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The UA Circus

Chapter Text

The air is alive with the hum of the crowd. Vendors call out over the hubbub, peddling peanuts and paper bags full of kettle corn. Children titter in excitement at the brightly colored fabrics and the lingering smell of butter and sugar.

Midoriya is not immune to the charged atmosphere, despite being packed in close on the hard metal stands. Truthfully, he is probably more excited than a man his age should be at the circus. But this isn't just any circus.

This is the UA Circus, a world renowned once in a lifetime experience. No two showings are ever the same, alternating acts to suit the whims of the ringleader. The identity of the ringleader is an urban legend in itself, despite the many pictures that exist of them in news articles and the thousands of people who have witnessed them in person. No one can seem to agree on the physical characteristics of the ringleader, even their gender is a point of contention. And this mysterious person will soon be Midoriya's employer.

Midoriya breathes out slowly to subdue the urge to squeal in excitement at the thought. Generally, running away to the circus would be considered foolish, but UA is different. Anyone fortunate enough to work under the famous red, white, and blue tent came away with endless opportunity and sometimes fame. His mother had cried when he got offered a position in the company under the recommendation of his old teacher. She was so happy that she paid for his ticket tonight. To "get a sense for his future place of employment" as she had put it as she pressed money into his hands. He'd have to remember to repay her as soon as he could, as well as his teacher.

"Mama, look up there!" a little girl cries from behind him.

Looking up, Midoriya sees a couple of trapeze artists swinging on the wires, occasionally flipping and tossing each other. It's clear that they're in the middle of warming up, as one of them simply flexes and stretches his shoulder muscles.

That's one of the other things that sets UA apart from other circuses. As a way of enticing the waiting the crowd and rewarding them for their patience, some of the performers are allowed to wander the premises. Even from where he sits, Midoriya can see the hulking figure of the strongman towering over a small group and two snow white horses galloping around the ring. There's so much to take in and the show hasn't even begun yet!

"You look excited," an amused voice says from beside him.

He turns his head and meets shining [e/c] eyes. The woman's painted lips curve upwards when he reddens and sputters unintelligibly.

"It's okay," she reassures with a gentle wave of her hand. "Actually I'm envious of you. A person's first UA performance is truly special."

"Ah, have you seen the show before?" Midoriya asks curiously.

The woman blinks and then laughs at a secret that he's not privy to. "You could say that."

It's only then that Midoriya takes in her full appearance. She's clad in a simple black corset with golden embellishments accentuating her bust, then continuing down her right side and around her waist. She wears bright white riding pants that are tucked into knee high black boots.

"You're a performer!" he blurts out.

She nods and mocks a bow.

"That, I am," she says, "it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"What's your act?" he asks excitedly.

"Aw, that would ruin the surprise," she says with a wink. "Is there a particular act you're hoping to see tonight?"

He doesn't even need to think about it. "The strongman! But the magician is supposed to be really amazing too. Oh! And the fire breather. The rumor is that he's actually part dragon! Oh, but I probably shouldn't get my hopes up too much."

The woman thinks for a moment and then smiles brightly. "You're in luck. All of those acts are on the schedule for tonight!"

Midoriya's eyes practically shimmer with delight. The woman hides her amusement behind her hand.

"What's your name?" she asks.

"Midoriya Izuku."

"Midoriya," she tests out slowly. A flash of recognition passes over her features, but Midoriya has no time to dwell on it as she speaks again. "How would you like to meet the rest of the crew?"

"Eh?"

The woman grins and stands from her seat. She seems to size up the audience before she nods to herself. She turns to him one more time.

"Hang back after the show," she instructs, ignoring his stunned flailing. "Just let the staff know that I invited you here."

The power of speech finally returns to Midoriya as the woman steps up onto the metal bench. Almost as if on cue, the lights go out inside the tent and all conversation dulls to scattered whispers.

"Wait! I don't know your name!"

She smiles cheekily. "You'll figure something out."

With that said, the woman whistles sharply. A spotlight turns on, traveling along the crowd until it lands on her. She blows a kiss to the light operator and the center ring is illuminated by a flare of orange flames. A shout sounds from the top of the tent and a tall black haired aerialist leaps off from the ledge. He swings from a rope over the heads of the audience, circling lower and lower until he nears where the woman stands. She spares Midoriya a jaunty salute before she is scooped up into the acrobat's arms.

The spotlight follows the pair for another circuit around the tent, then the acrobat shifts her so that he's dangling her by the arm. She makes a show of pedaling her legs in the air, completely trusting the acrobat to maintain his grip on her. The acrobat releases her when the rope swings back towards the center ring. The woman gracefully tucks her legs and does a single front flip. She sticks the landing and raises her arms to uproarious applause.

"If you liked that," she says over the crowd, quickly hushing them, "then just wait until you see the show we have in store for you."

A tall woman with her black hair styled into a ponytail comes forward holding a bedazzled red coat for the shorter woman. The [h/c] haired woman shrugs on the coat and graciously accepts the tall black hat, blowing a kiss to the already retreating taller woman. She opens her arms wide, standing tall during her presentation.

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Welcome to the UA Circus! Tonight, here in our own Big Top, right before your very eyes, a fabulous array of acts has been assembled for your delight." Her eyes drift over to where Midoriya sits transfixed. Her grin widens and she sets the hat on top of her head, completing her transformation from random acrobat to the Ringleader.

"We'll get the show started very soon," she promises, "but before that I need your help. It's a tradition that we have here at UA. Think of it as a pact between you, the audience, and us, the performers. It's a promise that we will give you our very best performance, while you will be the very best audience you can be. Everyone that enters this tent is family, so we hope you will love and respect us as such."

She pauses to survey the crowd, smiling softly when she sees that she has them hanging on her every word.

"Alright, so here's what I need you to do. When I say 'Plus' you say 'Ultra.' Let's try it out. Plus!"

The crowd responds to her call with a resounding "Ultra!" The woman grins wider.

"Very good. Alright for real this time. PLUS!"

"ULTRA!"

The call rings out through the tent, the crowd tittering with a new energy. Midoriya watches the Ringleader breathlessly as she lowers her arms. She seems to meet his eyes again and he feels a different kind of thrill.

"Excellent!" she calls. "Now we're truly ready to go beyond with you!"

Chapter Text

The show was everything that Midoriya could have ever dreamed of and more. Even as he watches the ringleader bow and wave to the retreating crowd his heart continues to pound. He can barely process all that he'd seen in the space of two hours. Flashes of the performers burn themselves into his memory. The fiercest fire breather with his glowing red eyes and skin and hair painted black. The mysteriously aloof magician with his impossible illusions of fire and ice. The craggy faced beast master, silently commanding exotic animals to bend to his will. And of course, the strongman, his muscles rippling with every show of strength. He'll never forget any of it for the rest of his life.

"Excuse me, sir," a light voice breaks the man out of his thoughts.

He shies away as a round faced woman with her hair styled into a short bob invades his personal space. His foot misses the step and for a moment he feels a stomach dropping weightlessness as he begins to fall backwards.

