Chapter 1: Enter Deku
When Todoroki Shouto was younger, his mother liked to say he learned how to dance before he could walk. And honestly speaking, she might’ve been right, because Shouto doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t dancing—his earliest memories are made of pliés, relevés, sautés; He’s quite sure, in fact, that he knew the five basic positions before he knew how to write his own name.
He loves to dance. He lives to dance, although he doesn’t remember ever falling in love with it like all the other kids seemed to have—there was no monumental instant where he watched someone dance, no Romeo and Juliet or Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty, and decided I want to be like that. The love he has is something pre-existent, growing there from the beginning. It was instilled into his mind from the moment he could comprehend it in the same way he learned how to talk. To become a danseur: it almost feels written into his fate.
Since his very first official ballet lesson, Shouto’s been pegged as all natural born talent by ostensibly everyone. “A product of lucky genes,” they like to justify, “convenient DNA”. As annoying as it is, he can’t really blame anyone for coming to such a conclusion. His father—Todoroki Enji—is a multi-award winning principal dancer known for his emotional choreography and iconic flying leaps, as well as being the owner of the prestigious ballet company Endeavor Ballet Theatre. His mother—Todoroki Rei—had years of competitive gymnastics under her belt up until she became pregnant with his oldest brother. Lucky genes never seemed too far from it.
(Even his father tended to say that of all his siblings, Shouto got the best of his parents’ traits.)
Countless hours of muscle-numbing practice, ice baths and the bleeding toes—it all seems to fly over the head of the public. His effort has lacked full recognition from the very beginning because he was simply born to be as good as he is. It’s the lucky genes. To be perfect, to be graceful and strong and nimble—that’s expected of Todoroki Enji’s son, and nothing less. It’s a demand that comes with the name.
Shouto knows he’s good. He’s been groomed and conditioned since he could stand to be good. One of these days, though, he’ll be good without standing in his father’s shadow, without it being an expectation. Without it being lucky genes.
And maybe starting with getting into UA Dance Academy—the same school his father excelled in—is a bit redundant in terms of his goals, but he’s got a plan and this is only the first step. He’ll indisputably upstage his shitty dad's achievements, and by the end of it, they'll be completely disconnected—
“Mommy, why is that strange man staring at girl things?”
Shouto rips himself from his inner monologue, face twitching into a scowl. He looks over his shoulder, away from the shelf of tampons he’s been planted in front of—he’s only been standing there for like, ten minutes, anyway—and watches as the owner of the voice gets ushered away (by who he assumes is her mother, or alternatively a witch with the way she seems to be trying to kill Shouto with the strength of her glare) into the Vitamins & Supplements aisle.
“Don’t stare, baby. Just walk away. No eye contact.” Jesus. Shouto almost hates going to the CVS as much as he hates going to shitty Walmart. He tends to space out under all the fluorescent lights and excessive air conditioning.
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Shouto turns back to the task at hand. Or in other words: a wall of feminine products.
The things he puts up with for his friends (more like friend, singular, but details), really—Shouto fishes his phone from his coat pocket and rereads Momo’s awfully detailed essay of a text. Painkillers? Check. Sports drinks? Check. Ice cream? Check. He isn’t sure about the next part, though. Pads or tampons? Logically speaking, tampons would probably be more convenient for practice and recitals, but what about during downtime? Were the heavy flow ones more durable? Or would she prefer ultra thin?
Shouto briefly considers shooting a text to Fuyumi, but doesn’t really want to get interrogated over why he’s buying menstrual products. The labels make less and less sense the longer he scrutinizes them and—Shit. With a defeated sigh, he swipes his hand over the shelf and dumps a box of every brand into the basket. There’s bound to be something in there Momo can work with, and if not, maybe the tub of ice cream will distract her long enough for him to book it.
With a decisive nod, Shouto navigates through the maze of aisles and zigzags his way towards the check-out lines. Music fills the relative silence of the CVS—it’s oddly empty, save the occasional customer and the bored cashiers, even for being as late as it is—and the familiar classical tunes trigger a rather impulsive urge to shift into a port de bras.
He makes it to the cash register without putting on an impromptu show for the security cameras, steadily ignoring the look the cashier gives him when he neatly arranges all of the menstrual products on the conveyor belt by brand and type.
The cashier is a tired guy that can’t be any older than Shouto. He stares at a pack of Maxi Extra-Heavy Overnight pads as he rings it up like it personally offended him, and for half a second, Shouto almost expects him to argue with a box of pads. Men, honestly.
“So… girlfriend?” he asks tightly, like he needs confirmation that Shouto isn’t buying this stuff for himself.
Had Shouto’s face not have been schooled into a mask of perfect indifference already, he probably would’ve snorted at the idea of him dating Momo—or any girl, for that matter.
“Oh,” the cashier mutters, ringing up the ice cream next, “Sister?”
Shouto pulls out his wallet to pay—exact change down to the cent, just to make the cashier’s life easier—and shrugs. “Something like that.”
Not even an entire fifteen seconds after Shouto slips through the sliding doors of the CVS, plastic bag in hand and receipt in the process of getting shoved into his back pocket (Why did he insist on wearing skinny jeans?), someone runs into him, hard. Shouto has the fifteen consecutive years of strengthening his core muscles to thank when he miraculously doesn’t get knocked over—his bag gets knocked out of his hand, though, and he has to carefully scoop everything back up.
“Oh, my gosh! I’m so sorry!” a girl, all platinum blonde hair and bright blue eyes, apologizes frantically.
Shouto doesn’t bother with a reply because she’s off before she even finishes her sentence, already dashing away without a second glance. He’s more confused than anything—What’s she so in a rush for? Did somebody die?
