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A Challenger Appears

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Practically half a millisecond. That’s the delay- the unforgivable distance of time- that was uselessly taken up before what was definitely Bakugou’s slipped from his fingers.



The boxed Pro Hero Deku figurine was placed in the crook of some dirty punk’s arm, hustling it close to his body. Bakugou’s eye twitched; deep breaths, deep breaths, like his therapist instructed him.

 

“Hey. That’s mine.” There had to be some calm and rational way to diffuse the situation, he insisted to himself. He already received a stern talking-to from Aizawa (who, by the way, has no authority to do that anymore, but still does?) from the last slugfest he roped himself into with a civilian.

 

“Bakugou. Nice seeing you here.”



He squinted, eyeing the stranger up and down- taking a few moments to acknowledge his stupid hat- and then the UA uniform, lapels crisp against the teen’s chest. “Do I know you?”

 

The extra just huffed through his nose, clearly unimpressed. “I called it the summer of Taken 4: Camp Edition.”

 

“Mandalay’s brat.” Bakugou spat from behind his teeth, schooling his face into something that resembled a not-threat. He nodded to Kota’s uniform, “UA. Nice.”



“Yep.” Kota remarked, popping the ‘p’ and swinging his weight from one foot to the other. Feet, mind you, that were sporting some pretty obnoxious red shoes- not too far off from the pair that the figurine between them was sporting.

 

Bakugou ran his tongue against his top row of teeth, attempting to come off as casual,

“So, uh, you’re a fan of that shitty nerd, huh?”



The little brat held the box between his hands, turning it towards himself before pressing it his chin. “I always knew he would be a great hero, you know”

 

It was a sickly sweet gesture, dripping with admiration and other gross fluffy sentiments that colored Bakugou’s world red.

 

“Oh really? Nothin’ special. Anyone with half a brain would know that. I did too. From since we met...” Rearing up a big blow, Katsuki grinned, “When we were 4.”

 

“Did you?”  Kota challenged, eyebrow pitched up. “And now you’re the Wonder Duo.”

 

“And now we’re the Wonder Duo.” Bakugou agreed, chin tilted up in silent defiance. Beat that.



“So you must be so used to seeing his face, then?” Kota pushed the figurine’s boxed under his armpit, angling it away from Bakugou. “So I gotta ask... why’re you here collecting his merchandise?”

 

“I never said I was collecting his merchandise.” Bakugou bit out, the highs of his cheeks coloring incriminatingly.

“The nerd… his figurine shit is important to him and he’ll get all pathetic and sad and whatever the fuck if I don’t at least pretend to care.”

 

“How noble of you.” Kota remarked dryly, not making a move to give Bakugou what is rightfully his. “You should have arrived earlier if you didn’t want to run out of stock.”

 

You should have arrived earlier.” Bakugou took a step forward, swinging his big burly weight around.



“I woke up late.” Kouta checked his nails. “Busy studying hard. I’m 5th in my class.”

 

“Cute. I was 3rd when I was your age.”

 

“So I heard. Midoriya’s really proud of me, though. Says I’m a fast learner.”



“When did he say that ?” He spits out, bitter on his tongue.

 

“We spent a lot of time before my entrance exams. We didn’t get to hang out much after that, but my first semester is ending, so I’m hoping the two of us could… catch up.”



The two of us’ , what a nasty concept; Bakugou vomited a little in his mouth.



“Tough luck, fanboy, my partner and I will be pretty busy the following weeks. Press conferences and peace accords and other pro hero duties.” Bakugou not-bragged, stepping even closer to the twerp’s space. Kota didn’t budge.

 

“Huh. I’ll have to clarify with Midoriya, then... since he already agreed to seeing that new horror movie with me this Saturday.” Kouta smiled widely- a gross bastardization of the signature Deku grin that hung in fine print all over the store.


"Hah? What the fuck are you going on about? Deku's going places with me this Saturday. Pro Hero stuff. Some shitty high schooler like you wouldn't understand." So maybe this 'pro hero stuff' was actually between himself and like 9 other individuals besides Deku- but this guy doesn't have to know that.

 

"You really enjoy talking down to me, don't you?" Kota grits his teeth, obviously on edge, but voice kept level. "Do you treat Midoriya this shitily too?"

 

"Wouldn't you like to know." Bakugou huffs.

