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One Exception

Chapter Text

“Stupid, stupid, stupid!” Katsuki yelled, slamming the knuckles of his wrapped fists into the crumbling tree bark. He poured his frustration into every hit. Every slam. Every snap of his knuckle. His punches outpaced his own wracking heartbeat. He slammed the sides of his hands into the tree, a small set of sparks going off in his clenched fists. “Fuck!”

He pressed his forehead into the bark, sweat pouring down his body and in his eyes. It mixed with the tears staining his cheek and the running nose. Katsuki wiped the mess away with the palm of his hand, leaving his head to scratch against the tree trunk.

A shuffle to his left drew his attention.

“What do you want, Deku?” Katsuki asked, tilting his head just enough to the side to see the other teen walk into the center of his backyard. He stopped next to the tree Katsuki had attacked in his rage and said nothing. Deku stared, fiddling with his jacket sleeve. Katsuki kept his temple pressed into the bark. “Say something or get the hell out of my yard.”

Deku dropped his sleeve and opened the top collar of his high school uniform. The emblem of the elite, nerd-school Deku had tested into flashed in the setting sunlight. He leaned on the side of the tree, next to the bare patch where Katsuki had stripped it of its bark. Too close. Deku sighed, eyes dark as he looked over Katsuki. “Your mom called mine and said you were hurting yourself again.”

“Bullshit,” Katsuki said. Deku reached across the small space between them and poked his knuckle, soaking more blood into the bandages. Katsuki snatched his hand away from the exploring fingers and hissed. “I broke my punching bag so the tree had to do.”

“Is there a reason you destroyed your punching bag and had to resort to trying to murder your mother’s only tree?” Deku asked, a slight tremble in his voice.

The idiot looked like he was going to start crying any second, too—eyes already wet.

“It’s none of your business even if there was a reason,” Katsuki said. He wiped the side of his face and kicked the base of the tree, knocking off another slab of bark. “Get lost and remind the old hag we haven’t been friends since kindergarten, would you? This is getting old.”

Deku bit the side of his lip, folding his hands under his arms. He had the nerve to smile, far too knowing. “Kacchan, I’m your only friend. Who else is she going to call when you get like this?”

“No one because nothing is wrong,” Katsuki yelled. He pushed away from the tree bark and wished he could blow the whole thing up. He wanted to scream and let loose and burn the entire yard down, but his mother would kill him. Or call the police. She’d been wary enough lately as his temper spiraled more and more out of control. “Now leave before I start punching you instead of the tree.”

Deku watched him, paying attention to every harsh breath as Katsuki calmed himself down. After a moment, Deku’s eyes hardened and he pushed off the tree to invade Katsuki’s space once again.

“I’ll take my chances,” Deku said, stubborn as ever. With his uniform jacket open, the bruise against his collarbone remained visible. Katsuki had socked him good when Deku refused to leave the last time he had a vent session—the idiot never learned. Proving once again that he had no self-preservation instincts, Deku tested fate as he grabbed Katsuki’s hand. He opened Katsuki’s fist and stretched out his sore and bloodied fingers. “You were always angry, Kacchan, but never this out of control. Just what are they doing to you at U.A.?”

“Nothing,” Katsuki said, his fingers twitching in Deku’s hold.

It wasn’t the school’s fault that Katsuki had severely miscalculated his place in the world. His ego and first place score at the entrance exam had blinded him to the reality of his future peers. Katsuki had trained and worked and done everything he could do to be the best, and all of it was for nothing when he walked into that classroom and met he likes of Shouto Todoroki, Eijirou Kirishima, Ochako Uraraka, Momo Yaoyorozu, Denki Kaminari, and everyone else. Reality had been harsh when Katsuki had to admit that the rest of Class 1-A were on the same starting line as Katsuki.

U.A. had humbled him and made him aware of his own shortcomings with only a few introductory one on one simulation battles where half-and-half wrecked him. Katsuki’s skill with his Quirk meant nothing against Todoroki’s overwhelming show of force and seemingly endless power.

If Katsuki wasn’t number one, then he was nothing.

