Five Senses – The Way to Awakening

Chapter 5 - Smell

They were having dinner. It was an almost date. Except that she specifically said it wasn't and it was at his house. Charlie was pretty sure it was still a date – it felt like it. It felt like a first date.

Charlie could have sworn his palms were sweating and he labored in his kitchen attempting to make something that resembled spaghetti. Spaghetti was simple, Ted told him when he'd reached his annoyed friend in Spain several hours before Ted normal got out of bed to ask for advice.

Earlier he'd run around the grocery store buying things that seemed Italian and that he reasoned went together, but he had no idea of the order or combinations. It wasn't long before his cart overflowed with Angel hair pasta, stuffed olives, fresh Parmesan and Romano cheeses, garlic, basil and oregano, spicy sausages, French bread, tomatoes and other things that seemed right. Finally, as standby he'd grabbed a couple jars for Ragu and hoped for the best.

On a whim, he stopped in the bakery and picked out two rich looking éclairs for dessert. The checkout lady looked at his purchase and quickly surmised his intent.

"Trying to impress a young lady?"

"Trying," he admitted.

"Honey," the checkout lady said while smacking her gum, "it don't even have to be good. All most girls want is for their man to try." She smiled buoying his confidence. He really was trying – hard.

He found himself with butterflies for no good reason. It was just Reese after all; he'd known her three years. No one knew him better. She just hadn't known him like he was hoping she would tonight. He'd been with many girls since prison and was no slouch in the love department. He was a skilled and patient lover now. When he first got out, there were the inevitable hurried, hectic misadventures with women who he'd quickly forgotten.

But being with Jen again, even though it didn't last, cemented what he recalled about the give and take of sex that meant something between partners – people you cared for instead of ships passing in the night. Reese was special. She was important to him in – in a way he hoped would last even longer than his marriage had. Their partnering had already outlived his short fairytale marriage that ended in heartbreak.

He wondered if he should dress more formally. It was an almost date – although she'd made it clear several times it was "not a date." She reminded him they both had to eat and it was "just dinner." He wondered if she'd dress for him and got lost in his own fantasy of what they might look like for several moments. He looked at his watch and realized it was almost 7PM. She'd be here soon.

He could shower and dress - or - make an attempt at the dinner he'd promised – either or - but not both. So he resigned himself to the jeans he was currently wearing and a clean shirt and shoes. He knew he needed to find shoes.

Later, he thought as he padded around the kitchen bare foot.

He started the water for the pasta, which would take milliseconds to cook; sliced the bread and buttered it – applying some garlic salt for flavor and preheated the oven. So far he had not exceeded his cooking skill.

He stared at the stockpot and all the stuff that remained. He consulted the freshly acquired cookbook and concluded he lacked time to make the sauce from scratch. He dumped the jars of Ragu into the pot and took the containers to the trash. No need for her to know he couldn't make spaghetti he reasoned. He sliced the sausage and tossed it in the sauce. He arranged the stuffed olives on a plain white plate and opened the bottle of sparkling grape juice he'd bought sitting it out with two wine glasses. They'd just pretend it was something expensive and elegant. There was no need to tempt fate with real liquor and Reese would appreciate the gesture.

The half hour evaporated and he sprinted upstairs, taking them two at a time, to find a clean shirt. He was standing in the bedroom window buttoning his shirt as her headlights announced her arrival. He waved from the second floor and caught a subtle nod of her head acknowledging she'd seen him. He descended the stairs as she knocked on the door.

He met her at the door breathless from his race upstairs. He'd selected a pale blue shirt, which tended to offset his fiery hair and blue eyes without any true knowledge of its appeal. Charlie picked it because it was clean. He was happy to see Reese had not dressed up either. She looked casual in black jeans and a heather grey, pullover Henley that was unbuttoned just far enough to catch his eye. His and every other heterosexual male within ten city blocks he thought.

She seemed much smaller as he practically loomed over her. He suddenly realized she was not wearing boots like she did at work. Instead she was wore simple sandals, making their height difference even more pronounced. She seemed so petite, even more so than usual. Her bright red toenails peeked at him from the legs of her jeans, capturing his attention for a moment before she called him back to reality, "you gonna invite me in?"

"Uh, yeah," he stammered a bit off balance – more than liked. She did that to him without even trying. As she swept past him, he was sure he smelled oranges. It distracted him as he followed the scent tempting his nose.

She spun and examined him skeptically. "What are you doing?"

"Nothing," he lied.

She was on to him, but she let him off easy, smirking. Her look said don't tempt me, you might be surprised what I'll do. She was strong and confident and while those things might have been arrogant on someone else, on Dani Reese they were sexy.

He scrambled trying to refocus and cool down. He read somewhere that women liked it when you compliment their shoes. For a brief second he wondered if that only applied to expensive heels, but commented nonetheless, "nice shoes."

