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Just Like The Comics

Chapter Text

Izuku Midoriya was born in the wrong era.

 

The threads of time are all mixed up and nonsensical. That has to be the reason why a quirkless young man exists in a world where the god like characters that linger in comic book pages are real. To have power has become commonplace and anything else is mocked from kindergarten to high school, up until the point where you reach your twenties, are in college, and learn to deal with being quirkless by loading up your schedule to the point of exhaustion.

 

At age four Izuku had hoped for a miracle, body small and hands lacking the explosive energy of the boy he admired — and later loved.

 

At age fifteen he’d given up, freckled face washed with a curdled acceptance as the hero of all heroes spoke the truth he’d known since childhood. It was a chance encounter that failed to be the heroic origin story Izuku had wanted for himself.

 

Now he’s attending a well respected university. It’s not a hero school or agency, but he’d like to think his stellar GPA means something to someone. He’ll get a degree and a job. In what field? Who knows. Maybe a fresh semester of heavy math courses will help him figure it out. Science was fine last semester, but he’s not really digging the periodic table — even if he’s got it memorized.

 

“Oi. Are you spacing out again?”

 

Izuku looks up from his place behind the counter. It’s summertime and he’s making extra money at a comic book shop so small that it might as well be a hole in the wall. Places like this are a rarity these days. Why pick up a book about fictional heroes where real ones buy their groceries at the local market? Seriously, he swears he saw Eraserhead buying tea the other day, muttering about wanting to be in bed but, ugh, someone’s throat was sore from excessive yelling — what an annoyingly noisy quirk.

 

The comic book shop really has no business being open. At most they get random kids ducking in to beat the heat or a straggler who swears this is where the coffee shop’s supposed to be — it’s not, it’s at the end of the block, people get the six and the nine mixed up in their addresses. Sometimes, someone will give the comics an odd look, make a comment about them being quaint because, wow, can you imagine a world where only one hero existed?

 

“You’re doing it again, kid.”

 

“Huh? No, sir, I’m not.”

 

Izuku’s lying through his teeth. There’s a comic spread open on the counter in front of him that he’d been completely engrossed in. Some story about a man of steel who doubles as a reporter? He reminds Izuku of All-Might — smile big and warm like apple pie — but he’s got way too many quirks. Even compared to the other heroes he comes across he’s overloaded. Izuku supposes it comes with an easily exploitable price, though, whatever Kryptonite is. It’s interesting seeing what society thought quirks would be like before they emerged.

 

It’s interesting to see quirks from the perspective of being utterly impossible.

 

“I swear you do more reading than actual work,” the smaller man says. A retired hero that no one’s heard of, he goes by Gran Torino and owns the shop because, well, he can. He’s got nothing better to do with his time and has fond memories of reading these stories in his youth.

 

Izuku can’t blame him. He loves these books, too. They're more hopeful than the reality he lives in. Hell, too many quirks man ends up working with a quirkless billionaire who beats villains with, get this, his brain, gadgets, and combat training . Izuku still remembers getting scolded for the one attempt he made to play hero even if it had helped in the long run. Had this bat-person seen it, he would’ve made him his sidekick.

 

“Actually I alphabetized the back issues.” Izuku nods over to the drawers of comics. “I was taking a break.”

 

Gran Torino lifts his cane and shakes it at Izuku. “Don’t sass me,” but there’s an amused look on his face because he knows damn well that there’s no work to be done around here, but it doesn’t stop Izuku from inventing tasks for himself. Seriously, aren’t college kids supposed to slack off over the summer? Or get a job somewhere fun like an amusement park? “I’m gonna go grab lunch. Want anything?”

 

“Oh, sure,” then Izuku adds, “Make sure you grab yourself actual food and not just pastries.”

 

“Quiet you! Or you’re fired!” He’s not serious. He never is. Izuku gives the shop a warmth that hadn’t been there before — the wonders of having someone else to talk to during the day.

 

Izuku just smiles and says, “Get me the usual,” then goes back to reading his comic.

 

A few minutes pass and Izuku’s lost in the pages, seduced by this interpretation of heroes. They’re valued, but misunderstood. Still, the world eventually comes around, more importantly, the quirkless are able to really connect with heroes. Normal people, just like Izuku, are able to befriend them and help them in their own way — even love them if the mood is right, give or take some hardship. Izuku knows there’s no chance he’ll ever have a quirk, but being seen as, at least, capable would be nice.

 

The jingle from the front door breaks Izuku out of his thoughts but he’s not greeted by the smell of freshly fried food. He’s a little surprised to see a customer, of all things, but he puts on his best customer service smile and prepares to tell him that the coffee shop is down the street. “Good afternoon! Welcome to-”

 

“Empty the register, kid!”

 

Izuku blinks startled green eyes at the man. He’s a large, bulking figure who looks like he could punch a mountain into submission. As if confirming his suspicions, the veins of the robber’s arms pulsate an angry red, the lines coming together to create a grotesque blob of muscle. “A-all right,” Izuku says to the sandy haired blond. If he wants the measly few dollars that badly he can have them.

 

The low amount of cash irritates the man, and he responses by smashing his fists into the register, breaking it. “Really?! This all you got?! You got a safe somewhere?”

 

Izuku takes a shaky step back. It’s a selfish thought, but he wonders why, out of all the stores on this block, this villain had to walk into this one. “I-it’s on a timer. It takes ten minutes to-”

 

“Damnit! Heroes could be here by then!”

 

Right. Heroes. Not Izuku, but heroes. He’s not supposed to feel that surge of pain in his heart. He’s in his twenties now, goddamnit, and he knows that his comic book dreams aren’t real. Quirkless means you stand there, watch the robber storm out of the store, and stuff the cash in his pocket with a pissy little huff. With any luck he’ll run into Gran Torino and the old man will run circles around him before the proper authorities show up. It almost seems pointless to call them in, though. The only thing damaged is the register, Izuku’s pride-

 

And whatever gets caught in the explosion that suddenly rattles the ground outside. It’s such a powerful force that a couple of comics fall onto the floor, Izuku having to press his hands against the counter in an attempt to keep his balance. He can hear people coming together on the sidewalk, trying to get a look at the source of the explosion. Curiosity gets the best of Izuku — though he’s not sure why , he hasn’t rushed out to see a hero take on a villain in years. He steps outside the store in time to see the villain who’d robbed him in the middle of the street, trying to stand up but he’s obviously taken a huge hit from-

 

Oh.

 

So that’s why there was an explosion.

 

“Look! It’s Ground Zero,” because of course someone has to announce it, as if the villain’s singed skin isn’t enough of an indicator. As Izuku watches the hero face off against the morbidly muscular thief — whose entire body looks like its been turned inside out, thumping like a beating heart — he realizes that this is exactly like the scene from a comic.

 

Because he’s standing there, watching a hero in action.

 

A hero who happens to be his ex-boyfriend, the Kacchan he loved from childhood through his entire high school career.

 

Super.

Chapter Text

At age eighteen, Izuku Midoriya’s heart breaks — but it isn’t the first time. He’s a guy who knows what it feels like to have those cracks scatter over your emotions because he’s quirkless, destined to be ordinary in an extra world. But something about the damage done at eighteen sticks like super glue. He tells himself he’s over it, though, packages up the hurt and goes to university for three years, even finds a summer job he likes before classes start again in the fall.

 

Then he watches Katsuki Bakugou shove the palm of his hand into a villain’s face, blasting his eyebrows clean off.

 

So now that super glue? That duct tape or whatever Izuku was using to mask the pain? It’s gone, just like his last hope when he met All-Might all those years ago.

 

Deep down, he knew this day would come. The city is full of coincidences and the hero known as Ground Zero is everywhere, smirking during interviews, making black tank tops look illegal, and fast approaching the number one hero spot. Izuku’s not delusional enough to think that he could avoid Katsuki’s name, but he’d whispered a soft request to never have to face him again. He could deal with hearing that gruff voice on the radio — the years have turned it into a mighty fine rasp. He could even deal with seeing him on TV, standing taller, looking like the hot guy you hook up with to piss off mom and dad.

 

But seeing him in person? Beating up on the robber who’d taken a feeble amount of money from his register? The crowd cheering for him as he propels himself around, dodges attacks, and lands devastating hit after hit?

 

Yeah, that’s too much.

 

There’s other heroes on the scene now, pros Izuku recognizes — not just from TV, god, it’d be so much easier if that were the case. The truth of the matter is he’s met them, has spent time with them, because back when he and Kacchan were dating he’d introduced him to some of his friends — sorry, his classmates , also, it’s Katsuki , because Kacchan is the name of a boyfriend.

 

So yes, Izuku’s familiar with the shock of red hair, the guy bathing in electricity and the one who shoots tape out of his elbows like party streamers. He’s familiar with the pink and acid, but not so familiar with how well they’re all working together, because last time he saw them they were hopeful students with the dream Izuku used to have.

 

They’re like a well-oiled machine now, able to keep the crowd at bay while fighting a giant of a villain, giving each other instructions as if they’ve been training for this their whole lives.

 

Oh, Izuku realizes. They have.

 

And all of their efforts have paid off. Because when the villain punches, the hardened redhead punches back. When the villain lurches forward, tape envelopes him like a Christmas present. The pink one uses her quirk to skate around like she’s at a roller rink, while the electric blond zaps their foe to submission. The last blow is Katsuki’s, of course, like he’s the main character, like he’s the one who needs to be emphasized.

 

The crowd eats it right up, and Izuku?

 

Izuku wishes he never stepped outside the store.

 

Police arrive to escort the villain to prison and Izuku decides to attempt to go back to work. No one’s noticed him, by no one he means Kacchan — damnit he means Katsuki , ugh, stop dropping into bad habits. Izuku’s almost at the door to the shop when-

 

“Izuku! What the hell is all this commotion?!”

 

Izuku turns to see Gran Torino approaching him, armed with lunch and a disgruntled demeanor. “I-I’ll explain inside. Come on, we-”

 

“Is that a villain?” The elder man squints his eyes as if he can’t see straight. “Was there an attack?”

 

“Yes, but-”

 

“Are you all right?”

 

Izuku can taste a bitterness in his mouth. Because Gran Torino, this retired hero, this elderly man whose main concern should be how many pastries he can eat in a day without his body regretting it, looks guilty for leaving Izuku alone in the store. “I’m fine,” Izuku says with his best attempt at a smile. It’s so withered, though, so tired. “He just took the money, smashed the register, and left.”

 

“You should go talk to the police.”

 

The police? Who are currently patting Ground Zero and his crew on the back for a job well done? Pass. “I don’t wanna bother them. They got the villain, that’s all that-”

 

“Oi! We need some help over here!” Ah, to be old and able to do whatever you want, even interrupt police business.

 

All eyes are on Gran Torino now.

 

All except for his.

 

Because his eyes are locked onto Izuku’s, wide and crimson as he realizes that his ex-boyfriend is at the crime scene.

 

“Hey man, is that... yo! Hey Midoriya!” Leave it to Eijiro Kirishima to forget that they just captured a villain in favor of treating the moment like some sort of reunion. Of course the others chime in, the city’s rising stars suddenly fifteen again as they wave to Katsuki Bakugou’s-

 

Oh.

 

Right.

 

“Shut your damn mouths, idiots,” Katsuki hisses to them. “You’re pros for fuck’s sake!”

 

So now Katsuki’s walking over, hands shoved in his pockets, eyes hard and steady because he’s perfected that poker face of his. Izuku’s trying his best to not look like he wants to take off running. Lord, this has to be the worst ex meeting in the history of post-breakups — hey there, Mr. Top Hero and Past Love of my Life, thanks for stopping the guy who robbed us for less than the price of a meal catered by the dollar menu.

 

An over-exaggeration, of course... well, kinda.

 

Even worse is that Izuku’s standing there looking so plain, dressed in flannel — ugh — and the beaten up red shoes he’s had since high school — UGH! Had he known today would be the day he faces his ex he would’ve at least worn his notice me jeans. No. His appearance doesn’t matter. He’s not out here trying to impress Katsuki Bakugou, handsome ex-boyfriend of three years and counting, decked out in hero gear made of blacks and oranges.

 

Wait.

 

Handsome?

 

Izuku shoves the word aside. Nope. We’re not gonna check out this man, not today, not ever. Hero Ground Zero’s just here to do his job, so just answer whatever questions he has and-

 

“It’s been a while, Deku.

 

Oh no. He’s using the tender voice, and damnit, it’s gotten a serious upgrade over the years. It’s the voice reserved for kisses between study sessions and wandering hands during hero movie marathons. Why is he using that voice?

 

Stay calm, Izuku. You can do this. “Yes, it has, Ka-” don’t you dare add that chan. “Katsuki.”

 

Katsuki flinches, like that blow hurt more than the one hit the villain had managed to get on him. “Right. Izuku,” he mutters, because much like Kacchan, Deku’s the name of a boyfriend... somehow. Katsuki’s a bit weird when it comes to terms of endearment. “So... wanna tell me what happened?”

 

“R-right!” Stuttering, Izuku? Really? Yes, the energy is weird between them, but he should at least be able to string together a couple of letters. Ex-boyfriend meetings really do suck. Ten out of ten, Izuku Midoriya would not recommend. “Um... he came into the store and told me to empty the register, then he smashed it and left.”

 

Katsuki grits his teeth, fists clenched in a clear sign of wanting to punch the guy one more time. He’ll make sure his fingers are sparked with smoke and fire when he does it. “Did he hurt you?”

 

“Huh? No, he-” Izuku’s eyes widen when Katsuki reaches forward, fingers ghosting against the freckles on his cheek in such a familiar gesture that it threatens to knock the wind out of him. This is the alternative to flying off the handle and throttling the villain more than he already has. Izuku should be pushing his hand away, though, because this isn’t something they do anymore. Since he’s not strong enough to do that he settles on clearing his throat, breaking the spell between them to finish his sentence. “He didn’t hurt me, Kat-... G-Ground Zero. I’m fine.”

 

The hero name puts even more distance between them. Katsuki pulls his hand away and avoids looking at Izuku. “Right. Well... give your statement to the police,” and just like that he’s walking back over to the hero group, snapping at them to shut up when they ask how he’s doing. Kirishima — Red Riot, keep that distance — waves to him, and Izuku waves back, watching as they all leave to continue their daily lives of defending the city.

 

And Izuku’s just fine with that.

 

Honest.

 


 

It’s not the uniform he wants to be wearing, but he supposes it is the one that suits him.

 

The yellow backpack is the one thing that stays the same, but everything else is different. Red and black plaid pants, a sharp black blazer, it makes Izuku look older, like he’s ready for high school and whatever lies ahead. His mother asks if he’s got everything packed and he reassures her, for the tenth time, that he does. She tells him that she’s proud of him and Izuku has to bite back the urge to ask why.

 

It’s a prestigious high school, sure, but it’s so... not heroic.

 

Izuku waves to her and leaves their apartment, walking out of the complex and down the street toward the train station. He’s got to make a stop on the way, though, one that’s only a few blocks away.

 

“Oi! You forgot to put on your tie!”

 

Ah, the harmonious sounds of Mitsuki Bakugou, the wild-haired woman waving a red tie in the air toward her son. Katsuki doesn’t look back at her, doesn’t acknowledge her or that damned tie. “Keep it!” He shouts. “I ain’t wearin’ no damn tie!”

 

“Have some respect, brat! You’re a high school student now!”

 

He’s more than that, actually. He’s a hero-in-training.

 

Izuku watches from the sidewalk as Katsuki approaches him, face contorted to pure annoyance as his mother keeps berating him. The uniform pants sag around his hips, his jacket too large and the shirt underneath wrinkled. It’s like he doesn’t give a shit about attending the best hero school in the country, but Izuku knows better. Kacchan worked hard for this, and he’s gonna push himself until he reaches the top, surpassing All-Might himself.

 

He’ll probably put his feet on his desk, though. Because that’s just how Katsuki Bakugou is.

 

“Hey nerd,” Katsuki says, still ignoring his yelling mother.

 

“Ah, good morning, Kacchan.”

 

“Oi! Izuku! Tell my son to fix himself up for the first day or he’s gonna disgrace us all!”

 

“Shut up, old hag!”

 

“U-um... maybe just...” Izuku brushes his hands over the white shirt, as if he can smooth out the wrinkles. It... kinda works? “Just... button the jacket up a bit more?”

 

“Hah?!”

