Midoriya was pretty sure he'd messed up the recipe.
For starters, in the picture on the HungryHungryHeroes blog, the soba noodles were a perfect toasty brown, and his were closer to oatmeal. Including in texture. The fresh spinach leaves and roasted tomatoes online couldn't be greener, redder, more mouth-watering. The shriveled imitations in Midoriya's wok were dark and wrinkly like prunes. Oh, ugh, that was the worst comparison he could've made. Not to mention that the recipe called for a pinch of lime, and it had squirted in every direction including Midoriya's eye, and now it was all he could smell.
Thank goodness Kacchan wasn't here for this.
With a sigh, Midoriya turned off the stove burner and removed the wok. He frowned down into his mushy, shriveled mess. So much for a nice surprise for Todoroki.
The holiday weekend meant most of their classmates had left the dorms on Friday night instead of Saturday, though a few of them hadn't made any special plans. Unsurprisingly, Todoroki wasn't leaving the dorms any earlier than usual, and though Midoriya was itching to get home to his mother's cooking—especially with the proof in front of him that he hadn't quite reached her level of mastery when it came to "a pinch of this, a sprinkle of that"—he wasn't about to leave his friend by himself in the dorm.
Well. That, and.
Midoriya's eyes drifted of their own accord to his notebook, tucked carefully under his open laptop. Even without the page open in front of him, he could see his own scratchy handwriting: Good at long-distance, improving at short-distance. Usually leads with his right side. Can skate along on his own ice. Then, underneath it, without any practical usage in the classroom or on the battlefield: Prefers darker brown noodles (percentage of buckwheat? look up later), likes both hot and cold, lots of sesame seeds, sometimes snap peas, not enough veggies!!
Vegetables were important for young heroes, right? Growing bodies and all that. All Might was always telling Midoriya to be conscientious about his diet. Good food in, good work out, Young Midoriya!
Todoroki was Midoriya's friend, but he was also a picky eater. Soba, soba, soba, served hot in beef broth or cold with lots of sauce for dipping, and hardly any vegetables. Midoriya couldn't even imagine his mother putting a meal in front of him that didn't have at least four different-colored foods on it. Tomatoes and peppers and onions and carrots and beets and celery and eggplant and—well, now Midoriya was really missing Mom's home cooking.
Anyway, Todoroki liked soba, and he had gotten quieter and quieter all week as they got closer to the holiday and everyone started talking about going home early, and maybe if Midoriya made him a nice dinner, he'd feel better and eat better and feel better, in that order.
Well. That, and.
He may or may not, hypothetically, possibly, have overheard Ashido and Hagakure discussing a recent magazine article: "Cooking Your Way into His Heart: Feminist or Femi-nope?" Which he then may or may not, potentially, perhaps, have looked up on his phone and studied. Said hypothetical article may or may not, maybe, who knows, have said that a man who expects you to cook for him is a nope, but there’s nothing wrong with cooking itself. If you've got it in the kitchen, flaunt it!
Midoriya did not have it in the kitchen.
He carried the wok over to the garbage can and stepped on the pedal that opened the lid. Well, at least the dorms were mostly empty and he didn't have an audience for this epic failure. The only casualties had been his pride and a fraction of his grocery money. It could have been much worse.
Startled, Midoriya nearly jerked his arms up and sent his soba flying. As it was, he only jostled them around the wok a little. "Oh. Um." He peeked over his shoulder. "Todoroki."
Todoroki blinked back at him in slow motion, then yawned. He wriggled his toes, his bare feet balanced on the threshold between the dormitory kitchen and the dining area. The only thing missing from his rendition of a cat waking from its nap was the long, languid stretch. His sweatpants and tee shirt held telltale wrinkles of a holiday spent cocooned in his bed.
"Did you sleep well?" Midoriya asked, painfully aware of the shrillness in his voice, at the same time Todoroki tilted his head and asked, "Did you cook?"
Oh, dear. He hadn't gotten rid of the evidence. With a strangled sound, Midoriya turned back to the garbage can and lifted his wok with intent.
"What I did...can't exactly be called 'cooking,'" he said. He added a weak laugh for good measure.
"I slept okay," Todoroki said. "You made soba?"
"I ruined soba," Midoriya corrected.
