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Don't Ask Don't Tell

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The first time Ochako uses her quirk on Bakugo, he blasts himself through a building.

It happens during a multi-person sparring bout, when Bakugo’s attention is on someone else and he doesn’t see Ochako coming. She taps Bakugo midway through one of his firepowered acrobat moves, and the shift in his gravitational weight turns him from an artillery shell to a hollow bullet. He shoots wildly through the air, tearing through the nearest building by blasting walls into rubble to stop himself from being slammed at them like eggs on a front door.

It’s a move that would devastate a structure in the real world, perhaps even cause casualties. So after Bakugo takes out concrete floors like an air rifle takes out a doll house, the whole class exercise stalls for a moment, student and teacher alike staring in ‘did that just happen’ silence at the hole Bakugo left behind.

“Uh… release.”

A chunk of concrete drops from the entry point, thunking onto the edge of a shattered wall, then drops several floors and breaks into two smaller hunks on impact with the ground. Ochako feels the static in the air as the entire class, herself included, stares goggle-eyed after Bakugo with fearful surprise. Even Aizawa seems slightly more awake than usual.

When Bakugo comes back, the surly stomping of combat boots one after the other as he returns by foot a distance he crossed in a matter of seconds in the air, Ochako thinks, for a moment, that this might be how she dies. It’s not a totally rational thought, but there is an air around Bakugo that snaps like flammable gas about to ignite. It makes anything feel possible in the heat of the moment – and boy, does Bakugo give off heat.

“Hey, dude, are you-” Kirishima doesn’t get any further through the tentative inquiry, as Bakugo strides straight past him and stops what feels like an inch in front of Ochako.

Bakugo’s not the tallest in their class, but he’s certainly wide enough on top to make Ochako feel sufficiently small. Especially when he just stands there, dead in front of her, with a sooty layer of exploded-building dust coating him and an utterly unreadable glare.

“Uh… sorry?” Ochako tries on a hunch, in the unlikely case that’s what Bakugo is looking for. It isn’t.

Bakugo’s nose wrinkles, red eyes shuttered until they’re almost slits. “What?” His mouth remains open after he speaks, pulled into something not quite a snarl. He’s – and Ochako could be wrong, but this is the voice that comes straight from her gut – she thinks he’s confused.

“Because…” is as far as Ochako gets in saying something that would have probably ended, “I just made you blow yourself through a building like a human cannonball,” but Bakugo knows what he did.

In the middle of an increasingly awkward pause, Aizawa decides to take back the reins of his class. “Focus is key to retaining control in the field, especially during battles with multiple opponents and allies, where you are required to be aware of everyone in the combat zone whether you’re engaged with them or not-”

Ochako jumps on the opportunity to tag herself out of the conversation, staring at Aizawa with a look of cartoonish studiousness until Bakugo begrudgingly takes a step back.

Though Aizawa has eyed Bakugo for injuries and fires Ochako a ‘you know what you did’ look when their eyes meet during the lesson, their teacher doesn’t actually say anything, merely continues the class as if nothing has happened. It would have been nothing, if not for Bakugo becoming newly devoted to the cause of fixing a heat-lamp stare on Ochako for the entire rest of the class.

It doesn’t take long for their classmates to pick up on the one-way staring match, and Ochako actually starts blushing when one particularly inescapable gaze hits the two-minute mark. This is why she has a hot “take a picture, it’ll last longer,” sitting on the tip on her tongue, or some other aside to get him to stop looking at her like when the lesson finally draws to a close, and yes, Bakugo is still staring at Ochako like he’s never seen a girl before.

Pretty much as expected, Bakugo returns to being a wall constructed suddenly and very directly in front of Ochako. Their classmates pretend not to watch and do a very poor job of it.

“Hey,” Bakugo says like he starts conversations with Ochako all the time. Which, given how often she’s in the vicinity of Deku is – not a lot. “Can you do that again?”

All of the responses Ochako had prepared for Bakugo speedily eject out the side of her head, leaving her without filters in place for what she says next. “Do what?”

“Use your quirk on me.” On the full spectrum of disgruntled Baku-emotions, Bakugo seems to be hanging around impatience more than outright irritation. As if he can’t get what’s so difficult for Ochako to understand about this.

“You want me to use my quirk on you?”

He shifts a point closer to annoyance. “What did I just say?”

“No! I– sure I can.” Ochako’s hands wave in front of her like an attempt to assuage the temper of a lion with a leg of lamb. “You mean, like, right now?”

A look flashes across Bakugo’s face like he’s thinking this was all a terrible idea. Ochako doesn’t blame him. “Not now,” he snaps, eyes darting for a moment to the cluster of familiar suspects waiting around for Bakugo before heading to the next lesson. “You really are an airhead.”

“Hey!” Ochako zips up a hand to point scoldingly in Bakugo’s face, her arms moving before her airhead brain can advise her that it’s a poor idea. Not that she’s really scared of Bakugo. Ochako knows he wouldn’t hurt someone purely out of anger – he’s better than that. But knowing the cranky doberman wouldn’t bite didn’t mean it was a smart idea to get into its face and start barking.

