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Monday, August 27th, 12:05 PM

An Exploration of Fantasy in Modern Literature

"Momo!"

"Oh, Midoriya!" She waves to him from the front of the lecture hall, hefting her bag off the seat next to her and gesturing him into it. "That's right, you did say you were taking this! How fun!"

"Power team," Izuku says with a smile. "Any presentations won't know what hit 'em."

"I almost hope there's a presentation," Momo sighs. "It's always entertaining when you're at the front of the class. An omen for the success of your future career."

Izuku flushes scarlet. "Thanks, Momo. That means a lot."

"Yes, well, I'm only stating facts. How was your summer?"

"Nice! Mom loved having me home. I'm kind of glad to be back, though."

"I would hope so! If you weren't excited to be back in a classroom, I'd think you'd lost your edge." Momo yanks a gigantic five-subject notebook from her bag and flips it open to the second page. Izuku catches the title of the course scrawled elegantly over the first, in the center of the page in a rainbow of color. Her infamous pencil case follows from the depths of her purse: rainbow gel pens, mechanical pencils, dry-erase markers, sharpies, a few very expensive looking calligraphy pens and a pot of ink for some reason. She takes a moment, examining the contents, then selects a bright blue fountain pen and writes the date at the top.

Izuku sets his own utensils—a single-subject blue notebook and a thick, palm-sized brown leather with an embossed pattern and an iron-grey clasp—out in front of him. He plucks a mechanical pencil from behind his ear. "Do you ever take messy notes, Momo?"

"No, never. Do you ever find pens in your hair you'd forgotten about?"

"At least once a month."

They laugh, chatting amicably about their summers (eating home-cooked meals on Izuku's end, a trip to Europe on Momo's), and watch the other students fill in.

"Do we know anyone else taking this course?" Momo taps her pen absently.

"I don't think so. Uraraka's schedule filled up with engineering stuff and Iida had that ethics thing at the same time." Momo just keeps staring at him like she expects him to keep talking. Izuku raises an eyebrow at her teasingly. "Todoroki is at home... "

Momo turns pink. "I wasn't wondering," she replies airily, refusing to look Izuku in the eye. "I'm sure he's very busy."

"But not so busy he can't make your weekly coffee dates."

"It's a matter of scheduling! It simply fits into his day!"

"Because you've set a record for the campus mile, Momo. Ten minutes between your last class and a date all the way at the Calhoun Starbucks, I believe that's what you said?"

"They're not dates! We're studying! Editing! Working!"

"So they're working dates."

"Oh, hush!" Momo flips her hand at him, burying her burning face in the crook of her arm. "No one asked you, Sir Chronically-Single!"

"Well, I'm busy too," Izuku laughs. "Between learning two languages, one significantly more alive than the other, reading all these books, shifts at the bakery, and trying to figure out a study abroad, I don't have the time. And I've already told you that a dozen times."

"It's a flimsy excuse," Momo sniffs. "It's simply a matter of scheduling."

"So you admit that they're dates!"

"Shush!"

Momo is saved from further interrogation by the doors to the hall swinging open, spilling two-minutes-til students and the professor herself into the room. They trickle into chairs, pair off with people they know, a comfortable murmur in the early afternoon; the woman they assume to be the professor walks directly to the podium, deposits what seems to be a metric ton of books, and walks right back out.

"That's... interesting," Momo remarks, craning to see the titles over the single row in front of them. "That's Tolkien. Martin. Oh, tell me we won't read the whole series, I have other classes, you know."

"The syllabus says excerpts from," Izuku replies, tilting his phone to show her. "And yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, and that is a Maas right there in the required texts list."

"Yes!" Momo nearly leaps out of her seat. "I was already excited for the Stiefvater unit, such a bold take on urban fantasy, but a Maas? Now we're talking!"

"That's a lot of titles by Maas," Izuku says. Momo keeps talking. "Momo, that's a lot of titles."

"They're not especially dense books," she pouts, settling back into her chair. "You could tear through them in a night, if you were dedicated."

"I'm sure you could, but again with the two languages I'm learning."

