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Lessons in the Cold

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The blizzard had overtaken Toronto, and buried the city in far too many inches of snow, incapacitating the majority of the population.  And with Eric not working yet, and Sam forgoing trips to the office to work from home, the couple were quite happy staying in, making the most of their time together.  Eric catches up on the world of hockey, even if it was with a slant-eye to the players he knew that weren't shut out of the profession by a dirty hit, while Sam types up documents and holds conference calls from their new home's small den.

When there wasn't hockey, or calls to field for new job prospects, Eric found himself with far too much free time on his hands, something he previously only experienced during the off-season.  So, as he did when he was a kid, he was bundled up outdoors far too much for the sub-zero temperatures, worrying Sam about catching pneumonia or jostling his shoulder - each bout of worry dismissed with a nonchalant wave of his hand.  And after long sessions of shoveling Mildred's driveway, or chipping ice off of the sidewalks, Eric would come back inside and sneak cold fingers against Sam's neck or arm, earning him a playful swat, or the occasional kiss. 

When Eric had darn near shoveled the entire neighborhood, he starts looking for other things to do.  He starts putting together a bookshelf that he and Sam had picked up when they bought the house (well, Eric bought it - but Sam had finally sold his condo and moved in, Eric putting him on the deed soon thereafter) instead of letting it continue to languish in the oversized storeroom at the back of the house.  But when the hammering starts, Eric looks up to find Sam looming over him, Bluetooth headset in place, mouthing the word, "Really?" with an amused look on his face. 

So that ended Eric's home improvement phase.

After putting all the bits of bookcase back in storage, Eric tiptoes into the den, thumb hiked back towards the door as he whispers, "I'm going for a walk," bobbing his head toward the door for good measure.

Muting himself, Sam says, "But it's nasty out there," and then tries to lean forward for a glance out the room's small window.

"I'm going stir-crazy here, Sammy."  Eric gives Sam his big eyes, which makes Sam just smile and shake his head gently.  So Eric bundles up and heads outside, not bound for any place in particular, but instead with just the need to move.

He's twenty minutes into his walk when he spots it the first time; a small park, which he knew was nearby, but a pond near the back that has long been frozen over.  He walks with curious purpose, quickly striding up to the edge of the pond, which is somehow devoid of snow, just the telltale tracks of long-gone ice skates showing against the otherwise smooth surface.  Smiling, he suddenly knows where he'll be spending his downtime; pond skating had always been thrilling as a kid, and though his skates had only known rinks for the last decade or two, he is determined to step out onto this particular patch of ice.

As Eric walks back to the house, he realizes that he's never taken Sammy skating.  And come to think of it, he'd not seen a pair of skates in any of the boxes Sam and he spent a weekend lugging in.  With a smile, he redoubles his speed and makes it back to the house in no time.

As he enters, Eric glances at the clock and realizes it is closing in on 10am, so he grabs his keys and phone, then ducks his head into Sam's office where he mutely jangles his keys.  When Sam looks up, he whispers, "I'll be right back," and then slips out of the room, then the house, before Sam has a chance to stop him.

Driving in the ice and snow isn't anything too horrible.  Eric learned to drive when he was fourteen in the middle of winter, even as the four-wheel drive kicks in to stablize his SUV while going around a curve, so uneasy thoughts don't even enter his mind.  The sporting goods store is only a couple miles away, which would have been easy enough to make on foot - but not today.  Today was to be special.

Eric enters the brightly lit store and quickly finds his way to the wall of ice skates.  There's a smile on his face for a second, and then just as quickly, it's gone - replaced by a daunting expression of trepidation.  For all his careful thought and preparation, he lacked one - albeit important - fact.  Considering his options for a moment, he finally pulls out his phone, and sends a text to Sam.  "What size shoes?"

Tapping his foot, and nodding to the staff that watches him from a nearby counter, he waits for a response.  First comes a "??" from Sam, but not a few seconds after, comes the question, "Mine or yours?"

"Yours, dummy," Eric grumbles, then types in, "Yours" onto the small screen.  He then starts to fidget again until he gets his response, which brings the smile back to his face.  Looking up, he skips the hockey skates, and goes instead for the figure skates, since the type is better for beginners.  He gets them to the register, and is in his car two minutes later.

Back at home, Eric drops his purchase onto the sofa, and then again ducks his head into the study.  Sam's earpiece is on the desk, so he knows he has no one on the other end of the line to compete with.  "When's your next meeting?" he asks.

Sam's attention leaves the computer screen, and he smiles at Eric.  "Umm," he says, eyes going back to the screen to check his schedule.  "Actually, not until this afternoon.  Why?"

"Can you take an early lunch?  Say in," he glances at his watch, "fifteen minutes?" Eric asks.  He figures the farther away from noontime the better, since they'll likely have the pond all to themselves.  Plus, Sam won't want to be out too long.

"Sure..." Sam responds.  "Let me finish this," he adds with a nod to his screen.

"Cool," Eric says with a nod.  "Bundle up when you're done."


In the end, the ice skating lessons were more Eric guiding Sam on the ice with Sam holding onto Eric's arm for dear life.  Every time Eric manages a glance, he sees Sam's face lit up with a brilliant grin, even after having fallen for what seemed like the hundredth time.  Sam is far from a natural, but after forty-five minutes of lessons, he can actually glide down the ice, as long as Eric is within an arm's length.

"Okay, I'm freezing," Sam says, unsteady on the thin metal blades as Eric skates backwards in front of him.  He gives Eric an exaggerated shiver, tendrils of mist coming from his mouth in the chilly morning air.  "I think it's time to go back."

Nodding in agreement as they ease towards the snow covered bank, Eric reaches out for Sam to help him transition back to the more sure-footed snow - but Sam flails slightly.  Sam's arms come out instinctually and there's a sudden tumble of limbs.  Since all his attention is on Sam, when Eric's skates catch where ice meets snow bank, he tips backwards, and pulls Sam down with him.

The couple lay there, Sam on top of Eric, stunned for a moment.  Eric breaks first, his laugh piercing the near-noon quiet of the park, Sam joining him a moment later.  Emboldened by their solitude, Eric leans up, giving Sam a quick kiss, finding Sam's smoky eyes gazing back at him, a smile covering Sam's face.

"Thank you," Sam says.

Eric doesn't know if it was for the skates, the impromptu lesson, or maybe the kiss.  But he doesn't care; he's truly happy for one of the first times in his life, and he thinks maybe his life - now shared with Sam - may finally be headed in the right direction.

"Love you, Sammy."