Tomorrow stumbled down the stairs, yawning hard enough to make the bones snap. He followed the smell of a maple syrup to the kitchen.
"Soren?" he asked, pushing open the door. "What's for-"
"Good morning!" Soren said brightly. "I made waffles." He gave Tomorrow a kiss on the cheek and ushered him over to the table. "This is Kathy and Leo. They're on their second honeymoon."
Tomorrow looked at the couple sitting at his kitchen table. They were in their late thirties, dressed in fancy, brightly colored hiking gear.
"Hi!" They said together with matching smiles.
"Your house is lovely," said Kathy.
"We're thinking about buying one in the area," said Leo. "Who's your broker?"
"Out," said Tomorrow.
"I'm sorry?" said Kathy.
"Out. Get out."
"I don't care," said Tomorrow. "Leave. Now."
Kathy and Leo exchanged glances.
"We didn't mean to intrude," said Leo stiffly.
"I'm sorry," said Soren, shooting a death glare at Tomorrow. "Take some muffins."
He showed Kathy and Leo to the door, apologizing the whole time. Tomorrow helped himself to some waffles.
"Why do you have to do that?" Soren demanded when he returned.
"How many times do I have to tell you not to feed the hikers? It only encourages them. Hey!"
Soren held the plate of waffles over his head.
"You don't deserve these," he said. "Only nice people get waffles."
"I bought those waffles," said Tomorrow.
"You buy everything. It's your house. It's your food. The only thing that's mine is my clothes and that's only because I brought them with me."
"Are you mad at me?"
"No," Soren said. "I'm going to take a bath. Permission to use your soap?"
The kitchen door didn't slam, but that's only because it swung both ways. Nevertheless, it made a valiant effort.
Tomorrow shrugged and reclaimed his waffles.
"I'm getting a job," Soren announced over dinner.
"Oh, yeah?" asked Tomorrow.
"Don't try to stop me."
"If you get a job, you'll be gone for what, eight, ten hours a day?"
"You'll just have to get along on your own," said Soren.
"Gosh, how will I survive? Pass the mashed potatoes."
Soren pushed the bowl towards Tomorrow.
"I'm serious," he said.
Tomorrow looked at Soren's plate. Currently it contained a mashed potato volcano with gravy lava, flowing towards Chicken Town.
"The peas are people fleeing for the river," Soren had said. "Unfortunately, it won't save them. The entire plate is doomed."
Tomorrow had considered the strong possibility that his boyfriend was brain-damaged.
"Have you ever had a job?" he asked. "A real one, I mean, not bending over for strangers."
"I was an escort," Soren said. "I didn't hustle blowjobs on the street corner."
"So you were an expensive whore. Still a whore."
Soren flicked a pea at him.
"If you judge people, you have no time to love them," he said.
"I'm stating a fact, Soren," said Tomorrow.
"I'm not ashamed of my past."
"For fuck's sake, I don't care!"
"Then why do you keep bringing it up?"
"It's relevant to the conversation," Tomorrow said, stabbing his chicken. "Unless you plan to put 'escort' on your resume."
"I went to college," Soren said.
"Did you graduate?"
"That's beside the point. You just don't want me to get a job."
"Yes, that's right. I love having you mooch off me for everything."
"You do," insisted Soren. "Because then you get to have all the control. You are a control freak."
"No shit," said Tomorrow. "Any other blatantly obvious things you'd like to share?"
Soren drowned some pea-people in the gravy-lava.
"You could try being supportive," he said.
"Bras are supportive," said Tomorrow.
"Right," said Soren. "Be my bra, Tomorrow."
"Just when I think you can't get any weirder."
Soren slumped into the armchair. He sighed dramatically.
Tomorrow filled in a clue in his crossword.
Soren sighed again.
"What's a five letter word for Verdi work?" Tomorrow asked.
"Opera," said Soren. He followed up with a third sigh.
"All right," said Tomorrow. "How'd your interview go?"
"Terrible," Soren said. "I spilled water down my pants. Then I accidentally called the interviewer's wife a fish."
"A cod, to be specific."
"How did you- never mind, I don't want to know."
"I suck," Soren whimpered.
"I don't understand it," said Tomorrow. "You get on with people. Sometimes against their will."
