Happy birthday, Araceli "Ace" L. :D
So, I couldn't call it Christmas without a (3 week late) gift to my dearest friend Ace. :D I didn't know what exactly to do so I just wrote the best adventure/romance story I could because I know she loves my writing (isn't that great? :D) and she's a passionate romantic so I wrote her the best damn story that I could. Cranking up the Jonsi (and don't think that it's a departure from the Sigur Ros I usually blare while working on this; Jonsi is the lead singer of Sigur Ros) and other such music, I spent a few weeks (longer than I ever have another oneshot, which usually are day long events) working on this wonderful story that is nearly peaking 10,000 words. (We're going into Viva La Vida size territory here, folks. O.o)
None of the characters are supposed to resemble anyone or anything- it's supposed to be the back story to the Ice Climbers, who basically have, like, no story whatsoever. XD It's entirely in its own world, and it's supposed to take place somewhere between the Arctic and Vancouver B.C., anywhere up there in the big white part of the Western world. The narration relies a lot on flashback, because that's just the structure of the story. It's odd and risky but it makes sense to me. To paraphrase that elf from Brisingr that Foxpilot quoted "It makes sense because I think it does."
Also, it's by no coincidence that this is my 50th Story. :D
Disclaimer: I own nothing, regret nothing and let them forget nothing. And in turn I disown nothing, regret nothing and I will never forget anything from this site.
And that includes you, Ace. Cheers to you. You deserve it.
"You guys are pretty incredible, you know that?"
I don't know what I knew, other than it felt so good to lie near a fire once again, to let the warmth overtake me and tell me that I wasn't dreaming, that I was finally home once again. My father hasn't said that yet, but he hasn't had to. I know I'm home. I know it's over.
I did hear the statement he just made and, with all the eloquence I could muster to mark the occasion with, I reply, "Yeah, guess so."
He gives me a sideways glance and a crooked grin as he tends to the fire. I know that he's acknowledging my modest behavior once again, because he's my father, he knows me well like that and he isn't afraid to show it. "Just a guess? Is that all?" he declared with a chuckle. "Son, I don't know if I could do what you two did. Even if your mom helped."
That melancholy air that always has and probably always will happen every time Mom is mentioned possesses the room once again, but by now we're used to it and we can shake it out. Again relying on my eloquence, I mumble "Thanks, Dad."
I closed my eyes, enjoying the warmth and the nice bed to rest on, when I am finally aware of the situation at hand.
I'm home, and I'm not alone.
"Hey, Dad," I asked. "Where's Nana?"
"Over here, goof." Enter Natalia "Nana" Kraal, my twenty-one year old travel companion that survived with me through frozen hell and high water. I heard her smooth, light voice from the other side of the same room, like a jazz room piano, and finally I was certain that I was home. Too many nights I had spent dreaming of home only to find myself freezing on the side of the mountain, but I allow myself to believe that this is reality.
Realizing that, I laughed just short of another coughing fit, knowing that it was just like me to not notice little details like her close proximity. "Hey, Nana," I replied, smiling widely just in case she could see me. "How close are you?"
"Well, to your credit," she answered, also fully aware of my modest tendencies, "I was about twenty feet away. I can barely see you, so it's no surprise that you can't see me."
I stopped grinning ear to ear like I was before and relaxed once more. "Ah, okay then. Dad, can I head over to her?"
"Easy, Romeo," he reached over to ruffle my short hair. "You can see your fair lady once you're feeling up to it."
"I am up to it," I insisted.
"Alright, then get up and walk over."
"…damn." I realized he had me there when I couldn't bring myself to move away from the fire. I could envision Nana smirking from her resting place, and I turn red. Dad just runs my hand through my hair and smiles knowingly, knowing in the span of a few minutes what it took me a few weeks to discover.
Leave it to Dad to know me better than I know myself.
"Don't worry about it, Popo," I heard her voice again and relished every moment that it flowed into my ears. "You warm up, ya got it?"
"Okay," I assured her. "How are you holding up?"
"Successfully venom free," she informed me lightly. "You actually got most of it, though. Pretty good for someone who can barely hold a syringe."
Yes, I'm definitely home. I grin again. "That's good."
"How about you, Pope?"
"Oh, me? Well… it feels amazing to feel so warm again. I never knew how much you could want something before not having it for so long."
"Aw, Popo… I'm really happy to hear it," she cooed in content. A warmth budded in my chest when I heard the satisfaction in her beautiful voice as she took in the news that I was feeling better. This must be what bliss is like, completing our journey alive and content and happy and… together. We did it.
Dad looks over at the two of us and I know that he's probably beaming with pride. My dad has always been proud of me whether I would climb a mountain or not, but I knew that it meant a lot to him seeing me accomplish such a feat for our village. It was rather vindictive to our family history, you could say.
"Well," he announced to both of us "while you two sweethearts catch up, I'm going to prepare us supper. I hope you guys like eggplant, cause I stashed us the biggest eggplant you guys brought back, just to celebrate."
I grinned yet again, managing to sit up enough to face my dad and give him a thumbs up. Nana called out "Way to go, Mr. Pope!" In a lower tone, feigning secrecy, she tells me, "Popo, your dad is awesome." A high compliment from someone who never quite stopped mourning the loss of hers.
My dad grinned. "Well you guys deserve it. Heroes of the day, after all, and the whole village can agree on that."
"Maybe tomorrow we can gather the rest of the village around the fire and tell them the totally not exaggerated tales of our harrowing journey to save our universe as we know it," I suggested, feeling my spirit return to my body with the warmth of the fire.
Nana burst out into laughter. Success. "Popo, you're starting to sound like me," she was able to blurt out mid laugh. I grinned, not aware that I could be that funny but certainly not complaining.
My dad gave a knowing smile and quietly walked out of the room and into the neighboring kitchen. I gave him a quick wave before settling back down on my back again, staring at the ceiling with closed eyes and relaxing once more.
"You sleepy, Pope?" She asked me, and surprisingly I could still hear her.
"Kinda," I answered her, and surprisingly she could still hear me.
"Then sleep, goofball." Fondness crept into her voice and I wondered if she heard the same in mine.
"You sure? I kinda want to stay up and talk to you still."
"We'll have, like, the rest of forever to talk together," she replied, and then it all truly did click.
My eyes shot open when she said that, and the proposition she made nearly brought tears to my eyes. It shook me, it really did, to change from worrying that we would die any minute to having the rest of forever if we wished. "You mean that, Nana?" I made myself ask.
