“Pass the chili flakes, hun,” says Mrs Bakugou.
“Here you go, sweetie,” says Mr Bakugou.
“Thanks. You want more rice, baby?”
“No,” says Kacchan. “Want more beef, though.’
“Please, old lady.”
Izuku wonders if it would be inappropriate to ask them why they’re in his house. His mother doesn’t seem to mind. Them popping in so often saves her the trouble of cooking, since Mrs Bakugou always brings food. It’s good, even if it is really spicy. And even if their kitchen table only was meant to fit four people. He and Kacchan could probably fit on one side, in fact, but the grown-ups usually insist on squeezing together with his mother sandwiched in the middle. It can’t be comfy. Their elbows keep knocking and Mom always drops her chopsticks halfway.
Someone puts bok choi on his plate. “Thanks, Kacchan.”
“You gotta eat all your veggies,” Kacchan tells him in all his six-year-old wisdom. “Or you won’t grow. You’re already so weak and tiny.”
“I’m not weak,” Izuku says.
“You got noodle arms.”
“Don’t bully Izuku,” says Mrs Bakugou, reaching across the crowded table to flick Kacchan on the forehead. “You’re not weak, dear, you’re just little.”
“He is,” Kacchan insists. Izuku wrinkles his nose at him. “He doesn’t even have his quirk yet. What’s he gonna do if bad guys show up, cry at them?”
“He’s gonna do what you should both do, which is call me so I can deal with them,” says Mrs Bakugou sternly. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Katsuki, you’re still a baby yourself.”
“I’m not a baby!”
“Besides, he has his mother’s quirk,” Mr Bakugou says, patting Mom on the arm. “It’s called being adorable, it’s very effective.”
Mom laughs, bashful. Izuku turns his wrinkled nose on her, although now he’s more confused than offended. “I thought Mom’s quirk was attracting small objects.”
“It is. And it works on you because you’re small,” Kacchan says like that proves anything.
Izuku huffs. “It works on you too, Kacchan.”
“Boys,” says Mom, shutting them up for a second. She smiles, which always makes Izuku feel like smiling too. “You know, I like being able to pick you both up with my quirk. Someday you’ll grow up and I won’t be able to any more, but right now I can pull you into my arms from wherever you are like a super-hug!”
“Lucky kids,” Mrs Bakugou sighs.
Izuku supposes she has a point. One of his favourite games is when Mom floats him up and down and he pretends like he’s flying. Kacchan seems to agree even if he won’t admit it. He doesn’t push the issue, anyway, but he does push more bok choi onto Izuku when their parents aren’t looking.
Later, when the leftovers have been put in the fridge and the Bakugous have gone home, Izuku wanders into the living room to see what his mother is up to. “Is my quirk really being cute?”
“No, I think you do that by yourself,” Mom says and reaches over to fix his misaligned pyjama buttons. “Quirks aren’t always that much fun, though. Not having one isn’t such a bad thing.”
“Okay,” Izuku says, trying not to feel disappointed. It’s nobody’s fault that he won’t be a hero like All Might. “If Dad comes home for dinner then we won’t be able to fit at the table with Kacchan and Kacchan’s mom and dad.”
“I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that anytime soon,” she says cheerfully.
“He’s gone, remember?”
“Right,” says Izuku. Overseas, probably. He allows his hair to be petted, and then remembers the way Kacchan’s parents had hugged Mom goodbye. “You know sometimes I get a weird feeling from people.”
“Yeah. Like, I feel like Kacchan’s parents wanna eat you. Even though I know they’re nice. Sometimes I even feel it from strangers. Not at you, though.”
His mother kisses his forehead. “Oh, don’t worry, sweetheart, it’s probably just anxiety! We all have that, you get used to it.”
“Okay!” Izuku says, and spends the next nine years finding out exactly what she means.
Yeah. So the anxiety thing is…hard.
Not unmanageable, but inconvenient. His mother was right about him eventually getting used to it, especially after his relationship with Kacchan went to shit, but it’s hard.
But that’s not what bothers him. He’s learnt to deal with it, figured out what brings on the panic attacks and talks himself though dealing with people. It works, most of the time. The other problem, though, that’s more insidious.
That tenseness never really goes away, the prickly feeling he gets sometimes that sets off alarm bells in his reptile brain and makes him think of night time and teeth. It only happens when other people are around. Never directed at him, which is nice, but once in a while he looks at a couple and sees predator and prey. Or a dragon guarding its hoard. A man holding his wife’s hand slightly too tight, or a girl staring down the salesperson trying to give her boyfriend a flyer. It’s bizarre. It’s creepy, and the worst part is no one else ever understands what he means when he brings it up.
Kacchan certainly doesn’t. In fact he’s part of the problem; half the time Izuku’s heebie-jeebies come from him, although it’s hard to tell who they’re pointed at. It makes Izuku anxious. Not that he’s afraid of Kacchan, not exactly, but something about Kacchan makes Izuku feel like a gazelle being stalked by a lion. The danger is there but its details are camouflaged. Eventually Izuku figures that Kacchan is best left avoided, and slowly the terror fades into a background sense of unease.
So he leaves it alone. When All Might asks if he has a quirk Izuku says no, because as far as he knows that’s the truth. Being able to identify when someone has unhealthy attachment issues is not a quirk, at least not one that’s going to help him become a hero. One for All is better, anyway. One for All kicks ass.
He gets into UA. Everything’s genuinely great for a while even though training stresses him out.
And then his psycho spidey-sense starts tingling, and everything becomes kind of terrible.
“Mineta will no longer be coming to school,” says Mr Aizawa halfway through the second semester. “Also, there’s going to be a recycling competition all of next month. Bring in any old newspapers you have or whatever and collect them at the back of the class.”
Iida raises his hand. “How will the results be taken?”
“By weight. Plastics and metal count too, so remember to keep your drink cartons and soda cans. Wash them out first or we’ll get ants.”
“Do they have to be used?” asks Yaomomo.
“I doubt you’ll be allowed to use your quirk to make scraps for recycling. Good thinking, though.”
Izuku turns around. The desk behind him has been empty for five days, although nobody’s thought to bring it up until now. “Uhm, sir? What happened to Mineta?”
“Maybe he finally died,” says Jirou.
“He’s not dead,” Todoroki says immediately.
Mr Aizawa shrugs. “Nervous breakdown. It seems the hero course wasn’t good for him. He left a note in his room and vacated campus some time ago. We’re not sure when. We only checked his room last night.”
“Good riddance,” says Kacchan under his breath. “Coward wouldn’t have lasted a minute in the field.”
“Don’t be rude,” Mr Aizawa says tonelessly. “Not everyone’s cut out for this business. I do wish he hadn’t trashed his room first, though. Remember you’re supposed to hand in your self-assessment reports the day after tomorrow. I hope you were all honest with your answers.”
Ashido gleefully announces her academic progress and the class devolves into chatter. Izuku looks over his shoulder at the vacated desk again. Yaomomo’s clearly visible without Mineta in the way, although she doesn’t spare the uninhabited seat a glance. She probably doesn’t miss him. He’d been awful to the girls in general but especially handsy with her.
The absence is glossed over pretty quickly. The back of Izuku’s neck does prickle when they’re trying to divide themselves up for group work, but he brushes it off as a random anxiety spike. There’s no reason for his nerves to be acting up. He’s with his classmates. They’re all safe, probably, so he takes a deep breath and counts to ten and goes on with his day until class ends.
“I should probably finish the self-assessment first so I don’t forget,” he mumbles to himself as he trudges upstairs to his bedroom. Iida’s in the library studying and Uraraka’s goofing off with the others in the common room. He feels antsy. “Might be able to squeeze in a nap, or I could check out that game Kaminari keeps talking about. Ah, but I don’t have my allowance yet and I probably shouldn’t dip into my savings…”
The keys jingle reassuringly when he fumbles with the knob. It’s not like he’s got anything valuable in his room, not really, but having Mineta next door makes him want to keep his room locked. Not that he thinks Mineta’s a thief or anything. He just doesn’t want to come home and find ridiculous porn on his laptop.
Except Mineta’s not here anymore. Izuku pauses and glances at his door, fingers loosening around the strap of his backpack. He hadn’t said he was leaving. Izuku hadn’t even heard him move out, although he might just have decided to go during class hours so as not to bother them. Or maybe he hasn’t finished yet. Maybe he’d left in a hurry and decided to come back for his things at a later date.
Then again Mr Aizawa had said he’d trashed his room. Kind of childish to vandalise stuff just because being a hero didn’t work out, but that would suggest he doesn’t plan on coming back to get his things or say goodbye. Unless he never had any things to begin with. He’d made fun of Shoji for that, though, so he must have at least had some books or pornos lying around. Izuku wouldn’t know. Nobody’s ever wanted to see the inside of Mineta’s room (because that would mean being in a room with Mineta). Now the biggest part of the problem is gone. Izuku could check out the mysterious corner lot if he were so inclined.
The door creaks open with the slightest pressure from his fingertips, almost like it’s barely hanging onto its hinges. Mineta’s room smells like bad body spray and smoke. A lot of smoke, actually. He hadn’t just trashed his room, he’d set the bedsheets on fire and left soot all over the walls. There’s a scorched poster of a lady in a bikini above the desk, and an overturned lamp that looks like it has boobs. Classy, although it kind of clashes with the 3D booby mousepad next to the laptop with panty stickers all over the keyboard.
“Everything’s broken,” Izuku murmurs, stepping around a pile of singed clothes. Décor aside it’s less like a sex dungeon in here than he’d expected. “What a waste of a Macbook. Guess he’s really not planning on coming back.”
“He isn’t. He’s gone.”
The fine hairs on Izuku’s forearm stand up in a very peculiar way. Goosebumps rising on his skin, he turns around slowly and looks up. “Oh. Uhm, hey, Todoroki.”
Todoroki says nothing. He’s so close Izuku can actually feel every breath ghosting across his forehead, disturbing his bangs. A bead of sweat rolls down his back and disappears into the waistband of his school pants. “Right. How’s it going? You, uh. You’re very tall up close. Is there a reason you’re being threateningly heterochromic at me?”
“No,” says Todoroki. His eyelashes are very long. Izuku waits for him to blink, which he doesn’t. He would have made a good Eraserhead. “What are you doing in here?”
“I was about to go to my room,” Izuku says. “But I got curious about where Mineta went. I thought I would have heard him move his stuff out or something. I just thought I’d pop my head in.”
“Curious,” says Todoroki. “Right. You live next door.”
“That I do,” says Izuku, glancing at the exit. “I sure do have a bedroom nearby that I should be getting back to. Great talking with you. Think I’ll go take a nap now, though! I’ll see you at class tomorrow and definitely not in here ever again.”
Todoroki blinks just once, long and slow like a cat. Wordlessly he steps aside so they’re no longer nose to nose, and Izuku decides that now is a good time to skedaddle out of the room into the sweet freedom of the corridor. His stomach tries to turn itself inside out. Todoroki may be following, but Izuku doesn’t know because he almost Detroit Smashes his door open and then slams it shut behind him.
That was weird. That was creepy. Creepy in a way that doesn’t feel like a panic attack, more like spiders running up his arms and into the collar of his shirt. He drops his backpack and slides onto the floor, prey instincts screaming that Todoroki is the panther circling Izuku’s fragile antelope spirit.
“If this is how Mineta ever felt,” Izuku says to himself, “then I really don’t blame him for running.”
Todoroki doesn’t break into his room that night to murder him, which is nice.
He barely talks to Izuku at all, actually. He’s not being particularly unfriendly, but school keeps everyone busy enough that lunchtime brings some semblance of normalcy. By the time the bell rings Izuku’s mostly composed, and he stretches in his seat and wonders if he should brave the cafeteria crowd or go buy a sandwich from the co-op.
