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Monday, August 27th, 12:05 PM

An Exploration of Fantasy in Modern Literature

"Momo!"

"Oh, Midoriya!" She waves to him from the front of the lecture hall, hefting her bag off the seat next to her and gesturing him into it. "That's right, you did say you were taking this! How fun!"

"Power team," Izuku says with a smile. "Any presentations won't know what hit 'em."

"I almost hope there's a presentation," Momo sighs. "It's always entertaining when you're at the front of the class. An omen for the success of your future career."

Izuku flushes scarlet. "Thanks, Momo. That means a lot."

"Yes, well, I'm only stating facts. How was your summer?"

"Nice! Mom loved having me home. I'm kind of glad to be back, though."

"I would hope so! If you weren't excited to be back in a classroom, I'd think you'd lost your edge." Momo yanks a gigantic five-subject notebook from her bag and flips it open to the second page. Izuku catches the title of the course scrawled elegantly over the first, in the center of the page in a rainbow of color. Her infamous pencil case follows from the depths of her purse: rainbow gel pens, mechanical pencils, dry-erase markers, sharpies, a few very expensive looking calligraphy pens and a pot of ink for some reason. She takes a moment, examining the contents, then selects a bright blue fountain pen and writes the date at the top.

Izuku sets his own utensils—a single-subject blue notebook and a thick, palm-sized brown leather with an embossed pattern and an iron-grey clasp—out in front of him. He plucks a mechanical pencil from behind his ear. "Do you ever take messy notes, Momo?"

"No, never. Do you ever find pens in your hair you'd forgotten about?"

"At least once a month."

They laugh, chatting amicably about their summers (eating home-cooked meals on Izuku's end, a trip to Europe on Momo's), and watch the other students fill in.

"Do we know anyone else taking this course?" Momo taps her pen absently.

"I don't think so. Uraraka's schedule filled up with engineering stuff and Iida had that ethics thing at the same time." Momo just keeps staring at him like she expects him to keep talking. Izuku raises an eyebrow at her teasingly. "Todoroki is at home... "

Momo turns pink. "I wasn't wondering," she replies airily, refusing to look Izuku in the eye. "I'm sure he's very busy."

"But not so busy he can't make your weekly coffee dates."

"It's a matter of scheduling! It simply fits into his day!"

"Because you've set a record for the campus mile, Momo. Ten minutes between your last class and a date all the way at the Calhoun Starbucks, I believe that's what you said?"

"They're not dates! We're studying! Editing! Working!"

"So they're working dates."

"Oh, hush!" Momo flips her hand at him, burying her burning face in the crook of her arm. "No one asked you, Sir Chronically-Single!"

"Well, I'm busy too," Izuku laughs. "Between learning two languages, one significantly more alive than the other, reading all these books, shifts at the bakery, and trying to figure out a study abroad, I don't have the time. And I've already told you that a dozen times."

"It's a flimsy excuse," Momo sniffs. "It's simply a matter of scheduling."

"So you admit that they're dates!"

"Shush!"

Momo is saved from further interrogation by the doors to the hall swinging open, spilling two-minutes-til students and the professor herself into the room. They trickle into chairs, pair off with people they know, a comfortable murmur in the early afternoon; the woman they assume to be the professor walks directly to the podium, deposits what seems to be a metric ton of books, and walks right back out.

"That's... interesting," Momo remarks, craning to see the titles over the single row in front of them. "That's Tolkien. Martin. Oh, tell me we won't read the whole series, I have other classes, you know."

"The syllabus says excerpts from," Izuku replies, tilting his phone to show her. "And yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, and that is a Maas right there in the required texts list."

"Yes!" Momo nearly leaps out of her seat. "I was already excited for the Stiefvater unit, such a bold take on urban fantasy, but a Maas? Now we're talking!"

"That's a lot of titles by Maas," Izuku says. Momo keeps talking. "Momo, that's a lot of titles."

"They're not especially dense books," she pouts, settling back into her chair. "You could tear through them in a night, if you were dedicated."

"I'm sure you could, but again with the two languages I'm learning."

"Well, look, see, it says bonus reading on the titles after this first one."

"Oh, thank god." Izuku scans the required texts again. "Hey, Alice in Wonderland is on here!"

"Children's lit? Interesting." Momo puts a finger to her lips. "It is one of the essential surrealist fantasies in popular culture nowadays."

"You said all those big words, and now it's ruined."

"I look forward to your led discussion about it." Momo points at the assignment description and smiles deviously. Izuku groans.

Behind them, the door slams open again.

"—sub-par writing and shoehorned representation—"

"Okay, dude, I get it—no, I get it, you hate Harry Potter."

Two blondes with matching cups of coffee march down the ramp and take over the fourth row with sheer strength of presence. Their voices feel a full decibel louder than everyone else, stabbing Izuku through and nailing him to the table. He nearly snaps the pencil in his hand.

Momo turns to see these voices and noticeably stiffens. "Oh boy. Midoriya, don't look now."

"I know who it is," he whispers vehemently. "Like I'd forget that voice over one measly summer."

"Isn't that Kaminari with him? The Kaminari you work with?"

Izuku nods, a bead of sweat on his temple. Of all the shit luck he could've had for a First Day Fuck-up, it had to be getting Bakugou Katsuki in his very first class.

The day was a chilly Wednesday, spring semester of his freshman year, the class Intro to Philosophy. It was not the first of these days, nor would it be the last, but it was the first one where he very nearly broke a man's nose. In retrospect, over nothing important, but in the moment, it was victory or death.

"Utilitarianism is the worst form of value," Izuku had argued. "It completely removes the consideration of each person's skill-sets and what skill-set provides the most use to the community living by rules that are supposed to guarantee the most favorable outcome for the highest amount of people, and therefore is by nature a contradiction of itself, as well as never allowing for innovation or creation when it's clearly a structure adamantly designed for survival!"

"When you add sentimentality and perspective bias to the consideration pool, alongside the redundant systems that would have to be established to determine those skill-sets in the first place, you'd have societal collapse long before you could implement any kind of positive change." Bakugou had crossed his arms and leaned into the podium, a twin to Izuku's own, at the front of the room before fifty of their peers and an elated professor.

"Establishing the hierarchy needed to determine a person's use inevitably results in some lives being deemed not valuable, lesser in the eyes of the community, and would have backlash when societal needs change and the skills deemed non-valued have been wiped out of common knowledge, not to mention the tightrope any utilitarian leader would have to walk in order not to turn the tide against themselves and cause a coup!"

On and on like that for forty minutes, right up until Bakugou had insinuated that academics such as Izuku would be among the first to be axed in their scenario, at which point Izuku had actually seen red and rounded the podium. If the professor hadn't announced the end of class—and Izuku hadn't had a Latin course to get to—he would've been perfectly content taking it outside.

Now it's a hot Monday, fall semester of his sophomore year, and that violent memory sits two rows behind him in yet another course where Izuku knows his shit and isn't afraid to throw down about it.

"Hey, oh man, is that you, Midoriya?" He can almost feel Kaminari's excited wave behind him. He can definitely feel the weight of ruby eyes burning a hole in the back of his skull.

"Midoriya Izuku," Bakugou drawls. Momo throws a protective glare over her shoulder. "No fuckin' way. I thought you'd have realized your life was going to shit by now and given up."

Momo's sharp inhale makes Izuku's teeth grind. "Y'know, it's a new year. Doesn't have to be same old animosities."

"Spineless," Bakugou barks in what could pass for laughter if you heard it wrong. "You realize you were wrong about the adoption of church rhetoric yet?"

"I wasn't wrong about the damn adaptation of Greek rhetoric into Christian crusading because Greek rhetoric has been in everything—" Izuku closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. "New year. No animosities. You will not get me to fight you on day one."