 

“Come on, Kacchan! It’s U.A.! Please? For me?”

 

The fact that Katsuki Bakugou actually listens to his request is something that Izuku still hasn’t gotten used to. This was the guy who picked on him throughout their childhood, the guy who didn’t know how to express his jumbled up feelings so he settled on calling him Deku, of all things.

 

But at some point, the hurtful laughter stopped.

 

Maybe it was because Izuku kept being his friend, because Izuku saw something past the Katsuki Bakugou bravado. Maybe it was because Izuku’s eyes shone with pride whenever Katsuki did anything, like his pedestal was just as high as All-Might’s. Maybe it was because some kids were really cruel to Izuku, and Katsuki felt the need to differentiate from his teasing and their actual, hurtful commentary, the stuff that would make Izuku hide behind a tree and cry until Katsuki showed up.

 

Maybe. It was when Izuku quietly admitted that his own mother had apologized to him, as if it were her fault.

 

Maybe. It was because, as they got older, any possibility of Izuku being a late bloomer was a pipe dream.

 

Maybe. It was because. After the incident with the sludge monster. Izuku ripped up his U.A. application because All-Might himself said it was impossible. Of course, he could’ve applied for something like General Studies, but it would’ve just been a painful reminder of what he could never be.

 

Whatever it was, it’s got Katsuki making some kind of attempt to look presentable. It’s also got him walking to the train station with Izuku, the two holding hands the way boyfriends do when they’re about to take the required steps to their futures. Well. Katsuki is, for sure. Izuku’s not sure what he’s doing, but he’ll hold Katsuki’s hand anyway.

 

Everything hits them when they get to the station. They’ve been attending the same schools for years and this is the first time they’ll be going in different directions. Their uniforms don’t even match, another first in their ongoing relationship. Still... “It looks good on you,” Katsuki says.

 

“Hm?”

 

“Your uniform. Looks good.”  

 

“Ah. Thank you.” Izuku smiles but it’s not as bright as it usually is. “Yours does, too,” and he means it. Even if he’s wished on every star in the sky to have a matching U.A. uniform where he’d definitely wear the tie, he can ignore the sting of tears in his eyes to speak that truth. Kacchan is gonna do great things at that school even if Izuku can’t be there to see it.

 

“Tell me about your first day when we get home.”

 

“Yeah... I will...”

 

“Deku,” because that name has morphed into something sweet, almost charming, as their relationship developed over the years. “I mean it,” and there’s so much weight in those words, an attempt to remind Izuku that what he’s doing matters even if it’s not what he had planned.

 

“Y-yeah, I know. I will.”

 

Katsuki’s fingers find their way to Izuku’s cheek, over the scattered dots of freckles. He’s obsessed with touching them, really, always finding new patterns to draw out in them. The kiss that follows is the exact opposite of the prickly personality that Katsuki puts on. It’s gentle and kind, a kiss they tell you about at the end of a fairytale. It makes Izuku’s heart flutter, momentarily pushing the pause button on his warring feelings about high school.

 

The two separate, and Izuku takes the first, heavy steps in the opposite direction. They’re taking two different trains to go to two different places.

 

“Oi! Deku!”

 

Izuku stops and looks back at Katsuki. His face is the perfect definition of determined as his train pulls up.

 

“I’ll kick ass for both of us.”

 

It’s a wonderful declaration, and Izuku responds with a smile and a high pitched chirp of, “Do your best, Kacchan!” Katsuki smirks and nods his head, ready to be the lone kid from their junior high to dominate the legendary U.A. High.

 

As soon as Katsuki steps onto his train Izuku finds the nearest bathroom and cries. Katsuki shouldn’t have to do anything for the both of them. Izuku should be with him, taking those classes and learning what it means to be a hero. He cries so much that his cheeks get sticky, eyes burning a dull red as he stays locked in the bathroom stall.

 

He never tells Kacchan that he’s late on his first day of school. He just lets him go on about evaluation tests, how far he threw a softball, and the way he used his quirk to propel himself past the finish line.

 


 

It’s a new day and Izuku’s ready to do everything in his power to forget that yesterday happened. Villain attacks happen all throughout the city, so really, it’s no big deal. He’s gonna treat himself to a fancy coffee drink and sip on it while he reads more comics. He never did get to finish the one from yesterday, spending the rest of his shift talking to police and working on replacing the broken register. Whatever. It’s all in the past. Time for a blend of chocolate, coffee, and whipped cream to-

 

“Did you hear about the villain attack down the street?”

 

“Yeah! Outside some old comic book shop or something?”

 

“I heard the villain robbed the place! It belongs to some old man, seriously, how low can you be to rob an old guy?”

 

A valid point, Izuku thinks, but it’s not helping him forget what happened. He’s not the type to want to rush a line, but he wishes it’d move just a tad bit faster. All he wants to do is place his order and go about his day.

 

“Ground Zero beat him, though.”

 

“What?! Ground Zero was there?!”

 

“Yeah! So was Red Riot, and Pinky, and-”

 

Headphones. Izuku’s going to invest in a pair of headphones. Just because he wants to move on doesn’t mean the rest of the world does.

 

Eventually, he’s able to place his order — adds two pastries to it, one for Gran Torino, and one for himself. He’s out the door in enough time to miss conversations about which pro hero is best, ranked from their abilities to how good they look in their promotional pictures. Once upon a time Izuku would be able to chime in, present a collection of notebooks on hero stats like he’s collecting baseball cards. He’s fine with leaving that kind of talk to someone else, content with comics where superpowers are treated like a fictional impossibility. In time, news of this latest villain attack will simmer down. People will focus on something else, and Izuku will indulge in coffee and comics in peace.

 

“Hey! Morning Midoriya!”

 

At least, that’s what he’d be planning.

 

But, apparently, Red Riot and Ground Zero have other plans.

Chapter Text

“My mom’s having a dumbass party to celebrate the outcome of the sports festival.”

 

Izuku looks up from his textbook. Some kind of math or whatever. He gets the gist of it, the numbers and letters forming equations that are ready to be solved. The two of them are sitting in his room, Izuku at his desk and Katsuki sprawled out on his bed like he owns it. He’s not looking at Izuku, eyes trained on his open notebook.

 

“Oh yeah?”

 

“Yeah,” Katsuki grumbles. “She’s making me invite people or whatever. You should come, I guess.” There’s so much frustration in his voice that it borders on shame. Just the way he phrased the party — ‘the outcome of the sports festival,’ as if he hadn’t taken home the gold in his first year.

 

“Why are you so upset? You won.”

 

Katsuki rolls his eyes and sits up, a look of pure dissatisfaction scrawled across his face. “Don’t patronize me, Deku. I didn’t win shit. That bastard gave up.”

 

Izuku turns in his chair to look at Katsuki. He gets it, he thinks? At least from Katsuki ‘don’t offer me your hand’ Bakugou’s point-of-view.

 

But sometimes... you gotta take the wins given to you. Izuku would, anyway. “I don’t think freezing half the stadium is giving up,” because of course he watched it, in fact, he recorded it, has seen his boyfriend’s rabid dog medal ceremony reaction numerous times.

 

“Yeah, well, you weren’t there so you wouldn’t know, but he can use fire, too.”

 

Izuku frowns at the part about not being there because he doesn’t need that reminder. Even so, it wasn’t that hard to figure out, what with the red and white hair and the ability to melt the ice with his other hand. “Yeah? So?”

 

“So he didn’t use it against me! He didn’t give his all in the fight! Why even be there if you’re gonna half-ass it like that, huh? If they’re gonna let idiots like that in they might as well-” Katsuki stops himself from finishing that sentence, but he doesn’t have to, because the rest of the words hang silently between them.

 

‘They might as well let anybody in.’

 

“Ah, well, I’m sure he has his reasons,” then Izuku turns back in his chair, focusing on his homework with a renewed vigor. These equations aren’t gonna solve themselves, you know?

 

“Shit, Deku I-”

 

“It’s fine,” he says quickly, forcing the words past the tightness in his throat.

 

“No it’s not.”

 

“You didn’t mean-”

 

“Damnit Deku let me apologize.”

 

Izuku swallows the urge to cry down his throat because he’s cried over this enough times. Katsuki doesn’t wait for him to face him, instead he walks over and wraps his arms around Izuku’s shoulders, standing behind his chair and just holding him for one quiet, comforting moment. It’s takes a bit of time, but eventually, Izuku relaxes and sets his pencil down in favor of holding onto Katsuki’s arms. They’re getting more muscular, getting stronger. Part of Izuku is proud but the other part?

 

He doesn’t like to dwell on it.

 

“I’m sorry,” Katsuki says before he kisses the soft ruffles of Izuku’s hair. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

 

“I know,” because one day he’s gonna have to get over this whole quirkless thing. He can’t let everything Katsuki says hurt his heart. Katsuki has every right to pursue his dream and feel however he wants while he’s doing it. Having an opponent throw in the towel has to suck in some way, shape, or form, right? Especially when the entire point is to show what you’re capable of. “I’m sorry, too. I gotta stop letting this bother me.”

 

“Naw, it sucks. You can say it sucks.”

 

“Kacchan...”

 

“I’m serious! Spend your whole life admiring heroes and wanting to be one then this quirkless shit happens? It sucks, Deku.”

 

It does, but that’s not exactly what he wants to hear. His mother hadn’t understood all those years ago and now Kacchan is misinterpreting his feelings. He’s not sure if it’s worth explaining, the desire to be told he’s good enough even if he’s quirkless, so instead he just smiles and nods his head. “Yeah, it sucks.”

 

“That’s why you packed up most of the All Might swag, huh?”

 

Yes and no. He still has some of it on display, telling his mother that he just felt like redecorating, after all, most teenage boys don’t have a shrine to a hero all over their walls, right? Besides, Izuku doesn’t want to talk about the other, more spiteful reason why the many figurines and plushies have been tucked away into a cardboard box. To Katsuki, All Might’s the hero who saved them from that sludge monster, rescuing Izuku just in time after he stupidly ran in to try and save Katsuki. He doesn’t know about them meeting before that, and he never will if Izuku has anything to say about it. Let the pro-hero play teacher at U.A. Katsuki had looked so damn happy about it so Izuku can let him have that joy.

 

“It was... a bit excessive...”

 

“Oh don’t give me that.”

 

“What, it was!”

 

Katsuki steps back and spins Izuku’s chair around so he can look him in the eye. “You’re full of shit,” he says. “You totally had an ‘I don’t need you’ moment.”

 

“Kacchan!”

 

“You broke up with All Might!” Katsuki’s laughing now, and damn him for being armed with a nice tone of voice, the laughter prompting Izuku to smile.

 

“Fine. Sure. Whatever.”

 

“It’s cool, gives you plenty of room for my merch when it starts to come out,” Katsuki boasts.

 

“Yes. Of course. Starting with you chomping down on that medal.”

 

“Shut it, nerd,” but there’s an amused look on Katsuki’s face as he leans in and kisses Izuku. Izuku lets out a happy little sigh as he drapes his arms around Katsuki’s shoulders. Studying’s pushed aside, homework and textbooks exchanged for sweet kisses that lead to Katsuki pulling Izuku out of his chair and over to the bed. They end up laying together after they remove Katsuki’s books — carefully, because Izuku’s just that kind of guy.

 

“I suppose I never did properly congratulate you on the win, did I?” Because Katsuki was in a foul mood at the time.

 

“Is this the part where you make out with your hero boyfriend?”

 

“Pretty cliche, huh?”

 

“It’s a cliche because it works, Deku. Now kiss me.”

 

Izuku smiles, warm and sincere, and is surprised when Katsuki traces his fingers across his lips. “Kacchan?”

 

Damn. The blush that blends in with the freckles is so pretty right now. Katsuki gives in to it and says, “I’ll take the win if this is the reward,” and the kiss that follows shines brighter than any piece of gold.

 


 

Gran Torino can’t remember the last time the shop has been so active. There’s a couple of people inside, some looking over the books while others are actually flipping through the pages.

 

It’s their not-so-clever attempt to get an eyeful of Ground Zero and Red Riot, the two heroes standing at the counter talking to Izuku, but hey, it’s got folks in the store so Gran Torino will take it. This combined with the sympathetic I can’t believe a villain robbed an old man may actually get them a couple of sales.

 

Just because he opened the shop for kicks doesn’t mean he wouldn’t mind a couple extra bucks every now and then.

 

In hindsight, saying that both heroes are talking is overselling it. One of them is talking, the other is shooting a hard look at the nosy onlookers. It’s not the full blown Ground Zero glare, no, nothing that severe, but it’s enough to prevent anyone from walking over to attempt a conversation with them. Now isn’t the time to chat about yesterday’s attack and how cool the group of heroes were, not when Izuku’s doing his best I’m not bothered, honest routine. Shaky smile. Eyes distant. Hands tugging at his shirt to give them something to do.

 

Of course, a certain someone had suggested they stop by the store. Part of their patrol, Kirishima had said. Should make sure the shop’s in order, Kirishima had said wink wink, nudge nudge. It’s an annoying thing to admit to, but the affectionately dubbed Bakusquad — thanks Internet — can always read Katsuki like an open book.

 

And he’d be lying if he said he didn’t want to see Izuku again.

 

Izuku, who’s managed to do the impossible: get even cuter over the years. He’s sporting a shaved undercut, and are his ears pierced? When did that happen? Katsuki doesn’t remember seeing the small, silver hoops yesterday. He also doesn’t remember Izuku making blue jeans look like a sin, the denim curving in a way that Katsuki’s hyper-focused on whenever he steps out from behind the counter to assist a customer.

 

It’s been three years. Who gave this nerd the right?

 

Kirishima, who has a non-existent filter, has no problem pointing out the obvious. “Damn Midoriya, you’re lookin’ good!”

 

The whispers start up immediately, words coming at a feverish pace. Did Red Riot know the sales clerk? Did he know him so well that he could belt out, in public, how attractive he is? And is Ground Zero fidgeting? Is he growling at Red Riot?

 

“Oh, um... thank you, Red Riot.”

 

“Come on, man! I know it’s been a while but you don’t gotta call me that!” Kirishima has an arm around Izuku’s shoulders in an instant, his smile large and bright like a dental billboard. Katsuki can’t decide if Kirishima is oblivious to Izuku’s discomfort, or if he’s ignoring it in favor of trying to rekindle what had been lost for three years.

 

Katsuki bets it’s the latter.

 

“Right... Kirishima...” and Izuku sounds so uncomfortable, like he really wants them to leave but he’s too polite to say it out loud.

 

“Oi. Ease up on him, Shitty Hair.” Nickname trademarked by Katsuki Bakugou, Alumni of U.A.’s legendary Class 1-A.

 

“N-no, it’s fine.” Izuku’s got a smile on his face but it’s hollow, stale like old cereal you try and pass off as being edible. It’s not a genuine Izuku Midoriya smile. Katsuki knows what that looks like, still thinks about it in the privacy of his own living space or in the middle of a tough as hell mission. When you feel like you can’t go on you think about that kind of smile, warm like sunlight at the back of your neck, because damn, even if it ain’t yours anymore the potential of seeing it again via old photos is enough.

 

“See, Bakugou? It’s fine.” It’s not. Kirishima’s not stupid but he’s willing to play the fool if it means getting these two to talk to each other again. Because what are the odds of saving your ex from a villain? Your ex who you’re still pining after, the one who got away, as they say. It’s cheesy to believe in destiny or whatever, but sometimes, Kirishima likes a bit of cheddar over his romance. “So, how have you been, Midoriya?”

 

“Besides being robbed yesterday?” The laugh is morbid, self-deprecating. “Fine. Summer break from school.”

 

Kirishima breezes past the being robbed detail and decides to focus on the positive. “Ah right! You’re in college, right? What are you studying?”

 

Izuku shrugs and steps away from Kirishima to get back behind the counter. Someone’s actually buying a comic. Stop the presses. If they get robbed again there might be something worth stealing. “Everything, I guess,” he says as he rings the customer up. The young man’s attention is on Katsuki, and Izuku notices that the guy on the cover of the comic kinda looks like the explosive hero.

 

“Everything? What does that mean?” Katsuki asks. He does his heroic duty and nods to the guy at the counter who hasn’t stopped smiling at him.

 

“It means exactly what it sounds like. I’m taking different classes that interest me.” Izuku hands the customer their comic and, as to be expected, they walk up to Katsuki and start rambling about how cool he is. Katsuki can take it, though. He’s had a lifetime of experience with the boy he used to call Deku .

