Disclaimer: I don't own the DCMK characters.
Diamonds in the Rain
8: Soft Snow
They had left her name carved in the stone of the ridge above the place where they had found her.
The hike back to the house was a quiet one. Shinichi had wanted to go straight into town to talk to the post office, but the others insisted they wait until the morrow as the sky had already darkened into shades of evening gray.
They were welcomed back by a relieved Ran and Kazuha. The questions in their eyes were clear, but with Sonoko and Makoto around they decided to keep quiet. For now anyway.
"I can't believe you guys actually went out in that weather!" Sonoko said, eyeing them like she thought they'd all gone mad. "You're lucky you didn't just freeze out there!"
"You have no idea," Hattori muttered under his breath.
"What was that?"
The petit girl sniffed and shook her head. "Well, since you did get back after all, we just made pasta. You might as well have some." She pivoted on her heels and started for the kitchen. "We're watching a movie while we eat."
Heiji and Hakuba followed her towards the kitchen, but the other two declined the offer, opting instead to return to their room.
Sonoko watched them go with raised eyebrows. "What's up with them?"
"They are probably tired," the blond detective replied, placing his hands on the girl's shoulders and gently propelling her through the kitchen door. "So tell me, what movie will we be watching?"
"Are you sure you don't want to eat something?" Kaito asked, shutting the door to their room.
Shinichi moved to place the neatly folded scarf they had brought back from their venture on the room's small desk. "I don't think I can eat just yet. But what about you?" Concerned blue eyes turned to examine the magician. "Aren't you hungry?"
"More tired than hungry," Kaito admitted with a shrug. "Though I could do with a drink."
"You need to rest then," Shinichi said, voice soft but insistent. "I know keeping that storm off us for so long must have been tiring. Just lie down and I'll go get you a cup of water."
A calloused hand caught Shinichi's wrist before he could reach the door however. It pulled him back with a jerk and suddenly he was pressed flush against the magician's chest with said magician's arms wrapped around him in a fierce embrace.
"That can wait," he murmured, his words warm breaths in Shinichi's ear. "You're just as tired as I am."
Sighing, Shinichi relaxed into the hug, burying his face in the magician's chest. He couldn't deny that he was tired. The cold of that storm still seemed to be clinging to his skin. It was more than just a physical chill. He could still feel the ghost's lonely anguish. In her pain he had seen an echo of their own, and the whole way back he'd been unable to think of anything else.
Kaito picked the oracle up and deposited him gently on one of the room's two beds. Then he moved to check that the door and windows were locked before joining Shinichi under the covers. Shinichi immediately curled up against him, tucking his head under Kaito's chin as the magician pulled him closer.
"Did you guys really see a…a…you know." Ran waved a hand in a somewhat vague gesture.
The kitchen was quiet for several moments as she and Kazuha waited expectantly for their two detective friends to answer. Neither of the boys looked eager to discuss the issue. In the end, it was Heiji who answered.
"We didn't see it exactly. Only Shinichi ever did, I think."
"But then was it real?" asked Kazuha.
"Yes," both detectives said without hesitation. The absolute certainty in their faces made Kazuha uncomfortable, although she couldn't say why. Maybe it was just that she was still trying to wrap her mind around it all. It would have been nice if her friends would show at least a little of the same confusion and uncertainty she was feeling. It would make her feel less like the odd one out. Although she supposed there were good things about their belief too. It made it easier for her to just accept it all and move on. Even so, it would be a while before she could look at the world the same way again. If she ever did.
"Well, the scarf has been sent," Hakuba said as he, Heiji, Shinichi, and Kaito stepped out of the post office. As the detectives had guessed, the place had had the ghost's family's new address on file just in case they needed to forward their post. "So what now?"
"Now we put this whole weird business behind us," Heiji replied, glancing at Shinichi for confirmation.
The oracle nodded, expression solemn. "All we can do now is wait and hope the storm doesn't start up again. If it remains clear then it should mean that she's moved on. Or at least that she's not as angry anymore." He hoped it was the former. No one deserved to be trapped like that, tied down by rage and despair…
His gaze swept over the snow-covered streets around them. The houses with their sparkling, white roofs and awnings decorated with crystalline icicles were a beautiful sight. The heavy snow from the day before had had to be shoveled and pushed to the sides of the roads to form high banks, but it seemed the people of the town were well used to dealing with such things. For them, the storm had been nothing more or less than a spot of bad weather.
It was Kaito who broke the silence. "We better get moving if we don't want to be late meeting up with the others."
