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Fire in Your Bloodstream

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It starts with a glance, sharp eye contact from across the room at a gala. Twin expressions screaming “Get me out of here,” and the simultaneous recognition that “well at least I’m not the only miserable one, so that’s something.” Katsuki isn’t quite sure about the details of the rest of that evening—alcohol works wonders on the memory banks—but he does distinctly remember meeting Todoroki’s eyes from across the way and feeling like he’d stared into his own soul for the briefest of moments. For some reason that impression sticks with Katsuki, and for another he avoids the memory as much as he can. Until he can’t anymore.

 


 

There’s a fight weeks later with some two-bit villain with a water-based quirk that allows her to rupture water mains and effectively pull the pavement out from under whole blocks at a time—the kind of thing that is just so unoriginal it hurts—that requires an entire rag-tag team of rookie heroes to take care of. And that, for Katsuki, is the worst part. He may have been Lord Explosion Murder-level terrible a few years ago, but he’s fucking Ground Zero now and it is both (a) woefully painful to be fighting someone who creates literal ground zeroes and who seems to find the coincidence between her destruction and his title hilarious and (b) extremely frustrating to still be sitting at the kids’ table nearly a decade after graduation. He can’t say that he fully expected to hit the top hero slot by now—that’s absurd—but he can say that he had hoped he’d break the top 20, and while he’s close, his current ranking keeps him in the range of babysitting the up-and-coming postgrads that barely know the difference between an F-01 form for quirk damage and an F-05 to file insurance for said damage.

Katsuki fixates on this because it took him literal years to learn the difference and because if the rookies need to learn anything at all from their first years as pro-heroes, it is that their administrative assistants and coordinators—they’re not secretaries, goddammit—are absolute saints and they deserve to be paid more than the number one Endeavor himself. This is a hill that Katsuki is particularly willing to die on because the admins and coordinators and PR managers at his agency have saved his ass countless times, and it has weirdly shifted his perspective on his pro-hero work in such a way that his rankings have begun to climb, but not quickly enough to get him out of the absolute hellscape that is supervising entry-level heroes.

So when he locks eyes with Todoroki across the way again, meeting a grey-and-blue gaze through the haze of steam and asphalt particulates, he finds himself embarrassed and ashamed of where the past several years have led him. Those feelings don’t bode well with Katsuki, so naturally he snatches his gaze from Todoroki’s and focuses on one of his supervisees, a young woman with a strength quirk that would make him beg her to step on him if she wasn’t so functionally clueless in a fight.

“Fightera, get your head out of your ass and go help Scarlet Mountain and Uravity! They can’t stabilize everything and fight at the same time!”

She turns, whipping a red ponytail that would give Kirishima’s a run for its money around and smacking herself in the mouth. She blinks, wide-eyed, and Katsuki swears if she doesn’t—

"Right!” she shouts. “On it!” She bolts away and Katsuki growls.

Fightera. Scarlet Mountain.

He can’t make this shit up, and in retrospect he’s eternally grateful that Midnight sat him down and explained to him how vastly important his hero name would be in the future. He’s also grateful that All Might had been patient enough with him to explain that there would be hoops he’d have to jump through to make it to the top ten, that there were aspects of the job they weren’t trained in at UA, and that learning to successfully supervise—and protect—younger heroes was one of those hoops. He’s grateful that All Might told him before he graduated so that he would have time to be pissed off about it and get over it. Because right now what he does not need is the raging desire to blow that red ponytail sky high because for god’s sake even Deku was more capable of holding his never-ending curiosity and fanboyish tendencies in check during a fight than Fightera was and it was infuriating.

