“I’ve never built a snowman before in my life,” Jon says flatly.
“No wonder you’re so uptight.” Elias grins and leans in to kiss his cheek, lips frosty and red amid the gently falling snowflakes. “Relax a little, Jon, you deserve it.”
Jon rolls his eyes. As pretty as Elias is, no human was ever meant to be this cold. When he’d tried to cancel, Elias had insisted anyway, showing up and ringing his doorbell until Jon shut his book so hard it spooked the cat.
“Good morning,” he’d said, holding out a hat and a self-satisfied smile, “I brought this along in case you didn’t have one.”
Jon hadn’t, but he did have a scarf, which he pulled up under pretense of being cold. Really he meant to hide the blush spreading across his neck from the idea that Elias had thought of him at all, much less guessed his winter attire (or lack thereof).
The hat smelled like him. Woodsy, a touch of citrus and whispered secrets, safe in ways that dating his boss shouldn’t feel.
He tugs on it now, his fingers warm in Elias’s hand, wondering how in the world his life has gotten quite so absurd.
“So you’re telling me you have built a snowman?”
“In a manner of speaking. I had a… rowdy childhood,” Elias replies.
Jon pauses mid-kick at his (frankly impressive) ball of snow that’s apparently supposed to make up the snowman’s lower body. Elias deftly avoids all questions about his past, so to bring it up freely?
“Rowdy how, exactly?”
Elias is smiling to himself as he rolls his own snowball, far enough away to be oblivious to Jon’s confusion, leaning over the snow with a graceful, gloved hand. He turns toward Jon at the question, and his eyebrows raise instantly.
“Jon. Why are you dragging it through branches and dirt?”
Jon coughs. “Structural integrity?”
He rolls his eyes at Jon’s paltry defense and starts back towards him. There’s a slight flush on Elias’s cheeks from the cold, his eyelashes and boyish fringe dotted with snowflakes, deep green eyes framing dimples that make him look far younger than his years.
Is this what it’s like to want to kiss someone?
Jon doesn’t have much time to contemplate the question before he’s being barreled into, forced to confront his own distinct lack of structural integrity.
“Elias!” he shouts, as the unceremonious shove launches him straight towards the knotted bark of an oak tree. He only manages to avoid hitting it by skidding the heels of his trainers into the dirt. That goes about as well as it should have, and Jon collapses into a pile in the snow.
“You’ve lost your snowman-making privileges,” Elias says without sympathy, starting about on an entirely new pile of snow. “For intentional sabotage.”
Jon seethes as he brushes dirt off his coat and trousers. Two can play at this game.
“I may have done an illicit drug or two,” Elias admits when Jon badgers him about his past.
Jon has been relegated to branch collector for Mr. Snowman’s limbs, which suits him just fine, because it allows him to occasionally duck behind a tree and deposit snowballs to his secret arsenal.
Elias shrugs as Jon returns to his side. “Shrooms, on occasion. Cocaine. Weed was a favourite among my friends.”
The idea of Elias Bouchard, immaculately-dressed Head of the Magnus Institute, never a hair or penstroke out of place, high as a kite, must break some sort of law of the universe. Jon laughs, unable to kick the image of a blissed-out Elias, lying on the couch draped over his friends, spouting nonsense about pink-nosed elephants.
“You judge, but you deny many life experiences this way, Jon.”
“I’m not judging,” Jon says quickly, looking away as Elias meets his eyes. “I-I… I’m actually —” he clears his throat, twirls the branch in his hand. “What was it like?”
Elias smiles and leans close to him, lifting a hand to press lightly over his fingers on the branch. “Would you like to try?”
“No,” Jon says, barely louder than a whisper. He just needed a little more information, that’s all. Besides, doing it with Elias, of all people —
Elias’s gaze travels over him, up and down, just once, before he turns away to fuss over packing the snowman’s stomach. Jon lets out his breath and resists the impulse to chase his touch. The way Elias looks at him — he never knows how to interpret it, but it always sends him into a dizzy haze.
“No? I’ve done drugs with people on much earlier than a third date, you know.”
The corner of Elias’s lips turns upward, but he’s still concentrating on the snowman. “Sorry?
“Next one. Would be four.”
Elias finally looks at him, his hand still casual on the snowman, his expression almost mocking. “You’re right. Forgive me. My memory these days leaves something to be desired.”
Jon’s head still buzzes with the implications of much earlier than a third date. It’s making nonsense come out of his mouth, and Elias has the audacity to be amused by this. He’s really got to keep it together.
At the same time, what else had Elias done… what else was he failing at eliciting from this man?
“Are you all right, Jon?” Elias has turned fully towards him now, and his arm is raised as if to brush a lock of hair behind his ear, but he holds it there, as if waiting for permission. “I haven’t upset you, have I?”
“What about kissing?” Jon blurts.
He promptly kicks himself. Why wasn’t there an undo button for a sentence?
“Before the fourth date?” Elias smiles again, widely this time, his dimples drawing Jon’s attention into him effortlessly. In answer, Jon just stares at him, his brain short-circuited in a strange combination of breathlessness and self-loathing.
Elias finally moves his hand up to Jon’s collar, brushing away a light dusting of snow. “Is that something you’re interested in?”
“Nominally,” Jon breathes.
