Actions

Work Header

Tightrope

Work Text:

Izuku Midoriya didn’t know when he’d lost consciousness, or for how long he’d been out, and he didn’t remember the events that could have caused him to do so. All he knew was that he was now being jolted back to his senses by an explosively loud, familiar voice and he felt a pair of warm, rough, clammy hands practically throttling his neck.

“Calm down! Take it easy, Bakugou, you could make it worse!”

When Izuku’s eyes opened, he was greeted by the sight of Katsuki Bakugou’s red eyes, twinged with rage and fear, and his wild mess of blond hair, all dangerously close to his face.

“Ka-Kacchan?” Izuku muttered. His ears were ringing. He couldn’t tell if he’d actually spoken or not, but he must have because the look on Katsuki’s face changed. Izuku saw relief followed by a flash of something he couldn’t read, then back to anger again. Katsuki dropped his hands from Izuku’s neck, causing his head to fall back to the ground with a thud.

“Easy!” Another familiar voice. Izuku looked up to see his friends and fellow heroes, Eijiro Kirishima, Tenya Iida, and Shoto Todoroki all hovering over him. He felt a strange weight on his body and as he attempted to shift himself to the side, a bolt of pain shot through his ribs. The weight was…Kacchan? Izuku barely registered this as his friend scrambled off of him quickly, with a face flushed pink. Only Izuku seemed to notice this.

“Deku,” said Katsuki, locking eyes with him, something so odd in his expression.

“Are you hurt, Midoriya?” asked Iida.

“Of course he’s hurt, moron!” Katsuki yelled, turning his head away. His voice sounded shaken and quavery. Izuku saw Todoroki place a hand on Katsuki’s shoulder. He flinched and moved to push the hand away at first, but ultimately, he didn’t.

“What the hell happened?” Izuku asked, trying to sit up. Iida crouched next to him and supported his back as he moved to sit up, groaning at the pain in his side. Above him, he heard Katsuki grunt.

“I could have killed you!” Katsuki shouted, with murder in his eyes. For a half-second Izuku expected his friend to pounce and start strangling him again.

“Huh?” Izuku rubbed the back of his head. His temples pounded. Iida was still there at his back, supporting him.

“The mission got a little out of our control,” said Todoroki.

“Tch,” scoffed Katsuki. Now he did brush off Todoroki’s hand aside and moved several feet away, digging the heels of his hands into his forehead.

“The villain, he rendered you invisible,” Todoroki explained. “Part of his Quirk. He’d already grabbed you, only we didn’t know right away. And Bakugou, he…”

“Arrragggh!” The sound out of Katsuki was visceral and raw. He punched at the air, letting off small explosions; the smell of burnt sugar and smoke filling the air around them. Izuku hadn’t seen him so worked up in a while.

“Kacchan…please.” Izuku’s voice was soft but direct. He hoped to pierce whatever wall Katsuki had thrown up. Silence hung in the air and everyone faced Katsuki, waiting for him to continue filling in Izuku on the events he’d missed while unconscious.

“What Todoroki said," Katsuki confirmed. "I didn’t see you. I didn’t know you were there when I...went in for my attack.” Katsuki furrowed his brow. His crimson eyes looked watery and crazed, and he gulped before opening his mouth to continue.

“I get it,” said Izuku, holding up a hand. “You don’t have to elaborate…if you don’t want to.” Katsuki nodded, a little of the tension leaving his body. “But Kacchan. You didn’t. I’m here. I’m fine.” As if on a cue, a very inconvenient one, a sharp pain shot through Izuku's side and he winced, gripping it. He grit his teeth and tried not to make a sound, lest it further irritate Kacchan.

“Yeah? Well, I’m not, fine, Deku,” said Katsuki.

“Any one of us could have made the same error,” said Iida with an attempt at comfort.

“But you didn’t. I did. And I almost killed him. I almost killed someone I…” Katsuki trailed off, waving at the air as if trying to dismiss his own words. Izuku thought he understood. He’d be upset too if he thought he’d nearly killed a friend, by accident… especially Kacchan.

Maybe it was out of place in this situation, but something in Izuku couldn’t help but be pleased to see Katsuki fretting over him. He pushed that thought away to the place where other such thoughts lived, where he’d been stockpiling them over the years. Ordinarily, taking comfort in someone else’s distress would be accompanied by guilt, but Izuku felt so exhausted from the fight, he didn’t have room for it.

They were twenty-years-old now, working as freelance sidekicks for several of the top agencies, well on their way to becoming full-fledged pros. They’d had so many offers pouring in, it had been impossible to choose just one. At graduation, Katsuki had floated the idea of them freelancing together. Izuku had been slightly surprised to find Kacchan expressing interest in joining him in a work setting, but Katsuki had given a wicked grin and teased, ‘The strong have to protect the weak, Deku. I’ve saved your ass so many times. How would you survive without me?' Izuku had asked himself that very question many times.

Katsuki had been a part of his life for as long as he could remember and truth be told, he didn’t want to imagine a life without Kacchan in it. Something had broken between them during their school days. The dam that had been built up had burst, not after one particular incident, but after many instances when they’d been thrust together to fight either each other or side by side, the weight of their long history like water against weakened, aging, stone. Even by the end of their first year, they’d started to feel like true friends again.

“Can you stand?” asked Iida.