He really didn’t intend on dwelling on the possibilities, more focused on delivering the contents of his bag to Momo before she sent out a search party, but Shouto can’t help but notice as he dusts himself off that a lot of people are rushing in the same direction that girl is and—
Then he hears it: music. Loud and catchy music, a blend of rhythmic beats and rap, easily overlaps and drowns out the various overplayed pop tunes filtering from the open doors of surrounding shops.
Shouto stares at the gradually forming mass of people on the other side of the pedestrian zone, notes how everyone seems to be bouncing on their feet, bobbing their heads, drawn in like the music is a magnet—and he finds himself inching over, too. He passes all the shopping outlets stacked up against each other and maneuvers through cliques of people until he’s standing at the outskirts of the crowd.
His sufficient height allows him to see over enough heads and determine this is indeed one of those street performances—Something that’s definitely not uncommon around here, but rare to have with such a crowd.
Curiosity getting the better of him, Shouto weaves through the sea of limbs, gracelessly settling near the front where he can see well enough into the eye of the crowd. And there in the middle is a group of buskers—four of them; he spots a flash of rosy cheeks, a glint of glasses, concerningly dark eye bags, and a mess of green curls. Dancers.
They’re an odd bunch but they meld together with envied ease, bursting with chemistry in each step of the choreography. Shouto doesn’t need to have someone tell him to know this was more than some haphazardly put-together group. If anything, he’s brought back to his and Momo’s duets—the ones where they giggle in between mistakes and only worry about having fun.
So engrossed with the buskers’ performance, Shouto hardly notices the song coming to an end and eventually starting from the beginning again. The four dancers come to a stop, but only three of them melt back into the cheering crowd, thanking and greeting fans.
The last member—the curly haired boy with a smattering of freckles across his face—taps on his phone and a new song starts. He returns to the center afterwards, lips curved into a bashful grin while he bounces on his toes.
“Deku! I love you!” a girl all but shatters Shouto’s eardrums when she hollers beside him, prompting him to shoot her a glare like his visual prowess would be enough to reprimand her. He’s briefly shocked to see the same platinum blonde hair and blue eyes from before, and is admittedly not all that surprised.
He turns back just in time to see the busker—Deku (as he was called), a weird ass name if you asked Shouto—wave shyly to the girl beside him, thus bringing upon yet another deafening squeal from his left that nearly sends him leaving the pedestrian zone completely.
(Logically thinking, that wave was completely meant for the girl beside him—so even when Deku’s eyes seem to smile with his lips and Shouto’s heart lurches at the sight, he decides not to think about it too much.)
But then Deku begins to dance, and his presence shifts tangibly; there’s something different in the air. He moves like his body was built to undulate to music. He embodies unhinged grace without delicacy, without the liability of being fragile—he exudes unmatched confidence, oozes with it in every spin and turn, and Shouto can’t fathom walking away from such a sight.
Excitement clenches around his heart like an iron fist. Watching Deku dance on his own is an unfairly different experience from watching him dance with the other buskers.
He’s just as happy, just as energetic, but something more all the same. His curls bounce with his steps, and his smile is persistently blinding—and yet, there’s clear focus written into the features of his face. Everything about him screams watch me, and so Shouto does.
Deku drops onto one hand and seems to throw his lower body from beneath him, and then he’s spinning and his legs are kicked up—The crowd screams over the music—And he looks so—How is he even—
“Windmill flare combo,” a high, cheery voice supplies from his right, and Shouto resists the urge to jump. He glances over to see the busker from earlier, the girl with cropped brown hair and rosy cheeks, at his side.
”Oh.” He turns his body towards her but his eyes stay on Deku, watches the way he springs back up onto his feet with a satisfied grin.
Unfazed by his mask of indifference, the girl simply giggles. “I was just tellin’ you because you looked pretty shocked. Is this your first time watching Deku-kun dance?”
“Not much of a talker, are you?” she giggles again, and Deku forgoes dancing to instead dip into a few thankful bows when the cheers begin to overpower the music. Without the music, he looks shy again, almost overwhelmed—like if he could, he would thank every person in the crowd individually. Something about that thought makes Shouto’s chest tighten; how would he react if Deku was right in front of him, thanking him wholeheartedly?
The girl keeps talking even after Shouto only shrugs.
“Well, I’m Uraraka Ochako! I hope you come by again and watch us dance. We’ll be here next Friday, too, around this time if you’re interested.”
When Deku disappears into the sea of fans (maybe he will greet them all individually), Shouto finally meets the girl’s—Uraraka’s—gaze. She smiles eagerly, but her eyes read him with a look he can’t quite define.
“No problem! I hope to see you around more often!” And with that, she bounds off. Shouto finds himself scanning the heads of hair, waiting for untamed curls to finally show but—
His phone vibrates in his pocket.
Did you find everything?
Shouto’s hand tightens around the grip of the plastic bag, and he turns away. There’s a buzz beneath his skin as he walks in the direction of the train station.
Yeah. Quick question- do we have practice next Friday?
Parallel to Momo’s equally as starfished body, Shouto’s limbs splay out across the floor of the dance studio. The sprung wood is cool beneath his back and through the thin cotton of his t-shirt, and the ceiling seems to go on for miles when he stares up at it.
Technically, the entire building was supposed to be closed and locked up hours ago. Had Momo’s parents not have been the owner of it, both of them would probably have been kicked and banned years back when they first started sneaking in after hours—Even now they could be considered lucky because the security guard still has a soft spot for Momo after all these years. After Shouto dumped everything he scavenged from the CVS into Momo’s lap (she was only slightly confounded with the variety of her options), though, they silently agreed it was one of those nights.
That decision found them on the floor of Studio 8, side by side, illuminated only by the street lights outside filtering in through the windows. During these moments, he can hardly tell whether or not he’s the same reserved thirteen-year-old who had to convince Momo to go through with her own plan (“We’re already here, Yaoyorozu. Might as well do it,” he’d said back then, arms folded over his chest as he watched Momo pace around in front of the backdoor of the building), or turning nineteen and reminding her to lock the door behind her.
