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Fuselage

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The grass was soft beneath him. The air sweet and hot. Sweaty palms itched against cotton fabric clenched against his stomach. Breathing fell out of sync with the boy beside him as a plane flew overhead; the trail narrow and fanning out further away against a cobalt sky.

“It’s so cool.” Jin whispered, hand closest to Katsuki raising lazily to trace the chemtrail. “I wouldn’t want to fly…”

“Chicken shit.” Kastuki smiled.

“Am not.” Jin’s hand fell quietly, the grass smothering the thud, skin brushing skin.

Katsuki nearly jumped out of his skin at the electricity. Red eyes widened, blinked, breath sped faster, sweat gathered as he dared not move his hand from where their skin touched. It was stupid, silly. God he knew it was. They wrestled and sparred all the time. They tumbled and rolled and swam naked in their special creek.

What had changed this summer? His body twitched, his eyes squeezed shut when they couldn’t bare to be open any longer. Did Jin feel it too? Lids clenched tighter to avoid looking. Fire raced as fingers twitched against his palm. Jin’s hand was soft, Katsuki knew without looking that his friends skin would be tan against his own pale complexion, that the scar along the back of his hand would be silvery white, that his nails would have dirt embedded underneath. 

The same hands they had always been. The same person beside him that had always been there even when everyone else had drifted away. So why-? Heat raced like lava as Jin’s words fell deaf against the roar of blood in Katsuki’s ears. Eyes fell open as the new emotion reached a pinnacle.

“C’mon!” The blond flew to his feet in a leap, rolling first to his shoulders and pouncing, contact broken, restless energy zipping through his blood like fire. “I’ll race you to the train tracks!”

Icy blue eyes grinned in challenge, “You’re an idiot!”

"I'm winning!" Katsuki yelled back, taking a leap over the rail; ballast and sleepers falling away under orange canvas sneakers.

Behind him rocks slid and he heard Jin shout a curse, tossing a rock he scooped from where he tripped.

"Missed, you fucker!" Katsuki crowed, eyes glued on the railroad crossing sign.

Wind blew in his face, the sun beat down mercilessly. His eyes shifted upwards as another plane rumbled overhead. This was freedom. This was almost like flying.

Almost .

His heart pounded as they neared the bridge, beyond that the hill. Their hill. His hill. Already he could see the trail from where they’d rolled down countless times this summer; grass crushed and the ground worn into a large groove. Katsuki could feel his feet lifting off the Earth. He could feel the air encompassing him. He could feel that moment of weightlessness and true freedom. He could see the bottom where he would be tangled, legs in arms in shoulders, with Jin. With the boy who made his heart race and blood combust.

Katsuki allowed a look back, steps slowing. Black hair pulled back. Face flushed, grin wide, eyes glimmering, front tooth chipped from when they'd tried to jump their bikes like the street riders they'd seen last summer after staying out too late.

Eyes met.

Red against blue.

Katsuki's world shook. Immediately he snapped around, legs churning harder, chest burning as his bones vibrated.

Is that it? He couldn't breathe. Is that love?

He couldn't think for the way his world was trembling.

"-suki!" Jin's fist tangled in the back of his shirt and he yanked. "Train!"

"Oh shit…" Katsuki slowed for a minute to register.

Nowhere to go but forward. A wild grin lit his face, madness touched his eyes. He grabbed Jin's hand, the warmth sparked and consumed him again at the contact.

"Run!"

He ignored the startled, terrified protested rolling off too pale lips, he closed his eyes against too wide blue eyes.

God, if we make this I'll tell him . Katsuki swore, feet moving so fast the ballasts and sleepers were nothing more than blurs in his vision; one indistinct color moving beneath him. God if we make the end of the bridge I'll stop cursing. Feet thudded unevenly in a rapid staccato that neither could hear. Almost there. Almost there.

The vibration was a rumble that rattled their bones so violently Katsuki wasn't even sure they were moving anymore. 

God, if we make this I'll start honoring my parents! One foot, another. White tennis shoes fell in patterns to the orange.

A horn blared so loud Katsuki couldn't breathe for it.

I'M HERE AND I'M GOING TO SMEAR YOU INTO A BILLION PIECES IF YOU DON'T MAKE WAY

He was sure he screamed ‘fuck’ but he couldn't catch his breath anymore. His lungs were shaking inside of his ribs. He couldn’t breathe for the way the train thundered down on him. 

Ten steps. Ten steps and they'd be safe. Eight. Five. Three.

"JUMP!" Katsuki leapt, pulling Jin.

They jerked. He went down hard. The beautiful weightless moment broken in a jarring collision with the ground. Feet tangling in a torso. In a fast, painful tumble he saw Jin following just behind, vision jumping and sloppy in a blur. The hill, the grass, the train flying past just barely missing them.

We're safe. A harsh breeze from the train buffeted their fall as the scenery repeated; Jin, hill, grass, train, Jin.

Finally Katsuki rocked to a stop at the bottom, body sore, catching Jin as he slammed hard into Katsuki’s stomach, arm swinging madly to catch the blond upside the face in a violent smack. Katsuki hissed but was too stunned watching the train pass to be upset, heart ramming in his chest as the train cars passed.

"Seconds. Holy sh-" He swallowed hard. "Jeez." A hysterical laugh. "Rough landing, eh?" He smacked Jin’s arm with rough skinned knuckles, smearing blood on his friends shirt.

Jin was still. Shock probably, usually not one for riskier endeavors. Katsuki felt a little guilty for goading him.

“Hey, I mean, I know I shouldn’t have…” Eyes raked from where his hand rested solid, gripped around ribs to trail over shoulders, scrape over twisted tendons, bruised flesh, snapped bone.

A scream. The body fell as feet pushed him away as quickly as they could. The heat of the day peeled away to the frigid cold of terror, sweat chilling him to the bone. Jin’s face turned around so it sat nearly completely in the wrong direction. The screaming was coming from him. Katsuki slapped a hand over his mouth but still he couldn’t manage to catch his breath. It came quick, shallow.

In, in. Out, in, in, out. In, in, in, in, in, in. 

Katsuki peeked up from between his knees, hands fisted in his hair, vision weaving in and out of darkness to rest on the face twisted nearly completely backwards. That mouth he had caught himself wondering about kissing was frozen open. That chipped tooth peeked out. Freckles and skin. The only real giveaway was the growing wet patch on Jin's shorts and the blue eyes that stared without blinking, without seeing.

And his head. His head twisted nearly backwards.

Katsuki couldn’t make sense of it. They’d made that jump a million times, ever since elementary school. It had been their area. Their jump. It was tradition. Even racing the train wasn’t new. What had gone wrong? What did he do wrong?

Rising to trembling knees Katsuki looked around, helpless. No one around for at least a mile. Did he leave Jin here? How could he - and risk letting the wild animals get to the body? Desecrate his- 

God and he had been about to… 

Tentative his finger reached out. Jin’s skin was still soft and warm. Immediately Katsuki had to step away, striding to taller grass to empty his heaving stomach.

“You…” Trembling knees rocked as unsteady feet led him back to the unmoving corpse of the boy he’d been about to confess to. “You can do this.” 

He breathed deep, using his shirt to cover the mess and heaving the body over his shoulders. Not looking, not thinking. Unable to cross the tracks again.

Chapter Text

“Bakugou Katsuki!” The voice cackled over the speaker.

“What Mom?” He snapped back, fingers tapping agitated on the steering wheel. “The blue tooth isn’t great on this road.” He amended quickly to cover his tone. “This place really is the fucking boonies.”

He heard the growl in her voice and winced as her voice snapped sharp. “Don’t use that tone with me you ungrateful little-”

“Did you really have to move again?” His dad cut in, voice steady and calming as always between the two. “Even further away this time?”

“I-” Katsuki breathed deep, voice shaking. “They were bringing the train station to my apartment window and this guy at the airstrip started-” Silence as he struggled with words; always struggled. “He was… Y’know, fuckin’- Christ!” He could feel the sympathy over the speaker, smothering the car. “Goddamnit!” His fist slammed against the dash as his foot slammed on the brakes. “I’m not fragile, you don’t have to fucking tiptoe!”

“We’re just worried you won’t settle down ever if you’re always afraid of meeting things head on.” Masaru explained. “And now you’re going to this… well-”

“This village!” Mistuki screeched. “It’s a village. I’d be shocked if they don’t still wear traditional kimonos and worship old youkai Gods and-”

“Mistu.” Katsuki’s father scolded. “Don’t be like that. Will you still be able to speak with your therapist?”

“Yeah.” Katsuki huffed, eyes scanning over the mountain road to read the signs directing him. “I’ve got the internet set up so we can video chat. The house is all set up, movers were there last night according to the email. My plane should be at the hangar already, I spoke with the owner - she’s a real fuckin’ chatter box.” that didn’t bode well in Katsuki’s gut, but he didn’t bring that up. “The whole place is really small and the best part is...”

His voice trailed off as he took in the mountain side. The colors of early spring consuming the old Japanese styled homes poking out from the mostly naked budding and blooming tree tops. The road had narrowed to a roughly paved one lane. People were watching him drive by now, his trailer bouncing behind his small, old truck. He nodded at an old man sitting on a fold out chair in front of his shop who watched him drive past without blinking. 

“The best part?” Mistuki was quiet, gentle but prodding.

Katsuki let go of the breath he’d been holding. “It’s really peaceful here.” He rolled down his window as he slowed, glancing at the map on his phone screen and turning. “I’m almost at my place. I’ll talk to you later-”

“Katsuki, later isn’t in two weeks again is it?”

Silence followed the question.

“I’ll talk to you later.” He ended the call as he drove past a moss covered jizo statue, eyes rolling at the stone he ignored the goosebumps that covered his skin. “God they really do fucking worship youkai Gods. Fuck me.”

The driveway to his house was exaggerated, but he had wanted that. Katsuki sat in the car for a minute, not looking. Just breathing as shaking hands killed the motor.

It’s just a house. He leaned back, closed his eyes. Just a small one bedroom. Clammy fists clenched on denim thighs. It’s just a small one bedroom house- He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t swallow. His throat was getting tight, there was a lump right there at the base of his tongue getting bigger. An image of the Jizo statue bloomed behind closed lids.

Frantic Katsuki pulled his cell phone from the cup holder beside him. Breathebreathebreathebreathe.

In. Out. In. Out. In-

"Hey, Pilot!"

"JESUS FUCKING SHIT!" The phone launched across the truck cab.

A bellowing female laugh accompanied the pounding on his roof. His chest was too tight and still he couldn’t swallow past the back of his mouth. 

"I-I am so sorry!" She wheezed, wiping at her eyes.

"Yeah, you fucking sound like it, Raccoon Eyes." Katsuki snapped, whipping his car door open half hoping to catch her with it. "The fuck’s with the black sclera anyway?" He scowled down at her, arms crossing over his chest.

"Contacts." She breathed slow and shaky, grin still solidly in place. "One of the boys in town is training to become a tattooist. Once he's better I'll get them done for real."

"Freak." He muttered. "The hell you doing at my house?"

"I own the airstrip, jackass. Or don’t you remember the sweet sound of my voice?" A hand rested on cocked hips draped with loose pants, clawed neon nails pointed threateningly, "You wanna park your plane on my property you shape up your attitude, Sunshine."

"Then don't act like you own my damn place." Katsuki rolled his shoulders, turning towards the house.

His house.

"Technically, I do." She preened.

Katsuki glanced over his shoulder to see the bright pink hair following him. Biting back a groan he unlocked the door, but couldn't step inside. Raccoon Eyes pulled up beside him, resting a muscled arm on his shoulder, bangles clinking. An uncomfortable moment passed. Katsuki was aware he was sweating far more than the Spring weather called for.

"You going in, Chief?"

"Eat a dick Shitshow." He snapped back, running a hand over his face. "You own this town?"

"Eh. My moms family technically." She moved inside the doorway, kicking her shoes off and wandering beyond his vision as she spoke. "I’m Mina, by the way. Ashido." She waved her hand, nails glowing faintly from within. "My cousin's in America for college right now but his family owns most of the mountain side actually. I helped the movers set up your furniture." The sound of curtain rings clinked as heavy fabric was shoved aside and light brightened the darkness beyond.

Katsuki stepped inside, slowly peeling off his shoes. He swallowed. He could swallow again. That was good. That was an improvement. It was going faster than last time.

"I tried to set it up guessing your personality on the colors and items but everything was so…"

Dead . He knew, head falling against the wall he waited for… something. Anything.

"It's so impersonal." More curtains opened, more light. "Like you looked in a magazine and just ordered from the picture. So I went with the most feng shui. Now that I've met you I know you need it." She laughed again, returning to the entryway and waiting for him.

"God you talk a lot." Katsuki managed his best glower as he swung his gaze to her, looking in her direction but not at her, not meeting her eyes. "Did it ever dawn on you I came out to the middle of Bumfuck Nowhere to get away from people like you?" He sneered as he shouldered past.

"You're a real jackass, Sunshine."

"Don't take the hint well do you?" The growl was there, the frown, the hostility rolling off him in waves.

"It's a family thing." The shrug was in Mina's tone. 

He didn't respond, wandering the small traditional house instead. Despite the lack of color and personality in his furniture it was arranged to look comfortable. Welcoming. He ran a hand over the too modern couch, gaze locked on the glass table.

"It doesn't suit."

Mina plopped onto the grey microfiber leather. "It's artistic juxtaposition." She justified, just as neon toes wiggled.

They probably glow too. Katsuki couldn't stop the way his lip curled.

Her deep breath pulled his gaze from the garish nails. "There was one box we didn't touch. It's in your bedroom-"

The world tilted. Everything was wrong again. Everything was perverse and incorrect and too big and too bright and too dark. Why was there a stranger in his mother fucking HOUSE ?!

"Get out." Katsuki stood, moving around the couch. Hand clasping around a bicep. "Did you look inside it?"

“Oi, hey-” Fingers struggled against the vice grip as he hauled her up. "N-no, no!” they paused as unseeing eyes glared at her.

Hellfire and rage was all she could see.

“W-well-” Mina laughed, but there was no mirth in it. It was too high pitched, too fast - stumbling out of her chest like water falling down rocks. “I mean, just a peek to-"

His grip tightened till she winced as he hauled her along again, more dragging than allowing her to walk. "H-hey!" She gasped, stumbling as he pulled her past the entryway and out the door. "H-hey! My shoes!"

Katsuki ducked back inside the darkened doorway to reappear with the neon and black sneakers. With a flick of his wrist moments later her etnies followed out the door, one pegging his car, the other narrowly missing Mina.

"What the fuck is your issue you asshole?!"

Katsuki couldn't explain. He didn't know how. It was hot and dark, suffocating, welling. It was wrong. All this was wrong. This is what he drove so far away to escape. This is what he had been trying to… to what? Run away from? Escape? Live in solitude with? What was he doing?

Hands pressed to his temples. Fuck if he fucking knew what the fuck he was doing.

"GET OFF MY PROPERTY!" He screamed past the surge of emotion, slamming the door.

Not waiting to watch her leave Katsuki spun on a socked heel. He couldn’t run to his car to grab his phone. Or his laptop. Stupid to have let her come in with him. He should have known, he should have thought ahead. He should have-

Images of ashes knocked over, of a picture frame cracked, of a snapped neck; the memory of how heavy a 14 year olds body became after carrying it for an hour and the way it had begun to stink in the summer heat-

“Stop.” Katsuki whispered, shaking his head as he jumped off a foot to run through the hall, slipping on the wood floor and banging his head off the wall. 

Sliding back to his feet he ran through the rooms until he found the one with the bed, box sitting on top of the blankets waiting to be seen. Cold. It was cold. Heavy and dark and-

Slowly he crossed the room. Katsuki wasn't fooling himself. He could feel the darkness calling him, pulling him in. But it was calming too. This is what was familiar, this is what he deserved. This was where he belonged. Falling to his knees he grabbed the box, pulling it to him, tucking it to his chest as he buried his face in the mattress.

"Fucking weird ass new guy." Mina squinted through her cupped hands, watching him cry over the box. "Yeah he's hot in a kind of dick way. If you like the type that'll murder you in your sleep if you snore."

She sighed, falling away from the window. "No, he didn't hurt me too bad. I'm a little bruised. I shouldn't have invited myself in. Fucker threw my etnies." Mina readjusted her cellphone. "I don't know why you sold him the house when there was that one offer-" She sighed as she moved down the driveway, "No Auntie, I'm sorry. I know you're just trying to do what's best. He just seems- Yeah, alright. He is! Yep, red eyes. That’s all bullsh- hogwash and you know it.” Mina sighed heavy as her Aunt prattled on excited. “The All-in-One? Really? Haha, oh God, okay cool. Yeah, love you too. Bye."

Mina pocketed her phone, stopping at the end of the drive and casting a look back toward the house. "God this fucked up."

 

☆~☆~☆

 

“You’ve got to be kidding.” Katsuki breathed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “No, okay?” He snapped at the screen. “No I didn’t mean to-”

“What have I said about your anger?” The screen glowed blue, her voice was low and steady.

Calming. Like his fathers’. Brown hair, like his fathers too now that he was thinking about it.

“Have I done anything to deserve to be yelled at like that Bakugou?”

“No.”

“No.” She pushed longer bangs behind her ear. “So tell me about Mina…?”

“I-” He hissed, slouching on the recliner, table edge cutting into the soles of his feet, shoving hands in his hoodie pocket. “I wasn’t paying much attention.”

“Hm.” She scribbled something down. “I doubt that.” Brown eyes peered over permanently rosey cheeks. “You’re the most astute, observant person I’ve met to date. Don’t lie to avoid conversation.”

“She’s… very… loud.” He snorted. “And not just vocally.” The words came faster as he spoke, though his body remained still. “Her fucking hair is pink and shaved on the sides. Undercut. She wears contacts to darken her sclera. She was wearing dancing clothes, good quality. I chucked her shoes out the door.” He pulled out a hand, wiggling his chewed nails. “Her fingers were done neon colors, even her toes. They glowed.” He sucked in a breath. “She just barged in. She did my whole apartment. She was touching everything-” A trembling sigh. “Even my box.”

A pregnant silence.

“So she’s very rambunctious. I could see how that overwhelmed you. That’s a lot of sensory information for you to take in at once.” She pushed her glasses up, A-line hair cut falling back into her face immediately. “But did Mina know? Did she know about how hard people like her are for you? How you’ve isolated-”

“No!” Katsuki growled, “No, and she didn’t deserve it and I’m an asshole and-” A knock at the door stopped him.

“What was that?” His therapist leaned forward as he straightened, noticing his body going on alert.

“Someone’s at the door.”

“And why are you whispering?” She lowered her voice as well. “Do you think they will hurt you?”

Katsuki snorted, throwing a glare at the screen. “Have you seen me lately?” He puffed his chest before deflating. “I just…” He swallowed, hand rubbing at his sternum. “I wasn’t expecting anyone. No one in this shit town delivers and-” Another knock.

“Will you answer it?” She tilted her head, bangs flopping to the side.

“Oi, Sunshine!”

“Ohhhh fuck.” Katsuki fell back in the chair, throwing his head back. “It’s her.” Peeking at the screen he addressed the look of curiosity. “Mina. Raccoon Eyes.”

“Most people wouldn't appreciate such a derogatory nickname.” She breathed, sitting back, “However, this is a perfect opportunity to apologize.”

“Yeah.” Katsuki breathed, running a hand through his hair before grabbing his tablet and making his way to the door. “Hold up, Raccoon Face.”

“Mina, Asshat.” She shouted back.

“See?” Katsuki smirked into the screen, “She doesn’t mind.”

“I wouldn’t-”

The door opened, cutting the therapist off.

“Oh, do you have a girlfriend? Is that the voice I heard? Also I brought you food. Figured the fridge would be empty.” In a blur of color and noise Mina swept into the house, shoes vanishing fluidly behind her as she swept to the breakfast bar to pull out cardboard cartons; efficiently arranging them while grabbing bowls. “I know it’s hard adjusting to a town like this, we’ve stayed pretty rural for a reason. I’m not supposed to tell you.” She paused long enough to wink before grabbing chopsticks and serving spoons. “I would ask if you’re a plate or bowl person but after the way you treated me earlier I don’t give a shit.”

“She really is a whirlwind.” The tablet spoke up again.

“So who is that?” Mina nodded at the device, spooning rice into both dishes.

“I’m Ochako Urakaka.” She grinned, cheeks rosy, voice lilting. “I’m Katsuki’s-”

“Shut it, Round-Face.” 

She sighed, “Always the one for nicknames.”

Katsuki growled. “Raccoon eyes, I’m sorry about earlier.” His voice was stiff and pained. “I shouldn’t have- I’m not used to people and you… that was-”

“No sweat, Dipshit.” She grinned past a mouthful of food. “I can be…” she breathed, swallowed, frowned. “I know I can be a lot. But, you ever put your hands on me again I’ll beat the shit out of you.” She pointed with her chopsticks. “So will half the town.”

“That’s…” Katsuki sat carefully. “That’s fair.”

“Okay.” Uraraka nodded, “I’ll let you eat. Talk to you in a few days, Katsuki.”

“Yeah whatever.” The screen went blank before he shut off the device, setting it aside. “Thanks for bringing the food.”

“I wanted to apologize.” Mina shrugged. “I wanted to give you a chance to apologize. We’ll be working together, pilot and airport owner. Figured it’d only be right. Plus I am hungry as fuck and my aunt demanded it. Honestly usually I’d make you wander around town to find me and beg forgiveness but she’s so demanding.” She paused to reach across for second helpings, scooping more into her dish. “I genuinely wouldn’t have barged in like that but she wanted me to make you feel welcome. It’s so weird to have new people move here and she’s so picky about the people who buy property. It was between you and one other guy.”

Katsuki frowned into his half finished food, pushing the rice around. “Why me then?”

“Ah…” Mina let the food halfway to her mouth drop. “Ah, well. Revenue mostly. A pilot who restores antique planes? But also… well, you’re young. They’re hoping you’ll stay. Bring more young people to the town. And… uhm…”

“I see.” His eyes narrowed, he leaned back. “There’s something else you’re not telling me.”

“The people here are really superstitious.” She shrugged. “So you’ll get some weird looks and comments. Just don’t take it to heart. Maybe some overly friendly treatment.”

Katsuki frowned at his food. “That’s not all of it.”

Mina didn’t respond, finishing her second helping and moving to the sink. “Are you a hiker?” She broke the silence, asking over the sound of running water.

“Yes.”

“I figured by the state of your tennis shoes. Disgusting.” The water shut off, dishes stacked to dry. She sat back across from him. “I’m not leaving till you finish your food so…”

Katsuki growled, forcing a large bite into his mouth, chewing.

“Now that I know how antisocial you are I can manipulate you all I want.” She preened, golden eyes flashing bright without the contacts in, pink hair glowing under the dull yellow kitchen bulb. “There are tons of trails out behind your house. You’re lucky it’s right against the mountain like this.” She fell silent again. “I- The box on your bed. Y'know- I-”

“No.” Katsuki stood, bowl empty. “You don’t get to ask. You don’t get to know.”

Mina blinked, mouthed opened. Closed. She nodded, “Okay. That’s fair. I’m sorry for… whatever that was. And I’m going to leave now. Like promised. The airstrip office is closed on weekends so it’ll be locked up but you’re welcome to explore the grounds. I’ll leave the gate unlocked for a few hours around noon.”

“Leave now.” Katsuki racked his dishes beside hers, staring at the oddity of the set of plates. It had been years since… he shook his head, not turning towards her as he heard her rise.

“Most people say goodbye, Sunshine.” Chair scraped over the floor. “But yeah. See you around.”

He listened as her feet moved across the wood. The sounds of her shoes being pulled on. His front door opening, the lock turning, the door closing. He could even hear the sound of the gravel beneath her shoes as she walked away. Katsuki wasn’t aware he was straining to hear her until he couldn’t any longer. The sounds of company swallowed by the new noises of the mountain. The trill of birds, the sway of branches, the whisper of wind through the trees. Even the hushed chirp of bugs seemed magnified.

He closed his eyes, falling against the counter-top. This wasn’t new. This wasn’t hard.

Why did it feel so oppressive?

Chapter Text

Groaning metal woke Katsuki before the sun did for the third day straight.

“Fucking old house.” His voice was rough, his mouth was stale. “Disgusting.” Swallowing he pushed his covers aside, rising towards the windows, staring out at the mountainside.

It was a nice view, if foreign. Better than his old city skyline. Sliding into slippers and pulling a shirt over his bare torso he wandered into the bathroom, brushing his teeth, taking a piss, washing his face. Ignoring the box, feeling guilty for ignoring the box.

Katsuki moved to the kitchen, pulling a carton of rice out of the fridge and adding whatever gelatinous mess of crap he grabbed first to it. Eating it cold as he stood at the window, watching the world outside.

That was all he really did anyway. Exist. Exist out of time. Observe people around him live. The curtains never closed, the windows never opened. Like an animal at the zoo. He watched and was watched, but never was truly a part of.

“Shit.” His skin started itching; he ran a tongue over his teeth.

They ached. He hadn’t left the ground in six days. His feet were carrying him back to the bedroom. He pulled on a pair of black jeans. Katsuki scolded himself as he smeared on deodorant. 

“I haven’t even checked out the house. The fucking pipes were making noises. That’s not normal. Does the roof leak? How about the shed. Need to grab your fucking bike.” He leaned back on the bed. 

He could feel the box calling to him. He could feel Jin’s hand brushing his for the first time, those blue eyes-

His own snapped open again. When had they closed? 

“Fuck.”

He sped from his bedroom through the pink washed living room. The sun was rising. Fuck the bike. Nothing in town would be open now anyway. He could use the walk. Needed to burn off energy.

‘Way to justify it.’ He could hear Round Face scold him.

He glanced at the dark tablet sitting on his counter. “Yeah well fuck you.” He pulled on his shoes, grabbed his keys and pulled the door shut behind him.

It was brisk, the wind was sweet and soft. Way better than the city air had been.

‘Later isn’t in two weeks again?’ He could hear his mother ask.

Guilt rose as he stepped on fallen petals and gravel down the driveway. It was longer than he remembered now that he was walking. Trees towered over him, wilderness on either side. It was beautiful and fantastical. Green and fresh, dew making it smell heady and… and water? He could hear running water somewhere. He’d check it out later. Right now he had to get off the ground. He had to lose gravity. He had to touch the sky and leave a trail everyone could see. He had to become something more than what he was. He had to outrace the itch in his skin and feel the rumble of the engines through his blood.

He had to outrun his ghosts. The walk to town was busier than he intended, stopped by a produce truck and a newspaper delivery biker asking if he needed a lift.

Or coffee.

Or a coat.

Or food.

After assuring them he was more than fine Katsuki was stopped twenty feet from the town sign. Pulling out his phone he scrolled through his GPS frantically, but to no avail.

"I have no idea where the airstrip is." He scoffed at himself, striding down the main street.

It was quaint, quiet. The storefronts were all well tended, the street clean. Only the cafe was open. And mostly empty. Katsuki ducked inside, breathing deep as the smell of fresh ground coffee pervaded his senses.

"Good morning!" A voice called out, too cheery by half. "Have a seat and I'll be right with you."

Katsuki obliged, picking a spot near the front of the store. Pulling out his phone he flipped the camera, angling it towards the counter, getting most of his face.

'Something new.' He sent to his mom, to Round Face. They'd appreciate the change in pace. They would understand what a big deal this was.

How long has it been since-

"Ah, you're the new guy?"

Katsuki slapped his phone down, snapping his gaze up to startling golden eyes and deep yellow hair that had to be dyed. The barista chuckled, taking a step back, clicking his pen on his notepad nervously.

"Sorry, man." He blinked behind blue tinted sunglasses. "I should have announced myself."

"Denki." Katsuki kept his expression flat, watching his servers face shift to one of disbelief and awe.

"Dude!" His hands slapped down on the table. "How did you know? Did Mina tell you? Are you psychic?"

Katsuki leaned forward, eyes narrowed. Denki watched every movement, enraptured, until Katsuki flicked his name tag - pinned proudly to the white button up shirt. Denki blushed furiously, picking his notepad up, hiding behind it best he could.

"Right. Right." He cleared his throat. "What can I get you?"

"I…" Katsuki glanced to the menu, ignoring the buzz of his phone. "Oh shit. Why the fuck are there so many different kinds?" The panic began to swell.

"I can help make it easy, what do you like normally?"

"Spicey."

Denki paused, "Eh?"

"The fuck you gunna ask if you're just gunna look at me like you're stupid for? Spicey." Katsuki growled.

"I'm thinking, bro. Chill." The pen tapped against a glossed lip. "We do have a Mexican Style hot chocolate. I could maybe do a mocha?" His grin widened as he started to get excited. "It has chili spice in it so there's some kick, and a mocha has coffee so you'll get the bitterness. It won't be too sweet. I could add extra?"

"No." Katsuki raised a brow. "Let's just do what you said."

"Awesome." Denki was nearly bouncing. "Anything to eat?"

"Not this time."

"Cool, cool, cool, cool." He nodded, short ponytail flopping at his neck, lightning shaped barrette catching the cresting sun rays. "I'll be right back with your drink."

Katsuki unlocked his phone, opening the text from his mom.

So proud of you. What a cute coffee shop .

He narrowed his eyes at the message. It was too brief, too lighthearted. No twenty questions, no emojis, no exclamations or videos of pride.

No curse words.

Everything okay? His fingers hovered over send, then quickly hit delete.

Yeah . He replied instead before muting his phone, glancing at the time. It was still too early but people were up and starting to get ready.

He watched as the grocer across the way pulled out a stand, vanished into his shop. A little while later he and a young woman pulled out a dolly of fruit and began loading their display.

"The old man who was watching me." Katsui mumbled into his hand as a machine behind the counter whirred to life.

"And your drink, monsieur!" Denki set the cup, piled high with whipped cream, before Katsuki.

"Lay off the french." He snipped, pulling the cup over. "I've got some half-French relatives. Real annoying."

"Oh man-" Denki looked around before pulling out the seat across from Katsuki and sitting, propping his chin on his palms.

"Excuse the fuck outta me?" Red eyes narrowed and his face squished in disbelief. "The hell do you think-?"

"Will they visit you? Do you think they'd teach me? Do they live in France?" Stars were in Denki's eyes. 

Katsuki sighed heavy, taking a tentative sip. "No. And no." The blond frowned, pouting. "Why do you wear sunglasses indoors anyway?"

"Ah…" black painted fingers brushed metal frames. "I have glaucoma." He shrugged. "The blue helps with light sensitivity and reflection so…"

"Well." Katsuki took a deep swallow. "Well fuck."

"Yeah." Denki stood, mouth curling to the side in a slow, sly smirk. "Bet you feel like an asshole now. Better tip me well, fucker. It goes towards my surgery."

"Alright, stop being pathetic. We all have our shit." Katsuki took another drink, inhaling the fusion of spice and coffee and chocolate. "By the way, where's the airstrip at?"

"Mina's place?" Denki placed the bill facedown. "Leave it to her to forget to give you actual directions." Fingers slipped into apron pockets. "I can take you after work if you don't mind burning a few hours. She won't unlock it until noon anyway." He checked the clock over the door. "Yeesh you have time to kill. You could explore the town? I can meet you back here?" He pulled his pen out, scribbled some numbers down. "My cell. Lemme know when you're ready and I'll find you. I know the town a bit better. I'll be quicker."

Katsuki rolled his eyes, flicking a middle finger to a retreating Denki who snapped a wry grin and returned the gesture. Still Katsuki took his time with the coffee. It allowed him too much one on one with the voices in his head, with the memories, but it gave him something new. Something he had been missing before that he couldn't place. 

Something he might want to repeat before he moved again. Something he might try to repeat at the next town. He blinked, hand paused midair, shaking his head.

Already thinking of moving . Katsuki frowned, setting his cup down. Maybe Mom was right when she said I was running away.

He finished the cup in a too large gulp, slapping the bill and some down. Tapping the number Denki left in his phone before leaving to wander the shops, waste the day in leisure.

And the itch grew.

 

☆~☆~☆

 

"Hey, Katsuki!" Denki ground his skateboard to a halt, hair wet and sticking to his face.

"What the hell happened? You look more like a drowned rat than last ti-" Katsuki's eyes widened. "Is that a black-"

Fingers tangled in the new lightning bolt design in the long bangs. "Cool right?"

"Fuck 'drowned rat'. You're a bargain bin Pikachu now." He stood from the bench, tossing the sandwich half.

Denki caught it effortlessly. "You're just jealous." He grinned, unwrapping his lunch and popping his board up. "C'mon, I'll take you there."

"Whatever."

"It's 'thanks'." Denki managed around a mouthful. "So where'd you get all this stuff?"

Katsuki flinched before peering back at his bag full of stuff. "People just gave me… things. Food, trinkets, coupons. Are they always like this?"

The blond shrugged. "We don't get new people here. They're just excited."

"Yeah." Katsuki's eyes narrowed at the halting answer. "Another fuckin' liar, huh?"

"Say what?" Denki swallowed hard, choked.

"Mina said the same bullshit." Katsuki shifted the bag on his shoulders. "I'm not planning on staying long anyway."

"No?" His head tilted, a side glance though Katsuki wasn't looking.

"I said I wasn't."

The words were growled, hands tightened on straps, jaw tensed. Denki nodded, wadding the sandwich wrapper and stuffing it in his back pocket.