She smiled broadly and replied, "Thanks I like yours too."

Charlie looked down, realizing he was still barefoot, ran a hand through his hair mussing it and grinned. "Yeah, uh…. time got away from me."

"Time's like that," she teased. "Good thing we only have to catch criminals."

He stared a bit longer than he wanted prompting Dani to ask, "what smells so good?"

He wanted to say YOU, but settled for a stammered, "Uh, spaghetti. I'm making spaghetti."

She knew her way around a kitchen, he quickly deduced from the way she handled a knife and dissected and crushed the garlic. He was perplexed by the layers of the spice, but the deftly handled the problem seemingly without thought. He quietly watched her "help" and then switched to something he could handle better, pouring them both a glass of juice. He handed the wine glass to her and put her fears to rest with the simple statement – "it's just sparkling grape juice."

She smiled appreciatively and clinked her glass against his and announced "to us – another week without being suspended."

He quietly put the garlic toast in the oven. He leaned against the kitchen island watched her as she nonchalantly broke the pasta into the boiling water and then turned the burner down so it wouldn't boil over. Yep, definite knew more about cooking pasta than he did.

She realized he still hadn't said much and that was odd coming from her partner who more than once she'd considered gagging. She had reduced the usually garrulous Charlie Crews to a near mute.

"Okay, look," she sighed, "this is weird, right?"

"No," he defended, "not weird. Different – new."

"But…" she asked drawing the word into a question.

"Something I'd like to get used to," he exhaled releasing some of his tension. He approached her and set his glass on the counter behind her. "You were supposed to call first remember? So I could give you a proper hello?" She blushed and her eyes looked down at his sizable bare feet.

He carefully swept the hair off her neckline and leaned in planting a warm wet kiss there. She shuddered and he murmured an answer to her earlier question, "you smell so good."

She gripped the countertop behind her to keep from grabbing her partner. Slow down Dani, she thought, you can't jump him before dinner.

"Don't you want to touch me?" he wondered at her hand placement. His hands closed over hers and he bent to kiss her. "I wanna touch you," he confessed.

The timer on the stove went off preventing things from getting out of hand. They both jumped and then laughed.

"Get the bread before we have to call the fire department," she warned.

"That would be a memorable first date," he joked. He glanced at her to see if she'd object to his characterization of the moment as a date, but they'd long since given up and illusion that this was like dinners at Stark's house had been.

"We should eat," she said pulling hot pasta from the water with a slotted spoon. She placed it into the waiting bowl and ladled some sauce atop it before handing it to him.

"I have a dining room table," he announced awkwardly.

"How nice for you," she replied saucily. "Host a lot of dinner parties?"

He smiled broadly and offered, "or we could just eat here," and pulled out a stool for her. She nodded and took her own bowl and seat. He pulled his stool close and she kicked off her sandals and put a bare foot on the wooden crossbar of his stool. There was no mistaking the gesture, it said "don't go far" and he didn't plan to. He passed her the bread and poured more juice.

They both relaxed and the conversation flowed to Ted's absence. Charlie explained that his roommate had followed his heart to Spain in search of Charlie's father's ex-fiancée. Dani gaped and joked his life was akin to a soap opera. Charlie agreed and provided a colorful commentary on Ted's fascination with the woman including the episode with the earthquake and him getting a pencil through his hand.

"So while we are chasing Arthur Tins all over this city, Ted is getting drunk and making a play for your father's fiancée?" Dani was amused to no end.

"Yeah, pretty much," Charlie laughed. There was a lull as the story ended, and then he asked about her mother.

"She's doing better," Dani admitted. "Still misses him, although I don't know why," she added her own opinion.

"She teach you to cook?" he inquired.

"Who says I can cook?"

"You know your way around the kitchen," he explained. "You got more done in ten minutes than I did the whole hour before you showed up."

"Yeah, well spaghetti's pretty easy and you did the hard part – the sauce," she noted.

"It's from a jar," he confessed.

"Just like mom makes," Dani laughed at his shyness. "That stuff saved our lives more than once. Dad still thinks she makes it from scratch though," she winked at him.

He smiled and twirled the pasta on his fork and worked it into his mouth with a slurp. She cut hers into reasonable bites, but his way was more amusing. He stuck with it and she silently handed him a napkin. He grinned.

"I'm just surprised there's no fruit in it," she gestured at the spaghetti. "I figured you'd find some way to get fruit into everything."

"I don't put fruit in everything," he defended.

"My coffee?" she argued.

"Which you like," he parried, "besides…tomato is a fruit."

"It is not," she shook her head and laughed.

"No, really it is," he argued. "Knowing a tomato is a fruit is intelligence, not putting it in a fruit salad is wisdom," he recited. "Oh, I have fresh cheese, I forgot," he reached for the container. "Here, Parmesan or Romano?"

