Rating: T for mild adult themes
Summary: Spaceport AU. Kavanagh has an issue with a certain member of Atlantis staff and is determined to prove his worth. Written as part of Kavtolanon Secret Santa 2008.
A/N: Okay so I was attempting crazy AU as I know my recipient planetkiller likes, and got sort of half way. But I did indeed manage to include my three prompts “Chuck, cookies and French”. Hopefully the attempt managed to amuse. Thanks to fififolle for betareading.
“Can you make ginger cookies?”
The short immaculately turned-out red-head stared at him, a desperate expression on her face that was out of place with her well-groomed persona. She reminded him of a 50's housewife, or Stepford wife more like, except she obviously couldn't cook otherwise the request would have been unnecessary.
“You're asking me, Will Kavanagh, head chef of Solaris, the best restaurant on Atlantis, if I can make cookies?”
“Yes, ginger ones,” she nodded earnestly, completely not getting his point, “for our girls night, it's a charity fund raiser for orphaned natives.”
“I know it's short notice...” she continued, but the rest of her drone was ignored as he spotted the familiar face of Chuck, the tour guide, leading a group into the entrance, doing his usual spiel in French. Kavanagh wasn't great at French, a bit rusty on what he did know, but Chuck only ever said a few sentences in his presence – easy to memorize sentences, one of which he'd looked up on the translation utility just the other day.
“Just give the Maître de the details,” he said, fobbing the woman off. Cookies weren't hard to organize, after all, and truly he just wanted her to go away, let him sort out an issue that he hoped would be solved shortly. It simply remained to be seen, if only she'd leave him in peace. Thankfully she didn't take long gushing her thanks before she scurried off and became someone else's problem.
He watched as Chuck did a double take and the gaggle of giddy French speakers moved in on the lavishly laid out table he'd ordered placed within range of the entrance. No doubt they'd spotted the neat little sign saying “Free for tour members, compliments of the Head Chef”. He'd been worried it wouldn't work but badly translated seemed good enough to convey the message. The miniature raspberry cheesecake seemed the particular favorite – he noted Chuck scoffed down at least two.
Finally the group had had their fill of the canapés and Will smiled, satisfied he'd rectified the situation. Then came the dreaded words as Chuck shepherded them out.
“Ce restaurant, c'est le meilleur sur Atlantis pour déguster la cuisine Terrienne, mais je ne le recommanderais pas...”
Wouldn't recommend it?! Just why not? He felt like screaming in outrage. Everyone has enjoyed the freebies, in fact a couple of ladies had been near orgasmic at the selection of desserts judging by their almost indecent moans of pleasure and nobody had seemed disappointed at the selection. Yet still the blasted tour guide didn't think this was the best place to eat on Atlantis. The mystery remained and it bugged the heck out of him. He had half a mind to run after the guy and bluntly ask him just what was wrong with his menu, or the atmosphere, or whatever it was. He prided himself on a no nonsense restaurant that simply served the finest food you could get out here, with a wide range of dishes so as to suit everyone's budget. Fine food without too much fuss. But did they think it a place of snobs?
Whatever it was, and the idea really did niggle at his mind, he got on with business.
“Evan,” he barked, now in an irritated mood, snapping his fingers as he approached, “I need the order details for the annoying woman I sent across to you.”
“The annoying woman..?” he replied, eyebrow subtly raised at the remark.
Will couldn't tell if he was being facetious or if he'd somehow been charmed by the pretty young, if untalented, thing and hadn't quite the same impression of her. It was always so hard to tell with the guy whether he was being serious, probably his best trait for dealing with customers, he made everything sound good because he charmed them with his calm manner and good looks – nobody liked to second guess him, they never thought him sarcastic if only out of politeness.
“Short. Wanted cookies.”
“Ah yes, she was rather particular on which recipe she wanted,” Evan said, as he quickly copied down the order on a scrap of notepaper, then handing it to his boss.
Will glanced down at the order. Four dozen, with lemon icing. “Just like the Pegasus Junction used to make.”
The Pegasus Junction is five floors down, only a single elevator ride away. The sign above the door is a hastily hung scrap probably cannibalized after the storm damage – the letters burnt out of the metal, making it look sort of comic style.
