Even down the middle of the street the snow was thick, so much so that Felix fell more than once as he floundered through the sea of white. He hadn't noticed it, but hot tears were streaming down his face, even as the snow blew in his eyes, and the winds tried to blow him back.
He couldn't go back though. Every part of him screamed that he was doing the wrong thing. But how could he have stayed there? He couldn't take being the center of such pain, and not having the hatred he so deserved, she simply shouldn't be allowed to forgive him for that.
But she had... And if only he hadn't made so many, terrible, painful mistakes, maybe he would still be with her at this moment. Maybe he would still be holding her. Maybe he could have made her stop crying… Maybe he could have told her what she meant to him...
Felix all but threw himself against the Inn door, bringing a large amount of snow with him as he stumbled into the warmth and light of the hotel. His friends were all sitting around a large table eating and speaking to one another, it looked as if Piers and Agatio were addressing the whole group. He closed the door firmly behind himself, and kept his head down as he made for the stairs, but he was less than half way when Ivan noticed him and spoke up.
"Felix, what happened?" The young adept called,
"Are you okay?" Garet shouted from the far end of the table.
"Is everything alright?" Mia asked as he didn't look up.
Felix slammed the stair-door against the questions, not needing to be pestered at the moment as he took the stairs two at a time down. At the second wooden door, he paused a moment before opening it and striding into the sleeping area.
He swallowed a few times as he looked around the comfortable room, not really seeing the orderly beds and the chests up against the walls. Tears he hadn't felt form blurring his vision as he could feel himself falling apart.
'What have I done?'
Piers looked around the room, the others all but mirroring his expression.
Maria had caught her bottom lip between her teeth and was ringing her apron with both hands nervously, Agatio biting the inside of his cheek questioningly. Ivan and Garet seemed at a loss for words as Sheba and Mia looked worried. Jenna looked like she was somewhere between worried and angry at being ignored, and Isaac had that determined look in his eyes again.
"What do you suppose happened between them?" Kraden asked after a moment, the sage pushing his spectacles up the bridge of his nose with one finger, and Ivan looked at him and shrugged.
"Judging by Felix's mood just now; something bad." He answered quietly. "Looks like there are a few things they need to settle?" He asked, directing the question at Piers. The Mariner nodded.
"A few might be putting it lightly." Agatio said flatly, frowning at the same time.
"Should we try and talk to him?" Garet asked, Isaac was quiet for a moment,
"I think Jenna, Piers, Agatio and I should speak with him." The Venusian said. And although he seemed a bit wary as he named Agatio, there were no arguments.
"One at a time?" Kraden asked, and Piers nodded again.
"That might be the best way to approach this."
No more tears. This time Karst really had no more tears. She wanted to cry, and cry, and just drown in her own sorrow. But her reservoir was empty. The waters she had been storing up her entire life had been spent, but there was still more pain inside.
Blinding, terrible pain, the kind that left her feeling cold and dead inside, was running through her, almost as badly as the winds ripping through the house. She should close the door. If she didn't then all the snow would pile in the frame, and it would melt and it would be a huge mess to clean up. If she could clean it up at all. It felt as if she were frozen in place, the winds encasing her in ice. She could break through it, if she tried, if she'd had the will too try.
But it just didn't feel like she did anymore...
"How can we help you if you won't tell us anything?"
"I don't want your help."
"Felix, don't be stupid about this."
For what? For Menardi's death? For Jupiter Lighthouse? For the Wise-one's tricks? What was he sorry for?
Was he sorry for not loving her?
Was he sorry that she had nothing left?
"Why don't you mind your own business?"
"This is my business!"
She stood, she didn't know how she managed it, but she stood. Her legs didn't want to work as she stumbled over to the door. Going simply by memory as her eyes wouldn't focus properly.
Her foot caught on something and she fell forwards, not having the breath to cry out as she hit the floor. She reached on hand out to find what she'd tripped on,
It was his scarf.
"You're my brother and they're your friends! Now let us help you!"
"Jenna, just shut up!"
When had he taken it off? She couldn't remember him removing it when he'd come inside.
Her fingers slipped in-between the folds of the soft green wool; it no longer held any warmth as she moved to stand. The winds stealing what trace amounts that could have remained inside.
He was going to come back for it. Or one of his friends might. He could send Jenna to retrieve it for him. Then again he might just forget about it, it didn't matter.
Karst reached out and grasped the handle of the door, finally bringing herself to swing it closed.
The sound of it slamming shut echoed in her ears. A lonely sound mirrored in the bottom of her heart.
"Are you willing to lose this girl?"
"Go to hell, Isaac."
"I'm serious. Is that really what you want?"
"Go back now, or live the rest of your life alone and filled with regret. Those are your options. Make your choice."
Karst had felt every fire in the small house mimic her emotions when she had been shouting at Felix. She walked over to the stove woodenly, where before she had placed the small kettle… The bronze was blackened and its shape warped.