Kacchan’s frowning at him. Hardly surprising, because Kacchan’s literally always frowning, but Izuku doesn’t think he’s done anything to piss him off as of late. “Uhm, hello.”
“Dumbass,” says Kacchan, which, okay, uncalled for. “You’ve got shit on your face.”
Oh. Izuku rubs at his cheek but apparently doesn’t fix the problem, because Kacchan just rolls his eyes. “What is it?”
“How should I know? Some black stuff. Must be pencil lead.”
Or soot. Mineta’s room is full of it so it wouldn’t surprise Izuku if some of it travelled through the air vents or something. “Thanks, Kacchan. I’ll go ask someone for a wet wipe.” Yaomomo’s always well stocked. Izuku’s chair scrapes as he stands and turns to the back of the class, only to be met with a red and white head. Todoroki stares at him, and Izuku shivers.
Yaomomo turns to see what Todoroki’s looking at. “Oh, hey, Midoriya. You have something on the side of your nose.”
“Kacchan told me. I was going to ask if you had a tissue or something,” Izuku says, trying not to hyperventilate too obviously. Todoroki’s doing the not-blinking thing again. “But I didn’t want to interrupt your conversation.”
“You aren’t,” she says, rooting around in her blazer pocket for a pack of baby wipes. “Here, take whatever you need. You can give the rest back when you’re done.”
“Thanks,” says Izuku weakly. Todoroki wraps an arm around Yaomomo’s shoulders. She smiles at him, and the goosebumps on Izuku’s arms start to fade.
Todoroki’s face goes soft when he looks at her. Oh, thinks Izuku. Those two have known each other since before UA, both being high society rich kids. They’d never mentioned being together, although it’s not really Izuku’s business. “You’re dating?”
Yaomomo looks surprised for a second, like she’d forgotten Izuku was there. “Oh! Uhm, well, yes. We are.”
“Momo’s my girlfriend,” Todoroki adds somewhat unnecessarily. He seems proud of it, though. “I like her.”
“I like you too,” she says shyly.
Izuku studies them for a second. They’re standing very close together, almost in each other’s arms. “Huh. Okay. I’ll see you guys later, then, don’t mind me. Thanks for the wet wipes.”
“Hm? Oh, you’re welcome. See you after lunch.”
“Sure,” Izuku says, and watches Yaomomo leave the classroom with Todoroki’s hand securely on her back.
“Do you think Todoroki’s been acting a little unusual lately?” Izuku says quietly while they’re on the way to the science lab.
Uraraka tilts her head at him. Her hair is tied back today into a little half-ponytail, which is really cute. “Like, in general or by Todoroki standards?”
“Hmm.” She bounces as she walks, books held tight against her chest. “I don’t know. I feel like he’s been in a better mood.”
“Have you seen him blink recently?”
Uraraka snorts. “What kind of question is that?”
“A dumb one, I guess,” Izuku says sheepishly. Uraraka bumps against his shoulder. He can’t help but go a bit pink, feeling like he did when she spoke to him for the first time. It almost seems like the girls are friendlier now that Mineta’s gone. That could just be his imagination, though. Uraraka’s always friendly.
“Why are you asking, anyway?” she asks, nudging him again and grinning when he stammers. “Did he do something out of character?”
“No, he didn’t,” Izuku says, which isn’t a lie. Todoroki hasn’t actually done anything noteworthy beyond cuddling Yaomomo. “But don’t worry about it. Forget I asked.”
He’s not planning on studying Todoroki, not really, but he does end up watching him just because he sits right at the front of the lab. He blinks four times, give or take a couple that Izuku might have missed. That’s impressive. And concerning, considering the class is sixty-five minutes long.
Absently Izuku scrawls a little ‘4’ in the margin of his science notebook. Uraraka had a point; he’d normally call Todoroki a friend, and a pretty close one at that. There’s no reason Izuku should suddenly find him so creepy. He hasn’t done anything beyond not blink and stand uncomfortably close. He hasn’t said anything strange. Izuku’s flash of fear had been sudden and unprovoked, and has since faded into subtle discomfort.
So what triggered it, then? They’d been in Mineta’s room. Todoroki had asked why Izuku was there. Valid question, since Izuku had no reason to be there. Neither did Todoroki. Maybe he was just curious too. That shouldn’t freak Izuku out as much as it did.
But he’s felt like that before. Not an anxiety attack; those are more like bursts of confusion and panic. What he’d felt yesterday was more primal, visceral. Predatory, even. The way Kacchan makes him feel sometimes, like Izuku’s a small, primitive mammal about to be devoured.
He sits up. That’s what it was. His useless quirk, the psycho detector. It hasn’t gone off in a while, since Izuku doesn’t know any couples (until now). It tells him when one person is unhealthily attached to another, and manifests in the form of intense heebie-jeebies.
He has been anxious this year. Part of that must just be UA, but some of it might actually be coming from Todoroki. He just never knew until now.
So Todoroki’s the dragon and Yaomomo’s his treasure. That makes sense. But it could be a problem, to be honest. Having someone obsess over you sounds nice in theory but it’s probably really unhealthy. It’s not like Izuku has much romantic experience, but he does know how intense Todoroki’s feelings must be. He can feel it. It wouldn’t set him off so badly otherwise, and something about him being in Mineta’s room might have made Todoroki’s condition worse.
Which may not be good for Yaomomo. She’s very nice. And very sensitive, which may make it hard to stand up for herself in the face of Todoroki’s smothering. Not that she needs to, necessarily, but the possibility is there. She could require help. Someone to talk to, maybe, because feelings like that must be a lot to handle. And Izuku’s the only person who can see what she’s dealing with.
Heroes are always very nosy. If there’s even a chance she might need him, Izuku has to ask.
The bell rings for the next lesson. Yaomomo finishes up her notes and lets Todoroki take her things so he can carry them for her back to class. That’s sweet, Izuku thinks. He might be nuts, but at least Todoroki’s a gentleman.
“Get your ass moving, you’re in the way,” says a fairly loud voice in his ear. Izuku sighs and picks up his textbook.
Or tries to, anyway. “Kacchan, did you take my things?”
“You were taking too long,” Kacchan says. Both of their books and pencil cases are stacked in his hands, and he shifts them around so he can hold them under one arm like a newspaper. “If I waited for you to get your shit together I’d be trapped here for hours.”
“Alright.” Izuku holds out his arms, but his belongings are not surrendered. “Uhm, you can give those back.”
“Forget it, I’m already holding them.”
“Okay, but I can carry them on my own. I have a strengthening quirk—”
“I said don’t worry about it,” Kacchan grumps and forces his way past. “Just get a move on, for god’s sake, you’re gonna make us late.”
“Thanks,” Izuku says and tries not to look obviously nervous because Kacchan holding his notebooks historically hasn’t gone well for him. Not that he would blow it up right there in the corridor, probably. He’d get in trouble. And ruin his own books in the process, although Izuku’s fingers twitch all the way back to class.
His things stay safe. Izuku may be imagining it, but he thinks Kacchan seems kind of pleased when Izuku thanks him again.
“After careful consideration from the school board and a rigourous testing procedure formulated by the staff, Principal Nedzu wishes to express his highest congratulations and announce to you all that one of your cohort, through great effort and determination,” Mr Aizawa says the next day, “I’m not reading the rest of this. Hitoshi, get in here.”
An unkempt purple head pokes itself through the door. Hitoshi shuffles in and nods lazily in response to the chorus of hellos. “Hey. I’m in the hero course now. Nice to be here, I look forward to kicking all of your asses.”
Iida’s hand shoots up. “Sir! Is Hitoshi here to replace Mineta?”
“Who?” says Aizawa, crumpling up Principal Nedzu’s announcement. “Oh, yeah, I suppose. We had the space and Hitoshi wanted to come. Try not to traumatize him in his first week, you maniacs.”
Hagakure claps. “Yay, a new friend!”
“I’m not here to make friends,” Hitoshi tells her.
“We’ll see how that works out for you,” says Mr Aizawa. “Speaking of which, go take a seat behind Midoriya.”
Hitoshi goes. Izuku perks up when he walks past, twisting around in his seat so he can smile in Hitoshi’s direction. “Congratulations on making it in! You look like you’ve really bulked up recently, wow.”
“Thanks,” says Hitoshi. “I put on ten kilos.”
“That’s gr—” Izuku starts, and then stops. Cold dread seizes him by the back of the neck. He turns around. Nobody’s paying them attention but Kacchan, who’s glaring at Hitoshi like he wants to claw his jugular out of his neck.
Hitoshi stares back, one eyebrow up. Izuku glances between them. His instincts tell him to make a break for the window. “Hey, Kacchan, everything okay? Are you mad because he said he would kick your ass? He was just kidding around, I’m sure. Right, Hitoshi?”
“Nope,” says Hitoshi, popping the ‘p’.
Mr Aizawa clears his throat. “Bakugou, face the front. Everyone pass your self-assessment reports forward.”
Several people groan. Izuku’s glad for the distraction, though, even if he can actually hear Kacchan grinding his teeth. He knows that feeling. That was his weird quirk acting up just now. Probably not from Todoroki’s direction; this time it looks like it came with Hitoshi.
Very quietly, he leans back in his seat and tries to catch Hitoshi’s attention. “Personal question, but did you start dating someone recently?”
“Yeah,” says Hitoshi, handing over his and Yaomomo’s reports. “Ojiro, since a little while after the sports festival. Why?”
“No reason,” Izuku says and wonders if he has enough Xanax to last the rest of the semester.
“No, but listen,” Kaminari says, kicking his feet childishly under his desk after lunch. “Sometimes you go past a place after it rains and it smells like wet dog, right? But there are no dogs around. So that must mean when it doesn’t rain the place just smells like regular dog, you know?”
Ojiro laughs into his hand. “What do dogs even smell like?”
“Kind of bad, honestly. Mine does, anyway.”
Izuku watches them from afar. It’s a normal day. As normal as things can get for them, to be accurate, but Hitoshi’s settled in and doesn’t seem too out of place talking to other members of the class. They’re all making an effort to include him. He still spends most of his time with Ojiro, though; they eat lunch together and hold hands when they walk. Overall they’re pretty discreet but Izuku can see Ojiro get all bashful when Hitoshi looks his way. It’s cute. Would be cuter, if Hitoshi wasn’t livid every time Ojiro paid attention to someone else.
Kaminari’s hands card through the soft fur on the end of Ojiro’s tail, absently stroking it like a pet cat. Ojiro lets him. Neither of them seem to think this is odd, even though Hitoshi has been sitting still for ten minutes and boring holes into Kaminari’s head with his eyes.
Izuku turns around. Hitoshi’s fingernails are gouging lines into the surface of his desk. There are a lot of them. Izuku would be impressed if he weren’t slightly terrified.
“You okay?” he whispers. Ojiro laughs at something Kaminari says, and Kaminari beams.
“That is my boyfriend,” Hitoshi says. His voice is level but his jaw is clenched. Izuku reaches out and gingerly pats his hand.
“And Kaminari is Ojiro’s friend. They spend time together sometimes which is normal.”
“Why is he talking to him?”
“Because everyone’s allowed to have friends, Hitoshi.”
“They shouldn’t be touching,” says Hitoshi. “You can’t touch Mashirao without permission.”
“I think he’s fine with it.”
Izuku wonders what to say to that. Hitoshi may be almost as bad as Todoroki, which means Izuku should probably see if Ojiro’s okay. Not that he’s in danger from Hitoshi, probably, but Kaminari might be. And all of Ojiro’s other friends. And anyone who looks in Ojiro’s general direction.
A chair scrapes against the floor as he’s thinking this. It’s Kirishima’s. Wordlessly he steps around his desk and plops into Kaminari’s lap, effectively blocking him from view. “No.”
“What do you mean, no?” Kaminari says, muffled. “You need something, Eiji?”
