DISCLAIMER: The Haruhi Suzumiya series does not belong to me in any way, shape, or form. This story is written using its characters and general plot for fun and no profit whatsoever. All rights belong to Kadokawa and the author respectively.
NOTE: Haruhi can cook, going by the novels. Consider this fic AU, since I'm certainly not going to delete it for that.
"The Study Date"
Precisely what Kyon was doing here at Haruhi's house was, for all intents and purposes, a mystery to him. He could not deny that the tiniest, most curious and most experimental part of him had been dying to know what it was like, although he would feign denial were a person to ever come out and ask. He had wondered about all the tiny little things: western or traditional Japanese; outskirts or downtown; big or small; house or condo. Not to say that this was typical of him, because normally he couldn't care less. He didn't really pay attention to such things, preferring to observe people more than objects. Haruhi's was a special case, as he fully realized that anyone so strange and odd could not possibly been born and raised in such normal surroundings. Even if the building had started out normal, it had to have been remodeled at some point for the "essentials", as Haruhi would put it: UFO landing pad, radar, swimming pool made of pudding.
He may have made that last one up though, as he sat in the western meets traditional-style living room of Haruhi Suzumiya with an uncomfortable squirming in his stomach and the question still being mulled over in the brain. He was hungry, but trying not to let it bother him. Haruhi had, after all, gone into the kitchen to get some snacks for this impromptu study session. Which reminded him: the question. What in the world was he doing here? Granted, Kyon was not the best student in the world. Haruhi, however, could scribble out an essay five minutes before the end of break and still manage to come out with one of the best grades in the class. Logically speaking, he could benefit from studying with her, but this Haruhi he was dealing with. What did logic have to do with anything? He knew she had never done any studying in her life that was not an cram session the day of the exam itself, and it wasn't like she cared how he did as long as he wasn't failing or in trouble. Yet, here he was, by her invitation, and he couldn't help but wonder why.
The Brigade, as always, had their own respective opinions about the matter:
"Well, it could be a study session. However, I am willing to bet that perhaps Suzumiya is trying to find a way to spend time alone with you, in a way that won't make both you and her uncomfortable." Koizumi, of course. Surprisingly however, he had said very little else on the matter, to Kyon's eternal gratitude. The esper took far too much interest in what could only be called Kyon's romantic life (despite it feeling anything but), so it made for a nice change of pace. Perhaps Koizumi had known how ridiculous it sounded, because of course it couldn't be a date. This was Haruhi. She did not do cute things like arrange pretend study sessions because she was too shy to ask a boy out. She dragged guys by the tie down to the cinema or the science museum and demand he court her on the spot--not that she had ever done that to Kyon, thankfully.
"Maybe she's worried about your English grade?" Mikuru, as cutely and innocently as ever, had offered this one. It was by far the simplest explanation. Kyon did not exactly excel when it came to English, whereas Haruhi could probably waltz off to England and America and settle in comfortably. Again, since when did Haruhi care? In fact, now that he thought back on it, Mikuru seemed to be suggesting the same thing Koizumi had in terms of the emotions involved. What is wrong with everyone?, he wondered.
"Bored." At least Nagato had treated it in a normal fashion. Haruhi could be bored, but he had to consider why she didn't pick something more interesting to do. Unless, he thought, Nagato was saying. . .
No, he thought, stopping himself. No, Kyon was certain this wasn't a date. After that time in closed space, she had not done anything to remotely suggest she wanted to continue further, and he hadn't done anything to venture forward himself either. It simply didn't feel comfortable to him. Haruhi, for all his complaining, was a friend. A crazy, stubborn, selfish, weird friend who was often far more trouble than she was worth and would only prove to be more so if he ever got it in his head to get involved with her. A very attractive, strong, independent, honorable, unpredictable female friend whom he maybe liked as more than a friend but was not willing to screw up what they had for something he had never really done before and didn't really understand.
Damn, he was hungry.
He looked around the living room, trying to take his mind off his stomach. He really should have eaten breakfast before coming here, but Haruhi had demanded him here bright and early. He had already chanced being late when he snoozed through his alarm. He never really realized how accustomed he had become to his sister's morning greeting until she was gone for the night. It was a good thing she didn't sleep over at friends' houses too often.
The bellow took Kyon out of his thoughts and sent his eyes darting towards the kitchen, hidden away behind a chestnut swinging door that would have looked better on a pirate ship than in the midst of the white living room walls. He wanted to believe that Haruhi, supposed god, source of data, time disturbance, and clever teenage girl, couldn't have done anything too terrible, yet images of fires and bubbling broths ran through his head at enormous speed, almost forcing him up and running. After all, what could possibly get Haruhi so bothered?
