Sea of Flavors
A/N: Standard boiler plate, I don't own anything…
Well, here we are at the start of a new story; this one is going to focus on KGV with The Commander. I'm going to try and better plan this one out, aiming for 4-5 chapters, unlike my Kaga one just kind of ran out of steam….
Part one – Easy over
I'm in the kitchen in the Royal Navy quarter, working away on a recipe for a banquet while Swiftsure is sitting on the counter, watching what I'm doing closely, and bandages on her fingers. Under my left hand, I have some scallions that I'm finely chopping keeping the blade of my chef's knife against my first two left knuckles, I hear her say to me, "I'm sorry Commander, it was my turn to prepare a meal for the Queen tonight, but with a special guest arriving for tonight I got so nervous… I didn't want to pester Belfast or Sheffield…"
I smile and toss the scallions into a bowl while I check on the meat in the marinade, giving it a roll to make sure everything is evenly coated as I ask, "I'm not sure the Queen is going to appreciate this dish, she might find it a bit spicy… Why did you ask me to go about making this?"
She blushes a little and looked down while she brushed some of her long brown hair behind an ear as she said, "It's more for the guest, she has traveled the world and I know that she likes dishes from around the world, rather than the more traditional fare from home…"
I take the meat out of the marinade and pat it dry with some paper towels and toss it in a large bowl with some corn starch, shake off the extra and start to place the meat into a large pan for just a couple of minutes aside, before I remove it and place in new stake and I ask, "Okay, so an important guest, but why me?"
I look over my shoulder to see her blush more and bite her lower lip as before she says, "I once heard you tell Lady Belfast that you once worked in a kitchen and that you like to cook…"
I nod, there was truth to that, before I joined the Navy I worked in my family's restaurant, mostly as a dishwasher while my dad did the cooking and my mom ran the front of the house. That's not to say that it was a little family dinner, no it had two Michelin stars…
I turn my attention to the pan and remove the last of the meat before tossing in the vegetables and other ingredients, the spices start to become very fragrant as I add in the other liquids and start to get the sauce to thicken. It's just about ready when I hear the kitchen door open, I'm expecting Belfast, but when I look over my shoulder I see a tall blond that reminds me greatly of Prince of Wales, I see her make her way over to the stove and she picks up a spoon just before she makes it all the way over and she asks, "What is that intoxicating smell?"
I look to Swiftsure and see her sitting bolt upright; I see that this woman is dressed similarly, I guess she must be a member of the royal knights, I see her push some of her long blond hair behind her ear as she bends over and takes a spoon full of the sauce, gives it a quick blow to cool it a little before she pops it in her mouth. I see her close her eyes and roll the sauce over on her tongue before a smile creeps across her face. She opens her red eyes and looks at me for a moment and says, "This is quite good, it will be adequate to serve…"
She pauses and looks around to spot the meat and the rice that I've got going, then she looks to Swiftsure and complements her with, "You did well to find a cook on short notice that knows how to make Szechuan Beef, I quite liked it while I was with the Eastern Radiance during my tour of their holdings."
I toss the meat in the pan and give it a quick stir to help get everything coated and harmonious as she looks at me and says, "Chef, I look forward to my meal, you have outdone yourself tonight."
When she leaves I turn to Swiftsure and ask, "Does she not know who I am?"
Swiftsure looks down and says, "No Commander, I do not think that the Knight Commander is aware she was speaking to the Commander of Azur Lane forces here…"
I bob my head up and down as I say, "Then she might be a bit surprised later then…"
Swiftsure nods and slips off the counter just as Belfast enters with the maid corps and starts to plate up the food, just how I had plated the example. Once he maids have left with the plated offerings I turn to Swiftsure as she's still in the kitchen with me and I ask, "So… why aren't you in there too?"
I see her look down and twist her left foot around on the tip as she says, "I wasn't invited… only members of the royal household were invited…"
I nod and look at the leftover ingredients and I look in the pantry before I ask her, "You hungry at least? I can whip us up some steak sandwiches."
