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The Chef's Tale

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“Oh god, oh god, oh god, we’re all gonna die –”

“Shut up, Jax,” Mick grunts. He likes the kid, but honestly, sometimes he can be a little…oh, wait, no, Ray’s doing it too.

Fucking hell, people!

“They’ve taken all our weapons,” Ray whispers urgently, his eyes wide. “Sara is in chains, like, literal ball and chains. Stein’s up in the infirmary instead of down here, so we don’t have Firestorm. Nate’s – basically useless, sorry Nate –”

“It’s cool.”

“– and we don't even have Rip. We have no way of getting back to the Waverider, and we’re about to be interrogated! With torture!”

“It was traditional, back then,” Nate offers. “Torture was considered to be –”

Not helping.”

“Sorry. I just get really excited when I see authentic medieval dungeons. Like Medieval Times, but, y'know, real.”

Mick really wants to punch someone.

Sadly, punching his crew will not help anybody.

He goes over and rattles the door. “Hey, you!” he bellows. “Let us out!”

A well-dressed looking man who had been descending the stairs rather pompously, ends up blinking and rocking back on his heels. “Sier,” he says, scowling. “I do think you’ve rather mistaken the situation.”

I’ve mistaken the situation?!” Mick roars. “You’ve mistaken the situation. I demand you let me and my crew go at once.”

“Who are you to demand such a thing?!” the man shoots back, puffing himself up.

Mick crosses his arm, thinks of heists long past, and says, “I don’t suppose such an insignificant piece of crap such as yourself ever heard of the name of Guillaume Tirel?”

The man’s eyes go wide. “Taillevent,” he whispers. “Can it be?”

Mick glowers at him. “If you think I’m going to put up with this treatment a second longer –” he says threateningly.

“No, no, m’sier!” the man says hastily, throwing his hands up.

“Who’s Taillevent?” Ray mutters to Nate.

“I…have no idea,” Nate replies. “I didn’t spend that much time on French medieval studies, to be honest; I was pretty focused on the British side of the Hundred Years War. And, um, honestly, if he wasn’t one of the royals, important cardinals, or generals…”

“How does Mick know who he is?”

It’s because Len thought breaking into the Vatican on Christmas Eve sounded like it would be funny, that’s why, and while he’d been perusing the treasures, Mick’d ended up reading through one of the world’s only copies of Le Viander. Only four left in the world, and Mick Rory got to curl up with it and a cup of hot chocolate because ridiculously over-equipped does not even begin to describe Leonard Snart's heist-planning strategy.

Also, fuck you, Sara. Mick knows plenty of things.

How to get out of prison – any prison – is one of them.

He’d seen the carts outside, loaded high with hunting meat and produce, wheeling in towards the kitchens. He’d seen the crowd of people awkwardly dressed in dusty livery, which looks like it hasn’t been used in a year: new servants for the crowd filling the castle. He’d seen the bustling way that the castle was filled up to the brim.

The guy in front of him is holding a feast in the next day or two.

And, as far as he’s concerned, he just arrested the most famous chef in medieval France.

“I was sent,” Mick says, jabbing a finger at the man’s chest through the bars, “to see,” another jab, “if my services”, another, “would be of interest. When I explain what happened instead, well…”

The guy in front of him is very near full-on panic.

It’s kinda fun, actually. Mick sees why Len likes to fuck with people so much.

There’s some blubbering involved, some very prettily worded apologies, and Mick and the rest of the Legends end up deposited in the kitchens with a pretty please and a by-your-leave.

“What just happened?” Sara asks, frowning at where the chains seem to have magically disappeared off her hands. Mick explained – quite haughtily – that she was an emissary from captured Jerusalem, and that she alone held the secrets to certain spices from that region, her husband having died on the terrifying escape back.

Totally used the plot of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in describing said escape, but hey, the man bought it.

And now, well –

Unfortunately, everyone’s weapons are locked up somewhere on sight, and noble-guy might be an idiot but he’s not so much of an idiot that he doesn’t know well enough to keep them locked up until after the feast.

So it looks like they’ll have to stay long enough to get through the feast.

Mick surveys the kitchen, including the vaguely awed-looking chefs that’ll be working under him. He’s got a lot of work to do.

He stretches his arms – the other chefs are nearly as bulky as he is, because medieval cookery was a goddamn strength game half the time, which really helped sell his story – and looks at the whole lot of them.

“Right,” he grunts. “Tell me you’ve got saffron.”

Lots of relieved nods from the chefs, lots of blank stares from his Waverider counterparts.

About what he expected, but it’s fine. He can work with this.