"So this big field we're crossing is where the carnival sets up." He motioned vaguely, braided bracelets falling, "Over there is where the ferris wheel usually is. We always dare each other to-"

Katsuki bristled at the cut off. "To?" He prodded after a while.

"You know what, I think you'll just have to find out." Denki grinned and laughed. "One time I got my shirt stuck. The whole ride had to get shut down for fifteen minutes. Oh man Mom whooped my ass so hard."

"So you grew up here?"

"Well yeah." He ran a hand through his wind dried hair. "I wanted to leave for college right after high school but Dad got sick and my sister was always smarter anyway. I can always go back for online classes later. Plus with my health issues…" His smile faltered briefly. "Right over here, you can just see the top of the fence, that's Mina's." He swung around, walking backwards.

Katsuki had to dodge his skateboard propped on his shoulders.

"Over there is the All-in-One Shop." He waved vaguely beyond the horizon. "They sell everything. Food, bait, parts, hardware. That's right next to the fishing lake. Fishing license is available starting in May so just a few weeks." Denki turned again, forcing Katsuki to sidestep his board a second time.

Annoyed he shoved the smaller man. "Watch your fucking bubble asshat."

"Fuck bro. You're not very charismatic." Denki stumbled and grimaced.

"I'm not here to make friends."

Denki's step paused for half a beat. "I mean, you realize it's too late for that right?"

"Fuck you. You aren't my friend."

"Mina?" He jogged to catch up. "She's hot."

"No." Katsuki felt himself flush.

"Ohhh." Denki paused for a breath, grinned conspiratorially. "Not into women."

"Fuck." Katsuki breathed sharp. "I'm into particular people."

"Ahh. A partner connoisseur." The smaller man straightened, stroking a non-existent beard.

Katsuki's fingers raced over his forearm as they crossed the asphalt to the chain link fence. The gate was wide open. Dull, uneven nails picked at ingrown hairs to ease the burning itch of nerves. Two dogs barked, tails wagging, tongues lolling as they ran up and circled, demanding pets. Katsuki eyed them before dropping to his knees, hands outstretched.

"MINA," Denki's hands cupped his mouth as he hollered. "COME GET YOUR DOGS!"

A laugh that made Katsuki cringe away from wet tongues and dusty fur peeled out from the distance. A figure emerged behind the hangars, making its way towards them rapidly.

"THEY DON'T BITE!" Arms waved.

"Fucking idiots." Katsuki whispered into the squished face of the tan and black mutt. "Oi, I wanna fly." Louder.

Mina rounded the corner, dogs abandoning Katsuki for their owner. Her hands lowered, haphazardly touching nose tips, ears, heads, muzzles. She shook her head, pink hair far more vibrant than yesterday, contacts back in.

"Sorry. We’re actually a non-towered strip." She shrugged, patting the radio on her belt. "General Aviation Airport."

"That's-"

"Your plane is in Hangar 3." She cut him off. "I did get an offer for you from Yagi-"

"Dude…" Denki stopped trying to ollie. " The Yagi? What the fuck?"

Red eyes narrowed. ‘The’ Yagi? Who the fuck is Yagi? "What's the offer?"

"An antique plane he recently got for the museum. It needs to be restored." She pulled a mass of envelopes out from one of her pockets, shuffled through it, handed him a letter over the brown dogs head. "Aki, leave it. Here's the letter. It was in the box this morning."

Katsuki grabbed the envelope, glaring at the false yellow eyes when he found it already open. Mina shrugged, offering no apology or explanation.

He scanned the letter, whistling. "A Mitsubishi A7M." He could feel the blank stares. "A fighter bomber from World War Two. Only ten were ever made. Why would he ask me? There are so many other far more qualified-"

"He's a local." Mina interrupted. "He's probably… uh…"

Katsuki's excitement faded. The letter wrinkled in his grasp. "Yeah. I get it. The fucking secret you guys can shove up your ass. You and this whole fucking town." He looked at the wad of paper in his hand. "Tell him to shove his plane up his ass and spin."

"I-I can't-"

"Yeah." Katsuki fumed, his nerves boiling over, "you can't do fucking much can you, Racoon Eyes? You're the niece to the family who owns the damn mountain but you can't do shit. Can't let me fly a plane, can't tell your aunt no, can't tell a fucking customer I won't fix his priceless antique I probably can't even get parts for in this sad excuse of a shithole town-"

"H-hey now-" Denki stepped forward to halt Katsuki’s march on Mina’s personal space.

To the airstrip owners credit she didn’t shirk as most would have. Instead she squared her shoulders and glared up into the fiery eyes, taking all he had to give, holding her tongue till it was over. Until it was her turn to dish it back. Katsuki hated that he admired that.

"Don't get me started on you, Discount Pikachu." Katsuki warned, finger pointed aggressively. "You're all just a bunch of tired extras in a story written by a mean bitch with PMS who has taken personal offense to my existence."

"God you really are a ray of sunshine today." Mina leaned on her heels, catching Denki's eye.

"I'd say he's more explosive." Hands motioned, mouth smirked under blue shades. "Like a grenade." The blond squinted at Katsuki, "so what crawled up your ass? What's your trauma?"

"M-my-?" Fists clenched, jaw muscles worked. The itch built into a burning weight in his gut that raced into his veins. "I have no trauma. I'm one of the best in my mother fucking field. If I want to fly my goddamn plane I should have that right!" He barked.

"Uh huh." They exchanged another look. 

"Well," Mina continued, picking something out from under her now pink nails, "you're free to explore the grounds, check out your plane. And I mean, technically you can absolutely fly today if you wanted. I’m not stopping you. There’s just no radio tower to guide you. You’ll be fine, a pro like you." She pat Aki's head. "Besides, the dogs would love to accompany you I'm sure."

"The fuck ever." He growled, swiping up the note he had tossed as he stormed to the hangars. Something told Katsuki he was going to need the distraction.

Chapter Text

The sun rippled over his head, casting patterns of shadow and light to dance over his skin as he swam through the water. It was summer. He could feel the heat beating through the thin layer of ocean separating him from the surface. Katsuki knew if he surfaced it’d be a sweltering day. Shadows and shapes moved above, familiar but too distorted to recognize. Muffled noises. Exaggerated motions.

They were calling to him. But he had dived below for… for a reason. For a reason. And he could hold his breath for longer. So on he swam. Deeper. Colder. Darker.

They were yelling now, but at what he wasn’t sure and Katsuki wasn’t ready to go back up. He was looking for… for something. He had lost something. The more he tried to remember what the less he could remember. Turning with a kick the water slid around his body, hugging him as he sliced through to the sandy bottom. Fingers dug through the wet muck, churning it up, blurring his vision, getting in his eyes.

The voices were louder, something above splashed in a way he felt more than heard. A shadow fell over him. He felt a tug at his ankle, a heavy weight pulling him back. Desperately he fought the thing tugging at him. Fingers scrambled for purchase in the fine silt below, feet kicking blindly. Finally he connected, feeling his attacker grunt and retreat. Curiously Katsuki turned to look.

Pink hair floated like a cloud, yellow eyes glowed, wounded and hurt. A dark arm wrapped around her ribs where his heel had dug in.

Mina? He watched the pink hair fall back, retreat to the surface.

Had he come to the river with them? The beach? Why was he here? What had he lost? What was he looking for? He didn’t know, but still he looked. The soft sand turning to coarse grit that caught under his nails and hung heavy in his hair and skin. It was dark out now. Night had fallen so quickly. His lungs burned, hot and painful but not so much he needed air. The water wasn’t clear as it had been. Panicked his fingers dug, hands stuck up to his forearms as he dredged in the sand, pulling up shells and shoes and forgotten trinkets from people he’d never met, never would.

Another tug, this time at his knees. Panic gripped him and he yelled, air escaping. Quickly he shut his mouth, whipping around, hands retreating from their place. It was hard to see, the shadow tugging and pulling.

No! Katsuki cried, No!

Again he lashed out, fists flying, nails digging in.

Hands moved to grip his wrists, golden eyes widened, the familiar black streak in his hair. Denki had come. Denki with his bad eyes at night. Denki to call him back to the shore, to pull him up with Mina.

That hurt Katsuki somehow. He looked up to the surface, knowing Denki glanced up too. Reluctantly he pulled back, planting his heels solidly in Denki’s chest. Before he could kick off the blond released him, shaking his head, hands held up.

‘Okay.’ He said without saying anything. ‘Okay. I’ll leave.’ Before swimming away into the darkness, vanishing.

It left him feeling… betrayed in a ridiculous way. Hurt. Did he want Denki to fight him? Did he want more of a struggle? Renewed vigor blossomed in his chest. Again, desperate, Katsuki turned to the watery depths. Further down, darker. Somehow the stars were down here, so was the sun. The water danced in purple and red tones around him, fish swam and still he searched. Starfish scuttled over his arms leaving trails of galaxies to dance in their wake.

He searched frantic. His lungs screamed, his vision danced black at the edges, tears fell unnoticed for the water. Armfuls of sand and stone, pebbles catching under his nails, making them bleed as he dug. But he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t stop. He’d die down here if he had to. He had to find it. He had to find it.

“Stop.”

A shadow approached; a shadow demanded. Closer and closer as Katsuki let himself fall back, watching in apprehension, in awareness.

He had found it. He knew he had found what he had been looking for; who he had been looking for. Blue eyes flashed as a star dove between them. Katsuki screamed at the skeletal form, half decayed.

Jin.

“Yes.” Head tilted. Flesh fell. Fish lurked around, fed off the body.

Nonononono. Black crowded his vision. Darkness that had been skirting the edges now encroached, engulfed. The burning turned into a deafening roar.

“You were looking for me again, Katsuki.”

No. He sped back, as fast as he could, unable to make any distance between them.

“Oh, but you were. And you found me. So stay.” A hand reached out.

Tendon and sinew, covered in mold and bite marks. Barnacles and whatever else the wetness had to offer a corpse. Jin reached out. And out. Katsuki couldn’t see anything outside of that hand. He couldn’t breathe, he wasn’t breathing.

Something grabbed his shoulder, something pulled him back. Back and up. Heat and warmth. Something far more alive than what was drifting further and further away in the watery darkness. A voice he didn’t recognize whispered in his head, deep and strong.

Wake up.

Katsuki’s eyes snapped open as he dragged in a breath. Blankets tangled around his legs, sweat covered his body now chilled in the early morning air. He rubbed at his face, brushing off the crusted salt from his tears.

I wasn’t breathing. A hand resting at his heaving heart, pounding heavy behind his ribs as though it was trying to escape. He glanced at the clock beside his bed, struggling to see the hands as they ticked the seconds away. 3:10. A moan filled the room as he swung his arm over his eyes. Who was that voice? And Mina and Denki? Really?

He sighed again as his feet hit the cold floor. No use trying to sleep. He knew what the nightmares meant, what they did. He’d only been in town three weeks and already the haunted had found him. Katsuki passed by the box, glaring at it.

“Why can’t you just die.” He hissed. “What do you want from me?” He knelt in front of it, moving to sit cross legged. “What do you-”

“And you found me. So stay.”

The narrative never changed. Jin always wanted Katsuki to stay with him. Always wanted Katsuki to follow him. The blond laughed, the early morning moon light reflecting off his pale hair.

“Round Face says it’s my guilt.” He glared at the small shrine, the half burned incense. “She says it’s the trauma.” He fell back, hands behind his head. “After everything… After carrying you for all those hours… God you started to smell. And the bugs. Do you know how hard it is to carry a dead body in summer?” He inhaled slowly, watching the light play over his walls. “Did you know I was going to confess to you?” Silence met his question.

Of course it did. It always did.

“If we had lived.” His voice was going gravelly again. He slapped a hand over his face to hide the tears from the specter he just knew was watching his sad display. “I was going to tell you that I had started falling for you. That you were more exciting than riding our bikes and racing traffic. Or flying over the hill off the train tracks.” He cleared his throat with a growl. “When I got back to school,” he laughed. “Everyone started calling me Ground Zero.” He snorted, wiped his nose. “Because I was where people went to die. Ground Zero…” He pulled the hand off his face, looked at it. “They stopped talking to me…”

Katsuki let his voice trail off. What was the point? He’d had this talk with Jin every nightmare every year ever since the beginning. It never changed. He sat, pushed himself off the floor.

“It never gets better.” He grunted, moving back into his bedroom, pulling on clothes. “It never will.” He knew that. “I know.” Pulling on his shoes. “I know.” Opening the door.

Mina would chew him out again when she saw him in the morning. Denki would give him shit as he poured his coffee, probably make it sweeter than normal as punishment. Katsuki grabbed his jacket off the peg by the door, not bothering to lock it. The gravel crunched beneath his shoes, the petals beneath his feet nearly completely smothered the rocks now. He was being stupid, he knew. Stupid and dangerous. He shouldn’t be out galavanting around when it was this dark in an area he barely knew.

But he had to do something to shake off the feeling of being underwater. Of drowning.

He had to lose the memory of the way that voice had rattled him.

“Wake up.”

“Don’t even know who that voice belonged to.” Katsuki muttered to himself, pulling up to his truck and reaching into the bed where he had left the bag.

He felt sheepish now, silly for purchasing the items but… But it needed to be done. He grabbed the plain brown bag and continued walking down the winding path. It was quiet. An owl hooted, bugs made their noises. He strode through a spiders web, silently apologizing to the creature as he pulled the invisible strands off his face and hair. Peaceful. The wind was non-existent down below, though the tops of the trees whispered ancient secrets to the skies as they danced softly against a deep blue-purple sky.

The stars were many and bright. The sound of the water off in the distance called Katsuki back down the Earth. He rounded the soft corner and approached the Jizo statue. Kneeling before it he pulled out the tissue wrapped items.

“I…” Hesitant hands made loud noises. “I know you aren’t for my…” He snorted. “My child, stupid.” Breathing deep. Fuck his chest was too hot, his face too. “My friend died.” he explained, carefully peeling the tape on the back, ripping the tissue just a bit. “I… well, I loved him. He was- my first. I-” He was surprised to find himself crying again, the red scarf and knit hat swimming in his hands. “Fuck.” He chuckled. “Fuck.” the laugh had turned into a sour curse, followed by a sob that wrenched out of his chest.

“I-I-” He curled over his knees, clutching the items tight. “For years. Fuck, I’m not even-” He sniffled, wiped his nose. “I’m not even making sense.” Katsuki unfurled, pulling the pricetag off the cap, stretching it over the statue, adjusting it just so. “It fucked me up for years.” He whispered, reaching for the scarf. “All through high school. I was bad luck. I was cursed. I killed people they said.” He stopped stroking the silken red wool. “I killed a person; two persons.”

Hesitantly he wrapped it around the statues face, obscuring the worn smile. “I remember it all.” He whispered, still crouched. “I remember every moment from it. I carried him. I smelled him.” Reaching back in he began stacking the colorful stones he had purchased. “Jin would have loved these. He loved colorful things…He might not anymore. If he’d been able to age. Hell we might not even be friends now, let alone be together still. But I-” Katsuki worked the iridescent stones into a pyramid as his vision went blurry before the tears fell again, one large hot drop after another. “I stole his future. I stole his adulthood. His whole everything. The look on his parents faces… His mother killed herself.” A shaky breath as he rested a hand on Jizo’s forehead, “Please, please help him… Please help me. God, please. Please help me.”

A moment he waited. Then a moment more. What for he wasn’t sure. A sign, for the world to move beneath him. For the sorrow to ease and fade. But it didn’t.

It never did.

Shaking his head Katsuki stood and walked off the path, off into the wilderness wiping at his face to erase the pain, the memories, the mark of the emotions he had laid bare with no witnesses and - worst of all - no change. He was going to find the source of the water. He had time to kill before the cafe opened and he wouldn’t be sleeping again that night anyway.

 

☆~☆~☆

 

The engine rumbled beneath him.

“Alright, Ground Zero ready for take off.”

“Yeah yeah.” Mina’s voice cackled over the head set. “I don’t know why you need a fucking witness you Glory hound. You’re more needy than Sakura.”

“Don’t compare me to your flea ridden mutt.” Katsuki snapped, urging the controls forward, letting the wheels glide, watching the speed rise, feeling the world around him slip by faster, faster.

He could feel his heart racing as the numbers ticked up. 90. 100.

Pulling back the front wheels lifted, gravity departed, he was airborne.

“Whoo, slow down there, speed demon!”

It was Denki at the remote, followed by the painful static of a scuffle. With a tsk Katsuki shut off the mic. He didn’t need their annoying bickering. He needed the weightlessness of the sky - the blur of the ground beneath him as he tilted the aircraft, pulling it into its first roll, then it’s second. His stomach tripped down to his feet and back up as his body rotated around his guts.

Eyes narrowed, lips peeling back as he pushed the aircraft faster, faster. The needle moved just beyond what he should have let it - just over 243 knots. Too much faster and he’d overheat the engine. Instead he allowed himself to coast above the mountain, observing the topography. He lowered the body enough to see the waterfall tucked away in the forest behind his house, the winding street that led to the main families small mansion. There even seemed to be a few shrines tucked away around the far side.

Curious he turned his head set back on.

“KATSUKI!”

Regret was instantaneous.

“HOW DARE YOU MUTE ME YOU FUCKING-”

“Oh God, Denki, chill.”

“I thought we had somethi-” A muffled sound. “Mina!”

“Oh fuck off.” Louder, “Do you know how fast you were going?” Her voice held admiration and excitement.

That’s it. His hands tightened on the joystick.

“And that roll right off the bat without losing control or stalling? Do you fucking even-? No Aki!”

“Don’t make a big deal out of it.” Though Katsuki was preening. “I told you I’m the best.”

“Not the best.” Mina retorted. “Yagi used to be- But still, that was incredible! And your plane, Ground Zero! What a trooper! Holy shit. Really too bad she’s so plain. You should spruce her up with some bling.”

“He.” Katsuki corrected. “Ground Zero’s a ‘he’.”

“No way!” Denki’s voice echoed simultaneously in the back. “No bling.”

“Fuck off extras.” Katsuki growled, “When I want commentary from B-Listers I’ll ask for it. I want to know what those shrines are. On the back of the mountain.”

“Ah…” Mina’s enthusiasm died, silence filled the line.

“What the fuck?” Katsuki muttered as he turned back to the airstrip. “Hello? Fuckin’-”

“They’re old shrines.” A new voice piped up.

“Who the fuck are you?”

“Name’s Hanta. Denki asked me to stencil you up some decals for your-” Hurried muttering. “Ah, a surprise I guess?” Nervous laughter. “Anyway, since these knuckleheads won’t tell you, there are multiple shrines scattered throughout the mountain. A few to some lesser water demons and youkai. The big ones are to a Kitsune and Oni duo that were said to have brought a century of peace and prosperity to the mountain folk. Before them was a terrible dragon who wrought destruction tamed by a demon hunter.” A sharp inhale. “They founded the village, actually.”

“That sound badass.”

“Yeah.” Katsuki could hear Hanta shrug. “I guess it takes balls to be a monster fucker.”

The laugher at the pilots choking was deafening. “W-what?”

“The Oni and Kitsune were a couple. Like, lovers. And the demon hunter tamed the dragon with some good ol’ dick I guess. It’s rumored the Kiri-ow, bastard! Uh, people who own the mountain are descended from demons and youkai actually.”

“'The Kiri- The ones who own the mountain'? Is that why Racoon Eyes wants to look so fucked up? A tribute to her ancestry?” Katsuki lined up his plane, descending, bracing for the impact of tires and asphalt.

“I dunno man, but I’m almost good enough to black out her eyes for her now.”

“Ahhh.” Katsuki shut off the engine. “Hanta Sero, the tattooist. I finally get to meet the guy Denki’s been creaming his pants over.”

“So vulgar!” Denki’s voice echoed over the mic, backed by Mina’s uproarious laughter.

“What are those decals?” Katsuki lept from the cockpit, swarmed by Mina’s mutts, busying himself with patting their heads to ignore the way three pairs of eyes watched him approach from the massive open hangar.

“I cracked you open a beer.” Denki swished the can as Mina smacked him gently with the helmet, hanging it on a peg by the small fridge by the stove and counter-top.

“Did I say I wanted one?” Katsuki snarled, setting his helmet beside the deep red one, frowning at the complimentary burnt orange shade of his own.

He hadn’t noticed that before.

“Geez you guys were right.” Katsuki turned on the newcomer to their group. “He’s hot but he’s an asshole. The personality of sour milk in a pretty package. Shame too, I have a few customers who wouldn't mind keeping you distracted from the ghosts in your house.”

“Don’t cheapen me. I’m not at your level.” Katsuki flung himself on one of the plastic chairs, grabbing the cool can, swiping absently at the condensation.

“Ooh, ouch.” Still Hanta’s wide, easy smile wasn’t affected.

Katsuki liked that. The man was long, cryptid-like limbs and smooth movements. A grace that came from awkward teen length he had grown into but never realized.

“Here.” Hanta held up the cut outs.

It took Katsuki a minute to make out the shapes. “Grenades?”

“Ground Zero.” Denki grinned, pushing his sunglasses down to peer over the lens, bright golden eyes smiling with a sharp grin. “I thought with your explosive temper and the misnomer it’d be perfect.”

“Fucking ridiculous. I’m not scarring my baby-”

“Don’t be such a stickler.” Mina rolled her eyes. “We even picked out a perfect shade of green.” She slapped the color samples down.

Something cold and tight rolled through the blond. His hand tightened over the can, his chest heaved as he struggled to breathe.

“What the hell?” Frantic eyes looked between the color swatches - orange, black, green - and the three sitting around him. “Who gave you permission?”

“Alright. We’ll get to it later tonight then. Yagi wants an answer.” Mina shrugged off Katsuki’s meltdown.

“Are you just-?!”

“Look, bro…” Denki’s hand reached out, retracted at the venomous glare. “We know, okay.” He shrugged, leaning back in his chair and taking a sip. “We know you don’t do this.” He motioned around, liquid sloshing. “So we’re just cutting out the crap for you. Just motion to an area and we’ll put it there so we don’t fuck up something important. You and Mina know about planes, Hanta and I, however, do not.”

Katsuki snorted. “Don’t go throwing in words trying to sound smart, dumbass.”

Hanta laughed, kicking out his long legs and saluting with his can. “He’s got you there.”

Chapter Text

The store was dark.

Katsuki snorted, slowing to a walk. Everything was dark.

And he was tired. So fucking tired.

Only 5:46 and he’d already finished his morning run right in front of the All-In-One. The sky had just begun to fade a pinker shade of purple. The smell of a warm day crested on the faint breeze; hung on the wet air carrying over from the lake just down the road. Curious he stepped off the overgrown path, shoes patting on odd pattern on the white-washed porch. Wiping the grime off a window pane he peeked inside.

The shelves were bare but for a few boxes and cans he couldn’t make out. A sun faded cardboard cut out advertising bait stared at him from feet away.

“Creepy.” Katsuki muttered, trying not to breathe in the must and dirt from the window frame.

“We don’t open for a few more weeks, my boy.” A hand descended on Katsuki’s back.

“Jesus!” He leapt into the air, hackles raised. “What the fuck-?!”

Thin blond hair was tied back into a ponytail, a hand moved to cover his mouth as a breathy laugh quickly dissolved into ragged coughing. Katsuki watched the skeletal man wipe blood onto his shirt, a habit based on the stains in the same area; brown and rusty. He breathed deep, groaning, rubbing his sternum - his shirt billowing out around him.

“This is my shop.” He explained, bony hands motioning, veins protruding. “The kid who used to work it for me left for college, but he comes back in the summer. Good kid. You’d like him I think.”

“No, I wouldn’t.”

“You say that, my boy, but-”

“I’m not,” Katsuki stepped forward vaguely menacing, “your boy.”

Dull blue eyes widened in surprise, the smile faltered for a second, then resumed. “Ahh, you’re the pilot everyone is talking about. I’ve watched you fly. Temper matches the style.” Withered blond hair flopped as he nodded on a comically thin neck. “From my perch.”

Katsuki took a step back to see the plastic chairs and umbrella on the roof. “Good God.”

“It’s a good set up.” Still the freak grinned, showing off pale gums and brittle teeth. “I used to be one of the best. You could be too-”

“I am.” Katsuki hissed. The fucking nerve of this assh-

The man shook his head, “No. Not with that attitude. Too proud.” A key moved to a lock, clicked. The door swung open. “Not like you are. But you won’t see that for a while yet I can tell. You’re good. Natural raw talent.”

Katsuki wanted to preen under the words, instead felt himself sinking in the backhanded compliment. He followed the ailing man into the store, covering his mouth as dust billowed with their steps. He wasn’t curious about the old man. Not really… not worried either. Katsuki couldn’t quite understand why he followed him inside the shop.

To kill time? The place looked like shit, it was obvious the sick fucker couldn’t keep up with the daily cleaning. Katsuki resisted the urge to wipe his hands off on his clothes and bury them deep in his pockets.

"Young Bakugou?" The old man stopped at the register, pulling out a dust rag and vacuum.

Katsuki squinted, head raising as it clicked. "You're Yagi."

"Ah, that's right." He coughed again, pulling out a medical mask from under the counter. "I was disappointed to hear you wouldn't restore the plane. It's-"

"A donation, yeah." He yanked the cloth from the old man. "You're fucking frail. What's wrong with you?"

"Cancer." His hands trembled. "I was in remission but they found it again last month. I do pretty good for myself considering. Family agreed I should just… let it happen my way this time."

Katsuki's hand paused. "Shit.” Guilt gnawed at the back of his mind at the thought of the letter shoved in a drawer behind a book Katsuki had started reading beside his bed. “Where is it?"

Sunken eyes rose sadly; tired, defeated. "Everywhere."

The revelation hit Katsuki like an ice bath. For a moment he could feel the world rotating around him.

"Fuck." He dusted aggressively. "Fucking fine, you old hack. I'll fix your damn plane. Fuck." Katsuki looked up to see the wasting man smiling ear to ear. "Oh shut up. You're obviously too pathetic to do it yourself."

"That is true, Young Bakugou." A hand wiped at watering eyes, Katsuki had to act like he didn't see it. “It was an heirloom from a woman I admired. She taught me to fly. I passed the skill as best I could down to a son of my own.” He looked down at his fingers. “I can’t even climb in a cockpit now.”

The sound of Katsuki’s dusting settled between them uneasily as the old man gathered himself. It was too much. It was too heavy, and what did Katsuki do with that information. What was he supposed to say? How did he comfort a dying man when he couldn't even-

"Are you always here this early?" He moved from the counter to a shelf, trying to sound nonchalant.

He didn't care. He didn't fucking care. He didn’t. God-fucking-damn he didn’t.

"Usually yes." Yagi coughed again, doubling over, pulling the mask down. "My house," he continued wiping his hand on his shirt absently, "is just off the lake. It's a beautiful view. My wife, Inko, she moved us out here from the city when… Well and her son Young Midoriya-"

Katsuki's gaze moved to the fresh red stain as the world tilted a little. “Who the fuck did you say?”

“Y-young Midoriya?”

“As in Dek- As in fucking Izuku Midoriya?” Katsuki could feel the burn ignite in his gut.

“Why yes.” A hesitation. “Do you know of him, Young Bakugou?”

“Stop calling me that.” He growled, throwing the rag down, then picking it up and continuing his cleaning. “Yeah I know the shit stain. Mother fucker. What are the odds.”

 

☆~☆~☆

 

"Ah, you met Yagi then?" Mina chewed on her straw, iced coffee leaving a trail of condensation at the counter.

"Yeah." Katsuki glared into the empty cup.

"I told you he'd say yes if you didn't pressure him." Denki crowed over the counter, dodging Mina’s straw wrapper, "Green Bubble Tea!" He shouted into the cafe, smiling at the old lady, greeting her by name and engaging her in a conversation about her tulips that Katsuki immediately tuned out.

"So how do your eyes feel?" He snorted at the swollen lids.

"How's your shoulder?" She jabbed back.

Katsuki shrugged, "Not bad. Going back tomorrow."

"Why a dragon?" She asked, her face screwed up in an expression two-parts sly one part unidentifiable.

"It just feels right." He pushed the ceramic around, listening to the scrape.

She hummed. "Talk to Ochako lately?"

"Tonight."

"Okay." She nodded at Denki when they made eye contact.

Katsuki bristled. "No." He hissed, leaning in and puffing up. "No! You will not be invading my house again during or after or before my therapy session!"

"Aww but you're so cute when you sleep." Denki walked over, dumping the tip in the jar. "All those hard edges melt away and you're just adowabow!"

Katsuki's eyes widened, nostrils flared. "If we weren't in a place of business I'd murder you." Fingers clenched and released rhythmically.

"You are pushing it there, Pikachu." Mina pursed her lips, taking a sip.

Denki groaned, "Not you too."

Katsuki breathed as Denki grabbed his cup. Fingers shot out, trapping the blond at the counter with them. “How long have you guys known Dek-Izuku?”

“Yagi’s kid?” Mina frowned. “They’ve been together what? Eight-?”

“Ten.”

“Oh my God, guys.” Hanta slouched across the cafe, pouring himself in beside Mina like darkness itself; gloomy and exhausted. The smell of stale marijuana hung off him as it always did. “They’ve been living in that shack across the lake for three fucking years. Jesus Christ.”

“Oh.” Katsuki let go of the cup. “That makes sense. Yeah.”

Mina frowned, “They’ve been together longer though. Like, a lot longer. Didn’t they meet back when-” Mina’s eyes widened, she winced, blinking slowly before turning her attention back to Katsuki. “Do you know Izuku?” Mina took another sip, chewing on her straw, squishing a java tapioca ball inside of the tube.

“Deku.” He frowned at his fingers, calloused and scabbed where the skin had been picked off. “Yeah I know that little worm. Do they come into town often?”

“No.” Hanta, waved feebly at Denki, rings flashing in the bright morning sunshine glaring through the large cafe windows.

The two exchanged a nod and tender smile before the smaller man immediately whipped another cup up to an espresso machine, no words exchanged. Hanta sighed, long hair falling over his face as he laid his head against the counter top.

“Inko gets her stuff delivered to the shop by the family.” Another tapioca ball, Mina chewed through her words. “My mom generally volunteers. Izuku used to come to the airstrip with Yagi but…”

“Yeah.” Katsuki frowned. “He told me about it this morning. The plane will be getting dropped off at the hangar next week. Parts should start coming in soon though I’d bet in this shit town it’ll take a while.”

“That’s how it goes.” Hanta yawned showing off his tongue piercing. “How’d’ya know Izuku.”

It wasn’t a question. Katsuki wouldn’t be able to ignore it forever. Denki was back with the group, he could feel the eyes watching him, the expectation for the answers. The itching returned. A weight he hadn’t expected.

They knew. The realization had come earlier at the shop with Yagi, but their innocent confirmations hit him heavy and fast.

He was sinking again. Just like he had been this morning in his nightmare. Sinking with no one to save him, no one to rescue him. Except a corpse waiting in the sandy depths to drown him too. Waiting for his unnatural death.

“We went to the same aviation classes.” Katsuki growled, hands clasping around his mug, the smell of spicy chocolate and melting whipped cream filled his head, eased the panic some.

Hanta lifted his cup to his mouth, swallowed. Denki squeaked a panicked ‘hot!’ but the tattooist didn’t heed the warning, inked fingers gripping the ceramic like it held the answer to all life's mysteries as he swallowed.

“Yeah, that’s what he said.” Mina and Denki glared at him as he wiped his mouth.

“I figured as much.” Katsuki’s frown deepened. “He went to high school with me. He saw the worst of it, the little fucking asshole. Thought he was my savior or some shit. Kept trying to…” He trailed off. “Like I was beneath him-”

A pause as the other soaked that information in.

“Nah man.” Denki wiped up a bit of the whipped cream Katsuki’s trembling hand spilled. “Izuku’s not like that. He wasn’t looking down on you. He was just…”

“He is like your whipped cream, bro.” Hanta mumbled into his cup. “But you’re like the mocha.” He swallowed, tattoos on his neck moving with the motion. “He just got consumed by who you are.”

“What does that make you?” Katsuki smirked at the dark eyed man beside him.

“We’re…” He smiled that easy, wide grin, “we’re more like the spices. We make you exciting.”

“You fucking soy sauce bitch.” Katsuki frowned, taking a sip. “I’m already exciting.”

“Eh, you’re dangerous.” Hanta sighed, rubbing an ink stained hand over his face. “I’m pretty sure you could murder one of us if you wanted to.”

“But hey,” Denki grabbed up the payment Katsuki had slapped down. “You know we know that everyone goes through rough shit. We all have our own things we went through too. Being a teenager is rough stuff and… I mean just based off what we know-”

“And the clothes you put on the jizo statue-” Mina added, looking at her nails when Katsuki swiveled an accusatory glare in her direction.

“I’m just saying, we don’t think you’re a bad guy, man.” Denki waved his hands in front of him.

“Nah. You’re probably the coolest one in our group of friends.” Hanta grinned up at a slightly offended Denki.

“Really? Mr. Bad Attitude is cooler than I am?” The hurt was palpable, his heart crushed.

Katsuki hid his grin, in on the teasing Denki was obviously oblivious to.

“Is this what we call jealousy?” Mina teased.

“I am not jealous.”

“Oh good.” She breathed, “Cuz I like Katsuki better than you too.”

Deki wilted, “Oh my God, what?”

“Oh, we’ve hurt our little bi-baby.” Mina laughed, “I’m sorry honey, I didn’t mean it.”

“I didn’t either, babe.” Hanta laughed. “You know I’ll love you more than all the other bro’s forever.”

