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Meet Me in the Caf

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I lost.

It looped in Bakugo’s head over and over again and the shock of it had him completely unmoving on the ground. In any room, he’d always been the strongest. He’d always been the best. He was supposed to win -- because winning wasn’t fucking optional. How could this happen?

You were too weak.

Something rocked inside him and his fists clenched in a sudden bout of self-directed fury. Victory had been in his grasp and he’d fucked it up like a total fucking failure. He was nothing, a disgrace, a no-good loser who’d sink to the bottom and never, ever be number one. He would never prove himself a powerful hero, he might as well give up now and swan-dive off a fucking building-

A fuzzy voice suddenly filtered into his awareness and a halo of green curls appeared over him.

“Bakugo! Oh my gosh, Bakugo, are you okay?!”

The raging torrent inside Bakugo quietened a little as he felt warm hands grip his head and shoulder, practically holding him. A small part of Bakugo wanted to just stay there and savour the closeness, but a bigger part told him he didn’t deserve it to begin with. Not after that pathetic loss. 

He tried to sit up but hissed sharply as spikes of pain shot up his arms.

“Take it easy! You took a nasty fall,” Deku worried, helping him sit up. Seeing the strained wince on the boy’s face, Deku turned to scold the other hero hovering nearby. “What the hell were you thinking, Shoto? This was supposed to be a spar, not a death match! You could’ve killed him!”

Bakugo grit his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut, feeling angrier at himself by the minute. Deku now thought he was weak and breakable and it was all his fucking fault.

“Sorry…” Shoto apologized softly, sounding chagrined and back to his usual diffident self. The two-toned hero crouched in front of him in concern, face covered in soot stains. “...Are you alright, Bakugo?”

“I’m fuckin’ fine,” he grumbled, annoyed with all the fretting, and tried to get back on his feet. As Deku immediately went to help him up, all Bakugo could think was how the hero should’ve been congratulating him right now, not coddling him after a shitty loss.

He stumbled a little on his feet and Shoto regarded him guiltily. “I apologize for letting the match get out of hand... I shouldn’t have gotten so carried away.”

“Don’t you dare, Icyhot,” Bakugo warned and pointedly stepped away from Deku’s supporting hand. “I’m not some wimpy little bitch, I can take a fair fucking fight.” 

“...You did do really well,” Deku reluctantly agreed and started pulling away. “I never expected to see you hold your own like that- Careful!”

The hero’s hands immediately darted back to help him take a wobbly step forward as Shoto agreed begrudgingly, “Yeah, me neither. You’re a gifted fighter, Bakugo.”

“Damn right I am.” Bakugo winced as he straightened again, trying not to openly grunt in pain. He hadn’t pushed his body like this in years but he should’ve guessed fighting the number one hero gearless wouldn’t be easy. He clutched his throbbing arm and bit out, “Your ass was mine too, you just got fuckin’ lucky.”

Shoto rolled his eyes with a light scoff, “I’m ready for a round two any time, I’m just not sure you can handle it.”

Bakugo’s eyes narrowed at the challenge. “Fuckin’ try me and I’ll show you who can’t handle what, Half-and-Half.”  

They both took a threatening step towards one another when Deku suddenly groaned in frustration between them. “You two are unbelievable! Both of you look like an absolute wreck and probably inhaled way too much smoke to be healthy, yet all you can think about is fighting again?!”

The two paused and glanced at each other, hair rumpled and torn clothes covered in soot, then answered simultaneously, “Yes.”

Deku threw his hands up in aggravation and shoved at them. “Well not today, you’re not! Both of you need to get washed and cleaned up, you smell disgusting. Come on, on you go!” 

Deku herded the grumbling pair towards the change room and they briefly exchanged wry looks as he fussed behind them. It seemed their fight had given them newfound respect for one another, so it might not have been a total loss.

...Yeah no, fuck that, it absolutely was.

Bakugo’s body ached as he got into the shower stall further down from Shoto’s and turned on the water. The first thing he did was flip his hands up so the stream could soothe his now sensitive palms. He closed his eyes in relief as soon as its coolness cascaded over the raw and abused skin, which hurt plenty but not nearly as much as his arms did. Water wouldn’t help them much and he irritably realized this was something he’d have to dig out his old compression sleeves for. 

As he gingerly scrubbed his way down his body, his scarlet eyes found a sharp cut running down his lower leg and he remembered just barely dodging Shoto’s ice and getting clipped. The heavy weight of his failure dragged through him all over again, his disappointment over fumbling in front of Deku yet another time worse than ever before. To be so close and have his victory ripped away from him by something so frivolous and inconsequential had him grinding his teeth in annoyance. 

Whatever, don’t think about it. You fuck up in front of Deku all the time so it’s not like this set you back. He still sees you as the same klutzy ass kid you’ve always been, so you should be glad you can’t sink any lower.

Bakugo ignored his clenching heart and straightened sullenly, having judged the cut to be superficial and not of serious concern.

Once his skin was clean again, Bakugo switched the water off and patted himself dry with his unused gym towel. He threw on his jeans and t-shirt, making a note to replace his now torn and stained activewear, then walked past Shoto’s still running shower stall. Pretty boy was no doubt giving himself the full spa treatment, he thought with an eye roll.