It had fallen through to the coals when other piece of metal which formed the stove had simply melted before the flames died. The embers were now cold as if they had never been.
Still no tears.
"Lad, will you not reconsider this act?" Felix glanced up at the Elder's voice; the old man had settled himself down on the bed in front of him, he was sitting on the corner of the farthest bed, staying away from the door. When Felix chose to remain silent, he heard the old man sigh.
"Your friends will not give up until you go back." He said, and Felix kept his eyes down. It wasn't even worth arguing about anymore. The Proxian sat quietly for a few minutes, allowing the silence to grow before he spoke again.
"I have done about all that I can for the moment, Felix." He said regrettably, and made to stand, Felix watching him through his bangs. He'd always trusted the Elder while he had lived in Prox, and had never known him to lean so heavily on the cane he now required.
'The Elder had an attack of the heart and almost died! Why did you think he needs that cane now?' Karst's words echoed over and over in his mind, Felix just couldn't push her voice from his head. The Elder's frailty was another wrong he'd done the community. Maybe now he was searching for ways to feel bad, but he still felt useless for what had happened at the Lighthouses.
"I've caused her too much pain already..." He muttered, albeit reluctantly, but he still spoke. The Elder paused, half-standing, before easing himself back down with a small grunt, and adjusted the thin spectacles he wore to get a better look at Felix.
"Decided to speak have we?" He asked gently, and Felix looked away again.
"It would be better for everyone if I just left Prox. For real this time." The Elder pursed his lips at this, taking the time to think, and nodding slightly.
"Very well. I shall inform your friends that you wish to be off at the soonest possible date." He said in a light tone. "At the most you should have to remain here another day or so. Your ship's repairs should be finished by tomorrow after-noon." Felix nodded, not feeling at all better about this though. There was another period of silence between the two of them.
"I have but one request." The Proxian spoke after a moment, Felix remaining silent. The Elder licked on lip as he sat there, spinning his cane between two aged and wrinkled hands. A nearby lantern shedding the only light, the yellow reflecting off of his eye-glasses in a way that made the crimson orbs appear golden like the sun.
"You say it would be better for everyone if you left, and did not return." Another pause. "Who, exactly, is it better for?" Felix blinked, and dared a glance at the old man. In the dim light he seemed so much older than he should be.
"Marci has been nothing more than an empty shell, since Saturos, Gods be gracious, was taken from us. Having you back in the village has helped her tremendously, and seeing you leave shall bring neither her, nor myself, any joy." Felix closed his eyes at the Elder's words, and waited for him to continue without speaking.
"You've become a, hero, of sorts, with the younger people in the village. With so many losses in recent years, the village's youth has been without that for some time. They will be sad to see the backs of you and your companions." The Elder seemed to be baiting Felix to say something, but the Adept kept himself quiet. The old man sighed again, and rubbed one hand across his forehead for a moment, before addressing the Slayer once more.
"It will break her." He stated, and Felix tried to keep himself from looking up, but couldn't, and the Elder smiled slightly as he met the younger man's eyes.
"Karst will not last like that, if you care for her, you will go back." Felix closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"I do not care for Karst..." He said quietly, it took a moment, before the Elder's head came up, narrow eyes questioning as Felix looked away again.
"I love her..."
Karst just sat there at the table, one elbow resting on the aged surface. One hand over her eyes, even though she still couldn't weep, the fingers of her other hand fiddling numbly with the edge of Felix's scarf on the table. She would have felt stupid for apparently obsessing over the ratty old thing, but her mind was still blank from before, and she just didn't care. Two candles were lit; one near the fire pit on the other side of the room, and another in front of her, the only forms of light in the house. Nothing was burning in the stove or any fire-places in the home, anything larger than a finger-flame would pick up on her mood and flicker out.
It was cold inside, very cold. But try as she might, as she was now, Karst couldn't get the air to warm. In fact, she even had to keep her attention away from the candles. If she focused too deeply, even those small flames would die. The wind was still gusting outside. And Karst was just waiting for the roof to collapse, or one of the windows to burst, just to make her evening complete.
Karst looked up as she heard something outside, not feeling any real drive, but still. She blinked as she heard the handle rattle, and almost stood as the door opened, snow being carried in as the wind reached inside to steal what little warmth remained. The thick oak swung back a moment later, cutting out the storm, even as lightning lit the room.
Karst knew who it was instantly, and felt the candles, small as they were, grow dim with her own dread. She eased herself back down into her chair, and her eyes rested on the scarf next to her. Without a word, she reached over and pushed the garment away from her. When it was an arm's length away, she removed her hand, folding it in her lap, and sat straight in her chair, eyes focused on a spot on the table. It seemed stupid that he'd come back just for a scarf, but she didn't want to think on the other possibility.
Felix took a few steps forward, he seemed hesitant, but his confidence appeared too grow the closer he came. Karst expected him to stop at the edge and take the scarf, maybe stand there a moment longer, or say something, before ending the unease and leaving. Leaving, and letting her get on with her miserable life.