"Woah!" the woman yelps and quickly catches him by the lapel of his jacket. She's stronger than she looks, as she easily supports him with one arm. "Careful there!"

Midoriya recovers quickly and stands on his own legs.

"Ah, thank you!" he utters, his cheeks flushing in embarrassment.

The woman smiles. "No problem," she says, "Are you alright, sir? The show's over and everyone else has already left."

Midoriya blinks in confusion and looks around. Sure enough, all of the other patrons have already cleared out. Only the cleanup crew roams the space, preparing to close up for the night.

"Do you need help?" the friendly woman asks. "Did you get separated from your group?"

"Oh! No..." Midoriya rubs the back of his neck. You'll figure something out. Now or never, right? "Actually, the ringleader told me to meet up with her after the show."

The woman's eyes brighten in realization. "Oh, so you're the one! Wow, you really are cute!"

"Eh?!" he shrieks.

The woman flushes suddenly as her words register. She goes rigid and gestures stiffly.

"I'LL TAKE YOU TO HER!"

The woman all but runs from the stands, only stopping at the closed flap at the back of the tent. She casts an embarrassed glance Midoriya's way, her round cheeks aflame.

Midoriya takes a deep breath and descends the metal stands. He's apprehensive, but about what he's not exactly sure. It could be because he's about to get a look behind the scenes of the illustrious circus or that he's about to meet his new boss properly. He worries that he's left a poor first impression on her, but she had seemed genuinely amused by him. So it can't have been that bad. Right?

He steps through the curtain into the cool night air. The woman walks briskly beside him, focused completely on the cluster of large tents before them. She brings them to the largest of them, situated in the center of the tent village. Music and boisterous laughter float through the opening into the open air.

"Wait here," the woman instructs, smiling in a reassuring manner as she enters the tent.

Midoriya takes a deep breath as his nerves return with a vengeance. It sounds like the whole troupe is inside and he's never been good with being in the spotlight. He's sure to attract a lot of attention, being an outsider and all.

"Deku?"

Midoriya feels a shiver go down his spine at the familiar voice. It couldn't be. But it is. Standing there in all of his glory is Bakugou Katsuki, his ex-best friend and childhood bully.

"Uh, hi, Kacchan."

"Fuck, it really is you," the blonde says in disbelief, "What the hell are you doing here?"

Midoriya opens his mouth to respond, but nothing comes out. His thoughts are swirling and competing with each other. Thankfully, another voice saves him from further awkwardness.

"Play nice, Katsuki," the ringleader says as she emerges from inside the tent, "he's our newest recruit."

Bakugou's eyes widen and he turns to look at Midoriya. Midoriya shrinks into himself, expecting Bakugou to yell, but it never comes. To his surprise, the blonde man simply clenches his jaw and turns his attention to the woman.

"What the hell are you wearing?" he asks sharply. "Go back inside!"

The woman blinks owlishly and then glances down at her thin silk robe. She takes another look at Bakugou's face and laughs at his expression.

"Aw, I knew you cared, Katsuki," she teases. She catches Midoriya's eye and inclines her head back inside the tent. "Come on then. Everyone is waiting."

Upon entering the tent, Midoriya is put at ease by the abundance of light and the warm earthen tones decorating the space. The next thing he notices is the assortment of people lounging around the space, talking merrily and drinking from metal tankards. Like a wave, silence falls over the space as the troupe gives the ringleader their attention with the occasional curious glance sent Midoriya's way.

"Everyone," the woman says brightly, "this is Midoriya Izuku. He'll be joining the company starting tomorrow. Midoriya." She meets his eyes, her smile soothing his nerves. "This is everyone."

A whooping cheer goes around the room, some more enthusiastic than others but all very welcoming. Midoriya's eyes wander from face to face, lingering on the one's he recognizes from the show. Introductions are going to take a while.

"Okay, okay," the ringleader says to reign everyone back in, "there will be time to introduce yourselves later, but right now we've got some business to attend to." She looks around, making sure she has their attention. "How did we feel about tonight's show? I want to hear-"

"[LAST NAME] [NAME]!"

The ringleader jolts, pulling her shoulders up by her ears at the sound of what Midoriya assumes is her name. She turns slowly to face the source, smiling nervously at the tall bespectacled man in the doorway.

"Tenya!" she says cheerfully, although her voice breaks off into uncomfortable laughter. "When did you get back?"

The furious man crosses his arms and taps his foot imperiously.

"My office. NOW."

"N-now?" Her eyes dart to Midoriya and seem to catch on him for a second before returning to the blue eyed man. "But Midoriya is here visiting. I can't just leave him-"

"Bring him along then," stormy blue eyes land on Midoriya, "I need to have a word with him as well."

[Name] gulps and turns to Bakugou. He nods at her unspoken request and he steps forward to take her place.

"Alright you extras, how did it look from the-?"

"Come on," [Name] mumbles to Midoriya, "might as well get it over with."

"Get what over with?"

"Well, your interview."

"WHAT?!"

"You didn't really think that you would get in with just a recommendation, did you?"

Chapter Text

Iida's office turns out to be a small trailer set beside the large tent. Iida quickly unlocks the door and holds it open for the shorter pair. [Name] enters first, closely followed by Midoriya.

The space is immaculately kept, despite the numerous shelves full of ledgers and journals. [Name] sits on one side of the desk, fiddling with a plain white marble paperweight. There's an empty seat beside her, which Midoriya takes after an impatient cough from Iida. [Name] exchanges a tense glance with the green eyed man before turning her gaze to the man sitting across from them. Midoriya gets the horrible sense of being called to the principal's office for a scolding.

"[Name]," Iida says sternly, "we'll start with you. What in the world were you thinking?!"

[Name] cringes, but stubbornly pouts her lips at the scolding.

"You're gonna have to be more specific," she mutters. "I think of a lot of things."

"Don't be smart with me," Iida scolds. "That stunt you pulled at the beginning of the show? Ring any bells?"

"The audience ate it up. It was a huge success," [Name] insists.

"It was reckless," Iida says in exasperation. "What if something went wrong? What if you'd fallen?"

[Name] crosses her arms childishly.

"Hanta would never drop me," she grumbles petulantly.

Iida pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs deeply.

"[Name]... You know that's not the point. What if a patron had gotten hurt? It's a major liability and they could have sued. You got lucky this time, but please don't do that again."

[Name] sighs but nods anyway, pointedly glaring away from Iida. He taps the desk in front of her, drawing her eyes back to him.

"You're a brilliant woman," he says softly, "but please remember that taking risks like that could affect more than just you. This circus would be lost without you."

The woman's eyes soften and she reaches out to cover his hand with her own.

"I'm not going anywhere," she says, "Even if I were, UA would continue on. It was here long before I took over, and I'm sure it will exist long after I'm gone. We'd be much worse off without you, Tenya."

The man huffs and pulls his hand back to adjust his glasses.

