Breathe

Scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, or so the laundry detergent ads and spray-on deodorant bottles will tell you. Ice stands beneath an overhang, his back pressed against the cold brick of a run-down corner store. Rain drips off the lip of the awning, catching his feet where it splashes onto the ground. He breathes, deep. The air is heavy and damp.

It is LA, the year after Poseidon. Ice looks beside him and Ceasar is there, laughing and shivering, soaked to the bone. There are grocery bags sitting by his feet. Their apartment is four blocks away. They’d got caught in the downpour on their way back from the store.

“Rain reminds me of this one vacation I went on,” Ceasar says, wringing the water from his hair. “Camping trip. We played cards in the tent for a week straight, and I caught a cold.”

Ice fluffs Ceasar’s hair back out, his fingers lingering on the back of his neck. “Better than wandering around Russia in the middle of winter. I’m glad it doesn’t snow here.”

“What about rain? It has to make you think of something.”

Ice smiles. “It makes me think of-“

A truck passes by and the smell of exhaust fills Ice’s nose. Ceasar is gone, LA is gone, and Ice is in New York, his back pressed against the cold brick of a run-down corner store. His hotel room is across the street. There are no bags of groceries at his feet, nor an apartment above a Chinese bakery four blocks away.

Slouching against the building, Ice fishes a necklace from beneath his shirt, a shark tooth tied to a bit of string. He holds it up and breathes in, deep. Though he’s been wearing it next to his skin all this time, it still smells to him of Ceasar’s body, a mix of sweat and spicy aftershave. Rain is kissing under an awning, warm tree sap in the summer is a surprise camping trip, salt breeze off the ocean is watching ash scatter over the waves, and this… this is everything else.

Ice presses the necklace to his lips and tucks it back under his shirt. The rain has let up to a sprinkle; Ice opens his umbrella and steps out onto the sidewalk. It has been two thousand, three hundred, and twenty-one days, and there are many more to go.

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