Author’s Notes:  Prequel to ‘Gmen’ but a distant one.  You don’t need to know anything about the other fic to read this one, except that the setting is a very
vague fusion of the original X-men cartoon.  Jin and Touya are mutants in this fic, not demons.  This fic is mostly YYH, so those unfamiliar with Naruto won’t be
lost.  If any Naruto fans happen upon this fic, please note the pairings and that this is an alternate universe fic – I’m not going to be very ‘canon’ here and I’ve
never written Naruto (except for a bit of KakashixIruka fluff in ‘Creating a Legend.’)
I don’t want this story to span off into ‘never-endingness’, so expect the parts to be quick.  I doubt I’ll take more than a month or two to finish this – there’s not
that much to tell.  This fic will be followed by a series of short fluffy (or lemony) side-fics to fill in the gaps along with Gmen.  It may also have a prequel focusing
more on the Naruto characters, but that hasn’t been decided yet.
Inspiration:  After re-reading all of Obsidian Sphinx’s JinxTouya fics, I decided it was high time I did one of my own.  There really is a shortage of fics for this
lovely and rare pairing.
Summary:  When Jin rescues a lone Ice Master from uncertain death, he’s eager to teach him about the simple pleasures in life.  Touya warms to the
treatment, but knows his past will catch up to him if he dares to settle down for too long.
Fanart:  I’ve been doing quite a bit of JinxTouya fanart, it’s available on my fanart page:
www . geocities . com / arigatomina / fanworks . html
Category:  Anime, Yu Yu Hakusho, Naruto, Alternate Universe (AU), Yaoi, light school-fic genre
Warnings:  angst, reference to violence, shonen ai, will have lemon content (off-site for ffnet readers)
Pairings:  JinxTouya main; assumed ShinoxShikamaru, SuzukixShishi, KakashixIruka; references to ReishoxTouya; and light Neiji-Lee, Naruto-Sasuke, Sakura-
Ino (canon rivalry, dash of shoujo ai)
Author:  Arigatomina


Part 1:  Snow White; Be Still My Heart

The weather was warm, windy and warm enough to sweep a delicious springtime breeze over the hills.  The scent of heather and flowers and nature at its
finest rode on that irresistible wind, a waft of life forcing itself into his lungs deeply enough to choke him.  The heat hit him the hardest, a midafternoon sun
beaming happily on the landscape and crushing him down like so much leaden weight.  Gama would have understood.  

His arms and legs were so heavy he could barely lift them and even knowing most of that was the weight of his own disgust didn’t change the pressure pushing
down on him.  The sun, that effervescent weather, the green billowy grass mixed with giddy golden flowers, all of it snickered behind airy clouds, eating away
at his stubborn pride.  Here was a sanctuary for outcasts, a beautiful world waiting to wrap welcoming arms around any who entered it.  And all he wanted was
to turn back, trek back, find the plane he’d stolen away on and ride it to any place that didn’t mock him with so much light.

He did turn then, limbs too heavy to lift for another step, his neck aching from even that vague movement.  It seemed whiplash wouldn’t heal on its own, not for
him.  He’d removed the brace weeks ago, or a week ago, maybe days…he couldn’t remember.  It was an eyesore that would have brought  unwanted attention
to him.  So now he took it as one more barrier and turned his shoulders more than his head, seeking a look toward the horizon.  

Had he walked for days?  Or hours…?

Darkness had met his eyes the last time he woke, but everything before that had blurred into a single-minded task of not falling down until he found something
soft to land on.  He remembered the plane, waking and scrambling to get off before he was discovered in his dark niche, the stares when he’d tried to exit the
airport across the personnel-only yard, the man who’d done his best to take him into custody to a hospital at the very least because surely they could see the
boy was hurt too much to be arrested.  

He’d done something to that man.  

Hurt him, possibly killed him, because he’d woken in a ditch with his head pounding fit to explode, blood in his mouth, and no airport, hospital, or jail in sight.  
Part of him hoped he hadn’t killed that man, someone who had wanted to help even if it hurt in the end.  And part of him was bitter that he’d done something
powerful without being conscious enough to understand how he’d done it, bitter that he’d woken in mud that had the nerve to be warm and comfortably
inviting.  Better not to have woken at all, than to be humiliated on top of everything.

