There has always been an unreachable space between the two of them. Izuku pondered that thought as he stands on the other side of a chain-linked fence separating the track field and the sidewalk.
Katsuki was always high in the sky, touching the stars every time he jumped, while Izuku made his place on the ground, and the distance between them forever a constant.
There was nothing wrong with the ground. Izuku liked how the grass feels between his toes, how the page of a book flips through his fingers as he lays against a tree, all of the sort. But there was something about watching Katsuki as he pole vaults: running up to the line, then jumping, so high into the sky that Izuku wonders if he had wings.
It was only on the field that Katsuki had a calm demeanor on him. The concentration in those ruby eyes were evident, as was the intentionality of every movement. No ounce of energy was wasted in any unnecessary action. It was one of the few times where Katsuki was quiet.
In order to get home, Izuku had to walk past the track field every day, and Izuku found solace in the fact that it was one of the rare moments that he could look at the explosive male and not have it turn into an argument. He could even stand there and watch for a few minutes, and nothing would happen. He thinks: he’s probably been watching Katsuki like this for a few minutes every day since they were 11. That was 6 years after their friendship dissipated. And 7 years ago from today, as they were now both 18 in their final year of high school.
In a city as quiet as Ise, someone like Katsuki was a huge deal. The blonde, ever since he laid his hands on a pole, had been indestructible when it came to the sport. At first, it was light hearted praise: the young 11 year old who could get 14 feet of air on a pole vault and swept local competitions. He was a child prodigy, but people expected him to reach his peak soon enough. After all, small-town boy from a small school district: what’s the most that could happen.
And then, as Katsuki’s 15th birthday approached, and he was now taking a monopoly on regional competitions, the talk around town became a little more serious. He was unbeatable, a talent that was truly blessed to few in the world. He was bred for this.
And now, as Bakugo Katsuki is 18 years old, he was in the top five in the entire country in the youth division to be recruited for pros at a personal record of 17.6 feet. Some even say in about three years, he’ll represent the nation in the Olympic League.
In a town that doesn't seem to offer much, Ise's extremely well put-together pole vault team, and its star Bakugou Katsuki, was the city's pride and joy, minus the blonde's reputation. To the rest of the world, pole vault isn't as popular of a sport as soccer, football, baseball, or the like; however, to Ise, everyone and their mother's cousin's dog knew of it. And if they knew of pole vault, then they knew of Bakugo Katsuki. Although there are 44 types of track-and-field events, it was the only one that really mattered here.
Izuku had never taken his eyes off of his former friend, no matter how much he wanted to. Katsuki was mesmerizing to watch. And if the blonde's teammates on the team noticed him there, they haven't said much, probably knowing what kind of relationship or lack thereof they had.
Once upon a time, they might have been childhood friends, but Izuku could barely remember the last time Katsuki gave a smile rather than a sneer his way. At some point when they were both 5 years old, Katsuki’s personality just flipped on him. Suddenly, the blonde became a lot harsher, with his words and his actions.
Izuku couldn’t even pinpoint what incited it, and he didn’t bother asking. Katsuki probably wouldn’t tell him. Middle school was especially bad, but as they entered high school, something was different. Izuku gained a bit more confidence, and gained new friends: Ochaco, Iida, Shoto, and the bunch. And Katsuki, who previously was surrounded by assholes, was slowly integrated into his group of friends who were much better influences on him: Kirishima, Denki, Mina, Hanta. All of whom were also part of the high school pole vault team.
At some point in their first year, Izuku and Katsuki had gotten into a fight. Katsuki had caught Izuku sketching the blonde’s form during a jump from memory in class, and had taken his notebook.
When Izuku finally caught up to the blonde in the back parking lot of this cafe called Ground Beta, it got heated. In fact, it was the very first time Izuku had raised his hand and hit Katsuki back.
He immediately felt horrible, and was shocked to see that Katsuki’s eyes had widened, even though Izuku knew his punch did not hurt. Izuku wasn’t nearly as physically strong then as he was now, so he knew for a fact that his punch hadn’t hurt. And yet, Katsuki looked surprised. At first, Izuku was upset. Did Katsuki expect him to take his punches forever?
But the day after, and the day after that, and then the day after that, Izuku was just confused. No longer upset. Just confused. Because Katsuki never raised a hand to him again, never touched his things again, and never said anything more cruel than that he was weak, or annoying, or weird. They were more of normal enemies, rather than the toxic shitfest that they were before.
Izuku hadn’t been truly afraid of the other for a while either.
However, that didn’t mean they didn’t argue every chance they got. It got to the point where most teachers at Ise High kept them as far apart in the classroom as they could. Most of the time, it was Katsuki being a prick, and Izuku trying his best to argue calmly, which would make the blonde even more upset. Despite all that, Izuku continued to stop by for a little bit to watch, every day. Classes end at around 3:30 in the afternoon, and by the time Izuku finishes his afterschool meetings for organizations he's a part of, he gets to catch Katsuki and his team in the middle of practice. More than just admiring the talent, Izuku enjoys analyzing: the form, the momentum, the details. He has a little notebook of it all that he keeps at the bottom of his backpack in case it gets stolen again.