He walked back into the change room and found Deku scrolling through his phone on a nearby bench. He slowed and a pang shot through him at the sight of the strong and unstoppable hero whose approval and affection he could never hope to gain. His fist clenched on his bag strap as he felt himself overcome with shame.

When Deku finally noticed him, he straightened and gave him a small smile.

“Hey, Katsuki… How you feeling?”

Like shit, but he wasn’t about to admit that. He simply dropped his bag on the ground and shrugged, muttering. “Fine.”

Deku regarded him with a look that knew far too much. “...You’re beating yourself up again, aren’t you?”

The boy scowled and leaned against the lockers behind him, arms crossed stubbornly. He knew he’d initially liked how well Deku could read him but it wasn’t what he needed right now. “So what? I lost and I’m pissed, what the fuck ever, I’ll get over it. I don’t need you to pity me.”

Deku leaned back and frowned a little. “Is that what you think I’m doing?” 

The boy rolled his eyes and scoffed, his wounded pride making him defensive. “Don’t pretend like you don’t think I’m just some loser kid who can barely keep his shit together let alone get through a real fight. It’s fucking obvious.” 

The hero stood, looking genuinely troubled now. “I do not think you’re a loser. The match might not have ended the way you wanted it to but you did get through that fight. No one’s ever used Shoto’s quirk against him the way you have, you met every one of his shots with brilliant counters of your own. You should be proud of yourself for that.”

Bakugo’s fingers dug into his arms as he grit out, “There’s nothin’ to be proud of if I couldn’t manage the one fucking shot that mattered.”

The hero fell into wary silence for a few moments. “...You did have an opening.” 

Bakugo felt himself stiffen. Deku saw that?  

As though reading his mind, the hero explained, “I ran out as soon as that big explosion hit because I got worried. I saw you jump through the smoke with Shoto in your sights but it’s like you just… froze up or something.” Deku looked at him closely. “What happened up there?”

Bakugo’s eyes fixed on his feet and he eventually muttered, “...Got distracted, shit happens.” He knew full well that nothing could ever throw off his focus in the middle of a fight but he refused to divulge the real truth behind his failure.

Deku didn’t seem convinced by his answer but sighed and sat back on the bench. “Well, either way, I think you did a really good job. You might not see it the way I do but you really proved yourself today. In fact, you fought like an actual pro. You were smart and quick on your feet and even smiled through that whole fight. You completely blew me away.”

The boy blinked up at him, not daring to hope. “I did...?”

Deku nodded and gave him a fond little smile. “Yeah, you really did...” Bakugo wasn’t sure, but it almost seemed like Deku’s voice had taken on a softer quality. His green eyes rested on him with the tenderness of a feather as he spoke. “You’re quite the firecracker, Katsuki.”

Bakugo’s breath was stuck in his throat. Deku had seen him fumble and fall, watched him tank the match and come out of it with absolutely nothing but cuts and aching bones, and still didn’t think he was worthless. Bakugo lost and yet the way Deku looked at him revealed nothing but respect and admiration. His hero looked at him like he was proud.

His heart felt ten times lighter, like a hot air balloon ignited by a fire that wanted to soar to the highest reaches of the sky. Bakugo didn’t just feel relief, he felt genuine bona fide joy. His lips couldn’t help but turn into a small, pleased smile as he reached up to rub at his still-damp hair. 

The movement inadvertently sent a small spike of pain shooting up his arm and he grimaced a little, making Deku frown. “Your arm’s shaking.”

Bakugo held it against his chest and gave a dismissive shake of his head. “It’s fine, just overworked. Should be good to break noses again in a few days.”

Deku giggled and beckoned him over with a hand. “Let me take a look at it.” Bakugo hesitated, not wanting to make a big thing out of it, but Deku wouldn’t budge. “Come on, I know a thing or two about how to make them feel better. Trust me.”

The boy sighed and reluctantly sat on the bench beside him. He bit his lip as Deku’s fingers gently gripped his forearms and pressed lightly at various tension spots. One particular movement had Bakugo hissing and squeezing his eyes shut in pain. “Motherfucker, that fucking hurts.”

“Goodness, the potty mouth on you,” Deku chuckled playfully. “I thought you said it was fine?”

“Well, I fucking lied. Stop- Stop digging in like that, damn it!”

“Don’t be so fussy,” the hero clucked. “I’ve dealt with muscle cramps for years and the sooner they’re tended to, the better. I just needed to pinpoint where it hurts most.”

Bakugo grumbled under his breath and let Deku do his thing without further objection. The hero had his legs falling on either side of the bench while Bakugo sat facing forward with his arms turned to his left, unable to look at the gorgeous man in front of him directly. His eyelids gradually fell shut as Deku gently kneaded his muscles and he tried not to let his breath hitch out loud. 

“Does it feel a little better?”

Bakugo nodded slowly, refusing to look at him let alone speak and risk his voice cracking like some little schoolboy. He had to keep it together but the sensation of his pain gradually giving way to pleasure was just too fucking good. A lightweight feeling settled over him and he sighed a little, unclenching his fists entirely so his arms sat completely lax and at the mercy of Deku’s grip.

The hero breathed out a quiet laugh as his thumbs continued to rub circles into his arms. “...Your quirk is a bigger handful than I’d imagined. The kickback from the explosions must always do a number on your arms and shoulders.”