"I'm sure you're above that, what with being a proper lady," Bakugou says, the grin to it palpable. Izuku swivels in his seat to shoot daggers at him and yes, there's the grin, stretching wider at Izuku's furious expression. "Oh man, day two's lookin' promising."

Momo puts a hand on his shoulder. "Ignore him, Midoriya."

"Dude," Kaminari mutters when Izuku turns back around. "I've never seen anybody get that angry at you that fast, and I've seen a lot of people get angry at you. What did you do?"

"Dipshit can't handle being wrong," Bakugou says back, loud enough for Izuku to briefly consider manslaughter. Momo's hand at his elbow is the only thing that stops him from launching his pencil at Bakugou's throat.

The clock in the front of the room ticks over to 12:20, and the professor sweeps back in brandishing a bottle of soda and a blue dry-erase marker. She immediately writes in curling, quick handwriting on the board and spins on her heel.

"What is the purpose of fantasy?" She asks loudly, tapping the board with the marker. "What is a fantasy in the first place? What does it do for us? Why do we enjoy it? These are all things we'll try answering this semester. Good afternoon everyone, my name is Professor Rose, this is ENG 2041."

They talk about pop culture's biggest names in fantasy—someone inevitably bringing up Harry Potter and earning a derisive snort from Bakugou—and what fantasy does, what types of fantasy are out there and why people gravitate toward it, they briefly mention key dates in the next two weeks from the syllabus and the prof sends them on their merry ways ten minutes early. Izuku and Momo purposefully wait an extra two, making sure Bakugou and Kaminari have cleared out before packing up their things.

"If I die this semester, frame Bakugou." Izuku punches the vending machine in the hallway with a bitter scowl, watching the Skittles drop with barely any joy.

"I will not," Momo replies, texting rapidly. "I will, however, prevent you from dying."

"You're a true friend, Momo."

"I know."

"Where are you going next?"

"I've got an hour for lunch," Momo says, finally looking up from her phone, cheeks a little rosier than before. "I'm, um, meeting some friends. To catch up."

"Yaoyorozu Momo," Izuku gasps, exaggerated offense coloring his tone, putting one hand to his chest. Momo giggles. "Are the study dates becoming lunch dates? You're taking your relationship to the next level!"

"It's just lunch!" She laughs. "And there's other friends that'll be there!"

"Double date!"

"Don't be nosy! It's unbecoming!"

"I live with the man, Momo. I'll hear all about it later. He might even give me that slight head tilt, the wide eyes, the little scrunched shoulders..." Izuku nods sagely. "That's how you know he's got it bad."

"Oh," Momo squeaks, flushing scarlet. "He does that when he, um, t-talks about me?"

"Mhm." Izuku leans in, wiggling his eyebrows. "All the time."

Momo clutches her phone to her chest with a choked gasp. "That's! Nice! Um!"

Izuku checks the time. "It's so fun playing matchmaker, but I have a class. Public speaking," he sighs, running a hand through his hair. "I put it off too long, and now I can't avoid it. Mondays are gonna be such fun days for me."

"Ooh, ouch." Momo winces in sympathy. "That's required for a Communication degree, isn't it?"

"You betcha." Izuku pockets his phone and fixes her with a soldiering smile. "Well, it can't be worse than Bakugou showing up, right? The First Day Fuck-up is over."

"Right. You can believe first days are cursed all you want, if it makes you optimistic about the rest of the afternoon." Momo pats him on the shoulder and starts down the hallway, waving. "Good luck!"

The walk between buildings is uneventful—hot and busy, but nothing happens. Even with the extra time to walk slow, Izuku makes it with a full ten minutes to spare. As a Communication major with a Classics minor, he basically lives in these two buildings: the Pretty Library and the Old School. They're not really called the Pretty Library and the Old School, but the library is very pretty (as opposed to the legal and science libraries on the other side of campus) and the other is the oldest building up on the highest hill. His friends liked the nicknames, so they stuck. To his knowledge, nobody else calls them that, but they've been Pretty Library and Old School for so long that he has to double-check their real names every now and then.

Public speaking has far less students and therefore far less comfortable chairs.

Where colleges got off on giving them high school desks he'd never understand. No space, too many jammed too close, just a nightmare overall; the first thing he's suggesting is a change of venue. For now, though, he picks one such desk smack in the center of the room, sets his stuff down as elegantly as possible, and tears into his Skittles.

Five minutes pass. The professor has arrived and a good number of students have peeked in, glanced back out at the room number, and nodded to themselves as they took their seats. There's about twenty other students now. Some he recognizes in passing—other Comm majors, mostly—but the rest are unfamiliar and reek of STEM disciplines.

It's one way to do gen eds, Izuku thinks. If you've got balls of steel and no shame. He's a Comm major himself, he even wants to teach, and the thought of public speaking still turns his insides into an 8 year old's bouncy castle. But that's anxiety for you. All that fun adrenaline and absolutely no outlets.

At two minutes 'til, Bakugou walks through the door.

"You have to be kidding me," Izuku breathes. Bakugou spots him instantly.

"Oh fuck no." Bakugou of course takes the open seat directly to Izuku's right, because God hates him and nothing is ever easy. "You followin' me or something?"

"Why would I be following you," Izuku says into his hands. "I don't like you."

"Aw, don't be like that," Bakugou chimes, syrupy sweet and so unsettlingly different from his normal rasp that Izuku looks up in shock. Bakugou's grin is razor-sharp and disingenuous. "What happened to no animosities?"

"Momo was there," Izuku mutters.

"Right, right, your mom."

"She's my friend. I'm not sure that's a concept you understand."

"Ha! Where was this bite last semester? We might've gotten along." Bakugou perches his chin in his hand, still smiling like he's figured out how to weaponize it. His pencil taps rapidly on his open notebook. "Nah, what am I saying. I don't associate with little upstart know-it-alls like you."

"Have you looked in a mirror?" Izuku snaps.

Class starts at this exact moment, stopping the storm brewing on Bakugou's face from breaking a chair over Izuku's head.

After the professor's laid out the syllabus—which takes all of fifteen minutes, as all good speeches should, apparently—Izuku's up and out of the room before Bakugou can open his rude mouth. He pants in the elevator, belatedly realizing he might've set a land-speed record. Worth it to escape Bakugou's unceasingly annoying voice.

Wrong about church rhetoric Izuku's whole ass.

No, no. Izuku shakes his head, clearing the bitter thoughts. He's not going to let Bakugou Katsuki ruin his semester, even if it's highly likely his Monday-Wednesday-Fridays are now a total bust and devoid of any happiness. He's got the day off from work! He shouldn't be wallowing in First Day Fuck-ups, just breathing easy now that it's over, and believing that tomorrow will be way, way better. No Bakugou. Just friends and cool classes.

Izuku gets on the shuttle, walks up the flight of stairs to his apartment, collapses on his bed, and doesn't get up until his alarm the next day.

*

Tuesday, August 28th, 9:12 AM

Sociology (?)

Izuku squints at his phone, trying to focus his exhausted eyes on the schedule. He knows he's enrolled in a 9:30 Sociology, but the course isn't in Blackboard yet—he can't remember whether it's a normal introduction class or one of the fancy elective ones. It's too early for remembering the enrollment process, much less how to be a functioning human being. His coffee has two extra shots in it for good measure.

This is the only class he has that isn't in Pretty Library or Old School. He knows this building has computer labs, and he thinks it might have a medical lab in it somewhere too, but this is the second time he's been in it at all—the first being a natural science requirement focused on gemstones—so he's got his fingers crossed that this is the right room. It seems like it is, being the biggest lecture hall the building has, but he can compare the numbers to his schedule all he wants. Until more students show up, he's going to be half-convinced he's in the wrong place.

"Bonjour, Midoriya!"

He rubs his eyes, somehow still having to squint at the newcomer. "Aoyama, is that you?"

"Oui, darling, c'est moi!"

"I take it you summered somewhere French."

