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How To Succeed In Romance Without Really Trying

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[now]

“U-um,” Midoriya says, approaching Shouta’s desk after class has been dismissed. His hands fidget, fidget, fidget in front of him, twisting into improbable shapes that look frankly uncomfortable. Shouta gets tired just looking at them. “Aizawa-sensei?”

Shouta wishes briefly for the sweet embrace of death. No such luck.

“Yes,” he says. Maybe if he keeps his voice as flat as possible, Midoriya will get the hint and go away. “What is it.”

Midoriya squints at him. Shouta feels vaguely offended. He’s had people squint judgmentally before -- it happens all the time, actually -- but his students should be used to him by now. Midoriya in particular has no leg to stand on in the judgement department, his life is even more of a disaster than Shouta’s.

Midoriya opens his mouth--

 

*

[then]

All Might hisses a breath between his teeth. His fight with this villain is getting out of hand: the street pavement hisses faintly, harsh fumes escaping from the acid pooling in the cracks and potholes, and his last dodge has the old brick of a nearby building starting to bubble.

The villain spits, and All Might claps his hands together sharply. The shockwave destabilizes the gout of acid so it goes splashing mostly-harmlessly onto the street.

He has to finish this quickly, but any sort of smash guaranteed to take out the villain will also damage the apartments on either side of the narrow street. Perhaps if he gets in close and punches up, he can--

Another gout. This time All Might jumps straight over it, aiming to land behind the villain. There is about a two-second window in between the acid sprays when the villain has to breathe; this is the opening All Might aims for. If the villain has to turn to face All Might, he should have time to get in a good punch.

He miscalculates; the villain can take smaller breaths to spit out proportionally smaller acid streams. As All Might sails over the villain’s head, he sees the villain purse their lips and push out their cheeks, and he winces as he brings his arms forward to block his face. This is going to hurt.

Only surprisingly, nothing happens. The villain looks as shocked as All Might feels, but despite his astonishment All Might prepares to take advantage of the opportunity.

“Stop right there,” somebody says. All Might ignores it, too deep in the zone to really pay attention, but then what look like bandages fly out and wrap around the villain, trapping their arms against their sides. All Might blinks, touches down, and follows the bandages back to a young man with a grocery bag spilled open at his feet, his hair levitated over his head and red eyes focused in a glare.

“All Might,” the probably-off-duty-hero says, not looking at him. “If you could knock him out, that would be appreciated.”

All Might blinks again, but what the young man asks -- is he asking? His tone is incredibly flat -- is reasonable, and All Might is right in position. He blurs forward and executes a delicate chop to the villain’s neck, knocking them out instantly, then catches them and unravels the bandages too fast for the eye to see before slinging the villain over his shoulder.

“Thank you!” All Might says, grinning. The man closes his eyes, hair falling down in tangles over his face and shoulders. He stays that way as All Might walks forward, winding the bandages over his fist as he gets closer to keep them off the ground. Now that he has the time to notice, he realizes that the feel of what he thought were bandages is actually more akin to a soft wool, like a scarf. It must be decently strong to restrain a villain, though, and All Might puts another tick in the ‘probably a hero’ column. “You saved me from injury, friend.”

The young man sighs through his nose, eyes still closed. “You’re welcome. You should take that villain to the police station.”

“Not before I thank you!” All Might poses even though the other man can’t see. “What is your name, young hero?”

This gets All Might one eye -- black, he notes, so the young hero must have an eye-based quirk -- slitted open in something that can’t quite be called a glare. All Might grins harder in automatically placating reaction.

“Aizawa,” the man says, and All Might blinks. He expected-- “Ah, I mean, Eraserhead.”

“Nice to meet you, Eraserhead!” All Might beams. “If you hadn’t been here, I’d have my skin dissolved off for sure!”

Aizawa blinks his other eye open, completely unimpressed. “Yeah,” he says. “Good thing I was out getting groceries.”

“Oh,” All Might says. He looks down at the packets of ramen surrounding Aizawa’s feet. “My apologies for that.”

He leans down to gather them all up in their cloth bag -- what a responsible young hero, also conscious of the environment -- and hands it over with a smile.

“Let me take you out for a meal in thanks after I drop this person off,” he suggest impulsively. Eating all that cup ramen can’t be healthy, and fighting villains burns a lot of energy. He also remembers how it was in the early days, when nobody knew his name and he lived paycheck to paycheck debating whether fresh vegetables were worth less food overall. “It’s the least I can do.”

“Ah,” Aizawa says. He glances at All Might’s face and then back at his hand before taking the grocery bag. “No thanks. Not to offend, but I don’t really like to be in the spotlight.”

“In civilian dress, then,” All Might persists. “I can be subtle.”

“Nn,” Aizawa says. All Might gives his best pleading grin, and the younger man closes his eyes again and slumps. “Fine.”

All Might grins bigger, shakes Aizawa’s hand, and bounds off to hand over the villain to the police. This day is turning out a lot better than he expected.

*

Two days later Toshinori shows up at a Korean BBQ restaurant in a t-shirt and jeans, his most American jacket that doesn’t actually have a flag on it, and a baseball cap tilted at a rakish angle to help hide his signature bangs. Aizawa takes one look at him and freezes.

“You can’t be serious,” he blurts out in possibly the first true emotion Toshinori has seen him express.

“I tend to stand out,” Toshinori says, amused. His lips quirk, but no more. He tries not to smile too widely in civilian persona, since it’s pretty much his most recognizable facial expression; everything else is easy enough to hide. “When people see a big American tourist, they tend to stop looking.”