“I think so,” Izuku answered. Kirishima had walked over to tend to Katsuki who continued to fume and fuss. Iida and Todoroki helped Izuku come to standing and despite some definite pain in his side and soreness in his muscles, he felt he could walk to the recovery station with their support. Katsuki walked in front of them a few paces, leading the way. Izuku found himself wishing for Katsuki to look back at him. He wanted to reassure his friend. He wanted him to forgive himself. When they reached the recovery station, Izuku was ushered inside by the staff, whose calmness seemed to annoy Katusuki. Iida and Kirishima went back to the scene of the attack to assist the pros.

“Midoriya, will you be alright if we go back?” asked Todoroki from the doorway. But Katsuki had already taken a seat inside the small confines of the recovery station and was removing his gauntlets.

“Sure. I’m in good hands,” Izuku said. “I’ll get assessed and treated and I’ll meet you back at Fat Gum’s agency as soon as I can.”

“Right. We’ll debrief tomorrow if you’ve been discharged by then,” said Todoroki. Katsuki looked up, his eyes scanning Izuku for reasons why they’d opt to keep him overnight. “Come on, Bakugou.”

“Like Hell,” he said.

“Kacchan, you don’t need to…”

“I’m staying here until they figure out what’s wrong with you, Deku. Until I know the full extent of my recklessness. I won’t make the same mistakes again.” Katsuki’s eyes were full of fury and intensity and Izuku knew there was no sense in arguing with him unless he wanted a full-on brawl.

“Suit yourself. We’ll meet up, soon,” said Todoroki, looking between his friends with some understanding that neither of them seemed to possess. He ducked out with a wave at both of them and they sat in silence while the staff prepared to assess Izuku. Katsuki sat with his arms crossed over his chest, a trademark scowl etched on his face.

“Izuku Midoriya,” said a nurse, stepping out from behind the curtain. Izuku stood, blood rushing to his head as he did. He still felt a little weak on his feet. Katsuki sprung to his side, grabbing him tightly under the armpits to keep him from falling back. Izuku stifled a wince. He couldn’t let Katsuki see that the gesture actually caused him more pain, though he was grateful not to fall over. Katsuki reluctantly let go and eased Izuku over to the care of the nurse who smiled warmly. He started to follow them, but the nurse put her hand up, stern, but kind. “I’m afraid you’ll have to wait out here,” she said. Katsuki froze, his face chasing another scowl.

“I’ll be fine,” said Izuku, placing a hand on Katsuki’s shoulder and squeezing lightly. “Don’t worry, Kacchan.” Katsuki gave a pained expression as if to say, of course, I’ll worry, and once again Izuku felt a sense of pleasure and pride at Katsuki’s concern. They’d grown steadily closer over the years after hashing things out in their school days, but this attention seemed…different. Izuku didn’t dare hope for it to be anything more than friendly, but he had to wonder. The long looks Katsuki sometimes gave him, the downright gentleness in his smile that Izuku wasn't completely used to. He’d really mellowed out, yes, but even that didn't seem to account for the changes; not completely. Could there possibly be more to it?

“You have two cracked ribs and your right lung was very nearly punctured,” the doctor said, bringing Izuku back to the present. “Your skin sustained some damage from the explosions, but the burns aren’t serious. Your suit protected you pretty well. The impact of the blast knocked you unconscious but there’s no concussion or signs of serious trauma. You’re incredibly lucky.”

“Can you please assure my friend out there that I’m okay? I think he’s taking my injury worse than I am.”

“That’s a good friend.”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll do you one better. Our healer should be able to tend to those ribs, no problem. I need to run one or two more tests, but I think it’s safe to say, you’ll be out of here tonight.”

“Thank you.”

When Izuku emerged from treatment, he found Katsuki still in the waiting area where he’d clearly dozed off with his head resting against his own fist. Izuku hated to wake him, he looked so peaceful. He fought the urge to run his fingers through Katsuki’s blond hair. It looked softer than usual somehow.

“Kacchan,” he said, reaching out a hand, lightly tapping his friend’s shoulder. Katsuki didn't stir. Izuku smiled and allowed himself to fully take in and appreciate the sight of a sleeping Katsuki Bakugou. Quiet and still like this, he almost looked sweet.

Distant memories from childhood flooded Izuku’s mind. He couldn’t help but picture the times they’d fought sleep together (their first battle) as they were forced to rest on palettes, side by side in their kindergarten classroom. Each child protesting and whining that they didn’t need a nap. Katsuki and Izuku would slide their palettes slightly closer, so they could keep whispering about heroes while pretending to be asleep. Kacchan would hold up an All Might action figure, stealthily hidden beneath his blanket and they’d admire it together until they were caught and scolded. Izuku stifled a laugh as he recalled a particular time when Katsuki pretended to sleep with one red eye wide open, the other squeezed shut so tightly as if by doing so he could will the teacher not to notice them awake and talking. Izuku remembered drifting off to sleep with visions of All Might in his head as the slight scents of caramel and fire rose up next to him. The first time he’d smelled that smell. The day Kacchan got his Quirk.

“Kacchan.” Izuku tapped a little harder and spoke louder, hoping that would do the trick. It did.

“Htrmcphmph?” Katsuki opened his eyes, groggily, even as his body seemed to jolt forward, his mind not yet catching up with his body. “Deku.”

