“Those two are acting kinda weird,” Midoriya says, a spoonful of rapidly-cooling curry rice halfway to his lips.
Tenya looks over his shoulder. Bakugou and Todoroki appear to be engaged in a wrestling match, right there in the middle of the cafeteria. Or an attempted homicide, maybe. Bakugou has his hands wrapped around Todoroki’s throat, grip admirably tight even though he’s being repeatedly kicked in the ribs. Neither of them seem to have made it to the actual food.
“I’m not quite sure that qualifies as weird,” he says slowly. “Weird objectively, yes, but not weird specifically for them.”
“I wonder what they’re fighting about now,” Uraraka adds from where she’s sitting on Midoriya’s right. Slyly, she steals the banana pudding cup off of Midoriya’s tray, replacing it with half her portion of tonkatsu. Midoriya doesn’t notice. “Must be something good. It’s been a while since they’ve gotten into an actual fist fight, it’s kind of refreshing.”
Tenya begs to differ. Seeing two top students from a prestigious school making a spectacle of themselves is both distasteful and alarming, and the only reason he’s not going over there to break the fight up is because this is the third time it’s happened this month. And also because he doesn’t want Bakugou to bite him again. “It’s unsightly.”
“I think it’s fun to watch. Like having lunch and a show!”
“Don’t you think it’s strange?” Midoriya turns to Tenya, spoon still hovering in front of his face but, unfortunately, forgotten. Uraraka takes a cherry tomato off his plate while he isn’t looking. “Well, maybe not for Kacchan, but since when do you see Todoroki get this riled up about anything?”
“Yesterday,” says Tenya. “You couldn’t finish your soda, and Todoroki and Bakugou argued over who got to have it. Bakugou would have flipped a table if Aizawa hadn’t come into homeroom and made you throw it away.”
“I think they’re fighting about chairs,” Uraraka says, squinting at the disaster from afar. The tables around the two have long since vacated, bystanders preferring to watch the impromptu match from a distance. Bakugou’s got Todoroki in a headlock, now, and Todoroki appears to be trying to suplex him. “Like, my lip-reading’s not the best, but that’s what it looks like.”
“See?” Midoriya gestures helplessly with his curry rice. “Why would anybody fight over chairs? It’s not like there’s not enough seating space. The cafeteria’s huge, this doesn’t make any sense.”
Tenya purses his lips. “I can’t say either of them made any sense to begin with, but I suppose it is odd for Todoroki to be acting so…Bakugou-esque.”
Uraraka’s eyes sparkle as she leans forward to watch. Her hair almost falls into her leftover curry, and Tenya absently reaches across the table to brush it away. “They’re laying claim to their territory! Establishing dominance! Each trying their best to be the alpha male!”
Tenya considers informing her that they’re not wild animals, but decides that she may not be wrong. “We don’t know that they’re fighting about chairs. They could be fighting about anything.”
“That’s the thing, they fight about everything ,” Midoriya says. His spoon finally makes it to its destination, even though it’s no doubt cold by now. Eyebrows furrowed like he’s deep in contemplation, he chews his food and hums. “I’ve never seen Todoroki act like that. And as angry as Kacchan is all the time, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him assault anyone. Except, y’know, me. But that’s in the past, he’s nice to me now. Kinda. I’d have thought he’s calmed down a little, right?”
“He clearly hasn’t,” Tenya says, watching Uraraka scrape the bottom of her dishonestly-gained pudding. “If anything, he’s even more of a menace than he was at the start of the year. His aggression hasn’t faded, it’s just been redirected.”
“But only towards Todoroki,” Midoriya says. He’s muttering it under his breath, almost, so much so that Tenya has to lean close to hear him. “And Todoroki’s retaliating. They obviously bring something out in each other.”
“Spirit. A spark.”
“An explosion, maybe,” says Tenya unhappily. “Midoriya, you’ve got that look you always have whenever you’re about to do something ill-advised. Should I be worried?”
Midoriya flaps a hand at him as though there weren’t legitimate reason for Tenya to be concerned. “When do I ever do anything ill-advised?”
“What are you gonna do?” Uraraka chimes in right before Tenya can bring out a bulleted list of all the ridiculous things Midoriya has ever done. Goading Todoroki into using his fire powers and then getting both arms broken is around the top, along with association with Bakugou in general . “This is a little different from the usual villain problem. Punching stuff won’t help, probably.”
Tapping his spoon against his mouth, Midoriya shrugs and goes back to his lunch. “There’s no reason to punch them, they’re already punching each other. I just think they’re acting out of character,” he says, and then blinks. “Where’d my pudding go?”
