Angela rushed around the kitchen, pulling items from the cupboard as she went. She hummed lightly, thinking back to that time she and Tony sang a duet at the Pitken High Fundraiser, and she grinned at the memory of it all. Tony and the Dreamtones-what a rush!

When she enrolled in the cooking class, she had done it solely to impress Tony. It was becoming more evident that with his college career and all the extra responsibilities he was taking on, he wouldn't be her housekeeper for ever-although, Angela had never really imagined him moving out. In fact, she had fully expected him to stay on, maybe as a tenant, if he wouldn't stay rent free, and she'd figure out how to keep him around more permanently when the time came.

"Eggs," she said, as a reminder, while she went to the fridge and pulled out two from the shelf. "And . where the hell does he keep the fresh cilantro?"

Wildly opening doors and searching for the remaining few ingredients, Angela couldn't help but wonder if she should have just had dinner catered, and told him that she had cooked it.

Then again, he'd know in an instant, because there wouldn't be silk fibers in the main course, or any band aids around her fingers-there would be no reminders of their second anniversary.

"Whoa, Mom, what's going on?" Jonathon appraised the damage to the kitchen, quickly realizing that the noises and muffled growls he had heard really were coming from her.

"I'm cooking, honey," she said, pasting on a fake smile, reminiscent of June Cleaver.

"It looks like you're destroying," he teased. "Joan Crawford.stay away from the coat hangers, okay?"

Her glare was enough to make him shut up, and as he picked up an apple, he gave her a mischievous grin, which made it all too clear that he was going to push his luck. "Next time we go to war," he began, "I'd suggest we enlist you as an undercover sabotage agent, to cook for the other side."

Dashing out the door, Jonathon didn't look back, knowing that the look he'd be getting from his mother would probably melt ice.

"Hey, hey, hey, party people," Mona beamed, as she nearly pranced through the already open kitchen door. "Any one up for a good murder mystery?" Her flapper dress and feathered head band should have given it away, were Angela not so absorbed in her veal cutlets.

"Not now mother, I'm cooking."

"Well, I was going to partake of whatever food was being prepared, or at least a sandwich, but." Mona looked over the food, quezily appraising the appetizer trays.

"No mother, don't be silly. I've made tones of appetizers-and they're supposed to be very good. An idiot proof recipe, apparently."

"Well, when you put it that way, may be I will eat the sandwich." Mona grinned, as she began to prepare a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The appetizers didn't look so bad, but then again, looks could be deceiving.

"What are you wearing?" It had taken her awhile to clue in, but suddenly it became all to clear that her mother was standing in her kitchen, wearing a black beaded flapper dress.

"I'm a guest at a murder mystery tonight downtown-I've decided I want to be the mystery," she laughed, breaking off another piece of her sandwich and stuffing it in her mouth. "Just Max and Me.and who ever else we can rope into participating. I'm calling it operation Mona."

"So you're not going to be here for dinner? But.I'm making enough for a small army!" Her tone was near whining, but she didn't care-the last thing she wanted was to prepare all this food for her family, only to eat it alone.

"Well, you're on your own tonight-sans me," Mona said bluntly. "While you're discussing the way we was, I'm going to be off.meeting new people and exploring a haunted house." Mona winked, "here's to dark corners and walk in closets."

As Mona made her way out of the house, Angela managed to stifle her laugh long enough to be certain she wouldn't hear her. The last thing she wanted was to be accused of encouraging her mother in her delinquent behaviours.

2***

Everything seemed to be on a roll. Angela had managed to find most of the ingredients she wanted, and those which she could find seemed to have basic substitutes in her 'little green book of herbs and spices'.

Angela snickered. Tony would never think of her going to the book store and buying cook books, let alone cheat guides on how to force substitutions if ever there wasn't the right spice near by.

"Hey! Angela, what are you doin'?" Sam picked up the broken eggshells and tossed them in the garbage. While Angela had been thinking about what Tony would think about her endeavors, she had totally blocked out the world around her. Sam's presence suddenly quite scared her.

"Making dinner for tonight," she said flippantly, hoping that her nervousness wasn't evident.

"No, seriously." Sam teased as she looked over the contents of the table.

"Seriously," Angela said in a mocking tone.

"Oh.Well, I'm not going to be home tonight, so let me know how it turns out."

"Where are you going?"

