Shinsou wanted to be left alone. He wanted to hunker down and focus on making up for lost time. Joining 1-A was exhilarating and exciting, but it was also stressful. It felt like he was years behind his new classmates. Extra training was talking up a lot of his free time. As a result, Shinsou wasn’t looking to make friends. He simply didn’t have the time. If he was being honest, he also lacked the energy for it. Devoting all of his energy to becoming a rival to those at top of the class was a challenge, but it was well worth it. He wanted to be able to stand on equal footing with his new classmates and then to surpass them. He didn’t want there to be doubt in anyone’s minds that he belonged here, especially in his own.
Slouching further into his chair, Shinsou sighed. He appreciated Present Mic’s enthusiasm for teaching, but the English class bored Shinsou. Yes, the language could be useful at some point, but right now he was more worried about the physical aspects of being a hero.
Despite the loud volume of Present Mic’s lecture, Shinsou managed to slip into a light sleep. He hadn’t intended to take a nap in the middle of his class, but he had been run extra ragged recently. His general insomnia didn’t help the situation, especially as it had worsened following his admittance to the hero course.
His nap was short lived.
“SHINSSSOOOOOOUUUUUUUUU!” Crap. He’d been found out. Sitting up in his seat slightly, he made a point to open his notebook and pick up his pencil. Okay, so the class was boring, but it was still important. Present Mic seemed to be appeased by Shinsou’s performance and returned to teaching.
By the end of class, Shinsou had taken a sufficient amount of notes. They would have to suffice. As he collected his things, the boy felt a presence to his side. Turning in his seat, Shinsou saw Yaoyorozu tentatively standing beside his desk.
“Hi, Shinsou. Do you have a moment?” the girl inquired politely.
“Uh, sure,” Shinsou shrugged, standing from his seat, not wanting to crane his neck to look up at the tall girl. Inadvertently, he found himself in his classmate's personal space. Awkwardly, Shinsou leaned back against his desk in an effort to create space between them but not before noticing how good she smelled. Yaoyorozu seemed wholly unaffected. He was grateful for her ever-steadfast composure.
“I was thinking,” she began, a note of something akin to hesitation in her voice. “I was thinking that, if you were interested, I could help you get caught up.”
“Caught up?” Shinsou asked, realizing what she meant as soon as the words left his mouth.
“With school work,” the girl offered. “I’ve noticed that you seem uneasy in class. Forgive my speculations if I’ve misread things. If you’d like help getting on track, studying is kind of my thing.” Yaoyorozu offered him a gentle smile, tilting her head slightly. Shinsou looked away from her and down towards his desk.
Why was she being so nice to him? Hadn’t he made it clear he wasn’t looking for friends? On the other hand, he wasn’t unfamiliar with her work ethic and scholarly achievements. Maybe she was what he needed to kick things into gear academically. After all, he shouldn’t let his studies slip. Further training his quirk and his body were the top priority, but he needed to remain well rounded on all fronts. After what was undoubtedly longer than an acceptable amount of time, Shinsou looked back into her cat-shaped eyes.
“I’d like that.” Shinsou felt warm for a moment. Dispelling the feeling, he slid off of his desk and around the girl, quick to move out of her way. Before he could make his exit, a phone was thrust into his chest.
“Text yourself. That way I’ll have your number.” Startled by the request, Shinsou eyed Yaoyorozu suspiciously before groaning internally. This was a normal request. Why was he being weird about it? Obviously, she needed his number if they were going to coordinate study sessions.
He accepted the phone.
Hey, this is Shinsou.
Hitting send, he handed to phone back to her. He watched as she added him to her contacts.
“Perfect! I’ll text you later. I need to double check my schedule.” Yaoyorozu’s eyes twinkled, her black pupils hypnotizing. As she turned to walk away from him, Shinsou wondered if this is what it felt like to be brainwashed. His mind was a little fuzzy, and his brain felt a little blanker than usual.
Later that day, Shinsou felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Yaoyorozu’s name was displayed on the screen.
Yaoyorozu: Hi, Shinsou. Are you free tomorrow evening to study?
The text felt oddly formal. He supposed that was normal. It was her first text to him. He contemplated for a moment before responding.
I’m free. Where do we meet?
Yaoyorozu: I was thinking in the library after class.
I’ll be there.
Shinsou pocketed his phone, a foreign feeling settling over him that he couldn’t quite put a name to it. Cutting through the sea of his usual stressors, the feeling settled under his skin. It was a nervous energy.