He walks up to the door expecting the usual automatic opening the upper level shops have configured, though nothing happened until another customer presses the button on their side, giving him a sideways look that suggests he's either dumb or spoilt. The door slid open a foot before sticking. The other customer banged on the door, with a louder bang in answer that seemed to get the door going again.
Will stepped inside cautiously, and glancing to the side he was caught off guard by the tall, muscular, and inappropriately leathered up, man standing by the door panel and what must've been a cash register.
The man squinted at him, like he was sizing him up but merely said in a gruff voice, “Pay by the bowl, all you can eat. Desserts' extra.”
A moment later, after a quick exchange of his card, he found himself with a brazen misshapen pottery bowl. Most of the other bowls in the stack he could see by the doorman looked fine examples of quaint local craftsmanship, colorful and decorated. It was probably no mistake he'd ended up with the worst of the bunch, judging by the intimidating stare he was getting. Maybe they knew he was the competition...but he'd paid for the bowl and they could hardly throw him out now, not in theory anyway. They'd had their chance.
He walked around trying to figure out the appeal of the slop shop he was seeing. They seemed to specialize in soups and stews, invariably of dull unappetizing colors. There was something to be said for the aromas that wafted about the room but otherwise it was unremarkable, and definitely not a place he'd have recommended himself no matter how good the food might taste.
In the center was a dessert section, obviously the highlight and cash cow of the operation. It consisted of a conveyor belt that looked like it was an attempt to replicate an Earth convenience sushi bar, with a small mousy man in the middle hurriedly preparing dishes with precision. As he walked towards it he could see that some of them were vaguely similar to what he knew, a bright and ornately prepared fruit salad for example, but there were just as many that he had simply no idea about which more than piqued his curiosity. However, he was here for one thing in particular and it was best to sort that out before they cottoned on to his objective.
“Do you have any ginger cookies?”
The answer came fast and short, without so much as a recognition of his presence other than the few words.
“Cookies, no. Not any more.”
“What happened to them? I was recommended them by a friend, she said I really had to try them.”
The chef looked up briefly, regarding him with annoyance.
“I'm sorry sir, we don't do them.”
“Not even for special order?”
“No,” the man said, adamant.
“What about the recipe?”
“Boy, aren't we a fussy one,” came unexpectedly from behind Will. He swiveled round on the stool and found himself face to face with a grimacing yet smug man who had an air of authority about him.
“You're the manager aren't you? Care to answer my questions instead?”
“Not really, but if it'll make you go away sooner then I suppose I must.”
“So...? The cookies.”
“Ah yes, one of the first things I sold here. Quite popular if I do say so myself but we had a revamp.”
Will raised an eyebrow, skeptical of what exactly it was they'd redesigned the place into supposedly.
“The menu was completely changed and, ah, the cookies didn't fit with the new theme. Besides which doing the icing always made my hands break out in hives.”
“And the recipe?”
“What do you want it for? It's not like they were a family tradition, you could find the recipe in any Earth cookbook. It's not exactly hard.”
“Well, thank you for your time Mr...?”
“McKay. Now, please, do me the pleasure of leaving me and my staff alone.”
“Of course,” he said with a satisfied smile and headed off back to the buffet area.
Hesitantly he poured one ladle of what was hopefully edible casserole into his container and then looked around for a spot to sit. The seating might have been an assortment of mismatched tables and booths but it was packed to the brim – there were only a few spare spaces left in the whole of the joint. However, it was an easy choice for Will, who sauntered off to the booth in the farthest corner and planted himself down opposite the very same guide who loved this place enough to endorse it on every tour.
“Chuck, is it?” he said with false cheer.
“Mr. Kavanagh,” Chuck said with a nod to him.
To be honest he was surprised the guy knew who he was, but given how polite he acted maybe it was simple courtesy on his part to know the name of the man whom he'd done a disservice. Still there was no sense dispensing formalities, it was best to get down to business.
“Can you tell my why, Chuck, you recommend this place over mine?”
Chuck looked genuinely surprised at the question, though it didn't seem to phase him much after the initial shock.
