So this is my first shot on a completely Mabi story. Please go ahead and review. It's 3 in the morning, so forgive me if there are any mistakes.

I was wondering around Tara. I had just traded in the Heat Crystals I bought in Taillteann for some Ducats at the Trading Post. It was already four in the afternoon, my personal deadline while trading. I hate going on trading trips during the night. I can't see those blasted bandits too well. My assistant can pick them out, but he freaks on me whenever one's too close. I hate it when my imp freaks out on me.

Well, back to my wandering around in Tara… As usual, the first place I went to, and the first place I would reach mind you, was the Jousting Arena. Finally, a place of some warmth. Yeah, it was cold. Winter had already set it in and it was still a few more weeks before spring would take over. I tug my clothes closer to my thin body. It was times like these that I hate being a woman. Almost all the winter clothes available come in skirts.

I was wearing this year's special winter clothes in blue and white. At least it reached to my knees and covered my shoulders. I wore my usual blue fur-trimmed shoes and got myself some gloves to keep my fingers from freezing over. Yes, it was that cold. I also got myself some nifty earmuffs. But even with all those warmth-giving clothes, I was still cold.

"Aiyannah!" a familiar voice called as soon as I stepped into the arena. Almost immediately, the temperature rose a few degrees, much to my relief. I pulled down my earmuffs and removed my mittens. "It's nice to see you again Aya!"

As I tucked my mittens into my pockets, I smiled back at the blonde. "Yea, it's been quite a while huh?"

Lileas nodded. Though she was still clad in her usual shirt and skirt, she at least had the sense to get herself into some legwarmers and gloves. I've got to hand it to her, she has nerves of steel. Maybe the long days spent in the Arena had turned her into a boy. I nodded to myself. That must be it. It's the testosterone.

"Wow, you're as read as a tomato!" she giggled as she came running to me. She reached up and placed her gloved hands on my flushed cheeks. That felt good. Another giggle came from the younger girl. "What brings you here to Tara this time around?" she asked.

I gently removed her hands from my cheeks, still smiling. "Nothing really. I just needed to drop some things of at the Trading Post. I might stay in town for the night though, it's getting pretty late."

"Well, you know you're always welcome to stay at my place," Lileas told me. Yup, we were close like that. I didn't spend most of my time at the Arena, but my pathetic attempts to joust have been a source of her merriment. I didn't know whether or not it was a good thing or a bad thing. I shrugged. At least the kid was happy.

"Aw, I can't always stay at your place Lilieas," I said. Every time I would have to stay in Tara, I always found myself staying over at Lileas' place. "Maybe if I hurry I can reach Taillteann before dark…" I thought out loud.

Lileas gasped in shock. "No, no, no," she said as she shook her head. "I want you to stay tonight."

I raised an eyebrow. "Why?"

The blonde's gaze fell to the ground as she began to kick a few pebbles about. "I… To keep my brother company. The Tournament's tonight, so I might spend the night at a nearer house."

My eyebrows went higher. "Your brother said it was alright?"

She continued kicking away pebbles. "Um, not yet. I was planning to tell him later, but I can't leave the Arena anymore…"

I sighed. I knew where this was going. "Fine, I'll tell your brother and try to get him not to flip," I told her. I widened my dark purple eyes as Lileas launched herself at me and hugged me tightly.

"Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!" she squealed. I managed to slide my arms out of her hug and patted the girl on the head. She was just like a little sister.

"Alright, alright, let me go. I still have to tell your brother, right?"

Immediately, she let go of me. Almost pushed me away actually. "Hurry, hurry, before night falls. He might worry. You know how he is," she laughed as she waved me off.

Laughing, I nodded in agreement. Her brother, the ever hardworking Alpin. They had lost their parents at an early age and were left in their grandfather's care. When their grandfather died, Alpin took on the responsibility of taking care of Lileas and earning some money for their daily needs. Alpin had worked in several shops as a part-timer, but now he worked as a full-time gardener in the Castle. He got decent money from the job, and with Lileas' job at the Arena, they were financially stable.

The Castle was quite far from the Arena. Walking all the way was out of the question, so I whistled, and just as always, my trusty steed came running to me. My horse is a black and white Shire I fondly call Licorice. "Come on girl, you know the way to the castle," I purred into her ear as I got myself settled on the saddle. I lightly kicked her side and she was off.

We made good time when we reached the castle. The sun had barely moved from its position when I arrived at the Jousting Arena. I got off Licorice and patted her head. I gave her an apple as a sign of thanks and told her off. I walked up the pathway and said my greetings to the guards on duty. Kindly enough, they greeted me back with sincerity, unlike some of the guards I had come across in the past.

