The basic idea I had when creating this series was to make a place to stick all my story ideas that were either too short or too underdeveloped to stand alone, each inspired by a specific song. I more or less stole this idea from the superbly talented Scribbler, and her collection As Deep as the Sky, though I made the premise significantly easier for myself by choosing the song in advance and not giving myself a time limit on getting the story down. I own nothing.
Feist- 1 2 3 4
If his better judgment hadn't emphatically told him otherwise, he wouldn't have believed that there was a distinction between ground and sky. Equally eternal and pale, the two seemed to swirl and shimmer together, forming an irrevocable union between the flat and solid and eerily intangible.
And snowflakes, those were a mystery in on themselves. He couldn't see the individual flakes fall, they were too dainty and delicate to distinguish clearly, but with every passing moment he could see the deceptively heavy mounds on his shoulders climbing, sticking to his heavy coat and resisting every attempt he made to brush them off.
He could see Mokuba, or rather, feel him—like a warm vein of unadulterated syrupy sugar that leeched through the icy and empty gulf between them. Just watching him practically bounce down the sidewalk, desperately trying to contain his excitement, Seto felt unbearably old. Here he was, buried in scarves, floor-length jackets, thick leather gloves, anything to keep the cold at bay, while beside him, mere feet away, it was if Mokuba didn't even notice the cold. Didn't feel it. His cheeks were flushed, eyes shining like spots of stars in the night sky, but he smiled, as if wading through deathly-cold torrents of wind and miniature mountains of snow was the best and most exhilarating way he could ever think of to spend his time.
Which, Seto supposed, it was. After all, he had asked to go. It had been a dignified, straight-backed, looking you unabashedly right in the eye kind of request, but Seto hadn't failed to notice the fireworks that went off in his eyes when he had complied.
And so here they were, making their way through the largely empty and snow-saturated streets like a couple of misguided pilgrims on their own secret and sacred mission—on their way to the apex of everything large, loud, and utterly childish that he could possibly imagine. He could only cringe at the thought of masses of unruly children, hopped up on sugar and a shocking paucity of parental supervision, falling all over themselves on the ice and pushing the little ones around. And to think that Mokuba wanted to plunge himself into that, that festering mob of chaos; when he made the suggestion Seto had just barely kept himself from turning his brother over to some kind of neurological specialist.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Mokuba?" The words pushed themselves out before he had had time to stop them; it hadn't been his intention to verbally question Mokuba's decision. But it seemed that with each step they took they came that much closer to not being able to turn back before it was too late, and his anxiety was mounting.
"I'm positive, Seto. Trust me, it's going to be great." Seto smiled weakly when he saw that there had been no need for Mokuba to speak, the steadfastness in the nod of his head, the balling of his fists, and hard, strong steps had all the resolution of a clock striking out the hour. There was clearly no deterring him now. Seto sighed, a faint hum of resignation, and pulled his scarf tighter around his neck.
He watched as Mokuba didn't walk, but skipped through the continually amounting heaps of snow, reveling in the deep, definitive crunch that his boots made as they sunk into the crumbling crystalline piles that littered the streets like discarded newspapers. Seto brushed the snow from his hair, but that didn't stop it from falling.
They heard the ice skating rink before they saw it. A cheery blend of laughter and pop music illuminated the usually quiet afternoon air like a lone light left on in a dark, empty room. Once his target was in sight, Mokuba bulleted towards the entrance, pelted across the street and— scarcely checking for oncoming cars—disappeared through the entrance. As Seto followed him through the steamy double doors, he could see that his boots, as cumbersome as they were, had hardly left footprints. It was as if his feet had scarcely touched the ground.
The small sliver of space around the perimeter of the rink was packed tight with people, all glowing like dozens of tiny lights as they giggled over steamy mugs of hot chocolate or laced their boots. In the few second gap between their respective entrances, Mokuba seemed to have ingrained himself completely in the crowd, becoming a part of their collective smiles, cheers, jubilations. Seto scanned the throng tenaciously, peeling his eyes for the form that he could have recognized with his eyes closed but now, in this mob, seemed completely invisible to him. The music swarmed like a pestering insect around him, the people kept moving closer, spilling themselves all over him like the snow coating the rink, covering his clothes and his skin, and still Mokuba was nowhere to be found. It was as if he had completely disappeared.
"Hey, Kaiba, I think someone here might be looking for you." Seto spun around, shocked to see his brother in the charge of Katsuya Jonouchi, who was smiling sheepishly up at him as he handed his brother over.
"S-sorry, Seto," Mokuba stuttered, afraid to entirely meet his brother's eyes lest they melt him. He cringed slightly as Seto scrutinized him as if desperately searching for something that he couldn't find.
