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the floor ain't so bad (when you're looking up)

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It has always started and ended like this. The two of them sitting in the same row in class. Deku with those dumb eyes staring at the back of his head. For his whole life, Katsuki has felt a gaze following behind him, always looking forward and up. That’s the thing about Deku – he might run his mind and mouth in circles, but he doesn’t look back. He’s been reaching higher for fucking ever, and Katsuki hates that about him.

The last bell rang that day in midsummer, and Katsuki had made up his mind. He even dared to look over his shoulder to see Deku smiling across the room at Todoroki, Asui, Uraraka, and Iida, probably planning to walk home with them like he usually does. Another thing about Katsuki: everybody thinks he’s some arrogant idiot, but it’s not true. He’s always paying attention, even to nerds like Deku and his habits. If he were to let his guard down, he’d only be a fool. At the sensation of Katsuki’s gaze, Deku turned to meet it and dared to smile at him, too. Katsuki just snarled and pushed back his chair with too much force, and he made haste to get out of their stuffy fucking classroom. Ignoring Kirishima’s calls for him to wait up, he ran a heavy hand through his hair and made up his mind.

Tonight, he was going to run his mouth, give the shithead a taste of his own medicine. This bullshit had gone on too long, and Katsuki wasn’t one for just idly sitting around.

Deku, come outside later.

 

// \\

 

So the truth of the matter is that the fight at Ground Beta doesn’t resolve everything. Actually, it probably leaves Katsuki feeling a little worse. Sure, there’s a slight burden lifted off his shoulders regarding All Might, but that doesn’t take away the fact that if he had been stronger, All Might could have held onto One For All for a little while longer. It doesn’t change the fact that Deku still smiles at him. Doesn’t change the fact that the urge to win crawls up his fucking throat, out his mouth, and into his ear to whisper, you’re not good enough . Doesn’t change the fact that the idea of an apology and the image of strength wage a war in his mind.

But Katsuki’s better than all this shit. He has to start somewhere. He tried to let his emotions out by exploding them into concrete, and when words failed him Deku still listened. Even when Katsuki wouldn’t let him in.

Katsuki has been forcing himself to hang out with everyone lately, even if he’s just shitting on Kirishima’s self-esteem or making Kaminari charge his phone. Late one night, after Ashido has called down the staircase, “Goodnight everyone! Love you all!” in that dumb chipper voice of hers, starting the chain of mumbled goodnights, Katsuki manages to catch Deku’s attention.

His colors are so soft in the dimmed light of the hallway, wearing a faded grey tee that seems on the verge of being too small. His hair is mussed up, falling more into his eyes than usual. His body is relaxed, eyes a little hooded with fatigue, and yet still so vibrant.

“Deku,” Katsuki grunts, because none of that garbage matters.

Deku looks surprised to hear his voice, and Katsuki winces internally. Has he really programmed this kid to never expect his company? Even after three days of house arrest together? Nonetheless, Deku still ain’t scared of him. “Yes, Kacchan?” He yawns, stretching his arms above his head and showing the strip of skin between his shirt and shorts.

“Tomorrow, after everyone’s in bed, meet me downstairs in the common room.” His voice is gruff, angry – like he knows that his expectations will be met, even though he’s not so sure Deku will agree. The kid likes his sleep. He might even have better things to do. Katsuki doesn’t meet his eyes when he asks, and he realizes that it might sound a little threatening.

Deku raises his eyebrows, surprise still painting his face. “Kacchan, no offense, but I really don’t want to be on house arrest again.” He’s earnest, but somehow still playful. Katsuki can see the smile playing at his lips, and he kind of wants to punch him in the face. It wouldn’t be a first.

“Ugh, no shithead, we’re not going outside the dorm. Chill out.” Katsuki takes a deep breath, moves his hands into his pockets before curling them into fists. Deku doesn’t need to see that this is frustrating him. “I just want to spar.”

Deku quirks his brow again, trying to make eye contact even though Katsuki is desperately avoiding it. “I think damaging school property could also land us more house arrest,” he notes, the playful air lingering amongst the essence of concern that everything he says seems to have.

Katsuki looks into those green eyes and squints, frustration blooming in his sweaty palms and rising up from behind his ears. “Shut the fuck up, Deku. You think I don’t know that? No quirks. Just hand to hand sparring. No one’s getting hurt. And no furniture is gonna get fucking torched, okay, nerd?” Quit your fucking worrying, he wants to say. But what would be the point. And why the hell should Katsuki give him any more satisfaction of knowing that he’s being paid attention to?

Deku pauses, takes his lower lip into his mouth, and dares to shoot him another one of those fucking smiles. “Yeah, okay. Sounds good!” He turns to make his way up the stairs, pausing to look over his shoulder. His eyes are so, so green, and Katsuki swears he can see Deku blink in slow motion. “Goodnight, Kacchan. Get some sleep.”

Katsuki hates how fucking gentle he is.

He grunts as his response, only making his gaze meet Deku’s blue slippers. “Yeah, and you get a bigger fucking shirt. No one wants to see your fucking belly button.”

Katsuki is not so sure what made him say that line, but all he knows is that he can’t get his feet to follow Deku up the stairs, and he can’t stop his eyes from fixating on the dimples of Deku’s back that he can see beneath the hem of his shirt.

 

// \\

 

The next night happens to be one of several. They mostly work in silence, and Katsuki has to wonder again why Deku agreed to this when most of the words exchanged are Katsuki snapping when he misses a punch and making quiet victories when he lands one. But after all, this isn’t too unusual. After all, at this running rate, it seems that Midoriya Izuku would follow him anywhere – even if Katsuki never once looked behind him. Something about that makes Katsuki sick.

They’re careful not to make too much noise, socked feet usually paddling lightly on the carpet as they duck, roll, and pin each other to the ground. The lack of quirk use changes the game for them. They have to be on edge – it’s only prediction and technique on their sides. Strength doesn’t matter too much, since they can’t afford to hurt one another when they’re staying up late to practice in the common room of all places, but still. Katsuki can’t help but notice the way Deku’s bulked up in the past year and a half. He’s all shoulders and biceps, now almost as tall as Katsuki himself. And damn, if he isn’t fucking good at predicting Katsuki’s moves.

Yet, whatever Katsuki is thinking to himself about Deku, Deku is saying aloud. He makes all these stupid fucking comments, and even though Katsuki refuses to let a blush cross his face, he can’t say that it doesn’t make him do a double take, or miss a punch.

“You’re so strong, Kacchan,” Deku says, on the first night. “You have to show me some of your combos.” Right then, he throws an uppercut, and Katsuki has to catch his footing to not fall backwards or get a fist to his jaw. His voice is laced with admiration and something else. Katsuki doesn’t let himself go there. It’s an undertone, an afterthought that he doesn’t have time to consider before he makes his next move.

“Why the fuck would I do that,” Katsuki growls. “Trade secrets, you little bastard.”

Deku shrugs, grabs Katsuki’s shoulder, and goes to knee him in the stomach. Katsuki sees it coming, pushes his knee down, squats in an instant to pull on the foot that’s balancing his weight, and knocks Deku’s body straight to the ground. His head thumps, but not too loud, and he lets out a low whistle.

“Nice one, Kacchan,” Deku says, all teeth and smile lines. You’d think after bashing your head on the floor, you’d favor a wince over a grin. Not fucking Deku, apparently.  

Katsuki blows air out his mouth. “That was nothing.” And he extends an arm to help Deku up.

He has nothing to say about how it feels when their palms meet. His hands are sweaty, anyway.

 

// \\

 

So it becomes a once a week thing, for a little while. If it were up to Katsuki, it would be every night, but there’s no way in hell he’d let Deku know he’s so keen on spending time with him – learning from him – nor would he be okay with losing so much sleep. This school is fucking tiring, if nothing else.

It’s a Friday this time, and they’re at it really late. Everyone stayed up chatting about internships in the common area, and because they have the day off tomorrow, Katsuki itched as he watched them talk themselves past midnight. He hopes no one comments as he and Deku fall back when finally everyone wanders to their rooms, still a bit on edge from when Kirishima barged into his bedroom a few weeks back, asking why he’s been getting in so late most nights. This also left him with the mental note to start locking his door. The perks of having that dumbass as his neighbor.

Kirishima is a good friend, but he’s a nosy motherfucker. Katsuki is no idiot, though. He only meets up with Deku once a week, so he was able to deflect onto what he’s doing most other nights: “I like to go to the gym at night, okay, shitbag? Would rather go to bed late than wake up early.” Kirishima failed to notice that the gym closes at 11 for students despite the fact that he and Deku usually go till 12, 12:30. He had only grinned at him and told Katsuki that he “liked the way he thinks” and then proceeded to ask if he could join him sometimes.