Denki perked a little, still holding a coquettish pout. “Do you mean it?” The pout transformed into a wicked smirk as they agreed in unison. “Oh good. Because you know that means I’m tellin-”

Katsuki stopped listening to their banter as they because increasingly agitated, taking another drink. They were right in a way. Katsuki knew it. He was tempestuous; overwhelming. His father called him passionate, his mother called him stubborn. Pulling up his phone he scrolled through his apps, setting a reminder in his alarms to call parents at 5:30pm and call Round Face at 7:30pm.

And then he heard it.

“H-hey K-Kacchan.”

The commotion around him died down. His blood ran cold.

How? How could this happen in one day? How could he run into Yagi and this motherfucking worm in less than a 24 hour period? Did the universe just have something against him? Slowly, so slowly he turned to face the freckled dimwit.

And said nothing.

“I-I know we weren’t on… On g-good terms back in-in Aviation-”

Katsuki didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know how to respond. His chest felt too tight. Too hot. What did he do? This face, this painful, physical reminder of everything. Of every cruel word, every horrible moment manifested right in front of him. Everything he’d spent every moment running away from had hunted him down, chased him across Japan to settle across town; just a thirty-five minute jog away from his house.

Scarred fingers clasped and danced around one another. Katsuki remembered those. Deku had been fucking around with propellers and his arm had been sliced up in the engine.

Fucking idiot. He was surprised to find the damage had trailed further up Deku’s right arm. Those are new.

“The hell you guys doing here?” Eyes narrowed, his voice came out accusatory.

Why are you in my sanctuary? Why are you in my town? Why are you haunting me?

“M-my mom’s husband-”

Katsuki leaned back, somewhat cowed. “Yeah. Met him. Fixing his plane.”

“Ah!” Deku stepped forward, “That’s awesome! I wanted to but…” A hand moved to his damaged wrist.

Life’s not fair. Katsuki’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not gunna feel bad for you, asshole.”

“I didn’t ask you to.” Deku’s eyes narrowed as he snapped back.

That made Katsuki start. That wasn’t the Deku he had grown up with.

“Dog bites back now does it?” He smirked.

Deku strode up to the counter, “Yeah well... “ The demure attitude was back, but Katsuki could see the power underneath it, rolling just underneath the freckles and curly hair. “When your dad’s sick and your moms a caretaker someone has to step up.”

“Is that why you dropped out?” Katsuki nodded as Mina waved goodbye, ushering Hanta out the door, Denki wisely moved to the coffee machine, busying himself with cleaning.

“That and after I broke my wrist I couldn’t maneuver anymore. Not well, not like I wanted to. The quick movements ached, holding the All Might steady for longer than half an hour just… hurt.” Deku chuckled, but it was a sour sound. “I spent so long chasing after you that I pushed too hard and fell behind.”

That surprised the blond. Brows furrowed. “Chasing after me?”

“Well yeah.” Deku looked at Katsuki from the corner of his eye, hands clasped. “I always wanted to be your equal. To… I don’t know. Stand beside you. To be good enough to be co-pilot, be your partner. Be your crew. God, I was so obsessed with being someone you let in.” Fingers rippled reflexively. “But life had different plans.”

“To be fair I was pretty…” Katsuki let that trail off as he took a deep drink, the spice hitting his tonsils just right. “I still am.” He wiped at the corner of his mouth with a thumb.

“It’s not as bad as before.” Deku laughed as Denki set a cup of something iced that smelled too sweet in front of the dark haired intruder. “This is the most we ever spoke, all three years combined.”

Katsuki frowned down, ashamed and confused. “True.”

“We moved here just a little while ago.” Deku shook his head, taking a drink. “The doctors said the air would be good for Yagi and the store needed an owner and I met Mina on accident looking at planes. She basically begged us.”

Silence as Deku drank. As Katsuki let the information absorb. As Denki panicked quietly, eyes begging behind blue glasses. Don’t get angry. Please don’t get angry.

Katsuki breathed through his nose. Finished off his mocha, set the cup down, watching Deku. He didn’t have to get mad. He could fight it, he knew. Even as the awful feelings bubbled up in his gut, twisting and suffocating. It was an odd moment of duplicity where he could see the divergence of paths in his life.

It took him a moment to realize that Deku was talking as he was swirling the straw around in what was left of the whipped cream at the bottom of his cup.

“- and that’s how my arm ended up like this all the way up. My shoulder is, technically fine, but I have to take all these supplements to keep the joint working fine. If I miss a weeks worth of collagen supplements I can’t do pushups anymore. My mom worries. And-”

“So you knew these assholes for a while.” Katsuki could feel something ugly, oily, clawing at him. Staining him. He took another deep breath as Deku’s green eyes widened, clashing with Denki’s golden. “Did they tell you I was here? Did you know… were you purposefully avoiding me?”

Say no, you moron. Katsuki pleaded to his clenched fists. Lie to me. Lie to me.

“I-uh…” Deku jerked in his seat, lost for words. “I mean they said you would be buying the house. I just thought it would be best if you didn’t know I… I mean, Kacchan, it’s not like that!”

He could feel himself growing heavy; white noise gathering along his fingers and spreading up to his ears, his eyes, his head. It took a minute to clear, to realize Denki was talking as his vision cleared again.

“Look, Bakubro-”

“Don’t.” Katsuki stood. “Don’t ‘bro’ me. You lied. You lied to me this entire time.” He could feel the patrons watching him, hearing him. “You all did. You hid me away like something to be… ashamed of?”

Their altercation, the betrayal. It was like highschool all over again. Ground Zero echoed over and over in his head. Even Deku with his shitty, paltry attempts of friendship. Pathetic, pitying, and patronizing. He shoved out of his chair.

It hurt. Fuck it hurt. Is that all this was? A set up? A lie? All the nights on his couch watching shitty reruns? The mornings drinking coffee? The flights in the afternoon bullshitting over the headsets? The beers in the hangar and the walks through the woods? Was it all just to prime him for- for this?

They were watching. Katsuki could feel them watching. Hungry eyes eating every weakness, every display of something other than the layers of isolation he had carefully constructed over the last decade.

"You, Mina." He barked out a feral laugh, grin wild and wicked. "Hanta even." Why him? Why him, why always him?! “You lied and you plotted and you…” He stepped away, “Why me?” He hated how thin his voice had become, the way his hand grabbed at his chest. “What did I do to deserve to be left out like that? To be the one… Don’t-” He smacked an outstretched hand back at the blond. “Don’t!”

"Wait!" Deku chased him out of the shop, as dramatic as ever.

It made Katsuki sick. He didn't slow.

"Kacchan, no," he persisted. "They didn't mean to hurt you! I-I thought it would be best for you to… I decided that you should-" Deku growled, a hand clenching on Katsuki's shoulder, wrenching him around in the street.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing putting your hands-" A fist to his jaw shut him up quick.

"If this is the only way you know how to communicate with me," Deku breathed out, chest shuddering, green eyes watering, "Then bring it."

Chapter Text

Katsuki roared as he launched himself across the small distance separating him from Deku. One hand tightening in his preys blood splattered shirt, the other connecting with a bruised face. Deku gasped as his eyes blurred and he fell back. Using the distance the smaller man twisted, collapsed. Curling beneath Katsuki’s extended arm he sprang inside of his attackers defense, raining blows up his opponent's torso.

Each hit communicating a memory, a word, a feeling they couldn't have spoken; were unable to speak.

The straight jab to his ribs:

"Go take a flying leap.” The cold laughter echoing. “Without your plane."

A fast uppercut that nearly hit the sweet spot making spots and darkness bloom in front of Katsuki’s eyes:

The flutter of loose leaf paper raining down from the third story window as Katsuki sneered at an all but crying Deku.

Green eyes flashed in defiance as he stepped back, arms guarding his face, eye nearly swollen shut, feet quick as he fell back into a familiar stance.

Fucker’s copying my moves.

A wild grin plastered across the blond’s face as he swiped at the blood trickling from the swollen, cut lip. Katsuki wouldn't relent until he won. He couldn’t. He had too much to prove; to say. Snarling both hands grabbed Deku’s shoulders, picking the smaller boy up. He’d gotten thicker, more dense, since their time in college, but that didn’t matter. Katsuki was stronger, faster. Always had been, always would be.

This is for looking down on me.

He screamed pure emotion as he threw Deku across the street, advancing before the nerd even landed, back first, on the cobblestone road. He wouldn’t give the loser time to recover, time to breathe. Katsuki would grind him to dust beneath his feet and make him see - make him feel - make him finally, finally understand-

What?

The fist that was raised stopped before Deku, poised to finish the fight. Everything in him charged in that attack. The pain of losing Jin, the torment of being 'Ground Zero', of being isolated, of being so pathetic he had a loser try to befriend him out of pity instead of his own merit. The agony of being messed up. And now even. His victory of finally - FINALLY… He had finally…

But what was he trying to prove? What was he going to say he hadn’t said a million times before? What-

Deku looked up at him, hands fisted around the forearm that was forcing him down into the street.

His grip loosened, his fist fell. Mutely he registered that a cop car pulled up, sirens bleeping in the background, screeching to a stop as a gaggle of onlookers murmured and whispered.

Katsuki wasn't sure when he'd started crying, but he had.

Fuck. His breath was shuddering. Fuck!

"Why me?" He pleaded to a very lost Deku, looking up at him through a now very purple shiner. "After all these years, I finally thought I had found people who… but it was just because of you." He shook him a little, "You…!" It was desperate, strangled.

Wounded.

"Alright, alright boys." A tired man stepped out, shaggy black hair accompanied eye bags for days. "We got a call about an altercation."

"It's my fault." Katsuki stepped forward, wiping his eyes. "Just a-" he glared at Denki waiting guiltily inside the doors of the cafe.

He had the decency to flinch away from the glare.

"Just a misunderstanding."

The cop glared, pulling down his shades before pinning a fidgeting Deku. "Is that what this was? A 'misunderstanding'?"

"Huh?!" He jumped, "O-oh, oh yeah. I mean, yeah I guess."

"Are you sure? Cuz you look worse for wear, Midoriya." He stepped forward, pushing his hair back.

Deku took a deep breath, wincing as he touched his cheek. "I'm sure. Just… guy stuff."

"Uh-huh.” The cop crossed his arms. “Funny. There was never 'guy stuff' before this new kid came to town." At the lack of a response he pulled a card, handing it to Katsuki. "I'm Officer Aizawa. If you ever need anything call me.” He turned away abruptly, eyeing the curly haired loser without sympathy. “Izuku. Yagi's good?"

"Yes sir." Deku twitched, jumpy as usual. "He's looking forward to game night as always."

Aizawa sighed, leaning against his car. "'Course he is, he always wins." He tsked. "Get home, both of you idiots. No more of this or I'll book you for disturbance of the peace."

"Yessir!" Deku nodded fervently.

Katsuki was already stalking off towards the airstrip. He had to get away from this. From them. From everything.

 

☆~☆~☆

 

"What do you mean 'fake friends'?" Round Face squinted through her glasses.

Katsuki ran a rag over the plate again, feeling a certain comfort in the repetition of the motion. "They knew Deku."

"Ah, yes." She pushed her hair back. "From Aviation, right?"

"And high school."

"Hm." She itched her scalp with a pencil. "He was the one you bullied." She didn't wait for confirmation. "So they knew him. And..?"

"They lied to me." He set the plate down, burying his head.

"Why are you so betrayed by that?" Round Face clicked her pen. "What did they lie about exactly?"

"They were hanging out behind my back. They were hiding him in town. Arranging his… his existence around mine!" Fists slammed on the counter. "They knew about me before they met me! What did they know? Were they my friends because they wanted to be? Were they just taking pity on the poor guy who killed a kid and his mom? The Ground Zero freak? The guy who kills everyone?!"

"Katsuki."

"Round Face." He mimicked her tone, "Don't patronize me." The mock turned to a snarl as the negative emotions exploded.

On impulse he grabbed the plate he'd been cleaning, raising it high above his head and slamming the plate on the ground, letting it shatter.

Silence filled the room. He grabbed another plate, threw that one too.

"Katsuki, stop!"

Again.

Again.

Ochako remained silent as Katsuki repeated the motion, lost in the method.

The sound, the breaking, the pieces scattering. The cathartic cause and effect. No matter how many plates he smashed they would always break. People weren't like plates. People lied, people manipulated and twisted and contorted. Plates were just plates. Plates just broke.

"I am just a plate in a world full of people." Ceramic shattering punctuated the statement.

After a minute of silence he breathed, looking at the mess.

"Katsuki, it's been a week. How often have they tried to contact you?"

"I'm a petty bitch." He shrugged. "They don't text or call as often. Mina the most but I think it's more family pressure."

His voice held no bite. He was too tired, he was so tired. Soul weary.

"Your nightmares?" She stared at him pointedly as he grabbed a vacuum. "Last week you said they were nightly."

"It hasn't changed." Glass crunched beneath his feet.

"Are you still underwater?"

"Yeah." He hissed.

"Is it still-"

"Yes!"

"Are you taking the medication I prescribed?"

"Two tiny pills in the morning, two at night. I don't like how they make my face tingle tho-" Katsuki turned too fast, gasping as he cut his foot. "Fuck."

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"Oh my God, Katsuki, you're bleeding. A lot." A hand covered her mouth. "D-do you need me to-?"

"I'll talk to you later." Reaching over he shut off the tablet.

 

☆~☆~☆

 

"Fuck. Off." He growled, hand tangled in the dogs coat. "I only give a shit about this plane and Aki, you can go choke on a dick."

"First of all!" Mina's black eyes widened in rage, "I keep calling because I care you dumb mother fucker. Second, honestly zero dick here I want to choke on."

Katsuki snorted, grabbing the wrench back up, cursing at the pre-greased parts. "I don't give a shit. Take your misplaced guilt and shove it up your ass."

Mina sighed, leaning back in her chair, sipping from her water bottle. "How much is the museum paying for the plane renovation?"

"More than you make."

She rolled her eyes.

"In ten years." Katsuki finished, wiping his hands off on a rag before grabbing a screwdriver, smirking as she inhaled her drink, choking and spluttering.

"What the hell?"

"I turned down the bonus." He sat at the table with a handful of wires. "It's a rare plane, remember?"

"Right." She took a drink. "Uh. My throat, Christ. So you're, like, rich?"

"Mm. No. Projects like this are few and far between. I think your family's connections…" He had to put the wire strippers down as a wave of rage coursed through him. "Deku's connections-"

"Look, Katsuki. You stubborn, stupid asshole." She sighed. "It's really not Deku. Oh, uh. Izuku."

"I just… can't believe that." Delicate fingers went back to work cutting off wire casings. "It's too convenient. Getting the house, the gifts, the job. The… the friends." He swallowed down the lump in his throat after multiple attempts. "I finally- but of course it was just a hoax. Too good to be true. When I finish this I'll be gone. There's no reason to stay. Not-"

He looked up at her gasp, red eyes meeting far more yellow now that they were encased in black.

Katsuki ignored the way her face twisted, her hand clenched over her phone. He could pretend he hadn't seen the tears in her eyes - more obvious than ever against the black sclera. Or how her nose went suddenly red and her chest was splotchy.

Mina was an ugly crier no doubt.

He took a sharp breath, looking back at his project though he could only fiddle with the wires for his shaking hands. "Not any more."

 

☆~☆~☆

 

"Young Bakugou!" Yagi smiled, moving to stand.

"No." He raised a hand. "Don't get up. I've just gotta grab some washers and electric tape."

"And how is the-"

Katsuki growled at the interruption to his flow, fisting a hand before turning back to the counter.

"It's going slowly. I've had to dismantle almost the entire thing and I'm no engineer." He hissed, fingers tapping on the counter, catching on a groove carved into the wooden top. "It was a stupid move but I was impatient. I didn't keep things organized or take pictures so I'm having to Google and call up my fucking French cousin, but he's useless and his sister is even worse-"

"Ah, you'll figure it out, my boy-"

"Don't call me that and don't have that kind of faith in me!" He snapped, palm slapping the counter sharp. "You don't even-"

"I do though." Kind blue eyes glowed from within sunken sockets. "Young Midoriya told me about your isolation. About your first friend, your tragedy. About how you shouldered that burden alone, silently from your parents even for so long."

Katsuki was voiceless; shocked. He hadn't known that was how Deku had seen him. That wasn't Katsuki. He wasn't this strong, silently suffering warrior. He was a mess, a disaster. He was falling apart every day. A mess. A series of unraveling stitches.

"Izuku mentioned how high school was so hard on you. How cruel the children had been."

"Stop." Katsuki was shaking. He smirked, "Deku didn't know. He-"

"He saw, Young Bakugou." A chair scraped.

"Th-that's how you knew my-" Heat enveloped him.

The smell of summer. Warm grass, weathered wood, spiced fruit. A hand pressed against the back of his head, pulling him against a skeletal frame. Shock kept Katsuki from retaliating. Slowly the stupor bled away into need. Pure, visceral, physical need.

When was the last time he had allowed someone to hold him? To touch him? He couldn't remember.

Fingers slowly stroked through his hair. "Oh my boy." The voice vibrated through Katsuki's body. "How can you not see that you aren't alone anymore?"

The words were a slap. Katsuki fought the burn in his nose, his eyes felt like they were being stabbed as the tears welled. He fell further into Yagi's gentle embrace.

"Oh, Young Bakugou." His voice was still so powerful. "You've had to be strong for such a long time. All alone."

"I-" Katsuki took a breath, pushed away, rubbed his face. "I'm fine, old fucker."

Yagi laughed softly. "You are." He moved back to his chair, letting Katsuki recover in peace. "My helper will be taking over shifts starting in a few weeks-"

"What?" Katsuki's eyes narrowed.

"We move closer to my doctor when summer hits, due to my health." A hand pressed to his chest over a still wet tear patch that made Katsuki grossly uncomfortable. "He moves into town during college break." Yagi grinned soft. "It might be good after all this to have some time away from Izuku anyway."

"Yeah, maybe." Still the news made his stomach twist in an odd way. "Who-"

"Electric tape is in aisle 5, screws in aisle 4." Yagi sat back, closing his eyes.

"Oh, yeah." Katsuki shook his head, stepping back. "Right."

 

☆~☆~☆

 

The needle buzzed soft. His skin pricked, stung, but Katsuki liked the consistency of the pain at this point. It was therapeutic, numbing. Hanta had remained largely silent.

"So, you forgive us yet?"

Until now.

Katsuki tried not to tense. Tried not to move or flex. He had been so relaxed.

"You were the one I trusted most." Katsuki growled. "Out of all the others-" he sucked in a breath. "They all lied but you. From the start you were… I thought-"

Neon buzzed, a clock chimed later than usual for Katsuki. Soft rock droned in the darkness beyond the bright spotlight glaring on Katsuki's shoulder blade. Hanta leaned back, away. A soft, wet cloth dabbed gently before the needle returned to his skin. The burning drone of the motor continued.

"There's more going on than you understand." Hanta's voice was halting, hesitant; unsure. "The family that owns this place - they hold a lot of sway over us and-"

"So you… what? Lied to me? You pretended to be my friend? What was the point? You could have just-" He buried his head further to hide the pain, to disguise the vulnerability. “You could have just left me alone.”

Shameful.

"Ah, bro." Another pause. Longer. No cloth, no wet dabbing. "You know, I’m an orphan.” No reply, just the drone of the needle. “I ran away and wandered for a long, long time. Didn’t have much. Just me, some shit I stole. Got lost in the mountains. I was wandering for a while, probably really close to dying actually.” A pause, the melodic tones of whatever was on the radio the only noise for a while. “I swear to God, a spirit led me to this village. I was starving. It was winter. I’d been in the snow for a week. My toes had gone a weird purple-black color even with my shoes and socks on. And then a kitsune appeared… He. Fuck, I. Y’know. Led me to his hotspring. It was… He called me a dipshit for being out in the cold. Told me I was the dumbest motherfucker he’d ever met.”

“Yeah. Well.” The blond snorted. “If the shoe fits.”

Hanta laughed as the tattooing resumed. “The oni led me to people after a day… and they housed me, gave me a people.” Hanta sighed, “Katsuki, I am so sorry. I didn't know it would… I shouldn't have. I didn't like it to start with. You really are our friend. You weren't at first."

Katsuki snorted. "I'm no one's friend, so I can understand that."

"I mean it." The buzzing continued. "Once we understood you, y’know. The way you work. How 'fuck you' means have a good day and 'shit face' means I love you too."

"Fuck off!" Katsuki growled, stomach knotting. "It does no-"

"I know, I know." Hanta laughed, palms on the blond's back. "Lay down or I'll fuck this up."

Katsuki settled.

"But you do know what I mean. We learned your language, you know? Settled into your pattern. Yeah some days were worse-" more wet patting. "But that's just like the rest of us. I think Mina was more sensitive to it, she knew when we needed to be gentler. Quieter. And all that with Deku." He sighed, "Man he knew you didn't like him. And I think he was embarrassed that he flunked out where you succeeded. He didn't want you to see that. He didn't want to make it worse either."

The needle shut off.

"I know you probably need time to forgive us, get over it.” The water squirt over his skin, Hanta gently pat. “You're tough as nails but you're more fragile too."

"The fuck I am." He growled as Hanta taped down the saran wrap, sealing in the soothing vaseline.

"The fuck you aren't." He leaned back, shutting off the bright light.

Katsuki blinked in the splatter of off-color world in black light and floor illumination. "I don't know how to forgive you." He confessed. "I want to but… but I don't."

"You're angry." Hanta shrugged, grabbing a baggie from his special drawer. "I absolutely understand. It's hard to be lied to on a grand scale. I still haven't really even - I can answer a question if you want?" Hands jumped, “Or, at least I can try.”

"Did the whole town know? Is everyone in on it?” Katsuki’s blood ran cold as he thought about the humiliation of it; of everyone knowing ‘the special new guy’. “Who owns the mountain? Why don't they want me to know things?" Katsuki shook his head when Hanta waved the bag at him.

"Well, no.” Hanta stood. “Most of the people in town are just genuinely excited to have someone new. It’s pretty rare and they want to make you feel welcome. Of course there are some of the family here and there, but it’s not as big a conspiracy as you think.” He sighed as they moved through the shop to the back. “It’s worse because we befriended you, kind of shoved you into the middle of it. It’s our fault it’s this bad. Honestly,” He ran a hand over his face, “you should visit the shrines for the second question. That's gunna raise a lot more questions though. A lot." He sighed heavily, corners of his mouth finally sagging. "The Kirishima's own the mountainside. This town. The airstrip. My tattoo shop. The All-In-One. The lake."

He pushed open the back door, he inhaled sharp as they stepped out into the dusk air. Katsuki followed.

"We grew up with them, you know? They aren't bad people. They're fantastic actually. Without them Yagi wouldn't be-" Hanta’s trademark smile slapped back into place. "But they're powerful. An old family. Wealthy. Fuck, wealthy." He laughed, plopping onto an old couch.

Katsuki watched as he rolled a joint. "Are you really going to do your job stoned."

Hanta chuckled, then laughed. "Bro. How many people in this shitty little town do you think get piercings or tattoos on a regular day?" He took a drag. "No one else will be here tonight. Like I said, the Kirishima's are a generous family. We all owe them something. So when they ask for a favor-"

"Like treat the new guy nice, but don't tell him a specific thing?"

Hanta nodded, "We listen."

"You didn't." Katsuki pointed out.

Hanta took another drag, shrugging. "Oh babe.” He grinned, exhaling. “I do recreational drugs for fun, stick my dick in both sexes, desecrate the pure, virgin flesh of the youth, and tell stories about kitsunes and onis. They don't expect much from me."

“And are your stories true?” Katsuki smirked with a condescending tone.

Hanta replied by popping off his shoes with an exhale and wiggling all ten toes.

 

Chapter Text

"Hey." Soft fingers prodded, feathery gentle kisses followed in a ticklish pattern.

A groan rumbled deep from his chest. He didn't want to wake up. He didn't want to wake up to- to what exactly he couldn’t quite pinpoint, but he didn’t want to. He just knew life didn’t feel quite right and he wanted to sleep longer.

"Hey, babe!" More insistent. “You’re gunna be late if you don’t get up.”

He tried to shove her off -

Her?

But it was no use. Roving hands were playful as they teased over his chest, tugged on a nipple, traced over the ripples of his abdomen, snapped his underwear elastic, dipped-

"OKAY!" He shot awake, hand wrapped too tightly around her wrist.

Immediately his grip loosened at the sight of her blue eyes twisted in pain. "Sorry, Pony." He smiled worried. "Just, y'know."

"Yeah." She pulled her hand back, tucking her knees under one of his old tie-dye shirts-

His shirts? His gaze narrowed suspiciously at the garment, ignoring her confused expression and decidedly un-Japanese features. Nothing I’ve owned has even been that garish.

He shook his head, voice booming through a grin he fought but couldn’t erase, "Alright, I've gotta get ready for the first big final!" He could feel his smile crack his face wide, one side to the other.

I-I do not smile. Katsuki looked down at a hand, at the black pubic hair vanishing beneath his underwear, the decidedly thicker, broader body. A dream. Relief flooded him. Of course it is.

Then, do people sleep in dreams?

"Or…" Pony pulled her long blonde hair over a shoulder, “we could prep, y'know?" She smiled suggestive, leaning forward.

Panic seized his gut. Think. Thinkthinkthink.

"I don't think that's a great idea." He stammered, easing off the bed and around her.

"And why not this time?" She pouted, legs dangling off the edge. "There's almost always an excuse. I'm getting real tired of it. Why are we even dating if you don't even want me? Like… is it me?"

Fuuuuuuck. "No. No, of course not. I'm just stressed and you know how that… affects me." God he was grasping at straws. Could she tell how desperate he was to escape this situation?

Fuck he did not want to have a sex dream. Somewhere in the back of his mind Katsuki was glad that it wasn’t another drowning nightmare, but this was almost worse.

"Yeah." She peeked through her fingers, blushing, "I know. You said at midterms. And I know traveling is going to be hard too.” She sighed deeply, “You’ve told me how your family is more than once but… But please, before you leave for home at least-?"

A hand moved to the back of his head. He was shocked at the feel of long hair, shoulder length at least. What the hell is going on?

“I mean, of course…” He felt his gut twist.

He didn’t want to.

Revulsion shot through him. No. He did want to. Every guy wants to. All guys want their girlfriends. Every manly guy wants to fuck their girlfriend. And she’s objectively hot. And fuuuck these were not Katsuki’s thoughts. This wasn't right, this wasn’t real? What the hell was this?

“I’m gunna go-”

“Okay.” She smiled, sweet and cute.

Because Pony was. And she deserved to be thought of that way. And she deserved someone who wanted to rail her, and that terrible feeling in his stomach doubled and Jesus Christ what the fuck was this?!

Feet moved him into the bathroom.

Katsuki wanted out. This was too bizarre, being in a dream where he wasn’t himself, thinking and speaking words that were not his own. A body moving outside his control, a spectator behind a curtain privy to the thoughts and emotions of a man not himself.

A thick, veined hand turned the knob, opened the door, moved to the mirror. Sickness sucker punched the both of them. There was no reflection.

“What the fuck?!”

What the fuck?!

He could vaguely hear Pony in the background, “Are you okay? What’s wrong?” But everything was fading out now, dripping away as the lumbering body moved back to the mirror slowly. Katsuki felt the dream dissolve, tilt and twist as his alarm rang.

Bleary he shut it off, rolling to his side, staring out the window.

"Fucking weird." He held up a hand.

It was his own again. Slender, long palms and fingers, smaller than dream-his had been. Curiously he pulled back his blankets, his own body had more of an athletic build. The dream-him was straight jacked.

"Probably lifting semi's for fun." Katsuki muttered as he crawled out of bed, pulling a shirt on and stepping into his slippers. "It's getting warmer." He mentioned to Jin as he moved into the hall, lighting the incense. "You'd really have-"

His phone rang, interrupting his morning ritual. “Hm. Well.” He moved to the kitchen, grabbing it off the counter. “Hello?”

“Is that how you greet your mother?”

He sighed deep and long suffering. “Good morning Mom. Why are you calling this early?”

“You’re normally awake anyway.” She pointed out.

He growled. She wasn’t wrong.

“I was hoping to catch up. Uraraka spoke with us, gave us an update.”

“That’s private information.” Katsuki wasn’t angry, not truly. He knew they were his emergency contacts and after last weeks phone call Round Face had every right to be concerned. “She shouldn’t-”

“Well I ordered you new plates. They’ll be arriving soon.” Her voice was clipped. “Your father said I’m babying you. He forgets you are my baby.” A long pause, heavy with emotion even through the phone. “A-are you okay?”

Katsuki stopped grabbing silverware, instead sitting at the counter. “Mom, I don’t know.” He set his head on the counter, hands tangling in his hair. “I thought I was.” He laughed but it was half mad. “I thought I was. I had made friends, we were… but then… I don’t know what I did so wrong. Maybe I’m just made to be this way. Maybe it’s just who I am. I was created to be alone.”

“No.” Her anguish was vehement. “No one is made to be alone Katsuki. You least of all. You’ve done nothing to deserve this. Life is cruel and random, but you didn’t do anything to deserve isolation. I wish-”

“I wish too, Mom.” He sighed. “But I’ll be okay. I got a plane to work on. It’s a good chunk of money. The museum is paying me handsome to fix it up.”

“Yeah I saw your post.” Her tone was dry. “Love finding things out on social media.”

“Deal with it hag.”

“Fuck off, brat.”

He grinned, hand slapping the counter. “Thanks, Mom.”

“I love you.” Her own smile soft in her words.

“I know.”

 

☆~☆~☆

 

The plane roared as he coasted above the mountain, forest thick as he dipped the nose to bring him closer to the vegetation. The waterfall greeted him. If he strained he might have been able to hear the dull roar of water falling. Tilting to the side he could see the path that he knew led back to his house, somewhere down to the expanse of trees by the driveway. A few hours hike at most and he’d be right behind the curtain of water.

Circling sharply around the steep turn of the mountain was the small mansion of the family that owned the town.

The Kirishima’s.

Glaring down he saw a dark haired woman playing with a couple children, kicking a ball around. He circled overhead, looping back to watch them. One kid stopped to point at the plane, staring up at him, waving madly. The other joined. Katsuki couldn’t disappoint, that familiar burn down in his gut roaring to life as he twisted on the joystick.

If they wanted to single him out, keep an eye on him, spy on him, well then… Hands tightened on the joystick. He felt his gut clench as his trademark grin stretched across his face, then he’d give those motherfuckers a good goddamn reason.

Pulling up he flipped the plane nose over tail, spinning as he did so. Settling the plane out into a flat glide. As it settled he immediately let it drop straight into a dive, imagining their gasps, pulling up just before the needle could drop into red, hearing the way his enginged roared against the trees. He didn’t bother to fly by again to see the child's face, but he could imagine the joy and excitement as he swept around the mountain side, speed increasing as he hugged the face as tightly as he dared.

Finally the force of gravity release as he burst from the curve. Slowing his speed Katsuki peered around the edge of the fuselage, just this side of the body. Again one of the shrine clearings beckoned to him from below.

Itchy fingers tilted down. If he pitched just right he could land. It'd be tight.

God so tight. The thrill of the impossibility was nearly sexual, heedy and intoxicating.

“Katsuki.” The mic cackled in his ear, making him wince and yank the joystick back up.

“What the fuck you want, Racoon Eyes?” He wouldn't admit he nearly made a death wish landing right then and there at half-mast from the challenge of it.

"I wanted to let you know that someone is here asking after you?" Quieter, "she's fucking adorable and is definitely your therapist."

"What?" His fist slammed the joystick straight down. "Shit." A growl and quick jerk righted his plane. "I'll be there."

"I'll let her know." Mina killed the line.

"Fuck. Fuck fuck." He took a shuddering breath, thoughts just as scattered as they had been before he'd pulled onto the tarmac for take off. "Goddamn." He pulled Ground Zero around, pushing him hard and fast back to the strip, easing him to a landing; pulling into the hangar.

Determined strides led him beyond the parts strewn around the old AM7; his current shame. One of them, anyway. The flash of mystery man's life replayed in broken pieces like a haunting melody in the quiet moments of Katsuki's day.

A blush shook the various weeks worth of dreams away. That was decidedly worse.

"Round Face. Racoon Eyes." He glared death down on the women at the table, Denki and Hanta emerged from the stock room with the cards. "The fuck? We're just gunna have a party now?"

"Well." A finger planted on Ochako's chin. "You were supposed to call. You didn't. After a second missed call and a brief, worried visit from your mother I was persuaded to come and do a physical check."

"That's-" his chest picked up speed. Hands rubbed a bicep fast. Faster as eyes turned to him.

Everyone watching. Everyone witnessing another failure. Another-

"Katsuki." Her voice broke through. "It's okay." She stood, pulled him aside. "You aren't on display. Breathe. Calm down-"

"Easy enough for you to say." He snapped, slapping her away, pushing out of her reach. "What the Hell is your problem? Why have they made you come he-?!"

"You're a suicide watch you idiot!" She snapped, face immediately flushing, hands slapping over her mouth. "O-oh no. No, Katsuki. I didn't mean it. I-I wasn't supposed to-"

The chuckle leaked out, dark and wet. "You weren't supposed to tell me, right?" His eyes drifted up and over her shoulder to the group of suspiciously invested card players. "I get it. No one is supposed to tell me anything. I'm the broken one. I'm the flight risk!" A fist collided with metal. Skin split, blood fell to the pavement in slow drips. "I'm the plate."