Looks like those years of working the kitchens at the local Renfaire while laying low after a heist are about to come in real handy.

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"I thought you said you were good at fiddly bits," Mick snaps at Ray.

"Mechanical engineering!" Ray yelps. "Not turning a live swan into a boat!"

"Well, get better at it. We need it for the lord's centerpiece." Mick orders, before sweeping off to check on the frumentries.

"I think the power is going to his head," he hears Ray complain.

"Actually, medieval chefs often served as squires to their royal or noble masters; later on, many of them were often given lands or titles in their own right -"

"I don't care, Nate."

"Sorry. Um. Is this pie supposed to do that?"

Mick snarls and turns on his heel to go examine the pies.

"Yes, you idiot," he snaps. "Herring pie is supposed to do that. It's a savory pie."

That done, he samples the first frumentry. "Acceptable," he told the chef - Bertrandt - who nods seriously. "Add some more flour when you add the dried berries."

"Sier," the man says, nodding.

That's when Estienne runs over, babbling about the venison.

Mick sighs, and heads over. The roasting station was going to work, or by God he was going to have some heads. Jax was nominally supervising, but he looked just as lost as Estienne, whose job this supposedly was.

In the meantime -

"Sara!" he yells. "How are the cheeses?"

"Freaking gigantic!" she shouts back, then pins her the two squires he assigned her with a look of death. "I don't see the goat cheese," she says ominously, fingering her white headscarf in a way that managed to convey threats of death. "I asked for it ten minutes ago - we need it for the pottage - I don't care if you have to bring me the goats -"

Mick deeply appreciates Sara. You wouldn't know that less than three hours ago, she'd never even heard of pottage, much less an esoteric variety that requires goat cheese and cream that they were planning on serving to supplement the traditional variety.

He kind of wishes he had Kendra. She might've had one of those dreadfully convenient flashes of memory, come up with a nice recipe.

Right now, Mick's attention needed to be focused on making the stuffing for the goddamn piglets, and that’s before he can turn to the stews, the venison, and the giant wild boar they were going to be using as the pièce de résistance.

Oh, what he wouldn't do for some competent help...

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"Four and twenty blackbirds, baked into a pie," Jax recites. He looks vaguely horrified. "I thought that was, you know, metaphorical."

"Tallivent has managed to fit twenty four into a single pie?" Jehan asks, looking impressed. "That must have been a mighty feat indeed! Fit for royalty!"

"Oh, yeah," Jax says weakly, watching the live sparrows being introduced into the baked crust. "When the pie was opened/the birds began to sing/wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king."

"Is the Duke of Burgundy aiming for the crown, then?" Guiscard asks, not looking away from his delicate task.

"Um," Jax says.

"I've heard as much," Piers puts in. "He has a good chance, too."

"It won't be as easy as all that," Jehan objects. "M'sier Jax, what are your views? The Duke of Burgundy is your sire's liege, is he not?"

"No comment," Jax says. "I'm gonna just - go back to my pie now."

"What are you doing with that one?" Pierre asks, fascinated. "The top is - gorgeous."

"All butter crust," Jax says proudly. Only one dessert his mama taught him stuck, but he knows that one by heart. "Caramelize the apples lightly in honey, slice 'em thin and put them in a circle, then layer the top in crust, then drizzle that with a honey glaze. Best apple pie in the world."

“And you’ve shaped the crust like laurel leaves, how delightful!”

“Yeah, cute trick, isn’t it?”

“Delightful!”

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“What’s in these pies again?” Ray asks, gawking.

“A whole roe-deer, a gosling, three capons, six chickens, ten pigeons, one young rabbit, a minced loin of veal, two pounds of fat, and twenty-six hard-boiled eggs, covered with saffron and flavored with cloves,” Mick recites.

“In each one?”

“In each one.”

“And that’s in addition to the herring pies Nate was watching earlier?”

“Yep.”

“Holy crap. That’s…a lot of food.”

“Yep.”

“And…what is this I’m making?”

“Stewed plums in rosewater.”

Ray stares down at the gigantic vat. “Um,” he says. “Okay. You could play bobbing for apples in this thing.”

“I wouldn’t,” Mick advises. “It’s boiling hot.”

“…right. What do I do?”

Mick hands him a giant ladle. “Stir once in a while.”

“…okay. Then what?”

“Just stir. When it’s done, I’ll come take it off, and you can scoop out all the plums and put them on the platter. We’re going to serve them with a scoop of whipped cream and a drizzle of honey.”

Ray nods. “I can do this,” he says proudly.

“Good,” Mick says, then goes away.

