DINNER FOR TWO
It's Ray and Benny's anniversary. Ray decides to cook dinner for him, including food Benny loves and Ray hates.
An established relationship story.
Written: October 2014. Word count: 3,635.
Ray hummed, mostly in tune with the radio, as he chopped onions, tomatoes and fresh herbs and garlic, pausing now and then to take a sip from the glass of red wine he had poured himself. Once everything was chopped to his satisfaction, he turned his attention to the beef and began to lightly fry it until it was brown all over. He then spooned it out onto a plate and fried the onions and garlic, before putting the meat back into the pan along with the tomatoes and herbs and brought everything to the boil.
Leaving it to simmer gently, he turned his attention to making fresh pasta for the lasagna; this was a special dinner and he wasn't going to spoil it by using store-bought lasagna sheets no matter how good they were. It was his and Benny's third anniversary, and with Benny still at the library where he had worked since they had returned to Chicago, he had time to indulge one of his passions: cooking.
It was a passion he had discovered after they had returned to Chicago. Before then he had cooked at times, but for the most part if had only involved reheating stuff or throwing toppings onto a pizza base or assembling the most basic meal. He had never really thought about what he was cooking or why he was cooking or the pleasure he could get from cooking something.
His discovery of how much he enjoyed cooking had come about purely by chance. Benny had contracted a very nasty chill once they had returned to Chicago, which had pulled him down and left him listless, somewhat depressed and without any real appetite. Most things Ray put in front of him ended up in Dief's bowl, which while making the wolf happy, did not help Benny.
And then one day Ray had remembered the soup his mother had made for him, Frannie and Maria when they were sick as kids. It had been warming, soothing, hearty and yet not too hearty, tasty and it had never failed to make Ray or his sisters feel better. Determined to nurse Benny back to full health, Ray had called his mother and got the recipe from her. She had offered to make the soup herself, but Ray had refused, wanting to be the one to make it for Benny. And he had; he had spent an entire day in the kitchen chopping and cooking and blending and tasting until after four attempts, he produced something that reminded him of his childhood.
To begin with when he had put it front of Benny and handed him a spoon, Benny had listlessly mixed the soup around until Ray, eager not only to see if it made Benny feel better, but also keen to know what Benny thought of it, took the spoon from Benny, scooped up some soup and holding it over a napkin offered it to Benny. After a faint look of surprise, Benny had sighed softly and obligingly let Ray feed the spoonful of soup to him. He swallowed dutifully and looked at Ray, no doubt to thank him kindly, when a look passed over his face and the dutiful 'thank you, kindly, Ray', fled and his eyes brightened.
Encouraged, Ray scooped up another spoonful and offered it to Benny, who again let him feed the soup to him before smiling and snatching the spoon from Ray's hand and beginning to eat with a gusto Ray hadn't seem him display in far too many months - even before he had fallen sick.
"That was lovely, Ray," he said, sitting back in his chair and wiping his mouth with his napkin, as Dief sat by his side and looked hopeful.
"Was it, Benny? Was it really?" Ray didn't really like how desperate for praise he sounded, but the words had been said.
Benny smiled at him; the first true Benny smile Ray had seen for quite some time and nodded. "Yes, Ray. It was. It reminded me of - It was wonderful."
Ray smiled and in a quick move Benny stood up, dropped his napkin, put his arms around Ray, pulled him towards him and kissed him. They made love, much to the disgust of Dief who snorted and trotted off to his bed and curled up with his back to them, on the kitchen floor, both too desperate to even get as far as the couch let alone their bed.
From that day Ray had been caught by the cooking bug and now, some two and a half years later, he was the one who cooked every night - unless they went out for dinner. He didn't just cook every night, but he also made lunch for Benny to take to work with him every day, as well as making an array of cakes and other sweet things together with dishes to put in the freezer. In addition, these days, he didn't just cook for pleasure; he also cooked for what could be a new career for him. He was practicing and testing the recipes he was going to use for a simple cookery book for the 'non-cooking man'.
