Almost Like Family (Invite Only)
It had been a long productive day. Alexander had spent most of it cooking, or getting things ready to cook. According to most of his recipes, much of the action would take place about an hour before the turkey was ready.
Thanksgiving dinner was definitely a massive undertaking for one person. But Eiryk was asleep; he couldn't be expected to pull and all-day stint. Alex had done most of the prep work by himself and secretly he sort of thought that might have been for the best.
It was a good day so far; they were expecting Aishe and Kem over and Eiryk had invited two of his other friends as well. There was work being done (not today of course) on Alex's store and he'd be back in it, and his apartment, before Christmas. Things were looking up and he'd been in a very good mood all day in spite of a few small (and easily corrected setbacks).
Now, however, was time for the Waking of the Beast (and not that beast... they didn't have time). Eiryk had asked Alex to wake him earlier than usual. He almost never woke up when his alarm went off. Alex was pretty sure air raid sirens wouldn't wake Eiryk up.
He walked to the bedroom and went through the door; he'd finally learned after two weeks of being a live-in guest that it didn't actually matter how much noise he made during the day. When Eiryk slept, he was dead to the world. Much as he was now. Alex grinned a little as he looked down on Eiryk, who was sprawled all over his bed. Amazing. It was a king-sized bed yet Eiryk managed to somehow take up more than half of it.
Alexander sat on the side of the bed, then lay down next to Eiryk, slipped his arm under his head, and kissed his forehead. Then he rested his mouth next to Eiryk's ear.
"Eiryk. Time to wake up. Company's coming. Your hair is a mess. Someone scuffed up your shoes. Your shirt is completely wrinkled and your pants have pleats in all the wrong places. There's a bottle of really bad 2005 white wine in the ice bucket and Aishe just called and said she and Kem are bringing a case of Budweiser."
If that didn't startle Eiryk awake, Alex didn't know what would.
He knew Alex was next to him and talking to him but that was about it. Automatically he wrapped an arm around the man and buried his face in whatever part of Alex was closest and gave an in articulate 'hrmph murph' sound.
It took a good solid minute for what had been said to percalate though his brain and make sense.
"Early... dry cleaner... shot... 2005 good year... white zin... evil... Kem... window... coffee..."Â?
Some where in that response Eiryk opened one eye. Confirmed Alex was there, turned over and started back to sleep muttering something further about Clydesdales, ice buckets and shaving.
Strategy two: If horrifying Eiryk with impending wardrobe and alcoholic disasters didn't work, bring out the big guns.
Alex gently ran his mouth along Eiryk's ear and then down across his neck. He didn't know why but Eiryk was a necking monster. It drove him crazy. He wrapped his arms around Eiryk's waist and kept him from rolling away again while he grazed the skin of his shoulder and neck with his teeth and his tongue. His hands wandered playfully over Eiryk's stomach and while it seemed pretty much every other part of Eiryk was awake, it was the brain activity Alex was looking for.
If this didn't work, Eiryk was going in the shower.
This was much better than coffee. He started to return the little nibbles with half aware kisses of his own. He was quite interested in one side of Alex's neck and without warning grabbed an arm and starting with Alex's wrist worked his way up to his elbow.
He still wasn't forming complete sentences but he was getting some very clear ideas.
He happily stripped off Eiryk's pajama bottoms, which were the only thing he usually wore to bed. Extricating himself in spite of Eiryk's mumbled protest he also stripped down, then bent, picked Eiryk back up, kissed him thoroughly, and headed into the bathroom.
Under the shower Eiryk rebounded remarkably well, his spluttered protests of surprise covered by various different noises of non-protest. Alex was surprised they hadn't cracked the tile in here yet. Eiryk was a lot stronger than he looked (and he looked pretty strong) and Alex was no lightweight either.
Regardless, Alex finally left a slightly dazed but much more awake Eiryk to finish washing up in the shower while he got out with one last deceptively chaste peck on the cheek, dried off, and put his clothes back on. He was back in the kitchen, humming to himself and smiling, when he heard the shower turn off and the following, unmistakable, noises of Eiryk actually moving on his own.
Gauging the time properly he turned on the coffeemaker and waited.
The shower was a lot larger without Alex but he did manage to get cleaned up and dressed. He still wasn't really awake, but he was moving under his own power. Emerging from the bedroom now dressed in dark brown corduroy pants and a sapphire blue cashmere sweater that hugged him in all the right place and some loafers (usually Eiryk wandered around his place barefoot, but they were having company) he made for the coffee like a magnet.
