A Date By Any Other Name...

The Melting Pot

The Melting Pot is one of Dallas' most romantic fondue restaurants. The space is darkly lit with dark wood walls and booths with high backs to ensure privacy and many twists and turns to assure that couples do not feel like they are surrounded by others. Built into each table are hot plates with which to keep the cheese, oil, or chocolate at the perfect melted or cooking temperature. Soft jazz and blues music is piped in, finishing off the romantic feel of the place.

Another hot Texas summer day wears toward evening as Hugo pulls up to Hope House. It's not terribly difficult to find, with a big sign announcing 'Hope House' in big, cheerful letters. In spite of its name, Hope House seems a little less than…hopeful. Paint peels on the side of the building that is badly in need of new coat of paint, and flowers that have gone without tending a bit too long wilt in the heat in front of a large wraparound porch that must once have been quite charming.

Todd waits for Hugo's arrival, sitting on a swing hanging from said wraparound porch. He's dressed nicely, in a black suit and a blue tie chosen to match his eyes. His hair was probably even combed at some point, though a breeze has blown it back down into his eyes as he watches the traffic zipping by on the street in front of the house.

It's likely doubtful that Hope House gets many Porsche's pulling up in front of them, but a black Porsche is what Hugo is driving, so that's what they get. Walking up the steps in a black button down shirt and blue jeans, he's going for nice casual this evening. The sleeves are rolled up in deference to the heat, but his shirt is tucked in at least and he's wearing a belt. Stopping at the door, Hugo glances over and realizes that Todd is already awaiting him and in a… suit. How… formal. Detouring, he gazes down at Todd and gives him a friendly smile greeting, "Hey Todd … you ready? Not too warm, are you?" Course the restaurant will have air-conditioning…

It's hard to say what led to Todd's choice of clothing. The man looks a little curious at the nice car, and watches Hugo with polite (or perhaps a little more than polite) interest as he walks up. Hugo's greeting is met with a moment of surprise, brows lifting and eyes open wide. He recovers after a moment, however, and glances around. "Oh! Um. Sure. Sure thing. No, no, I'm fine. Just fine." He glances to Hugo, then down at himself, in a quick survey of the situation. "Hm. I hope I'm not over-dressed. Hold on a moment…" he reaches for the notepad, faithfully tucked away in his shirt pocket, and then gives a little nod. He glances down at his feet, then around, as though to check for things that might be his. Satisfied, he finally looks back to Hugo with a shy little smile. "Yes. I think I'm ready. Is that your car? It's nice…"

"Hugo," reminds the artist with a quick grin, noting, "I'm terrible with names myself." As Todd stands up, Hugo shrugs and notes, "Personally, whatever you feel comfortable in is fine. You can ditch the jacket and tie if you want to. I'm a big proponent of wearing whatever you like and feel most comfortable in." If Todd were a woman, Hugo would probably offer his arm. As it is, he gestures with his hand and calls out, "Well, come on then," with a friendly smile. Glancing toward the car, he starts to make his way to the steps noting, "I leased it, so it's mine for as long as I keep up the payments."

Todd nods a little, his smile brightening as the name is offered. "Hugo, then. Thanks." He gives a little grin, and shrugs out of the jacket as he jumps up to join Hugo in heading down the steps. "I bet it's nice, having a car," he comments, as he loosens his tie. He ends up leaving it loose, draped around his neck a bit sloppily, with his jacket over his arm by the time he reaches the car. "Where are we going again?" he wonders, casually, with a glance back toward Hugo.

"I like it," Hugo concurs, "but I'll be even happier when I get my Ducati back from the shop." Glancing over his shoulder, he explains, "That's an Italian motorcycle." Opening the door for Todd, Hugo ambles over to the drivers side and slides in smoothly behind the wheel, firing up the engine and waiting for Todd to get settled and buckled in before shifting the car into gear and heading out. "You said that you like fruit, so we're going to a fondue restaurant called The Melting Pot. But of course we'll be eating more than just chocolate covered fruit. That's just for dessert. There will be bread with cheese to start, then meats and vegetables, and chocolate dipped fruit to finish." The car moves gracefully and powerfully, growling like a hungry black panther beneath Hugo's skilled handling. The car speeds though the streets, taking turns like the wheels were buttered and finally pulling up in front of the restaurant and sliding into a parking space. Hopping out, Hugo looks up at the restaurant and sighs a little sigh, shaking his head before meeting Todd on his side.