Todoroki's footsteps were feather-light behind him and thundered in Midoriya's ears. He peered into the wok. "Ruined is a little extreme." Then he was passing Midoriya, the sleeve of his tee shirt brushing the back of Midoriya's Plus Ultra hoodie, Todoroki's fingertips ghosting against his elbow. A jolt of electricity coursed from that gentle touch all the way down Midoriya's forearm and into his hands. It was like One for All, but better, or maybe a little scarier, sending strength into his fingers that tightened his grip on the wok handle, suddenly unable to dump it.
Clattering to his left dragged Midoriya's attention away from the voltage in his arm. Todoroki had pushed himself up onto his toes to root around in one of the cabinets.
"What are you...?" Midoriya managed before Todoroki emerged with a large bowl in hand.
"You made soba," Todoroki said. "I'm going to eat it."
"You're what?" Midoriya's other hand instinctively joined its brother around the wok handle.
"If you're just going to throw it out, that's stupid. You shouldn't waste food." Todoroki had his back to Midoriya to retrieve chopsticks. A few strides later—elegant even when only recently awake from a nap, Midoriya couldn't help thinking, picturing the observation in his handwriting on a page in his notebook—Todoroki was in front of him, easing Midoriya's arms away from the trash can and transferring lump after lump of alleged soba from wok to bowl with his chopsticks.
"Oh! Uh, here!" Midoriya tilted his arms sideways, and the whole glob of shriveled spinach, wrinkled tomatoes, and pasty soba lurched into Todoroki's bowl with a mortifyingly appropriate squelch.
They both looked down into Todoroki's bowl for a long time.
"Todoroki, please don't eat this," Midoriya whispered.
"I'm gonna eat it," Todoroki whispered back.
He'd breezed past once again by the time Midoriya's brain caught up with the fact that he'd tried to cook soba for Todoroki, failed spectacularly, and now Todoroki was going to eat it, and if this was what it meant to 'go through a man's stomach,' then Todoroki was going to hate him, which was the exact opposite goal of cooking soba in the first place.
"Wait!" Midoriya chased Todoroki out to one of the tables where they usually sat with their classmates during the week. Todoroki had already taken a seat and was winding tendrils of Midoriya's monstrosity around his chopsticks. "Todoroki, don't—"
The chopsticks disappeared into Todoroki's mouth.
Midoriya was certain that his heart stopped in that moment. A second or a century later, Todoroki started to chew. He chewed and chewed in dead silence while Midoriya hovered over him and struggled to keep his soul contained in his body.
Todoroki swallowed. Midoriya swallowed. Todoroki set his chopsticks down across the lip of his bowl with a soft click, a veritable detonation.
"It’s a very…" Todoroki paused. "Lime-y soba?"
This was it. This was how Midoriya died. "It was supposed to be a pinch of lime."
Todoroki studied the soba gravely. "It's a punch of lime."
Midoriya blinked once. Twice. Watched Todoroki for any sign, any indication, that he was making a joke. When none came, a bubble of laughter rose from Midoriya's chest. Todoroki's head jerked up at the sound, and Midoriya almost felt bad, but mostly that made it even funnier. He was serious. Of course he was. Solemn, serious Todoroki. Midoriya threw one arm over his gut as he doubled over with laughter.
When he righted himself again, Midoriya found himself face-to-face with Todoroki's knit brow.
"It's my first time cooking soba," Midoriya said, wiping tears of laughter from the corners of his eyes. "It's my first time cooking...anything, really! Besides toast and omelets. You don't have to eat it. I tried, I failed, I'll do better next time."
He reached for the bowl, but Todoroki curled an arm protectively over it.
"I said it was lime-y," he grumbled, "not that it was bad."
Midoriya's heart, only recently recovered from exposure to Todoroki, stuttered again. "What?"
"It was an unexpected flavor, that's all." Todoroki took another bite. His jaw quivered for a second before he started chewing. Midoriya could see the concentrated effort. "Tomato-y."
"Todoroki, please, I'm begging you, don't eat that." For once, Todoroki was too slow, and Midoriya was able to spirit the bowl away from him. He lifted it over his head, like playing keep-away when he was a kid. "You won't hurt my feelings. I'll feel worse if I give you food poisoning."