The frustration had started to eat Katsuki alive and he had gotten sloppy. He was by no means the worst in class, but his anger got the best of him more often than not and nothing he did would help him reclaim that number one spot with everyone else gaining levels as fast as he did.

Today had been another loss. Todoroki learned a new trick to counter Katsuki’s best move, and he’d been thrown flat on his back in another defeat. Katsuki took it out on the tree so he didn’t get himself expelled punching his classmates in the face.

“Kacchan,” Deku said, dragging Katsuki back into the moment. He squeezed his hold on Katsuki’s fingers, smearing his own with the blood that seeped out of the bandages. Deku’s grip was too hot. “I’m not leaving you alone right now.”

The determination that filled Deku’s eyes pissed Katsuki off more than his show-off peers. Deku’s never ending spirit; his determination to help—to save, even when he failed to get into the General Studies course at U.A. Deku had a will that made Katsuki’s own desire to succeed look like a broken child’s toy.

His gaze looked like it belonged to someone who deserved to be in U.A. more than Katsuki did.

He gave Deku a black eye to match the dark splotch on his shoulder.

The little shit still didn’t leave.

The next time Katsuki saw Deku, the bruise over his eye had healed and been replaced with a new one.

“I should say thank you for keeping the bullies away,” Deku had said once, pressing his fingers into the tender skin when it had yellowed. “Everyone at my high school thinks I’m some sort of delinquent that gets into fights. No one wants to tease the Quirkless kid if he can fight back.”

“Why don’t I believe that?” Katsuki had asked. Katsuki hit his new punching bag, set up next to the wreck that used to be a tree. He held in the tears today, but he was no less frustrated with his lack of progress. His mother hadn’t called Deku to come visit this time, though, and instead the little brat had sensed Katsuki’s bad mood all on his own and let himself in through the back fence. Katsuki rubbed the side of his nose. “If I saw a scrawny twerp like you covered in bruises, I’d assume you got your ass handed to you.”

“It’s all in how you wear them, I think,” Deku had said.

He supposed even Deku had to get his act together at some point.

It’s not like he was wrong.

“Bad day of classes?” Deku asked, changing the subject. He helped himself to a seat near the punching bag and opened one of his notebooks on his lap. He wrote a handful of scribbled notes, stopping to doodle the details in a drawing every so often.

“Same as any other day,” Katsuki lied, continuing to punch the bag. Nothing about the day had been normal and his body still ached from the adrenaline and action. Katsuki stepped away from the bag and checked his knuckles. The bandages had started to wear and he leaned down to grab a new set and rewrap them before he bled all over his equipment again. Katsuki wanted a few moments of peace. Was that so much to ask for? “Shouldn’t you be doing your mountains of homework or something, nerd?”

“I did it on the train ride home,” Deku said. He continued writing notes, eyes still on the notebook, but Katsuki knew Deku was still watching him. Deku had always been creepy like that; observant. Deku’s pen paused on the page. “Your mom told mine about the attack at school today, but didn’t give any details.”

“Because no one told her any,” Katsuki said. He tightened the tape around his hand. He could see the stupid faces of the villains over and over in his head. The portal they came through. Their monster. The heat of the warp Villain’s body under his palm as he pinned him. All Might. The difference in skill level between Katsuki and everyone else seemed overwhelming once again. He sneered at Deku, distracting himself. “What? You want a play by play for your little notebook?”

“I won’t say no if you’re offering, but I mostly wanted to see if you were okay,” Deku said. He continued writing and Katsuki finally noticed the trembling in his fingers. “Knowing you, you probably jumped right into the center of the fighting.”

“Damn right I did,” Katsuki said. He gave up on wrapping his hands and went for a towel. He scrubbed the sweat off his face and breathed in through the fabric of the towel. Katsuki clutched the fabric. “And next time it’ll be me kicking all their asses instead of All Might.”

Deku watched him from the corner of his eye and breathed in, shaking his head. “Just be careful, Kacchan.”

Katsuki didn’t have him in it to kick Deku out of his yard today. He didn’t have the energy after going over everything he did wrong in the fight.

Deku didn’t matter.

Katsuki had to get better.