The horizon was distant, peaking over hills and mountains that he knew he couldn’t have passed.  The airport must have been somewhere between here and
there, hidden in a valley, perhaps.  He’d certainly climbed enough of the rolling hills to know they blocked out any and all signs of civilization, for which he was
dearly grateful.  

No one could see him like this, not covered in mud, blood, and dark festering stubbornness that urged him to lift his limbs into motion again.  He’d rather die
than suffer the pity of strangers.

‘I keep saying that, but I’m still pushing forward.  Why would I, if I didn’t want to be taken in?  Find someone else to shelter me, fool me, and tear into me the
moment I sleep, lax stupid and weak.  What am I doing if not repeating it?  Why else would I keep moving when all I want is to get away, from here, from the
past, from everything?  I don’t want to be seen like this, but what else could I expect?  To find, be found, or to die in this paradise – I know my options.  I do.  I
can feel it gnawing at me, nauseating, taunting…tempting...’

“There’s no point in this…”

His voice surprised him, a human yet inhuman sound swept off by the breeze that before had only carried the lovely celebration of birds.  

It was soft, a whisper with just a hint of that strength that had sent him running from his parents at the age of ten, the will to live and fight that had kept him free
during those lost years of hiding in shadows, the unending spirit that didn’t care if he were cursed for being a mutant, the suffocating pride that had sent him
staggering from the hospital before he was released into hell again.  And it was broken, the hoarse humiliating sound that had kept him from speaking when
they’d asked him what happened, the sketchy breath he’d used in place of pleas or cries, the monotone voice he’d perfected to hide any weakness that might
be exploited against him.

“I know why I’m here.”

There was a hint, just a breath as his voice was more distinct this time, a hint that someday it would deepen and settle into a powerfully controlled voice.  Or it
would have, given another year to steady itself.  He was only-

‘Only…fourteen?  Or is it sixteen now?  I don’t know what year it is…  I don’t know this world anymore.  And I don’t think it matters…’

A shimmer of movement in the tall grass brought him spinning around.  His neck tightened, a blade sinking down his spine.  And he pitched over onto his side
in a cumbersome lack of grace.  Those weighted limbs, motionless for so long, had forgotten how to hold him up.  He tasted blood again, that sharp bubbling
pain that blossomed in his chest and surged up to gag him.

He held it back with cold carelessness, barely moving his tongue against the coppery flavor.  His eyes had flown to the source of the movement and identified
it as some small creature hopping through the high grass.  He’d been frightened by a rabbit.  It was one more blow to his already faltering pride, one that
twitched in his stomach and gibbered a pitiless laughter in his ears.  

His lips responded to that, curving into a tight, grimacing smirk.  The small, haplessly happy creature had better move quickly or it could die along with
everything else on his hill.

‘My hill.  There are no people here, no bystanders.  I can feel it there, my fingers are numb from it.  It won’t obey me, but it wants this place.  It’s festering cold
and promising and I can feel it there, I can use it.  I can take this hill as my grave and even the sun will hide its eyes from the sight.  One last tribute to this
curse of pride.  Snow for me, soft and blanketing…and ice so cold a person would freeze to touch it.  I can do that.  I believe I can do that.  And I could sleep
where no one can touch me, ice on the slopes…they’d never get to me…even if they knew where to look…’

Cold resolve hardened in his eyes, casting a pale icy blue shimmer that erased the pupils until they fairly shone from his white face.  He could feel that numb
creeping from his fingertips upward, easing the throbbing and sharpness as it moved along, until his heart sighed in his ears so much more appropriate than
that hideously cheerful breeze.  Frozen, but soft and melting, his limbs sank into the grass, relieved of that weight his stubbornness had put on them.  And the
sun, so bright above him, crept away, dimmed by dark clouds.

He watched them churn overhead, created by nothing more than his will to see them blot out that hateful sun.  The snow fell in a beautiful dance, ignorant of
the warmth that remained everywhere but on his hill.  Flakes fell in his eyes, stinging, melting, and then remaining to blot out his sight in small dots as they
ceased to melt.  

It wasn’t fitting.  He didn’t want to be buried.  He wanted to see it through.

