“Cole. Taste this.”

Though he walked so quietly Cole hadn't heard him come in, Nika's voice rang across the breakfast table with all the harmonious gentility of a heavy cavalry charge.

“Mm?” Cole set down the rice-paper broadsheet he was reading far enough away that it would be safe (it tore anyway, thanks to misplaced sugar bowl. Adineh's broadsheets tore if sneezed upon, or if anyone sneezed in their general vicinity. Cole was considering this as a strong argument against staying in this country, balancing out the argument for staying of the wide availability of sesame bars).

It turned out to be an unnecessary gesture for other reasons as well, as a spoon laden with some thick red paste appeared before his mouth, borne in Nika's delicate hand like a knife for his throat. Cole rationally knew it was Nika's still poorly healed hands that made him hold it that way, but he also possessed the good instinct to bat that hand away as if it carried a pit viper and duck to the side before Nika could hit him for it.

Nika, unfortunately, was still quick even with the healing slowing him down, and was therefore perfectly able to turn the slap intended for the back of Cole's head into a grip on his increasingly shaggy hair. Heretofore, Cole had considered the abandonment of militarily short hair a boon – nay, even a potential point of much needed eroticism – but alas, Nika had been right about the complications pursuant to this change.

Grinning his 'I told you so', Nika renewed the assault with the spoon, only to be thwarted by Cole sneaking and arm back to encircle his waist. Hauling Nika by his waist around to Cole's front meant he couldn't wrench back on Cole's hair, thereby effecting the pin he wanted.

As Nika's butt hit the table, he gave Cole a rather nasty glare. Cole's grin was unrepentant.

It wasn't his fault that Nika's cooking, when left unsupervised, was equal parts dangerous and inedible. Unfortunately, Ambassador Hawath looked upon the kitchen like Cole looked upon temples, with a curiosity tempered by the knowledge that any deeper involvement would lead inexorably to disaster of some sort. Nika also had the charming delusion that only women could teach him to cook, and a surfeit of hauteur when being taught anything by women, meaning that any able kitchen maids who might've helped had probably long ago fled him in disgust (it took a more than usually capable woman to handle Nika, which was something Cole fully comprehended only after having met Nika's sisters – though upon reflection, it took a more than usually capable -anyone- to handle Nika, if 'handling Nika' was even a thing that ever happened).

It was probably thanks to them there were things that Nika could cook perfectly well; he made a respectable camp-stew, and those little Midraeic bread things made Cole's mouth water at the mere mention. Anything else was risky, at best. Especially considering Nika had been excited about using all the different tools and ingredients an Adineh kitchen provided. He'd probably used things he didn't know how to operate, never mind the array of new and interesting spices.

“Just taste it,” Nika demanded.

“I'll defer, thank you,” Cole said, dodging another swipe with the spoon, “until it's been tested on animals.”

“You know, in five years, I've a lot of practice,” Nika said. “It's not inconceivable I've gotten 'better'.”

Nika said 'better' with a roll of his eyes, indicating it was only a defect in Cole that he had thought Nika needed to get 'better' at all.

“Because I'm sure your soldiers would've told their supreme commander his food was shit,” Cole returned, wary eye on the spoon.

Done with discussion, Nika scowled at him. “Taste it.”

“But I like my tongue,” Cole protested, putting his big blue eyes to work, “and the fact that it functions properly.”

“Don't be silly,” Nika replied. “Taste it.”

“I'm still young; think of all the things I have yet to taste.”

“Eha,” Nika sighed. Cole made an attempt to ingratiate himself with a sensual rubbing of his thumb on Nika's side. It did not work.

Slipping Cole's grip without hesitation, Nika popped onto his toes, sliding his butt onto the table with a great clattering of silverware. Hooking his foot under the cross bar at the front of Cole's chair, he hauled both chair and Cole forward. Cole grabbed the edge of his table on either side of Nika halting forward progress. With a scowl, Nika kicked up with his foot under the cross-bar, the combination of his grip on Cole's hair and Cole's grip on the table, making a perfect balance point of Cole's butt as the chair rocked back onto its back legs.