"Well, look, see, it says bonus reading on the titles after this first one."

"Oh, thank god." Izuku scans the required texts again. "Hey, Alice in Wonderland is on here!"

"Children's lit? Interesting." Momo puts a finger to her lips. "It is one of the essential surrealist fantasies in popular culture nowadays."

"You said all those big words, and now it's ruined."

"I look forward to your led discussion about it." Momo points at the assignment description and smiles deviously. Izuku groans.

Behind them, the door slams open again.

"—sub-par writing and shoehorned representation—"

"Okay, dude, I get it—no, I get it, you hate Harry Potter."

Two blondes with matching cups of coffee march down the ramp and take over the fourth row with sheer strength of presence. Their voices feel a full decibel louder than everyone else, stabbing Izuku through and nailing him to the table. He nearly snaps the pencil in his hand.

Momo turns to see these voices and noticeably stiffens. "Oh boy. Midoriya, don't look now."

"I know who it is," he whispers vehemently. "Like I'd forget that voice over one measly summer."

"Isn't that Kaminari with him? The Kaminari you work with?"

Izuku nods, a bead of sweat on his temple. Of all the shit luck he could've had for a First Day Fuck-up, it had to be getting Bakugou Katsuki in his very first class.

The day was a chilly Wednesday, spring semester of his freshman year, the class Intro to Philosophy. It was not the first of these days, nor would it be the last, but it was the first one where he very nearly broke a man's nose. In retrospect, over nothing important, but in the moment, it was victory or death.

"Utilitarianism is the worst form of value," Izuku had argued. "It completely removes the consideration of each person's skill-sets and what skill-set provides the most use to the community living by rules that are supposed to guarantee the most favorable outcome for the highest amount of people, and therefore is by nature a contradiction of itself, as well as never allowing for innovation or creation when it's clearly a structure adamantly designed for survival!"

"When you add sentimentality and perspective bias to the consideration pool, alongside the redundant systems that would have to be established to determine those skill-sets in the first place, you'd have societal collapse long before you could implement any kind of positive change." Bakugou had crossed his arms and leaned into the podium, a twin to Izuku's own, at the front of the room before fifty of their peers and an elated professor.

"Establishing the hierarchy needed to determine a person's use inevitably results in some lives being deemed not valuable, lesser in the eyes of the community, and would have backlash when societal needs change and the skills deemed non-valued have been wiped out of common knowledge, not to mention the tightrope any utilitarian leader would have to walk in order not to turn the tide against themselves and cause a coup!"

On and on like that for forty minutes, right up until Bakugou had insinuated that academics such as Izuku would be among the first to be axed in their scenario, at which point Izuku had actually seen red and rounded the podium. If the professor hadn't announced the end of class—and Izuku hadn't had a Latin course to get to—he would've been perfectly content taking it outside.

Now it's a hot Monday, fall semester of his sophomore year, and that violent memory sits two rows behind him in yet another course where Izuku knows his shit and isn't afraid to throw down about it.

"Hey, oh man, is that you, Midoriya?" He can almost feel Kaminari's excited wave behind him. He can definitely feel the weight of ruby eyes burning a hole in the back of his skull.

"Midoriya Izuku," Bakugou drawls. Momo throws a protective glare over her shoulder. "No fuckin' way. I thought you'd have realized your life was going to shit by now and given up."

Momo's sharp inhale makes Izuku's teeth grind. "Y'know, it's a new year. Doesn't have to be same old animosities."

"Spineless," Bakugou barks in what could pass for laughter if you heard it wrong. "You realize you were wrong about the adoption of church rhetoric yet?"

"I wasn't wrong about the damn adaptation of Greek rhetoric into Christian crusading because Greek rhetoric has been in everything—" Izuku closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. "New year. No animosities. You will not get me to fight you on day one."

"I'm sure you're above that, what with being a proper lady," Bakugou says, the grin to it palpable. Izuku swivels in his seat to shoot daggers at him and yes, there's the grin, stretching wider at Izuku's furious expression. "Oh man, day two's lookin' promising."

Momo puts a hand on his shoulder. "Ignore him, Midoriya."