Kirishima folds his arms and refuses to answer. “That’s funny,” says Izuku to himself. “He wasn’t even part of the conversation. Did he get jealous?” The phantom ants running up his spine would suggest so, but Hitoshi just scoffs.
“Jealous of what? Mashirao loves me, he wouldn’t even look at Kirishima.”
“I’m sure he does,” Izuku says, “but that’s not what I meant.” Hitoshi turns to frown at him. Izuku thinks of that giant hypnotizing snake from the Jungle Book. “I meant Kaminari. Kirishima is jealous that Kaminari is paying attention to Ojiro.”
“I knew it. Kaminari wants Mashirao.”
“I think you’re jumping to conclusions.”
“Move, Eiji,” Kaminari says. “I can’t see Ojiro, come on.”
Hitoshi decides this is the last straw and goes over to pick a fight. Izuku calls after him to come back, but, unsurprisingly, is ignored. Hitoshi’s shoulders are hanging out somewhere around his forehead. Kirishima’s scowling, and Izuku wonders for a second if that’s something he learned from Kacchan.
“Mashirao is mine,” Hitoshi says, stopping in front of Kaminari’s desk. “Go away.”
“Denki’s mine,” Kirishima retorts. “You go away.”
“Guys?” says Kaminari. Ding, says Izuku’s quirk.
Ojiro sighs and puts his tail in Hitoshi’s face. Hitoshi, vision obscured by blond fluff, relaxes. “Shinsou, you know that I love you dearly, right?”
“Yes,” says Hitoshi, wrapping his arms around Ojiro’s tail.
“Then you know you can’t yell at my friends for talking to me, right?”
Hitoshi mumbles something unintelligible. Kirishima butts Kaminari with the back of his head and demands he be petted instead. The bad vibes coming off of him aren’t that strong, but Izuku mentally adds Kaminari to the list of people who might need rescuing. Or counselling, at the very least.
That’s worrying, actually. Three questionable relationships in one class, and none of them are really Izuku’s business. His senses keep screaming at him that they’re right there, though, and Izuku wonders how they’re going to end up. Happy, maybe. Or needlessly possessive and borderline homicidal.
He should do something. He can’t just ignore it, not when there’s even a chance that things could go wrong. A hero never turns his back on someone when he knows they might need help.
Right before the after-lunch bell rings, Izuku tugs out an empty notebook and labels the front: To Save.
Targets ranked in order of intensity (least to most), rated by how much they freak me out:
Izuku chews on the end of his pen. There are restrictions to his investigation; first, he has to gain some sort of trust from his informants. Kaminari’s pretty open about his personal life, but Yaomomo and Ojiro are probably going to be more wary of Izuku asking questions. Second, he has to make sure that they actually need his help and that he’s not just interfering for no reason. Third, and maybe most important, he should try as far as possible not to attract the attention of the targets. Izuku won’t be able to help anyone if he’s dead.
“I should probably start with Kaminari,” he says to the All Might pen holder on his desk. It’s still in its plastic wrapping because he doesn’t want to risk one of his pens leaking all over it. “He’s the easiest to talk to and I’m closest to him right now anyway. I have to ask him about Kirishima but I can’t make it sound like I’m suspicious of him or Kaminari will get mad.”
Kind of weird to go up to someone and start asking about their love life, though. If only teenage boys were more open to talking about their feelings. He’s heard the girls chatting about ideal dates and romance, but the boys only ever want to discuss celebrity crushes and protein powder. Except Mineta, probably. But nothing he ever said could have counted as being romantic. Not as far as Izuku knows, anyway. He really just used to just tune out.
“Maybe I can corner him in his room when he’s alone.” Kaminari’s room is directly above Izuku’s. It’s between Kouda and Iida, who aren’t really in the habit of popping in on their neighbours, so theoretically all Izuku has to do is keep dropping by until he gets lucky. “But Kirishima won’t be happy if he hears about that,” he muses. “Unless I pretend I want to see them both. But then I can’t talk about Kirishima when he’s right in front of me, that would be weird.”
The pen in his fingers taps against paper in rhythm with the peppy pop music playing from Izuku’s laptop. He doesn’t know this band, but he likes them. With a click he adds it to his current Spotify playlist, then pauses with his cursor on the Steam icon. He hasn’t played half of these games yet. And there’s that one Kaminari had recommended, the one he’s been raving about all week.
Perking up, Izuku picks up his phone and opens WeChat. Hey, Kaminari, I tried to play that game you told me about but I don’t think my laptop can support it :(
He gets a reply within a minute. Dude!!! How old is ur set up
Uhm, three years?
That’s ancient in tech years lol dont worry you can borrow mine! Nier’s pretty heavy so you need a good graphicvs card but lucky for u I am a true hero
Izuku grins. Okay! Can I come to your room to play after class tomorrow?
I’m hanging with Eiji but you can come too!!! I wanna clip my toenails first tho so could you come at uhhhhhhhhh four or something
How long does it normally take you to clip your toenails??
The clipping’s quick but the painting takes a while
“Okay!” Izuku says, clapping his hands together once with glee. “Okay, yes, this is good. I have an excuse to see Kaminari and Kirishima’s going to join us so he’s not going to get suspicious. All I have to do is show up earlier than four so I have a little window. Will he believe me if I say I want to paint my nails too?”
The answer is yes, as it turns out, and the next day Izuku’s toenails are green. Kaminari’s painting his own neon orange, and the corner of his tongue pokes out of his mouth as he works. The acrid chemical smell isn’t so bad once you get used to it.
Izuku wiggles his toes and wonders how to broach the topic of Kirishima. “You’re pretty good at this.”
“Mina taught me,” Kaminari says, adding glitter to his big toes. “It’s fun, right? Eiji never lets me paint his nails, he says it feels funny. Which is bogus, it’s not like nail polish weighs anything.”
“Maybe he just doesn’t like having to take care of his nails?”
“Maybe. He always chips it, anyway, so I just have to look cute enough for us both. Oh, speaking of which, Mina lent me her lip gloss. Wanna try some? I’m gonna see if Eiji likes it.”
“I’m good, thanks. Does Kirishima like makeup?”
“Probably not, but he might like me in makeup,” Kaminari grins.
“Let’s see it, then,” Izuku says, taking the opening and running with it. “It’s nice that you try to look good for him.”
“It’s mostly for myself,” Kaminari says, hopping off the bed and rummaging around in his schoolbag. “Eiji probably wouldn’t care if I gained a bunch of weight and shaved my hair off, to be honest. Which is sweet, in a way, but he never pays attention to my outfits.”
“Maybe you should take him shopping with you so he’s forced to remember,” Izuku says, prodding his little toe to see if it’s dry. It isn’t. “Because he’ll remember having bought it with you, I mean.”
“That’s not a bad idea, actually,” Kaminari says, bouncing over to the mirror to put his gloss on. It’s a shimmery peach that makes his lips look soft and dewy. “Wow, this looks so different on Mina. I thought it’d be more purple. What do you think?”
“Very cute,” Izuku says truthfully when Kaminari comes closer to show him. “You’ve got a little smudged in the corner there. Do you guys get to go out often now that we live in the dorms?”
“Not really, but at least we can hang out after school. Eiji always just wants to go swimming or play in the park anyway so we never bother going far from campus.”
“What do you like to do?”
“I like the mall and trying new food,” Kaminari says, pouting dramatically at his reflection at the mirror. “And shitty movies. Wow, this stuff is shiny.”
“It suits you.”
“Thanks! I’m gonna get myself some. Maybe I’ll go with Mina, she’ll help me pick. Ugh, but then Eiji’s gonna whine about being left behind.”
“You could take him with you.”
“He gets fidgety after a few hours,” Kaminari says and flops backwards onto the bed. “He doesn’t get how long it takes to choose quality stuff, he’s more a ‘grab and go’ kind of guy. Which explains his clothes, I guess. I mean, I’m kitschy, but he’s,” he says and makes a vague hand gesture. “Like that. God, I love him, but those crocs will kill me.”
Izuku suppresses a smile. His watch tells him it’s a quarter to four; he’s got about fifteen minutes to find out what he can. So far it seems that they’re in a genuinely loving relationship, but that whole thing in class still weighs on him. “Does he not like you going places without him?”
“He hates it. I’ve never met anyone clingier.”
“Hmm. That must be hard on you sometimes.”
Kaminari sighs. “It’s not like he won’t let you go but he’ll send a million texts and get anxious if you don’t come back right on time. It’s kinda justified since villains seem to like us, but I’m not gonna get murdered going to 7 Eleven, you know?”
That’s worrisome. “How do you deal with it?”
“I’ve told him off a couple times but he always gets so sad. Nowadays I just sorta deal with it. He takes it really personally, I think. He doesn’t understand why I don’t worry about myself the way he worries about me.”
“You’re going to be a hero,” Izuku says, frowning. “Danger’s kind of a given.”
Kaminari smiles softly at the ceiling. “Yeah, I asked him about that once. He said, I have the toughest skin, so let me take those hits for you.”
“Oh.” Izuku’s heart flutters a little despite himself. “That’s really romantic.”
“I know, right? Sucks for him when I get my fanbase, though. He gets jealous like you wouldn’t believe.”
The door bursts open and Kirishima bounds in carrying a soda bottle and several bags of potato chips. “Hey, babe! Hey, Midoriya, you’re here early.” He doesn’t say it particularly threateningly, but Izuku doesn’t miss the little tendril of discomfort that runs up his back.
“Kaminari said he would paint my nails,” Izuku says, managing a smile. Kirishima smiles back. His teeth are really sharp.
The bedsprings squeak. Kaminari bounces up and over to the door, smile wide and a little coy. “Say, Eiji, I wanted to show you something. Notice anything different with my face?”
Kirishima’s attention turns to him. “Oh! Your lips are all shiny.”
“Mina lent me her lip gloss. You like it?”
“Do I? You’re adorable!”
Kaminari beams and smooches his cheek. The bad vibes coming from Kirishima disappear completely, and instead Izuku feels a sort of second-hand warmth that makes his fingers tingle. “That stuff’s sticky,” Kirishima says, touching his face. “Looks real good, though, babe. Mina has the right idea.”
They stay cuddly and giggly for the next half hour until Izuku makes an excuse and leaves so they can make out in private. Overprotective, he thinks, already planning what to put in his notebook. Jealous. Clingy, but caring. Mood improves greatly when Kaminari’s engaging him.
The next relationship on the list is a little different. Izuku’s closer to Hitoshi than he is to Ojiro, despite having been classmates with Ojiro for longer. That could be useful, though. Seeing things from Hitoshi’s point of view this time could provide new insight, although he’s going to need to be careful about not making Hitoshi get suspicious and walk him off a cliff.
It helps that they sit so close together. “My mom sent me a huge box of chocolates,” he says during homeroom the next day. “I’ll end up eating them all myself if I leave them in my room for too long. Wanna share at lunch?”
“I’m having lunch with Mashirao,” says Hitoshi, chin in his hand. “What kind of chocolate?”
“Meiji. With the assorted fillings.”
“I don’t want to interrupt,” says Izuku, carefully casual. “I know you never miss a lunch date.”
“Mashirao comes first.”
“That’s nice. Say, I’ve never heard you call Ojiro anything other than Mashirao,” Izuku says, genuinely curious. “Do you ever shorten it? Call him a cute nickname?”
Hitoshi considers this. “I like his name. It’s dignified, it suits him. ‘Mashi’ is kind of cute, but he gets embarrassed.”
“What does he call you?”
“Shinsou. Why d’you ask?”
Izuku shrugs. “Just wondering. You sound so grown up calling each other by your first names.”
“Unlike you and Bakugou?”
“Well, yeah, we met in daycare. Everyone called him Kacchan back then. It kind of stuck.”
“It’s cute that you still say it, though.”
Izuku scratches the back of his neck. “I guess so. I don’t really think about it anymore. I could switch to Katsuki, but somehow that feels like I’m taking a step back. Like it’s less special, or less personal, or something.”
