Hyouten (Freezing Point)
If I could melt your heart
We'd never be apart
Your face is turned to the falling snow as if it is warmer than my company. Perhaps it is, for long past are the days when your obvious focus was on me. Now your eyes do not linger on my face, but settle on my hands or the space beyond my shoulder. All the same I know your thoughts cannot be so easily turned elsewhere, and you do not hide it well, your brooding. You watch the snow, but your thoughts linger on me. We have shared many silences together, and I know the click of your pipe in your teeth, and the way your eyes, half-lidded, stare out over the frozen pond without seeing it.
It is too cold, I'm sure, to sit with the door slatted open. Nearly half an hour you have been there, with the wooden frame at your back, quilted winter haori loose over your shoulders. I can feel the draft where I sit. Ko Kaku Rou has very subtle modern heat and there is a warm brazier on the floor as well, for the proper feel. It makes for an interesting contrast, that wintry air seeping over my hands.
"A pity," you say, the first words you have spoken in an hour or more. "It will all be melted by morning. It always does, here."
"Is it not the more beautiful, then?" I ask, knowing your answer which you do not give. Smoke curls up from your pipe, fogging with your breath in a low cloud. The scent of your tobacco is oily and rich and familiar. I like the smell of it, how it hangs in your clothes and your hair and the folds of your bedding, but I prefer cigarettes, myself. There, the difference between us.
"How long will you stay?" You wonder, reaching an arm out to empty out the contents of your pipe against the porch-post.
"I 'm not sure," I say. Your agitation is pleasant to watch. You like things orderly, proper, with set appointments. It makes you a good businessman. "Another week or two. Maybe until spring. It depends on how things go elsewhere."
"Hmm." You consider this, turning your pipe in your hands, slipping it at last into your sleeve. The door rattles in the frame a bit as you push it back, shrugging the heavy haori off and rising to your feet.
"Rather cold for a walk, isn't it?" I don't think so of course, I find it rather bracing. But I know how fond you are of comfort.
"It clears my head." With the tips of your fingers you close the door behind you.
I listen for the sound of your geta on the porch, the snow I think is not yet deep enough to be higher than the raised sole of your sandal. They clatter twice on the wood, your footsteps, and vanish into the soundless frozen night. I consider staying here until you return. It is your room after all; my own lodgings are down the hall. Staying is neutral. There is a vulnerability in pursuit, as it indicates want, but I think, in the snow, that you are laid more bare than I am.
The garden of Ko Kaku Rou is strangely silent under snow. The bamboo fountain has frozen still, and the sound of it hitting stone is absent. The rain chains dangling from the roof have become bronze-hearted icicles, the path a low white trail marked with your footprints. You have not gone far, and I do not need to say your name for you to know I am there.
"How cold it becomes," I say, lifting the weight of your hair in my hands. It is a calculated move, you would shun any other touch from me, but this has ever been your weakness, and once breached, your gates yield. "So lovely.The snow catching in it looks like falling petals." You sigh a little through your teeth, and there is a note of frustration in it. Still your face is turned away, and I cannot see the way your lips grow thin and your brows draw together. I know them all the same. Your hair is thick, almost more than one handful, and I breathe your scent from the cold strands. It makes you go quite still. "You're fond of it, aren't you? My hands in your hair." The strip of dove-colored cloth you bind it with does little to really hold it, and it flutters to the snow with a sound like a final breath.
"Do as you like," you say tersely, but it is the end of the match. You offer more resistance each time, but it has never been much more than decorum requires. You could fight me, I'm sure, and beautifully. You might even hurt me. You never have, and it is with more surprise than anger that your breath catches. Charming of you to be surprised. Surely you know that I know better than your maids the way your obi is tied and the way to undo it? Perhaps it was the sudden cold, blowing open on your skin.
"Muraki..." You say, all you will give in warning, and let my weight bear you down into the snow.
Sometimes, like now, I think about killing you. Your hair a glorious black wave over the white snow, the dark grey and black of your winter-colored kimono fluttered open like skin peeled back to reveal secrets. I can just imagine the crimson splash of blood, how long it would stay vivid in the cold, tiny red jewels scattered in your hair, caught like beads in your eyelashes and the sweet hollow of your throat. How they would melt like winter berries on the tongue. It would be beautiful, that terrible stillness, but I like your motion better. I can predict it less.
And you, Oriya, have stood by me long, with nothing at all for you to gain by it, and quite a bit to lose. You are not afraid of me. You are precious to me, though I will not say it, lest I am misunderstood. I do not destroy things of value.
