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Gold

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"I. Am going to. Kill Massu!" 

Nakamaru huffed as he struggles to pedal up the long winding path. True, every annoyed word he forces out only hinders his uphill journey but the gratification of complaining, for the moment anyway, outweighs the negative consequences. So he continues to pedal along and decides to accompany it with some well deserved bitching. 

"Come to the interview Maru. Come on! Gold is ah-a great place to work! I know . . . I know it's pretty out there suuuuuure . . . but I'll-I'll give you. A Ride. Promise! Wh-what? You need a ride? Sorry, Maru. I can't. It's fucking NOODLE DAY!"

He finally reaches a plateau in what seems to be a never ending hill and despite the chilly seaside air his lungs feel like they’re breathing in molten lava, so against Nakamaru's better judgement he decides to stop for a few minutes to rest. Nakamaru perches himself in a grassy spot on the side of the road stretching out his legs which lost all sensation about a mile, mile and half ago. 

As he tries to coax the feeling back into his legs his gaze travels up and up and up the seemingly never ending road. On a better day where he wasn’t annoyed at roommate and in a general hurry he would appreciate the picturesque country around him. A few extravagant houses dotted the coastline but they all appeared vacant, they all branched from the main road that winded up and down the hills and everything else was just tall grass that swayed in the breeze brought by the sea which was just walking distance from where he sits, the road he has left to climb is all grassy hills with a few sandy beaches between them. Ogling at the landscape for a while longer Nakamaru realizes hadn’t been to a place like this since he was child probably with his family.

Very pretty, is what he would’ve thought on any other day, probably would’ve thrown in a sigh as well, but now all he could think was, Who in the hell puts a restaurant this far out in the middle of nowhere anyway? 

For the better part of his long bike ride his only companion has been the sea, there hadn't been even the hint of human life out here since he started down the road. Suddenly his phone starts to ring, it's his alarm telling him that he's got fifteen minutes till his interview which he desperately needs to get to. Spurring himself into action Nakamaru takes another peek up the road, the hills look a lot less like a vacation spot with sun kissed fields and beautiful coastlines and more like craggy mountains with stormy waves crashing down on them.

There's no way in Hell, he concludes.

There's no possible way he can make it the rest of the way to the Gold in fifteen minutes much less on his dinky little bike.  It will take a miracle to make the interview now. Sadly Nakamaru was short on miracles these days, even little ones. Maybe he should just call the place explain his situation and hope they'll be understanding enough to reschedule his interview. Massu said the owner was really, very nice so maybe that wouldn’t be an issue. Not a bad idea, so he’d just call the restaurant and ask Mr. . um…. Damn! Can’t remember his name. Well Nakamaru was pretty sure it started with uh . . . with. His brain is completely blank and that's when he realizes that he didn’t even have the restaurant’s number. There’s a great sign! Now he didn’t even know who to ask for or where to call to reschedule. Nakamaru mentally kicks himself, hard. He knew he should have written the number down in case things fell through but no, because “you don’t need it, I’m gonna give you a ride no matter what.” Massu’s voice still rings in his head. 

Fucking Massu.

In any case, Nakamaru had to face the it, there was no “missing” today’s interview. He needed this interview. There were very good reasons why he was willing to bike all the way out to the coast. Very sane ones. First was the fact that he was now an unemployed chef two years out of cooking school. Finding a job in the city had not worked out as well as he’d hoped and if he didn't get this job today . . . well, let's just say he wouldn’t have to worry about biking home because he wouldn’t have a home to go back to. Its was just good fortune that Massu, his roommate, really liked his cooking. And the other reason, well, is ever prevalent in Nakamaru’s head and a much longer story. 

"Hey!" A voice called out jolting Nakamaru out of his thoughts. "Hey you!"

"Huh?" Nakamaru responded eloquently as he turned to notice a van stopped next to him. From the window there was a guy waving his arm lazily trying to grab Nakama’s attention. The man tried speaking to him again. 

"You coming or going?" Nakamaru blinks a few times while he lets the question process in his head, in his defense it has been hours since he talked to or even seen another human.   

"Helloooooooooo, anyone hooooooooome?" The driver draws out before letting out a small sigh realizing he'd need to elaborate just a tad bit more. This one was obviously a bit slow. "You coming back from Gold or heading to it?"

