“So what did you see?” Isshin asked.
It hadn’t been seeing so much as hearing; the sky was overcast, everything cast in murky twilight. But sound… sound carried clear.
Crunch. Scrunch. Crssh, shhh, crunch….
Booted feet, trying to sneak through soft snow. Loki knew the sound. And how to reply.
Snickering and eager, a horde of snowballs leapt for their prey.
Black spattered with white, a dark-coated figure stood in the snow. Raised a black brow at Loki’s laughter. Carefully wiped snow off of amber lenses.
Gathered it into a soft ball, and tossed it back.
It could be a weapon!
The dodge was pure reflex. With a puff, loose snow scattered inches away.
…Not a weapon. And there was an ache in his chest as Loki realized that. Someone… someone had offered to play, and his own suspicion had slammed yet another door-
“I am not so easily dissuaded.”
A dark voice, still as the air before an oncoming storm.
“I, too, know pain.”
A bow, that let a swift hand scoop up downy snow, fingers reveling in the texture of water like frozen starlight.
“Perhaps another night.”
Smiling, he vanished.
“And then I woke up,” Loki concluded. “And there was power leading from the boy to me. Not a great deal, but… what on earth is he doing?”
“Older guy, you say?” Isshin’s grin had a thoughtful edge. “Look like anyone you know?”
“Hogun the Grim, a bit,” Loki said, startled into answering before he thought. “If he’d ever lower himself to a Midgard coat. And shaving. Why?”
“And he took some snow?” Isshin said, half to himself. “Guess that’s fair. He already left some of his power with you.”
Loki looked at him askance. “Are you saying that man was Ichigo?”
“Noooo,” Isshin drew it out. “Not exactly.” Grinned. “He’s visiting.”
“It’s something young shinigami do, when their sword-spirits start getting stronger,” Isshin shrugged. “The spirits start poking around. Kind of like little kids. Finding out who’s friendly, who’s not. Whose souls let them in, and whose stay closed.” He paused, and gave Loki a look. “Who’s family.”