Todd hops into the car with a little grin to Hugo for his gallantry. "Ah! Well, that sounds delightful," he comments. He gets settled pretty quickly, and glances toward Hugo, distracted from the scenery flying by as he watches the man handling the car. He gives a little sigh as well, when Hugo hops out, though a smile and gaze locked on Hugo do put it firmly into the 'what a hunk' category. With a start, he unbuckles and climbs out, shutting the door behind him before he moves to join Hugo. "The Melting Pot… What a cute name!" he comments, apparently reading the sign.

"It's certainly an apt one," Hugo notes wryly. He doesn't miss the wistful sigh and the way Todd’s looking at him like a particularly succulent strawberry and this fact is only going to get worse as they head into the restaurant which is clearly designed with romantic dinners and interludes in mind. The woman behind the welcome podium lifts her gaze, studying the two men standing there together, her smile curling in a knowing manner as she inquires, "Hello and welcome to the Melting Pot. Do you have a reservation?" Her eyes practically scream ~How sweet, two gay men out on a romantic date!~ and softly clearing his throat, Hugo replies, "Yes. Last name Bosch… Hugo." Glancing down at her list, her eyes widen slightly as she lifts her gaze to study Todd for a moment and then Hugo. "Right this way Mr. Bosch." She smiles almost conspiratorially at Todd as she leads the two men to their private table noting, "Your waitress will be with you momentarily."

Well, if one takes a memory-disabled gay man out to a romantic dinner, one cannot be surprised if said memory-disabled gay man makes certain assumptions. So Todd follows Hugo into the restaurant, occasionally sneaking a side glance at Hugo as he goes. He waits, allowing Hugo to take the lead in dealing with the greeter. He does catch that little look he gets from the waitress, and after giving a slightly glance to Hugo, he smiles back, sweetly, and gives a little wink. Once they reach their table, Todd tucks his jacket out of the way in the booth and sits, smiling again to the greeter before turning his full attention back to Hugo. "Hugo Bosch…" he says, once the greeter is gone, "You must be really…important or something? She seemed impressed."

"Hmmmm?" returns Hugo with a hint of bemusement. "Oh! Well, no, not really. Not in Dallas at any rate, and only in certain circles in New York," he answers without really answering the question at all. "I would suspect that there is a note that this is a 'special' date, due to the whole auction thing. We're a pre-bought package, basically." In truth, Hugo has no real idea of what the woman might have been thinking or reacting to. He's trying hard to be on the oblivious side of this 'date'. He's saved from any further conversation on the topic as the waitress arrives and explains their first course - a beer/cheese mix (the beer helps the cheese stay melted and smooth) and chunks of different kinds of bread to dip into it. The couple are given little tongs with which to spear the chunks of bread and dip them into the cheese. She takes drink orders for them both, adjusts the heating knob on their table and cautions them both not to touch it, and then departs once again. Taking up a tong, Hugo spears a piece of pumpernickel bread, swirling it about in the cheddar mix before pulling it up and popping it into his mouth. "MmMMm," he notes with a quick thumbs up gesture. "Good."

Todd's smile takes on a slightly puzzled tone. "New York? Even certain circles in New York…I mean, that's impressive, right?" The reminder that the date is the result of an auction seems to startle Todd, though he covers it rather quickly with another puzzled little smile. Luckily, the waitress arrives, and Todd is distracted by the need to pay attention to her little spiel about the first course. He frowns slightly, then reaches to pull out his notepad. He makes a few notes, then flips to the back page where a few blank post-its are stored. A few quick marks with his pencil, and then he sticks a sticky note to the table, with big friendly letters announcing 'Don't touch. Hot!' with an arrow toward the equipment the waitress warned about. That done, he glances to Hugo, then copies him, picking up the tongs to grab a piece of bread. "This is really fascinating," he comments, as he dips the bread into the cheese mixture. "I mean, who would think to put beer in melted cheese?" He takes a bite, then lifts his eyebrows and nods in agreement. Apparently he also approves.

