“So uh, Sanada-senpai—”
Sanada turns around, wooden spoon in hand, and lifts his eyebrows in question. His apron says KISS THE CHEF and Raichi tries not to worry. “Sup?”
Behind him, the pot on the stove bubbles with a merry blupblupblup. It smells delicious (something rich and hearty, with tomatoes, maybe) and Raichi catches the drool that threatens to escape his mouth. His stomach growls pitifully.
“Nothing, nothing’s up!” he tells him, gesturing with a flap of his arms. “This is awesome— whatever you’re cooking smells really, really good, like wow, but—”
“But what?” Sanada’s expression is quizzical. He swipes a finger through the sauce coating the wooden spoon and licks it, looking considering. “Hmm.”
Sanada grabs the salt shaker, tosses a large pinch into the pot, and stirs. “Well, what?” He draws out the word, teasing, and glances back at Raichi with a grin. “Wow. Since when do you think this hard about what you’re gonna say, huh?”
Raichi splutters, indignant (though, to be fair, Sanada isn’t completely wrong) and protests. “I just don’t— I mean, I’m not complaining, no way, I’m not complaining—”
“C’mon, just spit it out.”
“I just—” Raichi flusters, darting glances between Sanada’s confused expression and the vague direction of the oven. “I don’t get why he’s here too!”
Miyuki blinks at him, straightening up from where he’d been peering inside the oven. There’s a moment of awkward silence, broken only by the pot still bubbling on the stove and the whir of the oven fan. Raichi sits on his stool near the kitchen bench, wide-eyed, and fidgets with the sudden attention.
“Ouch,” Miyuki says, lips already twitching up into one of his telltale smirks. “Don’t mince your words or anything. What a cheeky kouhai.”
“I like to think he gets it from his father.”
There’s a short burst of laughter from Miyuki. “Like, mini-version of Coach Todoroki? But really mini.”
“I’m not that short!” Raichi squawks, nervousness momentarily forgotten in the face of the offence. He opens his mouth, ready to defend his height (he definitely put on a few centimetres last summer, definitely), but he’s already lost their attention.
Still standing next to the stove, Sanada beckons Miyuki over, and holds out the wooden spoon, saying, “Here, taste-test this for me—”
Miyuki drags a finger through the thick red sauce and pops it in his mouth. “I’m not great with Western-style cooking, y’know,” he says mildly, and purses his lips. “Ehhh, you’re missing something. Can’t tell you what though.”
“Oh, shit wait. Yeah, I forgot to add a bay leaf— hold onto this for a sec, I think I have a packet with the rest of the herbs.”
Sanada turns around to rifle through the nearby kitchen pantry while Miyuki peers into the pot with interest. “Hey, it’s got good colour. Bonus points for you.”
“Haha, thanks. Here, throw a few of these in.”
“Nice apron by the way. That new?”
“Mmm, depends. Do you like it?”
“Ha! I could be convinced.”
Raichi quashes down the urge yell a bewildered, what the hell, to nobody in particular.
Training ends early on Saturdays, and Raichi had come straight from the training pitch to Sanada’s apartment door, hopeful and hungry enough to jog the thirty minute walk into downtown Ueno. Lucky for him, Sanada took one look at his face, snickered, and then swung the door wide enough for Raichi scramble in. Well, it wasn’t as if Sanada usually closed the door on him anyway, but at that point in time Raichi had more important things on his mind.
Namely, the fridge.
He had made a beeline to the kitchen, bouncing on the balls of his feet and already anticipating whatever leftovers Sanada might have—
Then stopped dead in his tracks as an irritatingly familiar guy, leaning over the kitchen benchtop, wriggled his fingers at him in greeting.
What the heck are you doing here, Raichi had shouted, pointing to— well, he couldn't quite place a name to the face, but something about the guy was ringing all of Raichi’s heebie jeebie alarms. He scowled, arms crossed, until Sanada came up behind him and explained something that sounded a bit like, Miyuki, and, Seidou, remember, and cooking da—
It was right about then, that Raichi noticed the half-chopped vegetables, the meat cleaver next to a neat pile of chicken strips, and the smell of something simmering on the stove.
He hopped onto the nearest empty kitchen stool, and promptly told them, “I can wait.”
Apparently, this is a thing they do. Something. Kinda. Just— cooking? Yeah, Raichi isn’t really sure what’s up with that, but hey, free food. He might be fresh out of high school and scouted into professional league now, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still growing. Not to mention that his lousy father still doesn’t feed him— something about losing his last paycheck at the pachinko parlor, but goddammit, there’s been nothing in the fridge for a week, a whole week.
(What was that saying again? Waste not, want not, beggars can’t be choosers? Though, in his humble opinion, Sanada could really afford to find better friends.)