Impasse. Except that Nika still had the damn spoon.

Leaning down to frown directly at Cole, he brought it between them. “It's just sauce.”

“I know,” Cole replied. “I've -tasted- your sauces before.”

Nika's frown entertained brief self-doubt. Very brief. “Quit being a coward. Taste it.”

“No thank you,” Cole replied, “I'd like to enjoy lunch.”

“I'm making lunch,” Nika protested.

“I'm eating out,” Cole replied.

Nika's mouth twisted unhappily, now no doubt trying to construct a plan to somehow chain Cole to the table until he could be properly forced to endure a home-cooked meal.

Cole, meanwhile, kept his eyes on the spoon like a rabbit watched a wolf not yet committed to the chase.

A muscle on Nika's arm twitched – Cole dodged his head to the side, foiling preemptively the spoon's dive, and moved his hands from the table's edge to Nika's hips. Nika jerked upward on Cole's chair to keep him from being able to reach, but Cole moved too quick to be avoided. The chair legs skipped over the stone floor, loud resonant knocking like an impatient tax-man at the door, as Nika's literally knee-jerk reaction dragged them forward, until the shift in weights caught up with them.

The smooth lacquered surface of the table squeaked, but it was too late. The inches he'd claimed of the table's ledge gave under Nika's butt, and he barely had time to re-arrange his limbs such that he would fall astride Cole's lap rather than in a painful heap of knees bones and solid wood. At the same instant, he released Cole's hair and threw that hand back, clutching wildly for anything to slow his fall. Dishes shifted noisily and the vase of edible green stalks of something-or-other (an ever-present Adineh custom) flung its contents like javelins as it fell. The sound of rice-paper tearing echoed in their ears as Nika's hand found and clamped down on the sugar bowl.

It stuck.

They had a moment to survey: Nika was leaning back over the table, one hand stretched back to the bowl, the other balancing the spoon, his feet now clamped firmly on either side of Cole's precariously balanced chair as the precious inch or so of his seat lasted. Cole leaned forward, mostly to keep his chair balanced on its back legs. The scooting of it over the wood have over-balanced the chair to the point where it was threatening to fall backward the moment anything changed unless Nika pushed it back down. Cole's hands clutched Nika's hips, his feet off of the floor for counter-balance, meaning his whim was the crux of the situation for as long as the sugar bowl held out. They both could hear the low burping groans of the tiny linen circle on which the sugar bowl sat as it gave way with painful slowness to the weight of two grown men.

Both moss green and sky blue eyes flicked to the spoon, then back to the other's face. Cole squeezed his fingers against Nika's hips, wordlessly threatening an unseating by force. Nika's toes tapped the underside of Cole's seat, threatening to kick him back into the floor. The sugar bowl squeaked piteously for peace.

“Death before surrender,” said Cole.

“Until the fight is won,” returned Nika.

“Well then,” said Cole, putting on a show of thinking, “What–”

The sugar bowl gave before negotiations could begin. Nika slipped from the table into Cole's lap, where in the clear moment denial of physical truths can give one, they both realized that, perhaps if he'd fallen straight down onto Cole's knees, the whole chair wouldn't have gone over backward. It was a serious miscalculation on their part to assume he would.

Nika slid up Cole's thighs, the chair tipped backwards, Cole's shins banged painfully into the table sending it rocking back on its center pedestal, then rocking forward to dump an array of cutlery, breakfast pastries and a cup of grapefruit juice onto Nika's back. The vase rolled to the floor, but in a stroke of luck, didn't shatter. It rolled around on the floor, hollow sound like laughter as it's ceramic belly skipped over the stones.

Nika's eyes were squeezed shut against the pain of the drumming of tossed silverware against his still-healing back. Nika's hand had gentled their fall to the floor, but Cole still couldn't quite breathe, the air forced out of his lungs in the fall. Nika's knees had luckily kept him from throwing his whole weight onto Cole's stomach, but he doubted it'd felt very good. When Cole could move again, he put Nika onto a comfortable spot across his hips so Nika could ease his knees off the floor. Grapefruit juice soaked into Cole's sleeve.