"Of course," she replied like it was nothing. I smiled, sure that I was completely content, and closed my eyes once more. "Thank you," I replied.
"Thank you," she repeated back to me. I didn't feel any need to question what she was addressing. I didn't have to know. It was just one of those moments.
"I love you, Nana," I mumbled quietly, so she probably couldn't hear me. It didn't matter yet, though- I was simply affirming it to myself. At this moment, I was entirely sure that I was in love with Natalia "Nana" Kraal. That's where the story ends, falling in love with Natalia... and that's where the story begins.
Sometimes I have to wonder how on earth we got where we are now. Not literally of course- the meadow I love is just a half hour's walk from our small village with no name in the middle of a snowy world. I knew how we got there- walking silently, gloved hand gently, almost nervously in gloved hand, as if we were testing the waters to see if this union felt right. Currently, I have no complaints.
I knew how she and I got to the meadow. I just couldn't believe that we got to the meadow.
When I see it I grin and announce to my companion "This is the place, Nana. Amazing, isn't it?"
Nana takes her pink hood off of her head and replies "You weren't over exaggerating," granting me another small, subtle smile that she probably by now knows through unspoken observation that I love receiving from her. Certainly such a place as this can be easy to over exaggerate- the surface of the ground is a smooth bowl shape with no kinks or rocks or any sort of blemish. White-coated pine trees surround it, the snow never quite away from them at any part of the year. It always seems to snow year round up here, which is just the norm for me. I can't imagine a place in the world where it doesn't snow, and when I hear of a place like that, it seems like a different world that I haven't access to.
It's okay, though. It's just a small price to pay to live in a part of the world that is unlike any other with a girl that is unlike any other.
"We're almost back home, Pope," she pointed out the obvious fact that, until then, had not been spoken by either of us, out of the fear of jinxing the occasion.
"We are," I replied, smiling despite it all. "And we come back as victors."
"Well," Nana seemed a bit hesitant in her reply. "I'll give us that, but we weren't exactly running with a full team of dogs. We had a pretty rough time."
I was well aware of this. She was still walking with a limp, and I still couldn't breathe properly. I adjusted the giant bag over my shoulder, which still presented a large weight, even if we couldn't salvage everything. But we salvaged enough.
Without quite looking at me, she stated "And here I was thinking you were a scrawny fellow. How on earth are you managing to carry that thing?"
I barely gave it any thought myself, actually, as to how I carried what was left of our plundered harvest over my shoulder all the way down three thousand feet of mountain winding through countless miles and days, despite it weighing over a hundred pounds. I just shrugged and replied "A miracle, I guess."
She cracked a short laugh. "Aw, Popo. You could be the most powerful existing thing on the planet and you still would be the most modest. Face it. You kicked ass."
In turn, I laughed as well, because Nana is known to provoke that from me. While laughing, however, I yanked on the bag too hard and slammed it against my back. The next thing I knew, I'd became a one-man comedy team, knocking myself over, dropping the bag on the ground and hacking my lungs out, signaling death to put up another fight.
I specialize in dark comedy, as it turns out.
Immediately I felt that horrid pain seize up my breath inside my chest again, and I fell to the ground. Nana gasped, kneeling down next to me and ignoring her own pain as I started into another coughing fit, this one worse than the others. I could feel the cold blood clawing through my throat and out my mouth.
I felt like death. And goddamnit, I wasn't going to die home free. I couldn't do that to my dad. Not here, not now, not again.
I recognize that we're nearly home. I recognize the distance. I recognize the similarities.
This is where she died.
I could barely keep my eyes open, but I was able to see her eyes as she peered over me, and the terror that lay in them. "God, Popo. Not now, please, not now." I knew that when she said that, it was less about delaying our travels and more about my signaling vultures with my deathly wheezing. I wanted to reply and comfort her, but I could barely catch a fit through my coughs. I grabbed her arm, as fearful as she was, and I could hear her whisper "Dear God, don't take him yet," her voice shaking.
I don't know how many people have lived after hearing someone they love praying that you don't die in their arms, but the effect is exactly as could be imagined. It cut through me, shook me to the core, and gave me the burst of willpower I needed to fight for my own breath.
She kept speaking. "Come on, Popo. You can do it, you have to. What did you just get finished telling me? We're the victors, Popo, we're the victors." She clutched my hand, watching me as I struggled against my coughs. Slowly, they began to subside; I was able to cough only once every second as opposed to bursts of three or four, but I knew that wasn't good enough; I still felt like I was on death's door, which I suppose was better than being death, but wasn't good enough.
"We're the victors, Popo, you said it yourself. You can do it, Pope. Please, we're the victors." The more she said it, the more tears fought their way through my eyes, and the more I forced myself to breathe normally. I couldn't die. I had a reason to live.
She put her left hand on my chest and the right on my cheek, until she realized how much I was spitting with every cough, causing her to contract her right hand. I fought my way from death's door, managing my coughs until they were at about the normal frequency of hiccups.
She nearly collapsed in relief as she heard an irregular but strong enough breath pattern from me, encircling me with her arms and bringing me to my knees with her before she embraced me, softly so she didn't hurt me. I reciprocated as best as I could, resting my head on her shoulder as my coughs started to disappear and I was able to taste the full splendor of the fresh mountain air I had taken for granted.
I heard her relieved, proud voice waver in my ear. "Popo, Popo, you really are the strongest, most powerful man in existence."
All I could do was smile and confirm, "We're the victors,"
"Damn straight," she replied, her heart beating against mine. "Popo and Nana, the victors for the tiny mountain village with no name. We did it."
And here it is, folks. Here is where the metaphorical curtain drops. Here is where my life changes, the same moment where it's returned to me. Here is the moment when I realized that I had fallen in love with Natalia "Nana" Kraal.
"Do I over exaggerate that much?" I reply with a laugh, back in the present.
Quick as a whip, she breaks out the line "Oh, Popo, you live, breathe and downright embody exaggeration," and I almost immediately burst out a short round of loud laughter before coming to my senses and responding "Actually, I think that's more of your shtick than mine."
She giggles for a brief moment and puts a hand on my shoulder, probably contemplating whether she should be giving me a playful push or just to leave it there, grateful that I enjoy her humor. I worry that we will fall too far into silence too quickly and so I speak again, arm outstretched to this amazing place that we were finally in.
"You see," I explain, "this seems like just another beautiful meadow in the world. It could be, technically. But the thing about this one is that I could spend days out here alone and never see another soul. I don't know if anyone else even knows about it."
