Three Years after Class 1-A's Graduation from U.A. High School
The Sunflower Samurai Bar, Downtown Tokyo, Shinjuku Ward
"Hey girly, so glad you could make it! Long time no see, right?!"
Ashido Mina's giddy, lilting voice was the first thing that Yaoyorozu Momo heard when she pulled open the door and strode into the bar they'd designated as their meeting spot, aside from the other patrons' idle chatter and the deep, thumping bass of some type of hip-hop or rap music playing over the speakers- she wasn't entirely sure about the genre, but whatever it was, it certainly wasn't on any of her playlists. Momo's head swiveled over to locate to the source of the sound, but then a pair of strong arms wrapped around her in a bear hug from the side, and Pinky was lifting her up into the air with a wide smile on her face.
"It has been a while," Creati replied with a chuckle once she was back on solid ground, returning Mina's hug before they started back towards the group's table; they seemed to be the first two there, by the look of it. "You were down in Shikoku on assignment with Mount Lady and Kamui Woods for a while, right?"
"Yup, two weeks of looking into some local thugs that were trying to get involved in the narcotics trade. Just got back the other night! That was a total snoozefest, though, if I'm gonna be honest, but I've got plenty of new tea about my bosses." She paused and took a thoughtful sip from her cocktail, a tall, fruity monstrosity with a hefty slice of pineapple and a little tropical umbrella perched on the side of the glass. "If you still wanna hear about that, of course."
"Remind me where you'd left off?" Yaoyorozu asked, flagging the waiter down to order her signature whisky highball. "Last thing I remember, you caught them holding hands backstage at the party the prefectural governor threw."
One of the things Ashido delighted most in when she saw her old U.A. friends was updating them on the increasingly non-secret romance that had slowly been brewing between Mount Lady and Kamui Woods over the past few years. Mina was formally employed as Takeyama's sidekick, but given the ongoing partnership between the two heroes, she practically worked for both of them- not a bad deal, given that Yuu and Kamui were currently the number seven and number four heroes in the country. She'd matured a great deal since she started interning under them during her third year, both mentally and physically- the outline of her muscles was clearly visible beneath her jean jacket and lacy top, in addition to her usual curves.
"Oh trust me, we're way past that by now." Mina raised one eyebrow and grinned scandalously, and Momo couldn't help but giggle at the sight. "They were totally fucking over in the other room at this apartment we were renting out in Matsuya, it was pretty late so they must've thought me and the other sidekicks were asleep! It was so obvious, babe, lemme tell you. You could basically-"
Then the door swung open again, and Ashido was back up and halfway across the room to greet Uraraka, Hagakure, and Asui before Yaoyorozu could even process that they'd arrived. The alumnae of hero course 1-A (and a few from 1-B) had been doing their best to keep in touch since they graduated and went their separate ways for work three years ago, and for the most part they'd been successful when it came to planning occasional reunions, mostly thanks to Momo's efforts at putting everything together. It was after nine, giving them all enough time to run back and change after their patrol and recon shifts ended, and the venue she'd chosen this time was centrally located relative to all of their various offices. Toru and Mina already seemed to be regulars- the bartender gave them a familiar wave when he walked by, and a minute later he brought Hagakure a tall, blended margarita before the server had even come to take their drink orders. Kendo, Jiro, and Setsuna showed up shortly afterward, and with all eight girls present, the conversation finally began to flow.
"So how's having your own agency and everything going?!" Ochako was asking Tsuyu excitedly between sips of her strawberry daiquiri. "I promise I'll come out and see the place for myself soon, the pictures you sent me looked so nice! Things have just been so busy at Ryukyu's…"
"It's been pretty enjoyable so far, ribbit," Asui replied, one finger perched on her chin. As of a week ago, she'd become the latest member of the group to move past being a sidekick and go solo, joining Kendo, Yaoyorozu, and Setsuna. "It was scary at first leaving the stability of an established office behind, and the paperwork is a nightmare, but I've had so much more freedom dictating my time and missions, and I already have tons of sidekick applications and team-up offers to sort through. I'm glad I took the opportunity, overall."
"It truly is an intimidating plunge," Momo offered sympathetically, "but the benefits can be extraordinary if you're confident in the quality of your own work. Feel free to let me know if you'd like any tips or recommendations! I'd be delighted to have you over to my office!"
Creati had been one of the first few 1-A students to go pro after graduation, setting up a high-powered agency in the penthouse of a downtown skyscraper with the help of a contribution or two from her parents' company. Quickly climbing in the hero rankings, she'd broken the top twenty at the last poll, and was already employing quite a few current U.A. students as interns.
