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Catalyze

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Midoriya was worried he didn’t have anything appropriate for the occasion. Shouto tried to reassure him that if he had a tie and a collared shirt, it would be good enough, but the boy had never been to an event like this. He was, in the most Midoriya way possible, freaking out. Snapping pictures of dozens of outfit combinations, he asked for Shouto’s feedback. The response was almost uniformly “That looks fine.” Midoriya remained unconvinced. In the end, Shouto agree to come over before the event and make sure Midoriya didn’t panic and chicken out.

So that was why he was again at the Midoriya residence, greeted by an excitable Mrs. Midoriya.

“It’s so good to see you,” she exclaimed. “I’m surprised we didn’t scare you off!”

She laughed nervously, and Shouto couldn’t help but smile. The family resemblance was strong.

“You might scare him off if you keep saying things like that,” Midoriya muttered, pulling Shouto out of the genkan and hustling him down the hall.

“Do you boys want anything to eat before you go?” she called after them.

“I love you mom,” Midoriya called back, “but we are literally going to a dinner. We do not need food.”

“Let me know if that changes!”

That was enough to get a chuckle from Shouto and an exasperated sigh from Midoriya. Shutting the door, Midoriya offered him a seat. On his bed he had at least three different outfits spread out.

“I thought you decided which one you were going to wear,” Shouto said.

“I- I kind of started to have second thoughts. What if it’s tacky to wear a shirt that matches my hair? What if I just look like a giant piece of broccoli?”

“Midoriya,” Shouto reasoned, “you will look fine. Even if you do look like a piece of broccoli, it will be a cute piece of broccoli.”

“Is that a compliment?”

“Just hurry up and put the outfit on,” Shouto ordered. His job here was to make sure Midoriya didn’t second-guess himself into oblivion, and if he had to be a little bossy to accomplish that, so be it.

“Well, okay, if you’re sure,” Midoriya replied, picking up the shirt. “But which pair of pants do you think goes with it?”

Painstakingly, Shouto talked him through his fashion choices until they had assembled and outfit he was confident in. Midoriya excused himself to the bathroom to go change, coming back looking neater than Shouto had ever seen him. Except for the tie.

“Do you always wear your tie like that?” he asked, nodding to the uneven knot.

“Um, yeah, usually. I, uh, I didn’t have anyone to teach me, so I learned on the internet. Is it not okay?”

“Come here,” Shouto beckoned. “Kneel down so I can reach.”

He pried apart the messy knot Midoriya had cobbled together.

It looks like he just square-knotted the thing. Whatever tutorial he looked up online wasn’t very good.

“Like this,” Shouto explained, carefully and deliberately winding the fabric around so Midoriya could see. “The end should be about belt level. This tie is a little short for you, so we have to compensate by making the thin end shorter.”

“Yeah, um, I think the last time I bought a tie was in middle school.”

That explained a lot.

“All right, you’re good now,” Shouto said, leaning back to examine his handiwork.

He’d never say it out loud, but Midoriya did indeed look like a cute piece of broccoli. It was a good look for him.

“So are we ready to head out?” he asked.

“Oh, um, there’s actually one more thing,” Midoriya said, twiddling his fingers nervously.

It had better not involve anymore hemming and hawing over clothes.

“I wanted to show you something,” Midoriya said, grabbing a water bottle off the nightstand by his bed. “Here, watch this.”

Biting his lip, Midoriya stared intently at the bottle. After a second, Shouto heard the familiar crackle of ice forming, molecules rearranging from liquid to solid.

“Pretty impressive, huh?” Midoriya asked, handing him the bottle.

Turning it over in his hands, Shouto could see that it was indeed frozen solid.

“That’s...incredible,” he breathed.

“I just figured out how to do it this morning. I haven’t tried out the left side yet, because, um…”

“You didn’t want to set yourself on fire,” Shouto guessed.

Midoriya nodded.

“Yeah, you should probably hold off on that for right now,” Shouto agreed. “But this is pretty amazing. We need to test it, to see how much you’re capable of.”

Smiling, Midoriya said, “Yeah, I figured that would be your reaction. We’ll definitely try it out later. For now, though, we should probably get going.”

I can’t believe you wanted to spend all that time making sure your outfit looked okay when we could have spent it playing with your Quirk.

Rather than argue, Shouto graciously took Midoriya’s extended hand and got to his feet. They managed to get out the door with Mrs. Midoriya only offering them food once.