"How did you know I was going to Gold?" Nakamaru finally manages to get out.

The corner of the driver’s lips quirk up in clear amusement at Nakamaru’s ignorance and he leans further out the window. "Well we're about a million miles from anything so you gotta be going either to Gold or coming back from there. Unless you're like royally lost or some kind of bicycling masochist or something. In which case I can just leave you to whatever-"

"No!" Nakamaru cries out scrambling to his feet. "Please don't go! Yes, I'm on my way to Gold. I have an interview there at a quarter till."

"Thought you might," The man says. Nakamaru having regained some of his faculties notices the man’s crooked smile quirk up even more but didn't have the focus to really dwell on it. "But it doesn't seem possible to make it on time by bike. I miss judged how big this hill was and how far the restaurant really was."

"So you wanna ride or what?"

Nakamaru perked up at the offer. On the one part he would be ignoring basic Stranger Danger teachings but on the other he really needed to make this interview. Also the guy didn't look dangerous. In fact he looked more like a member of a boy band than a serial killer. "A ride would be amazing. Thank you so much."

"No problem. Oh and you can stick your bike in the back but be careful with the stuff back there. If any of that gets smushed I'll get torn a new one."

Nakamaru does as he's told and places his bike in the back of the van trying his hardest to not bump the few large crates filled with vegetables and fruits. Other crates held brown paper wrapped packages, some with bread poking out others tightly wrapped. From what he could see every food item looked fresh and vibrant, was all this heading to the restaurant, he thought because the variety was quite impressive. Resisting the urge to grab a piece of the one of the golden baguettes poking out Nakamaru wondered what other delicious things were hidden in these crates.

“Did’ja get lost back there or what?” The driver calls out yanking Nakamaru once again from his thoughts, and he quickly heads to the front of the van. He plops down into the passenger's seat and just manages to shut the door when the van jerks forward to continue its trudge uphill. 

Now that Nakamaru is in a much closer space with the stranger he's starting to second guess his decision. He had gotten into an unmarked van with a stranger in the middle of nowhere, typical setup of a situation that ended in tears, but there were a couple reasons why this trip was even stranger than it seemed. First of all the mysterious van man is weirdly attractive, Maru has a hard time calling him a man cause he wasn’t just attractive he was pretty, like facially pretty. Everything else screamed man from the trucker hat he had on to the white t shirt with a v neck so low that he could definitely see a male chest to the absolute disarray of the front seat he was in.

 Empty plastic bottles, dirty loose change, and wrappers but no obvious blunt metal objects. Yet looking up at the trucker hat he could see that it was heavily bedazzled but that thought was quickly pushed away when Maru notice the pair of striking eyebrows peeking under the swooping bangs of this strange driver. The striking eyebrows matched sharp cheekbones and then Maru had to look away before he noticed the sharpest jawline he would have ever seen. Maru sneaks a glance at himself in the mirror and fidgets with his hair a little, totally not in jealousy, not at all. 

In order to try and soothe his nerves Nakamaru decides to get to know this kind person who stopped to help him. "So uh, thanks again for the ride. I'm Nakamaru by the way.”

"Jin. And like I said don't worry about it. I'm heading up there anyway, so it's not like it's out of my way or anything."

"So you make deliveries up to Gold, Jin-san?" Nakamaru tries feeling at least a little better now that he knew the guy's name.

"Just Jin,” The driver corrects. “And not really, I just happened to be going into town and was told to pick up a few things which usually turns into a lot of things,” Jin taps the back of his seat making the whole van rumble and gives Nakamaru a boyish smile, “We have our regular delivery guys for all the usual stuff the restaurant needs."

"Ah, so you work there?" Nakamaru’s breathing starts return to its normal pace. Deep down he knew that anyone with hair that fluffy couldn’t possibly be a murderer. 

"Yup," Jin answered cheerily. "Since the day Gold opened."

What a weird name for a restaurant. Nakamaru thinks to himself, noticing a warm glow in Jin’s eyes whenever the restaurant is mentioned. And because Nakamaru can’t control what he says when he’s nervous he has to say his opinion.

"Who thought that would be a good name in the first place? I mean it sounds kind of pretentious to me."

