Mirepoix Chapter 4

Chapter Four: Only When I’m Homesick

The clothing carousel couldn’t possibly move any slower. Sakura had to resist sighing as the worker waited for the clothes that matched her ticket to appear.

She was glad it was a day off because it meant that she could go home and relax after being in class all day and after running errands. It was to be her last day off for the next two weeks and she wasn’t looking forward to going back to work.

The past couple of days were awkward—no other word could encapsulate the vibe of her last two shifts at Wisteria Place.

It was difficult to try and avoid someone you had to see face to face every thirty minutes for five to six hours. And that was the minimum amount of interaction she could possibly have with Chef Uchiha.

Of all days for anyone to see her in her underwear it had to be when she was wearing the ones she reserved for laundry day. And Not only did it have to be one of her supervisors, but the attractive one that saw her in her teeny bikini panties with the string ties.

He probably thinks I wear that kind of thing everyday, she had whined inwardly, banging her head against one of the poles on the train car. The embarrassment had made her want to cry the entire metro ride home.

Ino knew something had happened. Nothing could escape her keen eyes and she promised to get to the bottom of the awkward tension between her and Sasuke. Sakura just didn’t want her to know that it was her bottom that was the root of the problem.

She couldn’t tell her, “The weird way we avoid eye contact as much as possible and try not to say more than three words max to each other? Oh, that’s just ‘cause I flashed our boss.”

Sakura had no idea how she was going to survive going to work anymore. It wasn’t as if she could apologize to him because he got a good eye full of her ass and there was no way she was going to demand one from him.

Who needs an apology? A voice wheedled its way to the forefront of her mind. He can just touch you again.

It had been so gentle and Sakura hadn’t had that in a long time. There were hugs from her mother and father, full on glomps from Ino who didn’t quite understand physics and what her weight being thrown at such speeds could do to the receiver, but nothing like that.

He only touched my arm, how backed up am I? Sakura tossed the bag of dry clean over her shoulder and sighed as she waited for the light at the crosswalk. It was only a touch on my arm.

And yet at the same time it wasn’t only a touch to the arm. He was so close and heat radiated from his clothed figure in a way that made her lower stomach get all airy.

“NothappeningNothappeningNothappening.” Sakura muttered the chant under her breath as she crossed the street, the words running together as she repeated them. The sooner she stopped thirsting over the restaurant’s tyrant the better.

The slacks fit too well.

Neji snapped his fingers in front of Sasuke’s face and exhaled through his nose. It was the fourth time that he had to bring Sasuke’s attention back to him.

“Can we go over the Valentine’s Day menu? We need to post it online soon.”

“I was thinking we do Italian because that’s the usual fare for date nights.” Sasuke rubbed at his forehead with his thumb and index finger. “And of course we keep to the usual French dishes we always have.”

“What Italian dishes?”

“Lobster fra diavolo, maybe a seafood risotto using clams, shrimp, and the catch of the day? Perhaps a red snapper crudo.” Sakura sneezed from across the dining area. “Maybe a seafood stew with a saffron zabaglione.”

“You’re not serving the last one.”

“Well, why not?” Sasuke snapped, taken aback that Neji would reject one of his menu options. Neji’s job was to sell the dishes, not approve the dishes.

“Because you’re not thinking about romantic date food.”

“It would have lobster.” Sasuke rolled his eyes and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Nothing screams romantic to people more than lobster. Well, maybe oysters.”

“Yeah, but what you were thinking about was warming Haruno’s stomach.” Neji raised his pen threateningly when Sasuke opened his mouth to retort and cut him off. “Don’t deny it, you were watching her the entire time we were supposed to be discussing this. Anything else?”

“Fuck you.” Sasuke exhaled and turned in his seat at the bar so he was facing away from the dining area. “If they have it in the market we could do a cuttlefish and cardoncelli tartare. Seafood en brodo with a tarragon pesto?”

“A warm broth that could keep a cold at bay, hmm…” Neji pursed his lips but wrote it down. “Luckily for you I know it would be delicious, so it stays as the soup. Anything else to add to the menu before I post?”

“A squid ink pasta would be good…with mussels of course. And a second risotto option with squid ink.”

“Alright. I’m done with you, head back to your kitchen.” Neji rapped his notes against the bar top and waved Sasuke off.

“I’m making that stew, Hyuga.”

“It’s already a large menu for the day and if you make it I’ll let Haruno know you’ve been eyeing her all day.”

Only Neji Hyuga would dare speak to him that way and honestly, it was what made working with him amusing. If only the other Hyuga could grow the same backbone, maybe then she wouldn’t have all of those problems with Naruto.

And only Neji would notice how strange he had been acting in regards to a certain waitress.

What am I going to do about that? Sasuke wiped his hands down his face. Sakura was too cute for both her and his own good. She was someone he would see everyday until she decided to quit. And it would be a shame to lose someone so competent while they were understaffed just because he couldn’t keep it in pants.

Sasuke had a policy never to get involved with anyone he worked with. Usually he followed it with extreme ease considering there was no one he found attractive at Wisteria Place.

Correction: there used to be no one he found attractive.

For a moment Sasuke wondered if this was some belated revenge from Ino, whom he had never given the time of day unless it involved cooking. She was vindictive enough to bring her much prettier friend to work at the restaurant and watch him crash and burn with her, but she also wasn’t stupid enough to do so or would ever admit that her friend was much prettier than she was. And there was also the matter of her being completely head over heels all over the Sai, the pale bartender, and no doubt had completely forgotten about Sasuke’s lack of interest.

Sasuke told himself that he would never get involved with someone he worked with and he planned to stick to that. He didn’t need a repeat of being fifteen and kicked out of his first kitchen because the nineteen year old daughter of the owner lied to her father because he didn’t want to join her for an “afternoon nap.”

But the slacks fit too well.

Whenever Sakura was in his line of sight, Sasuke’s eyes would quickly drift down and then back up. The slacks fit too well, stretched tight against her rear. It didn’t help that her apron was tied in a bow at the small of her back, not only reminiscent of a present but also a reminder of the skimpy undergarments he had seen her in the other night.

Things will just get worse when it gets warmer and the waitresses start changing into pencil skirts. Sasuke ran a hand through his hair, pushing his bangs back and letting them fall back against his face. She’s probably seeing someone too.

