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Catalyze

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Shouto couldn’t remember the last time he had been to the movies. Literally, wracked his brain and came up empty. He was sure he had gone a few times in high school at the urging of classmates. Since then, the idea hadn’t even crossed his mind. So it was with some awkwardness that he met Midoriya at the theater. Going out with friends, attending a movie, it all felt like a cultural ritual he had forgotten the protocol for. If there was one thing he hated, it was being forced into a situation where he didn’t know how to perform, where he had no choice but to make a fool of himself.

Fortunately, he was fairly certain Midoriya felt the same way. The boy was waiting for him on the street corner outside the theater, nervously checking his phone. He lit up when he saw Shouto approaching. It was a gesture Shouto was starting to recognize as relief over not being stood up.

“Good afternoon! How are you?” Midoriya asked, as earnest as ever.

“Fine,” was Shouto’s automatic response. Then a beat later he remembered he was supposed to return the question. “How are you?”

“So good! I’ve really been looking forward to this movie! Normally I wait until stuff hits streaming to see it, but I really think seeing this one on the big screen will be awesome.”

Shouto grunted in agreement, trying to remember what movie that had agreed to see. He vaguely remembered it was some sort of thriller.

“So you like...movies?” Shouto asked.

He’d never been good at conversation. The last six months hadn’t helped.

However, the nice thing about Midoriya was that he didn’t seem to notice or care how bad Shouto was at basic social interaction, and it only took the smallest of prodding to get the boy talking. Shouto was treated to an enormous rundown of Midoriya’s theatrical preferences, most of which meant absolutely nothing to him. He nodded and grunted occasionally to show he was making a token effort to keep up.

As they sat down in the enormous theater chairs, though, his free pass from conversational contribution expired.

“So what kind of movies do you like?” Midoriya asked, turning his too-bright eyes on him.

“Uh...I’m not actually much of a movie person,” he admitted.

Midoriya’s face fell.

“Oh. Did...does that mean you didn’t want to come to this? I’m sorry, I never should have just assumed that you would enjoy movies, I mean really what was I thinking not even asking you beforehand I can’t believe-”

It was obvious that Midoriya was shifting into full social-panic mode. Even when Shouto tried to butt in to stop his worries, Midoriya’s mouth just kept going. With a sigh, Shouto reached over and placed a hand over Midoriya’s mouth so he could get a word in edgewise.

“You’re fine. I don’t hate movies, I just never saw many as a kid,” he explained. “I guess I just don’t think about them that much.”

He removed his hand from Midoriya’s mouth, who’s look of sheer panic had been replaced by dazed confusion.

“So like...your parents never took you to the movies as a kid?”

“No,” Shouto growled, trying to indicate with acerbic tone that it wasn’t a topic worth discussing. He succeeded, because Midoriya lapsed into silence. The movie started, but Shouto was too busy feeling like an asshole to pay attention.

You sounded like Endeavor just now. Losing your temper because you don’t know how to deal with people.

Rather than pay attention to the film, he was hyper-aware of Midoriya to his side. Midoriya seemed invested in what was going on. He gasped and laughed in the right places, and leaned forward in his seat once in a while. He didn’t look like his feelings were hurt. But then again, how would Shouto know? He was terrible at reading people.

Around half-way through the movie he realized he was slow-broiling himself. He’d thought maybe it was just nerves, but no, when he pressed his hands together he could tell that his left side was acting up. He was sweating, and he felt dizzy. Even though they had sat at the end of a row, Shouto didn’t dare get up to excuse himself to the bathroom. He imagined the eyes of distracted theater-goers snapping his way as he fumbled to get his crutches underneath him. And there was no way he could get out without Midoriya expressing concern, or even following after him.

Just deal with it. You’re tougher than this. How weak do you have to be to whine about a little heat? Endeavor would be disgusted with how easily-

“Are you okay?” Midoriya whispered, leaning over to him. “Um, I can kind of feel the heat radiating off you.”

His cover was blown, so with a sigh, Shouto replied, “I think I’m going to run to the bathroom. It’s fine, I can go by myself.”

He put a hand on Midoriya’s shoulder to prevent him from rising to assist. With a sigh and a pitying puppy-dog look, Midoriya let him go. Shouto fled the theater as fast as he was able. He made his way to the bathroom, where he turned on the faucet and splashed cold water over his face. Glowering at his reflection, he watched the water quickly turn to steam and leave him dry. He felt moderately better. However, rather than rush back into the theater, he stuck around in the bathroom. It was quiet here, with no other occupants to disturb him. How long could he get away with sulking before the length of his absence aroused suspicion?

“Todoroki?”

Apparently not very long.

Midoriya crept into the bathroom, tiptoeing as if he was afraid of getting caught.

“I thought I told you I didn’t need help,” Shouto said, trying to keep the ice out of his voice.

“Yeah, um, I’m starting to get the feeling that maybe you lie about being fine sometimes, so I figured I’d check.”

It took a moment for Shouto to process the sheer audacity of his words.

“Are you calling me a liar?” he asked with a trace of amusement.

“Oh no, no no, not exactly,” Midoriya backpedaled, rubbing the back of his head. “I just think maybe you’d rather set yourself on fire than admit you need help.”

Well he’s not wrong.

