Disclaimer: The only thing I own is the story idea and only some of the witty remarks. I own so little; so please don't steal.
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Kissing the Cook
Being a chef was never part of Kagami's future plans. For starters, he was extremely impatient and could never understand how anyone could wait hours for some food substance to simmer before eating it. He also didn't understand how anyone could spend minutes painstakingly carving vegetables into cute little intricate designs. That wasn't as bad as artfully arranging food on a plate; his style was more throwing it more or less on a dish and eating it. The most important part of cooking was the taste. It didn't matter what it looked like as long as it tasted good and kept you going.
But he had learned how to cook after surviving years with minimal parental presence and made the mistake of participating in some fancy cooking competition for the cash prize (he was a little tight on the money at the moment) and of all things, some fancy manager for some fancy restaurant had been there and thought up the fancy thought in his fancy head that boy, he needed Kagami to work in his fancy restaurant.
Also, paying a fancy thirty bucks an hour was an idea too.
In actuality, the manager was only a manager in name; his daughter Aida Riko ran the entire show. "Listen up, butts," she announced, throwing the doors to the kitchen open and startling a poor chef into spraying sauce all over the counter. "We've got fresh meat in today. This is Kagami Taiga. My old man says he's talented so leave him alone. If he fails, he can show himself the door."
The kitchen was silent except for the sizzling of vegetables on one of the stoves.
"Carry on!" Aida barked, and the kitchen hopped back to action. "Tell me if any of these ten idiots tries to pick on you," she ordered, turning her piercing gaze at Kagami. "The old man told me you were a rare talents so I'm counting on you." Without warning, she grabbed his hands, running them over with her fingers and inspecting them. "He may be right," she added just as mysteriously, before giving a smile that looked unnatural after her display of bossiness. "Don't fuck up!"
"Don't mind her," one of the chefs said after Aida left, looking sympathetic. "She's like that, but she's had years of experience in the restaurant business. Her father ran this before he gave it to her on her twenty-first birthday, and she's been running it pretty well since."
"What was that all about?" Kagami asked, wringing his hands around.
"She's got this talent," the chef said, staring at Kagami unflinchingly through a pair of tasteful glasses. "She can tell your abilities through your hands. After all, a chef is nothing without his hands, right?" He shrugged. "She held all our hands at first and told us what we needed to work on."
"Hyuuga wanted it to last longer," the chef who spilled the sauce earlier cackled, rushing between them to hurl a colander full of wet noodles into the sink. The glasses chef, Hyuuga, whom Kagami pictured to respond coolly and levelly, turned pink instead and adjusted his glasses.
"Ignore Koganei," he said after a moment of composure. "I'm Hyuuga Junpei; I'm something of a second in charge in here. That idiot with the noodles is the guy who can make anything and can't make anything worthwhile." ("Hey," Koganei protested from the sink.") He began to point out the other chefs in the kitchen. "The one preparing the meat is Izuki, and if you know what's best for you, you won't say anything pun-worthy in front of him. Mitobe's the guy stir-frying right now and that's pretty much the most sound you'll hear from him. Those three over there are Furihata, Fukuda, and Kawahara and they've only been waiters for a few months…that's Tsuchida by the rice. We're missing Teppei, but he's been here the longest; he's the one who does quality checks on the produce we receive by going straight to the source…and of course, Kuroko's around here somewhere…"
At this point, orders began to trickle in and the trio of fellow newbies scattered around haphazardly. "Don't lose your heads," Hyuuga shouted, echoing the same sort of authority Aida wielded skillfully. "Find something to help out with; we'll orient you with our menu afterwards." Hyuuga went off to damage control and Kagami quickly positioned himself near one of the ovens, but as Izumi shoved a whole chicken at him and yelled a temperature, Kagami could swear that even without the missing Teppei, he had only counted eight other people in the kitchen when there were supposed to be ten.
The soup was bubbling.
