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A Day at the Zoo

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Asui Tsuyu wakes up restless. It’s Sunday, so she doesn’t have class and she’d finished her homework long before now. She’d opt to get ahead if she had any assignments to do, but she isn’t about to ask AIzawa-sensei or any of her other teachers for homework on a Sunday .

The former would probably ignore her emails anyway.

Not surprisingly, Tsuyu makes it an hour before she accepts her boredom and makes an impulsive grab for her phone. Before she can think twice about it, she opens up her messaging app and starts typing. Tsuyu’s finger hovers over the send button for a few seconds before she finally presses it.

Hey.

Instantly, she locks her phone, throws it face down on her sheets, and turns over in her bed. She stays there for a solid three seconds before her phone goes off. She shouldn’t be as nervous as she is, because a message to an old friend isn’t supposed to inspire anxiety. Tsuyu’s heart is pounding when she picks up her phone and when she sees a reply it pounds harder.

HABUKO-CHAN

Tsuyu-chan!!! :D  

Tsuyu freezes, then sees three little jumping dots and holds off on replying immediately, as much as she wants to.

HABUKO-CHAN

How are you?!

Tsuyu rolls onto her back because she can’t support herself on her side for longer than a few minutes due to rough training in the last few days of the week. She moves to her phone above her head and smiles.

Things are great, but I’m bored. Ribbit.

While she waits for Habuko to reply, she holds her phone to her chest. Her heart is calming now. Well, until her phone rings again.

HABUKO-CHAN

IF UA doesn’t have you too busy we could meet up?

Tsuyu flat out drops her phone on her face. It collides with her nose and she yelps. Loudly.

“Tsu!” Tsuyu’s mother calls. “Are you okay?”

“Yes! Just…” her voice trails off, and her mother doesn’t press further, but then she thinks. “Hey, is it okay if I go hang out with Habuko-chan today? Ribbit.”

Her phone goes off as her mother replies. “Where would you be going?”

“Don’t know yet!”

“Well, keep me updated, little ribbit!”

“Ribbit!” Tsuyu looks at her phone, smiling again when she sees it’s another message from Habuko.

HABUKO-CHAN

?

Tsuyu’s fingers type fast.

Yes, I’d love to. Ribbit. Where do you want to go?

Tsuyu exhales once the message sends and finally gets out of the bed, changing into a soft pink dress that is well suited for the heat outside. Her phone goes off again and she hops over to it.

HABUKO-CHAN

Ever been to the zoo?

-x-

The front gates of the Musutafo Zoo are an odd place to have a reunion, but the two girls are far from caring.

“Habuko-chan!” Tsuyu shrieks.

“Tsuyu-chan!” Habuko replies back, running over to the other girl and immediately linking hands with hers. As the two hop excitedly, Tsuyu squeezes their intertwined fingers together and Habuko squeezes them back.

After several moments of enjoying their reunion, the two head to the entrance, determined to get started right away.

“The insect house is over there!” Tsuyu eagerly points, one hand still holding Habuko’s to maintain their connection.

Habuko turns her around and puts one hand up to shield her eyes from the sun, noting that Tsuyu does the same. “The reptile house is that way! Where do you want to go to first?”

“Ribbit, insects?”

“Just don’t eat them.” Habuko elbows her with the arm she’s using to hold Tsuyu’s hand.

Tsuyu shoves her back and smiles. “I’ll do my best.”

-x-

She does her best, but after Tsuyu eats three bugs they are asked to leave.

“It was just three,” Tsuyu gripes. “There were thousands of them.”

Habuko laughs. “They still don’t like it when people eat their exhibits.”

Tsuyu lets it rest for now. “Snakes are that way, Habuko-chan. Want to see them?” Tsuyu offers, still getting over their ban from the insect house. She bumps into Tsuyu playfully and Habuko leans into her.

Habuko grins and unceremoniously grabs Tsuyu’s wrist. “You had me at snakes.”

She all but drags Tsuyu to the reptile house.

-x-

“Corn snakes aren’t venomous, but they can still constrict around their prey.” Habuko nods, already knowing everything the zoo employee is going to say before she says it. But she wants to hold that snake. Badly.

It isn’t long before the snake is being handed from person to person in the room. Some people scream, others laugh, and Habuko practically yells in glee.

