gaisce: (Failure to communicate)
Flourishing Verdantly ([personal profile] gaisce) wrote2009-06-15 03:32 am
Entry tags:

[Kung Fu Panda] With a Little Seasoning

Title: With a Little Seasoning
Series: Kung Fu Panda
Spoilers/warnings: ...does vague Viper/Po teasing count as a warning?
Wordcount: 2,510
Summary: Po doesn’t know how to live up to expectations, especially when they can change.
Author’s Note: I claim mental amnesty for this idea from finals. Since Kung Fu Panda was the only thing I was watching for a lot of it.



Even though the Dragon Warrior could theoretically attain perfect understanding with the universe, Po felt pretty clueless most of the time. And not in the zen parable of knowing that not everything may be known kind of way. No, he was still working on the little things like realizing, yes, he actually managed to become a kung fu master. And, no, it was not a dream, he actually spent every day starting at the break of dawn training with the legendary warriors, the Furious Five.

That was one way of knowing it was for real, because his dreams would never make Po get up before ten in the morning.

It was weird. Really awesomely weird, but he was still surprised each time he woke up and remembered everything that happened before. Being chosen, training with Shifu, defeating Tai Lung...everything he did came from memory and not from his imagination, not like all the countless stories he told before.

So when Master Shifu finally granted him a vacation in order for Po to help his father for the upcoming Lantern Festival, the erstwhile Dragon Warrior returned to his old room with the worry that he would somehow stop being the Dragon Warrior if he wasn’t surrounded by proof that things were different. If he could not see the evidence that he had changed.

It was probably an illusory conceit or something, but Po didn’t even know what that meant so even if he was in the middle of an identity conundrum he kept it simple by sticking with the clear and obvious signals as things came to him.

Like his appetite.

The tried and true method of motivation. Sure he apparently could survive months from a drop of dew and the meaty things or whatever it was that sustained the divine plan of the universe (and it’s not like the universe was skinny right? It being constantly expanding...) but his body didn’t know that, and his stomach was a lot louder than the silent response of inner peace.

Besides, Po thought, how could you ever attain inner peace when your insides were obviously not peaceful?

That was the best part of returning to his dad’s place, waking up to the smell of noodles being cooked broth. Even the clattering of dishes had a hunger inducing affect. Even if it wasn’t his dream to wait tables at a noodle shop, he could still do it with his eyes closed.

Which was probably half the reason he stumbled into the edge of a table only to find that Viper was sitting at the newly available table and she was staring at him in something like mild concern.

“Po? Are you all right?” she asked, her emerald body uncoiling to inspect him.

“Yeah, I’m fine just...” he laughed and made a half-hearted karate chop. “Snuck up on me there.”

“I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Po set down the empty noodle bowls on a nearby counter, not trusting himself to balance them all when there was multitasking to be done. Like talking and balancing. That is talking to one of the Furious Five, while balancing in an apron. A dirty apron that he last used to clean up the snot from a kid who started crying when he realized the happy noodle bowl didn’t come with a toy.

Oh yeah, he was so far from scoring cool points with her.

“Sooooo why are you here?”

“Your invitation to ‘hang out’,” Viper said, using Po’s inflection to make it sound casual.

“What? Me? Now?” Po gaped, looking around to see if the others were around to clarify that it was really something less like fun and more like “extra training” in roundabout Shifu-language. “Uh...so where are the others?”

In the brief time it took her tongue to flick in and out, Viper almost looked embarrassed. “I’m going to participate in the ribbon dancing ceremony later tonight, so Master let me have the day off. My training schedule was the only one that coincided with yours.”

“Oh, that’s...” Po started out with a sigh, sounding a little crestfallen until he noticed the careful look in Viper’s eyes. “Um, that’s not so bad! It’s not bad at all! I was just—just wondering how many bowls to bring out. It’s on the house, of course. For being, you know, awesome and stuff.”

“To be honest...” And there was that careful look again. She had to be testing him for something. “I came because I loved your cooking. So if this is where you learned from your father it would be a great honor to dine here.”

