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Of course, she was nervous. She had plenty of reason to be. Yes, she was top of her graduating class and had an uncanny ability to maneuver herself through zero-g but being shot into space would give even the bravest a sickly feeling in the pit of their stomach.

The smiling faces of her parents that sat framed on her nightstand was enough to give her a little reassurance. All this had been for them—the long nights studying, the fight to battle her way up through the rigorous astronaut training program, simulation after nauseating simulation. Seeing her achieve her dream is what made them proud, but she was privately glad that her dream included a big paycheck that she could use to support her parents’ company.

“Uraraka! Almost ready?” the voice of her green-haired partner called through the door of her room, his knuckles softly rapping on the door. There was an unusual softness to his voice that foretold his own brand of nervousness.

Stuffing the picture frame into her duffel bag that was supposed to last her almost three years, Ochako closed her bag with a certain finality. Everything would be different the next time she saw this room. If there was a next time, and she didn’t die horribly in space by imploding or suffocating or—

“Coming!” she called back, shaking the morbid thoughts from her head. She couldn’t afford to dwell on the thought of the mission going bad. Things HAD to go well; she’d lose her nerve if she began to think any other way.

Opening the door out of her dorm, her partner Midoriya stood in a matching jumpsuit, representing the navy, red, and white of the Yuuei Space Academy they had both graduated from and had gone to work for. Midoriya had grown since the first day they had met at the academy—he now stood a good six inches taller than her. Ochako gave him a soft smile, remembering how he had come to her rescue on the first day of zero-g exercises when she had made a show of herself by puking in front of the entire first year class. After offering her his water bottle and jacket to help her clean up, the two had been inseparable, going as far as to ask to have their first official mission into space together. Being near the top of their class (and Midoriya being a huge teacher’s pet), they had been granted their request.

“Well,” Midoriya started, rubbing the back of his neck nervously and adjusting his own bag on his shoulder. “This is it. You ready to head to the debriefing room? We need to speak with the head engineer and the mission coordinator before we suit up.”

She nodded and the two began walking down the hall. “I can’t believe this is finally happening,” Ochako said almost reverently, the two taking in a much of their home for the past few years as they could. “I’ve always dreamed of going into space. It’s unreal that after so much work this is actually happening. Are you sure I’m not just going to wake up and it’ll only be the second day of academy?” she smiled, knowing that Midoriya’s thought process was similar to her own. He let out a laugh, her humor helping to dispel some of the tension in the air.

“Well geez I sure hope not. I’m not exactly keen on going through puberty again.” The two shared a bought of refreshing laughter as they walked towards the debriefing room, nervousness forgotten for a blissful moment.

--

The debriefing room was in chaos. As the door opened to let the novice astronauts in, the two were greeted by papers flying every which way and shouting from at least five different people. In the middle of the hurricane stood the mission’s head engineer, glasses askew and arms flying, almost as if he were trying to direct the traffic of the chaos flying around him.

“Iida? Iida! What’s going on?” Ochako shouted over the chaos, dropping her bag and rushing towards the harried engineer. He took a minute to process the astronaut rushing up to him, but recognition flashed behind his glasses.

“Ah, Uraraka, Midoriya! Good of you two to show up! You know how much I appreciate punctuality!” he said, square shoulders relaxing at the thought of at least one thing going right today.

“What’s going on? Why is everyone panicking?” Midoriya asked again. Ochako felt the nervousness creep up her throat again. What if an engine had given out? What if something had been calculated horribly wrong? Her first mission could be over before it even began.

“A great question, Midoriya! It seems that I was just informed by our head coordinator that Toshinori-sempai will be visiting the crew an hour before liftoff! Which, by my calculations,” he glanced down at the huge watch wrapped around his wrist, “is only in four hours! I do wish that Yaoyorozu would give a bit more warning for something this great of importance!”

“T-Toshinori-sempai?” Midoriya exclaimed. “You mean, THE Toshinori Yagi?? The first pilot of the acclaimed spaceship One for All? The first man on the moon? The first man to prove the existence of extra-terrestrial life? My personal inspiration and everything that is good about science and space travel?? That Toshinori-sempai??” His eyes grew wide and his breathing pattern became uneven as he tried to process the idea that he would get to meet his long-time hero. Ochako gently patted him on his back, rubbing circles to try to keep him from exiting the earth’s atmosphere earlier than they were supposed to. “Oh my gosh I’m going to have to change my…my everything.”

“Uraraka! It would be most helpful if you could help me assemble the other members of your crew! With this new crisis on our hands, I believe that it would be best if I were to stay here and get things organized with Yaoyorozu! And it um,” Iida lowered his voice for the first time since she had entered the room. “It may be best if Midoriya stays here for a bit. He’s looking pale.”

He was right. Her best friend was breathing heavily with a starry-eyed expression, muttering to himself under his breath as he was so prone to do.

“Why don’t you grab him a chair and I’ll get the rest of the crew. He should have composed himself by the time I get back,” Ochako said quietly. Iida nodded and returned to futilely directing the chaotic traffic with his arms as she left the room.

-

The flash of blue and yellow that came from the lab couldn’t have been good. Ochako burst through the door as yet another bolt of lightning shot through the air. Screaming in surprise, the two figures who seemed to be causing this whole mess looked up at her, giant welding masks making them seem inhuman.

“Kaminari? What is going on?” she yelled, trying to dodge another spark that seemed like it was out to get her. Kaminari pushed up his welding mask to reveal his shock of blond hair and trademark impish grin.

“Ah you know, Hatsume and I were just putting our finishing touches on our own personal project before I had to leave her behind for three years.” The other welding mask went up to reveal said girl, grease stains across her cheeks.

“He’s leaving me behind with our baby! Now I’ll truly know what it’s like to be a single mother.” She mimed swooning, welding mask accidentally falling off the back of her head and knocking said “baby” to the floor where it shattered, sparks flying once more. All three looked at the mechanical carcass on the floor in silence.

“NO! Denki Jr! Why must you leave us so early?!” Kaminari cried, stooping to collect the now useless pieces of wire and metal. Hatsume just shrugged.

“It was just a prototype. I’ll be able to make hundreds more babies in the time that you’re up in that spaceship doing who-knows-what.”

“Um, Kaminari?” Ochako said again. “Iida is ready to start the debriefing any time now. He just sent me to collect you. I’m sorry about…” her eyes flitted from the boy cradling the broken machine to the pink-haired girl who was already drawing up plans for a new and improved version. “your guys’ baby.”

Kaminari stood, reverently placing the pieces of metal on the workbench next to his discarded welding mask. “Are you sure you’ve got everything covered here?”

“Denki, Denki, Denki,” Hatsume smiled, placing a calloused hand on her friend’s shoulder. “I’m a better engineer than you could ever dream of being. You’re lucky I’m just shit in zero-g unlike Miss Floaty over there.” She gestured to Ochako, whose cheeks turned even pinker. “I’ve got things covered on solid ground. Try not to short out up there, right Pikachu?” Kaminari gave her a smile laced with apprehension.

“You got it, Mei.”

Ochako coughed, dispelling the moment. “Sorry Hatsume, but I really do need him now. Iida is really riled up.”

“Alright!” Hatsume slapped Kaminari’s back, nearly knocking the wind out of him. “Get on out of here before Motor Mouth has another nervous breakdown.

“Bye Mei, I’ll definitely forget about you!” he shouted cheerfully around the corner, bag slung over his shoulder to follow Ochako.

Hatsume’s laughter followed them all the way down the hall.

-

She managed to find Sero and Jirou with little problem and ushered the three of them back to the debriefing room in record time. The doctor and head programmer were a little disgruntled to be pulled away from their short coffee break, but Ochako didn’t have time for Iida to panic. If he panicked, then she panicked, and then she didn’t think she’d be able to actually go through with getting shot into space with only a hunk of metal protecting her from the endless vacuum.

Maybe she should have joined the two on their coffee break.

“Iida! I’ve got everyone! We’re ready to begin the meeting!” Ochako called as she rounded the corner of the door, the rest of her team in tow.

Unfortunately, the shout was unnecessary this time, as a grave hush had settled over the debriefing room in the fifteen minutes she had been gone.

“M-Midoriya!” Ochako yelled, rushing forward to the boy. He was sitting on the chair that she and Iida had gotten for him earlier, but his face had gotten paler since he was first sat down. He held his left arm at an awkward angle, and as Ochako kneeled next to him, she understood why. Bone stuck out just above his elbow, the arm of his jumpsuit shredded and bloody.