Hitoshi says nothing for a second. His face melts into a frown. “Maybe I should start calling Mashirao something else.”
“Like you said, it’s not special,” Hitoshi says. “It’s just his first name, anyone could call him that. I don’t like the idea of sharing his name with anyone else.”
“That sounds very...”
“Possessive? I know. But he’s my boyfriend. I want a version of him for myself.”
Izuku blanches. “That’s not really where I was goin—”
“It’s okay if he gets embarrassed,” Hitoshi says, no longer listening. “I’ll keep it between us. Nobody else has to know my name for him. Maybe I can get him to call me Shin?”
Izuku gives up. This must be how everyone else feels when he starts mumbling to himself. Possessive, but self-aware, he jots down on a post-it for later. Doesn’t seem paranoid about Ojiro’s safety but is suspicious of other people (i.e. Kaminari) trying to interact with him. Trusts Ojiro to be loyal. As he should. Ojiro’s the most decent teenager Izuku knows, and he’s literally in a class of future superheroes.
So Hitoshi isn’t all that different from Kirishima as a boyfriend. They’re both suspicious of other people around their partners, albeit in different ways. They both get jealous. They’re both a lot happier when their boyfriends are paying them attention; Hitoshi calmed down immediately that time Ojiro gave him his tail to cuddle, and Kirishima melts when Kaminari smiles at him. And they both set off Izuku’s fight or flight instincts, although that’s not going to stop him from carrying out his investigation.
There is genuine love there, though. And now the last one to study is Todoroki. Izuku suspects the results will be similar, he just isn’t sure to what degree.
That part may be difficult. He likes Todoroki well enough but the guy’s a conversational glacier. He’s not going to open up about his relationship, and Izuku doesn’t quite know Yaomomo well enough to ask questions about her love life. Which is a shame, actually. She’s a nice person. He should really try to befriend her properly.
What I know about Todoroki, he jots down. There’s not a lot. He’s dating Yaomomo and he has some truly breath-taking daddy issues. He was the first one to set off Izuku’s quirk when Todoroki found him in Mineta’s room. Todoroki and Mineta don’t have much of a connection, but Mineta and Yaomomo might. Yaomomo hated him. With good reason, since he harassed her constantly, but that would be enough to make Todoroki hate him too.
So maybe being in Mineta’s room made Todoroki’s Issues flare up. “But that’s counter-intuitive, isn’t it,” Izuku mumbles under his breath. “You’d think Todoroki would be happy Mineta left.”
Mr Aizawa comes in for homeroom and Izuku has to shelve his thoughts for later. Class goes on as normal. The bell for lunch rings just as Izuku’s stomach starts to rumble, and he sighs and stretches in his seat, wondering if he’ll have time for a nap.
Hitoshi makes a beeline for Ojiro with an expression of determination. Izuku glances at his desk and sees a list of potential nicknames. Most of them are crossed out. Todoroki wanders to Yaomomo’s desk to play with her hair, and Kirishima plasters himself all over Kaminari’s back and whines that he’s starving to death.
His stomach rumbles again. “No nap for me,” he sighs and rummages around in his bag. He wasn’t lying about the chocolates. There are too many to eat by himself, hungry as he is. And these are just half of what his mother sent. Maybe he’ll eat one now and pass the rest around class.
The crinkling of a wrapper attracts Ashido, who’s on her way to Kaminari’s desk. Izuku asks her if she wants one. “Yes please!” she says and immediately holds out a hand. He gives her one with a strawberry center just because it matches her colour scheme.
“Actually take a couple more, you can give them to—” Izuku says, and then freezes. His stomach’s dropped somewhere into his shoes. Kacchan is glaring at him, trying to kill him with his eyes, and Izuku actually has a flashback to when they were eight and Kacchan shoved him in a locker.
“Deku,” says Kacchan very quietly. “What are you doing?”
“Sharing?” Izuku hazards.
“Pinky, put that back.” Kacchan looks at the colourful wrapper, and then at Ashido, who shuffles away sans chocolate. “Where’s mine?”
“You don’t even like sweets.”
“That doesn’t matter,” says Kacchan, making Izuku squeak. “You’re supposed to share with me first, you always do that.”
“But,” Izuku says, clutching his plastic bag of Meiji to his chest. “But you stopped eating candy when we were ten, how was I supposed to know you wanted one? Why are you mad?”
“Because!” Kacchan bristles, which answers absolutely nothing. “Just—just don’t go putting Pinky or whoever before me! I always get first dibs because I’m most important, got that?”
Awkwardly, Izuku puts a couple of chocolates in Kacchan’s palm “Okay, fine, sorry. Here.”
“It’s not about the damned chocolate, it’s,” Kacchan says, and then huffs. He presses them back into Izuku’s hand and squeezes his fingers. “Forget it. Just ask me first next time. Put me first. That’s all.”
He stands and goes, hands in his pockets and shoulders tense and hunched forward. Izuku stays there, mystified, until Ashido comes back to see if he’s alright and has any more sweets to give her. “You look kind of shell-shocked, Midoriya. You good?”
“What just happened?” Izuku says plaintively. Ashido laughs and helps herself to a handful from his plastic bag.
“Yeah, it surprised me the first time too, but some boyfriends are just like that. Don’t worry about it too much! He’ll stop sulking soon.”
“Oh,” Izuku says and watches her skip away to link arms with Kaminari and Kirishima. Oh. Of course, Kacchan’s always had those weird vibes to him, and now Izuku’s found the current recipient. This is good. This means he’s found another pair to work on. He puts down the chocolates and rifles through his bag once more, cogs in his mind whirring and puzzle pieces slotting neatly into place.
Iida invites him to lunch. “Just a second,” Izuku calls over his shoulder and tugs out his secret notebook. Kacchan and Ashido, he scribbles on a fresh page, and stuffs it back into his backpack for later.
“Yaomomo,” Izuku says, trying very hard to sound like someone with no ulterior motives.
She looks up. The only time Izuku ever feels taller than her is when she’s sitting down, which is kind of sad, but he’ll take it. “Hello. Do you need something?”
“I wanted to give you back the wet wipes you lent me the other day,” Izuku says and hands them over. “Sorry, I meant to give them to you a couple of days ago at lunch but you were on a date with Todoroki. After that I kind of forgot.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t call those dates, we just like to eat together,” she says shyly. “Thanks for being so considerate. Don’t worry about it next time, though, you can always come eat with us if you’d like.”
“I wouldn’t want to interrupt your alone time. I might have done that before by accident, come to think of it. I only found out you were dating a couple of weeks ago.”
“Really? We weren’t really trying to keep it a secret.”
Hitoshi squeezes his shoulder and says goodbye. Everyone else is clearing out to enjoy the rest of their afternoon, eager to catch the last few hours of sunlight after a tiring winter school day. Izuku sits in Hitoshi’s empty seat. Todoroki’s already gone. The only reason Yaomomo’s still here is because she’s on whiteboard duty today. “How long have you two been dating?”
“About six months, I think. We started seeing each other just after getting into UA.”
That’s when the jitters started. The non-anxiety related ones, anyway. Izuku rests his arms on the back of Hitoshi’s chair. “You knew each other before, right?”
“Yeah, our families go a while back. We never used to be all that close, though. Sometimes Shouto would come over to play but that stopped partway through elementary school. His dad always wanted him to spend more time training,” she says, pursing her lips. That’s probably as derisive as she’s capable of being. Izuku kind of wishes he could share his own mother. No wonder poor Todoroki ended up the way he did.
“It’s nice that you guys got to get to know each other again. And having a familiar face helps when you’re in a new environment.”
“A bit like you and Bakugou,” she says, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Although you both went to the same middle school too, didn’t you?”
“Yeah. We grew up together because our parents were friends. I think Kacchan would be offended at anyone calling us friends, though.”
“Yes, he’s very clear about your relationship.”
Izuku winces. “We’ve known each other so long I keep forgetting how…Kacchan he is. I’m not surprised, though. He’s always been like this, he can be kind of harsh. At least he doesn’t say it right in front of me, I guess.”
“Don’t worry, we’re used to him,” Yaomomo says soothingly. “He’s settled down since the beginning of the year. Hitoshi only set him off a little bit.”
“Hitoshi,” Izuku says, perking up. “I really like having him in class. Speaking of which, I haven’t heard anything from Mineta since he left. I wonder how he’s doing.”
She shrugs, clearly disinterested. “I was never friends with him.”
“Yeah, I don’t blame you. He was… probably not much fun to be around. I’m really sorry he was so awful to you.”
“That was his fault, not yours. It’s not like Mineta really cared what anyone said, anyway. Shouto must have told him off a dozen times. It didn’t help. I heard he had some master plan to break into the girls’ rooms to steal underwear just before he left.”
“Oh my god,” Izuku cringes. “That’s genuinely disgusting.”
“It’s alright,” she says flippantly. “Shouto took care of it.”
“I think he threatened to ice Mineta’s laptop? Apparently he really loved that thing. I imagine it’s where he kept his creepy porn.”
“The Macbook Air?”
“Yeah, I think so. It had these gross stickers all over it.”
“Huh. Interesting.” The class is empty, and weak sunlight streams in through the big windows and makes Yaomomo’s hair seem almost brown. “Gosh, I didn’t even notice I’d kept you for so long. Do you want help cleaning the whiteboard?”
She blinks. “You don’t mind?”
“Of course not! I’m the one who distracted you. We can chat, anyway. I feel like we don’t hang out that much even though we sit so close to each other,” Izuku says in a way that he hopes sounds friendly. “I’d like to know more about you.”
She beams at him. She’s very pretty, Izuku thinks. His heartbeat skips, and for a sweet second he wonders if he’s suddenly experiencing the true wonders of puberty.
He’s not. It’s his quirk. Todoroki’s hovering at the door, and judging by his face there’s a very real chance that Izuku might die today.
He drifts into the room. His eyes are wide and they don’t leave Izuku’s face. “Midoriya,” he says quietly. Izuku feels like he might pass out. Maybe he should text his mom and tell her he loves her one last time. “You’re alone with my girlfriend.”
“Am I?” Izuku’s voice cracks. “I didn’t notice.”
Please help me, he thinks at Yaomomo. She’s not paying attention, though. She’s looking at something over Izuku’s shoulder, and Izuku shivers when a hand plants itself on the back of his neck. It squeezes. Not painfully, but with enough force that Izuku straightens up and whimpers. He can’t even turn around. “If you’re going to snap my spine please do it quickly.”
“I’m not snapping your stupid spine, Deku.”
Izuku would never in his life have thought he’d be relieved to hear Kacchan. Calloused fingers brush against the hair at the nape of his neck. It tickles.
“Bakugou,” says Todoroki, mercifully looking away from Izuku.
“Todoroki,” says Kacchan. Izuku can’t see what kind of face he’s making but Yaomomo hides behind her chemistry folder.
They stare at each other for a very long time. Finally, and for no discernible reason, Todoroki relaxes and blinks. “Momo. I found a new ice cream place to try.”
“Sounds lovely,” she says. “But I do have to finish cleaning first.”
“I’ll help,” says Todoroki. He’s acting like they aren’t even there. “I’ll treat you.”
“Thanks,” she smiles weakly. “Sorry, Midoriya. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Sure,” Izuku says and wobbles to his feet. He feels kind of faint; the fading spike of adrenaline leaves him wobbly but very eager to run away. He barely even notices Kacchan helping to pack his things. I’ve broken every bone in my body and almost died several times, he thinks to himself, but I’ve never actually seen my life flash before my eyes. At least only the first half of it was boring.
Everything goes into his backpack haphazardly. Stuttering out a goodbye, Izuku sprints back to the dorms and hides himself in a mountain of All Might paraphernalia until long after dinner.
Things after that get a lot easier. And weirder.
