There was something different in the air that day. It was a kitchen, there had better be. Otherwise, it wouldnt be the kind of place you wanted to eat food from. Each day there were the usual smells Fry had come to love. The pots of stock and sauces prepping. The bones and vegetables roasting. The fresh ingredients being prepared. Parboiling, baking, mixing, chopping, pounding... she loved that place.
She entered the breakroom and suited up.
French stood before the stove gazing at the pot. There was nothing remarkable about it. Thats if you worked with twenty-five gallon stainless steel stock pots on a regular basis. What had happened inside it was another matter. Could have been the lamb bones... but she didnt think so. The vegetables were a possibility. Most likely, it was everything, conspiring together. It wasnt a conspiracy she minded, it just would have been nice to know what made it happen. Thats how you repeat something to get the same effect a second and third time, and have a menu and a restaurant as a result.
Shed intended to make a stock. Nothing fancy, nothing she hadnt done once or twice and couldnt do in her sleep. But here was something subtly different. Stock may have been a magical ingredient to many dishes and sauces, but it was also a fundamental thing in a kitchen. A backbone kind of thing, a foundation. Consistency was a good idea in a stock and this stock wasnt doing what it ought, which was curious considering she hadnt done anything out of the ordinary to it.
Nevertheless, it was extraordinary. Something that was supposed to be simple, had become something more. The more she thought about it, the more it reminded her of someone in particular.
Fry walked through the kitchen and French motioned her over. She dipped a spoon in the pot and held it out for her to taste. Fry had become accustomed to Frenchs abbreviated manners at work. She was pleased that the chef seemed back to her usual self.
Fry blew on the liquid in the spoon. This tasting procedure was one of the reasons Fry wasnt surprised at Frenchs grab for the remote the night before. Shed given up trying to take the spoon from French the first couple of times theyd done it and French had slapped her hands away. Fry gave a nod and sipped the stock from the spoon.
Her mouth filled with a deliriously velvety tone. Shed never tasted something that had such a richly vibrant quality to it. Her eyes closed involuntarily and had she been paying attention to irrelevant details, she would have heard herself moan.
Fry popped her eyes open. More.
French would have laughed at Frys enthusiasm had it not been for a nagging feeling shed developed about the spoon. It was odd to suddenly have a feeling about a spoon. She put it down and selected another. They tried it again.
This time Fry took the whole spoon into her mouth. She wasnt going to miss a drop. Her eyes closed for a second time.
French was riveted. Her whole focus was on that spoon and she knew damned well what that feeling was. She was jealous.
Fry was lost in a haze of sensation. That stock had overrun her palate and trampled her senses, in the most delightful way. It had depth, that liquid did. It was beautiful, it was bold. It was French. No, it was an extension of French, distilled and prepared for her. She needed more, but knew instinctively she wouldnt ever be satisfied until shed tasted the source. Without it, she might starve. She opened her eyes.
French stood before her. Not looking at her, so much as at her mouth, or was it the spoon? She realized shed not let it go. She let French take it out. There was a quiet pop as it came free of her lips. Fry wasnt completely out of the haze that had gripped her and a mantra of More had picked up of its own accord in her head. As if in a trance she reached up and grasped French behind the neck and pulled her down to her mouth for another taste. She wasnt disappointed.
If the broth was in any way a distillation of French in liquid form, shed added a lot of water. What hit her when she moved her greedy tongue into Frenchs mouth without so much as a Howdie do, may I come in? was a full bodied, no holds barred, knee melting flavor experience.
Good thing Frenchs reflexes were on auto pilot. Because her manual drive was offline. Shed caught Fry as shed begun to drop and held her fast by the waist, giving her free reign in the kissing department. French appreciated a skilled employee, and she knew when to help and when to stay out of the way.
As Fry kissed her deeply, Frenchs dormant impulses began to stir. They stretched after their long hibernation. Sure, shed felt something when shed kissed Fry in the alley last week, but that had been more of an unconscious reflex, the rest of her body hadnt been awake for the experience. It was waking up now.
She felt a warmth spreading through her body. It was intensifying exponentially with each stroke of Frys tongue into her mouth. It was making her own knees go less than solid. Without letting Fry slip, she leaned back onto the counter to support them both. No sense letting anything so meddlesome as physics get in the way of a good kiss.
