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Thin Ice

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“Max,” David called, “Come on, don’t stand on the ice, please.” Max met his eyes and took another step forward, so that now both his feet were on the ice.

David panicked. He didn’t want to show Max his fear, but he knew that this was a disaster waiting to happen. Ice had formed on top of a lake that was previously cool but not cold--it had to be thin. And there was no way it would support the weight of a child.

“Max, I mean it,” he said seriously, dropping the thermos of hot chocolate he’d been pouring for Nerris, “get off the lake.”

Max rolled his eyes. “What, I’m just having a little fun. I thought that was the whole point of camp?”

“There’s a year-round indoor ice rink not far from here,” David placated, rushing toward the lake, “I’ll take you.”

Max smirked, taking another few careless steps onto the ice. “That’s not the fun part,” Max said, “the fun part is annoying you.”

Another step backward would see the ice cracking under his feet and David wasting no time in throwing off his shirt and diving in after him as the lake swallowed him whole.

“Max! David!” Gwen shouted, running to the lake and forcing the other campers away.

Max bobbed up first, David’s hands around his waist lifting him up. Rapid, shuddering breaths, laced with curses, were drawn into his lungs as David swam up to the side of the lake and handed him off to Gwen.

“Huddle around him, kids,” she instructed, “get him warm.”

David was struggling to pull himself out of the lake, too. “M-my shirt,” he said through chattering teeth, “take off th-the hoodie--wet.” It wasn’t exactly coherent, but it was enough for Gwen to get what he was trying to convey. She kept one eye on David as he struggled out of the lake and even tried to give him a hand, but he shook his head and looked pointedly at Max, who was soaking wet and quiet despite being touched by all the campers, something that would normally have him in a tizzy.

“Okay, buddy,” she said, surprisingly gently, “we’re gonna get you into something dry.” She lifted Max’s hoodie and shirt over his head and put David’s shirt over him. Ered offered her hat to keep his wet hair from dripping down and soaking his clothes, and she gratefully put that on Max, too.

David had just barely gotten up onto dry land and was still shivering intensely, but clenched his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering as he took control of the situation.

“Let’s g-get him inside,” he instructed, “Mess hall. Heat.”

The penguin-huddle of children walked as an entire mass around Max until they got him inside, then each took off to strip the blankets from their beds and came back as fast as they could, settling them over Max. He was sitting on the bench of one of the tables, still saying nothing but looking displeased and annoyed, which was a start.

David was hovering, making sure with shaky hands that Max was entirely covered in blankets before wordlessly making his way into the kitchen.
Gwen came back through the doors with a warm-but-not-hot waterbottle in her hands. “Open up,” she instructed, and Max unfolded his blanket-wings so that she could press it to his body. “How’re you feelin’, kiddo?” she asked softly, drying his hair with a towel.

“C-cold as shit,” he bit back, “how do you think I’m f-feeling?”

She rolled her eyes. If Max had the energy to be a little shit, he was going to be fine. “David told you not to stand on the ice, but what did your stupid ass do?”

Max pouted. “Stood on the ice,” he admitted, and she nodded disappointedly.

“That’s right, you stood on the ice. And David had to go in and fish you out.” She looked around the room, noticing for the first time that he wasn’t in it. “Speaking of, where is he?”

As if on cue, David came staggering out of the kitchen with a mug full of something steaming. As he walked, his arms trembled so badly that the liquid inside sloshed all over his hands, which had to burn, but he didn’t react. The mug was only half-full when he handed it off to Max.

“Drink,” he instructed, pressing his hand to Max’s cold cheek with a worried look. Max was glaring at him as he knelt, swaying slightly, next to him like some kind of worried mother hen.

“Someone should really be with the other campers,” Gwen admitted reluctantly, “can you handle him?”

Max thought that question would probably be better off directed toward himself, as the hot water bottle and blankets were already beginning to give him some feeling back in his hands and quell the rigors, but David was still shaking like a leaf and looking exhausted.

“I got him,” David said, and the concerned glimmer in Gwen’s eyes showed that she’d heard the slurring of his words just as much as Max had.

“Call me if either of you need anything,” she said, looking at Max. He nodded.

“‘Kay, Max,” David said, turning back to him with a lazily forced smile, “h-how ‘ya feelin?”

Max glowered. “Better than you look,” he said. His tone was still shaky, but at least the stuttering had died down. “You fell in, too. Put on a damn sweater.”

David shook his head. “M’not leavin’ you alone,” he insisted. “B-besides, I’m bigger’n you. I can handle it.”

Max peeled off the outermost layer of his blanket cocoon and tossed it at David, his eyes widening with concern when instead of catching it or even just simply missing, he fumbled with the blanket until managed to get it wedged under his feet and tripped.

“Jesus--David,” Max muttered, “fucking sit down.”

David was already blearily trying to put the blanket back over Max, mumbling “y’dropped this,” over and over, and Max could see that this was going nowhere.

He bit the bullet and told himself that half an hour of suffering would amount to a lifetime of having this to hold over David’s head as “the time he saved his life when he was oh-so-on-the-brink-of-death himself.”

He shoved David into the seat next to him and snaked the blankets around him, then sat down in his lap.

“W-what’re you--”

“Shut up,” Max snapped. “Hypothermia protocol, you’re s-supposed to share body heat. Didn’t you read that s-stupid--God, you’re fucking freezing--the stupid first aid m-manual you gave us?” Max’s own shivering had picked back up sitting in David’s lap, his worryingly icy skin chilling him once more. He shifted so that the heating pad was between David’s stomach and his back.

“David accepted that as enough of an answer, wrapping his chill-bump ridden arms around Max as best he could through the thick layer of blankets.

“I’m gonna match with people on your tindr,” Max said nonchalantly, realizing that David’s phone was in his shirt pocket and therefore hadn’t been soaked.

“Mm’kay,” David agreed sleepily, resting his chin on the top of Max’s head. He took a calming breath and tried to resist the murderous impulses that the motion stirred up as David’s eyes slipped closed and his breathing evened out.

Max wasn’t long for consciousness, either, and really only spent less than ten minutes fucking up David’s love life irrevocably before he drifted off, too, his head against David’s chest.

When Gwen came back in to check on them, she lightly pressed her hands to both of their cheeks and foreheads, finding them still uncomfortably chilled but no longer worrisome. She took out her phone and started snapping pictures.

“David will love this,” she murmured, getting as many angles as she could. “Eat shit, Satan.” With a fond but mischievous smile--she was a sucker for both blackmail and a happy ending--she turned down the lights in the mess hall and left them to sleep.