All things considered, Katsuki was probably going to make that happen. He’d like to have a partner at the gym some nights.

As soon as everyone is up the stairs, Deku smirks at him in an unfamiliar way. He looks pumped, eyes narrowed, knees bent, green waves all over the fucking place.

“What you making that stupid fucking face for?” Katsuki spits, but it comes out with less malice and more excitement. He’d be lying if he said a little embarrassment didn’t sneak red up his chest.

“I’ve been practicing my shoot style, I’m just excited to show you,” Deku says, as if it’s obvious. (It’s not fucking obvious; the red in his chest creeps to his neck.) After all the bullshit, this kid still gives a fuck what Katsuki thinks.

He allows himself to smirk back. “All right, you shitty nerd. Just control yourself. Don’t want your dumb quirk anywhere near the couch.”

He knows Deku is not dumb enough to activate his quirk indoors, but he likes to rile him up a bit. He’s learned that when Deku’s feeling a little competitive, their spar is more fun. He’s quicker with his kicks, faster to duck, keeps his green eyes wide open in concentration, and uses his breath to keep his hair out of his eyes. He’s exhilarating. Katsuki isn’t sure so anymore whether he wants to crush him or keep him running like this forever.

They end their last match at half past one in the morning, both breathing heavily, sweating through their long sleeves, with Deku pinned to the floor and Katsuki above him. With one hand on Deku’s wrist and the other on his opposite shoulder, Katsuki decides to open his dumb fucking pie hole before he can think too hard about the position he’s in – even if he’s distracted by Deku’s chest rising and falling with his breath, the green hair painting shadows on his forehead, the freckles that get more concentrated as they reach the center of his cheeks. No matter how many spars they’ve ended like this, Katsuki always forces himself to pay less attention than he’d like.

“Why do you come meet me every week?” Katsuki asks, even if 85% of him regrets the question as soon as it’s past his lips. That 85% really would rather not know the answer.

They’re still breathing heavily, and Katsuki has to look away for a second as Deku parts his lips to answer. He’s so fucking deliberate. It’s too much for him. When his eyes find their way back to the boy beneath him, he watches Deku blink in slow motion again to reveal those glossy green eyes, the ones that have been looking at him for his whole damn life.

And he speaks as if it’s matter of fact. Katsuki wants make something explode at the sound of it, though this time, he’s not sure it’s Deku he’d point the blow at. “Well, you’re the person who makes me stronger.” For once, it’s not rage or dismay that expands in his stomach at the sound of that. He’s not sure what it is, but he pushes it down along with the wrist that’s still pinning Deku to the green carpet he fucking matches so well.

With that, he lets go to sit with his back against the edge of the couch. He can fucking feel Deku thinking as he sits up to be next to him, and Katsuki waits for the next wave of thought that’s about to spill from his mouth. “Why did you ask me to spar in the first place?”

Katsuki has to stop his breath from catching. Who the hell would ask a question so complicated? He could answer in paragraphs.

To apologize. To be your friend. To learn from you. To gain your trust.

“Don’t ask dumb questions, shitty Deku.” He doesn’t look to his side to watch Deku’s face but out of the corner of his eye, he thinks he might catch Deku’s smile fall.

Katsuki coughs and makes to stand. “I want to win,” he mutters, once he’s on two feet. He feels a little dizzy, but he swears it’s just the heat on the back of his neck, in his palms. He tries to subtly wipe the sweat off his fingers and extends a hand to Deku on the floor, who’s always looking up at him with those eyes. “And if I’m gonna keep beating you, I have to keep my eye on you.”

Deku accepts his hand, with that blinding smile on his face.

As they head toward the stairs, still a little sweaty, Deku pauses for that bad habit he has of looking Katsuki in the eye. “Thanks, Kacchan.”

Katsuki almost bites back at him for saying thank you, but instead heats up his fist to crackle and punches him in the arm. “Go to bed, shitty Deku. You need to rest that fucking nerd brain of yours. You better be out of my way in the morning.”

Deku jogs up ahead of him on the staircase, and Katsuki looks down when he looks back, little explosions popping in his fists at what he just said. At least know he really knows I’ll be watching out for him.

 

// \\

 

As it turns out, that late night is their last for a while. As the internships overtake the people enrolled in them, Katsuki doesn’t feel the need to try to corner Deku at some secretive time and invite him to spar in the middle of the night. He hates to admit it, but he could tell that Deku had way more bullshit to be dealing with, even if he feels like something is missing during those weeks. As a matter of fact, they barely speak at all.

Deku is still his ridiculous dork self, smiling at him if they passed on the stairs, sometimes encouraging him during training class. On what feels like special, rare days, sometimes Deku taps his shoulder from his place behind him in class to tell him something.

Katsuki always snaps, “What the fuck do you want, you fucking fuck?” But still listens with intent. He knows he’s letting his guard down with Deku. He knows the kid could make sense of his chaos, his anger, could see through his harshness. But Katsuki stops caring about that vulnerability, especially when there are days when Deku shows up to class looking like he hasn’t slept in days. Even his notebooks grow messier.

On the mornings when Deku starts his day by gushing to the Frog Bitch and Round Face about that naked shithead Togata, he has to fight his body to stop his hands from singeing his desk or uniform. Rage pools inside him, but then Deku laughs, or smiles, or waves at him from across the room – and he has to settle for releasing a puff of smoke and looking away. He can’t bare to see Uraraka be so up in Deku’s business anyway, even after that bullshit she dared to spew at him this summer after final exams.

It’s almost like you’re scared, so you want to distance him; I mean, you were childhood friends…

She doesn’t know jack shit. Especially about their friendship. On the morning he remembers those words, he leaves a scorched hand print on the back of his chair as he grips it to sit down. When Deku tries to ask him about it after homeroom, he simply tells him to fuck off. Says a little prayer in hopes that stupid four-eyes Iida fails to notice. Because he doesn’t have the patience for any of this. That stupid nerd and Kirishima were both off getting stronger than he could imagine.

For those few weeks, he doesn’t talk much. It’s just sleeping and studying and hitting the gym. He even takes after Kirishima and gets a punching bag for his room. Most of the time, being alone works for him – even if it means that Deku sometimes shoots him a saddened look that makes him want to set the world on fire.

 

// \\

 

In October, Katsuki is about to leave the common room when Deku, Kirishima, Uraraka, and Asui come home from Sir Nighteye’s funeral. On their way in, a weight like lead blankets the room. Everything feels denser, colder. Kirishima nods at him, but Katsuki can’t really take his eyes off of Deku comforting Uraraka as she sheds some tears and sniffles. He clenches his fists, but lets his face remain emotionless.

“I’ll take her upstairs, Midoriya,” Asui says, and Katsuki watches Uraraka give her a watery smile as she receives a squeeze on the shoulder from Deku.

“Thanks, Tsu,” Deku says, moving right in front of Katsuki, who is probably looking idiotic, frozen in place at all the damn emotion. “I’m just gonna grab some water.”  

From where he stands blocking the stairway next to Kirishima, Katsuki loses a bit of his control and barks at him, “Hey, shithead. Can’t you pay attention to where the fuck you choose to stop? You’re in my way.”

He dares to look at Deku’s face. His freckles seem less stark against his background of ruddy cheeks. His eyes are red from crying – but like usual, he doesn’t look offended. Really, he barely reacts at all. He blinks, is late to respond. He drags a tired, scared hand across his face and even though Katsuki feels an ache of regret, he refuses to stop baring his teeth.

“Yeah, sorry,” Deku says a moment later. He meets Katsuki’s eyes so briefly, then shuffles in his slippers to the kitchen, likely for his water and some time alone.

A second later and whatever other emotions he was feeling are gone, because Kirishima jabs him in the ribs. “What the fuck is your problem?”

Katsuki rolls his eyes at him, snarls a bit. Before he can quip in response, Kirishima demands, “Come upstairs with me.”

Katsuki narrows his eyes. “Don’t tell me what to fucking do.”

But they’ve already started their way up, because as annoying as Kirishima can be, he wants to hear what he has to say. “You’re coming to my room, Bakugou. We’re talking.”

Once behind closed doors, Kirishima flops onto his bed, surely as exhausted as the other three who came from the funeral. Katsuki watches as his eyes flutter closed as his head hits the pillow, and Katsuki takes a stance at his heavy bag, throwing combos with light fists.