"Right!" Jin hurriedly agreed much to Nakamaru’s surprise. "That's exactly what I thought when they first pitched the name. Personally, I think we should have stuck with the original name."

"Original name? What was the original name for the place?"

“Oh it’s a brilliant name.” This seemed like just the question Jin was waiting for cause his excitement started bubbling up. "Okay, you ready?” his eyes getting wider and dangerously off the road, “The original name for the restaurant was" He paused for dramatic effect. “YellowGold."

Nakamaru blinked a few times times letting the name wash over him. "Wow, that's an even worse name than the other one." Okay I was definitely taught manner at some point in my life.

Jin bursts into a fit of laughter. "Yeah, that was what practically the entire staff thought too. So I got out voted and the name was almost thrown out but, because I’m awesome, after a lot of convincing and mostly arguing a compromise was made and Gold it was. Speaking of Gold there it is."

The van starts to slow and Nakamaru looks out seeing a hand full of concrete buildings sprinkled across the hillside They’re very modern and minimalistic very different from the lavish homes he had seen earlier, Nakamaru scrunches his nose, they were an eyesore on the landscape like odd rock formations  that sprouted out awkwardly in stark contrast to the manicured coastline and hills. He raked the view trying to identify the buildings and Gold, in the distance there was what looks like a high rise probably a resort, another couple of smaller building closer to them but higher on the hill they look like apartments, and then the last smallest building almost right up on the beach. 

Nakamaru glances at Jin and he is positively beaming and pointing at the smallest of the buildings. “That little one right there it looks kind of weird from the side but you just wait.” Nakamaru swears he hears Jin giggle but it was probably his imagination instead he stares at the what looked like a rectangular tower-like grey building. 

Jin was right, from this angle it did look more like a glorified shoe box dipped in cement, but that glorified shoe box is what holds Nakamaru’s possible future inside its walls and just like that Gold transforms from a tiny building into a towering monolith looking out into the ocean with intent to judge Nakamaru not only on his skills as a cook but his skills at being human. There it stands, Gold, the stormy tower at the edge of the Japanese coast waiting, watching, it senses weakness it senses Nakamaru he hears a crack and the building is turning. Wait, why is the building turning? He was nervous but not that nervous Nakamaru gives his head a good shake. Jin is taking a turn into the restaurant, oh we’re turning okay this is so much better than the alternative, he thinks to himself. 

“Here put these on,” Jin chucks him a pair of sunglasses and quickly puts his own on, “hurry you’re gonna miss the best part about driving up here!” 

A second before Maru can scramble his pair on his face the front seat of the van is filled with a bright yellow light and Maru is blinded as he shoves the shades on his face. He blinks through them and everything isn’t exactly shady but it is clearer, he could see the source of the glare and it was coming from Gold. 

“Pretty cool huh, they’re polarized,” Jin said tapping the side of his pair, “they’re made of the same material the front of Gold is made out of, polarized glass from ground to the second floor. Couldn’t really figure out how to fix the sun glare at this hour but it’s totally worth it because inside it looks like it's happy hour all day long.” Jin claps and swipes off his glasses looking like he himself had had a hand in the design of the place and specifically asked for that aspect. 

“You mean the golden hour?”, Nakamaru takes off his own when he’s sure he won’t go blind again as Jin claps him on the shoulder. 

“That too! I keep telling the delivery guys that it’s part of the experience of getting to the restaurant but all they care about is being able to see the road or whatever,” Jin keeps babbling but Nakamaru can’t quite hear because he can see Gold’s full facade. The front of the building was all glass just like Jin had said, two or three stories of dark glass with a exception to a section on the left which was concrete and grey. Nakamaru could just barely make out the interior of the upper floor through a slit window in the concrete. The rest of the three sides were grey concrete and framed by a wooden plank fence that almost reached the roof. Nakamaru can’t take his eyes off it, his stomach does a flip.

"Whelp, looks like you'll make that interview and with a few minutes to spare."  Jin says as he stops at the front of the restaurant. "I'll let you get off here and you can head right in. Entrance is right there can't miss it."

"Wha? You mean you're not coming in?" Nakamaru tries to hide the quiver in his voice.

"Deliveries in the back." Jin answered plainly with a small shrug of his shoulders.

