The rain was beginning to whip upwards in cold frozen blasts as Sai hurried across the street, droplets icing down the back of his collar and turning the world into a shimmering inkwash of greys and slate blues. He made it into the relative shelter of the bus stop, really nothing more than a pair of benches with a plexi roof and three walls, and sank gratefully onto one of the scuffed plastic seats.
Rowen would be on time if he had stayed with Sage, but likely he hadn't. The archer would show up late, as would Ryou and maybe Kento, but Sage would be here at eight precisely, national public radio time, not a minute before or after. Sai wouldn't have to wait long on his own. He was early, but not by more than fifteen minutes and really it wasn't unbearably cold outside if one wasn't getting rained on. Not that the rain was going to last much longer. It was already turning into snow, fluffy white streaks lightening the grey of the rain and coating the asphalt and statuary of the park, just visible through the darkening night and foggy walls. White lights were strung onto the bare branches of the trees, making the holiday evening festive and mysteriously magical in the night, especially with the giddy secrets Sai had hoarded in his shopping bags.
He loved Christmas shopping, and New Year's shopping. He and his friends had adopted both the holidays and treasured the brightness and warmth of them, things to hold close to their hearts in the darkest shadows of battle and pain. Sometimes Sai wondered if the memories were stronger armor than that they summoned on their bodies when the world called them to. You can take a lot of pain to defend what you love, especially if the idea of your defense is clear in your heart.
He sighed and set down his bags and shook the ice out of his hair before realizing that he was not alone in the small haven this night. Sai wasn't sure what tipped him off, perhaps a small exhaled breath or a shifting of garments that wasn't his own, but he had been certain he was by himself when he sat down, and no one else had sought out the shelter of the bus stop since he got there. He had been lost in his thoughts, though, and could very likely have missed his fellow in the rush of lists and holiday plans running through his head.
Sai chided himself; it wasn't very smart to lose awareness like that, if the other man had been an enemy Sai could very well have been dead by now. As if to make up for lost time, Sai eyed the young stranger.
Or not so young, he thought to himself. Something about the slender shape and delicate features spoke of less years than Sai had, but the set of the mouth in profile and the narrow hand in its grey leather glove made him seem older. It was nothing Sai could pin down to some chronological time frame, it just was. He trusted his instincts on that. Soft hair the color of nori was pulled back into a loose ponytail, it was in several different lengths and trailed green streamers into his eyes, which were lowered to the cement just by his sneakered toes. Sai thought his hair would look better down, it would probably fly about his face wildly on a windy night like tonight.
Sai's consciousness prickled faintly, a slow cool tingle somewhere inside his skin. There was something-
"Shun." He said abruptly, without lifting his gaze or moving anything except his mouth. His voice was very soft, almost feminine.
Sai blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
"You were wanting to know my name. It's Shun."
"Oh..." Sai flushed slightly in embarrassment. He had, in fact, been wondering where he'd seen him before, trying to track the overwhelming familiarity of him. "I'm... sorry if I was staring."
"You weren't." Shun shrugged in the cocoon of his magenta parka. "But you still wanted to know, didn't you."
Sai's brows lowered together, trying to work out the words before letting them through his lips. "I didn't mean to be rude, but I swear I know you from somewhere."
"You don't." Shun leaned his head back against the clear wall of the bus stop, his breath a white swirl in the cold air. He had yet to actually look at Sai.
The warrior of Torrent squirmed a bit in his seat, tucking his hands in his armpits even though they weren't really cold, it was just something to do. How on earth did one respond to a comment like that? He blinked at the eddies of snow that drifted across the ground in front of his feet, dancing in through the opening that marked the doorway.
The two of them were tucked as far away as possible in the shelter, each into a corner away from the draft at the door. Outside the trees tossed their branches, white lights chiming together like bells, tiny glowing points lost in the snow like the slow swirl of a galaxy. A chatter of passing shoppers blurred by across the street, and the snow-muffled white noise of traffic filled up the silence again.
"Yes," Sai answered, relived at the switch to somewhat normal conversation. He checked his watch; he'd only been here for three minutes. So much for Sage coming to his rescue. "For my friends."
Shun nodded as if Sai had informed him that the troops were holed up in the pass with no supplies, and he had to break the blockade single-handed.
"That's a good thing to do." Shun looked at him for the first time, level blue eyes under the ruffle of soft bangs, a faint smile on his lips. It eased the tight bands around Sai's heart slightly. He really was human, not some vague apparition haunting a bus stop on the edge of a Tokyo park.
"We like it." Sai rubbed his glove on the fogged plexiglas, making a muffled squawk as leather squelched on condensation. More shoppers and tourists outside, and a slow stream of red taillights in the thickly falling snow. No sign of the others.
"Waiting for the bus?"
"Waiting for my friends."
Shun shifted his hips in the seat, crossing one leg over the other and staring past Sai, out the small clear spot on the window. There was a hot chocolate stand just outside, doing a hefty business on an inclement night with lots of holiday shoppers. Shun rose to his feet silently, only his coat rustling faintly. "I'll be right back."
Sai was left to ponder his empty seat and the strange surreal feel of the evening, wondering what was really so odd about the exchange of words. He was just being silly and romantic, he concluded, to think he knew someone from somewhere just because it was the first true snow of the season and such a mystical night. His thoughts had actually turned back to his shopping list and baking plans and so once again he missed the presence of the other young man until a styrofoam cup was held out to him, in a grey-gloved hand.
"You looked cold." Shun said in explanation, as if that would make everything clear and simple.
