Author: Kelly B. Johnson

The clear pot of water came to a boil. Wiping his hands clean on his apron, Monty waved a two-finger gesture over the stovetop’s controls, to lower the heat as he walked past it. He stopped short of the adjacent T-unit. “Hey!” with an ear given to the bedroom. “Are you going to help?”
“You go ahead!”
“I’m pretty much done,” he said under his breath. A touch blinked the fridge open. With a semi-lean into the release of cool air, he located behind a chilled bottle of champagne a glass bowl of ground meatless pork. Yong’s part in preparing tonight’s dinner. Retrieving the bowl, standing straight, and sighing at the champagne, a second touch closed the unit. “I thought we had a tradition, for when I deploy!”
“We do!” Yong’s voice dragged a tonal apology to the kitchen. “But I’ve something to show you!”
“Uh, huh,” he said, having turned to the island of the tight cooking space. The surface top was covered by a snowfall of flour. “Part of our custom is to cook and eat together before—”
“I know!”
“And I could have used help with the dough!” He set the meat down.
“I had preset the nutriator for that reason last night! It would have made the buns without the mess you’ll be cleaning up!”
“We’ll be cleaning up! Together!”
Yong’s laughter rolled on the airflow throughout their quarters. “Sorry, man! Since you insisted on making the buns from scratch, that clean up is on you!”
“Whatever.” Monty glanced at the onyx laminate around the island’s cedar base; the nutriator was a good idea. “Clean floor.”
The kitchen released a bot.
“Hey, Monty!”
“Yeah?” He spooned the meat into the first bun.
“Do you still fly with our picture? Of us at the beach!”
“Yeah, I do! It’s a great pic!”
“I think so! It’s rare! Having a printed picture, I mean!”
“Yeah.” He kneaded the second stuffed ball. “Why do you ask?”
As Monty placed the second bun in the steamer and reached for the third ball, he noticed Yong’s voice had lowered and looked up, and he froze in place.
“I’ll need a copy.”
Speechless, Monty studied Yong—her attire. Her complexion accented the midnight blue flight suit familiar to him. His made him a six-foot shadow.
“I volunteered, and trained while you deployed the past few months.”
Monty noted how Yong’s hips filled-out her uniform, despite the bulkiness of the flight armor vesting her torso, which bore his squadron’s insignia and her commissioned rank.
“I’m your new wingman,” she said. “Our new tradition. Flying and fighting. Together.”
“Well, Second Lieutenant Harris, guess this explains your fitness of late, especially in bed.”
“You noticed, huh?”
Yong’s impish smile smote Monty, and when she snapped a finger at him, he refocused on preparing their dinner. “Since we have a lot to talk about, care to help me finish making these?”
“I’d love to, Lieutenant Commander Harris.”