"Right." Nakamaru agrees as he gathers his bag and slipped out of the van. "Well thanks for the ride. It really did save me." He says as he closes the door to the van.

"Good luck on your interview." Jin calls back as he drive off round the corner toward the back of the building.

Nakamaru enters the restaurant and finds that despite the door being open the restaurant looks like it should most definitely be closed. There are no linens on the tables, chairs are upturned and the house lights are turned up all the way. But the biggest give away had to be the group of five guys lazily sitting at one of the back tables. Nakamaru stands in the doorway but the group doesn’t seem to notice him at all but there's no one else in the room to ask so, despite his nerves, he heads over to the table.

"I don't see why we still have to show up for Noodle Day,” complained the one with thick eyebrows and a pout firmly set on his lips. "This is bullshit. Like I don't have better things to do on my day off."

"Well the newby is still messing up the noodles so we sort of have to be here." reasoned another sitting next to the pouting one, "We're supervising." He finished with an infectious smile.

"Then why isn't Yamashita here?" The first man complained bitterness seeping into his voice. "Our precious manager hasn't shown up to "supervise" a Noodle Day in almost three weeks."

"Pays to be the one making the schedule, I guess." A slight figured man weighed in from across the table not bothering to look up from his hand held game. "And as long as we get paid I don't see what the problem is."

"Do my hands still smell like egg to you?" The sleepy eyed one asked as he shuffled from what looked like bar to shove his hands underneath the nose of the man sitting next to the video game player. “I think they still smell like egg.”

"Ah Ohno! Get those out of my face." The man cried out as he flails his long legs that had been propped up on the table and almost losing his balance on his chair causing the other three to break into a fit of laughter.

"It's the egg right? They still smell like eggs." Ohno’s voice full of distress.

"No, it's that you can't just shove your fingers into someone's face,” Long Legs countered.

From the looks on their faces the situation would soon escalate so before all hell broke loose Nakamaru decided to step in otherwise he might never get any answers. "Um, excuse me." He started but his small words were lost, so he tried again putting some more force behind his words. "Excuse me." The five men stopped their playing around and turned to Nakamaru, all of them wearing a variation of the same blank stare.

"How did you get in here?" Thick Eyebrows demanded his tone holding a slightly sharp edge.

"Oh, um the door was unlocked and I was told to-"

"Oi, Aiba! You forgot to lock the door again didn't you?" Video Gamer reprimanded the one sitting next to Thick Eyebrows.

"How many times have we told you to always double check the door?" Long Legs continued but with less bite than the other two.

"Ah, sorry I could have sworn I locked it after the busboys got here." Aiba apologized though by the sound of his voice Nakamaru felt like this wasn't the first time he had to make this particular apology.

Nakamaru can sense that the focus of this conversation is just seconds away from breaking back into another random conversation like the one he had walked in on and so he decided to cut to the point. "I'm here for an interview-"

"Ah, you must be here for the opening in the kitchen." Long Legs states with a knowing smile. A smile that seems to spread among the men sitting around the table. “Sakurai Sho, welcome to Gold.” Sho stuck out a hand at Nakamaru, eyes twinkling.

He shook Sho’s hand, hoping that his palms weren’t sweating, suddenly all the disinterested eyes on Nakamaru sparked with curiosity and it's leaving him feeling rather cornered despite standing in an open room. "Yes, that's right." The five men start looking at Nakamaru with a more critical eye and begin to whisper amongst themselves, surely about their impression of him.

 At this point it's pretty clear to Nakamaru that these are probably the servers. If any of his experience working at other restaurants had taught him anything it was how to spot a grumpy, gossipping serving staff. Not to mention the fact that all five of the men in front of him were ridiculously attractive; a trait, Nakamaru found, most commonly in the face staff of a restaurant and Gold was no exception.

"So if you're here for the interview what are you doing down here with us?" Sho questioned bringing Nakamaru out of his thoughts.

"Oh...well-um," Nakamura hesitates. He really doesn't want to admit the fact that he's completely lost but there's really nothing else he can do at this point. It's not like lying would get him anywhere at this point, except possibly more lost. "I-I'm not exactly sure who I'm supposed to talk to or where I'm supposed to go.” Again five blank faces stare back at him. “Is there any way any of you might know who I should talk to?"