"Whoa…" Denki poised between sitting and standing. "Katsuki I don't think-"

"Shut the fuck up or I'll kill you, Fuckface." Katsuki glared the other man into compliance. "After everything, I'm the suicide risk? After… after all this?"

She looked away, nodded slowly. "It's just based off your psyche eval." She muttered. "It's not that I think you would, necessarily."

Red eyes narrowed as he sneered and leaned over her. "Hah. You don't think, necessarily." The tone was mocking.

"Everyone has their breaking points." She met his gaze. "Even you." She took a breath. "Now that spring is over, or almost, anyway, and the weather is changing and you've been so distant we've been worried-"

"Because the weather changed." Katsuki stepped back, started walking away.

"Seasons affect moods too." Ochako trailed after him, her flats thudding as she power walked to keep up.

"I'll keep that in mind." Katsuki turned off onto the road, then sighed. "Are you staying anywhere?"

"I-I booked a room at a bed and breakfast down the road."

His eyes followed her vague motion down towards the lake. "You're fucking joking."

"Uh, no? I don't think so?"

Katsuki bit his lip. "Inko and Yagi's?"

"Oh, maybe? Why?"

For the first time Katsuki regretted not using proper names. "That's Deku's house."

 

☆~☆~☆

 

"Thank you so much for having me." Ochako bowed again, "your house is so beautiful, and that view!" Her hands clapped together as she got lost out the window again.

"O-o-oh yeah. Yeah no problem!" Deku blushed furiously, stubbornly avoiding Katsuki's mocking sneer. "We were excited to have someone book the room. S-s-so how do you know Kacchan?"

Ochako moved to the living room, following Deku's lead, smothering a laugh as he stumbled over his own feet. Katsuki growled, ignoring them as they flirted and went to the kitchen where Inko was with Yagi.

"Ah, Young Bakugou!"

Inko's face twisted to one of shock, "Katsuki?"

"Yo." He took a seat. "H-how have things-" The hug wasn't expected.

"Oh, Katsuki." She was softer than he remembered, her dark hair lined with silver, face wrinkled though it shined with tears. "I worried so much for you."

"I'm fine." Hands struggled to pry her off, failed as she nuzzled into him until he stopped resisting, realizing that this wasn't for him but for her. "I-I should have said goodbye to you." She pulled back, wiping at her face. "I'm sorry."

"Oh, you hear that?" A watery chuckle as the kettle top bubbled. "The great Katsuki apologizing."

Yagi smiled, coughed. No blood this time.

"It's alright." She bustled around the men, "Here, slice this." Katsuki grabbed the knife, adjusting the cutting board she pushed towards him with familiarity. "Don't forget to wash your hands. Anyway. We seem to have a smitten Izuku out there-"

As though on cue fluttery, nervous laughter peeled out. Katsuki felt embarrassed for the freckled idiot.

"God help me if I'm ever like that."

"No one special for you, dear?" Inko's innocent gaze missed the underlying accusation and meaning his own mothers would have held.

"No." He dried his hands, slicing quick and efficient. "I've tried to be interested in people that way. I'm just not."

"Oh." She was silent for a moment as the water poured. "Well, it takes all kinds. How does your mother feel about it? She-" Inko chuckled a little at the memory, "she always wanted to be a hot grandma."

"She and I don't talk about it." He sliced too hard, breaking the fruit piece. "Nnh. Fucked that one."

"Still good." Yagi reached over, popping it in his mouth.

"Yagi!" Inko scolded over the tray of hot tea. "You'll just get sick later."

"But I can enjoy it now." He smiled, looked serene as he chewed slowly, eyes closed and leaning back in his chair.

"Help me serve, Katsuki."

"Fuckin' bossing me around." He hissed. "Maybe this is why I left."

"Sure it is, Sweetie." She smiled, eyes rolling. "And Izuku's not awkwardly trying to make moves out there."

Katsuki couldn't help the startled laugh that barked out of his mouth as he followed their hostess out to the living room.

Chapter Text

"Disgusting." Katsuki hissed over tea three days later, catching the silhouettes of Ochako and Izuku against the setting sun.

"Young love is a source of vitality." Yagi smiled, keys twisting in the lock with a click. "I haven't felt this rejuvenated in years, and those two get along like-"

"Yeah, yeah." Katsuki waved the mush off. "Like shit and stink, I get it.” Eyes moved to weathered, shaking hands. “When's my part gunna get here, Geezer?"

Yagi sat on the worn bench, looking out over the lake. "Come, sit."

A heavy sigh leaked out as a hiss. Katsuki sat anyway, he knew arguing would be pointless. He'd tried. He'd failed. Countless times.

"It's serene." Yagi's voice was melodic but…

Red eyes shot to the side sharply. "It is a sight." The agreement was hesitant.

"Look, Young Bakugou." A shaking hand waved outward, encompassing the view. "Look at it."

Wrenching his gaze away, anxiety rising he obeyed.

It was more than beautiful. It was old, magical. Katsuki could feel it. Everything around the lake just felt… different somehow; colors, food, weather. The hues of purple and red and orange echoed in the ripples of the water. Despite being so late it was warm. There was something about it, about the hint of green on the trees, the brave early cicadas singing, the hint of summer sweetness on the wind. As though it was a place just beyond time and the hands of reality. If Katsuki had allowed himself he would sit here well past darkness to watch the stirrings of fish eating the bugs, the play of stars reflecting off the water's mirror surface. Hell, even the spring rains and storms would be breathtaking and relaxing under the eaves of the shop with a warm, strong drink in hand and another person to enjoy it with.

But he’d never admit that. Not out loud. That wasn’t… that wasn’t something he could allow himself to wish out loud.

"Summer is-" Yagi coughed, tried again, coughed harder. And longer.

That worry gripped Katsuki's chest, chasing all the lingering daydream away. "Should I get someone? Should I-?"

"Mm. No." Yagi gasped. "No, not yet." He slouched back, wiping the blood from his hand to his shirt though some lingered on his lips. "The lake, they say it's where the King and Dragon died. Their watery grave. One right after the other."

"You want to postpone medical care for this?" Katsuki stood, "that's sweet and all but-"

“Dragons are immortal, Young Bakugou.” A hand reached out, gripped Katsuki's shirt, "You need to-" Yagi swallowed, face turning red from fighting his cough back. "You need to-"

The old man fell over himself as his body collapsed in a fit. Panicked Katsuki looked for those familiar silhouettes.

Gone.

Gritting his teeth, ignoring the way his body was consumed in goosebumps, his hands shaking, the sweat gathering. He pulled Yagi back up to the bench.

He didn’t see freckled skin in place of withered flesh.

"I'm flying you down." He pinned Yagi back, arms trembling with the force of every cough that wracked through the feeble frame.

"Where?" Eyes shut too long, struggled to open. Laboured lungs rattled with each shuddering inhale.

Katsuki didn’t feel twisted bone and broken muscles. He didn’t smell rotting flesh and putrid waste.

"My plane." Katsuki stood, swinging the ailing man over his shoulders and started jogging. "It's faster."

The normal routine took longer than usual, but faster than if he'd waited for help. Long summer grass brushed over bare calves, the weight was about the same as…

And Katsuki would be lying if he didn’t feel that panic swelling in his chest.

Please! The desperate, hoarse voice echoed by the time it had reached the farming town. Please help, please help.

He could see the faces even now; horrified. The flies swarmed, twenty, thirty. Dogs had gathered, nipping, jumping. Scraped knees stung. Legs were leaden and heavy, feet swollen and numb. Eyes so thick and gritty from crying that Katsuki imagined he’d never be able to cry again.

He’d proven himself wrong time and again the very night, the following day-

“Katsuki!”

By the time Mina greeted them on the tarmac his legs were tired, he could feel the muscles screaming for oxygen - but now wasn’t the time to take a break or shy away from what he needed to do.

You think you can save him?

That mocking, shriveled demonic voice. Taunting as Sakura herded Katsuki to the plane, Aki tangling in Mina’s legs as though to give him more time. Katsuki wouldn’t answer Jin. Not this time.

Each second wasted was another moment further from- Katsuki pulled himself away from that train of thought. He wouldn’t lose another person. Not on his watch. Not when he could prevent it. Not this time. This time he would pull himself up to full height, glare at Death waving their scythe and stick a middle finger up at fate. Mina’s hand slammed on his shoulder, finally stopping him.

"What the fuck?" Eyes opened wide in panic as hands raked through cropped hair.

Funny how the tattoos don't unnerve me anymore. Katsuki thought, well aware he was disassociating as he shrugged off her grabbing hands, shoving past her attempts to body block him, Aki doing his best to climb up her baggy joggers.

"He collapsed." Katsuki finally stopping before Ground Zero, the orange and black color scheme now more of a red and purple in the dusk lowlights. "This is the fastest way to the hospital."

"B-but it could-"

"And the drive there could too. But this is faster.” He emphasized, gazes meeting in a fiery clash that she relented too soon to mean anything by. “Won't hurt him more than he's already hurting." He carefully propped Yagi in a chair as he moved to open the passenger cockpit. "Are you going to be useful, Raccoon Eyes?"

Hoisting a mostly unconscious body, even one as emaciated as Yagi's, wasn't as easy as Katsuki had thought. Yagi was tall, something Katsuki hadn’t noticed with the old man being hunched over most of the time. Limbs moved in awkward directions. Katsuki’s tired body was covered in a light sweat and flushed by the time Yagi was properly strapped into the back cockpit.

"Call Inko." He demanded as he climbed into the front of Ground Zero, pulling his own belt on. "Radio me. It'll be on. You understand?"

Mina nodded, eyes distant, unfocused as she stepped back. Katsuki watch as she gathered herself in a quick shake, turning on a heel and running to the stock room as the engine roared to life below Katsuki's thighs. Whipping the plane out he took off quick, too quick. The plane shuddered before calming down into its own power. The village slipped away below, soon only darkness and stars. In the distance was the sunset, some clouds.

If not for the underlying exhaustion and urgency, the gnawing anxiety eating away like acid at Katsuki’s stomach, it could have been peaceful.

The headset beeped. "Katsuki?"

"Roger."

"It's Mina- in, you know that. Sorry I'm nervous-"

"Cut to it dumb ass." He snapped, leaning back in the cockpit.

"It'll take them about an hour to drive down there. Can you wait for them?"

"Fucking yeah?" His eyes narrowed as he steered, listening to Yagi in the back as he coughed up a lung. “What would I do? Dump him in the parking lot and take off?”

"I know, jackass.” She snorted. “I'll-I’ll let them know. They've explained it all already. There's a spot being marked off in the emergency staff parking for your landing. They're announcing it on the radio as an emergency so…" she sighed, "so be ready for low level fame. Is he doing okay?"

"He’s fading in and out of consciousness, though I think he’s just tired.” Katsuki couldn’t risk looking back, not right now. He didn’t want to hazard of veering off course. Even a second could be fatal. “Fuck that." He sighed. "We're coming up on the city. I'm switching frequencies."

 

☆~☆~☆

 

Ten minutes. That's all it had taken to fly there but it had felt like an eternity in the encroaching darkness, the adrenaline making his ears buzz and his head float. Checking Yagi in had been twice that, the wait for Deku four times. The questions he hadn’t been ready for, or the swarm of people as a nurse wheeled him away behind security doors Katsuki hadn’t been allowed to enter.

Ochako pulled him aside as Inko and Izuku approached the front desk, hurried footsteps and frazzled faces.

Those same round cheeks, those same brown eyes. She felt like a different person though. “Are you okay?”

With a growl he shrugged off the hand. It was too warm. Too much. Too heavy.

“I’m fine.” Katsuki took a step back, then leaned against the wall. Distance. Fresh air. Everything here was stifling, suffocating.

I can breathe. He reminded himself for the billionth time, not rubbing an old man's hand or watching his parents argue in fear with authorities. I can breathe.

A couple deep in and out’s just to prove his theory. Everything tasted like sanitizer and bleach, even the oxygen. The sound of his foot coverings made his scalp hurt and teeth ache. I’m a pilot, one of Japan's best. I’m an adult. I’m a grown man.

But not in his head right now. Right now he was 14 going on 15 swimming in the designer jeans and nondescript band shirt with the skull logo he’d worn because he’d fucked them up by working on the A7M last weekend after skyping with his parents. His dad would have laughed if he could see the grease stains on his handiwork. Maybe he would have incorporated them in the next fashion release.

“-t listening.” Ochako leaned into his field of vision. “Where were you?”

“Nowhere.” He shoved off the wall. “I need to leave. I hate hospitals. All these weak ass fuckers can’t even control their own immune systems. Pathetic.” Katsuki ignored the few dirty looks he got as he strode through to the front doors.

The wind was sharper now, heavier. Probably a storm winding through to wrap up the rainy season. The mountains last goodbye to Spring. He needed to get his plane back in the hangar before it got bad.

“Katsuki!” Ochako was chasing after him again.

Nausea gut punched him as he noticed Deku on her heels in the shadows. That was a trauma he couldn’t face after....

“You two fucked yet?” The sneer alone stopped them in their tracks. With a hoarse laugh he turned, waving over his shoulder dismissive, “Fuck off extras.”

None of that, though, compared to the fucking press swarming his plane. Taking a breath, preparing himself, he plastered on his most feral grin and started striding through, letting his elbows smack people, stepping on feet. It felt good to lean into the hits, to grind his heel a little when he felt someone under the sole of his shoe.

Cathartic.

"Hey, hey!" One particularly brazen fucker with a mic shoved into Katsuki's face smiled like he was happy to have a stick shoved up his ass. "Is this your plane? Did you make the emergency flight? What state is the patient in?"

Katsuki couldn't see past the flurry of faces to Ground Zero. He clenched his fists and shoved them in his jeans pocket to hide the way he was trembling. To hide how badly he wanted to simultaneously hide and knock the bitch out.

Instead, smirk in place, he lowered his mouth to the foam of the mic, eyes glued to the camera.

“Suck my dick.”

A middle finger emerged near the appendage in question, causing an uproar of discomfort and whispers. A few couldn’t hide their laughs while most gasped in polite horror.

"Might want to make way or my propellers will slice you." He chuckled darkly, now clutching the mic, forcing the reporter to keep it in place. “Picked a good place for it though.” Gaze darted to the red neon ‘Emergency Room’ sign.

The crowd stepped back collectively as Katsuki shoved the man away, allowing the pilot to finish moving, unhindered, to his plane. Once inside the cockpit he quickly slapped on his helmet, movements familiar and fluid inside his glass and metal cocoon.

One quick sideways glance to the reporters talking in front of the cameras, all trained to get a shot of him in his plane, before he flipped the switch to turn on his headset.

“Ground Zero to Air Control.” The engine purred beneath him. God the sensation always got to him.

"Air Control here. Ground Zero ready for takeoff?" The unfamiliar voice cackled into his ear.

"Ground Zero ready and primed. Are the skies clear for flight?"

"Uh, yeah. Looks good, Ground Zero. Keep at 3,000 feet altitude for the passenger planes descending. Here’s to a speedy flight. Looks like stormy skies are here in thirty."

"Got it."

 

☆~☆~☆

 

Katsuki trudged through the front door, kicking off his shoes as he pulled his drenched shirt over his ears, tossing it in the general direction of the washing machine. He hadn’t missed the storm, not out there walking home anyway. It had been cleansing though; the rain beating down on him. Lifting his face to the heavens. Letting the clouds cry for him where he’d been too weary to do so himself.

“Did it go okay?”

“Fuck off, Dunce Face.” Katsuki pushed Denki away from him, not wincing as the body fell off the couch with a loud thud. “Why are you fuckers in my house?”

What are you going to say when you see my umbrella strapped to my jizo statue? He moved back towards the bathroom, grabbing a towel to dry his hair as he listened to the group talking amongst themselves.

“I knew it was a bad idea, you assholes.”

“Hanta, you fucker!” A sharp snap indicating Mina slapped him. “You suggested it.”

“No, I said let’s check on him in the morning with coffee and food.” His heavy sigh could be heard over Katsuki pulling on his sweats. “You guys are too enthusiastic. He’s still mad at us for-”

“Oh, that reminds me-”

Katsuki slammed his bedroom door open, “Alright, Extras. Get the fuck home. I know you took a car. Get out. Get out.”

Using his towel he started whipping at them, almost enjoying their laugh filled shrieks as they cowered and ran around his furniture. Almost like they were playing around and bonding and having a good time. Almost.

“Why can’t we just wait it out and watch a movie?” Denki complained, rubbing at a red mark on his forearm. “We took your beatings, now give us the reward.”

“Yeah!” Mina seconded, hopping over the back of his recliner. “I can cook dinne-”

“No the fuck you cannot you black eyed slut!” Katsuki snapped. “You ruined my best pan last time and I will never forgive you.”

“I-” She gasped, genuinely offended, “I did not!”

“You burnt the soy sauce so bad I’ll never be able to get the smell out of my nose.” Hanta shrugged, sprawled out beside Denki as he normally was, the smaller blond draped over him like some sort of lap dog. “I have to agree with Katsuki here, you shouldn’t be allowed near a stove top.”

“A kitchen. Period.” Katsuki growled. “I’ll cook. You just fucking mooch off me like you always do you low life fucks.”

“Aww, c’mon.” Denki sat straight, turning around to look at Katsuki moving with practiced ease in the kitchen. “You don’t mean that.”

“The hell I don’t.” He growled, slamming down the box of instant rice harder than he had originally intended, sending some spilling onto the floor. “Oh, shit.”

“C’mon man.” Hanta’s arm grabbed Denki’s shirt, pulling him back around as Mina moved to the other side of the couch, cuddling up beside him. “You know how he gets. Just let it go. He’s cooking for us, that’s enough. You’re gunna wash dishes alone if you keep antagonizing him.”

Katsuki hated it. He hated this, watching them from behind the island, under the soft glow of the lights above. Even in his own house he was an outsider and they didn’t see what they were doing. In their eyes they were including him. Katsuki understood they meant well, but they didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t know how they made him feel alone in a crowded room. In a house full of people he was more singled out than he would have been if he’d been left to himself. He cooked alone, he ate alone. They snuggled on the couch as he sat at a distance on the recliner. Even when they fell asleep, all tangled together in a pile like it was normal, he went to his own room beside the remains of the boy he had killed all those years ago to sleep in a cold bed to have nightmares that suffocated him while he dreamt.

Or to become a man trapped in a relationship where he wasn’t sure who he was or what he was doing as he kissed someone that he liked well enough to say he loved but not well enough to want to be with.

And when he woke he’d wake covered in sweat, haunted by the shadow of his nights and slowly he resented them; Mina, Denki, and Hanta. Katsuki resented them for making him an outsider in the one place that was supposed to be his refuge.

Placing his forehead against the window he gazed through the treetops to the early morning stained storm clouds, letting his breath fog against the pane he wrote the word ‘help’ as rain continued to pour down.

 

Chapter Text

“Piece of shit!” His wrench bounced off the engine with a metallic clang, ricocheting back to hit the wall with a dull thud before falling to the ground heavily.

Sakura whimpered, her tail tucking as she scuttled to the opposite side of the hangar, eyes wide.

“Shit, I’m sorry baby.” Katsuki whispered, wiping his hands off on his jeans. “C’mere.” His tongue clicked on the roof of his mouth as he advanced on her slowly, watching her head lift, ears perk. “That’s right. You’re such a sweet baby. I’m just an asshole, you’re such a good girl, aren’t you?”

He didn’t smile exactly when her pink and black spotted tongue darted out to taste the oil and grease on his hands, but it was damn close. His other hand moved to pet her soft black fur as he whispered his sweet nothings, sitting and pulling her into his lap.

“You’re the only bitch in this town who is worth a damn.” He buried his head in her neck, ignoring the way she nibbled at his scalp like he was a puppy in need of grooming, probably making his bed head a million times worse. “What a good girl. And I go and scare you like that. Like a fucking asshole. God.” A weight at his back and heavy breathing alerted him to Aki - back dew claws digging into the base of his spine like the mutt was threatening to climb his shoulders. “Oi, oi, oi. Chill, mutt. I’ve got enough to worry about with this goddamned hunk of junk.” Fingers tightened into the black fur. “I’m not a goddamned engineer, fucks sake.” His chest felt congested again, heavy, weighted. “Fucks…” Face buried in the dark fur as Aki’s tongue laved at his ear and hair, sloppy and slimy. “Good mutts.” Katsuki gruffed, choking on a laugh.

“Aww, you out here bonding with my dogs again?” Mina’s smile was audible.

“I hate you.” He growled, not moving away from them, shooting a glare up through the swirl of fur.

“You want to hate me,” Mina clarified, “but you just can’t seem to get there.” She whistled, both dogs vanished in a hurried scratch and patter of paws. “So how’s the-”

A vicious snarl stopped the words. “I need a break.” He stood, wiping himself off. “I’m done for the day.”

“Alright.” She nodded. “Well Denki’s got lunch starting over at the cafe.”

That made Katsuki pause. “Lunch? I thought they were a-”

“It’s a new thing they’re trying out since the village has received some tourism since your stunt down in the city.” A hip cocked, a brow raised. “Auntie is doing tours to the shrines again, we’re offering packed lunches and seeing a small boost in business. Everyone wants to meet the local hero with the foul mouth.”

“Ah.” The catch. “So your job is to get me in town so people can see me and get pictures.”

She shrugged, “Something like that.”

“Fuck.” Katsuki wanted to vomit.

He had come here to avoid people.

“But,” Mina stood, adjusting her too tight shorts and strappy crop top that revealed a belly ring Katsuki wasn’t sure was real or fake. “Y’know, with the town being more alive this year maybe there’s something more it can offer you too.”

He snorted, “What the fuck ever. But I guess I owe the Kirishima’s too, don’t I?”

Mina hesitated, scratching at the magenta ink swirling over the stretch marks around her toned abs, “I mean…”

“Of course I do.” Katsuki snarled, striding towards his truck, tossing his tools in the bed. “Because everyone owes them a debt. This is so fucked. Like some kind of twisted relationship I had no say in entering.”

Before Mina could respond he climbed into his truck and slammed the door closed, ignoring the heat and too aware she was standing there with her arms crossed, dogs wandering off - bored to be waiting.

He could win this battle of wills. Katsuki was the most stubborn man he’d ever met. His eyes trailed to the way the trees swayed ever so slightly in the early summer breeze. God it probably felt amazing. He started his car, aware the air conditioning was shot to hell but maybe the fan would offer some relief.

When the acid winds of Satan's butt hole came blasting out he relented.

“Fine, Jesus fucking fine!” Katsuki stumbled out of the vehicle. “Mina, I need the part I ordered before Yagi went to the hospital the other week.” He draped across the side of the bed, wiping the sweat from the back of his neck with his tank top, aware of the way she watched his muscular arms move. “Do you know if it came in yet?”

Even if they weren’t into one another it was nice to be appreciated on a purely shallow level sometimes.

“I don’t know that, no. But you’re in luck.” She preened. “Yagi’s shop boy arrived in town two days ago.”

Katsuki froze, standing slowly, hands gripping the metal of the bed. “He. What?!” His tone was sharp enough to make her flinch.

“I don’t know why you’re so-”

“I’m waiting on that fucking part, you fucking moron!” He hit the side of his vehicle with a sharp smack, regretting it but not showing how it stung his palm. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

Mina pranced around to the side of the vehicle, her dogs yapping over one another as they raced to the gates. She turned on a heel, sakura blossoms on her thigh flashing in the sunlight.

“No, stay.” Her palm extended, both dogs plopped to the ground, Aki whined as he lay, rolling to his back. “Oh you. You little shit.”

“You’ve got to be firm.” Katsuki mocked over his shoulder as he moved down the path, knowing full well Mina’s heart was breaking at leaving her fur babies behind.

“I know!” She moaned. “I just hate leaving them behind.”

“So who is this shop kid?” Katsuki didn’t want to admit he was curious.

“Ahhh.” Her grin kicked up as she matched his pace, an elbow did too - right into Katsuki’s exposed ribs. “Intrigued?”

“Fucking yes?” He snapped, moving away. “If he’s going to be-” manhandling my package- Fuck I can’t say that. His hand waved vaguely, “You know, this plane is an antique. The parts are expensive. I can’t just let some slope-headed knuckle dragger be tossing my shit around like it’s last week's mammoth kill.”

Mina snorted, “Going hard on that neanderthal, unevolved theory huh? Well don’t worry he’s my cousin-”

“Well now I know I’m fucked.”

“Hey! And,” she emphasized throwing her arms out as they rounded a corner to head down to the lake, shoes crunching on the asphalt, “he’s a college student. I told you this when you moved here-”

“Like I would give enough of a shit to remember.” Katsuki rolled his eyes.

“He’s actually really smart.” Mina continued, ignoring Katsuki’s jab. “He’s on the… I don’t know, what’s it called? The honor roll? The smart good grades thing-”

“The Dean’s List?” Katsuki sighed, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Something I’m sure you’d never see.”

“Oi.” She smacked his bicep quick. “You never know, we are related.”

“So how did he get to college and you didn’t?” Katsuki frowned, looking out as the lake came into view. “Why is that a recurring theme around here?”

“I didn’t want to go.” Mina shrugged. “I never liked school, it didn’t suit me. I was more into other things. I can dance better than anyone else, I can run faster than almost everyone here. I’ve got more… I don’t know, body intelligence?”

He frowned, nodding slowly. “Yeah, maybe better kinetically. Athletically you’re more adept. I bet if you’d been sent to a dance academy you’d be in a ballet or on a hip hop crew. I’ve seen your moves you’re not-” He felt her beaming grin. “I mean you aren’t complete shit is all. I’ve seen Denki try to keep up, he looks like garbage in comparison.”

“Aww,” Katsuki was mortified to see her blushing, “that’s such high praise coming from you!”

“I barely said two positive nice words in sequence.”

“Yeah,” they stepped up onto the deck as she held open the shop door. “But it’s you, and you’re a jackass. So it’s honestly the nicest thing you could have said.”

“That’s so fucking insulting.” Katsuki moved on instinct to the counter, fingers tapping on the wood as they waited.

“Uh…” Mina hopped up, peering over. “He’s not back here.” She shrugged, jumping back down. “I’m gunna check the back? Maybe he’s doing inventory?”

“Yeah, you do that. I need my fucking parts. It should just be a box about this big-” he held out his hands to demonstrate, “but kinda heavy. It’s just a-” A loud crash interrupted and Katsuki’s heart sank. “If that’s my part I’ll murder your cousin.”

“J-just stay here, I’ll go check. Why don’t you practice some breathing like Ochako told you?”

Katsuki took a breath to start yelling when Mina ran off, so he waited. And waited. Idly he began perusing the shelves. He had to admit new kid worked quick; the place was fully stocked, waxed, dusted, swept. It even smelled like polish, a happy change to dust and mothballs. A cacophony of noise and voices moved past him to the front, though Katsuki couldn’t be bothered to follow them back to the counter now that he was in the bait and refrigerated section.

“I’ll be damned.” He opened one of the doors to the freezers across the way.

Even the ice cream had been restocked and faced. There were only four flavor selections, but they were fully stocked for purchase. Even the lights had been replaced that buzzed and flickered like some b-list slasher film. Katsuki leaned back, poking his head behind the coolers and snorting. Air fresheners plugged in hissed all at once adding a timed blast of sakura breeze to cover the scent of worms and bait and old freon.

“Hey!” A cheery male voice boomed back across the shop. “You shouldn’t be messing around back there-”

And Katsuki’s awe stopped.

And for a second his vision split, his head fogged, his hearing faded out because No, it couldn't be.

Heavy feet lifted and fell, each step an impossible task through an unfamiliar college dorm, through a tangle of bedding, to untwine from limbs that weren’t his own, to be rescued again and again from the corpse at the bottom of an ocean with a gentle touch and phrase.

“Hey-” Mina’s voice was yards, miles, mountains, depths away. Echoed and distant. “Hey Katsuki, a-are you okay?”

He could see her worried expression but it didn’t register. It didn’t click. Everything felt disconnected from reality as his eyes shifted to the man behind the counter. He didn’t know what he’d been expecting, a full grown man hadn’t been it though. Some scrawny teen or pimply early twenty-something.

He wasn’t sure why. He knew Mina’s cousin had been in his mid-twenties. He’d known the man was in college and not some hormonal teenager fresh from graduation. But that had been Katsuki’s mental image.

Not a lumbering giant. Not black hair he’d seen too often. Not a thick body he’d seen and been trapped inside of from peripheral glances down during dreams. The face was new. The face was nice- Katsuki shook his head, not nice. He glared at similar red eyes, just a shade brighter than his own; warmer... he shook his head hard as he snapped back to himself.

“The fuck you lookin' at, Country Bumpkin motherfucker?” He smacked his knuckles across the counter. “That better not have been my goddamned gear you were making scrap out of in the back.”

“Ah, no!” The lughead fucking beamed when he smiled, “That was just me, sorry about that. I heard the bell go off at the door and tried to hurry up front with a pile of stock all around the ladder and… well-”

“He’s just too meaty for his own good.” Mina rolled her eyes.”You doing okay there, Blatsy? You seemed a little-”

“I’m fucking peachy.” Katsuki snapped. “Why don’t you ask Shitty Hair here-”

“Hey~” A hand moved to the black hair, tied with with little wispy baby locks sticking up in front, “It’s not that bad. Not worse than yours, that’s for fucking sure. God you’re meaner than I thought you’d be after-”

The blond did a double take. “‘After’? After what, pray tell?”

“Ah… Mina?” Frantic eyes screamed for help, but Katsuki kind of liked being able to be mean.

It was a release he hadn’t been able to experience in a while, it was cathartic, it was fun. And the large man in front of him, panicked and out of his depth, made him feel so in control of an out of control situation.

This was the guy he’d been dreaming about. The same Goddamned human. Black hair, voice, tanned skin. Katsuki would bet his teeth he had a girlfriend back at college, wherever that was, who was named Pony that he didn’t like fucking nearly as much as he should.

“Who are you?” Katsuki whispered the words.

Fuck he hadn’t meant to, God he hadn’t meant to. They came out charged, full of something other than bored nonchalance. Those large eyes met his and Katsuki could see, for the first time, a large scar that cut into the flesh of his eyelid, nicking into his brow. The exchange was confused, emotional.

He recognizes me too. And that was terrifying. Katsuki had to step back.

“I told you.” Mina’s head tilted, butting into their stare off. “He’s my cousin, Eijirou.”

“Your cousin.” Katsuki rocked back on his heels. “From the Kirishima side?”

“No!” Eijirou rushed to answer, stumbling into the counter to cut Mina off, “No. That’s why I work over the summers to-to help pay for college.”

“Do you owe them too?” Katsuki spit the words like venom.

The large man looked down at his shoes, the beaming face clouded over into something terrifying and dark. “Doesn’t everyone?”

 

☆~☆~☆

 

“Do you want help carrying it?”

Katsuki growled low in his throat, hoisting the box to his other shoulder. “Fuck off, Extra.”

“I mean, it’s not that I don’t think you can it’s just the size of it is awkward and it’s like… my job? I am technically supposed to be delivering that.” Eijirou paused for a moment, bending at the waist, getting uncomfortably close to Katsuki. “You’re obviously ripped bro. God, what’s your workout routine?” Eijirou kept up easy with his long strides.

Katsuki hated him for it. “Go die.”

Mina laughed, “He’s not one for polite conversation.”

“That’s fine.” Eijirou twirled the pink haired woman. “This is fun enough, meeting someone new. It’s so rare in this town! I’m all pumped up from it.”

“Couldn’t fucking tell.” Katsuki grunted, gently setting the box down beside the old plane, nudging Aki out of the way with a boot. “Simple minds, easily entertained.”

Eijirou tsked, crouching down to watch Katsuki pry the box open, “I’m not simple. I could ah-” The words died as his gaze clashed with the venomous glare.

“Sure you aren’t simple.” Katsuki sneered, grunted as the wood split from the massive shipping staples and nails. “And I’m a fairy princess.”

“Ah, fuck me.” Eijirou rubbed a hand over his face. “You really are cantankerous. Hey,” Katsuki paused long enough to watch his new admirer scan their surroundings for Mina.

Katsuki couldn’t help but look up, catching her walking off behind the hangars.

“Hey,” Eijirou repeated, catching Katsuki’s attention again, “tell me if I’m crazy or not but… I’ve dreamed about you. Like, I’m pretty fucking sure… Your house is the one at the base of the mountain right?”

“The fuck?!” The crow bar missed, slipping forward and nailing the plane, denting a panel on the body. “What the fuck is your problem you air headed shit-for-brains?!”

“I-I just said-”

“Oh fuuuck.” The word oozed out on a breath of exasperation. “I heard you, you massive shit stain.” Red faced, Katsuki turned away, stomping towards Mina.

“Wait!” Eijirou stood, a mess of arms over feet, “Wait, where are you going? I want to figure this out, cuz, like, what if that’s not a coincidence? What if-?”

“Shut-” Katsuki turned sharp on a heel, squaring up best he could to the larger man. It didn’t matter the top of his head only came to the bridge of Eijirou’s nose. “Up.” He growled. To Katsuki’s relief Eijirou complied. “I’m going to get your goddamned cousin to monitor your ass while I work on my plane you-you-YOU!”

Pathetic! Katsuki fumed. So angry I can’t even fucking get out a fucking decent fucking insult. God fucking FUCK!

But it had been different. It had been different. Somehow it was crawling beneath his skin; the perversion of knowing and being known so intimately by someone who didn’t know him. Even the halfwits he’d been around for a third of a year didn’t know him so intimately.

