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Hopeless Ramen-tic

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“Fuck, it’s cold,” Katsuki said into the thick coil of olive green scarf wrapped around his mouth and nose, as he ducked past the clear, plastic, hanging door-flap that tented the six-stool ramen stall for the winter.

Instant warmth and savory aroma coddled Katsuki’s senses as he took up the far stool beside the wall. The less possibility for people to sit beside him, the better. Frowning as he noticed no one was around to greet him, Katsuki unraveled his scarf and unzipped his coat, taking a moment to heat his palms and rub them over his icy ears. He needed a hat.

Oiy! Where you at, shorty? I’m a payin’ customer here!”

“You don’t have to be if you don’t want to,” came a familiar, disparaging voice from the stairs at the opposite end of the counter. Clunking footsteps descended from what Katsuki had long ago figured was their apartment.

The apartment of Midoriya Izuku and his mother, the shop owner of this tiny, homey establishment.

Katsuki’s mouth twisted into a scowl as he his heart that now-familiar little flip as Midoriya rounded the corner with a worried bow to his brows and a soft, full lips downturned.

“Waddaya mean?” Katsuki said, taking in the ruffled curls, the apple cheeks rosy with the heat of simmering pots behind the counter, the strong, knife-scarred hands of a true cook, as Midoriya tossed the apron over his neck and tied the strings at the small of his back. “Like I’ve been coming here long enough that I don’t haveta pay no more?”

Ha.” Midoriya said without humor as he folded his forearms across the countertop and eyed Katsuki with drab exhaustion. The kitchen and back area was elevated from the customer entrance and seating, so Midoriya had to lean forward quite a bit to rest upon the counter, his ass jutting back in a way that was entirely fucking distracting. “I mean, you could just not come here anymore. But then I suppose you’d have no one left to bully.”

Katsuki scoffed a laugh.

“Maybe if you just did your job right for once –“

“You’ve been coming here for almost three years!” Midoriya said, throwing his hands up in exasperation as he turned and toward his cooking utensils. “You can choose to go somewhere else, you know!”

“I remember when you were at least polite to me,” Katsuki said with a tsch as he propped up his elbow and rested his cheek upon his palm.

“My patience for you is long gone,” Midorya said, dropping noodles in boiling water. His voice was muffled as he faced his prep station, leaving Katsuki distracted. The width of Midoriya’s neck and shoulders were thicker, more prominent than when Katsuki had started visiting here on his way home between UA and the train. “The usual?”

The usual was extra pork, extra eggs. Lots of protein after another exhaustive day as a third year student.

“Why the hell you even gotta ask? You goin’ senile or just stupid?”

“Sometimes I dream that you choke on an egg.”

“Fuck off,” Katsuki said, whipping out his phone. “I’m gonna give you the worst review on Yelp.”

“You know what? It would be worth it if it meant you never coming back.”

Katsuki rolled his eyes and set his phone aside, biting back a side as he cocked his head and eyed up the tight curve of Midoriya’s ass. After three years of coming here, he still didn’t know what Midoriya did, other than work here for his mother at night shift. What high school he went to, what he liked.

How someone so short and compact could so unbelievably thick and fit and hard. Katsuki had seen him in the summers. Those t-shirts he wore strained at his biceps. It was unholy. Katsuki almost believed in praying for his own soul. Repent over his sordid daydreams.

Because it wasn’t just that body. Never had been.

What Katsuki had first seen when he’d rushed up to the stall, looking for cover from a summer storm, had been Midoriya’s face. Even now, having seen Midoriya some hundred or more times over the past years, Katsuki always felt that fidget and flutter and flop of his stomach and heart upon taking those last few steps into the ramen shop, just knowing he was going to see that face again.

“I’m just here for the food,” Katsuki said as he watched Midoriya drop the cooked noodles into a massive bowl of broth and set about garnishing with quick, deft practice. “The shitty service is an unfortunate addition.”

“I don’t get paid enough for this,” Midoriya said without inflection as he turned and placed the bowl neatly atop the counter. “Enjoy, sir.”

Katsuki snorted a derisive laugh and cracked open his chopsticks, unable to meet Midoriya’s large, expressive eyes, so instead dug into his steaming, aromatic bowl of unbelievable noodles and broth and pork. They really were the best. For a hole in the wall run exclusively by two people. He was sure Midoriya didn’t get paid at all for this.

Eating in silence, Katsuki followed Midoriya’s movements as he flicked on the radio to some relaxed, mellow crooning, and set about cleaning up his work spaces. He was, if nothing else, efficient. Efficient and full of anxiety. Katsuki had never been able to resist rattling his cage, just a little. Or, a lot.

“You closing up early?” Katsuki said, noting the way Midoriya turned off the boil of the water and closed the containers of vegetables and garnish. “Lazy as fuck.”

“Closing early this evening,” Midoriya said, not even rising to the bait.

“For what?”

“Cram school.”

Katsuki frowned and considered a huge slice of pork between his chopsticks.