 

“Oh wow, that’s cool!” Kirishima says, way too enthusiastic for his own good.

 

Katsuki, however, isn’t exactly known for his tact. Once the customer leaves — after getting a selfie, of course — he focuses on Izuku. “That’s fine, but... you’re supposed to major in something, pursue a career, you know?”

 

Izuku frowns at him. The beginnings of an argument. The calm before the storm. “I know how college works, Ground Zero , thank you. I’m just exploring, that’s all.”

 

“And that’s fine!” Kirishima inserts himself into the conversation. The last thing anyone wants is a battle between the exes, especially when the exes are Katsuki Bakugou and Izuku Midoriya.

 

Unfortunately, the seeds have already been planted, so Katsuki doubles down and asks, “Is that why you changed your look? You’re exploring?”

 

Oh boy.

 

Izuku’s green eyes are fueled by fire, the kind that old bear says that you can prevent. “I’m sorry, am I supposed to run it by you first?”

 

Katsuki wants to say yes, just so he’s prepared for his heart to stop beating at the sight of Izuku, because hearts are supposed to be functional and not sputter to a full stop. Seriously, Izuku hadn’t been wearing notice my backside jeans yesterday and he certainly hadn’t been wearing any earrings. His hair, well... that’s an oversight on Katsuki’s part, too caught off guard over seeing him again, too startled from Izuku not calling him Kacchan . “Whatever,” then, “Come on, let’s go. The store’s obviously doing fine after the attack.”

 

Kirishima walks over and whispers to Katsuki, at least, he attempts to, but anyone within earshot can hear him. “Come on, man. It’s been three years.”

 

“Yeah. Guess it’s been three years for a reason.”

 

The few customers lingering in the store feel that one. So does Izuku, who steps away from the counter to fix a couple of misplaced comics on the shelf. He drags it out long enough for Katsuki to stomp out of the store, the bell ringing to announce his departure. Customers begin to come up with well educated guesses on what the comic book store clerk means to Ground Zero. Clearly, he’s someone important, or at least, he was . Kirishima sighs and says a quick sorry man to Izuku before he follows after Katsuki, running to catch up to him. “Hey, wait up!”

 

Katsuki doesn’t slow his pace, clenching his fists and walking down the sidewalk like he’s got a grudge against the pavement.

 

“Oi! Bakugou!”

 

Hey, dude, wanna go to that old comic shop? Check up on Midoriya. It’ll be fuuuuun ,” Katsuki says, doing a surprisingly good imitation of Kirishima. Years of friendship will do that, he guesses.

 

“Hey you’re the one who-”

 

“Me?!”

 

“Yeah, you! What’s the big idea giving him a hard time about his life?”

 

“He didn’t even want us to be there!”

 

Kirishima’s not sure if he should feel relieved that the general public is so used to the Bakusquad bickering that no one really bats an eye about their argument. It’s just Ground Zero and Red Riot being themselves, nothing to worry about, they’ll be enjoying a beer later on tonight. “Ok, sure, I admit that he was a bit uncomfortable...”

 

“Understatement of the century,” Katsuki mutters.

 

“But! I mean, come on! What are the chances of just running into him like this, huh? It has to mean something.”

 

Katsuki raises an eyebrow at him. “For real? Are you really taking the chick flick route on this?”

 

“I’m just saying!”

 

“You know, the chances of bumping into your ex aren’t that rare.”

 

“But saving your ex from a villain?”

 

Katsuki shrugs, which is better than admitting to him being right. It does kinda read like a comic book. Still, it doesn’t have to mean anything because, “We’re not getting back together, Kirishima.”

 

The look on Kirishima’s face is so painfully similar to a kid being told that their dog is going to the vet for the last time. Katsuki only uses his real name when he’s beyond serious. “Dude,” he says, trying to lighten the mood. “You still care about him. You can at least talk to him again, right?”

 

“Why are you so set on this?!” Ugh, he feels like a kid again and he hates it, feelings jumbled like a word search puzzle, unable to express himself like other functional humans so he yells it all out.

 

“Because you two are made for each other. Always have been.”

 


 

“I’m not wearing that piece of shit medal!”

 

“Come on, Katsuki, put it on! This party is for you!”

 

“No!”

 

The switch has now been flipped because she goes in like a tank. “You spoiled little brat! Wear it!”

 

“You just wanna show off to your dumb friends!”

 

True. She does. Mitsuki Bakugou has invited as many people as possible to this party, way more than Katsuki did even if he’s the main attraction. She’d pump the breaks on the word ‘friends’ though, more like ‘residents of the neighborhood,’ something like that. But those residents like to talk shit about her son. They whisper about ‘that Bakugou boy’ and how he’ll surely be a villain someday.

 

Ha.

 

Take that, assholes.

 

Her son won first place at the sports festival — granted, his opponent had punked out and she’d cursed the peppermint hair fucker out when she saw the match on TV, because yeah, how dare you not show up and give her baby the fight he deserved. Doesn’t matter, Katsuki would’ve beat him anyway, and Katsuki had shown an incredible amount of potential throughout the entire event.

 

“Sweetheart, mama’s just proud of you... and maybe she wants to stick it to that old hag next door.”

 

Katsuki’s eyes darken to a dangerous level. Oh, he remembers her. Made all sorts of nasty comments about him ruining U.A.’s reputation when he’d gotten accepted. Katsuki smirks at his mother, both of them drinking in the spiteful energy as he puts the medal on with pride.

 

“Well... I guess that works, too.”

 

Izuku glances over from his spot on the couch. Masaru Bakugou, the quietest, most chilled out man in the city, sets out another plate of finger foods as wife and son snicker to each other about this brilliant ‘fuck you my son’s a rockstar’ party.

 

“Did you need any help, sir?” Izuku asks.

 

“Ah, no thanks, Izuku. You can just relax until the guests arrive.”

 

Izuku nods before he looks over the large spread of food. Everything looks delicious, more importantly, it all looks expensive, like there’s no holding back when it comes to celebrating such a momentous occasion. To the unseeing eye, this was completely orchestrated by Mitsuki, but there’s something about the smile on Masaru’s face, something that says ‘I got the most expensive restaurant in town to cater my son’s party because he’s earned it.’

 

They always do warn you to watch out for the quiet ones.

 

“Hey.”

 

Izuku smiles when Katsuki sits down next to him. For someone who doesn’t care about this party he’s certainly dressed like he does. Open, button down shirt with thin, red and blue stripes. Tight, blue tank top tucked into loose fitting jeans. Izuku feels bad for settling on one of several comfortable hoodies, and he definitely should’ve taken an iron to his own jeans. Maybe there’s still time to-

 

“Oi. Nerd. Relax, it’s just a couple of asshole neighbors and classmates.”

 

It’s not the neighbors he’s worried about. They love him, to be honest, though they aren’t sure why he hangs around someone like Katsuki, latching onto the bad qualities and not even bothering to acknowledge the good. “I’m fine,” Izuku lies.

 

“Right, and my old man ordered all this ritzy shit because he’s a good guy. What’s bothering you?”

 

Izuku sighs, his hands tugging at the edge of his hoodie. The light blue has gotten pretty faded and... wow, he really should’ve made a better effort, even if Katsuki told him it wasn’t a big deal. “... I look like trash.”

 

“Well then, I guess I’m a fan of garbage.”

 

Izuku tries not to smile but it’s too late. It’s there to match with the faint pink on his cheeks. “Kacchan!”

 

“Deku,” he mocks, his voice taking on a higher pitched tone to imitate Izuku. It’s not even close. “You’re fine. Honest.”

 

“What are your friends gonna think?”

 

Katsuki scoffs. “More like ‘less annoying extras.’”

 

“Stop that.”

 

“Fine. They’re... fine, I guess,” he mutters, like it pains him to admit that he gets along with people at school. It’s much different that junior high, back when his friends would gas him up but offer no real substance to their relationship. U.A. is where classmates call you out and are on the same playing field as you. “Besides, can’t have the neighbors thinking I don’t have any friends, that’ll just add to the list of shit they say about me around here.” Not that he cares. No. Of course not. Just like his mother doesn’t care. They can say whatever they want, really, he’ll just keep proving them wrong.

 

Izuku reaches over and takes his hands in his. He looks up at him with eyes that shine like jewels, the treasure pirates fight over, the diamonds locked in a treasure chest. Izuku’s eyes always see through the bullshit, sees the frustration Katsuki feels when an entire stadium of heroes call him a bully, feels the lingering hurt when he comes home from the greatest hero school of their generation and is greeted by pearl clutching neighbors. The only kid in their junior high to make it, and yet, he’s still treated like the bad guy. “Hey,” Izuku whispers as he presses his forehead against Katsuki’s. “I see you.”

 

Katsuki feels like he’s pulled off the greatest heist in history, because this no good asshole — as the neighbors call him — has access to Izuku Midoriya, of all people. Katsuki decides to voice his feelings by pressing his lips against Izuku’s, fingers whispering against the freckles on his cheek, always finding solace by touching the scattered, dotted stars. For a moment, they forget that Katsuki’s parents are setting up for a party. They forget that people are coming over, that Masaru is letting them in and escorting them into the living room. They forget until-

 

“Dude! Bakugou’s got a boyfriend?!”

 

“Izuku, honey, maybe you shouldn’t do that out here...”

 

Before Katsuki can threaten death to his classmates, Izuku lets out a pitiful cry of, “Mom!”

 


 

After a long day of patrolling Katsuki wants to grab a bite to eat and go home. That’s his routine, and one he rarely deviates from.

 

With a few exceptions.

 

He will, occasionally, work overtime when the paperwork builds up at the agency, even if it means getting his ass kicked by data entry. He’ll also hang out with his friends. There. He said it. He enjoys their company every once in a while. When they complete a taxing mission they’ll get together for drinks. When they celebrate a special occasion they’ll reserve space at a restaurant, whether it’s someone going up in the hero ranks, or someone putting together a well calculated marriage proposal congratulations, Ingenium and Uravity! These breaks from his routine are properly planned out, penciled into his schedule in a way that would make their former class president proud.

 

Except for this moment, the one where he’s standing in front of Gran Torino’s comic shop again.

 

He can see Izuku through the window, smiling and ringing up someone’s purchase. That smile shouldn’t make Katsuki’s heart lurch out of his chest, but it’s exposed, out in the open for anyone to see. If you were to ask, Katsuki would be able to tell you, with absolute certainty, why he’s there. Whether or not he wants to say it out loud is up for debate. But when Izuku catches sight of him, their eyes meeting, really meeting, Katsuki can’t stop the words that tumble out of his mouth.

 

Izuku doesn’t hear them, it’s a sentence spoken between Katsuki and the wind.

 

“I miss you.”

Chapter Text

“Is that Ground Zero? Outside the store?!”

 

Izuku somehow manages to not let out an absurdly frustrated sigh. He should be rewarded for his ability to still smile after having to deal with his ex coming back around. In hindsight, he should’ve known that Katsuki would be back. He’s not exactly known for his ability to let things go.

 

When Izuku thinks about it, them not speaking for three years is incomprehensible, then again, Ground Zero has been busy making a name for himself.

 

The only thing worse than dealing with an old boyfriend is dealing with one who’s so good. There’s no doubt that Katsuki Bakugou is the hero their city needs and deserves. He’s earned the praise that he gets, every look of admiration, every excited noise a customer makes when they should be focusing on buying comics. He’s a goddamn icon, a beacon of explosive hope to the masses.

 

But to Izuku Midoriya? He’s still the Kacchan that he used to know.

 

Still, he can’t let folks know that, doesn’t want to deal with having to voice out the flashbacks in his head. So he gathers up the energy that used to be reserved for real life heroes and says, “Yes, it is. Cool huh?”

 

“That’s so cool! I heard he took down a villain here yesterday!”

 

“Ah, he did.” Izuku hands the customer the comic she purchased and wishes for a quirk where he can convince people to leave right away. As usual, his wish doesn’t come true, isn’t even heard in the long run.

 

“Wow! That’s amazing! Did you get to see it?”

 

His smile is so strained, rung out like a dirty dish towel. “Yeah... it was pretty cool.”

 

“I’m gonna ask for a picture,” then she’s out the door, bouncing up and down in front of Katsuki until the hero gives in and takes a selfie. Fifteen-year-old Katsuki would’ve been more agitated. Eighteen-year-old Katsuki would’ve complained but eventually give a disgruntled smile for the camera. But this Katsuki ain’t the same. This one is more patient, more susceptible to pleasing the public because he’s got a hero image. The smile is more of a devilish smirk, but that’s what Ground Zero’s known for.

 

So it’s a bit alarming when Katsuki looks at him through the window again, red eyes looking sweet and charming, the way they did all those years ago.

 

Izuku takes a deep breath, forcing himself to not use those words when thinking about Katsuki. Instead he tries to find something to do now that the store is empty. Surprisingly, it’s the first time all day it has been devoid of people. There’s actually books missing from the shelf and Izuku finds himself tired from doing actual work instead of reading.

 

Katsuki’s still standing outside.

 

Which is becoming more unnerving, to be honest. Why doesn’t he just walk in? After ten more minutes Izuku decides he’s had enough and walks over, pushing the door open. “Can I help you?”

 

“Naw, you’re good.”

 

Izuku frowns, eyes looking at Katsuki like he’s grown a second head — not entirely impossible in their society, but Katsuki’s already got a quirk. “Are you just gonna stand out here and watch me?”

 

Katsuki shrugs, muscled shoulders relaxed and appealing — ugh, stop it Izuku. “Figured if I came in it’d make you uncomfortable.”

 

“And watching me from outside wouldn’t?”

 

“Didn’t say that.”

 

“Why are you back here, Ground Zero? You did your job here yesterday.”

 

Katsuki steps closer, face set in the determination he usually reserves for missions. “Is that your attempt at keeping some distance? Using my hero name?”

 

“It’s just a name,” Izuku says, cloaking himself in denial.

 

“Ah. So you’d have no problem with Kacchan then?”

 

That cloak? Already gone. It’s disintegrated into another dimension. Izuku looks visibly shaken now but he’s gonna push through.

 

“We’re not kids anymore, Katsuki.”

 

“Nice. At least you’ve dropped the hero name.”

 

“That’s what you are, right? A hero? So what’s wrong with me using Ground Zero ?”

 

The laugh that erupts from Katsuki’s throat is a touch bit unhinged. “Jesus, Deku. It’s been three years and you’re still bitter?”

 

“That’s none of your business,” Izuku bites back at him. “Your business with me ended yesterday when you stopped that villain.”

 

Another step closer, invading Izuku’s personal space. Izuku doesn’t back down, but when Katsuki’s fingers start tracing the freckles on his face he wishes he’d had the foresight to slam the door in his face. He’s so weak for this man and he’s torn between hating it or leaning into his touch. It should worry him how quickly Katsuki can disarm him. He should be concerned about how he's squashed his own convictions in favor of feeling Katsuki stand so close to him that his familiar scent lingers between them — burnt sugar, like roasting marshmallows over a campfire. Someone so lethal has no business smelling so sticky sweet.

 

“Deku,” he says, fingers roaming over his lips. Gods, it's been too long. “My business with you never ended,” and there’s such honesty in those words, such vulnerability.

 

“W-we broke up.” Izuku clings to that notion, holds onto it like a lifeline.

 

“Yeah? And whose decision was that?”

 

“It was mutual!”

 

Katsuki scoffs. “Keep telling yourself that.”

 

“You said you couldn’t take it anymore!”

 

“Yeah? What couldn’t I take, huh?”

 

“... don’t,” because that means making a huge admission, one that makes his throat feel tight, his chest hurting more than it should after three years of absolutely no contact with the hero they call Ground Zero.

 

“Don’t what, Deku?”

 

“Stop calling me Deku!”

 

“Why?” Katsuki takes Izuku’s chin in his hand. Despite the tension between them the touch is gentle. Always has been. “ It’s just a name,” he says, using Izuku’s logic against him.

 

“W-what happened to you easing up, huh? Earlier, you told Kirishima to ease up on me.”

 

Katsuki doesn’t smirk. No. That’d be too easy. What Katsuki does is smile, the kind that makes hearts melt, the kind Izuku’s been privy to for years. It’s familiar and comfortable, and it’s making Izuku’s breaths come in short little bursts. “I’m not Kirishima,” Katsuki whispers to him. “I’m not here to make this easy.”

