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Meet Me in the Caf

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Bakugo hated sharing.

He hated it in elementary school when he had to share the classroom’s toys -- which usually ended in bite marks and crying classmates.

He hated it in primary school when he had to share the ball to score -- which usually ended in lots of bruises, a blown-up ball, and detention. 

He hated it no less in UA when he had to share the glory of the spotlight -- which usually ended with a bunch of bitter classmates who could never manage to beat him out in his pursuit for any and all the first place spots, which okay, technically wasn’t even his fault.

What could he say? Maybe this was a consequence of being an only child, or it was just him. He was no longer snapping at people like a rabid dog, so he considered that an improvement, fuck you very much. His somewhat improved relationships with others, though, didn’t at all change that one long-standing trait.

He hated sharing.

One can imagine how he felt, then, when students started receiving their work-study acceptance letters and he found that not only was he accepted to his top choice agency with someone else, but that fucker somehow managed to snag the placement under his favourite hero right from beneath him.

It was fucking outrageous. It made his blood boil and the whole class knew it, slowly sinking in their seats as he crumpled up his letter and growled furiously at his desk.

The Soul Heroes agency was the most fought over agency in the country. The world’s top two heroes both worked there after all, so a little competition was to be expected. After graduating at the top of their class, Deku and Shoto wasted no time making names for themselves. 

When they decided to partner up and open their own agency shortly after leaving UA, other heroes simply didn’t stand a chance. With their unstoppable powers combined, what took most heroes an average of two to three decades to accomplish only took them just over five years, making them one of the world’s youngest ever top-ranking heroes at 24 years old.

Obviously, this wasn’t a matter of debate for Bakugo. He had to intern there. Not only to learn from the world’s top heroes but to be closer to his idol. Which would have worked if it weren’t for the absolute turd that snagged what should’ve been his spot shadowing Deku. Instead, Bakugo was stuck shadowing the world’s most pretentious #1 Hero: Shoto fucking Todoroki.

Bakugo didn’t necessarily have a problem with Shoto. He was, like, okay he guessed. Bakugo had a bigger problem with how utterly glorified the man was. So what if he had silky hair and a pretty face and a fancy-schmancy quirk? Big fucking deal. 

It was obvious that all the hero-worship had gone to the man’s head and he now fancied himself god’s gift to men. Why else would he constantly be seen sporting a frown? Or disappearing as soon as a villain was taken care of, not even sparing a moment to greet his fans? The fucker wasn’t even grateful and it pissed Bakugo off.

It takes more than good looks and a cool quirk for someone to earn the #1 spot. It takes strength, determination, and a good fucking attitude. It takes getting off your pedestal and telling a young scruffy starry-eyed boy he’d make an amazing hero one day. 

It takes Deku.

Who would now be spending all his time, sharing all his expertise, with someone else. Some no-name Ketsubutsu punk who didn’t deserve it, who probably didn’t even appreciate just how special Deku was.

Bakugo tried to keep the sour look off his face his first day at the agency. He really tried.

He sat slouched with his arms crossed in the waiting area by the entrance, quite literally waiting 20 minutes now for Mr. Half-and-Half to show himself and get him started. He should’ve expected the wait, it was just so fucking typical. The other student was nowhere to be seen, probably already picked up by Deku and getting a headstart on the internship.

“Fucking garbage,” Bakugo muttered.

“Um, Bakugo?”

Bakugo’s head snapped up and he stood to face the #1 hero, who was sporting his signature hero uniform and watching him with a curious frown.

“Uh, yeah, that’s me.”

“Hi.” Shoto paused for a moment then stiffly extended his arm.

Oh great, Bakugo thought as he shook his hand with a nod and a tight-lipped smile. He’s way more rigid in person. Bakugo wagered he never wanted an intern in the first place.

Shoto cleared his throat. “So, welcome to Soul Heroes. Um, sorry for the wait, I was just backed up with some work and lost track of time.”

“It’s fine.” No, it’s not.

“Well, if you’ll follow me I can show you around and get you started, I’m sure you’re eager to get to work.”

Bakugo nodded and grabbed his backpack before following Shoto to the back.

As the top hero agency, Bakugo naturally expected Soul Heroes to be well-funded. However, as he turned down the hall, he was shocked to see just how well. The place opened up to reveal what looked like something out of a fancy Scandinavian design catalogue, with marble floors and glass panes almost everywhere that walls could be replaced. The few spots where walls remained certainly couldn’t be ignored though, as every inch of them was painted with breathtaking murals of the best pro-heroes Bakugo could’ve named.