"Naturally, I am the manager after all," he says proudly. "Now then, [Name], I think you've learned your lesson. You're dismissed."

[Name] stands, but then hovers behind Midoriya uncertainly. She gestures between herself and the door.

"Did you want me to leave or..."

"Get over here, partner."

She jumps at his impatient voice and scurries over to his side.

"Now then, Mr. Midoriya," Iida says, "I apologize for subjecting you to that."

"Oh! It's okay, Mister... Uh..." he trails off uncertainly.

"Where are my manners? Iida Tenya." He extends his hand for Midoriya to shake. "And you've already met my business partner, [Last Name] [Name]."

The woman flashes him a smile and winks secretively.

"Pleasure to meet you both," Midoriya says nervously.

Iida nods and steeples his fingers. "Now, tell us, why do you want to join the UA Circus?"

Midoriya gulps. His gaze wanders between Iida's stern face and [Name]'s. She tilts her head encouragingly. Go on.

Midoriya takes a deep breath. "All my life, I've been told that I would never amount to anything. I was never particularly good at anything and I had limited access to schooling. My mom raised me all on her own, so money was always tight. I tried to help her where I could, but without a full education the only jobs available involved manual labor. I've always been physically weak, so even those usually didn't last long."

Iida opens his mouth to interject, but stops when [Name] holds her hand in front of his face. She watches Midoriya's face intently, fully engrossed in his words.

"Even though money was scarce, my mom always took us to see the circus. And for those two hours, we were both happy. We didn't have to think about how to pay rent that month or how we were going to put food on the table. It was fun, simple as that.

That's what I want to do with my life. I want to put smiles on people's faces and help them feel alright, even if it's for a moment."

[Name] stares at him, her eyes shining. But then Iida clears his throat and she looks away.

"That's all well and good," he says, "but how do you intend to contribute? You mentioned that you're physically weak."

[Name] makes a disapproving noise in the back of her throat, but Iida quiets her with a sharp look.

"I've gotten stronger since then," Midoriya explains. "I found a mentor willing to train me. Please, I promise I'll work hard. Even if it's just sweeping up peanut shells, I'm willing to work!" He bows his head, awaiting his judgment.

"Hm... What do you think, [Name]?"

Midoriya chances a peek at the woman. His heart beats faster when he catches the sly smile on her lips.

"How could we turn down such an impassioned young man?" she asks. She holds her hand out to the man. "Welcome to the family, Izuku."

Midoriya flushes at the sound of his name and quickly clasps her hand.

"Thank you! I won't let you down!"

Iida nods firmly.

"Great, now let's discuss the terms of your employment."

Chapter Text

By the time Midoriya leaves the trailer, the light has gone out in the tent village. The quiet hangs in the air like a blanket, only broken by the occasional rustling of the canvas tents.

"Oof, I always forget how long that contract is," [Name] comments as she stretches the kinks out of her back. She smiles sheepishly when she meets his eyes.

"I know I said you would get to meet the crew, but it's much later than I anticipated," she says apologetically.

Midoriya waves his hands in front of him.

"Don't worry about it," he says quickly. "I'll meet them eventually."

"Speaking of," she regards him curiously, "what time were you planning on coming by tomorrow?"

"Oh, well, Iida said that a tent would be ready for me in the morning, so I figured it would be good to start early. Is that okay?"

[Name] nods. "Sounds perfect. I'll ask someone to help you out. Come by around 7?"

Midoriya mentally files the time away with all of the other preparations he needs to make. He'd already packed his belongings the day before, but it wouldn't hurt to double check. Also now that he knew what sort of accommodations he was being given, he'd have to think about what he wanted to bring to personalize the space.

He's broken out of his musings by a quiet giggle. [Name] covers her mouth, her eyes dancing in the moonlight.

"You talk to yourself a lot," she says.

Midoriya flushes hotly and rubs the back of his neck to try to dispel the embarrassment.

"Sorry," he apologizes, "It's an old habit."

"Don't be," [Name] smirks as she glances at him from the corner of her eye, "it's cute."

Midoriya splutters and trips over himself. What's he supposed to say to that? Does he thank her? Does he compliment her back?

"I'm just teasing," she nudges him with her shoulder. "If you want to succeed here, you're going to have to get used to it."

He smiles weakly. "Right..." This evening turned out to be more stressful than he imagined. He's not sure how much more his heart can take.

Name cocks her head in the direction of the Big Top.

"Come on," she says, "I'll walk you back to the entrance. You know how to get back from there, right?"

He nods. By a stroke of good luck, his apartment is within walking distance. Then again, that is where all of the cheaper housing is, so maybe it's just a grim coincidence.

Name leads the way, choosing to circumvent the enormous blue tent. Midoriya walks quietly beside her, taking the moment to center himself. It's a gorgeous night, the stars are out and the breeze is only just beginning to nip with an autumn chill. But as serene as the ambiance is, Midoriya still has one more question lurking at the back of his mind.

"Miss [Name]?" Midoriya asks timidly.

"Just [Name]," the woman corrects with a pointed glance, "we're family now, Izuku, so I'd like it if you address me as such. Oh, but I can call you by your last name, if you'd prefer."

"Oh! No, I don't mind. It'll just take some getting used to."

The woman smiles. "Good. Now, what were you going to ask?"

"Uh, what exactly will I be doing?" he asks uncertainly. "I-I mean, I'm willing to do pretty much anything, but I'm curious what the expectation is."

[Name] hums softly in thought.

"Honestly," she admits, "I don't know yet. We like to cater to people's strengths here at UA. So I guess I need to ask you: what are your strengths? What are you good at, Izuku?"

Midoriya wilts at her words.

"I... I don't know."

Before he can spiral into self-deprecating thoughts, the woman shrugs.

"That's okay," she says breezily, "you can try things out to see where you fit. Sometimes we get the best results when you aren't prepared for it. Trial by fire."

As soon as the word leaves her mouth, a massive plume of orange flame lights up the night sky. Midoriya jumps fearfully, but [Name] simply narrows her eyes in the direction of the light.

"God damn it," she mutters. She takes a step forward but then remembers Midoriya beside her. She smiles apologetically at him.

"Is it okay if I leave you here?" she asks sheepishly. "This kind of can't wait."

"Can I come along?" he asks, surprised by his own boldness.

She contemplates for a moment, seeming to weigh the possible outcomes. Her deliberation is cut short by the appearance of another ball of flame.

"Sure," she says hurriedly, "Who knows, maybe you'll learn something."

Midoriya follows close behind her as she strays from the worn path to an open clearing. The grass is scorched in places and at the center of it all is Bakugou. He is just about to fill his mouth from a bottle when he catches sight of the woman quickly approaching him. He relaxes his posture but then his expression darkens when he notices Midoriya behind her, standing a respectful distance away.

She comes to a stop in front of the shirtless man, placing her hands on her hips.

"What are you doing?" she asks in exasperation born out of habit. "I thought I told you not to practice alone anymore."

