Happiness Chapter 2

Reese shopped like a whirlwind at a bodega in Little Italy four blocks from his apartment, knowing that by the time he got home he would have less than an hour until noon. It took him a few minutes longer than usual to find what he wanted since he had only scoped out the place from the outside once before, but he managed to pick out a pair of nice sirloin cuts and some decent-looking vegetables. As Finch had said, he didn’t plan to “fuss,” so he was confident that he could finish his preparations by the time his guest arrived. In a fit of optimism, he made a few impulse purchases as well, then walked briskly back to his apartment with a paper grocery sack in each arm.

He had only been teasing Finch when he’d said he cooked everything the same way, but given his current time constraint, he knew that he couldn’t do anything fancy. He scrubbed a few potatoes before wrapping them in tinfoil and tossing them into the oven, then set the table while he let the carrots and asparagus boil in separate pots. Reese had been rather startled to find a complete set of cookware in the kitchen cupboards, initially thinking that he would only ever use one or two of them, but now he was glad to have the many different sizes of pots and pans. The tableware and flatware Finch had also provided for him were simple but of good quality. He’d even found matching linens in one drawer, which he now set out on the table to use for the first time.

After draining the asparagus, he sautéed garlic (he’d bought a jar of it already minced), a whole chopped onion, and fresh basil in a skillet with butter and salt. Once the mixture was nicely browned, he poured it into a saucepan, replaced it with another generous dollop of butter, and set the salt-and-peppered steaks in the skillet. The bubbling butter seared the surface of the meat, locking in its juices and flavor. He let that cook while he put some cream and lemon juice into the saucepan, tasting it and adding more salt, then making a mixture of water and corn starch to pour into the boiling brew, thickening it into a sauce. He poked at the carrots with a fork and decided that they were done, too; as he was draining them, there was a knock on the door.

“Come on in,” he yelled since his hands were full. Finch walked in, somewhat surprised that Reese had left the door unlocked.

“I came a bit early – can I help with anything?” Finch asked, setting his promised bottle of wine on the table.

“Uh… You could put the sour cream in that dish there,” Reese directed as he transferred the steaming carrots into a serving bowl. “And you know where the corkscrew is.”

“Okay. Something smells de…”

Finch trailed off, staring at Reese.

“You like my new apron?” Reese asked, his voice slightly lilting as he grinned. His apron had been one of his impulse purchases; it read, “Kiss the Cook”.

“Very fetching,” Finch finally managed after swallowing.

“Thank you,” Reese replied demurely before carrying the carrots and asparagus to the table, returning to the stove with the plates. “Actually, the steaks are already done, so your timing is perfect. Let’s see… I need something to put the sauce in… I don’t think there’s a gravy bowl, but this one should work…”

Watching him deftly pour the thick sauce into a soup bowl, Finch murmured, “I had no idea you were so… so…”

“Handsome? Charming? Delicious?” Reese suggested, jumping in when Finch paused for a moment.

Domestic,” he corrected. “I’m sure the food is delicious, so we won’t need to resort to cannibalism.”

Reese only smiled as he plated the steaks and pulled the baked potatoes out of the oven with a mitt. Stabbing the largest one with a fork, he was satisfied that it was done. As Reese walked over with the plates, Finch uncorked the wine with a soft pop and poured it.

“Looks good enough to eat, but of course, looks can be deceiving…” Reese joked, taking off the apron before sitting down. Finch joined him and raised his glass.

“To good food and good friends,” Finch offered.

“I’ll drink to that,” Reese agreed.

The wine was American – not very strong, Reese noted, surmising that Finch had chosen it for that very reason since it was still the middle of the day – and complemented the food perfectly. After taking his first bite of the steak, Finch set down his fork and knife, waiting until he had chewed, savored, and swallowed his mouthful before speaking.

“This is delicious, Mr. Reese. I had no idea you were so talented in the kitchen. Perhaps you have missed your calling.”

“Why, thank you, Mr. Finch,” Reese smiled, spooning some sour cream onto his baked potato. “But actually, I learned how to cook after I joined the CIA. When I was stationed in that border town in Switzerland, they put me up in a little mom-and-pop hostel. On my off days, I helped them with some chores. I’d done KP duty plenty of times in the Army, so I figured I knew my way around a kitchen, but the lady there told me in no uncertain terms that my American style of cooking wasn’t up to snuff. This sauce is one of her time-honored recipes.”

“It’s simply fabulous… light and creamy at the same time. I must say, if our situation becomes too ‘hot,’ as they say, to continue our operations, I could set up a new identity for you as a rôtisseur. No one would be the wiser.”

“You’re too kind,” Reese responded, but he knew Finch meant it, which warmed his cockles. He got up once to retrieve the saucepan, saying, “No point in leaving just a little bit,” and Finch gladly took his share of the sauce to put on both the meat and the asparagus. When they were done, only one baked potato remained.

“I have to admit, I cheated on dessert,” Reese said apologetically, but Finch’s eyes grew wide.

“There’s dessert, too?”

“It’s just Marie Callender’s frozen pies… Would you like Lemon Meringue or Key Lime? Or both.”

“Ah… I think a small slice of Key Lime Pie is all I can handle right now.”

“Coming right up,” Reese grinned.


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