Disclaimer: I own nothing involved in this story unless I invented it myself. This is written for fun, not for profit.
Fandom: Digimon Frontier
Title: Cupcakes
Friendship: Kouichi & Izumi
Word Count: 2,899
Genre: Friendship||Rated: G
Feedback: All forms eagerly accepted. Concrit is loved the most, but everything is welcome.
Summary: Kouichi wants to make his mother something special for her birthday. Izumi's going to lend a hand.

Kouichi's fingers hovered over his cell phone buttons for another moment. This shouldn't have been as hard as it was. She was just Izumi. Just one of his best friends. It wasn't as if she were going to tell him to go jump in a lake because of a simple request.

He drew in a breath and dialed her number. He'd already chickened out on this more than enough times, and he was almost out of time as it was.

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. He was about to give up and not bother to leave a message once it hit her voicemail, when Izumi's cheerful voice answered him. "Hey, Kouichi! What's up?"

"Oh, hi, Izumi." He shifted and glanced out the window. His mother wouldn't be home for another three hours. She was working late that night, again. She still hadn't been able to find a better job that would let her come home sooner. "I need a little help."

"Help? What kind of help?" Izumi's voice rang with curiosity and Kouichi was certain his own cheeks were suddenly aflame. He'd never asked something like this of anyone. It didn't seem as if it should be so difficult, yet the words wanted to stick in his throat.

"My mom's birthday is tomorrow and I want to make something for her. But I don't really know to cook or anything. Is there anything you can help me make? I already asked Kouji and he doesn't know anything."

There was silence on the other end of the line, at least where Izumi's voice was concerned. He thought he heard small sounds as of someone moving cans and boxes around. At least he thought that was what it was. One could never be entirely certain, especially when Izumi was involved. "Sure!" Izumi replied at last. "I just checked around and I think I know just what you can make for her. It's what my dad makes for my mom for her birthday. I'll tell you all about when I get there. Thirty minutes!"

Before he had a chance to say anything else, the connection went dead. Kouichi stared at his phone for a few minutes before he put it down on the counter. He should probably pick up the place a little before he had company.

The apartment really didn't need very much tidying; he usually swept, dusted, and mopped every day after he got home from school and did his homework. It was something he could do in order to take one more burden away from his mother. But he hung up his jacket, put his outdoor shoes in order, and made certain there was a fresh pair of guest slippers available for Izumi. He also prepared a couple of drinks and sandwiches; Izumi had always had a healthy appetite from what he'd heard. It wouldn't hurt to have something ready.

Half an hour after he'd called her, Izumi knocked on the door. Kouichi opened it quickly and beckoned her inside. "Thanks for coming," he said, then looked at the bag she'd brought with her. "What's that?"

"Everything that we're going to need in order to make Italian Cream Cupcakes!" Izumi declared, heading right to the kitchen. "Mom loves these, and Dad makes the best ones I've ever tasted, even better than what we had when we lived in Italy. He showed me how to make them a few months ago."

Kouichi nodded; cupcakes sounded good. They weren't something they ate on a regular basis around the apartment, which made them perfect for a special birthday treat. "She won't be home for another couple of hours or so. Let's get this going."

He trailed after Izumi, watching as she hustled around unpacking her bag. "We're going to need a big bowl and a mixing spoon, and some measuring cups. I didn't bring those, since I thought you'd have them." Izumi explained, setting out flour, baking powder, and various other instruments of culinary creation.

"Oh, right!" Kouichi blinked, trying to shake the surprise out of his head, and headed over to the cabinet. "I would've had them out if I'd known you needed them."

"No problem." Izumi pulled a piece of paper from her jacket and stared down at it. "I brought everything with me, so you don't have to worry about using up anything of your own."

As if that would've mattered to him, since it was for his mother. But he said nothing of the sort to Izumi. She probably knew already. "Thank you," was all he said out loud. It was sufficient for him.

Izumi flashed him one of her warm smiles and turned back to the counter. "Come on, I'll show you how to do it. That way if you want to make it again, you'll know how."

Kouichi wasn't sure if he'd ever want to try something like this, but it wouldn't hurt to learn. I've wanted to learn how to cook anyway. Mom can use all the rest she can get. Every little bit helped.

"First, heat up the oven." She gestured toward it, then bent to check out the controls before setting it. "Now, while I'm getting everything measured, you can get the muffin pans ready. Just spray some of this in the cups." She shoved a couple of pans at him, along with a container of liners and a can. Kouichi stared at them before he took them over to another counter and started to sort it out. It wasn't that hard.