The dinner took place at the Team Idaten agency. Shouto had been several times, usually on business involving team-ups with Iida. However, it was a new experience for Midoriya, who was predictably starstruck. He had a thousand questions about everything, from the portraits hanging on the wall to the choice of decor. Shouto wasn’t much help, since he was pretty sure Midoriya was a bigger expert on the subject than him. They lingered in the lobby fawning over Idaten memorabilia, until Shouto finally herded Midoriya to their table.

True to Iida’s promise, they were in the far corner, away from any prying eyes. He had anticipated Midoriya would be disappointed at not being able to interact with any heros, but instead he used the relative privacy to play with his Quirk the same way a child would play with a new toy.

“I’m still having trouble making ice out of nothing,” he explained, dipping one finger into his glass of water. “For now I need a source.”

He pulled it out and let a single drop fall from his finger, cooling it so that it froze on impact. Drop by drop, he started forming a stalagmite of ice. Mesmerized, Shouto watched him work. He had done similar things when he was a child, pushing the boundaries of his Quirk and slowly learning how to use it effectively.

He wasn’t so entranced as to not notice Iida approaching. In one motion, he snatched Midoriya’s hand and put it over the growing ice lump on the table. As far as anyone else was concerned, Midoriya was still Quirkless.  

“Shouto! So glad you actually came,” Iida said, his usual exuberance filling the room. “And who’s your friend? I don’t believe we’ve met before.”

Iida extended an arm. Midoriya wiggled his right hand out from under Shouto’s, who was still focused on covering up the ice patch.

“Um, I’m Midoriya. I’m, uh, I’m flattered to make your acquaintance, sir, I really admire your work.”

“No need to be so formal. Any friend of Shouto’s is a friend of mine,” Iida said, as intent and sincere as ever. “Likewise, I think there’s a few people who would love to meet something as novel as the man Shouto willingly associates with outside of work.”

“Iida, you promised I wouldn’t have to socialize,” Shouto reminded him.

“I did, but I never made the same promise to your companion,” he replied. Craning his head back, he called out, “Uraraka, come introduce yourself! Shouto brought a friend.”

Uraraka, who was sitting only a table away and had apparently been waiting for her cue, rushed over. After escaping the ravages of adolescence, Uraraka had come out the other side with long, thin legs that did not match the curvaceous proportions of the rest of her body. The result was a woman who looked a little too top-heavy for her own good. It didn’t help that sometimes she just...tilted forward, lifting her legs off the ground and gliding forward on inertia alone. This is what she did now, floating to the table with her dress swirling around her like the plumage of some fabulous bird of paradise.

“Nice to meet you,” she said, taking Midoriya’s hand and shaking it enthusiastically. “My name is Ochako Uraraka. And who might you be?”

Midoriya’s mouth opened and closed a few times. Shouto thought that was a blush starting on his face.

“U-Uravity! I mean, that’s not my name, obviously, that’s yours. I just didn’t know you’d be here tonight, and it’s such a pleasure to meet you, and um-”

“His name is Midoriya,” Shouto interrupted. “And sometimes he gets a little starstruck around heroes.”

This made Uraraka giggle and Midoriya blush more. He still hadn’t let go of her hand.

“Then I bet you’re just loving this party!” she chimed. “Have you had the chance to meet everyone?”

“Oh, no, uh, we just got here, and, um…”

“And Todoroki isn’t much for socializing,” Iida finished, giving Shouto a knowing look. “I bet if you had your way, you’d sit at this table all night and not talk to another person.”

“That was the plan,” Shouto agreed through clenched teeth.

Uraraka shot him a look that said You’re being an inconsiderate doofus. It was a look she had given him quite frequently in school. Her and Midoriya were still clasping hands.

“Well, why don’t I show you around?” Uraraka said, eyes lighting up. “I can introduce you to everyone here, and Shouto can avoid socializing. It’s a win-win!”

“Really?” Midoriya asked, sounding like someone had just told him he had won the lottery. He was now holding Uraraka’s hand with both of his and shaking it slightly in excitement. “Oh, well, I don’t want to be any trouble, and I don’t want to just leave Todoroki alone-”

“Go enjoy yourself!” Iida said, slapping him on the back. “I need to do some catching up with Todoroki anyways.”

Midoriya looked at Shouto, uncertainty in his eyes. A grumpy, selfish part of Shouto wanted to give him a hard time, make his friend feel bad for wanting to leave his side. Shouto realized how awful that was. He didn’t own Midoriya. He had no claim to how he spent his evening.