Sometimes, Izuku wondered what had happened all of those years ago between them. And then, he realizes that it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Even if they had stayed friends, their paths were always bound to divulge. Katsuki was meant to become a national-ranked athlete given a couple more years, and Izuku will likely go into some perfectly high-paying profession here in Ise after going to some college in the area.
Izuku had been too caught up with his thoughts that he hadn’t even realized that the sun had been blocked.
When he did, Izuku jumped at the sound of the chain linked fence rattling at the pressure of a hand gripping it.
“Oi, nerd,” Katsuki snapped to get his attention.
Izuku blinked, pulling himself back to the moment, and tilted his head up to look at Katsuki. The tall and incredibly well built athlete stood on the opposite side of the fence as him, one arm resting against the fence, and his chest was heaving from practicing.
“Kacchan,” Izuku let out, mustering up his confident voice in case the blonde wanted to start an argument. He never kicked the habit of using his nickname. And Katsuki had stopped trying a long time ago.
“How long are you gonna stalk me for?” Katsuki questioned, raising an eyebrow while grinning menacingly.
Izuku frowned, “I wasn’t…”
“Oh? You weren’t?” He asked, “So you just stop right here a couple minutes on your way home every day just to, what, fucking bird watch?”
Izuku’s face turned red. He hadn’t realized that Katsuki had noticed, for the blonde had always seemed to be too focused to take note of his surroundings when it came to his sport. Izuku would have thought that he would have said something by now if he had noticed. After all, it’s been years since he’s made a habit of stopping for just a couple minutes every day to watch Katsuki practice: either with the team or by himself. From when Katsuki was merely 11 years old and 5'0 feet tall, barely making it to the 13 feet mark in pole vault, to now, at 6 feet 4 inches clearing 17 feet of height, the blonde had never approached him during a practice.
This would mark the first time the blonde had ever confronted him about it, and Izuku wasn’t quite sure what to say that wouldn’t incite a petty fight.
“I mean, the birds are nice,” Izuku looked to the side, awkwardly making an attempt at a joke. But that wasn’t them. That wasn’t the kind of relationship they had. They didn’t joke.
When Katsuki didn’t laugh (Izuku didn’t know why he even thought that he would), the greenette stammered out a, “But I’m not stalking you! It’s just…” Should he just say it? Katsuki never handled compliments very well. “Cool to see you jump! It looks like you’re flying, and the aerodynamics of your body is incredible to see in real lif-”
“Don’t tell me shit I already know, Deku,” Katsuki huffed and then stepped back from the fence, “And stop the damn muttering.”
“Ah,” Izuku rubbed the back of his neck, “You could’ve just said thank you.”
“Don’t tell me what to d-”
“Don’t tell you what to do, yeah yeah, I know,” Izuku was used to the blonde’s words by now and he just shrugged it off. This was probably one of the calmer arguments they’ve had, most likely because Katsuki was still in his pole-vaulting mood.
“If you know, then stop doing it,” Katsuki clicked his tongue.
“I’m not-” Izuku was about to raise his voice, but then took a deep breath and calmed himself, “Okay, it’s fine. I’m going home now. Have a good rest of your practice, Kacchan.”
Katsuki rolled his eyes, “Of course, I will. Now get out of my sight, and get your ass home before your mom fucking goes beserk on you, goodie-two shoes.”
Izuku frowned some more. His mother was, in fact, just a tad bit overprotective, but what got him frowning was that Katsuki remembered that. He was just surprised that the blonde still knew that detail about his life.
“R-right,” He looked away, and began walking forward. Katsuki started heading back to the track field as well, but right before Izuku could get out of ear-shot, he hears his classic nickname being called.
“Deku!” Katsuki’s signature yell called out. What now, Izuku thought and turned around, expecting another random nitpicky fight.
Izuku pursed his lips before asking, “Yes?”
“If you’re gonna come be a stalker,” Katsuki yelled, “Then at least make yourself useful, and get me a damn gatorade.”
Izuku cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted back, “You’re just going to throw it away and say you don’t need anything from me,” He paused and then added, “And I’m not a stalker!”
“Sure, and I’m not blonde,” Katsuki shouted back sarcastically. It was a bit strange, having them yell back and forth over this distance when Izuku should be getting home and Katsuki should be practicing.
“To a blind person, you aren’t!” Izuku reasoned.
Katsuki gaped at him for a second, “Yeah, and to a deaf person, you aren’t an idiot. Now get the fuck away.”
Izuku sighed and let himself continue his trek home. Their interactions were always something like this, short and heated. Even when it wasn’t that serious. It was better than what it used to be, but by no means ideal. He wonders what it would be like to have a normal conversation with the person he looked up to so much.
