This is an original work by Moirasfate, graciously posted on FF.net. All characters belong to Moirasfate! This work is rated R for violence and sexual themes. Plagiarism will not be tolerated! But please do enjoy this work!


Tsumetai

By M. Fate

Part I

'You have entered a restricted airlock, please enter your identification code…'

She was running out of air.  The faceplate was too coated in frost for her to see the keypad next to the airlock door.  She was only inches away from safety, yet so far away.

Through the frosted faceplate she could see the red light over the airlock door and she struggled to move towards it.

'Warning, air quality and heating system are at levels of two percent.  It is advised that the suit be recharged immediately…'

If she had enough breath she would swear at the voice in her ear piece, that sickly sweet voice that was basically telling her that she had maybe two minutes before she would begin to freeze to death in her WarmSuit.

She stumbled forward, feeling the wall before her.  Maybe there was a linkup in the airlock…  She hoped.  But she would never know.  The lights inside her helmet began flashing red.

'Warning, air and heating system are shutting down.  It is advised…'

She could only hear her own breath, echoing inside the helmet of her WarmSuit.  She could see only her breath flowing in white clouds from her mouth, stale air that she would not be able to breathe back in.

Her eyes were dimming and she could not feel the rest of her body.  The cold was setting in.  She was suffocating…

Her legs gave way under her and she could feel her suit, heavy as it was, pulling her down to the floor of the airlock.  She began wheezing, struggling for air that would never come.

It was a horrid way to die.  Suffocation.

She let the thought flash through her dying mind that she could take her helmet off, but she could not see the exterior temperature gauge on the holo-pad attached to the wrist of her suit.

Negative two hundred degrees maybe, maybe less…  Even if she wanted to take her helmet off she would still suffocate.

Two more panicked breaths and she felt her mind slip into darkness.  She had traveled so far, lost so much, only to die at the door to her destination, at the edge of the waste, at the edge of Paradise.

"Come closer to the fire, Layla, I won't bite you…"

The darkness lifted from her mind suddenly.  She realized that she had been dreaming some terrible dream about the cold.

"Come on now…"

He was smiling in the warm glow of the fire, beckoning to her.  Her brother…  She was ten years old…

"Okay," she answered in a small voice, gathering up her thermal blanket and rushing over to her brother's side next to the fire set in an old bucket in the middle of the floor.  She wondered how he had gotten the fuel for such a luxury, but thought it best not to ask.

"Doesn't it feel nice, Layla?"

"Mm!" she nodded, smiling, snuggling into her brother's side.

He was nine years older than she was, and in truth was not her true brother.  He, like most of the children, was an orphan, banding together into families of their own, eking out a life.

"And look what I have in my pocket…  I have something for you…"

He was so kind to her, and had taken care of her ever since she was three years old.  He would often tell her that he found her in a crack of a rock somewhere in the north, crying and calling for her mother, but whether that was the truth or not, Layla could not remember.

Layla smiled, stuffing her small hand into his coat pocket and producing a small sweet potato.

"Where did you find it, Tat-chan?" she asked excitedly, rubbing it between her hands.

"Not far from here, I had to dig at least six feet in the snow for it.  It's like I told you, Layla, the ground is still alive under the ice and snow.  Nature is only sleeping now, not dead like some of the others think…"

His name was Tatsuya, her brother, whom she called Tat-chan.  And she was Layla.  Tatsuya had made up the name himself when they were both young.  So they were a family, once they had found each other and had been ever since.

"When my parents were still alive they told me about a comet hitting the planet and knocking it out of orbit.  From the comet, the skies were clouded with dust that covered the whole world for a long time.  Then when the skies cleared, everyone found that ice and snow covered the land and froze the oceans.  The sun was too far away to melt the ice and lots of people died from the cold and many dug through the ice and snow into the earth itself, where it was warm.  But many people were left behind, people like my parents and your parents.  They lived for a long time on the surface without WarmSuits, and then it got too cold…  They also dug through the ice and snow and found this place…  Our home…"

Layla looked at her brother in wonderment.  He had told her this story many times, but every time she heard it she began to understand more and more of what he meant by his words.