Ochako forgets what she's about to scold Bakugo for when the full intensity of his stare zones in on her alone. She has never met anyone with such a stone cold look at any distance. Bakugo could glare at a national level. However, after enough exposure, Ochako has figured out some of the nuances. Bakugo’s default scowl could be applied to anything from a line at the water fountain to a broken pencil lead, but the one he levels at her right now is different. It’s not resentful, just… frustrated?

Bakugo also doesn't like to be kept waiting, so when he snaps, “Just meet me here after school, okay?” Ochako treats it as more normal than it is.

“Oh! Sure, okay,” she replies on auto-pilot, some little Ochako in her head merrily slamming buttons with the heartfelt belief that a new friend was going to be made.

Lil’ Ochako has nice dreams, but they’re probably a long way off going by the way Bakugo snorts, a derisive 'tch' sound before walking away.

It’s only after he’s gone that Ochako realises she agreed to meet up with Bakugo after school because he asked and she said yes. She checks up at the sky, just in case there are any flocks of pigs flying by, then gives a shrug and catches up with the class.

~~~

The peculiarity of the arrangement Ochako has made with the most volatile member of her class grows on her throughout the day.

It could even be said that by the end of their lessons, Ochako has come to seriously doubt herself in just about every capacity. She entertains the possibility she’s misremembered, because there’s surely no way Bakugo could want to meet her after school for some business about her quirk.

Yet when Ochako arrives at the training area he’s already there. She’s wearing her field uniform, not knowing what to expect but suspecting her Hero costume would be overkill. Bakugo isn’t wearing his costume either, but has found time to change into well-worn workout clothes and started without her. He's at the warm end warming up when Ochako gets to him.

“Took you long enough,” Bakugo grumbles, folded over with his right hand on his left leg and twisting to look at her like he’s striking some bizarre intimidation tactic.

“If you’re going to be fussy right off the bat then I’ll just go.” Ochako surprises herself a little with just how bold she comes off, but it feels necessary.

Bakugo is fogged with that air of unapproachability, but when Ochako looks closely most of what she sees is no more than what he is. There’s no shortage on hot-headed, moody teenagers even among the ranks of UA’s Hero programme. Even if Bakugo is a particularly exceptional example, he is – in a fashion – exactly what he says on the tin. A tin that is currently glaring at her for waving around a can opener.

“Don't.” One word is enough to quash any thoughts Ochako has about walking away. Bakugo mirrors the stretch on the other side, facing away. “But you don’t have to be a bitch about it.”

This too, is a grumble, and one that might have bothered Ochako on another occasion. But right now she feels it’s Bakugo compensating for the fact that he’s as good as admitted that he wants her to be here. It’s enough to stay just to witness anyone as accomplished as Bakugo openly wanting something from  a classmate so profoundly average by comparison. Ochako is dying to know what the fire and fury juggernaut could have come up with that he wants her for.

“You’re the one who invited me.” Ochako pops her hands on her hips and gives back to Bakugo as good as she gets, not to be deterred by his garden variety attitude problem. “So what is it you want with my quirk?”

Bakugo straightens up and shakes out his arms out of the stretch. He’s never had a tone of voice that harks to anything lighthearted or even neutral, but even this sounds more serious than usual. “I want you to make me fly.”

Not doing the best at seeming a reliable person to work with, Ochako's response is a bemused, “What?”

“That’s what you do, isn’t it?” Bakugo spits. “You sent me through that fucking building because I went from having to account for my weight to having none.” His narrow, sunset eyes slip down over her face. “I want you to do it again.”

Still about ten paces behind her more put-together and ordered of thoughts, Ochako gives a distinctly chirpy, “Really?”

Bakugo rolls his eyes, which in the context of his micro-range of expressions constitutes a rather overdramatic gesture. “Forget it.”

“No! Wait! I can-” Ochako lunges forward with a hand outstretched, only for Bakugo to pull away like a cat determined not to be pet.

“When I’m ready!” he snaps. “Not whenever you goddam feel like.” The first – and only– time Ochako used her quirk on Bakugo was luck more than skill, though she’s still counting it among her successes.

“Oops, sorry.” Ochako whips her hand up to the back of her head. “Guess I got overexcited.”

“You’re such a weirdo,” Bakugo says with the complete and utter confidence that he says most things. Ochako finds herself oddly compelled to agree with him on that basis alone.

“Then I guess you’re someone who wants to hang out with a weirdo.” Ochako would wonder what on earth she was thinking given time to reflect on this line of reasoning, but in the moment it feels like an uncontested victory by merit of the provable truth that Bakugo is still here.

“This is training, not hanging out, ” Bakugo says with the gentleness of a long ride down a rocky hill in a car with no suspension.

“Wh- really?” Ochako hears herself doing the chirpy thing again, but seems powerless to stop it.