“What for?”

“What do you mean, what for?” Midoriya asked with an exasperated laugh as he faced Katsuki and dropped his palms to the countertop, his shoulders squared. “Some of us need an education to make a living. We don’t get go around blowing up buildings and getting lauded a hero for it.”

“I do more for the work than your noodle-pushin’ ass.”

“And one day I’ll be doing more for the world than you,” Midoriya said, the green of his eyes gone to sharp, shimmering gem-cuts. “And then won’t you feel awfully silly and embarrassed for that.”

You make ramen, I save people,” Katsuki said with a wide, merciless grin. “Only one person in this room gonna feel embarrassed with their life.”

Midoriya’s jaw worked, his teeth clenching as he glowered down at Katsuki’s cocky expression.

“Choke on your egg.”

 

Sticking his head through the plastic door-flap that held in heat of the shop, Katsuki narrowed his eyes at the figure hunched at the bottom step that led to the apartment. A large text book spread open across Midoriya’s lap, a pen tucked behind one ear and nearly lost in curls, and a mechanical pencil in one hand, Midoriya scribbled notes into a notebook, murmuring to himself as he went.

Katsuki’s gaze trailed over the sprinkle of amber freckles across his nose and cheekbones, the way his pink lips barely shifted as he spoke to himself. Lingered on those surprisingly large hands as they took notes, sharp and succinct as when they chopped and cooked.

The welcoming, gold light of the small shop gilded the curves and edges of Midoriya’s profile. Katsuki’s hands tightened to fists in his pockets.

“You gettin’ paid to study now?” Katsuki said as he watched Midoriya flinch, jerk up with wide, hazy eyes, then snap into action to stand and slam his book shut. “Auntie would be disappointed in your lax work habits.”

“You barely know my mom.”

“I know enough about her to know she’s a harder worker than you.”

“You’re full of it,” Midoriya said, leaving his books and writing utensils on the bottom step as he rounded the counter. “You’re late.”

“You keepin’ track, loser?” Katsuki said, even as his hands shook a little from the thought that Midoriya might be thinking of him as much as Katsuki did him.

“It doesn’t take half a brain to know you’ve got a schedule,” Midoriya said with half a smile as he turned away and ducked his head to don his apron. “Monday, Wednesday, Friday, usually eleven minutes past seven, because that’s how long it takes you to walk down the hill from UA. You’re weirdly methodical for someone who seems kind of, you know –“

Midoriya popped both of his hands open like two mini explosions and mouthed, Boom!

He was so fucking cute. Katsuki want to squeeze him until he cried a little.

“And you seem a little fuckin’ air-headed for someone who wants to attend university.”

Katsuki ignored the sigh from across the counter, busying himself by peeling away the layers of winter clothes, while keeping Midoriya in his periphery.

They remained in relative silence while Midoriya prepared the meal, Katsuki distracting himself by checking his phone. Christmas was coming in a couple of weeks and Kirishima wanted them to go out for food and drinks and clubbing for the evening. Apparently he was a fan of sparkly, distracting holiday lights, and absolutely zero people were surprised.

Katsuki flicked his attention to Midoriya’s back.

“So, who’s takin’ your pathetic ass out for Christmas Eve, huh?

“What makes you think someone’s taking me anywhere?” Midoriya said, peering over his shoulder for a moment to frown – no, pout. “Maybe I’m taking someone.”

“Who’s the girl?” Katsuki said, swiping a napkin from the dispenser and promptly ripping it to tiny shreds as he spoke. “She blind or what? Imaginary? Never heard you or Auntie mention anything about her in the all the years.”

Midoriya turned, the usual large, extra-full bowl in his hands. He placed the ramen before Katsuki with obvious care.

“Of course there’s no girl,” Midoriya said lowly, his freckled cheeks gone pink. “There’s never a girl.”

Katsuki’s heart jumped to his throat, his stare snapping to Midoriya’s sober expression.

Hah?”

“I mean,” Midoriya said with a smile as he rubbed the back of his hair, his curls fluffing up while he straightened his stance. “Where would I have the time?”

Katsuki’s stomach lurched and dropped. That made more sense. Not that he was interested in the bumbling fool of a ramen shop worker.

Who was he kidding?

He’d wanted to loft Midoriya into his arms and have his way with him from the minute they’d first met. Back then, Katsuki hadn’t even understood what the feeling had meant. Now, although he knew what he wanted, he still had zero experience from which to work.

In this one thing, Katsuki knew he was useless.

Not that it mattered.

This wasn’t a thing. They weren’t a thing. Midoriya Izuku was not a thing.

“I think the question is,” Katsuki said, unable to believe the words that were coming from his own gay-ass mouth. “What girl would take you? Might have to start lookin’ elsewhere.”

Watching Midoriya’s face paint itself red was like a dream come true.

“I- you’re –“ Midoriya released a shaky sigh and scrubbed his hands over his face and kept them there, hiding. “Just eat and leave, please.”

