“I hate winter,” the both of them complained at once.
Shui was almost overly startled by the echo of his sentiment. He glared over at Ling. Was he mocking him? But no, the kid looked as genuinely surprised as he was. “What?” Ling asked, as defensively as Shui had felt. “Is it ‘cause the girls have to wear actual clothes?”
Shui rubbed the back of his head. “What do you have to hate winter about? I thought you’d love to play in the snow.”
“The snow’s cold.”
Such a statement of the obvious. Shui rolled his eyes. “Duh.”
For a while, everything stayed quiet between them. When Ling spoke, it was much quieter than he had spoken before. “It’s cold. Everything’s cold. I don’t like the cold.”
“You chose the wrong person to hang out with,” Shui said, in reference to Jin. “But just stay inside. That’s easy enough.”
“Well yeah,” Ling muttered under his breath, not looking at him.
It was then that Shui considered how little he knew about Ling, before Jin had started taking care of him. There was a reason that Jin was taking care of him, after all. It’s not as if most religious student whatevers took care of any orphans. It was hard to think of Ling as an orphan. He didn’t act like Shui had when he’d been left all alone.
Some winters there was no “inside”.
“Well, you know the one good thing about it?” Shui clapped a hand down on Ling’s shoulder.
“Best time for mapo doufu. Let’s go.”
Just like that, Ling brightened up. He followed Shui outside with no hesitation. And while Shui knew he could solve most of Ling’s problems with winter without it meaning the same thing for him… As Ling started chatting up a storm, the winter seemed a bit louder.
The whispers went away.