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While You Were Sleeping

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PART II. IN WHICH BAKUGOU KATSUKI REFUSES TO BELIEVE

Doing an unexpected stakeout was not how Bakugou Katsuki expected to spend his precious free time.

But then again, he hadn’t expected to come out from a mission to find his famously reserved Half-n-Half rival in a coma and a secret relationship with Deku.

He had parked his bike across the address that Uraraka had shared with him. The glass-covered high-rise building was in a busy but tastefully modest part of the city center. He wondered if this was what the Intelligence Agency would spring for, when it comes to their agents, a handful of train stops away from their main office.

He perked up when he saw a black executive car stop before the entrance. Deku was not hard to spot when he stepped out – the bastard looked like he stepped out of a spy film, wearing an obviously tailored suit complete with a fitted waistcoat and honest-to-god black gloves. He had removed his jacket however, and his tie looked too short to have been done properly. He had also rolled up his damn sleeves again. What the hell does the agency get him to do, wash dishes? Interrogate Mafia gang members?

The effect was ruined however when he dragged his feet to the side in what looked like abject misery.

From behind him, an equally-suited second figure came out from the car, familiar purple hair sparking a flash of recognition—

Shinso Hitoshi, the UA General Studies student whom Aizawa personally trained for transfer into the hero course. He had joined class B in their second year, and had become an underground hero, last that he remembered. It looked like he worked for the Agency as well, and—what the hell!

The man, whose face Katsuki remembered had always been in a perpetual sneer, started chuckling as he put an arm around Deku.

Although Deku didn’t look too amused at the man’s antics, he let himself be shuffled further along into the building. He covered his face as he spoke back, actually shrinking further into the man’s side. Katsuki could almost hear the “What do I do now?” from across the busy street.

Shinso finally removed his arm, only to put his hands on each side of Deku’s face to lean in. 

What the—

“Listen closely,” he spoke softly and slowly, as if to make sure Deku heard every single word. When there was no response, he then the stepped back and let Deku go, only to move back and give him a solid slap on his butt.

—everlasting fuck?

“—the hell, Shinso-kun! Seriously, now is the time you choose to do that?” he heard Deku protest.

“Get moving, kid!” Shinso drawled as he went through the doors first. “And I expect wine with dinner this time. Trust me we’ll need it.”

He could see Deku shaking his head in exasperation as he followed inside.

If that hadn’t been surreal enough, Katsuki could see some girls giggling at the sight from the other side of the road.

What the hell had he just seen?

 


 

Katsuki had been caught between contemplating the bizarre possibility that Deku was seeing not just one but two of his UA colleagues and rushing up to explodo-kill Shinso over wine and early dinner, because what the hell, who would grab someone else’s fiancé’s ass while they’re in a coma, you asshole! when Deku emerged from the building a second time.

The distinct difference of the second sighting had caused such surprise that he temporarily forgot his dilemma.

The man was wearing a shirt that literally said “T-Shirt”, knee-length cargo shorts and—seriously, he still had those red high tops? Damn nerd. Katsuki pursed his lips despite himself.

Deku was shrugging into a hoodie while he held a small bag and his phone on the other hand. He seemed to deliberate for a moment before setting off into a run in the opposite direction.

He jumped onto the bike and followed in hot pursuit – over four blocks into a familiar building that Katsuki had also intended to visit afterwards.

He’s going to Todoroki’s place?

Thinking “After he promised wine and dinner to the purple-haired brainwasher?” was a bit too surreal so he decided to park that headache for now.

Whatever Katsuki’s suspicions were about Deku’s relationship with Todoroki, the nerd clearly had a key to IcyHot’s apartment.

He decided to kill two birds with one stone and let himself in as well.

--Only to hear a crooned “Here, kitty kitty…” from somewhere in the apartment. 

Katsuki blinked.

“Come out, wherever you are, kitten! You must be very hungry,” a shuffling noise, “and Daddy’s got a treat for you, right here.”

I better not just have walked into some bizarre twisted roleplay.

“Come and get it, baby!”

He found himself stalking towards the kitchen, just as the door was opened, checking him in the fucking nose, of all places.

“Rarrgaahack – the hell!”

Deku was yelling just as loudly behind the door. “Kacchan? Kacchan! Shit, your nose!” At Katsuki’s murderous glare, he jumped back towards the fridge to scramble for some ice. “Here. Do you want me to have a look?”

Whatever Katsuki had to say died as on his tongue as Deku placed a hand on his cheek and gently guided him to look upwards. “I am so, so sorry. You surprised me, I wasn’t expecting anybody.”

I bet you weren’t, some unbelievably mortified part of himself wanted to snark back as Deku declared his nose safe. “What are you doing here anyway?”

“Oh.” Deku paused. He shifted on his feet. “I wanted to make sure the cat was okay.”

“IcyHot doesn’t have a cat.”

There was a pregnant pause as Deku fell still.

Gotcha.

Katsuki smirked, “Didn’t you know? He—”

“—Thinks all animals have something against him. I know.” Deku completed for him slowly, he huffed a small sound, “Um.”

But they were both interrupted by a loud and timely “Meow” from the living room.

“Ah!” Deku all but squealed, sweeping into the other room.

“There you are…”

What the actual fuck, Katsuki couldn’t help but wonder again, as he eyed the ginger tabby suddenly in Deku’s embrace, a silver tag dangling from the collar on its neck.

“…Scratch! Let’s go Scratch – you must be starving, you furry baby.” Deku cooed as he carried the cat to the dining room table. “I have food from daddy Shouto, honey. I’m so sorry about this…”

“Scratch.” Katsuki repeated blankly. “He finally gets a pet and he names it—”

“Her.” Deku confirms with a muffled voice from beside the cat.

“He names her Scratch.”

Deku had a fond smile on his face as he rubbed down the cat’s back. “Well, you can see that he’s gone ahead and done it. Look, doesn’t her coloring remind you of him?” He started cooing at the cat.

“I’m gonna take care of you while Daddy’s away – how’d you like that? I’m sure Small Might Junior will love you, he’s a lovable blond Maine Coon and he’d love to have someone to play with…”

“Hang on.”

Deku froze, mid-mumble.

“You have a cat called Small Might… Junior?”  

A furious flush spread under his freckles.

Katsuki slowly bared his teeth, “It’s not enough that you called him Small Might?” he wheezed, “You had to add ‘Junior’ in the end?”

Deku winced, “Please, please don’t tell All Might.”

Katsuki couldn’t help grinning widely. “Deku, you are a damned nerd. I won’t be surprised if All Might already knows.”

The nerd gave him a desperate look. “I’ll do anything.”

How about you stop saying “baby” and “daddy” with that tone voice? rose unbidden within Katsuki. He scowled.

Thankfully, the landline phone chose to ring at that moment.  Deku stiffened again and Katsuki eyed him narrowly.

“Aren’t you going to get that?”

Deku shrugged, a bit too casually, “I’ll let it go to voicemail.”

Katsuki gave him a deliberate look as he ambled towards the machine and picked up on the next ring.

It was for Deku. He frowned. He’s here often enough to get calls?

Deku gave an uncertain smile as he took the phone and had a quick conversation.

“That was the hospital. They said it’s customary for friends and family to donate blood if they could. So,” he started edging away, “I guess I’ll just head over now and come back for Scratch later. I was going to visit Shouto-kun anyway.”

No way was Katsuki letting the nerd get away with another awkward exit. “I’ll go with you.”

Deku gave him a wide-eyed look. “Really? Are you done with –whatever it is you came here for?”

Katsuki smirked. “Yaoyorozu had sent me to check on the place, to make sure it hadn’t burnt down or anything. We’re still standing, aren’t we?”

Deku had the grace to blush, “Oh, yes. Momo asked me about that earlier too, but I wasn’t sure when I could get out of work. I better text her now, just in case.”

Oh, ‘Momo’ called him too? And since when was he on first name basis with her? And he called Todoroki ‘Shouto-kun’, which, even though it was his hero name, no one amongst his friends did. What had he done to these people?

“Shall we take IcyHot’s car?”

There was a quick flash of uncertainty on Deku’s face. “Let’s… not.”

“What, hasn’t he ever let you ride that damn thing?”

Izuku gave him a sharp look. “I just prefer public transport.”

“Really. Like that fancy car from this morning?

There was another brilliant burst of red on Deku’s face. “T-that was a company perk! I don’t use them as much as my colleagues do, and only when I’m late or if there’s an emergency…”

So, I was an emergency? Katsuki chose not to ask, smirking.

They had reached the parking lot at this point. “Well? You do know where his car is parked, right?”

Deku chose that moment to produce a set of keys, which he clicked to identify the location of Todoroki’s car.

Deku froze again as they approached the car. “I can’t do this.”

“What is it this time?” Katsuki whirled towards him, is the nerd finally going to come clean about something?

“I can’t drive that car. That’s a Vestige 2.1 – it’s pretty much the Batmobile as far as I am concerned, and no one in their sane mind would let me near a car like that.”

Katsuki started. “Eh?”