Katsuki snuck a glance to the lumbering giant behind him, dragging his feet through the hangars and across the tarmac. How much did he see?

The private moments in the shower where Katsuki had sobbed his broken heart out? Laying in the hallways talking to Jin?

Katsuki halted for half a step. God had Eijirou seen Jin?

The thought stabbed through him, straight from head to toe like a chill even in the budding summer heat.

It was different. He told himself, justifying even as his mind flicked back to the intimate moments of Eijirou with Pony; the touches and whispers and painful emotions.

It had been different when he had been the one having the dreams. It had been different when he had been the only one watching. It had been different, a secret, something that could be forgotten and die with him. But when the shoe was on the other foot- What had been seen? What had he accidentally revealed, what had he been unable to hide, to-?

A hand grabbed his shoulder, stopped him dead in his tracks.

“Katsuki, please.” Eijirou’s voice was deep and calm.

God he wanted it to be anything but.

“Your plane is a fucking mess.” So are you. Katsuki could hear the unspoken words. “Let me help. I took two semesters for credit back in America.”

Katsuki turned on a heel, unable to hide his shock. Maybe the lughead wasn’t completely useless, and maybe Katsuki respected him a little more for it. “America?”

“I know Mina told you.” It was the idiots turn to be smug and he wore it well for being so damn cheery, “What was that you were saying about simple minds? By the way,” his eyes crinkled in a kind smile, “the name is Eijirou. Stop being a dick and calling me all those derogatory things or I’ll start returning the favor, Blasty.” He cracked the knuckles on a hand nervously. “Just because I’m nice doesn’t mean you can be a jackass.”

Katsuki smacked his hand away. “Okay, Eijirou.” Red eyes narrowed in challenge. “You can help, but only because it’s a fucking test, not because I don’t know what I’m doing-”

“Yeah.” Eijirou snorted. “Fuckin’ sure.”

“Don’t get in my way, asshat.” Katsuki shouldered past, letting the taller man follow him - pissed that he was taller because fuck who wants to have to look up into another persons eyes to bark orders?

“I won’t!”

Katsuki sighed as he picked the crowbar back up, only to have it snatched promptly away.

“I can do this faster.” Eijirou promised. “Watch.”

With a quick press down the lid popped clean off the box; staples, nails and all. Eijirou offered the crowbar back, very proud of himself.

“If you had a goddamned tail it’d be wagging.”

His head tilted, the short ponytail flipped to the side. “Yeah, I’ve been told.”

“Knock it the fuck off. Don’t you have a fucking shop to get back to?.”

“Yeah!” Eijirou stood back, taking in all the parts. “I do, but… I mean.” Arms spread wide, “… jeez, did you really have to dismantle it like this?”

“Yeah, yeah. Fuck off dipshit.”

Chapter Text

It was late. Too late for him to still be up. But it bothered him, he couldn’t help it.

“It’s stupid.” Katsuki hissed at the video, the smirk of his mother failed to be hidden behind her hand. “Why am I upset about this?”

“It’s you, Shithead.” She sighed, smile on full display. “You’re being upstaged by a newcomer. Of course it’s getting to you. You were the new guy, the apple of everyone’s eye and now this new kid…?”

“Eijirou.” He sunk further into his couch.

“Eijirou." She picked up her cup and saluted the camera. "Anyway, has returned and you aren’t everyone's shining star anymore.” She took a drink from her sake, reclining. “Of course it’s going to bother you. You’ve always been competitive, you’ve always craved attention - even if you’ve gone about seeking it in a more negative manner. Squeaky wheel gets the oil and all.” Her hand waved, as though this was old hat.

“Yeah…” He rubbed the back of his neck, “I suppose that’s true.” A sigh, “Still, I didn’t think I’d… miss the noise. It was…” Filling.

He looked around his empty house, so small and somehow so big without three particular bodies crowding into the square footage. All the ghosts that had retreated to the cracks in the corners when they were around sprawled across cold wooden floors and wide grey paint without them. Even his normally comforting open windows were invitations for old demons to come tapping.

Katsuki, Katsuki. We’re waiting. Come and join us. Come and join Jin. He’s waiting. We’re waiting. It’s all your fault. He’s waiting. Jin's waiting.

Moldy fingers tapped on glass. Hollow, fogged over eyes peered in through the darkness. The gurgled, water logged groans morphed into lusty moans and heavy breaths. Whispered names.

'Ei, please?'

'Before you leave.'

'Don't you want me?'

“Katsuki, you’ll be okay.” Mitsuki’s voice broke through the obvious panic attack building in his veins. “Remember to breathe. Put on some music. You can survive one more night. That’s all you need to do. Survive one more night. In the morning we can start over, but we don’t have to worry about that until it happens.”

“Right. Rightrightright.” Hands tangled in his mess of hair, sticking up in odd angles from sweat and dirt and his own fists bunching in it. “Can I talk to Dad?” He couldn't focus on the screen. Or windows. Or floor. Dad.

Those deep ocher eyes widened, cup perched on the table delicately. “It’s that bad right now?”

A soft nod, imperceptible but for the dip of hairline in the shadows of the kitchen lights.

“Okay. I want you to breathe while I’m gone Katsuki. In, in, out. One. In, in, out. Two.”

Vaguely he registered when his mother stood to go fetch his father as opposed to screeching for him as she normally would have.

In, in, out. Three.

His chest rose and fell rhythmically, the thoughts kept at bay by the hypnotic pattern and sounds.

In, in, out. Four.

As long as he focused the darkness swimming just inside his head wouldn’t take over, couldn’t take over. He’d been doing this exercise long enough. He was stronger now, he could beat it back. He could-

“Please, Ei.” The feminine voice whined, deep blue eyes misty with desire and lust gazed up from a pillow of honey blonde hair.

“Oh God!” Katsuki stood swiftly, pacing at an erratic gait. His chest rose and fell in a rapid staccato, sweat built just below his shirt, his hair rose as a chill swept over him, goosebumps flooded just below the surface. His vision couldn’t focus on anyone thing and guilt swelled and the anxiety took hold in that one kink in his armor; the one fault, the weakness.

“Not now. Not now!” A palm heel slammed against the side of his head to knock the memory away that shouldn’t have been his to begin with. “No-” The whisper was agonized as memories of that night flooded him; the touches, the whispers, the sounds, the sensations that shouldn’t have been his.

Slowly he fell to the ground, nails clawing into the undersides of arms as knees tucked against his chest, hot tears scalded as they fell against his cheeks.

“Katsuki!” Masaru’s voice was deep, sharp with worry.

“Dad-!” Katsuki pulled himself up to his seat in a rush, “Dad, help I-”

“I know, I know ‘Tsuki. I know.” His timbre soft, melodic.

Gentle brown eyes, soft wrinkles, tender smile etched permanently in the corners of his lips. Even the shade of his hair was comforting. A hand rose, soft enough to deal with delicate taffeta and satin, tough enough to pierce through rawhide's and leathers.

Katsuki reached forward, palm against palm, separated by plastic and space and time. “Dad. I don’t- I’m so sorry- I didn't mean to! I-it was an accident, I-I don't know why-" He sobbed, choked on the heavy shudder rolling through his diaphragm, wiping at his nose, eyes.

Katsuki couldn't keep up with the tears, the snot, the saliva. The emotion; the guilt.

“No.” Masaru’s smile was wide and big and encompassing and Katsuki wanted to fall into it, to be held by his dad again like he had during the bad days when he was young and this was new. “No, son. You never have to apologize. You’re amazing.”

The shadows faded, the demons quieted. All it took was a smile, a stillness. When the fiery rage he and his mother possess didn’t conquer and burn away, the soothing stillness of his father always managed to ease.

“Now, why don’t you tell me about your routine?” Masaru’s soft voice remained steady and, not for the first time, Katsuki wondered how often Mitsuki needed this voice herself on a rough day.

Katsuki breathed in trembling, hands passing through his hair easier than they had before. “It’s nothing exciting Dad.” He rolled his eyes, smile weak and tired but existent and working back toward defiant. He wiped at his eyes, face.

“It’s more exciting than what we get up to in our old age-”

“I doubt that!” Mitsuki argued from somewhere in the house.

Their son scrunched up his face at Masaru’s soft blush. “Gross.”

"Eh, you'll get it one day." Masaru smiled, cheeks a happy pink. "Until then, you settled? Better?"

"I'm fine." Katsuki breathed, feeling stuffy and swollen, but done.

"Yeah?" Masaru obviously not convinced. "Will you be okay now? For the rest of the night anyway?"

"Yeah." Katsuki smiled, eyes darting to his hands, now clenched tight off screen. "I'll be fine-" his phone buzzed. "I've got to go anyway, someone is calling."

"Alright, love you."

"Yeah, yeah. Talk to you later." Katsuki killed the tablet, snapping up his cell, "The fuck you want Racoon Eyes?” His head throbbing a dull ache that called for a pillow under it. “You know I don't stay up this late."

"Shit bro!"

The deep voice made his ear vibrate. "Eijirou? The hell you calling for?"

"Man," his voice sounded funny, "man, bro-"

Was that a hiccup? Katsuki's eyes narrowed. No. He's definitely not hiccuping. What's that noi- Oh shit. Realization was fast and sharp.

"Oh my God… are you crying?" Katsuki leaned back in his chair, feeling less lonely now. Immense, perverse pleasure swelling at the expense of the emotional drunk on the other line.

"I just, man. They said you go to bed early." A snuffle, "and that you don't like people. But I felt so guilty, and then-then you said you'd split the pay on the missibist and I thought about it and I just hadta call and 'pologize but I don't have your number!"

"Uh-huh. It’s Mitsubishi by the way." Katsuki sighed, stretching. "It's okay, Eijirou-"

"No, Katsssyou-." His voice was deeply serious. "No. You don't understan'." Something hit the cell mic, muffled voices. "Mina's bein' a bitch. Says I have to get off the phone." Eijirou's tone took on a comically mocking female lilt. "'Ei, you pregame too hard, you need to get off the phone and drink water.' Like's my fault I've been drinking watered down vodka and piss beer to survive college." He got louder suddenly, Katsuki pulled the phone away from his face. "I wanted my new friend to know I was thinkin’ ‘bout him."

"God don't fucking yell." Katsuki muttered. "And don't call me 'Kat'. Gross."

"Oh." Eijirou laughed, but it wasn't the usual jolly sound. This laugh was darker. "Oh ho ho. Kat doesn't like his nickname? Ohhhh poor baby Kats. Kat kat kitty kats."

"I'm going to kill you tomorrow." Katsuki bristled, "Fair warning."

This laugh was Eijirou's normal one; full of belly and mirth, head probably thrown back, crooked teeth on display. "Ah, Kat." Eijirou breathed. "I'd genuinely like ta see ya try."

 

☆~☆~☆

 

Wires cut into the calloused pads of his fingertips as Eijirou approached the table timid, pulling out his tool belt.

"H-hey man." Feet shifted. "About yesterday-" He ducked down, waved, snapped his fingers, clapped, laughed as Aki jumped on him. "No, not you goofball."

Katsuki didn't bother to glance up from his task, twisting, looking over the wires, reaching for the electrical tape only for a hand to grab it out from under his palm.

"Ah." A glare shot up to the moron, hair tied up in a bun, roll of tape held proudly at shoulder level. "It's 'hello, Eijirou'." He taunted, dumb ass grin beaming down. "Better yet," he slapped the tape on the table, loud over Katsuki's growl, "you could even 'partner, buddy, pal, coworker'!"

Katsuki took his time measuring a length, biting it free of the roll, carefully winding it around the exposed copper. "The fuck I would." He snorted, carefully lining up edges. "I don't know what the hell you're waiting for, Eijirou, but the plane isn't fixing itself."

Shoulders rose and dipped in an exaggerated sigh. "Alright, show me what I'm working with. Is there anything-"

"Fuck." Katsuki slapped the wires down, an angry flush over his shoulders and chest. "No, okay. Everything has been cleaned and disassembled and- Sakura, no baby. Not now." Hushed voice immediately dipped to hide the soft tone, turning his back to Eijirou to disguise the sweet pets as he tried to maneuver the dog away from his hands. "I gotta school the moron."

"Hey man!" Eijirou's hands went up when the blond turned back to him, Phillips screwdriver held menacingly. "My lips are sealed. No one can deny Sakura."

Eijirou ducked to the parts quick but Katsuki still caught that fucking maddening grin. “Let’s start with the basics.” Hands rubbed along a gleaming silver mass that had been shined and cleaned repeatedly. Reverence was in the touch as he tilted it with something almost like awe in his voice. “The engine.” He crouched down to examine the carburetor, "gotta say it's nice to see you so tender though. You are human."

"Take that back you fucker or I'll kill you." Katsuki held up the transmission casing, tongue pressed to his molars as he twisted the screws.

Aki and Sakura paced at the front gate, snarling at the occasional tourist who would wander by, craning their necks to get a glimpse of the pilot who told the general local area to collectively suck his dick.

After about an hour Katsuki finally asked, "Why in America?"

"Hmm?" Eijirou's head popped up, already grease trailed from his forehead to his hair.

Katsuki sneered. "The fuck you go all the way to America for school, shit wipe?"

"Eijirou." The tone was bored.

A deep breath, turn of the screwdriver. "Hair-for-brains."

Eijirou laughed low, rubbing his head, spreading more grease over his skin. "Okay, Kat."

Katsuki bristled but let it slide.

"I just wanted to get away from it, you know?" Dark strands slipped from the hair tie as muscled arms worked at delicate parts. "My whole life has been these people, this village. The same routine, the same rules." He gasped, stuck a finger in his mouth, examined it, shrugged and continued working. "I wanted to escape it. I wanted to be free of it. What I owed, what my family expected. My history."

Red eyes peeked up, stared. Katsuki could feel them. He ignored Eijirou’s gaze though his heart picked up, blood thrumming, stomach clenching. Katsuki could feel the unasked question heavy between them. After a while he was almost wanting Eijirou to just spit the words out, nerves on edge waiting for the idiot to speak. The silent grating between them.

"Just ask already assh-" He inhaled. "Eijirou."

The sound of work hung between them heavy for moments as the anticipation built.

"Nah, bro." Eijirou stood, squeezed around behind Katsuki and the wall. “I know that when you’re ready we’ll talk about it.”

Katsuki's head snapped around to watch, hackles raised, guard high. “About what, exactly?” The words snapped out of him like a bark, eyes trained as dirty hands opened the fridge.

Eijirou pulled out a water, offered one almost as an apology and put it back at Katsuki's deepened glare. Took a drink.

Movements slow, deliberate. Disarming.

“I don’t know man.” He wiped at his mouth, capped the bottle. “Whatever it is that makes you want to attack me for fucking walking behind you maybe.” He smiled but it wasn’t big and wide like usual. “You’re wound so fucking tight it’s a miracle you manage to bend enough to actually sit at all Kat. Honestly.” Another drink.

Leisurely Eijirou strode back to the parts tossed around. Katsuki noted, annoyed, that the idiot walked in front of the table this time. In Katsuki's line of sight. He also noticed that his parts weren't in nice, neat order any more.

"Fuck you. Fucked up my-"

"I know!" Eijirou grinned, hands wide open and out to the side. "I know man, but I gotta work on this shit and they were too close together your way. I can put it ba-"

"Don't fuckin' bother if you're just gunna fuck it up again tomorrow." Fingers tapped on the table top as he watched, face carefully uninterested, Eijirou fiddle with the parts. "Why do you come back? You could get a part time job anywhere."

Eijirou jumped, paled. A hand scratched at the scalp beneath his bun, shoulders sunburned a light red he stretched as he stood slowly. Hands dusted off on jeans a little too tight; jeans made to make people look. He tucked a dark strand behind his ear. Smiled but it didn't reach his eyes.

"Like I said. We all owe them in someway. Hanta for his shop. Mina for the airstrip. Denki has hospital bills. I-" He swallowed visibly. "I have my things." Those red eyes flashed like fire in the setting sun as they pinned Katsuki. "Why does it matter? I can't leave."

Katsuki snorted, setting the screwdriver down. "Ironic. I'm running away from something I can't escape and you're running back to the thing you're fleeing from."

"Kinda on opposite sides of the track aren't we?" The smile turned colder as Eijirou leaned over the cockpit, falling into the machine, "You gutted this well! Just gotta finish pulling the propellers off and we can start rebuilding completely." Head poked out just enough. “Got some wires in here that need to be threaded out too. I can see the fraying-”

"Look like a fucking gopher." Katsuki snorted, rising from the table to lean over, pointing to the gauges. "I haven't had a chance to do those either. We're gunna have to touch up the seats and shit too. Check out the-"

"Bro, yeah!" Eijirou laughed, hand raising to skim over fingers grasping on metal edges. "I get it okay-"

Katsuki pulled away like he'd been struck, leaping from the plane, stumbling over parts. "Don't be so familiar with me." He hissed, the hand that had been offended held at a distance.

"Man, I didn't mean anything by it." Eijirou shrugged, resting on his elbows, frowning at Katsuki. "Like, it wasn't even on purpose."

"I-" Katsuki frowned, clasping his hand closed, dragging it to his thigh. "I know that asshole, just don't fucking touch me from now on."

Eijirou shrugged, rolling his eyes. "Sure bro, whatever." He ducked back down out of sight. "So what are your hobbies? I figure you work out?"

"Fuck yeah I do." Katsuki kicked his chair back out, paced around the table for a second before sitting. "I could kick your ass."

A snort from inside the fuselage.

"Is that a challenge, Hair-for-brains?!" The screwdriver bounced off the metal.

"D-did you just throw your tool at me?" Eijirou popped back out from within the plane.

"Did you just challenge me?!"

"God you're feral. Did you contract rabies in the city? Is that it?" Eijirou leaned back, crooked grin in place, dimple poking through his cheek as the sun set. "It's getting late."

Katsuki hissed. "Yeah. It is." He checked his phone. "Fuck I gotta call my mom."

"Oh…" Eijirou followed suit. "Oh shit. Hold up, is it okay to take a photo? O-of the plane I mean?" He beamed, "I wanna show my girlfriend!"

Katsuki's heart squeezed. His fingers went cold. "Fuckin, yeah." The words were his but it felt like he wasn't saying them.

He'd almost forgotten. He'd almost… until… Feet carried him past the gate. Katsuki turned to watch Eijirou snap a picture. Then another with himself in it. Shaking his head he continued walking, waving quick at Mina's yelled 'goodnight'.

Pulling out his phone he flipped to Mitsuki.

Hit dial.

"Hey bitch."

"Bastard."

 

☆~☆~☆

 

"Why are you here?" Katsuki moaned into his curry, spoon shoving the food around. "And why did you bring the new guy?"

Eijirou's hand slapped to his chest, face convulsing into 'me?' perfectly, the image of offended innocence. Katsuki knew better.

"Calm down, Sunshine." Mina hopped off the counter, nodding at the DVD Hanta held up from the living room. "He's part of the group. Deal. Plus it's therapy day. You know what we do by now."

The bathroom door opened, "Stay outta there for a while!" Denki warned. "Stomach's acting up again."

Katsuki sighed heavy as Mina pat his shoulder, moving into the living room. The dull rumble of voices and music announced its start. Eijirou stayed behind, flipping through his phone before tucking it way and looking around.

"Do they…" A chuckle of disbelief whooshed out of him, "do they usually start without you?"

Katsuki shrugged, stabbing at a potato. Maybe a carrot. Hard to tell under the sauce.

"That's so fucked." An arm looped over Katsuki's shoulders, "look man, if they bug you all you need to do is speak up. They will listen. It is your house. You-" Eyes widened at the glare, white knuckles around utensils. "Ah, right. Touch." Arm pulled away fast.

"You don't have to sit here." Katsuki snapped, voice low as he looked over his shoulder. "Go join the other idiots."

"You're right." Hands slapped on thighs as Eijirou stood, leaned over Katsuki, "I don't have to sit here."

The words, the actions, took Katsuki back. Sure he didn't expect- but still the fucker didn't need to be so- Angrily he took a large bite of rice and beef, chewing like it had offended him. Nearly choking when the water started in the sink.

"Th-the fuck you doing, Eijirou?!" Katsuki spit out after taking a drink.

"The dishes." He grinned soft down into the sudsy water. "I'm not gunna just ditch you man. You're my friend." Eijirou leaned back, eyes narrowed at the cuddle puddle on the couch. "I get you have your boundaries. I get the touch thing." He laughed, rinsing the pan, picking up a knife. "I'll probably forget. I'm really touchy."

"I haven't noticed." Katsuki swallowed, rolling his eyes, going for another bite.

"But fuck man. Maybe they're just waiting for you to take initiative. Maybe they don't realize… " Eijirou frowned down at the water, at the plate in his hand. "You know what I mean? They're not as socially aware. They're used to… them. This."

"But you aren't. You never were, were you?" Katsuki knew he was speaking more to himself than Eijirou at this point. He didn't need confirmation, he knew that the idiot was too empathetic for his own good. Spoon hit ceramic, startling Katsuki. "I finished."

"Hmm?" Eijirou turned to look, "oh, yeah. Good for you. Do we put a gold star on your chart?"

"Fuck off prick."

"Eh." Eijirou tsked as Katsuki slid the plate into the sink.

"Fine." Katsuki rolled his eyes, grabbing a rag and washing off the counters, "Fuck off, Hair-for-brains."

"Good job, Kat!" The idiot grinned, beamed, as he drained the water, washing out the sink. "Another gold star."

"If you don't shut up, I'm going to kill you." Katsuki hissed, tossing the rag at him.

With satisfaction it smacked wet on the tan bicep, peeling and slapping on the edge of the sink with a wet splotch.

"So mature." Eijirou sighed. "And after I washed your dishes."

"I didn't ask you to." Katsuki growled as they rounded the counter.

"So, am I with you on the-" Eijirou's finger, previously pointing at the recliner, wilted at the murderous glare. "Alright, cuddle puddle it is. Rearrange folks, The Mountain is coming in!"

"Oh man!" Denki whined.

"We just got comfortable." Hanta added.

"Ei!" Mina smiled, popping up immediately.

Katsuki settled with a sigh, exhausted after his phone call and session. He glanced at the group on his couch, crashing into his house uninvited as always. Mina draped across the men's laps, Hanta and Denki leaning on top of Eijirou who had somehow taken up nearly the entire couch.

"The Mountain." Katsuki snorted into his hoodie, hiding his small smile in the collar as he slouched down in the chair.

Despite being uninvited, it was the first time Katsuki hadn't been alone with a crowd of people. Eyes drifted over again. The smile faded a little as Eijirou blinked slow, fingers tangled with Mina's, hand draped over Hanta's shoulder, Denki tucked against his side.

Not as alone anyway. The familiar hollow sensation sweeping up his gut.

Red eyes glowed amethyst in the tv light as they drifted to Katsuki; smiled sleepy. Turned back to the movie.

Katsuki's stomach ached a little. He focused on the characters on screen and wondered if it was the curry.

 

Chapter Text

"Morning Kat!" Eijirou blinked bleakly, sitting in the booth across from Katsuki, waving Denki over.

"And who, the fuck, invited you over here?" Katsuki straightened, slapping a hand over his phone, ignoring the girls standing out the window taking selfies - well aware he was in the background of them.

“‘Ts too early for your sunny disposition.” Eijirou groaned, laying across the table as Denki approached.

"Oh is that a friend?" Muffled tinny from under the palm.

Immediately the moron perked. "Whose on the video chat?"

"Katsuki Bakugou you introduce me right now or I'll tan your hide to Kingdom Come-"

Eijirou chuckled, "One black tea, Denki? The usual please."

"Gotcha." Denki winked. "And be careful man. Katsuki got his charms from his mom."

"Your mom!" Eijirou stood, shuffling to the bench beside Katsuki. "Hi, Ma'am, I'm Eijirou-"

"Oh, no. Mitsuki please." The ashen blonde woman grinned, gaze darting to her sulking son before glancing over the newcomer. The glint in her eyes made Eijirou nervous.

"Oh whoa. You're stunning. I can see where Kat got his good looks!" A growl beside him. "A-ah… well, you know what I mean. You're very beautiful and I-"

"Are you seriously hitting on my mom?" Katsuki leaned back, arms crossed. "She's fucking married and in her forties you creep."

"I-I'm-"

"Oh, don't be jealous Katsuki." She sighed, putting a hand to her cheek. "You're lucky you got these genes."

"Luck? You fuckin' hag, luck ain't got nothing to do with it-"

"You bastard. If I were there- You, hit him for me. Just one good pow on the head." Fist met palm in demonstration.

Eijirou's eyes widened in panic. "U-uh…"

"Yeah, Ei." Katsuki's eyes narrowed, chin lifted, "Fucking hit me. I'll kill you. Bring it you bitch."

Eijirou flushed, hands fisting on his thighs. "This seems like a family affair. I'm moving to the counter. Nice to meet you, ma'am."

Katsuki sneered watching Eijirou walk away, heard Denki laugh.

“E-excuse me…?”

Annoyed Katsuki’s gaze swung up. A timid young thing stood just beyond his booth, hair twirling anxiously around a finger. Standing just behind were her friends, obviously goading her.

“Are you that pilot from-”

Eye narrowed. “No, fuck off.”

Her face turned five shades redder. “You are!” Voice breathy. “Could I get a pictu-”

“If you don’t fuck off and go die, I’ll kill you.” Katsuki stood slowly, mouth twisted in a snarl.

“Oh! Kay!” Hanta appeared out of nowhere, hands gripping the girls shoulders, “Okay, let’s move along. Haven’t you heard what happens to beautiful young women who mess with village loners?”

“Wh-?” Big, confused eyes screwed up to the tall man as he led her to a back table. “What do you-?”

"Katsuki!” Mitsuki's eyes narrowed, mouth kicked up in a sly grin. “That wasn’t very gentlemanly.”

“They shouldn’t have fucked with me. This whole ‘low level of fame’ is bullshit and I never asked for it.” He sat, rubbing at his face, pushing his drink around suddenly not at all interested in it. “God I’m tired.”

“You weren’t half as inconsiderate to that other guy. The muscular one. Eijirou from that other phone call!” Her fingers poked up in front to mimic Eijirou’s baby wisps. “I remember now!"

"Mom no…" Katsuki groaned.

"You were even teasing him a little, that nickname… Ei?" Her grin turned sharper. "Do you… like him?"

"Don't make me vomit." Katsuki took a drink, grimaced forgetting how cold it had become.

"Okay." She shrugged, wisely dropping the subject, pulling on an earring. "I reconnected with Inko, you know. So when we go up to visit next Autumn-"

"Mom." Katsuki lowered his head, running his hands through his hair. "I told you. I'm not-" he looked around, teeth grit. "I'm not staying here after getting the plane fixed."

She shrugged. "You might change your mind. Even if not, I want to visit my friend. Reconnect. You know back when we worked together she used to have a perfect figure-"

"Yeah." Katsuki snorted, "guess a dead spouse and ill lover can do that to you."

"No." Mitsuki snapped. "You dick. I just mean, I was reminiscing. About our old days when we worked together. We used to- I just, I miss her sometimes. I-" she smiled soft.

In those moments Katsuki saw it. He saw the ethereal beauty Mitsuki was; radiance from the inside out starting with that almost not there grin.

"Anyway. I'm proud of you, you know that? Making up with Izuku like that." She blinked fast.

"Oh ew, don't cry."

"I'm not going to you brat." A choked sob. "I'm not!"

"I know you're not." His voice dipped, he leaned in closer, waited for her to compose herself. "I've got to go, Mom."

"Yeah, yeah… And Katsuki… it is okay to…" she bit her lip. "To like people again."

The idea made his blood run cold. "Yeah." His voice dropped. "I know. Bye Mom."

“Bye Kat.” She teased, ending the call.

He flipped his phone over, staring out the window.

It's okay to like people again.

But it wasn't, was it? Every time he liked people they left him. Katsuki watched as a bird hopped down the road, pecked at something stuck between the stones. Little chest moving so fast, head twitching this way and that.

It's okay to like people again.

Or they died. He looked to the counter. Mina had arrived, joined Eijirou and Denki. Katsuki leaned back, watching them. The way Eijirou's arm draped over Mina's shoulders, how Denki beamed across the counter at him. Everyone so lively, so connected, so involved. And their history.

His stomach knotted as Denki reached across the counter, fingers skimming over Eijirou's face. The idiot leaned into the touch, eyes half lidded, body relaxing. Mina said something making the two laugh.

Katsuki frowned, stirring his mocha, watching the spices rise from the bottom. Even recently when he had let them in-

A hand slapped down on the table.

"Hanta."

"Katsuki." He fell into the booth, looking more sleep deprived than normal. "You doing okay? Ever since stuff with Yagi you've been- And those girls, like. I mean I get being annoyed but-"

"I'm fine."

"Dude you watched a bird out the window for, legit, twenty minutes." Hanta leaned back, head resting on the back of the bench, eyes peering through mostly closed lids. "I mean, I might be the walking dead, but you're an absolute zombie. So." He yawned. "What can we do man?"

"Just fuck off." Katsuki grabbed his cold drink, grimacing as he swallowed. "I'll be fine."

"We've all seen it." Hanta stood. "The shrine in the hall. The statue. We aren't dumb, man. We're trying. Obviously all this triggered something. I don't- I don't know what else to do for you."

Katsuki kept his face carefully blank as he looked back up. "Then stop."

Hanta's face journey would have been funny had it been directed at anyone else. The anger, the disbelief. The disappointment. The hurt.

"You know what, fine." Hands slapped the table top as he slid back out, backed away. "Fine. I can't with you right now anyway. I'm too fucking tired for your bullshit."

Katsuki watched him approach the counter, the questioning faces. Pointedly ignoring the way Eijirou peered past the tall, lanky man in an attempt to catch Katsuki’s gaze before he snapped his face back to the window. The bird was gone. He looked down at his half full, cold coffee.

With a hiss he tossed down the money and left, ignoring Eijirou yelling his name.

He had a workout to get to.

 

☆~☆~☆

 

A sweat built and clung to his shredded tank, dripped down his neck before he had even taken off on his usual run. Katsuki found himself curving over the path towards the All-in-One in an attempt to avoid the reporter who had been speed walking along his usual route though Katsuki couldn’t say the change in direction was unpleasant. The morning was perfect, brighter now that summer was cresting. Warm. The scenery was nice; the shops before opening, the view of the lake rising as he descended from the city drive.

He was surprised to see himself merging paths with Eijirou as they converged on the trail to circle the expanse of water.

"Morning." The lughead greeted, eyes flicking quick in his direction with a grin in the corners before training back on the path.

It threw Katsuki off. The rhythm of four feet falling on the ground out of sync made his heart pick up. He hadn't invited another person in on his routine in at least five years. A quick glance to the calm man striding beside him gave Katsuki no clues to the thoughts going on within.

But it made Katsuki remember so much.

Too much.

It's fine. He glared at the road ahead, determined. This is a different place. Different air. There's a lake. The path is a circle. No- He missed a step, ankle twisting making him wobble.

Eijirou was right there, arm already out with a soft ‘Whoa’.

"Fuck you." Katsuki growled, shoving off. "It's your fault anyway."

"My fault? Dude," he pushed the blond right back. "I work right up the hill. I'm living literally right over there." He waved vaguely towards Yagi and Inko's place. "You don't own the fucking road, Kat."

"Don't call me that." Katsuki flushed from the inside out. "You're living at Yagi's place?"

"Yeah. I kinda…" Eijirou sucked in a breath, hand tangling in his sloppy ponytail. "It's complicated. Did you need to check out your ankle?"

Katsuki rolled the joint in question, acknowledging the vague burning. "No. It's fine. I was… I was thinking."

"I get that." A sharp glance exposed Eijirou's red face. "About yesterday morning, man-"

"It's fine." Katsuki rolled his eyes as they resumed walking. "I'm fine."

"You took off without even saying goodbye. You told me to not show up to my work? Like, I get you're big bad scary,” His hands wiggled in front of him, “but you're not chasing me off so easy. Especially if I'm getting paid for it." Eijirou shot a sidelong glance at Katsuki. "I-Fuck! I mean, Hanta was pissed too. Man I'm here for you if you need anything, bro but you can’t just treat people like-"

“Like what?” Katsuki snapped, hackles raised, eyes narrowed.

Eijirou sighed, ran a hand through his hair. “Never mind man. Are you sure your ankle is fine?”

“I’m not fucking weak.” Katsuki hissed.

A shoulder bumped Katsuki, Eijirou's arm draped over his shoulders as he tugged the blond towards his house. “Never said you were, my man.”

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?!" Katsuki panicked, clawing at the flesh, shoving and pushing to no avail.

"I gotta eat and get dressed before work my dude? Like… as great as it would be I can't look like this all day?" Eyes narrowed in a way that gave the blond a chill. "Some of us have real jobs."

"Eat shit." Katsuki gasped. "Why do you have to force me to smell your stink though?"

"You need to be indoctrinated." Eijirou smirked down at him as they crowded onto his front porch, an odd feeling knowing it was Deku's house just weeks ago made Katsuki uneasy. "Besides it's no worse than you. I have the feeling you need the contact more anyway."

"I-" he struggled out from under Eijirou's arm as the raven haired man continued into his house, door wide open. "-I do not need the contact."

"Uh huh.” The massive idiot sounded unconvinced. “C'mon in!"

Katsuki obliged slowly, kicking off his sneakers in the entryway, absorbing the difference as he walked in. "How have you made this place so different in just a week?"