 

The kiss is inevitable, the two of them standing in the doorway to the comic shop. Katsuki’s fingers still have a secure hold on Izuku’s chin, and Izuku? Izuku’s trying to fight every instinct that pulls at him, tries to push down the urge to grab onto the orange belts and make up for three years. It almost works, but then Katsuki’s other arm comes around Izuku’s waist, the man humming against his lips in a deep baritone.

 

So Izuku holds on this one time.

 

Parts his lips and gives Katsuki the ok to completely wreck him, make him come undone for at least a few seconds.

 

Then Gran Torino interrupts them, clears his throat and gives them this knowing look, this back in my day I was in love, too twinkle in his eye. “Izuku. We need to close up shop.”

 

“R-right!” Damnit. Damnit damnit damnit what was he thinking? Now Katsuki’s gonna walk around thinking he’s got a chance.

 

“Let me walk you home when you’re done,” Katsuki says.

 

No. Absolutely not. Izuku shakes his head and says, “I’m fine, thank you.”

 

“Ah, let him.” Gran Torino. Of course. “He’s allowed to be worried, right? A villain attacked you yesterday.”

 

Izuku bristles, immediately feeling defensive. “I’m capable of getting home. I manage every night.”

 

Gran Torino ignores him and ushers Katsuki inside. “Humor an old man, would ya?”

 

Ugh. Gran Torino only uses that excuse when he’s trying to get Izuku to do something he’s not too thrilled about. Unfortunately, it works every time. “Fine,” he mutters, watching as Katsuki makes himself scarce by looking at the comics on the shelves, letting the two talk amongst themselves. “Why are you so insistent on this?”

 

“Me? It’s clear that you have feelings for him.”

 

“If you’re referring to...” Izuku can’t even finish that sentence, not wanting to admit to the kiss out loud. “... mistakes happen, Gran Torino.”

 

“A mistake is when you brought me those pastries that had the chocolate filling instead of strawberry. Him?” He nods over to Katsuki with a smirk. “That’s intentional. On both of your parts.”

 

“Both?”

 

“Don’t waste time lying to yourself, kid.”

 

Izuku frowns because it’d be rude to back talk to an elder. He doesn’t have the time to delve into the complexities of his relationship with Katsuki, the mistakes that were made — particularly the ones he doesn’t want to admit to.

 

“Yeah? What couldn’t I take, huh?”

 

There’s a lot that Izuku can point to if he sits down and analyzes the nooks and crannies, but he’s not the kid who jots down notes and while doing an obsessive amount of research. Not anymore. Though if he still was that Izuku Midoriya, that Deku from before, he’d quietly admit that the thing Katsuki couldn’t take? The thing that set them down a path where they became ex-boyfriends?

 

Was him.

 


 

“Jesus, were you there?”

 

“Naw, I had that internship, remember? Still there, technically, until tomorrow.”

 

“Ah.” Izuku lays back on his bed, eyes fixed on the ceiling as he talks with Katsuki. His boyfriend’s in the middle of interning with Best Jeanist, a stylish hero with a unique, sewing themed quirk. When Katsuki had told him the news he could hardly believe it. The number four hero? Interested in his Kacchan? Izuku knew that Katsuki would aim high, but he hadn’t expected him to touch the stars so quickly.

 

“Saw the news though. Damn. What a fucked up villain.”

 

Katsuki’s referring to Stain, the demented hero killer who’d been terrorizing the streets. Word has it that he nearly killed Ingenium, a noble hero with quite the number of sidekicks. “Yeah... was just worried, I guess, since several heroes were on the scene.”

 

“Was nowhere near it, nerd,” but there’s affection in his voice, an appreciation for Izuku’s concern. “Even if I was there’s no way they’d let me in on the action. Don’t got a license yet.”

 

“Even if you did have a license... would they let a student take on a high level villain like that?”

 

“Who knows. I’d be able to handle it, though. I’d give him a good fight, probably move up the ranks from it, stuff like that.”

 

Ah. There’s the Katsuki he knows. It’s also the Katsuki that someone like Stain would hate. “You should be more serious. That villain was killing heroes who felt the same way as you.”

 

“I am being serious. Guys like him just like to hear themselves talk. They spout garbage to try and sound like anything but a murderer.”

 

Izuku sits up and leans back against his headboard. There’s even fewer posters of All Might in his room now, leaving him surrounded in mostly white walls. “But... he kinda had a point.”

 

“... I beg your fucking pardon?”

 

“I-I’m not siding with him or anything-”

 

“Good. Cuz for a second it sounded like you said he had a point.”

 

Izuku frowns, his fingers clutching onto the phone he’s got pressed against his ear. “I just meant... his definition of what a hero should be, it kinda made sense. The ones using it for glory, for money, to-”

 

“To boost their own egos?” Katsuki finishes for him, and despite the hollow tone through the phone Izuku can recognize rising anger when he hears it.

 

“I’m just saying there’s a bit of merit to that, you know? Not everyone who is a hero, who’s training to be a hero... deserves it.”

 

“Right. But you do.”

 

That stings more than Katsuki could ever know. Or maybe he does know. Maybe that was the point. “That was uncalled for, Kacchan.”

 

“Was it? Sorry,” he scoffs. “Go on, you can keep rambling about the preachings of a killer.”

 

“That’s not-”

 

“Ingenium totally deserves what happened to him, yeah? Cuz he’s got a lot of sidekicks, cuz he has the nerve to smile cuz people like him.”

 

“Kacchan...”

 

“You know Glasses is his brother.”

 

Glasses? Izuku tries to remember who that is. Was he at Katsuki’s party before? Wait. “You mean... your class representative?”

 

“Yeah him.”

 

“... oh.”

 

Katsuki doesn’t hang out with him or anything but he is, if nothing else, observant. Iida had left the sports festival early, hadn’t been there for the end of it. And Iida? Iida had taken the hero name, Ingenium. “It’s not about who deserves it, Deku, it’s about who’s willing to work for it, who's earned it. It’s about-”

 

“Not all of us can earn it!” The words come tumbling out before he can stop them. “Not all of us are lucky enough to-”

 

“I can’t help that I have a quirk, Deku! You can’t keep being pissed at me about it!”

 

Another stab to the heart, this one twisting the metaphorical knife. “I-I’m not mad...”

 

“Bullshit.”

 

“I’m not mad at you!”

 

“Bullshit, Deku!”

 

He’s mad at the world, really. Unfortunately, that world includes his Kacchan. “I’m just saying that some of the ones who get to do this... it’s not fair that they get a chance! You even said it yourself, called them extras and everything! You’ve told me about people in your class who have no business being there!”

 

Katsuki chuckles, but it’s dark and humorless. “Yeah, but you know what? Those extras are at least trying. Just because most of the world has quirks doesn’t mean they’re all out here trying to be a hero. There’s some shit heroes on the top — personality wise — but that doesn’t mean they didn’t earn their spot.” There’s a beat of silence between them before Katsuki adds the final nail to their conversation. “There’s some shit wannabe heroes at UA, too, winning sports festivals cuz they beat up on some cute girl.”

 

Izuku’s eyes widen. Horrified. Remembering the booing from the crowd and how Eraser Head had been the only one to say something, remembering the neighborhood they live in and how no one wants to believe in a kid like Katsuki Bakugou. “Kacchan, I-”

 

But he doesn’t get to finish, Katsuki saying he has to go before he hangs up the phone.

 


 

“What hero symbol is that on your shirt?”

 

“Hm?”

 

Katsuki points to the streak of lightning on Izuku’s chest. “Is that a new hero?”

 

“Oh!” Izuku actually giggles, forgetting — for a moment — that he’s not supposed to be enjoying this walk home. “It’s from a comic book.”

 

“They sell that kind of merch when there’s real heroes out here?”

 

“It’s not easy to find but Gran Torino has a lot of shirts in back. Calls them vintage .”

 

“Huh. I’m surprised there ain’t comics about us. Guess there doesn’t need to be when we’re out in the open, huh?”

 

“Oh no, there’s definitely still comics. The indie scene loves you.” Then, as if realizing what he just said, Izuku’s face heats up like an oven and he adds, “I meant a general you!”

 

“Did you?”

 

“Yes!” Goddamnit. “I meant heroes in general!”

 

Katsuki chuckles — a perfect combination of the warm night air and honey. “Whatever you say, Izuku.”

 

The walk home isn’t nearly as awkward as Izuku had thought it would be. The conversation is actually nice, their chemistry sparking something that Izuku’s been trying to ignore since Ground Zero — no, Katsuki — re-entered his life.

 

“I didn’t see any indie comics in that shop.”

 

“Huh? Oh... Gran Torino has a lot of the old mainstream stuff, you know? I swear the shop’s more like a museum. I dunno, it’s kinda fun reading what people thought heroes would be like,” that, and indie comics would hit too close to home for Izuku these days so he hasn’t made a huge effort in ordering some in. All the creators play by the rules of legitimate superpowers because they’re no longer a far fetched concept.

 

That makes the narrative too real.

 

“Oh yeah? What does that one do?” Katsuki asks, nodding toward Izuku’s shirt.

 

“He’s super fast.”

 

“Like Ingenium?”

 

“Ah, well... he doesn’t have jet-engines on his calves so it’s not quite the same? He can also run fast enough to travel back in time.”

 

“... that’s going overboard, don’t you think?” Katsuki slides his hands into his pockets, a thoughtful look on his face as if he’s actually trying to figure out the validity of running that fast.

 

“Yeah. Probably. But that makes it interesting. When quirks weren’t a huge thing people just came up with whatever.”

 

“You know some quirks today are kinda whatever too...”

 

“Really?” Izuku raises an eyebrow at Katsuki. “How so?”

 

“Explain having tape shoot out of your elbows. Or the chief of police being a dog.”

 

Izuku ends up laughing, forgetting, once again, that he’s supposed to be having an unpleasant time. “I suppose explosive sweat is weird too, huh?”

 

“What was that?”

 

“And storing it in grenades? Who does that?”

 

“You tryin’ to pick a fight, Deku?”

 

Izuku doesn’t bat an eye at the name slip, doesn’t even pay it any attention, and says, “I’m sure that’ll make a great news story: Hero Kacchan Bullies The Guy He Saved Yesterday.

 

Kacchan. Katsuki notices the nickname immediately, eyes growing impossibly soft as he tries to figure out what to say so he doesn’t shatter the moment. He opts for playing along. “ Mr. Zero, sir, why did you pummel a civilian?” Then, “ He was talking shit about my quirk.”

 

“Kacchan!” It’s so easy to laugh with him, so easy to feel like the wide eyed four-year-old who admired the coolest kid in the neighborhood. It doesn’t help that Katsuki’s gotten so handsome. On their first meeting, Izuku had been trying to deny it, but underneath the quiet of the city’s streetlights and scattered blips of stars, he admits the charm of the man walking with him. Katsuki isn’t nearly as guarded anymore and, upon closer inspection, there’s an attractive whisper of stubble on his chin. His shoulders are broader, lines of muscle more defined, and the clothing he’s wearing accentuates his form.

 

So I grabbed him-” then Katsuki’s arms are around Izuku. “ And I-

 

“You what?” Izuku’s breathless, eyes bright and smile wide, wholesome.

 

“I walked him home,” Katsuki says, then he lets him go and goes back to walking down the sidewalk.

 

Izuku doesn’t move, doesn’t even take a breath. His heart is flopping around like a fish out of water and he’s left wondering why that moment didn’t end with a meeting of their lips.

 

“Oi! You comin’ or what? I don’t actually know where your live,” Katsuki shouts back to him.

 

“Y-yeah,” then Izuku hurries after him.

 

It takes another fifteen minutes to get to Izuku’s place, the conversation shifting back to nonchalant fictional hero talk — how far back in time can this guy with the lightning bolt logo go, and how much does it alter the course of history? Soon enough, they’re in front of Izuku’s modest apartment complex, Izuku wondering what the next step is now that he’s home.

 

Katsuki takes it for him. “Looks like we made it in one piece,” he says, playing on Gran Torino’s supposed concerns. “See you around, Deku.”

 

“Hey wait!” Izuku grabs Katsuki’s arm, not able to turn on any sort of mental filter before he starts rambling. “What was that before? When you grabbed me? When we were joking around? What happened to I’m not here to make this easy huh?”

 

Katsuki raises an eyebrow at him. “Thought you wanted me to ease up.”

 

“Knock it off with the games, Ka-” Izuku stops, everything rushing back in, and he watches as Katsuki’s face deflates. “Katsu-”

 

Katsuki pulls his arm away. “Go on. Go up to your place or whatever.”

 

“... what if I want you to come up with me?”

 

The look on Katsuki’s face speaks the volumes of their ongoing saga. There’s so much longing that Izuku can taste it at the tip of his tongue. Izuku’s fairly certain he’s lost control of the situation. He’s got a vague memory of wanting nothing to do with this man but now he’s asking him to, what? Sexual implications aside what’s the end game here?

 

Does it matter?

 

Does it have to matter?

 

Because it’s been three years and Katsuki’s out here looking like old notebooks, heroically decorated bedrooms, and sweet kisses between friends turned into some more. All things Izuku’s been denying himself. All things that have been reignited without his permission. Now he’s standing in front of his apartment, head telling him to remember his bitterness, heart telling him to remember his love, and the torn look in Katsuki’s eyes tells him that he’s struggling, too.

 

“Or you can just-”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“What?”

 

Katsuki steps closer to him and repeats himself. “Shut up, Deku,” then he leans down and kisses his forehead, of all things, leaves his speeches as he whispers, “Goodnight,” like a dream.

 

“You... y-you’re turning me down?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Well that creates an ugly feeling inside, something akin to lumpy milk that’s been left in the fridge. “But...”

 

“You don’t know what you want, Deku. So I’ll wait until you figure it out,” then he turns his back to him and begins to walk away.

 

There’s a lot Izuku can say right now, but the words that come out are, “What if I never figure it out, Kacchan?”

 

Katsuki looks back at him, smile impossibly sweet from hearing  Kacchan again.  “You always do, Deku,” and then he’s gone, even uses his quirk to launch himself into the air like a hero from one of Izuku’s comics, leaving the love interest to mull over their thoughts.

 


 

The possibility has always been there, but it’s got no business happening this soon.

 

In an instant the disagreement Izuku and Katsuki had doesn’t matter, because one day, on his way home from school, the entire city is talking about the boy he calls Kacchan — hot-tempered winner of the sports festival...

 

... and recently kidnapped UA student.

 

Izuku runs home, heart lodged in his throat, entire soul beginning to crumble because this absolutely cannot be happening. This is the longest stretch of time the two have gone without talking to each other and Katsuki gets kidnapped?! No. There’s no way the best hero school in the country would allow this. Eraser Head is the homeroom teacher, hell, All Might is there. All. Might! Warring feelings about the hero aside, Katsuki should be in good hands.

 

“But villains broke into the school that one time,” Izuku’s traitorous mind whispers to him. “And Stain nearly killed that guy’s brother.” No. No no no!

 

“MOM!” Izuku makes it home in record time, only to see his mother pacing back and forth, on the phone with... no, no! “M-mom, they’re saying-”

 

She holds a hand up to silence him as she says, “We’ll be right there,” to the person on the other line.

 

It’s Mitsuki Bakugou. Izuku already knows before his mother tells him.

 

When they get to the woman’s house they aren’t even remotely surprised to see her outside, going off on the quote, “old hag,” end quote — the one who's always got something to say about Katsuki. “How dare you,” Mitsuki screams, two seconds away from smashing the woman’s face with a well-manicured hand. “My son is missing and you STILL spout garbage about him?!”

 

“It was only a matter of time before some villains took interest in him,” she says, clearly being a woman with a death wish. “Now maybe the school can get back to teaching real heroes.”

 

The slap is one that echoes throughout the neighborhood, Mitsuki baring her teeth like a wild animal. “You despicable bitch!”

 

The woman stumbles back, hand pressed against her cheek. She’ll be feeling that one for weeks. “I should’ve known! Like mother like son! You’re probably glad he’s gonna be a villain!”

 

Masaru — who’s been standing by his wife’s side — gets this look on his face. It’s so cold that Izuku swears the belligerent woman’s breath stops. “Pay her no mind dear,” he says to Mitsuki, hand gentle on his wife’s shoulder. It’s a stark contrast to the heat radiating from him, the quiet anger that’s been brewing this whole time. “You can’t expect such filth to know what a real hero looks like.”

