Izumi kept her breathing under control even as a part of her wanted to heave for breath.
She hated her partner. It was one of the week-long projects where class 1-A had mixed with 1-B and paired up with each other. She had been assigned Monoma. The boy was a good dancer, but he clashed against her in every way that mattered. He was snide, controlling, demanding, spoiled and refused to listen.
She loathed dancing with him when he made her feel uncomfortable. Like her body wasn't hers anymore, but a tool to be used and discarded by him. Like she had no say in where she went, or how she got there, but was expected to fall in line like a good little soldier.
So, she had resorted to shadow dancing, working herself into a sweat, into exhaustion as she ran through the forms of various dances. She had started with the waltz, into the tango, the foxtrot, a samba, and a cha-cha.
Nothing had helped her to vent however, so she found herself shifting the music to reflect her mood. Fast, throbbing angry beats filled air as she allowed her steps to change. She found herself performing opening steps to the Paso Doblé.
The room was deserted, and her eyes were closed as she worked herself over.
She held the image of Katsuki in her mind as the shadow dance progressed. Izuku understood her best, could match her well, but when she was angry like this…when she wanted to run herself into the ground, she always had thought of Katsuki over her twin.
Her twin would talk her around, knowing her well enough to manage it in most cases, but Katsuki would lead her across the floor and let her work it off. Would meet her, rise up and burn beside her. Match her move for move. He understood the physical need to burn out the anger, to do something with the feelings she was swamped in whenever it was negative emotion driving her to dance.
Dancing with Monoma was painful. He drained every positive experience she could have had learning to dance with a new partner away. Tried to smother her spirit, shove her under him, force her to follow his lead.
Her lips pulled back into a snarl. She was not an ember to be smothered. She was a goddamn wildfire and this feeble splash of water would have no effect on her. She refused to allow him.
Izumi arched her back, eyes still closed even as the door opened quietly.
Shouto owed Izuku Midoriya a debt he wasn't sure how to repay.
The boy had talked sense into him, snapped him out of his funk, and reawakened the love he held for dance.
(It was fun wasn't it?! When you were small and your mother taught you her passion? It's your dance, what does it matter where you learned the steps?! Your mother taught you to share her joy, why can't you remember her smile when you step onto the floor instead of your father's shadow?)
It was as if he had been standing in the dark and Midoriya's words had been the sun. He had been living in his father's shadow, and it was time to let that go.
Midoriya had reminded him of learning the steps to the waltz on his mother's feet, her smile small but warm as she looked down at him. Reminded him of learning to lead with his mother following. The joy in mutual trust as one stepped to song.
The memories that had gotten overshadowed by the image of his father forcing him to learn and dance, and move. The memories of joy and love, of awe and laughter that had been drowned in pain, resentment, anger and bitter silence.
He had forgotten what had awakened his love of dance, who had guided his steps into this world.
Shouto had the pure talent to make it pretty damn far, but his passion had died.
He had lost what made dance feel alive.
Until Izuku Midoriya had stormed into his life, furious with his lack of feeling. Dug his hands into Shouto's past, and yanked viciously at the dead and dying bits.
Shouto could admit Midoriya had been right about him. One couldn't dance without wanting it. Without feeling the beat of the music, the rush of sound flowing into a body, and that body's response to it.
So when he heard the faint beat of music, and saw through the window that it was Izuku's twin he was curious.
He had danced with her before, earlier in the year. They had complimented each other, but she had looked up at him, green eyes sad and disappointed when she was asked by Aizawa if she would pair with him.
"No," Shouto remembered her saying "I won't pair with him as he is."
She had turned to him then, her eyes narrowed "You don't connect to music at all. There's no passion, no life in your movements no matter how perfectly executed the form. I dance because I love it, because I feel every pulse of the notes in my heart. You…you dance because you were made to do it. And I cannot dance with someone like that."
It had struck him, Shouto remembered. Had been a shock to his system to be so boldly confronted as Izumi Midoriya had done. Partly because she had seen through him in one dance, had noticed the issue most would miss, and then turned away from him.
