Interludes

A Gift Fic for Kuya Sheo

A/N: My first try on GG ficdom. Feel free to state mistakes. Sheo-kun, d ko know kung like mo itong pair, but well, I remembered na isa sa mga sinulat mong fics ay GG eh hehe. TY for being the best avid reviewer any writer could ask for!

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"Sorry to keep my one and only customer waiting!" chirped Jam Kuradoberi cheerfully as she half-skipped and half-skidded her way to the table where a lone man with flaxen hair waited for her most patiently.

The said man set his blue-green eyes on the bubbly Chinese, silently pondering on how much grace was she born with for her to move that way and still maintain her upright position. It was as if boundless energy was as natural to her as the air that she and every other human being in this planet breathes to exist.

Unmindful of the curious, intent way Ky Kiske was studying her, Jam carefully placed the bowl of steaming noodles in front of him. "Tsaraaan! My newest kitchen discovery!" Waving her arm proudly, she began to describe the wonders of her restaurant-exclusive dish. "These noodles are made of the finest wheat in the country! I made sure that I boiled them just right, and the water I used in the process was intricately flavored with spices and herbs that would surely give any person who eats this dish an effective immune system while gratifying the flavor buds of even the pickiest eater."

Her hand pointed at the floating small cuts of chicken breast floating amidst the tangled heaps of white noodles. "And these ones are meat picks from pure-bred chickens that were stolen from the finest poultry in China—the Emperor's Farm! So anyone would feel confident that the noodles he is eating now is as grand as those served in the palace, and even in just one moment, he would feel what it's like to be a king!"

All throughout the moment she was talking, he kept gazing at her. His attention was half-hearted, for as ungentlemanly as it was, he did not really find culinary lectures interesting.

He would rather amuse himself in watching her carry this now-patented spirited one-way conversation. If he must, he should admit how it gladdens him to see her flushed cheeks and twinkling eyes as she talks about cooking—one topic he knew she loved with all her heart.

"… don't you think so?" She placed her hands on her hips and smiled proudly at him.

He blinked, and then smiled back. Uncertainly.

Her eyes narrowed at that, but she kept smiling.

He did too. This kept on for a good three minutes.

Time ticked by and her smile was still there, but her eyebrows were starting to move.

Clueless, he just continued grinning, ignoring his facial muscles that were starting to complain due to being overstretched.

A second later, Jam coughed. Meaningfully.

"I didn't catch the last part of what you were saying," he admitted meekly.

"That I've gathered as much." She scratched the back of her head. "Fine, fine. I know you had an exhausting day at work and I should know better than to talk to you when you are raring to eat already."

"It's not that," he protested quickly. "I apologize for my rudeness—"

She held her hand up, silencing him. He stopped in mid-sentence.

With that accomplished, her hand waved towards the bowl. "Eat. Fill your stomach to your heart's content. If you want more, there's plenty in the kitchen." The end of her words was hinted with sadness, making him pause.

"Please don't worry," he said softly. "Putting up a restaurant needs more than great dishes and determination. Sometimes, we also need luck. Just be patient, alright? In fact, restaurants, I believe, are--"

"—seasonal, so maybe one day, my restaurant time to shine will come too," she finished for him, rolling her eyes. "It all depends on the ever-varying taste of the customers." She threw her hands up in the air in frustration. "You've told me that so many, many times that I can recite it in my sleep for one billion, million times!"

Under normal circumstances, he should be rather offended. But then again, ever since he and the business luck-wanting Jam had met and had strike up quite an unusual friendship, he had slowly grown used to her often lack of tact.

After all, that was her own brand of honesty, and he would prefer that over any civil politeness any given time.

"Anyway," said the female quickly as she watched him eat heartily, "I really shouldn't complain, should I? I mean, you threw the entire police force to my restaurant every lunch time."

He nearly choked. She wasn't supposed to know that—how, as the leader of the Sacred Order of Knights, he made a directive for all wearing the said title stating that they should eat in Jam's small eatery during lunch breaks. Protesters held their tongue when he mentioned the name of his mentor, and since then, it had been every knight's habit to drop by and eat there—for the glory of the association.

Sighing inwardly, he mused that he really couldn't keep that kind of plan a secret to someone like her. He knew that as a woman, excellent perception was her birthright. And as herself, she was too much of an observant for anything to get past her understanding.