“Ahaha wow, are you kidding? No the honor’s all mine! I mean, my dad’s. Mine and my dads and the noodles that are worthy enough to be eaten by a member of the Furious Five and—” Po stopped when he saw the curious look she was giving him. “I went a little far with the noodle honor didn’t I?”

Viper laughed. “It’s better to be too respectful than not enough.”

“Yeah that, I’ll—I’ll be right back. Just give me a minute to get the order ready,” he stumbled, both in words and over his feet, getting back to the kitchen.

It was weird, he thought. Just when he was finally getting to a point of normal co-existence with the rest of them, where he stopped getting lost only to end up in Crane’s room, Monkey forgiving him for stealing his almond cookies, and Mantis not killing him with acupuncture or Tigress finally looking like maybe she didn’t want to kill him for just existing—take away that environment and he was back to being the stumbling fanboy who served noodles for a living.

“Dad, I got four orders for table eight and a special one for table two.”

Po’s father was currently mixing the broth, but he paused to give his son a knowing look. “A special order, Po?”

“Yeah, it’s for my friend, Viper—” he paused, wondering if that was too presumptuous of him to say, even if she was the friendliest of the Five. “My, uh, co-worker? Professional acquaintance? One step down from drinking buddy. Non-alcoholic.” He paused, noting that his father’s expression didn’t change. “You know, one of the Furious Five, Dad.”

“The ones whose action figures you keep on your windowsill, I remember! Oh I can’t count the times I looked in on you standing on one leg and making those ‘hiyah’ noises, I thought you were coughing up a furball at first!”

“Could you maybe keep that part quiet, please?”

“One of the illustrious Furious Five, here in my noodle shop, and you were thinking ahead for celebrity endorsement!” Po’s Father continued, clapping his wingtips in excitement. “Oh I knew you had a mind for noodles. Even if you decided to pursue your kung fu training, you can’t deny your upbringing.”

“I’m not denying anything I just want to impress her with your secret ingredient noodle soup. And maybe the dumplings that aren’t stale...”

“What do you take me for, Po? Only the best for my son’s friend...did you say ‘she’?”

There was a slyness in his tone that even Po couldn’t quite ignore. The panda huffed a little, saying, “Yeah? Viper is a girl, Dad, she has…lipstick and, like, flowers behind her—that place where ears would be.”

“I see,” said Po’s Father. “Then I will make her my super special secret ingredient soup!”

“But isn’t the secret ingredient that there is no secret ingredient?”

“Of course, that’s what everyone else gets and the secret no one but you and I know. But I will let you in on another one, Po. Something can be special because you believe it is so, but that does not mean you cannot add to it or change it for fear of losing that specialness.”

Po blinked, a confused look spreading across the dark circles of his eyes. “So what you’re telling me is you actually have a secret ingredient, only that it’s not really your secret ingredient because you don’t use it you just keep it on hand for when you feel like doing something else?”

“I told you I had many wild ideas when I was younger,” the old mallard said before taking a bowl and turning so Po couldn’t see what he was placing in on it. “Just because I gave up my dream of a tofu restaurant doesn’t mean I don’t carry some part of it with me. Now give her this meal and make sure to get whatever good things she says in writing! We want that endorsement hung by the gate’s arch...”

Next thing Po knew there was a small bowl shoved into his paws that smelled and looked just like the thousands of other noodle bowls he served. He edged back out to the courtyard where Viper was still sitting and slid it towards her tentatively, almost afraid she would know there was a difference. And, in knowing, unravel the whole talk he had with his father, everything from his insecurities in his status as the Dragon Warrior to the action figure comment. Like seeing into someone’s soul except instead of tea leaves it was green onion fragments or something.

“Here you go. One order of super special secret ingredient noodle soup,” then, remembering himself brought out a wrapped bun. “And a dumpling on the house.”

He hoped that dumpling was from the fresher batch, at least.

Viper wound her tail around the soup spoon and gave it an experimental taste. A small hiss of approval thrummed in her throat and she smiled. “This is wonderful, Po.”

“Really?” he asked, knowing it was true but part of him liked hearing her compliment his dad’s efforts.

“Yes, I can see why your dad wanted your help with the shop this weekend. With everyone coming to celebrate the festival, you’ll be swamped with customers. These noodle bowls are delicious and convenient for hungry tourists.”

