Winter, Fire, and Snow
author's note: I don't know where Marron gets his ofuda wards. I am assuming, for the sake of fic, that he makes the darn things. I could be wrong and somewhere in the manga it may be revealed that he just pops out to art's ofuda world and buys them by the case. If that is so well then shucky darn. If the biggest non-cannon problem in this fic is where he gets his flashpaper and not that he's boinking his brother, then that's fine by me. =D
"AWWW man this SUCKS!" Carrot stomped around the small drafty cabin for what Marron estimated was the billionth time in the past half-hour. "What a crappy way to spend Yule. Holed up in some dinky SHACK, in the middle of noplace.. Even that pitiful excuse for a village is two hour's walk away!"
Marron sighed and dipped his quill into the precious dragonbane ink, carefully tracing the precise lines that would summon magic from his fingertips. "Be grateful we were even able to manage this shelter, Niisan. We could be sleeping in the snow." He pressed the latest completed ward to his lips, murmuring over it. They would take some time to charge, but he had depleted his entire stock in their last battle.
"Do you mind? I'm kinda wallowing in misery here." Carrot shoved his chin in his hand, growling at the rippled glass of the window. Marron had stuffed fabric in any holes in the small glass panes, and Gateau had made sure there was plenty of wood for the fire before he set off with the girls to get supplies from the village. Carrot was sulking; he'd wrenched his ankle the day before, and wouldn't be able to keep up on the hike to town. He thought maybe he could at least get some precious time alone with his brother, but the only thing Marron was making love to were his damn ofuda wards. It was, as he previously stated, a crappy way to spend Yule.
"Your misery is what you make of it, Niisan." Marron began painstakingly inking another slip of paper. "WE have shelter and food and each other, isn't that what this holiday dictates?"
Carrot flashed him an irritated look. "Why is it that the more pissy I am, the bigger words you use?"
Marron chuckled, chewing on the end of his quill. "Suki yo, Niisan."
Snow nuzzled against the windowpanes, and Carrot snuggled deeper into his fur jacket. Damn but he hated cold. It wasn't that it was so bad, but it was Yule, and he was tired and somehow lonely and achy inside and with a sudden wrench he realized he was terribly homesick. Not for his village or anything like that, but for Yules when he was very very little, remembering his mother Apricot. It seemed that the only memories he had of her were Yuletide ones, maybe because she smelled like the cinnamon sweets villagers would bring over to share. Somewhere in the fog of his memory there was an image of her brushing Marron's hair, his younger brother couldn't have been more than three years old. She was singing something, a melody that teased his subconscious mind but never surfaced. There were few enough Yules with his mother there but even after her death the house was still full of the clamor of children. Snow. Firelight. His father's stories, Tira and Chocolate playing toss-star on the hearth and laughing, a new old book for Marron, wooden sword for carrot, dragons carved into the hilt.
Before the Darkness.
Before the Fire.
Let's play, guys! I want to be the hero!"
"You always want to be the hero! Why do WE get stuck being the bad guys?"
"Because you're the GIRLS, that's why!"
"Niisan, can I play too? I want to be a mage!"
"You're too little to play! Aw- Marron, Don't cry... really, you can be my sidekick, alright? And the hero needs the sidekick to go see if it's snowing outside yet."
"Hey Marron-chan... you come over to our side and we'll pay you better! You can even be a HEAD bad guy!"
"Oneesama... do we really want a BOY on our side... I mean, even if it IS just Marron."
"Nuh-uh... I'm not leaving my brother, never ever ever!"
"Heh... that's my lil' bro. Want to carry my sword for me?"
"Can I? Really?"
"Sure thing kiddo... mmm..." Carrot nuzzled up against warmth, and startled himself awake. "Marron?"
"It's getting worse out there." Marron frowned at the dark glass. Carrot, still nestled against the windowframe, gave a stretch. He hoped he hadn't been talking in his sleep TOO much... majorly embarrassing. Who knew how long Marron had been standing there? Or how long he'd been asleep either, several ofuda wards were drying on the uneven table and the snow and wind were setting up a fierce howl outside. "I hope Gateau and the girls don't get lost in all this."
"It looks really nasty... maybe we should go lookin' for them?"
Marron closed his eyes, considering. "Perhaps... but just a little distance. Gateau would have seen this coming and not set out or turned back if it was too treacherous. It just depends on how far they might've come already." Marron pulled up the hood of his robe; he was wearing his heaviest winter one. "But you stay here. I'll go."
"Hey wait just a minute." Carrot hopped down off the sill. "None of your wards are done yet, and you have what, ONE left from last time? You're gonna need backup. Besides. Leave me here and I'll lose my mind out of boredom."
