It’s 11:03 a.m.
The first nice day in May welcomes everyone in Musutafu with bright blue skies and a pleasant breeze, and it’s clear with the roaming passerby and the idle sound of chatter filling the air that no one plans on letting the day go to waste.
Deku doesn’t plan to waste the day either.
His pencil taps idly against his notebook and the eraser shavings littering the pages; writing, erasing, repeat; until the notes and sketches to accompany them are neat and legible. He sips his tea—flecks of herbal sediment swirling at the bottom—eavesdrops on a harmless conversation between a barista and a pregnant customer discussing when the baby is due, glances at any eye-catching clothing or hairstyle that crosses his path. Anything to keep from glancing at his watch.
There’s a slight itch on his left forearm, and he uses that as a convenient excuse to lift the sleeve of his jacket and check the time before he can think better of it: 11:05 a.m.
He sighs, running a hand through his unruly hair and abandoning the fidgety tic of his pencil to bounce his leg. They should be here by now, right? If they don’t show up soon, he’s gonna lose his gumption entirely.
It’s six minutes past the hour when Deku finally spots them, a flood of excitement running from head to toe.
A group of kids about his age settle into their little nook of downtown Musutafu, arranged around the elevated steps to people-watch and chat amongst themselves. Deku can’t remember how long he’s been captivated by their fascinating clothes or their private bubble of friendship, but he knows it’s been long enough that he can thank them for more than half of his filled notebook, and that they show up at the same time every week.
Deku takes one courageous breath, downs the rest of his tea, and slides his notebook and utensils into his bag with a sweep of his arm. He isn’t sure when he’ll manage to summon up the nerve to talk to them again, so it has to be now.
The girl with pigtails—dyed pink and growing out at the roots—and a skeptical set to her brows notices him first, and nudges the boy who sits in the center, hair dyed purple and loose around his face. Telepathy isn’t necessary to know that he’s the leader, de facto or otherwise, with the way the others encircling him go still and quiet. It’s clear his reaction is the one that delegates what they do next.
Deku would be intimidated if he wasn’t so focused on that very leader, who now eyes him with something like exhausted apprehension; a withering expression that Deku can only read as let’s get this over with. Gray-blue eyes that seem almost violet in the sunlight stop him in his tracks.
The leader doesn’t stand from his seat, but he holds himself up a little straighter and raises a brow.
When an awkward silence ensues, Deku finally grasps that they want him to state his business. This close, he can see the patches stitched onto the leader’s jean jacket: a black cat on the left, and a portrait of a man in black and white on the right. Deku doesn’t know who the man is supposed to be, but he looks American, and his hair reminds him of a mad scientist.
“Hi!” Midoriya begins, “uh, my name’s Midoriya Izuku, and I study apparel design!”
A tall boy with a prominent chin and a spiked mohawk snorts. “That makes sense,” he mutters, making the pink-haired girl choke back a laugh.
His smile falters at the boy’s tone, but he trudges onward optimistically. “I-it does?”
The pink-haired girl rolls her eyes, resting her chin in her hand with a smirk. “Your windbreaker basically says it all. Did you design that yourself, fashion student?”
Deku pauses to look down at his jacket, dark green with a bolt of black traveling up to the collar. “Uh, no, my mom made it for me—”
The two start giggling uncontrollably, but the purple-haired boy silences them with a look before Deku can attempt to retreat and pretend this never happened.
“Chikuchi, Tsutsutaka.” He splays the fingers of one hand and gestures it toward them. “Chill out.”
He’s not sure what he expected, but the low cadence of the leader’s voice takes Deku by surprise. Dark and soft, like midnight covered in fog. It carries weight and effortless authority, something that Deku wishes he possessed so he didn’t stammer through every other sentence.
The leader turns his head towards Deku, who tries and fails to hide the slight jump from the sudden eye contact. “Get to the point.”
“Anyway,” Deku blurts, wringing his hands, “what I really wanted to say was that, um, I really like your style! I’ve been watching you guys for a while, and I wanted to know where you bought your clothes!”