Heroes known throughout the course of history were all shown in various states of combat positions and colourful glory stances, with light from the large glass windows giving them a powerful glow. As he walked in awe past artwork of Best Jeanist, Hawks, and even All Might, Bakugo briefly noted that Endeavor seemed to be missing. He then stopped to see the biggest mural of all at the very back by a lounging space with significantly more wall room. Depicted were Deku and Shoto crouched side by side with their quirks activated and looking ready to fight. They looked positively fierce.

Seeing that Bakugo had slowed, Shoto paused in his tour and followed his gaze. He seemed to blush at the sight of himself and sighed quietly.

“Yeah, um, the design team really outdid themselves...”

Bakugo’s eyes narrowed a little.

“I think it’s cool.”

Shoto nodded wordlessly and continued on with his tour. He showed him where his office would be at the end of the hall, and Bakugo quickly took note of where Deku’s own office sat nearby -- it was empty. He was then led up the glass-paned stairs to the executive floor, where the layout’s design became a bit more traditional. They passed a few executive offices where he was either introduced to staff or simply waved to through the glass. 

On their way to the elevator, they briefly bumped into a professionally suited woman who sported what Bakugo thought was a ridiculously high ponytail. She smiled and they slowed.

“Well, good morning! Are you the new intern?"

“Yeah. Katsuki Bakugo,” he introduced himself and she shook his hand. Her grip was firm and she practically radiated professionalism and success.

“Nice to meet you, Bakugo! My name is Momo Yaoyorozu, I'm the agency’s legal representative. Are you showing him our offices, Todoroki?”

Shoto nodded mutely and looked away. Katsuki’s eyes narrowed at him again. Was he always this fucking rude?

Ponytail's smile faltered slightly but quickly perked up again. “Well, I won’t keep you! I hope you enjoy your time here, Bakugo, you are certainly in wonderful hands. Have a great day and I’ll see you around.”

She smiled at them kindly before turning the corner towards her office, her heels click-clacking as she walked away. Bakugo heard Shoto give another one of his quiet sighs before continuing where they left off. 

Throughout the tour, the hero’s boring monotone had Bakugo’s thoughts drifting. He wondered what Deku and his intern were up to and petulantly hoped they weren’t getting along. Maybe they’d even run into them soon and Deku would see how cool he was and want to switch, because obviously Bakugo was the better candidate. He frowned as he considered this. Was it because he was more qualified that he was placed under the #1 Hero instead? 

He was snapped back to the present when they climbed out of the elevator to the bottom floor, which Shoto explained was the “training floor”. He nodded at the red and green lockers lining the walls and patted a specific one.

“This locker’s yours. You can use it to store your backpack, uniform, gym stuff, whatever you need.”

Bakugo took the opportunity to shove his backpack inside before following the hero as he approached two big doors with a large plaque reading ‘Training Room’. His eyes widened in anticipation and they pushed in to see just how much space he had to work with.

Hell yeah, now we’re talking.

Seeing the excitement on Bakugo’s face, Shoto smiled. “It’s the biggest training room in the city. State of the art too, so you won’t have to worry about damaging anything here. The whole space is designed to withstand the harshest quirks.”

He briefly lit his arm up and launched a wave of fire towards the hard varnished walls. Not a single char mark.

“Holy shit,” Bakugo broke out into a grin. He crouched and ran at the wall, jumped and spun backwards, and used an explosion to propel himself into a forward flip. He whooped after landing perfectly on his feet and saw that his quirk indeed left no dent behind. Seemingly more relaxed now, Shoto watched him with a grin. 

“I thought you’d enjoy it here. There’s also a weight room and gym down the hall for when you want to do more muscle work.”

“Cool.” Bakugo shot the training room one last look, picturing all the cool moves he could practice there before they headed back to Shoto’s office on the main floor.

The hero briefly ran him through what his day would consist of, which for the most part meant he’d act as Shoto’s right fucking hand every single day. When he wasn’t puppying along on patrols or training on the exercise floor, he just had to fill out reports and do research on certain villains of interest. He silently thanked whatever powers that be for sparing him all the shitty coffee-fetching.

Bakugo was at his own desk to the side of Shoto’s office where he’d gotten started on some target-villain research when a familiar voice called that had him freezing in his seat.

“I’m here, I’m here! So sorry I’m late, Sho, the lines were crazy today!”

Entirely without his permission, Bakugo’s brain played out the next few moments in slow motion, as he watched the man he worshipped since he was six stroll into Shoto’s office with a flushed smile and what looked like two cups of coffee. Unlike Shoto, he looked perfectly laid back with his hair ruffled and his hero gear substituted with civilian clothes. Bakugo just couldn’t believe his eyes. Deku was actually here in the same room with him.

“It’s okay,” Shoto smiled softly and accepted his coffee. “I just finished up the agency tour with Bakugo here so your timing is good.”