Marron sighed, tugging the edges of Carrot's jacket closer together. "Very well. But you're already hurt, so if you get worse don't come crying to me." He struggled with the bar across the door. Carrot stepped up to help him, grinning.
"What, you mean like a little brother once came crying to me everytime he skinned his knee or his pet butterfly died?"
Marron paused, his hand on the ancient lock. He glanced back at his brother, hair shielding his rueful smile. "Forgive me, Niisan. You never once turned me away."
Carrot waved a hand, unfazed as always. "You have looked after me more than I ever did you." He stole a kiss, warm and secret and rare. Marron's cool fingertips ruffled his hair, offering a smile to warm him before opening the door and venturing out into the blizzard.
"Marron!" Carrot blinked blinding swirls of white from his eyelashes, squinting through the dizzying snowstorm. "Where are you?"
"Right here." Fingers came out of the darkness, twining in his glove.
"Damn, why do you always have to wear white?" Carrot could make out Marron's hair now, long tendrils of black leaking out from his hood to dance in the snowfall. "Makes you hard to find."
"I hadn't anticipated a blizzard, Niisan. I think we should go back. We're losing our own path and Gateau would never press on under these conditions. He's more trail-wise than we are, I'm sure they've found someplace safe to wait out the storm."
"Good." Carrot squeezed Marron's narrow hand before letting go, glad one of them knew what they were doing. "I just want to get back to a nice fire and some warm broth and-"
"Niisan! Don't move!"
Carrot immediately went motionless. "Marron?"
"You've found some ice the hard way, brother. Just step a little closer and-"
"Uh, Marron, I don't think that's a good idea... it's more fragile over there."
"Can you see where you stepped before?" Marron glanced behind them, but wind-blown snow was already filling their tracks, and the hidden ice was indistinguishable from the rest of the white, bewildering world. Carrot had taken what appeared to be a smoother path and wound up in the middle of a pond.
There was no way to know how deep it was, or how sturdy. "Just take it a little at a time, Niisan. Move slowly. I've almost got you." Carrot could see his brother's fingertips, cream-colored against the alabaster confusion of snow.
Kritch! Kritch! Kritch!
"Marron, are you sure you-"
"Just a few more inches, Niisan. Try to the right."
Carrot, trusting his brother as always, did as he was told.
"CARROT!" His brother's hand grazed Marron's fingers and was gone, into the black deadly wound that had opened in the ice. Marron was moving in an instant, arm plunging into the bone-numbing water, casting about for anything that might be his sibling. He had not ceased screaming his name. After a few endless seconds his insensate hand fumbled against a wet fur vest, and he hauled his spluttering brother out into the air. Carrot folded into a soggy, blue-lipped pile at Marron's feet.
Marron knew less than he should about such situations, but he was fast to strip the wet clothes off his brother's body and wrap him in his own mostly dry thick white robe, ignoring the cold prickles of ice kissing his bared shoulders. If he remembered from the day's walk the pond wasn't far from the cabin, he could make it. He gathered Carrot up against his body, willing strength into him, and staggered forward through the snow.
Carrot was so still in his arms, Marron shook him hard every few minutes to make sure he hadn't fallen asleep, and would hold his breath until Carrot murmured a vague explicative. It seemed to take an eternity, Marron's arms burned with his brother's weight, cold tattooed into every inch of his exposed chest and face. The leggings he wore under his robe were little more than modesty, his boots were sodden through. The wind tangled his hair into skeins of frigid black silk, blinding him when the flurry of ice crystals didn't. He failed to notice it, adrenaline pumping heat through him, propelling him forward. Marron's entire world was ominously still in his arms, and the glowing light of the window never seemed to get any closer.
He swore softly as they burst through the splintery door of the cabin, not realizing until now how really awful Carrot looked. His lips were tinged pale blue, wet hair frozen to his skin. There were only a few blankets on the straw mattress but Marron deposited his brother on it, straining his already trembling muscles to drag the unconscious sorcerer hunter and pallet in front of the fire. Carrot moved slightly, deep inside Marron's robes, blinking in confusion at his surroundings.
"Shh... I have you, Niisan. Everything's going to be alright. I promise."
Only two of Marron's wards were charged enough to be useful, but he used them without thinking, producing heat from his hands to dry his brother's ice-coated hair, warming the blankets. It was a relief when Carrot finally started shivering, his body recognizing the cold instead of shutting down in the face of it. Marron stripped out of his leggings, the linen crunching into frozen folds at his feet. He piled up the fire as high as he dared in the decrepit hearth, leaving his boots to dry.
"cold..." Carrot stammered, pressing his face into Marron's throat. "Ototo..."
"I'm right here." Marron slid under the sparse coverlets, hugging his brother to his chest. Carrot shifted the borrowed garment and curled skin to skin against his sibling, too chilled to even enjoy it. "I'm not leaving my brother." He brushed his lips against Carrot's, willing warmth into him, willing him to be alright. "Never Ever Ever."
