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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 pulling 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.

Chapter Text

Katsuki shoved his key into the lock and twisted, pushing his door open with his shoulder. The bag of take out tapped against the side of his leg, the smell of curry wrapped in styrofoam escaped the plastic and tempted his growling stomach.

Deku sat at their small kitchen table, two candles lit on the side with a small dinner of chicken and rice served and waiting on two plates. A sight more common than not, and it sent Katsuki's stomach into flutters every time. Deku wore a warm smile, welcoming Katsuki home like always—but there was one problem:

"It was my dinner night, twerp," Katsuki said, shutting the door behind him. He walked past the table and set his two bags on the kitchen counter before crossing his arms. "I figured you'd remember that since you made the stupid chart in the first place."

"I remembered," Deku said, putting his cheek in his hand. He put the tips of his fingers near the candle flame, hovering them almost close enough to burn. "But I thought it might be nice to surprise you after the long week you've been having."

Fair enough.

Katsuki grunted and shoved the take out in the fridge before pulling out the other chair. He tugged over the plate and mumbled "Thanks" before taking a bite. Deku pinched out the candle flame when Katsuki said, "It's good."

Deku started his own serving by the time Katsuki got to the rice, having nearly devoured the chicken as soon as he sat down. The domesticity of the scene still felt surreal even after a couple years, even if it felt right. Of all the things he pictured his life would be when he became a Pro Hero as a kid, regular meals with whatever-Deku-was hadn't been a part of the equation.

Young Katsuki might have entirely forgotten that Pro Heroes were regular people behind the mask. The older one had the same problem, but at least Deku was there to remind Ground Zero that there was a Katsuki behind the mask.

"The news said Mt. Lady is still missing," Deku said, scooping up a bite of seasoned rice. "I imagine your office has been rather busy making up for her absence, and well, looking for her of course."

"Don't be stupid, we can handle the workload without her just fine," Katsuki said, eating the last of his rice. He dropped his empty plate on the table and rubbed his face. "But the fact no one can find her is making us look bad. What sort of Hero Agency can't find a missing Hero?"

"Maybe they should have assigned you to her case. At the very least, you would have found her already out of spite," Deku said, grabbing both of their plates. He hopped up from the table and set the dishes in the sink. He bit his lip and grinned back at Katsuki, half laughing. "The look on her face when you rescued her would be priceless, especially after she stole the credit from your last two jobs before she went missing."

Katsuki snorted under his breath, getting up to wash the dishes. He nudged Deku out of the way with his elbow, and the other jumped up to sit on the counter and watch. Katsuki filled the sink with soapy water and scrubbed. "If getting back at Mt. Lady for stealing credit for jobs was the motive to find her, there'd be a long line hunting her down before me."

"True," Deku said. He kicked his foot back and forth, licking his lips with a smirk. "Kamui Woods might have dibs there. She's been taking credit for his jobs since we were in middle school."

Katsuki rinsed off the dishes and stuck them in the tiny rack near their sink to dry. Joking aside, Kamui Woods was one of the ones more affected by Mt. Lady's disappearance. They'd been friends a long time and the older Pro Hero was looking for her harder than anyone, assigned to her case or not. It was common knowledge that he'd been working on any lead he could get in his off hours.

"You look pensive," Deku said, poking Katsuki in the bicep. "What's on your mind?"

"Thinking about what a pain in the ass it'll be if we don't find Mt. Lady soon," Katsuki said. He dried his hands and shoved Deku in the side. "Stop sitting up there. I prep food on that counter."

Deku complied, but not without shaking his head as he hopped down. As Katsuki moved to leave the kitchen, Deku wrapped his arms around Katsuki's waist and dipped his fingers under Katsuki's shirt. Deku nuzzled the shirt under his cheek and exhaled, voice low and wanting. "Kacchan."

"What, nerd?" Katsuki asked.

Deku laughed at his blunt response, his voice vibrating the muscles in Katsuki's back. He smiled wide enough Katsuki could feel it. "Do you know what I'm thinking?"

"I know it's only six-thirty," Katsuki said. He twisted in the ever increasing hold and tilted Deku's head back using his thumb against the nerd's forehead. "And we are not fooling around for four hours, weekend or not."

"You're so stingy," Deku said, but pulled his arms back all the same. He let Katsuki walk by him into their tiny living room and followed, curls bouncing around his face. "But that wasn't a total no, was it?"

"No, it's not a 'no', but I still have some work to do. Besides, I wanted to take a shower first, anyway." Katsuki dropped onto the couch to sort through his work notes before Deku got distracting again. He tugged his laptop out of his bag and set it up on the coffee table. Katsuki still needed to type and send in a report. He should have done it at the office, but he had wanted to go home as soon as possible before he heard one more word about Mt. Lady missing. "I'm surprised you're so ready to go already. Didn't you start a new part time job or something today? I figured you'd have talked my ear off about it already."

"You do pay attention when I ramble," Deku said, tucking himself into the armchair next to the couch. He opened the top drawer of the side table and pulled out one of his journals. He flipped through it and started writing and the sound of scribbles accompanied his voice. "I didn't think you were listening when I mentioned it."

"I was in and out, but I heard the important things," Katsuki said, opening his agency's homepage to login. "So? You going to tell me how it went or not?"

Deku continued writing, but sunk into the chair. "As well as a first day can go. I mostly followed around someone else and observed all day. Even with all the customers, it was pretty boring."

"Surprised you didn't talk their ears off about Heroes," Katsuki said. If he remembered right, Deku's new store sold Hero merchandise. No one knew more about all the Pro Heroes working right now than Deku did. No one. Katsuki finished the last bit of his report and clicked submit. "You're a walking encyclopedia."

"Couldn't really get a word in edgewise," Deku said, tilting his head back. "They were too busy rambling about their favorite Heroes for me to speak up."

"Geeks attract geeks," Katsuki said, closing his laptop lid. He stretched his arms over his head and cracked his back. As he got up, he pointed at Deku's face and huffed. "But on that subject, you come home with Ground Zero merchandise and I'm kicking your ass out of this apartment."

Deku bit his lip and shrugged his shoulders up as he buried his face behind his notebook. "You probably should sleep with me before your shower then."

Katsuki stared hard before storming to their shared bathroom and threw the door open: A Ground Zero printed shower curtain stared back at him.

He ripped it off the curtain rod, leaving only the white plastic liner. He could hear Deku laughing from the living room and if that asshole thought he was getting laid tonight he was dead wrong.

Dead. Wrong.

Deku attempted to change Katsuki's mind with a hand-job, but Katsuki held his earlier conviction.

"Not a chance after what you pulled," Katsuki had said, pinning Deku by the arms to the bed. He loomed over him, squeezing Deku's wrists. "You know I hate that shit."

"It was too good to pass up," he'd said, attempting to look innocent. After a brief stare down, Deku relented and tapped Katsuki's hand with his finger. "Okay, okay. I get it. You're still mad and I'll make sure you don't see any of your merchandise I'm hoarding."

That was close enough.

Katsuki let him up and they both changed into their nightclothes, pulling down the bed for an early night. Deku went back to writing in his journal and Katsuki spent the hour they would have been having sex catching up on a novel he'd been reading. He couldn't remember who had recommended it to him, but he was rather enjoying the story.

Dragons were pretty cool.

Despite the earlier upset, Katsuki found it a rather pleasant way to end the day. Something tugged at the back of his mind that he was forgetting something important, but whatever it was could wait until the morning. He was in too good of a mood after that horrible week to linger on it.

After Katsuki turned out the lights and returned to bed, Deku rolled over to tuck himself under Katsuki's arm. He tugged the blanket higher around them and closed his eyes, mumbling, "Goodnight, Kacchan."

"Night, nerd," Katsuki said, digging his fingers into Deku's hair.

The morning greeted Katsuki with his alarm clock ringing on the later setting for his days off. He rolled over to turn it off, finding the bed empty and rubbed his eyes before he sat up. Looking around the room, he saw Deku's pajama pants on the side of the bed and the bathroom door open. He could see the fogged mirror from here and yawned into his hand.

"Morning, Kacchan," Deku said, leaving the bathroom in a new outfit Katsuki hadn't seen before. He spotted the logo of Deku's new shop on the shirt and assumed it was a uniform. "Have a good day off and I'll see you after work."

Katsuki grunted and held a hand up as Deku went for his shoes. Grabbing his phone off the stand, he checked his mail. He paused seeing a text in one of the upper corners. Katsuki opened it and fell back against the bed—he knew there was something he had forgotten last night.

"Hey, Deku," Katsuki said, staring at the accusing text on his phone. "What time are you getting back again?"

"Two," Deku said. His eyes raked over Katsuki's bare chest and sent Katsuki a lecherous smirk. "Why? Looking forward to cashing in on that rain check for last night?"

"You wish," Katsuki said, he dropped his phone and sat back up. It pained him to say, but he got the words out anyway. "Red Riot's coming over for dinner tonight and he's bringing a friend, so if you're done by two it shouldn't be a problem."

"What?" Deku asked, freezing as he grabbed his keys. The smile dropped off his face so fast it looked like he'd been hit with a bucket of ice water. "You never have anyone over."

"He invited himself over," Katsuki said, staring off to the side and avoiding Deku's accusing gaze. "Yesterday. I was going to tell you after dinner but it slipped my mind."

Between the reminder about Mt. Lady's status, Deku's flirting, and that stupid shower curtain, Katsuki had completely forgotten about Red Riot and their conversation during lunch break. Katsuki had been careless and let it slip that he lived with someone. That was enough for Riot to decide he needed to see this mystery housemate for himself. Katsuki could work with Riot, they'd gotten their first Provisional License together in school after all, but sometimes he was too nosy and always in Katsuki's space.

Katsuki had almost turned him down flat, but their boss overheard the conversation and said some stupid shit about how it was about time Katsuki made some friends. The guy had already been on Katsuki about being more social since he started working there, so this was a good way to get both of them off his back for a while.

It shouldn't be a big deal.

"That's a rather important thing to slip your mind, Kacchan," Deku said. He clutched his keys and narrowed his eyes. Deku covered his face and mumbled under his breath as he stared at the wall. "We are not ready for company to come over. There's so much to do and clean and we'd need to get dinner ready. Neither of us is good at hosting, so I might have to call my mom and get tips and—"

Katsuki needed to nip that in the bud.

"I've got this Deku, so just go to work. Riot's my damn guest, so I'm going to clean and make dinner so all you have to do is show up and try not to freak out," Katsuki said, throwing his phone back on the bed. He got up, ruffling his hair out as he walked over to Deku. He punched the other in the shoulder before digging through his drawers for a shirt. "Don't worry about it."

"If you say so," Deku said. He twisted his keys back and forth in his hand, staring at Katsuki's back. "What'd you tell him about us?"

"You're my boyfriend," Katsuki said. He pulled on his shirt and refused to look at Deku. They had never officially said it, but after living together and fucking for two years, they might as well be dating. "Nothing else, though."

"Kacchan," Deku said, voice wobbling. "You—"

"Don't say it." Katsuki covered Deku's mouth with his hand. He leaned into his space and huffed. "It was just the easiest thing to tell him. You're going to be late for work if you don't get out of here."

Deku reached up and pulled Katsuki's hand down, keeping hold of his wrist. He squeezed, leaning up to kiss Katsuki on the lips. He dropped down and looked far too smug. "I'll see you after work, Kacchan."

Katsuki watched him dart out the door and prayed tonight wouldn't be half the disaster he thought it would.

"Man, am I glad to meet you, Midoriya," Riot said, laughing as he handed Deku the bottle of cider he'd brought as a housewarming gift. Something stronger might be needed for the evening, but Riot had missed the memo. "I was starting to think I was his only friend."

Deku's smile looked strained, but he clutched the bottle. Riot had no clue of the minefield he'd stumbled upon after years of Katsuki dodging Deku's questions about his friends. "I'm not surprised you think that, knowing him."

"Don't I know it," Riot said. He took a step in, looking around the apartment with wide, happy eyes. He walked around like he belonged there—like Riot had been a welcome guest for years, despite the niceties he spouted. "Thanks for having me over!"

Katsuki looked behind him and saw the empty space in the hallway. "What happened to Pinky? Wasn't she coming too?"

"She had a last minute thing pop up," Riot said. He rubbed the back of his hair and scrunched his shoulders up. "So it looks like I'm third wheeling it tonight."

"Whatever," Katsuki said. That just meant more for him at dinner. He grabbed the bottle of cider from Deku and headed into the kitchen. "Make yourself at home or something."

"Ignore Katsuki," Deku said, dropping the nickname. Katsuki nearly dropped the bottle of cider. He caught it last second and put a hand to his chest to calm his heart. If Deku or Riot caught the slip, they didn't comment on it. "He's a grumpy host."

"He's grumpy at everything," Riot said, mock whispering.

"I can hear you, you shits," Katsuki yelled over his shoulder. He slammed the bottle of cider on the counter and turned to the table. He gathered up Pinky's place setting and dumped it back on the counter to make more room for the food. "Get your asses in here. I'm serving."

"That smells amazing," Riot said, helping himself to a seat next to Deku at the table. "I didn't know you could cook, too!"

"If this is going to turn into an entire night of 'I didn't know you could do that!' I'm throwing you out and giving your dinner to the alley cats," Katsuki said. He pointed at Riot's face with his spoon as he paused stirring his soup. "This is not a big deal. Stop making it one."

"Okay, okay," Riot said. He held his hands up and grinned, all shark teeth and too much joy. "I'm just really happy to get to know you better. I've only been trying to since we were in Class 1-A together."

There was likely more truth in that statement than Katsuki remembered. His school days had turned into a blur of frustration and blindness to everything around him. If Riot—Kirishima then—had been trying to make nice, Katsuki hadn't noticed under the haze of anger and broken punching bags.

"I've learned more about you in the past two days than the past five years, dude!" Riot said, still holding his arms up. He grinned at Deku and put his chin on his hand as Katsuki set bowls of soup on the table for the appetizer. "How long have you two been dating?"

"We fooled around a bit in high school, but we didn't move in together until Katsuki graduated," Deku said, dropping the nickname again. Katsuki had to get used to that, if just for tonight—but it was just so weird. "We've known each other our entire lives, though."

"Childhood friends to lovers," Riot said, practically swooning. "That's so sweet. Who knew you had such a romantic side, G.Z.?"

"I regret this," Katsuki said, checking the oven before he sat for dinner. He had ten minutes left on his chicken and that was just enough time to eat soup first. "Eat and shut up."

"Yes, sir," Riot said, digging into his soup.