French recognized the feeling building up in her long unaroused body. It was an urge alright.
The rest of the staff worked on as if nothing was happening. Or so it would have looked to the unseasoned eye. Andre had almost dropped the piece of the grille hed removed to clean. As it was, hed applied more of the cleaner to his jacket than the scouring pad. Sonny and the others werent faring much better. No one knew what to make of the sudden display of affection in their midst. It was kind of distracting.
Barbra walked into the kitchen. Shed wondered why there was a group gathered at the door and no one had come in or out. She wasnt sure she was glad of the answer.
Well, I thought I might find you in here. I just didnt expect youd be in there. She said to no one in particular, because Fry sure as hell wasnt hearing her.
She shrugged and left. There was only so much of that kind of thing she could look at and last an entire shift before getting home to Michael. There better not be a damned fire in this town tonight, she muttered. My fireman will be otherwise detained.
It wasnt that Fry hadnt heard Barbra, its that her words took a real long time to line up in her mind in any way that approximated sense. With a start, she dislocated her lips from Frenchs. Were at work! she squeaked.
French gave her a look. And?
Fry looked around at the staff, half trying, half failing to look preoccupied. Then she saw her coworkers in the doorway. Eddy gave her a thumbs up. Ohhh... She groaned and let her forehead fall onto Frenchs chest. The chef had let her down so that she was standing on her own feet again.
Well, I guess youre all fired up to get out there and get to it then. French was amused that Fry was trying to hide in her cleavage. She wasnt that well endowed. Everyone could see the lovely shade of red that had overtaken Frys features. French looked up and directed a heated stare around the room and over her shoulder. It cleared the air and the doorway and made the atmosphere a little more normal, for Bachanal anyway.
Fry peeked around again and felt less crowded. She looked up at French to gauge a reaction. French smiled and leaned forward again, perfectly happy to pick up where theyd left off.
Fry put out a halting hand. Im going to run along now. Maybe we should talk later? Okay?
Frenchs nose twitched. Tease.
Fry slipped out of Frenchs grasp and beat it for the door. Before she was out entirely she looked back and said, Great stock.
It was a long morning. Fry wanted to hide half the time and revisit French and her lips the other half. It made for an interesting mind state. Barbra kept an eye on her and Miguel tried to distract her by picking on her relentlessly. Shed come to recognize this as one of his many nervous ticks. It wasnt helping.
Every time she had to go in the kitchen she tried not to look at French, but that was useless. French smiled that predatory smile that as much said, Tease me will you? as it screamed it. She should have known French would take it personally.
Fry was getting a lot of challenging tables. This was Barbras strategy to keep her preoccupied. At the height of the lunch rush she had a table of six that she couldnt believe. It was as if the cast of 90210 decided to make her life hell. What had she ever done to them?
There were six young men and women. Kit, Brent, Chip, Bunny, Winnie and Muffin. Winnie wanted to know if any of the beef that was used in the restaurant might have Mad Cows disease. Chip couldnt abide anything on the menu, mainly because he was having trouble pronouncing any of it. Brent looked like a nice guy until he opened his mouth and told Winnie to shut up and stop being such an environmentalist. Bunny whined that he was always picking on Winnie and if they liked each other that much they should get a room. Fry was sure that Kit had his hand somewhere inappropriate. And either Muffin had a pronounced tick in her eye, or she wasnt the kind of girlfriend Brent thought she was.
Fry rested her head back on her locker. She had calmed down some and gotten a better handle on her senses. She couldnt believe what shed done with French earlier. Its not like she wasnt passionate by nature and didnt enjoy getting sweaty. Its that the idea of doing it for a crowd wasnt her thing. Work had brought her back to earth. Her tables had thinned out. She was taking a breather.
She needed one after the entitled gang of six had finally moved on to terrorize someone else. Their tip had stunk, until shed found a $50.00 bill and a note tucked under Muffins plate. Luckily, shed seen it before the table had been bussed. She couldnt imagine the kind of thing shed have had to put up with if someone else had seen that note. She wondered if French would be jealous.
Why wonder, when the object of her mental wondering was bearing down on her that very moment.
Gotcha. French said as she leaned down and kissed her. Fry was easy to sneak up on, her head was in the clouds half the time.