A small twinge somewhere inside his numbed body brought more blood to his mouth, but it was cold and flavorless.  He ignored it, his eyes dazed by the flurry
that fell around him, freezing the grass but cushioning his body in soft, heavy layers.  It wouldn’t bury him, just…surround, like a mass of feathers with more
substance, a shelter from the world.  And perhaps…a light layer…?

‘Not enough weight to hurt, just…something over me, something I can feel…’

And he faded, his eyes falling closed only to struggle open again.  He couldn’t forget the ice, to separate his hill, make it unmanageable so no one would dare
to approach.  A protection against-

Even if they knew where to look, a person would freeze to touch it…’

That twinge sparked into a tearing sort of throb, abrupt pain waking enough to choke him before sinking out again.  He could feel the blood spill over to freeze
on the corner of his mouth, a trickle down to his neck.  Then he shoved all sensations aside and closed his eyes tight, his concentration solely on the ice he
couldn’t lift his head to see.  

It had to be thick and heavy.  Thick enough that it wouldn’t melt for days even with that obnoxious sun beating down on it, cold enough that it would protect him
from animals and people alike.  It had to circle the hill without touching his soft bed of snow.  It had to be perfect.  It had to be-

‘Fitting?  I almost wish I could look to see if it is.  To think I can do this…  If I’d known, I’d have done it sooner and it wouldn’t be simple rabbits dying in my
grave…  To think, someday I could freeze a person just by willing it to happen.  Or…someday I might have, could have…if I’d been…’

His chest hitched, a sluggish movement that matched his thoughts.  His mind seemed as numb and slow as everything else.

‘I’m determined.  Determined…it isn’t like giving up, it isn’t.  I decided and…I’m seeing it through…  And if my body freezes does my brain stop like a flame
going out?  Random…it’s so random.  Will I freeze or simply sleep here?  How much does it take, when this cold is so soft to me?  Someday…I could lie here
and it would make me stronger…  I really think it could…if I’d mastered this.   I couldn’t even master the only thing that’s mine…’

‘I don’t want to think, stop…just stop and sleep.  Isn’t that the point?  Sleep, be still…easy…and still…my heart is so quiet.  I can’t hear anything, but it doesn’
t…don’t think…  Sleep, just…there…nothing there at all…not cold…no pain…nothing…  And it’s so…so quiet…soft…gentle…and it’s mine…’

- - -

It was a beautiful day, exhilarating and clean, nothing like the crowded noisy buzz of Tokyo, or even Osaka.  Even the nagging knot of worry in his gut couldn’t
stop him from simply breathing in that delicious air, surely laden in pure oxygen unlike that stuffy classroom which he just knew was filled with old teacher
breath since they never so much as cracked a window.  How did they expect anyone to pay attention when their brains were slowly suffocating and their noses
went off into wildly agonizing death throws with every breath of the guy’s rank smell?

Fresh air or no fresh air, it seemed his mind was set on the class he’d skipped out of.  He let out a long mental sigh and gave into the thoughts that were more
than happy to spring up and make themselves known, rather like him when he had a funny story to tell his friends. He could just see that, his thoughts puffing
out their chests with wide grins and gleaming eyes that couldn’t contain how great the tale was.  Yes, his thoughts were just as overeager as he was on a good
day.  But today, they had bad news, depressing and old news that he’d heard time and time again.  He would have thought they’d give up eventually.

‘You’re going to be in so much trouble when you get back to the house,’ that voice lectured, as if it had no idea it was just him talking to himself with an Iruka-
voiced conscience.

Jin screwed up his face and flew faster into the wind, as if the sound of it rushing past his pointed ears would stop him from hearing that nagging wanna-be
teacher voice.  Like he didn’t get that enough at school.  He even had to put up with it from himself.

‘What’s the fun of skipping class if I take the teacher with me?  Sure, I know Iruka’s going to throw a fit when I get back, that’s why I’m flying so fast.  See?  At
this rate I’ll be halfway across the border before he even finds out I skipped again.  It’s the perfect plan!  What’s he going to do, send Kakashi after me?  He’d
get a few blocks out of town and stop to read his newest book – he’s as bad as I am!’

‘You’re incorrigible,’ that voice stated, disapproval dripping from the words.