Raichi’s stomach growls again, a loud gurgle that echoes through the kitchen, and he winces. There’s a loud crash as Miyuki drags out a large wok from the cupboard and hoists it up. “Lunch?” he asks.
Sanada glances at him. “You gonna fry up the yakisoba?”
“Yeah, gimme some room at the stove.”
There’s a brief shuffle as Sanada hauls his pot of spaghetti sauce off the main hotplate and Miyuki replaces it with the wok. Raichi thinks he sees Miyuki purposefully bump his hip into Sanada’s, but he squints and decides nope, probably nothing. Maybe.
“Spaghetti sauce will be done in an hour maybe. I’ll pack you a takeaway container later.” Sanada turns to Raichi and jerks a thumb at the pot. “You wanna take some home too?”
“R-really?” Raichi can’t believe his luck: that’s today’s dinner covered too. “Yeah! You’re the best, senpai! We gonna eat now?”
“Hold your horses, I still gotta cook,” Miyuki cuts in.
There's a brief flurry of movement — Sanada leans over the counter to open the kitchen window with a creak — then Miyuki splashes oil into the wok in a smooth, fluid arc. He reaches over to grab the heavy wooden board (Raichi's eyes trail its journey across the air) and scrapes it off with a wicked looking knife. Sizzling noises fill the air, soon followed by glorious scent of cooking meat.
Raichi is so hungry he might keel over and die if nobody feeds him soon.
“Oi, Shunpei, where’s your soy sauce— and do you have mirin?”
Shunpei— Raichi nearly squawks, but then Miyuki drizzles a bottle of dark soy sauce into the mess of noodles and meat and vegetables, followed with mirin, a pinch of salt and sugar, tosses it a few times, and holy shit, that smells so good—
Raichi fervently decides that he can overlook the gross first-name familiarity if that means he gets to eat sooner. And well, Sanada doesn’t look too bothered about it. Kinda of. He’s just watching over Miyuki’s shoulder, joking about something Raichi can’t quite hear. He reaches into the wok to snag a piece of cabbage and Miyuki pauses to ask, “Good?”
Sanada shrugs, and steals a long string of noodles this time. “Yeah. But it’s always good.”
A snort. “Barely.”
“Not like it takes much anyway.”
Miyuki elbows Sanada, clearly amused. “You calling me easy, Shunpei?”
“Haha, you denying it?”
Raichi can’t help it. He bursts into nervous laughing, a loud kyahahahaha that echoes through the kitchen as he tries not to pin them with an accusing stare. Sanada draws away with a sheepish laugh— but not without plucking out another noodle, much to Miyuki's chagrin.
“Food?” Raichi says hopefully, after a moment’s pause.
“Yeah yeah, it’s coming.” Miyuki rolls his eyes. He reaches over Sanada for the spice rack sitting against the tiled splashback, and hums. “If you’re gonna mooch, kiddo, you could at least be patient about it.”
“Kiddo— I’m nineteen!”
“It’s kinda like feeding a stray cat, isn’t it?” Miyuki muses, grinning to himself. He adds a pinch of powder to the wok. “Feed ‘em once, and they just keep coming back.”
“Ah, well," Sanada clears his throat. "See.”
“Raichi’s dad doesn’t do a great job of feeding him, so I do it," Sanada explains. He shrugs, looking thoughtful. "Guess it's become a bit of a habit.”
Raichi perks up at the mention— quick enough to spot the way Miyuki pauses, hands hovering over the wok. There's a sudden stiffness to his shoulders, and a beat of silence. Then—
Miyuki licks his fingers and pulls a face. “Oops,” he says, eyeing the spice rack in his hands. “That wasn’t pepper.”
“Chicken salt,” Sanada says cheerfully. He plucks out a cylinder from the rack and taps it out over the mess of noodles and vegetables a couple of times. “This one’s the pepper.”
“Pfft. I can’t believe you use chicken salt. Minus points.”
Sanada just rolls his eyes. “Whatever, connoisseur-san.”
"Low blow, by the way."
"Mmm. I have no idea what you mean."
Raichi squints, but Miyuki just waves his wooden spoon threateningly when Sanada pastes on his most annoying grin, leans an arm on his shoulder and blows in his ear.
A clatter on the bench yanks Raichi out of his idle daydream (plates and plates of tonkatsu coming down a conveyor belt, deep-fried and golden, mmmm), and oh shit, there it is—
The first plate of yakisoba, piping hot with a faint curl of steam.
Raichi’s eyes lock on it, saliva gathering in his slightly open mouth. He can already taste it, the crunch of those vegetables, the sweet, sweet meat, all coated in sauce—
Miyuki slides the plate over in front of him, “Cutlery's on the side,” he says before turning back to the stove, and Raichi blinks down at it dumbly.