"Huh, looks like this one is even dimmer than the last one Bakanishi hired." Video Gamer snorts before turning his attention back to his game. "Another useless body taking up space in the kitchen, great just what we need."

"Nino, don't be mean." Aiba hushed and for a brief moment Nakamaru is amazed and almost humbled that someone, anyone would defend him. Sadly Aiba continued to speak, "At least wait until he actually starts working here to pick on him. For all we know he might not even get the job and here you are picking on him for no reason." Though there's no malice in his voice but Aiba's words threaten to tumble the house of cards Nakamaru calls his self-esteem. He tries not to deflate too obviously but it doesn't go unnoticed.

"You want Akanishi." Thick Eyebrows snapped and though his tone was still sharp there was a softness in his eyes. "He's the Head Chef and owner of this place. Kitchen's on the second floor, stairs are over there. You should probably hurry. You’ve already wasted enough time here with us."

Nakamaru blinked a few times not expecting such a straightforward answer after this maze of a conversation. "Uh, right. Th-thank you?" He gave a slight bow to the five men and briskly made his way toward the spiral staircase on the opposite end of the room. Five pairs of eyes silently watch Nakamaru make his way up the stairs to the second floor..

"You think we should have warned him about Kame?" Aiba ponders out loud.

The four other men consider this for a few moments since Aiba was technically right and giving a warning would be the right thing to do but the thought of having to climb back up the stairs prove too much for the lazy staff.

“Well, I mean he’s already past the point of no return.”

"And besides that's kitchen business."

"Yeah, he'll figure it out...eventually.."

"Anyway, that's not what they pay us for."

"We are terrible, lazy people." Aiba sighed knowing full well that he wasn’t about to get up either. A chorus of low, slightly guilty, ‘yeahs’ follow Aiba’s statement.

Then the five sit in silence for a few more moments wallowing in their own guilt before Nino breaks the quiet. “So lunch anyone? Come on, who’s buying?” A cheerful song emanates from the handheld gaming device.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

The upstairs is much like the downstairs filled with empty tables, upturned chairs and, of course, no one in sight. Because that would be too fucking convenient. Nakamaru scans the room until he finds the familiar two way doors that can only lead to the kitchen. 

So once again the young Chef squares his shoulders and heads toward the doors; keeping the name “Akanishi” at the forefront of his mind. He’s already embarrassed himself in front of the house staff and he doesn’t want to make the same mistake with the kitchen staff. Especially since those are the people he’ll be spending the majority of his time with.

Nakamaru peeks into the kitchen and finds that it's relatively empty, rather ordinary except for it being slightly more spacious than any other kitchen he’s worked in. Stainless steel appliances decking one side of the room with everything you might need in a gourmet kitchen, as expected. What he wasn’t expecting was to get a full view of the dining room he just passed. 

How did I miss that? Instead of more counter space there was a glass wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room giving the dining guests full view of the kitchen. That’s different. He takes a few more steps into the kitchen searching for any signs of life. Suddenly the door to the refrigerator lerches open nearly startling the life out of Nakamaru. That is until he saw the all too familiar fluffy hair stuffed under a bedazzled trucker hat.

"Jin," Nakamaru gasps his hand clutching at his shirt, right over his rapidly beating heart. "What are you. . .how did you?"

Jin runs over and quickly puts a finger to his lips and Nakamaru stops his babbling. The man gave a quick head nod further into the kitchen. and mouthed the words. "That way."  Then Jin proceeds to pick up another one of the boxes, that resemble the ones from the back of the truck, before disappearing with a cloud of frost back into what has to be the freezer.

Despite the scare Nakamaru does as he's told and sure enough finds a man crouched over the counter meticulously plating a dish. As Nakamaru inches closer he notices how the man’s hand drifts to a leather journal set on the counter in order to mark down a few notes all the while gently placing a little purple flower with a set of long silver tweezers. Plating tongs, I should really stop thinking of them as tweezers. Watching him move, Nakamaru finds himself mesmerized by the Chef working so diligently. There is a grace and ease to his  movements that is beautifully contrasted by the sharp unyielding focus in his eyes. His arms moving like water to gently grab ingredients set on little trays, or to jot down another note while his eyes stay planted on the plate which, now Nakamaru notices, holds a delicate sugar sculpture with flowers placed on top of almost all the places where the sugar loops up towards the focused Chef. His hair tied back to a small messy bun behind his head yet not one loose strand found on the Chef’s face.

