Ochako’s feet sank into the mud as she marched down the hillside, the soft dirt sinking between her toes and its coldness sending a chill across her numbing feet. She was too conflicted to care much about that, though, no matter how uncomfortable the feeling was. Her fists tightened, clenching and unclenching, nails digging little ruts into her palms that were sure to get irritated later.
“Jerks,” she mumbled to herself as she walked. Her steps matched her pulse, quick and terse, dirt staining her heels as she went. “Like they have any right to judge. They just don’t get it!” She shoved her toes into the ground, scooping up a little pebble and kicking it across the clearing. She couldn’t tell how far it went, as darkness swallowed it the instant it left the small cone of light she stood under. She pursed her lips and pulled her arms in closer, hugging herself. “They’re just a buncha jerks.”
She glanced up to the sky. It was clear tonight, but the bright lights just outside of the dormitories prevented her from seeing the stars. She didn’t know if she was trying to see them. She just needed to get some air.
“His image is unstable.”
“He’s such a nerd, though.”
“He wouldn’t make a good boyfriend.”
She set her jaw. She’d known as soon as the talk had turned to romance that it would end badly for her, but she couldn’t have predicted having a reaction this strong. Deciding which of those boys would make for good love stories while the 1-B girls visited, it was too much. Ochako wasn’t even flustered. She was just…
“What right do Mina and Tooru have to say whether he would make a good boyfriend,” she muttered. “Or any of the boys, for that matter! Argh!”
A light breeze swept across the clearing. It rustled the trees around her, sweeping her hair from its resting place across her shoulders. Suddenly weary, Ochako sighed. Her tank top and shorts exposed her to the breeze, and it felt nice. She paused, just for a moment, just to feel it.
Realistically, there should’ve been a part of her jumping for joy that none of the others saw Deku as fit to… well, to have a crush on. No competition, right? That should’ve made things easy for her. But she wasn’t that type of girl— and Mina didn’t mean anything by it, Ochako knew that. But her friends’ words had just not sat well with her. Tsuyu had chimed in where Ochako was unable— she was friends with Deku, too—but still.
She should've taken up for him. She could've proven them wrong easily, but the words had lodged in her throat.
Trying to convince them that Deku’s heart was so worth putting effort into would sound hollow in her voice.
Deku was her best friend. Defending him was reflex, because how could they not see what was so plain to her? He was so amazing. Hearing them dismiss him without so much as a chance hurt her, and it would’ve hurt him, too, if he’d heard it. And Ochako could never tame the wild protectiveness that always chased feelings of admiration and adoration around a heart he held dominion over in moments where her common sense faltered. Due to their friendship, a part of her felt insulted for him based on association.
Then again, a part of her had been insulted. Mina and Tooru liked to claim they had good taste, picking and choosing which of the boys would make suitable candidates for romance. Well, Ochako liked to think she had good taste, too. And Deku had somehow managed to become exactly that! Conjecturally, of course— only coming from a hypothetical crush on her best friend. Which was certainly not real. Not even a little! She could think Deku would make a good boyfriend without actually wanting him as one, right? It was all objective! Totally objective!
“Ugh,” she groaned, walking again. She smacked her cheeks, trying to jolt herself awake. “No good. This is just… messing everything up…”
Caught between a rock and a hard place. It was totally unfair. She wanted to convince them of how incredible he was, but she herself was terrified to acknowledge it. No matter how strongly she believed it, it would feel like a dirty lie until she accepted it for herself.
And how could she do that, to either herself or to Izuku?
She was so torn. She didn’t know which would be easier, having them know how amazing he was or having them not. How had they not noticed the drive and the kindness and the gentleness that Izuku had? The empathy he showed to everyone around him… they were all things that would make him a great hero. Imagine the kind of care he would show someone he was in love with someday…
Just the notion sent electricity all across her body. Her knees suddenly felt a lot less sturdy. “Stupid boy,” she spat, waving away the heat that had suddenly flooded her face. What had she been reduced to? “Stupid love. Stupid, stupid—”
“Stupid!” another voice carried on the wind.