Deku exhaled, and his eyes sparkled with barely contained excitement. “I—tend to go overboard, when it comes to gear. I swear, if I get into that car without Shouto, I won’t be able to hold back from trying out all the tech and pressing all the buttons for myself. I’d want to see if I can make the engine hum or purr; I’d be checking how far the enhancements go, I’d want to launch all of its secret weapons at least once.” He groaned. “Shouto-kun would destroy me if I did that when he’s not around.”

Katsuki gasped. Are you kidding me? Katsuki himself had once asked to test all of those enhancements on Todoroki’s stupid supercar before – and got a firm “No”.

Any echoing thoughts about Deku being ‘destroyed’ by Todoroki were shut down, firmly.

“We’ll take my bike then.”

Deku, predictably, went crazy over Katsuki’s own baby. “Noo… is that the third generation Eclipse Umbra?” The impossibly large eyes went even wider. “D-did you test all the tech? The light refraction invisibility feature? The jet booster engine? The back-wheel thruster?”

The more Katsuki nodded, the brighter the green eyes gleamed. “She doesn’t just purr, I can tell you that.”

Deku looked like he was dying. “I bet it growls.”

Katsuki swallowed. He almost offered to let him try it out one time before he caught himself.

Get a hold of yourself, what the hell.

“Tch. Let’s just get to the hospital, shall we?”

 

Superbike

(Art credit to Jellynely)

 


 

16 Unread Messages

Izuku [16:04]: Momo, would you know if Shouto-kun has a cat?

Izuku [16:06]: Found a can of cat food, wound cream and keys among his stuff

Izuku [16:20]: Maybe I should check Shouto’s place, just in case?

Izuku [16:25]: Also, I wonder about the wound cream. He was walking strangely the other day…

Izuku [16:40]: Wow, hospital just called me at Shouto’s - they probably just assumed I lived here. Am coming over to donate blood when I visit

Izuku [16:40]: BTW Kacchan’s here at Shouto’s too. Well!

Izuku [16:41]: I know I mentioned this on our call earlier, but Bakugou Katsuki hates me

Izuku [16:43]: You say that he’s just protective and he’s like that with everyone, but he *really* has it in for me

Izuku [16:44]: BTW also I almost broke his nose just now. I didn’t mean to though!

Izuku [16:45]: He knows something’s up. He’s been coming at me with textbook interrogation techniques. Help, Momo

Izuku [16:47]: Did you know that Shouto-kun had a super penis car? It looks awesome!

Izuku [16:47]: Kacchan’s tried to get me to drive the penis car to the hospital. He’s testing me

Izuku [16:48]: I just realized what I texted – I didn’t mean it, about the penis car. Let’s call it a quarter-life crisis/extra super hero car. I think it’s better for everyone if I keep the car out of this

Izuku [17:12]: We just made it to the hospital on Kacchan’s extra super hero bike. The interrogation continues!

Izuku [17:13]: Oh, BTW, Shouto-kun does have a cat! She’s called Scratch and she’s adorable. I’ll show you photos later if I manage to survive the bloodletting with Kacchan

Izuku [17:14]: I meant the blood donation

 


 

The thing about sitting down for a blood donation is that nobody can get away from questions while blood is being drawn from one’s veins.

“When exactly did you meet?”

Deku didn’t even bother to hide his annoyance at this point, “September 16 this year. We started working together on November 4th. He proposed a week ago,” he recited, tapping a finger. “Do you also want to know when we first held hands?”

Katsuki ignored the last part. “Three months, that’s unbelievably sudden for Half-n-Half.”

“You have no idea.” Deku muttered under his breath.

“You don’t even have photos yet at his place.”

Deku gave a tight-lipped smile, “I’ve given up on being photogenic a long time ago...”

I highly doubt that, Katsuki thought despite himself, thoroughly annoyed. What did Uraraka call the damn nerd now? A looker?

“…And Shouto-kun doesn’t seem to like selfies that much. I didn’t see any photos of anyone with him at his flat either.”

Katsuki was actually surprised at how Deku was no longer holding back at snarking at him. He no longer looked scared at every question, and even started visibly rolling his eyes at some of them. The nerd didn’t even so much as flinch when the needles came off and he jumped off the chair to find the lift.

Oi. I’m not done with you yet.

“What is Todoroki’s favorite dish?”

Deku glowered at him. “Zaru soba!”

“Ha!” Katsuki said in mock triumph as they entered Todoroki’s room. “But everyone knows that.”

Deku crossed his arms and glared at him, “Why don’t you give me harder questions then, if you’re so intent on testing me? Did you know he had a cat?”

“What in the world is going on?” Yaoyorozu asked from Todoroki’s bedside. “What’s with all these questions, Bakugou-san?”

Katsuki and Deku turned to find Yaoyorozu together with Kirishima and Ashido in the room.

From the doorway, Uraraka had just come in with Jirou Kyouka and Kaminari Denki, who was eyeing them curiously.

“Um, are we not doing introductions first? I’m betting this is the fiancé we’ve heard so much about?”

Katsuki scoffed. “I don’t know, why don’t we ask him. Or better yet, why don’t we ask his boyfriend?”

Kirishima gasped horrifically and stared at Todoroki’s unconscious form. “Dude! That isn’t funny!”

“No, Shitty Hair, not that boyfriend.” Katsuki scowled. “Shinso Hitoshi.”

Deku blinked.

“Just to make things clear, did you say Shinso-kun?”

Denki blinked, “Man, he knows Shinso too? Interesting, good-looking guy, bit hard to read though—” Jirou shushed him with an elbow to his ribs.

“Shinso-kun?” Deku repeated. “Are you serious?”

Katsuki scoffed, “I saw you earlier, while I was—” he coughed, “on my way to Todoroki’s apartment. You looked,” he tried for the right word, “intimate.”

“Intimate? What does that mean?” Ashido’s voice pitched high. “Bakugou, you ho, tell it to me straight.”

“There was some embracing, some mention of wine, and then the Brainwasher grabbed his ass in public.”

Ashido and Kirishima’s gasps were the right level of theatric. But Deku’s was an even higher level of indignation.

“Were you spying on me?” Katsuki didn’t even bother to reply when Deku already knew the answer. 

“Shinso-kun is one of my best friends at work and my neighbor! He’s a great guy, but he’s also a lazy ass who can’t be bothered to eat unless I bring him dinner. He’s also a petty drama queen who has to get back at me for beating him at Dance Combat last week by hitting me in the ass! And yes, I’m bringing wine when we have dinner – at this rate I’ll need it more than he does!”

While a large part of that sentence did not make sense to Katsuki, it clearly did to some people as Ashido suddenly whooped in excitement.  “You do Dance Combat? Is this at The Floor bar? I can’t believe this, no one else here wants to try it with me!”

“Well, y-yes,” Deku was distracted into stuttering at the unexpected burst of enthusiasm, “the office encourages us to try multi-disciplinary approaches to fitness, a-and—”

“Can we get to the point!” Katsuki said testily, ignoring the glares sent his way.

“What else do you want me to say? I refuse to apologize for my friendship with Shinso, and you’ll believe whatever you want to anyway.” Deku snapped back. “Or would you rather go through another senseless round of 20 questions?”

“Oh please, everyone knows you’re the ultimate nerd fanboy. You can answer 20 questions on anyone in this room – hundreds if it’s All Might. That doesn’t make you their lover.”

Deku gasped, betrayed, before giving a surreptitious look around to check if his number 1 Hero had heard that. From somewhere in the room, someone gave a pitifully awkward cough.

The mortified look on Deku’s face gave way to red rage.

“Seriously, Kacchan, are we five years old again? What the hell is your problem with me?”

Katsuki blinked.

(Kacchan, did you get hurt? Do you need any help?)

“I,” found it hard to swallow against a sudden lump in his throat. “I don’t have a problem with you.” He tried not to look away.

“I just don’t believe that you’re engaged to Todoroki.”

Deku flinched at that, as if it made things worse.

Whatever Katsuki suddenly wanted to say, he was interrupted when Uraraka cut him off with a hand on his arm. She shook her head at him before turning to Deku.

“I’m sorry about this Izuku-kun, you don’t have to say anything. Arguing like this isn’t helpful to any one of, least of all Todoroki-kun. I think,” she paused, “that some of us are just so shocked by the fact that Todoroki-kun got engaged of all things, and so suddenly too, that we don’t quite know what to expect, and we’re still getting used to the idea.” She gave Bakugou a telling look, “That’s our problem, not yours.”

Deku looked stricken. Katsuki, for once, was at a loss for words.

Uraraka sighed, “Why don’t we just—” but Deku stopped her by putting a hand on her arm.

“No, it’s okay, Uraraka-kun. I understand.”

Deku looked like he was steeling himself; his gaze moved across everyone in the room, then back to Katsuki. “Kacchan’s just watching out for his friend. He wants to see proof of how—” he coughed over the word, “intimately I know Shouto-kun. Something that only a, well, a fiancé would know.”

Katsuki flinched. Well—

Deku lifted a hand to cut him off, glaring as he opened and closed his mouth a couple of times.

“Shouto—” he struggled to get out. He took a deep breath.

“Shouto-kun has scratch marks,” he exhaled as if it pained him, “on his left butt cheek.”

Katsuki’s mouth dropped.

He was not expecting that.

“What the hell, Deku?”

Uraraka’s tongue got caught in her throat. Her face looked ashen.