It was April, the beginning of the school year in Ise, and the weather was a lot warmer this spring than it usually was. The days were getting longer slowly, as they just came out of winter. It never got particularly cold here, which Izuku liked. There was usually a warm breeze, and quite a bit of humidity when Spring and Summer comes.
Ise was a small town near the western coast of the country, with a population of 15,000 or so. It had the charm of the 80s, like it never left the decade, with its quiet and spaced-out suburban homes, children riding on bicycles through the neighborhood, tire swings in everyone’s backyard, and the ocean just walks away. On a quiet afternoon, it feels like you could hear the ticking of a clock in a neighbor’s house or the drip of a water faucet that wasn’t turned off all the way. On a hot day, popsicle sticks littered the driveway of families whose kids spent the evening playing in the sprinkler or with cheap plastic waterguns.
There were plenty of lakes near too, and on the eastern border of the town, there were a few green mountains that framed the place. There were some basic things to do in Ise if people knew where to look: a couple of swimming holes where teens would tie a rope to a tree and swing into the water. A movie theatre that hasn't been renovated since the actual year of 1987. An arcade with pachinko machines and neon signs decorating the interior. Drive-in restaurants were popular hang-out places for young adults at night when it was too hot outside, and they'd prefer to sit in the car with a bowl of donburi and a soda.
Most people had a small family-sized boat to take out onto the water, either at the lake or on the ocean.
There were two high schools, one library, and one small hospital. The closest indoor mall was about an hour away in a bigger city, even though Ise had nice boutiques and plenty of generational mom-and-pop shops set up in outlet strip malls.
Its main industry was very obviously commercial fishing being so close to the ocean, and second to that was a little bit of tourism: because, although in Japan, Ise had the quaint aesthetic of a Japanese town mixed with an American coastal city from the 80s. An odd mix, most would say, but it had its charm that most people, even those who lived there, didn’t see.
In Ise, the sunsets were always an orangish pink, and the crickets always chirped a sweet song at night. The teenagers threw parties after soccer games, and once in a while, there were bonfires out in the fields. Cicadas shed its shells on Ise's plentiful trees, and the waters were always a clear blue.
Like most small to mid-size towns, all the adults always wanted to stay, and all of the kids always wanted to leave.
It was their senior year, and most of Izuku’s friends, including himself, already had plans to leave Ise. Or at least, intentions to. He had already submitted his applications to several places in bigger cities without telling his mother who wanted him to stay near. He’s hinted at the idea, but she always seemed to be distraught when he brought it up, so he drops it every time, applying to some closer universities to appease her.
Ochaco, being as clever as she was, was eyeing a university in Tokyo. Shoto was practically already accepted to anywhere he would want to go because of his father’s status. Shoto lived here in Ise with his mother, while his father lives in Osaka for business. Iida was going to university where his older brother went.
A year from now, he’ll begin his life as an actual adult. Izuku didn’t mean to rush things. It would just be nice to experience the outside of Ise for once. His mother, as sweet as she was, wasn’t the type to travel. Or let him travel.
Funnily enough, the strangest part to wrap his head around was the fact that out of everything that would be changing in a year, the change that Izuku was wary of the most was that for the first time in almost two decades, he will be separated from Katsuki.
Despite what they were, Izuku’s always been near the blonde. Katsuki was his inspiration for ambition, for hard work, for passion. Because no matter how subjective everything else is, one thing that was objective were the passionate parts about Katsuki. Aside from looks, there’s was something so beautiful about the way Katsuki, mid-air during a pole jump, looked, as if the blonde felt nothing else but power and joy, that made Izuku think: that is what I want for myself. Izuku wanted to find something--a hobby, an ambition--that would make him feel the way Katsuki felt about pole vault.
Izuku was smart. He had incredible grades, perfect for a pre-med track at university. He was athletic enough. He was no Bakugo Katsuki, but once high school started, he became fit enough and played badminton. He was strong enough to hold his own, plus some change. And yet, something just felt missing. Something he couldn't quite put his hands on yet.
As Izuku approaches his house, a quaint two story suburban home with a trimmed front yard and a swinging chair on their porch, he hesitates before opening his door. From the outside, he could smell the savory aroma of spring onion popping in hot oil and what smelled like braised pork and freshly steamed rice.
As soon as he opens it, Inko Midoriya rushes out of the kitchen and over to him, pulling Izuku into a hug, “Izuku! How was school today? You were a little late, coming home. Was everything okay? Did anything happen?”
Izuku nodded with a smile, “It was fine. And I just stopped for a second to watch Kacchan practice.”
“Oh! How is Katsuki doing? Mitsuki told me he’s been really preparing for the new season,” Inko ushered him over to the kitchen.
