The clinking and clanking of the pots and pans hanging suspended didn't separate the pair's attention from the book laying open on the wooden counter to the right of the cooking stove.
"Do you think we can do it?" the young woman asked the young man standing beside her.
She was dressed in a multi-layered outfit of shades of blue with a flowing overshirt that hung to her knees. The material was lightweight and yet warm, as if she originated from a cold climate. The young man was dressed in a simple red vest, no shirt beneath, and sturdy blue trousers tucked into heavy duty leather boots. Leather guards were also on either side of his legs. The young man was muscular, with a smooth chest and well-defined muscles of torso and arms. The young woman was petite and slender, just barely coming to the young man's shoulder. She looked to be a tender fourteen while the young man gave the impression of being slightly older. Perhaps seventeen.
The young man absently rubbed at his smooth chin with a black, fingerless gloved hand before running it through his thick black hair. "Well, it sounds simple enough." He looked to the pretty young woman with the vibrant green eyes and long reddish-brown hair. "What do you say, Maya? Should we try it?"
Maya focused again on the recipe book. "I... I suppose. Do you think..." She looked over at him. "Lang, do you think that maybe... maybe we can do something a little... different?"
"Different? What do you mean?"
"Well..." Maya met Lang's blue eyes. "Kazan always gives us such a difficult time for following recipes to the letter. I thought... I thought maybe we could... improvise... a little?"
"Improvise, huh? Well, sure. Why not?"
Maya smiled. Then her expression grew serious as the two focused on the cookbook again. "Do you think we might add some rice to the broth?" She looked up at him. "Kazan is never happy unless there's rice," she reminded.
Lang smiled. "Yeah. Rice and spice. Well..." He read over the recipe again. "I guess we could put the rice in the water we use to boil the giblets. See? Right here."
Maya bit her lip as she read the section and hesitantly nodded. "Yes, that would seem to be the best place."
"Okay, I'll get the chicken ready for the oven. You get the pan and the water ready for the giblets I dig out of the bird."
Maya nodded and voiced a soft, "All right," as she looked about the pirate ship's somewhat small kitchen for the 2-quart saucepan required by the cookbook.
In the meantime, Lang pulled the large chicken out of the icebox and set it onto the counter/chopping block opposite the cookstove. As he reached his hand inside with a grimace to retrieve the giblets and gizzards, he heard a hesitant "Lang?" and felt a soft touch on his left arm.
"Yeah," he replied, pulling his right hand from the bird with an expression of 'Gross' at the bloody paper package holding the needed parts.
"I can't reach it."
Lang looked down at Maya standing to his left with a "Huh?"
Maya flushed and pointed above her to the pots hanging from the rack overhead. "I... I can't reach it," she said again. "The pot."
"Oh. No problem. I'll get it for you." Lang retrieved the requested pot and handed it to her with a smile. "There you go."
"Thank you," she whispered, and she turned away to fill the pot with water and the listed spices.
Lang watched her with a small smile, ears burning when she turned back with the pot and caught his gaze.
She blushed again and offered forward the pot. "Giblets?"
"Oh." Lang cleared his throat and ripped open the bag to dump the contents inside. "There you go."
Maya smiled her thanks and then turned to the cookstove to stoke the fire and place the pot on the hottest portion.
Lang moved to the cookbook, wiping his hands on his pants. "Now how do we do this bird," he mumbled.
Maya stepped up close beside him to read as well. "Maybe we should..." She looked up to meet Lang's curious expression. "Do it ourselves?"
Lang smiled. "Sure. They'll complain either way."
Maya's smile returned and she nodded.
"Okay." Lang closed the cookbook and pushed it away.
Then both Maya and Lang faced the bird and stared at it. Lang crossed his arms and tilted his head. Maya bit her lip and clasped her hands.
"What do you think?" Lang asked, sending Maya a sidelong glance.
Maya slightly shook her head. "I... I don't know."
"Well... I guess we could take that curry Kazan loves so much and... and just use that and maybe some salt?"
Maya nodded, meeting his gaze. "All right."
Lang smiled and motioned to her. "Why don't you stoke up the oven and find a pan for this thing. I'll get the salt and curry and stuff and start seasoning it."
Maya smiled and faced the cookstove again, opening the belly to stoke and add to the fire, directing coals to the 'stove pipe oven' built into the exhaust pipe leading out of the ship's kitchen. Lang opened the spice drawer in the side of the chopping block and chose curry and then... "Hey. Maybe this 'Oregano' would be better than salt?" Lang shrugged and set it on the counter beside the bird along with the curry and salt. "I guess a little more won't hurt anything."