"Mad, crazy, experimenting chefs, no doubt, who were sick of their cheese coming out all lumpy and stringy when they wanted it smooth and malleable." Hugo struggles to think of a way to remind Todd of what exactly is going on and what came before without bringing up the point of his faulty memory. Not an easy feat. Hugo smiles disarmingly as he spears another chunk of bread and dips it, swirling it about in the gooey cheese. "Yes, I suppose that is nothing to sneeze about. But I know what it's like to be homeless and living on the streets as well. Fame tends to be a fleeting sort of thing, so I try not to take it too seriously." Hmmmm. An idea strikes Hugo and reaching into his back pocket he pulls out his small notebook and pen, opening it up and studying it for a moment, making a note before closing it again, but leaving it out and at his side. Perhaps if he gives Todd the impression that he uses a notebook as well, it will make Todd more comfortable with checking his own notes? Certainly can't hurt to try. And it isn't even a lie so much as an exaggeration. Taking a bite of his cheesy bread, Hugo chews thoughtfully for a moment before asking, "When we were talking with Mignonette the other day about taking a road trip, you said that you work. Where do you work, Todd? What sort of things do you do?"

Todd gives a little laugh at Hugo's response. "I guess I must not be much of a cook," he replies, easily. He takes another chunk of bread to dip into the cheese, taking care not to let it drip on the table as he does so. He does watch as Hugo checks his notes, and gives a curious little smile. He doesn't comment on it, but takes a bite of the cheese-covered bread. The question does require reference to the notebook, so he puts down the tongs, holds up a finger in a classic 'just a minute' gesture, then reaches into his pocket to pull out his notebook. After a quick glance, he gives a little grin and shrugs a shoulder. "I work at Tom Thumb. Um. I'm a grocery bagger. That's not so impressive, I guess, but a road trip sounds like fun," he decides, as he picks his tongs back up.

"It's nice work if you like people," Hugo muses. "I used to bag groceries for awhile. It's pretty cathartic work, the physicality helps with the right-brain creative stuff. I often would get ideas for paintings when I bagged groceries." The bread gets finished off fairly quickly, the waitress returning with two imported beers for Hugo and Todd before taking away the melted cheese and empty breadbasket, reassuring them that she would be back with their main meal shortly. Quietly studying Todd for a while, Hugo asks unexpectedly, "Would you be interested in doing some modeling for paintings for me? I would pay you, of course."

Todd shrugs a shoulder, and gives a little smile. "I guess. Painting sounds nice… I don't think I'm a very creative type, though. But I do like people!" He pauses for a moment as the waitress arrives with their drinks, and he smiles politely. When she's gone, he starts to take a drink of the beer, but is slightly startled by that offer. His brows lift, and slowly a blush creeps up into his cheeks, along with an embarrassed smile. "Oh. Um. Well. I guess? I mean, if you want to. But I mean, you don't have to pay me or anything. It…sounds like fun!" He hides a touch of pleasant embarrassment by taking a drink.