They lived in a place under the ice and snow, but not like the others who lived further still under the ice.  It was warm there, and not where they were.  Even when they had fire, it was still too cold to move much.

It was a miserable existence, unable to escape the cold.  Only WarmSuits were what kept people moving about the surface, scavenging what was left of the past.  But Layla was too small for the old WarmSuits that still existed in small numbers in their home.  Tat-chan was the only one brave enough and big enough to go to the surface that Layla knew of.

Their home they called the Sewer.  Layla did not really know what the word meant, but she felt that it meant something bad.  It was a big place, with many tunnels and dark places.  And from the Sewer one could go to the surface easily.

The Sewer had many communities, led by older boys or girls, living as best they could with what they could find.  Often they went out to the Surface to find food and fuel to bring back to their families.  Tat-chan had told Layla that on the Surface there was an old city, fallen in with ice and snow, but among the ruins they could find fuel.  To the north and east of the Sewer they could sometimes find food frozen under the snow and ice, much like the sweet potato Layla held between her small hands.  But that kind of food was hard to find and there was little to give.

But they lived a happy life.  Tat-chan and Layla did not belong to any community and lived together alone away from the others.  Most of the reason for the separation was the fact that Tat-chan had a WarmSuit that still worked.  Tat-chan had lived in communities when he was small and disagreed with much that went on in those communities.  He still had contact with some of the friendlier communities, but he kept his distance.

Tat-chan would go to the surface occasionally, searching for food and fuel that was limited in the Sewer, but most of the time he spent the days with Layla.  At night they slept together, sharing their warmth and when Tat-chan said it was daytime, he taught her many things that he had learned from the communities and from his parents.  Tat-chan had taught her to read a little and to write.  He also taught her how to move through the darkness of the Sewer unseen and unheard.  There were many other things Tat-chan taught Layla, but they were too numerous to mention.

There were times they went together, exploring the Sewer, finding things alive and dead, and passages into the deeper tunnels under the earth.  They had moved many times through the Sewer, seeking a safe place to live, warmer than other places they had lived in before.

Sometimes Tat-chan would take her to friendly communities and trade out his strength to help build warmer hovels for the children there.  And there were times that Tat-chan would disappear into the depths of the Sewer to meet with strange people that Layla had only heard tell of from some of the other children.

Layla realized that most of the children in the communities and some of their leaders feared Tat-chan, but Layla did not know exactly why.  She wondered if it had something to do with the strange people Tat-chan talked to, or if it had something to do with the way he looked.

Tat-chan had told Layla a few times about the things people did in the past to make it easier to stand the cold.  He had told her that people called 'scientists' had done experiments to unborn babies to make them stronger to the cold outside.  Tat-chan said that his parents were some of those people who had been 'altered'.  Layla could only guess at what Tat-chan meant.  But from what she could understand, Tat-chan's parents had been Lycanthicytes, a name that Layla had heard once in a whisper between leaders of a community they had once visited. 

The word Lycanthicytes was a made up word, Layla found out, by some people far in the past.  There was a more vulgar sounding, yet more accepted word that Tat-chan called himself:  Beast…

Tat-chan was a second generation Beast, being born from the seed of two other Beasts, his parents.  And it was in the past that scientists bred children who had the genes of beasts as well as men.  The types of beasts varied, but Tat-chan was a Wolf.

He did not appear so much like a beast, but his hair and his eyes were what revealed that he was a Beast.  He had silver hair, long and shaggy, and yellow eyes that could see into the darkness.  Tat-chan was very strong, stronger than anyone Layla knew which was few.  He had claw like hands and long canine teeth, but other than that, Tat-chan looked like anyone else.

Layla did not fear him for she had no reason to.  There were other Beasts in the Sewer, but most kept hidden from others.  Layla grew to guess as the years passed that the strange people Tat-chan talked to were other Beasts.

"Oi…  Are you going to eat it or not?" Tat-chan chided, poking Layla gently with his elbow.

Layla smiled, raising the potato to her mouth.  "Are you sure I can eat it?"

He laughed, his yellow eyes flashing in the firelight.  "I brought it for you, silly.  Who else would eat it?  The rats?  There hasn't been a rat in the Sewer for a long time…"

"What's a rat?"