“Did something happen while you were out?” Momo’s voice breaks the comfortable silence they fell into earlier, and when Shouto tilts his head to look at her he catches a glimpse of his reflection in the panels of mirrors lined up on the wall.
Briefly, he thinks of the buskers from earlier, of Deku and his bashful grin and freckled cheeks—And then with fervent urgency, averts his focus to the nutrition facts label on the tub of ice cream Momo’s nursing on top of her chest; he has an ongoing theory that she can read minds.
He clears his throat. “What do you mean?”
Momo squints at him suspiciously, has that look she gets when she ‘senses’ something on her face. “You look more emotionally constipated than usual, Shouto. What happened—Wait. Oh, my gosh! Was it a boy?”
Mind reading. There’s no other explanation.
“The cashier thought you were my girlfriend when I came to the check-out line with a basket of the entire feminine hygiene aisle?” he dodges the truth, consciously noting that there are 90 milligrams of sodium in her tub of ice cream.
She snorts around a spoonful of cookies and cream, prompting him to continue with a vague gesture of her free hand. Shouto huffs out a sigh. Damn her intuition.
“Okay… I might’ve made a brief stop at the pedestrian zone to watch a short street performance… and I might’ve seen a particularly attractive individual—”
Momo rolls onto her side and props her head up in the palm of her hand. There’s a lilt to her voice when she speaks and Shouto knows he’s lost. “Oh? Is that so?”
“Yes,” he groans with a half-hearted roll of his eyes, “The whole group was actually decent—I haven’t seen them before, so they’re probably new in the area, but they had a crowd watching them like it wasn’t the first time. I caught the last of their performance and then one of them did a short solo… I was intrigued, is all.”
“They might be big on social media? And yeah, sure, you were ‘intrigued’.” Shouto ignores the air quotes and pockets the social media option somewhere in the back of his mind. Maybe once auditions are over he’ll check them out—Ah, auditions.
“Maybe. It’s no big deal, though—just a few buskers. Besides, we’ve got auditions to worry about.”
Momo gives him a look and he knows the subject will resurface soon enough, but he’s safe for now because auditions. Since both of their pre-audition tapes were accepted, he and Momo will have to go in for the actual live audition at UA where their every move will be scrutinized—in person (a lovely upgrade). The thought only makes him a little sick to his stomach.
“Are you nervous?” she asks, and he shrugs.
“No,” he says truthfully. His whole future rests on him getting in—he’s got a plan—so he will. There was no point in being nervous. “Are you?”
Momo’s hand curls up at her chin and her eyebrows furrow; it’s been a habit of hers since she was little, one that Shouto picked up on far back. He knows what she’s going to say before she even says it.
“Well, I’m a bit nervous—”
“You shouldn’t be,” he cuts in calmly, finally tearing his gaze away from the nutrition label to meet her eyes, “You’ve practiced so much you could probably do your piece in your sleep. You will make it.”
She breaks out into a tiny smile. “Thanks, Shouto.”
“I was just being honest,” he murmurs, because he was—he has complete confidence in Momo. Not only is she more talented than some pros already, but Shouto can count the number of other schools outside of UA she’s been scouted by on two hands. Momo is already getting to her feet, though, empty ice cream tub discarded in the trash.
“Hush. Speaking of practice, though, I should probably do that now. Maybe work off that ice cream,” she announces, stretching her arms. Shouto stands, too, and makes a beeline for the light switch.
“Does your stomach feel better now?” he asks, falling in place beside her to stretch as well—The whole reason he made the trip to the CVS in the first place was that her cramps had been too bad to make the trip herself, but it seems like she was better now.
“Yeah, the painkillers have kicked in.”
When they do begin to dance (after thorough stretching and prep, of course, because Momo is especially anal about not pulling any muscles after a particular mishap when they were nine) he stares at their reflections in the mirror. They dance gracefully and with ease like they always do—high jumps, light feet. He wonders, though, what would it be like to dance like the buskers from earlier? Shouto imagines to be so loose would be liberating, in a way.
Auditions are next Saturday, though—Getting distracted would be bothersome.
Since she eventually learned about the context of the text he sent her before, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Momo all but forces Shouto to take her to the pedestrian zone the following Friday under the notion of “taking a break from practice”. She slips her arm into the bend of his elbow (his left side, always, something about him running warmer on that side) and drags him around the bustling area with uncanny strength.
“You need to start wearing more layers, Shouto. It’s getting colder,” Momo insists in the same motherly tone she always uses in moments like these. And she’s right; Musutafu is growing colder as August drags on, and more people are giving up shorts for sweats and t-shirts for sweaters. Even now, Momo hugs a coat close around her and lets her hair pool past her shoulders to keep her ears warm.
Shouto glances down at his short sleeved v-neck—he never really had a problem with the weather and she knew that, but old habits die hard. “I’m not that cold.”
“If you insist—Where did you say they performed? On the other side?” she asks as they pass the CVS and endless shopping outlets, eyeing every group of people she sees just in case they might break out into dance.
More than anything, Shouto wants to lock himself up in the studio and practice; he’s itching to run through his piece again, commit each movement to muscle memory more than he already has. Philip Glass’ “Closing” has been on a constant loop in his head for at least a month now, or ever since he got the letter saying his pre-audition tape was accepted, and with auditions literally being tomorrow, he has the burning need to go through it again, and again, and again.
As if hearing his thoughts out loud (she probably did, damned mind reader), Momo’s grip on his arm tightens, like she fears he’ll break out into a run any second now and hole up in the nearest studio. She already successfully tore him away from his binge practice session, though (“Shouto, you’ve been practicing for hours. Take a short break, okay? Don’t overwork yourself before auditions,” Momo had reasoned with him earlier, the look in her eye leaving no room to argue)—he doesn’t intend on pushing it.