Todoroki spun his chopsticks in his hand and tapped the connected end on the edge of the table. "But you cooked this for me."
Oh, good, another opportunity to die. "What do you mean?" Midoriya gurgled.
Another tap of the chopsticks, then another, and another. Syncopated agitation. "...Didn't you? You know it's my favorite."
"Well, I, uh, I do know that—"
"And we're alone in the dorms."
"I mean, Sero and Tokoyami are still here, since their parents are at work anyway, and—"
"And you, of all people, would never just happen to be cooking a big helping of somebody's favorite food when that person is in the dorms and hasn't had dinner yet, and not intend to share." Todoroki's stomach growled for emphasis, a sullen complaint that was almost cute.
Midoriya blinked. That was...all true. He had to admit, he was impressed with the speed and accuracy of Todoroki's deduction, and more than a little embarrassed to have forgotten one of his own notes: Pays close attention and is able to switch strategies quickly in battle.
He had pages and pages on Todoroki.
Hesitantly, Midoriya lowered his arms but didn't offer the bowl back to Todoroki. Nor did Todoroki make any move towards it.
"You cooked my favorite dinner for me," Todoroki summarized. His mismatched eyes held Midoriya's gaze unwaveringly. "Because you're nice, Midoriya."
There was no defending against it. "I guess being nice doesn't make me a cook."
"That's why Bakugo is so good at it."
The snort of laughter Midoriya made was hideous and he regretted it instantly. A flicker of light crossed Todoroki's face, the faintest twitch of his lips, the subtlest softening around his eyes. Hints impossible to notice unless someone were really paying attention.
"I'm throwing this out," Midoriya said with more confidence. "For real this time."
"You'll get better if you keep practicing, I guess." Todoroki followed him back to the kitchen and watched as Midoriya gave his first attempt at soba a proper burial in the trash can.
"Oh, you haven't had enough of my cooking yet, huh?" Midoriya wiggled his fingers at Todoroki. "I haven't scared you off of eating my food ever again?"
Todoroki blinked, looking taken aback for a split second before his brow furrowed. "Of course not."
Solemn, serious Todoroki. Midoriya's fingers trembled in their formerly-teasing gesture. He could see it, a vision of the future: days, weeks, months from now, making perfectly toasty brown soba with lots of sesame seeds, the greenest spinach, the reddest tomatoes, and scooping up a sample for Todoroki to taste-test. Staying up late chopping vegetables in the kitchen together and talking. Spending rainy days curled around one another on the couch scanning recipes on HungryHungryHero. Midoriya could taste his own laughter already, could hear Todoroki's voice in his ear muttering about why the bloggers take so long to get to the actual recipe, could feel the warmth of snuggling into Todoroki's left side, Todoroki's arm draped over his shoulder, while the winter wind blew its best outside.
That vision came to him clear as the present, and in the present, Todoroki's stare hadn't left him, but an uncertain pink was spreading over the bridge of his nose, and...
"You're steaming." He was, literally, a little cloud of vapor puffing up from beneath his red fringe of hair.
Eyes widening, Todoroki made a decidedly un-Todoroki-like noise and looked away. He tilted his head a few times, like he was trying to get water out of his ear, but the pink stain across his face only darkened, the steam billowing a little harder.
Embarrassed, Midoriya realized, feeling his freckles warming with the instinct to match Todoroki blush-for-blush. His temperature regulation goes off when he’s embarrassed, and the abrupt shift from cold to hot causes steam, and—
“Midoriya,” Todoroki said dryly, his eyes still latched to the pots and pans Midoriya had left in the sink. Oh. Hand on his chin, Midoriya realized he must have started muttering again. He really needed to be more careful about that. If Todoroki hadn’t stopped him, he would’ve gone right ahead and finished his sentence: and that’s really cute.
He glanced up at Todoroki’s face for a reaction to make sure that much had stayed in his own head. It must have, because the steam was easing.
Then Todoroki’s stomach growled again, and the steam returned.
Midoriya pressed his lips together to hide a smile, but judging by the way Todoroki’s eyes snapped to his face, he hadn’t been covert enough. “Well, if I haven’t scared you off yet…” He turned his back to Todoroki and rustled through a nearby drawer. When he turned back, he was treated to the sight of Todoroki’s wary expression warming into relief. Midoriya laughed and fanned himself with the takeout menu. “Shall we leave this to the pros?”