“N-no way!” Kirishima wheezed out after a few seconds.

Izuku covered his face in what was indisputably the worst mumble-storm in history, “Y-yes way … He’s probably still getting used to Scratch—that’s the name of his cat; and his ice side usually helps resolve any inflammation faster, but he was walking funny the other day…”

Okay, we get the picture…” Jirou placed a hand on her face. “That was more than I wanted to know. Nice to meet you, but no.”

Kaminari whooped in delight. “I’m not saying I’m glad I left work in time for this today, but,” he wiggled his eyebrows. “are you saying it was the cat that did it?”

Jirou groaned. Elsewhere, someone snapped “For crying out loud,” – it could have been Yaoyorozu.

Ashido was cackling maniacally somewhere, “Who’s gonna check?”

Kirishima paled, “We’re not seriously doing this, are we?”

 


 

They all filed into the lift quietly, both guilty and weirdly traumatized by what they had just witnessed.

“Are you happy now?” Uraraka moaned at Bakugou, who could only just stare back at her with a haunted expression, “You bastard?”

“Yes, ‘Kacchan’,” Kaminari whined, “I didn’t know you two had history, but what the hell was that?”

“Are we seriously buying that it was the cat that left those marks?” Ashido dared to ask, weakly.

“Please, just, stop.” Jirou covered her ears.

Kirishima was still shaking his head, “The things we can’t un-see…”

Yaoyorozu glared at them with as much quiet dignity as she could muster given the situation.

I was the one who had to look at it first.”

…which, as it turned out, was precious little.

“Can we agree to just end all questions and never talk about this, ever, again?”

There was silence for all of a second.

“Well,” Kaminari grinned. “At least now we know the answer to whether Todoroki is a tits or ass kind of guy.”

There were simultaneous groans of, “Shut up, Denki!” before the lift doors closed again.

 


 

“You’re shitting me. That seriously happened?”

From his position with his face mashed onto the table, Izuku muttered, “Which part? The fake engagement to Shouto-kun? The cat? The butt cheek inspection? Or the part where they thought I was a lying, two-timing shit because you slapped my ass in public? I can tell you now, it’s all of the above.”

Shinso hardly ever cackled, but when he did, it was unbearable.

“That last part, you totally deserved. I told you, you have an amazing tendency to get into situations like this. I meant the scratched-Ice Prince-butt part – how the hell did you get that right?”

Izuku resisted the urge to smash his head against the table. “Crazy lucky guess based on the contents of his bag from the hospital. Are you sure really you want to know?”

“I’ll take your word for it.” Shinso gave a low whistle and shook his head. “Remind me to never get on your bad side. The things you can figure out when you’re focused on someone—” his grin widened, “that’s almost on par with my quirk, as far as the fear factor goes. I’m proud of you, kid.”

Izuku couldn’t help it, he banged his head onto the table. “Don’t say that. You make me sound like a psycho stalker. I’ll have so much to apologize for when Shouto-kun wakes up.”

“I’d say, less stalker and more… scary green Sherlock.” Shinso rubbed a hand on his chin, “If I were a lesser man, I would tell you to use it on Bakugou, but it sounds like you already soundly thrashed him in Round One of Deku versus Kacchan.”

Izuku suddenly raised his head, “Oh my god, Kacchan. What do I do about Kacchan?”

“It’s Bakugou,” Shinso shrugged, as if that explained everything. He stared down at Izuku as he poured more wine for him.

“How do you feel about that, by the way?”

Izuku paused.

Katsuki Bakugou. Kacchan.

There was too much to unpack in that one person.

Because before there was Shouto-kun, All Might or any of Deku’s childhood and adult heroes, there had been Kacchan.

Brilliant super-quirked prodigy, awesome butterfly catcher and skip-stone thrower, clever learner and early reader, head of Bakugou Hero Team, middle-school alpha male and arrogant, first-class jerk – that was Kacchan.

As a kid, he was the first ever asshole who told Izuku to get lost and stop hanging his hope on stupid dreams; the first one to call him a useless loser and to tell him to jump off a roof.

“He’s still such a bastard.”

The funny thing was that, looking back, his frankly juvenile tactics had been nothing compared to the more devastating ways his heart had been broken afterwards. Kacchan was the first person to set him back and he wasn’t the last, but he was certainly not the worst. Izuku wouldn’t be destroyed by him; in fact, it probably made him stronger when it came to enduring larger foes.

In his mind, he recalled the blurry sight of a burnt notebook as a frail superhero stepped away from sight.

Only people who had your heart can do that.

Izuku shook his head at the sudden dark turn of his thoughts. He had grown up enough to realize that he was so much stronger for all of it now.

He had chosen “Deku” as his agent name for a good reason.

The annoying thing was that, for all of Kacchan’s faults, he also, for some reason, grew up into a Hero – and a damn good one at that. In terms of lives saved and missions accomplished, Ground Zero was even neck-to-neck with Shouto in the top 10 heroes. Anyone who had seen his performance as a proud first year at the UA Sportsfest could attest to how amazing his dedication to victory was. As a Pro, he had grown in fortitude, mental strength and sheer fighting prowess.

Ground Zero never minced his words and was well known for his still-crappy demeanor, but he nevertheless had grown up enough to do something Good – enough to capture a nation’s support and admiration at least.

And no matter how justifiable his doubts on Kacchan were, Izuku was not that self-righteous that he would take that away from him.

He was also Izuku’s first lesson on the fact that heroes were not as one-dimensional or invincible as they seemed. He thought back to All Might, his classmates at Ketsubutsu Academy, the famous UA Pro Hero class, Hatsume and of course, Shinso. Even Todoroki Shouto. He probably wouldn’t be able to hold his ground among them, if he hadn’t met Kacchan first.

Katsuki Bakugou would never be one of Izuku’s personal heroes, but he was certainly a real one to him.

“…But he really is an amazing hero.”

And he was just watching out for Shouto-kun, which Izuku could never fault him for.

Shinso gave a small close-lipped smile. “Having shared the same school as the guy, I can admit that he is, on certain occasions, actually not that bad.”

“Still an asshole though.”

Shinso snickered as he swished his wine glass, “Not disagreeing with you there.”

The good news was that Izuku had the advantage on Kacchan this time. While the man had no way of anticipating him, Izuku’s exposure to hero work made him aware of what to anticipate upon seeing his childhood bully again.

Regardless, nothing could quite prepare him for the sight of Kacchan outside of a TV screen – the intense crimson eyes, the resting smirk on his lips, the imposing way he stood, the rough, husky voice, the solid built, and the frankly astounding biceps – it’s like that black tank top was made for the sole purpose of displaying them for maximum effect.

Honestly, Izuku’s heart stopped beating for all of a few seconds.

It was his mention of that childhood nickname, “Deku”, that was his salvation, as it swiftly brought him back to the reality of the horrible personality under the gorgeous looks. It certainly made it easier to deal with him afterwards (awkwardly amazing motorbike ride aside).

And that, Izuku was surprised to realize, was the other strange thing – how easy it was to fight back when it came to Kacchan this time.

“But you know what I think?”

Funnily enough, there was something strangely satisfying about pissing Kacchan off and getting away with it, however awkward or clumsy or quirkless Izuku was. Knowing that Kacchan had it in for him, and that Izuku was somehow evading capture made it more fun for some reason.

“I think I can handle him this time.”

Shinso tsk’d at him from over his wine glass, as if this had been obvious this whole time, “You know you didn’t really need to use the cat thing to get Todoroki Friends & Co off your back, right?” He grinned.

“You just wanted to shut Bakugou up and roast him over the coals like he deserved.”

Izuku’s eyes bugged out as he took a sudden gulp from his glass. “W-what! I just wanted to get it over and done with, as clearly as possible. That is so not…”

True.

Evidence that I am insane.

Shinso’s grin grew, “It’s those big green eyes of yours – makes you look so innocent and awkwardly ‘adorkable’, all the while hiding the frankly savage demon kid within.”

Izuku put his head back on the table. “Why are we friends again? Why do I bother feeding you?”

Shinso’s mocking laughter wafted over him. “Because you think I’m amazing? Because you love my quirk? Because you feel less guilty about using Agency cars when I’m the one who orders them? Because I’m the only one who sees you for the quirkless wonder that you are? Because you had no choice?”

Izuku paused despite himself. “If I say all of the above, would you make fun of me for being such a sap?”

“Yep.” The ‘p’ was popped mockingly without apology.

“Then no, none of the above. We’re not friends.”

“Right on you, kid.” Shinso pushed his glass. “Drink up.”

Izuku beamed. It was refreshing, interacting with someone this remarkable so honestly, beyond the veneer of hero worship.

It was probably why he was enjoying battling it out with Kacchan as well, intrusive questions and spying aside.

He choked on his drink as another thought occurred to him. “Wait – what if Kacchan brings out the big guns? He’s a hero. What if he uses spy drones?” His eyes darted towards the window.

Shinso paused to roll his eyes and clock him on the head. “That should be easy for you to handle. You work in Intelligence, dumbass.” He held that thought for a second, “–Did I just use those words in that actual sentence?”

“But what if he uses hero tech? What if he’s spying on us right here, right now?” Izuku gaped at Shinso. “Should we bring Mei in? I haven’t gotten the chance to tell her yet.”