“You’ll figure something out,” Uraraka says suddenly, putting her arm around Midoriya’s shoulders and making him turn slightly pink. “Unravel the mystery, Izuku, you can do it!”
“There’s no mystery to unravel,” Tenya says, feeling like a mother scolding her troublesome and perpetually sticky young children. “Bakugou and Todoroki are only behaving how they always behave. Don’t go meddling, Midoriya, you know how you get when you fixate on something.”
Midoriya and Uraraka wrinkle their noses at him in unison. It’s unbearably cute, but Tenya manages not to shield his eyes in an obvious fashion. “I said I wasn’t gonna do anything crazy,” says Midoriya irritably. Tries to, anyway; on him it just sounds petulant. “Relax, I’m not completely dumb.”
“Anything involving Bakugou is sure to cause trouble,” Tenya replies. Somewhere in the background, Todoroki stabs Bakugou with a plastic fork. “Bakugou, Todoroki and you together sound like disaster.”
“I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration,” Uraraka says, forgetting for the moment that Tenya generally tends to be right about these things.
Izuku, predictably, doesn’t listen.
Not obviously, of course. He’s only watching. And thinking. Iida can’t nag at him for thinking, seeing as that’s literally what he keeps saying everyone needs to do more often.
Anyway. Present Mic is saying something about past participles that Izuku can’t really find it in himself to pay attention to, not when Kacchan is sitting right in front of him, the little hair whorl at the back of his head hypnotizing in its spiraly-ness. Izuku can see Kacchan’s laser-focused expression in the reflection of the window. He’s always been good at English. Had even offered to tutor Izuku once, although he’d managed to make it sound more like an insult than an act of kindness.
Izuku had declined, of course, because he has some survival instinct, no matter what Iida says. He doesn’t really trust Kacchan around his notebooks anymore, anyway, even if he’d never dare say that out loud.
But the offer was weird. Kacchan’s behaviour is weird. He keeps doing things. For Izuku, specifically, even though he makes sure to complain about it endlessly. He’d bought him a lollipop yesterday. And keeps holding doors open, and he insists on carrying Izuku’s bag on the way to school, which makes no sense considering Izuku has, you know. A strengthening quirk.
Kacchan highlights something in his textbook and taps his pen against his desk. He has a lot of trouble sitting still, this guy. Has ever since they were little kids, back when Kacchan would come barreling into Izuku’s house every afternoon demanding they go on some crazy toddler adventure. He’d tried to do things for Izuku back then too, little things that Izuku had trouble doing himself. Tying his shoelaces. Opening juice boxes. Remembering the way home from the playground.
And then that had turned into unpleasantness, until even that just…stopped.
The thing is, though, Izuku can remember when Kacchan stopped talking to him. Being rescued from that sludge monster by a loser like Izuku had bruised his pride and he’d cut himself off, which sort of made sense, in a weird Kacchan way.
But the favours . The favours are inexplicable, and more than a little suspicious. He might be trying to form a truce, or he might be trying lull Izuku into a false sense of security so he can break into his house and steal his kidneys.
It’s, well. Sort of nice. The truce, not the kidney-stealing. By no means are they friends, but it’s good to know that they can hold a civil conversation without beating the shit out of each other. Or Kacchan beating the shit out of Izuku, anyway.
Speaking of which. Kacchan’s caught Izuku’s eye in the reflection of the window, and he’s staring right back.
Izuku flinches and whips his gaze back to the blackboard. Kacchan’s still looking at him and it actually feels like there are pinpricks poking into the side of his skull, because Kacchan is obviously the one person in the universe capable of glaring literal daggers instead of metaphorical ones. He doesn’t seem too angry, though. Mostly he just looks confused, unsure whether or not to maintain eye contact when Izuku surreptitiously glances back the window’s direction.
Smooth, Izuku. Taking a deep breath, Izuku tries his level best to melt off his chair and into the cracks between the tiles, except Kacchan’s sort of right in front of him and he’s still watching him, god help him. This is it. This is the end of their fledgling friendship, and also maybe the end of Izuku’s life. Kacchan’s going to punch him after class. Izuku should really text his mother now to tell her he loves her.
He risks another glance. Kacchan’s looking over his shoulder but not at Izuku, thank the Buddha. Instead he’s…smiling? Smirking, more like, at some corner of the classroom. He looks really smug, although that might just be Kacchan’s face and wow Izuku should really stop staring before Kacchan catches him again, just, just turn around, Izuku, for god’s sake.