He did stop long enough to kiss the hell out of Alex but then immediately poured a cup of coffee. Clutching the coffee for dear life he finally started to come alive and looked at Alex slightly less bleary eyed. Although he did slip in one more good yawn.
"OK what still needs doing?"Â?
"Not too much right now, I'm afraid," Alex said, looking at the stove top, which resembled a mad scientist's laboratory. Alex had started several dishes which would just need to be put together before they were ready to eat. Never having cooked for six people he was hoping he'd gotten the proportions right. He didn't want anyone to go hungry.
"The turkey is in the oven. I've got potatoes and squash going now although they won't have to be finished for another hour yet. There's orange cranberry relish in the fridge already, and I found a recipe for baked escarole that looked good. It's already put together, just has to be baked. And I'll make gravy right before we serve the turkey."
It was going pretty well for his first dinner attempt. At least, it was so far. He'd planned everything out pretty carefully. He knew what had to go in the oven when, about how long it'd take to cook, and how long it needed to sit before it could be served.
"We still need to make the salad. Oh. And there's a pumpkin pie ready to go into the oven after everything else clears out." Alex frowned. "I had to go to the store and buy a crappy pre-made crust. You don't want to know what happened to the first one."
No one had told him that making pie crust was some kind of mystical, magical alchemical process requiring years of training and infinite patience. That hadn't been in his cookbook.
"No, you planed it this way. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have woken me up if anything important needed doing."Â?
He didn't think the whole game hens fiasco was quite forgotten. He also felt a little bad Alex was going to all this trouble for five vampires. Well at least it sounded like very one wasn't above pretending so it should be fine. The only wild card would be this extra person Pak was bringing. Eiryk wasn't even aware Pak knew people and this body was a total mystery. Of course it was probably just some one from IT, his money was on that loopy intern that had helped him with the USB cable caper. It would suite her sense of cosmic payback.
Listening to Alex list of things to do and have done Eiryk grinned sleepily. The man had been very busy and he seemed quite pleased about it too. That, of course, made Eiryk happy as well.
"I think I can manage a salad once this kicks in, but only if you tell me what happened to the pie crust."Â?
He grinned wanting to hear this story. Eiryk was pretty sure flour and water made glue so it was a mystery to him how one made pie crust.
"And you can tell me how your hike was."Â?
"Now that's not fair," he said to Eiryk, "of course I would have. It's your kitchen after all."
His face screwed itself around oddly when Eiryk asked about the pie crust. Alex wasn't even sure how it had gone wrong. "I don't know what happened," he said. "One minute I'm rolling out pie crust like a pro, just like the book said, until I reach one quarter inch thickness. The next thing I know bits and pieces are cracking and flaking and it looks like a scalp with a bad flake problem. So the recipe said to dab any cracks with water and sort of... glue them back together and keep rolling. Only I think I used to much water. And got pasty dough stuff that started sticking to everything. So I think I panicked at that point and threw some flour on it."
Alex shrugged sheepishly. "Long story short. I went to the store."
He wasn't too proud to admit it. He'd try the pie crust recipe again someday when they weren't expecting company. It had seemed more important at the time to have a finished product than to worry about one pie crust.
"Hiking was fine. Nothing horribly exciting," Alex responded. He downplayed it, because he didn't want Eiryk to feel guilty about missing it. Then he thought better of it. Putting down the spoon he'd been using to stir with he helped himself to a mug of coffee as well, stirred in enough sugar to make Eiryk wince, at which point he figured it was enough, and sat down at the table with him.
"Honestly hiking sucked," he said plainly. "I got out there and it wasn't really peaceful. After I while I realized it was because hiking on Thanksgiving just reminds me of how little my family wanted me there. And it didn't seem right for a day like today, when I'm someplace much... better. So I wandered around the preserve for a while until I got sick of it, and I came back here."
Back with you. Where I fit in, and no one's trying to make me something I'm not. Where it's okay to be who I am.
Alex shrugged. "I'd rather be here making dinner today, than anywhere else."
Just because it is my kitchen doesn't mean I use it well. You probably made the right choice. Besides, who needs a zombie in the kitchen?"Â?
He really wasn't hurt. Granted he would have liked to at least spend the time with Alex but when didn't he want to spend time with Alex? But Eiryk was pretty honest about his total lack of culinary skills. The kitchen was for show and making mead and that was it, he was tickled Alex was getting some use out of it.
He tried, he really did try, not to laugh at Alex's pie crust debacle but it was funny and he told it so well.
"Now that I would have woken up for. But I applaud your acceptance of the inevitable."Â?
Even money said Alexander stopped to ask for directions when he was lost too.
He tried not to watch as more sugar than he cared to think about was added to some perfectly good coffee, but since it ended with Alex sitting down he didn't complain.