Sasuke constantly debated if she were. Sakura stayed really late—later than someone that relied on public transport should—on days she worked, so it seemed she had no one to go home to. But it was hard to believe that there wasn’t someone in the picture.

The first night he cooked for her, he did it purely out of annoyance. How did one work all day in a Michelin Star restaurant—two star rated!—and then eat a can of corn at the end of the day?

The second time he cooked for her it was because he knew he was sending her home early when she could have raked in a lot of tips. She was also hurt and probably would have gone to bed without eating and the more he watched her the more he thought that Sakura looked far too skinny in his opinion.

She stayed late often and even though he didn’t have to, Sasuke would beckon her into the kitchen and make her something to eat. He didn’t do it often, only when she looked like she really needed it, like when something warm would do her some good.

Shaking his head, Sasuke rolled the sleeves of his smock up to his elbows. Neji was right. As much as the menu was set by his whims, he couldn’t afford to take the same liberties with one of their biggest days of the year.

Sakura Haruno would just have to find that something warm somewhere else.

“You’re being fucking weird, you know that?” Sakura tossed a throw pillow at Ino’s head. Ino ducked but continued to stare Sakura down.

“I want a night alone with Sai on Valentine’s Day.”

“Then have a night alone.” Sakura rolled her eyes and grabbed her bowl of easy mac and cheese. She was in the middle of an online practice quiz and didn’t have time for Ino’s nonsense.

“I want to have a romantic dinner in the apartment after work and I need you to go stay with Karin for the night.”

“Did you consider that maybe Karin has Valentine’s Day plans as well?”

“Does she?”

“Ino. She sent us a detailed itinerary of her plans because she was somehow convinced to go on a boat ride for dinner and you know she’s afraid of boats and can’t swim. Karin wanted us to know exactly where she would be at all times and to keep an eye on the news for any capsized riverboats.”

“Wow. She must be in love,” Ino grumbled sarcastically.


“I just wanted the apartment to ourselves,” Ino whined, collapsing on the couch. She curled up in a ball, her head on Sakura’s knee. “Without that depressing ass music coming from your room. Nothing kills the mood more than hearing all of that screaming.”

“How else could I block you guys out?” Sakura rolled her eyes yet again at Ino’s antics. Sakura knew she could be annoying when she had experimental rock blaring out of her speakers but it was also selfish of Ino to corner Sakura into her bedroom.

“You really have no plans for Valentine’s Day?”

“Nope. Just gonna finish my shift and come home and have a date with my bed like I deserve.” Sakura submitted her quiz and waited for her results to load. She cheered when it came back at a ninety-five percent and went to see what question she had missed.

“When was the last time you had a date?” Ino turned so she could look at Sakura from where she was lying down.

“Uh…does Renee’s party count?”

“Disgusting.” Ino slapped Sakura’s arm. “Do you even remember what that guy looked like? Banging dudes in the bathroom of one of your roller derby friends’ houses doesn’t count as dates!”

Ino huffed and chewed on the inside of her cheek. Sakura was almost finished with her easy mac when Ino sat up, eyes wide and mouth hanging open, and knocked over the cup.


“The last time you got laid was almost two years ago. I remember ‘cause Renee got knocked up and couldn’t have anymore parties after that. What the fuck Sakura?”

“What the fuck Ino that was my last mac and cheese cup.” Sakura got up to clean the mess, no longer paying attention to whatever it was that Ino was going on about.

It sometimes seemed like whatever she did wasn’t good enough. She didn’t date or want to go out, she was a prude and a bore. Sakura went out to a party, got smashed and hooked up with a guy that she didn’t want to know beyond the thirty minutes it took for him to get her off, and she was making horrible decisions. She decided she would rather focus on school and maybe never talk to another guy again and Ino acted like she was doing something criminal.

“I don’t have to date to be happy, Ino.” Sakura cleaned up the last of the cheese sauce and dumped the paper towel into the trash can. “I don’t have to be in a relationship.”

“Well, no you don’t. But you’re too young to just give up.” Ino sighed, standing up and stretching her arms over her head. “Especially because I know that’s something you actually want.”

Sakura closed her eyes and willed away the stomach cramp forming in response to Ino’s words. Ino didn’t say it but she could hear her mother’s reprimands echo through her words. Could hear the complaints that she wasn’t looking for a nice young man to settle down with. See the disappointment when she said she just wanted to focus on school and becoming a nurse.

She heard it enough from her mother she didn’t need to hear it from her best friend too.

“I gotta get going to work.”Sakura felt a pair of thin arms slide down her shoulders wrap around her. “Don’t be mad at me. I just worry that you don’t make time for yourself and to have fun.”

“I was having me time but you interrupted me,” Sakura grumbled but returned the hug. “You owe me some mac ‘n cheese.”

“Please eat something that’s not instant.”

“Shut up, mom.”

The day was going well.

That was bullshit, but Tsunade insisted on chanting that it was even though she had to toss on a smock and join him in the kitchen. It wasn’t often that she worked in the kitchen but during the holidays she never had much of a choice, even when Dan was still alive.

“You just had to get on that stupid list, didn’t you brat!” Tsunade cursed at him as she set something to flambé.

“You’re the one that has those 30 Under 30 clippings hanging up,” Sasuke hissed back, grabbing a plate that was on its way to service and scowling at the line cook. “It’s still raw, moron. Do it again!”

He was sure the dining hall was nothing but the blissful romantic atmosphere they advertised, but none of that serenity transferred to the kitchen. It was one of the busiest days of the year for them. The kitchen would be more hectic than usual, but this year was the worst it had ever been and Tsunade wouldn’t stop reminding Sasuke who she blamed for it.

“Ready for service, Mr. James Beard nominee.” Tsunade shouted out sarcastically.

“Is she bragging or is she actually mad?”

Sasuke looked up from his plates to see Sakura waiting at the window. It had been a while since she spoke to him directly without averting her gaze.

“She’s the one that nominates me every year.”

“So she is bragging.” Sakura gave him one of her cheeky grins before taking off with her order.

“Look alive, Chef Uchiha.” Ino reprimanded him as she pushed more of her completed orders at the window. She matched the glare he sent her and went back to preparing the red snapper crudo tickets that were sent her way.

“How bad is it out there?” Sasuke asked Sakura when she appeared at the window again.

“It would be fine if we were only dealing with those that were smart enough to reserve a table. We have lots of people waiting to be seated that just showed up.” Sakura looked behind her and then leaning into the window whispered, “Lots of singles. Wonder who they’re here for?”

