The door on the other side of the main room hung open, framing a dark shape that stood on the square of patio, inside a simple picket fence. In the summer, half a dozen poles supported birdfeeders and bird houses, and several bird baths sat on stands on the outside of the fence. Now, though, the snow drifted against the fence and the slumped figure of the man stood in snow past his ankles. His hands were shoved in his pockets, and his head was tipped to one side.
"Yo, George." Vincent gestured for Josh to stay in the doorway while he crossed the room that was lined with bookshelves. A long folding table filled the center of the room, covered with open books and notebooks, papers and sticky notes everywhere. "Aren't you cold?"
"Snow," the man said, his voice trembling enough to make it a three-syllable word.
"Yeah, it's been snowing."
"No, I was… I was Snow." A loud sigh escaped George and he turned around, shuffling a few steps. He hunched his shoulders more and looked around as if he couldn't understand how he had gotten outside. "Cold. Inside. Outside. I was…" Another sigh and he shrugged. His shoulders straightened as if a massive weight had fallen off them. "I was cold. Once. Before."
"Yeah, before." Vincent held out his hand, beckoning the battered shell of his former nemesis back inside. "Come on in before you catch cold. You know how you get when you're too sick to work, and you gotta fix something."
"Fixing is… fixing things helps fix me." He stepped into the spill of light from the doorway, a tentative smile just starting to curve his mouth. "Gotta work a long time." He glanced past Vincent, his eyes widening a little as his gaze landed on Josh. "Not to get forgiveness." His voice strengthened, grew steadier. "You can't earn forgiveness. Stupid to try. You know why?"
"No," Josh said, his voice soft. "Why?"
"Stupid to try to earn a gift that's already given to you." George ducked his head like a bashful toddler and gestured with both hands, spreading wide, at the table that looked like four men were studying there. "Gotta work hard to say thanks, not apologize."
"That's pretty smart."
"There's God smart and there's man smart." He grinned, his joy childlike and bright, wiping away the scars across his face, the sagging jowls, the sparse hair. "Be smart God's way, so who cares if men think you're -- think I'm -- stupid?"