She recognized it instantly, and before she knew it, her legs were guiding her to it. Like some kind of siren’s song. She moved deeper into the trees, away from the sidewalk, the mud giving way to grass that was much gentler on her bare feet.
And, of course, there he was. Bright green strikes of pure energy bounced off his arms and legs as he swung them around, and Ochako swore some of them had struck her, making her chest ache. She took him in. The power lit green eyes that held so many different emotions within them, Ochako couldn’t begin to decode it all. The bushes he’d tucked himself behind didn’t do much to hide his presence here. He was too noisy for that to work. “Can’t quite seem to—make this work—on the ankle, maybe— wargh!"
And just like that, he was face down in the dirt again. It happened to him a lot, unfortunately. Izuku was a lot of things, Ochako supposed, but refined wasn’t one of them.
Deku was great, but a dork was a dork.
“Deku,” she called, rushing forward. “Deku, oh my gosh, are you okay?”
He lifted his head, spitting out some of the grass he’d landed in. He ran his fingers through his messy hair, looking embarrassed. “Oh, h-hey, Uraraka. What are you doing out here?”
“Just came for a walk.” She slowed as she reached him. “I guess I heard you training, and uh… here.”
She extended her hand, and he took it. The warmth there was always familiar. It brought a grin to her face as it always did, partnered with his bashful smile. He wiped the dirt from his arms. “Sorry. And uh, thanks. I guess I got a little carried away there…”
“What’cha workin’ on?” she asked, and bent over to his opened notebook. It was one of Iida’s pages—more specifically, the one on Recipro Burst. “Ah, trying to name your moves again?”
“Yeah! I’m getting really close to figuring out different Smashes for my legs and stuff, that’ll help with both mobility and damage in order to make my new fighting style more versatile and hopefully help me keep from breaking my arms again…”
“Want some company?” she interjected softly.
He blinked. The pale moonlight made it easy to see his freckles as his cheeks flared into the lightest shade of pink she could imagine. “I-If you want to stay,” he whispered, obviously caught off-guard at her request.
She nodded and sat, resting her chin on her knees as he moved back into position. Her eyes traced his movements, drowning in the colors, watching as his torso carried his legs through the air as if he’d been fighting this way his whole life.
Ochako saw it. Even if the others didn’t.
He was intense. But that was only his drive. He was a calculated fighter, but an emotional individual, someone who put his whole heart into everything he did. He may have been a nerd, but that only meant he was smart-- and All Might was super cool, anyway. She knew what Deku saw in him! If he hadn’t been her teacher, she would’ve wanted to meet him, too. She still kind of wanted to meet him all over again even though she knew him already.
“He wouldn’t make a good boyfriend.”
“To have someone who makes you feel like that… it’s great.”
Izuku was a cacophony of dichotomies. Softness and fierceness. Self-doubt and ambition. Nervousness and determination. Fragility and resilience. It was all there, dancing in the light he shone. Mina and Tooru thought in absolutes. As much as Ochako loved them, she knew that they had missed the mark big time.
They would never know Izuku like she did. She could defend him until her dying breath with proof that he wasn’t what they said he was. But then, a more selfish part of her wanted to keep this aspect of him secret. They would never know, they would never realize, and Ochako would never have to share how honored being his friend truly made her feel. It was stupid, she knew, but she couldn’t help it. To her, Deku was Deku, and he should never have to justify himself to anybody. If they couldn’t see it, it was their loss.
Even if she couldn’t say it out loud, even if she didn’t want to put a name to it, the feelings stirred in her heart. Boyfriend or best friend, Izuku was incredible. He deserved to be treated that way.
“Hey,” she said, and he looked down at her with raised eyebrows. She gave a contemplative sigh. “You’re smart, you know?”
His eyes widened. For a moment, he looked stunned, but finally he raised a hand to his chest and pointed at himself.
“Yes, Deku,” she murmured, too content to be exasperated. “You’re smart. And really amazing. Just know that, okay? And if anybody tells you any different, well… fight ‘em.”
A series of squeaks spilled from his mouth, denials and blushes and awkward muttering punctuating his robotic movements. But Ochako could only smile at the warmth that pooled in her chest.
Her taste was just fine, thank you very much.