I thought I could take advantage of Duo being away on business for most of the day.
I thought wrong. I momentarily forgot the third resident.
Too caught up in the attempt of making the mix of flour, sugar and butter crumbly like the recipe suggested, I didn't notice her approach until it was too late. The creak of the kitchen door closing - along with a loud chuckle - gave me pause, and I turned to send an angry look in her general direction. "I told you to stay out!"
Her loose fist did a bad job at covering the smile it was positioned in front of. I scowled back. Was it that I was cooking? Was it the 'Kiss the Cook' apron? Or had a spec of flour strategically placed itself over part of the second o?
"I knew it was your turn to make dinner, but you got started so early - I was curious." Hilde looked at the counter where bags of flour, salt and sugar were lined up, along with a big bowl of apples and other ingredients - and quite a few dirty dishes for later, matching the rest of the mess I'd made of the kitchen so far. "What are you making, anyway?"
I hesitated for a moment, but what was the point in subterfuge? "Apple pie," I said curtly, returning to the bowl at hand. "The look he had on his face when I brought that pie back - I want to see it again." I glanced over my shoulder. "And I want it to be all my doing - something made, not bought."
She looked far too amused, so I focused on the mixing bowl again while she walked over. "Well, I never figured you for a chef," She began. She leaned in next to me, dipped a finger into the second mixing bowl on the counter before I could stop her. Vengeance was sweet - or judging by the subsequent grimace on her face, anything but. "And I still don't," she concluded, pursing her lips. "Are you sure you didn't mix the salt and sugar bags?"
I frowned at her. "There shouldn't be any salt in the filling, just a pinch in the crust batter." Disheartened, I checked. She was right. I cursed. She raised a brow, but said nothing. "Flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cornstarch - why does it all have to be white powders?! It's like they want to be mixed up!"
Hilde grinned at me. "Most people can tell the difference by taste, if not by appearance."
A scowl later, I put my mixing bowl aside and sighed. "So I messed up again..."
Bafflement. "Again? How many times-"
"This is the third," I answered truthfully. "First time I let it stay in the oven too long. Second time, the crust never solidified, but the apples inside burned. Both tasted to match." My turn to grimace. "I've had mouldy ration packs that didn't taste that bad."
Her eyes scanned the counter. "Looks like you've got enough for another attempt."
"That was the point," I explained, glaring into the countertop. "I bought the ingredients in large volumes. My intent was to perfect the recipe - but at this rate, I'll be happy if I could get through the damn thing successfully even once."
She moved up behind me as I was talking, snaked her arms around my waist and hugged me from behind. Her chin rested effortlessly on my shoulder, once again reminding me of my slight height impediment. I gritted my teeth and let it slide. Besides, the embrace felt nice. It wasn't Duo, but it was nice. I hadn't been that close to a woman since Relena realized I wouldn't turn into the knight in shining armor she'd once fantasized about.
Her hold on me tightened. "I'm jealous," she said softly. "Duo is so lucky to have you..."
Faint smile. "He doesn't want me."
She didn't take the bait. We'd had that argument too many times. "If he proved himself the idiot he is and passed you by, or you decided he wasn't worth it... would you go for the next best thing?"
I sensed the vague touch of hope in her inquiry, and smirked. "Quatre's taken."
A snort right in my ear, quick clasp of embrace, subsequent release.
I go started at my next batter. Fourth time's the charm. Fifth, if necessary. I could probably go eleven if I had to.
"Want me to lend you a hand?"
Hesitantly, I nodded. I wanted to do this all by myself, but at this point, a second pair of hands and eyes might be useful. "Could you peel and slice some more apples?"
"Sure," she said with a smile.
For a while, we worked in quiet. I had good hopes for this batch. The dough felt right this time. I was down to the last clean pan, too. The pile of dishes was growing quite large. I shot a glare at the broken dishwasher.
"Just one question," Hilde started. "You've got the dessert for tonight covered, obviously - but what are you planning for the main course?"
It wasn't until then I realized I hadn't. Ever since entering the supermarket that morning, the quest for the perfect pie had taken over my mind. "Uh..."
She snickered. "That's fine - we still have some leftovers of Duo's casserole from yesterday."
I grimaced. There was a reason there was anything left.
I could see her memories matched mine. She sighed. "Your pie will have much to make up for, Heero. You'd better get it right - for all our sakes."
I nodded, half a grin on my face. "Roger that."