“I’ve been discharged,” Izuku said, holding up the paperwork. Katsuki stood and inspected him, looking for bandages and signs of damage. Izuku lifted up his shirt to show the bandage around his midsection. As much as he may have wanted to, he knew he shouldn’t try to hide it. “My ribs are healing pretty quickly,” he said. “My memory’s still a little foggy, but the doctor says that’s normal. Other than that, a few bumps and bruises, but I’m good,” he said.

“Tch.”

“Really! I don’t even hurt much,” Izuku lied. Katsuki looked at him skeptically but after a brief moment, he seemed satisfied. Izuku let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. Then he felt it. And heard it. A very loud stomach rumble. Come to think of it, he couldn’t remember when he’d last eaten.

“Alright, Let’s go Deku. I’m taking you to eat.” Katsuki retrieved his gauntlets and they walked out into the cooling night air. The fresh air felt good on Izuku’s face and in his lungs. It seemed like a lifetime had passed since they’d set off for the mission that morning.

He hadn’t sustained serious injury since gaining fuller control of One For All. He’d improved a lot since school and had taken seriously his own personal vow to be a hero who could protect and save without making people worry. But today…making Kacchan worry, it felt like a setback. How could he have left himself open to be nabbed by a villain in the first place? He tried to piece together the events of the mission, but they were still cloudy. “We’re not far from that place with the katsudon you like. The one that’s not as good as mine, but almost…”

“Oh, yeah. That sounds good,” Izuku’s stomach growled again. “Actually, anything sounds good. I’m starving.” They walked in silence for a while. Katsuki looked rather silly, carrying his gauntlets in his arms, and Izuku couldn’t help but let out a laugh.

“Shaddup, or you’re buying!” said Katsuki shooting him a look. But he also had a smile on his face, the first Midoriya had seen from him all day and it made everything feel okay.

They ate peacefully, laughing and teasing and arguing, discussing battle tactics and stats, relishing the good food, the relaxed environment, enjoying each other’s company. Izuku was even hungrier than he’d thought. He devoured his food in no time while listening intently to Katsuki’s description of new gear he was thinking of getting. They sat comfortably, sipping tea long after the food was gone and right up until the waitress came by to wipe their table down with a wet cloth. When they didn’t take the hint, she came by again.

“Ya know, I’m gonna have to kick you boys out,” she said looking regretful. It was hard to tell if the look was fake or sincere. Midoriya looked at the time and guessed the former.

“Yeah. It is getting late. Sorry to keep you.”

“We’ll get outta your hair,” said Katsuki, throwing down the money.

“Kacchan, you really don’t…”

“Shaddap!” Katsuki said as he shoved his chair back. He stood and stretched. Izuku knew better than to say, ‘thank you.’ “I’ll drop you off,” said Katsuki as they left the restaurant. Izuku didn’t protest. He let Katsuki take the lead because he knew that’s what Katsuki wanted. Plus he was tired. He offered to carry one of the gauntlets as they made their way back to Fat Gum’s agency, where the car was parked, but Katsuki refused.

The ride was a blur, Izuku looking out the window as they flew by the buildings. Kacchan drove fast, but he wasn’t reckless. In a way it was soothing and the combination of the whirring motion and Katsuki’s voice lulled Izuku into a hazy sleep, even as he tried his best to listen to what his friend was saying.

“Deku!” Katsuki held open the door of the car and now it was his turn to wake his sleeping friend. “Hey. Get up! We’re here.” He poked at Izuku’s shoulder, but that did nothing. Then, without thinking, he placed a hand on Izuku’s face and ran his thumb across it, absentmindedly. Deku looked so peaceful and Katsuki hated to disturb him, but he couldn’t sleep in the damn car. Suddenly embarrassed by his gesture he began to lightly slap Midoriya’s cheek. He leaned in close, “Deku, hey, nerd. Deku…Izuku…”

“Hrmph. Kacchan?”

“You’re home,” he said. Izuku stretched and climbed out of the car. Katsuki grabbed Izuku's bag from the back seat.

“Thanks…for taking care of me…”

“Tch. If it weren’t for my dumb mistakes, you wouldn’t have needed it…” said Katsuki.

“Well, I know you don’t like to hear it, but I’m grateful. I’m lucky to have you by my side.”

“Sure thing, Deku.” They stood in a silence that seemed to engulf them.

“Can I…can I have my bag?”

“Oh, right.” Katsuki handed Izuku his bag and looked at the ground, running a hand through his hair.

“Ok. Goodnight, Kacchan. See you, tomorrow.”

“Yeah. G’night, nerd.” Katsuki waved a mock salute as he ducked back into the car and Izuku waited until his friend drove away before entering the apartment building. It wasn’t until he was inside that Izuku noticed the tension he’d been carrying. Palpable and strange, but not altogether unpleasant.

And he didn’t realize until he was standing in front of his bathroom mirror that he still had a dopey smile on his face. As he collapsed into his bed, with his belly full, his ribs still slightly throbbing, and the weight of the day crashing into him, one enduring thought filled his mind. Kacchan.

The sounds of people running, screaming, calling for help. Fear.
His boots hitting the pavement.
The smell of dirt and smoke and caramel.
Kacchan!
Iida’s voice in his ear. Engines revving. The crackling of Todoroki’s ice. So cold.
No clear faces. Feelings. Sounds. Smells.
Reciprooo!
Red Riot is on the Scene!
Stun Grenade!
Look out! Where is he?
Found ya, ya damn villain!
Blank. Blank. Blank.
Singed hair.
Caramel
Kacchan!
Smoke.
So dark.
Aaagh!
Pain in his limbs. Burning. His side.
So hot. Thud.
Spinning.
Kacchan!
Deku!!!
Dark.
The sounds of people running, screaming, calling for help. Fear.