They pass a few moments in silence as Kirishima rests. The only sound comes from Katsuki’s fists on leather and the slight whistle in Kirishima’s stuffy nose, sniffles likely left over from shedding a few tears.

“Why were you so hard on Midoriya? We all just had a long day, cut the kid some slack.”

Katsuki starts landing his punches a little harder. Jab, upper, cross, cross, jab.

“I thought you guys were doing better.”

Katsuki lands his right hook like he never has before, enough to make his knuckles hurt. It’s only at the sound of that punch meeting the bag does Kirishima sit up to look at him.

Katsuki doesn’t bother to make eye contact, just keeps throwing punches as he snaps, “We are.”

“Then why were you so mean?”

Katsuki’s anger flares up in his fists, and he stops punching as he feels his sweat building up. “Why the fuck can’t you stay out of my business, you nosy-ass stupid-haired motherfucker?”

Not too unlike Deku, Kirishima has learned his way around Bakugou Katsuki. He’s kind and patient, and it’s way more than Katsuki deserves. He sighs, and relents.

“It’s easier like this.”

Kirishima’s scoff demands Katsuki’s attention, and they finally meet eyes. He looks… tired. Disappointed. Definitely like he could use a good night’s sleep way before he should be dealing with any of Katsuki’s bullshit, and yet – he peers in all his good-hearted nature so that both pairs of their red eyes meet, and Katsuki knows he owes him better. “What’s easier?”

Katsuki sighs. Finds a seat on the bed next to his friend. Runs a hot hand through his hair. If he could answer, everything , he would. But he can’t, so he settles for nothing.

Kirishima sits up and shakes his head a little, and he locks their eyes again. “Dude. We all know that if you always did what was easier, you wouldn’t have ended up here.”

He doesn’t elaborate. Here could be so many things. In his room, with Kirishima as a friend. At UA. Safe from the League of Villains. At the top of their class.

A semblance of okay with Deku.

It’s too much. And after all Kirishima has been through over the past couple of weeks, he doesn’t feel like pushing it. He settles for what he does best. He makes to stand. Lets fireworks pop in his fists. Grits between closed teeth, “Well, maybe it’s time I start.”

Katsuki finds his way out and is torn between slamming the door and saying goodnight. He settles for neither, mutters, “I’m going to get some fresh air. Or set something on fire, I don’t fucking know.”

He hears Kirishima mumble something about being a man on his way out, but Katsuki ignores it.

As he jogs down the stairs, he thinks about what he’s gonna burn to avoid feeling regret or sorrow for anyone he’s spoken to tonight. But before he can decide between school notes, the grass, or the entire fucking building for all he cares, he sees a green mop of hair trying its best to camouflage with the furniture. Katsuki is stomping in his slippers, so he’s noticed soon enough.

“What are you doing down here?” Katsuki growls, though quietly, as soon as Deku’s eyes meet his. He makes his way to the couch and sits next to Deku without thinking, leaving enough space for another half of a body between them.

He watches Deku play with his own fingers, and his eyes trace over the scars on his knuckles. They’re raised, bumpy, full of stories. For a moment, the idea of grabbing hold of his hands crosses Katsuki’s mind, but he deflates it. Deku looks so tired – his tie now undone, the top few buttons of his shirt, too, showing his collarbones. This boy has always been so earnest with him. So fucking honest that he couldn’t even keep the No. 1 Hero’s biggest damn secret. But at times like this, Katsuki is grateful that the kid can’t lie. “It was just a hard day,” Deku says, and all his words sound like a chorus of sighs. “I was gonna turn on the TV, or something. Or go on my phone. I don’t know, I just couldn’t get myself to go up the stairs yet.”

Katsuki has to control his expression, stop himself from reacting even though he can’t help the twitch of sadness that gnaws at his face. “How was, you know–” he musters, “the thing.” He thinks about what he just told Kirishima, and he realizes that none of this is easy. What he’s doing right now, with just a few inches of space between the two of them, talking it out – it’s fucking hard. So apparently Hair for Brains got to him after all.

Katsuki has never lost someone. He knows that’s probably apparent. And maybe he didn’t know that much about Deku’s internship. Or Nighteye. Or how close they were. But Deku’s dumb fucking eyes are so much darker and sadder than usual, and honestly it makes him look even more idiotic than he usually does. And Katsuki is supposed to be the only thing who makes him look stupid. Deku is never dull.

“Sad,” is all Deku manages. A one word answer is also unlike him. Katsuki is unsure if he’s ever seen this kid at a loss for words. Not even when Katsuki was an absolute ass to him, he still had something to say. So against his will, he starts to think about how alike All Might made them seem to be, and he gives Deku the only advice he can muster – the only thing that Katsuki can think would make him feel better, if he were in Deku’s place.

“Want to spar?”

Deku gives him a half of a smile, just a quirk of the lips that make the freckles on his cheeks reach a little closer to his eyes. Katsuki can see the fatigue in him right down to the core. He doesn’t answer, just slowly undoes the buttons of his uniform shirt to reveal his tank top beneath it, kicks off his slippers, stands up, and raises two fists.

Katsuki swallows whatever the fuck crept up at the sight of his exposed shoulders. He can trace a smooth path from his collarbones up his neck. Tries not to pay any mind to the giant scar on his bicep and fucking focuses god damn it. He can tell Deku is sluggish. His eyes stay closed for longer between blinks, his movements are slightly off beat, and he recoils a bit more when Katsuki lands a hit. But it would be against their code if Katsuki were to back down at all. If they’re not giving it the moment’s best, they’re doing each other a misservice. That much has been established.

Midfight, Deku lets his distraction show itself even more.

“I think I know how you felt.”

His voice is soft. So soft. Softer than it ever has been during a spar, and enough to make Katsuki want to put down in fists.

Instead, he musters up an attitude and questions, “Huh?”

Deku actually does lower his hands to his sides, as well as his eyes to the ground. He seems hesitant, but is true to his character, laying himself bare for Katsuki to know and understand. “Nighteye, you know. He said– he said I was gonna die. But instead… he did.” He doesn’t elaborate on that, but Katsuki has heard bits and pieces from other people, mostly Kirishima, about how Deku changed the will of fate. “I was just thinking,” he pauses to worry his lip, look up nervously from underneath his eyelashes to meet Katsuki’s gaze. “...maybe that’s how you felt when All Might lost his power, too.”

He knows he waits too long to respond. His whole body grows hot with the idea that Deku really does know him that well, really does get him. It’s so foreign , like someone’s made home in his brain, is reading his code. But really he knows that this is just what it’s like to have a true friend in someone. Before he lets whatever it is bubble up inside him, he remembers what they’re doing here in the first place. Deku’s not paying attention anymore. He makes his move and takes a chance by looking into those stupid fucking eyes right after he has him pinned, and says, “You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”

But he can tell by the look on Deku’s face that he sees straight through him.

And Katsuki, well. He’s nothing short of relieved.

 

// \\

 

It’s a few weeks later that Katsuki is faced with perhaps his millionth realization that he can never escape the stupid dipshits of his class – especially now that they live together. Though they had all spent their Saturday morning doing respective activities, somehow, all Class 1A finds themselves in the common room with nothing to do in particular.

Katsuki and Deku still have only been crossing paths more by chance than by choice, and Katsuki can’t shake the part of him that yearns to talk. Not about any given subject, but just talk. It’s taken Katsuki this long to realize that if he likes what Deku has to say, he’s going to have to try a little harder to seek it out. For a shitty nerd, he’s pretty fucking smart – and he pays attention to Katsuki like no one in his life ever has before. But for whatever reason, Katsuki hasn’t mustered up the balls to go knock on his door, to ask him downstairs, to turn around during class. Maybe it’s because the thought of any of that makes him feel like there are two hands around his neck when he tries to open his mouth. Maybe it’s because he’s still afraid a part of Deku pities him, even though every ounce of raw, earnest emotion in his stupid green eyes tell him otherwise. Maybe, because it’s easier.

However, since he’s still been working on that effort to more actively include himself in class socialization, stupid alien Ashido decides declare that “Saturday nights are for dancing.” And of course all the idiots in the class (save for Todoroki and Ojiro, though mostly out of embarrassment on his part) agree.

“I’m not fucking dancing,” Katsuki grits out at the sight of everyone’s excitement. From the shoulders of her shirt, he can see Hagakure clapping, and Uraraka jumps up and down a bit.

