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Chapter Notes: Written for the schmoop_bingo prompt "Hot cocoa".
Chapter 18 :: International Chocolate Day
By A. Magiluna Stormwriter
++ Dana ++
There are days that I really hate being the first one up around here. And today would be one of them. If Monica wasn't already up. What the hell? She always sleeps in, unless she's got an early teleconference with Agent Hotchner's team or Mrs. Bartlet. And she's not supposed to be having one of those today. So why the hell is she up so early today?
Stretching slowly, I glance to my left and see that the monitor's gone, which means Monica's not down in the office. She'd leave me the monitor to listen for William if that was the case. Curiosity now definitely has me awake. Tossing back the covers, I turn to sit up. That's when I see the note on my nightstand.
Don't panic, William's with me.
When you get up and get this note, get pull your robe on and come join us in the Great Room. Kerry and I are making breakfast for everyone that's here today. There's an emphasis on chocolate in today's meal because it's International Chocolate Day. Zo read about it online and used it to wheedle chocolate out of Kerry for breakfast. And yes, I'm making my infamously decadent hot cocoa. There'll be a cup or two with your name on them.
Hot chocolate was a childhood favorite, especially in the cold winter months, but it was quickly replaced by coffee by the time I was sixteen years old. The need for caffeine to make better use of the day fueled my decision. But it's never a proper Christmas morning without a big mug of hot cocoa with several miniature marshmallows floating and melting in it.
Quickly grabbing for my robe and slippers, I head out of the bedroom, through the apartment, and on into the Great Room. The cacophony of sounds that greets me is nearly enough to bring on one hell of a headache. Monica will pay for this. She knows better than to do something like this before I've had my morning caffeine rush.
Speak of the devil.
Taking a deep breath, I smile and close the door before heading into the room. It takes just a moment to find my son in the crowd that is our extended family. He's sitting happily next to Jimmy and his two moms, but looks up at me and waves.
Monica catches up to me as I near Alex and Olivia's table, but my first priority is my baby boy. I lean over to press a kiss of greeting to the top of William's head. "Good morning, handsome," I say warmly. "Are you being a good boy and eating your breakfast?"
"Uh-huh! Cocoa!" he crows and dips a piece of toast into his hot cocoa before stuffing it into his mouth to chew on.
A quick glance at Alex and Olivia confirms that he's been behaving, and I smile my thanks to them. I can see both of them have a big mug of Monica's cocoa, too. If Alex is giving up her morning caffeine, she must really like it!
Long arms wrap around my waist from behind and the scent of Monica's favorite sandalwood shower gel tickles my nose. Inhaling deeply, I lean back against her for a brief moment before turning to face her. "Good morning, Monica," I murmur, leaning up to press a light kiss to her lips.
"Morning, baby. Sleep well?"
"Definitely, but I'd have been happier to wake up with you, or even know that you had this whole thing planned. You kind of freaked me out, to be honest."
"Sorry about that. Happy International Chocolate Day," she says with a sheepish grin. "Have a seat and I'll bring you some breakfast, okay? I was waiting until you got up to eat. Besides, everyone was clamoring for my hot cocoa."
She nuzzles at my temple in an attempt at forgiveness. And, as usual, it works like a charm. Damn her!
"You're a pain in my ass sometimes," I mutter under my breath and smile when she chuckles knowingly. Sitting down, I scrub at my face with my hands in a further attempt to wake up. The disruption of my normal morning routine is not something that I handle well.
"Bite, Mama?" William's sweet question makes me smile and look up at him. He's holding out a soggy piece of buttered toast stained taupe from the hot cocoa. I know damned well that it's going to be a disgusting, mushy mess, but I get up and dutifully take a bite anyway. The delight in his eyes as I chew the mouthful warms my heart. "More?"
"No, William, one bite's enough. But thank you for offering it. You finish up your breakfast, okay? I'm going to sit over here by Auntie Alex and have my own breakfast when Mami brings it to me."
Chuckling, I take my seat again as Monica shows up with my mug of cocoa. Just the scent of it has my mouth watering. Ever since she first made me a cup on our first night living here at the Ranch, I have been a slobbering fan for her decidedly decadent and spicy concoction. And she has thwarted every single attempt I have made at figuring out her secret ingredients. It has driven me crazy all this time, but eventually I will have it figured out.
"Kerry's got your breakfast cooking right now. She's been playing short order cook all morning, so everyone's had their breakfast nice and hot and tailor made to their preferences."
With a nod, I start to lift my mug up to take a sip, but pause when she starts to walk away. "Mon? You know how long it'll take for the food to be made. Take a break and sit with me?"
She grins and drops into the chair next to me. "I feel like I've been run ragged this morning! That cocoa of mine is a hot ticket today!"
Olivia laughs and lightly shoves at Monica's shoulder. "Well, yeah! You don't make it very often, Monica. What did you expect when we all got that email from Zo, talking about celebrating chocolate for a breakfast that includes your famous hot cocoa?"
Monica shrugs her shoulders sheepishly. "I wasn't thinking?"
"That much is obvious," Alex replies drily as she takes another sip from her mug. "But I will fully forgive you if I can have your recipe."
That makes me laugh loudly. "Oh, that's a good one, Alex! She won't even let me have the recipe, and I sleep with her. What makes you think she's going to give it to you?"
Alex shrugs and arches one elegant eyebrow. "My persuasive argumentative style? My track record as a prosecuting attorney?"
"My undying love? My naked body for her every fantasy?" I retort, arching my own eyebrow at her. "Please! I have made her pass out from ecstasy and she still won't give me the recipe. There's nothing you've got that's going to beat that, Cabot."
Olivia splutters into her own cup at my reply, and I can see Monica's skin growing just the slightest bit duskier. It's only upon seeing her reaction that I realize exactly what I've just said out loud in mixed company. The heat I feel burning my cheeks probably matches Monica's. With a heavy sigh, I pick up my mug and take a healthy gulp.
Oh god. That one gulp is like heaven and hell all rolled up into one fantastic whole. Monica only uses the finest chocolates she can get; Anastasia's connections certainly keep my partner well stocked. I can taste the chicory almost immediately after the chocolate; it's stronger than normal, which means Monica's compensating for my first cup of coffee. A second, more sedate sip reveals the cinnamon and chilies she favors. The third brings the sweetness of agave into the mixture, but I know I'm still missing something elusive.
It doesn't matter what I'm missing from the recipe, what that elusive secret ingredient is. All that matters is that she keeps making this heavenly, sinful concoction for me until the day I die. Savoring another healthy swig of the heady concoction, I set down my mug and lean over to press a kiss to Monica's lips.
"It's not my morning coffee, but it's a good substitute for now," I say softly before kissing her again. "But you owe me a pot of the good stuff later today."
"We'll see," she replies enigmatically.