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Thyme for Lentils

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The Summer Solstice had come and just about gone, but that didn’t mean Gorse didn’t still have pressing matters only he could do in the kitchens of the Hub.

“Yes Dedicate Withe. Dishes,” Gorse was perhaps sterner than he needed to be, but Withe’s stubborn pride was not something he was willing to put up with at the moment. He waved to the basins overflowing with dirty pots, pans, and dishware. The younger dedicate wilted and Gorse hoped that Withe would be a tad more considerate. He was a promising chef, and Gorse was loathe to turn anyone away willing to work in the kitchens.

“I’ll help,” the dedicate Withe had been arguing with offered. Gorse nodded his approval. Dedicate Thyme was young and not well versed as a cook necessarily, but Gorse was already thinking of giving her more authority in the kitchen and things like this were the reason why.

Withe flushed, but didn’t argue so Gorse decided to leave them to his next task. Before he left them though, he reminded them. “So long as you have enough time.” He said it flatly, but bowed his head at them as Withe groaned and Thyme herself went pink. With an innocent smile, he went back to his own duties.

~*~

Dedicate Moonstream’s office in the hub was plain and serviceable. The incense was one of her only personal concessions, but Mbau rose was one of the things that kept Moonstream mindful of her departed mother and no one argued. It helped that Dedicate Crane was generous enough to share the fruits (roots? She mused) of his labor in the greenhouse with the Dedicate Superior. She enjoyed those quiet nights in the greenhouse, Crane tutting over some report or other in his office as she took the opportunity to break out her neglected mortar and pestle as they caught up on Winding Circle business. Or gossip. Crane’s curiosity could not be contained by just his work in plants and being in charge of the Air Temple put Crane in just the position for the juiciest gossip to criticize in that dismissive manner of his. It was an unspoken agreement between them that Crane could pretend not to be the gossip he was and Moonstream to keep up with the more salacious details of life at Winding Circle.

But here in her office? Moonstream was far too preoccupied with keeping the gaggle of dedicates at Winding Circle from stirring up trouble to abuse her other privileges. A knock at the door was the welcome signal of one she heartily indulged in.

“Come in,” her guest called out for her.

Gorse entered with a tray carefully held between his massive hands. With the delicate care he approached all things in the kitchen with, he placed the tray on her desk. “Braised lamb with pilau, Dedicate Superior.” A small cup of chocolate accompanied the dish and Moonstream felt a smile creep on her face.

“You spoil an old lady Gorse,” she smiled.

“I’m afraid I let the flowers sit too long,” he answered, humbly circumspect as he gestured at the bouquet of summer flowers and perfectly aware of how Moonstream was referring to the way the dipped into his own personal store of imported treats for the meal.
Moonstream simply shook her head. “That’ll be all Skyfire. I imagine you have somewhere else you’d rather be tonight,” she said drily as Gorse’s ears went pink and Skyfire laughed the guffawing, throaty bellow he did.

~*~

Skyfire was oddly quiet as Gorse set the table for him. A small pot of lentils ready to be dished out had been set out, and from here he could see the telling red of paprika as ginger tickled his nose. Up until now, Gorse had only served lentils with garlic, lemon, and oil sauce the way most of Emalan consumed it. How Gorse got his hands on paprika this far west, he didn’t know and wasn’t surprised. Nonetheless, his heart warmed as Gorse set out a plate of zaalouk. The dumplings Gorse set out were most likely lamb as he set out the yogurt. They were fare all Emalense and people of Sotat would be familiar with, but the dough was wrapped the way he saw Gorse make dumplings with the other Yanjingi for their Lunar New Years every Storm Moon.

"You shouldn’t have Gorse,” he said gruffly. Gorse just hemmed and served the zaalouk, making sure Gorse’s portions was heavy with the eggplants he added an extra serving of into the dish. As he did so, Skyfire moved to serve the lentils, tsking Gorse. “You already did all the work, it’s your meal too.”

“Overactive bag of bones,” Gorse sighed gustily, a fond smile on his lips.

“Overworking busybody,” Skyfire fired back gleefully.

Gorse chuckled. “Your insults are aging as badly as you are.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Skyfire said, lifting his glass of grape juice and tapped it against Gorse’s raised glass of rice wine.

“Would your old wife agree?” Gorse asked quietly.

Skyfire gave him a look before bursting out into laughter. “I rather think she would. After all we were quite the pair and we agreed on one thing, we both have excellent taste in men!” He raised his glass in toast to the fondly missed firebrand and tipped his glass back again.

Gorse rolled his eyes. “Watch your sleeve,” he chided, not unamused as Skyfire yelped and fished the hem out of his lentils.