She winked at him before picking up her orders and heading back out to the dining hall. Sasuke stared after her until he felt a hand smack him between his shoulder blades.

“You can gawk at her when you’re off the clock,” Neji scolded him and went to check on the bread for the bread baskets.

Sasuke snatched him by the back of his vest and hissed lowly so no one else could hear him, “Will you knock it off?”

Neji usually didn’t take on this role, not with him, and it was starting to piss Sasuke off. He didn’t appreciate the looks Neji gave him, as if he could see right through him and knew all of his little secrets.

“What am I doing?” Neji quirked an eyebrow and pried Sasuke’s fingers off of his vest. “Do you have time to be asking questions?”

“Uchiha!” Tsunade barked at him from the other side of the kitchen. Rolling his eyes, Sasuke was forced to turn back and return to his station.

The night continued that way, the kitchen even louder than usual. Hinata Hyuga almost had a breakdown from all of the cakes she had to plate for service on her own after the head pastry chef had to sit due to a dizzy spell. She was the first one downing a glass of wine when the last ticket was closed.

“Pregaming, Hina?” Naruto asked as he walked through the kitchen doors with the dirty linens. “Don’t hit the wine too hard or you won’t be able to keep up with us tonight.”

“I beg pardon?”


Sasuke looked down at Sakura who had snuck up behind him with another bag of linens. She grimaced as she looked on at the interaction between the dense moron and Hinata whose lips were set in such a tight line that they seemed to disappear completely.

“Who said I was going out drinking with you all tonight?” Hinata narrowed her eyes, clutching tightly to the plates she was returning to their storage.

“I’m a little worried that she’s not stumbling over her words right now,” Sakura whispered to him.

“She’s weak to alcohol and she only has two modes afterwards: either she passes out or she has a shift in personality,” Sasuke explained, more out of shock that Sakura was on speaking terms with him again than out of interest of what was going on with the junior pastry chef and one of the busboys.

The last time they had a conversation was before the incident almost two weeks ago when he caught her in the middle of dressing. She hadn’t even said good night to him after he had given her her privacy. Sasuke had gone to his office to cool off and heard the back door slam shut when she ran out.

“I have plans actually.” Hinata turned her nose up and stalked away, getting back to her closing tasks.

“It’s almost midnight, what plans could she have?” Naruto grumbled. Sakura took the bag she was carrying and whacked him against the back. “What was that for!?”

“For being a dumbass.” Sakura pushed him against his back, moving him toward the laundry closet where they stored the dirty linens before they could be picked up. “Now hurry up! I don’t wanna be here all night cleaning up.”

“It’s Valentine’s Day, she probably has a date,” Ino taunted Naruto as she took back prepped vegetables into the walk-in.

“A date?” Naruto’s jaw dropped in horror. “But it’s late already, what kind of date━?”

“You know exactly what kind of date,” Sakura joined in on the taunting. She made an up and down gesture with her hand that had Sasuke choking on his own tongue. “You should have asked her sooner to go on a real date instead of trying to drag her out to drink with your friends.”

Not interested in Naruto and the Hyuga girl’s relationship, Sasuke went back to taking stock of what was left at the end of the night. There was a lot to get finished before he could head home for the few hours of sleep he was going to get. He could always skip the morning run but that’s usually when he swung by the fish market and got dibs on the best of the early catch.

He could always get some shut eye in his office while the kitchen staff ran around, rushing to get things done and then do his paperwork.

It’s not like I have anything to do tonight.

It was too much to ask for thirty minutes to himself. It felt like he barely put his head down on his desk before someone was knocking on his door.

Sasuke still wasn’t quite sure how it was that he ended up with both Sakura and Hinata at his apartment, but both of the girls were sitting in his living room when he got out of the shower so it wasn’t something he had imagined.

He had tried to take a nap and he must have succeeded because there was no other way Hinata and Sakura could have finished up inventory unless he had knocked out for at least twenty minutes.

When Sakura has first asked that he let them hang out with him, his immediate response was to reject them. He didn’t care if Hinata had to hide out in case Naruto wanted to swing by her townhouse. He didn’t care that Sakura needed to go somewhere so that Ino and Sai could have the apartment to themselves—at least he didn’t care for the reason. Sasuke was tempted to tell them to find a hotel for the night until Neji showed up looking like the cat that ate the canary.

“Tenten set me up tonight with a friend of hers and would be upset if I canceled my plans to take care of Hinata,” Neji sighed, pretending to be troubled. “If only there was someone that could help me out of my predicament. Someone that I know would be the perfect gentleman and not even think about touching my cousin in her vulnerable state. Someone—“

He mainly agreed to the whole thing just to shut Neji up. If he had let it drag out, Sasuke was sure Neji would start hinting about what had been happening lately with him staring at Sakura.

“You can hang your coat up,” Sasuke offered. He knew Hinata wouldn’t want to shed her layers because she had low blood pressure and was constantly cold, but he hadn’t expected Sakura to still be in her pea coat.

“It’s cold in here,” she mumbled, hiding her face into her scarf.

Sighing, Sasuke set a pot of water to boil. He would have prepared tea but from the way Hinata’s lower lip kept trembling he was sure she needed something else. As soon as the water boiled he turned the heat off and placed a decanter of sake into the hot water.

“I even made chocolate,” he heard her explain to Sakura. “The worst part is that I wouldn’t have minded going out for drinks but Ino told me I had to be firm about this.”

“I think Ino’s right.” Sakura patted her on the arm. “It seems like Naruto is taking you for granted. He should have asked you if you wanted to do anything for Valentine’s Day.”

Bringing out cups and the decanter on a tray, Sasuke set it down on the coffee table. He poured into the cups and handed them to his guest before serving himself some.

“I’m guessing that you’re hungry because you didn’t eat real food today?” Sasuke watched as red bloomed on Sakura’s cheeks. She opened her mouth to retort but her anger fizzled out with the growling from her stomach.

“All I ate was some cake,” she confessed. “I kind of forgot about eating.”

Sasuke scoffed but turned back into his kitchen to pull out some ingredients. He had begun preparing dashi for some miso soup when he heard one of the bar stools at his island scrape against the floor.

“I didn’t expect you to make miso soup.”

“It’s too late for something heavy like we make in the restaurant.” Sasuke turned on the rice cooker that sat on the countertop near the stove. “You’re fine with mackerel right?”