Bakugo’s excitement quickly died and gave life to cold panic as Deku’s eyes suddenly turned to him. His whole body seized. Holy fuck, he was definitely having a heart attack. He was breathing too fast. Wait, was he even breathing at all?

“Oh yeah, our new intern is here! That’s great! Hi, I’m Deku.” Deku approached him with a wide smile and shot his arm out in greeting.

Bakugo’s mouth felt like sandpaper and he couldn’t speak. His fists were clenched tightly in his lap, evidently with no intention to move at all.

What the fuck is wrong with you? He panicked to himself. You’re supposed to show him how cool and badass you are, not act like some dumb pussy ass loser. They’re both staring at you, fucking do something!

Finally getting his arm to work, Bakugo quickly unclenched his fist and wiped the sweat off his palm before reaching to shake Deku’s hand. In a daze, he realized his hand and Deku’s were clasped together, and he thought this might just be the best day of his life. Now all he had to do was say hi and charm him.

“H...hhh...” he croaked.

This was definitely the worst day of his life.

Deku’s brows furrowed and he pulled his arm back.

Think fast, moron, before he thinks you’re having a fucking aneurysm.

He coughed. “H-How’s it going with your intern?”

Deku’s eyes lit up in understanding and didn’t catch Bakugo deflating with relief as he turned to his friend.

“That’s right, I was supposed to get one too, wasn’t I, Sho? But something came up, right?”

“Yeah, they withdrew yesterday,” Shoto confirmed with a nod and rounded his desk to stand by Deku. “Something about family complications.”

Family complications? Wait… did this mean…

“I assume since the application process has now closed, that means Shoto and I will now both focus all our attention on you,” Deku grinned. “Isn’t that great?”

Bakugo didn’t know why, call it a hunch, but he was positive he had the most comical deer-in-the-headlights look on his face. This wasn’t exactly what he wanted, but he did technically get what he set out for -- Deku’s full and undivided attention. So why was he so terrified all of a sudden? None of this had at all gone the way he’d expected it to.

As he forced a smile and glanced over, he noticed Shoto watching him with a suspiciously -- and infuriating -- knowing look on his face. He wanted to punch it right off his stupid mug.

“Oh, did you show him the cafeteria, by the way? Did you tell him the story?” Deku practically bounced with excitement and Shoto shook his head.

“I showed him but I didn’t get into details. I figured I’d save the story for you since you love telling it so much.” Shoto smiled behind the rim of his cup as Deku cheered and turned to Bakugo.

“Bakugo, the caf is where it’s at. Like, okay, it’s obviously a staff room and not a real cafeteria, but Shoto and I have called it the caf since it was first built as an inside joke.”

As Bakugo reflected back on the tour, he did recall Shoto mentioning something about a cafeteria as he peeked into the staff room. It didn’t jump out to him as particularly special; it was just a big room with several wide tables lined up by the windows, a small kitchen area, and a few vending machines. 

“So basically, when we were back at UA’s dorms and left anything in the kitchen fridge, it would always disappear because a random student would eventually come by and just eat it,” Deku explained. “Didn’t matter if there was a label on your turkey sandwich saying it’s yours, it was getting eaten, because people just have no shame in this country.”

“I’m still upset about that sandwich, by the way,” Shoto piped in and Deku laughed.

“I know, you totally lost it! Anyway, so because food kept disappearing from the fridge and students treated it like it was a fair-game space for everyone, we both started calling the kitchen the cafeteria, because caf food’s there for anyone who wants to eat, right? So then it caught on and everyone started calling it the caf, too! Now, Shoto here thought that would all be behind us once we graduated...”

Shoto closed his eyes, exhaling around a pained smile with a shake of his head. “I was so naïve.”

“Yeah, he was. You see, once we got started up here in the agency, Shoto went back to thinking the common room where people eat their food would be a safe place for him to store his lunch in the fridge. During our first week, he put- what did you put?”

“Soba.”

“Soba! He put a container of soba in the fridge, and guess what? It vanished!”

“They didn’t even return my container,” Shoto frowned.

“He thought it was a one and done, he hoped it was just a fluke and that dreaded caf hadn’t followed him here, so he tried again two days later. But once more, his lunch was nowhere to be found. Hence, we now all affectionately call it the cafeteria.”

“Affectionately,” Shoto scoffed with an eye-roll and moved around his desk. “As soon as I realized the people here were the same kind of monsters that were back at UA, I bought this.” He patted a minifridge placed right by his desk with a satisfied nod. “My lunch is now safe and no one else will ever get their hands on my food again. You would do well to learn this too, Bakugo. Trust no one.”