Todoroki leaves him alone. Kacchan seems really smug. Izuku doesn’t know why, but at least it puts him in a good mood, and he doesn’t pick fights with Hitoshi anymore. Sometimes they look at each other and nod. Sometimes all three of them nod, like they’ve come to some unspoken agreement that they’ll never tell Izuku about, and sometimes Kirishima joins them and it’s even weirder. Izuku can’t make heads or tails of it. Isn’t sure that he wants to, now it feels like he’s narrowly cheated death. They still make his quirk go nuts. It’s rarely directed at him, thankfully, but the periodic heebie-jeebies still worry him.
The others start hanging around him a lot. Izuku doesn’t mind, since it’s what he wanted in the first place, but it’s sort of strange how they just absorb him into their circle. Kaminari and Ashido start asking him to go shopping with them. Ojiro invites him to the gym, and Yaomomo keeps giving him tea to try. He doesn’t even like tea. It smells better than it tastes, although he always takes it to make her happy. Often the five of them hang out after school. Over time, Izuku finds his social life divided between them, and Iida and Uraraka. And Kacchan, who’s taken to ambushing him at random intervals for some reason.
“Deku,” he barges into Izuku’s room on one such occasion. Izuku supposes it’s his own fault for leaving the door unlocked. The bedsprings creak when Kacchan flounces onto the mattress, and Izuku continues his Biology homework.
“Deku,” he says again. Izuku twists around in his desk chair and hums.
“Yes, how can I help you?”
Kacchan stares at him. Then he huffs, satisfied, and goes about rifling through Izuku’s bookshelf with rude curiosity.
Izuku sighs. “Did you come here to take my things again?”
“Everything you have is mine.”
“Technically it belongs to my mother since she pays for it,” Izuku says. “Or my dad, I guess.”
“Your dad’s gone.”
“Yeah, overseas, I think.”
Kacchan ignores him. He moves on to the closet, and Izuku expects to be missing something by the end of the day.
He keeps doing that. Inviting himself into Izuku’s space and taking whatever he likes even though Izuku’s clothes probably don’t fit. He barely ever talks. As loud as Kacchan is, most of their time spent together lately has been kind of quiet. Peaceful, even, until he gets bored and throws a pillow at Izuku’s head. It’s puzzling. Not unpleasant, but confusing.
Maybe we’re becoming friends, Izuku thinks. That’s a nice idea. Kacchan’s decided to rearrange his wardrobe, meaning it’s probably going to be a lot neater after this. He never would have willingly spent this much time round Izuku five years ago. It sort of brings him back to when they were kids, when every moment was passed together just because that was the way they worked. As a pair. As best friends.
“You’re grinning like a weirdo,” Kacchan informs him. Izuku schools his face into something less ridiculous for his sake. “What are you even doing?”
“Homework,” Izuku says, which is partly true. He’s also been perusing his To Save notebook, under subsection Grapes. “Say. Mineta hasn’t contacted you since he left, has he?”
“I don’t talk to that degenerate.”
“Understandable,” Izuku says, tapping his pencil against his desk thoughtfully. “Have you ever seen his laptop?”
“Stupid overpriced thing with girls’ underwear stuck on it. He was showing it off when we first got here, wouldn’t let anyone touch it. Not that anyone wanted to. Probably had dried jizz all over the keyboard.”
And yet he’d left it in his room, covered in soot, and disappeared. “Speaking of girl’s underwear, Yaomomo said he had a plan to steal some just before he left.”
Kacchan makes a grumbly noise. “Disgusting little troglodyte.”
Izuku agrees. “Apparently Todoroki put a stop to it.”
“She’s not completely sure how, though. What would you have done?”
Kacchan emerges from the cupboard with a sweater halfway over his head. “If some creep had been bothering my girl like that? I would have put the fear of god into him.”
“Mineta is easy to scare,” Izuku says quietly. And Todoroki can be terrifying. Izuku found that out first hand.
Mr Aizawa had said Mineta left because of his nerves, but it’s starting to look like the breakdown had nothing to do with hero work. He might have been scared by Todoroki. Todoroki may not even have threatened the laptop. He’d just thrown some fire around, leaving those burns on the walls, and Mineta had transferred out right after without even bothering to bring his stuff with him.
Sounds extreme. But people like Todoroki are extreme, and Kacchan had just said he would do the same. The laptop thing must have just been an excuse. Threatening another student like that would get him expelled, and Yaomomo probably wouldn’t approve even if it had been for her sake.
So Todoroki’s the reason Mineta left. And if Mineta’s too scared to even retrieve his beloved porn machine, he’s probably never coming back.
Humming, he returns to his homework. Kacchan entertains himself for about half an hour before leaving as abruptly as he came. He ruffles Izuku’s hair on the way out. True enough there’s a hoodie gone by the end of it. It was one of the comfier ones, too.
It’s fine, Izuku decides. He’ll get it back some other time.
Starbucks is kind of crowded for a Thursday afternoon. The other four are squished around one of the little round tables, and Izuku sits down with a fancy chocolate peppermint thing that apparently contains the spirit of Christmas. Izuku doubts that, since it’s only November, but the crushed candy cane bits on top are a nice touch.
“No, you’re wrong, and I’m sure Midoriya agrees with me,” says Ashido, waving her frappuccino around emphatically.
“He’ll agree with me,” says Kaminari. He has some ridiculous colourful creamy thing in his hands. Izuku’s not sure it was on the menu. “Right, Midoriya?”
Izuku doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Neither do Ojiro and Yaomomo, by the looks of it. “Maybe you’re both right.”
“Maybe we are,” says Kaminari sagely. “Hey, let’s ask Kirishima!”
“Ugh, no, don’t engage them,” says Yaomomo.
Izuku sips his drink and gets whipped cream on the end of his nose. “Minty. Engage who?’
“Them,” says Ojiro, discretely pointing behind him with his tail. A red and white head ducks behind a newspaper two tables over, and Ojiro sighs. “This always happens. You say you’re going out and he tails you.”
“Tell me about it,” say the others at the same time. Kaminari flops onto Ashido’s shoulder and whines.
“I mean, it’s cute that they’re so concerned, but we’re not five-year-olds. We’re not gonna get kidnapped.”
Izuku tries not to look too obvious about checking out their neighbours. Hitoshi and Kirishima are doing a bad job of pretending to look natural, and Kacchan’s not even trying to hide. Todoroki’s newspaper shield sags. “Wow. So this is a regular thing, huh?”
“Yes,” says Yaomomo, stirring her tea. “It’s best to ignore them.”
“Don’t you feel like they’re, I don’t know,” Izuku says, trying to choose his words with caution. “Intruding? On your personal time?”
“Yeah,” says Ashido. “But they never listen. At least they’re not getting in the way now. Remember that time Todoroki invited himself to our spa day?”
Yaomomo rolls her eyes. “I told him it was only for the girls.”
“What did you do?” asks Ojiro.
“I scolded him and sent him home, of course. He sulked for a week. He doesn’t look it, but he’s very sensitive.”
“Eiji cries when you’re upset with him,” says Kaminari. “He doesn’t understand why you can’t pay attention to him all the time, it’s like arguing with a dog.”
“Your dog’s not as clingy,” says Ashido. “Mocha doesn’t text you when you go to the bathroom.”
“Wow,” says Izuku quietly. “And you guys don’t mind? You don’t ever get overwhelmed?”
“It can be a lot to deal with,” Yaomomo admits. “But you figure it out. They never mean any real harm. If something Shouto does ever makes me truly unhappy, I tell him. I’ll say that it bothers me and he always stops.”
“You just have to accept that they’re always going to be overprotective, I guess,” Ojiro says and gingerly sips his hot chocolate. “But Yaomomo’s right. I know Shinsou cares a lot what I think.”
“Plus it’s kind of nice having someone at your beck and call,” Ashido says so only the five of them can hear. “Mention you feel like donuts and the next day there’s Krispy Kremes on your desk.”
Kaminari giggles mischievously. “Eiji’s meant to be my gym partner but he lets me off training if I bat my eyelashes at him enough.”
“That’s terrible,” says Yaomomo, trying not to laugh. “You shouldn’t bully him like that.”
“You’re one to talk,” Ashido slurps at her accusingly. “I know Todoroki bought you that Burberry.”
“I didn’t ask him to! He spilled juice on my other purse and offered to replace it, that’s all.”
“Rich kids,” snorts Kaminari, which Izuku agrees with. “I can’t wait to see the rock he gets you when you guys get engaged.”
Yaomomo goes pink. “It’s a bit too early for that, surely,” says Ojiro.
Ashido steals Kaminari’s drink. “You shut up. Hitoshi’s the worst of them, you could ask him to get married right now and he’d say yes.”
“He would not!”
“He so would. I’ve seen you sparring, you know. I know how he looks at you after you’ve thrown him across the room. He thinks it’s, like, the hottest thing.”
“I don’t blame him,” says Kaminari.
“Hey, have you guys done it?” Ashido asks.
Ojiro pointedly doesn’t answer. Izuku watches, a little awestruck, and glances at the table of boyfriends a few meters away. “Wow. You guys really have a handle on this, huh?”
“It’s like I said, you figure things out,” says Yaomomo kindly. “You just have to pick your battles, that’s all.”
Kaminari makes grabby hands for Izuku’s drink. “Don’t say that to Midoriya, he’ll pick all of them.”
“You’re nuts, dude,” says Ashido, taking it before Kaminari can try it. “Bakugou’s as bad as they come and you’ve been dealing with him for years.”
Izuku gestures vaguely. “I don’t think it’s the same, exactly.”
“I imagine it’s worse,” says Ojiro. “I know I say Shinsou’s bad, but Bakugou’s on another level. All he ever does is follow you around and glare when someone talks to you. I’m actually impressed that Iida and Uraraka managed to befriend you despite that.”
“I don’t think Iida noticed, to be fair,” says Ashido, finally giving Izuku’s drink to Kaminari when he whines. “But yeah, dating him must be like, I dunno. Like Russian Roulette but with landmines. I dunno how you manage it.”
Izuku opens his mouth, and then shuts it. “Hang on. What?”
“Your relationship,” says Kaminari, devouring the last of Izuku’s whipped cream. “Being his boyfriend must be complicated, no?”
“Oh my god,” Izuku says, going bright red. “Oh gosh, no, we’re not dating. All this time I thought he was with Ashido!”
“Dude,” says Ashido. “I’m dating Eiji. Me and Denki share.”
“All three of you?” Izuku repeats. That…makes a lot of sense, actually. Kaminari and Ashido are attached at the hip, but neither Kacchan nor Kirishima ever seem to mind. “No wonder you’re always melting all over each other.”
“But you and Bakugou aren’t together?” Yaomomo asks, perfect eyebrows furrowed. “I thought you guys were childhood sweethearts.”
“No,” Izuku remembers at the last minute to use his indoor voice. “No, we’ve never— he’s never even said he liked me, let alone like-liked me. We spend a lot of time together but that’s more out of circumstance than choice.”
“Wow, okay,” says Ojiro. “Sorry we just assumed. He really is obsessed with you, though. He acts exactly like the others. Honestly, that’s kind of the reason we made you a part of the club.”
“The Exasperated Partners club,” says Kaminari. “You’re the mascot.”
“We wanted to make sure you were okay,” says Yaomomo. “Since he must be, you know. A lot. More than we thought, in fact. I can’t believe he acts like that even though you aren’t dating yet.”
Iuzku’s breath catches. There are four dragons and four piles of gold, except Kirishima’s dating two of them. Goosebumps break out on Izuku’s arms; all the bad vibes, all the inexplicable alarm bells that go off whenever Kacchan’s around, they all have one thing in common. It’s always when Kacchan’s looking at him. At Izuku, not Ashido, because Kacchan’s been by Izuku’s side ever since they were three years old.
He glances at the other table. Kacchan’s nursing a cup of plain black coffee, and he looks up and meets Izuku’s eye.