"France herself!" Aoyama perches on the table, dropping his bag (bedazzled, in this the year of our Lord 2018) onto the perfectly serviceable chair he's steadfastly ignoring. "Paris was simply divine! Let me show you the photos!"

"We've got a few minutes," Izuku says amicably despite how much he does not want to look at pictures of Paris. He obligingly watches Aoyama scroll through selfies in front of monuments and actually gets into it when the nightlife crops up, the tone changing as he realizes these albums are some of Aoyama's professional work. "Wow, those lights are amazing!"

"There was this garden of twinkle lights for some kind of festival," Aoyama taps through what must be fifty photos in the multicolored glow. "The angles, the colors, the inspiration... ah, I'll never have its like again."

"I'm sure the ones you took on your actual camera are stunning."

"Some of my best, Midoriya, some of my best." The professor comes in chatting with what must the TA, so Aoyama hops off the table and begrudgingly settles into the seat. "Are you excited for this course? I'm quite enthralled with the concept, myself. It'll be a simple thing for one as versed in it as I."

"Share your confidence, then," Izuku laughs. "I'm good at textbook sociology, but practical application... escapes me."

"The key is that you must not hesitate! And don't you worry about fieldwork, Midoriya, I'd be happy to assist you. Momo has regaled us with your chronic misunderstanding of the ins and outs." Aoyama winks.

Izuku swallows dryly. "Um, Aoyama?"

"Hm?"

"What is this course about?"

Aoyama blinks at him. "Mon amie, what's in that coffee? It's only one of the most popular social science electives, the Sociology of Love!"

A pack of students file in from the hallway.

"Absolutely fucking not," says Bakugou Katsuki at exactly two minutes 'til.

Izuku drains the rest of his coffee in one gulp and puts his head on the table.

*

Tuesday, August 28th, 10:57 AM

Greek History

Izuku books it from Sociology as fast as Aoyama will let him, which is honestly not very fast. Three minutes to spare is cutting it much too close for Izuku's health, but having to run up the hill and over to Pretty Library is hard work in the heat, especially with one eye on his six the entire time, watching for a similarly pelting Bakugou.

Three classes together? Three? This is a nightmare, a terrible joke, a cruel prank. He doesn't want to join the Academic Fight Club, but when Bakugou's around, it feels like he's a founding member. Izuku isn't afraid to stand up for his ideas, and that goes double when he's defending academic stances, so it's not that he doesn't enjoy a good debate! It's just that Bakugou Katsuki is so unbelievably infuriating that Izuku loses his ability to form coherent sentences.

He slides into a chair way down in the left corner of the room and puts his head in his hands. The stress of trying not to punch Bakugou in his smug, pretty face is going to make this semester a living hell.

"Midoriya," someone hisses from across the room.

"Oh, no, you can't possibly—Todoroki?"

In the third row down from the doors, Todoroki points at the empty chair on his left. To his right, Shinsou raises a pencil in greeting.

Shit. Izuku totally forgot they were taking this course. He'd been so preoccupied with fleeing for his life that he'd just plumb forgotten his roommate's schedule. He moves immediately.

"Sorry, I—sorry," he mutters, flipping his notebook open. It's a green single-subject for history, though it's shoved under his brown palm-sized notebook without preamble. He taps the open page with his pencil.

"It's fine. How was Sociology?" Todoroki's laptop is open to a word processor, blank but for the class title. Izuku notes with a grin that there are also several tabs of cat videos up.

"You won't believe who's in it."

"Momo."

"Nope."

"Iida."

"Nope!"

"I give up."

"Are those just the only people you know?"

"Yes."

"Well, Aoyama's there, but you remember that awful guy from Philosophy last semester?" Izuku teethes at his pencil, distaste curling his lips. Todoroki, God bless him, widens his eyes and puts his hand to his heart. Izuku taught him that himself.

"Ian. That bastard."

"No, not Ian!" Izuku snorts. Todoroki looks pleased that he's stopped scowling. "Bakugou. You remember, angry blonde who tried to defend Plato?"

"Oh. You talked about that for weeks after." Todoroki says. "That's not great."

"It really isn't. And it's not even the only time I have to see him."

"Who's Bakugou?" Shinsou chimes in. "Not to be out of the loop or anything."

"All you need to know is that he tried to defend Plato," Izuku whispers under the professor's greeting.

"That bastard," Shinsou murmurs and sits back. Izuku barely catches the words the Allegory of the Cave is stupid and feels a sudden and intense rush of affection for Shinsou. These two are the quintessential story of a class rivalry becoming a friendship. Izuku will treasure the memories of the Rhetoric group project that brought them together forever—not to mention that his apartment would be completely unaffordable without Todoroki as a roommate.

"Is that why you didn't even eat dinner yesterday?" Todoroki asks out of the corner of his mouth. "You were out for sixteen hours."

"Yeah. He saps all my energy." Izuku tries to focus on the surprisingly entertaining professor, but his thoughts keep sliding right back to Bakugou. "This is the first class I've had without him. I almost expected him to walk in, two minutes before it starts like all the other ones."

"Maybe he's late."

"Don't even joke about that." Izuku frowns at Todoroki's little grin. "It's not funny. It's not funny!"

"You're right, it's not funny. But this is."

"Are there questions back there?" The professor pushes his glasses up his nose and eyes them. "You getting everything?"

"Yep, just asking for an extra pencil," Izuku flubs, cheeks flaring crimson. Shinsou snickers quietly and earns a balled up paper to the head. "You guys are the worst."

"I'm pretty sure Bakugou's the worst," Todoroki whispers.

Izuku pouts in annoyance. "How's Momo?"

They make a decent effort to pay attention after that.

*

Still Tuesday, August 28th, 1:39 PM

Probably Intro to Theater

Izuku feels like he's walking into a house he knows is haunted armed with a phone book. Not even, like, a blessed phone book. A regular phone book.

Twenty minutes before class starts is a healthy time, a relaxed time to arrive. If someone comes in and says he's in the wrong room, he's got plenty of time to bolt to wherever he should be, and he's got his pick of seats. Because he's cursed with eyes and ears that don't like each other, he wants to wander down to the front of the room and drop into the second row, but this is Theater. He would literally rather die than be within arm's reach of forced volunteering. The very back of the room will be just fine, thank you. The stage here is old, but the lighting is new, and the projector overhead is state-of-the-art; the room buzzes faintly with all the technology concealed behind panels backing the stage.

The professor is the first in after him. Izuku squints a little in thought—is it weird that he keeps getting to class before his professors? Nah. That's just how it is sometimes. Professors are people too. People who apparently got dressed in the dark and need a caffeine IV in order to function.

Seriously. The man's thermos is the size of his arm and cannot possibly contain normal coffee if he thinks neon orange is okay outside of a construction zone.

Students trickle in, and Izuku passes the time giving them names that are definitely not right at all. He makes a sort of mental map with the backs of peoples' heads, one unnatural color to another—purples and pinks are popular this year. One girl with bubblegum-pink curls and an undercut is so bubbly-loud that he names the constellation of girls around her Champagne.

It seems like a lot of people here know each other. This is the first class where he knows nobody, not even in passing. Mostly because half of them are first-years, freshmen or transfers, but then this is a popular gen ed. Friends must've decided to take it together or come in knowing each other from the area high schools.

He thinks it'll be lonely for a week or so, if that. He's pretty good at making friends. It might even be a blessing in disguise—he knows nobody, but there's definitely people he knows that he doesn't want to see.

Izuku stares at the clock on his phone with a mounting dread. It would be just hilarious if You-Know-Who walked in at two minutes 'til. And Izuku hopes Bakugou feels someone dancing on his grave right now at the Harry Potter reference.

1:56. 1:57. 1:58.

Izuku inhales sharply and glances at the door.

Nothing.

He sighs, relieved, and closes his phone; he pulls out the brown notebook that he keeps meaning to use every class and just hasn't gotten the chance. Maybe he'll finally get some peace, some space to doodle.

