Down the Road
Downstairs, Heero wandered into the dining room, and then to the living room. The entire first floor was decorated in furniture from the 1960s and before. It was an eclectic mix of styles in aqua, pink and cream. Heero was certain that Duo did not use these rooms often, or perhaps at all, since there was no sign of life here. No magazines or books left on an end table, no used glasses, no chair or picture slightly askew. The rooms were dusted, but unused, and Heero could understand why Duo would not want to be here. They were not him. They did not reflect his independence and exuberance. And for whatever reason, Duo had not chosen to re-decorate them in his own style. Perhaps it was too soon after the aunt's death to remove her presence so completely.
Heero retraced his steps to the kitchen, and began to think about what to prepare for dinner. His specialty was Asian cuisine, but he bet Duo's cupboards did not hold spices from the East or rice noodles or almond cookies. He would pinch hit. The tomatoes from the garden were too lovely not to incorporate into their meal, and after opening several cupboard doors, Heero found the pasta Duo had mentioned, a head of garlic and a bottle of olive oil. Duo definitely had a taste for Italian cooking, and Heero would oblige.
A little more investigating turned up pots and pans, and Heero was pleased to discover a gas stove. Next to a charcoal or wood fire, a gas flame was the best alternative for the accomplished chef. He set the water to boil, and began chopping the garlic.
Just then Duo returned from his shower, smelling like a spring rain fall, and looking pink-faced and refreshed. His hair was undone and still damp, and his feet bare. He looked relaxed in jeans and a handsome blue shirt. Heero felt his body stir. He could ravish the young man right now in this kitchen and be satisfied, but he wanted the moment to last. He wanted to drink Duo in like a cold lager on a hot summer's day.
"I hope you don't mind..." Heero nodded towards his work on the kitchen counter.
"No, that's great. Can I help?"
"How about slicing the peppers and zucchini?"
"Sure thing." Duo slid past Heero, retrieving a knife from a drawer, and then settled next to him to begin cutting the peppers. They stood inches apart, and Heero could not resist leaning forward for a tomato and brushing against Duo's arm. Duo smiled, pausing for just a second before returning to his task. "What restaurant do you work at?"
"Sushi Bob's. Ever eat there?"
"Don't think so. Is it one of those Asian fusion places?"
Heero nodded. He hoped Duo would not say anything negative. He still was not comfortable telling him that he was the founder and owner of the chain. That would come later when they got to know each other better. For now, Heero was enjoying being a regular guy.
"Maybe I'll stop in sometime. I don't get to the city much, but I'm sure I could talk Quatre into going."
"I think you'd like it. That is... if you like Asian food."
"Oh, yeah, I like just about any kind of food, but there's not much variety around here."
It was time to sauté the peppers and zucchini in garlic and olive oil. Heero's attention turned to the food preparation. He loved the process, the smells, the control he had over the ingredients, and the satisfaction he got from the completed dish. In moments, he poured handfuls of mostaccioli noodles into the salted, boiling water and then added the sliced tomatoes to the other vegetables in the pan.
Out of the corner of his eye, he watched as Duo set the table with plates and silverware, and two small votive candles in glass holders. There was something remarkably comforting and homey about making dinner with Duo. He liked this Duo as much or better than the sassy version he had seen that night in the city. He suspected Duo had been trying hard to impress him, and in some ways he had or Heero would not be here now.
Taking a couple of fresh beers from the refrigerator, Duo playfully bumped Heero's hip, laughing as he continued past to set the beers on the table. "Smells good!"
"Should be done in a sec." Heero scooped out a noodle, blew on it and was about to drop it in his mouth when he thought of a better idea. "Want to tell me if the mostaccioli is done?"
Duo smiled and sauntered over, opening his mouth for Heero to pop the tubular pasta into it. Heero felt his body stir again at the enticing signals Duo was sending him. "Well?" he asked as he watched Duo chew slowly.
Heero smiled, and before he could ask, Duo retrieved a colander and their dinner plates. In a moment, they were seated at the tiny kitchen table enjoying the savory meal.
Duo smiled as he pierced a noodle and tomato onto his fork and ate it. His eyes immediately lit. "Mmm. This is great, Heero."
"I'm not sure what you did, but it's better than anything I've had in a long time."
Heero nodded and took a bite for himself. It was good, but hearing it from Duo made him warm inside. Heero had always cooked for himself. Oh, sure, he needed to impress his customers and the food critics, but in the end what he created was for himself. Tonight was different. Tonight he had prepared this meal for two. He had wanted to impress Duo, not to advance his career or the popularity of his restaurant, but to re-pay Duo in kind for sharing himself. Just as Duo expressed himself in paint, so did Heero in food.
Over the next hour, the two young men shared stories of their youth. Heero recounted his tortuous piano lessons, and how he would rather watch Julia Child on public television than go skateboarding with his friends. Duo laughed and remarked it was the sign of a true calling when you risked being labeled a geek for the sake of watching a crazy woman stuff a game hen with breadcrumbs. Heero had never thought of it that way, but he laughed, seeing that Duo was right. It was the first time he had truly laughed at himself, at the awkward youth he had been.
