Author's Note: This is a sequel to "The Mountain Inn". It is much darker than that one, so keep that in mind. I am uploading all of the chapters of this fic all at once so there is no wait and no blackmailing for comments. You're welcome.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, but I did write the story myself, so the blame falls solely on my shoulders!
Horo hummed a little to himself. Standing in front of the store racks, he flipped through the CDs. Horrible. Horrible. Oh, he did like that one song she did for the movie about that ship that sank.
"Is there anything I can help you find, sir?" A girl with multi-colored highlights in her hair and a piercing in her eyebrow had come towards him while he was looking at music. Looking up, Horo returned the smile that the salesgirl was giving him.
"Nope! Just looking. Though, be honest: I don't even have a CD player quite yet anyway. I've got some tapes though," Horo said with a chuckle, every the one to find small talk easy.
The girl looked at him with wide eyes. "Wow! Are you serious? Have you been, I don't know, living under a rock or something? Tape decks haven't been in style in a real long time."
Horo just snickered as he rubbed the back of his head. "Man, it must seem like that, huh? When I got my tape player as a kid, it was already a little old. I guess I could have just waited for something better, but I figured it would take a while at least before something replaced it. But then, next thing I know, almost as soon as I get comfortable getting tapes these 'compact disks' are the next big thing, apparently. I'm a teenager, sure, but I feel really behind the times."
"No kidding," the girl said with an understanding nod before adding, " and it's only just recently gotten worse. To be blunt, even CDs aren't as popular as they used to be. In fact, I wager for the most part they're on their way out, too. This is what will probably be replacing them in a few years," she said, handing Horo was looked to be one of the gift cards the store would sell, though this one had a different company name labeled on it.
Horo looked at it in confusion, not entirely sure what one was supposed to do with it. "What exactly is this? Does it have music in it or something? Don't tell me the next big thing is a scanner that can read these things? It kind of looks like a credit card."
"That's very close. See, it's a gift card, but not for the store. It's for this website here. If you got to this website, you can download whatever song you want for practically nothing. It's much cheaper than buying a whole CD full of songs you might not even like. It's probably a lot cheaper than even tapes I would think. Because you'd only be paying to download the songs you like, you'll be able to buy a lot more songs."
Horo thought about it and his face lit up. "Really? Things really have changed! That sounds really cool. How do I get my tape deck to do this 'download'? I don't think my brand has a download button. Then again, it is a little on the old side. Will a CD player I buy have a 'download' button?" Horo asked, cocking his head a bit. The CD players he had seen in the store were much sleeker and modern looking than his old tape player, so he just figured that they would be able "download" music, even though he was not exactly sure what that meant.
The girl just laughed for a moment, thinking that the blue-haired teen was joking. Then, she realized he was be very honest. Her laughing died down as she gave him a weak smile. " By download I meant, you know…at a computer?"
Instead of being embarrassed or upset, Horo just laughed after a moment of silence. "I definitely don't have something like a computer. Those things cost an arm and a leg and I need to be able to travel light. I have to tell you, this new way of getting music is pretty confusing, even if it is supposed to be cheaper," he said, crossing his arms over his chest as he nodded knowingly, "I suppose there isn't much need for a new music system when there isn't anything wrong with my tape player."
The salesgirl nodded in agreement, as a fellow music lover not as a store representative. "A lot of hard-core music junkies swear by the older technology anyway. They say the digital sound is too processed for them to enjoy. I get where it is they're coming from. Whenever I hear music on tape, it definitely gives me a nostalgic feeling, so I don't see a problem in you not wanting to switch with the times. As long as you're happy, right?"
Horo smiled, nodding his head. "That's true. My tapes do remind me a little bit of home. It might even be because they sound old and grainy and just despite that," he said before looking over to the side at the store clock, sighing. "But you know, I would be even happier if the person I'm waiting for would hurry and show. We were supposed to meet up almost fifteen minutes ago…"
"Oh man, that's not good. By the way you're dressed up… is it a date or something? I mean, if you don't mind me asking," she asked curiously. The store was a little slow anyway, so it was not as if she had much better to do.
" Actually, these are just my normal clothes. I'm from up north so I guess my clothes aren't exactly all the rage down here. And, well, it isn't really much of a date, though I did have to beg and plead to get him to agree to meet me."
"Oh, it's a guy? So, an estranged friend or something? We all get those when we grow older. You should make sure not to loose him now that you've got him!" She encouraged.
