Dragon’s Thief epilogue – Fancy Fried Rice
This story contains spoilers for Dragon’s Thief! Make sure you’ve read it before you continue…
Fried Rice Fancy
by Zoe Chant
featuring Reese and Tara from Dragon’s Thief
Somewhere after round four, Tara flopped over on her back, stared up at the ceiling, and finally nodded.
“I’m hungry,” she said.
By her side, Reese stirred a little, throwing one arm possessively over her belly, to drag her closer.
“Mm,” he said intelligently as he mouthed at the crook of her neck. For a moment, Tara’s eyes fluttered shut at the pleasure of it, and then she sat up, shaking her head.
“No. No. This is what happened earlier. If we start all that up again, we’ll never get food.”
“Dragons can go ages without eating,” Reese informed her, tilting up only enough to kiss the center of her back. “Related to snakes, you know.”
“I’ve seen you eat an entire large pizza all on your own. You may not have to eat, but you like to. And anyway, that doesn’t help me much.”
Reese levered himself into a sitting position, already reaching for his phone.
“Got it. Mate hungry. Hunt. Provide.”
“Are you referring to calling Malincolia’s as hunting and providing?”
“You love their meatballs.”
“I do, but they’ll take forty minutes to deliver. Nah, we have a bunch of rice from when we ordered Chinese food a couple days ago. I’m just going to make some fried rice.”
Tara was momentarily distracted by Reese’s copper eyes going wide and almost awed.
She laughed, reaching out to ruffle his dark hair.
“Sort of, rich boy. Come on, come help if you want some.”
Tara put on a tanktop and a pair of panties, and after insisting that Reese put on at least a pair of boxers, they made their way to the kitchen. They had been staying at Reese’s house in upstate New York for a few months now, and Tara was slowly and surely beginning to outfit the kitchen to actually feed them rather than only serving as a storage space for restaurant leftovers and eggs. Eggs were about the only thing that Reese could cook reliably, and he could do them just about every way imaginable, but still, they were just eggs, and Tara needed more.
“Let me help. What can I do?” asked Reese, and she grinned up at him.
“Dice up an onion for me, And remember, diced means about the size of a die, not pureed with a knife like it insulted your mom.”
While Reese was fussing with the onion, Tara pulled out two containers of white rice from the fridge, setting them on the counter before contemplating what else they had.
“Eggs, some leftover chicken breast, green pepper, yeah, we can do this.”
Tara unloaded then ingredients she’d found in the fridge onto the counter next to Reese, reaching past him to take the skillet from the hook on the wall.
“Thought we needed a wok for fried rice.”
“We need a container with a lot of surface area that transfers heat well. This does just fine.”
Tara bent down to get the vegetable oil from the lower cupboard, yelping when Reese landed a brisk smack on her rear as she did so.
“That’s not a reason.”
“Can it be an excuse?”
“Keep chopping, bright boy.”
After the skillet heated, the oil went in slowly to prevent splatter, and Tara nodded at Reese when it began to shimmer.
“Okay, onions in, please.”
Reeses tossed the onions in and then they both yelped, leaping back as the cold wet onions made the oil pop.
“Oh, wow, you really don’t cook much, do you?”
“Apparently not enough,” Reese said, swiping at where a drop of oil had hit his arm. “Ow.”
“Told you put to a shirt on,” Tara said, giving the onions a quick stir. “Can I see?”
Reese snorted, shaking his head.
“No, I’m a dragon, I’m impervious to fire.”
“So why’d you yelp?”
“Surprise. It’s fine. What next? That’s smelling good.”
“It’s onion in oil, smelling good is about all it can do. Go ahead and chop up everything else. Rough chop, it’ll be fine. And here.”
She went and fetched the plain canvas apron from a hook on the door. She almost handed it to him, but then had a better idea.
Reese blinked as Tara slid the apron over his head, wrapping her arms around him to bring the straps back to tie. She nuzzled the skin between his bare shoulder blades, making a soft possessive sound.
“Mine,” she murmured. “All mine.”
“Very much so,” Reese said, and she knew that if she continued nuzzling him for too long, they’d be back in bed with only some burned onions to show for it. Reluctantly, she pulled back and went to tend the onions. When Reese handed her the chopped meats and vegetables, they got carefully tilted in, and then she handed him the wooden spoon.
“Here. We want everything cooked through, so give them a stir once in a while, just enough to move them. It’s fine if they get a bit of nice char. I know you like that.”
“And what are you going to be doing in the meantime?”
In response, she went to wrap her arms around him again from behind, pressing herself against his body snugly.
“You smell really good,” Tara said, not bothering to hide her blush.
“If you want, we could – “
“No. I want this and I want fried rice.”
There was a part of her that thrilled at making demands of someone like Reese. She could still so clearly remember how over-awed she was when she first met him, and how little it looked like they fit. He was a dragon treasure-hunter, and she was living in a likely illegal apartment and working for bad tips at a diner.
“Can’t believe I get to touch you,” she murmured against his skin. “Can’t believe I get to have you, hug you, kiss you…”
She purred at the soft shudder that went through Reese’s body when she kissed the curve of his spine.
“If you keep that up, I don’t think you’re going to get your fried rice.”
“Even if I really, really wanted it?” she asked with a mock pout, and Reese laughed softly.
“I want you to have everything you like,” Reese promised, “but expecting me to mindfully stir a hot skillet full of food while you have your hands on me? That’s a bit beyond me, love.”
