This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
It was rare to be bored around DASH headquarters. The kaiju had been appearing fast and furious of late, keeping the team on a hectic, unpredictable schedule. That suited Mitsuki Koishikawa just fine; she lived for the excitement her career brought her. Unfortunately, seven days had gone by without so much as a roar or screech from the Earth’s depths, bringing the frenetic activity to a standstill. And frankly, it was driving Mitsuki out of her mind.
She exercised. She trained. She even completed all of her incident paperwork and handed it over to a stunned Captain Hijikata. She even went out on a few of the public relations trips with Kaito, hitting the schools and orphanages just for something to do. It positively stunned her that he actually enjoyed these visits; it positively burned her hide that the pretty teachers missed no opportunity to flirt and flatter him, surreptitiously slipping their phone numbers into his jacket pocket whenever the chance arose.
There were also the obaa-sans, of course, who had long ago decided that the brave young men of DASH weren’t getting proper nutrition and so made it their sacred duty to ply the boys with every sort of treat and dish imaginable. Not that the guys minded, of course, but Sean had to swear off PR duty after gaining seven pounds in two weeks.
But now, having reached seven days without an attack, Mitsuki had absolutely nothing to do and it was driving her insane—and by extension, everyone who crossed her path as well. She was currently working out in the exercise room, finishing her sixth rep on the weight machine when Elly suddenly towered over her. “Mitsuki.”
“Hey,” Mitsuki gasped as she let the handlebars drop. “What’s up, Elly?”
“I need your assistance, Mitsuki.” The android glanced around the empty room. “I wish to surprise Koba.”
“Really?” Everyone was aware that DASH’s marksman occupied a special place in Elly’s memory, but even so this sounded interesting. “What did you have in mind?”
“Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. I wish…” and again she looked around the room. “I wish to give him chocolate.”
Mitsuki blinked. “Tomorrow?” she said. “Oh, crap! I completely forgot about it. I’m going to have to go out and get some for everyone. You can come with me and get some too.” She started to stand up, but Elly raised a hand.
“I do not wish to give him giri-choko, Mitsuki. I wish it to be… honmei-choko.”
“Really?” Just when you thought you understood your resident android, she up and surprised you at the oddest times. Mitsuki smiled and rose to her feet. “Well, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. We can pick some of that up too, and you can just cook it right up for him.”
“I have no experience with that activity,” Elly replied. “I was hoping that you would teach me how it is done.”
“Me?” Mitsuki laughed. “Sorry, Elly. I don’t know anything about kitchen stuff. My mom was no good at it, either—she always said the only thing she knew how to make were reservations.”
“Oh.” How could an android’s voice project so much disappointment? “I am sorry. I had assumed that you would be giving Kaito honmei-choko as well…”
“Kaito?” Mitsuki blushed despite herself. The ‘Kaito issue’ was one she’d been trying hard not to think about lately. Yes, there was definitely mutual interest, but getting him to open up about anything past the weather and current events took Herculean effort. There’d also been that matter of Little Miss Ninja Bitch.
Mitsuki wasn’t quite sure where she stood with Kaito these days; perhaps going a bit over the minimum requirement might get things going again. “Well, it can’t be that hard,” she finally said. “Let me get dressed. We’ll go out and shop, and if all else fails I’m sure Professor Yoshinaga can help us out.”
“That conceited, egotistical, swell-headed pig,” Professor Yukari Yoshinaga declared to the world in general as she stomped down the hallway to her laboratory. “Trying to lie about that new table in his office! ‘It’s a place where I can roll out the designs of the new base’ my foot! He just wants a place to put all his damned chocolate tomorrow…” She paused in her diatribe upon discovering Elly and Mitsuki waiting for her by the door. “Is there a problem, girls?”
“Uhhh, if this is a bad time for you, we can find someone else,” Mitsuki began, but the professor waved her off.
“Oh, don’t mind me,” Yoshinaga said as she unlocked the door and went inside. “I’m just a little ticked at the General.”
“General Tomioka receives a great deal of chocolate on Valentines Day,” Elly noted.
Yoshinaga rolled her eyes. “Yes, he does. And he loves to flaunt it. I should never have told him that the base staff calls him ‘The Silver Fox’.” She fired up a Bunsen burner and set a flash of water atop it. “Anyway, what’s up?”
