Hidden Talents part 2 by KT1972
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Thanks again to Chris White, and to k2p2 for all their assistance. :)
Hidden Talents - part 2

Ok, now she had had enough. It was funny at first, but now it was beyond a joke. She would show them once and for all. The thing was, if they weren’t prepared to give her a chance, how could she show them what she was capable of? Sure, she heated up TV dinners once in a while, but who wanted to slave over a hot stove after a long and arduous mission? Or when she didn’t have time to prepare anything, then manage the clean-up as well, then of course she would go for something quick and easy.

It had all started years ago, with a remark from Jinpei about how they would all starve if he left the team because none of them could cook, a comment that at the time she was sure he made in the heat of the moment, and would soon be forgotten, but for some reason it had stuck in their heads. Since then, they had all made every conceivable excuse to avoid her meals, choosing to accept the Swallow’s exaggerated tales of burnt offerings and nonsensical meal combinations as proof of her lack of expertise in the kitchen.

Slowly a plan began to form in her mind.

She called each one individually, suggesting they all met up at the J tonight. She’s say she was planning to get them all take out, and wanted to know what they wanted.

It was amazing the change in their attitude when they thought someone else was cooking. Nobody had made alternative plans for tonight. Their orders were certainly diverse, but she was confident she could manage, as she wrote everything down.

It was time to do some research. Then go shopping.

****

By seven o’clock, she was exhausted. All the preparation she could do in advance was complete, so she took some time out to relax and gather her thoughts.

Jinpei’s pizza just had to go into the oven, along with his garlic bread. Although she had made the dough herself, she’d drawn the line at Ryu’s burger buns and Ken’s naan bread. Even she had her limitations. Ken’s curry was already made, and the rice boiled and cooling, ready for stirfrying with the egg. It would be Joe’s Chicken Carbonara that would cause her the biggest headache. It was the only request that would have to be made from scratch just before he was ready to eat. In itself, not complicated, but with all the other last minute things she had to do...

Time for a quick shower, then she’d have less than an hour to get it all done. She could pull this off, she knew it.

Half an hour later, she was burning on all cylinders. The pizza and garlic bread was in the oven, and Ryu’s burgers were under the grill. Quickly she prepared Ryu’s buns, arranging them on a plate with the bits of salad and some proper sliced cheese, ready to be assembled when the meat had cooked through. None of that cheap and nasty processed stuff the burger joints used.

Next, the egg fried rice. Easy. It could be done now and simply reheated when they were all present. Smiling, she set to it, pausing only to flip the burgers. Once done, she set them to one side, ready for plating up. A quick glance at the clock showed she had less than twenty minutes to go. Checking on the pizza, she turned off the oven, letting the residual heat keep the food warm, then stirred the curry in the slow cooker. Now she turned to Joe’s meal.

This was the tricky one. She had never made the recipe before, but it was one Joe had cooked for them a few times so she knew how it was meant to turn out. First thing first, she needed to put a pan of water on to boil. Looking around the tiny kitchen, something suddenly struck her.

She had used all her pans. Damnit.

Ok, she could just run downstairs to get one from the J. She checked Ryu’s burgers one last time. Oh dear, they were starting to look overcooked already. Turning off the grill, she flipped them back over to prevent them burning, then headed for the stairs. She was barely half way down when the bell above the door jingled, and a couple of male voices called her name.

Oh hell, Jinpei and Ryu, they were early. Except as she glanced at the clock she realised they weren’t. She scooted back to the kitchen, checking the time again when she got there. Five minutes to eight. She’d told them all eight o’clock she reminded herself, and now they were beginning to show up, wanting to be fed.

She could still do this, she told herself, battling the panic beginning to rise inside her. Shifting some of the accumulated pots from the sink, she filled the kettle and put it on to boil as she hurriedly scrubbed out her largest pan. The second the kettle clicked off, she filled the pan with the boiling water and put it onto the only ring now available, then shifted Ken’s rice to the bottom of the oven to make room for the wok.

Now she could continue, as the voices from downstairs threatened to come looking for her, the smell of the food having drifted down to them. Now she had to hurry, as the bell from the diner door signalled the arrival of Joe and Ken.