“It’s so cute, Tsuyu-chan!” Habuko says with a snake around her neck and another on her arm.

“Ribbit,” is all Tsuyu can say while she gives Habuko plenty of room.

She’s more of a frog person anyway.

-x-

In the afternoon the sun is hot in the sky, shining down on the outdoors enough to make every person sweat.

“Habuko-chan, I don’t really want to go back out there right now,” Tsuyu tells her friend after the throw their trash away. They’re standing at one of the glass walls of the restaurant, looking out the the many outdoor exhibits that they had perused that morning along with those they have yet to see.

“Neither do I,” Habuko agrees, and then taps her friend on the shoulder so that she can look at her. “But we can go scuba diving!”

Tsuya clasps her hands in Habuko’s own and the two jump up and down.

“That’s a great idea!” Tsuyu says excitedly.

“We can see the sharks!”

“Ribbit!”

“And the dolphins!”

“Ribbit!”

The two rush to the large fish tank in the center of the aquarium and walk eagerly up to the front counter, hands held and squeezing tightly.

Habuko takes the lead easily while Tsuyu tries not to erratically hop next to her. “We’d like to go diving, if that’s okay?”

The woman behind the desk smiles warmly and hands them a few papers attached to a clipboard. “Absolutely! I’ll just need you to sign some waivers. Do either of you have a water-breathing quirk? It will save some effort on our side.”

Tsuyu instantly raises her free hand. “I do, ribbit,” she tells her. “My quirk is that I can do anything a frog can and stretch my tongue out really far.”

The woman raises her eyebrows, impressed. “That’s a very nice quirk. I’ll need you to sign a few extra forms if that’s okay.”

“Perfectly fine,” Tsuyu says, freeing her hand from Habuko’s to sign her name several times on far more pages than Habuko has to deal with.

Within a few minutes the two cease their scribbling and head back to the changing rooms. Habuko dons traditional scuba gear and a wetsuit while Tsuyu only puts on the latter. Tsuyu isn’t nervous in the slightest as they climb the ladder to the top of the tank, but Habuko is a different story.

“When was the last time you went swimming, Habuko-chan?” Tsuyu places a reassuring hand on her friend’s arm, their feet dangling in the water together.

“Too long ago. We were kids.” Habuko grips the edges of the tank before sinking in slowly, carefully moving her legs back and forth as to not disturb the fish too much. Tsuyu follows her lead, slipping into the tank silently, instinctually treading water with ease, flipped feet moving below the water’s surface.

The two nod once, receive the go ahead from the supervisor, and drop below the surface.

The tank is large, comfortable holding thousands of gallons of water within its reinforced glass walls. Fish of many species swim around the tank in schools or singular units. Nurse sharks and hammerheads hover and move at the bottom of the tank, lifting sand in their wake. Several green sea turtles move about the water, happily going about their business with other creatures.

Tsuyu and Habuko smile at each other and start to explore, only to see none other than Kouda calmly swimming in place in the center of the tank with a head of lettuce in a bag in his hands. He’s peeling off leaves and feeding them to the fish around him. Truth be told, the two almost can’t see him due to the sheer density of marine life that is circling around him while trying to get their share of the lettuce.

Tsuyu moves first, swimming towards her classmate.

He sees her and raises his eyebrows.

Tsuyu is all at once grateful that she doesn’t need to be able to talk or be heard to use Japanese Sign Language.

What are you doing here? She asks him.

He only has one hand free, so he fingerspells his answer. I volunteer here when I can. I help take care of the animals and they can call me when one or more is agitated. Because of my quirk, you know?

Tsuyu’s eyebrows go up. That’s really cool, actually, Tsuyu signs back.

What are you doing here?

Tsuyu laughs and the last of the bubbles she’d taken with her disappear. She’s been exchanging oxygen with the water through her skin for some time. Habuko-chan and I wanted to enjoy our day off and it’s hot outside.

It’s Kouda’s turn to laugh a little and bubbles explode from his scuba mask. True. It’s nice here.

It’s a quiet setup. You’re lucky to have a job here.

Kouda smiles from under his mouthpiece. You should visit more often. He holds out some lettuce and gestures to the two girls. Would you two like to feed them?

Habuko looks to Tsuyu having not understood the entire conversation. Tsuyu nods to Kouda and he hands her the black back of lettuce, the fish automatically gravitating towards the new person holding it. Tsuyu holds out the bag to Habuko, urging her to take some of the vegetable.