"There's a save the wildlife fundraiser at the Y tonight, and I want to participate. Gotta dance!" Demonstrating her famous tap skills, Sam grinned. "'Sides, there's this guy from my Com 100 class who's arranging it, and he says that he can't wait to see my moves. I'm more interested in seeing his, but."

It was clear that Sam had no intentions of passing up her plans for the night for a dinner prepared by Angela. And Angela was starting to get the drift that nobody would eat something she made anyway.

"Have fun," she said, waiting for Sam to leave before collapsing into her chair and removing her apron.

"I give up. I shouldn't have even tried this-I'm not meant to cook.And nobody would eat it anyway." Angela berated herself for not being more of a home maker, and for not having greater household abilities. Sure, she could run a multi-million dollar business, but when it came to using the stove, she couldn't figure out what a pilot light was.

"Eh oh, oh eh! What's going on in here?" Tony slid into the chair across from Angela, and began to sort the contents of the table. "I passed Sam on my way in, and she looked like she was running from a burning building."

"I uh, I was trying to prepare dinner for you-for the family. And I was doing okay for the first few minutes.I found the eggs, and the veal cutlets. I found the little thing for the flour."

"The sive?"

"Sure. I was doing so well, and then.It just went to hell. Nothing was turning out at all, and I couldn't find the fresh cilantro.There wasn't even a good substitute in the book for it. I made the appetizers but nobody would eat any." Angela looked beyond depressed. "I thought this would turn out pretty well, but all evidence is to the contrary."

There was something about this side of Angela-the side that proved she really couldn't do everything-that made Tony feel sort of.protective of her. It was seeing this incredibly strong, competent woman sit in front of him, feeling nothing less than inferior, and knowing that there was no way that there was something she couldn't do, as much as something she didn't do.

"Well, why don't we finish this up together, and then we'll have dinner together and then maybe we'll go for a walk?" Tony offered her his hand, as he made his suggestion.

"You think you'll be able to walk, after having eaten another one of my meals. God knows, last time we actually had to rush you to the hospital." She couldn't look at his eyes, afraid that her own would betray her.

"Well, now I'm less an appendix and I don't think there are any other organs to be ripped from my body." Tony winked at her. "Let's go. Up and at 'em."

3***

Tony quickly settled into a system-he didn't want to take control from Angela so what he'd do was ask her what needed to be done, and when she fumbled, he made her talk him through the plans.

It seemed easier, Angela decided, when she had Tony helping-and not just because he knew what he was doing, but because she was feeling more confident overall. There were so few things she couldn't do with him, and cooking definitely wasn't on that list.and the things that were..well, she had to avoid thinking about the things that she had yearned to do with Tony, but knew were off limits.

"So, where did you get the herb substitution book from?" Tony refrained from laughing when he looked through the books. It was almost a diagram blow by blow on what each spice was, and how they could be substituted. There was a chili-pepper rating to determine how adequate the substitute was.

"Barnes and Noble. I got it on my way home from work a few weeks ago."

"So this was premeditated cooking? You planned this break in to my sanctuary?" Tony smiled as he beat the eggs.

"Yeah, I wanted to make.a special dinner for you and the family."

"Well, I'm sure it will be great. Even if it is just dinner for two." Stealing a glance at her from the corner of his eye, he couldn't believe that any one as beautiful and amazing as Angela would want to make dinner for him. He was trying to read it as a strictly platonic gesture, but a part of him wanted it to be indicative of something more.

"Yeah, it will be," Angela agreed, offering a sincere smile before returning to her peeling. In her distraction, Angela hadn't realized that she had already peeled the potato once, and was now taking a second layer off of the vegetable.

"I think that one's done," Tony said, as he watched the peelings fall on to the counter.

"Oh, of course," she said, before looking away, blushing and picking up the next potato to peel.

"Do you want a hand with that? I have expert technique for vegetable peeling." It was an honest offer-a very honest, platonic offer-but when his arms came from behind her and his body pressed against hers, he realized that he might not have had such a great idea. "If you peel towards you, you can have one big continuous motion," his hands gently rested on hers, guiding her movements towards her, while the other braced her left hand, supporting the potato. "It takes less time, and you get a nice smooth finish," Tony mentioned, instantly feeling stupid for making such an.unimportant comment.