Tat-chan paused and looked at Layla suspiciously.  "What's a rat?" he muttered before he broke out into laughter again.

Layla puffed out her cheeks and took a big bite of her potato.  It was bitter and hard, but Layla said nothing and ate the whole thing. 

"Let's get to bed now, kiddo…  It's nighttime…"

Layla licked her fingers and swallowed the rest of her potato.  She sighed as she felt the hard potato slip down to her stomach, filling it sufficiently.  She gathered up the thermal blanket she had around her and moved over to their makeshift bed of old rags and thermal blankets.

Tat-chan had already settled into bed, holding the heavy blanket up for Layla to slip in beside him.  He had his back to the wall, facing the fire, smiling.  Layla snuggled in next to him, her back to the fire.

"Time for little fairies to go to sleep…" Tat-chan whispered as Layla slipped her hands inside Tat-chan's coat and under his shirt where it was warm against his skin.  "Your hands are cold…" Tat-chan laughed softly, tucking the heavy blanket around Layla.

"Good night, Tat-chan…" Layla yawned, rubbing her cool pudgy cheek against Tat-chan's shoulder

Tat-chan pulled the blanket up to his chin, covering Layla totally.  He kissed her forehead and sighed.  It was warm under the blankets, warm enough to sleep.

"Layla?"

She rolled over in bed, her long black hair falling over her face.

"Layla?"

She did not want to wake up, did not want to move.  It was too warm under the blankets.

"Layla!"

Someone was shaking her awake, rudely and roughly.  Slowly her green eyes opened, a shadow focusing in her vision above her.

"Tat-chan?" she whispered, her throat dry and scratchy.

"No…  Tatsuya died years ago…  Wake up, will you?"

Layla groaned and buried her face in her pillow.  She had been having a nice dream, a warm dream of the life she knew when she was a child with Tat-chan.

"The scouts have returned and Xian is calling for everyone to assemble."

It took Layla a moment for the words to register.

"Is it you, Megla?"

"Yes, now get your ass out of bed!  Orin has come back, and you've been moaning for weeks how cold your bed has been without him!  NOW GET UP!"

Layla sat up suddenly, startled, her eyes wide and staring at the young woman who had been leaning over her bed.

"Good morning, Megla…" she muttered, rubbing her eyes.

"Mou…  You are such a log!"

Megla moved across the darkened room and switched on the lights.  Her ears were flattened in annoyance and her tail straight.  Needless to say, Megla was a Beast, a Tiger, one of the rarest types of Beasts in the Sewer.

"I'm not even going to turn on the space heater for you, Layla, you have to get up yourself and turn it on!"

With that Megla kicked the door to the room open and stormed out.  A cold draft entered the room and Layla shivered.

The traces of her dream were still fresh on the edge of her mind.  She had been dreaming of her home in the upper tunnels of the Sewer ten years before.  She had been dreaming of Tat-chan and their home.  It was a fond memory of a time when things seemed so simple and Layla felt so safe.  It had been the bliss of her ignorance.  And as time passed that ignorance diminished and so did the bliss…

Layla moved to the side of the bed and slipped her stocking feet into a knee-high pair of boots.  She stood in the boots as the straps adjusted automatically around her calf and ankles.  She shivered again, the space heaters were off and the switch on the other side of the room.  But she decided it better to save the fuel and keep the room cold…

Even though she was deeper in the Sewer, in the bottommost tunnels as a matter of fact called the Basement, but it was still cold.  Layla grabbed her coat from an old chair by the door and slipped it on.  It was a long coat, lined with fur from some animal alive decades ago.

'The last fox in the world…' Tat-chan had told her.  It had been his coat, black on the outside and rough, but on the inside, warm and soft with white fur. It was still too big for her, the tail just swiping the ground with her boots on.

Layla pulled her long hair out of the high collar of the coat and sighed again.  It was early morning, she figured, too early for her to be up and out in the tunnels in the frigid air.  She buttoned the coat up to her chin.  It was form fitting around the waist and bust, but too large in the shoulders and far too long.  But it was her only sentiment of her Tat-chan, the first man she ever loved.