When she doesn’t immediately, Tsuyu takes the lead and removes a few leaves, breaking them apart and feeding them to the fish. Habuko gets the picture and does the same, and Tsuyu can tell that she’s giggling by the way bubbles come out in uneven waves from her scuba mask.

Kouda is swimming nearby, petting a stingray that keeps swimming around him in circles and brushing up against him. Another joins a few seconds later, and Tsuyu realizes that her classmate has more than just human friends.

Tsuyu leaves the bag with a happy Habuko and starts signing to Kouda again, still amazed that they can talk underwater like this. It seems that he too shares the sentiment, clearly being glad to have both hands free.

I see you have some friend there. Tsuyu gestures to the now three stingrays that have come to play with Kouda.

They get along with me, yes. Kouda pets each of them before continuing. Would you like to pet them? I’m sure they would enjoy it.

Tsuyu lights up. Absolutely! Can Habuko-chan do it too?

Of course! Comes Kouda’s quick reply, and then he’s urging both of the girls over to his small herd of stingrays that is now all seven of the tank.

Kouda seems to communicate with the rays enough that they swim over to Tsuyu and Habuko  who immediately lift their arms before relaxing. Habuko cautiously moves her fingers towards the fin of one of them, and finds the slippery surface of the ray addicting. She’s petting the others and before long they’re comin back for more. Tsuyu is in the same boat, smiling as she enjoys the company of the rays. She signs a quick thank you to Kouda and Habuko imitates it, catching on to the sign’s meaning. Kouda nods at her and she’s glad to have made him happy.

When all is said and done the two leave the tank exhausted. Feeding a metric ton of fish and keeping a group of happy stingrays occupied had been nothing short of tiring, but at least the two are cooled off enough that they feel confident that they’ll be able to finish going through the outdoor exhibits of the zoo before leaving.

“Not so bad, Habuko-chan,” Tsuyu tells her friend when she returns from the changing room carrying her scuba equipment. They turn it back in within moments.

“I love the water. We used to go swimming so often. What happened?”

“School. Hero academies take it out of us,” Tsuyu answers easily, bumping shoulders with Habuko. “But we should hang out more over breaks. I want to show you how far my tongue can stretch now.”

“And I want to tell you about how I’ve saved people!”

“We can swap stories then!” Tsuyu hops. “Ribbit!”

“But for now, let’s cover the rest of the exhibits. We still haven’t found the frogs! Then we should both get some well needed rest later. I could use a nap after that swim.” Habuko grabs her hand and starts pulling her towards the exit to the aquarium.

“Tell me about it.”

Tsuyu happily lets herself be led.

-x-

The frog exhibit is in the north outer part of the zoo. Not surprisingly, it’s located farthest from the entrance, and Habuko and Tsuyu are even more tired than before by the time they get to it. Once they arrive, the frogs in the tank slowly realize that Tsuyu is there. However, after a few moments, it’s quicker, and the student is ribbit-ing back and forth with many of the frogs.

“You can talk to them?” Habuko asks, trying to keep her mouth from dropping further.

Tsuyu laughs. “No, I just like making noises.” Habuko nearly chokes. “They just like the attention.”

A woman with horns walks up to Tsuyu and taps her on the shoulder. “Would you like to hold one? With a quirk like that I’m sure they would like you.”

Tsuyu looks to Habuko, then to the woman and nods once right before the woman reaches into one of the tanks to grab a bullfrog to hand it to the future hero. “His name is Kiyoshi.”

“Kiyoshi, ribbit,” Tsuyu says with a smile, gently holding the squirming frog in her hands. “Ribbit.” At the repeat of the word, the frog relaxes and settles into Tsuyu’s hands. It makes a brief noise, and then Tsuyu holds him out to Habuko who tenderly accepts the frog when he hops into her waiting hands. Kiyoshi moves around hurriedly again, but with another “ribbit” from Tsuyu, he’s calm again.

“Heads up, Ladies, the zoo closes in five minutes.” The woman alerts them, motioning for Habuko to place Kiyoshi back in his tank. She does, and then the two link hands and walk towards the exit.

The sun sets as they walk away, and for once, Tsuyu truly feels like she’d made the best of her day off.