“If you’re cooking it, I would probably eat a boot.”

“It’s a good thing I would never serve a boot,” Sasuke said dryly, setting mackerel to grill in a pan as he prepared eggs for a rolled omelette. “You didn’t leave Hyuga alone with the rice wine did you?”


Sasuke looked back into his living room and spotted Hinata curled up on his couch and cuddling with one of the throw pillows. If he checked the decanter, he was sure it would be empty.

“My bad.” Sakura grinned sheepishly, resting her chin on her fist. “Didn’t expect you to have any to be honest. Or to prepare a washoku style meal.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sasuke’s brows drew down in confusion. He would have turned to face her but he never burned food and he wasn’t going to risk it now.

“I’m used to seeing you make western dishes, that’s all.”

“I’m trained in classic French techniques, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to cook other types of food,” Sasuke scoffed. He plated the mackerel and tamagoyaki and sliced the rolled omelette. He placed them both on the table and grabbed bowls for rice and soup. “I didn’t feel like pickling anything so I hope you don’t mind—“

“Again, I would eat a boot if you cooked it. I’m not going to complain just because there’s a side dish or two you could have added.”

The words shouldn’t be flattering, not with his awards and nominations. Not with the fact that Sakura would gladly eat canned corn and microwaveable meals if no one was stopping her.

He gives thanks for the meal, because no matter how many years have gone by and no matter what type of foo he’s eating, proper manners—proper Japanese manners—would never escape him.

“So this is what you eat at home, huh?” Sakura asks, following his lead.

And maybe it’s how she’s smiling or how the lights in his apartment are dim but he feels himself being more honest than he usually would be.

“Only when I’m homesick.”

Some boundaries shouldn’t be crossed. Sakura reminded herself of that constantly as the night carried on.

If it weren’t for Hinata there was probably no way she would even know where Sasuke lived or what the inside of his apartment looked like.

She should have figured he wouldn’t live in a walk up like she did and that he was lucky enough to not need any roommates. Sasuke lived in a single bedroom apartment that overlooked the harbor, away from the rowdy bars that Sakura’s shared flat was above.

Sitting in his bathroom she scrolled through the links listed when she searched his name. There were tons of articles and reviews. Even some spotlights from cooking competitions he had entered. At the bottom of the first page she found a link to a profile for a rheumatologist with his same last name but Sakura didn’t bother clicking through it. It wasn’t a common last name but it wasn’t what she was interested in.

I knew he was older but not by five years…

Sakura locked her phone up and finished using the restroom. She opened up the medicine cabinet in search of mouthwash. Even without her toothbrush she could massage her gums and rinse her mouth.


Right by the mouthwash was a box of condoms. It sat there as innocently as it could in the lineup of items. Just deodorant, condoms, mouthwash, toothpaste and yet it unsettled her.

“He’s twenty-seven, I would be more shocked if he didn’t have a sex life,” Sakura muttered, grabbing the mouthwash. The sight made her feel as if she were being even more intrusive than she originally thought. Perhaps he had plans and Neji had ruined them by pushing Hinata—and by association, her—onto him.

There was a knock on the door that made her jump. Opening it a crack, she was met with the sight of Sasuke’s plain black v-neck shirt.

“I’ll be out in a sec.”

“I figured you might want something to wear.” Sasuke handed her a simple gray shirt and black sweatpants through the small opening. “They might be way too big but you can tighten the drawstring. I left blankets out on the couch for you and Hinata.”

“Thanks.” Sakura nodded. “For everything. The clothes, the food, and letting us stay here.”

“You shouldn’t have let Hyuga drag you into her thing with Naruto.”

“And you shouldn’t have let Neji drag you into it either,” Sakura shot back. “Does he have something on you?”

Sasuke stared blankly at her a moment and Sakura was tempted to just shut the door on him if he was going to be so cryptic.

“He knows.”

Sakura’s face scrunched up in confusion. The answer didn’t help much in clearing up anything. What could Neji possibly—


“I’m just going to change now.” Sakura giggled nervously and shut the bathroom door. She didn’t need a repeat of him seeing her in her undergarments.

She had just gotten over the embarrassment and didn’t need it to come creeping back. Seeing Sasuke so professional in his kitchen and not bothering her about seeing her almost naked had helped. She kind of missed when they chatted at the service window and when he would pretend that it was a waste of his time to cook her something even though she never asked him to, he just did it on his own.

“You weren’t wrong about the pants being too big.” Sakura tugged and tugged on the drawstring as she exited the bathroom. She left her clothes on an empty shelf by the spare towels so they would be there ready to be changed into when she woke up.

“Here.” Sasuke batted her fingers away and pulled tightly on the strings before knotting them. His knuckles brushed against her flat, taut stomach and Sakura’s breath hitched at the touch.

Maybe she wasn’t over the incident in the locker room. At least not the low simmer of want that came with Sasuke’s close proximity.

Sasuke’s fingers didn’t let go of the strings, he held on to them even after he had finished knotting them and how Sakura wished he would undo the knot he made and flatten his warm hands on her cold stomach.

Hinata murmured from down the hall and Sakura’s head snapped up at the sound. Instantly, Sasuke pulled away and was bidding her good night before he shut the door of his bedroom.

Sighing in resignation, Sakura found the blankets where Sasuke said he had put them. She tucked Hinata in, one of her arms thrown over head and the other one hugging her stomach. As gently as she could, Sakura adjusted her body so that she wouldn’t wake up with muscle aches.

Sakura curled up on the extension of the L shaped couch, just small enough that she fit perfectly on it when she curled up without any limbs hanging off. She plumped one of the throw pillows and laid her head in it, closing her eyes and hoping sleep came quickly. At least Hinata didn’t witness anything that had happened between her and Sasuke. She was a quiet girl and wouldn’t talk but Sakura liked having her little secret.

“You guys are pretty cute.”

Mirepoix Chapter 3

Chapter Three: Exposed

Sakura scanned the shift schedule one more time. She squinted at the board willing it to look differently.

“Everyone’s working on the fourteenth.” She frowned at the board. “Not a single staff member is off…”

“It’s always like that.” A soft voice just behind her almost made her jump.

The pleasantly plump pastry chef was just behind her, pulling at her long dark hair. Sakura never had a chance to speak to her before but always got the impression that she looked a bit like the petit fours she made. She mainly kept to herself and her station and if it weren’t for the occasional moments when Sasuke would shout at her for moving too slowly, Sakura would forget she was even there.

