Pre-game ficlet. Not to be taken seriously... at least not too seriously. ^^;;

~*~


The Merits of Cooking School

Akai Kitsune


~*~


It began at Kairi's house, as her adoptive mother, the mayor's wife, was making lunch. Or, rather, as she was slapping together pieces of bread and telling each of the children in a hurry that "Kids your age ought to make your own lunch, you know!" before leaving for work.

Behind her back, Sora just grinned. Kairi giggled, and Riku rolled his eyes.

Left to fend for themselves, the three young teens approached the counter and peered at the food left for them.

Sora carefully picked up a sandwich, peeling one corner up to study the contents. "Well," he said after a moment, "She's probably right, anyway."

Riku shrugged. "It's not that complicated. It's just a sandwich. What's the big problem?"

Kairi smiled. "It's not like all she ever makes is sandwiches, Riku."

"Check it out!" The pair glanced over, where Sora was reaching over the counter for a large, flour-dusted book, pulling it off a shelf and sitting on the floor with it to get a closer look. "Wow, does she make any of this stuff?"

Kairi sat beside him, gazing at the mouthwatering pictures it contained. "Yeah, but it doesn't look like -that- all the time..."

Riku leaned over them, scoffing. "Of course not. Those are examples. Haven't you guys ever seen clothing ads or anything? The models are all wearing perfect clothes, but as soon as we put them on they're all wrinkled."

Sora blinked up at his friend. "Geez Riku, I didn't know you were into that kind of stuff." Riku cuffed him over the head. "Oww-!"

"Funny," the older boy smirked, "I didn't know you were into cooking, either."

The brunette glanced back at the cookbook, brushing a bit of the flour from the corner. "Mom works a lot, you know. I had to learn to cook a few things so she can take a break. Since Dad died I've been trying harder to help."

The others were quiet for a moment, but Sora's curious expression remained unchanged. After a long silence, he finally stood up. "Well, are we gonna eat or what?"

Kairi's face broke into a smile. "Of course! But..." Her eyes trailed to the sandwiches. "They're kind of squished."

"Why doesn't Sora just cook something up for us, then?" Riku suggested, crossing his arms and raising an eyebrow at Sora.

Sora spluttered, the book nearly falling from his hands. "Whaaat? Why just me?"

"Aren't you anxious to show off your cooking skills?" Riku elbowed him. "I thought you'd be all set to go, since you offered."

"Offered?!"

Kairi touched Sora's arm lightly, giving him an imploring smile when he turned towards her. "But I'm sure there's something in the book you can make, isn't there?"

Sora looked doubtfully at the dusty pages for a moment, then his usual grin returned. "Sure!" he announced, gazing sidelong at Riku. "I bet I can make lunch that would give even -Riku- something to drool over!"

Riku's eyes narrowed. "You want to bet?"

Sora stole his trademark smirk. "Yeah!"

And standing between them, looking back and forth between her friends, Kairi groaned. "Here we go again."


~*~


"HA!" Riku called, stepping back from the counter with his hands on his hips to admire his work. "Looks like I win this round, Sora!"

Sora's immediate "Aww!" made his smirk widen. Once again, he had proven himself to be the better.

Soon, both his friends ventured over to see his masterpiece, peering down at the arranged food on his plate.

After a moment, Sora looked up and said, "Great, Riku, but... um... what is it?"

Riku glared at him. "What does it look like? It's exactly what we agreed to cook!"

Sora poked a bit of meat, half expecting -it- to poke back. "But it doesn't look -anything- like it's supposed to..."

The silver-haired teen bristled. "Call it artistic license. I can change the recipe a little if I want."

Kairi gave him a strange look. "Weren't you supposed to cook it a little longer?" Her eyes drifted to Sora's work-in-progress, which was simmering on the stove behind them.

"It's fine, I'm telling you!" Riku insisted.

Sora frowned doubtfully. "So would -you- eat it?"

Silence.

.....

"I would," Riku said slowly, "But I don't have to because Kairi's our judge!"