He looks out over the sea of students, the seats now nearly filled, and stops dead on the digital clock on the stage's rolling podium.

It's a minute slow.

Izuku watches the door open and reveal Bakugou in slow motion, like a third-year direction student's Baywatch -inspired thesis film. There's a roaring in his ears that might be his heart rate reaching inhuman speeds, possibly Mach 5; his knuckles turn bone-white around the edge of the desk, his pencil letting out a plastic crack in his other hand. Because, like an antisocial idiot, Izuku chose the back row as his new home, he's eye-level with the door. Bakugou's gaze magnetizes to him and hits Izuku like a freight train.

Those scarlet eyes turn to hellfire.

"Ugh, finally!" Bubblegum-pink girl shouts. "Late as usual. Get down here, Blasty! I haven't seen your ugly mug in three whole miserable months, come tell me all the local gossip!"

Without looking away, Bakugou shouts back, "I'm not late, you Pinkberry halfwit."

"Pinkberry? Really? That's frozen yogurt, you asshole. I'm clearly the real deal, decadent and lactose-laden ice cream. Come up with better insults!"

Bakugou turns mercifully away, focusing his sneer on Bubbly-loud. The roar in Izuku's ears hits a pitch only dogs should be able to hear.

Class starts and ends in thirty minutes. Izuku could not for the life of him tell you what was said.

*

Will this Tuesday ever end, August 28th, 4:18 PM

Perihelion Bakery

Izuku likes Perihelion, which almost makes him regret getting a job there.

The bakery is north of campus, near enough to walk from his apartment, and he doesn't have a car (too expensive honestly, he just takes the university shuttles everywhere) so he's rather limited on work opportunities. When he stopped by with his mother after moving in and saw the hiring sign, he didn't really look the gift horse in the mouth. The owner hired him on the spot.

It's a small place, cozy, with comfy mismatched chairs and a wall of bookshelves piled with donated textbooks. Cups of pens and pencils are on every table, there's a large chalkboard with a running bet on the first home game of the season, everything about the place screams students. And the coffee—at least when Izuku makes it—is strong enough to keep you up through three straight exams. They actually advertise it that way.

Izuku's first week at Perihelion has gone fairly well. He likes his coworkers, he's a quick learner, his customer service never fails, he's getting paid ten an hour. He's gotten the twist on the croissants perfected, but decorating cupcakes is still well out of his range, so he spends most of his time on register, wowing customers with his sunny smile.

"Y'know," Kaminari drawls over kneading dough. Flour dusts his arms up to his elbows. "I never thought it was possible, but you actually make an apron look good. Teach me your ways."

"Sure, I believe you," Izuku laughs. He rings the last customer in line out and hands them their coffee and macarons. "You look so dashing covered in cocaine."

"Midoriya, if this was cocaine, I would not be working at a bakery, much less going to university for a degree. What's the use of electronic media skills when I have cocaine money?" Kaminari grins and flips the dough. "I'm just saying, one out of every five customers has checked your ass out when you're getting their pastries from the case. I counted."

"Seems like an overestimation," Izuku mumbles, cheeks coloring.

"I tell it like I see it." Kaminari cuts the dough into even balls and starts wiggling them out into strips. "I mention it now because you're oblivious, and I must save you from yourself. The receipt that girl signed has her number on it."

"What?" Izuku checks the ticket. Yep, there's a number. "How did you even see that from back there?"

"I see all." Kaminari flicks his wrists, the strip turning over on itself into a complicated-looking knot. "You gonna call her or what?"

"I—no?"

"Fair enough. Counterargument: you—yes?"

Izuku pockets the receipt, unable to help grinning back at him. "I don't even know her. What's your stake in whether I call her or not?"

"I live vicariously through you, Mister One-In-Five." Kaminari snorts a laugh. "Plus it's always fun to have a little drama around here. There is such a thing as too much peace and quiet."

"Incorrect," Izuku says, fiddling with a pen. "I haven't gotten any since classes started up again."

"It's been two days, man."

"My point still stands."

"Oh, shit, speaking of," Kaminari says brightly. "What the hell did Bakugou do to make you look at him like he tipped you a penny?"

Izuku's expression sours, and Kaminari points at him.

"See, that's what I mean! What's up with that! You're, like, too sweet to make a face like that."

"You've never seen me argue in class," Izuku mutters. Bakugou's mere presence in their English Lit has guaranteed that Kaminari will eventually witness that storm. "He was in my Philosophy last semester."

"No fuckin' way," Kaminari breathes, eyes wide. "That was you?"

Izuku blinks in alarm. "What was me?"

"Bakugou literally did not shut up for three straight days about some guy who thought, and I quote, 'subjectivity is always good and doesn't ever fuck up the world to the point of mass panic.' He yelled everybody's ear off about it." Kaminari finishes the last twist and dusts his hands off on his apron. "He said you hated Plato, too."

"I do hate Plato. I own that." Izuku smiles a tinge bitterly. It's a little ironic that while he was complaining about Bakugou, Bakugou was bitching about him. "He's wrong, though. I don't think subjectivity is always good, but it is something that's inescapable. Maybe if he actually paid attention to what I said, he wouldn't have gotten so bothered about it."

Kaminari stares at him for a long second, then bursts into laughter so fierce he doubles over. "Oh my god, dude," he wheezes. "Bakugou's a firebrand, he'd lose his shit if he heard you say that. Never, ever, ever tell him that. Actually, no, please tell him that, but warn me before you do, so I can record him kicking your ass."

"Oh, you think I couldn't take him?" Izuku puts his fists up teasingly, chuckling a little himself. "I'm scrappy, I'd make him work for it."

Kaminari doubles over again, cackling. The bell over the door chimes, so Izuku scrubs his eyes and stuffs down the rest of his laugh, turning back to the register.

"Sorry, hi, welcome to Perihelion, what can I get y—"

Bakugou Katsuki stares at him from the other side of the counter.

A guy with the brightest fire-truck red hair Izuku's ever seen steps right up to the case, oblivious to the war going on behind him. "Can I get, uh, two of these blondies and a caramel latte?" He puts his hands on his hips, looking up at the specials with interest. "What're you gettin', Blasty?"

"I'm gettin' real sick of this dude's fuckin' face," Bakugou growls. The guy suddenly seems to notice Izuku, standing there like he's swallowed his tongue.

"Oh shit," he mutters. He recovers quickly. "Uh, hi, I'm Kirishima, and you must be Midoriya. I've heard... so much about you."

"Is that so," Izuku hears himself say distantly. "That's funny."

"Funny," Bakugou sneers.

"Real funny," Izuku replies, "since I'm sure you've heard only good things."

"Mhm, yep, only the best things," Kirishima says unconvincingly. "Like how you're, uh, passionate about your stances, and, um, in all of Bakugou's classes." Kirishima elbows Bakugou none-too-gently. "What're you getting, Bakugou?"

Bakugou's jaw clenches hard enough to make Izuku's teeth ache in sympathy.

Kirishima clears his throat. "Hm. Yep. Hey, Kaminari."

"Hey, Kirishima," Kaminari says from the kitchen. "You gonna order or what, Blasty? Or, I dunno, say hi?"

Bakugou just spins on his heel and marches toward the corner booth by the bookcase. Kirishima stares after him for a moment, wincing, then leans toward the register. "Just a plain coffee, then. Room for milk."

Izuku gets their things in a daze, hands it over to Kirishima (who smiles and seems very friendly, very apologetic) and the second he's left the counter, Izuku rounds on Kaminari.

"Okay, before you chew me out," Kaminari says, hands up placatingly. "I was gonna tell you how they come here super often, but I lost track of time..."

"Lost track of time?" Izuku whispers in horror.

"They show up for study sessions every Tuesday and Thursday at 4:30," Kaminari says in a rush. "I didn't realize how late it was already!"