The thought of getting closer to Yaoyorozu was making his heart beat a little faster. An uncomfortable warmth built slowly out of the nervous feeling. Shinsou shrugged out of the “Coffee or Death” hoodie he’d had on for the last few hours and tossed it into a pile of clothes on his dorm room floor. The action didn’t help. His skin prickled, cold from the air in the room. This kind of warmth wasn’t going to leave with a simple change in temperature. It was chemical.
Shinsou had always been reserved. He’d made it a habit to keep to himself. Once people learned about his quirk, they tended to leave him alone. No one was outright afraid of him, but they certainly shot him wary glances. He could tell that his presence was uncomfortable for others.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t in his nature to push past this kind of unintended ostracization. Instead, he slipped into a pattern of avoiding others, which only made him more unapproachable. This cycle had been set pretty quickly after his quirk manifested, and it wasn’t bound to change now no matter how friendly everyone in 1-A was. He didn’t mind being solitary, or he told himself that. He didn’t need distractions. He needed to focus on becoming a pro-hero. That’s what actually mattered.
Deep in reflection, Shinsou decided that his nerves concerning Yaoyorozu were caused by his discomfort with socialization. His comfort levels around others were sparse, an unfortunate side effect of keeping to himself so regularly. He sighed, dipping under a mound of carelessly strewn blankets piled up on his bed. Things were going to have to change. If he was going to embrace working with others as a means to excel, he would need a fresh perspective and exposure to normal human interactions. Yup. He could use this opportunity to work on interacting with his peers. Thankfully, Yaoyorozu wasn’t threatening. Girls like Ashido and Hagakure were too chatty and ostentatious for his comfort. Their general exuberance and energy left him on edge. Yaoyorozu was much more subtle. She was direct, calm, and rational. He could handle that.
Studying with a classmate was going to pose some uncomfortable challenges, but he had to make peace with that if he wanted to continue to develop. Shifting around in his mess of blankets, Shinsou found a comfortable position. Into the early hours of the morning, he scrolled through forums on his phone looking at cat videos, listening to chill music, and thinking about the day to come. To his relief, his body gradually succumbed to sleep.
Entering the library, Shinsou was relieved to see it was vacant save for a few Management students huddle around a table near the windows. He heard faint murmurs from them as they gestured to each other over a spread of papers and notebooks. While it might have made sense to leave class with Yaoyorozu, Shinsou had arrived alone. The girl had left their class quickly. Scanning the room, there was no sign of the black haired girl.
Small electric pulses under Shinsou’s skin signaled the return of his nerves as he found a table to sit down. He started to second guess the study session. This was a bad idea. He didn’t need help. He had managed so far, and he could continue to do so.
Before he could seriously talk himself into leaving, Yaoyorozu swept into the library. She moved fluidly over to Shinsou, sitting beside him at the table. Bowing her head to him, she offered an apology for her tardiness.
“I’m sorry, Shinsou. I forgot to grab some of my notes this morning,” she explained, setting a large three-ringed binder labeled “Hero Course” with neatly decorated lettering down on the table. “This is my master study guide. It has all of my class notes. We can use it to get you caught up.” Flipping the cover open with a delicate index finger, she leaned forward in her seat. The slight movement kicked up a barely perceptible current in the air. Fleetingly, he was enveloped by the gentle scent of cherries and vanilla. It was dizzying. Focusing was going to be an obstacle if his study partner was going to smell this good.
Lost in introspection, Shinsou missed part of what his classmate was saying. Something about her proposed plan for their study sessions. Grounding himself in reality, Shinsou looked down at a page that Yaoyorozu had turned to as she spoke. It was a neatly laid out study agenda that she had tailored with him in mind. It looked like something straight out of a study inspo blog. Oh jeez, she’s one of those people. He had to admit her neat handwriting and decorative flourishes throughout the page were quite stunning. His notes never looked like that. In fact, his were scrawling and incomplete most of the time.
“What do you think? Does that work for you?” Yaoyorozu inquired.
Quickly, Shinsou scanned the agenda. Man, it’s pretty damn thorough.
“Yeah, that sounds good,” he paused before adding, “You didn’t have to go to all that trouble. I appreciate it though.”
“Oh,” she laughed softly, covering her mouth with her hand. “It’s my pleasure. I would do it for anyone in the class.” She flashed a warm smile at him. Shinsou felt a strange flutter in his chest.
“Even Mineta?” He raised an eyebrow teasingly as her face puckered.