Once Nakamaru realizes he's been staring for just a bit longer than socially acceptable; he decides it's now or never. So the young Chef clears his throat nervously before speaking. "Um, excuse me Akanishi-san?"

The man freezes instantly mid placing of another flower and those sharp focused eyes zero in on Nakamaru. The Chef says nothing, instead the man straightens removing his glasses in the process, setting the flower back in its tray, and sheathing his plating tongs between his buttoned up chef coat all in one fluid motion. Silence still hangs heavy in the air. Almost suffocatingly so. He looks Nakamaru up and down inspecting the young Chef, something that has been happening so much at this restaurant that Nakamaru swears he’s going to demand payment from the next person that does it. If he’s going to be treated like a sideshow freak he might as well charge a fee and make some money off of it.

Slowly it dawns on him the mistake he’s made and hurries to correct himself. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I mean Chef Akanishi?" He offers unsurely. 

“You think that’s funny?” The Chef snaps and Nakamaru has never felt smaller or more petrified in his life. His mind is abuzz with hundreds, if not millions, of variations of the question: what the hell just happened?

Just a Nakamaru is going to attempt to stutter out some form of an apology for he had absolutely no idea what. He heard the words, “I think it’s fucking hilarious” fill the tense silence.  And if Nakamaru thought he was terrified before, this moment made him realized he had never known true fear until now. 

Oh my god! Please someone tell me I didn’t just say that. I didn’t say that. I couldn’t have said that. Right? Oh god. I don’t even know why that would be funny. 

And with all the utter chaos going on in his head Nakamaru failed to notice that he hadn’t actually been the one to speak those words. That is until he felt a hand clasp onto his shoulder gently move him to the side. Nakamaru stares in awe as Jin, now dressed in a halfway buttoned Chef’s jacket and his trucker hat on backwards, strolls right up to the smaller and now annoyed Chef and proceeds to drape himself over the other’s back; causing the smaller man to bend under the weight slightly. “Why don’t you think it’s funny, Chef Akanishi?”

“Jin,” The man said in a tense and warning tone. While all of this was going on all Nakamaru could do was ping pong his stare between the two men having absolutely no idea what was going on. In fact, Nakamaru swore to himself that if things didn’t start making sense real soon he would just leave this place and accept his new life as a homeless person.

“What? I think it has a nice ring to it, don’t you? Chef Akanishi..” 

“Jin, so help me, if you say that one more time I swear I’ll--”

“You’ll what?” Jin teases letting even more of his weight push the smaller man down.

The sound of the bickering duo seems to fade into the background and the absurdity of Nakamaru’s situation slowly washes over him in waves.

He biked all the way out to the middle of nowhere, risked hitchhiking, embarrassed himself not once but twice but all of that he could endure because he thought there was a job at the end of this odyssey. But as Nakamaru stared at the intertwined bickering pair in front of him it became clear that this had to be some sort of cosmic joke. Some sort of punishment for defying his father.

With the mere thought of that Nakamaru’s world seems to slowly solidify again. No, he needed this job otherwise he’d have to move back with his family. Move back with his father. A tornado of emotions swirl around in Nakamaru’s chest as he fully comes back to himself. 

“And tell me Jin what exactly am I supposed to do with the lunch I prepared? God, you’re always so inconsiderate.”

“I told you this morning I was taking care of lunch. It’s not my fault you never listen to anyone but yourself.”

“You take that back.”

“Or what?”

“Or I’ll--”

“ENOUGH!” That solitary word cuts through the air effectively silencing both men. They stare at Nakamaru with muted but expectant stares. Jin’s gaze open and warm while the Chef’s still razor sharp but pink from having to hold Jin up. “Oh I-I’m sorry I didn’t mean to be rude but I just can’t take anymore of this! I just need someone to be straightforward with me and plainly tell me where I can find Chef Akanishi or Akanishi-san or whoever I’m supposed to be talking to. It’s been a very long day and I just want to get this interview over with!”