Deku cackled at the serious expression on Shoto’s face and Bakugo chuckled in amusement as well, but couldn’t help feeling his heart sink as he watched the hero sling his arm over his friend and laugh with him companionably. He knew they were friends but he didn’t realize they were so close. 

Deku wiped a tear from his eye and shook himself off. “Gosh, this gets me every time. Anyway, I’m super happy you’re with us, Bakugo. Honestly, if I knew you’d be here when I arrived, I totally would’ve gotten you a coffee too, so I’m sorry about that.”

Bakugo shrugged and fiddled with his sleeve. “Not really a fan of coffee.” 

He winced inwardly, hoping this wouldn’t offend him, but Deku shot him an approving smile.

“You know what, good choice, I like you already. I wish I could quit, but I’m hooked.” He raised his arms helplessly. “Anyway, I’m going to get to work but it was nice meeting you! Can’t wait to see what you got!” He said goodbye to Shoto as well and left in a whirlwind of sunlight and happiness.

Bakugo was longingly watching him go through the glass when he heard a throat clear. He turned to find Shoto watching him with a raised brow.

“I hope you won’t find yourself too distracted during your time here with us, Bakugo.”

“I- no, of course not,” the boy replied quickly and the hero chuckled as he rounded his desk and got to work.

Mortified by his utter lack of discretion, Bakugo ducked his head and turned his attention back to his research. Well, he tried to. What was he working on again?

ooo

It was time for lunch and Bakugo was overdue for some stress relief. Since Deku came and left earlier that morning, he’d been kicking himself for acting like such a timid loser in front of his hero. His lingering embarrassment left him completely wound up, which interfered with his ability to conduct his research thoroughly and it all just annoyed the piss out of him.

Stepping into the empty staff room -- or cafeteria, he supposed he should call it -- Bakugo pulled out his headphones and flipped on his music. With his tunes and some food, he was sure to feel better and hopefully reorient himself so he could compensate for his idiotic behaviour.

But first, a warm drink. Those also had calming effects, right?

Looking through his options and bobbing his head along with the music, he decided he’d make black tea. Easy and practical. He filled up the kettle, pulled down a cup from the cupboard, and waited. He drummed his fingers against the counter and closed his eyes, giving his unbidden thoughts the opportunity to crawl back into his mind.

He’d imagined what his first proper meeting with Deku would be like for years. It ranged from scenarios where they bumped into each other on the street and Deku immediately invited him to be his partner to instances where he saved Deku’s life in a horrible fight and the hero would look at him in starstruck adoration. It had always been his dream to be recognized by Deku as a worthy hero who could fight diligently at his side.

None of his fantasies included Bakugo acting like an illiterate, tongue-tied embodiment of fucking shame. He could just imagine the thoughts that ran through the hero’s head about how awkward he was, and to make matters worse, Half-and-Half had witnessed all of it! He was supposed to impress the world’s top two heroes but he made the worst possible impression-

He grimaced suddenly and growled in frustration. 

It’s fine, he could still fix it. There’s no second intern now so there was plenty of time for him to compensate for everything. For now, he just needed to focus on relaxing before he accidentally blew some poor sod up. Just wait for the kettle and focus on the tunes...

He loosened up his body and let it move along to the beat, drummed his fingers in the air as the song started to build, started to whisper-sing and punch out the notes with his voice, and just as he was getting ready to belt it out for the rocking crescendo, he opened his eyes and found none other than Deku leaning against the cafeteria doorway with an amused grin on his face.

Bakugo nearly choked and grew hot with embarrassment as he scrambled to take his headphones off.

“Hey, don’t stop on my account, you looked like you were really getting into it,” Deku said as he casually strolled in. “Who were you listening to?”

“N-Nothing, no one,” Bakugo stammered and turned to the kettle with an anxious wince. Deku was walking right up to him. 

He hummed and seemed to consider Bakugo’s answer while grabbing a mug of his own from the cupboard. “Nothing, no one, huh? Yeah, I think I came across some of their stuff the other day, they’re actually pretty good.”

Bakugo chuckled nervously and bit his lip, keeping his eyes low and definitely not on the pro-hero right beside him. This was his chance to say something smart or funny back, but the words just weren’t coming. Something about being in the hero’s proximity just made his mind draw a horrible blank. So much for compensating, he thought miserably.

When the kettle mercifully finished boiling its water, Bakugo raised it to fill his mug, only to realize he completely forgot to put the teabag inside. It’s cool, no problem, he totally couldn’t feel Deku occasionally glancing his way, he had complete control over this. He grabbed a packet and started emptying it into the steaming water.

Deku cleared his throat. “So, uh, not a fan of coffee, huh?”

Bakugo shook his head stiffly, muttering, “Nope.” If he could keep his words to a minimum, there would be no risk of embarrassment.