She stepped out of the door, shutting it behind her with a metallic snap.  She turned her collar up in the breezy corridor that ran for almost a mile in a wide avenue.  Rooms had been fashioned into the walls on either side, a catwalk running just outside the doors.  In these rooms the people of the Basement lived.  Below the catwalk were roofless honeycomb like rooms where the people of the Basement worked.  Each room had a central fire, and inside each room were people doing various jobs.  Overhead a vaulted roof enclosed the entire Basement, blackened by the fires from down below.

When Layla had been younger, she had never imagined such a place in the Sewer.  It was a community of people who had been left out in the cold to die.  And not all of them were children like those in the communities Upstairs as the people of the Basement called it.  Those were children who were so dependant on the Surface that they feared the dark of the Basement and the strange mixture of Man and Beast in those dark places.

The Basement was over eighty percent Beast, and Men were for once the minority.  They were a society never seen on the Surface world in all its history.  Everything belonged to everyone; there was just enough food and fuel for everyone.  Leaders were elected, but worked just like everyone else at whatever skill they were best at.  Leaders were only needed when it came to large decisions or about expanding the Basement.

The tunnels of the Basement ran for miles and miles in every direction and there was a constant search to find a tunnel that led deeper into the earth.  There was also a secret search by a few chosen people to find a back door to the colonies of people who had shut those of the Basement out decades before…  That door was called the back door to Paradise.

"Mou, Layla!  Hurry up!" Megla called from down the catwalk, her clawed hands on her hips, and her ears still flat against her head.

"I'm coming…" Layla called, moving down the catwalk, her boots clanging against the metal.

Megla grinned, her sharp teeth visible from the glow of the rooms below.  Her green eyes shimmered happily when Layla met up with her and they began walking together to the stairs leading down into the rooms below.

"You should act more excited, Layla!  Orin is back and he looks like he wants to snuggle a bit in your bed!"

Layla smiled faintly.  Megla was in no way modest about anything, especially when it came to the various relationships of the people in the Basement.  Megla herself was very open about her relationships, almost too open.

Megla was close to the same age was Layla, and because of that for the most part, they had become quick friends when Layla arrived in the Basement to live.  Megla had been one of the first people to welcome her into the dark domain that was the Basement.

"Good morning, Layla, Megla!" a man called as they entered the lower rooms.  Layla waved and smiled.

"Good morning!" said another.

People were friendly there even in the most dark and cold of places.  It comforted Layla to find that she had many friends that she could rely on.

Megla and Layla walked through the rooms to the further side of the Basement.  One level lower was the rooms reserved for storage and for the Leader's uses though the rooms had also become storage in time.

They current leader was Beast named Xian, a Beast who resembled something like a bear in size.  He was older, perhaps older than most of the people of the Basement, and because of his age and wisdom he had been a natural choice for leader.

Xian was a jovial man, furry face and deep-set black eyes.  His hands were as big as six Men's hands put together and his strength was like that of thirty men.  And when he was angry all but a few feared him.  But overall Xian was a loving man who thought only of others and their future welfare.

Down into the sub basement they went, greeting all of the other people they met on their way to Xian's room.  Each room was filled with foods and fuel that was distributed evenly among all the citizens.  They were little selfishness among the people and anyone who disrupted the order of the Basement was exiled to the Upstairs and never allowed back into the Basement.

Through a doorway, Layla and Megla entered Xian's room, which was small and close for it was filled with surplus food.  A single fire in an old metal barrel lit the room, and all around the fire sat people, speaking in low voices.

Layla spotted Xian instantly for he was the biggest figure around the fire.

"Ah, Layla and Megla had arrived.  Shut the door would you, Megla…  The draft is rather brisk today," Xian said gently, but betraying his bear-like nature in his deep rumbling voice.

Megla quickly complied and with Layla they sat down in two empty spaces around the fire.  Layla situated herself next to a Man she knew by the name of Petris.  Slowly her eyes scanned the others around the fire.  There was the young Wolf Beast, Glorin, a boy in her eyes, but a strong boy at that.  Next was the young woman, Beatrice, just a year younger than Layla, but very manly and strong.  Next to her was Xian's son Lui, also a Bear Beast and almost as large was Xian.  But on the other side of Xian was the face that Layla had waited many long weeks to see:  Orin.