“Um, probably not.” The expression washed away from her features, replaced by a laugh less shy than her first. They exchanged a knowing look. Fuck that weird grape-headed pervert.
Without further delay, the duo hunkered down and got to work. Despite his initial worries of awkwardness, Shinsou found that working beside Yaoyorozu was easy, calming even. Her presence was light and neutral. She wasn’t overbearing and seemed to be good at picking up on his social queues. She spoke thoughtfully and carefully, working to avoid making him uncomfortable. Shinsou might not have been the best at engaging others, but he was an excellent observer. He easily picked up on her strategic maneuvering of their exchanges. He appreciated the effort. If he was hotheaded, he might have been offended by her purposeful efforts to keep their communications smooth and safe. Instead, it gratified him to know that she had considered his comfort. It was more than most had done for him. He wasn’t used to being treated so kindly.
Their study sessions became regular after that, eventually morphing into more of an accountability system than a tutoring one. After several weeks, Shinsou had grown used to the black haired girl’s presence and was even willing to exchange pleasantries with her outside of their scheduled meetups.
His own note-taking skills had improved, clearly influenced by Yaoyorozu. In the midst of studiously scrawling in his notebook, he felt his phone vibrate from his pocket. Who was texting him in class? Stealthily he peaked at his phone under his desk.
Yaoyorozu: Let’s meet at the dorms later. There’s some club activity happening in the library this evening.
He frowned and glanced over at Yaoyorozu. She was already looking at him, waiting for his reaction. Her brow furrowed upon seeing his expression.
Won’t that be just as distracting with everyone hanging out?
He hit send.
Yaoyorozu: We can meet in one of our rooms if you’re comfortable with that.
Something in Shinsou’s chest tightened at that. He hadn’t been in anyone else’s dorm room. He knew that it wasn’t uncommon for students to hang out in each other’s rooms, but it felt weirdly intimate to him. Maybe that was because his own room was his safe space. Thinking about entering her room brought a faint flush up to his cheeks.
Shaking the thought away, he contemplated letting her into his room. His breath caught in his chest. That was… anxiety-inducing. He wasn’t against either idea though. Frustrated by his uncontrolled physiological responses, he steeled himself before texting her back.
Sure.. idc which. You pick.
There. Now it was in her hands. He would leave it to her discretion.
It was decided. They would meet in Yaoyorozu’s room. Shinsou was almost relieved. He’d belatedly realized that had they planned to meet in his room, he would have a fair bit of cleaning to do. The place wasn’t exactly presentable.
They walked back to the dorms together in comfortable silence. Thus far, their friendship had flown safely under the radar as most other students studied in the dorms. As they walked, they got a few curious glances from their peers. It was strange seeing the pair together, most notably because of Shinsou’s well-known anti-social reputation. The glances didn’t linger though. After the initial shock of seeing Shinsou being semi-social wore off, the sight of two teens walking side-by-side wasn’t that interesting to anyone.
Reaching the dorms, Yaoyorozu turned delicately touching Shinsou’s elbow, bringing him to a stop and earning his attention. The touch was feather light, but it felt like getting shocked by Kaminari in training. She must have seen something in his face shift because she quickly released him, a faint dusting of pink on her cheeks.
“I’m going to get a snack, and I want to put on casual clothes.” The girl brushed non-existent rumples out of her cleanly pressed skirt. “Come over in 20 minutes.” She brushed past Shinsou quickly without waiting for a reply.
Shinsou kicked himself internally. Why’d he have to make things awkward? It’s not like she’d flung herself at him. She barely touched his elbow. His elbow. Sulking into the dorms, he made his way to his room.
If she was putting casual clothes on, he should too. Shinsou shucked off his uniform, adding it to a growing pile on the floor. He dug around in a different pile for a hoodie and a pair of gym shorts. Pulling his soft “Catch Meowt Side” hoodie over his messy hair, Shinsou checked his phone for the time. To be safe, he decided to wait 30 minutes before heading over to Yaoyorozu’s room.
Making his way down her hallway, he glanced up and down checking for any lingering classmates. He didn’t particularly want to be seen entering her room. He didn’t want to be asked what they were up to, despite how innocent the answer would be. Gently, Shinsou knocked twice on her door.
After a beat, the door swung open to reveal Yaoyorozu. She had changed into an incredibly soft looking red sweater that hung perfectly from her frame and bunched loosely around the tops of her thighs. A pair of thick black leggings accompanied it. Her hair was pulled back into a high ponytail, her usual side bangs pulled back from her face. Shinsou realized that she must wear contact lenses typically as he noted the elegant pair of glasses now perched on her face. If he was being honest, they looked good on her.