“Then could you tell me why you’re emptying a packet of coffee into your mug?”

Bakugo’s eyes widened, realized he’d distractedly grabbed the wrong packet, and hissed out a curse. He yanked his arm suddenly but accidentally knocked the whole mug over, which shattered on the ground between them and spilled a mess of murky hot water all over the floor.

Shit, I’m so sorry, Deku!” Bakugo stammered and scrambled to find some paper towels before dropping to clean up the mess. This couldn’t get any fucking worse, this was fucking humiliating. “Christ, I’m so fucking stupid, I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with me, I’m really sorry, I’m gonna clean it-” he rambled, thoughts spilling uncontrollably from his panic-addled mouth when he felt Deku grab his shoulder and speak over him.

“Bakugo! Bakugo, it’s okay! It’s fine!” As his eyes met the earnest greens of the hero’s crouched before him, he realized he was breathing rapidly and the man must’ve said his name multiple times before he actually heard him. This was the first time he’d made proper eye contact with the hero, who was now close enough for him to count his freckles and see the thickness of his lashes. Bakugo could feel himself still instantly under his warm touch, utterly transfixed.

The hero squeezed his shoulder and shook his head with a gentle smile. “Seriously, it’s okay. This happens all the time. Come on, help me pick up the pieces.”

Bakugo blinked out of his daze and nodded. Gingerly collecting what was left of the mug, he looked at the mess around them in defeat. Not even his lunchtime could be incident-free. As they threw out the last of the sharp shards, Bakugo murmured glumly. “Sorry about the mug... I’ll pay it back.”

Deku shook his head. “There’s no need, most of the cups here were just gifted to us from random companies to earn our favour.” He handed him some paper towels and Bakugo helped him wipe off the rest of the spillage in withdrawn silence.

Maybe Bakugo had given himself too much credit and just wasn’t ready to intern at the top hero agency yet. He’s never been this clumsy before but obviously it meant he wasn’t good under pressure. Maybe he was too immature to properly handle his admiration for Deku and would just slow everyone else down. At this rate, he was certain they would let him go as he “wasn’t suitable for the job”. He considered withdrawing to stay ahead and his heart clenched painfully at the thought.

“Hey, stop that,” Deku said. Bakugo blinked up as the hero sat back on his haunches and briefly adjusted the towels in his hands before wiping again. “I know what you’re thinking, and trust me, it won’t do you any good.”

Bakugo didn’t know whether or not it bothered him that Deku could read him so well. He didn’t know why he was so willing to help him at all. He was a top pro-hero, he had better things to do than get down on the floor and help some clumsy ass kid wipe up a spill. Bakugo should be helping him with his problems, not the other way around. 

Seeing that the boy had paused in his cleaning and was staring down at his lump of towels with a frown, Deku leaned back and tilted his head curiously.

“You must’ve been really nervous today, huh...?”

Bakugo resumed wiping, his face flushed. ‘Nervous’ is so not how he wanted Deku to perceive him. What a fucking shitshow he made for himself. He could never hope to impress him now. A few moments of silence passed between them.

“You wanna know what I did my first time seeing Sir Nighteye about being his intern? You wouldn’t believe it.” Bakugo glanced up to see Deku grinning at him. He read about the hero’s work study with Sir Nighteye online but didn’t remember coming across any horror stories. 

“I offended him so bad.” Deku’s shoulders shook as he chuckled. “He really valued humour so he asked me to do something funny. That stuff doesn’t really come naturally to me but I thought an impression of All Might would at least get him laughing. Turns out, I completely missed the mark. He got so mad at me, I was scared he’d kill me right there on the spot.”

“You were?” Bakugo asked tentatively. “Why- Why’d it bother him?”

“He thought I was mocking All Might. Can you believe that?” Midoriya shook his head and got back to wiping the floor. “I would never, ever do that, but it didn’t matter to him at that point, he decided on the spot that I’d never intern at his agency. I refused to let him give up on me though, I showed him everything I had and ended up impressing him enough to take me on.”

“I didn’t know that…” Bakugo said softly and followed Midoriya up as he stood, the caf floor now completely clean.

Midoriya nodded and tossed out his wet towels. “I’m telling you this so you know we’ve all made stupid mistakes. Even Shoto failed his provisional licensing exam the first time around and I still tease him about it. The mistakes are what make the memories more endearing, you know? So don’t beat yourself up.” Humour then crept into Deku’s eyes. “Although, your apparent contempt for coffee has now put my last packet in the trash, so you owe me one.”