"Now that we have everyone together, let's begin," Xian said softly, his eyes set upon the fire.  "The scouts have much to report.  Orin, you are the leader, give us your report."

Layla's heart began to beat fiercely in her chest before she realized it.  Orin stood up, his long fur lined cloak falling gracefully to his booted ankles, his shaggy black hair falling to his shoulders.  He had usually kept his hair shorter but Layla realized that perhaps during the many weeks on mission, he had not had the time to trim it.  He looked so handsome, she thought.

"We reached the end of the southern concourse, in the second week of our journey.  There is not much to report about the journey there except that in a few places along the concourse the tunnels have collapsed in several places and let in the Surface.  Those openings can easily be avoided by dropping three levels to bypass the ice and cold.  We checked the stability of each by pass and found it safe for future travel."

"Good, good…" Xian commented, shaking his massive furry head.

"The end of the southern concourse is over three hundred miles from here, Xian.  But when we did reach the end we found that the Back Door is only twenty miles outside of the Sewer."

"Only twenty miles!" Xian exclaimed, his dark eyes wide in his bearish face.  "Are you sure of the distance?"

"Absolutely," Orin answered.

Layla smiled.  So close to the end of southern concourse!

"And we found that on the sixth level down from the southern concourse the old subway system is intact.  If we took about thirty engineers down there we could have almost a seamless ride from the edge of the Basement to the end of the southern concourse."

Xian laughed aloud, his voice rumbling the walls in Layla's chest.

"It is better than I had hoped," Xian said at last, his paws slapping his knees.  "What else?" he asked Orin who stood without a smile on his face.  Orin did not smile much and that was to be expected…

"There is only one thing to consider.  On the return trip on the sixth level we found traces of Surface influence.  I think they called it an underground market.  It has been looted, but there are things there that the engineers could use to get the subway running again.  However, we were concerned about the looting we found.  It had been rather recent.  We believe that further down there maybe a community."

"Did you see any of them?"

"No, Xian.  But the reason I mention the looting is because of the degree of destruction we saw.  They are not a community of Men, and we are still wondering if they are Beasts.  The tunnels beyond the market show no sign of habitation or movement and there was no looting of the subway carriages.  It has concerned us every since our discovery."

Xian sighed and scratched his chin.  "I see…  That does warrant some investigating.  I will ponder it for a while, there might be something from my memory about a community in the southern concourse…"

Orin nodded.  He was finished with his report.  He sat down softly on the floor, tucking his cloak about him.

The group sat in silence for some time, thinking to themselves.  But Layla had her green eyes fixed upon Orin.  Orin seemed troubled, and Layla made a mental note to ask him later.

"My friends and family please rest now and take heart.  This news has been the best I have heard in a while.  I will consider what to do and present it to the people later for their ideas.  Have some food in the halls and go to your families," Xian said at last smiling, revealing his large teeth.

With that the group of Beast and Men rose and said their farewells to Xian, making their way out of his room and up to the warmth of the halls beyond.  Layla stayed back and met Orin at the door.

Orin gladly took her hand and together they returned to their room.

Orin had been the one that had saved her all those years ago. 

He was the only other man that Layla had trusted since Tatsuya, and he was the only one who knew her mind.

As he lay back on their bed, his hands tucked behind his head and his eyes on the ceiling, he scowled. 

"Why haven't you kept the space heaters on?  Do not tell me you have been putting yourself through the cold since I have been gone."

They had been arguing a bit since they had returned to their room and Layla was tired.  Orin was also too tired to argue anymore and spoke softly.  She leaned against the door, her eyes misty for a reason she could not explain.  Their first private words had ended up in an argument.

"I did not want to waste the fuel…  There is so little now…" she muttered, too cold and tired to say much.

He glanced at her, his amber eyes flashing in the light of the space heater in the middle of the room.  It was only his eyes that were proof of his blood.  Half Man, half Beast…

Orin was an oddity for he possessed the form of a man, though taller and with wider shoulders, and he possessed the instinctual keenness and eyes of a Wolf Beast.  He was exotic and beautiful, yet intimidating and powerful.