"Dude," Kaminari mutters when Izuku turns back around. "I've never seen anybody get that angry at you that fast, and I've seen a lot of people get angry at you. What did you do?"

"Dipshit can't handle being wrong," Bakugou says back, loud enough for Izuku to briefly consider manslaughter. Momo's hand at his elbow is the only thing that stops him from launching his pencil at Bakugou's throat.

The clock in the front of the room ticks over to 12:20, and the professor sweeps back in brandishing a bottle of soda and a blue dry-erase marker. She immediately writes in curling, quick handwriting on the board and spins on her heel.

"What is the purpose of fantasy?" She asks loudly, tapping the board with the marker. "What is a fantasy in the first place? What does it do for us? Why do we enjoy it? These are all things we'll try answering this semester. Good afternoon everyone, my name is Professor Rose, this is ENG 2041."

They talk about pop culture's biggest names in fantasy—someone inevitably bringing up Harry Potter and earning a derisive snort from Bakugou—and what fantasy does, what types of fantasy are out there and why people gravitate toward it, they briefly mention key dates in the next two weeks from the syllabus and the prof sends them on their merry ways ten minutes early. Izuku and Momo purposefully wait an extra two, making sure Bakugou and Kaminari have cleared out before packing up their things.

"If I die this semester, frame Bakugou." Izuku punches the vending machine in the hallway with a bitter scowl, watching the Skittles drop with barely any joy.

"I will not," Momo replies, texting rapidly. "I will, however, prevent you from dying."

"You're a true friend, Momo."

"I know."

"Where are you going next?"

"I've got an hour for lunch," Momo says, finally looking up from her phone, cheeks a little rosier than before. "I'm, um, meeting some friends. To catch up."

"Yaoyorozu Momo," Izuku gasps, exaggerated offense coloring his tone, putting one hand to his chest. Momo giggles. "Are the study dates becoming lunch dates? You're taking your relationship to the next level!"

"It's just lunch!" She laughs. "And there's other friends that'll be there!"

"Double date!"

"Don't be nosy! It's unbecoming!"

"I live with the man, Momo. I'll hear all about it later. He might even give me that slight head tilt, the wide eyes, the little scrunched shoulders..." Izuku nods sagely. "That's how you know he's got it bad."

"Oh," Momo squeaks, flushing scarlet. "He does that when he, um, t-talks about me?"

"Mhm." Izuku leans in, wiggling his eyebrows. "All the time."

Momo clutches her phone to her chest with a choked gasp. "That's! Nice! Um!"

Izuku checks the time. "It's so fun playing matchmaker, but I have a class. Public speaking," he sighs, running a hand through his hair. "I put it off too long, and now I can't avoid it. Mondays are gonna be such fun days for me."

"Ooh, ouch." Momo winces in sympathy. "That's required for a Communication degree, isn't it?"

"You betcha." Izuku pockets his phone and fixes her with a soldiering smile. "Well, it can't be worse than Bakugou showing up, right? The First Day Fuck-up is over."

"Right. You can believe first days are cursed all you want, if it makes you optimistic about the rest of the afternoon." Momo pats him on the shoulder and starts down the hallway, waving. "Good luck!"

The walk between buildings is uneventful—hot and busy, but nothing happens. Even with the extra time to walk slow, Izuku makes it with a full ten minutes to spare. As a Communication major with a Classics minor, he basically lives in these two buildings: the Pretty Library and the Old School. They're not really called the Pretty Library and the Old School, but the library is very pretty (as opposed to the legal and science libraries on the other side of campus) and the other is the oldest building up on the highest hill. His friends liked the nicknames, so they stuck. To his knowledge, nobody else calls them that, but they've been Pretty Library and Old School for so long that he has to double-check their real names every now and then.

Public speaking has far less students and therefore far less comfortable chairs.

Where colleges got off on giving them high school desks he'd never understand. No space, too many jammed too close, just a nightmare overall; the first thing he's suggesting is a change of venue. For now, though, he picks one such desk smack in the center of the room, sets his stuff down as elegantly as possible, and tears into his Skittles.

