Alright so since spoiler tags are working I can post this now. Yay! This is where you guys can read Winter Heat, forum wise. You can also read it on UO and on my dA. Also remember this is the tumblr where I'll have like character info and what not: http://winterheatfanfic.tumblr.com Chapter 1 Spoiler To most people, the chilly breeze that had just arrived in the town of Lancaster Falls was most annoying. To them, it had only been a month or so ago that the warm rays of summer had just graced them with its presence. Now, it was starting to get frigid and cold and they all knew that the freezing air of winter had been set upon them. As she stood at the bus stop, waiting for her ride to come, Iris realized that she too wasn't too fond of winter. Winter meant that her garden that she enjoyed tending to in the warmer seasons would soon die and it was quite depressing watching her flowers wilt in slow motion. Not that watching them in fast motion would have been any better... The young woman shook the thought out of her head, allowing strands of her hair to fall in her face, and began to ponder about more important things. Like what she was going to make for dinner that night. She hadn't stopped by the store or anything. She had just stepped out to drop off those movies she had rented the other day. For a second she thought about turning around to go pick something up; but as she clasped her hands together in an attempt to warm them up, she took note of the setting sun in the distance and decided that she and her baby sister Daisy would just have to settle for leftovers. She looked down the street, hoping that the bus would be making its way there but only other cars and vehicles drove past. Iris sighed heavily and figured they must have been running late again. When it got cold, the buses especially were unprepared and prone to breaking down more often than usual. Frustrated, she turned and began to head home on foot. Something she wouldn't have minded in the summer or spring because she loved the warm fresh air. She wrapped her arms around her body, pulling her light sweater closed, and sighed again. "Why does it have to get cold anyway?" she grumbled to herself as she continued to think about the half hour walk ahead of her. It was times like this where she liked to think of happier thoughts to keep herself going. "When I get home...we have all that hot coco in the cabinet." her usual smile returned, "I can make some for Daisy and I. Yeah...that'll be nice..." "Excuse me, ma'am!" Iris stopped and turned to the small child who had caught her attention. She was bundled up in a nice winter coat, with matching mittens and a hat. Iris envied her greatly but smiled as brightly as ever. She wasn't about to let her sour mood ruin someone elses day. "Yes? What is it?" "You look like you're having a rough day! Here, take this. It's a freebie courtesy of Madam Lira's Fortune Shop!" the girl pointed behind her to a small brick building as she handed Iris a slip of fabric, decorated with a pink and silver border. A velvet symbol was sewn in the middle. "What's this?" "It's a love amulet! It's supposed to...I mean it will give you the strength to confess to that special someone that you care about! We're giving them out for free so that people will come visit us later. Thank you for your time!" the girl smiled brightly and scooted back to her spot before Iris could protest. Blushing extremely, she shoved the fabric into the pocket of her sweater and continued on her way. She didn't rely on fortunes and such entirely, but she somewhat believed that science couldn't explain everything. Maybe a well decorated piece of fabric could in fact give her the courage to tell that certain someone that she really liked him. Of course, unfortunately for her, no sooner did the thought pass her mind did she run into said someone on the street. "Iris?" She turned away as her friend, Rai, approached her, heading in the opposite direction. She immediately tried to shake her earlier thoughts about the love amulet out of her head. She hadn't known Rai for very long and truth be told she couldn't remember when she had decided that she had feelings for him. But it wasn't something she liked to constantly think about. She didn't have a problem with love...it was when you threw in friendship that it became a problem for her. She wanted to tell him the truth...but what would happen if he accepted her feelings and then somewhere down the road they had a problem and broke up? She could pretty much kiss her entire relationship with him goodbye. At least that's how she felt about the entire thing. "H-hey, Rai. What are you doing out here?" she unintentionally shivered as she tried to stand up straight. No matter how embarrassed she was, Rai was taller than her so she couldn't exactly talk to him hunched over like she was and like with the child before, she envied the fact that he also had a nice warm coat on. "I could ask you the same thing..." Rai sighed heavily and shook his head at her, "But to answer your question, I'm coming from the store. I had some things I needed to pick up tonight." he lifted his hand to reveal the two bags he was carrying, "You?" Iris shrugged, "Same...just running an errand. Now I'm going home." she smiled again. "In the cold...with just a sweater on? Why didn't you take the bus?" Rai questioned. Iris reluctantly let her arms drop and let out an exasperated sigh. "Because...it didn't look like it was coming anytime soon! And I didn't want to stand out in the cold." "So you decided to walk out in the cold?" "Listen you, I-" she brushed her hair out of her face and shouted in frustration as the bus sped by