The book had come about as a result of a conversation he had had with a client. Upon returning from Miami, Ray hadn't been certain what he wanted to do; he only knew he hadn't wanted to go back to working all hours for the Chicago PD. Benny had suggested a complete change of career, but being a cop was really the only thing Ray had known, so it seemed natural to move into being a PI. A PI who worked when he wanted to, chose the cases he wanted to do, cases that most other PIs couldn't be bothered to take on as they involved tracking down missing cats and following the odd errant husband. However, after his years as a cop and his rather traumatic time undercover, Ray actually enjoyed the quieter life. Plus, it meant he was home in the evenings; home with Benny; home with the man he loved.
One day one of his clients, whose pedigree, prize winning cat he had rescued from the hands of a man whose intention was to breed her, turned up at his home to thank him again. Ray had been baking and had offered the woman coffee and cakes. She had gone into raptures over the cakes and that had led to Ray explaining how he had fairly recently discovered how much he enjoyed cooking. It was then he learned the woman he had helped was a publisher, and that she was looking for some new authors. She suggested Ray produce a basic cookery book of relatively quick, simple and health food.
Uncertain as to whether he could actually do it, Ray had waited until Benny had come home from the library to ask his opinion. Benny had been in favor and so Ray had bit the bullet, put his PI business on hold and had settled down to refine dishes and help the man in the street who couldn't boil an egg.
Benny and Dief were his guinea-pigs and he soon learned the wolf was fussier than Benny - who to be honest ate and praised pretty much everything Ray put in front of him. However, there would be no trial and error in tonight's dishes; tonight was about perfection, because tonight was about him and Benny and their love.
The lasagna, Benny's favorite dish, would be accompanied by a fresh salad for him and zucchini for Benny. Ray hated, with an irrational passion, zucchini; Benny however loved it. Because Ray didn't even particularly like to cook it, they rarely if ever had it. In fact he didn't just dislike it, he hated the slimy look of the seeds inside, and he wasn't keen on feel of the green outside and it was boring; even when things were added to it, it was boring. No, it wasn't something Ray wanted in his kitchen. However, tonight he would cook it for Benny, because Benny loved it and Ray loved Benny and -
He paused for a moment as he kneaded the dough for the pasta and knew he was grinning like a fool, but he honestly didn't care. Just as he didn't care who knew he loved Benny. Just as - "What?" he demanded as Dief whined. Half the time Dief went to work with Benny where he was a popular addition, and half the time he stayed at home with Ray. Today was a stay at home day.
He looked at Dief who sat with his head on one side; the look he was giving Ray made him feel a bit warm. "What's it got to do with you anyway?" he demanded, not for the first time reminding himself he was talking to a supposedly deaf wolf. Not that he was altogether certain Dief was deaf; he seemed perfectly able to hear when it was convenient to him.
Dief whined again and trotted towards Ray and barked hopefully. With a sigh and realizing he was as much under Dief's paw as he was under Benny's spell, Ray put a bit of the beef mixture into a bowl and put it down for Dief.
"Well?" he demanded, as it was gobbled up and Dief sat back on his haunches and looked up at him. "It is all right?" He shook his head, he was not only talking to a deaf wolf; he was asking it his opinion. "Why is this my life?" he murmured, turning away from Dief and returning to making the pasta.
Dief barked twice and trotted back across the kitchen, his tail wagging. He settled down with his head on his paws and stared unblinkingly at Ray. Ray decided Dief had approved of the beef.
Once he had made the pasta and the sauce, Ray quickly assembled the lasagna and put it into the oven to cook slowly and turned his attention to his salad and Benny's zucchini. It hadn't been easy to find zucchini in the city at this time of the year. However, then the wife of his second cousin's cousin, told him her husband had taken to growing them and she would let him have some.
They weren't much like any zucchini Ray had come across as they were much smaller, as well as being a somewhat lighter green than the zucchini he was used to. But Gabriela had assured him they were zucchini, and given she was kind of family, he decided it would be rude to argue with her.
As they were so small Ray decided that rather than chop them up (he wouldn't have to look at the squishy seeds) he would steam them whole and simply toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper and some of his special seasoning. His seasoning was not something which would be going into his recipe book. It was his secret; a closely guarded secret; one he hadn't even shared with Benny or his mother - although he was fairly certain Dief knew what went into it.