Duo told him the sad details of how his father had left when he was only two, and that he and his mother had moved from the city when he was ten to live with his mother's sister. "I wasn't happy about living in the 'sticks,' but then I didn't realize at first how sick my mom was." He paused and pulled his hair over his shoulder, combing through it with his fingers. "Those two years we all lived here were pretty great." He went on to explain that his aunt cared for him after his mother's death, but when he turned fifteen he gave her a run for her money. "That was my rebellious year. I don't know what happened. I did some stupid things."
"Like what?" Heero was genuinely interested in Duo's story, but also in the way Duo played with his hair, braiding it as he spoke.
"Kid stuff. Heavy drinking and smoking. I was hanging with a bad crowd."
"So what happened?"
"I met Quatre."
Heero's brows went up.
"Oh, nothing like that. We didn't fall in love or anything. Quatre was the new kid at school, and because he was different he got bullied. I felt sorry for him, so I stuck up for him one day and we became friends. He's the one who made me realize I was okay… that these feelings inside me are normal. I stopped acting out after that."
"You mean he helped you understand it's okay to be gay?"
"Yeah. What about you? When did you realize you were?"
"Thirteen, but I didn't do anything about it until I got to college."
"I never had a problem with being gay… it was convincing my parents I wanted to cook instead of be a doctor that took some talking. They're both MDs and they thought their son should be, too."
"That must've put a lot of pressure on you."
Heero nodded. Even though he was a successful chef and restaurateur his parents were not entirely pleased. He knew they loved him, but he also knew it was difficult for them to accept his career choice.
Duo seemed to sense Heero's unease and changed the subject by offering to make some coffee. Heero gathered up their dinner plates and deposited them in the sink.
"Let me get those," Duo said, playfully shoving Heero aside to plug the sink and fill it with hot water and dish soap.
"I made the mess, and I'll clean it up."
"What are you, crazy? You did all the work. It's my job to clean up."
"How about we both do the dishes?"
Duo smiled. "I can live with that." While Duo set the coffee to brew, Heero deposited the pots, pans and silverware in the sink. "I'll wash... you dry," Duo said, tossing the dish towel at Heero who snatched it out of the air. Duo then leaned over to turn on the radio. "You like jazz?"
"Good. It's about the only decent station we get out here, unless you're interested in listening to the farm report."
The upbeat sounds of a drum, piano and bass trio spilled from the radio's small speaker. Just the right tempo to get the dishes washed in a hurry. Heero could not remember having more fun doing dishes and just spending time with another guy. The conversation was easy, and he enjoyed the casual banter that continued while they cleaned up the mess from supper.
With the dishes washed and dried, Duo poured them each a cup of coffee and then leaned back against the counter. "It'll be dark soon."
Heero followed Duo's eyes out the kitchen window. The sky was pink and orange. Where had the afternoon gone? "Do you want to dance?" The question surprised him, but not more than it seemed to surprise Duo. "The music's good for it."
"Okay," Duo said, setting his cup on the counter.
The music was sensual, making one want to sway like a reed in the wind. Heero stepped forward, holding out his right hand. Duo slipped his left into it easily and then Heero wrapped his arm around Duo's waist. His hand glided over the top edge of the jeans and the soft cotton of Duo's shirt. Heero liked the way that shirt looked on Duo, tucked in neatly without a belt, accentuating his slimness.
As they began to move slowly, back and forth, Heero moved his arm further around Duo's back, drawing him closer. Their stomachs touched as they swayed to the song. The saxophone crooned and Heero grinned. Saxophones were about sex and able to serenade the coldest heart. It had been a long time since he had danced. Even the night he had met Duo, Heero had not danced.
"You were beautiful on the dance floor," he said in a soft, almost shy voice.
Duo looked into his face, his large eyes blinking. "I didn't think you were watching."
"Only the dead wouldn't have noticed."
Duo laughed. "That good, huh?"
"Yeah." Heero could smell Duo, the smell of soap fresh from the shower. He never remembered anyone smelling this good.
They continued to dance and to move closer, pressing their chests and their cheeks together, feeling the warmth of each other's bodies. Heero was not in the habit of taking his time, of courting the young men he wanted to bed, but tonight everything was going in slow motion. He was not sure if this slowness was by design or out of nervousness, but he wanted to know Duo's thoughts and feelings, and his past. He wanted substance and the kind of knowledge he had never sought from previous partners. That need frightened him, but only a little. It was new, but it was also desired.
He felt himself falling, melting into Duo, needing more than he probably had a right to. He moved his cheek away, and looked into Duo's eyes. Could this young man need him just as much? The violet eyes staring back at him seemed to say yes, and Heero leaned in until their lips met. It was like being pulled downstream, the current tugging him along as his mouth explored Duo's. Soft, moistened lips and an accepting tongue greeted him.