With a defeated sigh, he nods towards the slowly accumulating crowd on the other side of the pedestrian zone. There’s no music playing yet—which makes sense, they came a lot earlier than he did before—but it’s doubtlessly the same spot as last Friday (and if he squints, Shouto thinks he can spot familiar platinum blonde hair pushing through the throng).
Momo perks up visibly and is soon back to dragging him around, barely pausing to exclaim out a cheery Excuse me! when she (somehow politely) shoves past other people, and Shouto just lets her.
The closer they get, the more his stomach churns—Why is he even anxious? It’s not like he isn’t allowed to watch them, they’re street performers. Hell, he was even invited to come by one of their own—Yet still, once Momo manages to force them both to the very front, he has the growing urge to hide behind her so he isn’t seen.
But by who? Deku? Shouto doubts he even noticed him the last time he was here, up front or not—
“Shouto, stop thinking so loud. They’re about to start!” Momo squeezes his arm and Shouto’s attention zeroes in on the music he didn’t realize was playing. He doesn’t recognize the song but he can’t deny it makes him want to dance, full of Jamaican influences and an easy-to-follow beat. Everyone around them seems to move to it’s rhythm almost subconsciously.
And there at the center of the circle of people is the same four from last time—Uraraka briefly meets his eye and sends him a toothy grin before falling in place beside the one with glasses, and beside him is Deku with the eye-bags guy not too far behind.
Eye-bags guy seems to be the one leading this dance, actually—and for someone who looks like he doesn’t get more than twenty minutes of sleep every night, he has energy strong enough to get the entire crowd cheering in seconds. Momo even cheers beside Shouto, clapping her hands excitedly.
But Shouto’s attention stays on Deku the entire time. His presence commands regard no matter what position he plays, supporting role or not. Shouto’s eyes follow the fluid rolls of his body the entire time, never straying, even when—no, especially when they sink onto the floor and—wow, who would’ve guessed he could move his hips like that—
“Shouto!” Momo’s voice sounds far away and it’s only when she shakes his shoulder does he manage to look away from the buskers.
He hums in acknowledgment, softening at the sight of Momo’s enlivened smile. He’s glad she’s enjoying this, even if it is at the cost of valuable practice time.
“Which one did the solo last time you were here? The ‘particularly attractive individual’?” she questions, and Shouto pales—Nevermind, maybe he isn’t so happy she’s enjoying this—
“Oh! It’s the guy with the green hair, right? At the back?” she continues innocently.
What the hell, how does she do that? Shouto keeps his face carefully still, determined to not give himself away when he replies.
“Actually, I don’t remember—”
“Figures, you always had a thing for freckles.”
Shouto’s eye twitches. “I do not have a thing for freckles—”
“Hey, you came!” Another voice jumps into his and Momo’s conversation and he comes extremely close to elbowing the stranger—Uraraka, he realizes when he turns around—in the throat out of pure instinct. He instead chokes a little on his words. When did the music change? When did they even stop dancing?
“Hello! You all danced very well out there!” Momo detaches herself from Shouto to offer Uraraka a kind smile in greeting. He makes a noise of agreement.
“I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’m Uraraka, I saw your friend here last Friday. And, not gonna lie, I’m kinda surprised to see him come back,” the busker giggles, and Momo does too.
“Yaoyorozu. I forced Shouto to come, actually, even though I know he secretly really wanted to come so he could see the dancer with the curly hair—”
“Momo—” he cuts in with growing panic, but she just smiles away.
“You mean Deku? That makes sense! I thought he looked a little captivated by his solo last time.”
Shouto stares at the ground and desperately wills it to open up and swallow him whole.
“Deku? That’s his name?” Momo asks curiously.
“Well, we all have our stage names that the fans usually call us. Deku’s actual name is Midoriya Izuku! My stage name is Uravity, and—” Uraraka points towards the circle where Eye-bags and Glasses are performing a duet (Shouto won’t say it out loud, but he’s disappointed to see that Deku, or Midoriya, doesn’t have another solo) “—over there is Ingenium and Brainwash respectively. Or, Iida Tenya and Shinsou Hitoshi. Together we make the Hero Squad!”
“That’s so unique! I love it. I’m guessing your stage names relate to your style of dance?”
Momo and Uraraka continue to talk animatedly amongst one another with Shouto rooted silently at their sides. He gives up on getting eaten alive by the ground after Uraraka goes on a tangent about their stage names—and boy, could she talk—and instead looks back to the two buskers dancing.
He pauses—If they’re over there and Uraraka’s here, then where is—
“Ochako! There you are—Oh, hello!”
Shouto’s not a dramatic guy, no, not at all. He likes to think he’s very calm and collected, in fact, and prides himself for being not dramatic. But right now? He feels like he’s been momentarily inserted into some cheesy coming-of-age teenage drama where he’s the protagonist in the midst of meeting the dashing second-lead and potential love interest.
(Shouto immediately cringes at his own over-active train of thought.)
Because there he is—Deku, Midoriya, him—slow-jogging over in what Shouto’s convinced is slow motion (or maybe his brain is just buffering too much to keep up with regular speed, who knows at this point). He comes to a stop beside Uraraka and Shouto’s mouth runs dry because he’s frustratingly stunning.
Midoriya is all sun-kissed skin and freckled cheeks (god, his freckles). He smiles with his entire body—his whole aura seems to lighten up—starting with impossibly green eyes, and Shouto is half-convinced he’s drowning in the sight. Boyish features are sharpened with maturity (like full cheeks and a cutting jawline—how?) and his body is so obviously ripped beneath his long-sleeved shirt (that says tank top, ironically) it’s a little overwhelming. Shouto notes that despite the atrociously red platform shoes he has on, Midoriya’s shorter than him by an inch or so, but still carries himself with an air that almost makes it unnoticeable—quiet yet impactful self-assurance.