He left the lasagna and zucchini gently cooking and went into the living room to set the dining table - tonight they would not be eating off of trays on their laps - with a table-cloth, proper (rather than paper) napkins, silverware, glasses and china. A china dinner service had been a gift from his mother when Benny and he had married; it was traditional she had said. Even today Ray was still relieved, happy and surprised that his mother had accepted the fact that he, a supposedly good Catholic boy, was married to another man.
The table set, including a small vase of Benny's favorite flowers, a CD playing some of Benny's favorite music, Ray hurried upstairs to take a quick shower, shave and change.
Dressed in the green shirt Benny loved to see him in and a pair of smart trousers, Ray went back into the kitchen, checked on the lasagna, drained the zucchini and set it aside to reheat at the last moment. He poured himself another glass of wine and took it and a newly opened bottle into the living room to wait for Benny to come home.
As always, Dief 'heard' Benny at least thirty seconds before Benny unlocked the front door and he bounded out into the hall to greet his master. Ray followed him and waited until Dief had enthusiastically greeted and been greeted by Benny before going over to him.
"Hello, Benny," he said, slipping his arms around Benny and kissing him.
"Hello, Ray. Something smells good," Benny said, lightly nuzzling Ray's neck.
Ray shivered as Benny's lips brushed against his skin, and for a fleeting second he considered suggesting that rather than eat now they go to bed. They could always reheat the lasagna later. However, reheated lasagna was never, in Ray's opinion, as good as the freshly cooked version and he had spent a long time on dinner. They were going to enjoy it.
Thus with a degree of reluctance he pulled back from Benny, lightly kissed him again and said, go and shower. Dinner'll be ready in twenty minutes. "Oh," he called, as Benny dutifully turned to obey him. "Happy anniversary, Benny."
Benny, already on his way to the stairs, paused and turned around. He stayed where he was and simply smiled at Ray. "Happy anniversary, Ray," he said. They held one another's gazes for a few seconds, before Benny smiled in his intimate way and turned around and went up the stairs.
SOME TIME LATER
"That was superb, Ray," Benny drawled. He leaned forward and captured Ray's hand, tugging it to his mouth and kissing it. Moments later, taking the hand from his mouth he gazed at Ray and quite deliberately licked his lower lip with the tip of his tongue, letting it linger for longer than was usual.
Ray swallowed hard and shifted slightly on his chair as he stared at Benny. For some reason something seemed slightly strange; he didn't know what it was, but Benny seemed . . . Well, rather un-Bennyish. Ray wondered if he had drunk too much wine, but he had seen Benny slightly tipsy before now and it wasn't the same. Benny was . . . Ray couldn't explain it. He was relaxed, laid back, at ease, all the things Ray would have expected him to be but . . . If it had been anyone else, Ray would have thought he was on his way to being drunk, but Benny wasn't, of that Ray was quite certain.
"You're such a wonderful cook, Ray," Benny said, beaming at Ray as he pulled Ray's hand back to his mouth. This time took one of Ray's fingers into his mouth and began to suck it, his gaze never once leaving Ray's face. Ray jumped slightly and found his gaze moving to Dief who now sat upright staring at Benny. To Ray's eyes, the wolf seemed uneasy and uncertain, and then to his surprise Dief stood up and made a low growling noise in the back of his throat.
"Quiet, Dief," Ray said, glancing at Dief again, who now stalked nearer to Benny and growled again. "Benny, he's growling."
Benny giggled - there was no mistaking the sound; he giggled. "He's jealous, Ray," he said, and giggled again, as he sucked harder on Ray's finger.
Hackles now up, teeth bared as he stared at his master, Dief's growl became more ominous as he fixed his gaze on Benny.
Ray swallowed; he was now seriously worried - and not just about Benny. "Dief, bed!" he said firmly. Dief glanced at him and ignored him. Ray swallowed again. "Bed, Dief!" he said again, more firmly this time.
Hackles still up, teeth still bared, an ominous growl still coming from his throat (never had he looked more like a wolf) Dief turned his attention from Benny, glared at Ray and turned away, stalking across the room to his bed on the floor next to the couch. He got onto it, but didn't sit or settle down; instead he just stood and kept his gaze on Benny.
"Are you all right, Benny?" Ray dragged his attention away from Dief and looked at Benny.