“I have faith in you,” she declared, and Reese shook his head.
“That makes one of us.”
She couldn’t let go of him right away, but finally, Tara did sigh and give him a gentle hip-check to to look at the food in the pan.
“This is looking pretty good. Now for the rice.”
She dumped the cold cooked rice into the pan, sending up a whoosh of steam, and then she handed Reese the spoon again.
“Here, break up the lumps, okay?”
Reese obediently started breaking up the cold white rice, separating them down to smaller clumps and then to loose grains.
“Where did you learn to cook fried rice, anyway?”
“I washed dishes for a week at a little Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia. Pay was kind of awful, but they fed me every night, and I could watch people cook. I could probably take a decent stab at shrimp toast and a beef and broccoli, too, if you want.”
Tara hummed a little as she pulled the bottle of soy sauce out of the fridge door where it was kept. It was one of her first additions to the kitchen, and after trying it, Reese agreed. If she could be proud of anything, she could be proud of how quickly Reese had gotten rid of the pile of soy sauce packets that came with Chinese delivery. It was fine in a pinch, but it was basically water and salt, and they could do far better with just a trip to the Chinese grocery down the road.
The rice was beginning to crisp up a little, and Tara nudged Reese aside to splash some soy sauce over all of it. Reese gave her a slightly horrified look.
“How much did you just throw in?”
“You cannot tell me that you are worried about your salt consumption. I have seen how much salt you throw on your dinner –“
“No, no, I love the stuff, just how do you know how much goes in?”
Tara held up the bottle.
“Two glugs? A little bit? Some? Stir everything up, get the soy sauce mixed in really well.”
Reese obeyed her, poking at the rice with a frown.
“That’s not really the most scientific way to do this. What if this turned out perfect, and we can’t recreate it?”
“Hon, you’re wonderful and I love you, but I am not spending time trying to make you perfect fried rice. Most of the time, I’ll settle for fair to good.”
“I would make you perfect fried rice if you wanted me to,” Reese declared. “I would use scales and finely calibrated instruments and the best soy sauce I can find, the finest and freshest ingredients.”
“Oh good, and while you’re doing that, I’m going to make us perfectly good fried to keep us going.”
Reese raised an eyebrow as Tara took the sugar bowl and sprinkled a small spoonful of sugar over the fried rice.
“Promise you won’t even notice it, but the sugar brings out the other flavors and sort of makes everything richer. I feel like there is probably a science to it, but all I know is that I miss it when I don’t put it in.”
“You’ve done this a lot, haven’t you?”
She gave him a smile.
“Well, a pint of white rice from a Chinese restaurant is usually pretty cheap, and this recipe, if you can call it that, is really flexible. I’ve actually done it with soy sauce packets from the restaurant before. It doesn’t take that many of them. Heck, I’ve made it with just rice and egg before, and that’s still pretty good.”
“You’re resourceful,” Reese said, and neither of them said out loud that she had had to be.
“Thank you. Keep stirring.”
“How long am I going to keep stirring?”
Tara reached down to turn up the heat under the skillet.
“Until it’s done,” Tara said with a sunny smile. “This is the last step. After this, it comes off the skillet and gets plated up.”
Reese turned away from the stove just long enough to give her a gentle kiss on the forehead.
“Thanks for teaching me how to make this. I’ve wanted to know for a while.”
“You’re welcome. Sorry I can’t give you the precise measurements that you want.”
“Well, next time, I’ll make it for you, and then we’ll see about getting precise measurements.”
When the rice was lightly crisped, Tara turned off the heat and moved it to a cold burner.
“All right, now we wait for ten minutes.”
Reese quirked an eyebrow at her.
“Thought you said you were hungry.”
“I am, but you have to let food rest. It means you don’t burn your face off, and it lets things settle, I guess.”
She paused, tugging the apron strings at the small of Reese’s back free. Somehow in the middle of chopping and frying and stirring, she had forgotten how very little Reese was wearing. She ran a speculative hand up his back.
“Can you think of anything we can do for just ten minutes?” she asked innocently, and then she yelped as Reese scooped her up and set her on the counter, his hands on either side of her hips as he leaned in.
“If it’s just ten minutes, we should leave it at kissing,” he murmured, and she grinned, throwing her arms around his neck to bring him in close.
There was a slightly dicey moment, Reese standing between her legs, his mouth hot on the side of her throat, where Tara thought that he really would just pick her up and carry her to bed, but then her stomach rumbled.
Reese pulled back with a sigh.
“Later,” he said, sliding a feather-light finger over the curve of her lower lip. “First, let’s get you fed.”
The fried rice had cooled down nicely while they were making out, and Tara scooped out large bowls for both of them, carrying it to the living room. The couch was turned towards the enormous bay window overlooking the snowy valley below. She passed one bowl to Reese, and for a moment, she only sat still, looking out over the dimming evening and the deep blue winter sky before turning to Reese. It could overwhelm her how lucky she had been, how it seemed that some combination of faith and luck and sheer magic had brought her to this man.
“Sometimes I have a tough time believing this is real.”
“Oh, I know,” Reese said. “I still can’t believe you made this in our kitchen.”
Startled, Tara looked over at Reese, who was already about half-way through his bowl. He glanced up at her.
“You weren’t talking about the fried rice.”
“I was not,” she said with a grin, and then she had to lay her bowl down on the coffee table because he was pulling her to him.
“You better be real,” he said softly, squeezing her close. “I could never dream up someone so perfect.”