I see her blush a little as she nods and says "I wouldn't refuse some of the Commander's cooking…"
I laugh and get started, slicing tomatoes and lettuce, setting them aside before I split a pair of buns and butter the insides and place them face down in a pan over low heat, while those are toasting I thinly slice some of the leftover steaks and give it a slight sear, just enough to get it to medium cook temp with some thyme, rosemary and freshly minced garlic in the pan. I grab some horseradish, eggs, and oil and start to make some fresh horseradish mayo. I watch as Swiftsure is watching every step I take, I can see her blushing a little as she watches and smiles shyly at me, as the smell of toasting bread hits my nose I take the buns off the heat, give the meat a flip and grab some Dijon mustard. I dress the buns, salt, and pepper on the tomato and place the meat on the buns before closing them up and handing her one.
The look of utter bliss on her face as she bites into it is priceless, it's moments like this that I really like. I like my job even if it gets a little complex dealing with nothing but women all day… but I know that when the war is finally over, I'm going to go home and take over the restaurant, I know that I'll impress my dad when he sees what I learned during my time away.
I keep looking at Swiftsure and maybe she's enjoying this a little too much, I see her rubbing her thighs together, a blush coming to her cheeks, I can't help but laugh on the inside for as much as these women are well women they are weapons of war at the same time… a lot of them are experiencing good food for the first time, so it's reactions like hers' that are really interesting to watch.
I just finish mine as the door to the dining area opens, just enough time should've passed for most of the guests to have eaten what I made, and I see Belfast standing just inside the doorway, as the door clicks closed she curtsies as she informs me, "The guest of honor tonight wishes to give her compliments to the chef in person, your presence is requested in the dining room…"
I give a shrug to Belfast and wipe my hands on the apron around my waist and follow her out into the dining area, around the table I see the usual suspects, The Queen, Warspite, Exeter, York, Prince of Wales, Duke of York, the one that came into the kitchen and tasted the sauce, and Hood. I watch as the one that came into the kitchen stands and looks me over as she states again, "This is the wonderful chef that made the last course; Swiftsure did well to find him on such short notice… Please tell us your name so that we may offer our gratitude."
I see most of the women at the table look at each, of course, they all knew who I am, but none seem to be speaking up, I shrug and fill in the blank to see how far this is going to go, "John Hawker."
The blond that was speaking nods before she raises a glass of port and states, "To Mr. Hawker…"
I didn't let her finish as I raised my hand and said, "Mister Hawker is my father… I tend to go by Commander Hawker."
I see Duke of York give a slightly toothy grin, her long canine teeth showing as she raises her glass and chimes in, "Aye to Commander Hawker, the base commander of the Azur Lane Pacific Fleet Installation…"
I see Duke of York's green eyes lock on to the blond whom is starting to more than a little red as she realizes the assumption and error she had made, I watch as her attention snaps to Duke of York and it seems to silence her almost immediately, it was Wales who cleared her throat and the tension at the table as she said, "I'm sure that the Commander does not take any insult by your statement sister, how would you have known whom you were addressing if none of us spoke up?"
Okay, that explains the family resemblance between this new blond and Wales for sure. I see the Queen dab her mouth with a cloth as she piles on with, "Really George, you cannot be expected to know everyone on sight, we do however find this error amusing…"
I see the new blond going bright red and I shake my head as I say, "I really don't take offense, if anything it was an honor to cook for the royal household…. But if you will all excuse me, I need to get back into the kitchen and tidy up."
As I walk back in I see the maid corps have all taken making their own sandwiches from leftovers, when they see me, they all put down what they were eating and Belfast speaks first, "Well? How did it go over, master?"
I shrug and say, "It seems they all left this 'George' hanging to be a little embarrassed…"
I see Swiftsure look down and rub her hands together before she says, "I'm sure they were all just having a go at King George the Fifth… she's been away so long touring the world and our holdings at the Queen's behest…"
I nod and start to clean and sharpen my knives before I put them back in their knife bag as I say, "From what little I saw, 'George' can sure light up a room when she speaks…"
Belfast comes over and helps me with cleaning the knives as she says to me, "Mistress George is most defiantly that…. I'm sure she will likely seek you out later to apologize for any unintended slight."
Once the kitchen has been squared away, I'm leaving the Royal Navy Quarter when I spot a woman with blond hair in a dark blue outfit that just oozes class and sophistication, she greets me with a soft and warm smile as she says, "Good evening
Commander, I hope you truly did not take offense to George tonight…"
I shake my head and tell her, "Not at all Hood, I'm just glad everything went over well, I was worried that the dish would be a bit much for 'Lizzy…"
I see Hood blink at me a couple of times as she laughs before saying to me, "Commander, I think you are the only person in the world that could get away with being so informal with Her Majesty…"
I shrug as I say, "I do it mostly just to irritate her, but if I didn't know better I'd think that she likes the audacity of this lower-class man talking to her like she's his equal."
