restaurant au, this got really long and i need to go to work omg
It started with the night everything Asahi sent out coming back. Everything was too cold, too mushy, too everything that could possibly go wrong and it wouldn’t stop. It was just one night, one freak busy night, but it hammered at Asahi’s confidence until it shattered. He didn’t walk out on them that night, and Daichi didn’t fire him for the next night’s no-call no-show. He tried to quit for good while Noya was out for a week with a bad stomach flu immediately after that night; instead, Noya came back to see him hovered around the dishwasher machine and refused to acknowledge him for a few days because of it.
“I can’t accept that you would just give up like that!" he yelled at him once.
Asahi had just tried to make himself smaller in response because he had nothing but excuses to give him. Noya didn’t know how to help him and that terrified him, so he lashed out. Over time it calmed down, and Noya stuck with him.
Noya can never help himself when there’s someone in trouble whom he’s taken under his wings, though, and he feels guilty for not being able to bring Asahi back behind the line where he’s supposed to be. The most he can do for him is forcibly carpool with him to make sure he even gets to work, hold his hands protected with latex gloves to cover all the little bandaids around his fingers that Noya put on him, and guide him through every night and stay with him late to clean up after everyone else has gone home. He feels as though he can barely do anything as long as Asahi is hunched over plates and utensils that need cleaning, deliberately avoiding his previous place in the kitchen as much as possible.
Asahi won’t even admit he’s hungry sometimes, so Noya often has to shove a plate of food he asked Suga to make into Asahi’s hands. “Eat,” he says and won’t budge until Asahi gives in and leans against a prep table to nibble during slow periods.
A few months pass by like this, with Asahi stuck in neutral and Noya shifting as much as he can to try to lift him up. Daichi and Suga, accidentally or on purpose, seemed to become distant with Asahi as they tried to find new cooks to train since it never seemed that Asahi was going to come back. They brought in two college students, Kageyama and Hinata, and it was the first time in so long that Noya had seen sparks reignite in Asahi’s eyes.
The kids were passionate, overly competitive with one another in a team situation, and they were fed stories constantly of the extraordinary third chef that used to work alongside Daichi and Suga through thick and thin. Noya was always quick to shoot Asahi a look whenever he was being talked about, and wasn’t at all gentle with sicking the in-training duo on him.
"Hey! You wanna meet the ace of this place?" he asked, knowing full well Asahi was tensing up in the corner, and knowing he wouldn’t dare try to bail out.
Hinata was more vocal about his enthusasium than Kageyama, who just stiffened with an odd expression that Noya took to be him trying to handle being excited.
Noya jutted a thumb behind him towards Asahi. “Right back there. Maybe you two can talk some sense into him.”
They did more than that over the next few weeks, and every time they came up to Asahi he would just shoot a defeated expression toward Noya. But that light was back in his eyes, the one that flared up during rushes, that made him bustle around more, asking where he could help, could he maybe come early to help prep for the mound of reservations for the night.
So, really, Noya has the kids to thank for Asahi shuffling back behind the line one night and whining as Daichi smacks him hard on the back for finally getting his nerves together. He puffs out his chest as holds a white chef’s jacket in his hands, the one that’s big enough for a giant with Asahi’s name boldly embroidered on the right side of the chest. Asahi takes a deep breath as Noya scoots between the starry-eyed duo that sent all this back into motion, and even Daichi and Suga step back to give them room.
Noya looks up at Asahi, looks him right in the eyes, and smiles.
"Here," he says as he chucks the jacket into Asahi’s arms, "it’s been waiting for you."