them in a terribly mocking manner. "Ugggh!!!....Why me..." she mumbled as she buried her hands into her face. Truthfully she felt like crying and she probably would have if it weren't for the fact that she was afraid her tears might freeze on her cheeks she was so cold. "This is all your fault Rai!!" she stood up straight again and shouted at him. "What? What did I do?" Rai stared back at half-concerned, "I was just seeing what you were doing. You can't blame me because you decided to be impatient." Iris whined as a chilly breeze brushed against her back "I need someone to blame because this isn't fair..." she wrapped her arms around herself and sighed, "Whatever...it's not your fault. I'll see you later, Rai." she smiled again and walked past him. She didn't feel like talking anymore. Even if it was him. She liked talking to Rai but she was too upset now...however, he wouldn't let her leave and grabbed her arm before she could walk away completely. "Wait a minute...why don't you...why don't you let me walk you home?" Iris blinked and then shook her head vigorously, "W-what? No! I couldn't make you do that, Rai. I was just kidding ya know? This isn't your fault obviously! You don't have to bother yourself with me, honest." "It's not a bother. Besides, " he sighed and draped his coat over her shoulders, "I'd feel really bad knowing your walking home in the cold and dark. My fault or not. If something should happen to you...I don't think I'd be able to live with myself." Iris blushed and smiled, "Rai...thanks but-" "Come on." he motioned for them to continue forward. Iris didn't know what to say truthfully. She didn't want to trouble Rai but at the same time, her neighborhood did get quite dark at night since it took the street lights a long time to come on. And she was pretty cold...his coat being the perfect thing for her at that moment. She sighed and followed him down the street in silence. It was a half an hour walk...what could she possibly talk to him about for half an hour? Especially with a love amulet in her pocket. "Rai...what about you?" "What about me?" "Well this is your coat. Here, I'll be okay." Rai shook his head and stopped her from returning it, "If you were capable of being okay, I wouldn't have given it to you. I'll be alright. It doesn't bother me that much." he gave her what she considered a smile and they continued to walk in silence, save the occasional sniffle or sigh. It was only when they were about ten minutes away from Iris's home that Rai finally broke it and spoke again. "So...is there someone that you...really like?" he hesitated to ask. Iris stared at him. Being embarrassed had become her past time for that day. "W-what? Why would you ask me something like that? What do you mean?" she stopped and stepped back a little bit. "I just..." he reached into his pockets and pulled out a familiar looking piece of fabric, "I got one too. And I saw that you had one...I just...sorry. I shouldn't have asked." Iris sighed relieved, not quite sure why she had been worried in the first place, "Oh uhh...don't worry about it! It's okay. I...there's no on that comes to mind." she lied, "I was just gunna give it to Daisy or something. I mean...cause I don't need it." They both laughed sheepishly and continued on their way for a little while longer before Iris felt her heart begin to sink. She was alone with Rai. No one else was around to hear her. But at the same time that possibility that she could ruin their friendship was hanging over head. Still, as they got closer to her street, she felt like now would probably be the only chance she'd get. She clutched the amulet in her pocket and held her breath. "Uhhh....Rai." Iris stopped and stared at the ground. "What's the matter?" he looked back her slightly worried again. "I uhh...well..." she sighed and looked at him, "I guess...there is someone that I like. A lot." Rai stared at her and gave a very small smile, "Really? Well...you don't have to tell me if you don't want to. I probably don't even know him so it doesn't matter." "Actually...the truth is..." Iris did her best to try and finish but the extreme rush of air above their heads forced them both forward and into the ground. The sound was deafening and the sudden flash of light blinding. All of Iris's senses were temporarily disabled in that one moment. Her ears ringing and vision blurred, she squinted at the flames ahead of them and watched as the entire neighborhood went up in a cascade of explosions. She desperately tried to crawl to her feet but the sudden rush of heat combined with the dizzying pain crippled her greatly...the only thing left for her to do was close her eyes and fall unconscious. ****** "Reni!! Dammit, Reni! Give it back already!" Kaisho slammed her fist on the kitchen table as she chased her blonde friend around the kitchen. Reni stood triumphantly at the other end. "Give what back?" she giggled innocently, "You should be more specific Kaisho or else I won't know what you're talking about." Kaisho glared intensely at her and muttered through clenched teeth, "Give me my hat back...now." "Oh...you mean this hat?" Reni waved her friends trademark item in front of her and smiled, "If it was so important to you...you wouldn't have left it at my house in the first place now would you?" she put the hat on and folded her arms. Then, as Kaisho flipped herself over the table, Reni took the chance to crawl under it and on to the other side. "Kaisho!! You're so slow. You can do better than that!" "Listen you little menace!" Kaisho leaned against the table and exhaled, "Please? Can you just give me my hat back? Why are you being so difficult?" Reni shrugged, "Cause