"I get nervous." Soren held his arms open. "Cuddle me."
"I'm not indulging your self-pity," said Tomorrow.
Tomorrow crossed the room and settled into Soren's lap.
"This is not comfortable," he said.
"Shh," said Soren, wrapping his arms around Tomorrow and burying his face in his neck. "Pretend you're kind and loving."
"There there," Tomorrow said dryly.
The alarm snapped Tomorrow awake.
"Whazz?" he said, sitting up.
"I've got to go work," Soren said, slapping the nightstand.
"I told you last night."
Soren found the alarm clock and switched it off. Tomorrow blinked at him as he stumbled across the room.
"Five. Morning," Tomorrow said, pointing towards the clock.
"I have to be there at eight," said Soren.
"Ah." Tomorrow flopped backwards and pulled the covers over his head.
"Are you going to wish me luck?" Soren asked.
Tomorrow stuck out a hand and flapped it in Soren's general direction. Soren sighed.
"You're a terrible bra," he said.
Tomorrow prodded what had to be his dinner because it was on his plate.
"What is this?" he asked.
"Is this even meat?"
"It's pork," Soren said.
"Are you sure?"
Soren stood up, grabbed Tomorrow's plate and dumped it into the sink.
"What the fuck?" Tomorrow asked.
"I make dinner and all you do is complain."
"Doesn't mean I wasn't going to eat it."
"I'm sick of it. You're so negative."
"Yes," said Tomorrow slowly. "And?"
"Can't you just say thank you? Would it kill you?"
"Probably not, but why risk it?"
"I just-" Soren stopped, rubbing a hand over his head. Tomorrow looked at him. There were dark circles under his eyes and tight, drawn look to his face. He stood with his shoulders slumped. Soren's normal posture bordered on military in nature.
"What is your job?" Tomorrow asked. Soren had avoided the question so far.
"It doesn't matter."
"You're acting strangely."
"You're just mad because I got a job. I work for a living."
"So do I," said Tomorrow.
"Did you just ha me?"
"Like painting is hard," said Soren scornfully.
"Okay," Tomorrow said. "You've lost your fucking mind. Not that there was much to lose, but Jesus, what it going on with you?"
"You know what," Soren said. "You make your own dinner from now on."
"Where are you going?"
"For a walk."
"It's pitch black."
"Then maybe I'll make both of our lives better and walk off the cliff." Soren slammed the back door behind him.
Tomorrow sat froze at the table. That had been a very un-Soren comment. It was more like something he would say.
"Son of a bitch," Tomorrow said.
Soren bounced face first onto the bed.
"I'm going to sleep until 2012," he mumbled into the pillow.
"I have a better idea," said Tomorrow.
"There are no better ideas. It is the best idea. The only idea."
"I think you'll like this one."
Tomorrow ran a hand down Soren's back, then leaned over and kissed the back of his neck.
"Not now," said Soren, pushing Tomorrow away.
"Are you kidding me?"
"It's been a month."
"I'm not some sex machine who performs on command."
"Maybe I should put some money on the dresser," said Tomorrow.
Tomorrow cupped his cheek while Soren slowly turned a bright red.
"I-I'm sorry," he said. "I just- I shouldn't have done that."
"No, I deserved that," Tomorrow said.
Soren buried his face in his pillow.
"Um." Tomorrow hesitated. "Fuck."
This was when he was supposed to be the supportive boyfriend. Some comforting words would spew out of his mouth, Soren would feel better and everything would be all right. Except Tomorrow wasn't designed that way. He was more likely to kick than cuddle.
"What's that smell?" he asked. "It smells like...grease."
"I'm going to take a bath." Soren rolled out of bed and trudged out of the room.
Tomorrow thought for a few minutes, then the gears clicked into place.
"Dammit," he said. He was going to have to do something.
"Welcome to Burger Barn. Can I take your order?"
"Is there anything that won't give me congestive heart failure?"
Soren looked up.
"Tomorrow," he said weakly. "What are you-"
"Come on," said Tomorrow. "We need to talk."
"You get a break, don't you?"
"Not for another hour."
"Then get me a shake and some fries," Tomorrow said. "I'll wait."
