by Zoni

I love snow. Everything about it reminds me of how very fragile life is. Far above the earth, snowflakes are born into uncaring winds. They spend their lives drifting down to earth, precious moments spent dancing around their companions as they fall. Then, their lives are snuffed out of existence when they touch the warmth of the ground and finally find their home. Even when one single flake is stubborn enough to cling onto life, its desperation cannot keep it whole. Landing in piles and drifts along the brick pathways of a garden, that one flake is lost in a myriad of others until it melts. Their beauty, perfect as it is, is fleeting.

Every time that it snows, I come out and stand on my back patio to watch the flurries fall. This evening is no exception; the snow is simply a perfect ending to cap off a faultless day. Days that are not marred by the symptoms of my illness, the Thorns of Death, are few and far between. When not even work can dampen my spirits, I feel as though my life is somehow blessed, if only for a few hours until pain or stress return.

Today, work was pleasantly uneventful and routine. I have not once felt the sharp prick of the Thorns, reminding me of my eventual fate. Today has been as close to flawless as I have seen it in nearly a decade. This snow, the first of the year, has only made the day's perfection more apparent. I could not help but come outside to watch the snow fall on my garden.

At my back, the wooden door to my house swings open with an audible creak. With a click, it slides closed once more as Eric walks up behind me. Even through the blanket that he lays over my shoulders, I can feel the warmth of his hands. The quilt that I now have wrapped around me is warm, fresh from my own living room. Even so, having Eric there is more comforting to me than the coverlet. A smile slides easily across my lips as I lean back into his touch. His hands on my shoulders steady me as I rest against his chest.

Eric's voice is rough as he asks, "What were you thinking, coming out here without a coat? You're going to catch your death in this weather."

Raising my eyebrows in surprise at his wording, I turn my head to look at him. As soon as he sees my expression, the realization of what he said strikes home. His words are an uneasy reminder of the one thing that drives the tension between us at the worst of times. He curses at his own slip of the tongue, a mistake anyone could have made. "Sorry, I wasn't thinking. I didn't mean it like that."

"It's fine," I tell him. I mean it. Leaning back into his warm hold once more, I cannot be upset with him. A minor gaffe like that is nothing to fuss about. That is even truer when said of Eric. Everything that he does shows much he cares for me. Even just bringing this blanket out to cover my shoulders from the cold is a gesture of concern and affection, one that I greatly appreciate. He did not have to do that, and yet he did.

The Thorns of Death weigh on my mind even at the best of times. I would be deluding myself if I said that I was the only one who it affected. My illness eats away at Eric, too, making him worry. When the pain is too great for me to bear alone, he is always there to share my burden in any way that he can. That is why I do not complain if he hovers just a little too much, or if he dotes on me a bit too often. Those things are saved for when we are truly alone, away from our co-workers and the human souls that we collect.

Eric wraps his arms around me, pulling me closer and keeping me warm as we watch the flecks of white fall. The irony of my relationship with him is not lost on me, not by far. Fate has a cruel sense of humor, killing an immortal shinigami with an illness like the Thorns of Death. Equally poignant is the fact that my death has brought to me the very best thing that ever happened in my life. After all, my illness was what first brought the two of us together. In the beginning, Eric was nothing more than a concerned supervisor who worried about the welfare of one of his underlings. Now, he is the turning point around which much of my life revolves. Even work cannot overshadow the light that he has become, not when I am safe here at home in his arms.

A shaggy mop of blond hair obscures part of my vision as Eric leans his head against mine, enjoying the closeness. I am quite certain that Eric is suffering through the snowstorm only because he knows that I enjoy the weather. He hates the cold, but cold and wet are the worst possible combination for him. Next to taking out the trash, dreary weather is his most dreaded adversary. Considering his hatred of the two, I have to wonder why he works in the London office. Standing out here in the middle of the falling snow with me has to be torture. As I turn to look at him, though, the expression on his face is one of contentment. He is genuinely smiling, his breath leaving his lips in a pale fog.

The only sign of dissatisfaction that I can detect is the slightest frown of his brows as a snowflake lands on his skin. That small tell is amusing because it intensifies as the snow picks up, falling steadily around us. Tiny white crystals are sticking to his hair, eyebrows and even the goatee on his chin. The sight of his thick eyebrows twitching from the chill that clings to them is comical. My quiet laughter doubles when he reaches up, brushing some of the particles from his beard and wiggling his chin in the cold. At the sound of my laughter, he pulls back and arches one eyebrow skeptically. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing," I tell him, very unconvincingly. The response is so unimpressive that he grins, pressing a kiss to my forehead as I turn around to look at him. Ever so gently, he reaches up and brushes a snowflake from the tip of my nose with one broad thumb. Moments like this, quiet and comfortable, are something to be treasured. There is nothing that could be better than spending time with the person you love and knowing that they care for you. He has made my life richer, and I am a better person for it. Even without the words, I know that he feels the same. Those sentiments resound in everything that he does for me with each passing day.

Leaning up on my toes, I meet his lips in a sweet kiss. The caress lasts only a moment before I pull away, shivering into the blanket despite myself. Eric smiles, reaching up to ruffle my hair. He frowns when snowflakes in the strands chill his hand unexpectedly. Rather than comment on the weather, he makes a suggestion. "Come on, let's go back inside. I'll make you some hot cocoa."

"You'll do no such thing," I tell him, looking up at him in surprise. "You'll burn my kitchen down."

"Bullshit. I'm a great cook!" He insists, hands on my shoulders as he guides me back into the house.

Already forming a protest to his bold declaration, I let myself be led back into the house, where I will let him fix me something hot to drink. A smile still plays across my lips as we walk through the door. I cannot help but think that perhaps the snow falling outside is not so hopeless. After all, someone treasures it, even if only for a while.


Author's Notes: I walked home last night in the middle of a snow storm, and it struck me that Alan might really like snow. There are many parallels between it and him. I've been wanting to do something winter-y for these two anyway. :) Hope you enjoyed the fluff.