He turns to the left and sure enough, a set of forks and knives hang from a shiny silver rack. Huh. Sanada always did have a thing for Western stuff. Raichi wobbles on the edge of his seat when he strains forward grab a spoon. Deep breaths, he thinks reverently as he sits back, savour this moment, deep breaths.
Then he sniffles, rubbing his sleeve over his eyes. It’s cause the food smells so good, he tells himself angrily.
“Are you crying?” Miyuki sounds incredulous, bordering on a delighted laugh. He sets down his own plate with another clatter and crosses his arms with a grin. “You haven’t even tasted it yet.”
The echoing grin on Sanada's face is knowing as he announces, “Itadaki—" and Raichi has his spoon halfway to his mouth before the word is finished. He whimpers.
Oh god. It’s so good. So good, he really will cry—
“Oi oi, don’t drip more salt into it—”
Sniffling, Raichi shovels another spoonful of yakisoba into his mouth to the sound of good-humoured snickering.
All things considered, Sanada’s apartment is pretty standard for inner Tokyo: an economical 1BDR bordering on luxury what with its separate living room.
That’s where Raichi ends up on the way back from the bathroom, socks softening the noise of his feet. It’s a neat little room with a short pile rug laid out over the tile floor (alright, a little messy with the old-school records strewn around) and a couple of cabinets with sports awards and certificates in them (and the odd gunpla too, huh).
Raichi crashes into the cushy couch with a grunt. In the background, he hears the noise of dishes in the sink, low, murmured voices. He’s gonna rest his eyes for just a sec. Just a sec, then he’ll—
A hand grasps his shoulder and shakes lightly. Raichi grumbles into the pillow, but rolls over anyway. Sanada’s face swims into view, peering down at him.
“I was gonna come back and help—” Raichi says, with a twinge of guilt.
“Nah, it’s Miyuki’s turn to clean up. Budge up a bit—” is the only warning he gets, before Sanada vaults himself over the back of the couch and nearly lands on his stomach. Raichi yelps, scrambling back and manages to get only his toes squashed under Sanada’s weight.
“Geez, what happened to your reflexes? Pretty shoddy for an athlete.”
“I just ate! Senpai, why are you so heavy—”
“Haha, Miyuki was right, you are getting a bit cheeky—”
Raichi flails, protesting even louder (he’s half worried that a certain someone else might sit on him too) until Sanada shifts, and he seizes the opportunity to rescue his toes. Ow. He massages the feeling back into them as he chews his bottom lip, darting nervous glances in the direction of the kitchen.
“Erm. So,” he says after a pause, in his best attempt at a whisper. Though, judging by the way Sanada rolls his eyes, it ends up being more of a stage-whisper. Oops. Gotta work on that. “I was kinda wondering. Cause, um. Yeah. Are you—”
“Y’know. Are you?”
“Am I what?”
“You know. With Miyuki-san.”
“Oh. Am I fucking him?”
Raichi clamps his hands over his ears with a squawk and glares at Sanada, the bastard, who only stifles a laugh. “Nah. I mean." Sanada shakes his head, folding his arms behind his neck as he leans back. "Yeah, I am— but it’s like. Well, it started as a sex thing? Stumbled across him at a uni after-party, one lapse in judgment leads to another, y’know how it goes. He’s pretty hot, great ass— apparently playing catcher gives you thighs of steel—”
It’s hard to hear what Sanada is saying with the way Raichi is trying very hard not to hear anything. There’s a flush on his cheeks, he’s knows there must be, horrible and beet red and embarrassed. He zones out a little, eyes unfocusing. This is way more detail than he ever wanted to know about a senpai’s sex life— fucking a high school rival, and a buddy’s old teammate, oh god, does Eijun know—
“—but then it sorta turned into a cooking thing. And maybe...a dating thing?”
“A what?” Raichi peels his hands from his ears and tilts his head at Sanada.
Is. Is Sanada glancing away? He’s scratching the back of his head now, and there’s the faintest tinge of red dusting his cheeks and oh my god, Raichi thinks, horrified.
“You like him,” he says, blank-faced. He jumps back on the couch and points a shaky hand at Sanada. “You like-like him, you like-like Miyuki-san—mmfph!”
Sanada slaps a hand over his mouth. “Shhh, he’s still in the next room," he hisses, but there's no heat in his voice. "Besides, I told you this was a date. Kinda.”
Cooking date, Raichi realises, cooking date, cooking date, cooking date. “I’m third wheeling—” he shouts, the loudest he’s been all day, and Sanada groans.
A laugh echoes from the kitchen, sounding suspiciously like Miyuki cracking up near the sink.
The oven door closes with a snap.
“Couple more minutes, I think,” Miyuki says, with a yawn. He stretches where he stands, and casts Raichi a dubious glance. “Are you seriously going to—”
“—chaperone us?” he finishes, with a twitch in his eye.