"We should do this again sometime," Riot said. He patted Katsuki on the side of the arm and continued the grin he'd had on his face the entire night. Riot paused before he said, "What the heck?"

Riot engulfed Katsuki into the tightest bear hug he'd ever been in, lifting him off the ground. He dropped Katsuki just as fast, as if sensing the growing explosion, and let himself out the door with a fast "I'll see you at the office in a couple days!" over his shoulder as he jogged down the hallway.

"I'm gonna kill him," Katsuki said, shutting the apartment door.

At least the evening was over, and nothing too bad had happened. Riot rambled about Katsuki at work. Deku occasionally added a comment of his own, but mostly kept quiet. Katsuki grunted. If that was all it took to make Riot happy, then so be it.

"Hey, Deku," Katsuki said, about to tell him that he'd handle dinner clean up since this entire night had been his fault.

Deku shoved him against the door before he had the chance, fitting their mouths together and sticking his leg between Katsuki's. He pressed his thigh against Katsuki's crotch and deepened the kiss with a desperation that set his nerves on edge. Deku decided that wasn't enough and pulled Katsuki away from the door, manhandling them both without breaking the kiss until they crashed onto the couch.

Katsuki grabbed Deku's waist as he made himself at home on Katsuki's lap and struggled to catch his breath. "What the hell?"

"Red Riot likes you," Deku said. He leaned over and grabbed the sides of Katsuki's face and breathed hard. "I like you more, Kacchan."

"You jealous?" Katsuki asked, squashing down the relief that the nickname was back. He wasn't sure he could handle hearing Deku say his full name right now after that evening. Katsuki squeezed Deku's hips, digging his fingers in hard. "Don't be a stupid shit. You're the one that lives here."

"Good answer," Deku said. He returned to kissing Katsuki, opening the front of their pants with one hand.

Katsuki stopped him and grabbed the exploring fingers. "We are not doing this on the couch. I am not in the mood to clean upholstery later."

Deku laughed, though it sounded wrong and forced through the slight anger in his gaze. Who knew he'd be that upset over Riot coming over? Deku kissed Katsuki again before breaking contact and dragging Katsuki up by the front of his shirt. "Bed then."

Between the couch and the bedroom, the front door got locked as Katsuki passed, clothes were shed by the doorway, and they entered the bedroom in a tangle of limbs fueled by Deku's insistence on keeping as much of their skin touching as possible.

They were naked by the time they made it to the bed, already halfway to finishing with Deku's hand far too busy for it's own good.

"You're impatient tonight," Katsuki grunted, burying his face into Deku's shoulder as they moved their way up the mattress. He groaned into it as Deku's grip tightened around him, pulling in just the right way. Katsuki dug his fingers into Deku's back, too distracted by how good things felt to reciprocate just yet. "Riot rile you up that much?"

"Don't talk about him right now, Kacchan," Deku said, squeezing. Katsuki grunted and bit Deku's shoulder in response. He got a smack in return for his trouble and Deku kneed him in the side. "That hurt."

"Then what's the rush?" Katsuki asked.

"There's no rush," Deku said. He sat up staring over Katsuki with a serious gaze that reminded him of high school and being cornered against the wall of his house. "We're just getting started."

Katsuki found himself too frozen to say anything, and instead accepted Deku's next kiss.

"Morning, G.Z.!" Riot said, holding his hand up as Katsuki walked into the office. He trotted over, a stack of papers in his hand and costume on. "Thanks again for dinner the other night. You should invite Midoriya over to the office one of these days for lunch. I bet everyone would love to meet him, too."

A tiny voice in Katsuki's head screamed "Don't do that." His gut instinct shouted just as loud that letting Deku loose on the other people in Katsuki's life would be a mistake. He tried to tell himself it was only to avoid the embarrassment of Deku telling them all childhood stories or commenting on how domestic Katsuki could be at home—but that wasn't it.

He didn't know what it was, but he had learned a long time ago to listen to his gut.

"Deku's shy," Katsuki settled on, wondering now if it was weird he still used the nickname when Deku himself had dropped the pet names out of politeness. "And a total Hero fan. He'd drive everyone crazy if he felt comfortable enough to start jabbering."

"Oh! He works in a merchandise shop, right?" Riot asked. He crossed his arms, crumbling the edges of his paperwork and continued smiling. "To work in a place like that you either just need the job or are a total fan. I guess he's the latter."

"Something like that," Katsuki said. He flicked the top of the papers and sighed. "Don't ruin your paperwork or the boss'll yell again."

"Right!" Riot said. He dropped his arms and fixed the papers before he set them neatly on the counter and away from his sharp outfit and clumsy grip. "Anyway, I meant it earlier. It was nice getting to see the guy behind Ground Zero for a change."

Riot sounded so damn sincere, Katsuki's chest ached in a weird way. Had it always been like this and he hadn't just paid attention? Did Katsuki spend the last five years of his life with no one but Deku because he'd just ignored everyone's good intentions? Riot kept smiling and Katsuki's guilt grew.

"We can do it again sometime, but only if you knock that sappy shit to the curb," Katsuki said, grunting and biting his lip. He knew the frustration showed on his face, but Riot didn't care if the way his smile turned into something softer was anything to go by. "Make up for lost time or some shit."

"I'd like that," Riot said. He grinned brighter (if that were even possible) and started moving his hands around as he got excited. "And next time I'll totally bring over Pinky and some of the others so we can make a group thing out of it!"

"Or we could stick to small groups before I lose my temper and murder all of you," Katsuki said, snorting.

"That too," Riot said. He dropped his papers into the In Box before trotting after Katsuki. One night of dinner had opened up an entire new floodgate of conversations. "I think we're patrolling the same area next week, but you're working with..."

As Riot trailed off, Katsuki turned around to see what had caught his attention.

Kamui Woods had walked in through the main door, so much grief dripping off every inch of him that both Katsuki and Riot knew what that had to mean.

"They found Mt. Lady," Kamui Woods said, upon seeing the two of them. His voice choked as he covered the lower half of his mask. "She's dead."

Katsuki felt his world shift, gripping his hand into a fist as his palms smoked, smothering the reflexive sparks.

Chapter Text

The news ran the story two weeks later on the day of the funeral service: "Mt. Lady Found Dismembered—No Suspects."

The gruesome title led to a recap article detailing how a small wooden box had been found on the steps of some random couple's home in a neighboring suburb, with a small note tacked to the lid that read "Give to police. Don't open."

Needless to say, they opened it and were met with the stench of formaldehyde.

The Pro Hero Mt. Lady had been packed into the box with her torso in the center and her limbs cut at the major joints. The eight pieces had been fit into the space around it like puzzle pieces, arranged with care. Mt. Lady's head had been set aside, neatly placed in a side compartment separated from the main body. It had been placed on a pillow with her eyes closed and long hair spread around her like a hair dresser practice dummy.

It took the couple an hour to stop panicking and actually call the police.

The coroners' postmortem exam detailed the body had been cut apart after death, which was the only comfort friends like Kamui Woods could hold dear. The actual cause of death was still unknown due to the preservation of the body and the careful dismemberment.

Every Pro Hero in the city attended her funeral. The sun shined on all of their backs as they stood and listened to the service, the bright day contrasting everyone's dark moods. Katsuki stood with his agency and coworkers, dressed in a suit he'd only worn once before. The heat seeped into the black fabric, making it almost as uncomfortable as the heavy atmosphere.

Katsuki wished he had better words for the grieving than "I'm sorry" spoken half under his breath, but nothing felt good enough or right enough.

He left the ceremony as soon as he was able, wanting nothing more than to get away from the crowds and his own feelings of helplessness. Riot patted his shoulder as he walked by and held up his phone with a small shake indicated that he'd text later. Katsuki wasn't sure a couple weeks of talking was enough for heart to hearts but he appreciated the sentiment. Katsuki walked the rest of the way to his apartment to clear his head, though it ended up passing in more of a daze than reflection.

Deku had dinner ready when he got home.

"Hey, Kacchan," he said. Deku tugged on the sleeve of his sweater, rolling it between his fingers. "Wasn't sure if you'd be hungry or not."

"Thanks," Katsuki said. He fell into the seat closest to Deku, staring at the plate of food. It smelled good, but he made no move to eat it.

Deku reached over and took Katsuki's hand, lacing their fingers together. He squeezed gently, and touched their forearms side by side as he leaned closer. "I watched the service on the news. It was nice."

"Yeah," Katsuki said, looking down at Deku's mop of curly, green hair.

While not always a welcome presence, Deku was certainly a constant one. Katsuki thought back to the grief of Kamui Woods and the heartache that might have hinted at something more than a Hero partnership. But Mt. Lady was a Hero and Heroes put themselves in the line of fire every day. This was a horrible occurrence, but not an entirely unexpected one. Heroes fell during duty all the time, and if one of those Heroes was a loved one, it must have been so much worse.

Deku had given up on being a Hero a long time ago, and Katsuki found his heart swell with gratefulness.

Deku wasn’t going to go anywhere, not while he was safe at home.

He’d always been there for Katsuki, and a whisper of guilt for Katsuki’s past ungratefulness bubbled up into his chest.

Katsuki took his hand out of Deku’s hold and lifted it toward the other’s freckled cheek. He ghosted the fingers there, drawing them back to cup the side of his face, resting his thumb just under widening eyes. The gentle touch felt odd but appropriate as Katsuki leaned forward. Deku didn’t draw away as Katsuki touched their lips together.

Deku leaned into it, closing his eyes and humming into the unexpected tenderness.

Turning in his chair, Katsuki moved closer and without breaking their connection, dropped his arms around Deku’s back and pulling him up. Deku responded in kind, his arms going around Katsuki’s shoulders in an easy movement that felt so perfect and natural. They pulled apart, their breaths mingling in the closeness. Katsuki dropped his head into Deku’s shoulder, smelling a slight hint of lotion still lingering on his skin.

Katsuki wanted to be closer; wanted to remind himself that this was real.

Deku’s legs wrapped around his waist automatically when Katsuki moved to lift him out of the chair. His felt Deku bury his face in Katsuki’s shoulder, oddly meek and quiet but Katsuki welcomed the silence. He walked the two of them to the bedroom, not bothering to turn on the light. Katsuki shut the door with his heel and crossed the few remaining steps to the bed in the center of the small room.

He set Deku on the corner, rumpling their sheets, and the other slipped back and grabbed hold of Katsuki’s tie. He undid the knot, tugging the fabric off as Katsuki moved in for another kiss, rolling them both onto the mattress and pressing themselves flush together.

Deku whispered “Kacchan” as Katsuki moved down, pushing up Deku’s shirt to kiss his ribs, then placed a small trail of brief kisses down toward his belly. Fingers found their way to Katsuki’s hair, and he heard a muffled moan as Deku covered his own mouth with his palm. His knee came up, knocking Katsuki in the side as he pulled down the front of Deku’s pants.

Katsuki tried to remember if he’d ever instigated anything like this before; he couldn’t recall. He usually didn’t have the time or opportunity with Deku’s constant attention and neediness. Katsuki had never had to work for their intimacy; never had to give.

But right now he wanted to.

Deku’s back arched as Katsuki swallowed him, holding a hand against Deku’s leg to keep it from knocking into his head.

Katsuki kissed Deku’s thigh as he caught his breath, looking up to meet fully-blown pupils in half-shaded eyes, dark and green and deep. Deku’s fingers tightened in his hair and Katsuki thought maybe, just maybe this is what love was supposed to feel like.

Life returned to a state of almost-normalcy about two weeks after Mt. Lady’s funeral, the biggest change of which had been Riot inviting himself into Katsuki’s space more regularly.

Riot had somehow weaseled into switching his patrol schedule with someone so he and Katsuki could share the shift more often than not. Katsuki scoffed to himself, remembering the idiot did that in class at U.A. too when he always tried to pair Katsuki and himself up for sparring sessions. Only then his motives had been wildly diffrent—wait.

Katsuki stopped walking, freezing in the middle of the sidewalk. Riot stumbled to a halt, looking over his shoulder as he watched Katsuki’s face twist into something like horror.

“G.Z.?” Riot asked, stepping closer. “You okay?”

“You weren’t trying to pick fights in high school,” Katsuki whispered under his breath. He slapped his palm over his face and groaned. “You were trying to be friends.”

“Uh, what are you talking about?” Riot asked, mouth half in a confused smile as his eyes darted around the civilians staring at their conversation. He grabbed Katsuki’s arm and tugged them both over into a corner and somewhere a bit more private than the middle of the street. “You’ve lost me.”

“You did this shit at U.A., too. The switching shifts so we’d be paired up,” Katsuki said, waving his hand. He felt his chest hurt with embarrassment and anger at himself for being so stupid. “I thought you were trying to pick a fight with me, but you were just trying to talk or something stupid, weren’t you?”

Riot stared, mouth dropping open wider. He blinked and the confusion overwhelmed the small hurt at Katsuki’s accusation. “Why’d you think I was picking a fight?”

“Your Quirk!” Katsuki said, holding his hands up. He punched Riot in the shoulder, and it hardened on reflex to take the hit. “It’s crazy strong against mine. I thought you were trying to fight me because you had the advantage and could win easier!”

“Wow,” Riot said. He took a step back and covered his mouth. “Wow, I didn’t think about that at all! That…that actually explains so much. Dude, you were just so physical and quiet, I figured sparring might be a better way to get to know you. I wasn’t even thinking about winning or losing.”

Katsuki wanted to curl up into a corner and die. He punched the wall behind him and smacked his forehead into it.

That should have been his first thought back then. Friends in his class had friendly sparring sessions all the time, Riot most of all. There was that silver dude in Class 1-B he was always hanging out with and brawling with. That’s what a normal person would have thought an overly friendly guy like Riot was doing in the first place: Making friends.

Before he could get too far into hitting the wall again, Riot rushed over and grabbed his arm, tugging it over. “Hey! It’s okay! Dude, that was my bad, too. I should have said what I was doing instead of just assuming you knew.”

Katsuki shook his head but relaxed his shoulders. His voice came out quiet, as his chest moved up and down. “You were really trying to be friends at U.A, weren’t you?”

“Yeah, but I’m starting to think I didn’t try hard enough,” Riot said. His own smile looked regretful as he kept hold of Katsuki’s arm. “After those first few sessions of you yelling at me and getting blown off when I tried to ask you to do things, I just figured you wanted your space and I gave it to you. If I’d been paying more attention, I might have noticed you had no idea how to socialize.”

“Hey!” Katsuki said, shoving Riot off. The other laughed, knowing he was right. Katsuki shoved him in the arm and said, “Shut up.”