“Don’t be such a buzzkill,” Kaminari says, throwing an arm around Katsuki’s shoulders that he has to work really hard not to throw off. The moronic look on his face says that he’s proud of his subtle pun. “What else are we supposed to do, anyway? Mina, I think it’s a great idea.” He flashes her a toothy smile.

“Thanks, Kaminari,” Ashido responds warmly. “We can cook and stuff, too! It’ll be fun, Bakugou.”

Another thing about Class 1A that took some getting used to: people have a real fucking easy time not giving a shit about Katsuki’s opinion. So they have a dance party. And Katsuki makes some food with Sato, mostly in silence. Some of the girls (and Kaminari) drop by to taste the batter of whatever Sato is working on, but during those moments Katsuki mostly watches the events in the common room unfold.

As winter is creeping up on them, most of the students are in warm clothes and sweaters – Yaomomo in soft cashmere, Kaminari in some fuzzy yellow thing that’s so ugly that it should be burnt to a crisp, Iida in a neat crewneck. He stirs the fried rice he’s working on and watches Izuku and Aoyama dance goofily together next to Kirishima and Kaminari. He’s not so sure when the former got so close, but he supposes it’s fitting. Jirou is the DJ, blasting music with her quirk and sitting quietly by herself until Yaomomo comes to help her choose songs with an arm over her shoulders. Tokoyami releases Dark Shadow to dance with the girls, and Katsuki swears he hears him announce, “Outside of the abyss, his heart lies in dance.”

And people think Katsuki is the freak of the class.

Katsuki swears he feels something disgusting like fondness pull at his chest as he watches everyone, but he doesn’t smile. He grunts loudly as turns off the stove and takes out dishes. As he leaves the kitchen, he yells, “Food’s ready!” Making a beeline for the couch in the common room, he stops in his tracks as Todoroki sits down just moments before him, the only other person not dancing or crowding the kitchen. Katsuki sure as hell ain’t sitting next to fucking Icy Hot, so he heads outside instead, forgetting how cold it is but knowing it’s too late to go back inside so soon.

He’s only wearing a tank top, but he takes the time outside to stare at the open sky and try to clear his mind. He knows situations like the one inside shouldn’t make him so uptight, but he has appearances to uphold, and he’d rather drop dead than dance with Kaminari, even though he has a sneaking suspicion that he and Kirishima are going to try to make it happen.

His lips are likely blue by the time he comes inside, and his arms are covered in goosebumps. Of course, he literally walks into Deku as soon as he shows himself back into the common room, having been to focused on taking off his shoes and rubbing his cold skin.

He’s about to grumble, watch where you’re going, nerd, even though he’s clearly at fault, but Deku cocks his head at him first and mumbles through a smile, “Don’t you have a sweater, Kacchan?”

And Izuku is so soft then. He’s in a forest green knit turtleneck and he would put money on the fact that Inko bought for him. It matches his eyes. He’s hiding his chin in the collar and looking up at Katsuki from beneath that hair and part of Katsuki immediately warms up again. He looks so happy – not tired and worn down like he did the other night.

“Of course I fucking do,” Katsuki bites. “Don’t baby me.”

He knows that he’s visibly freezing and probably looks stupid as hell, but he already made the choice to freeze his balls off so he’s not going to admit to it being a bad idea now. Before he or Deku have a chance to even say a word more, Kaminari, the shithead, pops in for what feels like the thousandth time that night and laughs, “Well, why aren’t you wearing it?”

Katsuki just rolls his eyes as he pushes past the both of them, muttering, “Come talk to me after you’ve gotten rid of that piece of shit you’re wearing, you furry fucking Pikachu.”

To his relief, Todoroki has removed his stupid self from the couch after Katsuki’s journey outside, so he makes himself comfortable by himself to watch his friends dance. He stretches out his legs, folds his arms behind his head, and lets himself just feel content. And if he pays a little more attention to Deku twirling around like a fucking idiot, well. It’s just something to keep him busy until Kaminari comes over, hands delivering him little shocks until he gets him to dance.

 

// \\

 

By midweek, Katsuki is losing sleep. It’s not unusual for him to toss and turn, to have nightmares, to stay up late hitting his heavy bag lost in thought. This, however, is one of the first times he’s ventured out of his room to do something about it. He’s quiet as he exits his dorm, knowing that Kirishima is probably still awake and paying a little too much attention to him. He decides to go watch TV downstairs or read the hero news with hopes that his eyelids will start to grow heavy.

Nonetheless, as he makes his way down the stairs, he’s wide awake and trying to shake off the memories that have been attacking him today. First it’s Deku’s foot to Katsuki’s face. Then it’s his mouth agape as Katsuki warped away. Then his bloody scraped knees. His hand, outreached to Katsuki like all he’s ever wanted was to help him up and raise him higher.

How he’s overlooked that all these years, well. He can’t say. Maybe he just never wanted to believe that someone had his back, or that he could need someone. That someone other than himself could help to make him better.

The common room is not the quiet sanctuary he’s hoping for. As a matter of fact, there’s a huge fucking rukus coming from the kitchen. When Katsuki rounds the corner, he finds a mop of green hair, neck bowed in concentration as he attempts to dice an onion. He doesn’t even notice Katsuki walk in.

Against his will, Katsuki takes the moment to himself. He leans his body weight against the wall, staring at the veins in Deku’s neck, the lines of the muscles in his arms through the thermal he’s wearing, the slight bend in his hips as he looks at the cutting board below him. And while he’s admittedly something to admire when in concentration, there’s absolutely no reason to be cooking at this time of day, he can’t cut an onion for shit, and Katsuki sure as hell ain’t gonna get any sleepier from this.

He decides to break the nerd’s trance – along with his opportunity to keep staring.

“We have training early tomorrow, why the fuck are you up? And why are you fucking cooking?”

Deku does a little jump, knife luckily secure in his grip. “Jeez, Kacchan you scared me!” He puts down the knife and turns to look at Katsuki. He’s got this look on his face, like the smile that’s about to creep onto his lips is bound to consume his whole freckled face. He cocks his head a bit, quips back, “A few months ago, you would keep me up even later than this once a week! And besides, you’re up, too. Wouldn’t that make you a bit of a hypocrite?”

Katsuki turns his face to hide his blush – when did this little bastard start to joke around with him? He guffaws and puts him in his place. “Psh. The same standards don’t apply to me compared to you, little nerd.” He stares back at the cutting board and takes that as an opening to change the subject while he still can. “Also, has no one ever taught you how to hold a fucking knife? Let me cut that shit before you chop your damn hand off.”

See, the difference between Izuku and Katsuki is that when Izuku blushes, he doesn’t even try to turn away. “My mom did most of the cooking!” he exclaims, running a hand on the back of his neck as he makes way for Katsuki to stand at the counter. “Um, okay. Thanks for your help.”

Katsuki makes quick work of cutting up the potatoes and carrots, and after Deku has put the onions and spices into the pot behind them on the stove, he notices Deku’s eyes on his hands. Almost instinctively, he want to bark out a demand to know what the fuck he’s staring at, but the damn dork starts talking again before he gets a chance. “I skipped dinner today, so I’m hungry… I was out in the woods training my long range attacks, and then I got back kind of late. And then I had Yaomomo help me with the math, so… I never ate!” He pauses a little nervously, his words, like usual, getting away from him uncontrollably. ”Yeah. So. That’s why I’m up. Making curry.”

Katsuki grunts, stirring the onions before scraping in the other vegetables and adding a bit more curry powder to get it to really taste right.

“Kacchan, you don’t have to–”

He pours in the broth, covers the pot, and calls it a day. “Shut the fuck up, I know I don’t have to. You’re sharing with me after it’s done and as soon as the rice cooker is on, we’re sparring. You’re probably getting rusty.”

Katsuki makes himself busy in the kitchen to avoid Deku’s wide eyed stare of gratitude, cleaning up and turning the heat of the stove top lower as Deku says, “Oh! Okay. Thanks, Kacchan.” Katsuki is growing hot between the warmth of the kitchen and Deku’s eyes constantly on him.

“Quit thanking me, dipshit. Really, m’doing myself a fucking favor.” Katsuki throws the dishrag onto the counter from its former place over his shoulder and walks out of the kitchen to the common area, though not without looking Deku’s body up and down as quickly as he can manage. He looks so comfy. The greyish purple of his shirt contrasting with his eyes and hair, the sleeves coming past his fingertips once his arms are at his side. Katsuki has to take another look once he’s shuffled into the more open space. The little shit’s pants are definitely not suited for moving quickly, all bunched at his ankles.