Hood raises a hand to her chin and lower lip as she closes her eyes and gives off a very dignified sounding giggle before she speaks to me, "You should know Commander, George runs the risk of presenting as someone that might challenge Her Majesty for leadership as she tends to take command of our forces on the field and we all tend to fall in line right away…. But that is never her aim, she aims to serve and enhance our abilities as a fleet."
I nod and stretch before I yawn a little and she adds, "Forgive me, Commander, you've likely had a very long day, on top of your normal duties you prepared a course in our banquet to welcome George here…"
"It's alright Hood, one long day won't kill me..." I tell her as we continue to walk towards my quarters.
I see her smile softly and warmly at me as she continues, "Be that as it may, I am aware that you had made plans with Miss Dunkerque for tomorrow and I know that she likes to get started early with her baking…"
I give Hood a smile over my shoulder as I tell her, "I'd be lost without you Hood, you've been a fantastic secretary this last month, are you sure I can't convince you to stay on?"
She bows her head as she tells me, "And you have been a wonderful Commander, but I long to get back out to sea for a while, don't fret I'm sure my replacement will be just as capable."
As we reach my door she outstretches her arms and says, "This one time only Sir…"
I laugh but lean into the embrace as I say to her, "So you can be not so prim and proper form time to time…"
She laughs and gives me a tight friendly squeeze before telling me, "Good night Sir, sleep well."
"Good night Hood, sleep well." I say back as I open and close the door behind me, before heading up to my bed and set my alarm for bright and early so I can meet up with Dunkerque and get some help with improving my baking and pastry chef skills.
Morning came fast, faster than I would've liked but I made it just a little later than the silver-haired beauty, she was humming to herself, bent over at the hips checking something in the oven, she had forgone her usual uniform for a more relaxed looking white summer dress, as soon as she heard the kitchen door close behind me, she put a hand behind her to make sure I couldn't see up her skirt as she asked, "Bonjour Commandant Hawker, comment allez-vous?"
I sigh, my French is bad, I think I understood my name, good morning… and that was about it. But considering how polite Dunkerque is, I figure she asked me how I was, I place my knife case down and tie my apron as I respond, "I'm good, thanks for asking. How are you?"
She closes the oven and turns to face me, a smile on her lips, a twinkle in her rust-red eyes as she answers with a heavy French accent, "I'm well, what should we start with today?"
I sniff the air and pick up the scent of fresh bread being baked and I ask, "What are you working right now?"
She states in a matter of fact tone, "Croissants."
I nod and ask as I finish laying out my knives, "Have you had breakfast yet?"
"Non, not yet." She says to me, looking at the knives that I've laid out.
"That's good, fresh croissants could make for a good base for eggs and bacon, sound good?" I ask her as I go to the fridge and get out some eggs and bacon.
Time just vanishes as I get the eggs and bacon going, I hear a timer go off and Dunkerque moves to open the oven and I'm reminded that this kitchen is a lot smaller than the one I was in last night, this one is shared between her and three other Vinchya girls. I move out of the way, as much as I can, while keeping an eye on the pan so that things don't overcook, the close proximity makes it difficult at best.
Poor Dunkerque stumbles back a little as she takes out the sheet pan from the oven and bumps her stern into me, out of instinct I let go of my pan and place a hand on her hip to help steady her. She gives a little squeak of surprise as she straightens up, and looks over her shoulder to see us so close like this; I see a blush come to her cheeks, as her head tilts up slightly, our lips almost touching. If I'm honest, I've definitely thought about this with her, this looks like this might be my chance, I lean in a little when I hear the sound of someone clearing their throat, before I hear the voice of George say, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but your eggs are overcooking…"
I let go of Dunkerque, and check the eggs as I curse, "The eggs are all cocked-up… I'll start some new ones…"
For her part Dunkerque greets George with a smile and a hug as she converses with her in French while splitting three croissants across three plates, I take the hint and add more bacon to the pan and crack six eggs this time, I watch them much closer this time, getting them rolled over in time and taking them off the heat, letting them finish as the pan cools for a moment before I plate them on the croissants. As I pass a plate to each of them, I watch as George, who was in a white and blue summer skirt and top combination, waits for even me to have my plate as she splits the eggs and sees the still runny insides she nods and says to me, "Just like last night Commander, you've managed to impress with your cooking."