Momo nudges Shouto with her elbow and it finally occurs to him that Midoriya is talking and shit, he didn’t catch any of that—
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” he asks, feeling grossly flustered when Midoriya chuckles and waves a dismissive, scarred hand.
Admittedly, Shouto should not be having such a difficult time with talking to Midoriya face-to-face considering this isn’t even the first time he’s seen him. Without a crowd of people to mask himself within, though, it’s proving to be difficult. There’s no dancing to justify his undivided staring, and to have eyes on him in return is different and exhilarating in a way he can’t plainly explain.
“No problem! I, uhm— I asked if you’re enjoying the show?” His voice is so sweet.
Shouto nods dumbly, looking anywhere but at Midoriya because holding eye-contact feels like being lit on fire. “Oh, yeah, definitely. You have a—You all have a very strong presence.”
“This is the guy I was telling you about last time! He came last Friday and watched your solo,” Uraraka adds, and something about being outed for watching Midoriya dance has him flushing—which is stupid because everyone watched him dance.
“Oh!” Midoriya at least looks flustered as well, which is an act of a double-sided knife because it’s adorable, “I—Well, I hope you enjoyed that, too!”
“Yeah…” Shouto decides to study the cracks in the pavement.
Beside him, Momo clutches his arm again.
“It was really nice meeting you two, Uraraka-kun, Midoriya-kun—We’ll definitely come back and watch you again, but we’ve got to get going now. Big day ahead of us tomorrow!” she says kindly, bless her soul.
“Oh, totally! Deku and I are up next, anyway,” Uraraka chirps, “Until next time!”
Shouto offers a short nod of acknowledgment, ready to eject himself from this exchange as soon as possible. He’s already in the process of turning around when a hand—large, scarred, rough, somehow comforting—grabs onto his wrist. He has half the mind to rip it away, but finds himself looking up and meeting Midoriya’s sea-green gaze instead.
“Ah, sorry, I just—” His ears tinge red and he let’s go of Shouto’s wrist, but his warmth lingers. He offers an expectant smile. “I didn’t get your name?”
“Shouto... Todoroki Shouto.”
He watches Midorya’s lips move silently around the syllables—he might be saying them out loud, but Shouto can’t hear (probably for the better, too) over the crowd’s cheers as Shinsou and Iida’s performance ends—like he’s memorizing the way it feels.
“I hope to see you again, Todoroki-kun.”
Momo tugs gently on his arm, and they’re off. His eyes linger on Midoriya’s retreating form as they head towards the train station, on the bounce of his green curls, and stay there until he’s out of sight—blended back into the crowd. His wrist still tingles where Midoriya wrapped his fingers around it, all crooked fingers and scarred palmed, and Shouto wonders how a hand like that could be so gentle.
(He makes a point of ignoring the knowing look Momo bores into his skull the entire train ride home.)
In the morning, Shouto wakes up before his alarm—At seven, actually, nearly three hours before audition. The sun peaks through the curtains of his windows and a whisper of anxiety, of excitement, lies dormant within his blanket-cocooned body.
The night before, Momo snagged him by his elbow when he tried to take a detour towards the Studio, shook her head in that motherly way of hers and insisted he got as much sleep as he could (“Practice in the morning so it’s fresh in your mind when you make it to the auditions,” she had persuaded, and even though Shouto wanted nothing more than to dance off the lingering—what, humiliation?—whatever he was feeling, she had a point).
(That found him in their shared apartment, forcing his eyes shut and his body still because he was not going to stay up tossing and turning the night before auditions. It worked for the most part, but his mind drifted to curly hair more times than he’d like to admit before he finally fell asleep.)
Now, though, freshly aware of his own sentience, Shouto itches to move—to dance—It’s no surprise he’s three hours in the safe zone. Like his body simply cannot accept the peace that comes with a few hours of blank unconsciousness—like he needs to be over-thinking something and practicing another—it jumpstarts into action sooner than strictly necessary. Today, buzzing with excitement as he thrashes out of his covers, the situation works out in his favor.
Two slices of half-burnt toast, three hard-boiled eggs, and a thorough shower (in which he may or may not have brushed his teeth during, like the heathen he is) later, Shouto has his bag slung over his shoulder and his gear ready. Momo is waiting in the living room with her own bag and two cups of coffee (another thing they managed to learn how to properly make).
(He and Yaoyorozu are both considerably less skilled in the cooking department (they rely solely on WikiHow and Youtube tutorials when it comes to home-cooked meals at this point) due to growing up in less demanding households, but of the few things Shouto can manage to cook, eggs and toast are two. Mostly because that’s the breakfast he always has before auditions and shows.)
She offers one of the insulated paper cups to him—black coffee, because he has a reputation to uphold—and gives him a kind smile.
He hums in agreement.
Shouto stares at the door separating him from the auditorium. It’s tall and solid and would take all of ten seconds to open, yet there he is—not daring to step past the threshold, or even facilitate such a step to begin with.
He huffs out a sigh. He wonders how his hesitance would be reflected in the oak of the door had it been a mirror, if it would echo back to him his own thoughts: Once he stepped inside, there was no going back.
The train ride from Momo’s Studio (they made a pit-stop there and did some of that promised pre-audition practice cramming) to UA’s campus was frighteningly calm. Nerves had yet to settle into the knots of Shouto’s stomach and the bustle of the train didn’t even make him want to throw up. Which he supposed made sense—He’d been able to go through his routine six times perfectly at the Studio, and could probably do the performance backward on his hands if he really tried. He wasn’t nervous then, same as last week, but he felt like all the anxiety he should have been juggling with would come barrelling into his body like a freight train soon enough.