Shouto was used to people scrambling to partner with him for his last name. Because he was Shouto Todoroki, the son of the second best World-Class dancer and his technique reflected that.
For someone from an unknown family to look at him, see into his issue and confront him with it, when most would remain silent in fear of his name alone…
Well. She made an impression.
Watching her through the window now, with new eyes, his heart once again open to the song of dance, Shouto can see her pain. Her anger. She danced now to vent her feelings. They clogged the air, heavy and oppressive. He had seen her with Monoma, and he had seen the way they clashed.
She was too much for the boy.
Monoma was used to being the most dominate person in the room, spoiled and used to others caving to his wishes. Was used to having his partner fall in line, used to his partner folding to his power, his style of dance. When he ran into someone who refused to do that...
Who expected to be treated well, as an equal, who was an alpha stronger than himself, who would not take his demands as words of law…someone who had their own style, who was used to a partner whom she could share a give and take in any dance...
He tried to force the issues. Tried to overwhelm and repress her, shove her into his mold and make her bend to his will.
Shouto watched the evidence of her rage over this as she danced from one end of the room to the other. Her eyes were closed, but despite this, Shoto can tell through her every movement, her every twitch that she is not happy.
A flash of pain, of anger. A spark in her soul, flaring into a bonfire. Wild, raging. Trying to burn enough to calm, but lacking the kindling that would allow her to spread, and the partner that would curb her before she burned everything to ash.
The partner that could balance her.
Shouto's eyes narrowed sharply.
He had sensed it, back when he partnered with her.
She had complimented him more than any other he had danced with. It was the other part of why her refusal to dance with him had struck him so hard. She had shaken his apathetic views as he held her in his arms, her dance calling to the little boy in him, that remembered the joy he used to have.
And he remembered her words: 'I won't pair with him as he is'.
He had changed since that time. He could feel the pulse of the music now. And she was hurting and angry and searching for a partner in her dance. He could see it in her movements through the window.
Shouto pushed the door open, sweeping his hair back out of his eyes as he stalked across the floor.
She wanted emotions? Wanted a fire that could dance at her side, while also being able to stop her from burning out?
Shouto had been told for ages he was like fire and ice perfectly balanced, each side coming to life as needed. He reached forward, clasping her raised hand even as his opposite slipped around her back.
When she opened her eyes, lifting darkened green to meet mismatched grey and blue, he met her stare head on. She spun away from his hands, circling his form as he carefully stepped to keep her in his line of sight.
The Paso Doblé was sometimes described as a dance representing the matador and his cape or shadow. A dance based around bullfighting, it was fast-paced and active.
In this case, Izumi was the matador, and Shouto had taken the role of shadow. She was testing him, dancing across the floor and prodding to see if he could keep up, if he could match her fire.
Shouto refused to fail her this time.
They would be good together, he could feel it. If he could just show her he had changed, that he had found the passion she had said he lacked.
Izumi kept her narrowed eyes open as she prowled the dancefloor. It was a true test to see how the male- the typical lead- responded to a female taking the reins. As the music continued, and Todoroki met her every challenge, she found her heart pulsing with the need to truly test him. He had been so…dull, before, when she had been chosen to pair with him. His heart had been absent in his dance, and held in his arms as she was, following his lead, she couldn't help but notice it. How cold and dead it had felt to her, who was so used to flames licking up her spine when music spoke to her.
She would never have been able to dance with someone like that, no matter how perfect his technique and she had told him. If he could not feel the music itself, could not respond to that, how was he to respond to her? To his partner's feelings and thoughts, the give and take all truly great partners shared?
To see him now, months later, staring at her with burning eyes, she can suddenly see the fire that had melted his ice. He is pouring a part of himself into his movements that had been absent before and she can sense it.
But she will not be swayed by a momentary change.
He would have to match her before she would respond properly. Show her he could keep up, that he really was opening himself to his music, and by extension his partner. That he could truly read her feelings, read her movements, and keep up.
She was a matador, fighting the bull that was her rage and pain, and he would have to be her cape.
