The Little Things Arc
Part Three: Home Cooking
by D.C. Logan
Duo absently picked at the congealed mass on his plate.
He couldn't remember now why he'd thought this time would be any different. But if he pretended to be enthralled by the conversation, well, maybe he could manage to choke the substance down without alerting Heero to how awful it was. Heero seemed to be shoveling the stuff down without too much discomfort. And what the hell was it anyway?
It had taken him three dates to figure out that Heero was doing all his cooking working entirely from photographs. At least that was the only possible excuse he'd come up with so far. Which would certainly explain why nothing ever tasted the way it looked (or should). Last time, he'd made it through the meal by dousing it liberally with hot pepper sauce—with any luck his tongue would eventually grow back—but he didn't think the same tactic would work twice. Heero was bound to suspect something.
He'd just have to open his mouth and tell him the truth; he'd never survive a fourth date at this rate. Tonight's meal tasted strongly of dish soap and black pepper. He rested his fork on the table and examined the plate closely.
"Uh Heero? What kind of fish is this?"
Heero looked up from his plate—completely nonplussed, "It's chicken."
"Oh, that would explain it then." He picked up his fork resolutely, intending to dive back in, but then gave up and placed it back to the side.
He slicked back his bangs with both hands, revealing his face unadorned. "Heero. I can't eat this. I'm sorry but..."
Heero halted his fork midway to his mouth and looked down at the contents of his plate. It looked just like the picture in the cookbook, right down to the alignment on the plate and the decorative garnish. He hadn't a clue what it was supposed to taste like, but he had a strong suspicion that Duo didn't really know either.
"What's wrong with it?"
"Don't you know what real food is supposed to taste like?"
"This is real food."
"I'm sorry Heero, but this," he indicated the barely touched remains in front of him. "This is NOT real food. Real food tastes...different." He pushed the plate towards the center of the table and rested his chin in his cupped hands. "Sorry. You may be suicidal enough to eat your own cooking, but I just can't join you on this particular mission..."
Heero studied Duo's expression. He looked serious about this. He shoved another bite of the chicken into his mouth and chewed with more concentration this time. Without thoughts of Duo to distract him, the meal tasted, well, odd. He made a face at his plate. Hn. Maybe Duo had a point after all.
At least his date had the decency to look somewhat chagrined instead of victorious over his expression.
"Yeah well, if your business was at all portable, we'd be living somewhere in the L1 cluster instead of slumming it out here."
Duo feigned indignation, "Slumming? My dear man? You call this slumming? This colony has all the best things to offer: me, a central location, me, um, my venerable and ancient sofa, Wong's, the best coffee in the cluster, and well, me..."
Heero looked curious, "What's Wong's?"
"Are you hungry?"
He looked down at his plate. Now that Duo had mentioned it openly, he admitted that something really had tasted different. He'd been doing okay cooking from cans and pre-made kits. Apparently there was more to this cooking business than could be learned from a book.
"Yeah, and I cook a lot like you do. Hah, okay then, let's go hit Wong's." Duo spun around and headed abruptly for the door, Heero leapt from the table to catch up with him.
"Wait up...What's Wong's then?"
"What's Wong's he asks," and he shook his head in mock sadness, his long bangs waving over his face. "Wong's is Wong's, there's no other place quite like it. I can't believe I haven't taken you there yet. You'll like it." He paused for comic effect, "At least I think you'll like it..."
He stood at the door, opened it, and bowed Heero through ahead of him. "Welcome, my dear sir, to a place where good food in many varieties can be purchased for ready cash. Welcome to 'eating out' as a way of life—at least until one of us learns how to cook."
Duo shared a wry grin with him, and the smoothly placed kiss did much to relieve Heero's embarrassment over the abandoned meal. Duo had an easy way of making even disappointments easier to bear—that was part of his charm.
Heero just hoped his faith in the local restaurants was well placed. He wouldn't have admitted it in front of Duo, but he was hungry...