Bakugo’s red eyes opened and gazed pensively at the ground beside him. “...It’s worth it.”

The hero hummed and they lapsed into comfortable silence with only the sound of Shoto’s running shower in the background. Bakugo bit his lip again as Deku worked his way down his arms like a perfectly trained expert and he couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to have the hero’s hands do this to his whole body. 

What if Bakugo hadn’t changed in the showers and came in without his shirt on, complaining about his shoulders and chest too? Would Deku lay him down on this same bench and massage him all over? He nearly trembled at the thought of Deku climbing on top of his body, his strong hands kneading him, stroking him, pressing into him…

Bakugo breathed out slowly and turned tentative eyes towards the source of his relief beside him. Deku’s dark curls had fallen over his eyes slightly but didn’t hide an inch of their determined shine. His expression was completely focused on moving with the right amount of precision. Bakugo’s gaze trailed longingly over his lips, down the tempting sharpness of his collarbones, over the button-up pulled tightly over his muscled arms and chest, until they finally reached the sight of his upturned arms resting in the hero’s grip.

Deku’s touch was as warm as always, his fingers calloused but soft. The tanned skin on the back of his hands and wrists was broken up by distinctive zig-zagging scars that looked much thicker up close than they ever did in the tabloids. Bakugo couldn’t begin to guess what kinds of painful injuries created marks so deep.

“Hideous, aren’t they?” Bakugo blinked up to find the hero looking at him knowingly. His fingers continued to work on the boy’s muscles as he went on, “I got most of them when I was about your age at UA's sports festival. It was in a match with Shoto that it happened, actually. I broke all my fingers just to keep up with him, some twice over, and ended up with both my arms and left leg in casts.” The hero chuckled. “He’s ferocious when he wants to be, but you know that by now.”

“Tch, whatever,” Bakugo groused and looked away. “He ain’t all that.”

Deku laughed lightly. “Well, in any case, I hope to get the chance to fight you myself some time. I get the feeling going up against you would be a lot of fun.” 

Excited by the prospect of facing off with Deku’s deductive fighting skills, Bakugo nodded eagerly. “I’m down.”

Deku shot him a warm grin. “Good, it’s a deal then.” The hero nodded down at Bakugo’s arms which he now held by the wrists. “How do they feel now? Did the cramps ease up any?”

Bakugo flexed his arms and was surprised to find the pain in his muscles had indeed dulled significantly. “Holy shit…”

Deku giggled and sat back proudly. “I take it that’s a mission accomplished then.”

The boy raised his arms and rubbed at his wrists, still tingling where the hero had held them not a few moments before. “Yeah, um... Thanks… That helped a lot.”

“Happy to help! It should keep you going until tonight at least.”

Bakugo nodded, privately mourning the loss of Deku’s touch on him. He hadn’t felt anything like it and wondered if it would be a bad idea to exert himself on purpose if it meant he could get these treatments from the hero regularly. A guy could fuckin’ dream.

Part of Bakugo had always feared his hero would turn out to be nothing like he imagined, but in reality, Deku was everything he’d hoped for and more. He somehow managed to be one of the only people who could effortlessly lighten Bakugo's mood just by being his sincere and authentic self, and for some reason it made him feel indebted. Bakugo wanted to be able to do the same for him too. He wanted to be the reason Deku smiled.

“Hey, uh…” He started suddenly and Deku glanced up at him. He felt his pulse race as he worked up the nerve to say his next words without fumbling. “Y-Your scars… I don’t think they’re... ugly or whatever.” His mouth began to feel like sandpaper but he forced himself to push through. “They’re like- like battle wounds, y’know? Like marks of a warrior. I think that’s dope.”

Deku’s eyes went round and he huffed out a happy little laugh. “Thanks, Katsuki… I guess it’s like you said, right?” There was that soft voice and tender-eyed gaze again. “It’s worth it.” 

Bakugo only had it in him to nod dumbly at his words quoted so beautifully back to him and Deku gave him a fond smile. He looked like he was about to say more but the sound of footsteps padding their way had them lifting their heads and shifting apart. Shoto walked in dressed in black jeans and a grey shirt slung over his bare chest. 

“Hey, Sho,” Deku greeted as the hero dropped his bag by Bakugo’s and towelled his damp hair. “I was starting to think you’d never come out of there.”

“Sorry, I was exfoliating.”

Caught off guard by the unexpected admission, Bakugo choked on a laugh and immediately covered it up with a few coughs at his elbow. Shoto lowered his towel and frowned at him. “Are you alright?”

“Mhm, yep, all good,” Bakugo nodded.

Deku stood and threw his arm around his friend with a playful grin. “Ahh yes, being the highest-ranking hero wasn’t enough, you just had to be the best looking too, didn’t you?”

Shoto blushed and murmured, “I just like taking care of my skin...”

“Right, that’s my Shoto. Cute and modest,” Deku teased and Bakugo’s pleasant mood slowly began to sour as the other hero protested weakly and ducked his head in embarrassment.

“My Shoto”?? "Cute and-" What the actual fuck? Deku was totally flirting with the other hero right in front of him! 

Bakugo’s suspicions about them being more than friends came rushing back with a vengeance and all he could think was how there was no way he could be wrong. It was the only thing that could explain the dumb bashful look on Shoto’s face and the suddenness of Deku’s overly sweet behaviour. 