When some of the group share concerned glances with each other, the reality of what Deku was implying careens back to him like a boomerang. “Oh, no, I’m so sorry! It’s not like I’ve been stalking you, I just—wow, that came out so wrong.”
The pink-haired girl can’t hold back her laughter this time and gives in to hysterics, along with the rest of their crew. Even the leader raises the back of his hand to his mouth, hiding a snort. What was Deku thinking, coming over here and disrupting their peace only to prove himself an absolute creep?
He grips the strap of his backpack with an apologetic grin and backs away. “I’m sorry, forget I ever came over here!”
“Hey, wait up.”
The leader’s voice makes him freeze, and he turns hesitantly back to look at him. In the process of Deku’s search for a rock to hide under indefinitely, he had risen from his perch on the stone steps and sauntered his way over to where Deku is standing. The length of his legs under his tattered jeans always hinted at the fact that he might be tall, but Deku’s never seen the difference in height this close up until now. He swallows involuntarily while the leader takes out a notepad and a pen from his jean jacket.
Used pages of the notepad flutter briefly in the wind while he scribbles something down, every inch of space covered in lines of black ink. Deku tries to get a look at them, but before he can, he’s being given a torn off piece of paper.
“Here,” the leader says, violet hair falling over the bridge of his nose. The sweeps of ash under his eyes seem to be dark circles, contrary to what Deku originally thought was eyeshadow. “If it’ll get you to update your wardrobe, I’ll show you around.”
Deku is too astonished to speak, staring at the piece of paper in his hand like it was his key to the universe. There’s an address written at the top, along with a date and time.
Before Deku can thank him, the leader has joined his crew again, who have now all gotten up to leave. They eye Deku with something like bewilderment as the leader answers their hushed questions and concerns. He turns back to Deku with a tired smirk. “See you Saturday, fashion student.”
“Wait, what’s your…” His voice trails off as they move out of earshot and into the throngs of people milling past them. A slight breeze flutters the paper in his hand enough to grab his attention, and a bemused smile lights up his face at the scrawl of black filling the page that answers the question for him:
Call me Shinsou.
Deku taps his foot against the ground, hands shoved in the pockets of his windbreaker to keep him from glancing at the time. He’s early. Deku knows he’s early, because he knew they were supposed to meet at 11:00 in the morning, and he didn’t know the area that well, so he knew he might get lost on the way there, and the train to Harajuku could have been delayed and he knew he needed to eat a proper breakfast that morning because they’d be walking, and he might have overslept because he found it hard to sleep from nerves, so really the safest bet was to set an alarm for 7:30 a.m. just in case.
Besides, Shinsou doesn’t have to necessarily know that he’s been here since 10 a.m. just to be on the safe side. There was plenty to look at to pass the time, anyway.
For someone who went to school specifically for designing clothes, this is a paradise he is horribly sorry he hadn’t ventured until now. Acid-washed jeans torn to shreds, oversized jackets with pops of bright color, sleek berets and trench coats by those who were following the French Casual trend, and Deku felt a spark of recognition when he spotted passerby wearing the iconic logo of the new brand GOODENOUGH. Truly this was a trove of inspiration for current fashion and fashion to come. He spent the first half-hour jotting down notes in his pocket notebook until he had three entire pages filled, but now that it’s getting closer to the hour, he’s too jittery to focus.
He hopes beyond hope that his outfit for today is stylish enough for Shinsou’s tastes, but to be fair, it’s not like he had a lot to work with. He never goes far without his favorite sneakers and his windbreaker, but the only jeans he has are plain blue, stained not with stylish washes but with grass and a couple drops of paint from helping his mom redecorate. That’s what this meet-up is for, though, right? To update his clothes?
Deku knows there’s a chance that this was all an elaborate prank and he was being stood up right at this very moment, although Shinsou didn’t seem like the type of person to do such a thing. Nothing about Shinsou, from the way he dressed to his frank manner of speaking, read as insincere.
“There you are, fashion student.”
Deku whips around to the sound of Shinsou’s voice and all at once feels his breath catch at his proximity seemingly from nowhere. He takes a tiny step back and masks it as a surprised stumble.
