A Joyful Gathering
The momentary silence was shattered by the noisy growl of someone's stomach.
Laughing a little to cover his embarrassment, Duo announced loudly, "In case anyone missed *that* subtle clue, allow me to announce that I am *hungry*!" Grinning at the four other pilots, he added warmly, "Enough true confessions, gang, let's eat!"
"Good idea. I don't feel like waiting while all that food has to be reheated!" Heero commented with a smirk. Taking his lover by the elbow, he pulled Duo toward the table adding, "Except the gravy, of course. I can't stand it when the gravy's cold."
Duo glanced at Heero with what could only be naked desire in amaryllis eyes and he paused long enough to whisper something into the Japanese teen's ear that caused a slight flush to paint itself across golden cheeks. A brisk nod from the cobalt-eyed boy sent his lover's heartbeat racing and then the pair went back to the task at hand of preparing to eat.
Quatre moved out of the circle of Milliardo's arms and then tugged him by the hand towards the heavily-laden table. He glanced back at Trowa who was patiently accompanying his own lover who was slowed down by the crutches and asked, "By the way, Trowa, have either of you two ever had a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner before?"
"Actually no, Quatre," the emerald-eyed youth smiled back, enjoying the aroma of the various dishes that Duo was happily uncovering and setting around the table. "With only the two of us, such a large feast seemed impractical. It does, however, smell wonderful!"
Taking a deep whiff, Wufei's eyes lit up and he asked eagerly, "Is that roasted turkey that I smell, Duo? It's heavenly!" The Chinese teen eagerly feasted his eyes on a golden bird unlike anything he'd ever seen before.
The pride of the feast had been set at one end of the rectangular table that Wufei and Trowa had hardly used during their month in the safehouse but both boys were suddenly very glad that they'd been given a safehouse with a formal dining room for a change.
Taking the self-appointed role of "carver of the bird", Duo had planned to sit at the head of the table after cutting as much poultry as anyone cared for. Quatre and Milliardo would sit together on one side of the table and Heero and Trowa would sit opposite them, each beside his respective lover. At the other end of the table where he'd hopefully have enough room for the cast on his leg, Wufei would soon discover that he enjoyed talking with the TallGeese pilot more than he had expected to. For the moment, though, the ShenLong pilot merely rested on the tops of his crutches and admired what his little neighbor would have labeled the gobbler.
Laying on a platter surrounded by jewel-tone miniature spiced apples was what had to have been a twelve-pound turkey, large enough to more than adequately feed the gathering of six young men. Artfully arranged across its broad surface were numerous stalks of fresh sage which had roasted upon the surface lending it both flavor and aroma.
The look of pure delight on Wufei's face spoke of how right Duo had been in his assessment that the Chinese boy would enjoy his holiday surprise. "Looks good, doesn't it?" Duo said with a gentler smile than before, basking in his friend's happiness.
"Oh yes!" Wufei agreed with a broad smile as he glanced at the rest of the dishes, adding, "But it *all* looks wonderful! Maybe we should get started serving it, though. I'm getting hungrier and hungrier just standing here."
"Then why not sit down, Wufei?" Milliardo asked before gallantly pulling out a chair for the recovering pilot, relieved that he'd already asked Trowa about the seating arrangements. "I believe that we *all* share your interest in eating, am I right, Heero?"
"Absolutely," the Wing pilot nodded, moving to take a spot near his lover and beginning to spoon a large mound of mashed potatoes onto his plate in preparation for the gravy he was planning to enjoy in more ways than one that day. Taking a moment to appreciate the potatoes as they were prepared, however, he realized that they didn't need any gravy after all. They had been blended with a generous amount of roasted garlic as well as freshly minced parsley, tiny bits of green swirling through it like blades of grass peeking through a snowy field.
Pleased that by not needing the thick gravy now there would be more for later, he passed the bowl to Trowa and then picked up the next item that was handy.
Unsure which he might like better, Quatre glanced from where Duo was sharpening the carving knife he'd found in the kitchen to where a platter of honey-glazed ham slices sat. Making a decision that the smoked pork seemed like a better choice for snacking on later, he decided to wait for turkey and picked up a colorful dish that he'd been wondering about. Taking a moment to look at the orange goo, Quatre suddenly smiled brightly and announced, "I figured it out! This is the sugared yams you mentioned, isn't it, Duo?"
