“Korra,” Jinora shouted. “Your phone’s ringing again!”
Korra ran in from the grill area where she had been helping Wu pull beer cans out of chickens. He had decided to embrace the idea and was trying to get her to rename it ‘butt-plug chicken’ for the menu with limited success.
“You’re going to be a what?”
Korra smiled as she heard the amusement in Asami’s voice. “Took you long enough to call me back.”
“I do have a day job,” Asami deadpanned. “So, before I start worrying about scary or what should be impossible scenarios, care to enlighten me?”
Korra chuckled. “Sorry, in retrospect I realized my word choice could have been better. Anyway, turns out Naga is in the family way, and I was both totally shocked and really excited about it.”
“Your dog is going to have puppies?” Asami gasped. “Wait, wouldn’t that make you a grandmother?”
“Please, I am not a grandmother!” Korra huffed. “I prefer to think of myself as a supportive co-parent.”
Asami’s laughter poured out of the phone. “Alright then. Be it far from me to judge, and anyway this is very exciting! When’s the big day?”
Korra peered at the paperwork taped to her refrigerator. “The vet thinks anywhere from the next 4-6 weeks, it’s pretty early. The only reason we know already is one of the eggs got stuck and she has to have surgery, but the vet thinks it will all be okay!”
“Ectopic pregnancy? Ouch—” Asami’s voice broke off and Korra heard murmurings in the background. “Dammit. Korra, I’m sorry, I have to go.”
“Can I call you later?”
“We’re hosting a big event at the restaurant tonight. It’s a private party for a local software company and I’m not sure when I’ll be done,” said Asami regretfully. “If I can get freed up before midnight I’ll text you, okay?”
“Oh, okay,” replied Korra, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice. “Good luck!” She hesitated, then blurted. “I’ll miss you tonight.”
There was a pause, then Korra heard a door slam in the background.
“Sorry, had to hide in my office to get away from Opal.” Asami apologized, sounding a little breathless. “I just had to tell you that I’ve been missing you since I left you at O’Shaughnessey’s this morning.” Her voice took on a teasing tone. “It was the first time I’ve ever wanted to skip out on work. I hope you’re proud of yourself.”
Korra grinned happily. “Unbelievably so. Of course after you left, Liam informed me that I looked like I ‘kicked the pot and ate the rainbow’. I’m not exactly sure what that means but he was smiling when he said it, so I can only assume it’s a good thing.” Korra turned and saw Jinora and Wu smirking at her. “But now I need to go before I embarrass myself any further, and you need to go to do your party thing.”
“You’re right, I really do need to go,” said Asami reluctantly. “Bye Korra.”
“Fare thee well, my lady.”
Kya hurried back through the door into the kitchen from the main dining area, trailing a bustling horde of waitstaff bearing empty platters en route to the plating counter. She came up to where Asami was overseeing the interns, Carlos and Rich, doing their first official stint at the stove working as line cooks. They were working slower than the regular cooks and had less pans in front of them, but were steadily improving under Asami’s patient tutelage. Lamb chops sizzled and brussel sprouts caramelized amidst the clattering of pans.
“So, I think you’re going to be unhappy.”
Asami glanced over at her. “I can’t wait to hear this.”
Kya sighed. “Come with me.”
Together they peered out the kitchen door window.
“You. Are. Kidding. Me.”
The imposing figure of Blackstone Varrick stood in the middle of the dining area. Sato Grill’s hostess and a woman Asami recognized as the software company’s event coordinator were both trying to discretely escort him towards the door. Next to him stood a stocky figure in a black suit looking sullenly around the restaurant.
Asami turned to Kya in shock. “What is Varrick doing here, and tell me he did not bring Mario Costantino of all people into my restaurant.”
“I don’t know, and apparently so,” Kya replied, her voice unusually somber.
“I’m going to kill him,” Asami ground out, her teeth gritted in irritation. “I’d like this company to host another party here in the future, so let’s go help Sarah kick him out.”
Varrick straightened as she approached. “Chef Sato! I was hoping to speak with you.”
Asami ignored the preferred hand. “Sato Grill is currently closed for a private event, as I’m sure you’re aware. I’m going to have to ask you to show up unannounced on another day.”
Varrick waved his hand vaguely towards his companion. “I’m sure you know Chef Costantino?”
Asami barely spared him a glance. “What do you want, Varrick?”
Costantino snorted. “She doesn’t seem to like you much.”
“We have a complicated relationship.”