Bakugo’s fists clenched angrily in his lap as his favourite hero playfully poked at Shoto’s face and toned chest, giggling as his friend squirmed and coyly slapped him away. He sure as hell wasn’t going to keep watching this shit.

Bakugo stood abruptly and grabbed his bag. The two heroes stopped their games and Deku asked, “Hey, where are you going?”

“Upstairs,” Bakugo bit out curtly and started to walk away.

“Hold on, we’re coming with you,” Shoto called and quickly threw on his shirt. Bakugo stood irritably by the door, trying to remain calm if only for the sake of his overused quirk. Losing control wouldn’t be good for him right now. 

Besides, so fucking what if they were into each other? They could rot together for all he cared. This was bullshit.

They put their bags away and headed towards the elevator, Bakugo fuming behind them as Deku continued to tease his friend. “Oh my gosh, is that a bruise on your arm?? Don’t say you’re going soft on me now, Sho. Does this mean I should expect to overtake the number one spot soon?”

Shoto scoffed and nudged him with his shoulder. “Try it and I’ll kick your ass like I did at the sports festival.”

Deku threw his head back and laughed and Bakugo felt like he was going to combust. He thought the hero only laughed like that around him -- now he may as well have been completely fucking invisible. Had he been reading everything wrong this whole time? Maybe Deku never really cared about him at all. Maybe this whole time Deku’s interests lay with anxious pretty boys who fucking “exfoliated”, not shitty roughhousing sixteen-year-olds. What the hell was Bakugo even thinking getting his hopes up?

As they waited for the elevator, Bakugo tried not to shoot the two-toned hero dirty looks. It’s not like it was Shoto’s fault how he and Deku felt about each other, but Bakugo still couldn’t help but resent him. The whole “I’m shy and hard to get” act just grated on his nerves. It’s like the hero refused to openly show Deku he liked his attention and instead just kept dodging his compliments while acting like some stupid blushing little girl. 

It was obvious from his relaxed demeanour and fond smiles that Shoto felt something special for Deku, so why couldn’t he just stop with the games and own up to it? Bakugo would’ve given anything for even half that attention, because he wasn’t a complete fucking ingrate.

They stepped into the elevator and Bakugo kept his eyes stubbornly fixed on the floor numbers above him. Meanwhile, Deku was asking Shoto about his skincare regimen and if he could teach him all his “secrets to handsomeness”. Bakugo wanted to fucking puke.

“Stop it, Midoriya, you’re embarrassing me,” Shoto mumbled. “Honestly, you always do this.”

Deku giggled and elbowed him. “Sorry, but you know what it takes to get me to stop.”

The boy’s red eyes widened. What the hell did that even mean? Was Deku making a pass at Shoto?? In front of him???

“Yeah, I know...” Shoto replied softly. “I just need some time.”

Holy fuck.

Bakugo was about two seconds away from blowing himself up. He couldn’t take another moment of this shit. He was ready to storm the hell out as soon as the elevator doors opened.

“Um, It looks like we have just under an hour left of the day so if you aren’t too tired, Bakugo, you can go home as soon as you are finished with the day’s report,” Shoto said.

“Fine,” Bakugo replied flatly, bitter about having to spend the rest of his day around the one person who not only stole his victory but also stole Deku’s attention. The only thing he was “tired” of was Shoto’s fucking shit.

When the doors finally opened, Bakugo made to step out but was cut off by Shoto himself, because the hero was obviously a stupid self-centred fuckface who did whatever the hell he wanted. He swallowed down a pissed off growl and trailed behind as the heroes finished up their chat.

“I should probably thank you for coming down to the match. Bakugo and I might’ve tried to kill each other if you hadn’t been there,” Shoto shot the boy a wry smile over his shoulder and Bakugo gave an inward scoff. The hero might have been joking but he didn’t realize just how much Bakugo would’ve loved to incinerate him right then.

Deku grinned and squeezed his friend’s shoulder. “I’m glad I did, it was one hell of a fight. He and I had a really good talk afterwards, too.”

Bakugo deliberately kept his eyes averted as Deku turned to look his way. He wasn’t getting sucked in this time. Deku could take his bright smiles and glittering green eyes and fuck right off. 

“Anyway, I got some incident reports I should probably finish up,” Deku sighed as they passed a group of third-floor suits gathered by their offices. The hero crossed his eyes comically and mimed shooting himself in the head as he pushed his door open. “I’ll see you guys later.”

Shoto chuckled, “See you.”

Bakugo continued to glare at nothing as he waited for the hero to enter his own office. He just wanted to get his damn report over with and get the fuck out of there already, but after a few moments, he noticed Shoto was lingering outside his door with a wistful look on his face.

A wistful look pointed right in the direction where Deku had just been standing.

Something inside Bakugo snapped and he burst out, “Are you fucking shitting me?”

Startled, Shoto blinked back at him. “What’s the matter?”

The boy growled and pushed past him into the office, his body shaking with anger. He couldn’t believe this shit. Trailing after them like some invisible dog while they flirted was bad enough, but he absolutely refused to watch them pine for one another. Absolutely refused.

Shoto followed him inside with a cautious look. “Is there an issue, Bakugo?”