While they peeled the next potato together, Tony shifted his body a little further away from hers, wanting to maintain a healthy space, and insure that she wouldn't know how much he wished they were doing more than peeling potatoes for dinner together.

"This is a good system," she observed, wishing he hadn't pulled his body away from hers.

"Well, seven years of peeling, and a lot of practice before that means that I have a pretty good idea," he teased, as he helped her finish the final stroke on the potato.

"Yeah," she agreed, as she tried to discretely move a little closer to him. Spinning on her heal, she enjoyed being so close to Tony. "So, what do we do next?"

A lump formed in his throat, willing him to tell her what he really wanted next-to kiss her. But then he realized that she would think he was crazy, and it would only make things 'strange' between them.

"You cube the potatoes and I'll chop up the celery."

4***

"Ow," Angela said, quickly rushing to the sink and turning on the water.

"You okay?" He rushed to her side, he realized, only to notice that she had cut her finger.

"Angela the klutz strikes again," she mumbled, her teeth clenched around her words.

Taking her hand in his, Tony raised her finger out of the stream of water to examine the cut. "That's gonna hurt," he said, as he raised her arm and held her hand at shoulder height. "If you raise it above your heart, the bleeding will stop faster."

"And here I thought you were making a move on me in my hour of need," she teased. Angela's eyes betrayed her, she knew, because there was no way she could think of to hide that she secretly wished this was all a step in Tony's greater plan. But of all the attributes Angela embodied, it seemed to be a given that forwardness was not one of them.

"Oh, the story we could tell our grandchildren-how we got together over potatoes and a bleeding index finger." Not that he hadn't thought about that-Tony had often thought about him and Angela being a 'couple' and finally making their family official. He had imagined holidays when Sam and Jonathon would bring their respective spouses and kids home, and he'd be gramps, and Angela would be Nana. It seemed perfect, if only he could get beyond secretly yearning for her and being scared senseless, and tell her how he felt.

"You've got to admit, it would be a kind of funny story to tell."

"You'll maybe even have a little scar to prove it," Tony said, grabbing a piece of paper towel from the counter top and wrapping her finger. "All better-it should stop in a second or two, and then we'll clean it out and put a band aid on it."

"No finger transplants for me then?" Angela grinned, remembering when Jonathon and Sam had come home, only weeks into living together, wounded from a fight with Richard Wellington.

"Nah, we wouldn't be able to find any suitable donors-you've got amazing hands," Tony hadn't really thought about what he said. And then when he realized what he had said, he felt a rush of embarrassment. "We should probably get back to cooking."

"Yeah," she agreed, flushing slightly.

***

"Wow, this turned out pretty good," Tony said, finishing the last of the garlic roasted potatoes and the asparagus in the cheddar cheese sauce.

"Oh ye of little faith," Angela said, smiling around the wine glass she had resting on her lips. "It turned out extraordinarily well, all things considered."

"What things considered?"

"That I had a hand in this." Angela grinned coyly. "Any pains? Any serious signs that we should be rushing you to the hospital?"

"I'm fine.wonderful even. How 'bout you?"

"I'm feeling very.content right now. Dinner was good, and I had great company. We need to do this more often," Angela declared. "We need to make dinner together sometimes. Who knows, I might even learn a thing or two."

"I'd like that," Tony said honestly.

"So would I."

There was a peaceful silence between them while they sat in their chairs, neither sure what next to do or say.

"Tony?"

"Yeah Angela?" He knew that he looked up at her with those eyes that were a little bit too hopeful for the situation, but he couldn't stop himself. Everything about the evening seemed perfect enough to maybe open the door to the conversation they had in Jamaica.

"What do you think you'll do when you graduate?"

Tony was taken aback by the way she was so forthright with her question. For a moment he felt his breath catch in his throat. "Well, I uh.I haven't really thought about it much. I mean, I uh."

"Never mind. It's okay-you don't owe me any explanations." She looked back down towards the table, trying to avoid eye contact with him. Angela knew that would be all it would take to break what little defenses she had left.

"But I want to talk this over with you." His hand reached across the table and squeezed hers gently. When she didn't pull away, he tightened his grip slightly, not wanting to lose contact, and began to speak. "I want to be a teacher-I want to do something for the community, and for the next generation. I feel like.I feel like I have something to give to them."