“Just a suggestion, is all,” Katsuki muttered into his ramen.

 

There was only one seat left. Five business men, getting drunk way too early in the evening, filled out the line along the counter, boisterous and rotund, each of them.

With a scowl, Katsuki slid wordlessly onto the end stool, just beside the stairs leading up to the apartment.

Midoriya’s back was to him, shoulders wide for his frame, buried in a plain grey hoodie rolled up to the elbows. His profile was stern, dark brows buckled together in concentration as he raced between stations, fingers encircled in band-aids flying ingredients, cutting, placing neatly, quick and efficient. Stray, damp curls clung to his damp temples. Katsuki almost felt like he was watching an artist work, or a pianist with the way he moved.

Turning with two full bowls in hand, Midoriya’s attention flicked to Katsuki, eyes widening, his step startling, ramen nearly sloshing over the edge, before he quickly caught himself and neatly placed the bowls before two patrons. He didn’t spare Katsuki a second glance until he’d completed his service of the five suited men.

When there was finally only the sound of the radio and large men slurping noodles, Midoriya folded his arms and dropped them to the countertop before Katsuki. He exhaled, lips curved, eyes lit up like the holiday decorations illuminating the night-blue snow outside.

“Sorry. Hi. The usual?”

“Don’t pass out, shortstack,” Katsuki said, face scrunched in distaste as he waved off that stupidly attractive face. “You look like you’re gonna keel over any second. You sure you cut out for this? Maybe a sedentary desk job will be better for you. No effort needed.”

Midoriya held Katsuki’s gaze for a second, then simply rolled his eyes and pushed away from the table to turn and fix his meal.

They didn’t speak much. The businessmen demanded plenty of attention, snack food, and an endless fount of beer. Katsuki hadn’t realized he’d been sitting there for nearing two hours, just fucking around on his phone and keeping an eye on Midoriya, until the latter turned to him with a frown on his paling, damp face.

“You’re still here?”

“It’s your job to notice the fucking customer, isn’t it?” Katsuki said, frowning at the way Midoriya shivered and wiped his brow with the sleeve of his sweater. “What the fuck’s wrong with you?”

Mmm, I’m just – “ Midoriya breathed a short laugh, his eyes lingering shut as he wavered.  “Tired.”

“Stupid shit,” Katsuki said, standing now and rounding the counter, only to pause at the step that led up to the prep area. “You’re not tired, you’re sick. The fuck you doin’ running yourself ragged for some fat, rich assholes when you should be laid out?”

Excuse me, young man?” one of the round, red-faced men said, reminding Katsuki of the little Russian dolls Momo flung from her chest.

“Excuse you,” Katsuki said, hopping up the step to catch Midoriya with ease as the guy rubbed his eyes and tilted forward just a bit too much. With his gaze still hot and red on the businessmen, Katsuki firmly grasped the nape of Midoriya’s neck, making sure Midoriya’s sweaty forehead rested upon Katsuki’s shoulder. “We’re closing early. You all finished your food forever ago. Pay and find somewhere else to drink.”

“How dare –“

“I’ll get –“ Midoriya said, swallowing hard as he pushed off of Katsuki to stand on his own. His eyes were a little too glazed, his cheeks flushed. “I’ll get your check.”

Katsuki rolled his eyes and remained in the cramped prep station, his arms crossed over his chest, one foot tapping as he monitored the interactions closely.

Once the grumbling drunkards had seen themselves out into the falling snow, Katsuki turned, glaring.

“You’re an idiot. Go upstairs.”

“I’m not an idiot,” Midoriya said, his gaze flashing in the way Katsuki had found himself grown addicted to over the years. Fuck, this guy had no idea how gone Katsuki was. They were both pathetic as hell. “And I need to, uh –“ Midoriya looked around, blinking. “I need to close up.”

“Oh, shove it, will ya? Just head upstairs. You got keys? I’ll at least bring the grate down over the shop and turn off the lights. The rest can wait for Auntie to take care of.”

“But I –“

“For the love of –“ Katsuki reached around Midoriya’s waist, hand diving into the pockets of his jeans to unearth the tiny set of keys. He held them up between them with a victorious smirk, jangling them. “Upstairs.”

“I –“ Midoriya exhaled through his nose, straight-up pouting with an expression Katsuki had never seen before and wanted to kiss the hell out of. “Okay. Um – thank you. For this.”

“Whatever.”

Katsuki swept past him and moved towards the plastic flaps at the front of the shop. By the time he’d finished grappling around above his head and pulling the metal grate down, Midoriya had disappeared. Good riddance to useless, sick shorties.

Shutting off the lights, Katsuki grabbed his jacket from his stool and paused, gaze travelling up the stairs, where he realized the front door at the top had been left ajar.

Katsuki couldn’t tell if it was an invitation or an accident. Probably the latter, but if Auntie wasn’t home upstairs – and Katsuki had no idea if she was – he couldn’t just let Midoriya stumble upstairs and fall flat on his face asleep in the middle of the floor.

