The alarm blared loudly in her ear, effectively jarring her from the land of complete and utter unconsciousness. Her hand, with its senses muffled by a mitten and further impaired by sleep, clumsily made its way upwards to the clock above her head and haphazardly hit the button.
Now that sound had effectively roused her, her other senses continued the process of forcing Ochako Uraraka to wake up. For example, her sense of touch informed her that her room, although temperature-controlled as a courtesy of U.A.’s own Heights Alliance, was a few degrees cooler than comfortable thanks to the season. Such a gentle shock caused her to shiver and pry her eyes open, which informed her that a shaft of cold sunlight was shining through a gap in the curtains and slowly making its way down towards her face.
Dawn, you cruel mistress.
Another unholy groan of discomfort escaped the student, and she stubbornly turned over in her blanket and wrapped herself more tightly a vain attempt to warm herself up and go back to sleep.
Alas, her nighttime self was too smart for her morning self’s weary antics. Her phone, which lay charging on the table across the room, began to vibrate.
“Nooooo…” the student groaned, hoping in vain that the device would listen and resume its silence. It did not.
As she had the morning before and before and before even that, she begrudgingly allowed the incessant buzzing to rouse her further from her sleep. Wearily and with a sense of great defeat, she turned back to her phone, weakly glaring at it as it continued its cheerful duty.
She groaned one final time before finally allowing her quest to go back to sleep fully die. Bracing against the cold, she shimmied out of her blankets and pulled her arms as far above her head as she could manage. The resulting pops up her back drew her ever closer to wakefulness in a way that was far more pleasant than her buzzing phone. The feeling was nice, and a smile lazily floated to her face despite the fact that she had most certainly not wanted to wake up yet.
A loud clattering drew her attention to the other side of the room. Still buzzing, her phone had just vibrated its way to the edge of the table and was now laying pitifully on the floor. It was, in a sense, defeated in its own right.
Well. That didn’t happen yesterday. The suddenness of her phone’s fruitless bid for freedom struck her waking mind as amusing, and she laughed. Yes, her mood was already lifting because of one unexpected surprise.
She didn’t waste much more time in disregarding her mittens, shucking her blanket off entirely, and gathering her phone from the floor. With a smile, she noted the time.
It was a good start to the day.
“Uraraka-kun, Asui-kun! Please come in! We will begin in a few moments, so please feel free to enjoy yourselves until we begin!”
“Thanks, Iida-kun!” Ochako smiled as she waved to her friend and classmate; however, his attention was swiftly arrested by another fight erupting amongst the boys. She knew, even and perhaps especially as a third-year student, that he still took his duties as undisputed class president very seriously even while off the clock. With a small bow and a respectful farewell, he left them to keep Bakugo from murdering Kaminari.
“He’s gotten a lot more forgiving about being punctual since first year, kero. Especially in social events,” said Tsu. The murdering scene was almost too normal to comment on at all, so Ochako disregarded it for the far more interesting topic of her friend’s behavior.
“He was very proud about learning how to be more fluid in first year with Manuel,” said Ochako, remembering his progress with pride. “Even though he’s been doing his other internships with other heroes, I don’t think he’ll ever forget what he learned on his first internship. He told me that it meant a lot to him.”
“I see,” croaked Tsu. She turned her attention to the rest of the room, but Ochako knew that her friend wasn’t seeing what was right in front of them. Instead of day-old decorations and the few students who were in the room with them, Tsu seemed…more introspective than that. “I can understand that. Selkie taught me some amazing things in my internship, and we both learned a great deal from Ryukuu.”
Ochako nodded, her own experiences with Gunhead and Ryukuu coming to mind. She would never forget how their guidance had helped her to improve upon her weaknesses and hone her fighting style into what it had become. And then she was mentally assaulted by the workload of her current internship. The coming work included a daunting amount of things about hero work that she still had no idea about, and her thoughts dwelled upon the long way she had to go before she could make it pro. The invisible weight of it all caused her head to bow under the pressure. “We still have so much to learn, though…”
“That’s true, kero,” agreed Tsu, seemingly unbothered by the oncoming challenges. Honestly, her friend’s unflappable nature both impressed her and invoked her jealousy. “I guess it just goes to show that the time we spend with our internships before graduation will be very helpful for us as Pro-heroes.”