“Ah, Uraraka…” Midoriya said weakly, a faint smile disguising his pain. “It seems we won’t be able to have a first mission together after all.” Sero, the team’s medical specialist, had also knelt by Midoriya and had begun assessing the wound.

“What the hell did you do to yourself, man?” Sero asked, moving the broken arm slightly. Midoriya grimaced, and Ochako could feel his pain in the pit of her stomach.

“Well, ah-“

“He’s much too keen on sacrificing his body,” a deep voice answered, causing Midoriya’s hair to stand on end. Ochako looked up into the eyes of Toshinori Yagi, Midoriya’s hero as well as her own. He was much thinner than the pictures she remembered from the internet and her textbooks, but the unruly blond hair was the same. His eyes seemed sunken and tired, and he walked by supporting himself with a cane.

“Toshinori-sempai! It’s a pleasure to meet you!” Ochako jumped up, bowing deeply. Toshinori seemed a bit flustered by her show of respect but managed to take it in stride.

 “It’s a pleasure to meet you as well, young Uraraka. I’ve heard much about your accomplishments in the academy. I do apologize about your partner though. My balance isn’t quite as it used to be.”

“And we all know how enthusiastic Midoriya gets around those he admires.” Yaoyorozu, the mission coordinator added, before taking her seat at the head of the room. “Sero, would you please take Midoriya to the examination room? They can continue his treatment there. I hate to seem insensitive, Midoriya, but we are on a tight schedule.”

“No, I understand, Yaoyorozu. I apologize again for unnecessarily endangering myself.” Midoriya stood with the help of Sero and bowed as much as the pain would let him. The two shuffled out of the room.

“So, what exactly happened?” Jirou asked, taking her seat at the table.

“He watched Toshinori-sempai stumble and jumped to the rescue. Unfortunately, Toshinori-sempai regained his balance just as he jumped, and Midoriya landed on his left elbow in an awkward angle!” Iida provided in his enthusiastic yet slightly robotic manner.

Ochako was distraught. Watching Midoriya stumble out of the room just hours before liftoff was watching every plan she had made for the past six years stumble out with him. Of course, she was worried for her friend’s health, but he had suffered many worse broken bones than this before. He did seem to have a knack for getting himself injured, she recalled.

But this mishap, in front of his idol, would be a setback that would be hard for him to recover from. Ochako saw the crushed look on his face and the way his shoulders sagged. This was his chance. This was both of their chances.

“What is any mission without a little drama beforehand?” Toshinori smiled before shakily taking a seat next to Yaomomo. “I remember before my crew and I left for the moon mission, there was an incident where Aizawa and Yamada had this huge blow out argument just an hour before liftoff. They were determined to spend the entire trip not speaking to each other, which I promise gets very tiring when you’re in close quarters.” He chuckled to himself, lost in memories. “The rest of us hurried their make-up along as quickly as possible.”

The table shared his laughter, thankful to be put at ease after Midoriya’s incident. Yaoyorozu cleared her throat as Sero re-entered the room, ready to get down to official business. “Now that all of us who can be gathered here are, we have a new first order of business to attend to.”

“Someone to replace Midoriya,” Ochako said, trying to keep the overwhelming distain in her stomach from showing on her face.

Yaomomo nodded solemnly. “I understand this is especially difficult for you, Uraraka. But you are correct. We need someone to act as your copilot, and someone who can fill this position quickly.”

Kaminari’s head shot up. “Hey, I know who can step in! He graduated top of the class and—” Yaoyorozu’s hand went up to silence him.

“Thank you, Kaminari, however, I already have a replacement in mind. Though,” Yaoyorozu gave a small smile. “I believe we’re thinking of the same person.”

-

“They want me to fucking WHAT?” he yelled. His unfortunate news bearer/best friend winced only slightly, used to this kind of explosive behavior.

“Dude, this is your chance. Yeah you have to leave for three years in like four hours, but what are you going to do? Turn down Yuuei Space Exploration? That’s like turning down NASA, bro.”

“But I’m their second fucking choice. I told you already, Shit-for-Brains. I don’t do second.”

Shit-for-Brains, known to most others as Kirishima, firmly grasped his friend’s shoulder. “Bakugou. You have to do this. This is your dream, man. Just because you’re not their first choice doesn’t mean that you can’t kick total ass on this mission! And, dude,” Kirishima turned Bakugou to face him. “You’ll go down in history on this mission. You’ll be the first person on Mars. Mars, dude!”

Bakugou was still pissed off that he was Yuuei’s second choice, but the title of “First Person on Mars” was enchanting to him. He knew that he was going to accept—he knew it from the moment Kirishima broke the news. But damn it if he wasn’t going to go down fighting tooth and nail.

“But isn’t that fucking Round-Face’s mission?” he huffed, using his trump card as one last attempt to get Kirishima off his back.

That seemed to knock Kirishima down a notch of excitement.

“Well,” he started, knowing full well of the shaky relationship that had been built and promptly destroyed between the two. “Yeah. It is.” He sounded more confident than Bakugou had expected. “But maybe this is a sign. That it’s time to get over that whole mess, to move on from…what happened. Besides, we’ll have three years up there to figure it out. And you couldn’t be without me for three whole years, right?” His cheerful demeanor was back, as he slung an arm around Bakugou’s shoulders.

Bakugou took a deep breath before he threw off Kirishima’s arm and reached for a duffel bag to throw some clothes into. “Fine,” he relented, not turning to see the look of elation of Kirishima’s face. “But the rest of the crew better be more competent than you, Shitty Hair.”

Kirishima’s whoop of excitement could be heard across the compound.

Chapter Text

Ochako found herself in the washroom, sitting in a locked stall with her head in her hands. She had to get away from the chaos of her team for a moment before she was crammed in the same space as them for the next three years. She knew from the moment Kaminari brought it up exactly who she would be up in the space craft with. She just didn’t expect him to accept the offer. He had bad blood with Midoriya, and the fact that he was second choice to Midoriya couldn’t be sitting well with him.

She felt the wave of nausea pass over her again. All of her plans were up in smoke. She and Midoriya were supposed to graduate together, get a job together, go to Mars together, and maybe when they returned to Earth, she would have confessed her feelings and they could have a relationship together. A romantic one. Now, she was stuck with a hot-headed asswipe (Jirou’s words) who would stop at nothing to make sure that he was constantly the center of attention.

She glanced at the time on her phone. She couldn’t stay here wallowing any longer, no matter how much she wanted to. She was an adult, who was about to do the job she had been training for since she was six years old.

Upon her return, she could feel the tension in the room. Jirou, Sero, and Kaminari sat on one side of the table, murmuring among themselves. A shock of bright red hair sitting in her seat announced the arrival of the team’s mechanical engineer, Kirishima. Next to him, the sandy-haired boy of her academy nightmares sat with his arms folded across his chest and a scowl on his face.

“Uraraka! Wow, I’m so glad to see you!” Kirishima stood and slung his arm around her shoulders. In a murmur only meant for her, he said, “This whole mess with Midoryia has the team bent out of shape, and they’re not really taking well to the fact that Bakugou is joining last minute. And, what with you being the pilot and everything, I was hoping maybe you could talk about teamwork with them?”

Ochako sighed and pushed his arm off of her. “I’ll see what I can do.” She made her way up to where Yaoyorozu was sitting and begun to speak.

“Listen up team.” All heads turned to her. “I know that this is a setback at one of the most unfortunate times. We’re all upset that Midoryia will not be making the trip to Mars with us,” She heard a scoff that could have only come from Bakugou, but she continued on. “But that doesn’t mean that this mission has already failed. We have to keep ourselves focused on the big picture, and we have to band together to make this mission a success. I say that now, we have an even bigger goal set in front of us. We need to complete this mission for Midoriya.”

Cheers from Sero, Kirishima, and Kaminari went up, showing their support. Yaoyorozu, Jirou, and Iida responded with a more subdued smile and nod. The only one completely unshaken by her speech was Bakugou.

What would it take for her to get him on their side? She knew shit had gone down at the academy, but that was something that he needed to put behind him to function in this team as a grown-ass adult.

“Now,” she said, silencing the three boys’ cheering. “One final thing to attend to before we suit up.” All eyes were on her as she let a dazzling grin spread across her face. “We have a friend in the infirmary who needs to hear our goodbyes.”

-

Laughter could be heard coming from inside Midoriya’s infirmary room, something Ochako didn’t expect. She and her crew entered to see Midoriya laying in a bed, wires coming out of him, a sling around his arm, and a smile on his face. Toshinori sat in a chair beside his bed, telling Midoriya a story of “the good old days of space exploration”.