It was a poor attempt to pick up the pieces of his dignity, but he lets his eyes flutter closed anyway. Lets himself imagine those fingers coaxing his lips to part, replaced by hot breath against his mouth that he can’t help but sink into amongst the cold. Would he be soft? Would he let Jon kiss his neck, too, maybe whimper a little at the touch?
“Hm. That’s a shame.”
It’s not until Elias withdraws his hand and turns away, musing, I’m not surprised, though, you didn’t strike me as the type, that Jon remembers he meant to pummel him with snowballs.
His opportunity comes soon after.
They’ve successfully heaved each of the pieces on top of one another, and even found particularly shiny black rocks to serve as buttons on the snowman’s suit. He’s a professional, after all.
Jon volunteers to search around for a pinecone, insisting it would make a cute nose, while Elias stays behind, hand to his chin, mulling over how to fashion glasses out of sticks (“It has to be an intelligent snowman, Jon”).
Grinning, Jon returns to his secret tree, ducking under the cover of a bush near its trunk.
He lobs the first projectile directly at Elias’s back.
Elias yelps in surprise and swivels around in the direction of the tree, but Jon is already behind another one, cackling and prepared to strike with another.
He’s rewarded for this action with a faceful of hard snow, impacted conveniently over his mouth so he can’t well ask how the hell did you find me so quickly?
Elias is after him then, running with unfairly long legs, and Jon swipes uselessly at the snow on his face with his free arm. But what Jon lacks in speed, he makes up for in ammo; he pelts Elias two, three times for each blow from Elias, too slowed by the inefficiency of stooping and rolling each snowball.
Elias growls at him, gaining on Jon as his snowball repertory grows thin. If he could just make it back around to the tree, he could reload — maybe dash behind some children nearby, Elias wouldn’t hit them —
Then he trips. Over an exposed tree root.
As he goes flying into the snow, Elias collapses into laughter, giggling his name in a way that would make Jon blush if he weren’t entirely occupied.
“Are you all right?”
Jon doesn’t move, even though the snow is biting cold against his face and neck and hands. It’s preferable to die than to face the fact that he’s just lost a snowball battle against his boss because he was too much of a moron to watch where his feet were going.
“Jon?” Elias repeats, kneeling next to him as far as Jon can tell. “Earth to Jon —”
In a last ditch, he leaps up to tackle Elias, bringing a shower of snow with him. Elias protests but goes down, pinned under Jon’s body, both of them breathless, although Jon probably significantly more red-faced and shivering.
“I thought you were hurt, you little —”
He doesn’t let Elias finish before he pulls him down into a kiss, soaked to the bone in snow and dirt but more exhilarated than he can remember being in the last four years. Elias’s lips are burning hot, and the little gasp he makes lures Jon to clutch him closer by the collar, driven both by desire and pettiness. Elias smiles against his mouth and shifts on top of him, nibbles along his lower lip in answer, before pulling away — much, much too soon.
“I’m not hurt anymore,” Jon whispers, and Elias smacks him over the head, and they collapse over each other, laughing until the snow swirls around them into a silly little world of their own.
On account of being very cold, Elias convinces Jon to come home with him. It doesn’t really occur to him until later that he could just as easily warm up in his own home, but when Elias sets him down in front of the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate and dry clothes that smell like him, Jon can’t exactly complain.
Elias putzes about while Jon shivers, his body still in shock despite best efforts to the contrary. He lifts the mug to his mouth, pointedly not thinking about how the warmth of it feels like Elias, how he could have all of it in the world and still not feel like it was enough.
Finally, Elias sits down beside him, a patchwork quilt draped over his shoulders.
“Come here,” he whispers, lifting his arm to invite Jon under the quilt, and he goes, nestling into Elias’s body with a little sigh.
They remain like that for a while, Jon’s head tucked into Elias’s shoulder, attuned to every rise and fall of his chest and to every spark and crackle of the fire as it warms the ice from their cheeks. It feels so good, so right, that Jon isn’t conscious of his arms wrapping around Elias’s waist, of the muted, content little sounds escaping his lips, until it’s rather too late to take it back.
“Did you have a nice time today?” Elias asks, his fingers soft around Jon’s arm.
“Mm,” Jon murmurs. “Apparently you can be fun."
“And apparently you can be lovely.”
“I am not lovely,” Jon says, setting his mug down and preparing to fight for it. “You haven’t seen what I can do.”
“Record statements and catalogue files? Ooh, how frightening.”
Jon shoves him, but Elias is prepared and shoves back, so hard that he tips over. Apparently having not accounted for this, Elias goes too, tangled up with him in the blanket. Jon huffs and kicks his legs to escape among Elias’s breathless laughter, but with Elias’s body pressed over him, he can’t say he’s trying very hard.
With a single glance, Elias stops laughing, and he takes a soft breath as his fingers brush along Jon’s neck, up and along his jaw. Jon mirrors his breath but holds it, pinned by the intensity of his eyes, by the fluttering of his pulse against Jon’s skin.
Elias glances down at his lips, cheeks slightly flushed and glowing in the firelight, and it engulfs him all at once how strikingly beautiful this man is, how wondrous it is that he would choose to spend this day with him. Jon grasps at words but they escape him, lost to infinite space.
To close his eyes is the most natural thing in the world.
“Happy Valentine’s, Jon,” Elias whispers against his mouth, and when the whisper melts into a kiss, Jon knows: he is head over heels in love with Elias Bouchard.