Izuku woke to the sound of his alarm blaring, All Might’s signature catchphrase blasting through the silence. 'I am here. I am here. I am here.' Izuku groaned, kicking himself for choosing something so loud and jarring for his wake-up call. Typically he was awake before the alarm and it was set only as a precaution, but this morning he’d been in a deep sleep, smack in the middle of a REM cycle.

He grabbed his phone from the side table and swiped to turn it off. He sighed deeply, trying to catch the tendrils of the dream that had just been with him. It was the type of dream that was more felt than seen. It was impossible for him to decipher what elements resembled real-life events and those cooked up by his imagination. But the feelings felt real. The fear as palpable as any he’d experienced in real life.

His phone buzzed in his hand- a text from Kacchan. ‘Hey nerd, just checking in. I know you’re usually up early but take it easy, okay. Rest. And eat something.’ Izuku smiled. Texts like this had become a bit more frequent of late. Katsuki had started to send messages late at night, just to run an idea by him or say he couldn’t sleep. Sometimes he’d even call, ‘Sorry to call so late, Deku, but I can’t sleep. You answered, so you can't either. Tell me one of your boring stories until I doze off.’

Izuku hadn’t questioned the growing bond between them. Their relationship had always been intense. Yes, there had been years of rockiness, but this felt both like a return to simpler times when they’d been inseparable kids. And something else. It was the 'something else' that pulled on his heart. Whatever it was, Izuku treasured it. Wasn’t it what he’d been chasing after his whole life? He quickly texted back and set about making himself something to eat. All the while, a small smile on his face.

*****

Fat Gum’s agency was a buzz of activity. Izuku was greeted by a number of friendly ‘hellos’ as well as looks of awe and admiration, mingled with some concern. Others looked surprised to see him all in one piece, and again he was nagged with curiosity about what exactly had happened during the mission. He knew this was more than a typical debrief meeting. This was about figuring out the events that had led to him getting injured.

“Midoriya!” Kirishima called, rushing over. “Hey man! Looks like you recovered okay.” Kirishima grabbed Izuku by the shoulder a little forcefully.

“Hey, careful!” said Katsuki, coming up behind Kirishima, a mug of tea in his hand.

“Oh, right. Sorry, Midoriya.”

“It’s fine,” Izuku said. “I’m feeling pretty good.” But even as he said it, with a small stretch to prove his point, he felt a sharp twinge in his side. He knew he couldn’t hide the discomfort on his face. Katsuki scowled and Izuku pretended not to notice. Katsuki handed him the mug of tea, which he gratefully accepted. They moved to a small conference room where Fat Gum was already set up for the meeting.

“Midoriya. Just in time,” Fat Gum smiled at him kindly and somehow managed to look jovial, even as he looked serious. They sat with the others who were already gathered around the table, Todoroki, Iida, and Tamaki Amajiki. Seeing everyone gathered together for the debrief made him feel hopeful, but also a bit worried. He honestly still had so little clarity surrounding the previous day’s fight.

“So, at the end of the day we got our targets, but they caused more damage than I’m comfortable with,” Fat Gum started. “Villains with unregistered Quirks have always given us problems and we can’t ever bank on knowing what they’re bringing to the table, but these guys, registering different ones, each others' Quirks. Imagine a battle where you're expecting Iida’s Quirk and you’re suddenly faced with Amajiki’s. They tried to pull the rug out from under us every way they could and in some ways they succeeded. They’re using our research tactics and communication with the police against us. Midoriya…“

“Hmm?”

“How are your injuries?”

“Not bad,” Izuku answered.

“Tch.”

“I’ve suffered way worse in the past, so this was nothing,” he said. He heard another scoff from Katsuki, and Izuku didn’t dare to look at him. “But…I don’t remember much. I’m having a hard time piecing together the events of the battle. I keep trying to retrace my steps, but there’s not much for me to go on…The doctor said that’s normal.”

“Anyone care to relay what they saw and experienced?” Fat Gum asked. Izuku felt Katsuki’s eyes burning into him. Todoroki and Iida exchanged a meaningful look. Amajiki spoke first, which was surprising but Katsuki felt grateful for it.

“We were both fighting the one with the dirt Quirk. Do you remember that?” he asked. Izuku closed his eyes for a moment, thinking. He recalled the dirt smell from his dream and that seemed to jolt his memory.

“Yes, I think so. Kacchan and I…we’d just arrived on the scene, but we got separated when the dirt guy imploded.”

“Right,” Kirishima jumped in to verify. “We all got separated. That was the point of the dirt attack, I think. It was everywhere! We were buried!”

“The dirt was meant as a distraction,” said Todoroki. “And it worked.”

“I remember being slowed down by the dirt,” said Izuku. He looked at his hands, some of it was still trapped underneath his fingernails. “But I kept blasting through it. Didn’t my full cowl stop him from spouting more of the dirt on civilians?” Izuku asked.

“Yes,” said Todoroki. “And Kirishima was able to move people to safety while I hardened the dirt into a kind of tundra to contain it and the villain.”