Shinso smirked at the mention of the last member of their unlikely trio, “I’d give her a video call at the workshop now, if you’re sure we’re not being bugged.” He hummed with a thin scary voice, “Think of all the embarrassing shit Bakugou can dig up from your past, like those videos…”

“Shut up!” Izuku gasped at him, betrayed. “You laugh now, but have you seen my luck—”

They were interrupted by a loud knock on the door.

They most certainly reacted in a dignified way; Izuku did not shriek like a mindless idiot and Shinso did not jump and yell “Holy sh--!”

“Midoriya shounen?”

They looked at each other in shock. “All Might?”

 


 

It was All Might.

In his muscle form, standing in Izuku’s living room, with Shinso standing with his arms crossed in front of the dining table as if it would hide the mess of their takeout dinner and the glasses of wine, while Small Might Junior, Shinso’s grey shorthair cat Merlin and Scratch the now-infamous tabby cat stared balefully at him from the cat tower behind the sofa.

We have too many cats in this room.

Uh. “This is a pleasant surprise.”

Are you here to accuse me of having dinner with my ass-slapping neighbor? Detroit Smash me for the cat incident? Tell me off for not fully following your advice about staying away from all things Hero?

“Would you like a drink?”

What could you possibly offer him as a drink, he’s All Might, he probably drinks hero essence, and Kacchan will accuse you of trying to wine and dine Japan’s most precious hero--

Shinso cleared his throat, a sound that screamed to Izuku, “I can hear your mind mumbling. Now is not the time for a meltdown, you loser nerd idiot.”

All Might coughed, “No, that’s fine. Thank you Midoriya shounen, and I apologize for showing up unannounced.”

He looked at both of them, “There was something I wanted to talk to you about personally, regarding Todoroki shounen and my former students at class 3-A.”

Izuku swallowed, bracing himself. Shinso did not offer to leave. All Might seemed to take his cue from that, as he spoke.

“I know the truth.”

Deku’s mind froze, he felt his stomach drop.

“…I am so sorry, All Might.” He heard himself saying a few seconds later. “I know how it must look to you, and really there is an explanation for this. I swear I’m not a delusional stalker who sticks my nose where it doesn’t belong, I really thought I was being helpful to Shouto-kun.” He ran out of breath without realizing, and he wheezed. “Yaoyorozu-san spoke to me—"

“That was my idea.”

“—And we decided that it was best if we kept up the story—” Izuku stopped so suddenly that he actually staggered forward. What?

All Might placed a steadying hand on his arm. “May I?” he gestured vaguely to the side.

When Izuku nodded dumbly, he stepped back and transformed before them, sudden wisps of smoke drifting away to reveal a thin, frail man with haggard eyes. Izuku gawked, only half-sure that people like Shinso were meant to know this particular secret. Judging from the lack of surprise on Shinso’s gaze, he figured that certain UA hero course alumni were probably in on it.

All Might made his way to sit on his couch, “I also am personally invested in making sure my students remain safe. I came back to the hospital with Yaoyorozu shoujo in the first night of Todoroki’s confinement. We were both by the door when we heard you confess the truth to him.”

Izuku felt faint. “You heard…” he tried desperately to recall if he had confessed anything incriminating, “…all of it?”

He was caught between apologizing again or dying with mortification when All Might offered a smile.

“Yes, and I was the one who suggested that Yaoyorozu speak with you so that we could work together to keep young Todoroki safe from his father. Do you know why I did that?”

He stood up, “Eight years ago, you and I had encountered each other in the streets of Musutafu. You asked me an important question, which I had answered, rightly or wrongly, the best way I thought at the time. In exchange, I had asked you to keep this state of mine a secret.”

So he does remember. Izuku nodded slowly, feeling his throat dry up.

“You might be surprised that I remember, my boy. But I do wonder about what ever came to of that boy with his notebook, who all this time kept his word to me. It was indeed to my great surprise to see you years later, doing your best to help someone else, even though it is often easier or better to walk away – against Endeavor no less.”

Izuku stood stock still as All Might continued.

“You didn’t even pause to hesitate when it came to young Todoroki. Those courageous actions of yours tell me, more than anything else, of the quality of your character.”

All Might looked at him intently, “It made me realize that I never should have worried. I’ve realized more about the effect of my words over the years, and I am glad that you turned out well despite my harsh words years ago. More than that, I realized that we can trust you to keep young Todoroki safe.”

Izuku felt his knees weaken; despite himself, he could feel a sob clogging up his throat, “All Might.”

“You’re going to make him cry.” Shinso observed wryly from behind him. “Don’t worry; it’s not you, it’s him.”

“S-Shinso-kun!” Izuku lamented.

All Might turned to Shinso with a sheepish look. “I would like to thank you as well, young Shinso. I hope this whole affair hasn’t been harmful to your—” he paused, considering, “relationship with each other. We hadn’t thought to confirm with Midoriya before…”

Shinso’s eyes widened comically as he realized what All Might was trying to be sensitive about. “Alright, let me stop you right there, All Might. For the record, I am not dating your green-haired wonder kid over there.” He shrugged. “While he’s not that bad to look at, he’s seriously behind on his karaoke and cooking game.” He spared Izuku a glance and said flippantly, “Sorry, kid. It’s not me, it’s you.”

All Might looked like he didn’t know how to respond to that statement, so Izuku spared him and confirmed with a weak laugh: “Don’t worry, I am not in the market for another fake relationship.”

All Might slowly nodded, placing a hand on the back of his head, “I understand that Bakugou shounen might have been too hasty in his, er, background checks. Ashido and Uraraka are planning to make it up to you, and I believe that he will be more considerate going forward.”

“Background checks is one way to put it,” Izuku said slowly, appreciating his attempt at reassuring him all the same; Shinsou snorted from behind him.

All Might stood, “I know that this whole situation seems—unconventional. But you’ve done no mean thing. Their class—it’s been different for them ever since you came.” He paused to rebutton his coat.

“I think it’s because they feel like since you’ve been there, they finally have their friend and colleague back, coma or no.”

All Might inhaled and transformed back into his muscle form, before moving to offer his hand, “I wanted to thank you again, and to let you know that you will have my support should you need it. You are not alone in this.”

Izuku felt tears crowding his eyes again. “I… thank you, All Might.”

All Might nodded and turned to go, but not before spotting the cats again, “By the way, I heard about the cat story, and I wanted to ask how…”

At Izuku’s beleaguered expression and Shinso’s manic grin, All Might just shook his head.

“You know what? Never mind. I don’t want to know.”

 


 

“Ashido-kun? Weren’t we meant to meet at the club?”

Katsuki scowled. The nerd had the nerve to look surprised to find them waiting in their black SUV outside his apartment building.

“We thought it was better to pick you up instead!” Ashido beamed, turning to Katsuki and elbowing him when he didn’t respond. “Right?” voices at the back rang out in the affirmative instead.

“Oh wow. Hi Kaminari-kun, Kacchan.” Deku sounded mildly panicked, “I thought it was just going to be you and Uraraka-kun joining us tonight! But, er, the more, the merrier!”

You’d like it if I wasn’t here, would you?

Deku was nudged to the side by Shinso, “Well, well, class 3-A kids, what a surprise. Hello Ashido, Uraraka, Kaminari… and Bakugou is driving as well. What brings you to our humble abode?”

Katsuki resisted the urge to sock the purple-haired abomination. Uraraka was there to run interference however.

“Bakugou’s here because he needs to make it up to us, especially Izuku-kun, after what happened this week. Kaminari’s here because he doesn’t want to miss out on this.”

What the—Katsuki glared daggers at the cheerful round-cheeked traitor.

He could see Deku shaking his hands placatingly. “Well, that’s. um. Nice. But there’s really no need to drive us, we might not fit anyway…”

“No,” Shinso drawled, “This should be interesting. I can cancel the car I ordered – I think this is much, much better.”

Katsuki wasn’t imagining the despairing glare that Deku shot Shinso, “We’re meant to pick up the others.”

“I’m sure Ground Zero can handle one or two side trips,” Purple Hair challenged with a deliberately bored tone as he climbed in.

Katsuki growled, “Get in, you damn nerd!”

The truth was that Katsuki had indeed been coerced into joining this damn night out, an attempt by Ashido and Uraraka to smooth over any awkwardness from Katsuki’s (justified) suspicions this week. Even All Might had insisted that he take part.

“Wow, nice rags, gents.” Kaminari whistled when Deku joined Shinso inside the car. “Mina, you didn’t tell us that the dress code meant suits.”

Katsuki didn’t have to look long to predict the 3-piece ensemble, together with the gloves the discarded jacket and, yep, Deku’s damn rolled-up sleeves.

“Ah, don’t worry, it’s more like an informal ‘wear your work clothes’ theme tonight. That’s what Mei wanted, and because it’s Mei Day tonight…”

“Hang on,” Kaminari interrupted, “Seriously, that’s what you guys wear to work?”

Deku’s blush came back like clockwork, “Well, the Agency has, um, a specific code for—”

Uraraka gave him an encouraging smile, “Do you want me to help you with your tie?”

Katsuki smirked. That damn badly-knotted necktie.

