“If you’re going to do this, you’d better do it right,” Erik groused. “This is a matter of utmost importance. You. Can. Not. Microwave. Hot. Chocolate.”
“Surely it doesn’t matter how you heat the water. It’ll taste the same.” Charles couldn’t help but chuckle at Erik’s scandalized expression.
“Water? Charles… Just no. This is why I don’t let you cook.”
“It’s not even cooking, Erik.”
“Right. If you can’t do this, just imagine what you’d do to a meal!”
Charles swatted at his shoulder indignantly. “Really, Erik!”
“Really. Let me show you how it’s done. First of all, you don’t use microwaves or water. You heat milk in a saucepan. Hand me that one, will you? Thanks. Right, now listen very carefully to what I’m about to tell you. This powdery shit is an abomination. Hot chocolate should be made with actual chocolate.”
“An abomination?” Charles echoed, coming to stand behind Erik and wrapping his arms around his waist. “Isn’t that a bit extreme?”
“Not in the least.”
“Well, thank goodness I have you to save me from my dreadful ways.”
For a while, they simply stayed together in the hush of the kitchen. Erik bustled to and fro, picking out ingredients and tutting under his breath when he discovered the particularly heinous dearth of unsweetened chocolate in the cabinet. In the end, he grudgingly decided he could make to with cocoa powder. “Just this once, though.” After stirring in the cocoa powder and sugar, Erik held the spoon out to Charles. “Taste.”
“Mmm. It’s more on the bitter side than the mix is, but it’s good that way. More subtle and complicated. Very you.”
“Charles, you’re approaching saccharinity.”
“You say that as though it’s a criticism, but I know you’ve got a soft spot for all things sweet.”
In hindsight, Charles thought, it might have been a bad idea to let Erik start a snowball fight. It wasn’t that Erik was unenthusiastic or awkward around Charles’ charges. (This had been a problem with Charles’ few prior paramours, and running a boarding school for young mutants hadn’t really done wonders for Charles’ love life in general.) Sure, when Hank and Alex got into a fight, Erik would complain about the racket. Yes, Erik had certainly scowled when Raven convinced Sean to watch The Grudge and his screaming resulted in a broken window. Despite this, however, Erik was really quite good with the teenagers. If anything, the problem was that he was prone to bouts of uncontrolled zeal.
From across the sprawling lawn of the mansion, Charles could hear Erik’s voice as he rallied his troops for battle. Under Erik’s command, Janos, Az, Angel, and Raven (who claimed to be seeking asylum from her older brother’s tyrannical reign) had managed to erect a rather spectacular snow fort, and no doubt Erik was now debriefing them on his plan of attack.
Charles’ own team (which was comprised of Alex, Sean, Armando, and Hank) wasn’t fairing quite as well. The boys were nothing if not eager, but nothing seemed to be going according to plan. When Charles heard a sharp intake of breath behind him, he turned away from the sight of Erik’s fort, only to see his own collapsing in on itself. Immediately, he joined his team’s effort to rescue Sean from the wreckage.
“How did this happen?” he enquired, once they’d unearthed the boy.
“We were almost done building,” Alex explained, “But then Sean decided to give it a skylight.”
“His attempt to do so rendered the whole thing structurally unsound,” Hank added grimly.
Charles nodded and began to evaluate the damage. “Right. Well, no matter. We can rebuild it.”
“No time,” Armando countered. “We’d be better off just digging a trench at this point. They’re bound to start the attack at any minute.”
“When I agreed to this snowball fight, I did say stipulate that both teams would be allowed adequate time to build strongholds.”
“Yeah,” Sean piped up, “But since when does Erik play by the rules?”
Sure enough, they were under attack before they even had time to dig a ditch. Erik was the first to fire, his snowball striking Charles’ lower back. Charles yelped in surprise.
<<All is fair in love and war, right?>> came the projected reply. Erik’s voice was all glinting feigned innocence, even in Charles’ head.
“Take cover!” Alex called, just before Az appeared behind him and shoved a handful of snow into his hair. Hank boosted Sean into the lowest branch of a particularly tall tree, and Sean climbed to the top before diving down, catching himself with a shriek, and soaring up to pelt Erik’s team from above.
“Status report, Beast!” Armando called.
“Reporting! Banshee is in position!”
Charles barely had time to duck behind a tree before Raven took aim at him. “Alas! Betrayed by my own kin!”
Hank grinned at him. “Don’t worry, Professor; we’ll champion your cause!”
It’d been a long, lovely day, and now he was curled up under the covers and Erik was poking the fire in the fireplace.
“Leave it,” Charles muttered sleepily. “Come to bed.”
“Charles, it’s freezing in here.”
“No, ‘s not.”
“C’mere. I’ll keep you warm.”
Erik smirked at the corniness of the line, but admitted defeat and got into bed. Charles wound around him at once and nuzzled at his neck, satisfied to breathe in the scent of his hair and revel in their shared warmth. Erik made a content, quiet noise and pressed back into the contact. It never ceased to amaze Charles that the two of them fit together so well, nestled so comfortably. >
“You don’t really believe in destiny, do you?”
“Maybe I do.”
Erik scoffed. “And here I thought you were a man of science. How disappointing.” Despite the cold words, he took Charles’ hand between his own, then brought it to his lips. “I don’t know how you can believe in these notions. They just don’t hold up.”
“I can’t help but doubt, but I like that you believe, and I like how I feel when I’m with you, and that’s good enough for me.”
Charles’ grin was hidden in Erik’s hair, but Erik could still feel it there.
Charles drifted off to sleep, <<perfect,>> <<safe,>> and <<soft>> brushing up against his mind and humming in his heart.