This isn't particularly an anime fic, but I figured it was best to put it here since people will actually know what shounen-ai means. It's my first original in ages, and fairly weird... please r/r.

Snowmelt part 1

The train rolled lazily from the platform, making a dull scraping sound against the tracks. End of the line. It would soon round the loop at the end of the tracks and come back the other way, but Atsushi Hanajima didn't stay to watch it. He was not going to look back. Pushing heavy, chin-length black hair from his eyes, he surveyed the town.

There hadn't been a photograph in "The Traveler's Guide to Hokkaido", which he had thumbed through briefly while in a bookstore. That had been when leaving Tokyo was just a crazy whim, not something he would actually do. He shifted the heavier suitcase to his left hand to detangle his glasses from wind-whipped hair. The casual traveler didn't simply board the first train to Hokkaido and ride until there was no more track left. Oh well, everyone said Hokkaido was beautiful in the winter. Atsushi, however, had the sneaking suspicion that anyone who said so had only seen Hokkaido on NHK broadcasts.

The city sky was a uniform shade of grey that seemed to have leeched into the buildings. A few white snowflakes spiraled towards the cracked, weed-choked pavement and lingered a few seconds before melting. Maybe he could still catch the next train back to Tokyo.

Atsushi was not the sort to concede defeat so quickly, though. Maybe if it snowed, the ugly ground would at least be covered up. Somehow, it wasn't a particularly bright thought. The building next to the station was a weathered-wood building that might have been green about forty years ago. Still, the sign advertised that it was a tea shop, so Atsushi brushed a few snowflakes from his overcoat and went in. "Irrashaimase!" called a plump woman almost as soon as he entered. She looked much like the building - squat, slightly dilapidated but inviting for lack of anything else. Two old men by the window were either dead or playing the slowest- ever game of cards.

"Something warm, please," asked Atsushi. "How much?"

"Well, you're new, so the first cup is on the house. As soon as I find a cup." The woman bustled behind the counter for a small teacup painted with a wisteria design and filled it with smoke-smelling tea, which Atsushi accepted gratefully. His fingers were already white with cold.

"I'm looking for a hotel..."

"Hotel closes up for the winter. Not too many visitors, you know. I'm Nanase Okuda. What brings you so far north, city boy?"

"I'm Atsushi Hanajima... I heard Hokkaido was nice this time of year." Mrs. Okuda threw back her head and laughed, showing off crooked teeth. She reminded Atsushi of the country grandmother character on TV comedies.

"You picked the wrong place, city boy! Nothing up here but snow and more snow. And if you're lucky, more snow."

"Well, I'm actually a writer... just looking for a change of scenery." Mrs. Okuda refilled his cup.

"Now that I can understand. Went to Tokyo once, when I was younger - must have been long ago, right? Awful place; nothing but cars and buildings."

"So there's no hotel at all? I'm looking to stay the season."

"No hotel, but the gaijin is renting a room. My sister keeps house there, so I know it's a big empty place... maybe not to your tastes, though. Not that there's much else."

"A gaijin?" Atsushi didn't think there would be foreigners out in the country like this.

"Un, or a demon!" Mrs. Okuda laughed again.

"Strange place for foreigners, I'd have thought," mused the writer. Mrs. Okuda pantomimed slapping her own forehead.

"Oh no, he's a local boy. You'd have to see him... I can give you the address. It's early, so my sister, Mariko, should still be there." Atsushi inwardly shrugged. Country people were odd.

"Ah, thank you for your help! How much do I owe you for the tea?" Mrs. Okuda waved her hand dismissively while writing the address on a napkin.

"Well, Mr. Hanajima, I hope you enjoy your first Hokkaido winter!" She waved to him even as he walked down the street. He didn't wave back.


Winter coming to northern Hokkaido is something like a hostile invasion. One can almost feel the very molecules of atmosphere writhing under a powerful icy grip. That high, keening sound on the air isn't wind whipping through the eaves, but the death cry of everything that is warm. Snow is beautiful in the same way that funerary shrine is beautiful: the simple union of sky and earth, life and death. It's a clean sheet covering an operating table so no one has to face the truth beneath.

It sounded better in writing, thought

Atsushi dismally. Snow in Tokyo was soft, spun plastic flakes falling on clear umbrellas and the dark hair of idol singers. Atsushi wrapped his long coat tightly around his body, giving up on relighting his cigarette and spitting it on the ground. He had been trying to quit, anyway, in a halfhearted way. The address she gave him was slightly outside of the small town. The house itself didn't even seem to fit. It was the same muted color, but almost as large as the station. Overgrown gardens wrapped around the walkway, continuing into tangled wisteria that clung in shriveled threads from the roof. Maybe, once, it had been beautiful. He knocked on the heavy door, barely expecting a response.