Bakugou clicks his tongue dismissively. "I focus better without those extras breathing down my neck."

Name sighs softly, her brow relaxing. "Katsuki, what's wrong?"

Crimson eyes flick over to meet forest green before immediately darting away. He clenches his jaw and stolidly stares at a bucket of water.

"Nothing's wrong," he mutters, "just couldn't sleep."

Name chooses to ignore the obvious lie. She glances at a jar of powder sitting on a stump a safe distance away from the flames.

"What's that?" she asks, her curiosity getting the better of her.

Bakugou smirks and gestures to the stump.

"It's better if I just show you."

Name smiles excitedly and moves to take a seat, nudging the jar over to make room. She glances over at Midoriya and pats the space beside her. He shakes his head, not wanting to intrude on what feels like an intimate moment. She shrugs and gives Bakugou her undivided attention.

The blonde lifts his dual ended torch and lights both ends on the burning stake in the ground. He twirls the baton deftly around his arms and neck, leaving orange afterimages in its wake. Bakugou drops to a knee and, after a quick pull from his bottle, breathes a fantastic plume of flames, washing the clearing in bright warmth. The man refills again, this time directing the flame downwards, just barely touching the damp grass.

The result is instantaneous as sparks of gold come to life inside the orange flames. For good measure, Bakugou sweeps his leg over the smoking patches and releases a final bloom into the sky, the tones of orange and yellow reflecting off of his glistening chest.

Midoriya is left breathless after the entrancing display. He only snaps out of his daze when Name runs up to the blonde.

"That was fantastic, Katsuki!" she squeals. "I'm not sure we can use it inside the Big Top, but it looked cool!"

Bakugou puffs out his chest at the praise.

"I'm still working out the kinks, but it'll be a real showstopper when it's ready."

"I can't wait," Name says breathlessly, her eyes shining in the torch light.

He almost smiles, but seems to remember Midoriya's existence at the last second. He glances at the other man momentarily before returning his attention to the woman in front of him.

"You walking him out?" he asks gruffly as he grabs his wife beater and over shirt.

Name nods, giving an undignified squeak when Bakugou drops the over shirt on her head.

"Go back to your tent," he commands, "I'll take the nerd the rest of the way."

Name pouts, not appreciating his tone, but wraps the shirt around her shoulders nonetheless. She peers up at him suspiciously.

"You're not planning on hazing him, are you?"

Bakugou rolls his eyes and shoves his hands into his pockets. She gives him a faux annoyed look, but smiles and turns to where Midoriya still stands. She beckons him over and gestures to Bakugou.

"Katsuki will take you the rest of the way," she says. She pins a stern look on the blonde as she continues, "He'll make sure you get there safely."

Bakugou scoffs and brushes past Midoriya.

"Keep up!" he calls over his shoulder.

[Name] shakes her head at his prickly nature, but Midoriya can see the affection she has for the blonde man in her eyes. He stiffens when she turns her eyes on him.

"You'd better go," she says, "Katsuki is not a patient man."

Midoriya nods, biting his tongue subtly. She doesn't need to know about his history with Bakugou. This job is a new start and he's not going to waste it.

"I'll see you tomorrow!" he says in farewell.

She nods and they part, going off in opposite directions.

The walk back to the entrance is tense, the air thick with unspoken words. Bakugou is unreadable, his face uncharacteristically neutral. Midoriya wishes he could say the same for himself, as his stomach twists itself in knots and he glances nervously at the blonde man.

He hasn't seen Bakugou since high school, back when he was the outcast loser and his friend was the popular jock-scholar. In their little town, Bakugou was the only one to get accepted into college, a good one at that. So...

Midoriya flinches as Bakugou comes to a sudden stop. The blonde man rounds on Midoriya, finally letting a scowl contort his face.

"You're thinking too loud!" he yells.

"S-sorry," Midoriya stammers and he shrinks into himself. Even after all these years, Bakugou's anger is still terrifying to behold.

Bakugou curls his lip in disgust at the pathetic display.

"You're still as spineless as ever," he spits. He throws his head back haughtily and glares at Midoriya. "Well, go on! Ask it already."

"A-ask..."

"Don't be stupid," Bakugou rolls his eyes, "You're a lot of things, but you're not stupid."

The backhanded compliment succeeds in throwing Midoriya off. So much so that the question slips from his lips unbidden.

"What happened to Harvard?"

Bakugou snorts derisively at the name.

"Harvard," he sneers, "Those idiots wouldn't know intelligence if it bit them in their old white asses."

"You got kicked out?!"

"Hah, they wish!" Bakugou gives the smuggest smirk Midoriya's ever see. "They couldn't touch me if they tried. I fucking left!"

"You LEFT Harvard?! But why?!"

Bakugou's expression turns reflective, as if he's reliving some moment from a different time.

"I had to," he says quietly, more to himself than to Midoriya.

"What?"

Bakugou shakes his head, resurfacing from whatever memory he'd been dragged into.

"It doesn't matter," he says gruffly, turning away from the green eyed man. "I'm here now, and that's all that matters."

"You've changed," Midoriya whispers involuntarily. He shuts his mouth when Bakugou turns his head sharply, but it's too late to take it back.

"Nah," he scoffs, "I'm the same asshole who pushed you into lockers all those years ago."

"But you're willing to admit it now."

Bakugou shoves his hands into his pockets and begins walking again.

"I ain't admitting anything," he says decisively, "I'm moving forward. If you wanna be left behind, ya damn nerd, then be my guest."

From the safety behind Bakugou's back, Midoriya smiles. It's not an apology for everything Bakugou had done to Midoriya, but it's the closest to a clean slate that he's ever going to get from the blonde.

Chapter Text

Midoriya arrives at the circus grounds with his two small suitcases at the predetermined time. His breath leaves in misty clouds, dispersing into the early morning air. Despite the early hour, the circus bustles with life. People of all shapes and sizes walk with purpose, carrying boxes of supplies and wares for the stalls leading up to the Big Top.

Midoriya shuffles uncomfortably with his baggage, unsure of exactly where to go. He knew that [Name] said she would ask someone to help him with his tent but not much else in the way of details. He contemplates asking one of the many workers, but they seem too focused on their morning tasks to bother with an unfamiliar face.

Just as his anxiety begins to peak, Midoriya sees him. A mountain of a man with silver hair sits atop a sizable wooden crate. His long fringe covers his left eye, while all features below his cheekbones are obscured by a gray face mask. But the most eye-catching characteristic are the additional appendages that fan out from his broad shoulders.

The man catches Midoriya's stare and smoothly rises from his seat, standing well over 6 feet tall.

"Good morning," he greets politely

"Good morning!" Midoriya says a little too quickly, doing his best to keep his gaze on the man's face.

"Shouji Mezou," the man introduces himself. "Miss [Name] asked me to help set up your tent."

"Midoriya Izuku." Midoriya holds his hand out for a shake and belatedly wonders if it's the wrong thing to do.

Thankfully, Shouji smiles under his mask and grasps Midoriya's hand firmly.

