15


It may have been for the benefit of the students, training hard in 114 degree conditions. It could have been the simple act of seeing if it could be done. Or it could be that Shinigami, having one day grown tired of observing far off mountains, decided to take action before the memory of falling snow abandoned him completely. Regardless, it's not the fact that it snows in Death City, but the way nobody questions it that baffles Crona. How many times do you stare down the impossible before it becomes ordinary?

"It doesn't happen very often," Maka explains, standing at his shoulder, light jacket crinkling whenever she moves. Twin thermoses of tea warm their hands. "And never for more than a few days a year, usually around December and January. But professor Stein told me that one time, Shinigami-sama had it snow in the middle of summer."

Crona blinks. "He did?"

"Right." And then, leaning in closer in a rare moment of conspiracy, "And don't bring this up around Kid, because he'll deny it, but it was for his fourth birthday. The only thing he wanted was snow."

The idea that anyone would turn a desert city into a living snow globe for their child is not merely new to Crona, but unbelievable enough to border on the uncanny. He swirls his thermos, listens to the thick gulp of liquid within. "That was really nice of him."

There must have been some subtle inflection in his voice, some sign of it turning inward, because Maka changes the subject in that smooth fashion he admires in her.

"Hey! That reminds me. We've been friends for over a year, right?"

"R-right?"

"So," she says with a smile, tilting her head so he can see the snowflakes on her eyelashes. "I still don't know when your birthday is."

"Oh..." Crona takes a pull at the thermos, but does too quickly to let any liquid reach his tongue. He remembers the period of time spent recovering from Medusa's vector arrow, the catheterized wound in his torso. In a moment when his boredom had been high and morphine ration low, asking to see the medical file that Professor Stein frequently checked. Date of birth, location, blood type...over half of it had been blank spaces. Not applicable. "I don't know...I mean, I don't have one."

"Alright," Maka declares with a sweet simplicity that calls to mind herself in miniature, cheerfully erasing his line in the sand. "Then why not choose one?"

"What? Now?"

She laughs. "No, silly. Think it over first. Pick out any of the year and we'll celebrate it." And then, when he hesitates, "I promise we won't surprise you."

The realization of how well she knows him causes his face to heat up. "I don't know...it would be like lying, wouldn't it?"

"Of course not. Crona, the day you were born is only part of it. When people celebrate their birthdays, they're celebrating the fact that they're here. Aren't you happy you're here?"

A year ago, he knows exactly what he would have said to that. Maka knows it too.

So much can happen in a year.

"Yeah. I guess I am."

"Good." She takes his hand, gives it a brief, rough squeeze that makes his vision spin. "So am I."

By the time they get around to drinking, the snowflakes are slipping past the rims and melting in the tea, and Crona can't even feel them through the warmth that glides lazy circles in his stomach, just below his heart. To his surprise, it doesn't stay there, but radiates outward like the rays of the laughing sun are doing now, trying so hard to melt the snow.

Spicy, not sweet.

It hasn't stopped yet.


~END~