“But hey, that was then and this is now!” Riot said. He clapped his hands together and grinned. He shook Katsuki’s arm, his smile a bit forced in the wake of their shared embarrassment. “We can start over and forget both of our social awkwardness, right? Right?”

“Sure,” Katsuki said.

Riot did a fist pump to himself and laughed. “Awesome, dude. Oh, we can start today! Pinky, myself, and Chargebolt are going to visit with some friends from U.A. tonight around seven and just have dinner and hang out. You should come.”

Katsuki wondered if this was what jumping into the deep end without knowing how to swim was like, but the other half of him just wanted to say “Yes.” To go and see what he had been missing all those years trapped up in his own ego.

“I’ll think about it,” Katsuki said, wondering why he didn’t just say “sure” like he wanted. His chest itched, squirming with something uncomfortable but he ignored it. “I’ll text you later.”

“Perfect,” Riot said. He threw a thumb over his shoulder back toward the street. “Let’s get back to work! Those streets won’t patrol themselves.”

Katsuki nodded and led the way, listening to Riot jabber in his ear about everyone who would be there that night and what they’d be doing. That same joy that radiated him from dinner last month came back full force and Katsuki couldn’t help the smile that crawled onto his face.

This was good, wasn’t it?

“Kacchan! Welcome home,” Deku said, looking up from his journal and straight at the bag of groceries in Katsuki’s hand that held the quick dinner he planned to make for Deku. He saw the label for the meat through the sheer bag and grinned. “Are you making fried pork tonight? I love that!”

“I know you do,” Katsuki said. He hoped making Deku’s favorite meal would put him in a good mood so he wouldn’t mind spending the evening alone. “That’s why I got it.”

Katsuki checked the clock, noting the time and breathed out. It was just after five, which meant he had plenty of time to make sure he upheld his dinner-making obligations and still make it out to meet up with Riot and the others. Katsuki just had to text Riot to let him know he was coming. He pulled out his phone ready to make the text, but his fingers hovered over the keys.

He wasn’t sure why he was hesitating.

“What are you doing, Kacchan?” Deku asked, eyes narrowed slightly at the phone. “Did someone still need something from work?”

Katsuki jerked, holding his phone away. He looked away from Deku and back at the small device. “No, nothing like that. Riot invited me out with some of his friends tonight and I was thinking about going. He wanted me to text him if I planned to.”

“Why would he invite you?” Deku asked, walking over. He snatched the bag of groceries from Katsuki’s grip and brought them into the kitchen. Deku looked through the bag, mumbling under his breath. “It’s not like you’re friends with them.”

The point was to try and become friends, but Katsuki felt like Deku should know that.

“It wouldn’t kill me either,” Katsuki said. He followed Deku into the kitchen, still holding his phone. Riot’s text telling him the time and location if “You still want to come” stared back at him waiting for an answer. They were having dinner at a bar downtown and it was nothing special. Katsuki wanted to go. “Maybe it’s about time I started socializing with my teammates, anyway.”

“What about dinner?” Deku asked, watching Katsuki carefully. He tugged on the edge of the plastic bag, crinkling it. “It’s your night.”

“I was going to make it before I left,” Katsuki said. “They’re not meeting until seven.”

“You shouldn’t go,” Deku said. His eyes narrowed and his face twisted in that look he got when he was irritated. Deku paused for a moment, like he had caught himself and his gaze softened. He smiled, like Katsuki was some small child asking for extra candy and needed to be humored. “You’ll regret it if you go out—I can feel it, so just make dinner and tell me about your day instead. We’ll do something fun later and you won’t have missed anything.”

Deku moved to touch Katsuki’s arm, but he backed up and brushed him off. Deku froze, and his eyes narrowed again. Katsuki stared at his phone and the text that screamed of regrets and hope. He couldn’t miss his chance this time. Deku didn’t understand the situation, that was all. He hadn’t been there at U.A. to see Riot’s first attempts at friendship. Deku just didn’t know.

Katsuki typed “I’ll meet you there” and responded to Riot. He looked at Deku and breathed out, decision made. “I’m gonna’ go, Deku, so move over so I can make dinner first.”

“No,” Deku said. He grabbed Katsuki’s wrist, twisting it to the side and pointed at the phone screen. “That person is not your friend, Kacchan. You’re making a mistake and I’m not going to sit here and let you do this to yourself again.”

“Let go, Deku,” Katsuki said, tensing his wrist.

“Do you remember high school? Because I do,” Deku said, his voice lowering. He cornered Katsuki against the kitchen bar, close enough that their chests touched. Deku kept squeezing Katsuki’s wrist, tight and unrelenting. “Those people make you cry. What sort of friends do that? Does Red Riot know about how much you suffered while at U.A.? Does he know how your knuckles bled and you screamed? Where was he when all that was going on?”

“He didn’t know about it because you’re the only one who saw it,” Katsuki hissed back. He yanked his arm out of Deku’s hold and shoved him away. Deku knocked into the kitchen table, knocking over the salt before he got back into Katsuki’s space. “That’s not his fault!”

“It is!” Deku yelled. He slammed his fist on the counter, rattling the vase of flowers hard enough that it fell over. Water spilled on their carpet in loud drips. “You know what this is? He’s trying to use you now that you’re getting more popular. We both know you’ve been doing very well lately and are getting noticed by the press. He just wants to cash in on it and you’re going to sit here and let him!

“You don’t need him, Kacchan, or any of them,” Deku said. He stepped forward, putting his hand on Katsuki’s chest. “I was the one who saw you cry. I was the one who came to wrap your knuckles and keep you company. I was the one who was there when you were at your lowest, not them. If they weren’t there for you then, they sure as hell shouldn’t get you now. I’m the only one you need so text him back and let him know you’re not going.”

“No,” Katsuki whispered. He took Deku’s wrist and moved his hand off his own aching chest. His heart squeezed and he shook his head as he held Deku’s wrist gently. Katsuki felt unsure of his words, but his gut told him to get out of the house. He needed to leave. Katsuki needed to see Riot and the others. Katsuki said as much: “I need to go. I need to do this, Deku.”

“Fine,” Deku said, voice full of ice. He tugged out of Katsuki’s hold and glared, his chest heaving from all the yelling. The anger simmered under the surface, and Deku’s face scrunched with it, twisted and ugly. “Go on then. Make your ‘friends’ and see what it gets you. Let them into your heart and let them break it all over again.

“I’ll just pick up the pieces afterwards like I always do,” Deku said. He turned cold, eyes calculating and narrowed. “Though I’m starting to wonder why I still bother.”

Deku shoved past Katsuki and left the kitchen. He watched him over the kitchen bar as Deku passed through the living room toward their bedroom. He opened the door and shouted over his shoulder, “Don’t concern yourself with dinner.”

Their bedroom door slammed, hiding Deku behind it and Katsuki remained frozen in the kitchen with his phone in his hand.

It buzzed.

Riot’s response stared back at him, excited that Katsuki had agreed to come.

Katsuki’s stomach twisted in knots and it felt hard to breathe. He leaned on the counter and counted to ten before he pulled out his groceries and set them out. Katsuki made dinner, not sure what else to do with himself in the two hours he had to kill.

Deku could always eat it tomorrow if he didn’t want it tonight.

“Hey! I told you he was going to come!” Riot yelled, waving excitedly at Katsuki approached the small bar.

Riot and Pinky waited outside the door to the building, dressed down in their civvies. Katsuki brushed off his own suit jacket he’d thrown on over a t-shirt and his best blue jeans. He felt overdressed next to their own attire of printed tees and scruffy jeans and wondered if it had even been worth it to suffer Deku’s glaring over his journal as Katsuki snuck into the bedroom to get his clothes in the first place. He might have been better off showing up in his after-work clothes.

“Okay, okay,” Pinky said, shoving Riot in the arm. “You were right and I’m glad we came out to meet him.”

“The others are inside, but I wanted to make sure you knew you had the right place when you got here,” Riot said. He ran up and hugged Katsuki in that same bear hug, still bursting with happiness. Pinky laughed at them and shoved them both before heading back into the bar. Riot dropped Katsuki and said lower and much softer, “Hey, if you want to leave any time, that’s cool. I’m getting the feeling this is kind of a big thing for you to come out like this.”

Riot didn’t know the half of it.

Katsuki nodded, happy for a quick out and stuck his hands in his pockets. “Let’s just go inside.”

“Yeah!” Riot said with glee.

He led the way, and Katsuki followed into a clean establishment with a long bar and ample seating. The music played alternate rock over the speakers, with just enough bite to be interesting, but not so loud that it smothered conversation. A small dance floor had been set up to the far corner, but it was empty with most of the patrons choosing to mingle around drinks and tables.

“Red called it,” Pinky said, sliding into a seat next to Earphone Jack. She dropped her elbows on the table and dragged over a cup that had been waiting in the seat. “He got Ground Zero to come.”

“It’s good to see you again,” Shouto said, holding a hand up. Katsuki paused, not expecting to see the Todoroki. He probably shouldn’t have zoned out when Riot had listed everyone who was going to be there. “It’s been awhile.”

“Yeah,” Katsuki said, half grunting.

He stood awkwardly and unsure next to the table before Riot pushed him into a seat and waved at a waitress. Riot plopped into the seat to Katsuki’s left, sandwiching him in between Riot and Shouto, his two biggest rivals and the people most responsible for all his high school losses—No.

Katsuki stopped his thoughts. He was there to make friends, not remember bad times. He focused on the table around him instead before things could get too grim. Aside from Shouto, Pinky, Riot, and Earphone Jack, the remainder of the table consisted of other members from his old U.A. class: Chargebolt, Tsukuyomi, Ingenium II, Uravity, and Creati. A small group, but familiar faces that Katsuki knew almost nothing about despite spending three years in school together.

Their conversations flowed easily with a mix of laughter and commentary like you would expect from old friends catching up. Katsuki held the drink Riot had ordered for him, cradling it to have something to do with his hands as he struggled to keep up with the topics flying around the table. He felt like he should at least be familiar with the things Riot and Pinky were talking about since they shared an agency, but they had left work topics long behind and he had no clue what went on in their social lives.

“What made you come out?” Shouto asked, catching Katsuki’s attention. He had been one of the quieter ones at the table, and either was genuinely interested in conversation or felt pity for Katsuki’s awkwardness.

Katsuki twisted his glass, staring at the top of his beer and the foam that had long dissolved into the warm liquid. “Riot asked.”

“Ah,” Shouto said, eyes widening a fraction. He sipped his own drink and looked thoughtfully at his hands. “I apologize that none of us realized it’d be that easy sooner.”

Katsuki tightened his grip around his cup. Would it have been? If Riot or any of the others had bothered to ask him somewhere over the past two years would he have gone? His gruff personality had always scared them away and he said “No” so much at U.A. during their freshman year it was his own fault they had stopped asking to do anything or to go anywhere.

Why was finding out Katsuki lived with someone enough of a trigger to get Riot to start wanting to hang out now?

Had he been looking for an “in” like Deku thought?


Katsuki had been doing better on the Hero scene this last year. Aside from the couple jobs Mt. Lady took—no, no, no, no—he’d been commended at least three times. Katsuki had a news article last month about a bank robbery he’d stopped that had been notable because he managed to save two kids while he was at it. Was Deku right? Were they just trying to be buddy-buddy now that Katsuki had gained more popularity?

No, that wasn’t right. The others were far more popular than he’d ever been. Hell, Shouto was the number one Pro Hero in their generation at the moment and a shoe-in for the overall spot. Deku had to be wrong. If anyone would be making friends to climb the social ladder it’d be Katsuki trying to be buddy-buddy with them. It’d only hurt their reputations to be associated with Katsuki and his temper and violent streaks.

“Is he okay?”

But then why was Deku so angry? He’d been worried about Katsuki, but he was smart—smarter than anyone gave him credit for. He knew Katsuki’s reputation, so he’d know that the other Heroes had little to gain by being friends with him so that didn’t make any sense, but then.

Oh, hell. Deku had been so angry. Katsuki’s breath hitched and he felt too hot. He couldn’t swallow; couldn’t breathe. He’d never seen Deku so angry before now that he thought about it. Katsuki’s chest burned and the room disappeared.


He saw Deku’s glaring face and the tenseness of his muscles. He’d been too much in shock at the time to really process what was going on. They were fighting and Deku had been furious. Katsuki’s entire body had shaken under the weight of that disapproving stare. It reminded him of being scolded by his mother, but harsher. There had been no hint of his usual desire and affection; only loathing and frustration.

“I think he’s having a panic attack.”

Deku had said “I’m starting to wonder why I still bother.”

What did that mean? Was he done with Katsuki, too? Reaching his own limit of tolerance for Katsuki’s horrible personality? It’s not like this dinner thing or going out with the others was going to last. Katsuki knew that, too, deep down. No matter how much he’d wanted this. Needed it. Katsuki would slip up, wouldn’t he? He’d hit someone or say the wrong thing and they’d give up on him again like they did in high school and oh. Oh. Deku was right.

This was a mistake.

He’d made a mistake.

And Deku had been so angry and what if this was it? What if he left?

“Do you think we should call Midoriya?”

Katsuki heard that; the question screaming through the haze of other voices ringing in his ears. He burst out of his chair, heart beating so fast he could hear it echoing in his ears and shouted “No!”

His pants felt wet from the splash of something and hands were on his arm. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t see. What was wrong? His palms smoked and his chest wouldn’t move and it burned.

“Bakugou!” Hands were on his face, one too cold and one too hot and his head was yanked down. He stared into mismatched eyes his chest on fire and limbs shaking. The grip on his face tightened. “That’s right, look at me. You’re having a panic attack, Bakugou. You need to breathe.”

Katsuki wondered if that was why his chest hurt so badly. He gulped in a breath and focused on grey and aqua. Shouto. That was Shouto. Katsuki whined, shaking his head as his thoughts continued to yell “Deku might leave” over and over in his head.

Deku couldn’t know about this.

“That’s right, breathe,” Shouto said. He kept his grip firm on Katsuki’s face, but when he next spoke it was to someone over his shoulder. “Who’s Midoriya?”

“His boyfriend.” That was Riot. Through the muffled cotton of his ears, he recognized the voice. “They live together, so I thought he might know what was going on or how to help.”

Shouto spoke to Katsuki again. “Why don’t you want us to call Midoriya?”

“He can’t know,” Katsuki said, shaking his head. He knew that. He knew that for a fact because if he knew then Deku would have been right. He’d be right. Katsuki had turned into a mess and Deku didn’t want to take care of him. Bad. It’d be so bad. Katsuki tried to duck forward, but Shouto kept his head up. Katsuki grabbed his own thigh, squishing his fingers into wet fabric that smelled like beer. “He can’t know.”