He almost about-faced, outrage and a flash of surprise spurting over his features.  ‘Don’t use big words like that, baka!  The teachers would never let me skip
class if they knew I wasn’t as dumb as I act.  Have to keep up appearances, you know.  Jin?  Oh, yeah, I know him.  Big dumb guy, likes to sneak out and fly off
because he’s a bad mutant and that’s what they do – break the rules every chance they get.  Why…if they knew I had half a brain, I’d be stuck with Shino
tutoring the rejects.  It’s unthinkable!’

‘You’re unthinkable,’ that voice sniffed.

Jin raised an eyebrow.  ‘Wouldn’t that be incapable of thinking?  In…  Hey!  Don’t trick me into thinking!  That’s it.  I’m tuning you out.’

That voice made as if to protest, or harp some more – and he didn’t know why he thought of the world harp since that voice was no where near pleasant to
listen to – but he started humming loudly enough so that between it and the wind in his ears, that voice was nothing but a vague mumble in the background.  
Three minutes of that, during which time he found himself a real tune to hum instead of that single note, and his conscience gave up altogether.  

Jin smirked and turned his attention back to his jaunt.

His conscience really was a pain sometimes, and he knew it was crazy to let it assume its own voice like that.  He’d never admit that he enjoyed talking to
himself, even if it was just listening to his conscience berate him like some elderly equivalent of his favorite teacher.  Yes, he did like the worrisome Iruka, even
if the man was the worst when it came to lecturing him about skipping classes.  He was just cute when got all frustrated and flustered and at his wits end.  And
Iruka-sensei had really short wits, so he spent most of his time at the end of them.

Ever since Jin had come to the halfway house – which was really just a house for mutants, though the town pretended not to notice – he’d found himself
adopting Iruka like a kid brother, for all that the teacher was much older than him.  There was just something about the easily teased man that made him want
to wrap him in a bear hug, and maybe muss his hair till he turned bright red in the face.  That was always fun because Iruka-sensei was naturally tanned and
looked downright silly with a red face.  If Iruka didn’t keep his hair in such a tight tail at school, Jin might have skipped class less often and spent more time
annoying his favorite sensei.

He did try to sit through classes as much as he could.  There were just some days when a single glance out of that window – the window his smelly last-period
teacher refused to open – sent his nerves to twittering with a need to taste, feel, and be part of that breeze.  He was a Wind Master.  How could those teachers
expect him to sit quietly and patiently in a stuffy little room when he could practically feel the wind vibrating through the walls and calling to him?  Jin-kun, Jin-
kun, come fly with me…I promise you’ll like it…Come on, Jinny-koi, you know you want to…

‘That wind is such a coy little thing when it taunts me out here.  And the things it calls me…!  Poor Sakura-chan would blush bright red if she could hear it talk.  
Not that I’d tell her about it, though.  She never did get over that time I told her what it whispered to me about her and Ino behind the bushes.  I swear, she’ll
never believe I didn’t peak on them.  I guess I could have just said I smelt them…which is definitely true with that perfume Ino wears, yech…but where’s the fun
in that?  Much better to let her think the wind was spying on her.’

‘All right, so I know the wind doesn’t talk to me, but it feels like it sometimes.  I can swear it’s just taunting me, like Kakashi holding ramen over Naruto’s head so
he hops around drooling in a mindless little dance.  That’s what the wind does to me, it breezes around the school till I’m drooling in my desk.  Only I can’t do a
mindless dance without the teacher sending me to the Principal’s office.  Like I’d actually go there, anyway.  Psh.  He should know me better than that.  I guess
that smelly teacher isn’t nearly as smart as Iruka-sensei.  Then again, he’s probably not as gullible either, so maybe it all evens out in the end…’

As much as Jin liked to make light and play jokes about it, he didn’t like his last-period teacher.  Professor Terringer – since he couldn’t call him san or sensei
– didn’t like him and he was quite comfortable making that clear to the entire class.  It was the sort of thing Jin chose not to think about, just like he turned his
eyes out the window when the teacher made droll comments about him and mutants in general – as if he couldn’t hear him or was too dumb to understand if
he did hear.  There weren’t that many of that type of people at the school, or in the town in general, but it only took a handful to make things unpleasant.

