"The Winter and the Snow"

Summary: Kei's thoughts on Toya and Chiyuki some months after meeting Toya…

You said that as long as she was happy it didn't have to be you. But what if it does have to be you? You're willing to step aside, but are you willing to step up? If you are the only one who can make her happy will you do it? You think it would be selfish to tie her life to yours, to drag her with you into an uncertain future that is far too long for your liking. But isn't it more selfish not to? If being with you is the only thing that she wants isn't it selfish to keep it from her based on your own fears? If you can't know the future then shouldn't you be more concerned with the present? Isn't her happiness now a greater concern than the possibility of her unhappiness later? In trying to be selfless are you actually being selfish? In trying to protect her are you actually causing her pain?

She loves you. I hate to admit it, but she does. When she looks at you it is different than when she looks at anyone else. It's different than when she looks at me. It isn't the softness in her eyes, because she looks softly at everyone. It isn't the smile that steals across her face, because that is always there. It isn't anything that I can define or that can be physically measured. But it is there, a certain air of difference, a feeling that says "this one is special. This boy is everything." I would give anything to have that look directed at me, but it is reserved only for you. And you have to notice it. How could you not? She's given you every sign: loyalty, devotion, inclusion into every aspect of her life. I asked her to the beach once and do you know, even knowing I disliked you, her first thought was to invite you along? And then, because she wasn't certain you would like the beach, she wanted to change where we were going as well. Her every thought is centered on you, even without her realizing it.

You love her. You've been careful to keep it from her, quickly covering tender moments and gestures with cutting remarks and mocking mannerisms. You've not been so careful with the rest of us. "As long as she's happy, it doesn't have to be me." That remark was nothing if not telling. Because a friend might care only for her happiness, but only someone who loved her would include the second phrase. It leaves the unspoken understanding that you wish it could be you. I've seen the way you look at her. It's just how she looks at you, and yet, it's not at all like the way she looks at you, because in her the difference is subtle, but in you it is so blatant. When she isn't looking your scowl fades away and the harshness of your gaze is replaced by soft warmth. I've seen you reach for her, only to pull away before she could notice. I've seen how your eyes are trained on her whenever she is near and how they follow her when she walks away. I've seen the way your every mannerism changes when you are alone. I cannot forget the image of you leaning near to untangle her hair, gently encasing her with your arms and allowing her to cling to you - you, who won't let another human being even touch you. I've seen you run to prevent her from the smallest injury; I've heard the unrestrained panic in your voice when you fear something might be wrong. And I've seen the pain in your eyes when you force yourself to let her go, to not get too close, to let another take your place if only for a moment.

Selfless. You're willing to give up what you want for what you think she needs.

Selfish. You refuse to give her what she wants because you don't think she understands what it will mean.

And I can't really figure it out. It's obvious that you love her - that you want to be with her. It's obvious that she loves you and wants to be with you. Watching the two of you together is like watching some sappy romance scene in a chick flick. It makes me so jealous my stomach turns. So why do you try to keep your distance? Why deny yourself what you both want? It's a struggle, I know. I've watched you rankle at the sight of Satsuki's blatant admiration of her. Watched you fight with him, and the next moment force yourself to step away and leave them be. I've seen Chiyuki 's face when she notices. She wants you to react, she wants you to stop him, she wants you to reach for her. And you want to do so, more than anything you want to. But you won't allow yourself to, as if you don't feel you have the right. She would give you that right, if you would allow her.

Why won't you?

Are you selflessly keeping her from making a mistake? Or are you selfishly keeping yourself from deeper pain? Would being with her be worse than loving her in secret? Do you really think she could hate you someday? That a hundred or two hundred or even a thousand years could so alter her character that it would be possible for her to know hatred? Are you protecting her from a life you fear will be full of pain? Are you keeping her from the melancholy of outliving all she knows? Are you saving her from the life you wish you did not have to live? Or are you saving yourself seeing her tears with each friend passed on? Are you protecting yourself from a future in which she might loathe what was once a blessing and gift? Are you protecting yourself from the pain of hearing the woman you love wish for death?

Perhaps you are doing both. After all, like so many other things, selfish and selfless are merely a matter of perspective, of degree, and the line between them is thinnest when it comes to those we love. All my life my family thought my care for Chiyuki was selfless, but it was pure selfishness. I wanted to be with her so that I would become her everything. I wanted to save her so that she wouldn't leave me. I wanted to take care of her so that she would love me. I helped her for my sake. So it isn't hard to understand that you might hurt her for hers.

You are selfish in your selflessness – tearing away her choice to make yours easier. And you are selfless in your selfishness – putting aside what you desire to spare you both more pain. And who's to say it would be better some other way? Who can tell you what choice you should make?

And yet… and yet…

It isn't wrong to want her if that is what you both want. It isn't selfish to let her enjoy you just because you would enjoy it too. It isn't selfish to want to hold on when she doesn't want to be let go. It isn't selfish to love her.

And is it still selfless to spare her uncertain future when it spares you pain? And is it selfless to allow her the love of others when it eases your own guilt from pushing her away? Is it selfless to make her smile when that smile makes every breath you take worth while? Is it selfless to refuse her?

Yes. And no.

Selfless to give her the chance to be happy with another; selfish to refuse to provide her happiness out of fear that you won't be able to make it remain. Selfless to go outside your comfort zone to comfort her; selfish to stop short of what she really needs because you'll get hurt if you let her come too close. Selfless, and selfish. For her sake, and yet for your own. For her happiness, for your fears. Because she deserves better, because you can't bear worse. You'll let her come so close and no closer; you keep yourself so far and no farther. Always giving, but never giving quite enough.

And why? Is it more for her, or more for yourself? Or is there no longer any difference at all?

Selfless and selfish… they're not even a breath apart, as intertwined as the winter and the snow.

Author's note: A little drabble for Valentine's Day. I like to occasionally do an outsiders perspective on a pairing that can't seem to get it together. This doesn't express quite what I want it to, but I don't really have the time to rework it. If it seems a little repetitive that's the reason why. It just struck me how Toya thinks he's giving Chiyuki up for her sake, but it's really for his as well. He's afraid she won't be happy with him forever, so he isn't willing to give it a try. On the one hand he's saving her from a life he doesn't want to live. On the other hand, she wants to live it, so shouldn't he let her? You can see both of their sides in the manga, and you feel bad for them. Send a review