The woman who answered was obviously Mrs. Okuda's sister - they had the same rounded body and wide face. In their youth they had probably been the famous northern beauties with moon-shaped faces and long black hair, but now the hair was streaked with grey and skin had slackened into gentle wrinkles.

"Hello, I'm Atsushi Hanajima... I was told that there was a room available?" The woman smiled broadly.

"Of course, my sister just called to tell me! You should have waited; I would have driven to pick you up - tsk, you'll freeze out there!"

"It's really no problem..." The housekeeper took one suitcase and he was obligated to follow, even if half of him longed for Tokyo.

"I'm Mariko Kasahara - you can call me Mary - and I do the cleaning and cooking around here. Well, actually I clean a bit for several homes but I spend the winters here to make sure Mr. Eishi gets enough to eat. Of course I'll cook for you as well; skinny city boys might freeze to death in a Hokkaido winter!" Mrs. Kasahara made Atsushi feel more like he were fifteen instead of twenty-seven. Still, she seemed kind.

"Are you the only other person who lives here?"

"Un, ever since Miss Eriko died last year. There's no Mr. Kasahara anymore, either, so I'm free and available!" She winked jokingly at him. "Have you been in Sapporo?"

"I've been there." He'd been over most of Japan on book tours, in fact.

"Oh, well that's where my son, Kenji, is! Kenji is a brilliant boy, next in line for vice president of the biggest food company on the island!" Atsushi nodded as he followed her down the hallways. "Lives too far from home, though. No one wants to live out here anymore. Oi, here's your room!" She dragged his suitcase to the middle of the floor, catching her foot on a dusty tatami mat. "Ah, it's cold! A big house like this is terrible to heat, and no one ever goes in these rooms. My sister has an extra electric kotatsu, let me go get that!" Before Atsushi could insist that it wasn't necessary, she had already trundled out the door, whistling an old enka tune.

He sighed and dropped his other suitcase on the bed. It was a large room but very sparse. Other than the bed, a writing desk, a set of drawers and some neatly folded blankets; there was nothing but dust and tatami. A faint ghost of his breath lingered in the air every time he exhaled - it was cold. His numb fingers were just beginning to warm painfully. Even so, he opened his smaller suitcase and pulled out a laptop to place on the writing desk. Everything else could stay packed, for all he cared. Waiting for the machine to boot up, he went through the drawers of the desk.

Inside were piles of sketches, some of them quite good. A drawing of a house surrounded by wisteria scarcely resembled the sad-looking structure that was his new home - was it just the difference of the seasons, or was the picture drawn long ago when something here was still alive? He leafed through the yellowed papers until something caught his eye.

A girl, or perhaps a boy; it was difficult to tell by just a disembodied face. The piercing stare from those roughly drawn eyes seemed to shift between emotions: longing, sadness, and accusation; finally emptiness. Atsushi shoved the papers back in the drawer with the feeling that he had been caught; although the house was silent save for his own breathing. After warming his fingers with hot breath, he started to type meaningless sentances. The soft clicking of keys under his fingers was comforting, somehow.

If you had told me a year and a half ago that I would leave Tokyo for some backwater in Hokkaido, I would have thought you very amusing. After all, I had everything I wanted. The latest book just making the bestseller lists with offers pouring in, a beautiful fiancée and enough parties to keep me from working too hard at anything. It was all going so well... then I realised that Ami-chan actually loved me. It was about two months ago - you might think that I would have realised something like that with an engagement and all, but what can I say? I'll make the excuse that I'm only a man, and drag half the species down with me. Certainly I liked her, and could have been happily married to her. For the daughter of a rich businessman she was surprisingly unpretentious, an English student at a prestigious Tokyo university with a sharp wit. But she... she actually loved me.

I did a book signing at the school about a year ago. Book signings are possibly the most painfully dull way to make a paycheck. Smile, sign, make them feel special. Or at least that's what my editor, Matsutaka, says. And then I saw a battered copy of my first novel, the one I wrote when I was still a struggling student myself instead of the shiny hard- covered novel I was currently hawking for 2500 yen each, tax out. I thought I owned the only copy of that book. I'm an artist and therefore vain, so naturally, I looked up. The owner was a tall, intense-looking young man with long, loosely tied back hair. And hour later we met for coffee. Four hours later we were in bed. Four hours, twenty-seven minutes later I asked his name. Masahiko.

There's no point in regrets, I always say. For a while, it was ideal. Masahiko and Ami, both delicious in their own way. He was wicked where she was innocent; the mixture was intoxicating. If she only hadn't loved me... why was I, someone who can't even trust himself, the one person in her heart? I promised Matsutaka a new manuscript by spring, but all I can think of are things to say to Ami. None of them, though, seem right.

If it weren't snowing so hard, I might actually send a letter to her. Or maybe not.