“We have no relationship,” Asami retorted. “I’m in the middle of an event, and I need you out of here.”
“Geez, lady, no wonder they call you the Ice Queen,” chuckled Costantino. “Wouldn’t kill you to loosen up a little.”
Asami’s jaw dropped but before she could muster a reply Kya was in front of her.
“And what do they call you, other than a drunk misogynist and a failed restauranteur?” she demanded, her eyes flashing.
Varrick clapped his hands, his eyes sparkling. “Oh, this is too delicious.”
“I don’t fucking need this,” Costantino snarled, pointing an angry finger at Kya. “I thought we were supposed to meet up with the other chef who’s gonna compete with me? Don’t tell me it’s one of these bimbos—“ He grunted as Asami stepped around Kya and smoothly twisted his arm behind his back with one hand and with the other grabbed the collar of his jacket. Around them the restaurant fell silent, the stunned party-goers stopping to stare as Asami pushed the spluttering man none too gently through the door that Sarah, her hostess, gleefully held open. Kya followed close behind, ensuring that Varrick joined Costantino on the sidewalk.
“As I was saying, Sato Grill is closed for a private party, and my guests do not deserve this disruption.” Asami glared at both of them. “Frankly, Varrick, this is obnoxious even for you.”
“My humble apologies, Chef,” said Varrick, not looking the least bit repentant. “But please give Chef Korra my regards. I’m sorry we missed her.”
Costantino whirled to face Varrick. “Korra? As in Korra the kitchen intern? Are you fucking kidding me? There’s no way that bitch wannabe is going up against me.”
Asami felt Kya’s hand grab her elbow, pulling her back into the restaurant and firmly closing the door against the two men, cutting off Varrick’s response.
“Well,” she said brightly, keeping herself between Asami and the door. “That was exciting!”
Around them applause and hoots burst out from the party guests who had gathered near the entrance to witness the summary ejection of the interlopers. Asami felt herself blushing as her anger slowly dissipated.
“I’m extremely sorry for that,” she began hesitantly, but was interrupted by the arrival of the beaming event coordinator. Her name tag proclaimed her to be Christine.
“Hey everyone,” Christine called out cheerfully. “I think we can all agree that Sato Grill just became our favorite restaurant, and we’d like to thank Chef Sato and her staff for giving us a great party by making them all honorary Noodlers!”
The cheering was tumultuous. Christine solemnly handed over two black t-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘NoodleSoft’ and the stylized picture of a bowl of noodles that served as the corporate logo. “We have a ton more in a box for the rest of your staff. We wouldn’t be a proper software company without tacky t-shirts.”
“Aww, how sweet,” murmured Kya in amusement. “We’ve been adopted by nerds.”
Asami poked her in the side, then turned to Christine. “I truly apologize for that interruption. In the future I’ll be sure to make sure to have some sort of security in place—“
“Oh please, that was better than having live entertainment,” Christine declared. “We are a game company, after all, so we like things a little crazy.”
“Plenty of that around here,” smirked Kya. “We only look civilized.”
“Kya!” scolded Asami, but she couldn’t help her smile. “We should get back to the kitchen, please enjoy the rest of your time here, and don’t hesitate to let us know if there’s anything else we can do to make your night memorable.”
“Well, I’m going to start by finding somebody else you can manhandle out of the restaurant. We might need to include that scenario in our next game.”
Asami: You awake?
Korra: Was hoping you’d ping
Asami: I want you to do the competition
Asami: Varrick’s thing against Costantino
Asami: I want you to do it
Korra: Where did this come from?
Asami: Tell you later but when you do it I want to be there
Korra: Would hope you’d come watch of course
Asami: No I want to be one of your assistant chefs
Asami: Gotta go talk to you later
Korra: The hell?
Korra’s phone rang under her ear, jolting her awake. She fumbled sleepily for it. “Hello?”
“I woke you.”
“S’okay, you’re allowed. What time is it anyway?” She yawned and rubbed her face.
“Time to let me in?”
Korra paused as her brain struggled to process this comment. “You’re outside my place.”
“And you say your brain doesn’t work in the mornings.” Asami chuckled.
Korra made her way down the stairs from her loft, still clutching the phone to her ear. “Are you giving me grief before I’ve even had my coffee, Sato?” She pulled the door open to see Asami waiting patiently. The chef’s eyes darkened as she took in Korra’s tank top and boxers. “Hey, you—“
She was cut off by a hard kiss, and she managed to kick the door closed before feeling herself being pushed steadily back.