Aizawa pauses. “That’s… not unreasonable,” he says grudgingly. “All right. Fine. Let’s go.”

They enter the restaurant. Toshinori’s height makes him more than noticeable, so they get seated right away. Toshinori tells Aizawa order so his voice and fluency don’t call attention to him.

“Please just get one of everything,” he tells Aizawa. “I eat a lot, and that way you can have whatever you like.”

“I thought the goal was to not draw attention to yourself,” Aizawa says. His eyes are little wide, though; he must be wondering if Toshinori really can eat his way through the whole menu.

“True,” Toshinori shrugs. “Then get what you want and triple it for myself. If we have anything left over we can always take it home. And please,” he adds, deliberately like an afterthought, “I’m paying.”

“Oh no,” Aizawa’s grin is wolfish. “I’m fine with ordering the entire menu, but I’ll get the drinks.” It’s not particularly challenging, but Toshinori can hear the pride lurking underneath. He doesn’t want to prod it out into prickly spines, so he agrees.

“I don’t drink much though,” he warns. “So get something light for me, please.”

“Hm.” Aizawa runs his finger down the menu, eyes darting here and there. “There’s fruit beer.”

“Oh?” Toshinori perks up. He’d tried some peach beer once and it had been surprisingly good. When he picks up his own menu he sees it written at the bottom. “I’ll have one of this, then.”

“All right.” Aizawa goes back to perusing his own menu.

Service is fast this early; they’ve made it right before the dinner rush. A waiter comes by to light their grill, take their orders, and hand them their beginning dishes, which Toshinori falls upon with delight. He goes straight for the pickled daikon and the sweet glass noodles, while Aizawa opts for the kimchi and potatoes. They make a good pair. Between them there’s nothing they won’t eat.

Aizawa is a quiet man, Toshinori realizes quickly. He rarely initiates conversation, although he’ll respond easily enough when posed a question or conversational gambit, and it’s clear he’s used to being around people; he’s not awkward. After a few back and forths about hero work and hobbies they fall into a comfortable silence.

Well, comfortable on Toshinori’s side, at least. Aizawa seems to have taken to darting glances at him in between sips of cold barley tea. This isn’t an unusual reaction to people who first meet Toshinori in civilian dress -- he comes off as so bombastic, so over-the-top as All Might, that they can’t quite recalibrate their minds to the fact that Toshinori is actually perfectly comfortable with silence. He may be very outgoing, but he likes quiet time as much as anybody.

In the end Aizawa speaks with a bluntness Toshinori has started to expect from him. “You’re different than I expected.”

“Oh?” Toshinori teases, but relents quickly. “Yes, I get that often. My public persona is quite different.”

“I like this you better.” Aizawa blinks lazily at him. “You’re much more real.”

Toshinori feels heat rise in his ears. He’s not used to such sincere compliments, not about this. Not in his private life.

“Thank you,” he coughs, and gulps a mouthful of beer to give his hands something to do. “It’s relatively rare that people get to know me like this. I’m usually working.”

“Hm.” Aizawa seems to be considering something. “You’re not working now, though.”

“Nope!” Toshinori catches himself before he smiles and ducks his head. “Just having a meal with a new friend.”

Aizawa blinks at him again.

“Yes,” he echoes. “A new friend.”

Toshinori lifts his glass to seal the deal, and Aizawa’s chimes sweetly when he taps it against the rim.

 

*

[now]

Shouta falls over.

It isn’t calculated, he is legitimately so shocked he loses his balance. At least he’s in his sleeping bag. While the cushioning isn’t enough to eliminate bruising it’s definitely softer than landing directly on the floor.

He slumps there, unmoving.

“Ah!” Midoriya lets out a squeaky noise of shock. “Aizawa-sensei! A-are you all right?!”

Shouta rolls over onto his back. Midoriya hovers over him, eyes wide and worried. The fluorescent lights of the classroom hurt his eyes so he leaves them in thin slits. Like this, Midoriya looks vaguely like a blurry octopus is trying to swallow his head.

“Fine,” he says, as deadpan as he can. It still comes out more choked than he would like. “What… makes you think All Might and I would. Do that.”

“I know you were involved with him personally before, sensei.” Midoriya sounds reproachful. If anybody should be reproachful here, it’s absolutely Shouta. “I can tell he misses you, you know.”

“We’re your teachers,” Shouta tries, in a futile effort to appeal to a young teen’s natural cocktail of seething social awkwardness and inclination to cultivate adult disinterest. “Our lives outside of the classroom are not your concern.”

Midoriya’s mouth sets in the exact same way it did when he surprised Shouta on the first day’s quirk assessment. Shouta braces himself.

“I just think you should give him another chance,” Midoriya says. While the lower half of his face is mulish, his eyes are pleading. “You should let him explain!”

Shouta’s eyes squint more in a glare. “If he wants to explain anything, he should do it to my face, not hide behind a fourteen year old boy.”

Even as the words come out of his mouth he realizes he’s making a mistake. It’s only confirmed with Midoriya’s expression: dawning hope, like the first rays of light heralding burning plasma ready to scorch a man’s bone to ash.

“Oh-okay!” Midoriya says. It’s painfully obvious he’s trying to keep cool, and painfully obvious it’s not working at all. “Thank you, sensei! You won’t regret confiding in me!”

I didn’t confide anything to you. The words remain unspoken as Midoriya speeds out of the room, which is just as well. He’s embarrassed himself enough today. This doesn’t stop him from feeling intensely sorry for himself.

He probably shouldn’t, but.

He rolls over, forehead mashed into the floor, and releases a heartfelt groan from the very depths of his ribcage.