She shrugged, "a little of both I guess." She waited while he concentrated on liberally distributing the cheeses over her meal. "So tomato is really a fruit huh?"

"Yep," he absently remarked.

"Charlie," she beckoned very close to his ear. "That's enough cheese," her sultry tone and her hand in his hair made him freeze.

He turned and looked at her. She was close, so very close and he couldn't help himself as he leaned to kiss her. Her hand wound behind his neck and he suddenly wasn't hungry for food anymore.

She slid off her stool as his hands on her hips pulled her into the cradle of his hips. His hands roamed over the small of her back and settled on the curve of her ass. He didn't even register the buttons on his shirt being undone until they broke and she planted a kiss on his bare chest. He was breathing hard and she smiled against his skin and then whispered, "turn off the stove."

"Right, no fire," he mumbled. "Fire would be bad."

"I don't like firemen," she teased. "I like cops," she pulled him by the hand toward the stairs. "Crews," she reminded, "the stove."

He let go of her long enough to do as she bade and then pinned her to the wall halfway up the stairs. When he came up for air, his shirt was gone and his jeans unbuttoned and unzipped. Dani however was still fully clothed.

"I must be doing something wrong," he chattered animatedly. "You still have too many clothes on." Her grin was predatory.

"I lost my shoes," she countered.

"How about we go upstairs and you lose the rest?"

She ducked her head to hide what he was sure was a giggle. He'd made Dani Reese giggle. It exhilarated him. He swept her up in his arms and climbed the stairs two at a time arriving in his bedroom in record time. "Do you want the lights on or off?"

"You pick," she deferred to him.

"Off," he decided plunging them into darkness. "You can see into my bedroom from the street," he commented.

"Yes, I know," she laughed. "I just thought you were an exhibitionist."

"Have you been talking to my neighbors?" he teased as he waited sensing she was disrobing. His eyes adjusted as the ambient light crept in from the sodium streetlights and the moon hung low the sky.

"Charlie, there's something you need to know before we do this," she became serious. He waited very solemnly for her confession and after a moment of biting her lip she gave it to him. "I know my reputation and I know you know it. This is something else, something different for me, something new," she echoed his words from earlier. "I think…No, I'm sure… I'm in love with you," she admitted.

It would have been easy to come up with some simple joke to deflect the seriousness of what she was saying. Dani Reese had a lot of experience with men, but not with love. This was important, critical and he had to handle her concerns carefully.

"I think you know that I've felt that way about you for a long time. I've been waiting for you to get to a point where you were ready to consider the idea of us - that we could be more than partners or maybe just truly partners in every sense of that word." He paused swallowed hard and continued.

"You fill my head and my heart so much that sometimes you're all see. There are days I want to close my eyes hear nothing but you – your voice, the sound of you breathing, the way you sigh, the little noises you make in your sleep."

Her eyes flickered a hint of some emotion he could not name. It wasn't anger or rejection, it seemed almost amusement or that she was impressed he'd noticed all those little things about her. Emboldened, he continued, "I want to smell, feel and taste you in ways that are entirely un-Zen – in ways that I thought I'd given up."

He paused in his lengthy speech. So far, she'd said nothing. His eyes never left hers, but she wasn't giving him anything to judge his success or failure on. She seemed serene, calm, perhaps a bit expectant; but certainly not frightened or resistant like he'd feared.

"I want you to know how I feel. I need you to know that after prison I thought I was free. Just like after Roman I'm sure you felt, but as I walked around thinking about how much I had I realized there was still something missing – something important, maybe the most important thing there is. You. I love you, Dani and I have for a very long time now."

Finally, he got some feedback as he felt the breath leave her and the tightness and tenseness in them both abated. Her relief was genuine. She was risking her heart and he knew how dear it was to her. He'd told her in words now what his conduct and gestures had all along – she was loved.

She pulled him to her and drank from his lips. There was no frenzy and no hesitance. They met each other as equals, as people, as partners; not as tools of the others pleasure or punishment. He recognized this as real and meaningful for her as he'd hoped. She was part of him now in ways that were entirely her choice. Her heart belonged to him and they both knew it.

"Say something," he pled.

"I think we are both finally awake now," she said simply.

He had a vague impression that Reese understood Zen far better than she let on, but it was a thought that was erased by her kiss. He drew here carefully onto his bed, but paused thinking she'd want to be in charge, in command, in bed just as she was in other facets of their life, but instead she pulled him atop her. She trusted him to lead. He braced himself on his elbows and slowly sunk into her body, overlying her with the slightest pressure, until she reached for him with her hands, lips, eyes and heart.

He kissed her lightly and withdrew taking her breath with him. Each time his kiss and touch became more insistent and her response more complete. Together were two soft pieces of wood that would create fire from nothing. Then he became lost in her, not knowing where she ended and he began. At long last they were one.

Author's Note: The end...for now. Reviews are like Scooby snacks. Press that little button and LMK what you think.