“Okay,” Shouto said. He let go of Katsuki’s head and took his arms, pulling him up (when did he get on the floor?) and held him close. “I’m taking him somewhere quiet. Don’t call his boyfriend.”

The room spun and his chest still hurt from breathing too heavily. People talked and he heard voices buzzing everywhere. Katsuki focused on the warm grip on his arm and the small voice in his ear saying, “Breathe, that’s right. This way. Come on.”

“Bright,” Katsuki whined as they passed through a door. Immediately the lights turned off and Katsuki found himself seated on a crate. The room smelled like grease and fries, but he couldn’t see the room for some reason. “Where are we?”

“The kitchen,” Shouto said. He rubbed Katsuki’s shoulder, his voice coming from somewhere close. “I didn’t think you’d appreciate calming down in a restroom.”

“You turned off the lights,” Katsuki said, though his voice sounded slurred even to himself. He cooked all the time and he’d hate it if the lights were turned off. He asked, “Can they work like that?”

“They’ll deal with it,” Shouto said. “Keep breathing, Bakugou.”

A few quiet moments passed with Katsuki focusing on Shouto as he instructed him to do simple things like breathe and count to ten. He felt like his entire world had shattered; his body hurt. Katsuki felt too exhausted to be embarrassed as his thoughts slowly returned to him.

“Are you okay now?” Shouto asked, still holding Katsuki’s hands. His grip remained strong and steady, like a proper Hero’s hands should. Shouto didn’t even mind the sweat covering his palms, dripping off of Katsuki’s like water.

“You should wash your hands,” Katsuki said, staring at the back of Shouto's knuckles. His head still felt jumbled, but he remembered to be in the moment. Shouto had a fire Quirk and fire did not mix with Katsuki’s sweat. “That stuff explodes.”

“I remember,” Shouto said. He waited, steady as a rock. “Do you know what happened, Bakugou?”

Katsuki shook his head, breathing slower. They had said it earlier in the fog, but he couldn’t recall. “No.”

“You had a panic attack. Have you had one of those before?” Shouto asked, voice still gentle.

“No,” Katsuki said. He had lost his temper, enough that the world went white in his anger, before but nothing like that. Nothing like that. He felt like his entire world had been ending. “No.”

“Do you remember anything before you stopped breathing?” Shouto asked, voice still gentle. “If we know what set it off, maybe we can avoid it next time.”

Katsuki didn’t have an answer. All he could think about was how Deku had been right and that this night had been a total disaster already. “Deku didn’t want me to come.”

He already regretted it and he’d only been here a few minutes.

“Who’s Deku?” Shouto asked.

“Boyfriend,” Katsuki mumbled, his foggy brain remembering what he’d told Riot. That was what Deku was, wasn’t it? He reached up to wipe his cheek and his fingers stopped. His cheeks were wet. Katsuki watched a large drop fall from his cheek and hit his pants. His hand trembled. “Am I crying?”

“You were overwhelmed,” Shouto said. No judgement. No emotion. Just plain simple fact and understanding. “It happens.”

“Fuck,” Katsuki said, dropping his head into his knees. He laced his fingers together on the back of his head and breathed in. The smell of the cooking food and the sizzling of the pans brought his senses back around into coherency. Katsuki focused on the lines between the tiles on the floor and breathed out. “You can turn the lights back on.”

He covered his eyes with his hands as Shouto moved toward the switch. He took his hands away, ignoring the pounding headache. Shouto took a seat beside him and Katsuki sat up, body aching and chest still hurt.

He looked at Shouto and almost laughed.

Everyone had certainly seen Katsuki at his worst now.

“I am aware that we’ve barely spoken to each other,” Shouto said, voice soft under the sound of the kitchen staff actively trying to avoid them. “But if you’d like to talk about it, I am willing to listen, as is Kirishima I’d imagine.”

Katsuki wiped his face off on his sleeves and wondered if it was even possible to salvage this situation. He was a Pro Hero who just had a freak out in public. There was no way that wouldn’t be in the news. Someone in that bar had to have seen and reported it and then Deku would hear about tonight anyway.

It made him want to cry again.

“Bakugou,” Shouto said. “You know this is nothing to be ashamed about, don’t you? This happens to Heroes all the time.”

“Don’t placate me,” Katsuki said, glaring out the corner of his eyes.

Shouto matched his gaze, determined and focused. He looked like Deku used to in high school. Heroic. “I assure you, I am not. You aren’t the first Hero to have a panic attack, and you won’t be the last. You have nothing to be ashamed about and no one in the other room thinks less of you. If anything, I imagine they’re worried.”

“I’m going home,” Katsuki said, standing.

He tried to say thank you for helping him down from a panic attack. Katsuki wanted to say thank you for sitting with him and holding his damn hands. He really did. So much it hurt his already stinging chest, but Katsuki’s mouth refused to move to form the words. His legs worked, though, and they walked him out of the nearest door.

Shouto followed him out of the kitchen, eyes heavy on Katsuki’s back. As he entered the main area of the bar, the music still played over the speakers and his pants still were damp from the spilled beer. It chafed against his leg and grounded him.

“Bakugou!” Riot shouted, tapping over with a worried expression on his face. He lowered his voice when he got closer and looked at Shouto first before addressing Katsuki. “Are you okay? You scared the hell out of me, man.”

“Fine,” he said, half under his breath. He swallowed and forced his hands to loosen at his side. Katsuki bit his lip, feeling the corners of his eyes wet. He would not cry again. Not here. “I need to go.”

“Want me to take you home?” Riot asked. He held his hand up like he wanted to touch Katsuki, but he didn’t make the move. His hand hovered in the air like he couldn’t figure out what he wanted to do. “You don’t look so good, man.”

“It might be best if someone else drives you home, Bakugou,” Shouto said, voice low and still without any form of judgement. “You’re still shaking.”

“Fine,” Katsuki said. He hissed again, feeling like all his control had been taken away. He might as well continue the charade until he could lock himself in his apartment and fall apart properly. “Fine. Riot can drive me home.”

“Tell the others for me, would you?” Riot asked Shouto.

“Sure,” Shouto said. “Text me when you get him home.”

Katsuki stared at the floor, feeling the heat fill his face more and more as this embarrassing situation refused to end.

“Take care of yourself, Bakugou,” Shouto said. He put his hand on Katsuki’s shoulder and squeezed. “I hope you’ll be able to join us again. Alright?”

“Whatever,” Katsuki said.

Shouto returned to their table, speaking lowly to the group as they stared at Katsuki and Riot still standing near the kitchen door. Riot took his arm and pulled him forward as they headed out back toward the parking lot. Katsuki reached into his pocket and tugged out his keys, shoving them in Riot’s hands.

The ride home turned into a blur, not quite in the same way it had been before in the panic, but still time passed in a blink.

Riot parked where Katsuki told him when they arrived at his apartment complex and they both got out of the car. Katsuki tried to hand Riot some money for a cab, but he shook his head and said “Nah, dude. You’re already having a rough night.”

Katsuki huffed and shoved the money back in his pocket. If Riot didn’t want it, that was his problem.

“I’ll see you at work tomorrow, right?” Riot asked, almost hesitant. “But if you need to call in sick or something, I’m sure they’ll under—”

“I’m not skipping work,” Katsuki said. He glared full on, voice rising. “I’m not that weak.”

“It’s not weak—”

“Shut it,” Katsuki cut Riot off. “Just. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Riot said. He stared at Katsuki, long and hard before leaning in and giving him a hug—much gentler than his other bear hugs. He squeezed tight before letting go. “Take it easy tonight, okay?”

Katsuki pushed Riot in the arm toward the pedestrian entrance of the parking garage. “Go home, idiot.”

“Bye, G.Z.,” Riot said.

Katsuki watched him walk away, and dropped to his knees and put his back against the tire of his car as soon as Riot left the building. He dropped his head into his lap and counted to ten over and over, repeating “Breathe.” If it sounded like Shouto’s voice in his head, he tried not to think about it too hard.

Around one in the morning, Katsuki managed to make it up to his apartment. He put his key in the lock, twisting the knob. He opened the door to darkness and silence, glad that Deku had long gone to bed.

He closed the door as quietly as he could before locking it again.

Katsuki looked at the couch, considering using it as a bed that night instead of facing the inevitable in the other room, but he didn’t want to be alone either.

He wanted to make sure Deku was still there.

Opening the bedroom door, Katsuki could see a small lump on the mattress, buried under the covers. His chest felt lighter and he stumbled into the room, shedding his jacket and throwing it on the chair in the corner. He fumbled with his belt, giving up when his shaking hands refused to cooperate.

Katsuki sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the wall as he listened to Deku breathe behind him. He stilled as he heard the smaller body roll over, waking despite Katsuki’s best attempts to avoid waking him.

“Oh, Kacchan,” Deku said, a rustle of sheets following as he sat up. Katsuki felt arms snake around his waist and the thump of Deku’s cheek against his back. His embrace was loose, but it felt like a vice suffocating the air from Katsuki’s lungs. “It went badly, didn’t it?”

Katsuki’s breath wrenched in his throat.

Deku kissed his back through his shirt, his breath warm through the fabric. “It’s okay, Kacchan. You’re okay.”

His hand dipped below Katsuki’s belt, fingers brushing past his boxers to hold Katsuki. His warm grip felt cold. Deku pulled Katsuki back until he moved so that they spooned on the bed. Deku fit them together like he had a hundred times before and kissed the back of Katsuki’s neck. “I’ll make you feel better and you’ll forget all about it.”

It didn’t work, but Katsuki let himself disappear into Deku all the same, biting the side of his fist.

They heated the untouched fried pork for breakfast, silence filling their kitchen as Katsuki and Deku ate. A thousand things sat on the edge of Katsuki’s tongue, but he wasn’t sure how to say any of them.

Should he tell Deku about the panic attack now before he saw it on some news tabloid, or should he just wait and pray that it stayed out of the news by some miracle? Katsuki didn’t want Deku to know if he could help it, but he had a sinking feeling it’d be a thousand times worse if Deku found out later and realized Katsuki had kept it a secret.

He felt sick thinking about it.

“Kacchan, I have to go to class,” Deku said. He watched Katsuki closely, calculating and analyzing like he were inspecting a sample under a microscope. “And you have to go to work.”

“Yeah,” Katsuki said, licking his lip. He shoved one bite of rice in his mouth and dumped the unfinished food into the trash. “You’re right.”

He’d wait. If it wasn’t in the news by the time work ended, it wasn’t going to be in it at all. And if it did show up, Katsuki could always say he was still trying to get his thoughts together which is why he didn’t tell Deku in the morning. Maybe that would work.

“You’re coming home right afterwards, aren’t you?” Deku asked.

“Yes,” Katsuki said, wondering why his voice sounded so weird in his own ears.

Deku put his empty dish away and kissed Katsuki on the side of the cheek. “Good.”

Katsuki washed the plates as Deku gathered his school things and placed them in his bag. He stuffed his latest journal into the side pocket and wrapped the messenger bag strap over his shoulder. Katsuki heard him say, “I’m going” and said “Take care” on autopilot.

Katsuki didn’t cry until the door shut.

“If you treat me like a piece of glass I am never speaking to you again,” Katsuki said as he walked into the door and ran into a waiting Red Riot. He shoved him out of the way, adjusting his gauntlets as he went, hoping that he had something worthwhile to do today. Lord knew he needed to punch a villain in the face after the disaster of last night and this morning. “Do you hear me?”

“Yeah, got it. You’re super manly and pride and whatever,” Riot said. He trotted alongside Katsuki as he went to the mission desk. “But in all seriousness, you’ve got to tell me what happened last night. I do not want to see that happen again, which means I need to know what to avoid doing.”

“It’s nothing any of you idiots did,” Katsuki said, which was the truth. “Just leave it alone. It won’t happen again.”

Deku would make sure of it; he’d never let Katsuki out of his apartment for anything but work again.

“Maybe you should talk to the agency counselor?” Riot asked, voice quieter. “You really lost it last night.”

“I said drop it, Kirishima,” Katsuki said, hissing out his name to drive in the point. “It’s done. It’s over. I’m not talking about it and I just want to forget it ever happened.”

“That’s not healthy, man,” Riot said, voice low. “Don’t keep it bottled up like that.”

Katsuki ignored him and walked faster. “Go away, Riot.”

Riot slowed his pace, stopping in the middle of the hallway. He didn’t look hurt, but his determined expression drilled its way into his back. Riot looked like Shouto who looked like Deku.

Why was it everyone else took to being a Hero so easily?

Katsuki sped up his pace, determined to drown himself in work before his own thoughts destroyed the one thing he’d worked so hard for.

If Katsuki’s breakdown was going to make the news, it had been overwritten and drowned out by three more Pro Heroes gone missing.

The one that stood out the most to Katsuki, however, was his old classmate: Cellophane, otherwise known as Hanta Sero.

“No,” Pinky said, covering her mouth as they received the report. Cellophane didn’t work for their agency, but he was still good friends with Pinky, Chargebolt, and Riot. Pinky growled, reading over the papers with his last known location and the names of the other two heroes that had gone missing at the same time. “This can’t be right.”

Riot’s demeanor shifted from shocked to something hard and angry. His fists hardened at his side, his skin changing to reflect his anger. “Don’t worry, Pinky. We’re going to get the one responsible this time. He’s not going to get away with this and all three of them are going to be fine.”

“Yeah!” Pinky yelled, turning on her heel. “Let’s get out there and find Sero!”

Katsuki sucked in a breath, gripping his hands into fists. His own problems would have to be dealt with another day.

There was Hero work to be done.

Chapter Text

Resolve meant nothing when the Villain worked fast.

Their search had barely been cleared for approval by the police and their Hero agency before the Villain showed his hand. Not twenty-four hours after the three Heroes went missing, they appeared stuffed in the same box as Mt. Lady had been in three separate locations. They’d been practically gift wrapped with new locks on the boxes to keep the civilians they’d been delivered to from opening the cases.

If Katsuki had thought Riot, Pinky, and Chargebolt had taken Mt. Lady’s passing badly, it had been nothing compared to watching them react to Cellophane dying. Their friend and classmate dying had hit much closer to home and no one had been prepared for it. They had all hoped so strongly they’d at least get a swipe at the villain first, but were denied. Riot had punched through a wall and Chargebolt short circuited his computer after slamming the desk and his electricity flew.

They both managed to calm themselves to where they could return to focus on finding the killer, to Katsuki’s relief. Their third friend, however, took it harder than they realized.

Pinky had been near inconsolable in her grief and uncontrollable in her rage. She vowed she’d find the monster that had done this and no one could tell her otherwise. Pinky had left the agency with dark eyes and a promise that she wouldn’t come back without him.

