Snow Angels (Winter Festival 2020)
Delphos often struggled to sleep, so tonight was not unusual for him. He’d laid on his old, thin mattress for a long time with Puck tucked up against him, his breaths soft and sweet in the darkness of their apartment. Outside, it was strangely still, a quiet he’d not experienced before. That was, at least in part, why he could not sleep. No matter the weather, usually someone was fighting on the street, cars would motor by, there was simply the noise of the city. Tonight, however, there had been snow. The winter before not a flake had fallen, and so this storm seemed to have an unusual effect on everyone. It was as though the entire city had seen the sky grant them snow, a sign of normalcy, and they had curled up under their blankets and finally rested.
Everyone in the whole city seemed to be partaking in this calm save for himself. Delphos was not always a fan of the din of a city, but it was almost better than the silence. It made his heart race and his palm clammy, as the thought that the silence was indeed unnatural sat ill with Delphos. He told himself if it was them, the room would be another color, he would not be able to lift his hand the way he could and flex his fingers. When he finally could bear laying down no more, he carefully extracted himself from Puck.
The small Grem2 let out a soft grumble in his chest but did not wake as Delphos covered him under the blankets. Puck curled up into a small ball and nuzzled into the blankets before settling, making Delphos’ heartbeat slow. Something about seeing Puck move as well both filled Delphos with a sense of love and a sense of security. If Puck was moving, he was indeed safe for the night, since it was only in stillness that Puck seemed unnatural.
He had half a mind to cough or knock something over, to be loud enough to rouse his companion. He knew his lover would sit up and talk to him all night, would gladly tell him stories and keep him company without even batting an eyelash, and yet he felt himself hesitating to reach out for help tonight. He stood over Puck for a while before he decided, ultimately, to let him rest. He’d wake him up when he was done shoveling, as he’d decided he would do. Delphos’ therapist had told him when he was anxious he should work out, get up and move enough to make his blood run and it would help him feel better.
Mostly, it made him feel old and tired, but he supposed she knew best. He took his jacket, hat, and scarf before quietly closing the door behind him, heading into the hallway of their apartment. The hallways were unkept, dirt piled up in the corners and cracks in the walls. Paint peeled back at the top in thin, large flakes, revealing the concrete beneath, the lights hummed faintly and flickered as he made his way down the stairs. Each of his steps echoed, the soft scrape of the soles of his feet against the metal louder than the trumpets of war. Once he hit the bottom floor, he went to a closet in the hallway leading out. The lock had long been broken, as the janitor had abruptly quit some years ago and the tenants had taken it upon themselves to use the abandoned supplies as they needed. The mop had been broken in half and no one had replaced it, but the shovel remained just as good as it had always been, so Delphos took it in his hands and went outside.
As he pushed the front door open, Delphos was greeted with a unique sight he hadn’t expected. The snow was completely unbroken before him. The city plow had not yet driven down their street and the entire storm's worth of snow was piled up in a heavy blanket. It looked inviting and Delphos stood, simply taking it in; it was surprisingly not as cold as he expected it to be, despite the storm having raged all day, and he felt comfortable simply standing there and breathing in the crisp air. The orange streetlights cast a certain warmth on the cold night and Delphos realized he was a little spoiled in that moment.
This was a sight city folk did not often get. The last time he'd been treated to the sight of freshly fallen snow before the world got to it was in his youth, before he’d left the home his boss raised him in. He took one large breath and pulled the shovel up, driving it down against the tar of the sidewalk. The scrape was loud as he began the process of clearing the snow away, as it was in fact the only sound in the entirety of the city. Above him, the bar sign that hung across the road, the blue and red neon that blinked and buzzed all night through his window, was off for the first time since Delphos had moved here. He watched it as he made his way up and down the space in front of the apartment, as though it would flicker on and send its glow through his window for Puck. It did not blink on and Delphos wondered what had driven the bar owner to turn it off for the first time in many years.
It was a mystery that would remain as such, however, as Delphos didn’t see a point in asking after the sign. It was either dead or off, he’d find out tomorrow. By the time he’d come to the conclusion not to ask, he had made one pass over the entrance to the apartment and began his second. He didn’t have to completely clear the sidewalk, he knew that. When the plow finally made its way down their street, it would push the snow back onto the sidewalk, and he’d have to come do this again. He could have left snow behind, since when the sun would rise in a few hours the whole street would be hit by its rays. Thin snow would turn to water and most would evaporate, but he didn’t want to risk the ice. He knew a few of the old ladies who lived on the first floor would come out to do their errands, no matter how much it snowed, and he did not want to hear about them slipping and hurting themselves.