"I know," the taller man says.

"O-oh."

Shouji inclines his head towards the large wooden crate. "Shall we get started?"

"Right!" Midoriya grabs his suitcases, but falters when he looks at the crate. "Do you need any help with that?"

Shouji chuckles lightly, not even staggering as he hefts the crate onto one shoulder. His extra appendages wrap around the box, stabilizing it.

"Follow me," the large man says easily and begins down the path to the tent village.

Midoriya follows him to an empty space in the circle of tents. Shouji sets down the crate and produces a crowbar.

"So what do you do here?" Midoriya asks curiously. The way that Shouji's head snaps towards him clues him into his poor word choice. He flusters quickly, waving his hands around as he tries to backtrack.

"I meant for work! What is your job here? I wasn't referring to your-." He stops when Shouji shakes his head.

"It's okay," the man reassures, prying open the top of the crate as he speaks. "The boss lady keeps me around for some extra muscle."

Midoriya moves forward to help unpack the crate, pulling out pieces of metal framework. He asks, "How long have you been with UA?"

"A couple of years," Shouji answers, muscles rippling as he hefts the heavy canvas tent.

"Ah..."

The conversation dies there as the men focus on constructing Midoriya's new accommodations. Before long, Midoriya's very own tent stands proudly amongst the others.
Midoriya wipes his brow as he looks up at the construction. Granted, Shouji handled most of the actual labor, but Midoriya feels accomplished nonetheless.

"Thank you for your help," he says to the silent silver haired man beside him.

Shouji nods his head, his hands busy with writing on a piece of board. He hands it to the green eyed man.

Midoriya beams up at him in neat lettering. The man glances up at Shouji questioningly, not quite understanding.

Shouji points to the bar crossing the entryway.

"You hang it up," he says, "It's tradition."

Midoriya beams and moves to tie the board. When he's done, he feels a certain sense of completion, as if his name was the last piece. Well, at least for the base tent. There's still the question of furniture. He turns to Shouji.

"So now what?"

"I'll be dropping off furniture later today. But now, you're to go find Miss [Name]," he answers.

"Find?" Midoriya asks.

Shouji nods. "Yes, find. It's a-"

"Tradition," Midoriya finishes, "Got it. I don't suppose I get any hints."

Shouji chuckles and begins walking away.

"Good luck," he offers over his shoulder.

Midoriya sighs to himself and firmly slaps his cheeks. He sets his eyes on the Big Top and nods to himself. What better place to start than the first place he met her?

Chapter Text

When Midoriya enters the huge tent, it's immediately apparent that [Name] is not there. As the front-woman of the entire show, she has a natural charisma that is difficult to miss. Not to mention the attention she commands from all those who follow her. When she speaks, they listen. But somehow her presence warms up the atmosphere, making everyone around feel at home. So without her there, the air feels professional between the performers currently practicing within the center ring.

The brown haired woman from the night before juggles glass bottles, completely focused on the motion of her hands. Occasionally she tosses bottles to a diminutive boy, who then passes various objects to her. Rubber balls, ceramic plates, even daggers pass between the pair at nerve-wracking speeds. Midoriya is afraid to make his presence known, worried of breaking their concentration.

Unfortunately, his concern is well warranted as the woman catches sight of him out of the corner of her eye. A plate slips from her fingers and shatters on the packed dirt. She squeaks and quickly catches the remainder of the airborne objects.

"Hey!" the boy shouts in annoyance at Midoriya. "We have the space reserved right now!"

Midoriya comes forward, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.

"Sorry!" he says. "I didn't know."

The boy, who Midoriya now realizes is actually a little person, stares at him.

"Oh, you're the new guy," he says. He sizes Midoriya up and then frowns. "You're not much to look at," he grumbles, "I was hoping we'd get a new girl."

"Mineta!" the woman scolds.

"Uraraka," the dwarf says back mockingly. "I'm not wrong! We've got plenty of muscle already and more than enough headliners. What else could he add?"

Uraraka drops a weighted ball on the short man's head, uncaring when he shoots her an angry glare.

"Don't listen to him," she tells Midoriya, "we welcome everyone here at UA. I'm Uraraka Ochaco. I hope we can get along!"

Midoriya nods and smiles at the juggler. He turns his gaze on Mineta, who crosses his arms in a huff.

"Mineta Minoru," the bushy haired man says grudgingly, "and I would have preferred if you were a woman."

"A-ah, well it's nice to meet you anyway." Midoriya glances to the assorted objects on the ground. "You guys are really good."

Uraraka rubs her head bashfully.

"Ah, thank-"

"If she were really good, she wouldn't have gotten distracted," Mineta cuts in sharply. "That's why you're not allowed to perform yet, Uraraka."

Uraraka pouts and crosses her arms over her chest.

"I know that," she mumbles, "I'm working on it."

"Oh, so you're in the show then, Mineta?" Midoriya asks.

The short man bristles and Uraraka bites her lip, trying to conceal her amusement.

"I am," Mineta says slowly, a bitter note in his voice.

"He's a clown," Uraraka explains. "A pretty good one too."

"It's beneath me!" Mineta gripes. "And [Name] refuses to let me change acts."

"Well, you don't have to be in the show," Uraraka reminds gently.

"Yeah well," Mineta looks down as he speaks, "then what else am I supposed to do?"

Midoriya shuffles uncomfortably. Mineta's situation hits a little close for him. He needs to find his place in the circus and soon.

"Oh," Uraraka says suddenly, "so what brings you by the Big Top?"

"Ah, right! I'm supposed to be looking for Name!"

"Oh, that's right! Yeah, she's not here," Uraraka says. "Sorry we can't-"

"Usually she's having breakfast around now," Mineta says casually. "If you go to the dining tent, you should catch her."

"Oh! Thank you!" Midoriya says quickly. He waves as he leaves the area.

Uraraka glares at Mineta disapprovingly.

"He's supposed to find her on his own," she reminds, "Name's not going to be pleased with you."

Mineta smirks deviously. "I think you forget, my dear sweet Uraraka, today is Thursday."

"... First of all, ew. Never call me that again. Second of all, you're a terrible person."

"Don't you forget it, Sweet Cheeks."

"... I'm going to throw you up into the rafters."

Chapter Text

After some asking around, Midoriya finally makes it to the dining tent. It's more like a large canopy with panels that can be tied back or dropped down depending on the setting. In this case, the panels are down, concealing the occupants.

A bit anxiously, Midoriya grasps the zipper holding the front panels closed. He takes a deep breath and pulls the metal tab upwards. He pushes the curtains aside and enters the covered space. A part of him thinks he's imagining things when he locks eyes with a lion.

"Ah, excuse me," he utters weakly as the beast regards him with interest. He gulps when the feline jumps down from the large picnic table, its magnificent mane waving from the motion.

No one could fault him for running, but the girlish screams are probably a bit much. He can hear the lion's paws pounding through the grass, steadily gaining on him. He rounds the corner, hoping to lose it in the maze of tents.