Cole coughed to fill his bruised lungs, and got a spoon in his mouth.

“I win,” Nika said.

“Virtue's Tits, Nika!” Cole gagged, choked and coughed until his eyes watered and tears ran down his face and he thought he might be dying. Nika pulled a napkin off of his shoulder and handed it to Cole so he could wipe off his face. Cole lay on the floor and gasped for a while.

“Well?” Nika asked, after what he determined to be a very patiently issued appropriate interval of silence.

“It's hot,” Cole coughed. His eyes started watering as the flavor hit him. “It's very hot.”

Grinning proudly, Nika resettled himself on Cole's stomach. “That's the spice. It's an Adineh pepper. Hard to get any in Ainjir, so we only had it at festivals.”

“Balls... Nika...” Cole realized he was coughing not because of anything in his throat, but because his throat itself was burning. “It's -hot-!”

Nika shrugged. “It'll fade.”

“What in all the numbered ages are you doing?” said Ambassador Hawath calmly. She was standing at the entrance way in her morning gown/robe/coat (Adineh seemed to have garments for each hour of the day), holding her usual steaming cup of morning tea with a stalk of the green-edibles behind one ear and a de-vaned quill behind the other, apparently on her way to the kitchen. Her glittery and mysterious black eyes were fixed on them, glittery and mysterious and slightly stunned.

“Tasting,” Nika said, adjusting his seat on Cole's stomach and holding up his spoon as evidence.

Cole meanwhile was coughing himself to death. In desperation, he reached up, grabbed Nika's shoulders to haul him down and began to lick his neck. Ambassador Hawath stared.

“Ah... grapefruit juice...” Cole said breathlessly, by way of explanation, once the burning had subsided a little. Of course, once the burning had subsided, his licking turned to kissing. “Mm... grapefruit...”

“Ha!” Nika said, grinning. “You like my sauce.”

“It's too hot!” Cole reiterated.

Ambassador Hawath blinked at her mug. She turned and went back the way she'd come.

“Don't whine,” Nika returned, still grinning proudly to himself. “I knew you'd like it.”

Cole sighed heavily, and kept working his way up Nika's neck. It was no use saying anything. At the very least, though, Cole would get a little loving attention out of the fiasco his peaceful morning.

“I'm making the flatbread you like so much, to go with it.” Nika looked curiously at his spoon. “I put the sesame left over from the sesame bars on some of the flatbread; it tastes good. You like sesame bars, too, no?” He stuck the spoon in his mouth.

Loving attention, flatbread and sesame bars! All of the sudden Cole didn't mind so much the burning of his tongue – it was fading, after all.

“Ah, my love, you do know what I like.” Cole pulled Nika down to kiss him, pulling the spoon from his mouth, thoughts already turned to showing Nika all the things his lover liked.

Before Cole could kiss him, Nika shook off his grip and frowned. “That's too hot,” he said judiciously, as if the thought were a surprise. Nika shoved himself off of Cole's chest and disappeared back into the kitchen, calling over his shoulder, “Don't move. I'll be back.”

Cole let his limbs flop to the floor, and felt his hand slap down on top of a bit of his breakfast: a piece of bread, miraculously having landed buttered side up. It stuck to his hand when he lifted it to look.

Cole sighed.

"I surrender."
First Year, Part 7  by OllamhRemi
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Artist's comment:
This is post-Kostas, some time after they've been staying in the Ambassador's house, and it's fun. So I'm posting it. They go through a lot of shit even after getting to Adineh, but I wanted to post something pretty lightweight. I was going to proceed directly to Second Year, but Second Year kind of sucks for them - so something happy first.
Content details:
• Category – Literature
• Critique – Optional
• Filter – N/A
• Series – Original
• Theme – Rivalry
• Theme – Romance
• Time Taken – Who knows?
• Tools – Literary Work – Prose/Stories
Posted on 2021-04-20 @ 1:25 AM
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