Leaning back in his seat, Hugo smiles thoughtfully, his gaze narrowed upon Todd's features before he shrugs and notes, "Maybe you are, maybe you're not. Can't hurt to play around and see. I get the feeling that you're more creative and inventive than you give yourself credit for." Resting one arm on the table, Hugo nods. "Yeah, I would like to," he asserts once again. "You're a very interesting person. That's more important to me when I'm painting than anything else." Their conversation is interrupted once again by the waitress returning with a selection of meats and vegetables along with batter, oil, and sauces. "Okay, so the important thing to remember here is that you're cooking your own food. So you use the tongs to spear the meat or vegetable, then dip it into the batter, then put the tong in the hot oil to cook. You'll want to leave it in there for about 2-4 minutes or so to make sure it's cooked thoroughly. The most important thing to remember is not to eat it off of the tong. The metal will be dangerously hot. Pull the food off of the tong and onto your plate, then use your fork to dip it into the sauces and to eat. Each of you have a set of your own colored tongs, so you don't get mixed up who's is who's." She points out what all the foods are, what all the flavors of the sauces are, asks if there are any questions, and then departs. Hugo eyes the food with a small amount of concern before simply noting, "Feel free to ask me any questions you want," he notes before spearing a piece of beef with a red handled tong, dipping it into the batter and then settling it into the hot oil to cook. He means, of course, any questions about how to safely eat, but Todd might not register the offer that way.

Todd can't help a little laugh at Hugo's compliment, the blush almost becoming a permanent feature. "Well…I'm glad that you think so," he says, looking down bashfully, then back up again. Luckily, the waitress returns to interrupt any embarrassing flirting, and is pretty successful at distracting him with the complexity of the meal. By the time that the waitress leaves, Todd has managed to scribble down a few hasty notes in his notepad, but is still eyeing the whole thing a bit dubiously. He glances up, and relaxes slightly at the offer. "Oh, okay…" He also watches Hugo carefully, and copies his motions, spearing a piece of beef to dip in batter and then hot oil. "So…You're a painter. That's…" He hesitates a moment, and bites at his lip. It's perhaps a little too obvious that he's replacing his first thought as he finishes, "…interesting!"

One brow lifts as Hugo watches the word-substitution in process and echoes, "Interesting? That wasn't what you were thinking though." He makes sure that Todd picks up the blue handles that he was given for his food and in turn picks up a second red tong, spearing a piece of zucchini and likewise dipping it into the batter and then into the oil and letting it sit there and cook. The oil cheerfully bubbles and fizzes with each new entry past its steaming surface. "And you repair stuff. Do you remember what we talked about? About doing more than just fixing stuff?" He's sure that Todd doesn't remember this at all and already his mind is working on ways that Todd could have a space that informs him at every moment who he is, what he does, and what he's currently working on.

Todd flushes a little. "No. I suppose it wasn't," he replies, bashfully, and looks down to spear a vegetable. Rather than zucchini, he picks a colorful carrot. He turns it over again, and suppresses a little grin. Finally, he dips it into the batter and then into the hot oil, before he finally says, "Painters are sexy. Everyone knows it." Luckily, Hugo moves on, letting Todd's embarrassment fade a little. "Hm? Oh. Sure. I remember. I can fix like…toasters and stuff." He fiddles with the cooking utensils, then hazards a guess, "Do you have a toaster that needs fixing?"

"Sexy, huh? Just because they're painters? Hmmmm," muses Hugo, pursing his lips together thoughtfully. "I don't know if I can fully back that theory. I've met some seriously ugly artists in my time," he teases good-naturedly. Removing the two tongs, Hugo carefully removes the pieces of food from the tongs onto his plate and then goes ahead and prepares some more food on them, in the end putting in four tongs with an assortment of meats and veggies into the hot oil. Only after doing so does he pick up his fork and dip his bites of food into the garlic and dill sauce container, the food now cool enough to eat safely. He prep, cooks, and eats his food with deliberate leisure, allowing Todd plenty of time to mimic his each and every step. Ocean eyes also casually watch Todd in turn, making sure the forgetful man doesn't accidentally try to put a burning hot tong into his mouth. "No, my toaster works just fine. Just pondering the idea we talked about, about using your knack for fixing and turning it toward making instead." Blowing out a soft breath, Hugo sighs and notes, "I wish I was good at fixing things. Then I could show you what I mean, rather than trying to explain it. Showing is so much clearer than describing."