Midoriya yelps when he collides with a solid body, falling back on his rear from the impact. A man stands over him, brow furrowed in concern. He reaches for Midoriya, but the green eyed man shakes his head quickly.

"Run!" he shouts at the craggy faced man. "There's a lion chasing me!"

The lion chooses now to make an appearance, loping into view. Midoriya scrambles to his feet and makes for the path. He stops when he realizes the other man isn't following him.

"What are you doing?!"

The man says nothing, even as the lion leaps at him. Midoriya watches in horror as the man falls under the lion's weight.

His horror morphs into confusion when the lion begins to croon, rubbing its head against the prone man's face. The man scratches the big cat behind the ears, smiling broadly as it purrs loudly.

"I-it's okay?" Midoriya asks cautiously.

The lion looks up at Midoriya at the sound of his voice. He tenses as it gets up and pads over to him. It sits on its haunches and waits expectantly.

"Uh..." A flash of movement catches Midoriya's attention. The man from before, now supporting himself on his elbows, makes a petting motion in the air. Seriously?

Midoriya gulps and shakily extends his hand, palm down, towards the lion. The king of beasts sniffs his trembling fingers then nudges the top of its head against his palm. Midoriya takes the hint and rubs his hand through its mane more firmly. The lion croons again, pleased at the attention.

"I can't believe this right now," Midoriya mutters to himself.

He jumps when he feels a tap on his shoulder. The craggy faced man jumps as well, looking apologetic.

"Ah, are you okay?" Midoriya asks quickly. "I didn't mean to run into you!"

The man shakes his head and gives a thumbs up. Midoriya sighs in relief.

"That's good," he says, "I guess it's a good thing you were here. I was so sure that the lion was going to eat me!"

The large man smiles and shakes his head. He kneels and takes the lions face in his hands. Carefully, he peels back the lion's lips, revealing an empty mouth.

"Oh, he's toothless!" Midoriya laughs breathlessly. "Wow! I guess I really overreacted. But how did you know that?"

The silent man smiles proudly and that's when Midoriya recognizes him.

"Oh, you're the Beast Master!" he exclaims. "I saw you in the show last night. You're incredible!"

The man rubs his neck bashfully.

"What's your name?" Midoriya asks.

The man's face falls and he wrings his hands nervously. He opens his mouth and closes it again.

Midoriya notices the man's discomfort and flutters his hands in front of him.

"Ah, it's okay if you don't want to tell me! I guess it was kind of rude of me to ask your name without giving mine first. I'm Midoriya Izuku, but you probably already knew that... But maybe you didn't so I shouldn't assume!"

"Koda Kouji," comes a quiet voice, interrupting Midoriya's anxious rant.

Midoriya takes a breath and looks at the man's face. Koda has a gentle smile, relief clear on his weathered features.

"It's nice to meet you, Koda," Midoriya says. The lion, dissatisfied by Midoriya's stationary hand, bumps against him more insistently. He scratches behind the cat's ears, but then looks up anxiously at Koda.

"I'm looking for [Name]," he says, "any idea where I might find her? Or at least a suggestion of where else to look?"

Koda looks uncomfortable, clearly unsure of how to help without breaking the rules. He shakes his head glumly, miming a zipper motion across his lips.

"Yeah, that's what I thought," Midoriya admits, "it was worth a try though."

Koda smiles and raises his fists encouragingly. Midoriya smiles at the man's silent attempt at cheering him up.

"Thanks," he says, "You're right. I can't give up now!" He rubs his chin thoughtfully. "Now if I were the ringleader of a huge circus, where would I be? I already tried the Big Top and the dining tent."

He thinks about everything he knows about the woman, which is really not much. He does know that she's the creative mind behind the show schedules though. She's clearly an innovator, if last night's stunt is anything to go by. Every showing is different, which means that she'd need to constantly come up with new ideas. She's not in the Big Top, so maybe she's less of a visual person during the planning stages.

"Hey, Koda," Midoriya calls, "where does [Name] go when she wants to think?"

Koda smiles. He purses his thin lips and mimes tracing over his mouth with something held between his index finger and his thumb.

"Lipstick..." Midoriya murmurs, "Make-up... Ah, her dressing room! Which way to her dressing room?"

Koda points and Midoriya takes off, shouting a hurried thank you over his shoulder. Koda laughs silently, shaking his head. He can tell that Midoriya's a smart one, having caught [Name]'s trail much quicker than many before him. Koda wonders what that will mean for the circus, but then again it's too soon to tell.

Chapter Text

[Name]'s dressing room turns out to be a small tent closest to the Big Top. It's unmistakably hers; '[Name]' is scrawled in gold paint on the board above the tent flap.

Learning from his mistake with the dining tent, Midoriya clears his throat loudly.

"Excuse me," he calls, "it's Midoriya."

There's a muffled commotion inside the tent. The tent flap flies open and Midoriya's vision is filled with pink.

"Oh my gosh, it's you!" the woman in his personal space squeals excitedly.

Midoriya backs up hastily, blinking as his eyes focus on her. With bubblegum pink hair and golden eyes, she's hard to miss. She has uneven splotches of pink paint decorating her skin, but her most distinguishable feature are the ivory horns twisting from the top of her head.

"Hello," Midoriya says hastily, snapping his eyes back to her face. "I recognize you from the show. You work with the magician, right?"

The woman puffs out her chest proudly.

"That's me! Ashido Mina, the most memorable assistant in the business!" That's one way of looking at it.

Before he can respond a hand clamps down hard on Mina's shoulder. The woman pales as a blond man appears behind her.

"Mon Cherie," he says in a sickly sweet voice, "You're not showing off an unfinished masterpiece, are you?"

Mina laughs nervously, trying and failing to shake the man's hand off her shoulder.

"Oh, I thought you were done," she says unconvincingly.

His dark blue eyes narrow dangerously.

"Inside."

Mina squeaks and scampers back into the tent. Midoriya flinches as the blonde turns toward him. His expression suddenly turns sunny and he extends his hand gracefully.

"Aoyama Yuuga," he says, "Make-Up Artist."

"A-ah, nice to meet you," Midoriya says shakily, thrown by the abrupt personality shift.

Aoyama turns and beckons Midoriya in.

"Come, watch an artiste at work."

Midoriya's protests die on his tongue and he follows the Frenchman inside. He's starting to feel exhausted from being let down each time he fails to find the Ringleader. But the circus members are his best bet at finding the elusive woman.

The inside of the tent is set up with a large wardrobe, filled to bursting with colorful outfits, plenty of folding chairs, and a brightly lit vanity. Mina sits in the chair in front of the vanity, idly sifting through the assortment of products and brushes covering the table.

"Non non non," Aoyama tuts at the horned woman, "Do not disrupt the tools of a master!"

Mina pouts and crosses her arms. "Do you really need all of this just to paint me pink?"

Aoyama scoffs as he lifts a large flat brush. "Do you want to look like a wad of chewed gum?"

"No..."

"Then let me work."