 

It’s here that Inko makes their presence known, interrupting the moment at just the right time so Masaru’s words can fester, marinate within the wrinkles of the neighbor's face. “Mitsuki. Masaru. We should go inside.”

 

“Ah, yes, of course. I’ll make us all some tea.” It’s like a switch has been flipped, the smile on Masaru’s face large and soothing as he walks into their house.

 

“Say some shit like that again and it’ll be a fist to your unpleasant face,” Mitsuki spits out before following her husband.

 

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Inko says, eager to drive the point home. “Praising a child’s capture. Perhaps you’re the real villain here.”

 

Izuku has nothing to add but a look that he hopes makes the woman feel two inches tall, because mama taught him not to back talk grown ups, but she never said anything about delivering devastating looks.

 

Inside, Masaru is already working on the tea, using it to keep himself busy. Mitsuki is urged to sit down, Inko taking her hands and telling her to breathe. It only works because Inko’s good at dealing with stress cases — see Izuku Midoriya for details. Izuku, who sits down on the couch, the TV broadcasting every detail of the kidnapping. Two classes had gone to a training camp and it’d been attacked by villains. The controversial decision had been made for the kids to be able to fight back which, in the long run, prevented more damage being done.

 

Not that the media would see it that way.

 

A press conference is going to start in a few minutes but Izuku’s got so many thoughts in his head that the words never register. He had no idea that Katsuki had gone to any sort of camp, which leads to self-deprecating thoughts of how he would know if he hadn’t said all that stuff about the Hero Killer. Ah. The same kind of crap that Katsuki’s been hearing for so long. Booed by the masses. Judged by his neighbors. Izuku knew all of that, too, but said what he said anyway because, what, he’s quirkless? How did that give him he right to-

 

“Tea?”

 

Izuku looks up to see Masaru’s welcoming smile. It’s the last thing Izuku deserves but he takes the cup anyway. “Thank you.”

 

The press conference starts and everyone comes together on the couch. The tea is there but no one’s drinking it, Mitsuki’s foot tapping against the floor, Izuku’s nails digging into his legs. As predicted, the media is ruthless, reporters asking questions that make Mitsuki grind her teeth because there’s that Katsuki Bakugou assumption again — villainous behavior. Masaru takes her hand in his, rubs the back of it with his thumb as he speaks softly to her. “They don’t know him,” he reminds her, gently. “We know him. Everyone in this room knows him. That’s what matters.”

 

Izuku feels sick, tears in his eyes as he admits to them, “I don’t know him, either. I said such terrible things, I-”

 

“Don’t you dare compare yourself to these parasites,” Mitsuki says. “You love Katsuki. I know you do.”

 

“W-we haven’t...” said that, not even once, but for some reason both of Katsuki’s parents — and his own mother — are smiling at him.

 

“Doesn’t matter. You two will say it, someday, because you live it everyday.”

 

Izuku wishes Masaru would stop with the kind looks. “Not everyday. Not lately.”

 

Mitsuki scoffs. “That’s bullshit, kid. He hasn’t stopped thinking about you and I bet you haven’t stopped thinking about him.”

 

Inko nods before Izuku can answer because of course she does.

 

“So when he gets home,” Mitsuki says, voice confident that no villain is gonna get the best of her kid. “You talk to him again.”

 

Izuku wipes away a fresh set of tears and nods to her. “Y-yes ma’am.”

 

The press conference continues and, just like the sports festival, Aizawa stands up for his student. It lifts the tension — if only for a moment — and the four of them finally manage to take sips of their tea.

 

But the calm doesn’t last long.

 

Because there’s news of a raid on the villain’s main base of operation.

 

“H-how did they do that so quickly?” Inko asks.

 

Izuku, always analytical, answers with, “They must’ve been looking during the conference.” He searches the screen, tries to see past Endeavor and the battle against the weird, twisted creatures attacking the police.

 

Is he there somewhere?

 

Is Kacchan all right?

 

There’s so much to keep track of and the cameras keep cutting to different scenes. Then. Finally. They settle on the story that will change the course of everything:

 

All Might VS All For One.

 

There’s things Izuku knows, personal things, that he hasn’t revealed to anyone. They all come center stage in this battle, the Bakugou family and his mother all staring at the screen in disbelief. But Izuku knew. He’d been shown the scar right before his number one hero shattered his dreams of ever being a hero like him. Izuku’s been holding a quiet grudge ever since, taking down posters and boxing up action figures, but right now? In the heat of this battle? Seeing All Might in such a sickly state standing against this menace? He can’t help himself, not when there’s so much at stake.

 

“WIN ALL MIGHT!!!”

 

He does.

 

But it costs him everything, at least, that’s what it looks like to the rest of the world. Because now they have to live without their symbol, that bruised fist being thrust into the air for the last time.

 


 

 

School is eerily quiet the next day, as if everyone’s grieving together. There’s whispers between the students about the fight and the teachers don’t bother shushing them, instead putting their lessons on hold so the kids can speculate what’ll happen next. Izuku tries to focus but his mind is everywhere. He’d wanted to stay home but his mother wouldn’t let him, said she’d message when when she heard from Mitsuki and Masaru about Katsuki. This leads to him checking his phone non stop, begging it to buzz, just once, with a text from his mom.

 

As if fate wants him to pursue his education, his phone goes off at the end of the school day. Kacchan’s home. He’s home and the train can’t go fast enough. Izuku tries to mentally draft what he should say — an apology, of course, but the impact is all in the delivery and the lesson learned. Izuku knows this, but he’s struggling to keep it together because his boyfriend was kidnapped and they were all so worried about him.

 

The train stops. Izuku races off of it and runs as fast as he can to the Bakugou house. When he gets there he sees a car he doesn’t recognize, but the man in the passenger seat is all too familiar.

 

All Might.

 

They stare each other down until the driver — Eraser Head, in the flesh, my goodness! — starts the car so they can leave. Izuku’s always imagined what he’d say if he ever saw All Might again, but it all feels so insignificant, so pointless since he's rescued Katsuki and, shortly after, had to retire. So Izuku walks over, knocks on All Might’s window and says, “Thank you for bringing him home.”

 

Maybe they’ll have an actual conversation again later, but right now, these are the words All Might deserves. And his smile — despite being thin and more worn out — is still great.

 

To the untrained eye, the Bakugou home looks normal. Masaru is making some more of that tea of his and Mitsuki is sitting next to Katsuki. But when you really look you notice the differences. Mitsuki is sitting fairly close to her son, her hand resting against his, and there’s a softness in the irritated look he gives the woman. The irritation’s still there when he sees Izuku but it feels manufactured, empty. “Hey nerd.”

 

“H-hi.”

 

“You two kids probably want to talk,” Masaru says as he walks over and places a hand on Mitsuki’s shoulder. For a second it looks like she doesn’t want to leave Katsuki’s side, but Masaru is full of warmth with a smile that reassures her that Katsuki’s home.

 

Once they leave Izuku carefully approaches Katsuki. Something feels off, like he’s put up solid walls, the kind that Izuku’s already broken through so they shouldn’t be up again. Not for him. Of course, that was before the Stain conversation. “Oi. You can come sit down, you know.”

 

His voice. That’s off, too. It’s rougher, more mature, like it’s been through some things that Izuku can’t even begin to comprehend. Izuku does as he’s told and sits next to Katsuki. There’s a four page letter in his head but seeing Katsuki next to him is throwing him off. “Kacchan, I-”

 

“Save it. There’s other crap to think about.”

 

Izuku winces, the punch going straight to his gut. Still, he needs to do this. “Listen, about what I said before-”

 

“Stop.”

 

“I need to tell you-”

 

“I said stop!”

 

“I’m sorry!”

 

“All Might’s gone!”

 

That stops Izuku in his tracks. “W-what?”

 

Katsuki’s laugh is broken. It’s all wrong and Izuku’s not sure how to pick up the pieces. “Guess his power was limited or something. Can you believe it? Idiot was fighting on a timer and went through with it anyway cuz my dumbass got kidnapped.”

 

No. Izuku shakes his head. This isn’t Katsuki’s fault. This fight was gonna happen no matter what and All Might’s been on that timer long before he came to this city. “Kacchan, it’s not... t-those two have history and-”

 

“So what! All Might showed up to save me!”

 

“He was doing his job!” They can’t really be yelling at each other again, can they? After what happened last time? “This is what heroes do! They rescue people!”

 

“I shouldn’t need to be rescued! I’m a hero, too!”

 

“In training!”

 

Katsuki’s eyes go dark and he moves without thinking, slamming Izuku down onto the couch, pinning him there. “What was that?”

 

“You’re training to be a hero, Kacchan! This isn’t what you signed up for!”

 

“This is EXACTLY what I signed up for! I signed up to become a hero who wins, NOT cause heroes to die!”

 

Izuku stares up at him, skin pale, eyes wide and afraid. “All Might’s not dead...”

 

“Oh yeah? What do you call it then? He can’t fight anymore, doesn’t have any power, doesn’t...” Then it dawns on him. “Shit, shit shit shit!” Katsuki lets Izuku go and scrambles away from him like a frightened cat, realizing all the implications of that statement. “I didn’t... fuck Deku, you gotta know I didn’t mean that.”

 

Izuku sits up, waiting for those feelings of resentment to come crashing back into him. They never do, replaced by a distinct pain in his heart as Katsuki wipes away the tears, as if he’s afraid of being caught crying. “Kacchan...”

 

“No wonder why they grabbed me, huh? All the makings of a villain. They were trying to recruit me, you know? Cuz I’m an asshole with an explosive quirk. The world lost All Might because of an asshole like me, a weak child who couldn't defend himself.”

 

Izuku’s been admiring Katsuki Bakugou since childhood and has probably loved him for just as long. Seeing him like this, shaking and crying, thinking so lowly of himself, makes him feel physically ill. The things they said about Katsuki during that press conference, the venom in that neighbor’s voice, they can’t even let him mourn for his greatest hero without placing the blame, or worse, feeling like he’s the wrong person to sacrifice yourself for.

 

“Kacchan. I’m sorry.”

 

“I told you not to-”

 

“I don’t care!” Izuku moves closer and, without warning, dives forward and throws his arms around him. “Damnit, Kacchan, let me apologize!”

 

Katsuki doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t have to. All he has to do is close his eyes and rest his head against Izuku’s shoulder.

 

“No matter what they say. No matter how you feel right now. You’re still that amazing person I keep chasing after.”

 

“Stupid nerd,” Katsuki says, voice soft, cracked, waiting to fill in the gaps. “You’re not chasing me. You’re right here.”

 

Izuku smiles, his fingers combing through Katsuki’s hair. “Yeah,” he whispers. “I am here.”

 

Neither one thinks to ask “for how long,” but in that moment, it doesn’t matter anyway.

Chapter Text

Everything looks much different in the light of day.

 

“... what if I want you to come up with me?”

 

Izuku can’t believe he made such an offer last night, all because he’d been kissed in front of the store and talked about comics on the way home. Furthermore, he can’t believe he owes Katsuki “ex-boyfriend I shouldn’t be thinking about” Bakugou his gratitude for not taking advantage of the situation because he could’ve, and Izuku quietly admits to the walls of his bedroom that he would’ve let him. There’s so many implications with the phrase come up in regards to inviting someone to your place at night, implications that, once upon a time, were fun and a touch bit charming.

 

But.

 

“You don’t know what you want, Deku. So I’ll wait until you figure it out.”

 

Izuku curls up under his blanket, like it can hide him from his disastrous mess of feelings. What he wants is simplicity, a life without complicated misgivings toward heroes, an existence where he can look Katsuki — Kacchan — in the eye without being torn between wanting to kiss him or push him away.

 

“What if I want...”

 

Work. Izuku has to get ready for work. Izuku has to get up and step into a steady round of distractions — a growing number of customers and Gran Torino’s specific tastes in pastries. What he wants is a hot shower. What he needs is a cup of coffee.

 

What he desires.

 

Is.

 


 

“She asked me to come up to her place while her parents weren’t home.”

 

“Ooooo, for real? Nice, dude!”

 

Izuku glances over from where he’s packing his book bag so he can head home for the day. Year two of high school has gotten interesting, to say the least. The first year jitters are gone, replaced with scattered conversations when the teachers aren’t around, conversations that are best outside the classroom but some guys are impatient.

 

He supposes it’s like getting a different kind of education.

 

It’s interesting that such an unassuming phrase can mean something so sexual. Then again, he’s been “coming up” to Katsuki’s place for years — and vice versa. It’s never once occurred to him that it could have a different meaning to it now that they’ve been dating, but he guesses all the pieces have been laid out for them to... you know...

 

Izuku blushes at the thought because, yeah, sex with Kacchan, that’s a potential thing now.

 

The two students in front of him talk about it so easily yet here he is, in a relationship with a guy he’s known for damn near his entire life, turning redder than his scuffed up shoes. Shouldn’t it be the opposite? Him and Katsuki have shared so much, why is this the thing that’s hard to discuss?

 

His phone beeps. Speak of the devil.

 

Kacchan: Hey nerd, are you coming over?

 

Such an innocent question, at least, it should be. It used to be.

 

Deku: Ah, yeah, I’ll be there soon.

 

It’s a normal routine, but now...

 

Izuku slaps his cheeks with both of his hands. Snap out of it, Izuku. You’ve spent so much time at Katsuki’s place throughout the years that you might as well have a key.

 

Although... it is a bit different now that Katsuki has a dorm.

 

There’s adult supervision, of course, but it’s not at all parental. Aizawa — Eraserhead, the Eraserhead — is pretty easy going about dorm life unless if any of the students cause too much of a ruckus. Like most teachers, when the bell rings he’d rather be done for the day.

 

So that leaves the two of them alone, in Katsuki’s room.

 

It’s been like that for a while, though. Ever since Katsuki had been kidnapped. Izuku’s at U.A. so much after school that he might as well be attending — ha ha. All of Katsuki’s classmates know who he is, greet him with kindness and, in hindsight, a couple of extra toothy grins.

 

Huh.

 

Guess they’ve already made up their mind on what Izuku coming over means.

 

But honestly? The most it’s ever meant is studying, maybe watching a documentary on heroes — though Izuku hasn’t been into that idea much lately.

 

“Yo! Hey Midoriya!”

 

As always, when Izuku gets to the dorms Kirishima’s the first to greet him. There’s others with him — the all pink girl, the electric user and the guy with the tape dispensers for elbows.

 

“Hi! Is Kacchan in his room?”

 

Giggle. Smirk. “Yep! He’s waiting for you, as always.”

 

Izuku feels his face turn flush. Part of him wishes that Katsuki would do something to get his friends to stop with the supposedly knowing looks, but the other part knows that it probably wouldn’t do anything. If high school has taught him anything it’s that sexual rumors linger worse than bad cafeteria food.

 

Izuku heads up to the room and knocks on the door. He’s not sure why. Katsuki’s so used to this that he could walk right in.

 

“Get in here, nerd.”

 

Izuku opens the door and smiles. “Hey Kacchan.”

 

Katsuki’s already out of his field uniform, dressed comfortable in his black tank top and pants. “Hey.”

 

Kissing comes naturally to them, so much so that it’s not that big of a deal. It had been when they started dating, of course, but now? It’s as simple as breathing fresh air. Izuku supposes it’s yet another thing between them that would have grander implications if it were anyone else.

 

Like coming over.

 

And now Izuku’s got the thought playing in the back of his mind. Suddenly, without warning, he’s adding some heat to the kiss. His hand cups Katsuki’s cheek as he applies more pressure, silently daring Katsuki to part his lips and, well, he’s not the type to back down from a challenge. There’s a sweetness to Izuku’s tongue that Katsuki can’t quite explain, like the kind of candy you eat by the handful, the good stuff you get on Halloween when your neighbors give a shit. It mixes with the heat of Katsuki’s mouth and oh, the sounds, the moans that tear from their throats.

 

“Where is this coming from?” Katsuki asks. He’s not complaining, just curious, a burning need stirring in the pit of his stomach.

 

“You asked me to come over.”

 

“Huh? I always do.”

 

“I know! That’s what makes this confusing!” Because how do you do more with your childhood love when you’re already intimately linked to him?

 

“... did those idiots downstairs say something?”

 

“They always do, but that’s not it.” Izuku lowers his head, trying to find the words. “I was... listening to some classmates...”

 

“Oh boy...” but Katsuki let’s him continue.