Jin was well acquainted with unpleasant people, though he hoped no one would know it to talk to him.  He did his best not to let things like that get to him, and
a freeing sail through the sky usually cleaned his bad feelings out like so many nasty and sticky, but easily wiped away, cobwebs.  It wasn’t that he was always
cheerful, just that he was rarely uncheerful – it wasn’t exactly easy being happy all the time.  His fellow students didn’t seem to realize that.

Sure, he was the smiling one, the one who’d make a joke back or just ignore insults that got tossed at him.  No one worried about hurting his feelings or getting
him angry because Jin was the every-happy bubble of silliness who was incapable of feeling anything but happy thoughts.  Right.

‘I am human, after all.  Or…yeah, okay.  I’m not human, but mutants are people too!  What, they think I liked being shipped over here just because I happen to
sprout pointy ears and a horn when I’m emotional?  That I don’t want to pull a ‘Shishi’ on their sorry butts when they start cracking jokes because my ears
twitch when I’m excited?  I can do the ‘psycho-horned mutant attacking the bullies’ thing if I want to, I just figure Shishi’s really good at that, and I wouldn’t want
to hone in on his fun.  It’s not like I don’t imagine sweeping those idjits up in a big twister and dropping them off halfway to America – in the ocean, of course.  
Then we’d see how funny my ears are to the lot of them.  I work hard to stay this happy…!’

“Ooh!  What a pretty bird…!”

Jin eased back so he was pretty much standing in midair, his bright blue eyes on the large bird that sailed past him.  It was a hawk, he thought, or maybe just a
pretty buzzard – he’d never cared to classify birds, they were prettier without names.  He glanced back in the direction the bird had come from and blinked, his
big blue eyes getting much bigger.

“Lots of pretty birds…” he whispered, gulping a bit at the flock that seemed hellbent on flying through him.  

He did a little spin in midair and soared higher so the flock would fly beneath him.  They were panicked and crazed, something in the wind pushing them faster
than their wings could carry them.

‘Hence they’re soaring in the direction the wind’s blowing,’ Jin thought.  ‘But why so fast?  And since when do those big clawed ones fly next to those little
brown ones?  Those two never mix unless it’s dinnertime…’

He craned his head back, checking out the cloud cover above him.  If he could have flown higher, he might have spotted what they were running from. But the
clouds were a little too thick.  He knew he’d never be able to see through them, and he’d be soaked if he tried – those soft clouds were fluffy and funny to go
through, but quite wet at the same time.

The birds had passed, so he ducked down and flashed off in the direction they’d come from, that strong wind playing over his face.  Again, he could almost
imagine what it was saying, and the very idea brought a big grin to his lips, one small happy fang glinting in the bright sunlight.  You wanna see it, don’t you,
Jinny-boy.  Something wild and fun and interesting…just the sort of thing to send your ears twitching until you can’t hold still and go spinning all over the
place.  Better hurry, though, hurry, Jin-kun, hurry now…  Don’t wanna miss it, do you…?

“Right!” Jin said happily, his voice snatched up by that fierce wind, swirling and carrying it away.

Another bird, smaller than the others but stubbornly flying at full tilt, nearly went into his mouth, and Jin ducked to the side, twisting so he flew with his back
facing the ground.  The little bird did a slight spin but kept its straight course, only giving a slight squawk at the rudeness.  Jin watched it go, then turned back
to try and spot what they were flying away from.

The wind was dying down now, not so fierce, and he noticed the cool breeze drifting below him.  It was strange, that was why he noticed it.  Usually when he
flew so high, the cooler air was above him because the warm ground let off nice breezes to drift up from below.  He almost dropped a bit, to get a good whiff of
that cool wind.  But a glint caught his eyes, drawing his attention forward again.

Jin had never been to the mountains, but he’d looked at them quite a bit, the distant mystery of them drawing his eyes with a promise of fun.  Now he found
himself squinting at what appeared to be a little mountain, green at the base, and then the snowy tip.  Only it was small and round and it definitely wasn’t far
enough away to be real.  The hills separated them from the nearest mountain range by miles and miles – at least a few days the way he flew.