The pair straighten and Jin is the first to speak. “Sorry dude, sometimes I get a little carried away with this guy. My bad, Maru-chan.” He offers a few apologetic head bobs and what Nakamaru thinks is the most dazzling smile he’s ever seen, it calms him so much that he hardly registers the new nickname Jin has dubbed him with.

“I apologize for my behavior as well. It was incredibly . . . unprofessional.” The smaller man shoves Jin off of him and straightens up his jacket as he stops in front of Nakamaru. At full height he stand a couple of inches shorter than Nakamaru but his presence seems to tower over him. Intimidating even with the slightest falter in meeting Nakamaru’s gaze. Was he really embarrassed about his behaviour? I should be the one embarrassed I’m the one who yelled at him! 

The Chef locks eyes with him and there they are again, fierce pointing dark eyes yet everything about him was curve. He stood with his weight leaning to one side propping up his hip which turned his whole figure into a subtle S-shape that Nakamaru unconsciously followed all the way up to his sloped shoulders and perfect posture. The Chef runs his hands on the front of his perfectly fitted jacket in the same smooth motion as before to catch any last wrinkles and Nakamaru realizes that this is just how he moves all the time. Almost in slow motion and almost gentle, then why was Nakamaru so frightened of him? He could feel his shoulders start to travel upwards, it’s the eyebrows. The dark perfectly shaped eyebrows both angled steeply towards the center and knitted together but with no wrinkles in the middle. Yup, definitely the eyebrows, how does he even do that?

 “I’m Kamenashi Kazuya Sous Chef here at Gold.” He gives a slight bow before turning back to Jin with with an exasperated sigh. “And this is Akanishi Jin, Head Chef and owner here at Gold.”

Jin smiles and gives a slight wave, “Yo.”

It takes every fiber of Nakamaru's being to not completely snap in that moment, though he couldn’t really do anything about the way his right eye was twitching slightly. “Nakamaru Yuichi. Nice to meet you both.” His greeting and his voice as strained and rigid as his bow. As Nakamaru straightens he feels a strong arm clamp around his shoulders.

“Well I guess I’ll take Nakamaru here to the office to get through all that pesky paperwork.” Jin fires off as he steers a confused Nakamaru out of the room. “So we should be back in, what’d you think? Like ten?”

“Sure.” Kamenashi replied turning back to the food he was previously plating. “Guess I’ll just feed this to the bus boys . . . again.” He grumbled throughout the clattering of plates.

“You’re the best Kame-chan,” said Jin over his shoulder.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

The men enter the small office and Jin gestures for Nakamaru to have a seat and Jin takes his place slouching in the chair behind the desk. Jin removes his hat and tosses it down on the desk as if he were entering a living room rather than a Head Chef’s office. He then proceeds to ruffle his hair slightly and slightly again until he was satisfied with the amount of fluff only then did he finally acknowledge Nakamaru sitting on the other side of the desk.  “You probably have some things to say, questions to ask, shit to sort though so let’s start with that.”

Nakamaru nods slightly as he gathers his thoughts into something coherent. He really did have a lot of questions he just couldn’t seem to actually voice them. Ever since he stepped into Jin’s van he feels fuzzy around the edges almost dazed. There’s a glittering restaurant in the middle of nowhere full of chef’s and staff that obviously won the genetic lottery and Nakamaru is trying to get a job here. Maybe he’s gone into a strange version of chef heaven but then why would he be this nervous? Nakamaru’s eyes flick around as if his questions were written on the note filled walls of the tiny little office and he just had to read off of them until they land on Jin’s Chef jacket and he notices that under the elaborate embroidery that reads ”Gold” there’s more that says “Head Chef Akanishi” along with a small red turtle. For some strange reason. “So you really are the Head Chef?” Jin simply smiles and nods once. “And this is really your restaurant?” Again no words just a nod. “So then, why . . . when you picked me up why didn’t--”

“Why didn’t I just tell you everything on the ride over here?” Jin finishes clearly no stranger to this question. It’s Nakamaru’s turn to nod. Jin lets out a thoughtful sound and slouches further into the chair as if pondering some deep philosophical question. “Well people are more honest with you when they think you’re a nobody that can’t affect them. So I always like to “bump” into our interviewees to get a good look at them before they put on their interview face. Also the reactions are pretty hilarious and, no lie, I kinda like making an entrance.”

