Cold Lace

- - -

"I hate snow."

Karin looked up, her eyes filled with mild curiosity. Ever since their arrival in Yokohama, Atsuma had barely said a word. He'd been edgy and irritable the whole time, and quite frankly, it was beginning to get on Karin's nerves. There was work to be done and things to be ordered and fought and killed, and yet here was Atsuma, brooding like a silly child who didn't get his way.

Over what? Death?

Death never bothered Karin before, why should it bother anyone else?

"Has it ever snowed in Yokohama before?" She struck the flint on the small bundle of scrap wood, and a fire began instantly. Atsuma looked at her from beneath his eyebrows, his eyes glowing strangely in their respective colors. She snorted indignantly at the glare and looked away. "I'm just asking if you've ever seen snow before."

"Once. When I was little." Atsuma looked away and pulled his legs closer to his chest.

Karin opened her mouth to ask another question, but the glare Raigar was giving her told her to keep quiet. And for the next few minutes not a sound could be heard. The small room was void of any other life, human or golem, and snow permeated every nook and cranny until all sound was muted by cold lace. It was eerie, especially to Karin, who preferred a talkative group to a silent one.

"My parents took me to the mountains."

The statement came so quickly, and vanished just as fast, that Karin wasn't sure it had actually happened. She stared at him for a moment, hoping he would say more, but Atsuma kept quiet, staring at the ground in contemplation. Raigar sat down next to him and pulled out the provisions they had managed to scavenge from the plethora of empty storerooms.

"It was the most beautiful trip I'd ever taken…" Atsuma pressed a finger into the soft snow and began to draw strange images. He sighed and looked away again.

Karin opened her mouth to say something tart, but Raigar touched her hand and shook his head. She huffed out air but continued to stare at Atsuma. What was it about him? He was so childish and silly that it nearly drove her mad… conversely however… She watched as he stood up and walked to a broken window. She heard a breathy "Toya" fall from his lips.

Yokohama had changed him. He was becoming mature and adult-like… and all in the course of a few days. This desire and passion to find his friends was almost heart wrenching. She could see a plan being formed in the dark recesses of his mind and she sighed. He was going to do something stupid, she knew it.

Ignoring Raigar's stare, she stood up and went to the window. Atsuma looked at her briefly, and then back out the window. The silence that swarmed around them was disheartening, and Karin was ready to try anything to get him to talk again. Where had that silly, dumb Atsuma gone? She chewed on her lip for a moment before deciding to talk.

"You should raise your EX levels you know…"

He glared at her and turned away. "Why, so you can make fun of my dancing again?"

She covered her mouth to hide the smile that was peeling across her lips. It was a sight to see him dance; he'd never seemed to be quite coordinated enough. "No… of course not, Atsuma."

"Look, Karin, I'm not in the mood, okay?" He walked away from her again, saying nothing more. Karin snorted angrily and stomped back to the fire. She plopped down next to Raigar and crossed her hands over her chest as she watched Atsuma slip outside.

"What's his problem?"

"Lady Karin, if I may say so, you haven't exactly been very friendly to Atsuma." Raigar prodded at the fire and laid more wood on it. He refused to look her in the eyes, in fear that she would emotionally explode, as usual. "You've berated him, talked down to him, and have been exceptionally rude concerning the problem of his lost friends. I do not think teasing him is going to help either."

Karin didn't say anything, but stared at the fire.

"You must understand the loss of his friends impacted him in ways that we cannot understand. He has lost his parents and now his whole world, the only one he's ever known, has collapsed into a sea of ice." Raigar looked firmly at his lady until she looked up at him, confusion slipping into her gaze.

"His parents?"

"I could see it in his eyes when he talked about the snow… his parents must have died on that trip." He paused for a moment and looked to the door, as if expecting to see an angry Atsuma there. It was still empty. "We must be sensitive. Returning here will undoubtedly harm him in many ways."

Karin looked at the door and then at Raigar. With his nod of approval, she rose to her feet and walked outside. Atsuma was looking over the empty expanse of ice, whispering what sounded to be prayers in a tongue she didn't quite understand. He bowed his head silently and Karin watched as a tear fell from his saddened eyes.

A heartstring tugged at her and she stepped forward. "You know crying doesn't suit you very well." She leaned against the side of the building and watched as he turned around. He wiped the tears from his face and barely held back a low growl.

"I can't… I can't stop." More tears ran down his face and Atsuma looked away. "How did I let something like this happen? How could I lose Toya and Makoto…?" He rubbed his face with his hands and looked back at Karin. "I lost my best friends…"

Karin looked away and gently bit her lip. "I'm sorry." She felt stupid for saying something so common, but what else was she supposed to say? What else was she supposed to do?

Atsuma shook his head. "Don't be… Toya and Makoto would have wanted to die together. At least… at least they're in heaven together… if heaven exists." He reached down and picked up the snow in his hands before letting it fall back down to the ground. "I feel almost cursed…"

Karin continued to be silent as Atsuma continued speaking. Her chest felt warm and soft, as if he had somehow managed to work into her heart and was now building a home there. She looked away when silence came. How had he managed to touch her soul when no one had even gotten close for years? He was nothing more than a silly boy who didn't understand the greater workings of the world around him… and yet…

"Everyone I get close to dies… my parents. Toya. Makoto. I feel as though a curse is sweeping through my bones and nothing but ill fortune follows me…" He sighed and wiped the last few remnants of tears from his face. There was another long silence before Karin managed to cool her heart and look at Atsuma.

"Toya… he was a good friend?"

Atsuma let a small smile pass his face. "The best… but he loved Makoto. And although Makoto was annoying and over-protective, I thought they'd be together forever…" he let out a sour laugh. "I guess they are…"

"You don't have to beat yourself up. The ice queen was going to be released anyway… at least you survived… at least you get to avenge their deaths." She looked at him and forced a smile. "Tomorrow. Tomorrow we'll do what needs to be done, I promise."

Atsuma shook his head and smiled. "You never promise anything, Karin."

"You never listen to what I say." She gave his shoulder a slight punch and smiled back at him. "Come on. It's cold outside. At least there's a fire inside, Hot Head."

"What did you call me?"

"You heard!" Karin ran back into the small room, giggling at Atsuma chased after her. At least for now, everything seemed alright. Everything seemed to be safe and in its rightful place.

The cold lace falls to the ground, but warm hearts never feel it.

- - -

This really isn't supposed to be anything of great import. Just something I threw together while my boyfriend was playing Enchanted Arms. I like it, you don't have to. If anyone reads this that is. Thanks for your time.

Xaphrin