“The U.A. Sports Festival is coming up,” Deku said, rolling his sleeve between his fingers. The twerp leaned on Katsuki’s bedroom door like he belonged there instead of using the old hag as a way into the house. She ignored Katsuki’s yelling that he didn’t want Deku there and responded with “Be nice to your friends!” before going back to making dinner. Deku had been inviting himself over quite a lot since they’d started high school and nothing Katsuki did seemed to make him want to stop. “You’re participating, right?”

“Participating?” Katsuki asked, knowing his voice had raised. He crossed the room and slammed his fist into the wall near Deku’s head. The plaster cracked; Deku didn’t flinch. “I’m going to win it.”

“I’d like to see that,” Deku said. His trembling and nerves had long disappeared, far too used to seeing the brunt of Katsuki’s temper up close and personal more than usual over the past couple of months. Katsuki could still beat the shit out of him, but it usually wasn’t worth it these days. It’s not like Deku would go away, so why waste the energy? “Can you get tickets for friends?”

“We’re not friends, Deku,” Katsuki said.

Deku sighed, his mouth stretching into an odd smile. “Then who are your friends, Kacchan?”

“None of your business,” Katsuki said. He shoved Deku’s head down and walked back to collapse on his bed. He covered his face with his arms and breathed out through his nose. “We don’t get complimentary tickets anyway. Just watch it on TV like my folks.”

“Fair enough,” Deku said.

He continued leaning on Katsuki’s door, filling the room with his awkward presence. Everything was tense with him these days. Deku’s growing bolder attitude that had come from who knows where had started to coincide with Katsuki’s ever growing anxieties. It’s like they were trading confidences and Katsuki hated it. Deku, feeling braver than usual, pushed off the door and walked across the room. He stopped next to Katsuki’s bed, watching him carefully.

Katsuki hated it when Deku tried that analytical shit on him.

“Keep the studying for your stupid prep classes,” Katsuki said. Deku continued to watch Katsuki, like there was some puzzle he needed to figure out—something he needed to fix. Katsuki growled, knowing he couldn’t get away with hitting Deku in the house with his parents two rooms away. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“Go get them, Kacchan,” Deku said. He cracked a smile and let himself out of the room. Deku hesitated in the doorway for just a moment, green eyes bright and full of misplaced mirth. “I’ll be disappointed if you don’t win.”

Katsuki didn’t need Deku to tell him that.

Deku congratulated Katsuki on winning the tournament with a grin and the declaration he’d dictated all of the event matches in his notebook. Deku had even drawn little sketches to go along with every match and took notes of the support class students. He said he was grateful for the statistics—no one pushed other people’s Quirks to the limit the way Katsuki did.

He saved himself from having the door slammed in his face by offering Katsuki a peace offering of Mrs. Midoriya’s homemade Curry. The smell of the spices were strong enough to come through the plastic of the tupperware and Katsuki took it like the sucker he was.

Deku earned entry into the house with a knowing smile on his face.

He shed his uniform jacket and hung it on the hook, following Katsuki further into the house toward the kitchen. Deku waved to the old hag and took a seat at the table as Katsuki dug into the curry. Deku flipped through his notes, occasionally asking for clarification of a move that someone had done that hadn’t been captured very well by the cameras.

Katsuki snorted into the next bite as Deku made some nerd observation about a Quirk here or there. Once upon a time, he figured that going to different schools meant he’d never have to see the twerp again.

Instead, he saw Deku more than ever.

“Oi, nerd,” Katsuki said, interrupting Deku from his mumbling. “Don’t you have better things to do? You’ve had to have made a few new friends at that new school of yours you can follow around and geek out with.”

“Have you made any new friends at U.A.?” Deku asked, looking over the top of Katsuki’s notebook.

Katsuki scowled right back. “Shut up, Deku.”

He had the nerve to chuckle and went back to writing in his stupid notebook and continued to ask questions that Katsuki refused to answer.

They entered winter break before the start of second year, and despite his accomplishments, Katsuki was still farther from his goals than when he’d started in middle school.

“Shit,” Katsuki said, punching his hand into the side of his house. He banged his head against the siding and hissed. “Dammit.”