“Yeah, let’s do that.”
“Oh, maybe we should ask Sero and Tokoyami if they—”
“Mmm.” The sound was barely perceptible, but Todoroki had definitely just grumbled about inviting their friends to dinner. Midoriya was glad the menu hid his face.
“A-and don’t forget to order something with vegetables in it. Good food in, good work out, Todoroki!”
“I’d rather have it cold…”
“You can have vegetables in cold soba!”
Midoriya swatted him with the menu, and again that soft light flickered across Todoroki’s face. A warm bubble of something unidentifiable but good rose in Midoriya’s chest.
Todoroki called in their order, making eye contact with Midoriya as he affirmed that yes, he wanted vegetables in his soba. Once the call was in and the gush of running water wouldn’t interrupt, Midoriya was free to turn on the sink and get to washing his pots and pans. Behind him, Todoroki sat down at the kitchen table and watched. Midoriya was glad that he didn’t have a Quirk that steamed when he was embarrassed, although at least he might have passed it off as steam from the hot water coasting over the curve of the wok.
He put the wok in the dish rack. A breath later, Todoroki was at his side toweling it dry. Without a word between them, they settled into a rhythm: Midoriya scrubbing pots and utensils under the bubbling faucet, Todoroki wiping everything dry and, if the warmth radiating at Midoriya’s right wasn’t his imagination, moving the process along with a little heat. In minutes, everything was clean, dry, and tucked away in the cabinets.
“That was quick,” Midoriya said. Stupidity burned his ears as soon as the words were out of his mouth.
“We’re a good team,” Todoroki said. A whisper of steam fluffed up his hair and he looked away.
For all the shyness that came with having a crush on one of his best friends, Midoriya was almost glad that Todoroki wasn’t the most social person. His need to put Todoroki at ease always overruled his own instinct of covering his face when he was feeling particularly awkward or embarrassed. “Hey, want to play a video game until our food gets here?”
Midoriya grabbed his laptop from where it had gone into sleep mode on the kitchen counter. It wasn’t until he lifted it that he realized his notebook was still underneath it, blessedly not opened to a Todoroki page.
“Were you taking notes?” Todoroki asked, expression inscrutable as ever.
“Oh, you know, just thinking about strategies for training,” Midoriya said, stuffing the notebook into the pouch pocket in the front of his hoodie with one hand. “Getting stronger, not breaking bones, that sort of thing.”
“Midoriya’s weaknesses: breaking bones and cooking.” Todoroki’s lips curved into an almost-smile around the words.
“Exactly!” Midoriya laughed.
“Do you have anything in there about me?”
Why was Todoroki out for his blood today? “…Yes. About your Quirk! A-And your technique! That sort of thing.”
Predictably, Todoroki’s next question was, “Can I see it?”
Visions of brushes hair back with left hand when troubled and uses peppermint toothpaste flashed before Midoriya’s eyes. “Uh! N-no, you can’t!”
Oh, yeah, like that wasn’t the most suspicious thing he could have said. In about a second, Todoroki was going to ask something like, “Why not?” and Midoriya was going to have to spout out another dumb excuse, because he didn’t separate his notes into combat and crush like a smart person would have, he just wrote down anything and everything Todoroki in one big stream of consciousness.
The why not window stayed open way longer than Midoriya expected. Todoroki held his gaze.
“Are you strategizing against me?” he asked at last, a slow smile stretching across his face. Todoroki, joking? “Or do I have a fatal flaw you’ve noticed, and you’re trying to protect my feelings? Or…” Just when Midoriya thought he might be out of the woods, wickedness flashed in Todoroki’s amused expression. “Did you write something embarrassing?”
By a stroke of blessed, blessed luck, Midoriya’s phone rang in his pocket. He answered it even though he didn’t recognize the number, and it was the delivery person pulling up to the dormitory. As soon as he hung up, Midoriya took off for the front door as if he were on a spring.
“That’s dinner!” he said, knowing full well this conversation wasn’t over.
