Chapter Five: Rice Porridge
With a small whimper, Hinata wrapped her fingers around her mug and took a delicate sip of tea Sakura had prepared for her. From her seat at Sasuke’s kitchen island, she observed the way Sakura easily moved around his kitchen.
Has she been here before? She thought, taking the aspirin Sakura offered her. Sakura slid a bowl of congee her way and Hinata sighed, warming her hands on the hot bowl.
“Marry me,” She murmured, grateful for the warm food. “Wait. Do you know how to make red bean soup?” Sakura nodded, the corners of her lips twitching upwards. “Okay, yes. Please marry me.”
“You’re very easy, Hina,” Sakura teased.
“And yet I’m still having issues with Naruto,” Hinata couldn’t help but grumble as she stirred the contents of her porridge, breaking her yolk and stirring it into the rice. “Okay, this is probably the best congee I’ve ever had. I didn’t know you could cook.”
“I think you’re just hungry and hungover.” Sakura laughed nervously, eyes shifting from Hinata to down the hall where the shower was running. “If he asks, you cooked. Okay?”
Hinata giggled lightly into her mug. “Yeah. As amazing a pastry chef I am, I can’t cook savory food to save my life. At least nothing up to Chef Uchiha’s standards and this would definitely pass. You should have made French Toast if you wanted to pass the food off as mine.”
Sakura groaned and turned to clean up the kitchen. She knew as soon as Sasuke found out that she could cook that she would never hear the end of it.
When Sakura was younger she wanted to be a figure skater and she was good at it. She took to the ice like she was meant to dance on it, blades a perfect extension of her body. Unfortunately for her, the fees were too much for her parents. They owned a small Chinese restaurant and any extra money they had went back to the restaurant or to Sakura’s college fund.
Sakura grew up in that kitchen. As a middle school student she helped her mother run the front of house and as she got older, she helped them out in the kitchen. Originally her parents wanted her to inherit the shop, but Sakura’s desires were elsewhere.
It wasn’t that she hated cooking, but it reminded her so much of that little shop and being bullied for the food she brought to school for lunch and the smell that clung to her clothes and hair. To her it smelled of home. To other kids…
It was easier just to avoid it all.
Sakura moved to settle into a bar stool to eat her own breakfast when the door to the bathroom opened up. Sasuke came out, towel wrapped around his hips, and he was ruffling a towel through his hair. She watched as the muscles of his back, especially his shoulders, moved under his skin causing the ink on his skin to shift.
A small cough had her whipping her head back around, away from the hallway. Hinata innocently sipped at her tea.
“Sorry, by the way.” Hinata drummed her fingers against her mug. “Like, if I crashed in on anything last night. You guys really are cute, that wasn’t just drunk rambling.”
Sakura sputtered, spitting out her tea and burning her tongue. “Sasuke and I aren’t like that! You didn’t interrupt anything, trust me.”
Hinata pursed her lips and frowned at her. Hinata might have been drunk the night before, but she wasn’t blind nor was she deaf. The two of them had been flirting━flirting! And yeah sure, Chef Uchiha was the most attractive human being she had ever seen but he was terrifying and cold. Flirting with him would be as easy as trying to have a playdate between a mongoose and a cobra. But there was Sakura, having proper conversations with him that weren’t work related and he was personally cooking for her.
“You do know that no one else calls Chef Uchiha by his first name, right?” Hinata rubbed her temple. Her headache was only getting worse with how in denial Sakura was. “Not even Neji calls him just Sasuke, even though I’m sure that’s more of a professionalism thing.”
“Naruto definitely has called him Sasuke.”
“That’s because Naruto is rude as heck. I love him, but you already know he doesn’t have the best track record with manners. He calls Ms. Tsunade Old Lady, for goodness sakes.”
“This is probably the firmest and most informal I’ve ever heard you speak to anyone.”
“Well I’m hungover and I’m annoyed.” Hinata’s head thumped against the marble of the counter top. She mumbled against the cold material, “I’m jealous. I can’t even get Naruto to take me on a proper date and you’re flirting with our boss in his condo and he’s cooking for you and giving you his clothes to wear. Which you’re still wearing by the way.”
Sakura laughed nervously and tugged at the hem of the shirt she had borrowed. The shirt completely dwarfed her and the v-neck collar would have hung low on her chest if it weren’t pulled in a way that left a shoulder bare. Hinata rolled her eyes. The girl looked like she had just spent the night in Chef Uchiha’s bed instead of on his couch.