“Hello?” he said as he reached the top of the stairs. He rapped his knuckles lightly on the door, taking a half step in as the door tilted open with a wedge of light on the other side. “I’m coming in, so keep your clothes on.”

Katsuki walked in and slipped off his boots, locking the door behind him. Taking a cursory glance, he found himself in an unsurprisingly small, and very neat apartment. The front door had led straight into the living room and adjoined kitchen. A relatively petite kotatsu sat in the center of the room, and with his forearms folded atop the table and his head buried the cradle of his arms, Midoriya looked passed the fuck out.

Sighing, arms folded across his chest, Katsuki scowled down at Midoriya’s prone form. What the hell was he supposed to do with that? Let him be, was the easiest answer. But it didn’t seem right leaving him here when he was blatantly home alone and ill.

Plus, maybe Katsuki would get a sneak peak of the nerd’s bedroom. He’d seen the guy wear enough All Might shirts to know they shared a very specific interest to which he wouldn’t openly admit.

Frowning, Katsuki skirted Midoriya’s still, sleeping form and edged into the kitchen. He opened the fridge and pulled out a juice box, popped the straw in and set it on the top near Midoriya’s head. Dropping to a crouch beside him, Katsuki tilted his head to the side, trying to catch sight of Midoriya’s face. Pressing his wrist to Midoriya’s ear, Katsuki’s eyebrows rocketed up at the head that radiating from his skin there.

“Alright, shortstack, it’s time to wake up,” Katsuki said, shaking Midoriya’s shoulder none too gently. “Come on. Oiy, Midoriya”

Muh?” Midoriya turned his head, squishy cheek pillowed on his arms. Dark lashes swept up, lids half-mast to reveal green eyes fogged-over with sleep and sickness. “Bakugou?”

“Yeah,” Katsuki said, his gaze sliding away to the side, unable to hold eye contact with this soft, fluffy creature for too long right now. “You’re sick. Go to bed.”

“This is good,” Midoriya mumbled, his eyes falling shut. “Nice.”

Katsuki stared at Midoriya’s flushed face for a while, listened to the light snores of an incoming stuffy nose.

“Stubborn as fuck,” Katsuki said to himself. He got to his feet, and promptly shoved his arms beneath Midoriya’s armpits and hefted him up to a stand.

Wuh!” Midoriya batted Katsuki’s hands off of him and stood on his own, whirling around with a scrunched up, grumpy face. “Oh, Bakugou. I thought I was being robbed.”

Katsuki blinked.

“Who the fuck would rob your poor ass? You have like three pieces of furniture in here.”

Midoriya sighed, his shoulders slumped.

“I’m hot.”

“I know,” Katsuki muttered, jerking a thumb towards the short hallway. “Go to bed. You’re sick. Wait.”

Katsuki grabbed the juice and shoved it in Midoriya’s hand.

“Drink this while you walk. Hydrate.”

“Why’re you being so nice to me?” Midoriya slurred, his feet dragging as they made slow progress toward his room.

“Stop talking,” Katsuki said, pushing the Midoriya’s hand and the juice box closer to Midoriya’s face. “Drink that.”

Midoriya did as he was told as he led Katsuki to his bedroom and opened his door. Katsuki trailed after him, turning on the light to find – an All Might Collection that could only rival his own.

Katsuki wasn’t in love, but he was damn well close enough.

“Sorry about –“ Midoriya waved a hand, vaguely gesturing to everything about him and this place.

“I don’t care,” Katsuki said. He took the half-empty juice box from Midoriya and set it on a desk cluttered with figurines. “Get in bed already.”

Once Midoriya had tucked himself under the covers, Katsuki stared down at him, hands on hips.

“Do you have medicine in your bathroom? Cool compress for your head?”

“You’re very handsome from this angle,” Midoriya murmured, blankets up to his chin, gaze hazy.

“From just this angle? Fuck off.”

Katsuki turned on his heel and made for the bathroom. Rummaging beneath the sink, he unearthed some fever reducing pills and a cold compress to stick to Midoriya’s head. When he returned, Midoriya was already snoring.

Heaving a sigh, he placed the cold compress on his head. Pills and the juice box were placed at the bedside.

Without allowing himself a lingering look, Katsuki shut off the lights and left.

 

“Where’s that ramen place you always go to?” Sero said, stumbling between Katsuki and Kaminari. “I’m hungry.”

“I’m starving,” Ashido said, clutching at her stomach. “Feed meee.”

“I need something to soak up all the whatever-it-was Mina fed me,” Kirishima said, laughing about it with cheeks that matched his hair.

“’S probably not even open,” Katsuki slurred, leaning heavily against Kaminari, nearly sending them toppling into a thick, high snowbank. “What time’s it?”

“What time you want it to be?” Kaminari.

“I dunno anything anymore,” Katsuki said, feeling the alcohol hot in his veins. He wanted to take off his coat and lay in the snow.

“There’s a first!” Ashido said with that bawdy laugh of hers.