“You buy those pants with hopes of finally growing a few inches, small fry?” Katsuki teases, expecting a blush on Deku’s cheeks but instead receiving a laugh.

“No, actually they’re Todoroki’s. He was showing me some cool trick he does with his fire the other night and accidentally burnt a hole in my winter sleeping pants! He let me borrow an extra pair until I go buy new ones.”

Katsuki feels something disgusting boil up inside him, like nausea after a winding car ride. He swears he’s about to puke fire. Instead, he takes his sweater over his head – yeah, he really has one, who the fuck doesn’t – and throws it onto the couch, because if he was warm before, now he’s fucking sweating. Though as soon as it’s off, he regrets the lack of undershirt because he can feel Deku’s eyes all over him. He has to do his best not to squirm, considering he’s already committed to the whole shirtless thing anyway.

Even though he can tell the heavy gaze he’s receiving from Deku is anything but confused, he explains himself anyway. “If I fight you in that, I would sweat my fucking balls off. Would take a lot of fucking effort not to blow your damn head off.”

Deku just grins as he begins to stretch, totally unphased. “Okay, big guy.” He’s smirking, stretching those fucked up arms of his over his head, scarred and pink from all the times he’s gotten himself into shit. They’re flexed and strong and it makes Katsuki want to win . “Let’s go then.”

Then they’re eye-to-eye, in the middle of the room, and both of them have their fists covering their faces. And just as they go to pounce, Deku puts his arms down and makes that stupid thinking face of his. “Well, actually,” he starts, and Katsuki knows this won’t be good, “we can’t spar for too long because we can’t burn the curry. I really am very hungry, and we usually go for at least an hour. It probably only needs another 20 minutes on the stove, and a few minutes have passed already, so we should probably–”

He would keep going if Katsuki doesn’t stop him, so Deku’s mouth falls shut when Katsuki, as gently as he’s probably ever touched Deku in his life, grabs a fistful of his soft green hair and tugs so their eyes meet. “Chill the fuck out, Deku,” he growls. “This won’t take long.” And he jabs him in the chest.

It does happen to be pretty quick. It ends with them on the floor, Katsuki with rug burn all over his back, and Deku on top of him, panting just slightly, Katsuki’s wrists in his hands. Katsuki is pinned and still sweating despite his shirtlessness and trying hard not to think about how Deku’s hair is falling all over his face.

Like he can read minds, he pushes it back saying, “I need to borrow a headband from one of the girls.” Just like that, whatever weight was on Katsuki’s body is gone, and he feels a little colder. Deku lays down on the carpet next to him. “I win!” he cheers happily and sniffs the air. “Mmm. Curry smells good.”

Katsuki knows he takes a little too long to respond, but he couldn’t get his mouth to move in those first moments after Deku left him unpinned. “Just get a damn haircut.” Katsuki smirks despite himself and wishes he hadn’t smiled, but he’s grateful Deku isn’t looking at his mouth, both their eyes staring at the ceiling where the fans rotate slowly, casting round shadows above them. There’s something romantic about the way they move, ceaselessly and always with intent. Kind of like Deku, but Katsuki doesn’t read into that thought. Instead, to break the silence, he punches Deku in the arm.

He responds with, “Ow!” Like he hasn’t had his whole body shredded to pieces before, and the sheer raw normalcy of the moment is enough to make Katsuki reconcile with the fact that there is no other word for it than cute. Another one of those unfamiliar feelings twists inside of Katsuki again, and it’s nothing like anger. Maybe more like that same grossness of guilt that claimed him over the summer and has refused to let him go. He runs a hand over his face, dragging his skin.

And of course Deku fucking notices. “Are you okay, Kacchan? I didn’t hurt you, right?”

It’s disgusting, that he’s so sincere. It makes Katsuki’s chest swell up, like the breath you take before you go below the surface of water. Hold onto it for as long as you can.

They were fucking sparring. No quirks. No hard hits. The rug burn probably hurt the most of all. But Deku still means it.

Katsuki lets out a snort. “Are you fucking kidding me, you twerp? Takes a lot more than that to hurt me.”

Deku smiles softly. “I know, just checking.”

There’s silence. The quiet whirring of the ceiling fan, their light, now calmed breath, some footsteps from a late night pacer on the floor above them.

In the past, Katsuki would have exploded at his question.

Don’t you fucking worry about me, he said during their fight at Ground Beta. Anger consumed him. Confusion blurred his vision. Guilt fueled his punches.

But back then, Katsuki knows he would have probably never let his guard down like this. Wouldn’t have been caught dead laying on the floor next to the stupid fucking boy who refuses to give up on him.

Deku hums next to him, like the silence is starting to get to him. He rolls onto his side to smile at Katsuki. So instead of exploding about worry, he does the only thing he knows how to. He redirects his own emotions and makes it about Deku’s instead. He refuses to admit that he’s the jealous type. He keeps his deep seated insecurity locked in a cage of rage. He feels the ghost of what he always thought was disdain from Deku creep up behind him.

That kind of stuff always made me sick to my stomach.

Instead of worry, it’s expression. Katsuki explodes. It’s who he is. Things boil up inside of him until they’re released as fire – hot and finite and never refined enough. He only has to see Deku’s soft grin for a moment before he bites, “What the hell do you think you’re smiling about?”

It’s not the first time he’s asked him that, either.

Deku flinches, the memory clear on his face. It’s just for a moment, and then it’s gone from his face along with the smile from before. Then his expression changes to one of deep thought – the one Katsuki has come to know so well. He worries his lip, furrows his brow, blinks for a little bit longer.

Katsuki doesn’t even expect him to answer the question.

Of course, Deku is honest like always. And he wonders why he’s always getting into trouble. He couldn’t lie to save his life – and everyone loves him for it. Katsuki would have to be blind not to see that. The whole of class 1A adores him. They’re drawn to him and that damn spirit of his.

“I’m just happy we’ve been doing this,” Deku mutters, almost shyly.

Katsuki narrows his eyes even though Deku’s not meeting them, even though he knows the answer. He growls, “Doing what?”

Deku lets out a little sigh, like he knows that Katsuki is playing dumb. “Just sparring. Hanging out. Being friends. It feels good.”

So there it is. With those words, Katsuki can feel himself splitting open. Heat rips through the center of his forehead, down his abdomen and deep into his stomach. There’s an apology at his lips, and he’s not ready. Deku isn’t even looking at him anymore.

How can you say sorry for a lifetime of mistakes?

He thinks that it’s his tone of voice that gets Deku to glance his way again. “Yeah, well. Don’t test your luck, kid.” Katsuki knows Deku can see his own smile, one that he can’t help from spreading across his face, so some of the bite is lost on him.

He sits up in a fury when he hears footsteps, and he jumps to put his sweater back on even though he’s still a little overheated. Behind him, he feels green eyes on his red back. In the stairwell, he hears a voice.

“Hey, Bakugou, are you cooking?”

Kaminari. This fucking idiot again. His hair is a total fucking mess, and it’s clear that he was asleep not too long ago.

“Smells likes something burning.”

Katsuki’s eyes widen. “Fuck!” he lets out, probably a bit too loudly. “Deku’s fucking curry!”

“Midoriya is down here, too?” Kaminari asks, all bleary-eyed and stupid looking. “What were you guys doing, cooking at midnight?”

“Shut the fuck up, you fucking phone charger,” Katsuki grits out between ground teeth as he walks into the kitchen. Kaminari trails sluggishly behind him. “Why are you even here?”

Kaminari perks up, like he’d completely forgotten the reason himself. “Just came to get some chocolate. Sometimes I get late night cravings, and there was none in my room.”

Of course. Katsuki tries to think of a quick response while he takes the pot off the heat and just settles for rolling his eyes, muttering, “Little freak.”

Soon enough Kaminari is saying goodnight to the both of them, chocolate in hand, and Deku is behind him, trying to help but mostly getting in the way.

“I can’t believe we got distracted!” Deku whispers disappointedly, now shrouding the room in an air of quietness after their unexpected guest. He’s pouting. “After I said how long we would need and everything…”

Katsuki manages to ignore his muttering, taking the finished rice from the cooker and putting it into bowls, pouring curried vegetables over top. He makes his way to the table to eat, nearly sure that Deku will follow. “Don’t worry, you idiot. Just the bottom burned. The curry is fine. You’ll just have to use those damn hands of yours to scrub this pot in the morning.”

A smile lights up Deku’s face. He must be fucking starving.

So they enjoy midnight curry together and don’t say much else after that, leaving the dishes in the sink and burnt pot to soak overnight.