“Yeah.” The reminder of their shared goal helped Ochako shrug off the weight that had assaulted her. She raised her head, determination sparking from her core and expressing itself through her stance and expression. “By the time we graduate in six months, we’ll be ready for whatever the world has in store!” She turned to her friend, an encouraging smile on her face. “Right?”
There was no hesitation at all in her friend’s face when she nodded back, a confident smile mirroring her own. “Right.”
“Hey, guys!” chimed a new voice as its owner happily draped herself on top of her friends. “Whatcha talking about?”
“Internships,” answered Ochako as she turned to Mina, determination still fired within her core. Despite her enthusiasm, the expressive girl stuck a tongue out with a pout.
“Talking about work? Boo,” Mina complained. With a dramatic flair, she leaned away from the two girls and drew their gazes towards her. If the girl didn’t already have incredibly dangerous acid secreting from her very pink body at will, people might have assumed that the girl’s quirk was her pure charisma and charm. She counted on her fingers. “All of us are cleaning up today and you’ve got your internship later and we’ve still all of that homework to work on. I still haven’t worked on that report for Mic-sensei…”
Oh yeah, they had that.
“So!” exclaimed Mina, dragging Ochako’s attention away from said mountain of homework she’d just been reminded of. “I say that we take whatever time we can and have fun. We’re still on break! I, for one, am still in the Christmas spirit! Let’s party!”
“We must not shirk our duties and responsibilities so carelessly!” exclaimed Iida, arriving out of nowhere. Ochako wondered if it was good that she hadn’t accidentally thrown her friend over her shoulder for suddenly surprising her or if she should work on her reflexes in her next training session. Either way, her heart did not appreciate the surprise and she rested a hand atop it in hopes of calming it down. “It is precisely because of our partying that the common room of our dormitories has not fully recovered! We must maintain a clean and healthy environment to help us become the best Pro-heroes that we can be!”
“Boo,” said Mina, turning her attention to their class representative and friend. After a moment, Ochako saw the beginnings of an idea in her friend. Before she could decide if it was a harmless idea or one that needed to be stopped, the pink haired student tilted her face downwards, looked up at Iida through her eyelashes, and shot their representative a wolfish grin. “You were much more fun last night.”
Ochako resisted the urge to face palm and mentally apologized to her friend for not being fast enough. Even though everyone present knew that the girl liked to flirt for a giggle or two, it was also a well known fact that while Iida wasn’t a regular target of hers, he was the one who tended to react the most. After all, one couldn’t be in the same class with both Mineta and Mina and not eventually clue in to outrageous flirts and their implications.
Sometimes she wondered if Iida would have had an easier time of high school if he’d just maintained his direct interpretation of events. As it was, however, he was aghast at Mina’s implication.
“Ashido-kun, that is a most improper thing to insinuate!” yelled Iida, his red face reflecting his shock and embarrassment as his ramrod posture tried desperately to hang on to his formalities. His arm was chopping in his short-circuited state. “We are all friends attempting to become Pro-heroes! Behaviors such as—as—hookups between friends…Not that I mean to offend you in any way, but it is exceedingly improper to say—”
The horror in his voice was mounting. Ochako knew she had to step in.
“Iida-kun, take a deep breath,” interjected Ochako, stepping in between Mina—who looked like she was about to break herself by trying not to laugh—and Iida—who looked as though he was going to break himself trying to prove his innocence. “Mina-chan was joking. It wasn’t funny—” she turned a stern glare to her friend, and she had the decency to look at least a little abashed at how far her little comment had gone “—but everyone here knows she’s just trying to mess with you. And we all know that you wouldn’t do something like that. It’s not in your nature.”
Her words seemed to get through to him, and he seemed to come back to himself. She smiled encouragingly as he took a breath and let it out shakily. She felt bad that Mina’s empty flirts always did this to him whenever this happened. She’d have to talk to her again. For now, though, her friend looked as though he’d pull through this round all right.
