Eventually, Steve and Ira leave, with Steve reminding Zev and Nova that they can call him any time, and Ira chiming in with a brief anecdote about calling him at half one in the morning to pick her up from another city entirely.
"He has nothing on Aunt Ange," 'Chelle says cheerfully, acquiring the remote and flicking through the channels.
Aaren comes back in at that point, his smile slightly forced. He's carrying a tray filled with a variety of snacks, and also a pitcher of water and glasses.
"Here we go," he says, setting it down. Pauses, looks at the four of them. "We need a bigger sofa."
"Or we need to get better at cuddle piles," Zev cheerfully suggests.
He feels partially to blame for Aaren's poor mood. No, not partially. Mostly.
He really isn't. That blame is solely on Lan's parents. On the other hand, that comment makes his smile ease.
Aaren puts the tray down. "Help yourselves."
And he takes one of the chairs.
'Chelle meanwhile has managed to find some strange slapstick comedy and seems to have settled on that.
Zev kisses Lan's hand playfully before he lets go, to sort out food for him and Nova, and glasses of water.
Lan grins, blows a kiss at Zev, and then pokes 'Chelle until she fetches food for the two of them.
Zev hands Nova some food and then makes a dramatic show of eating his own.
Nova ducks his head, and nibbles at his own food.
"Jackets," Aaren says abruptly. "If we're going to the zoo you two need warm jackets."
Zev feels his stomach drop at that, remembering what Nova did after they were bought clothes last time, but he shakes it off. He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t now, and Aaren won’t let him.
“If you don’t mind, we’d be very grateful. We haven’t had proper warm things in- a while.”
"I can go hit up the charity shops tomorrow after school?" 'Chelle offers. "I think I saw a couple of decent jackets?"
"People donate old clothes and stuff like that, it gets sold cheaper than what you might get from a high street store, and the money goes to whatever cause has opened the store."
“That sounds like a lovely way to get clothes,” Zev says, rubbing Nova’s arm comfortingly. “Thank you, ‘Chelle, that would be really sweet of you.”
"Sweet is my middle name!"
"Your middle name is Ebba, for your grandmother," Aaren corrects casually. "And that definitely doesn't mean 'sweet'."
"My middle name is Keandre so I can't talk... Landri Keandre Aeolus. Do you think my parents could've made my name any more pretentious if they'd tried?"
“Named for a grandparent too? Or just to taunt you with that mouthful?”
"I genuinely have no idea," Lan says. Shrugs. "I'm happy just being Lan."
"All the power to one syllable names," Zev smirks, toasting 'Chelle and Lan.
"Not that he's ever been 'just' anything in his life," 'Chelle smirks.
"Nova, I fear you and I are outnumbered. But I think we make up for it by having more syllables than these three combined." Beat. "We also have Ira on our side."