He watches her run headfirst into the fight only to punch the lights out of their villain and end the whole thing a lot faster than anybody expected. Katsuki sighs as the villain goes down hard, and all of the water and cement that had been flying everywhere just drops, as if Uravity had been carrying everything all along and had suddenly released her quirk’s influence. There are still geysers all around where major lines had burst, and Scarlet Mountain is still fighting to stabilize several buildings at once, but at least backup had arrived and the medics are tending to the villain and some of the younger heroes. Uravity strolls over to help Scarlet Mountain, and as Katsuki is striding across the rubble to start debriefing Fightera and her terrible strategy—hoping against hope that the villain doesn’t have a concussion from the force of the blow or Fightera’s inability to catch her when he knows that was one of the first things he taught her to do when they went over villain incapacitation—when he feels Todoroki draw up next to him.

“Ground Zero,” he says.

“Shouto,” he replies, holding that first vowel a little longer than is strictly necessary. He rarely forgets his disdain for stupid hero names these days, what with supervising Fightera. He wonders, sometimes, if she just had parents who were weirdly into Pantera and she just really is that unoriginal…

“The fuck are you doing here?” he asks Todoroki. “This situation certainly didn’t warrant Endeavor-level attention. Not this far from home.”

He feels Todoroki tense beside him, but refuses to look in his direction. He pauses before they reach Uravity and Scarlet Mountain, angling his body towards Todoroki but fixing his gaze on his supervisees.

“I was… passing by.” Todoroki says.

Katsuki turns to look at him, quirking an eyebrow under his domino. “Seriously? Shouto was on a stroll in Kyoto and just decided to pause to see how the young plebs were doing?”

Todoroki stares at him for a moment, and then turns to watch the villain as the medics are loading her into an ambulance for transport. “Something like that,” he murmurs.

At this Katsuki’s other brow hikes up to meet the first one. “Bullshit,” he says. He frowns as he watches Todoroki turn and look back at him, before looking back at the wreckage. Before Todoroki can respond, Katsuki asks, “Which one are you scouting?”

If Todoroki is startled by the question, he doesn’t show it. “I’m not scouting,” he says, frowning at something in the distance before turning back to look at Katsuki. “I told you. I was passing by. I stopped to see if you might need help.” He flicks a wary look at Fightera and Katsuki barks a laugh.

“Seriously if your dad sent you to scout Fightera, he could have called and saved you the trip. She’s a powerhouse with no sense of strategy. She’s got a long way to go.”

Todoroki frowns, still staring at Fightera as she approaches Uravity and Scarlet Mountain. Katsuki should really get in there before something big collapses—

“He didn’t send me for her,” Todoroki says suddenly. Katsuki starts to open his mouth when Todoroki makes eye contact. “He sent me for you.”

Katsuki knows his mouth is open—he can taste the wet cement in the air—but he can’t seem to find the wherewithal to close it. It’s Todoroki’s turn to quirk an eyebrow, looking amused. “You’re gaping,” he says.

Katsuki blinks. “I’m shook,” he replies, instantly regretting the amount of time he spends with heroes years his junior. “Why would he—”

There’s a loud rumble from where the three heroes are trying to prevent a literal building from falling down, one of whom is absolutely useless in this context, and Katsuki reassesses his priorities. “Listen, meet me at the agency later. Eight-ish. We can grab dinner and you can tell me I’m having auditory hallucinations.”

He moves away as Todoroki begins to protest, but doesn’t hear him over his own voice.

“Fightera, get out of there!” he barks. “That’s a load-bearing beam—touch that and you’ll bring the whole thing down on top of you!” Uravity looks at him, exasperated and a little pale, and he winces. “I know, I’m sorry. How can I help?” From there Ochako starts giving orders and all Katsuki has to do is follow them—or in Figthera’s case, enforce them. The best part about listening to Ochako’s advice in this type of situation—Ochako, who realized that having some knowledge of structural engineering for exactly these types of situations would be beneficial and dragged Katsuki along to ad lib university engineering classes alongside her—is that they now know how to use Katsuki’s quirk to create controlled explosions. It’s even better that they’re partnered demolition contractors on paper, so when they get the go-ahead that the building Scarlet Mountain has been trying to stabilize for the better part of three hours has been evacuated and is go for demo, Katsuki whoops with excitement.

He may have changed significantly over the past decade, but he still loves to blow shit up.