Izuku had never told his mother about Katsuki. The woman of course knew they drifted apart, after Katsuki stopped coming over, but Izuku never told her the details. A subconscious part of him had already prepared for the possibility of Katsuki ever being friends with him again, and had refrained from telling his mother about anything. The behavior kind of made him embarrassed, and yet he hadn’t made a move to change the fact.
“He seems pretty focused,” Izuku smiled.
"Of course he would be," His mother agreed, "This season is really important for him, isn't it."
"It is," He nodded.
“It’s been years since he’s come over,” His mother then took note, “Maybe I should call Mitsuki and invite hi-”
“That’s definitely not going to happen,” Izuku told his mother quickly, voice a little higher than intended.
She frowned in confusion, “Why not?”
“Kacchan is always busy, and I don’t want to bother him,” Izuku explained. And then, he made a point to switch the subject for the rest of their conversation.
The truth was that there was no way in hell it would ever turn out well if Katsuki were to come over. He wasn’t even going to bother. A part of Izuku, even after all of this time, wanted them to get along. And the other part of him knew it was impossible, and even if it were possible, he’d have to earn Izuku’s trust again. That was the more rational part.
Most of the school knew the tension between the two of them. Their friends were friends with each other, but they almost never hang out if either Izuku or Katsuki were around. Of course, there were exceptions like big parties and such. Not that Izuku went to many. He enjoyed them when he did go, but the opportunity didn’t arise way too often.
He was invited to all of them, but his mother wasn’t keen on letting him go out too late or go out a whole lot in general. He had a clue of where his mom got her overprotectiveness from, but he was saving that conversation with her for another day, if it ever came at all, considering how passive he tended to be with people as important as his mother.
Although he didn’t go to too many gatherings, he’s gone to enough and he’s heard enough to know. The textbook stereotype of a ‘jock’ was a person who was generally not very intelligent, good at athletics, peaked in high school, and slept around.
Katsuki was only the second and fourth description. But the truth was: stereotypes were just stereotypes. They were mystified versions that don’t actually depict the truth.
Katsuki had the best of everything, because of course he did. Kacchan wasn’t just extremely athletic, but he was extremely smart. The blonde didn’t have to pick a sacrifice: an A in advanced calculus or an impressive sports record. He chose both. Katsuki was particularly good at physics, which made sense considering his sport. Izuku oftentimes felt tempted to ask for help, but refrains. Another thing was that Katsuki wasn’t going to peak now, not ever probably. Not when there were already offers from colleges and pro-teams scouting him. Unless he gets injured or suddenly quits, he was on track to make his way through the world.
Kacchan did, however, sleep around. Not too much, but not too little either. Not that it should matter. A person’s body is their choice, Izuku believes, but that didn’t mean he didn’t hear the stories. All of which always made him blush ten shades darker.
But how could he help it. Objectively, Katsuki was attractive. Once the blonde hit 18, Izuku was convinced he couldn’t get any more adonis-like. There’s no way. Because Katsuki as he is now, was built from pure muscle. Anyone could tell through his shirts that he was lean muscle with a tiny percentage of body fat. And his jaw, sharp and strong. His gaze was deadly and seductive. And on top of that, he was smart and athletic?
Before Izuku ever lets himself drift off for too long thinking of the topic, he pulls himself together.
This was a person he does not get along with, at all. Not in the slightest. To the point where their dynamic is known by most of the school.
And even the teachers, most knew not to put the two of them together.
Keyword was most .
There was a particular teacher who honestly did not give any shits in the world about the two of them. The ever kind but often idealistic Mr. Toshinori, who taught the upper levels of psychology, is teaching them for the second year in a row, and knew very well how they interacted with each other, and yet, never made a move to separate them if a conflict arose.
Izuku was, in fact, probably the teacher’s favorite student and Mr. Toshinori adored him to no end, but when it came to the well-known bad blood between Katsuki and Izuku, the older teacher did not intervene.
The beginning of this final year was tough. Not only did they have to juggle post-high school plans, but also upper-level classes. Although the new semester started merely a week ago, most of his teachers had already assigned a ridiculous amount of work.
But nothing , Izuku repeats, nothing was as bad as what Mr. Toshinori revealed was going to be their semester-long project.
It was merely the day after Izuku had been called out by Katsuki for watching his practices, and it’s actually been a relatively fine afternoon.
On the walk from his house to the school that morning, there had been a hazy orangish tint to the morning sky, as if golden hour had come despite it being 7AM. A faint breeze lifted Izuku’s mood, and a cat had let him pet it. In the morning, he had ran into Katsuki and instead of getting his eardrums destroyed by the blonde’s yells, Katsuki merely just told him in a normal tone to learn how to fucking walk correctly and left it at that. And for lunch, they had a cherry garcia cake in the cafeteria.
The day had been going quite well until his beloved teacher starts to open his mouth about some semester long project.