For once, they walk up the stairs together, shoulders just shy of brushing as the tip toe. When they reach the second floor, Deku makes to turn to his room in silence. Katsuki can’t help himself from grabbing the kid’s shoulder, looking him in the eye.

He mumbles quietly, “Stop skipping meals. You’ll never catch up to me if you keep that shit up.”

For now, it’s the only way he can think of saying that he cares.

 

// \\

 

Even after the midnight curry, their routine never starts back up. Katsuki can probably choose to blame it on the nightmares, because that same night he wakes up in a cold sweat, covered in goosebumps and wanting to blast winter to all hell.

At realization that he’s only dreaming, he sits up frantically, and his own mind torments him as midnight’s images play themselves over in bursts of hellish light.

All Might, battered and bleeding at All For One’s feet. When he raised one fist, the skin peeled back slowly from his whole body, leaving just bones in its place.

Then it’s Kirishima, hardened body shattered into pieces.

Pure black, and the sound of his own screaming.

He saw his mother screaming, too, at him, with shame in her eyes.

Deku, with two broken wrists and on his knees. He was looking up at Katsuki, and even though he was dreaming, Katsuki knew he was the one who put him there, snapped his arms, and made sure that he would never get up.

He forces his eyes open at the images. He knows he’s missing bits and pieces but can’t afford to think harder about what they were. His heart is racing, hummingbird fast and just as skittish. The clock on his night table tells him he’s only been asleep for three hours.

Another sleepless night for the books. Winter approaching only seems to be making things worse for Katsuki. He’s cold all the time, weaker, more tired. Dare he say more down – even though he wants to boast that Bakugou Katsuki never has a dampened day, it’s not true. Hell, if he’s had a totally upbeat week since this summer he’d be lying to himself.

At the cue of his eyes fluttering shut again, he sees another image of Deku from his dream, both eyes black and nose bloodied. Defeated.

Katsuki tries to steady his breathing, but it keeps catching up to him. And even though the sensation is far from new, the cycle speeds up. Shallow breath, image behind his eyes, stinging in his nose. He’s gotten used to being out of control lately, yet hasn’t found a way to make moments like this cease. He fights his mind and breath for a good ten minutes before he can breathe steadily through his nose again, and when he allows his head to touch his pillow again, he has to fight with everything in him to stop the tears from flowing.

These dreams keep him alert at night and make him float through the day.

He thinks of Deku beneath him on the carpet, eyes staring up so openly – it’s contrasted with the image of the phantom Deku from his dream, broken (and the one who is absolutely real, and has fallen at the belligerence of Katsuki’s hand so many times before).

Why does Deku trust him? Katsuki is the only one who knows his secret, and he’d manage to let some of it slip even when he hadn’t heard a word of kindness from Katsuki’s lips in almost ten years. Maybe his belief was just a consequence of knowing someone their entire life. Whatever other emotions are in the way of the two of them, there is always trust. That’s why Katsuki had been so fucking angry at the thought of Deku lying about his quirk all this time. Even though Katsuki bore him into ground, he at least expected the truth.

Knowing that, however, didn’t ease any of the pain he was feeling. Because if trust is always there, it mustn’t be enough. Otherwise Katsuki wouldn’t be awake in the middle of the night trying to solve a problem he wishes he had never begun. Fighting Deku at Ground Beta had been just the first taste of guilt that had ever touched his lips. Since then, it’s constantly been spilling out, pouring over. Even as he reconciles with the fact that he wasn’t the sole reason for All Might’s end, he still doesn’t know what to do. Even when his own life was in peril, he refused to accept help. And look where it landed him. Alone and trembling at the fact that he could have been stronger with his friends by his side. He knows he has a lot to learn. He’s never denied that.

That night, his confidence withers even more, and he doesn’t get back to sleep.

I’m sorry, Deku. The boy who refuses to give up on him, even now, after it all.

 

// \\

 

As he rubs his eyes and makes his way upstairs to brush his teeth after breakfast, he chooses to ignore the footsteps that are following too closely behind him, hoping it will go away, like an annoying fly, or perhaps more like an itch you can’t reach.

But no. This fly follows him right into his room and even shuts the door behind them.

Katsuki turns around to corner him in the entryway and crosses his arms over his chest. “What the fuck do you want, Kirishima? Can’t I get ready for class in peace?”

“Can’t a man come get ready with his best buddy?” Kirishima jokes, languid and comfortable in Katsuki’s space, where he’s clearly unwelcome.

Katsuki huffs and turns away from him to gather his things together. “This is my room. You can’t get ready in here without any of your shit.”

Jesus Christ, would the kid just cut to the chase already? Sure, Kirishima liked to shoot the shit, but he usually had a point.

You’re getting ready, and I’m with you, don’t you get it?” Maybe he really does have hair for brains. “Anyways–” Finally. “–a little birdy told me that cooking shirtless for Midoriya last night.”

Kaminari. Katsuki was going to beat the living shit out of him – make the asshole short circuit a hundred times over. Besides, can’t an idiot like him even get his story straight? That is not what happened.

Kirishima walks into his room and smirks as he sits down on Katsuki’s bed. “You guys must really be doing better now.” He raises his eyebrows.

This fuckhead has no idea what the hell he’s talking about. He walks over to Kaminari and fists the collar of his shirt, does his best not to burn the fabric. “I wasn’t shirtless cooking for him, you dipshit. Better get that phone charger a pair of glasses if that’s what he thinks he saw.”

He lets go of Kirishima’s shirt with a slight push. He hates how deep in thought he looks. “So you weren’t shirtless? I really don’t think he’s the kind of guy to make that part up.”

Katsuki doesn’t even know how Kaminari saw him shirtless, he thought he put his sweater back on fast, but also, he really doesn’t feel like fucking dealing with this right now. “Does it really matter?” Kirishima shoots him a look. “Listen. We were fighting. I took off my sweater because I was hot and didn’t want to get too sweaty.”

He traces Kirishima’s eyes who nods at the sight of the sweater slung over his desk chair. Under his breath, he mumbles, “Hm, that’s a nice sweater, okay, I get it.” After a slight pause, that shit eating grin comes back onto his face. “So you’re telling me that the two of you stayed up late to roll around together sweaty and shirtless?”

Katsuki doesn’t even try to keep the exasperation off his face – the embarrassment, well he gives it his best effort on that front. “What? No – he wasn’t – ugh. Listen, dipshit, we help each other train. That’s all. So keep your fucking trap shut and mind your damn business.” Katsuki sighs and gives in a little, because he knows that Kirishima is the relentless type. “We spar at night. Sometimes.”

The shithead’s whole face lights up, gossip firing up his damn soul. “So this is a regular thing?” He gasps. “Oh my god, how long has this been going on? Did you lie to me about why you stay up so late?”

Katsuki groans. “Jeez, just let it go man. This was our first time doing it in a while. It’s not a big deal!”

“No offense, Bakugou, but you and Midoriya hanging out shirtless is kind of a big deal. This is a whole new level of man-to-man friendship! Partnership, even!”

And with that, Katsuki is done with this shit. He tries not to blush, and he prays that Kirishima doesn’t sense any of the other feelings that he’s been having, whatever the fuck they are. About Deku as a person he admires. And about his hands. He makes for the bathroom and knows he’s lost this battle. He thinks about mentioning the nightmares to Kirishima but decides it’s better if he keeps that to himself, for now. All he can hope is that his friend doesn’t keep reading into why he’s so exhausted all the time, and life goes on.

He trusts him enough to not spread shit.

So he drags himself through the school day, and it continues like this until there are days where he can hardly keep his eyes open.

 

// \\

 

At lunch, a few days later:

Deku has his head reared back, smile so big that it takes up his entire face. He knocks shoulders with Todoroki and shrieks again with laughter at something Iida says. As he calms down, he sips water and slurps noodles. His hair is a right mess today, curling around his ears and glowing chartreuse at the edges where the harsh lighting of Lunch Rush reaches his hair.

Katsuki drops one of his chopsticks when Kirishima elbows. Once he snaps back into reality, he’s thankful that Sero has Kaminari and Ashido’s attention.

“Chill the fuck out,” Kirishima mutters at him, though his words have a tone of excitement, like he’s happy to have caught Katsuki. “You’re staring pretty damn hard.”

Katsuki turns his chin into his collar, surely redder than he’d like. He grits his teeth. “You don’t know what the fuck I’m looking at.”