Shouto sighed but didn’t say anything. Midoriya moved forward, until he was close enough Shouto could count his freckles. Slowly, as if Shouto was a wild animal that might spook and retaliate, Midoriya lifted his hand and pressed it against Shouto’s forehead. For someone so baby-faced, his skin was surprisingly callused and rough. It also felt so very, very cool, which probably meant Shouto was still overheating. He didn’t mind, though. The contrasting temperatures felt good, so he closed his eyes and enjoyed the sense of relief radiating from Midoriya’s touch.

“So is this normal for you? Making yourself too warm, I mean,” Midoriya clarified. “This isn’t like, a sickness fever, right?”

“Yeah, it’s not really cause for alarm. It’ll go away after a while,” he reassured.

Midoriya still had his hand on Shouto’s forehead. Shouto wasn’t complaining.

“Do you know what triggered it?” Midoriya asked.

Shouto cracked one eye open to inspect the boy. Sure enough, there was that glimmer in his eye when he was going into science mode. The science glimmer.

“Was the theater too cold? I thought it was a little chilly myself, so maybe it’s your body’s natural instinct to regulate its temperature using your Quirk. Or maybe it was stimulation from the theater lights that induced it. You mentioned not going to a lot of movies-”

“I’m pretty sure it was another emotion-related thing,” Shouto said.

“You mean the negative emotions correlation we talked about?” Midoriya asked, face falling. “What made you upset?”

“It...doesn’t matter.”

Midoriya’s hand fell away from his forehead, instead moving close to his body as the boy hugged himself and looked to the side.

“Was it something I did?” he asked.

Shouto was left a few steps behind, trying to catch up with the mental gymnastics Midoriya had performed to somehow come to the conclusion that it was his fault. In the meantime, Midoriya spoke up again.

“Because you can tell me, you know, if I did something wrong. I know sometimes I don’t pick up on social cues like when I’m being annoying, and I’d rather you let me know than-”

“Slow down,” Shouto said, and Midoriya clamped his mouth shut. “You didn’t do anything. I...I felt bad over snapping at you earlier, okay?”

Midoriya seemed genuinely confused by this. His head tilted to the side, green hair shifting with a soft bounce.

“When? I don’t remember you snapping.”

Sighing in exasperation, Shouto resigned himself to having his nose rubbed in his mistake.

“When you asked about my parents taking me to movies. I’m sorry, okay? It’s...not a subject I’m used to talking about.”

“Oh, yeah, no, I got that. You don’t need to apologize,” Midoriya rushed to assure him. “My feelings weren’t hurt. I totally got that you wanted to change the subject, but I panicked and couldn’t think of another conversation topic and then I was worried the silence was awkward.”

“Oh.”

They shuffled and avoided eye contact with each other for a few moments before Shouto broke the silence.

“You’re sure you’re okay?” Shouto asked. “Because...it’s like you said. If I do something wrong you should tell me. I don’t always notice when I’m being an ass.”

Midoriya grinned, playfully punching him on the shoulder.

“All right, I get it. Next time you’re surly I’ll call you out. Happy?”

“Yeah.”

Rather than force Midoriya to miss more of the movie on his account, Shouto herded him back into the theater. Even though Shouto had missed most of the show, he did manage to gleam some enjoyment out of the explosions.

When the film ended and the lights came up, Midoriya turned to him and eagerly asked, “So did you like it?”

“Yes,” Shouto replied honestly, “but I don’t think I have what you would call discriminating taste.”

“I’m sure after I take you to twenty or so more movies you’ll get a feel for it,” Midoriya said. “Now come on, you promised me a meal, too.”

Midoriya had selected a local diner close to the theater. Likely he had taken into account how inconvenient it was for Shouto to navigate busy city blocks, and chosen this place based on proximity. Shouto didn’t mind. They didn’t serve soba, but it had been a while since he’d had a decent rice omelette.

Midoriya chattered away while they waited for the food, telling him different bits of trivia about the movie they’d just seen.

“You are actually kind of a movie buff, aren’t you?” Shouto said, impressed.

“Well I mean, when you spend most of your life holed up in your house and don’t really have anyone to talk to, movies are a great way to pass the time,” he explained, blushing.

“Do you spend a lot of time in your house? Seems to me you get out quite a bit.”

“Um, nowadays I do. Not so much in the past.”

Shouto wanted to ask what exactly that meant, but he was interrupted by a scream and a clatter behind him. Turning around, he saw a frightened waitress backpedalling from an enormous figure lurking by the door. It had to be some sort of mutation Quirk, because the man was approaching ten feet tall with spikes erupting from his back. That in itself wasn’t cause for alarm. They lived in a superhuman society, and most people weren’t so crass as to openly pass judgement on someone just for looking physically different. However, the fact that he was holding someone aloft, speared onto the end of a claw, was cause for concern.

A second man, minuscule in comparison to the first, stepped into view. He had on a ski-mask that did nothing to obscure the horns poking out of the top of his head.

“You damn idiot!” the second man screeched in a too-high voice, smacking the first. “I said take a hostage, not kill the chick!”

“Whoops.”

“Well, ladies and gentlemen, we may have gotten off to a rocky start, but we ask that you remain seated,” the man continued. “This is a hold up.”