"I'm glad you're impressed." A sharp glare confirmed the idiot was beaming from the kitchen. "Protein shake? It's birthday cake flavor. The best kind I think."

Katsuki put a hand to his stomach without thinking as he wandered, "Yeah, sure." He absently strode through the nearly completely new house. "What happened to everything?" A hand reached out to the now pale green wallpaper, stroking the textured wall.

The rattle of a stirring ball in a plastic bottle. "It felt weird living here at first. When I first had my-" Eijirou halted, frowned, picked up the next cup. "Anyway, we came up with an arrangement. They store their stuff, I remodel for them. Just paint and wallpaper in exchange for rent. Sometimes it's bigger stuff like roofing or countertops, but that's rare. I take my furniture out of storage cuz it feels so weird to sleep on someone else's bed. Almost disrespectful? Anyway, all the extra work helps me sleep." He grinned, flexing, "plus the extra swole."

"Don't make me puke." Katsuki whistled low as he collapsed onto a nice, if musty, brown futon to take in the changes. "You work quick anyway."

"I got help from the gang." He thrust the shake at Katsuki as he gulped, wiping his mouth. "I'm gunna go shower. Did you wanna go first or-?"

"What the hell am I supposed to do while you're showering?" Suddenly all the panic flooded back in, though Katsuki couldn't pinpoint exactly why. "Isn't that a little too intimate for someone you barely know?"

Eijirou snorted, "How is that intimate? It's just a shower and I can't go to work smelling like this."

"Oh, can't go to work like that, but you can rub yourself all over me?" The words felt far more suggestive once they'd left Katsuki's mouth than he'd intended.

Fuck. He busied himself with the drink, ignoring the way Eijirou blinked at him from across the room. If I drop it, it's not a big deal. Don't over explain. Don't go into detail. I didn't mean anything by it.

"I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." A hand rested on his shoulder as Eijirou stretched across the back of the futon. "My family has an issue with boundaries, we're really touchy and sort of invasive."

Katsuki played with the cap, popping it on and off. "Mina mentioned it was a family thing when I moved here. You think I would be immune by now after all this exposure therapy from the peanut gallery."

The grip tightened. "I mean it."

Red eyes looked up with hesitancy. Eijirou was staring at him, gazes locking with an intensity that made Katsuki want to evaporate. Funny how those eyes so similar to his own projected emotion when his own just masked them.

"If I do anything that makes you…" Eijirou glanced down at Katsuki's hands balled around the cup so tightly the knuckles were red, quickly darting back up. "Anything. Bad. I-" he exhaled, smiling tight, his hand leaving Katsuki's shoulder to run through his hair as he stood. "I guess I'm not making sense anymore am I? But I mean it. Don't let me make you… hurt. Tell me. I'll understand. I-I know how it feels."

Katsuki's hands tightened around the cup, watching the thick plastic bend a little. Eyes dropping to the weathered coffee table. Pony.

"Okay, I have no problem hurting your feelings anyway you trainwreck. Go fucking shower already or you'll peel all this new paint."

Eijirou's tense shoulders dropped, his smile slid into place. "Alright man. So fuckin rude! You smell just as bad."

"Cuz you literally wiped your sweat on me, Hair-for-Brains!" Katsuki called after the retreating back, his mind reeling.

What the fuck was that conversation? He sipped at his protein shake. It wasn't grainy like it would have been if he made it.

Katsuki could appreciate that. Music drifted down the narrow hall, bare of pictures. The textured wallpaper made it seem normal though. It didn't feel empty. Quietly, as the water started, Katsuki tiptoed through the house. Silently pushing open a door to a small room. The floor covered in plastic, paint supplies wrapped in plastic bags and tightly tucked in the center by a step stool.

Doesn't need a ladder. He shut the door, taking a swig. Arrogant prick.

The next room was still in the old warm tones, empty of furniture. Closing the door Katsuki moved to the last door, hand hesitating, heart pounding. This would be his room. For some reason, even though he knew Eijirou wouldn't care, it felt wrong. It felt so wrong. Fingers wrapped around the knob, doors installed during the western craze most likely. A shaking breath exhaled hot through wide nostrils. Katsuki's forehead pressed against the wood.

"What am I doing." He muttered to the empty space; to the ghost of Jin that was always watching. "I never do this-"

He stepped away, hand falling from the now warm knob. Turning he carefully moved back down the hall, gently stepping over the creaks of the bamboo floors to the kitchen, releasing his breath as the room opened back up. Striding to the kitchen he quickly rinsed his cup, much to the pain of Eijirou if the yelps of 'hot, hot!' were anything to go off of. He flicked the dirty one still in the sink clicking his tongue at the clumps of protein mix left in the bottom of the cup.

"Thank you for the…" Katsuki grumbled more to himself, frowning as he slipped on his shoes, water shutting off in the bathroom, heart rate speeding up as the sense of urgency increased. "For what?" He whispered, stepping onto the porch, quietly shutting the door, jogging back out onto the path.

For some reason, a reason he couldn't pinpoint or explain, he had to get away. He had to get out of that house and away from Eijirou. Before the idiot could tell Katsuki was missing. He had to vanish out of sight and be gone before Eijirou could look out his window and see he had left; before he had stepped out of the bathroom to see Katsuki wasn't in the living room waiting.

"It's-" Katsuki huffed, kicking up his speed to crest the hill. "It's so stupid. Fuck this is stupid."

But still he ran. His phone slapped against his thigh in his pocket, but he could ignore that. The scenery blurred by. Someone honked at him and instinctively he flipped them off before realizing he was in the middle of the road running to the airstrip that wouldn't be open for hours yet.

Panting he slowed. Drenched in sweat, gasping. Walking.

And the emotions caught up.

The memories, the sensations; the hand on his shoulder, those eyes unwavering holding his gaze, the soft smile, the sadness in the way his own drink had been perfectly smooth and mixed. It hurt. It hurt. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want to feel like this for someone. He didn’t want to be close, he didn’t want to like Eijirou or respect him. He didn’t want to-

“I don’t!” Katsuki screamed up at the sky, bright and blue and warm and promising. “FUCK YOU!” Grabbing a handful of loose asphalt he threw it up, ducking and covering as it rained back down on him in ironic justice. “Yeah, story of my fucking life.”

Defeated he pulled out his phone.

Hey bro! The unknown number had text, but Katsuki could only guess. Mina gave me your digits after we went out drinking that night so I’d stop jacking her shit. Smiley face. Of course. Sorry if I weirded you out. I just pick up on emotions sometimes. Carry that shit around. Katsuki rolled his eyes as another notification came through. I'm a sympathetic crier too. That's always fun. Katsuki snorted at the mental image. Didn’t mean to scare you.

“The fuck you scared me you shitty weak ass pansy.” He growled, trudging towards the cafe. Denki would comment on his smell he knew, but he didn’t fucking care anymore. He needed his get up and go because right now it damn well got up and went without him.

I’ll see you at the hangar at 3:30!

“More smiley faces. Get a fucking grip.” Katsuki pocketed his phone, pulling it back out when it vibrated still in his grasp.

Can I get your advice? Not to be weird, but you seem to be more ripped - lean. How do I get cut along the back like that? I can’t seem to lose the skin pooch?

Katsuki rolled his eyes. The fuck you mean dumbass?

The image that popped up minutes later as Katsuki was pulling open the cafe door was a surprise. Eijirou in the All-In-One bathroom stall, back to the mirror with his shirt pulled up around his ears flexing the best he could with his phone in one hand.

Heat swelled in Katsuki’s face, flooding up and over his ears, pooling on the back of his neck. “Fuck!” Quickly Katsuki pocketed his cell, looking around at all the eyes that had turned to him.

Quickly he marched to the bar, plopping on his normal seat and hiding his face on the cool countertop. The fuck? The fuckthefuckthefuckthefuck-

“Uh…” Denki’s fingers tapped on the back of his neck annoyingly hard. “You okay there? You’re… red? And oh God you smell! Did you get sunburned working on the plane again?”

“Fucking yes.” Katsuki hissed, unwilling to lift his head. “The usual, Dunceface.”

“Need it stronger than normal?”

Katsuki peeked over his elbow to growl.

Denki paused, pulling his hand towel off his shoulder. “I’ll take that as a yes.” A moment of silence as ceramic clinked and metal banged. It wasn’t until liquid started trickling and steam hissed that Denki spoke up again, adjusting his glasses as he leaned against the counter. “So what’s got you so flustered?”

“Nothing.” Katsuki’s shoulder rose in defiance, prickly as ever. “Nothing is wrong. Nothing has me flustered. I’m fine!”

“A bad workout?” Denki continued, oblivious.

“A bad workout partner.” Katsuki snarled, unable to keep his comments to himself. “Does no one in this shit town understand personal space or boundaries or-”

“Ah.” Denki crouched, mimicking Katsuki’s pose. “Ei.”

“The fuck is wrong with him?” Katsuki all but shrieked, heart drumming mad. “I have anxiety just hearing his fucking name!”

“It’s not really his fault. His whole family is invasive in the worst way.” Denki sighed, moving back to the coffee machine, mixing the milk in with slow precision. “Eijirou has it harder than most. He’s sort of a black sheep. A kind of outcast? He’s always had a really trusting nature-”

“Yeah no shit. Even I can see that.”

“And he’s got a big heart. He really just wants to be special so when anyone pays him attention he kind of leeches on.” Adding the spices Denki swirled the copper spoon, topping with cream and shavings. “He’s a twin you know? Had to share everything; his birthday, affection. His brother is just as good natured if a little more ruthless. A little more like the family. A little more-”

“I fucking get it.” The spices were strong this time, Katsuki could smell them over the coffee and chocolate. “So if he…” he swallowed hard, blinked rapid, ran a tongue over his teeth. “If he sent a weird question it doesn’t mean anything. He’s just being… he’s just being him?”

“Yeah.” Denki shrugged. “He’s just really friendly. First time he and I hung out he dragged me into the lake with him naked. To be fair we were both a little drunk on some sake we stole with Hanta from the Sakura Ceremony.” Denki smile. “That was the first time we all really started hanging out. I don’t think Eijirou smoked weed again after that summer till he started… Uh,” Denki chuckled nervously, “he can tell you that if he wants.”

Katsuki nodded as Denki slapped the counter, mumbling something as he moved to clean up a table, pulling his phone back out and dragging up the picture. Despite the feeling; the reeling of his head, the way his brain felt foggy and sick, he knew Eijirou didn’t really need to cut down anything.

Honestly it’s just the way you’re built. If you really wanna cut down less carbs more cardio. Katsuki typed hesitantly, staring at the words for eons before hitting send.

Uhg I hate cardio. The response was fast. Thanks tho bro.

And again the phone went off. You can be my accountability partner. No one else here really works out like you do. Keep me from getting summer fat before I go back to school.

Another image of the empty shop. God I’m bored.

Quit texting me, fuckssake. Katsuki fumed as he managed to take a second drink in between notifications.

I’m bored man. Honestly the best part of my day is at the hangar with you guys.

Katsuki nearly dropped his phone at the way the words made his hands shake. He looked at his mocha, so nauseous he wasn’t sure he’d be able to finish it.

“Man…” Katsuki looked up to see Denki watching him. “Are you okay? Like really? You’re changing color like a chameleon. First red, now pale. Are you sick?”

“Go die.” He scrolled back up to that image, hating the way it made his throat feel too thick to swallow. What the fuck is wrong with him? “I’m fine.”

But just to be safe he powered off his phone anyway.

 

Chapter Text

“So you trained professionally really?”

“Why the fuck-” Katsuki grunted as the guage face popped off, rust raining down on his face, “- does that surprise you?” He handed the glass dome off to the outstretched hand. “That was the last one.” He sat, wiping the sweat off his neck with the rag in his pocket.

“Only three cracked.” Eijirou rolled his eyes, tone dry as he arranged the domes. “How much will that cost to replace?”

Katsuki grimaced. “Let’s not think about it. We don’t have to pay for it so-”

“It’s not that it surprised me so much.” Eijirou took a drink, jumping topics flawlessly as he carefully peeled the number faces off, whistling. “These are so faded.” He chuckled. “You can’t even read the numbers. We should paint them back on in rainbows.”

“You fuck with them like that,” Katsuki threatened, striding past to the fridge, grabbing a beer, “and I’ll fucking fire you immediately. This isn’t a goddamn joke it’s my livelihood. Authenticity is the fucking point.”

“I wasn’t gunna.” Eijirou wilted, moping over the gauge pieces spread over the table before him.

“Don’t inhale too deeply if you’re gunna be that close.” Katsuki warned. “Probably have asbestos and shit in ‘em.”

“The fuck?” Eijirou shot back in his chair, head darting to Katsuki as he climbed back into the body to keep stripping the innards. “Really?”

A derisive snort echoed, but no further answer. Minutes passed before Katsuki's cell went off. Annoyed he pulled it out of his pocket.

1 missed message. Eyes narrowed as he flicked the screen up.

Hey, you up for some sparring?

Katsuki tsked, You can’t handle sparring against me dipshit. He peeked over the wing of the plane to see Eijirou read the message, watch the grin trickle over his face. Katsuki ducked back down to avoid being seen.

“You’re that fucking cocky, huh?”

He rose again, slowly. “The fuck you texting me for anyway, asshole?” Katsuki leaned against the worn leather of the pilot's seat, wiping his hands carefully to avoid getting grease on the metal body. “We’re literally within earshot.”

Eijirou shrugged. “I’m lazy. Bored. I dunno.”

Katsuki snorted, “If you’re feeling that bored get up here and work on the goddamn plane that I’m paying you for, jackass.”

Eijirou groaned, leaning back in his chair. “I dun wanna.” He whined, head leaning far back, profile and adam's apple exposed, highlighted in the dusk glow of the setting sun. “It’s exhausting finding things to do in that store all day.”

“Oh yeah?” Katsuki jumped down, looking back at the plane. “It’s about all we can do on her anyway I think. We’re losing light and until you get your ass in gear I can’t fiddle with the exterior anymore. Lazy sack of shit.” He kicked Eijirou in the thigh, making his chair wobble, catching the back of it just as quickly before he could fall.

“Whoa!” The idiot’s face split into an awed grin. “The was some Matrix shit!”

Katsuki scoffed, “Fuck you.”

Katsuki wasn’t sure why it was so heated; wasn’t sure why the words spoken purely in adoration made him so angry. He walked away fast as the pressure of the confusing emotions stole up from his stomach to burn his chest and face, shoving the chair off balance again, not turning back when he heard it tumble.

Not responding when the moron started laughing.

"Kat, wait!"

Aki nipped at his heels as he kept walking down the tarmac, out the gate.

"Kat!"

Eijirou's shout echoed in his head on repeat to the vibration of his cell phone. Curiously he pulled it out of his pocket.

Kat, what the fuck? Where are you going?

Face flushed, his hand plunged deep back into his pocket, burying his cellphone under his wallet and keys as he strode, counting his steps. Another vibration. And another. And another.

Katsuki's eyes clenched tight, breath leaked between lips as his head fell back. He was not answering the barrage of texts that blew up his phone on the way home. Not reading them as he showered. He didn't check his notifications as he ate dinner. He didn't check over and over again.

18 New Messages

Katsuki didn't feel a thrill when another new text came through as he changed into pajamas.

He certainly didn't read and reread them as he lay in bed.

Dude you’re such an asshole.

I can't believe you ignored me all night long! Such a dick move.

I could absolutely smear your ass in a fight.

I can say pretty much anything and you can't argue.

You like hugs.

You're a cuddler. I'd bet money on it.

I'm way stronger than you.

Hotter too.

Do you think unicorns are real?

That was out of left field but I'm running out of ideas and I'm just going with it.

I wonder what those dreams were about. I haven't had any since I got here, have you?

You won't answer that. I'm psychic now too.

Next local news headline: Village Tough Guy, previously famous for soliciting public for blowjobs, - that didn't make Katsuki blush and groan, he wasn't sure Eijirou had known about his televised, and reported, outburst - caught Cuddling, More on page 6

That really was fucking awesome though. The chair thing. Catching me midair.

Reflexes like a catHaha, get it?

I promise I’ll work harder tomorrow.

Also I got a new protein shake flavor. If I beat you around the lake tomorrow you gotta try some.

It won’t be clumpy, I swear. Well, yours won’t be.

See you, Kat. No swimming without me tonight. ;)

Katsuki did not crack a grin at the idiocy of the messages he didn't read, and he sure as hell didn't fall asleep with his hand still clutching his cellphone beneath his pillow.

 

☆~☆~☆

 

Eijirou held a finger to his lips, earning rolled eyes as Katsuki sucked on his popsicle, leaning on the All-in-One counter. Quietly the enormous man hopped up and over the counter, dropping down so that his sandals didn't make a noise on the old wood floors.

"-a new spicy flavor, but that's more Katsuki's thing." Denki prattled on, unaware, standing in front of the freezers.

"I mean, why the debate?" Hanta stifled a yawn, wiping at his eyes. "You'll just get your…" He spotted Eijirou prowling closer, smiled. "Y-your usual anyway."

Denki frowned, stood, "What was that pause?"

"Hm? Oh…" Hanta broke off to yawn again, shrugged and smiled sheepish. "Sorry."

"You have to sleep better babe-"

Hanta smacked his ass as he bent back over to look at the desserts. "I know, but I can't help it." He winked at Denki's upset frown, "I get to thinking about you."

"Uhg, vomit." Katsuki bit through his popsicle with a violently loud crunch. "Pick your goddamn flavor-"

As Denki turned with a retort Eijirou burst out the other side of the aisle wearing an oni mask and screaming.

"HOLY SHIT!" Denki screamed, dropping to the ground. "God dammit, Ei!" He grabbed a bag of chips, tossing them at Eijirou who was doubled over in laughter. "I pissed myself! How many fucking times are you going to do that?!"

"Did you really?" Hanta managed between gasps. "I'm sorry!" He cried at Denki’s pout helping his boyfriend stand back up, "but your-your face!"

Denki turned to Katsuki, finger pointed in accusation. "You knew!"

"Fuck yeah I did." Katsuki took a lick of his popsicle, gaze turning to Eijirou as he peeled the mask off, face flushed. "It's what you deserve for taking so long."

Eijirou grabbed the chips, catching Katsuki's eyes, quickly ducking back down to shelve the bag. "Sorry man. It's all in good fun. Are you okay?" He grabbed Denki's glasses from the ground, carefully put them on the small blond man, tucking his hair behind his ear.

Katsuki snorted, averting his gaze. Again his stomach clenching, twisting. Worse than before.

"Why are you always so nice after?" Denki growled, though the venom was gone. "I want to stay mad at you."

"It wouldn't be fun if you were mad at me after! I'd feel guilty and have to stop." Eijirou smiled fondly, pushing himself into Hanta. "We okay?"

"Always, you fucking flirt." Hanta shoved him off. "Grab something Denki." Hanta demanded, "or Katsuki might get less kind ideas and turn us into bait."

The popsicle popped out of Katsuki's mouth as he grinned, "Now that's an idea."

"Oh no." Eijirou chuckled, moving back behind the counter, tucking the mask on a shelf. "Are we gunna have to include you on our bullshit?"

Katsuki pushed off, turned to better see all the men. "I'm intrigued."

"Oh no." Hanta frowned, slapping his Totoro ice cream down. "No. He'll be mean. He won't be nice like you or harmless like us."

"Yeah. His pranks will be stuff like swapping regular chips out for wasabi or adding hot sauce to drinks or hitting us with moving vehicles." Denki seconded, putting his push-pop beside Hanta's.

"You're fucking cowards." Katsuki sneered, "can't take a little heat."

"It's part of the rule though." Eijirou frowned, ringing up the treats. "We don't purposely hurt people. But guys!" He handed the ice creams over, simultaneously taking Katsuki's popsicle stick. "I think he'd add a great dynamic."

"Fuck." Hanta bit Totoro's lopsided eye off, chewed. "Why are you vouching so hard man." He sighed. "Alright, I'm down. But you-" Hanta pointed with his ice cream, "can't play without supervision. You don't know the rules."

Denki nodded as Hanta spoke, "Alright. If Hanta's okay with it I can be too."

"I don't need-" A pinch at his back cut him off. Katsuki threw a quick glare at Eijirou. "Fine. Fine, it's bullshit anyway."

"I'm glad you think that Kat." Eijirou grinned as an elderly couple walked into aisle three. "Cuz right now, I think you need Hanta to play karaoke."

"What?" A slow, predatory grin spread under hungry red eyes as Hanta paled.

"No, no. C'mon Ei!"

"I don't know, guys." Eijirou grinned. "I hear the music, can't you?"

Denki chuckled, started humming and swaying.

"It's karaoke time, bitch." Katsuki hissed. "And I think the tune is Vampire?" Denki nodded, shoving his mouthful of push pop before Hanta could say anything. "Yeah, yeah." A hand moved to his ear as Hanta moved to the middle of the store. "By IZ*ONE. You know it." Katsuki cackled as Hanta struggled to remain angry.

Eijirou joined in with Denki, smacking Katsuki's shoulder, you gotta hum too, as Hanta began singing.

Terribly. Denki recording.

They got a full twenty seconds of footage before the old lady, in aisle six now, asked what was wrong with the pipes that they were making that awful noise causing them all to dissolve in feral laughter.

 

☆~☆~☆

 

“Ready to dance, pretty boy?” Eijirou sat heavy on his feet, leaning back on his heels before shifting up to the balls of his soles.

Katsuki tilted his head, already assured of his win. “Bring it.”

“Ohhhh!” Mina crowed from behind them, “This is gunna be intense!”

“I don’t think so-” Denki leaned forward.

“Can it, Extras!” Katsuki snapped as he swung an arm over his shoulder. “No one needs to hear what a bunch of nobodies think.”

“Always the charmer.” Hanta raised his coffee thermos, absolutely full of not coffee, in salute.

“You think you’re gunna win cuz you’ve got training and speed on your side.” Eijirou shook his head, rolling his neck.

Katsuki’s mouth kicked up in a feral grin, half snarl half challenge as he crouched, arms raising in an equally defensive and offensive stance. "I'm going to win because I always win."

“I don’t think you’re taking into account that-” Eijirou pulled off his shirt, slammed a fist into the other, pressing his knuckles into one another; the popping of his knuckles was horrendous.

Even after lowering his stance Eijirou was still huge. Katsuki hadn’t noticed before just how solidly muscle the man was.

“You can’t intimidate me, Hair-For-Brains.” Katsuki hissed, lowering, nearly on all fours, form forgotten. “Mountains may not bow, but they can be demolished.” Eyes narrowed. “I’ll bring you to your knees, Eijirou.”

“Does this still feel like battle talk, or does it have kind of a foreplay vibe to you?” Denki frowned, whispering not-so-quietly.

Eijirou heard, laughed. “Getting jealous, Babe?”

“Nah!” Denki grinned. “I know I’m your only one, sweetheart!”

“Oi, fuck off!” Hanta shoved him. “I thought I was his only one!”

"Don't take your focus off me!" Katsuki bristled, offended, stomach coiling.

Eijirou cackled, eyes darting back to Katsuki fast as Mina sighed, placing her head in her hands. The atmosphere between them evolving, the challenge becoming real. Katsuki’s glare was hot and fiery, fingers dug into the dirt as he sprang forward, Eijirou’s stance deepened, lowering his center of gravity.

“Nice try.” Katsuki snipped, sneering.

His fist met skin. An arm rose to block. Katsuki used the diversion to twist and dipped under wide spread legs. A reaching hand wrapped around an exposed throat over a shoulder, feet planted on his back. Mouth at his ear, voice low. Almost possessive. Almost jealous.

“Real fuckin’ flirtatious, aren’t you?”

Eijirou’s eyes went wide, pink dusted the tip of the freckled ear near smirking lips. Hands moved up; fingers scrambled for purchase as Katsuki’s hands dug into meaty shoulders. Kastuki growled as he sprung off, flipping over Eijirou’s back, using the momentum to pull the larger man forward and onto his head - ideally. At the last minute the mountain of flesh flipped, pouncing off his toes, landing on his feet, crouching over Katsuki, pinning him.

Breathless Katsuki gasped at the cocky fucker restraining him.

“What?” Eijirou smirked, hands tight around wrists, knees squishing thighs as he leaned in close, too close. Katsuki could feel warm breath dusting his skin.

Fucker isn’t even breathing hard. That got his blood pumping. That made him excited.

Eijirou tightened his grip, squeezed his thighs tighter. “Didn’t think I’d be flexible?”

The message was loud and clear. Two could play this game. Two could toe the line of what friends could get away with, what could be said, where appropriate ended, where the boundaries were.

And Katsuki wasn’t equipped for this particular ring. It was apparent by the grin on Eijirou’s face, the proximity of Eijirou’s body, the placement of Katsuki’s wrists pinned above his head.

It was Katsuki’s turn to squirm; to be uncomfortable. Eijirou wasn’t supposed to be fast. He wasn’t supposed to be flexible. He was muscle. He was big. He was “The Mountain”. Speed and dexterity wasn’t part of that, wasn’t supposed to be-

Close.

Close enough to see gold specks in red eyes. To see the blush from whispered words lingering on cheek bones and ear tips. To see-

Katsuki thrust up with his hips, locking an ankle around Eijirou’s calf, flipping the script; tumbling the mountain. Pinning Eijirou. He could retract the flirtation, he could steer their sparring back to a fight. It didn’t have to be… more. He didn’t need the same relationship as the others, he didn’t need the attention. He didn’t.

He didn’t.

“Street brawls don’t work against skill.” Katsuki crowed, perched above, forearm pressed tight against his opponents throat.

“Oh how cute.” Eijirou’s eyebrow cocked, voice strangled, the roll of a laugh vibrating up Katsuki’s thighs. “You think you’re winning right now?”

Confusion filtered across the proud sneer for a moment before the massive man just stood, arms wrapping around Katsuki to keep him from falling.

“Just admit I’ve won.” Eijirou grinned.

“Fuck you.” Katsuki’s face was red, his body plastered against Eijirou as the idiots behind them howled and hollered and whistled. “They’re enjoying this too fucking much.”

“Why aren’t you fighting me all out?” Eijirou grunted as Katsuki fought his way free.

Katsuki tensed, eyes flashing cold beneath ashy blond hair. “You wouldn’t be able to handle it.”

“Try me.” Eijirou snarled, finally really fighting; really offended. “You asshole, you really think you’re better than I am?”

Katsuki backed away, obviously at war with the idea. He shrugged, took a step back and charged.

“Then go die!”

 

☆~☆~☆

 

“Jesus, Kat.” The voice came tinny from inside the body of the airplane. “I can barely see through my fucking eye you absolute feral fucker.”

“You asked for it, jackass.” Katsuki wasn’t going to apologize.

He winced as he tried to grab the wrench, push it down. It fell uselessly to the concrete, his knuckles too swollen to grab anything properly.

“Piece of shit.” Katsuki muttered, kicking at it.

Aki yipped, licking at the wrench.

“Aki, no.” Eijirou tried not to smile as he watched the mutt grab it up. “Aki! Drop it!”

The brown dog huffed before running off with the tool. Sakura quick to join in on the chase. Eijirou laughed too hard to chase them down.

“Well fuck.” Katsuki chuckled.

“This is kind of useless right now.” Eijirou’s bruised face popped out from the cockpit. “Let’s go get some food. I’m starving.”

“Fuck you. We gotta get this done before-”

“My treat, Kats.” Red eyes pleaded above pouting lips and Katsuki hissed, split lip begging to open up again. “Yes, I knew you’d agree.”

“Stop bragging asshole. You don’t fucking know me.”

Eijirou grimaced as he poured himself out of the A7M. “I knew you’d get food if I begged.”

“You didn’t, you garbage.”

“I’m not garbage.” Eijirou’s voice went low as he tucked in closer, arm draping over Katsuki’s shoulders, finger gingerly tracing the bandage over his cheek. “Besides, I landed a few good blows.”

“Fucker.” Katsuki shoved his hand away. “I still won. Whooped your fucking ass.”

“Took you a long goddamn time though.” Eijirou beamed through the yellowing black bruises. “I made you earn it. I made you work for it.”

“You’re buying me so much fucking food!” Katsuki bristled. “All of the food. Fuck you. Fuck you and your house and your shitty town. Fuck.”

 

Chapter Text

Katsuki leaned against the wall, using his shirt to sponge off the sweat, taking a drink from his jelly tea, watching the rain drip off the leaves of the trees lining his driveway.

"Miserable." He swallowed, wiping his mouth.

We're meeting at the airstrip. Katsuki hit send.

It's beautiful tho. Eijirou's text followed a picture of the rain pouring on the lake, steam rising in a shroud.

Some poetic bullshit.

C'mon, bro. Eijirou's smiley faces. Katsuki rolled his eyes. I think I'm cutting down?

Katsuki's fingers froze in the midst of texting 'good for you'. Eijirou's back still glistened with sweat. He had three freckles just to the right of his spine. His arms were cocked to allowed his back to flex, black hair up in a messy bun, sweat slicking the stray hairs to his neck and ears.

"Fuck." Katsuki's head fell back, he swallowed hard, stomach churning before looking back at the photo.

Zooming in, he could see the grin in the reflection, red eyes fuzzy but bright, friendly.

"Fuck!" His arm rose, poised to toss his whole damn phone before he talked himself down.

Yeah. He responded. Looking leaner.

Thanks bro! Get swole! Another notification, And you? I feel weird being the only one sending pics honestly.

I'm peak performance. Katsuki's fingers flew over the screen. I don't need input.

Whoa. Not even for, like, progress?

The blond snorted, Obviously not. I've been doing fine on my own this far.

Katsuki stared at the dots, his stomach knotting. The fuck does '...' mean shithead?

Nothing. Katsuki took a drink. Another. Three minutes out on the front porch, the rain continued. The air so muggy and thick he was sweating from the mere act of breathing. His cell vibrated in his palm as he finished his drink.

"Finally." Katsuki straightened, swiping his phone to the notifications. "An email?" He tsked, dismissing the alert as he slouched back against the house.

Minutes passed in a peaceful haze of summer rain and post-workout buzz. Until the growl of an engine broke through the steady beat of rainfall. Curiously Katsuki sat straighter, eyes narrowed but on alert.

A shitty red dirt bike peeked around the blind curve, gravel crunching under the tires. But that's not what made Katsuki feel sick.

Thick legs rested on the ground as the vehicle stopped, a foot moving instinctively to throw out the kick stand. Pulling off a scraped up helmet black, wet hair tumbled down in a messy nest. The leather jacket was slick with rain, his shorts were plastered to his body, hugging every curve and bulge as Eijirou stood.

"Hey, Kat!"

Too friendly. Too happy. Too positive. Too bright.

"The fuck you doing here? My house is easily…" Dumbfounded, confused, Katsuki looked to his phone now discarded at his knee on the porch.

"Ah." Eijirou smiled that stupid grin, dimple in his left cheek flashing. "Well I figured we'd both need breakfast. And I was heading to the cafe anyway, so-"

"My house," Katsuki continued, standing to lean against a support beam, kicking a foot over an ankle, "is fifteen minutes outside of town by car."

"Yeah… I-I mean not that long on my bike..." a hand raked through sopping hair. "I guess it is a little out of the way." His hand pat the bike after a moment of awkward silence. "Can I store this somewhere drier?"

With a growl Katsuki stalked into his house, leaving Eijirou in the rain.

"Hello?" The words chased after him moments later. "I mean, I know I wasn't invited but leaving me out here is kinda-" Eijirou's eyes widened as Katsuki reemerged, umbrella in hand.

"You were saying?"

"Guess not." Eijirou chuckled, grabbing the handles and wheeling after the blond. "Man, you probably don't want to hear this, but when I was younger I'd break into your shed."

"Hm." He slid the key into the padlock, popping it open with a twist.

"Yeah." Eijirou pushed the bike forward as Katsuki held the door open. "The guy that used to live here was a dick. He'd steal our toys that would get caught up in the rains and wash away, get caught in-" His voice caught, eyes flicked to the forest. "Uh, sorry. Haha, uh. Get caught in the gutters and stuff. So I'd-Oh, thank you." Eijirou took the towel from Katsuki, who had offered without being asked, talking as he dried his bike. "I'd sneak in through a hole in the back wall over that way-" Eijirou crouched, knees popping, to point. "Looks like it's gone now. Good. I'd have fixed it for you though."

"I'm not infirm." Katsuki's hand clenched around his umbrella, making it tilt. He ignored the rain splattering on his shoulder. "I can fix my own shit."

"Done." Eijirou muttered, standing and wiping off his hands before turning to Katsuki, smile gone, gaze levelling. "I know you can, Katsuki."

The blond sucked in a sharp breath. When Eijirou said his name it just felt like more.

"But that's not the point. The point is that I like helping you. I want to help you." Eijirou frowned at his hands tangled in the dirt and oil marked towel. "I-I like showing people that I care; that they can rely on me. You can too, you know."

They moved to the house, side by side. Eijirou getting rained on, Katsuki firmly under the umbrella. It wasn't until Katsuki had opened the door that he realized Eijirou was standing in the rain.

"The fuck you doing, Hair-for-Brains?" He tossed the umbrella inside, wincing as it collided with the shoe rack.

"I-uh…" Eijirou laughed, eyes darting around. "I'm nervous."

Katsuki couldn't help the sneer. "What for?"

"I don't know." He shrugged. “It’s never been just…” A finger wagged between them uselessly. “You and me.”

Katsuki rolled his eyes. "Well come in or don't, I don't give a shit if you die of pneumonia."