Kirishima just rolls his eyes and pats him on the shoulder, and something about the glance he gives Katsuki says, it’s okay, I’ve got your back.

With his next exhale, Katsuki feels a little safer, and he’s careful where his gaze lingers as he eats his rice. He can’t, however, say he doesn’t let his eyes flit over Ashido’s shoulder one to many times, where Deku continues laughing with his friends at their table.

 

// \\

 

Ashido’s pride is certainly boosted on the day the class decides what they’re doing for the cultural festival. “See?” she brags. “Our dance party was much needed practice! We’re gonna kill this!”

Katsuki won’t lie about how much he likes drumming. Sure, he’s already busy as fuck, but he likes practice, and he’ll dare to admit that he, Jirou, and the rest of the band work pretty damn well together. At the start of their training for it, Yaomomo has to make him an arsenal of drumsticks – in a day, he snaps more in half than probably healthy. But he can’t help but feeling fiery. Since Kirishima cornered him in his room and caught him staring at lunch, he hasn’t been able to calm down. It’s like everything he has been feeling since fucking forever has started to boil over.

He hasn’t invited Deku to spar since midnight curry. Hasn’t tried to talk to him. Hasn’t done anything a normal friend would do. All he’s done is stare at him from across whatever room he’s in and shift in his seat when he feels those eyes on him. Really, he can’t blame Deku for not taking initiative. After all, most of this likely doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to him – the niceness of it all, the normalcy. But of course Deku doesn’t question. He never has. He’s always taken whatever Katsuki has given to him: be it a punch to the face or a swear spat at his feet.

Katsuki has come to realize this, after all these sleepless nights and dreamy gazes. Deku is the only person who can receive his feelings. It’s always been this way. It’s just taken him this long to realize it. Whatever anger was pent up inside of him, whatever emotion had to worm its way out of him, Deku always took them. He always, always let it happen. Katsuki just still can’t figure out why. All he knows for now is that he has never felt a bigger thrill running through his body than when Deku started giving it back. He returns Katsuki’s anger with a smirk and a kick. He gives him a challenge. A cheeky grin. A soft smile and sleepy eyelids. He gives him truth.

And Katsuki will sure as well be damned if he can’t do his best to give Deku everything he has to offer. Beyond just anger and fear. He owes him that, now. Maybe he always has.

But he can’t stop thinking about their fight at Ground Beta, how Deku said he admired him.

You always read too much into every damn thing, you nerd.

Katsuki tried to say that to offend Deku, but look where he is now – holding a drumstick broken in two and roaring in anger as he overthinks and fucks up the notes. His entire band stares at the back of the stage where he sits, and he has to do everything in his power to not tell them to fuck off. He hates how much he’s messing up, anyway. There’s too much in his damn head.

He’s grateful no one points out how the broken drumstick is now smoking in his hand.

Jirou, who’s in charge of everyone, calls a take five. Katsuki is about to go splash some water on his face but is stopped by her presence in front of him. From what he knows, she’s a girl of few words, so Katsuki can’t imagine what the fuck she wants with him. And if it’s to reprimand him, boy has she got it coming.

“Bakugou,” she says, stern but not harsh.

He’s on edge already, though, so her tone doesn’t really matter much. “The fuck do you want, ears?”

She frowns, but Katsuki knows her better than one might think, as much as he boasts that he doesn’t give a shit about his classmates or retain any information, Jirou is strong. And she’s not the type to take shit from anyone. “Hey,” she murmurs, and her voice is filled with even more ease than before. “I’m not trying to start up with you, but whatever the fuck you’re angry about this time, channel it into the drums, dude. Not the sticks. Breaking them isn’t gonna get you anywhere. You’re good at this, so focus on the music, would you?”

He takes that advice to heart, and with it, Jirou is officially off his shit list.

 

// \\

 

The high of the cultural fest doesn’t really last long. As soon as he hears what happened to Deku, he’s on edge. His whole body feels like it’s reaching out to protect him, but there’s not so much he can do. At the end of the day, he’s positively exhausted, sore from all the drumming and tired from all the damn socializing. He’s itching though. He can’t help but feel like he needs to talk to Deku, to see his eyes, to make sure he’s okay even though he’s close to sure that there’s nothing he can do about that either way.

But when he gets to the second floor on the way to his room, it’s like his feet move without command to Deku’s room. His eyes scan over the plaque that reads Midoriya Izuku and he’s instantly filled with the urge to run. Why would Deku want to talk to him of all people, after such a long and hard day?

His brain bites back at him, echoing: Hanging out. Being friends. It feels good.

He prays no one else comes into the hall has he stands in front of Deku’s door unmoving, like an idiot. What would he even say if he were let in?

His body spites him, though, because as soon as he hears a loud sob from the other side of the door, his fist knocks before he can even tell himself it’s a bad idea.

Immediately, Katsuki panics. Clearly he’s already upset, now he has to get up to answer the door without knowing who’s on the other side? Katsuki is about to spin on his heel to walk away, but at the sound of rustling inside the bedroom, he knows he’s already dug himself this hole.

So when the door opens, he can feel his chest physically ache at the sight of Deku in his pajamas, eyes and nose red, still pretty beat up from his fight earlier. He hates it. All of it. That feeling in his chest and the look of the boy in front of him.

“Kacchan?” Deku asks, even though it’s very obviously him. “Why are you–”

Deku pauses when Katsuki begins to walk in, because he really doesn’t want to stand in the hallway anymore. He takes the moment to quip, “What the fuck are you crying about, nerd? You miss sparring that bad?” Katsuki smirks, crossing his fingers from their home in his pockets with hopes that joke will land.

Luckily, Deku sniffles a laugh, wipes his eyes. “Sorry.”

His socks shuffle on the floor as he makes toward his bed and sits, leaving Katsuki standing awkwardly in the middle of his bedroom surrounded by… All Might.

“Don’t apologize, shithead.”

Deku’s soft smile that has been on his face since Katsuki walked in the door hasn’t wavered, and he sighs. “If you don’t mind, Kacchan, I’d rather not do anymore fighting today.” He leans his head back to lean against the wall, and while his eyes are closed, Katsuki takes the moment to absorb the sight of him. His cheeks are scratched up, his knuckles look faintly bruised, and there’s a worry line between his brows. Katsuki can’t help the feeling of wanting to smooth it away.

Katsuki decides to roll with another joke in terms of an answer to his request, as avoidance is usually in his favor. “Never gonna win that way.”

I thought you said you were gonna beat me.

Avoidance, however, never favors Midoriya Izuku. He faces everything head on. Eyes wide open.

He pats the space on the bed next to him, gesturing for Katsuki to sit, likely noticing Katsuki’s discomfort at standing in the middle of the room. Katsuki tries to shuffle over with confidence, and when he sits, their shoulders and arms touch. His body is on fire. Deku opens up without hesitation. It’s just who he is. At least, to Katsuki. He has never held back on him, not even once. And when he did, it was through clenched teeth, as he threatened revealing All Might’s secrets just for the sake of making peace with Katsuki. “It’s been a really long day,” Deku sighs. He chuckles a little, eyes searching around the room. “A long few months, really. It was so amazing to see Eri today, to make her smile. She’s grown so much already.” He begins to mutter and ramble, but Katsuki listens with intent. “I just have so much to think about, between her, and Mirio, and Nighteye, and the League of Villains. But fighting Gentle reminded me how much more we have to face – and how much I have to hide. He was the first villain I’ve fought on my own since getting my license. It just feels like the pressure is never going to stop.” He pauses to look at Katsuki with those green eyes stained red. They’re still watering. A rogue tear slips down his face, and Katsuki wants to rip the throat out of the next person to make him cry. “You’re the only one who can really know everything. Sometimes it’s exhausting to keep secrets.”

Something changes in his face when he says everything, like it’s not the whole truth. But if Katsuki has learned one thing about the lesson on that front it’s that whatever Deku is hiding, it’s likely not his own secret to be sharing. The All Might posters stare him down.

Katsuki doesn’t do much for comforting. It’s never been something he’s exactly good at. He just makes eye contact and lets his expression go soft like it rarely does. He puts his hand close enough to Deku’s leg so that one or two of his fingers rest under Deku’s thigh when he shifts his weight.

After some silence, Deku thanks him.

Some anger bursts inside of him. “The fuck have I told you about thanking me, you shitty Deku? I didn’t fucking do anything.”

Deku laughs, still a little teary. “I never thought I’d hear you, Bakugou Katsuki, step down from taking credit.”

The back of his mind flashes: Sports Festival! But he ignores it. Instead, he harrumphs. “My pride only comes from the things I actually do.”

