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Everyone Knows That Cats Are Independent

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"Ooh," Riot said. She was perched up on the baked-goods cabinet even though she was far too big and Eijirou had told her to stop doing it before it ended up breaking. "New customer."

Eijirou looked around, and sure enough there was an unfamiliar guy pushing open the door despite the incredibly early hour of the morning. He felt his eyes widen slightly at the man's daemon - a lioness, how unusual, how manly - and leant forwards over the counter, ready to take his order. Eijirou could feel his curiosity rearing its head. What kind of guy was someone with a lioness for a daemon?

"Hi!" he called, putting on his best friendly-server kind of voice. The guy - light blond hair, lean - looked up at Eijirou's voice and narrowed his red eyes.

"Can I help you?" Eijirou asked, gesturing to the coffee machines. Riot was still on the counter, staring at the guy's daemon with unabashed fascination. "We've got latté, frappé, cappucino, moch-"

"Whatever has the most caffeine in it," said the guy. He had a deep, sort of scratchy voice. "In whatever the biggest cup is."

"Rough morning, huh?" Eijirou gave a short laugh. "No problem. You got a name for the order?"

The blond guy blinked at him. His daemon yawned, showing off her enormous fangs, and Riot muttered something to herself about it.

"For me to call out when it's done?" Eijirou prompted. People were really funny without their caffeine fix, sometimes.

"Bakugou," the guy grunted. "I'm. I'm gonna go sit down."

"Cool," Eijirou chirped after him. "I'll let you know when it's done."

He set about brewing the most intense thing they had. He got a vague sense of the Bakugou guy slumping into an empty booth with his daemon from Riot, who was being too goddamn curious for her own good.

"She's so big," Riot told him, after she'd slipped down off the cabinet and trotted over to him. Eijirou squinted at her. It wasn't as if Riot was that small. About the size of a large dog, really. Longer if you counted her tail.

"She's a lion. That's kind of how they are," he told her, voice low. "You tried out being a lion a couple of times, remember?"

"I do remember," Riot bared her sharp fangs and flicked her tongue. "Powerful. Fun. Fierce. It's a good shape for fighting. Not the right shape for me, though."

"Obviously," Eijirou grinned. The daemons of children could shapeshift into any form they desired. Eventually, every daemon settled into one form and never changed again. The shape a person's daemon took reflected the kind of person that person was. Dog daemons often paced alongside diligent, eager-to-please workers, those with birds-of-prey tended to be observant and sharp, and cat-shaped daemons... The people with those were catlike too. Independent was the main descriptor for them. Big cats, well. Eijirou let his eye's trail over to the booth where the Bakugou guy was sitting. He could just see the lioness' lashing tail. Everyone wanted a lion daemon when they were kids. Or a tiger, or a bear. Something flashy. Not many people actually ended up with one.

Eijirou wasn't exactly jealous - Riot was pretty impressive herself - but his curiosity was definitely piqued. The coffee finished brewing, and Eijirou poured it out. He glanced at the door, but it was still Ridiculous O'Clock so no one else had shown up yet. He decided to take the coffee over. There was always the chance of roping this guy into a chat and finding out a little more about him. Eijirou put the coffee down on the table, and Bakugou snatched it up almost instantly. He took several long gulps, disregarding the scorching temperature, and set it back down. His daemon's head was in his lap, eyes closed, and she took up most of the seat on that side of the booth.

"Hey, you mind if I sit down? I'm really bored," Eijirou said, sliding into the opposite side of the booth before he got an answer. Riot slipped in beside him. She was probably longer than the lioness, actually, if Eijirou did count her tail. Nowhere close to the lioness' bulk though.

"Whatever," the guy said. He was squinting at Eijirou again. "How the fuck are you so awake right now."

"Practice," Eijirou said. "I've been working this shift for like, a year."

"Hmph," Bakugou said. He took a smaller sip of the coffee. His eyes moved over to study Riot, and he frowned. "What the fuck?"

Riot turned her scaled head to stare back at Bakugou. Her tongue flickered.

"What the fuck," the blond said again. "What-"

"She's a dragon," Eijirou said, before Bakugou got stuck on a loop. She was. Rich red scales all over her lithe body, lightening to cream along her thick belly plates. A short pair of glossy black horns jutted out from the back of her head, and similarly-coloured spikes protruded from her spine. Her tail was long and sweeping and ended in an arrowhead point. A pair of webbed wings lay along her back.