The soup was bubbling and everyone else didn't seem to notice, but Kagami did. Fancy restaurant or not, Seirin still had business during lunch hours. He figured that all the businessmen who worked around this part of town had the money to throw away on ten dollar bowls of soup but all to his own. It was bothering him that no one was in front of the stoves were the three pots of soup were sitting. Hyuuga said that during rush periods, all parts of the kitchen were manned specifically by different people but Kagami had honestly not been listening when the different positions were given out and had not listened to who was on soups (he remembered getting startled out of apathy to hear he was on vegetable duty). He was holding a bunch of carrots in one hand and the sink was right past the soups.
The soup was bubbling and it was going to be burnt. The oil was separating and the stock was jumping around in the bubbling broth. It was bothering Kagami. Someone ought to turn down the flame, or at least stir it to maintain a uniform temperature. He'd have to take it into his own hands; the ungrateful, irresponsible bastard who left his post would thank him later. The ladle was sitting uselessly next to the pot. Kagami stopped in front of the pot and grabbed the ladle, stirring the soup with one hand with carrots in the other.
"Um," said a voice somewhere below his chin.
Kagami looked down and realized for the first time that someone was indeed standing and manning the soups and somehow he had missed him. The chef was holding seasoning and had been tasting the soup, looking somewhat troubled at Kagami's interruption.
"Where did you come from?" Kagami asked stupidly.
"I was always here," the chef said calmly. His back was against Kagami's chest; Kagami wondered again how there could have been someone there and he had not even noticed. "What are you doing?"
"Who are you?" Kagami asked stupidly.
"Kuroko." His hair was a light blue. He took the ladle out of Kagami's hand. "I've got everything under control," he said politely, his voice suggesting nicely that Kagami should probably go back to washing and dicing the carrots. Kagami went to the sink and started running water over the carrots. When he looked back to the stove, Kuroko was gone again.
"What," he started, blinking.
"Look harder," Koganei said helpfully, taking post at the sink adjacent to shock the pasta. Kagami squinted and focused; surely enough, he realized Kuroko was there all along. "He's got that sort of ability," Koganei continued, tossing the pasta about the cold water with the amusement of a cat. "If you don't pay too much attention it's like he isn't there. He gets a lot done before you know it, though, so that's why the manager keeps him around." Kagami blinked again and there were five bowls of soup sitting where there had been none before and Kuroko was ladling down the sixth.
"What the hell," Kagami grumbled.
After a week or so, Kagami began to learn a bit about the dynamics about the kitchen in Seirin. Who he could call on a first name basis (Teppei, occasionally Hyuuga). Who had cooking quirks. How Riko could tell by looking how a dish tasted but was never allowed near food ("Those who can't do, teach," Teppei explained when she was out of earshot). How far he could go by throwing food on plates. He swore he would never fancy up his food or put sprigs of parsley or shit on them but nowadays he found himself – not artfully, but nicely arranging food onto plates. It was astounding what money could make someone do.
"This is fucking terrible," Kagami muttered to himself when he found himself worrying about the placement of the – of all things – lettuce leaves on the side of a chicken dish.
"It is," Izumi agreed, passing him with a bottle of win. "It's tearable." It took Kagami a moment to realize the pun and throw a lettuce leaf at him (and get caught by Riko and get a scolding).
He was not quite as polished as the others when it came to food preparation, but he could hold his own in ability, although he doubted any of them would have been cruel enough to give him flack about it in the first place. Hyuuga was extremely helpful and had gotten him up to speed on where things were placed and some of the jargon used and when to expect a flood of orders.
"You'd best keep up during those times," he said, with a very friendly smile. "Or else we'll leave you behind and you'll have to explain yourself." Kagami had also realized since that during traffic hours, Hyuuga had a tendency to speak exactly what he thought ("I said no peppers! Doesn't anyone listen to their seniors anymore!"). Some of the bluntness crept through but it was no longer too troubling. It was getting more commonplace, like Izumi's irritating word play.
What he couldn't get used to, though, was Kuroko. The guy had a knack of appearing at odd times and claiming he had been around the entire time. Seeking him out required much practice, but there were still the odd times Kagami turned to reach for something and Kuroko was right there handing it to him wordlessly. The kitchen operated rather smoothly despite traffic hours, and Kagami suspected Kuroko was one of the reasons.