I see the look of bliss on Dunkerque as she slowly draws the fork out from between her lips, I'll admit I found it really sexy the way she did it, I couldn't help by imagine it was me in her mouth. After she swallowed that bite she looked at me with her rust-red eyes and smiled as she said to me, "That is high praise from George, Commander… I must conquer; you're very skilled with cooking…"
I laugh and rub the back of my head as I tell her, "We're not on duty today Dunkerque, John is fine… I might have a talent cooking but it's my baking that needs work."
Dunkerque leans over the table to pat me on the arm and smile warmly at me as she says, "Nonsense, I mean last week your doughnuts were…" she paused and flushed a little like she was embarrassed that she couldn't finish what she was going to say.
I laugh again and finish for her, "Almost inedible?"
She leans back and laughs almost musically while she says, "I was going to say better than the batch from two weeks ago…"
I see George dab the corners of her mouth before taking another croissant and slowly pealing the outside off of it and popping it into her mouth before anyone can say anything else we hear a phone alarm going off and Dunkerque sighs out "Putain de tout… I'm sorry John; I had promised Vauquelin that I would help her with something this morning…"
I note that Dukerque actually looks disappointed; maybe she had been hoping something would go somewhere? She looks to George and asks her, "Maybe you could her John with his baking and pastry skills? I know you're very accomplished in the kitchen George…"
I see the blond turn to me and look me up and down with her red eyes that spark a little as she nods and tells Dunkerque, "I'm sure I can, give my best to Vauquelin."
I watch as Dunkerque gets up, slowly I might add, almost like she doesn't want to go, she takes off her purple apron and as she walks past me, she lets her hand drag up my arm to my shoulder as she winks at me over her shoulder and says, "You're in good hands John, I'll see you next week… and I'll make sure I don't double book myself."
I watch her duck out the door and as I turn to George I see that she has her hair tied back and has put on an apron and gives me this smile that I swear is more radiant than the sunshine coming in the window, as she says to me in a way that seems like she is testing out my name fist, "John… What should we start with then?"
I give her a sideways glance for a moment, this is the first time I've seen a member of the Royal household actually look like she is going to get her hands dirty in the kitchen and I start to wonder if she is as accomplished as Dunkerque said… I inwardly sigh and think about my missed chance with Dunkerque, part me really ached to know how soft her lips were, I now know what her hip feels like under the thin summer dress she was in, I also had a good idea about the undergarment she had on based on how thin the string felt on her hip. I look back to George and see her bend at the knees, a very ladylike way of doing it to look for new mixing bowls, I adjust how I'm sitting and suggest, "Well since I'm slowly getting better with doughnuts, why not start there?"
"Cake or yeast?" she asks me back, not looking in my direction as she takes out some bowls, before going to the measuring cups.
"Cake might be easier to start with…" I say as I get off the stool I was on and put our dishes in the sink and get out cream and eggs from the fridge.
Again I curse the close quarters of this kitchen as I put the eggs down I bump into George with my elbow, it brushes against something soft, I look over and find myself locking eyes with George as she says to me, "Ohh? I wasn't aware that you possessed such audacity, Commander…."
I look down and see that my arm is against her bust; I slowly take my elbow out of her bust and offer a small blush as I say, "Sorry about that, it's a small kitchen…"
I watch as she runs a hand through her hair and gives me a smirk as she says, "So long as you don't have any of my sister's bad habits we should be fine working in close quarters."
I raise an eyebrow as I ask, "So Wales isn't the right prim and proper lady she presents then?"
I see her raise a hand to her chin, close her red eyes and giggle before she asks, "How did you know it was Wales?"
I laugh and shake my head as I say, "I know for a fact that, as Wales will call her when she's trying to irritate her, Yorkie is anything but ladylike…"
She laughs hard when I said Yorkie and smiled broadly at me as she informed me, "That's what I call her, it's meant to be an affectionate name…"
Maybe spending some time with George won't be so bad I start to wonder as we get started in earnest at making these doughnuts.
A/N: Chapter one done, I like that this one started with them first meeting, it'll be interesting to see where things develop over time.