Since this particular psychology course was the second sequence of a set, they had the exact same classmates as the previous year; therefore, the teacher knew their personalities well enough. That didn’t justify the project, however.
“I know it’s early in the year for a project, but last year, we covered the basic core principles of psychology. This year, we are going more in depth,” The frail man began the class, “We have 4 units. 4 tests. A biweekly quiz. And a final project. This is similar to how a typical university class will grade, so consider this preparation. Of course, all of this was outlined in the syllabus I gave in the beginning of this semester, which was last week so I hope none of you have lost it already. However, your final project will actually begin tomorrow , and will require a once-a-week effort at the minimum until the last week of the semester.”
Some students in the class groaned at the notion; however, Izuku thought it was a more convenient system. Unlike most classes, there wasn’t a test and a new unit every week, random pop quizzes, and a ton of busywork. Rather, there were few grades, but each had a large impact to ensure that students are retaining information, rather than memorizing it for a test then forgetting it a week afterwards. That being said, a semester long project is quite rough.
“One of the biggest themes in this course will be how different environments can influence a person,” Mr. Toshinori continued, “Of course, an environment is made of many different factors: socioeconomics, living situation, family, region, friends. Now, we can’t just change our socioeconomic status or pick a different family. But what we can change is who we surround ourselves with, which will also have a huge impact on our behaviors.”
He had barely been given any information yet, but Izuku was suddenly getting a really bad feeling about this. He was not particularly spiritual by any means, and yet, his gut was telling him something is going to go wrong.
The teacher proceeded, “Thankfully, the reason why this project works so well is that I had the chance to observe this class last year, since this is a two-semester sequence. Therefore, I generally have an understanding of how each of you externally behave. Your general qualities, likes, dislikes.”
Curious, the class is quiet in anticipation for what the project actually is, considering that their teacher had seemingly put a lot of thought into this.
“I paired every one of you with one other person, who I think will create the most juxtaposition and therefore the biggest environmental change in each of your lives. They might be your friend, they might be someone you’ve never talked to, or they might be your enemy,” Izuku felt as if that part was intentionally said, but he kept listening, “But most importantly, they are someone who is essentially a character foil or a character complement to each of you.”
He took a breath, “You will spend a minimum of one day a week for just an hour or however more with your partner, either inside of school or outside of school.”
Mina Ashido, from the back of the classroom, voiced her complaint, “Mr. Toshinori! Isn’t making people hang out outside of school a little weird?”
Mr. Toshinori shook his head, “Do you not do group projects with people outside of school? If the idea doesn’t suit you, don’t consider it hanging out. Instead, just view it as homework that can be a bit more fun.”
Izuku gulped. The bad feeling in his gut only grew larger.
“As I was explaining,” Their teacher went on, “You will spend about one day a week with your partner. Afterwards, I want you to each keep a journal with thoughts. I will not be taking this up at the end of the semester. The journal is simply for your convenience when you write your final paper. You’ll have all of the details there in note form, rather than digging through your memories. What I will be taking up is a weekly proof that you are completing the project: a photo with a date and time stamp. And an analysis paper at the end of the semester, incorporating your personal experience and opinions as well as concrete topics that we will cover in this course. I have all of the details about the project printed out here, and I will give it to you each in a second after revealing your assigned partners.” Mr. Toshinori held up a stack of papers, clipped together by twos indicating the pairings.
“And remember,” The man says, “We don’t have a lot of graded assignments. So this project is 30% of your grade.”
And with that, Mr. Toshinori called out the first pairing, coming to each of their desks to hand them the project details.
“Tokoyami Fumikage and Aoyama Yuga,” He called out the first pairing.
Izuku thought that was a good pair. Tokoyami was quite a dark person, with interests vastly different from Aoyama, who had a more flamboyant and bright persona. That would be an interesting paper to write. He analyzed the situation to prevent himself from thinking of the pairing that he practically could smell coming from a mile away.
“Uraraka Ochaco and Mina Ashido.” Izuku also could see the intrigue in that pairing. They were both his friends, but Izuku would have had to be blind to not see that Ochaco was definitely a more shy and sugar-coating person, while Mina was more forward about everything. There were strengths and weaknesses in both people.
Other pairings got named. And Izuku only got more nervous. Todoroki and Denki: two opposites on the seriousness spectrum. Koji and Mineta.
Izuku knew that there were about 10 more people he could be paired with, and yet, his mind was only on one person. It would have been a perfect character foil: he and this person were renowned for it. God, it couldn’t have been more obvious who his partner was going to be even if it was stamped on the chalkboard when they had walked in. Mr. Toshinori had mentioned that it could be your enemy, but who else in the fucking class even fit that description besides himself and K-
“Bakugo Katsuki and Midoriya Izuku,” Mr. Toshinori called out, after a moment of hesitation that the entire class took note of. It was dead silent.