Horo threw her a grin. She had no idea just how much to heart he intended to take her words. "Believe me, I don't intend to let him go anyway," he said. A moment later, hearing the familiar bell ring as the door to the CD shop were opened, Horo turned around to see who had just entered. "Speak of the devil," he muttered as he said a good-bye to the salesgirl, walking towards the front of the store, hands in his pocket.
"So, finally decided to show up, huh, Ren? What took you so long? Actually, better question, why are you dressed up like that? I know it's a little chilly outside, but you can't possibly be that sensitive to the cold," he said, trying hard not to laugh.
Indeed, Ren looked more like he was dressed for the cold of Hokkaido instead of the pleasant chill of the city. He had on a hat pulled down low, a scarf that covered up half his face, a thick jacket , gloves and boots. If it were not for his golden eyes glaring out at him, even Horo would not have been able to recognize him.
"Shut up. Let's go," Ren just snapped as he turned to walk out without another word. Horo waved goodbye to the salesgirl once more before slipping his own scarf around his neck and following after Ren He called out for Ren to slow down as he jugged to catch up to him. Even though Ren was being curt, Horo could tell he was not really angry from the look in his eyes. Had they been alone in that store, he doubted that Ren could have been so abrupt. Then again, had they been in the store alone, Horo doubted that he would have given Ren the chance to say anything. That was a thought that make Horo grin inwardly.
Putting that idea out of his mind, he caught up to Ren. "So, are you going to answer my question? Why are you dressed like that? Do you have a cold or something?" He asked, genuinely worried as he reached out for Ren's hand. Ren moved his hand away when he felt Horo's touch.
Ren just shrugged his shoulders, the jacket just barely moving around his slender frame. He was looking away, looking embarrassed. "I just don't want people to see us together and get the wrong idea."
"If it's true, I don't think it can be considered a 'wrong idea', Ren. At that point I think you call a 'good idea'. This is a date," Horo said, in a tone that left no room for argument.
"This is not a date!" Ren interjected, the scarf falling down a bit, revealing pink cheeks. It was probably from the cold, but Horo told himself it was a blush. After a moment, Ren composed himself as he huffed, looking away, jamming his gloved hands into his pockets. "You're such an idiot. I tell you repeatedly this is not a date, but you keep calling it that. I can't tell which one of us more crazy. You for thinking this little meeting is a date or me for actually agreeing to meet up with you at all."
Horo's hands trembled as he restrained the huge to just give Ren a hug. Whenever he got all worked up, he couldn't help but imagine Ren as a little tiger on a rampage. He would never tell anyone about that little guilty pleasure.
"Well, look at it this way, Ren: if we're both crazy, then we make an even better match than we already do!"
Ren just looked up at him incredulously. "You really are an idiot," he murmured as he pulled the scarf up, covering most of his face. His insult seemed half-hearted at best. They walked in silence for quite some time, walking away from the busy parts of the city towards the park. The plan had been originally to meet up for something to eat, an activity Horo liked to do regardless of the situation. Despite the unannounced change of plans, Horo did not bother to remind Ren of the unofficial itinerary. On dates, he was told, it was better to let things progress naturally. Even though he would never admit to it, for the time being, he would let Ren take the lead.
There was a silence between them, but it was comfortable. Reaching out, Horo attempted once more to take Ren's hand. This time, Ren did not pull away. Hand-in-hand, they walked through the deserted park, only the sound of wind filling the night air. Ren squeezed Horo's hand as he moved to walk closer to him. Both of their hearts raced.
It was only when they onto the old wooden bridge over the lake did Ren picked up speed, his hand pulling away from Horo. Quickly walking, he got a few meters ahead before he stopped, his fists clenched to his side. Despite the difference, Horo could see his fists were trembling. "I don't understand you at all," he mumbled out from behind his scarf. His back was to Horo, shoulders raised defensively.
Horo stopped in his tracks as he looked at Ren, a little taken aback. "What was that?" he asked slowly, able to sense that something was upsetting Ren. He hoped he had not done something to upset him.
Ren suddenly spun around, looking so angry his whole body seemed to be lightly trembling. "I said: I don't understand you at all, you damned idiot!" This time he was screaming, his whole face screwed up in anger.
