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My Compliments to the Chef

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Asami and Korra cherished their lazy nights in. As the Avatar and the head of Future Industries, the women were often busy with work, public appearances, and on occasion, saving the world. Not to mention all of the social events that they were constantly invited to. The two were very grateful to have a large number of friends and found family in Republic City, but sometimes the invites to dinner at the air temple or a mover with the guys got a bit exhausting. More and more the couple was finding their quiet time alone to be their favored pastime. When Mako called on a Saturday morning to let them know he and Wuko would not make it to their outing, both women decided they would rather stay in and enjoy some time together. Even though it had been years since they had publicly come out as a couple, it was still common for the media to try to snap a photo or try to get a statement from the power couple. Even worse, now the more brazen reporters would ambush the couple to ask about plans for marriage or, more invasively, what their future held in terms of children.          

~~~

Korra made a dissatisfied noise as she rummaged around their kitchen cupboards for something to cook for lunch. Asami looked over from where she was preparing tea. 

“Find anything?” she asked, even though she knew the sound Korra made came with a preconceived notion. 

“Ugh, there’s nothing to cook. Everything is in some weird jar from the air temple,” the Avatar shook a jar that looked like it had some sort of pickled vegetable in it and the contents dispersed at the motion, “or it’s some old wilted thing.” 

She threw some sad, browning cabbages onto the counter. Asami walked towards the refrigerator and peeked over the tan woman’s shoulder. She saw Korra open a container and then slam it shut again before quickly closing the refrigerator door. 

“I don’t know what that was but I am tempted to bend the whole refrigerator into the street to make sure I don’t find out.” 

Asami smiled at the short haired woman. She looked at the sad excuse for food that was left in their home. Perhaps their duties had been keeping them busier than expected, if their kitchen was so dismally stocked, she mused. The engineer considered ordering in but instead had a better idea, “Why don’t we play, Who Cooked it Best?” 

Korra’s scowl got even deeper at the suggestion. 

Years ago, before Korra and Asami began dating, there had come a time when someone, probably Bolin, if Korra had to guess, had suggested a contest of sorts. The group would take whatever ingredients were in the kitchen and cook the best dish they could think of. Usually two people would get to compete and hopefully something edible would come of it. As the competition went on, the rules got more complicated. Soon the chefs of the night were allowed to buy additional ingredients to create more elaborate recipes and oftentimes random ingredients were thrown in to make things tougher. Korra remembered running around the outdoor market stalls wishing she remembered what type of seasoning went best with seaweed noodles. She also remembered losing when she forgot Wu was allergic to cayenne pepper. He had still managed to give her noodles a score of -100 as he was driven to the hospital. Korra was good at many things but she was not a cook.       

Asami sensed her displeasure at the suggestion and she added, “Korra, my tough, sexy, turtleduck,” The tan woman narrowed her eyes in displeasure. Asami only called her animal based pet names when she was being obnoxious. “It’ll be fun. A throwback to our more carefree years.” 

Korra muttered something about “cayenne pepper” and Asami pretended not to hear. 

“Plus, I have the perfect theme! We can cook each other a dish we know we will love.” 

This piqued Korra’s interest. Next to her, Asami was the worst cook of the bunch. Technically, she knew a lot about food. She had grown up with cooks and professionally made food but observing what top of the line chefs did once in a while was not the same as doing it yourself. 

“So do we tell each other what we want or?” Korra stopped talking when Asami shook her head. 

“No. It should be a surprise,” The green eyed woman was getting excited like when she got an idea for a new invention or an upgrade for a prototype. Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night to write down some breakthrough she had dreamt up. She had the same energy now.   

“Oh! I know exactly what to make,” Asami smiled knowingly at Korra and the Avatar felt a prickle of worry. 

“Wait, you already thought of something?” she asked, scrambling to think of something that Asami liked and that she could make. The raven haired woman grabbed her purse and jacket, readying herself to leave. She could not contain her excitement and she gave Korra a quick kiss and an uncharacteristic butt grab before rushing out the door. Korra was left in the apartment, not sure what had just happened.  

~~~

Korra looked at her watch for the tenth time in half as many minutes. She had not been able to come up with any ideas and she decided she would have better luck thinking of something out in the open.  Now Korra was wandering around the various food stalls, trying to ignore her grumbling stomach. Asami had warned her not to ruin her appetite with street food but the smells were too delicious and the Avatar found herself gravitating towards a stand with steamed buns. She bought half a dozen and the smile her face broke into when she took the first bite had the woman at the stand chuckling. “Enjoy the buns, Avatar,” she said and Korra responded with a muffled noise of gratitude and appreciation as she continued to walk down the street. 