"Of course I am, Ray, why shouldn't I be. I'm soooo happy." And again Benny giggled as he let Ray's finger fall from his mouth. "I love you, Ray," he said, and beamed. "Let's fuck."
That was it; that was enough for Ray. He stood up swiftly, grabbed Benny's plate and glass and hurried out into the kitchen with them.
When he came back it was to find Benny had undone his shirt and was sprawled back in his chair. Dief still stood on his bed, his attention still on Benny, hackles still up, teeth still bared, but now he was silent.
"I think something I've fed you has upset you, Benny. I think you should go and lay down," Ray said, going around the table and taking Benny's arm.
"Why don't you come with me and feed me something else then, Ray." Benny gave Ray a knowing look and Ray swallowed hard and felt panic begin to rise in him.
"Benny, I -" The sound of the front door bell ringing, interrupted him. "Stay here," he said, looking at Benny. He then turned to Dief. "Make sure he stays here, Dief." As he turned on his heel to go out of the room he saw Dief get off his bed and return to standing next to Benny; clearly he had decided Ray's words gave him permission to get off. "Good boy," Ray murmured, hurrying out into the hall and opening the door.
"Franco!" he said, staring at his second cousin. "What do you -"
Franco launched into a torrent of Italian and for a moment Ray struggled to follow his words. As he was still listening, Gabriela and a man Ray assumed had to be her husband, got out of a car and joined Franco. With Gabriela standing silently, twisting her hands together and staring helplessly at Ray, her presumed-to-be-husband also launched into a torrent of Italian.
Then Gabriela spoke. "I didn't know Ray, truly. I didn't know. I would never have - Ray, you have to believe me; I didn't know."
Finally, Franco and the other man's words penetrated Ray's brain. "You did what?" he yelled in English. "You did what?" he repeated, before switching to Italian and cursing Franco, his cousin and all their ancestors. "You irresponsible - what were you thinking?"
"They weren't meant for anyone other than us, Ray." Franco finally spoke in English, as Alanzo (or at least that's what Franco had called his cousin) continued to pour out words in Italian. "We did not know, Ray. We did not know Gabriela would be foolish enough as to give them to a cop. What were you -" And he returned to Italian as he berated the hapless Gabriela, who stood still twisting her hands together.
Franco's attention on his wife finally seemed to get through to Alanzo; he turned his attention from Ray to Franco and began to swear at him and threaten him. Ray was just about to try to get between them when Dief started to bark frantically. A moment later Ray heard sounds of the living room door being opened and half a second later slammed shut again. He glanced over his shoulder as it opened and shut again; he got the impression it was Dief who was shutting the door.
"Why is this my life?" he moaned, uncertain as to whether to return to Benny or sort the others out.
Suddenly Gabriela began to speak in Italian, clearly berating both men as she grabbed Alanzo by one arm and Franco by the other. "I will take them home, Ray. I will make sure they never do anything like this again. I am sorry, Ray. Truly I am. We never -" She returned to Italian and with all three of them speaking at once she dragged both men back to the car.
Ray stood and watched as she bundled first Franco and then Alanzo into the car before getting into the driver's seat and driving off. Behind him Dief still barked furiously and now he could hear Benny giggling.
He sighed, shut the door and leaned against it for a moment. Drugs; his no-good second cousin's no-good cousin, had put some kind of drug into the zucchini and Ray, because he had cooked them whole, hadn't found them. No, he had simply cooked them and Benny had eaten them! He groaned softly; he had gathered from Alanzo and Franco that they weren't dangerous, they were just some kind of mild, relaxant that made the person who took them become free from inhibition and -
Free from inhibition! Swiftly locking and bolting the front door and wincing as Dief's barks got more frantic, Ray hurried across the hall opened the living room door to be greeted by a completely naked and highly aroused Benny who just beamed at him.
"Ray!" he cried, throwing himself at Ray with such force, it caused Ray to stagger for a moment. "Let me show you how much I love you!"
Resigned and deciding that actually Benny didn't seem harmed in any way, Ray let himself be pulled over to the couch and stripped before Benny pushed him down and joined him. As Benny's mouth descended onto Ray's erection, Ray heard Dief make a resigned noise in the back of his throat. His final conscious memory was of Dief trotting out of the living room and heading for the kitchen. After that he was lost in Benny's hands and mouth.
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