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how he should’ve known (and how it turned out)

Chapter Text

Izuku should have known. He totally should’ve. 

He should’ve remembered Aizawa-sensei’s unimpressed face during these gatherings and especially his way of napping to escape everyone, which, in retrospect, seems like a brilliant idea.

‘you trouble child’, an eerily familiar voice whispers in Izuku’s ear somewhere from his memories.

(it’s so deserved right now. i’m so sorry i let you down, sensei)

Izuku should’ve listened and known and watched out for this so he wouldn’t be here, in this position.

But he is, and everything is awful.

     “Do you look as good out of your suit as you look in it? It is a fascinating design,” a syrupy voice drawls straight into his ear canal, and Izuku tries to shift away from the person who is currently sitting next to him.

More importantly, the person being a journalist from the Daily Capes.

More importantly, a journalist who specializes in the relationships between heroes and absolutely lives for the drama, scandals and rumours.  

More importantly, a journalist who has decided Izuku is the best prey in the whole gala for Pros to mingle and network and gather sponsors, and who hasn’t left his side for half an hour.

 (which is why aizawa-sensei is right and everyone else is wrong. izuku sees that now, and he’s so sorry he’s ever doubted his faithful teacher.)

If he were Katsuki, he would just tell her to ‘fuck off, you extra’, but he isn’t, and she is a journalist, and he figured he should just play nice and be polite.

Too bad he played right into her trap.

Half an hour. (small-talk, flattering, fake smiles, knowing some startling trivia about his time at u.a., which is...kind of disturbing.)

Rookie. I’m a total, rotten rookie, Izuku thinks miserably and wrings his hands in his lap, half-tempted to just shrink back and go home.

Instead, he says awkwardly:

     “Uh, that’s - that’s very kind of you.” His cheeks turning red hot under her hungry, sharp gaze. He feels like fish bait. “I’m sorry, I’m not really - “

     “You are such a treasure, a refreshing treat in these circles,” the journalist, Natsuki Abe, flashes a wide smile at him. It looks practised and fake, plastic under the pink neon lights. She rummages through her bag and fishes out a recorder. Izuku decides that this is time for panic. “Would you mind giving me your opinion on couple of things? Unofficially of course, but I do love your voice so...”

     “Now, w - wait a minute, Abe-san, I didn’t - “ 

     “ - and what is especially interesting is your relationship status, which many of our readers have requested a very special article,” Natsuki Abe continues casually, her glossy nail pressing on the play button, and yep, Izuku is totally panicking right now.    

     “Now, this isn’t - I’m not - “

Her eyes flash, impossibly dark under her thick lashes. “Really?” she asks softly, the corner of her mouth twitching. “Because I, for one, adore green.”

Izuku’s brain jolts into overdrive. Okay, no, this isn’t good -

     “I have a boyfriend!” he squeaks before his own stunned brain catches up.

Natsuki Abe stills, her eyes narrowing. “Excuse me?”

Izuku’s own answer sinks into him, hits him with full force.

Oh no.

No time to back out, oooh my god, I’ve done it now, he thinks in utter horror.

     “I - uh, I’m taken. Already. Definitely.”  

     “Really?” Natsuki Abe drawls, but this time, she sounds suspicious. “And who might that lucky person be?”

Who’, indeed, what a fitting question. Oh god, oh god, oh god, what have I done? Izuku wails inwardly, because really, dating implies another person - another person that doesn’t even exist.

Izuku glances the dimly lit ballroom, painfully aware of Natsuki Abe’s attention on him. It feels like oil on his skin. And then Izuku spots him.

Kacchan.

Katsuki stands near the wall, shadowed by the lights, his gaze tracking the crowd in a way that Izuku recognizes; Kacchan’s bored out of his skull, his eyebrow twitching with irritation.

At that point Izuku says - or squeaks, as it happens to be his tone during this whole horrible exchange - “He’s there!”

And without waiting her response, Izuku jumps on his feet and swims through the crowd to Katsuki.

     “Kacchan! Kacchan!” he hisses, and Katsuki raises an eyebrow at him.

     “Yo. What’s your deal, Deku?” he drawls in response, taking in Izuku’s dishevelled appearance. “Ditched your fangirls, huh?”

     “Don’t even joke about that, Kacchan, this is awful and I think I’m having an aneurysm, she won’t leave me alone!” Izuku hisses and starts wringing his hands in anxiety and distress.

     “What, she gettin’ handsy or something?”  

Izuku glares at him under his green curls and puffs his cheeks in annoyance. “Kacchan, seriously, I’m not kidding, Abe-san’s not leaving me alone - and no, stop, look, I - I need your help.”

     “That so, huh, Deku?”

Katsuki has the audacity to sound amused. His mouth twists into a wry smirk that would usually make Izuku’s heart skip a beat, but now, he’s near hyperventilation, so he’s slightly preoccupied.

     “I need you to pretend to be my boyfriend,” he blurts without too much finesse.

Silence.

Katsuki’s jaw drops, and he gawks at Izuku, red eyes wide and incredulous. 

     “Haaah?”

Okay, understandable, also very predictable, but Izuku is on the clock.

     “I know, I know, it’s awful and I shouldn’t have said anything to Abe-san, but she wouldn’t leave me, I know you absolutely don’t want to do this, but help me out, please, Kacchan, just this once, okay - I - I’ll owe you!”

Katsuki scowls; the lights paint sharp shadows between his brows.

     “No way, find someone else,” he grunts, his voice a low growl, and pleasant shivers crawl in Izuku’s insides. 

     “Kacchan - “

     “I said no, nerd, open your fucking ears. Deal with your own mess, don’t drag me into your bullshit.”

Okay, that stings.

Just a bit.

Izuku hates hot shame that blossoms in his gut, hates feeling hurt just for a split-second - how dare he be hurt, when it’s Katsuki’s right to refuse? When Izuku’s the one who just blurts out things to journalists like a total idiot?

     “Oh. Okay, um - thanks anyway,” he murmurs and laughs, embarrassed. “Thanks for listening me, Kacchan, I - “

Suddenly Katsuki tenses and he stares over Izuku’s head into the crowd.

     “Oi, that her?” he grunts, and Izuku follows his line of sight -

And it’s Natsuki Abe wading through the crowd with surprising grace like she’s done it all her life, and the hungry, shameless curiosity on her features is definitely frightening.

     “Yes, oh god, she’s ready to go for the jugular,” Izuku says miserably.

     “From the Daily Capes, huh?”

     “Uh, yeah... she’s been hounding me all evening.”

Sparkling pink, blue, purple neon lights pass over them, and in that breathless moment, Izuku and Katsuki stare at each other; Izuku wants to drown in Katsuki’s red eyes, they are steady, dependable  -

- which is one of the many reasons why Izuku -

Then, Katsuki clenches his jaw, curses under his breath, and that’s when Natsuki Abe materializes beside them.

     “Good evening, gentlemen,” she purrs, her finger already on the recorder’s play-button. “My, my, what a lovely pair you make.”

Izuku’s heart pounds painfully in his chest, one-two-three, and his mouth is dry, full of wool, and no words come out, no explanations or excuses -

- and Katsuki slings his arm casually on Izuku’s shoulder, pulls him closer.

     “Yeah, we’re the best, who the hell are you?” he asks gruffly.

Izuku’s frozen.

His mind whirrs hundred miles per hour, hot blood pounds in his ears, he can’t believe this is happening - he can feel Katsuki’s masculine warmth seeping through his clothes into his skin, it’s so safe and familiar, too bad this is just for the show -

Surprise flickers over Natsuki Abe’s face, but then it smoothens into a honeyed smile.

     “Well, now. I’m Natsuki Abe, a journalist from the Daily Capes - “

     “Yeah, yeah, get in line, we’ve got a bunch hounding our asses. You had something to say to my boyfriend, huh?”

His boyfriend. Izuku’s heart rate picks up, the fire roars in his ears, and it spreads through his body like a high wave, sweet and warm, and oh god, I need to calm down.

     “ - long have you dated?”

     “That ain’t none of your damn business. Look, we don’t have time for this shit, I gotta take this space cadet out, he’s ready to pass out. C’mon, nerd, if you black out, I’m not carryin’ your ass back.”

     “Sorry,” Izuku slurs and allows Katsuki to drag himself from Natsuki Abe to the nearest balcony.

It’s calm outside; the faraway thumping of the music sucks into drowsy static, and Izuku breathes the cool air inside his lungs.

     “Oi, you with me?”

     “Yeah. I’m sorry, Kacchan - no, I mean, thank you, that was - that was amazing.”

     “...she was seriously pissing me off, like she knows any shit about us. Fucking vultures,” Katsuki grumbles and leans against the railing.

Izuku’s breathing hitches in his throat. In the pale, yellow light glowing from the city below reflects on Katsuki, on his sun kissed skin, on the bright red of his eyes, the sharp angles of his face.

The calm in his gaze, the embers of his annoyance still glowing under the red.

Affection swells between Izuku’s ribs, pure and raw. In that moment, he’s dizzyingly grateful that Katsuki allows Izuku to see him like this.

That they are friends.

Even though Izuku’s completely -

     “Still, thank you. For going with it,” Izuku says with a soft smile.

Katsuki snorts and pokes Izuku on the nose. “What the hell was with that shitty plan, anyway, oi, nerd?”

     “I told you, she kept drilling me and I panicked! And I - “

     “Cracked under the pressure, huh?” Katsuki sounds wryly amused. 

     “No! Well, okay, yeah, I guess that’s kinda how it went...”

     “She really got under your skin...your filter needs fixin’, Deku, stop spilling useless shit like that to them.”

     “Hnng.”

A pause. “But your shitty plan got her to fuck off, so I guess it wasn’t that shitty.”

Izuku laughs, breathless and stupidly pleased. Maybe it’s adrenaline, slowly burning out from his system.

Katsuki sees it and with a scoff, he captures Izuku’s nose between his index finger and middle finger and tweaks him firmly.

    “You still owe me, Deku, don’t forget that.”

     “I ‘ow.”

     “You better.”

Izuku gives him thumbs-up, and then: “’eggoo al’eady...”

Katsuki lets go, but not before squinting at him with flat, fond exasperation.

All in all, the rest of the evening goes pretty smoothly - no explosions, but Todoroki and Kirishima show their party trick with crème brûlée and Iida has to interfere, although the audience loves it - and Izuku nearly forgets the whole thing with the Daily Capes.

+

He should’ve known.

+

The next morning Izuku’s passed out on his bed and is practically dead to the whole world -

- until his phone screeches at 8.00 a.m. Sharp blaring pierces through his ears. Disoriented and dizzy, Izuku fumbles at his phone, his vision blurry and unfocused.

     “Y - yeah, hello?” he says sleepily and moves to sit up, blankets wrapped around him.

     “Izuku-kun, I’m extremely disappointed in you.”

Izuku’s suddenly wide awake. It’s their publicist, Kumiko Sasaki, and her voice is tight with utter fury. It’s enough to make Izuku swallow.

     “Uh, I’m sorry?” he says hesitantly. He can hear her breathe harshly on the other end of the line.

     “Have you seen the Daily Capes today?”

The Daily - ?

Izuku’s heart stops. Oh no. Oh, no, no, no.

     “No...?”

His voice sounds nervous, even to his own ears.

     “No? Because they published an article - a page long with some trivia - about you and Katsuki-kun’s romance, starting from U.A to working as partners. Lovely pictures as well, of you two on the balcony last night.”

Izuku closes his eyes.

     “ I do not normally give credence to such rubbish that SHE publishes, but this - THIS - is it false or is it true, I need to know, Izuku-kun.”

     “Kumiko-san,” Izuku says, now getting jittery. “I - it was just - “  

     “Are you and Katsuki-kun dating?”

Izuku is not prepared to hear it so bluntly. He chokes and wracking coughs explode from his lungs.

Kumiko listens to his wheezing and gurgling patiently, and then mutters: “Apparently no, then. Am I wrong?”

     “N - no, we’re not, it was just - I tried to get her to back off, but she wouldn’t, and then we pretended - “

She sighs. It’s one of those sighs that Izuku and rest of the class 1-A know pretty well; Aizawa used to sigh at them the same way, disgruntled and so done. Like he needed a raise or two.

(kumiko-san definitely deserves a raise or two for dealing with their shenanigans, that’s for sure.)

     “Of course you did. Well, now we do have a bit of a problem in our hands, so I suggest you get up, get dressed and get back to the office. I’m going to call Katsuki-kun next.”

Oh no. Kacchan. Clammy cold sweat starts to bead on Izuku’s forehead. He can only imagine how he’ll react to this, this being Izuku’s stupid plan which has apparently failed so magnificently and probably destroyed their reputation -

Oh god, he’s gonna hate me.  

     “Good luck, Kumiko-san,” he says, defeated.  

     “Thank you,” Kumiko replies primly. “And if you don’t mind getting the coffee on your way here, we are out.”

They are probably not, but Izuku gets the hint and nods. “Yeah, I’ll do that. Thank you again, Kumiko-san, and I’m...I’m so sorry, I didn’t think. I - I panicked.”

There’s a pause, and then, Kumiko says, her tone a little softer now: “Nothing is really ruined, we will figure out a solution, mark my words.”

     “Thank you. See you soon.”

Izuku hangs up, drops his phone on the sheets and just curls into a ball of shame and guilt.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.   

+

Chapter Text

Walking to the office happens in a numb fog. The traffic, brakes screeching against concrete, people chattering, music blaring from the speakers and all the noise - it all just disappears. Fades back.

On the way there, Izuku snaps himself awake and makes sure to buy an extra large coffee and muffins to Kumiko-san, because that’s the least he can do. It doesn’t fix anything, but he’s so torn over this that he has to do something right now.

So, muffins.  

That’s approximately when he starts thinking about the article and Kacchan again, and his anxiety rises up, clutching at his throat.

Why didn’t I think further ahead? he thinks miserably. Did I really think a plan like that would last?

Especially to a person like Abe-san. She must’ve seen through it, right? Why else do this? Also, Izuku ponders, isn’t this illegal? She didn’t ask their permission to write a piece of them...

Then again, does the Daily Capes really give a damn? Izuku has a horrible, sneaking suspicion they don’t. A big, popular magazine that’s been awarded many times for their daring articles and analyses of hero couples probably has quite a bit of leniency around such circles...

With each passing thought, Izuku grows more nervous, and finally, by the time he reaches the office steps, he’s near freaking out.

Inside, the first thing he sees is Kumiko; she’s pacing, talking to her phone, her mouth pursed into a thin, unhappy line. She is about fifteen years older than the rest of the ‘former class 1-A’ office, and really, they soak in her guidance and knowledge like fifteen sun-starved sea sponges.

(she definitely deserves a raise or two.)

She finishes her call, pinches the bridge of her nose and after breathing couple of times deeply, she says: “Good morning, Izuku-kun.”

Yeah, Izuku gets it.

     “Good morning, Kumiko-san. I - I brought you coffee, I think I got it right. And um...some muffins, too.”

Kumiko looks up, and the thin lines around her mouth soften. “Thank you, that’s sweet.”  

     “Is - is Kacchan here yet?” Izuku asks, biting the inside of his cheek. He thinks his heart might explode from his chest. Actually Kumiko-san’s idea of pacing around sounds pretty good to him right now.

     “He’s on his way. Sit down, please - don’t look so nervous,” Kumiko adds, now kinder. “We will figure this out, you will have my word. This isn’t the end of the world.”

     “No offense, but it kinda feels like it is,” Izuku replies, his face pale.

Kumiko sips her coffee, and the tension in her shoulders drain. “It is a tricky situation, true - as it often is with press and - “ she wrinkles her nose, “ - media platforms like hers.”

Before Izuku can ask anything else, the door swings open, and Katsuki strides in, his whole frame tense as a steel wire, his jaw clenched, and his eyes are burning.

Kumiko doesn’t even blink. “Ah, good morning, Katsuki-kun. Please sit down, and we can discuss what happened.”

     “We’re way past that, it sounds like your plan went to shit after all,” Katsuki snaps at Izuku, who groans and buries his face into his hands.

     “I know, I don’t know what I was thinking, I could’ve done literally anything else! Said no to her! Why didn’t I do that, we wouldn’t be in this mess!”

     “Abe-san is a very - “ Kumiko pauses to search for a good enough word, “ - insistent sort of person.”

     “Yeah, we got that, thanks,” Katsuki snorts. “So, she thinks we’re dating. So what about it?”

     “So what about it?” Izuku repeats. “She made an article about us, without our consent - and sure, I made a mistake, I lied, I made this happen, that is true, but she didn’t have any right to do that!”

     “Oi, you nerd, in case you fuckin’ forgot, you weren’t alone, I went along with this shitty plan.”

Izuku pauses, then frowns. “Y - yeah, sure, but this wouldn’t have happened if I had just - just walked away!”

     “You really can’t walk away from Abe-san, to be fair,” Kumiko points out as she unwraps her muffin and looks delighted to find out it’s blueberry.

     “I could’ve tried harder.”

     “Stop that already,” Katsuki orders and his eyebrows knit together into a scowl. “Stop beating yourself up, that hag was a vulture, like I said. Was fuckin’ ready to shred you to little Deku pieces. So stop freaking out, we’re dealing with this.”

Izuku slowly breathes out and relaxes. “Okay.”

Deal with it. They can do that. He can do that.

Kumiko, who is observing them over her muffin, finally speaks up: “And that brings us to the question at hand, how do you want to deal with this?”

Katsuki and Izuku share a quick glance, suddenly uneasy.  

     “You tell us. C’mon, what’re our options?” Katsuki says, crossing his arms defiantly on his chest. 

     “Well, in my personal opinion, you are under the public eye, very vividly so right at this moment. We could use this to our advantage. I’m not saying it will be permanent by any means, no, I’m saying you could... go with this, for a while.”

Izuku can’t move.

He can barely breathe.

He hears what she’s saying, he even understands it with startling clarity, understands the brutal aspects of their work, but the rest of him locks down.

Katsuki has no such problem.

     “Fuck no,” he replies roughly, and that hurts - just fot a second, how quickly, how vehemently Katsuki is ready to refuse this. “What if we don’t wanna do that? Why can’t we let out a statement that her article is full of bullshit, like it is?”

Kumiko’s expression doesn’t even waver. “Because,” she trails off, considers and bites her lip. “Because firstly you are new in the whole Pro-Hero business. The office is new. Snapping back about an article would, in the worst case scenario, damage your reputation and detract your credibility.”

     “And secondly?”

     “The Daily Capes has been around very long time. It has a dedicated audience, and it would be unwise for a new hero office to pick a fight with them. I know it is unfair, but...this is my suggestion.”

     “Fuck.”

     “Also... it is not all bad.”  Kumiko fishes out her phone again, scrolls something and shows them the messages on the screen. It’s the Daily Capes’ article - and the comments under it.

anon: that’s so cool! finally we’ve got lgbt+ heroes! you rock wonder duo!

uberDog12: wow, that was really brave of you guys, good luck!

BUTTMOLOTOV: always knew there was something going on there... ;)

cockmonster_chicken: OMG yesss you r an inspiration!!!!!

A flood of messages cover the screen. Izuku gawks at it, the encouraging messages, the relieved, the happy and the mad.

     “Most of the response is actually quite positive,” Kumiko says gently. “And then, of course, the rest of it is a mix of disbelief and bigotry. And then some are wondering if it’s true.”

     “’Cause it ain’t. Should be fucking obvious.”

Izuku is very quiet during this exchange, his fingers playing with his faded All Might wristband. He feels ill. Hot shame burns the back of his neck, spreading down into his chest, pressing, closing in.

Kumiko offers her own thoughts on the matter:

     “But my suggestion is that you go with this. Pretend to date, just for few months. That should be enough time for it pass and the office stays afloat. What do you say?”

The silence is stifling.

Izuku’s hands move to his knees, gripping and trembling.

How did it come to this?

     “I don’t want to force Kacchan to do anything since the blame is mine,” he says quietly, his head hanging low.

     “And you, stop puttin’ words in my mouth, Deku,” Katsuki snaps. “Seriously, these are our only options?”

     “It is my opinion,” Kumiko counters calmly. “Professional and personal. The decision is yours, however, but I must say I would hate to see all your hard work going down the drain just because you are stubborn.”

That we are. I’m sorry, Kumiko-san.

Katsuki narrows his eyes, the muscle in his jaw straining. He’s practically vibrating in place with explosive energy - not quite rage, but frustration.

He curses under his breath, a low string of words, and Izuku turns away. The nauseous weight in his stomach seems to grow heavier. He has to say something. Anything.

     “Kacchan, I know this is unfair for you. We - I didn’t know it would come to this, but... would it be so bad?” he asks hesitantly. “It’s just for few months. Then people will forget.”

Katsuki glares at him, and the red seems to burn brighter in his eyes. “We’re not a goddamn circus show,” he growls. “We’re not there to be gawked at.”

     “Well, you kind of are, in a technical sense,” Kumiko says, but she sounds apologetic. “I’m sorry. Heroes have always been a subject of interest to the public.”

She’s right, and they know it. The ugly side of being a Hero.

     “Well, at least we can avoid any unwanted attention to the rest of the office,” Izuku says, defeated. “I - I’m on board. Two months, I don’t care, I’ll do it.” 

     “Oi, Deku, wait a damn minute - “

     “What other choice is there? Our office is too new, we are already under enough scrutiny, and I won’t let the office sink just because I messed up!” Izuku says, now getting agitated. “There’s no getting out of this unscathed. I know it’s unfair. I know, Kacchan, and I’m so sorry, but - if this is truly the lesser evil of all the options, then I’m gonna do it!”

It’s so silent.

(it reminds izuku of those heartbeats, the stunned quiet between them after they rescued kacchan from the league villains. how kacchan exploded in fury, in frustration. how misunderstandings just unravelled.)

(it’s...too much like - )

Katsuki stares at him. He’s unmoving, his hand clutching the arm rest so hard his knuckles turn white. Then he turns away, scoffing.

     “’Course you are, stubborn dumbass.” He grits his teeth together like it’s causing him actual pain to force the words out. “Okay, fine. I’ll do it.”

But Izuku isn’t relieved. No, he’s wound even tighter into himself, because he knows this is furthest what Katsuki wants. Guilt burns in his guts like acid. He hates this. And Izuku... Izuku hates causing the people he loves so much trouble.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

+

The rest of the meeting goes by in fuzzy, hollow feeling growing in Izuku’s mind.

He can barely focus on Kumiko’s stern advice: “ - public appearances, hand holding would be a nice start, but it is up to you, of course, smile, you need to smile, i cannot stress this enough, boys, do you understand me, also that brings me the topic of cohabitation, what do you say about living together?”

That’s when Izuku’s attention returns to the conversation with full force.

     “I - that’s not necessary, is it?” he asks, half-horrified, half-nervous. Katsuki would never go with this, the whole fake-dating thing is too much already, but to step into his space like that?

Kumiko doesn’t look amused. “I am trying to paint a convincing picture,” she replies and sighs. When she looks up, her face is bare with sad sympathy. “I understand, boys. I get it. It is uncomfortable, but with that move, you could cut the dating time shorter.”

It’s tempting. So tempting on so many levels, and Izuku is pretty sure that would be ideal for Katsuki - but then again, living together? For two months?

They have patched things up, slowly, painfully, step by step, easing into it to that old friendship; it’s been a slow process, where they have poured their blood and tears, but they are friends now, and Izuku has missed it so viscerally, with every fiber of his being.

The easy existing with Katsuki. Just... being with him.

And now... now he’s about to destroy it with his own hands.

Hot, sour taste rises in his mouth.

     “Kacchan?”

His own voice falters in the middle.  

Katsuki’s quiet. He’s scowling at the floor, his hands still clutching the armrest. Izuku is absent mindedly surprised the wood hasn’t cracked yet.

     “Fine,” Katsuki grunts, barely moving his lips. “But it’s gonna be my place, ‘cause yours is a fucking shithole and no way I’m sleeping two months there.”

Okay, fair enough, Izuku’ll give him that. “If that’s okay with you.”

     “I just said it was, so stop - stop being so damn dense, Deku.”

     “I was just - “ Izuku is tired. His headache returns. “Okay.”

Kumiko watches this exchange, worried. “I know this is asking a lot of you, but... we will get through this, I promise. Few months will fly. And then it will be good. Just... try to play nice?”

That makes Katsuki snort, but some of the steely tension in his spine eases a bit. “Hah, what the hell you’re talkin’ about, I’m a fucking delight.”

Kumiko doesn’t even dignify that with a response.

+

     “YO, BAKUGOU! CONGRATULATIONS, THAT’S AWESOME, MAN!”

     “Why didn’t you tell us you were dating?!”

     “WHY ARE YOU TWO ASSHOLES BELIEVING THAT CRAP?”

With that, they decide telling to the office - the Inner Circle that is the old Class 1-A - about the decision so they can keep the story straight in case someone asks.  

Apparently Katsuki has no illusions about it.

     “Okay, listen up, fuckers, we’re doing this, and you’d better not go blabberin’ shit to anyone, or I’ll know just whose ass to blow to hell! Got that, you extras?”

Iida, who has been promptly elected as the spokesman, raises an eyebrow. “I thought such a thing would go without saying. We will be worthy of your trust. If you need any help, we will be there to have your backs!”

     “It’s just two months,” Izuku mumbles, now getting quite embarrassed by all the attention on them.

Behind Iida, Kirishima and Kaminari exchange money, Mina declares there will be another betting pool about something way different now - who knows what that means, but Izuku’s learnt not to ask -  Uraraka bites her lower lip nervously keeping her eyes on him, Todoroki seems to be thinking something quite thoroughly, and Yaoyorozu looks like she’s two seconds away from giving them pointers in keeping the plan in tact.

(izuku is pretty sure they’re going to need that.)

     “Are you okay, Deku-kun?” Uraraka asks tentatively, and for some reason Izuku wants to laugh. It’ll probably come out as hysterical, so he doesn’t.

     “No, not really. Thanks, for - um, asking. But we’re doing this, and I will not let this harm the office.”

Katsuki tenses, opens his mouth to say something, but Kirishima interrupts by pating Izuku’s shoulder in companionable gesture.

     “We appreciate it, man. You’re gonna bunk with Explosion Boy here, so here’s my condolences as well.”

     “You wanna fuckin’ go, Weird Hair?”

     “Nah, no thanks!” Kirishima replies brightly and winks at Izuku, who isn’t sure what to do with that. 

     “Your sacrifice is noted,” Kaminari adds with a smug grin that definitely doesn’t bode well for anyone involved. “And we’re totally getting you two a cake.”

     “A cake?”

     “And we’re frosting it to say ‘congrats on the - ‘”

     “ - ‘dating’! Dating!” Kirishima hurries to yell, covering Kaminari’s mouth with his hands.

Kaminari struggles against him, decides to give up, but still somehow manages to convey the whole ‘i know stuff you don’t’- look that’s kind of...unsettling, if Izuku is being honest.

He’s even waggling his eyebrows.

 And so, from that day on, Katsuki Bakugou and Izuku Midoriya are officially dating.

And unofficially they are not that happy about it.

+

Chapter Text

That first day is long.

Izuku throws himself head first into working, desperate to do something concrete, but no matter how hard he tries to focus on anything else than what’s currently on his mind, his thoughts wander back to Katsuki, and guilt returns with crushing force.

And...Kacchan hasn’t looked at him in the eye the whole day.

The ugly, painful feeling crawls in Izuku’s skin, and he wants to scream. He’s sorry, he’s so sorry, he wants to fix this, he’s sorry he’s dragged Katsuki into this, he just -

- he’s trying to fix this.

But they have a plan now. They will do this, it will work, and then it’s over.  Then Kacchan doesn’t have to deal with this any longer -

Izuku looks through the window, to the tall buildings shadowing their office.

I can handle it. I can handle it, totally, no problem, he thinks to himself, psyching himself up. Good, good, okay - I can do this!

+

He can’t do this.

+

Nervously Izuku approaches Katsuki’s desk. “Uh, I’ll - bring my things to your apartment if that’s okay?”

Katsuki’s head snaps up, and he glares at him. “Thought we agreed to that already.” His scowl grows darker, more irritated. “And stop tip-toeing around, Deku, ‘s fucking fine, just show up whenever you want.”

Just like that.

     “Oh, yeah, I’ll - I’ll do that!”

Izuku wants to smack himself in the face, oh god, stop already...

+

At home, Izuku quickly scrambles to gather his stuff, shoves them in his bag, locks the apartment and heads towards Katsuki’s.

It feels weird; he’s been there countless of times, just playing video games and board games, bantering, hanging with Kacchan and everyone else, drinking, just having fun...

...but this time...it’s going to be different. So drastically different.

What if this will change everything? Their friendship that they have patched up so desperately, with such care, what if it’s going all down in the drain?

What if Izuku slips up? What if Katsuki finds out - ?

Cold horror curls in Izuku’s guts. No, no, no. Nope. He shakes his head vehemently to banish that gnawing doubt. This will definitely work! This will work, everything will definitely be fine.

Definitely.

(gods are already laughing at him and his attempts.)

+

He’s painfully awkward when he arrives ten minutes later to Katsuki’s apartment. He knows every step there, every shop on the way, but still...

Katsuki opens the door, raises an eyebrow at him, his expression flat. “Yo.”

Izuku laughs, nervously. “Hi. Uh - yeah, hi.”

Katsuki rolls his eyes, steps aside to let Izuku in. “That all your shit?”

     “Yeah. So, um, Kacchan, I’m sorry. For all of this, I know this isn’t pleasant for you - “  

     “Oi. Deku, shut up.”

Startled, Izuku shuts up, but definitely not because Katsuki told him so.

Katsuki pinches the bridge of his nose. “Stop apologizing already - it’s a shit situation, and I can’t wait to throw your ass out after we’re done, but this is what it is, so we’ll fucking deal with it.”

     “Oh.”

     “You got somethin’ else to say to me?”

A lot, probably. Izuku bites his lower lip, rubs his chin in thought. “It’s just... it’s unfair to you,” he says carefully. “And I do want to talk about this.”

Katsuki crosses his arms over his chest with a huff.

      “What else is there to talk about, Deku? We ain’t a couple. It’s just for a damn show.” His tone darkens, deepens, his jaw strains. “So whatever happens outside this fucking apartment, isn’t real. ‘s a mission like any other, got that? We ace this, give those damn losers the middle finger and then we can continue our fucking lives.”

Izuku blinks slowly, considering that carefully. “Yeah, that’s - pretty much the plan, I guess? But still, putting you in this position - “

Katsuki’s brow twitches.

     “Oi, seriously, you’re starting to piss me off, Deku - where the hell are your ears? For fuck’s sake, I went along with it, so stop pullin’ that ‘responsible for all this’ shit on me.”

Izuku doesn’t relax, but he can breathe easier. “Okay.”

     “Yeah?”

     “Mhm. Thank you.”

Katsuki’s shoulders suddenly tense up, and eyes widening, he looks away. His cheeks look as if they are turning red, but Izuku can’t be too sure.

     “Whatever. By the way, you’re helpin’ me around here, so no slackin’ off with the vacuuming and don’t try that shit that you pulled at U.A, either.”