Todd flushes a little, and grins, but adds, quietly, "Well. It helps if you were attractive to begin with…" Then he ducks his head and focuses on the task at hand. It involves some concentration, juggling all the things required by the meal. Any time that he gets distracted or lost, he glances to Hugo, following his lead to avoid any horrible mishaps. It doesn't take a good memory to realize that boiling oil on a table can be dangerous. Finally, he gets a non-oil-heated utensil to spear one of the cooked pieces of food, and picks one of the dipping sauces at random. "Hmmm… I suppose that could be done. I mean… If you can fix a thing, eventually, you would learn to make that thing. I mean, assuming you have the parts to make it with," he says, thoughtfully. He eyes the cooling, cooked food for a moment, then gives a shrug. "But I don't think I'd be very good at that," he decides, and takes a bite. He smiles, chewing slowly and giving a nod to show that it's quite tasty.

Hugo can't help but chuckle softly, murmuring under his breath, "Flatterer," but not in an unkind way. Good thing he's not homophobic, or this could have been a very awkward occasion. He smiles wryly as Todd carefully works on his food, watching Hugo from time to time, till he finally manages to get in a bite. "It's good, isn't it?" concurs Hugo, who points out a different sauce noting, "Try this with the chicken and beef - it's like a teriyaki sauce. Really good." And to prove his point, Hugo dips his next freshly cooked piece into the sauce and devours it. All in all, it's a very slow way to eat, but ultimately pretty fun. The trick really is conversation. With Todd's lack of memories, there's not much that Hugo can ask the man without forcing him to search for the answers. So instead, Hugo asks, "Is there anything that you're curious about? That you'd like me to talk about?" This is definitely the oddest 'date' that Hugo's ever been on, that's for sure.

Todd nods a little, and swallows. "Very good," he agrees, but nods a little in agreement with the teriyaki sauce. "Okay, I'll try that next," he agrees. He considers the question, regarding Hugo, thoughtfully. He takes the opportunity to dip a piece of beef into the teriyaki sauce and eat it, but all the while he seems to be considering. When he finally swallows, he asks, leaning forward a bit with keen interest, "What's your favorite memory?"

Blinking, Hugo clearly was expecting almost any question but that one. Which is ironic, really, since naturally memories would be a strange and curious thing to Todd. But it's enough to make Hugo pause in his eating, his brow furrowing with concentration before he replies, "There are just so …. many. Even if I thought of a good memory, I couldn't say that it was hands-down my favorite. They're always shifting, like a shuffled deck of cards. Never know when the ace might be sitting at the bottom of the deck, half-forgotten." Slowly he takes a bite, pondering, before replying, "Okay, well here is /a/ favorite memory. I was a kid, in school, back in the Netherlands. Things with my family were not good. My Mom had split, my father was falling apart and, well, I wasn't particularly happy with either of my siblings at the time. I was trying to pretend that everything was okay, but it just wasn't. Far from it. I was in a new school to boot, with a lot of kids I didn't know. I had my sketchbook with me one day and the art teacher saw some of the stuff that I was drawing. He asked me if I would be interested in making a calendar of my artwork for the staff of the school. Completely out of nowhere. I never knew why he suggested it, or why he picked me, but it kinda saved my life in a way. It gave me purpose and meaning. When everyone else was busy with their own issues, he saw a reason to be interested in me. He acknowledged my love of art and my talent in a way that no one else ever had. It gave me a place that was more home than my own home." His lips twist slightly as he muses, "I guess it's not really the happiest of memories in some ways, but it certainly is a powerful one and it meant a lot to me then and still does today."

Todd watches Hugo, clearly fascinated by this description of the experience of having memories. Certainly, it does not match anything in Todd's current experience. As Hugo begins to describe the childhood experience, at first Todd's face darkens in a troubled sort of frown. After all, this does not sound like a happy memory at all! Slowly, however, as the point becomes clear, a little grin breaks on Todd's face. "Oh! I see…" He blinks hard, then glances down, still grinning slightly. "That's…lovely." He pokes at a piece of meat, and absent-mindedly sticks it into the batter. "I wish…" He trails off, glances up, and then gives a kind of awkward laugh. "Well. Anyhow. It's good you had that teacher!"