But he didn't.
Felix's steps were quiet on the wooden floors although she had expected his heavy boots to make more of an impression. Karst kept her eyes on a knot on the table-top, keeping herself from looking at him. She stayed strong as he passed the scarf and knelt next to her chair, but she had to close her eyes as she felt his hand on her cheek, gently turning her face towards him.
Karst felt herself tense as his lips brushed up against hers in a chaste kiss. Felix moving his hand from her cheek, down slightly to her jaw, his mouth hovered just over hers for a moment, and Karst could feel the warmth coming off of him, made more noticeable by the cold air. He remained like that, as if waiting to see if she would pull away, before moving in again, and this time Karst let herself kiss him back.
"I don't deserve you, Karst..." He whispered, breaking the second kiss and pulling away slightly, "I really don't... But, if you'll have me..." Karst placed her hand in the way as he tried to kiss her again, and she opened her eyes so that she could see into his earthen ones.
She swallowed slightly as she felt the warmth of his breath against her fingers. She moved her hand away slightly; and gently ran the tip of her finger along the line of his lips, all the while holding his eyes with hers.
He tried to move forward again, and this time she stood up. Felix blinked as she turned away and began walking, quickly getting to his feet and following her. Karst heard his foot-steps as she walked into the spare room, purposely shutting the door in his face.
"I'm not leaving." His voice was muffled from behind the wood, but Karst couldn't keep herself from listening to him. She leaned back against the door, unable to see in the darkness, and not sure weather or not to reply. "I'm sorry, Karst." He said, and she closed her eyes again. The silence stretched between them, and Karst couldn't help but ask herself why he had come back, after running out like he had.
"I'll wait all night if I have to." She blinked twice as she heard shuffling on the other side of the door, but after a moment all was quiet. Karst stood there for a few minutes, still unable to ignore the cold air, biting through her sweater. She rubbed her arms and sank down with her back against the door, knowing full-well that Felix could hear her on the other side.
"Why are you here?" She finally asked, tracing one finger over her lips, her question was met with silence from the other side, and she even thought he wasn't going to answer.
"I'm not making the same mistake twice."
"And what does that mean?" Silence again. Longer this time, the only sign that he was still there was the slight rustling outside as he shifted.
"I left without saying something important last time. I'm not doing that again." He Answered simply, and this time Karst was the one who remained silent.
"That was Jenna at the Inn." Karst's eyes widened slightly, her mind truly beginning to wake up again.
"What...?" She asked softly, when he didn't answer, she asked again, louder,
"...That girl I was holding at the Inn earlier. That was Jenna. My sister." Karst felt something strange taking shape inside of her, that thing that had died stirring again.
"...Yes?" She tried to keep her voice from faltering, as she felt the smallest amounts of excitement bubbling up inside of her.
"That's not what I came to say..." He sounded worried, almost like he was dreading what was coming next. Out of self-defense, Karst crushed that hope fluttering in her stomach. Hope seemed meant to be broken, and she wasn't going to volunteer for more pain tonight.
"I've made so many mistakes, Karst... Done so many stupid things, things you know I'd take back in an instant." He said, and she wrapped her arms around her knees as she listened, "I don't want losing you to be one of those things, Karst." She turned her head to the side, a thoughtful expression on her face, unwillingly allowing that hope to play with her thoughts, making her believe that...
"Karst... I love you..."
'What?' Karst's eyes went wide in the darkness, had he just...? Or was she simply...?
"What did you say?" She breathed; her voice hoarse, had she fallen asleep? The silence before his answer was deafening, her breathing became shallow as her heart pounded in her throat. But finally,
"...I love you."
There was silence on both sides now. Karst found herself wrapped up in some kind of warmth, so much of that former pain slipping away for the moment, replaced with something that seemed to warm her on all levels. All her worries and doubts she'd held inside seemed to drift away, leaving that hope free to blossom. A smile slowly curled her lips, a smile of simple joy.
Outside the storm continued to blow around the village, dumping snow and ice over everything, and burying the roads to the north and south. The homes with fires burning brightly and keeping them warm became chill; meaning the panes of Karst's house became frosted on the inside, ice collecting all around the sink even, as the winds continued to scream outside.
But the cold never touched the two sleeping figures on the floor, each content and safe in the presence of each other. Never needing fear a storm alone again.
Title: Of Fire Ice and Stone.
Genres: Romance, Drama.
Main characters: Felix, Karst.
Length: 19 official chapters. Total 89,152 words in length.
Review Count: 66
Inspirational Songs: Nobody's Home- Avril Lavign, Slipped Away- Avril Lavign, Fall to Pieces- Avril Lavign, Prox Town Theme- Camelot.
Published: June 30th, 2004
Completed: October 2nd, 2004
Edit/Rewrite Completion date: February 22nd, 2006