That had been a week ago.

“She must have found him,” Riot said, staring at the official papers that declared Pinky missing. Her face sat next to the other Pro Heroes that had also gone missing in the past week as their Villain grew bolder. Riot touched the side of her picture, dragging his hand down the glowing screen. “Who the hell is this guy?”

Katsuki had expected more of a reaction from Riot when Pinky went missing. For all intents and purposes, that was his best friend. Even Katsuki remembered that they had been friends in school and were part of the same clique. Riot’s silence disturbed Katsuki more than he wanted to admit.

“When we find him? A dead man,” Katsuki said. He punched Riot in the shoulder as he turned away from the screen and said. “So don’t do anything stupid.”

“Same to you,” Riot said. He turned as Katsuki walked away from the monitor and flexed his fingers. “Hey, G.Z., wait up.”

Katsuki paused, his stomach twisting as he already knew what was coming.

“Since we already know we won’t have the updated evidence reports until the morning, Chargebolt and myself are meeting up with some guys from the other agencies. We’re going to try and cool our heads before hitting the streets tomorrow. You coming?”

“I’ll pass,” Katsuki said, turning away. Deku would be upset if Katsuki went out again. He’d made that very clear. Katsuki kept walking, breathing in slowly through his teeth and exhaling. He couldn’t go through what happened the other night again. He couldn’t. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Have you talked to a counselor yet?” Riot asked, stopping Katsuki in his tracks. His voice edged with something that sounded like concern, but mostly steel. “You know it’s mandatory, right?”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Katsuki repeated.

Riot didn’t answer, taking the dismissal, but this wasn’t the end of it. Riot’s willingness to look the other way was only going to last so long. The boss hadn’t noticed Katsuki slipping under the radar because of the disappearances and everyone having their hands full with the sicko Villain dismembering Heroes like they were toy dolls, but that wouldn’t last if Riot decided to speak up.

Katsuki entered the locker room, dropping his uniform pieces on the floor as he settled on the bench. He popped open his locker and changed, wanting to get home and have the day be done with.

“You’re late, Kacchan,” Deku said, sitting up on the couch. He leaned an arm over the back of the couch, staring Katsuki down as he shut the apartment door behind him. He didn’t look angry, but there was silent judgement. “Did you have trouble at work? I didn’t see you on the news fighting a Villain.”

Katsuki checked the clock and dropped his bag next to the door. He had lingered longer in the dressing room than he’d wanted to collecting his thoughts without meaning to. But he couldn’t straight up say that. “Didn’t feel like rushing on my way home. That a problem?”

Deku continued his level stare before he slid down to rest on his arm. “Bad day?”

“Four Pro Heroes are missing and one of them’s from my agency,” Katsuki said. He passed Deku on the couch heading for the kitchen. The table sat empty and Katsuki couldn’t remember if it was his night to cook or not. He could have sworn it was Deku’s turn, but maybe he was wrong. “What do you think?”

“You’re stressed,” Deku said. He stayed at his spot on the couch and watched Katsuki’s back. “Did you get assigned to any of the missing cases?”

“No,” Katsuki answered. “Not directly. Riot and Chargebolt wanted the lead and I was fine letting them have it. They were closer to Pinky than I was.”

Deku scoffed, almost rolling his eyes. “They’re not going to find the missing heroes. They’re both idiots.”

“That sure isn’t going to stop them from looking,” Katsuki said. He opened the fridge, glancing over their few remaining groceries. He settled on a carton of eggs and pulled it out. Fried eggs were easy. “You want eggs?”

“I already ate,” Deku said, sitting back on the couch. He went back to his journal, his pen scratching agains the page. “Make what you want.”

Sure enough, a used plate sat in the sink by itself, small scrapes of leftover dinner clinging to the edges.

Katsuki put the eggs back in the fridge, no longer hungry.

“I think I’m going to bed early,” Katsuki said. He felt Deku’s eyes on his back as he passed though the living room and into the bedroom. He mumbled, “Night” before shutting the door.

He tried not to feel relieved when Deku didn’t follow him in.

Katsuki stopped three feet away from the front of his agency, his path halted by an obstacle in the doorway. Shouto, dressed in his Hero Uniform with his arms behind his back, lingered there like he was waiting for someone. Katsuki’s gut twisted, but he approached anyway, hoping Shouto was there to meet someone else.

“Ground Zero,” Shouto greeted, proving Katsuki wrong. He tugged out a small mission order and handed it to Katsuki. “You’re with me today.”

“And why’s that?” Katsuki asked, snatching the paper. It was a request for Katsuki to patrol with Shouto for the afternoon. His Boss’ signature and approval were marked clear as day. “What is this?”

“You and I are going to have a talk,” Shouto said. He took a step closer and lowered his voice. “Riot said you’ve shut everyone out since the night he drove you home, even worse than you were before you two started talking. He also mentioned that you’ve been sidestepping the councilor visits.”

“What’s your point?” Katsuki asked through gritted teeth.

“He’s concerned and I feel it’s warranted.” Shouto put a hand on Katsuki’s shoulder, squeezing. “He asked for my help, so you could consider this a personal intervention before we have to make anything official.”

“So you requested a team up so we can go have a fucking heart to heart?” Katsuki asked, smacking Shouto’s hand off his shoulder. He clenched his hand into a fist, the assignment papers crinkling under his grip. “Who do you think you are?”

“Are we not allowed to be worried about you?” Shouto asked. He matched Katsuki’s stare with that same, solid strength he had the night of the panic attack and Katsuki hated it. “Humor me for a few hours and we hopefully won’t need to talk about it again.”

“I’m holding you to that,” Katsuki said. He shoved the paper ordering him to spend the afternoon with Shouto into the other Hero’s chest and stomped away. “But we sure as hell aren’t having this conversation here.”

“Of course not,” Shouto said. He followed Katsuki, face straight and even as they walked. “Assuming you’re not opposed, I thought we might have the conversation at my home.”

“Good a place as any,” Katsuki said, shoving his hands into his pockets. Warning bells screamed in his head, but he couldn’t do much about it without causing a scene. “Let’s get this over with.”

Silence accompanied the two as they traveled to Shouto’s townhouse. Katsuki recognized the neighborhood as home to a few other Heroes as well, including a few retired ones.

It was a gated community that Katsuki had never considering entering.

“Make yourself at home,” Shouto said, letting Katsuki inside. The sparse furnishings looked intentional—like a home decorator had attacked the place and probably had. Shouto had the money to afford it. He waved toward the couch as he moved into another room. “I’ll fetch us some tea.”

Katsuki tugged off his gauntlets and helped himself to a seat on the couch. He frowned at the white fabric before slumping into the seat and decidedly ignored the pictures of friends and family on the walls and in frames around the room. Shouto returned with a small cup of tea and sat it on the glass coffee table before taking a seat across from him in an armchair. He made no move to speak, and sipped from his own cup.

If he thought Katsuki was going to start the conversation, he had another thing coming.

“I understand you’re frustrated,” Shouto said, breaking the silence. “But please know I’m not expecting you to talk about yourself with no give and take. I thought I might share a little first and then we’ll see where this goes.”

“It’s your party,” Katsuki said, dropping his head back to stare at the ceiling. He hoped this didn’t take long. Katsuki wasn’t sure he wanted to know what would happen if he was home late again after his shift without a villain attack as a good excuse. “I’m here until the shift’s over and then I’m out. Do what you want.”

“Fair enough,” Shouto said. Katsuki watched him from the corner of his eye. Shouto put his cup on the table and pointed to his face, toward the faded burn scar that covered his eye. “I’ll try to keep this short, then: My mother is responsible for this burn.”

Katsuki dropped his head forward, snapping his mouth shut.

“My father’s methods of training when I was a child were rather,” Shouto paused, turning his head to the side and taking in a slow breath. “Harsh. He was rather liberal with corporal punishment and my mother was strongly opposed, but had very little say or ability to stop him. It caused a great deal of fights and strife between them. Eventually it got too much, and my mother had a full mental breakdown.

“Terrified I was turning into a miniature version of my father, she poured hot water on my face,” Shouto said. He picked up his tea cup, twisting it as the steam rose from the water. “That day she was confined to a mental hospital, where she still is to this day.

“The end results of that left me rather bitter. I grew to hate my father and limited myself because of it.” Shouto said. He held up his hand from the side with his red hair and clenched it into a fist. “In my anger, I choose to restrict myself to only focus on the ice half of my Quirk. It took years for me to realize how I had essentially cut my own power in half, and I’m still struggling in training to catch my fire half up to my ice half in terms of skill and effectiveness.”

Katsuki averted his gaze to the side of the table. “And the point of telling me that is?”

“That Heroes are not immune to unhappy home lives,” Shouto said, “and that it can affect our work lives. Heroes are one profession where we must be careful about such influences, whether it’s intentional or not.”

“Again,” Katsuki said, twisting his fingers into a fist and stretching his gloves. This was a waste of time. He didn’t need to know half-and-half’s tragic backstory. “What’s this got to do with me?”

“In the time that I’ve known you, Bakugou, I could come up with a rather lengthy list of negative traits starting with unnecessary aggression and ending with a short temper,” Shouto said. Katsuki narrowed his eyes and gritted his teeth. Shouto put the cup back on the table and stared straight at him. “But ‘coward’ and ‘defeated’ are two that never made the cut.”

“Excuse me?” Katsuki asked, willing his heart to stop racing at the accusation. “If you’ve got something to say to me, just say it.”

“When Kirishima mentioned calling your boyfriend, you were terrified enough that it nearly broke you out of a panic attack. Later, when I asked what was wrong you said ‘Deku didn’t want me to come’, wearing the most defeated expression I’ve ever seen,” Shouto said. He didn’t notice that absolutely stillness that fell over Katsuki. “It leads me to the suspicion that whatever triggered your panic attack and caused your change in behavior has to do with your home life.”

“We’re done,” Katsuki said, shooting off the couch. He was not going to sit here and even attempt to explain relationship with Deku to Shouto. It was just not happening. Katsuki grabbed his gauntlets and shoved them back on his wrists as he stared at the door. “Sorry your home life was shitty, but mine is none of your business.”

“I believe I hit a nerve,” Shouto said, eyes steady as they stayed on Katsuki’s back. He didn’t move from his spot and stayed content to watch. But when Katsuki’s hand grabbed the door knob, he spoke up again. “I wasn’t bluffing earlier, Bakugou. If you walk out that door without talking to me, I’m going to assume the worst of all my current suspicions and report you to the official channels for investigation.”

Katsuki broke the doorknob, snapping it right off the door.

“But if you talk to me, then maybe I’ll be convinced it’s not as bad as we’re assuming and we won’t need to make that report.” Shouto stared without waver, conviction set. He nodded toward the couch seat and said, “Tell me about Midoriya, Bakugou.”

Like Katsuki had a choice.

“What’s to tell?” Katsuki said, throwing himself back on the couch. He didn’t bother to take off his gauntlets and hissed. “We’ve known each other our entire lives and when he asked me out I said yes. It’s not that complicated.”

“He asked you out?” Shouto asked.

“End of first year of high school,” Katsuki said, staring at his untouched cup of tea. “Asked out” might not be the best way to describe “Shoved against a wall to make out,” but close enough. “We moved in together after we graduated. It’s pretty standard as far as relationships go, half-and-half.”

Shouto hummed under his breath. He laced his fingers together and placed him on his knee. “Is there a reason he didn’t want you to come to dinner with the rest of us?”

“Yes, but it’s none of your business,” Katsuki said. Shouto likely wouldn’t appreciate Deku’s accusations that the rest of them were out to get Katsuki. But if he didn’t give Shouto something, this was never going to end and he did not need an official investigation judging his levels of sanity when he could be doing more productive things like looking for that monster killing Heroes. “We had a small fight about it before I left, so I guess I was on edge that night.”

“Do you and Midoriya fight often?” Shouto asked, clearly leading Katsuki to give out more details. “Does it ever get physical?”

Katsuki knew where this was going.

He growled and smacked his fist into the coffee table. The glass didn’t crack, but the jump of the teacups rattled. Katsuki hissed and saved them both the trouble of dancing around the subject. “If you want to accuse me of beating my boyfriend, just come out and fucking say it instead of playing coy with twenty questions.”

“I think you may have misunderstood,” Shouto said, speaking softly. His eyes narrowed and he placed his hands on his knees. “My suspicions are leading me to believe that Midoriya is the one hurting you, not the other way around.”

Katsuki’s world stopped.

The lights were off in Katsuki’s apartment when he entered, three hours earlier than usual.

So shaken from Shouto’s accusation, Katsuki had got up and left the townhouse without another word. He texted his boss to say he was taking the afternoon off and turned his phone off so he didn’t have to see the missed calls from both Shouto and Riot. He didn’t want to talk to them.

How dare they? Katsuki wasn’t some battered housewife and if anyone was hurting the other, it was Katsuki hurting Deku. Over and over again. Shouto and Kirishima wanted drama to distract them from their dead friends and Katsuki was a convenient target. That’s all there was to it. They didn’t know shit about Deku or Katsuki and their relationship.

(Katsuki lied.)

“Deku?” Katsuki asked, flipping on the light.

The small living room and kitchen stood empty, the air stale and heavy without another body to fill the space. Katsuki checked the calendar on the wall and tapped his finger on the empty space that listed neither a class nor work schedule. Deku was meticulous about keeping his schedule of where he’d be during the week written down.

Katsuki pushed open the door to their bedroom and peeked inside. Also empty, there was no sign of Deku taking a nap or in the bathroom. He took a few steps back and took a step across the hallway, pushing open the second bedroom door that neither of them had used as anything other than storage since they moved in. Mostly Deku’s stuff filled the room, and sometimes the nerd holed himself up in there looking through his stash of old notebooks.

“You lost in a book, twerp?” Katsuki asked, entering the small room.


“I guess he went out,” Katsuki said to himself. Deku was an adult. He could go to the store or grocery shopping or whatever if he wanted to with his free time. Katsuki had hoped to see him, but it wasn’t his fault Deku didn’t know he’d be coming home early.

It’s not like he told him.

“Stupid half-and-half,” Katsuki said.

He rubbed his hands down his face and shuddered out a breath. Katsuki needed to calm down and get his head together before he faced all of those idiots again tomorrow.

As Katsuki turned to leave the room, he caught sight of a notebook peeking out from the top of an opened storage box. The book’s spine stood out from the rest, like it’d been read recently and hadn’t been shoved down all the way to match the other neatly stored books. Curiosity got the best of him and Katsuki plucked it out from the box and looked at he cover. The small book looked as neat and well kept as the rest of Deku’s notebooks and had a large “84” written on the bottom corner. Katsuki flipped it open, flicking through the pages of Hero notes in Deku’s familiar scrawl.