Five minutes pass. The professor has arrived and a good number of students have peeked in, glanced back out at the room number, and nodded to themselves as they took their seats. There's about twenty other students now. Some he recognizes in passing—other Comm majors, mostly—but the rest are unfamiliar and reek of STEM disciplines.

It's one way to do gen eds, Izuku thinks. If you've got balls of steel and no shame. He's a Comm major himself, he even wants to teach, and the thought of public speaking still turns his insides into an 8 year old's bouncy castle. But that's anxiety for you. All that fun adrenaline and absolutely no outlets.

At two minutes 'til, Bakugou walks through the door.

"You have to be kidding me," Izuku breathes. Bakugou spots him instantly.

"Oh fuck no." Bakugou of course takes the open seat directly to Izuku's right, because God hates him and nothing is ever easy. "You followin' me or something?"

"Why would I be following you," Izuku says into his hands. "I don't like you."

"Aw, don't be like that," Bakugou chimes, syrupy sweet and so unsettlingly different from his normal rasp that Izuku looks up in shock. Bakugou's grin is razor-sharp and disingenuous. "What happened to no animosities?"

"Momo was there," Izuku mutters.

"Right, right, your mom."

"She's my friend. I'm not sure that's a concept you understand."

"Ha! Where was this bite last semester? We might've gotten along." Bakugou perches his chin in his hand, still smiling like he's figured out how to weaponize it. His pencil taps rapidly on his open notebook. "Nah, what am I saying. I don't associate with little upstart know-it-alls like you."

"Have you looked in a mirror?" Izuku snaps.

Class starts at this exact moment, stopping the storm brewing on Bakugou's face from breaking a chair over Izuku's head.

After the professor's laid out the syllabus—which takes all of fifteen minutes, as all good speeches should, apparently—Izuku's up and out of the room before Bakugou can open his rude mouth. He pants in the elevator, belatedly realizing he might've set a land-speed record. Worth it to escape Bakugou's unceasingly annoying voice.

Wrong about church rhetoric Izuku's whole ass.

No, no. Izuku shakes his head, clearing the bitter thoughts. He's not going to let Bakugou Katsuki ruin his semester, even if it's highly likely his Monday-Wednesday-Fridays are now a total bust and devoid of any happiness. He's got the day off from work! He shouldn't be wallowing in First Day Fuck-ups, just breathing easy now that it's over, and believing that tomorrow will be way, way better. No Bakugou. Just friends and cool classes.

Izuku gets on the shuttle, walks up the flight of stairs to his apartment, collapses on his bed, and doesn't get up until his alarm the next day.

*

Tuesday, August 28th, 9:12 AM

Sociology (?)

Izuku squints at his phone, trying to focus his exhausted eyes on the schedule. He knows he's enrolled in a 9:30 Sociology, but the course isn't in Blackboard yet—he can't remember whether it's a normal introduction class or one of the fancy elective ones. It's too early for remembering the enrollment process, much less how to be a functioning human being. His coffee has two extra shots in it for good measure.

This is the only class he has that isn't in Pretty Library or Old School. He knows this building has computer labs, and he thinks it might have a medical lab in it somewhere too, but this is the second time he's been in it at all—the first being a natural science requirement focused on gemstones—so he's got his fingers crossed that this is the right room. It seems like it is, being the biggest lecture hall the building has, but he can compare the numbers to his schedule all he wants. Until more students show up, he's going to be half-convinced he's in the wrong place.

"Bonjour, Midoriya!"

He rubs his eyes, somehow still having to squint at the newcomer. "Aoyama, is that you?"

"Oui, darling, c'est moi!"

"I take it you summered somewhere French."

"France herself!" Aoyama perches on the table, dropping his bag (bedazzled, in this the year of our Lord 2018) onto the perfectly serviceable chair he's steadfastly ignoring. "Paris was simply divine! Let me show you the photos!"

"We've got a few minutes," Izuku says amicably despite how much he does not want to look at pictures of Paris. He obligingly watches Aoyama scroll through selfies in front of monuments and actually gets into it when the nightlife crops up, the tone changing as he realizes these albums are some of Aoyama's professional work. "Wow, those lights are amazing!"