She got started on the Carbonara, quickly tossing the pancetta into the wok and frying it off before adding the chicken strips to the pan. While that was cooking, she started to assemble the meals already done, getting them onto the table as she heard the others ascending the stairs. At least three of them would be satisfied. Well, two of them. In her haste she had forgotten that Ryu had wanted fries with his. She had par-fried some earlier, and they just needed browning off, but now the oil had gone cold. Turning the fryer back on, she covered the now assembled burgers with foil, put a couple of naan breads into the toaster, then went back to Joe’s meal.

“Need a hand in here?” Joe’s voice at the kitchen door startled her, and she almost tipped the pan she was focused on as she turned to see him in the doorway, a mixture of shock and disbelief on his face. Seeing the state she was in, he instantly assessed the situation but didn’t say another word. Instead, he dropped the fryer basket into the oil, then added the spaghetti to the boiling water, whisking a couple of eggs to coat the cooked spaghetti with, while they were cooking.

“Thanks, I appreciate it,” At that point Jun could have kissed him, but she smiled instead as she drained the cooked spaghetti.

Smiling, Joe tipped the browned chips onto the plate with the burgers, and took it, with the naan bread out to the table where Jinpei and Ken were already tucking into their food.

“So, what’s the verdict then?” he asked them as he took his seat.

“It’s good,” Jinpei enthused as he took another bite, “a bit cold, but still good.”

“Yeah,” Ken agreed, “I’d like to know which take-away this came from, I’ll go there again.”

“What about yours Ryu?” Joe asked the Owl, noticing a frown spreading across his face “something wrong?”

“Real meaty burgers, a bit too much salad for my liking though,” he told them, pulling some lettuce out from the bottom of his sandwich and dropping it onto his plate. “But these fries look fantastic, for a change.”

Jun could hardly keep from laughing as she came through with Joe’s meal. She put the plate before him, and he took a forkful without hesitating, tasting and swallowing, before nodding his approval. She sank onto a chair, relieved but happy.

“And to think, she did all this on her own too.” Joe told the group of them. “Can she cook, or what?”

“Well yeah, it doesn’t take much effort to pick up a phone though.” Jinpei mumbled, his mouth stuffed with garlic bread.

Ryu smirked, “Yeah, I thought for a minute you were going to tell us she cooked it all herself.” He bit into his burger again, pulling out a slice of tomato. After a cursory examination, he shrugged and popped it into his mouth too.

“Hang on a minute,” Ken put his fork down as he glanced between his second and third, “Are you seriously telling us that Jun prepared all this food?”

“I don’t have to tell you. Go see the kitchen for yourself.”

“I’ll go,” Jinpei popped the last of his food into his mouth and jumped up enthusiastically. “I’ll bet I can find a pile of takeaway cartons in there somewhere.”

“Fine.” Jun sat calmly in her seat, “And when you’ve finished searching you can make a start on the washing up...”

“Sure, Onechan, after all, it’s only a few.... WHAT THE H...!!” he stopped at the doorway, his mouth open in astonishment as he saw the mountain of dirty pots he’d just agreed to tackle. “Oh, you’re not seriously expecting me to do ALL that on my own are you?”

“Yes, I am, and you deserve it too, for all the rubbish you’ve been spouting about my food over the years.”

“But you DO cook TV dinners, and remember when you burnt that risotto?”

“Just once, Jinpei, and you haven’t let anyone forget it since.”

“Is that true?” Ken looked at Jinpei, a frown on his face.

“Well yeah, of course it’s true.” Jinpei replied huffily, totally misunderstanding Ken’s point.

“In that case, you deserve all you have coming, and I think we should all apologise to Jun for taking you at your word.”

“But... But...” the Swallow looked around the group, hoping for a potential ally, finding none.

“No buts Jinpei, it’s not just me you should be apologising to either,” Jun pointed out. “What about all the meals Joe bought Ken to avoid my cooking? It must have cost him a small fortune.”

“That’s a good point, Jun,” Joe commented dryly, “Thanks for the reminder.”

“But I didn’t tell them to do that!” Jinpei protested indignantly.

“Maybe not, but it was still a result of your actions.” Jun told him sternly.

“Yeah,” Ryu butted in, “all the times we went fishing when it was really too cold or wet, and we hardly ever caught enough to eat. We could have had a decent meal and stayed warm and dry.”

“See onechan, haven’t I suffered enough already?” Jinpei’s sudden hopefulness was quickly dashed.

“You haven’t even started... Pots now!”
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