It's only a half hour into Izuku's shift. "How long will he be here?" he asks, despair dragging out his vowels into a semi-whine.

"I dunno, they stay a couple hours, I usually leave with them when my shift's over." Kaminari picks up the tray of dough knots and flees to the ovens. "Sorry my bad won't happen again please forgive me!"

Izuku white-knuckles the baking table. He's hyper-aware of Bakugou's presence, looming in the corner of the seating area, his voice carrying in the near-empty bakery as he runs through some complicated chemistry nonsense with Kirishima. Every Tuesday. Every Thursday. Is it too late to change his availability? Or how much he needs money to live? Izuku sinks into the single chair the kitchen has and puts his head in his hands, resisting the urge to groan.

This is hell. He's in hell. He's in hell, and the devil's name is Bakugou Katsuki.

Chapter Text

Friday, January 18th, 11:36 AM

Intro to Philosophy

This class is boring. The people are uninteresting. No one's said a damn thing that's even half original. Katsuki knows it's an intro class, but what are his transfer credits good for if not getting easy A's and showing up some faux-intellectuals while he's at it?

It's been one week since the start of the semester, one dull gen-ed after another, and Katsuki's already sick of it. He could recite these theories in his sleep, better than everyone who Googled it five minutes before class started could read off Wikipedia. And the looming assignments aren't helping his sour mood. He's supposed to give some presentation soon, the first one of the semester, on Socrates. It's easy street and a waste of his talents, but at least it'll be out of the way.

He yawns. Doesn't even try to hide the contempt. He's not even listening to whatever tangent the prof's got onto now, tuned out for the last thirty minutes; it's the most basic bullshit of objective versus subjective truth through some courtroom analogy. A fourth grader could understand it.

"Excuse me, professor?"

Oh, hell yes. 'Excuse me professor' is student-speak for bitch, what? Katsuki's instantly alert, turning in his chair to zero in on the interrupting voice. It's some dark-haired guy, a row behind him. He's frowning in that special way know-it-alls have when they're so damn confident they're right.

"If the laws are founded on what's supposed to be objective truth, then interpreted through the subjective truth of a very small number of individuals, and finally contested with the art of rhetoric as the deciding factor, is the true struggle here even the actual pursuit of an objective truth or is it the manipulation of doubt? All you need to sway a jury is doubt, and isn't that in and of itself an objective truth?"

To the professor's credit, he takes it in stride, but Katsuki's just staring. And staring. And staring.

He's gotta turn around.

He swivels, focuses on his notebook, realizes he's grinning. He doesn't totally agreehe's a chem major, there are some objective truths you just don't fuck with unless you want to blow something up, and often he doesbut the guy's got guts. And he's not half-bad to look at either. Dark hair (looked soft), expressive eyes (green maybe, but he didn't get a good enough angle), broad shoulders (does he work out?).

Well, now class is at least a little more interesting.

One week later, Midoriyathat's his nameinterrupts Katsuki's presentation to correct some irrelevant date that Katsuki specifically researched as a circa rather than a hard number, and Katsuki swears vengeance on the incredibly cute distraction.

*

Wednesday, August 29th, 10:27 AM

Advanced Stats

All that time in AP and major-specific early college courses did something right and accelerated Katsuki to an academic level he actually enjoys. Unfortunately, now he's got all those gen-ed requirements to fill, and his sciences are on the back-burner. At least he can kill two birds with one stone and get some degree-required math classes in.

"Okay, so, you understand this one, right, buddy, pal, friend o' mine," Kirishima says, visibly sweating over the problems they've been given for the day. "You've got a grip on, uh…"

"Probability," Katsuki growls with what he considers a godly amount of patience. "Yes, why don't you."

"I did so well in all my other math courses, dude, I'm just floundering here 'cause I've got no background in it. That's what you're for! Study sessions galore this semester, ha!" Kirishima elbows him, their seats jammed a uniform foot away from each other and every other student in the lecture hall. On Katsuki's other side, a mess of brown hair flops forward onto the desk with a groan.

"Can I please join these study sessions," Uraraka says into the plastic. "This course is going to kill me."

"You're an astronautical engineer," Kirishima says with a lopsided grin.

"Not yet I'm not. Right now I'm just Uraraka Ochako, out of coffee and in hell." Uraraka throws them two thumbs-up and a forced smile. "No, seriously. Lemme in on the study sessions."

Katsuki huffs and takes her paper to squint at her cute, cartoon-y handwriting. "This should be a four."

"Ugh, of course it's a four," she sighs. "Now I gotta redo the whole thing. Thanks, Bakugou. Now about those study sessions, since I clearly need them."

"It's a lost cause, Uraraka," Kirishima says dramatically, twisting in his seat to lounge across the desk, one hand over his eyes like an aging opera star. "We can't attend our study soirees anymore, there's simply too much history between dearest Blasty and the baker-barista. The bakerista."

"Ooh, did he finally break Kaminari's heart?" Uraraka leans forward on her elbows. "I knew you wouldn't let him down easy! Christ, Bakugou, let a guy have his dignity."

Katsuki bodily shoves the cackling Kirishima off his desk. "Fuck you guys. Pikachu's on my shit-list for not bothering to tell me that dipshit got hired, don't join him."

"Aw, there's a dipshit? You only use that one when you think he's kinda cute." Uraraka twirls her pencil and grins. "Do I smell a romance in the air?"

Kirishima sniffs. "Nope. Just teen spirit."

Katsuki scowls deeply. "We're not fuckin' teenagers, quit acting like one. There's no romance or whatever, I hate that nerd's guts."

"Oh, 'cause twenty's such a wise, mature age. And you didn't always," Kirishima says, examining his nails like he didn't just light the fuse on a Katsuki-shaped pile of dynamite. "I remember this one glorious week last semester when you were head over heels."

"Oh my god," Uraraka laughs, "you have to tell me everything."

"You shoulda seen it. He got distracted so easy, all of his Philosophy homework was done two days early, I caught him doodling hearts once."

"I had an art credit," Katsuki hisses. His face is on fire.

"Sure ya did, buddy," Kirishima just winks at Uraraka, who bursts into more giggles.

Katsuki snatches both of their worksheets and gets up. "Guess you two are done working. I can turn these in right now."

They beg for their lives.

*

Wednesday, August 29th, 12:11 PM

Fantasy Bullshit

"Heyyy, Blasty." Kaminari holds a coffee out at arm's length, poised to flee at any second. "Brought you your usual. As an apology for, uh. You know."

Katsuki glares at him.

"Right, okay, you're angry, I get it." Kaminari gestures with his other hand. "That's why I also brought you a bagel."

Katsuki is kinda hungry, but he's not about to forgive Kaminari's transgressions. He takes the food anyway, to Kaminari's delight.

"To be fair, I didn't know he was that Midoriya," Kaminari tries. "All I had to go on was that death stare you got on Monday. Now that I know, obviously it won't happen again, and you don't have to keep looking at me like you're trying to decide which extremity to fry first."

Katsuki's eyes narrow. "Frying is too good for you."

"Aha, right." Kaminari swallows ineffectually. "Just a question, what is good enough for my torture?"

"Telling you takes half the fun away."

"Right. Great. Excellent. It's definitely not some kind of series of pranks that are gonna make my life terrible when I least expect it, of course, that'd be silly and unoriginal since that's what you did last time."

Katsuki slowly raises an eyebrow. Kaminari gulps.

"So, uh, are we gonna go in?"

Katsuki checks his watch. 12:16. "Nah. Gonna drink my coffee in peace before I gotta be in the same room as that asshole."

"Honestly, he's not that bad," Kaminari says, pretending to tap at his phone to avoid Katsuki's evil eye. "I've only been working with him for a week, but he's nice! Sweet to people, hardcore about his major. He's alsoand pardon my French hereoh my god gorgeous."

"What," Katsuki growls.