“Of course,” he said softly, quite the difference to his panic earlier. “Uraraka-kun, thank you. Your reassurance is greatly appreciated.”
Ochako smiled, feeling the situation deescalate. “Any time!”
Iida nodded and turned to Mina with a slight bow. “I apologize for panicking at your words, Ashido-kun. I should have known you never meant ill.”
“Ah, no,” said Mina, waving off his apology. “I should be the one saying sorry. I keep forgetting that it’s not all fun and games to you. Like, you don’t always know when I’m joking. If you want, I can just tone it down next time.”
“That…would be appreciated.”
Ochako watched as the most straight-laced person in class and the most party-powered person in class bumbled through their apologies and sighed happily as the crisis was successfully sidestepped. Within a few moments, however, the two of them parted ways. Mina went to greet Toru, who had just come through the door with a few of the others, and Iida stepped aside to take charge of the mass of students.
“All right!” he announced. He sounded as though he hadn’t just been on the edge of completely freaking out. His ability to bounce back so quickly was inspiring. “Although a few of us are still outside training, they will join us momentarily! As such, let us begin cleaning this area so we may continue to become the best Pro-heroes we can be!”
His enthusiastic rally garnered only a few halfhearted sounds of approval before everyone was put to work.
The hero in training heeded her mentor’s call, ducking away from the oncoming blow. Over the years, her reaction times had gotten quicker and her movements had only become more fluid. It was for this reason that Uravity was able to quickly latch onto the hand that had attempted to knock her lights out, remove the offender’s gravity, and launch them over her head and onto the ground, where her knee quickly found purchase in the small of their back while she secured the villain’s hands with quirk-suppressing cuffs.
It took less than two seconds.
“Keep your guard up!” warned her teacher. Edgeshot surveyed the area around them, and Uravity could also see that their enemies were regrouping. Three villains were free; two were already in custody. A bank robbery that she and her mentor refused to allow to happen. Edgeshot did not glance at his intern, though she felt the brunt of his focus. “What are their options?”
A teaching moment? Now? Uravity shook her surprise. Edgeshot taught differently from Ryukyuu. Where she would treat her interns as equals who already knew the ropes, Edgeshot never missed an opportunity to quiz her practical and hypothetical knowledge on the field. Knowing this, she stood, suspending the captured villain in midair without any way of moving himself, and regarded her opponents critically.
“They could run and abandon their teammates,” she stated, keeping an eye on her captured quarry. “Or they could try to fight to reclaim who they’ve lost. If we haven’t caught the leader, he might try to order a retreat and come back another day to try again. If we have the leader already, then there’s a better chance that they’ll try to get the brains of the operation back out of either fear, loyalty, or a chance to get their cut. Not a total chance, but better.”
“Wow, the broad can think,” muttered the villain from his place in the air. Uravity paid him no mind. As a captured target without his quirk or any way to move on his own, his only weapon was his words. Ignoring him was much the same as disarming him. “But you didn’t think of everything. GUYS, SCATTER!”
Uravity could only watch as the three remaining villains began to follow orders almost immediately. One ducked into an alleyway and two headed onto the streets.
“Uravity! Stay with the captured villains until the police arrive!”
“That’s an order!”
Biting back a retort, Uravity nodded, allowing the Pro-hero to chase after the two villains who had beat feet to the street. Objectively, they were the biggest threat. They could harm civilians who were out and had an easier chance of returning to save their boss. The one in the alleyway could come back too, which was probably why Edgeshot had her watching over the boss instead of chasing after him. If the ties of loyalty were strong…
…then he would return.
“Idiot!” hissed the boss. “Get out of here!”
“I can’t do that! You’re all we have left!”
The lackey immediately began to dart forward, his steps playing out in Uravity’s mind before he ever had the chance to make them. He would dart forward only to dodge to either side and attempt to fake her out. He would think it really clever and back up when he realized it hadn’t worked on her. He would come in again and try for another fake out. She could let him in closer and capture him swiftly with an ambush.
She’d really done this too many times to not be a Pro-hero herself by now.