So, he made sure to move all the snow away from the concrete, tossing it back into the road, until it hardly looked like it had snowed. He stood up straight, rolling his shoulders and stretching slightly. Due to the sheer size of his body, even a regular sized shovel meant he had to stoop low and it made his back ache something fierce. He put his hands on his hips and was leaning back when he caught sight of Puck.
The merle Grem2 wandered out of the door, wiping sleep from his eyes. He’d bundled up a bit, despite his fur, and he hugged himself tight as he approached Delphos.
“Delph,” he murmured, “what’re you doing?”
“Shoveling.” Delphos replied.
“It’s like, 3:21am.”
Delphos grunted in reply as he reached out for Puck, guiding him into his embrace. He hugged the sleepy grem and smiled a little, despite himself, and turned the both of them towards the road.
“Look at snow,” Delphos said.
Puck made a noise of protest but pulled his head away from Delphos’ stomach. He looked out at the snow and then rolled his head up against Delphos, laying his chin flat against him so that his head craned back. It was hard for Delphos to look directly down at him, though he couldn’t help but smile at him.
“Yeah, it’s snow, what?”
“No cars ruin it yet.”
Puck looked again, then resumed his head position. “We should make snow angels.”
“Yeah, y’know.” Puck pulled away from Delphos, and reluctantly, Delphos let him go.
Puck put his arms out and spun away from Delphos, swinging one leg out as he did his pirouette until his back was to the snow. He threw his arms wide and fell backwards with full trust, landing into the snow with a soft and pleasant crunch. He began to laugh as he moved his arms and legs in the snow, sheer delight coming off of him in waves. Delphos loved his laugh, throaty and yet wheezy. It was a unique laugh, something almost like a schoolyard bully, and yet it was endearing to him.
“C’mon, make one.”
“Yes!” Puck sat up, snow stuck to his jacket and the fur on the back of his head. His mismatched eyes bore into Delphos, an unsettling stare. “You never do anything fun. Just make a snow angel.”
“I do fun things.”
“No you don’t. Trust me, I know fun. C’mon, just one?”
Delphos sighed and found himself sinking to his knees in the snow. He fell face first into it, laying his chin flat, as it crunched up around him. It enveloped him like a blanket, pressing in on all sides, cold against his jacket and scarf. It was not bitter though and he did not feel half the bite he expected to feel. In his homeland, the snow would have been vicious, packed with teeth that bit and hurt, but here it was soft and simply hugged him. Snow did not live long enough here to form teeth, to know how to bite, and so it only wrapped him in its arms and welcomed him.
“You have to move your arms.” Puck said, “Like this.”
Delphos hummed, “Nyet.”
“What? No, you gotta, or it’s just a weird shape!”
“Is chalk outline, like police. I am dead.”
“You die when I say you die, Delphos.” Puck said firmly. There was a finality in his tone that tugged at Delphos’ heart. As though the reaper himself could come to collect and Puck, with his intense gaze and loud, erratic presence, could chase away Death itself to protect Delphos.
Finally, Delphos let out a large sigh and moved his arms like Puck had, hoping the snow would not ruin his mechanical arm. Pushing himself up after a few rotations, Delphos saw that Puck had pulled himself up to the sidewalk and was pulling clumps of snow from his tail. The already dry and unkempt fur had turned into a horrible snowball conglomeration, one that would require a shower or dedicated brushing to fix. As Delphos rose, he ruined part of his snow angel, but he didn’t mind. He made a noise for Puck to help him stand and Puck did, bracing himself as Delphos used his shoulder to get back to his feet, his massive body creaking under his own weight. Someday soon, he’d hit the gym again. He had to keep up with Puck anyway and as of right now, there was no way he could outrun him.
“Yours is a little messed up, but I like it.” Puck said once Delphos was up.
“...Were you havin’ trouble sleepin’?” He asked.
Delphos nodded. “But it was good to see snow like this. No one else got to see it like I did.” he said.
“Well, good. I don’t get what you mean, but good. You wanna go make hot cocoa?”
Delphos smiled and nodded, casting one last glance up the street, where he could hear the snow plow coming. Soon, the whole street would be plowed, their snow angels gone, the world looking more like a city. With the streets plowed, cars would start to drive by, the neon sign would turn back on tomorrow night.
Tonight, though, Delphos realized he’d made two very good, new memories. One of snow and one of Puck, laughing in it. Both, he thought, were worth not sleeping for.