Kagami was taking out the trash in the back once and almost dropped the entire bag of leftovers and old food at the sight of a little dog sitting there next to the dumpsters, sticking its tongue out and wagging its tail. He had been afraid of dogs ever since his next-door neighbor's dog bit him unexpectedly in the fifth grade (okay, so he had been taunting it, maybe, by waving a ball around it and not giving it to the thing, but he wasn't going to throw a basketball at a dog), but he did his best in chasing it away. His shouts and frantic arm waving attracted the entire kitchen to come see what the matter was.
"Don't chase Number Two away," Koganei protested.
"Number Two?" Kagami sputtered.
"That's what we named it," Hyuuga explained. "He looks a bit like Kuroko. Did you notice before he ran away? Riko likes it enough and it doesn't bother us much, so we feed it scraps sometimes." They spoke as if it was quite a normal thing to do.
"Doesn't it bother you?" Kagami shouted, turning to Kuroko, his eye now better at seeking the quiet chef out. "Being compared to a dog?"
"Kuroko found Number Two to begin with," Teppei said, as the others were returning to the kitchen. "Loosen up, Kagami~. You'll never make it in the kitchen if you're going to get worked up over something like a little puppy."
That was hardly the case. "It's not comparison," Kuroko said, making Kagami's jump; he'd thought Kuroko had followed them back in. "It's resemblance." He looked up at Kagami, and Kagami decided Kuroko did look like the stupid-faced puppy.
"Get back in there," he muttered, smacking Kuroko across the back of his head. Kuroko had meekly gone back to the kitchen, but a few hours later, when Kagami was next to Kuroko placing the pan back on the shelf, a hand shot out and jabbed him with superhuman strength and he'd gone down ("Like a sack of potatoes," Izumi supplied) on a sack of potatoes.
Business was as usual in the Seirin kitchen when the doors suddenly burst open and a blonde rushed in and literally hopped over the island in the middle of the kitchen and over a cart to tackle Kuroko. "Kurokocchi!" the human missile cooed. "I missed you! Are you finally free to grab that coffee with me after work?"
"Who is that?" Kagami asked Teppei as Kuroko pushed the guy away.
"That's just Kise; he shows up every few weeks to bother Kuroko." When Kagami stared at him blankly, he shrugged. "He's from Kuroko's old restaurant. That upscale one on the other side of town, Teikou? They began to branch out a couple years ago and the Miracle Chefs, as they were so called, were dispatched to different locations around the area. Kise's one of the waiters Kuroko used to work with. Apparently all of the Miracle Chefs were attached one or another about Kuroko."
"Who is this?" Kise demanded, spotted Kagami. "What is a thug doing in the kitchen of a five star restaurant?"
"A thug?" Kagami growled, realizing it did not help his image.
"I knew you were being tortured working at this upstart of a place!" Kise cried, grabbing Kuroko despite resistance. "Come back to Teikou with me. Everyone'll welcome you back. You were just caught up in the relocations and they made a mistake with your paperwork, didn't they? You didn't quit, did you? Aominecchi won't say it but he misses your help! Momoi keeps saying he's brooding now, see? Come back~!"
"I'm not going back," Kuroko said calmly.
"Akashi only almost spilled hot oil on you once!"
"He had a bunch of crazy coworkers," Teppei said. "I don't blame him for leaving at all. Let me see…there was the superstitious one that refused to come in on certain days after the horoscopes…Aomine was the talented one who only did extremely difficult dishes…one of them ate half of what he made…that one with somewhat violent tendencies…"
"Hey," Kise said, letting Kuroko go for a moment to get in Kagami's face. "I don't approve of you taking Kuroko away. I won't get in a fight with you because Kasamatsu would kill me and I can't spoil my host-worthy good looks. But we'll get you all out of business soon. Kuroko belongs with Teikou."
"I'm new," Kagami said, although Kise was annoying him. "I didn't take him away at all. He was here before I was."
"He said he was impressed with you," Kise accused, making talent seem to be a bad thing. "I'll kill you if you make Kuroko cry."
