Actions

Work Header

Green Hair, Bluegrass

Chapter Text

It's empty where you were
Just a big gaping hole
Now I tried every bottle
Every pill that I know
But time baby time
Works better than wine
And bloodshot eyes

Katsuki hates his job, but not enough to quit. Actually, he only hates his job enough to quit every first Friday night of the month. Twelve nights out of the year is not enough to make him his quit a job, so he suffers—but not in silence.

“Jesus Christ, get this asshole off the stage!”

“Bakugo, Yagi said you can’t heckle when you’re on the clock!” Kirishima, his perpetually sunny coworker chides him from behind the staff picks shelf he’s restocking. “Besides, this guy’s not half bad!”

Open Mic Night at Plus Ultra Books is and will forever be the bane of Katsuki’s existence, or at least until he graduates and gets a real job or gets fed up and quits, whichever comes first. For some idiotic reason, Open Mic Night nets a lot of profit at the bookstore-slash-coffee-shop just off campus in which he works part-time. That’s what he gets for choosing a university with both a stellar arts program and a kickass pre-med track. All the hipster liberal arts majors swarm the bookshop like flies on shit every first Friday of the month to hear bullshit wannabes play their sad acoustic indie rock, and Katsuki is but an unwilling bystander.

I went to the mountains
I thought it might help
I wrote some songs
But they were shitty as hell
Only works when I'm broken
Four inches from dying
And at my best

“Oof, baby boy is going through something,” Ashido says as she dumps coffee beans in the grinder, occasionally glancing at the crooning performer. Her biggest complaint about Open Mic Night is having to wait for the performances to end so she can use the grinder. “He’s got a nice voice, though. A bit weepy, but nice.”

The performer in question is currently assaulting Katsuki’s ears with the most pathetic ballad he’s ever had the misfortune to hear, complete with a fucking harmonica riff. Who plays the harmonica? Isn’t that the most bullshit instrument in existence, next to the triangle and the tambourine?

If you know what I know
And I think that you do
You’d head to the country
For a minute or two
And lie on the earth
And for better or worse
Let it swallow you whole

“Is it over? Thank god, it’s over,” Katsuki bellows. He might have permanent ear damage from the wailing harmonica. His complaining is only mildly drowned out by the half-hearted clapping of the gathered crowd. He makes eye contact with the idiot onstage, and he immediately knows the guy heard him because he looks just a bit put-off. Katsuki flips him off before disappearing behind a bookshelf, but not quickly enough that he misses the guy give a surprised jolt.

“Um… thank you. I teach guitar lessons. If anyone’s interested, you can find my number on the bulletin out front.”

There’s another bout of pity clapping and some microphone feedback, and Katsuki knows the next sucker is ascending the steps to take the stage even though he’s hidden himself away in the storage room at the back of the store.

When he comes back out, and some melancholic girl is reciting some spoken word garbage that’s either about her boyfriend or Jesus, he finds that neither Ashido, nor Kirishima are working. Instead, they’re chatting up the world’s worst harmonica player by the coffee counter. Bakugo’s blood pressure skyrockets. This always happens, and Katsuki is always left picking up the slack because his chatty coworkers can’t multitask.

He hefts the box of books he’s carrying onto the counter and drops it with a loud thud. Everyone—including the person performing (if you could call it that)—gapes at him in the low lighting.

“Jeez, Bakugo. You’re going to give me a heart attack!” Kirishima puts a meaty hand on his chest and Katsuki rolls his eyes at his antics.

“The sooner we unpack this shit the sooner we can close up and go home,” Katsuki says, looking pointedly at Kirishima, trying to impress upon him how shitty his work ethic is with just his eyes.

“I’m talking to a customer,” he says loftily, gesturing at the nameless performer. He’s got bushy green hair and he’s dressed like every other person attending Open Mic Night, a bulky thrift-store sweater, fashionably distressed jeans, and combat boots that look too clean to have ever seen any hard work, much less combat.

“Hi,” he says, stretching out a hand. “I’m Midoriya Izuku. Nice to meet you.”

Katsuki’s mouth pinches with distaste, staring at his outstretched hand like there’s a dead fish on the end of it. The hand drops slowly, taking the hint.

“He was asking if we’d play his demo around the store, maybe stock a few copies,” Ashido says lightly, her voice at an acceptable volume out of respect for the performers.

“It’d mean a lot to me! I’m just trying to get my name out locally,” the freckled musician beams at Katsuki, completely ignoring his scowl, and holds a CD with cheap-looking cover art in Katsuki’s direction.

“I will literally set this place on fire if I have to listen to a harmonica wheeze at me for eight hours at day. Absolutely fucking not.” Katsuki shoves the offending CD back into Midoriya’s chest.

“So, less harmonica. Noted.” The nerd takes out a small leather bound notebook and scrawls a quick note. “So, are you the owner, then? Bakugo, was it?”

“Do I look like the kind of person who would willingly own a bookstore?”

“I… don’t know how to answer that?” Midoriya gives him a confused look, and looks to Ashido and Kirishima for help.

“He’s not the owner. He’s just naturally bossy,” Ashido says. Kirishima plucks the CD out of Midoriya’s hand. “I’ll ask my boss and let you know. Write down your contact info and I’ll have him get in touch with you.”

“Thanks,” he says, but instead of writing his name down he hands Kirishima a simple card, printed with his name, number, email address, and the idiotically obvious title guitarist. 

“Open Mic performers get a free coffee right?”

“Right! Ashido, get this man a latte,” Kirishima says, and somehow he sounds even friendlier than usual. 

“With vanilla, please,” Midoriya says, smiling sheepishly. Katsuki groans and takes the box to the nearest bookshelf, resigned to the fact that they’re never going to do their jobs.

He can still hear the inane conversation they’re having every now and then over the banging cups and the squealing espresso machine behind the counter.

“You’re definitely one of the better Open Mic performers we’ve seen. You’ve got a great voice!”

“Really? Your coworker didn’t seem to like it.”

Katsuki rolls his eyes. The only thing worse than overconfidence is someone fishing for compliments.

“He hates everything. Don’t take it personally,” Ashido says. “The harmonica was a little grating, though.”

Katsuki chuckles, feeling triumphant. Fucking stupid harmonica.

“It’s not for everyone. Thanks for the feedback!”

“What kind of music is that anyway? It’s not the typical coffee shop indie rock,” Kirishima asks.

“Bluegrass, but I do indie rock, too, I guess.”

“Bluegrass… like country?”

Katsuki can somehow hear the musician wince.

“Not...really. Similar roots, but I don’t really think they’re the same genre.”

“Right. Well, I’ll definitely buy your CD if we end up stocking it!”

“Thanks. I’m gonna get going. Thanks for the latte.”

Katsuki finishes stocking the books and heads back to the counter to yell at his coworkers. They’re still bickering behind the counter.

“Dibs!” They both say, pointing at each other in a heated standoff.

“You can’t call dibs on a person,” Katsuki says, entering the conversation, albeit a bit reluctantly. The sooner he can shut this shit down, the sooner they can get to closing the shop.

“I laid the groundwork! Who’s the one who got his number, after all?”

“Yagi, technically,” Ashido says, and Katsuki almost laughs at the way Kirishima’s smile drops off abruptly.

“Irrelevant,” he says, recovering his smile and waving his hand in forced nonchalance.

“That’s a big word for you, Kirishima,” Katsuki says idly, taking a rag and wiping off the counter, since it doesn’t seem like Ashido plans to. Ashido barks a laugh and goes to clear the grounds out of the machine.

“He’s cute,” Kirishima says dreamily. “And his voice!”

“He really was good. Bakugo, I think you hurt his feelings.”

“Like I give a fuck.”

“But… cute! You don’t think so?” Kirishima says, restocking the coffee filters—like that’s helping.

“I think youre a disaster gay. Go make yourself useful and boot out the Open Mic people, it’s closing time.”

 

Two weeks. Two weeks of blissful silence go by before Katsuki comes face to face with the green-haired nuisance who’s name he’s already forgotten. It’s a slow Monday, so slow that Katsuki is the only one working that day, covering both the coffee counter and the cash register on the book side of the store.

“Hi,” he says, dressed in pretty much the same thing he wore for Open Mic Night. Katsuki groans—he can’t help it.

“Welcome to Plus Ultra, what can I get you?” He asks, doing his best to affect a customer service voice and give him that Plus Ultra welcome Yagi is always going on about.

“Is your boss in today? I was hoping I could talk to him about stocking my CD.” The guy looks like he’s trying not to be nervous, but he’s failing miserably. He keeps trying to make deliberate, forceful eye contact, only to break it and look down at his fidgeting hands.

“He’s not.”

“Oh. Hmm.”

“What?” Katsuki barks.

“Nothing! I just didn’t plan to get this far into the conversation.” He wringing the hem of his sweater nervously, and it irks Katsuki. He rolls his eyes and goes back to taking inventory. He always does inventory on Mondays. It’s the only time when the shop is empty enough during the day to do it. He’s completely forgotten about the musician, making notes about the different types of coffee they have stocked and what they need to reorder soon.

Someone clears their throat and Katsuki looks up, annoyed that he lost count.

“What?”

“Can I get a latte?”

Katsuki has to tell himself not to snap. He’s not made for the world of customer service. He’s surprised Yagi hasn’t fired him yet for all the verbal abuse his customers take at Katsuki’s hands. Instead of responding with a cheery smile, like Ashido or Kirishima might do, he grabs a cup from the stack with excessive force.

“What’s your name again? Deku, or whatever?” He asks, mostly as a formality. He’s already written Deku on the cup because he couldn’t care less if that was his name or not.

“Izuku,” he says, and the way his eyes linger on the marker in Katsuki’s hand tells him that he noticed his actual name wouldn’t be going on the cup no matter what he said. Katsuki adds two pumps of vanilla syrup to the cup before he starts fiddling with the espresso machine because Katsuki can’t remember a name to save his life, but he’s never forgotten an order.

There’s a long silence between them while the espresso is dispensed, dripping from the machine at an agonizingly slow pace. Katsuki steams the milk while he waits.

“Can I ask you something?”

“No,” he says reflexively, picking up the little saucer of espresso and adding it to the to go cup. The cup of milk turns a pleasing shade of beige and he pops a lid on it, placing it on the counter in front of Deku.

“$4.80,” he mutters, more than ready to have his only customer out of his hair so he can go back to cataloguing inventory.

“What was so bad about the song I sang? Seriously, be brutally honest. I can take it.” The guy’s eyes are wide, like a puppy’s, seeking approval, but there’s also a hint of determination that Katsuki doesn’t entirely despise.

“Other than the shitty harmonica?”

The guy laughs, and slaps a bill on the counter.