 

“One of them talked about being invited to a girl’s house while her parents weren’t home.”

 

“Ah. So you assumed ‘come over’ meant...”

 

“I... I dunno! I mean... I might want it to? Someday?” When Katsuki chuckles at him Izuku responds by pouting, cheeks puffed out in frustration. “Am I the only one having these kinds of thoughts?!”

 

“You kidding?” Katsuki leans forward, pressing another kiss to Izuku’s lips. “You think I haven’t thought about having sex with you?”

 

“You’re so blunt about it!”

 

“Says the one who kissed me like that.”

 

“Kacchan!”

 

Another kiss, Katsuki’s fingers finding a place in Izuku’s hair. Izuku doesn’t have a quirk but he’s certain this is what it feels like to fly.

 

“It’s best to just say what you mean, Deku,” Katsuki murmurs against his lips. “Some people like saying ‘come over,’ but we’re better than that, Deku. We’re closer than that. So tell me what you want.”

 

“I...” and in all of his ongoing thoughts of what ‘coming over’ meant he hadn’t taken the time to figure out what he wants out of those implications. “Um... what do you want?”

 

“You.” He says it so easily.

 

“In... ‘that’ way?”

 

“In any way.” Again, so easy. It’s Izuku who can’t get it together.

 

“O-oh... well I... um...”

 

One more kiss, this one so soft that Izuku almost misses it. “You don’t know what you want, Deku. So I’ll wait until you figure it out.”

 

Izuku frowns. “That’s not really fair to you, is it?”

 

“Why not?”

 

“What if I never figure it out?”

 


 

Izuku expected the shop to have more customers, but he didn’t expect it to be this busy. The constant appearance of a certain explosive hero has definitely drawn a crowd, and along with it comes a curiosity about comics.

 

Fantasy stories about heroes? How quaint!

 

“I might actually need to hire some extra help,” Gran Torino says, watching Izuku ring up another customer.

 

“I’m sure the hype will die down.”

 

“Ha. You think that guy’s gonna stop coming by?”

 

Izuku stops, hand holding the comic the next customer handed him but he’s forgotten the next part of the process. Ringing up, ah, of course. He was just about to do that.

 

“Something wrong?”

 

“You don’t know what you want, Deku.”

 

“It’s nothing,” Izuku says, offering Gran Torino a smile before he finishes the transaction.

 

Katsuki doesn’t show up that day.

 

Izuku’s not sure how he feels about it.

 

Gran Torino is, though, because in the passing days Izuku’s smile turns more customer service and less I’m actually enjoying this .

 

By the third day the buzz is starting to fizzle. They have a few regulars who want to continue reading, but overall, the store grows quiet. And Izuku? Is restless, going through all sorts of emotions he doesn’t want to delve into. At one point he gets angry, wondering how someone can walk back into your life and just leave.

 

“I’ll wait until you figure it out.”

 

The anger doesn’t last long because he’s the one to blame, and he doesn’t need to be angry with himself, thank you very much.

 

On the fifth day Izuku’s checking his phone, reading stories about Ground Zero in the same vein as reading comic books. He’s been busy, as to be expected from one of the top heroes. He’s been taking on villains, smirking for photos, and continuing to do great things for the Ground Zero name. Izuku finds himself analyzing his picture, trying to find some kind of sign of... what, exactly? Is Katsuki thinking about him? Remembering the past and trying to make sense of the here and now?

 

Is it just Izuku who’s pining after him?

 

Ugh, this isn’t how this is supposed to go!

 

They’d agreed to-

 

“W-we broke up.”

 

“Yeah? And whose decision was that?”

 

“It was mutual!”

 

“Keep telling yourself that.”

 

“You said you couldn’t take it anymore!”

 

“Yeah? What couldn’t I take, huh?”

 

“Izuku? Customer,” Gran Torino says.

 

“R-right!” Did he really space out so much that he hadn’t noticed the person standing at the counter? He’s not this much of a space case, honest. “I’ll ring you right... up...”

 

“Hey Midoriya!”

 

“... hey Kirishima.”

 

Great.

 


 

“Hey... is it true?”

 

Izuku isn’t surprised to see Kirishima standing at his door. Out of all of Katsuki’s friends — yes, friends — he’s the closest, the one most likely to demand a full explanation on something if it’s hurting Katsuki.

 

Instead of waiting for an answer Kirishima starts talking again. “Look, I know he can be a bit much to deal with, but he really does love you.”

 

Izuku runs a hand through his hair, telling himself that now’s not the time to cry. “I know.” He knows better than anyone.

 

“So... maybe talk to him, yeah?”

 

“Kirishima...”

 

“He’d listen, for sure. If it’s you he’ll-”

 

“I know. I’ve known him for most of my life. I know.”

 

Kirishima frowns, fidgeting from where he’s standing, trying to find the words to convince Izuku to talk to Katsuki again. “Yeah, that’s true, but dating can-”

 

“Kirishima. Please stop,” because at the age of eighteen, after having Katsuki Bakugou be so connected to his life, Izuku makes the decision — fresh out of high school — to end their relationship.

 

And Katsuki agrees.

 

Right?

 


 

“Man, when’s the last time we talked like this?”

 

Izuku is trying his best to be polite but he knows a set up when he sees it, can smell it in the air as the two of them sit together at the coffee shop that’s close to the shop. As to be expected, there’s plenty of people not focusing on their food and drinks, instead they’re whispering to themselves about the Red Riot — gasp! To be fair, Kirishima had at least shown up out of costume, but he’s easily to spot with that wild, red hair and sharp toothed smile.

 

“You remember, Kirishima. Three years ago.”

 

“Right right,” then Kirishima waves a hand, as if trying to dismiss that pesky break up from before. “But you two are talking again now, right?”

 

“I guess.”

 

“Don’t be like that, Midoriya. He’s been talking about you.”

 

Izuku decides to focus on sipping his coffee and not the way his heart flutters at the thought of Katsuki talking about him. “He came by the store and walked me home,” he says, trying to cut straight to the chase, like yanking a bandage off and sucking in the urge to scream.

 

“And then?”

 

“Nothing.” He doesn’t mention the kiss. “I haven’t seen him since.”

 

“Duh! Because he’s waiting for you!” Kirishima reaches over and playfully shoves Izuku’s shoulder before he takes a big bite out of the pastry he bought. “So what’s your next move gonna be?”

 

“There is no next move, Kirishima.”

 

“Midoriya-”

 

“I’m serious,” Izuku says, cutting him off. “We’re not getting back together.”

 

“Why?”

 

“What?”

 

Kirishima takes another bite then repeats himself. “ Why ?”

 

“Because we don’t-”

 

“Nope.”

 

Izuku blinks, getting increasingly more annoyed. “What?”

 

“It’s not we , Midoriya. It’s you .”

 

Izuku takes another sip of his drink, using it to stall for time as he tries to figure out what to say next. Because yes, even under the guise of it being mutual, Izuku knows he’s the main culprit, knows he’s the reason — back then and now. “All right, what if it is me?” Izuku sets his cup down, eyes narrowed at Kirishima. “What if I don’t want to be with Kacchan?”

 

“Back to using Kacchan I see.”

 

“It’s just a name.”

 

“Bullshit, Midoriya.”

 

“You don’t know me well enough to decide what that name means.”

 

“Yeah, well I know him well enough,” then Kirishima leans forward, looking directly into Izuku’s eyes. “Also, your eyes are gonna be your downfall.”

 

And Izuku tries, honest to goodness, to keep that hard look in place, but he can already feel himself getting weak, eyes wide, green, and full of feelings he thought he left behind three years ago.

 

No.

 

No that’s not true at all.

 

They’ve always been here, buried deep under denial and piles of comic books.

 

“Why, Midoriya?”

 

Izuku swallows. Hates the way his throat burns from it. “Why what, Kirishima?” So quiet. So far gone.

 

“Why won’t you let yourself be happy?”

 


 

At age eighteen everything happens too fast. Graduation is coming, which means the inevitable step forward, and Katsuki Bakugou? He’s got it all figured out, has been saying it since he was a kid.

 

He’s gonna be the number one hero, and he’s well on his way.

 

Because Katsuki has a bunch of agencies chomping at the bit for him, and that’s been the case since his very first semester at U.A. Some students have to plead their case to get scouted, but Katsuki? He gets to cherry pick from some top choices — and some random ones desperate to have someone like Katsuki Bakugou in their ranks.

 

The irony isn’t lost on him. Once upon a time they booed him from the stands, now they’re offering everything — including the proverbial kitchen sink.

 

And Izuku? He’s wearing his best supportive face, but...

 

No. No, he’s happy for Katsuki — his Kacchan. He’s earned this, most definitely, and whatever he decides he’ll be behind him one hundred percent. Plus ultra... or whatever.

 

Besides.

 

He can just go to whatever college that’s close to the agency Katsuki picks. Doesn’t really matter what school he goes to. Education is education, but agencies? Those shape you into an icon.

 

“Huh.”

 

Izuku looks up from where he’s laying on Katsuki’s bed, watching his boyfriend read through an email on his computer. “What is it?”

 

“Another offer,” and he’s not trying to sound so nonchalant about it but there’s been a lot, and you can only be so excited, you know? But this one has him curious, eyebrow raised as he reads the message. “It’s the agency Lemillion works at.”

 

That catches Izuku’s attention.

 

Lemillion — Mirio Togata — is U.A. royalty. Part of the monumental Big 3, he was, apparently, the obvious choice to take over as All Might’s successor after retirement. Not that anyone knew the former hero was looking for a replacement, but Mirio fit the bill with his unbelievable determination, unique quirk, and million watt smile.

 

Katsuki’s talked about him before, said that the first time their class met him he wiped the floor with them — while naked.

 

“That’s a good agency, huh?”

 

“Yeah. Looks like All Might recommended me.”

 

“He... did?”

 

“Yeah,” and there’s a hint of a smile on his face, a whisper of that smile he had when they were kids watching All Might on TV. “To be honest this place was on my radar, I just didn’t think...”

 

“All Might recommended you?”

 

Katsuki laughs. There’s a full grin now. Even if he’s retired All Might is still hailed as the best there ever was. “Guess I made an impression on him.”

 

“How could you not after what happened before,” Izuku mutters.

 

“... you think he’s doing this cuz I got kidnapped back then?”

 

“N-no! That’s not what I meant!”

 

“Good, cuz I worked my ass off.”

 

“I know. I’m sorry,” Izuku says, because he knows it’s true. Katsuki’s been through a whole lot during his time at U.A and has most certainly earned his spot. What he doesn’t say is that he’s got mixed feelings about All Might in general, but Katsuki doesn’t need to know that. That has nothing to do with him. “So what are you gonna do?”

 

Katsuki leans back in his seat and stares up at the ceiling. “Kinda hard to turn it down, huh? If the number one hero is telling them about me.”

 

Former number one. But Izuku doesn’t say that, either. “Yes, but... is this where you want to go?”

 

“I’m definitely thinking about it.” Katsuki spins around in his chair so he can look at Izuku. “And you? Have you decided on a school?”

 

Izuku shrugs. “Wherever’s close to you.”

 

Katsuki scoffs. “Stop with the sappy nonsense, Deku. Where do you want to go?”

 

“It doesn’t matter, Kacchan. I want to see what you do, the kind of hero you become,” the hero that Izuku can never be.

 

Katsuki sighs and walks over to the bed, sitting next to Izuku. “You’re just gonna keep chasing after me, huh?”

 

Izuku shrugs. “I seem to be pretty good at it.”

 

“Deku...”

 

“What? Not like All Might will ever acknowledge someone like me.”

 

“Do you need him to?”

 

Izuku has to stop himself from spitting out the word ‘no.’ Even if All Might sacrificed his power to save Katsuki, Izuku’s definitely outgrown him. Izuku’s outgrown heroes in general, actually, but can make an exception for Kacchan.

 

Still.

 

All Might telling him there was no way he could become a hero without a quirk? That lingers, sticks around like hardening chewing gum that’s hard to scrape off the bottom of a table. Does All Might still feel that way now that his power is gone? Does it matter when he’s obviously continuing his legacy through others?

 

‘I am here,’ he says, but he doesn’t really mean it. He’s here for the Mirios and Kacchans, not the Dekus.

 

“Deku?”

 

“I don’t need his acknowledgement, I was just making conversation,” then Izuku smiles. “Should we celebrate you getting another offer?”

 

“No... I wanna know what’s going on with you.”

 

Izuku shakes his head and says, “Nothing.”

 

“Yeah? Well maybe that’s the problem.”

 

“... what?”

 

It’s not the start of the tension between them, no, it’s more like the final straw. Through the tender moments, the smiles and the shared laughs, there’s been something hanging between them that neither wanted to fully address.

 

It’s being poked at now, and it’s as ugly as it is cruel.

 

“You could be doing so much for yourself but you refuse to, because you’re still hung up on not having a quirk.”

 

The Izuku Midoriya from the playground days would’ve taken that, he would’ve whined for Kacchan to stop but still follow after him anyway. This Izuku, however, has too much bitterness stewing in his heart to just let that go — even if he knows that Katsuki’s right. “Right, because me not having something the entire world has is no reason to be upset.”

 

“Yeah, it sucks, all right? But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all. You can-”

 

And you know? Izuku has a faint memory of wanting this moment where someone gives him some reassurance, that he can be a somebody that people still depend on.

 

But.

 

“What? I can what? Be a police officer? Go into law enforcement? If I still wanna be a hero?”

 

“Yeah!”

 

Izuku laughs but there’s no humor, no soul, in it. All Might had said the same thing before he snatched his dream away.

 

So now? The reassurance is meaningless.

 

“I’m not interested in doing that,” Izuku whispers.

 

Katsuki stands up, eyes wild, frantic, as he snaps, “Then what are you interested in?! Because this, this isn’t...”

 

“Isn’t what?” And now Izuku’s standing, fists tight at his sides and shaking. “Say it.”

 

“No.” Katsuki shakes his head and steps back.

 

“Say it, Kacchan! This isn’t working!”

 

For a moment Katsuki feels like he’s been punched in the gut by Lemillion himself, the air being forced out of him. It takes a moment to get his bearings back, but he goes in head first the second he can. “And who’s fault is that, Deku?”

 

“What?”

 

“You’re still holding onto this bitterness, Deku. I’ve been trying to deal with it, because it can’t feel good. We both admired him, but you’re the one who got the short end of the stick. And that’s awful, but... you’re so pissed at me, Deku, and I can’t...”

 

“You...” And now it’s Izuku’s turn to be left breathless, throat sore, aching. “I’m not-”

 

“Yes you are.”

 

“It’s not about you!”

 

“Just be honest, Deku. Let it all out. You’ve been holding onto it this whole time. There’s been glimpses of it. I’ve seen it. So just fucking say it!”

 

Izuku knows he shouldn’t. Not if he wants this to end well. Because he can already predict the outcome if he opens his mouth right now. But he knows he has to, knows he has to push on because someone like him has no business being next to Katsuki Bakugou. Katsuki wants — no, needs — a solid boyfriend, a guy who works to better himself, who pushes onward and smirk right back at him.

 

And maybe, in another version of the story, that Izuku exists. That Izuku has a quirk, or hell, maybe he doesn’t, but he’s so sure of himself that it doesn’t even matter.

 

It matters too much to this Izuku, though. And Katsuki Bakugou is becoming too great. All Might recommendation. Lemillion. Best at U.A. He’s tried through these years of high school, has apologized for his hurt feelings as Katsuki tried his best to walk on eggshells.

 

But if Katsuki Bakugou’s going to be the best, he’s going to have to run instead of treading lightly.

 

So.

 

He opens his mouth.

 


 

Izuku’s not sure how long he looks at the number in his phone. Kirishima had given it to him, insisted that he call Katsuki.

 

He is and isn’t sure if he wants to.

 

For one thing, Katsuki isn’t going to recognize the number, so what if he doesn’t pick up the phone? And if he does pick up, what’s Izuku going to say to him?

 

It plagues his mind during the rest of his shift, especially when Gran Torino says, “He must be busy if he didn’t come by today.”

 

“Ah.” Izuku’s too distracted to give his usual response where he tries to pretend like he doesn’t care.

 

“What did his friend say to you?”

 

“Not much.” Everything. He said everything. Probably things he’s been wanting to say for three years.

 

“Uh huh.” Gran Torino doesn’t believe him for a second. “Well, maybe he’ll come over tomorrow.”