“That’s because his has an actual secret ingredient.”

Viper’s tongue flicked out in consideration. “That’s true. And, please don’t take this as offense to your father’s skill, but I doubt I could tell the difference between yours and his. They’re both very delicious.”

“Yeah but...” Po fumbled for words, “But he’s—his actually has stuff in it. Mystical secret ingredient good tasting stuff.”

“Compared to the cooking at the Jade Palace it’s almost decadent. I only wanted to say that yours was equally impressive. In fact, I would say my personal taste preferred yours.” She bowed her head slightly, looking away. “Not that I could speak critically of such things, it is only a small observation.”

Po, for lack of a better response spun around and immediately shot his dad an accusing look, mouthing ‘what did you put in there?’ to him. When the cook shrugged he cupped his hands into a bowl and pointed, only to find his father studiously ignoring him.

“Po?” Viper’s voice pulled him back to face him. She was staring at him with a small amount of concern.

“Viper! Sorry, little miscommunication there. Trying to make sure nothing blows up behind the counter, you know? A watchful warrior is always watchful!”

“I’ve been keeping you, haven’t I?”

“Noooooooo, no! You’re fine! I’m just...okay, it’s one thing when I’m over in your guys’ turf cooking up dinner and impersonating Shifu with that noodle ‘stache. It’s another when one of you magically appear where I grew up and I feel like I have to somehow explain myself. Or something.”

The warrior snake straightened herself so she was staring level with Po’s eyes. “There’s nothing to feel ‘weird’ or shameful about how you were raised. I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable.”

“It’s not you!” Po grimaced. He felt like banging his head against a table for being so awkward and bad at explaining himself, but the last time that happened he ended up covered in sticky bun crumbs so he refrained. “It’s me. I feel weird because you all have these awesome stories of why you became kung fu masters and I just sort of fell into it.”

“I remember, I was there that day when those fireworks blasted you in front of Master Oogway.”

Po laughed, a little sheepish for how he sounded. “When it comes down to it, I guess I was afraid you guys would judge me. Because I sure don’t act like the amazing Dragon Warrior when I’m here.”

“All of us dedicated our lives to fighting, but fighting is not all our life. It’s good to find balance in other things, to appreciate simple pleasures. Look at Tai Lung—his dedication to the art did nothing to help make him a better person. That’s why you were able to beat him, Po.”

The panda blinked to hear her words. He was still so unused to compliments about his abilities (except for those victory cheers at the all you can eat contests) it took him a while to process. “You really think so?”

She smiled, with closed lips but it reached her eyes and made even the cold blooded reptile look warm for a moment. “I’m sure of it. If it makes you feel less out of place, you can come and watch my ribbon dancing at the festival tonight. Then we can judge each other.”

“Oh boy, I would love to!” Po exclaimed. “The coming part, not the judging—I mean, I’m sure if I judged you then you’d be a ten. A number higher than ten, you’d be awesome.”

Viper uncoiled from holding the bowl and spoon to slither across the table toward Po. From behind one of her flowers she pulled out a coin from her tail and dropped it in one paw. If he didn’t know better, which he should have what with the kung fu master heightened senses yadda yadda, he could have sworn her tongue flicked near the trim of his cheek before she moved past him.

“It’s a date then. I’ll see you tonight, Po. Thanks for the meal.”

“You’re welcome!” Po responded, waving after her. “See you!”

He must have been staring after her for longer than he thought, because when he finally came back to himself Po’s father was waiting expectantly at his side.

“That secret ingredient really helped, didn’t it?”

Po paused, debating how to explain Viper’s strange response. “She said they tasted almost the same. Whatever it was, maybe you should make a stronger dose.”

“Oh, I didn’t put anything in I don’t normally put in the special ingredient bowls.”

“You—but you just told me that you actually had a secret ingredient!”

“I do. But why ruin a good formula.” Po’s father said, casting a sly look over to his son. “And, besides, why add something new when she was coming for other things. It’s just as good to say it’s special when the special not what I put in it but what you bring to it.”

“...Dad, you have got to stop messing with me like that.”

Post a comment in response:

From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.