"This is almost ready," Ryuuji called from the kitchen. The smell of cooking vegetables had filled the house.
"I'll set the table," Riku said.
Momo jumped up like she'd been sitting on a spring. "I'll help, Ri-kun," she said sweetly. Then she muttered under her breath, something about childhood friend and close to him and touch by accident. Riku didn't seem to notice. After a while, Momo realized she hadn't actually made any move to help, and she squeaked and grabbed the chopsticks.
Nazuna and Souma had been following this whole mini-drama.
"That used to be funny," Souma muttered, "the first twenty or thirty times."
"Why doesn't he notice her?" Nazuna said quietly. "I mean, not that I expect him to have feelings for her, but he seems so totally oblivious."
"Maybe he likes her back," Ryuuji said from behind them. "That can make a guy pretty stupid, sometimes."
"No way," Souma said. "He never talks about her."
"Not even in his sleep?" Ryuuji joked. Souma was sharing Riku's bedroom these days.
"Nah. . .oh!" Souma said, remembering. "Yeah, once. But I'm pretty sure that was a nightmare." Nazuna snickered. "Who knows?" Souma went on. "Maybe Riku doesn't go that way." Ryuuji promptly burned himself on the wok. Nazuna turned bright red and started to shake, as though she were about to explode. "What?"
"Insolent," Nazuna managed, sounding strangled. "Imply such things. . . Head of the Ten-ryuu. . ."
"Saying stuff like that is a fast way to start a fistfight," Ryuuji said, sucking the burn on his hand. "Even Riku might lose it, if he heard that."
"It happens," Souma said defensively. "It's not something you talk about to strangers, but it's nothing to flip out about."
"Why," Ryuuji said, "have you ever seen him. . ." His imagination failed, and he made a vague gesture with his good hand.
"No," Souma admitted. "But he is kinda, you know, sensitive, isn't he? And it would explain why girls are such a total blank to him."
"Sensitive?" Nazuna was sorely tempted to make a comment about Souma's earrings, but for Riku to overhear a shouted argument on this subject would be mortifying. Instead, she said, "I'm sure you don't have to be like that to be uninterested in Jouzenji-san."
"I guess it's a good thing, though, that he doesn't know," Ryuuji said. "I mean, if he knew, he'd have to say yes or no."
"And in any case, she'd be completely hysterical if she knew he'd figured it out," Nazuna added.
Ryuuji nodded. "Dinner's on!" he called out, setting the food expertly in ready platters and bowls. He and Nazuna carried it to the table and sat down. Riku picked up the extra chopsticks (Momo had grabbed too many) and took them back to the kitchen.
"Oh," Momo said, trying to sound nonchalant, "I guess Riku's going to be sitting next to me." Sure enough, she'd placed herself in the center of the three open places, so Riku would have to sit on one side of her or the other.
Riku was facing away from the table, so Momo, Nazuna, and Ryuuji couldn't see his face. But Souma clearly saw him roll his eyes and take on an expression of deliberate patience as he said, "Anyway, it's a small table, so it's easy to talk to everyone," as though he had no idea why Momo cared where he sat. Souma blinked, and Riku noticed him. The older boy smiled sheepishly, and shrugged.
Souma grinned, and went to eat his dinner.