 

“Why do you want him to?”

 

“I don’t. You do.”

 

“You’re so amazing, Kacchan! You have everything! Everything I wanted, you have it and you’re getting the recognition you deserve! It’s wonderful, and you’ll do great things, I’m sure you will.”

 

But.

 

“I can’t... be here for it.”

 

The walk home is quiet and it gives Izuku too much to think about, flashes too many memories. Katsuki’s dorm room — pristine and painful. His own bedroom — void of hero posters, the figurines tucked away in boxes that he leaves behind.

 

A kiss in front of a comic shop.

 

A lighthearted walk home with smiles and pleasant conversation.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s fine,” Katsuki says. There’s no bite to his voice, no hints of that hot-temper. That makes it worse, honestly, but there’s nothing left to scream about. It'd be easier if it were a loud, hostile situation, but nothing is easy, not for the two of them. They know each other inside and out, have touched all the nooks and crannies from age four to eighteen. It leaves them raw, makes them vulnerable, has them wearing their pain like disjointed badges of honor. “People grow apart, right? It was bound to happen to us. Kinda had a feeling, you know? The first day we started high school... you weren’t here.” Katsuki taps at Izuku's chest, over his slow beating heart.

 

“... why didn’t you say anything?”

 

Katsuki shrugs. Lifts his arm to wipe his eyes with his sleeve. “Was being selfish, I guess. Thought we could pretend it was ok.”

 

Izuku smiles. Even laughs. It’s like a dagger to both of their hearts, the sound so utterly broken but he talks through the shards of glass. “Three years is a good run, right?”

 

“Just three? You kidding? We’ve been together since we were four, that’s a hell of a run.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Izuku is having a staring contest with his phone. Never has he ever felt so intimidated by a phone number. He thinks about texting but it feels so impersonal with something like this.

 

He needs to hear his voice.

 

He needs to speak the words.

 

Katsuki holds the door open for Izuku, watches him sling that comically large bag onto his back. He keeps his eyes on him, like he’s trying to photocopy everything before-

 

“Goodbye Kacchan.”

 

“Yeah,” Katsuki says. He reaches forward, catches a tear before it can touch the freckles. “You’re wrong, you know?”

 

“Kacchan, don’t-”

 

“I don’t have everything.”

 

Their kisses used to be easy but now it stings too much, like burnt coffee that clings to the tip of your tongue, stains the roof of your mouth. Still, they kiss each other, lips trembling and scared, breaths wobbly and sad.

 

“Hello?”

 

“I don’t have you.”

 

“H-hi...”

 

“Who is this?”

 

The yellow bag.

 

The red shoes.  

 

The mess of hair and all those star speckled freckles.

 

“Izuku,” then, “D-Deku. It’s Deku.”

 

A pause. A soft inhale of breath. “Deku?” And he doesn’t even ask how he got his number.

 

Izuku is never going to come over again.

 

“Yeah,” then a soft, gentle request. “Come over, Kacchan.”

Chapter Text

“Deku!”

 

Izuku stops, holding onto the straps of his backpack as he takes a slow, deep breath. He doesn’t want to deal with this. Not right now. Not after the day he’s had.

 

Having your idol destroy any semblance of your childhood dream is one thing, but seeing someone you — ah, love, it’s definitely love — seeing them in such an utterly helpless state?

 

Izuku will admit to having an odd chemistry with Katsuki Bakugou. From childish teasing to... whatever this is, right now, this moment where he’s facing his, well, crush doesn’t cover it so he mentally settles on “his Kacchan.” It’s selfish, but it’s all he expects to ever get — internal desires, because Katsuki doesn’t need to know that the quirkless kid everyone picks on has loved him since he had that “Katsuki Bakugou Hero Agency” about a decade ago.

 

“What the hell did you think you were doing?”

 

Of course, those feelings were made bare, left wide open and raw, when Izuku decided to run through actual fire to try and save Katsuki.

 

There’s another version of this story, somewhere in the universe, where Izuku stands there and lets Katsuki berate him in the same fashion as the heroes who had been on the scene. But this version? In the here and now? Is where Izuku Midoriya stands up for himself.

 

Because it’s already been a cruel day.

 

“I was trying to save you,” Izuku says. “I couldn’t just stand there and watch you die.”

 

“Hah?! You think I needed your help?!”

 

“No one else was doing anything!”

 

What Katsuki means to say is that it’s foolish for someone like Izuku to risk his life like that, not just because he’s quirkless — though that is a part of it — but because he has no experience. At all. That much had been evident in the frantic way he’d been running.

 

But Katsuki’s angry, which means his default setting is to lash out, which leads to him saying, “You think a quirkless loser like you actually did something today?!”

 

Now Katsuki Bakugou? Isn’t the nicest guy out there. He’s got friends in the sense of boys following his lead and he’s been picking on Izuku on and off for years. But even so, he feels something when he sees the shattered look, the crack in Izuku’s attempt at putting on a brave face. He debates saying something else, thinks about retracting his statement, but-

 

“No. I know I didn’t do anything. Couldn’t do anything. I don’t have any power. I’m useless, Kacchan,” and he knows this because All Might told him so. “I just... you were...” he sighs, then, “Nevermind. You’re right. Everyone’s right.” All Might. The heroes who scolded him.

 

His mother.

 

“I give up.”

 

“... what?”

 

“I give up, Kacchan,” he repeats, defeated. “This whole playing hero thing? I give up. I’ll leave it up to you.”

 

And it sounds so wrong, so out of place, that Katsuki takes a step closer, actually shakes his head. “Playing hero? We’re not kids, Deku.”

 

“No, you’re not. I am. I’m the one pretending. Like some fantasy, some fictional character, who doesn’t need a quirk to be great. Not even my own mother believes in me!” Izuku wipes at his eyes, and ugh, goddamnit, he doesn’t want to cry about this again.

 

Unbeknownst to Katsuki, he’ll say the right thing in a couple of years, but by then? It’ll be too late. For now, though, he has a choice: he can let Izuku walk away and not take their relationship into a direction that’ll lead to deep affection and, tragically, two broken hearts.

 

Or.

 

He can take them both by surprise by walking up to Izuku and kissing him.

 

He chooses the latter because he’s headstrong, brash, and maybe, just maybe, has a thing for this Deku kid. The electricity between them is startling at first, but deep down? They both knew it was there, lingering between them until they could finally catch hold of it and identify their tension as an attraction to one another. It’s like a scene from a movie, the two male leads kissing as the sun sets in the distance, the oranges and yellows washing over their skin as Izuku takes a chance and strengthens the pressure of his lips against Katsuki’s. In return, Katsuki trails his fingers over those freckles. The downside is that it causes Izuku to break the kiss. The upside? He leans into Katsuki’s fingers, gives him a smile that makes Katsuki’s heart forget how to function as Izuku looks up at him with eyes so bright and achingly green that it rivals the jewelry his mother wears on date night.

 

“Kacchan...”

 

And yeah.

 

He’s kissing those lips again.

 

Kisses them as much as he can over the course of three years.

 


 

Izuku’s not sure how long he’s been standing in the mirror.

 

He takes a strand of hair between his fingers, quietly examining the curl as if it can tell him what’s missing from his look. Blue jeans. Tank top — because Katsuki isn’t the only one who knows how to wear them. While Izuku’s arm game isn’t on the same level, it’s not too shabby, and-

 

Why does any of this matter?

 

He knows the answer to that but he’s not about to analyze how he’d laid out various comic book themed shirts, finally settling on Wonder Woman’s iconic W because maybe an Amazonian warrior can get him through this. Superman and Captain America are a bit too nice, similar to All Might, in a way, and Izuku’s not cool enough to be Batman or Ironman — no, he’s no billionaire playboy, not even close. Spiderman. Ah, maybe he should change, maybe-

 

Ugh.

 

Why. Does. This. Matter?!

 

“Because you never got over it,” he says to the mirror and no one else. Because this isn’t just about his failed relationship with Katsuki. It’d actually be much easier if that were the only thing he had to work out. But part of him still, to this day, feels jaded about his lot in life, and honestly? He’s been trying to deal with it. But how do you tune out the hero talks in class? The display windows of costumed saviors? The themed drinks at restaurants?

 

“Why won’t you let yourself be happy?”

 

That’s the thing, though. He’s not miserable, not unhappy . He actually likes taking classes and learning things, likes working at the shop and reading the various forms of the human imagination where heroes weren’t real — not to a superhuman degree, at least. But now that Katsuki’s back there’s memories, feelings, longing . There’s the stuff he’s kept buried down, the truths he hasn’t completely told.

 

Could he go on without Katsuki? Now that he’s back... does he want to? Is it worth decluttering the things he’s left untouched?

 

The buzzer for his apartment goes off and he takes a deep breath, whispering, “Let’s do this, Diana.”

 

Ugh. He’s such a nerd.

 


 

It takes a while, but Izuku manages to navigate through life without hearing about heroes.

 

Kinda.

 

It’s impossible during the rest of his high school days, what with his classmates practically orgasming over U.A.’s sports festival and the apparent rematch between Todoroki and, sigh, Katsuki Bakugou. Izuku doesn’t watch it but knows that Katsuki wins — this time, it was earned, and Kacchan must be happy about that.

 

No.

 

Katsuki.

 

Not Kacchan.

 

Izuku will get it right eventually.

 

There’s also, of course, dealing with his mother’s wilted flower look when she realizes that the two of them broke up. She carries that look with her when Izuku eliminates all traces of heroism out of his room. It leads to her telling him that he’s good enough the way he is, and yeah, his four-year-old self is happy to hear that, he guesses, but at age eighteen it’s time to leave well enough alone.

 

In college the hero talks aren’t as awe inspiring. There’s more analysis and debate, more discourse on who should and shouldn’t save people. While Izuku doesn’t dive headfirst into any field that revolves around heroics, he does take a class or two that deconstructs the modern superhero. Hell, it’s how he found out about comic books and the fictional world where there was, at most, a team of heroes — not an entire society.

 

It’s... comforting.

 

It’s also how he gets his very first rebound relationship. And yeah, that should’ve been a sign, because a year without Kacchan — Katsuki — is plenty of time for a new guy to not be a rebound.

 

But he is.

 

And so is the next guy.

 

And the third, too, though he lasts the longest.

 

See, guy number one had been a classmate who was fine, just, way too into the philosophy of heroes thing. He liked to spend their nights watching news reports and discussing who should and shouldn’t be in the top ten. The second guy? Even worse. Because he had been a fan of up and coming hero, Ground Zero, so Izuku broke things off in record time.

 

The third? He’s quirkless, just like Izuku, and really, what are the odds? They share a bitterness about it, but maybe, this guy is a bit too bitter, always rolling his eyes at any mention of heroes, always muttering under his breath when someone uses their quirk. The relationship does one good thing for Izuku, though — it convinces him to live his life and not waste it on being angry about what he can’t fix.

 

He doesn’t want to hate heroes.

 

He doesn’t want to hate Katsuki.

 

So he tries, you know? Gets a job at the comic shop, even wears hero T-shirts — though nothing current, nothing real, that’ll take time. And it’s working, he thinks. Because he can hear stories about Ground Zero without his heart aching, can even read interviews and deal with a few customers asking if they’ll ever get hero merchandise of their favorite working pros.

 

But then.

 

One day.

 

He gets robbed.

 

And now he’s opening the door for Katsuki Bakugou.

 

“Hi,” is all Izuku can manage to say.

 

It’s fine because, “... hey,” is all Katsuki can respond with, dressed in loose jogging pants and a tank top like he’d just gotten out of bed and rushed over. It’s entirely possible. This is somewhat late on Katsuki Bakugou standards.

 

They stare at each other long enough for it to get uncomfortable then Izuku steps aside and asks, “Do you wanna come in?”

 

“Yeah. Yeah I do.”

 

The apartment is small, but quaint, very similar to the space Izuku grew up in. It’s odd being in a Midoriya residence again but there’s a comfort within the walls, a warmth that Katsuki hasn’t felt in three years. He closes his eyes for a moment and lets himself take it all in, after all, he’s not sure how this conversation’s going to go.

 

“Tea?”

 

“Hm? Oh, yeah, sure.”

 

Izuku nods and steps into the kitchen, shouting back to Katsuki, “I have a couple different options. If I remember right, you liked-”

 

“This one,” Katsuki says, having followed after Izuku. It’s a brand whose tea has a bit of a kick to it, the spicy kind that his dad would make for him and his mother. “When did you start drinking this kind?”

 

“Ah, um, got it in a variety pack,” and not at the convenience store on the corner fifteen minutes ago. No. Not at all.

 

Katsuki smiles but doesn’t push him any further, in fact, he does him a solid by changing the subject. “Why is there a W on your tank top?”

 

“Oh. It’s another hero. Wonder Woman.”

 

“Fictional?” Katsuki takes a seat at the table and watches as Izuku grabs two mugs for them. There’s symbols he doesn’t recognize but he guesses they’re more fantasy heroes. It’s an interesting trade off for the real thing.

 

“Yeah. She’s an Amazonian warrior,” then Izuku blinks when Katsuki visibly shudders. “What?”

 

“Nothing, just... thought of something.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“It’s not important.”

 

“Now I’m curious.”

 

“I’d rather not...”

 

“Come on, Kacchan, tell me.”

 

And that is entirely unfair, showing that glimpse of the boy who hung on his every word. Izuku probably doesn’t realize he’s doing it, if he did, he’d wholeheartedly deny it, but his eyes are so wide, so beautifully green, waiting in anticipation for Katsuki to give in to him. “Fine, fine. It’s a hero I’ve worked with a couple of times. You’ve probably heard of The Rabbit Hero ?”

 

“Oh yeah! She’s-”

 

“A pain in the ass,” but there’s an almost fond look in his eyes when he says it. “Great to work with if you can handle her, though.”

 

“And you couldn’t?”

 

“Let’s just say it took some time...”

 

“Considering your two personalities I can see how there’d need to be an adjustment period.”

 

Katsuki feels his heart jump as Izuku starts mumbling to himself about the similarities between Ground Zero and what he’s heard about Miruko. It’s such an odd thing to miss, but he hasn’t seen Izuku go off into his own little world like this in three years. Katsuki lets him rattle on for longer than necessary until he finally says, “Oi. Deku. Tea.”

 

“R-right!” And ugh, he looks so embarrassed, face flushed like he can’t believe he just did that in front of Katsuki. It’s not like the habit’s gone away, hell, he does it in class and even at the shop if the right customer comes along to talk comics. But there’s something about slipping into it with Katsuki because... when did he get so comfortable around him again? “Sorry about that.”

 

“It’s fine.” More than fine, actually. It’s like coming back home after being gone for too long but Katsuki knows to keep those words to himself.

 

Izuku sets a mug in front of Katsuki then sits across from him, taking a sip out of his own cup. The two stare at everything but each other, Izuku’s eyes on a small crack in the wall that had been there when he moved in, while Katsuki’s eyes are on the yellow X on his cup, quietly pondering who this hero in particular is.

 

“It’s a team,” Izuku says to answer his silent question, but he stops himself from rambling about Professor Charles Xavier and the deeper metaphor of X-Men . They’d be here all night and he needs to stop using comics as a cover for the actual conversation they — he — needs to have.

 

Ah. Using comics. He does that a lot, actually.

 

“You... probably wanna get to the point, huh?”

 

Katsuki shrugs.

 

“When did you get so patient?”

 

“I’m only patient when it’s worth it, Deku,” and yeah, he has to look directly into Izuku’s eyes when he says that.

 

Izuku has a faint memory of telling him not to call him that, but he’s already slipped back into Kacchan and he’s already blushing because he’s not breaking eye contact with Katsuki. “Ah. So, y-you’re saying that I’m-”

 

“You already know the answer to that.”

 

“Maybe... I wanna hear you say it.”

 

“No you don’t.”

 

“What?”

 

Katsuki takes a long sip of tea like he’s building up hot, liquid courage. Fighting villains is nothing compared to this. “This isn’t just about me, or even about us. It’s about you and your feelings about everything. And I mean everything, Deku.”

 

Izuku lets out a laugh, the sound a mix of green tea and bitterness. “My feelings are all over the place.”

 

“So?”

 

“So? What do you mean so ?”

 

“Exactly what I said. You don’t gotta force yourself to have everything in order. Feel however you want.”

 

“And you?”

 

“I told you this wasn’t about me.”

 

“Yes it is! Because you’re here now!”