“Tomorrow is Valentines Day,” said Elly.
“Yes, I’m well aware of that. A certain someone took great pains to remind me earlier.”
“Well, you see Professor,” Mitsuki jumped in. “Elly here wants to make someone a special chocolate for tomorrow, and she asked me for help, but I’ve never done that sort of thing before. So I figured you could teach her how to…do it.”
“For Koba?” Yoshinaga said, a knowing smile on her face. Elly blushed…how the heck did she do that?...and nodded. “Well, I hate to tell you this, but I’m most certainly the wrong person for the job. If it can’t be cooked in a microwave, I’m sunk in the kitchen. I was always studying; I never had time to learn any of that.”
Elly tilted her head slightly. “You will not give General Tomioka honmei-choko?”
“Are you kidding?” Yoshinaga snorted. “He gets tons of that from the sweet young things around here. One more would mean nothing to him.”
“Then what do you do?” Elly asked.
Yoshinaga shrugged. “Generally storm in there and throw a jealous fit over all the stuff he does receive. He loves it.” She grabbed a set of clasps, retrieved the now-boiling flask, and poured the water into three cups. “Tea?”
DASH HQ kept a communal kitchen for the team; Mitsuki and Elly had successfully commandeered it for the afternoon. Mitsuki looked over the small piles of chocolate, the molds and the pot on the stove. “Okay,” she announced, taking a deep breath. “Let’s do this.”
“You are certain this is the proper way to succeed?” Elly asked as she placed several pieces in the pot.
“How hard can it be?” Mitsuki said. “You put it in, you heat it and melt it, then you pour it into the mold. Let’s set the burner on high so it’ll get done fast and we can be finished before everyone comes back.”
“Mitsuki, we are running out of clean pots.”
“This is taking too long, Elly,” Mitsuki declared after the third spoiled batch. “Let’s just put this in the microwave and speed things up.”
“Mitsuki, you should not put a metal…” As the microwave exploded, sending sparks and smoke through the air and triggering the fire alarms, Elly sighed and triggered the sprinkler system with a quick command override. “Never mind.”
General Tomioka slipped on a pair of oven mitts and carefully extricated the smoking remains of the metal pot from the ruins of the microwave. He studied the hideous contents for a long moment before dropping the whole lot into the nearest wastebasket. “May I ask how this happened?”
“It was my fault,” Mitsuki confessed quickly. “See, Elly wanted to make a special chocolate present for someone for Valentines Day…”
“Honmei-choko,” Elly solemnly noted. “For Koba.”
“And, well, we asked the Professor here and she said she didn’t know how to do it,” Mitsuki continued, motioning toward the slightly-blushing Yoshinaga, who carefully avoided the General’s gaze. “So I figured it couldn’t be that difficult, I mean it’s just chocolate, so we’ve been trying things on a trial-and-error basis.”
“Emphasis on ‘error’, I believe,” Tomioka noted.
“Sorry,” Mitsuki winced.
Tomioka looked around the kitchen, which had miraculously the microwave’s suicide run in fairly decent shape. “Very well,” he sighed. “I can see there’s really only one solution.” With one brisk motion he removed his jacket and carefully draped it over a nearby chair, then rolled up his sleeves. “Elly, would you fetch an apron for me?”
“Sir?” asked Elly and Mitsuki as one.
“I will teach you how to properly melt chocolate and make honmei-choko. It’s certainly better than let you continue unsupervised. The next attempt make bring the entire base down at the rate you’re going.” Tomioka slipped the apron over his neck and tied it securely. “Professor, you should also stay and watch. It might come in very handy at this late hour, should you want to give someone honmei-choko.”
“No, I really can’t think of anyone off-hand that I’d do that for,” Yoshinaga deadpanned.
“You see?” Tomioka said as he carefully stirred the melted chocolate about. “Homemade chocolate is like a seduction. Slow, steady, using low heat to bring things to fruition. To speed things up and make things too hot too quickly only leads to disaster.”
Mitsuki couldn’t be sure, but she could swear she caught Yoshinaga rolling her eyes.
“I was not aware that you cooked, General,” Elly commented, watching his every move.
“Of course I cook! A man who can’t cook a meal is a sorry excuse for a human being. And besides, women adore a man who can prepare them a meal…one that isn’t instant ramen in a container or a box from ‘Mister Bento Delivery Service’. And besides, cooking it yourself saves money.”