Izuku blinks. Then he remembers what Katsuki is referring to, and he moans in embarrassment.

     “Why are you bringing that up again? We were in a hurry!”

     “No excuses. It was a disgrace, and you fucking know it. So do it properly, nerd. Plus Ultra.

It’s so cheesy and so incredibly stupid and -

- and so like Kacchan.

Izuku smiles; slowly, steady, like a rising sun, golden and bright.

Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it’s okay. He’s still Kacchan, and Izuku is still Izuku, and they’re the Wonder Duo, and they can do this. Together.

So he beams back.

     “Plus Ultra, Kacchan, we’re on!”

Katsuki’s lips curl into a feral smirk, dangerous and challenging and ready to take on the whole world, just like every time they spar, every time they explode into action on patrols and on the field.   

It’s okay. 

Maybe it won’t be that bad.  

+

In the evening, when they’re watching T.V, Izuku starts to freak out.

He decides this is stressful. Like, way too stressful for his brain to handle in this too normal situation.

It’s surreal. It’s like a minefield.

And what’s worst, Izuku knows he’s being stupid.

He’s been at Katsuki’s apartment countless of times so why he’s being weird about it now? He’s done this same thing so many times. Watched this same show with Kacchan, has sat on this spot on the couch so many times.

 He’s slept there just as many times - many times passed out on Katsuki’s couch after gruelling, exhausting sparring sessions.

It should be weird, but it isn’t and yet it is, and oh god.

He’s in Katsuki’s space, for god’s sake, he’ll be there for a long time, he’s intruding on Katsuki’s routines and he knows just how important those are for Katsuki.

So he worries. A lot.

He doesn’t want to overstep, he’s aware of his own position in this, oh, shouldn’t he pay rent as well? He should. Also, he’s definitely going to pay for groceries, oh, this is so stressful -

     “Stop mumbling. Oi. Deku.”

Izuku’s head snaps up in mid-thought. “Huh?”  

Katsuki sighs, rubs his forehead in frustration and groans: “What’s on your fuckin’ mind now?”

     “Nothing!”

     “Liar, liar, pants on fuckin’ fire. Or will be soon enough if you keep bullshitting me.”

Katsuki throws a candy wrapper at Izuku, who scowls. “Stop that. I’m thinking about... details?”

     “Hit me.”

     “No....I don’t wanna, you’ll make fun of me.”

     “If it’s stupid, yeah, I might.”

     “It’s not, it’s serious.”

Katsuki raises an eyebrow, his expression remaining deadpan. “So hit me already, nerd.”

     “Fine. But you can’t laugh at me, ‘cause it’s - it’s really bothering me and I don’t wanna mess this up!”

     “We’re gonna see which one it is, then.”  

Izuku isn’t sure if he’s falling deeper - or if he wants to hit Katsuki. Sometimes it’s hard to tell, especially when Katsuki is being this stupid.  

     “I’m - feeling really weird about this. I’m freaking out.”

     “Why? You’ve been here before, what’s the big deal?”

     “Everything? Everyone thinks we’re dating!”

Something shifts in Katsuki’s features; darkens, tightens around the edges.

     “And huh, you think it’s bad? I’m the best, Deku, this isn’t any exception.”

     “It’s not about that, stop it,” Izuku huffs. “It’s - I really don’t like the idea of lying to everybody.”  

The storm cloud clears a little on Katsuki’s face, as he snorts with wry amusement. “That’s true, your poker face’s shit.”

     “You don’t have to point that out, Kacchan!”

     “Huh, what d’you think they’re gonna say if you’re the one who blows it?” Katsuki’s grinning now, and Izuku glowers at him.

     “I won’t. I - I can be very convincing!”

Inwardly, he knows how painfully true that is. That’s what the whole problem is. He’s -

     “That so?”

Ba-bump-ba-bump-ba-bump -

     “Yeah!”  

Rosy, sweet warmth floods into Izuku’s bones, and he watches Katsuki across him; his crinkled red eyes, his grin, wild and amused, and Izuku is so weak. He’s -

     “So you think it’s gonna be hard, Deku? Pretendin’ to date me? Fuck that, I’m awesome, and we’re handling this like pros.”

     “Which is kinda why we’re in this in the first place,” Izuku points out.

     “Fuckin’ small-fries, should just blow their dumbass magazine to kingdom come and be done with it,” Katsuki mutters under his breath, and fondness swells in Izuku’s chest.

Katsuki’s grumpiness is so familiar, so reassuring that he can forget the stress, the worries, the pain of pretending when it’s not really even -

He can just... be here.

It’s okay.

+

Izuku sleeps on Katsuki’s couch.

They don’t talk about it. Any other option isn’t even up for consideration, and he’s totally okay with that.

(izuku is very decidedly not thinking about it.)

He passes out the second his head touches the pillow. Maybe it’s Katsuki’s laundry detergent, but the scent is comforting. He doesn’t even have any nightmares that night.

The morning, however, he wakes up slowly, sluggishly. Blinks up at the ceiling, realizes it’s not his own and has a momentary heart attack, before he hears Katsuki rummaging in the kitchen.

Everything floods in.

I’m at Kacchan’s. We’re fake dating. I live here for two months. Kinda, if that’s what ‘few’ means, anyway...

     “Hey, drag your ass up, Deku.”

     “’m up.”

     “The hell you are. Awake ain’t up, try again, nerd.”

     “Right!” A pause, and Izuku makes a valiant attempt. It doesn’t go anywhere. Getting up is truly a challenge for mere mortals. “Hnng.”

     “Hope you brought your own toothbrush ‘cause you sure as hell ain’t using mine.”

     “Eeww.”

     “What was that?”

     “You use extra hard bristles, they make everyone else’s gums bleed, Kacchan.”

     “What the hell’s the problem, they get rid of the germs!”

     “They’re hard.”

Katsuki mutters something to himself - something that sounds vaguely rude and Izuku thinks he hears ‘dunno what’s so fuckin’ hard’, but you can never be too sure with Kacchan.  

Izuku showers quickly, gets dressed, brushes his teeth - with his own toothbrush, thank you very much - and returns to kitchen. Katsuki’s already sitting by the table, scrolling down his phone and taking bites out of his apple in between.

     “Coffee’s in the pot,” he grunts without looking up.

     “Oh! Thanks,” Izuku says stunned, because Katsuki doesn’t drink coffee in the early morning; he prefers to drink it during the noon time.

Katsuki makes a low, non-commital noise in the back of his throat and focuses back on his phone.

Izuku pours himself a cup, hesitates and sits down. Fiddles with the cup, and wonders if this should feel weirder, but it feels like any other morning he’s had in Katsuki’s apartment -

     “You gonna eat something?”

     “Oh, um - I didn’t think that far?” Izuku offers, just slightly embarrassed that Katsuki’s caught him.

Katsuki makes an annoyed sound again and rolling his eyes, he grabs another apple from the counter and shoves it to Izuku’s hands.

     “There, knock yourself the hell out.”

     “Thanks?” Izuku says, a little puzzled by all this, but figures Katsuki must be rehearsing his whole ‘dating-but-not-really’ thing. Yeah, that’s probably it.

It’s not real.

Remember that, it’s not real.

Suddenly the apple tastes sour in his mouth.

+

Soon they realize that the article’s been no joke. The Daily Capes has absolutely no intention to be subtle or forgotten by any means. Katsuki and Izuku are very much the center of attention, facing the full, brutal curiosity of the public.

The way back to the office is slow. People keep staring at them, whispering and giggling as they pass by. Katsuki is left fuming and gritting his molars together so hard Izuku thinks he might chip a tooth.

Izuku, himself, can feel his face heating up in embarrassment, spreading down to his neck, between his shoulder blades, every gaze, every pair of eyes settling on them as a heavy weight.

When they pass the third poster of the magazine’s picture of them together in the balcony, Katsuki’s ready to explode it to hell and Izuku says hesitantly:

     “Can I try something, Kacchan?”

Katsuki glances at him, warily, his palms already smoking, the strange, sweet scent of nitroglyserin whifting into Izuku’s nostrils.

     “What’re you gonna do?”

Izuku reaches forward - and takes Katsuki’s hand in his own.

Katsuki freezes at the contact and goes tense as if expecting an explosion erupting from his very skin, but Izuku stares to the side, his cheeks flaring crimson red.

It’s been so very long when they’ve last held hands - Izuku thinks it might’ve been when they were both four; young and innocent and so, so long ago...

...he remembers small, pudgy hands, sticky with melting ice cream, soil stuck on their skin, the smell of freshly cut grass, the blue glimmer on the river’s surface...

Just a flash, from the summer times. Sun-bleached, warm, faded.

They hold hands, but Katsuki’s stiff and horribly tense and Izuku desperately wishes it will fool at least some people, but it’s what they can do, right now, at this moment.

It’s what they agreed to, right?

At the office steps, Katsuki drops Izuku’s hand like it burns, and Izuku just bites his lip and hides his hands into his pockets.   

+

Maybe Izuku’s poker face really is that bad, because Mina is the first one who sees him and she  grimaces, hissing sympathetically through her teeth.

     “Ooooh, geez, Midoriya, you look awful. The night didn’t go too well?” she asks coyly, her eyebrows doing a thing that’s dangerously close to Kaminari’s waggling.

Izuku slumps to sit behind his desk and lets his head drop on it.

     “No, no, it was fine. I slept on the couch...”

She nearly drops her hot cocoa. “What? You’re not even sleeping in the same bed? What nonsense is this?”

For some reason, she sounds disappointed.

     “We’re really not together, remember?” Izuku reminds her, his forehead still pressed against the desk.

Mina huffs. “Well, that just lame. Are you really ready to give up, Midoriya?”  

     “Wha - I’m not giving up?”

On what, he wonders, but before he can ask further, Mina barrels on. 

     “So grab the bull by the horns and get in the beeeed with him!” she hollers and shakes her fist with iron determination.

     “Um, no, I don’t think Kacchan would like that very much...”

Izuku is proud how stable his voice sounds.

Mina is suspiciously quiet, so he looks up and finds her narrowing her acid yellow eyes at him. It makes Izuku squirm.

She would be quite good interrogator, in her own mischievous way. He’s not sure what she sees, but then, she shakes her head and mutters something under her breath.

     “What? What?” he asks, now getting nervous; he’s relatively sure his body can’t handle any more surprises. It’s been too much in the last 48 hours.

     “Nope, not a thing, don’t worry about it, hon. Are you really sure?”

     “Pretty much - I mean, Kacchan sleeps like a starfish anyway, he’d probably kick me off the bed.”

Mina chokes. “I can’t believe - “ she cuts herself off, bites her tongue and forces a wide, cheerful grin at him. “Okay. But keep the options open, okay, Midoriya?”

Izuku frowns. “Um, sure? But it wouldn’t really help, would it? Because it’s for the public.

Mina looks like she wants to say something, but decides otherwise. Instead she gives him one last look, winks and Izuku knows even less what to do with that, because he has an awful feeling he’s missing something vital.

Again.

What the heck?

+

Mina’s not the only one.

     “Yo, Midoriya! How’s Bakugou treating you?” Kirishima hollers as he drops by in the office to deliver some evidence.

     “Oh, welcome back! Are you okay?” Izuku asks, worried, because Kirishima is still in full Red Riot gear, and there are long, thin scratches on his left temple.

     “Yeah, I’m cool, thanks, man! So, is he?”

     “Kacchan? Um, yeah - I guess he made me coffee this morning?”

     “Way to go, cool!” Then Kirishima realizes what he’s heard and scrunches his nose. “Wait, no offense, man, but that’s literally expected? Damn, the bar is so low, Bakugou, geez...”  

     “We’re not actually dating, remember?”

Izuku thinks he must’ve been repeating those words non-stop the whole day. He doesn’t understand why it’s so difficult for people to remember. He remembers it so vividly, it’s seared into his brain with red hot letters.

It’s just a mission.

Kirishima’s jagged shark teeth flash as he grins.

     “Yeah, weird, isn’t it.”

Izuku remembers how quickly Katsuki dropped his hand and feels a sharp pang going through his chest. It’s just -  

He shifts, flustered. “I - I just... Kirishima, I feel like I’m - I’m making Kacchan do this. Forcing him, and I know we talked about it, but still - “  

And maybe to Kirishima, like Mina, Izuku is utterly transparent with his bleeding heart and nerves twisted into knots.  

Kirishima’s gaze softens.  

     “Nah, Midoriya,” he replies gently. “Hey, no, no, don’t look like that, dude. You’re doing great. Believe me. I know you can do this.”

Kirishima pauses. “And... for the record, I think both you and I know no one can make Bakugou do anything he doesn’t wanna do. Just sayin’, you know.”

Izuku laughs, strangled.  

     “Yeah, I - I guess that’s true...you really think that? About...us?” he asks and winces how vulnerable he sounds.

Kirishima catches it, and his eyes widen. “Hey, hey. Totally. You don’t have anything to worry about.” He pats Izuku gently on the head. Izuku breathes deeply and allows himself to be reassured.

It’s okay.

He can do this.

     “Okay. I - I’ll do my best!”

     “Hell yeah, that’s the spirit! Fake date the hell out of him!”

     “Yeah!”

     “Gimme a roar, Midoriya! From the lungs, c’mon!”

That’s when Kaminari peeks in and his eyebrows shoot up. “What are we yelling here?” he asks curiously.

     “I’m coaching Midoriya to fake date Bakugou!”

     “What, I thought they were already doing that?”

     “Fake dating, babe, that ain’t the same thing.”

     “Pfft.” Kaminari rubs his hands together and joins Kirishima. “Okay, Midoriya! Date that grump face!”

     “He’s not - oh, maybe he’s a bit...”

Meanwhile the rest of the office finds it hilarious.

(later when they’re leaving, he finds a pack of condoms on his desk, and squeaking with mortification, he shoves it in his bag. very quickly before kacchan sees it because holy god.)

Why are his friends like this, doing pranks like this, at a time like THIS?

Izuku would very much like to sink underground and never leave, thank you very much.

+

Transparency is beginning to become a theme, Izuku finds out about five minutes later.

They’re on their way back, he still hasn’t stopped blushing, and Katsuki keeps glancing at him sideways, suspiciously.

     “What’s your deal? They give you shit?”

Yeah, you could totally say that. Shit that’s currently in his bag.

He clears his throat. “...um, kinda? Technically, yeah.”

But yeah, safety is important, Izuku gets it. If...if he had that sort of...activity going on. In his life. Which he doesn’t. Nope.

Katsuki curses. “Bunch of nosy assholes, fuck.”

Izuku can’t help but to huff out a laugh. It’s still them, despite everything.

     “They’re our friends, Kacchan. Still - no, we’re not having this conversation again! They’re trying to help. I think.”

     “There could still be room for damn improvement.”

Izuku hasn’t forgotten the condoms, so he kind of and technically agrees.

(but just slightly.)

+

Chapter Text

They are so awful at pretending. They pretend like bunch of wet rags, oh god.

They definitely don’t hold hands the next morning - in fact, the gap between them on the way to work is agonizingly noticeable.

So noticeable that Kumiko commands them to her office ten minutes after arriving. The look on her weathered face screams ‘DISAPPROVAL’.

Izuku is pretty sure she’s going gray because of them. Or at least her blood pressure is definitely suffering, sky rocketing toward early sick leave.

     “You are supposed to be dating,” she presses on, her tone remaining very deliberate and slow. A muscle on her cheek twitches. “You could try - you know - at least a little bit of contact.”

Izuku’s stomach lurches.

Katsuki stiffens next to him.

     “Contact?” Izuku repeats, and to his horror, his voice cracks. He definitely knows what she means, how she means it, but his brain is lodged on that word alone. Clinical. Simple. Just contact.

     “Yes, Izuku-kun. Casual contact. It is in the job description,” Kumiko says very patiently.

It’s really not, a stubborn part of Izuku’s brain wants to point out, but because it is his fault they are here, he keeps his mouth firmly shut.

Katsuki isn’t all that impressed with this, either.

     “That your awesome plan, huh, Sasaki-san?”

Kumiko looks unbothered.

     “It wouldn’t hurt, certainly, if you want to push the point. Now I don’t mean full on making out or anything that makes you uncomfortable, don’t worry,” she says, and Izuku thinks he can see something glint in her eyes, but he’s not entirely sure of it. “But a pat there, holding hands there, little affection if you’re feeling adventurous at the moment... it would go a long way.”

Izuku is kind of embarrassed that such a thing needs to be said like they are misbehaving children, getting scolded by a teacher, but there you go.

(aizawa would be so disappointed in them.)

Touching Kacchan... is not really what they do. Not really. Not that they don’t touch at all, which they do! Sometimes. After fights, after sparring, maybe, a bump on the shoulder, a high five...but otherwise?

Actually doing that, with actual thought, with actual intent? Izuku’s head swims.

(he seriously contemplates smashing his face into kumiko’s desk, preferably so hard it’ll knock him out and wake him up from this.)

     “We already tried that,” he offers weakly.

     “Then try it again. And I suggest you lay out some boundaries and have a conversation or two about this before you dig yourselves even deeper,” Kumiko continues, her eyes flashing steely with warning.

It’s still amazing to Izuku that she has a tangible plan.

Or that she has that much faith in them with the said plan.

Still, despite everything.

(personally izuku is 90 % certain this whole thing is about blow up in their faces.)  

+

They try it when they leave the office at the end of the day. Which, more importantly, means they try it in public.

It’s embarrassing how hard it is - ‘it’ being Initiating Contact™ without really talking about it first. So much for really having conversations, thanks, Kumiko-san.

It also takes equally embarrassing time to psych themselves up to actually do it. Izuku is unnerved to realize how different it is - to consciously do it, because last time, he just did it, to save them in an uncomfortable situation.

This is way different.

Katsuki narrows his eyes at him. His mouth’s pursed into a gruff line, arms crossed over his chest.

Izuku isn’t doing much better; his face burns scarlet hot, and he wants to sink into his jacket, pull his hood tight so it hides him from this whole thing and preferably launches him straight into the void.

Katsuki probably has a similar suspicion about him, because he reaches forward to yank Izuku from the hood strings.

    “Quit that already.”

     “It’s so fake,” Izuku moans.

     “No shit, ‘s called fuckin’ fake dating, genius.”

     “It’s so embarrassing.”

     “What the hell, we’re not Pros for nothing, we’re doing this, Deku.”

     “I know, I know. J - just let me - no, don’t look at me. Turn around.”

     “You’re so - this a goddamn shitshow - fine.”

     “N - no, not like - okay. I’m cool, I’m cool.”

     “Yeah?”

A pained whine. “No. But I can deal with it.”

It makes Katsuki snort, and something warm and impossibly fond passes through the red haze in his eyes.

     “You better, this is lame and we sure as shit ain’t. At least I’m not, your case is still pending.”

     “Wha - I’m not lame!”

     “You rescue cats from trees and help ol’ hags across the streets,” Katsuki continues his merciless teasing, his mouth curled into a wide, shark’s grin, and he pokes Izuku on the nose to emphasis his point - which is just as stupid as the whole situation, but Izuku is in too deep to give up now.

     “Well, someone has to! And I can’t just leave them, when they need help! And, also, don’t think I’ve forgotten Snow Fluff’s mission, either, just so you know - “

Katsuki’s jaw drops in surprised outrage. “What the - that’s it, c’mere, you fuckin’ nerd, you’re dead!”

     “No! KACCHAN - “

It’s an equally embarrassing little squabble on the office steps.

Katsuki grabs Izuku into a loose, playful headlock and keeps him still against his side, not even flinching at Izuku’s shrieking laughter and desperate attempts to distangle himself.

God, and they’re supposed to be Pro-Heroes.

     “Nope, try again, loser, you broke the deal, never to mention that, so now you gotta suffer. No witnesses left standing!”

     “No! I’m not apologizing!”

     “Oh, yeah? Guess you’re not moving then.”

A pause.

     “...it was really cute, though.”

     “Fuck you.”

     “You got a friend.”

     “Shaddap. What the hell kinda name’s Snow Fluff anyway?”

     “It’s adorable.”

     “It was a fucking menace.”

Lively, breathless giggles bubble out of Izuku’s mouth before he can stop himself. It had been adorable. Katsuki had been so irritated with the whole thing.

     “Okay, I’m getting dizzy, Kacchan, let me up.”

Katsuki glances at him under his ashen blonde strands and loosens his grip a bit, but doesn’t let go. Izuku struggles back to his feet, his head already dizzy, and Katsuki’s arm moves on his shoulders as a warm, heavy weight.  

     “Gonna hold my hand now, you dumbass?” he grunts, eyebrow raised again in quiet challenge, because why not.

     “Yeah!” Izuku gives him a thumbs-up. “Let’s do this.”

+

To their credit, they try to do it, and they’re still not touching.

It’s getting really ridiculous now.

The rest of the office still find them extremely entertaining - Kirishima and Kaminari inch past them, snickering and hollering ‘good luck, lovebirds’. Katsuki gives them the middle finger. That’s the last straw.

Katsuki is having none of Izuku’s silent agonizing.  

Before Izuku can come to any tangible conclusion how they should do this, Katsuki just grabs his hand and proceeds to drag him down the street, grumbling and cursing.

Too bad five minutes later public doesn’t have it, either, and that’s when everything gets tad tedious.

+

     “Next loser who takes a goddamn pic of us gets their selfie stick shoved up their ass.”

     “No, Kacchan, we can’t do that.”

     “Fuckin’ watch me, it’s happening.”

     “No! That’s counter-productive - which is why we’re doing this in the first place!”

Grumbling. Then:

     “...your hand’s all gross, Deku.” 

     “I’m nervous.”  

     “Oi, I didn’t mean let go, dumbass - here. Now hold my hand like you fucking mean it.” 

     “I am! You hold it like you mean it, Kacchan, it’s like you’re being held at a gun point or - or something!”

     “Good luck with that. You think your noodle arm’s aim is gonna keep me back?”

     “I’m trying to hold your hand!”

     “Yeah, yeah, so let’s fuckin’ hold hands.”

But he doesn’t let go, and it...it’s kind of nice. It’s more than nice.

(izuku is having some difficulties with himself, he’s hyper aware of everything going on. the noise. the heat rising from the concrete, through his sneakers. the t-shirt pressing on his back. sweat beading on his brow. kacchan, beside him - )

Katsuki holds his hand firmly.

Izuku is aware of every callous pressing against his own palm, hot and rough, worn by exercise, work, smoke and crackling explosions. It creates such a delicious, sweet burn on his skin, spreading into his veins.

His pulse thrums under the thin, pale skin of the wrist, like fragile wings of a hummingbird.

Red stains on Izuku’s freckled cheeks deepen into glowing crimson spots. The colour spread down to his neck, and Izuku worries how transparent he is, how the bottom of his stomach flutters and curls.

Like he’s floating.

Light. Weightless.  

(how easy it would be to lace their fingers together, but that feels like a line he can’t bring himself to cross. it’s too intimate, too close to the inside seam of his heart.)

     “Went better than last time?” he asks quietly, softly by the time they arrive to the apartment’s stairs. He knows Katsuki hears him, even through all the noise buzzing around them.

     “...guess so. If we don’t count the initial bullshit and annoying people and your sweaty ass hand.”

Izuku snorts. In his opinion Katsuki has no place to talk about sweat - at least Izuku’s doesn’t have any nitroglycerin in it, which is another thing entirely on it’s own.  

     “Well, thanks for not exploding me,” he teases, the corners of his eyes crinkling playfully into green crescents.

Katsuki’s eyes widen.

He stiffens again, and momentarily squeezes Izuku’s hand as if wanting to drop it - but then, he catches himself.

     “...doesn’t mean I didn’t think about it. Nerd,” he grunts, voice suddenly gone low, scratchy, turning his head away toward the shining neon pink lights across the bridge.

     “Still! Oh, that reminds me, do you think we should maybe hit the store?”

     “Oi, oi, oi, hold the fuckin’ phone, we’re gonna do a - “  

That’s when Fate decides to throw another rock at Izuku, because someone shouts at the end of the street:

     “Izuku!”

Oh no.

Izuku drops Katsuki’s hand in surprise and squeals: “Mom?”

+

Inko Midoriya is a force of nature in her own right, despite being a small, soft-featured woman, who wears comfortable cardigans, neat skirts and sensible shoes.

She clutches her handbag with white fingers, stares at them, her lips trembling, her features tense in the street lights.

     “Izuku. What is going on?”

Izuku winces. She sounds so upset, so worried that it twists and tears inside him like glass shards stuck in his skin, and oh, Mom, I screwed up so badly -

Katsuki furrows his brow and elbows. “You didn’t tell her?”

     “I forgot!” Izuku squeaks, ashamed. “I’m so sorry, Mom, that’s completely my fault, I swear we’ll explain everything - “

     “You’d better, I don’t believe any news of that sort, but then I saw the pictures and you haven’t said anything to me - or given a statement of any kind - of course I would’ve understood this, Izuku - “

     “Mom!”

Inko closes her mouth. She breathes deeply. “What is going on?”

Izuku opens and closes his mouth, wondering feverishly how to phrase this. How to explain. Thankfully, Katsuki steps in.

     “Like the nerd said, we’ll explain. Come inside?” he grunts and nods toward the apartment complex.

Inside, Inko doesn’t say anything, but both Izuku and Katsuki are painfully aware how she looks around and sees everything. Izuku’s sheets and pillows on the couch, his bag in the corner, the chargers, iPods, mugs on the counter...

She doesn’t say anything.

Izuku is freaking out. He doesn’t know what to do. Doesn’t know how to explain this without it sounding completely crazy. He doesn’t want to lie to her - it was bad enough to lie about his Quirk in the first place all those years ago, but this...

This is different. This is too much, he’s not ready, what if she -

Katsuki excuses them and drags Izuku to their kitchen.

     “Kacchan - “

     “’s fine,” Katsuki says to him quietly, intently staring at him. “Got it?”

     “What is fine?” Izuku asks, distracted and dangerously nearing a full on freak out.

     “Tellin’ her, dumbass.”

     “You want me to tell her?”

Katsuki rolls his eyes toward the ceiling, probably asking for some divine power to grant him patience - no strength, because Katsuki would probably end up killing everyone.

     “For fuck’s sake, you wanna hide something from her?”

Izuku’s jaw drops in indignation. “Of course not! I’m - I’m not, it’s just - “ he closes his eyes. Counts to three. Breathes in deeply. “Okay.”

Katsuki examines him closely. “Okay?”

     “I’m doing it. I’m gonna tell her.” Izuku opens his eyes to fix a worried look at him. “Is that okay with you?”

     “Hah? I just told - “ Katsuki lets out a frustrated breath between his gritted teeth and drags a hand on his face. “Yeah, ‘s fine, I just fuckin’ told you so, didn’t I? Don’t lie to your Mom.”

Izuku scowls. “I’m asking for your opinion, it isn’t just me in this, you know. So that’s why I’m - “

He falters. Katsuki angles his head downwards, his gaze darkening into a burnt shade of red as their eyes meet.

Izuku’s breathing hitches.

Katsuki is so close, his proximity crashes into Izuku in hot waves, rattling into his very core.

Thump-thump-thump - hot blood rushes in his ears, pounds in his chest. 

The clean smoky scent whifts from Katsuki’s t-shirt into Izuku’s nostrils, familiar, safe, comforting. A violent rush of exhilarating emotions surge through Izuku, leaving him bare-boned and faint.

Katsuki, fiercely loyal, grumpy, yet so dedicated, honest.

We’re in this together.

He’s - he’s my partner -  

Izuku looks up at him under the curly strands. Breathes. Lets Katsuki’s presence calm him down. Bit by bit. Meanwhile Katsuki grows tired of his obvious gawking and flicks him lightly on the forehead.

     “Hey. You with me? ‘s just your Mom, no way she’s gonna disown you or whatever the hell you’re thinking, Deku.”

And with that, Izuku can breathe again, and embarrassed, he just nods. “...yeah, I - I know. Thanks, Kacchan.”

     “So, you ready for this or what?”

Such a strange phrase when it’s his Mom. Usually that question is preserved for villains and criminals.

     “Yeah.”

Totally not.

+

Inko listens in complete silence as Izuku barrels through it - stuttering, faltering in the middle and wringing his hands together. He also hasn’t realized how interesting the living room’s wall is.

She doesn’t even blink.

Izuku thought nothing would be more terrifying than telling her about how he suddenly had a Quirk, but this is getting alarmingly close.

(also him admitting clumsily where his sexuality lies is pretty close to that as well, and he so doesn’t want to remember that right now, thank you very much, too much on their plates, and oh god, mom is still not moving.)

     “S - so...we’re not really together together. Like, in that sense. But um, we just - want to save our office, s - so that’s why we’re doing this. Until people forget. If - if that makes sense?”

Izuku’s eyes bounce hesitantly between Inko and Katsuki.

     “No other reason, then?” Inko asks softly. She’s been ripping and twisting a napkin in her lap for the last ten minutes with slow, mechanical movements.

     “Eh? Like what?” Izuku asks, puzzled.

     “It’s for the show,” Katsuki interrupts. “That’s it. Ain’t ulterior motives anywhere, Auntie. Just a shitty situation and we stuck right in the middle of it, but we’re dealing with it.”

Inko straightens and pulls the bottom of her lip in thought. Izuku’s anxiety picks up.

     “Mom?”

     “I’m...” Inko hesitates and smiles. It’s wobbly and just a bit teary, but it’s real. Relief floods into Izuku. “You have come such a long way, both of you, and... while I’m sorry it is just pretend, I’m happy for you. It is a significant step, and... I’m very proud of you two.”

Izuku’s vision wells. “Mom...”

She laughs wetly. “No, no, I’m okay, please, don’t worry, Izuku! I’m glad you told me the truth. I was afraid you didn’t feel comfortable enough to tell me... that you didn’t trust me with the news, and oh god, I just pushed you tell me the truth, what if you really were dating, you would’ve told me eventually - “

     “No! No, Mom, I swear, that’s not it - if we were dating for real, you’d be the first to know!” Izuku hurries to say, waving his arms in panic. Katsuki’s neck goes tense. “I - oh, of course I trust you, Mom, and... I’m so sorry it took so long to let you know. That was my mistake.”

Inko shakes her head fondly. “Nonsense.” Then, she gets up from the couch and presses a gentle kiss on Izuku’s forehead. “Best of luck to you,” she murmurs. “The public is a greedy and cruel thing, and it has destroyed far less important things. Please, be careful. Don’t let it ruin what you two really have, all right?”

Izuku freezes. Her words hit him in the sternum. The way Inko looks at him, with kind, twinkling eyes makes something in him curl, shrink back. And in that awful moment, Izuku thinks that she really knows.

To her, Izuku - her son - really is transparent.

His mouth goes dry.

     “We don’t need the public’s opinion what our damn relationship is,” Katsuki says, interrupting Izuku’s train of thought, and the challenge is evident in his rough voice.

Inko, who hasn’t blinked at Katsuki’s coarse language since Katsuki said ‘fuck’ during a dinner at the Bakugous when the boys were ten, beams back serenely. “I have faith in you. Please, make sure he eats healthily, Katsuki-kun?”

     “Yeah, he’s not gonna eat that gross grocery shi - stuff here.”