“Come in. Make yourself comfortable.” Yaoyorozu smiled at him, gesturing him in. He could hear soft instrumental music playing from somewhere in the room.
“Sorry, it’s a bit cramped in here,” she apologized, waving a hand towards her giant four-poster bed as means of explanation. Shinsou didn’t respond, waiting for her to settle down so that he could mirror her behavior. Despite her request, he didn’t plan to make himself comfortable with reckless abandon.
Following Yaoyorozu’s lead, Shinsou spread out his materials beside hers on the massive luxury bed, no room available for them on the floor. They began to work, falling into their usual routine.
Lounging on the girl’s bed was a mix of heaven and hell for Shinsou. Her bed was impossibly comfortable, the comforter soft and airy beneath them. Behind the head of the bed, Yaoyorozu’s window was open. A subtle breeze moved through the room, fluttering her elegant curtains faintly. The sweet smell of cherries and vanilla that he’d become accustomed to while in her presence was stronger here. The scent floated in the room, muddling with fresh air from outside. It was an intoxicating combination of scents that made Shinsou’s head swim. Relaxing melodies spilling forth from a small speaker on her nightstand only added to his mental haze.
Usually, it wasn’t this hard to focus on his studies. Fighting his mental fog, Shinsou tried to center himself on the notes before him. His customary tiredness didn’t help the matter. As time passed, Shinsou realized he wasn’t going to get much studying done.
Giving up, he covertly watched his companion work. She was transferring notes from the day’s classes into her meticulously organized master binder. An array of colorful highlighters and pens scattered around her as she wrote. He mapped out the shape of her profile and the way her hair cascaded out of her high ponytail. Her hair was astonishingly silky. It was a deep black like her pupils.
For a moment, he allowed himself to observe her cat-shaped eyes as they flicked across her papers. They were beautiful and mesmerizing, reflective like obsidian. Fortunately, Yaoyorozu didn’t notice his attention. She was in a world of her own, clearly finding deep enjoyment in her work.
Letting his gaze travel over her again, Shinsou noticed a strand of hair had worked its way free of her ponytail. Before he could stop himself, his hand moved instinctually, softly brushing the strand behind her ear. He froze. What on earth was he doing? WHAT WAS HE DOING? Yaoyorozu’s face turned a deep shade of red as she looked at him in shock.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted out immediately. Shinsou pulled back from the girl, his mind screaming at him to bail. Hit the road and run for it. Leave and never talk to her again. Yes. That’s the most logical response. Heart racing, he felt his own blush hot on his face as he attempted to shift further away from her.
A cool, soft hand shot out, catching his own and anchoring him firmly in place.
“Hey.” Yaoyorozu looked up at him from where she lay on the bed. “It’s okay, Shinsou. I’m not mad, just a little surprised.” Her fingers curled around his giving them a light squeeze before releasing him.
Unfortunately, this did nothing to soothe the sea of emotions coursing through his body. His palms were sweaty, his head dizzy, his heart frantically beating, and his stomach twisting into a sickening knot. It wasn’t okay. He wasn’t okay.
“I-” he stuttered, unable to choke out words. For a moment, Yaoyorozu felt as if she could read the panicked boy’s face like a book. Before his panic could escalate further, she made an impulsive decision - one that she thought would help break him out of his oncoming downward spiral.
“You’re too serious, Hitoshi,” she laughed charmingly, her hands lunging towards his sides. She latched onto him, unleashing a full-fledged tickle attack on the poor boy and knocking him onto his back. Her judgment was well-intentioned, but she couldn’t have expected the resulting effect her action had on Shinsou.
Yaoyorozu did break him out of his spiral, but to say break is quite an understatement. She outright shocked him out of his spiral and sent him spinning and tumbling into completely uncharted territory, leaving him overwhelmed in every regard.
I’m gonna have a heart attack. This is how I die. I’m gonna die in the hottest girl in school’s room, and I’m never gonna get to be a pro-hero. She’s practically straddling me, and she called me Hitoshi? What timeline am I in right now? This is?? Shinsou wailed internally as his body was wracked by spasms from her tickling. His mind was going into severe overdrive.