"Ah, don't let her give you the wrong impression," Itsuka interjected, elbowing her friend playfully in the side as she leaned over towards Froppy. "You're more of a combat-type hero like me anyway, so you should stop by my place, for sure. It may not be as cushy as Queen Momo's, but we have the best dojo you could ever want. You'd be surprised how much networking you can get done by asking other pros to spar with you."
"Or by getting them to be your concert buddies," Jiro offered through a mouthful of takoyaki. "If you don't feel getting bruised on a regular basis, that is. You'd also be surprised how many of the big heroes are major music buffs. I got my sidekick job with Gang Orca after I ran into him at this show by an Aerosmith cover band over in Yokohama, and he recognized me from the big fight with Shigaraki. It was the craziest shit, I swear to god."
"I believe that story a little less every time you tell it," Kendo chuckled, shaking her head. "I give it half a year until you're headlining a band with Endeavor on drums and Mount Lady on guitar."
More and more recognizable in the headlines every week, Battle Fist had finished at number nine in the most recent rankings- the third student from their year to break the elusive top ten, behind Deku and Ground Zero, though there were several close behind. Her looks and flashy fighting style had made her an instant media hit, and given their friendly rivalry, her success only pushed Yaoyorozu to try harder than ever. The two made eye contact as Kendo took a swig of beer from her mug, and exchanged a brief grin. I'll catch up to you soon enough, said Momo's glance. Just you watch.
"Oh, by the way, Itsuka!" Hagakure's voice interrupted their moment of solidarity, however, and they glanced back to her end of the table. "How's it going with Monoma? You two still going steady?"
"Ooh, yeah!" Ashido cried, leaning over excitedly- they'd only been at the bar for fifteen minutes, but if the flush on her pink cheeks was any indication, she was already slightly tipsy. "You guys are so cute together! Any new updates?"
"Uhhh…" Her demeanor sinking slightly, Kendo rubbed the back of her head and dropped her down gaze to her drink. Beside her, Setsuna's eyes widened in panic, and she made a swift cutting motion across her throat with one hand. "We… sort of… broke up." Itsuka finally finished, hesitantly. "Last week. I'd only told Tokage and Tetsutetsu. I was planning on letting you guys know tonight, I'm sorry for being all secretive about it… it's just still kind of…" She sighed and shook her head, and was quickly assaulted by the full weight of the group's emotional support.
"You don't need to talk about it if you don't want to," said Uraraka, wrapping the red-haired girl in a hug, "but all of us are here for you if I need us. I'm so sorry, Itsuka, you don't deserve this."
"Absolutely," Asui echoed, pushing her plate of sushi in Kendo's direction. "Here, take some of mine, I know eel is your favorite. And why don't we all go get ice cream after this? You love that little 24 hour place down by the water, right?"
"Nah, I've already gone through the whole junk food and cry it out phrase." She pushed back the food insistently in Froppy's direction and took another swig of beer, noticeably longer than the last. "Thank you, though, Tsu, you're sweet."
"Well let me, Mina and Momo know if you need any breakup advice," Jiro offered, exchanging a knowing glance with Yaoyorozu before she leaned over to rub Kendo's arm with one hand. "We've already gone through that whole shitty mess."
Creati nodded solemnly, her countenance drooping as she extended an arm around Itsuka's shoulder. Earphone Jack wasn't wrong- shortly after graduating from U.A., a sizable chunk of the two hero classes had begun to date each other, all within a span of just a few weeks. After an emergency midnight meeting to strategize and work up the courage, Momo and Kyoka had asked out Todoroki and Kaminari, respectively, while Mina asked Kirishima just a day later. For a time, the relationships went well, but soon enough, the realities of pro hero life began to set in, and as they took on increasingly dangerous assignments across the country on an increasingly regular basis, it was only natural that stress from work began to affect their personal affairs as well. In Yaoyorozu's experience, Shoto's habit of retreating into the relative safety of hero work to avoid discussing personal issues only made things worse. By the one year mark, date nights had gone from twice a week to twice a month- if they were lucky with their schedules, that is- and the vacations they'd taken together to Okinawa and Korea were distant memories. By the time Todoroki went solo at his father's urging, she was lucky if she saw him for an hour or two a day- even when his shifts at work ended, he spent more time training at the gym and quirk range than he did with her.
