I asked y’all what you wanted if I finished NaNoWriMo today and people wanted sexy, foody, sexy food type things. I can’t promise you food porn, BUT I can offer you Asher, Tyler, some sexual tension and apple muffins!
“Making sure no one burned the place to the ground?” Tyler asks. Leaving the restaurant in Claudia’s hands had made Asher antsy all day.
Asher is crouched behind the line, counting the pans George set up before leaving. “I think someone would have told me by now if it burned down,” he says absently. Tyler rolls his eyes. He drags Asher out by his arm.
“Enough. George and Santos are more than competent enough todo their jobs. Everything is fine.”
Asher sighs and runs his hand through his hair. It had been adorably mussed by the winds in the apple orchard; it’s positively wild right now. Tyler resists the urge to smooth it.
“So…” Tyler clears his throat. Ever since his talk with Asher about John he’s wondered how Asher’s managed all these years without processing his grief. He doesn’t want to push him, but he’d love to help Asher recall good memories and learn to carry them from his past into his life. He steps closer. “I was thinking… maybe you could teach me.”
“Teach you?” Asher repeats. A momentary quiet hangs heavy and loaded between them. Tyler blinks and takes a step back. That too much-feeling curls in his stomach. It feels dangerous and unintentional and heady, and a shade wrong when Malik is waiting at home for him— or could be. He never knows anymore.
“How to make the muffins,” Tyler says carefully.
“Oh. I think that would be nice.” Asher’s smile is sad.
“Are you sure? I’m sorry; I didn’t mean—”
“No,” Asher interrupts, “I think I’d enjoy that.”
“It’s not a hard recipe,” Asher says when he comes down. He went upstairs to search for it. Tyler waited for what seemed like ages.
“Oh?” Tyler says. This is a very strange moment. John’s ghost resurrected has been by his questions; he doesn’t want to fuck up.
“How many are we making anyway?” Asher asks.
“I don’t know. We’re having an employee appreciation night tomorrow, right?”
“Want to make the muffins to go with the cider?”
Asher props the recipe card against the container of flour he’s retrieved. “That sounds great.”
“Awesome,” Tyler says. Asher smiles, and it’s not sad this time, or hopeful or anything to make this whole exercise hard. It’s normal, it’s level. Tyler loves that smile and the natural camaraderie.
“All right, boss, tell me what needs doing.”
But for the directions Asher gives him, it’s quiet in the kitchen. Tyler washes and peels and chops the apples while Asher collects and lines up ingredients. Despite the hours he logs here, Tyler’s not very competent in the kitchen.
“You’re going to chop a finger off,” Asher says. “Here.” He takes Tyler’s hands carefully. “Curl the tips of your fingers under.” Asher’s fingers are gentle, warm and bigger than his. A tingle shivers down Tyler’s spine. His breath comes out harder than it should, giving him away. Asher pauses—it’s barely perceptible—and takes a breath of his own. But he doesn’t move away. Tyler can smell him and feel the height difference. Asher’s not overly tall, but he is bigger than Tyler. Most men are.
“How’s that?” Tyler manages. He mimics the movement Asher’s shown him, and places his fingers more carefully on the apple.
“Perfect,” Asher says, and then moves away. Tyler goes back to chopping.
Once they’re finished, Asher tilts the recipe card so that Tyler can see it. He mixes the dry ingredients while Asher does the wet. The air is so charged Tyler almost can’t take it. He looks at Asher often, averting his eyes when Asher glances back. He wants to speak, but there’s nothing to say. This is John’s recipe. Tyler intended this moment to be cathartic for Asher. This isn’t catharsis.
But when Asher glances over at him while he mixes and catches Tyler’s eye, Tyler is sure his feelings are not one-sided. Once the batter is in the tins and then into the oven, Tyler takes his apron off, grabs some water and follows Asher into the breakroom.
He hands Asher the glass and perches on a stool. Instinct—or maybe cowardice—tells him he needs to wait for Asher to break the silence.
“Thank you, Tyler,” Asher finally says. He twists the glass round and round in his hands with his gaze focused on it. “I… I’ve needed this.”
“Anytime,” Tyler says softly, and means it.
Remember, Idlewild is coming out TOMORROW! I’ll be taking over Interlude Press’s twitter tonight with Erin Finnegan (author of Luchador) to take reader questions, so please come over around 6:30 and send your questions to them! Also, if you like apple muffins, or men making apple muffins, or stories about love, feel free to share that love 😀