Orin was everything that Layla wanted, a resemblance of her first love…  And the man who had protected her when others wanted her dead…  He was her savior, her knight in shining armor and the love of her adult heart.

"Come now…  It is cold and we are both tired…" Orin said almost in a whisper rolling onto his side and beckoning Layla to come to bed.

Layla complied gladly, moving across the room and slipping under the blankets of their bed.  She slid into Orin's waiting arms and sighed. 

She had missed him so much in the last weeks that his warmth was like warm food and shelter to her cold chapped heart.  Under the blankets she ran her stocking leg against his thigh and sighed.  Her breath was against his smooth and wide chest, warm and soft.

"Gods, I missed you," she whispered, wrapping her arms around her lover, rubbing her cheek against his collarbone.

Orin smiled and embraced her tighter.  Gently he kissed her forehead and hummed deep in his chest.

"If only I were not so tired, I would warm you up quickly…" he whispered in a dusky voice, running his hands down her side to her hip.

Layla smiled into Orin's shoulder, she had wanted to feel his feverish kisses and hear his wanton moans.  But they were both tired and cold, the space heaters barely keeping the room at a livable temperature and the bed just beginning to warm with the heat of their bodies.

"Tomorrow maybe, after I have slept and ate…  I will make you warmer than you have been in weeks," he chuckled, tucking the blankets around them both before closing his amber eyes for a long awaited sleep.

Layla closed her green eyes as well, falling into a warm dream with Orin holding her just as he did in waking.

They were being chased, relentlessly through the icy tunnels and dark.

Layla was out of breath, but she knew that if she stopped running they would catch her.  If it had not been for Tat-chan pulling her by the hand, she was sure should she would fall into the darkness and be caught.

"Hurry, Layla!  We're almost there!" Tat-chan panted.

Layla had tears in her eyes, but she would not cry aloud, she did not want to be found.

The children wanted to kill Tat-chan and steal his WarmSuit…  They wanted Layla too, because she was Tat-chan's most precious thing…  They hated Tat-chan…

Why?

Layla glanced back once to see the eyes just behind them, those luminous eyes that had grown accustomed to the dark.

They hated Tat-chan because he was a Beast…  They hated him because he had knowledge…  They hated him because he had a WarmSuit…  They hated him because he knew secrets that they did not know…

The communities wanted Tat-chan's knowledge and they wanted him dead…

Dead?

Layla could not understand.  Why dead?  What had Tat-chan done?

Tat-chan was panting, the air becoming mist before his mouth.  Layla could see that he was tired, having to carry all there provisions on his back as well as his WarmSuit gathered up in a blanket.  But still he ran, pulling Layla along like a rag doll.

Layla wanted to cry and rest, but she did not.

"Just a little further…  Just a little further…" Tat-chan was panting.

Layla gasped, she could hear voices behind them, yelling.  Layla's eyes turned to Tat-chan, wide and afraid.  They were so close!

"Go, Layla!  Run now!"

Layla's breath caught when suddenly she felt her body flying forward.  Tat-chan was screaming for her to go forward, but Layla's panicked mind did not understand.

Tat-chan had thrown her and Layla felt the bones and muscles in the arm that Tat-chan had grasped her breaking.  He had thrown her…  Into the dark…  Into the arms of someone waiting just ahead.  And with her, Tat-chan's WarmSuit and belongings…

"Take her, Orin!  Run!" Tat-chan yelled.

There was more yelling in the dark, the sound of snarling and flesh ripping.  Layla wanted to cover her ears, but only one hand would move.

Layla saw flashes in the dark followed by muffled explosions.  She heard Tat-chan…  A last call to her…

"Go, Layla!"

More flashes…  And suddenly Layla felt the arms holding her tighten and hear feet running in the darkness.  She was flying through the dark.

"Tat-chan!  TAT-CHAN!"

She was screaming, tears falling from her cheeks from pain and fear.