“‘Morning.” Sasuke chose that moment to walk into the kitchen wearing almost the exact shirt that Sakura was and a pair of basketball shorts. He noticed the spare bowl of congee on the counter left for him and his brows furrowed. “Hinata didn’t cook this, did she?”
“That’s just insulting,” Hinata mumbled against her mug, averting her gaze. She didn’t like drawing attention to herself when it came to Chef Uchiha but there was nowhere to hide in his apartment. If she was lucky Sakura would provide enough of a distraction.
Sasuke barely acknowledged her and poured himself some tea. “I’m going for a run by the fish market. Do you need a lift home?”
“No, I’m good.”
“Sakura it’s fine. I can always drop you off after. I just have to go see what the catch is.”
“I can take the train. No worries.
Sakura waved off his attempts to make sure she got home safely. Hinata rolled her eyes and blew her bangs out of her face. It was like she wasn’t even there.
“I called for a towncar,” she interrupted them, setting her mug down on the counter. “I can get Sakura back to her apartment.”
Hinata was going to be dead on her feet when she had to get to the restaurant in a few hours to start baking the bread for the day. She really needed to lay of the alcohol.
She eyed her boss and then Sakura and how they were barely looking at each other. Something was up with the two of them. It wasn’t really her business what they got into when they were alone but their behavior was suspicious, especially Chef Uchiha’s, and it was almost amusing to watch.
Almost. It was also kind of pathetic. She was glad they at least decided not to get into anything while she was down the hall with an already queasy stomach. Because—yet again—as beautiful as her boss and Sakura were, it wasn’t something she would want to hear and then be forced to picture.
I’m too hungover for this. Hinata spooned the last bit of rice porridge into her mouth. Really, if Sakura could make her some red bean soup she might just give up on Naruto all together and fight—although not literally—Chef Uchiha for the honors.
Hinata hopped off the bar stool and took the empty bowls to the sink. “Thank you for the congee again, Sakura. It was delicious, I hope you to try more of your cooking another time.”
Turning back around she was met with Sakura’s horrified expression and an amusingly shocked look on Sasuke’s face.
Ino usually preferred not to hear any shouting or yelling. It was always so peaceful right before real work actually began. She kind of missed the days when Sasuke actually had a day off. If it was quiet and he was at work the kitchen was typically the worst place to be in the world.
But this was a weird quiet. And it was freaking her out.
“Boss?” Ino waved her hand in front of his face. She needed to know what was on the menu for the day and how the kitchen was going to function.
Sasuke looked away from his desk and blinked at her. Ino was just about to grab Tsunade when he finally spoke up.
“How long have you known Haruno?”
“Sakura?” Ino wasn’t proud of how high her voice went up but it didn’t stop the maniacal smile from spreading across her face. That wasn’t what she expected for him to say but hey, she was curious as to why the two of them were being so weird the last two weeks.
“Never mind. Forget it,” Sasuke spat.
“Oh, no!” Ino shut his office door and blocked it. He wasn’t running away from this. “Why are you asking? Sakura? I’ve known her since we were like in diapers. Our parents were shop neighbors. Why are you asking? Why are you asking? Why?”
“Jesus, Ino.” Sasuke’s eyes went wide. “Breathe.” He ran a hand through his hair. “So you’ve known her a long time.”
“Yep! She’s the reason I realized I wanted to be a chef.”
Sasuke blinked at her in confusion but he was no longer attempting to escape his office. “Explain.”
“Sakura had some difficulty with food. Refused to eat, was always dieting.” Ino shrugged. “I didn’t want my best friend to waste away so I started making some stuff…I liked the way it felt when she finished her meal.”
“Oh. I thought maybe she taught you how to cook.”
“Sakura can’t make western food,” the words rushed out before Ino could reign them in. She realized her mistake too late and tried to turn and flee. Her attempt was cut off when a large hand slammed the door closed.
“So how was Valentine’s Day?” Sakura asked Sai as she picked up her drink order.
“Thanks again for the pudding,” was all Sai gave up about his evening. He gave her one of his unnerving smiles he flashed her way when he wanted to end a conversation and with that Sakura turned to take care of her tables.
The dinner shift was relatively peaceful. As peaceful as they could ever be considering they were a Michelin star restaurant with a heavily award nominated chef. At least it wasn’t a holiday.
There was just one thing that bothered Sakura the whole night.
When Hinata dropped the ball earlier that morning, Sakura had panicked. She was expecting a bunch of questions or judgement of her food. So she left.
She barely got dressed—threw on her jeans and grabbed her boots and coat—and hightailed it out of there without waiting for Hinata and her towncar.