“Yes, besides the harmonica.”

He plucks the same notebook from his pocket and finds a page half-marked with writing. His pen settles on the page, and he looks expectantly at Katsuki. Katsuki wonders, for a moment, why he would care about Katsuki’s opinion. Does he think Katsuki’s some shitty music major who can give any real advice?

“Your lyrics made me want to blow my brains out,” he says, just for something to say, really.

“Okay, but like… in a bad way?” He asks, moving to a nearby armchair, biting the top of his pen. He looks like he’s settling in, and that’s the last thing Katsuki wants.

“Is there any other way to take a statement like that?”

Deku looks like he’s thinking hard about what Katsuki asked, tapping his pen against his lips thoughtfully.

“Well, they’re not cheery lyrics. It’s supposed to hurt, but does it resonate?” He looks up at Katsuki again with those big, stupid eyes. Katsuki grimaces.

Before he can say anything, though, he’s saved by the bell. The bell on the door chimes as Kirishima walks in, ready to help Katsuki with the expected night rush of studious coffee addicts. A soft gasp escapes Kirishima’s lips when he sees Deku, still poring over his notes.

“Midoriya! Hi! What are you doing here?” Kirishima asks, looking more than a little frantic as he tries to subtly fix his messy hair.

“Hey. I was hoping to meet your boss, but no dice.” He shrugs goodnaturedly.

“Wow, you’re pretty dedicated, huh?”

“Just trying to get my name out there,” he says, looking a tad bit uncomfortable. “I guess I should get out of your hair.”

“No! You can stay. We can play your CD. Right, Bakugo?” Kirishima hastens around the counter and puts his apron on quickly. It’s lopsided and inside out, the logo’s stitching facing outward. Katsuki gives him a judgemental look. Kirishima ignores him and starts shuffling through all the crap in the cabinet below. Katsuki shakes his head and mutters under his breath.

“Desperate. Disaster. Gay,” he says, emphasizing each word.

Kirishima looks wide-eyed at Katsuki when he finds the CD and hisses, “Shut up. Don’t ruin this for me.”

“Fix your apron, dumbass.”

Kirishima goes to the back of the store where the sound system is, and in no time a banjo is twanging softly through the speakers.

“You put vanilla in this?” Deku says from his chair. Kirishima still isn’t back, and he hopes he’s doing his job somewhere in the store while he works through his crush. Katsuki gives him the evil eye.

“That’s what you wanted, ain’t it?”

“Yeah, I’m just surprised you remembered.” Deku gives him a tentative smile that Katsuki blatantly ignores.

“Whatever.”

Deku goes back to his book and Katsuki goes back to doing inventory. He’s annoyed that the music lilting through the speakers isn’t terrible. It’s entirely composed of string instruments, all blending together to create a powerful beat. He recognizes Deku’s voice from Open Mic Night, and the absence of the harmonica is a godsend.

“There’s no way this is just you playing,” Katsuki blurts out while he’s cleaning the espresso machine.

“Huh?” Deku looks up from his book, a bit dazed.

“This is like three different instruments,” he says, instead of asking him if the rest of his band is as annoying as he is.

“Six, actually.”

“Jesus, how big is the band you’re in?” Katsuki can’t imagine spending time with that many people, or that many loud instruments.

“I’m a one-man band.”

“You play six instruments?”

“Seven, if you count the harmonica,” he says, smiling and chewing on that pen again. Disgusting habit.

“I don’t,” he deadpans.

“Six, then.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“That’s alright. Not like you’re in a position to offer me a record deal.”

Katsuki grunts, annoyed by his attitude and his easy smile.

“So… do you like it?”

“Fuck, no.”

Deku has the audacity to laugh at him. “Yeah, alright.”

Kirishima comes back, and Katsuki can tell by the coif of his spiked hair that he spent all his time away in the bathroom fixing his hair and not unloading books. He sits down in the chair next to Deku and they talk about his music until the Monday night rush shuffles in and Kirishima has to actually do his job.

Katsuki doesn’t care.

Chapter Text

Another month comes to a close, and Open Mic Night is upon him again. Katsuki was having a great day before he stepped into the bookstore. The grades for the last exam were posted this morning and Katsuki finally beat Yaoyorozu Momo, by not one, but two percentage points. Not even the fact that she looked happy for him when he gloated about it could bring him down from his superiority-fueled high.

“Suck it, Ponytail! I win.”

Momo smiles gracefully at him, and mimes bowing down to him from her seat behind him in the emptying lecture hall.

“I won’t go easy on you next time, Bakugo.”

“You looking down on me? You better not be going easy on me!” He speaks as his normal, piercing decibel, but there’s no heat behind it. He likes Momo. She’s the only one in their class who’s smart enough to actually be in pre-med. Competing with her for the top spot is the highlight of his classes.

They walk out of the lecture hall together, discussing the questions they got wrong. Katsuki excuses himself to walk in the direction of the bookstore when Momo stops him.

“Wanna grab a beer or something next week? We can compare notes on the term paper. Or just hang, I guess. I need a break.”

“Yeah, I guess. Which bar? I refuse to go to Murphy’s.”

“My girlfriend’s band is playing at the Penny. They’re pretty good.”

Katsuki doesn’t really give a shit about music, but Momo’s nice and he doesn’t really have anything else to do. So, he says yes, and he’s feeling pretty good about it.

But it all comes crashing down when he shows up for his shift and stupid Deku is there, talking to Yagi. His boss is chronically nice, and he seems to be real chummy with Deku. He pays them little mind as he clocks in and falls in beside Kirishima behind the book counter.

“Bakugo! Just the man I wanted to see.”

“God, why?”

“Tonight’s the night!”

Katsuki ignores him. He genuinely doesn’t want to know, and he refills the receipt paper in the register because no one else will apparently.

“This is the part where you ask, what’s happening tonight, good, wonderful friend of mine?”

Katsuki raises a dubious brow. He knows Kirishima will tell him eventually whether he wants to know or not.

“I’ll pretend you said that. Wow, my wonderful, supportive coworker, I’m so glad you asked! Tonight’s the night I man up and ask Midoriya out. Any advice?”

“Don’t talk to him like you’re in an after school special,” he says.

“Hilarious.” Kirishima pouts, still somehow pleasantly. Katsuki laughs and tries to pass it off as a grunt.

“Just do it, so I don’t have to hear you and Ashido fight over him anymore.”

“He’s coming over here. How do I look?”

“Stupid,” Katsuki says without sparing a glance in his direction. Kirishima punches his arm, and Katsuki can admit he probably deserved that.

“Hi,” Deku says, a bright smile on his dumb, freckled face and an oddly shaped guitar case on his back. “Your boss is so nice! He agreed to stock my CD.”

“No one buys CDs anymore,” Katsuki grumbles. Deku’s smile falters, briefly, before he puts it back in place. Katsuki looks to Kirishima for some kind of signal to make himself scarce, but he’s frozen, staring at Deku like a deer in headlights, or the roadkill that’s left after it gets hit. Katsuki looks back at Deku and decides to be a good person and give Kirishima the time he needs to reboot.

“Are you performing tonight?” He asks, grudgingly, still looking at Kirishima every now and then, willing him to jump in any time.

“Yep, first slot. Is Kirishima okay?”

Kirishima.exe is still not working, mouth hanging agape, so Katsuki ignores the question.

“If you even think about breathing within ten feet of a harmonica, there will be a murder.”

“My murder or someone else’s?”

Katsuki shrugs and Deku laughs. Kirishima continues his impression of a surprised mime.

“No harmonica tonight. Just me and my banjo,” he says lovingly. “I may convert you to my cause with this song.”

“Something about the way you said me and my banjo has me thinking otherwise.” Katsuki is fed up with waiting for Kirishima to come back to earth, so he punches him in the arm. Kirishima’s soul finds its way back into his body.

“Good luck with your banjo,” he blurts out, his voice cracking on the last word. Smooth as sandpaper.

“Thanks, Kirishima. I’m gonna set up. Uh, see you later,” Deku says, eyeing Kirishima for about a second before grinning at Katsuki. Deku’s eyes—and smile—linger far too long on him. He grimaces until he leaves.

“Kirishima, what the fuck?”

“I froze. Oh, my god. I froze for the entire conversation. What year is it?”

Ashido materializes in front of the counter, probably sensing Kirishima’s embarrassment the same way sharks can smell blood in the water.

“How’d it go, stud?”

By the way she’s giggling, it's clear that she saw the whole thing. Kirishima’s face goes as red as his garish hair and Katsuki almost feels bad for him before he pushes the feeling away. Instead, he laughs at him like the mean-spirited bastard he is.

“I blew it!” He groans. “I had it all planned out.”

“You blew it, and now it’s my turn!” Ashido squeals.

“No! We have an established rapport.” He says, but he says it like he’s not really sure what established rapport means.

“Where are you learning all these new words?”

“My Intro to Fiction elective,” he says brightly, momentarily distracted by his Deku-related blunder. “My professor thinks I have a lot of potential.”

Katsuki regrets asking immediately. Luckily, or rather, unluckily, the regular stampede of hipsters invade the store.

“I’ll get the coffee counter tonight,” Katsuki says, more than happy to extricate himself from their conversation. Kirishima still looks less happy than usual, so Katsuki throws him a bone.

“Just ask him after he plays his stupid song. Chill the fuck out.”

“There’s the advice I could’ve used fifteen minutes ago!” Kirishima yells, pointing an accusatory finger at his retreating back.

 

Hey there, girl, is your daddy home?
Did he go away and leave you all alone? Mhmm
I got a bad desire
Oh oh oh, I'm on fire
Tell me now, baby, is he good to you?
And can he do to you the things that I do? Oh no
I can take you higher
Oh oh oh, I'm on fire

Deku’s performance is decidedly less horrible than it was last month, but Katsuki’s assuming that’s because he didn’t write it. He’s playing a cover—a Bruce Springsteen cover, of all things—and Katsuki is personally offended by it. He spends the entirety of the performance with a pinched look on his face, and even dares to use the grinder during the last half, despite the disapproving look he got from Yagi, who’s still there doing payroll in the back office. Did Deku think he could pass it off as his own?

Sometimes it's like someone took a knife, baby
Edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley
Through the middle of my skull
At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet
And a freight train running through the middle of my head

Katsuki watches the performance more than he’d care to admit. He sings with his eyes closed, which is annoying, but he has an okay smile. It’s not hideous. He objectively has very nice teeth and probably a capable dentist. Katsuki can admit that when it’s not aimed at him. His voice is suited to his sappy, soporific ballads.