God damned Alex's family to hell. Eiryk had only heard the one conversation and had what Alex had told him but he would very much like to find these people and tell them off, possibly with an ax. Silently he reached an hand out and took one of Alex's.
"I'm very glad you're here too."Â?
He did laugh with Eiryk over the pie crust. "Oh I didn't go down without a fight," he admitted. "I caught myself right before I pounded the rolling pin against the counter top in a desperate attempt to salvage anything out of the recipe. I think that was the low point." He grinned at his boyfriend across the table. He was a decent cook, but he wasn't perfect.
Eiryk's words had him almost sorry that with luck, his building would be fixed in a matter of weeks. Almost. Alex would be happy to have everything working again. He would just miss being here with Eiryk.
Well, it wasn't going to happen for weeks yet, and even after he was back in his place he didn't foresee them seeing too much less of each other. And he was getting over, or trying to get over, his own insecurity about the state of his apartment. He had to; it would be months now, maybe years, before he could put any more money into it.
Are you sure you'd think that when I'm helping myself to a sip of your blood? Eiryk couldn't help but thinking. He really hated keeping this from Alex, a lot. But he hadn't found a good time or way to tell Alexander. It was a very unusual and permanent lifestyle choice.
"I'll look forward to the rematch! Just make sure I'm awake for it."Â?
It all smelled really good and he was impressed with Alex's apparent skill in the kitchen. Noticing that Alex had gone rather quiet, so Eiryk took advantage of that to finish his coffee, grab Alex buy the collar and kiss him soundly.
A quick look at the clock told him people would probably be showing up soon. So he put the coffee away and reset the system for after dinner, opened a light but sweet bottle of mead, another pumpkin experiment but different from the first one he'd given Alex and stared blankly at the large salad bowl that had been set out.
How did you make a salad? Trying to look useful he stuck his head in the fridge to find vegetables.
He rolled his eyes at Eiryk's comment about being awake and said, "I thought I did a pretty decent job of it already tonight. I can try again later!" Let it not be said he wasn't willing to brave any danger for Eiryk.
The collar-grabbing kiss was damn near cause for him to try again right then and there but it was really close to the time they'd asked their company over and Alex didn't want to rush it. Not that he and Eiryk hadn't done their fair share of quick-and-dirties in the last coupe of weeks, but not on a holiday! Holidays were for enjoying things.
As Eiryk foraged through the refrigerator Alex walked up behind him, gently grabbed his shoulders, pulled him up away from the fridge, and steered him toward the sink. Inside it was a strainer of salad veggies washed, drip-drying, and ready to be sliced. Alex handed Eiryk a bowl and a knife. The doorbell rang suddenly.
Alex looked at Eiryk, looked at the knife, looked back at Eiryk, and plucked the knife from Eiryk's hand. Dropping a long, thorough kiss on Eiryk's lips he spun the blond around and shoved him lightly toward the front of the apartment.
"I can't answer your door," he said mildly.
... and began chopping like a fiend.
She walked down the hallway hand-in-hand with her fiance. It had an awfully nice ring to it, still. This wasn't their first Thanksgiving together; Kiamhaat had always been invited to Aishe's parents' house for dinner. It was the first time they'd celebrated it as a couple of undead partygoers though. Neither of them was opposed to eating when the occasion required it and Aishe in particular was looking forward to the comfortable chaos of holiday dinner with friends.
She was happy to know that Eiryk and Alex weren't just staying together, but had actually managed to get back together. She'd seen them both a few times since the incident at Alexander's shop, and she couldn't help thinking they both glowed. It was obvious. And, in her case, kind of literal.
"Oh," she said as they stood outside Eiryk's apartment. "Is that coming from inside?" She breathed in and turned to Kiamhaat, wide-eyed. "Neither one of them said they could cook well," she whispered. She raised her hand and knocked on the door.
He had been happy when Aishe told him they were invited for dinner; not only did Aishe like spending the holidays with people, he also liked Eiryk and Alex. He had sympathy for Eiryk, that was for sure. It wasn't easy to date a human and keep them in the dark, and like Kem, Eiryk was the sort who wasn't about to force a choice on someone he cared about.
As Aishe knocked on the door, Kem looked down and noted the sparkle in her eyes. Yeah. The holidays definitely suited her. He leaned over and kissed her softly before the door opened.
"Your door too."Â?
And that, as far as he was concerned, was very true. Eiryk was in complete denial about Alexander moving back into his place once things were fixed. But even if they didn't live together Eiryk considered his place... well their place.