"There was this garden of twinkle lights for some kind of festival," Aoyama taps through what must be fifty photos in the multicolored glow. "The angles, the colors, the inspiration... ah, I'll never have its like again."

"I'm sure the ones you took on your actual camera are stunning."

"Some of my best, Midoriya, some of my best." The professor comes in chatting with what must the TA, so Aoyama hops off the table and begrudgingly settles into the seat. "Are you excited for this course? I'm quite enthralled with the concept, myself. It'll be a simple thing for one as versed in it as I."

"Share your confidence, then," Izuku laughs. "I'm good at textbook sociology, but practical application... escapes me."

"The key is that you must not hesitate! And don't you worry about fieldwork, Midoriya, I'd be happy to assist you. Momo has regaled us with your chronic misunderstanding of the ins and outs." Aoyama winks.

Izuku swallows dryly. "Um, Aoyama?"

"Hm?"

"What is this course about?"

Aoyama blinks at him. "Mon amie, what's in that coffee? It's only one of the most popular social science electives, the Sociology of Love!"

A pack of students file in from the hallway.

"Absolutely fucking not," says Bakugou Katsuki at exactly two minutes 'til.

Izuku drains the rest of his coffee in one gulp and puts his head on the table.

*

Tuesday, August 28th, 10:57 AM

Greek History

Izuku books it from Sociology as fast as Aoyama will let him, which is honestly not very fast. Three minutes to spare is cutting it much too close for Izuku's health, but having to run up the hill and over to Pretty Library is hard work in the heat, especially with one eye on his six the entire time, watching for a similarly pelting Bakugou.

Three classes together? Three? This is a nightmare, a terrible joke, a cruel prank. He doesn't want to join the Academic Fight Club, but when Bakugou's around, it feels like he's a founding member. Izuku isn't afraid to stand up for his ideas, and that goes double when he's defending academic stances, so it's not that he doesn't enjoy a good debate! It's just that Bakugou Katsuki is so unbelievably infuriating that Izuku loses his ability to form coherent sentences.

He slides into a chair way down in the left corner of the room and puts his head in his hands. The stress of trying not to punch Bakugou in his smug, pretty face is going to make this semester a living hell.

"Midoriya," someone hisses from across the room.

"Oh, no, you can't possibly—Todoroki?"

In the third row down from the doors, Todoroki points at the empty chair on his left. To his right, Shinsou raises a pencil in greeting.

Shit. Izuku totally forgot they were taking this course. He'd been so preoccupied with fleeing for his life that he'd just plumb forgotten his roommate's schedule. He moves immediately.

"Sorry, I—sorry," he mutters, flipping his notebook open. It's a green single-subject for history, though it's shoved under his brown palm-sized notebook without preamble. He taps the open page with his pencil.

"It's fine. How was Sociology?" Todoroki's laptop is open to a word processor, blank but for the class title. Izuku notes with a grin that there are also several tabs of cat videos up.

"You won't believe who's in it."

"Momo."

"Nope."

"Iida."

"Nope!"

"I give up."

"Are those just the only people you know?"

"Yes."

"Well, Aoyama's there, but you remember that awful guy from Philosophy last semester?" Izuku teethes at his pencil, distaste curling his lips. Todoroki, God bless him, widens his eyes and puts his hand to his heart. Izuku taught him that himself.

"Ian. That bastard."

"No, not Ian!" Izuku snorts. Todoroki looks pleased that he's stopped scowling. "Bakugou. You remember, angry blonde who tried to defend Plato?"

"Oh. You talked about that for weeks after." Todoroki says. "That's not great."

"It really isn't. And it's not even the only time I have to see him."

"Who's Bakugou?" Shinsou chimes in. "Not to be out of the loop or anything."

"All you need to know is that he tried to defend Plato," Izuku whispers under the professor's greeting.

"That bastard," Shinsou murmurs and sits back. Izuku barely catches the words the Allegory of the Cave is stupid and feels a sudden and intense rush of affection for Shinsou. These two are the quintessential story of a class rivalry becoming a friendship. Izuku will treasure the memories of the Rhetoric group project that brought them together forever—not to mention that his apartment would be completely unaffordable without Todoroki as a roommate.