She giggles. Then, she takes her leave, despite their protests. “That’s kind of you, but I really have to go. Have you told Mitsuki yet?”

Katsuki goes strangely still, managing to look like a stray dog with flattened ears.

     “No,” he says, scrunching his nose, and it’s looks so adorably petulant that Izuku momentarily forgets how anxious he is. “What a goddamn show that’s gonna be.”

     “She would want to know sooner rather than later,” Inko advices gently and buttons up her cardigan. “Please take care, boys. And... keep me posted?”

     “Yeah, of - of course. Sorry again, Mom.”

She pats his cheek tenderly. “Don’t worry, Izuku. Everything is all right.”

Izuku exhales shakily. His Mom has dealt with a lot of things. Lot of nerves and worry, tears and agony, and he’s so staggeringly grateful that she’s his Mom. That she’s here and that she knows now.

No lies.

     “Want us to walk you home?” Katsuki asks, and -

- Izuku’s heart skips a beat.

His eyes widen and his head whips toward Katsuki. Warmth spills into him, sweet and overwhelming, and oh, this is the person that I -

Inko’s lips twitch upwards, like she’s smiling at a private joke. “No need, thank you for the offer, though, Katsuki-kun. Please come by for tea? Next week?”

     “We will,” Izuku says, now snapping back to the present moment. “Thanks, Mom.”

She waves at them and takes her leave.

They finally breathe out.

     “That - went well, right?”

     “Guess so. She can handle her shit, been tellin’ you that.” A beat. “And what’s with that weird face you were makin’, huh?”

Izuku, who definitely knows what is up with his face, just smiles softly. “Nothing. That went well, I’m - happy. Thank you, Kacchan.”

     “Nah, you did most of the talking, now didn’t you. Though I think she got it in the first minute, and you kept rambling on, Deku.”

     “Wha - I was nervous! She already knows I’m - um, bisexual, so keeping something like this... I just wanted to explain, okay?” 

Katsuki’s quiet. “Bisexual, huh?”

Chills crawl into Izuku’s neck.

     “I - thought it was obvious?” he says carefully.

    “And what, Deku, I don’t wanna assume shit. Not that it matters to me which way you swing.” Katsuki pauses and curses. “Shit - you can fuck whoever you like, I don’t give a shit, you’re still damn Deku to me.”  

Izuku blinks, surprised. “Oh. Thanks, Kacchan.”

What a Kacchan way to say things.

Katsuki hesitates, pushes his jaws together, digs his hands in his pockets. “Fuck if I got any damn room to talk, anyway,” he mutters.

     “Eh?”

What?

Katsuki seems to brace himself, and his cheekbones reflect the pink shade from the outside. “Shit, are you really gonna make me say it?” he groans, running a hand through his messy hair.

     “I’m not making you do anything. You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to, Kacchan,” Izuku says sternly. “Okay? And... if you want to tell me, whenever you’re ready... I’ll listen. No matter what it is.”

Slowly, the tension drains from Katsuki, and he seems to settle back into himself, languid and calmer.

     “Yeah?”

     “You know it. You’re important to me, and I want to be there for you in every way I can,” Izuku murmurs gently and bumps Katsuki’s shoulder with his own. “Okay?”

Katsuki is quiet for a moment. “...okay.” A pause. Then, choked: “Nerd.”

Izuku beams.

+

Chapter Text

    “You’re not gonna call your Mom?”

     “Fuck no. ‘s not any of her business who I’m shackin’ up with anyway, fake or real. C’mon, gimme that knife - the one on the right. Yeah, that one. And no, don’t look at me like that, Deku - she sticks her nose into my life like it’s her holy calling to mess with me.”

Izuku can’t really deny that, because he definitely knows what kind of a woman Mitsuki Bakugou is.

     “Mmh, she is pretty...um, spirited.”

     “Funny way of sayin’ she’s fucking nosy. And knowing her, she’s got bunch of shit she wants to say. I’ll tell her when she’s not being a total pain in the ass.”

Izuku thinks that’s pretty fair, and with a shrug, he continues to cut some green onions. The broth on the burner starts to boil, and the delicious smell of noodles rises from the pot.

     “You got a problem with that?” Katsuki grunts, but it’s not malicious. He’s very carefully not looking at Izuku as he stirs the broth.

     “Nope, it is up to you, I’m all right with it, either way,” Izuku replies easily and feels Katsuki’s gaze fall on him. It makes him feel warm all over. “Okay! I think these are ready!” He carefully scrapes the green onions off the cutting board with the knife. “But I’d imagine Mitsuki-san would have a problem with it - or hundred.”

Katsuki snorts and turns to add some bonito flakes into the broth. 

     “The challenge fucking accepted, ol’ hag can bring it on with full force. I don’t have to listen whatever shit she spews at me.”

     “Yeah, I get it,” Izuku murmurs softly, because he does. Mitsuki is so very different - yet so similar to Kacchan. Too similar, maybe.

Katsuki’s hand stills on the ladle. Then, he opens his mouth, closes and finally asks, strangely quiet: “The eggs ready?”

     “Mhm. Did you put the bonito flakes in already? ... Oh, these are good, great pick, Kacchan.”

     “...’course it is good, I don’t use lame shit in my food. Get enough of that back at the damn cafeteria, anyway. You settin’ the table? Oi, above - 

     “I know where you keep your plates and bowls, Kacchan.”

     “You gettin’ all smartass with me, huh, Deku? Coulda changed where they are, ever think of that?”

     “That’s true. But you haven’t. Oh, my glass is over there - “ 

They eat by the island counter, in companionable silence. The hot broth tastes absolutely delightful. It’s hot enough to make Izuku’s nose start sniffling, but it’s so good, he practically revels in each bite. It’s been too long since he’s had any home made food before this whole arragement, and Katsuki is very good at what he does.

It’s nice... to share this. To be a part of this.  

The world outside is non-stop, chaotic, constantly moving, jarring their senses into pin-pointed single-mindedness; their Hero work, fingers bleeding while they try to give their best and then some, smiles tight around the corners of their mouths...

...smiling, saving, winning, being brave, being strong, being under the unblinking eye of the public.

...but this is good.

To enjoy the simple intimacy with Katsuki, to share the simplest things, never mind how mundane or ordinary they are.

Simple things.

     “What’s with that face you’re pulling, Deku? Food too hot, or something?”

     “Um, no, not at all... I can handle spicy food.” 

Katsuki makes an amused sound, the corner of his mouth lifting into a roguish grin.

     “Huh, guess so. Y’know the damn Pikachu thinks it’s weird as hell?”

     “What, that I like spicy food?” Izuku thinks it through while he takes a piece of green onion between the chopsticks and shoves it in his mouth. “Why?” 

     “Beats me. Says it doesn’t fit your face, whatever the hell that means.”

     “I think it means he hasn’t forgiven us for the whole curry thing from before.”

     “That petty asshole can sometimes hold a damn grudge, that’s for sure, it was just damn curry.”

They eat and chat about their collagues - well, Katsuki says they’re lame and totally not helpful, but after Izuku’s poking, he reluctantly admits they’re an ‘all right bunch of fucking weirdos’.

Finally they are done, the bowls are empty, and they stretch, full and drowsy.

     “Thanks for cooking, Kacchan! I’ll do the dishes.”

Katsuki frowns. “Hey, hey, that ain’t why I - ” he pauses, grumbling. “Fine. Sheesh, don’t pull these ‘look at me, I’m sweet as shit’ lines on me, I’m gonna help, got it?”

     “Oh, are you?” Izuku asks, gently teasing. Katsuki’s eyes flash bright golden around the irises, and his grin widens like he’s almost...charmed, but Izuku realizes that probably isn’t right.

     “Oi, someone’s gotta watch you don’t break my stuff, being a Deku,” Katsuki shoots back, but there’s no bite, no heat in his voice. “Now, c’mon, gimme your bowl.”

So that’s where they end up, side by side; Izuku rolls his sleeves up to his elbows and he starts scrubbing the dishes. Apple scented bubbles float from the sink. Katsuki’s toweling the bowls dry, here and there reaching over Izuku to put them in place.

It’s so silly. It’s so stupid. Stupid in a familiar, comforting way that Izuku doesn’t know how to explain to himself.

It’s nice.

+

Later, in the evening, they’re watching TV - after a small debate, they both agreed to watch Present Mic’s new show, now finally transferred successfully from radio broadcast to a TV program.

Izuku, on the other hand, has wrapped himself in blankets and duvets, and Katsuki seems to be torn between annoyance and amusement.

     “What the hell, Deku, you can barely see shit from there,” he snorts as he tugs the blanket back just a bit to reveal some ruffled green hair sticking out under it.

     “‘m cold. And I can see just fine! How is it so cold in here?”

     “It just is, the whole heating system blows - oh no, I see you eyeing it, Deku, don’t touch the thermostat, I’m warning you.”

     “I’m not going to touch the - why do you have to be so hot blooded, honestly... I’m freezing.”

Katsuki squints at him. “...you want more blankets?” he asks reluctantly, his fingers tapping on his knee. 

Izuku flashes a smile at him under the whole blanket fort.

     “I’d love that, thank you, Kacchan.”

Katsuki’s throat twitches.

(Izuku isn’t fazed by anything anymore, ever. Sue him, Kacchan, he’s comfortable.)

Half a minute later he gets distracted, when a disturbingly purple and sparkling commercial rolls in.

     “Oh! Look, look, that’s Uwabami and Mt. Lady’s new ad!” he squeals with excitement and points at the screen that appears to be glittery, pink and full of shimmering curly locks. There’s also a penguin, and very disgruntled Yaoyorozu.

Katsuki makes a non-commital grunt and stares at the TV with flat disbelief. “Yaoyorozu looks like she’s one dance move away from strangling them.”

     “Oh, no, she really does...”

     “That’s fucking hilarious.”

     “Well, it’s only temporary... I think it’s - four more days till she gets back?”

     “If she doesn’t maul them first. Full on carnage.”

     “Glass half full, Kacchan.”

     “Ain’t this the last time she has to do this shit?”

     “Yeah! Then it’s done, and she can focus on other things. Awaaaay from any ads of any kind anywhere.”

     “Well, thank fuck, she’s completely losing her goddamn potential doing that crap.”

     ”I know. But it’s her choice.”

     ”...yeah, got it.”

Yaoyorozu pulls through the commercial with grace and elegance, and Izuku has to admire her determination.

He knows just how much she hates doing these things, how much she hates smiling all fake and thin-lipped and sugary sweet, but when he had tentatively asked her about it, she had just shaken her head and smiled gently.

     “Thank you for your concern, but we need some visibility, Midoriya,” she had replied. “It is a small price to pay to team up with Uwabami and Mt. Lady, believe me. This is a good thing, please don’t worry!” 

He thinks Yaoyorozu might be regretting agreeing to this.

At least there’s a penguin.

(why, Izuku has no idea, but he thinks it’s so adorable and squishy.)

     “Hey, Kacchan?”

     “Hmm?”

     “I’ve been thinking...”

     “Yeah? Dangerous shit, you sure you wanna try that?” Katsuki teases him as he adjusts his position on the couch.

 Izuku definitely ignores that, thank you very much. (Except he doesn’t.)

     “C’mon, now, I think it’s a good idea! Listen up?”

     “Fine, shoot.” 

     “How about we go out? You know - t - to have a dinner? Lunch? Something?”

It’s utterly embarrassing how Izuku just can’t spit it out, how nervously he wrings at the blanket. It’s just a dinner, he’s been on those with Kacchan countless of times, but still thinking them in a (fake) romantic context makes his stomach clench.

Because now Kacchan thinks that, too. Kind of.

Katsuki doesn’t quite tense up, but there’s certain stiffness to his posture. “This about the whole fake dating thing?” he drawls, his canines peeking under the curled lip. “Puttin’ up a show, shit like that?”

     “I mean, eventually it’s going to be about that, no matter what we want to do,” Izuku points out, tugging at his bottom lip thoughtfully. “I just... thought that you’ve been cooking since I came here... s - so I thought that maybe we could just go out? T - to eat?”

Katsuki’s attention is an unflinching thing; but it’s not heavy, nor piercing. It settles on Izuku, like an old, comforting touch. 

     ”Got a problem with my cooking, hey, Deku?”

     ”I literally just said I liked - oh, wait, you’re making fun of me! Kacchan!”

     ”‘Cause you make it so fucking easy.”

     ”I - I resent that! I don’t make anything easy - ” 

     ”Oh, you don’t?”

And hearing that low, teasing rumble of Katsuki’s voice, Izuku’s brain goes very empathetically ‘nope, not going there’, before his filter decides to totally fail him at this very crucial point in this very important discussion that they’re having.

     ”L - let’s get back to - to the thing! Eating! Diner o - or coffee shop or r - restaurant, whatever!” Izuku hears his voice rising an octave, and yep, his ability to handle pressure - down the drain. 

He should be so ashamed of himself, all that Hero training, nope - just gone.

On the other end of the couch, Katsuki smirks, lazy, somehow pleased.

This is so stupid.

+

A day later they pick out a worn, yet cozy little coffee shop near their agency - picking it might have involved some bickering, comparisons, furious scrolling on their phones to check out recent reviews, then rock-paper-scissors, because they take it very seriously.

On the way there, Katsuki complains about the loud-mouthed brats and teens giggling and crowding the walkway, and rather belatedly, Izuku realizes some of them are shooting curious, knowing glances in their direction, and nope, nope, nope.

Izuku grabs Katsuki by the forearm and drags him away before there will be explosions and/or selfie sticks shoved somewhere they are not meant to be shoved.

     ”Some fuckin’ manners too much to ask anyway, bunch of lil’ shits,” Katsuki still grumbles, when they elbow their way into the coffee shop. The inside smells faintly of coffee beans, fresh citrus and old paperbacks.

     ”They’re still learning, please be patient, Kacchan.”

    ”...yeah, yeah. ‘m playing nice, you just watch me. So what d’you want?” Katsuki asks without looking away from the chalkboard where the prices have been scribbled on with dusty pink chalk. ”You want that sugary shit you’re so fond of?”

     ”Um, no...I don’t think so - too early for that much sugar.”

     ”Like that’s a big deal for you - don’t bullshit me, I’ve seen you down a bag of chocolate squares in two minutes flat and it wasn’t even eight a.m.”

     ”That - that was after the whole Osaka thing, so unfair of you to bring that up now! Besides this one has marshmallows. And half of it is basically whipped cream. So no.

Katsuki snorts and pinches surprisingly gently Izuku’s nose, who is so startled by the gesture that he nearly misses Katsuki’s next question.

     ”So what’s it gonna be?”

     ”I think the salads here are pretty nice?”

     ”Oh, these salads are nice, he says. I see how it is, you dweeb.”

     ”You are being really ridiculous now, Kacchan, and I’m not standing for it. I do eat vegetables.”

     ”Yeah, but not nearly fucking enough. I’m shocked you even know what a tomato is, nerd.

     ”This is supposed to be a nice lunch together, remember?

Izuku lifts his chin up in huffy exasperation, but catches Katsuki’s eye - rich and flickering with fondness, playful embers burning underneath it all. Izuku’s heart gives a painful squeeze behind his ribs as helpless affection billows into him, into the very cracks of him.

     ”Yeah, yeah, I remember. I can play nice.”

     ”Oh, can you?”

     ”Oh, we’re on with that, Deku.

     ”Good.”

It comes out a bit more breathless than Izuku intends, but who cares.

(an older man behind them seems to; he scoffs and shoots sour, disgusted looks at them, and izuku is pretty sure hears something about ‘incorrigible youth, completely shameless’ but the background noise is too loud for him to be completely certain what his problem is)

They take their lunch trays and choose the furthest table from the counter.

They are nearly done eating, currently watching the TV hanging above them, which is now showing the classes attending for the next Sports Festival, when they hear a delighted squeak:

     ”Deku-san!”

Izuku chokes in his green tea, because ‘lo and behold, it’s a tiny silver-haired girl, with shining, excited eyes.

     ”E - Eri-chan?” he manages to wheeze out, goggling at her.

Eri-chan turns nine in about five months, if Izuku remembers correctly, and she’s still two heads shorter than them and so unbearably adorable with her button nose and delicately braided hair with flower clips.

(mentally he thinks how many more surprise visits his body can take, because this is so super bad for his heart.)

Eri giggles shyly and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. ”Um, y - yes. I’m sorry, f - for disturbing you, you were eating - ”

     ”No, no, no, you didn’t at all, please don’t worry about it, Eri-chan, oh, I’m so happy to see you - ”

     ”Hi, Katsuki-san!”

     ”Yo, kiddo, what’re you doin’ out here?”

     ”I was waiting outside, and then I saw you through the window and - ”

     ”And apparently you two are also neck deep in trouble. Again,” a deep, monotone voice remarks in a way that makes Izuku think about slowly approaching death.

Aizawa hasn’t lost his ability to stand out in a crowd - much to his own obvious dismay. His dark presence has striking contrast to a beaming Eri, who is like a little pastel-coloured sunshine with a bunny decorated handbag.

     ”Aizawa-sensei,” Izuku gasps and has a nagging suspicion that his voice has reached that startled, high-pitched level again that only dogs can hear. ”H - hi?” 

     ”You boys really don’t know when to quit while you are ahead, do you.”

No, definitely not. And that’s a reprimand Aizawa is so allowed to say.

Katsuki leans back in his chair. ”You know us, sensei.” 

     ”Unfortunately such is my privilege,” their gruff teacher mutters and pats the top of Eri’s head gently. ”But this is no place to say any of what I want to talk about. So...”

     ”Ice cream?” Eri chirps, and both Izuku and Katsuki gawk - she asks like it’s nothing new nor completely unnatural to suggest such a thing to Aizawa.

And what’s even more startling, Aizawa doesn’t even blink at her request. 

     ”I would say so. Bakugou, Midoriya?”

You better want some ice cream, Aizawa’s dark, menacing voice seems add a hanging threat at the end of his sentence. Yeah, no, they know better than to argue against that.

(sometimes they are still haunted by an uncomfortable possibility that FAILING might still happen when aizawa is concerned)

(you can never know with him)

(he can probably fail their whole hero office, who knows)

Katsuki and Izuku share a quick glance.

And simultaneously: ”Yeah, we’re done.”

Not that they needed any incentive, anyway.

+

 The sunlight filters through the tree leaves, soaks into their skin, and the sky is so blue and stainless that it glows almost white around the horizon.

Aizawa lets Eri pick the ice cream cart - she chooses one near the park’s center circle, the one with blue and white striped canopy, and she’s practically vibrating in place.

After brief negotiating, Aizawa buys her a popsicle, and they all sit down on a bench.

The air is warm, smells sweet with melting ice cream, fresh strawberries from the nearby cart, flies buzz by their ears, and they hear distant singing across the park’s center.

Eri’s absolutely excited about her green-striped apple popsicle and swings her legs over the bench.

     ”This is one of the reasons why I loathe the press,” Aizawa mutters with obvious distaste. ”Scavangers, causing trouble all on their own as if anyone needs that. Absolute waste of everyone’s time.”

     ”I know - it’s nothing ideal, that’s for sure,” Izuku admits, fiddling with his bag’s strap. He isn’t surprised that Aizawa sees deeper than most people; the man hasn’t been their teacher for years for nothing. ”But... we are dealing with it, me and Kacchan.”

     ”Is that so? Living together now as well?”

Izuku freezes and moans: ”Oh god, does everyone already know about that, too?”

     ”I am going state the obvious here, but isn’t everybody knowing the point of all this, Midoriya?” Aizawa asks with very long-suffering patience that never fails to sound dry as dead leaves. He pulls out his eye drop-bottle from his pocket. ”Though, I have to admit a part of me is surprised that you ended up with this plan.”

Izuku’s throat feels suddenly very dry. ”Is - is that so?”

     ”And other part of me is not surprised in the slightest, considering what you two were up to at U.A.” Izuku definitely squeaks at that, but Aizawa ignores it, tilts his head back to put some drops in his eyes and continues: ”It is, however, a very interesting plan, and I commend your efforts - and your guts. Keep it up. It will be over soon.”

Izuku knows Aizawa means it as an encouragement, but that strikes something like a wrong, distorted chord inside him.

It will be over, won’t it? Eventually. This will blow over. Kacchan can get his apartment back and I’ll return to mine...

Izuku wants to hit himself. It’s just a fleeting thought, deceptive in the most transparent sense, but still did he ever think it wouldn’t happen?

(two months)

Of course it will happen, to think otherwise would be silly and ridiculous and -

- and -

(two months)

That thought is left hanging, above something terrifying and familiar and something that sets Izuku desperately on edge.

But he can’t deal with that right now, so he pushes that gnawing, painful little thought to the very back of his skull and forces a smile, because that’s easier.

     ”Thank you, sensei.”

That Izuku means. He has always meant that, every single time he’s ever said it to Aizawa, and it won’t be an exception this time, either.

Aizawa’s black eyes soften. ”Technically I’m not your teacher anymore, Midoriya,” he admonishes him, but there’s no needles, no wryness in it. 

     ”Still I - ”

The words catch in Izuku’s throat; his vision suddenly sharpens, narrows down onto Katsuki, who appears to have taken upon himself to entertain Eri. He’s fished his phone out and is apparently showing her something on the screen.

And Eri laughs. No shy giggles - just loud, overjoyed child’s laughter.

Izuku remembers.

He remembers how closed off, how uncertain, how scared she’d been, later how she stifled her laughter, unfamiliar of the strange sound, but now, she’s radiating and unrestrained in her glee.

Tears sting Izuku’s eyes, and pure, unadulterated relief hit him with full force.

He wants to laugh, he wants to cry, he wants to kiss Kacchan for making her laugh, and every single bruise and cut and wound they suffered getting her back, getting her to live, is thousand and thousand times more worth it.

Just to see this little girl happy.

     ”What are you two watching?” he asks, his own grin bubbling out of him.

Eri turns to beam at him. ”Katsuki-san showed me ocean sunfishes!”

     ”Oh, did he?” Izuku asks softly and gazes at Katsuki - Katsuki, who clears his throat and looks away in gruff embarrassment, and now Izuku is sure Katsuki’s cheeks are dusted bright red. Oh, Kacchan...

     ” - are so huuge, like waaaah, and they just float around in the ocean and eat sea jellies and they just exist and don’t eat humans, isn’t that amazing?”

     ”It is. Oh! I think they have one in that aquarium in Bespin Ward, though?”

She goes completely still. ”They do?” she whispers in reverent voice.

     ”They look so dumb,” Katsuki says.

     ”Yeah, I mean they are a bit silly - we haven’t seen it, yet, but - ”

     ”Can we please go?she squeaks, turning those hopeful, hopeful eyes at Aizawa. And then, Katsuki and Izuku gawk, because Aizawa isn’t apparently immune to it at all; he seems to melt under her pleading stare, and it’s such a bewildering sight to see.

     ”You know we have a meeting with the principal Nezu later today,” he reminds her firmly, but his tone is not unkind.

     ”But - ”

     ”But tomorrow or the day after should be good,” Aizawa continues. ”Midoriya, Bakugou, would you like to take her there?”

     ”Hah?”

     ”Eh?”

     ”Eri has wanted to see you for some time now, so why not.”

Izuku glances at Katsuki. Katsuki, who is -

- already looking at him. The tree foliage creates golden dark shadow pattern on Katsuki’s features, his eyes half-lidded, steady. His eyebrows twitch just a bit upwards in silent question.

So how about it, Deku? 

Izuku really does want to go, with Kacchan and Eri-chan. So he beams back. Seeing that, Katsuki’s neck visibly tenses, his chest jolts into a stop like all air’s leaving his lungs.

Not sure what’s going on with that, Izuku tilts his head, worried, but then Katsuki gives him a small nod and busies himself by putting his phone grumpily back in the pocket.

Izuku turns toward Aizawa, who has been following this silent exchange closely. Izuku can’t interpret what his expression means - he’s always been so bad at reading Aizawa - but it makes him flustered as if Aizawa has witnessed something deeply private.

Cheeks burning, Izuku stutters and hurries to answer:  

     ”We still have to check our schedules, but we would be happy to! Thank you for trusting us, sensei!”

Aizawa’s mouth twitches.

     ”All right, now shoo, you two need to get back to work. Stop slacking around.”

     ”Yeah, yeah, we’re on it.”

     ”Yes, sensei!”  

     ”Tch, I told you troublemakers, I’m not your teacher anymore.”

Yeah, they’re totally not listening to that. 

It’s good that Aizawa doesn’t mean that, either.

Nostalgia is a funny thing.

+

Chapter Text

Katsuki isn’t impressed with the whole ‘ocean sunfish’ thing.

Izuku should’ve at least suspected that, because the poor thing is kind of... weird, sure, but to be bashed so mercilessly by Kacchan is so unfair on so many levels. It’s just a fish, for god’s sake, living it’s best life.

     “We can’t judge, Eri-chan wants to see it,” Izuku says patiently the next morning while he scrolls through his e-mails, in case an impending doom’s putting a halt on their plans.

(no such luck, kumiko-san has sent them both a message with hearts and flowers, so izuku will gladly take that instead of her disapproving glares of how they’re not doing this right)

(like the ocean sunfish, they are doing their best)  

     “Fuck off, Deku, ’m not judging her, she’s a kid - don’t think I’ve forgotten the whole bug catching thing we did when we were snot-nosed brats, and that was pretty lame on it’s own.”

     “Oh, that’s right! We caught butterflies...” Izuku trails off, remembering the butterflies with fragile, colourful wings, fluttering, fluttering against the summer skies.

Laughter. The sound of the river, splashing and giggling, the smooth, warm surface of rocks.

     “ - ou with me, nerd? Hey. Pay attention.”

     “What, I am!”

It’s a total lie, and Izuku is not ashamed.  

Katsuki flicks at his forehead. “Yeah? And what did I say?”

     “Um - that something...was lame? I - I don’t know?”  

     “’Cause you weren’t listening, dumbass. Fine. So we’ll take her to see the dumb fish.”

     “Mhm. It’ll be nice, Kacchan. You’ll see.”

Katsuki eyes him warily, but says nothing. He scrolls down his own phone and there’s a hint of a smile there.

+

Izuku thinks his head might explode. Implode. Whichever comes first, because oh god, the universe totally likes to ambush him from the left field.

     “...hello.”

It’s muttered so quietly, barely a whisper. Red sneakers shift on the concrete on Aizawa’s steps, dragging on the dirt, and Izuku gasps.

     “KOUTA-KUN!” he lets out a delighted squeak and kneels to shake Kouta’s arm with both hands. “Oh, I didn’t know you were here, too, that’s wonderful! How are you? That’s a new cap, isn’t it? Oooh, it suits you so well!”

     “Oi, nerd, you’re gonna dislocate his whole damn arm,” Katsuki says, his palm ruffling Izuku’s head. “Ease up before you launch him up to the sky.”

     “...it’s no big deal, I - I can totally handle it,” Kouta mutters again defiantly under his cap’s visor, but he looks a little flustered as well.

Izuku doesn’t let that bother him. “What are you doing here, Kouta-kun?” he asks curiously. Kouta shifts again and seems to find Eri’s little peony flower pot on the step very fascinating.

     “...I heard you and Eri are going to... the Aquarium.”

Izuku blinks at Kouta’s embarrassed, stubborn little face and a slow, fond smile forms on his lips.

     “That’s right, we are,” he replies gently. “Would you like to join us?”

     “Eri wants to see the ocean sunfish,” Kouta says with a huff of distaste that only an eight year old can manage. “It’s super lame.”

Katsuki barks out a laugh and nudges Izuku. “You hear that, Deku? The brat agrees with me.”

     “Hey! Who are you calling a brat?!”

     “They’re not lame, Kacchan, they’re...um, unique.”

     “Oh, yeah? That’s what you wanna call it? They’re dumb as shit and are only alive cause they lay more eggs than any other damn vertebrate in the ocean, what d’you say about that?”

     “Oh, wow, really? I didn’t know that. And don’t curse, Kacchan...”

Kouta has no such problem with it. “Like I care, I’ve heard way worse,” he snorts, but his sharp grin seems to be stuck between mischief and absolute glee, which, in all honesty, doesn’t bode well for them.

Katsuki squints at him, eyes narrowed. “Oi, don’t push your luck, kid. We’re the ones taking you so we’d better hear no cursin’ from you, either.”  

     “Wha - “

     “Easy now,” Izuku says raising his hands quickly, because Kouta looks dangerously like he’s ready to kick someone in the crotch. “Is Eri-chan inside?”

     “Yeah, and she’s taking forever, too,Kouta mutters and kicks a pebble off the steps.

Izuku hesitates a beat, but  knocks on the door and peeks inside. “Hello? Eri-chan? Aizawa-sensei?”  

     ”In here,” Aizawa replies from the kitchen.

Izuku has been few times in Aizawa’s apartment; it’s clean and tidy, but here and there are signs of living - cat toys, forgotten books, Eri’s toys, her rainbow hair clips on the table.

     “Sorry for intruding,” Izuku says automatically as he hears Katsuki usher Kouta in. “Um, is everything ready?”

Aizawa is in the middle of steeping his tea. “Yes, she’ll be here in a moment. Midoriya, Bakugou.”

     “Yo, sensei. We found a brat on your doorstep,” Katsuki drawls and lifts Kouta up. Kouta squeaks in surprise and outrage.

     “Let me down, you - you barbarian!”

     “Yes, I’m aware, thanks,” Aizawa replies dryly. “Mandalay is visiting and Kouta was very insistent on seeing Eri.” His eyebrow twitches up. “And you as well, I’d imagine.”

     “...don’t hav’ta say it like that, mister.”

     “That’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Aizawa says. “Please, let him down, Bakugou. So, would you be willing to take Kouta with you? I’ll pay for the kids’ share, of course, so don’t concern yourselves with the expenses.”

     “If he’s not gonna run off like a total - “ Katsuki cuts himself off with great effort. “Deku?”

     “Sure!” Izuku says, now getting excited. “Absolutely, we’d love to! I - it’s been so long since I’ve seen either Eri-chan or Kouta-kun, so... spending the day with them both is more than fine!”

Aizawa examines him, then shakes his head in weary, reluctant sort of fondness that he can’t help.

     “So loud, so earnest, good grief. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised...”

     “’s Deku, sensei, dunno what the hell you expected.”

     “Hey, don’t talk about Deku that way!” Kouta shouts furiously.  

     “Hah? He’s my partner, you punk, ‘m not - “

     “Boys.”

Gritting their teeth, Katsuki and Kouta shoot one last glare at each other, before turn away with a huff. Izuku is regretting this all by himself. Oh god, it’s all probably going to end up in water and fire and probably dead fish, by the look of things.

Half a minute later Eri bounces into the kitchen, and Izuku almost squeals again, because she looks so adorable in her dress that she obviously wears with pride. She makes her way to Aizawa, tugs his pant leg and says very softly:

     “Thank you for braiding my hair...”

The very fine lines around Aizawa’s eyes smoothen. “You’re very welcome. Have fun at the Aquarium, Eri, Kouta.”

     “Yes, we will!”

     “And boys?”

     “Yes, sensei?”

     “...that means you as well.”

Katsuki snorts and mutters to Izuku: “Unless they’re gonna jump in with the fuckin’ sharks.”