 


 

In the mix of things Bakugou doesn’t notice a grey-and-blue gaze tracking him as he darts in and out of the crumbling structure, or as he gently talks Scarlet Mountain down from her anxiety that if she lets go the whole thing will collapse.

“We’ve got this,” he says to her. “Uravity and I know what we’re doing, and it’s contained. We can take it from here.”

It takes a lot of coaxing and so much more patience than Shouto thought Bakugou was capable of, and he realizes—begrudgingly—that his father’s inkling that supervising entry-level pro-heroes had been the best kind of professional development Baukugou had ever had might have been spot on. That and the slew of certifications he’d gotten alongside Uraraka for contained demolition work. It was clear to Endeavor, at least from what he’d told Shouto, that while Bakugou might not be where he wanted to be in his career at this point in his life, he certainly wasn’t wasting his time and he was, slowly but surely, improving himself in ways that ensured he’d make the top ten list sooner rather than later.

After several more minutes of weirdly hovering on the border of the scene—and being acutely aware that he is in fact hovering and not being helpful at all—Shouto turns in the direction of the local branch of his father’s agency. As he walks he reflects on watching Bakugou for the last two hours. He hadn’t noticed Shouto until the end, but Shouto had seen enough, and was a little shocked himself that he hadn’t noticed his former classmate’s development over the years. He supposes it’s expected—they’ve all been so focused on growing themselves that unless they work directly with one another the way Bakugou and Uraraka do, it’s unsurprising that they’d miss huge strides in each other’s growth.

But this…

Bakugou, being patient? Not blowing a gasket every time someone doesn’t move fast enough? Not insulting everyone in the general vicinity for incompetence? Working well with others? Developing harmonious partnerships? Being a good supervisor for young heroes and interns?

None of these things aligned with Shouto’s conception of one Bakugou Katsuki, and he was having a hard time figuring out how he missed it all. When did Bakugou become this person? How deep did the changes run?

When did the man stop screaming death at every possibility?

Admittedly Shouto’s father had kept him running circles all over the world. Being Japan’s #1 hero—and running the top hero agency—meant that Enji not only had connections for big ops in Japan, but across its borders. Shouto had spent two years training in America after graduation—an opportunity to follow in All Might’s footsteps that Enji had disguised as punishment for not graduating top of his class—and had been running national and international ops for years. Bakugou, as far as he knew, had stuck close to the Kansai region where Uraraka had settled after they graduated. It made sense for Uraraka—Kyoto was closer to her parents than any other major city—but it was a few hours from Bakugou’s family and other major hero agencies. He didn’t think that they were partners officially, except on the construction front, but it was generally expected by now that where you found one, you’d find the other.

Shouto stopped. Was it her?

Was Bakugou—were he and Uraraka—?

He shook it off and kept walking. It was a few hours to eight now, and he had some paperwork he needed to draw up from his scouting. Enji had wanted to document the process in case any regulators started asking questions. Poaching heroes from other agencies was an occupational faux pas, and Shouto had kind of screwed up by letting it slip that he was scouting Bakugou and not one of his supervisees. Shouto knows he probably should have lied, but he wasn’t great with things like that on the spot. At least, not when he wasn’t in the field and ready for the possibility that he might have to lie.

He arrived at the Kyoto branch and waved to the admin at the front desk. The branch wasn’t fully staffed and really only remained open in the instance that Endeavor needed to move employed heroes quickly. He did have a couple of heroes stationed here permanently, though, and the office was fully outfitted, which was helpful since Shouto hadn’t been able to do much for a few days since Bakugou hadn’t been called to a scene since Shouto arrived in Kyoto.

It was odd, to be honest, to be shipped off to another city to scout one of his former classmates. He hadn’t seen Bakugou in years except online and on newscasts, and hadn’t realized how different he was from the boy he’d known in school. Different on a level of… physique.