The activity of the day was ice skating—or so Sonoko had declared that morning. She had visited the local rink before and given it a thumbs up. Afterward, they would head out to lunch before returning to the house to play the white elephant game.
They arrived at the skating rink to find the others already waiting for them. They turned their shoes into the equipment rental counter and received skates in return. Kaito and Shinichi both stared dubiously at the shoes they had been presented with. The things were thick and heavy, with long, ropy laces. The part that drew their eyes though was the blades. Each boot had a thin, metal blade attached to its bottom.
"You want us to walk on these?" Kaito asked, taking a boot and running his finger along said blade. Unstable was the word that came to mind. It was followed shortly by Dangerous.
Kazuha laughed. "Not walk, skate. Here, I'll show you."
Lacing up her own skates, the girl made her way to the edge of the rink. As the others lined up at the rails to watch, she launched herself onto the ice.
"Kazuha's really good at this," Heiji informed them, his own gaze following her movements as a warm smile that was a mixture of pride, admiration, and affection made its way onto his face. Kazuha almost seemed to be flying as she spun and danced across the frosted white landscape. Her ponytail streamed through the air behind her.
"Come on," she said as she glided back to where her friends were gathered. "Don't just stand around. We're here to have fun!" Her gaze shifted to the magician and the oracle. "Would you two like me to teach you?"
The two traded glances before agreeing, albeit a touch uncertainly. So as the rest of their party moved out onto the ice, the magician and the oracle found themselves taking their first ever skating lesson.
Holding onto the rails at the side of the rink, they watched closely as Kazuha demonstrated the basic motion of turning and pushing with the skates in order to move forward. When she was done, she took up position a short distance from their spot at the rails and waved for them to skate towards her.
"Just take it slowly," she instructed. "Don't rush and you'll be fine."
Shinichi took a deep breath, braced himself, and carefully pushed away from the wall. It felt incredibly weird to have the ground slipping past beneath him even while he wasn't actually doing anything. The tiny amount of momentum from his initial launch faded quickly however, leaving him standing motionless only a few steps from the rails. Okay, so now what had Kazuha done with her feet again? She'd turned the blade towards the side like this then pushed. He could feel the steel catching the ice, giving him the leverage he needed to propel himself forward again. He smiled to himself. Now for the other foot. Behind him, Kaito started his own expedition across the ice.
Shinichi was just starting to feel more comfortable with the motions when his left skate caught in a hole someone had gouged in the ice and he wobbled. Kaito moved reflexively to steady him, but the sudden motion caused his own skates to slip out from under him. He flailed in an attempt to recapture his balance as though it were a fleeing animal. In the process, his right skate struck Shinichi's, knocking the oracle's feet out from under him completely. They both fell in a heap of waving limbs.
Kazuha smiled a little sheepishly, one hand rising to the back of her neck. "Er, I guess maybe we should start with how to get up when you fall…"
The rest of the day passed in a whirl of warm lights and laughter. As the moon rose to grace the night with its soft, silver light, it found the residents of the Suzuki vacation house settling down in their respective rooms, their weary but contented minds more than ready for the soothing arms of sleep.
"It seems a shame we have to head home the day after tomorrow," Kaito observed, keeping his voice low to avoid disturbing their neighbors.
"I don't know. I'm kind of looking forward to being home again." Shinichi set the large, stuffed white elephant he'd been carrying down on the unused bed (Hakuba had scoffed at Hattori for bringing such an unimaginative gift, but most of the others thought it was funny. It was also very furry and soft, and no one could say it wasn't cute. Shinichi felt it was quite the suitable souvenir to remind them of this first Christmas in the future).
"I suppose the whole ghost business was a bit of a downer."
"It's not that." Blue eyes turned to the window as the oracle patted the elephant absently on the head. "It's just… I mean, this place is beautiful and I really am glad we came, but home is…well, home. I'm sorry, I guess that doesn't make much sense."
Kaito chuckled, moving to wrap his arms around the oracle from behind. "No, I understand what you mean. There's just nowhere like home."
"We should turn in. I believe I overheard Ran mentioning going back to the slopes again tomorrow. We'll want to get up early to make the most of it."
"Wait. There's something I need to give you." Pulling out of Kaito's grasp, Shinichi knelt and pulled their empty suitcase out from under the bed. He pulled out a bag with the craft store logo stamped across it. Kaito could see from the shape that the bag had been used to wrap something flat and square in shape. He cocked a curious eyebrow. He hadn't seen that package before. It had to be the reason for that day Shinichi had insisted on going to the shops without him.
