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Food Fight

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FirstRuleAboutFoodFight @FRAFF 20h
Oho friends, hearing some rumors about @FoodTruckMasterNaga and an upcoming showdown!

BLACKSTONE VARRICK @KingVarrick 15h
@FRAFF We cannot confirm nor deny such a rumor at this time

They Call Me J-No @NagaMinionTwo 10h
@KingVarrick Subtlety isn’t your strong suit, is it?

Steve The Man @FortMasonStud15 8h
@KingVarrick Are you selling tickets to the next Food Fight? I will totally pay you!

BLACKSTONE VARRICK @KingVarrick 6h
@FortMasonStud15 We’ll be in touch.

FirstRuleAboutFoodFight @FRAFF 1h
@KingVarrick What?

———————

Hiroshi Sato sat propped up in his hospital bed, beaming at the small crowd surrounding him.

“You’re awfully chipper for a man who’s about to get a hole drilled in his head,” said Simon, his deep voice playful even as his eyes showed his worry.

“Why would I be concerned?” Hiroshi declared. “You are all here with me, and I have no doubt I will be back before you know it.” He reached out and touched Asami’s shoulder comfortingly. “I will be fine. You will see.”

Asami managed to smile and nod, but her eyes glimmered brightly.

Kya leaned forward and pressed a kiss against his forehead. “You old fool,” she said gruffly. “Put me into an early grave one of these days.”

Simon snorted. “That makes two of us.”

Hiroshi chuckled before returning his gaze to his daughter. “I understand you brought somebody for me to meet today, Asami?”

The chef blushed and glared at an unrepentant Kya. “She didn’t want to intrude, she just didn’t want me to come by myself.”

Her father’s grin grew wider. “Please, bring her in.”

Korra approached Hiroshi’s bed with trepidation, blushing under the scrutiny of three pairs of twinkling eyes. She gripped Asami’s hand tightly before coming to stand awkwardly near the IV pole.

“Um, really nice to, um, meet you, sir. I’m Korra.” Korra stammered. Asami ducked her head and bit her lip to hide her grin while Korra took a deep breath and pushed on. “I’m glad to hear you’re getting better?”

Hiroshi waved his hand dismissively. “In theory, if they’d ever come take me away to be fixed!” He leaned back with a sigh. “I certainly look forward to getting out of this hospital.”

“And such a party we’ll throw when you do,” said Kya firmly, patting him on the shoulder.

The door opened and a crew of nurses and orderlies walked in, pushing carts and carrying supplies.

“Good morning, Mister Sato,” said the lead nurse cheerfully. “Time to start getting prepped for surgery. I’m afraid it’s a little too big of a crowd for what we need to do.” She peered at them all over the top of her glasses, clearly waiting.

Hiroshi sighed. “It begins. Asami, Kya — Simon has insisted on staying for the duration, so he can call you when I’m done. There’s no reason for you to stay.”

“But—” Asami started to protest.

“Please, little one,” he said earnestly. “I will feel better knowing you’re somewhere making something beautiful and delicious that you can bring to me afterwards.”

“No solid foods for at least twenty-hour hours after your surgery, I’m afraid,” the nurse declared as she attached a new bag of fluids to Hiroshi’s IV line.

He glared at her, then turned to Korra. “You I look forward to grilling more properly later. Don’t think you’ve gotten off so easily.”

“Yes, sir! I mean, no sir!”

Simon kissed Kya on the cheek, then gripped Asami firmly on the arm. “I’ll call you as soon as I hear anything, I promise.”

Asami leaned over and pressed her cheek against her father’s. “I’ll see you soon.” Then she wrapped her arms around him as her tears started to fall in earnest. “I just got you back, I’m so scared I’ll lose you again,” she whispered.

Hiroshi stroked her hair before pushing her back far enough to see her face. “I promise you won’t. Not when I have so much to live for.” He raised his eyes to find Korra’s. She met his gaze and nodded with a slight smile before reaching out and running her hand comfortingly along Asami’s shoulders. The chef leaned back, letting Korra wrap her in a warm hug. Hiroshi sat back, satisfied.

“Now,” he winked at the nurses. “Let’s have a surgery!”

———————

Kya felt the nudge against her shoulder but finished plating her delicate mille-feuille in a pool of lemon custard before standing up and raising one eyebrow at Opal.

“Can I help you, Chef?”

“She’s freaking me out,” complained Opal. “I mean, it’s not even my father having brain surgery and I’m a mess. How is she staying so focused?”

They looked over at the stoves where Asami had pushed Kai out of the way, taking over one of the line cook stations.

