Author: Astrid Amara
Characters: Seth Bellski & Lars Varga
Seth Bellski walked into the apartment he lived in with his boyfriend Lars Varga, stared at the laid out dinner table, flowers, and wine, and blinked rapidly.
Lars smirked from the kitchen. He was a tall man and attractive, his blond hair carefully coifed after a day at his law office. Much of this overall look of masculinity and professionalism was diminished, however, by the pink frilly apron he wore over his button down shirt and slacks. The apron said “Kitchen Bitch” and was a gift from Seth’s sister, who thought it was hilarious.
She clearly didn’t realize that Lars would actually use the thing. Often.
“You forgot,” Lars stated.
Seth dropped his heavy backpack in the hallway that also served as the entrance to the kitchen and had a view of the entire apartment. Their place was small, but it had a killer view.
“I thought our anniversary was in February,” Seth said.
Lars rolled his eyes. “That’s when I first hired you.”
“Yeah, when we met.”
“No, I mean our anniversary of when we got together,” Lars stated.
“Officially or unofficially?” Seth asked, raising an eyebrow. Their first year of dating had been in secret, back when Lars was adamantly in the closet and refused to admit to anyone he was fucking his paralegal. It had taken threats, tears, and finally a break up to get Lars to come out to his family and co-workers.
Lars huffed, pointing at Seth threateningly with a wine opener. “No. When we first moved in together,” Lars clarified. “Remember? June 1st? Four years ago?”
Seth took off his suit jacket. “That’s when we moved in. But technically we signed the lease on May something or other, so why not use that as your randomly-chosen date for celebration?”
“And you always say I’m the unromantic one,” Lars grumbled.
Seth loosened his tie. He hated ties. He wore them because Lars insisted that lawyers got more respect when they dressed professionally, and now that Seth was a lawyer, he needed all the respect he could get.
He would never tell Lars how valuable the tip had been.
Seth moved into their cramped kitchen and grabbed two glasses of wine. “If we’re going to pick out a random date to identify as the moment we were officially a couple, I’d go with that Hanukkah in Whistler. When you came out to dick Adam Finch. That in my mind was when we were officially official.”
Lars opened the wine and poured them both generous shares. “That was the most terrifying day of my life, thank you very much. I don’t want to elevate its importance.”
“So maybe the first time we fucked?” Seth suggested.
“Wasn’t that the very same day we met?” Lars countered.
“Ha ha.” Seth moved into the main room and sat at the dining table. Judging from the mushroomy, cheesy smell emanating from the oven, and the fact that Lars had used all the various parts of their fancy dish set, Seth was in for something awesome.
“I may not have put out that first day,” Seth reminded him, “but I had lots of naughty thoughts about you. Thoughts like, ‘He’s a nice man, for a goy. He seems like he’ll be a good boss. I bet those lips give great head.’”
Lars laughed. “I just remember thinking, ‘you can’t fuck your paralegal, you can’t fuck your paralegal’ over and over.”
“You stuck to that for a whole two months.”
“I’m a bastion of willpower,” Lars declared.
Seth tilted his head. “Did we ever actually go on a first date? I think that’s what a lot of couples use at their anniversary. I can’t recall if we did that.”
“Sure,” said Lars. “I bought you beers at the bar down the street, got you drunk, then you came home with me and sucked my cock.”
“Damn, I was easy,” Seth laughed.
“You were horny,” Lars added. “Though I was too so I’m not complaining.” He opened the oven door. The smell of something creamy and rich wafted through the apartment, and Seth’s stomach grumbled.
As Lars fussed in the kitchen, Seth drank his wine and admired the bouquet of flowers serving as a centerpiece.
“I don’t like this talk of ‘horny’ being in past tense,” said Seth.
Lars snorted. “What the hell did we do last night?”
“I don’t know,” Seth replied. “That felt a lot like just squirming around on top of me with your hand around our dicks.”
“I was half asleep,” Lars said, scowling. “What do you want from me? Now that I’ve seen you clip your toenails, you’re going to have to settle for boring old domestic sex.”
“It happens, baby.” Lars carried over a salad bowl, fresh garlic bread, and returned a moment later with a piping hot pan of cheesy mushroom lasagna.
“Wow,” Seth said, grinning. “All this boring old domestic sex must still being doing the trick if I deserve this.”
“Of course you deserve it.” Lars poured himself more wine and sat across from Seth.
They ate, and for a while, the only sounds Seth was capable of making were grunts of pleasure. There really wasn’t anything in the world as good as Lars’s mushroom lasagna on an empty stomach. Everything tasted rich, flavorful, and more importantly – lovingly made.
Lars made this for him, Seth thought.
Yeah, Lars loved to cook, and he made dinner for Seth more nights than he didn’t. But this was something special. They both worked long hours at their respective law firms, and so for Lars to come home after a long day and then whip up something this magical meant a lot.
“Why now?” Seth asked, looking over the annihilated remnants of his meal.
Lars frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Why now with the anniversary business?” Seth asked. “We’ve never celebrated any anniversaries before. What made you decide we need an anniversary?”
Lars flushed a little, messing his fork around in his salad. “No reason. I was talking to my Mom, and she asked how long we’d been dating, and I realized we didn’t have an actual specific date, per se. So I thought that June 1 made sense since that’s when we moved in together. And then I spotted all those portabellas at a stall in the market, and out hatched a plan.”
“Fungus and call-from-mother equals romantic evening,” Seth summarized. “Worked out for me so I’m not complaining.” He leaned back and rubbed his sadly distended belly. “I think if I eat anything more I’m going to pop.”
