Provencal Rice Soup
Sasuke had run away from home the summer he turned fifteen. He packed his bags and used his mother’s frequent flyer miles and was on a plane to France before anyone realized he never came home from his last final exam.
All Sasuke wanted to do with his life was cook food but his father wouldn’t support his dream of being a chef. He was always sneaking off to work as a kitchen porter when he had told his parents he was tutoring underclassmen.
Sasuke ran off to France to study classical French techniques. Growing up he had eaten traditional Japanese dishes and American food but there was something about rich and decadent French cuisine that called to him.
His cousin Obito had made the trip to pick him up from France but instead of taking him back home, Obito had convinced his mother that now that he had a chaperone it would be fine to let him stay. Somehow Obito was able to smooth everything over.
“He can practice his French in a natural setting!”
Three weeks in France turned into a two month culinary trip around Europe as Obito and Sasuke made pit stops in Italy and then to Switzerland and Belgium where Sasuke found chefs to study under. Obito had brought back boxes and boxes of chocolates hoping to appease Mikoto.
She was just glad that her son was back home.
Fugaku and Sasuke had a falling out after that summer. Fugaku wanted Sasuke to focus on his studies. Sasuke wanted to go to a culinary art school.
Sasuke ended up being disowned by his father before he entered his junior year of high school and he moved out to live with his older brother and his partners. Itachi and his wife Izumi and their beloved Shisui assisted in financing Sasuke’s dream to go to culinary school and Obito found him a job working at a restaurant in which his friend Kakashi Hatake worked as a bartender.
He eventually moved in with Kakashi as to not cause conflict with his family. He knew his father needed his brother and he wasn’t going to make his brother pick sides.
Dan Kato, the owner of Wisteria Place, took him under his wing as a commis chef and taught him everything he knew before he passed away.
Sasuke took care of the kitchen and alongside the other staff supported his wife, Tsunade, as she mourned his death.
He had been offered executive chef positions at other restaurants and although it was flattering and would have been proof of all that he had accomplished to lead a kitchen at such a young age━he couldn’t leave Wisteria Place.
He couldn’t leave home.
The kitchen was as loud as it always was but there was something missing that Sasuke tried to ignore.
It was on his mind every time he placed a dish on the serving counter and it sat there he would frown. He kept expecting a perky waitress with rose gold hair to scoop up a dish as soon as he set it down for service.
“You’re late,” Sasuke growled at a mousy waitress. She trembled more than the Hyuga girl and almost dropped her plate. It wasn’t the first time Sasuke questioned why Tsunade didn’t just hire runners that focused on the food and clearing tables.
The waitress made a feeble noise of complaint that Sasuke raised a brow at. He narrowed her eyes at him and she lowered her gaze and gulped.
Sasuke was about to ask her to speak up when he was slapped with a spatula across his back.
“Don’t you dare lose me another waitress, boy,” Tsunade growled at him.
Sasuke brushed off the pain and turned back to managing the kitchen staff.
Ino was working as both the garde manger and assisting him as the saucier. He would typically be focusing on creating sauces on his own but without the chef de cuisine managing the kitchen it was up to Sasuke and he was being spread thin.
“Yamanaka! The duxelles,” Sasuke barked as he made sure the grillardin seared the steak to the perfect medium cook required for the dish.
“Here chef!” Ino called out bringing over the sauteed mushrooms and shallots.
As much as he yelled at her, Ino was his first pick for a new sous chef once they had new kitchen hires. He wouldn’t accept an outsider coming into his kitchen and taking the spot. Women had it tougher as professional cooks but he didn’t see gender in the kitchen. Ino was talented and had the drive and that was all that mattered.
“The tapenade for the hors d’oeuvre platter?” he asked her without looking up from the stove tops.
“Placed for service.”
Sasuke nodded and Ino hustled back to her station. He usually checked every dish before it headed to service but he had faith that she did her job properly.
He just wished he could say the same for the front of house staff.
Moments later he went to place completed dishes for service and the hors d’oeuvre platter was still on the service counter.
Fuming he searched for the order ticket. The wait staff was over fifteen minutes late for pick up. Again.
“Naruto!” Sasuke growled out.
“Yep?” Naruto chirped, unaffected by his bad mood.
“Throw on a tie and put on one of the waiter’s aprons hanging on the hook, you’re running food.”
“Where the fuck do I get a tie from? How do I tie a tie!?”
“Neji has spares. He’ll tie it for you if he doesn’t have time for you, ask the other Hyuga. Get moving.”
“Why can’t I run food?” Kiba whined as he carefully stacked a new set of dirty dishes at the dishwasher’s station.
“If that lazy ass waitress doesn’t show up, trust me, you’ll be running food too.”
Sasuke groaned and slumped against his locker. As much as he loved his job, the exhaustion at the end of the day was something he could live without.
The front of house staff had been doing so well for a week and his irritation had remained with just the staff under him in the kitchen.
Tsunade wasn’t happy that he had pushed Naruto and then Kiba out to help run food but she didn’t complain, only gave him one of her signature annoyed looks. It was help that was obviously needed that night.
After he made Naruto run food, the waitress from before had gone missing in the middle of her shift. She had come back only to be sent home by him.
He understood that for most wait staff that their job was simply that━a job. That for them it was just a means to get by until a better job that suited them more came along.