He soon discovered not much at all, as out of nowhere a box of pocky hit him in the face. Haruhi, carrying another box for herself, hopped onto the couch directly in front of him and said, "Cooked food is a waste of time anyway! I can get by perfectly fine with Pocky." She quickly ripped her own box open and chomped down on a few, as if to prove it.
Kyon looked down at his own box and grimaced slightly when he noticed it was banana flavored. "I think I'll pass."
"What's wrong with it?"
"We have some Tam-tams too, and there's some Fanta in the fridge. . ." She continued on, but Kyon was already standing up, his mind on other matters. It didn't take long for her to notice him moving and midway through her rant, she questioned, "Hey, where are you going?"
"Do you mind if I use your kitchen for a little bit?
Methodically, Kyon sprinkled and dashed things into the pot, although it appeared to Haruhi as being very random and careless. Truthfully, she found herself somewhat fascinated as she watched from her Indian position on the opposite counter. Cooking for her was always such a chore, to the point where she would rather go hungry than make her own dinner. An exact amount of this, an exact amount of that, cook it only for so-so amount of time—it reeked of regulations and rules. While Haruhi could appreciate that there was a specific way of doing things, she had issues with it when it wasn't her specific way of doing things. And the time involved! Just the idea of all that effort for something she could easily heat up in a microwave made her puke. In fact, that was normally how she did things. She had grown to be very fond of ramen cups especially, simple and salty but done in three minutes, leaving more time for doing whatever she wanted. Reading manga, surfing the internet, watching TV - anything she desired.
Kyon, however, didn't seem to mind any of that. In fact, he almost made it seems like none of the tedium existed at all, as one strong hand stirred the pot while the other danced with chopped onions, diced carrots, and sliced leeks. What he did seemed almost artistic in its pure, unadulterated freedom. Yet when her eyes trailed to the recipe book he had laid out next to him, she could see he was more or less following the directions to the broth, with only a few alterations that sprung from God knows where. She had to ask.
"When did you learn to cook?"
"Do you have any fish?" he asked right back, and she pointed to the fridge. He only answered when he found some swordfish and began to open the package. "My mother sometimes tries to teach my sister. It doesn't really work; she's only eleven after all. Anyway, I just kind of picked up stuff from that. It's not much really."
Haruhi noticed the ease with which he cleaned and cut the fish, as he continued, "Don't blame me if it's not that good either. I've only made this once before, so I'm just kind of reading the directions as I go."
Silently, he added, Okay, I actually only helped out that one time, while my aunt did most of the hard work. Not to mention that I'm not really a good cook to begin with, so we'll be lucky if this comes out to be even the right color. Deciding it would be good to probably give Haruhi fair warning, he vocalized the latter half.
"Well, I'm not really expecting much. You just better not kill your Brigade Chief, Kyon!" was her verbal reply, although mentally she was thinking something entirely different. Reading along? I've seen you glance at it twice. Besides, Mom's made this at least a hundred times, and she still has to follow the directions line by line. The fact that you can do it at all. . .
Quietly, Haruhi offered, "It smells good though."
Kyon turned to look at her, his normally impassive face betraying his surprise. Haruhi knew he didn't know what to say in response to her words. Indeed, he turned back to the stove without saying anything, but Haruhi imagined a soft "Oh" escape his lips and noticed, with some surprise on her part, that the back of his neck had turned red like an old shoujo manga.
Kyon felt the back of his neck redden and grimaced. There was nothing else to be done really but wait now, making it the perfect time for conversation, but he didn't know what to say to something that had sounded suspiciously like a genuine compliment from Haruhi. Finally, he mumbled, "If you say so," before launching into another topic. "So, why don't you cook?"
A pause. "I never really felt like it. It's so boring, and I don't really see myself as the housewife type." She stopped, surprised at her own words. Where had that come from?
"Yeah." Kyon smiled as he tried to conjure up a picture of Haruhi slaving over a hot stove, two children bickering behind her, her hair in a bun and an apron tied around her waist. The smile turned into a smirk, as he tried not to laugh. Haruhi really wasn't cut out for that sort of thing. It didn't take Confucius to figure that out.
The realization that this fact made him happy was new however.
"It needs some salt," Kyon said finally, filling the silence.
Haruhi answered quickly, pointing to a small cupboard next to the stove. "It's in there."
He opened it up, revealing a line of identical, unmarked black containers. "Which one?"
"That one," she answered, not helping at all.