“She’s distracting herself,” Kya responded. “When was the last time you saw her at the stoves actually cooking and not supervising?”

Opal shrugged. “Okay, fair, but if it were me I probably would have at least dropped two pans by now.”

Kay smiled. “Everyone handles stress differently.” She stepped back as Michael collected her plated pastry and headed for the dining room, a small tray of fresh macarons balanced easily in his other hand. “Is Korra back yet?”

“She said she’d be back by six at the latest. She would have just stayed but Asami convinced her not to lose a day’s income just waiting around.” Opal snagged a macaron from a nearby tray. “God, Michael is getting good at these.”

Kya beamed proudly. “Just don’t let him catch you eating them. He spent hours making all of those.”

“That one was cracked, he wouldn’t have plated it anyway.”

Kya swatted her away. “Away with you, and don’t expect me to—“ she stopped as she heard a loud ringing from her pocket and scrambled for her phone. She flinched as she saw the caller ID. “Simon? Is there news?”

Opal hurried over to the Asami and grabbed the spoon from the chef’s hand. “Kya just got the call. Go.”

Asami’s mouth was dry as she neared the pastry chef, her steps slowing as she saw the tension in Kya’s shoulders. When she saw the tears streaming down Kya’s face she stopped dead, her hand flying to her mouth. The older woman reached out immediately and grabbed her hand, smiling reassuringly.

“He’s finally done. He woke up briefly, asked for a cup of coffee, then went back to sleep.” The older woman tried to sound exasperated but there was a palpable tone of relief in her voice instead. “The old fool.”

“He’s going to be okay,” Asami whispered. She felt the weight she’d been carrying all day drain away, leaving her feeling a little light-headed.

Kya pulled her into a hug, holding her tightly. “It sounds like it. Simon mentioned the doctors want to write his case up in a medical journal and everything.”

“I don’t know if he’ll love the idea or be horrified.” Asami chuckled as she wiped her face with a shaking hand. “I should go to the hospital.”

Kya shook her head. “He’s recovering in the ICU for the next couple of days, so you can’t seem him until tomorrow during visitor hours anyway. I told Simon to come to the restaurant and he’s on his way now.”

Asami took a deep breath and smoothed the front of her chef’s coat as she looked out over the bustling kitchen. Kai was back at his normal spot at the stoves and Opal was reviewing incoming orders. The kitchen buzzed with its usual energy and was comforting in its familiarity, though she stood torn between waiting for Simon to grill him for details and trying to sneak into the hospital to visit her father. She looked over at her office, normally her most sacred place of refuge, and realized it no longer meant that to her; Opal had been using it more than her since she had finally delegated inventory management to the eager sous chef. Her comfort was now wrapped up in an entirely different experience, and when she saw noticed Bolin waving at her from the kitchen door and shy blue eyes peering at her from behind him, she knew exactly where she wanted to be.

“Good news?” Korra breathed into her ear as she fell laughing into strong arms. She could only nod against Korra’s chest, completely content.

——————— 

“So Simon, what do you do?” Korra’s fork hesitated between seared foie gras, panko-crusted risotto balls, and crab-filled puff pastry. They sat in Korra’s usual spot at the end of the bar, salivating at the small platters Asami kept sending out to them. The foie gras won out and Korra closed her eyes at the taste, moaning at the rich flavor melting across her tongue. “Oh my god, that’s really good.”

Simon chuckled at her reaction and speared a risotto ball. “Semi-retired now, but I work in the entertainment industry. Producing, mostly.”

Korra blinked. “You’re kidding.”

“Oh my, these little dumplings are also fabulous.” Simon chewed blissfully for a moment. “I was probably one of the few people in our college class to major in theater arts and successfully do something with my degree. Hiroshi was much more practical — business major.”

Asami rejoined them, laying down a plate of prosciutto-wrapped scallops delicately seared and resting on a bed of grilled asparagus.

“So how does being a semi-retired producer work?” Korra asked around a mouthful of puff pastry.

Asami raised one eyebrow. “A producer? Movies, television, or theater?”

“Did my fair share of television and theater, never movies,” said Simon, eying the selection of wine tasters Bolin was lining up behind their plates. “Theater is more interesting of course, but pays far less and is much more work. Movies is where the big money can be made, but I never had the stomach for all the aggravation and drama. Oh my, this cabernet is delicious.”

Bolin grinned. “My personal favorite. Local Napa winery, very limited production every year.”

Asami snorted. “I tried to get them to sell me cases for two years at Bolin’s insistence, but they wouldn’t even talk to us until after I got my Michelin star.”

“Now, Chef,” chided Bolin. “They have more requests than cases to sell. If I recall correctly, they had to cancel their agreement with Le Parisien in order to sell to you.” He topped off Simon’s glass, who nodded in thanks.