Shinsou’s mouth twists and it takes Deku a second to realize that he’s holding back a smile at Deku’s overreaction. “It’s Midoriya, right?”
“Hi! Yes, it’s Midoriya,” Deku says, fidgeting with his hands, his face flushing from embarrassment. “Sorry, you kind of scared me.”
Shinsou laughs softly, the sound like a deep rumble, and rubs the back of his neck awkwardly, almost like a nervous tic. “I get that a lot.”
“Oh,” Deku responds, terrified that he already messed up. How did he manage to pull that off in less than ten seconds? “I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—”
“I know you didn’t,” Shinsou eases, putting up both hands placatingly. Both of them are covered in fingerless black gloves. “Relax, okay?”
Deku nods after a beat, finding himself smiling as he follows Shinsou’s advice. He lets his eyes wander over the rest of Shinsou’s outfit for the day. His jean jacket is back from yesterday—Deku is comforted by the fact that he’s not the only one with a familiar hero piece—and a black t-shirt with a red outlined man against a blue background, the name of an American band at the top. The jeans he has on are grey and, well, distressed is too kind a word for them. A large hole starts from the middle of his left thigh and extends past his knee, with plaid fabric stitched across as a more eclectic alternative to patching up the tear. There’s another hole on the right leg that isn’t patched up with anything, exposing a pale, bruised knee.
Doc Martens lay at the bottom of his jeans, solid black save for the painted white kanji on the outside of both of them. Deku tries to read them as inconspicuously as he can, but Shinsou seems to catch on to what he’s doing and gives him a closer look, lifting the right foot towards him.
“The right boot says ‘mind,’” he explains flatly, setting his right foot down and lifting the left one, “and the left boot says ‘control.’”
“Wow,” Deku exclaims, “that’s so cool! You look really amazing!”
The bridge of Shinsou’s nose flushes pink, his gaze averted, and Deku reconsiders his life and the choices that led to saying something so mortifying. “ Your outfit, I mean! Not—not that you don’t look good, I just—”
Shinsou does the thing that he did yesterday on the steps, where he hides his laugh behind the back of his semi-gloved hand. It’s incredibly endearing, but Deku refuses to focus on that fact for too long. “You’re not too bad yourself, windbreaker. Now did you want help finding some clothes, or what?”
There’s a beat where Deku forgets to respond, momentarily distracted by the sudden frantic beating of his heart, but after a moment he nods earnestly and chalks the palpitation up to a random fluke. “Yes! Please, I need all the help I can get!”
Shinsou takes Deku from store to store, squeezing down seemingly hidden alleyways and side streets with the ease of someone who’s done it dozens of times before, like he has his own personal roadmap stitched into his memory. Deku’s entire notebook is filled to the brim by the afternoon with countless different stores, tips, and styles to try, and he curses himself for not bringing his regular journal like he thought about doing this morning.
Deku eyes himself in the mirror adorning the clothes that Shinsou helped him pick out, some dark, worn jeans—more straight-legged than he’s used to—with the cuffs rolled up after Shinsou noticed Deku’s shoes drowning underneath them. His windbreaker hangs on the clothes rack next to him, but his pale yellow t-shirt with a faded mountain graphic remains since Shinsou said it looked nice, which made Deku feel about 100 different things that he didn’t wish to dwell on.
“So,” Shinsou asks, his gaze flicking up and down Deku’s figure in the reflection, “how do they feel?”
He flushes a little at the attention, but smiles in approval. “They’re nice! They feel… lived in, but in a good way.”
Shinsou gives an affirming nod, hand to his chin in thought. Looking around the shop, he finds a red plaid flannel faded to the color of dusk-lit sand. He hands it to Deku expectantly. “Try this on, too. It’ll go with your shoes.”
Deku blinks in quiet surprise, but takes the flannel, the fabric soft and cozy in his hands. “You don’t think the shoes look weird with the rest of the outfit?”
Shinsou shakes his head. “The idea isn’t to dress how other people dress, it’s to show who you are and what you want to say, even if it’s pushing back against the norm. Besides,” his gaze wanders to Deku’s sneakers and a secret little smile forms at the corners of his mouth, “they suit you, so they should stay.”
