And after several years of hiatus... I'm back. Rediscovered all my old stories on an external hard drive and decided to pick them back up and see where they go. Hope you enjoy!
Elena breathed a sigh of relief as she left the office at the end of the day when nothing else happened. It appeared that both sides had decided they needed time to regroup and restrategize now that she was fully aware of the bet. Though happy to be out of the dark when it came to the two's shenanigans, Elena couldn't help but feel a bit trapped now that she knew that at the end of the week she had to choose one or the other. She supposed that if all else failed, she could just refuse to choose either, though she could already hear Reno's protests about how unfair it would be. It might save her a headache to just choose one and get it over with. Besides, she had never clarified exactly what it was that the winner would receive. Honestly, all she would most likely have to do is go on one date and that would be it.
Elena took pure joy in entering her empty apartment, happy to be once again in the sanctuary of her home and free from the attempts of Reno and Tseng to win her over. After throwing her purse on the island and hanging her jacket and shoulder holster on the back of a stool, she walked over and pulled a wine glass from her cupboard. She poured herself a generous serving from the bottle of red she always kept on the counter. After the hellish day she had just had, she felt she deserved a quiet night at home with her thoughts and giant glass of wine.
Wine glass in hand, she walked over and flipped on the TV, sinking into her comfy couch as the evening news came on. She knew she should eat something, but food could wait until she was relaxed. Or perhaps she would forgo cooking and order Chinese. Chinese and wine seemed like the perfect combination to her, she thought as she took her tie off and untucked her shirt while kicking off her heels.
"This suit is too stuffy," she muttered as she stood and walked to her room to change into something more comfortable. The delivery guy had seen her in her rattiest PJs before, so she didn't much care what she put on as long as it was comfy.
Five minutes later she emerged in a pair of athletic shorts and a white t-shirt and walked to the couch. Taking another long sip of wine, she changed the channel to the latest sitcom out and put down the remote before walking over to where she kept the takeout menus next to the phone. It wasn't 10 minutes after she had placed her order that there was a knock at the door.
"Wow, they got fast," she muttered walking towards the door. As she stopped to get her wallet out of her purse, her Turks instincts took over. She froze as she looked at the door. Another knock sounded. "Just a minute!" she shouted as she set her wallet down on the island and reached over to pull her gun out of its holster that she had slung on the back of a stool.
She pulled off the safety as she crept over and looked through the peephole, holding her breath. Standing outside in the hallway, fidgeting and seemingly deep in conversation with himself was Tseng. He was holding two large shopping bags overflowing with vegetables and other ingredients and looked ready to bolt. Elena groaned as she unlocked the door and opened it, her irritation apparent.
"Tseng, what are you doing here?" she asked as she flipped the safety back on. Tseng jumped back, wide-eyed. He took in Elena's pajamas, the gun and cleared his throat.
"Well, um, I thought that maybe you might like a homecooked meal after the hell Reno and I put you through today. Were you going to shoot me?" he asked. Elena rolled her eyes, and stepped back, allowing him to come in. Tseng stood frozen, still eyeing Elena's gun.
"God, I'm not going to shoot. I had just ordered Chinese but it was too soon for the delivery guy to be here so I was suspicious," she said.
"I can come back-"
"Just get in, Tseng," she said abruptly. "Unless you enjoy standing out in the hallway like an idiot." Tseng nodded and walked it. Elena shut and locked the door while he set the bags of groceries on the kitchen island.
"Sorry, I didn't think that you would order anything. I tried to get over here before you ate anything," he said as he looked at her.
"It's okay, just maybe next time call first," she said as she put the gun back in her holster.
"Ruf- the President suggested I surprise you, though cooking was my idea. I thought you might like that," he continued. Elena chuckled.
"Depends on what you're cooking," she responded, glancing inside the bags, "And how well you cook it. You cook?" Tseng relaxed a bit and began unpacking the bags.
"Yes, though I usually only cook for myself. I might have gotten too much food because I wasn't sure how much to make," he said. Elena started helping him. Now that her nerves had calmed, she had to admit she was a bit touched by Tseng's thoughtfulness. Though she would have preferred a bit of a warning that someone was coming over. She had, after all, hoped to relax tonight. She made a mental note to add a new rule tomorrow that her home was off limits just so she wouldn't get anymore surprise visits throughout the week.
"I'm surprised that Reno didn't think to ambush me at home," she said. "That sounds more up his alley than yours." Tseng laughed.
"Well, I may have offered a truce with him today that we'd both give it a rest for tonight," he said, smiling. Elena stopped and had to laugh out loud for a moment.
"I have to admit, I am impressed, boss. That was sneaky," she said. Tseng shrugged.
"I'm still following all the rules you set forth in the wager. You never said anything about us keeping our word when it came to agreements made between myself and Reno," he said.
"Do you need any help with anything?" Elena asked. Tseng shook his head.
"No. Tonight is about you relaxing. I'll take care of dinner, though," he glanced over at the glass of wine sitting on the coffee table, "if it's not too much I wouldn't mind a glass of wine and your company while I cook." Elena nodded.
"Fair enough." She walked over and got another glass, poured it and then handed it to Tseng before walking over to retrieve her own and then settling at the island. She was pleasantly surprised that the evening was progressing smoothly. Tseng cooked as efficiently as he worked, cleaning up and clearing out things as he went along. The conversation flowed as her apartment began to fill with the delicious smell of whatever pasta Tseng was cooking and they worked their way through her bottle. Tseng had brought one as well that Elena had set on the counter next to her own.
Tseng had relaxed noticeably as he cooked, shedding his suit coat and tie. He had rolled up his sleeves and even undone his shirt a bit.
