As he has always been prone to doing, Izuku acts before he thinks.
It’s all reflex now, though, the way he spins, grabs, and pins the intruder within a second of spotting him in his peripherals. The knife he’d been slicing tonkatsu with clatters to the kitchen tile, and Izuku shoves the man right up against the wall, twisting a thickly muscled arm to the brink behind his back. It’s the smell that hits him before anything else does, piercing and unwelcome in his nose, in his home: alpha.
“Tch, Deku, ease off—”
At the sound of that voice, Izuku freezes. It takes a few seconds for the adrenaline to cool enough to focus his gaze on the profile in front of him and scent the air. Once he does, though, he releases his grip like he’s been stung, heartbeat still running wild. Katsuki whirls on him, an eyebrow cocked in challenge, but Izuku only returns a tired, withering glare as he backs up.
“How many times have I asked you to knock on the door like a normal person, Kacchan? You can’t just break in whenever you feel like it.”
Katsuki grins, sharp as the dirty kitchen knife on the floor.
“Habit,” he supplies without apology, and crosses the distance between them. Izuku tenses, but stands his ground, a defiant furrow settling into the space between his brows. Katsuki leans in close, eyes glowing mean and scarlet in the fluorescent light, and a lifetime ago, Izuku might have flinched—might have submitted belly up at the first whiff of the scent rolling off of him, overwhelming and heady at this proximity. Even now, it stirs up memories that Izuku would rather forget; invokes an urge he’s long learned to suppress.
“'Sides, if I bothered, you wouldn’t let me in, would you, De-ku?”
He should hate it—the insult baked into the enunciation of his hero name after all these years, and the heated flare it riles in him, the one he’s not entirely certain is anger. But Izuku just swallows that feeling back down like he’s so used to doing, turns away to pick up the fallen knife and set it in the sink.
“No,” he says hollowly, staring down into the drain. “I wouldn’t.”
“You gonna invite me to stay for dinner?”
“I should be subduing you and calling the police.”
“As if you could, nerd.” As if you would.
Izuku sighs, turning to face his lifelong…well, so many things, really. Bully, rival, friend, lover—it’s just, for the past three years, none of those things have really applied, not in a traditional sense. He doesn’t quite know how to categorize the man before him; supposes the most accurate word is enemy.
But Katsuki, ill-mannered as he is, doesn’t feel like the enemy—and certainly not the criminal he is. They’d bonded once, after all, and Izuku has the scar on the junction of his neck to prove it. It burns beneath the rumpled collar of his shirt and the gaze of the man who bit it into his skin forever, and the urge to scratch at it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore.
But Izuku folds his arms safely across his chest, and levels his gaze. “What are you really doing here, Kacchan?”
It feels pointless to ask, because he knows Katsuki like the back of his own disjointed, scarred-up hand.
He knows that Katsuki’s explosive resolve is a double-edged sword—a stiletto switchblade flicked out and wielded fiercely. That he’s prone to destruction, to recklessness, but that he’s every bit as calculating as he is impulsive. Katsuki’s always doing what he wants, what he thinks is right, and never apologizing for it (Izuku had admired that about him, once).
Izuku knows how Katsuki thinks, talks, and fights. He knows how he sleeps, how he eats, how he loves, and how he leaves. And he knows what knows what it means for Katsuki to come back; has washed the evidence from the sheets countless times, scrubbed the scent of him off his skin in the morning until it’s as red and raw as his heart.
Katsuki shoves his hands into the pockets of his joggers and tilts his chin up, eyes narrowed like he’s looking for a fight. “I’m here to share some important villain intel with the number one hero. So, invite me to stay for dinner.”
A growl rips from Izuku’s throat before he can stop it, foreign and animal in the quiet of his kitchen. If he weren’t so angry, he’d be horrified at his display—but Katsuki’s always been talented at pulling out that part of him; always taken pride in turning him feral, even if just for a moment. The way his mouth twitches in satisfaction does not escape Izuku’s notice.
“Don’t ever do that again,” he warns lowly.
Even if he did, it wouldn’t work— Katsuki knows that as well as he does. An alpha command can be rewarding to follow in the right headspace, in the right situation, but even the most aggressively uttered aren’t capable of outright bending someone’s will—though that’s not really the point, and they both know that, too. For Katsuki to use one at all in this situation is vulgar and disrespectful, a true test of Izuku’s patience.
But, then, that’s exactly what it is: a test. How much of Izuku is still his love-stricken little omega? What would it really take for Izuku to send him packing, how far can he push, how much can he still have?
Izuku should take the opening—turn Katsuki away, finish making dinner, screw his head on straight again. If he tells him to go, Katsuki will. Should. Needs to. But through the lingering rage, Izuku feels genuine surprise. It’s not like Katsuki’s ever come by intending to do anything but get him into bed (with an embarrassingly high success rate, admittedly), but he’s always been up front about it. This is different. Katsuki says he has important information, and if there’s one thing the infuriating alpha is good for, it’s his word.
Izuku would like to say that’s the only reason he lets it slide; that it has absolutely nothing to do with the way his heart falls into his stomach when Katsuki holds his hands up in mock surrender, all gruff charm, all Kacchan. He really, really would.
He turns back toward his cutting board, and pulls a new knife out of the block.
“You’re lucky I bought enough to have leftovers for tomorrow. If you want dinner, then start helping.”
He expects Katsuki to say something to that, something obnoxious and antagonizing, but all that sounds is the suction of the refrigerator door, and the low hum within.
When Katsuki presented as an alpha in his second year, no one was particularly surprised, Izuku least of all. In some ways, it’d been the second coming of his quirk manifestation; a reinforcement of sorts, regarding his future success—hero agencies prefer alpha recruits even if they’ve long stopped saying so.