"It's too cold for this," you murmur, but your face is tilted away. With your kimono tumbled open, sleeves trailing down, you look like a dark velvet butterfly, fragile body trembling in a season not suited to it, delicate wings clinging to wet snow. I tell you so, for the war that comes into your eyes at my words. Anger wins, though I am sure you know the poetry, and will not forget it.
"I'm not so frail."
The pattern on your sleeve is that of bare dark branches, and shadowy cranes on a silver moon. A symbol of long life, but the trees look like veins, the moon a cold pearl caught in the silk of your clothes. "You touch the wings, you know, and they will die. Butterflies." My fingers follow the line of the trees, find the shape of your arm still inside it. Your fingers are already cold, and curl around mine eagerly. I still hold your obi in one hand, and bind your wrists with the fabric.
"Muraki," you say again, through your teeth. You always protest like this, as if you didn't want it.
"It will keep your hands warm," I reason, touching my lips to the pale curve of your shoulder. Your hands sink bound above your head, sleeves slithering on snow. You have never been modest, not of yourself, you knew too early the duties of your house and family name. But there is something sweet about the way your knees draw up, unconscious and not the false shyness of the women in your employ. Perhaps it is the cold. I know how warm it must be, covering your body with my own, the way you strain upwards against me.
You are not in the habit of making much sound. It would not do, in a place like this. But you cannot stifle the hiss as I scatter snowflakes across your chest, melting into drops of rain as they touch your skin. I know the reasoning behind the sudden tightening of your skin, nipples turning pebble-hard beneath my palms. It is a simple primal reaction, nerve endings firing. But still it is sweet to watch, and sweet to taste, such a small part of you to draw into my mouth. And warmed though it is, the shape of it stays against my tongue, aching and greedy as your breath comes more quickly.
I paint the snow over your skin, watching it sparkle like diamonds on your shuddering ribs, listening to you moan as it melts and runs in gleaming icy rivers over the contours of your body, tracing the sleek muscles you take pride in. Like chill fingertips those drops must be, pooling in your navel, seeking out narrow intimate places, little frosted kisses before your skin can warm them. Does it make you feel violated, I wonder? The invasion of that melted snow seeking you out? But you shiver harder when my mouth follows them, kissing them away, savoring the mingled flavor of your salt and midwinter snow.
You know me better than even I allow myself to remember at times, and your tied wrists are pressed to your mouth, teeth clamped down on the obi fabric in expectation. I remember that your sharpness was what I first noticed about you, all those years ago. I never thought that same logic would keep your cries from being heard on a snowy Kyoto night, with your body bared to the stars. I did not think in such ways then.
The snow is beautiful, too soft to pack, but it rests in my hands like feathers. Cold can burn, and you are shaking, but there is heat still in you, warmed by fires that take longer to cool. You must know what I am thinking, for your body is more tense now, but you do not stop me, do not squirm away from my fingers, or the cold whisper of air you surely feel, here, shadowed and secret as I draw your legs apart. Here is a flower that has not yet known winter. The snow in my hand cries to be near such warmth, ice crystals weeping into water still an inch from your skin. Enough remains to touch you, to seek out all your secrets, to dissolve and flow inside of you, colder still than my fingers.
You make a sound then, not completely lost in the folds of silk in your teeth. You are growing impatient, and will not play my game for long. Your breath leaves you at once, in the wake of my mouth, and the sounds you make are no protest as I draw you in. A wonder of the human body that you can still be hot, swollen and burning like a summer day even after lying in the snow. I slip more ice against you, into you, wondering how it feels, the contrast of tongue and fingers, hot and cold. There is not enough snow in the sky to quench the heat inside of you, grasping and greedy hot on my chilled fingers.
"Enough," you say, straining, small puffs of your breath flowering in the crystal air. "Have done with it already, Muraki."
We are old friends, you and I, and I know better than to try your patience. You lift yourself out of the snow to let me in, and the mewling noise in your throat goes soft, like a kitten in pain. You twist against your bonds in the snow, butterfly wings crushed and wet, and your heat is a welcome cradle. I am not so far gone that I do not feel the cold. It will not take long, and your hair scatters ice like stars as you toss your head.
It is not blood that spills into the snow, shining like pearls, laying you bare. But for a moment you are still, and there is little difference. Soon you will swear, and sit up, and thrust your hands at me to be untied, and grumble at the idiotic notion of lovemaking in snow, something better suited for poetry than reality. We will go inside, back to the world we know, and smoke, and you will call for some warm sake. We will talk of other things. But for now we are frozen, under the sky.
It has stopped snowing.
I wonder what emptiness you carry inside you, that you would ask one like me to fill it. I cannot chill you to your center. And for all your warmth, when I am gone from you, I will only freeze again.