Despite winning the Sports Festival, despite spectacular grades, despite even learning to tolerate working with a few people in his class so that he could get his Provisional Hero License, it still wasn’t enough. His teachers had marked him as too angry. Too loose with his aggression. Too “borderline dangerous” if he didn’t get his emotions under control. His physical accomplishments meant nothing if he couldn’t back it up with a more “Heroic” attitude.

No Hero Agency would hire him if he kept on his current track.

“Kacchan,” Deku said, appearing out of nowhere like he always did whenever Katsuki was upset. He had good instincts for it and it pissed Katsuki off. Deku leaned against the wall, watching him with worn eyes. “You’ve been having these bad days all year. I’m starting to think U.A. isn’t very good for you.”

“The school has shit to do with it,” Katsuki said. He wiped his cheeks clean and wished he didn’t cry so easy. It was embarrassing, even if it was only shitty Deku whoever saw it. “What are you doing here this time?”

“The same thing I’m always here to do,” Deku said. He scooted closer, invading Katsuki’s personal space with no sense of fear. He hardly recognized Deku from the trembling brat he terrorized in middle school. Deku averted his gaze to Katsuki’s hip. “To see you.”

“Yeah, well I don’t want to see you,” Katsuki said. He huffed and turned away from the wall. Katsuki was done with having an audience, even if the brat had made himself a common sight more and more at Katsuki’s house each and every day. “Go home, Deku.”

“You look a little too close to breaking for me to do that,” Deku said. He laughed and looked out across the yard. Deku leaned against the siding of Katsuki’s house and tilted his head back, bouncing his curls around his face. “Besides, we’re on winter break which means my time is almost out.”

“Time for what?” Katsuki asked.

“I had decided at the beginning of the year that I would do something important before we became second years. It hasn’t worked out so great, because it feels like every time I’ve worked up the nerves that school has made you cry,” Deku said. He licked his lips and stared at the clouds. “But if it’s always going to be like this, maybe I should just do it now and get it over with.”

Katsuki licked the side of his teeth. “Do what?”

Deku grabbed the collar of Katsuki’s shirt and yanked him toward Deku hard enough that he stumbled. Taking advantage as Katsuki lost his balance, Deku dropped his shirt to hold the sides of Katsuki’s cheeks and kissed him hard on the mouth, almost painfully so.

“What the hell!” Katsuki yelled, shoving Deku hard enough to slam the smaller teen into the wall. It crossed his mind that would be the first bruise he’d added to Deku’s skin in a while—and he deserved it for puling that shit out of nowhere! Katsuki rubbed his thumb against his bruised lip, backing away from Deku. “What is wrong with you?”

“I was really tired of waiting,” Deku said. He stared at Katsuki’s lower lip before he raised his gaze to meet Katsuki’s eyes. Those green eyes burned with desire and Katsuki wondered how long that had been hidden under the surface. “When I was four, I wanted us to be Hero partners together.”

Deku rubbed his shoulder where it had hit the wall and pressed his lips together, smile tight and wry. “I wanted it even more after that nightmare with the sludge monster you and I went through together. I thought. I really thought you and I could do it.”

His face twisted into a grimace, ugly and out of place on Deku as a thousand thoughts passed through his head.

“But I was wrong,” Deku said. Katsuki breathed hard as Deku invaded his space again, walking forward with a confidence he’d nurtured over the past year. Deku pressed his hands on Katsuki’s chest, palms forward and fingers spread. Deku spoke to his chest, dropping his forehead into Katsuki’s shoulder. “I gave up on that dream when I failed to get into U.A. How sad is it that I managed to get into the best and brightest academic institution in the country, but I couldn’t even qualify for the General Studies department at U.A.? Who would have thought not having a Quirk would block me from even that?”

“What’s that have to do with this?” Katsuki asked, breath still heavy in his chest. Everywhere Deku pressed him against Katsuki felt like it burned. Too warm. Too hot. Deku dropped his arms around Katsuki’s waist and hugged him. “Why are you bringing that up now?”

