Kiss the Cook
Yamato cringed for the third time that day as he glanced down at his apron. The white cursive text, framed by frilly pink fabric, seemed to taunt him mercilessly.
'Kiss The Cook.'
He could imagine it now—Tai would walk in, take one look, and burst into hysterics. He would laugh, and point, and hopefully stop just short of rolling on the floor, though Yamato wouldn't put it past him. But most importantly, Tai would never ever let him live this down.
Maybe, Yamato mused, I can take it off right before they arrive? It was a fool's hope. The digidestined were due to arrive any minute, now, and he still had so much to do, but the thought had Yamato's fingers inching towards the drawstring.
Then the timer Ding!'d, and the eggs were done, and he had to remove them before they overcooked.
Blinking, his attention shifted back to the stove. He lifted the pot of eggs and strained them before setting them aside to cool. He still needed to peel them—and start the noodles—and check on the appetizer before the patties burnt. And that wasn't even mentioning desert. Quite frankly, he was a little too busy flitting from task to task to mind his clothes and keep them splatter-free. The apron, unfortunately, was staying.
With a sigh, Yamato put a new pot of water on to boil, shaking his head. If only the mockery would be confined to Tai. They'd been best friends for years—a little hazing was inevitable. But the frilly pink apron was so different from his usual black, blue-trim one that had gone missing hours prior… the others would definitely notice.
Hikari, Tai's sister, would probably join in with light teasing before dropping the subject to be polite. Mimi would berate him on his fashion faux pas, declaring that even she wouldn't wear something quite so pink. Jyou would shake his head and comment how he 'never thought he'd see the day' Yamato would break down and wear that gift—and Takeru, who'd given him that gift, would probably just watch him with a knowing, infuriating smile on his smug little face.
The anticipation was almost worse than the mockery would be.
A muted sizzling drew his attention away from his self pity. The appetizers needed to be flipped. Snatching up the tongs, he returned to the tskune. The bite sized chicken patties were sizzling away in the broad frying pan, filling the kitchen with a warm aroma. He breathed in deep, letting the scent ease his nerves.
A quick check confirmed they were coming along nicely, their undersides darkened to a rich golden brown. He flipped them easily, reveling in each new hiss as fresh meat hit hot metal. Normally, this dish was served on skewers and grilled, but with the sheer number of people he'd be hosting—12 digidestined, all their partners, and whoever else decided to tag along—his oven couldn't handle the logistics of it all.
Someday, he promised himself, fishing out a bowl and ingredients for the sauce. If his budding internship with NASA panned out, it would be more than wishful thinking. A bigger kitchen, an actual grill, with enough space to feed two dozen people with ease…
As he whisked the sugar, mirin, starch and soy sauce together, Yamato smiled fondly. For all his griping, he did love to cook for his friends. Here he was, planning his future around them.
He dipped his finger into the dark sauce for a quick taste test. The salty-sweet taste rolled over his tongue. More mirin, he concluded, adjusting the recipe as the sound from the frying pan shifted, signaling they were almost done. Gathering his tongs, Yamato prodded the patties, checking their firmness and how evenly they'd browned.
Satisfied, he poured the freshly whisked sauce into the pan. A burst of steam released a smoky sweetness to the air, mouthwatering. Yamato shook the pan back and forth, flipping the bite sized meatballs to make sure they were fully coated. In a minute, they were done, and he turned to plate them.
Two long, white dishes were prepped on his island counter, waiting for the last batch. He began to stack the glazed chicken patties on the bed of romaine leaves.
And then he heard the door open.
"Guess who's early?" Mimi's voice announced, extravagant as ever, as she led the charge into Yamato's apartment.
Of course they wouldn't knock, he mused. His timing was terrible. One minute later and he would've been free of his frying duties, and in the safe-zone to abandon his apron. He couldn't quick untie it now, not with a heavy pan in one hand and a dripping utensil in the other. And he wasn't faced towards the stove anymore, either; they'd caught him in the one minute his protective-wear would be totally visible from the doorway.
"Oh wow, it smells amazing in here, I—what in the world are you wearing?"
Yamato glanced up to find Mimi, Miyako, Koushiro and Sora, and their digimon clustered in his entryway, shedding their fall coats and shoes. It was like they'd all stopped mid-step to stare at him. "Oh hey guys," he said offhandedly, hoping to direct conversation away from the fluffy pink elephant in the room. "Did you all carpool…?"
Koushiro's matter-of-fact "Yes" was drowned out by Mimi's scandalized gasp. She strode forward, looking as sharp as ever in her green peacoat, shock in her eyes. "Yamato Ishida, please tell me that thing does not belong to you," she said. "It's hideous!"
Called it. "It's a gift?" he pitched, knowing the excuse was weak.
"Oh right! From the Christmas Party," Miyako nodded as Mimi put her head in her hands. Miyako slid the plate of confectioneries from her family's bakery she'd brought onto Yamato's countertop, and gave him a knowing look, her voice thick with teasing. "I must say, Yamato, you sure know how to pull off a look."