Bakugo gives her what might be the most annoyed and cross look yet, a proverbial ‘I can’t believe this’ glare-scowl that unconsciously tilts his head a little to one side. “Are you for real?”

“Well… to what do I owe the honour?” Ochako sounds a little more sarcastic than a sensible person would be around Bakugo, but he doesn’t train with just anyone.

In fact Bakugo makes rather a point of telling anyone he thinks is a waste of time to train with exactly that, usually to their face and in front of a group of their peers, so Ochako is pretty surprised to find she’s getting the other side of the record. It’s not that she doubts herself or anything, but there are still just a handful of people Bakugo would make time for like this.

Whether Bakugo realises that or not is unclear, because all he says is a muted, “Piss off.”

“Look, do you want my help or not?” Ochako isn’t quite petulant, but comes off stubborn at least. Bakugo doesn’t deal with subtleties, so Ochako feels she must abandon them at the door too.

Bakugo’s eyes have settled on a point at the ground in front of Ochako’s shoes, like he can turn it into magma with a hard enough stare. “Yeah.”

Ochako knows what an achievement this is – for Bakugo to be able to admit, to someone, there is something he wants from them and can’t do for himself. Granted, use of her quirk is a relatively easy thing to fess up to, but Ochako is sure that a year ago, even six months ago, Bakugo would have probably rather bitten off his tongue. Too bad it isn't enough.

“Then you’re going to have to talk to me in full sentences,” Ochako challenges, and watches the scowl twisting Bakugo’s face. Not for anything personal, or at least Ochako doesn’t think so. Bakugo just really hates being told what to do.

“I want you to use your quirk on me again, so I can do what happened earlier today on purpose.” When Bakugo sticks out a hand, Ochako can see the sheen of explosive sweat in the deeper lines of his palm. “So quit your yapping and do it already.”

“Okay.” Ochako’s fingers stop barely a centimeter above Bakugo’s, hesitating like a stuck pulley. “Wait… are you sure this is okay?” Bakugo makes a frustrated sound, too hoarse to be anything verbal. “I mean with the teachers!” Ochako’s voice pitches up again. “Are we even allowed to be here? I don’t wanna get in trouble!”

“Neither do I!” Bakugo’s voice takes on that familiar rasp as his temper sparks. But sparks are nothing special, and quickly he settles again. “Aizawa told me it was fine.”

“He did?” When she thinks about it, Ochako can imagine reasons why their teacher might give Bakugo permission for something like this. For a student frequently at the top of the class, if not not the entire year, Bakugo doesn’t exactly fall over himself to work with others. Ochako might still have to pinch herself to be sure she’s really who he picked.

Bakugo might be questioning that decision himself right now, annoyance flowing out of him like an angry container of dry ice. “You’re doing my head in here, round-face.”

“I just have one more question.” Bakugo doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t need to. An irritated sound tears out of the back of his throat like a rusty saw through lumber, and it conveys his opinion of Ochako’s stalling just fine. “Well, how are you going to get back down?”

Now Bakugo’s frustration takes the form of words again – or just about, with a guttural noise that comes out sounding something like, “What?”

“My quirk lets you go up,” she goes quickly, not needing to patronise Bakugo and happening to know it’s a very good idea not to, “but until I release it there’s no coming back down.”

“I’ll handle it,” Bakugo replies, and coaxes his open fingers. “Hurry up.”

“No.” Only after she says it does Ochako realise how much force has slipped into her tone. It feels necessary, when dealing with Bakugo, to be as plain and direct as possible. And he glares at her, sure, but he’s also waiting for her to finish. “We should agree on a signal for when you want me to release you.”

The corner of Bakugo’s upper lip lifts in a really awful attempt at a smile, or a passable one at a snarl. “How about, put me down before I kill you?”

Ochako sets a finger to her lips thoughtfully, then shakes her head. “No, that’s far too long.”

This seems to perplex Bakugo more than it should, but Ochako has a hunch he’s puzzled by her lack of response to his school-yard antagonism. Most students at UA are smart enough to avoid the intimidating pressure of the ever-raging Baku-aura, but all the narrowing of Bakugo’s eyes at Ochako achieves is making her wonder why he’s so committed to keeping people away.

“Fine.” Bakugo’s mouth is a tight line, and he’s withdrawn his hand to ball them both into fists, all the muscles – and there’s a lot of muscles – in his arms tensing and untensing on a loop. “I’ll tell you to drop it.” He unclenches his fist again. “How’s that?”

“Much better.” Ochako smiles at Bakugo, but his stonefaced expression gently reminds her what happens to people who test his patience. She holds out her hand flat to him, palm-up with her fingers spread loosely. “Ready when you are.”

Bakugo lays his hand in Ochako’s with a strange amount of gravitas, making sure to touch all the pads on her fingers. For a moment the weight of Bakugo’s hand on top of hers is all Ochako can focus on. Then she remembers who she’s with and for what purpose. So without further delay Ochako activates her quirk, and watches as Bakugo slowly starts to lift from the ground.

Bakugo gives Ochako a solid piece of advice the moment before it’s too late. “Get out of the way.”