He dropped closer to the ground as he neared that snowy hill, his brows drawn close in confusion while his ears twitched in rising curiosity.  The temperature
was definitely colder the closer he got to both the hill and the ground itself.  And once he was close enough to see the bright shine on that white surface, he
got a mouthful of wind-carried snowflakes.

‘Snow!  It’s actually snow in the middle of springtime!  And really cold snow, too…’

Since he’d skipped school, Jin was still dressed in his loose uniform, the short sleeves not at all appropriate for the icy breeze that swept along him.  Not that it
was his fault.  He hadn’t exactly planned to spot a snowy hill in the middle of the fields.  He rubbed his arms and drew to a slow stop, shivering as he hovered
not too far from the edge of that white surface.

Looks more like ice than snow, though…so shiny.  And is that a-’

“Oh wow,” Jin breathed, his eyes filling his face.  

There, just a few yards from him, one paw in the air as if it had merely paused midstep, was either a mangy wolf, or a really wild dog.  It was frozen under what
had to be inches of ice, like some bizarre statue.  Jin didn’t know what was more amazing, that it was a wolf, or that it was a wolf who must have been frozen the
moment his paw touched the edge of the ice.

And it was definitely ice, he realized, as he hovered a bit closer to the glittering white sheet.  He could see a very light mist rising over the surface – like the
condensation on an icy cool glass in the summertime.  Beneath that reflective surface was a vague green blur that might have been grass.  A foot deep or he
was a flying squirrel.

Suddenly Jin wondered if he should have paid more attention during his geology class.  He’d heard talk about global warming, but nothing about bizarre
random icy hills in the middle of spring.  Not to mention the bright sun overhead – warm enough to make the tip of his ears twitch – and the speed those birds
had taken off at – as if it had happened very quickly.  

Never one to let a mystery go unsolved, or at least investigated, Jin zipped higher into the air.  He paused for a glorious moment of just enjoying how much
warmer it was up there, and the feel of the sun beaming down on his face.  Then he glanced below.

He was reminded of the play Ino and Sakura had fought over a few months back.  It had been some Western fairy tale, complete with a princess in a glass
coffin, a handful of weirdos, and a prince dashing to rescue the princess from her sleep with a romantic kiss.  Naturally Sasuke had been elected to play the
part of the prince, however much he’d grouched and complained.  So the girls had fought intensely to get the role of kissee.  Jin could still remember the way
they’d practiced on the lawn, laying on their backs and playing dead as though their bright blushing faces wouldn’t give them away.

The still body beneath him didn’t have that problem, the pale white face almost blended with the snow piled around it, a light dusting nearly covering the
person’s pale bluish clothing.  The bright, glinting ice that surrounded the slopes of the hill did fit with the glass coffin idea, and as much as Jin tried to grin at
the parody of that romance, it seemed grotesque.  

This wasn’t a play, and it certainly wasn’t a fairy tale.  It was a dead body lying on an impossibly frozen hill.  

His bright blue eyes dimmed and his face fell into an expression only two of his friends had seen.  It was the same knowing acceptance, and deep discomfort
he’d felt when he first arrived at the halfway house and had wanted nothing more than to run back home where he knew what would happen from one day to
the next, where he’d be comfortable and things would be normal.  Excitement was grand as long as he could feel normal inside.  Staring down at that pale
face, half buried in snow, he knew things couldn’t be normal again.  

He’d never seen a dead body before and he knew he’d be seeing it up close as soon as he got up his nerve to go look.  He couldn’t just leave it there, not if
that dog-thing really was a wolf.  The ice would melt before long, the way the sun was shining down on it.  And the next wolf to come by wouldn’t freeze like the
first had.

He made a quiet sound of distress, his sharp ears instinctively ducking into his billowy red hair.  Then he forced himself down to hover over the snow.

Again he found himself thinking of that tale, only this time it made his stomach twist and lurch toward his throat.  White as snow and red as blood, that was how
the little tale had started.  And that pale face fit the description all the way to the dark red blood that had spilled over those parted lips to freeze against the
snow that lay on his bare neck.  It wasn’t a girl, even with the snow he could see the person’s figure – small and delicate but definitely flat.  And so pretty…

Jin gulped, his eyes dark and narrow in an expression of severe discomfort.  He’d have to touch him and all he could think was that if the frozen body broke
into pieces he’d start sobbing and be sick all over the snow.  He could almost imagine what it would look like and the image was enough to make that small
sound rise in his throat again.