Izuku nearly inhales his tongue. “Kacchan! Don’t even joke about - “

     “There are sharks?” Eri pipes up, obviously interested.

     “No one is jumping anywhere,” Aizawa’s voice takes a deeper, more firm tone that makes all of them stand up a little bit straighter. “Now shoo, have fun and look at the fish.”

+

It all sounds so easy when Aizawa says it like that.

(izuku thinks aizawa-sensei might switch his tea to something way stronger after they leave)

Not that Izuku himself wouldn’t, because in retrospect, he suspects he probably suffered four heart attacks and at least one official face palm during that day at the Aquarium.

+

It’s middle of the week so the Bespin Aquarium is almost empty of all the chattering noise, the heat of pressing bodies, the shifting, welling mass of crowds. There are few groups of elderly people and some couples loitering in the entrance hallway.

They approach the counter to purchase tickets - or would, if the girl in a silly cap behind the counter didn’t gasp so loudly and nearly drop her gum on the ground.

     “Oh my gosh, you’re the Wonder Duo!” she squeals, and Izuku nearly jumps. Oh, right, that’s us. It’s still both amazing and puzzling to him in equal measures that people recognize them now.

     “Sure are,” Katsuki grunts. Izuku suspects Kacchan might’ve spent his last fuck to give for today and it isn’t even noon yet, which is...something. “Two adults and two kids.”

But the girl blinks owlishly. “Kids?” she repeats surprised and leans over the counter and is visibly taken aback, when she spots Eri and Kouta. “Oh my gosh, that’s so adorable, I can’t even handle that! Are you two - are they - ? Wow, that’s so fast! Awww, I can totally see the resemblance!”

     “Resemblance?” Izuku repeats, stunned until he gets what she’s implying. “W - wait, wait, that’s not what - !”

     “Open your eyes, lady, they ain’t ours,” Katsuki interrupts rolling his eyes. “C’mon, the tickets.”

The girl coos. “Aww, you two are, like, so adorable. I was so freaking out when I heard the news - I knew, I so knew, I even told my friend Yuri there’s definitely something going on there, their cooperation is like, so honed and so effortless, and it was true! She totally owed me, I’ve got like, crazy intuition.”

     “Great, thanks,” Katsuki growls between clenched teeth, and Izuku can see the vein on his forehead throbbing. Okay, this is enough.

He hurries to say: “We are grateful for the s - support, miss, and that’s very kind of you, but this is our day off - “ not really, but they don’t need to know, “ - so we would like to spend it with our charges.”

She winks at them.

     “Yeah, of course, I get it! Here are your tickets and enjoy your stay!” she whispers like they are sharing some sort of dirty secret, and Izuku’s face flares bright crimson. He’s so not sure if he  appreciates that.

     “Yes, thank you!” he says, a little shrill and totally so embarrassed, holy god, and herds Eri and Kouta inside the Aquarium.

+

Inside the building, the air is damp and smells faintly of chlorine. All the sounds are strangely muted, like they’ve stepped into another world - blue, dark and light shimmering in a push and pull motion, lazy and serene.

Slowly Izuku starts to relax, he breathes deeply and allows Eri and Kouta take his hands and drag him to see some octopi.

     “Look at those blue rings! It’s so pretty!”

     “Pretty, yeah, but it means it can kill you, Eri,” Kouta argues and presses his nose against the glass. “You know, the b - brighter the colours, more dangerous it is?”

     “Is that true?” Eri asks curiously, not picking up on Kouta’s stutter and lets go of Izuku’s hand and kneels beside Kouta, their shoulders pressed together.

     “It is! Why aren’t you believing me? Remember that - that frog?”

     “The red one?”

     “Yeah! It’ll kill you if you lick it!”

     “Aww...but why would you lick a frog, though...? It’s... slimy, isn’t it?”

     “...it’s not slime. It’s not! It’s mucus, Eri.

     “Ew. Have you licked a frog, Kouta-kun?” Eri asks with such innocent curiosity, although she looks relatively worried about the possible aspect of Kouta having licked a frog.

Kouta splutters. What? No! That’s so lame, what kinda stupid person licks a frog - “

Izuku turns to face Katsuki, who keeps an eye on the kids while very obviously pretending he’s not interested in the Manta rays above them.

     “Isn’t it pretty, Kacchan?” Izuku asks with a small, private smile as he joins Katsuki.

     “...yeah.”

A large Manta ray flows closer, it’s shadow gliding across the corridor.

     “Are you okay?” Izuku asks quietly. 

     “What’re you worryin’ about me for, nerd, I’m fine.” 

Izuku hums again. “Ready to see the ocean sunfish?”

     “The shitty fish that gives no fucks if some seal fucking takes a bite out of it,” Katsuki mutters.

     “Maybe they’re just cool like that.”

     “Cool ain’t the word, Deku.”

     “Chill?”

     “Dumb.”

     “That’s so mean.”

Izuku bites back a laugh and turns to look at the giant pool that reaches over them as a sapphire glowing arch.

It casts shadows of azure, cobalt, so so blue in the dark corridor, the water creating beautiful lights on the floor in a way that reminds them of constellations.

Like a magic trick.

Like underwater star-lit sky.

Izuku smiles softly, admiring the beauty of it. So blue, so calm. So quiet. The hum, slow and peaceful.

The pale, fluttering light reflects on his skin like a halo, every freckle coloured blue.

     “De - “

It’s deep, it’s hoarse, like it’s wrenched out of Katsuki’s mouth against his will. 

Izuku turns his head to look at Katsuki - Katsuki, who stares at him under the slowly drifting lights, dim and dream-like. His mouth is tightly shut as if he’s desperately trying to keep every thought in.

Katsuki’s throat twitches again as he swallows.

What? Izuku thinks, his pulse quickening. What do you want to say, Kacchan?

     “Are - are you okay? Ready to go?” Izuku asks and gives his hand before his brain catches up - but his hand is still there; trembling and uncertain -

- and Katsuki’s gaze returns on him, to the blue-white glowing scars on Izuku’s skin, and instead of taking his hand, he reaches to tug a strand of green hair behind Izuku’s ear. Just like that.

His calloused, hot fingertips, the pad of his thumb, brush against Izuku’s cheek, so tender, causing Izuku’s breathing to hitch.

     “Why are you such a slob, for fuck’s sake,” Katsuki says, but there’s teasing good natured humour in there, his voice rumbling low and deep in his throat, warm like syrup.

Izuku’s heart jolts, and colour floods up to his hairline. His nerves scatter. “S - sorry. Um, okay!” Back up, back up, time out! “Thanks, Kacchan, but now - Eri-chan, Kouta-kun, are you ready to go?”

Yes, good, focus! On the MISSION! THE MISSION! THE KIDS!

 (his heart is still pounding like a sledgehammer when they wander toward the ocean sunfish’s pool.)

+

The ocean sunfish is strangely lumpy and weird and just floating in the deep pool. Izuku finds it very hard to focus on it.

He can still feel Katsuki’s touch, burning at his skin.

Kacchan just did that, he thinks, dizzily. Kacchan just did that. But - there were no people to distract... just - just us.

Us there - s - so why - ?

Izuku shudders. Okay, no, yep, he’s definitely making it bigger than what it is, he needs to focus on other things. Right now. Namely on the lumpy ocean sunfish apparently called Mamesuke.

+

     “Aaah, there it is! I wish we could see it better, though,” Kouta says reaching over the pool’s railing to peer into the water.

     “Could throw you there head first, kid, if ya wanna have a closer look,” Katsuki says.

Kouta looks offended. “Pfft, I can swim! Plus I have a Water Quirk, you think I can’t swim?”

     “...I can’t swim,” Eri says quietly.

     “Kacchan isn’t throwing anyone anywhere,” Izuku says quickly and leans against the railing in case Kouta might take up the challenge and jump in just to spite them.

     “Well, no shit, nerd, I’m not gonna - “

     “There he is!” Eri squeals, tapping the railing, excited. “Mamesuke... I think that’s his dorsal fin?”

     “Ugh, we can’t see him, at all, this blows - “

     “Kouta-kun!”

     “Sorry, but it does! But we don’t see anything - c’mon, Eri! Let’s head down, maybe we’ll see him better?”

     “Okay!”

     “Oi, careful on the steps, we’d better not come down and see you two with heads cracked open!” Katsuki hollers after them as the kids race toward the stairway.

Izuku nudges him gently to the side. “That was a pretty good point, Kacchan.”

     “Yeah, well, don’t wanna have Aizawa-sensei goin’ for our throats if we let the kids fall like idiots.”

     “Mmh. Oh, Kacchan, look!”

Across from Kouta and Eri, in the blue of the pool, swirl a cloud of brightly coloured coral reef fish; yellow, orange, pink, green. Bright bubbles rise to the surface. A couple of green sea turtles fly across the reef formations with slow flipper strokes.

     “Oh, look...” Izuku breathes softly. It’s all so mesmerizing.

Nature sure is amazing, he thinks in silent amazement.

Suddenly the serene atmosphere breaks, when a family of five strolls in. Katsuki shifts instinctively closer to Izuku, putting his arm on Izuku’s shoulders, and Izuku freezes.

     “Ease up,” Katsuki hisses at him. “You wanna make it look real? Fuckin’ relax.”

     “I am, stop hissing at me!”

     “What the fuck, d’you think I’m gonna bite you in the neck or some shit like that?”

At that point Izuku’s mind decides to completely betray him; he can already feel Katsuki’s warm breath on his skin, he imagines Katsuki nudging his throat gently with his nose, nuzzle up to his jaw and then nip the sensitive skin there -

Oh no. No, no, nope, nope, SNAP OUT OF IT, OH GOD. He’s so sure Katsuki can feel it; the blush radiating from him or the violent hammering of his heart.

     “Ease up, nerd, seriously.”

So he does feel it, oh no.

Izuku slowly relaxes into the comfortable crook of Katsuki’s arm. He’s warm, solid, safe against him, and suddenly there’s no other place Izuku would rather be. It’s Kacchan. Breathing deeply, he leans better into Katsuki, placing his head under Katsuki’s chin.

Katsuki tenses just a fraction, but it lasts just a moment. His thumb presses on Izuku’s shoulder, drawing circular patterns on his skin peeking under the t-shirt’s sleeve.

The family walks past them, chattering amongst themselves, apparently something about Nemos, because of course, but it all just vague buzz in Izuku’s ears.

He hesitates a beat and dares to peek under his green bangs.

The pool’s white glow, colours, reflect on Katsuki’s skin, and he’s looking back.

Izuku’s breathing gets stuck in his throat.

Kacchan - he - he’s so close.

So close that Izuku can make out the deep wine red hue around Katsuki’s pupils, the tiny white scars near his temple, the veins under his skin. Sun burned freckles, just barely visible on the bridge of his nose.

Izuku can feel the rise and fall of Katsuki’s chest in steady rhythm, pulling Izuku in and in, in deeper, and oh. Heated want pools in the pit of Izuku’s stomach, curling and tingling, sparking embers into his veins, a part of him just screams at him, kiss him, kiss him -

- i want, oh god, i want to so much -

- but -

Katsuki’s so close, Izuku can smell him. His comforting, clean scent, of his clothes, laundry detergent, smoke and soap and purely Kacchan, Izuku can see the blue light breaking in the deep red of his gaze, it’s all fixed on Izuku, darkened and unblinking.

- i want to, but i - i can’t -

     “Ugh.”

The moment shatters, and Izuku startles, flinching away from Katsuki, his cheeks bright pink.

The family has gone toward the pufferfish exhibit.

Kouta, on the other hand, doesn’t look impressed at all. “Adults,” he snorts, rolling his eyes in disgust. “You should be ashamed.”

Eri peeks behind him. “What are they doing?” she asks curiously.  

    “They’re being stupid buttheads,” Kouta mutters as if it’s more than self-explanatory. Which, to be fair, to an eight year old it probably is. He very gently takes Eri’s hand into his. “C’mon, Eri, let’s go look at the starfish.”

The silence is suffocating, and Izuku feels the utter weight of awkwardness slam onto his shoulders.

Resisting the unbearable urge to hide his face into his hands and just nope the hell away from this situation that he’s created, oh god, it’s my fault, i need to fix this, he just straightens and forces a faint smile.

     “So, um, K - Kacchan? Do you want to - look at Mamesuke?”

Why am I talking about this, please god, just remove me from this realm, please.

Katsuki stares at him, his face carefully blank. Then, maybe - just maybe Katsuki or the gods decide to take pity on Izuku, because Katsuki scoffs.

     “Fuck no. Got enough of that damn asshole of a fish already. Where the hell are the sharks?”

And somehow that’s all it takes.

Izuku laughs, breathlessly, stupid with relief.

It’s okay.

Nothing has been broken.

He hasn’t broken anything.

(yet.)

+  

Kouta is a very sharp eight-year old.

That much Izuku does know.

What Izuku also knows that he’s a very suspicious eight year old as well.

Kouta keeps eyeing them, full disappointment, as if he’s caught them doing something much more scandalous than just - what even was that, anyway, izuku has no idea anymore - staring at each other?

Wow.

Izuku suddenly wants to beg for Aizawa-sensei’s forgiveness, yes, please, thank you.

Eri is blissfully oblivious of it all - she’s way too occupied with the starfish to care about some silly Pro-Hero pining drama that’s happening behind her.

Katsuki, on the other hand, is not.

     “Oi, what’s with the stink eye, kid? You got a problem?”

Kouta makes a very impressive imitation of Katsuki’s own sneer. “Yeah, with you.”

     “What was that?”  

     “I don’t know what Deku sees in you.”

Izuku chokes.

Katsuki’s molars make really interesting noises, when he grinds them together. Also Izuku notes that the vein in his forehead is threatening to burst any moment now.

     “Oi, brat - “

     “You just keep glaring at him! What’s up with that? Why can’t you be nice to him like a normal person?”

Oh god. Oh god.

Izuku panics. “Kouta-kun, that’s not very nice - “

     “Well, he’s not, either!” Kouta huffs. “Why are you with him?”

     “How d’you know how nice I am to him when there are no nosy little brats around?” Katsuki asks, his voice deepening into a low growl.  

     “Kacchan!”

Kouta narrows his eyes back at Katsuki. “I don’t believe you.”

     “Tough luck, kiddo.”

     “Can he be nice?” Kouta demands Izuku. 

     “Yes,” Izuku says without hesitation, and a strange shadow passes Katsuki’s features. “He can, and he has been. I appreciate your concern, Kouta-kun, but I swear, everything is fine. Kacchan and I are childhood friends.”

Kouta is quiet for a moment. “And now you’re... being all gross and... dating?” he asks, his mouth twisting like he’s tasted something sour.

It kills Izuku inside - oh god, Kouta is just eight, for god’s sake.

     “Yeah,” he says and is momentarily proud of how his voice doesn’t crack.

     “...okay. He’s still a prick, though.”

     “Kouta-kun.”

     “You wanna say that to my face, kid?”

     “Okay! You are a prick!”

     “Both of you, stop it!”

Katsuki’s head whips up, his lips white and tightly drawn, and he straightens stiffly. Izuku brushes past him, kneels in front of Kouta, gently looks him in the eyes.

     “Like I said, thank you for worrying, Kouta-kun,” he murmurs, “but it’s more than fine. You don’t have to worry about me, okay? Kacchan is a good person. He might be rough around the edges, sure, but he’s been there for me so many times when I’ve needed him and... he hasn’t let me down. I’m - I’m so glad he’s a part of my life. So... “ Izuku lightly tilts Kouta’s cap so he can see him better, ”be nice to him, please?”

Kouta stares at him, and something in his expression falters, wavers. “...okay.”

     “Thank you.” Relieved, Izuku smiles and pats him on the top of his head. “Now, how about ice cream?”

+

Izuku’s squished between Eri and Kouta, so he takes their small hands to his own, swing them in tandem.

Eri giggles, skipping beside Izuku, carefully not stepping on the lines on the concrete, and Kouta’s sour mood fades, when he gets a blueberry ice cream with sprinkles - although he tries to pretend he’s too old for such things.

And Katsuki.

Katsuki has been strangely quiet since they left the Aquarium. He isn’t angry - Izuku is more than well-versed in Kacchan’s moods, but something feels...odd. Disjointed. Worried, Izuku bites his lip and tries how to phrase his question -

     “You want one, nerd?”

Izuku blinks. Well, that’s not what he’s been expecting. “W - what?”

Katsuki’s looking at the ice cream cart; the painted cartoon penguins on the side. “You want one, too? C’mon, Deku, keep up,” he mutters.  

Izuku’s heart summersaults, bubbles rise from his chest, and -

oh, Kacchan.

Izuku smiles brightly, his eyes crinkling into shining crescents. “Thank you. I - I’d really love one.”

Katsuki quickly turns away and stalks back to the cart, slams some bills on the counter and returns few moments later with a cone. Kouta eyes the cone with utmost suspicion as if expecting it to blow up.

     “Is it wasabi?” Izuku asks, somehow amused and maybe he’s hit his head at some point in the Aquarium, because there might be something wrong with him.

     “No, you twerp, think I know your ass better than that. Eat up.”

     “It could’ve been wasabi,” Izuku counters and tastes it carefully, catching sweet, cold droplets with his tongue. He hears a choked noise somewhere from Katsuki’s direction, and he’s about to ask if he’s okay, when he realizes what flavor the ice cream is. “Oh! Mint! That’s good, Kacchan, thanks!”

Katsuki grunts something gruffly and turns his head away, but the tips of his ears have turned pink.

+

They feed some ducks by a pond in the park, and it’s calming.

Izuku forgets the public for a moment, forgets about the article and Abe-san and knowing giggles behind their backs. It’s just nice to be, just exist in this summer day with Kouta, Eri and Kacchan.

+

When the sun starts to descend, and the light turns heavy golden, they take the kids back to Aizawa. Eri starts to nod off, her eyelids drooping, and Katsuki makes a low ‘tch’ sound and without words, just picks her up and places her on his shoulders.

Izuku nearly trips over himself in surprise.

     “What?” Katsuki grunts.

     “...nothing, Kacchan.”

Nothing at all.

But Izuku keeps smiling, feeling lighter and happier than in a while.

+

Aizawa doesn’t say anything, either. He’s mastered the ‘I’m not impressed but I am’- expression to the last polished detail.

     “I guess the day was kinda long,” Izuku grins sheepishly as Katsuki carefully distangles Eri from his shoulders and hands her over to Aizawa.

Kouta yawns, rubbing his eyes. “’m not tired.”

     “Yeah?” Katsuki says and kneels in front of him. “Hey, brat.”

Kouta opens one eye to glare at him, and it’s such an impressively indignant that Izuku has to stifle a laugh behind his hand.

     “’m not a brat. You are a brat.”

     “And what about it? Just proves obnoxious brats can get far. So work hard, yeah?”

     “...be nice to Deku. Or I’ll kick your ass.”

     “Kouta-kun.”

     “Language,” Aizawa adds firmly.

But Katsuki’s grin widens. “Yeah? You’re welcome to try, kid. Lookin’ forward to it.” He raises his fist to Kouta, who blinks, taken aback.

Then, he squints at Katsuki, and warily bumps his fist with his own.

     “...you’re still gonna be nice to him, right?”

Izuku’s heart squeezes at how quiet Kouta suddenly sounds, how nervous. Katsuki appears to pick up on it, too, because the sharpness in him softens.

     “I’ll be the best damn boyfriend there is. You hear that, Deku? Prepare to be fuckin’ wooed.”

     “Bakugou. You’re trying my patience.”

     “Technically you’ve already wooed me, though,” Izuku points out patiently even though everything flying out of his mouth is a total, bare-faced lie. At least, in a technical sense, because Kacchan hasn’t had to woo him before.

It just...happened.

Without trying.  

Eventually, slowly, blossoming at the edges of Izuku’s comprehension, and then, it was everything.

But Kouta looks reassured, and he flashes back a grin, boyish and mischievous. “Okay. And, um... thanks. For taking me with you, too.”

Izuku kneels beside Katsuki. “Of course. And we’d be more than happy to see you again, Kouta-kun. Don’t be afraid to call us in the future, okay?”

Kouta’s round cheeks turn a little pink. “Okay. Bye?”

     “Bye!”

     “See ya, kiddo.”  

     “Go wash up, Kouta, the dinner will be ready in fifteen.”

     “And Auntie?”

     “She’s on her way, don’t worry.”  

Satisfied with that, Kouta throws one last, shy look at them before ducking behind Aizawa and disappearing to the stairway. Aizawa turns his attention back to them, slightly adjusting Eri’s weight on his hip.

     “Did everything go all right?” 

     “Yeah, they both behaved really well.”

     “’cept Deku here got a knight in the shinin’ armor.”

     “That’s not what - he’s little, Kacchan - ”

     “It did him some good,” Aizawa interrupts, pinching the bridge of his nose. “The anniversary of his parents’ death is approaching, and he’s been... rather down lately. So thank you, Bakugou, Midoriya. This meant the world to him.”

     “It was no problem! Even if Kacchan and Kouta-kun did, uh... clash a bit.”

     “...he ain’t a bad kid.”

Aizawa snorts. “No, he isn’t. And Eri?”

     “She was really excited. Oh! We bought them both keychains from the souvenier shop, hers should be in her bag, so please don’t be alarmed if you happen to stumble on it.”

     “What, is it ugly?”

     “It’s the fuckin’ sunfish, sensei.”

     “...all right. Well, you take care of yourselves, and don’t bite more than you can chew. Am I making myself clear, boys?”

The way his eyes turns to pins and needles is so familiar from the years before that it makes them nearly salute.

     “Yes, sensei! Thank you for trusting us!”

     “Yes, yes, now off you go.”

But Aizawa pats their heads before they go.

That doesn’t get old.

They’ve missed him, too.  

+

Chapter Text

The ride back home is quiet.

The city bathes in low hanging evening light, yellow and golden as the train speeds through the districts. Izuku is tired and doesn’t care that he’s so not the image of a Pro-Hero as he crumples on the empty seat like a limp noodle.

     “Scoot,” Katsuki grunts and makes a shooing motion with his hand before sitting next to Izuku.

Not many people are on their carriage; the silence drags on, humming with the fluorescent lights, electricity, the mechanical whirring of the train under them, around them.

     “Hey, Kacchan?”

     “Mmh?”

     “...thank you.”

Katsuki, who is in the middle of fishing his headphones out of his bag, stills. “What’re you thanking me for, Deku?”

      “No, no, you don’t - you don’t know. This day meant so much to them, to Kouta-kun and Eri-chan. And you came with me, and you were so good, so patient the whole day. It was amazing. You were amazing.”

Passing lights paint Katsuki’s cheekbones rose pink. “Stop saying that shit, wasn’t like you dragged me kickin’ and screaming there. It was fine, okay, nerd? Quit it.”

Izuku’s thoughts wander back to that light, burning touch on his skin, gentle fingers brushing hair behind his ear, and colour rushes back on his face.

     “Still... it was good. And - and I had fun.”

Katsuki glances at him. “Yeah? Even with the brat mouthing off?”

     “Oh, I have experience dealing with that.”

It takes a beat for it to sink what Izuku’s just said, and he stares at Katsuki, flabbergasted and hides behind his hands. Oh, god. He shouldn’t be allowed to talk to people, least of all to Kacchan.

But Katsuki doesn’t even blink.

     “Oh, you have, have ya? Mouthin’ off, huh? I see how it is,” he says, drawling, his voice deep and amused.

     “Nope, nope, nope, not at all - you are wrong, I’m not doing that or anything at all, definitely not.”

Katsuki snorts and bumps him with his elbow. “Bullshit, you’re not fooling anyone. What a fuckin’ nerd, can’t believe this. All sassy and smiling and shit, should’ve known...”

     “C’mon, you’re missing the point, Kacchan...”

     “The hell I am. It was cool, that what you wanna hear? It wasn’t shitty, wasn’t fuckin’ waste of time.” Izuku opens his mouth, and Katsuki narrows his eyes. “Don’t say the ocean sunfish or I’ll explode your All Might merch to hell, I mean that, Deku, I’m fucking done with the ocean sunfish.”

Izuku just grins. “Deal.”

They’re about fifteen minutes away from their stop and Izuku’s eyelids are heavy, the sounds of the train become vague static in his ears. His head drops on Katsuki’s shoulder, and he drifts off.

The sun’s last orange, red, pink rays break through the train’s windows.

     “Hey, Deku - wake up, it’s our stop.”

Izuku yawns, unconsciously snuggling closer against the material of Katsuki’s t-shirt before he realizes where he is and what he’s doing.

     “O - oh, sorry, didn’t mean to fall asleep on you...”

     “’s whatever, c’mon, get your ass up. Don’t forget your dork bag.”

     “You really can’t call it that, you have the same pins, too, don’t even start with me, Kacchan.”

     “Mine are better, though.”

     “Debatable - the one with the 1998 colouring has scorch marks on it - I’ve seen it!”

     “Bullshit, when have you even - ?”

     “I remember, you are a show off, Kacchan, you made sure everybody saw it, your back bag was almost on fire.”

Katsuki actually looks embarrassed and mutters something furiously to himself.

+

They’re still squabbling about the pins when they get home.

Izuku throws his bag on the couch - his bag that is totally not dorky, thank you very much, he’s so not ashamed, you can pry that bag from his cold, dead hands - and stretches.

     “Hey, Kacchan, I think I’ll make some tea - you want some?”

Katsuki, who has already stalked to his bedroom, hollers back: “None of that cheap shit from the cornerstore - there’s still some of that black tea left, in the back.”

     “Mmh, thanks.” It takes a while of rummaging, but Izuku finds the tea stash. “Oh, we’re almost out.”

     “Yeah, yeah, next time we’ll go out, we’ll buy some. Anythin’ else?”

     “No, I don’t think so...well, milk, but it’s already on the list.”

Izuku is happy to do something with his hands; the tea smells calming, sweet and hot and he’s humming, when his phone decides to announce it’s presence with vibration of Doom™  as it often does during these days.

As Izuku’s waiting for the tea to steep, he curiously opens the screen and blanches. Katsuki emerges from his room, tugging at his sweatpants and scowls at him.

     “Deku? What the fuck, who’s dead?”

     “We’re trending,” Izuku says miserably with the dramatic flair fit for a Shakespearean actor and shoves the phone on Katsuki’s face.

     “Stop wavin’ the damn thing, can’t see shit, give it here - “

Silence.

The screen has exploded with hashtag #wonderduo and messages; short, long, capslocked, everything from screaming to passive-aggressive, followed by questionable emojis, especially extremely suspicious eggplants which Izuku has no desire to analyze what is the context of those, definitely nope, you can’t even pay him to -

Izuku sinks on the couch with a distressed whine, grabs a pillow and presses it on his face. Maybe he’ll pass out, who knows.

     “Stuck his damn nose into our business - “ Katsuki curses so loudly. “Captured your drooling face all right.”

     “What?”

Katsuki shows him. To Izuku’s shock, it’s a picture of them in the train just twenty minutes ago; Katsuki is browsing his phone and Izuku’s sleeping against his shoulder.

     “Bet it was that fuckin’ old geezer,” Katsuki mutters darkly as he scrolls through the messages and the tweets.  “Kept looking at us all fucking nosy, should’ve chucked his phone out of the damn window... and that lady at the Aquarium - “

     “She was just doing her job, though...”

     “We’ve been dating for less than a fucking week and they think we already jumped adopting kids?”

     “Um, weirder things have been known to happen?” Izuku offers, staring at the ceiling, because his treacherous mind is currently occupied by not imagining any kids of any kind at any point in their mutual not-future.

It freaks him out, and with sterness that would make Aizawa-sensei proud, he reminds himself:

It’s just a show. It’s not real.

Katsuki’s still grumbling under his breath, and the lines on his forehead get deeper the longer he scrolls.

     “That’s it, I’m gonna burn it.”

     “Kacchan, no, my phone - “ Izuku blindly paws towards him, “gimme, give it back...”

     “This is bullshit.”

     “I know.” Izuku bites his lip and says tentatively: “But... it’s not going to be forever. Just two months, Kacchan, and then it’s over, and - and we can move on.”

Katsuki doesn’t say anything to that. His grip on Izuku’s phone turns white-knuckled, then it twitches, tightens and finally, he throws it back to him.

     “Yeah, can’t fucking wait,” he grunts.

+

(just two months.)

+

     “Aww, man, I’m adding this on your scrapbook!” Mina declares gleefully, and Izuku wants to facepalm himself to the next week, preferably two months so he doesn’t have to deal with this. “It’s such a cute pic, the lighting is really awesome. What, was it really some random old dude?”

     “Some gross geezer on the fucking train,” Katsuki snaps moodily. “And fuck off, Raccoon Eyes, stay out of this.”

A slow, honeyed grin makes it way to Mina’s lips. It’s hard for her to resist a challenge like that.

     “But why ~ ? You are being so adorable together!”

     “Did you happen to forget it ain’t real, loser?” Katsuki snarls. “Mind your own damn business and leave me the hell alone.”

Izuku stares after Katsuki, who makes his way to the locker room and slams the door shut. Dread churns inside his guts, cold and burning and acid.

Mina pouts. “Man, what’s his problem? I think it’s freaking cool. I mean, the dude even added a really cute comment in the description, without - you know - the usual ‘AAAH, WE’RE SO OFFENDED, THIS IS AWFUL AND IT SUCKS’ stuff.”

     “I - I don’t know,” Izuku says and shifts his weight uncomfortably. “He - he won’t talk to me.”

Katsuki’s silence has always had the ability to pull at Izuku, in such a painful, nerve-wracking way, and he doesn’t know what to do.

Mina puts her phone back in her pocket and leans in to examine Izuku. She does it so easily, and Izuku always feels self-conscious and awkward when that dark, sharp gaze is directed at him like that.

     “What’s wrong, hon?” she asks softly and brushes gently some hair from Izuku’s eyes. “Hey... what’s the matter?”

Izuku’s throat tightens. “I - nothing, everything’s fine!” he squeaks, and looks away quickly. He’s so not needing this right now; his head is cluttered and heavy with what happened, with silence and worries and -

Mina tilts her head, her face softening into something worried and serene.

     “Are you sure?” she asks, and it’s so kind of her. So like her. “I know it’s a lot, Midoriya, and it’s been such a wild ride and no one blames you for being overwhelmed, but... if you wanna talk, I’m here, ‘kay?”

Izuku does know. He knows, and he’s so impossibly grateful, so relieved he has so many friends supporting him. Friends like her.

So he breathes out and smiles. “Thank you, Mina.”

She pats his cheek and winks at him.

+

It gets worse.

+

Kaminari busts in the office, throws confetti and shouts on the top of his lungs: “We’re having a PARTY!”

He’s met with stunned silence.

     “What, right now?” Uraraka asks curiously, peeking behind her cubicle.

     “No, you are not having a party right now,Kumiko’s voice says loudly from her office.

     “It’s not even lunch time. Like, barely eleven o’clock, dude,” Sero points out wisely as he takes another bite of his toast.

     “Well, not right now! Although that’d be kinda awesome, not gonna lie - sorry Kumiko-san! - no, I meant this tonight! We mean tonight! At our place! Movies, booze and snacks and fun, we’re so doing this!”