He made it to the door first, but Todoroki was right behind him and cool as ever. While Midoriya fumbled with taking the bag of food from the delivery person and reaching for his wallet, a crisp bill floated in over his shoulder, the offering of a steady hand with long, piano fingers. The delivery person took Todoroki’s money and left before Midoriya could even get his All Might wallet out of his back pocket.
“You didn’t have to pay!” he insisted as Todoroki took the bag from him and glided back towards the dining area.
“You paid for the ingredients.” In all his notebook-related embarrassment, Midoriya had nearly forgotten his original attempt at making soba. “Let me treat you.”
Midoriya stuttered and chased Todoroki to a table. It took a few moments to unpack their dinner, but the accompanying quiet was comfortable aside from Midoriya’s rabbiting pulse. It wasn’t until he took his first bite of the hot dish that his anxiety quelled. The soba was delicious, proof of how effective a pinch of lime could be. Adding scallions to the spinach brought out extra flavor, and the broth was hot with just a hint of spice. It was hard to resist slurping.
Todoroki didn’t seem to share that problem. He slurped his own cold noodles without hesitation, dipping even the shredded carrots and tomato into his mentsuyu. Midoriya dared too many glances, though; inevitably, Todoroki caught him looking. Right in the middle of a particularly ambitious mouthful of soba, no less. Midoriya smiled on instinct and looked back down at his soup.
Sluuuurp. “So. Are you going to tell me what you wrote about me?” Midoriya flinched around his chopsticks. “…Is it bad?”
“What?” Midoriya looked up in a hurry at that. “No, of course not, I wouldn’t write anything bad about you!” Wrinkles of worry evaporated from Todoroki’s forehead. Good. “And even if I would do something like that, what would I write?” Oh, no, he should have stopped, it was time to stop talking. Midoriya clamped his lips shut around the many possible roads his next words could take, all leading to the same destination of mortification.
Curiosity lit in Todoroki’s eyes. “So…you wrote good things about me that you don’t want me to see.” He dipped another heap of soba into his mentsuyu and slurped it up noisily. Cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk’s, he added, “At least it’s good, I guess.”
“Huh?” Midoriya blinked. “Oh, the soba. Yeah, it’s really good. Kind of a high bar to set, but someday, maybe I’ll be able to cook like this.”
Todoroki swallowed. “No, I meant…” He tapped his chopsticks against the lip of his dipping bowl. “Midoriya.” At the sound of his name, Midoriya’s attention turned to Todoroki’s face. His expression had smoothed back into that softer, rested look he usually wore after a good bowl of soba. Something which, thank goodness, Midoriya had never recorded in his notebook. “…You don’t have to tell me what you wrote. As long as it’s good.”
In that moment, Midoriya wanted to show him. Wanted Todoroki to see all the things he wrote about him, all the good little somethings that made up this person sitting across the table from him. If he could say, “Todoroki, I noticed all these things about you that don’t seem special on their own but make you special”—Todoroki wouldn’t mind that, would he? He wouldn’t make fun. Maybe he’d steam a little. Maybe he’d smile. Maybe he’d rest his forehead against Midoriya’s gently, always gently, and mumble that he was glad Midoriya noticed. Maybe he’d be glad Midoriya noticed.
Todoroki slurped the last vestiges of soba in his bowl. “What are you mumbling about over there?” he asked wryly. Midoriya jumped. “Midoriya, I don’t want to push you, but you’re making me very nervous about what’s in that notebook of yours.”
“Good things!” Midoriya insisted. He punctuated his sentence with a loud slurp of noodles that send droplets of broth over the table, his chin, his Plus Ultra hoodie.
Warmth crossed Todoroki’s face then, a softening of his sharp features, a smoothing of his serious expression. “Good things,” he repeated, a wisp of steam curling around the shell of his ear. “Okay.”
I’m going to lose this battle, Midoriya thought, burying his face in his bowl to finish his dinner. If Todoroki keeps looking at me like that, I’m going to tell him all my secrets.
Another thing that, probably for the best, he didn’t plan to write down in his notebook. He could keep that expression perfectly in his mind. He’d remember without writing down. Maybe, possibly, someday, he’d even coax it out of Todoroki again, with a notebook open between them and piano fingers threaded through calloused fingers and the aroma of homemade soba warm and soft in the air, with just a pinch of lime.