(Momo had folded tiny paper cranes with torn pieces of a napkin in her lap the entire time—another nervous habit of hers: making things out of whatever’s near her. It’s kind of endearing; she accidentally crocheted an entire outfit the night before an exam, once.)
Now, standing before the door labeled Auditorium 4 in flawless golden letters, he finally feels the nerves. They settle in the back of his throat, in his hands, in his stomach, in his feet—He wishes Momo was still with him, but they parted ways a few hallways ago so she could go to the auditorium the girls would audition in.
He sighs again, willing his hand to move, to grab the doorknob and turn, but his body stays vexingly still—
“Oi, Halfie, are you just gonna stare at the fucking door the whole time or what? Some of us actually wanna audition, in case you haven’t noticed,” a brash voice slices through the shrill of his inner dilemma.
The insult is a new one but not at all original, and if anything it only momentarily catches Shouto off guard rather than angers him. Calmly, he side-steps from in front of the door to allow the stranger pass—he sees a shock of blonde hair, an irked frown, and piercing red eyes. Shouto’s face remains a veil of practiced impassiveness, and the blonde seems to be even more pissed off by his lack of reaction. He scoffs and swings the door open, muttering something incoherent underneath his breath.
After the door slams shut with a resounding bang!, Shouto feels his lips twitch into a hint of an amused smile. Angering people with a mild poker face is always satisfying. He’ll have to thank the guy for helping his nerves dissipate a bit. Maybe he’ll get even angrier.
Some of the weight rooting him to the floor lessens, and eventually, Shouto finally opens the door.
The auditorium air is comfortably cool against his skin, and the audience is mostly empty save for the row in the very front. Judges, he assumes as he passes them, guessing by the clipboards and hushed, collective muttering. He doesn’t recognize any of them from behind, but he’s sure that once he gets on stage and sees them face-to-face, they’ll all be familiar.
There’s a boy holding a stack of papers outside the curtains leading to backstage, all hunched over shoulders and shuffling feet, who looks up when Shouto comes closer. They hold eye-contact for all of three seconds before the stranger looks away in what Shouto is tempted to say panic, eyes darting back to the ground.
Shouto's not that scary, is he? Is it the scar? One of his private tutors once told him his scar played into his intimidation vibes.
Slowly, he attempts to move past him—and the stranger shoves one of the papers into Shouto’s chest before promptly disappearing into the curtain folds. He catches a nametag as he leaves: Something Amajiki.
Which is, okay—What the hell just happened? Shouto finally looks at the paper, which really is more of a sticker, and realizes it’s his audition number—Sixteen. Not any less confused, he pastes the sticker onto his shirt and slips backstage.
It’s full of guys around Shouto’s age in similar attire: variations of tights over leotards, occasional pairs of sweats and muscle tees. Most of them stretching or going through some anti-stage fright ritual.
He finds a rare open spot beside the mirror and sets his bag down, preparing to stretch as well when a familiar voice finds his ear.
“So you managed to open the door after all, huh?”
He looks up in the mirror and spots the reflection of the angry blonde from earlier glowering at him. Shouto stays on the floor and stretches his ankles, rolling them in increasing circles.
“Yeah,” he replies simply, noting the number sticker on his chest—Fourteen.
Fourteen hums in a way that sounds like it should be patronizing, what, with the way his eyes narrow on Shouto through the mirror like a lens. Much to Shouto’s surprise, however, the blonde seems to be subdued. He reduces his shock to a quirked brow when Fourteen situates beside him in front of the mirror and begins his own pre-audition prep, too.
Through such unforeseen series of events, Shouto and Fourteen work productively and silently (if you don’t count his occasional “What the fuck was that grande pilé?” (which was in actuality a completely fine grande pilé)) together. Fourteen growls whenever somebody comes too close to them, like some type of feral pomeranian, but Shouto appreciates his guard-dog-like actions nonetheless.
A few dancers linger by the curtains to watch the auditions when the judges start calling numbers, and for what, Shouto can’t say. He doesn’t see the point in watching someone’s audition other than willingly attempting to psych oneself up, or to make one feel better about themselves if the auditioner is bad—but if you’re auditioning for UA, it’s safe to say you’re not going to be bad. Besides, the 11% acceptance rate UA has isn’t because judges are comparing dancers. There’s a standard, and if you don’t meet it, you don’t get in, even if you’re ‘better’ than the next guy or not.
(Fourteen must think the same, or maybe being huddled up by the curtains with at least a dozen other guys isn’t his cup of tea, because he settles for what Shouto thinks is meditating until his number is called.)
When it’s Fourteen’s turn to audition, though—and call him a hypocrite, whatever—it can’t hurt to just take a peek-—just to satisfy his curiosity. Shouto can’t fathom how such a personality could translate into the art that is dance, but he’s sure prepared to be surprised.
“Bakugou Katsuki?” one of the judges—Kayama Nemuri, he recognizes, sharp and beautiful beneath the harsh lighting, an iconic ballerina and choreographer known for her powerful execution and telling expressions—asks for clarification once Fourteen takes the stage.
“Yeah,” Fourteen, or Bakugou, grunts. The judges nod and murmur amongst each other, and then the music plays.
Shouto recognizes it instantly; a piece of Devil’s Trill Sonata. Somehow, it’s extremely fitting for Bakugou—his body is strong yet moves with uncanny fluidly, emotionally. It’s a little mesmerizing, a little overwhelming, and definitely good. He dances like it’s his last time on the stage: admirably dedicated.
By the time his piece is finished, even the dancers backstage are clapping for him—and by the look on Bakugou’s face, he knows he’s done well.
When he comes back backstage to grab his things, he stops by Shouto with a smirk that borders something Shouto can’t quite define.
“Good luck, you’ll need it.” And he’s gone.