     “And what’s the occasion?” Iida says, pinching the bridge of his nose and sounds like he’s almost afraid to ask. Izuku can almost relate.

Offended, Kaminari makes a face.

     “So suspicious, what the hell, Iida? I mean, it’s been so busy, everyone’s been everywhere, and Yaoyorozu’s coming back, too, so we figured why not? Can’t we just have a party slash movie night with our friends?”

Truth be told, you can never really know with Kaminari; he’s a tangled mess of crackling energy and wild grins and buzzing electricity. But now, his shyness blossoms in front of everyone, the way he glances at them, biting his lip, blush rising to his neck.

Izuku steals a glance at Kirishima; Kirishima looks completely gone.

Smitten, in love.

Adoration shining through, unashamed and unapologetic.

(izuku wishes that ka -

- that someone would someday look at him like that.)

+

Also a moment later it occurs to him that they’re having a party, oh god.

(last party they had, sero ended up taping kaminari to a fountain with his thumbs sticking out.)

(they almost got caught by the police.)

(kumiko-san would’ve gone bald from stress and that would’ve been their fault.)

 (it was an interesting night.)

+

     “C’mon, Kacchan...”

     “’s gonna be lame. They’re all gonna end up fucking hammered, someone’s gonna streak down the streets, and then someone’s gotta make sure they don’t upchuck all the shit back up like a bunch of losers.”

Katsuki’s grumbling.

Izuku is not surprised. It usually takes some time to convince him to attend these things, but he knows that Katsuki likes to complain.

     “’re our fr’en’s - “

     “Wanna try that again?”

Izuku spits the toothpaste foam into the sink and gurgles some mouth wash.

     “...sounding like a goddamn sewer,” Katsuki continues muttering in his bedroom. “You alive in there? Better talk, ‘cause if you die brushin’ your teeth, I’ll never let you hear the end of it, Deku.”

Izuku spits the mouth wash into the sink and peeks in to glare at Katsuki, just because Kacchan is being so obnoxious.

     “I’m not dying! And I said, they’re our friends, and they’re trying to be nice,” he says, all huffy and dries his unruly hair with a towel. “It’s just for fun.”

     “Yeah, yeah. Fine. You done with the bathroom?”

     “Yep - oh, wait, let me grab my deodorant - “  

     “There better be no toothpaste shit stuck in the sink, either, ‘cause I swear to fuck -

     “No, c’mon, it was once, I cleaned it up!”

Izuku still hears Katsuki’s grumbling when they’re getting dressed.

It’s kinda nice, he thinks to himself, to have fun a bit with friends. Years ago, his anxiety would’ve flared, ugly and distorted and rising up to strangle him, but these are his friends, and he adores them.

(safety.)

(family).

It’s a good break, Izuku thinks and starts worrying. It’s a break from everything. And maybe it’ll do good.

From the noise in his skull.

From fake dating, from work, from Kacchan’s apartment, with Kacchan’s coffee, his delicious cooking, the smell of soap and spice and home, the way Kacchan says he hates Present Mic’s new show, but is willing to watch for Izuku’s sake, the way he makes sure Izuku doesn’t skip breakfast and complains when he does, the way he counters Izuku’s every silly joke and banter back with effortless wit and ease without even blinking -

Suddenly Izuku’s chest feels too small, too jagged.

     “Hey. Deku.”

Katsuki wanders back from his bedroom, and Izuku’s lungs stutter. Katsuki’s handsome; in his clean cut t-shirt, ripped jeans, the way his tanned skin glows tawn and gold, and oh yeah, Izuku has it so bad.

     “Kacchan...”

It comes out almost shaky.

Katsuki’s eyes flick to his, red red red and heavy, so impossibly deep and bare, and suddenly, the room’s temperature skyrockets.

Izuku can see the curves of Katsuki’s biceps, his flat, muscled stomach against the black t-shirt, and the pulsing ache behind Izuku’s ribs wrenches open. He’s always known that Kacchan is handsome, but so unfair to throw that at him, oh god, he’s so not prepared to deal with this kind of attack straight from the bushes.

Flustered and terribly mortified by his own reaction, Izuku hastily turns his attention away.

     “Y - yeah? What - what is it, Kacchan?”

God, even his tongue feels heavy in his mouth.

Katsuki opens his mouth, inhales, as if ready to say something, but then he closes his mouth and swallows it all down.

And he steps in to comb his fingers through Izuku’s hair.

Izuku freezes. What - ?

     “There. Now you don’t look like a shitty nerd,” Katsuki says, his voice surprisingly quiet, but it’s different quiet from before, the one that’s been hanging heavy since the train. This is not an explanation nor a reason, but...

...it’s something. It’s something for the better.

And Izuku - he can breathe. The dread dissipates. It’s okay.

So he raises an eyebrow in response. “...what, really.”  

Katsuki snorts with reluctant fondness and just - just for a moment, when he pulls his hand back, his thumb brushes across Izuku’s forehead to his temple, gentle and light.

     “Nah, ’s fine,” he murmurs, and for a split second, he thinks he sees Katsuki’s hot gaze drop down to his mouth.

Just one split second.

But...but that can’t be right?

He’s seeing things, projecting -

Yeah, that’s probably it. He’s projecting. Simple and logical. And Katsuki’s probably rehearsing, now that they’re going out, who knows who will see them.

Yeah.

     “Presentable?” he asks wryly instead, busying himself with his shirt sleeves, just to do something

An odd expression passes Katsuki’s face, and it reminds Izuku of all those times when they were steeling themselves for battle.

But, then, the familiar, wolfish smirk twists the corner of Katsuki’s mouth up.

    “With you?” he snorts and pokes Izuku on the nose. “Nope, never, that’s not happening.”

     “What, why?”

     “Your dorky goddamn smile.”

     “Eh? So, what, it’s my smile now that’s dorky?”

     “Fuckin’ outrageous, that’s what it is. Fashion crime. Should put a warning sign on your ass.”

     “On my ass?” Izuku repeats, nearly scandalized. “Kacchan! That makes no sense. At all.”

     “Your face doesn’t make sense,” is Kacchan’s very mature comeback. Izuku huffs, and Katsuki gives in, just a bit. “...fine, you’re not a slob.”

     “Careful, or I’ll wear the shirt again.”

     “The one that says polo shirt? Never mind, should light your wardrobe on fire, too, that thing is a fucking disgrace.”

     “No, don’t you dare, Kacchan, I love that one! If you do that, I - I swear you will sleep on the couch,” Izuku argues back, a silly smile bubbling to his lips despite everything else storming and jinglening inside his head.

It’s so easy. It’s so, so stupid. It’s -

It’s Kacchan. And there’s nowhere else Izuku would rather be. There’s no one else who he would rather do this with than him.

     “Oh, yeah? How’re ya gonna make me?” Katsuki asks, suddenly sounding rough and the vowels dipping into low purring.

Izuku’s mouth goes dry, but he does a valiant effort to glare at Katsuki, but his heart is definitely not in it. “I can wrestle you.”

Katsuki’s eyes flash, darkened and wild.

     “We'll see about that."

His deep, deep voice sends pleasant, tinglening shivers to the base of Izuku’s neck. He angles his head to look up at Katsuki, the playful banter easing into mellow companionship between them.

     “Ready to party?” Izuku asks softly, bumping his shoulder.  

Katsuki snorts. “...they can bring their best on, we’re wiping the floor with them.”

     “Probably not, if they’re really streaking, though.”

     “Better keep your damn clothes on, Deku. I’m not running after your naked ass.”

     “Likewise, Kacchan!”

+

Chapter Text

This isn’t the first time Izuku’s suspected that Mina has some sort of inner radar shenanigans going on there.

(a very shady radar for rumours, gossip and innuendo and probably good amount of drama thrown in.)  

The reason why he’s come to this earth-shattering conclusion is because she’s grinning smugly at him across the living room like a Cheshire Cat.

And she winks, because of course she does.

Izuku would’ve thought he’s got a stamp on his forehead that screams ‘i want to kiss kacchan and hold his hand and not because we’re fake dating’ but he thinks Katsuki might’ve had something to say about that if that was the case.

So instead of doing literally anything useful about that, he just shrugs helplessly at her general direction and turns to Jirou to help her with snacks.

She’s non-plussed about the aspect of being his get-away. “You wanna help?” she asks flatly, raising her eyebrow at him.

     “Y - yes, please. Sorry. Mina’s giving me weird looks,” Izuku says and does not peek at Mina’s direction if she’s still waggling her eyebrows at him, because who knows, she might be.

Jirou snorts as she rummages through Kirishima’s cupboards, getting more impatient by the second.

     “Yeah? Well, she’s invested, so tough luck, I guess.”

     “Invested?” Izuku asks, puzzled, but doesn’t get an answer when Jirou shoves a bag of chips on his chest.

     “ - there, kiddo, would you open these, thanks. No monster strength, just saying, those idiots just cleaned, and that doesn’t happen often enough, either.”

She yanks one cupboard open - only to find some coffee mugs. But to her disgust, they are tacky and very lovingly themed; Crimson Riot, Pokémon, by colours and generations, and Izuku thinks he can see few older American retro heroes there as well.

(it’s kinda adorable, in his honest opinion.)

Jirou doesn’t think so.

     “Hideous,” she mutters grumpily, staring at them like they’re posing a personal offense to her. She slams the door shut and finally finds a properly sized bowl. “How you’re holding up, Midoriya?”

He has a nagging feeling she’s not talking about the chips.

 (can everyone just see - ?)

     “Just... just okay, I think?”

It’s not a lie. He rips the chips bag open. Very carefully.

Jirou eyes him sideways, her mouth pinched; it’s suspicious, but not unkind. “Okay. Good to hear. But don’t get too tangled up, okay?”

     “I - I think we’re way too past that already. Or - or at least I am.”

     “Then you need to take a step back and look at it objectively. Hey.” She drops a spoon on the counter, turns, her hands on her hips. “You know - look, I’ve got your back, okay, Midoriya?”

Stunned and more than a little startled, Izuku raises his hands. “Of course, I’ve never - “

     “No, not ‘of course’, it’s not ‘of course’, Midoriya,” she huffs, narrowing her eyes at him. “I’m just stating a fact.”   

And suddenly it dawns on Izuku, and he gets it. So, instead of ‘of course’ that he so wants to say it to her, he says:

      “Okay. I know you have my back.”

The betrayal, the one who leaked everything to the Villains still stings painfully under their skin, a gaping rift in the midst of their class; the confusion everybody felt, the numbness, the horror and disbelief -

- and they couldn’t even see her face.

Nothing of her.

No regret, no remorse, just - just nothing but cold, cold silence.

So, he understands where Jirou is coming from. Words are cheap. Actions are something quite different.

With a sigh Jirou runs a hand through her hair and says quietly: “Look, I - I know, okay? I get it. This gotta blow. This whole mission.”

She wrinkles her nose like she finds the whole definition distasteful.

     “So don’t forget to come up for air. Take a break and couple of steps back, and don’t let yourself burn out, got it?”  

Izuku stares.

Jirou’s defiant glare disappears and she shifts awkwardly, her cheeks turning faint pink.

     “C’mon, stop starin’ at me like that,” she mutters, tugging at her earphones. “Stop, you dick, I’m - look, I’m trying to have your back here, so you can just - “

     “I know. Thank you.”

Jirou falters. Then, the bright stains on her cheeks darken, and she shoves the bowl of chips on him.

     “You’re welcome. Now go feed the dorks before it’s midnight and they turn rabid.”

Izuku beams back. “Yes, ma’am!”

+

Some are not as tactful.

Sero makes it his priority to shout: “Hey, lovebirds! How about a kiss, so I can sell it to the paparazzi, how ‘bout that?”

     “Shut your face, asshole,” Katsuki barks, giving him the finger without looking up.

     “Yeah, rude, we’re not working, no mentioning of the FD,” Kirishima adds from his corner where he’s fixing Kaminari’s hair.

     “Just saying, dude, seems like an easy way to make money.”

     “It ain’t fuckin’ real, how many times do we need to tell you fucknuts that before it sinks into your thick-ass skulls?”

     “Just a kiss? A peck? Abe-san would flip her shit - “

     “Abe-san can go fuck herself, ain’t any of her business - “

     “ - also did you hear about Ashido’s craft project she’s got goin’ on? She’s, like, tracking all the headlines online and - “

     “Sero! Way to throw me under the bus!” Mina hollers back.

     “Okay, can everyone just please stop yelling?” Iida yells, and everybody shuts up.

He’s the only one allowed. It is included to his status as their elected spokesman, after all.

+

It’s nice. Freeing.

+

It starts softly.

Soft lighting; dim around the edges.

Pink bleeding into red to the flickering artificial white glow from the television screen.

Music -

(after Kirishima and Sero argued over what’s the best choice and before Katsuki lost the last shred of his patience and forced them to compromise.)

(although it involved a few spat curses and even fewer painful tugs on their ears.)

- music, thump-thump-thump the bass reaching deep inside him, melding with Izuku’s heart beat, thump-thump, makes him feel warm all over.  

Makes him relax, makes him melt into himself, and he can breathe. No noise buzzing.

He beams at Mina, Uraraka and Tsuyu; Mina’s giggling, shaking a bottle of tequila so hard it’s nearly splashing on the carpet, but there’s bright glint in her eyes.

     “Midoriya!” she greets him and jumps at him, wrapping her arms around his neck. “C’mere!”

Izuku’s nose nearly touches his knees, when she drapes herself limply on his back and beams.

     “Hi, Mina, how are you?” he asks of his knees.

Mina flashes a dazzling smile at his neck. “Peachy!” Then she considers her answer more throughoutly and pouts. “Well, more so now, ‘cause this week? This week sucked. Sucked! I wanna have a summer vacatioooon... being an adult with a job sucks, Midoriya.”

     “Yeah, I agree,” Izuku says, because things were so much simpler just six months ago. Just a year ago. Two years ago. Even though they were fighting, clawing to breathe and exist and continue being Heroes, to prove themselves and to help and save, it was still much simpler times than this.  

     “Are you havin’ fun?” Mina chirps.  

     “Oh, yeah, I am? Definitely - whoa, h - hold on, whoa, what?”

     “This week’s finally over, so drink up!” Mina says jovially and shakes a new bottle that she’s conjured up somewhere - a bottle that looks suspiciously like vodka, but Izuku can’t really be sure; he’s not well-versed enough with alcohol to be absolutely certain.

But it looks suspiciously like vodka.

And vodka, in general - and this Izuku knows for a fact - probably isn’t up to any good.

(no, it definitely isn’t.)

     “Where did you get that?” he asks weakly, eyeing helplessly the colourless liquid inside the bottle that - in his opinion - has no business looking so innocent with no colours and such a simple label.

     “Who cares? No, I bought it, silly, I didn’t just buy it from some random dude under a bridge, c’mon.”

     “I think that means it could probably blind you...”

     “Nope, no shady stuff, I promise. All legit, all legally purchased, no weird moonshine, I swear!” She pouts. “What, did you think I would? Should I be offended? I don’t work like that!”

     “Wait - is this...is this Russian?”

Mina’s pout immediately changes into a smile that positively drips with giddy mischief. “I have other ways,” she says smugly.

Izuku blanks out for a moment, which is remarkable, considering he hasn’t even had a drop of alcohol yet. Mina cares less for that, as she turns herself around and squeezes next to Izuku as a warm weight. Her strawberry shampoo whifts to his nose.

She presses her cheek against his shoulder. “Hey, Midoriya...”

     “...yeah? Are you okay?”

Mina laughs, and it’s muffled against his shoulder. “What a silly thing to ask. Yeah.” She watches him under her lashes, and it’s a curious look, curious, but gentle. “I am. It’s nice... not being alone. Facing... facing this all by yourself is...it’s scary. I’m glad I don’t have to be afraid alone.”

Izuku turns his head so that his cheek rests on her tousled, bubblegum pink hair. “Yeah. I agree,” he says softly. “We’re doing okay together, right?”

Mina laughs again, and this time, it sounds almost a little wet. “I know for a fact Kumiko-san disagrees.”

     “Yeah, she - um, she isn’t impressed with us. But we’re so lucky to have her.”

     “Can you imagine how our first week woulda gone if there hadn’t been anyone doing any damage control of any kind?”

     “Oh god, we would’ve probably accidentally murdered our first civilian...”

The thought horrifies him. But Mina giggles, and that’s more than a success in Izuku’s book.

     “That’d been horrible, god.” Then, she grabs Izuku’s forearm with a tight grip. “C’mon, let’s toast?”

     “Shouldn’t we wait for - ?”

     “Nah, this is just for you and me.”

There’s something so very soft about her, something sisterly and kind.

It’s less of a toast, and more like a brisk swig of the same bottle. Mina bites her lower lip and looks satisfied. Half way through the swig, Izuku contemplates the whole sharing the same bottle part, when his brain catches up with the actual alcohol.

Yep, it’s vodka.

And after few seconds ticking by, Izuku decides that nope, he hates it.

The burning heat rushes down his throat, slams to his chest, nearly knocks him breathless.

Then slowly, the harsh sensation slowly mellows, leaving his mind pleasantly dizzy, light-headed.

Oh.

     “You going blind? What do you think?” Mina asks innocently, tapping his forehead with her fingertips.

     “I - I’m not sure if my eyes are melting inside the sockets or not. Or alternatively I might be opening my - my third eye. Is that possible?”

     “Definitely not. Not with this, anyway! C’mon, Midoriya! Let’s daaaaance!”

It’s so silly.

It’s utterly stupid, with no grace, no rhythm, just them dancing to an off beat tune, swinging their hands like two gangly-limbed school children, swaying from side to side, and Izuku can’t help but to giggle.

Everything is velvet soft and fuzzy with rose coloured bubbles around the edges of his vision, but this - this is nice. He’s having fun, Mina is absolutely contagious in her joy and happiness, and he’s glad to be part of this, with her.

Mina whirls Izuku around, and Izuku, in his haze-like state, catches a pair of dark red eyes from the shadows of the other end of the living room.

Katsuki is watching him over the rim of his glass. There’s something soft, almost -  

Under all that familiar barbed irritation, there’s simmering tenderness, so precious and sweet and rare that Izuku flashes a bright, beaming smile at him, all teeth and dimples and freckles, and Katsuki’s fingers twitch around the glass.

     “Midoriyaaa! Hold still, I’m hopping on your shoulders!”

Suddenly Izuku is not looking at Kacchan anymore.

     “Oh, wait, what, waaaait - !“

But Mina is grace, athletic agility and impulsiveness in one; with one feline-like leap, she jumps on Izuku’s shoulders, and Izuku, who definitely didn’t have enough time to deal with that, nearly buckles under her.

     “Yaaay!” Mina fist-pumps the air. “We’re the best!”

     “Not into the TV!” Kaminari shrieks, panicked. “MIDORIYA, LEAN TO THE LEFT - YOUR LEFT! WATCH OUT FOR OUR BABY!”  

Izuku makes a brave effort to lean to his left to spare Kaminari and Kirishima’s beloved TV. Thankfully it is spared from any damage, and Kaminari is nearly crying with relief.

And Izuku swings Mina on his shoulders.

(he might take more than few swigs of awful vodka again. because he’s an adult with a job without summer vacation.)

+

He asks Katsuki to dance with him.

Katsuki snorts, and with a lazy smirk, he flicks Izuku’s forehead. “Hell no, your eyes are crossed and you’re barely keepin’ yourself up, nerd, no way I’m draggin’ your dead weight around, music or no.”

     “Aww, really?”

Kind of disappointing.

     “Cut that shit - oh, for fuck’s sake, don’t sulk.”

     “’m not. And ‘m not drunk.”

A flash of white, sharp teeth under Katsuki’s lips. “Oh, yeah, shortstack? Say comprehensible.”

Izuku comes to the conclusion he’s not a fan of this game Katsuki is playing, it is unfair and stupid, and he even says so. Katsuki’s eyebrows lift, but Izuku thinks he looks vaguely entertained.  

     “Yeah? Tough shit, welcome to the club, Deku.”  

     “Comprehensible.” Izuku grins, victorious and just a bit smug. Maybe he’s spent too much time with Mina, who knows. “There!”

Katsuki snorts again, bows his head down, like he’s unable to help himself. “Congratu - fucking - lations, dumbass, you get a sticker.”

     “All Might sticker would be kinda cool, though...”

     “Uh huh. I’ll tape it to your forehead, how ‘bout that?”

     “You’re so mean, Kacchan.”

     “And you’re hammered. Go drink some water, Deku.”

Izuku decides to do so - because he’s thirsty, not because Katsuki said so. He lets Kacchan know that.

He’s very mature like that.

+

Here’s how a half of that particular night goes:

No one gets naked. No one streaks. (Kaminari and Kirishima are making out in the dark hallway, though, which is at least half-way there, which is something Iida disapproves quite a lot, because they are the hosts, essentially, how dare you ditch everyone.)

Uraraka ends up floating from the small balcony above nearby roofs, giggling like a totally bizarre version of Spring-Heeled Jack. This causes Tokoyami - with great, long-suffering patience and even greater talent for rolling his eyes - to run after her and catch her.

(they don’t get arrested, which is a big plus, knowing their office’s track record.)

The vein in Katsuki’s forehead is two jabs away from bursting. (it’s a wonder he hasn’t killed Sero yet. Sero is completely unapologetic about it all, him with his endless supply of dick jokes.)

That’s the moment when their doorbell rings, and everybody freezes.

     “Oh, god, our neighbours called the police,” Kaminari whispers to Kirishima, looking actually terrified. “Sugiyama-san is gonna throw us out, and we can’t, Eiji, I love this place -

Kirishima pats his cheek gently. “Easy, let’s see who it is first.” He pries Kaminari off of him and goes to the door. The former Class 3-A peeks nervously around the corner -

- and it’s Yaoyorozu. It’s Momo.

Looking tired and less fresh than usually, her hair up in a simple messy ponytail, her dress a little wrinkled, but it’s her. She smiles, relieved.

     “I am so horribly late, and I’m so sorry for that - I meant to get an earlier flight, and I texted - “

Kirishima doesn’t care.

     “Momo!” He explodes into action and pulls her into an enormous bear hug, lifting her from the ground. “Ooh, I missed you! Wow, and you came straight here? Man, you gotta be exhausted - hey, have you eaten anything?”

     “Oh, easy, easy!” she laughs, and brushes not so subtly the corner of her eye. “No, but - if it’s not too much, I - I would really love some. Hello, everyone,” she says shyly, and everyone crowds her.

It’s a pile.

A pile of Pro-Heroes in varying states of inebriation.

That’s what it is.

But no one is happier than Yaoyorozu Momo.

When everybody drag themselves off her and give her some space, she goes to the kitchen, where Todoroki meets her. Very quietly, he takes her delicate, work worn hands in his own, presses a light kiss on her knuckles and asks just as quietly:

     “Are you okay?”

And Momo’s smile is clear and tender. “I am now,” she replies softly. 

Todoroki shifts closer and kisses her temple. “Welcome back,” he murmurs.

Izuku feels like an intruder to such an intimate moment and quickly turns to down the water with one go.

+

This is how the other half of this particular night goes:

Almost everybody is drunk. Almost everybody except for Iida, who is a rational adult, who handles the actual adulting the best out of all of them and ends up putting My Neighbour Totoro on and telling everyone to drink plenty of water.

(Katsuki isn’t actually drunk, but he isn’t a fan of babysitting.)

(Todoroki isn’t actually drunk, either, because he’s tired already and wants to go home.)

(Yaoyorozu definitely isn’t drunk, because she’s nearly passed out from fatigue against Todoroki’s shoulder.)

It’s slow and cozy further into the night, until almost everybody’s on the verge of dozing off - from reasons varying from alcohol to jet lag.

Izuku has chosen a spot next to Katsuki on the couch; he reasons with very sound logic that Katsuki is comfortable and warm, a solid presence and Izuku is naturally drawn to him - it helps that Katsuki isn’t objecting to it.

Izuku’s resting his head on Katsuki’s shoulder. He feels wonderfully light, syrupy slow, everything is warm and pleasant.

     “Kacchan?”

     “Hmm? What is it.”  

It’s just a quiet grunt, not rough, not malicious.

Izuku hums against Katsuki’s t-shirt. “Shoul’ ‘e head home?” The words get caught in his yawn, and Katsuki shifts under him.

     “What?”

     “I said - “ Izuku’s jaws click, when he closes his mouth, pressing his cheek more firmly to the solidness of Katsuki’s shoulder, “should we head home?” he repeats now not even pretending that he isn’t sleepy, because he definitely sees some temptation in actual pillows and blankets and sleeping.

Katsuki turns his head to look at him, unimpressed. “You able to walk without wanderin’ into a ditch?” he asks wryly.

     “Mmh.”

     “I’m still not carrying your ass back.”

     “I know. You don’t have to. ‘m good. Might just be...slow, though.”

Katsuki chuckles, the low sound rumbling to Izuku’s own chest. “Ass up then.”

They say goodbye, while others are slowly making progress to the same direction - emphasis, like Izuku, on the word slowly.

Kirishima eyes Izuku. “You gonna be okay? Should we call you a cab?”

     “Don’t bother, we’ll handle it just fine.”

     “Kacchan isn’t gonna leave me somewhere - like under a bridge.”

     “The hell we’re doing under a damn bridge?”

     “Ugh, I dunno, ‘s just what Mina said...”

A muscle in Katsuki’s brow twitches, like he’s resisting the unbearable urge to drag his face down with both hands. He inhales deeply, lets it blow sharply between his teeth and then, he grabs Izuku by the forearm.

     “Okay, space cadet, we’re off. See ya losers later. Don’t die of alcohol poisoning, ‘cause that’s lame as hell even for you.”

     “Yes, please don’t,” Izuku agrees mildly.

Kirishima gives them a thumbs-up. “We’re making sure everyone gets home safe. Bye!”

+

Izuku has only vague, fuzzy memories how they get home.

He remembers flashes of pale yellow street lights, and Katsuki’s warmth beside him, his arm draped on Izuku’s shoulders, heavy and warm, warm, it’s Kacchan, and Izuku leans back into him, happy and content.

That moment he doesn’t want to remember none of this is real.

That moment he doesn’t want to remember that by the time two months is up, he’ll never get to have this sort of intimacy with Katsuki again.

So he drinks it, drinks it all in, greedy and yearning and -

- and happy.

+

Izuku is happy to be home.

Light buzzing exhaustion makes him pliant and so, so stupidly clingy; Kacchan is still so warm and there, and oh, Izuku loves him so deeply, and the couch is lumpy in the middle even though Katsuki keeps scowling about it, grumbling how it’s uneven -  

- his eyelids droop, lead heavy and he’s got barely enough energy to navigate through anywhere, and somehow it occurs to Izuku in a vaguely surprising way that he’s wandered in Katsuki’s bedroom.

Katsuki has disappeared to the bathroom and when he returns, Izuku has somehow ended up burrowed in the sheets, softly breathing and inhaling the calming scent and it’s home and lovely and -

Katsuki glances at him, makes an annoyed sound, shakes his head. “Goddamn it - you know you can’t hold your damn alcohol, ya lightweight.”

      “Mmh, ‘m sorry.”

     “Stop apologizing, s’fine. Move over.”

     “ ‘ou sure ‘s okay, Kacchan...?”

It’s a testament to how exhausted Katsuki really is as well, because he grunts: “It’s whatever, I don’t give a shit, I don’t have damn energy to deal with this fucking trainwreck...”

Dream is so close, so blissfully close, and Izuku can barely make out Katsuki’s silhuette in the darkness of the room, just the pale moon-lit outlines of his figure dropping beside him.

     “Y’sure...?” he manages to ask, one more time, the word catching on the tip of his tongue, clumsy and slurring.

The mattress shifts under Izuku, and he sees a flash of crimson in the pale, pale moon light, half-lidded and tired.

     “Yeah, yeah. But if you barf in my bed, I’ll kill you.”

A tired giggle, and without really realizing what his sluggy brain is doing, Izuku snuggles closer to the familiar heat. “Sweet dreams, Kacchan...”

     “Yeah, yeah, you too, now pass the hell out out already...”

A smile curls on Izuku’s lips, against the soft, smooth pillow.  

And Izuku completely blacks out.

+

Chapter Text

First thing Izuku becomes aware of is how warm it is. It’s nice and cozy, dragging him further into the sheets and the toasty blankets. He’s drowsy and pliant, completely happy with the world.

For that one moment, life is very good and life is very kind.

Then Izuku has a brilliant idea to open his eyes, because such things are often a necessity in order to actually find out what time it is and then get up without tripping somewhere.

The instant his eyelids open, the former rosy buzz in his head from last night turns into dull, pulsing ache in his eyesockets.

Life is suddenly less good and less kind.  

Huh, thinks Izuku and makes sure to blink very slowly in case something ruptures behind his eyes. Which could very well happen.

(it doesn’t happen.)

His head just hurts. Well, that’s something. He also notes that his mouth is dry and woollen and tastes bad. Tastes probably of the fiend called Russian vodka. Ugh.

With each slow pound hammering into his temples, Izuku takes a moment to wonder what’s  happened.

 After twenty seconds, when the feeling returns to the rest of Izuku’s body and a vague comprehension of the situation dawns on him, it becomes very clear what’s happened.

Because it occurs to him that he’s not in Kacchan’s living room.

After ten seconds more, he also realizes oh, wait, I’m not alone.  

There’s a solid presence pressed against his back, draped on him like it’s trying to melt into Izuku’s very spine. A muscular arm’s slung across his side and is now resting on his waist, pressing him down against the mattress.

Izuku’s skin breaks into goosebumps, and he’s instantly hyper aware of everything.

Every single detail.

The deep, steady breathing tickling the nape of Izuku’s neck, a nose nuzzling closer into his hair.

He’s aware of everything.

A shift of weight behind him, a press of hips against his back, the thin sweatpants that Kacchan likes to wear are not enough to conceal the hard outline of his -

Instantly red hot heat rushes to Izuku’s face, and he chokes.  

Oh, no, no, nope -

He’s panicking.

He’s in Kacchan’s bed, Kacchan’s so close, and oh god, what’s he gonna do now?!

He could carefully distangle himself, like, inch by inch, before Kacchan wakes up, that would work in theory, but then again, Izuku doesn’t really consider himself to be the most graceful people around, especially first thing in the morning and with a hangover, and that could end up with him faceplanting on the ground and then Kacchan would wake up and probably explode the whole bed -

     “Quit your mumblin’ already,” Katsuki grunts against his skin, his voice husky and low with sleep, and Izuku shivers. “Gratin’ on my fucking ears...”

Oh...

     “Sorry, Kacchan... go back to sleep? It’s still early.”

Apparently Katsuki’s too tired to argue, because he makes another sleepy noise, burrows deeper into Izuku’s nape, probably not even aware he’s doing that, and relaxes against Izuku.

Izuku exhales.

Okay.

Very slowly he starts to turn around in Katsuki’s arms - Katsuki’s grip tightens ever so slightly, pulls him back toward him.

Izuku shuffles around to his side, takes a look at Katsuki, and -

- and his mouth parts in surprise. He inhales, shaky and stuttering.