“Oh, it’s you Hinata.”

“No one ever gets off on Valentine’s Day. It’s our busiest day of the year.”

“That seems a little unfair. What if you wanted to spend the holiday with your boyfriend?”

“You would need to get a boyfriend first, forehead girl.” Ino tossed her jacket over Sakura’s head and immediately started stripping. Hinata pulled her hood over head and covered her eyes.

“This is a mixed gender locker room.” Sakura tossed the jacket back over Ino’s head.

“It’s nothing anyone here hasn’t seen before.” Tenten, the brunette Ino had told Sakura worked as the boucher, opened up her locker next to Ino’s and stuffed her bag.

“You know you like what you see,” Ino teased, reaching over and tickling Tenten’s sides.

“I’ve never been into blondes.” Tenten smacked Ino’s arms away, trying to catch her breath. “Or girls taller than me.”

Tenten pulled out her smock and slid her arms into the sleeves. After she was done she pulled up her pigtails and styled them into twin buns.

“Wait,” Sakura whispered to Ino, “I thought she and Neji were a thing. They always head home together.”

“Nah, they’re just roommates. But I’m sure Neji has a thing for her. Must suck being hung up on someone that━”

“Neji isn’t interested in women,” Hinata interrupted. This time Sakura did jump. For some reason she thought Hinata had walked out already. “He’s just protective of her and vice versa due to solidarity. People tend to make that mistake.”

“You need a bell or something,” Sakura muttered, embarrassed.

“Kiba says that all of the time.”

“Well guess I should expect to hear some griping from Naruto,” Sakura sighed, feeling exhausted already. The boy was a ball of energy and was always talking her ear off whether she actually paid attention to him or not. “He probably won’t be able to see his boyfriend that day either.”

“Boyfriend?” Ino cocked her quizzically as she adjusted her bandana on her head. “Naruto doesn’t have a boyfriend.”

“What?” Sakura rubbed her eyes with her thumb and forefinger. “I could have sworn the produce delivery guy was his boyfriend.”

Ino burst into a fit of laughter and wrapped an arm around Hinata’s shoulders.

“No he’s just super friendly so people think he’s always flirting. Wanna hear something scandalous, Sakura?”

“Ino, no!” Hinata cried. Her voice was louder than Sakura had ever heard it.

“That dumbass hooked up with Hinata on New Year’s Eve. They both got drunk and headed to his place after our staff party.”

Hinata glared at Ino but the effect was lost with her round cheeks puffing out and blooming pink. It was more of a pout than anything.

Sakura tried to recall anything about Naruto that would give her the impression that he was dating the pastry chef. She caught him being friendlier than he should and begging her for treats but nothing that she would call romantic.

“Don’t worry about it.” Ino waved her hand dismissively. “It gets confusing. Right, Hinata?”

Hinata sighed and worried her lip.

“I keep thinking he’s asking me on dates but Kiba or someone else usually tags along.”

It was the most disgruntled Sakura had seen her and it made her want to pinch Hinata’s cheek. She and Neji looked so similar but she was so soft that any familial similarities in appearance still made it difficult to tie the two as cousins.

“Well at least Hinata has someone to be confused about.” Ino patted the top of Hinata’s head. “Unlike Sakura.”

“I’m too busy to date,” Sakura huffed.

It wasn’t a lie. She was still a student and all of her free time went to work shifts, studying, and clinicals. Nursing school was enough stress as it was and dating just wasn’t an option.

Sakura never liked hook up culture and had deleted the dating app she had been using. One too many pricks messaging her and the “safe” men she did end up going out with had her turned off from even attempting to put herself out there.

“Yeah, sure.” Ino snorted. “You just don’t want to put any effort.”

“Says the woman who ended up dating a coworker.” Sakura adjusted her tie and grabbed her apron.

“That’s completely different,” Ino grunted as she shimmied out of her skinny jeans to change into her work slacks. “Chefs have, like, no life. You just choose to not have one.”

“I do not,” Sakura denied. “Stop making me look bad in front of Hinata.”

Sakura peered out of her peripheral to where the woman had been standing but the spot was empty.

“When did she━? I swear she was just in here.”

“She does that a lot. Especially when she’s avoiding someone. You’ll get used to it.” Ino had barely pulled out a fresh t-shirt from her backpack when Sasuke had walked into the locker room.

He walked straight to his locker and pulled out his cell phone, typed something, and then put it back. Without even glancing over at Ino he slipped out of the locker room like he had never entered in the first place.

Sakura gestured to the doorway and then back to Ino’s shirtless body. Ino cocked her hip and crossed her arms in front of her sports bra covered chest and snickered at Sakura’s floundering.

“Yeah, the man doesn’t even flinch. I might as well be one of the lockers.” Ino finally pulled her shirt over her head and shrugged her smock over it. “It was a little insulting at first. Would have kept being insulting if he weren’t like that with everyone.”

“With just women or━?”

Everyone,” Ino insisted. “He’s the definition of not having a life.”

“Oh,” she muttered dully.

That wasn’t surprising at all to Sakura. In the few weeks that she had been working at Wisteria Place, no matter how late she stayed past all of the employees and even Ms. Kato, Sasuke was always the last to leave. It could be one in the morning and she was dragging her weary feet and he would be in his office going over paperwork or giving the kitchen one last inventory check.

It was one of the rare moments he seemed almost relaxed. There was no shouting or glares.

Sakura found it a shame he wasn’t like that usually. He was pretty cute that way.

Not that she had time to think about that.

“Neji’s doing that thing again,” Sakura chatted away with Ino as she picked up her food. “Is it really that big of a deal what wine you drink with your meal?”

“Trust me, it is.” Ino nodded seriously and leaned over the service counter. “Don’t let him hear you ask that or he’ll make you go to a seminar.”

“Is it really that bad?”

“I’ll help you with that later. Now,” Ino tapped a bowl with her short nails, “take the soups to the diners.”

“You just wanna wine me up,” Sakura teased her as she grabbed her dishes.

“Oh, you know it.” Ino winked back flirtatiously. She giggled to herself as she plated for service.

Because of work and Sakura being in school she barely got to see her friend. Ino jumped at the chance at bringing Sakura to Wisteria Place when she needed a job. Now they could joke back and forth and talk during breaks.

Ino hadn’t been kidding earlier when she had called Sakura out on not putting any effort to have a social life.