True to form, he dashed in. Ducked left. Her catching onto his feint made him fall back. He grew more panicked. He saw the distance her movement had created between herself and his boss. He wasn’t thinking straight and only saw his chance. He darted in again, this time ducking to her right. She let him get almost too close to his target.
Almost, but not too close.
With his focus wholly on his boss, he didn’t see her tackle coming from the side. He couldn’t have predicted that he would soon be subject to the same move she’d used to take out his superior. Within a moment, the lackey was in handcuffs and suspended in midair close to his boss.
It only took a second this time. New record!
“You fucking idiot,” groused the boss. The lackey didn’t respond, but Uravity got the feeling he would have if he weren’t currently in quirk-suppressing handcuffs. She sighed and tapped the communicator in her ear.
“Edgeshot, the third villain came back. He’s been apprehended.”
“Excellent work,” praised her mentor. Uravity felt herself swell at the praise. “I’ve just gathered the other two off the streets. We’re heading back to your location.”
“Understood!” Uravity looked over at the sound of sirens and noted the flashing lights. “The police just arrived.”
“Good. I’ll have you take the lead in villain transfer procedure this time.”
“That includes the paperwork.”
With that, her mentor signed off and Uravity finally returned gravity to her captured villains. They fell to the ground, disoriented enough to not fight the policemen who immediately gathered them up to place them in the back of their squad cars. She winced in sympathy, but no one was ultimately hurt and the mission had ended in success. The thought made her smile.
She loved the feeling of acting like a Pro-hero.
The paperwork took so much longer than expected. True, Edgeshot had remained nearby so he could help her with it, but his version of ‘help’ tended to be asking her roundabout questions until she figured the answer out on her own. Because of that, and a huge lack of information that she had to hunt down in order to finish filling out the villain capture forms, she left the office much later than planned.
Which was why Ochako wasn’t surprised in the slightest when she saw that her phone had a few missed calls. What did surprise her, however, was her parents’ phone number. It wasn’t rare for her to receive a call from her parents—she kept in close contact with them while she finished her schooling—but she hadn’t expected one today. Hurriedly, she pressed the green button to call them back.
It rang once before a familiar voice erupted over the phone.
“Ochako! How’s my baby girl? You feeling okay?”
Like it always did, her daddy’s voice set her at ease. Something about the big man always made her problems seem so small and made her feel that she could be open and honest about everything. Sometimes it just made her express sheer gratitude. Sometimes it just made her admit when things hurt. Sometimes…
“I’m doing good, daddy! How about you? And momma? Are the two of you getting enough business?”
Sometimes it just made her feel so loved and want to return that love in the best way she knew how. Her daddy’s laughter resounded through the phone and made her smile.
“We’re doing just fine.” His assurances set her at ease, taking her worries and laying them to rest about any negative reasons why he might have called earlier. “We wanted to surprise you with a phone call today, but it seems we called when you were busy. Sorry about that.”
She hummed a negative through the phone, a smile on her face. “Don’t worry about it. I always like hearing from you guys.”
“Not getting too old to hear your old man dote on you?” teased he. She laid a free hand against her heart as she continued to walk.
“Perish the thought!” The two of them laughed as she made her way towards the train station. She might miss the train to the school if she stayed on the phone, but talking with her parents was always worth it.
“Well, to be honest, your momma and I were planning on taking the train down for your birthday tomorrow and were calling to give you some heads up. We didn’t want to scare you like in first year.”
Ochako groaned good-naturedly, remembering with embarrassment her inability to react to her parents suddenly appearing in her room after her first Sports Tournament. Their presence had been the much-needed balm over the burns of failure and she’d been grateful for their unexpected visit. Surprised, but very grateful. “Well, I don’t think you could have done that again,” she pointed out. “Not when I live in the dorms now.”
“That’s true,” laughed her dad. His tone then turned sad. “Unfortunately, we got a call just before we were going to head to the train station. One of our construction projects started going sideways, and we need to stay behind to take care of it. They’ll need me there in the morning, and your momma needs to run the numbers to make sure we stay on-budget. I’m so sorry.”