"Kagami is a good chef," Kuroko said simply. "I don't mind helping him out."
"I'll tell everyone about this!" Kise yelled, and Riko appeared just in time to drag him out. There was a loud scuffle in the hallway, and the addition of another male voice berating Kise noisily about correct etiquette and how this was not a productive way to spend a day off and could he please focus on Touou and that he couldn't spend his entire life relying on his looks.
"Isn't this a much more healthier environment?" Teppei asked to no one in particular, and Kagami chose not to remember the last traffic hour incident where knives were flying with some not connected to hands.
"Are Hyuuga and Manager going out?" Kagami asked during a lunch break and watched everyone purposely not look at him. Hyuuga and Riko and gone out to speak to the customers, Hyuuga being head chef and all. "Well? Are they?"
"No," Teppei finally answered.
"Yes," Izumi said at the same time.
"No, they're not," Koganei said, elbowing Izumi. "Remember? We watched him walk her home but he didn't do anything or go in with her. He didn't even kiss her good night."
"Jeez, Koganei, is a guy going to kiss a girl right in front of her father's house?"
"What era do you live in?"
"Oxygen…actually a combination of various gasses…"
"They're not," Teppei expanded. "Well, not now, at least. It's pretty much common knowledge that Hyuuga's been trying to court Riko for ages now, but they're both so dedicated to their work, it's taking them a bit to get anywhere…it'll happen, trust me. The belligerent sexual tension's going somewhere, but it'll take a while to get there."
"He's eaten her food once," Kuroko said.
"That's dedication right there," Teppei agreed.
"Kuroko's pretty devoted to you," Riko said after a staff meeting, pulling Kagami aside to explain some procedures he had not done yet. "He helps out all around in the kitchen but I've never seen him stick so close to any of our chefs yet. Are you two friends now?"
"Really?" Kagami asked, frowning. He didn't remember exchanging too many words with Kuroko, but now that she mentioned it, every time he needed something he merely had to hold his hand out and the object would appear in his hand. Had Kuroko been shadowing him lately? Damn that invisibility technique.
"It's nice," Riko smiled. "My old man said that Kuroko enhances a chef's ability just by helping out. He's not too bad with food himself, but he's a pro assistant. You're not doing too bad lately and your dishes don't look like the mess they used to be."
"Thanks," Kagami said, although he didn't feel flattered.
"You should spend more time with him outside the restaurant. He tends to disappear a lot so it's a bit hard to go out with him…he'll go out for drinks with us but we lose him at the end of the night…if we can remember to actually look…some of us get drunker than we should…anyway! He seems like he likes you, so try and keep him company. The two of you are the newest chefs here; he's only been here year or so more than you."
Kagami had taken her words lightly and had not been planning much (what to talk about with Kuroko, anyway? The guy barely spoke much to begin with, and Kagami had had some awkward run-ins with him in the kitchen when he was reaching for something and had for the most part gotten into Kuroko's personal space without realizing it). He was just thinking about it reaching for some bottled coffee in the convenience store – he worked in a five star restaurant but he didn't eat in one – and closed the fridge door and there was Kuroko.
"Can you stop doing that?" Kagami demanded, after fumbling with the bottled coffee in surprise.
"Doing what?" Kuroko asked, genuinely unaware.
Riko said that they should wallow in their fellow newness at Seirin together. Kuroko was holding a convenience store bento. Kagami had a nagging suspicion Kuroko was part of the types that went home, ate a quiet dinner, and lurked around until going to sleep early. It was appropriate, somehow. "Wanna come over to my place? I'll cook you something if you haven't already eaten."
Kuroko looked a bit surprised and didn't answer right away. "If you're treating," he said finally, and wandered off to put the bento back.
Kagami kissed Kuroko over beef stir-fry the thirteenth time he had Kuroko over for dinner after work.
"The sauce is salty enough," Kuroko only said, before continuing to eat. This confused Kagami to no end. Was this Kuroko's way of coping with his male coworker finally venting feelings that had been bothering said coworker for weeks now? They'd gotten to know each other better but there were still many parts of Kuroko that were cryptic. He could pretend nothing happened too. But Kuroko kissed him back when they were doing the dishes and the dishes became forgotten as they made out on Kagami's couch.