Before long, Tseng set out two full plates as Elena got silverware out. The two sat at the island and started to eat, still talking.
"Reno, yes, I can understand him not telling me about the bet, but I'm surprised you held out as long as you did," Elena said after they were settled.
"Well, I wanted to tell you all along, of course, but Reno thought it would be more fun to let you figure it out on your own," Tseng admitted. "But enough about the wager, let me know what you think."
Elena dug in and sat back after taking a bite.
"Oh my god, Tseng, if you cook like this all the time I might just have to lock you in my apartment forever," she said after swallowing. Tseng smiled, obviously pleased with his cooking skills. "You are turning out to be quite the surprise, boss."
"Just because I come off as stuffy in the office doesn't mean I don't know a thing or two about other things," he said, taking a bite. Elena laughed.
"Sorry, since I hardly ever see you outside of work, it's kind of hard to imagine what you must be like at home," she said. "But now I know. You spend time cooking amazing masterpieces."
"Well, and more. I like to listen to music. And read. And I see the occasional film," he said.
"Let me guess, classical music, right? And history books?" Elena said. "And you love documentaries."
"Well, more like blues. There is a live blues bar that I like to go to on the weekends. And books, I actually enjoy spy novels, though I do read the occasional history book. Documentaries are okay, but I would much rather see a thriller," he said.
Elena stopped eating and stared at him.
"You like blues? And go to live music bars?" she asked dubiously. Tseng nodded, seemingly unfazed.
"Yes. I do go other places than the office and my home," he said with a smile. Elena turned back to her plate and picked up her fork.
"Color me surprised," she said finally.
"If you would like, I could take you sometime," he offered cautiously. Elena smiled and glanced at him.
"Sounds promising. Perhaps," she answered.
Their conversation was interrupted by a knock at the door.
"Oh shit. I forgot about the Chinese," she said. "I'll just pay and put it in the fridge for leftovers." Hopping off the stool, she grabbed her wallet and went to the door, unlocking and opening it without looking through the peephole.
"Chinese for two? And I know you said no getting you drunk, so I brought vodka instead," said Reno. Elena was so shocked she dropped her wallet.
"What the hell are you doing here?" she asked. Reno laughed and pushed passed her into the apartment.
"Is that any way to greet…," he trailed off as soon as he saw Tseng, who was now standing next to the island. "Bastard, I should have known it was a trick." Tseng laughed.
"What? Surprised I took a page out of your book," he said. Elena rolled her eyes and shut the door. The night had gone from enjoyable to crazy in a heartbeat.
"You're such a damn stickler for rules, I never thought you would go back on your word," Reno said, before breaking out into a grin. "Well-played, Tseng. Well-played." He glanced over at the plates of food and the last of the dishes left in the sink to be washed. "Cooking? God, even I didn't see that one coming," he admitted. Elena walked over to stand in between the two, unsure of what would happen next. Reno set down the Chinese and bottle of vodka on the floor and started to roll up his sleeves.
"Well, I guess that means there is only one thing to do," he said.
"No, no. You are not about to get into a fight in my apartment," she said putting her hands up. Tseng started to walk towards Reno.
"Correct, if it's an altercation you want, I suggest we take it outside," he said, glaring. Reno grinned.
"Relax, you two," he walked over and put his hand out. "I will concede this round to you, Tseng." Tseng stared down at his outstretched hand, worried. "Do not tell me you are afraid of a handshake, bro."
Cautiously, Tseng reached out and shook Reno's hand. The redhead then started backing up to the door.
"I will leave you two to finish your little date. Have a nice night," he said before leaving, shutting the door quietly behind him. Elena and Tseng stood in silence watching the door, waiting for Reno to pop back in or do something. When nothing happened after a few minutes they looked at each other.
"He's planning something," they both said at the same time. Elena grimly looked back at her front door.
"Well, I suppose we should finish eating and then I'll leave you to rest," Tseng finally said after a few moments of awkward silence. "I think we're both going to need a lot of rest tonight." Elena sighed and walked back over and sat down, suddenly not too hungry.
"God, who knows what he's got up his sleeves," she said before forcing herself to take a bite. Just that mouthful of heaven brought back most of her appetite. "Good Lord, where did you come up with this recipe?" she asked, temporarily distracted. Tseng sat back down and started to eat again.
"Just something I threw together one night," he responded. They continued to eat, though the easy atmosphere was still marred by Reno's unexpected appearance. After about 20 minutes of trying to salvage the date, they both finally admitted defeat and Tseng pulled on his suit jacket, still insisting that he do the remainder of the dishes.
"It's okay. You cooked, I'll clean up," Elena said as she walked him over to the front door. "And thanks. I really appreciate the meal." Tseng smiled, though he seemed a bit crestfallen. "And… the company," Elena added softly. Tseng's strained smile softened. He seemed to hesitate a bit, before leaning in and kissing Elena on the cheek.
"Anytime. It's nice to finally cook for someone other than myself," he said. Elena's eyes widened, but before she could respond, Tseng turned and left, shutting the door behind him. Elena silently locked the door and leaned against it, sighing heavily.
She had to admit that before Reno showed up, she had really been enjoying the evening. She liked the idea of spending a quiet night at home with someone. It would have been nice if she and Tseng could have curled up on the couch together with their wine, continuing their conversation from before. And that kiss. Elena reached up and gently touched her cheek.
"Good grief," she finally said, shaking her head. This was Tseng. Her boss. And this was a wager. She needed to keep her wits about her. Resolved to keep clearheaded, Elena walked over and put the now empty plates in the sink. She'd wash them later. For now, she needed her wine and something mindless on TV to distract her.
Tomorrow was going to be an interesting day.