"Yeah, like, you're all angles and Abercrombie model, out here walkin' around like you'll eat people alive, and lots of meuh, peopleare into that. But Midoriya's got these arms, dude, I swear to god, like a Greek statue. I bet when he hugs people he picks them up and spins 'em around." Kaminari's staring dazedly into the beige-painted wall. He shakes himself off, coloring rapidly. "Not that I've thought about it, haha! Just, uh, forget what I said."

He swings his arms in big, exaggerated steps toward the classroom door, pulls it open, then bows Katsuki inside like a theater usher.

"Here we are, a completely harmless classroom full of people who don't hate you, and one single person you can totally ignore in favor of literally everybody else."

Katsuki shoots him another deadly glare and pushes past him into the crowded lecture hall, zeroing in instantly to the god-awful mop of dark hair that shines like summer leaves in the sunlight streaming through the windows. His heart leaps into his throat. "And that's why Plato was the greatest mind to ever exist."

Kaminari blinks at him. "What?"

Midoriyaawful, terrible, bitch-ass super pretty holy fuck Midoriyajolts, and Katsuki knows he heard. The girl sitting with him (Mana? Mojo? who cares) puts gentle fingers on his wrist. Neither of them turn, focused dead ahead, watching the professor wrestle with the projectors; fine, Katsuki doesn't need a reaction. He doesn't need to see those gorgeous eyes sparking at him, that nose scrunched up so cute and furious, that firm set to a jawline he wants to

"Welcome back to ENG 2041," the professor chimes as the screens finally flicker to life. "Today we'll just really briefly answer any questions you thought of for the syllabus and get right into defining the Hero's Journey…"

Well. Katsuki sees him again later. He can not-see Midoriya in Public Speaking.

Kaminari steals half his bagel. He doesn't notice until they've left the building.

*

Wednesday, August 29th, 1:17 PM

On the way to Public Torture

Katsuki isn't running from Midoriya, that's ridiculous. He just packs up fast. And it's a bit of a jog between the bullshit library and the humanities building, plus the sweltering end-of-summer heat, he just wants to get out and back into an air conditioned building before he fries. He's not trying to flee from the intelligent commentary on the Hero's Journey, or the scratch of a pencil that's definitely not taking notes but he's at such a terrible angle he can't see what the nerd is doing and it's killing him, or the pollution of chronic Mom Friend constantly undermining his completely reasonable responses to Midoriya's statements.

When he whispered a foul name at her, Kaminari just shook his head and smiled.

But Katsuki isn't running. He's walking at a normal pace to a normal place with normal people who aren't sworn enemies.

Right. Midoriya is his sworn enemy.

He will remember that.

Infuriating know-it-all. Annoying voice. Uninformed theories with too much idealism to be practical. Overall, Midoriya is a dorky academic who'd probably enjoy being locked in a library, and that's the polar opposite of Katsuki. Don't STEM and humanities have some feud going on, anyway? Not that he ever paid attention. Too busy winning awards and getting accolades and being the best damn chemist this side of the globe, the joke being of course that globes are one continuous side.

Chemistry's been good to him. It's concrete, and he gets to blow stuff up sometimes, mostly on purpose. He works with danger, fire, poisons; labs are delicate work that he takes great pride in being able to do perfectly. The engineering minor is another layer of his technical tendencieshe likes working with his hands. He can do humanities in his sleep. STEM is where he gets to really stretch.

So Midoriya is outside any and all of his interests. All his classes this semester (short of stats) are snooze-fests, easy A's for a guy like him. As he yanks the humanities department's basement-level doors open, he toys with the idea of bringing his laptop and enrolling in an online refresher, just to keep him on his toes.

Katsuki hits the elevator button and waits, tuned out from the student chatter around him. Out of the corner of his eye, he catches dark curls turning into the hallway. Katsuki bolts for the stairsthe ones clear at the other end of the building.

The second floor isn't that far up. He's not even out of breath, takes them two at a time, and watches through the glass as Midoriya comes out of the elevator and disappears into the classroom. He checks his phone. 1:20. He's got five whole minutes before class starts, three minutes before he has to be in. His phone vibrates in his hand.

Pikachu: dude the next time u run like that im gonna assume a guy w a machete is following u n start running too

Bomb Emoji: Whatever

Bomb Emoji: Hope you die to the machete

Pikachu: wow. rude.

Pikachu: did u sprint all the way to ur class or did u take the chance to stare at midoriyas choice ass for ten straight minutes

Pikachu: sorry, ten gay minutes

Katsuki turns his phone off.

He's known Kaminari since high school, but still can't tell if Sparky's a social butterfly or just that dumb. He'll charge out onto thin ice without a second thought, always knows where the parties are, and stays at decent grades despite his proclivity for dancing on tables. And he's the nosiest motherfucker Katsuki's ever had the misfortune to kind of tolerate, second only to resident gossip guru Ashido Mina.

But he did also do that one thing that one time in junior year, so he's irrevocably Katsuki's friend.

Okay. Time to go to public speaking. Time to sit down next to Midoriya and do Katsuki's petty best to ignore him while blowing him away with stellar communication skills. Because that makes sense. The hallway feels a million miles long and the throng of students are second-years, no longer fazed by anyone's murder walk, not even Katsuki's.

He stops dead in the doorway.

Everybody knows there's an unspoken rule in classrooms. You do not sit in somebody else's seat. If it's been claimed, you don't fuck with it; where you sit day one is where you sit forever, unless someone comes in and literally takes your chair somewhere else. Even then, you don't mess with the established order.

So who the fuck is in Katsuki's seat.

Midoriya doesn't even look up from scribbling in his notebook. He clearly doesn't know the random person in Katsuki's spot and is making a concerted effort to not acknowledge Katsuki in the slightest. The storm-cloud scowl fixed on Katsuki's face should be scaring this extra out of the room entirely, but the kid has headphones in and bounces a pencil, staring past him to the board with the aware detachment of students trying very hard to not be social.

He has no choice. Katsuki stomps down the aisle between them—smacks his bag into the kid's shoulder with a mocking apology—and slumps into the last desk with a huff. Midoriya's pencil jumps, he turns just a little. Good. Stew, knowing Katsuki's glaring at him the entire class. He wants Midoriya to sweat about it.

The professor gives a chirpy hello, pulls up a PowerPoint, and Katsuki zones out in Midoriya's hair.

Thick blankets. Snow outside. TV on low. Reading the last of the requirements for English over Midoriya's shoulder. Katsuki's chin tucked in the crook of his neck, warm and steady breathing, soft skin waiting for more marks…

"…over this now so you're prepared for your speeches next week."

Katsuki jerks back to life. What? How much time did he just miss?

"The first introductory speeches will be two to three minutes, on any topic you'd like," the professor says. Katsuki blinks at the PowerPoint, showing some format the prof must want them to use. He said it was all online last time, so Katsuki isn't gonna dig for a pen. He'll remember.

The professor clicks over to some requirements. "I've got rubrics I'll be filling out during your speeches, and you'll receive these with your grade at the beginning of the next class. Additionally, I'd like you to prepare notecards, which will be used to determine if you've followed the format. We'll also have the rest of the students not presenting split into groups and write down anonymous feedback, which you may review at the end of your speech."

Katsuki bores holes in the back of Midoriya's head. He's gonna tear this dipshit's speech apart.

"I've assigned dates alphabetically," the professor continues to widespread groans. "There's forty of you, we have to do it in some semblance of order. Don't worry, you won't have to go first every time, but this introductory round I think it'll be good. Choose a topic you feel helps us get to know you! Focus on giving us entertaining information rather than persuasive arguments." He checks his watch. "Well, that's all I have for today. We'll continue with examples on Friday. The first introductory group will go Monday, A through I, then J through R on Wednesday and S through Z on Friday. Have a good afternoon."

Katsuki turns his phone back on (did it always boot up so slow?) for the time as students pack up around him. My god, 2:04? This prof is a breeze.