“It's what they're looking for,” the man replied, pointing with his fork to the people all around the diner.”
“Right,” he said with disbelief, “and what would that be?”
“A once in a lifetime experience.”
Will had to laugh at that, “You mean a chance to get food poisoning in another galaxy.”
“No, sir. In all seriousness, your restaurant is plenty fine – I had my induction meal there and it was really nice - but do you have anything people couldn't get back home on Earth?”
He didn't know what to say to that, though he was certain the answer would be no he didn't want to admit it; he was starting to see where this slightly philosophical point was going.
“For most people the trip here won't happen again, they can only just afford it as it is, and what they want is authentic Pegasus food, the taste of another galaxy.”
Will simply sat and stared down at his casserole, silent. Taste of another galaxy or not it didn't appeal much to him. Of course with an all you could eat deal he could see why it was so popular, you could come in and have a portion of over thirty dishes, not including desserts. If what Chuck was saying was true then he couldn't compete with any selection of the finest foods in his restaurant.
Chuck didn't take the silence as awkward, continuing on as if he'd been expecting this conversation to come up sometime.
“McKay isn't the most friendliest of guys, as you saw earlier. Do you know where he gets his recipes?”
Will glanced up, shaking his head, suddenly curious again. Chuck took his time, having another spoonful of the bright purple soup, before enlightening him.
“He holds competitions every now and then, for Pegasus dishes. Usually picks three or four winners. They get prize money or free lunch and he gets new menu items. Though he's not the most discerning judge.”
“What are you saying?”
“He gets extra dishes with the contests, no mistake, but if there happened to be a person more particular in their tastes someone else could end up with tastes of this galaxy that could be tastier. If you catch my drift.”
After few seconds of consideration it finally dawned on Will what Chuck was saying. It'd taken him a little while to realize since the guy was being incredibly subtle about it all, what with them being in McKay's restaurant and all. Now he could see he'd been trying to throw him an idea.
“So this is a pick of Pegasus but not the pick?”
“More or less.”
With that Will stood up and offered out his hand to Chuck, giving him a heartfelt handshake. He thought he had everything he came here for. Not just an explanation but a challenge he could rise to, a way to turn this around.
“You've been immensely helpful Chuck. If you ever feel like some of home's finest food then you know where I am.”
“Thank you, though if you don't mind me saying one last thing, you might find Teyla Emmagan helpful too.”
The Canadian winked at that and promptly refocused his attention on his rapidly cooling lunch. Will grinned and set off towards the Spaceport Information Desk to make an appointment with the Liaison Manager.
Four days later Teyla turned up at Solaris, with a coy smile on her face as she chatted to Lorne who led her into the kitchen. He had a feeling Chuck had put her up to this because she was a very busy woman and it tended to take people weeks to arrange a meeting under the usual circumstances - her PA Kate was a determinedly organized woman who listened like she truly cared but certainly didn't hesitate to remind where you belonged – at the end of a very long list.
Will didn't believe in good fortune, your life was what you made of it or in this case what someone else had done by interfering – though he wasn't complaining now Chuck was using his power for good.
“I'm told you wished to see me, Mr. Kavanagh,” the woman said serenely as she stepped into the room. It was said with authority, though her brand of it didn't inspire any disgruntlement. Perhaps she was simply a more inspiring person than the likes he'd come across before in his dealings with other people in charge.
This was probably only the second time he'd met Teyla Emmagan, and definitely the longest he'd been in her presence. She had an oddly calming aura about her and when she talked you felt like you had her full attention; he could see how she'd quickly climbed the ranks in her field despite her outsider status at the spaceport.
“I'm told you can help me acquire new recipes. Ones more suitable for our location.”
“You wish to branch out into local cuisine.”
It was said as a statement rather than a query, confirming his suspicion she already knew why she was here. That or she caught on damn fast, unlike some of the schmucks around the station, which admittedly was entirely possible and probable considering her managerial status.
“My people have a recipe I would recommend, tuttleroot soup.” Teyla slowly moved around the counter as she continued on with her proposition, “I could part with it, for a few concessions on your side,” she said, coming to face him as he turned to meet her.