it's fun to watch you get so freakin' peeved!" she giggled. Kaisho stood up and cracked her knuckles. Then grinning sharply shrugged herself, "Whatever. I don't need it. That's what I have extras for. I have plenty of hats so you go ahead and keep that one. Just go home." she folded her arms and tapped her foot impatiently. Reni frowned at her friends surrender and tossed the hat to her. "Geez...it's no fun when you give up like that." Reni rolled her eyes and waved before stomping out of the door. She heard Kaisho say something about not being so loud but she ignored her and slammed the door shut before running off of Kaisho's porch...just in case she decided to chase her down or something. When she knew she was at a safe distance away, she took notice of the sirens off in the distance. At first they didn't bother her. Sirens always randomly went off because someone, somewhere always needed help after all. But they were quite loud and...not the typical sound of firetrucks, ambulances, or police cars. They were more like the sirens of warning one hears in the movies when a nuclear meltdown or something happened. And as she rounded the corner, her jaw dropped at the huge pillars of smoke rising up to the sky. "What...what is that?!" she exclaimed to no one in particular. She felt uneasy as she remembered a few of her friends lived off in that direction. The chances of whatever was going on involving them were slim....but there was so much smoke that the chances of them not being involved felt even slimmer. She quickly ran out of her neighborhood and into the main shopping district that was about forty-five minutes or so away from what looked like a major disaster. The sirens only got louder as she got closer and the people only got more panicked, shoving each other out of the way trying to get to safety. Reni was small but she wasn't weak. She held her ground and pushed past them just as hard. She wasn't about to let a bunch of frightened pedestrians slow her down. Between the screams and the sirens though, she only heard the "warning" too late. "He...he's got a bomb!" Reni looked towards the mall where the shouts were coming from in time to be thrown back by the explosion. Others were tossed along with her, however, she was lucky and landed in the nearby shrubbery that had been planted around the mall for decoration. She opened her eyes in time to see the burning building crumble, crushing those who were unfortunate enough to be underneath or worse...inside. Reni pulled herself up and began running in the direction of her friend's neighborhood even faster than before. She didn't understand what was going on but she knew she had to find out before it was too late. ****** Rai couldn't tell if it was the pain or the noise that woke him up. He figured it was both as he sat up and reached to cover his ears and found he could barely move his left arm. The blood practically streaming down his face blurred his vision but he could still see the flames. Houses burning and crumbling as if made of paper. The residents once peacefully living inside them running for their lives. The armed men gunning everyone down is what really caught his attention though. Brandishing what seemed to be every weapon ever made, they easily shot down any and everyone they got their eyes on...the sight was painful to watch and Rai knew he'd be next if he didn't get up and move. He turned and saw Iris laying a few feet away, completely unmoving, his coat miraculously still covering her. Was she still alive? He crawled over to her, heart racing as the knowledge that he could be shot dead at any moment sunk in. He grabbed her and began to pull them towards a group of bushes, hoping that maybe they could hide there until...whatever was happening ended. His arm and head were both killing him but he couldn't just allow them both to sit there, waiting to be killed. It was an adrenaline rushed decision, but seemed to also be the only decision. The gunshots and screams seemed to only escalate as he reached his destination and forced them both out of sight. Inspecting his arm, Rai remembered the missile fly over their heads. He couldn't even remember what had shot it. It had literally come out of no where! There wasn't even a noise to signify something had been fired...but when it had thrown them both to the ground, he had landed on a bed of rocks. That would explain the terrible gash in his arm and his head injury. He held on to and looked at Iris, who aside from a few scratches, didn't seem to be hurt. Rai allowed himself to feel relief for a few seconds. However, the feeling evaporated the moment he peered out of the bushes at the chaos unfolding. He couldn't make any sense of it. Innocent people were dying right in front of him and he himself didn't think that he could last much longer in his current condition. He clutched his arm and stared down in pain. There was no way he'd be able to continue like this. For a moment he wanted someone to come and shoot him too but he retracted the thought, remembering that Iris still needed his help. He couldn't allow himself to die so quickly. Not until she was safe. He regretted even considering surrender as he glanced up and was met with the barrel of a shotgun. He froze and felt his entire body go numb. Someone had seen him get up and it was all over now. The dark figure before him didn't kneel down. They just stood and aimed right for Rai's head. There was no escaping this time. The previous explosions and landing on rocks hadn't killed him....but he knew that this certainly would. He held his breath and prayed that if anything, Iris would make it through whatever was happening okay.