The tan woman was down to one bun when another wonderful smell caught her attention. One of the stands that specialized in coffee and tea was currently brewing cinnamon tea. The smell wafted down the street and it reminded Korra of one of Asami’s favorite treats. She bit heartily into her last bun in victory. She knew what she was going to make for her girlfriend. 

Korra used her tongue to remove a bit of errant bun from her molar as she approached the stand. A kind faced woman in a soft green tunic and grey pants stood up from where she was pouring the freshly brewed tea into two cups. Her dark hair was elegantly pinned up and she smiled warmly at Korra when she offered her a cup of the fragrant cinnamon tea. “Avatar, have you come to taste some of my famous cinnamon tea? This batch just came in this week.” Korra nodded politely before taking the cup of steaming tea. It smelled wonderful and had a beautiful, deep red color.   

Korra took a large sip and pursed her lips at the spicy taste. She swallowed the scalding, robust tea and let out a half choked cough. 

“Oh! That’s - That’s great! St-strong!” she pounded on her chest to catch her breath and her flailing made her spill some of the tea onto her shirt and hands. She hissed as it hit her skin and the heat shocked her momentarily. 

The woman at the stand called to someone in the back, “Ji-woo! If you could come help the Avatar, that would be wonderful.” 

A young woman, dressed similarly to her mother came in from behind the stall. She smiled shyly at Korra and offered her a pretty handkerchief covered in flowers. Korra stared down at the cup in her hands awkwardly and the woman spoke up again, “Ji-woo, the Avatar’s hands are full.” 

At that Ji-woo started to dab at Korra’s abdomen with the flower patterned cloth. The tan woman clenched her muscles out of reflex -expecting a strike from an unknown opponent- and the girl blushed when she felt the hard muscle under the two thin layers of cloth. She looked up at Korra and her bright hazel eyes glittered against her blushing cheeks. 

“Uh,” Korra managed to come to her senses and took the handkerchief from the blushing woman, “Thank you, Ji-Woo, but I can take it from here.” 

She tried to speak in her most assertive voice but that, coupled with the fact that she placed her hand over the other woman’s hand to stop her and take the cloth, made things worse. She heard a strangled sound coming from the stand but when she turned to look, Ji-woo’s mother only had a soft smile on her face. Then the woman made an exaggerated look of surprise. 

“Oh, Spirits! I forgot to go talk to Lam about that green tea order. Avatar, I will leave you in my Ji-Woo’s very capable hands.” The older women got up in a flurry, and rounded the stall. She smiled at Korra, “She is such a good girl, I can’t believe I haven’t found her a good marriage match yet.” 

She looked at the two women one more time before rushing off into a small side street. 

Korra started after the woman while she rubbed absentmindedly at her stained top. She looked back at Ji-Woo, who was beet red at this point. 

“Um, I need some stuff for my girlfriend,” Korra blurted out awkwardly. 

The other woman cut her eyes away from the tan woman and walked back inside the stand in a fluster. “Ahh, yes. Ms. Sato. Your significant other.” 

Korra looked down at her hands and Ji-Woo reached over to take the items. She tossed them onto the small table without the same care her mother had taken earlier. She clapped her hands together and her smile was wide and genuine, “So, what does the best couple in Republic City like to drink?” 

Korra was shocked by the change in demeanor but she did not let it affect her. She ran her hand through her hair before she quietly said, “Cinnamon Hot Chocolate?” 

~~~

Korra set her wares down on the counter. She had made sure to pick up the milk last and it was still cold when she placed it in the refrigerator. Ji-Woo had been extremely helpful and she knew which other stands had the best ingredients for the items she did not have. She definitely knew her stuff and Korra promised to come back with Asami to buy more of her wares.

The short haired woman dug around for a pan, making sure it was not too small or large. It took a few tries to find the right top and she made sure to grab a measuring cup. Now she just needed a whisk. 

~~~

Korra was still looking for a whisk when Asami returned. She closed the cabinet a bit harder than necessary as Asami unexpectedly opened the door. Korra called out a surprised greeting to Asami, turning to look at her girlfriend with wide eyes. Korra looked over at the ingredients she  had bought and sighed in relief when she noticed they were still out of sight. 

Asami smiled in greeting but stopped before her usual greeting was uttered. She lifted her head slightly and sniffed the air like Naga would when there was salmon jerky nearby but Korra was too worried about her surprise dish immediately being found out to feel any sort of amusement at the situation. Korra tensed up when green eyes glittered in excitement. 

“Chocolate and cinnamon? Are you making my mother’s hot cocoa?” 

