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The Next Food Network Star

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"I hate him."

Dick snorts from his seat on the sofa. "You can't hate him, Jay, you've never even met him."

"I can and I do," Jason insists, slapping the magazine he's been holding down onto the counter. "Food & Wine thinks he's better than me! Look!"

Dick doesn't look, but then again, Dick's the one who brought the article to his attention, so he's already seen it. "They wrote an article," he says, clearly amused. "They didn't say they liked him better than you."

"'Drake combines culinary school food knowledge with quirky, easy to follow recipes,'" Jason reads aloud. "'He may very well be this generation's Alton Brown.' Alton Brown, Dick!"

"They called you the next Mario Batale," Dick reminds him. "Not that you even make that much Italian food, so I don't know where that came from."

"It's a flavoring thing and you know it," Jason says, scanning the article again. "Listen, listen to this: 'On top of all of that, Drake's charming good looks and ability to laugh at his own corny jokes make him impossible to dislike. It's like cooking with your favorite little brother right there with you.'" He sighs and pushes the magazine away. "They never said that about me."

"You never went for adorable little brother," Dick counters. "Then again, you're taller than any little brother has the right to be, so good call."

Jason sighs again, mostly for effect, and slumps across the counter. "Washed up at twenty-four. I've been replaced by a younger model."

"Woe is you," Dick agrees. "Look, I think you should meet him."

"No."

"Yes," Dick says, suddenly insistent. "He's a nice guy."

"You've met him?" Jason yelps, looking up. "You're taking his side? You are the worst, Dick. The worst."

Dick sighs dramatically. "Look, Jason, I love you like a brother-"

"You are my brother, asshole."

"-but his steak sauce is better than yours," Dick continues. "You should meet him and-"

"What," Jason cuts in. "No. Nobody's steak sauce is better than mine. Ted Allen once wrote an ode to my steak sauce."

"I know," Dick says. "You have it framed in the kitchen."

"Damn right I do," Jason snaps. "There is no way this Drake guy's steak sauce is better than mine. No way."

Dick just shrugs.

Jason grabs his coat and pulls it on as he heads for the door. "I'm going to go meet and greet, and I'm going to prove that my steak sauce is better," he says as he picks up his keys. "I'll make you eat your words, Grayson. Without the benefit of steak sauce."

He's gone before he can hear Dick snort and mutter, "Knew you'd fall for it."

-0-

Jason fumes his way down to the food stage where Drake's show is filmed. It really is reminiscent of Alton Brown's set for Good Eats; he doesn't have the chalkboard or the props falling from the ceiling, but there's definitely more of a Bill Nye feel to Drake's set than you'd find on, say, Jason's set.

"Hey, Jason," Ramon says. He's one of the sound people on Jason's show, and he's an all-around great guy. Jason usually sends him home with some of the leftover prop food from his shows, because Ramon's got a four-year-old who once told Jason that his mac and cheese was better than eating pie, and Jason's been wrapped around her little finger ever since.

"Hey, Ramon," Jason says. "Is the new guy filming today?"

There's a crashing sound from the set, and when Jason and Ramon turn, Tim Drake is standing in a spreading pool of tomato sauce, staring at them. "Oh my god," he yelps after a few seconds of mutual staring. He drops down to the floor and starts sort of pushing the sauce into a pile with his hands like that's going to help anything.

"Dick is a dumbass," Jason announces to Ramon, who shrugs and mimes zipping his lips. He's met Dick; he, unfortunately, likes Dick. Jason has no allies here, so he sighs and goes to help Drake with the sauce problem.

"I need a towel," Drake says when Jason reaches his side.

Jason snorts. "No, you need a mop. And probably a different pair of pants." Drake's managed to somehow push the sauce closer to himself than it was when he knelt down in the puddle. Jason feels a little better about the Alton Brown thing now that he sees the guy kneeling in a bunch of sauce.

"God," Drake mutters. He's staring at his sauce-covered hands. "So, uh. I'd shake your hand, but."