She'd finally broken things off shortly before their two year anniversary, around the same time Jiro ended things with Kaminari, largely due to his persistent habit of flirting around with other sidekicks and pros for the sake of "making connections", and his utter inability to read romantic cues. Mina and Eijiro lasted a bit longer, and only split up when Kirishima went solo and accepted a job offer to partner with Suneater at his agency down in Kyushu, all the way across the country. Ashido declined to leave her current job to move to Nagasaki with him, and they'd parted ways relatively amicably; as far as Momo knew, they still kept in touch. The revelation about Kendo and Monoma was a shock even for her, though- the two had always been an odd couple, but they'd been making things work relatively well, as far as anyone could tell from the outside. The tabloids published photos of their dates on a regular basis, and there had even been buzz about a marriage proposal coming at some point soon.
"Do you want to talk about what happened?" Tsuyu asked tentatively. Though she was still the most brutally honest of the group when it came to expressing her thoughts, she'd learned a bit more tact over the past few years. "They say that can help sometimes, but it's up to you."
"I mean… I don't know." She frowned and shook her head. "I guess in the end, I'll just say that one of us wanted more commitment and one of us was scared by that, apparently. Also, one of us is sort of a sociopath. I knew that all along, of course, but it… it just doesn't help when conflicts happen."
"That sounds like a lot to handle," Momo said quietly, sliding one hand over Itsuka's. "But like Ochako said, we're here for whatever you need."
"Well… what I think I need for right now is a distraction more than a therapy session, to be totally honest. Moving on instead of moping would definitely be preferable."
"Girl, why didn't you say so in the first place?!" Ashido cried excitedly, pulling out her phone. "We are helping you get back out there, starting tonight. Trust me, this is the best part of breaking up. Have you guys been using this new dating app lately? It's been working great for me, trust me." She punctuated the last sentence with a suggestive wink, and Yaoyorozu felt herself flushing slightly in embarrassment as she followed the rest of the table in pulling out her phone and opening the app in question. To be fair, she hadn't been using it that often, but the handful of dates she'd gone on had certainly helped her regain her self-confidence after the breakup. The only two who didn't have their profile at the ready were Kendo and Hagakure, who was still happily dating Ojiro, the only relationship left standing from their class.
"Sorry that I can't join in!" Toru pouted, flashing the gold and silver-plated bracelet that Mashirao had given her for their most recent anniversary. "I'm so curious to hear about how you guys have been handling the single life, though! I'm almost jealous of you!"
"Don't even pretend that you don't miss it," Mina teased, holding out her phone's screen so everyone could see her home page. "Alright, ladies, feast your eyes on a trained combat veteran's expertly designed profile."
"Veteran?" Jiro crossed her arms and sniggered in disbelief. "Please, you've only been single for three months."
"You'd be surprised how much a girl can get done in three months," Ashido shot back coyly as she swiped through her photos. There were almost a dozen of them, ranging from risqué selfies clearly taken in various stages of undress to stunning, professionally done shots of her in a variety of exotic locations- a neon-illuminated swimming pool on the top floor of a skyscraper, a scenic archway underneath the Forbidden City in Beijing, leaning on the railing at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Her cleavage became progressively more visible the further they went, and Momo couldn't help but be awed by Pinky's sheer confidence. Beneath the pictures, the bio was just two words long: "Impress me."
"I took like half of those photos, by the way," Toru declared proudly.
"Holy shit," Jiro breathed, voicing the rest of the table's sentiments aloud. "This is fucking wild, man. I wish I had the balls to use pictures half as sexy as this. How many matches do you have?"
"Good question," Mina quipped, finishing off her cocktail and signaling the waiter for another. "I kinda lost count, but it was somewhere around two or three thousand the last time I checked. It gets a little overwhelming sometimes, I only ever respond to like one or two a day."
"Three thousand?!" Uraraka sighed and laid her head down on the table. "And here I thought I was lucky when I hit a hundred."
"And how many dates does that add up to?" Togake set down her mojito and looked up at Ashido with wide eyes. "I can only fit in a few a month with my schedule, and even then it's hard as hell to find the time to follow up if I want a second one."
"As many as I want." Mina shrugged nonchalantly. "Depends on how I'm feeling, but I've been able to get pretty creative with timing these things when I put my mind to it. I've even worked in a few during shifts- ever gotten drinks with someone while also trailing a perp at the same bar? Because I'd be lying if I said I haven't done that at least twice. Sometimes I'll get busy and go dry for a week or two, but I think my record is six dates in one weekend."
"You're an absolute monster," Kyoka shook her head in mock disappointment and chuckled. "I think you need an intervention."