Her heart lurched sadly. While she had been distracted a bit by the embarrassing memory, she had really been excited to hear about her parents coming down to visit her. It would have made for an amazing birthday present. Still…
“It’s fine,” she said, infusing her voice with as much optimism as possible. She couldn’t afford to be selfish now. “I’m glad you called, though. Makes me feel special!”
“You are special, Ochako. You’ve accomplished so much. Ever since you were little, you’ve had one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known. And look at you now! Half a year away from graduating and going pro…” said her daddy, his voice swelling with pride. It resonated with her, making her feel as though every obstacle she’d overcome to this point… every struggle she’d ever faced… every mountain she would continue to climb…it would all be worth it. It would. “Your momma and I are proud of you.”
“Aw, daddy,” she chuckled, her hand moving to her head in embarrassment as she fought to keep the tears at bay. She loved hearing them tell her that, but she wasn’t done. She was nowhere near done. She still had so much work to do…
It was then that she noticed something. The air. It was cold. And the sky was dark. Paperwork… really had taken a long time. “Um, daddy? Don’t you and momma have to get up early in the morning?”
Her daddy’s laughter—were those tears on his voice?—sounded familiar through the phone. “Still going to worry about us, Ochako?”
“Only always,” she laughed. Although she didn’t want the phone call to end, she knew that her parents had an early morning to get ready for and that she had to catch her train soon. “Tell momma I said hello?”
“I will,” promised her daddy. “We love you, honey. Happy birthday.”
“Thanks, daddy,” returned Ochako. “I love you guys, too.”
Goodbyes sufficiently said, Ochako ended the phone call with her daddy and felt a rekindling of determination in her being where tiredness had resided only a few moments earlier. She was glad that the company her parents ran was getting more contracts, but the meager yet steady business was still a far cry from giving her parents the lifestyle she felt they deserved. Her parents were earnest, hardworking individuals who had always done their best for their daughter and family. If her daddy praised her kindness, she knew that their raising had given that to her. If she were special, part of that was thanks to the hard work and care of her momma and daddy. And everything they’d given to her, they’d given to her with genuine smiles despite their tired eyes and strained living circumstances. She’d known ever since she was little how hard it was for them to make a decent living doing what they loved.
Her parents deserved to take it easy. They did more than enough in raising her in order to be rewarded. One day, when she made it big and became a successful Pro-hero, she would reward them herself.
The train which took her from her internship back to school had been on-time, which meant that she’d arrived at the station closest to UA at half-past eleven.
It had been a long day.
Ochako yawned widely before shaking her head. Her warm bed may have been calling to her, but she had to get to school safely first, which meant being awake and alert. While she could definitely handle herself in a fight and knew how to shake a mugger, she definitely would have felt better if she could have come back from her internship around this time with someone else. Someone like Mina or Tsu or—
The familiar voice quickly grabbed her attention. It wasn’t long before she found the source of the voice, given how empty the station was at this time.
Sometime over their two and a half years as fellow students, he’d gotten taller and more broad. While the physical change wasn’t unique to him among a class of students who were all shooting to become the best Pro-heroes they could be, she couldn’t have helped but notice the change on him. He’d grown into his gangly limbs and strengthened his entire form. Yet somehow…with all that power, he’d never quite outgrown the soft tufts of green hair that marked him as different yet normal. Nor had he ever left behind the soft concern that shone through green eyes that rested atop rounded, freckled cheeks. The somewhat stronger jawline was a recent development, but Ochako couldn’t say that the change looked bad on him at all. He was quite easily one of the strongest tanks in her class with a matching fire of determination that saw him through every fight he endured, though anyone who knew him well enough could also classify him as one of the kindest, most soft-hearted, loveable people in the world.
Well, she thought so, at least. She honestly thought the world of Izuku Midoriya.
“Deku-kun!” She waved happily to her friend, letting him know that his presence was both recognized and most certainly welcome. His awkward hesitation at recognizing her in a public space vanished, and he quickly made his way to her side with a matching smile. “Getting in late from your internship?”