Words could not describe the morbid expression that crossed Kairi's face.

Sora grinned. "Man Riku, you're -good-. You got her sick before she even tried it!"

"Hey!"

"I am -not- sick," Kairi said weakly. "I'm just... um... not very hungry..."

Riku sniffed in disbelief, then wiggled his nose a little, catching an unpleasant scent in the air. "Hey... is something burning?"

Sora's grin faded into horror. "Aw geez, my food-!"

He dashed over to the stove, but he couldn't reach the pan before the meat was utterly unsalvageable.

Three pairs of eyes gazed at the steaming mess before them — one charred and bubbling, the other looking as though it might start trying to escape at any moment.

Sky blue eyes met twilight, and both nodded.


Round one — Sora = 0, Riku = 0.


~*~


"The next recipe is a little less complicated," Kairi announced, her eyes studying the cookbook intently. "All you have to do is make a vegetable broth. I think you guys can handle this."

Sora grinned. "Of course! That's my specialty!"

Riku snorted. "If that's your specialty, it's pretty sad."

"What's that supposed to mean?!" the brunette demanded, fists clenched.

His friend waved a hand. "Oh please. A bit of meat and flavouring in a pot of water? I bet anybody could do that."

Kairi merely smiled at him. "But we're not using meat, Riku, so it shouldn't be any trouble for you either."

Riku flushed, a rare thing for him, and it made her giggle. "Er... yeah..."

"Come on!" Sora grumbled impatiently, hopping from one foot to the other. "Let's get started!"

In a flash the knives were out, vegetables sliced to bits and tossed into the respective competitor's pot. Kairi sat patiently in the corner, humming to herself and reading a magazine, as the boys fought over the supplies, pots, knives, and anything else they could think of.

Less than an hour later, two bowls were presented like trophies before the judge, and Kairi found that even Riku's food looked appealing. She tasted his first, to make up for being so doubtful in his previous attempt, and the pair watched her anxiously.

The warm liquid filled her mouth, and she swallowed, opening her eyes with a grin. "That was great! Riku, I'm surprised!"

Riku just smirked, ruffling Sora's hair sympathetically. "See, what did I tell you?"

Sora shrugged. "Yeah, but it's all in the flavouring. Kairi, try mine now!"

"I was going to," she replied, her voice testy, and plunged her spoon into Sora's bowl.

The boys watched her even more intently, if it were possible. She paused, holding the spoon in her mouth for a moment, wondering how long she could make them agonize over her decision.

Finally she pulled it from her mouth, her smile broadening. "Sora wins," she declared, sitting back and rapping her spoon on the counter as if to finalize her decision.

"YES!" Sora's fist shot into the air. "What did I tell you, Riku?"

Riku groaned. "But it was the same recipe! I don't get it!"

"All in the flavouring," Sora reminded him, shaking his finger like a condescending mother.

Kairi chuckled. "That's for sure."

Riku scowled for a moment, then blinked, catching Sora's hand and studying it. "Sora, what happened to your hand?"

A small white bandage, stained coppery-red in the center, was wrapped around the younger boy's index finger. Sora burned bright red, chewing on his lip. "I, uh... sorta cut it when I was chopping the carrots. It's okay though, I cleaned it."

They both stared at him. Breaking the silence, Riku abruptly asked, "Your finger, or the carrots?"

Silence once again reigned.

Then, Sora's nervous laughter. "Eh-heh heh," he grinned weakly at them, placing his hands behind his head.

Round two — Sora = 0, Riku = 1.


~*~


After the boys managed to get Kairi to stop gagging, Sora immediately demanded a rematch.

"After all," he crossed his arms seriously, "I was supposed to win that one!"

Kairi made a face. "Only because... ugh!"

"Maybe you're a vampire or something," Sora offered playfully. She replied with a smack, ruffling his spiky hair. "Ouch!"

"That's -not- funny," she glared at him. "Anyway, I guess you're right. Riku, we'll just have to try again."