"You're going to have to defeat my six exes," Kuroko said with a straight face when they stopped making out to quickly shed more clothing.
"Yeah, whatever," Kagami said, before promptly ravishing Kuroko into the couch. He did not think of what Kuroko had said until a pink-haired, well-endowed woman stood in front of Seirin to greet Kagami on Tuesday.
"My name is Momoi Satsuki," she declared. "I am the first of Kuroko's exes."
To be fair, they were ex-coworkers. Momoi was already dating Aomine. Her trial was a close inspection and she had an eye to rival Riko's. Kagami saved himself with a blunt declaration of his dedication to Kuroko. Momoi was ever the romantic.
Kise was next and challenged Kagami to a grocery battle to pick the best ingredients out from select stores and prepare a simple breakfast in the shortest amount of time. Kagami won from the great advantage that Kise was simply too good looking for the old wives at the grocery store to not speak to and ran in fifteen minutes after Kagami had finished his French toast shouting for a rematch.
The superstitious Midorima wished for carving battle with his precision, and Kagami was doomed to lose except the match date was scheduled for a day where cancers had the worst luck and did not show up.
Murasakibara put up a good fight in the eating match but Kagami could outeat a starving baby whale. Admittedly, Murasakibara had not bothered too much and shuffled off wanting to find some snacks and saying that 'Akashi had made him come because Kise was being such a fucking baby about it'.
Aomine invited Kagami to the spacious and sparkling Teikou kitchen to make consommé. The long simmering times made Kagami sweat. Aomine decided to make it worse by bragging. "I used to go out with Kuroko, you know," he said. ("No, we didn't.") "We came here together so I know everything about him and I taught him all he knows now." ("Stop.") "He was so cute when he told me he would go to dinner with me." ("That never happened.") "I know all his sweet spots, I can tell you if you like." ("Shut up, Aomine.") It bothered Kagami to no end. Kuroko helped best he could, skimming when Kagami was too heavy handed with irritation.
"Your boyfriend has to defeat me with his own hand," Aomine said after Kuroko skimmed the consommé for Kagami the seventh time. Kagami took the spoon. Lies or not, he was going to beat this smug bastard.
Aomine's consommé looked much better but Kagami's had an intense flavor.
Kagami was most anxious for the confrontation with Akashi, from what he had heard from the others, but all the short man wanted was a knife-sharpening fight ("Great! Some of the knives in our kitchen are getting dull anyway," Riko said happily). Kagami won easily as he was much larger and more stamina. It didn't stop Akashi from trying to stab him halfway through.
"This is stupid," Akashi sniffed, unceremoniously handing Kagami the ability to date Kuroko.
"This was completely unnecessary," Izumi mused.
"I could have told them to back off," Kuroko said afterwards in Kagami's apartment after work. Kagami was resting his head on Kuroko's lap as reward for dealing with six psychotic coworkers. He was thinking Kuroko might have a neurosis he was not aware of, since Teikou seemed to hire complete nutjobs. "You didn't have to do that. I was just kidding; I didn't think they'd do that once they heard."
"Naw," Kagami said, looking over the revised menu for Seirin that Kuroko had obediently learned earlier before the day it was to be issued (tomorrow). "It felt good to win. I don't work with food for nothing."
"I'm glad," Kuroko said, dryly.
"Are they going to talk now, like the will-they-won't-they Hyuuga and Riko? All I want to do is cook and make it by."
"Does it matter?" Kuroko asked, leaning down, and Kagami kissed him, because he deserved it, he won and he'd put up with crazy cooks and fancy restaurants, and he was kissing someone he never thought he'd kiss more than once, and if he was trying to make it by, he was doing pretty well so far.
Thoughts: This fic was unusually difficult to write? I'm not sure I can write these characters very skillfully despite having read all the updated chapters so far. Kagami/Kuroko's relationship seems to progress so naturally that it's unnecessary to add frivolous details…which I'm used to since I love to write gross fluff…ughhh….