Shouto settled at his borrowed desk and opened his computer to start the scouting report. He started a few notes, not ready to begin writing the thing out fully yet, and reflected on Bakugou’s op. Eventually he leaned back in his chair, drawing his hands away from the keyboard. There were substantive notes on the report draft, enough that he could come back to them later and begin filling in gaps. He leaned his head back against the chair and stared at the ceiling.

Bakugou was bigger.

Shouto had always been taller, but it seemed that Bakugou had gone through a growth spurt after graduation. Not unheard of, and he hadn’t gained a ton of height, but Shouto knew now that he wasn’t taller anymore. And he certainly wasn’t…

How much can he bench?

Shouto reeled himself back from that line of thinking and sat forward. He still had about forty minutes before he had to meet Bakugou and wanted to get the report sent before some paparazzi got a photo of them together. He also needed to change out of his uniform…

By the time Shouto finishes filling in the gaps in the scouting report and sending it off to his father, he has ten minutes to change and get out the door. When he finally arrives at Bakugou’s agency, he feels a bit harried and hopes he doesn’t look it.

He gets there as Bakugou and Uraraka are leaving, just a few minutes past eight. Uraraka sees him first.

“Todoroki-kun!” She rushes forward and wraps her arms around his middle, and Shouto awkwardly lifts his arms out as if he’s about to take flight. He looks down at her and back up at Bakugou over her head.

He pats her head as she pulls away. “Hello, Uraraka-san,” he says.

“You’re late,” Bakugou drolls from behind her.

Uraraka turns to face him. “Late?” She looks back at Todoroki, her brow furrowed. “Late for what?”

Bakugou reaches out and ruffles her hair. “Nothing, shortstack. Mind your own business.”

She slaps Bakugou’s hand away and looks back at him. “Stop that,” she says. “Be nice. We haven’t seen Todoroki-kun since—” she stops short, looking back at Shouto with wide eyes. “Oh,” she says. “Oh! I see! My bad! I’ll get going.”

Shouto, confused, looks at Bakugou as Uraraka brushes past him to leave. Bakugou’s face is pink, and before Shouto can ask he barks, “You see nothing, shortstack! Shut your face!”

That sounded more like Bakugou.

She giggles and waves. “It was good seeing you, Todoroki-kun! Have fun Katsu-kun!”

Bakugou huffs and Shouto is stunned that his palms aren’t crackling.

“Katsu-kun?” he asks.

“Shut up,” Bakugou says. He turns in the direction opposite Uraraka and Shouto. “Come on, I’m starving.”

“Did you not eat lunch?” Shouto asks as he catches up to Bakugou’s stride.

Bakugou side-eyes him. “When would I have had time for that?” he asks. “I was a little busy.”

Shouto frowns. “Does your agency not feed you lunch?” he asks.

Bakugou snorts. “Not everyone works at a place that can afford round the clock catering, half-n-half.”

Shouto looks down and watches the sidewalk as they walk. “Right. Sorry.”

“No need to apologize,” Bakugou says. “Just different life experiences, that’s all.”

Shouto side-eyes Bakugou this time, once again wondering what else had changed about him.

After a few minutes of silence as they walk, Bakugou asks, “So what’s Daddy doing sending you off on scouting trips? And what’s he doing scouting me?”

Shouto sighs, “I think he sent me because we trained together in school and thought I’d be better suited to locate differences, similarities, and growth since then. He’s been keeping an eye on a few people. Tokoyami, you, and Uraraka were at the top of the list, from what I understand.”

Bakugou glances at him, “So why weren’t you scouting Uraraka, too?”

Shouto shrugs. “I included a few notes on her in my report, but he specifically sent me for you.” He rubs the back of his neck. “I think he already assumes you two are a package deal, but after all these years I still don’t always know what he’s thinking.”

Bakugou slows and motions to a restaurant to their left. He reaches for the door first and waves Shouto in. When they sit and Shouto scrutinizes the menu, he quirks an eyebrow. “You brought me to a noodle place?”

Bakugou glances up at him from his own menu. “Yeah. They have the best zaru soba in Kyoto.” He picks his head up fully as if a thought has just struck him. “You do still eat zaru soba, right?”