"Or maybe you just need an attitude change," Ashido countered wryly, and snatched the other girl's phone off the table. "Let's see what your profile looks like before you start acting all high and mighty, Ms. Punk Rock." Ignoring the mortified look on Jiro's face, Mina turned the phone around so they could all see and began to scroll through the info with a gleeful look in her eye. "Ooh, preferences set to both men and women, interesting! Not like we didn't already all know about that, though. Cute pictures, mostly concert and rave selfies, no judgement there. And aww, this bio! 'Full-time hero, part-time musician, aspiring lyricist. Tell me about your favorite bands! By the way, no Nickelback or country fans allowed, sorry.' Kyoka, babe, this is adorable!"
"I'm gonna kill you," Jiro muttered into her hands, doing her best to hide how bright red her face currently was. "Slowly and painfully."
"I thought it was a pretty good profile, ribbit." Asui patted Jiro's back comfortingly. "But Mina's right, by the way, everyone already knows that you're bi. I'm pretty sure I was the one who figured it out."
"A few minutes after I first met you."
"Okay, who's next?" Ashido cried gleefully, looking around the table. "Momo, how 'bout you? I bet you've been killing the game, there's no way you don't have more matches than me!"
"I… tend to be a bit picky," Yaoyorozu admitted as she offered up her phone. She only had two pictures on her profile- one smiling bathroom selfie and a professionally taken photo in front of the gates of her parents' estate- but her bio was practically a book.
"Loves engaging discussions about history, philosophy, and economics, along with shopping, teahouses, and long walks to the nearest mochi stand." Mina's grin only grew as she read, as did Momo's embarrassment. "Looking for a genuine connection with someone, not just a casual fling, so anyone interested in the latter should kindly unmatch. Being able to hold a conversation is a plus, as is an extensive background in literature- feel free to recommend me your favorite authors! A few examples of my personal favorite works are…" Growing impatient, Ashido scrolled down a bit and skimmed the first line of the next paragraph, then the one after that. "An ideal first date might include one of the following activities… Forward a preview of your stock portfolio if interested… Jesus, Momo, how many pages does it go on like this?!"
"…Several," she admitted after a moment's hesitation. "I also used send them a full questionnaire before the first date, but Jiro persuaded me to stop doing that."
"And how many guys actually end up sending you their stock portfolios?!"
"More than you might think. Most of them aren't very good, though- believe me, it's been an excellent way to weed people out."
Her eyes closed in exasperation, Mina sighed and massaged her temple with two fingers.
"Okay, we're gonna address everything that's wrong with that concept, but only after we go through everyone else's and help out poor Kendo here."
The remaining three girls' profiles proved to be a bit more orthodox, by comparison- Setsuna had a few racy pictures, but nothing close to Ashido's level of quality, and her bio was largely a rant about how much she loved dinosaurs. Tsuyu's, on the other hand, was as brutally honest as usual: 'Looking for cute guys to hook up with. I'm pretty busy with work, so I probably won't respond most of the time. Aquatic-type quirks are a plus. Try to be interesting, if possible.'
When they finally reached Uraraka, the entire table couldn't help but cringe in collective discomfort when the first picture that came up was of her and Midoriya. After two years of gentle encouragement from the whole group, Ochako had finally built up the nerve to act on her longstanding crush, and asked Izuku out just before their graduation. They'd all been as shocked and devastated as she was when he said no, explaining that he didn't want to put her in any danger while Shigaraki was still on the loose. As heartbroken as she'd been, Uraraka handled the rejection well, and the two remained friends; a year later, after Tomura was defeated once and for all at U.A. by Midoriya and Bakugo with help from Eri and the rest of the class, she'd been on the cusp of asking him again, until Hatsume Mei swept in and stole her thunder. She and Izuku had dated for over a year, until she got a major contract offer from a famous American support item company, and unceremoniously left him behind for California. That had been almost eight months ago, but no one had had the heart to bring the issue up with Uraraka again in the meantime. And as much as she tried to deny it, they all knew full well that she obviously still had feelings for him.
Poor girl, Momo thought to herself as Ochako stammered out an excuse about her and Izuku still being good friends and quickly scrolled to the next one. She deserves to be happy. It wasn't exactly as if she could blame Uraraka for continuing to pine after him; three years after their graduation, Midoriya was a completely changed person, bold, confident, and charismatic where he'd once been insecure, shy, and socially inept. Deku was currently the number three hero behind Endeavor and Lemillion, handsome and muscular, with a chiseled jaw and chiseled pecs to match All Might's in his prime. Other than Hatsume, though, he'd never dated or shown interest in anyone, and even during his relationship, the paparazzi had struggled to produce any sort of scandalous photos or reports aside from ones that were obviously fabricated. It might be hopeless for her after all, Yaoyorozu mused disappointedly, though she forced herself to snap out of it and pay attention to the rest of the profile.