"Is that why you didn't even eat dinner yesterday?" Todoroki asks out of the corner of his mouth. "You were out for sixteen hours."

"Yeah. He saps all my energy." Izuku tries to focus on the surprisingly entertaining professor, but his thoughts keep sliding right back to Bakugou. "This is the first class I've had without him. I almost expected him to walk in, two minutes before it starts like all the other ones."

"Maybe he's late."

"Don't even joke about that." Izuku frowns at Todoroki's little grin. "It's not funny. It's not funny!"

"You're right, it's not funny. But this is."

"Are there questions back there?" The professor pushes his glasses up his nose and eyes them. "You getting everything?"

"Yep, just asking for an extra pencil," Izuku flubs, cheeks flaring crimson. Shinsou snickers quietly and earns a balled up paper to the head. "You guys are the worst."

"I'm pretty sure Bakugou's the worst," Todoroki whispers.

Izuku pouts in annoyance. "How's Momo?"

They make a decent effort to pay attention after that.

*

Still Tuesday, August 28th, 1:39 PM

Probably Intro to Theater

Izuku feels like he's walking into a house he knows is haunted armed with a phone book. Not even, like, a blessed phone book. A regular phone book.

Twenty minutes before class starts is a healthy time, a relaxed time to arrive. If someone comes in and says he's in the wrong room, he's got plenty of time to bolt to wherever he should be, and he's got his pick of seats. Because he's cursed with eyes and ears that don't like each other, he wants to wander down to the front of the room and drop into the second row, but this is Theater. He would literally rather die than be within arm's reach of forced volunteering. The very back of the room will be just fine, thank you. The stage here is old, but the lighting is new, and the projector overhead is state-of-the-art; the room buzzes faintly with all the technology concealed behind panels backing the stage.

The professor is the first in after him. Izuku squints a little in thought—is it weird that he keeps getting to class before his professors? Nah. That's just how it is sometimes. Professors are people too. People who apparently got dressed in the dark and need a caffeine IV in order to function.

Seriously. The man's thermos is the size of his arm and cannot possibly contain normal coffee if he thinks neon orange is okay outside of a construction zone.

Students trickle in, and Izuku passes the time giving them names that are definitely not right at all. He makes a sort of mental map with the backs of peoples' heads, one unnatural color to another—purples and pinks are popular this year. One girl with bubblegum-pink curls and an undercut is so bubbly-loud that he names the constellation of girls around her Champagne.

It seems like a lot of people here know each other. This is the first class where he knows nobody, not even in passing. Mostly because half of them are first-years, freshmen or transfers, but then this is a popular gen ed. Friends must've decided to take it together or come in knowing each other from the area high schools.

He thinks it'll be lonely for a week or so, if that. He's pretty good at making friends. It might even be a blessing in disguise—he knows nobody, but there's definitely people he knows that he doesn't want to see.

Izuku stares at the clock on his phone with a mounting dread. It would be just hilarious if You-Know-Who walked in at two minutes 'til. And Izuku hopes Bakugou feels someone dancing on his grave right now at the Harry Potter reference.

1:56. 1:57. 1:58.

Izuku inhales sharply and glances at the door.

Nothing.

He sighs, relieved, and closes his phone; he pulls out the brown notebook that he keeps meaning to use every class and just hasn't gotten the chance. Maybe he'll finally get some peace, some space to doodle.

He looks out over the sea of students, the seats now nearly filled, and stops dead on the digital clock on the stage's rolling podium.

It's a minute slow.

Izuku watches the door open and reveal Bakugou in slow motion, like a third-year direction student's Baywatch -inspired thesis film. There's a roaring in his ears that might be his heart rate reaching inhuman speeds, possibly Mach 5; his knuckles turn bone-white around the edge of the desk, his pencil letting out a plastic crack in his other hand. Because, like an antisocial idiot, Izuku chose the back row as his new home, he's eye-level with the door. Bakugou's gaze magnetizes to him and hits Izuku like a freight train.

