A/N: This is the first chapter of an older story of mine that I wrote as a fill for a prompt on ME kink meme. The prompt was:
"I was just replaying ME2, and I rediscovered that Turian selling ingredients on the Citadel. Anybody else remember him?
Well, I just fell in love with him, so...
I want to see a fic where the Turian Chef makes a wonderful dinner for his girlfriend (preferably human, but I'm not picky)."
Thank you to The Red Celt for beta reading.
Disclaimer: Mass Effect belongs to BioWare. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.
The first time he saw her he didn't think much of her, just like he didn't think much of humans in general. They were a relatively new race on the Citadel and some tensions still remained from the war.
He couldn't say if she was pretty by human standards; all he saw was a female with red colored strings called "hair" going from her head down to her shoulders, green eyes and a pale face. She was just another customer for him—no doubt visiting his café to enjoy his world class cuisine. He was proud to provide dishes from all over the galaxy, catering to every race the Citadel accommodated. Well, almost every race: he refused to prepare krogan food, calling those too primitive and simple for his skills.
So when she came in with her friend and asked for an Earth food called "chicken paprikash" he didn't bat an eye.
"Coming right up," he said and got to work behind the counter.
"See, I told you! This is the best place in Zakera Ward!" the other female exclaimed.
"You told her wrong. This is the best place on the whole Citadel," he remarked sharply.
The two women smiled at him politely then started to chat while they waited for the meal.
"So, any news from your family?"
"No, I haven't heard from them in a long time," sighed the red headed one. "I hope they're okay. I miss them a lot."
"I'm sure everything is all right. This meal will make you feel better, you'll see. It'll be like a little taste of home."
"I hope you're right."
When the food was ready he proudly placed the plates on the counter and waited for them to have a taste. He expected praise, but instead disappointment seemed to shadow the red haired woman's face.
"Well?" he asked impatiently.
"Just okay?" He gaped at her, certain that he must have heard wrong. "This is one of my most popular dishes! Everybody loves it!"
"Well, it's all right, it's just that... it's not the real thing."
"What do you mean 'it's not the real thing'?!" He raised his eyebrow plates and flared his mandibles in indignation. Nobody had ever complained about any of his dishes before.
"Something is not right about it," she said with a shrug. She knitted her eyebrows as she leveled a questioning gaze at him. "Did you put sour cream in the sauce?"
"Of course not!" he replied haughtily with a dismissive wave. "That's an unsophisticated way of preparing it."
"But that's how it's done! How can you leave it out?!"
"Excuse me, but which cooking school did you go to? I learnt this recipe from a famous chef at the National Culinary Institute on Palaven."
"Well I learnt this recipe from my grandmother, who came from the country on Earth that this dish originates from!" she retorted, raising her voice and putting her hands on her hips.
"Well then she didn't learn it right."
"What? Are you serious? What makes you think that some turian cook on Palaven knows better how to make this meal than my grandmother?"
"First of all, he was a chef. Not a cook—a CHEF," he scowled. "And second, he came from Earth, too. From a very famous French culinary school."
"But this dish isn't French!"
"Aaaahhh!" She seemed ready to strangle him, but her friend held her back.
"It's okay, Claire. Take it easy."
"Fine," she said, taking a deep breath. "Thank you for the meal." She glared at the chef, gritting her teeth, then they paid and left the café, taking the food with them.
Much to his surprise, they were back the next day.
"Human," he said coldly, glowering at the pesky customer from the day before.
"Claire. Name's CLAIRE—not human," she retorted.
"Back for more?" he smirked. "Couldn't find a better restaurant, could you?"
"Don't get cocky. My friend insisted that we come. For some reason, she likes your cooking." She rolled her eyes at that, which infuriated the chef even more.
"You can always go to the krogan place and get some simple fried fish if you prefer," he said coldly.
"Maybe I will. I bet they follow the real recipe and it tastes like it should."
"Not much recipe to follow for fried fish."
"Enough!" The other woman held up her hand with an exasperated sigh. "Let's just order and take our lunch outside."
"Fine," Claire pouted.
"Fine," the chef said at the same time, shrugging his shoulders. The two of them glared at each other, then the women ordered some Earth dish and once it was done, they paid and left.
After that the pair came to his café regularly; they worked nearby and developed the routine of getting their lunch from him then taking it out to eat it somewhere else. He couldn't help but listen to their conversations as he prepared their meals and he learnt that the other woman's name was Anna, Claire was born on some human colony on a distant planet, came to work on the Citadel a few weeks prior, and was homesick like crazy.
One day Anna came without Claire. She ordered two meals, paid and left. The next day the same thing happened. The third day she came alone again. She placed two orders then stood by the counter, waiting for the meals with a faraway look in her eyes.