The other pictures were fairly standard, including a shot of her and Tsu in swimsuits on the beach and a selfie of Ochako in her apartment, surrounded by her cats- Momo couldn't decide whether that last one was adorable or sad. Her bio was rather plain as well: 'I love puns, dessert, and my three beautiful kitties- see if you can add yourself to that list!'
"Well, there's… some room for improvement," Ashido managed a grin, and gave Uraraka a playful punch on the arm. "But nothing we can't help ya with. So, uh… how often have you been going on dates?"
"Eh, whenever I have time…" She gave them a sheepish smile. "Maybe… once every month or two?"
She's definitely still not over him, the entire table thought in unison. Sensing the awkward tension, Jiro quickly moved the topic of conversation back to Kendo, the reason they'd even started talking about the app in the first place.
"So in case you guys forgot, my gal Itsuka here is definitely gonna need our help putting together a killer profile to get back on her feet. Wanna give her some of that veteran advice of yours, Mina?"
"Guys, I dunno about this…" Kendo shrugged, and hiccupped from the beer. "It seems kinda overwhelming…"
"What happened to wanting to move on?" Ashido protested. "You said it yourself, girl, you need a distraction! Just give it a chance- one week, how about that? If you don't like it after seven days, go ahead and delete, it, but at least give it that long. It could be exactly what you need!"
Battle Fist caved relatively rapidly after that, and within ten minutes, the table of girls had slapped together a makeshift combination of pictures from her phone's gallery- finding ones without Monoma in them was an awkward and unenviable task- and sex-related puns about hands, fingers, and fists for her bio, mostly contributed by Tokage and Mina. Once that was done, they wasted no time setting her out into the wild to start swiping, and Momo couldn't help but lean over and observe Itsuka's taste in men as she moved her thumb to the right or left.
"This is so weird," Kendo giggled after a while, once she'd gotten her first match. "I feel like a washed-up grandma going to her first singles night in thirty years."
"Trust me," Yaoyorozu replied with a smirk, "I know exactly what you mean. Wait, is that…?"
They locked eyes, and Itsuka's flitted toward Kyoka, who was thankfully distracted talking to Ochako and Toru at the moment. Kendo had landed on Kaminari's profile, and was currently being treated to a photo of Denki's exposed abs in the bathroom mirror, below his grinning face and instantly recognizable mop of black-striped yellow hair. 'Ladies of all types welcome,' the bio read. 'Stick with me, and I'll electrify your love life'.
"Yikes," Itsuka whispered, hurriedly swiping left.
"That about sums my thoughts up too," Momo murmured in reply. "Let's just pretend we didn't see that."
"Sounds like a good plan to me."
As the rest of their entrees showed up and the alcohol kept flowing over the course of the night, Kendo continued to idly swipe whenever the conversation died down, pointing out interesting profiles to the group whenever they cropped up. Over the next hour, she came across Tokoyami, Sero, and even Mirio Togata, whose bio had them in hysterics for several minutes. Around eleven, the meal seemed to be wrapping up, and there were tentative discussions about going to a club next, since most of them had off work in the morning. Uraraka stepped outside to take a call from Ryukyu while they deliberated, but just when they were about to reach a verdict one way or another, Kendo froze in her chair, her eyes suddenly as wide as saucers.
"Holy shit. Guys, look at this. I'm not going crazy, right?"
She held the phone out to the middle of the table, and Yaoyorozu leaned forward curiously. At first glance, it seemed to be nothing more than an ordinary profile. Akira, the boy's name read, age 21. The lighting on the first photo, a simple bedroom selfie, wasn't exactly the best, almost like he'd used a filter of some sort. Then she recognized his face, and it all clicked.
"Is that… Midoriya?!"
The young man's hair and eyes were both black, but there was no mistaking that messy style, or the shadows of scars left behind from his battle with Shigaraki, or his cheekbones and jaw structure, for that matter. As she scrolled through, it became clear that the rest of his pictures were similarly illusive- there were no other people or identifying features that would place him as Deku the hero, just simple shots of him in an unremarkable apartment, or at various landmarks around Japan and the US, either with the colors altered or from just far enough away that his features couldn't quite be made out perfectly. There was even one where a second person had clearly been cropped out, and everyone knew immediately that it was Hatsume.
