Winter is welcoming itself into the city. Temperatures have fallen down and frost has risen up, giving the blades of grass a crystallized sheen.
Her gait is slightly changed these days. Age and injury forcing her to slow her steps in ways she’s loathe to admit. The cold brings about an ache in her ankle that’s new and unpleasant. She stubbornly ignores the pain in ways that are old and ingrained. Meeting him in a park for leisure instead of a crime scene warms her in ways she’s also reluctant to admit.
It’s dizzying sometimes, how fast the night can change. Barely a year has elapsed since he crashed back into her life and she’s starting to forget how she ever did without him for so long.
She spots him easily on the path ahead, two cups in hand sending steamy wisps off into the air. He turns at the sound of her approach unable, or unwilling, to stop the upturned corners of his mouth from greeting her with a soft smile and a gravelly “Hey. Thanks for coming.”
“Yea, of course.” She excepts the offered cup and takes a small sip, peppermint surprising her taste buds.
“Hot chocolate?” She laughs out in pleasant surprise. The gesture making her feel younger and lighter after a long day.
He smiles in earnest now, letting himself be pleased with her joy. He gestures and they set off down the path together, beginning their tentative new ritual together. They meet, unwind from the stress and mess of the day, catch up with the kids lives. Banter like they’re old pros, flirt like they’re young and nervous. She’s too old to feel this way, but she’s too alive not to. He’s always effected her this way, comfort and chaos residing side by side. Now they are living where closure and continuance are melting into one.
It’s new and uncertain, learning how to be friends without the responsibility and obligation of the partnership. But it’s solid and reassuring in ways she was afraid it couldn’t be after so much separation. Her strength and capacity to understand and forgive and trust grows the more they talk. As sporadic as that is, him being back from UC helps. Borrowed time for lunch breaks. Texts peppered through the days. Wine on his garden terrace. Coffee, or cocoa as it turns out, after dark.
These small moments are re-bonding them together. Brick by brick she feels her heart opening for him in ways it was never free to before. The way these feelings blossom lush and wild without the constant pressure of her burying them shock her. Unassumingly simple in their intensity, she’s scared and exhilarated as they grow.
She’s unwilling to label it out loud, but walking here with him, their arms brushing each other because they are always too close, the ebb and flow of conversation so effortless, the smiles that easily paint their faces, she feels those four letters beating against the loosening confines of her heart.
They toss their cups into the trash can and turn to head back, but don’t make it quite all the way around. Something about the cold makes everything crisper, brighter. The air holds the tension of their feelings as it crackles around them like static. His eyes catch the reflection of the holiday lights strung up around them and a kaleidoscope meets her gaze, the last of a grin slipping from his lips as his intensity sharpens.
She feels everything in slow motion. Her breath sharp, inhaled, not doing a damn thing to calm her nerves. Her senses laser focus on his face, his eyes, his lips, the curves looking warm despite the freezing all around them. His hands grip her elbows and slide up, up, curling around her biceps as hers land on his chest and then up around his neck.
They are magnets, they can’t deny their attraction as they lean into each other. Their frozen noses nudge once, twice, the gesture intimate and affectionate. Lips meet soft and slow, caressing, learning, sparking before igniting. Grips tighten, tongues duel, moans escape, his, hers, theirs.
They break for air, foreheads resting together, puffs of steamy air cloud their vision as they gasp to regain airflow. She starts to over-analyze, then stops to just take it all in. The sky is coating them in cold, dainty white. Her inside burn with the brightness of a thousand suns. Elliot is solid under her finger tips.
If snow flakes in their uniqueness and complexity can come floating unencumbered to rest and glisten together then dammit maybe they can too. It doesn’t have to be complicated it just has to feel this good, and jesus, she feels like she’s been lit up like a Christmas tree. She surely must be glowing. Everything shines brighter in the subzero.
Her eyes sparkle as she leans in again.