"Oh, Tony, you do! You are the most loving, gentle man I have ever met, and you have so much you could give to those students." The passion in her eyes shocked him-the way she could say that with such confidence sent shivers through his spine.

"I'd like to stay in Fairfield, if I could, and I'd like to maybe do weekend courses at the Y in Brooklyn."

Angela felt the familiar warmth grow in her chest-it was the feeling she got whenever she thought about Tony and his propensity for helping every cause he could find. It was his never faltering sense of altruism that made her feel like there was more to the world than cheques and balances, and number crunching on your lunch hour.

"We're so lucky to have you," Angela said, finally finding the words she knew were hiding somewhere in her throat.

"Sam and I are lucky to have you," Tony countered. "You've helped us grow into the people we are, and you've made us realize that there was more to life than one street full of people shoulder to shoulder, fighting to make things more than they were."

"You've made me loosen up, and realize there's more to life than my job. You saved Jonathon from becoming another me-he has interests and he has passions, and none of them have to do with advertising." She snickered, and realized that it wasn't that unusual for her to be self-deprecating.

"Being like you isn't bad," Tony declared in his most stern voice. "You're a beautiful, amazing woman, with a big heart and wonderful intentions."

"And I'm a workaholic."

"Not like you used to be," he pointed out.

"That's because I have you." When the words escaped past her lips, she felt panic flood her.

5***

"I mean." She thought about a billion ways to back peddle, but a part of her wanted to just confess how she was feeling.

"Angela?"

"Yes, Tony?"

"If I were to say that I've come to a point where I have to make a decision about where my life is going, would you want me to tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"What my decision was."

She thought about it for a moment, chewing on her bottom lip, before finally offering her answer. "I would never want you to with hold anything from me."

"I've made a decision," he said quietly.

Angela felt every muscle in her body turn to jelly. This was it, she decided. This would be how Tony told her that he was moving on.Or away.

"I've decided that.I finally know where I'm going-I know what I want from life, and I know what I need to survive it all." Tony searched her eyes for some hint of what she was feeling.

"What do you need?" Angela was surprised that she had managed to force her voice.

"I need to have a good job, that allows me to teach not only concepts but morals. I need to be near my family, and I need to know that I'm still available to them, no matter how crazy school gets. And."

"And?" She was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"And I need you," he confessed.

"Look, Tony, I'm sorry to hear that." Angela had built her self up so much for the big rejection that she hadn't heard his last words. Or at least, they took a little longer to absorb. "Me?"

"You. And Jonathon, and Mona, but particularly you."

"Me." She said again, wrapping her mind around the connotations.

"Yep. These past years have been everything to me. You've seen me through some rough times, and you've seen me through some of the happiest times I've ever experienced, and I wanted you to know that I'm ready to move on to a relationship.with you.if what we discussed in Jamaica still.applied?" Tony waited with baited breath for her to respond.

"YES! Oh, God, Tony, I've been waiting for this for what feels like forever, and if you're ready to start this, then I am more than ready." She smiled broadly. "And when do we get to move forward with the next step?"

"Which would be?"

"Well, I was thinking you might kiss me again, like you did on the beach in Jamaica and you might tell me that you want to hold me."

Tony stood and walked around the table. "I can do you one better," he said, as he guided her away from the table and to the sofa. "I love you, Angela-you're my best friend, and the one thing that occupies my mind twenty-four hours a day." Sitting on the couch and waiting for her to sit beside him, he grinned, watching her blush at his comment.

When she finally joined him on the cushions, he leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss to her lips. It was soft, and hardly demanding, but it managed to convey every feeling that they had for one another: desire, yearning, lust, intense passion, respect, tenderness, and more than anything, love.

"We should have cooking lessons more often," Angela said, as she pulled away from him for a moment, letting her lungs fill with air again.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah," she said with a sense of confidence, "because when we do, we can not only cook, but we can do this." Leaning in again, she pressed a deeper kiss to his lips, parting them with her tongue and pressing her body against his.

"I like that," he said, feeling as though he had just forfeited all coherent thought.

"So do I," Angela agreed, before moving in for another kiss.

"I'd propose a toast, but I like having you here with me, and our glasses are too far away," Tony said, against her lips.

"Screw the glasses," she mumbled.

"To cooking and confessions."

"To cooking, confessions, and accepting love," Angela amended before leaning in for another kiss.