Bakugo gave him a weak smile and tossed out his own towels. He still felt like absolute shit and guilty as all hell over the mug, but his words did help slightly. Deku always treated people with such good-natured compassion and understanding, he’d seen it online multiple times, but he never thought it would be directed at him like this. They stood facing each other and the hero was smiling at him so warmly, it made his breath catch.

A knock sounded behind them and they turned to see Shoto standing at the doorway. “Um, hey, I was just popping in to see if Bakugo was free for a patrol around the block.” 

Wanting to get the hell out of here and get some damn air, Bakugo nodded quickly and turned back to Deku. There was an awkward pause before he cleared his throat. “Thanks.”

Deku nodded and gestured at his friend in somber warning. “Watch out for him, he may be the number one hero but he still forgets to wait for the light before crossing.” 

The hero rolled his mismatched eyes and shifted to let Bakugo pass him. “Shut up, Midoriya.” 

Deku’s laughter followed them as they walked down the hall together. Taking note of the time, Shoto frowned over at him. “Did you get a chance to eat some lunch first?”

“Lost my appetite,” Bakugo muttered.


ooo

After changing out of his civilian clothes and into his hero uniform, Bakugo met up with Shoto at the agency’s front entrance. He slowed his steps when he found that the hero was looking out the glass with an agitated frown and his arms crossed tensely.

“So uh, are we ready?”

“We can’t go from here,” the hero murmured, eyes stonily fixed outside. “There’s paparazzi everywhere.”

Bakugo let out a quiet ‘oh’ and shifted, Shoto’s tightly-wound behaviour making him uneasy. Most heroes just sauntered out, answered a few questions, and went about their day, but it seemed Shoto was as determined as ever to avoid the public eye.

“Follow me.” Shoto stepped back and headed for the elevator. When they got to the fitness floor, the hero led him down a dark hall towards a big steel door. “This is the side exit we use for covert raids. It helps when we’re trying to keep a low profile.”

He pushed the door open and Bakugo followed him into what appeared to be an alleyway. The boy looked around in mild awe. So this was the path Deku used as he headed out to kick villain ass. Fuckin’ dope.

After closing up behind them, Shoto tentatively poked his head out towards the street and found there were no stray photographers in sight. He relaxed and gestured for Bakugo to join him, who was waiting impatiently and wondering if this ridiculous process was a daily thing.

As they finally -- finally -- started patrolling the street, Bakugo kept his eye out for anything out of the ordinary. With it being just after lunchtime, the area bustled with activity and people chattering all over the place, which laid the perfect groundwork for something to go wrong. No matter what happened, Bakugo would damn well be ready. However, it didn’t take long for Bakugo’s attention to be drawn to something else entirely, and he realized with a sinking feeling what might’ve been Shoto’s problem all along.

They were eyes on them everywhere. 

As quirks and heroes became a commonplace thing in the world, the general public quickly adopted the courtesy of not crowding the heroes whenever they were working. However, it didn’t stop them from openly staring and whispering excitedly whenever they were nearby -- they were still celebrities. Bakugo was familiar with the kind of attention they’d draw from having been in the crowds himself, he even looked forward to it, but this was a whole new level that bordered on oppressive. Bakugo was still too fresh on the scene to be recognized or draw any real attention, so all of this must’ve been solely for Shoto.

Bakugo’s face twisted into a scowl, unhappy with this new turn of events, and he glanced at the man beside him. He may have felt uncomfortable, but Shoto looked like he was ready to disappear into the ground. His shoulders were hunched and his head was down, eyes completely shadowed behind his long hair. Bakugo was utterly dismayed as he watched the number one hero practically shrink beneath the public's gaze and, to his surprise, felt the first hints of sympathy for him. He’d read all the photos online completely wrong. 

“So, um, is this the route you normally take?” he asked, hoping to distract the hero from all the idiots around them.

Shoto’s head moved slightly, indicating that he’d heard him. “Yes,” he answered softly. “I’m assigned to 15 wards but this is the safest one with it so close to the agency.”

Bakugo’s eyes bugged in shock. Fifteen wards for one hero? That was fucking absurd. The average hero had between four to seven. Noticing the expression on his face, Shoto’s lips quirked mirthlessly.

“Part of being the number one hero is being responsible for the protection of more districts. It’s not so bad and Midoriya helps a lot. I couldn’t manage without him.”

Bakugo nodded, not a little bit surprised by that. It seemed the hero would happily volunteer his help wherever he possibly could. He bit his lip as he recalled their conversation in the caf, how close Deku crouched beside him, his kind smile and his warm inviting voice, the way his hand curled around his shoulder like a solid weight anchoring him to the world and the space they shared. Bakugo wanted to spend every waking moment in his presence and would gladly do so if he could control his ridiculous behaviour.

They turned a corner and Bakugo continued to keep his eyes peeled for anything suspicious. This area seemed less busy, which to his relief meant less attention. 