Bakugo rounded on him. “Why don’t you tell me, Icyhot? Is there a fucking issue? ‘Cause looks to me like something’s on your mind.”

The boy’s combative attitude made Shoto’s expression harden. “I caution you against taking that tone with me, Bakugo. I’ve let your unprofessional language slide thus far but I am still your boss.”

Bakugo barked out an incredulous laugh. “You wanna talk unprofessional? How about you tell me about the agency’s policy on workplace romances then? Something tells me you might know a thing or two about being attracted to coworkers.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Shoto’s composure dropped and he sucked in a sharp breath. 

Bakugo smirked and crossed his arms.

Gotcha.

The hero quickly turned and shut the door behind him, leaving them both in the quiet privacy of their office. His hand was still on the handle as he turned his head slightly. “...What are you talking about?”

“I’m talkin' about your shit poker face, Half-and-Half. I know all about your little crush.”

Shoto slowly turned and looked very much like a deer caught in the headlights, which pleased Bakugo immensely. For once, he was the one who had the upper hand.

He took a step forward, lips curling with disdain. “You really thought I wouldn’t notice? I’m not fucking stupid.”

Shoto swallowed, fists clenched at his sides. “Bakugo, I swear it’s not what you think-”

“It’s exactly what I think. You wouldn’t have that dumb guilty look on your face if it wasn’t.” 

Unable to come up with a response that wouldn’t immediately be shot down, Shoto reverted to chagrined silence. Bakugo shook his head with a disgusted huff as he recalled the sight of him and Deku all up in each other’s space the whole way up to their offices. 

“You know- I wouldn’t even give a shit how you two felt about each other if you weren’t so fucking obvious about it. It pisses me off. I didn’t come here to see that shit every goddamn day.”

Shoto looked down at his feet, sighing in what could only be total defeat. “You’re right... I’m sorry.” He closed his eyes and covered his face. “I didn’t mean for it to get to this point, believe me, it just- happened. I’ve tried my hardest to be discreet and haven’t uttered a word about it to anyone, but I- I just don’t know how to act anymore. I'm going out of my mind.”

An ounce of sympathy for the distressed hero in front of him lifted itself up above his anger and Bakugo scowled in irritation. Of course he knew how that felt, Deku was obviously irresistible, but in no lifetime or world would he ever be ready to bond over it with Shoto. Deku has clearly made his choice and Bakugo would just have to learn to live with that.

“Whatever,” he grunted flatly and turned away. “Do what you gotta do, just go make out someplace I don’t have to fucking see.”

“You won’t have to worry about that,” Shoto murmured behind him. “She doesn’t know.”

Bakugo froze and everything came to a grinding, screeching halt. 

“...What?”

Shoto sighed. “She doesn’t know. I don’t know how to tell her or if I even should.”

Bakugo slowly turned back to him. “...Who the fuck are you talking about?”

The hero finally noticed the bewildered look on his face and eyed him warily, realizing they might not have been on the same page at all. “Who- who are you talking about?”

“Fuckin’ Deku, who else?”

Shoto stared at him for a few seconds, as though his mind needed to process what he heard. As soon as it hit him, the hero’s face twisted incredulously. “Midoriya?? You- You thought I- But how- I could never, he's my-” He stopped and breathed out in confusion. “...What on earth made you think such a thing, Bakugo?”

The boy threw his hands up. “Oh, well where do I fucking begin?” He turned and picked up Shoto’s picture frame and raised it accusingly. “Maybe it’s the cutesy ass photos you have of each other all over the place? Or how he always talks about you like you hung the fucking moon? Just now he was practically all over you and kissing your ass the whole way up here! You expect me to believe all that shit means nothing?”

“It doesn’t, I swear. Ugh,” Shoto rubbed his reddening face, flustered. “This is so embarrassing.”

“Yeah, maybe you just ‘need some time’ huh?” Bakugo sneered. “Time to what, be ready to bone?”

“No! God-”

“You know- forget it, I’ll ask Deku instead since you won’t give me a straight fucking answer.”

Bakugo reached for the door and was suddenly seized by a searing grip on his wrist. His aching muscles screamed in protest as Shoto loomed over him with a dark, furious look. “You will not drag him into this.”

The boy stubbornly glowered up at him and tried not to wince in pain. Normally nothing would have stopped him from escalating things but his arms wouldn’t be able to handle another fight and Shoto was definitely not messing around right now. He needed to remember that this was his boss and he had to be careful about challenging him.

“Heroes are supposed to be honest...” Bakugo bit out. “So tell the fucking truth.”

Their eyes were locked in a glaring match for a few more moments when eventually Shoto’s angry expression fell and his shoulders sank. His fingers loosened around Bakugo’s wrist and the boy gingerly pulled his arm back. Looking incredibly exhausted all of a sudden, Shoto walked away from him and leaned over his windowsill.

Bakugo rubbed his wrists and watched the hero with an annoyed scowl as the seconds ticked by between them. With his eyes fixed outside, Shoto eventually spoke, “I will only tell you this because I don’t want you to spend the duration of your work-study here with the wrong idea about us. Once I do, you will not speak about it again.” The hero waited for Bakugo to mutter ‘fine’ and then sighed quietly. 

