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Like Bitter Chocolate

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I. Mel

I realised right away that I wasn’t going to tell him, and he wasn’t going to ask me. This was what had drawn me to him in the beginning — his calm, undemanding presence, and his refusal to push at any boundaries I might put up — but now I found myself standing on the other side of an almost unbridgeable gulf, leaving so many things unsaid. As always, I turned to baking to smooth over any difficult situation, showing up at Mel’s place a couple of days after the confrontation with Bo, bearing the ingredients for a new kind of brownie that I wanted to try. It looked sugary and chocolaty, and rich and over the top, and, most importantly, was going to give me something to focus on, and an excuse to disappear into the kitchen at awkward moments.

Mel’s flat was tiny and comfortable and lived in, the architectural equivalent of a warm blanket. He sat in the kitchen with me in companionable silence, occasionally reading off the quantity of a particular ingredient from the recipe. They differed from regular brownies in that they were covered with a thick layer of melted marshmallows and Rice Krispies, which I was going to have to prepare over the stove and then pour over the still-warm brownies. It would be ridiculously sweet.

As the brownies baked in the oven, Mel and I drifted out into his living room, which was crammed with the eccentric collection of ornaments, artwork and souvenirs he’d picked up at various points during his long years on the road. If you asked him about any object in the room, he’d be able to tell you a lengthy and detailed story about the circumstances in which he'd found it, the people he’d met and place he’d been visiting at the time, and where he had headed next, without ever letting slip exactly why he’d chosen to go to that particular spot. I wondered if that was the approach I was going to have to start taking when people asked me uncomfortable questions about No Town, vampires, blood and disappearances.

The flat slowly filled with the smell of sugar and cocoa. I’d replaced dark cooking chocolate with milk for maximum sweetness, and it mingled with the almost overwhelming aroma of marshmallows, which we were eating whole out of the bag while the brownies baked. At some point, I was going to have to make a whole lot of difficult decisions — about what to tell Mel, about magic, about my own safety — but I pushed all that aside. I had a kitchen, a stove, an oven and a recipe, and for now, those things were enough.