“Sorry, love, it’s not exactly festive…”
“It is,” Fitz said obstinately, blue eyes flicking between the three of them one by one. “I added a Santa hat.” He held up the metal cookie cutter for all of them to see—sure enough, the bent piece of scrap metal he’d been working at with pliers for the last hour was fastened to the top of it in the shape of a lopsided Santa hat, complete with droopy white puffball on top. “Monkeys in Santa hats are festive.”
The timer went off on the microwave, and Bobbi dodged around him to throw on a mitt and pull open the door to the oven, grabbing the metal sheet and placing it on top of the stove. The buttery scent of freshly baked sugar cookies wafted through the air. “Next batch?” she asked, looking back at them.
“Already done, Bob,” Hunter held up his hands.
“Don’t rush me,” Fitz grumbled, meticulously adding another Santa-hatted monkey to the empty sheet in front of him.
“Haven’t started,” Jemma murmured from where she was weighing exact measurements of flour on a food scale at the far end of the counter and contemplating the ball of dough in front of her with an adorable expression of utter concentration.
Bobbi sighed, closing the oven again and swiftly filling another sheet with cut-outs of candy canes, Christmas trees, stars, and—“Who has the reindeer cutter?” she asked.
Something metallic and sharp came flying at her head courtesy of Hunter, and she snatched it deftly out of the air. “I love you too,” she deadpanned, then looked down at it. “Wait, no, not this one, the good reindeer cutter—”
“Oi, that thing makes perfectly fine deer!”
“The legs are too thin,” Bobbi said.
“Excuse me, did you just skinny-shame my deer?”
“They always break off!”
“It is a structural integrity issue,” Jemma said, cutting into the bickering.
“Thank you,” Bobbi said, pulling her in for a quick kiss.
“Bribery,” Hunter scoffed.
She lifted an eyebrow. “Well, come to my side, and I’d be willing to bribe you too…”
Fitz glanced up, ignoring Bobbi and Hunter’s heated stares—half challenge and half eye-fucking, though Bobbi knew if it turned to actual fucking, he’d be first to join in—to laser-focus on Jemma. “Structural integrity?” Before Bobbi quite knew what had happened, the deer cookie cutter was in his hands, turning over as he examined it. “I could probably fix that…”
Sending Bobbi one last burning mock-glare, Hunter broke eye contact to snatch it away from him, cradling it protectively. “Don’t ruin art, Fitz.”
“Legless deer,” Bobbi said, quirking her eyebrow at Jemma. “Art.” She cut a last few candy canes out of the dough to fill up her sheet instead, then hurried to slide it into the oven. She glanced at the clock, then back at her partners. “All right, we should pick up the pace, Mack and Elena’s party is at six, and we’re supposed to be bringing at least six dozen of these, frosted…”
Fitz just passed her a tray of raw monkey-shaped cookies—er, biscuits, as Bobbi was currently (constantly) outnumbered by Brits and Scot at the moment (always). “As a fellow biochemist, you should know you can’t rush science,” Jemma replied primly.
“No problem over here,” Hunter said with a lazy grin, the type that after all these years made Bobbi very, very nervous.
“You do know that it’s not a competition, right? And that if it was, it’s definitely not one based on speed? They have to actually be…” She made a face. “…edible.”
“They are edible!” he defended. “And if you didn’t want it to be a competition, Bob, you shouldn’t have let us each do our own batches.”
“Baking is basically just chemistry,” Jemma said. She turned to Hunter, an innocent smile on her face. “What did you get in Chem class, Hunter?”
“Oh, sod off,” he grumbled, and she stood up on her tiptoes to kiss the pout off his face.
“Baking’s about being adventurous. Recipes can always be improved, just like tech, right, Fitz?”
She grinned mischievously, burying her hands back in a bowl in a dough and resuming kneading it. “You’re just not adventurous enough.”
“I learned what rocky mountain oysters are for you, and if that’s not true love I don’t know what is,” Hunter sighed. At the very mention of the food from Jemma’s birthday trip the year before—“it’s all part of the experience, trying exotic food!”—Fitz blanched, shaking his head.
“You liked it before Bobbi told you what it was,” Jemma said, spying his nauseated expression.
“I do not need to be reminded of that while baking biscuits…”
The timer beeped again, and Bobbi slid another tray of cookies out of the oven, swapping it for yet another of Fitz’s monkeys. She checked the time. “Two hours, everyone. Sorry, Jemma, we might not get to frosting yours today and bring them to Daisy and Lincoln’s thing tomorrow instead—”
“Done!” Hunter announced proudly, cutting her off.
“What do you mean ‘done’?” Fitz asked, frowning.
Hunter turned around from his station on the other side of the kitchen from Bobbi, brandishing a completed tray of frosted cookies, complete with sprinkles. “Read it and weep, mate.”
“If I’m weeping, it will be for an entirely different reason…”
“Bobbi, you better come look at this…” Jemma said cautiously.
“What the bloody hell.”
Washing her hands quickly at the sink, Bobbi walked over with a feeling of excited dread tingling in her stomach. Upon closer inspection, what had looked like frosting and sprinkles from across the room… Oh, Fitz was right, what the bloody hell…
Her eyes tried to make sense of the mess she was seeing, lumpy red, green, and white spread around with all the finesse of a cat dragging its tail through paint. She identified the problem quickly—Hunter had evidently tried to frost his while the cookies were still too hot, resulting in icing that was gooey and melted and oozing everywhere—but that understanding did nothing to prevent the incredulous, horrified laughter bubbling up in her throat.
Fitz picked one up, holding it gingerly between two fingers. Some of the frosting dripped off its antlers, and as they watched, one of the legs, overburdened by frosting, broke off and fell back onto the tray.
“Oi! You’re injuring my deer!”
“Why is its head red,” Fitz demanded. “It looks…murdered.”
“Bloodily,” Bobbi agreed, trying and failing to keep her voice studiously neutral.
“It’s not RED, it’s just his NOSE, because he’s RUDOLPH, see?” Hunter said, taking the cookie from Fitz and cradling it with the care of someone holding a newborn baby. There was a pause in which Jemma, Fitz, and Bobbi all looked at each other, lips twitching.
“Well, that is one kind of adventurous,” Jemma offered finally, and the fond smile she gave Hunter as she said it made Bobbi’s toes curl in her Baby Yoda socks. “Here, I think we can do a little bit of surgery to fix that deer right up…it’ll be just like grafting a tree…”
“It wasn’t a competition but Hunter still loses,” Fitz said, sighing and pulling the man in question for a quick, chaste kiss. “…I’ll whip up a thicker frosting, maybe make a splint we can use while it sets…” He puttered off to his own workstation, mental calculations already running behind the eyes.
“Bob? Gonna help?” Hunter asked, and with a jolt she realized she was still standing there with what was probably a dopey smile on her face, though she would murder anyone who called it that.
“You’re all idiots but I love you anyways,” Bobbi said in reply, knowing the words could never properly convey the warm feeling deep in her chest. “Now come on, one deer surgery and then we really do need to make some, ah, presentable ones for the party.” She crossed to the pantry to grab some more powdered sugar for the frosting, bumping Hunter’s hip with her own as she passed him. “You did that on purpose so you could just eat them, didn’t you?”
Hunter winked, a smudge of frosting visible at the corner of his lips. “Well, they are edible, as I believe was the criteria.”
“Lancelot Amadeus Ravenclaw Hunter…!”
“You utter wanker…”