"Fascinating," Nana declares with widened eyes, giving the area a 360 degree look to confirm that we are the only signs of life around. "It is a very nice place, though. Lucky to have a place like this all to yourself, right?"
Thank you, Nana, for that perfect lead in. I rub my finger over her knuckle, causing her smile to widen just a small bit. I'm pretty sure I turn a bit redder but I hold a gaze on her nonetheless. I find that I had spent thirty seconds just staring at her, and that I still haven't replied.
Remembering my purpose, I snap to attention and quietly reply "Well… I don't want it to just myself anymore."
For one of those rare moments, she breaks into a full grin, and I feel just grand at that moment. I gently pull her towards me, waiting to see if she will comply. She does, taking me into her arms at the same moment I pull her into mine. We've had the time and experience to master synergy.
"Aw," she whispers in my ear, laying her head on my shoulder. "You're a sweetheart."
My heart leaps at her compliment, but I'm somehow able to find the breath in me to ask "So you like it?"
She laughs again. "Well, it's not every day that someone takes the plunge with a whole untamed meadow as a gift. Of course I like it. It's a very original idea, and only one you, my dear, could come up with."
"Well, I try," I reply, releasing her. She smiles, standing on tiptoe long enough to place a soft kiss on my forehead. It acts as a fuse does to a firework, setting my whole face ablaze, blushing nearly crimson. She giggles, making a very valid and true point with "You're a real goof, you know that? You act like you've never been kissed before."
"Well, that's cause I haven't," I admit, trying to act like I don't care about that fact. Such was the plight of a shy, awkward boy who hadn't even the courage to find someone to have a crush on, only to be blindsided by fate and the lady it brought into my arms.
To my surprise, she seems genuinely… well, surprised. It is very hard to catch Nana off guard, yet my innocent comment seems to do it. "Really?" she gasps, hand on her face, and I can't tell for the life in me whether she was exaggerating or not. "A sweet little charmer like you hasn't had the slightest bit of romantic affection, even at the ripe age of nineteen?"
"I know, I'm surprised too!" I shrug, trying to play if off as if she doesn't know exactly what I want to do right now.
Unsurprisingly, I become eager when I see a wicked grin cross her face, even if I don't let on. "Well," she purrs, "I guess we'll just have to make up for those lost years, won't we, you poor thing?"
Before I know it, she's already tackled me and sent me to the ground, arms wrapped around me. I laugh to an uncontrollable extent in a mixture of surprise, excitement and amusement. "Okay," I insist between laughter fits. "I like the idea you're going for, but I can barely breathe!"
"Oh snap, you're... I'm sorry." She responds by rolling off of me and onto the snow. I wince as I hear a small moan of pain from her, knowing full well why she's hurt by that simple action. I lift my face out of the snow, spit some of it out of my mouth (also an entirely too familiar situation that still gives me a sinking feeling) and roll over next to her, a look of concern on my face.
Nana catches my eyes. "It's okay, Popo. That's what I get for leaping onto you with a banged-up leg."
"No," I reply automatically. She gives me that look, that crooked smile and raised eyebrow look which is always a clarion call not to give even a white lie in her defense. I concede. "Well, maybe a little."
She gives me a ghost of an appreciative smile before venturing to lift her pant leg up to above her calf, once again observing the nasty, blood drained bruise on her leg that still hasn't fully healed, and probably won't for a while. It isn't easy for either of us to look at; it brings back a disturbing memory for sure.
She notices the expression on my face, one of horror and sadness that still won't fade. She frowns and, still lying on the ground, reaches over to give a comforting squeeze to my hand.
"I hate seeing you worry so much because of me," she admits. "Yet at the same time, I can't help but feel glad for it, you know?"
"It's my choice to be so worried about you," I tell her, but in all honesty, I can't choose not to. I'm entwined with her in every way, and I can't change that. I wouldn't change that.
She reaches for my hand, a smile on her face still. "I'm still alive either way, so I have no complaints. In fact I'm pretty grateful that I'm alive."
I gaze down at her leg again. "Miracles do happen."
"You happened," she corrects me.
It was just as we started to head down that it happened. It was desolate. Only rocks and snow made up the landscape, and the clouds below obscured any view below us that we could have. The bag with the vegetables and fruits harvested by our village was carried by both of us, and somehow we were able to hold the whole thing, which included the packets of seeds that had yet to be planted. Our soil and plants were able to adapt to the eternally chilly climate, so even if we lost the food, we would be able to get a start as soon as possible and at any time.
Carrying something so heavy caused no dampening on our spirits, and we were all smiles and cheer. Nana summarized our thoughts perfectly with "I bet everyone else doubted we would even get up the first thousand feet. Now look where we are, Pope."
I grinned. "We just climbed an untamed mountain. The first people ever to climb this one. Can you believe that?"
"With nothing more than our wits, two parcels and our mallets, Popo. We're pretty much the most badass people ever to have existed."
"Ditto," I replied. "I'm also a very hungry person. Do you think anyone will mind if I snag a few berries out of the bag?"
"My god, Popo," she laughed in disbelief. "If anyone from the village says 'thanks for bringing all of our food back to us, but you haven't taken any of the berries, have you,' then I'll burn it all."
I laugh. "Oh, don't do that, please."
"I'm not kidding." She shoves me, lightly so I don't become a one-man avalanche. "I will burn it all and dance in the ashes. Eat some freaking berries, you dork."
"Alright, alright." Joke or no joke, the idea of burning the very thing we toiled over makes me want to vomit. "We'll take a breather and have a snack."
"Sounds like a plan," she replied, and we carefully set the heavy bag down on a sturdy rock. We then sat next to it, reaching into the bag and reaching around for a sizable enough handful of raspberries. Our hands brushed against each other a few times, and each time it did I took a moment to run my thumb across it. She blushed when I did, which was very unusual for a confident, composed woman like her. Suave Popo kills the ladies again or something like that.
Finally, we got enough out to eat. I placed a couple more berries in her hand than I had. She noticed and quipped "You spoil me, you know that?"
"Guess so, princess," I replied lithely, although that was a big enough risk on its own. She chuckled and mumbled something under breath, and I could see a smile form between her red cheeks. I was starting to get under her skin, and I was hoping she didn't mind, because she was already worming her way under mine.
We went about a minute before she asked "Hey, Pope, could you use some water?" She motioned to her personal leather satchel, which contained a large canteen of water.