“Oh my god,” says Izuku to himself. “It was always me.”
He hides in his room all weekend.
Strategizes. Heroes don’t hide, Izuku tells his All Might plushie. They certainly don’t hide when they think someone might have a crush on them, not even when it’s their estranged best friend from childhood who may be trying to make up for some reason. Except now there is a reason. The reason is that Kacchan maybe likes him, in a way that probably isn’t healthy but is maybe also flattering.
But this makes sense, come to think of it. Izuku remembers when he first started feeling his quirk; it was from Kacchan’s parents. They used to give off that vibe, the slightly crazy vibe, and he’d always associated it with Kacchan too just because that had seemed normal for them. But it isn’t normal. It isn’t hereditary. Kacchan has an obsession of his own, and it’s Izuku. It might have been Izuku for a long time.
His mother picks up on the third ring. “Hey, Mom, I was wondering something. Do Mr and Mrs Bakugou still come visit you?”
“Oh, all the time!” his mother says. Her voice soothes him automatically, and he sinks further into his next of blankets. “We have dinner every other night or so. Since you boys moved away we’ve been lonely, you know.”
That’s probably a subtle request that he call more often. “Do they seem, I don’t know. Are they alright?”
“They’re fine, I think. Why d’you ask?”
“No, I mean,” Izuku says. “I mean, have they ever seemed, uhm. Odd? Objectively? Like, weirdly obsessed with each other or something?”
There’s a short pause. “Not with each other, no.”
“I don’t mean lately. I mean since the beginning, even when you first met them. Compare them to, say, you and Dad.”
“Your father’s been gone a long time, baby.”
“I know he never comes home now, but what about when you first started going out?” He pauses, wondering if it’s a bad memory to bring up. Mom never really seems to mind talking about him, he supposes, dismissive as she is. “I know this is really out of the blue. I just remember them being really intense for some reason.”
“Really? How so?”
“It’s not in a bad way. It’s more like,” he says, trying to think of something better than the egg-microwave analogy. “Like a pack of wolves circling a deer. But also like a mama bear.”
“That doesn’t make much sense, honey.”
“Hmm.” There’s a little noise in the background. Izuku imagines her curled up on the couch watching those soap operas she pretends not to like. He misses her, suddenly. “I suppose I can see what you’re saying. They’ve always been protective. Have I ever told you how we became friends?”
“We met at a prenatal class for first time parents. I was still with your Dad at the time. They didn’t like him much, though. He wasn’t very nice. Could have been a lot worse, but he was kind of,” she hesitates. “Neglectful. I wasn’t very happy. They stepped in even without me asking them to, and I’m still grateful for that. I felt so free when he was finally out of the picture!”
Izuku frowns. “They sent him overseas?”
“No, sweetheart. What I’m trying to say is that the Bakugous will go above and beyond when they care for someone, whether you want them to or not. Ah, but! I want you to know that I’ll never regret meeting your father, Izuku, even though things didn’t work out. That’s how I got you, after all. I’m grateful for you every day.”
“I’m glad you met him too, Mom,” Izuku says, smiling crookedly. “I couldn’t ask for a better parent. I really wish he’d been nicer to you, though.”
“It doesn’t matter now, baby. He’s gone.”
“Right. Where did he go, anyway?”
“I’m afraid nobody knows the answer to that.”
“Do you think he’ll come back?”
“That depends on what you believe. If he did, though, we wouldn’t recognise him. He’d look very different.”
It has been a long time, Izuku supposes. “Alright. Sorry for springing that on you out of the blue, anyway.”
“What made you ask?”
“Well,” Izuku says, blushing even though she can’t see him. “I was just thinking about it, I guess.”
She hums. Izuku’s never been a very good liar, unfortunately. He can almost hear her trying not to laugh. “Does this maybe have something to do with Kacchan?”
“Don’t be shy! You know you’re a very cute young man.”
Izuku whines. “Come on, it’s not like that.”
“Baby,” his mother giggles. “Katsuki’s had a crush on you since you were toddlers.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?’
She goes quiet for a second. “It’s like you said, Izuku. The Bakugous can be… intense. Being the object of someone’s attention can get overwhelming sometimes.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve known them for a while,” she sighs. “But you don’t have anything to worry about, honey. He’ll take care of you, if you choose him. Just take your time. He’s not going anywhere.”
Izuku buries his face in his hands. “I’m gonna throw myself into the sun.”
“You’re already my sunshine,” she chirps. He groans. “Aside from finally figuring out Katsuki’s pining over you, how’ve you been?”
As always, talking to his mother makes it seem less like the world’s about to end. The chat lasts twenty minutes. By the end of it Izuku’s ready to go down to dinner and face his friends again, even if seeing Kacchan does unfortunately make him blush.
From then on he pays attention.
Small things in his surroundings, little glances and gestures he’s always taken for granted. He can feel what other people are feeling sometimes, if he really concentrates. His original quirk is just like any other; it gets stronger with practice, so he practices on the people he knows will trigger it. Hitoshi, Todoroki, Kirishima and Kacchan. Possessiveness, concern, attraction. Sometimes insecurity, sometimes obsession.
It’s a little scary, here and there, the rush that reflects off of Kacchan when Izuku smiles at him on purpose. Maybe this is what being an empath is like. Maybe Izuku is an empath, albeit with a very select group of people. Aoyama and Tokoyami don’t get like this, even though they’re a couple. Neither do Iida and Uraraka, even though Izuku suspects they’ve liked each other for some time.
“I’m sugar deprived,” he says to Hitoshi, loud enough for Kacchan to hear. Sure enough a lollipop’s on his desk at the end of their lunch break, and Izuku feels a little guilty and a little pleased when he eats it later that day. It’s watermelon. One of his favourites, although he doesn’t remember having told Kacchan that.
Ashido was right. Kacchan’s not all that hard to figure out. He’s the same person Izuku’s always known, it’s just that now his actions make more sense. Because Kacchan maybe likes him, although that’s super embarrassing to think about.
He’s always been like this. For as long as Izuku can remember, Kacchan and his parents have all set him on edge. Not in a bad way, necessarily, because he trusts them, but in a way that makes them different from other people. The apple doesn’t fall far from the crazy. Kacchan’s just like his parents, and he’d latched onto Izuku early on. Izuku really shouldn’t have ignored his quirk.
Some of the childhood bullying even makes sense, in retrospect. Posturing and pigtail-pulling. Not excusable by any means, but probably not actually done out of malice. And Kacchan seems to be trying to make up for it now. Hasn’t apologised for it, though. They’re probably going to need to have an awkward heart-to-heart about that at some point. It’s nice, though, not having to be afraid of him anymore.
“Kacchan, have you seen my class schedule?” Izuku asks him after school. “It’s the one with post-its all over it.”
“How should I know where it is?”
“Did you take it?”
“The fuck you blaming me for?”
Izuku raises an eyebrow. “You’ve taken three of my hoodies, Kacchan. And my planner and my All Might beanie baby.”
“Yes, asshat. I mean, okay, I borrowed the hoodies, but not the other stuff.”
Izuku frowns. “Where could they have gone? I’m sure I left everything on my desk like always.”
“Take better care of your shit,” Kacchan huffs. The frown on his face isn’t particularly deep, but Izuku feels bad vibes coming from somewhere. There’s barely anyone else in the quad who could be setting his quirk off.
“Are you okay?” he prompts, as casually as he can.
Kacchan squints at him. “Are you? You always have a million notebooks, how’d you lose one?”
“I’m a little disorganised,” Izuku says. “But seriously, I feel like you’ve been a bit grumpy recently.”
“I’m fucking peachy.”
“You were kinda mean to Uraraka and Iida today. They just asked me to lunch. They’re my friends, that’s a normal thing that friends do.”
“Who the hell said I was being mean to them?” Kacchan says, scowling. “Don’t get so full of yourself, asshat. I’m not fuckin’ jealous. What do I care who you eat with?”
“I never brought up jealousy,” Izuku says, flinching when Kacchan punches his shoulder. Gently, though, not enough to cause any damage. “But okay, I believe you. I just want to know you’re alright.”
Kacchan huffs. Bizarrely, the disembodied anger intensifies, but Izuku decides to let it go for now. If Kacchan doesn’t want to talk, he can’t force him. All he can do is try not to let the feeling rattle him.
So life just kind of settles, after that. The periodic goosebumps never really go away, but that’s probably Kacchan’s fault. It may be that repeated usage has made Izuku’s stunted quirk more sensitive. Sometimes it goes off even when he’s alone, primitive reptile brain telling him to fear wandering teeth in the dark. It’s kind of disconcerting. He’s already on good terms with all four sources of Crazy. He doesn’t think he’s done anything to piss them off. Maybe he’s picking up flares of them getting mad at other people, or maybe Kacchan’s just in a really bad mood. He’s the one Izuku spends most time with, so the feeling could be coming from him.
He doesn’t give any indication that anything’s wrong, though. He honestly seems fine. If something’s bothering him he clearly wants to keep it a secret, so Izuku doesn’t think it would be a good idea to pry.
Life goes on. The Exasperated Partners Club continues to hang out and trade complaints, and Iida and Uraraka continue being good, sane friends. Izuku’s things keep going missing and Kacchan usually denies having them, and when Izuku’s room keys (and Golden Era edition All Might keychain) disappear he doesn’t even bother kicking up a fuss about getting them replaced.
In retrospect, that was a mistake. He probably should have paid more attention to the psycho detector at that point.
Sirens go off in Izuku’s head while he’s out running in the park. They’re the ones from Kill Bill, specifically. Subtly he speeds up. He should try to finish that movie sometime, actually, since he’s never watched it all the way through.
A breeze makes him shiver. The park’s empty, seeing as it’s 9pm on a weekday in the beginning of winter. Nobody in their right minds would be hanging out here in the dark. Aside from Izuku, obviously. And whoever’s following him. Sounds like one person, probably big, six paces behind and not really cut out for jogging. He hopes it’s not a mugger. He was on a roll with his workout and if he stops to beat the guy up he’ll have to start this lap over.
Twenty meters in and the tail doesn’t let up. Sighing, Izuku slows down and turns, keeps jogging in place so he can keep the momentum going. “Uhm, hi. Can I help you?”
It’s a UA student. One of the general course kids, judging by the uniform, and he keeps coming closer until he’s got Izuku cornered with his back to a tree. “Midoriya Izuku,” he says ominously. Izuku wonders how he said that, because he doesn’t have a visible mouth. Or any other facial features. Or a face, actually, because his head is a flesh-coloured Lego block sticking out of his collar. Izuku wonders if it would be rude to ask.
The boy cracks his knuckles, Izuku gives up on trying to jog. “I’ve been trying to get you alone for weeks now, Midoriya. You sure are popular, you know? Always guarded, but I learned your routine. I watched you from afar without you even realising it.”
“I broke into your class dorms, of course. And I memorised your timetable. From there it was easy to—”
“No, I mean,” Izuku interrupts. “How did you watch me? You don’t have any discernible eyes. Can you see? How’s your depth perception? How many fingers am I holding up?”
The guy does a good job of looking annoyed despite having no face. “Yes, I can see. Put your fingers down, you fool,” he snaps. Izuku lowers his hand sheepishly. “Just shut up about my eyes for a second, I’m trying to tell you why I’m here. I’m going to kill you, you see. Your existence is a sin to me.”
“Okay,” says Izuku, because unfortunately this isn’t the first death threat he’s ever heard. “Any particular reason, or are you just having a bad day?”
“Because!” says the stalker. “Because of the man known as Bakugou Katsuki.”
“Kacchan? I’m pretty sure he’d rather kill me himself, he doesn’t seem like the type to get a hitman involved—”
“I love him,” continues the stranger. “I live for him. I breathe for him—”
“—I worship him, ever since I saw him at the Sports Festival. I knew I would serve him then. A man like Bakugou-sama is destined to be a hero. He’s going to be the greatest the world has ever known. But you, Midoriya Izuku. You are in the way. You’re a distraction. A blip on the radar of his bright future.”
