a VALENCE vignette, written by Katie Youmans
[Note: This story occurs in 2006, thirteen years before the events of VALENCE]
“Sol, I’m home!”
Hands full with groceries, Luis pushed the door shut with his heel and listened for signs of life in the house. There was no response from Sol, but the faint sounds of a keyboard clacking drifted out of the office, and he frowned. They had been at that computer, working away at their dissertation since before he’d gotten up that morning, and as far as he knew, had only stepped away to stumble, bleary-eyed, into the kitchen for coffee.
He set the bags on the counter and climbed the stairs, skipping the one that creaked. The sounds of typing grew louder as he walked, and sure enough, at the end of the hall, he found Sol. They were scrunched almost in half in the chair, feet tucked up under their legs, illuminated by the blue-white glow of the screen.
“Soledad?” he called, rapping his knuckles on the doorframe to get their attention, but Sol was too absorbed in their work, grumbling as they mashed the backspace key and erased an entire paragraph.
His frown deepened, and he padded across the room to collect the mugs of long-since cooled coffee to bring downstairs. It wasn’t until the mugs clinked together that Sol noticed him, and jumped, startled.
“Luis! I almost jumped out of my skin! When did you get home?”
They slipped their feet out from under them and stretched, rolling their ankles until the joints cracked, and sighed with satisfaction.
Luis smiled and dropped a kiss to their forehead. “Only a few minutes ago, mi flor, but you were caught up in your work. Have you done anything else all day?”
Sol sighed and shook their head, taking a sip from one of the mugs still left on the desk and grimacing at the taste. “It’s not ready yet.”
“Mmm.” Luis hummed thoughtfully, and then, “Come downstairs for a minute. Help me bring down these mugs?”
Sol looked at the collection they’d amassed and let out a small, embarrassed laugh. “I think I can do that. But then I really have to get back to work.”
“Of course, of course.”
He led the way down the stairs, not bothering to avoid the creaky step now that Sol wasn’t concentrating on work, and into the kitchen to pour out the old coffee and load the dishwasher. As soon as Sol had added theirs to the rack, they turned towards the stairs.
“One more thing, before you go?” Luis said, pressing ‘play’ on the CD player.
Sol stopped short, turning as there was a crackle of an old recording, and the wavering notes of an oboe.
“Dance with me.” He didn’t say it as a question. He held out his hand, a lopsided smile stretching across his face as Billie Holiday drifted from the speakers. “Your dissertation will still be there after this song.”
They held up a hand, clearly trying not to smile back at him. “Luis, no, I’ve got to focus, and I just hit a good rhy-”
“Good rhythm?” he said, taking their hand in his and twining their fingers together. “I seem to recall the two of us having pretty good rhythm too.”
Sol rolled their eyes at that.
He slid his other hand along their waist, swaying slightly with the music. “You have to get up and move occasionally, Sol. It’s good for you.”
“You’re not going to let me go back to writing, are you?”
“Of course I am. After this song. Come on, Soledad, humor an old man.”
They snorted at that. “Thirty-three is hardly old,” but still, Sol placed their hand on his shoulder, swaying to the music with him.
He pressed a kiss to their temple before resting his head against theirs.
“Thank you,” Sol said, almost too softly for him to hear.
He leaned back to look them in the eye. “What for?”
“I . . . need reminders. Sometimes. To step away from the work and not let it swallow me up. So I just . . . thank you. For reminding me.”
Luis smiled at that, a warmth blooming in his chest. “You’d do the same for me, luz de mi vida.”
Sol grinned. “Yes, obviously, but I’m trying to show my appreciation right now.” And before he could respond, their fingers were carding through his hair, nails skating along his scalp, as they pulled him down into a kiss.
“Was . . . was that also a show of appreciation?” he asked, trying for a cheeky smile, but fairly sure it was coming off more lovesick.
“It was,” they said, sounding pleased with themself.
They had long since stopped dancing, and the song was drawing to a close. Sol groaned as the last few notes sounded from the speakers.
“I have to get back to work now.”
“I’ll be here. For when you need another reminder.”