K. Ryan, 2006.
Otherwise known as the fic with the most terrible title ever conceived. Also, this was written for the 2006 SFF challenge (Emelan, vertical keyboard) at the Dancing Dove. Therefore, it might be a bit hard to swallow—or to stomach, if you want another bad pun.
"The way to any man's heart is though his stomach."
"The way to anyone's heart is through their stomach."
"Well said," Dedicate Gorse grinned at the young man who was perched on one of his workbenches, teeth gleaming white in the relative dark that was Gorse's kitchen at two in the morning. "Well said."
"No," said the man. "I mean really, it is. You just have to go in through their stomach and move up a bit."
"Less well said." Gorse sighed, heaving himself up and sitting next to him, validating the carpentry mages' pride in their work when the bench only allowed itself a groan, rather than collapsing under the Dedicate's considerable weight. "Sometimes you can be vile."
Briar Moss shrugged, deftly reaching over Gorse's lap to grab a cold pastry from the plate the other man was now obscuring. "Our duchess prefers, 'insufferable, thoughtless and often disgusting'—now, here!" Briar glared half-heartedly at him when he grabbed his wrist before he could get a-hold of one of treats.
"That girl uses too many words," Gorse said, smiling faintly and stroking his beard with his free hand. "'Vile' will tell you all of that. And no stealing from my kitchen."
Briar widened wounded eyes. "Never stolen from you," he said, all honesty. "Never could." Slowly, he smiled. "How do you do that, anyway?"
The Dedicate's low chuckle rumbled though the kitchen. Briar, gone from the temple so many years now, having now come back properly for the first time at the grand old age of past thirty, laughed too, hearing it. It was grand that the cook hadn't changed a bit, except to be larger and cannier than ever. Briar's ten-year-old street rat eyes and his charging-bag-prices eyes merged and saw the same thing when they looked at old Gorse. He grinned again.
"The answer's still 'never you mind'," said Gorse. "You're not too old for me not to drag you out by your ear." Chuckling again, his grip on Briar's wrist tightened slightly, before he lowered the other man's arm so that both Briar's hand and his own rested on the expanse of the Dedicate's outer thigh.
"You're right, of course." Briar winked at him, flexing his fingers. "You can drag anyone out by their ear," his voice took on a solemn tone of recitation. "And you know whenever there's anyone in your kitchen, even in the wee hours. You're always in the kitchen, no matter what the hour is, and you…" slowly, Briar let his hand move inward. He smirked a little, watching as other man's face remained neutral.
"You always know what other people want."