"I never need an excuse to flirt, but I am a complete sucker for candy puns."
<XAV> Back Patio - Xs Grounds
This patio is expertly laid out for relaxing singly or in groups. The section nearest the back door is a more or less conventional veranda, the mansion's eaves--supported by elegant white wooden columns joined with matching railings--extending out to shelter the long porch swings, rocking chairs, and a chess table from the elements. Down the stairs or the ramp from this is a fan-shaped expanse of slate flagstones populated by clusters of deck chairs and picnic tables, always changing in number and arrangement, and stone planter boxes bursting with seasonal flowers and ornamentals. The centerpiece is an elegant pavilion with a hot tub open for use year-round, even if the transition in and out may prove chilly in snowy weather.
The afternoon sky is clear, the sun's light glittering bright and stark on a world still limned with a blanket of snow. Classes have finished some little while ago and lunch is still ongoing; with the chill of the day and the grounds frosted over there aren't many people lingering outside. There is, however, currently one large fluffy tricolored dog bounding up from the gardens, an ice- and drool-crusted knobbly rubber stick in Ratri's mouth and her tail flagging high and cheerful as she bounds out of the snow and onto the neatly shoveled and salted patio.
Dogless himself today, Matt is leaning against the back porch railing with a slim silver thermos in one ungloved hand. Despite the frigid temperature, he's not bothered with fetching his coat, though at least he's sporting a sweater this casual Friday--a lush ruby red that makes him look much paler than he actually is, anymore--blue jeans, deep-treaded gray hiking boots, a Montréal Canadiens toque, and a gray-black striped scarf. "Why, hello sweet pup!" The lilt in his soft voice is more pronounced than usual when he greets the dog. He descends the stairs and scruffs at Ratri's ears. "Have you given your lady the slip? Or is she in need of rescue?"
Ratri greets Matt with exuberance, her not inconsiderable weight leaning up against his legs and her tail swishing harder. There's an indecisive wriggly moment where she tries pushing her slimy toy into his hand and also turning her head to get better scritches before she gives up this futile attempt, drops the rubber stick and instead slurps at his fingers.
By this time there's a new splash of color against the wintry backdrop. Maya is in a hip-length magenta puffer coat that strikes a lively contrast to the soft folds of the her marigold circle scarf, plain black gloves, and dark blue jeans decorated with a sprinkling of colorfully embroidered flowers along the outseams, their cuffs tucked into black snow boots with pink faux-fur cuffs. Her dusky cheeks have taken on a ruddier tint, perhaps from the cold or perhaps exertion as she stumble-puffs up over the hill after her rogue pup. "Oh!" She's still catching her breath, a puff of laughter crystallizing in front of her. "She took off after a squirrel but instead caught --" She smiles bright as she closes the rest of the distance to Matt and the dog, one hand dropping to rub at Ratri's head as well.
Ratri's frantic indecision draws a bright smile from Matt, and he rewards her with a vigorous scritching under her somewhat icy chin, as well. He looks up as Maya approaches, smiling even wider. "Whatever did she mean to do with the squirrel once she caught it, with her mouth already occupied?" A shift in his intonation signals he's addressing the dog directly, "Maybe get the squirrel to throw it for you, no?" He straightens back up, takes a sip from his thermos. "More snow tomorrow, you heard? The grounds are so lovely like this." Though his vivid green eyes are flicking back to Maya even as he speaks. "And you, also."
"I'm not really sure she's ever thought it through that far." The red in Maya's cheeks deepens at the compliment, and she bumps her shoulder lightly against Matt's arm. "I heard. I'm keeping my fingers crossed it'll be enough for some good midnight sledding opportunity." She stoops, picks up the rubber toy and hurls it off back down the hill to send Ratri careening off after it once more. "What about you, do you have any exciting plans? I mean, thirty is --" There's a small pensive skip of hesitation here, her eyes flicking up to Matt's pale face. "Exciting, right? And Valentine's Day on top."
"Well, if it is not quite enough, you might prevail upon Ororo for a little assist." Matt's smile tugs a little askew. "I suppose it is exciting," he sounds thoughtful about this, and perhaps just a touch unsure. "Certainly exciting for my siblings, who delight in mocking my advanced age, probably to console themselves over lacking my primacy and wisdom." He lifts one eyebrow fractionally. "I do love Valentine's Day, though if I'm honest it's likely as much for its proximity to my birthday as anything else." The dip of his head is slight, and slightly self-deprecating, but his smile never fades altogether. "It is actually your birthday, so you don't even need to fudge it as I do. Have you got big plans?"
"You're telling me you wouldn't love Valentine's Day if it happened in August?" Maya's eyebrows raise in disbelief, her hands spreading. "A certified cheeseball like you I won't believe it. What's not to love you have --" She's raised a finger to begin ticking off a list though this is interrupted by Ratri's return; she drops her hand casually again to wrest the toy back from the dog as she talks so she can throw it again.
"Built in excuse for flirting? Incredibly tacky decorations -- which I've already covered my room in by the way. Candies with puns on them? You would love it any time." Her head waggles from side to side. "I have brunch with my sister and some friends but I don't have big plans. If your schedule is free I've just decided I might make some though."
"Oh, you've nailed it," Matt admits, laughing. "I never need an excuse to flirt, but I am a complete sucker for candy puns." His eyes glimmer with mirth. "But there's a chicken-and-egg question, too--perhaps it was Valentine's Day that made me a cheeseball to begin with!" He pauses, considers Maya for just a moment. "As it happens, I also have brunch tomorrow--at home, with the family. But after, would you like to go out with me, almost-birthday-twin?"
Maya considers this, lips pursing and one neatly manicured finger pressing lightly to her cheek. "That seems more likely than my next thought which was that the sheer power of your birth brought so much cheese into the world it transformed Valentine's Day as we know it." She bounces on her toes at the question, her hand dropping to play at a loose fold of her scarf. "How do you feel about midnight sledding? If the weather doesn't cooperate I know the absolute best place for cake and hot cocoa anyway."
"I am," Matt explains seriously, "a very powerful witch." He maintains his solemn, haunted expression through his next sip of tea, then lapses easily back into a friendly smile, ever so slightly fey. "Mm, I love midnight sledding almost as much as I love midnight skating, but down here I don't know I'd trust the ice even after the week we've had." Then he adds, after the barest hesitation, "Oh, and I should warn you, despite my chairlessness these days, I only have so much stamina. Much more impressive capacity for cake and cocoa, though."
"I've heard the rumours." Maya's eyes are bright with amusement through Matt's solemn face. She nabs Ratri's toy again when the dog returns, but doesn't throw it, this time. Just looks up at Matt a moment with a small tilt of head, a small nod. "We can take it easy." Her grin brightens. "The sledding. Not the cocoa. I'm planning on taking that very seriously." Her hand reaches for his, squeezes brief. "It's a date, then."