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True Friendship Does Not Freeze in the Winter

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Brisk early evening air, sky glowing orange-red and it's not just the radiation from the lake, colors blending together in a vibrant mess of burnt clouds. Akito's breath is stark white for a split second, half second, then dissipating into faint tendrils of smoke. He shrugs the blanket closer around, buries himself in its warmth. Paned windows in back, corrugated shingles underneath, and on his left Ikki's lounged out on the roof, brand new Kogarasumaru jacket more than enough for him to brave the cold. Not an uncommon sight, feels a little like back home, not enough to send dulled pangs through them but sometimes hints of fond memories.

Ikki shifts in his spot, yawns. Couldn't nap if he tried, but it's not as if he's tired and he lazily keeps his eyes to the sky. Bored. It's too wet and cold and if only Camp would bless him with better buildings and more pavement it'd be the best Christmas ever. He's not holding his breath. Instead, watching as little dark blotches flutter past overhead. Listens, expects the familiar caw or trill to come soon.

That's when it sounds. Only seems odd once the warbling hum gets closer, doppler effect, till it's right behind him. It's accompanied by the beating and flapping of wings. Faint. Unfamiliar. Ikki glances over, shifting his gaze to the blanket-enshrouded figure and his eyes widen. He can't help but sit up and stare. Akito's arms braving the mild chill, the boy's hands appear to beckon closer a strange winged creature, Snitchlike only fist-sized. It swoops in and lands on an outstretched hand. One black wing, leathery and scruffily feathered. One white wing, full and pure and just a shade duller than the snow.

"...Heeeeeeh, what's that you got there?" Ikki asks as the gold-shaded creature folds its wings, amazed at its wingspan for something so small. A warbling hum ending with a higher trill, and he knows this is the source of that unfamiliar call. He's seen enough strange things at Camp that he's largely unphased. About the only surprise is its apparent level of familiarity with his teammate.

Akito beams. He gives the thing several soft strokes atop its head. Its striking red eyes close, its mouth curving wide like a pleased frog. The folded wings shiver.

"Ah, it's about time I introduced you to him," and now Ikki wonders how long of a wait. That thought is smothered, as the boy adds, "This is Grimm. Agito's mom gave him to me."

Ikki's mouth remains open, wordless, for a very long pause. Blinks, mouths an unphraseable question or three, then Ikki finally sputtering and pulling a screwed up face at Akito's laughter. The boy takes a break from petting Grimm. It's still trilling happily. Stretches its wings out.

"Agito's mom," Ikki repeats, as if that will help him wrap his brain around this statement. The shark has a mom? But this is Akito, his quips often offbeat, and Ikki thinks Akito's enjoying his confusion a little too much. No time to finish that thought, Grimm's taken flight and lands atop the nest of spiky hair usually reserved for Kuu.

"Hey! Hey hey hey hey that is a RESERVED SPOT--" Ikki shouts, indigant, like Grimm needs this Ikki-sama's permission to park there. Hands fussing, but to no avail. Grimm's little clawed hands hold tight to his hair. "Shoo! Don't make yourself at home up there you... what, this thing purrs too?"

"It looks like he likes you," and leaning, Akito stretches out a hand to pet the thing currently nesting in Ikki's hair. The boy's calm, been perfectly calm if amused, as if sensing beforehand that Ikki wouldn't be rough with his pet.

"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" Ikki looks put out, and mildly offended. The topic of Agito having a mother is already forgotten.

"Hmm, maybe a little," Akito muses.

Figures. Ikki sighs, good mood returning like the flip of a switch. "I guess he can keep it warm till Kuu gets back." Dismissive justification spoken with his trademark grin. Hopefully the crow, literal crow, won't mind. Ikki's in no mood for divebombs that promise peckings.

Absently, the scent of forever and thin air enters his thoughts. Takes a deep, frigid breath but it can't compare. He's not sure why such a random thought feels so familiar. Grimm tugs on some hair, once, twice. Then a pause punctuated by a soft upward warble. Not till the fourth repeat of this sharp isolated pull at his scalp followed by its murmur does it register; maybe the thing on his head is trying to tell him something. "Oi. What're you doing up there?" He glances up, brow raised, knowing full well it's out of his range of sight. Grimm gives a trill and hops off, lands on a patch of roof between the two boys. Akito's observing Grimm and Ikki, curiosity painted across his face.

Sitting on its haunches, Grimm lets its mismatched wings expand once more, flapping them several times.

"What's he doing?"

"I don't know," Akito answers honestly, before a small box materializes in front of Grimm and hangs suspended in the air. 'Ikki' is written scrawled in multi-colored katakana on the lid. Ikki's brow furrows as he takes hold of it. It quickly disintegrates, leaving behind an equally colorful scribbled note and a pencil-shaped black thing. He's too busy studying the two items to notice the knowing look on Akito's face, just the way he's yet to notice the little embroidered wings on the cuffs of his sleeves that weren't on his old jacket. Akito knows better than to bring up that little detail. Ikki will find them eventually, proof of how much thought he put into this.

"Stupid line! Mock me with your straightness, will you?!"

Akito blinks, sees the note flutter around, discarded by Ikki upon a quick perusal. Ikki's trying to snap the black thing in half, but it refuses to bend. Akito snatches the note and reads the moving, shifting multi-colored text to himself:


Um. This is a line. A very straight line. Its name is Irving. It is the straightest line you will ever find, even straighter than you. You'd probably kiss your froggie before you'd get Irving to become a crook and bend over.

He can't help but smile. Though unsigned, it's clear to Akito who sent the note and the unbendable item that Ikki keeps trying and failing to snap in half no matter how much force he applies.

"Bend, damn it!" Ikki looks constipated, the way his face is scrunched up. His hands are white. So is his every breath.


"I can't stop now! It's challenged me!"

"...I'll get the first aid kit," Akito says. Just in case.