Even though Mignonette told him not to draw attention to Todd's memory problem, it's just too large of an elephant to continue to ignore. Preparing another four skewers of food, Hugo lets them cook in the oil before resting his chin in the palm of his hand, elbow on the table, as he asks, "So … do you not have access to /any/ memories at all? Even from before whatever happened that happened?" The only experience that Hugo has with this sort of condition is what he saw in the movie Memento, and in that the an in question could at least remember things from before he was attacked and hit on the head. Curiously, though, Hugo recalls a scientist friend of his explaining that such an injury would not result in that sort of memory loss … that the part of the brain that would need be affected is deep inside and generally only surgery where part of the brain is removed or damaged results in the inability to make short term memories long term ones. As such, Hugo can't help but wonder what happened to Todd.

Todd glances up with a blink. "Well…No." He frowns a little, his gaze growing a little unfocused as he considers the question. He fidgets with the tongs, and finally blinks a few times. "Its like…nothing. Blank. Or maybe… No. It's like… fog. Or dirty water. Sometimes you can see something. Like…almost, you know?" He looks down, lost in thought as he toys with a vegetable he hasn't eaten yet. "You think maybe it's going to surface, but…I don't know. I think maybe it's better not to think about it too much. Like maybe there's something bad under there." He frowns a little, then blinks and glances up. "But I guess I can't be too bad off. I mean, I still know how to talk, right? And how to do things. And I know that I'm Todd Landers, and I live with Ruby Landers, and she's my mom." Suddenly, he reaches over to dip the vegetable into one of the sauces. "That's good enough for me, anyhow!" And with that, he smiles and eats the bite. It's probably worth mentioning that Todd doesn't have any visible signs of past head trauma.

Hugo bites his tongue rather than say what he is thinking. We are our memories. Who we are, our personality, is created by the experiences that we've gone through. So if Todd has lost all of that, is who he is and what he's doing at any given moment enough? "It's all a mix of good and bad," Hugo returns softly, thoughtfully. "Maybe it's better that you don't remember. It might be a lot of bad, but I'm sure there was some good in there too. You seem too nice of a person to have that much bad in your background." The motion is sudden, perhaps unexpected by Hugo himself, as he reaches out and lays a hand lightly on Todd's arm. "Sorry, if my asking made you uncomfortable." Todd is a definite mystery, and Hugo is certainly interested in mysteries. But how do you unlock the mystery of a person who remembers nothing about themselves? And who is he to think he has the right to unlock those doors? Within short order though they have finished off the meat and vegetables and Hugo playfully warns, "Save room for dessert. That will be your favorite part."

Todd nods a little, chewing over the last vegetable as Hugo speaks. He glances up, a little surprised by the hand on his arm. Perhaps he is not touched very often… People do tend to view mental illnesses as communicable things. He blinks hard again, but gives a sudden, warm smile. "I'm glad you think I'm nice. I really like you, you know." And he leaves it at that, though he lays a hand on Hugo's for a moment before releasing it so that he can pick up his notebook and write into it. Probably recording the experience for future reflection. As he's writing, he looks up. "We had something before all of this," he says, gesturing at the oil and the dipping sauces. "What was it? Something with cheese?"

Hugo is quiet for a moment. He doesn't want to pity the man across from him. But it's hard not to feel sorry for him. For his lost past and, in turn, his damaged future. For the fact that it will be close to impossible for him to enjoy a close and intimate relationship with another person beyond simple friendship. He lets Todd place his hand on top of his, leaving it there quietly till Todd pulls away to write his notes and Hugo shifts his hand back to his side of the table. He smiles softly at the question and nods, affirming, "Yes, cheddar cheese with beer in it to help it stay melted, with all different kinds of bread to dip into it." The waitress returns with a smile, clearing away plates and skewers and dishes and finally the hot oil, promising to return soon with dessert.