"Very funny." Haruhi hopped off the counter and walked over to him, taking the first one on the second shelf. "This that," she said, and handed it to him her fingers brushing against his. Haruhi swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. She snatched her hand back, scowling when Kyon looked at her. He turned back to the stew without a word. An awkward silence descended.
"I might as well set the table," she said finally, and left without a second glance at him.
Haruhi had just settled into her seat at the table when Kyon carried in the pot and set it in the center of the table. Despite the impatient attitude she was trying very hard to keep up, she couldn't help but be drawn to the delightful smell. She hadn't been lying when she'd said it smelled good. In fact, she was fairly sure it had never smelled that good the countless times her own mother had made it, although the shock that Kyon, of all people, had made it may have been affecting her judgment.
"You know, Kyon, I always figured you would hate to cook," Haruhi said as Kyon poured her a bowl. "You're so lazy around the clubroom."
Only because you're always making me do insane things, Kyon thought in reply, not daring to say it out loud. Instead, he got a bowl for himself, sighing with relief that it wasn't purple or tie-died, sat down next to her and replied evenly, "I don't see how you can compare the two."
"You're right; cooking is much harder work than anything I've ever asked you to do," she said calmly, not even looking at him. If you're not going to make a big deal about sitting next to me when you could have sat anywhere, then neither am I.
I don't even know why I sat down here; the least you can do is be a good host and look at me. "You think?" he asked, taking his first spoonful of the soup and grimacing somewhat. He had put in too much salt again, just like last time. It tasted fine to him, but his aunt had insisted it went against the nature of the meal and wouldn't be tolerated by others. He hoped that given Haruhi's apparently limited understanding of culinary quality she wouldn't notice.
"There are so many stupid rules to follow! At least what I suggest is fun, but you just start complaining and complaining!" I am not going to be the first one to look.
If you're not looking at me, then I won't look at you. And will you just try the damn soup already, Haruhi. "Oh, really? You call what you tried to get us to do a week ago fun?"
"Cliff diving is fun! Sure, it's a little dangerous, but that only makes it all the more thrilling. Plus, it's good training. A good Brigade has to be ready for anything at a moment's notice." Angrily, she took an overly large swallow of the soup, effectively ending the conversation. HA. I'll eat your damn soup!
Q.E.D., huh? Kyon thought, finally turning to look at her, a sarcastic retort already springing to his lips, but he was distracted by Haruhi's wide-eyed expression; her entire face was lit up in happiness and it caused a small swooping sensation to erupt in the pit of Kyon's stomach. She swallowed slowly, apparently savoring the taste. When her mouth was free, she let out a delighted cry and turned to him excitedly.
"Kyon, this is amazing! Totally and absolutely amazing!"
He didn't respond, not really knowing how to, but he did smirk a little, feeling smug and proud at the same time. Thankfully, she didn't seem to notice, as she returned to her bowl and began to chow down. Between bites, she eagerly chattered about using it to promote the Brigade, some other nonsense about him taking Asahina's place as the cook (the only thing to which he really responded, in the form of a very firm, very loud "Never"). He wasn't really listening though. Mostly, Kyon was thinking of two things. The first thought was if news of this date ever, God--or perhaps Haruhi--forbid, got back to Koizumi, the smug bastard would be so quick to demolish any last hope of Kyon's that this was only a normal 'study date' that Kyon thought he might strain something in the process.
The second thought lurking in Kyon's mind was the way Haruhi's smile was making him feel. He could have said it was only modesty. But it wasn't the whole truth. Because he couldn't, no matter how hard he tried, deny the little bubble of happiness within him at the sight of that smile, at Haruhi's cute face looking so sincerely pleased.
Kyon shook his head, suddenly angry with himself. He swore he didn't care if he never saw her smile like that again.
He even meant it, too, until she flashed him that dazzling smile again and he offered to make her dinner next Saturday.
Ahem. A eulogy, now, for my sense of dignity as I sink into the depths of shipperdom to write what I would never ever before this series think I would write. . .fluff. Farewell. I knew ye well.
The actual idea for this fic was inspired by a piece of fan art, where Haruhi was cooking and she and Kyon seemed to be married. While I found it cute, I remarked to my dear friend and beta, Audley, how Kyon seemed to be the more likely cook to me. The idea refused to let go of me, and well, here we are.
Oh, and just to make it perfectly clear, I'll be honest. I know zip about cooking, while my knowledge of cooking in Japan is so lacking it's in negative digits. Please forgive me if I've done something horribly wrong in that area.
As always, many thanks and props to Audley. She worked very hard on this fic to make certain parts of this fic fit for human eyes. For those who want a sequel, look for one from her. I'm too overloaded with other ideas and she's got a lovely little plot all made up already.
Until we meet again.