AUTHOR'S NOTE: For Konnie, Elihice, Baka Deshi, and all of you who hold that Yue and Yukito are of one heart.  If I didn't think you believed in it, I couldn't have gotten this written.

 I'm certain that my subconscious drew from Askani Blue's "Illusions" as well as Artemesia's "Q.E.f.t.G.G.", but blame everything on me and leave them out of it.

I'm using the word "hashi" rather than "chopsticks" because, to me, chopsticks are Chinese.

"To Thaw the Frost of Years"

. . .

            Afterward, Yue wondered at how they had never gotten to the strawberries.

. . .

            In Yukito's kitchen… in his kitchen… Yue methodically laid out choices, grouping and arranging them by the course into which each would go.  Like a mantra, a single line of Shakespeare haunted his head while he measured spices and flour into small dishes: "Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds…".  He tried to quiet his mind; he forced himself to observe at a remove while he placed the bamboo cutting board on the countertop and selected an appropriate knife for the vegetables.  He held the shallots securely with arched fingers and the Chop-chop-Chop-chop of the steel against the board began to fall with the cadence of iambic pentameter.  Exasperated, and nervous again, he released both greens and knife and placed his hands flat against the cool counter tiles.

            He whipped around, turning away from the preparations for dinner, and dug through Yukito's… his… books until he found what he hoped would be an antidote for his mind's insistent worry.  He opened the Selected Poems of Christina Rosetti to the table of contents and found the page number, thumbed to it, and read.

            "What would I give," he said to the empty kitchen, "for a heart of flesh to warm me through -- Instead of this heart of stone ice-cold whatever I do -- Hard and cold and small, of  all hearts the worst of all."  The refridgerator, his only audience, hummed a reply as the motor turned on.  He shut the book.  It hadn't helped.

            "… that alters when it alteration finds…"

            At this rate, Touya would be home before Yue had anything at all for him to eat, let alone the carefully planned meal that he was striving to make.  Glaring at the vegetables, Yue pushed the cutting board aside; the salad was chilling and main course would cook quickly.  Instead, he started a pot of water boiling on the stove, to melt the chocolate, and began the dessert.  Large, fresh and ripe strawberries, – three would not fit in one palm – Grand Marnier liqueur,  silky chocolate… freshly whipped cream with the slightest hint of vanilla and sugar… was it obvious enough?  It was screamingly blatant to Yue, but would Touya recognize that this was a lovers' dessert?

            Rosetti, again.  What would I give for words, if only words would come;  But now in its misery my spirit has fallen dumb:  Oh, merry friends, go your way, I have never a word to say.  Yue hadn't needed to look the poem up a moment earlier.  He knew that one well, and heard the second stanza as clearly as if he had spoken it aloud, too.  This dinner, this whole… effort… was an attempt to get past his inability to speak.  He had abundant evidence that Touya loved Yue's other self, having been for so long an outside observer.  There had been a time when Yukito's love for Touya… his love for Touya… had made Yue feel disjointed from his false form.  Yet as Yue had fallen in love with Touya, in that sure way that a smooth stone falls through water, Yue had realized: he was Yue, and he was Yukito.  In the singleness of his love, he was one person.  There were no more whispers in his mind, save the whispering taunts of single sonnet lines.

            Yue placed the bain marie into the boiling water and lowered the heat.  He stirred the chocolate slowly and watched the broken pieces melt into a smooth pool.

            "Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds…"

            As observant as Touya was, he didn't seem aware of what had happened.  When Yue was in his true form, as he was now (albeit without his wings showing), Touya treated him with a respectful distance.  The serious young man reserved his playfulness for Yukito, warm hands resting on Yukito's back or pinching at the points of Yukito's smile.  And the two of them were still in that hesitant impass, nothing – however apparent – confessed, their relationship still teetering on the edges of friendship with too much balance to fall freely.

            Yue was afraid that Touya would continue to treat him as Yue, rather than as Yukito, when Touya finally saw clearly what had happened.  While he opened the Madeira wine for the sauce, he walked out to the dining room to make certain that everything was in order.  On the low table, he had already laid out the settings, with a long runner that drew attention to the table, making it a focal point.  He hadn't gone as far as candlelight, but the room was softly lit, as always, and the college texts, as well as any other mundane distractions, were stowed out of sight.  The dinner was a blending of East and West, just as he himself was, a notable difference from the casual meals that he (as Yukito) and Touya usually ate together.

            He went upstairs to change out of his cooking clothes and put on a shirt of bleached Irish linen over smooth blue-grey slacks.  Months ago, he had stopped wearing his formal blue-and-white unless Sakura needed him to act the part of Guardian.  He didn't have a closetful of clothes, now – he wasn't that vain – but he wore what any other young man would wear… just with a little more flair.

            After another half-hour that was both too long and too short, Yue heard Touya knock on the door just before he let himself in.  The soft sound of his bare feet crossed the floor and headed toward the kitchen, with  just a slight pause at the dining room.

            "Yo –" Touya said, smiling as he entered to kitchen.  "I know you said you were making dinner, but if I'd known it was going to be formal, I would've dressed better," he joked while he relaxed against the counter.