Head down and browsing through a baseball magazine at the end of the counter, Sanada snorts quietly.
Raichi is perched on his familiar kitchen stool, with arms crossed so high that his hands are practically tucked under his arms. He scowls, and Miyuki raises his hands in mock defence.
See, Raichi's decided, after accidentally stumbling upon Sanada backing Miyuki up against the fridge, hands fisted in each other’s shirts and kissing with the fervour of those soon to be caught, that he’s gotta keep an eye on these two.
Just in case. Don't want whatever's in the oven to burn, obviously.
Speaking of which, whatever it is must be something sweet. A warm, chocolatey smell wafts over to him, like gooey caramel and maybe something a little nutty. Dessert? Raichi's heart leaps to his throat. Real dessert— not just discount chocolate bars from the conbini, or the mochi Akki pushed over to him out of pity when they were at Yakushi's cafeteria.
“What are you cooking anyway— uh, caking—" er, that's not quite right either, "I mean, baking.”
Miyuki opens the oven door again, pokes in a cake tester and inspects the end. He barely spares Raichi a glance. “Huh? Oh, hash brownies.”
“What? What’s that, what are hash—” the word is awkward on his tongue, foreign and fumbling, “—brownies?”
"Er. Brownies, baked with pot?”
“Pot? Don't tell me you haven't— geez, marijuana."
"Mari—" Raichi blanches, grabbing hold of the counter edge to stare at Miyuki.
Miyuki shrugs back at him, helplessly, with the back of a hand pressed to his mouth.
"Ehhhh? T-that's illegal! You gotta be j-joking—” Raichi stammers, shaking his head wildly, half-panicked, what if someone sees, what if someone knows. "I-I could get kicked out of professional league, oh god, they’ll smell it on me—”
The horrifying thought strangles Raichi's voice, then he wails, “I ate your food already—” and by this point, Miyuki is laughing his ass off, leaning against the counter with the cake tester still clutched in one hand as if he can’t quite hold himself up.
Raichi buries his head into his arms, moaning in despair, he's so screwed, why did he come here—
He feels a hand drop on his head, ruffling his hair and Sanada's calm voice (if a little too amused for his own good) saying overhead, "Nah, Raichi, they’re not. Don’t worry. Miyuki’s messing with you.”
“You realise I’m in professional league too,” Miyuki remarks, when he manages to stop cackling. He sets the cake tester down and crosses his arms, snorting. “As if I’d risk getting booted out.”
Raichi twists under Sanada's hand, glares at him with teary eyes and argues, hotly, “He’s corrupting you, Sanada-senpai!”
Miyuki snickers. “Well, in one sense, yes.”
“What— what’s that supposed to mean— “
“Ah. I think my brownies are done.”
With that, Miyuki bends over to draw out a tray of freshly baked brownies: crisp, chocolatey and dotted with almond flakes along the surface.
That. Wow. That looks— good.
Raichi scrubs his hands over his face, and chews his bottom lip. Maybe he can excuse the shit-eating grin on Miyuki's face for a while. Until he gets a slice of brownie at least; he sucks in a deep breath, wondering if he can inhale little brownie particles from here.
He also tries very hard not to notice the way Sanada’s gaze trails down the curve of Miyuki’s ass.
“Gotta let it rest for a bit,” Miyuki hums, more to himself than anyone else. He sets the tray on a thin wire rack.
"Smell great," Sanada remarks, as he ambles over to Miyuki. He reaches out to poke the brownie, and Miyuki promptly slaps his hand away.
"Nope, not until it cools."
"Oh c'mon. Just a pinch."
"Are you seriously telling me you're gonna pinch pieces off my brownie? Sanada Shunpei, who do you think I am?"
Sanada laughs. "Spoilsport. Man, I forget how anal you are in the kitchen."
"Actually," Miyuki's voice is cheerful, "the kitchen is the only place we haven't—"
The kitchen stool rolls upturned on the floor, and Raichi sends them a baleful stare, feeling distinctly betrayed as he clings to the counter edge. He'd barely managed to grab hold when his stool gave out, after rocking off-balance when he had yelped and flailed to hurriedly cover his ears. Dirty pervs, Raichi thinks miserably, and out aloud he begins to say, "I'm going home—"
His traitorous stomach growls.
There's a pause, as Raichi fidgets with sudden indecision. Hmm.
"Wow, some kind of chaperone you turned out to be—" Miyuki's remark gets cut off as Sanada digs an elbow into his ribs and says, more kindly, "I'll make him cut you an extra big slice."
Raichi just nods, meekly.
"If you're lucky," Miyuki adds in a wry voice, as he gingerly rubs his bruised side. "It'll knock you out into a food coma. I claim no responsibility for what you might see after that though."
"No blocking the fridge," Raichi says immediately. He has his fingers crossed hard, fervently hoping.