Still, Izuku hadn’t felt jaded when he presented as an omega just weeks after. Sobered, and a little pitied by his classmates, yes, but when had any part of becoming a hero been easy for him? He’d taken it in stride, much to Katsuki’s chagrin, and they’d gone on as they always had. Alphas, betas, omegas, whatever. When it came right down to it, all that mattered in those days was besting one another—and for all of his raw power, Katsuki had long stopped underestimating his rival.
“When I become number one, it won’t be because I’m an alpha and you’re an omega, shitty Deku. It’ll be because I’m better than you.”
At the time, it was the nicest thing Katsuki ever said to him. And it had come true, somewhat: Katsuki graduated at the top of their class, was a highly sought-after sidekick, and climbed the ranks with the same ferocity that’s always allowed him to stay just one step ahead of his peers. Izuku still remembers the headlines that day, jumping out at him from the newsstand during his morning patrol: Ground Zero Blasts Into #1 Hero Spot!
Of course, even then, Katsuki was no Symbol of Peace.
It’s almost possible, as they set to work, to pretend that Katsuki never left. Izuku knows that’s a ridiculous notion, but it strikes him all the same between the sounds of shutting cupboards and sliding drawers; the flick of the stove, of Katsuki pulling out dishware and ingredients from places long memorized.
Perhaps it’s because cooking is one of the few activities he’s always done quietly, and without conversation, they’re able to fall back into a familiar, synchronous tandem. They haven’t always worked well together, but once they’d learned how…well, it’s like riding a bicycle, he supposes. An old, rusty bicycle, with deflated tires, but a bicycle nonetheless—
“Oi, what’re you muttering about?”
“Gah—!” Izuku nearly jumps right out of his skin when Katsuki’s voice sounds from directly behind him, but he resolves not to turn, inhaling deeply. “I know stealth is kind of your whole…thing, now, but you need to stop sneaking up on me when I have a knife in my hand.”
“M’not sneaking, damn Deku,” Katsuki mutters. “You’re just jumpy.”
“Well, excuse me for being a little on edge while I host a wanted criminal—” Izuku counters, and the words ‘in my home’ hang in the silence, burn a hole in the back of his throat where he’s holding them captive. It had been their home, once. Would still be, if things had worked out like they wanted, if things hadn’t happened the way they did. Katsuki was never much for fuzzy, romantic talks about the future, but he’d surprised Izuku many times with his honesty.
He wanted children.
‘A brat,’ Katsuki had murmured into his ear, unusually docile in his postcoital haze, splaying a large, warm hand over Izuku’s stomach. ‘Wouldn’t mind having one or two of those one day. Or makin’ ‘em.’
Izuku wonders, in another universe, a better one, if he’d be carrying Katsuki’s pup at this very moment. He wonders if they would have waited, pushed it off until they merged their agencies; or if they might’ve have had a happy accident, a child old enough to walk by now, sleeping soundly in the vacant room upstairs.
“Oh yeah?” Katsuki snorts like he’s amused, but Izuku picks up on the strain in his voice; the muted, sour scent of displeased alpha. “What, you trying to say you’re scared of me? S’not what it smells like from where I’m standing.”
Izuku’s face heats at the implication, and he chops faster, even as he realizes he’s already cut more green onions than he’d need to garnish twenty consecutive bowls of katsudon, and done little else since handing off the pork to Katsuki.
“Of course not,” he grits, reining in his traitorous scent glands. “We both know I could take you down in an instant. And if I may, you’re standing a little too close. Do you need something?”
Katsuki makes an indignant noise, but he’s smart enough not to antagonize Izuku further. “That’s still the spice cabinet, right? You’re in the way.”
Izuku’s heart stalls, and he doesn’t even know why. “Oh—uh—y-yeah,” he sputters, reaching for the cupboard directly above his head. “Here, let me—”
“Nah, you have shit all over your hands, I’ll just—”
An arm stretches over Izuku's head to open the cabinet, and he realizes just how close Katsuki's dared to step. They’re not quite touching, but he’s so near that Izuku can feel the heat emanating from his body. If he were to move, to sway even an inch, he’s sure his back would be met with a solid wall of alpha.
He means to protest, to make a snide remark about personal space, but the words die in his throat when Katsuki’s scent envelops him again. It’s purposeful, the proximity, but without the shock and anger that afflicted him earlier, it’s much harder to actively dislike. Izuku’s eyes flutter shut for a blissful, fleeting moment as he allows himself to revel in the comfort, the familiar warmth of his former mate. Even when Katsuki withdraws a bottle of soy sauce and steps away, the feeling lingers.
There is a part of him, however small and quiet, that wants to hold onto it.
When the The League kidnapped Katuski from UA’s training camp all those years ago, they made a grave error in judgment: they assumed they’d be able to manipulate him into using his skill and power for their cause; that his short temper and sharp tongue would make him an apt villain—and hell, they hadn’t been the only ones. The media wasn’t shy about broadcasting clips from his battles at the Sports Festival in the wake of the kidnapping, and the image of him restrained at the podium became a particularly controversial talking point: how could someone so blatantly prone to uncontrolled violence not have a capacity for evil? Even in the eyes of certain classmates, Izuku could see unspoken doubt.
But Katsuki had long set his sights on fighting for good, on being a hero—and what few really understood then is that his will is made up of solid, immovable iron. He’s never done anything he doesn’t want to do, not under pressure, nor command, nor threat. In all the years Izuku's known him, he's only ever known him to bend once. It was that day that would mark a nationwide tragedy, the demise of Ground Zero, and the beginning of the end of the life he’d always wanted.
Izuku could only watch from the city screens, horrified, as everything went up in smoke.