Those scarlet eyes turn to hellfire.

"Ugh, finally!" Bubblegum-pink girl shouts. "Late as usual. Get down here, Blasty! I haven't seen your ugly mug in three whole miserable months, come tell me all the local gossip!"

Without looking away, Bakugou shouts back, "I'm not late, you Pinkberry halfwit."

"Pinkberry? Really? That's frozen yogurt, you asshole. I'm clearly the real deal, decadent and lactose-laden ice cream. Come up with better insults!"

Bakugou turns mercifully away, focusing his sneer on Bubbly-loud. The roar in Izuku's ears hits a pitch only dogs should be able to hear.

Class starts and ends in thirty minutes. Izuku could not for the life of him tell you what was said.

*

Will this Tuesday ever end, August 28th, 4:18 PM

Perihelion Bakery

Izuku likes Perihelion, which almost makes him regret getting a job there.

The bakery is north of campus, near enough to walk from his apartment, and he doesn't have a car (too expensive honestly, he just takes the university shuttles everywhere) so he's rather limited on work opportunities. When he stopped by with his mother after moving in and saw the hiring sign, he didn't really look the gift horse in the mouth. The owner hired him on the spot.

It's a small place, cozy, with comfy mismatched chairs and a wall of bookshelves piled with donated textbooks. Cups of pens and pencils are on every table, there's a large chalkboard with a running bet on the first home game of the season, everything about the place screams students. And the coffee—at least when Izuku makes it—is strong enough to keep you up through three straight exams. They actually advertise it that way.

Izuku's first week at Perihelion has gone fairly well. He likes his coworkers, he's a quick learner, his customer service never fails, he's getting paid ten an hour. He's gotten the twist on the croissants perfected, but decorating cupcakes is still well out of his range, so he spends most of his time on register, wowing customers with his sunny smile.

"Y'know," Kaminari drawls over kneading dough. Flour dusts his arms up to his elbows. "I never thought it was possible, but you actually make an apron look good. Teach me your ways."

"Sure, I believe you," Izuku laughs. He rings the last customer in line out and hands them their coffee and macarons. "You look so dashing covered in cocaine."

"Midoriya, if this was cocaine, I would not be working at a bakery, much less going to university for a degree. What's the use of electronic media skills when I have cocaine money?" Kaminari grins and flips the dough. "I'm just saying, one out of every five customers has checked your ass out when you're getting their pastries from the case. I counted."

"Seems like an overestimation," Izuku mumbles, cheeks coloring.

"I tell it like I see it." Kaminari cuts the dough into even balls and starts wiggling them out into strips. "I mention it now because you're oblivious, and I must save you from yourself. The receipt that girl signed has her number on it."

"What?" Izuku checks the ticket. Yep, there's a number. "How did you even see that from back there?"

"I see all." Kaminari flicks his wrists, the strip turning over on itself into a complicated-looking knot. "You gonna call her or what?"

"I—no?"

"Fair enough. Counterargument: you—yes?"

Izuku pockets the receipt, unable to help grinning back at him. "I don't even know her. What's your stake in whether I call her or not?"

"I live vicariously through you, Mister One-In-Five." Kaminari snorts a laugh. "Plus it's always fun to have a little drama around here. There is such a thing as too much peace and quiet."

"Incorrect," Izuku says, fiddling with a pen. "I haven't gotten any since classes started up again."

"It's been two days, man."

"My point still stands."

"Oh, shit, speaking of," Kaminari says brightly. "What the hell did Bakugou do to make you look at him like he tipped you a penny?"

Izuku's expression sours, and Kaminari points at him.

"See, that's what I mean! What's up with that! You're, like, too sweet to make a face like that."

"You've never seen me argue in class," Izuku mutters. Bakugou's mere presence in their English Lit has guaranteed that Kaminari will eventually witness that storm. "He was in my Philosophy last semester."

"No fuckin' way," Kaminari breathes, eyes wide. "That was you?"

Izuku blinks in alarm. "What was me?"