He stopped when one of the pages opened to a spread on “Mina Ashido, aka Pinky.”

A sketch of her smiling face had been drawn next to a large spread of notes detailing her Quirk with strengths and weaknesses outlined. A list of her more impressive Heroic feats were written on the next page. Katsuki touched his thumb to her face before his eyes were drawn to a small spot on the corner of the page.

Katsuki looked closer and squinted at the small, rust colored smudge dirtying the otherwise clean paper.

It looked like blood—

“What are you doing, Kacchan?” Deku asked, voice strained and eyes furious.

(Maybe Shouto had been onto something after all.)

Chapter Text

The air conditioner clicked on, sending a new wave of cold air to cover the already prominent chill in the room.

“Kacchan,” Deku said when Katsuki didn’t answer his question. His eyes were locked on the notebook and he repeated himself. “Why are you in my things?”

Katsuki’s thumb rested over Pinky’s sketch. He could feel goosebumps raise on his arms and his body freeze, but couldn’t figure out why he was so afraid. Deku continued staring, utterly still and in control. Katsuki blurted, “I was looking for you.”

“You thought I was in the pages of one of my notebooks?” Deku asked, snatching the small booklet out of Katsuki’s hands as he stepped into the room. He glared at the two page spread before snapping the book shut between his palms. “Was Pinky’s entry that interesting? You were staring so hard you didn’t notice me behind you.”

“It just caught me off guard to see her entry while she’s still missing,” Katsuki said. He waved his hand at the storage box and the neat spines of the books. Feeling the need to defend himself he said, “I was looking for you and saw the spine sticking out in the box and I was curious. It’s not my fault she was in that one and I didn’t know your books were off limits, Deku.”

“They’re not,” Deku said, easily enough. He pushed open a gap between two volumes and put the book back in. He rubbed his thumb back and forth on the book before pulling out the one next to it, that had a “56” written in the corner. “But I also don’t want them to get mixed up because they’re not in numerical order. I have my own system so if you want to see them, ask.”

“Yeah,” Katsuki said. His heart didn’t want to beat properly in his chest and his throat felt tight. Something heavy lingered in the air and he focused on the sound of the air conditioner humming. Deku’s stiff movements were easy to catch and the rage in his eyes seemed excessive for the crime of opening a storage box. “You seem upset.”

“It was already a bad day at work,” Deku said, looking over his shoulder. A loose curl fell in front of his eye, bisecting the narrowed glare. “And then I come home to find you sneaking through my things when you’re supposed to be at work. Take a wild guess why I might be upset.”

Katsuki regrets it as soon as he says, “You didn’t have work today.”

“Someone called in sick so they asked if I could come in to cover for an hour or two last minute.” Deku picks up the box lid and sets it over the notebook volumes. He drops his hand on the closed cover. “Your turn. Why are you home?”

(“Don’t tell him,” a voice whispered in the back of his mind.)

Katsuki listened.

“Everyone was getting on my nerves talking about that killer,” Katsuki said, voice slow. “And I…”

Katsuki trailed off, his words failing him as Deku watched him; like he was being dissected. It was a look that still sent Katsuki’s skin crawling—always had and always would. He hated it when Deku watched him like that. Katsuki swallowed and wracked every inch of his brain for something that would make Deku stop.

Katsuki licked his lip and rubbed his fingers together. “I wanted to see you.”

(It was the right thing to say.)

“Kacchan,” Deku said, his voice and eyes softening.

A gentle smile fell on his face and he stepped forward and fell into Katsuki, hugging him firmly and securely. Katsuki returned the hug, his heart still beating hard in his chest and he squeezed Deku. His hand cradled the back of his head as Deku nuzzled him.

“Kacchan,” Deku said, repeating his name again. He hummed as he exhaled, swaying them back and forth in their embrace. “That was so nice to hear I think I’ll forgive you for lying.”

The air conditioner clicked off.

“Why are you really home so early, Kacchan?” Deku asked, keeping his cheek firm against Katsuki’s chest. His hands slipped under Katsuki’s shirt, and Deku trailed his thumb up and down against Katsuki’s spine like he had the notebook. “It’s not like you to skip for something as petty as the ‘extras’ being annoying.”

His voice left absolutely no room for lying, but that didn’t mean Katsuki had to tell the entire truth.

“Riot and Shouto are upset I’ve been avoiding them since that dinner went bad, and they’ve been nagging me about it,” Katsuki said, careful not to squirm in Deku’s hold. His voice got away from him as he rambled, nerves affecting him more than he realized. “They’re trying to distract themselves from the missing Heroes, I think. I mean, Pinky was Riot’s best friend. He’s upset and taking it out on me, I guess, and I was tired of it.”

Deku leaned back, keeping his fingers hooked under the back spine of Katsuki’s boxers. “You must like Riot if you’re remembering personal details about him.”

“Yes,” Katsuki said. He swallowed and it stuck in his throat. Katsuki looked away from Deku and muttered. “He’s the least annoying and we work together okay. I could have worse friends.”

“True,” Deku said. He slipped his fingers along the top of Katsuki’s belt line, drawing it back around to the front. Deku splayed his fingers flat on Katsuki’s chest over his heart and pressed. “I’m upset you’re still hiding things, but I’m more concerned about this.”

Katsuki focused on breathing.

“Your heart is racing, Kacchan,” Deku said. He looked up through his bangs and laughed. “What are you so scared of right now?”

“You,” Katsuki whispered, admitting it to himself as much as Deku.

Deku’s face dropped, the accusing expression melting away into almost childlike confusion. In a nervous gesture Katsuki hadn’t seen in literal years, Deku dropped his head to the side and his eyes searched across invisible notes only he could see in the air. “Me? Why are you scared of me?”

Katsuki didn’t know why he was afraid.

But he knew what he should say.

(Because it was truth.)

“You could leave,” Katsuki said. He watched the realization enter Deku’s widened eyes and he choked out. “Everyone has a breaking point and I’m not easy to be with.”

“Oh, Kacchan,” Deku said. He grabbed the sides of Katsuki’s cheeks and leaned their foreheads together. He pecked Katsuki’s lips and pressed their noses together. “I really messed you up the other day, didn’t I? I shouldn’t have said you might not be worth the trouble, even if I was angry.”

Deku kissed Katsuki again, gentle and sweet; a total contrast to the fingers digging into Katsuki’s face.

“I’m not going to leave you, Kacchan.” Deku hugged him again, hard enough that they hit the wall. He kissed Katsuki through his shirt, right on the shoulder. “You’d have to kill me to stop me from loving you.”

That scared Katsuki as much as the thought of Deku leaving.

Shouto didn’t seem too surprised when Katsuki showed up at the other’s agency the next day, staring at the ground and fists clenched.

“I’ll let my boss know I’m taking the morning off,” Shouto said, guessing Katsuki’s intentions. He nodded to let Shouto know that was good and the other walked back inside to ask for the leave. As the number one Hero in the office, he had little trouble getting it and was back outside before Katsuki could change his mind. “Where would you like to talk?”

“Anywhere,” Katsuki said, voice low. “Private would be good.”

“There’s a restaurant down the street that has booths with curtains. We could get breakfast,” Shouto said.

“Whatever,” Katsuki said. He licked his lips and followed Shouto as they walked. He rubbed the back of his neck and breathed out. “And sorry about breaking your door.”

“It’s fine,” Shouto said. “I’m glad you came back to talk.”

Katsuki grunted, putting his hands on his hips as he walked. He leaned his head back, wondering just how bad things would be at work when he finally showed his face. He’d sent another text saying he was ditching, but there was only so much of that he could get away with before there were disciplinary measures.

But Katsuki was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to face Riot right now if he tried and his skin still crawled from having sex with Deku last night after their confrontation in the storage room.

Deku had been far too smug as he begged Katsuki to take him to bed.

“Table for two,” Shouto said, snapping Katsuki back to the present and reinforcing just how badly he needed to get all of this off his chest. He looked around the small restaurant, tables covered in neat cloths and waiters dressed up. Shouto nodded toward the back. “Private booth, please.”

“Of course, sir,” the host said.

He guided Katsuki and Shouto to a corner in the back on the opposite side of the kitchen doors. The small booth had black out curtains surrounding it, and Shouto closed them as soon as they were inside and placed their drink orders.

Katsuki took his gauntlets off and shoved them in the corner of the booth. He slumped in his seat and looked at Shouto. He didn’t want to do this. The thought of even bringing it up twisted his gut, but he’d also never been as hyperaware of how much Deku unnerved him until last night.

If he didn’t tell someone, he might actually go mad and Heroes couldn't afford that.

“Deku scares the shit out of me and I don’t know why,” Katsuki said, not giving Shouto the chance to lead the conversation. He growled into his hands and hissed. “You'd think it'd be the other way around, all considering.”

“All considering?” Shouto asked, voice quiet.

“The first time I beat the shit out of Deku, we were like five. He got in my face, pissed me off, and I beat him up,” Katsuki said, admitting it. He tapped his finger on the table and breathed out. “But he still followed me around and turned himself into my occasional punching bag as we grew up, but still sang my praises. Deku was always like that. He loved me, for who knows what reason. Even nearly killed himself trying to save me from some Sludge Villain in the last year of middle school. If All Might hadn’t shown up, we’d both be toast.”

Shouto nodded, allowing Katsuki to finish, though his eyes had started to narrow.

“High school was the worst,” Katsuki said, shaking his head. He laughed, breathing hard. His desperation gave way to brutal honestly. “I took all my frustrations from our classes at U.A. out on Deku when I got home and on the weekends. Hell, if that little twerp had thought to report me for even a fraction of the beat downs I gave him, I would have been in Juvie for assault before you could blink an eye.”

“Do you still hit him?” Shouto asked, still remarkably calm, though his hands had tightened into fists on the table.

“No,” Katsuki said, voice soft. He carefully avoided looking at Shouto, remembering what he had said about his own father. “Stopped being worth it about halfway through our first year at U.A. I’d tell Deku to get lost, he’d say no, then I beat the shit out of him. And after that, he refused to budge and asked how my day was like everything was normal and I hadn’t given him a black eye.

“If it wasn’t that, he’d mumble that he was worried about how much I was hurting myself and wasn’t going to leave me alone. The usual. If beating him black and blue for a few months couldn’t get him to leave, it was a waste of time and effort to bother.”

Shouto’s fingers loosen and he asked, “You were hurting yourself?”

Katsuki cursed under his breath. He’d given up caring about Shouto knowing he used to hit Deku, but he hadn’t mean to share that much. Katsuki rubbed his mouth and held up his hand, just answering. This whole thing would go by faster if he did. “I hit things when I get mad, and sometimes I hit things I shouldn’t—like a tree or a brick, or whatever else. Deku was scared I was going to break my hand and got the bright idea to throw himself in my path instead.”

“And he asked you out?” Shouto asked, looking to the side—understandably confused.

“Like I said, I couldn’t get him to leave.” Katsuki breathed out. He poked his glass of water, shoving it across the table. His lips were already loose, why not dig the hole deeper while he was at it? “I don’t know what he sees in me, but I figured out pretty quick he was the only one who’d ever put up with me at my worst. So when he asked me out, it was Deku or nothing. Believe it or not, even I get fucking lonely, so I picked Deku.”

“It sounds like your relationship is complicated,” Shouto said.

“Tell me something I don’t fucking know,” Katsuki said. He dropped his arm on the table, slumping into the booth seat.

Shouto sipped from his water cup. “You said he frightens you, though? Has he always or is that recent?”

(Always. He could just never admit it. Deku had always set his nerves on edge with his endless persistence and watching eyes.)

“Recent,” Katsuki lied. He grabbed his cup and took a deep gulp, emptying half the glass. He put it back on the table and blew his bangs out of his face. “Deku doesn’t get angry. He’s not an angry person, but that first time Riot came over for dinner, he was upset that I sprung an invited guest on him.

“I figured out a little later that he was jealous of Riot for some unknown reason, but I thought we had worked that out after Riot left,” Katsuki said. He stared at the table. “But then when Riot invited me out again to dinner with you guys, Deku flipped his shit. He was furious. I’d never seen him so angry in my life and he even threatened to leave me in a round about way if I went to dinner.”

“I imagine that was upsetting,” Shouto said.

“Yeah,” Katsuki said. He waved his hand around to vaguely indicate the panic attack. “Obviously.”

“Is that why you closed off?” Shouto asked. “You didn’t want to make him angry again and test his threat that he’d walk out on you?”

“Yes.” Katsuki tapped his finger on the table. “Wasn’t worth the risk.”

Shouto breathed out and stared at his water glass. “I must confess, I’m at a loss of what to do in this situation.”

“It’s a mess,” Katsuki said.

“While I feel your actions when you were younger are still abhorrent,” Shouto said, weighing his words. “I also can not ignore the implications of the emotional manipulation that Midoriya has displayed, and I imagine it’s much worse than what you’ve said.”

Katsuki raised an eyebrow.

“It’s not normal to block people off from creating connections with other people, Bakugou.” Shouto put his glass aside to lace his hands together on the table. “You made it clear you wanted him to leave, yet he continued to harass you. He made himself a prominent figure in your life while you isolated yourself, and it sounds like he’s worked to maintain that isolation through threats when you attempt to branch out to others, such as Riot.

“You had a panic attack because you believed Midoriya might leave you, which implies that he has the power to walk away if he wants,” Shouto said. “I imagine that this goes deeper than what you’ve told me, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t know,” Katsuki said, telling the truth.

His own anger and issues had done plenty well isolating Katsuki from the rest of the world. Deku barely had to lift a finger if that was his end goal—might even explain why he was so angry now. Five years of Katsuki to himself and now all of a sudden he has to work for it.

Katsuki felt like laughing. How stupid would that be?

“Bakugou,” Shouto said. His phone rang, interrupting him. Shouto pulled it out and looked at the caller I.D. before holding up a hand. “I’m sorry. It’s my boss.”

“Go for it,” Katsuki said.

“Shouto speaking,” he said, answering the phone. Katsuki watched closely as his normal closed off expression dropped into something shocked. He pulled the phone away, tapping the off button. He looked Katsuki in the eye and said, “They have a lead on the killer.”

The heart to heart took a rain check as they both ran out of the booth, splitting up as they headed for their respective agencies.

Katsuki’s problems could take a back seat to catching that Villain.

“What do you mean he’s gone?” Katsuki asked, slamming his hands on the counter of the mission desk. “And what do you mean he went alone?”

