Ryan was tired and, most importantly, hungry. Trudging around a confusing school for six hours will do that to a guy. The Atlas Academy of Arts was an expansive and perpetually crowded campus with about 20 different departments– all filled to the brim with students eager to master their craft. While Ryan couldn’t stand the daily hassles of weaving in and out of crowds and obligatory small talk with his peers, he couldn’t help but be filled with a sense of excitement whenever he walked through the halls.
But today, Ryan was tired– exhausted, even. He couldn’t quite work out which element to his day was more draining: the countless interviews with teachers and students alike which demanded carefully thought-out questions and charm he didn’t seem to possess or the demanding and slightly obnoxious (yet begrudgingly loveable) director he was working alongside.
‘Alright, we only have the food wing left. I want some action, some pizazz! And I want you to film all that with a smile on your face, got it?’
Rizavi was definitely causing him more grief, Ryan decided. A long-suffering grunt was his only response to the demands. One hour until freedom, he wearily reminded himself.
The Department of the Culinary Arts was a fairly new building– as new as buildings could be in the historic academy. It was fitted with state-of-the-art kitchens on the ground floor and recipe-development and research labs upstairs. Students would often find themselves salivating as they walked past the blocks during lesson periods. That or the freshmen classes were in session. No one walked past then, if they could avoid it.
The freshmen were, mercifully, not using the kitchens when Ryan and Nadia rocked up. There were a few stragglers hanging out by a group of lockers, but most students had gone home by now. Ryan reminisced a time when he could leave at 3 in the afternoon.
‘We’ll do a full exploration of the kitchens. The best one is room 135B, that’s where the juniors and seniors are. The classrooms upstairs are all the same so we only need to go into one of them.’
Rizavi raised her eyebrows at the cameraman.
‘And you would know all that… how exactly?’
A huff was let out as Ryan cast his gaze to the pathway. While he did his research on the layouts of the various creative divisions before he set out to film, he would not be so ready to admit the fact that such research wasn’t required for the culinary wing. In Ryan’s defence, it was incredibly close to the biology labs and smelt a lot better, too. His real reasoning had nothing to do with the fact that a certain budding chef with a knack for the science behind recipes also happened to frequent the kitchens.
Ryan noticed a lot of people. He was good at observing, at taking quiet notes on his surroundings. He figured out the basics of his peers– their courses, passions, and friend groups. He, however, took a particular liking to Hunk Garret. He had all but memorised the way his hair almost fell to his shoulders while staring at the back of his head during biology lectures. He soaked up how Hunk’s laugh sounded when cracking jokes with Shay and Lance. He craved to capture his soft smiles and blinding grins.
But for now, Ryan had to focus on the task at hand. There was no room for distraction.
If Rizavi wanted a response to her teasing, she didn’t receive one. Ryan made steps towards the building and Nadia followed closely behind.
It was nice to be in a block with air conditioning, Ryan thought. The pair approached room 135B; Rizavi knocked on the door.
A wave of heat contrasted the pleasantly cool air on the way in. Ryan checked his monitor, fearing his lens may have fogged up. Once he was sure the footage wouldn’t be blurry, he hit record and lifted his head to greet his peers before freezing.
Hunk and Shay were working: surrounded by bowls, utensils, jugs of foaming liquid, and an electric mixer whirring softly.
‘Hey guys!’ Shay greeted as Hunk exclaimed, ‘Ryan! And Nadia! Hey there!’
‘Are you guys making a movie? Can I be in it?’ Hunk’s excited voice made Ryan’s stomach flutter.
Rizavi returned Hunk’s enthusiasm. ‘You absolutely can! Would you do an interview for us? Tell us all the exciting things you’ve been cooking up in this here lab?’
‘Oh man,’ Hunk replied, ‘that’s a lot of pressure. I’ll do my best to make it sound interesting.’
‘I’d love to help out two of the most talented film-makers on campus, but I have to rush off. Hunk, hold down the fort for me?’
