Be 15 minutes late!
Korra stopped straightening up her desk at her counseling office and looked down at her phone. On Thursdays she had a client that needed a later session due to his work schedule, so Asami almost always beat her home. She usually made it home right at 7:00pm - but why would Asami need her to be late?
She was learning not to ask questions when it came to her girlfriend, so she went along.
15 minutes late! You got it, ma’am.
She searched her phone until she found a gif of a soldier saluting, just for good measure.
Sitting back down at her desk, she pulled out some paperwork that she was originally going to save for tomorrow. She grabbed her favorite blue pen back out of her desk drawer and got to work - at least for 15 more minutes.
When Korra pulled up in her Jeep next to the house, her heart all but stopped. Smoke was billowing out of the kitchen windows and she could hear the smoke alarm going off. Throwing her door open, she sprinted to the back porch, leaving everything in her car behind.
Busting through the back door like a bull, she found Asami standing on a chair, trying to shut off the smoke alarm, looking incredibly frazzled.
“ Asami! Are you okay?” She took a deep breath to get control over the panic in her voice. Now that she saw that everything was fine, that her love was safe - she could calm her racing heart.
The smoke alarm stopped its screeching, and Asami stepped down from the chair. She was a mess. She had flour all over her face, grease splattered all over her apron, and a scowl to top it all off. She looked as ill as a hornet. “I’m fine .”
For the first time since she walked into the kitchen, Korra glanced at the stove. In a big iron skillet sat some fried chicken that had been burned to a crisp, still smoking a little; a pot of mashed potatoes that looked more like potato soup; and a boiler of turnip greens that smelled a little too much like feet. Taking a cautious peek into the oven, she saw a lump of coal that she assumed to be cornbread.
It was terribly unfortunate that Asami looked adorable when she scowled. Korra was finding it difficult to match her seriousness, but she knew that right now was the worst time she could laugh. “Were you cooking me dinner?” She braved a small, tentative smile to at least show some appreciation for her efforts.
Asami outrightly refused to look towards the food, but instead looked somewhere over Korra’s shoulder as she jutted her chin up a little higher. “Yes.”
“And it… didn’t go as planned, I see.”
At this, Asami crossed her arms over her chest and huffed. “Clearly.”
Korra moved a step closer to her. “I really, really appreciate this, even if -“
Asami interrupted her. “Even if what , Korra? Even if I ruined it?”
“I wasn’t going to say that.” She was an arms length away from her now, and she reached out to touch her shoulder. However, Asami jerked away before she could.
“Don’t you even dare try to calm me down right now. I’m mad, and I need to be mad.”
Don’t smile, Korra, do not smile… “ I hear you, sweetheart. Why don’t you tell me what exactly made you mad?” Had it been something more serious that Asami was upset about, Korra wouldn’t have been amused at all. As it stood, however, Korra decided that allowing herself to be a little amused wouldn’t be too unreasonable - especially as Asami had so much flour in her eyebrows, it looked like she had prematurely gone gray.
“I burned the food. I can’t cook.” She still refused to meet Korra’s eyes.
“You can cook - you just haven’t learned the ins and outs of it yet. You’re Asami. You can do anything.”
She threw up her hands in exasperation. “Anything but cook, apparently!” In her agitation, she began pacing the room. “All I wanted to do was do something nice for you.” She punctuated how angry she was with aggressive hand gestures. “You cook for us all the time. I figured I’d cook a meal that you were likely to love, a Southern classic I know you grew up with and look. I ruined it. You know what, Korra? I even bought double of everything because I knew that the probability of me messing something up was high. And look at this. Just look!” She pointed accusingly at the stove. “I messed it all up twice. Somehow this batch turned out even worse than the last.”
Korra leaned back against the counter and put her hands in her pockets. She nodded along encouragingly for Asami to go on, because clearly she wasn’t finished.
“I’m Asami freaking Sato. There has never been a single thing I haven’t been able to learn. Why is following a recipe so hard? I don’t get it. This is simple. Exact proportions, preparation methods, and timing. That’s it, right? It’s scientific. This should be easy as… ugh.”
Refraining from finishing her idiom with “pie,” Korra looked at her with understanding. “Maybe that’s where you went wrong. Southern cooking is all about soul, not science. It’s something that comes with years of practice.”
She rounded on Korra with a glare. “But you make it look so easy! And you rarely even use a recipe. You just throw whatever you feel like into it and it always comes out amazing and I just don’t get it and I’m mad about it.” She untied her apron and threw it on the counter before hiding her face in her hands.
Korra knew that when she began to hide her face - just like she did so long ago at the airport when she first saw her - that she was at her wits end. Walking slowly over to her, she dared to ask: “May I hug you now, please?”
Without saying a word, Asami leaned into her and allowed herself to be held. Korra rubbed her hands over her back, letting her girlfriend calm back down before she spoke. Once her breathing had evened back out, she pulled back and looked her in the eyes. “I couldn’t appreciate you more, Asami. Do you want me to teach you how to cook?” She reached over to grab a hand towel to gently wipe the flour from her face. “If there’s anything about you I know for sure, it’s that you’re literally capable of anything.”