“That was the cold I felt. I had a dream last night, with bits and pieces of this,” Izuku explained. “I remember…I helped subdue him so you could blast him with your ice. Then I went to help Iida and Kacchan…”

“Bakugo and I were forced to contend with myalgia Quirk. I didn’t know what it was at first, and I was incapacitated for a while. I’d thought she was the one with the invisibility Quirk,” said Iida. Izuku nodded and continued.

“When I saw the invisibility guy…I thought he was the one with the myalgia Quirk, so I braced myself. I was shocked when the pain didn’t come. But then I heard…” Izuku stopped cold, midthought. He couldn’t say it. He knew now, remembered what happened. He’d heard Kacchan writhing in pain, fighting through it, but nonetheless, the sound had been horrifying to Izuku’s ears. The sound had pierced his soul, his friend in anguish. He’d hesitated because of it and the villain had taken the advantage.

“I fought through the pain,” said Iida. “With my Recipro I was able to get out of her range. But I couldn’t help Bakugo.”

“Deku knocked me out of the villain's range with an air blast,” said Katsuki. “That really pissed me off. He shouldn’t have done it. He left himself wide open.” Izuku sat stunned. He had no recollection of that. He must have acted almost outside of himself, but now it hit him.

“I had to…” he started to say.

“Like hell, you did. I was fine!”

“Kacchan…” Now the conversation seemed way too intimate to have in front of their friends and colleagues. He couldn’t help the flood of emotions that threatened him. Suddenly all the memories crashed over him like a wave. Hearing Katsuki in agony had been worse than any physical pain he could have endured. He’d acted on instinct to save his friend and to save himself from witnessing such a horror show.

But Katsuki was right, it had left him open. He’d been grabbed from behind by the invisibility guy at the same time as he’d been hit with the myalgia Quirk himself. He realized now, the invisibility worked similarly Uraraka’s zero-gravity. Anything the villain touched, he could render invisible and he also understood that the Quirk had made his cries unheard as well, explaining why his friends hadn’t been able to see or hear him.

“Midoriya….you’re muttering,” said Todoroki.

“Oh. Sorry. It’s just…I remember now. I tried to help Kacchan and he’s right, that’s when I was grabbed. I don’t regret it though. I’m a hero because I want to save people, including my friends.” He threw a fierce gaze Katsuki’s way. He needed Kacchan to understand. No matter the personal risk, he’d always put everything on the line to save people; to save him.

“That’s touching, Midoriya, I know it’s in your nature to try and save everyone. I admire that spirit. We all feel that way in one way or another, or we wouldn’t be here. That said, the best tactic is to combine our instincts with strategy in order to mitigate the damage. Easier said than done. Believe me, I understand; that’s the point of these meetings. If we can examine our weaknesses, we’ll be better equipped to deal with crises and ultimately keep more people safe,” said Fat Gum.

Izuku felt the heat rise in his face. His heart pounded. It was a stirring speech. But Izuku already understood; his greatest weakness was Kacchan. And sitting there he thought that probably Kacchan understood that too. And he wouldn’t like it.

“What else do you remember, Midoriya?” Asked Amajiki. Izuku swallowed hard. This was the part he dreaded most and yet he didn’t see how he could get out of it. Maybe he could hold back some of the details, but Kacchan would surely know if he was omitting things.

“I was in a lot of pain…because of the myalgia Quirk. I think the invisibility guy had me pretty tightly and was running away with me, basically. I couldn’t activate my Quirk because of the pain, but I kept trying.” Izuku stopped and tried to meet Katsuki’s eyes, but his friend had his head down. “Then Kacchan…he attacked the invisible guy and I…I got a little burned up.” Katsuki’s head shot up, eyes blazing.

“A little burned up?! Listen to him! I knocked him unconscious, nearly broke two of his ribs and he just says, ‘I got a little burned up’….tch.”

“Bakugou,” said Todoroki.

“It hurt,” Izuku said, honestly. If Kacchan wanted to hear the extent, then he’d give it to him as he remembered it. Maybe he owed him that. “I’ve fought Kacchan before, lots of times, but this was different. He unleashed a lot of power on me and the smoke was suffocating. I felt the heat in my face and my hair, even. I think some of my hair burned off. I probably screamed, only no one could hear me because they didn’t know I was there. I was begging for the heat to stop, but it didn’t. He kept blasting. Because he’s an amazing hero and he was trying to defeat a villain. That’s what Kacchan does best. But one of the blasts did send me flying out the villain’s grip and I landed hard. The effects of the invisibility Quirk wore off after the villain lost contact with my body…or it faded after. I was knocked out from the landing. You know the rest. There was no permanent damage. I’m feeling okay today. The healers did a great job and I’m recovering well.”

“We’re all glad to hear it,” said Fat Gum.”

“And you all helped me remember what happened. So thank you.”

“Anything to help, Midoriya,” said Iida. Todoroki nodded. Katsuki’s fists were clenched and his eye was twitching.

“So…” started Fat Gum. “Let’s talk long-range attack strategies…”

*****

The tension after the meeting was palpable, at least to Izuku. Katsuki was silent as they gathered their belongings and headed out the door.

“Why don’t we grab some lunch?” asked Iida, patting his stomach.

“Maybe we can convince Bakugo to cook for us! Yo, Katsuki…”

“No.”

“Awww, c’mon man…”

“Not today, weird hair. I’m tired.”

“But you’re probably also hungry, right?”

“I don’t have much of an appetite, no,” said Katsuki looking right at Izuku.

