Yata was starting to think his initial plan had a flaw.
That flaw was Saruhiko. His former best friend, former worst enemy, current... something; he wasn't quite sure about that part, and it made him a little nervous so he didn't think about it too much. To be honest, the 'worst enemy' bit was sounding about right again.
"How the fuck," he started, still staring at the charred bottom of his rice cooker with agitated disbelief, "did you manage to screw up making rice? The machine does all the work!"
"Obviously not all of it," Saruhiko responded in that irritating drawl, staring deliberately off to the side as if the conversation bored her.
Yata scowled at her. "I left you alone in my kitchen for less than a goddamn hour, and I come back to this! How's that even possible? What the hell did you do?"
She didn't even look up, but he noticed the corners of her mouth turn down just the slightest bit more, as if in irritation. "Nothing much."
"Nothi - " He couldn't even finish repeating it. Yata turned away, trying to swallow his frustration. "Fuck."
The groceries he'd gone to pick up - small things he'd thought would make good additions to what was supposed to be Saruhiko's first successful cooking project - were still sitting on the counter beside him, neglected and useless in the wake of the latest disaster. He frowned at them, torn between annoyance and impatience. It wasn't supposed to be like this at all.
Honestly, after spending the past few days in fruitless attempts to teach the most stubborn person he knew a skill that she obviously didn't give two shits about, he couldn't remember what he'd thought it was supposed to be like.
"This was your idea," Saruhiko reminded him, without a trace of remorse.
"Yeah, I know." Yata frowned, drumming his fingers against the counter in agitation as he thought it over. "At some point, you're gonna need basic life skills - you know that, right?"
She clicked her tongue and finally turned to look at him then, lips pressing together into a stubborn frown. "Why should I, when you always cook?"
He straightened as much as he could, trying to make up for the height difference that let her loom over him. "If I'm not around - "
"I survived without you around before."
It came out in a kind of resentful mutter, Saruhiko's eyes darting away from his face, but Yata winced anyway, the old familiar sting striking at him again. It hadn't been nearly long enough. They'd been separated for years. You couldn't just erase that in months.
There was no point in dragging it up right then, though. He took in a breath. "I just... fuck." It was still hard to get out. Yata scratched at the back of his head, embarrassed. "I just worry, okay?"
Years of wondering if she was eating properly... years of not knowing and trying to not care, and failing...
Saruhiko's gaze turned back up to meet his, and something in her eyes had his stomach momentarily twisting up in knots. "No one asked you to," she mumbled, clicking her tongue and quickly glancing away again. "I guess it can't be helped, though, if you're going to be annoying about it."
That kind of response was familiar, at least. Yata felt the rueful smile building on his face again. Some things just don't change, huh? "All right!" With renewed spirit, he turned his mind back to the training. "Let's start from the beginning - this time, I'll direct you and we can do it together. Okay?"
He walked her through the rice preparation again, and she followed his directions with no hesitation and no error (which was kind of suspicious, considering how badly the first batch had ended up, but whatever). The vegetables kicked off a small argument, which ended with Yata chopping them himself while Saruhiko carefully sliced at the meat (making completely uneven portions, but it didn't matter as long as she could cook them in the end). With all of that, it seemed like an unreasonably long time before they finally got the meat sizzling in the saucepan - but it felt like something of an achievement.
At least she's actually trying. Saruhiko was frowning down at the pan, tongs in hand. There was a little crease in between her eyebrows that spoke of real concentration. It was kind of cute, really...
Huh? What? Cute? No way. Yata blinked rapidly, shook his head, and tried to push that disturbing thought away. This was just Saruhiko, right? Just his best friend. Not cute. Not... not girly, or anything like that. Just Saruhiko.
"How long are these supposed to stay like this?" she asked suddenly.
That snapped him out of his thoughts, at least. "Eh?" He glanced down at the pan. "Right. Yeah. They need to be flipped."
"'Flipped'...?" Saruhiko's frown deepened; her brows furrowed.
"Ah, here, I'll show you." Without thinking, he reached across and braced his hand over hers on the tongs, guiding. "Just slide it under to get hold of the edge - it might stick a bit, even with the oil, you kind of have to - " He demonstrated rather than explaining. "See? And then just turn it onto the other side. It's pretty easy, right?"
When he looked up automatically for confirmation, somehow her face was right there above his, pale skin and delicate bone structure and long dark lashes around glittering blue eyes, and he abruptly forgot what he was talking about.
With how casual things had always been between them, it was easy to forget that Saruhiko was a woman - actually, a really amazingly beautiful woman - and any kind of reminder always struck him dumb and sent shivers running through him. They were close now, too, bodies almost touching, his hand over hers, and he could feel the shared warmth between them even as he stared stupidly up at her face.
Her lips looked really soft, too...
What the fuck am I doing? All at once, Yata became aware of the awkward position and jerked away, stumbling back a few steps and jerking his gaze wildly to the side. His face felt uncomfortably hot. "S-s-s-sorry... I... just... that..." He couldn't seem to string together a sentence; it felt like his brain had tipped over and emptied completely.
His hand still felt a little tingly where it had rested over hers.
Idiot! Don't think about that!
"It's... fine." The response came out as sort of a bemused mumble; when he risked a glance back at Saruhiko, she'd raised the hand with the tongs and was staring at it as if she couldn't decide whether to be annoyed or pleased with it. There were two faint spots of color visible at the high point of her cheeks.
Yata hastily averted his eyes again, feeling another wave of uncomfortable heat flood over his face. "A-anyway, you... you get the idea, right?"
"Got it," Saruhiko murmured, in a slow, almost thoughtful tone. He risked another glance in time to see the corners of her mouth start to curl up slightly.
The sight probably would've tipped him even closer to the embarrassment overload that he was dangerously nearing, but the smell of something starting to burn successfully derailed that. Yata wrenched his eyes back to the pan, alarmed. "AH! The meat! Quick, turn it!"
Saruhiko clicked her tongue, moving with a really irritating lack of urgency to try and flip the remaining pieces. "What a pain."
Yata scowled at her, still a little flustered but rapidly moving past it. "We're going to have to eat that, dumbass - you have to pay attention with food!"
"Whose fault do you think it is that we weren't?" she drawled back, and paused long enough to shoot him a sideways glance and a little smirk. "Vir~gin."
He could feel the flush building again across his face. "D-don't say it like that!"
Saruhiko made a satisfied-sounding hum in response, and turned her eyes back to the meat.
Somehow or another, he thought, she looked unreasonably pleased with herself.