Title: Our Family
Summary: In which Ultear doesn't go back to the Magical Development Bureau. A short story about the ice family and defeating your demons together, sometimes more literally than others. (Ul, Ultear, Gray, Lyon)
Notes: I'm kinda embarrassed to be posting something this pointless and self-indulgent (not to mention poorly written), but eh. The internet is not for shame. This is just a short tribute to the ice fam. I can't handle the Ur/Ultear inconsistency, so it's going to be "Ul" here. Sorry in advance to everyone who's more used to Ur.
Also, very short chapters. Updates weekly, hopefully.
1. The girl in the snow
Stumbling barefoot through the Isvan snow, Ultear couldn't count the number of times she almost gave up. She was cold, so cold, and numb down to her bones. Even her magic, untrained but powerful, which had freed her from the bureau and protected her against the dangers of her journey homeward, had all but reached its limits.
She stumbled and fell face first down into the snow. Her cheeks and nose stung from the cold, and her shoulders hitched as she bit back a sob. She wanted her mother, she wanted to be warm, she wanted to be held and loved. But all of that seemed too far away for her small body to ever hope of reaching. She hated it, she hated all of it, but she was so tired.
Slowly, her eyes slid shut…
'My tear… My beloved daughter...'
Ultear flinched sharply, her entire body shuddering as she returned to consciousness. She didn't know how long she had been out for, but she knew she had to get up. She wouldn't give up here. She'd go home, she'd see her mother again, she would be happy and loved.
She just had to keep going a little further.
Painfully, Ultear stumbled to her feet and trudged on. Surely it wasn't much further now. Just over the hill, she'd see her mother's cabin, standing alone between the small lake and the two pine trees. And her mother would be waiting there, warm and welcoming. She'd be safe again.
That's what Ultear kept telling herself as she climbed each new hill, on and on. She had been too afraid to take the roads, and for a while she'd worried that she had gotten lost, but now she was too numb for even that.
But finally, the trees began to thin. Leaning against the last trunk, she had to squint for a moment against the glare of the late afternoon sun as she emerged from the woods. For a moment, she couldn't believe the blurry shape she was seeing — the snow-topped roof, the two pines.
Her mother's cabin was in front of her. It was there, just as she remembered it, down to the warm light that had just come on in the back window.
Ultear tried to run toward it, but her tired feet caught on the snow and, with a stifled cry, she was tumbling downhill.
She finally slid to a stop on the trampled snow at the back of the cabin, bruised and somehow too tired to move even though her goal was in sight. It was right there, right in front of her, but… There were voices coming from inside. Her mother's and—
"Alright, alright, I'm going!" a boy called out sullenly, as he slammed open the back door of the cabin. He started toward the firewood stacked nearby, grumbling all the way and apparently unconcerned with walking barefoot and shirtless through the snow, but something made him pause and glance across the snowy clearing.
Ultear had instinctively gone still the moment he'd stepped out, and perhaps he wouldn't have noticed her, lying there in her pale nightshirt, if he had just gone on his way.
But when he turned in her direction, their eyes met. The boy froze in surprise, and his expression shifted into shock and something like recognition.
None of that mattered to Ultear. Her thoughts were spinning dizzyingly, her mind tying itself into knots of doubt, paranoia, and a crushing sense of despair. Why had this strange boy come out of her mother's house? What was he doing in their home? Was it possible that… had her mother really…?
"Gray! Your shirt! And don't bang the door like that!" Ul called from inside, with well-worn exasperation.
Without conscious thought, Ultear had pushed herself up and began to back away. The strange boy was still staring at her in shock, but it wouldn't be long before… before… Ultear didn't know what he would do, but she knew she had to get away. There was no place for her here, not anymore.
Gray's thoughts were just as disarrayed, though along a different path. Finding a girl outside in the snow, wearing nothing but a loose nightshirt, was strange enough. But that face — she looked like Ul. Younger, softer, but the resemblance was undeniable. Ul had a daughter once, she'd said, but her daughter was dead. This girl couldn't possible be her.
But somehow, he was sure she was. And that meant he couldn't let her leave.
"W-wait!" Gray called out, finally breaking out of his stupor and reaching out toward the girl.
"Hey! I said, wait!" Gray scrambled after her. It was instinct to bring his hands together the way Ul had taught him and to gather his magic. Ice sprang up around Ultear's feet, trapping her in place. Ultear screamed, and her own magic surged, unrefined but overwhelming. It swept across everything, making the ground tremble, shaking piles of snow off the roof and the trees, and lifting Gray straight off his feet.
He was thrown back into the cabin wall, hitting it with a pained grunt and sliding to the frozen ground. He struggled to sit up, and his eyes met Ultear's glare, out of place in that almost familiar face, as she hesitated, caught between her instinct to run and the dark, ugly want to hit him again.
"Gray! What's going on out there?" Ul called, bursting out through the back door. Her gaze darted around in search of enemies and fell on the small figure of the intruder. Her eyes widened in recognition and disbelief, leaving her frozen in shock.
Far less concerned, Lyon brought up behind their teacher and peered around her legs. "What, did you pick a fight with squirrel, Gray?" he started to say, catching sight of his fellow student. "You're always so… Ul? Ul, what's wrong?"
Finally, Ul seemed to snap out of her daze and took a trembling step toward her daughter. "Tear…?" she murmured questioningly.
Ultear, who had been as paralyzed as her mother, flinched violently. "You! I'll never forgive you!" she screamed. "I'll never forgive you for abandoning me!"
"No, Tear! I would never—!" Ul tried to protest, but Ultear wasn't listening. With a final, vicious glare over her shoulder, she turned and ran.
Ul hesitated, reaching out but unable to take another step. Was this real? Could it really be happening? Was that truly her daughter? She'd dreamed of seeing her Tear again, but to have that dream come true… Or was this simply another nightmare? There had been many of those as well, of Ultear dying in her arms, disappearing no matter how hard she clung to her daughter, hating her, blaming her...
The distance between them seemed impossibly wide.
But before Ultear could go any further, her feet slipped out from under her, and she crashed face first into the icy ground — into smooth, slippery ice.
"Ice Make: Floor," Gray muttered, his hands together. He turned to Ul — for some explanation, or maybe to urge her to move — but she had broken out of her stupor and was already running to Ultear's side. Crossing the yard in a few long strides, Ul knelt next to her daughter and pulled her into her arms.
"Stay away! J-just stay away from me! I'll never forgive you…" She started out screaming, but by the end, Ultear could only sob.
"Oh, my Tear… I'm so sorry…" Ul murmured, holding her close. "I can't believe… you're really here. Oh, Tear…"
Helplessly, Gray glanced at Lyon, but his fellow disciple only watched the reunion in front of them with a strangely blank expression.