"Sure," I accepted her offer. She nodded, opening the bag and handing me the incredibly large thermos.
"Thanks, Nana," I replied, opening the canteen and taking a drink. The water was still fresh and tasted like life, instead of like nothingness; an advantage of crossing a couple of pure mountain springs. I was startled out of my drink, however, by a sudden shriek from Nana, who leapt from where she was sitting, successfully flinging her pack about fifty feet down the slopes before it was stopped by a rock.
"What the hell?" I blurted.
"Something just bit me!" she announced.
"What was it?"
"I don't know, but it was a little bugger. Bit me right on the leg."
I looked around, looking for the offender. When I found him, I gasped and reached for my mallet. "Move!" I ordered. She ran away from the spot where she knew that I would then take my mallet and smash down on the creature that I knew had bit her leg.
"Jesus," she gasped out. "You didn't need to go crazy over a little spider or something for my sake."
"That's not a freaking spider."
I lifted my mallet, showing her a small, flattened snake, its innards spread all around the area. She gagged by reflex, and I was surprised I didn't just retch. "Are you kidding? That's what bit me?" She asked before suddenly losing her footing, tumbling onto the bag of food and then rolling onto her back on the snow once more.
"What the hell, Nana?" I asked, frightened.
"My leg. Oh, god, my leg. It's burning like hell," was all she got out before she let out a long pained moan, clenching her fists. My heart caught in my throat as I observed the dead snake for just a moment, vaguely being able to recognize it as one that I knew was poisonous.
"God almighty," I gasped.
"What, Popo, what?" she asked me, pained.
"Uh, where's the first aid kit at?" I replied with a question of my own, because I didn't know how to tell her that she was at a high risk of dying from snake venom.
"It's in my pack," her voice was now almost entirely strained. I had no clue how long she had, or why she wasn't dead by now. "Jesus Christ, Popo, this hurts."
I tried to keep a cool head but that wasn't going to happen. "Okay, so, where's your…" before I finished the sentence, I already knew where it was. "Dammit, Nana, I'll be right back, I swear."
"Okay, Popo, you better be. Like, double time it." she mumbled before letting out another cry of pain. I started to bound down the mountain as fast as I could, almost leaping for the bag. I wasn't going to let Nana die. Not here, not now.
I nearly bounced and skidded down another five feet when I reached for her backpack, instead just stumbling on top of it. When I reached down for it, a sinking feeling started to churn up in my stomach as the snow began to give way below me. Before I could react, it fell through, and I began to tumble into nothingness.
Thankfully, it was a small drop, although it felt like an eternity. I lay on a solid rock stunned for a few seconds, my back aching but not injured. What the hell just happened? But no matter. I shook off the impact and prepared to get up when I saw the impending doom heading towards me. Nervously, I tried to lift myself out of the hole but it was of no use as a clump of snow spilled over the new gap in the ground, covering every inch of my body. And since life's a bitch, the pack topped the layer of snow that had me pinned down.
I probably wasn't cut out for survival situations, because my first thought was that I had to get out of here and get that snake venom out of Nana. I wasn't always so noble, but I couldn't think of anything except for saving her. Maybe it was because she meant something to me, or maybe it was because we came too far to die now, but I wasn't giving up on us.
But I wasn't sure how on earth I was going to get out from my burial.
First things first, I focused on breaking my hands out. My arms were spread out, pinned in place. I did the only thing I could try- move. Moving from under that was like breaking out of my own coffin. I was surprised I could budge at all but about a half minute of adrenaline-fueled flailing I was able to break my elbows out, and eventually my entire arms. How on earth I managed to wrestle my way out of that so quickly I had no clue but no questions.
But my God, I was so, so cold. But my thoughts stayed on her and saving her. Around that time the thought crossed my head, for maybe a brief moment, that I just might be in love with Natalia "Nana" Kraal. Of course, the spark didn't last long before I focused on the whole not dying thing again, but even the smallest spark can grow into a roaring fire, and I needed one to melt the snow suffocating me.
"Pope, are you okay?"
I realize how deep into that memory I had delved, so I stop, because it doesn't matter. I still don't feel completely at a normal body temperature but I was able to scramble my way out. She lost a decent amount of blood from her leg but that was only because I clumsily used a syringe to draw the snake venom out before it was too late. Even if she limped down the mountain and I was too weak to carry her, we survived.
I guess we are pretty badass.
I turn to her again, the girl I love, who had maneuvered her way to a sitting position while I was in a hellish trance. She raises an eyebrow as I look at her, and she's smiling at me as she always is. It melts the bitterness that clouded my mind almost instantly, and believe you me, we here in the village with no name amidst all the snow know a lot about things freezing and melting.
She notices that I'm smiling again and she puts a hand on my leg. "Better," she declares. "Much better."
Me being the oblivious boy that I am, I ask "What is?"
She snickers, and I still am not entirely sure why, although I feel that familiar feeling of knowing I'm not figuring out the obvious ringing through my mind. She just grins and wraps her arm around me, pulling me to her side. That brings back another memory, one that took place after the snake bite incident on our way down but before we got back to the village. I could almost hear her singing me to sleep, when I was so cold I couldn't sleep on my own. It was the moment that she used her body heat to keep me alive and her voice to keep me strong. She always loved to sing, too, throughout the entire journey. It's how I came to love her voice. It reminded me that I was still alive.
I decide to reciprocate her comfort, just a bit. I put my left arm clumsily around her, pulling her into my embrace. She seemed surprised that I had done so, but she conceded, keeping eye contact with me as I moved her body towards mine. She was smiling, and I was glad. My eyes traced the curve of her lips absentmindedly. They were almost as white as the snow and chapped but I would still kiss them anyways. Maybe I would…
She giggled as I started to space off again, which in turn brought me to my senses. "You're doing that a lot," she told me.
"Yeah, I know," I sighed. "Sorry."
"I don't mind," she insisted. "What are you thinking about?"
I wasn't sure how to define what I was thinking about, so I just decided on a clumsily, not very well thought reply. "You."
"But I'm right here," her reply was quizzical now, almost confused but not quite.
"I know, and yet… I can't get my mind off of you. Isn't that strange?"
She closed her eyes and smiled, and I wasn't sure what her reaction was until she spoke. When she spoke, it was little more than a whisper. "You're something else, Pope, unlike anything I've ever known."
"That's a good thing, right?"
"It's the best thing about you."