“O-oh. Good.” His heartbeat stutters and thunders in his ears, and Deku understands rather quickly that this is, in fact, not a random fluke this time. The mirror they’re in front of also makes it exceedingly difficult to hide the flush spreading across his face, so Deku has no choice but to roll with it and hope Shinsou isn’t freaked out.
There’s a pause between them that makes Deku turn his head, not realizing that the mirror betrayed just how close Shinsou was standing. Deku can see pale freckles across the bridge of his nose, dusted by stray strands of hair the color of storm clouds. They’re not nearly as visible or as numerous as his own, but still incredibly pretty.
“Come on,” Shinsou says, more softly than Deku thinks he meant to, still very close, “we’ve still got ground to cover if you want more than one pair of jeans.”
“Does your mom make clothes for you a lot?”
They walk side by side towards the entrance of Takeshita Street, bags in hand, cool in the shade now that the sun wasn’t directly overhead. It takes an embarrassingly long time for Deku to register that Shinsou asked him a question, lost in the light daydream he entered when Shinsou tugged on the sleeve of his windbreaker to ask it.
His nails are painted black, oh god, I even like the fact that his nails are black.
He gathers himself the best he can and laughs awkwardly. “Oh, uh, not all the time, but for birthdays and holidays and stuff.” Deku tugs on the front of his windbreaker to reference it. “My mom made this for me when I got into my first choice high school. When people in our apartment complex found out that she made my jacket, she started getting so many requests for clothes that she had to start a waitlist!”
That rumbling, warm laugh that makes Deku think of thunder sounds next to him. “Your mom sounds pretty cool.”
Deku toys with the zipper of his jacket, smiling fondly. “Yeah, she is. She’s the main reason I wanted to study apparel design. What about you?” Deku asks, realizing just how little he knows about the boy next to him, “are you in school?”
There’s a flicker of apprehension in Shinsou’s expression, nervous tic reappearing when he places his hand to his neck. “Uh, no, I, um—” he lowers his voice to a mutter, “—dropped out.”
“Oh,” Deku says, doing his best to keep his tone light and free of judgement. It doesn’t bother him, but he’s just never met someone who actually dropped out of school. He thought that only happened in movies, with rebels who liked to smoke cigarettes in the school bathroom. Instead of probing, he decides to steer the conversation in a slightly different direction. “So what do you want to do instead?”
Shinsou seems surprised by the question, scratching his head shyly. “...Actually, I want to be a singer in a band.”
And suddenly, the pages of Shinsou’s notepad covered in lines and lines of writing start to make sense. “Oh! So those were lyrics I saw yesterday in your notepad! Do you write your own songs?”
Shinsou stops, face void of all the safeguards that usually keep his expression neutral. “...Yeah.” He pauses, mouth moving slightly like he’s working around what he wants to ask. “You don’t… think it’s dumb?”
Deku tilts his head to the side, genuinely confused. “No, why would I?”
He gets a small shrug in return, but Deku has a sneaking suspicion that Shinsou has been criticized for admitting that fact before. Deku can’t imagine who would criticize Shinsou’s ambitions, all he knows is that he wants nothing to do with them.
Shinsou nods toward their initial rendezvous point, hands in his pockets. “Your stop, Midoriya.”
Deku likes the way his name sounds coming from Shinsou’s voice, the warmth spreading in his chest evidence enough. It sounds like a lullaby with almost no effort. “Thank you for all the help. I had a really good time!”
It may just have been the afternoon light, but Deku swears he can see a growing blush on Shinsou’s face. “Feeling’s mutual,” he mutters, a crooked smile on his lips.
Shinsou lifts a hand in goodbye and turns to leave, and before Deku can think twice about it, he decides to be brave for just a little longer.
Shinsou turns halfway around, eyebrows raised in question.
“I’ve been meaning to find new music to listen to. Think you could help me? Maybe… next Saturday, same time?” Deku asks, a hopeful inflection to his words.
And to that, Shinsou grins, his heart briefly shown on his sleeve. “It’s a date.”