“So no crème brule for you then?” Lars asked.
“What? Fuck that. Bring it on.”
“If you throw up from overindulgence, I’m not cleaning it up,” Lars cautioned.
“What happened to boring domesticity?” Seth replied. “I thought that’s what couples did for each other.”
Lars didn’t answer. He was back in the kitchen, torching the tops of the brules toasty warm in their ramekins. He was still flushed, and Seth thought it might be the wine they had, but there was a slight nervousness to his actions.
He brought over the two desserts, keeping his head down as he ate.
“Lars?” Seth asked.
Lars looked up. “What?”
“Seriously. Why all this?”
Lars shrugged. “Can’t I make a nice dinner for you?”
“Of course, but you know that isn’t just ‘nice dinner’. This is above and beyond. This is – birthday or new job or celebration dinner. This is special.”
“Well, we were out of pastrami, so I had to come up with something.”
“What?” Lars breathed out, sounded exasperated. “Does there have to be a reason? Isn’t a fake anniversary good enough?”
Seth felt like a douchebag. Of course it was enough. He smiled, reaching his foot out to tap Lars’s under the table. “It’s more than enough. It’s crazy perfect. I think this is the best meal I’ve ever had.”
“Well good. So shut up and eat your brule, and stop complaining.”
Seth enjoyed the dessert, although he truly was stuffed and could barely finish it. He was going to have a hell of a time getting up tomorrow. And he was going to have to put in extra time at the gym to make up for the calorie bomb he’d just ingested.
It didn’t matter, because it was worth it.
“So maybe I do have an ulterior motive.” Lars said the words quietly, not making eye contact. He stared at his meal, as if confessing to the dessert. “I couldn’t find any pairs of running socks this morning.”
Seth stared at him blankly. “Uh-huh.”
“So I looked in your sock drawer to see if maybe you stole one of my pairs like you always do—“
“I don’t steal them. I borrow them–”
“And I found the manila envelope you had hidden there. And I couldn’t help myself. I looked inside.”
Seth’s heart skipped a beat. What the fuck had he put in a manila folder in his sock drawer, for fuck’s sake? He didn’t have any secrets, at least any secrets he could remember.
It would have to be documents of some sort oh yeah oh god damn it
“The fuck!” Seth cried, standing up. “That was your birthday present, asshole!”
Seth had filled out all the paperwork to start his own firm with Lars several months ago, waiting for the right moment to spring the idea on him.
It had been Lars’s dream ever since Seth passed the bar. Lars had taken Seth’s refusal to work together personally, never really understanding why Seth had to go into practice elsewhere until he had some experience under his belt.
For Seth, it had been an issue of equality. He’d been Lars’s paralegal, so to go straight into business with him felt like he would once again be subservient to his partner with superior experience and expertise. Instead, Seth had gone to work for his friend Violet at her firm. Lars had taken it badly.
But the long hours apart had been eating at Seth. Over the last year, the possibility of carpooling, and having lunches together like they used to all those years ago, as well as the possibility of working cases as a team – it had grown from being just Lars’s fantasy to Seth’s as well.
Lars still wouldn’t look at him. His eyes were on his ramekin. “Are you serious? You really want this?”
“Are you asking the crème brule or me?” Seth asked.
Lars glanced up. His cheeks blazed with embarrassment. “You, asshole.”
Seth’s heart did a flutter, then filled his body, warm and full. “Yes, I’m serious. Let’s open our own firm together.”
Lars’s eyes instantly got glassy. He smiled, tentatively. “I told you ages ago Varga & Bellski would have a nice ring to it.”
Seth grinned. “Hey, what’s wrong with Bellski & Varga? We should go in alphabetical order.”
“Whatever you want, baby,” Lars said. He reached across the table and grabbed Seth’s hand. “It’s all I’ve wanted, you know that.”
“You realize we might drive each other crazy, spending all our waking hours together.”
Lars dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand. “Nah. We worked together for years already.”
Seth started clearing the table. “Yeah but that was when I was your paralegal, and not an attorney with equal share.”
“Baby, I’ll take you by my side in any way possible. And I think we’ll be unstoppable as a team.” Lars helped carry plates into the sink. “What’s Violet going to say?”
“I think she’ll understand,” Seth said. “She always knew this day would come. But I can’t leave until I finish the two cases I have.”
“I know.” Lars was openly smiling now, a look of sheer joy on his face.
“I just filled out the paperwork. It still has to be filed—“
“I know, baby. You just pick a date, any date, and I’m ready.”
Seth turned on the sink, and Lars turned it off. He reached for Seth and, like magic, they were together, lips pressed close, and Seth almost laughed at how fast these moments happened. One second he was standing alone, and the next – he was surrounded by Lars.
“I should clean up,” Seth said into Lars’s mouth. They both had meetings with clients the following morning, and wouldn’t see each other until late tomorrow night. Although those days would hopefully soon be at an end.
“Nah, leave it for tomorrow,” Lars urged, kissing Seth again. “I think after cooking a meal like that I deserve some of that boring domestic sex we were talking about.”
“Yeah?” Seth grinned. “I don’t know if I should reward you for snooping around in my private paperwork so quickly.”
Lars blinked. “Aw come on. I made you crème brule.”
“True,” Seth said. “Time to work off some of those calories.”
Astrid Amara lives in Bellingham, Washington. She’s a former Peace Corps Volunteer, an advocate for animal rights, and a bureaucrat by day. After work she can usually be found writing, riding horses, hiking, or else sleeping. Her novel The Archer’s Heart was a finalist for the 2008 Lambda Literary Award.