Only you can cool my desire
Oh oh oh, I'm on fire

Katsuki waves Kirishima over while Deku does his awkward sign off, mentioning his social media handles and that his CD is now sold here. Kirishima looks too nervous again, and Katsuki just wants him to nut up and do the damn thing so it can all be over with. Deku seems too nice to say no anyway, so what’s the worst that could happen?

“Make his dumb vanilla latte and have it ready when he comes over,” he says, putting a to go cup in his hands.

“I’ve been trying to remember his order all night! How do you do that?”

“Serving coffee is my passion,” Katsuki deadpans. Kirishima smiles at him, and Katsuki’s had more than enough smiles aimed at him today so he does little more than scowl before he turns away to grab a package of tea bags on the upper shelf.

“Best wingman ever. What would I do without you?” Kirishima grabs Katsuki in a bear hug around the waist and lifts him off the ground. The tea bags go flying across the coffee counter, and Kirishima’s giggling intensifies.

“Oi!” He snarls, smacking Kirishima’s pointy, gel-hardened hair. “Fuck all the way off, Shitty H—!”

Someone clears their throat and both of them go silent, staring down the interloper.

“Midoriya!” Kirishima says—nearly screams, actually—and drops Katsuki on the sticky ground like a sack of hot garbage.

“Everything alright?” Deku asks, trying not to laugh, his mouth a little pucker and his shoulders shaking. Katsuki pops back up, itching to hurt something. He throws the nearest wet rag at Kirishima’s head and turns to clean something with another wet rag. Ashido’s always leaving them lying around.

“Everything is great! Here’s your latte.”

“Oh, you remembered. Awesome, thanks.” Deku smiles again, and Katsuki looks away before it can land on him. Still, he feels it like a laser searing into the back of his neck.

“I liked your song. Your voice is beautiful.”

Katsuki makes a gagging sound, and laughs at the horrified look Kirishima gives him. He shrugs.

“My bad. Found some spoiled milk,” he says with zero infection in his voice. Kirishima laughs nervously, and starts to speak when Deku talks over him, his freckled cheeks dusted pink.

“So, what did you think?”

Katsuki doesn’t miss a beat. “That was a cover. It’s cheating.”

“Covers are not cheating. I’m surprised, though. Never would’ve pegged you for a Springsteen fan.”

“No one under forty is a Springsteen fan,” he barks. Unless, it’s Hungry Heart. That song goes fucking hard.

Almost as if he’s reading his mind, Deku says, “Unless it’s Hungry Heart. That song has no business being that catchy.”

Katsuki balks, his face feeling hot, angry to have anything in common with him, even if Deku doesn’t know about it. Kirishima is back to staring idly at Deku, his eyes wide. Every now and then he looks at Katsuki the same way. When no one says anything else, Deku raises his cup a little.

“Thanks for the latte. See you around.”

“Bye, Midoriya!” Kirishima says, dismissing him easily. He doesn’t look the slightest bit upset that he didn’t ask him out.

“Oh, my god,” he says, in a way that makes Katsuki wary of wherever this conversation is going.

“What.”

“He likes you!”

“That’s unfortunate,” he says, brushing him off.

“But you love Hungry Heart! It’s the only time I’ve ever seen you bob your head to a song. You have so much in common!”

Katsuki stares at Kirishima like he’s trying to solve a complicated math problem, or translate a sentence in Russian.

“Ashido, code pink!” Kirishima hollers across the store, paying no mind to the girl onstage with an acoustic guitar.

“Code pink. What is code pink?” Ashido says, abandoning a customer in the stacks to rush toward them.

“Bakugo’s blushing!”

“Hah?” Katsuki is not blushing. This is just what happens when he’s so pissed off his anger needs to leak out somehow.

“What! This almost never happens!” Ashido squeals and hops up on the counter.

“I’m not blushing,” he grumbles.

“Yeah, and you weren’t blushing that time you accidentally felt up that old lady either,” Ashido says, picking at her cuticles.

“That happened one time and it was Kirishima’s fucking fault!”

Kirishima once tripped him, and he fell face—and hands—first into an elderly woman’s ample chest. She laughed the whole thing off and no one (except for Katsuki’s pride) was hurt.

“Whoa, whoa, let’s not point fingers now. My hands weren’t the ones—“

“Shut up!” Katsuki bellows, well and truly red in face now because that was without a doubt the most embarrassing moment of his life and they promised to never bring it up again. Fucking traitors.

Everyone in the shop, every patron and prospective performer, stares at him. If it weren’t for Yagi’s big, blonde head popping out of the back room to give him a stare of soul crushing disapproval, he would’ve viciously cursed out the whole lot of them and stormed out.

“I’ve never seen his ears that color, Kiri,” Ashido whispers. “Let’s all take a calming breath, and disperse.”

Thankfully, they do just that, and Ashido takes over the coffee counter so Katsuki can decompress while restocking books, cursing the day stupid Deku walked into the shop. Later, when the shop is empty and Katsuki is sweeping the sitting area around the stage, Kirishima sidles up to him—once again neglecting his closing duties.

“I think you should ask him out,” Kirishima says, mercilessly picking up the topic of Deku again.

“You were supposed to ask him out,” Katsuki says, bone-tired. “You’re the one who’s weirdly obsessed with him.”

“But he likes you! That never happens!”

Katsuki’s too tired to be pissed about the sleight, and he’s not entirely wrong. Katsuki is perfectly happy being unlikable. He’s perfectly happy focusing on school and work and not subjecting himself to shitty bluegrass music any more than necessary—even if Deku is, admittedly, not ugly.

“His voice is sexy. Makes you all tingly in your man parts, right?”

“Don't ever say shit like that to me again,” he deadpans, keeping his eyes on the dust pile he’s slowly building up.

“At least, if you start dating him, I still get to look at him.” He sighs dreamily, folding himself into a chair.

“Christ. Go mop something, asshole.”

“The thirst is real,” Ashido says, dragging the mop bucket behind her and handing the dirty mop to Kirishima. “He’s damn cute, though.”

“I hate all of you.”

Chapter Text

“Hey! Glad you made it,” Momo says, from a sticky table in the corner of the bar. “They’re set to go on at midnight.”

Katsuki eyes the band setting up on the small raised platform that passes for a stage in the back of the bar. Katsuki refrains from saying that a band that starts playing at midnight probably isn’t a good band because he remembered that Momo’s girlfriend is in it. He’d rather not give Momo a reason to deck him, which is exactly what he’d do if anyone insulted his significant other—if he ever had one. He’s an asshole, but he’s not cruel. Insults are meant to go directly to the person Katsuki’s talking to. Call it an honor code.

“Do they play here a lot?” Katsuki looks off in the direction of the band again, and he sees a girl with purple hair setting up a drum kit. She’s got a pair of serious headphones around her neck—the kind that say, I don’t care about much, but music is sacred. That must be her girlfriend. Momo catches his look and smiles.

“Yeah, they play here at least once a month. That’s my girl, Jiro. Kaminari plays the guitar. Looks like the bassist is running late. Last time I watched them play, Kaminari accidentally electrocuted himself with an amp. They’ve never had so much applause.” She points to each of them. Kaminari, the blonde with a black streak in his hair, trips over a stray cord and barely saves himself from falling on top of his guitar.

Katsuki snorted. “How the hell?”

Momo shrugs and sips on the last of her beer.

“No clue. His idiocy defies all logic.”

He likes Momo because she can be just as cutting as he is, but it always surprises him. She looks so sweet, no one ever expects her to say something mean. A snake in the grass.

“I’m gonna get a beer. You need anything?”

“Another one, please. I’ll get the round after,” she says, daintily shaking her empty beer bottle. He nods and makes his way to the bar. It’s slowly filling up, probably in anticipation of the band. It makes him feel a bit better about giving up his precious sleep to be here. If they have a following, they can’t be that bad. He shoves past the unwashed masses. He hates being touched, especially by shitty strangers. He picks up bits and pieces of conversation about the band. He learns they’re called Deep Dope.

“You here for Deep Dope?”

“I’m here solely for the bassist. I love it when he plays with them.”

Katsuki rolls his eyes. What is it about musicians that turns everyone into a bunch of slobbering dogs? He orders two beers from a disinterested bartender, and the chatter around him keeps going.

“There he is! I wish they’d just make him part of the band already. He’s way better than all the other bassists in their rotation.”

“He’s perfect for them. I don’t see what the problem is.”

“Musicians,” someone says, and Katsuki can hear the disapproving eye roll without looking at them. The bartender puts his beers on the bar top and yells his total over the din. He puts a few bills on the wet wood grain of the bar and a few ones in the tip jar. He feels her pain. Servers have to stick together, and bartending seems exponentially worse than slinging coffee. At least the shop is quiet most of the time. He takes the beers and heads back to Momo’s table, only to stop dead in his tracks when something green catches his eye by the stage.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he mutters. What does he have to do to find a little peace? He’s supposed to have a month-long reprieve from the little gremlin. He walks back to Momo in a huff and throws himself in a seat, his beer slamming on the table.

“You good?”

“You didn’t tell me this was a bluegrass band,” he grumbles.

“It’s not,” she says, sounding confused. “It’s rock. Mostly covers. What’s your deal?”

“It’s not?” Katsuki says, suddenly feeling a bit lighter. A few stray notes play out of the amps on stage, testing their sound. He can see Deku’s smile all the way from here. He’s laughing with the guitarist, and they do an obnoxious fist bump. Katsuki doesn’t look too long. Momo gives him a funny look, but she doesn’t say anything because Kaminari starts talking into the mic.

“Hey, folks. Thanks for coming out. We’re Deep Dope, with some extra help from one Midoriya Izuku, and we’re here to fuckin’ rock.”

Katsuki can see Jiro rolling her eyes while she gets comfortable behind the drum set, and Katsuki can’t help but agree with her assessment of Kaminari’s opening remarks. His eyes go unwillingly to Deku again, and he can see him laughing at Kaminari too, but he waves at the crowd genially, his bass hanging from the strap around his neck.

They collectively take a minute to center themselves, to sync up. Jiro bangs her drumsticks together, counting off, and Kaminari plays a familiar chord progression with Deku backing him up on the bass. This is the third instrument he’s seen him play, and if Katsuki were a lesser man, he might be impressed by his musical proficiency. Katsuki’s sure that if he gave a shit, he could play all those instruments too. Kaminari’s voice flows into the mic and out of the speakers, and he and Deku bob along and bang their heads in a discordant way that still manages to look cohesive.

Wild thing, you make my heart sing
You make everything groovy, wild thing
Wild thing, I think I love you
But I wanna know for sure
Come on and hold me tight
I love you

Deku sings backup vocals, rasping and grating pleasantly, and it adds something special to Kaminari’s voice. Without Deku, Kaminari’s vocals are average at best. Katsuki takes a deep swig of his beer, just to have a reason to look away from the stage when he tips his head back. Momo bumps his shoulder after he swallows.