“Hey guys!” Midoriya said excitedly upon seeing his friends enter the room.

“Midoriya! How are you feeling?” Yaoyorozu asked in her soothing way.

“Well, the surgery is due to start within an hour or so, but they have me on enough pain medication right now for it to not be too bad. And Toshinori-sempai has been keeping me entertained!” he smiled brightly at the older man.

Ochako could feel her heart melt at the sight of him. He looked so pure and happy, even laid up in bed, unable to complete the mission he had worked so had to be put on.

“Oh, I believe you’ve been doing most of the entertaining, my boy. I’m not quite as lively as I used to be.” Toshinori returned Midoriya’s stunning smile.

“I glad you’re doing okay.” Yaoyorozu smiled, resting her hand on his good shoulder. “The team wanted to stop by before they suited up.”

“Uh, yeah, of course.” Behind Yaoyorozu, Ochako could see the glow draining from him. Maybe this wasn’t her best idea.

One by one, everyone on the team gave him their goodbye, Kirishima’s being slightly more tearful than expected. Bakugou, meanwhile, had found this the perfect opportunity to excuse himself from the room. Ochako couldn’t believe him. He couldn’t even manage a curt goodbye? She knew he was broody and insufferable, but she didn’t think cowardly would ever describe him.

Finally, it was her turn. The others had left the room to suit up, and she was left with Midoryia and Toshinori. She sat in the chair opposite the older man.

“I’m…so sorry Midoriya.” She was already getting choked up. “I know you’ll go on to do wonderous things but,” she swiped at her eyes, “this was something I really wanted to do with you.”

“Hey.” His voice made her look into his eyes. They were calm but covered with a sheen of unshed tears. “It’s not your fault. And I’m sorry for making you do this alone.” He blinked, and one of the tears fell. “But you’re so ready to do this. And you will be wonderful up there.” He swiped at his face and gave her a watery grin. “And don’t tell any of the crew about this, but Toshinori-sempai has actually offered to take me on as a mentee. So, within a few weeks, I’ll be fully recovered and helping out with the mission down here and learning all that I can.”

“That’s amazing, Midoriya.” She brushed her hand through his mop of unruly hair. “But I’ll still miss you every day.”

“I’ll miss you too.”

“I should go. Time to suit up and everything, right?” she stood, feeling better already.

“Right. Good luck up there, um, Ochako.” He said her first name quietly, embarrassed to be so familiar with her in front of Toshinori. A bright red blush dusted his cheeks and neck.

Ochako was sure she mirrored him in color and could see Toshinori’s poorly hidden grin. Before she could think twice, she bent down and placed a chaste kiss on his cheek.

“Thank you, Izuku.”

She dashed out of the room before the temperature could get any higher.

-

Katsuki was uncharacteristically silent as he suited up. For once, he took his time, mindfully putting on each shoe and double checking that everything was in proper order. He knew the next time that he’d get time to himself like this was as far away as Mars was, and he knew a good thing when he had it. Unfortunately, his last scraps of alone time were disturbed by a knocking at the door.

“What the fuck do you—Uraraka.” He stopped, rage coming back down to a simmer as he faced the smaller girl in front of him. She had an unreadable expression on her face, and she pushed past him without waiting to ask to come in, making her way to the large window.

“Listen Bakugou,” she began. She was facing away from him, staring out the window at the flat fields that surrounded the compound. “I know that things have been weird between us since third year at the academy.”

“No shit,” he scoffed, crossing his arms.

“Let me finish.” Uraraka said, still refusing to look at him. Her tone succeeded in pacifying Katsuki, as it always used to do when she had something important to say. “I know that things are weird now, but, if you have any respect for what friendship we used to have, you’ll do me one favor during this mission.”

She turned to meet his eyes, and the pleading behind them caused Katsuki to relax his defensive stance. “Please, get along with the others. I need this mission to go smoothly. Everyone up in that spaceship and down at mission control needs this to go smoothly. And,” her gaze turned softer as she set her small hand on his bicep.

She was so warm, so soft, just as he remembered.

“I need you as my co-pilot. Please, Katsuki.”

The use of his first name drug up all the past memories of the two of them together. Training together, studying together, making up games and contests to see who would come out the winner and always inevitably ending in a tie. The strange companionship that Katsuki felt from her when they were fourteen, and then the strange blush that appeared around her when they turned sixteen. And now, almost six years later, the emptiness that he was now painfully aware of that sat in the pit of his gut.

No. He couldn’t get hurt by her again. He tried—he really tried to be good for her, and she threw it back in his face. All that time spent building a relationship to have it crumble in mere seconds.

But those damn big brown eyes. Asking so much of him again. Kastuki would never admit it, but when it came to the people he cared about (which were very, very few), he would do absolutely anything. And somehow this fucking squishy-cheeked woman still made that list even after everything had gone wrong.

He clenched his jaw and removed her hand from his arm. “Fine. I’ll be decent to your little cheerleaders. But don’t expect me to come to fucking family game night, and don’t expect me to try to be friends with them.”

He looked back to the door, unable to watch the way her face lit up with his response.

“But I’m not doing this for you, I’m doing it because it’s my fucking job. And I’m going to be the first person on Mars regardless of your shitty pep talks and puppy eyes.”

He looked her straight in the face, her confused brow met by what looked to be sadness in her eyes.

“Let’s get one more thing straight. We’re not friends. We will never be friends. You ruined that. So I’ll work with you, hell, I’ll even fly the damn spaceship with you, but our relationship ends there. Now get the fuck out of my room.”

He didn’t watch her leave.

Chapter Text

Takeoff went by in a blur. The boarding, the countdown, the break away from the atmosphere; twelve hours later, Ochako and her crew were free from the restraints of gravity and floating through the blackness of space.

Bakugou was true to his word. He was cooperative during takeoff, and when the two were at the helm, they worked together as well as two cogs in a machine. It reminded her a lot of those first couple years of academy and the late nights they would spend at the flight simulator, perfecting takeoff and landing techniques until she fell asleep at her joystick. Bakugou would throw his jacket over her and continue practicing until he fell asleep next to her.

However, once they were free of gravity and mission control gave them the clear to shift into autopilot, he retreated to his room without so much as a second glance towards her. Ochako knew she shouldn’t let it bother her but flying side by side with him again made the nostalgia in her gut give a couple of tugs.

She glanced at her wristwatch—it was absolutely necessary for all crew members to have one, what with the lack of actual daylight hours in the shuttle. She was due to check in with Yaoyorozu in to confirm that takeoff protocol had been followed correctly. It had, of course, but in space there was no room for error.

“Uraraka!” Yaoyorozu said, face appearing on the large screen in the transmission room. “How did everything go with takeoff?”

“Everything went well, Yaoyorozu. Kaminari had a little bit of sickness once we broke free of the atmosphere, but that is to be expected. The artificial gravity is working well within the cabin, and all systems are in the green.”

“Good to hear. How is the team cohesion so far?”

Ochako mentally tripped at the question. “Uh, good so far? There haven’t been any large miscommunications or arguments within the shuttle since before takeoff.”

Yaoyorozu hummed. “That’s better than expected. I was worried about how Bakugou would adapt to the team, but if there haven’t been any big problems, I expect everything to be manageable from the air. Uraraka, keep up the good work.” The screen went blank.

She sighed, wishing she would’ve had more time to speak to those on the ground. They have frequent check-ins with mission control, but it’s really nice to see friendly faces. Not that the faces aboard the shuttle weren’t friendly—they were just strained.

She didn’t lie to Yaoyorozu, the team’s cohesion was going well. Sitting in the cockpit of the shuttle with Bakugou was like no time had passed at all. She could still read his movements and he could still predict the corrections and instructions she would give him to break free of the atmosphere. Once they saw nothing but the expanse of space before them, she saw Bakugou smirk at her out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t know what to make of it.

The moment was broken in tandem with the break from gravity’s pull with the sound of Kaminari’s retching. Sero was doing what he could to prevent vomit from floating around the close-quartered cabin, but Jirou’s own retching didn’t help the issue.

They were finally able to turn on the artificial gravity and autopilot about three hours into the trip. As soon as his feet hit solid ground, Bakugou wordlessly disappeared into his personal quarters. Ochako could see the disappointment on Kirishima’s face, the same feeling that was surely mirrored on her own.