“What type of concessions, exactly?”
He should have know it was gonna cost him. The question was would it be worth it. He certainly hoped so or he'd have to relinquish the gratitude to Chuck he'd been feeling up to this point.
“A 30% discount for any functions I see fit to hold in your establishment, applied on top of the current business rate. Naturally I'd continue to help your research efforts as long as this was upheld.”
There really was no good to be done by hesitating when she had the upper hand and could walk at any time so he replied without fuss, a split second decision he really hoped would pay off longterm.
Teyla held out her hand, sealing the agreement in a more traditional Earth manner, though he ended up caught off guard when she bowed towards him.
“An Athosian custom if you do not object. A literal meetings of minds I've heard it described by some here.”
Well, he figured if he was embracing local food then he might as well embrace a custom or two. It would be impolite not to and best not to alienate his new business associate of sorts, though he copied her gesture with a little trepidation at being so close to a woman he barely knew. Just for a second he felt uncomfortable, then he relaxed into it only to have her warmth retreat and it be over.
With that done it seemed there was one concern troubling her she'd left out all through the discussion, that she obviously could not leave unvoiced.
“Is that typical of Earth cuisine?” she asked with an amused smirk as she peered at the tray of cookies he'd been working on.
Not too long after his meeting, Will was strolling down the corridors of Atlantis, almost obscured by the package he carried. One of the assistant chef's, Miko, had a gift for wrapping that he was sure the ladies of leisure and charity would appreciate – she must have used almost a meter of cellophane and ribbons alike to encapsulate the delicate stack of cookies resting on top of a fine china baseplate. The downside to this was everyone could see the contents, but he didn't find he cared much right this moment, not even when Chuck appeared from a parallel path.
“Hello Mr. Kavanagh.”
“You know you might as well call me Will. Sorry, can't stop though.”
“A delivery?” Chuck queried as he joined him, walking by his side.
“Personally made, personally delivered. What more could a customer ask for.”
“I think they might have asked for too much already.” Chuck said, studying the contents of the package closer, “You made those?”
“As requested, to the same defunct recipe of the Junction.”
“Someone asked you for Junction cookies?”
“And you didn't tell them where to go?” Chuck asked with a look of incredulity.
“I'm not about to turn away a customer, Chuck. They'll have their cookies.”
“I see,” was the curt if confused answer from Chuck as Will came to a stop, having reached the end of his short journey.
“Well, I'm here now, so I'll have talk to you another time.”
“Let me know how it goes,” the tour guide said with a wave before he carried on along the corridor.
Will pressed the top button on the door panel and waited. Within a few seconds he was met by a preppy young teenage girl who guided him into the room and across to Ms. Brown, whom he bestowed the product on. She peered over the bundle of plastic wrap, down into the stack and a frown formed.
“I trust they are to your satisfaction,” he half-asked.
“What are they?” was her baffled reply.
“The ginger cookies you ordered, in T shapes, as the note my Maître de gave me said was required. Oh, and lemon icing as well, in Ancient designs. I know you didn't ask for that but I do hope it's alright.”
He tried to muster his best Lorne on the door impression to go with the little white lie he'd just told. However, it didn't look like she had quite bought it yet.
“I don't remember asking for T shapes,” she said, looking at the cookie stack now placed on the empty buffet table next to her. “So, they're not...you know, they're not...”
“Not what?” he asked, trying to give his best wide-eyed expression of confusion.
“Oh..never mind, they're perfect. The ladies will just love the native touch, such a lovely detail for the theme. It ties in beautifully, you must've been listening the other day. I could have sworn you weren't, Mr. Kavanagh, but clearly I was wrong. It's so wonderful to see my words inspired you to go that extra mile. The orphans may never know but deep down in their souls they will appreciate it I know.”
He simply smiled, holding the urge to break into laughter, and walked out, down the corridor, giving an exaggerated wave back when he turned and found her standing watching him with a cheery wave made in his direction. Oh boy, Evan would never believe he'd managed to get away with handing over penis shaped cookies, balls and all, with extra details added in lemon icing under the guise of an innocent transcription mistake and a little native flair.