When I got in, I immediately headed for the Garden, where Alpin always was, rain or shine, hail or storm, snow or lightning. Though I was a little reluctant to leave the warmth of the Hall, I had to, for Lileas' sake. The Garden was on the second floor, meaning I had to go out and around, into another hall and out to the Garden. Gods, I hate big buildings.

"I can join the Fashion Contest too you know!" I winced at the sharp, high-pitched voice, and upon seeing the siblings, my head immediately began to hurt. They were at it, again. Will they ever stop? I don't think so.

So I avoided them. There was no use in getting between them. I had honestly tried and all I got in return were ears that would not function as good as they used to. Their constant blabbering had forever damaged my poor, sensitive ears.

Speaking of ears, they were going cold again. I put on my earmuffs and put on my mittens. I could see my breath condense right before me one moment, then gone the next.

The second floor of the castle was as warm as the first, if not a tad bit cooler. I didn't even bother to remove my mitts and muffs. I'd have to put them on later anyway.

"Hey Aineah." The said woman turned and waved hello while smiling, only to frown at the mess I had made. The snow that came in with me had melted and was now a puddle of water. "Sorry 'bout that," I chuckled.

She sighed. "It can't be helped. The snow's been falling for quite some time now… You think the Tournament would be cancelled?"

I shook my head. "Nah," I answered, waving my hand. "It's just some light snow fall. Nothing a jouster couldn't handle."

"Is that why you're all bundled up while the competitors wear nothing but cold metal?"

Oh, she did not just do that. "Is Alpin still outside?" Hopefully, she wouldn't notice how I changed the subject.

She didn't. "Yes, as always," she exasperatedly sighed. "I really wonder how he does that, staying out there that long in his regular clothes… He could get sick…" she thought out loud. I could feel her eyes follow me as I head out again. "Be nice to him Aiyannah, the flowers are all frozen over, so he's a bit down."

"Will do," I told her as I opened the large double doors. Snow came in, making me laugh as Aineah grumbled.

Aineah wasn't exaggerating about the plants. I have never been to the Garden during winter and the sight before me was a bit… bleak. I once went to visit Alpin during autumn, but at least during those times the plants had a bit of color, even though it was mostly orange, brown, red and yellow. Winter, though, had turned the whole thing into black and white. The trees and bushes were leafless and flowerless while the grass was covered by snow. Poor Alpin…

"Alpin? Where are you Alpin?" I called out as I walked into the snow-covered Garden. He wasn't at his usual spot, leaving me clueless as to where he might have been. "Hey Alpin, it's me, Aya." I love my name, but I hate how long it was. That was why most people call me Aya. They didn't like how long it was too.

Finally, I caught sight of blonde hair and immediately, the familiar sensation of butterflies filled my stomach. "How have you been Aya?" I heard him ask in his usual friendly voice.

I turned to the right and saw him coming from one of the stairs that led to an overlooking of the town. "There you are," I sighed, smiling. "I'm fine. And you?" I met him halfway.

He smiled and rubbed the back of his neck. "Fine, but I can't say the same for the plants."

"Yeah… What a downer." I widened my eyes as he ran a gloved hand through my silver hair.

"I know, but that's not what you're here for, are you?"

I shook my head. "Lileas is asking permission to stay over at a friend's house tonight and I'm asking permission to stay over at your place."

"It's the Tournament isn't it?" he sighed. I nodded. "Well, it can't be helped." I shrugged. "Maybe we should head home. I can leave early this season since… well…"

"If it's really alright," I told him.

He shook his head. "It's no problem. You're more than welcome at our house." He sneezed and I narrowed my eyes at him. "It's nothing Aiyannah. Nothing at all. Just the cold getting to me."

I held his gaze for a few more seconds before letting it slide. "Come on, let's go." Alpin's house was not that far from the castle, so we walked all the way. On the way home, he kept on sneezing and sneezing. His nose was as red as Rudolph's.

"I seriously doubt that's nothing Alpin," I told him as I looked at him. "Here, take this." I took off my coat and handed it over to him, revealing the light peach-colored sober dress I had undenreath. I know it would be too small for him, but at least he was warm. Lileas would be horrified if she found her brother sick.

Alpin shook his head as he tried to push the coat away. "Put it back on Aya," he ordered me, using his 'older brother' tone on me. He treated me like a kid even though I'm already seventeen. And he was like, what? Twenty-three? Six years ain't that much. Lileas, on the other hand, was fifteen. Eight years. Now that's what I call age gap. "You'll get sick."

"You already are," I countered. "Now, put it on or else."

"Or else what?" he challenged.