"I don't get it," Setsuna muttered, glancing at the door to make sure Ochako hadn't come back inside. "I mean, fame is a bitch and all, and attracting unwanted attention sucks, but why try and hide his identity like this? Even Lemillion is straight up about who he is in his profile, and he's number two!"
"I guess he's always been shy about this sort of thing, looking back on the evidence from our time at U.A. and afterward." Momo leapt at the chance to begin theorizing, one hand perched on her chin in contemplation. "It's possible that despite the changes to the rest of his personality, Midoriya is still quite shy and reserved when it comes to romance, perhaps even more so now that he's been dumped in a rather rude fashion."
"So he's trying to mislead people about his identity because… he's still insecure?" Jiro completed, one eyebrow raised skeptically. "That's… pretty lame, I'm not gonna lie."
"That's one possibility," Yaoyorozu continued, "but it's more likely that he's doing so in attempt to keep his personal and professional lives separated, especially given the peril those around him have been exposed to in the past thanks to the machinations of villains."
"Yeah, because the League is definitely going to go after some random girl he had drinks and a one night stand with." Jiro shrugged. "I dunno, seems kinda overprotective to me."
"Well keep in mind," said Mina, "this is Midoriya we're talking about, guys. Overprotective is one of his middle names- that along with Broken Bones and Man Tears."
"Regardless of any of that," Kendo interjected, "the question is what do we do now? Should we tell Ochako? I feel like she deserves to at least be aware."
"You're right, she does." Momo frowned, deep in thought. "But we have to be careful about this- she's already had her heart broken twice, so we should do everything we can to prevent that from happening again. I say we hold off on telling her for now, and do some investigating ourselves."
"Investigating? You mean like following him around detective-style?" Hagakure visibly perked up on the other side of the table. "Because I could definitely help out with that! He'll never see me coming!"
"No, not quite like that." Yaoyorozu inhaled a deep breath, trying her best to summon the resolve to put her thoughts into words. Perhaps it was the whisky speaking, but she slammed her palms down on the table and took the plunge. "Midoriya has clearly indicated with this profile that he's available and interested in seeing women. So what if we… did the hard work for Ochako?"
"Wait, hold up a minute…" Setsuna chuckled and held up one hand. "You mean like… what if we all went out with him?"
"Just to see what type of woman he likes!" Momo protested, blushing involuntarily. "And to find out what he's looking for in his next relationship! It would all be for Uraraka's sake! Think of the whole thing as…"
"Reconnaissance?" Asui finished, curiosity plain on her face. "I get what you're saying, Yaomomo. To be honest, I wouldn't mind. I've always thought that Midoriya was kind of cute. We almost kissed during second year, did I tell you guys that? We went on this sort of semi-date, but he got too scared and chickened out at the end."
"You did not, but I can absolutely see that happening." Jiro took another sip of her Moscow mule and drummed her fingers on the table. "Well, the little green bean's never really been my type, but he's a cool guy, always helped me out with my combat training when I needed. So if we're all really doing this, I guess I'm down, yeah. I mean, it's just one date."
"Not so little anymore," Kendo chided playfully. "God, he really hit a growth spurt, didn't he? Well lemme see if it's meant to be between me and him." With a flick of her thumb, Itsuka swiped right, and the table gasped in surprise when her phone vibrated with the notification for a match.
"Holy shit, he's online right now!" Ashido whipped her phone back out of her pocket and set off swiping at lightning speed. "This is a pride thing for me now, ladies. I mean, I have his number on speed dial from work, but I now I just have to make that fucker match with me."
"Someone's pretty determined." A wide grin on her face, Tokage detached one of her arms and used it to poke Mina playfully on the cheek. "You sure you're solely interested in helping out Ochako?"
"Obviously, how dare you accuse me of unprofessionalism?! But while we're at it, why don't we add some stakes to this? If you guys haven't noticed, I'm a teensy bit competitive, I do better with challenges than with vague objectives."
"Challenge?" Yaoyorozu felt one of her eyebrows raise. "What sort of challenge do you mean?"
"If you don't kiss him by the end of the date, you have to buy dinner for everyone else in the group." Suddenly Ashido's smirk became even more devious than usual, and her eyes took on a conspiratorial light. "And the first one to sleep with him gets a prize. Let's say… free drinks for a month, rotating payment system from everybody else."
"Hold up, sleep with him?" Kyoka nearly spit out her drink, her cheeks flushing crimson as a round of gasps and shocked expressions worked its way around the table. "Whoa there, that wasn't part of the deal."
"I am altering the deal." Mina held one hand over her mouth like a mask and began to make Darth Vader breathing noises. "Pray I don't alter it any further."