“Don’t bother,” The Pale Mindfucker chided. “He murders his knots so much that his bad ties have become an institution in the office anyway.”

Deku shot him a look, “It’s not the only thing that would get murdered if you don’t stop,” he murmured as an aside, and Katsuki found himself grinning again.

From beside him at the front, Ashido turned to them, “I’m not sure I heard what you said earlier… did you say it was May Day?”

“Mei Day,” Shinso corrected. “As in Hatsume Mei – speaking of which, King Explodo Murder, would you mind taking the next right? We need to pick her up.”

Katsuki pointedly refused to respond, and Round Cheeks asked what they were all wondering about, “Mei… is it because it’s her birthday, and the club is letting her celebrate?”

“Nope, although I can see why you’d think that.” Deku nodded, “It’s more like, ‘Mei Calls in All Favors’ day. Trust her to come up with something like this, but basically, whatever Mei wants tonight, Mei gets.”

“Seriously, even the club owners owe her? Why would they dedicate a whole event to her? Is it for gear or support items? What kind of items?” Wow, Ashido went through that train of thought so quickly.

“One does not ask what is owed to Mei.” Deku quoted with a shit eating grin, “Trust me, we’re better off not knowing. Ah,” he turned to the window, “there she is!”

A few seconds later, the lady herself showed up next to the door that Deku opened for her. “Hi boys, this is a new ride.” She glanced at everyone inside. “Ah, class 3-A, short time no see!”

“Bakugou is driving.” Shinso intoned, as if that explained everything.

“Gotcha.” Mei winked, “Hello Ground Zero, be nice to our Izu-chan this time, okay? I generally need him in one piece.” And she swept in before Katsuki could find the nerve to be offended, all gold and metallic in her outfit.

Deku came back in to clamber to the back with Kaminari, effectively missing Mei’s last words. “Wow, Mei, you look like a steampunk diva. Does that come with gear?”

“That’s the idea,” Mei agreed, before knocking Shinso on his head for murmuring, “More like the Queen of the Night.”

Clearly the work outfit thing didn’t apply to her.

Kaminari, that little flirty shit, couldn’t help himself. “Looking good, Ms. Support Genius.”

“Thank you, Kamihara,” Mei winked at him, gleefully ignoring his choked-out wheeze at the misnomer, before turning to Deku. “Izu, come here, give me your face!”

“Uhhh, what are you planning this time – whoa!” Katsuki only saw a green-haired blur as Mei grabbed the nerd’s cheeks in hand and whipped out a pencil.

“I am putting eyeliner on these gorgeous big eyes of yours. I need you to bring out your A-Game with these pretty peepers tonight, and you’re not getting out of this, secret engagement or not.”

Right, they were all meant to keep the ridiculous engagement a secret among themselves to ‘respect Shouto’s need for privacy.’ Deku still wore the ring when they were together however.

“Now, did you get those trousers one size smaller like I asked? All the better to show off those perfect glutes—”

“M-mei!” Deku moaned like he was being tortured, “Can we avoid any and all mention of all nether regions for the rest of the night? I haven’t recovered from this week yet.”

Uraraka clamped her lips on a giggle. Katsuki refused to look at the sudden delighted gleam on Ashido’s face.

“Fine, have it your way. Wear this on your ear at least… Now, where’s the other one!” She whipped around to Shinso, who suddenly didn’t look as bored.

“You better do a damn good job, Grease Monkey.”

“Don’t worry, a little silver eyeshadow will glam-rock you up, Purple Rain. Now did you wear the tighter shirt like I asked?”

She poked at him when he didn’t bother to reply. “How am I supposed to pull off Mei Day tonight if you two don’t do your bit? I want to be the envy of all men and women alike with my boys.”

“You make us sound like pets. Or bodyguard slaves. Whatever you’re planning, I don’t intend to tear off my clothes.”

“Is she like this all the time?” Kaminari asked in stage whisper. The girls just stared in dumb fascination as Mei made quick work of Shinso’s face.

“Yep.” Deku admitted sheepishly as Shinso grumbled under Mei’s hands. “Unfortunately, any sense of shame just… bleeds away over the years.”

Years? How long has Deku known these two anyway? Doesn’t he have his own friends from Ketsubutsu or wherever the hell it is he came from?

“How did you guys meet each other, by the way?” Thank you, Ashido, for asking all the right questions.

“Interschool program focused on cultivating non-offensive quirks and talents.” Mei replied automatically. Talent in Deku’s case then, quirkless as he was. “In our third year? We ended up working together a lot through the Agency anyway.”

The damn nerd really has been under our noses this whole time?

They had one more surprise stop, to Katsuki’s increasing annoyance, although Shinso declared that they shouldn’t worry about making more space as the last joiners could sit in the back like children.

It did not help when Katsuki soon realized who he was talking about.

The annoyingly high-pitched mocking voice broke through the windows. “Shinso? This would be a nice 3-B reunion if you didn’t bring that green-haired menace with you… oh, ho, hello Class A-gumi, we meet again!”

That fucking troll copycat, Monoma Neito.

“I hope this is the last fucking stop!” Katsuki threatened over a chorus of groans.

“I’m really, really sorry guys,” Deku sounded genuinely apologetic, not bothering to lower his voice for Monoma’s benefit. “Shinso-kun invited Kendou-san but she couldn’t make it; we have Monoma instead.”

Monoma shut the door from behind him, “Agent Deku, I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, and we can bury the hatchet if you join forces with us in an Intelligence Agency Officers and Contractors vs Class A showdown!”

Agent Deku? Katsuki raised a brow in the rearview mirror. He actually chose that name?

But Deku refused to meet his gaze over the mirror, simply craning his head back at Monoma, “Now, now, why don’t we all just try to get along?”

He then quickly turned to Mei, “Do you have lipbalm? You should use it on him. The shinier, the better.”

The rest of the car looked at him in surprise, but Katsuki suddenly let out his first laugh of the night, getting it immediately. Shinso smirked.

“We need to make that mouth look good before people realize the shit that comes out of it.”

 


 

“So how does this work again? You hit targets with balls like we did in the provisional license exam, except you’re not allowed to use quirks?” Uraraka asked dubiously.

Ashido nodded, her tongue peeking out from the side as she handled the disc-shaped targets, “You’re judged on your combat skills and your dancing.”

“Dancing… how the hell does that make sense?”

Ashido winked at Katsuki. “You have to suit and time your motions to the rhythm; also, there are certain periods set aside specifically for dancing only, so we get the chance to show off our moves...”

Katsuki snorted dismissively and he looked away.

A few meters from them, the so-called Queen-of-the-Night Hatsume chatted animatedly with the host.

Beside her stood Shinso with his silver-marked lids and cheekbones, and Deku, his green eyes all smoky, a glassy black stud on his ear. Shinso was also rolling his sleeves up while Deku explained the game mechanics to Kaminari with gusto.

Behind them, a group blatantly stared, brows raised as they whispered amongst themselves; there were others, in fact, who were also staring at the suited and booted group.

Katsuki bit back a frown. He had to admit that Hatsume knew what she was doing when she styled the hell out of her friends. He just wished it wasn’t quite as effective.

He was good at ignoring onlookers when it came to himself, but it looks like he can’t quit switch off when it comes to his troublesome childhood rival and Todoroki’s fiancé.

The speculative whispers increased when Deku attached his targets: one on his left breast, another on the lower right side of his abdomen, and the last one… on his right butt cheek. There it goes, someone gushed from elsewhere to their right.

Shinso eyes actually twitched at the sight. “You’re just asking for it, aren’t you, kid?”

Deku looked up at him through his lashes, a cheeky grin on his face, “Still bitter about failing to hit this one last time?”

Katsuki suddenly found his throat dry.

Denki’s eyes widened in comical delight, “So that’s what that was?” Suddenly Shinso’s actions regarding said butt from a few days ago made sense.

“Ha!” Monoma suddenly turned back from posing before the crowd to leer with his usual panache. “This time, I’m going to hit that ass.”

Someone coughed loudly from behind Katsuki. He gave a sneer of disgust when he realized it was Uraraka.

“Sorry everyone, but I’m calling in another personal favor with the organizers,” Mei announced as she appeared with a ball, “Just collecting this before anyone else can!” she said cheerfully before hitting the disc on Deku’s bottom, which instantly glowed a light red.

A chorus of gasps and hoots echoed across the room. On the stage, the game host mouthed “Mei Day” and shrugged as if to say, ‘what can you do?’.

Deku gawked. “Wow, Mei. The game hasn’t even started yet. Should I be insulted or flattered?”

Mei placed her hands on her hips and started cackling gleefully. “Be flattered. I’ve actually pulled strings to make sure that infamous target on your ass is mine tonight.”

Shinso only cracked his knuckles. “Nice play, Grease Monkey.” He sneered at Deku, “But I’m still coming for the rest of you...”

He gave a sideways look at the Tuxedo-suited menace posing before the audience, “After I take Monoma out.”

In the end, Mei, Shinso, Deku, Monoma and Ashido joined the competition, while the rest of them opted to watch and learn first.

The twenty or so odd contestants gathered onto the recessed stage at the middle of the club, the eponymous ‘Floor’ that the venue was named after. They were surrounded by a semi-solid transparent wire wall, which would only be in solid state while the battle rules are in place.