“Wanna move closer to the stage?”

“No,” he says reflexively, and takes another sip from his bottle. Momo rolls her eyes at him and shoved him out of his chair. When he’s standing, she tries to push him toward the stage, but he plants his feet firmly, leaning back into her hands. He nearly falls when she stops pushing him. He barely saves himself from an embarrassing fall, and before he can fully collect himself Momo grabs his wrist in a tight grip and drags him through the crowd of drunk bar goers until they’re in the middle of the crowd, surrounded on all sides. Katsuki has a clear view of everything, and when Deku takes the lead vocals Katsuki finds it even harder not to look at him.

Wild thing, you make my heart sing
You make everything groovy, wild thing
Wild thing, I think you move me
But I wanna know for sure

Deku is wearing a loose white tank top that says sweater on the chest, written sloppily with a permanent marker. It shows off a hidden tattoo on his surprisingly toned bicep that’s immediately seared into Katsuki’s mind. He has a red flannel tied around his slim waist, and the fabric swishes around him while he moves around the stage. Katsuki can’t stop looking at his muscular thighs and the tight denim stretched across them as he stomps around in his combat boots.

Come on and hold me tight
You move me

Deku’s voice is so gruff and unapologetically horny that Katsuki feels like he’s been punched in the sternum and all the breath has been knocked out of him. He unwittingly thinks of what Kirishima said to him last week. Makes you feel all tingly in your man parts, right?

Katsuki shakes his head to rid himself of the unwelcome thought. He’s on fire, packed in with all the sweaty bodies around him. He downs the rest of his beer, desperate to cool down. Thankfully, Deku reverts back to singing backup, and it gets easier to look at him.

“You alright?” Momo yells over the booming sound of Jiro’s drums. “You look kinda sick… or constipated.”

Katsuki grimaces. “It’s fucking hot in here.”

“Need another beer?” The questions seems like more of a formality because she’s already grabbing his empty bottle and squeezing through the crowd, essentially leaving Katsuki out at sea to drown. He’s not drunk enough for this.

Wild thing, you make my heart sing
You make everything groovy, wild thing
Wild thing, you make my heart sing

Momo comes back and puts a beer in his hand. He mutters his thanks without ever taking his eyes off Deku. Katsuki feels gross and dirty and he attributes it to the fact that there are multiple people touching him, and his shoes are sticking to the booze soaked ground. The music winds down and Katsuki feels like a spell breaking, blinking stupidly up at the stage. His head feels empty and sips on his beer, in search of the light feeling of being tipsy in hopes of chasing away the odd pit in his stomach.

“They’re pretty good, right?” Momo asks, a proud smile on her pretty face. She whoops loudly, bringing a palm up to cup around her mouth. Jiro seems to have found Momo in the crowd because she stands up and blows a kiss in her direction. Momo catches it and mimes pressing it to her face. Katsuki rolls his eyes, but doesn’t say anything. It’s fun seeing this side of Momo. He prays to gods he doesn’t believe in in hopes that Deku won’t look in their direction. Deku speaks into the mic, and Katsuki’s stomach drops out from under him.

“Thanks everyone! This next one is brought to you by teenage angst and…” He trails off, looking like he wants to say something else, but he can’t figure out what. Kaminari helps him out, albeit ineffectually.

“And how much weddings suck.”

“Yeah, that,” Deku mutters, his brows furrowing in a way that some people might think is cute. Katsuki doesn’t. Nope. No, sir. Jiro counts them off again and and the familiar sounds of I Write Sins Not Tragedies assault Katsuki’s ears. The crowd goes fucking nuts, even though the cover doesn’t sound exactly right. Katsuki assumes nostalgia is enough to carry them through a song that doesn’t quite fit with their sound. At least Kaminari sings the lead and he doesn’t feel compelled to stare at Deku. His voice sounds better suited to this song somehow, and Katsuki admits that even though he can’t imagine Deku singing something like this, he wants to hear him try. He takes a deep breath, and decides he needs a break.

“Need anything from the bar?”

Momo looks a little drunk, her ponytail coming loose from all her head banging.

“Huh?”

“Nothing. I’ll be back in a minute.” Katsuki hastens away as fast as he can, even though all the people in the crowd seem to be determined to block his way. He downs the rest of his beer and abandons the bottle on the nearest flat surface before he walks out of the bar and into the cool fall air. His head feels clearer, and the sheen of sweat on his body makes him feel cold, but refreshed. He pulls out his phone and calls Ashido because this is clearly a night of doing things he never does. It rings twice before Ashido’s screeching voice answers him.

“Bakugo? Why are you still awake?”

There’s loud music playing in the background, and she screams over the thumping bass. She must be at a party, and if she’s at a party, Kirishima’s probably not too far away from her.

“He’s awake? I thought grandpa hours started at seven!”

“Oi, fuck off, Kirishima! My sleep schedule is why I’m going to look twenty well into my forties and the two of you are going to look like wrinkly fucking prunes.”

“Oh, no. Where are you on the Bakugo stress-meter.”

“That’s not a thing,” Katsuki barks. “And can you step outside or something? Jesus Christ, how can you hear anything?”

“We can’t!” Kirishima bellows over the line. Katsuki holds the phone away from his ear, feeling his blood pressure slowly tick up. Calling them was a mistake.

There’s some shuffling on the other line and the sound of a door slamming. Thankfully, the music gets quieter.

“Okay, Baby Baku, what's the sitch?” Ashido sounds drunker now that she’s speaking at a normal volume. The slur is unmistakable. Katsuki debates on whether or not to just hang up and walk home. He could tell Momo he got sick.

“Are you on a date? Is it with Midoriya?” Kirishima sounds excited—a drunk puppy.

“Fuck, no!” Katsuki screeches, losing his cool.

“Is this Midoriya-related?”

Katsuki’s silent for a good thirty seconds, and Ashido does what she always does and runs with it.

“That’s a yes. Where are you? What’s he wearing?”

“Ashido, we agreed to cut back on the thirst and be supportive of Baku’s crush.”

“I don’t have a crush!” Once again, Katsuki tells himself that calling them was a mistake—a nuclear fallout-level mistake.

“Your denial is endearing,” Kirishima says, and Ashido adds, “And naive.”

“He’s wearing a tank top,” Katsuki blurts. He’s clearly lost his goddamn mind. He blames Deku. “It says sweater on it, and I hate him.”

“Remember in middle school when you thought that substitute teacher was hot, and you wrote him a note that said get out of my school? This is just like that,” Ashido says, and Katsuki wants to throw his phone into the street. He deeply regrets still hanging out with the same people he grew up with.

“Well, he left didn’t he?” Katsuki says because he has no defense for childhood stupidity.

“He was a substitute!” Kirishima and Ashido say in unison, giggling like fools. “He was going to leave anyway!”

“This is stupid,” Katsuki says, running a hand down his face in exasperation.

“Is he singing? Are you titillated?” Kirishima asks.

“I liked you better before you expanded your vocabulary,” Katsuki grumbles. “I’m hanging up now and you’ve been incredibly unhelpful.”

“Shoot your shot, my guy!”

“Go get your mans!”

Katsuki hangs up, feeling even more keyed up than he did inside the bar. He sighs. And then he sighs again, just because breathing is helping him chill the fuck out. He shakes himself, psychs himself up, and goes the fuck back into the war zone.

Chapter Text

Katsuki orders another beer and a shot before wading back into the center of the crowd. He’s feeling fuzzy and floaty, two shakes away from drunk, and the swampy air in the bar is adding to that sensation. They’re playing the tail end of some Top 40 rock song Katsuki vaguely recognizes.

“Everything alright?” Momo asks when he makes his way back to her. She’s got a glass tumbler full of a fizzy, pink drink and she’s looking increasingly more drunk, despite the concerned set of her eyes.

“Needed some air,” he mutters around his bottle of beer before downing half of it.

“Do you not like the band?” Her face falls just a bit. Katsuki is no longer in the mood to be overtly pleasant—or at least as overtly pleasant has he ever is.

“I don’t care for cover bands.”

“The bassist usually plays some originals when the crowds a bit more sloshed!”

“If they’re going by you, should be the right time.”

She punches him in the shoulder, and it makes her drink spill a bit, adding another sticky layer to the dirty ground. She laughs, and Katsuki feels just drunk enough to laugh with her. It abruptly drops off when Deku speaks.

“Alright, this is a new one. If you like it, buy your sweetheart some Old Number Seven, alright?” Deku’s voice is rougher than usual, with a twang he only affects when he’s singing bluegrass. Katsuki rolls his eyes. Deku ditches his bass for a guitar and counts off. Kaminari starts strumming a simple chord progression. Deku bobs his head to the beat, and when he sings, something in Katsuki’s stomach twists. It’s unwelcome, but it happens. Katsuki does his best to ignore it.

I guess I grew up on an old dirt road
Pedal to the metal always did what I was told
'Till I found out that my brand new clothes
Came secondhand from the rich kids next door
When I grew up fast I guess I grew up mean
There's a thousand things inside my head I wish I ain't seen
And now I just wander through a real bad dream
Feelin' like I'm coming apart at the seams

Kaminari sings low backup vocals, mixing pleasantly with his band mate’s voice. Jiro is on her phone, taking videos of the crowd. Like all of the songs Deku sings, he has no need for percussion instruments.

Thank you Jack Daniel's Old Number Seven
Tennessee Whiskey got me drinking in heaven
Angels start to look good to me
They're gonna have to deport me to the fiery deep

The chorus is simple, and after Deku sings it a few times, the people in the crowd start clapping along and drunkenly repeating the chorus with him. There’s more than a few people ordering Jack Daniel’s shots at the bar, but Katsuki stands resolute, staring at the green-haired musician.

Thank you Jack Daniel's Old Number Seven
Tennessee Whiskey got me drinking in heaven
I know I can't stay here too long
'Cause I can't go a week without doin' wrong
Without doin' wrong

This song isn’t anything like the weepy, depressive songs Katsuki has heard during the Open Mic Nights, though it hints subtly at a drinking problem, like all his other songs. It’s an anthem, catchy and easy to sing. It worms its way under everyone’s skin and gets stuck there. Katsuki knows it’ll probably be stuck in his head all night, no matter how much he tries to fight it.