The assistant sputtered under Katsuki’s rage, leaning back in her chair. She threw her hands up and cowered. “Riot left! He didn’t wait for the briefing! He snuck the information off the computer and ran as soon as he overheard we received it!”

“I told that idiot not to do anything stupid!” Katsuki shouted. He slammed his hand back on the desk, cracking it. “Give me the location and anything else he took. I’m going to be that idiot’s back up and then you’re going to send someone after me.”

The assistant shook her head. “I can’t do that. I already let one of you go without permission and the boss wants to wait!”

Katsuki grabbed her shirt and pulled her up halfway over the desk. “I’m in a really bad mood and my only friend just ran out after a killer that’s murdered more Pro Heroes than Stain. You’re going to tell me where he went right now before I get really angry.”

She reached down with a shaking hand and tapped the computer screen. Katsuki’s phone pinged with a new email and he dropped her. He read through the briefing, heart racing before sprinting out the door.

Riot wasn’t at the warehouse named in the data.

Katsuki cursed as he tore through every inch of the building looking for Riot, the killer, or anything that would give him a lead to where they had gone.

He kicked over a crate and yelled, palms igniting in furious sparks. Katsuki clenched his fists to stop it from turning into an angry explosion and disturbing the scene further. His chest heaved and his eyes burned from the frustrated tears.

Katsuki checked his phone, catching the message that Shouto and the police would be at the warehouse soon for their own check. He texted back that Riot wasn’t here and shoved his phone in his pocket.

The warehouse stored several hundred crates, identical to the ones that the Villain had been stuffing the Hero’s bodies into. They’d found traces of formaldehyde on one of the boxes that had been shipped out, leading them to believe the killer might have used this location.

But it was clear now that it was far from his home base, but that didn’t mean there weren’t clues.

“Where is Riot?” Katsuki asked the air. He should have been here. That idiot should have had his nose to the ground sniffing around for clues, not missing. “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid!”

He clenched his fists, breathing in and out as he tried to calm himself down. He couldn’t help anyone like this.

Katsuki tilted his head back and breathed in. He breathed out and dropped his head back down. Katsuki scanned the room and walked eyes trailing for anything of worth one more time.

A click caught his attention.

Katsuki lifted his foot, looking down at a small piece of shining black metal. He picked it up and sucked in a breath through his teeth: A broken chip from Riot’s face mask.

Riot had been here and—there. Katsuki dropped to the floor and stared at the small scratch mark on the concrete floor. He looked forward and found another small scrape. And another a few feet down. Barely there, anyone would have missed them, but if you were looking for it the trail of small scrapes it was easy as day to see.

Someone had dragged Riot away while he was still hardened.

Katsuki followed the marks.

Luck was on Katsuki’s side, even as he followed the path outside the warehouse and onto the street: The trail stopped at a man hole.

With nothing else to loose, Katsuki ripped open the sewer cover and sent a quick text to Shouto and his boss about what a stupid thing he was doing. Katsuki shoved the phone back where it belonged and dropped down into the depths.

Katsuki had nothing to guide him but his gut as he choose a direction to start walking in the sewer system, looking for anything that might help him figure out where Riot had been taken and by who.

He knew without question that whenever he met the guy who took Riot and had killed all the others, he was going to break their face in and drag them back alive for the rest to rip into.

The killer must have felt safe in the sewer, to Katsuki’s benefit, because he found a shred of fabric from Riot’s costume on a sharp piece of torn metal attached to a utility ladder.

Sloppiness usually pissed him off, but today it worked in his favor.

Katsuki followed the ladder up, pushing the manhole out of the way and pulling himself up onto the street. He brushed himself off and checked his GPS for his location. Finding himself on the far side of town, he huffed and ignored the text from Shouto demanding he come back.

The rational part of his brain said to listen, but it had been beaten down by the childish half yelling that Riot got to run off and fight alone, so why shouldn’t he get to do the same?

Compromising, Katsuki texted his location to Shouto and turned his phone off.

Katsuki cased the nearest building, checking the windows as he walked around. Sneaking around wasn’t his forte, but he couldn’t risk it with Riot’s life on the line. As far as he could tell, all the outer rooms were empty. Katsuki stopped as he made a full circle of the building, standing near the manhole again. He took to a knee and found the same scrapes on the ground leading to the back door.

Steadying himself, Katsuki put his shoulder against the door and with hard push, broke the door open as quietly as he could.

A back kitchen greeted him, abandoned and covered in dust. Katsuki entered with caution, looking around the ceilings for a camera or motion detector. With none in sight, he continued onward and carefully opened the door to a room cut off from the outside of the building.

The door opened into a nightmare.

“Deku?” Katsuki asked, every hair on his body rising as he stared ahead.

Deku. His Deku stood in the middle of the brightly lit room, dressed in his stupid part-time job uniform and a blood-spattered apron. Deku looked up from the work table in the center of the room, a scalpel in his hand. Familiar green eyes widened before hardening into an even more familiar anger.

Riot screamed from the table, jerking up in his restraints and aggravating the bleeding wound that split his stomach. “Bakugou, run!”

“I love you dearly, Kacchan,” Deku said, pushing a small face mask up over his nose. It clicked into place and his voice came out muffled. “But you’re really testing my patience.”

The shock kept Katsuki from hearing Riot’s continued warnings, but it wouldn’t have helped much even if he’d listened.

The sleep gas would have caught him off guard whether it had been Deku standing there or not.

Chapter Text

“Hey, hey!” Katsuki heard a voice he didn’t recognize through the haze. A snicker followed in that same annoying pitch. “Your boy toy is waking up, Izuku.”

“Don’t call him that, please.”

That voice had been Deku.

(Deku. Deku covered in blood. His Deku.)

Katsuki kept his eyes clothes, fighting off the headache that pulsed just behind his ear. He breathed in, shifting enough to feel the heavy weight holding down his hands behind the chair. He sucked in another slow breath to keep calm. Katsuki had lost too much time to fall into a panic.

“Oh! Are you gonna’ fuck him now?” The stranger said, his voice almost cracking in his excitement. “You gotta’ let me watch if you do. I bet you’re a freak in bed.”

Deku mumbled “Give me strength” under his breath before he said louder, “I’m not going to have sex with Kacchan right now, no.”

A heavy thump and a metal click opened Katsuki’s eyes. Straight in his line of sight was a plain wooden box, Deku’s fingers still around the lock that secured the lid to the case. Red coated the surface of the exam table and formaldehyde assaulted Katsuki’s nose. The stench of it stayed heavy in the air.

Katsuki didn’t see Riot.

“Yeah right. You’re such a liar,” said the new voice. A blond haired man about Deku’s height walked past Katsuki and hopped up to sit on the table, splashing the blood on his black pants. He leaned over and ruffled Deku’s hair, laughing. “We both know you get off on this shit. You always run home to your pet Hero after a job and I can put two and two together.”

Katsuki didn’t see Riot.

“What I do with Kacchan is my own business and get off the table,” Deku said. He took a towel off the table and wiped off a splatter from the side of the box. “You’re making a mess.”

It felt like a hand reached through Katsuki’s chest and wrapped its greedy fingers around his lungs and squeezed. Katsuki couldn’t breathe. No Riot. Just a wooden box with a lock. Bloody scalpels on the table. Fuck. No. Katsuki leaned forward, stretching his arms in a direction they weren’t meant to go as they remained trapped behind him, locked in heavy metal shackles and a chain that clicked against his chair.

“You’re no fun,” the blond said. He played with the edge of a thick strap around his neck. “I bet you’re just trying to get rid of me. You’re gonna’ jump him as soon as I leave, I know it.”

Riot couldn’t be in the box.

He couldn’t.

“Mustard,” Deku said, rubbing the side of his temple. He smeared red across the side, thick and turning brown. “Even if I wanted to have sex with Kacchan right now, it wouldn’t matter because he’s having a panic attack.”

The blond looked Katsuki over, leaning back. “Eh, that can’t be too much of a mood killer considering it’s you.”

“Just put him back to sleep,” Deku said, pulling his face mask back up. “And then help me move all of this before you go check in with Shigaraki.”

“No,” Katsuki whispered. They were leaving. Riot. Riot was still in that box. He jerked forward, nearly toppling the chair. “Deku!”

“Nighty night!” the blond said, popping into Katsuki’s view. He snickered under his breath and pulled a mask over his face. “Sweet dreams, boy toy.”

The room filled with gas, clogging Katsuki’s lungs and fading the room away.

Katsuki woke the second time with fingers in his hair.

Opening his eyes, he saw Deku hovering above him. He stood in front of Katsuki’s chair, close enough that their knees knocked. Deku continued brushing Katsuki’s hair back in slow, soothing strokes. “I knew I should have killed Riot right after that first dinner. He was always going to die, so sooner than later would have been better.”

“What the fuck?” Katsuki asked, voice hoarse. His eyes stayed glued on the empty table behind him. He wanted to scream and yell but he could barely make himself do anything but slump forward and feel as heavy as the weights still holding down his arms and securing him to the chair. He’d been too late. Riot. And Deku. Deku. “What the fuck…?”

“I’m sorry I gave you so much time to get attached,” Deku said. He rubbed a circle on Katsuki’s scalp, biting the edge of his lip. Katsuki stared at the table, wiped clean and shining. No. Katsuki looked at the walls and the dim lighting. They were in a different room. Deku’s breath was hot as he leaned against Katsuki. “I did try to warn you. Though maybe ‘You don’t need them’ wasn’t as clear as I wanted. But then again straight up saying ‘Don’t get attached, Kacchan, they’re all going to be gone soon anyway’ would have given away too much, so I’m not sure that would have worked either.”

Deku. Riot. The scalpel. The box. All of it coming together in a horrifying conclusion that slamming into Katsuki’s heart like a battering ram.

“You’re the killer,” Katsuki whispered. He sucked in air through his teeth and swallowed. Katsuki jerked his head back and away from Deku’s hand, wanting disgust but knowing the motion came from fear. “What the hell, Deku?”

“I’m the killer,” Deku said, holding his hands up in a surrendering gesture. He dropped them and pulled over a chair to sit across from Katsuki. He took a seat, pressing their knees together. “Or a killer, anyway. I’m not sure I’ve earned the ‘the’ title yet. Maybe when I’m finished, but not now.”

Katsuki stared a the smear of red still on the side of Deku’s face, the brown blood dried and cracked. “What?”

“Oh, you are so confused,” Deku said, biting the edge of his thumb. His shoulders shook with silent laughter and he scooted the chair forward, bringing his knee in-between Katsuki’s legs. “I mean, I know why you are, but it’s still a problem.”

Katsuki flinched as Deku circled his arms around Katsuki’s shoulders, drawing him into a tight hug. Katsuki’s chin leaned on Deku’s shoulder and the tight embrace held him there.

“I’ll start at the beginning and we’ll get you all caught up,” Deku said. He squeezed, fingers digging into Katsuki’s muscles. “I was hoping you’d stay in the dark, but you’ve always been unpredictable.”

Katsuki shivered. “Deku—”

“Be quiet, Kacchan,” Deku said, cutting him off. He pulled out of the hug and kissed Katsuki on the forehead. “You can ask questions after I’m finished.”

Deku leaned back in his seat, folding his hands together and tapping his knee gently against Katsuki’s thigh. He leaned his head back, staring at the ceiling before exhaling. Deku spoke, a soft smile stretching on his face. “I think we can both agree our first year of high school was a frustrating time. Both of our hopes were crushed so solidly, I think that was one of the few things we had in common at the time.”

Katsuki twitched his fingers in his shackles.

“Did you know I met All Might, Kacchan?” Deku said, dropping his head forward. He rubbed his thumb on the back of his knuckles. “I ran into him on the same day as the Sludge Villain attacked, and I got to ask him if a person could be a Hero without a Quirk. You know what he told me?”

“No,” Katsuki said, both the truth and a guess at what the answer was.

“Exactly,” Deku said. He looked to the side, smile stretching across his face with a nostalgic look that seemed to old for someone only in their twenties. “He recommended I be a police officer. But after trying to save you from the Sludge Villain, I thought I’d go for it anyway. If I could run at that head on, then why not at least try for General Studies? But we both know how that went.”

Deku failed the test. He didn’t know the details, but Katsuki remembered clearly that Deku hadn’t passed.

(He’d even been pleased at the time because it meant he was still the only one from their Middle School that had gotten into U.A.)

“But after seeing you those first few months, I felt strangely glad I failed,” Deku said. His eyes narrowed and he squeezed his hands together. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry at a school before, watching what it did to you. How oblivious were your teachers to not notice you destroying yourself? Why didn’t they step in? Weren’t Heroes supposed to save people? But I guess that was part of what it meant to weed out weaklings or something. I never figured it out and I stopped bothering to even try and figure it out.

“Either way, it made me angry,” Deku said. He laughed and drew a hand up through his hair, flaking off a few pieces of dried blood. “I even said as much one day in class: ‘I’m so angry I could kill someone.’ It wasn’t like me, but that’s what I felt like at the time. My classmate, Mustard—the rather annoying man you met earlier—had overheard my mumblings. He turned to me and said, ‘Well why don’t you?’ half-serious, half-joking.”

Katsuki swallowed.

“The thought horrified me at first, but it lingered,” Deku said, looking Katsuki in the eyes. “I couldn’t kill someone! That would be wrong, and besides, I had no Quirk. How would I overpower anyone? But I still thought about it. Too much. It felt like a nice distraction from being angry about your school. Every day I sat with you, I wondered how I would counter Quirks if I had actually made the cut. What it would take to get an edge when all you have is the things around you and your mind. I wrote it all down, theory after theory and test after test. Fictional scenarios of things I wanted to do.”

“Your notebooks,” Katsuki said.

“Yes,” Deku said. He licked his lips. “But it was all fantasy then. Just intrusive little thoughts I indulged in as a bit of stress relief. It wasn’t until the day after the Villains attacked you at U.A. that I found out first hand that reality and fiction are very different things.”

Katsuki didn’t want to hear this.

“You know I got picked on in school, Kacchan?” Deku asked. He tilted his head to the side, poking his own cheek where one too many black eyes had been in his youth. “I imagine you could have guessed it was going on, but I doubt you thought about it much.”

Katsuki really hadn’t. Deku barely crossed his mind when he wasn’t there in Katsuki’s face to annoy him.

“One day after class I was alone in a room with one of the more aggressive ones,” Deku said. He stared down at his hands, holding his palms up. Deku shuddered, falling into a memory. “I was already in a bad mood, worried about you and how you almost died at that stupid school that was supposed to protect you, when this overbearing jerk with a mediocre Quirk decided he wanted to tease me. I forget what he said, but I was angry enough that I saw nothing but red.”