"Alright!" Eijirou was beside him in a leap that Katsuki refused to admit was impressive, arms spread wide like some sort of offering. "I'm here."

As they pulled off their shoes, now drenched and covered in mud Katsuki realized it was the first time Eijirou had been around him alone. It had been the first time he'd ever actually invited anyone into his house.

Fists clenched as his breath sped, eyes raced to the sets of shoes together by the step into the living room. The large body that slowly perused his kitchen, skirted around to the hallway. Eijirou who knew about Jin, Eijirou who handed Katsuki’s ass to him. Eijirou who-

No. Katsuki sank to his heels. No. Deep breath. It's fine, it's okay. This is normal. You invited him in. That's normal-

"Hey." A soft voice; that warm voice from his nightmares, that rescued him from the depths. "Hey, it's okay." Feet rushed steady and strong to his side, a body slid against the wall, heat against him. An arm over his shoulder. "When I was little my brother… I'm a twin, by the way. My brother was everyone's favorite. The strongest, the fastest."

Eijirou snorted, Katsuki could feel the fog lifting as the man beside him spoke. He sucked in breath to his suffocating lungs. Eyes found the still puffy, barely bruised skin to focus on. Barely purple and red. When Eijirou smiled it looked too big, wrinkled weird.

"But we were the same! I was just as fast as he was, I’m stronger now." The arm around Katsuki tightened, the blond could see again, engulfed in a blanket of warmth and the smell of rain and summer and sweat and spice. Eijirou winked conspiratorially. "Same birthdays, same height, same birth weight… but I was softer, you see? I cared too much. So when we went hunting and I cried, or when I thought pink was my favorite color or when I wanted to be a fairy or asked why we had to kill the dragon when we played knights and princesses…" Eijirou's arm withdrew, fists rested on crossed legs. New bruises and scrapes not from Katsuki marred the skin there and he wondered how those happened. "I just never fit in." His head tilted back. Katsuki wondered what it would feel like to touch his throat while he talked. "I was too soft, I'm too…" his voice trailed off. "I started acting reckless. Crazy. I thought if I did my family would…

"They'd see me." He let out a heavy sigh. "It didn't work."

"It never does." Katsuki agreed, panic attack calmed. "Is that how you got your…" he tapped his eye.

"Oh! My scar?" Eijirou laughed, shoulder bumping into the man beside him. "Nah. Well, I mean sort of? I got into a fight I couldn't win. One of the fuckers sucker punched me with some brass knuckles, split my eyelid in half. Had to stitch it back down in the city. Fucked my vision for a long time. Had to do physical therapy for three years to get the muscles in my eyes working right and I wore glasses that forced my eyes to move together-" he held his fingers up to demonstrate. "Cuz the muscles weren't in synch. So I had to retrain them."

"Well, that's hardcore." Katsuki stretched, back sore from sitting on the ground; sore from being fucking piledriven five days ago.

"Yeah." Eijirou grunted as he stood, pulling Katsuki up with him, smiling when the blond broke contact immediately. "They…" he frowned at his socked toes, wiggling them. "Do you want to know why I got into a fight with them?"

The way Eijirou glanced up made Katsuki's skin prick. Of all the emotions he'd seen displayed, insecurity hadn't been one of them.

"Look, dipshit." Katsuki took a steadying breath. "You're one of the most… rock steady men I know." He turned away moving to the kitchen, leaning over the sink, willing himself not to remember how Eijirou had felt when he was with Pony. "You had to fight some mother fuckers to prove a point. You're a good guy, Eijirou. You don't have to… God, I suck at this." Katsuki ran a hand over his face, turning back to face the man now sitting at the island situating the leather jacket over the back of his chair. "You're unbreakable. Your morals, your foundation, your… whatever. You are a better man than I am. I mean that. You care." Katsuki had to drop his gaze, the words were true and it hurt to say. "You make people feel better. That matters. I don't need justification for what you've done or what you did. You had a good reason."

When he looked back up Eijirou's face had gone pale, his scar a purplish pink. He looked like he would be sick.

"God, Katsuki." He let out a slow breath, "I have to tell you. I'm-"

"No." Katsuki slapped his palms against the counter in a rapid rhythm. "No. It's fine. You're a good man, end fucking of. All this sappy shit's gunna make me puke. Go dry off. I'll throw your shorts in the dryer. We can take my truck to the cafe."

 

☆~☆~☆

 

Katsuki paced slow, consciously. Breathing in time to his footfalls.

In, in, out. One.

There was a man in his bathroom.

In, in, out. Two.

Naked from the waist down.

In, in out. Three.

And he had left his- “Oh my God!” He crouched down, hands tangling on the back of his neck, feeling the blush scrawling up his ears. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck. Okay, it’s fine. Probably hasn’t even noticed. Breathe, idiot. Fucking moron.” Katsuki scowled at his toes. “It’s fine. Towels are right by the door.”

Standing he strode to the bathroom, knocking violently. Something behind the closed door banged, a soft curse. "I need your pants and underwear."

The door opened just barely. The wall of man hidden behind the wood structure was almost enough to make Katsuki find the humor in the situation; nearly enough to make the paranoid blond forget about leaving his toy in the cupboard under the sink, almost made him forget about the knots in his stomach.

Eijirou's eyes widened, his mouth popping open in a little wheeze. "E-excuse me?"

Katsuki’s eyes narrowed, feet spread, arms crossed. "Your clothes, Hair-For-Brains? They're soaking wet, you goddamn idiot."

“R-right!” Eijirou smiled, his whole face lighting up as the door wobbled in his loosening death grip. "Ah, haha. Yeah. Hold up." The door closed for a second only for the booming voice to shout, “Uh, where are your towels?"

"The…" Are you kidding me? You fucking idiot… "The rack, right by the door."

"Yep. 'Kay." The door opened again, exposing more of Eijirou than Katsuki was prepared for, the towel covering less thigh than he would have assumed, though Eijirou didn’t seem to mind, face full of smiles, cheeks tinged pink. "Thanks man."

Narrowed, glaring gaze raked over the taller man, appreciating the coverage but still surprised by the modesty. "I didn't take you for the shy type."

"I-I dunno man.” He shrunk a little, the door falling slightly more closed as though it would protect him. “I don't normally strip in other dudes houses the first time I visit."

The words hit Katsuki like electricity. Fingers tightened around the wet belongings, ignoring the way the water ran down his forearm and dripped onto his floor. It was difficult to think for a moment; to breathe. Frowning he looked back up, realizing Eijirou was waiting for a response.

"Huh." Katsuki reached forward, grabbing the knob and shutting the bathroom door.

What the hell was that? Katsuki growled, tossing the clothes in the dryer on high before snagging the mop and cleaning the puddles off the floor. I don’t just… freeze. What the fuck? His stomach tightened further as he thought about it, replaying the scene over and over; Eijirou in a t-shirt and his towel, that jolt of… something that made goosebumps flood just under Katsuki’s skin. A hand fell to his abdomen. Uhg. And now my stomach hurts? Probably because I haven’t actually eaten anything and I did work out. And then my-

Katsuki paused, setting the mop aside. He’d forgotten. Eyes drifted to the stormy scene outside. He’d forgotten about his panic attack earlier. An odd, almost guilty, feeling washed through him.

When was the last time…? He pulled out his phone, checked the time.

Hesitant feet led him back across the room, pausing before the bathroom door, hand hovering in midair before falling heavy. "You don't have to stay in there you know."

Fingers rested on the wood. I should have guessed that was hard for you. Eyes raked over the wood grain patterns, trying to find meaning and shapes like they had so many times before. This time was different though. This time he was trying to convey something, to transmute it through a solid object to the person on the other side. Come out. Let me thank you in my own way. Let me apologize for hurting you, for not seeing how you were laid bare and I didn't notice it. Let me fix this.

"Nah man.” The voice was muffled, strained. “I'm-I'm good."

"Do you… need anything?" Katsuki cursed sharp, he wasn’t good at emotions. He wasn’t good at reading people but what Eijirou had shared earlier couldn’t have been easy and... Fuck he couldn’t thank him with a bathroom door in the way. "This is one of the most awkward fucking interactions."

"Just my way of breaking the ice. Now," The voice was overly cheerful, Katsuki knew that tone if he knew any and it made his chest burn. He’d used it himself before. Long, long ago, "no matter what we'll never have anything more awkward than half naked dude stealing your bathroom for twenty minutes after trying to bro out over some summer rain."

Katsuki did have to give him that point, a half laugh escaped before he could stop it, the smile tugging on the corners of his lips as fingers slid down, dropped away. "Well, you're right that it's awkward at least. Your clothes are almost done."

Katsuki stared at the door for a moment more until Eijirou’s phone beeped from the other room, bringing him back to the present. Quickly he stalked away, shaking his head. It wouldn’t do any good to stand there and wait. He would probably just fuck it up anyway, he always did.

The empathy quickly burned away to anger, embarrassment. Asshole probably regrets telling me. The mop swept across the floor furiously. Can’t say I blame him. I wouldn't have told me anything. What the fuck did he even mean 'do you want to know why I got in a fight with them’? He was probably being a fucking door mat like he always is. Fucking asshole stealing up all my bathroom. What if I had to fucking take a shit? He slammed the mop down, wringing it out so hard a few strands broke off.

“Oh fucking great.” Katsuki muttered, kicking the bucket out the door and down the porch so it tipped onto the gravel, half spilling the murky contents into the rain. “Yeah, fuck you too!”

Crouching on the edge of the porch he watched the rain fall down as the dryer buzzed behind him. He let his arms hang off his knees, glaring death at the stupid mop. A middle finger flicked up. Stupid bucket. Like his glare would magically bring them back. After a moment he fell to his knees, leaning forward, maneuvering both back to him with his fingertips till he could properly grab them.

“Don’t make my morning this difficult again, you shit stains.” He threatened, emptying them properly and wheeling them inside in time to hear the bathroom door close with a loud slam.

Tucking the cleaning supplies back in the closet he checked the dryer, the clothes were gone. Heat blossomed over his face. Eijirou had probably seen him acting like… like that. Growling Katsuki slapped his hands against his jeans, rubbing at his eyes in exasperation. It was too damn early to be this fucking tired.

“Fuck.” He sighed, then louder, “Ready to go, Eijirou?”

A socked foot busted the bathroom door open with gusto, the dark haired idiot followed, sliding out in warm, dry shorts proudly sliding down the wooden hallway to stop feet away, arms spread wide like he’d performed some great feat that deserved applause.

“READY!”

“Jesus fuck.” Katsuki glared at him, unimpressed. “So you use up my time, wasting my electricity, and now you’re gunna break my door too?”

“I mean you’re the ungracious host who didn’t even give me a tour.” Eijirou pointed out as they moved to the entryway, pulling their shoes on.

Karsuki growled in response, letting Eijirou exit first, closing his door as Eijirou stepped through, stretching. As he moved to stand beside him at the edge of the porch that arm rested around his shoulders again as they enjoyed the last bit of cover before entering the downpour. Katsuki braced himself, Eijirou was nearly vibrating beside him.

“The fuck is your issue?”

Eijirou beamed, “Is the car unlocked?”

A beep and flashing lights responded. “Now it is.”

“Okay, whoever gets there last has to buy.” And Eijirou took off sprinting, pushing Katsuki back with a massive hand.

“You fucking cheater!” A feral grin ripped across the blonds face as he pushed off the porch, easily eating the ground between them, launching over the bed of the truck and sliding around to the drivers side, ripping open the door and hitting the lock button so Eijirou was forced to tug on the locked handle out in the rain as Katsuki buckled.

“What was that about paying?”

“I’ll pay!” Eijirou laughed, “I’ll pay, I’ll pay!” Hands rose in defeat as Katsuki leaned across, popping open the door. “Damn you’re quick. Took off like an exp-”

“Don’t.” Katsuki cut him off with a sharp look as he pulled out past the trees down the long driveway. “I’m so sick of all these explosive jokes from you guys.” Idle, twitching fingers flipped at the knobs on the dash until instrumental music came on. “Like I fucking get it. I’m…” Unstable. Hands tightened on the steering wheel.

“I don’t think it’s that negative.” Eijirou’s voice was deep as they passed the jizo statue.

Uncomfortably Katsuki snuck a glance, relieved to see him looking out his own window, up at the canopy as they emerged from the small forest onto the paved road.

“You’ve got a lot of passion.” Red eyes turned from the sky to look at Katsuki, captured his attention. The ache in his stomach doubled. “I admire that. I think life is meant to be lived that way. It’s… actually, really manly.” A sheepish grin. “You’re true to yourself, you don’t lie about who you are or what you’re feeling, even if it is confusing… Painful.” Something filtered over Eijirou’s face as it fell to his lap, fists clenched together. “That’s admirable. Some of us aren’t like that.”

Katsuki was aware his mouth was open, aware the car hadn’t moved from the end of his driveway, aware of the rain pounding around them. Each note of the piano through the speakers felt like a gunshot.

How does he say these things? Katsuki watched Eijirou's face carefully, the way his brows drew close, his bottom lip jut out in a pout, eyes focused on the flexing of his fists around the bunched cloth of his shorts.

He was gunna puke. For sure.

“I need to eat.” Katsuki finally announced, stepping on the gas, easing around the corner.

Eijirou snickered, “Yeah I’ll bet. You’re all muscle and bone.” A finger crossed the divide of the center console to poke Katsuki in the side. “Damn you really are solid. No wonder you can move so quick!”

Katsuki couldn't help the half-swallowed laughs as fingers prodded and poked. The car swerved, sped up. “Eijirou, you fuck face, quit fucking touching me!” He hissed, “You dimwitted motherfucker!”

Confused Eijirou slowly pulled away. Poked, watched Katsuki attempt to keep a stoney facade as he jerked from the contact. Eyes widened as dots connected. Eijirou poked Katsuki in the neck. Again a hiss, recoil. Eyes dropped to skin. Goosebumps.

“I don’t like that look on your face.” Katsuki’s voice held a warning.

“You’re ticklish.” A shit eating grin split the man’s lips as hands rose, fingers wiggling.

“THE FUCK I AM!” Katsuki roared, “I hate being touched! Don’t fucking touch me!” He jerked into a parking spot, kicking a leg up and into Eijirou’s ribs, barely pushing the vehicle into park in time. “Stay the fuck away you sadistic shit.”

“Ah! I’ve found your weakness.” Eijirou crowed, seatbelt sliding into place as he crawled out of the truck, unfolding and stretching before stepping onto the sidewalk.

“Try me.” Katsuki dared, sneer cocked his mouth up, eyes narrowed in a challenge. “I’ll murder you before you can touch me.”

“You know,” Eijirou’s arm looped around shoulders, a small smile graced his face at the defeated sigh of his companion. “You threaten that a lot but I’m still alive.”

Katsuki shrugged as Eijirou opened the door for them to walk through. “You’ve never tried me after the threat. Guess that means you’re scared.”

“Ha!” A hard slap on the chest as they sat at the counter. “You might be faster, but I’m definitely more solid. I think I could take you.”

“Uh-huh. You forget last time we fought or-”

“That was just practice.” Eijirou’s hand pressed to Katsuki’s chest.

Katsuki rolled his eyes as Denki approached. “The usual,” Red eyes pinned the blond with exhaustion. “Maybe more coffee than normal. I’ve been dealing with Eijirou all morning and-”

“How did you do that?” Denki turned immediately to the large man, eyes wide. “He’s calling you by name. How did you-”

Katsuki scoffed, grumbling below his breath as Eijirou leaned in conspiratorially. “All you gotta do is strip for him.”

“What the fuck is your problem?!” Katsuki leapt out of his chair as the two laughed, “You fucking assholes oh my God!” Miserably he sank back down.

“If that’s what it took, all you had to do was ask!” Denki winked, pulling on a sleeve to reveal a shoulder through his shirt collar.

“Oh my God, I’m surrounded by fucking morons.” Katsuki’s head rested against his forearms, eyes closed. “I just want some food and coffee. I’m fucking hungry you dipshits.”

“Okay bro.” Eijirou’s hand settled across his shoulder blades, “Denki, how about it? I’m paying so whatever Kat here normally gets and…" A low whistle, thumb rubbing up and down softly, slowly, "Menu has grown. What’s for breakfast this morning?”

“Well, I mean we’ve got the usual yeasty goods.” Denki motioned to the menu. “But I have been trying to add some- Hey! Don’t laugh at me, asshole!”

“I’m sorry!” Eijirou’s hand slapped against Katsuki’s back before Katsuki could snap about the stupid thumb, “‘Yeasty goods’? Really, Denki?”

"God, Gods…whatever is listening," Katsuki moaned, "please spare me from the simplicity that has infected these dunceface extras."

Chapter Text

“Hey.”

Katsuki blinked slowly, watching the leaves dance in the warm summer breeze. “What Dunceface?”

“How many people have you slept with?”

“The fuck kinda question is that?”

“A valid one.” Mina piped up from her inner tube.

“Guys!” Eijirou snapped, slapping the back of Denki's head. “Fucking you don’t have to answer Ka-”

“I don’t need you protecting me, Eijirou.” Katsuki growled, hands fisting. “Why does it matter, Denki?”

“I dunno.” A splash as Eijirou shoved Hanta off him into the water, Mina's giggle as the man floundered. “I’m just curious. You don’t have to if you're scared. It's fi-”

“Maybe, like, seven.” Katsuki frowned, snapped the response out, fingers digging into his arms. “Six? I’d have to think about it.”

“Really?” All eyes turned to Eijirou, poised between getting in the water and being stuck to the inner tube. “I-I didn’t mean that the way it sounded, you just seem so…”

“Yeah.” Hanta shrugged, arms draped over Mina's back and out of Eijirou's reach. “But I can see the appeal. Bad Ass Bad Boy. Chicks dig that shit. Surprised it isn’t a higher number to be honest. I would have guessed double digits.”

“Or dudes.” Mina butted in again.

“Oooh.” Denki ate that morsel up like a fish on a hook. “Are you gay?” He gasped, “Are you Bi? Poly? Pan-”

“Jesus fuck! I shouldn’t have indulged you morons at all.” Katsuki stretched on the warm dock before standing.

“No, wait -” Denki kicked his feet in sad little pats against the surface of the lake.

Katsuki flipped a middle finger up quick as he gathered his towel, bag, t-shirt and shoes, moving away from the group. Am I bi. He snorted, dropping the armful of stuff. Pan, poly. He growled low in his throat as he lay out the towel in the soft dirt, throwing himself down on it, breathing into the ground, breathing in the heat, sweating already.

Turning over. The breeze felt nice blowing over the moisture. He stank though. His nose wrinkled. A hand moved up to block out the sun glaring in his eyes as he propped up on his elbows to watch the group in the water. Hanta yelled as Denki kicked water their way, Mina screamed, blocking her face.

“Kat!”

“Oh, fuck.” Katsuki lay back down, closing his eyes, sprawling out, running the back of his hand over the soft dirt.

Moments later Eijirou joined him, the sound of the ground shifting under Eijirou made Katsuki peek. Tanned skin was slowly getting dark. Katsuki wondered if that bothered the black haired man at all. Freckles bloomed over bare shoulders. Eijirou leaned forward to poke at an ant, stomach rolls spilled over lime green and neon orange swim trunks. Those stupid baby hairs still stuck up, worse than ever after air drying in the sun. Katsuki snorted.

“Bro…” A heavy sigh, “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.” Katsuki stuck his jaw out to the sky. “Just too much all at once. What the hell is everyone's problem. Why does anyone care who I’ve fucked? Who I want to fuck? It’s all just bulshit anyway. Get your rocks off, don’t. We all die.”

Eijirou lay down beside Katsuki, arm shot up, can of soda in hand. “Brought you a peace offering.” A drop of condensation dripped onto Katsuki’s shirt.

“You are genuinely,” Katsuki snatched it away quick, “a fucking idiot.”

“Yeah.” A red eye peeked from beneath black lashes, “but I’m your guys’ idiot.”

Katsuki had to pull his gaze out to the lake, watching the others float around and play. “Why doesn’t anyone else swim around here?”

“They do.” Eijirou sat back up with a grunt. “Just further off. This is private property. It’s owned by Yagi so it’s kinda become our spot. Plus the whole dragon and-”

“Uhg spare me the fucking legend of the depths.” Katsuki drank, pulled a face “Shit. Grape. Disgusting.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Kat.” The moron winked.

“God why ‘Kat’?” He groaned, falling down beside Eijirou, punching his thigh harder than necessary. “Why can’t you just call me by my god-fucking-damn-shit name like every other asshole?”

“Cuz it bothers you.” Eijirou smiled, slowly leaning back on an elbow, leaning over the blond, “Cuz I like bugging you a little bit. A taste of your own medicine. I like knowing I get under your skin.” Katsuki pushed himself back in the dirt as Eijirou encroached in his personal space, leaning closer as those eyes glared down at him. “I like knowing I’m the only one who calls you that.” A hand reached out, fingers flicked sunwarmed skin. “I dunno. Guess it makes me feel like we’re closer than you are with the others-” The hand knotted in his tank and Katsuki bolted upright, almost knocking heads.

Katsuki’s eyes narrowed, mouth twisted up into a smirk. “Don’t fucking be like that, Eijirou.” He snarled, ripping the hand away from him. “Don’t- Fuck. Fuck!” He stood, chucking the can into the lake, taking off and diving after it.

Flirtatious fucker. Katsuki sliced through the water. He’s like that with everyone. He rationalized, remembered, letting the cool stillness calm him; envelop him. It’s not just me.

And it wasn’t. The flirtatious banter, even with his own cousin. Eijirou liked the attention from everyone. Katsuki wasn’t special. Katsuki wasn’t special. Katsuki wasn’t… He spotted the glint of metal in the play of sunshine from above.

Grabbing the can from the depths he pushed back off from the sandy bottom, breaking the surface.

“Oi, what happened?” Mina grabbed an ear nearly as soon as he emerged. “Eijirou just took off while you were down there. What did you do to my cousin?”

“I didn’t do shit Raccoon Eyes! I wasn't even down there that long-!" Katsuki hissed, grabbing her wrist. “I won’t be able to say the same for you if you don’t let the fuck go of me right now.”

With a grunt she released him.

“Where’d he go?”

“I don’t know.” Mina frowned, slipping off her innertube, following Hanta out to the shore. “But when he gets like this it isn’t good so we’ve all got to go looking. Come on, Sunshine.” She grabbed him by the bicep, hauling him out of the lake with her. “You’re joining.”

“So I guess I’ll go with Katsuki?” Denki looked up from the shore, struggling to pull his shirt on, “Since Hanta’s still pissed at you and Mina thinks it’s your fault.”

“Sounds good.” Mina nodded as they gathered their stuff. “You’re the least able to murder him anyway-”

"None of you could." Katsuki corrected, unconcerned as he dug through his bag for his keys.

“Plus your man crush won’t let you.” Hanta spat out.

“I told you not to be jealous!” Denki sighed, exasperated, leaning against Hanta's shitty car. “It isn’t like that man.”

“Don’t be disgusting.” Katsuki rolled his eyes. “I’d never fuck you.”

“Excuse me?” Denki turned, looking completely offended.

“Have we not had this discussion before?” Katsuki pulled out his phone through his truck window, looking at the notifications. Nothing. He tsked. “You aren’t my type.”

“What the fuck is your type?” Hanta exchanged a look with Mina as she obsessively ran her fingers through her hair. “I think we’re a wide variety, and it’s none of us so-”

Katsuki shrugged.

“Oh right!” Denki slapped Katsuki’s arm, looking like a light bulb had gone off over his head. “The connoisseur!”

“Don’t fucking touch me.” Katsuki didn’t look up from his phone, “He responded. Are you going to join me?” He climbed into the driver's seat, starting the car.

“Fuck, fuck fuck. Wait!” Denki hopped into the passengers side.

“See you fuckers later.” He flipped Hanta and Mina off, leaving them clueless on the shore, before speeding down the gravel road.

 

☆~☆~☆

 

“Why do you have a thing for me?” Katsuki didn’t take his eyes off the road, arm hanging out the open window.

“What?”

“You heard me, Dunceface.” He growled, glancing over to see Denki flushed pink, grinning stupid at his phone. “You have your girlfriend and boyfriend. They love the fuck outta you. Why do you like me at all?”

“You’re… interesting.” Denki tilted his head, adjusting his glasses. “But a crush is different from loving someone, man. I’m attracted to you physically because- I mean, have you seen yourself? But, I’m also attracted to a lot of people on a physical level. That’s nothing. Lots of people are beautiful to look at. Fun, complex. I think you’re layered. And funny. You have more to your personality than the angry asshole. But… don’t get me wrong, and please don’t murder me out here and leave my body, I would not want to date you. Like, ever.”

“Yeah.” Katsuki muttered, turning down the road, asphalt giving way to gravel. “I figured that much. It's mutual Dunceface."

“What about you?” Denki frowned as they pulled into the parking lot, nodding at Eijirou’s bike propped alone at the temple entrance. “Do you-”

“Let’s just get Hair-for-Brains.” Katsuki stepped out of his car, slamming the door.

The place felt electric as he walked through the arch way. Compelled a hand touched the red painted wood. A gust of wind knocked the windchimes above him nearly immediately.

Denki chuckled uneasily behind him, pushing past. “That’s an odd coincidence, hm?” He took the stairs quick. “This all feels a little weird. Can we hurry and go.”

“Sure.” Katsuki followed at a slower pace. “Which shrine is this one?” He called to Denki, yards ahead now, half up the stairs.

“Uh…” Denki glanced around quick. “Dude I don’t know. I think it’s a lesser water gods?”

“Oh.” A sense of duality overtook Katsuki. He felt dizzy, fuzzy. Here and there simultaneously. “I think I’ve flown over this place. The waterfall is just a way over there right?” His hand waved vaguely.

“Yeah. It’s absolutely gorgeous.” Denki called back, waiting at the top now, shifting on his feet anxiously. “Dude, I should let you know Eijirou only comes here when things are bad. Like, really bad. Like breaking up with his girlfriend bad.”

“Cool.” Katsuki looked out over the gardens. "His text said something about finding him?"

"Oh!" Denki lit up. "I'm going to text the others. He's playing the game!"

Sand perfectly raked, a bamboo chime tonked somewhere in the distance. Wishes chattered in the summer breeze.

“The game? Where are the shrine caretakers?” Katsuki stepped on the tile.

“They’re around.” Denki shrugged. “Part of the piety to this particular God is to stay unseen.”

“Sounds fucking boring.” Katsuki narrowed his eyes. “The fuck is Eijirou doing playing a game in a shrine where people shouldn’t be seen?”

Denki averted his gaze. “Sometimes people have things they don’t want people to see, man.”

Katsuki stumbled at the words.

“Oh, fuck. Dude, you okay?” Denki reached out, looking around. “What’d you trip on?”

“Didn’t pick my fucking foot up enough.” Katsuki shrugged it off, pulling out his phone.

Where are you asshole. Get the fuck out here now.

“We used to come down here… er, up here,” Denki chuckled, “play hide and seek. The cops would come and we’d try and see if we could not be found.”

"That's the game he's playing right now?"

Denki nodded, shushing Katsuki. Quietly, on alert they passed the well. Katsuki peered inside before passing by. He couldn’t see the bottom.

Katsuki followed Denki inside of the temple, slipping off his vans and shelving them, spotting Eijirou’s beat to shit flip-flops on the shelf just below. He elbowed Denki hard, slapping a hand over his mouth when he went to whine, ignoring the way the younger man blushed as he pulled him close and pointed.

“He’s here.” Katsuki scoped the area out. “Think he’s in the shrine playing your stupid game?”

Denki shrugged, licking Katsuki’s palm. “Uhg, gross your skin is so sweet? What the actual fuck?”

“You’re uncivilized.” Katsuki wiped his hand off on his shirt.

“I don’t think he’s playing the game-”

A loud thump behind them. Katsuki turned on a heel just in time to see Eijirou land in a crouch. On instinct he leapt back out of reach. Denki screamed as a massive hand smacked him square between the shoulder blades.

“You’re it!” Eijirou yelled.

“Jesus fucking Christ.”

“Oh my God.” Denki blinked rapidly to mask the tears, reaching with both hands in an attempt to rub his back. “Fuck Eijirou, that hurt like hell?”

“Kat!” Eijirou jogged in place. “Denki is fucking it. If you don’t hide now-”

“I already text the others, let them know. They’re on their way up anyway.” Denki shot a thumbs up. “60. 59.” A wide grin split his face. “58!”

“Kat!” Eijirou ran back, grabbing Katsuki’s hand and dragging him through the temple out the other end. “God, have you never played hide and seek before? We gotta find a good place!”

“You fucking asshole!” Katsuki yanked out of his grip, making the larger man pause, turn back. “I-I thought something was wrong!”

Eijirou’s smile faded as he straightened, walking back to face Katsuki properly. “I’m sorry man. To be honest, it was at first.” He glanced at the temple exit nervously. “But I got over it pretty quick.” He smiled again, a sad little grin meant to placate. “We’ve got, like, thirty seconds Kat-”

“I don’t give a fuck about-” He exhaled, ran a hand through his hair, looked back to the entrance Eijirou’s eyes were trained on as the sound of a car sqeualed into the parking lot in the distance. “But you do.” Katsuki’s eyes narrowed, “If I win you have to tell me what was wrong.” Katsuki stepped forward, eyes boring into Eijirou.

“I-I can’t-”

“If you win you can make me promise to any one thing you want. But if I win, you have to tell me.”

Eijirou looked between Kat and the doorway nervously. “Okay, alright fine deal! But if we don’t go now we both lose.”

“Fuck you.” Katsuki grinned wicked, racing ahead of Eijirou, “I don’t lose.”

"No, wait!" Eijirou reached out, stopping Katsuki by his shirt. "You don't know the shrine. That way's a huge wall." He motioned with a nod.

Katsuki frowned, but followed as Eijirou circled the side of the building, grabbing the eaves and hauling himself up onto the roof. He didn't wait for Katsuki, running low over the shingles as hurried footsteps approached.

"Ready or not!" Denki's voice sing-songed.

"Creepy mother fucker." Katsuki muttered, crawling after Eijirou's surprisingly lithe frame.

He dropped down the other side, Katsuki reaching the edge in time to see Mina and Hanta bolt off towards the gardens. Eijirou waved Katsuki down with a stilted motion.

Hurry.

The blond obliged, dropping down to a crouch beside Eijirou, taking off across the gravel and shrubbery. It was…

Fun.

Katsuki grinned as his pace matched Eijirou's, breathing synched. He saw him glance from the corner of his eye, smile. But that wasn't what Katsuki cared about. The air moved around him, fresh and warm and light and fast. The person beside him smiling big and wide, egging Katsuki on, pushing him to let go. Challenging him to move faster, faster.

Feet danced over the ground; he wasn't even sure his feet were touching. He was a blur, he was the wind. A low wall came up and he felt his heart bunch, his blood light, his legs pushed off and he flew. His body suspended in midair, the world holding Katsuki weightless; nothing mattered for a moment, nothing mattered. He could run forever his eyes trained on the horizon. Katsuki was flying-

And then he landed.

Alone? The realization shook him out of the euphoria.

He stopped, chest heaving from bliss.

Looking back Eijirou was still on the other side, his smile still in place but again too small, not right. Not his smile. The adrenaline faded.

"Damn can you run." The moron breathed, winded but barely, holding out a hand that Katsuki brushed aside as he climbed the wall himself.

"Why did you stop?" Katsuki ran a hand through his hair, pacing. He wanted to run again. That was the best it had felt since…

Since.

"That's the edge of the property, man." Eijirou chuckled, thin watery.

Oh fuck. Katsuki could feel goosebumps accompany the dread. "Why did you let me run?"

"You looked b-" his voice tangled in his throat for a minute. "Y-you looked like you were-" a gasp, a sob. "-were having fun."

"Fuck. Eijirou?" Mortified Katsuki turned in the shade of the trees, grass tickling his ankles, gravel digging into the soles of his feet.

The man was crying. Katsuki watched, absolutely at a loss, as Eijirou fell to his ass against the wall and buried his head behind his knees.

"I'm sorry." Eijirou whispered. "I thought I handled this earlier."

Katsuki's fists bunched he took a step towards Eijirou, then away. "What do I-?" A dry, strained laugh. "What do I do?"

"Nothing Kat." Futile hands wiped at crocodile tears just for them to start again. "I-I-" words stopped. Instead, he held out a hand - a question hiding behind bloodshot eyes.

Katsuki looked at his hands. He took a deep breath. And sat beside Eijirou, slung an arm awkwardly over his shoulders. Immediately the larger man adjusted to fit against Katsuki's side.

"You don't have to tell me." His head fell back against the stone.

"Thank you." Eijirou's breath was warm against Katsuki's ribs.

His body scorching under Katsuki's arm. His hair ridiculously soft where it fell across his shoulder, blue highlights glimmered hypnotic against the black strands.

Fuck. Katsuki breathed out hard, stomach knotting, heart pounding. Fuck.

 

☆~☆~☆

 

The night was hot, the air was heavy and humid.

“Ahhh!” The table cheered as Hanta set down the next round of drinks.

“To our loser!" Mina crowed, holding up her little cup.

"Hanta Sero!" The men chorused to Hanta's rosy cheeks.

"Though he isn't the fastest, he was the most gracious!" She grinned conspiratorially.

"Ey!" They echoed, slamming the bottoms of their glasses and drinking.