Carrot smiled, a faint flush returning to his skin, Magical heat recovering him faster than the fire. "I t-th-think I took a bad s-step."
Marron shuddered into his laugh, winding long legs around Carrot's hips and kissing his lips until the grey tinge faded into pink. Carrot, still shivering slightly but with his heart pumping fiercely to push warm blood to his extremities, fell asleep before Marron took his mouth away.
He had nightmares in winter. Dreams of a ruined world flooded with glaciers, frozen hands reaching in a silent, useless plea out of the slow relentless press of ice. After the battle with Zahatorte the winter dreams had faded, recognition of the dormant power inside him turning off the subconscious warnings.
For the first time in years he found himself inside another one. He couldn't breathe, and the ice fragments in the water around him sliced painful tiny cuts into his tingling skin as he churned in search of an escape. His head collided with thick ice and he hammered at it, pounded until the water turned pink from the glass-sharp splinters of ice digging into his hands. The world was turning fuzzy, freezing slowly into silence, when a string of notes dropped into his dream, notes that he knew. The words tied to them were a revelation, the words he could never recall.
"In winter, fire is beautiful. Beautiful like a song-"
Black hair swirled in the water. Carrot blinked. His first thought, with the music, was of his mother, but as open bare arms spun wide for his embrace and the curtains of ebon silk fluttered warm around him, he murmured his brother's name in gratitude and slipped back into peaceful slumber.
"Were you singing?"
Marron jerked out of the half slumber he was wandering in, to find a healthy and intent Carrot staring him in the eye. "What?"
"Were. You. Singing. Just now?"
Marron sat up, blankets slithering to his hips. "Carrot? How do you feel? Are you cold?"
"Gods, no." Carrot shoved at the sea of white robe entangling him. "It's hot enough in here to smoke turkeys. You didn't answer me." Carrot folded his arms.
Marron, convinced that nothing on his brother was going to turn black and fall off, sighed resignedly. "I suppose I was, Niisan. What does it matter?"
Carrot frowned down at his hands, sinking back into his nest by Marron's side. "It was Mom's song. Do you know all the words?"
Marron blinked. "Mother used to sing that? I... have no memory of it."
Carrot curled up a little closer. "It's all I remember." His fingers toyed with the mussed end of Marron's hair, brown eyes lifted to his thoughtful sibling. "Would you... sing it for me? All of it?"
Marron made a face. "Niisan, I really can't-"
"Be modest to save your life. Sing it, Marron, Or I'll go jump in another pond and make you fish tadpole popsicles out of my ass."
Marron, duly enjoined, sang.
"In winter, fire is beautiful, beautiful like a song
In winter, snow is beautiful, all of the winter long
But you little son come safely home
Riding the tail of the wind
May you always come this safely home
In winter, fire, and snow
The day gets dark uneasily, darker and darker still
And you are gone to Carnevale, and I feel the winter chill
But you little son come safely home
Riding the tail of the wind
May you always come this safely home
In winter, fire, and snow."
"I can't BELIEVE you made me do that." Marron sulked, and jerked his share of blankets back. "If you're so hot don't be a pig."
"I'm sorry I scared you, Marron. Falling in and nearly getting us killed, I mean."
"And that I made you sing."
"Will you get your sub-arctic feet off the small of my back?"
"What IS it, Niisan?"
"I didn't know making you sing it would make you miss Mom so much."
Marron went abruptly still. "I just wish I could remember her, Niisan. I envy you." He stirred in the blankets. "And I'm glad you're alright... you gave me quite a scare."
Carrot ran his fingers through fine black hair, leaning over to kiss his brother's ear. "I'm not alright, Ototo. I feel empty and lonely and cold inside." He pressed his cheek to Marron's, listening to the sound of him breathing. "Empty more than anything." His hand moved over the perfect curve of Marron's hip, rumpling the blanket and seeking the heat cradled between his brother's legs. He found desire, firm and aching. "Marron."
His brother whimpered, biting his lip. "I didn't want to... after what you've been through tonight..."
"It's Yule, Marron." Carrot pushed his own hips against Marron's, transmitting quiet urgency. "Time to be with the ones you love." His hands closed on Marron's sex, shaping it, savoring the perfect satin skin. "Be with me, Marron." He whispered his wintertide wish into the perfect shell of the mage's ear. "Be inside me."
"Niisan?" Marron turned, flat ivory stomach planed against honey-gold one. "Are you-"
Carrot smiled slowly, trailing fingers down to cradle Marron's need, then falling onto his back and spreading his legs wide against Marron's white robe underneath him. "C'mon, Ototo. There's one place where I stay warm." He arced up to kiss him, tongue flame-quick and hot inside his brother's mouth. "Marron, please. I need it like this." He gathered fistfuls of black hair, kissing Marron's face wildly. "Do it."