 

"A lot of people would like to know, actually. A lot of word is going around about more... intimate aspects of your relationship with Midoriya as the Wonder Duo." Kota drums his fingers on the top of the figurine box. "I for one think that Midoriya shouldn't be seeking that kind of relationship with someone with an attitude like yours."

 

"Well it's a good thing I don't care what you think." Bakugou says as he cares deeply about what he actually thinks. He's rough along the edges, but he can be fucking sweet! He doesn't have to prove that to anyone, much less this asshole right here.

 

 

"Oh, so is Midoriya really seeking a relationship like that then?" And for the first time, there's a crack in Kota's impassive stance. Vulnerability. But also a glimmer of something excited- hopeful.

 

"I don't give a shit, but if Deku were, hypothetically, looking for a relationship," and Bakugou would be the first to know if he was, as well as the first to line up, and also suspiciously the only one alive in line. "He definitely wouldn't be trying anything with some shitty high schooler." Bakugou sneers, not even attempting to mask the distaste in his tone.

"So stick your obvious fanboy crush up someone else's ass, okay?"

 

The kid seems to consider this at first before looking Bakugou dead in the eyes, "Well in ten years when your pro hero injuries are forcing you into retirement, this shitty high schooler will have graduated med school and then it will be you versus a hot young doctor with a stable income."

 

With an air of finality, Kota shoulder-checks Bakugou while carefully holding the coveted Deku figurine in his possession.

 

"...Bitch."

.

.

 

“AHH! KACCHAN! I had all those papers organized alphabetically and everything…!”  Izuku scrambled to get on his knees.

 

“What the fuck are you up to this weekend, nerd?” Bakugou demanded, eyes absolutely not fixated on the slope of Deku’s waist.



“Well we’ll arrive from Osaka at 8AM, then get breakfast at that one place you like next to the dock, and then I was gonna visit my mom, maybe get some groceries, and then hang out with someone before we regroup with Todoroki and Uraraka for that summi-HEY!” The tips of Izuku’s fingers were saved from being crushed under Bakugou’s heel with the barest of margins.

 

Deku reached around Bakugou’s foot for a flyaway piece of paperwork before he balanced himself on his haunches like a lapping dog, “What’s wrong, Kacchan?”



“Going on a date with a kid half your age? Smarmy. Is that what your Aunt Inko taught you to be like?” He seethed, poison coating his words, betrayal peeking around the corners.

Bakugou prays Deku can see into his intentions: If you want to date, why not date within your age range? Why not date someone closer to you? Why not date an equal?



“Going on a-?! Were you listening? I’m just meeting someone up.” Izuku shuffled to stand, red in the face and placing the haphazardly-stacked pile of papers on his otherwise pristine desk.

 

Why not date me?



“That’s not what I heard from a certain someone.” Bakugou felt something coil in his gut at the thought of that Limited-Edition-Hero-Deku-Figurine-Stealing bitch. “That little twerp made it very clear to me that he’s tryna get fresh with you.”



At the words, it was like someone lit up a match behind Deku’s eyes.

His freckled skin emanates with excitement as he’s moving closer to Katsuki to hound him for information, “You saw Kota? When? How is he? He’s Class 1-A just like us! He’s so cool, isn’t he? I’m so proud! Did you know he went to me for help for the training exam? I was really nervous and I was really busy, but I could tell it meant a lot to him, and it paid off.”

 

I’m cool too, loser. ’ Katsuki refrains from saying. ‘Twice- no, a hundred times cooler.’

 

“Are you going deaf? Answer me! What the hell are you doing dating a guy like that?”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Kacchan… Kota and I are just meeting up to watch a movie and catch up. Maybe I can give him some pointers- the first year of high school is always the hardest.” Deku reigns his excitement in, seating himself at his desk to organize his reports back to their previous order.



And with that, Bakugou confirms his greatest fear: Deku is a fucking idiot. Expected, but nothing curbs over the panic that worms it’s head in Bakugou’s periphery.

The nerd may not be able to see it, but he can: the cinema dark and hushed, a lull falls over the patrons, building up to the jumpscare from some B-horror garbage. Not a lot of people go to maritime screenings of scary movies, so best believe that the pair would be pretty alone in the dark.

Izuku’s eyes glaze over and, despite being twenty-fucking-five years old, he huddles backwards into the plush of the seats. Then, oh fuck, and then that water-spitting snake shuffles closer, holds out a hand for Izuku to take- and then… and then-!