Who’s Kacchan looking at, anyway? Sneakily (he hopes), Izuku follows his gaze to the very back of the classroom.
Oh. Todoroki. Right.
There’s the other part of the puzzle. Kacchan’s got a real problem with Todoroki lately, but nobody knows why. It’s not like they’ve had a big fight, or anything. They just bicker a lot and occasionally scuffle. He’d kind of assumed it would be a natural consequence on Kacchan’s part, after what happened at the tournament, but Todoroki doesn’t seem like the type to hold a grudge.
Not that Izuku would really know. Todoroki mainly keeps to himself, even if he can be a pretty good conversationalist. Izuku doesn’t have a lifetime of experience with Todoroki, so it’s understandably a little harder to figure out what makes him tick. Daddy issues, probably. An odd sense of humour, and an unhealthy appreciation for cola. Who answers cola when someone asks about his favourite food anyway? Who, for that matter, gets into an argument over who gets to finish someone else’s leftover Pepsi?
Todoroki, that’s who. And Kacchan, but Kacchan could get into an argument about anything.
Maybe they get along in that respect, Izuku thinks, resting his chin in his palm and letting his thoughts wander. They’re both competitive and absurdly talented, and they’ve already proven to be a good match in terms of skill. Hell, they could even be friends if they’d just stop acting like children.
The sunlight streaming through the classroom window makes Kacchan’s blond hair glow angelically, even though he’s hunched over his desk like a gargoyle. He keeps sneaking glances at Todoroki, clearly willing him to look around. Slowly, he tears a bit of paper out of his notebook and crumples it into a ball, tossing it in Todoroki’s direction when Present Mic’s back is turned. It sails across the class like a mini grenade and bounces off the side of Todoroki’s head. Todoroki looks up, eyes narrowed like a testy housecat, and Kacchan flips him the bird.
Izuku sighs. They fight so often it wouldn’t even surprise him if they enjoyed it. Maybe this is their way of bonding. Like pigtail-pulling, only bloodier.
Almost like schoolyard kids with a crush.
“Oh,” says Izuku. “ Oh.”
“What the fuck are you doing?” says Kacchan, which, yeah, okay, that’s fair because Izuku kind of is standing up in the middle of class for no good reason while Present Mic is trying to teach.
“Uhm,” says Izuku, because that’s better than saying I know you have a crush on Todoroki.
Present Mic clears his throat. Izuku supposes it’s meant to be a polite way of attracting attention, but given that this is Present Mic, it sounds like someone is hacking a spitwad directly into his ear. “Did you have something to share with the class, Midoriya?”
Izuku thinks about his life choices. “I’m…very passionate about this topic.”
“Thank you,” says Present Mic dryly. He waves a piece of chalk in Izuku’s direction, and Izuku takes this as permission to sit down. Or to maybe take a flying leap out the window, except that would mean sidling past Kacchan and he’d kind of rather not do that right now. “I’ll remember that when I’m assigning you homework for today. Now open your textbooks to chapter thirty-six, we’re going to be doing the exercises on the second-to-last page.”
Forget chapter thirty-six. Izuku’s fine with melting into the tiles and staring at the back of Kacchan’s head after all, even if it means a less than stellar grade. Kacchan’s staring at his reflection in the window. Todoroki’s staring at him too, probably, because Izuku can feel the hairs rise on the back of his neck. Damn it, why are they so in sync?
He knows why. He knows because these two are a sad combination of emotionally constipated and really obvious, and it’s very likely that he’s going to be the only one who knows for a long time because it’s not like either of these boys are in a position to sit down and talk about their feelings like adults.
Unless they’re already dating. Which would be kind of bizarre.
Probably not. Izuku may not know a lot about romance, but he’s never seen a pair of lovers look at each other like that. Kacchan seems like he kind of wants to pin Todoroki down and do terrible things to him, except not in the fun way. The distinctly not-fun way. The way that results in broken bones and too many trips to the hospital.
Except it could be in the fun way, maybe, if they’d get over themselves and admit it.
The sooner the better, too. The mental image is starting to make Izuku a little uncomfortable.
Hesitantly, he reaches into his backpack and tugs out a yellow notebook. It’s new, one of those 100-yen ones that he’d never got around to using, and he’s been wondering what to do with it for a while.
Well. This is kind of like hero observation, right?
“I’ve figured it out,” says Midoriya, brandishing a bright yellow notebook as he comes running over to the front of the class.
“Oh no,” says Iida.
