Fluidly and cleanly the white flakes had fallen, cascading in elaborate patterns as they tumbled to the earth. She liked to think they were dancing, twirling and diving in an attempt to please whosoever chose to watch. From behind a pane of frozen glass she could watch their movement, mesmerised by every ethereal twist and turn. They were so beautiful, so untouched and perfect, virginal tears of the sky, reincarnated from the multitude of oceans and streams that littered the planet.
As a grown woman, she should have known better. She should have learnt by now, how to control her whims and impulses, but the frozen sky was too enthralling, too enchanting a sight for her to sit watching from this glass prison. Breath misting up the window, a dreamy sigh parted her lips as she drew herself to her feet, fabric swaddling her figure as she bundled herself up in the necessary clothes to venture outside. A sweater was followed by a coat, a scarf and mittens added in a shade that far from matched her booted feet. She didn’t mind though, any colour would soon be lost in that unimaginable blur of untainted snow.
Sufficiently layered up, the Cetra gave a cautionary glance around her humble abode as she checked that her young charge was in capable hands. Smiling brightly, into the frozen world she departed, the chill crackling against her lips as every exhalation conjured a cloud of misty white. She could get lost in this, so very lost amidst the blankets of white. She wondered if they’d embrace her like she imagined, chilling her body from the inside out, until she sprouted icy wings and became a part of the earth. To be part of something so pure again, seemed almost impossible, and yet the opportunity was there, calling to her as much as the tiny life she called her own, beckoned in the dead of night.
Tugging the door closed, she moved carefully, wading through the ankle deep surface that crunched beneath her feet. Twirling in awe, luminous green opticals drifted to the sky, drinking in the falling flakes as they grazed her skin, burning her cheeks until they flushed red, her peachy pallor now glowing, partly in happiness, and partly from the simple biomechanics of it all. Laughing she began to move, diving and leaping, making angels and snowmen, an alternate reality suddenly existing, concocted entirely from her imagination.
It was wonderful in every sense of the word; a true Winter wonderland, exactly as nature had intended.
And that fact alone made her want to share it.
As if reading her mind, it was fate that had led the Professor into her line of sight, his research still paramount despite the adverse weather conditions. Did he really need to work all the time? She wondered if he’d be happier with a break. A little bit of time to enjoy himself and remember what it was to live. He might soften then, if only she could find a way to thaw him out. He still had a heart, a beautiful untouched thing that beat alone, without comfort and without a friend. Hadn’t Lucrecia managed to find a way once? Or was that too merely an illusion in which Hojo had been nought but a pawn? No. That wasn’t fair. She was reading too far into events that were beyond her understanding.
Drawn back to the present, Ifalna followed his movements from her stealthy vantage point, peering over a snow strewn wall to watch his steps near the building. He looked so wound up, so tightly bound by whatever thought was plaguing him. He needed to forget. He needed to have fun. And who was she to deny him that? She was a healer by nature, a compassionate soul in search of every elusive smile she could possibly find. So it was mostly out of kindness and with only a little mischief that she had acted on impulse. Scooping up a handful of snow, delicate hands scrunched it into a ball, the unparalleled cold infiltrating her mittens as she raised her arm and sent the snowball on a one way collision course with Mr.Hojo’s head.
The icy projectile collided with speed, dazing the Professor as his hand shot up instinctively to reach the back of his head. and left him staggering. Unkempt ebony strands cushioned none of the blow and that was before he’d even factored in what it felt like to have ice dripping slowly down the back of his scarf, grazing his skin and…Without warning he shivered, the simple organic process unavoidable considering the stimuli. He looked incredulous and far from the ecstatic reaction she’d been hoping for. It made Ifalna’s heart sink; plummeting right down to rock bottom as guilt stirred behind those eyes. Had she just hurt him?
Emerging reluctantly, swift footfalls brought her to face him, a sheepish expression screaming apology as she matched midnight blue with her own startled emerald. She opened her mouth to speak, but he was already there, looking at her with an unreadable expression that made her weak at the knees. “Aren’t you a little old to be playing games?” He asked her flatly, a thinly veiled layer of something besides utter contempt present as she raised a hand tentatively to his head.
“It depends on the game.” Her lips curved into a serene smile as she removed her mitten to further assess whatever damage she may have inflicted. Fussing admirably, she smoothed her digits through the pitch coloured strands, melting the clumps of ice that lingered with a warm and soothing touch. “Are you alright?” She asked him reluctantly, her concern growing with every moment of passing silence. Even something snide and biting would be enough to reassure her, and yet nothing came.
It was only after a long silence and a considerable amount of coddling on her part, that finally Hojo spoke, turning from her with an authoritative persona that reminded her distinctly of a teacher unwilling to look at a failed pupil. “I’m fine, Ifalna.” He told her with little emotion, although beneath the walls of indifference a sheet of ice had melted, something akin to affection almost bubbling to the surface. It had been a long while since anyone had truly cared, and here was the Cetra, his most prized project offering him the world with a simple gesture of kindness. It made him smile, almost, the faint twitch of his lips gladly unseen to her observant eyes.
Faced with only his back, Iffy frowned, something pulling in the pit of her stomach as she stepped forwards, arms wrapping around his waist as she bowed her head, eyes squeezed tightly shut in a display of relenting apology. “I’m sorry.” She whispered into his back, her heart drumming in it’s own arduous tango as the snow continued to fall. “I only wanted to see you smile.” She admitted even more quietly, the ghost of her breath on the wind, as soundlessly neither of them moved, forever locked in an embrace of Ifalna’s making.
It was a good ten minutes before she finally let go, the analytical scientist shooting her the most quizzical glance imaginable as he came face to face with her features once more. Had he forgiven her? Had he let her one act of momentary insanity slide? Would he truly allow her the benefit of a second chance in light of her juvenile motivations?
The handful of snow that ended up down her back five minutes later; implied a rather resounding yes.
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