Hunk’s eyes widened, but he readily agreed. Shay packed a few loose leaves of paper and some pens into her bag and rushed out the door. Ryan tracked her movements.
‘That was Shay Moreau, and expert in the kitchen. Nicknamed ‘The Goddess of Flavour’, she is the soul of our culinary department, the one to look out for, the crème de la crème–’
‘Rizavi.’ Ryan hissed. Nadia was about as subtle as a flying brick when it came to her admiration for Shay. One day, (he hoped it would come soon) Shay would finally notice that the eccentric girl had a raging crush on her. Ryan wasn’t sure how much longer he could take this.
‘Ahem. Sorry about that. Hunk? Why don’t you tell us about what you’ve been cooking today?’
‘I’m so glad you asked! Today I’ve been working on a few bread recipes. We’ve got bagels kneading in the mixer, some finished sourdough, and some standard iced buns. Nothing too fancy, but all delicious!’
‘Oh. I was kinda expecting-‘
‘Sourdough? I love sourdough! Where’s your starter from? And what kind of yeast are you using for your bagels? Can we see?’
Ryan was exhilarated by few things: masterful camera shots, 4K resolution, pretty boys, and the process of fermentation. His brain couldn’t handle having two of those things so readily available to him. Words poured out faster than he could process.
Rizavi rolled her eyes and groaned. ‘Not the yeast again, Ryan! Besides, we’re here for the cool kitchen tech and the exciting recipes, not bread! Bread is boring!’
‘I like bread.’ Ryan protested quietly.
An insistent beeping cuts off all arguments. Ryan reluctantly looks down at his monitor, already knowing the dreadful icon he would see flashing red.
As he suspected, the camera’s battery was dead. To its credit, they had been filming virtually non-stop for hours on end. Rizavi cast him a dirty look.
‘I swear, Ryan. Charge your camera! What are we gonna do now?’
‘It was full this morning!’
Resigned, Nadia sighs.
‘Well, I guess we’re done here for today. Sorry for wasting your time, Hunk. We’re gonna get going now.’
Hunk frowned, stirring a jug of bloomed yeasts.
‘You guys don’t have to go! These iced buns are almost done and I always make extras, after all.’
Ryan perked up at the sound of food. His stomach had been switching between growling and doing summersaults for the last 5 minutes. Iced buns from Hunk sounded great.
Rizavi shook her head. ’Thanks, but I’m gonna go home. There’s a couch with my name on it and I don’t wanna keep it waiting!’
‘That’s too bad,’ Hunk said. He turned towards the other film student. ‘Ryan? You wanna stay and eat?’
Ryan nodded enthusiastically and Rizavi winked at him on her way out the door.
Kinkade had failed to consider the problem with his current situation: he was completely alone with Hunk. This was entirely new. This had potential to go horribly wrong.
A moment of silence lapsed between the two before Hunk spoke up.
‘So… You said you wanted to hear about some yeast?’
Hunk and Ryan spent an hour in the kitchen talking about the food and how it coincided with their biology classes. Ryan’s stomach did not stop flipping, but his hunger was satiated by a deliciously warm and sweet iced bun. Or three.
They walked outside the building and onto the pathway together. Ryan knew Hunk’s routine enough to know they would part ways here.
‘I had a great time today! You should come by more often, instead of standing outside like you do. You’re always welcome here.’
Ryan let out a chuckle. He was too filled with affection to be horribly mortified.
‘I had a nice time, too.’
They stood there, completely focused on each other. An air of apprehension surrounded them both as Ryan hovered in Hunk’s bubble, internally debating.
‘Well. Goodnight.’ Hunk murmured, smiling softly in a way that made Ryan’s fingers twitch.
He grabbed the chef’s face with his free hand and softly kiss him on the cheek. He could hear Hunk’s relieved exhale and he couldn’t help but share the feeling.
‘Goodnight.’ Ryan smiled and left Hunk’s space entirely.
And for the first time that day, Ryan didn’t feel so tired anymore.