A blast of icy air blew through the cramped entryway as Seth Conlon threw his body at the front door, his wiry shoulder forcing the frozen hinges to creak and moan into motion. "I'm home," he grunted as he stamped his feet to shed the wet snow from his boots.
His greeting was answered by a clang of pots and pans from the small kitchen in the next room. Heat from the oven washed over Seth as he crept forward, abandoning his patched canvas coat on an overstuffed armchair as he passed it. "Tony?" Seth asked, peering around the corner into the kitchen. "What the hell are you doing in here?"
Tony Higgins, Seth's boyfriend, turned to face the kitchen door, a beater dripping with egg yolk in his right hand and a knee-length apron tied around his waist. "Baking," he answered shortly. "What does it look like?" The kitchen was spattered with flour and other ingredients, the sink stacked with bowls and pans, towering in front of the window. Tony's apron, which read ‘I ♥ Brooklyn' in large block letters, was stained with egg yolk and a large patch which, to Seth's bewildered eyes, looked suspiciously like blood.
Seth was speechless, slumping against the doorjamb. ". . . What for?" he finally managed to mumble.
"Christmas dinner, of course." Tony answered assuredly, as if there were no other feasible explanation for his actions.
"But . . . we've never done a Christmas dinner," Seth stepped gingerly into the kitchen and sat down heavily at the table, his brow creased with confusion.
"Doesn't mean we can't start now." Turning his back on his boyfriend, Tony returned to the bowl he had been mixing before Seth had disrupted him.
Seth ran his fingers through his short red-blonde hair and rubbed his temples. "I don't understand," he muttered, "why you do these things, Tony."
"I don't need to explain my every action to you."
Seth felt his hands tighten into fists with frustration. "Maybe not every action, but one or two would be nice!"
Tony stopped his stirring and put his whisk aside, almost tenderly, before he turned to face Seth, leaning against the counter with his arms folded tightly across his chest. He fixed his boyfriend with a glare matching the freezing chill of the winter air outside and said nothing. Seth met the angry stare with equal intensity, his blue eyes narrowing. After a moment, Tony snorted and turned back to his mixing, redoubling his efforts with the irritated knowledge that he had folded first.
The flush of success which accompanied each won argument with Tony was tempered strongly by Seth's remorse at crushing his boyfriend's plans of a nice, innocent Christmas dinner. After a quick internal debate, Seth stood up from the table and moved quietly across the kitchen to slide his arm around Tony's waist and pull him close. "I'm sorry," he whispered into Tony's ear.
Tony set his whisk against the side of the bowl and watched it slide down into the yellow batter until the end hit the opposite side. "I know you don't like surprises," he said quietly without looking up. "But I thought it would be fun if, you know, I made a little something for us. We can still do our usual thing on Christmas . . ."
"What? Go out to Takeshi's and have Christmas sashimi?" Seth smiled.
Tony turned his head and raised one eyebrow. "That's what you like, isn't it?"
Seth leaned in and kissed his boyfriend's soft, smooth lips. "You know me too well, Race," he murmured, using Tony's old nickname from their pre-adolescent years when they roamed the streets of New York together.
Tony grinned. "Of course I do, Spot. Anyway, you want to know what I'm making?"
"Sure," Seth answered, glancing at the bowl.
"Zabaglione; an old family recipe. It's Italian custard, with wine and sugar and egg yolk. Here, taste it!" Tony shoved a spoon into the mixture and handed it to Seth.
"It's good!" said Seth, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
Tony glanced at him, then leaned over and kissed him, hard. "You missed a bit," he said in explanation.
Seth smiled again. "Not on accident."