I could understand why she reacted the way she did, because I closed my eyes, overwhelmed by sudden emotion. I could feel my face drifting towards hers, and I didn't stop it. She met me in the middle, but we didn't kiss, we just pressed our noses up against each other and lay content in each other's arms, smiling and content, enjoying the warmth that we'll never take for granted again.
We were almost to the top, maybe another twenty feet until we got to the top. I was up there looking for our harvest and the giant, fabled Cirrus Bird (a really nice name for a really ugly condor) who stole our entire harvest just after we took the convenience of putting it in a giant brown bag. I didn't know if there was a nest or anything to look out for, but I wielded my mallet in preparation for battle.
Nana had hers in her pack. "Hold up there, warrior. We still gotta climb up to the top." I realized that she was right, that climbing up a near vertical angle of rock with one hand on my mallet was probably not a wise decision. I placed it back in my satchel, stating "Well, it's not like the bird's going to attack us right here."
"Probably not," Nana replied, hoisting herself up into another part of the ledge unsteadily. "But that's just our luck, isn't it? It'd just be a complete slap in the face though if it were to-"
At that moment, I felt myself being swept up off my feet away from the rocky ledge by a force that was heavier than anything I've felt before, causing my parcel and mallet to fall neatly onto the flat peak. I looked up to see an orange condor sneering at me as it flew through the sky.
Yep. Just our luck.
I called out Nana's name as the bird circled back around towards the top of the mountain peak. She was already reacting, scrambling up the mountain, mallet wisely in hand. We flew towards her, myself the helpless captive and the bird the wicked captor, which was not exactly how I imagined reaching the mountain's peak.
Nana reached the top on her own two feet, to my unspoken envy, and traced the bird down. I imagine at the same time and from different angles she and I saw the gigantic sack of food sprawled among the plateau of the peak, the one the bird began to swoop down upon, heading towards Nana.
"Nana!" I called again, but she stood her ground, prepared. The bird freed its other talon to grab her with, but still she didn't move, until the bird came close enough for her to hurl her mallet at, which she did mightily right at its eye. It released its hold on me and flung itself back and away from us. I fell on my stomach but scrambled to my feet and towards my pack, running it over towards Nana without a second thought. Nana acknowledged me with a nod and reclaimed her hammer.
"Well," Nana told me, "this is it."
"Indeed." I could already see the giant condor barrel back over to us. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a large ice pillar, about seven feet tall, to my right. It was jagged and stood up on its own, but hardly looked firm. I dashed over to it, waiting for the bird to start charging for us. Nana didn't quite understand what I was doing, giving me a curious glare, but she didn't stop me. When the bird was close enough, I prepared my mallet and then swung right into the pillar. The ricochet almost knocked me on my rear, but it gave the effect that I desired. Three feet broke off of the top straight into the air, breaking into shrapnel and slicing the bird enough to leave it with some cuts, bruises and lost feathers. It recoiled once again, lifting itself up high enough to the sky to get away from us but still enough to keep a watchful eye on its food.
"Nice thinking, Pope," Nana stated. I nodded with a ghost of a smile and proceeded to watch the bird as it began to circle above us. That's all it did, circle around us for one hundred and twenty suspenseful seconds.
"What the hell…" I murmured under my breath, walking over to the bag and seeing if I could get a reaction from it. It began to swoop down towards me, screeching once more, and so I darted away from the food. Immediately it swooped back up to the sky to resume its patrol.
"Damn it," I growled. "Bird's keeping watch over the food. We can't leave without the food, but we can't get the bird from here."
Nana ran a hand under her parka and through her hair, contemplating our battle. She turned to me and asked "Popo, how good is your throwing arm?"
"My throwing arm? Pretty good, I'd say," I didn't even consider her question when I answered it.
"Alright, so how high could you throw me?"
Oh, that's what she meant. Wait, what? "Wait, what?"
"I have some rope in my pack. Tie it around your waist and hold it tight."
"Okay, make up your mind. What are we doing?"
"Trust me, Pope," she insisted, pulling a large string of rope out of her pack. She shoved an end in my hands, watching me blink at it in confusion. "Don't be shy, damnit," she insisted. "Get a good grip on it."
"Okay," I conceded dubiously, tying it around my waist and holding onto the rope. She did the same and then, after dropping her pack and mallet on the ground, walked in front of me, leaning her back up against me. I was still confused, and she had to tell me "Pick me up, for God's sake. Can you manage that?"
"Oh!" I placed my arms underneath her back and her knees, finding that either she was surprisingly light or that I was surprisingly strong. Either way, I was able to do it and still keep a hold of my mallet.
We watched the skies like this, waiting for an opportune moment for the bird to pass its patrol by us. I found it somewhat awkward, standing in this uncomfortable position for thirty seconds, like a spring waiting for the weight to be released. When I heard Nana hiss "Now!" I was all too relieved and launched her up as far as I could.
I don't know how the hell I was able to throw her eight feet into the air, but I could, and she flew just over halfway up to the bird. Suddenly, I felt myself being hurled up into the air by my waist. I flew way above Nana's head as she descended to the ground, freed from the rope. Suddenly I saw myself on a collision course with the bird and reacted instantly out of surprise and fear, swinging my mallet directly at its neck. With a devastating cry of pain, it fell out of the sky faster than I did, tumbling off the summit and down the mountain, bouncing off of rocks and cliffs until it was no longer visible or audible, as if it was never there. Not even so much as a gold feather remained on the summit.
I barely noticed that I was descending until I was on the ground, no harm done, safely on my bottom. Nana dashed over to me, not that I noticed. I was staring straight down the summit, barely even paying heed to how high up we were, just gazing at there the condor had tumbled down into, never to be seen again. I mouthed an astonished "Wow."
"That," Nana declared quietly in my ear, finally alerting me to her presence, "is how you save a village." She pulled me to my feet, grinning. "You okay, Pope?"
"How on Earth…" I mused, trying to comprehend what had happened. "How on Earth did you throw me up like that?"
"Because physics is a myth, darling," she declared with a wink. "You're a lot stronger than you let on, you know that? You threw me like I was nothing more than a half-full sandbag. And that move on the condor, it was like you spiked him down like a meteor from the skies."
"That was more like a what-the-hell-how-did-I-get-up-there-oh-shit-bird reaction," I chuckled. "That was pretty great."
She reached her hand out for a high five, which I immediately reciprocated, and shouted for the entire top of the world to hear "Yep!" At that moment, I was entirely grateful that the person who climbed up the mountain and slayed the beast with me was Natalia "Nana" Kraal. And, as it turns out, I'm even more grateful now.