Jirou and Sero shared a glance at the prickly man’s behavior, and even Kaminari seemed worried. Or, maybe that was just worry that he would puke again.

She didn’t know what to do with these mixed signals.

-

Katsuki wanted to punch a wall. Being around her always made him want to punch a wall. And now, he was stuck seeing her almost every moment of every day for the next god knows how long they’ll be on this ship.

(He did know—about a year there, about a year to set up a preliminary base, and then another year back.)

She brought up so many feelings that he didn’t know how to deal with, the easiest way was to just get them out physically. So that’s what he decided to do.

The training room was empty. Everyone else on the ship would still be settling in, and only he would be in here less than three days after takeoff. But they had broken orbit, all systems were a go—what else was he supposed to do? Math problems for fun? Yeah right.

(Those weren’t on his schedule until later tonight.)

He went all out in the tiny gym, pummeling the punching bag, running on the treadmill, and lifting the highest number of weights available. But it didn’t seem to alleviate the thoughts floating around in his mind.

What was her deal? Calling him by his first name, those light little touches, the shared spark in the cockpit. Katsuki had decided years ago he was done with her, but she kept worming her way back into his life when he least expected it, and it was driving him fucking nuts.

He went in for another swing at the punching bag, a final blow to his goddamn emotions, when the force of his punch almost seemed to lift his feet off of the ground. Suddenly, the world seemed a bit more sideways than it had just moments ago.

“Hah??” he yelled, trying to get his balance without a gravity center. “Who the fuck turned the gravity off??” The panel next to the door lit up in distress. Kastuki did what he could to swim through the air to grab a nearby handle, stomach lurching. Managing to finally grab the wall, he hit the button on his watch.

“What the hell is going on??” he shouted into the device. Static crackled back through with Uraraka’s voice.

“I’m not sure—” her voice was cut off by retching in the background. “Kaminari!” Katuski rolled his eyes. “Sorry! I’m making my way back to the cockpit now—I should be able to get the artificial gravity back on in the next few minutes. I’ve sent Kirishima to double check the machinery, but we’re having a bit of an issue with everyone’s uh, navigation skills in zero-g. Will you be okay?”

There was nothing but professionalism in her voice—one crew member looking out for another—but her concern for him twisted his stupid guts anyway.

“Bakugou? Will you be okay? Where are you now?”

“I can take care of my damn self, Round Cheeks. I’m in the training room.”

“Good, see if you can get to the comm room and try to make a connection with Yaoyorozu. Let her know what’s going on,” her voice came back, her command showing through brighter than ever. He remembered she used to have so much trouble taking the lead back in the academy—where did this show of leadership come from? He had just assumed she was in charge because of her connection to that green-haired dumbass.

“I’ll do whatever the hell I want,” he grumbled back into the watch, already pushing off the wall to navigate his way to the comm room. He may not like taking orders from anyone, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to be the one everyone blamed if something went wrong. He was a professional, dammit. Even if his supervisors thought differently.

He worked his way down the halls, passing Sero and Kaminari floating around the infirmary.

“You doing okay Bakugou? Any motion sickness?” Sero asked, using the footholds in the walls to navigate around his space, opening drawers filled with medical supplies. Kaminari had been wrestled into a flat board that was strapped to the wall, keeping him as upright as it could. 

“I don’t need you damn help!” he shouted, stomach flip-flopping. “Take care of the dumbass you have now! I gotta contact Ponytail and let her know what’s happing.”

Sero’s sideways head poked out of his door, black hair floating around his head. “Alright, but hurry. I don’t know how much more Denki can take before he starts vomiting blood.”

“B-Blood?” came the blonde’s voice, retching.

“Denki, just breathe man.” The doctor disappeared back into his workspace.

“Idiots,” Kastuki grumbled, propelling his way to the comm room.

Alarms blared and lights flashed as he continued his way down the corridor. He was almost to the comm room when the ship seemed to give a lurch, making him retch. He plummeted to the floor as the artificial gravity turned back on and landed stomach first, sprawled on the ground.

“Fuckin’ shit,” he wheezed, air knocked from his lungs. He gave himself a minute to recover, still sprawled in the middle of the hallway, until a hand reached down in front of his vison to help him up. Swallowing his pride (and trying to keep his lunch swallowed), he grabbed it as Kirishima helped him back to his feet.

“You okay, bro?” the red head asked as Kastuki steadied himself against the wall.

“I’m fine, dipshit,” he barked back as an automatic response. His voice came out weaker than he expected. “What the hell happened?”

“Well,” Kirishima rubbed the back of his neck in a manner that reminded Katsuki all too much of that dumbass Deku. “It turns out some of the machinery didn’t quite hold up as well as we thought it would after escaping orbit.” Katsuki’s eyebrows rose. “It won’t cause anything to go drastically wrong!” Kirishima recovered, “Not at all. We just, uh, might want to make a stop on the USJ moon base to make some minor repairs and figure out what caused the damage. No more than two days tops.”

“USJ? There’s no way. We’d have to completely rework the trajectory of our path in the next hour to get that close to the moon.”

“Dude, you and Uraraka are some of the best pilots we’ve got. C’mon!”

“No way in hell am I spending more time with her than necessary. Now move, I’ve got to report this to Ponytail. Do a spacewalk or some shit to fix it.” Katsuki pushed pass the taller man, irritation spiking. Kirishima sighed audibly behind him.

“Okay…” he said in a singsong voice. “Guess Midoriya would’ve been the better choice.”

“Hah?!?” Katsuki stopped in his tracks and whirled around to face him and his shit-eating grin. “What the fuck did you say??”

“Just that with the skills of Uraraka and Midoriya we’d definitely be able to make the landing. Too bad you can’t do it. If we would’ve had them, we’d be golden.” Kirishima sighed dramatically. “Now I better get poor, sickly Denki ready for a spacewalk.”

“You know what, Shit-for-Brains?” Katsuki stormed over to him, unaware of the grin Kirishima was trying very, very hard to repress. “I’m going to pull the best damn landing that you’ve ever seen. Math and physics be fucked, we’re going to land this ship on the moon for your stupid repairs.” Katsuki spun around and continued his rampage to the comm room. “I’ve gotta call Ponytail, but then you’ll be eating your words.”

“Well, if you think it’ll be possible!” Kirishima called after the blonde’s retreating figure, finally letting that grin split over his features.

-

Ochako didn’t think that the sickness in her gut had to do with navigating through zero-g; actually, she thought that she moved a bit more gracefully in zero-g than she did with her feet planted on the ground. No, the sickness came with Kirishima’s announcement that something had gone wrong less than two days after takeoff. One of the cores that held the fuel for their return mission had become unstable during the atmospheric escape and had triggered the emergency protocol inside the ship.

Now, he told her, she and Bakugou had to completely rework the trajectory of the shuttle, manually, within a very short time frame, or else they risk missing the USJ Base and ending up stranded and possibly dying in the unforgiving expanse of space.

Maybe she should join Sero for those yoga sessions he did in the training room.

She took a deep breath and steeled herself. She could do this. How many simulations had she run? How many accidents was she prepared for? This was just a minor setback—she had spent almost two weeks her third-year practicing for an event very similar to the one they found themselves in on the simulator with—

Bakugou walked into the cockpit, his arm brushing against hers in the tight space.

“Okay Cheeks, we’ve got T-minus 43 minutes to recalculate and reprogram a trajectory to the USJ Base. If we miss it, we’re fucked.” She opened her mouth to protest, but he continued. “I’ve already alerted mission control. We’ve got the clear and the base is preparing for our arrival.” He was all business, even with his foul mouth. The nickname was the only indicator that he was aware that he was talking to her instead of any other pilot in their old class.

“Right,” she said, stepping into her cover of professionalism as well. If he could pretend, so could she. “So we’re going to need to work with the backup thrusters that we’ve got. Kirishima said it was the starboard lander that was malfunctioning, and I’m worried that using that thruster will risk damaging the lander even further.”

Bakugou had turned to a screen on the cockpit’s dash, picking a pair of thin wire glasses out of his pocket and slipping them on the bridge of his nose. That took Ochako aback. Since when did he need glasses? He continued; “We’re also going to have to make sure we’re not going to slingshot around the moon. And with one of the landers busted that’s going to be a bitch.”

Ochako bit her lip. “Okay, this is risky,” Bakugou turned to her, and the readers made his eyes appear even more startling. “But what if try turning with just the port thruster? We’ll just have to do a 300-degree turn instead of a 60-degree one.”

“Then we risk spinning off course completely,” he deadpanned.