“So, why Soul Heroes?” asked Shoto. The tension appeared to leave his shoulders slightly and he was actually looking at him now. “You probably gave the whole spiel to the work-study coordinator but I want to hear it from you.”

“I wanna be the best,” Bakugo said without missing a beat, a confident grin on his face. “Soul Heroes is the best agency with the world’s best top two heroes, so if I wanna learn how to get where I want, it’s the place to be. First place is the only place that matters and I’ve already gotten all the top spots at UA so there’s nowhere left to go but up. I'll stop at nothing to get there.”

This was of course only half of it but he definitely wasn’t going to admit to the part where he wanted to be closer to Deku.

He turned to look beside him only to find that Shoto wasn’t even there, that he had stopped behind him and was staring blankly at nothing. Maybe it was just Bakugo’s imagination, but the look on his face seemed haunted.

Bakugo approached him cautiously. “Hey, you good? Shoto?” 

The hero didn’t react until he was nudged and heard his name. He blinked and took an uneven breath. “Sorry. You just reminded me of someone.” His voice didn’t sound right at all. They started to walk again but Shoto’s eyes seemed focused on somewhere far away. Was he hunching again?

“Uh, okay... Who?” Bakugo didn’t think anything he said was particularly abnormal, hell the coordinator seemed to love what he had to say at the interview. Who the hell could he have reminded Shoto of that would make him act so off?

“Doesn’t matter,” Shoto muttered, his tone indicating that this was not something that should be pried into. “And I hate to tell you this, but neither does first place if it gives you tunnel vision. It can cause problems if you’re not careful.”

Bakugo’s eyes narrowed, his anger quickly rising. Who the hell did this asshole think he was? He could handle himself, he didn’t need feedback on his fucking goals.

“Your UA record is impressive and you’re obviously an ambitious kid, which isn’t a bad thing to be if it doesn’t set you off track. What really matters is that you don’t forget you can still make a difference regardless of your rank.”

Yeah, easy for you to say, Mr. Top Shit. Bakugo’s fists clenched furiously. He was totally patronizing him and it was infuriating, especially because he couldn’t snap back and tell him to shut the fuck up about shit he didn’t know. All he could do was grunt and keep his scowl turned away.

Shoto eased off and sighed quietly beside him, no doubt picking up on his mood. “We’re almost done.”

They patrolled the rest of the block in uneventful silence, and by the time the agency came into view it was nearing the end of the day. Feeling his hunger set in, Bakugo couldn’t wait to finish up and get home, but Shoto suddenly inhaled sharply and ducked into a nearby alley. 

The paparazzi from earlier were still lingering outside. 

Bakugo groaned inwardly. They must know something about Shoto’s patrol schedule, otherwise they wouldn’t stubbornly linger like this. The heroes were on the opposite end of the street from the side door, so they couldn’t get to it without passing the trucks and being noticed, or circling the whole patrol route back.

Bakugo turned to face Shoto, who was in the shadows leaning against the wall. His hands were covering his face as he dismally shook his head. “I hate this. What the hell do they want from me? They never swarm Midoriya like this.”

“That’s because he gives them what they want,” Bakugo said irritably. “You’ve been the number one hero for months now and you’re still a complete fucking mystery, of course they’re gonna flock you.”

Shoto’s expression twisted and he rubbed at his scar. “I don’t want to talk to anyone. I just want to be left alone.”

Well, you should’ve thought of that before hitting number one, dumbass. Bakugo rolled his eyes and shook his head, completely fucking fed up with his day. He just wanted to go home and have some god damn food.

“You patrol every day, don’t you? How do you normally get past them?”

Shoto briefly glanced at him and looked away with a swallow. He didn’t answer and just looked guiltily at the ground. When it hit Bakugo exactly how the hero managed this every day, he groaned.

“You’ve got to be shitting me. You just wait them out?? That must take hours!”

“It’s the only thing I can do,” he said softly. “Anything else would just draw attention, believe me, I’ve tried.”

“You can’t even use your quirk and just ice yourself up to the roof or some shit?”

“No, nothing works,” Shoto answered and the boy rubbed at his face with a curse. 

This was not happening. Bakugo was way too hungry for this shit. He looked around the alley and walked up to a rusty donation bin. Shoto watched him with a curious frown as he shifted it so the back was exposed, and briefly looked around before activating his quirk and blowing a small hole right through the back.

“Bakugo, what the hell are you doing? Those are for charity, you can’t just take them!”

“Unless you have any better ideas, this is the only way to get us outta here. We can always bring them back later, but I’m not gonna sit here with my thumb up my ass.”