"You're amazing," I'm hardly aware that I said what I said until I hear it. Nana's still face-to-face with me and she smiles, running a hand across my face. By now I realize that there is no surprise that we both share each other's affections, and the idea is a chilling shock of realization and relieving warmth to my chest all at once.
Yet, neither of us seem to know quite what to say.
"You've always thought that," she replies. "You think I'm amazing…"
"I do," my reply is as clumsy as it is passionate. "Because you really are. I mean, you're super chill, like, you always know what to say and to keep a cool head. And you're totally smart, too. You made killer plans and you knew exactly what to say. You have a great sense of humor, and you're incredibly pretty, and…" I found myself surprised by what I was saying, and what I had left to say. The breath seemed to be knocked out of me, but I managed to keep my gaze in her brown eyes and finish.
"And… you were there with me, and there for me… you were part of my journey. And… you kept me alive when I was sure I was going to die, even if you didn't know it. And when we got back, and I woke up in my dad's house, my first thought was you, because my last memory was of you and I at the foot of the village half-dead and exhausted, and I still wasn't sure I was alive. And for the first time since the journey started, I dreamed that night, and it was a peaceful dream. It was a happy dream, and it was tangible… because we're here now… and we're alive, and…I'm so happy…"
I can't go any further. I worry that if I do, I'm going to cry. I'm probably going to anyway.
I can already see the tears winding down her face and onto the snow, and I can see mine joining hers. She's quiet, but her hand is still on my face and she's smiling, her tears following the curve of her lips. "I…" she seems hesitant, speechless, which is unusual for someone who always knows exactly what to say and exactly at the right time. She stares at me in wonder while she gets her words together, saying "What you said… to be honest, I already think I'm pretty cool; I'm not gonna play modest. That's your job."
I smile, words having forsaken me. She picks up where I leave off.
"But when I hear those words from someone who I think the world of…" She trails off when she sees the surprise in my eyes, even now as she embraces me and wipes the tears off my face like I am hers. She giggles and asks "Do you know how lovely you are?"
I don't know how to respond to her question. She frowns for just a second, but it's enough to make me worried that I've done something wrong. Soon enough, she's smiling again and begins to whisper.
"You don't seem to. Still the most modest superman in the known world, it seems. And you know, I always call you a superman, and it's not just because you can throw like you're at the first Olympics and you have the will to survive that many adventurers that have our age in years of experience do not have. You have the heart as strong as a lion and as gentle as a kitten. You're the smartest person I know even when you act like a dork. You're always putting others first. I'll never forget how you were asking if I was okay while you shivered with hypothermia like that, I never will. No one has ever cared for my well being like you have since dad died, and you haven't known me for more than a couple months."
She leans into me, ready whenever I am. "You and I… we go good together, in every way. Survivors, adventurers, warriors, best friends, lovers-"
Hopefully one will take into account that I am far from the smoothest operator in the phone bank when they hear that I interrupted her breathtaking statement with a kiss, stopping her words prematurely as she reciprocates, like I knew she would. I guess it's true how everything seems to connect when your lips do, all the worries and will-she-or-won't-shes and nerves and fears all seem to connect with the hopes and the of-course-she-wills and the courage and the faith and they all balance out and complete each other. But my mind isn't on any of that as much as it is on the the things that everything seemed to focus on- she, me and we.
"Down there," Nana had pointed out on our fifth night of the trek. We were about halfway up, and had set up camp on a rather scenic mountainside- a large open cliff with a naturally carved path, a grass-less clearing and a nearby freshwater spring with a small, suitable amount of flora surrounding it. Right now, though, she was pointing away from that all and at the view it overlooked. I followed her finger to our village, a town of about seventy people with some nice enough houses, certainly better than grass huts and log cabins. I could see the sparse streetlights and the barely paved highway that cut through it and led to another highway, which led to another highway which led to the nearest city of more than a thousand people. It was clear to see that we were in the middle of nowhere. It was a harrowing drop, too, perhaps four thousand feet.
"That's how far up we've made it, Popo," she said, almost breathlessly. "We're on par with the great adventurers of our time. And if we make it up to the top, we're probably among the best of them. Fathom that for a moment, will you?"
I grinned, impressed with our skill. Tending to the wisp of a fire that it was probably a hopeless cause to keep alive, I announced "Fathomed. Well, as much as it could be."
She laughed for a brief moment while settling herself down on the ground across from me, near the large flashlight I had set up near the fire for light. "That fire is toast," she assured me. "Don't bother."
"I'm freezing," I argued.
"Unless you're trying to keep warm by spending all night active, that's not going to help," she insisted. "Fires are generally useless up here unless you're a god or if you need some sort of flare, because it's not going to last. It's freezing cold and the winds are ferocious." She elbows me, adding, "So suck it up, buttercup. We're not gonna die."
Smirking, I concluded that she was right and so I killed the fire, letting it fizzle out into nothingness without ceremony. Immediately I reached into my pack and asked "Hungry?"
"Indeed," Nana nodded. "I'll take a number five, to go, hold the mayonnaise."
I chuckled. "If only. I can offer you some of my dad's meat jerky or some of Cloninger Market's matzo crackers. And of course," I referred to the spring with a grand gesture of the hand "there is plenty of fresh water."
"That'll do," her reply was not underwhelmed, and she accepted a small slab of jerky and a cracker as I handed it out to her. "It is quite nice here. I wonder if anyone's named this spring yet."
"Named it?" I asked. "That's a neat idea. Naming a place for the history of the world to remember."
"And we're just good enough to pull it off," she added. "So, what do you think?"
"I say go for it. But how?"
"Well..." she leaned in to my ear, as if telling a secret. "One of us, namely me, may have brought with them a wooden board and some nails and a black permanent marker, possibly for this very occasion."
I grin immediately. "One of us is awesome."
She shoves me lightly, scampering to her bag to pull the intended items out. "So here we are. Let your creativity fly, darling!"
"Hmm." While thinking, I reached into my parcel to pull out a large wool blanket, covering myself with it. I didn't think to offer it to her because we each had our own. "Well… it looks to get harder from here, right?"
"Well, that's only a given. We'll be past a mile up above sea level. The climate will be tough on us for sure."
"So this is sort of the calm before the storm, right?"
"I like the idea," she mused, looking out at the midnight sky, accented by various gray clouds that we could almost reach. Suddenly, her eyes lit up, accented by her gasping.
"Nan?" I ask, alarmed.