Something had happened in the darkness of the tunnels, something had happened to Tat-chan…  But Layla could not hear anymore or feel…  Her mind had gone dark.

Layla's eyes snapped open.  She had been dreaming again.  Her left arm ached, the memories of the pain still vivid in her mind.

It had been ten years ago…  The day that Tat-chan had fought in the darkness with the Children Upstairs.  The day that Tat-chan threw her into the arms of Orin to fight like the Beast he was in the darkness.

That day Layla lost her best friend and brother to the flashing eyes of maddened Men…  But she gained another friend, a friend who had carried her to the Basement and pleaded for her life as the sister of Tatsuya…

'He was our brother and friend, he gave his life in escaping the Children Upstairs so that his knowledge and love of life could be passed to us through this girl!  Tatsuya was our comrade, our eyes on the Surface, why should we not keep this girl in his memory?'

Layla would always remember Orin's words…  He had been fifteen then, a small echo of the adult that he would grow to be.  He was strong then and beautiful…

Layla realized suddenly that she was alone in their room, the space heater on, Orin's cloak gone…  And just as she was about to move from bed, the door opened and Orin entered.  He closed the door quickly and sighed.

"Only one bowl today…" he muttered.  He set the bowl on the chair by the door and threw off his cloak and folded it in his arms.

"Good morning," Layla said after watching Orin move about the room.

Orin turned slowly, a forced smile upon his face.  "Breakfast?" He moved to the bed and sat down, passing the large bowl to Layla.

"Just a little, I guess."

It was the same white gruel they always ate, synthetic food made from what could be grown under lamps in the lower basements.  It was mostly proteins and sugars, but it was enough…

"This is getting to be too much for the People, Layla…  We must hurry and find a way into Paradise…  The food is running low this year, and the Surface fuel is locked in ice…"

Layla sipped on the bowl, taking a mouthful of food and savoring it as much as she could.  She knew what Orin was saying was only too true…  But she hated the darkness that came over his face when he did speak of such things.

She passed the bowl to Orin who took a sip of the watery gruel and wiped his lips with the back of his gloved hand.  He sighed and lowered his eyes to the half empty bowl.

"But there is hope…  I just wish Xian could think faster on what to do…"

"He's doing the best he can, Orin…  The news of a community to the south has disturbed him…  We can wait a bit longer, I'm sure.  The People here are tough and have lived through worse times as this…"

Orin set the bowl beside the space heater to keep it warm and sighed.  He slipped out of his boots, setting them beside Layla's and removed his gloves to set them on the toe of his boots.

"You are right, as always…  You have lived Upstairs and your hide is tougher than that of those who live here in the Basement.  You have lived on no food for weeks and came out healthier than those who had no food for a day…"

Layla smiled.  It was true.  She was tough from cold and lack of food, but still she was human and the cold was harsh and hunger a wound she wanted to forget.

"I should get up and get to work…  Megla and I need to start working on the water clarifiers in the sub basement water shed…"

"No need…  Megla and Lui finished it early in the morning…"

Layla blinked.

"But I need…"

Orin smiled and laid a finger atop Layla's lips.  "Shh…  Your only job today is to keep me company…  It's an order…"

Layla smiled and grasped Orin's hand.  "If you say so…"

With that Orin's lips met Layla's in a belated kiss, warm and gentle.  He moved across the bed, faster than Layla could see and attacked with tickling fingers.

Layla screamed with laughter as Orin crawled under the blankets with a sly grin and tickled Layla all the more.

"Stop it!  Ah!"

It rarely began this way, Layla thought…  With laughter and playfulness…  Orin's cool hand slipped down past the ties of Layla's baggy thermal pants, tugging the light fabric off her hips.

Layla sighed, as Orin slipped out of his black close fitting clothes, the smoothness of his skin like rough silk to Layla's touch.

"I love you, Layla…  Always you…" he whispered as his fingers found the most delicate and warmest folds of her skin at the apex of her thighs.

Layla cried out softly as if to protest, but she knew that she had wanted this for many long weeks…  Orin's touch…  Orin's skin against hers…  Orin's husky whispers echoing in her ears.