Ochako shushes him. Midorya’s expression is focused and bright, words tumbling over themselves in an effort to be heard instead of trying to disappear back down his throat. He doesn’t stutter, and Ochako puts her hands in her lap and gives him the most encouraging smile she has in her arsenal. “What did you figure out?”
“Why they’re fighting so often – Kacchan and Todoroki, I mean, it’s because they have, well, that’s – ah.” He cuts himself off suddenly, peeking over his shoulder to check for eavesdroppers. Nobody appears to listening in, but he drops his voice to a whisper anyway, flipping open his notebook for Ochako and Iida to look at. “See? There’s something going on between them.”
Iida squints, adjusting his glasses like that’s going to make Midoriya’s chicken scrawl any more discernible. “ Stunted emotional development ,” he reads aloud, and then frowns. “I think anyone could have told you that.”
“No, no,” Midoriya gestures vaguely and flips a few more pages. His freckles are more noticeable than they were at the start of the year, because it’s getting so hot out recently. “I meant it might explain their lack of communication, since – okay, look, you know that dumb thing kids do sometimes when they like someone? Picking fights and stuff?”
Ochako taps a finger against her chin. “Like bullying for attention, you mean?”
“Exactly! And Kacchan’s, well, no offense, he is kind of a bully. I don’t think he knows how to, uh,” Midoriya wrings his free hand, clearly unwilling to speak bluntly even about the boy who’s been tormenting him for the past ten years. Bakugou doesn’t deserve Midoriya in his life, honestly. “Kacchan doesn’t really understand how to communicate with people in a healthy way,” he finally settles on. “Like, I’m pretty sure he’s actually good friends with Kirishima, but he keeps making fun of him, you know?”
“So you think Bakugou wants to befriend Todoroki, but doesn’t know how?” Iida says.
Most of the other students have filed out of the classroom by now. Aizawa’s long-gone, seeing as he never spends more time around his students than he absolutely has to. Bakugou and Todoroki had both milled around for a bit, glancing once or twice in the trio’s direction, but even they had wandered off after a few minutes. The only ones left are Shouji and Kouda, and they’re already halfway out the door.
Ochako is glad for this, because the noise Iida makes is probably loud enough to qualify him as the new Present Mic.
“What do you mean a crush—” he manages right before Ochako can slap a hand over his mouth. He continues trying to speak, even though it’s muffled, and the sensation against her palm makes her grimace. “Mmph! Hmmph! ”
Poor Midoriya’s curled in on himself, notebook held protectively in front of his face and eyes peeking out over the top. Ochako turns her pained expression into a smile. “Oh? What makes you say that?”
Midoriya clears his throat. “It’s just a hunch,” he says quietly, relaxing slightly when Iida stops his inarticulate protests. Ochako releases him, and Midoriya continues. “Don’t you think Kacchan’s been acting weird lately? I mean, he’s being nice to me. Or trying to, he still yells at me sometimes, but he hasn’t told me to kill myself in, like, a month. And right before that happened, he started fighting with Todoroki. Almost right after the sports festival, in fact, when they both sparred.”
“And how does that connect to Bakugou having a,” Ochako stops. She can’t bring herself to say it. “To having feelings?”
“I think,” Midoriya says, voice gaining a little confidence, “that Kacchan’s never really felt challenged before. So when he fought Todoroki, he might, have, uhm, well, gotten attached. I don’t think he’s ever had a boyfriend or girlfriend, so I’m guessing the aggression is kind of his way of getting Todoroki to notice him.”
Iida looks a little lost. “And what does that have to do with you?”
“Oh, that’s probably just because I’m friends with Todoroki,” Midoriya says flippantly. “I mean, I don’t think Todoroki’s the type of guy to date his friend’s bully, you know? So Kacchan kind of has to be nicer to me if he wants Todoroki to like him.”
“I—Midoriya,” Iida says patiently, like he’s talking to a well-meaning puppy who doesn’t understand that humans don’t like dog treats in their cereal. “Don’t you think you’re reaching? Just a little bit? Looking for meaning in places where it doesn’t exist?”
“I think what Iida’s trying to say,” Ochako interrupts, “is that maybe you’re reading too much into it. How do you know for sure that’s how Bakugou feels? Given that he’s mean to everyone , I’m saying.”
Midoriya considers this. “I think,” he says slowly, “the key is that he really does pay a lot of attention to Todoroki. I mean, back in middle school, Kacchan used to keep to himself most of the time. When he wasn’t picking on me, anyway. Now he’s got more friends, granted, but don’t you think he’s been fixated on Todoroki lately? And being more aggressive with him than he is with anyone else?”