Fry let herself be kissed and then some. Shed asked for it, apparently. No one kissed French and walked away without repercussions. She would gladly suffer them at any time. French had the most wonderful way of touching her hair as she kissed her, it added to the whole mind blowing experience. But this time, Fry knew for sure they were at work.
Well, she knew it after she returned from the mini mental holiday shed been on. In that time French had her tie undone and was working on the buttons of her shirt. You might think that this was a long way to get before Fry had been able to pull the busy fingers from her shirt front, but French wasnt playing fair. Shed ducked her head and kissed the soft sensitive skin of Frys earlobe. Fry gave a shove and was able to move French off of her an inch.
Im not sure we should be doing this. My boss is pretty strict.
Not to worry. Shes a pushover. Everyone says so. French couldnt figure out why Fry was squirming around so much.
Shes also going through a lot right now, and Im not sure that this is the kind of thing she needs to help her mood. Fry caught one of Frenchs hands as it was tugging at her apron strings.
I disagree. This is very life affirming. Shes all for it.
What happened to you being confused?
Im not confused.
Remember, a couple of days ago you said, I dont know what I want anymore. Sounds like confusion to me.
I didnt then, I do now. Crisis over, problem solved. Come here. French pulled Fry to her, using her undone tie as a grip. She should have guessed nothing would be simple with Fry. Not even this.
Fry put her hands out to arrest Frenchs progress. I want to take it a little slower.
Fine. Ill let Brian take over and we can take a long lunch break.
I meant like maybe talk a bit, go on a date or something. Slower, like that. Fry was getting flustered.
French looked at her dumbfounded. The woman couldnt be serious.
I know its a new concept for you. Fry pressed on. But I think it might be fun. Please? We could go out to Gillman Rock and take a picnic. Maybe pick some strawberries while were there.
It wasnt the worst euphemism French had ever heard. But if Fry thought she was waiting for a date to pick her strawberries she was out of her mind. Then something Barbra said came back to haunt her aroused and insistent thoughts. Something to the effect that not everything revolved around her own needs. But for cryin out loud, did that have to apply to sex too?
Maybe being a half decent person would be easier without a sex drive. If she pushed Fry and she wasnt ready shed have to see that embarrassed, uncomfortable look on her face afterward. She hated that face. Nothing made her move on faster than that face. Things had been so much simpler before, she hadnt given a damn about peoples facial expressions then.
I suppose I could try it. French conceded.
You wont regret it. Not by a long shot.
Before Fry knew it French was up close, looking her right in the eye. I better not. As long as were getting to know each other, you should probably know Im not the kind that likes to be teased.
Lucky me. Now could you let go of my tie? Its getting hard to breath.
Oh, sorry. French released it and buttoned up the few buttons shed managed to undo before Frys family values attack. She carefully took the tie up and began to tie that as well.
What are you doing?
Fixing your tie, what does it look like? French asked.
I cant go out there with your knot in my tie!
Why not? Itll be neat for once. You really know how to murder a Windsor knot, know that?
Exactly. I go out there with a neat knot and everyone will think weve been... well, you know.
Newsflash. They already assume we are. So let me tie it for you. French said.
Fry groaned again and gave up. Great. I cant wait for Miguel to notice it. Its like youve marked me or something.
French gave her a slow smile and reeled her in again. Fry, when I mark you, youll know it. Trust me. Now quit squirming and let me finish or Ill truss you up like a game hen. Then youll keep still.
Oooh goody, culinary bondage.
French finished the knot and poked Fry in the side for good measure. She enjoyed the resulting squeal so much, she did it again. It was even more fun when Fry doubled up on herself, she really did look like a hedgehog then.
A knocking sound brought them back from the brink of Frys wetting the carpet.
It was Barbra, discreetly standing off to the side of the open door. I dont know what youre doing to my waitress in there, but it had better not be permanent. Weve got two parties of ten. Do you want me to send them away, or are you going to give Miguel a break? His age is showing.
Her waitress!? French started for the door to correct Barbra in person, but Fry had grabbed her and pulled her back.
Ill be right there. She called over Frenchs shoulder.
Says who? French wanted to know.
Says me. I may be the chefs new plaything, but Ill be damned if Im a docile one. Miguel is going to die when he sees my shirt.
You always look a bit rumpled. No one will notice. French smiled.
Continued in Chapter 36.