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Ward Off the Chill

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Bruce blinks. “Hot chocolate confuses you?”

“I do not understand why anyone would want to consume their chocolate heated,” Thor responds. “It’s perfectly fine as a hard or soft sweet.”

“Have you ever had it?”

“Darcy gave me some the last time I visited with her and Jane.”

“Okay, well, I’m pretty sure she makes it from a packet with water.” Bruce looks past Thor to Brunnhilde snugged into the corner of the couch, feet tucked under Thor’s thigh. “Have you ever had hot chocolate?”

She frowns, thinking about it. “There was a drink on Sakaar that had a chocolate flavoring, but I doubt that’s what you’re talking about.” She explains after a second, “It was cold and had booze in it.”

Bruce and Thor share looks. Bruce sighs. “Well. It’s snowing, I want hot chocolate, and I’m going to make it right. I’d like both of you to try it.”

Brunnhilde shrugs. “Sure.”

Thor nods. “I am up for trying most things at least once.”

He smiles. “Thanks. I’m going to go make some, then.” He levers himself off of the couch and heads to the communal kitchen. It’s still early in the afternoon, but winter is already stealing the sun. It makes everything outside the big windows of the Avengers compound glow warm, blanketed in snow.

Bruce is grateful for Tony’s expensive tastes when it comes to chocolate. He finds bars of rich dark chocolate in one of the cupboards, and pulls a few out. He also gathers a jar of vanilla beans, sugar, and cinnamon. He’s not sure if he’ll add the cinnamon to the main batch, but he does like to have a sprinkle on his chocolate.

From the fridge he retrieves milk, and is happy to find heavy cream left over from Wanda and Vision’s last cooking experiment. Measuring cups and spoons are next on his list, as well as two saucepans and a glass bowl.

He carefully measures several cups of milk and heavy cream, cuts open a vanilla bean and scrapes out the seeds. He adds a couple tablespoons of sugar, the vanilla insides and bean, and the dairy to one of the pots and sets it on the nearest burner on the stove. Bruce sets the heat to low, and turns his attention to the bars of chocolate on the counter as the milk mixture slowly warms.

“Damn.” He forgot a cutting board. At least it’s easy to find one; the kitchen is well stocked and very well organized. He unwraps two of the bars and begins chopping them into chunks that will melt easily. He fills the other pot with a little over an inch of water and scoops the chocolate into the bowl. He waits until the milk mixture has just begun to bubble before trading that pan for the one with water in it.

Turning the burner heat up just a little, he lets it come to a simmer while turning his attention on the milk mixture. He uses a pair of tongs to fish out the vanilla bean, discarding it. When the water gets to a consistent simmer, Bruce takes the bowl of chocolate and sets it on top of the pan. He’s pleased to see that he picked a good bowl without having tested its fit on the pan - it sits above the water in the pan perfectly.

The chocolate takes a while to melt, coaxed along by his silicone spoonula, but it’s worth it when it smoothes out. He switches the pans again, gives the milk mixture a quick stir and slowly incorporates the chocolate into the milk. He swaps his spoonula for a whisk to really get the milk to accept the chocolate. He hums as he goes, pleased by the warm chocolate smell filling the kitchen. He wishes that he’d planned ahead and either made his own marshmallows or bought some; there might be a bag in the pantry, but he doesn’t care enough to seek it out.

Instead, Bruce adds a pinch of salt to the hot chocolate and stirs it before letting it slowly heat. He turns his attention to the remaining heavy cream, and the whisk, and the sugar still on the table. Sweetened whipped cream will definitely be a good addition to cut some of the richness of the chocolate. By the time he’s gotten the cream beaten into submission and nice just-shy-of-stiff peaks, the smell of the hot chocolate has drawn the Asgardians into the kitchen.

“That smells…”

“Delicious,” Brunnhilde finishes.

The Asgardians bracket Bruce, a half step back from the stove and counter as he gives the chocolate a good stir with his spoonula. “Tastes good, too,” he assures. “Just another minute or so. Can one of you grab mugs?” He waves in the direction of the cabinet.

Thor peels away to grab them, and they look small in his hands despite nearly being soup cups. He sets them carefully on the counter, nudging Bruce and Brunnhilde affectionately as he goes. “Anything I can do to help?”

Bruce shakes his head. “Nah.”

Brunnhilde sticks a curious finger into the whipped cream. She gives it a sniff before shoving her finger into her mouth. “Oh, this is good.” She pulls her finger away with a pop.

“Glad you approve,” Bruce returns with a little laugh. “This is almost ready. Can you grab a ladle from the drawer?”

She has to step away to find it, and she fits herself in front of Thor after she hands it over. She smiles when Thor wraps an arm around her and pulls her a little closer. Together they watch Bruce evenly fill the mugs, and add a dollop of whipped cream to the top.

Bruce dusts cinnamon across to top of his own cup, and turns the heat off on the stove. “Alright. Give it a try. It’s hot, so be careful.” He looks at them. “Not that liquid temperature really gets to you guys.”

Brunnhilde picks up a mug first, though Thor’s not far behind. She lifts it with both hands, and hums as the warmth works its way through her palms. She gives it a sniff, and she can’t hold back the soft appreciative sound she makes. “Really does smell good,” she says before bringing the mug to her lips. The sound she makes as she takes a sip is nearly pornographic.

Thor raises an eyebrow, and he wants to laugh at her reaction until he takes a drink of his own. The liquid is warm - not hot enough to burn despite Bruce’s warning - and rich. The chocolate coats his tongue, dark and just the right amount of sweet. “This is very good!”

Bruce has already drank half of his by the time Thor says it, and he just knows he’s got a whipped cream moustache. “I told you. Hot chocolate in winter is the best thing.”

“I suppose you’re right,” she says, and moves closer to Bruce. “Can we go back to the couch now?”

“With the rest of the heated chocolate,” Thor adds.

He grins. “Let me pour the rest into a thermos.” He waves them away with one hand, and sets his mug down with the other. He has to look through a couple different cabinets before he finds what he’s looking for, and then spends almost a full, frustrating minute pouring the hot chocolate from the pan into it.

They’re on the couch, Brunnhilde against her favored corner, and Thor almost a full cushion away. They both pat the space between them when Bruce comes back from the kitchen. He smiles, warmth that has nothing to do with the hot chocolate filling him up, puts the thermos on the coffee table, and settles into the space they left for him.

Brunnhilde immediately wiggles her toes under his thigh, laughing as he squirms. Thor lifts his arm, resting it along the back of the couch until Bruce leans into his side, and then he settles it around Bruce’s shoulders.

The movie starts again, some comedy that Tony had recommended. The three of them don’t pay it much  attention, more intent on cuddling together in the warm-but-not-warm-enough living room.