Suddenly, everything slowed down. Shinsou finally caught a grasp of his rapid train of thought. Wait. Did this mean he liked Yaoyorozu? Since when did he refer to her as hot? They were friends. He was willing to admit that, much to his chagrin. But hot? And wait, hadn’t he just been thinking about how beautiful her eyes looked? Was that in a, “Hey, my friend is aesthetically pleasing,” way or in a, “I could stare into your eyes for hours and never get bored,” way? There was also the matter of his mindless touching of her hair. Shit. He was crushing on Yaoyorozu. The realization hit Shinsou like a Detroit Smash to the heart.
“That’s messed up, Yaoyorozu,” he managed to choke out between frenzied laughs. He attempted to roll out of her reach, but her hold on him was ironclad, pinning him in place. Tears began to well up in the corners of his eyes. “Please,” he gasped, “Have mercy, you villain.” Giggles that made his heart skip a beat tumbled out from between her suddenly very kissable lips.
“No one can save now, hero,” she played along. “You’re going to have to save yourself.”
“Is that so?” Shinsou’s tone shifted, something dangerous and seductive in the undercurrent of his voice.
“Yup. I-” she started.
“Stop,” he whispered. The girl stopped tickling Shinsou. She looked blankly down at him. Instantly, he regretted the decision to use his quirk to stop her attack. At the moment, it felt cheeky and natural as he attempted to play along with their impromptu roleplay. She was tickling him to DEATH for crying out loud, but a nauseous feeling exploded in his stomach as he realized the gravity of what he’d done.
As horror and dread built within, Shinsou’s blood turned icy. A fiery shot of fear and adrenaline coursed through his veins. Why was he warm and cold at the same time? More unwanted chemical reactions he couldn’t control. Great.
He wasn’t about to throw the girl off of him. He didn’t want to make things worse. Shinsou settled for playing dead. Solid choice. He was going to lie there and take her revenge. Her bitter words, her disgusted glare, and her fists. He closed his eyes tightly, holding his breath.
When nothing happened, he tentatively opened his eyes and allowed himself to breathe again. Yaoyorozu was looking quizzically down at him, studying him. He couldn’t get a read on her expression. She didn’t look furious, but Shinsou wasn’t so naive as to think he was in the clear.
“Did you just…” she stopped. “Shinsou, did you just brainwash me?”
Tears slowly began to spill from his eyes. This was the end. This time, he wasn’t being dramatic. He was about to lose his only friend in the hero course. Lose her, and any chance of dating her. The thought made his stomach sour. She had every right to disown him too. He’d crossed the line that everyone had always expected him to cross. Shinsou tried to will himself into nothingness on the spot. It didn’t work.
“I’m so fucking sorry, Yaoyorozu,” his voice broke, rough and unsteady. Shinsou’s face was hot with embarrassment and regret. “I didn’t mean to… I didn’t mean to… I…” The girl lay a single finger gently over Shinsou’s trembling lips.
“Stop.” Her eyes were intense. He listened, fighting back further hysterics. “I get it. I was tickling you, so I can’t blame you for taking an out, especially a nonviolent out.” Her voice was soft and genuine. Shinsou couldn’t believe what he was hearing. She wasn’t mad that he had used his quirk on her?
“Look, I’m not going to seek out being brainwashed, but to be honest, it was interesting.” Bullshit. Where was any of this coming from? No way was she that cool with it. “If it makes you feel better, we can forget that it happened.”
“Shit, Yaoyorozu. I’m really fucking sorry.” Unconsciously, he placed his hands on her hips. She was still perched over him, and he suddenly became very aware of her thighs squeezing into his sides. A flush crept up into his cheeks for the umpteenth time that evening. She leaned back, settling into his lap while continuing to scan his face.
“You don’t have to call me that. You can call me, Momo.” He shivered at her words. “It’s getting late. I should get ready for bed.” She swept a leg over him, climbing off of her bed. “No hard feelings okay? Don’t get all weird on me tomorrow, Hitoshi.” His name sounded like heaven floating off of her lips.
“No promises.” Shinsou managed a weak smile. He gathered his things awkwardly and hurried to the door.
“Goodnight, Hitoshi,” Yaoyorozu called after him. He looked back at her. The black haired girl was giving him serious heart palpitations.
“Night… Momo.” Shinsou ducked out of her room into the thankfully empty hallway. Closing her door gently behind him, he hurried to his room. The boy had a sinking feeling he wouldn’t sleep a wink that night. He wasn’t wrong. His insomnia was unrelenting as images of the evening played on a loop in his mind.
By morning, Shinsou had overanalyzed everything from the night before. Purple bags more pronounced than usual under his eyes, the sleep-deprived boy yawned widely. He was going to need some extra strong coffee if he wanted to make it even halfway through the day.