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Static on the Airwaves

Chapter Text

Katsuki is just out for a run at the asscrack of dawn before class. It usually just ends up that way. He has a lot of trouble sleeping ever since—

Katsuki shakes his head and pushes himself to run faster. The ache in his calves and the burning in his lungs feels good and he wants to keep that good feeling for as long as he can. Whenever he stops running it will all crash back into him like a freight train—every thought and feeling that weighs him down during the rest of his existence. It didn’t used to be like this, but he refuses to let himself think about that. He refuses to remember the day it all changed. The day that keeps him up at night thinking about how different it could have been if he was just a halfway decent— Dammit.

Katsuki slows down to a jog before stopping completely, placing his hands on his hips and hunching his shoulders to catch his breath. And just like that, it’s all back. His chest feels like lead but he tries to breathe through it the same way he has been for the past three years. He tries to blame it on pushing himself too hard on his run and pulls one arm across his chest to start stretching.

“Wow Kacchan, you’ve gotten so strong!”

Katsuki freezes but refuses to look in the direction of the voice. He’s not there. He can’t be. But then he feels a hand close over his bicep and Katsuki’s shoulders tense before he finally lifts his eyes to stare into the freckled face of his childhood friend.

“Deku,” Katsuki breathes before he can think to stop himself. Feeding into this kind of hallucination can’t be healthy for him but calling out his name is a knee-jerk reaction.

Deku meets Katsuki’s startled gaze inquisitively before he’s back to marvelling at the blond’s chiseled arms. “Holy woah, how much can you bench now? With arms like these you must be in the triple digits!”

If it were any other person asking him, Katsuki probably would have scoffed and boasted about breaking triple digits two years ago when he was just a first year. But through some impossible cosmic joke, it’s Deku. So Katsuki rips his arm out of Deku’s grasp and stalks away back towards campus and—hopefully—back towards sanity.

It’s definitely the lack of sleep making him hallucinate, Katsuki thinks. It’s the only rational explanation. Afterall, the mind can conjure up some pretty wild and believable images when it wants to. Even ones that can talk to you, and touch you. Even ones that can mimic impossibly green eyes, a forest of curly hair...that special and specific smell that hangs in the air right before a devastating summer storm. Katsuki never thought he’d catch a whiff of that scent ever again. It was so real.

Katsuki hears heavy footsteps come up next to him and he knows without looking that his hallucination clearly isn’t over. It doesn’t help that those signature red shoes are a dead giveaway. He still refuses to look up but he can hear Deku muttering and the heavy scritch-scratch of a pen writing furiously in a notebook. This is all too real and it’s really starting to freak Katsuki out like maybe he’s finally actually lost it this time. He stops walking and Deku stops next to him, the scratching of his pen halting as well.

“Kacchan?”

“Stop it.” Katsuki says through gritted teeth, still refusing to look up. He fixes his gaze on the concrete beneath his feet, glaring at the cracks. “Just go away. I know I have a lot to pay for when I get to hell but let me live out my miserable life in peace first.”

Deku stares at him for a moment before his face softens into a wide smile, bringing a hand up to scratch at the back of his head, “I’m not sure what you mean, but that can’t possibly be true. Kacchan is amazing!”

Deku lets out an easy laugh and Katsuki clenches his fists at his sides. You of all people should not be saying that Katsuki thinks. He grits his teeth as he settles into the realization that this is his punishment. The devil decided his crimes were too great. That simply waiting for death was not soon enough to begin his eternal damnation. Instead he sent a demon disguised as Deku to jumpstart the torture by haunting him for the rest of his life. It’s the only logical explanation. Afterall, Deku’s been dead for three years.

Chapter Text

Katsuki wasn’t there when it actually happened. Sometimes he wishes he was and sometimes he’s glad he wasn’t. But in his dreams he’s always there standing in their classroom watching it all happen. It always starts with him looking down at his hands, noticing the familiar black fabric of his middle school uniform. He braces himself as he looks up and sees Deuk standing by the window, facing away from him. Katsuki says his name and Deku bristles at the sound. Somehow the action makes Katsuki feel even worse, affirming to himself that he stopped being a comforting presence to the green-haired boy a long time ago. He hates himself for it.