“Yes, and I got to be the one who got yelled at for that,” Asami huffed. “I should have made you take that call from Chef Gasteau.”

Bolin smirked and excused himself to take care of patrons further down the bar.

“Le Parisien was a lovely restaurant back in the day,” Simon commented. “They’ve gone downhill over the years.” He sampled a scallop and rolled his eyes in appreciation. “Oh my dear, these are heavenly. Anyway, most of the television work I do is documentaries and the occasional mini-series. Nothing too extravagant, but steady work, and usually less mind-numbing than working in sitcoms or police procedurals and what not. As for being semi-retired, it just means I’m that much pickier about what I take on.”

Asami cocked her head and looked at Simon thoughtfully. “We’ve been asked to take part in a televised cooking competition. I don’t suppose we could ask you some questions about what we might expect?”

Simon beamed. “I’d be delighted, of course!” He deftly speared another scallop. “A cooking competition, very interesting. Who’s producing it?”

Korra sighed. “A jackass named Blackstone Varrick and whoever he’s dug up to help him. He thinks it’s going to be the next big thing.”

“Blackstone Varrick?” Simon sputtered. “I am very familiar with this man. He bought out a theater I was intending to use for a show in order to stage some horrid avant-guard thing he commissioned some years ago. Thank goodness I was able to find another venue, but I was not pleased. How on earth did you manage to end up working with him?”

“Very long story. We’re not really interested in the television part, or working with him frankly, but the competition allows us to go head to head with some people we’d love to defeat.”

“Oh really,” Simon peered at them before glancing at the scallops again. “Who might this be?”

Korra pulled the plate of scallops towards her. “Hey, you’re supposed to be sharing these. Michael Costantino and possibly Hou-Ting Wong.”

Simon smiled at Korra and took a bite of the foie gras instead. “Michael Costantino I’ve heard of. Who is this other person you mentioned?”

“Hou-Ting Wong runs a gnarly restaurant empire based out of Hong Kong,” Korra explained. “She’s a moderately despicable individual. To be honest she’s probably only going to be peripherally involved.”

Simon sat back, swirling his wine glass thoughtfully. “I find myself currently between projects and if you wouldn’t object, I’d love to work on this with you. At the very least I can provide you with some experienced representation.”

“Varrick will hate that,” said Asami, relishing the thought.

Korra snickered in agreement. “I’d certainly be happy for the help, and anything that keeps Varrick on his toes is good in my book. I don’t trust the guy at all.”

“Nor should you, I expect.”

“Are you sure you don’t mind, Simon?” Asami asked, concerned. “This could get a little crazy, knowing Varrick.”

Simon reached out and covered Asami’s hand with his own. “It would truly be my privilege to do so,” he assured her, his deep voice warm with enthusiasm. “Besides, how could I pass up such an opportunity to get to know the both of you a little better?”

Asami felt the prickle of tears against her eyes as she squeezed his hand in return. “I think that would be wonderful.”

 ———————

Varrick blustered angrily when Simon was brought in and tried to threaten them with choosing a different team, however Korra assured him they were more than fine not participating and he caved quickly. He wasn’t going to get a better matchup than Korra vs. Costantino and he knew it. For their part Asami and Korra were astonished when Simon transformed from the sweet, genial man they had initially met into a hard-eyed negotiator with nerves of steel who left Varrick and his representatives ultimately agreeing to include him on the production staff.

“Mr. Varrick may be well-versed in the normal treacheries of business,” Simon explained one night as he happily sipped another glass of Bolin’s favorite cabernet. “But I assure you that there is no arena more vicious than the entertainment industry, even if we’re only talking about documentaries. Sadly, I suspect I’ll ultimately be helping with his education and he’ll probably become a heavy-weight movie producer after all of this is over, just to spite me.”

Monday nights became their time to practice cooking as a group, using Sato Grill as their practice space. Simon usually stopped by to get tastings and let them know how the planning with Varrick was going. It took a couple of tries before Wu was finally able to relax while cooking with Asami, but finally managed it after Korra hung several rolls of duct tape prominently throughout the kitchen as motivation. Simon had been mystified but Wu’s retelling of the story had them all howling with laughter and cemented their sense of being a team.

It took a little longer for Korra to relax about giving Asami instructions, and even longer for Asami and Korra to control their libidos when cooking together. Wu took to keeping a pocketful of sliced carrots and was extremely adept at head shots any time he saw Korra make a grab for Asami’s ass.

“I’m pretty sure feeling your girlfriend up on national TV is frowned on,” he declared indignantly. “And wash your hands!”