So I'm sitting as the bar stool it starts to grow roots
Feelin' like an old worn out pair of shoes
Tell me what is it that I should do
When I'm swimming in the liquor only half way through
So I'm watching as his wings spread as wide as could be
Come on now and wrap them around me
'Cause all I want to do now is fall to sleep
Come down here and lay next to me

Katsuki hardly noticed Deku started to play his guitar, picking out a complicated tune amid Kaminari’s steadfast chord progression, but he is, and it sounds rich and decadent and dirty all at once. Deku doesn’t even look fazed by the complicated dance of his fingers along the strings and frets. This time when the chorus repeats, even more patrons are downing shots and slurring the words with him. Deku’s captured every one of them—except for Katsuki, of course.

Thank you Jack Daniel's Old Number Seven
Tennessee Whiskey got me drinking in heaven
Up here the bottle never runs dry
And you never wake up with those tears in your eyes
Thank you Jack Daniel's Old Number Seven
Tennessee Whiskey got me drinking in heaven
Angels start to look good to me
They're gonna have to deport me
To the fiery deeps, Old Number Seven
To the fiery deeps, Drinkin' in heaven

The song ends, and Katsuki finds himself missing it. Somehow, between staring at Deku and fighting the infectious beat of the song, Katsuki ended up tapping his foot. He stops as soon as he notices it. A waitress appears on stage with not one, but seven shots of Jack Daniel’s on a tray. Deku laughs and helps her pass them out to Kaminari and Jiro, and they down two each like good sports. Deku tries to hide the sour look on his face as he takes them, but he’s not fooling Katsuki. The back end of a hiss is caught by the mic as he speaks into it.

“Thanks, sweetheart!” He takes the final shot, and can’t help but shiver as he forces it down. His curls shake and Katsuki idly wonders if they’re soft. They probably are. Katsuki imagines runnings his fingers through verdant curls and his hands getting stuck in the knots—and then he wants to punch himself in the face for thinking something so lame.

“Alright, let’s start playing before this whiskey hits,” he says, laughing away from the mic. Katsuki knows last call is fast approaching, and they’ll have to end their set. He wonders what they’ll play next. Kaminari, with his stupid streaked hair, sips on a bottle of water and clears his throat in the mic.

“Alright, everyone this is our last song of the night. First, I wanna shout out Midoriya Izuku for helping round out our sound tonight. I promised him he could play his fiddle at least once, so here goes. Try not to heckle him too much!”

Even though Deku isn’t speaking into the mic, he can faintly hear him screech, “Kaminari!”

They all laugh goodnaturedly, and the crowd follows in a collective half-hearted chuckle. Deku switches out his guitar for a fiddle— how did he even lug so many instruments here? —and the opening notes begin, Katsuki recognizes the song, though he’s never heard it accompanied by a fiddle.

Where Is My Mind? plays throughout the room and when others recognize it too, they cheer, letting out little whoops of joy. It’s a classic college band song. He doubts there’s a single person in the room who doesn’t know the words. It’s sounds fucking good too, and Katsuki thinks it would only be better if Deku was singing the lead vocals, but he couldn’t with a fiddle tucked beneath his chin.

“Fuck, I’m gay,” he mutters, pissed at himself for having a cliche crush on a musician. Wasn’t he supposed to go through this kind of thing when he was, like, thirteen and stupid? There’s no way Katsuki, a grown ass man with a fully-formed prefrontal cortex, could be attracted to someone like Deku. And yet, there he stands, thirsty as fuck. He vows then and there to never speak of this night to Ashido and Kirishima. The teasing would be unimaginable.

“You’re just now figuring that out?” Momo asks, and Katsuki wants to sink into the floorboards beneath him. He didn’t think she was listening to him. Instead of answering, he sips his beer. She laughs and clinks her glass to his bottle, as if to say cheers to same-sex attraction. “So who’s responsible for your gay awakening? Please, for my sanity, tell me it's not Kaminari.”

“Kit Harrington from Game of Thrones, actually,” he says flippantly.

“Twins. Mine was Emilia Clark.” She laughs again and sips from her straw. “So, you like Midoriya—the curly-haired fiddle player?”

Katsuki refuses to cop to that, so he shrugs.

“I can set you up,” she offers. “I’ve met him a few times.”

He shakes his head, almost frantically. Even if he wanted to shoot his shot—which he didn’t— he didn’t need any help with it.

“He comes to the shop a lot,” he says, like it explains anything, or is at all relevant to the conversation. They stand in silence, letting the final song wash over them, and when it ends the chorus of clapping is near deafening in the small bar.

“That’s it from us! Thanks, and be sure to check us out on Tweeter and Winstagram! We are Deep Dope. Have a good night.”

“Wanna talk to him? I usually help them pack up.”

Katsuki shakes his head, finishes his beer in one long chug. He’s determined to hide from Deku and not feed the annoying attraction lingering in the pit of his stomach.

“Nah, I’m gonna head out. Thanks for tonight.”

“Get home safe!” Momo pats him lightly on the shoulder as she wobbles past him, heading for the stage. Katsuki walks toward the exit in the opposite direction, shoving past drunk, sweaty bodies, feeling uncomfortably drunk and sweaty himself.

 

Later that night, far past his bedtime, he lays in bed, thinking of Deku. Because he’s an idiot, he looks up Deep Dope on Winstagram, and finds the videos Jiro took while Deku played Old Number Seven.

deep_dope kickass crowd tonight @thecopperpennybar ! thanks for the shots of #oldnumberseven - check out @greenhairbluegrass for more honky tonkin nonsense

And underneath the caption, a comment from the green-haired idiot himself.

greenhairbluegrass please hold while i legally change my name to honky tonkin nonsense

Before Katsuki could even think about not clicking his username, he was already at Deku’s Winstagram page and covering the follow button with his finger. Once he’s done silently seething about his lack of impulse control, he takes the time to look at his profile. His bio is simple. His name and age, and a short message: alexa, define hootenanny. Katsuki hates that he laughed out loud in his dark apartment. He scrolls through his recent photos because Katsuki is clearly suffering from some life altering psychotic break.

It’s full of video clips with Deku’s head cut out of the frame as he plays one string instrument or another. He lets them pass by without listening to the audio until he finds one with an instrument he’s not familiar with. It looks like a fancy ukulele, or a lute, and out of curiosity he unmutes the audio. It sounds… light, almost weak, as he picks out a twanging tune. He mutes the audio again when Deku starts to sing because he’s had enough of that for one night. He stops on a picture, a rare one of Deku’s face. He can see his guitar case on his back, and he can faintly make out the shop in the background.

greenhairbluegrass come see me at plus ultra books at 8! #openmicnight #guitarist

Katsuki’s surprised to see it has over sixty likes and twenty comments. He doesn’t really post on Winstagram, but his few posted pictures net about five likes each and no one (besides Ashido or Kirishima, but they don’t count) has ever commented on them. He remembers all the bar patrons talking about the talented bassist at the show. He surprised that Deku has his own following, however small. It’s… not unimpressive. He pinches the picture to zoom in on Deku’s bright eyes while he shifts in bed, and is promptly horrified when he drops his phone on his face, and it results in a sore nose and a liked picture.

“Fuck,” he hisses in the dark. The phrase gay panic doesn’t even begin to cover the swirl of emotions he feels. It’s a potent cocktail of anger, embarrassment, and indecision. Should he unlike the picture? It’s from almost two months ago, the first time he came into the shop, and the fact that it’s the only picture of his face makes it all the more damning. He’s going to look like a fucking stalker, or like he has a crush—which he doesn’t.

Maybe he should unlike it, unfollow him, and block him for good measure.

Before he can decide what to do, the icon in the corner of his phone blips, and a red one appears over the DM button. He opens his messages, apprehensive and full of regret.

greenhairbluegrass hi!

“Fuck,” he screeches out. He has an urge to throw his phone across the room and hide under his bedding. He ignores it, just like he ignores the message, closing out the app entirely before forcing himself to sleep.

 

When he wakes from his angry, peaceless sleep, the drama of last night feels just a bit farther away. Still, the after effects plague him. He has the beginnings of headache pricking behind his eyes. His throat feels dry, like he’s got a mouthful of hair, and he instantly regrets drinking last night. He’s not a drinker, the occasional beer here and there never makes him feel like this. This is all Deku’s fault. The little gremlin drives him to drink through the power of song and suggestion. Speaking of, the little shit continued to message him after he signed off last night.

greenhairbluegrass were you at the show tonight?
greenhairbluegrass id love to hear what you thought! i didnt get to play much of my own stuff… but its good publicity
greenhairbluegrass do you want to get coffee sometime? preferably not at a place where youre serving it?

Katsuki groans, feeling the pinch of his headache become a steady thrumming pain in his temples. He’s not dealing with this. He locks his phone and trudges off to shower off last night and all its horrors, and maybe eat a giant, greasy burrito from the dive down the street to combat the hangover that’s slowly taking over his entire existence. Work is going to be a nightmare today.

Chapter Text

After eating a burrito roughly the size of a newborn, Katsuki opens the shop, feeling only marginally more himself than he did this morning. Sunday’s are pretty slow, so he settles in for a quiet day—at least, until Kirishima shows up for his shift. Because Katsuki is a damn fool he plays Deku’s CD— only because Yagi left explicit instructions to play it at least once a day, and his crooning voice permeates the space. He feels so shitty that he actually sits in a chair for the first three hours, instead of unpacking books. Deku’s voice lulls him into some sense of half-waking calm, and he hates it.

You come into the world alone

And you go out of the world alone

But in between, there's you and me

Oh oh oh oh

His headache eventually melts away and he feels like he might be ready to handle responding to Deku. He just doesn’t know what he wants to say.

The summer breezes blow so tall

And the winter nights are cold and so long

In between the falling leaves ooh

Oh oh oh oh

Well, he can actually think of a great many things to say, but yes, let’s go get coffee and talk about your weird ukulele and how you rocked my fucking world without even looking at me somehow seems wrong. His brain and his dick are not in unison for the first time in his life and he can't say he likes it. Logically, he can’t fathom being interested in Deku and his stupid hobby, but everything below Katsuki’s neck reacted so viscerally to Deku last night. He wants him, and that’s not something he’s familiar or comfortable with.

The days and nights are killing me

The light and dark are still in me

But there's and anchor on the beach

So let the wind blow hard

And bring a falling star ooh

Oh oh oh oh

Ashido once called him frigid, and he argued with her about it, stomped around and threw a damn fit, but honestly… she was pretty much right on the money. His natural setting was somewhere between prudish and unfeeling. Until last night, he couldn’t imagine anything or anyone being worth putting himself out there. He still couldn’t fully imagine putting himself out there for Deku, but clearly Deku wouldn’t mind if he did. He asked him on a date in a direct message. If that isn’t thirst of the highest caliber, he doesn’t know what is.

He groans and pulls out his phone. The little green dot by his handle tells him Deku’s online, and that alone is enough to make him lock his phone again and seize up. He feels stuck and funky and like he needs to hit something.

