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Bountiful Gratitude

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Erik had only been in Cobblestone for a little while, but he adjusted rather quickly to the sleepy, pastoral lifestyle of the locals. It was a sharp contrast to his old home, where it was cold and snowy all the time with Mother Nature not being as forgiving. Here, it was pleasant, with warm days and cool nights. It was the winter season here but Erik could relax in this weather without worrying about freezing to death.

It was winter in Cobblestone, the town all well-prepared for the season. The stables were laid with thick blankets and tarp to keep the animals warm as light snow fell down to the ground. The homes in the village were livelier on the inside however as the winter season brought the celebration of Christmas, which was always a joy to see come around. The fieldstone-brick houses were decorated on the outside with natural wreaths and bright red ribbons on the doors and windows. On the inside, lanyards of woven ribbons ran along the tops of walls and candles were lit on the windowsill as well as the mantle. There were even little poinsettias placed in the fir boughs. The fireplace was well-lit with a cast-iron pot of seasonal stew brewing and Amber was at the nearby counter, preparing for the vegetables. The whole house smelled heavenly as dinner was almost ready.

The front door was kneed open and revealed Eleven and Erik, almost exhausted from lugging freshly-cut wood onto the pile for the time being. Amber caught them both and helped them in.

"Is all the wood up?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Good, good. Well supper will be ready in a few minutes, so why don't you both sit by the fire and get warm?"

Amber went back to the counter as the two went to grab some nearby chairs and sit by the blazing ember that was cooking the stew in the cast iron pot. Both were immediately comforted by the warmth of the fire and began to get feeling back to their numb fingers.

"Is Cobblestone always like this around this time of year?"

"Yeah, it's a traditional thing we do."

"It's pretty. We really didn't do stuff like this growing up so it's different. I like it."

"I'm glad," Eleven smiled warmly at him.

"Supper's on, boys! Come wash up quickly."

They both get up and go to the sink to wash their hands and faces, washing the outside dust off. Eleven went first and grabbed both his and Erik's chair, despite the other's gentle protests that he didn't have to do that. Erik followed him to the table, where he was greeted with a heavenly sight.

The table was a beautiful display of colors in the form of succulent meat, warm bread, clean fruit, and steaming vegetables. It honestly looked like something from a dream. Amber usually is the best cook, but she honestly outdid herself this time.

Erik didn't know how to think or respond. All he could do was blink a few times.

This… this couldn't be real.

This had to be a dream.

Yet, here it was.

With hesitant steps to the edge of the table, he gripped the back of his chair and forced himself to sit down, feeling his legs getting wobbly. He tried his hardest to keep his feelings down.

He was NOT going to have an emotional breakdown at the dinner table.

"Can I see your plate, sweet?" Eleven's calm voice snapped him out of it.

"Uh, sure!" Erik quickly gave him his plate hoping his little moment wasn't noticed. Amber and Eleven seemed to be in pleasant conversation and Erik went back to his own little world.

All of his memories of a younger him came flooding back.

Memories of him having to fight and search for food scraps to feed him and Mia in the cold.

Memories of him suffering from hunger in his sleep by giving what little food he had to Mia so that she wouldn’t starve.

Now he was sitting in front of a table with a full plate in front of him, open for the taking.

The sight, the smell...

He couldn't hold back anymore. It was too much.

It was the last straw that broke the camel's back.

Eleven didn't notice Erik until he turned to face him and ask him something only to be greeted with the sight of him staring at his plate with heavy tears rolling down his cheeks. He watched as Erik tried to hold back what little emotional dams he had left, letting out soft whimpers. Erik’s face scrunched up and his eyes widened as Erik dropped his head into his hands, sobbing his eyes out.

Eleven couldn’t remember the last time he cried this hard, not even with Mia.

“E-Erik? What wrong!?” Eleven asked, incredibly worried at his partner who crying heavily at the table next to him. He got out of his chair to comfort him until he heard something faint.

“... Thank you…”

Eleven leaned a little closer to hear what he said.

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you…”

Oh.

Oh.

“Oh sweet, come here,” Eleven soothed, getting up and pulling Erik into a comforting hug, feeling his wet face on his shoulder. It still broke his heart that someone so sweet was treated that horribly at such a young age to the point that even something simple as a nice meal would cause him to break down and have an emotional crisis.

“Just take your time, it’s okay.”

Erik took a moment to calm himself down and breathe. His hugs were so warm and soothing and Erik felt comforted.

"Is everything alright Erik?" Amber asked him gently, meeting the two of them where they were.

"Y-Yes ma'am. It all looked really nice and I just got overwhelmed s'all."

"Well, you don't even have to ask dear, everything here is for you as well. You will always have a place at our table. Now I imagine you're hungry so let's get back to it and dig in, okay?"

Erik nodded happily, scrubbing the last bit of tears from his eyes before Eleven gently escorted him back to the table and back to his seat.

Sweet Goddess, everything they did was soft. It wasn't hard to see where Eleven got that trait from, even if he was adopted.

Erik took his fork and stabbed it into a piece of chicken. Taking his knife, he easily cut through it to reveal white, juicy meat. He took a bite and almost had to slap himself out of a stupor because holy shit that was good.

Eleven couldn't help but smile at him eating with fervor and downing every bite. He was almost tempted to tell him to slow down but he didn't think that would be enough to convince him. Plus his chipmunk cheeks were adorable.

In all their days together, he would make sure that Erik would never have to worry about an empty stomach ever again.

"Everything come out okay?” Amber asked, though she already figured out the answer.

Both boys nodded excitedly and got back to it.

Amber was more than happy to welcome the blue-haired siblings into her home and seeing her son happy with him left her content as well. Despite what Erik may have been, he really was a sweet young man who always helped around the house and kept Eleven in line even though her son was good as he was. It did hurt her heart that they were raised under cruel circumstances, but her maternal instincts kicked in stronger than before, and was determined to let the rest of their lives be happy and support them as much as she can. After all, she adopted her son and he was the exact same way with him, taking care of him and whatnot.

“Erik, do want some more meat?”

“Yeah, some chicken please.”

So Eleven filled his plate accordingly and watched him enjoy a second helping, "put some healthy weight on his bones" according to Amber. His mom must be having a ball having another mouth to feed and care for; she always liked helping other people.

Dinner in short ended a happier affair.

Later that evening

"You warm enough?"

"Yeah, with you next to me."

"Good," Eleven gave him a smile as Erik snuggled up next to him under the heavy wool blanket. Erik felt an arm wrap around his back and rubbing it affectionately.

"The scarf is also nice by the way. It smells like you and it's warm."

"I'm glad, It looks cute on you. You didn't have to steal that ring though, as nice as it is."

"Awwww com'on. You know I'm still a bit of an old thief at heart but also that I would steal anything for you."

"Yeah, you would."

He heard Erik snort under him and gently kissed in his hair. It was wonderful to see him all warm and full from supper, getting tucked in for the night. Erik would never have to worry about anything ever again if him and his mom could help it.

It wasn't long before sleep crept in and Eleven watched as Erik's eyes began to flutter closed. Soon the only thing he could hear was soft breathing coming from his partner lying on his chest and blissfully passed out. Eleven joined not long after.