“Just,” she fumbled for some paper and a pencil. “Let me work the math out for you.”

He grunted, switching the controls back to manual to begin reprogramming their course to the moon. They got extremely lucky, she noted. The moon was at least on the convenient side of the Earth. If it wasn’t, their mission may have been over before it had even begun. She scribbled angles and numbers and formulas over the graph paper for a few moments before finally settling on something she though could actually work.

“See, Bakugou!’ she chirped, causing him to jump out of his thoughts. “Oh, uh, sorry.” His glower lifted a bit as he looked over her work. His knee brushed hers as he leaned into her area. His lips moved just slightly as he surveyed what she had written. With the glasses he has on, it was almost like he was a different person, just another astro-nerd. Just another astro-nerd that she had partnered up with time and time again until one day he had simply cut off all communication with her.

“Huh.” He said, sitting back in his chair. A beat of silence passed between the two, as Ochako tried to focus her unwelcome blush away.

“And?”

“And the math checks out and shit,” he said, pushing his glasses up his nose. “What do you want, a ribbon or something?” And just like that, the illusion she’d built up in her head dissipated.

“Uh, verbal confirmation? We’re supposed to be working together, Bakugou. You promised me that much.” Okay, maybe the barriers were up because she was nervous around him. But, she reasoned with herself, she shouldn’t have to be responsible for every single aspect of this partnership.

“I didn’t promise you shit, Cheeks. You brought your puppy dog looking ass to me and asked for me to play nice with the rest of this fuckwit crew, and I am. I’m being a goddamn saint and sitting nicely in the same room as you, even checking your fucking math homework. Don’t give me shit about ‘verbal communication.’” His rage spiked high as he yanked the glasses off of his face and begun furiously cleaning them.

God, she’d forgotten how infuriating and holier-than-thou he could be. “Oh, well, I apologize for wanting to have a reasonable conversation as adults who are trying to do their fucking job.” Her use of profanity caused the slightest break in his mask of anger. “But I guess I was the stupid one for even expecting a conversation out of you,” she spat right back at him.

Bakugou looked as if he was if was about to throw back another retort laced with just as many barbs when they were interrupted. “Um, guys,” Jirou’s voice sliced through the thick air of their argument. “Sorry to uh, interrupt, but just checking the status. You guys have like, 15 minutes to get ready for landing. The others are about to buckle in.”’

Ochako and Bakugou looked at each other and back at Jirou.

She stumbled over her words. “We’re, we’re almost ready Jirou. Go ahead and get everyone ready for landing procedures.”

Jirou’s no-nonsense demeanor served as a cover for Ochako’s own fluster at being caught in such an emotional state. She was infinitely grateful that the cool-headed girl had stumbled in when she did. Jirou gave her and Bakugou a nod as she went to round up the rest of the team.

Once the two were alone again, the tension that had previously filled the air around them had dissipated, leaving Ochako feeling like a deflated balloon. Even the fire in Bakugou’s posture seemed to have been put out significantly. He surprised her with a deep sigh.

“Okay,” he began, putting his glasses back on. “I’m not willing to put this bullshit in front of my fucking job. Now I have a ship to land.” His chair spun back around to face the control panels.

His curtness lit a spark in her. What, he thinks he’s just going to do this himself? He may be good (stellar, she hated to admit), but he only has two arms. He can’t land this ship singlehandedly. But, if he wants to try, let him, she huffed to herself, getting out of her chair.

As she stood to leave the cockpit, Bakugou turned his head slightly just so she could see his profile. It was so much sharper than it had been at the academy. She could’ve sworn a smirk was hidden on the other side.

“Are you going to help me or not?”

Chapter Text

With help from the USJ ships and their state-of-the-art landing tech, Uraraka and Katsuki managed a flawless execution of a landing on the moon base. Of course, the tractor beam once they were within reach helped slow their inertia greatly, but it still required a technically complicated and skillful rework of the coordinates and the frankly brilliant idea Uraraka had hatched. They’d safely landed with both thrusters in-tact and the starboard lander no more damaged than it was before.

Katsuki almost hated to admit it, but he and Uraraka made an excellent team when it was just math and control panels in front of them. All of those hours at the simulators together had made their piloting styles cohesive and their timing almost identical. He almost wondered what it would’ve been like if they had continued to work together through academy—how much more in-sync would they be?

He shook those thoughts out of his head. She made her choice, and she chose fucking Deku. He saw the way she made stupid eyes at him. Fuck, he’d seen everything.

And yeah, whatever, she’d hung around Deku since first year, but he was her partner. And she just completely fucking dismissed him. So fine. He could be dismissive too.

He knew deep down that he was being petulant, but goddamn. It was just easier to put her out of his mind than to have to deal with all of the emotion she dredged up.

“Okay guys, we’re using this time for repairs and a restock, so relish in the company of others while you can,” Uraraka said to the crew, earning a few chuckles from Jirou. “Kaminari and Kirishima, I need you two to work with the USJ engineers to repair the problem with our landers. Sero, if you’re missing any medical stock, get that now. Jirou, make sure the rover is good to go. I’ll contact the USJ coordinator and meet with him. And uh, Bakugou,”

He finally looked up, meeting her eyes.

“You’ll be with me. Okay, we’ve got 48 hours. Make sure to eat some fresh food before we’re stuck with the freeze-dried stuff for the next few years.”

Fuck. He knew what she meant—they were going to see the USJ coordinator together, but damn if his gut didn’t react like he was 16 again. He needed to get his head on straight. He was a professional. Well, at least he kept telling himself that.

--

The USJ Moon Base was even cooler than Ochako could’ve imagined. She knew everything about it of course—she paid attention in her History of Space Exploration class—but being here, on the moon, was a completely new experience.

Even a sullen Bakugou by her side couldn’t dampen her spirits. The main terminal felt almost like the lobby of a government building, and even though it was almost identical to the one as Yuuei Academy, she still felt the excitement of being on the fucking moon. 

Ochako was lost in her own starry-eyed cloud of wonder that it was Bakugou’s arm that prevented her from tripping over someone.

“Watch it, Cheeks,” he grumbled.

“Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry! I-“ Ochako looked up, the sight of the person in front of her shocking her into silence. She knew that humans had contacted aliens, and that USJ was a sort of a diplomatic base, but the fact that a real-live alien was standing in front of her was enough to make her brain short circuit.

After a too-long pause of her staring, Bakugou cut in. “Sorry. We’re looking for Coordinator Todoroki’s office.”

The man(?) in front of them smiled. Well, their eyes crinkled. Where a mouth would have been on a human was covered by a mask. “Of course, you must be the pilots of Ground Zero. Todoroki made me aware that you would be establishing contact with him soon after you landed.” One of his (six???) arms gestured towards the end of the terminal. “Take the elevator up the end of the hall, he’s on the top floor.”

Ochako blinked once, still trying to process the physical appearance of the person in front of her. Thankfully, she was able to reboot in time to answer before Bakugou cut in again. “Thank you! Uh..”

“Ah yes of course. Mezo Shouji. I am a representative from the Southern Io region.” He held out one of the arms, and Ochako watched in fascination as a humanoid hand grew from the end of it for her to shake. Both she and Bakugou took the Ioan’s hand.

“I’ve uh, never met an Ioan before. It’s actually our first time off of Earth,” Ochako said.

“I could tell. You two smell too freshly of iron and potassium to have been off of Earth long.”

Ochako and Bakugou shared a quick look, both having taken note of the man’s distinct lack of a nose.   

Bakugou cleared his throat, clearly more uncomfortable than she had realized. “We can’t keep Todoroki waiting, Cheeks. Let’s go.” He grabbed her arm and led her towards the end of the corridor.

“Um, nice to meet you!” she shouted back, noticing Shouji’s eyes crinkle upwards once more.

Once she was sure they were out of hearing distance (at least human hearing distance), she yanked her arm out of his grasp.

“What the hell, Bakugou? I was having a conversation!” she whispered harshly to her co-pilot.

“We have things to do, Cheeks. I don’t want to have to be on this rock longer than necessary.” His stride was so long she had to take two steps for every one of his.

God, he was so unreasonable. One minute they were screaming at each other, the next he was sharing side glances with her like they were 15 again. And the stupid feeling that she got every time he smirked at her was almost unbearable.

“You don’t have to be rude,” she huffed. “Especially to a foreign diplomat.”

“Well, you’re going to be rude if you make us late to Todoroki’s office. Now come on.”