Duo chuckled softly, "Almost Q, that's called 'candied sweet potatoes' by most people. But I think they probably deserve a better name than that if they're fixed this way. It looks like it's got not only all the usual yummy brown sugar mixed into it, but there's a nice layer of marshmallows on top, too!" Looking at the dish more carefully, the Deathscythe pilot noted tiny raisins dotting the surface here and there as if playing tag with the occasional pecan half that lurked within the dish and he just smiled encouragingly. "Try some, I'll bet you like it!"
"All right, I think I will!" Quatre smiled back and plopped some onto his plate.
Meanwhile, Milliardo was more than happy to try something new, too, and he spooned up some classic sage dressing almost as pleasing to the eye as it was going to be to the palate with golden sautéed onions liberally scattered through its steamy structure.
Across from the tall blond, a colorful blend of corn, lima beans, and bright red and green sweet pepper bits caught Trowa's eye, and he asked, "Duo? What's this one called? It looks interesting."
The American teen grinned happily at the opportunity to explain, "That's succotash, Tro! Give it a shot, it's really good."
Quatre giggled a little and asked, "Um, Duo? Is that succotash suffering?"
"Huh?" The violet-eyed boy gazed at the boy beside him in confusion, "What was that, Q?"
Giggling harder, the Arabian boy rephrased his question, "Is that 'sufferin' succotash, Duo?"
"Argh!" The braided boy groaned and looked pained as the smaller of the two blondes continued to giggle helplessly. Annoyed, he glanced at the tallest man in the room and stated flatly, "No more wine for *him*, Milliardo! If he's going to quote my beloved Tweety's nemesis Sylvester at the table I am *not* going to be held accountable for it later!"
Laughing softly himself, the former Lightning Count answered, "I'd be happy to oblige, Duo, but all he's had to drink was some of the cider."
"I find *that* hard to believe!" Duo responded with a smirk at Quatre's moue of mild insult and then he winked at his friend before asking, "Say, Q, could you get me a cup of that, too? I was so interested in getting started on butchering this fair fowl that I forgot to get something to drink." He pointed the now razor-sharp tip of the knife at the turkey almost threateningly before glancing at the drinks sitting on a small table nearby.
"Sure thing, Duo," Quatre smiled, once more his usual happy self as he set aside the unopened bottles of wine that he had brought with him from the Winner Estate Vintner's. In a thermal flask was the beverage of choice for the afternoon, a hot mulled cider, redolent with cloves, nutmeg, and other spices. He filled a mug with the sweet brown liquid and dropped a colorful and delicious orange slice garnish on top before setting it on the table for Duo and resuming his seat.
Not forgotten at the far end of the table, Wufei was happily discovering what kinds of bread were available. Assorted hot rolls including pumpernickel, rye, wheat, and sour dough lay nestled in several baskets strewn amongst the larger dishes. Corn meal muffins baked in the shape of small sheaves of Indian corn looked both festive and tasty, so he chose one of those before asking, "Could you pass the butter please, angel?"
Trowa smiled warmly at his lover enjoying the continued expressions of delight the Chinese teen had been favoring everyone and everything with. Realizing he hadn't responded immediately, he glanced away shyly and then made an adorable little exclamation of delight of his own. "Oh, look, Fei! Even the butter's been given the 'Emeril Touch'! It looks almost too pretty to eat."
Sweet creamery butter had been transformed into a variety of spreads by the restaurant's chefs and then "kicked up another notch" by being molded into various designs to fit the season. An aromatic garlic and herb combination was presented in the shape of cornucopias. A heady mixture of rosemary and crushed sage had taken on the likeness of acorns. A sweet pale orange concoction that included honey, cinnamon, and sugar rounded out the offerings, presented in the shape of a maple leaf, the color nicely mimicking that of the leaves glimmering in their wax paper mounting on the glass door nearby.
Face still alight with pleased surprise, Trowa handed the assortment of butters to his lover who selected some of the honey blend to compliment the southern-style bread he'd chosen.
As Duo finally sank the carving knife into the turkey with gleeful intent to make a mess, his lover found himself pondering an excess of options for accompaniment of his vegetables and the anticipated poultry. In one small bowl, whole Mediterranean olives heavily laced with diced garlic and fresh herbs lazed in glistening oil, tempting the eyes of even a non-olive lover like Heero so much so that he placed a few onto his already heavy plate.
After handing the olives to Trowa, he found himself faced with two options for the traditional Thanksgiving fruit garnish. Cranberry sauce filled an oval dish, jellied as well as whole berry styles to choose from. The Wing pilot ladled some of the whole berry onto his plate, noticing as he did that it seemed to sparkle like spherical rubies in a sea of crushed garnets. Suppressing a desire to snicker at his suddenly poetic thoughts, he handed this dish, too, to the overwhelmed HeavyArms pilot.
