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Your Soul on a Plate

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Scott knew that the producers were going to make a lot of his bro-ship with Stiles, and it would be annoying when he watched it back and they've reduced a complicated nearly-lifelong relationship to a bunch of dumb cliches. But he kind of didn't care, because Stiles was in Boston with him, like he had been pretty much every day since they were five, through their very first cooking jobs in high school, and then culinary school. Now that they'd worked their way up to chef de cuisine at two of the best restaurants in San Francisco, of course they'd go on Top Chef together.

"Me and you 'til the end, bro!" Stiles said, grinning for the camera as they left Logan airport.

Scott was still trying to get used to being filmed but he smiled back, of course he did. Their car drove through a kind of industrial area that wasn't in Boston exactly (apparently the city was pretty small) to the Top Chef kitchen. They'd have to cook before moving into whatever cool space they'd be living in.

Another car pulled up just as theirs did, and two women got out, a tall brunette and a much shorter redhead who looked vaguely familiar. The brunette grinned at them, and she had dimples Scott just wanted to dive into. He concentrated on breathing; after all, he was on camera.

"Hi, you must be chefs, too!" she said, walking toward them and extending a hand. "I'm Allison Argent."

Scott shook her hand. "Scott McCall," he said, nodding.

She turned to the other girl, who stood behind her with her arms crossed. "And this is—"

"Lydia Martin," Stiles answered.

That's where Scott knew her from—she'd been in a food magazine, nominated for some chef award, and Stiles had immediately put her picture on the fridge, followed her on twitter, and tried to find her on Linked-in.

"I'm Stiles," he said.

"What is a Stiles?" Lydia asked.

A producer ushered them inside then, where they got their chef's coats with the Top Chef emblem and stood around with the rest of the chefs—sixteen in all, evenly split between male and female.

Tom Colicchio was taller than Scott was expecting, and he realized it was because Padma Lakshmi was really tall—in her giant heels she was as tall as Stiles. Gail Simmons and Emeril Lagasse were there, too, and Scott was concentrating on not only not being star struck but also not getting too distracted by Allison, who was standing right next to him. Near the judges was a large table covered with a drop cloth.

"There won't be a quickfire before this first challenge," Tom was saying. "Since the pilgrims were faced with a life or death situation when they first arrived in Massachusetts, you're going straight to the elimination challenge. And you'll be given the same proteins to work with that they probably had available—only you won't have to catch them first."

The drop cloth was pulled off, revealing all kinds of meat, each with a little sign: boar, turkey, duck, rabbit, venison. There were also bowls with lobsters, clams, oysters, and mussels. And that was just what Scott recognized at a glance.

"Pick a protein, and you'll have three hours to make us a dish that says something about you as a chef."

They stopped then, and a producer came forward to hand them paper copies of the rules for the challenge. She read them out loud and took questions, the chefs checking out the proteins from afar all the while. Scott wasn't worried, other than vague first-time new-kitchen nerves. This was one of the challenges he and Stiles had prepped for, cooking all the weird products they could find.

The crew melted away and the judges went back to their marks, Tom with a little smile on his face. "Ready?" he asked, holding up his hand. "Go!"

Sixteen chefs went running across the room, and all Scott could think was what a waste of energy it was, from all of them. He was still next to Allison, and when they got to the table they both put a hand on the wild boar.

She grinned at him, and then grabbed another plate with her other hand. "Trade you for this rabbit?" she asked.

"Sure," he replied, taking the rabbit, because it really was all the same to him.

He and Stiles set up their stations next to each other, of course. "Seriously you let her charm you out of the boar?" he asked, while skinning a snake.

Scott shrugged. "I can cook rabbit."

"Whatever. I'm just saying, even Broody McHotterson over there would have to pry this snake out of my cold, dead hands."

Scott glanced over to the dude Stiles had indicated, who was all beard and eyebrows and piercing eyes. He seemed like the type that would be great until he was completely not great and exploding all over the kitchen. Sick knife skills, though, and he certainly knew how to handle a venison loin.

Stiles was making yakitori out of the snake, accompanying it with eggplant and sweet potato skewers. Scott was doing a mustard sauce and some greens to accompany his rabbit. Across the way Lydia was doing something with the oysters.

Allison was slicing up apples and had a giant bottle of whiskey on her station. A girl after his own heart, clearly. She glanced up, eyes meeting Scott's, and smiled.

He could cook and flirt with a girl at the same time. He'd been doing that since he was sixteen.

The judges praised his classic rabbit and Stiles's innovative snake, but they were in the big safe middle. Lydia, Allison, and the broody dude—whose name was Derek—were the top three. When they came back into the stew room Lydia announced that Allison had won. Allison accepted their applause, but when she had to announce who was at the bottom she looked genuinely sad.

She sat down in the chair next to Scott. "Congrats," he said.

She took the wine that Lydia was offering. "Thanks, but that's just the first one. Long way to go to win." She smiled again, and leaned in closer. "Promise I'll let you keep the boar next time."

"I'll hold you to that," he said, and they clinked glasses.

Some dude named Greenberg went home. Scott didn't remember noticing him in the kitchen at all.