"You'll get sick-er," I answered. "Lileas would worry. I would worry."

"You'll be worried?" he echoed. "Now wouldn't that be a sight…"

"What, you think I'm that cruel?" I told him. "What is cruel is making a beautiful lady walk around in her regular clothes in the midst of winter for no reason, so put the blasted coat on."

"Fine, for the beautiful lady then," he agreed as he took hold of my coat and wrapped it around himself. Now wasn't that unexpected. "Warm," I heard him mumbled as he snuggled it. For some reason, I blushed, but then again, the cold would do that to me. "Are you alright though?" he asked. I looked into his eyes and saw that at the slight sign that I was cold, he would give it back.

I nodded my head. "Don't worry, I'm fine." I was freezing. Thank the gods that the warm haven that was Alpin's house was just around the corner.

Alpin unlocked the door and went in. I let myself in. I was already familiar with the place. No use in being shy. I watched as he took of my coat and began to get the fire going. "Need any help?" I asked as I wandered closer to the fireplace.

He shook his head as he threw some firewood into the fireplace. "Just need something to light the…" I smiled at him and casted a quick fire spell. Soon, a steady flame was burning. "Never mind…" he sighed as he settled himself on the nearby couch.

Alpin and Lileas had a simple, two storey home that belonged to their great grandparents. The upper floor had three bedrooms and one bathroom while the lower floor had the living room, the kitchen and the dining room. Their living room consisted of a long sofa facing the fire place and a coffee table in front of it. The dining room as a table for four and their kitchen were counters went along two adjacent walls.

While Alpin was content with the couch, I sat closer to the fireplace, almost crawling my way there. "You shouldn't have let me use your coat if you were cold Aya," he told me, again using his 'older brother' tone.

I rolled by eyes as I removed my earmuffs and mittens, casting them off somewhere. "It was either this or Lileas nagging me for not taking care of you," I replied. "I prefer this, thank you very much." Lileas could be such a pain when she overreacts. I let my ungloved hands hover above the flame as I stretched them. Gods, that felt good.

"Do you want anything to drink?'

"Anything hot," I answered as I closed my eyes. I actually like the cold, but too much was just too much. I heard him get up and gather some things from the kitchen. I only opened my eyes when he was right beside me, hanging the kettle above the fire.

"I hope tea would be alright," he told me as he fixed the kettle's position.

I nodded. "Tea would be just fine."

"Ah, right. Here." I raised my eyebrows as a bundle of cloth landed on my lap. "Thank you for letting me use it," he said with one of his kind smiles. Again, I felt my face heat up. I also felt him grab my arm with his warm hands and watched as his face turned into an expression of worry. "You're still cold…"

Shaking my head, I began to rub my hands up and down my arms. "I'm not. Really, I'm not. I'm alright." And in my effort in trying to make an argument I grabbed his hand, which was also cold. "You're cold too!" I exclaimed. And at that moment, the kettle sang its impatient tune signaling the boiling water. "You better get that."

Alpin nodded and carried away the hot water back into the kitchen to fix ourselves something to drink. I, in the meantime, crawled my way to the couch, feeling much warmer than before. I let my coat lie on top of the coffee table. It wasn't necessary anymore now that a fire was going. I curled my feet underneath me just as Alpin came back.

"Here you go," Alpin said as he handed me my cup of tea. "With honey and lemon, just the way you like it." I smiled. He knew me too well.

"Thanks," I whispered before blowing on my tea.

"No problem," he answered back as he took his place beside me. I moved a bit closer to him, his warmth more than comfortable. He automatically raised his arm for me to rest against him more comfortably. I did what he expected me to do and snuggled in closer. "Much better," he sighed.

I nodded. "The tea's wonderful." I put the empty cup on the table in front of us and snuggled back into Alpin. What? I like my tea. I can practically down two liters of the stuff in less than seven minutes.

He chuckled, shaking his head. "I meant you, being…" He stopped talking just when I turned to look at him. I caught him widen his olive green eyes and blush right in front of me. He shook his head. "Never mind…" he murmured as he turned back to the fire.

Shrugging, I settled myself against him. "If I fell asleep on you, would you get angry?" I innocently asked him. The funny thing about me when I drink tea is that I end up too calm and child-like. People would tell me that I would begin to talk slowly to the point that I slur them out.

"No," he answered. "Go right ahead. Sleep, if you want to."

I smiled. "I bet you'd just love that," I teased. "You'll be able to have your way with me when I'm asleep." Heavens, I wasn't thinking straight. Did Alpin really give me tea, or alcohol? No, Alpin wouldn't do that. Never. He knows I'd kill him if he did. I raised a hand and placed it on his cheek. I laughed. "Your face is hot."