“Welcome to Dance Combat! You know the rules – no quirk use at any time. When the green light is on, hit as many targets as you can in time with the beat, and when the red light is on, stop battling and just dance! Three hits and you’re out. Contestants are scored based on the targets they hit on the rhythm. Plus points for great dance moves!” Cheers broke out over the last part.

“Any hits done during the dance sections and any damage that breaks skin on your fellow contestants will lead to deductions or disqualification.”

The lights flashed to that effect, and the host continued. “Lastly, as you all know, it’s Mei Day.” The spotlights all went to Mei, who gleamed black and gold in the milky light as she bowed. “She’s called in some favors and she has chosen the playlist for tonight’s round.”

“In that case, let the games begin. We’re starting the countdown–don’t forget to have fun! – in 5, 4, 3, 2…”

 


 

A clapping sound emerged from the speakers, and “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” by Santa Esmeralda was displayed on the marquee. Damn, Izuku thought, of course Mei had to choose music from a cult classic action film. That’s good.

From the audience, people yelled as a brutal but impressive rhythm started to emerge. Some of his fellow contestants started shook their heads in wonder at the beat. Deku normally didn’t mind the intensity of Latin music – it lent itself well to various dance and attack styles.

Normally. He looked up at the audience, seeing Kacchan together with Uraraka and Kaminari in the crowd. Having Shouto’s friends here made him anxious with the need to not embarrass himself, but oddly enough having his childhood enemy present made him more excited with the need to wipe that judgy smirk off his face.

Mei appeared next to him as he stretched his neck. “Now Izu, ready to make me look good?”

He grinned.

They both moved instantly towards center stage, stomping their feet forward with decisive snaps, matching the beat perfectly.

Shinso joined them, shooting him a mocking look before they simultaneously took a half step to the side. “You call that dancing?”

Izuku beamed. Shinso might not be as invested in dance, but he was a perfectionist showoff himself, and very competitive to boot. Their need to compete made them both a bad, if entertaining combination. It was the origin of all evil for many questionable pastimes, from blindfolded mini-golf to who can threaten Mei’s exes best. It was because of him that Izuku’s target on his butt, which had been a good-natured challenge at the beginning, had morphed into the Holy Grail of the competition.

Shinso also had an annoying smugface, which was all the motivation Izuku needed sometimes.

When Shinso improvised by grabbing Mei into a spin, Deku only laughed before rounding up with a little kick and spinning in the opposite direction, landing and tapping on a toe just as Mei swung back into place.

“Ooh, a little Paso?” Ashido showed up next to him, repeating the routine seamlessly, “Show me your moves!”

Izuku’s mouth dropped open, uncaring that his inner fanboy was showing for one the heroes best known for her physicality. Pro Hero Pinky wants to dance with me! “You bet!”

Shinso rolled his eyes.

“Stop showing off, losers!” Monoma groused as he swung closer. “I’m coming for all of you as soon as that light turns green!”

Shinso grinned; Izuku smirked.

The light turned green.

Izuku immediately launched himself backwards, staying away from the sudden melee as people started targeting each other. He grinned as he saw Shinso hit one of the targets on Monoma’s leg (really what did the guy expect with those coattails?). Ashido jumped into the center while Mei launched herself to the sides.

Let’s not miss out. This was where Izuku’s experience as the most eager (desperate) student across the various martial arts classes offered by the Interschool Program ought to help him the most.

With a deep breath, he lunged towards the periphery, calmly ducking under arms and jumping over limbs as he made his way across the group. The advantage of going low and high within the din made for easy pickings: he could easily spot exposed targets and launch balls with each dive or jump.

From above him, he saw Ashido deploy a ball from a high jump, hitting somebody meters away – and all during her first foray. Sugoi.

Shinso suddenly appeared before him, ball at the ready. “Forgot about me?”

“Argh!” Izuku jolted into a back flip, missing the ball by a hair’s breadth.  It zoomed past him to glance at someone else’s target, at the back of their calf.

“Hey, that didn’t count!” The man protested furiously, just as Izuku landed behind him.

“Well, let’s make sure it does, shall we?” Izuku announced glibly as he hit the same target, taking advantage of the man’s shock to toss a ball back to Shinso, who instantly used it to hit the second target on the man’s head, just as Izuku hit the third one of the man’s shoulder.

“Out!” someone called before the man could even gasp.

“You just had to take two, didn’t you?” Shinso griped, stepping back as someone tried to make a grab for him.

“Yep!” Izuku replied as he grabbed the attacker’s arm and pushed her smoothly onto the floor, revealing two targets on her back – but the rhythm was off.

Shinso shrugged, and they tossed their balls at each other, only to catch them and hit the targets in time with the next beat.

“Out!”

“Besides,” Deku continued with deliberate cheer, “I can’t make it too easy for you, can I?”

Shinso sneered as he tried to swipe at him. “You little piece of—"

The light turned red.

“Oops,” Izuku dashed off to find Ashido, “Don’t take too long to catch up to me, Shinso-kuuuun!”

It was a joy to match with Ashido, who was easily one of the most talented dancers he had met. Just like Tatami-chan, he thought, sparing a quick thought of thanks to his Ketsubutsu senpai who had dragged him into all the body-contorting arts she could find.

Ashido had a sense for matching her fellow performer’s actions, at the same time making it easy to catch up with her. She also had an incredible sense of rhythm. It made it easy to lose himself in dancing with her, transitioning from to freestyle moves to paired ballroom steps. Between battles, they did dips, lifts, break-dancing, krumping, kneeling runs, and an exaggerated four-way tango with Mei and Monoma. They even had a go at the pole in the corner of the room.

It gave even more of an adrenaline high whenever the lights turned green. It was strangely easy to transition from the last position in a chassez cape, to lunging at someone’s knees to grapple them down.

Before any of them knew it, they emerged from an extended battle run with four of them remaining: Shinso, Monoma, Ashido and Izuku – Mei had bowed out in the previous round, and the fifth was brought down in the last seconds before the light turned red.

“Well look who we have left.” Monoma leered – seriously his trash talk needed more work, “Ready to go down?”

And that was when the music suddenly stopped.

Izuku heard Mei’s triumphant laugh somewhere. He met Shinso’s narrowed eyes.

Oh no. What the hell is she planning this time?

“Sorry, finalists, but on the request of tonight’s Queen,” the host emphasized, “we are changing the pace a bit, for a very special finale.”

 


 

There were, Katsuki was painfully beginning to realize, some advantages to watching this ridiculous tournament

“I kind of understand what Todoroki-kun sees in him now.” Kaminari declared.

“Uh huh,” Uraraka slowly agreed, sucking on the straw of her cocktail.

While the competition was quite straightforward, there was something unexpectedly compelling about watching someone time their actions to rhythm, whether it was as simple as stepping next to someone or bashing some balls onto a target.

Well, he grumbled, a specific someone at least.

He didn’t quite understand his own reaction to watching Deku transform so dramatically, from smoothly curving his body to match Ashido, to aggressively grabbing someone’s shoulders to bring them down. He was almost viciously efficient at both, especially when it came to challenging Monoma or Shinso; it was easy to spot that competitive streak from a mile off.

Katsuki also recognized some of his techniques. He used the floor a lot, grappling people to take them down, and rolling safely whenever he fell himself. He also liberally used higher vantage points – launching himself up walls (and in one heart-stopping, eardrum-destroying screaming moment, a pole) to avoid attacks, or to spot targets.

His dance-off with Ashido, however, was another matter entirely, especially when they held nothing back, from coordinated jumps, to hip-swaying salsa and back-bending hip hop, to again that stupid pole.

The crowd ate it all up, of course.

Damn nerd, he swallowed, frustrated. Todoroki’s fiancé, of all things.

“We are changing the pace a bit, for a very special finale.” The announcer began. “Can our top four contestants move to the side of the stage please?”

Ashido momentarily came back to them, holding two discs. “We’re being given additional targets for the finals.”

Deku also jogged up next to her with his new discs. Katsuki could see the rise and fall of his chest as he heaved from their exertions; there were beads of sweat dotting the tips of his curls, and his cheeks were flushed pink. The messy tie and the gloves remained untouched. Katsuki swallowed. Dammit.

“It’s like they want to extend the game further.” Deku pursed his lips thoughtfully, eyeing their existing targets; he had only one left safe and Ashido had two. “I wonder what Mei is planning…”

Speaking of, the pink-haired mechanic appeared next to them. “Izu, drink up,” she handed a shot glass each to the nerd and Ashido. “Trust me you’ll need it.”

Katsuki almost missed the panicked look Deku shot him before he turned to her. “Mei, what are you planning, and will I survive it?”

Mei ‘hmm’d’ as she grabbed Deku’s targets, slapping one onto his arm, and the other one on… his other butt cheek.

There it goes, Katsuki’s mind unhelpfully repeated from earlier. He scowled.

Mei grinned as Deku raised a brow, “I told Shinso I’d give him a proper chance to finally get back at you this round.” She gestured at the other, who showed a rude gesture from across the stage. “Go battle it out, boys!”

“I’m going to enjoy this, aren’t I?” Uraraka muttered under her breath, and Ashido snickered as she attached her targets.

