Granular Material

As Philip copied information about snowflake formation from the Bookshelves to his whiteboards, he could hear Shotaro’s enraged screaming coming from the office proper. He didn’t let it distract him, though. Shotaro was probably just arguing with Aki-chan about something pointless again. It didn’t really matter what. What was really important right now was snowflakes.

He was too busy adding little details to the snowflake diagram he was sketching to notice when the garage door opened and shut. When his shoulder was grabbed from behind, he jumped and sent a jagged marker line across his art. “Hey—!”

“Philip, what did you do?!” Shotaro demanded.

“I ruined my notes! Or rather, you did! Look at this!” Philip whirled on Shotaro, waving his marker in displeasure.

Shotaro snatched the marker out of Philip’s hand. “I mean last month! Akiko says the heating bill came to over a million yen, and I know I didn’t use the heater that much.”

“Oh!” Philip’s eyes lit up. “I was attempting to turn the garage into a sauna.”

“The garage.”

Philip nodded.

Shotaro looked around in disbelief. “The concrete garage with no insulation? This garage, the one we’re standing in right now?!”

“Which other garage could I be referring to?”

Shotaro shouted incoherently.

“Is that all?” Philip carefully wiped at the misplaced marker line with his sleeve.

“No, that’s not all! She turned the heat off this month to make up for it!”

“Is that all?”

“It’s January!”

Philip shrugged. “I appreciate your letting me know. I’ll wear a jacket.”

With another angry shout, Shotaro flopped down onto the couch. He grabbed the blanket draped over the back and wrapped it around himself. Philip could sense him glaring, but all that mattered now was his snowflake research.

And now he had someone in the room to share it with.

“Shotaro, did you know that while it’s said that every snowflake is unique, there are actually repeats? The number of snowflakes that have fallen since the Earth first reached a low enough temperature for their formation outnumbers the amount of possible permutations by two orders of magnitude.”

“If I cared about snowflakes I’d be outside in the actual snow,” Shotaro grumbled.

Philip snapped his book shut and turned toward Shotaro in excitement. “It’s snowing?! I need to see this for myself.”

“You’ve seen snow!”

Sure, he had. In fact, the snow he’d seen for the first time just a little more than a week earlier was what had set him on this particular lookup spree. If it was snowing again, he had to get a closer look.

When he entered the office proper, Aki-chan looked up from the paperwork she was filling out. “Philip-kun, do you know anything about—” But he swept right on out the door into the hallway without stopping to hear what she was going to ask.

The snowfall now was far more intense than it had been before. There was already at least three inches piled up on the ground, and the wind whipped the falling snow into flurries. It was incredible! Philip smiled as he held his hands out to catch the falling flakes.

“Jeez, Philip-kun...” Aki-chan came up behind him and draped his jacket over his shoulders. Shotaro followed a moment later with his arms folded and his hands tucked under his armpits.

Philip supposed it must be cold, given the intensity of the precipitation, but all he could feel was a warm glow in his chest as he watched the fluttering snow.

When the office closed, Aki-chan headed home.

“I can’t believe this,” Shotaro grumbled. “She gets to go home where it’s nice and warm and she sticks us with this freezing office! We’re gonna freeze to death, Philip!”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Although Shotaro did have a point. It was colder than Philip had realized now that the sun had set. He wanted to go back outside, but the wind was moving fast enough to knock him over. Winter weather really was amazing.

Fascinatingly enough, he could see his breath in the air. Was it a result of temperature differences? He would have to look into that subject as well.

Shotaro continued to grumble as he changed into his pajamas and climbed into bed. “Jeez! I don’t have enough blankets. I’m gonna steal some of yours, Philip.” And he got right back out of bed and headed for the garage door.

Philip looked up from his book. He stood up from where he was sitting in one of the front section’s chairs and went to grab Shotaro’s arm. “I need those more than you do! It’s colder down there than it is in here.”

“You don’t have to sleep down there, you know,” Shotaro pointed out. He gestured to the chair Philip had just been sitting in.

“Lying on the couch is far more comfortable than sleeping in a chair.”

“You sleep face-down on the floor half the time!”

“That’s different!”

The two partners stood there, glaring at one another, for the better part of a minute. Finally Shotaro relented. “Fine...” He trudged back to the bed and climbed under the covers, curling up into a ball presumably to preserve his own body heat. What a clever trick.

Still, sleeping on the couch in there, in this weather, wasn’t ideal. And surely Shotaro wouldn’t tolerate Philip taking one of his blankets. Philip sighed and leaned against the door. There had to be some solution...

“Wait a moment,” he murmured. There might just be a way to sleep comfortably and be warm.

He slipped his boots, hairclips, and duster off, flipped off the light, and approached Shotaro’s bed. “Shotaro, I have an idea.” He lifted the blankets up and crawled underneath, pausing only when Shotaro flailed and sat up straight.

“What the—”

“We’ll both be warmer this way,” Philip pointed out.

“Well, yeah, but—”

Philip smiled. “Then it’s settled.” He nestled in under the covers and claimed one pillow for himself. “Good night, Shotaro.”

Shotaro looked down at Philip with an odd look on his face. “There’s no way we’re both going to fit.”

“Of course we will.” He tugged on Shotaro’s sleeve and pulled him back down.

Shotaro laid on his side, facing Philip. He was frowning.

“You see? There’s room for both of us,” said Philip. Why had Shotaro assumed there wasn’t?

“Aw, man...” Shotaro snuggled up with the other pillow. “Yeah, yeah. Let’s just get to sleep.”

The warmth emanating from Shotaro lulled Philip into a cozy sleep.

When he woke halfway through the night, he found that he’d tucked his head in between Shotaro’s chin and shoulder to protect his face from the cold as well. Shotaro’s arms were wrapped around him, which also helped, although it probably wasn’t necessary to have one of his hands in his hair. Maybe that was just the most efficient way to position his arms.

The office was dead quiet at this hour. He could hear that the wind outside had died down, too. Maybe he should go outside and get another look at the snow on the ground.

He thought that, but somehow he had no desire to get out of bed right now.

Philip smiled and closed his eyes. Yes, his research could wait until morning.