Asami walked over to the table and set down her own purchases. There seemed to be quite a few more packages than what Korra had on the counter and she wondered what Asami had thought to make for her. She was about to try to deny Asami had guessed correctly but Asami dug into a bag and lifted out a few kiwis. She juggled them briefly then caught them with a flourish, “Surprise!” 

Korra’s mouth fell open in genuine shock. For the life of her, she couldn’t think of any dish she enjoyed that had kiwi in it. Instead she asked if they had a whisk, deciding it was best not to talk about the kiwis or the papaya that was now sitting on their dining room table. 

Asami continued to remove items from their respective packaging and did not turn around as she answered. 

“Um, whisk, whisk. Yes, top cabinet, behind the flour.” 

Korra shook her head in disbelief when she slid the sack of flour and sure enough, there was the whisk. Who hides away a whisk? She thought to herself. She turned around to tell Asami the same thing but stopped short again. Asami had put what appeared to be raspberries over her fingertips and was waggling them at Korra. 

“Raspberry fingers,” she said, as if that explained everything, before popping a red berry into her mouth.  

~~~

Korra stared at the pot in front of her, willing it to heat up faster. Whisking hot milk was proving to be one of the most boring things she had ever done, including listening to Tenzin’s lectures on proper flying bison grooming.

“Why did we ever decide this was a fun thing to do?”

“We were young and bored?” Asami responded. She turned an orange onto its side before she cut straight through it decisively. She finished chopping it into small pieces and pushed the peel away from the cutting board. She was obviously making some sort of fruit salad but Korra was still perplexed as to why.

“Plus,” Asami stopped chopping to give Korra an appreciative look, “I wanted to impress the Avatar. You were even cuter in person and I was almost sorry I met Mako first.” 

Korra flushed scarlet and her mouth hung open, “‘Sami!” 

She was about to move towards Asami but the raven haired woman just looked down pointedly at the pan Korra was stirring, “Don’t get distracted, now. I want my surprise hot cocoa to taste good.” 

Korra moved back to the pan and stirred it half heartedly. Asami stopped chopping for a second and leaned over to kiss the other woman’s cheek. Korra felt a smile forming until she heard Asami’s comment, “You know, my mother used to add a torch burnt marshmallow to my hot cocoa.” 

Korra scowled and stared deeply into the pot of milk. Asami chuckled to herself and continued to chop the many fruits she had set onto the counter. 

“Or sometimes she would add shavings of decadent dark chocolate from a famous chocolatier in the Earth Kingdom...” she trailed off and started to laugh when Korra puffed out her cheeks in exasperation.

She turned to Asami with a deep scowl on her face. “Now I know  you’re just teasing me,” she accused, without stopping her gentle stirring.

Asami set down her knife and wiped her hands on her apron before moving to stand behind the shorter woman. She wrapped her arms around Korra’s midsection and placed a soft kiss against the bare nape in front of her. 

“Actually, she did love dark chocolate. The darker the better.” She rested her head on Korra’s shoulder and looked down at the pan. “I hated how bitter it was as a child and she would threaten to add it to my cup instead of the caramel drizzle or marshmallows I loved.” 

The taller woman swallowed loudly and Korra reached up with her free hand to cover the lighter hand against her abdomen. “After she passed, I would always ask the head cook to add dark chocolate shavings to my hot cocoa, even though I still hated it.” She chuckled and sniffed lightly before moving back to her side of the working area. 

“Well, next time I’ll make sure to get some dark chocolate,” Korra said, not sure what else to add to the conversation. 

Asami gave her a watery smile, “No need. I still don’t like how bitter it is.” 

She went back to chopping fruit and Korra stared at her profile. Asami’s eyes were glistening with tears but she blinked them away as she worked. What is she making? She thought once more. A burning smell hit her nose and when she looked down, the milk was rising quickly. Korra let out a small gasp and she bent the fire away in a panic. Asami chuckled and Korra pouted as she reached over to turn the burner back on. At a lower setting this time.   

“I really do love you Korra but if you burn my hot cocoa I might have to add something vile to your tropical salad.” 

“Well, considering I don’t remember eating a tropical salad, I think you could slip something in there and I would think it was meant to be that way,” she teased back. She continued to whisk the hot milk, not sure if she was supposed to add the vanilla first or last. 

The raven haired woman stopped mid chop. “What do you mean you don’t remember eating a salad like this?”  

Korra turned to look at Asami after dumping possibly too much vanilla into the milk, “I don’t remember ever eating a fruit salad like that. Did they have it at one of the galas we’ve gone to?” 

Asami lifted her arms in confusion, knife still held in one, and Korra recoiled slightly. Asami put down the knife. 

“A gala? Korra, you ate almost a whole bowl of this salad when you first visited me at the estate. When I asked if you liked it you said you loved it.”

At Korra’s blank look she elaborated. The Sato estate. Bolin and Mako were staying with her. They went racing at the course for the first time? Korra’s face lit up at the memory of riding in the race car with Asami. She had been terribly jealous of her relationship with Mako at the time but she had to admit that the heiress was more than met the eye. Korra was still confused about where the salad came in.

“Is the salad a metaphor for our friends?” she smiled crookedly at Asami but the raven haired woman was not amused. Korra tried again, “Does it symbolize how you popped my racing cherry?” 

She pointed at the red fruit and Asami batted her hand away like she was an offensive dog. 

“Those are raspberries,” she said and Korra shrugged. 

“I always forget how metaphors work.” 

Asami’s mouth flattened into a thin line and Korra hastily added the chocolate to the milk in her suddenly very interesting pan. 

“Do you really not remember?” Asami asked in a small voice.

Korra earnestly answered, “No. I’m sorry, ‘Sami.”

Asami started to laugh and Korra was not sure how to respond. 