Tomorrow took his tray to a booth near the window and opened his newspaper. It was self-defense maneuver. The Burger Barn was painted in clashing shades of orange and green and the fluorescent lighting didn't help matters. It gave everyone the appearance of seasickness sufferers. Soren kept sending worried glances in Tomorrow's direction every few minutes. When he was relieved for his break, he practically ran over to the booth.
"Are you breaking up with me?" he asked in one breathless rush.
"Of course I'm not breaking up with you," Tomorrow said. "Don't be an idiot. Why would I bother to come all the way down here to do that?"
"Well, why did you come down here? And how did you find me?"
"I worked it out. And I found your other uniform."
"You went through my things?"
"You were keeping secrets," said Tomorrow.
"That's no reason for an invasion of privacy."
"Shut up, Soren."
"What are you doing here?" Soren asked, pouting.
"I had to see my lawyer." Tomorrow pulled a thick envelope out of his pocket and set it on the table.
Soren unfolded the sheaf of papers and scanned the dense writing. His eyes widened.
"Is this what I think it is?" he asked.
"Depends," said Tomorrow. "If you think it's a banana, then no, it's not."
"You're giving me your house?"
"Half. Half of the house."
"But I- why?"
"I can't...I don't understand," said Soren helplessly.
"Look, you're miserable," Tomorrow said. "I know you wanted a job, but this? Soren, you're better than this. You're wearing neon green polyester, for fuck's sake."
"So you want me to quit."
"No," Soren said. "You can't bribe me into doing what you want."
"It's not a bribe."
"It looks like a bribe."
"It's your house either way."
"That's not-" Soren paused. "Oh." His lips moved as his brain worked. "I think I get it."
"If you want a job, then fine. Do whatever the hell you want. But at least get on that doesn't turn you into, well, me. This relationship can only stand one of me. Otherwise it's going to explode. Violently."
"Does this mean I can invite in hikers?" Soren asked.
Tomorrow narrowed his eyes.
"If the house is half mine..."
"All right. But only every other day."
All the heads in the restaurant turned to stare.
"And I guess if you're doing the cooking, the least I can do is stop complaining about buying the food," Tomorrow said.
"Look at you," he said. "All grown-up and compromising."
"Yeah, well, I want to get laid."
"I love you too," said Soren fondly. "Let's go home."
Soren's voice rang through the house. Tomorrow set down his brush and wiped his hands on a turpentine soaked rag. He was at a reasonable stopping point anyway.
It was good that he did stop. Soren burst into the studio, knocking Tomorrow over in massive hug.
"Soren...can't...breathe..." Tomorrow gasped.
"Sorry." Soren released him, then swooping in for a less rib-crushing embrace. "I got a job," he said, nuzzling Tomorrow's neck.
"Oh, yeah? What is it?"
"I'm going to be giving French lessons," Soren said. "I already have my first student."
"Mrs. Cyr. The woman who owns the thrift store. She said she's always wanted to learn."
"So you're happy?" Tomorrow asked.
"Very happy," said Soren, nibbling on Tomorrow's earlobe.
"I can tell."
"I'm giving the lessons here."
Tomorrow pulled back.
"No. There's no way. I'm not-"
He stopped. Soren was looking at him with a faint smile.
"Okay," Tomorrow forced out. "That's just fine."
"Great," said Soren. "The first one is on Tuesday."
"Super. Just frigging super."
Soren laughed and kissed him.
"It's only for an hour," he said. "You can hide upstairs."
"Motherfucker," Tomorrow sighed.
"Une personne qui a fait l'amour avec la mère de quelqu'un," Soren said.
"I wouldn't teach that one to Mrs. Cyr."
"The literal translation does lack a certain something."
Tomorrow muttered something under his breath.
"I said you're an asshole."
"That's not what you said."
"It is now," said Tomorrow.
Soren kissed him again.
"I'm going to go make a lesson plan," he said. "Where are your markers?"
"You are not using my markers. Do you know how much they cost?" said Tomorrow. "Stop! Soren! Touch those markers and you're dead! Soren!"
"Sharing is caring, Tomorrow!"
Soren ran from the room, giggling. Tomorrow cursed, although Soren would say he was secretly pleased.
"Motherfucking son of a bitch!"
Very, very secretly.