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Meal For Three

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Dinner was ready. Ryoko was prepared to serve it, but she lingered in the kitchen for just a few moments longer. Yuki spoke quietly at the best of times, but then Ryoko heard her laugh, clear and true, and it felt like the right time to gently intrude; she held the pot firmly, ensuring that the lid was steady before she made her way through to the main living space. Kyon's voice, too, was audible - she couldn't quite make out their conversation from the kitchen, but that didn't matter. The most important thing was that they were there, and they were talking, and above all else - that Yuki was happy.

Ryoko stepped through, seeing both Yuki and Kyon look up as she made her entrance. Kyon's smile grew as he watched Ryoko approach, unable to contain his excitement as she placed the pot down and removed the lid.

"Oohhhh--! I've been looking forward to this all day."

The plates and bowls had already been arranged around the surface of the kotatsu. Ryoko couldn't help a crafty grin as she took out the ladle, preparing to serve. "Oho? Are you saying that the most exciting part about visiting Nagato-san's apartment is being able to taste my home cooking...?"

Kyon waved his hands around, an action that only caused Ryoko's smirk to deepen. "No, no, that's, that's not it at all--!"

"Oh, well, that's fine, then. So what would you say is the most exciting thing about being able to visit Nagato-san's apartment?" She held the ladle up, smiling sweetly; the potential meaning caught Kyon and Yuki at about the same time, blushes appearing on their faces almost immediately.

"That's, that's, I mean--... when you say 'exciting', that's--..."

"Awawawawa... that's, aahhh... embarrassing..."

"I don't know what you think I'm implying... isn't it a wonderful thing just to spend time together? I'd say that's enough in itself. Honestly, what am I meant to do with you two?" Having served the stew, Ryoko placed each bowl on its placemat. Yuki and Kyon meekly accepted, then took the small distraction as an excuse to brightly change the subject.

These meals together were quite commonplace - it almost felt as if they ate together more frequently than otherwise, but that situation had only come about due to being an arrangement that the three of them enjoyed. Occasionally Yuki's apartment would get even noisier, given the members of their group - but all were welcome under Yuki's roof. Of course, such things would exhaust Yuki quite quickly, but they were always there to eat Ryoko's food to begin with; she had no objection to styling herself as the perfect host, regardless of if she was serving for two or for twenty. It was always more rewarding to cook for a group, and eating together was much nicer than eating alone. Ryoko had always been happy to cook for Yuki; this was just an expansion of that role.

None of that explained how Ryoko had somehow ended up as something like a manager for Kyon and Yuki's relationship, though. Of course, the two of them were both emotionally dense and stubborn in their own ways, and it seemed quite a common consensus across the group that nothing would happen between those two without a bit of prodding. As such, Ryoko would find herself making those comments, slipping the odd bit of innuendo into a casual conversation, seizing opportunities to make them blush and stammer. Was that helpful? She wasn't sure, but she didn't get tired of teasing them.

Following the meal, Kyon helped Ryoko clear the table and clean the cutlery. Those mundane chores over, Ryoko clapped her hands together and smiled that smile once more. "Well! This has been a lovely evening. It always makes me happy to see people enjoy my cooking."

Yuki smiled in return. "I feel bad asking you to cook all the time, but... I really enjoy it, even if it's selfish..."

"Wouldn't it be more selfish for me to cook by myself and not share anything? Especially when we live so close by to one another, it's only economical to share meals. We can go shopping tomorrow and you can choose what you'd like for next week too, if you're free."

"Oh, that--... that'd be great! I'd like that!"

"Then, that's settled! I'll see both of you tomorrow."

"Ye--wha?"

Ryoko had been in the process of standing up when she caught Yuki's confusion. "We've finished eating, it's getting late, so...! It simply wouldn't do for me to take up all your time together. Couples need to spend time alone too, don't they?"

"Ah, well, that's--... I mean--... aaaahh..." (Once again, Ryoko was able to enjoy Kyon and Yuki's sudden embarrassment.)

Kyon made to get up too, but Ryoko stopped him with an outstretched palm. "Na-ah--! You're not getting out of this by suddenly deciding that it's time for you to leave too...! I think you should stay for, hm, let's see... at least an hour longer, I think. Just the two of you. Alone. Together. Right?" She turned on her heel and made her way to the front hallway, pretending to ignore the frantic pair behind her. She left out of the front door, stopped for a moment, and then started back to her own apartment.

She was maybe halfway there by the time that Yuki caught up with her.

"Ahh, ah--... d-don't--... don't go yet--!"

"Nagato-san...! Honestly. You'll never progress as a couple if you've got me watching all the time."

"I, I know, b-but..." Yuki tugged on Ryoko's sleeve. "Just for today...?"

When Yuki gave her that look, Ryoko was quite defenceless. "Okay, okay. Just for today."

Yuki brightened immediately, keeping hold of Ryoko's sleeve as they walked. "I'm glad--!"

"Therefore, are you saying that tomorrow will be the day...?"

"Awawawawa--"

Ryoko couldn't hide her giggle. You're just too easy to tease.