“Asami?” She groaned as soft lips ran down her neck and struggled to stay on her feet. “Not that I’m not loving this, but, um—” She broke off as her back hit the side of her food truck, Asami pressed tightly against her.
“I had a really weird night last night,” Asami breathed against her ear, sucking gently on an earlobe. “And I really want to tell you about it, but for some reason the minute I saw you, all that went out the window.” She captured Korra’s lips again, curling her fingers in Korra’s tousled hair. A slow heat was building in her stomach and she let herself revel in it. She felt Korra grin against her lips, then shrieked as she was suddenly lifted up, warm hands under her thighs encouraging her legs to wrap around a strong waist.
“Yeah, let’s talk later,” Korra muttered as she carried Asami up the steps to her loft.
They fell onto the bed together, laughing.
“How are the subconscious insecurities feeling this morning?” Korra teased.
Asami pushed her back far enough to wriggle out of her jacket and kick off her shoes. “Still thoroughly vanquished.” She pulled Korra closer to her, and shuddered when she felt teeth scrape down the base of her neck. “I’ll have you know — oh, god — that I was a perfectly boring and sane person before I met you, and now,” she paused, gasping a little at the sensation of Korra’s hands slipping under her shirt. “Now I seem to be having daily adventures.”
“Should I be apologizing?” Korra’s lips ghosted across Asami’s clavicle.
“Don’t you dare.” Asami moaned as she felt fingertips caressing her sides, teasing her breasts. She started to tug at the hem of Korra’s tank top, then froze at the sound of the door banging open downstairs.
“Korra!” Jinora shouted. “Get your ass out of bed!”
“Fuck,” groaned Korra. She pulled back slightly, pressing a light kiss against Asami’s cheek. Then she smirked and waggled her eyebrows. “So, how adventurous are you feeling now?”
Asami’s eyes widened as she caught Korra’s meaning. “Not adventurous enough for what I think you’re suggesting.”
“Heh, I’m kidding,” Korra chuckled. “I’m not adventurous enough for what I’m suggesting.”
“Korra!” Jinora exclaimed. “Don’t make me come up there!”
Korra rolled her eyes. “I hear you! Give us a minute,” she called back.
Jinora tsked. “That better be Asami up there with you.”
“For fuck’s sake, who else would it be?” Korra grumbled reaching for a pair of jeans. “I haven’t had anybody sleep here but her in over two years.” At Asami’s raised eyebrow, she hastened to add. “And that was platonically, I swear. As you’ve previously noted, I don’t have a guest room.”
Asami leaned over and brushed her lips across Korra’s. “You’re such a little casanova.”
“Hey! Who are you calling little?”
Downstairs Jinora was pulling breakfast burritos out of a bag as Asami walked into the kitchen.
“Hey, Asami,” she called out. “I didn’t know you’d be here or I would have brought more food.”
Asami shook her head, smiling. “Thank you, Jinora, but I actually ate breakfast before I came over.”
Jinora appeared disappointed that there hadn’t been an overnight stay, but maintained a small smirk at Korra as she stumbled into the kitchen and collapsed onto a stool.
“Good morning, Food Truck Cook Korra,” she sang, handing over a burrito.
Korra glowered. “What’s got you so cheerful this morning, anyway?”
“Kai texted me about Asami’s totally epic smackdown last night. Apparently somebody filmed it and posted it on YouTube!”
Asami’s jaw dropped. “Please tell me you’re kidding.”
“Nope!” Jinora held up her cell phone triumphantly and Asami felt the blood drain from her face.
Korra leaned over to look and choked on the piece of burrito she was chewing. “Did I just see you literally throw Mario Costantino out of your restaurant?”
Asami buried her face in her hands. “Just shoot me now. I can’t wait to see the write-ups I get after this. I’ll probably have to close down.”
Jinora took a swig of her latte and shook her head. “Oh honey, you have a fan club now! You should see the comments you’ve gotten. ‘Love the awesome chef who tosses lame party crasher,” and ‘Super Chef Sato is my new hero, definitely gonna hit up Sato Grill for dinner soon,’ and my personal fave, ‘Sato Grill chefs assault assholes with aplomb, go kitchen chicks!’” She took a big bite of her burrito, then mumbled through her mouthful. “I haven’t checked Yelp yet but Kai said your score went up.”
Asami rolled her eyes then threw a napkin at Korra who was convulsing with laughter. “You’re not helping.”