Kaminari looked like he wanted to say something but Katsuki shut him up with a glare.

The announcer called for the contestants again, “Now for the finals, a sudden death round with additional targets…”

A distinct percussive beat started playing as the players made it back to the stage. Deku paled instantly and shot Mei a look.

“…we are playing a classic pop hit chosen by our guest of honor, commemorating her ‘epic awesomeness’, genius, and creative contributions to the modern world…”

The marquee showed “Run the World (Girls)”.

Kaminari gaped. Uraraka (along with a significant portion of the audience) yelled, “Yaaaas Beyoncé!”

“Mei!” Deku whined from the stage; Shinso had placed a hand across his mouth, shaking his head. “See if we ever do drinks over classic videos at yours again…”

 “…This song is ridiculous. I refuse to compete to this!” Monoma complained. “I’d like to veto!”

“Hey man, those are your points. You snooze, you lose!” Someone called out from the audience.

“And you can’t refuse the Queen!” Uraraka added, very passionately – there were yells of approval from all over. “Preach!”

Ashido started bouncing excitedly.

From the stage, Shinso seemed to have come to a moment of decision when he shrugged and ambled towards the center of the stage. He marched to the beat of the music in what looked like the laziest way possible, then raised his right, then left arms, forming wings in an audacious pastiche of authority.

Shinso yelled over his shoulder at Deku, Monoma and Ashido. “Screw it, I’m going for it. Eat my dust, fellas.”

He then lowered each wing to point his hands at his hips.

The audience yelled their approval, very loudly.

“Show us those v-lines!” Mei cheered. Kaminari’s jaw dropped again.

Ashido was cracking her knuckles, “Let me show you how it’s done, Mind Boy!”

And she leapt into action, sidelining Shinso as she first started snapping her shoulders, then smoothly bending her legs in and out in an impressive squat before jumping back into place.

The crowd went wild. “Show them how it’s done!”

From the side stage, Deku was still looking very betrayed. He pointed a finger at Mei. “If you take any videos, you burn.”

Mei cackled, “Don’t let me down, Izu!”

And after a resigned look, he turned onto his back next to Ashido –

Then snapped forward to do the same moves, in near perfect synchrony.

There were delighted gasps of surprise in the crowd.

–Keeping up with her when the moves segued into complex-looking footwork, kicking and shifting their right legs in tight corkscrew movements–

“No way!” somebody yelled.

Before they squatted down and up again and started rolling their hips, first to the front, and then sideways, in a slow, undulating rhythm—

What.

“Holy shit!”

“Yes please!”

“Give me Fierce!”

—Deku turned to Ashido, and with sudden exaggerated camp, they whipped their heads left and right, lifting hands before twisting those hips again, to the excited yells of the crowd. Ashido gave a loud whoop and a thumbs up to her partner.

 “…So you memorized a music video, is that it?” Monoma tried to heckle with a choked voice.

Deku’s head snapped towards him, his eyes glittering, a grin of mischief growing on his face.

“I still want that move, Izu!” Mei yelled, almost hysterically. “Seal the deal!”

And those must have been the right magic words.

Deku rolled his back, his spine arching to the twist of his hips, and began to shake his ass.

Katsuki’s thoughts short-circuited.

And this time, the crowd went insane.

Boom. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done.

“My crops are growing; my skin is clear…” Some random guy was babbling.

“Never let this end, please!”

Even Ashido had to pause to take in the sight, and was doing a slow clap from the side.

“… That’s my boy!” Mei looked like she was weeping openly as the cacophony rose to frenzied levels.

“…You’re still taking a video, aren’t you?” Uraraka pointed out after a second.

“Damn right, I am.”

 


 

When the light turned green, there was almost a collective moan of disappointment.

That was before Deku swung around just as Monoma charged at him, changing the momentum to slam him onto the wall, just in time with the beat.

What is this even? someone said in disbelief in the crowd.

Yes, Katsuki swallowed. There was a grown man in a fitted suit and gloves on the stage, thrashing the copycat troll Monoma, after he had bounced his target-marked butt like he was the ascended rock star of twerking.

“Arghrarmm!” He heard Deku yell.

“Suddenly embarrassed?” Shinso snarked as he avoided a kick from Ashido.

“You have no idea!” Deku moaned as he swung a ball at one of Monoma’s targets.

Ashido laughed out loud next to them, but was suddenly downed as her targets were hit by a throw from Shinso and one from Monoma, which Deku had only narrowly avoided. It didn’t take long for Shinso to take advantage of her last target.

“Out.”

“Ha!” Monoma barked triumphantly from the ground.

Deku and Shinso looked at each other, shrugged, and pummeled Monoma’s targets with relish over the next two beats.

“Out.”

“Been wanting to do that—” Shinso slapped his hands, almost fond.

“Since the very beginning, I know.” Deku agreed.

They both paused and stared at each other.

“GO BOYS!” Mei cheered.

And then the most vicious part of the tournament continued.

The next few minutes were frenzied, as if the boys had finally stopped holding back. They grappled with each other; threw each other down the floor and even at one point across the stage. Their moves were less controlled, and even some of Deku’s usually-precise throws needed to be repeated before they hit their target.

The crowd took it all in with gasps and cheers.

“I can’t believe you threw me on that table.” Deku wheezed as he recovered.

Eh, you almost bashed my head on the pole.” Shinso came at him.

This next few seconds were a quick blur as something black hit Shinso in the face, blocking his eyes and knocking his head back as Deku hit a target on his chest.

“You used your fucking gloves?” Shinso shouted in a first sign of loss of composure.

“Todoroki’s fiancé,” Kaminari whispered, sounding awed, “is a beast.”

Deku smirked as he charged towards the last target on Shinso’s back, wide open for an attack—

“Marry me now, green boy!” someone screamed from the audience.

—and promptly tripped on the ground.

 


 

Despite his win, Shinso did not look very happy.

“If I had known that all it would take to hit that target on your ass is a random proposal, I would have brought the Ice Prince into the picture a long time ago.”

Mei gave an awkward pat on his shoulder, trying not to grin. “You won this time. Don’t mind?”

Shinso quickly downed one of the victory shots handed to him by Kaminari, “Of course I mind! I demand a rematch next time. You know as well as I do that he would have had me with those stupid gloves if he hadn’t been totally incapable of dealing with a simple catcall.”

Ashido laughed, “Yes, Midoriya. It's like you've never been proposed to before. You just kind of… laid down there and refused to get up afterwards.”

Deku, who had his head tipped back with a napkin under his nose to staunch his nosebleed, heaved out a groan. “Please tell me you didn’t catch any of that on video.”

“Of course, I did.” Mei didn’t even bother to deny it. “I had a signal jammer set on a standard frequency though, so I don’t think anyone else will have a clear enough video. Your shame is safe in my hands!”

Deku gave a pitiful whine under the wad of tissues. Uraraka looked stricken, and Mei winked at her and said in a low whisper, “I can give you a copy for Todoroki if you think he’d like one though—”

“No!” Deku cried it out in horror, the same time that Uraraka squealed, “Yes!”

“Hey Green Boy!” a random person called out as they passed their table. “Nice job!”

“Yeah, nice going with that throwdown! Was the floor that nice, afterwards?”

Deku looked like he was going to spontaneously combust.

“Seriously though,” Kaminari commented when the callers left, “That was impressive. I think that you could actually pass the provisional hero license exam if you wanted to. If heroes with more subtle quirks can manage, then it might be doable for you.”

From beside his friends, Katsuki fell still at that statement. He kept his eyes on the table, waiting for Deku’s response.

(You’re totally quirkless. And you think you can rub shoulders with me? Don’t you dare get into U.A., nerd!)

“…Well, you wouldn’t be the first person who said that.” Mei was the one who spoke up for the strangely quiet nerd. She nudged him with her elbow, “Right, Izu?”

“Of course, he’d do well in that exam.” Shinso scoffed, an inscrutable note in his voice.

Another random stranger passed by their table before he could respond, “Hey Green Boy, how’s the nose? Still taking marriage proposals?” 

For fuck’s sake. Katsuki downed one of the shots; he needed another drink. They can get someone like Iida or Kirishima to pick them up for the night.

The bars nearer to their table were quite busy. After trying to hold his patience for a while, one of the bouncers who probably recognized him directed him to the VIP area bar.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t the first one there.

“I’ll have your order ready, but seriously, can you not accept these drinks these people wanted to send to your table? We’d love the extra income!”

Deku, now napkin-less and blood-free, removed his hand from his temple. “Okay, Tachi. Who are they for? If they’re for the Pro Heroes, then I guess it’s okay? If it’s for Mei, yes, but I need to call Shinso and we need to give them A Very Important Talk—although I think that Monoma’s finally gearing up to ask her out, in which case they have a bigger, more annoying problem. If it’s for Shinso, I’ve seen his trail of destruction, so I’d feel like I need to warn them for their sake, but it’s none of my business I suppose…”

The bartender, Tachi, laughed and snapped a bar towel at Deku mid-mumble. “And what if it’s for you, Mr. Runner Up in the Competition, but Number One in People’s Hearts and Loins—”

“Please no. No, no – please, no drinks from others. I can buy some myself, if that helps.” Deku flailed his hands. “Besides,” he coughed, “I’m ‘taken’ now… I think.”