“You’re loud!” Katsuki said, louder.

“And you’re drunk!”

“We’re all drunk,” Sero said. “And hungry. Remember? Hungry. Ramen.”

Ramen,” Kaminari said empathetically, slinging an arm over Katsuki’s shoulders and tugging him in. “Share the wealth.”

“He’s mine,” Katsuki said, snarling.

Kaminari blinked.

“Uh.”

Katsuki sighed.

“No one embarrass me.”

He wasn’t sure which of the shitheads started laughing first, but then they all were.

Soon, they were filing – read: stumbling – into the shop, Katsuki in the lead. His grin was loose and easy, fuelled by too much beer, and only widened when he caught Midoriya sitting on a stool behind the counter, hunched over a textbook and scribbling notes.

He blinked up owlishly as the entire squad clumsily found their seats with great difficulty and jeering. When his eyes settled on Katsuki, his cheeks went pink.

“Hi,” he said, a little breathless. “Welcome.”

“Hey!” Ashido said, putting her knees up on the stool to kneels and lean her elbows upon the counter, her ample chest pushed forward as she grinned. “Merry Christmas, cutie. What’s your name?”

Midoriya’s face went redder than when he’d seen Katsuki, and it was enough to have him seeing hellfire.

“OIY, JUGS, YOU’RE ALREADY EMBARRASSING ME!”

“I’m Midoriya,” he said with a welcoming smile that he didn’t bother to aim at Katsuki’s grumpy ass anymore. “Welcome, everyone. Thank you for coming, and Merry Christmas.”

An exuberant call of various greetings sounded down the line, and quickly everyone was discussing what they were going to eat. Midoriya stepped away from the squad and, to Katsuki’s surprise, came to settle before him. Leaning his forearms upon the counter, he bent a little and glanced off to the side.

“Uh, thank you. For the other week. You didn’t have to.”

“It’s whatever,” Katsuki said, the heat in his face purely from the drinks, he was sure. “How about a beer?”

“A beer?” Midoriya said, blinking at him. “That’s a first.”

“Just shut up and gimme a goddamn beer,” Katsuki said with an eyeroll. “And one for everyone.”

A round of boisterous cheers filled the room.

Midoriya turned, crouching to a low fridge for the bottles.

Mina, again, leaned heavily forward to peer over the counter, her eyebrows shooting up as she checked out the way Midoriya’s jeans looked practically painted on to his ass when he bent like that.

Katsuki’s jaw dropped when fucking Kirishima followed suit.

“I’LL KILL YOU BOTH.”

“You’re loud!” Ashido screeched.

“And you’re supposed to be dating that guy!” Katsuki said, violently gesturing at Kirishima beside him.

Kirishima ducked from the wild swipe from Katsuki’s hand and grinned, wide and loose and red faced with the effects of plenty, sugary mixed drinks.

“Hey,” Kirishima said, “We know how to appreciate the best of humanity, okay?”

“Well, don’t,” Katsuki snapped. “I’ll rip your eyes out.”

“Is everything okay?” Midoriya said with a small frown, returning with the five beers expertly hooked between his fingers.

“Bakugou doesn’t want us to stare at your ass,” Mina said with a pout, nipping a beer from Midoriya and taking a long drink.

Midoriya’s face went up in flame and he pointedly did not look at Katsuki.

“C-can I take your order now?” he said in a small voice.

The squad muddled through their orders with varying degrees of difficulty, relative to how wasted they were. Kaminari was nearly incomprehensible. Sero ordered, and promptly set his head on the counter and started snoring.

“You from around here?” Mina said, forever the conversationalist among everyone.

Midoriya didn’t pause his work, nor did he turn around as he spoke easily, his voice placid and pleasant.

“I’m from upstairs, actually. This is my family’s place. Or, it was. Now my mother and I run it.”

“That’s cool,” Mina said, genuinely interested. Her fingers casually linked with Kirishima’s upon the counter. “You’re our age, aren’t you? What school do you go to?”

Midoriya casually rattled off a name of a high-profile school that cost a fuck-ton of money to get into.

“Wait,” Katsuki said. “What the fuck, Midoriya? How’d you end up there? You work in a fucking ramen shop.”

“Bakugou!” Kirishima said, shooting him a silencing look.

Midoriya looked over his shoulder, his teeth flashing in that quick, shy smile that always had Katsuki’s heard revving up.

“It’s okay. He’s right. I’m there on a scholarship.”

Woooah,” Kirishima and Mina said in tandem, looking at him with wide, awed eyes.

Shit. Midoriya had to be seriously fucking smart. How had Katsuki never asked before? He’d been so busy acting like he hadn’t given a fuck that he’d actually missed all of the usual opportunities to get to know this person.

“He’s attending cram school, too,” Katsuki said, suddenly desperate to prove he held some kind of knowledge of this person. “The nerd never has his face out of a textbook.”

“That’s like you, Bakugou!” Kirishima said with a toothy grin.

