Man first time taking a crack at Zao but I had too cute of an idea not to make it ridiculously fluffy sdfghgfd thank you so much for requesting, I do hope I did him justice~!
It’s still dark outside when you find yourself waking up. Stretching with a sigh you’re reluctant to leave the warmth of your sleeping bag, the fabric far more comforting than you thought it would be when you’d first burrowed into it for the night; so instead of leaving you roll over onto your side, fully prepared to pester Zao with idle chatter until you’re able to fall back asleep, after all, he’s almost always awake during this time.
But the space beside you is empty, and his sleeping bag is rolled up.
“Zao?” you mutter out, yawning into your hand as you lift yourself up onto your elbows and look around the tent.
Sure enough, he’s nowhere else in the tent, and the flap to the entrance is unfastened, but from where you’re sitting you can just barely make out a light seeping in through the small gap. Blinking the sleep from your eyes you glance between your side and the entryway a few times, humming to yourself as you allow your brain to catch up on what you’re seeing. And once you do you reluctantly shuffle your way out of your bed, pushing yourself up onto your feet as much as the space around you will allow - it’s a snug fit, but you’re just glad it’s still warm inside as you move you peek your head out of the flap.
Being so high up you should have expected it to be chilly, but the wave of cold that hits your face has you cursing under your breath, expression twisting in response in an attempt to stop the stinging sensation that blossoms across your cheeks and nose from the sudden temperature change. It would probably be a good idea to duck back inside and burrow through your pack for your climbing coat before you venture out into the night, but right as the idea strikes you, you catch sight of the light source that had initially drawn your attention.
The campfire that the two of you had set up earlier in the day has been reignited, the warm orange flames licking at the air and casting the ground around in a soft glow; and next to the campfire you can make out a familiar bulky silhouette, back turned away from you and facing towards the flames.
Ah, there he is.
You’re quick to shuffle over to the campfire, both eager to join him and get close to the heat source hoping it’ll warm you up, and you can’t help but chuckle as you approach.
“And here I thought you’d run off while I was asleep” you tease, dropping down into a sitting position beside him. “What’s wrong, restless? Couldn’t sleep?”
Zao turns away from what he was staring at and glances at you as you make yourself comfortable, scooting closer towards the campfire seeking out the warmth it provided.
“Mhm, something like that” he responds, and you make a noncommittal whistle of acknowledgment as you switch your gaze between him and the campfire.
A few moments pass before you speak up again.
“So, what were you looking at?”
Zao opens his mouth to respond, but you start to speak again before he can say anything.
“Let me guess” you hum “just wanted to just take in some of that good ol’ mountain air?”
“No, I-” he tries to cut in but you’re still going with the speculation.
“Ooh, or maybe you were planning on wandering around? - there’s a river closeby, right?”
You vaguely register the frustrated look that he’s giving you, but honestly it’s too fun not to try and get another guess in as you muse.
“You know, a cabin would fit right in around here~ Maybe I could convince Andvari that a mountain lodge would make for a good investm-”
You’re cut off when a hand presses against the back of your head, and your gaze is pulled upwards to look at the sky. Whatever you were saying next trails off as your jaw goes slack, eyes widening as you take in the sight presented right above you.
It’s beautiful - you’ve never seen the sky look so clear.
So far away from civilization and Tokyo’s city lights, the stars light up the sky like gold on a deep blue canvas. And it’s not just blue either, the sky itself is like a mesh of purples, whites, teals and numerous other rich tones, all fusing and merging together like something right out of a painting. You’ve seen pictures, seen videos, but it really looks as though the galaxy is stretching out before your eyes; and here, so high up, you almost feel like you could just reach out and run your hands through that very sky, swirling those stars between your fingers just to know what it would feel like and touch.
You’re mesmerized, so much so that you only catch yourself getting lost staring in awe when you hear a laugh from beside you, and you glance away to sneak a peek at Zao. From the corner of your eye he’s smiling, clearly proud of himself at the sight of your speechlessness, and you turn to fully face him, shooting him a withering pout.
“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up - I guess I’ve gotta admit, it is a pretty amazing sight”
His hand, that’s still on the back of your head, moves further up and ruffles your hair and you whine in protest, swatting his hand away even as you try to hide the fact that you’re smiling. Right on cue however, you receive a none too subtle reminder about just how cold it is, as a particularly sharp chill runs up your spine suddenly enough that you yelp at the sensation. Even the fire before you does little to block out the cold like you’d wished, and you pull your legs closer to your chest in the hopes that they’ll take the brunt of the next breeze.
Zao notices your reaction and shoots you a pointed look - honestly with how often he’s out here you wouldn’t be surprised if he’s way more acclimated to the climate than you are; you’ve gotta admit, that’s kind of funny to think about.
“Cold? Did you not bring your coat out with you?”
You want to retort that you’d been a bit more focused on your missing mountaineering buddy than clothes but hold your tongue, shuffling closer to the fire trying to seek out its heat to combat the incoming cold. Trying to focus on the movement of the flames to distract yourself you watch tiny pieces of kindling breaking off and disappearing into the air for a little while, resting your head atop your knees in an attempt to get comfortable until you decide to head back to the tent.
But you don’t stay like that for long, as after a few moments of silence passes an arm wraps around your side, and just like that you’re being moved from your spot, picked up like you didn’t weigh a thing and settled back down so that your back is pressed flush against Zao’s chest. You’re glad for the warm hue of the flames, as they provide a good excuse for why your cheeks feel like they’re burning up.
Yep, it’s because of the campfire. Definitely…maybe.
You probably would have said something, made a quip or teasing remark to get a reaction out of him, but he’s so warm that you can already feel the heat creeping up your back, spreading across your shoulders in a way that you just about melt back against him. But the warmth isn’t the only thing that you feel; twisting to look at your shoulders you find that Zao’s draped a blanket over the two of you, and you reach for the two sides draped over you, pulling them closed with a perplexed expression.
“A blanket? Where did you get…?”
In response, Zao pats the space next to him, and it’s there that you finally spot the trusty pack by his side. You swear he’s got anything and everything in that bag; you’re tempted to ask if he’s got any drinks stashed in there, but for now you’re content with just the blanket, and the mountain man that comes with it.
Allowing yourself a moment of respite, you let your eyes flutter closed, your previous hours of sleep catching up to you as the added warmth lulls you into a relaxed state. You can hear the campfire cracking before you, the rustling of the nearby trees and the occasional shrill hum of the wind as it brushes past; it makes for some damn good ambiance to listen to, and right behind you, you can hear Zao’s breathing, working in tandem with the rise and fall of his chest in a steady rhythm. It’s kind of calming, and for a few seconds you focus on listening to all the things that you can hear.
Eventually, a sigh from above you catches your attention, and you tilt your head up trying to catch what he says.
“Hah, what a troublesome little mountaineer”
You crack one eye open, gazing up at him as you grin.
“Aw, come on, Zao - you know you love me, really~”
Zao sputters, and you have three glorious seconds where you watch his face reddening at your words before his hand’s back on your head, ruffling it hard enough that your gaze is pushed back to the floor as you howl with laughter.
“Hey! What have I said about mocking your elders!? I’m taking the blanket back!”
“Noooo! I’ll behave, I swear!”
“We both know you won’t!”
You laughter echoes across the clearing, breaking the peace of the otherwise quiet night as you make a dive for the blanket stubbornly pulling it close, and while Zao’s words may seem harsh to anyone else, you still catch him fighting off a smile of his own as the two of you fight for the fabric that wraps you up together.