It wasn’t until she was in the train and five stops away already that she realized that she was wearing his shirt still. She had stuffed her shirt and bra into her backpack and fled the apartment.
The night was almost over and Sasuke hadn’t mentioned anything about what had happened in his apartment. It seemed she would be in the clear as long as she headed home with the rest of the staff.
That was her exact plan. She was going to grab her stuff—not bother to change out of her uniform—and just march out. Sakura doubted Sasuke would be interested in making her anything ever again, especially now that he probably thought she was simply lazy.
“I’m too tired to take the bus today,” Ino griped. She pulled her bandana off and tossed it into her locker. “Wanna splurge for a taxi with me and Sai?”
Sakura was just about to agree when her name was called. Even Ino stopped in her tracks, eyes wide and mouth hanging open.
“Sakura,” Sasuke called again.
“Um? Sas—Ino! What are you doing?” Sakura hissed under her breath as Ino nudged her from behind.
“I’ll see you later,” Ino replied and rushed out of the kitchen.
That little—! She’s so going to get it later, Sakura inwardly fumed. She looked around for help and spotted Naruto who looked back and forth between her and Sasuke. She was just about to thank a higher power for his nosiness when Hinata of all people had grabbed his arm and dragged him away.
“Walk me home, Naruto.”
Naruto didn’t need to second guess his decision, especially not when Hinata was clearly giving him an out for the great offense he wasn’t even aware he had committed.
What the fuck is going on today!? Sakura gaped at the retreating couple. She looked around and realized they were the only two left.
Alone. In the locker room. The same locker room she had flashed him in.
I’m going to fucking choke. Sakura grimaced, bracing herself for whatever it was that Sasuke wanted. She couldn’t believe her friends and coworkers had just abandoned her. “Yes, Chef Uchiha?”
Sasuke opened his mouth and closed it. It should have been simple, just thank her for breakfast and move on. It should have been simple, but then Ino had to make a big production out of the whole thing by leaving without her.
He was still trying to process what she had told him earlier as well. Sakura━nurse in training Sakura━came from a culinary background. The same Sakura that would eat cans of corn or freshly baked bread for the bread baskets and call it a day.
She walked into work eating cups of easy mac ‘n cheese like it was the best thing ever for fucks sake.
“Breakfast,” he grunted. Sakura raised an eyebrow warily at him. “It was okay.”
Sakura frowned, lips twisting. “It was okay?”
What did she expect him to say? Sasuke sighed and rubbed his temples with his thumb and ring finger. It was simple, plain boring congee but it was the first time in forever that someone had made him a warm breakfast that he didn’t sit down and pay for━even if he was only an afterthought to Hyuga and her hangover.
And it was good. And warm. And like home.
Shaking that last thought from his mind, he tried to get back to the conversation. “Yamanaka says your parents own a restaurant.”
“Ino shouldn’t have said shit,” Sakura snapped. Sasuke was taken aback by the forcefulness of her words but one quick scan of her face and he could see the trembling of her lower lip and realized her words were defensive.
“Just…thanks. For breakfast.” Sasuke didn’t want to get into whatever it was that had her upset about her parents’ shop. From what Ino had told him there was only happy, warm memories of doing homework in a corner of the shop and stuffing their faces with homemade food. But that was from Ino, of course. It wasn’t Sakura’s feelings about the place. “I thought you didn’t know how to cook.”
“I never said I didn’t know how to cook.” Sakura shifted on the balls of her feet, adjusting her backpack’s strap on her shoulder. “I just don’t cook.”
“Hmm.” Sasuke crossed his arms in front of his chest. He leaned back against the door frame and looked down at her lazily. “Then again it was only rice porridge. Not that difficult to make now is it?”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “What are you getting at?”
He could see her visibly bristle at the implication he was making. It was amusing how rattled she got about an insult to her cooking skills when she refused to cook in the first place. Ino had mentioned that Sakura had a bad habit of sticking to instant food or things that required the most minimal amount of prep.
But if he was right━and Sasuke was confident he was━then Sakura was a cook. And with being a cook, especially a good one, there was an arrogance that was hard to escape. Even if all one made was the simplest, easy to eat meal.
Much to Sasuke’s amusement, Sakura was pretty easy to bait. He could read her thoughts easily, her eyes didn’t hide anything.
“Just because it’s not your fancy,” Sakura used air quotes to emphasize her words, “French cuisine, it doesn’t mean what I can make isn’t excellent.”
Ah. And there it is. “Prove it.”
Sakura glared at him, green eyes blazing. It really shouldn’t be so easy. A normal person wouldn’t rise to it but━
“Fine,” Sakura spat. “I’ll show you.”