"Well this was technically my idea in the first place…" Momo bit her lip, deep in the grip of indecision. "But… I guess that's a fair optional objective… if it motivates people?"
"Consider me motivated," Tsu shrugged, but before anyone else could reply, the door opened, and the group fell as silent as the grave when Ochako hurried back through and began to grab her things.
"Sorry guys, I've gotta run! Got word from the office that one of the perps we were tracking just popped up in Nagoya, so Ryukyu and I are gonna take the train over and attempt pursuit."
"At midnight on a Friday?!" Toru protested. "That's crazy, you worked all day too! Promise me you'll sleep on the train, okay?"
"We might be doing a briefing on the way there, but I'll try my best! See you all soon, okay? I promise I'll stay for the club next time, take a shot for me!" After giving all of the girls brief hugs which were made painfully awkward by the context of the situation, Uraraka rushed out the door, and the rest of the table was left stewing in embarrassment.
"So…" Jiro was the first to speak, twirling one of her jacks around her finger absentmindedly. "Are we really doing this?"
"Yes." Mina and Tsuyu answered in unison.
"I… guess so?" Kendo still seemed conflicted as she peered down at her phone. "I mean, he did swipe right on me. I feel like I've got the most justification out of anyone."
"Eh, I don't know him that well, but right now I'm drunk enough to feel like this isn't too bad of an idea." Setsuna shrugged and finished what remained of her third mojito of the night in a single gulp. "I mean, what's the worst that could happen?"
"So many things." Momo cradled her head in both hands, on the verge of being overtaken by a sudden wave of guilt. "We're horrible friends for even considering this, aren't we?"
"You kidding, Moneybags? Of course you are, but I could've told you that way before tonight."
Eight heads whipped around at once at the sound of a familiar, growling voice, and Yaoyorozu felt her jaw slacken in shock when her gaze settled on the bar, and the blond, spiky hair of Bakugo Katsuki- better known as Ground Zero, the number six hero in the country. He'd craned his head around to face their table, and was watching them with mild annoyance on his face, which was already flushed red from drink.
"Bakugo?! I-I didn't see you there! How long have you been listening?"
"Oh, we heard the whole thing." The patron beside Katsuki twisted around in their direction, and Shinso Hitoshi gave Momo a half-assed grin. Synapse the Brainwashing Hero, currently a partner at Monoma's agency, was wearing his signature bluish-purple hair combed back over his black leather trench coat, so she hadn't recognized him from behind. "Pretty interesting little challenge you've got going there, if I do say so myself."
"Yeah, and I think the whole thing sounds pretty fucking stupid, as far as I'm concerned." Bakugo slugged back the rest of his glass of whisky in one go, slammed it on the bar, and turned back to face the girls, pointing at them with an accusing finger. "You assholes think you're just gonna waltz in and get Deku to fuck you? Are you kidding me? That prude? Most of you barely even know him. I'm the only one here who really does. You're all just… fake, that's what you are."
"So what are you saying, tough guy?" Mina crossed her arms defiantly. "You gonna show us how it's done?"
"Maybe I will," Katsuki slurred, swaying slightly in his seat. "Yeah, maybe that's exactly what I'll fucking do. You know what, I want in on this shit, you hear me?"
"Hold up, since when do you even swing that way?!" Jiro protested. "Weren't you and Camie from Shiketsu dating for like a year? I know you and Kirishima were close, but I never thought it was that close…"
"Don't you fuckin' talk to me about Eijiro," Bakugo snapped, his brows furrowed in anger. "And it was eleven months, not a year, for the record. Not that any of my personal life is your goddamn business."
"You know what, why don't you go ahead and put me down too?" Shinso sighed deeply and rubbed at the dark purple bags under his eyes. "So that when he remembers this conversation tomorrow morning and blows up my damn phone, I can say that we both got roped into it involuntarily."
"Sure thing, but you're not allowed to use your quirk, obviously, and I'm cutting off entry after this." Mina started to count on her fingers, tripping up a few times on account of her tipsiness. "As of now we've got… six, seven… eight people in on this, including you two, so I think that's definitely enough. Now how do we wanna decide order? We obviously can't all be competing to go first, as fun as that shitshow would be."
"Let's just make things simple and go with a random draw." Momo held out her arm and used her quirk to create a bundle of eight wooden sticks, then offered them to Hagakure. "Toru, you shuffle them, to ensure fairness. One of these has a crown carved on the bottom, all the others are all blank. The person who draws the crown gets the first shot at a date with Midoriya. I think it's best to decide the order one date at a time, since we all have hectic schedules that are subject to change."