“Man up,” he mutters to himself in the quiet shop, gripping his phone. He unlocks his phone and reads Deku’s messages again.

greenhairbluegrass do you want to get coffee sometime? preferably not at a place where youre serving it?

He takes a deep breath and thumbs a reply. It’s not a yes. It’s not even an answer. It’s just the first thing that pops into his head.

kingexplosionmurder you lied. you said you were a one-man band.

Katsuki isn’t impressed by his response. He’s so apprehensive about it that he puts his phone away and actually works to keep his mind off it. That is, until his phone pings. Katsuki is across the room in eight seconds flat, a trail of dust and dropped books left in his wake. He’s so thankful the shop is empty and no one was around to witness Katsuki’s embarrassing, world record toppling sprint.

greenhairbluegrass i am! i just play with dd in exchange for help mixing my music. and some help on background vocals.

kingexplosionmurder they played your song

greenhairbluegrass they did! did u like my song? :-)

Katsuki grimaces at the weird smiley emoticon he sent, nose and all. Who still uses emoticons? And why does it feel like his stomach is doing a fucking gymnastics routine when he looks at it?

kingexplosionmurder no

greenhairbluegrass is that a no to the song and to the coffee?

greenhairbluegrass or are we just not gonna to talk about that?

kingexplosionmurder shut up

greenhairbluegrass ok :-)

kingexplosionmurder stop doing that

greenhairbluegrass :-)

kingexplosionmurder i hate you

greenhairbluegrass ;-)

Katsuki’s stomach flips again and he doesn’t like it. The bell on the door jingles and Katsuki jumps a foot in the air and hides his phone behind his back, like a child getting caught doing something naughty, hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Kirishima, looking a hot damn, hungover mess stops in his tracks when he sees Katsuki’s obviously tense posture.

“What are you doing?” Kirishima tries to raise an eyebrow, but he’s either too hungover or too stupid to do it correctly.

“None of your fucking business,” Katsuki hisses, narrowing his eyes.

“What are you hiding?” Kirishima looks like Katsuki’s embarrassment has brought him back from the brink of death. He no longer looks like a hungover college student—he looks like a six year old in the midst of a wicked sugar high. He giggles, high and sharp, and Katsuki does what any normal, chemically-balanced person would do. He runs, phone clutched in hand like his life depends on it, and Kirishima sprints after him through the stacks.

“I’m too hungover for this, Bakugo!”

“Then leave me the fuck alone!” Katsuki knocks over a stack of books to thwart Kirishima with little regard for the fact that he’ll probably be the one picking them up later. Kirishima goes down, slipping on an intimidatingly thick hardcover, but he brings Katsuki with him and his phone goes flying. Katsuki watches it clatter to the ground in slow motion. He feels like a victim in a horror movie, crawling toward his last chance at salvation with the villain clutching at his heels. Kirishima literally sits on him, and he’s fucking huge so all Katsuki can do his grunt and try to wiggle free and lob colorful curses at him.

“Bro, why are you like this?”

“Fuck you,” he screeches, desperately reaching for his phone. Kirishima plucks it from his line of sight easily, and Katsuki curses himself for never changing his password. Kirishima is still sitting cross-legged on his back, and Katsuki resists the urge to slam his head repeatedly into the carpeted flooring of the stacks in hopes of losing consciousness. He hears the little unlocking noise his phone makes, and dread pools in his gut.

“A winky face?” Kirishima squeals.

“Stop.”

“He asked you out?”

“No!”

“And you haven’t answered him yet?”

“I don’t plan on answering him!”

Katsuki still can’t see Kirishima with his face on the floor, but he can hear the tell-tale blip, blip, blip of his phone typing.

“What are you saying? Stop!”

“I’m saying you’re horny for banjos,” Kirishima says, cackling. Katsuki can’t take it. He’s dizzy with embarrassment and sheer dread, face hot and undoubtedly scarlet. In a Herculean show of strength, Katsuki forces Kirishima off his back.

“Cease and desist, bitch!”

Kirishima flops over, knocking into a short stand-alone shelf, uttering a laugh and a short oof when his head connects with the underside of a shelf. He’s still got Katsuki’s phone in his hand, and Katsuki can only imagine the damage he’s doing. He snatches it away, a tad hysterically, and frantically scrolls through the Winstagram direct messages.

He didn’t know it was possible to be relieved and horrified at the same time. Kirishima had only sent one message, but it was a fucking doozy in the right light.

kingexplosionmurder text me.

And after that, seven little numbers he knew to be his own phone number.

“How the fuck do you know my number by heart?” Katsuki snaps. It’s the only thing he has the mental capacity to note at the moment.

“You’re literally my emergency contact. We’re emergency bros!” Katsuki ponders for a moment, what happens when your emergency contact is the one that puts you in the hospital. Kirishima might find out.

“Disgusting.”

“I’m actually hurt that you don’t know mine.” He pouts. Katsuki glares at him. His phone buzzes, and Katsuki’s face goes up in flames because it can only be one person.

“Motherfucker,” he hisses. He doesn’t even bother to read the message. He quite literally gives up on existing at that moment. He drops his phone and lays down among the upended books on the floor. “I’m going to die now,” he intones, closing his eyes.

“I can’t believe you had the audacity to call me a disaster gay. Look at you!”

“Don’t say another word.”

“Can’t believe I had to chase you down. I think I’m going to puke.”

“Serves you right.”

“You’ll thank me for this, eventually. He’s too cute to pass up on.”

Katsuki decides, right then, to just go with it. He’s already embarrassed himself enough in front of Kirishima. There’s no escaping Deku now, and it’s hard to imagine wanting to when he remembers how he looked and sounded last night.

“You should’ve seen him last night,” Katsuki says, flushing. “Fucking sex on legs.”

 

Katsuki spent the rest of his shift on the floor, among the spilled books and the shards of his dignity as Kirishima pried morsels of information from Katsuki’s reluctant grasp about the night before. When his shift ended, he left the mess for Kirishima to deal with, and flipped him off before heading home. He finally looks at the message Deku sent, and is immediately attacked by the swarm of bugs fluttering around in his stomach.

Deku: hi :-)

Katsuki: so coffee

Deku: yws!

Deku: GES

Deku: agajakbsbe YES. sorry im dumb. how’s mud house sound?

Katsuki: fine. I have class til 10 tomorrow so 10:30.

Deku: yes sir! see you tomorrow :-D

Chapter Text

Katsuki’s morning classes go by quickly. He’d like to say that he was a model student all morning, but that would make him a fucking liar. He’s spent the last two hours trying to take notes and be engaged in the material, but all he has to show for it is a half empty page of messy notes he hardly remembers writing. He checks his watch for the fiftieth time that morning with a mix of anticipation and dread. It’s ten AM, which means his class will let out in fifteen minute—which means he’ll be on time for his meeting with Deku that is one hundred percent definitely not a date, and he refused to be convinced otherwise.

Momo’s in this class with him, and she’s been throwing furtive glances his way for the entire hour. She bumps his elbow, interrupting his blank stare at the lines of his notebook.

“Hah?” He tries to whisper, but it comes out just a bit too loud.

“You alright?”

“M’fine.”

“You’re distracted. I’ll make a copy of my notes for you tonight. What’s wrong?”

Katsuki looks into Momo’s concerned grey eyes. He grapples with whether or not to say anything. He’s not one to share his problems with people—he rarely has problems to share. He refuses to see a meeting, a damn cup of coffee, as a problem. He’s not nervous and he’s not excited and he’s fine. When he says nothing, Momo narrows her eyes at him suspiciously.

“Tell me after class, or no notes.”

He rolls his eyes and checks his watch again. Eight more minutes.

 

Those eight minutes felt more like eight years but the second the class let out Katsuki was all but running away from Momo. It doesn’t work. Before he can vacate the premises, Momo grabs a fistful of his collar and drags him back into his chair. The woman has an iron grip—he’s too impressed by her strength to be embarrassed about being manhandled.

“Spill, Bakugo.”

“Nothing to spill,” he says, stubborn. “I’ve got places to be, so I’m just—“

The grip on his collar tightens, a warning.

“Don’t be stupid. You want these notes, or not?”

Katsuki huffs and checks his watch again. 10:18.

“I’m… meeting someone.”

“Like, a date?” Momo goes starry-eyed and she bounces in her seat, like a kid on Christmas. “So, you’re nervous? That’s so cute.”

“Oi, I don’t do cute or nervous!”

“Yeah, yeah. You’re so tough. Quit stalling and tell me about it.”

“It’s not a date, and I really have to go.”

“I’ll walk with you,” she says, bubbly and bouncy. She didn’t phrase it in a way he could refuse. He grumbles and hikes his backpack higher on his tense shoulders. He glances at his watch again. 10:20.

The only worse than actually going to this thing is being late. Tardiness is his biggest pet peeve and he’ll be damned if his ass isn’t in a chair promptly at 10:30, no matter how much the thought of sitting across from Deku ties his stomach in knots. They walk in silence until they reach the edge of campus. Mud House—truly the dumbest name for a coffee shop—is closeby, right in the middle of Main Street, nestled between a thrift store and an antique shop.

“So, who is he?” She smiles conspiratorially at him. It’s pretty warm out for a fall day. Sun shining, birds singing, all that dumb shit. It’s hardly warm enough for people to be out in shorts, playing frisbee out on the lawn, but there he is, dodging flying plastic disks. One flies directly at him and he catches it before it can smack him in the face. He grumpily tosses the damn thing behind him.

“It’s that dumb musician from the show the other night.”

Momo pauses, incredulous. “Kaminari?”

“The other dumb musician.”

“Oh! Maybe I’ll come in and say hi. You know, since it’s not a date. Maybe I’ll sit and hang with you guys.”

“Fuck no,” he screeches, face immediately engulfed in flames. Momo snickers at his outburst.

“God, it’s too easy to rile you up.”

“Shut up.” He grunts again. He can see the green vinyl awning of the shop and his stomach feels like it’s melted and it’s trickling down into his shoes.

“You’re going to be fine. Midoriya’s great! I’ve only met him a few times, but he’s always so sweet. And cute, even by my high lesbian standards.”

“He’s not cute!”

“And denial is just a river in Egypt,” she says, rolling her eyes. She grabs his hand to keep him from his slow march to the coffee shop. It shouldn’t feel like he’s walking to the gallows, but it does. It’s the long walk to something that will inevitably kill him.

“Don’t be so nervous. And fix your shirt—it’s all funky,” she says, fiddling with his collar and straightening it out, as if she wasn’t the one to fuck it up in the first place. She starts messing with his hair, and he’s too uptight to let it happen. He slaps them away, and she laughs again. Katsuki’s blood pressure is quickly skyrocketing and time is ticking down.