In one swift motion, Deku throws the window open and steps onto the ledge, looks down at the ground three stories below. He stands there for a long moment and it’s agonizing because Katsuki can’t move to stop him even though he could’ve done it several times over by now. His voice still works though.

“Deku, please…” Katsuki’s voice is shaky at best. He knows he only has one chance to get his childhood friend to step back down into the safety of the room. With a wry smile he continues, “We can’t be proper rivals if you’re dead.”

Deku slowly turns around on the ledge to face him. Katsuki relaxes a bit until he sees the look on Deku’s face. There’s a small crooked smile playing on his lips and there’s no light in his eyes. He would’ve expected Deku to be crying but his expression is relaxed, showing his resolve. Katsuki opens his mouth to try convincing him to stay again but it’s no use and he fails again just like he does every goddamn night.

His friend’s body relaxes and he starts to fall backwards out the window, his smile growing wider in a way that can only be described as relief. That smile seeps into Katsuki’s bones and he wakes up, bolting up right in his bed.

It’s far from the worst scenario that’s ever been conjured up by his dreams but the ones that give him hope before promptly ripping it away hit the hardest. The sheets rustle softly as Katsuki pulls his legs up to rest his elbows on, the palms of his hands pressing firmly against his eyes.

“Kacchan, are you ok?” Katsuki can feel the bed shift as a weight settles beside him, a hand rubs softly at his back. The touch makes him realize he’s breathing too hard and he takes a deep breath that forces him to relax his shoulders.

“I’m fine.” Katsuki finally says after getting his breathing under control. He feels the hand move in small circles on his back and he shifts away from the touch. The physical contact is soothing but it also makes him feel like shit. Deku shouldn’t be comforting him—he shouldn’t even want to comfort him.

Deku has been an unrelenting presence in Katsuki’s life for the past couple days. The novelty of it still hasn’t really worn off but he’s at least resigned himself to this new reality. Deku clearly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and Katsuki’s decided he can’t keep avoiding school. He’ll have to make it through the day with Deku tagging along the entire time.

Katsuki heads to the bathroom to freshen up and change for class. Deku may just be a figment of his own mind but it still feels weird to change in front of him. Katsuki normally goes to bed naked because he runs hot when he sleeps, but ever since Deku’s arrival he’s been wearing a tank top and sweatpants. It’s been killing him. He washes his face and throws on his uniform before exiting the bathroom to see Deku waiting on the bed right where he left him. Deku looks up and his big green eyes get even bigger when he sees Katsuki.

“Woah, what uniform is that, Kacchan? You look so grown up!” Deku jumps off the bed to stand in front of him. The sudden closeness turns Katsuki’s face the slightest shade of pink and he takes a step back. He’s not used to the attention anymore.

“It’s—” He’s not sure if he should say it. Going to UA was such a sore spot for both of them, especially...near the end. He recoils at the thought but follows through with what he was going to say anyway, “It’s UA’s uniform.”

Katsuki didn’t even want to go to UA after Deku’s death. He didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything, really. But in his unwavering confidence that he would be accepted, he hadn’t applied to any backup schools. And dropping out wasn’t an option as long as Mitsuki had anything to say about it. When it came time for the entrance exam, he did the bare minimum to be accepted and that more or less set the standard for his academic performance in the years since.

Deku smiles, his eyes soft and reminiscent, “Of course. I should've just known. You’re amazing, Kacchan, of course you got into UA.”

Katsuki sets his jaw. There’s that easy praise again that Deku offers up so willingly. It makes Katsuki want to curl into himself and disappear. He doesn’t deserve such enduring praise, especially from Deku—he never wanted to hear Deku speak kindly of him ever again. He hates his brain for doing this to him. Clearly his mind has manifested Deku as some sort of self-soothing tactic, a coping mechanism to force Katsuki into a sense of closure. He doesn’t want closure, dammit. He wants it to hurt and he wants it to keep hurting until he feels he’s reached a satisfying penance for what he’s done.

