author's note: this does have some spoilers for the end of the series if you've not seen it. ^_^
It was a waiting morning.
It had been a heavy night, thick with unfallen snow. His head felt thus, laden with unfallen tears.
He pulled the turtleneck over his head, shivering as he emerged. His lover lifted the long dark mass of his hair, tenderly kissed the nape of his neck. "Dreaming again?"
Always. But he did not speak, merely nodded, trying to place the worry behind his lover's eyes. Trying to remember the pain behind his own.
It was holiday, the eve of the Solstice, the two of them stringing candy and lifting colored-glass balls to decorate their place, to fill their small world with a sense of warmth and bright sweetness.
He had the vaguest notion that it had worked in the past, that this life they were living had always been so, but that for some reason he could not rest in this uneasy now. The world around him was following the dance, but he only felt like a child's puppet dangling crazily from a half-frayed string-- at any moment to shatter and fall.
His lover let a smooth glass ball slip from his strong fingers, gasping as it dropped.
Somehow he had always been good with his hands, and this unexpected knowledge twisted in his heart like a budding winterflower, allowing him to flick out a wrist and catch it, surer than breathing--
The redglass ball shattering in his upturned palm.
He could only blink, while his lover washed his hand murmuring wordless apologies, wondering that it hurt far more than it should have, stinging of metal-edged swordcuts rather than the bright thin pain of glass-shards. Where was this pain, that it felt as real as his own?
Wondering why he felt as if he were unraveling, in this world of sweet cold-smelling light and cradled in his lover's powerful hands. Something hurt, something unnameable and bigger by far than he could hold.
They walked out together, clothes pulled warm and snug around their throats; the afternoon shining and brittle with cold, alive with the sounds of bell-choirs and the scent of cinnamon and pinesmoke.
No, it was gone again, as quickly as it had come, the faintest memories buried again under the oncoming waves of his consciousness. He'd been crying a name in his dreams, but he couldn't recall it now to his lips, no matter how he try. Just faintest memories of solstices before-- there had been bells, mintbutter and nutcandies, and night air so cold it hurt to breathe-- and he had been whole, then, in a way he could barely remember remembering.
What tremulous thing was waiting beneath this anticipation? What was being birthed this winter, that he should grieve so, feeling unmade before it?
They were walking out together, looking for-- Him. It hurt, the way the thought swallowed itself again. But that much remained-- and he clung to it desperately. Him.
In the evening, when the sparkle of lights was just becoming visible in the lengthening shadows, they found the girls.
Fellow seekers, knowing they knew nothing.
Wordlessly trying to recall the way that His every love had been urgent and new, a chaos of fresh passion to see them through.
But then someone was calling his name.
And the axis of the world shifted, spinning ponderously around his eyes.
It bore him up and up, through the thinning air, till he felt as small and incandescent as a single star, lifted on the light of a song. It hurt to breathe, so perfectly cold, his breath frosting.
And then he was full of sweet awful terrifying pain, like he were being poured molten soul back into himself.
Tira's eyes were ablaze, hot and flickering as that last campfire they'd shared, ringed around the fire to hold back the fog and chill. "Carrot."
Chocolate gasped, matching her sister's gaze with her own, dark as bluest starless midnight. "Darling!"
Gateau caught it next, sharp smile on his lips. "Aa... That idiot." He shook his head wonderingly, his eyes that shade of blue that first returns to the winter sky after the long night.
Marron opened his mouth slowly, last of all to speak, his own eyes golden like the slow pour of dawn. "Niisan."
And Carrot forgot the pain, seeing their eyes like hearing a bell-carol, each hue a pure, clean note. Surely he didn't deserve--
That didn't matter. They were running before they even remembered to breathe, running to hold him like the stars were falling down.
Carrot woke with a start, head on Gateau's shoulder. "Allo, Turnip. You were drooling on me." He ducked his head apologetically, but Gateau was grinning.
Carrot shifted himself upright, looking around him. It all seemed-- appalling normal. Except maybe for the fact that they were about a mile off the ground, soaring homeward by Big Mama's appropriated magic.
Gateau was leaning over, face rapt, watching the ground spill by beneath, a rag-tag quiltwork of farmland and town and mountain, stitched together by rivers like threads.
Chocora was asleep, Tira playing absently with her sister's hair, smoothing the red waves. There was something tentative and beautiful about Tira's smile, as she didn't yet realize anyone was looking at her. Carrot felt his heart twisting. He had done it. He had saved them-- all of them-- and they had saved him. Again.
Carrot thought that the Northlit sky was the most luminous thing he'd ever seen, brighter still than a polished sword, or the welcoming smile of a pretty girl. He tilted his head back, heedless of the bitter chill against his neck, just to look-- to drink in the sky.
So lonely, hovering there, he felt he would break with it. The heavens felt so close-- near enough to touch--
He didn't know when he realized that Marron, too, was lost in the sky, his eyes like reflected brilliance.
"Hey, little bro." Carrot twined his fingers with his younger brother's, felt a smile warming him from somewhere deeper even than his heart. It hurt too much to be a smile though, far too raw. "Thank you, Marron."
Marron's eyes lowered, shining golden, to his brother, and Carrot thought surely the smile on his face was brighter even than the sky. "I'm glad you're--" Marron's voice caught and he couldn't say ‘safe,' as they hurtled precariously through the crystal night.
"Home," Carrot finished for him, his younger brother's shoulders hitching in a silent sob. They clutched each other there, not safe-- knowing a Hunter is never safe-- but Home.