Izuku knew it. He knew it, and yet, it didn’t make it any less surprising when a packet of papers detailing the project was dropped on his desk and at the top, in bright green marker, it said: Midoriya Izuku and Bakugo Katsuki.
Bakugo Katsuki. Kacchan. Kacchan . He had to hang out with Kacchan once a week for the entire semester. The entire semester. They could barely hold a conversation with each other for five seconds without it turning into a squabble. This was Izuku’s nightmare, but he knew it was Mr. Toshinori’s dream. It was the perfect pairing. Who else could his partner had been except for Kacchan. It was a psychiatry teacher’s best experiment.
It seemed as if their class were holding onto their seats. Half were staring at Katsuki, waiting for a reaction. Half were staring at Izuku. But all were incredulous.
“Mr. Toshino-” Izuku began, stammering while his palms were sweating.
“No,” Katsuki then spoke up, loud and clear. It wasn’t a scream, but a very deadly and adamant No . Izuku wasn’t sure whether or not to feel offended or glad.
“Mr. Toshinori,” Izuku tried again, “I don’t think you’re making the best decision.”
“Hate to say it, but I agree with the nerd,” Katsuki borderline growled.
“I made a decision based on plenty of observations and my own expertise. I am fully aware of the dynamic between you two, and knowing that, I still trust my decision, so I want you to trust me,” Mr. Toshinori paused before speaking, “Both of you are very good students who ended the previous year with high grades. But I am telling you now, if you do not do this project, you will not do well in this class.”
“I can afford to fail a class,” Katsuki gripped his pen tighter.
Izuku turned his attention to Katsuki, “Kacchan, don’t say you’d rather fail.” That wasn’t the Kacchan he knew. It was the essence of what made him who he was. The fact that he’ll never lose. To hear that Katsuki would rather fail hit him like a train to the gut. He wouldn’t. Izuku was sure. This wasn’t the most ideal situation for him either, but Izuku had to bring himself to realize that he needed to do well in this course.
Mr. Toshinori cut in before they could argue, “But can you afford to be benched from practice.”
Katsuki’s eyes widened at this, before they went back to the scowling position, “You couldn’t.”
“I can and I will,” Their teacher spoke with authority, “Your coaches are required by the school to bench any athlete if a teacher confronts them with enough evidence of underperformance in an academic class. Young Bakugo, I admire you as an athlete and a student. Please, you have high potential in both departments. Do not waste one, or you will waste the other.”
If Katsuki gripped his pen any tighter, it was going to break under the pressure. Even Izuku, who was unhappy with the situation, felt worried for the ink that might fly everywhere. The whole classroom was tense, but it felt like it was only Mr. Toshinori, Izuku, and Katsuki who were in the room.
“What am I even supposed to do with the nerd? Fucking talk to him? Be all buddy buddy after all these years of…” Katsuki caught himself from continuing, and Izuku’s eyes widened partially at the almost acknowledgment of their rugged past that still weighed heavily on their present.
“Please refrain from cursing,” Mr. Toshinori requested, “And yes, talking to him would be a start. And none of this has to be hard. Young Bakugo, just take Midoriya with you to do things you like to do. And Midoriya, you could do the same. It does not have to be as complicated.”
Katsuki tapped his foot impatiently against the floor, “Listen, you do-”
“Kacchan,” Izuku stepped into the conversation, bringing his eyes over to meet the fiery ruby ones that never fail to stop him in his tracks, “If you just do this with me, I’ll get out of your sight for the rest of the year.”
Their school year began in April, which was now, and the first semester would end in July. That would be four months of this project continuing. And after that, they would have summer break and then two more semesters before their senior year will officially end March of the following year. If Izuku and Katsuki could last these four months, then Katsuki wouldn’t have to see Izuku for the remaining 8 months.
Izuku, no matter what had happened between them, had never actively made an effort to stay far away from Katsuki before, so this offer was a bit surprising. Izuku had always kept himself at arms length, but as the greenette thought about him parting ways with Katsuki next year anyways, he figures that what he needs is practice anyways. If he could force himself to stay away once the project ends, then it will be easier later on to truly be rid of the biggest source of motivation and strange comfort.
At this, Katsuki paused. A handsome eyebrow raised, as he looked at Izuku for some kind of trick. The boy in question suddenly felt shy, because he doesn’t remember the last time the blonde had ever looked at him with something other than malice or annoyance. Now, it just seemed like it was curiosity.
“Will you now?” Katsuki raised a brow.
Izuku bit his lip. It was necessary, he told himself, and then nodded, “Yes.”
After another few moments of contemplation, the blonde’s grip on the pen forcibly relaxed and he turned his head back to Mr. Toshinori, gaze still determined, “If I’m going to do this, old man, I’m going to make you give me the best damn grade you’ve ever given.”
Understanding what Katsuki was saying, Toshinori laughed a bit, “That’s an odd way of saying you’ll try your best, but it works.”
“Don’t put words in my mouth,” The blonde looked over to the side.