Katsuki paused on his way to the bar.

“Oho?” Tachi raised a brow, “But I heard that you’ve… well, now that I think about it, I think I might have heard some rumors about this one. Tall Pro Hero? Devastating when he smiles? Bit of an asshole?”

Katsuki smirked despite himself.

“T-tachi.” He heard Deku say faintly. “That’s not…”

“Don’t know about the smile, but ‘bit of an asshole’ sounds about right. You can add stick in the mud, too.” Katsuki interrupted as he took the stool next to Deku, who startled slightly.

“Kacchan!”

Tachi gave them both a meaningful look, which Katsuki ignored as he gave orders for his drink, as well as Kaminari’s, Uraraka’s and Ashido’s.

When he turned back to Deku, he was also giving him a pointed stare. “Bit of an asshole, huh?”

Katsuki ignored the pointed comment with a shrug. “So, you’ve taken IcyHot here before?”

Deku started, “Uh, not really.” He crinkled his nose in thought. “I did recommend it to him once or twice. I’m sure it wouldn’t be too long before he tries it once he’s awake.” His face broke into a fond smile. “He did get a cat in the end, after all.”

Katsuki still couldn’t fathom why the novelty of that dangerous ass-scratching feline was so significant for Deku, especially if he’d supposedly known about it for a while, but he didn’t press.

“So, where did you learn to fight like that?”

Deku straightened at that, as if he was surprised that Katsuki would ask. “Well, you know that interschool program that Mei mentioned? They offered quirk and physical skills improvement training. That’s how I met Shinso in the first place – his capture weapon’s a pain, I can tell you that.” He then hummed under his breath, “And I also did a lot of extracurricular classes with my senpais when I was at Ketsubutsu – they had a lot of useful physical programs like martial arts and dance.”

“Tch, you were probably the first to arrive at every class, you damn nerd.”

Deku flushed, indignant, “So? There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Didn’t say there was. Have you ever tried to do the same Dance Combat thing, but with other people with quirks?”

“Yes, actually,” Deku quirked that saucy smile at him again, and this time it was as if he was confiding a secret. “It’s fun too, less challenging though, in a different way.”

Hah? What do you mean by that?”

Tachi suddenly returned however, interrupting them. “I’m still working on your drinks, but I wanted to give you guys a heads up. There’s some new people in the VIP area over there, and I think they’re coming over for a dance with Green Boy and Ground Zero.”

Deku’s jaw dropped, “Nooo…” and he seemed to be on the verge of thumping his head on the bar, before he thought better of it. “No, please.”

“Your fault, for that one-of-a-kind show.” Tachi winked. “I’ll let you know as soon as your drinks are ready, but I thought I’d give you the chance to run…”

Deku took a peek behind them, and jolted up just as Katsuki stood, accidentally falling into an impromptu embrace. “Oof.”

Tachi barked a laugh of approval. “Oho– better than what I would have thought of, very effective! Dance away, and I’ll call you over.”

Katsuki cursed under his breath. Deku instantly straightened and took a step back. “Uh.”

For some reason, that made Katsuki bristle, and he ended up stepping closer. “What, you got a problem? You think you’re the only one who can dance?”

He scowled when realized that he had just unwittingly given the nerd a compliment.  Deku’s eyes widened at that, but he only shook his head.

“Uh, I wouldn’t know but I’m sure you can. Dance that is.” Deku cleared his throat, “But you do realize that Tachi might now think that you’re my—” he paused, looking at his ring finger under is gloved hand, “Well, my boyfriend. Don’t you?”

“Eh, so what?” Katsuki surprised himself by how quickly he replied. “If it keeps idiot extras away from IcyHot’s fiancé. He had to pick a really troublesome one, didn’t he?” he asked as he made a show of pulling the damn nerd closer.

“Besides,” he couldn’t help digging in, “you could do a lot worse. IcyHot owes me big for this.”

Deku’s smoky-lined glare met his. “Excuse me? Are you telling me that you are my best option right now?”

“Well, I could leave you now to your new fans,” he paused for effect, “Green Boy.”

“…Shut up, Kacchan.” Deku said after a second, sounding strangled. His hold tightened on Katsuki’s arms.

Katsuki smirked, victorious. “Besides, you’ve yet to tell me why you think that the version of the competition with quirks allowed is easier.”

“Oh,” Deku forgot himself long enough to sway with him. “Of course, well. People behave in really predictable ways once you’ve figured out what their quirk is – that part’s actually easier. Plus,” his eyes glittered with excitement, almost manic, “think of all the options with the gear!”

“They allow those?”

“Oh, loads.” Deku whispered, almost breathless. Katsuki leaned closer despite himself. “The same way that Heroes normally use them. But almost anything is up for grabs. Fire augmentation, breath support, impact suspension – I’ve tried so many from Mei’s lab and used them in matches, Kacchan, you won’t believe—”

Won’t I? Katsuki found himself smirking. Damn if he didn’t love messing around with gear, himself.

“Oh!” Deku suddenly seemed to recall himself. “I remember that she’d also written up some specs for your gear. Have you spoken to her about your costume recently?”

Katsuki paused, “I actually have. I’d meant to visit after I came back from my latest mission, but I haven’t had the chance.”

“Well then you should join us!” Deku’s face went red with excitement. “At the workshop, I mean. I’m often around to test and consult on Monday and Friday afternoons, and Kirishima-kun and the others are also dropping by this Friday. Mei would love to do stuff with your gear, and there’s so much tech to play with!”

Katsuki had to pause at Deku’s flushed enthusiasm. “Let me think about it.”

“You could also join Open-Quirk Dance Combat!” Deku sneakily suggested.

This time his reaction was instant, “Like hell, I would.”

“Why not?” Deku’s lip quirked upwards playfully as he raised himself on tiptoes and pushed closer to his face, “You know that I join even though I’m quirkless. Scared that I might actually beat you?”

Katsuki was surprised to realize that he had been holding his breath. “In your dreams, loser,” he scoffed, but it sounded unnatural to him. “What could you do against my quirk, anyway?”

Deku raised a brow, and that damn saucy smirk was back.

“Oh, I could think of a few ideas. I do specialize in quirk analysis, you know.”

Katsuki suddenly stepped into his space and pulled him closer. His voice was husky when he spoke, “Well then I guess I’ll just have to overwhelm you before you can even think.”

Deku kept his gaze. He held his breath.

Neither of them moved.

“Um, not to interrupt or anything, but your drinks are done.” Tachi announced, his voice betraying some cheekiness. “And your dancing partners-in-waiting have gone.”

Deku suddenly gasped as he stepped back from Katsuki. “Ah! Cool. Great. Thanks, Tachi.” He turned to grab his wallet, trying to hide his flustered face. “Cool.”

“Cool.” Katsuki repeated gruffly, breathing out.

“Cool.” Tachi drawled.

It actually felt hot all of a sudden.

It was then when the music changed, turning into a slower, more intimate beat. Deku froze as he took out his card – it was as if the air around him had changed all of a sudden.

“You alright, Deku?” Tachi asked, and Katsuki had to pause at the fact that there were others who called him that name too. “You’re suddenly looking a bit… peaky.”

“Oh.” Deku suddenly shook his head. “No, I'm okay. Here, let me pay for the drinks…”

“Izu!” Mei’s voice suddenly pierced through the crowd, and she was suddenly next to them together with Shinso.

“Really sorry about the crappy tune choice, sweetheart. I swear, I didn’t sign off on this part of the night.” Mei cooed, placing an arm around Deku’s waist. “But I figured since it’s playing anyway, we can just say ‘to hell with it’ and go with the flow?”

Deku stared at them both and blinked. “What?”

Shinso was giving Katsuki an unreadable look, before he turned back to reply. “That means she’s willing to show off her outrageous dance skills with you and me for the next three minutes. And you know – whatever Mei wants tonight, Mei gets.”

He turned back to Tachi. “We’ll come back for the drinks.”

And before Katsuki’s bewildered gaze, Deku allowed himself to be led back onto the dance floor. He watched as Mei grabbed one of his hands and spun herself into an awkward twirl. Shinso caught her with an exaggerated eye-roll, before grabbing Deku’s other hand to try to twirl them together. Deku closed his eyes, seemingly content to be pushed and pulled to and fro in the world’s most uncoordinated slow dance, a far cry from their flashy moves earlier that night.

Shinso knocked him on the forehead, “Eyes forward, demon kid.”

Deku opened his eyes with a laugh, shaking his head. “Right. Of course.”

He twirled Mei back into his arms and gave her a loud kiss on the forehead, and she winked at him. He then placed an arm around Shinso’s waist.

“Look at this, how lucky am I to dance with you both? My BFF boos.”

Deku received a slap on both cheeks for his efforts, and there was a burst of groans. “I swear, it keeps sounding more uncool each time you use it…”

Katsuki saw the little tableau and felt a strange sense of disconnectedness, thinking about everything he’d seen and felt regarding Deku that night; since he showed up again as Todoroki’s rescuer and secret fiancé; when they were younger. He’d never been more unsure about a person.

Dammit Todoroki. He thought to himself, abstracted. You just had to choose this one, didn’t you?

Of all people, it had to be Deku.