Midoriya's sweet little excuse me, pardon me grates on Katsuki's nerves as he watches those shoulders squeeze past chatting girls and out into the hallway. Goddamn it. Katsuki didn't get to put him in his place. He willhe'll be the hardest grader in the world on these speeches-- but something in his chest sinks anyway once Midoriya's out of sight.

Katsuki packs up. He sees him tomorrow. In the Sociology of Love course. And Intro to Theater. Listen, okay, he lost a bet and was forced into taking that bullshit love course as his sociology requirement and Ashido wanted someone to take Theater with her. She neglected to mention just how many people she'd bullied into taking it, but now nothing else fit into Katsuki's schedule. He's determined to excel in both of them anyway. Especially compared to Midoriya.

There's no way Midoriya fucking Izuku knows more about love than he does.

His phone vibrates. All sixteen of Kaminari's gay jokes come through at the same time.

*

Thursday, August 30th, 9:25 AM

Punishment For His Hubris

Katsuki stares at the propped-open door. It stares back balefully.

He's gotta go in eventually. Gotta see the nerd all sleepy-cute and suckin' down coffee next to that guy who wears way too many ruffles and looks like he bathes in glitter. Gotta attempt to humor the concept of love as a technical thing that can be analyzed and grounded like it's a science. Katsuki knows what real science is and he hates this fake shit.

But he lost the bet.

Dirty, dim, dingy club, five minutes from campus and crowded with students just out of spring midterms, drinking to forget. Thumping music and flashing lights, caterwauling girls in too-tall boots wobbling "accidentally" into the beer-soaked arms of their party favor boys.

"Betcha I can get more numbers than you," Ashido yells in his ear.

"It's your funeral."

And her prize had been putting him in this course, plus a recorded copy of him, drunk as fuck, singing My Heart Will Go On. She called it flirting remedial. He detests those connotations, but he losteven though the argument over how to count the group of twinks who'd all given him the same damn number had taken a very heated thirty minutes.

Okay. He takes a deep breath, steels himself; he shoulders his bag and marches in, sneering at anyone unfortunate enough to get in his way. The massive projector screen is already lit up with the PowerPoint (do professors ever use anything else) set sickeningly on a bright green typeface blaring WHAT IS LOVE?

Katsuki knows he's spent too long with his dumbass friends when his immediate thought is baby don't hurt me.

Midoriya's in the third row, and that glittery bastard is perched on the table, arranging a goddamn flower-crown on Midoriya's curls.

Katsuki can tell he's just… tolerating it. Laughing as Glitter-bitch talks, letting him do whatever, turn him this way and that with thin fingers on his jaw and a camera phone at crazy angles. Midoriya isn't uncomfortable, per se, but he doesn't really look relaxed either.

He glances at Katsuki and tenses more.

Good! Good, Katsuki thinks. Good. Be nervous, Midoriya. Your better has arrived. Real stars don't need tacky plastic flecks to stand out.

He takes his seat on the opposite end of the third row, shooting a single, smug smile down the line, where Midoriya's still looking at him. With utmost care, Katsuki mouths princess, and watches Midoriya bristle with a vicious delight.

The professor's first slide actually says BABY DON'T HURT ME in that same ugly green. It's 9:31 AM and Katsuki is done with today.

*

Thursday, August 30th, 1:49 PM

Ashido's Fault

Lunch with Kirishima and Kaminari goes about as well as he can expect any event with them to go. Kaminari chewed him out (with love, he insists) for not responding to his elegantly crafted texts; Kirishima demanded to hear them read aloud and howled with laughter at every bad pun. Katsuki weighed the satisfaction of crushing Kaminari's phone against the cost of replacing it and nearly broke even.

They spent the rest of their lunch break suggesting topics for his intro speech, including but not limited to: hi I'm gay, gay is what I am and that's just dandy, and fellas, is it gay to pine after a guy whose sole method of communication with you is arguing as acquaintances.

He vetoed all of them by passionately spearing a mechanical pencil through Kirishima's burger.

The hallways are busy, kids dumping off into classrooms left and right. Theater, Katsuki grumbles to himself. Psh. 'Oh it'll help with your ability to think on your feet, and read emotions, and work with others,' blah blah blah. Katsuki's good at all those things. He doesn't need to memorize Shakespearean sonnets to have insight into the human condition.

Yep. The first week's assignment is scenes from assorted Shakespeare plays. Because what the fuck else would it be in the first days.

Well, not today. No one's even remotely prepared to do a scene today. But they are drawing lots or picking groups or getting their assignments or something, in between the slides on the history of theater and the professor's crack-addict trembles while slurping out of that goddamn thermos.

The first thing Katsuki noticesthe first thing he always notices—is that Midoriya is tucked way back in the corner, as physically far as he can get from the open seat Ashido's already gesturing Katsuki into. His lips twist, derisive and a little hand nothing else. Not hurt. He doesn't care. He hates Midoriya very much. Katsuki can't wait to watch him make a fool of himself, stuttering through Macbeth or fumbling out Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

"So," Ashido chimes, perching her chin in her hand as he sits. She taps her phone with a manicured nail, intentionally threatening. "I hear there's a certain someone I should meet."

"No." Katsuki doesn't even pull out a notebook, just glares dead ahead, vibrating out of his skin for this class to be over already. He's only here because they're getting groups for the first assignment today, otherwise he'd find some reason to cut and run halfway through. It's... not like him. But he's still kind of debating whether he's gonna leave the second Ashido calls dibs on his company.

"Aw, that's no fun," she trills teasingly, meaning she thinks it's the most fun in the world. "You've got a pretty-boy crush in here somewhere. Maybe I'll just guess."

"Don't," he growls. She lights up.

"Okay, okay, okay," she swivels in her seat, craning to see every slouched jock along the walls. "Hmm. Not that one, too skinny. That one's clearly toxic straight, I hope it's not that one. Ooh, football-build, on your six, that him?"

Ashido's back is to the wrong side of the room, so Katsuki, without turning, says no.

"Aw. He seems like your type. Baby-face." Ashido settles down as the professor starts shuffling papers and clearing his throat. She leans in, whispers: "I have a limited number of choices and the itch for a bet."

Katsuki stubbornly does not rise to the bait.

"Good afternoon class," the professor gravels. He coughs again, drains some more mysterious liquid from his thermos. "We'll try and get through the history part pretty quick here, then spend the last half of class getting your groups and picking your play."

The history is slightly more entertaining than other presentations Katsuki's seen today, though the bar isn't particularly high in the first place. It took him all of lunch to get that damn song out of his head, and just remembering that effort has slammed what is love back to the forefront. At least the professor peppered in videos. Dull, dry, Shakespeare videos, but welcomed interludes at the very least.

"Okay, I've got your group assignments here, three to a group." The prof reads off a litany of names that go in one ear and out the other until Ashido is mentioned without his own name directly preceding it. Or after it. He's not in her group.

Luck, if he had any at all, is no longer on his side.

Ashido shrugs apologetically, pats his shoulder, and moves to join her partners. She glances around the dwindling number of lone seats and shoots him a grin: it's called acting, she mouths, waving her phone. Katsuki's spine crawls.

If Kirishima knows Midoriya's name… and Kaminari knows Midoriya's name… and they both know Ashido's in his class…

Oh no. Oh fuck. Oh god.

The prof wrings his hands. "The groups didn't work out to three perfectly evenly so apologies, uh, Bakugou Katsuki and Midoriya Izuku, but you'll be in a pair for the semester. Think of it as artistic freedom! You'll get to work with such lovely, intimate scenes."

Katsuki is so sizzlingly angry at Ashido that only his sheer self-discipline stops him from screaming.

"Well, uh." The prof glances back and forth between them, a few students eyeing them warily. "Why don't you move down here, Midoriya, that way everybody's closer to the stage. Once I've given out the scene assignments, you're free to go, but I suggest exchanging information with your partners before you leave. You'll be seeing an awful lot of them!"