She plays it off with a tight smile. "How about we name this Leo Springs? For... reasons."
"Reasons?" I know there's something more, but looking down on our village again, I get it. "Oh... your dad."
She nods, her voice cracking as she offers, "yep. This is right around where he'd have fallen, in ratio to any given mountain."
"I can't argue with that."
She smiles. "I write Leo, you write Springs. Fair deal?"
I respond by taking the marker and writing the word in my best handwriting slowly across the two by four under the light of the flashlight and the moon and perhaps the glowing smile across her face. She took the marker from me and completed the sign with the word "Springs" in light, cheerful handwriting that complimented my steady, stern lettering.
When she finished that, she added in a finer print "Est. 2012 by Natalia Kraal and Preston Poplar." "You don't mind that I put my name first, do you?" she asked. "It was entirely by reflex."
I shrugged. "I don't care."
"Good," she confirmed, placing the plank in her backpack. "We can nail the plank into the ground near the springs tomorrow, when I don't run the risk of impaling my foot in the darkness. Trust me, I could probably do it."
I laughed. "Sounds like me, to be honest."
"Oh, snap, well we're in trouble then," she laughed, pulling out her own blanket. She stopped to look at me, the smile on her face contrasted by a tear in her eye. I make my way over to her and instinctively hug her.
"Don't lose me yet," she asked me, trying to speak as if she wasn't about to cry. "If we fall here, my last moments are going to involve me being very pissed off at you."
"I promise," I whispered in her ear before I let her go. She acknowledged me with a nod and cracked smile.
At that moment I realized that I was surprisingly tired. I began to withdraw towards the cliff's wall, which was only a few feet away. I used my parcel as a backrest and uncomfortably reclined against it, but there wasn't much more I could do- this wasn't a vacation, after all.
Nana noticed what I was doing, and replied "Yeah, it's only, what, one in the morning? We should probably turn in."
"Way ahead of you," I chuckled, wrapping up in my large blanket. "Good night, Nana?"
"Well…" she began to clamber over to me, blanket in tow. "See, here's the thing, stranger. I'd prefer to have some body heat to keep me warm tonight. And since I have a second blanket, it would be a thicker covering. So… would you mind if I crawled on over?"
I didn't even think to hesitate. "Of course not," I told her, patting at the nearby area.
She smiled sweetly, and I found that it looked very nice on her. "Just don't get too curious, boy."
If I were drinking any water, this was the moment where I'd probably spit it out. "Oh lord," I sputter. "I wouldn't dare."
"I know," she replies softly, situating herself. "You're a gentleman. I like that."
I smile, still feeling as awkward as ever. She placed her pack next to me, the same way that I did, and then proceeded to rest her head on it. That turned out to be a decent idea, so I followed suit, placing my head on the lumpy satchel and adjusting my blanket before allowing her to take me into an embrace, of which I did the same.
Her voice was serene as I felt it on my neck. "Good night, Popo," she whispered.
"Good night, Nana," I replied, feeling a similar sort of peace. She fell asleep nearly instantly, which surprised me considering the climate before I realized that I was feeling the same exhaustion and comfort myself. I allowed myself to drift off into sleep, being careful to hold her tight so she didn't fall off, despite the fact that we were a long distance away from the edge.
In that space in between exhaustion and sleep where your mind runs through every conscious thought you have before filing them away, I remember musing before I drifted off that I quite liked Natalia "Nana" Kraal.
We release each other, not entirely sure what to do after our first kiss, and so I decide to climb up onto my feet and pull her up with me. Our signature blue and pink parkas are drenched with snow and we've nearly melted the area into grass by now but it still is as beautiful as ever and I don't even notice how soaked I am. I take her hand and knot her fingers through mine and we proceed to walk through the clearing.
"Did you ever name this one?" Nana asks me as our boots leave large, patterned marks through the crunching snow.
"No, why would I do that?" I reply. "If I have my way, no one will ever discover this place."
"Oh yeah, of course," she nods, chuckling unsteadily. "Sorry, I'm still a bit out of it after…" her voice trails off for a moment before she adds "you're pretty good, you know? Are you sure you've never kissed a girl? Even a boy? Because I don't buy that no one's..."
"Trust me, if I had, I'd have remembered," I insist with a knowing grin, but as far as I know right now there is no other human being in existence besides Nana.
"Still so modest," she admonishes me with a light shove, but still doesn't let go of my hand. We fall silent once more, going through our thoughts, still not entirely sure what to think. It's she who speaks next, saying what we're both thinking, because she still knows exactly what to say.
"What do we do now, love?"
"I'm trying to figure that out," I respond without thinking, because if I don't think, I can't be nervous. "All I know is that I have you and a lifetime ahead of us if we so wish."
She giggles, looking at me and saying wistfully "What a great start."
"Couldn't have asked for any better," I concur, rubbing my thumb over her knuckle. "And we've earned it."
She blushes, shuddering for the slightest of moments. I grant her a knowing smile.
"But we really do have so much time together, and as we've come to prove, anything is impossible," I remind her. "What would you do?"
"I dunno," she muses, and I could hear a playful twinge in her melodic voice. "Maybe we could compete in a galaxy wide fighting tournament, and beat out the strongest men, woman, beasts and occasional humanlike animal by the power of our mallets?"
I break out in laughter. "Where did you get that idea?"
She joins in with her own laughter, admitting "I have the strangest, most far out ideas sometime. You better get used to it. Although if such a tournament did happen to exist, I'd definitely seek out the opportunity to join it."
"Indeed." I'm dead serious when I tell her that, too. "Until then, though, what do we do?"
"I say we continue to venture," she declares. "I mean, after we recuperate and recover and actually know what the hell we're doing and whatnot."
I don't immediately respond. The idea thrills and alarms me. When I think of how many times I almost lost her, how many times I nearly died in her arms, and all the times that it could happen again, it sends chills down my spine and my heart leaps into my throat sharply.
But then I realized, for better or worse, I love our inaugural adventure. It was one I'll never forget, that I'll relive in my head over and over. I remember every moment of it, scene for scene. It tested me, and I prevailed because it made me stronger.
And it brought us together. That's definitely the best part.
Maybe we've proven that we can handle adventures.
"The idea… interests me," I allow her to know.
"Good." Her eyes shine with excitement. "We don't even have to climb mountains. We could explore jungles, deserts, hunt for treasure and all the other things we hear about in books and movies."
