The playground was empty.
And he was suddenly there.
He stretched out his hand to catch the first snowflake, letting the cold seep through the skin of his palm. Closing his fingers one by one until his hand forms a fist, the world around him starts slowing down, until it completely stops altogether.
"You really like messing around with this world's timeline, don't you?" a voice rang out from the dark. He swivels around, but shows no sign of surprise.
It seems like her arrival was expected.
"And you really like sneaking up on me," he grumbled, fisting another snowflake. She laughs, a mocking sound that should have irritated him but it doesn't, as she steps into the circle of light that was coming from the lamp post.
"Don't flatter yourself," she says with a smirk, and he remembers how discomfited he feels whenever she does that.
"I'm just stating the truth."
"And that truth is?"
He hears the challenge in her voice, and he replies with a smile of his own.
"I'm not sure if you're ready."
She snorts contemptuously.
"Why are you here, anyway?" he asks, sitting down on the swing set.
"It is the first snow," she simply answers, stretching out her hand to catch a snowflake suspended in mid-air. She cradled it in her ungloved hands, a perfect six-point star.
It did not melt.
"How romantic," he teases, concentrating on gaining inertia. She watches him quietly as he swings back and forth, the only creature in motion in the world where he held the time.
"Can I ask you something?"
"You already did, but sure," he says, launching himself from the swing and into the air. He lands quietly on the ground, and he faces her. She is bathed in the warm glow of the lamp post's light and the soft sheen of the snowflakes frozen in space.
She is so beautiful.
"Don't you feel lonely?"
He puts his hands into the pockets and looked at her, as she looked at him. The words left unspoken hung between them, heavy and filled with hidden meaning.
"Why should I be?"
"In this world, you are the only one who can move. You're the only one who's alive."
"You have freedom in this world as much as I do," he points out.
"Not much freedom if you're controlling everything."
"Since when did the ice princess ever allowed herself to be controlled by anyone?" he says calmly.
"I told you not to call me that," she says in a low voice. He could feel her anger as the temperature dropped, and his breath now appeared in clouds in front of him.
"It's below freezing point already, calm down before even hell freezes over," he murmurs.
She glares at him before sighing, and the air warmed noticeably. Still cold, but not painful. He smiled but did not say sorry out loud. He was too proud and childish to admit he was sad that she was sad.
Slowly, the snowflakes started to fall again.
She looks around her in surprise, but smiled as she caught a snowflake before it hit the ground.
"To answer your question... yes, I guess I am..." he says. A sad smile was on his usually unreadable face, and she kept quiet. It was colder now, and her breath came out in white puffs of air. Yet as she enjoyed the cold, she felt an uncomfortable drumming at her chest. It was her heart, and it was doing funny things again.
Like she felt how she did the first time she met the boy who could stop time.
Or how she felt when she discovered that she wasn't affected by his powers.
Or how she felt when she discovered that she was affected by him.
She wanted to reach out to him, but she could not move. The world around them was going on its own pace but she was immobile. Like he pushed her pause button. Her feet were frozen to the ground.
"Princess?" a voice said, and suddenly he was in front of her, leaning down and his face was so close as he looked into her eyes.
His eyes are soft, vulnerable. And she was seeing him for the first time. And she understood, that he was who she thought to be all along.
Beneath the power of controlling time he was alone, with no one to share this power with. What was supposed to be a gift became a curse, and he was entrapped in his own nature.
Cautiously, she raised her hand and put it softly to his cheek. He did not shy away from the cold that will always be a part of her. And he nuzzles his cheek onto it, closing his eyes and letting his long eyelashes flutter against his cheeks. She raised her other hand and cradled his face with both, trying to let him know what she is not allowed to say. Or feel.
"I thought the princesses of the North cannot love. That it can kill them, even," he says. She bites her lip to keep in the false denial bubbling in her throat.
"I am stronger than any normal princess."
He opens his eyes.
"Is it painful to be with me?"
And she hears the sadness that she could see in his eyes.
"No pain, no gain."
For a moment, she thought he stopped time again and she was somehow affected by his powers. But the snow was still falling around them, making her stronger.... and him weaker.
And his lips came crashing down to hers and they were kissing. Their tongues were a dance of ice and fire, and she was melting inside and they were embracing and her fingers were tangling into his hair and his hand was at the small of her back and they were both consumed by the urgency of what they were feeling.
The kiss turned to an embrace.
They were both warm.
He breaks it off first, and there was something in the way he looked at her that made her shake her head.
"No. You do not have to protect me."
He smiles his sad smile again.
"I love you too. But I value your life more, princess."
She raised her chin defiantly and tried not to cry.
"I survived. And I am alive. And I love."
And he looks at her sadly.
"But we both know I cannot stay in one timeline for too long. It will weaken me--"
"You weaken either way! Every time you jump through timelines, you fade away. Why can't you stay?"
"Because I love you."
And he was gone.
She touched her lips, remembering.
This is for the best...
She sheds a single, snowflake tear.