Riku sighed and passed over the cookbook. "Fine, pick something else then."

They sat in silence for a while as Kairi flipped through, until she called for their attention. "Here, what about this one?"

Sora took the proffered book, and he and Riku gazed at the picture and the recipe beneath it.

"Stir fry?" Sora laughed. "Great! I cooked this a couple of days ago!"

Riku's reaction was less than pleased. "Great, another stove-top recipe?"

"These are the only ones that cook fast," Kairi retorted. "We don't have all day, and I'm kind of hungry here."

"You could always have more soup..." Sora suggested innocently.

Kairi chucked a spoon at his head.


~*~


"Well," Sora said thoughtfully, chewing on a leftover carrot, "It -looks- okay this time."

"Shut up," Riku grumbled, although he couldn't help but feel proud. The rice was a little flaky, certainly, and the vegetables had seen better days; he wasn't about to tell either of his friends, but he had needed to finish cooking the leftovers from his first meal attempt in the stir fry since -someone- — he shot a death-glare at Sora — had used up what little uncooked vegetables were left.

But it looked... -edible-.

It was almost exciting.

'Stupid,' he thought to himself with a scowl, 'Sora's -not- going to make me enjoy cooking!'

"Okay, clear out, guys," Kairi announced, pushing them aside as she moved towards the two perfectly arranged plates. "Judge coming through!"

Sora stared at the food mournfully as Kairi picked up a fork. "Aw, now I wanna be a judge..."

Riku gave him a playful shove. "Eat your own, then."

"Maybe after Kairi tastes it..."

"Oh gee, that's very gentlemanly," Kairi frowned at him. "Stealing a lady's food right after she takes a bite."

Sora sat back on his heels, grinning helplessly, until finally she turned back to the food.

Several bites later, she sent a sympathetic smile to the elder of the two. "Sorry Riku, but Sora's still tastes better." She sent the victor a determined glare. "And that's -only- if you didn't add anything extra to it this time!"

"It wasn't my fault!" Sora objected, and they both raised their eyebrows at him. "Last time, I mean," he added hastily, holding up a finger. He had replaced the bandage with a fresh one, and they saw it was unsullied.

Riku sighed, poking a fork into his meal. "Well, I guess it was doomed, anyway. But hey," he grinned wickedly at them, "Now we're tied. Care to try one more time, Sora?"

Sora grinned. "You're on!"

Between bites of her stir fry, Kairi picked up the cookbook again.

Round three — Sora = 1, Riku = 1.


~*~


"This one sounds interesting!" Kairi announced.

The aspiring cooks, who had been engaged in a cutlery duel-of-fates, crowded around her, looking at the new challenge.

"A... flambe?" Riku read the title, disbelieving.

"Even -I've- never heard of that one," Sora admitted.

"Perfect!" Kairi grinned. "You'll both be clueless! That makes it fair, doesn't it?"

"I wouldn't say clueless..."

"We get to set it on fire?"

"No complaining," Kairi said sternly. "Now get moving!"

Riku looked at Sora. "This is the last one," he said meaningfully.

Sora nodded. "So let's give it our best!"

They clasped hands for a moment, both sending the other a determined look, then rushed for the cupboard.

As they collected the supplies they needed, Kairi collected buckets of water.


~*~


When it came down to it, the only thing missing for both parties was the alcohol.

"Kairi," Sora called, sifting through the fridge as she entered the house carrying two full jugs. "Where does your family-" He halted, catching sight of the buckets she carried. "What's with all the water?"

She raised an eyebrow at him. "Oh, nothing. What are you looking for?"

"Alcohol," the boy replied casually, turning back to the fridge.

Kairi nearly dropped the buckets. "A-alcohol-?!"

Riku grinned, cutting up pineapple slices by the counter. "Didn't you read the whole recipe, Kairi? 'Basted in brandy', or something like that."

The redhead frowned, thinking intently. "I don't know if they have any..."

"Here's something!" Sora declared, pulling a bottle from the back of the fridge. "... Starfruit Rum."