How he would respond to her here, how well he could read her to be the 'cape' would see her response.
He was reading her beautifully. Izumi had to admit it, as she dipped backward, her leg rising into a high kick, his hand a brand at her back.
As the music began to slow, Izumi found he had helped her. Her rage and pain and been pulled from her core, vented and used until it was not but a phantom ache. Her breathing was heavy, sweat dripping down her brow, but as she lifted her eyes to meet his, she felt her lips pull into a smile.
She slips from his hold, flipping though her playlist of music, until she settles on a slower beat, and then she turns to him.
He stares at her for a moment, before he lifts his hands into a shadow hold, waiting for her to step into it. She steps forward to meet him, clasping his hand, and her opposite hand extended out. It is a slow, deliberate motion to the music itself when she folds her extended arm to rest on his. She'd always likened it to a bird for some reason, the movement the partner made to rest their hand on the lead's arm.
Her eyes are closed and her body arched, head turned to the left, neck extended.
His hold is steady.
The music lifts, and he sweeps her off her feet.
The two dancers are unaware of their audience. The teachers of UA practiced pairing their students often. They wanted their students to succeed, and flourish. There was no desire for partnerships like the one Izumi had found herself in with Monoma. Partnerships that clashed, hurt and failed to synch in every way while showing no signs of improvement. Partnerships that degraded the longer they went on.
They had seen what pairing with him had done to Izumi. The way Monama had been unable to work with a partner who was used to an equal partnership, fighting every step of the way, and unable to respond to Izumi the way she needed. So the teachers had been prepared to change the pairs around a little, give Izumi and Monoma another partner and a chance to shine.
It was for that reason that Aizawa, Toshinori, and Nezu had followed Izumi towards one of the practice rooms, watching on one of the balconies and letting her work her feelings into a manageable level before they spoke with her.
And because of this, they were there when Shouto Todoroki stepped into the room, witnessed the two of them as they danced.
Aizawa leaned forward, his eyes narrowed on the pair of them. He had known they would complement each other months ago. It was why he had tried to pair them, though he had understood when Izumi had refused.
That she had recognized the problem he had at all, and then confronted him with it, was only another sign they would suit if Todoroki could find his passion.
By the time the Paso Doblé ends, Aizawa is grinning, sharp and gleeful. When the next song starts, and she allows Todoroki to lead her, testing her ability to sync with him now that he had shown he could match her…
They click in a way that hints at a possibility for a Perfect Pair. It would take more testing, and various dances to confirm it, but Aizawa is almost sure of his belief. When he looks at the other teachers, he can see he is not alone in this belief.
When the song ends, Todoroki is crouched, one leg extended back, and the other in a 'kneeling' position allowing Izumi to arch over his leg. Her body faced away from his, her left arm extended out to trail over the floor and her right hooked over Todoroki's hip. One leg is extended up and out while the other is stretched forward, perpendicular to Todoroki's knee, the ball of her foot on the ground.
They're both breathing hard, but Izumi is smiling widely. Todoroki's smile is softer, more subtle but present, and his eyes gleam with pleasure.
Izumi rises upwards, so she is sitting on his knee for a moment before she pushes herself to her feet. Todoroki helps her rise, and then stands himself.
"Now that," Izumi grins "is how you dance. That was a dance with feeling."
Todoroki smirks "I owe you and your brother for it. You started the process by confronting me, but your brother finished it with a second confrontation." He paused for a moment before offering a complement he very rarely gave, and almost never meant:
"It was a pleasure to dance with you."
Izumi's face lit up in response as she answered "And with you. We should do it again sometime."
It was at this moment that Aizawa broke in, having discussed it with the other teachers "I believe that can be arranged."
They both turned, lifting their heads as they watched the collection of teachers walk down the stairs leading towards the observation balconies.
"We were planning to change your partner Izumi, that display earlier only helped us choose a new partner quicker then we otherwise may have. You will have the opportunity to make this a permanent pair should the two of you suit, and find it agreeable."
A shared look, a moment of communication and the two students nodded their agreement.