Bertrandt is looking at him sympathetically. “Let me guess,” he says knowingly as his companion chef, Piers, smiles and nods. “He’s someone’s bastard son, isn’t he? Have to have him in your kitchen or else someone gets annoyed?”

“Someone promised that I’d make a fine chef out of him,” Mick lies, going with it. “Sure as hell wasn’t me making the promise, lemme tell you that. I keep telling ‘em – it don’t matter how good I am if the quality of the ingredients…well…”

Bertrandt laughs.

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“I don’t think I’m qualified for this,” Stein says weakly.

“It’s just fish,” Sara says briskly. “C’mon, you really don’t want Mick coming in and seeing that we’re not on schedule; he’ll just get angry.”

“Mr. Rory? I don’t…”

“He’s the head of the kitchen. Don’t think about it too hard, I have no idea where he picked up half this stuff. He’s at the exotic seafood station right now, something about porpoises. I decided to come help you with the fish instead.”

“I cannot possibly gut that gigantic fish.”

I’ll gut it. I just need you to help me season it. Mick says mustard is good.” She pauses.

“What?” Stein asks.

“Technically,” she confesses, “he says that we should use hot and dry spices on the fish because fish are naturally overloaded in one of the four humors, and therefore they have to be balanced out before they’re eaten.”

“…the four humors.”

“Melancholy, choler, phlegm and blood, apparently. All the chefs totally knew what he was talking about. They think he’s a genius.”

“Ah,” Stein says faintly.

“He’s apparently mixing in some modern day recipes and blowing their little minds,” Sara says. “But what they’re really impressed by is his nuanced understanding of traditional cuisine.”

Mr. Rory?”

“He apparently worked in a Renfaire for a bunch of years.”

“My word. I would never have expected it from him.”

“I know, me either, right?” Sara says, grinning. “Hidden depths. Now c’mon,” she pulls out a short knife. “Let’s get the fishy.”

“I’m going to be sick,” Stein says. “Do you think I could go back to the infirmary and say I think I really have a concussion after all? The worst they threatened me there was with leeches.”

“After all the effort we put into getting you back down here? No way.”

“Damn.”

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“I’m actually really impressed by the breadth of your knowledge base here,” Nate says earnestly.

“You’re still on soup duty,” Mick says.

“But you’re roasting deer! That is so cool!”

Soup duty.”

“But…”

“Soup is a necessary part of the dinner,” Mick says. “Listen, I need to go check on the eels. You stay here.”

“There are eels?”

“Of course there are eels,” Mick says impatiently. “Why wouldn’t there be eels?”

“…right.”

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“The jellies are done, the blanc mange is good, the birds are in the wine, and the breads are being kept in the ovens so they’ll still be warm to serve,” Bertrandt reports.

“Good,” Mick says, nodding.

“Dessert pies are done,” Jax offers. “Almond cakes are a go, the stewed plums are all plated, and the figgy bread pudding is, let me just say, a work of freaking art.”

He high-fives Jehan, to whom he had taught the gesture.

“The roasts are off the fire and the cuts have been made,” Estienne reports. “The trenchers are ready to go. The boar in particular looks splendid.”

“The, ah, fish are all prepared,” Stein puts in. “Four different preparation styles, plus Nate’s herring pies.”

“The soups, stews and hashes are ready to be served,” Nate adds. “Ray helped!”

Mick glances at Piers, who had been put on Ray duty. Piers winks.

Ray had had no real involvement in the soups whatsoever, excellent.

“The frumpteries, the pottages, and the other early courses are all ready,” Guiscard says. “And the bird-tart is ready for presentation. The centerpiece is quite beautiful, and the swans and geese have all been rescued –” From Ray. “- and stuffed.”

“Piglets?” Mick asks.

“All done,” Jehan says. “They’re shining with grease, just like you instructed. They smell…” He lets his eyes drift partially shut in an expression of ecstasy. “A vison from heaven, m’sier.”

“Good,” Mick says. “Have the servers been arranged into teams?”

“Yes, m’sieur.”

“Then let’s begin.”

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“Best mission ever,” Jax says, “or best mission ever? I don't even care about being stranded in the past anymore. I don't, I really don't.”

“Please, Jefferson,” Stein groans. “Don’t talk. I’m too full.”

“Seconded,” Sara whimpers. “I really shouldn’t have had those candied dates at the end, but they looked so good…”

“That was amazing,” Nate says, slumping into a seat on the Waverider. “Time travel is amazing. You’re all amazing. I love you all. So amazing.”

“You know,” Ray says to Mick. “Anna always told me I couldn’t cook worth a damn. And look at me now!”

“Yeah, Haircut,” Mick says fondly, shaking his head in mild amusement. “Look at you now.”