“Jeez guys, I barely lost." Hanta gasped, wiping his mouth. "If Denki hadn't stepped on my foot that last round-"

"Don't blame the cute one!" Denk gasped, shoving a taiyaki into his mouth, "Oh, oh that's hot."

"The fuck you think 'careful, fresh out of the fryer' means, Dunceface?" Katsuki snapped, agitated, downing another glass of sake, pouring a fifth.

"Dude, you've almost had a whole bottle." Eijirou swallowed. "Don't you-"

Katsuki's murderous glare cut him off.

"Okay then." Eijirou took another drink.

"If he's going to be grumpy I'm going to head out early." Mina motioned with a dango. "He won! What's he moody about?"

"It-!" Katsuki twisted the cup. "It reminded me of things."

"Oh-" Denki sucked in a breath. "Hey Katsuki," he shoved the bottle of extra hot rayu over. "It's delicious."

Eijirou slapped a hand down. "Nuh-uh." Eyes narrowed. "We said no-"

"You're on you Discount Pikachu motherfucker." Katsuki grabbed the bottle, ignoring the spoon Denki waved back and forth, drinking directly from the condiment container.

"H-holy shit!" Hanta cheered, eyes wide as Katsuki slammed the bottle back down half empty. "Is your stomach okay?"

"Fuck off you Soy Sauce Bitch. I'm invincible." He glared, "I never lose."

"God even I'm attracted to him right now!" Mina laughed as he grabbed a new sake bottle, popping the lid and chugging.

"Okay, okay." Eijirou stood, jiggling his phone. "I'm going to go to bed."

"Girlfriend calling?" Denki teased, stealing what was left of Eijirou's takoyaki. "Tell her hi from us."

"Lots of kisses!" Hanta mocked as Eijirou walked away.

Katsuki's face darkened. "I'm gunna head out too." He stood, wavered. "I drank too much. Fuck."

"I'll help you, you idiot." Mina swallowed the rest of her food, finishing her glass. "Thanks Hanta. We'll see you two tomorrow."

"Yeaaah yeaaah." Denki leaned into Hanta, flushed and tracing up his forearm. "I think we should go soon too, babe."

"Puke." Katsuki stumbled towards his car.

"Ah!" Mina caught up, "your keys, Sunshine. I'll drive you to my place."

"The fuck you will-"

"You're drunk. And I'm not walking home this late at night. And I'm betting you'll want your car in the morning." She sighed, running a hand over her hair, scratching at the buzz cut. "You'll be closer to the A7M and Ground Z-"

"Deal." Awkwardly he tripped into his truck, using a hand to steer around the grill, falling into the passenger side. "Fuck alcohol." He groaned, buckling.

Mina chuckled as the car started, "Why did you-"

"He was crying." Katsuki mumbled into his hands. "Sobbing and I don't know why? And I ran. God it felt like flying again." He closed his eyes, rolling the window down as he leaned back. "Running with him reminded me of before."

"Before…" her voice was low, hesitant. "Before the… the death?"

"I did it." Katsuki's eyes opened, watching lights blur by. "It was my fault. I killed Jin. And his mom. And today was the first time…" He pulled his knees up, resting his cheek on them, facing towards the window looking at the stars. There were so many. "But I feel so… And then when Eijirou started- I couldn't do anything. I don't know how." He unfolded, falling back against the chair.

"You can enjoy things, you know?" Mina bit her lip, looking over at Katsuki. "You're allowed to be alive and not feel guilty for it." She sighed heavily as they turned away from the village. "As for Eijirou, he's very codependent. He's very needy and insecure and emotional." The darkness of the country enveloped them. "I love him, but even I don't know how to help him sometimes and I've grown up with him." She snorted, pulling up to a house Katsuki didn't recognize though the large metal buildings in the distance rang some bells. "I'm sure you did fine. He seemed okay tonight with us."

"Yeah." Katsuki pulled off the seat belt, the barking of dogs loud and overwhelming. "Maybe."

Chapter Text

Wet and sniffling woke him.

"Oh God." Katsuki rolled, grabbing for his blanket, slapping something cold and hard. "The fuck?"

A playful bark, nibbling. Slowly he peeked.

"Sakura?" He looked up, laying askew on a futon, pillow half across the room, blanket kicked under the coffee table tangled around a foot. "Oh my God my throat." His hand shoved into a black snout as he picked up on the sound of running water nearby. "The hell'd I do last night, Raccoon Eyes?"

"And a good morning to you too, Sunshine." Mina’s voice drifted over. "You took a piss, moaned about Eijirou, bitched about us all, drank some more - you owe me some vodka by the way." She emerged, wearing an over-sized t-shirt, setting two cups on the table. "Miraculously you were very organized. I mean, you put the futon together and folded your pants."

"Yeah." He took a drink grimace, drank again. "Sounds like me."

"Oh, don't sound so smug." She snorted into her cup, "you definitely tried to take off your briefs too. I saw some shaft."

"..." Katsuki shrugged. "Yeah. Sounds like me."

Mina laughed, incredulous. "What? You normally strip when you're plastered?"

"I get hot. Clothes are uncomfortable." He frowned at her. "It's not sexual."

"Oh! Ohoho! You let me know that." Pink dyed eyebrows rose to nearly meet hairline. "Very passionately."

Katsuki's gaze snapped to her, heart thudding in time to his head. "What did I say?"

Mina frowned at the rim of her cup, humming as she drank. Swallowed. "Well, you made me swear not to tell sober you. Basically just went off about how fucking not sexy I am. I won’t go into detail but, you were not flattering.” Reaching under the table she pulled out a small quilted box, “So… How we feeling?"

"Fuck you." He shook his head, winced, finished off the black coffee.

“I don’t mean your hangover I mean…” Mina bit her lip, yellow eyes flashing nearly inhumanly in the afternoon light filtering through closed blinds. “I mean after everything?”

Katsuki froze, wide eyes rising to meet hers. “What did I say?”

A clumsy smile wilted across her face. “You know, you didn’t say anything.” A hand waved, “Forget it.” Legs tucked up to show off toned, tattooed thighs, calves. “Is there anything you need though? Kinda pulling off that hot mess look to be honest.”

Reality bitch slapped him quick and in full force. "Do you have a spare toothbrush? What time is it?" He leaned back carefully, well aware how tentative his relationship with gravity was, reaching for his phone. "Jesus! Do you see all these missed texts?"

"Yeah, Ei got in touch with me an hour ago. He was very concerned when you didn’t show up for your usual workout. And when you didn’t answer… guess he went through the whole list of people." Mina tucked her feet under her, grabbing Katsuki's blanket and tucking it in around her. "You sleep like you're angry even." She chuckled, flipping over the lid with a little pat, pulling out various glass jars of expensive colors. "He's bringing breakfast… er, lunch?" she shrugged. “Guess it’s another day off for you. Can you afford that?”

Katsuki's head snapped up too fast, making his temples ache sharp. "Ohh fuck." His face crumpled as fingers pressed hard against the skin. "When is he gunna-"

Sakura leapt off his lap, yipping, spinning. Mina grinned, standing.

"That's him."

"I'm not even in pants!"

"Oh please." Mina stood, setting her cup down. "He's seen penis before. He owns one. Chill man."

"God, fuck you." Katsuki felt his face go hot. "That's not what I mean."

"You look just as pretty as always Katsuki." She put a hand on the door knob. "Stop freaking out."

"'M not fucking pretty." He growled, flipping her off.

“Not with that expression you aren’t.” She rolled her eyes, opening the door. “Hey, Ei baby.”

"Morning guys!" Eijirou strode through the entryway, smiling from ear to ear as he planted a soft kiss on Mina’s cheek.

"Oh my God, why are you so fucking cheery?" Katsuki buried his face in his arms as Eijirou stepped in, kicking off his shoes.

“Oh fucking chill out. Jesus get that tattooed on you next time. Maybe it’ll remind you not to take everything so hard.” Mina sat back down, pushing a to-go cup over at Katsuki. “He brought you a drink.”

“Denki said it’s your usual.” Eijirou sprawled out across from Mina. “Careful though, it’s obvious he got laid last night. It’s probably a little too sweet.”

“At least someone around here is getting dick.” Mina snorted. “How about you, Ei? How’s Pony doing?”

Eijirou flushed, pulling a donut out of the cardboard box by his thigh, setting it on the table as Katsuki’s arm slithered out, extending, hand making gimme motions.

“Eh. You know. She’s having a great time with her family. They’re travelling across the nation right now. At Mount Rushmore." He paused to pull up a picture that Katsuki declined to see. "We’re… She’s-” He swallowed hard, taking a bite. “It’s been…”

“Don’t fucking answer, Hair-for-Brains.” Katsuki managed around a mouthful of some flowery concoction. “Obviously it’s fucking private.” Eyes narrowed at a pouting Mina.

“You’re no fun. How about you then Katsuki?” She turned on him. “You stayed here, I got to see some dick. That should let me in on some juicy details?”

Eijirou inhaled some of his donut, hacked until he was able to drink down some of his iced tea.

“No.” Katsuki took another bite.

“No you won’t tell or-” Mina smiled behind her cup.

“No, Raccoon Eyes.” Katsuki glared.

“What do you mean you saw some dick?” Eijirou looked down at his half eaten donut. “D-did you guys…?”

“Don’t make me puke.” Katsuki snarled.

“God, gross no!” Mina shouted simultaneously.

Eijirou smiled sheepishly, “I just- y’know. Sometimes friends take care of friends.”

“I don’t have sex for the sake of it.” Katsuki took a drink, “It is sweeter than normal. That fucking idiot.”

“I wouldn’t sleep with him for all the money in the world.” Mina paused filing her nail for a moment, “Sorry, Sunshine. No offense.”

“Don’t be sorry.” He shrugged, taking another bite. Frowning as he tapped on his cup, Don’t ask. Don’t ask. Don’t- Fuck. “Wait- Eijirou, do you take care of-?”

“No! No I haven’t-” Eijirou flushed darker.

“I just think there are too many strings attached to sleep with friends like that.” Mina popped off an acrylic from the set, carefully spreading glue over her filed nail, interrupting the awkward conversation. “Plus Ei’s taken so he’d be cheating if he did. There was that fling back in high school with-”

“Don’t.” Eijirou growled, picking up another pastry, pointing it at her threateningly. “That was years ago and it wasn’t anything and Tetsu already gives me shit-”

“Should I ask or-?” Katsuki leaned his chin on the table, Aki making an appearance through a room Katsuki hadn’t explored yet to wrap around him and lay his head in the exposed lap.

“No.” Eijirou reddened, eyes dropping to the fingers peeling away layers of the roll. “Please don’t.”

“Anyway, sleeping with friends is complicated if the rules aren’t explicitly established beforehand. Even then things can get tangled and messy.” Mina blew on a nail, inspected it, nodded, moved to the next one. “Trust me.”

“I’m not going to argue.” Katsuki replied nonchalant, eyeing the colors she had arranged in a haphazard clump. He fingered one, tilting it back, moving on to another. “Got any matte black?”

 

☆~☆~☆

 

He was flying.

The sky moved all around him unhindered; beneath him, around him. Fists clenched around a red spine, another supporting him at the back.

A dragon.

Instinctively he knew it was a dragon. Impossibly. The loud thrumming of wings flapping. Anxiously, excitedly, he peered over red scaled sides to see the ground moving beneath them in a blur so far away.

Arms rose, thighs tightened. Katsuki let out a yell; loud and wild and primal. The dragon roared, vibrating up his body. His blood erupted inside of him, cape billowing as they circled - descending.

“A fucking dragon.” Boots met grass, trees yards away. He turned on a heel, took in the animal. “What the fuck.” He pulled off a glove, the sword at his hip noticed but comfortable, a burden he was familiar with. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing you big moron?” Hand brushed against the impossible warm scales - so soft and smooth, like polished stone. He wanted to rub his palm against them forever.

A deep red eye watched his movements.

“Gunna stay like a lizard all night?” Katsuki rapped knuckles lightly on the ridge over the eye.

The animal let out a chuff, shaking its massive head, neck jiggling from the motion. The earth shook beneath it. Katsuki instinctively took a few steps back, awed and repulsed. It looked painful, the way the shape changed - in moments really. Bones snapping, skin sagging, shrinking. The popping and wet sucking noises.

“God!” Eijirou stretched finally, skin and scales mingled to stand before Katsuki. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.” He laughed. “Why the urgency?” The idiot smirked, leaning closer, crowding Katsuki’s bubble. Too close. “The mighty King missed me?”

“What the fuck ever, Hair-for-Brains!” Katsuki snipped, shoving at the massive idiot, well aware of his nude state. “Here!” He pulled his pack off, “get your fucking clothes on.”

The sound of laughing woke him. Quietly he blinked, tried not to stir. Heat blossomed in Katsuki’s gut, painful and yearning as he looked up. Eijirou’s eyes were squeezed shut in mirth, his whole face wrinkled and bubbled in laughter. The angle was odd from Katsuki’s place on Eijirou’s lap, muted, stunted shock waves of oppressed laughter just barely shaking him. It was the first time he noticed the scar on the underside of Eijirou’s jaw. The patch of stubble the moron had missed shaving that morning just to the left of it. An infected ingrown hair. Katsuki wanted to touch the edges of Eijirou’s jawline.

Shit. He blinked at the thought. Dumbass impulse.

“Fucking idiots.” He growled out, pinching Eijirou’s thigh. “Can’t keep it down?”

“Sorry, Kat.” Eijirou peered down at Katsuki wiping his eyes. “I didn’t mean to wake you, this movie is fucking hilarious.”

“Ah…” Dazed the blond sat, “Yeah. No that’s…” He frowned. “God what fucking time is it?”

“It’s…” Eijirou grabbed his phone, paled. “Shit.”

“What?” Mina looked up from where she was on the floor. “Your girlfriend pissed you’ve been ignoring her all day?”

“Fuck off Mina.” Eijirou growled, “But yeah…” He flicked through the texts, fingers swiping across the keyboard, “She sounds really angry.” He sighed. “I just didn’t…”

“Like, what the Hell is the issue even.” Kasuki ran a hand through his hair. “Shouldn’t have slept with it wet.” He tsked. “Sorry about your fucking shirt. Probably an improvement though.” He eyed the neon and pastel abomination Eijirou was wearing.

“Oi, this is a beautiful piece of art work.” He motioned to the garment, wet patch and all.

“Anyway, if you don’t want to date her just break up.”

The room froze.

“Ooo, bad move buddy.” Mina whispered, ducking.

“What the fuck, Kat?” Eijirou snorted. “Who the fuck are you to even fucking say that?”

“I-What?” Katsuki bristled, moving to the other end of the couch. “You’re the one who doesn’t wanna fuck your girlfriend. Or respond to her fucking messages. Or-”

“Okay, this conversation is over.” Eijirou stood. “There’s nothing wrong with my relationship.” He hissed, gathering his phone, wallet. “I love Pony. I enjoy fucking her, thanks Kat.” He breathed deep, blew it all out. “Mina, have a good night wherever you’re going.”

“Into town.” She held up her phone. “Gotta booty call.” She snorted. “Ironic considering you two.”

“What about us?” Katsuki’s eyes narrowed.

“Nothing.” she shook her head, hands waving the comment off.

“Right.” Eijirou sighed. “Whatever. Fuck you guys. This is what I get for being fucking nice, right?”

“Oh, don’t start this, Ei.” Mina groaned, head falling back. “Come on! This whole ‘pity me, I’m baby’ bullshit. Everyone knows you’re not-”

“Fuck off, Mina!” Eijirou yelled, making Aki growl, Sakura’s neck hair rising a little.

“Think you’re pissing off the dogs with your aggression there Eijirou.” Katsuki deadpanned.

“Gee, you think?” He fisted his hands, “I’m leaving. Fuck you guys. I have a girlfriend to catch up with.”

“Yeah, have fun sucking up.” Mina singsonged. “Shouldn’t have been ignoring her to begin with.” She mumbled, putting some powder on her skin over her makeup.

“I’m gunna-” Katsuki stood as the door slammed.

“Whatever.” Mina dusted the powder off. “He’s a lost cause.”

“Okay.” Katsuki pulled on his shoes, followed Eijirou out into the night. “Hey, asshole!”

“God, what the fuck do you want?!” The glow of his screen died as he turned around.

“Did you just hang up on your girlfriend?” Katsuki teased, voice venomous.

“Fuck you.”

Eijirou sat on the lawn. Katsuki followed suit.

“I had a dream in there.”

“I don’t give a shit.”

“You were a dragon.” Katsuki snorted. “I was some kind of king and you were flying me around. I don’t know.”

“That stupid myth is getting in your head.” Eijirou’s voice was stilted, but his posture relaxed slowly. “I’ve had a similar dream, actually. I could change back and forth. Dual wield. And you-” He cut off sharply, hand dropping from his chest, looking away. “Anyway. A lot of people around here have odd dreams like that. It’s-”

“Like Hanta’s kitsune and oni?”

Eijirou shrugged and the silence dragged for a minute.

“What about you and Pony is so hard right now? Why were you crying at the shri-”

“You said you wouldn’t ask, Kat.” The fists were back, knotting in grass.

“The person you dated in high school? Who’s Tetsu?”

“Tetsu is my brother.” He closed his eyes. “I-I dated someone in high school who was a friend. My family didn’t approve. They weren’t… y’know. I don’t know!” Hands tangled in hair. “I’ve always been…”

“Yeah.” Katsuki looked at the sky, purples fading to navy velvet. “I know. I get it. People are people. And I’ve never been a person.”

“The fuck? You’re the most human- Manly-” Eijirou chuckled. “Fuck Katsuki, I-I…”

“I’m a plate.” Katsuki looked down at his hands. “People are malleable, they change and grow and shift and I’m… I just break. I’m stuck. I- But you aren’t. And I know you love Pony.” He closed his eyes, not sure why it burned in his throat, the words scorching and painful. “You… I might not understand but I can still respect it and I-I’m sorry?”

Eijirou laughed, watery. “Are you.”

“Shut up you fucking idiot.” Katsuki punched him.

“I love the sky around here.” Eijirou admitted. “The stars. It’s not the same in America. My college town. Too much light pollution.”

“It wasn’t like this in the city either.” Katsuki agreed, watching Eijirou grin from the corner of his eye. Ignoring the way his heart picked up at the stupid lopsided grin. The way his gut tangled.

The way he wanted, just a little bit.

“Pony keeps sending me sexts.”

Fuck. Adrenaline shot through him at that word. What would sexting with Eijirou be like-

“And- and pictures. And I just can’t-” He shook his head, face falling, staring at his darkened phone. “I’m not-”

“I mean, maybe you just aren’t like that. Maybe you aren’t a sexual person.” Katsuki offered, swallowing down the explosions going off inside of him just below the skin. “Have you ever thought about that?”

Eijirou chuckled darkly. “Oh I wish that were it, bro.”

“Why stay with someone who doesn’t do it for you?” Katsuki frowned. “I don’t-”

“My family expects it.” Eijirou shrugged. “I love her, I do. I’ve spent a lot of time with her and she deserves… my effort? My time. My…”

Katsuki shook his head. “I don’t get you. Relationships aren’t a fucking vending machine. Just because you put something in doesn’t mean you’re going to get something of equal value back.”

“I guess…” Eijirou looked down at his hands. “I just keep thinking if I try harder… Put more effort in-”

“You’re going to end up resenting her, or make her resent you.” Katsuki swallowed hard.

“I thought you were a plate.” Eijirou grinned sly at the man beside him, bumping shoulders, red rimmed eyes lit mischievous. “This is some guru shit, Sensei.”

“Fuck off, dumbass.” Katsuki bristled. “It’s just basic humanity. Not my fault you’re a moron.”

“Guess not.” Eijirou’s arm slung around shoulders as he tucked his phone away. “What constellations do you know? Growing up a city boy I bet I can name more than you.”

“The fuck you can.” Katsuki growled, not leaning into the body of the man beside him as they looked to the sky together.

 

Chapter Text

Eijirou grunted with a final twist of the wrench, patting the body of the A7M as he stepped away. “I replaced the panel.”

“Fucking finally.” Katsuki rolled his eyes as he ground the polishing rag into a crevice on the exhaust pipes. “Now we just have to finish all the rest of this shit.”

“How long does all this normally take?” Eijirou moved to sit beside the blond, grabbing up a ramune from the ice chest, ruffling Aki’s neck.

“On average it takes about two months or 50,000 hours.” Katsuki didn’t look up when Eijirou gasped, wrench falling to the ground. “It’s a two person job, this is typical. The museum gave us to the end of summer. We’ll have it done way before then. I was stressing about it earlier but now with y-” Realizing what he was saying Katsuki stopped himself, head jerking up to see if Eijirou caught what he was saying but the man didn’t show any signs of catching on. “Anyway. Now that we’ve got the panel replaced and most of the interior is wired right we just need to worry about-”

“Nah.” Eijirou smacked his lips, grinning wide, lips hitched higher on one side. “You’re fine man. Don’t worry about anything. It’ll get done.” Thick arms reached over to grab the rag from Katsuki’s grasp. “Let’s go fishing.”

“Fishing.” Katsuki glared. “Did you not hear me earlier? Fifty. Thousand. Hours.”

Eijirou stood, stretched. “Ah, I heard. But I’m bored. Besides, we put in about three weeks?"

Katsuki snorted. "No, less if you count you getting here after 3:30. Plus your three day mini-vacation, me getting wasted and recovering the other day-"

Eijirou winced, covering Katsuki’s ticking fingers with a hand. "Ah… If fishing isn’t your thing how about swimming? Uh… we could go to the local bar but they really don’t have much going on aside from pool and darts. Denki is at a doctors appointment and he really makes the games fun-”

“Flying.” Katsuki stood slow.

“W-what?” Eijirou’s eyes went wide. “Flying?”

The blond slouched forward to meet Eijirou’s gaze, glaring up into hooded red eyes. “Are you scared?”

“Fuckin yes.” The big man stood, backing away as he looked anywhere but at Katsuki. “I’m terrified. I hate heights.”

“What?” Katsuki reared back, frown deepening. “Really? But you-”

“I only took the class for credits. I never planned to fly in a plane.”

“How did you travel over here? Back and forth to America? Denki said you guys have a ferris wheel-” He was standing now, encroaching on Eijirou, backing him closer to Ground Zero. "You said next week that we would-"

Eijirou rubbed a hand over his face as he stepped away; body jumping, hands moving over his face, hair, arms, tangling in his shirt. “I mean that’s like, a reasonable height.” Eyes roamed over the flat expanse of the airstrip wildly, his face began to glisten with sweat as he turned pink. “A plane is thousands of feet in the air. Completely different. It’s completely different!” Arms flailed up in exasperation. “How do you know-” His voice jumped up in pitch as his back pressed against the plane. A quick glance and his face blanched. “I-I-It’s like the difference between a-a single scoop ice cream cone and a large size milk shake.”

“You’re talking too fast.” Katsuki snorted, stopping a respectable distance away, legs planted solidly, arms crossed. “You’ll fly with me one day.”

“I will not!” Eijirou watched as Mina approached, whole body screaming ‘help me’! “You’re psychotic. I’ve heard the stories of your flying style.”

“I have a perfect flight record, you dick.” Katsuki bristled, offended. “I’ve got the best flight record out of my class, I broke every fucking record in my flight bracket.” Gazes clashed as he approached again, not in a taunting way this time. “There’s no fucking way a chicken dick, limp noodle piss ant like you is going to tell me that I’m not safe in the sky-”

“Alright boys.” Mina’s voice reverberated through the hangar, dogs leaping to their feet and yapping merrily as she tossed down the slices of jerky for them. “Pissing contest is over, back away from my cousin, Sunshine.”

Katsuki inhaled violently, withdrawing his finger from where it had been shoved into Eijirou’s chest backpedaling like he was in danger of being burned. When did I get that close?

Chest heaving he felt it again, that nauseating nervousness. Eye flickered up to Eijirous face and down to his chest and then to his neck where he could just make out the throb of his pulse if he focused on the edge of his throat… Katsuki’s stomach clenched, his head felt like it was reeling as his nerves raced under his skin. The breeze was making his skin hurt.

“Man.” Eijirou was still pink, but a more normal shade that only dusted his cheeks and ears now. “I’m sorry, Kat. I shouldn’t have freaked out like that-”

“Don’t fucking call me that!” Katsuki snapped, slapping the hand away that was stretched out to him. “You’re such a goddamn parasite you know that? What the fuck is wrong with you? Why do you cling to everyone that pretends to like you?”

Eyes widened as he pulled his hand to his side, fist clenched. “P-pretends-?”

Katsuki didn’t miss the way Eijirou looked up at Mina, or the way she just shook her head. Just barely.

“I saw that you fucking freak.” He snapped, turning on her. “That fuck is-”

“No.” Eijirou moved swiftly, faster than Katsuki thought possible. “No, you can talk to me like that. Not to her. Not to anyone else.”

“E-Ei.” Purple tipped neon blue nails clung to his bicep. “Ei, it’s fine, he's just… like this sometimes.”

“It’s not fine.” His voice rumbled like thunder; Katsuki felt it through his legs and God it made him… feel something. Feel something worse, stronger. He wanted to puke. Maybe it was just the lingering effects from the alcohol the other day. He wanted to scream. Fire ignited in his blood and he needed to… to put it out, extinguish it.

What is this?! Wild eyes moved back to Eijirou, but didn’t see him, couldn’t see him.

“I get you’ve got your shit man.” Arms crossed, flexed.

Fuck. Fists clenched tight, Katsuki focused on the pain of his nails digging into his palms. Tighter. Tighter.

“But you don’t get to just abuse people-”

Katsuki’s head snapped up at that word. “I do not-”

“Yeah.” Eijirou chuckled, but it was obvious there was nothing funny in the situation. “You do. What do you think this is? Verbally cutting people down, lashing out physically? That’s… I mean, it’s abuse.” A hand untangled and pressed against the chest Katsuki had been poking into with bruising force just a minute ago. “I’d know, Kat.”

Again their gazes met, again the nausea welled. The depth of what was admitted, of what was accused. Dread crashed in on Katsuki with a force he’d only ever felt in his dreams. A terror he thought he’d left behind once he graduated high school.

Ground Zero. Ground Zero. Chanted in cruel, cold child voices. The sound of the train horn crashed on him as goosebumps flooded his skin painfully making his clothes ache where they clung. Katsuki couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t see. The world was underwater and he was spinning; weightless. Too heavy. He couldn’t move.

‘Join me.’

No. His chest rose faster as spots flooded his vision, hands moved to his hair. Not here, not where they can see. No, no. No.

His chest heaved, bile burned the back of his throat. “Oh fuck.” His eyes burned, his nose too. “Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.” He gasped, crouched. “No.”

Ground Zero, Ground Zero, Ground Zero.

“Hey.” Warmth grabbed him as his legs gave out, as his vision went black and his body fell to meet the ground. Strong hands caught him, lowered him to the cement of the hangar. “Hey, you’re okay. Mina, could you-?”

"Yeah." The voice drifted, moved away. "Yeah, of course, sure."

"Dude, just breathe." Hands moved in soft circles along his arms, pulling Katsuki closer.

Katsuki’s stomach rioted, lunch poured out half digested, curry and rice in clumps pattering embarrassingly on the asphalt.

“F-fuck.” Katsuki wiped at his mouth, his eyes, his nose. Hand wiped on shirt, a different set helped peel the soiled garment off; tossing it as far away as possible.

“You’re alright, you’re okay.” A massive hand rubbed at his back, skin over skin, Eijirou’s voice stayed low and steady.

Ground Zero, Ground Zero, Ground Zero.

Stop. Katsuki’s arms shook as he pushed himself up to his feet, fell back down to his knees painfully. Eijirou grabbed him and pulled him in. The heat was smothering, comforting. He was falling into it before he realized what he was doing.

“Stop.” Katsuki snapped, pulling away as awareness dawned. “Get away from me. It’s your fucking fault! Don’t look at me.” He curled into himself, yanking out of Eijirou’s grasp, forehead to knees, feet tucked tight against his ass, back craned so hard it ached, but God he didn’t want to be seen. He couldn’t be seen.

“Don’t look at me.” It was stuck in his head now. His mantra. “Don’t look at me, don’t look at me don’t look at me-”

He could feel hesitant, large hands pressed onto his shoulders. It hurt, fuck it hurt.

“Don’t FUCKING TOUCH ME!” He screamed.

Immediately the sensation left and he felt ripped apart, he was ripping apart. And then the sobbing started because fuck why was he so broken? Why did he have to be a plate? Why couldn’t he just be a human?

“I’m going to hug you.” Eijirou’s voice was deep, rumbling soft.

“No!” Katsuki moaned, the words breaking out of his mouth muffled by his jeans. “Don’t-” Sobbing, sobbing, crying. “Don’t touch me, don’t touch me. Fucking don’t fucking touch me-”

Warmth surrounded him and it hurt, but it helped. He struggled, he had to struggle. Katsuki didn’t know why he had to fight, but fuck he had to.

“Get the fuck off me!” Hands pushed at thick biceps that tightened and molded to immovable rock in response.

Eijirou nuzzled down tighter, arms squeezing harder, “No.”

“Get…” Katsuki’s hand landed on an arm, rested there. “Get off me you fucker.”

“There you go. You don't have to fight me. I know.” Eijirou’s hand moved up and down his spine slow. “I know, I know.” Hands caressed up and down bare skin as Katsuki struggled, cried. “There you go. I’m sorry man. I didn’t mean to… I didn’t mean to set you off, Katsuki.” His other hand moved to the back of his head, holding Katsuki's forehead to his shoulder as he rocked slow. “I’m sorry.”

Katsuki breathed erratic, head hot, eyes swollen, face tender. Body encompassed as they moved together, leeching the comfort, the support. The chanting in his head died away. The knots untied. The burning under his skin faded.

“I’m abusive.” He admitted, tears pricking at his eyes. “I’m-” leaking out hot, just a tear or two. “I don’t want to be.”

“I know.” Eijirou pressed his lips to a temple, hot and wet. “I know, Kat, I know.” He spoke between lips still pressed against the other man's skin, touching as much of Katsuki as possible.

“I don’t want to.” Katsuki buried his face, sweaty and too warm further into the cloth and wet and skin of Eijirou, breathing shaky. Fingers and arms untangled from the womb of Eijirou’s embrace to wrap around his friend, tangling in his shirt, clinging. “It’s just you.” Katsuki struggled to get the words out, to be honest, to confess something about the complication that burned at his chest and exploded in his blood. “You make me uneasy. I’m so broken. I’m so-” A sob wrenched out of him, hands clinging as he buried himself in Eijirou.

Eijirou laughed weakly, sniffled, the rumble of it vibrating in Katsuki’s body. “No, Kat. No you’re not.” Another kiss. Another. “You’ve never been broken.” Words dripped out of lips that pressed against him. “You’re so strong.” Chaste, sweet pecks moved near an eye and Katsuki shifted his face to accommodate. “You’re the most resilient man I’ve ever met.” All safe.

As passionless as the ones with Mina were, but desperately apologetic. Katsuki lay against Eijirou, hands relaxing their grip till they fell against his back, tangling in his waistband. Slowly he realized he wished Eijirou’s kisses were more.

He wanted more. Tears burned in his sinuses because fuck.

Fuck. Who would want him. And the thought was so much more painful than the ones before, because he could just lean back a little, turn his head a little, and those sweet, safe, comforting kisses could be so much more… And Eijirou would hate me for it.

Katsuki closed his eyes, turning away from Eijirou’s lips, from worried, tearful eyes, tear streaked cheeks that matched his own. From temptation he hadn’t had to face before, that he didn’t understand. That he could explain away later.

A deep, shuddering breath.

"Ei… I'm-I’m tired." The words were spoken with hesitancy.

"I know." Eijirou nodded, cradling Katsuki. Hands fisting along his back, fingers tracing slow, lazy circles that made the blond ache. "Being vulnerable is exhausting.” A hand left the blondes back to wipe at his own cheeks, hand tangling in ashy hair, smoothing down, playing in the soft fine hair at the back of his ears and nape of his neck. “I bet you're never vulnerable."

A dry laugh. "I try not to be." Katsuki swallowed a yawn.

"Do you need to go home?" Eijirou stopped rocking, hands just as firm despite being still.

"I-" don't want you to stop holding me. The blond frowned, blinking. His eyes felt grainy and swollen. Anxiously Katsuki pressed his thumbnail into the bloated pads of his fingers in a pattern, looking at the effect over Eijirou’s shoulder, pressing his own lips against the exposed skin there in a hidden kiss. "My head hurts."

"I bet it does.” The idiot snorted. “C’mon, I'll drive you." Eijirou stood with Katsuki still in his arms, making the smaller man yelp and cling to him. “Oh, did I scare you?”

"Tell anyone," Katsuki threatened, ignoring the way Eijirou’s breath skirting over the spot between his neck and shoulder gave him goosebumps, "and I'll kill you."

"I wouldn't do that." Eijirou promised as they approached Katsuki's truck, carefully opening the door and setting him in like he was a fragile package. "I'll clean up the mess from work and take you home, okay?"

"The fuck." Katsuki shrugged, fingers slowly falling from where they were still tangled in Eijirou’s shorts.

Watching him walk away through heavy eyes. The ache at his absence, too tired to follow. Watching Eijirou picking up the tools, move the parts around. Mina walk up, glance towards the car. Katsuki blinked slowly. Observing Eijirou talk with Mina as he worked, arms jerking, mouth moving quickly. He blinked again.

Ten minutes later, when Eijirou climbed into the drivers side, Katsuki was asleep.