“I’m gonna be late for class,” Katsuki says, eyes sliding to the door because he can’t bring himself to keep maintaining eye contact with Deku. He leaves the room and isn’t surprised when he hears Deku follow close behind him.

--- --- ---

Katsuki takes his seat behind Hagakure and stares at his desk to wait for class to start. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Deku shuffle his feet awkwardly before crouching down to the right of Katsuki’s desk.

“I don’t wanna be in anyone’s way of seeing the board,” Deku explains even though he didn’t ask for an explanation. Idiot, Katsuki thinks, no one else can see you except me.

At that moment Aizawa enters the room followed by Shinsou. Aizawa reprimands him about being on time and the purple-haired boy with tired eyes apologizes and takes his seat behind Katsuki. Deku stares at Shinsou for a long moment and then leans in towards Katsuki.

“Is that guy alright? He looks really exhausted.” Deku asks.

Katsuki narrows his eyes and keeps them trained on the glossed wood grain finish of his desk. He tries to focus on whatever mundane assignment Aizawa is blathering on about but he’s hyper aware of the person sitting behind him. Shinsou leans forward slightly in his desk—just as Katsuki anticipated he would—and whispers lowly.

“Nice of you to join us, Bakugou. Did you enjoy your vacation?”

Katsuki’s shoulders tense slightly but he manages to keep his hands from curling into fists by laying his palms flat on his desk. Deku looks passively between the two boys, unsure of what to make of the interaction. There was nothing much to say about it, really. Just your garden variety bullying, nothing like the hell Katsuki had put Deku through back in the day. Katsuki endurs it knowing that Deku once had to endure far worse...until the day he couldn’t anymore.

It wasn’t like Katsuki just woke up one day and started treating Deku like shit. They had been close as children, best friends even. It was a gradual shift that started in fifth grade and only got worse in middle school, starting with that dumb nickname Katsuki had been so proud of when he first came up with it. He puffed out his chest when the other boys snickered at Deku’s expense.

Now when Katsuki looks back on it, the part of the memory he focuses on is the absolutely shattered look on Deku’s face as the other boys laugh. His huge green eyes warped as they filled with giant crocodile tears that spilled over his freckled cheeks, hands fisted in the hem of his grade five uniform. It breaks Katsuki’s heart. In hindsight, it broke his heart back then too and he apologized to Deku once he was sure the other boys weren’t around.

It was the kind of shitty playground bully behavior you’d expect from a brat who was just trying to fit in. Katsuki was a perceptive kid. He was acutely aware of the way the other kids flinched and started to pull away from him after his quirk manifested. They were afraid. At the same time, Deku was also being singled out and made fun of for his quirklessness. The best solution that Katsuki’s childish brain could come up with was to blend into the group making fun of Deku. He always felt ashamed of that decision, but after a while it felt like there was no way to go back to how it used to be. Katsuki’d already fucked up too much.

The sound of the bell jolts Katsuki from his thoughts and he gets out his reading materials for the next class. English with Present Mic. For the past two weeks they’ve been reading and discussing Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Katsuki had diligently followed along with the reading assignment but often caught himself wondering how this Victorian melodrama was supposed to help them become better heroes. He idly flips through the tabbed pages of his copy of the book to refresh his memory while he waits for the teacher to arrive. Next to him, Deku leans over to rest his chin on the desk and watches the pages flip with mild interest.

“I don’t know why you bothered reading,” Shinsou scoffs, and reaches forward to chop Katsuki’s head with the spine of his own book, “I bet it all went right over that little blond head.”

Katsuki doesn’t react but his grip tightens on the book. Deku shoots up to a standing position next to him and Katsuki whips his head to the side to stare up at the angry look on Deku’s freckled face.

“That’s so mean! You can’t talk to Kacchan like that!” Deku yells.

Shinsou follows Katsuki’s gaze and lets out a short laugh, “What’re you staring at, freak?”

Just then the classroom door slides open and Present Mic steps in, “Is everyone jazzed about reading some English literature?!”

The class is silent and Present Mic walks to the podium and makes a show of organizing all his notes.