Katsuki looks young, at peace. There is no scowl present, no angry lines tightening his mouth into a sneer. No flash of white teeth, no fangs. No shadows falling on the creases between his brows.

Just... calm. Peaceful. At ease.

All the walls crumbled, all the bravado and snarls and anger, all that larger than life magnetism that he radiates naturally...

...under it all, it’s just him.

Raw and wild and pure and utterly amazing Kacchan.

After a beat of hesitation, Izuku reaches forward and brushes his thumb gently across Katsuki’s eyebrow.

Sweet dreams, Kacchan. Thanks for letting me sleep here, he thinks with a small, private smile and gets up.

+

He leaves painkillers and fresh water on Katsuki’s night stand.

+

He makes breakfast.

The kitchen smells of rich coffee, hot steamed milk, and pancakes. The coffee machine’s bubbling, the frying pan sizzles with melted butter and sugar.

Izuku is the first one to admit that he’s not a good cook. Most of the former Class 3-A agrees with that notion without hesitation.

He’s burnt enough food to ruin few pots, he’s nearly set the dorm kitchen on fire twice over and there’s still a very suspicious sludge remaining stuck on the dorm ceiling - which is something on it’s own and which the class never lets him forget - but this he knows how to do.

Pancakes are familiar. Easy.

He enjoys mixing the ingredients, whisking the batter, watching how it bubbles on the pan, how it’s surface turns to golden brown and fluffy.

     “...what the hell, you up already?”

     “Mmh. Good morning, Kacchan,” Izuku replies, bowing his head, strangely bashful.  

He hears Katsuki padding to the kitchen.

     “Oi, Deku, what’s this? You should be snoozin’ till noon, you drank like, two goddamn bottles of vodka.”

     “Half of one,” Izuku corrects patiently and flips a pancake. “Maybe? I think it was a half.”

     “Yeah? You remember what happened?”

     “I danced. With Mina. Then we watched a movie. I think it was about Totoro?”

     “...it was.”

     “Aww. Then you and me ended up here. I didn’t walk into a ditch - no, I didn’t, stop looking at me like that. And it didn’t happen quickly, by the way. Waking up, I mean.

Definitely not, when I was totally gawking at Kacchan’s face like a total weirdo.

Kacchan would probably call me a stalker.  

Katsuki snorts. “That so? Heard you mumble. First thing in the mornin’ and you’re already on that shit, big surprise.”

     “Oh, sorry for waking you.”

     “Nah, s’fine, forget it. Mumble all you wanna, I don’t care. What’re you doing?”   

He peeks over Izuku’s shoulder, and Izuku resists the temptation to lean into him. He can hear Katsuki’s breathing again, steady and slow, and suddenly he wants nothing more than to be back in the bed, with early morning light and Kacchan.  

The pan sizzles.

     “See, I’m not even burning them.”

     “Don’t jinx it. Could end up burnin’ the whole apartment down and then we’re screwed.”

     “Stop it, Kacchan, now you’re jinxing it! I’m not doing that. Oh - would you hand me that butter over there? Thanks.”

Izuku finishes cooking, and they eat by the island counter. Outside the window, they hear cars driving past, people talking, the train screeching nearby. Crisp pale light streams through the windows, painting the kitchen in white haze.

Izuku scrolls through his phone.

     “Oh, apparently there were gang skirmishes going on in Kiyashi last night.”

     “Bet it’s that Hammer fucker and his left over goons clowning around. Told those assholes suckin’ up to Tsuragamae to raid the warehouses but ‘course, like hell’s that gonna happen.”

     “Well, maybe they would’ve listened if you hadn’t called their Chief a mutt bastard - “

     “...shaddap and eat your pancake.”

Izuku grins and scrolls further down the article. “Shame we weren’t there last night - it wasn’t that far away?”

     “Oh no you fucking don’t, with you drunk off your ass, that would’ve been one fuck up short from a disaster. Would’ve obliterated the whole ward.”

     “While drunk? I don’t think I’m that strong...yet anyway.”

Katsuki’s adam’s apple bobs. “Yeah?”

     “What, do you want me to destroy a ward with my Quirk? Hypothetically?” Izuku asks, amused.

     “So now you’re spitting big words left and right. Couldn’t even say comprehensible last night.”

     “No, I said that perfectly, I remember that.”

     “Oh, so that one you somehow miraculously remember. Couldn’t even say half of it on our way back home.”

     “It was three a.m, Kacchan. Besides I said it once, that’s the one that counts.”

     “Own up to your drunken lameness, Deku, it happened, deal with it.” But Katsuki’s mouth abates into a crooked grin, and he points at Izuku with his fork. “Back on track, we’re not done yet - bet you’d give everyone run for their money.”

     “Oh, about the destruction thing? We could hold up a competition somewhere?”

     “Who can wreck more shit?”

And Izuku giggles, lively peals of laughter bubbling out of his mouth. Katsuki’s eyes widen, and he quickly shoves the rest of the pancake into his mouth.

     “C’mon, drink up. That vodka shit’s bad for you, you dumbass,” he grumbles, but it doesn’t sound as rough as it normally does.

     “Yes, yes, Kacchan,” Izuku says, still smiling. “Thank you for worrying.”

     “...pissin’ me off...”

     “Mmh-hmm.”

They continue eating.

     “...these are not bad.”

     “Good to hear.”

     “...they - they’re good.”

They do the dishes, side by side. It still hasn’t gotten old.

     “Hey...Deku?”

Surprised, Izuku glances at him, but Katsuki isn’t looking at him. He’s staring at the plate he’s drying.

     “Yes...?”

Katsuki’s throat twitches as he swallows, he opens his mouth - and then closes. “Nah, never mind. Here, put this away. Over your head.”

     “I know, Kacchan.”

+

In retrospect, Izuku should have said something.

He really should say something now. How hard can it be? His mouth does that all on it’s own, anyway, so why is it so hard to do it now?

Just say it.

+

He should’ve said something.

+

He’s checking his next patrol shifts on his phone, pawing the lights off in the bathroom without looking up when the sound of a phone vibrating on the kitchen counter breaks through the lull.

Izuku hears Katsuki turning the faucet’s off in the kitchen, hears the sewer gurgling.

Then, “ - yo.” A pause. “Cut the bullshit and straight to the point - no shit, babe.

Babe?

Izuku’s throat suddenly closes up.

Is - is Kacchan - ?

     “ - fuck no, we’re not doing that - I told you - fine. I dunno if he’s here, then. Yeah, yeah, drop by later, no one cares about that. I don’t know, he does what he wants. Yeah, I know, right. No, I don’t pick up shit for you - yeah, exactly, shut up.”

He’s dating.

Suddenly a horrible, numb feeling lodges in his throat. Clammy, cold sweat beads on his forehead.

Kacchan is dating.

Izuku slumps against the wall.

He feels ill.

He can hear faintly the kitchen radio pick up the next song on the summer playlist. It distorts, buzzes in his ears, turns to static. Again, again, again.

He doesn’t hear how the phone call ends.

Why - why didn’t you tell me?

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

+

Hey, Deku..?

Yes...?

+

Is that what you wanted to tell me? That you were already dating? Why didn’t you just tell me? Why wouldn’t you tell me?

+

What a strange thing to feel, Izuku muses in a very clinical, distant way.

He’s experienced plenty of pains in the past. Disappointment, grief, failure, hurt and frustration.

But none of those has been like this.

This hollows him out, scrubs him raw, digging deeper and deeper, to the every beat of his heart, into each inhale until his lungs are just empty - yet he observes this all, somehow apart from all of that.

Kacchan is dating. Kacchan is dating someone, and -

- and suddenly Izuku isn’t clinical or distant.

His head starts to pound. Thoughts tangle into each other, pick up speed, crash and shatter, burn burn burn, leaving behind just a bitter, lifeless ache.

Oh.

+

His own phone vibrates in his hand.

+

In retrospect he has no idea how Mina knows.

(he has another theory that mina has a sixth sense whenever her friends need her - like she knows they’re in too deep and struggling.)

This is one of those times.

MINA flashes on Izuku’s phone screen, vivid and neon pink, and Izuku lets out a choked gasp. Hands trembling, he answers:

     “H - hi?”

     “Helloooo, Midoriya!” Mina’s excited voice booms from the line, and it’s jarring to hear it as a contrast against the turmoil inside him. “How’s your morning? Are you sick? I was, thought I was gonna die, nearly passed out in the shower - never mind that! I just wanted to know if you’re alive, you were awesome last night, so incredib - are you okay?”

Izuku doesn’t realize, but his breathing has picked up again, into harsh and painful little hitches.

     “I - “ Words. Use words. You know how. “I - I am - ”

No. Definitely not.

There’s a beat of silence. Then, Mina says, her line-flattened voice very soft: “Hon, is everything okay?”

     “Y - yeah. I’m - “

     Don’t lie to me, Midoriya. Hey, I’m on my way, we can go grab lunch and you can tell me what’s - “

Izuku panics. “No! M - Mina, please, I - it’s okay, you don’t have to do that - “

     “I want to do that,” Mina insists, and this time, there’s steel under her tone. “And you totally need to eat, too, don’t even try that with me. I’m kinda near already, so how about we meet at Tamura’s?”  

He’s always been rather bad at denying her anything.

     “...y - yeah, okay, guess so?” Izuku says, rubbing his face, trying to remember where that is again. It’s hard. He can barely remember where anything is.

     “Okay, see you soon! We’ll get lunch and it’s my treat, so show up, please?”

+   

He doesn’t say anything to Katsuki when he leaves.

+

Tamura’s is a rather old-fashioned diner couple of streets away - it’s not even technically lunch time, so thankfully there are fewer people. Which is more than good since Izuku is emotionally too drained and haywired to listen too much noise.

Mina pales under her pink complexion, when Izuku joins in the booth, but she tries valiantly to mask it.

     “Midori - Izuku, what happened?” 

She’s so very careful about it. It’s gentle, tentative, and Izuku loves her so much in that moment.  

     “The... the week, I guess? Everything, more like...”

That’s the whole problem. What has been the whole problem the whole week. No, that’s a lie. It’s what has been the problem for years now. Izuku just couldn’t open his mouth in time. At the right time.

At any time.

     “Is it about Bakugou?” Mina asks carefully. “‘Cause that’s totally understandable. This has been going on, like, a week, and... he might totally not be easy to live with.”

She takes a prim sip of her soda, keeping her attention firmly fixed on Izuku as if expecting him to bolt.

     “I - I don’t know if I can handle the rest of this, Mina...” Izuku murmurs to his knees. 

Mina tilts her head, and her expression changes into something serious.

     “That’s all right to feel like that, you know?” she asks softly, setting her glass back on the table. “You’ve been doing so well. Seriously. I know the whole thing’s pretty messed up, in a way, and probably a whooole lot of awkward, ‘cuz Bakugou, but... you know him. Better than any of us. You know him for real. For all that we can’t see and you can and you know. So... “ She hesitates, tries to come up with a good enough phrase, “what’s going on? What’s gotten under your skin?”

Izuku heaves a tired sigh, lets his hands drop on his lap. He feels older and cracked open. In the hum of the diner. Listening the kitchen bustle and the radio.   

     “Pretending to be in love with Kacchan isn’t the hard part. It’s... it’s the most natural thing I’ve ever done.”

Her acid black eyes widen, and she shifts on the seat. The leather squeezes under her.

     “What is then?” she asks nervously, and Izuku looks back at her, pained. 

     “Knowing that this isn’t real,” he chokes and busies himself by tugging his t-shirt. His hands shake.

Mina immediately sits up straight, alarmed. “Izuku - “  

But Izuku looks away. His chest tightens.

     “It’s an unfair situation, has been from the very start,” he murmurs, staring at his hands. Runs his thumb across the dull red scars. “I forced his hand, even though... it was furthest from what he wanted. Even though he has a life of his own. He still helped me, because I asked. Because he’s Kacchan.”

He looks up at Mina, smiling through tears, although it’s breaking around the corners.

     “B - but he still did it. And - and I’m so grateful. More than that! He still shouldn’t have, because - because h - he - “

His fingers clutch at the fabric on his knees.

Just - why didn’t he -

Mina gets up quickly, sits next to him and wraps her arms tightly around him, resting her chin in his green curls.

     “Hey, hey...shh, it’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be so okay, you’ve done so well, ‘kay? You’re amazing and so brave, just... hang on just a bit more...” she murmurs, and he buries his face into her shoulder.

Hot tears soak into her t-shirt.

She keeps petting the back of his neck, whispering into his hair and just holding him.

+

Chapter Text

Izuku loses the sense of time that day.

Mina makes him eat, but the burger tastes thin and wet like porridge in his mouth. Izuku forces it down, though, since she insisted on paying, and he doesn’t want to be ungrateful. She then walks him home - well, no, Katsuki’s place, Izuku reminds himself and winces.

Anxiety churns in his guts, making him all jittery and wound up, but she kindly doesn’t mention it.

She just pats him gently on the cheek. “Call me if you need anything, okay? Like, seriously. If you need to vent or rant or move out or pull a prank or throw a pie at Bakugou’s face or anything, just call?”

She pokes him on the sternum for emphasis.

     “...okay. I will.”

     “Promise me.”

Izuku sighs. “I promise I will call you if I need anything.” He smiles, but it’s a small and tired. “Thanks, Mina.”

She bumps his shoulder briskly. “You’re welcome! See you later?”

     “Sure. And... thank you.”

     “Aww, you’re welcome! Take care, hon!”

She pulls him into a last bone-crushing hug, then lets him go and waves him goodbye.

+

By the time Izuku gets in front of the the apartment building, he’s low-key freaking out.

What is he going to do? He - he doesn’t want to do this anymore. He should just pack his things and go -

But, the small, old voice in his head whispers, this is your fault. You made this happen in the first place. You asked for his help. You did this.

I know.

Defeated, Izuku opens stairway door and stumbles into a small, vaguely potato-shaped old lady, whom Izuku recognizes belatedly as Katsuki’s neighbour, Matsui-san.

     “Oh, dear - “

     “Oh, sorry, Matsui-san, I didn’t look where I was going - are you okay?”  

Matsui-san fixes her glasses on her nose and peers at him. “Yes, unscathed, thank you. Was everything all right outside?” she asks curiously.

     “Eh? Y - yeah? Why, did something happen?”

     “Well, I spoke to Yuuko just few minutes ago, and she said she saw some strange people around the yard - “ Matsui-san looks over her glasses at Izuku, her eyes surprisingly piercing, “ - apparently journalists. Paparazzi,” she adds as a conspirational whisper.

Izuku’s suddenly very cold. “Journalists?”

Here? They’ve been fairly quiet thus far, so why would they now - ?

Meanwhile Matsui-san is nodding very sagely, quite happy that she has an audience to tell the latest gossip of the apartment complex.

     “Yes, it would seem so - rather suspicious folk with cameras, skulking around. Wouldn’t that fit the description?”

     “I hope they - they didn’t bother you?”

     “Well, I was thankfully still on my way downstairs, but Yuuko said they were being rather pushy. She said something about Bakugou-san, then some nonsense about that, letting him know and what not, who in heaven’s name knows... But those reporters, paparazzi, shameless people, let me tell you! But good to hear they are gone now, excellent.”

     “O - okay.”

Matsui-san nods politely, satisfied the way the conversation has ended and shuffles past Izuku.

Izuku, on the other hand, isn’t sure what to feel. He’s too tired for this.

He goes to the second floor, heart pounding in his throat, his lungs full of ice. Hesitating, clutching the key in his hand, forcing himself forward.

Opens the apartment door.

Steps in.

     “Yo,” Katsuki says from the couch, and Izuku’s treacherous brain tries to determine if that’s a look of a man who has gotten laid during the time he’s been away.

Katsuki’s still in his sweatpants, in his black t-shirt. Nothing is out of place. Nothing is different, and it’s driving Izuku crazy.

(shut up, shut up, he doesn’t owe you anything, he can do whatever he wants with whoever he wants - !)

     “Where were you?” Katsuki asks, raising an eyebrow.

     “I - “ Izuku’s voice sounds hoarse, and he swallows. “Nothing, I - Mina called, and - we went for lunch,” he says faintly, rubbing his forearm.

Katsuki scowls. “...fine.”

Izuku nods, turns away and sits by the kitchen counter. Away.

+

It’s a quiet, tense day.

+

Izuku doesn’t know how to handle this. Doesn’t know what to say. How to say it.

+

In the evening, his numb brain can barely come up with any stupid, empty chatter to fill any silence.

Katsuki seems to pick up on his mood, because his scowls keep deepening and getting darker, and Izuku catches him glancing at him few times. And few times more Katsuki opens his mouth as if to say something, but then changes his mind, clicks his mouth shut.

What? Izuku wants to scream into the silence. What, what do you want to tell me?!

Katsuki’s phone pings. And pings. And pings.

Izuku hears every single one, and every single time he hates himself. Katsuki doesn’t belong to him. Katsuki doesn’t owe a damn thing to him.

Kacchan is own person, amazing and fierce in every single way, and Izuku is happy for him, so, so happy for him. This is Izuku’s problem alone -  

He’s always known Katsuki is amazing. Blinding. Inspirational. Of course other people would see that, too, so how could Izuku ever take such a thing away from him?

Selfish, selfish and so, so greedy, he thinks brokenly, the white static sawing across his temples. You’re an awful friend. An awful hero partner...  

He’s barely aware his vision is clouded by tears, and only when Katsuki suddenly appears in front of him and slams his hand on the counter between them, does he notice it.

     “Wanna tell me what the fuck’s up with you?”

Izuku startles. “W - what?”

Katsuki’s staring at him, his gaze hardened, mouth tight. “You haven’t said anything worth two shits today, and now I find you crying. What’s going on, Deku?”

What can Izuku say?

What could he possibly say or explain in any adequate manner the selfish, reeking mess inside his head without sounding completely crazy and possessive? So, completely awful?

     “I - sorry, I - I didn’t mean to - “

     “Cut the bullshit. Just tell me already. What’s wrong?”  

Izuku doesn’t know how to fix this. He doesn’t know what to do.

But he has to say something. Anything.

     “I... I know it’s not real.”

     “What?”

It’s out. Words spill out, and there’s no taking any of it back. There is no stopping it. So Izuku doesn’t and barrels forward.

     “I know it’s not real. Any of it. I know. And - and I know how much it must be taking a toll with your s - significant other and I’m so, so sorry about it, Kacchan, b - but you should’ve told me.”  

Silence.

Katsuki gawks at him, eyes impossibly wide, jaw dropped. “Hah?”

Izuku doesn’t want to listen. So he desperately pushes it all aside and rushes forward: “You were so, so kind, when I asked you to help me, even though you didn’t have to, you still did, and I - I’m so grateful and you still - “

     “What. Hold the fuck up,” Katsuki interrupts sharply, and Izuku closes his mouth. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Izuku stands up, the frayed edges of his resolve finally burning out. “You!” he shouts. “You and your - partner - “

Katsuki crosses his arms over his chest. “Open your ears, Deku, you’re my partner. What the hell is this even about?”

     “You’re dating someone else and - and that’s totally okay, this - this is just for the show, and I know it is, but why didn’t you tell me?”

     “There’s fuckin’ nothing to tell! I’m not dating anyone - except your fake ass!” Katsuki snarls, and that stuns Izuku to silence.

     “W - what?”

His mind is spiralling.

- but what is this? The evidence, the pet names, the logical explanation, the whatever Matsui-san was saying -

     “I sure as hell would’ve told you if I was dating someone, you loser,” Katsuki snaps and steps closer, and in a bewildered fog clouding his brain, Izuku can only tilt his head back to look at him.

Really look at him, this time.

Katsuki is honest. Katsuki detests lying. He has never lied.

     “B - but the phone call? This morning? And - and the pet names?”

Katsuki gapes. “What pe - “ Then he realizes what Izuku is talking about and snorts. “’Course that’s the only thing you latch on. Our goddamn collegues think giving me tips about this whole fake dating thing is a fucking riot. That’s all what’s going on. You can check my phone, it’s fucking Kaminari and Kirishima and their shitty meddling. They also canceled their whole ‘we’re coming over’ shit, which is why my phone’s going fucking crazy all evening ‘cause they want to send me stupid pictures of their date instead.”

Izuku can’t feel a thing. His body is in shock, numb.

Everything in him is just a turmoil, raging and tearing and trying to find a place to settle, but the buzzing in his ears is slowly, slowly quieting. Heartbeat by heartbeat.

     “That’s all what’s going on, Deku, you fucking nerd. I wouldn’t have agreed to this whole shitshow if I was stringing someone else along. Use that big brain of yours, I know it’s there.”

Katsuki doesn’t lie.

He never has. Not to Izuku. Not to anyone.

Izuku stares at him through his tears, stunned, ashamed, relieved.

And the only thing he can choke out, is:

     “I - I’m sorry, Kacchan.”

The deep, dark crease between Katsuki’s eyebrows smoothens out.

     “Stop apologizing,” he says gruffly and pokes Izuku on the cheek, his thumb brushing just slightly on the wet tear tracks. “That why you’ve been so strange?”

Izuku laughs, wetly. “N - no, well... kinda. Yeah. I - I thought that - this was already unfair to you from the very beginning, and if you were just humouring me while being in an actual relationship, that would’ve been so much worse. I - I would’ve wanted to know.”  

     “Huh, that so?”

     “...yeah.”

     “Wanted to know if I’m dating someone else.”

Izuku’s eyes suddenly widen, and now, he’s half-tempted to crawl away from this conversation that is making him too bare to handle this. But Katsuki’s eyes are heated, rich and... amused.  

So instead of doing any of that, Izuku lifts his chin, braces himself and says: “If they - if they make you happy, of course I want to know. Your happiness is important to me, Kacchan, you know that.” 

     “...yeah, ‘cause you won’t shut up about it.” But it’s not unkind. Katsuki’s tone is low and warm, rumbling from his chest. “No hidden others, got that?”

    “Deal!”

     “Good. Now come to bed already.”

Izuku startles, unsure if he’s heard right. “Kacchan...?”

Katsuki turns, and the tips of his ears are red. “That couch’s gonna have a Deku sized lump in it if you continue snuggling in it like a total twerp,” he says. “So come on.”

And Izuku is left with an overwhelming sensation of utter relief and gratitude and affection, shaking him violently by the very roots of him.

     “Okay. And I don’t snuggle the couch, that’s rude.”

     “Oh, yeah? Breaking my couch with your freak strength, what the fuck is this.”

     “I’m not breaking it! Wait, are we even talking about the same thing anymore? Kacchan!”  

+

Izuku curls into the soft blankets and pillows, the very center of him sighing him in relief and contentment. He’s happy. He’s drained, he’s completely wrung out, but he’s happy.

Eyes half-lidded with exhaustion, he watches Katsuki climb on the bed and turn off the lights.

It’s quiet. Serene. They can hear the faint chirping of cicadas and crickets outside. The hum of the air conditioner.

     “Kacchan...?”

     “Mmh? What is it.”

     “I’m sorry,” Izuku whispers into the stillness. “For assuming.”

The mattress shifts under him as he makes out Katsuki turning towards him in the moon pale darkness. The dim blue light falls on his features, and Izuku can’t look away.

     “S’okay. Stop worrying so much. Gonna get yourself stuck in the hospital soon for damn ulcers if you don’t loosen up.”

Izuku grins.

     “...this is really nice.”

He hears a soft grunt. “Yeah, well, don’t get used to it. Now go back to sleep, nerd.”

     “Sweet dreams, Kacchan.”

     “...back at’cha.”

+

The next morning is strange.

Not strange in a sense that would mean uncomfortable or awkward, at all. No, instead of that, it’s easy, serene. Like the air has been purged of all the ugliness and suffocating smoke and uncertainties torturing them, leaving the atmosphere light, clear and nectar-sweet.

Calm.

Like after storm, Izuku wonders in a daze. He’s half-aware he’s ended up burying his head into that comfortable crook between Katsuki’s neck and shoulders, and with a sigh, he snuggles closer. 

Katsuki barely blinks at that, gets up first, pauses to glance at him and lifts the blankets up to reveal his face.

     “Hey, wake up. Deku - we’ve got work.”

     “Mmh-hmm.”

     “Don’t fall back asleep on me, nerd. C’mon. Oi, ass up.”

Izuku quickly showers and by the time he’s out and dressed, Katsuki’s already made coffee.

It’s a good morning.

Katsuki has faint coral pink hue on his cheeks in the morning’s low orange glow, but otherwise to Izuku, he seems completely at ease with the situation. And Izuku - Izuku can breathe, crisp oxygen flooding into his lungs, and he has a stupid urge to giggle.

But then, five minutes later:

     “What the hell is this.”

     “What the hell is what?” Izuku asks, mouth full of toast.

Katsuki shows him his phone; and there it is, on the screen, a picture taken through a window - and more precisely and more importantly, through a window that belongs to Tamura’s.

Izuku is in Mina’s arms, curled against her, obviously distraught, and she’s holding him firmly in her arms.

Under it the headline screams with loud, bold letters: TROUBLE IN THE WONDER DUO PARADISE? NEW ACID HOT ROMANCE WITH PINKY?

Izuku’s jaw drops. 

     “What?” he squeaks. “Oh no!”

Katsuki raises his eyebrow and studies him, in that quiet way of his - not angry, not hurt, but... curious.

     “I - I, uh - oh no,” Izuku moans hiding behind his hands, because oh god, he really forgot that they were in a public place. “Um, okay.”

     “If you don’t wanna tell me, s’fine,” Katsuki points out, and it’s just a simple statement, no anger simmering under it, no fury ready to explode and burn out. It’s just Kacchan.

     “No! I want to explain. W - well, um, first off - the whole ‘no hidden others’ thing still stands - “

     “No shit, wasn’t thinking about that. You’re crying in this.”

Izuku shifts, embarrassed. “...yeah. I - “ He clears his throat and fiddles with his coffee mug. “I was afraid you were dating and I just made you agree to this mess. Which would’ve been o - okay, you dating, I mean, you don’t owe me anything, it’s just...”

     “Oi. Deku.” Katsuki squints at him, annoyed. “When was the last damn time anyone has ever made me do any of the shit I don’t wanna do? We’ve had this conversation already, remember that?”

     “I know, and you’re right. But I really thought you were dating someone.” His face burning, Izuku runs his fingers on his knuckles, distracted. “After the phone call, I mean. S - so Mina noticed and she hugged me. So no, um, romance with her. Definitely not, ever. And... then I met Matsui-san and she said something about a Yuuko-san and you, and I thought - “  

Katsuki hums, still eyeing Izuku closely. “Your brain kicked overdrive, didn’t it.”

     “...yeah. I guess it did.”

Katsuki sighs in fond exasperation, gets up and takes Izuku’s empty plate. “You damn nerd with your big brain,” he grunts and ruffles Izuku’s hair. Izuku hums, relaxing into the familiar touch.

     “I know. I’m sorry.”

     “Stop apologizing already, dammit. It’s fine.” Katsuki brings the dishes to the sink. “And besides, just for the record, in case you start freaking out again, neighbours or otherwise, I don’t even fuckin’ like women.”

Izuku pauses and mulls this over in his head for a moment. Katsuki opens the faucet again.

     “Thank you, Kacchan. For sharing that with me,” Izuku says softly.

The clinking of the plates stop.

     “Yeah, yeah. C’mon, you can dry these.”

Izuku smiles. It’s a private, shining smile, and with that, he joins Katsuki by the sink.

+

On the way to the office, Izuku dares to reach for Katsuki’s hand.

It’s easier now. His heart leaps and flutters, when Katsuki grips his hand back, hot and calloused.

+

Back at the office, they are greeted by Kumiko-san; her hair neatly done, her reading glasses firmly on her nose, and the look she fixes on them is withering.

Katsuki rolls his eyes. “Can we not, Sasaki-san.”

     “Yes, we can, the press is having a field day with this, again,” she says, sounding quite tight and holds up the same photo from the day before. Izuku really doesn’t want a reminder of that, but makes himself reply as politely as he can:

     “No need to worry, Sasaki-san, we handled it, everything is fine, now.”

     “We even held fuckin’ hands, so there,” Katsuki grumbles and picks Izuku’s hand to shake it at her to prove a point.

     “Inside the office does not count,” Kumiko-san huffs. She rubs her forehead with a weary sigh. “But fine. Fine. Are you two all right?”  

Izuku and Katsuki share a look.

     “Yeah,” says Katsuki.

     “Yes,” says Izuku.

Surprise flickers on Kumiko-san’s face, and her indignation fades. “All right, I’m glad to hear that. Well, now that’s been handled, back to work, boys. Patrolling for you again. Still not together, I’m sorry.”

     “No, it’s okay. Thank you for trying, though.”

     “We can handle it.”  

After the whole ‘we are dating and we’re hero partners so suck our dick, press’ - Katsuki’s phrasing - it’s been pointed out by the several media outlets that patrolling together might not be such a good idea when citizens are concerned.

“THEY’VE JUST STARTED GOING PRO! WHAT IF THEY’RE MAKING OUT AND HAVING SEX WHILE CRIME AND MURDER IS HAPPENING IN FRONT OF THEM?” has been one of those remarkable questions.

So Kumiko-san compromised and said firmly ‘no patrolling together for a while’.

Which is useless and stupid in their honest opinion, because they are the Wonder Duo, they are partners, they’re working, they have work ethics, thanks very much, but reluctantly they went with it.   

And the media outlets said ‘okay’.

    “But thank god, after all that paperwork, we get out finally back on the field!Izuku squeals and grabs Katsuki’s forearm and shakes him in excitement.

     “Yeah, yeah... stop shakin’ me, oi - who’s with you?”  

     “Um...oh, Kirishima! You?” Izuku peers at Katsuki’s phone screen again over his shoulder. “Oh, Kaminari? ... please be patient, Kacchan?”

Katsuki snorts and flicks his finger under Izuku’s cap and tilts it up so they can look at each other.

     “Fuck you, I can be patient as all hell. Fucker just keeps askin’ me stupid questions and being a general pain in the ass.”

     “Well, he’s curious,” Izuku allows, his lips twitching. “This arrangement won’t last long, don’t worry.”

     “I’m not worrying shit, Kirishima should be worrying that he ends up as a goddamn widower before the week is over.”

     “They’re not married yet?”

(that’s a whole another bet pool on it’s own.)

     “Won’t matter. Punks are slow on every fucking level, it’s unbelievable.”

Izuku muffles a laughter into Katsuki’s shoulder. “Still. It’s not long. And be nice to him.”

     “...fine. Don’t get fucked up, either, Deku. I mean it.”

     “Likewise!” 

They bump fists, even though Katsuki pretends he’s not into it. Izuku still notes the wild curl of his mouth.

Let’s do our best, Kacchan!

+

Izuku has had patrols with Kirishima few times before when they were starting with the whole hero office.

This particular route goes through the parks and around the mall area, and Izuku is glad of the work - happy to be out of the office. After a while, he becomes increasingly aware of the curious, not-so-subtle looks Kirishima is throwing his way.

     “What?” he finally asks. “What is it?”

     “Aw, nothing, sorry! It’s just - is everything really okay?”

Izuku would like to scream, thank you very much. How many people have been asking that of him? Whoa, that probably means his poker face really is awful...