“Doesn’t that just mean he hates him?” Iida asks.
“Yeah, I thought so too, but they’re together, like, every time I look at them. I mean it. Like, Todoroki’ll be coming over to me to chat, right, and Kacchan just barges in and picks a fight. Or, Todoroki’ll say he wants to have lunch together, and then Kacchan’ll show up out of nowhere and drag him away. It’s almost like he thinks he has to protect Todoroki from me, or something.”
“I think you’ve got it the wrong way around,” Iida starts to say.
Ochako slaps a hand over his mouth for the second time that day. “I think Iida’s trying to say,” she says, also for the second time that day, “is that that’s a really stunning observation, Midoriya! I wouldn’t have expected anything less!”
Iida squints at her over the hand covering half his face. That’s not what I’m trying to say at all, says his expression.
Oh, I know, Ochako smiles back beatifically. “So what are you planning to do?”
Midoriya takes another look at his yellow notebook, mouth curved up into a pleased little smile as he peruses his hasty notes. “I think that Kacchan could use some help. And I know you guys said not to meddle too much, but I promise I won’t get super involved. Maybe the two of them just need a little push in the right direction.”
“Off a cliff, maybe,” says Ochako.
Iida manages to pull his face away from Ochako’s hand, and he speaks before she can shush him again. “ Why? Even if Bakugou likes Todoroki that way, why do you suddenly want to play matchmaker?”
“Everyone deserves to be happy, even Kacchan,” Midoriya says absently. “Besides, it might make him a little nicer to be around. Todoroki’s been a positive influence on him, at least where I’m concerned.”
“Todoroki’s just as guilty as Bakugou!” Iida sputters. “He’s the one who starts half the fights!”
Ochako pats his arm. “Well, look at it this way. If Deku-kun’s right, then getting them together should settle them down quite a bit.”
“Let’s do it,” Iida says immediately.
“That’s the spirit.” Humming thoughtfully, Midoriya jots something down in his notebook and closes it with a decisive snap. Stuffing it into his backpack, he shoulders it and shimmies his way between their desks to get to the door. “Alright. I’m going to start planning this as soon as I get my homework out of the way. Man, this is going to go great!”
Ochako watches him go fondly. So young, so pure . “I’m glad he’s having fun.”
Iida stares at her. “Why’d you do that?”
“Encourage him! I’m all for getting the two troublemakers to settle down, but let’s be serious,” Iida says, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. “We all know Bakugou’s crush isn’t on Todoroki.”
“Well, Midoriya’s probably too humble for his own good,” Ochako agrees. “But I think it’s better like this.”
“And why is that?”
“Because it makes him happy,” Ochako says, gathering her things and packing them haphazardly into her new orange backpack. Iida’s stuff is already in his satchel, slung over his shoulder and ready to go. She leaves the classroom, and he follows. “I mean, you know how much he likes helping people.”
“I suppose.” Iida frowns, footsteps echoing a little as they walk down the empty corridor together. “I just don’t want this whole situation to bring him unnecessary grief. Midoriya attracts trouble, you know that.”
“That’s why he has us!” Ochako chirrups. “If either of those guys gives him any trouble, I’ll float them up to the ceiling and leave them there for an hour, that’ll teach ‘em.”
Iida gives her a crooked smile despite himself. The doors to the main entrance of the school slide open noiselessly for them, and Ochako squints in the afternoon sunlight with a smile of her own. “Your methods seem a little Draconian, Uraraka.”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.” Skipping over a crack in the pavement, Ochako waves goodbye as she and Iida part ways; Iida lives fairly close to the city centre, but Ochako’s own place is a little closer to the edge of town. “Don’t you dare ruin his plans, Iida, I’m not afraid to float you to the ceiling too.”
“I don’t doubt you,” Iida calls to her retreating back. “But I still think this is more trouble than it’s worth!”
Ochako begs to differ. Whistling tunelessly as she goes, she adjusts the straps of her backpack and makes her way to the train station. Her travel card jingles against her keychain as she tugs it out of her blazer pocket, and a woman’s soothing voice sounds over the intercom as she waits for the next train home.
That’s not all of it, anyway. Ochako doesn’t care how nice Bakugou’s trying to be; there’s no way in hell he’s getting his hands on poor Midoriya. And, well. She wouldn’t really wish Bakugou on anyone, but she supposes Todoroki might as well have him.
She grins and gets on the train.