Deku looks at him with those bright eyes – they’re a goddamn spring day – and Katsuki has to stop his breath from hitching. How did he ever think that they held disdain? They’re so encouraging.

You were always looking at me with those damn eyes of yours… You never had damn thing.

Right now, Katsuki is okay with admitting that Deku has always had way more than he ever knew.

“You came to see me,” Deku says plainly. “That’s something, right?” He shifts his weight so he’s facing Katsuki, their shoulders and faces even closer together, knees bumping. “Can’t you just accept that you make me feel better?” He pauses again, as if he’s thinking over what to say next. A smile appears around his eyes. “You make me better, Kacchan. You always have.”

A bomb explodes inside of Katsuki. He’s to puke his fiery heart right on to Deku’s lap just for him to see how undeserving Katsuki is of his praise. “How can you just fucking talk like that?” he exclaims. He curls his fists into Deku’s blanket, forgetting that his hand is now under Deku’s leg. His whole body grows even hotter.

“Like what?” Deku says, and Katsuki knows he’s playing dumb, but he isn’t quite sure what to say back. What the fuck is he supposed to say to that?

He growls instead, pulls at his hair and closes his eyes. What he doesn’t expect to feel is two hands pulling his own away from his head. Soft eyes telling him, don’t do that, don’t hurt yourself.  

“Are you okay?” Deku is asking him again, his hands back in his lap.

Katsuki is roaring fire, an insatiable beast that is unsure of what it wants. “Why the fuck wouldn’t I be?”

Deku’s soft gaze is unrelenting, and it calms something inside of Katsuki. “Like it or not, Kacchan, but I think I know you a little better than that.”

An image plays across Katsuki’s mind: Deku’s face when he muttered stay away. Then it’s the flood of emotion he felt when the boys from class told him how Deku had reacted when he was taken by the League of Villains. He can basically hear Kirishima’s voice exclaiming, “Tokoyami and Shouji said he was screaming. Like losing his mind. But dude, he was the first one to jump at my idea of coming to get you. He really wanted you back.”

It’s his turn to say sorry now, and for once, it doesn’t pain him at all to apologize. He knows that this is what to do. He can’t cross this bridge while it’s still broken. “It’s just–” He groans. He’s loud and angry to start. He quite nearly reaches to tug at his hair again but knows those green eyes are watching him. “Why are you so nice to me? Why do you–” His voice breaks and he tries again, softer and more subdued. “Why do you let me in? I mean, you shouldn’t! I was so fucking horrible to you and now… Now you just talk to me like it’s the easiest fucking thing in the goddamn world when really you should want to beat the living shit out of me.”

He’s breathing heavier after he finishes speaking, and something hot is burning at his eyes. Deku responds faster than he expects him to.

“I said I won’t be your punching bag anymore. That just means I won’t be docile. It doesn’t mean I won’t take a hit from you anymore. It doesn’t mean I won’t take a hit for you. I’m still gonna listen to you. It’s what I’ve being doing this whole time.”

He smiles softly, and Katsuki can’t bare to look at him. Deku is right. It is what he’s been doing this whole time, and that’s what’s been driving Katsuki in to this hell of thought for months on end.

“How can you just say that?” Katsuki demands. “Aren’t you mad?”

He still refuses to look at Deku’s face, instead staring down at his own hands, gripping his thighs.

“Well yeah, of course I was!” Deku’s tone is even. It doesn’t sound like there’s any anger in his voice at all. “You made every single day harder for me… But, I see you, Kacchan. In the same way you’ve started to see me. Or at least, I think you have.” He pauses to take a breath. While he might not seem angry, he does seem nervous. “I told you. It feels good, to know each other like this. I – I’ve learned that it’s okay to be vulnerable.” He chuckles anxiously. “I’m nervous all the time. And sure, you beat me down, but part of me regrets letting you. I never once challenged you. I didn’t have to be scared of you.”

Katsuki wants to fight him on that. He made sure that Deku was scared of him. He didn’t want him to have a damn chance of stopping him. But he doesn’t interrupt. It’s clear that this isn’t the first time he’s thought about this.

“We have so much more to think about now. Okay, so our past isn’t good. But that will never take any of the good memories away from me, and that’s what we have to focus on now that we’re dealing with so much. And besides, I…” His voice cuts off, and he takes a shaky breath to encourage himself. “I know you’re the only person who can help me face all the scary things we’re going to encounter. You’re the only person strong enough.”

In that moment, Katsuki is more than okay with thinking of them as equals. Part of him knows that Deku is so much better in so many ways.

He still doesn’t look up, just shakes his head. “I don’t deserve this.” He so badly wants to make peace with the past, but Deku won’t even raise his voice at him, won’t even fight him.

He takes a deep breath of surprise when Deku again reaches nervously for his hands that have now started to dig into his legs with his fingernails. The fabric of his pants is hot. Even when Katsuki ceases his clawing, Deku doesn’t let go.

He’s not given a moment to think about it much more, because Deku keeps speaking, gripping his hands tightly. “You’ve been working pretty hard, Kacchan. Making an effort, you know? Those nights we spent together mean a lot to me. You made me stronger. I don’t know if I’d’ve been able to beat Gentle without everything you taught me. I took him out with shoot style, you know.”

Katsuki dares to smile at him, pride bubbling up in his chest. When he looks back down at their broken hands holding one another, his heart rate manages to pick up even more. His mind and body are in unison, screaming in tandem, what the fuck is happening. Deku’s eyes follow Katsuki’s, and he, too, looks down at their hands. His hair falls into his eyes, and Katsuki watches his face fall when he lets go. Then he watches the blush creep up his cheeks as one of Katsuki’s palms comes to rest on his shoulder and the other pushes his hair gently away from his face.

Katsuki swallows, hard. It feels like somehow, everything has built up to this. “I’m proud of you,” he says, and he says it firmly, because he’s never meant anything more. “I bet you kicked his fucking ass.”

Then Deku gets all up in his face, so damn close. His hands are sweating in Katsuki’s already blazing palms, and he searches Katsuki’s eyes for something, something, man he’s not sure what. Suddenly Deku’s eyes are gone from his line of sight, because suddenly there’s breath near his ear, and goosebumps rip their way up his entire body, lingering on his neck. Deku plants a firm kiss on Katsuki’s cheek.

It fucking burns, and he ignites even further when Deku says, “You know I did.”

When he pulls back, Katsuki’s hand is tensing on his shoulder. Katsuki is so unsure of what to do with himself, because his cheek is now missing warmth and Deku’s face is redder than he’s ever seen in his life. He can start to see him making that worried, thinking face of his, and Katsuki knows he has to stop Deku’s brain in its tracks because he won’t allow him to regret doing that. With whatever balls Katsuki can muster up, he moves one hand to the junction of Deku’s shoulder and his neck and the other that had fallen to his lap to cup his cheek.

Then they’re just fucking staring at each other, eyes all over the damn place. Katsuki can’t help but look at the scratch on his cheeks, his freckles splayed all over his face, his lips. He hopes his words aren’t out of place when he says, “Thank you,” because then he kisses him.

He has to wait a beat, because Deku freezes beneath him. Suddenly, he’s searching for a way to play it cool as he pulls away, and maybe he read in too deep with the kiss on the cheek. Did he go too far? Despite it all, he can’t move his hand away from Deku’s face, who is still leaning into his touch. He’s about to panic, but in seconds there’s a hand on his back, slipping beneath his shirt to touch his flaming hot skin, and they’re fucking kissing.

He doesn’t allow himself to think too hard about it, he just grips Deku’s shoulder and strokes his neck. Deku’s free hand comes into his hair and he swears he’s going to melt all over his bed. He’s about to pull back for fear of taking advantage of the situation but then Deku is licking at his lips, his tongue coming into his mouth and fuck, Katsuki can’t help the sound that comes out of his throat.

As gently as he can, he moves his hands to Deku’s back to lay him down, and he hovers over him, one hand still on his cheek and the other propping himself up as he straddles Deku’s waist. It feels like hours, but he knows it’s only minutes.

When he looks down, what he finds is not such an unfamiliar sight. It’s Deku, beneath him, panting and grinning. Only this time, their faces are so close their noses nearly touch. He takes the moment to fist Deku’s soft, worn shirt and stare him dead in the eye.

“You make me so much stronger.”

When Deku’s hands come up to touch his hair and brush a thumb across his lip he whispers, “Rescue and victory, they need each other.” And even though he’s below Katsuki he declares, “I win.”