Soft steps. Cautious. Gentle placing of a backpack in the seat between them, a buffer cluttered with buttons. Tapping fingers hitting a jerky, nervous rhythm on the hard cover of that trademark notebook.

They don't look at each other. There's a first time for everything.

Katsuki can't hear anything past the roaring in his ears. Did the prof start speaking Latin? Maybe. Old English at the very least. He's passing out bundles of papers, Christ in heaven, they're definitely scripts. When he gets to Katsuki, he holds them out at arm's length; Katsuki snatches the two copies with more force than strictly necessary and all but throws one in Midoriya's face.

Once he's given them the scene assignments, they're free to go, right? So Katsuki grabs his still-packed bag and bolts. Well, stomps quickly. He'd never call it bolting.

He can't believe this. He won't. The entire semester? The entire semester?! He won't, he just won't. He's gonna wait right out here for Ashido so he can literally tear her a new one, right here with his script he hasn't looked at yet because it's burning his palm and he just knows it's gonna make him sick to his stomach to identify. The door behind him squeals open, more students leaving, and rather than be caught here by stupid fucking bane-of-his-existence Midoriya Izuku, Katsuki storms directly into the bathrooms across the hall.

He splashes cold water on his face. This is Ashido's fault somehow. Somehow, she got the prof to set up the groups like that, through some bullshit charm or whatever. He can blame her for everything and make her switch groups with him, 'cause Midoriya's gonna fuck this up. He's gonna take his big airy ideals and flowery language and try to take dusty old Shakespeare seriously, rather than one of the limitless ways to not slander Shakespeare's dick jokes with solemnity. Wait 'til Katsuki tells Kaminari, he'll get an hour-long rant on how to make this scene a goddamn travesty truly worthy of the Elizabethan era. Whatever this scene is.

Katsuki takes a deep breath and reads the opening line.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

He has to drop this class.

*

Thursday, August 30th, 4:07 PM

Langsam Library

Katsuki's phone buzzes.

Spikes: Yo where are you?

Bomb Emoji: Library

Spikes: Why though.

Bomb Emoji: Study

Spikes: Not at Perihelion???

Bomb Emoji: You're late

Katsuki tosses his phone onto the seat next to him with a huff. The library buzzes with activity, the low hum of typing a gentle background rain. He's hunched across the books spread over his table, poring into the seam of one as if it's a dense textbook and not a leather-bound copy of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. He wants to get ahead on them so he can 1) forget about any English homework for a while and 2) show useless Midoriya up in class on Monday.

Ugh. It's weird. The library is both too quiet and too loud, the conversations around him way too distracting for conducive studying, and he can't exactly put his earbuds in since Kirishima's gonna show up soon. He wants coffee, but the Starbucks line is a mile long and he hasn't enjoyed the taste of Pike Place in years. All right, maybe not yearsyou do what you gotta do during finalsbut not since Kaminari found Perihelion.

Katsuki frowns, disgusted with himself. There's other places to be! He's not attached at the hip to a goddamn bakery. He can handle a schedule change to keep him from running into Midoriya's god-awful customer service voice.

Kirishima raps the table and Katsuki jumps.

"Whoa, you really were zoned out," Kirishima quips, eyebrows raised. "You managed to dissociate in the library like a normal student. I knew you'd hate it in here."

Katsuki scowls. "I don't hate it. Sit down and get your damn textbook out."

"Hm, nah." Kirishima flips Katsuki's book closed and pushes it at him. "We're goin' to Perihelion first."

"Excuse me?" Katsuki snarls. "You can stay right here and get my gracious help or you can go on your own."

"Oh, interesting, you think you can threaten me!" Kirishima just smiles brightly, infuriatingly. "I know you're hiding from Midoriya, but this is ridiculous. We always study at Perihelion. I don't think I can study without their lattes."

"I am not hiding," Katsuki hisses. He can feel the itch of his ears turning pink. "'Course I don't wanna have that bastard breathing down our necks for three hours. He'd probably try and correct me while I'm teaching your dumb ass polynomials, and then I'd have to kill him."

"Hey, I know my polynomials," Kirishima says offendedly, one hand to his chest. "But it is so cute and so inconvenient that you've decided to be a blushy-crushy coward."

"A what?" Katsuki barks a derisive laugh. "You've been spending too much time with Ashido. And I know it was you who told her about Midoriya being in Theater, I won't forget that."

"I'm sure you won't, but I spend time with Mina because I like her." Kirishima leans down, plucks the pencil from behind Katsuki's ear, and twirls it teasingly, taunting the already angry lion. "I can't tell if you like Midoriya as a person or not yet, but you definitely like lookin' at him."

"No, no I do not, he's a smartass and annoying and keeps trying to prove me wrong. He always thinks he knows more than me, as if I'd ever like that stuck-up brat!"

"Mhm, mhm, and not one thing you just said was about how he's unfairly ripped." Kirishima nods sagely in the face of Katsuki's steaming fury. "I rest my case. C'mon, he'll be nice to look at waaaaay behind the counter and not bothering us while I drink some of that sweet, sweet elixir they call espresso and listen quietly to you about probability."

Katsuki's jaw works. The library hums around them. A girl laughs a little too loudly at whatever her friend tells her and Katsuki shoves his books back into his bag.

He throws a finger in Kirishima's face. "Only," he whispers savagely, "so you can't say I'm a coward."

Kirishima holds up his hands. "Fair enough, Bakubro."

"Don't call me that."

*

Goddamn Thursday, August 30th, 4:23 PM

Perihelion Against My Will

The bells overhead ring like scandalized church women as Kirishima slams the door open. "Fullmetal Alchemist!"

Kaminari perks up from slouching into the counter and grins, tone dropping to a dramatic gravel. "Fullmetal Alchemist. Where have you two been? Did you finally bang out that unresolved sexual tension?"

"We are bros, Kaminari," Kirishima says solemnly. "That is a sacred bond. If Bakugou wanted to bang out some of his emotional constipation, I would gladly sacrifice myself in the name of that."

"Oh same." Kaminari punches two blondies into the register. "What kinda coffee are we doing today? I don't have bro-brew."

Kirishima looks around. "Do you have, uh, a grande goddamn?"

Kaminari shoots a spectacularly catty grin at Katsuki, who narrows his eyes, carefully stacking more creative punishments against Sparky. "He's in the back. I gave him an out for when you two show up with a giant catering order for the university."

Katsuki sighsrelief? disappointment? who knowsand tenses when both Kirishima and Kaminari fix him with knowing looks. "What? Shut up. Get my coffee."

"Room for milk, I'm guessing?"

"Whatever."

"Are you gonna pay me, or.."

Katsuki fishes his wallet out, throws it on the counter, and stomps to the corner booth. He's relieved, really. Midoriya's gonna stay well out of sight while they're studying, so he'll actually be able to focus without some know-it-all nerd getting haughty. He's glad Midoriya's also avoiding him. They can spend the semester getting their grades and parting ways as fast as possible.

He doesn't keep one eye on the kitchen door for three hours, and when they finally leave, Kaminari in tow, he can confidently say he hadn't seen Midoriya at all. He refuses to be bummed about it.

"Bakugou, hey," Kaminari says on their way to Kirishima's car. "I heard about the scene you're doing for Theater!"

"From Ashido or from that dipshit," Katsuki snaps.

"From both of them, actually. But Midoriya, uh... seemed really anxious about it. I know you wouldn't tank a guy's grade over some weird rival kind-of-crush but he definitely doesn't. You should tell him you're an overachiever and that you'll work hard even if you hate what you're doing."

Katsuki doesn't respond. He gets in the carshotgunand doesn't respond the whole way home. He doesn't respond up the stairs or into his room or over dinner or for the rest of the night.

When he opens his eyes to his Friday alarm, he's decided.