“Well, I’m hungry,” Izuku said, defiantly. “If Kacchan doesn’t want to cook, we’ll go out. Fat Gum's close to so many restaurants, we’ve got lots of choices.”

“That ramen shop is the best!” said Kirishima pointing to a small corner establishment, any disappointment over not having Bakugo’s home cooking completely forgotten. When they arrived at the door, Katsuki continued walking.

“Kacchan.”

“I told you, I’m not hungry. I’m going home.” They all wanted to say something, but everyone seemed to know better than to protest. Izuku frowned as his friend walked away. Guilt and frustration eating at him.

“It’s because of me,” Izuku said, once Katsuki was out of earshot. There was no question as to what he meant.

“I thought you guys were on good terms,” said Kirishima.

“I think that’s the problem,” Todoroki said, knowingly.

“He’s upset that I was in his line of fire,” Izuku told them.

“That’s understandable,” offered Iida.

“It’d be different if he were mad at someone else…or mad at me, even. But he’s mad at himself.”

“He just needs the time to process everything, but he won’t stay mad forever,” Kirishima clapped Izuku on the shoulder, but he didn’t sound completely convincing. Izuku nodded. Of course, it wouldn’t be forever, but there was no telling with Kacchan. Izuku didn’t know how much he could take of seeing his friend in such distress, especially over him. The earlier passive thrills of knowing Katsuki cared were replaced with a pervasive thrum of stress. Izuku didn’t know how to help his friend.

 

[Me] 7:00p- Hey Kacchan. You reminded me to eat and rest earlier this week, so I hope you’re taking your own advice

      7:15p- I get why you’re shaken up. But if there’s any way I can reassure you...

      7:20p- I’m here for you, that’s all

     7:23p -Please talk to me

    8:01p- Why don’t we meet at the tea house before we head into the agency tomorrow?

   8:03p- My treat. I owe you.

 

[Kacchan] 8:32p- You don’t owe me anything.

               8:33p Leave me alone, Deku.

 

'Leave me alone, Deku. Leave me alone, Deku. Leave me alone, Deku….' The words cycled on repeat through Izuku’s mind as he attempted to fall asleep, eliciting so many past memories of reaching out to Kacchan only to have his hopes stomped on. They were past that, weren’t they? They’d been past that. Dammit, why did it hurt so much? He doesn’t mean it like those other times, Izuku told himself. He just means right now. He needs some time and space. It didn’t feel like that, though.

Even in text, Izuku thought the use of ‘Deku’ hit differently. It was a subtle thing, but Izuku could pinpoint the exact moment when Katsuki had stopped using it as an insult and started to mean it as Izuku’s chosen hero name. This text seemed to hearken back to the former usage. I’m projecting this. You can’t tell someone’s inflection from a text. But his heart was uncertain and that was difficult to ignore.

*****

The following day, Izuku decided not to push it. He conducted his ordinary morning routine as if nothing had changed, as if there were no added weight crushing him from the inside. And he left Kacchan alone. He did a gentle exercise routine, still mindful of his injuries. In his current mental state he nearly took pleasure in the groaning ache of his ribs until he remembered that if not for said injury, he wouldn’t be in this situation.

He resisted the urge to text Katsuki even the simple things like 'I actually made myself breakfast and it isn’t terrible', or 'Hey, can you bring that book on Quirk theory, I need to check something.' Life already felt a little emptier without the reliable presence he’d grown so used to, but he’d get through it. They both would. After all, they’d been through much worse together and come out the other side for the better.

Today they were working at Nighteye Agency today, alongside Mirio Togata, who now ran the show. Routine patrol work. A welcome assignment after such a harrowing battle.

“Oh, hey Midoriya!” Mirio greeted him with a smile as soon as he entered the room. Mirio’s personality hardly ever wavered, at least in person. He lit up any room like a bright, shining sun. And he’d grown even stronger after getting his Quirk back, thanks to Eri.

“We have a lot of ground to cover today. I’ve split us off into two routes for the morning. If all goes well, we’ll meet back for lunch and then cover two more for the afternoon.

“Two routes?” asked Midoriya.

“I’ll be covering Bakugou’s since he changed his plans.”

“Huh?”

“Oh. That’s strange. I thought you’d know. He called this morning to say he was needed for a different assignment. Something with Fourth Kind. Said they could use his Quirk.”

“I see,” said Izuku.

And he continued to leave Kacchan alone, jumping at every buzz from his phone, hoping for a text, but it was never him. He ordered take-out because cooking made him think too much of Katsuki and he ate too much on purpose so he’d be sluggish for the rest of the night, making it easier to fall asleep. He didn’t push it the next day either. Only it was a day off, which made the emptiness vaster. He thought about putting a call out to some of the agencies to say he could come in, but as he’d recently been injured, he knew no one would accept the offer unless there was an emergency. He visited his mom, but even that was hard because of course, she asked about Katsuki. He didn’t want to get too detailed about his injuries either. It was bad enough to have one person worrying over him.

“He’s good,” Said Izuku. “Busy though. I haven’t seen him much these past couple of days.”

“Well, when things slow down you should invite him over. I haven’t seen Mitsuki or Masaru in ages, either, though she still sends me samples of skincare products I forget to use.”

“I’ll do that, mom,” said Izuku unable to say any more without the possibility of breaking down. Why was he this upset? It had only been a day or so. But then, it wasn’t the time that mattered, was it. Yes, it was more time than he wanted to be without Kacchan. He’d grown accustomed to life having the man always within his reach. He knew he could handle the distance if he felt things were okay between them. But right now Katsuki seemed beyond his reach, just like all the roughest years of his life.