“I’m leaving now,” he deadpans, leaving her on the edge of campus.

“Have fun on your date,” she yells after him, giggling.

“It’s not a date!” He flips her off before he crosses the street to Mud House, and he immediately sees bushy green hair in the window. The creepy crawlies in his stomach flutter around when he sees him, chewing of that damn pen, flipping pages in the beat up leather book. He briefly considers running away, only to be thwarted when Deku looks up from his book and they make eye contact through the glass. His eyes light up with recognition, a smile pulling on the corners of his mouth.

Oh, no, he’s cute.

There’s an acrobat or a trapeze artist performing somewhere in his stomach—he’s sure of it. He takes a deep breath and enters his own personal hell. Katsuki makes a beeline for the table Deku’s sitting at, and throws himself gracelessly into the seat across from him.

“Hey!” Deku smiles at him, that stupid pen still halfway in his mouth, and Katsuki narrows his eyes, fighting the buzzing bees in his gut.

“This is not a date, Deku” he blurts out, gripping the edge of the table. Deku laughs, it’s short, cutting off almost as soon as it starts, but somehow it’s still musical.

“I know. As a general rule, I try to avoid dates with guys who don’t remember my name.” He closes the book in his hand and sets it on the table. “Sets a bad precedent, don’t you think?”

Katsuki finds himself disappointed for some idiotic reason he refuses to consider. He’s doing his damndest not to appear like he’s pouting.

“So, coffee,” he says, like an idiot.

“Right! What would you like? It’s on me.”

“Hell, no. I’m paying for my own shit.”

“Look, it’s pretty obvious you don’t want to be here, so just let me treat you,” Deku says, not an ounce of self-deprecation in his tone. It annoys Katsuki that the dumb nerd thinks he knows anything about him.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to,” he snarks, completely unaware of the fact that he just betrayed himself. Deku smiles again—he has too many smiles, and they all seem to mean different things, and they all punch Katsuki right in the kidneys.

“Okay,” he says, grinning like an idiot. “Black coffee? Like your soul?”

“Fuck you.”

“Jeez, at least buy me a pastry first.”

Katsuki chokes on his own spit, and Deku laughs before heading for the coffee counter. He doesn’t have enough mental energy to think about the fact that Deku is buying his coffee anyway, despite his protests, and that he guessed the way he takes his coffee in one go.

Oh, no, he’s funny.

Once his breathing is back to normal and his face feels slightly less hot, he noticed the leather book on the table. He wants to open it. It’s probably full of whiny lyrics about drinking too much. His fingers rest on the worn binding, testing the waters. It wouldn’t take much to just flip the cover open.

“What are you doing?”

Katsuki jumps in his seat, his hands flying back across the table, away from the book. Deku sits back in his chair and puts a cup of black coffee in front of Katsuki.

“You can look at it, if you want,” he says, sipping lightly from his own cup. “They’re just lyrics and ideas. I’d love to know what you think.”

“Why the hell do you want to know what I think about your stupid music?”

“Because you’re a tough critic. If I can convince you to like something, it’s probably a hit!”

“That’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard.”

“Maybe,” he says, smiling around the lip of his mug. “But you’re curious anyway, right?”

Katsuki rolls his eyes, sips from his mug, and takes the book in hand. He flips to a bookmarked page with sloppy writing on every surface, like his brain moved too fast for his pen to keep up. The title at the top of the page says Mountain Annie? And then next to it, in much smaller print, different name?

Katsuki takes in the words, reading them slowly and trying to work out some kind of rhythm based on the rhyme scheme. He fails—he’s not musical, and it ends up sounding stilted and weird in his head.

Well I went down to the train yard looking to forget you

And I laid my head down on the rail

Well these tracks they must run near you, 'cause I swear that I could hear you, singing

And I wish I couldn't say, since you been away

Well I don't feel like I know myself

Yes and when I get to thinkin 'bout it, it just turns to drinkin 'bout it, over and over again

“Are you an alcoholic?” Katsuki asks the question just as Deku is sipping his coffee. He chokes on, liquid splashing over the edge of his cup as he tries to breathe again. He wipes his mouth, coughing into the napkin.

“Excuse me?”

“Is this some cry for help? Because I’m really not the guy to ask,” he says, grimacing at the splotches of coffee on the front of Deku’s yellow hoodie.

“Not even a little. I don’t drink much.”

“Why are all your songs about drinking? And dying?”

“I don’t know. Pain is relatable, I guess. Much more relatable that happiness.”

“You are a very sad individual,” Katsuki deadpans. He can’t stop staring at the ruined front of his hoodie, and Deku notices. He unzips the hoodie and shrugs it off his shoulders, revealing a simple white T-shirt and muscled forearms. His tattoo peeks out of his sleeve and the sight of it goes straight to Katsuki’s crotch. He shifts, suddenly warm and uncomfortable.

Oh, no, he’s hot.

“And you’re a ray of sunshine,” he says, smirking. Katsuki has no retort for that, and he’s trying really hard not to look at Deku’s borderline indecent arms, so he keeps reading the lyrics.

Oh why, oh why, do I let myself cry, over you?

When I call out your name, you don't do the same, now do you?

Get out of my head, give me back my heart Mountain Annie

The lyrics are simple and he admits it’d probably sound good accompanied by a catchy tune. He wants to hear it, for some reason. He looks at Deku’s mouth, briefly, remembering what his voice did to him the other night. When Deku gives him a small smile, his eyes snap back to the book.

Now in the flicker of a candle's flame, smoke that rises spells your name

And then it disappears

And my hearts grown tired of beatin, and my lips are tired of speakin, so I won't

And the sky must know, the way that these things go because it's raining like it's never gonna stop

And if this flood comes running through, Lord I hope I can float away from you and break these chains

Katsuki closes the book when he finishes reading. He’s not artistically inclined in any way and he’s never cared much for things like music or poetry, so he really has nothing to say on the matter.

“So, what’d you think?” Deku asks, a hopeful tilt in his voice. In his periphery, Katsuki can see the muscles shifting under his skin as he leans forward.

“Who hurt you?” He asks blandly, rolling his eyes at all the sap on the page. Deku laughs lightly, gamely.

“A very pretty musician with a voice like velvet.”

Katsuki didn’t expect his rhetorical question to get a response, much less one so heartfelt.

“It’s just words on a page. Not like there’s anything impressive about that.” Katsuki forces himself to make eye contact with Deku again. Deku looks unaffected by his words.

“Well, at least you didn’t hate it.”

“Did you hear what I just said?”

“I did. It’s probably the nicest thing you’ve ever said in my presence. Unimpressed is hardly the worst thing you could say.”

“You’re delusional.”

“And you’re grumpy. Other than that, I know nothing about you. What’s your major?”

“Biology. Pre-med track.”

“Impressive. You must work really hard.”

Katsuki preens at the praise, puffing his chest out. He feels himself relaxing just a bit.

“Top of my fucking class.”

“Junior or senior?”

“Junior.”

“Me, too,” Deku says, pointedly sipping his coffee, presumably to give Katsuki a chance to do more than answer inane questions. Katsuki effectively blue screens and blurts out the first question he can think of.

“What’s your major?”

Deku raises a dubious brow, and speaks slowly.

“Music.” By his tone, duh is meant to follow the simple word and Katsuki feels his hackles rise.

“Well, how the fuck was I supposed to know you weren’t some shitty math major? It could happen,” he barks. Deku laughs again, and Katsuki thinks, for a split second, he’s sick of hearing it, but he knows he’s a fucking liar.

“Fair enough,” he says, raising his hands in a placating gesture.

Katsuki spends the rest of their short non-date alternating between staring at Deku’s smile and his tattoo, and kicking himself for emphasizing the fact that this wasn’t a date at the beginning. Deku… really isn’t that bad.

Chapter Text

After that day at the coffee shop, Deku didn’t invite him out for anything, but he did occasionally come to the shop. Every time he did, Katsuki’s stomach twisted up into his trachea, his blood pressure shot up, and his patience was rice paper thin.

One time, he made Deku’s vanilla latte, and their hands brushed as he passed it off, and Katsuki made some excuse to get away from the coffee counter and spent the rest of his shift hiding in the stock room, trying to push away the hot, stifling feelings swirling inside him and muttering angrily about calloused hands and bright smiles.

Katsuki’s growing crush on Deku was like coming home day after day to a mailbox full of junk mail. No matter how much Katsuki didn’t want it, no matter how many times he sifted through his feelings and unceremoniously tossed them away, they just kept coming. The day he decided to stop fighting it, Deku asked him out again.

“Hi,” Deku says, forgoing the pretense of sitting in a chair and pretending he wasn’t in the shop just to bother Katsuki by going straight to the coffee counter. Katsuki nods in Deku’s direction, but makes no effort to go to the counter.

“Finals week is coming up. You swamped?”

“Nothing I can’t handle,” he says primly. Truthfully, he’s up to his eyeballs in study materials, essay due dates, and pamphlets about MCAT prep courses and practice tests. He isn’t about to whine about it to Deku, though.

“Well, if you want to, I have a study room reserved in the library on Wednesday night. That’s your day off, yeah?”

“Stalker,” Katsuki mumbles, his heart in his throat. Deku rolls his eyes, but his smile is a bit more sure when he speaks again.

“So, you want to study together?”

“How does a music major even study? Sounds loud as fuck.”

“I take other classes, you know. Non-musical classes.”

“So, no instruments?”

“You’re making this way harder than it needs to be, Kacchan.”

That stupid nickname does horrifying things to Katsuki. He just started saying it one day—something about payback for calling him Deku. The first time it happened Katsuki blew a gasket and ignored his texts for a week, but the more Deku uses it, the more Katsuki finds he craves hearing it.

“Maybe,” he says, and then concedes, just a little. “What time?”

“Six-thirty. I know baby Kacchan likes to be in bed by nine sharp.” Deku gives him an especially bright, shit-eating grin.

“Fuck you” Katsuki grumbles, looking away, his cheeks hot.

“Keep talking like that and people might start thinking you’re propositioning me,” he says, cheery and chipper, making his escape before Katsuki can go ballistic. “See you Wednesday! I’ll text you the room number. Bye, Kacchan!”

As soon as Deku leaves, Kirishima and Ashido pop out of nowhere from behind a bookshelf, grinning conspiratorially.

“What’s this?” Kirishima sing-songs.

“Another date?” Ashido answers in the same tone, as if they practiced it. They probably did—those assholes will do anything to avoid working.

“No,” he says hotly. “We’re studying.”

“A study date is still a date! Our prayers are answered!” Kirishima throws his hands up, praising the heavens.