‘I can’t do this, I can’t, I can’t!  I don’t want to, why did I have to find him?  And why, why – why do I have to touch him?!  He’ll be cold and stiff and he’ll break
and…and…like the wolf.  Yes, think of the wolf…like a statue, that’s all.  A pretty human statue, that’s all.  But it’s not human, it just looks like that.  Like a
mannequin…!  A cold mannequin.  I can do that.  Yes, yes, I think I can do that.’

He stilled himself, his teeth closing tight over his lower lip.  But when he reached a hand out toward that white face and felt the chilling cold rising off that
bloodless skin, his resolve cracked.

‘Even if I can get him up, he’s so cold - what if I can’t carry him back to town?  Maybe I should leave him here.  I could hurry, if I went really, really fast, then...  I’
d still have to bring someone out to him, so they’d know where to go.  And if anything chews on him while I’m gone, I’ll never...’

His stomach lurched again, and he stared miserably at the tiny mist of his warm breath over that cold air.  He was going to be sick one way or another, he just
knew he was.  Better to be sick and get it over with, than to imagine what the pretty body would look like if a wolf did make it up that hill.  He closed his eyes
tight and reached down for those snow dusted shoulders.

The chill immediately bit into his hands, which turned out to be a rather nice distraction, all things considered.  He opened his eyes again to see the snow
melting as it made contact with his skin, and he almost lifted the body without making any more of those little noises.  He really didn’t like those noises - he
hadn’t cried since his parents had decided to send him away, and those sounds made him want to cry in pity for himself.  He’d simply never been in a situation
like this before, and nothing he could think of would let him get through it with his customary grin.

There was a strange, oddly interesting sound as he pulled the body up.  Jin frowned at the half frozen grass beneath, wondering if frozen bodies always
sounded like sticky tape being peeled free of a care package.  But he didn’t have time to wonder about it. The boy, possibly a teenager, was icy cold to the
touch, and that pale blue clothing was stiff and numbing to his bare hands.  

Only...the body itself didn’t seem frozen the way he’d expected.  The shoulders were dead weight, yes, but not stiff and breakable.  He couldn’t help the little
sigh of relief that made it past his clenched teeth.  His own shoulders loosened just a bit as he pulled the body up more, not quite wincing at the sound of ice
breaking between the cloth and the frozen grass.

That pale head fell back, the snow dusting away to reveal pale blue hair and a few interesting strands of aqua near his face.  And a strange sound made Jin’s
ears twitch free from his own hair, perking and listening intently.  He pulled the body up further, into a seated position, and the sound repeated itself.


Jin swallowed, his eyes gleaming madly as he kept himself from doing anything rash like shaking the body or slapping him silly.  “Are you alive in there?  Are

He didn’t get an answer, and he still couldn’t see any sign of breathing - not the least bit of a mist over those open, bloodstained lips.  But the moment he
shifted those shoulders, that pale head rocking back, the sound came again.  Being the semi-psychotic but rational person that he was, Jin dismissed the
possibility of it being a coincidence.  He ducked close so his ear was near that cold face, and gave him a light shake.

He immediately shifted his head so he was listening to the person’s neck instead of his mouth.  It had sounded like - as strange as the idea was to him - a
clucking sound.  Almost like a gag reflex, or swallowing sound, only hollow somehow.  None of that made any sense to him, but he could swear he heard
breaths when he pushed his half-numbed ears close to that icy skin.

‘Breathing, but icy cold.  Maybe if his breath is cold, it wouldn’t mist.  Only...a person can’t live if he’s that cold, can he...?  Cold inside and out?  What was it...
ninety something I think, the inside of a person is ninety degrees or more, eight maybe.  If he’s cold enough inside that his breath doesn’t show, he can’t be
alive.  But...’

Jin moved his head back, rubbing a bit on his numbed ear to bring feeling back to it. Then he leveled a stare at that frozen, seemingly dead face.

“I’m going to consider you alive,” Jin said seriously.  “So play along with me, okay?  If you are, then that probably hurts, so let’s fix it.”