“So you can spend it on nine holes at the country club course instead,” Yoshinaga muttered under her breath.
“All right, I believe it’s ready to pour,” the General said, ignoring the sotto voce commentary. “Elly, since this is your present, I’ll leave the rest for you.”
“You cannot leave yet, General,” Elly said as she slowly poured the chocolate into the mold. “You must stay and assist Mitsuki should she run into difficulty while making her present for Kaito.”
Mitsuki’s cheeks blazed furiously. “Kaito, is it?” the General said, one eyebrow raised in surprise. “I had no idea that romance was blooming within our base.”
“It’s nothing, sir! We’re just…friends.” Mitsuki’s blush deepened; even she knew how utterly stupid that sounded.
“Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to leave under these circumstances,” the General noted with a slight grin. “Mitsuki, why don’t you wash out one of these pots and we’ll get your batch going. Professor, were you going to try your hand as well?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Yoshinaga said, already halfway to the door. “That’s too much like work. I’ll see you later, General…unless you’re going to challenge Michiba over at Kitchen Stadium tonight.”
Of course the men were counting coup the next day. Each of them had a small pile of treats in front of their station, Captain Hijikata of course led the way with an impressive array, but Kaito, Koba and Shawn had respectable amounts. Mitsuki and Elly had placed their giri-choko earlier, but getting the recipients of their special presents alone was proving to be a problem.
“I love dark chocolate!” Sean declared around a mouthful. “This is so much better than Valentines Day back home!”
“Just remember, you have to reciprocate on White Day,” Koba pointed out as he rummaged through his collection, obviously intent on finding one particular gift. Apparently foiled in his search, he turned toward Elly’s station only to find the android standing beside him, a box resting in her outstretched hands.
“This is my gift for you, Koba,” she said tonelessly yet meaningfully.
“Thank you!” Koba said, obviously pleased. He had just about worked it open when Elly spoke again.
“It is homemade chocolate.”
Koba paused, looking deep into Elly’s electronic eyes for a long time. “Thank you very much, Elly,” he said quietly.
“You are welcome, Koba.”
Meanwhile, stuck with the human failing of embarrassment, Mitsuki motioned for Kaito to follow her into the hallway. Unfortunately, it took several attempts, the last three of which were observed by her teammates; Kaito was being particularly clueless this day. She helped him through the doorway by grabbing his sleeve and all but dragging him through the portal. “It’s about time!” she hissed. “Didn’t you see that I wanted to talk to you out here?”
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “I was…kind of looking at the chocolate…for something.”
Mitsuki took a deep breath; she would have counted to ten, but that might have made her lose her nerve. “Something like this?” she asked, holding up her own gift box. “Yes, it’s homemade too, like Elly’s,” she added as he took it from her. “We did it together.”
Kaito said nothing, simply stared at the small, ribboned box. “Well?” Mitsuki demanded, then caught herself. In a softer voice she added, “Do you like it?”
He lifted his head, meeting her gaze with his own. “I…I’ve never gotten chocolate from a girl before. Like this, I mean. I really don’t know what to say.”
“You start by saying ‘thank you’,” she informed him with a smile. “And then you open the box and eat some. And you had better like it, too.”
General Tomioka had been called away that morning to a very important conference on the back nine of the Kazusa Monarch Country Club. Now, in the late afternoon, he found himself trying to concentrate on a complex budget proposal that would have sent the most desperate insomniac into Dreamland. He glanced over at the new table, which was completely covered in little chocolate packets, and briefly considered bringing one over for a quick energy boost. But as quickly as the thought came to him, Tomioka pushed the notion aside. It wouldn’t be right.
A knock at the door spared him from delving back into the proposal. Yoshinaga was standing there, hands shoved into her lab coat pockets and regarding him with tired amusement. “Lost the bet, did you?” she asked, walking over to the chairs directly opposite him and taking a seat.
“He birdied the last hole,” Tomioka grumbled.
“I don’t know why you all make such silly wagers.” Yoshinaga rummaged around her left pocket. “Oh…I bought a Kit-Kat candy bar earlier today, but I don’t feel like eating all of it myself. Want half?”
Tomioka smiled. “Thank you,” he said, accepting the gift from her.
It was, as expected, delicious and satisfying.