     “You mean the - um, the picture?” Izuku asks awkwardly and he really, really wants to burn that whole mess from the internet forever, thanks. “Yeah... I am.”

Kirishima grimaces. “Sorry, man. That had to suck, like, seriously. But,” he bumps Izuku playfully with his shoulder, “I’m glad you’re okay. Or as okay as you can be, living with Mr. Explosion Murder.”

He even makes a scary face that’s kinda like Kacchan’s and wiggles his hands in a way that’s probably supposed to be explosion signs.

Izuku grins. 

     “You don’t have to worry - it’s been...really nice. With Kacchan,” he says, his cheeks reddening shyly.

     “Hey, that’s awesome! Glad to hear it.”

     “How about you? Is everything going well?” 

Kirishima makes a weird, choking sound and scratches behind his ears absent mindedly. “Uh, yeah. Totally. We’re - we’re cool.”

Well, that’s odd. “Really?”

The colour of Kirishima’s face starts to remind Izuku of his hair, it’s quite impressive.

     “I, uh - no, no, everything is amazing, but - oh, Midoriyaaa,” he groans and drops his head on Izuku’s shoulder. “I love him so much...”

     “I’m so happy to hear that,” Izuku says with a huff of laughter. “It’s nearly your anniversary, isn’t it?”

Kirishima’s head snaps up. “Wha - how the heck can you remember that?” He looks vaguely flustered.

     “Of course I do! It was important to you both!” 

Izuku does remember that - it was quite daunting; to watch Kaminari and Kirishima pine for each other two years prior, sigh and shoot tormented glances at each other across the class room.

And when they did confess on the dorm building’s roof, stuttering and blushing and speaking frantically over each other through it all, then crying with happiness, it was like a jackpot for everyone involved.

(plus mina won a lot of money in that bet pool, which she still talks about.)

Kirishima stares at him, eyes wide, then all the crinkles soften, and with an affectionate grin, he drops his head back on Izuku’s shoulder. Izuku hears him sigh quietly.

     “...sorry for blowing you two off yesterday, Midoriya, that wasn’t manly at all...”

     “What? No, no, we had our own... um, thing to figure out, it’s all right! If you wanna drop by later, would that be okay?”  

Kirishima straightens up, surprised. “Oh, yeah, that could work. Hey, look at you, man, inviting people over like a pro,” he winks, elbowing Izuku in a way that suggests more suspicious hijinks that Izuku’s intended with his question.

He rubs the back of his neck, sheepishly. “Yeah, I - guess I am? I’ll ask Kacchan, just in case, though.”

     “Nice! Hey, looks like we’ve got trouble ahead.” Kirishima points at the end of the street, where people are crowding and chattering, their smartphones up and yep, there’s smoke rising above them. Kirishima rolls his shoulder. “You ready, Midoriya?”

Izuku fixes his costume’s sleeves. “You bet! Let’s go!”

+

It’s good day, to be back on the field.

Katsuki does not agree as he drags a brain-fried Kaminari back to the office.

+

Chapter Text

     “So what’s this, you invited the dweeb duo over, huh.”

     “Come on, don’t call them names, Kacchan... And I said later, it doesn’t mean right now.”

     “No shit, I don’t wanna see them after work, there’s shit to do. Here, put a stamp on this and pass this to Yaoyorozu.”

Izuku does, then continues to bite absently the end of his pencil and peer at the very official looking forms in front of him. He knew how much paper work and bureaucracy and loop holes it would take to open the hero office, but still the whole thing leaves a sour taste in his mouth.

On some days it’s like navigating blind through a mine field; one step and booom, the whole office just gone, ridiculed and forgotten and all their work down the drain.  

     “Do we have to think about taking interns yet?”

     “Hah? What’re you talking about?”

     “Interns. I don’t think we should, though.”

Mainly because Izuku thinks they don’t really consider themselves ‘Legit Adults’ yet, and it takes a whole village to raise a child and what not, and they’re so not mature enough to deal with an intern yet.

(some days they barely know what they’re doing or how they’re actually doing it.)

Katsuki considers it for a moment. “Free labour, Deku. They could do that shit for you, you know.”

     “If you had to do that during your internship, you would’ve set the documents on fire, Kacchan.”

     “Fine, depends on the twerp, then; if it’s some stubborn asshole of a brat mouthing off, then it’s  toilet cleaning duty for ‘em.”

Izuku snorts a laugh, bowing his head. “No, that would give us horrible reputation.”

     “Like it’s going so fucking great right now - tough shit if they can’t handle it,” Katsuki mutters rolling his eyes to the ceiling and throws an energy bar at Izuku, who catches it without looking up. “Show off. Stuff that into your face, you haven’t eaten anything yet.”  

     “I will in a sec.” 

     “Your eyes start lookin’ in opposite directions in a sec if you don’t shove something down your throat. C’mon, quit that, it’s not gonna disappear anywhere.”

Izuku scribbles on the form, and as he spots from the corner of his eye Katsuki getting up and stalking toward him, his handwriting turns progressively more messy and he hurries to make one last, truly abysmal mark, “ - I’m done, I am, sit down, Kacchan - no!”

     “If you don’t eat, your brain power’s gonna drop below fuckin’ zero and those fancy-ass forms gonna read ‘Izuriya Midoku’ from the Class 1-A saying hello in the good year of 2008.”

     “Wha - Kacchan! Why would you bring that up now?  Now?”

     “’Cause it was hilarious and amazing.”

     “I agree with neither of those things. You’re such an evil person.”

With a grumble, Izuku peels the wrapper of the energy bar and starts to nibble on it while shooting indignant glares at Katsuki, who is cackling and has apparently forgotten his former annoyance.

Izuku pouts, and maybe Katsuki feels bad, because he stops and moves to sit on Izuku’s table.

     “Hey,” Katsuki murmurs, and the way he looks at Izuku is curious, intensive, searching. A beat goes by, then he reaches and grips gently the back of Izuku’s neck. The hot, firm sensation makes Izuku relax into the touch with a soft sigh. “...I was just yappin’. S’good work, nerd.”

     “Even with the 2008 thing?” Izuku grins, feeling the callouses on Katsuki’s fingertips brushing on the soft skin of his neck and it creates lovely shivers on his spine.  

Katsuki snorts. “Hasn’t fucked us over yet, so yeah, even with that.”

     “Mmh. Watch it, though, someone’s gonna dig it up and it’s gonna haunt us ten years from now.”

     “Then good luck, you’re on your own.”

     “What, so you ditch me over one mistake?”

Izuku’s grinning now, dimples in sight.

Katsuki grunts and moves his hand to ruffle Izuku’s curls again.

     “Yeah, yeah, me ‘n you against shitty introductions, you got it. Eat up, Deku.”

     “Mmh. Do you think maybe we shou - what is that?”

Izuku hears it, just a split second before the door slams open, and a tall, thin figure fills the doorframe.

     “All Might?”

The retired Hero offers a sheepish, rather awkward grin; he still looks thin and gaunt under the fluorescent lights, but there’s bright sapphire glint in the sunken, dark sockets of his eyes, livelier than years before.

     “Hello, young Midoriya, young Bakugou - ah, excellent, I hoped to catch you!” he greets them with his deep, jovial tone. “I’m sorry for intruding... but first things first - “ That’s when Izuku notices he’s carrying a bag; he fishes out a bento box with a small note attached on top of it. “This is for you. From your Mother.”

     “From Mom?” Izuku repeats, a little taken aback. “You met Mom?”

All Might’s grin takes a more dopey look, which both Katsuki and Izuku gawk at with the same bewildering sense of disbelief that they are actually witnessing such a thing.

     “Yes, she - she’s been kind enough to invite me to dinner. Couple of times.”

All Might clears his throat, adjusts his collar and seems to be quite fascinated with the decor.

(it’s all from IKEA. it’s not that interesting, a part of izuku wants to point out.)

     “Oh, shit,” Izuku hears Katsuki mutter under his breath, and yeah, Izuku kind of agrees.

So instead of thinking what all that means - whatever that is officially or unofficially - Izuku takes the note.

HAVE A GOOD DAY AT WORK, IZUKU! - with love, Mom

She’s even drawn a cute green bunny in there.

     “Aww. Mom...

     “What the hell, that smells great,” Katsuki points out, now not even hiding his curiousity as he eyes the box.

Izuku carefully opens the lid, and the warm, sweet scent of baked cookies whifts into his nose, instantly lulling him into nostalgia.  

     “Damn.”

     “Take one, Kacchan - you, too, All Might - thank you, for bringing these.”

     “It’s all right, I was on my way here anyway. I heard congratulations are in order?” All Might asks, his eyes sparkling, and Izuku squints, not sure if he’s joking or not.

     “If you talked to Mom about it, you know it’s not - “

     “ - yes, she told me, real or otherwise the definition being generally vague,” All Might nods, an amused smile tugging at his thin lips. “If you’re sure, boys. But I have all the faith in you two, please take care of each other and do not get lost into the whirl wind media makes.”

     “Kinda late for that, I think?” Izuku says weakly.

     “Apparently so,” All Might says, now curiously examining the large whiteboard on the other side of the office, where Mina has taken it upon herself to tape several headlines, articles and pictures of their ‘Wonder Duo Dating Scandal’.

(the content on the whiteboard has been increasing at alarming rate since the ‘Hot Pink Romance?!’ thing, which everyone finds both hilarious and just a little unnerving.)

Izuku groans. “They’re very... supportive.”

     “It is not a bad thing,” All Might remarks.

     “No, s’annoying,” Katsuki mutters.

     “It can be, surely. But it’s good to have trusted comrades around you, boys. Now, where is Sasaki-san? I was quite sure she already knew what is coming up - ?”

Izuku feels dread pooling in his veins. Coming up? In his honest opinion that phrase has literally never sounded good, never mind the context.

     “What’s coming up?” Katsuki demands, eyes narrowed instantly, obviously sharing Izuku’s opinion.

All Might counters it all in a stride, then he realizes what Katsuki’s actually asked. “Oh, dear.”

     “Oh, no, what? What is it?” Izuku nearly squeaks.

     “Well, your office has been keeping busy, so of course - well, no matter. As you probably know, Hosu General Hospital hosts their annual fundraising gala this month.”

Izuku blanks out. “Eh? It’s here already?”

     “It’s hosted every year on August,” All Might reminds them patiently. “Your office wasn’t part of it last year, given it didn’t exist at the time, but now - “

He rummages through his bag again and pulls out a sleek envelope. It’s made of expensive ivory paper and on top of it reads with prim, golden letters:

WONDER DUO OFFICE

     “They really latched onto that, huh.”

     “Maybe they couldn’t use that cool ink to write everyone else in, too.”

     “Fuckin’ sucks, that woulda made their day. All gold and fancy, Sparkle Boy woulda flipped his shit.”

     “Mmh, true. Sorry, All Might! So, um, invitations, then?”

     “The very same,” All Might nods, observing their interactions with amused curiosity. “The council wanted me to deliver these, since it was on my way.”

     “Kinda fucked up of them to use you as their damn mailman,” Katsuki points out with a scowl.

     “Thank you for your concern, young Bakugou, but it’s fine. A little stroll here and there is only good for me,” All Might says, sheepishly. “Oh, good morning, Sasaki-san!”

Kumiko-san, who has her nose buried in her own pile of documents, jumps. “Oh, good morning, All Might. What do we owe the pleasure?”

     “He delivered our invitation to the Hosu General Hospital’s fundraising gala.”

     “Yeah, know anythin’ about that shit, huh, Sasaki-san?”

She doesn’t quite blush, exactly, but she looks slightly awkward. “Yes, that’s on me, unfortunately. Too much time to clear out some misunderstandings,” she huffs, shooting a sharp look at them. “But that is a good thing, we can announce it after lunch when everyone’s here.”

     “Good luck,” All Might leans in to whisper to Katsuki and Izuku.

     “Thanks for doing this, All Might. See you later?”

All Might gives them an enthusiastic thumbs-up. “Of course. Work hard, boys.”

+

     “A gala.”

     “Again.”

     “It’s a penguin party.”

     “Didn’t we just do this sort of thing? Like seriously, those two screwed up so badly they’re still dealing with it.”

     “Sponsors and politicians don’t wait, you know that, Kaminari.”

     “Oh, politicians don’t wait? Since when?”

     “...when it suits them, is what I mean.”

     “Do I have to buy a new dress? I just bought that one - I don’t wanna buy another! I’ve worn it once. Once! Can I change the color somehow or something?”

     “We’re doing something about that, don’t worry, hon!”

     “Also free food, hell yeah!”

     “Oh, yeah! Thank god. Do you think they have those super pompous pastries? Aren’t they, like, French?”

     “Also you two over there, you better behave or next article’s gonna be you getting married.”

     “Shut your face.”

     “Um, we’ll be careful.”

     “Or adoption, if we continue that line of thought.”

     “...please stop. We’ll play nice.”

+

It’s all chatter and talk and whispers that afternoon, and Izuku finds himself looking forward getting home.

He hasn’t even realized it’s time to leave until Katsuki dumps Izuku’s bag in front of him.

     “Oi, nerd, c’mon, pack up, the day’s done.”

Izuku yawns and stretches over his head, hearing his spine pop, his sides curving under the uniform, brushing against the soft material.

     “Mmh. Are you done?”  

     “Yeah, ages ago. Been waitin’ your ass to finish up. You ready to go?”

     “Yeah, let me just - okay, I’m just gonna leave these on Kumiko-san’s desk.”

+

It takes Izuku an embarrassingly long time to notice that they’re taking a different route home. To his defense, he’s been gushing about the new Red Riot merch he saw earlier, which he absolutely had to take a picture of and send to Kirishima.

 But now... he stops. Blinks.

     “Eh? This is...Dagobah Municipal Beach?” he asks, surprised.  

With a low sound scratching in his throat, Katsuki shoves his hands into his pockets and looks away. “...yeah.”

That is not an explanation, but Izuku doesn’t really need one.

Heat rises from the cracked concrete under their feet, the gentle wind blows through their hair. The sky is stainless bright blue expanse over white sands.

And the sea.

The sea glimmers in hues of pink, blue, orange, deep purple mirroring from the horizon like in fairy tales.

The air smells of sea salt, wet sand and sweet fragrance of ice cream.

Izuku smiles.

They take off their sneakers, roll up their pant legs, and finally, Izuku digs his toes into the smooth, warm sand. Seagulls circle above the slowly rolling waves and screech.

White foam crashes on the wet sand.

Izuku closes his eyes. Breathes. Smiles.

Crash of the waves.

All the sounds from the street, cars driving by, the radio tunes, fade away, and it’s quiet and tranquil. Izuku pads to the familiar old dock, the worn, dry wood creaking under his steps.

He sits on the edge of the dock, sinking his feet into the cool water and sighs in relief.

     “Here.”

Katsuki hands him a red popsicle, cold droplets beading on it’s surface. “Oh, Kacchan, you didn’t have to - “

     “I know I didn’t. Wanted to,” Katsuki grunts and settles next to Izuku, who is still staring at the popsicle. “What, you don’t want it?”

     “No, no, I do. Sorry. I was just... surprised. Thank you.”

They sit side by side on the docks and watch boats drifting across the water, breaking the surface into white lines.

     “Yeah... it hasn’t been that bad...has it?”

Izuku isn’t sure why he asks, why it’s important to know. Kacchan would’ve thrown him out if he wasn’t all right with this, but still... doubt is a deceiving, painful little thing in the back of his skull.

Katsuki glances at him side-ways, then stares back at the sea.

     “...nah. It hasn’t. Don’t - you don’t gotta worry about that shit, Deku. S’fine.”

The sun’s rays turn heavy, a splash of gold, red and pink on the open sea’s waves, bleeding into the horizon. 

     “Thank you, Kacchan.”

     “Hah? You said that already.”  

     “No, I know that... but... for bringing me here. This is... wonderful.”

     “...figured you could use a little break,” Katsuki mutters, and the setting sun colors his features with rich, golden glow, his eyes half-open, almost wistful.

He’s so handsome.

But... that’s not what makes Izuku’s pulse thrum like a butterfly wings in his wrists. Makes flowers bloom in him, makes him laugh, makes him fall, fall, fall even deeper.

Izuku smiles, and the sweet, crisp taste of cherry melts on his tongue.

+

Chapter Text

A fundraising gala. A penguin party.

Again.

Izuku tries to approach the whole thing as objectively and as reasonably as he can, but it sets his anxiety crawling in his skin, itching and uncomfortable.

Which means he’s standing under the shower, letting the water just cascade over him and he’s thinking, staring at the ceramic tiles on the wall, not really seeing any of it.

They’ve attended things like this before, but last time went less than smoothly - thanks to him and his big mouth, and Izuku takes full responsibility for all of it - but now, he dreads the press that will most definitely be there.

Vultures, ready to swoop down and poke and prod and ask and ask and ask, and Izuku can already feel his filter breaking and creaking under pressure and he isn’t even clothed.

     “Oi, Deku, you alive? You better not be drowning in there - no way I’m facing those clowns by myself, so get your ass out!”

Izuku snaps awake. “Yeah! And I’m not drowning!”

     “You keep mumbling, dunno if it’s gasping for air, jacking off or drowning,” Katsuki throws back, and Izuku squeaks.

     “Kacchan!”  

     “Come out already.”

Okay, that’s enough wallowing! Izuku decides and puffs his cheeks full in determination. We’re doing this and we’re acing this and it’s gonna be awesome! And - and I’m gonna eat some super expensive cake. Yeah!

It sounds like a good plan.

Satisfied with this solid plan of complete confidence, Izuku turns the faucet off, towels himself dry and picks up his suit, his mood instantly deflating like a popped balloon.

It’s a nice suit vest.

Sleek black, with a hint of green to highlight his Hero costume, and it still looks like something that he shouldn’t touch with his dirty mortal hands.

Too pristine, too expensive, too fancy.

Okay. Suit up.  

Izuku runs a hand through his drying curls as he gets out of the bathroom -

- and freezes.

Katsuki’s buttoning his own suit vest up in front of a mirror, and Izuku’s mouth goes dry.

The crimson colour of Katsuki’s shirt seems to shine against his tanned skin like liquid silk, it  highlights his sun-bleached ashen hair and the thin silver scars carved on his arms.

Sunshine filtering from outside creates a spot of light on him, dust particles dance around him, and it creates such a gorgeous sight that it momentarily robs Izuku of all intelligible thought.

He can see the bright, bright ruby red irises, the twitching eyebrows so ready to turn into a frustrated scowl, the easy, quick fingers buttoning up toward his chin where the light paints his barely noticeable beard scruff in sight.

Izuku’s heart stops beating, jumpstarts, goes pound pound pounding ahead.

     “This goddamn suit, fuckin’ hate these - “

And with that, Izuku finds himself grinning. That realization of what it all meant, him being shy and stupidly in love leaves behind just soft contentment, causing him to float and be completely at ease with it all.

     “Kacchan, oh - wait, your tie’s all crooked now.”

Izuku wanders to him and marvels how easily Katsuki leans toward him, turning his head aside, allowing Izuku to fix the tie.

     “...your face is all crooked.”

He flashes a wide, warm grin at Katsuki. “Is it?”

     “You expectin’ me to stroke your ego, Deku?” Katsuki asks roughly, but his eyes are drawn back to Izuku like he can’t help it. 

     “I don’t know, it would be nice to hear that I won’t be embarrassing myself there,” Izuku replies absently and lets his fingers linger on the tie, just to enjoy this closeness few seconds more.

     “...it ain’t bad.”

     “Oh, wow, that’s what you choose to say, really?” Izuku teases him and enjoys seeing that pink colour blossom on Katsuki’s cheeks.

Katsuki bristles.

     “Look - fuck it, you look fine, got that? You won’t be embarrassin’ anyone, if anything, you’re gonna end up swatting thirsty-ass people away with a fucking broom.”

Izuku withdraws, his hands freezing on Katsuki’s clavicle in honest surprise.

     “Oh! That’s - “ He trails off and settles for a soft: “Thank you.”

Katsuki scoffs, but now the colour deepens, his breathing becoming a little more shallow. Izuku can feel the heat radiating from him.

     “...the tie’s done now. You - “ Izuku bites his lip and decides to take a plunge, “ - you look good, too.”

He looks up, and suddenly and without an ounce of surprise, he’s trapped.

Katsuki’s watching him, eyes burning like fading embers, hot and unblinking, tracking him.

Worlds collide and crash, meld into each other, and -

Izuku’s lips part, shaky and suddenly he wants nothing more than to stay here, in this little moment that feels too sacred to break, they could talk, tear every secret to the surface, let it pour out, just talk it out -

- no more secrets, no more pretending -

     “Kacchan...”

He can see Katsuki swallowing. “We should go,” he grunts, his voice more hoarse than moments before.

     “Fashionably late, then?” Izuku says, his smile wobbling toward the corners of his mouth. The moment is over.

     “Somethin’ like that. Give ‘em something to stare at,” Katsuki murmurs and brushes his thumb across Izuku’s eyebrow again, smoothening it over. “There.”

     “Better?”

     “...yeah. C’mon, Deku.”

+

Hosu General Hospital has rented a beautiful place by the beach boulevard.

They can hear the music, laughter, chatter two streets away, and Izuku is hit by a jarring sense of déja vu.

Dim lights, gold and crystal decorations glimmering, people waiting around the entrance in suits and beautiful dresses. The summer night holds a heavy, almost intoxicating feel to it, the air is hot with the scent of flowers, ripe fruits and wine.

Instinctively Izuku reaches for Katsuki’s hand and not because Kumiko-san hissed at them ‘Remember that you are dating’. Anxiety clutches in his throat like a painful knot, and the back of his neck tingles, prickles with needles.

Katsuki’s hand twitches, but doesn’t pull away. Instead he asks:

     “Ready to show these losers a thing or two?”

Izuku lets himself breathe deeply.

     “Let’s do it, Kacchan!”

+

And here they are, in a wonderland of music, under hazy rose coloured fairytale lights.

Yellow beams of light sweep across the polished dance floor, and waiters weave their way smoothly through the crowd carrying trays full of sparkling champagne glasses.

Just a year before such glamour would have been absolutely mind blowing to Izuku, but now he can’t help but to view it as a total and complete Web of Lies.

Everyone’s having good time, the ball room swarms with reporters, politicians, hospital staff, agency publicists, Pro Heroes, trainees, sidekicks, everyone.

Which means there will be scheming, whispers, politics, plotting and gossipping rotting under the polished surface, behind wide, sharp fake smiles, batting eyelashes, under all that stale cologne and perfume.

Then Izuku spots someone who most definitely isn’t smiling.

     “Oh, look, it’s sensei!”

     “Where? What the fuck, you with your eagle eyes - “

And true enough, Aizawa has situated himself against the furthest wall. He’s shaved, his wild mane of hair combed neatly to back, and he looks throughoutly unimpressed with everything happening in front of him.

     “Yo, sensei,” Katsuki greets as they approach him.

Aizawa instantly takes a generous sip of his champagne, and yeah, Izuku totally gets it.

     “Evening,” Aizawa says and peers at his drink, obviously disappointed whatever is in it. But when he glances at them over his glass, there’s warmth in his black eyes. “So you got dragged into this as well, huh.”

     “Yep, Kumiko-san was really insistent on going,” Izuku nods.

     “Smart, considering the Daily Capes.”

Izuku’s guts churn at the reminder. “Oh god, they’re here, aren’t they?”

Aizawa spares him a wry look. “You think she would pass an opportunity like this?” he drawls and takes another swig, and now Izuku kind of wishes he had one as well. “I’d advice you to be on guard. They are lurking around.”

Like a bunch of goblins.

     “Oh, no.”

     “No, no, I know that look, don’t even dare, Deku, you’d better not drop another bomb on me this evening, or you’re sleeping on the couch,” says Katsuki.  

     “I told you I panicked. I’ll try not to spring any surprise children on you, Kacchan,” says Izuku.

     “Good lord,” says Aizawa, who decides he’s not drunk enough for this conversation and empties his glass.

That’s when Vlad comes to them holding two drinks and hands one to Aizawa. “They didn’t have what you like, so I just picked whatever. Don’t scowl, they’ll come after you if you’re empty-handed,” he adds with a snort before turning to face Katsuki and Izuku. “Congratulations, Bakugou, Midoriya, that was very brave of you two.”

Izuku goes pink as he realizes what Vlad is talking about. It’s super embarrassing, to have his old teachers being aware and commenting on his love life, fake or otherwise. 

     “Uh... thank you,” he stammers, bravely wading through his mortification. “Um, how has it been, sens - um, Kan-san?”

     “Pretty well, pretty well. Can’t complain, unlike Mr. Grouchy-Ass over here.”

     “Don’t drag me into this, Sekijiro.”

Vlad’s lips twitch into a smile, revealing his large canines. “I’ll admit it’s strange, being without a class so it’s Hero work for us for now, that Kiyoshi case being the latest.” Suddenly he looks up over their heads and frowns. “Shit, Shota, Hizashi’s nearing the karaoke stand.”

Aizawa’s sigh is an age-old sound of barely disguised patience. “For the sake of everyone’s sanity, stop him, please.”  

     “On it. Keep up the good work, Midoriya, Bakugou.”

With that, Vlad strides into the crowd.

     “Deku, our bunch of losers is here, too.”

     “You can go ahead, I’ll chat with sensei for a bit, okay?”

Katsuki glances at him, to be sure that it’s all right, and nods, shoves his hands into his pockets and makes his way to the small group across the ballroom where Mina and Uraraka are waving at him.

     “Energetic bunch, as usual,” Aizawa grunts, but there’s a hint of fondness in his tone.

Izuku grins. “Look out, sensei, they’re gonna swarm you later.”

     “Better them than journalists. By the way, I’ve got something for you, Midoriya.” Aizawa reaches inside his jacket and fishes out a crumpled letter.

On top of it reads with bright crayon letters WONDER DUO

It’s a clumsy, yet utterly endearing hand drawn picture of them - of Izuku, Katsuki, Kouta and Eri at the Aquarium. Mamesuke is there on the background, too, as lumpy and strange as Izuku remembers the poor thing being.

Colourful scribbles, lines, shades and smiles.

Ducks they fed. Ice cream. Sun shining. Holding hands.

Izuku finds himself grinning widely, his heart squeezing. “Thank you, sensei. This is - this is really lovely. How - how are they?”

     “They’re fine,” Aizawa says, his baritone dropping to something reassuring. “Eri starts school in a couple of weeks, and she’s excited about that. Kouta’s left with Mandalay few days ago - despite his numerous protests about the matter.”

     “It was good to see them. Like um - like it was good to see you, too, sensei.”

     “Careful, Midoriya,” Aizawa snorts and pats Izuku’s shoulder. “Try to have some fun on the side, too. Talk to you later, kiddo.”

     “Say our hello to Present Mic!”

     “He doesn’t need it.”

     “Sensei!”  

+

     “Hey, Midoriya, lookin’ all manly as all hell!” Kirishima nods his approval and gives a thumbs-up when Izuku follows Katsuki to their group.

     “Thank you! You, too! Everyone - oh, they’re not here, yet?”  

     “Nah, Jirou’s coming with Aoyama - last minute preparations, apparently, and Todoroki and Momo are five minutes away - according to her.”

     “Okay. Let’s have good time?”

     “You’re on! Remember, kids, no leaving drinks unattended!” Kirishima yells, and Kaminari elbows him with a beaming smile.

+

The night goes on; at one point Mina hands him a tropical looking drink that tastes like summer fruits, and thankfully it’s not vodka.

But still, it takes the edge off of the sharp buzz in his temples, and the lights in the ballroom blend together into beautiful shades of pastel pink, blue and twilight purple.

The music vibrates in his bones, into his spine, and he’s letting his guard down, inch by inch.

He catches Kirishima and Kaminari dancing, trapped in their own little world that holds just the two of them.

A bit further away Uraraka and Iida and Tsuyu are doing something that resembles synchronised robot dancing, but Izuku isn’t really sure, Aoyama enjoys the attention of everyone around him, sparkling and producing roses from thin air.

Katsuki’s following all of this near the wall, and Izuku approaches him. Katsuki sees him almost instantly, and his stance relaxes.

     “’Sup, Deku?” he throws, his mouth turning into a smirk, lazy and slow.

Izuku’s pulse quickens, his palms are sweating, but he -

- he has to do this.

(has to be brave. so this is him. being brave.)

     “Dance with me, Kacchan?”

Katsuki’s eyebrow shoots up, and a strange expression crosses his face. Then he pushes himself off the wall.

     “Fine.”

Izuku is surprised, but pleasantly so, and together, they join others on the dance floor.

In truth, Izuku hasn’t really planned this far, so now he’s faced with the logistics of this whole dancing thing, but before he can panic about it, Katsuki pulls him close and lowers his hand on Izuku’s waist, his other hand grasping Izuku’s.

Izuku’s breathing stutters, and he’s hit just how intimate this feels. Katsuki’s breathing tickles his skin, the heat seeping through their clothes is almost unbearable, scalding.

     “Wanted to make a good show, huh, Deku?” Katsuki drawls quietly, shooting a glare at the reporters near the dance floor.  

     “Um, no. Not really. I just - really wanted to. Dance with you, I mean.” He bites his lip. “Have we ever danced before?” he murmurs.

He hears Katsuki snort, like he’s laughing silently at Izuku. “Nah. Unless you count those times you frolicked at the meadow.”

Izuku squawks. “We were four!”

     “Nope, counting that shit.”

     “You are awful.”

     “...you had flowers in your hair.” 

Izuku’s head snaps up, and to his amazement, Kacchan’s cheeks have turned again into that dusk shade of red, and he’s not looking at Izuku.

And Izuku smiles back, gently, so happy.

     “Sumire flowers,” he murmurs softly, and sees the muscles in Katsuki’s neck tense as he swallows.

     “...yeah. The violet ones.”

And Katsuki’s eyes return to Izuku, like by a magnetic pull.

And Izuku is aware of it all.

He can feel Katsuki’s breathing, inhale exhale, he can feel Katsuki’s heart’s steady beat under his palm.

Frenzied rush of longing floods between his ribs into his chest cavity, leaving behind sweet sort of ache. Dizzy with it all, Izuku can’t help but marvel at the fact that they are this close.

Willingly.

Just a breath away.

Katsuki’s attention is drunk inducing, fierce and fervent, his eyes are so dark there’s barely any of red left.

This is for them. Not for the greedy eyes, grasping fingers, whispers behind them.

Just for the two of them.

     “You didn’t want to dance with me before,” Izuku whispers, smiling shyly and resists the urge to bury his face into Katsuki’s neck, safe from the world.

     “Fuck no, you were drunk off your ass then. Can you stand straight now?”

     “Mmh.”

He can; Katsuki’s other hand grips his waist firmly, the calloused palm resting on him like a hot brand. Izuku wants to sink into it, let himself dissolve into Katsuki’s touch alone, and he’d have no regrets about it, either.

Izuku can’t look away.

He doesn’t want to look away.