Aoyama pulls out a small pot of pink cream paint and begins making brushstrokes in a crisscrossing fashion across Mina's face and shoulders. While he does that, Mina turns to Midoriya, who is still hovering at the mouth of the tent.

"So how's your first day been so far?"

Midoriya sighs as he thinks back to the beginning of his day. With how tired he feels, it's hard to believe that that was only a few hours ago.

"Shouji helped me put up my tent, then I watched Uraraka and Mineta practice at the Big Top. I ran into Koda and his toothless lion at the dining tent, and now I'm here."

"Sounds like you've had a full day already," Mina comments. "That's good though, you're pretty close to-"

Mina splutters and closes her mouth hastily as Aoyama brushes over her lips with his brush.

"Sorry, Cher," he says, "can't have you ruining the fun."

"Fun?" Midoriya echoes.

Aoyama simpers and places his brush in a cup with other used brushes. He picks up two pots of shimmer powder and presents them to Midoriya.

"Which one?" he asks.

Midoriya shakes his head. "O-oh, I don't know anything about makeup. Sorry."

Aoyama tuts and shakes the pots impatiently. "Nonsense, it's a simple question. Which shade do you like better for her cheeks?"

Midoriya swallows and studies the two shades and looks at the color already on Mina's face.

"The darker one?"

Aoyama hums neutrally. "Why?"

"Be-because the lighter one is too close to the color of her skin?"

Aoyama smiles and places the lighter color back on the vanity.

"See, nothing to it."

He begins to dust the shimmer over Mina's cheekbones and collarbones.

"Choose a lip color," Aoyama instructs as he moves onto her eyes, lining them with a dark brown pencil.

"Pick a good one," Mina says gleefully, garnering a displeased noise from Aoyama when she looks away. "I wanna meet someone cute tonight!"

Cute, huh? Midoriya looks over the array of tubes. He skips over the darker colors, deeming them not 'cute' enough. The pinks seem a bit much with her already blush-y skin tone. He spots a tube that seems right to him and hands it to the blonde.

Aoyama looks at the tube in his hand and smiles brightly.

"Good eye!" he praises. "The piece de resistance!"

He applies the color to a small brush and paints Mina's lips. Mina turns to the vanity mirror and smiles at the light purple coloring her lips.

"Oo, how fun!" she says approvingly. "This is bound to get someone's attention for sure!"

Aoyama clears his throat expectantly, causing Mina to roll her eyes.

"Not that your work isn't always a head turner," she says pointedly.

"Why do you want so much attention?" Midoriya asks curiously. "Isn't it scary to have so many eyes on you?"

Mina's smile turns introspective as one of her hands goes up to finger one of the horns growing from her head.

"Well," she says gently, "I draw attention no matter what. Might as well make it in a way that I choose."

"O-oh, I didn't mean-"

"It's okay. You didn't know." Mina smiles brightly. "Anyway, shouldn't you get going? You still need to find [Name]."

"Right. Koda said that [Name] likes to come here to think... Wait, why are you guys here?"

"I was actually only coming to tell [Name] that Sero - he's an acrobat - was looking for her, but Aoyama here managed to catch me," Mina admits. "I'm not saying that that's where she's going next, but that might be a good place to go later."

Aoyama nods in agreement. "Oui, our darling leader is quite a free spirit. She used to perform with the acrobats before she became ringleader."

"Why did she change?" Midoriya asks, remembering the stunt she pulled the night before. "It seems like she still enjoys performing like that."

Mina shrugs nonchalantly. "I wasn't around when that happened and she doesn't talk about it often. She's always moving forward."

"Speaking of," Midoriya says as he remembers his task. "I'm sort of at a loss."

"Well, maybe now is a good time to take a break," Mina suggests. "By now, Shouji probably has the furniture for your tent, so you can go rearrange it how you like. Then regroup and look for [Name] with a fresh mind!"

"That's... actually a pretty good idea," Midoriya admits. "Thanks, Ashido!"

She waves as he bows in farewell and disappears from the tent. Mina pauses when she realizes that Aoyama has been quiet for a while.

"What's on your mind?" she asks.

"Green would be a good color for him," Aoyama mutters to himself, hand on his cheek as he designs a new masterpiece.

"Oo, to match his eyes! Yeah, that black hair on him is just a bit too plain."

Chapter Text

It takes Midoriya a while to find his way back to his tent. He's glad for the name plate, otherwise he would've walked right past it.

Upon going inside, he's surprised by the number of boxes piled in the middle of the space. The stack rises just over his head and walking around it reveals that it is solid. He has to wonder if Shouji had stacked it this way on purpose. Or maybe it's another one of these UA traditions that he keeps hearing about. Well, this box mountain won't unpack itself...

"Hello," a deep voice calls from the entrance of the tent.

Midoriya pokes his head around the pile and spots a dark haired man stooping at the tent flap.

"Hello!" Midoriya says as he moves around the boxes.

The other man smiles and ducks under the entryway. He fills the space with his sheer size and Midoriya gasps in recognition.

"You're the strongman!"

The brunette grins and holds out a massive hand.

"Sato Rikido. Good to meet you, Midoriya!"

Midoriya shakes his hand, trying his best to rein in his excitement.

"What brings you by?" he asks.

"[Name] might have mentioned that you like the strongman act the best," Sato explains, "So I thought I would come say hi. Although maybe now's not a good time to chat." He casts a critical eye on the boxes.

"Ah, yeah, I just got here," Midoriya admits. "I haven't had much luck in finding [Name], so it seemed like a good idea to regroup after a short break."

Sato nods in understanding. "I had a hard time on my first day too," he says. "Don't give up though, it'll be that much sweeter when you find her."

Midoriya smiles, feeling somewhat more encouraged.

"Thanks. I'm not giving up! She's still within my reach, I know it!"

Sato laughs boisterously. "That's the spirit! Now, how about I put my muscles to use and help you with this mountain?"

"Really? That would be great! Thank you!"

They begin dismantling the box pile. At the very bottom of it, Midoriya finds a crowbar.

"Shouji's got a sense of humor," Midoriya mumbles to himself.

Sato manages to hear him and laughs. "Not really, but he does like to follow precedent. One of our UA alumni was a bit of a prankster."

Midoriya looks up after he opens one of the boxes.

"How long have you been at UA, Sato?"

Sato takes the pry bar and opens one of the larger boxes.

"Not very long," he says, "maybe a couple of months. The job kinda fell in my lap and I couldn't say no."

"You didn't want to join?"

Sato pulls out the beginnings of a bed frame as he mulls it over.

"It's not that I didn't," he clarifies, "it just wasn't something I saw myself doing before."

"What did you want to do before?" Midoriya asks as he pulls out a chair leg.

Sato smiles sheepishly. "Ah, well... Don't laugh, okay? I wanted to open a bakery. Still do, actually."

"Why would I laugh at that?" Midoriya asks seriously. "That's a great goal to have."

Sato blinks and rubs the back of his head bashfully.