"Where did you get those?" Seto gestured towards the heavy, industrial looking ice skates that were gripped in Mokuba's hands, their bulk making them look immense in his delicate grasp.
"Over there." He pointed towards a booth up against the side of the wall where dozens of pairs of ice skates were dangling like skinned animals.
"Are you sure they'll fit?"
Mokuba nodded earnestly and Seto saw that same resolution reflected in his eyes, sincere and certain. "Yeah, I checked and everything." His face erupted in a cautious smile, only to have it evaporate an instant later when he saw that frown that was blossoming on Seto's.
"Whatever. Come on, then." He reached out his arm to lead Mokuba away, but he avoided it as he made his way over to a bench to lace his boots. Seto examined his arm for a moment, extending uselessly into nothing, before turning away and following him.
"Thank you, Jonouchi!" Mokuba called as he sat himself down, and for an instant Jonouchi thought that he saw something odd flicker over Seto's face, like a match that only flamed for a second before being dissolved by darkness.
Seto sat down next to Mokuba on the hard, plastic bench after brushing away more bunches of freshly-fallen snow. He watched as Mokuba eagerly laced his boots, pulling the thick, swollen strings tight with his nimble figures. "Do you need any help?" Seto wondered listlessly, not genuinely expecting a satisfactory answer.
Mokuba shook his head, his excitement building up again like a gurgling spring. "No, thanks, Seto. I'm good." He looked up at his brother's face, wavering for a moment on the shore as if he were gingerly testing uncertain waters. "Are you going to skate, too?"
"No." Seto shook his head and drew his coat tighter around his shoulders. Despite his most ardent efforts, the cold always seemed to find a way in. He kneaded his hands, desperately trying to bring warmth back to his fingertips.
Mokuba shrugged, slightly disappointed. "Well, just in case you change your mind," he handed Seto a paper ticket. "It's so you can get skates, too. If you want."
Seto nodded, delicately grasping the square of paper between his heavily gloved and numb fingers. The two stood together, Seto following Mokuba to the entrance to the skating rink. Seto watched the other children closely, flinging themselves about the ice in apparent disorder. Tumbling over, their skin and clothes coated with ice, clinging to each other to keep from falling, all grinning, their smiles wide and exuberant. Mokuba seemed to recognize someone that he knew at the far end of the rink. A small gang of boys waved at him, summoning him over.
As Mokuba took his first, tremulous steps towards the ice, Seto could no longer battle back the question that had been blooming in his mind since Mokuba had first made his request. "Mokuba, have you ever been ice skating before?"
The question hung in an awkward silence between them for a few moments, before Mokuba bit his lower lip, grinned shyly, and replied, "No, but I think that I'll be able to figure it out." He reached out, gripped Seto's hand and shook it as if they were making a business deal. Then he laughed, sweet and high and pure, a laugh like the chime of a bell, synchronizing perfectly with the already present pulse of music and chatter that floated all around them.
And before Seto could bid him farewell, as if he were to partake in some grand and momentous adventure over uncharted waters, he was gone, a tiny scrap of cloth in the swirling mass all around him. Seto leaned against the fence and swatted at the snow on his shoulders. Occasionally he would catch a definitive glimpse of Mokuba through the crowds, a little uneasy on the ice at first but a quick learner.
The more Seto watched the skaters, the more they seemed to move as one immense being, equipped with its own pulse, voice, and soul. The snow fell on them all, and they ignored it. They let it rest on their eyelashes, glisten on their hair and hands and shoes, and they wore it like a second skin. Uncaring.
The snow fell on Jonouchi, who was standing mere feet from the gate that Seto hadn't dared to stray far from, playfully grinning as he gently pushed a girl, perhaps a few years younger than himself, out onto the ice. Against the hard icy backdrop their hair glowed like freshly fallen leaves, so bright and so bold that it made Seto feel like everything around them was gray— unnaturally striped of its color. He watched as she struggled a little on the ice, stumbling for her first few steps, wavering back and forth like a candle in the wind before finding her footing and taking off like a young bird to the center of the ice, disappearing like the others into the crowd.
He watched, partially concealed behind the high collar of his coat, as Jonouchi failed to integrate into the crowd like the others. He remained present, constant, and physical as he first watched his sister take off onto the ice, and became increasingly more so as he approached Seto, cheeks as flushed and ruddy as bright red brick.
"Looks like fun, doesn't it?"
"If it is, then why aren't you doing it?"
"Hah, knowing me, I'd probably fall over myself in five minutes."
Seto grunted, he certainly couldn't argue with that.
"You have a card, though. Aren't you going to skate?"