“Oh yeah?” Midoriya said, pulling the individual portions of noodles out and placing them in their bowls. “I had no idea.”

“Uh huh,” Kirishima said. “He’s second in our class.”

“He’s as smart as he is deadly,” Kaminari said, his words slurred. “And he’s so… He’s so deadly. I have nightmares.”

“Shut your mouth hole,” Katsuki said mildly. “Drink some fucking water.”

“IT’S CHRISTMAS,” was Kaminari’s high-pitched reply, followed by a hiccup.

“Don’t –“ Sero warily squinted his eyes, but did not move his cheek from the countertop. “Don’t shame Santa.”

“Your mom is Santa,” Kaminari said dully.

“Your fuckin –“ Sero paused. “I dunno.”

“Incoming,” Midoriya said, turning with two full bowls, smiling.

“Thank god,” Katsuki said. “Make them stop talking.”

“Now that, I don’t think I could promise you,” Midoriya said, aiming that sunshine face toward him for a moment. Their eyes held briefly and Midoriya’s smile shifted, went a little tight, his gaze flicking away before he turned to gather more bowls.

Katsuki tried to catch Midoriya’s attention, but went pointedly ignored while Midoriya finished doling out the ramen and aiming his ‘work smile’ their way.

“I’m going to step outside for a moment, okay?” Midoriya said with a cheerfulness that sounded hollow to Katsuki’s ears. “If you need anything, feel free to grab me. I’ll be right outside the door. Enjoy!”

Katsuki hunched over his food and did not look at Midoriya as he shrugged on a coat and slipped out the front entrance. Everyone caught up in their meals, going relatively silent. Katsuki devoured his food, but his shoulders were tense, his ears perked for signs of Midoriya.

None came.

“One sec,” Katsuki said, sliding from his stool.

“Go tap that,” Mina said, totally offhand, but no doubt utterly serious.

“I’m not gonna goddamn tap that.”

“How long have you been coming here?” Mina said, without turning from her food.

Hah? What’s that matter?”

“Just wondering how long you’ve been pining without having the balls to do shit about it. Kinda weak-ass little bitch of you, right?”

Katsuki’s face set alight, the sound of his teeth grinding in his ears.

“Fuck – you.”

He stomped out of the plastic divide.

The wind was still and the snowfall light, delicate, and sparse. Katsuki looked around, spotted a familiar form leaning against a lamppost, texting frantically. Approaching slowly, Katsuki caught sight of a series of heart and crying emojis before Midoriya must’ve sensed his presence.

Whipping around with large eyes, Midoriya exhaled long and shaky, his breath pluming toward the midnight sky.

“Oh,” was all he said, hushed.

Katsuki narrowed his eyes and shoved his hands in his pockets.

“You still sick or something? You shouldn’t be out here.”

“No – no, I’m not sick,” Midoriya said with a crooked smile, nerves radiating as he took three attempts to shove his phone in his jacket pocket. “Uh, why would you say that?”

“Because you’re acting weird.”

Me?” Midoriya said, a pitch too high. His eyes flickered all over the place as he spoke. “I’m not – I mean I’m fine. How has your Christmas been? Your friends seem nice. They’re funny.”

“It’s been a good Christmas,” Katsuki said. He swallowed and took a chance, stepping into Midoriya’s space. “Now.”

“Now?” Midoriya said, looking up at him, eyes the shade of evergreens. “Why?”

The words froze on Katsuki’s tongue, iced over with – with what? Inexperience? Nerves? The act of bursting forth with what had been boiling and bubbling up for three years?

“I –“ Katsuki swallowed. “It was a good way to end the night. That’s all. I’m heading in.”

He turned before he could see Midoriya’s reaction. What the hell had Katsuki been imagining? He’d spent three years essentially bullying this guy and now – what? What did he expect? It wasn’t like anything had happened to change what was between them.

Katsuki thought of the way Midoriya had dropped his brow to Katsuki’s shoulder just a week ago. Leaned into him, trusted him for help. Maybe he’d be like that with anyone, though. Probably. He’d been sick and woozy, after all.

“Bakugou?”

“What?” Katsuki looked over his shoulder, a scowl on his face from his own intrusive thoughts.

Midoriya stood in the snow, his coat a little large around the shoulders and wrists, his cheeks rosy from the chill.

“Thanks again for helping me out before. I think – I think probably you’re a nice guy.” Midoriya’s lips quirked. “I won’t tell anyone.”

Katsuki paused, his expression going a little slack with surprise. Then his eyes narrowed and he was heading back inside, calling out.

“Don’t get your hopes up, nerd.”

 

“Oiy, oiy, Midoriya,” Katsuki said as he slipped through the front entrance. “I’m in a rush tonight, so – oh. Hi, Auntie.”

Auntie blew slightly damp bangs from her face as she turned with two bowls in her hand and served them up. She gave a cheerful wave, her smile bright.

“Oh, Bakugou, hello! I’m so sorry, but Midoriya is upstairs studying. Cram school starts back up just a few days after the new year and he’s a wreck.”