"Dragons aren't even real fucking animals," Bakugou seemed to protest. His lioness was looking up now.

Eijirou grinned. "So?"

"So- So," Bakugou scowled and took another swig of his coffee. "That's weird as fuck."

"Yeah, guess so," Eijirou said with a shrug. "Bet you get a lot of people wondering about your daemon, though."

Eijirou nodded at the lioness, who regarded him with an inscrutible gaze.

"I get stares," Bakugou stated, as if he expected no less. Ah, so he was cocky? Cats were proud creatures... Bakugou brushed the top of his daemon's head lightly. "She settled early, too, we were ten."

Eijirou let out a low whistle. Riot herself had settled a little late. Bakugou turned his eyes upon Eijirou again. They had sharpened, the caffeine probably hitting his system by now.

"You didn't need to ask my name, did you?"

The coffee shop was very empty. Eijirou shrugged. "There might have been a rush of patrons. You can never tell."

"Nah, you're just a nosy fucking bastard," the blond said, drinking some more. Was it possible for someone to get grumpier the more awake they were? "So who the fuck are you and why the fuck do you work this fucking shift?"

"Oh!" Eijirou's eyebrows rose. He hadn't expected the stranger to actually engage so much, especially after calling him out for sticking his nose where it didn't belong. He took a second to process the questions. "I'm Kirishima - Kirishima Eijirou. And I dunno, just got stuck on it one day. I sort of bridge the gap between the last of the evening shift and the start of the actual morning. And I mean, I'm not here every night - I get Thursdays and Saturdays off and I'm on the lunch shift tomorrow - but I kinda like it. Why are you in here?"

Bakugou lifted his cup to answer. "Got a new fucking job, starts in an hour. I'm trying out the local places to find one that doesn't suck too badly."

"I might be biased, but Fatgum's here is definitely the least sucky of all the ones nearby," Eijirou said with a grin. Riot nodded along, but of course they had a similar opinion.

"Dunno," Bakugou scowled. "Staff're way too chatty."

Then Bakugou's lioness surprised Eijirou by laughing. Bakugou rolled his eyes at her. "You can shut up."

"I didn't say a fucking thing," the lioness rumbled. Eijirou snorted. So even the daemon had a foul mouth. It was kind of endearing for some reason, and Eijirou decided right then and there that this grumpy guy with a lion daemon was gonna be his friend. He was sure Riot would agree.

"I mean, the only other decent-ish place would be... Best Beanist? But I don't think it's open this early," Eijirou said, musing on the nearby competition. "There's Midnight's but uh, that place isn't everyone's cup of tea so to speak. It's themed."

"Themed?" Bakugou asked, flatly.

Eijirou grimaced. "If I say you probably don't want to know, that's probably enough information."

Bakugou frowned. "There's... For a fuckin' coffee- How- Why?"

"I wish I knew, man," Eijirou shrugged. "Hey, so if you've got a new job, does that mean you've moved here recently?"

"Yeah. Renting an apartment," Bakugou said. "S'okay."

"Got flatmates? I might know them if they come in here," Eijirou said.

"Haven't met 'em yet," Bakugou said, shrugging. "Kept missing them when I was moving my shit in, and I crashed all day yesterday."

Cats sleep a lot, Eijirou thought absently. "Ah! So am I the first person you've met here?"

"Fuckin' guess so," Bakugou scoffed. "Some weird-haired barrista with a weird-ass imaginary daemon. Fuckin' typical."

Eijirou lifted a hand to his head, where his spiky hair was all gelled up. "My hair's weird?"

Bakugou took a swig of the coffee. "You match your fucking daemon."

"Well, yeah," Eijirou said. "It's like, the only colour co-ordinated thing about me. Oh, and my crocs."

"You- crocs?" Bakugou narrowed his eyes. "Did you just admit to being a fashion disaster? With pride?"

Eijirou snickered. "I like to call my style subversive, rather than disastrous."

"Fuck you," Bakugou shook his head. He downed the rest of his cup. The lioness peeled herself up and out of the booth.

"Oh, you're going?" Eijirou asked. A wash of disappointment ran through him, but the guy had said he was heading to a new job. "Good luck!"

"Don't fuckin' need it," Bakugou said, confident as he stood up. It was pretty manly, really. He stretched, his lioness joined him, and then they were leaving.