"Heh, thanks. With my size, there's a lot of pressure to be super macho and manly all the time. I used to get teased for my hobby back home."

"So why the circus then?" Midoriya asks. "Why not chase your dream?"

Sato sets aside a box with a bedroll inside. He begins to open another large box as he speaks.

"As you probably know, UA compensates its workers way better than any other circus in the country. Sure you might have to wear a spandex costume, but you meet so many great people and travel all over. Did you know that food preferences differ from state to state?"

Midoriya shakes his head, struggling with assembling the chair as he listens.

Sato smiles, passion burning in his eyes.

"Well they do! So I'm doing my best to learn the regional tastes whenever we travel, all while I save up to start my bakery."

Midoriya smiles genuinely. "That's amazing, Sato."

Together, the men quickly unpack the boxes and assemble the contents. Before long, Midoriya's tent begins to resemble a proper living space. He'll have to do a little rearranging, but for now it will do.

"Thanks for your help," Midoriya says gratefully as he surveys their handiwork. "This would have taken so much longer on my own."

Sato smiles widely and gives him a thumbs up.

"No problem," he says, "as [Name] likes to say, we're family. It's only natural that I'd help out my family."

Midoriya smiles, his heart warming at the sentiment. It's hard to describe how nice it is to feel accepted. To belong somewhere.

"Thanks," he says softly, swallowing thickly. He blinks quickly, concealing the sudden rush emotions. "I should probably go find-"

His stomach cuts him off with a loud gurgle. Midoriya clutches it in embarrassment, but Sato already heard it.

"Hungry?" the large man asks.

Midoriya laughs sheepishly. "I may not have had breakfast this morning."

"It is also about time for lunch," Sato says thoughtfully. "Tell you what, let's go meet up with the crew for food. Then you can continue on your quest."

"A-are you sure? I wouldn't want to impose," Midoriya says nervously.

"Of course!" Sato says as he claps a hand on Midoriya's shoulder and guides him in the direction of the dining tent. "You're one of us now, remember?"

Midoriya gives a tiny smile.

"Right."

Chapter Text

When they arrive at the dining tent, Midoriya is glad to see that the occupants are human. A blond man looks up at the sound of the tent flap opening and smiles brightly at Sato.

"There you are!" he says. "We were starting to wonder if you were ditching us."

"Never," Sato says jovially. "I was just helping Midoriya here with his furniture."

Midoriya does his best not to flinch when four sets of eyes turn on him. He smiles and inclines his head in greeting.

"I'm Ojirou Mashirao. Pleased to make your acquaintance," the blonde greets politely.

"Tokoyami Fumikage," says the raven-haired man beside Ojirou. He offers nothing more, but then the large black crow perched on his shoulder croaks loudly. "This is Dark Shadow."

Across from Tokoyami, Shouji raises a hand.

"Hello again," he says, "any luck on finding the boss lady?"

Midoriya winces but before he can say anything, Sato claps a hand on his shoulder and pushes him into the seat beside Shouji.

"He's testing a recipe for me," he says firmly.

"I am?" Midoriya asks dumbly.

"You are. So sit tight and relax a bit. Don't even think about looking for [Name] right now!" With that said, Sato disappears through the back of the tent.

"So how are you enjoying UA so far?" Ojirou asks conversationally.

"It's... not what I was expecting," Midoriya admits. "But in a good way! Pretty much everyone I've met has been very nice."

"Oh? Who've you met?" Shouji asks.

Midoriya sighs internally, wondering how many times he will have to recount his day. But as he opens his mouth to speak, Dark Shadow interrupts him with a caw.

Tokoyami pokes the bird disapprovingly.

"Don't be rude," he admonishes.

"Why?" the bird posits back, surprising Midoriya. Crows can talk?!

"You do not get to speak over Midoriya just because you feel like it."

"But I'm bored! And hungry!"

"Be patient. Now apologize to Midoriya."

The bird bobs in place, seeming pouty, but then it bows its head down in apology.

"Sorry," Dark Shadow says.

"Uh... It's okay," Midoriya says uncertainly. How many more strange encounters will he have before the day is done?

Midoriya notices Ojirou laughing silently, his shoulders shaking slightly from the motion. Confused, Midoriya looks to Shouji. The crinkle of the silver-haired man's eyes is the only indication of his amusement.

"Eh?" Midoriya utters.

"Show-off," Shouji scolds playfully.

"I do not know what you are talking about," Tokoyami says. He looks to the side dismissively, but the smug smirk gives him away.

Sato announces his return with a sigh and the delightful scent of flaky pastry.

"Dark Shadow's pretty well trained, but he can't say more than simple words," he explains, taking pity on Midoriya. "Tokoyami's a ventriloquist."

"Oh!" Midoriya stares at the black haired man in awe. "I couldn't even tell! You're really good."

Tokoyami says nothing, but Dark Shadow seems to puff up in pride on his master's behalf.

Ojirou leans forward to peek at the steaming platter in Sato's hands.

"And what masterpiece have you created today?" he asks.

Sato grins and places the tray on the table.

"Try it first, then I'll tell you."

Sitting on the tray before them are five perfectly golden brown personal pies. Midoriya's stomach gurgles loudly at the sight of them, but it goes unnoticed by the other men.

"No need to be shy," Sato says smugly. "Get'em while they're hot."

That appears to be the push they need as they each grab the pie closest to them. Midoriya briefly says thanks and then digs in.

The pie is savory, the perfect amount of chicken and vegetables inside a thin flaky crust. The sauce inside is creamy and soothing to the soul.

"So what do you think?" Sato asks. "Creamy? Melty?"

Midoriya swallows and sighs in satisfaction. "It's delicious," he says.

The others mumble in ascent, too busy with chewing to respond verbally. Shouji is the first to finish.

"So what is it?" he asks.

Sato grins at the curious eyes now trained on him.

"My take on a classic chicken pot pie," he answers. "I changed up some of the spices and stewed the filling overnight to let the flavors really sink in."

"I'm going to have to train extra hard if you make this more often!" Ojirou groans dramatically.

"Train?" Midoriya asks. "Train for what?"

"Oh," Ojirou says in realization, "I have an act too. I perform with the acrobats."

"What's your specialty? Midoriya asks, noting Ojirou's word choice.

"Martial arts," Ojirou says nonchalantly. "Care for a demonstration?"

Before Midoriya can say yes, the tent flap wrenches open and a light haired woman bursts through.

"Toru?" Ojirou asks in surprise. "What-"

"Where's Bakugou?" she interrupts breathlessly.

Midoriya hears a seat scrape backwards from behind him and the blonde man grimly comes forward. How long had he been there?

"Where?" he growls.

"T-the side entrance," Toru stutters.

Bakugou nods and strides out of the tent.

"Let's go too," Sato says.

The other men nod and troop out of the tent. Midoriya looks around helplessly, unsure of what's going on.

"What's happening?" he asks as he follows after Sato.

The large man's face is serious as he says, "Trouble. That's what's happening."