I swear she’s as bad as Chef Uchiha, Ino grumbled inwardly, refusing to flinch as Sasuke barked an order across the kitchen.

At least he was yelling.

It was worse when he wasn’t.

“Quit distracting Haruno,” Sasuke scolded. “You can’t afford to waste time either.”

A “yes chef” was on the tip of her tongue but she  bit back the words, her mind working double time on his earlier statement.

“Oh,” Ino turned to him and gave him a sly smile, “you called a waitress by name.”

“Get back to work.”

Ino couldn’t even feel bad about being shouted at. She just hummed to herself as she made sure all of the plates were clean and ready for service.

Sighing to herself, Sakura massaged the base of her neck where it met her shoulders and rolled her neck. She hadn’t expected to take so long to fold the cloth napkins, but one of the waitresses had a family emergency and left her alone after the rest of the wait staff had left for the night.

“We could switch tasks if you would like to complain,” Neji had warned her off from whining about how many napkins there had been to fold. He had been helping until it was time to gather all of the written checks and match them with what was input into the computer system.

He had left earlier when Tenten dragged him away insisting they hit a club. Neji looked absolutely scandalized when Tenten had mentioned opening up his dating app and “shaking out the cobwebs” in front of Sakura but she pretended she hadn’t heard a thing.

Just because she lacked any sort of sex life didn’t mean she would tease others for theirs.

She should have gone home earlier when Ino insisted. Neji had reminded her that the first shift wait staff could finish up folding napkins but she wasn’t ready to head home yet. Ino and Sai looked so cute walking with their arms linked as they left the restaurant that she didn’t want to intrude and be the third wheel.

They were just as busy as she was and it was difficult for them to get any time alone between working at Wisteria Place and Sai’s time as a resident artist.

If we had showers here that would have been great.

Sakura sighed heavily as she reached behind her back and untied her apron and made her way to the locker room. She couldn’t wait to be home so she could wash away all of the sweat and grime that accumulated throughout her shift.

Going to have to take some uniforms to the cleaners.

Sakura shimmied her shoulders to shrug her button down shirt off. Being the last one to leave at the end of the night had the wonderful perk of privacy. She hated wearing her work clothes on public transportation. Unbuttoning her slacks, she let them drop to the floor before bending over at the waist to pick them up. A cough had her snapping back up quickly.

She spun around and clutched her pants to her body to cover up as much of herself as possible.

“Chef Uchiha!” Sakura squeaked, slamming backward into the lockers. “Oowww!”

She had forgotten about her still healing bruise. It no longer bothered her except when she applied too much pressure to the area. She reached around to soothe the area, wincing at the throbbing.

“Oh, shit.”

Sakura felt a hand gripping her upper arm and another reaching for her hip when she dropped her pants to push Sasuke away.

“No, I’m good! I’m really, really good!” Sakura continued to push until he took a step back. “Just, please, leave.”

“Right.” Sasuke nodded and averted his gaze. “Just let me know when you’re done.”

As soon as he exited the locker room, closing the door on his way out, Sakura fell back against the lockers and slid down onto the cool linoleum floor.“Oh. My. Fucking. God.”

Mirepoix Chapter 2

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 friends. Itachi and his best friends Izumi and her husband 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.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

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.”

She wasn’t.

“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.”

Mirepoix Chapter 1

“Real Food”

This was his happy place. The heat of the stove top. The smells of sauces as they simmered. The sound of knives hitting their cutting boards. The sound of Tsunade shouting at one of the station chefs.


Sasuke did what he always did when Tsunade Kato was shouting. He ignored it.

He didn’t have time to worry about what was stressing her out. She had fired the head chef which gave him even more to be responsible for. About now he would be checking on the pantry and discussing the tasks the swing cook was required of that day.

But apparently the swing cook had other things to do.

Sasuke opened the door to the walk-in and glared at Ino Yamanaka. She was curled inward to keep warm as she whispered into her cell phone. She shrieked when she realized who was staring her down with his arms crossed in front of his chest.

“Has the delivery come in today?”


“Yes, Yamanaka. We were expecting a shipment today from Sabaku’s farm. Since you’re in the pantry I’m going to assume that you received the order.”

“Lighten up, dude.” Sasuke grit his teeth at the sound of Naruto’s nasally voice. “Gaara just pulled up around back.”

“Inuzuka and Uzumaki!” Sasuke called out to the busboys that were making puppy eyes at the commis pâtissier in the hopes of being fed. “To the truck.”

Sasuke rolled his eyes at their grumbling. He was sure that they were close to cracking the little resolve the Hyūga girl had and he had interfered. In a moment the pâtissier would be checking in on her and they wouldn’t get another opportunity until dinner service had ended.

“You’ll be the garde manger tonight, Yamanaka.”

“Pantry chef, right, got it.” The blonde girl nodded her head enthusiastically. As she walked past him she muttered, “English dude, speak it.”

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes again, Sasuke began taking inventory of the meats and the daily catch. Tsunade boasted always fresh and it helped that her farm-to-table restaurant happened to only be a fifteen minute drive through city traffic from the waterfront fish market.

Everything seemed to be in order so he went in search of the head waiter to inform him of the change to the plat de jour.

In the narrow hall between the kitchen and the bar among the hooks on the wall was a suit bag.

That’s not supposed to be here…

Sasuke turned over the slip of paper pinned to the suit bag. HARUNO was the only thing on it.

Frowning, Sasuke headed to the bar where he could see Kakashi’s silver hair poking out from behind an orange book.

“Any idea why there’s a suit bag on my smock hooks?”

“No clue.”

“Really?” Sasuke cocked an eyebrow up. Kakashi just shrugged.

“New staff for front of house.” The head waiter, Neji, swung up the counter to get behind the bar. “Don’t scare this one away too.”

Wait staff. Sasuke’s brows furrowed and he scoffed. It wasn’t his fault that the waitress had been completely incompetent. She should have counted herself lucky he didn’t know her name. With the exception of Tsunade, Neji, and Kakashi he only knew the names of the employees he yelled at.

The one incident shouldn’t have been enough to have her running away. He didn’t even open his mouth! All he did was glare at her when she knocked over the order she was supposed to be picking up.

“Service is in an hour so let’s get the meeting out of the way.”

“Where’s Tsunade?”

“Either yelling at the kitchen porter or the boucher.”

“It was most likely Lee,” Neji sighed.