Asami was too discrete to ever get caught but after Korra almost dumped a pan of smoking oil on herself after a mis-timed pinch, teasing was over.

Slowly, they worked out a system. Wu became the carb specialist, taking on any parts of the menu that involved preparing things like rice or starchy vegetables. He spent nearly all of his free evenings perfecting the creation of different types of fresh pasta dough, going so far as to practice reconfiguring pasta makers and stand mixers with the precision and speed of an infantryman breaking down his rifle.

Asami and Korra split duties depending on their main ingredient. Anything involving beef or pork had Korra handling the meat and Asami doing sauces and sides. For fish and poultry they switched. Asami’s near encyclopedic knowledge of ingredients and their cooking requirements meshed perfectly with Korra’s tasting palate and wild menu inspirations.

“I can’t do it anymore,” Simon groaned, dropping his fork in surrender. “Not that I don’t love tasting all this fabulous food, but I’ve gained ten pounds sampling for the past month and I had to buy an extra large bottle of antacids.”

Hiroshi patted him on the shoulder. “It doesn’t show,” he said loyally. It was only his second time joining Simon during the Monday night practice sessions and the first time without the wheelchair. The surgery had done its job, but the recovery was a slow process as his brain healed from all the damage. Asami and Simon had grown very close as they partnered to make sure Hiroshi had in house nursing care, made all of his appointments, and initially took turns spending the night at Hiroshi’s penthouse until Hiroshi shyly asked Simon to just move in already.

“Careful,” Wu warned Simon. “Korra will make you join her hideous gym to work it off.”

Korra threw a towel at him. “I notice you seem to be happy enough to go when Mako is your workout partner. He ask you out yet?”

Wu blushed and stuck out his tongue. “We’re just friends.”

“Uh huh. You guys look real friendly when you’re together.”

Simon cleared his throat and give Korra a meaningful look. She subsided with a smirk. “We need to get you all real practice judges. The competition is coming up quickly, and I think you need more knowledgeable opinions than mine to evaluate your progress.”

Korra caught Asami’s eye and nodded slowly. “Yeah, I’ve kinda been thinking that too. Next week?”

“I don’t see why not,” agreed Asami. “Who were you thinking?“

“Well, your senior crew obviously, because they’re awesome and they’d probably be offended if we didn’t ask.”

Asami smiled. “Yes, they certainly would.” At Simon’s questioning look she added. “That’s Kya, Opal and Kai. What about Leonardo?”

“Your crazy Italian?” Korra laughed. “Yeah, he’d be great. I think Liam too. He may run a diner, but he knows flavor. Also, if I don’t let Jinora come she will probably set my truck on fire.”

Wu dropped his head onto the counter with a loud moan. “I’m going to die if you make me cook in front of all those people.”

Asami burst out laughing. “Wu, in less than a month you’re going to be cooking on television in front of millions of people if Varrick has anything to say about it.”

Korra leaned over and clapped him on the back. “Tell you what, you make it through next week without throwing up, setting anything on fire, or dropping any plates on the way to the judges and I’ll officially revoke your rookie status on the truck and Jinora will not be allowed to tease you for the rest of the month.”

Wu tilted his head to peer at Korra with one eye. “You promise?”

“I swear on my dog’s unborn puppies.”

Wu jumped up and started cleaning up the cooking stations with newfound energy. “Mr. Sato, Mr. Rafferty, you are my witnesses! I will totally own next week!”

“Again with the ‘mister’,” said Simon with a withering look at the young chef. “You’re making us feel old, you scoundrel.”

“Aged like fine wine, my dear,” corrected Hiroshi.

Asami beamed at the two men fondly. “You’re both perfect to me. Even if Wu thinks you’re decrepit.”

“You’re too kind,” replied Simon sourly. He placed a steadying hand under Hiroshi’s elbow as he rose to his feet, leaning heavily on his cane. Once he had the smaller man tucked securely against him, he turned back to Asami. “Thank you for a lovely evening as always, but now it’s past bedtime for us decrepit old timers.”

Korra and Asami walked them out, exchanging hugs before helping Hiroshi into Simon’s car.

“It’s good to see him moving around,” Korra commented. “Much better than a couple of weeks ago.”

“Yes, the physical therapy has been great.” Asami felt her phone buzz in her pocket and pulled it out. “Hi Jinora, what’s up?”

“Asami!” cried Jinora, her voice breathless. “I’ve been trying to call Korra. You guys need to get over here, ASAP!”

Asami pulled Korra back into the restaurant and hurried them towards the kitchen. “What’s going on?”

She heard Jinora gulp. “It’s Naga…”