He peeked over his shoulder a few times to see what Izumi was doing. She sorted flour and baking soda and other esoteric ingredients that he was only vaguely aware of had even existed. He recognized salt and sugar, butter and eggs, and that was about it. There was a bottle of some kind, full of dark syrup, and a cup of what turned out to be nuts on a closer inspection. All of that would somehow combine to make cupcakes.

"Have you ever thought about how much cooking is like magic?" Izumi said after a few moments. "You take a little bit of everything and it turns into something else altogether, that really isn't anything like what you put into it."

"I hadn't thought about it before." And he hadn't, not to that degree, but now that she said it, it was true. It was somewhat similar to what he'd just been thinking after all.

Izumi laughed, pushing her hair out of her eyes as she did. "I should've brought something to hold my hair back with, but I forgot all about it!"

Kouichi hesitated, then put the pans down. "Hold on a second, I'll be right back." He hurried down to his room and searched around, tossing pillows and blankets willy-nilly until he found what he wanted. Going back to the kitchen, he offered her one of Kouji's hair ties. "That should help, shouldn't it?"

She pulled her hair back and tied it into a ponytail with the tie. "Thanks, that does help. I should get my bangs trimmed soon too. They're getting in my face a lot."

"Have you thought about cutting your hair? All of it, I mean?" Kouichi wondered as he went back to take care of the rest of the cupcake liners. "I like mine short."

"I've thought about it, but I like mine long." She pushed her bangs up again; the tie helped, but nothing was perfect. "Except for these things."

Kouichi settled the rest of the liners into the cupcake pan. "I just don't think I'd look good with long hair." That wasn't the main reason, since vanity wasn't one of his besetting sins, but it would do for at least a partial explanation.

"I don't know, Kouji looks kind of nice with long hair and you two are twins." Izumi pointed out. Kouichi opened the refrigerator door, fascinated by the contents.

"Would you like something to eat? I made some snacks while I was waiting." He pulled out one of the cans of green tea he loved and opened it up.

Izumi glanced over her shoulder. "Maybe later. Let me get this made up first." She turned back to her work, having begun to mix the dry ingredients together. Kouichi moved over to where he could get a better look at what she was doing.

"How much more do you need to do?" He tried to stay out of the way and yet be where he could get a good look at the same time. She glanced down at the bowl, then back up at him.

"Not much more. Hey, if you want to help some more, you can do this." She pushed the bowl at him and gestured toward some of the other ingredients, such as the butter, sugar, and eggs. "I can get that going while you're stirring this."

Kouichi set his tea on the counter, took the bowl and started stirring. This wasn't exactly difficult work; he recalled helping his mother stir mixes when he was younger. She'd always let him lick the spoon when she was done. So had Grandma when she'd cooked.

His eyes stung for a moment; it had been over a year since Grandma's death, and moments like that still caught him by surprise. I guess I'll just have to get used to it.

"Are you all right?" Izumi tilted her head and stared at him. "You look a little bothered by something."

He shook his head and tried a non-worrying smile, hoping it would be successful. From the way she kept looking at him, it wasn't. "I was just thinking about Grandma, that's all. When I was younger, if she baked something, she would let me lick the spoon."

"Oh." Izumi's eyes flickered with concern before a large and cheerful smile wreathed across her features. "If you want to lick the spoon when we're done, go ahead. I don't like to myself."

Kouichi didn't think she was being honest, but he didn't want to press her about it. Instead, he just nodded and kept on stirring the mixture in the bowl. Izumi made herself busy with the wet ingredients, her back to him, and Kouichi made certain that when she looked at him again, his eyes were dry.

"After this," Izumi spoke up after a few moments, "we need to beat the egg whites and then fold them into the batter."

That got a couple of blinks from Kouichi and a hint of a smile as well. "Beat the egg whites? Do I want to ask what they did to deserve that?"

Izumi rolled her eyes and swatted at his shoulder with one quickly freed hand. "Don't do that. You sound like Takuya."

"I guess you don't want me to ask how you fold an egg in that case?" Kouichi wondered, another smile teasing more at his lips. "I don't think it's anything like folding a sheet, is it?"

"No, it isn't. I'll do that, though. It's not that hard once you get the hang of it. And while the cupcakes are baking, I can make the icing." She gestured at everything else that was still on the counter, including the bottle of syrup. "That's what that's for."