"Makes sense," piped in Kendo. "I mean, I feel like I'd be within my rights to claim first dibs, but this seems fair. You guys ready to draw?"
After everyone gave their assent, and Hagakure had thoroughly shuffled them, all of the girls plus Bakugo and Shinso carefully drew a stick. Once the last one was gone, Toru clapped her hands together in giddy anticipation.
"Okay, who has the crown?"
"That… would be me." Yaoyorozu declared haltingly, her words tinged with utter embarrassment as she held up the stick in question as proof. This looks horrible, I had no intention of cheating! If they ask for a redraw, of course I'll agree to one…
"Stacking the decks!" Mina cried, leaning over the table to point at Momo's blushing face. "Disqualify her, ref, she's crooked!"
"Yeah!" Bakugo pitched in, snapping his stick in two with a squeeze of his fist. "The fuck, dude?! I don't even wanna do this, but that's still dirty!"
"Nah, I saw Toru shuffle, it was a fair draw." Kendo calmed the group down with a wave of her hand and a disarming smile. "I mean, there were only eight possible outcomes, and that was one of them. Plus, going first seems like a lot of pressure now that I think about it."
"Fair point," Jiro replied. "You got this, Yaomomo! You better keep us updated on all the details."
"Let me know how good of a kisser he is," Asui requested politely. "I'll need to be on my A-game for my date with him. You are planning on kissing him, right? I mean, I know you could afford dinner for all of us, but still."
"I… oh my… I haven't even…"
"I have the check for you, ma'am! Would you like that together or separate?"
Saved from her fit of nervous stammering by their smiling young waiter, Yaoyorozu put the whole thing on her card out of a combination of embarrassment and sheer reflex, reassuring the others that they could pay her back later.
"So she's admitting defeat already!" Setsuna gasped as they all began to get up and move towards the exit.
"Oh, trust me." Mina stood and stretched, letting the neon glow of the bar's lights illuminate the full length of her body. "Momo knows when she's outmatched."
When all was said and done, the group took around five full minutes to get all their things together and leave, chattering about a fancy new club in the next ward over. Synapse and Ground Zero lingered for a while longer, sipping plaintively at their drinks in relative silence before they finally called a cab at around one in the morning. Even after they were gone, though, it took Toga Himiko nearly another full hour to wipe the wide, gleeful grin from her face.
"Toga, report." Kurogiri's voice crackled through the receiver in her ear as she slipped out the bar's back door and into a dark alley, shrugging off the bowtie and jacket that had completed her uniform. "Did you locate the targets?"
"Oh trust me, I located them and then some." The waiter's voice still sounded unfamiliar on her lips, a bit too deep and grating for her tastes; the moment she was sure she was alone, Himiko released her quirk and shuddered with delight as the excess flesh began to melt from her body, rapidly returning her to her normal appearance. "Turns out this place is a real hero haunt, tons of U.A. alums hanging around."
"Please, tell me you didn't kill any of them. This assignment was purely reconnaissance, nothing more- I was very specific about that."
Since the defeat and imprisonment of Shigaraki and the death of All For One, the League of Villains had been reduced to a shadow of its former self; only a scant few members had avoided capture or death in the climactic battle and the days that followed. Kurogiri had taken charge of the remnants, but even after two years, they still didn't dare reveal themselves to the public, too fearful of the country's new symbols of hope and victory- Deku and Ground Zero, household names by this point in their hero careers. Toga's current mission, trailing Bakugo and Shinso's movements, was the biggest risk they'd taken in months, but as far as she was concerned, the real payoff of the night had nothing to do with her objective.
"Don't worry, I was a good girl! I realllly wanted to stab them, but I didn't, just like I promised! I did hear some really interesting things, though, about an old crush of mine."
"What the hell are you talking about, Toga? Old crush? Is this even related to the mission?"
"Nope, so don't waste any time worrying about it! Just some personal stuff. Hey, is it okay if I take a night off next week? I've been working pretty hard lately, after all."
"I… we'll see." Kurogiri sighed heavily through the radio. "Just worry about getting back to the safehouse to debrief for now, and we can talk about taking time off afterward. If you got good intel, that is."
"Don't worry, Mr. Boss, only the best for you!" She hung up before he could reply and began to skip giddily down the alleyway, splashing in puddles as she went. At the next corner, she paused to lean up against a wall, holding her hands tight against her chest as hot red blood crept across her cheeks. "Don't worry, Izu baby- I know I've been away for a while, but I'm coming back to rescue you. I just need to collect a little bit of blood first, and then we can be together forever."