Not quite meeting Kaito's gaze, Shinichi handed him the parcel. The magician unfolded the bag with care and pulled out the object inside. He found himself looking at the back of a simple, wood picture frame. His other eyebrow rose to join the first and he turned it over.
It was a color pencil drawing. Remarkably detailed, it depicted a snowy dragon with two little children seated on its back. The children, Kaito realized, were himself and Shinichi. An old memory bubbled up in his mind, worn thin by time but still touched by the glitter of old joys. Now that he knew what he was looking at, he found he recognized the dragon too. It looked exactly like the one he'd made all those years ago.
"Shin-chan," he murmured, looking up from the drawing. Now he knew why Shinichi had been ducking into their room every time an opportunity presented itself. "This…"
"I know we're supposed to be moving forward," the oracle said, fidgeting with the ends of his sleeves as he gazed at a point somewhere to Kaito's right. "But, well, I…I want to remember the good times too." His expression settled into a determined one. "I want to be able to look back and not just feel like it was all only a terrible loss…" He trailed off, shaking his head.
Kaito took another long look at the drawing, a warm if wistful smile creeping onto his face. Then he set it on the desk and pulled Shinichi into a tight embrace. "I know."
Shinichi relaxed, his eyes sliding shut. "Do you think they're happy?"
Indigo eyes rose to the star-spangled sky beyond their window. A hand rubbed soothing circles on the oracle's back. Phantom faces seemed to dance across that sky, though Kaito knew they were only in his own mind. He could see a woman with Shinichi's smile and a man with his clear, blue eyes. He could see another man as well, this one with his own wild hair and angular features.
"I'm sure they are."
Shinichi's breath left him in an almost inaudible sigh. A sudden wave of weariness washed over him, and he found himself leaning more heavily against Kaito's chest.
"Is there anything you want to do before we have to go home? Since tomorrow's our last day here. We'll be skiing in the morning, but that still leaves the afternoon."
Shinichi thought about the question for a long moment before he answered, voice quiet, almost embarrassed. "Make snowmen?"
He felt more than heard Kaito laugh. "Sounds interesting."
Both their eyes fell upon the drawing in its wooden frame—a window into the past when the future had been bright. But perhaps it could be more.
"Snowmen," Sonoko repeated. "You're kidding me right? How old are we, seven?"
"Ah, but it's a form of art," Kaito pointed out, wagging a finger under her nose. "And art is ageless. Besides, I only said Shinichi and I would be staying out here because we wanted to make snowmen. I didn't say you had to join us."
"I actually think making snowmen sounds like a great idea," Kazuha piped up. "Something relaxing to end our trip with."
"We can have a contest," Heiji added, a grin beginning to spread across his face. "First place gets ta decide what we're having for dinner!"
"Then I suppose the rest of us had better make sure you don't win," Hakuba mused.
The dark-skinned teen's jaw dropped and he rounded on the blonde in indignation. "Are you sayin' I have bad taste?"
"Don't think I didn't notice you drooling over that hamburger place in town. That is not the kind of food I intend to subject myself to on the last day of my vacation."
Ran stepped hurriedly between the two. "Now, now, let's not start an argument over this all right? Prizes aside, I think a snowman contest sounds like a great idea."
With everyone including a grudging Sonoko in agreement, the rest of their last day at the Suzuki vacation home was spent populating the snowy slopes around the house with snowmen of all shapes and sizes. There were fluffy little snow rabbits and traditional, triple-sphere snowmen with twiggy arms and carrot noses. There were large, snow dogs by a makeshift sleigh and snow monsters born from failed attempts at better things. There was even a snow castle complete with seven towers and a waterless mote.
And in the middle of it all stood a dragon with snow white scales, its head tilted back as though to look into the distant reaches of the sky.
Two young men stood before it as the sun dipped towards the horizon, looking up at its proud and noble face. There was a defiance in its skyward gaze, they thought, like the creature was poised to leap up and hurl itself into the heavens. "I am here," it seemed to say. "And though my snow may melt and wash away, let it be known that I am here to stay."
"It's just as good as the last one," Shinichi said, looking up into the face of his taller companion—seeing the distant look in his eyes.
Kaito glanced at him then back at the great, white creature they had shaped from the snow. A wry smile made its way onto his face and he let out a short but hearty laugh. "I don't think so." Catching Shinichi's hand in his, he gave it a squeeze. "Personally, I think this one's better."
A.N: And that's the end! For now anyway. I like working in this universe, so there'll probably be other stories for it sooner or later. Well, I hope you all enjoyed the story, and I'll see you around. ^_^