Title:: Footprints in the Snow

Author:: Lokaia

Rating:: PG

Summary:: Slash, Jake/Tobias. Just a day at home, with memories and bad TV.

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You know there's absolutely nothing on TV at three in the afternoon? I guess it's because that's when kids get out of school.

Wow. 'Kids'. It's weird that I don't think of myself as one anymore. Not because I'm particularly old. I haven't thought of myself as a kid since the war began.

It's nice to get some of those kid years back, though.

"OHHHH WHO LIVES IN A PINEAPPLE UNDER THE SEA? SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!"

Yup. Talking sponges are good for age-regression.

It was only about ten minutes into the program before a large, red blur dove in through my window, coming to perch on my tattered old couch. I acknowledged Tobias' entry with a nod before returning my attention to Patrick's latest stupid comment.

((You always watch such sophisticated programs, Jake?)) he asked wryly.

"Always," I replied, allowing myself to smile a little. Lately only two people were really able to make me smile, or laugh, anymore. Tobias was one of them.

Marco was the other, but it was a little more difficult to contact him. Stuff like that happened when two best friends lived on seperate sides of the world.

I mean, honestly, what idiot decided Marco should have his own TV show? Scott Browning. I only met the guy -once- and I already hate him. Marco said Browning originally wanted him to do a show on the war. Yeah. A weekly reminder of our childhood hell. Sounds like it'd hit the top of the charts, huh?

Surprisingly enough, Marco is a sort of marketing genius. He produces and directs Normalicy Defined--a show about, shocking, a superhero. Your generic "fell in a puddle of radioactive goop and now fights evil with the help of his human friends" plotline. Oddly enough, the main character bears a striking resemblance to Marco himself.

Of course, he only laughs when I tell him that and calls it a coincidence.

Anyway, the show is freakishly popular in Japan, so Marco moved. I think he wanted out of the town we all grew up in, too. Too many memories.

Cassie left just a little after he did. Got a job in South America with a branch of the Peace Corps that works on environmental awareness. Helping out the natives, I guess. We don't talk that much anymore. Letters, sure, every once in a while but no where near as close as Marco and I still are.

Ax is gone, of course. Back home. Andalites still aren't really liking the idea of joining forces with humans, but he's working on them. Tobias, Marco, Cassie and I are contacted from time to time to answer questions and sort of mediate between Andalites and humans. Yeah, that's right, we've met world leaders. Marco and Cassie were pretty excited, Tobias was pretty apathetic, and I was just pretty nervous. Of course, by now, we've done it so often it's more of a pain than anything.

((Jake? Jake? Earth to Jake, come in, Jake.))

I started, turning my eyes from the blurring forms of Mr. Krabs and Squidward. I looked up into Tobias' glaring hawk eyes and realized I'd been idly brushing his feathers with my knuckles. I blinked. "Huh?"

He laughed, silent in my head. ((Eloquent. I asked you what you were doing for dinner.))

"Oh." I rubbed my eyes with a hand and swallowed back a yawn. "I don't know. Make something, I guess. I think I've got a frozen pizza in the freezer." I glanced at him again, running my fingers down his chest feathers. "Why? You staying over?"

He began preening, what I've come to realize as his bird-version of shrugging. ((I'll stay for dinner, but I've got to get back to my territory. This eagle's been checking it out. Think I'll kick his ass tonight.))

I laughed out loud at that, stifling it when the hawk glare became a hawk -GLARE-. I cleared my throat, turning my eyes back to the TV in what I'm sure was the picture of innocence. "Right. Well, uh... maybe I'll stop by and help you out."

((The -hell- you will,)) he snapped, glaring again. ((I can handle it myself.))

"Uh-huh. I remember the last time you 'handled yourself' against an eagle. How long did I have to watch over your territory that time? Two weeks? Three?"

He turned away. ((Oh, shut up.))

I smiled, petting a wing. "Stay for dinner. I'll go with you afterwards and I won't help unless you're bleeding and lying on the ground unconscious." I grinned. "Sound good?"

He didn't reply, but he didn't leave either, which is a hawk's way of saying a reluctant 'fine'. Well, one hawk's anyway.

As soon as SpongeBob and Sandy had stopped arguing about the correct punctuation of 'karate', I put a pizza in the oven. Once it was ready, Tobias morphed to human and we ate. I morphed to peregrine afterwards, and he went back to redtail. I followed him out the window and to his territory.

Everyone else is gone. Tobias stays because he likes his territory. Because the war isn't hell for him. I mean, it is. He lost a lot.

But he gained more.

Rachel almost did him in. He thought about leaving, I know he did. Leaving and never coming back. And I know he blamed me, mostly because he told me he did. We spent a long time fighting about anything and everything before one day...

We just accepted it.

Rachel was gone. The war was over. We'd spend the rest of our lives being hounded by media--and not only media from Earth, mind you. The majority of his family was gone, and mine was too. Those that were still alive had moved.

But he stayed. He stayed for himself, for the life he had.

And me?

I stayed for him.