Bakugou paused at the door as he let his daemon through. "Fuckin' see ya, or whatever, Weird Hair."

"It's Kirishima!" Eijirou called after him. The door swung shut.

"I like him," Riot said immediately. Eijirou nodded his agreement. "Don't forget to clean up."

 


 

Eijirou wouldn't have said he was nosy, but... he was. He might have tried to defend his behaviour by saying he'd picked up the nosiness from Mina, but there wasn't anyone challenging his actions when he got back to his room later on in the morning. He plugged Bakugou's name into Google. He didn't know the guy's given name, but maybe something would pop up.

Something did. A small clothing company under the name Bakugou. Not much else. Eijirou sighed, clicked on the website anyway, and found himself catching his breath. Riot nosed her way in to look. There was a picture of the founders of the company - a smiling man with dark hair and glasses and some sort of bird daemon, and a fierce-looking woman whose daemon was a honey badger. Somehow, entirely by accident, Eijirou had found Bakugou's parents.

There was a little blurb about them that Eijirou found his eyes soaking up. His father was the designer. His mother was the muse. They had had a whirlwind romance and one son - an only child, huh? - and he had joined the company efforts for a while. Oh? Interesting. Eijirou clicked on a very helpful link.

Bakugou- Bakugou Katsuki, the caption said - had done a bit of modelling for his parents, and some of those photographs were on the website. Eijirou had to admit he had the looks for it. And the physique. Maybe not the attitude, from what Eijirou had seen, but having a lioness to model with certainly went a long way in making that mostly a moot point.

Eijirou stared at a close-up of the guy's face. He definitely had the looks for it. Ah. Hm. He closed the tab.

 


 

Tuesdays were Eijirou's busiest days, because he was actually on duty while other people were around, and he loved it. He pulled on his uniform in the back of the shop, Riot watching and flicking her tongue, and he could already hear Kaminari on his mid-morning break babbling from across the entire establishment.

Eijirou strolled out of the changing room and into the serving area. He nodded at one of his coworkers. A flash of gold hair whizzed up to the counter almost immediately. Kaminari had his fennec fox daemon perched on his shoulder, and he looked like he was buzzing with news. Riot leapt up onto the counter, disregarding the lack of space again, and leaned in so that they could talk about daemon things. She was careful to avoid touchin Kaminari, of course.

"Kirishima!" Kaminari cried. "Dude, our new roomie moved in!"

By 'our', Kaminari meant himself and his girlfriend Jirou, who shared an apartment and had been looking for a third to help make rent easier. Eijirou had a sudden jolt run through him at the idea of an impossible coincidence.

"He moved in like, a day or two ago but we just kept missing him," Kaminari was saying. Eijirou stuffed down his building cackle and started on Kaminari's usual order. "But we saw him get back from his job this morning and you'll never believe what his daemon is."

"A lioness?" Eijirou asked. Kaminari gaped at him, and his little daemon looked up from Riot and chittered with foxy consternation.

"Wh- huh?" Kaminari spluttered. "Yeah? How the hell did you guess that?"

Eijirou beamed. "I think I met him last night! Blond hair, kinda grouchy, favourite word is fuck?"

"That's him, yeah," Kaminari breathed. Then his expression of awe was replaced by annoyance. "Hey, how come you know like, everyone, dude? I don't think I've ever introduced you to anyone you didn't already know. Oh hey Kiri, this is Sero and- oh, you're roommates? Hey Kiri have you met Ashid- Oh you went to middle school together? Surely you don't know Minet- Ah you caught him spying on the girls' changing room at your local gym once and had him banned so it's probably a good idea to drop him from our lives like a sack of rotten potatoes? Like, bro. You have a problem."

Eijirou gave his friend a sharp grin. "Not a problem to me. You want whipped cream on that?"

"Hell yeah I want whipped cream on that," Kaminari said, eyes alighting on the sweetened monstrosity borne from Eijirou's hands. "And I'm not too sure about the lion guy. Seems a li'l scary."

"Bakugou Katsuki," Eijirou said. Then he winced. The name had arrived in his mouth far too quickly.

"See? You knew his name before I did, and I apparently live with the guy," Kaminari sighed. "He tell you where he's working? He was about as talkative as a brick wall and about as friendly as one that's trying to fall on you."

"Nope," Eijirou said. "But I googled him and-"

"Of course you did."