He’s completely and utterly trapped in Katsuki’s gaze, in the rich garnet red splintering and shining in bright kaleidoscope. Izuku tilts his head, his heart pounding like a sledgehammer in his head -

- ba-bump ba-bump -

- there’s just a painful breath between them, it would be so easy to lean in -

     “Wonder Duo! Wonder Duo!” a nasally woman’s voice calls from the dance floor’s perimeter, and they both stiffen.

Katsuki’s grip tightens reflexively on Izuku’s waist. “For fuck’s sake - can I smoke her out?” he growls through his teeth.

     “I don’t think so,” Izuku hears himself say; inside he’s faint and reeling over what he’s almost done. He slowly lets himself let go of Katsuki. “Let’s - um, let’s just see what she wants, maybe she’ll leave us alone.”

It’s a long shot, but... here’s hoping.

Natsuki Abe stands in front of them in a pretty lilac dress, and her face turns into a cutting smile that positively drips triumph.

Izuku instantly dislikes it.

     “Abe-san,” he greets her with a stiff smile of his own. “Nice to see you here tonight.”

     “Likewise,” she purrs, “but let’s skip the platitudes, shall we, it’s gotten quite old. This charade has been going on far enough.”

     “If you’ve got somethin’ to say to us then spit it out,” Katsuki says barely hiding his disdain for the situation.

     “You never were one for sublety, were you, Bakugou-san,” Abe-san drones. “But that’s all right. I think we all can stop pretending now. You two are most definitely not dating.”

Izuku stops breathing. His stomach drops into his knees.

     “With all due respect, I think that is for us to decide, not you or your opinion or anyone else,” he somehow manages to say, as steadily as he can.

     “Perhaps your lovely little dance is enough to fool an untrained eye, but that’s not how a couple who is dating and deeply in love acts,” she continues casually, and Izuku thinks he’s choking. “There would be familiarity, playfulness. You have none.”

     “Maybe not in a physical sense in this setting,” Izuku argues, “but we’re plenty familiar with each other in other ways. You are overstepping, Abe-san.”

Abe-san shrugs. “Such is my job description, Deku-san. But this is a sham, plain and true, and it’s pure embarrassment to witness. You are ever hardly alone when you are out in the public, always with someone... that is suspicious, to say the least.”

     “Hoo, you’ve got some fuckin’ guts, lady. What the fuck you think you know about us?” Katsuki drawls, his tone dark, feral, and he stares Abe-san down. “You don’t know a damn thing.”

Izuku has seen that same expression more than a few times.

He’s seen it directed at both petty criminals and blood-thirsty Villains alike. It doesn’t chill him, but Abe-san falters, ever so slightly.

     “You do realize you work under constant scrutiny? For the public?” she asks with a pleasant, thin smile. “People are allowed to have an opinion.”

     “Opinion, sure, but your opinion isn’t worth shit. Not to us. We don’t owe a damn thing to you or to anyone. So yeah, be my fuckin’ guest, figure this ain’t real all you want, that’s your problem, but don’t spew shit to our faces.”

Abe-san narrows her steel hard eyes at them, her mouth pinched. “I don’t believe you.”

Izuku reaches to grasp Katsuki’s shoulder. “Kacchan.”

He’s not sure what his plan is. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t even have one, but this he means as a reassurance, comfort.

Katsuki doesn’t turn his eyes away from Abe-san, but he shifts slightly toward Izuku in a way that Izuku knows he’s listening what he has to say.

But when Izuku has no idea what to offer, Katsuki turns to look at him, tense and on edge. Instantly he reaches for Izuku’s face, his palm brushing lightly on Izuku’s cheek.

     “Oh, please,” Abe-san huffs with disgust, “do you honestly think a public display of affection will somehow sway anything, you’ll be merely proving my point - what was that?”

Izuku hears it, too, and first isn’t quite sure what it is he’s hearing.

It’s gasping. Wet, gurgling gasping, like someone’s choking on their own blood.

When his brain connects that, someone starts to scream.

Then it’s shattering champagne glasses, clinking on the marble floor, it’s people stumbling away in terror, and Izuku reaches to see -

- and for a second, he’s confused by what he sees.  

A tall man stands in the middle of the ballroom, his long black cape fluttering against his legs, and he’s got an arm around Naomasa Tsukauchi like a trusted friend. There are two people, lying on the ground, gasping.

The man himself looks unassuming, quite plain, but the fact is that he looks like he’s on the brink of utter and complete breakdown.

His eyes are bulging in the sockets, terrified and manic.  

- then he smiles, and ice cold chills break on Izuku’s skin.

And a long, thin blade appears on Tsukauchi’s throat.

The detective doesn’t even blink.

     “It’s all right,” he says calmly, and suddenly it’s deathly silent in the ballroom. “Everybody, please remain calm. Everything is all right.”

     ”Oh, it will be,” the man behind him hisses, and it’s such a venomous sound that Izuku nearly feels sick. “You - I can’t wait to rip you to pieces, after what you did to Hammer - what you - you destroyed everything - !”

     “I’m sorry I have upset you,” Tsukauchi replies, and the atmosphere in the ballroom draws tight like a rubber band. “I understand you are angry. But Hammer Teeth’s operation was far too dangerous to let stand. He was putting people in danger. His men as well. And deep down, you know that, too.”

The man behind him shakes now violently. The blade draws a thin, crimson line on Tsukauchi’s throat, but he doesn’t even wince.

     “Lies. Liar. You - you all, honourable Heros gathered around enjoying yourselves, drinking and eating, all gluttonous pigs, pretending to care - you don’t - !”

And he snaps his fingers.

+

Izuku never knew that a snap of fingers could sound so sharp in complete silence, like a gun shot.

+

An explosion tears through the far end wall, spitting painted glass shards at them like gunfire, red green orange, sparkling in the fire -

And then it’s smoke.

It’s chaos.

It’s screaming.

     ”Eraserhead! Get Eraserhead, stop this guy’s Quirk!”

Izuku coughs, stumbling blindly away. The smoke gets stuck in his dry throat, in his lungs, his mouth burns with each inhale, his ears are ringing -

     “Kacchan? Ka - ”

     ”Deku-san?” a new voice says somewhere near, and Izuku makes out Tsukauchi’s pale, tense face.

     “Tsukauchi-san, are you okay? Did he stab you - ?”

     “Deku-san, look out - !“

Izuku opens his mouth to ask where Hammer Teeth’s lackey is, when the pain hits him.

Only it’s not any kind of pain he has ever felt before; it’s tearing through his nervous system, red pulsing and cruel and digging and ravaging through every molecule, and it’s more than his mind can fathom -

He’s screaming.

Somewhere, through the rushing blood in his head, he can hear a familiar voice roar out, that voice that means everything: “IZUKU?!”

Then it’s over; the pain stops like it’s strings have been cut, and Izuku slumps on the ground, wheezing dry painful breaths, crisp oxygen flooding into his brain, he’s -

     “Deku? Oi, Deku, look at me - hey, hey - ”

It’s Kacchan, kneeling beside him, his expression is wild, haggard, his eyes just red slits, and he’s touching Izuku, it burns -

     “K - Kacchan?” Izuku chokes, disoriented and dizzy. ”T - the guy, his P - Pain Quirk - ”

     “Apprehended,” Katsuki says, but his eyes look around Izuku’s face, “hey, nerd, look at me.”

 Izuku does, and his chest is cracking open, splitting with all that he feels, everything is pouring out as a violent tidal wave, and he’s crashing into Katsuki, wrapping his arms tightly around him.

Katsuki doesn’t stiffen. He doesn’t pull away.

No, he grips Izuku back, his fingers burying into Izuku’s curls, and his other hand grasping the back of Izuku’s vest, crumpling the fabric in his fist.

He holds Izuku as if to stop the world from ripping him away.

Izuku’s shaking so hard he’s barely aware what’s going on around him; he can just feel Katsuki. The solid warmth against him, the sweet, piercing scent of nitroglyserin and smoke and Kacchan, and it’s safe now - both of them breathe together with desperate heaves.

     “Focus, nerd,” Izuku hears Katsuki grunt. “Hey. You with me?”

Izuku doesn’t ease his hold around Katsuki’s neck. “I am,” he murmurs Katsuki’s shoulder, and nothing else is more true than this. “I am.”

And Katsuki’s embrace tightens around him like a vice.  

+

      “Kacchan, I told you I’m fine...”

     “Then you can sit on your ass for five more minutes and let the damn medic look at you and then it’ll be fucking official. Drink this.”

Katsuki hands him a juice box with a cute panda on it.

Izuku squints, but takes it, pushes the straw in, takes a sip and squints harder at Katsuki.

     “What.”

     “You’re being really weird, Kacchan.”

     “Weird - “ Katsuki makes a strangled noise, and suddenly he’s on his feet, and he’s furious. “What do you fucking think? An asshole crashed in without anyone fucking noticing and tried to make a damn statement by essentially torturing people with his damn Quirk, and you - “

Katsuki’s gritting his teeth, his mouth straining into a snarl.

     “And you - you were screaming.”

Izuku stills, stunned. 

     “I’ve never fuckin’ heard you scream like that. Not ever. And - and I don’t ever wanna hear that again,” Katsuki manages to choke out, and he sounds wrecked, like his vocal chords are shattering under the fear and rage and... agony.

Izuku sets the juice box aside and stands up. Katsuki doesn’t budge, not even when they are trapped again in each other’s orbit.

     “I’m sorry,” Izuku says, his forest green eyes so soft and gentle looking back at the bare raw mess reflecting from Katsuki’s gaze. “I wasn’t careful enough. But I’m okay. Really. It was really unpleasant, sure, but I’m over it now.”

Katsuki swallows and he’s examining Izuku again, desperately on edge, and Izuku has to say softly: “I’m sorry I worried you, Kacchan.”

     “Stop - stop apologizing, how many times do I gotta tell you that? Fuck, you don’t have to - I - “ Katsuki cuts himself off, his breathing suddenly turning harsh.

He still looks agitated, his eyebrows creating a deep crease on his forehead, and he’s vibrating with untamed, explosive energy ready to burn everything out around him.

Izuku reaches out, his fingers brushing against Katsuki’s jaw. “I’m okay now,” he says quietly and it all calms down. Katsuki lets out a shuddering breath, tension draining from his spine. “You... you called me Izuku.”

Katsuki opens one eye to look at him, and with wonder, Izuku realizes it’s not irritation, it’s not annoyance smouldering behind it all. It’s -

- steady acceptance.

     “I did. What about it?”

And Izuku -

Izuku looks at him, hasn’t seen anything so impossibly dear, so so important to him, looking so honest and bare and unapologetic -

He leans in and presses his mouth against Katsuki’s.

It’s a chaste kiss, barely a brush against his mouth; they are both exhausted to their very bones, they’re both grimy and wet, yet it’s the most perfect, most intimate thing Izuku can imagine.

+

Chapter Text

It’s a beautiful, raw moment.

Katsuki’s eyes fall shut as if he’s overwhelmed with bliss.

And Izuku nearly gasps into his lips, relieved and happy and tired.

+

Then it’s over.

+

Instead, it’s medics, ambulances, flashing red lights, and journalists, all competing getting first interviews from all the people present.

And Katsuki won’t look at him.

+

They don’t talk about it, but Izuku’s mind has been kicked into overdrive. The moment haunts him. He wrings his hands, runs his fingers anxiously on his knuckles to keep them from shaking.

Katsuki’s quiet on the way home. It’s striking, his somber kind of silence, in the midst of their collagues talking in Vlad’s car. Aizawa admonishes them more than once.

Izuku steals worried glances at Katsuki from the corner of his eye.

Did he - did Kacchan hate it?

(hate him?)

No, but he -

- Izuku did something wrong. Sharp hurt spreads into his gut, nauseous and gripping.

Katsuki’s so quiet.

(i - i shouldn’t’ve kissed him...)

+

They arrive to Katsuki’s apartment.

Everything feels oddly detached, absent in a way Izuku can’t explain. Did they really leave just couple of hours ago? Did they laugh and smile and dance in the fairy tale lights, stupid and care-free just few hours ago?

- why did I - ?

     “Kacchan?” Izuku swallows, tries to get his hoarse voice to work. “Kacchan, we - I really think we should talk about it.”

Katsuki shrugs his vest off, without turning. “Yeah? Talk about what, Deku.”

His tone is flat, sharp as if he’s sinking his teeth in it.

     “About - “ Izuku bites the inside of his cheek, feeling a pang of bone chilling dread. “About how I kissed you.” 

Katsuki throws his vest on the couch and turns to unbutton his cufflinks. “Dunno why we should,” he drawls, and now there’s something cold in there. “S’just a show. Didn’t we agree to that, huh, Deku?”

Izuku flinches. That hits him, like a brutal slap across the face, and suddenly he wants to crawl away, ashamed and guilty and stupid -

- he’s so tired, so, so weary - 

 But that’s not him.

So he stands, lifts his chin up, buries the hurt deeper, away.

     “Do you honestly think I would do that? For - for show?” The last word breaks on Izuku’s lips. “What show, it - it’s never mattered to me - Kacchan - how can you not know?”

     “Know what? Quit talkin’ in riddles. If you’ve got something to say, tell it to me straight,” Katsuki snaps, and now, he’s caged, he’s bristling, all that boisterous anger threatening to spill out, but...

... Izuku knows him.

The clear red, shining, uneasy and desperate.

- like something drowning.

(tell me)

Air rushes out of Izuku’s lungs. His head feels dizzy.

He steps closer, countering Katsuki very nearly in his space, but Katsuki doesn’t back down, doesn’t pull away, just narrows his eyes.

     “Kacchan.” Izuku’s voice sounds strangled, shaky, even to himself. “How can you not know I’m completely head over heels for you?”

All that’s left is deafening silence.

Izuku can’t bear it, so he hesitates and forces himself to look back at Katsuki. “I haven’t pretended. Not once. I - I know we said that... it’s a show for them. B - but my feelings are not for them or for the show. They have never been. They’re - they’re only for you.”

Silence.

He’s so quiet again.

Tears burn in Izuku’s throat, and he laughs weakly. “I know it’s - it’s a lot. You didn’t ask for this, and I get it. But... but I owed you an explanation after everything, so... there it is.”

He rubs his forearm, grips at the wrinkled fabric at the elbow.  

Silence.

     “Kacchan?”

He hears Katsuki’s breathing hitch.

When he speaks, his voice rasps, low and broken: 

     “Didn’t we say that everything that happens outside of the fuckin’ apartment ain’t real?” He grits his teeth, grimaces. “Wasn’t that the whole fuckin’ deal... fuck, we shouldn’t even be talkin’ about this shit, you were tortured - “ He hisses, covers his eyes with his hand. “Fuck. Shit goddamn fuck - “

He buries his face into his hands, his shoulders shaking, and Izuku stares, helpless and uncertain. Then, Katsuki lifts his head up and those sunset red eyes drill into Izuku’s own, fierce and burning.

     “You love me?”

Izuku lets out a steady exhale. He regrets many things, but loving Katsuki has never been one of those.

Not once.

     “Yeah,” he admits softly.

     “Never were the one to go down the easy road, huh, nerd,” Katsuki says and now he sounds tired. “Can’t fuckin’ believe this... how the hell can you love me?”

     “Very easily. Many might not agree, but... it is easy to me. I - “ Izuku swallows and stares up at him. “What are you thinking, Kacchan?”

Katsuki closes his mouth with a click. His chest jerks. “So all that crap you did - during this whole shit show - you weren’t bullshitting?”

Izuku’s expression softens into a wet smile. “No. No pretend, I swear. I’m sorry that... that I didn’t tell you. It... probably feels like I lied to you...”

     “Shut up, no, that’s not - why the fuck would you ever do this, Deku? Have you forgotten?”

     “No,” Izuku says calmly, and a part of him wants to giggle hysterically just how steady he sounds, which is probably not steady at all. “I haven’t. But I told you then and I tell you now, it’s in the past and I’ve forgiven you a long, long, long time ago, Kacchan.”

Katsuki makes a horrible sound like his lungs are failing him.

Horrible sound after another, like everything is unravelling, and Izuku’s resolve breaks under it all.

     “Please, say something. T - tell me to go to hell or - oh!”

Katsuki surges forward and crushes his mouth against Izuku’s.

It’s not a kind kiss; it’s raw, passionate - desperate.

Like he’s trying to claw his way through a maelstrom and Izuku is in the middle of it.

Stunned Izuku’s eyes snap wide open, but when he realizes that Katsuki is kissing him, he melts into the touch with a soft sigh.

Katsuki’s hot hand reaches to grip Izuku’s nape, his other hand skims over his side, finally pressing a scalding imprint on Izuku’s waist.

     “Not gonna happen,” he growls, “ever. You’re stuck with me, Deku. No bullshit fake-ass dating, either. We’re doing this. You good with that?”

Izuku wraps his arms around Katsuki’s neck, tilts his head aside just a bit and hums into Katsuki’s mouth. Everything in his chest expands and spills and washes clean leaving behind only dizzying, soaring joy and relief.

     “Yeah, yes, please, for real - “

Katsuki slumps against him, all tension draining from him, like a clenched fist falling open. Instantly the kiss turns deeper, messy, ravenous - Izuku’s mind is spinning around can’t get enough, want deeper, want everything - kacchan kacchan kacchan -    

He kisses back in helpless adoration, meeting each slide of tongues with a pained whine.

More. More. Please -

Izuku’s head is swimming, red hot and sparkling with fire crackers and supernovas and stars, all at once; he grips at Katsuki like a life line. The kiss turns hard, desperate, they devour each other’s mouths like they are starving for each other -

     “Kacchan, Kacchan - “

     “Always talkin’ - runnin’ your goddamn mouth - always fuckin’ smiling, being so goddamn infuriating and brave, drives me crazy - get up here, nerd - “ Katsuki growls, his voice smoky and all gravel that Izuku can feel vibrating through his whole body.

Without hesitation, he jumps and wraps his legs around Katsuki’s waist.

    “Are we doing this?” Izuku asks breathlessly and the next inhale gets stuck in his dry throat, when he catches Katsuki’s gaze; half-open, darkened with hunger and arousal. “Please tell me we’re doing this - “

     “You on board with this?”

     ”I’ve been on board with this for years - c’mon, please, please, show me what you’ve got - “

     “Oh, you’re pullin’ that card on me now? Fuckin’ brace yourself, gonna make you scream.”

Izuku lets out another whine. “Please do.”

Katsuki hoists him better in his arms and makes through the apartment to his bedroom, and throws Izuku on the bed. Then it’s a quick dash to tear the clothes off, eager and frantic to explore the new territory.

Scarred, tanned, damaged and healed -

Their mouths meet in the middle, sloppy and urgent, desperate to get deeper, even closer -

     “Condom?”

     “No condom, I’m clean, you’re clean, let me feel you - Kacchan - “

With a bitten-off curse, Katsuki finds the lube and takes his time opening Izuku up; in the fading evening lights, burnt and dim, Izuku gasps, clutches the sheets and catches Katsuki watching him, endlessly fascinated how Izuku is falling apart on his fingers.

Izuku is panting, the thick, heady want clouding his head, narrowing only to Katsuki, his fingers opening him up, the tips brushing against his prostate, and white-hot lightning tears through Izuku’s foggy mind.

     “Please - please - get in me - “ Izuku’s words are slurred, almost delirious with vicious sensations driving through his whole being.

Katsuki makes a low, rough sound in the back of his throat, slides his calloused, hot hands down Izuku’s thighs, drags him closer and after slicking himself, he pushes inside into that tight, wet heat.

Izuku stills, and Katsuki leans in to nuzzle him under his jaw until he’s buried to the very hilt.

     “Breathe,he grunts against Izuku’s fluttering pulse point, his grip bruising on Izuku’s hip. “Easy - you okay?“

     “Mmh.”

     “Words, nerd, use ‘em. Are you okay?”

Izuku is floating. He’s cast into a blissed thrill; his lungs expand with each wheezing inhale, he’s so full with this heavy, pulsing inside him, hot and burning him inside out -

     “Izuku.”

With that, Izuku remembers what Katsuki’s asked him and kisses him desperately. Katsuki props himself on his elbow and kisses him back, licking into his mouth.

     “I am. Move,” Izuku whispers against his mouth, “you can move - it’s okay - “ 

And Katsuki does move, rolling his hips in long, thrusts. Izuku’s chest jumps, and he wraps his legs tighter around Katsuki’s back, forcing him deeper.

Izuku counters each push and pull with a roll of his hips, and intertwining their hands on the sheets, they find a rhythm, easy as breathing, instinctive and visceral that rocks them both to the very core of them.

And Katsuki -

He’s the most gorgeous sight Izuku has ever seen, sweat beading on his brow, dripping on the white scars of his tanned skin, his eyes burning bright as the sunset above sea.

But the way he’s watching Izuku - in hunger, in longing, in utter passion - gripping Izuku’s hand, fingers laced together.

Izuku just wants to etch this image onto his brain forever.

     “Just fuckin’ look at you - the best thing I’ve ever seen, wanted to do this for so fuckin’ long - “

Helpless in his utter adoration, Izuku surges up to crush their mouths together, swallowing each word, his brain full of white noise and kacchan kacchan - i love you, i love you -

He knows the each heartbeat between them, each breath, they know each other in the most intimate, primal way imaginable, and Izuku swears his world is sewn together at this very moment.

     “ - acchan, Kacchan - Katsuki -

Katsuki presses his mouth on Izuku’s jaw, throat, to his collarbone, the heat between them is unbearable and heaven -

Izuku reaches to grip the back of Katsuki’s neck, burying his fingers into matted, ashen blonde hair, holding as close as possible, no space in between, just skin on skin.

     “Faster, you’re so good, so good - “ Izuku whispers, moving to rest their foreheads together, and somehow that feels more intimate. “C’mon.”

Katsuki reaches between them, and that’s when Izuku clenches around Katsuki - Katsuki makes a guttural growl against his mouth and drives in deeper, one last time as everything explodes to white stars in Izuku’s vision.

Katsuki follows him over the edge, his forehead touching Izuku’s.

     “Fuck,he grunts, and Izuku kisses him again, slow and deep. His legs are still holding Katsuki’s waist in a vice grip, and he wants to keep this moment, just a bit longer. “Got me good, ‘zuku.”

     “Yeah?” Izuku grins, boneless and blissed out in simmering euphoria. He cards his fingers through Katsuki’s mane, his fingertips gently brushing against his scalp.

Katsuki makes another grunt, leans in to kiss him. This time it’s soft, lazy without the frantic urgency. They lie there, trading open-mouthed kisses, just enjoying existing together. 

     “I love you,” Izuku murmurs, brushing his fingers tenderly on Katsuki’s cheekbone. “So much.”

Katsuki grunts and turns his head to kiss Izuku’s palm. “...back at you, nerd.”

Izuku laughs, breathless and strangely weightless. “Really?”

     “Yeah, fuckin’ really. What, was it somehow a surprise to you?” Katsuki snorts, moving to rest beside him, leaning against his elbow.

     “Um, kinda?”

     “Why? I invited you to sleep in my bed, you dumbass.”

     “I - um, I thought you were just being nice?”

     “Of all the fuckin’ times to think that, you chose when I asked you to come to the bed with me? It was my bed, Deku. What the hell.”

Izuku squeaks in embarrassment and hides his face into a blanket. “I’m sorry! I - I thought you would never... feel the same,” he admits faintly. Katsuki brushes some hair from Izuku’s forehead, combs it all back.

     “Then you were being stupid,” he mutters and nuzzles the green curls on Izuku’s temple. “Seriously. Talk to me, and don’t just fuckin’ assume stuff, we’ve been through this before.”

     “I know. And... that means you, too. It’s just...I’m... I’m really happy, Kacchan.”

     “:..yeah. Me, too.”

Izuku stretches, angling his arms above his head, and Katsuki wipes them both clean before resuming to tangle themselves around each other.

     “Should we send the Daily Capes a thank you card?”

     “Nah, they can go fuck themselves. We woulda gotten here without their damn meddling.”

     “Really?”

     “Well, wouldn’t have counted on you to spill your guts.”

     “Excuse you, Kacchan, I did some of the work here.”

The red of Katsuki’s gaze softens and turns molten hot, all liquid heat. “Yeah. You did, sure. C’mere.”

He reaches to squeeze his calloused palm on Izuku’s nape, pressing his thumb on the base of Izuku’s skull, all gentle and comforting.

     “How fuckin’ dare you,” he mumbles, distracted, and Izuku snorts with amusement.

     “What?” he asks, letting his eyes wander aimlessly across Katsuki’s features, so dear and so important.

     “You, with your goddamn cute face with the fuckin’ freckles all over the place. Just look at you.”

Izuku grins, his dimples blossoming in sight. “Nope, I kinda like looking at you, instead.”

     “Hell yeah, I’m handsome as hell.”

     “Mm, you are.”

Katsuki makes a strange, choked sound, and to his glee, Izuku realizes that he’s flustered.

     “Oi, gettin’ all sassy with me, are ya, you lil’ shit?”

     “Just with you,” Izuku grins.

     “Bullshit, you get in everybody’s faces, running your mouth like no tomorrow.”

     “Oh, no, stop it! I - that’s so not the same!”

     “Some sight you are when you get like that, I-zu-ku. Spittin’ fierce and pissed as all hell.

     “Kacchan!”

     “What, you are.”

Katsuki brushes his thumb on Izuku’s bottom lip, to his chin, and the embers in his eyes flicker back to life, teasing, lazy, hungry. Izuku stops scowling and brushes his mouth against Katsuki’s.

It’s a chaste, light kiss this time, but apparently Katsuki’s having none of it.

     “Oi, oi, what’s with that disgrace of a kiss, c’mere, Deku, I’ll show you a fuckin’ kiss - !”

     “No, no, Kacchan, mercy, mercy - aah, NO!”

Izuku’s undignified shriek breaks into joyful laughter as they wrestle on the bed, grinning stupidly at each other.

+

The bedroom’s shadows splash with fading gold, red and orange, glowing on the wall between the forgotten curtains.

Izuku’s hand rests on Katsuki’s chest. Rising and falling within his breathing.

     “Kacchan?”

     “Hmm?”

     “I love you.”

      “...yeah, love you, too.”

     “For real?”

     “...for real.”

+

Mina is super proud of her whiteboard collection, if she does say so herself.

     “Don’t you think it’s a bit...excessive?” Uraraka asks very carefully as she examines the various articles and headlines and gritty, badly taken photographs taped on the board.

     “I’m sure it will pay off in the end,” Mina responds with utter confidence, because in her mind, it’s only the matter of time. And she can totally wait.

Uraraka pauses to ponder this for a moment, and probably against her better judgement, she asks:

     “Okay, how?”

Mina flashes a wide Cheshire Cat smile. “Aww, hon, you’ll see ~ !”

She’s got many ideas if she’s right about this, and she usually is.

     “I still think it’s inappropriate,” Iida says, rubbing his chin as he joins them. “Even if it’s quite well done, Ashido.”

     “Thanks, Iida! Got every single thing here - in both social media and printed on mags.”

     “That’s certainly...dedication. Thank you for your work.”

Mina beams back and opens her mouth to tease Iida, but that’s when the office door slams open, and Kaminari and Kirishima scramble in.

Something’s wrong.

Kaminari’s jaw hangs open and he waves his hands frantically, and Kirishima looks utterly flabbergasted.

     “What? What’s wrong?” Yaoyorozu asks, concerned.

     “You are not gonna believe, we nearly tripped over - “ Kaminari shrieks, swallows and shakes his head. “Holy shit, holy shit, it’s happening, I can’t believe this - “

     “Yeah, I saw more tongue than I needed to see, seriously,” Kirishima nods.

     “What are you two on about?”

     “What does that even mean? Whose tongue?” Sero complains impatiently.

Kaminari points at the window with a shaky finger and moans: “Look for yourselves!”

They all crowd around the window and peer down -

- and complete, stunned silence falls.

     “Oh my god.”

     “Aw, they are so cute!”

     “Is - is that part of their plan?” Uraraka asks, her eyes very wide.

     “Um, I - I don’t think so?”

     “Pfft, that’s some dedication right there!”

And indeed, two floors below them on the street, Katsuki and Izuku are making out, barely even an inch of space between them. Mina thinks she can definitely see Katsuki’s hand slipping under Izuku’s shirt.

Whoa, dude.

There’s no uncertainty, no awkwardness in the way they’re acting; Katsuki’s actually cupping Izuku’s cheek in the most tender way Mina has ever seen.

     “Oh, that’s so gross.”

     “They’re gonna get arrested.”

     “When the heck did this happen?”

     “There’s the tongue - Midoriya!”

     “They’re totally fucking.”

     “Or they’re really, really good at acting?”

     “You really think? They’re not that good at - oh, shit, they’re coming!”

Everyone hurries to their own spots - and ‘act natural’ has never worked for their class, not even once, and this time no one’s even admiring an apple.

Their very wonderful Wonder Duo freezes on the doorstep; Izuku blinks surprised, and Katsuki’s expression turns instantly flat and annoyed, his eyebrow giving an involuntary twitch.

     “What’s up with you losers?” he snaps.  

     “N - nothing!” Kaminari squeaks. “Nothing at all, nope.”

Katsuki narrows his eyes. “Yeah? Geez fuck, you all pretend like bunch of jackasses.” He nudges Izuku with his elbow. “Wanna show ‘em, Deku?”

To their surprise, Izuku’s face turns bright scarlet.

     “Kacchan,” he hisses. “It’s embarrassing.”

     “So are they, so they can deal with it like fuckin’ adults. You reap what you sow and all that poetic shit. C’mon, let’s get it over with.”

Izuku frowns at him, but with a great sigh, he reaches for his bag, fishes something out and slams it on the nearest table - which happens to be Kaminari’s desk.

It’s an unopened pack of condoms.

More specifically it’s the same pack of condoms they bought for Izuku as a joke when this whole thing started.

Iida looks like the vein on his forehead is about to burst.

Mina howls with laughter and leans against Sero, who also seems to find this whole thing hilarious.

Uraraka hides her head into her hands with a moan.

Yaoyorozu’s cheeks have turned into an interesting shade of pink.

Kaminari slumps against Kirishima, two seconds away from fainting.

Todoroki doesn’t seem to be impressed.

     “Jokes on you, assholes, we’re shacked up for real, thanks for the condoms but choke on them!” Katsuki hollers and throws his arm casually on Izuku’s shoulders.

     “You - you got them condoms?” Iida asks with a frail voice, his cheeks turning dull purple. “W - well, it’s a nice thought, I guess.”  

Izuku, on the other hand, resists the urge to bash his head into a wall, and because he can’t, he just leans into Katsuki.

     “Can we please get back to work?”

     “What? No, no, no, spill it! Who confessed? When? Tell us everything, we’ve got money riding on this!”

     “Sucks for you, but we’ve got shit to do.”

     “Let’s go? Our shift’s starting.”  

They leave the office, ignoring the bustling and indignant noise behind them.

Outside, in the summer heat, Izuku’s hand brushes against Katsuki’s, intertwining their fingers together.

Katsuki glances at him and presses one last kiss on Izuku’s temple. It’s heartbreakingly sweet, reassuring. Izuku hums, pleased and content.

     “Let’s work hard, Kacchan?” he murmurs, smiling softly at Katsuki.

And Katsuki grins back. “You’re on, Deku.”

+