Shouto is speechless for a few seconds, unaware that Bakugou had apparently always been observant. “Y—yes,” he says. “Yeah, I do.”

Bakugou nods once and returns to reading his menu.

After ordering, Bakugou links his fingers on the tabletop and stares at Shouto.

“Why not Deku?” he asks.

Shouto raises his eyebrows momentarily. “I’m not sure, to be honest,” he says. “He’s never mentioned him, and the PR listeners don’t seem to follow any of his handles or hashtags including him the way they do those associated with you three. He doesn’t send me scouting very often, but it’s enough that I know who he’s watching. You all are the only ones from our graduating class.”

Bakugou is staring at his hands on the table now, but his knuckles are relaxed. “Who else is he watching?”

Shouto snorts. “You know I can’t tell you that,” he says. “I’ve already told you too much as it is.”

Bakugou looks up at him and smirks. “Never hurts to ask,” he says.

Their food arrives, and as Bakugou is adding chili oil to his ramen, Shouto asks, “What did Uraraka think we were doing?”

Bakugou pauses, but doesn’t look at Shouto. A flush creeps up from his neckline, stark against his white shirt. “Nothing,” he says. “She’s just nosy.”

As they eat, Shouto tells Bakugou about the agency, what it’s like to work for Endeavor, and what Enji is interested in hiring Bakugou for. Bakugou seems surprised that his work supervising young heroes and his work in underground ops were in his favor, but Shouto doesn’t pry. When they’re leaving, Shouto’s reciting the rote explanation that it’s not a job offer, but that Bakugou is welcome to come shadow at the agency for a few days.

Bakugou nods and stops on the sidewalk. “Where are you staying?” he asks.

Shouto blinks, “Uh, about five blocks from here, why?”

“I’ll walk with you. My apartment’s not far.”

Shouto shrugs off his own questions about that, and answers Bakugou’s as they walk. He can’t answer all of them for various reasons, but he does his best. Surprisingly, Bakugou doesn’t get frustrated; he just rolls with what he gets and keeps going.

When they reach the front of the hotel—an ostentatious thing that Shouto’s suddenly embarrassed by—they pause again. Shouto turns to Bakugou.

“Well,” he says. “This is my stop. Thanks for meeting with me.”

Bakugou shrugs, looking up at the hotel. “Sure,” he says. “It would be dumb of me to rebuff a scout Endeavor sent. Even if it is you.”

Shouto snorts. “Right,” he says. “Well, goodnight, Bakugou.”

As he turns, he barely hears Bakugou’s response. “She thought we were going on a date.”

Shouto whips around, his braid slapping his collarbone. “What?”

Bakugou is looking at his feet and rubbing the back of his neck. “Ochako,” he says quietly. “She thinks we’re on a date.”

Shouto stares until Bakugou raises his head. His cheeks are pink, and he hesitates to meet Shouto’s eyes.

“Why would she think that?” Shouto asks.

Bakugou pulls his chin up and stands a little straighter. He meets Shouto’s gaze head-on this time. “Why do you think?” he says.

They stare at each other for a minute more before Bakugou turns, throws a “Goodnight, Todoroki,” over his shoulder, and walks away.

Shouto enters the hotel in a daze, the question about how much, exactly, Bakugou can bench flaring up again in full force, among others.

 


 

“I’m home.”

Ochako’s muffled “Welcome back!” comes from somewhere in the depths of the apartment as he removes his shoes. He scrubs a hand down his face, and when he opens his eyes again she’s there in the living room.

“Well,” she says. “How did it go?”

He sits in an armchair and stretches one foot out to rest on the coffee table. He pats his opposite thigh and sighs as Ochako settles in his lap. He wraps an arm around her, pulling her hair back over her shoulder and running his fingers through it. “It wasn’t a date,” he says.

“Oh,” she pouts. “Damn.”

He chuckles and pulls her closer, tucking her head under his chin. “Sorry to disappoint you, sweetcheeks.”

