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she breathes in freedom

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            They drift apart slowly after Ein leaves with Rose for Asgard. It isn’t purposeful: It just happens naturally, like seasons changing, like years going by.

            Serene visits Elendia occasionally with news of her hunts to track down those last few recalcitrant demons; Cierra returns to her vagrant ways and forgets to visit much the same way that she forgets to eat. Fia shakes her head over them both and goes to sweep the yard, and Lina discovers that she is not as worried about this as perhaps she should be.

            There is no news from Ein himself at all. Maybe something happened; maybe he’s just forgotten to write or is too busy to spare the time for them. Fia bites her nails right down to the quick, and as fastidious as her friend is, Lina still finds the little piles of raggedy half-moons heaped in strange corners of unlikely surfaces. She doesn’t disturb them. It wouldn’t feel right.

            It has been six years since the end of the battle, and for the first time in almost a decade, the winter sees a hard snow. Day in and day out, fat fluffy flakes the size of acorns come tumbling out of the gray sky and pile up.

            Lina takes her hair down and goes outside and closes her eyes, breathes in the cold until it hurts her nose, and remembers a distant dream of a memory of a blizzard just like this, back when she was aimless and didn’t have a home to go back to, just a destination on a poorly drawn map to trudge towards.

            She holds her arms out

            And twirls

                        and twirls

            and twirls

                        and twirls

            and twirls

                        and twirls

                                    and twirls,

                        until finally

                                    the built-up snow under her feet becomes too hard to navigate

                        and she allows herself to fall backwards

                                                and lands with a sound like flump, her hair spread out behind her. She does not open her eyes; she simply lies there spread-eagled with clumps of snow leaving wet kisses on her face.

            “Lina,” calls an angry voice from the direction of the house, and she doesn’t open her eyes.

            There’s the crunch of footsteps, a sound that gets louder and louder until she can vaguely feel Fia’s body heat nearby.

            “Lina, you’re going to catch your death of cold out here.”

            She cracks her eyelids open, even though her eyelashes protest her pushing apart the snow caked in them by doing so. Fia is standing bent over her with her hands on her hips and a tremendous frown on her face, lines between her eyebrows. Instead of anger, though—the look in her dark eyes is searching, as if demanding to know if Lina will now wander away through the storm she once arrived in and leave her all alone at last.

            And she reaches out to grab at Fia’s crossed arms and pulls her down. Fia overbalances and lands flat on top of Lina, hips squarely between her legs, hands plunged into the deep deep snow on either side of them.

            “So warm me up.”