It’s the idle smirk that catches Ochako’s attention, an expression she knows all too well, from years of observation and simply occupying the same space, and it’s that history between them that makes her hold her tongue. The lazy grin she sees now is not that confrontational distance from face to face, nor the opposing sides from her memories, but face to back, and she has to hold herself to keep from breathing, because what could she ever say?
A single coffee shop, a shared space from one stranger behind her in line and the person she had known from over three years ago. Could they really speak?
Ochako reaches out as he begins to walk away, her hand brushing his shoulder, and he turns. He’s everything she remembers and nothing familiar at the same time. The words hang on the tip of her tongue (‘do I know you?’), but the light of recognition enters his eyes and it’s too late to back down.
“Round Face.” His voice is gruff, as is one who has aged far beyond high school years and raucous swear words. Older, more mature, and she’s startled at the small, subtle change.
“Hi Bakugou,” she says. “Good to see you.”
“Can’t say the same,” he answers dismissively. “What’re you doing here?”
“Getting coffee, obviously.” She doesn’t want to meet his eyes and it’s only happened once before; the first times had been intimidation from hardened crimson eyes. But as the years went on, she had grown past that stage; he was more a classmate than enemy. “Would you like to—
“Nope.” It’s flippant, over-the-shoulder, but he makes no move to leave and Ochako can’t help but smile wryly.
It’s the sort of thing he’d pull when they were younger.
And so, Ochako throws all caution out the wind and grabs his arm, pulling him towards a nearby table. “C’mon Bakugou. Sit with me. We need to catch up anyway.”
He scoffs, but follows along nonetheless, plopping down into the seat across from her. “Alright, you wanna talk. Don’t waste my time, Round Face,” he says sharply and Ochako can’t help but snort.
“How are you doing?” she asks, pressing her elbows against the table to peer at him. He hasn’t changed much (appearance wise, but his voice is so much more different than she remembers), but she’s keen to know anything she could have possibly missed. “Hero work and stuff treating you well?”
“As well as any. Shit load of work, but then again, isn’t everything?” His crimson eyes bore into hers, lazy and apathetic, as if he were a cat toying with a mouse. The ‘and you’ goes unsaid (it always has with him), and Ochako takes initiative to tell him about herself.
“Hero work treats me well,” she says idly, leaning back against her chair. “Running my own agency is more than I expected, but it’s nothing I can’t handle!” She presses a smile to her face, hoping to relax the heavy tension surrounding Bakugou Katsuki. It works--barely; the crease in his lips flattens and his folded arms drop.
“Tch. We didn’t suffer through Aizawa’s lectures and Kaminari’s power shortages for you to chicken out right after we graduate,” Bakugou shoots teasingly. “Didn’t think you had the spine to keep going when it gets tough, Pink Cheeks.”
He’s taunting her and they both know it, but she decides to humor him, hands fisting in her lap. “Well, it could be because I’ve changed a lot. Thought about that, Bakugou?”
“Well, I didn’t think that little girl ever could. She had quite the stubborn streak in high school; proof of when we duked it out in our first year.” He’s a little warmer and playful, and it spurs her to continue their banter.
“Oh, she’s still there. Just a little bit older now.”
“Yeah? Glad to know all those years apart didn’t take the spunk outta her.”
Their eyes meet, rounded brown on slitted red, daring each other to continue. It’s refreshing; Ochako’s never been too close to Bakugou, for their friend groups had pitted them on opposite sides and here they were, reminiscing in a cafe. When the barista calls their names, they both stand from their seats in unison.
“I’ll get it,” she says before he can get a word out, and he chuckles, before sitting back down, all gait and cat-like elegance. A taunting grin plays on his lips, before he drags his gaze away to the light on his phone.
“Be my guest then, Round Face,” is all he says.
Turning away, Ochako shakes her head and retrieves their coffees. She stops by the counter for extra sugar for hers (not Bakugou’s, never Bakugou’s. From all those early mornings in the dorms before class, he’s always taken his coffee black), before returning to their table. By some miraculous sleight of the hand, he’s still scrolling his phone and he doesn’t look up when she pushes the cup towards him.
“You’re welcome,” she calls jokingly and his eyes snap up to hers.
“You volunteered to get them; I don’t owe you any thanks,” he responds in his usual cut manner, before peering down at his cup and at her sugar packets. “You remembered.”
“Remembered what? That you’re a demon who likes their coffee black?” she teases and he rolls his eyes, flipping her off. “Of course I remember; you almost killed Mina for dumping sugar into your coffee in our second year.”
“She deserved it and besides, I’m the chef here. You have no taste.”
“Uh huh. I don’t have taste, but you’ve kept the same tastes since high school, Bakugou.”
He arches an eyebrow. “My tastes are fucking amazing, Roundy.”
“Sure, sure. Because your tastes were fucking amazing when we did that barbecue and you burned the whole steak when Kirishima and Sero distracted you,” Ochako mocks.
“I take back whatever the hell I said earlier. You haven’t changed since high school either,” he sneers without bite, before sipping his black coffee.
A silence befalls them and they turn towards the windows of the homey cafe to overlook the autumn day. The landscape before them is a flurry of color; in all the brilliance of dancing fire and golden light. In stark contrast is the sky, a brilliant blue ocean in a backdrop of flame, dotted with white clouds.
But the magnificent autumn is naught but a scene to only be taken by the blink of an eye, and Ochako finds herself drifting away and into her memories. Suddenly, high school doesn’t seem that long ago, and Ochako can see herself back in that dreamlike time (picnics with the class, sleepovers with Tsuyu, races through obstacle courses with fire and ice and electricity swirling all around). But the fantasy dissipates like a hazy mist and she finds herself back in the cafe, stunned with the realization that she’s a hero and nothing will ever be the same again.
“Can’t ever be those dumbass high schoolers again, huh?” she whispers.
And it’s almost like the final word, the end to U.A. years, for they stand at the same time and raise their hands in farewell.
“I’ve got someone to meet,” she says, feeling her lips upturn at the thought, at the same time he says, “Got some dumbass friends to meet.”
They share a smile, before turning away, backs towards one another, and exit the cafe from opposing sides.