Riku leaned down to study the label. "Wow. I didn't think they made that sort of stuff here."

Turning the bottle over, Sora read the contents. "It says 40 percent alcohol... sugar... a bunch of useless stuff... Paopu juices?"

Kairi blinked. "I was wondering why it had a picture of a Paopu fruit on the front."

Sora laughed. "Looks like we're gonna flambe with alcoholic Paopu!"

"Somehow I'm less than excited," Riku grimaced, crossing his arms.

Kairi giggled. "Oh, it'll be fine. Mom won't mind."

"I wonder what this stuff tastes like..." Both turned to see Sora wrestling with the cork, the contents shaking and fizzling as he did so.

Pop!

"Sora-!"

"Idiot," Riku placed a hand on his forehead, exasperated.

Sora considered the half-empty bottle for a moment, then stretched his tongue to reach the liquid that had sprayed his chin.

His brows creased thoughtfully. "Fruity," he noted.


~*~


With a victorious grin and a low laugh, Sora pulled the last thumb tack — they had been unable to find any toothpicks — from the folded meat and stepped back, considering his work.

"I think it's ready," he announced finally, glancing at Kairi. "How much of that fruity stuff do we need?"

"Don't know," Kairi shrugged. "I'll go check."

"It said a cup, right?" Riku said conversely, already pouring the rum over the food in his dish. "I don't know if there's enough for both."

"Hey!" Sora objected, hurrying over and grabbing for the bottle. "Save some for me!"

"Slowpoke Sora," Riku smirked, gracefully dodging Sora's attempt and lightly tipping the bottle so it wouldn't spill. "Just wait your turn... you can lose in a minute."

"Ahem." The pair turned towards Kairi, who held the cookbook up and wore her own little smirk. "The recipe says one-third of a cup."

Riku's confidence faltered a little. "I knew that," he said after a long bout of silence, ignoring Sora's gleeful expression. "It'll cook faster with more, though."

Kairi gazed into the pot doubtfully. "But you put in an awful lot..."

Sora finally managed to snatch the bottle away, dumping the remains of the drink on his own work-in-progress and letting it drip, his face forming into a sour pout. "Yeah, and barely left any for me!"

Riku shrugged. "You gotta be fast in these things, you know. It's just like racing." He glanced at each of his friends, his eyebrows raised meaningfully. "So, shall we find some matches?"


~*~


"I still won, you know," Sora told them later, his hands behind his head as they relaxed on the back porch, after making good use of Kairi's foresight — or rather, the buckets — and putting out the fires before they got out of hand.

Riku snorted. "In your dreams."

"What? My food was way better than yours!"

It was true, actually; Sora's food was much less blackened when the flames were extinguished, although both were just as soggy.

The platinum-haired boy shook his head. "-Your- food nearly burned the place down!"

Sora sulked, staring at his toes. "You're the one who used up all the Paopu juice," he muttered.

"But yours was closer to the towels that lit on fire, and they-"

"Oh, stop fighting," Kairi scolded them, her hands on her hips. "So neither of you can cook flambe or whatever it is! We should go clean up before my Mom gets home-"

"Kairi, I'm- EH?!" A voice rang out from the house, stern and full of shock. "My -kitchen-!"

The three young teens winced at the volume, glancing at each other in sheepish fear.

"Race you to the docks," Kairi suggested weakly.

Sora and Riku exchanged a look, then smiled.

Round one...


~*~
End
~*~


I wish I could say I knew where this came from. It was the result of a very odd conversation with Koorino Megumi a few days ago, involving a certain omake with Riku and Sora in the kitchen:

Riku: Bwahaha! My souffle is better than yours!
Sora: *chucks an egg at him*

Many thanks to Megumi for encouraging me to write it, and for helping me along!

The "alcoholic Paopu" I credit to Night Mare Chan. It amused me to no end. At first it was Starfruit Cooler, but alcoholic coolers never have enough alcohol percentage to really fit, ^_^;;

Thanks for reading!