"And his parents own a clothing line... thing. Something fashion-y. He used to model for them," Eijirou said. Kaminari rolled his eyes. "Obviously that doesn't really help with working out what he's doing now."

"Oh my god, Kirishima, you're such a snoop," Kaminari said. Eijirou handed him the 'coffee' that was mostly just sugar, with extra sugar. Riot hopped back down off of the counter, and Kaminari's fox daemon sniffed eagerly at the drink.

"You know it, Kami," Kirishima said. "You doing anything on Thursday?"

Kaminari shook his head. "No, why d- you want to come over and bother the lion guy."

"I want to come over and bother the lion guy," Eijirou confirmed. "I wanna see the look on his face, so don't tell him."

"He's incorrigible as ever," Kaminari's daemon sighed, pressing her long ears back.

Kaminari nodded. "Ah, well, say hi to Sero and Ashido for me. I gotta get back to work, my boss needs those recordings in today."

He scooped up his drink and tossed some money down on the counter. Eijirou waved goodbye and turned to the next customer.

 


 

The Wednesday morning shift saw Bakugou shuffling into the coffee shop at about the same time as on Monday, and Eijirou was glad of it, because he'd just finished making his coffee.

"What kinda job has you waking up at this hour?" he asked, handing over the steaming cup. Like Monday, the blond took several boiling mouthfuls before anything else.

"Science," Bakugou said. He did not elaborate, instead stomping over to the same booth he had occupied before. Science? That was nothing to do with modelling! Eijirou supposed that was fair enough, considering the contrast between his own academic leanings and current job.

Eijirou followed him, of course. "Science? Ooh, what field? Biology? Physics? Astrophysics? Geology, becau-"

Bakugou snorted. "Chemistry."

"Oh, sweet, like blowing stuff up chemistry or running things through the mass spectrometer so many times you forget how cool it is that it works by vaporising stuff with a plasma laser chemistry?" Eijirou asked. "You a lab tech or are you working on your own stuff? Got a Masters? PhD? Are you a doctor?"

"You have too many fucking questions for this fucking time of day," Bakugou said, scowling. "I'm working towards a doctorate in organic chem. You know what a mass spec is?"

"Mass spec, XRF," Eijirou said, offhandedly. "Did a degree in geology. Had to do a lot of mud sample analysis. Rocks, y'know? Love 'em."

Bakugou raised an eyebrow. "Fuck, why are you working here, then?"

Eijirou shrugged. "I like looking at rocks more than I like analysing rocks, and this place is nice. I get to talk to interesting people about interesting stuff, like this!"

"Fuckin' weird," Bakugou said, sipping his coffee. He nodded at Riot. "Guess that figures for someone with an imaginary daemon."

"Oh, you're still on that, huh?" Eijirou leaned forwards over the table. "Are you one hundred percent sure that dragons don't exist? I have a friend who says he saw a night-ghast once."

Bakugou narrowed his eyes. "There's evidence for all of that shit. Dragons, though? Fuck off."

"So skeptical, Bakugou Katsuki," Eijirou leant back. "I bet you don't even believe in aliens."

"Alright, first," Bakugou pointed a finger at him. "If the universe is infinite then aliens can't not exist, so fuck you, Weird Hair."

"Kirishima," Eijirou corrected. Bakugou just scowled at him.

He took a sip of coffee. "Second, how the fuck do you know my given name?"

Oh. Whoops. Ah, best to be honest, right?

"I'm a nosy fuckin' bastard," Eijirou chirped. "You're really not gonna like my wardrobe, dude."

Bakugou's voice went flat. "You found my parents' website."

"Yeah, not my style, though," Eijirou said. He could feel Riot snickering against the seat.

Bakugou glared at him. "Fuck. You."

"You met your flatmates yet?" Eijirou asked. Bakugou shrugged. "I'm sure they're nice people."

"Punk-looking girl with freaky ears," Bakugou said. "And her boyfriend's like, a musician or some shit. That's about all I know."

Yeah, that was Jirou and Kaminari alright. Eijirou was almost shaking with glee. "Great, well that's a start, right? It always helps if you're friends with whoever you're living with."

Bakugou grunted and drained his coffee. His lioness had already stood up. "Whatever. Bye."

"See ya, Bakugou!" Kirishima called. Bakugou didn't turn around, but he did lift a hand as he left.

Eijirou sighed into the empty building once the door had closed. "We're totally gonna be best friends."

"I wonder what her name is," Riot said about the lioness.