Title: Red Peppers and Wine
Author: James Walkswithwind
Disclaimer: not mine, no profit made
Archive: list archives OK
Notes: set before There's No Place Like Pylea (or however it's
spelled) To whit: set Pre-Fred.
Red Peppers and Wine
Gunn never used to put that stuff on his food. His mom and his
sister and – he thought – his aunt used to love it. They'd shake
that bottle over whatever food they'd served up that day, laughing
that it wasn't good food unless it scalded your throat. They never
made him feel bad for not wanting any, just passed the bottle past
him and teased each other into using even more.
Sometimes he could tell they'd used too much, but that never stopped
them from doing it again. Never stopped them from eating. Even his
sister, little as she was and just a year or two out of eating
toddlers' food, would shake drops of the red sauce onto her food
until the approving eyes of her momma. Sometimes she'd grab for her
glass right after, always forgetting that it was the bread, and not
the drink that cooled the fire. But by the next meal, there she'd
be, asking for the red sauce and pouring it on some more.
His mom used to say that living dangerously was all well and good,
but that wasn't the same thing as putting spice into your life.
Spice was better than dangerous, and a hell of a lot safer besides.
He'd thought it was all about telling him to stay out of trouble with
the law, or with gangs, or with his teachers. Telling him to not do
foolish, stupid shit that would get him hurt or killed.
As he grew up he listened to what he thought she was saying, until
she died and his aunt went away and he and his sister were growing up
on streets that gave a new meaning to the word dangerous. He lived
as safely as he could, and there was no need for red sauce on the
food because just *getting* food was enough. Even though trying to
stay safe hadn't worked, and he was still living dangerously, he
tried to do as his mom had told him and he tried to stay out of
That was why he didn't drink very often, and when he did it was
usually one beer, or even more rarely only one glass of wine. His
excuse, if anyone asked, was that he wasn't used to alcohol and it
went right to his head. Made him do stupid shit that might have got
him hurt if it hadn't been for the moment *after* the second of
surprise, and his stupid shit had been made welcome. Stupid shit
turned into something not so stupid after all, and maybe not even
Now he thinks maybe his mom was trying to tell him to *do*
something. Do something other than school and friends and watching
out for his little sister. Do something for himself, that gave him a
thrill – gave him that spice he didn't want to douse his food with.
He doesn't know, certainly can't ask her now. But now he's had a
taste of spice, and he thinks if he had known what that was all
about, back then, he might have tried a couple drops of red sauce on