--

Todoroki’s office was made completely of glass, or whatever the moon equivalent of fired sand was. The ceiling was completely clear, showing the perpetually dark sky and the workings of the landing dock. Dark green potted plants covered the edges of the office, the vegetation providing not only fresh food, but also oxygen.

Todoroki himself was video calling Yaoyorozu when they walked in.

“Ah, here are your pilots now,” he said, not even turning around to address their entrance. Prick.

“Perfect,” Yaoyorozu said, looking over the other coordinator to address Kastuki and Uraraka. “I’m glad to see that the landing went well.”

“Yes ma’am. Repairs are already underway. We have Kaminari and Kirishima working with some of the on-base engineers, and we should be ready to leave within the next 48 hours or so,” Uraraka reported.

“That doesn’t put us too far behind schedule. Great work Uraraka, Bakugou, landing the ship quickly and efficiently.”

Katsuki was almost blinded by how brightly Uraraka beamed. She was just like a dog getting patted on the head. He didn’t miss Todoroki’s turn to gaze at her face either. Half of his face was covered with a scar, and he was turning a premature grey, with white flecks marring the fiery expanse of red hair.

“Now,” Todoroki turned Yaoyorozu’s frame to where the three of them could address mission control more comfortably. “As I’m sure you’re aware, now that your spacecraft has made landing on the USJ Base, it has officially become our concern.” Katsuki’s eyes whipped towards the scarred man. This mission was Yuuei funded and led. Who the hell do they think is going to act as mission control? This stoic motherfucker? He wasn’t a fan of Ponytail, but the devil you know and whatnot.

“I am aware of that, Coordinator Todoroki. However, I was wondering if we could potentially make way for a dual mission—I understand that USJ has been independent for years, but what with this being a exploration mission and not a diplomatic one, I feel that we are best suited to work as a team instead of just handing the mission off.”

“Interesting. I don’t believe there is any precedent for this, Coordinator Yaoyorozu.” Kastuki heard the undermining tone. Who the fuck does this guy think he is, coming in and trying to uproot everything his team has worked for?

His team. Huh.

“Well, we are an exploration mission, Coordinator Todoroki,” Uraraka cut in, turning all three’s focus to her. “Not really a better opportunity to try something new than right now, when we’re all focused on the new and unexplored.”

The man looked her over head to toe, and something about the way his eyes lingered just a bit too long set off something in Katsuki’s stomach.

“Hmm. Very well. I suppose, while unprecedented, it would make for a decent experiment.” Todoroki conceded, his expression unchanging.

Uraraka’s eyes lit up beside him. She was so unpredictable, going to professional to giddy back to solemn in what seemed like a millisecond. It was ridiculous to even try and make an effort to understand her. Yet the sourness in his gut seemed to fade when she aimed her smile at him. He jammed his hands into his jumpsuit, a bit uncomfortable under her smile.

Stupid woman.

“I’m glad to see that we’re on the same page, Commander. I’ll get you in touch with one another of my colleagues who is assisting with the ground control of this mission, and the three of us will work together in furthering the mission. Until then, I’m simply pleased to see my pilots safe and in your capable hands.” Yaoyorozu was kind of laying on the praise a bit thick, Katsuki thought. Bet they were fucking when they were both on the same planet.

“Of course.” Todoroki nodded. “End call.”

Yaoyorozu’s picture blipped out of the monitor, and the commander pulled the screen towards himself and begun tapping.

“Now that the base has been contacted, I have a few questions for you two.” His tone turned icy, completely freezing over the pleased expression on Uraraka’s face. “You two are lucky that not only were we able to accommodate your ship with the current influx of diplomats we have, but that we were also able to provide help with repairs. That’s definitely an act of kindness, wouldn’t you say?” He smiled, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“What the hell are you getting at?” Katsuki finally burst out, after having been silent during almost the whole conversation.

Commander Todoroki’s voice remained an icy monotone. “What I’m ‘getting at’ is that you two have decided to make a stop at the USJ base at a very inopportune time. We’re having a traditional Victorian ball to introduce some of the foreign diplomats to Earth culture this evening, and it seems as if you two have just volunteered to be the Yuuei Space Association’s representatives.”

“A ball?” the two pilots exclaimed, Uraraka’s notably more excited than his own.

“But-I don’t know anything about traditional English culture, Commander!” Uraraka continued, a pained expression crossing her face. “Let alone have anything to wear that isn’t a jumpsuit or spacesuit.”

“The clothing will be taken care of. There is an entire database worth of history on English culture sitting right here on this base for you to take advantage of.”

“Fuck no,” Katsuki spat. “I’m here to get humans to Mars, not to attend some stupid-ass ball.”

Todoroki smiled once again, this time his eyes crinkling and all the iciness behind them turning mischievous. “Yes, but if you two attend, that means I won’t have to go.” Katsuki had to restrain himself from punching this guy in his fucking pretty boy face. “And you’re not really in a position to refuse, are you? After all, I did just save your mission, didn’t I?”

Uraraka’s mouth was hanging open slightly, but after snapping out of her daze, she looked down at the floor.

“I-I don’t know Commander…I’m not who you want representing the humans.” She looked up again, rubbing the back of her neck. “I don’t really want to spill anything on a diplomat and mess up relations for the next decade.”

Where the hell did her confidence go? She’d just swayed the mission in their favor, talked to a dude with six fucking arms like it was no big deal, and landed a huge-ass spaceship with just an hour to make the recalculations as to not kill anybody. Why is some pansy-ass dancing such a big deal?

“We’ll fucking do it,” he said, before he could stop himself. He missed seeing this new confidence in Uraraka’s eyes, not that he’d ever admit it. Besides, she was easier to work with when she was all happy-go-lucky.

Right.

“Huh? We will?” she said, looking up at him.

“You wanted to talk to some aliens, right? Let’s just get this shit over with and get to Mars.”

“Wonderful,” Todoroki said, not giving Uraraka any time to fight the decision. “I’ll make the arrangements right away.”

-

Ochako didn’t say a word to Bakugou the entire elevator ride down from the coordinator’s office. She was still in shock about the fact that not only had she been connived into attending a ball, but that Bakugou had agreed to it. Was the lack of gravity getting to him? From what she remembered, he hated anything that involved dressing up and interacting with others. That’s why he turned her down in academy, right?

As the doors slid open, Bakugou made a loud hrrumph noise and started to his temporary quarters on the base. “The stupid-ass dance is at 2000 hours. Don’t make me show up alone,” he threw back at her before disappearing around the corner of the wall.

She needed someone she could actually talk to. Unfortunately, her contact was limited to those on-base and those back at mission control. And while Yaoyorozu’s face was a friendly one, she felt as if there was some sort of power distance she should keep in place for professional purposes. She supposed she could try talking to Jirou.

They went to the academy together, and were actually both in the same year, but didn’t see much of each other due to their separate tracks. Ochako knew a decent amount about computer programming—they all had to know the basics of all of the jobs on the shuttle—but it was definitely not why she was assigned this mission. Whereas she fell asleep in front of simulators practicing takeoffs and landings, Jirou fell asleep in front of algorithms and code. Maybe Jiroru’s more logical and blunt approach to things would actually be useful in this situation.

She found the quiet girl in the café area of the lobby, nursing a cup of coffee.

“You know that can’t be real, right?” Ochako said as she slid into the seat across from her.

“Yeah, I know, but the fake powdery stuff is better than nothing,” Jirou said, taking another sip and making a slight face at the unnatural aftertaste. “Well, maybe.”

“How’s the rover look?”

“He’s fine. A little jostled from when the gravity turned off and on, but there’s nothing wrong that I can detect with the actual program. I can only hope that Kirishima’s team made the tin can at least relatively durable.”

“That’s good to hear. Hey uh,” Ochako looked away from the dark-haired girl as a blush dusted her cheeks. “So apparently there’s going to be a Victorian-style ball this evening to introduce some of the foreign diplomats to traditional aspects of Earth culture.”

Jirou raised an eyebrow and her cup to her lips. “Sounds boring.”

Ochako gave a nervous laugh. “Yeah, definitely. Well, Commander Todoroki may have asked me and Bakugou to be some of the Earth representatives for the evening.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“Well, I mean I have to go! He kind of backed me into a corner about it. But with Bakugou?”

Jirou sat her empty cup on the table. “You two looked like you were going to tear each other’s throats out on the ship.”

Ochako bit her lip and had to restrain herself from biting her nails. Fidgeting came too easily to her. “Yeah, I suppose I kind of lost my cool. He just, ugh, gets on my last nerve.”