"No." Seto glanced briefly down at the ticket that Mokuba had given him and smiled sourly. "It's for kid's skates, anyway. I guess Mokuba wasn't paying attention." Jonouchi nodded and turned back to the ice, watching the skaters flash by like tiny scraps of paper. "What about her? Aren't you worried that she'll fall?"
Jonouchi shook his head and laughed, his face embossed with a wide, exuberant smile that made Seto feel like the sun had come out early. "Nah, Shizuka knows how to take care of herself." His wistful expression wavered for a moment when met with Seto's disdainful one, but thinking of his sister, with her hair flowing and skin glowing as she practically soared across the ice was a better defense against reproach than Seto's coat was against the cold. "Besides, even if she falls, so what? She knows how to get herself back up again."
Seto shook his head in silent amazement. He furiously shoved the snow off his shoulders and sighed, his words as weak as the gauzy cloud of breath that came from his mouth as he said them. "He doesn't need me anymore." He stamped at the ground. "And I can't feel my feet."
Jonouchi watched him for a few moments of barely contained amusement as Seto angrily swatted at the snow surrounding him as if it were causing him some great indignity, all the while evading his eyes and huffing haughtily at the sky.
"Y'know, Kaiba, you can thrash at it all you want, but you're not gonna be able to stop the snow from falling." Seto shot his eyes like arrows at Jonouchi's merry face—he was clearly enjoying this too much.
"Stop what?" He made an attempt to feign innocence, but his smile lurked like a hillside just barely discernable on a distant horizon.
"You're laughing at me."
"I'm not laughing at anybody. Maybe if you did it yourself once in a while you would be able to tell the difference." Despite his words, Seto could see that he was in fact, quite clearly, laughing. And from the looks of it, he was doing a very poor job keeping himself contained. His eyes bulged from his head like a lid put on a pot that was dangerously close to boiling over and his entire ribcage shook with suppressed snickering.
"What is so funny?"
"It's just—just that, have you ever even been in the snow before, Kaiba?"
"Of course I have." Despite his coolest tone, Jonouchi continued to convulse with silent laughter by his side. "What?"
"You—you certainly don't look like you ever have, that's all." Seto's eyes narrowed and he stiffened his back in agitation. For the next few minutes he devoted every fiber of his will to appearing as warm and untroubled as possible. However, he couldn't stop the almost involuntary flickers of his hand as it went to brush the snow away, couldn't stop himself from shivering as the cold sank into him. And Jonouchi's chuckling at him only made it worse.
Deciding it was time to take decisive action, despite every nerve in every one of his fingers telling him otherwise, Seto swiftly swept the surrounding snow into one giant, perfectly spherical globe and lobbed it as elegantly as he could directly at Jonouchi's overly smug face. He was instantly satisfied when he saw Jonouchi go reeling towards the ground, landing awkwardly on the icy earth. Seto smirked as he saw Jonouchi fumble on the slippery ground, strongly resembling a baby animal taking its first feeble steps.
"What's the matter, Jonouchi, can't get yourself up?"
Jonouchi gave him the most potent glare he could muster given the circumstances, then made a desperate lunge for the most stable-looking thing in the immediate vicinity—Seto's legs, effectively sending him spiraling to the ground. "What's the matter, Kaiba," he smugly sneered as he watched Seto thrash wildly on the ice and dirt as he tried to pick himself up. "Having trouble?"
"You're impossible." Seto muttered dangerously as he tried to find solid footing.
"I'm not the one who went around throwing snowballs at people."
"I'm not the one that was laughing like an idiot."
"Hey, uh, Seto, Jonouchi, are you guys alright?" Mokuba had returned, and was looking with bewilderment at the two of them as they grappled to regain the semblance of being dignified human beings.
"No, Mokuba, I'm just fine," Seto muttered bitterly as he managed to drag himself back up. "I'm afraid I can't say the same for this creature here." He gestured towards Jonouchi, who was at the moment just managing to rise to his feet as well. "Are you done?"
"Well, actually…it was just that I couldn't see you. I just wanted to know where you were." He smiled shyly. Without giving Seto a chance to reply, he took off again and was instantly reinitiated into his small band of friends who were still making their rounds around the rink.
"Well, there you go," Jonouchi chimed as he made it halfway through congenially slapping Seto on the shoulder before he was stopped by a dangerous glimmer in Seto's eyes that clearly said 'try that again and, so help me, I will skin you alive.' "He still needs you after all."
Seto snorted shortly as he turned pointedly away. "No one asked for your opinion."
The two stood in silence, Seto silently smiling, as they watched the skaters spinning by. The more he looked, the easier it was for Seto to find Mokuba in the mob, sliding smoothly across the ice as if he had been born there. He lost track of time as they stood there, watching their siblings whirling by in some eternal chaos. And the snow kept falling.