"But what if you put too much?" Maya asked as she came to stand beside him. She focused somewhat intensely on the seasonings. "Won't that be bad?" And she focused on him with wide eyes.
Lang pushed his lips to one side of his mouth as he crossed his arms. "Yeah. Probably right. Hm. Okay..." He rubbed at the back of his neck and then handed her the salt. "Why don't you put a little of this in the water with the giblets, like that soup we made that time?, and then I'll just use this Oregano and Curry."
Her smile returned as she nodded and took the small wooden container from him. She added the salt, putting in a little oil when Lang and her realized the rice was sticking to the bottom of the pan. Lang rubbed the seaoning into the skin of the bird, decided to put a little oil over the top to keep the salt from drying it out - After all, wasn't salt used to dry up slugs? - and then carefully put it into the stove pipe oven. Then they set the hourglass timer and leaned back against the counter/chopping block as they stared at the cook-stove.
Lang released a breath and looked over at Maya standing to his right. "So. You wanna play some cards while we wait?"
Maya smiled and nodded, immediately setting to the task of clearing the chopping block and wiping off any wetness as Lang went to a cupboard and pulled down the wooden gameboard and the cards. He set the peg-board up in the middle of the table, freeing the small colored pegs from the hidden cubby in the bottom and placing them at the starting point on the front.
"Blue or red?" he asked as he shuffled the cards.
Lang nodded as he put the green pieces away, directing Maya to 'cut' the deck. Then Lang dealt. The two laughed and joked as they played, Lang not seeing most of the points so that Maya had to show him what he missed and let him take them. He 'skunked' her once - which meant finishing before she had reached a specific point on the board - and she 'skunked' him twice, both smiling wide and laughing at each missed point the other saw (mostly on Lang's side).
Then the scent of the chicken began to grow stronger, making both hover on the outside of the stove-pipe entrance to look inside.
"Wow. That smells good," Lang said, even licking his lips.
Maya softly giggled and then looked over at him. "It does, doesn't it?"
He smiled over at her. "This might not be so bad."
She shook her head, still smiling.
Lang looked back inside the stove-pipe and then closed the door. "It'll probably be done by the time we're done with this round. Then we can get the plates and stuff ready."
Maya nodded and followed him back to the counter/chopping block to resume their game. They finished the hand - Maya won - and then gathered the plates and forks. Maya served rice onto the different plates as Lang carefully pulled the chicken out of the stove-pipe oven and set it onto the cook stove to 'carve' it. He burnt his fingers several times, voicing a hissed "ouch!" and drawing Maya over quickly to cast 'heal' and a small highly controlled 'ice' spell.
Finally, Lang gathered two plates the same as Maya and then preceded her out of the kitchen to the 'mess hall' down the corridor and to the left. Kazan and Sharon looked up as Lang and Maya walked through the open doorway.
Sharon smirked. "It's about time. I'm starving."
Lang and Maya exchanged smiles and distributed the food, waiting at the head of the table as Kazan and Sharon hesitantly sampled the first bite of rice and chicken respectively. Lang glanced over at Maya to notice she worried her lower lip. He gave her arm a nudge and sent her a small smile when she looked over at him. She flushed and smiled back, looking back to the other two just as Kazan focused on them.
"This is good, Lang," he told them.
Sharon nodded and pointed to the chicken. "I haven't had chicken like this since... since... Hell! I don't know."
Lang grinned and then motioned behind him with a jerk of his thumb. "We've got to go clean up. We'll have ours in the kitchen."
Sharon and Kazan absently nodded as they went back to their meals. Lang chuckled and then urged Maya out of the mess hall. They returned to the kitchen and served up their own chicken and rice, leaning against the counter/chopping block to eat it while praising each other for their hardwork and imagination. Then they gathered their plates, went to gather Sharon and Kazan's from the mess hall, and set to work washing the pots and dishes.
Lang looked over at Maya with a smile as he paused his washing of the pot used to cook the rice. "You want to try dinner tomorrow, too?"
Maya met his gaze and offered a timid smile as she nodded, pulling one of the plates from the rinsewater.
Lang's smile broadened to a grin and he reached out to touch her nose with a soap-sudded finger, leaving a blossom of suds behind. He laughed and she flushed and giggled, blowing the suds from her nose as she continued to smile up at him. Then his smile softened and he reached out to smooth a rinsewater splash from her cheek. Their gazes met and held, and then his ears reddened and he looked away, clearing his throat as he focused again on the rice pot and resuming their previous conversation of the next dinner. Maya watched him a moment, her expression changing slightly before looking down to the rinsewater and softly responding to each question sent her way.
And not noticing his sidelong smiles.