“Does this have anything to do with ‘The Incident?’”

“Everything comes back to it, I swear—how do you know about it? You weren’t on the pilot track.”

“Have you heard how loud you two are? Everyone in the entire academy knew about it. I think Midoriya was the only one oblivious enough not to know about it.” She looked into her empty cup. “I need more sludge.”

Ochako’s nails found their way in her mouth. “Is it that bad?”

“I mean it obviously wasn’t grown on Earth, probably in some weird terrarium on the base somewhere—” Ochako gave her a look. “Right, not the coffee. I mean at least you all can fly the ship together. As long as we don’t have to report a death, I think there’s been enough time for you all to get over it.”

“Can I ask you for help with one more thing? Could you help me get ready for this ball?”

Jirou looked at her coworker and sighed, the faintest grin blowing her cover of being annoyed. “As long as I can get some more coffee first.”

Chapter Text

Kastuki pulled at the red cravat that was intent on strangling him to death. No wonder they went out of style a million years ago, they were worse than neckties. However, based on the outfit that had been sent to his quarters by The Fucker, as he had taken to calling Commander Todoroki, this piece of cloth was supposed to form a noose around his neck and kill him before the shitty ball even started.

After failing to tie it correctly multiple times in a row, he had decided to call Kirishima for help before he shredded the fabric with his bare hands.

“Dude, you just need to calm down. The video is showing you how to tie it.” Katsuki’s face held a sneer as his best friend’s calloused hands worked the fabric into the elaborate loop. “And done! See, not bad.” Kirishima stepped back to admire his work. “It actually looks pretty manly on you.”

Kastuki just grumbled.

“Now we just have to wrangle you into the vest and top hat—”

“I ain’t wearing the dumbass hat!”

“Alright just the vest then, geez,” Kirishima said, holding up his hands as if to fend off a rabid dog. “You’re the one who agreed to do this, you know.”

Kastuki took a deep breath, trying to calm his rage level. He was hotheaded, sure, but Kirishima was right. He did ask for this.

“I—Fuck, I know. I wanted to get the coordinator off of our backs. Besides, it’ll be good exposure and hopefully good PR for our mission.”

“Ooh, since when are you interested in your public image? Also, do you think the squared toed shoes or the rounded toe?” the engineer said, holding up two pairs of shoes that looked almost identical to Katsuki.

“Some dicks here and at mission control don’t believe I was the right pick for this mission even though they’re the ones that asked me. This is my chance to show them how stupid they were to believe shitty Deku would make a better pilot than me. And, I don’t give a fuck, round?” he said, closing up his vest button by button.

“Will you be dancing with the Lady Uraraka tonight?” Kirishima asked in a silly voice, putting the rejected shoes back in their box.

“I’m giving your three seconds to take that back before I beat your ass to Mars.”

“Oh come on, Bakugou, you’ll finally get that dance you never got during third year.”

Katsuki spun to face him. “What the hell do you know about what I wanted third year?”

Kirishima’s eyebrows lifted as he shot him a ‘are-you-serious’ look. “You’re not the best at hiding your emotions, man. Especially when you just cover them up with different brands of anger.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean??”

“I’m just saying dude, try to dance with her at least once, regardless of what happened. Just think of it as a favor to your 16-year-old self.”

He hated that Kirishima could read him so well.

--

“You know, you could always come with me.”

“And have to wear one of these corsets? I don’t think so,” Jirou said as she pulled the ribbons on her back, knocking a bit of wind out of her lungs. Corsets, Ochako had decided, had gone out of style a million years ago for a reason, and should’ve been left in the past with feather quills and Snuggies.

“I need some support! If the only other human I have to talk to is Bakugou I might go crazy.”

“I think this corset is giving you more than enough support.”

“Ha ha. I’m serious though! What if the translators fail? What if I completely offend someone by trying to do something normal like shake hands with them?” The different possibilities ran through her head at the speed of light. She was so good at embarrassing herself, there’s no way she wouldn’t do it tonight.

“Remember, the diplomats here expect you to greet them in a traditional earth manner, and since contact has just recently been made, I don’t think they expect you to know all of their cultural norms.” Jirou tied the blood red corset ribbons into a neat bow that sat in her lower back. “And it is Victorian—you’ll most likely greet them with a curtsey or let them kiss your hand or something.”

Jirou took a step back from her handiwork. “Hey, do a spin for me.” Ochako complied and did an awkward shuffle in a circle, the wide base of the dress hindering her movements.

“There’s so many ruffles,” she commented, pulling at the wide ruffled sleeves of the dress.

“Not really my style, but the choker-collar thing would actually pretty awesome if I could get it in lace,” Jirou commented, straightening said piece.

Ochako glanced in the full-length mirror that had been provided for her along with the copious amount of fabric. “I guess it’s not actually half bad,” she commented, letting a smile soften the worried look in her eyes. “Now I just have to pin my hair up. How am I doing on time?”

Jirou glanced at her watch. “1930 hours. We better get a move on. Pass me one of those bobby pins.”

--

Just off to the right side of the main lobby was a conference room that had been converted into a grand ballroom, outfitted with chandeliers and a luxurious carpet underneath the feet of the guests who milled around waiting for the main events to begin. How they managed to transport it from Earth, along with all of these gowns and suits, was a mystery to Katsuki.

He had showed up exactly at 2000 hours, but Uraraka was nowhere to be found. If she couldn’t bother to show up on time, she probably wouldn’t show up at all, he thought. Bad move on her part. She could avoid him for the night, but they’d still be stuck on that stupid ship together once the repairs were finalized.

“Hi!” a voice chirped from below, shaking him out of his thoughts.

“What the fu-“ He caught himself before he could finish the swear. He could be diplomatic, dammit.

“You’re the one of the ones from Earth, right? Who’s going to Mars?”

The thing that stood below him, ignoring the concept of personal space, was one of the most alien aliens he had ever seen. It stood two legs, had eyes, a nose, and two arms, but most of the similarities to humans stopped there.

It wore a purple and blue Victorian style gown, so he assumed the alien was female-coded. But her skin was a bright pink that looked slimy, almost like the underbelly of a snail or a slug. The dandelion-like puff on the top of her head was a darker shade of pink and had two horn-like protrusions sticking out. Her eyes—the part that made Katsuki the most unnerved—were completely black with just a ring of gold in the center.

“You—you’re pink,” he said eloquently, trying not to look into the black abyss that was her eyes.

The alien blinked before letting loose a loud laugh that came from deep in her belly, turning the heads (and eyestalks) of other guests towards them.

“And you’re blunt! I didn’t know humans came in this flavor!” The alien grinned, holding up a sticky hand. “You’re supposed to put your mouth on it, right?”

The last thing he wanted to do was put whatever she was secreting on his mouth, but the alternative was getting yelled out for being rude and petulant again. And, he was, but he managed to hold his tongue and only slightly grimace as his lips brushed her knuckles.

“Katsuki Bakugou,” he grumbled, resisting the urge to wipe the slime from his mouth.

“Oh yeah! I’m Mina Ashido, representative of the Martian United Alliance!”

“You’re from Mars?” a familiar voice behind him asked. He turned, and the sight of Uraraka made him need to sit down.  

The full-length Victorian gown cinched around her tiny waist. Ruffled sleeves were too long for her arms, and her hands almost disappeared underneath the fabric. The high ruffled collar around her neck accentuated its length, and the deep and rich red on the front of the dress only seemed to highlight the permanent blush of her cheeks. The outward most layer of her dress was a cream with intricate designs of flowers and fleur-de-lis in that same deep shade of red that matched his cravat.

Shit.

“Oh my goodness, another human! Are you the one that can carry children?” the pink alien, Mina, asked Uraraka excitedly, completely ignoring his presence.

Uraraka let out a giggle that made him want to strangle something because of how cute it sounded. “I’m uh, yes, I can carry children.”

“Wonderful! What is the correct pronoun for child-bearers on Earth again?” the alien’s gold rings in her eyes seemed to sparkle with curiosity.

“Oh, well, um, it’s different for every human actually. We don’t exactly divide ourselves by the ability to bear children. But as for the two of us, I am female and go by the name Ochako Uraraka, and my co-pilot is male and is—”

“Bakugou!” Mina somehow smiled wider.

Oh my god, Katsuki thought. If every alien is as like this, I’m going to fucking destroy something by the end of the night.

“That’s right,” Uraraka smiled softly, her big brown eyes crinkling. “It’s very nice to meet you, Mina Ashido.” She curtsied slowly, as if she were afraid of losing her balance underneath all of that fabric.