Deku paused and pressed his lips together. He giggled, drawing his hands into fists. “Do you know what I did?”

Katsuki shook his head.

“I stabbed him in the neck with a pair of scissors,” Deku said, jabbing his thumb up toward the soft underside of his chin. “I’ll spare you the gory details, but as his knees hit the ground and he gurgled out his last breath, I finally knew what a ‘power trip’ felt like.”

Deku got up from his seat, pushing the chair back. He pulled his apron off over his head, folding it and throwing it on the table behind him. “For a few amazing minutes all of my anxiety and anger washed away into a rush of adrenaline and satisfaction. I didn’t even have time to panic, since fate seemed to be on my side.”

Katsuki jerked his head back as Deku helped himself to a seat on Katsuki’s lap, straddling his hips. He hugged him again and petted Katsuki’s hair as his arms stayed draped loosely around Katsuki’s shoulders. “Mustard came looking for me and found me with the body. He laughed and said it was the coolest thing he’d ever seen, reinforcing my high. Between the two of us, we cleaned the classroom and chucked the body in the river. That brat’s parents still don’t know what happened to him.

“But once you’ve felt something like that, it’s hard to go without feeling it again,” Deku continued. His petting slowed, and his voice sounded far away as he spoke. “I wanted to feel that way again: Strong. Unbeatable. There was only one choice, Kacchan: I went looking for people who wouldn’t be missed. Sometimes Mustard trailed along, sometimes he didn’t, but I found it was remarkable easy to trick people into a false sense of safety around a little Quirkless boy who could cry on command. I got very good at it and it did wonders for my confidence, as you can probably guess.”

Katsuki remembered that, too; Deku’s growing fearlessness over that year.

“After my tenth kill, I even had the courage to ask you out,” Deku said. He kissed Katsuki again, slow and gentle. Deku pressed their foreheads together before they broke apart. “If I could get away with murder, what was to stop me from going after everything else that I wanted?”

“Get away from me,” Katsuki said, voice shaking.

(He felt sick.)

“No,” Deku said. He rubbed his thumb along the pulse point of Katsuki’s neck, the fondness in his eyes and expression disgustingly out of place as he talked of horror. “I haven’t gotten to the fun part yet.”

“Are you an idiot?” Katsuki asked, gritting his teeth together. His hands ached in their restraints, the tiny explosions tearing at his skin, unable to escape their metal confines. “There’s nothing fun here.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Deku said. “You see, murder is just like everything else. If you do it enough, it gets to be too easy. Killing civilians got boring and they just didn’t offer the same kick and high that they used to. Untrained Quirks weren’t a challenge any longer, so I decided to go after something bigger.”

“Heroes,” Katsuki said.

“No, well, yes. But not at the start. Villains were my first target,” Deku said. He tapped his fingers against Katsuki’s shoulder. “You wouldn’t have heard about those since the news didn’t focus on reporting a few missing no-name bad guys. I started killing those during our third year. It was a bit more work, as you may have noticed due to my dropping grades. I lost my number one spot spending all my time working out how to get around a particular Villain’s Quirk, but I guess that doesn’t really matter in the long run.

“That was also the same kill that got me noticed by the League of Villains,” Deku said. He wrapped his hand around Katsuki’s throat and squeezed, not hard enough to cut off the air, but enough to be a threat. “Tomura Shigaraki is a twisted man, but he knows how to make things interesting and knew exactly what to say to get my attention. He wanted me to stop picking off his peers, and said instead I should use my talents for bigger and better things. He offered me a game to play.”

“A game,” Katsuki said, swallowing.

“Kill all the Heroes,” Deku said, excited and voice hushed. “He made a bet that I’d never be able to do it, but he wanted to see me at least try.”

“You can’t,” Katsuki said. He shook his head and felt his voice waver. Katsuki’s chest hurt and he struggled, hoping to knock Deku out of his lap. The other refused to budge, squeezing his thighs together to stay in place. Katsuki said, “You knocked out a few new Heroes, but there’s no way you could take out the top Heroes like All Might or—”

“Wrong!” Deku shouted. He grabbed the sides of Katsuki’s cheeks and leaned in closer, breath heavy. He squirmed in Katsuki’s lap, a bundle of excited energy that twisted Katsuki’s stomach. Deku’s smile was filled with glee and his arousal knocked into Katsuki’s hip. “All Might is the reason I know all Heroes have a weakness. He’s the reason I know that I can do it!”

Katsuki tried to shake his head, but Deku’s vice of a grip kept it in place.

“All Might already has one foot in the grave. I saw it. I saw it when I met him on that day of the Sludge Attack: All Might powerless and thin as a skeleton, choking up blood and mortally wounded.” A grin split Deku’s face and he brushed his thumb over Katsuki’s eye, hovering there. “All Heroes have a weakness, Kacchan. The game is finding it and putting them down.”

“You’re talking about murder,” Katsuki said, breathing hard. He though of Kamui Woods sobbing over Mt. Lady. Of Chargebolt mourning Cellophane. Riot mourning Pinky in his own quiet way. Of Riot. Katsuki narrowed his eyes, snarling under his breath. “That’s not a game.”

“It is, though. And one I intend to win by killing every single last Hero on the planet,” Deku said. He kissed Katsuki again, a quick playful peck. Deku pulled away with a soft smile and pressed his thumb against Katsuki’s bottom lip. “With one exception, of course.”

He slipped off of Katsuki’s lap and untucked his shirt. Deku put both his hands into his hair and licked the side of his teeth. “Though now I need to figure out what to do with you, Kacchan.”

Deku took a few steps away as he paced toward the table in the center of the room. “I was really hoping you’d stay in ignorant bliss for another year or two—”

A wall of white crashed into Deku throwing him across the room and pinning him against the wall, encased in shining, hissing ice. His eyes were open and wild, the ice covering his mouth, almost reaching his nose, limbs trapped save for the upper half of his left arm that had escaped the ice. His fingers and hand twitched as he twisted the limb.

“I’m sorry that took so long,” Shouto said, kicking away the broken remains of the room’s door. “I had to wait for him to get away from you.”

“Shouto,” Katsuki said, sitting up. The other Hero looked as frightening as his father Endeavor, face twisted in anger and bits of flames licking around the side of his face. Katsuki shifted, clanging the chains against his chair. “When did you…?”

“When he pulled the chair over to sit next to you,” Shouto said. Eyes still locked on Deku, he pointed at the fallen door to draw attention to the small glass decor widows that would have allowed him to see in the room. “I could hear him through the door, though it was faint.”

“Is it just you?” Katsuki asked, feeling his chest heave. He could feel Deku glaring at him from the other side of the room.

(He didn’t want to look.)

“No, the others are searching the building for accomplices,” Shouto said, breathing out. His anger shifted into sorrow as he looked down at Katsuki. “I am sorry it took so long to get here. We had trouble finding their location after they moved from the one you sent us.”

“There’s at least one more guy,” Katsuki said. He shook his head and stayed tense in his chair. “Quirk is sleep gas. Blond guy with a gas mask.”

“Did you get that?” Shouto asked, holding his hand near a headpiece.

“Loud and clear,” came the voice on the other end. Ingenium? It sounded like Ingenium. “We’ll take precautions. Please keep the Villain secure while we send help for Ground Zero.”

“Understood,” Shouto said.

Katsuki dropped his head forward and breathed out. He still couldn’t turn to see Deku. But he couldn’t look at Shouto either. If he’d had back up earlier, he might have been able to save Riot. But he’d been an idiot and look at where it had gotten him.

With the immediate danger gone and the shame already too much to bear, Katsuki cried.

Chapter Text

Katsuki had two months of mandatory leave with pay, most of which was due to disciplinary measures for his behavior prior to finding Deku. It would have been without pay under normal conditions, but the circumstances surrounding his actions warranted a lighter slap on the wrist.

Finding out Katsuki had unknowingly been sleeping with a serial killer for two years earned him unwanted and undeserved pity, but he kept his mouth shut at the disciplinary action meeting.

He had to pay for a damn hotel somehow, and he sure as hell wasn’t going back to his apartment any time soon.

Half of his home had been confiscated for evidence and Katsuki was as unnerved by the emptiness left behind from the brat’s missing journals and notebooks as he was running into Deku’s shit and being assaulted with unwanted memories.

Katsuki covered his eyes with his hand as he laid on the creaking mattress in the hotel. Two weeks. Two entire weeks had passed since Katsuki last saw Deku, trapped in ice and glaring so hard at Shouto he thought the other might combust. Katsuki had been escorted out by Ingenium while Shouto helped the police retrieve Deku and that was the last he saw him.

He wasn’t sure when Deku’s court date would come up and Katsuki still hadn’t decided if he should go.

He wasn’t sure he’d be able to sit through it without either trying to kill Deku or having another stupid panic attack. He had barely made it through Riot’s funeral without completely falling apart two days ago.


Katsuki sucked in a harsh breath, repeating Shouto’s words over and over in his head: “It’s not your fault, Bakugou.”

With his arms still sore and Deku not ten feet away wearing the most furious face that Katsuki had ever seen, Shouto had placed his hands on Bakugou’s shoulders and knelt next to him. His face had been serious and his voice had been clear as he said, “This is not your fault.”

“If I had waited, we could have saved Riot,” Katsuki had gritted through angry teeth. “How is it not my fault?”

“If Riot hadn’t gone alone, you wouldn’t have chased after him. If I’d have had the sense to think about it, I wouldn’t have left you alone when you were emotional and not thinking clearly. There are a thousand things that could have gone differently,” Shouto said. He pointed at Deku, squeezing Katsuki’s arm. “The only person responsible for this is that man, right there. We all could have all handled this better, but he’s the one that murdered Riot.”

Katsuki still wasn’t sure he believed Shouto, but at least the guy had tried.

A buzz hummed at his hip. Katsuki reached down and pulled up his phone, reading “Shouto” flash on the screen. Of course he’d call now that Katsuki was thinking about him. He clicked the “accept” button and held it to his ear, “What do you want, half-and-half?”

“I’m at your apartment,” Shouto said. Katsuki heard a shuffle of plastic that sounded suspiciously like a grocery bag. “I had wanted to stop by to see how you were doing, but it appears you aren’t home. Are you running errands?”

“No,” Katsuki said, dropping his hand off of his eyes and back onto the mattress. He sat up, shifting to sit with his back against the headboard. He supposed he couldn’t dodge Shouto forever. “I’m at a hotel.”

“May I have the address?” Shouto asked. “Or do you wish to be alone.”

(He didn’t particularly want to do either, really.)

Katsuki gave Shouto the address and clicked off the phone. He fell back on the mattress and dug his palms into his eyes.

“Bakugou,” Shouto asked, sticking his head into the bedroom door. His Hero uniform stung to look at while Katsuki was still stuck with nothing to do, but that wasn’t Shouto’s fault. “Do you want me to bring back dinner?”

“Nah,” Katsuki said, folding his laundry. “I’ll make something.”

He’d been meaning to get out of the townhouse and go to the store anyway. His self isolation was getting close to cabin fever levels and Katsuki probably needed the sunlight.

“If you’re sure,” Shouto said. He patted the side of the doorframe and nodded, aware of his own awkwardness around the situation. “I’ll see you after patrol, then. I also might bring by Ingenium if that’s alright.”

“Sure,” Katsuki said.

It was Shouto’s home; he could invite who he wanted.

Katsuki didn't know how Shouto had talked Katsuki into staying in his spare bedroom, but it might have had something to do with the one frustrated look Shouto had given his hotel room before making the offer, or from still finding himself jumping at shadows as Katsuki found himself alone at night.

(It hadn’t occurred to Katsuki at the time that Shouto might still be hurting after all those losses, too. They both needed the company.)

“I need to get a grip,” Katsuki said, glaring at his folded clothes. He shoved the stack in a drawer and grabbed his phone and wallet, shoving them in his pocket before snatching the spare key that sat in a bowl near the door. He let himself out and locked it before hitting the street. “Just go get the damn groceries.”

The trip to the market proved to be mechanical, empty, and frustrating. Katsuki found himself picking up a pack of pork only to shove it back on the shelf and reach for chicken instead. All of Deku’s favorite things that he normally grabbed on autopilot were no longer needed. Instead, he had to plan for a dinner for three, two of which Katsuki had no idea what they liked or didn’t like.

So he stuck with teriyaki and rice; simple and he doubted it garnered any complaints.

(Not that they’d complain if they had any—Shouto and everyone else still walked around Katsuki like he was a piece of glass and it infuriated him.)

“Making dinner for someone else?”

Katsuki stopped.

“I think I might be a little jealous over that.” Arms slipped around his waist from the back, and a familiar soft cheek nuzzled into his shoulder blade. “I really missed you, Kacchan.”

“You’re in jail,” Katsuki whispered, dropping his basket. It didn’t hit as a hand reached out to grab it before it could clatter to the ground. Katsuki moved to turn but the remaining arm around his middle tightened to stop him. “How are you here?”

“You didn’t think Mustard was my only friend, did you, Kacchan?” Deku said, reaching over to put the basket on the shelf. He went back to hugging Katsuki’s waist with both arms and sighed heavily into his back. “But then again, I can’t blame you if you did. I sort of set things up that way, didn’t I?”

“That didn’t answer the question,” Katsuki said, forcing his breathing to stay calm. He looked around to see if they had gained any attention, but the aisle he stood in remained painfully empty. Katsuki would have to use his Quirk, but his limbs didn’t want to move. “How the hell are you here, Deku?”

“I’d almost think you didn’t want to see me, Kacchan,” Deku said.

Katsuki sucked in a harsh breath through his teeth as a sharp pain spiked against his thigh. He looked down to see the thick syringe needle stuck straight through the fabric of his pants and into the muscle. Deku pressed down the plunger before yanking the needle out. He let go of Katsuki, stepping around to the front.

He opened his arms as Katsuki fell forward into the waiting embrace. Deku petted the back of Katsuki’s hair as his legs shook and his vision blurred. Katsuki didn’t know what had been in the syringe, but it worked fast and he felt himself struggling to stay conscious. His limbs felt as heavy as if they were encased in metal again. A whisper of black opened behind Deku, swirling with purple and chilling Katsuki with its implication of just what sort of friends Deku had made.

“But that’s okay,” Deku said. He kissed Katsuki’s temple. “We’ll have all the time in the world to change that.”

Katsuki shivered, dropping his head into the crook of Deku’s neck. He hated how familiar it was; hated how inevitable this all felt.

Deku always got what he wanted.