Disclaimer: Gatchaman belongs to Tatsunoko Pro, not to me, oh, woes.
Eye of the Storm
Lying in a drift, shivering as the melting snow seeped through his jeans and cursing Ken with every breath, Joe decided what he really wanted to know was just how in the hell Ken had managed to hide the white parka.
The night before, when they’d left for the cabin, Ken had been wearing his blue coat, old and worn and thin, and all he’d put in the backseat of the car was one duffel bag. His face had been red from the cold, and his flight gloves did little to keep his hands warm, if the way he’d kept them tucked under his arms was any indication.
This morning, Joe had stepped out onto the cabin deck to admire the winter landscape for a moment. Everything was covered with pristine snow, from the tree branches to the rail of the cabin, and it was broken only by the trail he and Ken had forged to the cabin door. Evergreen needles peeked out from beneath their heavy coating of white, and the sun was just rising over the crest of the mountain to set the whole slope a-sparkle.
Just for a moment, he let himself bask in the rare, crisply cold peace surrounding him.
Then the snowball hit him, plastering the side of his face and making it sting from the icy wetness.
He swiped at it and managed to brush most of the snow away, but not before some of it had trickled down the collar of his coat, chilling his neck and shoulder. Glaring in the direction from which it had come, he’d just barely been able to make out Ken against the white ground, dressed as he was in that white parka and brown pants, and then only because he was laughing.
With roar of outrage, Joe leapt over the deck rail. “I’m gonna fucking kill you, Ken!” The way he stumbled on landing, however, and floundered in the snow made his words seem less threatening than he wanted.
Ken, however, had prepared well. Still laughing, he ducked behind what at first appeared to be another drift, but when he stood up again, he was holding a snowball in each hand.
Joe had just enough time to think k’so! An instant later, he stumbled backward as one snowball splattered against his chest and the other against his knee. He hadn’t managed to recover when Ken pelted him with two more.
Before Ken could scoop up any more, Joe beat a not-so-strategic retreat. As soon as he was out of range, Ken held his fire, though he clearly couldn’t stop grinning. “You awake now, Joe?”
“You are dead meat, Washio!” Joe growled. He cast a quick look around and noted another drift set at a slight angle to the one Ken had appropriated as his fortress. The snow there was untouched, and appeared to be of the right consistency for snowballs. He dove behind the snow-bank, and seconds later, a hastily-made missile arced toward Ken’s position. Joe heard it rasp against the fabric of Ken’s parka with no small satisfaction.
For a few minutes, the volleys were fast and, at least on Joe’s part, furious. But throughout it all, he could still hear Ken’s laughter, even though it was briefly muffled by one lucky shot that hit him right in the face. Ken didn’t often laugh, and certainly not like this – long and rich and full of good-humor, and it wasn’t long before Joe was laughing with him.
It felt like only a few minutes later when one of Ken’s snowballs hit Joe just right, and more ice-water soaked past his collar and down his neck. He let out a sound suspiciously like a shriek, flapping his collar, trying to shake the wetness away from his skin. Ken simply collapsed into the snow, holding his stomach and shaking with laughter he couldn’t control. Joe could hear him howling with glee.
It was too good an opportunity to ignore. Joe leapt over his snow-bank and dashed across the expanse between them, tackling Ken as he staggered to his feet. They landed with a heavy whump, and rolled over and over, struggling for the top position.
Finally Joe won, pinning Ken face down beneath him. “Funny, was it, Ken?” he demanded, grinning, and grabbed a handful of snow. “How about this?” and he shoved the snow down the back of Ken’s coat, making him squirm and shout. Instead of letting him up, Joe swooped up another handful, but most of it sprayed into his own face when Ken twisted away, batting his hand as he did.
After another short bout of wrestling, they ended up on their backs side by side, panting out great clouds of steam into the chill air.
“Now that was fun,” Ken managed eventually.
Ken chuckled and sat up, shaking some snow out of his hair as he did.
“Hey, watch it,” Joe protested weakly.
Instead of saying anything, Ken just grinned down at him, sharply defined against the blue of the sky. His cheeks were red from the frosty air, his hair damp and clinging to his cheeks, and just for a second, Joe forgot the cold seeping into his muscles.
“Brrr.” Ken twitched and held the bottom of his parka away from his back, trying to get the unmelted snow out. “I’ve got snow everywhere,” he commented, his tone just faintly accusing.
The glare of sun against snow made Joe close his eyes. “Isn’t that usually the end result of a snowball fight?”
“The parka was supposed to prevent that.”
“Well, that’s what you get for ambushing me,” Joe muttered, but he smirked as he said it.
“It wasn’t an ambush,” Ken retorted, but it was more out of their habit of disagreeing with each other than with any heat.
“Yes, it was,” Joe replied in the same tone. “And where the hell did you hide that damn coat anyway?”
Ken’s only response was a huff.
Joe opened his eyes as the snow crunched beside him, and saw Ken stand and brush off his pants, though they were so thoroughly soaked that it didn’t make any difference. Then he reached out a hand to haul Joe to his feet. “Let’s go warm up,” he suggested. “Did you remember to stoke the fire before coming out?”
“I thought you did!”
They bickered their way back into the cabin, and surprisingly enough, it didn’t seem to break the peace of the mountainside.
January 30, 2009
© randi (K. Shepard), 2009