Izuku, watching the entire interaction, let it hit him. He just agreed to his last four months with Katsuki. And it wasn’t just any four months, where they could continue their usual interactions of getting into petty arguments for five minutes then not interacting at all outside of that. No. These were four months that they will have to spend time with each other. And that was if Katsuki didn’t have some sneaky plan under his belt to avoid the check-ins and come up with some bullshit to throw a paper together. But that didn’t sound quite right either. That didn’t sound like the Katsuki who put all of his effort into the things he agrees to do. Which was why the blonde never agree to many things in the first place. Katsuki was the type to go all in or nothing.
Mr. Toshinori then went back to calling out more pairings, and it felt like everyone in the class could take a breath. Although it seemed like everyone else was getting back to normal, Izuku’s heart was still racing from the entire interaction and the implications of it. And here he was, hoping for a quiet ending to his final year.
The next day was just confusing to Izuku. The project officially started today, but the doe eyed boy had no idea how to even begin. He was sure that with the other pairings, it was probably easy to strike up a conversation and figure out something to do. Ochaco could easily go up to Mina and just ask to hang out at a coffee shop for an hour or so. But Izuku? How was he even supposed to approach Katsuki about this.
They most definitely did not have the type of relationship where Izuku could just march up to the other, say “Let’s hang out. Where do you want to go? The movie theater? An ice cream parlor?” And that be just that. They probably haven’t talked like that since they were, what, five years old? And so, as he sees everyone else making their plans with their partners in the first five or so minutes of psychology when Mr. Toshinori took attendance, he sat awkwardly in his seat on the opposite side of the classroom as Katsuki, who also made no move to come talk to him. The blonde had his earbuds in, and most definitely would not appreciate Izuku talking to him. Not now. Not probably ever.
And by the time class ended, still nothing happened. Izuku went through his remaining biology and literature classes simultaneously listening to the teacher and also thinking about how the hell he was going to start this project with the blonde, when the latter hadn’t even made a move to talk to him.
And then afterwards, as he made his way home, shortly after leaving the school building, almost out of habit, Izuku found himself once more stopping in front of the track, eyes already looking for a certain person. It was a Thursday, which meant that the pole vault team didn’t have practice.
But that only meant that Katsuki came by himself for individual practice. Sometimes, he had a coach along. Other times, he was alone. Izuku’s feet was glued to the ground as he watched Katsuki’s form. The blonde wore a jersey and athletic shorts, sweat had already built up, and was currently running from the start position with a pole in hand.
As he approached the launch area, his speed picked up considerably, before his pole struck the launch box and within seconds, he was airborne, catching a good 17 feet of air. It once again reminded Izuku of the fact that if Katsuki was not 18 and in high school, he would have been recruited a long time ago for pro clubs. 17 feet of air was practically the gold star for starters at national competitions. Although this was probably the millionth time Izuku had seen Katsuki pole vault, he was still awestruck.
And it only took him catching Katsuki’s eye from a distance away from him to step back and realize what he looked like. Those fiery eyes looked up through Katsuki’s hair before climbing off of the mat.
Izuku stepped back from the fence, holding his backpack straps, as he awaits Katsuki’s approach.
“Stalking me again, huh,” The blonde says once he was about eight feet away.
Izuku huffed, “I’m not stalking you.”
“Right,” Katsuki sounded unconvinced.
And then now, instead of turning away and heading home, or stamming some awkward excuse to leave, Izuku just kind of stands here, hands playing with the strap of his backpack as his eyes look anywhere else but Katsuki. Now would be the perfect time to ask, since Katsuki just came up to him instead of him seeking out the blonde on his own time. He needed to ask now about the project, before he loses the opportunity and then, he’d have to be the one to go up to the other.
“Spit it out, fucking nerd. I can tell you want to say something,” The blonde snapped at him, which made Izuku rush into his words.
“The project!” He exclaimed, a little more loud than he intended, “I just wanted to know how we’re doing this, because you have a busy schedule and I have a busy schedule. And also, you don’t like me. And I don’t like that you’re mean to me. And all we do is get into arguments, and we never really have normal conversations with each other. So I don’t really know where to start. Or how we're going to do this.” Izuku let it all out.
Katsuki stood there for a moment, before taking a swig out of his water bottle. They were separated by the chain linked fence, so Izuku didn’t really feel threatened even though he just had an outburst, which he knew the other disliked.
When Katsuki spoke again, he made it very clear what his thoughts were, “You’re right. I don’t like you.”
Hearing it didn’t make it any better.
Katsuki continued, “And you irritate the shit out of me. But you know what else irritates me just a bit more right now? Mr. Toshinori forcing me to do this. So if I’m going to do it, I’m going to get a good fucking grade so this isn’t just a waste of my time. So here is what’s going to happen.”
Izuku listened intently. This was probably the first time in a while that there was some agreement between the two of them. Neither of them wanted to waste their time.