“If I can’t be your Hero partner, I have to find some other way to stand by your side. I don’t mind being your support,” Deku said. Like he had read Katsuki’s mind and discovered all of his doubts, he hummed. “Don’t give up now, Kacchan. Go prove them all wrong and be a Hero for the both of us.”

When Deku tugged him down for a second kiss, Katsuki didn’t fight it.

Katsuki graduated from U.A. first in his class, having beat out Momo Yaoyorozu by a single point on the final written exam. Katsuki refused to acknowledge that one point difference was due to Deku giving him a few study tips for the academic portion of his career, that while he maintained it, Katsuki never quite pushed as hard as his physical aspirations.

The blood, sweat, and tears he’d poured into his three years at U.A. had nearly driven him to breaking, but he’d made it somehow.

And he’d come out as number one.

“Kacchan,” Deku said. He clapped his hands together, grinning next to their parents as they stood in the graduation crowd. His smile was proud and bright and made Katsuki’s stomach twist. “Congratulations. You really did it!”

“Like it would turn out any other way,” Katsuki said, huffing as he crossed his arms. His mother cleared her throat, loud and obnoxious as she tilted her head toward Deku and Mrs. Midoriya. Katsuki snorted and clicked his tongue, loud as he drove his knuckles into Deku’s shoulder. “Congrats yourself. I heard you were in the top ten, too.”

“That’s right,” Deku said. He played with the sleeve of his jacket, fingers twisting the fabric in a nervous habit he’d picked up when high school started and had yet to drop. “Thank you, Kacchan.”

Truthfully, Katsuki had half expected Deku to take the first spot himself. He had certainly proved to be smart enough over the years, but apparently the competition at that brainiac school was tougher than Katsuki realized. But tenth place academically was nothing to be ashamed of if you were a normal person.

Deku had done well.

“We should all go out to celebrate our boys!” Mrs. Midoriya said. She glanced at Katsuki with a half-wary eye, but kept her concerns of past behaviors to herself. Katsuki wondered if she’d still stay quiet if she knew the true extent of the things Katsuki had done in the past. Even after Deku had changed the game of their relationship, he never quite managed to curb Katsuki’s temper entirely and bruises were inevitable. Katsuki huffed to himself—if Mrs. Midoriya knew, Katsuki wouldn’t be standing here. She turned to Katsuki’s mother and asked, “How about it?”

“Sounds great to me,” his mother said. She slapped Katsuki on the back, hard enough to knock him forward and laughed. “Grab your stuff, brat. We’re going to party!”

Their parents took the lead, discussing which restaurant they’d like to go to and how far Katsuki and Deku had come over the years.

The two boys lagged behind, side by side as they escaped the crowds of graduating students.

Deku watched Katsuki from the corner of his eye, smile not quite as bright as it was when he was a child, but still warm. “You know, Kacchan, the college I’m attending is in the same city as the Hero Agency you were accepted into.”

“Yeah?” Katsuki asked.

“We should move in together,” Deku said. He dropped the happy, innocent expression he’d been exaggerating for the sake of their parents, and reverted back to that hungry stare that had haunted Katsuki since they started their second year of high school. “It’ll be more practical if we share an apartment.”

“Come on, Deku.” Katsuki grunted, shoving his hands in his pockets. “We both know why you want to live together.”

“Guilty.” Deku covered his mouth, tittering into to the side of his hand. He took a step closer to Katsuki and put his hands behind his back. “Can you blame me? You made me wait two whole years because you didn’t want to be distracted from your studies. Living together will help make up for all that lost time.”

“Whatever,” Katsuki said, even as his heart beat faster in his chest.

Deku’d kept his hands to himself outside of a stolen kiss here or there, like they’d agreed, but now that they had both graduated, the restrictions were off the table. Katsuki didn’t go back on his word.

But that didn’t mean he was ready for it.

“You worry too much,” Izuku said, grabbing Katsuki’s hand. He laced their fingers together and walked side by side as they reached the locker rooms. “Move in with me, Kacchan.”

“Sure,” Katsuki said.

He ignored the fluttering in his gut when Deku squeezed his hand tighter, hard enough to bruise.