“My crops are watered, my skin is clear, and Kacchan has a date!”

“Oh, fuck off!”

“The sexual tension is killing me. I swear the temperature goes up ten degrees every time you two look at each other,” Ashido says, fanning herself dramatically. Katsuki can’t disagree, so he said nothing.

 

“What are you working on?”

“Memorizing the definitions of words you probably can’t even pronounce,” he grumbles, writing neatly on another notecard.

Just because Deku isn’t wailing on a harmonica doesn’t mean he’s quiet. He’s a very loud studier, and if Katsuki didn’t think he was so damn cute, he would’ve left an hour ago.

“What are you working on that makes you fucking mutter like that?”

“Poetry final.”

“Of course, you’re in a poetry class.” Katsuki rolls his eyes. Deku smiles slyly.

“Well, it’s basically a song with all the rhyming. It helps me come up with some new material!”

Katsuki snatches his notebook away. It’s not the leather book, but an actual college ruled, five subject notebook. The page is littered with wayward notes and squiggling doodles, crossed out typos and self-conscious, parenthetical questions. There’s also a song—or poem, he guesses. He tries not to read it, but curiosity wins out.

Mother, listen to my heart

Just as one beat ends, another starts

You can hear no matter where you are

Sister, hide our love away

From the evil we both know

It can see you through these dark days

Though they seem to darken as I go

Our love will see us through these dark, dark days sister

'Til it lights the way back home

Sister, hide our love away

It can turn the whole world upside down

Shake it 'til the sky falls to the ground

We don't have to reap the fear they sow

Friends, as long as we hide our love away

In the good they'll never know

It can see us through these dark days

Though they seem to darken as we go

Our love will see us through these dark, dark days sister

'Til it lights the way back home

Mother, listen to my heart

Just as one beat ends, another starts

You can hear no matter where you are

“Typical, depressing bullshit,” Katsuki mutters, pushing the notebook back his way. “I hope you at least type it up. It’s messy as hell.”

“It’s not bullshit, Kacchan,” he says, looking sad and serious. “This one’s not bullshit.”

Katsuki doesn’t know what to say because he’s never seen Deku act like this when Katsuki makes a scathing comment about his lyrics. The room feels almost awkward. His stumbling blunder of a question doesn’t do much to alleviate the feeling.

“You have a sister?”

“Yeah. Adopted, but I was so young when she came to live with us I hardly remembered a time before she was there. Her name was Eri.”

Katsuki notices the was, and refuses to acknowledge it.

“Oh,” he says. A deft response. Deku smiles, but it’s about thirty degrees cooler than his usual surface of the sun smile. Katsuki tries again.

“Well, as long as it’s not too out there, I’ll listen to it when you turn it into a song.”

“What’s out there about my music?”

“What isn’t out there about playing Where is My Mind? on a fiddle?”

“I think everyone could use a little more fiddle in their lives. It’s jaunty. And I saw you at the show. You didn’t seem to hate it.”

Katsuki scowls, trying to hide his embarrassed blush by turning back to his notecards. Thinking about Deku at that damn show, even after two months, still makes him sweat. Deku laughs, and decides to take pity on him.

“Let me see your notecards. I want to try to pronounce them.”

Katsuki’s thankful for the change of subject, and soon Deku reverts back to his thousand watt self. They agree to meet again next week.

 

“Hey,” Deku says, and it sounds off, almost heavy. Katsuki grunts in his direction, not bothering to look up from his textbook because looking at Deku is dangerous. If he looks at him he’ll lose his place, and he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to focus back on studying.

“Are we friends?”

“Hah? What kind of question is that?”

“I’m just wondering,” he says, picking at the frayed edges of his notebook.

“You gonna write about it in your diary, or some shit?” Katsuki smirks, but if falls when Deku’s shoulders slump a little.

“You know, I don’t care if you’re snarky and rude and borderline hostile. I think it’s funny most of the time, but every now and then it’d be nice if you could say hey, I like hanging out with you, just so I know where I stand.”

“I like hanging out with you,” he blurts out, partly because he doesn’t like that little frown creasing Deku’s lips and partly because it’s true. It feels like he’s admitting to something far more damning than a friendship, especially when Deku’s smile breaks open, his cheeks just a bit pink.

“Thanks, pal,” he says. “I can’t wait to write about this in my journal!” He punches Katsuki in the arm, causing the careful, straight highlighted marks he was making in his textbook to wobble and streak across the page.

“Fucking Deku!” Katsuki screeches. Deku giggles in the face of Katsuki’s rage, and he shoves him out of his chair. They end up on the floor, howling with laughter until a work-study volunteer comes in and kicks them out of the study room for causing a disturbance.

“You’re the worst study partner in the world.”

“Yeah, yeah. But you like hanging out with me.”

Katsuki hates the fact that he can’t help but smile. He hides it in his shoulder, turning his face away, so Deku won’t see it.

Chapter Text

Finals week goes by in a slow, agonizing fashion. His test are challenging, but there’s never been a challenge Katsuki hasn’t risen to with great efficiency and success. He’d bet his next paycheck that he’s getting all A’s. One downside to being so fucking busy studying is that Deku was also busy studying. They’ve texted a bit, but Katsuki finds himself dissatisfied.

He’s never once seen him on campus—the fine arts buildings and the science buildings were on opposite sides of the campus—but he still catches himself looking around for him, hoping to see a glimpse of stupid, green hair, so he can casually run into him.

And then, as soon as he’s not thinking about him, he appears. When Deku comes into the shop for the first time in over a week, Katsuki’s heart literally flutters, and he’s disgusted with himself, but he’s also relieved to see him.

“Hey, stranger,” Deku says, his voice warm and bright. It’s a fucking icy, wintry hell outside, but Deku smiles and suddenly he’s sweating like it’s mid-August.

“Want your shitty latte?”

“Yeah, without the shit, please.”

“Idiot.” Katsuki rolls his eyes and gets to work. Deku gets comfortable in his regular chair. So comfortable that Katsuki brings him his drink and doesn’t make him pay. Something is very wrong with Katsuki. He quietly berates himself behind the counter for being a sappy, lovestruck idiot. Eventually, he gets his shit together—well, at least enough to speak again.

“You heading home for the holidays?”

Deku shakes his head and sips on his latte. He doesn’t offer up an excuse as to why he’s decided to hang around for the winter break, even though everything around campus is a veritable ghost town the second the last final exam lets out.

“Me neither,” he says, instead of asking. Katsuki’s never been good at showing interest, and showing his hand. Still, he thinks Deku can see through all that. He offers up his own explanation in hopes that it’ll get Deku talking.

“My folks went on a cruise. Apparently, they don’t love me enough to invite me. So, I’ll be here, getting paid to be bored out of my mind.”

“I’m sure they love you just enough to spare you the invite,” he says knowingly.

“What are you trying to say?”

“That you’d probably turn them down if they asked.”

He’s right, but Katsuki argues just for the sake of it.

“Who says I wouldn’t love to be stuck on a boat with my parents for two weeks?”

“Your general sense of annoyance about everything and everyone.”

Katsuki smirks at that, but he turns his head so Deku won’t see. Deku doesn’t say anything else. He’s got that book in his hands again, chewing on the end of his pen.

“Why aren’t you going home?” Katsuki asks.

Deku stares at him for a minute, and Katsuki can’t decide if it’s because he’s surprised he asked, or because he’s trying to decide whether or not to tell him.

“My dad and I don’t really get along,” he says finally.

Katsuki has to resist an outraged cry of something like how could someone not get along with you?

“Wanna talk about it?”

Deku has the audacity to look at him like he’s a science experiment, squinting, turning his head this way and that.

“Does Bakugo Katsuki have a sensitive twin I don’t know about?”

“Fuck off.”

Deku giggles, and they fall into a comfortable silence. It’s only later, after Deku is gone and the shop has been closed, that he realizes Deku seamlessly avoided talking to him. The realization sits low in his stomach.

 

Days later, Katsuki scrolls through his Winstagram feed at work because he hasn’t seen another human being since nine am and he’s bored out of his mind. The shop is due to close early for Christmas Eve, but Katsuki doesn’t really know what he’ll do after he locks up. He pauses when he sees Deku’s username and a new post.

@greenhairbluegrass merry christmas from me and my band #thegangsallhere #onemanshow #totallynotlonely #bluechristmas

The picture is of him and all his instruments sitting on the floor of what he assumes is his living room. There are Christmas lights in the background and he’s wearing a Santa hat that clashes horribly—but also, appropriately, given the time of year—with his hair. There’s another picture in the post, so he swipes over to it, only to find a video of Deku and his banjo. Against his better judgement, he unmutes it.

I’ll have a blue Christmas without you

I'll be so blue just thinking about you

Decorations of red, on a green Christmas tree

Won't be the same dear, if you're not here with me

And when those blue snowflakes start falling

That's when those blue memories start calling

You'll be doing alright, with your, your Christmas of white

But I'll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas

It makes Katsuki feel like he’s sweating. Too warm. So warm that it impairs his judgement. He puts down his phone, walks over to the section of journals in the shop, and picks out the most expensive leather bound journal he can find that also looks like it would suit Deku’s needs. He buys the thing, and he’s so frazzled he doesn’t even remember to use his employee discount.

Before he can talk himself out of it he finds some wrapping paper left over from the Christmas event the shop hosted last year and wraps it up. All that’s left to do is call him.

But if he calls he’ll hear his voice—that beautiful, stupid, crooning voice—and he’ll definitely chicken out, and then he’ll be thirty bucks in the hole for no reason, and they’ll both spend Christmas Eve on their respective couches, alone. So, maybe he’ll just text. That’s safe and innocuous and in no way going to unravel Katsuki.

Katsuki: where do you live?

Deku: if you’re planning on stalking me you’re off to a horrible start

Katsuki: don’t be an asshole

There’s a long span of time where Deku says nothing, and Katsuki wants bang his head on the counter for starting a conversation with the creepiest question in existence. And then, blessedly, his phone pings. It’s a fucking Christmas miracle.

Deku: corner of 3rd and main. Orange door.

Katsuki doesn’t know how to respond, so he doesn’t. He spends the remainder of his shift doing closing duties and pacing a hole in the floor. After he locks up, he damn near power walks to Deku’s door, cutting what should be a ten minute walk down to something like five minutes. He bangs on the door, his freezing knuckles rapping impatiently. He only makes him wait about thirty seconds.

“Merry Christmas, Deku,” he says self consciously. He shoves the festively wrapped gift into his hands, and considers running away. He considers moving to the other side of the country and changing his name because he doesn’t do things like this for people, and it makes him so nervous he could faint.

And then Deku smiles at him. “You want to come in?”

There’s no running from something like this.