"Those guys sure don't act like they represent a prestigious company," she noted, a dry smile on her charcoal-smudged face. He restrained himself from taking his handkerchief out to wipe it—the first and last time he did that, he was scolded by the cook. According to her, it was her own badge of honor in the culinary battlefield.

Instead, he asked, "Is that so?"

She nodded vigorously. "They were really loud, and they keep on talking to me when I'm minding my own kitchen—"

Now this had made him straighten up from his seat. A piqued frown appeared on his usually even face. "What did they say to you?"

She blew on stray wisps of her brown hair. "They're asking me out on a date, and they're making bets as to who would I say yes to first."

"I see." His mouth set in a grim line. "I shall hold a serious discourse among my men this afternoon before I dismiss them." In layman terms, it meant the abattoir for them.

Jam could have sensed that, because she immediately shook her head, laughing breezily. "Hey, I handled it already, mister. And I think I had given them the scare already."

"Oh?" One of his eyebrows lifted inquisitively. "Pray tell, what did you tell them?"

To his surprise, she blushed faintly. "Um…" She was speechless for practically the first time since they've been good friends.
"It must be something good to dishearten my men," he prompted encouragingly. And to elicit that kind of reaction from you, his mind, now starting to get really curious, added.

"W-Well…" She scratched her cheek shyly. "P-Promise you won't laugh?"

"I promise."

"And that you won't get mad?"

"I promise… on a knight's honor."

She twirled her hair absent-mindedly. "Oh, alright, I suppose. You'd hear about it anyway from them, sooner or later."

"Absolutely," he agreed.

"Well… the thing is…" She tipped her chin with her finger, perhaps wondering the best way to break it to him. "I told them that they should drop the bets thing already because… because… someone else had asked me out already."

"Hmm?"

She laughed uneasily. "I-I told them that you asked me out already. I-I figured they won't mess with me anymore when they know their boss has set his eyes on me already."

Silence.

Jam bit her lower lip nervously. "Y-You don't mind, do you?"

Slowly, an amused smile formed on his face. "So have you said 'yes' already?"

"H-Huh?" she blinked, confused.

"You didn't tell my men whether you said 'yes' to me or not." The earnest tone of his voice belied the laughter dancing in his blue-green eyes. "It's best if you tell me now though, so I won't make appointments this weekend."

She gaped at him openly. "A-Are you making fun of me?" she asked after a while. "B-Because I can't really tell, but something tells me you're laughing at me. B-But then again, that's impossible… you're not exactly the one to kid. They always say you don't laugh, you don't joke around, and that you're not even human. However—"

"You're babbling," he commented, his gentle voice easing his uncharacteristic candid remark.

She paused, and then her eyes widened. "Hell yeah…" She started to smile too. "You got me there, mister!"

A more comfortable silence followed as he finished his bowl and asked for a second serving. As he watched her stride towards the kitchen while humming, his smile slowly vanished.

He acknowledged that every time he stepped into the cozy little bistro that this animated and fiery cook owned, he knew that he unwittingly let go of the persona that everyone around him knew and feared. He was no more Ky Kiske the unrelenting truth and justice crusader of the land, but just another guy who couldn't help but become fascinated of one pretty chef.

He had given himself the allowance to admire her silently, or recognize the protective instinct for her, or even allow her to affect his usually staid and no-nonsense manner with her infectious laughter even for one little piece of moment when time seemed to stand still.

But, he mused as he got up and left some bills on the table, as everything went in this broken world, all pleasures are but fleeting gratifications—brief intoxicating intervals among endless episodes of miseries and cruelty.

As he gazed out of the window and at the sorry state of the environment, he felt himself slowly drifting back to the call of reality.

There were still a lot of work to be done; and perhaps, a lifetime wouldn't suffice to accomplish all of them.

But he knew it in his heart—he had to at least do something.

"Ky?" He could hear her puzzled voice inside the eatery as he walked away. She was looking for him again. However, her voice hinted resignation also. This was not the first time he walked out on her. He would just have to apologize and come up with another flimsy excuse she wouldn't believe, but would grudgingly accept.

He smiled inwardly, her face still in his mind.

Jam Kuradoberi may never know it-- at least from him.

But right now, she served as one of his few best reasons why he should continue to fight for his high ideals of truth, justice, and peace… even at the expense of his own happiness.

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the end