Alpin chuckled and gently pushed my hand away. "Well, with you acting like that, anyone would be embarrassed," he told me, putting down his empty cup on the table as well.

At least I can connect together a few sensible thoughts. "Point taken." I rested my head against his shoulder and yawned. "You sure you won't get mad?" He shook his head. "If you say so…" I yawned as i swung myself onto his lap. I snuggled my head into the crook of his neck and held onto his shirt keep myself from slipping off. It took us a few seconds before we became comfortable but it was worth it. He was warm, and I like it. I was just about to doze off when he called my name.

"Aiyannah," he murmured. I hummed, telling him I heard him. "Before you go to sleep, would you mind moving away a bit? I have to do something." I nodded into his neck and pulled away. Before I could open my eyes, I felt his rough hands hold my face. I felt him kiss my forehead. Alright, no big deal. I good night kiss I suppose. I felt him kiss my nose. Another good night kiss? And then I felt him kiss my lips. Alright. That was not a good night kiss.

"Alpin," I barely got the chance to say before he kissed me again, longer this time. I took note of his hands leaving my face, only to settle at the base of my head and the small of my back. My hands, on the other hand, were holding onto his shirt.

"Alright, you can go to sleep now," he breathed as he pulled away. I blinked. That was it? No explanation? No dramatic speech? Nothing? Oh he was so going to get an earful from me.

"And you really think I can fall asleep after that?" I asked him, slightly annoyed. I let go of his shirt only to cross my arms over my chest. "I am so not letting that one slide." I said that one because that just went too far. I let several things slide in the past. His arm around my waist. His hand holding onto mine. A quick peck on the cheek. Being the innocent person that I was, I thought nothing of it.

Oh but how wrong I was. "Explain yourself now Alpin," I sternly demanded.

"I love you."

I widened my eyes. Now that was not the explanation that I was looking for. "You what?"

He smiled, apparently amused with my ignorance. "I love you Aya. You are just too dear and perfect for me to let go." The heat rushed to my face. I just know it. "And to remove any doubts that might be running around you head, I don't mean as a friend or a sister or anything like that. I love you." There goes operation 'Look for Another Meaning in His Words'. Wow, he really did know me well.

"B-But… You're so much older than me…" I tried to argue. A six year difference now looked like a big age gap.

"Did that ever stop us from seeing each other?"

I opened my mouth to argue, but I couldn't find anything else to say. Up until now, Alpin was a very, very, very, very good friend of mine. Sure, I'd get the butterflies once in a while when I meet him, but that didn't mean anything, did it?

I had the butterflies when the two of us first met. I was wandering the castle when I stumbled into the Garden. Literally stumbled. I had tripped and twisted my ankle. Alpin had been kind enough to take me home and fix my foot. Next was when Lileas had introduced me to him, even though we knew each other. I met Alpin before Lileas. It was really awkward when she introduced me. The most recent was when I had attended last month's Banquet. I paid him a visit and we had ended up dancing.

Hm. Now that I think of it… "I… I don't know Alpin," I hesitantly answered. "Maybe…" I widened my eyes when I felt him pull me towards him into a hug, a hand running down the length of my shoulder-length hair.

"It's alright," he told me. "I'm not asking you for anything. Nothing has to change. I just want you to know that I care for you very much."

I shook my head. "Alpin, I like you," I admitted, "but I don't know if I love you. But I really, really do like you." I finally got myself to look straight into his eyes. My breath was taken away. Now I remember why I get the butterflies. He was perfect. "Fine. I love you too," I hastily said before grabbing him by the shirt and kissing him.

He was surprised, I know. His eyes were wide for a few moments before he pulled himself together. "No… Not now," I heard him tell himself after pulling away.

Ah, so hardworking Alpin has some self-control issues. He's a good, noble man, but still a man. But he was right. Good, noble, hardworking Alpin was right. This was neither the time nor the place nor the situation to be doing whatever we were doing.

So I got off of him to lead both of us away from temptation. I righted myself, fixed my hair and my dress. He did the same, smoothed out the wrinkled I had made on his shirt and ran a hand through his light blond hair. A minute of awkward silence settled between us before we assumed our previous position. Me, resting against his shoulder. Him, letting me rest against his shoulder.

After that, more awkward silence. I tried to fall asleep, but the calming effect of the tea had worn of. So, I tried to start a conversation. "Hey, I know some plants that can survive even during winter."

At that, Alpin piped up. "Really?" I nodded.

"They're called Evergreens."

Hope you liked it. Nice? Bad? Somewhere in between? Go ahead and tell me.