Their kisses were desperate, the taste of each other more appetizing than the gruel still lingering on their tongues.  Orin moved over her like a low cloud caressing the earth below.  His lips found the most sensitive patches of her skin…  Her breasts, her inner thigh, her lower belly, even the softness behind her ears.

Lovemaking was a sacred ritual to Layla, the utmost expression of her adoration for Orin and her unfaltering love.  He was hers, her possession, her passion, the only man she trusted with her life ever since Tat-chan…

"Layla…" Orin sighed as her hands moved over his body, reciprocating the warmth and pleasure he had given her.  Her cool hands teased and caressed the muscular skin of his hip and thigh, her lips following every touch.

Layla felt no cold as she moved with Orin, no cold could penetrate their happiness with each other and no hunger could ever sway them.

When Layla's lips left the hardness of his rigid flesh, she felt Orin's hands grasp her upper arms and pull her up to look into her eyes.  His eyes were of smoldering amber, wild with desire and with the wanton Layla had thought of often while Orin was gone.

Forcefully, Orin's hands grasped Layla's hips, pushing them down to meet his.  The meeting of flesh into flesh was painful to Layla, but so painful that it was pleasure after so long.  He had filled her so completely that Layla often thought that she could be split in two.

She had cried out, her hands clawing into Orin's chest.  But neither of them moved, Layla was breathless and had squeezed her eyes shut upon the searing penetration.  But now she opened her eyes slowly to see that Orin's eyes were watching her, slyly and keenly.  His lips were trembling however from the undulating feeling running through his body.  He pulled Layla down, her breasts pressing against his chest and with his insurmountable strength rolled over without pulling away from Layla.

"I have missed this face…  The face you are making right now…  Pure pleasure and abandon…  It is so beautiful to me…" he whispered, his lips brushing her earlobe, her chin resting on his shoulder.

Orin began to move inside her, causing crashing tides of pain and indescribable pleasure through Layla's body.  She clutched at his arms as he lifted himself up slightly to look down at her face and her shimmering green eyes.

"I love you…" she whispered between gasps of warm breath.

Orin smiled, his hand clumsily caressing her face as he moved. 

"If my memory serves me, there is a community of Beasts in the south, possibly where Orin has told us of…"

Layla's eyes flashed in the firelight of Xian's room.  The scouting party and many others had assembled on Xian's call to hear of his decision about the southern concourse.  Layla sat beside Orin and Xian, listening to the old Bear's words.

"This community is a remnant of those expelled from Paradise in the initial stages of its habitation.  They were few in number in those days, but I am sure they have grown through time.

They harbor malice toward Men and Beasts alike.  They hate Paradise and all it stands for.  But as to their movements against Paradise, I do not know.  But I know this:  they are wild and dangerous.  They do not live like we do…  They feed upon their dead…  And they are strong."

With this there were many voices murmuring to each other.  The news was terrifying, especially with the prospect of a way to the back door and to Paradise.

"I remember when Paradise was shut over fifty years ago…  That day was a dark day for those living in isolation to the north…  Then the air was not so cold, but the skies rained black snow and the winds blew poison from the east where the Rock struck the earth…  Many of us feared that we would find no shelter from the wrath of the skies and the heavens.  But ten years later the sky cleared and the sun shone like a distant star…  The earth was still alive and so were we…"

Xian fell into silence and Layla felt her heart tremble.  The sorrow in Xian's words affected her greatly.  Orin grasped her hand and she turned to meet his eyes.  In those amber depths Layla still saw hope…

Hope…

They would live on.  Layla knew they must live on.  Men and Beast had evolved so quickly that not even the cold would kill their determination.

"We will go forward with caution.  This may be our last hope of every rejoining the race of humans in this world…"


A/N: This is just Part 1 of 3 of a short fic... If ever an anime, it would be an OAV or movie, I suppose. But all the same, take time to read and review. As for my other works... They are in the works. I am working on Fate's End sequel The Faceless God and Vanity of Vanities... More chapters are on their way.

As for the title: Tsumetai means 'cold to the touch' or 'icy cold' in Japanese... ^_^

If you liked this chapter, please do review! I love reviews! Even the bad ones! Thanks for reading! Stay Tuned for Part 2!