“...I love Midoriya like a brother. He knows who I am and how I work without needing me to tell him. When I struggle he tries to help me, because that’s just what he does -- he helps people. The photos, the compliments, they’re all…” he hesitated, shoulders hunching a little. “They’re just his attempts to make me feel better. That’s it.”

The boy shifted, eyes narrowing. “What the fuck do you need to feel better about?”

“...Myself.” 

Shoto’s quiet admission shut Bakugo right up. 

In the following silence, Shoto turned his head slightly towards the boy behind him. The look on his face was painfully ashamed. “...You’ve already seen what I do to avoid the press. Midoriya’s seen it too. He knows I don’t like to be on camera and it’s because- because I…” Shoto lowered his head, hair shrouding his face as he clenched his fists against the sill. “Because I’m branded by this disgusting mark on my face.”

Just like that, Bakugo realized he’d made a miscalculation about the same issue all over again. He closed his eyes and tightened his crossed arms, kicking himself for not knowing better.

“I didn’t worry about it much when this whole hero thing was still new but… but I just kept climbing the ranks and getting more and more attention. When I hit the top, it was supposed to be this big accomplishment but all I could think about was how people everywhere would now see me with- with this monstrous fucking scar. All I want is to forget it’s there but I’m reminded of it every second of every day."

Shoto took a deep shaky breath and turned around, his face pinched. “That photo in your hand and the rest you’ve seen were put there by Midoriya. He hopes that if he has us taking enough pictures together, that I’d eventually get comfortable with cameras pointing at me and having my face plastered everywhere. So, I humour the photos and compliments because I don’t want to let him down... I say ‘I need time’ for it all to work…”

His lips turned up into a lifeless smile. “...But I’ll never stop hating the sight of it. Everything he does to help… it’s all pointless. There's the truth.”

Bakugo glanced down at the photo of the heroes posing together, Deku grinning ear to ear and Shoto’e smile looking so much like the one he wore now, and felt the reality of his mistake fully hit him. If he could rank first in anything it’d be #1 Douchebag for constantly jumping to conclusions about the duo-toned hero. Deku was the one to tell him about Shoto’s struggles, so of course he would be trying to help his best friend in any way he could. 

Bakugo had once again read everything completely wrong -- and all because of some dumb scar.

It was all so stupid. Bakugo didn’t know what caused it but he never believed the red mark was anything to make a big deal out of or that it detracted from Shoto’s image in the slightest. People everywhere wore Shoto costumes and proudly sported his distinctive scar because they thought he was a hero worth celebrating -- but none of that mattered in the end because Shoto didn’t see it that way. 

Bakugo might have thought a small scar in the throes of success was a dumb thing to get bent out of shape over, but it was that exact lack of understanding that kept childishly misjudging Shoto as his enemy. His feelings of entitlement for Deku’s attention ended up skewing the hero’s acts of kindness into acts of a jealous fantasy -- so Bakugo selfishly backed his best friend into a corner and pressured his deepest insecurities out of him with an accusing finger.

Deku would have been appalled with him. Bakugo was appalled with himself. He had a secret of his own kept tightly under wraps and would have hated having it so ignorantly forced out of him. He was an asshole.

With a guilty scowl, Bakugo stepped forward and kept his eyes averted as he offered back the picture frame.

“...For your sake, I hope it does work,” he said gruffly. “Those peace signs Deku keeps throwin’ up are fuckin’ atrocious.”

Shoto blinked and let out a surprised little chuckle. He took the photo and looked down at it with a pensive smile. “He’s the most hopeful person I know... He’d take a bullet for me and I’d do the same for him in a heartbeat if it meant the world could keep its symbol of peace even a second longer. I’ll always be grateful to have him as my friend.” He glanced up and gave Bakugo a withering look. “...and nothing more.”

The boy had the decency to look sheepish as he shoved his fists into his pockets and grumbled, “Yeah, alright, I get it...”

“I trust you’re now satisfied and will put your ridiculous notions about my affections to rest.” 

Shoto walked past him with an air of stern finality and Bakugo fell into silence, reconsidering the situation. So, Shoto claimed not to have any feelings for Deku beyond friendship but it still didn’t explain the look Bakugo had seen on his face just minutes ago outside his office. It had been pointed right in the direction where Deku had stood with all the suits gathered in the background so who else-

Wait.

Suits…

“She doesn’t know.”

Awkward silences…

Clumsy crushes...

Walking past a distinctive pair of red-bottom heels in the crowd-

“No fucking way...” Bakugo said suddenly as he realized who Shoto had actually been looking at. “You’re into that perky Ponytail chick! Holy shit, that’s who you were talking about??”

The hero froze instantly in the middle of putting his frame back, turning almost as red as his scar as he stammered out, “I- I wasn’t- That’s not- She’s just-” He gave up and huffed in frustration. “It’s none of your business, alright? You are extremely out of line.”

Shoto tensely rounded his desk and Bakugo laughed, marvelling at his dumb luck. His miscalculation accidentally dredged up a secret crush that had actually been hidden damn well all along. “Dude, holy shit, it makes so much sense! I totally see it now, you always clam up like an idiot around her!”

The hero gripped the back of his chair and ran a self-conscious hand through the white half of his damp hair. “Seriously, Bakugo, just- drop it. It doesn’t matter anyway, she’d never...” 

Bakugo raised his brows as the hero trailed off. “Never what? Be into you? Are you shitting me? She totally has the hots for you, dude.”