Distracted, Trowa reached for the dish of cranberry sauce and accidentally stuck his thumb into the wet red syrup that swam about on the surface. Annoyed with his clumsiness, the auburn-haired youth set the dish down and simply stuck his thumb into his mouth, sucking the fruity mess off thoughtfully. Making a note that it tasted tartly sweet as well as being far more slippery than he had guessed it might be, the green-eyed boy's thoughts returned to his dinner.
"I'm running out of room on my plate," Trowa commented unhappily as if it wasn't happening to all of them.
"So am I," Quatre muttered with mild annoyance as he pondered whether or not he had room for some of the fresh green beans with slivered almonds that Milliardo had just handed him.
"That's okay," the American youth grinned, "In fact, that's the way it's supposed to be, guys! On Thanksgiving you're supposed to have more stuff to eat than room for it either on your plate *or* in your stomach! But before you put any more on your plate, Q, why not take some turkey, okay?" He indicated a serving platter that was heaped full of slabs and slices from the once proud bird.
"Yumm! Sure thing, Duo!" Quatre's eyes lit up as he selected a few pieces of white meat and placed them onto his plate before handing the platter to Milliardo.
Pleased that he was getting closer to being able to fill a plate of his own, Duo began to dig around the top of the exposed breastbone with the tip of his carving knife, making odd little faces as he searched for something.
"Um, Duo?" Wufei asked with honest curiosity. "What are you looking for in there? Is there other types of meat than this?" He indicated the platter that Milliardo had just handed him and then took some of both light and dark meat before handing it to Trowa.
"No, not another type of meat, Wu," Duo grimaced as he twisted the knife sharply in an attempt to cut through some cartilage. "There's something special in here for you and Tro to play with later."
Grimacing in understandable distaste, the raven-haired youth commented dryly, "I can hardly conceive of there being *anything* inside that carcass that we would wish to 'play with' as you say, Maxwell."
"Oh yes there is!" The braided boy smiled triumphantly as he pulled a gooey object from the bird and cleaned it off quickly with a napkin. "See? This is the wishbone, Wu. You *need* a wishbone, man!" The American grinned cheekily at his friend before walking over and handing it to the confused boy.
"And *why* should we need one of these, Maxwell?" Wufei was fighting a losing battle with his own bafflement and handed the slippery bone to Trowa who gazed at in interest.
"It's another Thanksgiving tradition, Wu." Amethyst eyes danced as he explained, "You'll hold one side and Tro holds the other, then you pull on it real hard until it snaps. Whoever gets the extra piece of bone at the top wins."
"Wins what?" Wufei asked, curious despite the warning note of sexual innuendo he thought he'd detected in Duo's tone when he'd said the word "win"..
Drawing the moment out, Duo corrected, "Well, usually it's a wish that's won, that's why it's called a 'wishbone', but you two can use it for something even better." He smirked broadly and stage-whispered, "Whichever one of you wins gets to be seme, of course! Who knows, Wu-babe? You might get lucky and find yourself on top for a change!"
Trowa flushed a hot pink and Wufei merely gaped in astonishment at the audacious behavior of their friend. Neither said a thing to indicate what they thought of the outlandish remark, but Heero more than made up for it.
"DUO! What the fuck do you think you're doing?!" The Japanese pilot nearly lunged at his lover who laughed and danced out of reach even as he grabbed a roll out of a basket and bit into it.
"Really, Duo! That is *quite* the change of subject!" The former prince of the Sanq kingdom was more shocked than anyone else at the table, being new to the teasing and mischief the Gundam pilots pulled on one another on a regular basis.
"Just lightening the mood, Milly-dear!" Duo laughed and then took the bowl of dressing hostage and flounced back to his chair where he proceeded to build a large collection of foodstuffs before digging in to eat like everyone else had done before his outburst.
Wide aquamarine eyes just blinked at the scene before Quatre turned to glance at the quiet couple at the end of the table. To his shock, they were both smiling at each other and not making any remarks to indicate if the braided boy's insinuation as to their sexual roles was correct or not. Shaking his head and wondering if the whole world had gone mad, the Winner heir then glanced at the American who was busy shoveling garlic mashed potatoes into his mouth enthusiastically. Only Duo Maxwell had the nerve to talk about sex at a holiday dinner table and get away with it.
Admitting some level of admiration for the boy's audacity, Quatre resumed trying out as many different dishes as he could after deciding that his lover could defend himself from the obnoxious new nickname if he wanted to, he'd rather eat.
End Notes for Parts 3-5 can be found at the end of Part 5.
Full Author's Notes to run at conclusion.