It was a horrible combination of little things that had brought them to their current state. The air conditioning had been on the fritz in GERTI for some time now, alternately freezing and blasting hot air throughout the cabin. It had reached the point where everyone, even Martin, had forgone uniforms and stuck with a large number of thin layers, which could be bundled on or stripped off at will.
GERTI had been in the middle of a hot spell when the bomb threat went off in the airport. They were rushed off of their plane and into the Minnesota winter's cold with barely a moment's notice, not even allowed to pause long enough to grab extra layers. They were not allowed on the plane to get their things or into the airport to warm up. They just had to wait for the all-clear. On the tarmac. In their summer wear. All of them were, certainly, in negative euphoria.
"Alright, alright, we can manage this. Circle up, turn inwards, and we can generate at least a bit of heat."
"Why Carolyn, I had no idea you had such intimate plans to stay warm."
"Shut it, Douglas. Martin, you get in the middle."
"Wait, why me?"
"Because you're the smallest and the skinniest. You're giving off heat like a radiator, and rather than losing it to the wind, you can share it with us."
"Yes, but why do I have to be all…crammed in, with you all huddling around?"
"The very concept of a circle seems to be eluding you. Besides, you get to use Douglas' bulk as a windbreak."
"So glad to hear myself put on level with architecture. It makes me sound sturdy and strong."
"Funny, I was going for low and wide."
"Arthur! Don't touch me, your hands are freezing!"
"But Skipper, Mum was right, you are really warm. And you're right in front of me; I don't have many other places to put my hands. Unless we all got closer and hugged! That would make us warmer!"
The "no" was both resounding and universal.
"…So anyone know any good jokes?"
"Douglas, I don't think anyone is really in the mood for humor right now."
"Ah yes, how dare I interrupt our diligent work of standing and shivering?"
"We are waiting on alert for the bomb squad to give us the all clear. How would you like to miss an announcement because everyone is too busy laughing at you?"
"We tend to manage to hear things over the sounds of people laughing at you."
"We will be ready for the moment they let us go somewhere warmer. I am not standing out here a second longer than I need to."
"Says the man in the middle of the huddle."
"You want to switch places? Fine, I'll be the windbreak for a bit, you can be the sardine!"
"Martin, stay put! Given your luck, you will catch your cold and die out here, and I am not finding another pilot in Minnesota. I can't put up with passive-aggressively cheery people, and Arthur doesn't know how to make wild rice soup."
"And Douglas is somehow immune to the weather?"
"Douglas is too stubborn to die. Although I suppose one of the benefits of replacing you with a Minnesotan would be that I would have two cold-resistant pilots."
"Arthur, will you please stop touching me!"
"I'm really sorry, Skip, but my hands are really really cold and you're really really warm and could we please all just hug!"
"You know, Arthur might have a point there. If we're doing this whole body-heat thing, we might as well go all out with it."
"Douglas, are you really suggesting I get into a cuddle pile with my son and my pilots?"
"Isn't it better than freezing?"
"…Alright, everyone choose a side of Martin and hug away."
"What! Why? Why can't we just make a full circle, why does there even have to be a middle?"
"Too late, Martin, we're latched on. It is time for you to relax, go with it…embrace the situation, if you will."
"I am the Captain, not the filling in some…awkward pastry!"
"Wow, Arthur, you and Carolyn are right, he is a little radiator."
"Douglas! Douglas, move away!"
"The brilliant part is if you get your head down on his shoulder! It's all cuddly and warm!"
"I am the Captain! You don't just cuddle the Captain against his will!"
"Ooh, that is a good spot, Arthur. Carolyn, you try and get some shoulder too."
"Stop marking out your territories on my body!"
"It is so convenient to have him this short. Most men, I can barely reach their chests."
"This is not dignified conduct! This is not professional! I will not allow this continued theft of my body heat!"
"Would you rather we kicked you out of the circle and left you to freeze?"
"…Well, I still want to be part of the circle."
"Then shut up and generate heat."
"But do continue to get worked up. I think you get warmer when you're angry."
"Wow, you're right, Douglas! And the blushy bits are the warmest!"
"…Arthur, I may not be able to do much in my current situation, but if you continue to rub your hands on my face, I will bite you."
"All of you just shut up and hug."
"…So, anyone up for a word game?"