Shoto shot him a mirthless look. “Forgive me if I can’t exactly trust your perception after having just accused me of crushing on Midoriya, of all people.”

Yeah okay, he deserved that. Time to switch gears.

“Alright fine, don’t believe me. Not my ass on the line.” Bakugo sauntered back to his own desk and continued airily, “Just saying, she makes any excuse to come down here and acts just as idiotic around you so, figured you had a shot.” He fell into his chair with a sigh and added for extra effect, “But you know, your loss.”

Bakugo made a show of getting back to his research as Shoto frowned and fiddled with his belt. 

“...You think I have a shot?” the hero asked tentatively after a few moments.

Bakugo gave a casual shrug and Shoto bit his lip. The boy tried to keep the smug look off his face as the hero seemed to consider it. He then gave a small shake of his head and fixed Bakugo with a serious look. “Everything we discussed stays in this room, is that understood?”

“Yeah, whatever.”

Shoto nodded and sat down at his desk. As they finished up their work for the day, Bakugo couldn’t help but be grateful that Shoto was the forgiving kind of boss who wouldn’t fire him for his unacceptable display of misconduct just now. Not many heroes would be as patient with such disrespectful outbursts while juggling their own problems, so he owed Shoto some damn good behaviour from now on.

In fact, he owed him more than that for taking himself off the board completely with his crush on Ponytail -- because that meant Deku was now all his.

 

ooo

 

“It’s your power! Yours and no one else!”

Bakugo sat raptly at his desk as he watched his favourite part of Shoto and Deku’s old Sports Festival match in the darkness of his bedroom. 

After fighting Shoto and hearing Deku talk about the injuries he’d sustained from their own match, a part of him was drawn to seeing it again that evening. He’s obviously watched it a hundred times before, and so have millions of other people judging by the view count, but that was only when he’d been a mere fan. Now he was an intern who knew the heroes and the extent of their friendship personally.

From their guarded expressions at the start of the match, however, their friendship had yet to form. As they both walked onto the platform, appearing much younger and less filled out than they did today, Shoto regarded Deku with an unnervingly cold look on his face. Bakugo knew that look all too well -- he often wore the same contemptful expression when thinking someone was no more than a bug that needed to be crushed. He just never expected to see such an expression on Shoto. 

No one watching could have guessed the two kids tensely facing each other in this match would grow up to be the best friends he’d seen playfully joking together that afternoon.

As the announcer’s voice rang out to signal the start of the match, Bakugo closely watched a young Deku release a gargantuan blast of air with a mere flick of his finger, only to be blocked by a huge ice wall. Both heroes were way less refined in their fighting skills, and Deku especially seemed to be struggling with his power.

Bakugo leaned forward and narrowed his eyes as he watched the young green-haired hero grip his injured hand in pain, much like Bakugo had during his own match. He absently rubbed at his arms, which were now recovering in his old black compression sleeves, and a thought came to him -- he won his own year’s Sports Festival tournament, but how would he have fared against Shoto and Deku if they’d been in the same class? 

Deku’s blows were imprecise and haphazard, a far cry from his combat skills now, while Shoto’s movements were much slower than they’d been during his fight with Bakugo -- neither had mastered the use of their quirks yet, but around their age, Bakugo still managed to do a damn good job fighting Shoto as an experienced pro-hero. He was confident he’d have beaten him as a teenager, but Deku was a complete wild card.

Every flick of Deku’s finger sent an extraordinary razor-sharp blow shattering through Shoto’s ice, but the hero wasn’t kidding when he said he’d broken every single finger in order to pull it off -- and Bakugo could only ask himself why. Having watched plenty of Deku’s fights as an emerging hero, Bakugo always wondered how years of growing up with a quirk could result in such a complete lack of control. It was unusual to be so unpracticed that late in the game but he always chalked it up to the sheer awesome power of Deku’s quirk.

Even so, Deku never let it slow him down. Despite broken fingers and an injured arm, the young hero still landed several blows on Shoto all while pushing and demanding for more. Shoto had been holding back the whole match but Deku wasn’t having it. Bakugo wouldn’t have either, and that’s why this part was his favourite. The young hero’s passion made itself clear in this moment as he yelled loud enough for the cameras to pick up on his desperate cry.

“It’s your power! Yours and no one else!”

It was almost like Deku, at that moment, ignited something that lay dormant in Shoto for years. His mismatched eyes had slowly come to life and his left side erupted with blazing hot flames-

His door slammed open and Bakugo immediately hit the spacebar and minimized the screen, gritting his teeth in irritation as his mother sauntered in with a bowl of chips like she fucking owned the place. 

“Hey twerp, I brought you some snacks,” she said through a mouthful of chips.

The boy scowled. “I didn’t ask for shit.”

Mitsuki gave a careless roll of her eyes and put the bowl on his desk, “I don’t give a rat’s ass, you got it so say thank you and shut up. Honestly, Katsuki, you have absolutely no manners.” She looked around the darkness of his room with a disapproving frown. “Sitting like this is shit for your eyes, I’m turning the light on.”

Bakugo nearly burst a blood vessel at her tone-deaf criticism as she flipped the switch and filled his room with the glaring light from overhead. He was seconds away from screaming for the umpteenth fucking time about her inability to knock or leave his room the way he goddamn liked it when she forced his head down and nosily peeked at his screen. 