*****

Izuku desperately hoped to see Katsuki at Ryukyu’s Agency the next day, but he wasn’t there.

“He’s working at Fat Gum’s again with Kirishima today. He didn’t tell you?” asked Uraraka.

“No. He didn’t.” It hurt even more, that Katsuki would tell everyone but him about his changing work schedule. They were supposed to be working as a team. Was communicating with him really so unbearable? Izuku swallowed his feelings for the day. He couldn’t let his emotions get in the way of his work. Saving people with a smile. That’s what he’d decided to do. And throwing himself into work did make him feel better. He felt useful. Not like a useless Deku. When the day wrapped he said goodbye to the team and headed towards home. His phone buzzed and his heart leaped into his throat. Sigh. Not Kacchan. A text from Kirishima.

[Kirishima] 6:03p- Midoriya, hey man! So, I convinced Katsuki to join me for dinner after work. He hasn’t really been eating much lately. Anyway, we’ll be at that same ramen place around 7. I think you should stop by. He’ll be mad but… 

                  6:04p- He needs you.

[Me] 6:10p- He doesn’t want to see me right now.

[Kirishima]6:12p-Look, I don’t know what the hell’s going on with you guys, but he’s hurting.

[Me]6:15p- I’m afraid I’d make it worse

[Kirishima]6:17p- All I know is, I’ve never seen him like this, and I don’t know what to do. But it feels unmanly to just                          watch him suffer

[Me]6:30p- Ok. I’ll be there around 7:30.

      6:31p He won’t like it.

Izuku walked towards the ramen shop with a pounding heart and clenched fists. He was going into this prepped to fight. He knew how mad Kacchan would be, not only at him but at Kirishima too. He took a deep breath before entering the restaurant. The same hostess from earlier in the week waved at him with a smile and even though the place was small enough to see everyone and she pointed out Kirishima and Kacchan.

“Your friends are just over there!” He thanked her and made his way towards them. It looked like they were just finishing up their meal.

“What are you doing here?” asked Katsuki. He whipped his head back towards Kirishima.”You bastard, you told Deku to meet us here…” He pushed himself up from the table and shoulder checked Izuku as he moved past him. Izuku gave a sad look to Kirishima and followed Katsuki out of the restaurant. 

“Kacchan…”

“I told you to leave me alone, Deku.”

“I know you need some time away from me right now and that’s okay.”

“Time away? That’s what you think this is?”

“What else would it be?” he asked. Katsuki turned then.

“I think the time of the ‘Wonder Duo’ has come to an end, Deku. Tch. Pathetic. We were kidding ourselves thinking we could work together.”

“You…you don’t want to work together anymore?”

“It’s not that I don’t want to. But we can’t.

“What do you mean? What are you even talking about?!”

“Figure it out, yourself.”

“Why do you keep doing this?”

“Doing what?”

“Pushing me away? Just when I thought…After all this time, after all we’ve been through, this is how you repay me?”

“Repay you? I don’t owe you a damn thing, nerd!”

“Yes, you do! Actually, we owe a lot to each other, Kacchan!”

“Cut the crap, Deku. Spare me the sentimentality. I don’t want it.”

“Every time we get closer, every time I think we’ve resolved things between us, you find a way to shut me out. Well, I’m tired of being shut out. I wish we weren’t even friends again if the results are just gonna be more of the same,” Izuku regretted this as soon as he said it. It was the furthest thing from the truth.

“Yeah, well, that can be arranged,” Sputtered Katsuki. He didn’t slow his pace and Izuku was practically jumping to keep up with him.

“I’ve been following you my whole life. I finally catch up to you, we finally walk side by side again, and now this. How many more times do I have to lose you?” Izuku huffed. Tears burned in his eyes, threatening to burst forth. He didn’t have the sense to be embarrassed, not anymore. The desperation climbed up from the depths of his soul and he was acting before thinking, like so many times before. “Don’t you dare walk away from me, Kacchan!” Izuku pulled back on his finger, releasing a bolt of wind pressure towards Katsuki's back, knocking him forward on his face.

“Son of a…” Katsuki growled as he landed hard on the ground, catching himself just in time.”What the hell, Deku!” Izuku rounded on him. He was faster and stronger now than he’d ever been. He stood over Katsuki, pinning his arm back.

“You can stand up and face me, or you can stay right here and start talking,” Izuku threatened. After a long moment, Katsuki sighed and relented.

“You can let go Deku. I won’t run,” he said. Izuku eased his grip on Katsuki’s arm, but he didn’t let go entirely. He wouldn’t until he was absolutely sure that Katsuki would remain with him. Katsuki pushed himself up to sitting, immediately resting his elbows on his knees and burying his head in them. Izuku softened and sat on the ground across from his friend, the person he’d known longer than anyone else, the person he thought he knew and understood best. Outwardly, Izuku displayed patience, but internally he was screaming. He wanted an explanation. Katsuki didn’t raise his head for what seemed like forever. And when he did, silent tears were falling on his face. Izuku nearly crumbled at the sight. Katsuki was shaking with sobs. Izuku wanted to grab his friend and hold him close, but he resisted.

“Deku. Don’t you get it?. You’re so self-sacrificing. It’s too reckless! I can’t take it!”

