaze, a pink tongue darting out to swipe across his bottom lip which he then sucked into his mouth. “Can you forgive me?”