“Are you saying that because you have a thing for the butcher or…?” Kakashi trailed off at the look Neji gave him.

“Either way here are the specials for today. We have added a new grill option that’s also available at the bar. I’m sure you noticed when you were stuffing the menu folders.”

Neji nodded barely looking up from the menu. He was trying to memorize the changes and specials for the night. He wasn’t one to need to consult a menu throughout dinner service.

“And please refrain from acting like a complete snob tonight with the guests.”

“She wanted a red with her halibut!”

“Kakashi?” Sasuke ignored Neji’s outburst and stared pointedly at the bartender.

“I’ll keep an eye on him.”

Despite his aloof appearance, Kakashi was someone Sasuke could trust. He was the person that introduced him to Wisteria Place after he was brought back home from Paris by his cousin Obito. He stood behind him and offered him a place to stay when he was temporarily disowned for pursuing a culinary career.

After meeting with front of house staff, Sasuke returned to his kitchen where hopefully no one had burned anything down. He should have more faith in his fellow kitchen staff members, but sadly he did not.

He would have more faith in Yamanaka as his swing cook if she wasn’t constantly being distracted by something. Distraction usually came in the form of her boyfriend, the other bartender, but today that job belonged to her cellular device.

“You better be on your way Forehead! Neji hates tardiness more than he hates haircuts.”

Sasuke almost snorted at the comment but he was more frustrated with her than amused.

“What does ‘almost here’ mean? Hello? Are you there? Sakura!”

“Yamanaka what’s the rule in my kitchen?” Sasuke swiped the cell phone from her hand.

“No! Chef Uchiha, I need to have this call right now.”

“Yamanaka’s friend? Yeah, she’ll call you back when it’s her break time if she gets a break tonight—”

“You wouldn’t! No!” Ino wailed when she saw his expression as he continued to talk into her phone as he made his way to the back door to check on the handling of the produce delivery.

“I am confiscating her phone. Don’t attempt to call back.”

“Watch out!”

Sasuke blinked when he heard the warning through the phone and it’s echo from the back alley. It was the last thing he heard before he was tackled, someone’s very pink head ramming straight into his sternum.

She didn’t mean to be running late but the trains were always unpredictably delayed. She had adjusted her schedule for the rush hour but not for the trains to be running on a single track.

Instead of transferring lines like she was supposed to, Sakura decided she was better off heading to Wisteria Place on foot. Or by roller skate.

Rolling down the sidewalk, she hoped she would make it in time. Normally it would have been faster to take the train but the transfer was delayed by over an hour.

Dodging pedestrians and beating the blinking walking sign was no problem. Usually when she was speeding in her skates she was also trying to dodge the hits of opposing blockers as she tried to score points.

It just didn’t help when Ino was blowing up her phone with her calls.

“I’m almost there. I just had to switch to my skates.”

“What does ‘almost here’ mean?” Sakura grunted as she hopped onto a curb. “Hello? Are you there? Sakura?”

“Yeah, Ino—“

“No! Chef Uchiha, I need to have this call right now.”

“Yamanaka’s friend?” A smooth baritone replaced Ino’s haughty soprano. “Yeah, she’ll call you back when it’s her break time if she gets a break tonight—”

Ino wailed in the background of the other end.

“I am confiscating her phone.”

Sakura rounded the corner and dodged a parked truck she hadn’t expected. She didn’t hear what else was said as she spun around a gangly blonde young man.

“Watch out!” She shouted too late as she spotted a tall man all in black come out of the door she was hoping had been the back door to Wisteria Place.

Sakura was used to taking hits in roller derby but the body she slammed into was hard and the impact was like hitting a wall.

Her face slammed into a chest and her hands clawed, trying to grab onto something so she wouldn’t head face first onto the floor. They found purchase gripping onto muscular triceps and the hands of the owner found their way around her body to her back. Together they found her balance and steadied her.

Grateful, Sakura beamed upward and prepared to thank the man that caught her. She was met with a set of livid smokey gray eyes.

“What are you doing in my kitchen?”

“Wha—? Your kitchen? Doesn’t Tsunade Kato own this restaurant?”

“Ms. Kato’s restaurant but my kitchen,” the tall man fumed. “Skates aren’t allowed in my kitchen and neither are random strangers.”

Sakura’s face flushed red and her cheeks puffed out. It wouldn’t do to get into a fight on her first day at work but he was pushing all the wrong buttons.

“Haruno!” Tsunade stormed into the kitchen. “About time you got here.”

“Hello Ms. Tsunade!” Sakura straightened up and gave Tsunade all of her attention. “Sorry I’m late, it won’t happen—”

“Enough rambling!” Tsunade barked. “Neji is in the wings waiting to give you further instructions. Don’t keep him waiting any longer. Uchiha, you need to be getting ready for service not bothering my wait staff.”

Tsunade turned to lead her down a hallway. Sakura skated backwards sticking her tongue out at the chef and only turning back around after seeing his jaw slightly drop at her immature behavior.

He waited for her to screw up.

Sasuke wasn’t expecting much out of the short girl with the rose gold hair.

He could admit that she cleaned up nicely after she changed out of her torn up jeans and raglan crop top into the white button down shirt, black dress pants, black vest and red tie uniform required of the wait staff. Her long hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail showing off a proud high forehead.

And she must have impressed Neji because she was put right to work. Neji only supervised her directly for the first table.

She was always the fastest to retrieve her orders. It was if she knew exactly how long something would take to prepare and timed the kitchen right after she dropped her tickets. Sasuke searched for a watch on one of her wrists but didn’t find one. Either it was coincidence or she was able to calculate the time in her head.

“Pretty!” He heard her squeal when Yamanaka placed a salad with julienned vegetables on the serving counter.

He rolled his eyes at how smug Yamanaka looked when she returned to making the various ribbons necessary for their ribbon salad. It wasn’t even the most complex dish he ever had her prepare.

But there was a sort of power that compliments gave. When he was younger and worked on desserts he hated, it always made his chest blossom with warmth when he saw his mother and brother’s faces full of joy when they took their first bites.

It was probably the same for Yamanaka, to hear from her friend how well of a job she did.

And Yamanaka typically excelled in everything she did in the kitchen. She was the only person he had ever accepted as his commis. As the swing cook he trusted her at whatever station he placed her in.

If she were quieter he would probably be on friendlier terms with her instead of being the coworker that was constantly snapping at her.