“What?”

“How could I live with myself if you were…knowing I was the one who…?” He trailed off, unwilling to finish that terrible thought.

“In the past, you would have been happy to get rid of me,” Izuku said with a small chuckle, realizing the error of making such a dark joke as soon as the words left his mouth. It was in poor taste and insensitive to how seriously his friend was taking this, but he’d desperately wanted to lighten the mood. Katsuki made a pained noise and Izuku couldn’t help himself. He grabbed the sides of Katsuki’s head, soft blond hair curling over his fingers.

“Look at me, Kacchan. I understand where you’re coming from. But you don’t need to feel guilty over something that didn’t even happen.”

“I have plenty to feel guilty about when it comes to you, Deku,” said Katsuki. Izuku felt his friend’s strong hands grab hold of his forearms and for a moment he thought he was going to push Izuku away. He braced himself for the rejection. But it didn’t come. Instead, Katsuki dissolved into more sobs, and tightened his grip on Izuku’s arms, their foreheads coming closer until they touched. Izuku’s heart and mind began to race. It felt insanely intimate, yet so natural all the same. He couldn’t deny the comfort this closeness provided or how many times he’d imagined them this close before, under very different circumstances, of course. “Like you just alluded to, I treated you like shit for so long…”

“Yes, and you don’t anymore. We’ve overcome that and much more, right? True, you’re not always the most conventional friend…you’re still Kacchan, after all. The same Kacchan I’ve always…known. But you’ve also changed. So have I.”

“I feel like I’m on a tightrope with you, Deku. I can balance just fine, for the most part, but I’m not stable. I could fall at any moment,” said Katsuki.

“What, you want to be rivals again?”

“No. No, Deku.”

“Then what?” As soon as he asked, Izuku felt the shift between them, like a light switch had been flipped, flooding a formerly dark room with a warm, bright light. Katsuki reached up to grasp Izuku’s hands. The touch was gentle, surprising, sending pleasant shivers through Izuku’s entire body. The feelings behind the touch were unmistakable. The look in Katsuki’s eyes was devastating and vulnerable, and in them, Izuku saw it all. The sorrow, the regret, the years of pent up emotions and unexpressed thoughts. And at present, a very clear desire and intention. Izuku stayed perfectly still, afraid to move as if doing so would puncture the moment. Katsuki leaned in, the tips of their noses touching. And then Izuku felt warm, soft lips on his own and he responded with vigor, unable to resist the sweetness he’d been craving for such a long time. The kisses were equal parts urgency and patience and they moved from slow and deliberate to rapid and hungry and everything in between. Only when they broke apart, did they realize how entwined they’d become.

“Is this…real?” asked Izuku, pushing some of Katsuki's hair aside, relishing the contact between his hand and Katsuki’s face. He hated how timid his voice sounded. In truth, he felt the opposite of timid. This kind of attention, from Kacchan had him reeling, feeling more confident and vibrant and alive than ever before.

Katsuki answered by squeezing Izuku even tighter, burying his blond head in Izuku’s shoulder. Izuku closed his eyes, an unabashed smile spreading to light his entire face.

“I didn’t think you…I didn’t know…” Izuku stammered.

“I should have acted a long time ago,” Katsuki said. “I wasted so much time.”

“I gave up hoping for this.”

“It’s not like you to give up, Deku.”

“It’s not your style, either,” Izuku said. Katsuki pulled away and gazed at Izuku with a smile and Izuku melted into it. After days of a distant, hurting Kacchan, such a smile gave Izuku a renewed sense of strength.

“I’ve loved you for a long time,” Izuku confessed, not shying away from the strong words or Katsuki’s fierce eyes. “Probably for as long as I can remember, only I didn’t always know it.”

Katsuki held the sides of Izuku’s face in his hands, running his fingers over the soft, freckled skin, drinking in the adoration from his eyes, returning it full force.

“I’m such an idiot,” said Katsuki, letting out a small laugh, the sound bursting through Izuku’s heart like one of Katsuki’s explosions.

“I think we both are,” said Izuku. He grabbed the back of Katsuki’s head and pulled him into another kiss, savoring everything about the man before him. He’d pictured this so many times, dreamed it, but never dreamed it would come true. His feelings for Kacchan had been a part of him for so long, were as natural as breathing, and finally getting to express them was like returning home after a long time away.

“I…love you too, Dek... Izuku…” said Katsuki. The sound of his own name was foreign to his ears coming from Katsuki and they both laughed because it was strange but Izuku liked the sound of it. Katsuki continued to speak, his hands running through Izuku's soft green curls. “I’ve wanted to tell you. I almost did several times. But…things with us were always so fragile. I didn’t dare try anything that could fracture us further. Especially not after we finally became friends again. But lately…it’s like…I knew you felt the same way or I thought I could tell, ya know. And I wanted it to be true so badly.”

“I’ve felt that way too, recently, even if I didn’t dare believe it,” Izuku admitted.

“When I think back, you were never very good at hiding your feelings, but I didn’t know what to make of them, so I brushed them off.”

“Yeah, I guess there were times when I was fairly obvious,” said Izuku “Always watching you closely, always chasing after you, practically begging for you to look at me with something other than contempt. I would have given anything for you to look at me the way you’re looking at me now.”

“With love,” said Katsuki.

“I didn’t know what to do with my feelings back then either," said Izuku. "But I think I do now. I do now.”