The chef watched her while he cooked, pondering a question that had been gnawing at him the last couple of days and wondering if he should say something.
"Is your friend too afraid to come here anymore?" he finally asked, trying to sound as casual as he could.
"Hmm? Oh, no. She's sick. I'm taking some lunch for her in my break."
"Nothing serious, I hope?"
"No, it's just some cold. She should be all right in a few days. I can tell her that you miss her," she smirked at him.
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm glad she's not pestering me for a change," he grumbled.
When the food was done Anna paid and was about to leave when he stopped her.
"Wait a minute. I'll be right back."
He disappeared in the back of the café for a few moments and when he returned he was holding the most perfect orange she had ever seen in his hand.
"Here. Give this to her. I've just received a shipment of Earth fruit and, uh, I got too much. Yeah. So I might as well give some away."
"Aww, I'm sure she'll be touched," Anna smiled.
"I just don't want her to come back here sick and spread germs all over my place, you hear? So she'd better get well! I mean, she'd better get well before she comes back!"
"All right, I'll tell her you can't wait to see her again!" she laughed and left.
"No, that's not what I said!" he yelled after her, but she was already gone.
Neither Anna nor Claire came the next day. He tried to tell himself that he didn't care, but he kept looking at the clock and the door and his temper was even shorter than usual. He even made a mistake with one of the dishes and added turian hot sauce instead of asari honey, which the customer did not appreciate at all.
"What's going on, Silus?" his friend finally asked. He was having his lunch at the café when the incident happened and watched with bewilderment as Silus stomped around in the kitchen, slamming things down and chopping vegetables like he was ready to kill someone.
"Nothing," came the gruff answer.
"Ah, I get it. That little redhead didn't come in today, did she?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Come on, Silus, I've seen how you look at her."
"How exactly do I look at her?" He stopped chopping, his hand with the knife frozen in the air as he glared at him.
"Like a varren ready to pounce."
"Sure, because she annoys me so much." He shrugged and continued massacring the hapless vegetables.
"That's not the kind of pouncing I was talking about," Etarn chuckled.
"You're crazy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have customers to serve."
"All right, but I hope you won't end up in jail after you've poisoned one of them because you can't pay attention to what you put in their food. I won't bail you out—just so you know." Etarn grinned as he pushed away from the counter.
"Noted. Now please get out before you scare my customers away with your wild accusations."
He didn't sleep well that night. He had a dream that he saw her face and tried to reach out and touch her but she pulled away in pain then vanished into thin air. He woke up in a cold sweat, panting and clutching the sheets.
'What the hell is wrong with me? She's just a customer, and a human on top of that. I've never been attracted to one of them before.' He groaned and sat up in his bed, the implications of that thought and what it entailed chilling him to the bone. 'Wait a minute. Am I really attracted to a human? Spirits, I must have gone crazy.'
He got up, went to the bathroom and splashed some cold water on his face. He stood there, holding on to the sink for a moment, trying to convince himself that it was all Etarn's fault for putting stupid thoughts in his head, then went back to bed.
Despite his resolution to get to sleep as quickly as possible and not think about her anymore he kept tossing and turning, barely getting any sleep at all, and every time he woke up she was on his mind.
In the morning he got up feeling like he'd been in a wrestling match the entire night and didn't have much enthusiasm for going to work. But he dragged himself there and tried to occupy his hands and mind without thinking about anything in particular. Especially her.
But when lunch time came he found himself checking the door every five minutes again. His heart jumped into his throat when he saw her come in with her friend.
"Hi," he said, glad that he managed to squeeze that simple word out without any hint of a tremble in his voice. "Feeling better?"
"Yes." She smiled with a warmth that could have melted a raging krogan's heart.
"That's good," he said, swallowing hard. 'Spirits, she has the most beautiful green eyes I've ever seen,' he thought, trying not to stare at her but failing miserably.
"Thank you for the orange," she continued. "It was really thoughtful of you."
"You're welcome." He wanted to come up with something witty about not wanting it to go to waste— anything to show that he did not care about her at all— but his brain just froze and he stood there looking at her eyes, unable to say or do anything.
"Umm... We'll have the usual, please," she finally said with a blush then turned to her friend.
"So, Anna, you're coming to the Dark Star with me tonight, right?"
She seemed to put special stress on "Dark Star" and "tonight".
"Yes, we'll go there at nine, correct?"
"Uh huh." Claire glanced at him as if waiting for him to say something, and when he didn't, she let out a disappointed sigh. "I hope we'll have fun."
After the two women had left Silus stood there, staring after them, trying to make sense of what just happened, then went back to work.