My humblest thanks to Shacha who proofread this thing for me on the fly, for her comments and constant brilliance.
It’s the coldest winter in five decades. Meteorologists have said it’s due to some kind of atmospheric phenomenon, but Matthew isn’t listening. Couldn’t listen due to being focused on his people, the Eastern part of Canada enduring a glacial, almost snowless winter. There have been power outages already, the result of metal made fragile by sub-zero temperatures, great steel pylons shattering under their own weight like brittle bones.
Matthew is cold all the time, trying to channel his Western coasts, always warmer, and failing. In Alberta, the wind is slicing through homes despite building isolation; in Quebec, Sept-Îles is closed down, awaiting the end of the cold snap.
It’s only early January.
Matthew shivers his way through the meeting: it is held in Sweden, this month, and the weather of the Nordic country isn’t helping, though it is already warmer than his own. It’s only at the end of the day, warm coffee cooling at the touch of his tongue, his soup turning lukewarm as he blows on it, that Matthew wonders if he’ll ever regain the feeling in his fingers, his lips, his ears.
He is downright trembling in his seat, praying for the cold to ease, when a hand falls on his shoulder.
And this hand is gloriously, wondrously warm. Matthew can’t help himself; he curls his entire body towards the touch like a flower towards the sun. He’d be blushing, in normal circumstances, but the cold has left him bloodless.
He hears a chuckle as his chair is turned away from the table towards his unexpected company.
Matthew doesn’t know who he was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t Spain and Portugal looking down at him, the first in bemusement and the second in concern. Portugal lays his other hand on Matthew’s cheek, his touch feeling almost like a burn.