After pulling out a black beanie and long red coat, grimacing in distaste at its bright plastic material, Bakugo shifted the box so the hole in the back was hidden again and held them out to Shoto. “Put these on. They won’t recognize you if your hair and uniform are covered.”

Shoto didn't take them right away, no doubt battling with his conscience, but he eventually relented with a shake of his head and muttered about this being wrong. Bakugo realized he should be worrying about the kind of impression he was making on his superior with his actions right now but he was too cranky and couldn’t be assed. 

Shoto pulled the beanie over his head and threw on the coat.

"This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever worn," Shoto groused as he buttoned up the shiny red coat. "Wasn't there anything more subtle?"

"Sorry, didn't exactly have time to play retail clerk and build a whole line of shit for you to try on," Bakugo countered sarcastically.

When Shoto was done fussing with the coat, his boots were the only thing left on display and Bakugo hoped they wouldn't be enough to catch any attention. Seeing that a few bi-coloured strands were still poking out the sides of the beanie, Bakugo reached up and impatiently helped Shoto shove them underneath before stepping back with a frown. Not bad, but the scar on his face was still too visible. He removed his black mask and held it out to Shoto.

“Here, put this on. Don’t give me that look, put it on or you’ll get caught halfway there.”

Shoto sighed and put on the mask. When he raised his head with a questioning look, Bakugo stifled a laugh. This was the most ridiculous the hero had ever looked, and part of him may or may not have drawn some satisfaction from that. “You look great.”

“You’re lying,” Shoto said flatly.

“Nah, you totally have that whole hipster bandit thing going for you, it’s a good look.” He coughed to cover his laugh and pulled the bemused hero with him to the neck of the alley. “Alright, you ready for this?”

Shoto nodded and swallowed nervously. They stepped out and into the busy crowd on the sidewalk. As they passed people on the street, Bakugo observed that not a single person seemed at all fixated on them. To the public, they probably looked like average run of the mill heroes. The disguise was working perfectly. He kept a cautious eye on the paparazzi across the street and murmured to Shoto under his breath, “Almost there.”

They stopped at the corner of the sidewalk and anxiously waited for the light to flip. The longer they were in public, the more time it gave people to observe them and notice Shoto’s distinct white boots. When the light finally flipped, they both hurried across the road. They were in such a rush to get down the alley that Shoto accidentally knocked into someone as they reached the sidewalk.

“Hey, watch where you’re going,” a low voice hissed. They turned to see a large figure hidden beneath a wide brim hat and a black coat with the collar popped. There wasn’t a single identifiable feature on him and Bakugo’s eyes narrowed.

“Sorry, sir, I didn’t see you,” Shoto said softly and tugged on Bakugo’s arm. As he was pulled down the alley, Bakugo turned to see that the figure was still watching them from the street. What the fuck was his problem? Just as he was starting to have a bad feeling, Shoto unlocked the door and the figure walked away. Bakugo sighed and followed the hero inside.

Once they were back in the safety of the fitness hall, Shoto sighed with relief and tugged the beanie off. “I have to say, Bakugo, you’ve certainly made this patrol an interesting one.”

As the hero patted down his mussed up hair, Bakugo smirked. “What, was making friends with alley mice not interesting enough before?” 

Shoto gave him a withering look as he shrugged off the borrowed coat and removed the mask. “Very funny. Here, take these and return the stuff you took in the morning. I don’t want you stealing on patrol ever again.”

Bakugo rolled his eyes as he bundled them up in his arms. “Yes, sir.”

Shoto cleared his throat and straightened, reverting to the stiff manner he adopted that morning. “Well, you may go home now. I’ll see you in my office first thing tomorrow.” 

Bakugo nodded and the hero turned to walk away. He pulled out his phone and was about to text his mom asking what’s for dinner when the hero stopped and called out his name again. 

He looked up and watched Shoto take a deep breath and hesitate for a moment, his expression turning vulnerable ever so slightly. “Thank you for your help. I appreciate it.”

Bakugo nodded again wordlessly and watched the hero walk away with newfound consideration. It seemed in the span of a single day, he’d embarrassed himself in front of his idol -- twice -- and also learned that the number one hero was a lot more complicated than he initially pegged him for. As he turned to pull his backpack out of his locker, he wondered if every day at the agency would be this eventful.

If there was one thing he knew for sure, it was that if he stayed the hell away from Deku and coffee, he’d probably be fine.

He went back outside, the sun now starting to set and casting the streets in a warm glow, and was on his way home when he spied a young woman offering samples to people nearby. She turned to him and brightened.

“Good afternoon! Would you like to try our new sample of Deku-themed coffee? It’s really-”

“Nope!” Bakugo threw his hands up and hurried past her without looking. “No fucking thank you.”