Matias Kurovassi could see the mountains of the Zukaari range in the distance. Named after the captain of the Ubayaa-Kurilavoinen, the exploration vessel which first claimed this world in the Nonni system as the corporate demense of Kaalakiota. The peaks were hidden in lazy white clouds which cast their veil of snow in the shadow of the nearby Lake Jasuuya rendered still and quiet in the ice of winter.
This region of sweet scented pines and tufts of tundra had been given the name Crest of the Faultless. The name had stuck after Captain Zukaari recounted in the ship's logs the story of Able Shipman Vuokin Jasuuya who had drowned in the treacherous waters attempting to save the Captain's dog. A capricious Corgi by the name of Jenzi much adored by the crew except for the Chief Cook whom was daily frustrated by the absent supplies in his pantry taken to treat the dog he called, "That fat little bastard."
A fat little bastard who in a moment of canine adventurism had fallen through the melting ice of spring into the frigid waters of the lake. Without a moment of hesitation, Vuokin Jasuuya had torn off his uniform and dove after the beloved Corgi, naked as the day he was born, to the astonishment of his Captain and the rest of the crew on the away team. Before they could stop him he was already swimming with the unfortunate Jenzi to the safety of shore. The hound saved he succumbed to his exhaustion and slipped beneath the surface never to be seen again.
The posthumous attributation of his name to the lake that killed him and the mention of, "...In seeking to reach the crest of the shore his bravery was faultless," Were left as post-scripts to the life of Able Shipman Jasuuya.
When Captain Zukaari left the Kaalakiota exploration corps with a fat pension and an even fatter Corgi he found a new career as a children's author. Zuukari's popular comic series, "The adventures of Jenzi." Became a favourite escape of Matias as a boy when he was taken from his mother to the barracks of his Youth Battalion. The sterility of polished jackboots and austerity of drills on the parade ground driving him to the solace of historical fantasy. A world that didn't involve the cheers of older boys in the mess hall to the news of another successful raid into Sinq Laison; another Federal fleet routed; the images of soldiers to the extolling of the virtues of every Kaalakiota citizen: One People, One Purpose, One State.
Childhood fantasies and dreams left buried along with his friends when the artificial targets of boyhood became real flesh and blood as a man. The rounds he fired from his rifle no longer left the satisfying metallic ding as they hit their mark. They would just leave bodies to crumple over from a distance like marionettes with strings suddenly cut. Dead eyes staring at him when his squad would occupy positions once held by the Federal enemy. He would return their vacant gaze with his own. Unperturbed by the stench of misery that he recognized as human shit and blood left rotting upon foreign soil.
He inhaled the chill of morning air to banish the wartime vignettes of a melancholy nostalgia when he was the inhabitant of nameless cities whose ruins all shared a similar quality: being fit only for rats, the dead, or the slowly dying. A scent of fresh coffee drew him away from the memories of a drowning man and towards a woman sitting on a bench nearby.
Kirstin Amsel was tightly bundled against the cold in a white jacket with six buttons on the front, specks of frost clinging on the fur stole of her collar as she held a cup in both of her hands. He smiled at the sight of his lover, demure and pensive with her leg folded over the other as she idly kicked the air with the point of a brown boot. He walked over to satisfy the inexorable need she always provoked in him to have her close by his side.
Sitting down next to her he held an arm around her waist and kissed her hair in a greeting that hid his laughter.
"You know I was just contemplating which was more pleasant..." He remarked playfully, "The mountains and the lake or you. Then I saw you both and I realized beauty is nothing without you to appreciate it with."
An elbow to his ribs and a chiding chuckle as Kirstin settled into his embrace let him know what she thought of deliberate disingenuity. "...I quite like it out here..." She mused idly as she drank from her cup, "..The quiet serenity..."
"No disruption. No intrusions." He tightened his embrace around Kirstin's waist, "Just you, me, the mountains..." He remained silent before continuing again, "I never really realized just how alone I was until I met you."
"And now you do?" She asked quietly, resting her head on his shoulder.
He nodded. ""I do not even want to think of a life without you in it, otherwise all I would have left is regret."
"I'm sorry I did that to you." She murmured softly. "That I took that blissful ignorance away."
He laughed again as he lifted her chin with a finger, pressing his lips against her own, "An empty cup desires to be filled but not just from any source."
"But only once it realizes it empty, I think.." She smiled, returning her head to his shoulder with a contented sigh.
"What are your plans today?" She asked, taking another sip of coffee.
"Spend it all with you?" He replied simply.
"How long untill the company calls? Until you have to run off for some secret thing?" She remarked frowning out at the lake.
"I want to make you my first duty in life." He managed to say, unsure of his own resoluteness.
Kirstin ran her palm against his cheek and he could feel the cold creeping against his skin, "We can't always get what we want.. Can we?" She said before planting a delicate kiss on his lower lip. "I'm happy here...In this place. With you, but I understand... We can't always be here, not unless we truly walk away from everything."
He took her hand in both of his own, rubbing it to ward off the cold, "I think you're expressing what your heart does not want, dear."
"...Maybe you could tell me then...Since I'm never sure what it wants.." She replied pensively as she looked at him with a melancholy smile.
"I think your heart wants certainty. You worry about what you might lose. You want to convince yourself that I will go and leave you so you can tell yourself... that you were a fool." He kissed the knuckle of her hand, "I was much the same with you, once. I tried to run, and it broke me... more the fool am I, no?"
She said nothing in response except to rest her head on his shoulder again with her smile, leaving him only with the scent of lilac he always associated as particular to her.
"I tried to make similar excuses... but in truth I was terrified." He admitted, "I love you, but I feared you. It's easy to live behind your own walls, to keep others out... you can't be hurt that way. I wanted to keep you away from me, but that just became a torment."
"I think I love you too.." She replied, looking back over at the lake, "But I am afraid, afraid that our lives will take us away."
"I know," He sighed, "But what am I supposed to do? Reject everything out of fear?"
"No.. But still fear it." She said into a long silence.
"I think when you value something you will always fear to lose it." He looked down at her as she stared off into the distance, "Did someone hurt you... before me?"
She exhaled into a small laugh rich with reproach, "Everyone hurt me...before you. That's why you're here, isn't it?"
He could only nod, "I understand. Yet here we are now." He ran his fingers through her hair, "I still want to be here with you... just one day at a time."
"One day at a time then," She smiled up at him before nestling her head into the crook of his neck.
"In the end, that's the only thing we can do isn't it?" He said, returning her affection by resting his cheek against her hair.
"Yes, that's what scares me."
"Day by day, that doesn't scare you? I woke up one day and you were gone remember? Days like that scare me."
"Losing you is what scares me."
"I'm sorry.. That I'm like this.. It's just in moments like these I feel so acutely aware of what I can lose."
"I think our problem is we're focusing too much on the losing and not enough on loving each other in the here and now."
"I think so, but we are here now."
He laughed and in a suggestive tone asked, "Well there's certainly one way I enjoy expressing my love for you. Would you like to get out of this cold and into the tub together?"
She poked him in the ribs with her elbow again, chuckling, "Five more minutes love. I love watching the snowfall." She grinned as she nuzzled into him tightly.
"Fine, then let's watch the snow together."
In the silence together as the snow fell around them he remembered the story of Jenzi and Jasuuya and wondered just who was saving who today.