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Mise en Place

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It was too fucking early. Ben squinted and scowled as he stomped into the staff entrance and signed in. Last night’s event was a mess and the desserts they had on hand actually ran out when a large group came in without a reservation to the buffet.

He’d had to improvise.

He never wants to see a speck of matcha again for the rest of the year. 

He buttoned up his chef’s jacket and his scowl grew darker when an intern slammed against him. The boy looked up and yelped, jumping back and slamming into another chef.

“I-I’m sorry!” He said loudly.

“Damn, Solo, lighten up a little,” Vicrul, the executive chef, was one of only people he could honestly say was bigger than him both in terms of height and width, “It’s too early for you to be looking like death warmed over,”

“Fuck you,” Ben grumbled and rubbed his face, “You’re not the one who spent almost thirteen hours elbows deep in matcha cream and it wasn’t even fucking enough,” 

Vicrul laughed and slapped Ben’s shoulder, “What can we do, you’re a celebrity chef,” 

Ben didn’t actually aspire to be a local celebrity. He just liked to bake and in their little town of Chandrila somewhere NorCal, men do not bake. Of course, his grandmother didn’t care for that and brought him along to the bakery. 

“Hey, I heard a little rumour,” Vicrul shoved a mug into Ben’s hands when they reached their shared office. He poured him some coffee. He could already see how dark and thick it was; probably enough to give him a heart attack if he wasn’t careful. Still, what can he do? Working in a large casino hotel like Canto Bight meant long hours in the kitchen and in the office, planning menus and experimenting on jello ratios so they get an ideal balance between cost-effectiveness and quality of the end product. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded and he did a lot more math than he thought while he was still studying. 

“And what rumour is that?” Ben cringed when he took a sip of his coffee. He moved to dump sugar in it in hopes that it stops tasting like motor oil.

“Heard you tendered your resignation,” Vicrul didn’t even flinch when he drank his coffee black. Ben grimaced, “So it’s true?” Ben nodded and Vicrul sighed, “You been here five years, you’re pretty much the face of our desserts, why now?” 

“Well, what can I say? I can’t keep living life like this,” He lied and Vicrul snorted, “What? I work eighteen hours a day, thirteen of which is spent running around making thousands of desserts,” He actually, honestly, loved that part of his work. 

“Don’t lie to me, boy.” Vicrul sighed, “I know that’s not why. Is it family?”

Ben grimaced again, “Yes.” He finally said with a sigh, “My grandma passed and left me her house and business,” He rubbed his face again, “Fuck, I thought I wouldn’t have to go back to that fucking place again.” 

“Well, can’t you just sell them?”

He’d love to if he wasn’t so damn attached to the house and bakery. Then there was that clause, “I can’t for another five years. I have to run it and renovate the house before I could.” 

“Family’s hard, huh?” Vicrul smiled wistfully, “Well, I guess we’re going to have to find a replacement good enough, huh? When’s your last day?”

“In fifteen days.” He stared into the dark brew and sighed, “I have to cancel my lease,” 

“You’ll keep in touch, right? Maybe I’d come visit you,” 

Ben scowled, “Please, don’t,” 

Vicrul laughed loudly, “Come on, what’s there to be scared of? It’ll be fine, now finish your coffee. We got work to do,” 

Ben grimaced again and chugged down the rest of his coffee.

 

 

He’d announced his resignation to the team and started turning over to Bazine Netal, one of his two assistant pastry chefs. 

“I won’t accept this,” She said sharply, “Ben, how can you just quit like this?” 

“Ms. Netal,” He said just as sharply. Everything about Bazine was sharp and hard, from her heavily lined eyes to her thin lips and even her tone, “I don’t believe it’s your business nor do you have a right to stop me. If you don’t want to accept my turnover then I’ll give it to Jess instead.” 

She crossed her arms and scowled, “Ben—,” He narrowed his eyes at her, “Chef,” She sighed, “Won’t you reconsider?”

“No.” He grunted and counted out the folders of recipes he had, “And you should know better than to cross the line.” It was his mistake for dating her briefly while in university. Who the fuck would’ve thought they’d end up working in the same kitchen?

“You didn’t even want to talk about that Podunk town, why are you going back now when you’re at the height of your career?” He scowled and slammed a hand on the folders. She flinched.

“Stop asking and sign the damn turnover papers.” He snarled, “And stop meddling in my business like you have a right to when you were the one who fucking cheated on me.” She looked stunned at his outburst, “The only reason I’m turning these over to you is because your skills are better than Jess’ but if you’re not going to be a goddamn professional then this kitchen doesn’t need you.” 

“Okay.” She finally said and looked away. She signed the papers quietly and he showed her which was what and where everything else was. When that was done he moved to leave the office to return his work phone and laptop. She grabbed his sleeve and he scowled before turning back, “For what its worth,” She said softly, “I’m sorry.”

He sighed heavily, “Look, it’s fine. It’s been almost ten years so I’m over it but stop acting like you have a right to barge into my personal life just because we dated for a while. We’re nothing more than coworkers now.” She nodded and let go of his sleeve.

He made his way to the IT office and sighed, running his fingers through his too-long hair. He wasn’t lying when he said it was fine. He didn’t have feelings for her anymore, nor did he think he actually did in the first place. She’d been nice and cheerful and funny back then, pretty much the complete opposite of him, so it was only natural he’d be attracted to her. Still, it came as a shock to catch her making out with someone else in one of the pastry rooms in school. That was what he couldn’t get over with. Was he really that bad of a boyfriend that she’d had to go and find someone else like that? 

In any case, he probably wouldn’t see her again. It wasn’t like he’d be coming around Vegas again anytime soon once he was back in Chandrila. He’d have way too much on his plate to even think about anything else.