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chasing comfort

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Eri swung her legs back and forth, watching as Deku and Kacchan gathered ingredients. She was happy they’d let her sit on the counter today, so she could see. 

“What are you making?” she asked, as Deku took panko down from the cupboard. 

“Katsudon,” Deku told her, smiling. He came over and set up. Eri watched, resting her chin in her hands as he put the pork cutlet in egg and panko. “It’s my comfort food.” 

Eri frowned. She’d never heard the words before. “Comfort food?” 

“Yeah! It’s like, um…” Deku crossed to the sink to wash his hands. “Well, it’s like, food that’s very comforting.” 

Kacchan, who’d gotten a packet of dry noodles, snorted. He punched Deku’s shoulder—Uraraka had told Eri even though punching was usually mean, sometimes Kacchan did it in a friendly way that didn’t hurt. Affectionate was the big word she’d learned. 

“Helpful,” Kacchan said. He sneered. 

“Don’t be mean to Deku!” Eri screwed up her face. “That wasn’t nice.” 

Deku threw a hand over his mouth, his eyes bright. She didn’t know why he did that, because it covered up the sound of his laugh. Kacchan punched him again. 

“Yeah, Kacchan,” Deku said, “don’t be mean.” 

Kacchan rolled his eyes. 

“You explain it then,” Deku continued. 

Kacchan crossed his arms over his chest. “Comfort food’s personal.” He looked down at the ground. “It’s just food that reminds you of home.” 

“Ohh,” Eri said, but she didn’t really get it. “Why’s it remind you of home?”

“Well,” Deku started. “Katsudon’s my favorite food, too, but it’s all because of my mom. She always made it for me when there was a special day or when I was feeling sad. So when I eat it I think of Mom and I get really happy, see, Eri?”

“Oh,” she said again. “What’s Kacchan’s comfort food?”

“Spicy noodles,” Deku answered, holding his hand up and whispering really loudly. Eri giggled.  

Then Deku laughed and ducked out of the way of Kacchan’s fist. “He always has spicy noodles when he’s sick. Well, and, um, when he’s not sick, I guess.” 

Kacchan grunted. Ashido, who’d popped into the kitchen for a snack, chimed in. 

“Is that even good for you?”

“Clears your sinuses,” Kacchan pointed out. “And makes you sweat.” 

“And it’s your comfort food?” Ashido asked. She made a face. “Man, you’re weird.”

“Sure, weirdo.” 

“Mine’s udon,” Ashido said. She smiled at Eri. “Unlike someone, I like my noodles unspicy.” 

“Weak,” Kacchan scoffed. Eri frowned at him again, then started kicking her heels against the counter. 

“But what’s my comfort food?” 

Deku set down what he was working on and crossed over to lean next to her. He set a warm hand on the top of her head, and Eri sighed. 

“That’s up to you,” Deku replied. He smiled. “It’s a little bit different for everyone—but it’s just anything that makes you feel better when you’re down and feel like you’re at home. Oh! It’s kind of like when you get a nice, warm hug, but when you’re eating.”

“That sounds nice,” Eri mumbled. Deku ruffled her hair a little. 

“You want some katsudon when I’m done?”

“Yes, please!” 

While Deku and Kacchan were cooking away, Eri thought really hard. Comfort food. After being rescued, Eri had found there were foods she really liked, like apples and mochi and cake. She imagined biting into a big candy apple, sweet and sticky—but she didn’t think it was comforting. Not like home, or a nice, warm hug. It was just yummy. 

She tried to think of more foods. Both Kacchan and Ashido liked noodles. Mmm, Eri liked noodles, too. But she came to the same problem. 

“Come on, Eri,” Deku said. He was balancing two bowls with one hand, tucking one against his side. With his other arm, he lifted her from the counter, and Eri threw her arms around his neck. 

“Carry me,” she whispered, so Deku did, all the way to the table and her chair. Then he set her down, and the small bowl of katsudon he’d made for her. 

“Itadakimasu!” Deku cheered, and began to eat. 

The katsudon was good, nice and warm and savory. Eri spooned it into her mouth slowly, enjoying it. 

“You like it?” 

Eri nodded. “Deku made it for me.” 

Deku beamed. His eyes went shiny, like he was going to cry, but he said, “I’m really happy you like it, Eri.” 

When she was halfway done with her bowl, Eri asked, “What if I don’t have a comfort food?”

“Hm?”

“What if- what if I don’t have a comfort food?” She pushed away her bowl and felt her mouth begin to tremble. “Everyone has one but me.” 

“Oh, Eri, ” Deku said, pushing back his chair so he could come crouch next to hers. “It’s okay if you don’t really have a comfort food. You’re still trying lots of things, right?” 

Eri bit her lip but nodded, and Deku took her hand. 

“How about this,” Deku said. “We’ll find your comfort food! I’ll help you figure out what food makes you feel at home, okay?”

“I think… I think that’s why.” 

Deku squeezed her hand. “Why what?” 

Eri looked away. She didn’t want to say it. “...’cause I never had a home,” she whispered, just for him. “So I don’t have any food that reminds me of it.” 

Suddenly a set of warm arms surrounded her. Eri leaned forward, clutching at Deku’s shirt and holding on. A weight settled on her head. Deku’s cheek. She felt a hand slowly run through her hair. 

This was safe, and warm, and familiar. Eri held onto the feeling. It felt the same way Deku’s hugs always did for her—like he was saving her for the first time, all over again, rewound. 

“Eri,” Deku murmured. “You know this is your home, right? You have a place here with- with me, and Aizawa-sensei, and, and Kacchan and everyone else, okay? If you want us, we’ll have you.”

Eri sniffled. “Really?”

Deku pulled back so he could meet her gaze. “Really really.”

A home, here. Eri looked around the commons room, back to the kitchen where Kacchan was talking to Ashido, to Deku who saved her, around the place she had learned and remembered. Somewhere she could dream of. 

“Okay,” Eri said quietly, and took Deku’s hand again. She reached for her bowl and ate another bite of katsudon, and it made her think of Deku. Maybe it wasn’t her comfort food. Maybe it could be. It could make her feel at home. “Can… can you make this again, sometime?”

Deku smiled, lifting his spoon to tap against hers. “Any time you want, Eri.”