 

“Deku I’ve been here. I’ve been here for three years. We’ve lived in the same city this whole time and-”

 

Izuku stands up from his chair, hands flat and hard against the table. “Don’t you dare make this sound so one-sided. You came to me! You kissed me!”

 

“Yeah, I did. I’ll own up to that, but if you’re gonna throw that in my face you better own up to your shit, too.”

 

“Excuse me?!”

 

Now it’s Katsuki’s turn to stand up, but he doesn’t stop there. He walks around the table until he’s in front of Izuku, right in his face as he says, “You called me here.”

 

Izuku swallows, mentally tells himself to take a step back, but his heart is beating on overdrive and urging him to stay. “Yeah. I did.”

 

“So the next move is yours.”

 

Izuku shakes his head. “What about what you want, Kacchan?” And he doesn’t bother arguing with himself about that name.

 

“Why are you touching my face?”

 

“There’s a bunch of dots on it.”

 

Izuku giggles. “My mom says they’re called freckles.”

 

“Freckles? Is that some kind of quirk?”

 

Izuku shakes his head. “No, it’s just me.”

 

“Just you,” Katsuki whispers, his fingers tracing the speckles on Izuku’s cheek. It’s the same familiar motion they’ve shared for years, from back before quirks to the moment when the touch was replaced with kisses. “I have everything else I want, but what I need is you .”

 

And there it is. Out in the open. Something deeper than you’re worth it because it’s working both ways. Yes, Izuku’s worth it, has always been worth it, but he’s absolutely necessary in the eyes of Katsuki Bakugou.

 

There’s more that Izuku wants to say, truths he wants — needs — to reveal. His feelings of inadequacy in a world where being super is the norm, the ones that unburied themselves after the robbery at the store. The fact that, in all honesty, he’s not as upset about it as he used to be. Three years of being alone with himself did more than a bit of good. So it’s not that he’s refusing happiness, he just doesn’t want to have those toxic thoughts again, the ones that led him to removing current day heroes and ending things with Katsuki.

 

He doesn’t want to put himself through that, more importantly, he doesn’t want to put Kacchan through that.

 

Which would mean.

 

That.

 

He still has feelings for him.

 

And yeah, that would require a lot of words, but he settles for taking a deep, strong breath, and pressing his lips against Katsuki’s.

 

And just like that, it’s over.

 

Because Katsuki can’t restrain himself, not when the kiss is this passionate. He grabs onto Izuku’s hips like a lifeline and holds on tight. Their bodies are pressed together and it’s like unlocking a time capsule and emptying the contents after so many years. It aches so good, their lips wet, hungry, starving , like they’ve gone without food for far too long. Katsuki’s tongue caresses Izuku’s and the sound it elicits is borderline illegal, especially when Izuku pulls away and whispers, “ Kacchan.

 

Fuck. “Deku.” Fuck, fuck. “I need...” to touch, to taste, to feel, to have. Katsuki Bakugou begs for nothing, but, “Please?” A kiss on Izuku’s lips, his nose, the dots on his cheeks. “ Please ?” Hands smoothing over his back, wrinkling his tank top. “Please, Deku. Izuku. Please ?”

 

Izuku feels his knees get weak from the desperation in Katsuki’s voice, but he understands it more than he’ll ever know. Being separated from someone you’ve been tied to for most of your life is difficult, doubly so when it’s because of your own hang ups. But the time away wasn’t a waste, not completely, because Izuku’s able to touch Katsuki’s lips with the tips of his fingers and say, “Heroes don’t beg, Kacchan.”

 

Katsuki kisses his fingers and responds with, “There’s a lot you don’t know about heroes, then.”

 

They make it to the living room and Izuku straddles Katsuki’s lap, tilting his chin with a single finger as he leans in and kisses him again. They stay like that for what feels like forever, Katsuki’s hands warm when they snake under Izuku’s shirt to touch — feel — his skin. Izuku melts against him, panting between kisses, feeling drunk, disoriented, wrecked because Katsuki’s tongue is so intimate, so deep inside his mouth.

 

“K-Kacchan. I need to breathe.”

 

“No,” then Katsuki kisses him again, making sure Izuku’s lips go numb from being branded in such a way.

 

“Kacchan,” Izuku gasps, moans, feeling delirious. “I need-”

 

“No.”

 

“Please!”

 

“No!” Another kiss, Katsuki’s nails digging into Izuku’s back. “You can’t.”

 

“Kacchan...”

 

“You can’t kiss me like there’s no tomorrow then take it away again!”

 

“Why won’t you let yourself be happy?”

 

Happy isn’t the right word.

 

The right word is Kacchan. Why won’t he let himself have Kacchan? Because he can have him, has had him, since he was a quirkless child.

 

“Kacchan... stay the night with me.”

 

A pause, then, “Deku...”

 

“I’m serious. Stay the night with me.”

 

Katsuki Bakugou doesn’t look vulnerable for anyone. Anyone! But that night his eyes are fragile, palms bordering on being sweaty from nerves. “Are you sure?” Because there’s no point if he isn’t sure, isn’t absolutely certain, that this is what he wants.

 

Izuku nods and looks just as confident as the heroes he’s turned his back on. “Please, Kacchan?”

 

When Katsuki nods his head Izuku slides out of his lap and leads him to his bedroom. They lay in bed together, arms loose and comfortable around each other as they exchange soft whispers of kisses. It keeps them satisfied throughout the night, their clothes still on, their eyes bright and glossy with unshed tears. A kiss for every minute, every second they missed out on. A gentle smile from Izuku for every day, every month, every year. Much like eager children they try to fight off sleep, wanting to stay awake as if they’ll lose the moment forever if they shut their eyes.

 

But eventually, Izuku slips off, Katsuki’s fingers in his hair as he watches the one thing that was missing sleep in his arms again.

 


 

“Young Bakugou?”

 

Katsuki looks over at All Might and frowns at him. He knows he’s about to get a lecture. He’d been reckless during training, like it was his first year at U.A. instead of his third. Kirishima — bless his soul — smiles a sunny smile at All Might and says, “It’s all right! I was the one who-”

 

“Save it. I was sloppy,” and there’s building damage to prove it, a giant chunk of the wall incinerated. Had it been inhabited people would’ve died. “It won’t happen again.”

 

“You said that last week.”

 

“Thanks Icy-Hot,” Katsuki says with a growl directed at Todoroki, though to be fair, he did nearly burn the boy’s eyebrows off last week, back when they were supposed to be partners in a mock mission.

 

“Perhaps we should talk,” All Might says, trying his best to remember to check on his students’ well being. He’d gotten much better over the years.

 

“I’m fine.”

 

Kirishima shakes his head and says, “Bakugou... tell him.”

 

“Tell me what?”

 

“Shut up!”

 

The outburst startles the other students, but it’s Kaminari, Sero, and Mina who look particularly sad. They know what’s bothering Katsuki, just like Kirishima does, but the blond is too stubborn to say it outloud. They’d found out by accident, had noticed that Izuku hadn’t come by the dorms in a while, which prompted Katsuki to blurt out the reason why just to get them to shut up.

 

“Dude. Come on. It’s a big deal.”

 

“Fine. Whatever. My dumb boyfriend and I broke up, ok?”

 

All Might’s eyes widen and, for some reason, he looks guilty. Katsuki doesn’t know why, nor does he really care, not when that peppermint haired bastard is staring at him, actually looking sorry for him. Tch. Like he needs his pity. So Katsuki storms off, hands shoved in his pockets so no one can see how badly they’re shaking.

 

He’s not surprised that All Might follows after him, but he is surprised to see him look so... hurt. Like he’s the one who had his heart shattered by a childhood friend. “Young Bakugou...”

 

“Save it. I’ll be fine. Gonna focus on class, graduate, and work at that agency. End of story.”

 

“It’s... Midoriya, right? That’s who you were with?”

 

“How would you know that?”

 

“He came by your house, back when you’d been kidnapped,” but there’s more he wants to say, Katsuki can tell. His eyes look like they’re searching for the right words, fingers tugging at the edge of his suit jacket. “He... was the one from the sludge incident. The one who ran in to save you.”

 

“Yeah. That’s him. I’ve known him since we were kids. Not that it matters,” he says bitterly. “Anyway, what’s done is done,” because All Might has seen him cry enough times, thank you very much. “I’ll be fine, I just-”

 

“I spoke with him before that.”

 

“... what?”

 

All Might rubs the back of his neck. “Before you were held hostage, he... was too.”

 

“By... the same villain?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Izuku hadn’t told him that. Katsuki had a feeling he hadn’t told anyone that. Katsuki remembered falling into a panic when it happened to him but he, at least, had a way to fight back. He couldn’t imagine what Izuku had been feeling, especially when he was rescued by the hero of their childhood dreams. “So you saved him... then what?”

 

“Then we talked.”

 

Izuku Midoriya is an inquisitive person, always full of questions and forever taking notes — especially about heroes. But he’d toned it down after the sludge monster, having been scolded by heroes and, later, Katsuki.

 

But.

 

Had All Might... too?

 

“Young Bakugou, I-”

 

“Save it,” he says, stopping him from finishing his sentence. “If he wanted me to know what you two talked about he would’ve told me.”

 

“But-”

 

“He already hates heroes. Don’t make him scorn us more than he already does.”

 

“... all right.”

 

And for three years, life goes on.

 

Until.

 

He stops a comic book shop robber.

 

And it leads him to waking up in Izuku Midoriya’s bed, the sunlight streaming in through the window. Katsuki’s a bit concerned when he realizes he’s the only one in the bed, but he can hear Izuku walking around outside the room.

 

It’s fine, because it gives Katsuki time to think.

 

Kissing the night away had been wonderful, but in the light of day reality is starting to set in. They’d been lost in each other but there’s no telling what’ll happen next. Maybe they’ll stay lost, or maybe Izuku will find his way back and decide to go on without Katsuki. It’d be cruel, but Katsuki won’t be surprised if Izuku comes to his senses and decides to ignore him for three more years and then some.

 

“Morning.”

 

But seeing him standing at the door, holding two mugs of tea, still in his clothing from yesterday? Damn, Izuku Midoriya is a vision , right down to his sleep worn hair and shy little smile.

 

“Morning,” Katsuki sits up as Izuku walks over, handing him the cup before he sits next to him.

 

Izuku stares down at his cup because there’s still so much to talk about, but he’s sure the two of them have to go about their day. He has the shop, and the city needs their Ground Zero.

 

But.

 

Before that.

 

“I... need to tell you something.”

 

Katsuki braces himself, hands gripping onto the mug so hard that he’s worried about cracking it. “All right.”

 

“You... aren’t the reason for us breaking up. I am. Because I couldn’t deal with your growth, couldn’t get over not being a hero. Even if I knew there were alternatives they weren’t the things I dreamt about.”

 

Katsuki nods. “That’s fair.”

 

“It is?”

 

“Yeah. I... look, I know I made that law enforcement comment but that ain’t the same thing, you know? We had the same dream and it sucks that I told you to settle.”

 

“It... wasn’t the first time someone told me that.”

 

“Yeah, I’m sure a lot of people-”

 

“No,” then Izuku looks up at Katsuki, determined to look him in the eye when he reveals this part. “All Might... I know it sounds crazy, but... the sludge monster, before that? I met him.”

 

Katsuki feels his heart stop. He’d had his suspicions back when All Might had spoken to him at U.A., but now he has confirmation. He decides to stay quiet, though, so Izuku can say what he needs to stay.

 

“I asked him if I could be a hero even if I didn’t have a quirk. He... said no. Then the sludge monster got loose — because of me, All Might captured him and I was the reason he got loose.” Izuku can’t do it, can’t look Katsuki in the eye anymore, so he looks away from him. “I tried. I really did try. To accept that, but... the further along you went, the more it hurt, until...”

 

“Until we broke up.”

 

Izuku nods. “You kept telling me to do something with my life, and at the time, I couldn’t see beyond being a hero. But for three years, after we broke up? I was fine. Honest. Life went on and I was fine, but then... we met again, and everything came rushing back.”

 

“And now we’re here,” Katsuki says. He takes a chance and brushes his fingers against Izuku’s chin, urging him to look at him again.

 

“And now we’re here,” Izuku whispers back to him.

 

“And you... want me to stay?” Hopeful. He sounds so damn hopeful. “Because you’re not the only one who thought they moved on. I thought I did, too. I had to if I wanted to be able to concentrate on becoming a hero.”

 

“And I had to so I could learn to accept being quirkless.”

 

Katsuki’s fingers are still at Izuku’s chin, unwilling to leave their position. “Did you? Accept it?”

 

“I think it’s a constant work in progress. Can you... handle that?”

 

Katsuki wants to say yes but he remembers the times when it was too much to bare, and Izuku deserves honesty. “All I can do is try.”

 

So Izuku poses the question, the one that’ll set things in motion. “Do you want to try?”

 

“More than anything,” and it leads to their first kiss in a new light of day.

 


 

In the following weeks they both play catch up. Izuku is surprised to hear about All Might’s pseudo-apology, the one he attempted to give Katsuki shortly after their break up. In return, Katsuki hears about college life and the classes Izuku’s taken — including the few hero courses.

 

They aren’t dating. Not really. Katsuki comes by the shop and walks Izuku home, and sometimes, he comes upstairs. Not every night ends with kissing, in some cases, it ends with something deeper — Izuku curled up in Katsuki’s arms as the hero’s fingers comb through his hair.

 

One day, Kirishima accompanies Katsuki to the shop, Katsuki finally revealing the slow steps to their restart. “I’m sorry,” he says to Izuku. “I shouldn’t have said what I said about your happiness.”

 

Izuku smiles, and it’s just as carefree as Kirishima remembers from the U.A. days. “It’s fine, I know you were trying your best for Kacchan,” and wow, he says the name so easily.

 

“Well yeah, but I should’ve thought about your feelings, too.”

 

“Yeah. You should’ve,” Katsuki says, and he’s got some nerve. He’d been pretty persistent out the gate until he decided to let Izuku move at his own pace. Izuku gives him a look and Katsuki just shrugs, deciding that he’s done with the conversation.

 

Before they realize it, the rest of Katsuki’s friends are in the know about their relationship. So is Gran Torino — whose had his suspicions, but decided to wait until Izuku voiced it out loud. It leads to a change in the shop, one where Izuku is putting stories on the shelves that don’t just focus on fictional heroes. He starts with an All Might book, of all things, mostly because books on Ground Zero and his group are a bit too close to home. Advertising his... boyfriend? No, his Kacchan . He’s not ready to do that yet, but maybe, someday, he will be.

 

“Ah, I remember this book,” Gran Torino says as he flips through the pages. “This is a good starter.” A retelling of All Might’s debut, done in a gorgeous art style that captures the emotions of the moment. “That Toshinori really is something else, huh?”

 

Izuku blinks. That kind of familiarity sounds deeply personal. “Yeah... I met him before. He kinda told me to give up on the hero thing but... it turned out all right in the end, I think. I like sharing these hero stories, might have to do something more with that in the future.”

 

“He did what?!”

 

“It’s not a big deal.” Not anymore. “Being a quirkless hero is kinda impossible, but there’s other ways to be important to people. I didn’t understand that at the time, but I do now.”

 

“I’m gonna have to have a talk with that man,” Gran Torino grumbles.

 

“Huh?” Sometimes, Gran Torino runs his mouth and says random things. “Ah, yeah, I guess if you ever run into him-”

 

“He was a student of mine, kid. I’ll run into him whenever I want.”

 

“What?!”

 

That’s the sound Katsuki walks into, having found time during his patrols to take Izuku out to lunch. Gran Torino is still cursing All Might’s name, which leaves Katsuki perplexed and Izuku... affectionately amused. “Gonna make him come and apologize to you, make him grovel at your feet!”

 

“That’s not necessary,” Izuku says, and he’s kinda surprised at how much he means it. He doesn’t need an apology, doesn’t even want one. “It’s fine now. Honest.”

 

“You sure, kid?” But Gran Torino’s smirking, as if hoping that’d be Izuku’s answer.

 

Izuku looks at Katsuki, who still looks lost on the conversation he’d walked into. With a sweet smile and a burst of confidence, Izuku takes Katsuki’s hand and says, “I’m sure.”

 

Gran Torino watches from behind the counter as the two walk out of the store. Before they can walk down the sidewalk Katsuki’s pulling Izuku into a kiss, and wow, does it look like the final panel in a comic.