Nakamaru is silent as he processes Jin’s words and finds that he’s rather torn on this idea. Since on the one hand it sounds like an absolutely brilliant plan. Working in a kitchen can be pretty cramped quarters so it would be a great Idea to really look over and evaluate a person’s natural behavior and personality before hiring them and introducing them into that small world that was the kitchen. But then on the other hand as Nakamaru goes over the short but varied events he’s gone through since he arrived he can’t help but feel slightly manipulated and he finds that the whole thing might, somehow, seems a bit . . . incredibly sadistic. Before Nakamaru can even think about expressing his feelings Jin is already proceeding with the interview.

“So let’s talk about you now Maru-chan,” Jin segue as he flips through a few papers. “I printed out your resume and it raises a few questions of my own.” Nakamaru sits alert, eyes slightly widened at the thought of his resume. He knew very well what was on it and hoped beyond all hoped he could conjure up the words to justify its contents. Also he doesn't like the way that Jin seemed to shift into a more professional tone. He even seemed to straighten up in his seat. “So it shows on here that you've been employed at quite a few restaurants already but never for very long. Why is that exactly?”

“Oh, um well about those,” Nakamaru trailed off suddenly not sure how to go about this question. It wasn't exactly like he could tell the truth. “I guess, you could say the other places weren't a very good fit.” Jin says nothing. “I um, I know my school isn't that impressive but I'm very easy to get along with and I’m a hard worker and I--”

“Can you cook?” Jin interrupts.

Nakamaru is stunned by the question. Blink blink. Blink blink. “Eh-excuse me?”

“Can you cook?” The Head Chef asks again his eyes seemed to sparkle with what Nakamaru swore was mischief.

“Yes?” The young Chef answers wishing his tone sounded more sure. “I mean of-of course . . . I can cook.”

“Great,” Jin exclaims as he shoots up from his chair. “Let's find out how well.” And with that Jin heads out the door.

“Wait, you mean right now?!” Nakamaru squawks bolting out of his chair after Jin.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

The two end up back in the same part of the kitchen as before where the Sous Chef was wiping down the already spotless counter in the now immaculately clean kitchen. Whatever the he had been plating earlier it was gone without a trace and all that was left was a perfectly pristine kitchen. Kamenashi’s eyes shoot up to Nakamaru with a hawk-like glare, “You’ll probably need an apron, right? I doubt you brought your own or were told to bring one for that matter.” Jin fidgets nervously through a bashful smile as he moves over to stand next to Kamenashi. Before Nakamaru can speak the Sous Chef points at the counter next to Nakamaru where a neatly folded white apron is waiting for him. “Has Jin explained this part of the interview to you yet?”

“Oh um, I-I’ll . . . be cooking?” Nakamaru offers wondering if this a trick question of some sort or if everyone in this building has just secretly agreed it’s “Pick on Nakamaru Day”.

Kamanashi shoots Jin a look to which Jin just shrugs and playfully offers. “I like it better when you tell it. You really light a fire under their asses.”

The smaller man tries to look annoyed but Nakamaru notices the way Kamenashi wants to smile but quickly forces it down and slips back into his professional demeanor. Then with the air of an announcer from one of those American cooking competitions he explains Nakamaru’s second task. “The second part of the interview is very simple. We’ll give you half an hour to cook something, anything that can be finished and plated within the time limit. There are no rules as to what to cook. Simply pick whatever dish you believe best showcases you and your skills as a Chef but be mindful of the time you have left,” Kamenashi then takes on a softer tone. “This is your chance to let your food do the talking. So don’t worry about anything else and just focus on the food. You’re time will begin as soon as Jin and I leave. Any questions?” 

Nakamaru knew he should take this opportunity and ask all the questions he could while he was able. But at the moment his mind was busy cycling through every recipe he could possibly prepare and plate in the time limit. That would actually be even remotely impressive enough to possibly get hired here.

Kamenashi takes the silence as a “no” and turns his attention over to Jin. “You got anything to add?” 

Jin purses his lips together in thought for a moment before speaking. “Walk-in’s over there and pantry’s over there.” Jin gives Nakamaru a friendly pat on the shoulder as he and Kamenashi leave. “Good luck Maru-chan.”