by: Stephanie L. Watson (SLWatson)
Beta: Karen R. Walker (Serris)
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Disney.
Notes: It's all character piece. That's what I write... character pieces.
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"And if you'll look at subsection seven-two-nine-five-eight-three point six, you'll notice that the phrasing obviously doesn't allow for any contingencies. Now, this certainly has to be rectified before this bill can proceed..."
Politicians. It was amazing that a room could hold representatives from every corner of the galaxy and still be completely devoid of life. The droning had gone on for hours, deep into the night, and it was almost scary that these people could argue for that long over whether each delegate should be allotted two parking spaces instead of one in the parking deck of the Galactic Senate.
Why he signed up for this was beyond him.
Buzz managed to keep himself from rubbing at his eyes, but he failed miserably to stifle a yawn. For the first two hours, he'd stood at attention on his side of the door. Then he'd gone into parade rest for another hour. Then he'd crossed his arms and paced for some time, and finally, he'd given up trying to be professional and leaned against the wall.
Not that they'd care anyway. The politicians were doing their favorite thing -- arguing obscure, meaningless words on silly pieces of paper, and generally being... well, politicians.
He glanced over at Mira. She looked back at him after a moment, and gave a halfhearted smile. "And people wonder why I don't want to be a princess."
"If this is the kind of thing you have to do, I don't blame you." Buzz shook his head, halfway wishing someone would attack. Maybe it wasn't the best thing to think, but that would mean that he wouldn't be bored brain-dead. "Why're you here?"
"Need the overtime." She shrugged, then rubbed her eyes. "My rent's due and I have pay for my transit pass this month."
He resisted the urge to ask her why she didn't just ask her father to pay it -- Mira was determined to make her own way, no outside help, and asking that would be asking for an argument. Now, while he normally didn't mind arguing with her (hey, it was kind of fun), he wasn't up for a battle of wits. So he just nodded.
"What about you?" she asked, after a moment.
"Nothing better to do," he replied, yawning again. Maybe the politicians were using all of the oxygen up in their pointless debate. "If I would have known they'd take this long, I would have just clocked out and gone home."
"At least they figured out who was going to do the catering from now on." Mira smirked slightly, then looked over again. "Why don't you take the next patrol? Get a fresh breath of air."
Buzz resisted the urge to agree -- afterall, he had a job to do. "Nah, I'm fine."
"Oh, just do it," she half-snapped.
He gave her a glare, and she matched it relentlessly. There weren't very many people in the universe willing to do that, and if his willpower hadn't been sapped from being in close proximity to so much red tape (ranger's worst enemy, that red tape) he might have even won. But she was stubborn, and after an entire minute of posturing, he sighed, "All right, fine."
Buzz rolled his eyes and walked out. He hated that -- must be a princess thing, her having to get her way on things, no one else did that, nope, even Booster and XR backed off, but not Mira, oh no. He was still a little irritated as he walked past the rangers guarding the hallway doors, but it had pretty much worn off by the time he stepped outside.
It was cold out.
And he forgot about the politicians.
The snow fell steadily, a virtual whiteout on Capital Planet. The streets were already covered, the steps were slippery, and even though his armor protected him from the worst of the air's bite, he shivered anyway... just not from the cold.
It was the first snow.
Buzz didn't notice things like that, not like he used to. He just didn't have the time -- there was always something to do. Work, mostly, out there among the stars protecting the citizens from evildoers abound, and by the time he bothered to stop working, he was tired out and wanted nothing more than to go home and sleep and then get up and do it all over again. That was his entire life.
His boots marked the white. An inch and a half or so, must have started about an hour ago. The first snow.
He was about five when the whole ritual started. His bedtime was religiously nine o'clock; no arguing, no begging, and it didn't matter what was on television. But, sometime not too long before his sixth birthday, it started.
Seemed more like a dream now. His grandmother waking him up, making him get all bundled up till he was practically a mummy, and it was only after he was outside that he was actually awake enough to realize how late it was.
How cool was that? There he was, just like a grown-up, up real late.
Buzz smiled to himself and kicked the snow on the bottom step of the Senate building. It was the light, powdery kind of snow, not the packing stuff.
Nana had been strange like that. He didn't get it when he was a kid -- he just knew that it was really neat, her waking him up for the first snow, and how they would walk one block up and two over, and go to the all night coffee shop. She'd get a cup of coffee (how do grown-ups drink that stuff, anyway?) and he'd get a piece of pie or a donut or something sweet.
It was a long walk for a five-year old (almost six, thank you very much), but he could do it. And then they walked back home, and the next morning, it seemed like a dream again.
The snow crunched, the only sound in the bitter air. He turned around and walked backwards a few paces; his bootprints were the only things on the ground, nothing but bootprints and white.
She did that every year after that -- woke him up and they would walk to the coffee shop, leaving behind nothing but two sets of footprints. The next year, it was almost Christmas, and the year after that, it was almost his birthday, and the year after that it was Christmas Eve. He remembered that one, too, because they walked past the church, all lit up, and people were singing inside. His Nana had stopped for a moment to listen, and in his mind he has the clearest mental picture of her standing in front of the big stone church with the light coming from the stained glass windows and the voices of so many people singing.
The memory makes him smile again; he has a good memory, better than most, and out of so many pictures it was one of his fondest. Back then, he'd wanted to hurry up and get to the coffee shop, because they made a killer peanut-butter pie. Now, he wished he would have stayed there longer.