Todd gives a little chuckle. "Really? Imagine that, cheese with beer in it…" He makes a few more notes, in his chicken-scratch short hand, and finally puts the notebook aside. He glances up to give the waitress a polite smile, but soon returns his attention to Hugo. In spite of any pity that anyone else may feel for him, he seems remarkably cheerful, most of the time. Perhaps it's just in his nature to tend toward the happy end of the spectrum. "I hope you don't mind if I wrote some things down about you," he says, and a slight blush that rises to his cheeks may suggest what sort of things he was writing. "This is such a nice…date…"

Shrugging good-naturedly, Hugo smiles and notes, "It's your notebook. You get to write down whatever you want in it. That's your prerogative." His eyes gleam with amusement and curiosity and Hugo leans over, pretending that he's trying to get a peek at what Todd wrote about him before settling back in his seat. "I'm glad you're having a good time," he offers sincerely, making no effort to correct Todd on what sort of 'date' this might be. The waitress returns with dessert! A pot of warm milk chocolate and a large plate full of all sorts of tasty things to dip into it - bits of cheesecake, strawberries, slices of banana, chunks of pineapple, bits of pound cake, and mandarin oranges. "Enjoy," she offers to the two men before departing. "See?" Hugo points out, stabbing one with skinny little prong and handing it over to Todd. "Strawberries. Your favorite."

Todd grins back at Hugo with a good-natured little smile. He makes no real attempt to prevent Hugo from looking at the notebook, and even tilts it slightly toward him with a cheeky little grin. Much of what Todd wrote is next to impossible to decipher, but one must assume that Todd knows how to read it, since he wrote it. "Well… as long as you don't mind," he responds, with a little laugh. About that time, the waitress returns, and Todd tucks the notepad back into his pocket, lest it be forgotten. He lights up as Hugo offers the strawberries, and gives a little laugh. "Aw. You know my favorite things! That's sweet…" He accepts the strawberry, and swirls it around in the chocolate for a moment before taking a bite with clear delight. Yes, this is clearly Todd's favorite part of the meal.

It's hard not to enjoy Todd's enthusiasm for the small things in life. Hugo likewise stabs a strawberry, dips it into the chocolate, and takes a bite, mmmmming appreciatively. It's not his favorite part of the meal, per say, but he certainly enjoys it. Hugo makes sure to try at least one of each offering but leaves the majority of it for Todd with an indulgent smile on his lips. "If we're going to do this, have you come over for painting sessions, is there someone I need to check in with first, like your doctor or something, to make sure it's alright?" Never know. There might be labor laws or health caveats in place to protect Todd that Hugo is utterly unaware of.

Todd is a little distracted by the chocolate strawberries when Hugo asks his question. He blinks a few times, looking a little blank for a moment. He looks around glances down at his bracelet, and then frowns slightly. That doesn't answer the question, so he abandons his pursuit of chocolate-covered sweets by picking up his notebook. After flipping through a few pages, he considers this. "Oh. Well, maybe you should tell the people at Hope House," he comments, slowly. "That's where I live. Or maybe talk to Dr. Trudeau. But I mean, I don't see why they /need/ to know." He actually seems a bit bemused by the idea, as he tucks the notebook back into his shirt pocket. "I'm an adult, you know. I'm pretty sure I can decide what I want to do and what I don't." That decided, he spears a piece of the cheesecake to dip in the chocolate.

Right. Hope House and Dr. Trudeau it is then. While Hugo and completely empathize with Todd's assertions that he's an adult with the freedoms and privileges that that entails, he can also imagine that the easily distractible and infinitely forgetful man causes them no end of worry and trouble when they don't know exactly where he's going and what he's doing. Hugo takes a few more tastes of his favorite combinations but otherwise lets Todd lead the conversation for awhile, following along contentedly behind. "Well, I'll check in with them so I make sure I don't interfere with your work schedule then. Sound good?"