 

“You’re not going.”

 

“I’m sorry?”



Bakugou fumes, attempting to explode those scenarios from his brain internally,

“Yeah, that’s what you tell him. Tell him you’re fucking sorry because plans have changed, then you get your ass to the summit meeting early and go over the keynote cards Four-Eyes prepared for us.”



Deku pouts. Fucking pouts, like he’s 6 or something. Worse. He pouts like he’s a porcelain bust of some Grecian god of twunks. “I’m not cancelling.” Twunkules declares.



“You bet your ass you are-”

 

“We’re well-prepared, Kacchan!” Izuku reaches into his left-hand drawer and waves the aforementioned keynote cards under Bakugou’s nose, “I don’t see what the big deal is? I go to the movies with my friends all the time; what makes this one so bad?”

 

Yes, but none of those dorks ever sized me up, stole my purchases before I could purchase them, and then proceeded to communicate ‘I’m going to get a chunk of that Deku ass and you’re not’ with their eyes.



“I don’t trust him.”



“You’re kidding.” Deku notes in disbelief, returning to his files.



“Do I look like I’m kidding?” Bakugou challenges, smacking his flat palm on Deku’s table. There’s no fucking way he’ll allow these shenanigans to go any longer.

Where the fuck was he at while Deku was canoodling with some teenager on hero ethics 101? How did they study? Did they sit opposite each other in some dingy diner, passing notes? Did it get so loud and stuffy that that twerp slid himself in the same side of the booth and Deku? Did he ghost his fingers on top of Deku’s, feigning stupidity, “tell me how you got that answer again, Midoriya?” like some kind of thot?



“I see what’s going on.” Deku hummed softly, reaching over and placing a calloused palm over Bakugou’s hand.



“...You do?” Bakugou swallowed air, his hands collecting perspiration.



“I do.” Deku nodded, eyes closed, as in contemplating.

“Kota was there at your worst during summer camp and you’re embarrassed having him around. You don’t have any reason to feel insecure, Kacchan. He doesn’t see you as any lesser from what happened then; no one does. Okay?”

 

With that, Deku squeezed their hands on top of each other before resuming to the work at hand.

“But if the summit-thing really bothers you, I’ll move our get-together tomorrow instead!”




.

.



“This is war, Kirishima.” Bakugou growls, pacing back and forth, effectively further ruining Kirishima’s shitty thrift carpet at his so-called ‘bachelor pad’.

 

To be fair, only Kirishima himself calls it a ‘bachelor pad’, everyone else just calls it ‘sad’.

 

Sero once called it ‘Ejirou’s “When-Will-Ashido-Text-Me-Back” Nook” and the entire gang had to sit back and watch Kirishima drink himself into a stupor while vehemently denying that those two events had any correlation to each. He just “felt like getting black-out sloshed that night, okay, guys?”



“He’s a high schooler. You are threatening a high schooler.” Kirishima spoke from behind his hands, fingers pressed together over his lips, in what seemed like a silent prayer.

 

You don'T UNDERSTAND, SHITTY HAIR. THIS IS WAR! DID YOU SEE WHAT THE TAGS FROM HIS INSTAGRAM POST WITH DEKU WERE!? #myhero?! HE'S FUCKING DEAD!”



“Ooh, ‘Shitty Hair’. Haven’t heard that one in a while.” Kirishima noted, genuinely surprised and entirely missing the point.

 

“You just don’t get it, motherfucker! Watch! Watch as this kid worms himself into Deku’s life as leverage for his own fucking selfish gains and then wrings him dry. And think of what this will do to Pro Hero Deku’s image! Preying on an underage teen? It’ll ruin him! Ruin me by association!”

 

Ruin us. Any chances of an “us”.



“You’re crazy.”

 

“I’m protecting the fucking nerd!” Bakugou bites out, turning away to land a blow to the punching bag in the dead-fucking-center of the room. His mother would faint at the sight of such horrid interior design.

 

“Come h- Leave her alone. Dude, come here.” Kirishima fussed, patting neon-colored bean bag next to him.



“Did you just call your punching bag a ‘her’?”

 

“Let’s not change subjects, Bakubro. I think it’s time for you to tell Deku how you feel.”