But for him Wisteria Place was his life. Cooking was something he sacrificed a lot for and he had pride in what he did. It may have been too much to expect the same from the waitresses that came and went not caring about the food the way he and the rest of kitchen staff cared for but the way the front of house staff treated the food they made was something he wasn’t going to tolerate.
No one should disrespect food like that.
“Shit, that looks bad.”
Sakura slipped on her button down, hiding the bruise on her back from Ino. She knew that Ino didn’t like her hobby because she always came out with large and ugly bruises but she loved roller derby.
“It’s not that bad.”
“Yeah and I’m not blonde,” Ino scoffed.
“I just bruise easily.”
“Are you sure you can work?” Ino didn’t try to hide the concern from her voice.
The bruise was around Sakura’s hip and went up her back. It was surprising that Sakura was even able to function with how bad the pain must have been.
“You know I can’t take off,” Sakura muttered, eyes downcast. As much as her parents helped out with paying for school, they couldn’t pay for everything.
They helped out with her half of the rent for her apartment but Sakura was adamant about taking care of everything else. She would buy her own groceries and pay for the utilities herself.
After having done the numbers it was ridiculous how much dorm fees and meal plans cost. It made more sense to move in with Ino and her boyfriend Sai. Even if that meant some sacrifices had to be made.
“Besides, it was my last game. I can’t afford the dues and all of the costs of playing anymore. I’m officially retiring from roller derby.”
Sakura tried to play it off like she could take it or leave it but she knew she failed at that when Ino’s expression softened even more.
“Well, we should be getting off at the same time tonight so you don’t have to head home on your own.”
“Oh? No date night?”
“Shut up. You know we’re too tired at the end of the night to have a proper date night.”
Sakura had only meant to tease but she knew that was the reality for some chefs. Ino was doing something she loved but it took a lot out of her and she had almost no free time. She was lucky to have such a supportive boyfriend like Sai.
“Come on. You gotta get back to work before Chef Uchiha finds out you left your post.”
“Oh, God. I never even got around to telling you about the drama from last night.”
Ino paused to adjust the bandana on her head and shivered, recalling the events from the night before.
“You chose a helluva time to take off. I’m sure Chef Uchiha had another waitress fired.”
“Oh, she had it coming. She was always on her phone and disappearing,” Ino huffed, obviously not sympathetic in the slightest. “But he ended up sending Naruto and Kiba out to run food and that was a riot. They were quick though so that was helpful.”
“Kind of wish I saw that.”
“Naruto looked like such a dork. I wish I took a pic of that.”
“Maybe I’ll see him running food tonight.”
Sasuke narrowed his eyes, not happy at all with what he was seeing.
He was ready to pull Naruto to the side again to help run food but there wasn’t anything obviously wrong that would warrant such an action.
Haruno was moving slowly and awkwardly but she was still picking up her food on time. There was just something unsettling about how she carried herself and went out of her way to make sure nothing brushed against the right side of her body.
“Yamanaka. What’s up with your friend?”
“Huh?” Ino looked up without pausing in her slicing which had him snapping his fingers and pointing down. They couldn’t afford for her to be cutting herself in the middle of service.
“She’s walking funny.”
Sasuke wiped his hands on his apron and went out into the corridor and pulled Neji aside as he walked by.
“You have an injured waitress.”
“What? There hasn’t been an incident,” Neji peeked around the corner and scanned the dining hall. “Ah. I see what you mean now. Are you sure that’s an injury?”
“She flinches whenever anyone gets near her back. Don’t let her take anymore tables. Send Haruno home after she closes out her current checks.”
Neji sighed and shook his head. He wasn’t happy with the Naruto arrangement the night before and it looked like he was going to have to deal with it again.
“She’s not going to be happy about that.”
“I haven’t done anything wrong!” Sakura hissed, her cheeks flushed red with anger.
“You haven’t,” Sasuke agreed.
Sakura was expecting a fight and her momentum was thrown off. When Neji had told her she was done for the night she had assumed that she was being dismissed.
“But have you ever heard of taking it easy? The dining hall is a crowded area and you’re obviously trying to avoid anything touching your back.”
Sasuke handed her one of the carry out bags and then crossed his arms in front of his chest. Her narrowed his eyes at her and spoke sternly.
“Go home. Eat. Rest.”
Feeling a little out of it from the brief conversation, Sakura went and found Sai to let him know that she was leaving early and that she would see him and Ino when they came home.
She was secretly glad that she would be going home. She had taken a pain reliever before work but it wasn’t helping and she was anxious on the floor, worried that someone would brush by her and aggravate her pain.
It was a little shocking that Sasuke had noticed how she was feeling. She didn’t think she was that obvious.
When she got back to the apartment she toed off her shoes at the entrance and dumped the carry out bag on the kitchen counter.
She let out a sigh of relief when she peeled off her clothes. It felt so relaxing to be able to walk around in flannel pajama bottoms and a sports bra. Even wearing shirts was bothering the bruised area of her back.
Sakura shuffled back to the kitchen and opened up the carry out bag, curious as to what Sasuke had given her.
Soup. The man gave her soup.
Still hot, the container was filled with a delicious smelling rice soup. She pulled out a spoon from one of the drawers and scooped up a mouthful, remembering to blow on it first. She didn’t want to burn her mouth in a rush to taste more of Sasuke’s cooking.
“Oh. It has tomatoes.”