"Yeah, no," Jason agrees. "So you're the wunderkind that Food & Wine is all aflutter over."

Drake groans and moves his hands like he's going to push his face into them, but sadly reconsiders before actually getting there. "Please don't mention that article to me. Please. It's gotten blown way out of proportion."

Jason raises an eyebrow. Somehow, he wasn't expecting this sauce-dropping guy who's totally uninterested in tooting his own horn to be… well, the guy from the article. Well, he's already here, so… "Hey, Drake. Let's call maintenance and let them do their jobs, you find a change of clothes, and we can get some coffee."

Drake finally looks up at the mention of coffee, and wow, okay, maybe Jason would rather he be staring at his sauce mess again, because his eyes and his stupid poofy hair and his whole face are just really attractive.

Goddamnit, Dick.

-0-

So, as it turns out, Drake - Tim, call me Tim - is maybe a little bit of a fanboy.

"It all happened really fast," he says over his second cup of coffee. "I mean, one day I'm in culinary school, and then it seems like the next day, I'm sitting at a Starbucks with Jason Todd. I mean, I've been watching Booking and Cooking since-"

Tim shuts his mouth abruptly and looks down into his coffee like it's got the secrets to perfectly timed fudge.

"Well," Jason says as he leans back, "I watch a lot of Booking and Cooking too. Occupational hazard."

"It's such a great idea," Tim says, looking up again. "I mean, figuring out recipes for things served in books? You've got such great material to draw from, and people are going to keep tuning in to see what story you're bringing to life each week."

Jason finds himself smiling. "Now I'm wondering which recipe and book combo drew you in."

Tim coughs and blushes. "Gorba melts, actually."

"Gorba melts?" Jason repeats, snorting. "Somehow I didn't peg you for a Star Wars fan."

Tim shrugs, smiling a little. "My best friend growing up was big into them. To make a long story short, he got cancer, I heard somewhere that talking to people about their interests can help them, and I read a ton of the books to have something to talk about."

"Geez," Jason says after a moment. "I, uh, don't really know how to respond to that."

"He's fine now," Tim adds. "Well, in remission. They never say fine, but they're a bunch of pessimists." He pauses. "And he loved the Gorba melts. They were delicious."

"They are," Jason affirms. It's his personal opinion that anything with that much cheese has to be good, but it's still nice to find someone who agrees. "What was your twist?"

"My what?" Tim asks, blinking.

"Your twist," Jason repeats. "I've never known anyone in this business who could actually follow a recipe without adding their own touches to it."

"Uh," Tim says, and yup, here comes the blush. It's completely ridiculous, the way it creeps down his neck and under the collar of his-

Nope. Not going there.

"Cream cheese," Tim finally says, and Jason blinks a few times. "To help the creaminess. It really helped it blend, y'know?"

"But the sweetness," Jason says, frowning.

Tim shakes his head enthusiastically. "No, but if you crumble the bacon-"

"Oh my god," Jason says, eyes widening. "How did I not think of that?"

Tim grins. "You didn't? Okay, well, you have to try it. It's really great." He pauses. "And if you chunk the pork instead of shredding it-"

"C'mon," Jason says, standing abruptly. He reaches out and snags Tim by the jacket when he doesn't leap up as well. "Kitchen. Let's do this thing."

"You want to cook with me?" Tim says, and okay, there's a little inner fanboy coming out again. It's a little bizarre, but only because Tim is a professional who apparently improves Gorba melts. It's not like Jason hasn't had to deal with people way less talented with way more fawning.

"I want you to cook for me," Jason corrects. "Make me a Gorba melt, Tim. Blow my mind."

"Okay," Tim says, grin spreading across his face. "I'll do my best."

-0-

dick

dick

that is both your name and an insult btw

i hate you

this guy makes a great gorba melt and has amazing ideas for a symposium-inspired episode. we're considering petitioning for a guest appearance

also he invited me over for homemade pizza tomorrow what do i bring

i really hate you

but you were wrong about the steak sauce