The blue-haired youth was pretty sure that Ren had elaborated his words the second time around, but knew better than to say so, not when Ren looked so upset. "What about me do you not understand? Aren't you the one always telling me I'm simple?" Horo tried to reason with him, walking towards him slowly, hands reaching out for Ren. He wanted to know what he had done to set Ren off so badly. He had thought things were going well between them.
Clenching his jaw, Ren walked over to the side of the bridge, leaning against the wooden railing. The old wood swayed slightly under his hands. "What I don't understand is all of this. Ever since what happened at that inn. Ever since we got back, you've been calling me several times a day, trying to ask me out on a stupid date all because you're too stupid to understand when you're being ignored. And then…and then when I finally agree to meet up with you on this ridiculous farce, you don't even seem to care enough to stop chatting up total strangers!"
Horo was taken aback, Ren's words sending his mind reeling. Was Ren finally admitting that they were on a date? No, better yet, was he admitting to actually being jealous? Walking towards him, Horo shook his head. "Ren, you've got it all wrong. It wasn't as if I was flirting with her. We were just talking about music, that's all. I was waiting for you and she just asked me if I needed help. Honest, Ren, I wasn't doing anything stupid like flirting. But, to be honest," he muttered, scratching his cheek a bit as he looked away, "It makes me a little happy to think you were jealous."
Ren was silent for several moments, face unreadable, one gloved hand coming up to cover his mouth, fingers practically digging into his skin. Inside his mind, he was berating himself. Why had he suddenly said so much? Did he have no verbal filter? Sure, he had been a little irked when he had seen Horo smiling and chatting so openly with that salesgirl, but he had rationalized away that budding jealousy. She was just probably selling that idiot something. It was just common practice. Even if Ren was the type to be jealous, which he wasn't, there was nothing for him to be jealous over. He was a rational person.
There was no reason for him to be jealous, he knew that, but as soon as he had stepped onto that bridge, he felt as if his heart was overflowing with emotions he did not understand. He had started saying so many embarrassing things and had been unable to stop. It scared him. More and more words kept rushing to his mouths and he found himself mumbling against his hand when he snapped out of his reverie.
The longer he tried to keep the words from coming out, the louder the pounding in his head became. He had been so busy trying to keep himself from getting sick that he had not even realized that Horo had begun to walk towards him. It was only when he felt surprisingly warm hands cup his cheek did Ren look up and really look at Horo.
Horo had been worried when he had seen the expression on Ren's face. He did not look well. It was not even the expression of anger anymore. Ren almost looked scared. "Ren, maybe we should go someplace a little warmer? I think you really might be sick," he said softly, moving his hand up to Ren's forehead.
Almost as if he had been shocked, Ren suddenly pulled away from Horo, falling back against the wooden railing of the bridge. Ren knew that he was probably yelling something, but the only sound that rang in his ear was the deafening sound of the railing giving way. The splintering of wood was drowning out anything else for Ren.
As soon as Horo had realized what was happening, he made a rush for Ren. Had they really been standing so far? Was he always so slow at running? Fingertips just lightly brushing passed each other. Horo was screaming for Ren as the golden-eyed teen fell back into the freezing darkness down below, quickly disappearing from sight as columns of water splashed up in his wake.
Without another thought, Horo jumped into the lake after him. The cold of the water was biting his skin. It was hard to think. His muscles were seizing. Scared to lose sight of Ren. Scared to lose Ren. Scared.
How Horo had managed to grab a hold of Ren's still body and drag them both to land, he had no idea. Panting loudly, he fell onto the ground, wet sand clinging to his cheek. His whole body felt so numb that he was hardly aware of the fact that his arms were still around Ren.
He suddenly sat up, pushing Ren onto his back so he could check to make sure he was still breathing. He was sure Ren had not been in the water long enough to actually drown, but Ren had been unusually still in the lake. He could be in shock. Horo could have already been too late.
Ren was not breathing. Horo's heart sank before it steeled. Taking a deep breath, he pressed his lips against Ren's, breathing air into his lungs. One, two, three, four, breathe. One, two, three, four, breathe. Horo only stopped when Ren's eyes opened and the shorter youth began to sputter, coughing up water.
"Ren… I-" Horo did not get a chance to really say any of the thousands of things he wanted to because the feel of Ren running his fingers through his hair sent all thoughts scurrying out of his mind. By the time Ren's lips pressed against his, Horo was not able to think straight.
Both of their lips were cold.