She runs her fingers over his chest, up his collarbone, and curls her hand around his shoulder. He tightens his hold on her. “What was it about, then?”

“He’s scouting,” he says.

She pulls back and looks at him. “One of the interns?”

He shakes his head. “No.”

She stares at him for a bit longer, and Katsuki watches as she retreats into herself. He brings his other arm around her to remind her that he’s still there. “He’s scouting you,” she says quietly.

He nods. “Yeah,” he murmurs. “He is.”

She takes a deep breath and looks away from him.

“Hey,” he says. “I’m not leaving you.” She glances at him sideways and he smiles. “He took notes on you, too.” She turns to look at him fully and he has to stop himself from drowning in the depths of her dark eyes.

Don’t go where I can’t follow you.

“Really?” she asks.

“Mm hm.” He pulls her closer, dropping his foot to the floor and maneuvering her to straddle him. He reaches both hands to her face as her hair creates a curtain around them and she settles her hands on his shoulders. “Said Endeavor figures we’re a package deal, anyway.”

She leans closer, brushing her nose against his. He curls his fingers in the hair at the nape of her neck on either side.

“Are we?” she asks.

He inhales, takes in the smell of her shampoo. “Yeah,” he breathes. “I told you a long time ago I wasn’t leaving you.”

She glances at his lips and he smirks.

“Ochako,” he whispers.

She meets his gaze. “Yeah?”

“I keep my promises,” he says. “You know I do.”

She takes another deep breath. “I know.”

He waits. They watch each other.

“I know,” she says again. “I trust you.”

He smiles, his gaze going soft and tugging her head down to his. He murmurs, “I trust you, too,” against her mouth before he kisses her.

He’s gentle with her in ways no one else expects. He always has been, ever since he realized that she’d been an afterthought for so many people and that she needed to be at the center of someone’s attention. Somebody’s priority—even if she wasn’t their first priority. She needed to be somewhere at the top of the list of what’s important for someone that wasn’t her parents, and although he hadn’t fully understood what that meant or what they could be to each other at the time—wasn’t ever expecting this—he’d been willing to do that for her.

He’d watched her, after all, since that first sports festival when she almost killed him with an avalanche of his own detritus. He’d sat on the sidelines of her quiet determination throughout high school, and at some point, somehow, she’d wormed her way into his inner circle. So he’d watched her pine after Deku until Deku got wise and asked her out. And he’d watched as Deku had left her hanging increasingly often, apologizing profusely the whole way and oblivious to how well she’d get it if only he’d stop for twenty minutes and talk to her.

They’d worked at the same agency, the three of them, for the first year out of school, and Katsuki had watched as Ochako had driven herself crazy trying to support Deku whilst receiving no support in turn. Rage still flared when he heard someone tell her they didn’t have time or found really creative ways of saying that they couldn’t make time for her. She’d left for Kyoto after that first year and refused to tell Deku about it, and Katsuki couldn’t blame her. And in the aftermath of her leaving, Katsuki had realized that she’d not only been supporting Deku, but had been reaching out for him, too. They’d all been partners at work, and Katsuki had been more reciprocal than Deku, but he always assumed that her attention had been directed at Midoriya more often.

When he realized what he’d lost, he’d signed up for a day to shadow her as soon as he could. He’d apologized for the way they’d both treated her—as much as he could for Deku, but there were some things you just couldn’t fix for other people. And he only apologized once because apologies should never come cheap and when he apologized he meant it, dammit. And he’d asked if he could join her.

The rest was, as they say, history. They’d become partners, taken those university classes together, suffered over the dumbest math problems and gotten certified together. And somewhere along the way, Katsuki had realized what Deku hadn’t: Uraraka was stronger than the both of them combined, but her priorities were different. She didn’t do what she did for rankings or glory; for victory or even rescue numbers. Hell, it stopped being about making better money for her family years ago. It was always about people for her, and naturally that had been difficult for Katsuki to understand until her life had been on the line and he’d had to put all those certifications to the test to save her and thirty other people.