~~~

Korra and Asami decided that the contest was a tie. Asami gave Korra a long, soft kiss as a thank you for being so wonderfully thoughtful and Korra personally considered that a win. As for the tropical salad, it had also been a success. Korra still didn’t remember what Asami was talking about but it was a refreshing snack and she was glad to have it. The six buns were starting to seem like a distant memory. 

“Well, as much as I enjoyed our efforts, a fruit salad and hot cocoa aren’t really a meal.” the woman looked at her watch and she smiled when there was a knock at the door. Korra looked over at the door before shooting Asami a questioning look. “I ordered some seaweed noodles from Narook’s while I was out shopping earlier and they arrrived right on time.” Korra felt her mouth water just at the mention of the wonderful noodles and she enthusiastically helped Asami set up the table to eat. 

“Honey, we are both strong, smart women capable of many things, but neither of us is a decent cook”. Asami said, lifting her glass of water in a toast. 

“I’ll drink to that,” Korra said with a chuckle, before taking a drink from her mug of cold chocolate. 

She regretted it the instant the sweet drink hit her tongue. It did not mix well with the lingering taste of the broth and she felt a shiver of disgust run over her as she swallowed it down. Asami was watching her mid chew and swallowed before saying anything. 

“You looked almost as bad as when Wu ate those noodles covered in cayenne pepper.” 

Korra’s eyes widened before her face turned into a mask of fury. “I will bend the broth right out of your noodles!” she threatened but Asami just kept eating her noodles and avoiding Korra’s Avatar glare. 

~~~

Some Years Ago

Korra was standing by the food table, shoving her face with whatever was within reach. If I’m busy eating, I won’t have to watch Miss I’m-so-rich-and-hot-and-I-look-perfect-in-a-swimsuit-so-of-course-Mako-likes-me-more-than-that-Korra-girl laugh at everything that Mako says. He’s not even that funny. I’m funnier than him, she thought, though she was not sure where that thought fit in with her mood. She finally grabbed a plate that a servant silently handed her and she piled it high with some fruit salad that was within reach. She flicked a sprig of mint off of her plate and didn’t care that it flew behind the table and out of sight. Nearby, Bolin was forcing some poor server to help him train Pabu and she decided to watch their antics for a bit. 

Her attention was diverted back to Asami and Mako when the woman stood up and excused herself. Asami started walking towards Korra and when Mako’s gaze met hers he awkwardly looked away and sipped his drink. The raven haired woman got closer and she smiled radiantly. Korra chewed faster, her teeth grinding much harder than necessary. 

“Korra. I hope you’re enjoying your time here.” She flipped her long hair to one side and Korra ignored the weird flash of warmth she felt in the pit of her stomach.   

“Mm hmm,” she answered, not really in the mood for small talk. 

“Oh, I see you like the fruit salad Yao made. I’ll be sure to make a note of that,” she bit her lip and gave Korra a once over. 

The Avatar felt a slight blush come unbidden to her face. 

“Uh, yeah, I love it. The salad. It’s great!” she felt her mouth move of its own accord and she shoved more fruit in her mouth to stop herself from saying something more inane.

The green eyed woman smiled again and Korra felt that coiling in her stomach that she attributed to envy. No wonder they’re all enamoured with her. She makes you feel like the most important person in the room when she looks at you. Korra almost missed what Asami said next. “If you’re up for it, I could think of something more exciting to do.” 

“Um, sure?” Korra answered, feeling discombobulated by the interaction. 

Asami nodded, then tilted her head to look at Korra like she was appraising her, “Do you happen to know what size helmet you wear?”      

~~~