“Thank you,” the pink haired skater told him like she did every single time he handed her a plate. She had been quite amicable despite how they had met earlier.

He refused to admit that her shy smile when their eyes met, was charming. Refused to admit that by the end of service he was a little impressed with how well she handled herself.

“Haruno’s good with guests,” he heard Neji comment as he turned in his review to Tsunade. He added, “It also helps that she’s pretty.”

“That it does!” Tsunade barked out as she laughed. “Can you talk to Tenten and Lee? Her job is to debone fish, not to debone Lee. I can’t afford to find a new kitchen porter right now.”

Sasuke snorted. Not many people were able to deal with the hiring process and put up with both Tsunade and him. The kitchen porter was an odd one and took all criticism with the widest grin humanly possible. Sasuke was sure he was a masochist.

“Alright, I guess that’s all for tonight. Finish cleaning up and you’re good to go.” Tsunade stood and stretched. “Gonna see if Kakashi minds mixing me up a cocktail before heading out.”

It was time for Sasuke’s favorite time of the night. The staff would be wiping down their stations and then he would have the kitchen to himself. There was something therapeutic about taking nightly inventory in his quiet kitchen.

Sasuke sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. As much as he loved his job, he was ready to go home and take a hot shower for his sore muscles. Standing for hours every day was taking a toll on him.

Sighing again, he unbuttoned his smock as he shuffled his feet toward the locker room. He was always the last one to leave besides Kakashi and Tsunade who would toss back a couple of drinks before heading home.

So to say he was shocked to see the new waitress huddled in a corner would be an understatement. But nothing shocked him more than what he saw her doing.

What are you eating?”

“What?” She drew her can of sweet corn closer to her body, as if she were trying to shield it from him. “Not like I took this from your pantry.”

Sasuke scoffed, crossing his arms in front of his chest. Of course she hadn’t! Wisteria Place didn’t use any canned products. They even made their own mayonnaise.

“You’re not seriously eating corn straight out of a can?”

Sasuke had seen some disgusting eating habits. Inuzuka and Naruto were some of the worst offenders. And as much as he turned his nose up in disgust at instant ramen, at least Naruto has never stooped so low as to eat canned corn as though it were normal.

No. That wasn’t happening. Not at Wisteria Place. It was unacceptable.

“Hey!” The waitress whined when Sasuke snatched the can out of her hands. He threw the can into the trash can. “I was eating that!”

“Not anymore.”

“I paid for that! It was my last can you ass.” Her cheeks flushed a dark pink in anger. “What am I supposed to eat now?”

Sasuke rolled his eyes and shuffled back into the kitchen. He turned slightly and locked eyes with the pouting girl. He sighed and beckoned her to follow him with a nod of his head.

“Sit. And don’t talk.”

She hopped up onto one of the counters and he resisted the urge to snap at her for putting her bottom where they prepped food. He had already shouted his voice hoarse and no longer had the energy to talk.

He pulled out the cod he was saving for his lunch the next day and some mussels from the fridge. He brought them over to the stove top where he set a pan to bring some wine to a boil. He tossed in the mussels and shook the pan until the mussels opened up.

If it weren’t for the fact that he kept seeing her sitting there from the corner of his eye as he made his way around the kitchen to grab more ingredients he would have forgotten that she was there.

The only noise she made was one of distaste when he shook the cayenne pepper into the house-made mayonnaise. He stopped in his mixing and raised a brow at her. She clammed up, letting out one last giggle.

The waitress had leaned over to prop her elbows on her thighs, lips slightly parted as she watched him, her eyes sparkling with wonder.

He was sure the heat on his face was from the stove as he seared the cod not from feeling flustered from being watched so intensely.

He plated the cod and mussel aoli in the same manner he would beautifully plate a dish for dinner service. Just because she wasn’t a guest didn’t mean he would serve her anything less than perfect. He delicately garnished the cod with red bell pepper slices and handed it to her.

“Here. Real food.”

Sakura was entranced. She knew through Ino and her own mother how much work went into cooking but never had she seen the task look so beautiful.

Chef Uchiha was art in motion. When he was quiet and at work it was hard to relate him to the same man that had yelled at her after she ran into him by the backdoor or simply grunted when communicating with the wait staff.

Sakura swallowed hard watching his forearm muscles flex when he shook his pan or whisked the contents in his bowl.

Nothing sexier than a man cooking, huh?  A voice in the back of her mind whispered and her face warmed up.

Her eyes wandered from the way his snake tattoo coiled around his forearm to his broad shoulders and down to the way the seat of his pants fit on his rear.

Yeah…the cooking…

Sakura was so distracted by her thoughts that she was caught off guard when Chef Uchiha stood in front of her, a beautiful plate of seafood in his hands.

“Here. Real food.”

She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Technically, sweet corn was real food.

“Thanks,” she muttered when their fingers touched when he slid the plate into her hands.

Sakura dug in and couldn’t help the moan she let out from the first bite. Despite the spice sitting on her tongue, the fish and mayonnaise was delicious.

And to think she had been satisfied with her can of corn only twenty minutes ago.

The feeling of being watched wouldn’t go away so she looked up, still chewing, and narrowed her eyes at Chef Uchiha. He had a smug smirk on his face.

Stop with the arm crossing already, she groaned inwardly. How did being a cook cause guns like those?

“You may have a point,” she grumbled. He only laughed through his nose and then moved away from her to clean up his station.

“Clean up when you’re done. I gotta cut the lights soon.”

Sakura ate as quickly as she could while still savoring the food. It had been a while since she had freshly cooked food. If she was lucky Ino would make her something when she was home in their apartment but usually Sakura was on her own.

“Come on.” Chef Uchiha was waiting for her in the hall when she was done changing. “Tsunade already went home so I gotta lock up.”

Out in the alley, Chef Uchiha had a Kawasaki waiting for him. Sakura had to take the train so that was where they parted.

“A Ninja huh?” Sakura whistled at his bike.

He simply raised an eyebrow at her as if he didn’t expect her to know anything about motorcycles.

“Well, g’night Chef Uchiha!”

Chef Uchiha snorted and put his helmet on.

“It’s just chef in the kitchen.” He paused for a moment before finally saying, “Good night, Haruno.”

Sakura beamed at him. She was sure he hadn’t even bothered to learn her name at all.

“Good night Sasuke,” she altered her previous farewell and waved at him before heading home.

It was a good first day.