Kouichi finished stirring the mixture and put it on the counter to wait for Izumi to be finished. "I can't thank you enough for this, Izumi. I'm sure Mom will love it."

"I'm sure she will too. If you've got any left, they keep for a few days at least." Izumi checked out what she was mixing and put that bowl on the counter as well, then picked up the one with the dry ingredients and began mixing them together. "There should be about two dozen of these."

He didn't think there would be many leftovers; what he and his mother didn't eat he would share with Kouji and his parents as well. "I'll keep that in mind."

"Now! Into the oven they go!" Izumi declared once she'd finished the mixing and poured the batter into the cupcake tins. "Twenty minutes, then another twenty or so to cool off, unless you really want to eat them hot." Her green eyes glistened in mischief. "I know I do a lot of the time. Mom keeps telling me not to, but they're so good fresh out of the oven!"

She leaned back against the counter and wiped her forehead. "Is that offer for a snack still good? I could use something to drink right now."

"Sure." He pulled another can of green tea out and handed it over to her before he picked his own back up again and took a drink from it. "If you want a sandwich, let me know. I've got some in there."

She nodded a little behind the can as she drank half of it in what appeared to be a single gulp. Cooking took a lot out of one, Kouichi knew. He glanced at the clock; they would have just enough time for the cupcakes to bake and frost before his mother came home. Perfect.

There was a silence between them that neither felt the need to fill with anything. As each moment passed, the air filled more and more with the scent of cupcakes, and Kouichi drew in a satisfied breath. His little difficulty was now, and with a minimum of effort, once he'd actually been able to talk to someone else about it.

"Thanks." She tossed the empty can away once she was done with it and turned to the frosting ingredients. "This won't take too long. Not like the cupcakes did."

Kouichi nodded and took the steps over to see just what was going on there. Again, familiar foods, but ones that would be put together in an unusual way. At least, they were mostly familiar foods. He flicked a finger at the bottle. "What is that?"

"Hazelnut syrup. I haven't seen it in many shops around here, so we make sure to keep a supply available." At her indicated request, he pulled out another bowl and let her have it. This was every bit as fascinating to him as making the cupcakes had been. His only experience with frosting had been what came in a tub from the store. "I like making my own frosting." She spoke as if she were able to read his thoughts. "It tastes better than what you get from the store."

Kouichi nodded as he began to gather up all of the bowls and spoons that they had used getting everything made and put them into the sink. "I've thought about learning how to cook. It's the least I can do to help Mom."

"It's not a bad idea." Izumi agreed as she worked her magic with the frosting. "I can't cook a whole lot myself, but you could get some cookbooks and try it out. Trial and error, that kind of thing. You won't know until you try!"

"Right. And I can keep sandwiches ready in case I mess something up." Again, a smile tugged on his lips. "Or I can ask you to make cupcakes again."

Izumi laughed, putting the finishing touches on the frosting, which was indeed easier and quicker to put together than the cupcake batter had been. She scooped a little bit of it off the edge of the bowl and licked her finger, declaring something in Italian. For all that he'd heard her say things like that over the last year, Kouichi still didn't always understand it. But he guessed it was something good, given her expression.

"All right, once they're done, you can frost them," Izumi told him. "Then we'll be done."

"Right." Kouichi started to wash up the dishes, not wanting anything to betray to his mother what the surprise was if he could help it. Though if she knew what cupcakes baking smelled like…well, he'd work that out when the time came.

As soon as the cupcakes finished baking, Izumi pulled them out of the oven and took a good long look at them. "They smell great!" She started to reach for the bowl of frosting, then pulled her hand back. Kouichi recognized the look in her eyes, though. He frosted the first cupcake, then tugged it out of the pan and held it out to her.

"Here. You're the cook, so you can have the first taste of what you made." He smiled at her, and she smiled back as she reached for it.

"Thanks, Kouichi." The cupcake wasn't long for the world as Izumi gulped it down and sighed in rapture. "Almost as good as Dad's." She stretched, eyes dancing with joy, then tugged the hair-tie out of her hair and handed it over. "I guess I should be going now."

He wouldn't argue; his mother would be home soon, and she needed her peace and quiet. "Thank you again." He wasn't sure if there were enough thanks in the world for this.

"No problem! Call me any time!" She slipped her shoes back on, waved, and was down the road and out of sight in moments. Kouichi went back to finish frosting the cupcakes and found a place to hide them in the refrigerator. He'd come up with some excuse for the aroma if Mom said anything about it.

He also ate one of the cupcakes himself. She's right. They are delicious.

The End