With that, he tilted the boy’s head forward, where he imagined it would be much easier to breathe if he were alive.  And he continued the peeling until he could
get those slender legs free from the grass beneath.  His back was just starting to go numb from the snow behind him when his front quickly joined it.

He was cold!  So cold Jin was sure he’d freeze halfway back to town and just plummet out of the sky like a great big icicle to shatter all over the ground.  His
teeth were already chattering by the time he straightened and that only took a few seconds.

“N-no time to w-waste, then,” he blurted, forcing himself into a cheery grin.  

He tilted his head back and flew straight up, as high as he could without hitting the light clouds that dotted the sky.  The air was so much warmer that he turned
as he flew, letting his back face the ground in hopes that the sun would keep his arms from freezing around that cold body.

‘Cold and small, and he sure doesn’t weigh much for an icy fellow.  I wonder if I can get higher up without hitting those clouds.  I really don’t want to be wet -
then I really would freeze. Wow, is he ever cold...  But he really is soft and...and flexible, I guess.  Doesn’t so sound good to think it like that.  But he’s not hard
at all, I mean...  Egh, I’m a pervert...!  But, well, a frozen body would be hard, or at least stiff - like that wolf.  So maybe he really is alive.  Sure he is...sure.  He
could be.  I did hear something...though I could have just broken something in him when his head fell back like that...  No!  Egh....don’t think that...
I’m creeping myself out again...’

As he’d expected, his arms grew numb after only a few minutes of flying, and Jin was glad to be supporting that cold body on his stomach.  Then again, his
stomach was getting pretty cold as well.  Even if it were a dead, frozen body, he thought it would have warmed at least a little.  The sun was being very
cooperative, beating down on them like that.  And that strong breeze he’d gone out to ride in earlier was as quick as ever, almost carrying them on a heated

“Warm up already,” said Jin, a pained grin pulling at his face.  “Would you?  Didn’t I ask you to play along?”

‘I’m a sick person, joking at a time like this...a really sick person.  But I’m doing the right thing!  I am.  I just don’t want to think that I’m carrying a dead body
back, a dead cold body that’s gonna fall if he doesn’t get at least a little warmer.  My arms hurt...’

He shifted his grip and waggled his free arm furiously, tingles and cramps shooting all down it.  “K’so!  Gaah...!”

‘I’ll start cussing up a storm that would make even Shishi blush, if I’m not careful.  I’ve picked up a lot of words from Suzuki...I guess now’s as good time as any
to try them out.’

“Shimata!  Yeow...!  It stings, stupid bugger-loving catnip!”

‘All right, so I’ve picked up more words from Iruka than Suzuki...’

“Eh, they sure do hurt when they wake up again,” Jin said companionably, not minding the absolute lack of response from the body.  “But it’s nice to feel my
fingers again - even if it won’t last long.  I bet you can’t feel your fingers at all, can you.”

He gave a sad little smile down at that pale face, noting how pretty it was with the sun glittering off it like that.

‘Glittering?  Why’s he glittering...?’

He curved his free arm up so his newly-woken fingers could brush that shiny face.  And he stared in complete confusion at his damp fingertips.  The body was
still cold to the touch, maybe not as cold as it had been but since his chest was about numb, he couldn’t tell.  Either way, that pale face was literally beaded
with sweat, shining like he’d been rained on.  

‘But he’s cold!  Why’s he sweating when he’s so cold...? it just me or is he getting a sunburn...?”

Jin’s expression fell into an oddly amused etch of confusion as he moved his arm so it shadowed that damp face.  “I think you really are alive.  And it’s no
wonder you’re so pale if you get burned from just a few minutes - the sun’s good for you, you know.  You should get out more, maybe a little tan.
would probably clash with your hair, come to think of it...”

There was no response, but he hadn’t expected one.  Now that he was convinced the impossibly cold boy really was alive, he had an urge to turn around and
fly willy-nilly back to town.  If he’d thought his arms would have remained awake enough for it, he’d have done just that.

“But, sweating or not, you’re still awfully cold.  I’ll have to stay as close to the sun as I can and hope we get back before it sets or we’ll really be in trouble.  Don’
t worry, though.”  He peaked under his arm at that shiny, flushed face.  “I won’t let you get sunburned.  Just...defrosting you a little.  You are like a human
popsicle, you know.”