Asami nodded. “But don’t go easy on me. I can keep up. None of this coddling stuff. I need to learn. Now I have something to prove to myself.”
Time to put all those Gordon Ramsey videos to good use, Korra thought to herself. I can dish out some tough love if that’s what she needs.
Stepping back from her, Korra threw the towel back down on the counter and grabbed her chin to bring Asami’s eyes even with hers. Speaking in a firm tone with a serious expression to match, she said, “Now you listen here, Sato. Tonight, you’re learning how to cook one meal. One meal of my choice, got it? And no arguing. This is my kitchen, and these are my rules. Understood?”
At this sudden change of attitude, Asami almost cracked a smile. Her years of practice at businesslike composure really gave her an advantage. “Yes, chef.”
“There will be no questioning of my methods, nor my instructional technique. Understood?”
Asami’s eyes crinkled, ever so slightly. “Yes, chef.”
“Good. Now, dump all this in the trash while I go outside to the car to get my things and to get all of my giggles out.” At this, Asami snickered. Korra whipped back around and put a finger in her face, almost touching her nose. “There will be no giggling in my kitchen, understood? None. It’s prohibited. ”
The gleam in Asami’s eyes almost made Korra lose her composure. “Yes, chef.”
Once she got out to her Jeep, she roughhoused a bit with Naga to get her giddiness out from how much adoration she felt for her girlfriend. Sneaking a glance in the kitchen window, she saw Asami smiling widely and shaking her head, almost as if in disbelief that her wrath could be so easily assuaged.
Okay, back into character. “Now you listen here, Naga,” she said in a commanding tone, while Naga sat obediently in response. “You are a good girl. The best girl, in fact. I’m going to pet you firmly to show you that. Because I’m your owner, and you’re just gonna have to deal with it. ”
Obviously, Naga took it like a champ. She ran off on her next adventure as Korra made her way back inside.
Asami had cleared most everything out of the way and stood by the sink expectantly, awaiting her orders.
“Tonight, you will learn how to cook something brilliant,” Korra said as she placed her hands behind her back and paced back and forth, as a general might when explaining to her army a specific plan of attack. “A real crowd pleaser that is almost impossible to ruin.” She stopped in front of Asami, and her eyes dared her to question her choice. “Breakfast for dinner.”
Totally ready to learn, Asami nodded once in understanding.
“First things first: ingredients,” she said as she stepped towards the fridge. Reaching inside, she grabbed a package of sausage and tossed it behind her without looking. “Look alive, Sato!” She didn’t hear it hit the floor, so she continued tossing items from the fridge behind her until she lastly grabbed the gallon of milk herself. Spinning around, she saw that Asami had lined up the ingredients neatly on the counter.
Korra sauntered over to her to place the milk next to everything else. “You think I’m going to be impressed by organization? ” Locking her eyes with her girlfriend’s in a challenging way, she moved a stick of butter until it was out of line. “Think again.”
Asami’s nose twitched as she tried her hardest not to smile. “Yes, chef.”
“Now,” Korra said as she spun around on her heel military style, “reach in that cabinet and procure for me two frying pans and two mixing bowls while I retrieve the dry ingredients.”
Once they had everything laid out on the counter, Korra stepped back. “Now, I will be offering verbal assistance and nothing more. Are we clear?”
“Yes, chef,” Asami replied with an almost perfectly controlled tone. Her amusement was peeking through, just a bit.
“First, put the sausage in one frying pan. Cover it with a lid and turn the heat on low.” Korra watched as Asami did as she was instructed.
With a questioning brow, Asami asked, “For how long? How will I know when to flip them? Should I set a timer?”
“You’ll flip them when I tell you to, that’s when! Timers . Psh. As if .” Korra replied while waving a spatula in her direction, a mere few inches from her face.
Asami eyed the spatula warily down the length of her nose, causing her to go a little cross-eyed, before looking back to Korra for her next task.
“Grab the box of pancake mix and follow the directions until I tell you otherwise.” Korra watched as Asami carefully and precisely measured out each ingredient and added them to the bowl. Once she had every ingredient that the box called for and was ready to mix, Korra stopped her when she had her spoon halfway to the bowl. “Before you mix, we are adding a few extras.”
“But the recipe on the box doesn’t call for anything else!” Asami retorted as she picked up the box to double check.
Korra had to put a hand over her mouth and shake her head disapprovingly in mock irritation to hide her smile. She kept her eyebrows knit together, hoping Asami didn’t notice. Once she collected herself, she got within inches of Asami’s face, as if to intimidate her. “You dare question your teacher?”
“No, chef.” Asami’s breath tickled Korra’s nose, and she had to fight every instinct not to kiss her. She got the impression that Asami might have been having the same problem. Neither of them seemed to be in a hurry to move away from the other.
“Good,” Korra said after a moment as she turned back to the bowl. “Now, add a splash of vanilla and a sprinkle of sugar.”
“A splash and a sprinkle? Can’t I have something a bit more quantitative?”
“No, you may not.”