Since Bakugou is the only one who really piqued Shouto’s interest and his own turn is soon, he doesn’t bother sticking around by the curtains after his audition is over. He instead returns to the spot he was at previously beside the mirror, mentally running through his choreography in his head when the judges call for Fifteen.
He hears the echo of the mic when somebody named Shinsou Hitoshi is asked to begin when he’s ready and closes his eyes—Visualizing a successful audition was almost as important as practicing one.
It’s only until after the end of a classical piece Shouto can’t bother to remember does he realize that name—Shinsou Hitoshi—is familiar.
The judges call his number.
While making his way towards the stage, he passes the lanky dancer who just finished auditioning and spots dark eye-bags adorning his face like accessories—as he was beginning to suspect, it's one of the buskers from Midoriya’s group, and how Shouto missed someone like him is beyond him—seriously, wild purple hair is hard to gloss over, and he's sure he would've noticed him go inside while he was camped out in front of the doors—but it’s too late for him to dwell on the thought; it’s his turn and he needs to shake off all his lingering nerves between now and the time he’s in front of the judges.
(Just for a moment, though, he can’t help but wonder if a particular curly-haired, freckled dancer is here, too—)
“Todoroki Shouto?” Kayama’s voice again, lips too close to the mic, asks.
Shouto stands on the duct-taped red ‘X’ on the middle of the stage and squints through the glare of the stage-lights. The other judges’ faces are unrecognizable from where he stands. “Yes.”
Collective nods, shuffling of papers, and the music plays. Shouto takes a slow breath, relaxes his clenched fists, and begins to dance.
His body feels light after the first step, weightless—it’s always like that when there’s music to accompany him—and Shouto trusts in the hours of practice and muscle memory to guide him. He is careful with each move, every arabesque and enchappé, guarantees each action the bit of perfection he always saves for the stage. Every step is burned into his mind with frightening clarity, memorized to the tee—when the music slows to a stop, he knows. He feels the success, the triumph burning beneath his skin.
Shouto can hear the quiet applause from the dancers peeking behind the curtains. Kayama leans back into the mic. “Thank you. You’ll receive a letter in the mail by next week about your results.”
Breath coming out in soft, slow pants, Shouto dips his head into a short bow and heads backstage again, passing up Seventeen in the process. A few of the other dancers praise his skill, some add a comment about his father now that they know his name, but Shouto doesn’t pay all that much attention—he scoops his bag back into his arms and heads out the way he came.
“Todoroki-kun!” a hushed, failed attempt at a whisper-yell calls from the audience when Shouto begins to push the auditorium doors open.
Confused—he was sure the audience was empty when he first came in—Shouto squints into the dark area, making out the shape a familiar face.
“...Uraraka?” he whispers back, “What are you doing here?”
“You remembered!” she exclaims happily, before immediately clapping a hand over her mouth when she realizes she didn’t whisper.
Quieter, she tries again, “You remembered! I came here after my own auditions to watch Shinsou’s—” Shinsou, out of nowhere, appears from behind her and nods at Shouto in acknowledgment, “—but then I saw you were up next and I had to stay and watch! I had no idea you danced, too, let alone were auditioning for UA—though I guess it makes sense, you’re Todoroki Enji’s son, right?”
Shouto blinks owlishly because honestly, what are the odds. But if Uraraka and Shinsou both auditioned, then—
“Yeah… You auditioned, too?” he clears his throat awkwardly, dutifully ignoring the question pertaining to his father, “Did anyone else from your group… also audition?”
“Oh, you mean Deku and Iida? They did, too! But their auditions were in the first session—the eight o’clock one, I think.” Shouto tries his best not to visibly deflate—he knew to assume Midoriya would be here was just wishful thinking.
“But,” Uraraka continues, and for a moment he thinks she did some Momo-style mind-reading, “we were all planning to go out for lunch to celebrate after Shinsou and I were done…”
Shouto feels his eyebrows furrow. Is she just rubbing it in now?
“If you wanted to join us, I mean.”
“Oh, I couldn’t intrude. Besides, I have to wait for Momo—”
“Don’t be silly! Celebrate with us, Todoroki-kun! Momo is, of course, welcome to join us, too. I saw her during my auditions—she should be wrapping hers up soon, I think.”
Shouto considers this. Auditions are technically over now, and other than continue to practice for preservation purposes, the only thing he really has to do for the rest of the week is stress over his results. Going out for lunch doesn’t seem all that inconvenient, and he is pretty hungry now.
Plus, he’ll get to see Midoriya again—not that that’s a reason to go, but it doesn’t hurt, either.
“I’ll think about it,” he says, and Uraraka beams.
“Great! We’ll be at that twenty-four hour breakfast diner right off the campus—you know, the one with the funny-looking owner—you can’t miss it. Hope to see you there!” she says quickly, and he’s surprised she’s not breathless from talking so much so fast.
Shouto offers a curt nod in response, and Uraraka skips off with Shinsou lagging not too far behind.
He stands there for a moment, processing the exchange—it’s been a while since he’s gone out to eat with other people that aren’t Momo or a name on his father’s PR list. With that thought in mind, it dawns on Shouto that this will either go very horribly or... very unrealistically.
As expected, Momo is elated upon receiving the invitation and insists they leave immediately so they aren’t late—she’s always been a fan of these types of things, even when they were younger and forced to sit through their parents’ luncheons. Talking over meals, she likes to say, can be a very effective way to learn about someone.
This isn’t exactly a formal, professional danseur sponsored luncheon, though—that’s the first thing Shouto concludes as he steps through the janky, not-able-to-close-all-the-way glass doors of Fatgum Waffles. The diner bustles with an energy he’s not quite familiar with: it’s like stepping into a mother’s (awfully orange) kitchen rather than a restaurant. The clinking of utensils muffle an 80s playlist playing from some out of sight speaker and there are more pictures framed on the wall than windows. It smells something thickly of syrup and bacon, like the word ‘breakfast’ was made into an air freshener scent, and it’s warm—and although he’s not exactly uncomfortable, the sweatpants Shouto changed into earlier feels a little too heavy to have on, even when paired with his cropped top.