Marron's fingers moved between the soft curves of Carrot's backside, and probed gently at the clenched heat there. "I can't, Carrot. I'll hurt you."
Carrot grinned maniacally, rummaging in the straw mattress until he produced a tiny glass bottle. "Carrot Glaces is always prepared, little brother."
Marron smiled in spite of himself, and slowly covered his brother's body with his own.
Outside, the blizzard raged like a wild creature, then slowly submitted into a gentle drift of silence. Inside it was mirrored, urgency pushed into tightly yielding heat and voices that were used to enforced silence free now to scream, secrets and wants growled in the violence of pure love. Carrot gave freely and
Marron took until he was delirious with it, his brother sobbing with completion underneath him.
They tumbled into a gasping heap, Carrot groaning faintly in returned pain and Marron wincing as they pulled apart. He pressed his face hard into the muscled line of his older brother's shoulder, hugging him tightly. "Niisan... you aren't the one that needed it like that."
Carrot chuckled. "Maybe not as much, Ototo. Nnn… don't mean it wasn't DAMN nice." His voice softened, leaning back into the embrace. "Don't let me go."
Carrot woke up with a decided crick in his neck, a cold chill, and some alarm sense tingling in his brain. The fire was down to nothing, Marron an elegant comatose sibling next to him, and the silence and night so velvet-deep and frozen that surely he must have been dreaming.
"Ummmph? Mmm... nisannmmmopenpresentslater..."
"Marron, somebody's coming."
"NiiSAAANNNN..." Marron flung his blanket over his head and curled into a ball. "If this is about that stupid spirit that rides around delivering toys..."
Carrot realized that Marron was dreaming. "Marron. You aren't twelve, there's really not a Sanutaclurusu, we're in an abandoned cabin, we just had sex, you're naked and somebody is coming."
Marron hustled into his leggings with all expedience. Carrot's clothes were still by the side of the pond, so he hitched up Marron's robes and tried to find his arms in the ocean of sleeve. They flanked either side of the door, Carrot with his next to useless sword and Marron without a solitary ward to his name.
The bells rattled steadily closer, almost too bright for any ominous purpose, but one never could tell.
"Whoa..." the bells ceased just outside with a rattle of harness, and a knock pounded on the door with enough force to send the fire collapsing with a puff of ash. "Marron? Carrot?" You guys okay?"
"It's Gateau!" Carrot flung up the door bar, and Marron exhaled in relief.
"What the hell happened to you?" Gateau, swathed in hooded fur and looking like the Northern Deity he was, surveyed Carrot's unlikely attire.
"I fell in a pond and had to be fished out." Carrot explained. "But what happened to YOU? Are the girls okay?"
Gateau grinned amicably. "Same as always. Turns out the village had a bit of a sorcerer infestation, so we took care of the twerp and secured ourselves a VERY nice set of accommodations for the night. I was just now able to bring the sledge out."
Carrot poked his nose out the door and sure enough, found a sledge piled with blankets, and belled harness on the black horses pulling it. "Alright! Warm beds, good food, and maybe even some girls to chase!"
Gateau had pulled off his heavy cloak and was arranging it around Marron's bare shoulders. "We're all friends here, Carrot." He grinned. "You can drop the girl chasing act."
"You DO overdo it sometimes, Niisan."
"Who said it was an act?" but Carrot was all concern for his younger brother, murmuring aside to Gateau what he'd done to save Carrot's ass that night. Gateau watched as Marron moved about the cabin, banking and dousing the fire, packing up what little supplies were there.
Gateau nodded, not really surprised by Marron's actions. "Well, I guess you two were having a nice quiet Yule up here on your own... sorry to have interfered with it."
Carrot started to protest that it had been rather ghastly, but hesitated when Marron looked up at him and smiled. His brother, who had saved his life and warmed him and sung for him and brought him to the brink of unconsciousness with pleasure, standing in the doorway of the pathetic dark little cabin and waiting for him to follow. Carrot found himself reluctant to leave, but all the Yule warmth in the world was waiting for him in the doorway, bundled up in borrowed furs as Gateau checked the horses and made space for them in the sledge.
"Well, perhaps it won't be such a terrible Yule after all, Niisan?"
One side of Carrot's mouth quirked up in a smile, he reached out and put an arm around his sibling's shoulders. "How could it be a terrible Yule? I've got you."
Marron blushed and freed some of the volumous cloak to wrap half around his brother. "And I have you, Niisan."
Arms around each other and shared warmth under the borrowed furs, they crunched out into the crisp winter night where Gateau was waiting with their ride home.