            "What you are wearing is fine," said Yue.  In a quick glance, he took in the view over which he would have wanted to linger; Touya was in faded jeans and a dark blue sweatshirt that enhanced his eyes, and his hair was tousled in its usual manner, wisping over his face.  "It's just you and I," Yue confirmed.  With the mignon covered and searing in its pan, he gestured toward the refridgerator.  "If you want to take out the salad, this won't take much longer to be ready."

            Looking momentarily disappointed at being ushered out, Touya ambled over to the appliance and opened the door.  If he noticed the chocolate-dipped strawberries on the top shelf, he didn't comment on it.  Salad bowl in one hand, he grabbed a couple of frosted bottles of the German beer that was also waiting in the cold, and commented on them instead.  "Imports?" he asked, letting Yue fill in the question from the single word.

            Yue bravely met the teasing smile in the young man's eyes.  "It goes with the food," he defended.  And felt his breath catch when Touya grinned.  Turning back to the stove quickly,  he removed the steaks onto a platter and began deglazing the pan.

            "Don't let me get lonely," Touya said to Yue's back before walking out of the kitchen.

            Yue stared at the tiled wall in front of him; he rescued the sauce from burning in just the nick of time.  He deftly sliced the meat and arranged the platter in a continued state of stunned elation, wiped his hands on a towel, and carried the main course out to the table.

            Touya had a contemplative look on his face, but it lightened when he saw Yue kneel opposite from him at the table after placing the dish between them.  He immediately popped the caps off of both beer bottles and put one in front of Yue while taking a swig from his own.  Yue watched expectantly while Touya picked up his hashi and sampled the meal onto his plate.  Touya nodded with appreciation at his first bite.

            "I don't think I've ever had anything like this," he said.  He ate a few of the carmelized pecans from the salad and toyed with a piece of apple.

            "It's a change from pizza and yakisoba," Yue replied.

            Touya smiled, and then his eyes narrowed.  "You aren't eating," he said.  An indefinite shake of Yue's head was Yue's reply.  Touya picked up a morsel and, leaning across the table, brought the hashi level to Yue's mouth.  "You can't trust a cook who doesn't eat his own cooking," he argued.  He fixed Yue with one of his piercing looks.

            The dandelion green waited.  I can do this, Yue thought.  He almost closed his eyes as the hashi crossed the border of his lips.  Touya didn't wait for Yue to chew; he presented a mandarin orange slice, and fed that to Yue next.  While Yue watched, Touya chose a slice of the filet mignon and ate, and it almost seemed that he let the bamboo sticks linger in his mouth.

            Yue slowly picked up his own utensils.  "Is it good?" he asked carefully.  He picked at the meat himself, contemplatively coating a piece with the glossy sauce.

            "It's delicious," said Touya.

            Yue leaned over the table himself to offer the piece to Touya, and met Touya's eyes while Touya took what he offered.  The cross-feeding slowly escalated in intensity though not in speed, each of them taking deliberate turns until little was left on the serving plates, and until Yue retreated suddenly.  "To-ya, I have something to tell you," he said in one shallow breath.  Yue put his utensils down and studied his hands; silence sat between the young men on a tense thread.  "I have said that I don't eat…" he started. 

Touya interrupted Yue's confession with a matter-of-fact tone.  "I've seen you eat more than this," he said.  Since Yue's eyes were still averted, he didn't see, only sensed, that Touya was leaning on the table and toward Yue in a confrontational manner.  Yue felt pinned in place until he raised his eyes and realized that Touya's face was less than a thought's distance away.  His thought didn't finish  before he found himself meeting Touya's lips with his own, his hand fixed to the back of Touya's neck to crush their mouths together.  Rising from his knees to push himself closer to Touya, his motion knocked Touya off-balance, causing him to fall backwards with Yue following after.  Yue's feet sent the plates cascading off of the table, scattering the remaining sprigs of salad and overturning the not-yet-empty beer bottles.

            Touya's arms came up around Yue's waist; he stretched out backwards so the lengths of their bodies could make maximum contact.  The taste of shallots and wine and red meat mixed with the erotic accents of their individual flavors, Yue's cool and Touya's almost spicy.

            "You knew," Yue whispered on the edge of an empassioned breath.

            "I know now,"  Touya answered in that same narrow margin.  His hands moved busily over the body above him.  "You have so much hair –" Touya complained with a tinge of exasperation, his fingers and wrists tangled in the glowing mass.

"Let me change, then," exhaled Yue.  He brought his wings out and around the both of them, shifting into his alternate form, minus glasses.

. . .

            The strawberries, when Yue remembered them, made a sensual… breakfast… at some time in the pre-dawn morning.  "I was afraid," said Yue while Touya licked chocolate and strawberry juice from the side of Yue's hand, "that you would think that Yukito had disappeared."

            "Yukito or Yue," Touya said, "You're still my Yuki."

Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds, nor bends with the remover to remove…

"It is an ever fixéd mark," quoted Yue softly.

            "What was that?" asked Touya mildly.

            Yue answered with certainty.  "I love you," he said.

            Touya breathed a short laugh.  His answer had both resistant shyness and sincerity in it.  "I love you, too," he said with a caress to his lover's cheek.

. . . (!) . . .

Poems:

Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare

"What Would I Give", Christina Rosetti