“Sounds like him,” Katsuki said, tamping down his disappointment as he took a seat.

Suddenly he wasn’t hungry. He just wanted to go home. Four days had dragged as he’d obsessed over that moment in the snow. Stumbled through everything he could have said, should have said, and the stupid shit he had said.

This wasn’t fucking like him. Katsuki didn’t sulk, nor did he sit around wishing for shit, rather than making it happen.

So, why wasn’t he just making this happen?

Because if he fucked it all up, he might not be able to come here three days a week and watch Midoriya work, listen to that laugh, soak in that smile.

“What’ll you do if Midoriya gets a job after university?” Katsuki found himself asking.

He’d never personally considered higher schooling. He knew he was intelligent, and he knew he’d only grow moreso, just off his own reading, his own interests. He also knew that some of his classmates planned on attending university and doing Pro Hero work in the evenings and night shifts.

But what would Auntie Inko do with the business if Midoriya was off in his own field?

“Well,” Auntie said, her lips pursed thoughtfully as she wiped her winter-chapped hands on her apron. “I suppose the hope is that we won’t have to run this place anymore.”

Katsuki blinked, the words seeping in like the spread of a burn, layers searing into the skin.

If this place ceased to be, how would he see Midoriya?

Regardless of such an event being years from now, the thought made him nauseous. No, he didn’t want to eat a bite.

“Do you think he needs help?” Katsuki said.

Stupid question of the day, number two.

“I don’t see why not,” Auntie said with a small shrug and a faint curve of a smile. “Maybe you can help him relax a little, if anything. He’s wound awfully tight these days.”

Relaxing Midoriya boiled up more heated images that Katsuki was sure wasn’t what Auntie had in mind.

“May I go up now?” Katsuki said tightly, using his best manners out of pure guilt for what was happening both in his imagination and his pants.

“Of course, of course,” Auntie said, already fussing and waving him up the stairs. “Go on, now, go. You boys enjoy each other. Izuku needs more friends, anyway.”

Katsuki mumbled his thanks and stomped up the steps, stripping away his hat and coat as he went. Folding his coat over his arm, he stepped inside and found himself faced with Midoriya hunched over that same kotatsu, dressed in sweatpants that just barely shower off the top of his ass crack, and an ancient, faded All Might shirt that was now too tight over the muscular plains of his body, and clung too high up his back and sides. His hair was a riot, his bangs pinned back atop his head.

When he whipped around to stare with large eyes and a pen in his mouth, the writing utensil dropped from his gaping mouth.

“Ba – Bak –“

“Your ma said you need more friends.”

“Are you – are you volunteering?”

“Like hell,” Katsuki said, turning and hanging his coat and hat on some hooks he noted in the wall. He shucked off his boots, his face downcast as he spoke. “Your mom made me come up here to check on you or whatever. Apparently you got a stick up your ass lately.”

“If by that you mean, I care about my future – then, yes. I’ve got that up my ass, as you say.”

Katsuki couldn’t help but grin as he sauntered over to the kotatsu, hands on his hips, looming over Midoriya’s increasingly irate expression.

“Looks like you got some balls today, huh?”

He dropped to sit across from Midoriya, avoiding putting his legs beneath the kotatsu because he couldn’t stand to be that level of warm. Not when his very blood simmered with the nearness of Midoriya in casual clothes, showing off a surprising amount of muscle. Every summer, Midoriya seemed to grow – not taller necessarily, but wider, thicker, sturdier. Sexier. From some nervous fifteen year old dork Katsuki had loved to bully and snipe at, to a guy who would look him straight in the eye and trade blows right back.

When had that happened?

“I’ve got balls every day,” Midoriya said casually, picking up his pen as he settled back in and jotted something into his notebook with unbearably sloppy writing. “I just don’t wave them around like you do daily.”

Katsuki didn’t reply, but eyed the steaming tea settled toward his side of the table. He picked up, sniffed at it, and drank. Midoriya glanced up briefly, shook his head with a sigh, and returned to his work. 

A minute’s silence had passed, before Katsuki growled low in his chest.

“I come all the way up here and you ignore me?”

“I didn’t ask you to come up here,” Midoriya said, still writing.

“What’re you working on?” Katsuki said, ignoring his comment once more.

“Criminal psychology,” Midoriya said, frowning as he squinted at a paragraph in the text book, his fingertip sliding over the words. “My major will be social work when I get into university, but criminal psych is a good minor if I want to work with troubled kids who’ve had run-ins with the law. Or to keep an eye out for signs of deviant tendencies.”

“Or if you wanna be a cop,” Katsuki said, his eyes tracing the soft and strong lines and curves of Midoriya’s face over the rim of the tea he sipped.

Pausing his work, Midoriya looked up with a frown.

“I woudn’t be a good cop.”

“Why? Might be a good fit.”