But he cheerfully shuffled off to answer the door and was quite happy to find Kem and Aishe there. He happily hugged Aishe and shook Kem's hand.
"Excellent, glad you made it. Come in make yourself at home. I have -no- idea when things will be ready but I can get you a drink."Â?
It didn't even occur to him to offer something to nibble on while they waited. In fact, he wasn't even sure if Alex had arranged for anything like that.
"Alex! I found Kem and Aishe at the door."Â?
He decided it was all for the best that they'd shown up first. At least Alex knew them.
"Found them huh?" he said, smiling as he moved from the kitchen into the entryway. "I guess since you found 'em they may as well stay for a little while."
He hugged Aishe tightly, lifting her off her feet for a moment before clasping Kem's hand just as warmly. "I'm... we're... really glad you both could come."
It still felt unusual to refer to himself and Eiryk as a pair. Not to mention hosting a dinner. He'd never done this before. The buzzer on the oven went off and he held his hands out. "Don't go anywhere. Not that you were going anywhere. I'll be right back."
In the kitchen he had two appetizers almost ready to go. The first he pulled from the oven, setting up a hot pad on the counter and restarting the timer. It was riganatha, the Greek version of a bruschetta, basically olive oil sprinkled on toasted bread and then oregano, tomato, and feta cheese on top, melted. He cut it into easy-handled squares and arranged it on a platter, then headed back out to the dining room to place it on the table with some small plates and napkins.
"I'll have the salad right out," he said with a grin. "You get Chef Alexander today. I don't really know what I'm doing though... so if you see smoke, just open some windows and seek low ground."
Aishe beamed when Alex spoke. See, this was why she enjoyed playing with Eiryk and Alexander. She hugged him back and sighed happily at the colors and shapes she saw around him. Alexander always had beautiful colors. Today's were green, blue, and yellow. Health, happiness, caring. And, wonder of wonders, there was very little of the muddied brown and grey she was used to with him.
As Alex went back into the kitchen she leaned over to Eiryk and hugged his arm. "You're good for him," she whispered. "He's shining."
She had never bluntly explained her ability to Eiryk, but he was much older than she; Aishe assumed he knew what she was referring to. When Alex emerged again they had moved into the dining room and Aishe helped herself to the toasted bread he'd laid out. Then, without shame, she followed him into the kitchen.
"Can I help?" She asked. That was how her family did it. It just... was. Everyone pitched in.
Alex was in and out again and then back in with something that smelled really good. Aishe wasted no time, like usual, and Kem followed her lead. When she disappeared into the kitchen with Alex Kem shrugged at Eiryk. "I'd just be in the way. I've tried. We went to her family's house for Thanksgiving a few times. They were polite but adamant... I got to watch a parade and eat."
He shrugged sheepishly. "I stopped bleeding really fast."
"If you see smoke, it means I was cooking."Â?
No sense denying that one. He'd tried to cook once in this relationship and it hadn't gone well. Although, in all fairness, Alexander had been busy being very distracting at the time.
He grinned at Aishe and moved to hold her hand for a moment.
"Yeah? Well it is mutual."Â?
Eiryk might not think he was shining but he was... well happy. It wasn't like he was a social recluse or anything but having Alexander in his life had made a difference. The best possible kind thought.
He laughed as Aishe offered to help, but the kitchen was Alex's domain so he didn't offer judgment.
"There is a parade that goes with this holiday?"Â?
Eiryk was a bit puzzled. But then again this was a holiday he had anything to do with most years.
Hearing Kem's story he gave the man a wry smile. That was something he could relate to far too easily.
"Yeah... I think that's part of the reason I got to answer the door. But don't worry, we have band aids."Â?
They did. Alex had bought them.
He'd been arranging them on a platter with some tzatziki in the middle. Not your typical salad, but generally what he'd grown up with. While Aishe managed that he continued putting together some of his sides, keeping an eye on his assistant. It turned out she was reasonably competent with a knife. He didn't feel the need to hover and fend off chaos.
Thanks to the open design of Eiryk's apartment Alex and Aishe were still part of the conversation even though they were in the kitchen. "Macy's Day parade," he said to Eiryk. "Really, you haven't heard of it? It's kind of annoying. That and the big game."
He rolled his eyes. He was heartily sick of both of them. That was generally his job on Thanksgiving, or it had been before he was old enough to hare off on his own and go hiking. Watch the game and shut up. Don't be gay. Good boy.
He poked a finger at Eiryk. "And you got to answer the door because this is your apartment. That is why."
Eiryk was always welcome in his own kitchen, or Alex's, if they could both fit in there. Now that Alex knew to watch out for the little things, like oven preheats, he was fine with it.