(Ever since Momo introduced him to the wonders of crop-tops, they’ve been his go-to piece of clothing for practice and post-practice outfits, trumping the skin-tight leotards. He changed into this one—a plain, airy black one that only seems cropped when he stands tall or lifts his arms—before he went to catch the end of Momo’s audition.)
Shouto and Momo zig-zag their way through booths and tables that seem a little too close to each other to be appealing (it looks odd, Shouto thinks, to see so many seats crammed together without many people there to actually occupy them), searching for a familiar group of dancers. Shouto is especially mindful of his bag, careful not to run it into one of the empty chairs and accidentally trigger a chain reaction of collapsing tables.
“Todoroki-kun! Yaoyorozu-kun!” Uraraka’s cheery voice is easy to pick out over the few other incoherent conversations, and soon, he spots the booth she’s waving animatedly from.
Momo takes him by the elbow and leads him over, greeting the buskers with a kind smile. Shouto makes a conscious effort to keep breathing when his eyes land on Midoriya, who pays them no mind—his focus is fixed on a tattered notebook he scribbles into with baffling speed.
Uraraka ushers them to their seats, and Shouto finds himself across from Midoriya. Up close, he can see what he’s writing—a description, he thinks, to the beginnings of a sketch—but his handwriting is equivalent to that of chicken-scratch: completely illegible.
“He came across another busker on the way here and was completely enamored by his style, so he’s writing notes on him,” Uraraka, who sits on one side of Midoriya, must notice his interest, “He does this kinda thing often ‘cause he’s a huge dance nerd.”
Shouto wonders if Midoriya would write about him if he saw him dance, what notes he would take.
“That actually sounds really useful, taking notes on dance styles that interest you or that you could learn from,” Momo says with a considering nod beside him.
“I’d say Midoriya’s notes and observation skills are quite beneficial when it comes to choreographing and such,” the busker on the other side of Midoriya adds—Glasses, whose actual name he can’t for the life of him remember.
“Anyway, I’m glad you guys could make it! And just in time, too. We got here a couple of minutes ago,” Uraraka says, and as if reading his thoughts (seriously, what was up with people doing that?), continues, “You’ve met Shinsou, but I don’t think you two have met Iida-kun yet, right?”
Shouto briefly glances over to the sleeping busker sitting on the other side of him.
“No, I don’t believe we have formally met before today,” Glasses cuts in with a dramatic swipe of his hand (that nearly knocks over the napkin dispenser), “I am Iida Tenya, manager and member of our group. It is a pleasure to meet you both.”
“Yaoyorozu Momo! Nice to meet you, Iida-kun.”
“Todoroki Shouto.” He’s spoken only two words—his own name—upon arriving and yet he already sounds standoffish. Thankfully, neither Uraraka or Iida seem to be phased.
Immediately, however, like a switch was flipped, Midoriya snaps up from where he was bent over his notebook.
He’s got pencil markings on his chin that could probably pass as freckles from far away and his eyes are so green, they look more like emeralds than realistically possible. Are eyes that green realistically possible? Could he have gotten surgery for that?
“Oh—Todoroki-kun? When did—“
“And Yaoyorozu. They’ve been here for a while now, Deku, but you were too busy dilly-dallying in your little stalker book to notice,” Uraraka answers the question before it leaves Midoriya’s mouth, and Shouto can’t help but notice how full his lips are when they jut out into an offended, honest-to-god pout.
“It’s not a stalker book,” he retorts, “I’m just documenting, Ochako, documenting.”
Shouto nearly snorts, but settles for a slight twitch of his lips instead. Uraraka rolls her eyes and turns to him again.
“So, Todoroki,” she begins, fingers drumming on a laminated, awfully syrupy-looking menu, “you dance, huh?”
Shouto nods. “Yeah.”
Midoriya leans over the table with tangible excitement, closing his notebook in the process. It seems Uraraka didn’t tell the curly-haired dancer how exactly she ran into him and Momo.
Shouto squirms a bit beneath his eyes—they’re so green—but nods again.
“I think Shouto’s been dancing since he could walk, right?” Momo adds, nudging him gently with her elbow.
“Something like that.”
Midoriya’s lips part in wonder, realization, understanding.
“I ran into both of them at the auditions,” Uraraka explains further, “and ended up catching a bit of Todoroki’s piece. He’s really good—you’d like his style, Deku.”
Shouto feels warm at her words; it’s far from the first time someone’s complimented his dancing, but something about her thinking Midoriya would be a fan of it makes him feel funny.
“So there’s a chance we’ll all be classmates?” Iida says with another choppy gesture of his hand that knocks over his empty cup.
“Uh-huh! Exciting, isn’t it?” Uraraka chirps.
“Perhaps! Shouto and I are more so in the contemporary and ballet scene, though, so I’m not sure we’ll share all the same dance classes,” Momo says.
Midoriya begins to murmur underneath his breath and Shouto can’t quite catch everything he says, only hearing “contemporary”, “based off his build”, “makes sense” and other short phrases. Uraraka shoulders him and it appears to snap him out of his trance.
“We’ll probably have a few base classes together,” she points out, and Shouto dwells on the possibility of learning and practicing dance in the same room as dancers like them, like Midoriya, on how different it would be from his father’s paid private lessons or the strict ballet classes he took with Momo.
He smiles, just barely, at his hands where they lie in his lap (and it’s only a little embarrassing when he doesn’t realize the waiter is asking him for his order until Momo nudges his foot under the table).
this is a false slowburn. shouto is clearly smitten