Midoriya’s jaw worked, the muscles in his neck taut, his eyes flashing sharp before his demeanor seemed to forcibly calm. He swallowed and cleared his throat, pointedly returning to his writing.

“Because,” he said, his voice low as his pen paused and he stared at the page. “I don’t have a Quirk.”

The air ripped from the room like a vacuum, the void between them swelling as Katsuki stared, frozen, unable to breathe.

“Bullshit,” Katsuki said, hushed, setting the tea down with a sharp crack. “There’s no way you don’t have one. Look at you, you’re –“

“What?” Midoriya said, his face not rising, but his eyes snapping up, his expression ominous and dark. “What am I?”

“Practically perfect.”

Katsuki could have bitten his own tongue off in that moment. Midoriya’s fingers tightened around his pen, hand subtly shaking as he pierced Katsuki through with an expression he couldn’t read for the life of him.

“Are you making fun of me?” Midoriya said, his voice suddenly steely, wholly unlike the person Katsuki knew so far. For some reason, the experience sent a chill of excitement down his spine.

Yes. Just say yes and leave.

“No.”

Katsuki held his breath, battling himself to look away, and refusing. He held Midoriya’s gaze, flame and sturdy earth meeting across the table. Tension rose and roiled like thick steam in the wake of their wary inspection of each other.

“You –“ Midoriya swallowed, his pen clattering to his open textbook. “I don’t understand. Why are you here, Bakugou? Why were you there when I was sick? Why did you come out in the snow for me?”

Katsuki felt as if he might peel out of his skin with discomfort, his body aching, screaming with the desire to run. He never ran – not from anything, not in all of his life. But this – this made his muscles ache to move.

“Go on a date with me,” Katsuki said in a rush, biting off each word as if it were sour. “Next Saturday afternoon.”

“A date,” Midoriya repeated carefully, his mouth working around the word like he’d never said it before.
“Or don’t,” Katsuki said with a scoff, folding his arms across his chest. “I don’t give a fuck. Do whatever you want. In fact, don’t bother. Pretend I –“

“Okay,” Midoriya said on a breath, his eyes too big for his face, his hands fidgeting with his pen, spinning it between scarred fingers. “If you’re serious, then okay. Yes. I’d – I’d like that.”

“Oh,” Katsuki said dumbly. “I’ll pick you up here, then. At two.”

“Two,” Midoriya said, a slow, shy smile emerging.

Katsuki wanted to dive across the table and devour him.

Instead, he took another drink of Midoriya’s cooling tea to prove his steady hands and cast a glance across Midoriya’s work.

“I can quiz you, y’know. We were forced to take Criminal Psych so we’d like, I dunno, understand shitty criminals. Like I cared. Aced it, though.”

Mirdoriya cocked his head, grinning with a bit more ease.

“If you think you can challenge me with it, sure.”

“Oh,” Katsuki said, returning a smirk. “I can challenge you.”

The hour was late when Midoriya finally saw Katsuki to the door that led downstairs.  They stood a little awkwardly, Midoriya glancing at his feet, Katsuki glowering at the top of Midoriya’s head because he didn’t know how to make his face do normal things.

“You really –“ Midoriya swallowed, then looked up, his eyes so clear and honest. “You’re serious about the d- the date… thing?”

“Do I look like I’m fuckin’ joking?” Katsuki said, hands on his hips and scowling deeper now.

Midoriya frowned.

“No, but –“

Katsuki leaned in and down, catching Midoriya’s lips with his own. He felt Midoriya’s shock, felt his body stiffen, though he did not step away. Heart beating wildly in his ears, his hands itching to touch, Katsuki kept his eyes closed and tilted his head, kissing with increasing firmness.

Then Midoriya sighed against him, his mouth soft and yielding, parting to dip the tip of his tongue between Katsuki’s lips. The entire room felt like an inferno.

Keeping his hands to himself, fists gripping tightly at the thighs of his jeans, Katsuki fell into the kiss, slowly working Midoriya’s mouth open, tasting and savoring, swallowing up little hums and gasps as they learned each other for the first time.

When they parted, it was to Katsuki’s own raspy whimper of separation.

Their noises brushing, eyes furtively searching for signs of reaction, for feelings, Midoriya’s cheeks bright and pink, they gazed at each other in quiet awe.

“Well,” Katsuki said, his voice raw. “I’ll see you Saturday.”

“Or any day,” Midoriya said, his voice a soft rasp. “You know. Any day at all. Every day.”

Katsuki’s heart flew. He grinned.

“Yeah, okay, shorty. Maybe every day.”

 

Bakugou Katsuki did not do the whole dating thing.

He’d been asked out by plenty of girls, which honestly had been the first strike against them.

Second strike, dating was obnoxious. All he ever saw was clingy partners, a person with which he’d constantly have to check in, care about, listen to. Baggage.

He would one day be busy protecting an entire chunk of city. There was no room for one person, when he was dedicated to millions.

Bakugou Katsuki did not do the whole dating thing.

And anyway, strike three was that none of them had ever been Midoriya Izuku.