“We’re gonna do this shit. I’m going to try not to want to fucking scream your head off every second, so try not to make me,” Katsuki laid down the rules, “And then we get a good grade at the end of this and you keep your word.”
Izuku hesitated, pursing his lips for a second before speaking, “Fine, but I get to have my own demands too.”
Katsuki looked like he wanted to heavily protest, but after rolling his eyes, muttered a “What are they, you needy fuck.”
“At least try being civil with me,” Izuku requested.
“That’s what I already fucking said,” Katsuki narrowed his eyes.
Izuku frowned, “Trying not to scream my head off and being civil are two completely different things, Kacchan.”
“Sounds the same to me,” Katsuki shrugged.
“Kacchan!” Izuku complained, "They're not the same things at all. One is you tolerating me. Another is you actually putting in some effort. I'm not going to want to do this if you are ju-"
“Fucking fine,” Katsuki growled, “What does civil even mean anyways. If you’re expecting us not to argue anymore, you’re being naive.”
“No, I don’t expect that,” Izuku shook his head, “I just don’t want us to start arguments over small things.”
“Well, what the fuck do you consider small things,” Katsuki kept questioning.
“I don’t know, like” Izuku struggled to come up with an example, “like that time where you yelled at me for looking your way once in class.”
“Your big ass eyes are creepy,” Katsuki reasoned.
Izuku sighed, "Kacchan."
“Fine, fine, I’ll fucking stop,” The blonde huffed before taking another sip of his water. A bead of sweat ran down the side of his neck and Izuku tried not to look at it. Or the matted shirt.
After a few seconds of silence, Izuku awkwardly spoke up, too nice for his own good, “Erhm, if this whole situation makes you uncomfortable, you can just consider us hanging out charity work.” His attempt at a joke was barely funny.
But it had Katsuki’s raising one brow, “Ah, yes. My favorite charity. Adopt-A-Nerd. Where I get to bless a nerd with my time to make him a little less of a loser.”
“You’re just as much of a nerd,” Izuku mumbled under his breath.
“The fuck did you just say to me?” Katsuki leaned down through the fence to Izuku’s eye level.
“I said,” Izuku stood up confidently, “You’re just as much of a nerd, and I don’t take it back. Because we have a fence between us and you can’t get to me.”
Katsuki gave him a sneer, “And I’m a god at pole vault. Jumping over things is my specialty.” The blonde said before both hands were on the fence, and in a swift move, he pushed himself up and over the fence.
As soon as Izuku saw it coming, the greenette’s eyes widened and he began running away. God, this new temporary arrangement he had with Katsuki was about to be destroyed in seconds if he finds himself dead within minutes.
Izuku yelled out behind him, as he felt Katsuki’s footsteps and long strides getting closer, “Don’t kill me! They’ll know it was you! You don’t want that for your future, do you? Everyone will know it was you!”
And then, Izuku felt himself get tackled from behind before a pair of strong arms lifted him, backpack and all, and threw him over the opposite shoulder, so that Izuku was in a really awkward position where he was tugging the blonde’s sweat-drenched jersey for mercy. Izuku was not weak by any means, not after he began working out consistently, but the positioning was difficult to leave.
Izuku couldn’t tell where he was being taken until he heard the sound of a fence opening and suddenly, he was inside of the track practice field. He’s never actually been inside of the practice field, having no reason to. He’s only ever watched from outside of the fence.
And then suddenly, Izuku was roughly set down on the bench nearby. Quickly, he scrambled backwards and fixed his hair, not that it wasn’t a mess to begin with.
And then he stammered, “Why am I in here?”
Katsuki ran a hand through his blonde hair and dropped into a lunge position to stretch out his calves, “To get our 1 hour in for the week.”
“For the project?” Izuku asked, “Here?”
“Yes, the project. What the fuck else,” Katsuki said, “And yep. Mr. Toshinori said to take you to see what I like to do, right? This. This is what I like to do.” Katsuki said before picking up his pole.
Izuku was in awe. It was one thing to watch from 30 feet away on the sidelines. Still incredible, but it was nothing like this. Here, the high bar, set at 17’5 feet, looked massive, and it was suddenly more impressive what Katsuki had to get over. That bar from afar looked high already, but from up close, it seemed impossible.
And Katsuki himself. The 4:00 PM sun was behind his head, making it look like a halo around the boy who was about to jump into the heavens with his vault. It looked as if the sun exploded around Katsuki, who stands there in perfect form for his sport. And in a way, that described Katsuki well, in Izuku’s opinion: an explosion. Katsuki was just that: an explosion of passion, anger, pride, ambition, beauty, absolute talent and determination. And Izuku hated how in awe he was.
“Besides,” Katsuki mentioned one last thing, turning his head partially to glance at the boy who he claimed annoyed him to no end, “Aren’t you tired of watching from the sidelines?”