Todd nods a little, but pats the notepad on his chest. "It's okay, everything important is here," he confides, cheerfully. He stabs another piece of fruit, and thoughtfully watches as he swirls it in the chocolate. "I imagine that everything that's important must be written down /somewhere/. It seems that way to me. But you can check in with them, if it makes you happy." He gives a little grin that suggests he would pretty much go along with anything that made Hugo happy, at least in this moment.

Chuckling softly, Hugo posits, "I suspect it would make them happy most of all." He watches Todd finish off the plate and once everything has been cleared up and away he asks, "You ready to go?" There is, of course, no check, since the restaurants involved also donated their services to the cause. Shifting over in his seat, Hugo rises up and gestures to Todd's jacket, noting, "Don't forget that."

Todd sighs a little, reluctantly, but since all of the dessert is gone, and he can't think of any reason to stay, he gives a little smile. "Yes, I suppose." As he was about to go off and leave the jacket, he gives a self-conscious little grin and gathers it up. "Thanks…" Once he does a second check to make sure that he hasn't left anything, he rises to his feet to join Hugo, with a happy little smile.

On the way out they are thanked by the waitress, whom Hugo passes a tip, and then the hostess, who gives them both a huge smile and calls out, "Come back again soon, boys," which certainly cinches them as a couple to all of the people they pass by on the way out. Chuckling softly, Hugo rolls his head on his shoulders and shrugs. It certainly wouldn't be the first time he's been out with a man, and it probably won't be the last. Those tongues can wag all they want to. Outside the heat hits them again, causing Hugo to pause for a moment before ambling over to where he parked and once again opening the door for Todd before hopping in on his side and starting it up.

Todd does not seem to be startled by the heat, which may argue for his being a native Texan, but it's anyone's guess. He gives a shy little grin to the hostess, but allows himself to be led out to the car. He even blushes a little and thanks Hugo as he opens the door. What a gentleman! He quickly buckles himself in once he's settled, and glances over to Hugo. "This is a nice car," he comments, suddenly, looking around at the interior.

"Thanks," replies Hugo airily, both opening the windows and turning on the air conditioning. What can he say? He likes the feeling of the wind in his hair. Starting her up, the car purrrrs softly and pulls out into traffic smoothly. "I like it quite a bit, though sometimes it's not quite big enough…." Once again Hugo handles the roads and the traffic with great ease, eventually pulling back up in front of Hope House, stopping the car and putting it into park. Turning to Todd, Hugo offers, "I hope you had a good time…"

Todd glances toward the Hope House as they come to park, tilting his head a little, as though slightly surprised to see it. He glances back to Hugo, first surprised, and then with a little grin. "I think I did," he replies, slowly. "I feel…happy." He watches Hugo for a moment, awkwardly, but then leans slightly toward him. "Anyhow…Thank you for showing me a good time…" He hesitates a moment, which gives Hugo just barely enough chance to dodge if he wants as Todd impulsively leans over to bestow a kiss on his cheek.

The lean is enough to forewarn Hugo, but the artist remains right where he is. A chaste kiss on the cheek is nothing and Hugo can well afford Todd the gesture if it means that much to him to proffer it. For a brief moment Hugo toys with giving the slender man a serious snog, but that might be pushing matters a bit. Sure, he won't remember it for long, but what if he wrote it down? That could be problematic later. "Happy is good," Hugo replies with a warm smile. "I had a good time as well. I'll be in touch soon to set up times to have you come to my place."

Todd blushes a little, and there's really no telling how Todd took that last comment. Though the way that he looks down, and then cuts his eyes toward Hugo in a kind of knowing look… Well, hopefully he doesn't have time to write /that/ thought down. Regardless, he gives a little nod and reaches for the door handle. "Okay… Well, good night and take care! And thanks…" He hesitates a moment longer, but then opens the door and hops out. He gives Hugo a little wave as he's walking off, and then as he reaches the porch, he glances back to watch him leave. It makes a pretty picture, lit up by the lingering glow from the setting sun, with the slightly dilapidated wrap around porch behind him. He looks very happy, and continues to linger there, watching until Hugo is gone.

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