Author's Note: This is my first foray into the Shokugeki no Soma/Food Wars fandom. I'm appalled there's no official relationship tag on this site for Megumi and Hisako. The ship is so obvious to me. Anyway, in my mind this takes place with all mentioned characters in their mid-twenties.
The display of apples gleamed under the lights of the market. Their glossy, red skins were flecked with gold. Erina sighed and selected a few while holding her usual painstaking process at bay. The urge to pick each apple up and inspect it carefully, closely, conscientiously was difficult to tamp down but she'd promised. And after such a long time since seeing him, Erina couldn't break a promise.
"How was your summer?" his voice was light but low.
"Not as warm as yours, I suspect."
"Probably not." She could hear the smile in his words.
"Did you enjoy Rome?" Erina asked the question as casually as possible – but the way she folded her socks and panties into perfect little balls belied her anxiety.
"Rome was beautiful," he said softly. "But hardly the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."
"You just don't have an eye for culture," she snapped without her usual edge. The sound of his laughter set her cheeks aflame.
"I suppose I don't."
The paper bag bulged clumsily in her arms. She cradled it awkwardly as she shuffled through the snow. Erina could not remember the last time she'd been so completely out of sorts. Snowflakes dusted the shoulders of her coat and she knew if she stalled any longer the paper bag full of apples would fall apart. Shrewd selection process or not, she could not bring bruised apples to dinner.
Erina sucked in a chestful of cold air and stepped into the range of the door sensors. The tall glass doors slid open and warm air gushed out to greet her. She'd have smiled if her teeth weren't firmly planted in the swell of her bottom lip. The elevator ride to the eighth floor was far too short and Erina left both her stomach and heart in the lift.
"How are Hisako and Megumi?"
"Good, by all accounts."
"They're happy?" Erina didn't miss Hisako as a lover but as a friend.
"They are. The baby looks just like Megumi." He laughed in a way that made Erina miss everything so much. "But that's not a surprise, considering."
"I imagine they're both a mess?"
"Yes, but it's a glowing mess." His voice lowered again and she stuffed away the feelings of longing that clawed at her heart. "Hisako tries to take care of anything Megumi might worry about but –"
"Megumi worries anyway," she interrupted softly.
"She does." He paused and Erina felt the silence weigh on her.
The hallway was stiflingly warm. Before Erina could knock on the door, it swung open. Hisoka smiled widely.
"You made it!" Hisako's eyes fell to the damp bag of apples and her lips twitched into a grin.
Erina's cheeks burned. "I –"
"It's good to see you," her friend said, cutting off the embarrassed stammering. Hisako eased the apples from Erina's arms. "Come inside and meet my daughter." Erina stepped inside the apartment, unwound her scarf, and shrugged off the wet coat.
"He's been waiting." Hisako smiled and nodded for Erina to follow her further into the kitchen.
"Megumi is picking me up at the airport on Friday. I want you to do me a favor, okay?"
"What's that?" Her breath caught in her throat and she clenched the undergarments against her chest.
"I want you to bring the dessert apples." His earlier mirth had returned.
"Do you normally make demands of your guests?" she asked haughtily.
"Only you, Erina." He said her name and her breath caught in her throat even after so many months apart.
The color of the wine matched the flesh of the apples. Erina watched the thin strips collect on the wooden chopping board and tried not to sigh. She was frustrated – with herself and him.
Megumi and Hisako's baby was adorable. The way Hisako's voice softened when she spoke of Megumi's pregnancy and the difficulty of their daughter's birth, told Erina everything she needed to know about her friend's love and happiness.
Erina didn't know what she'd expected from Soma. He'd been obnoxiously casual all evening. She'd watched him pick through the apples with a smirk she couldn't quite bring herself to hate. It was apparent that dinner was of his making. Both Hisako and Megumi were preoccupied with the table and the baby. Soma handled the kitchen with a familiar competency that annoyed her. How he still managed to get under her skin after so many years – and months apart – she couldn't quite fathom.
"This one has a scratch," he said breaking the steady sound of chopping. Erina bristled when he held up an apple half.
"Throw it out," she muttered, folding her arms across her chest. "It's your fault anyway." Erina watched him slice off the imperfection and toss it aside. He glanced up at her and chuckled.
The face of her phone had gone dark when she finally whispered, "Goodbye, Soma."
"The apples were perfect," he said from behind her.
"I've never had your divine palate, Erina, but I wasn't talking about flavor or texture." She turned to him and wondered how it could possibly be allowed for one man to look so appealing in such a plain sweater. "Their perfection flows from the source."
"I don't know what you mean," she whispered. Soma reached out and his hand closed gently around her elbow before sliding down to her wrist. She let him pull the arm free from her side and thread their fingers together.
"The apples were perfect because you picked them out."
"That's sentimental nonsense."
"Maybe it is, but I don't care. Would you have been able to bring an imperfect apple to the kitchen when we were in school?" He smiled and tugged her closer. "I think probably the very presence of damaged skin would've offended you."
"Probably." Erina stared down at their hands. His thumb brushed over her knuckles with familiarity. "I missed you this year," she muttered.
"Do I need to say I missed you?"
"No." She finally met his eyes and found a smile that warmed her.
"That's a relief."
"But I wouldn't mind if you did." Erina smiled back at him for the first time that evening. Soma pulled her gently against him and let his forehead fall to hers.
He was still smiling when he tilted her chin upwards and kissed her. Erina thought she preferred his declarations much better without words.