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Scorched Blizzards

This piece has been uploaded to Ao3 here, if you prefer to read things that way, or if you want to save it/download it.


In which Heavy takes a walk after a Payload defence victory, and thinks about snow*.

*But not really.

Rated General for General audiences. Features Heavy and only Heavy, although a few other characters show up in his imagination or vaguely there as part of the set dressing.
An attempt at a character study, but essentially just one long metaphor that got away from me. I love me an extended metaphor...

Author's Note

I'm experimenting here. No I don't know where this idea came from, no I'm not 100% sure it makes sense. You are in my house and I'm pouring an entire pitcher of soda water over the stove for your amusement. Have fun, I guess.

Work Text

Snow is a curious thing. Thousands upon thousands of tiny crystals, all stacked up into a white mass until each is inscrutable. Where is their much-regaled individuality now, while each snowflake is left indistinguishable from the rest? Sometimes soft, sometimes hard, not often what the inexperienced eye expects. Winter's version of morning dew starts light and sparse, powder scattered over the ground, the glittering of waves from long-frozen lakes captured in stasis; and by nightfall bows out a paralysing desert, all endless wastes and sinking sands. You could get lost in it. People do get lost in it. Downy cotton-fluff that topples trees and buries wayward songbirds en masse at the edges of mountains, jewelled rain that turns to acid and burns those it touches with bitter scarcity and cold. Ever-present and fleeting. Discrete and unending. Bringing death with its birth and birth with its death. On fresh grass or ever-frozen tundra or mountain stone or well-worn battlefield, it persists.

Curious, Mihail thinks, and continues away from the frozen cart, back across the battlefield.

The crunching under his boot is familiar, and thus he ignores it. In the beginning, when he was barely grown and not so wise, it was difficult; he was used to a different sort of ground, and the noise was so loud in the hanging silence. To put your life in someone's hands is to admit your own fragility and bare your neck in one fell swoop; to have someone around to distrust was never a luxury he thought he'd miss. And miss it he did, in those early days; but one must learn to live with austerity, and he made do. Such indulgences are bad for you anyway, and when it came back at last he found it more rotten than in his memories. The things you reviled as a child are often the things best for you, it seems, and the crack of tiny shards underfoot is no different.

After all, there are stories aplenty of what happened to those who strayed too far into the cold. Stories of lost souls, and frozen bodies uncovered months later, and grown men lost before they even realised they were marked for death. The omnipresent sound means monotony, and hard work, and hours whiled away pushing against something too big to comprehend.

It also means he is alive.

There are little streams flowing across the ground, he notes, channels carving themself into the white expanse before him. The natural cause of the heat of battle, he knows. Rivers are not so stately as snowfall, despite their shared flesh. The water escapes its mountain prison and gushes out fast and furious, uncaring of order and stillness, spilling over and over and over until it can flow no more. Liquid life, running from the heart without a care in the world, over and over, never quite the same. It is beautiful, he supposes, in a brash, violent way; but then again, such beauties are nothing new to him.

You cannot outrun the snow, nor outlast it; it is ever-growing and ever-healing, and you are not, and sooner or later it will claim you, and swallow you, and regurgitate your frozen corpse for the next man to come across. Roofs break, houses decay over the decades, people grow old and frail, storms chip away at skin bare or not, a million daggers against a hot-blooded core. You can escape the snow, surely, but not outrun it. Life is strange like that. Death is strange like that. He is no stranger to death, but he is a stranger to its impermanence. How miraculous, to be claimed by the frost one moment and reborn in fire the next.

He reaches out, and takes the firewood of vitality he is given, and burns it gratefully. He waves the torch against the onslaught, watches the tiny flakes melt away like fat on a hot pan. They gather, and he burns, and they gather again. It is a futile joy, to go up in flames so brightly - the snow outlasts his human strength, outruns his slow legs, tears the coal of life from him and shrouds him in white. He freezes over, and the snow pushes on, and he melts, and the torch borne at hand again. He is no summer, but he likes to think himself a wildfire. Perhaps, in his wake, where the grass is left exposed to the light and air, saplings will grow, and reach heaven before he dies.

It is a foolish thought, but he entertains it nonetheless. He did not get here by believing in his weakness, after all.

The battle-rage is fading, now, and he looks down at his hands. Wet, and cold, to the wrists and further; his gloves are in no state for any decent use, and he laughs to himself. His mother would have scolded him for it, always worrying as mothers do. It is a risk, after all, to raise your hand to the storm, to sink it into the snowdrift with no care or consideration; the snow has teeth, and starves for fingers, hands, arms, legs, hearts, heads. She saw it happen, once, and refuses to see it again. But there is a furious ecstasy to it, he knows. He has always known. To stand helpless against the whole and destroy part after part after part, their life spilling on bare skin. He is careful - he is careful.

And thus she acquiesces - acquiesced - because she is no stranger to such wonders either.

He takes a step. Another crunch.

It fades away underfoot, and he sinks into the snow with a soft sigh.

He should get back to the others, he thinks idly. It is getting late, and the fire is dying out, and the scene is slipping away. He cannot fight the snow forever. Nor can he chase it.

The last body flickers and vanishes before he can reach, leaving nothing behind but the bullets it was once riddled with and molten red veins splattered against pure white rain. The raging blizzard is long gone, and his hands are left stiff and unchanging with cold, clutching a burnt-out piece of firewood.

There is a time and a place for endless endeavours.

He raises his eyes to the blue sky and continues on, humming to himself, and wonders whether there might be a cup of something hot waiting for him at base. Perhaps a sandwich, to tide him over until dinnertime. That would be nice.

After all, as much as he loves it, his job is hungry work.