Season of Snow Pt 2

From the Story Arc: Phoenyx Ascendant

Previous Story in the Arc: Season of Snow Pt 1 by Seraphym (Thursday, December 29, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Season of Snow Pt 3 by Sister Shuma (Sunday, January 01, 2006)

(posted Thursday, December 29, 2005)

The MREs were not as terrible as John had suggested, at least not to Sera's mind. Bland, yes. Terrible--well, they were considerably less appalling than some of her experiments in cookery.

There were, of course, other schools of thought.

"This tastes like boiled cardboard," Ratt muttered.

"Close; it's spaghetti." John spooned up another bite, swallowing it before he had to taste it for too long. They included the miniature bottles of Tabasco for a reason, he'd found.

Shuma shrugged. "Shuma think it taste okie dokie. It better than food you have to catch and clean yourself."

Ratt rolled his eyes. "Not again!" He squinted up his eyes in imitation of Shuma's face. "Shuma have to go to school barefoot uphill in snow in summer! Shuma have to eat off palm tree leaves she have to cut down herself with her teeth! Shuma have to build own house with fingernails!"

"At least SHUMA know how not to complain about food in front of Sera and Daddy! You is being polite!"

"What? Sera didn' make this crap! Sera didn' even heat it up! What's not polite?"

"You is no liking food?," Shuma seethed, her voice rising. "FINE! You is going out and getting us food!"

"Who died and made you Mom?"

"You is lucky Shuma not Mom! Or Shuma is giving you beating, you..."

"Shuma. Ratt." Sera's voice was quiet, but there was no mistaking the dangerous flickers of fire around the corners of her eyes. John had set his finished meal down, arms folded across his chest. "Ratt, you are perfectly free not to eat or to eat only what you can stomach. You are also perfectly free to be hungry. Shuma, you do not need to defend either the MREs or me."

Shuma grumbled, then bent low over her bowl. Her lips curled into a pout, opening only to shovel in more cardboard goodness. John began moving to clean up the spent packages, folding them up and throwing them into a large trashcan near the door. He removed a pair of gloves from his heavy coat, pulling them on. "I was only able to cut a bit of wood 'fore I had to head back and lead y'all here. Anyone else want to come help me get some more?"

Shuma leapt up, and bounded over to John. "Shuma be happy helping Daddy!" She gave Ratt a smug look.

Ratt could not let that pass. "Never said I wouldn' then, did I?" he said belligerently, glaring at her.

"I think we should all help," Sera put in, "Though I confess I will be of little use except to carry the results."

"S'alright. I only have two axes out here with us. But, I'll teach y'all how to properly cut wood. We'll help each other out." John opened the door, stepping out into the still evening. There was a slight breeze, blowing over the top of the snowdrifts in the clearing. Above, the stars were clearer than they ever could be in the city, distinct. John walked over to a treestump protruding from the frozen ground; it had 2 axes stuck into its center. He pulled one free, then the other. "Pick a direction, folks."

Ratt seized the second axe before Shuma could even put her hand out for it. "Wouldn't want Shuma to hurt herself," he said, mockingly.

Shuma gave him a withering look, glanced over at a fallen log, and willed it to snap in two.

"Hmph," she breathed, and began to walk off into the heavy undergrowth. Shrugging, John shared a look with Sera before hefting the other axe, following after Shuma.

"We don't want to harm the forest," Sera said, gliding about three feet above the snowpack. "We'll want to find dead trees that Shuma can bring out for us."

It did not take them terribly long to find, not one, but about an acre of dead trees thrusting up out of an area that must have been flooded for a long time, long enough for the roots to have drowned. It was a spot of luck, given the constant bickering between Ratt and Shuma, which broke the hush of the still wood with a chattering that only reminded Sera of a squirrel scolding a crow and being yelled at in return.

"You is talking crazy talk!" Shuma was insisting. "Statesman is bestest hero in all Paragon!"

"Naw, I'm tellin' ya; Back Alley Brawler. Now there's a guy that can wreck sumthin'!" Ratt retorted.

"Statesman beating Brawler with both hands tied behind back! Brawler is puny puny man!"

"Are you mental? Statesman ain't got nothin' that Brawler can't handle! Besides, he's a whole foot taller that States. But," Ratt grinned wryly, "I can see how y'might not be able to tell, bein' so short yerself..."

Shuma ignored that. "What is you knowing? Brawler is a little bitc..."

"Duck!" All three of them turned simultaneously, a blur of white motion tracing an arc from John's hand...right on top of Ratt's head. Snow crumbled and fell about him as he shook his head. John stood leaning up against a tree, smirking while holding another snowball at the ready. "Well. Y'all just gonna stand there, or are y'gonna give me some movin' targets?"

"Oh love?" At the sound of Sera's melodious voice, John turned, only to get a snowball square in the chest. "Tag."

Ratt and Shuma shared an odd look. Then smirks. Hooting, they darted away, taking shelter behind large trees, and returned fire. Weaving in and out of trees to avoid being hit, John took cover behind a built up snowdrift. "Three on one odds, is it? Just the way I like it!" He stood up, chucking a few snowballs before being driven back by an opposing volley.

Ratt circled around to the rear of John's position, using all the craft he'd learned over the years to get into place. Unfortunately all the craft he'd learned over the years was good only in urban environs, not forest. Still, he managed to throw a single snowball at John, which looked like it would hit true---but it passed through him.

"Hey! No powers!" John and Ratt exchanged "fire", retreating back to their respective positions.

"Oh drat," Sera said from overhead. John looked up at her; she had positioned herself among the snow-laden branches and was poised to dump several bushels'-worth of snow down on him from one of them. "No powers--"

Anything else she might have said was lost in the faceful of snow she caught. John ducked out from behind a tree, triumph on his face.

Sera dropped to the ground, spluttering and laughing. "You fiend! You said no powers! I will swear you just cheated! Or was that not Quantum Flight that got you there?"

"Erm, why is using powers cheating?" Shuma asked. They all turned to her, as she stood, her head cocked to the right, waiting patiently for an answer.

"Oh. Well, uh, it's really not sporting..."

"Cause I said so!" Ratt said with finality.

"I thought--" Sera began.

Too late, they were caught in the deception. John noticed first, as a large shadow loomed over them. Looking up, he barely had time to breathe, before the Snowy Fist of Doom dropped like a bomb, burying John, Sera and Ratt in a powdered tomb.

"Yay! Shuma win!"

John swam up to the surface, breaking through in a shower of clumped snow. " Cheaters, every last one of you. Idea: who's up for snow angels?" He plunged a hand into the snow, then gently pulled Sera up by the collar of her jacket. "Love?"

She was laughing so hard she was having a hard time breathing. Ratt didn't wait for rescue; he burned his way out of his section. "SHUMA!" he roared, red-faced under the flames. "Dammit Shuma!"

Before he could do anything, he was buried under another avalanche, this time from Sera, who shook down the load she had meant to drop on John.

"Or maybe Sera win..." Shuma mused.

"Winner makes hot cocoa if the rest of you will bring the wood," Sera said instantly, before Ratt could do more than splutter.

Shuma smirked, levitated Ratt and shook the snow off of him.

"Come on, little brother," she said, giving him a brief hug. "Let us is cutting and chopping the wood."

Sera exchanged a warm look with John. ::Peace on earth,:: she whispered into his thoughts.