A soft knock at his bedroom door brought Izuku out of a foggy reverie. Wiping his closed eyes against his forearm, he slid off the edge of his bed and opened the door.
"Kacchan," Izuku breathed, wrapping his arms around his childhood friend's neck. Katsuki wordlessly but openly returned the embrace. When Katsuki initiated release with a firm squeeze of his arms, he gestured with his chin at the inside of Izuku's room. Izuku reluctantly pulled away from Katsuki's heat and stepped back to let Katsuki in.
"I need to tell you something, Deku," Katsuki said once the door shut.
Izuku's view of the boy he's cared for since forever was already distorted by tears as he nodded slowly.
"I love you, you know."
Izuku began to tremble. Katsuki quickly placed one hand behind Izuku's head for stability.
"I love you," he continued, "but I won’t love the you who doesn't love himself."
At this, Izuku bent his head, shielding his precious tears from the outside.
"I’m--I-I know. I just--just can't stop feeling like I'm not worth it. And I don't know why I feel lucky, but not happy that I'm lucky. I feel like it's wrong. It feels wrong to think about going for it. I should just..."
"The way we all see it, you're a capable person. You saved people."
"But Iida-kun and Todoroki-kun thought--"
"And you being lucky? Maybe a little, with you meeting All Might in our town that day. But everything after that… the rest was you.” He gently nudged Izuku closer, fitting green curls underneath his chin. “I haven’t forgotten who ran out first. Even though you had nothing, could’ve died before me. You better not have forgotten that either.”
"I haven’t. I just feel like there is someone better out there, so I’m not… needed."
"And so? That didn't stop you from passing me up. That alone isn’t going to stop you from doing what’s right.”
"I know! I’m just saying…”
“Yeah, saying bull shit!” Katsuki caged Izuku’s entire shoulders with his arms. “You know what’s real, but all you’re giving energy to are lies. You’re turning your back on all of the things that you’ve actually done.”
“I’m… I’m sorry.”
Katsuki inhaled sharply. “Deku…”
“Shut it! Don’t freaking apologize for the unnecessary apology! I just want you to hear yourself. Are you hearing yourself?”
“...I do. I hear it.”
“It’s bullshit, right?”
“...Yeah. I know. I’ve known, but it’s--it’s so hard to just… I don’t know, accept it? Despite everything, somewhere down the road, after UA, I just… I started to look at only what I didn’t do. Could do more of…. To improve. At first, I think I did this just to keep myself in the running. But now, I think, they’re just excuses to hurt myself.”
Katsuki exhaled. Izuku felt cool air run through his curls. He closed his eyes and exhaled too, sinking into Katsuki’s tight enclosure.
“Bad habits,” Izuku murmured, trying to even his breathing.
“Yeah,” he returned gruffly. “Break them. Makes no sense to tell people you’re a quitter when you are the definition of persistence.”
“Mm. You’re right.”
“You can be ‘right’ too. Come on.” Katsuki pushed Izuku back. He cupped Izuku’s shoulders and straightened his arms. “Time to do that self-affirmation shit.”
“D-Do I have to? It’s--”
“Until you actually acknowledge your strengths again, yes.”
Izuku drew an arm across his face. “Okay.” He breathed out. “I’m… hardworking.”
“I’m hardworking because I didn’t just stop at inheriting One For All. I kept up my training regimen. Bulked up. Am continually bulking up and maintaining these muscles.”
“Yeah, you are.”
“I’m also hardworking because I study everyday.”
“What does ‘study’ mean?”
“Like, I open up our textbooks and read them. Take notes on the side.” Izuku paused. “I… I put a lot of effort into studying.”
“See, I don’t call you a nerd for nothing.”
“And I’m… I’m adaptable. I used to be Quirkless. Then I wasn’t. I started out by copying All Might because… well… what else do I do with a Quirk that I got from the All Might? So I was just punching things, here and there. Trying to be like him. But I’m not him, and that put my arms in danger, so I switched it up. I decided that now I kick things. And lately, I’ve even started shooting things so that I don’t just move from injuring my arms to my legs. I’m… adaptable. Very adaptable.”
“Yeah,” Katsuki murmured, the corners of his mouth curving softly, contrasting the sharp angle of his eye shape and spikes. “That’s right.”
Izuku let a small smile through. He stood on his tiptoes and pressed his forehead against Katsuki’s. “That’s what’s real,” he added quietly.
“That’s what’s real,” Katsuki repeated, kissing the bridge of Izuku’s nose.
Izuku scrunched his nose and threw his face into Katsuki’s chest. “I love you so much, Kacchan.”
“I love you lots too, Deku.”