“You as well, Ochako Uraraka!” Mina answered, carefully coping Uraraka’s curtsy.

“What took you so fucking long, Cheeks?” he finally asked, avoiding direct eye contact with her.

She finally turned to address him, her hand perched on a cocked hip. “Well, excuse me. I don’t see you in five layers of dress material and your hair curled and pinned. Getting into all of this takes time.”

“Oh, it really does! The ribbons don’t do well when slippery,” Mina added, turning to show off the back of her dress. The corset strings had been mis-laced and knotted at the end, bits of whatever the hell she secreted dripping off of the ends. Katsuki had to restrain himself from making a face.

“Here,” Uraraka said, her fingers deftly undoing the mess of the alien’s corset. Katsuki watched, almost hypnotized as her hands moved gently with the ribbons, re-lacing the back into a pattern that matched her own. “Now, you said you were from the Martian United Alliance?”

“Yes! I’m so excited to meet you all—humans have never contacted us before. Well, you sent some cute little robots to visit us, but we couldn’t interact with them by Federation laws. But as you all begin to explore more and meet more people across the galaxy, I’m sure we’ll find more ways to work together!”

“Hey, how come we never knew about you guys?” Katsuki asked, pulling at his cravat. “We’ve been studying Mars through telescopes for decades.”

Mina rolled her eyes. “Then you’ve seen the surface. Bo-oring. We mostly live under the surface, where it’s closer to the center and nearer to running water. That’s also what the slime is for! Helps keep us hydrated and protects us from the dust.” She booped his nose with a sticky finger, and Katsuki didn’t feel bad about wiping it off this time.

“There we are!” Uraraka announced, tying off the bow on Mina’s back. “Laced up nicely and much less slippery this time.”

“Wow, humans sure decided to wear complicated things,” Mina commented, spinning around to face the Uraraka.

“At least the female ones did,” she responded, giggling.

“I must continue making my rounds, I do have my diplomat duties to attend to,” Mina said, golden rings in her eyes dimming slightly. “But I hope to speak with you all again before the end of the night! Once you reach Martian soil, please don’t hesitate to contact me! I’d love to show you around.” She handed Katsuki what felt like a thin piece of clay with symbols etched into it. A business card? He’d have to run it through a visual translator.

She shuffled away in her dress, the back laced much more elegantly than before.

“You did a good job being a diplomat,” Uraraka smirked at him, causing a twitch to appear in his temple.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean, Round Face??” he whispered harshly, trying to keep Earth’s identity intact by not making a scene.

“You’re acting like you have some sense and not like a child. Now keep it up while we establish first contact with different species.”

He had a jab prepped and ready to throw back at her when she laced her arm through his and led him towards the next group of diplomats. She looked up at him with those big brown eyes, and any thought of a retort floated off to space.

His sixteen-year-old self was cheering. (Well, he was at least pretending to be grumpy while throwing an inward party.) She was touching him! She initiated it!

Yeah, too bad she’d much prefer that you were Deku, the rational part of his brain reminded him.

That’s right. He was here to do his job. Not to please his past self. (Or maybe even his present self.) He had to greet these shitty diplomats, regardless of if the brown-eyed beauty hanging off his arm gave a shit about him or not. He just had to stay focused.

--

Ochako had almost lost her balance. Not because of her dress—while cumbersome, it actually came with a relatively sensible pair of shoes to wear underneath all of that fabric. No, her ex-best friend/co-pilot decided to look unfairly phenomenal in a fitted suit and a bright red cravat that matched both his eyes and her dress.

While that may be true, she thought, he wants nothing to do with you. Blowing her off during one of their most important exams during third year fully proved that she wasn’t any more important to him than their other classmates.

But that was the past, she reminded herself, latching on to his arm as the joyful pink alien had run to the other side of the ballroom to continue her diplomatic duties. Once this mission is over, I’ll be back to working with Midoriya, who’s nothing but reliable. 

The two made the rounds, meeting diplomats from planets that they thought were completely uninhabitable, inhospitable, or just plain too far away to study properly. Turns out, Earth was literal lightyears behind in technology in comparison to many of the species in the surrounding systems. Their year-long mission to Mars only took Mina about a day to accomplish with her more advanced Martian technology.

Boys and feelings aside, she’d kill to take a look at Mina’s ship and the tech onboard.

However, as Earth was not officially part of the Federation yet, they’d have to rely on their decidedly boring Earth tech for the rest of the mission. Hopefully upon their return, more relationships will have been established and possible plans for Earth entering the Federation would be made. Ochako couldn’t believe it. Just a generation ago they landed on the moon, and now they are just within a generation of lightyear-speed travel.

Ochako soon found herself in deep conversation with one of the diplomats of Triton; she went by Tsuyu and had very frog-like adaptations to accommodate for her home world covered in water. Even with the translators changing her language, Ochako could see the inhuman way her neck bobbed to accommodate the croaking sounds she made. It was all utterly fascinating.

A squealing noise from the speaker system around them got the attention of the guests, and Commander Todoroki stood holding an old microphone and looking terribly uncomfortable in a deep green cravat.

“Um…” the microphone squealed again, and the diplomats with better-than-human hearing winced. “Welcome to Earth’s USJ moon base.”

Bakugou’s head whipped to her and she had to still the flutter in her stomach when his lips brushed her ear.

“What the hell happened to him ‘not having to attend’?”

She just shrugged, elbowing him to turn his attention back to the increasingly nervous man.

“Um, I’m Commander Todoroki, and I’m in charge of overseeing all of the operations that occur on this base. Thank you for, um, coming.”

Geez, no wonder he didn’t want to come. He couldn’t speak in public to save his life. Quite a contrast to the show he put on for them earlier.

“Now to um, demonstrate some Earth culture, pilots of the Earth exploration ship Ground Zero, Katsuki Bakugou and Ochako Uraraka, will perform a traditional Victorian dance, the waltz.”

Bakugou’s elbow jabbed her side. “What the fuck did he just say?”

--

So Ochako found herself in the middle of the room, hand in hand with the boy that was decidedly not the love of her life, ready to trip over her dress and her own feet in front of every alien race in the solar system.

If only Midoriya were here. He was always a comforting presence, and his own clumsiness made her seem like a graceful ballerina.

As the music struck up over the speakers, Bakugou grabbed her hand in his, and one of his calloused hands landed on her waist. She gingerly placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Just follow my lead,” he mumbled, a pink blush beginning to dust his cheeks.

“Y-You know how to waltz?” she asked, trying not to fall as he began to lead her around the room.

“I’m not an uncultured idiot,” he scoffed, changing the standard three-step to include the spinning circles. Ochako had to look down to make sure her feet were landing where she wanted them to.

“You could’ve fooled me,” she shot back, trying not to let a grin break over her face. It almost reminded her of how they used to banter back in the academy. She squealed lightly as his hand squeezed her side a bit tighter, and he whipped her out into a spin. She rolled back into him, looking around to see if anyone had noticed her discomfort. “Hey, warn me before you get all fancy!”

“I said to follow my lead. And you’re supposed to look at me, not your feet.”

“Not all of us are accomplished ballroom dancers, Katsuki,” she replied.

Bakugou seemed to trip over his feet, causing their spin to stop midturn and the music to get a beat ahead of them. Ochako had to grip his shoulder tighter to help him get back on beat.

“Don’t—” his voice cracked a bit. “Don’t call me that. What I said still stands. We’re not friends, we’re co-workers. And just because I got tricked into dancing with you doesn’t change that.” He didn’t seem as angry as the last time he had said those same words. There was something sad behind his eyes.

That didn’t stop Ochako from clenching her jaw in frustration. “Oh yes I forgot, you’re too good for me anyway. Just like in third year when you decided you were too good to be my partner for the piloting final and I had to do it alone. And when you decided one day that ‘oh, Ochako isn’t going to amount to anything, might as well go fuck with her head by avoiding her for the rest of the year.’ You’re right, we aren’t friends. My apologies for forgetting that.”

The music came to an end, and Ochako released her death grip on Bakugou’s shoulder to step away and curtsy towards him as he answered with a bow. Their audience clapped politely at their show, and Ochako plastered a smile on her face once again to finish up the decidedly socially draining evening. She left the circle that had formed to view their dance to find the Triton girl Tsuyu to talk to again. She could tell her about the other moons of Neptune to wash the taste of Bakugou out of her mouth.

For once in his life, she noted, stalking away from her dance partner, Bakugou had absolutely no right to be angry.