Izuku re-ties his shoelaces. Now the stray heebie-jeebies make sense. They were coming from the stalker, not from Kacchan. “Okay. Is this a cult thing? Are you trying to get rid of his rivals so nobody stands in his way?”
“Yes. I need to make sure he lives up to his potential.”
“He’s not gonna like that, you know. He’ll think you’re saying he can’t do it on his own. By the way, who are you?”
“You may call me Blockhead.”
“Wow, that’s kind of on the nose.”
“But that’s not the only reason,” says Blockhead, clearly determined to see his speech through to the end. “I’ve decided that you’re not good enough for him. He wastes his time on you, allows you to address him as Kacchan. He dotes on you.”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” says Izuku bashfully.
“He should be doting on me,” says Blockhead. “Someone who would respect and attend to him the way he deserves. I could be his faithful servant. I don’t know why he chose a crying midget like you while I have to stay in the background, loveless, nameless—”
“—Bakugou-less. I’m the one who understands him. I’ve been here all along, so why can’t he see? He belongs with me.”
“Are you quoting Taylor Swift at me?”
“He is mine,” says Blockhead, tugging a vegetable knife out of his pocket. Izuku sighs. “Once you’re out of the way then he and I can be together. He’ll be wracked with grief by your passing, but I’ll be there to comfort him like a good partner should. It’ll be the start of our lives together.”
“Hang on. Hang on, are you the one who kept taking all my stuff?”
“Yes, that’s what I said.”
“Aw, I blamed Kacchan for that. Can I have my keychain back at least?”
“Geez, okay, fine. You’re really overestimating Kacchan’s willingness to along with plans, you know,” says Izuku, putting his hands up in a way he hopes is placating. “He doesn’t even know you.”
“Oh, he does. He spoke to me once. Out of the way, Blockhead. I’ll cherish that name forever.”
“Figures,” Izuku says under his breath. “Are you sure killing me is going to have any real effect? Don’t you think you sound a little crazy?”
“You’re the only thing standing between us,” Blockhead says, stepping closer. Izuku backs away until he meets a tree trunk and can’t go any further. His quirk screams at him to get out of there. “I’m going to chop your body into little pieces. And I’m going to save a little bit of your skin and make it into a wallet, and I’m going to give it to Bakugou-sama as a gift.”
He swings the knife. Izuku ducks and sidesteps, and Blockhead whips around with a faceless snarl. “Stay still!”
“No thanks,” Izuku says, dodging another swipe. Blockhead clearly doesn’t have any combat training, but he sure is enthusiastic. “You should really get help. Murder is one thing but human leather is honestly really disturbing as a concept.”
“You won’t take him from me!” Blockhead says, diving forward again. “I don’t care how much you love him, I love him more.”
Izuku’s ears go kind of warm. “I never said that, come on.”
“Don’t lie to me. I’ve seen the way you look at him, the way you seek him out and give him that special fucking smile.”
“Do I?” Izuku says, kind of flustered. Blockhead drops the knife and hurls a rock at his head, which Izuku ducks to avoid. “Oh god, do I really look like I have a crush on him? Because I swear I don’t, we’re just friends.”
“You’re stupid not to love him, he’s beautiful.”
“Well, he is,” Izuku admits, thinking of bouncy blond hair and toned muscles. Kacchan’s features are very handsome when he’s not twisting them into some horrifying expression, and ever since his voice broke Izuku won’t deny he’s kind of liked it. “Man. He’s gorgeous.”
Blockhead leaps at him while he’s distracted. Izuku pushes him away on instinct and Blockhead shrieks when he hits the ground.
“Oh, sorry, are you okay?” Izuku says. “I swear I didn’t even use my quirk on you, I can’t have pushed you that hard.”
Blockhead gurgles and rolls over. There’s a vegetable knife sticking out of his back.
“Oh,” says Izuku. “Fuck.”
Blockhead wheezes and stops moving. “Fuck, oh god, okay,” Izuku says and drops to his knees beside the bleeding body. There’s no discernible neck, unless the whole thing is a neck, and it feels like wood under Izuku’s frantic fingers. “Where’s the pulse? Don’t die, I didn’t mean to kill you, are you breathing? Do you have lungs?”
“I’m sorry, Bakugou-sama,” Blockhead says, voice soft and far-away. “I couldn’t protect you.”
“From what? He’s not even here,” Izuku snaps and rips open the back of Blockhead’s blazer. The wound isn’t really that deep, but Blockhead’s no longer responding. “Hello? Tell me you’re not dead. What am I gonna do? I can’t be a hero if I killed someone!”
Blockhead doesn’t reassure him. Leaves crunch under somebody’s footsteps, and Izuku’s already overworked heart leaps into his throat and tries to escape out of his mouth. This is it. This is where the police take him away and he spends the rest of his life rotting in a prison cell with the sludge guy.
A spiky head pops out from behind a tree. “Relax, Deku, it’s just me.”
“Kacchan,” Izuku says and bursts into tears.
It takes ten minutes before Kacchan can calm him down enough to explain what happened. Blockhead’s body is immobile and shows no signs of life. Kacchan listens with no change of expression, nodding along through Izuku’s watery explanation and wiping away tears when he gets too choked up to talk.
“I see,” is all he says by the end of it. “Okay. We need to get rid of the body.”
Izuku hiccups. “Kacchan? Kacchan, I killed someone. I’m never going to be a hero, I’m a murderer. I have to turn myself in. I have to go to jail”
“Nobody’s going to jail,” Kacchan says, bonking Izuku on the head. “Don’t worry. I’ll handle it. Nobody has to know.”
A tiny, fragile ray of hope shines through the dark clouds of Izuku’s mind. He looks up, sniffling, and paws at the front of Kacchan’s dark green jacket. “You’ll help me? Really?”
“Yeah, it’ll be ok—oof,” Kacchan says when Izuku launches himself into his chest. He goes very still for a minute, and then gingerly pats Izuku on the head. “Okay, calm down. First show me where you touched him and I’ll scorch off the prints. Did you pull out the knife? Okay. We have to get rid of that too. Stop crying already, Jesus, you’re getting snot all over my shirt.”
Izuku sniffles terrifically but does as he’s told, and Kacchan gets to work on singeing the evidence. The bloodied jacket and shirt are bundled up and tossed aside along with the contents of Blockhead’s pockets.
“What about,” Izuku says. “What about the body?”
“I’ll deal with it, I said,” Kacchan replies briskly. “You go back to the dorms.”
“I can’t leave you!”
“Just trust me, Deku. You always go home around this time, the others will get suspicious if you don’t show up for dinner. Act natural, but if they ask questions tell them you’re coming down with something and get an early night. Do not tell anyone where I am.”
Izuku wipes his eyes. Kacchan’s hands work quickly and efficiently, almost as if he’s done this before. That should probably be more concerning than it is. All Izuku feels right now is a weird mix of guilt and relief, and he takes a deep breath and wobbles to his feet. Leaves stick to his knees and stain his sweatpants. “Thank you, Kacchan.”
“I’ve got you, dweeb.”
Izuku prepares to go. “How did you know I needed you?”
“I always do,” Kacchan says without turning around. “Don’t worry about it. Go home.”
Deku’s footsteps fade away and the air becomes still once more. Smells like rust and dead leaves out here. Grumbling, Katsuki digs his phone out of his pocket and dials Todoroki.
“Hey, Scarface? No, I don’t want money. You know that park out by the old mall on Fifth street? Yeah, the little one. Come meet me. I need you to help hide a body.”
“Lift, you son of a bitch,” says Katsuki.
“Leave my father out of this,” says Todoroki. Blockhead’s corpse swings between them like a bloodied hammock, and Todoroki grunts and adjust his grip on its ankles. “Watch the blazer. The sleeve’s dragging.”
Katsuki curses and manages to flick it back into place with his foot. They’d tied Blockhead’s shirt and jacket around his torso to keep the stab wound from dripping, although it might well have congealed by now. “Why is this so hard? I thought you said you’d done this before.”
“Yes, well, that corpse was considerably smaller.”
“Jesus, I should have just called my parents. How much farther?”
“Five hundred metres, give or take.” Todoroki flicks his head but his bangs fall right back into his eyes. “I say we go a little further from the mouth of the river, though. The current’s stronger. It’s more likely to wash out to sea.”
Katsuki grunts. They’re lucky Deku decided to accidentally murder the guy in this specific park, because it’s right next to a river that Todoroki says goes straight to the North Pacific. Katsuki doesn’t bother asking how he knows that. “We unwrapping him first?”
“Yes, the blazer’s too distinct. Let me burn it and we’ll scatter the ashes after him.”
“His head is distinct.”
“True, but hopefully if anyone finds him they won’t connect him to UA straight away. If we’re very lucky they’ll think his features got scraped off or something.”
“We could sever the head.”
“Too messy. And blood tends to stain, unless you’ve got bleach handy.”
“My mom says bleach draws attention. Smell’s too strong, or something.”
“What would she use, then?”
“Hell if I know. I was a kid.”
They reach the river without anyone seeing them, the full moon their only source of light. Todoroki was right; the current’s strong this far in. Water rushes along the bank and sweeps away everything with it. Blockhead probably won’t be staying in Mustafu for very long. Or in Japan, if Todoroki’s geography is to be trusted.
Crickets chirp as they set the body on the ground. Todoroki tugs off the school blazer and easily burns it to ash, black specks floating around his head even after the fire dies down. He’ll melt down the knife and throw it away somewhere else later. “This wound isn’t even that big,” he says, prodding at Blockhead’s back. “Hard to believe he bled out from this.”
The corpse twitches. “Bakugou-sama,” it rasps.
“Oh, he’s alive,” says Todoroki.
“No he’s not,” Katsuki says, and kicks Blockhead’s body into the river.
It floats and bobs with the current, hitting a few rocks on the way until they can’t see it anymore. Kind of looks like fun, to be honest. Todoroki stares at him.
“He tried to hurt Deku,” Katsuki says in his defence.
Todoroki just shrugs. “Whatever. Let’s go home. You owe me some instant ramen for this.”
“You won’t talk about what happened in the park last night,” says Hitoshi, voice layered and deep and impossible to resist. “Not by accident, at least. You will only ever speak of it to Bakugou, Todoroki and me.”
“Tell him it won’t spook him anymore,” prompts Kacchan.
Hitoshi’s quirk wisps around Izuku like smoke. “Last night’s events don’t cause you anxiety. You won’t even think about it unless it’s important.”
Izuku nods, blissfully powerless, and Hitoshi releases him from the spell. Izuku blinks. His head’s foggy and pleasantly heavy, almost like he’s just waking up from a very good nap.
Hitoshi takes a step back and Kacchan peers at Izuku to make sure he’s alright. “How you feeling, Deku?”
“Fine,” says Izuku truthfully. He hadn’t been able to sleep last night, but tonight feels like it’s going to be restful. “Won’t be needing a counsellor, probably.”
“Good,” says Hitoshi. “Heroes get enough PTSD as it is. There’s only so much therapy they can give you.”
“You can get therapy for that?” asks Todoroki.
Kacchan ignores them. He’s studying Izuku intently, brows furrowed but not in ire. Izuku gazes back and tries to keep his expression as calm as he feels. Whatever’s on his face seems satisfactory. Kacchan’s posture relaxes just a bit. “Okay. Show’s over, you two, get out of here.”
Hitoshi and Todoroki wander away and shut the door behind them. Kacchan moves an All Might pillow out of the way so he can sit next to Izuku on his bed, a little distance away but still close enough that Izuku can smell the subtle coffee-caramel scent that he’s never managed to get rid of. “Okay. That’s that, then.”