"They don't even have to be life threatening," I add. "We could always go around the nation and test who makes the best slice of pie. Trek from coast to coast with nothing but our wits, some cash and unabashed optimism. See if kissing in the sunset above the Eiffel Tower is as romantic as they say it is."
"Kissing you anywhere is about as romantic as it gets," she blurts out.
"You flatter me." I heat up at the very thought, but it's a different kind of heat than it used to be.
"Mmmm…" Nana closes her eyes and sighs in content. "...but I like the way you think."
"Neat," I smile, feeling excitement ripple in my belly.
Nana stopped, bringing me to a halt and looking me dead in the eye. She looks so incredibly gorgeous- her brown eyes are shining brightly, her hair is just the right touch of messy, and she stands confidently, firmly in front of me, her long, bony fingers interlaced through my short and stubby ones. She's happy, smiling, and she's mine. She's really mine.
She begins to speak, gazing directly into my eyes "To paraphrase a six year old boy and his stuffed tiger, it's a magical world, Popo, my love. We have decades ahead of us and the ability to do anything we want. Let's make the most of it and go exploring, shall we?"
"I wouldn't have it any other way," I declare. "And I wouldn't have it with any other person. I love you, Nana. And we're going to make a brilliant world for ourselves, because we're two awesome, badass, brilliant adventurers."
Her fingers tap against my waist like she's playing a piano as melodic as her voice. "To set the record straight, I love you too, and I can't wait."
She reaches up to throw down the hood of my parka. "Now kiss me, you romantic fool."
That's all that needed to be said, and I lean forward to kiss her once more, embracing her and holding her close to me. I can't fathom letting it go, but I probably should if we're ever going to adventure forth like we plan to do. But that can wait for a moment. Because right now, I'm certain that I am with no regrets, madly, passionately and happily in love with my girl, the remarkable, outspoken, intelligent, beautiful, always true and unforgettable Natalia "Nana" Kraal.
I remember when we were just beginning. We were hiking up out of town along the sub-highway that ran through our village. We were three miles away, making each other's acquaintance. We knew each other fairly well but didn't often speak. We seemed to be getting along very well, though.
"We're almost to the start of the climb, Preston," Natalia told me, looking around. "You excited?"
I looked up at the woman that accompanied me, twenty-one year old Natalia Kraal. She was my height of 5'6" and looked somewhat similar to me in eye color and hair, which were both brown. Her hair reached down to just above her shoulders in a cropped cut, and her bangs almost covered her eyes. I noted that she had a very nice voice and wondered if she could sing well.
"Pretty excited," I replied, holding my mallet in my hand and adjusting my pack over my shoulder. "Pretty scared, though, to be honest."
"No kidding," Natalia assured me. "You're totally forgiven; this is going to be a tough trek. I'm surprised that out of all the people in our village the only ones with enough balls to go up after that damned bird are a couple of kids barely out of puberty with little to no climbing experience. Same people who put our entire harvest into one tied up giant brown bag."
"Comforting," I frowned.
"Yeah, my bad," she crinkled her brow. "I guess that just means we'll have to show them up. They probably expect us to run back to them crying before we even reach a thousand feet."
"Not all of them," I argued. "My dad seems to have some confidence in me."
"Well, that's what dads are supposed to do." She mumbles.
"Well, it's surprising that he even approved, much less invested faith in me," I explain. "He lost my mom on one of these mountains."
"Jesus," she gasped. "Really?"
"Yep," I sighed, feeling the sting in my gut as I mentioned her again. "She froze to death in his arms on the descent down. They were almost home, just another half day. We haven't been the same since."
"Oh..." She stops in her tracks. "I feel you, man. My dad... well, he ate it on a mountain; fell from halfway up. We had to reassemble his pieces for the funeral."
"Jesus," I echo.
She reached for my hand in comfort, which I allowed. "I guess that's why we'll have to show them wrong," she told me. "Because we can do this, Preston. I know we can."
"I admire your faith," my reply was absentminded as I rubbed my finger across her knuckle unconsciously. She jolted when I did that, and so I murmured an apology.
"No, it's okay," her voice was quiet, surprised. I let her go and look up ahead. Quiet reigned through us before Natalia cracked a smile and said "But there's no use getting all melancholy about it. Optimism is what keeps our fire alight, I've come to find."
"Alright then," I cracked a smile. "Sounds like a plan."
"Then let's do this, Popo," she shouted to herald the beginning of our adventure.
"Yeah… wait, Popo?" The nickname amused me. "Where'd you come up with it?"
"The top of my head," she grinned.
"That's silly," I retorted.
"But it's catchy. Just rolls off the tongue," she insisted. "Live a little, Popo."
"Fine," I concede. As if it's some big threat, I reply "But I get to call you Nana."
"Oh!" She spun out dramatically, her hand on her heart. "Oh, Popo, you've wounded me. I hope you're happy," she smirked, elbowing me as the highway ended and the mountain trail began. I blushed but grumbled "Alright."
"Optimism, damnit," she commanded me. "So, I can see the trail beginning."
"A lot of ice around it," I noted, grabbing my mallet. "Good thing we brought these bad boys, right?"
She chuckled. "Yep. They're no fashion statement, but they'll do. We're gonna make it, Popo."
"Sure, Nana," I said. And I actually believed it. I could hear her singing in front of me, and I realized that she did have a brilliant singing voice. Yep. Called it.
"Oh, take me back to the start," she sang with a soft radiance, and I hummed along, smiling as I told myself that I had a feeling that I would never forget this character I was climbing a mountain with, Natalia "Nana" Kraal.
I haven't since, and I haven't regretted it for a moment.
A/N …not sure what I'm supposed to say. Honestly… I'm freezing cold, my sister and her friend are making a mess of the living room and laughing their heads off, the world outside is nicer the farther away from me that it is, and I'm incredibly satisfied with this work. I wasn't sure if I could pull this off, but by God I did.
I hope you loved this, Ace, because I loved making it.
To the non-Aces that are reading this, I hope you enjoyed it too. Ice Climbers are perhaps my favorite Smash Characters (well next to Falco, Sheik, Luigi and the occasional Peach, Yoshi and Marth) because it makes me grin to see the two of them working together to conquer all ahead of them. That's also my inspiration for this story. :D My mind runs wild when I smash brothers (you may see a PeachxMarth story from me soon, as well as something involving Wolf). That's why I started writing here in the first place.
Here's to my 50th story, but more importantly, here's to you, Ace. :D
P.S. Her birthday is in 4 weeks. At this rate if I start now I may have a gift done in time. XD