"Arigatou," Sai responded, surprised by the courtesy. The cup glowed with sweet warmth through his gloves, and he realized that he had indeed been freezing. "How much do I-"
"Iie, Iie," Shun waved a hand, not resuming his seat but leaning instead against the doorframe, uncovering his own cup and sipping cautiously. "We're both waiting for our friends, remember? You can pay me back next time." His tone left no doubt that there would be a next time, and as Sai swallowed a warm mouthful of the rich cocoa, the bitter wind fluttered Shun's hair like a hand of an affectionate lover.
Sai made a soft noise of contentment as the drink suffused his chilled body and thawed his numb fingers, thinking he'd never had a cup of chocolate that tasted so good. "Thank you all the same... you're an absolute saint."
Shun tilted his head suddenly, blue eyes no longer distant but blazing with a quick surprised fire. It was banked before Sai could really say it was there, and covered with a toss of the head and a laugh that sparkled like the holiday lights outside. "So I've been told."
His smile was easy and beautiful, and Sai felt his heart constrict again. This one was dangerous, somehow. Not to him, no, but dangerous nonetheless. Nothing so lovely could be safe.
A mane of blond hair and a tan greatcoat materialized out of the snowfall, and Sai rose to his feet with a word of greeting hovering on his lips for Sage. It died unspoken, as the shadow encircled one arm around Shun's shoulders and spoke a private phrase of greeting in a voice that was not Sage's, or even Japanese.
Russian, Sai thought, but he wasn't sure, and vague supposition fluttered beyond his grasp as he was fixed with a pair of irises as cold and blue as the heart of any glacier. This one did not button his coat against the cold, nor did he wear a scarf and the gloves seemed to be a mere afterthought. Snowflakes brushed lovingly against his bared throat and pale cheeks, and did not melt in their affection on his skin.
Sai was wordlessly afraid, followed by a quick rush of pity, as if his very armor had walked up to him of it's own volition and then quietly asked if it might have part of Sai's soul to warm it, lacking one of its own. These two were part of something, like he was, but had lost far more of themselves to it than Sai had ever been asked to pay. The vision was so out of place that he tilted his auburn head in puzzlement, wondering perhaps if it had been this elegant Norse stranger that had sent it. Ragnarok seemed to tremble in the air around his cool fair tallness, beautiful and terrible.
"Are you all done here, Shun?" His voice broke the tremors of his aura, and he was just human, still tall and pale but no more.
Shun was thoughtful, swirling his cocoa in the cup and staring at it as if scrying for the future. "Yes, I'm all done here." He smiled up at Sai, and beyond him. "Your friends will be here soon, I think." The smile turned shy. "Thank you for keeping me company."
"Thank you," Sai returned automatically, as three other forms filled up the snowy space behind the blond one. One was whip-slender with a black braid reaching almost to his knees, rustling like the scales of a dragon. The other two he would not have picked in a crowd, casual and loose with hands in pockets and their tousled hair blowing around their faces, dark as the wings of heaven. All three held secrets in their eyes.
They were gone before Sai got more than that, the blond one too, melting back into the snow and ice and out of his present reality. Shun glanced over his shoulder and made the three steps it took to stand next to Sai, placing one hand on Sai's shoulder before brushing silk sweet and cocoa warm lips against Sai's.
"You fight nobly, Sai of the Torrent. Like those who went before you."
A flash of a smile in Sai's startled face and he was gone, out into the welcoming arms of the night and the already silent footfalls of his companions.
"Wait," Sai whispered, to the empty air, then shook himself once and stepped out of the small haven of the bus stop, scanning the crowded street for any trace of the strangers. The anonymous crowed milled by him, unaware. "Wait!!"
"Wait for what?" Sage inquired indignantly next to him. "Someone make off with your wallet?"
Sai nearly leapt out of his skin, dropping his cup of hot chocolate that Sage swooped down and caught, upright, before it hit the floor. "Good heavens, Sage, don't go sneaking up on me like that!"
"Who's sneaking?" Sage strolled into the bus stop and carefully gathered the shopping bags Sai had left by his seat, tsking at the carelessness. "You were standing in the street shouting at the top of your lungs, I didn't think you'd jump so far."
"I-" Sai turned around several times, dizzily trying to scan every face, trying to find some trace of the past ten minutes. His eyes lit on the cup in Sage's hand and he darted to the alcove where the hot chocolate stand had been, only to find a jewelry shop window staring blankly back at him. It had always been there, he remembered it now.
"This is pretty good." Sage had taken a sip from the cup, keeping one wary violet eye on Sai. "Where did you get it?"
Sai crumpled to his knees in the snow, his eyes wide, his heart suddenly thudding loudly against his ribs. "I-- I don't know..."
"Sai, are you alright?" Sage was next to him in an instant, one arm around his shoulders and the warm familiar scent of sandalwood that he brought with him took away some of the strangeness. Sai pressed his cold nose into Seiji's collar.
"Yes, I'm okay… But I don't think I can really explain what happened." He sounded small and bewildered, even to his own ears.
"What happened? You look like you've seen a ghost." Sage walked with him back to the bus stop, settling him in a seat and hovering with a concerned look.
Sai slowly took the cup from Sage's fingers, turning it over and over again, pondering the last words Shun had said to him. There had been five of them, he realized now, five sets of watchful eyes and five powerful presences that had waited in the snow. There was something very important in all that, but Sai remembered the kiss and the smile and the speaking of the name that he had not given to Shun, and smiled suddenly at a bewildered Sage.
"Not a ghost." Sai kissed the rim of the cup thoughtfully, feeling watched over and cared for, and as if somewhere, someone was very proud of him, knowing full well what he had endured. "Maybe a Saint."