“Thanks,” says Izuku, because he doesn’t know what else to say. Kacchan nods but doesn’t look away, and Izuku toys with a loose thread on the seam of his jeans. “You didn’t have to go that far just to help me. If I got arrested I would have deserved it.”
“You wouldn’t have gotten arrested, stupid. It was self-defence.”
“I’m a lot stronger than he was. I shouldn’t have pushed him so hard.”
“He came at you with a knife.”
“A tiny one. The burden of proof lies with me with an assertive defence. And nobody saw us. They might decide I escalated the violence, because how believable is it really that someone would fall on their own knife, you know?”
“You’ve thought this through.”
“I did a lot of research last night. Speaking of which, I should clear my search history.”
Kacchan puts a hand over Izuku’s face. Izuku half-expects to get his head blown up, but Kacchan just squishes his nose flat and lets go. His palm is very rough. “Relax. I helped because you can’t become a hero if you have any sort of police investigation on you, even if it was an accident. But it’s over now. I took care of it, and Hitoshi took care of your dumb weenie nerves. Just forget about it and move on.”
“Okay.” The space heater hums a little in his otherwise silent room. “Sorry I thought you took all my stuff, by the way. Turns out Blockhead was the one who broke in. I think he must have made a copy of my keys or something.”
“I’m kind of glad you took care of him first. If he’d tried that shit with me I would have fried him on the spot. I would have fried him anyway, honestly. Stalking’s fucking creepy.”
“Even if he was only doing it to me?”
“Because you’re too weak to protect yourself,” Kacchan snorts. He sits up, suddenly, and roots around in the pocket of his hoodie. Izuku’s hoodie, actually. It’s big on him but fits Kacchan just right. “Speaking of your keys, here. I lifted this off him before I got rid of him.”
“My keychain!” Izuku says, delighted that All Might’s still pristine. “Thanks, Kacchan.”
“Take better care of your shit.”
“I’ll try,” Izuku says and rests his head on Kacchan’s shoulder. “Thank you. For caring about me, I guess.”
Kacchan stays quiet for a long time. When he finally speaks, his voice is soft. “So you finally figured it out, huh?”
“A little while ago,” Izuku admits. “I didn’t know what to make of it so I didn’t say anything. I used to think you hated me, so when I finally noticed I was…surprised. Not in a bad way, though.”
“I don’t hate you,” says Kacchan.
“I know,” Izuku says, staring at Kacchan’s knee because it’s easier than meeting his eye. “I know now. And I’m glad. Because I don’t hate you either.”
“Yeah.” Izuku pauses, fiddles with All Might’s tiny clenched fist. “I called my mom the other day.”
“She said you’ve had a crush on me since we were toddlers.”
Kacchan pulls his ear. Not hard enough to hurt, but Izuku whines on principle. “Stupid. I don’t have a crush on you. You’re mine, that’s all.”
Subtly, his fingers drift from Izuku’s ear to his hair, short nails scratching gently along his scalp. “Yeah. I guess I can’t deny that. Even when I thought you hated me, I was kind of stuck in your orbit.”
“Other way around,” Kacchan says gruffly. “That was probably my bad. Making you think I hated you. I don’t.”
“You already said that.”
“Shut up, Deku.”
Izuku supresses a smile. Kacchan’s hand in his hair feels very nice, and he wonders why he’s not freaking it out more than he is. Probably the leftover effect of Hitoshi’s quirk, and also maybe because he’s had some time to get used to the idea of Kacchan wanting him. It had scared him, before, the thought of being the object of someone’s desire. But the Exasperated Partners Club was right. You figure it out. Izuku’s already figured Kacchan out without even realising it. He’s had a lifetime of practice, after all.
“Kacchan?” he says a little shyly. “It was really cool how you handled the whole situation. You didn’t freak out at all.”
“And you thought of everything.”
“And you saved my future career.”
“And I kind of like it when you act like I’m yours. You have to stop being mean to my friends, though.”
“I’m never mean.”
“You’re consistently horrible,” Izuku smiles into Kacchan’s shoulder. “I don’t know why I like you so much.”
The fingers in his hair slow to a stop. Gently but firmly, Kacchan tilts Izuku’s chin up so he can look him in the eye. His skin is perfect. “You do, huh?”
“I think so,” Izuku murmurs. “I don’t know if it’s the way you like me. But you’re my favourite person, I think. Almost as much as my mom.”
“Don’t compare me to your mother, dummy,” Kacchan says, equally quiet. He moves his hand so he’s cupping Izuku’s face, and Izuku leans into the touch like a puppy. “You’re mine. You got that, right?”
“Mhmm. Does that make you mine too?”
“Maybe,” Kacchan says, expression calm. Very slowly, giving Izuku plenty of time to pull away, he leans forward and presses his mouth to Izuku’s cheek. His lips are soft and he smells like sugar.
Izuku goes scarlet. All Might creaks alarmingly in his grip, and he wills himself to sit still and not squirm and hide like he wants to. “Kacchan.”
Izuku doesn’t know. He just wanted to say it. “Are we boyfriends?”
“If you want.” He’s trying hard to seem aloof, but Izuku thinks he sees Kacchan’s fingers flex the way they always do when he’s antsy. “I don’t care either way.”
“I think you do.”
Smiling, Izuku flops onto Kacchan’s chest and buries his face in soft cotton. He’s got goosebumps. They’re not from his quirk, this time. “It’s okay. I care too.”
Kacchan hugs him back, slow and unsure. Izuku waits patiently for his arms to tighten around him, and finally, Kacchan puts his face in Izuku’s hair. He takes a deep breath. “Should have known you’d be clingy.”
“Get used to it,” Izuku says, muffled. “You smell good.”
He feels Kacchan smile. “You smell fine.”
“I’m gonna start taking all your clothes now.”
“What am I supposed to wear?”
“Only for me.”
“Kacchan. I’m gonna start taking your clothes too, just wait.”
It’s an appealing thought, actually. Izuku imagines himself wrapped up in soft sweaters that hang off his shoulders and brush the tops of his thighs. Or tacky t shirts to wear to bed, made better by the faint sugar-sweet smell he’s come to associate with Kacchan.
But that can come later. First dates, heavy conversations, courtship and exploration into the unknown territory of more-than-friends; they’ll do all that together, when they’re ready. Right now Izuku’s happy with this.
“I’m the one who stole your All Might beanie baby.”
“I knew it.”
McDonald’s is surprisingly crowded for a Monday afternoon, but they manage to find a table to fit all four of them just fine. Katsuki bites into his cheeseburger and deftly avoids Kirishima’s hand trying to snag a pickle.
“My point is,” says Hitoshi. “You can’t taste things as well when they’re cold. So when you eat cold soba, aren’t you just losing some of the flavour? Can you truly say you enjoy soba when you prefer the bland version?”
“It’s the texture that matters,” Todoroki says, expression intense. Intense for him, anyway. “Buckwheat’s strong, you can taste it just fine. The chill that comes with it is special.”
“Does food even stay cold when you eat it?” Kirishima asks with his mouth full. “Or does it warm up because of your quirk?”
“Not unless I turn it on, no.”
“You sure you don’t just eat the cold version out of spite for your old man?” Katsuki asks. Todoroki throws a fry at him.
A girl giggles very loudly. Katsuki glances her way; she’s looking in their direction, her friends in the booth with her smiling when he sees them. They’re honestly pretty cute. Not as cute as Deku, obviously, but he imagines their pick-ups work on most people.
Kirishima smiles back, lovably confused. “Do we know them?”
“I think they’re flirting with us,” says Hitoshi.
Todoroki smirks around his straw. “Our stalkers are not happy.”
Katsuki looks to his left. A bright pink head is barely hidden under a baseball cap, and its owner is pouting mighty hard. Two blonds are pointedly looking away. Yaomomo’s making sad eyes in Todoroki’s direction, and Deku’s crushing a chicken nugget to pulp in his hand.
Katsuki grins. “They’re not happy at all.”
Kirishima rests his chin on the table. “I feel bad now. Can’t we just let them join us?”
“No,” says Hitoshi. “Bakugou’s right. They took the trouble of following us here, I want to see what they’ll do.”
“I thought they’d be happy to be rid of us,” Todoroki says, quietly pleased. “I didn’t think Momo would feel so left out.”
“Makes sense,” Katsuki shrugs. “We hover over them 24/7. Us willingly leaving them alone for two hours must seem suspicious.”
“But we’re not up to anything,” Hitoshi says, popping a French fry in his mouth. “So now they get to watch us and be jealous.”
“Serves them right,” says Todoroki. “Now they know how we feel.”
“Should we talk very loudly about how much fun we’re having without them?”
“This is so mean,” Kirishima giggles. “I bet Mina and Denki won’t complain now about me texting them all the time. Bakugou is an evil genius.”
“Hell yeah I am,” says Katsuki. “The turns have fucking tabled. I’m almost tempted to flirt back at the randos, just to piss Deku off.”
“I don’t think Mashi would speak to me again if I did that.”
“We might not have a choice,” Todoroki says. “I think one of them is coming this way.”
Shit. Katsuki hadn’t actually been planning to talk to them. One of them’s shuffling over and looking hopeful. If he rejects her outright he might make her cry. He might be mean, but he’s not a monster, and also the staff might kick him out and he still hasn’t finished his cheeseburger.
“Hi,” she says bashfully. She’s got a heart-shaped face and long lashes. “Uhm, my friends and I want to go see a movie tonight. Would you guys be interested in joining us by any chance?”
That short skirt might be flattering on Deku, Katsuki thinks. The other three are staring at him like he’s supposed to know what to do just because he’s the closest to her. “Uh.”
“It’s a comedy,” she continues nervously. “In English. It looks like fun. We can pay for the popcorn.”
Katsuki deliberates very carefully on what to say. Doesn’t freeze up, because he’s not some sort of social recluse. Just keeps manfully silent for a good few seconds while he waits for inspiration to strike.
Something warm and surprisingly heavy deposits itself onto his lap. “I’m sorry, he’s busy.”
Katsuki stares at Deku’s back. He can’t see what Deku’s face is doing, but it must be one of those annoyingly sweet sunshine smiles, judging by the girl’s suddenly pink face. “Uh, yeah, I’m busy.”
“He’s taken, in fact,” Deku says, twisting sideways to wrap his arms loosely around Katsuki’s neck. Several people in the restaurant are staring. “They all are. Their partners are right over there. Thanks for the offer, though. We’re gonna have to say no.”
“Okay!” squeaks the girl, bowing and scampering away. “Sorry to bother you! Enjoy your date!”
“I will,” Deku calls after her smugly. Katsuki just sits there, and tries hard not to shrink when Izuku raises an eyebrow at him. “Kacchan.”
“That wasn’t the plan,” says Katsuki immediately. Ashido and Kaminari are booing from the other table. Ojiro and Yaomomo look supremely unimpressed. Kirishima’s about to burst into tears. Hitoshi, the coward, slinks over, looking contrite, and Todoroki’s clearly planning an apology gift already. “Uh. There wasn’t a plan.”
“Kacchan,” says Deku again. His voice is deceptively sweet, but his gaze doesn’t waver when he slides off Katsuki’s lap and holds out a scarred hand. “Come on. We’re going home.”
“Leave the burger.”
Deku leads him out of the McDonalds. They step into the winter chill, fingers still linked, and begin down the sidewalk leading back to UA. Frost gathers in shop windows. Busy people rush past but Deku takes his time, steps measured and steady as the crowd ebbs and flows around them.
“Kacchan,” Deku says. Katsuki looks down. Deku’s wild hair flutters a little as a car whooshes past. “You didn’t know that girl, did you?”
“Okay. It was brave of her to come talk to you,” Deku says, looking up at him through his lashes. His eyes are lively and green. “But you know you’re mine, right?”
A dog barks from someone’s window. The sun shines weakly down, and a smile spreads across Katsuki’s face, wide and slow and true.
“Yeah,” he says so only Deku can hear. “Yeah, that’s right. I know.”