"What happened to your black one?" asked Sora, who came over regularly enough to know his usual attire.
He groaned. "If I knew that, I wouldn't be wearing this one, would I?" he said, turning to her.
Sora's hair was a little windblown, swept back from her face, and her cheeks glowed rosy from the Autumn cold. In her arms she cradled a bouquet of flowers, popping with bright yellows, reds, and oranges that perfectly matched her eyes. The beauty stole his breath away.
"Mom insisted I bring a bouquet for the party," she explained, hefting the flowers. "Do you have a vase…?"
"O-oh, yeah, it's just, uh?" he floundered. "Th-the lower cabinet."
Yamato looked away, his cheeks burning bright with more than just embarrassment.
Picking up the conversation, Mimi regained her second wind. "Well, lost apron or not, that doesn't stop this from being a fashion disaster," she said as Palmon nodded along with her. She pulled a full-body gesture at Yamato. "Where's your sensibility? Your taste?"
Taste? Yamato smirked. The tongs clattered in the empty frying pan as he finished plating the appetizer. "Try a bite, and I think you'll see I have plenty," he advised, his free hand presenting the plate with a flourish.
Mimi and Miyako gasped, staring in awe at the plate. The girls were quick to snatch up toothpicks and help themselves; Hawkmon and Palmon quickly followed suit. "See? This is why it pays to get here early," Palmon commented, grinning wide. "First dibs on the food!"
"I'm gonna eat all of it," Miyako insisted, eyes shining bright.
Yamato frowned. "I made enough for everyone."
"You underestimate me," she said, already skewering three.
He sighed. "Just—save room for the actual main course," he advised, not getting in their way. Maybe if they were successfully distracted, they wouldn't tease him about—his eyes strayed to his last guest and that train of thought was lost. "…Izzy, I swear to god, if you don't put that camera away I will smack you."
"Camera?" Koushiro feigned innocent. "Who's got a camera? I'm just texting." Click. Click.
"Ooh, good one, Izzy," Tentomon hovered at the redhead's shoulder.
Rolling his eyes, Yamato went to drop the frying pan in the sink. There, Biyomon was perched by the faucet, holding the vase steady as Sora snipped at flower stems and rearranged the bouquet. "Excuse me ladies," he shouldered his way in, rinsing out the frying pan and leaving it there to soak.
Sora offered him a smile. "Don't let them get to you," she said. "They're only teasing."
He groaned. "I know," he said. "I just want my black one back."
"Gabumon probably has it," Biyomon said. "He's here right? Probably sleeping?"
Yamato gave a jolt. Yes, Gabumon was sleeping off in his bedroom. He hadn't even thought to ask his digimon for help. "Why would Gabumon have it?" he asked instead.
Biyomon shrugged. "Smells like food," she said.
"And you," Sora added, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. "But you know, this apron's not so bad, either." Sora plucked a thornless rose, clipping the stem short, and smiled as she tucked it behind Yamato's ear.
And then, lightly on the cheek, she kissed him.
When she pulled away, chatter in the room had gone quiet, and the cogs in Yamato's brain had stilled, too. "W—what was that?" he asked, flustered.
She smiled, pointing to the apron.
Kiss the Cook.
"Just following orders!" she chirped, and turned to carry the bouquet to the dining table, leaving a stunned Yamato in her wake.
Yamato watched her saunter away, one hand straying up to rest on his cheek. He knew he had to be blushing. Her bold move had taken him completely by surprise.
After a long second of silence, Miyako piped up. "Ohh, I see your game," she teased. "Way to go player!"
"Sora? Do I have to kiss him too?" Biyomon called after her, sounding genuinely confused.
"Oh this is rich," Koushiro said, and the suspicious angle of his phone suggested that he was definitely snapping more pictures. Or maybe filming, even worse.
And to top it all off, the front door opened: Enter Stage Right, the Kamiyas.
"Hey! You guys start the party without us?" Tai's voice filtered in as he and Hikari entered, admitting a gust of cold. The bushy haired boy shut the door, turned around, and his eyes met Yamato's from across the room, widening in an instant. Everything froze.
Then Tai's cheeks bulged, and a snigger escaped before he could slap a hand over his mouth. He excused himself, more tactful than Yamato could have ever predicted, ducking out of the apartment. But the hearty laughter echoing down the hallway was loud enough, regardless.
"Tell me someone got a picture," Hikari said, face utterly delighted. Koushiro sent her a thumbs up.
Yamato laughed sarcastically as he started to take his apron off. His hand found its way to his cheek again, though, and he realized he was smiling.
"Oh man," Tai said, once he stumbled back into the apartment, half-doubled over. He pointed at Yamato, breathless. "You are never living this down."
"Yeah, I know," Yamato smiled. He couldn't bring himself to care.