“Yeah,” he admitted as the two quickly fell into step beside one another. Together, they quickly left the train station behind. “Gang Orca wanted me to focus more on having and making more backup plans in the field, so we patrolled a little longer until we could find something for me to test that in.”
“Oh, that makes sense,” said Ochako. “So, he’s trying to get you to use your analytical brain while you’re in the middle of ‘I am Deku; I am here to kick your ass!’ mode?”
“Aha…it sounds embarrassing when you say it like that…” said her classmate, his face burning at the title. Ochako smiled. For all his ferocity and tenacity on the field, he may as well be a kitten when he wasn’t in the middle of a fight.
“But I’m not wrong,” sang she, smiling at him to let him know that she was only teasing him. It took him a moment to look at her face, but when he did, a portion of his tense embarrassment seemed to melt away with a chuckle. He brought a hand up to his face.
“I guess not.” The two of them laughed at her accurate observation and walked in comfortable silence a little while longer.
It was a nice night. The stars twinkled far above their heads, and the moon gave them enough light so they could walk in relative comfort and safety. The air around them was crisp and comforting. There was a breeze that was neither too strong nor too chilly for the both of them and their jackets. Ochako could feel a somewhat weightlessness in the atmosphere around her.
She glanced at her companion through the corner of her eyes. He looked just at peace as she felt. His hand had returned to his pocket—rightfully so! It was freezing!—and he seemed to be enjoying the brisk weather as much as herself. His green eyes had turned upwards to the stars, and she could see his mind turning over information that she could not access. She wondered what he could be thinking about. Not constellations, surely. He didn’t have a memory for them. He had more of an interest in Pro-heroes and everything related to them.
The thought made her smile. No matter how much time passed, he would probably always be a fanboy at heart.
It was one of those things about him that made her heart ache and made her want to reach for him. Sometimes, in the recesses of her fantasy, she’d reach out and place a gentle hand on his arm. They’d stop. In the quiet of the time they had alone together, she’d say something. Or she’d wrap him in an embrace, hoping to transmit her feelings that way. In her fantasy, in her mind, such feelings were reciprocated. If only she had the courage, the resolve, the nerve to say something about it.
But she couldn’t. He had his goals. She had hers. The paths they had chosen left no room for romance. The feelings she had such a complex relationship with—the ones that at once brought her healing and inspiration as well as embarrassment and shame—were ones that she both acknowledged and ignored. In the solitude of her room, she might admit that she cared more deeply for him than was strictly platonic. Outside and in the company of others, however, it was better for her to try and ignore the pounding of her heart and the aching for his touch.
That didn’t stop her from yearning for a chance during times like this, when the two of them were alone together and it only felt too comfortable and too right. Around him, she felt safe and empowered and weak in the knees and vulnerable and it felt good and it felt scary at the same time.
“What about you?”
Ochako blinked into the present. She saw green. He was staring at her. How long had he been staring at her? Did he notice her staring at him? Oh, no! Crap, crap, crap!
“Um…” Ochako pulled her mind back to what they had been talking about. Deku needing to think more during his fights (which, he did. He needed to stop breaking himself so much!), Gang Orca, staying late…
“Oh,” she said, finally understanding what he was asking. A sheepish grin overtook her face. “Edgeshot had me filling out villain capture forms and working directly with the police. All the paperwork took a bit longer than expected.”
Despite the absolute sheepishness of her answer, Deku positively beamed at her.
“That’s great, Uraraka-san! Edgeshot must think you’re showing amazing progress on the field to have you working the administrative side of things as well! What kind of information did the forms require? Was it difficult? Do you think knowing what the police need to know will change your fighting style? It might change mine, honestly. I wonder how Pro-heroes who don’t collect information as they fight deal with the paperwork. Oh, that must be why All Might had such a hard time with it! Ah, did you get to have access to police databanks?! Would that even be useful in filling out the paperwork? Honestly, I’m not sure because none of my internships have let me get close to anything like that, they kept telling me that I needed to focus on refining my fighting style…”
Ochako giggled before tapping her friend on the arm with two fingers. He was doing it again, and it was her sworn duty as his friend to pull him out of his head before he buried himself too deeply in his thoughts. He stopped his rambling and an embarrassed smile overtook his face.