Maybe it was the fact that he and Uraraka had still not let go of each other’s hands.

Squashing down his possessive impulse, he waved Midoriya away.

“Go ahead. Have fun.”

Midoriya shot him a grateful smile as Uraraka hauled him away, talking in her bubbly, adorable manner. They were still holding hands.

“You’re shooting a death glare right now,” Iida observed, sliding into the seat next to him. “What’s wrong? I thought you liked Uraraka.”

“I do,” Shouto said. “I just…”

Why am I acting like this?

In true Iida fashion, he was quick to connect dots, drawing a picture that might not be there in the first place.

“You don’t like it when she puts her hands all over your date?” he guessed.

“What?”

“He is your date, right?” Iida asked.

“No. We came as friends.”

“Is that so?”

Iida was suppressing a smirk, but he wasn’t very good at it. Grabbing a glass from one of the empty seats, he tried to hide his stifled chuckle under the guise of drinking water.

“What’s so funny?” Shouto asked.

“Oh nothing, just reminiscing about how little has changed in all these years. Particularly your courting strategy.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that rather than deal with something complicated like confessing your feelings,” Iida explained, “you start spending a lot of time with someone and expect a relationship to happen without talking about it.”

“I do not.”

“I can think of one notable example that says you do.”

Shouto’s gut twisted, and he considered getting up and walking away. However, that would leave Midoriya behind, and he didn’t want to abandon him. Before he could process how best to show his disdain, Iida was talking again.

“I actually have some business to discuss with you,” he said, pulling out his phone. “I’ve been investigating a series of murders involving immolation, and I wanted an expert’s input.”

Iida pushed the phone across the table, and Shouto picked it up. It was a picture of a person, the upper half of their body burned beyond recognition.

“Definitely a Quirk,” Shouto said, flipping through the gallery. “There’s too little burn damage to the surroundings, meaning it was highly controlled.”

“We’re trying to narrow the search from the list of registered fire users in the city. Any suggestions?”

“See if you can narrow down the temperature range. Check if metal fillings were melted, how deep the burns go, et. cetera. Best case scenario, that might help you filter out some suspects who’s Quirks don’t burn hot enough.”

“Noted. Anything else?”

“It looks like most of these fires were started from a close range. See, look here,” Shouto said, pointing out a picture where a victim had a hole burned through their chest. “You’d need to be very close to get that kind of precision. That could be more psychological than anything else, though. The killer may enjoy terrorizing his victims.”

Iida nodded, as if that made sense.

“That does give me a couple of ideas. I appreciate your input.”

“Any time,” Shouto said, handing the phone back.

Their conversation took a turn for the lighter after that, Iida asking more questions about his life, Shouto answering while still remaining vague. After a while, they were rejoined by Uraraka and a very overstimulated Midoriya.

“I met more Heroes here than I ever have at any meet-and-greet or hero convention,” he said, slumping into the seat next to Shouto.

“Your friend’s absolutely adorable. You know that, right?” Uraraka teased, elbowing Shouto.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” he responded.

This evoked more giggles from her and another knowing smirk from Iida. Shouto hated them both.

“Well, I’d love to stay, but I’d hate to neglect my own friends,” she said. “I’ll see you guys around. Bye, Midoriya!”

She kicked lightly off the table leg, floating backwards and waving all the while. Midoriya waved back.

“I have to make the rounds, as well,” Iida said. “I’ll leave you two to converse.”

After Iida was out of earshot, Shouto turned to Midoriya and asked, “So was it everything you ever hoped for? Mingling with hero society?”

“Um...I mean it was great, and Uraraka was really nice-”

So I noticed.

“-but, well...I don’t know, I guess it was sort of underwhelming,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure these people do wonderful things, but I got the sense that it was just a job to them. Like whatever got them the biggest paycheck, you know?”

It wasn’t an unheard of critique of hero culture. Coming from hero-worshipper Midoriya, though, it was particularly damning.

“You think you would do better?” Shouto asked, arching an eyebrow.

Blushing, Midoriya mumbled, “I’d at least like the chance to try.”

Shouto thought he deserved a chance, too. That thought wasn’t new. What was new was the sudden rush of affection, the feeling that he would sacrifice anything to help Midoriya. Iida was right. He liked this boy.

And Shouto had no idea how to tell him that.