Shaking her head, Asami did as she was told. As she sprinkled the sugar, she looked to Korra for a signal for when it was enough. Korra gave her a curt nod when she felt the sprinkle was sufficient. Then, Asami poured a bit of vanilla into the mix. “Excellent splash, Asami,” Korra said approvingly. “Excellent.”
Asami grabbed her spoon to mix it all together, but Korra stopped her once more. “Not so fast, Sato. We need one more thing to make these pancakes perfect.” As she looked around the counter, Korra couldn’t help but be amused by Asami’s confused expression when she saw no other ingredients. “Lastly, we need to flavor it with the sweetest thing in the world. If you will, please place your pinky into the batter.”
At this, Asami snorted. Korra faked a cough to cover up her own laugh at her corniness. Doing as she was told, Asami stuck the tip of her pinky into the batter.
“Very good. Now, I must inspect your work to ensure that the quality is up to par.” Korra opened her mouth and gestured at Asami’s hand. “Your pinky, please.”
Biting her lower lip and fighting her hardest not to laugh, Asami did as she was told. Korra sucked the batter off of her finger and made an exaggerated face as if she were truly considering how it tasted. “Perfection. Now, flip the sausage and place the other frying pan on the adjacent burner. Add a pad of butter, and turn the heat to medium.”
“How much is a -“
Korra stopped her with a finger to her lips. “I will not accept this question! You’re brilliant. Use your judgment. How much butter do you think we’ll need to prevent the pancakes from sticking?”
Asami used a butter knife to cut off almost the perfect amount. “Well done. In the pan, if you please,” she said as she gestured professionally to the stove.
Once the butter had melted thoroughly, she instructed Asami to use a ¼ cup measuring cup as a scoop for the batter. Once she had two pancakes sizzling in the pan, Korra had an idea. She turned around and grabbed a carton of blueberries from the fridge. “Now, I’d like for you to use exactly 10 blueberries to make these pancakes happy.”
Catching on to what Korra meant, Asami arranged smiley faces on each pancake with the blueberries. She looked to Korra for approval.
“You dare think that I’m going to eat noseless smiley face pancakes?!” Korra roared. Asami quickly corrected her work and added two little blueberry noses. “That’s what I thought,” Korra said in a more amiable tone as Asami turned her head away in what she assumed was an attempt to hide a laugh. “Now, flip them.”
With a deep, steadying breath, she faced Korra again. “How do you know they’re ready to flip?”
“Well,” Korra said as she peered into the pan, moving her pointer finger up the bridge of her nose as if she were wearing glasses, “one way is to watch for the bubbles in the batter to rise up to the surface and pop. Otherwise, you can use your spatula to take a peek and check.”
Asami flipped each pancake and was pleased to find the cooked side a nice, even brown. “Do you think the sausage is done?”
“Well I don’t know, Miss Sato. Do you feel in your soul that the sausage is done?” Korra cocked her head to the side and threw her hands on her hips.
She watched Asami lift the lid and consider. With a cautious glance at Korra, she turned off the heat.
“Very good, very good.” How is it possible for one human to be so cute?
Once the rest of the pancakes had been adequately smiley-ed and cooked, Korra instructed Asami to prepare both of them a plate. As they sat down at the table to eat, Korra folded her hands contemplatively over her mouth, then started drumming her fingers together. “Your last instruction from Chef Korra is to take the first bite.”
Once again doing as she was told, Asami was surprised that it tasted good. She smiled and said, “Huh. I made this,” she said as she chewed and swallowed. “and it’s not even bad.”
“Of course it’s not bad. You just bit off a little bit more than you could chew in trying to tackle a huge meal first,” Korra reassured her as she officially broke character and dug in.
At this, Asami remembered how disappointed she was in herself. Before she could get too down on herself again, Korra decided to offer her a different perspective. “Asami, if you were teaching me mechanics, would you start me off with a complete engine rebuild, or perhaps maybe how to first clean out a carburetor?”
Realization dawned in Asami’s eyes as Korra’s words settled in her mind. She evidently decided to tease. “Oh, with you ? I’d have to show you something as simple as changing the windshield wiper blades first,” she said with a wink.
Korra feigned offense as she took another bite. “I see how it is, Sato. Our next cooking lesson? I’ll be showing you how to make toast. ”
Asami threw her head back and laughed. “Really, thank you, Korra. This boosted my confidence more than just a little.” She cut off another bite with her fork and looked up at Korra with a devilish grin. “And you as a commanding chef? That was kind of hot.”
Wiggling her eyebrows in response, Korra said, “Hey. You said you didn’t want to be coddled, so I was only doing as I was asked.”
“And if I asked you to do one more thing?”
Shaking her head vehemently, Korra said, “Oh, no. I’m not cleaning that mess up, no way!”
Asami giggled while she set her fork down and wiped her mouth with a napkin. “No, I think it’s time you finally kissed the cook.”
Leaning forward to meet her halfway across the table, Korra grinned. “Now that, I can do.”
Tasting a hint of syrup and blueberries on her lips, Korra couldn’t help but hum in contentment. “Mmm… tastes pretty good.”
“I’ll say,” Asami agreed hungrily as she grabbed Korra by the collar to pull her in for another.