 

“I did tell him how I felt about that bastard! And then what does he do? He moves their date closer! What the fuck is up with that, huh?” Bakugou hates the fucking bean bags, but considering it’s the only furniture he can place his ass on without fear of sitting on a piece of exercise equipment hidden underneath it, he allows himself to sink into the PVC pellets.

 

“I meant… how you really feel…” Kirishima started patiently, “Katsuki…”

Oh no, he was using that name with that voice, “If you told Midoriya that you were interested in him, maybe-”

 

“Shut the fuck up! I don’t wanna hear this spiel from you of all people!” Bakugou screeches, turning over and burrowing further into the bean bag, hoping to find an escape.

“You harrassed the extra at the information commons over the guy Mina did a magazine spread with; I don’t give a fuck what you have to say to me about dating and relationships.”

 

“That has nothing to do with the matter at hand!” Kirishima denied, the tips of his ears blending to his hair, “And I never harassed Kuroda-san for information about Cygnus, I just politely as-”

 

“Unlike Raccoon Eyes, I’m not interested.”

 

“Don’t hurt me like that, bro.”



With a few moments of silence passing between them, Katsuki actually wondered if he really did hurt his friend’s feelings, all until he felt Kirishima’s full weight envelop him from behind.

 

“GET THE FUCK OFF OF ME!”

 

“Shh… You’re lashing out because you’re scared and hurt. I get it.”

 

“THE ONLY THING YOU’LL GET IS MY FIST IN YOUR FACE IF YOU DON’T FUCK OFF.”



.

.



It fucking astounds Bakugou that Deku could still look so fresh-faced despite the hustle of the day. His suit didn’t match, though- all tired and gray. The pads at the shoulders were ill-fitting, making it look as if his biceps were a slim breadth away from ripping the seams. Hot.



“What are you smiling about, Midoriya?”

 

“Ah? Todoroki! Hey! Just got here? It’s good to see you.”

 

“...Sure.” Half-and-half nodded after a few beats. Bakugou actually saw him step inside the private room like 22 minutes ago, awkwardly hovering behind Deku and Round-Face like a loser.

Maybe a few years back, he’d give him hell for it, but since CandyCane Man over there started shacking up with Yaoyorozu and effectively crossing himself out of Bakugou’s hit list (Sero calls it “Katsuki’s Potentially Love Rivals List”), he’ll let it slide this once.



“I heard YaoMomo couldn’t make it! That’s too bad, it’s been a while since I’ve seen her.” Uraraka huffs, like a blowfish.

 

“She has an engagement with Kyouka, she told me.”

 

“Woah, wait a minute, like… plans? General casual plans? Or like…?” Uraraka makes the motion of slipping a ring into her finger. She’s a beacon of gossip nowadays.

 

“Oh. I’m not sure.” Todoroki hums thoughtfully.



He takes it back, Todoroki is definitely back on Katsuki’s Potenti- Hit List .



“Look at this cute picture Izumi sent me, Todoroki!” Deku waves his phone in front of Todoroki’s face. “He has his own friend group and everything! Kind of like us then, you know?”

 

“Who is Izumi?”

 

“Oh, I’m sorry! Kota, I mean. Do you remember him?”

 

“Yeah, he’s Mandalay’s cousin’s son. From our first year summer camp.” Uraraka supplies. She turns to Izuku with a wide, teasing smile on her bubbly face.

“Look at you, being on first-name basis with The Youths.” She nudges him and throws what could be gang signs in an effort to emphasize ‘The Youths’.



Deku just nodded, “He was really adamant about it too. He must really want us to be close; I’m super flattered he wants to get to know me better! I feel like I’m being interviewed sometime- but I think it’s sweet.”

 

“Oh, like what does he ask?” Ochako muses, picking off the row of pastries they had laid out on the table next to them.

 

“Well, he asked me if I had a preference on which direction I swing! No one asked me that before, you know? And I never really thought about it. I usually go with my right hand, being right-handed and all, but I am thinking that I am getting too predictable with my opening attack. What do you think?”

 

Todoroki nodded, ever clueless, “I’ve always thought you swung both ways equally. Or at least I never noticed you favored your right. But predictability is a factor you should consider taking more seriously. Iida sent me this essay last week someone made on the probability if I will use fire or ice as my opening. There was a lot of things I hadn’t realized about myself.”



Uraraka blinked between the both of them, transfixed and in a daze, but mostly stifling laughter.

 

Bakugou wished he could take such matters as equally light.