"Bakugou literally did not shut up for three straight days about some guy who thought, and I quote, 'subjectivity is always good and doesn't ever fuck up the world to the point of mass panic.' He yelled everybody's ear off about it." Kaminari finishes the last twist and dusts his hands off on his apron. "He said you hated Plato, too."

"I do hate Plato. I own that." Izuku smiles a tinge bitterly. It's a little ironic that while he was complaining about Bakugou, Bakugou was bitching about him. "He's wrong, though. I don't think subjectivity is always good, but it is something that's inescapable. Maybe if he actually paid attention to what I said, he wouldn't have gotten so bothered about it."

Kaminari stares at him for a long second, then bursts into laughter so fierce he doubles over. "Oh my god, dude," he wheezes. "Bakugou's a firebrand, he'd lose his shit if he heard you say that. Never, ever, ever tell him that. Actually, no, please tell him that, but warn me before you do, so I can record him kicking your ass."

"Oh, you think I couldn't take him?" Izuku puts his fists up teasingly, chuckling a little himself. "I'm scrappy, I'd make him work for it."

Kaminari doubles over again, cackling. The bell over the door chimes, so Izuku scrubs his eyes and stuffs down the rest of his laugh, turning back to the register.

"Sorry, hi, welcome to Perihelion, what can I get y—"

Bakugou Katsuki stares at him from the other side of the counter.

A guy with the brightest fire-truck red hair Izuku's ever seen steps right up to the case, oblivious to the war going on behind him. "Can I get, uh, two of these blondies and a caramel latte?" He puts his hands on his hips, looking up at the specials with interest. "What're you gettin', Blasty?"

"I'm gettin' real sick of this dude's fuckin' face," Bakugou growls. The guy suddenly seems to notice Izuku, standing there like he's swallowed his tongue.

"Oh shit," he mutters. He recovers quickly. "Uh, hi, I'm Kirishima, and you must be Midoriya. I've heard... so much about you."

"Is that so," Izuku hears himself say distantly. "That's funny."

"Funny," Bakugou sneers.

"Real funny," Izuku replies, "since I'm sure you've heard only good things."

"Mhm, yep, only the best things," Kirishima says unconvincingly. "Like how you're, uh, passionate about your stances, and, um, in all of Bakugou's classes." Kirishima elbows Bakugou none-too-gently. "What're you getting, Bakugou?"

Bakugou's jaw clenches hard enough to make Izuku's teeth ache in sympathy.

Kirishima clears his throat. "Hm. Yep. Hey, Kaminari."

"Hey, Kirishima," Kaminari says from the kitchen. "You gonna order or what, Blasty? Or, I dunno, say hi?"

Bakugou just spins on his heel and marches toward the corner booth by the bookcase. Kirishima stares after him for a moment, wincing, then leans toward the register. "Just a plain coffee, then. Room for milk."

Izuku gets their things in a daze, hands it over to Kirishima (who smiles and seems very friendly, very apologetic) and the second he's left the counter, Izuku rounds on Kaminari.

"Okay, before you chew me out," Kaminari says, hands up placatingly. "I was gonna tell you how they come here super often, but I lost track of time..."

"Lost track of time?" Izuku whispers in horror.

"They show up for study sessions every Tuesday and Thursday at 4:30," Kaminari says in a rush. "I didn't realize how late it was already!"

It's only a half hour into Izuku's shift. "How long will he be here?" he asks, despair dragging out his vowels into a semi-whine.

"I dunno, they stay a couple hours, I usually leave with them when my shift's over." Kaminari picks up the tray of dough knots and flees to the ovens. "Sorry my bad won't happen again please forgive me!"

Izuku white-knuckles the baking table. He's hyper-aware of Bakugou's presence, looming in the corner of the seating area, his voice carrying in the near-empty bakery as he runs through some complicated chemistry nonsense with Kirishima. Every Tuesday. Every Thursday. Is it too late to change his availability? Or how much he needs money to live? Izuku sinks into the single chair the kitchen has and puts his head in his hands, resisting the urge to groan.

This is hell. He's in hell. He's in hell, and the devil's name is Bakugou Katsuki.