He had held her that night for the first time. He’d cried into her hair, apologized again, and listened as she explained how much it meant to her that he’d come to Kyoto to work with her. That even though she’d left him, Deku had left the fear of abandonment scored on her heart in ways she wasn’t sure she could ever heal.

He’d promised her then that he would never leave her. It hadn’t been romantic, even then, but he should have known that those feelings would follow. Or that they had been lurking under the surface the whole time.

As he kisses her there, in their chair and the quiet of their apartment with the sound of traffic outside the building, he breathes in deeply and remembers how scared he had been to tell her. He’d never told anyone much of anything about his orientation or feelings before, not even Kirishima, who had been his closest friend in school, and he knew he couldn’t just tell her how he felt about her. He had to be completely honest; he didn’t want to blindside her later on.

He’d been shaking, when he told her. He’d cried a little, he was so scared, and that was new for Katsuki. She’d taken his hand and she’d been patient. “I love you,” he’d said. “But I’m not—” he took a deep breath. “I’m not what you think I am.”

Ochako had furrowed her brow, confused. “I don’t understand.”

He took another deep breath and forced himself to maintain eye contact with her. He tried not to grip her hand too hard. “I’m queer,” he’d said. “And I’m polyamorous.”

“Oh,” she’d said quietly. “Okay.”

He breathed in and out once more. “I’ve never— never dated anyone, so no one’s ever known. But I’m attracted to a lot of different types of people, and I know that I would prefer more than one partner.”

She nodded, squeezing his hand.

He nodded back. “And I would like it if— if those people could be partners, too.” He hesitated. “With each other.”

She nodded again. “Okay,” she says.

He sniffed. “And I know that not everybody… That you might not…” He couldn’t finish the sentence and looked down, wiping his face furiously.

“Bakugou,” she said. “Look at me.”

He picked his head back up and looked at her.

“Thank you for telling me,” she said, and Katsuki remembers the tension as it pulled his shoulders up to his ears. “I love you, too,” she said, easy as breathing, and he held his breath. “I haven’t thought about my sexuality much, but I know I’m not straight. And I don’t know much about polyamory, so you’d have to teach me, if we ever got to that. I’ll have to do my own research and learn.” She paused for a moment, scanning his face. “But I’d like to try, if you want.” His breath left him in a rush and she smiled. “I’d be honored to be one of your partners, Bakugou.”

He’d grabbed her other hand then, pulling her closer. “Katsuki,” he’d murmured. A fresh wave of tears had started in his relief. “Call me Katuski.”

“Okay,” she’d whispered. “Can I kiss you, Katsuki?”

She still kisses like she did then. So soft and tender and Katsuki always feels like she’s transporting him to some alternate universe where it’s silent, like her parents’ house in the snow. He pulls back before the kisses can become heated and lead to more. Later, he thinks.

He brushes her hair back. “I did tell him you thought we were on a date,” he says.

She smirks, her eyes flashing in a way that Katsuki knows is trouble. “And?” she asks.

Katsuki snorts. “Dumbass asked why.”

Ochako giggles. “Oh no! What did you tell him?”

He shrugs. “I asked him why you might and left him to figure it out.” She hums in approval and he kisses her again. “If he gets his head out of his ass, I’ll be sure to tell him that the package deal isn’t just professional.”

She smiles and Katsuki knows that he’s pulled her out of whatever dark place she was headed for when he pulled her closer. “Did you eat?” he asks.

Her eyes dart from his face and he knows that whatever she’s about to say is a lie. “Yes,” she says.

He quirks an eyebrow. “Yeah? What did you eat?”

She bares her teeth at him in what he knows is a bad attempt at a grin.

He hauls her up and stands, carrying her to the kitchen. “Let’s see what we’ve got. I can cook you something and make dessert for both of us.”

Ochako squeals with delight when he stands and laughs when he settles her on the counter. She keeps him close for a few more minutes before letting him raid the fridge. “I love you,” she murmurs against his mouth.

“I love you, too, shortstack.” He kisses her quickly and pulls back. “What do you want for dessert?”