Korra laughed even harder. Tears leaked from her eyes as she clutched her stomach, gasping for breath. “You weren’t kidding when you said you were having adventures,” she eventually managed to choke out.
“Well, that is what I wanted to talk to you about before you distracted me,” Asami huffed.
“How did I distract you?”
Asami crossed her arms and glared. “You opened the door half naked.”
“I was mostly asleep and those were my pajamas!”
Jinora snickered before noticing Korra’s scowl. “I know, I know. I’m fired.”
Korra cleared her throat. “So, Varrick and Costantino showed up at your place last night. I assume this has everything to do with the text you sent me.”
“I knew he was likely unpleasant based on his reputation,” said Asami, her eyes flashing. “Meeting him in person was painful. He’s an absolutely vile human being.”
“And now you want to help me take him down?” Korra’s blue eyes glinted mischievously, then she frowned.
Asami caught it. “What?”
“Why the hell would Varrick bring him around like that?” Korra shakes her head. “It’s like he was going out of his way to cause a scene. Makes no sense.”
Jinora crumpled her wrapper and tossed it into the trash. “Sure it does. Haven’t you people ever watched Jerry Springer?” She sighed at the blank looks. “Okay, nevermind on Springer. Korra, you were telling me about this yesterday — he wants to do this TV thing, right? So, he’s going for big ratings. How else you gonna have drama and suspense watching people cook? There has to be something besides the cooking.”
Korra blinked. “Wow, that’s so crazy it almost makes sense. But Asami,” she hesitated. “You know you can’t be my assistant, right?”
Asami frowned. “Why not?”
“Because you’re like, Asami freakin’ Sato!” Korra waved her hands around vaguely. “I’m a fucking food truck cook, and you’ve won about a million awards and run one of the top restaurants in the country.” Her gaze dropped to the table. “You being my sous chef is just wrong.”
Asami couldn’t stop the snort. “Korra, I say this with all sincerity.” She reached out and grabbed Korra’s hand. “You’re an idiot.”
Jinora bit back a laugh. “I’ve said this many times.”
“Jinora, hush,” said Asami, giving her stern look then returned her attention to her drooping girlfriend. “Korra, the other night you spontaneously invented three amazing dishes and cooked them perfectly under an unreasonable time limit. I won’t pretend that I’m not an excellent chef, but I could not have done that.”
Korra looked up, doubt on her face. “What do you mean? You could have probably made something way better.”
“Maybe,” Asami shrugged. “But to do that would take me days. My process works well, but it’s not fast. I’ll spend hours just thinking through how I might want to approach a new recipe, let alone all the time I’ll spend perfecting it. I am not comfortable nor probably capable of creating a completely new menu under a timer like that. However, my way means I have experimented with a huge body of ingredients, so I can advise depending on what’s made available. I can also certainly prepare whatever you need in a timely fashion. Besides,” she sniffed. “He called Kya and me bimbos, so I think a little payback is in order.”
Jinora gave Korra a friendly shove. “Seriously, boss. You’ve beaten a ton of fancy chefs in Food Fights over the past couple of years. It’s not like you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re the one who’s always going on that you don’t need to work in a restaurant to make great food.”
“Okay, I promise I’ll think about it,” Korra said, giving up. She caught Asami’s expectant expression and sighed. “All of it.” Then she smirked. “You do remember that this means you’d be cooking with Wu, right?”
“I’m doing what with who?” Wu stood in the doorway of the kitchen, a cup of coffee in his hand and a look of trepidation on his face.
Jinora stood up and clapped Wu on the back. “Nothing to worry about now, but I vote we all reconvene tonight at Swamp Bottom. For further planning purposes, of course.”
“Of course,” drawled Korra.
Asami frowned. “Not sure I’ve heard of it.”
“Kai, Opal, and Bolin have all been there,” Jinora assured her. “I was going to ask them to come anyway, so you can catch a ride with them.” Then she grinned wickedly. “Wu’s been there too, but he probably doesn’t remember much.”
“Oh no, that place,” groaned Wu. “I will be drinking club soda this time, thank you very much.”
Asami’s eyebrow went up, but she refrained from asking for more details. “I should probably get going.”
Korra stood up hastily. “I’ll walk you out.”
They paused in the doorway, both reluctant to separate. Outside the sun was starting to burn through the fog and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.
Korra pulled Asami in close and gave her a lingering kiss. “Thanks for being my alarm clock this morning,” she murmured. “I’d like to return the favor some time.”
“I’d like that too,” whispered Asami in reply. “See you tonight.”