He was surrounded by snow.
It was something he had grown up with, but it was no longer something he was used to and he was cold. Tropical islands were so much warmer.
But Grandma was getting on in years and she had decided that this year she wanted a more traditional Christmas. And that meant Kansas and snow.
The kids, of course, were excited. They were used to warm, sunny Christmases that consisted of days at the beach, bonfires and Uncle Gordon chasing them around the pool. Here it was the opposite. Early evenings, central heating and snowed in windows - not a great combination for two young and energetic children.
So, he had gone out on a limb and hired a horse and carriage, complete with driver. Open top, for a three-sixty view, and rugs and blankets to keep warm. A tour around the town with his family to see the Christmas lights on a quiet winter's evening.
Kay hated the cold even more than he did and he had to smile at the parka she had holed herself up in. Her hood was rimmed with faux fur and it made her appear an exotic resident from the far north tundra.
Because she was the mom in this equation, both the kids were dressed the same way, running past like a pair of furry chipmunks. He grinned as he wrapped an arm around his wife. "They have enough insulation to withstand a nuclear winter."
She shoved a jacket at his chest. "Unlike you, who would prefer to lose body parts rather than rug up."
"There has to be a certain amount of experience for the experience to be worth it."
"Tell that to your fingers when they turn black. You're too used to the tropics, Virgil. You should know better."
He sighed and took the jacket. As expected, it was a faux fur clone of hers except much larger to fit his frame. Shouldering it on, he had to admit, it was much warmer than the flannel he had been relying on.
"Why are we doing this?" She huddled next to him.
"Because it will be fun. An experience to remember."
"Yes, I remember what it was like to feel my nose." But her grumbling was mock at best.
He drew her in closer and nipped her nose with a kiss. "Well then, we'll just have to snuggle up to keep warm.
"Mom! Dad! Hurry up!"
"Our bosses are calling." He mumbled against her forehead.
"They can wait and learn patience." She stood on her toes and caught his lips just briefly.
"They may eat the horse."
"Then we can go back inside and get warm."
He laughed and gave her another squeeze. "C'mon, love." He pulled away gently and led her towards the carriage.
Both children were bouncing beside the elegant vehicle scrapping in the snow and alternating pummelling each other with the stuff.
"Hey, hey, cut that out. Don't you want to meet the horse?"
Attention grabbed, the snow in their hands was discarded and Virgil led them up to the driver and introductions began. The driver was a crusty local Virgil remembered from his childhood. Back then he had been a young teacher at the school. He remembered the Tracy brothers, all five of them and had been quite happy to drive them around for the evening. Obviously more used to the weather, he had much less clothing obscuring his features.
"Okay, you two, climb into the carriage and let Pumpernickel do her job." Kay had already climbed in and at a gesture from their mother, both ratbags darted into the carriage and snuggled up beside her.
Virgil frowned as he climbed on board, the whole carriage dipping under his weight. "Hey, I believe you have my seat. I get to sit beside Mommy tonight."
Kay arched an eyebrow up at him and he grinned.
The two kids whined and complained, but after the obligatory grumbling, they moved to sit in the seat behind the driver. Virgil took up his cherished spot beside his wife and draped an arm around her shoulders.
Within a moment she was wrapped around him like an octopus crossed with a limpet.
He bit the inside of his mouth to prevent laughing out loud and inadvertently ending his life prematurely. "Okay, kids, now you can sit with Mommy."
Two giggling lumps landed on the both of them, followed by a pile of blankets.
They were going to be very warm.
And his comms went off.
The whole family groaned.
"Daddy!" A pair of young green eyes glared at him in outrage. "You said we could go for a ride."
He bit his lip, heart dropping through the floor of the carriage as he reached up a hand to answer.
"Virg! Why didn't you tell me you were hiring a carriage?! And where is our invite? Pen loves that kind of thing."
The relief was almost enough to stop him rolling his eyes. Almost. "Gordon, hire your own carriage."
"Uncle Gordon, where are your manners?!" Those young green eyes were quite capable of flashing at anybody in range.
"Ooh, is that my BLT I can hear? I'm feeling hungry again."
Virgil sighed. If that got started, they could be here for half the night. "Gordon, we are only going around the town once. If you discuss it with Mr Burly, maybe he can take you and Penelope after the kids have gone to bed."
"Burly? Really? Does he still have that curly moustache?"
"Since he can hear everything you are saying, you may want to consider what you say or forfeit your evening tour."
"Yes, oh." Virgil grinned and winked in Burly's direction. The older man smirked. He knew every Tracy brother, after all. "Now, leave us in peace. V and K Tracy and company are off the clock for the next hour. Non-negotiable."
"Okay, okay. I get it. Signing off...as long as I get my BLT when you get home."
Virgil snorted and killed the connection.
"I am going to have to teach him another lesson soon, I think." But Kay was smiling as she said it. Well, almost.
"It's his way, love, you know that."
"Yes, well, I have my own way too."
"No breaking the uncles. You'll give the kids the wrong impression."
"I will provide a role model in problem solving."
He had to snort at that. "You could have a point."
"I do have a point. A very pointy point."
Well, he wasn't going to argue. "Anyway, we have a voyage to make. Onward, Mr Burly, let us take these children on a tour of Christmases Past."
Burly grinned at that and turned around to attend to Pumpernickel.
And even with his nose half frozen, Virgil truly felt warm, snuggled up with his family, as the carriage began its gentle sway into the evening darkness.