“Aww, look at that, is my little baby studying?” she crooned sweetly, ignoring his rising growls. It seemed that when he’d minimized his screen, it revealed some old villain reports he’d been drafting for Shoto in the background.

Bakugo yanked himself out from underneath her and snapped, “Fuck off you old hag! I’m not your little anything!”

Mitsuki laughed as the boy angrily fixed his hair. “You can act as tough and as grown-up as you want but you’ll always be my little shit.”

She forced a kiss on his cheek and he swiped it off with a furious snarl. It’s like she had to make a point out of harassing and mocking him every day when he just wanted to be left the hell alone. He already missed the privacy of his dorm back at UA and having an actual fucking lock on his door.

Having enough of bugging him for the night, Mitsuki shot him a cheeky smirk and started to turn away but paused at the sight of glinting glasses on his desk. Bakugo ground his teeth, knowing full well what was coming as she picked them up and wiped a light coating of dust off the lenses.

“Why haven’t I been seeing you wear these?”

“‘Cause they look stupid and I don’t want to,” he bit out, ignoring her as she put her fists on her hips and got into her dumb yelling pose.

“It wasn’t a fucking suggestion you little shit, the doctor said you have to wear them or you’ll-”

“I don’t give a shit what the dumbass doctor said, I’m not fucking wearing them so piss off!”

Mitsuki’s face twisted to match his own raging expression and she knocked him hard on the head while snapping back, “Well don’t come crying to me when that damn stubbornness comes back to bite you in the ass, you shitty little ingrate!"

She marched off with a huff and Bakugo shouted after her, “Stay out of my fucking room!” When the door slammed shut, he settled back in his seat and rubbed the spot on his head where she’d punched him, grumbling, “Annoying bitch.”

His eyes fell on the glasses where his mom angrily tossed them on his desk and he clenched his fists. There it was. His dirty little secret. The source of his aversion to being “the math guy”. The reason why he couldn’t take his final shot at Shoto and blew his sparring match. The weakness he could never reveal to the world for as long as he lived.

Bakugo picked them up, tossed them into his drawer, and slammed it closed with a stubborn scowl. He didn’t want to think about them let alone fucking see them. He just wanted to finish watching this goddamn match. 

He turned the lights back off with a mental “fuck you” sent his mother’s way and pulled up the video again. He settled back into his seat and munched on the chips as he watched the crowd gasp collectively at the sight of Shoto’s burst of flames. He remembered how excited he’d gotten the first time he’d seen it and even more so when he saw how Deku’s determined expression didn’t waver one bit. Both his hands were a mangled mess and his left arm fell uselessly at his side, and yet he didn’t back down. Instead, Deku grinned -- and Shoto grinned back.

Bakugo realized this must’ve been the moment that built the first block of their friendship. Deku had pushed Shoto to fight with his best even if it put his own victory in jeopardy, because a hard-earned win was the only win that mattered. In drawing out the full potential of Shoto’s power, he’d set the young hero free. 

He watched Deku shoot forward as the flaming young hero surrounded the arena with his large icy boulders. The match was about to end. Both boys stretched their arms out for the final blow and several large slabs of rock suddenly rose between them to intercept the devastating blast of power that followed.

This was the part Bakugo hated. The part where the smoke cleared and Deku collapsed in tatters out of bounds. Shoto stood in the arena looking dazed as the crowd cheered and the announcer declared him first place in that year’s Sports Festival. 

Bakugo shook his head at the pronouncement and closed the video. Another damn lucky win for Shoto. Deku totally would’ve owned that match if his bones hadn’t been broken and he had proper reign of his power -- but maybe getting through to Shoto had been more important to him at the time.

Bakugo slumped back into his chair and huffed lightly, knowing that thought would’ve made him immeasurably bitter a day ago. Now that he had some perspective, he realized Deku’s friendship had been absolutely vital to Shoto’s growth as a hero. All Deku wanted was to help people, and in setting himself up for failure, he’d done exactly that for his friend.

Deku lost and somehow still turned that loss into something meaningful. As someone who’d always placed value in victory exclusively, that astonished Bakugo. Maybe that’s what made Deku so special -- no matter what he did, he always made it count. There was so much Bakugo had yet to learn, and he wanted to learn it all from Deku.

He sighed and switched his computer off, grabbed his bowl of chilli chips, and hopped onto his bed. Normally he liked to head to sleep by eight but his exhaustion from his own match with Shoto had him accidentally knocked out in bed as soon as he got home, which meant now his stupid ass wouldn’t be getting any sleep for a few more hours. He wasn’t happy with having a wrench thrown into his strict sleeping schedule, especially on a weekday, but figured he’d throw on some shitty office shitcom and hope it put him to sleep eventually.

Bakugo propped his pillow up and grabbed the remote before burying himself under his thick grey blanket. The TV lit up his dark bedroom as he settled in with the chip bowl on his chest and started where he’d left off the previous night. He felt his arms pang dully beneath his compression sleeves and rubbed them absently, remembering the feeling of Deku’s hands on him as he spoke his encouraging words. With a sigh, he glanced up at the hero’s poster beside his bed and smiled.

I’ll impress you one day, Deku. I’ll make you goddamn proud.