“Well,” she said, electing to not comment on the rambling. It was normal by now. “I don’t think you’d have any trouble with it, honestly. The capture form wants the villain’s name, alias, and quirk if you know it, but the most important part is writing up any special moves they may have used during the fight. Like if they used your quirk on you, what did it do to you? How much damage did they cause to the environment around them? If they fought hand-to-hand, did they seem experienced in it at all? You want to get all of that information in there; the more analysis, the better. I think that’s why it took me so long to do it. When I fight, I’m looking for ways out and how to beat my enemy, of course, but anything that doesn’t seem useful in the moment kinda goes out the window.”
“Oh, so you don’t need a police database at all?” For some reason, he looked so disheartened at that conclusion. She smiled sympathetically as she flashed her identification card at the UA security system. It let them through without a fuss.
“Only if you think they’ve been caught before to see if the system already has their name and quirk. But since the police do most of that legwork for that stuff, Edgeshot only gave me a little bit of a tour on how to use it.”
Despite how little of an event it really was—honestly, Edgeshot had just given her a few pointers and told her she wouldn’t really need to use it very often anyways—Deku continued to look at her with amazement.
“That’s amazing, Uraraka-san.” He beamed at her despite the late hour. Just how did he fit so much joy into his expression, and where could she bottle it for rainy days? His expression alone was giving her heart palpitations, never mind the awe in his voice. “I’ll make sure not to lose to you.”
And if that didn’t send her heart into a mini frenzy, nothing did. She smiled as she returned the challenge, knowing that she still had a long way to go in terms of pure combat and rapid planning in order to catch up to her friend.
It was nice, this easygoing and earnest competition between the two of them. It meant he saw her. She was his friend, of course, but she was also more. She was an equal. He saw her as someone to compete with and compare himself to, just as she did him. Halfway through their first year, she’d announced that they made each other better. It was true now just as it was true then.
They arrived at Heights Alliance and stepped over the threshold easily. Enshrouded in the safety of their dorm building, her weariness deemed that it was an opportune time to return to her. She couldn’t help but release a yawn at the same time as her friend. The two of them glanced at each other mid-yawn and could not quell their sudden snickers.
“Well,” said Deku, his own tiredness showing through his eyes and suddenly slumped figure. “Guess it’s time for bed.”
“Guess so.” Her body forced another yawn out of her, and she knew it was definitely time to get some sleep. She smiled at him with a wave as she turned to the girls’ side of the building. “Good night, Deku-kun.”
“Good night, Uraraka-san.” Man, how could his smile be so cute? Now she really needed to go to sleep because this boy was sapping her strength. It was taking everything in her not to just walk over, wrap her arms around him, and just not move forever. “Oh, and it’s a little early, but happy birthday.”
She stopped in her tracks for a moment, his words warming her despite his presence already flustering her. It wasn’t like she’d thought that he would forget her birthday, but him making a point to tell her even though it was late and they were both exhausted from their internships and their hard work…
…it made her so happy. So, so happy.
“Thank you, Deku-kun,” she said. The words rolled out of her, but she wasn’t sure if they appropriately conveyed how grateful she was for his thoughtfulness and kindness. It seemed as though at least a fraction of it made it to him as he abashedly rubbed the back of his head and averted his eyes. The poor boy almost never knew what to do with sincere gratitude despite her doing her best to show it to him whenever she could.
“Y-you’re welcome! D-don’t stay up too late!”
Ochako giggled. “You either!”
She didn’t want to say goodnight. Not really. Her fatigued mind wondered if he was having the same problem as her…
Okay, it was really time to go to sleep now. She was starting to get delusional. With a final hurried goodnight, she made her way to the elevator, hearing his final bid behind her when she pushed the button. Despite herself, warm butterflies erupted in her stomach, flitting about all the way up to the fourth floor.
It was only when she entered her room when she realized that the feeling in her stomach wasn’t just butterflies. Uneasy, she crossed her room and grabbed the trash bin next to her bed.
And was thoroughly confused when she began to spit flower petals out of her mouth.