But time goes by pretty fast. One year... what was he, thirteen? No, almost thirteen. And shorter than most of the girls in his class, which really sucked. But one year, he didn't want to walk three city blocks in the middle of a cold night, so he asked her if they could wait until morning. Nana never pushed anything, so she agreed, but if he would have known that they would never walk the first snow again, he would have never asked not to.
He shook his head, crossing around the corner of the building.
Life kept going; it always does. High school, chasing after the girls who were still pretty tall (or maybe he was always on the short side... nah, that wasn't it), hanging out with his friends and generally just being a kid. Eventually, he forgot all about waking up late at night to the first snow.
When he was sixteen, Buzz discovered why adults like coffee. And when he was twenty, a rookie ranger, he discovered that he absolutely couldn't start the day without it.
Or, for that matter, end the day. And, at the end of the graveyard shift, he found himself in his grandmother's kitchen with a cup of coffee and the morning sun in the window.
He stepped around the back of the building, squinted into the shadows, but the world was silent -- in the middle of the city, surrounded by people, there was nothing but the sound of his footfalls and the snow hitting the ground.
It was on one of those many mornings that Buzz remembered their walks in the snow, and figured it all out for the first time.
She wanted him to see it. She wanted to take her grandson out and show him the world transformed, covered in white, unmarked and new.
He had made a mental note then to come back home for the first snow, but he hadn't. Instead, he'd ended up working a double shift (Warp had conned him out of half his paycheck and he had to pay the rent somehow), and by the time that he realized that the first snow was there, it was already muddied by vehicles and trampled by people.
The light at the corner of the Senate building cut through the whiteout, and for only a moment, he paused long enough to look up and watch the snow flakes fall.
There was always some reason. Life's like that... you get so caught up in the day to day that seasons all become blurred together and the world moves so fast. He was twenty-four... craters, how long ago was that?... when he realized that if he didn't stop, if only for a moment, he might forget. And he didn't want to forget.
So he'd watched the forecast intensely, waiting, and when the weather guy said they were due for two inches, he made sure he had the night off. Dragged out his civilian coat, a good pair of socks, gloves, boots, got all decked out for a walk in the cold. Looking back a few years more than a decade, it still seemed to have that whole dreamlike quality to it.
Of course, some of the sheer wonder had worn off -- by that point, Buzz wasn't even a rookie; he was a ranger out on his own, working doubles to start earning the down payment to the house he lives in now, and settled into the role of adulthood. But not all of it wore off.
Come to think of it, not even most of it.
He hadn't really been perturbed when his Nana shook her head and told him to go ahead without her. Afterall, how could he blame her? He shows up in the middle of the night, it's cold out and it had been so long since she'd gone walking the first snow. And, of course, there was always next year.
So he'd stepped back out onto the road, but he didn't walk the whole way, just stopped under a street lamp and looked up to watch the snow fall.
There wasn't a next year.
She was never old; she never seemed old, not even then, just sort of tired. And she never complained either; not about how she was feeling run down, or about how her arms or legs would keep falling asleep. Maybe if she had, he would have had a clue.
But no clue. And there he was, just blissfully unaware, had his twenty-fifth birthday, and a couple of weeks later, found out the truth. The month after that was... well, foggy at best. Even with a good memory, Buzz couldn't quite piece together that time. All he knew was that he went through that whole thing, the denial and anger and bargaining and eventually wore himself into the ground.
Looking back, though, it somehow seemed right that the last memory he has of them walking in the snow together to that little all-night coffee shop wasn't tainted by the knowledge of what would come in the future. That when it happened, it wasn't the last time, that there was always next year.
That on that walk, they had all the time in the world, never imagining that it would be the last.
A world transformed, covered in white, unmarked and new.
"There you are." Mira startled him out of his... well, what was it? Reminiscing? Something. She stepped over, rubbing at the tops of her arms. "They're finished... are you all right?"
"Hm? Yeah." Buzz cursed himself for a moment -- great, getting caught by someone while he looks like a genuine air head. He smirked, but stifled it quickly and started for the Starcruiser. "How many parking spaces?"
"Two. I can't believe it took them that long to decide." She shook her head, sighing in exasperation, "I was expecting to be found in a century with cobwebs hanging off of my skeleton and them still arguing about it!"
"Politicians. Can't live with them, can't let them defend themselves."
"Or kill them," Mira muttered under her breath, then smiled innocently when he gave her the 'you shouldn't be saying things like that, it's not proper for a ranger' look. She changed the subject before he could launch into one of his many Lightyear-lectures, "So, what were you thinking about?"
Buzz resisted the first urge, which was to tell her to mind her own business, and went with one of the straightforward thoughts. "That I want a cup of coffee."
"Uh huh," she answered, doubtfully, but added, "We're not on the board, if you want to stop at Cosmo's on the way back to Star Command."
He thought about it for a moment or two, steps slowing a little. He wasn't too far off from where he would have been, if life might have turned out a little different -- if his grandmother were still there, and if he'd only paused for a few minutes to appreciate things, and lessons learned, and the stained-glass windows and the sound of voices and snow. "Actually," he said, stopping in his tracks, "if you'll take the cruiser back, I'll just catch a cab from here."
Mira's eyebrows drew together. "Where are you going?"
Buzz looked down the road and the whiteout snow fall, thinking that maybe, it seemed a little bit like a dream. A world transformed. He only took a moment to look back at her, giving her a brief smile and a shrug.
"For a walk."