“Our last jam session ended right in the middle of Heathcliff dramatically pledging his love!!” Present Mic clasps his hands together and raises one leg off the ground in a romantic pose, “Who wants to finish out the paragraph and jumpstart this rap?!”

“I think Bakugou wants a turn,” Shinsou says with a sneer, “He’s been gushing about it all morning.”

“I appreciate the enthusiasm for Victorian literature, Bakugou!! Top of page 198, take us away!!” Present Mic says and slides back to the podium to shuffle through his notes.

Deku is glaring at Shinsou but Katsuki reluctantly stands up from his desk and clears his throat, “Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you—haunt me then. The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe.” Katsuki’s voice started off monotone but as he continues to read on his voice gets shakier and he starts to mumble, “I know—”

“Sensei, I can’t hear what Bakugou is saying because he’s mumbling,” Shinsou says.

“You’re sitting right behind him!” Deku grumbles out.

“Bakugou, you have to speak clearly so your classmates can pick up what you’re putting down!” Present Mic says.

Katsuki lifts the book closer to his face, the paperback crinkling in his iron-tight grip. He continues, “I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you. Oh, god. It is unutterable. I cannot live without my life. I cannot live without my soul.” Katsuki stands stunned by what he’s read for a moment before slowly sinking back down into his seat.

The parallels between Heathcliff’s situation and his own are not lost on Katsuki. He hadn’t really entertained the idea of an actual haunting. It sounds ridiculous, but as he glances to the side to see Deku clapping uselessly for his performance, he can’t help but wonder. Is Deku a ghost? Back from the dead to haunt his murderer? If he is, Katsuki thinks, he’s doing a really shitty job.

“Couldn’t help but notice a distinct lack of enthusiasm with that reading, Bakugou! A reminder to all you listeners out there: you gotta play the part!! Heathcliff is one passionate cat!”

Katsuki tunes out the rest of Present Mic’s lecture in favor of sinking lower in his seat. He just wants this day to be over. Shinsou’s been more unbearable than usual and Deku’s presence hasn’t helped the situation. It’s hard to concentrate.

“Great job, Bakugou,” Katsuki startles at the sound of Shinsou’s voice right next to his ear, “You really proved me wrong. This whole time I thought you were illiterate.”

Katsuki leans forward in his seat to put some distance between himself and Shinsou. He hunches his shoulders and tries to tell himself it’s not a big deal. Shinsou is small potatoes compared to the shit Katsuki himself used to do to Deku.

“Kacchan, do something!” Deku says next to him, “He’s being a jerk and you’re just sitting there and taking it!”

Katsuki stays silent and fixes his gaze firmly on his desk again. Deku looks back at Shinsou, his face scrunched up in frustration.

“I won’t let you bully Kacchan! He’s a way better person than you’ll ever be in your whole miserable life! I can’t believe you’re in the hero course—”

“Shut up!” Katsuki yells out loud before he has a chance to register what a mistake it is. His hands are suddenly empty and Katsuki looks down at the pile of ash on top of his desk. He made the book explode on accident. The room is silent and Katsuki looks around frantically. Everyone is staring at him.

“Excuse me,” Katsuki mutters out and grabs all of his stuff to quickly exit the room. Deku follows behind without a word until they’re safely in the hallway.

“Sorry, Kacchan…” Deku says. His voice is small, like a child being reprimanded.

Katsuki says nothing. He just keeps walking and because silence makes Deku babble nervously, he starts talking again.

“I just couldn’t stand there and let him bully you. I don’t understand why you didn’t say anyth—”

Katsuki whips around to face the green-haired boy who was following so closely he has to stagger back a couple steps to account for the abruptness. “It’s no worse!”

“Huh?” Deku says, confused.

“It’s no worse...than what I—” Katsuki clenches his fists at his sides, digs his nails into his palms until the pain forces him to continue speaking, “The things I did to you.”

“Kacchan…”

Katsuki notices some students over Deku’s right shoulder, whispering and pointing in their direction. From their perspective, Katsuki looks like he’s talking to himself like a lunatic. He groans and turns around to continue his brisk pace back to the dorms.