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no love without teeth

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I want to kiss you. Not on your mouth, but on your most
secret scars, your ashy black & journeyed knees,

your ring finger, the trigger finger, those hands
the world fears so much. 

— Danez Smith, king the color of space/tower of molasses & marrow

 

 

 

“Don’t you know how to dodge, fucktwit?”

Izuku glares up at him from his half-wrapped calf, the blood from the newly acquired gash already seeping through the white of the bandage. “He could make razor blades out of air, Kacchan. What was I supposed to do?”

“I didn’t get nearly as cut up as you did,” Katsuki points out bluntly.

And it’s true. Katsuki is only sporting a few lacerations on his biceps, all surface-level and nonserious. He does have an unfortunate cut on top of his right cheekbone that’s a little deeper than he likes, but it probably isn’t going to scar, and doesn’t make his face look mangled. If anything, Katsuki thinks he looks a little bit more war-torn and badass with a scratch like that, horizontal and deadly across his cheek. Meanwhile, Izuku’s leg wound is at least an inch deep and will absolutely contribute to his extensive collection of scars and burns that already decorate his body.

“That seems to be a pattern, here,” Izuku sighs, returning to dressing the cut.

“Not my fault you’re a reckless imbecile.”

With one hand, Izuku reaches out for the tape in their first-aid kit before Katsuki hastily snatches it out the box. He rips off a piece and sticks it on Izuku’s leg, who wordlessly accepts it and tapes the bandage down.

“Pretty successful day, don’t you think?” Izuku says chipperly, ignoring the insult entirely. “No one got hurt except for us. No hospitalizations needed. No concussions or broken bones or other disastrous injuries that would put us out of the industry. By the way, your face is fucked.”

“It is not fucked,” Katsuki snaps. “It’s just a scratch. And it’ll heal in like a week.”

“Hmm,” Izuku hums. Almost absentmindedly, Izuku reaches up to brush a thumb directly over where Katsuki’s skin has split open neatly parallel to the bone. He comes away with a bead of red on his finger. “It’s still bleeding. Do you want Neosporin for that?”

“No, Deku, you shit for brains,” Katsuki snaps, but he’s accepting the little tube of medicine that Izuku provides anyway. Silently but petulantly, he uncaps the little bottle and begins applying the cool paste onto the cut, ignoring how the wound feels like it's been set on fire by Izuku's touch.

The two of them sit in silence, tending to their wounds, Izuku on the couch, Katsuki at the dinner table just a few feet over. After graduation from UA and enlistment in the same Hero agency, Katsuki decided a bit catastrophically to ask Izuku to room in the same apartment together after they formed their working partnership as Pro Heroes. The offer was made entirely on convenience — the entire world already knew them as The Wonder Duo from their stunts in high school, and after nearly an entire bitter lifetime of knowing each other there is only so much bad blood to be added in the form of unwashed dishes and unfolded laundry.

Though, that's not to say that there aren't entire oceans of bad blood between them, because there are and there always will be, but both Katsuki and Izuku have gotten awfully good at treading water over the years, especially with lives and reputations and the stability of society at stake. Katsuki and Izuku never really discuss things like their strained relationship history since things like that have kind of just naturally taken a backseat to trying to save the world from evil power-hungry megalomaniacs and trying to make a living as a Pro Hero in a chaotic world. Rooming with your childhood friend turned bitter rival turned work partner isn’t the worst thing in the world when you both can go on missions together and simultaneously save rent and split groceries and all of those practical things that Katsuki would rather not worry about when he’s off climbing the ranks.

Besides, this is a bit of a ritual for them. After a successful mission, they come home and huddle in the living room around the first aid-kit to fix themselves up. Izuku, ever the martyr, is always worse for wear with limbs littered scrapes and bruises, and Katsuki always makes Izuku's rash injuries well-known. Still, at the end of a long day, these moments are almost sacred in their reverie, the motions of wrapping and cleaning methodical and practiced.

Katsuki caps the Neosporin before Izuku cuts the silence.

“Ah, I wanted to tell you that I’ll be out tomorrow night. You don’t need to cook for me or expect me back at a certain time or anything.”

“Why?” Katsuki grumbles, tossing the tube back into the box.

“Going out.”

“With who.”

“Ochako and Shouto,” Izuku says. “She wanted to take us out to a bar. We haven’t hung out in a while.”

“Drinking in public as a Pro Hero?” Katsuki sneers, voice seething with poison. “Are you actively trying to tear down our reputation, cunt?”

But the ire doesn’t affect Izuku, who just rolls his eyes. Distantly, Katsuki wonders when he stopped scaring the daylights out of him like he used to when they were kids. “I’m not going to go get trashed or anything. I’m just hanging out with a few friends.”

“Fine,” Katsuki spits. “See if that’s what the paparazzi think. They’re going to call you a washed-up drunkard and a miserable excuse for a top-ranking Pro Hero. You're going to drag my name through the mud just by being associated with you."

"I'll make sure to come home safe and relatively sober," Izuku nods seriously with a hint of amusement. Still, under the lightness of his voice there's a message hidden that Katsuki hears, something that sounds like thanks for worrying about me, Kacchan. In the space between decades of insults and quips and shouts, the two of them have learned how to listen between the lines of a rude remark or decipher the meaning of a punch to the soldier.

So Katsuki scowls and looks away. When he snarls, "Go die in a bar fight, see if I care," he knows Izuku can hear of course I worry about you underneath it.

By the way he smiles crookedly, Katsuki knows that Izuku understands.

 

-

 

Izuku does not die in a bar fight. He does, however, come home to the apartment at two in the morning absolutely sloshed.

Katsuki, rudely awakened by a loud crash and the sounds of a scuffle with the hardwood floor, stomps out of his bedroom to find his roommate sprawled on the couch, cheeks flushed and skin glistening with a layer of sweat. There's a chair that's knocked over and a few things — books, forks and spoons, a jacket — that have been knocked around and out of place by what must have been Izuku's drunken stumble into their living room.

"Deku," Katsuki seethes, stalking up to his roommate and glaring directly down at him. "It's two in the fucking morning."

Izuku makes a noise, a strangled groan, wincing up at the bright fluorescent light overhead. At Katsuki's furious expression, he jolts up a bit. "Kacchan. Ah. Sorry."

"You're trashed!"

"Huh," Izuku says. His eyes are slightly glazed over when he laughs to himself and throws his head back on the couch, the expanse of his throat bare and stretched. "I suppose I am. Sorry."

“You sack of shit,” Katsuki hisses, reaching over to grab Izuku’s arms to hold him upright. His skin is hot underneath Katsuki’s hands. “Don’t vomit on the couch.”

He gets up and leaves Izuku on the couch to rush over to their tiny little kitchen, pouring a tall glass of ice cold water. When Katsuki comes back to the living room, Izuku is sitting upright, blinking slowly up at him. “I’m fine.”

“Shut up,” Katsuki snaps before handing him the glass of water. “Drink the damn water. Or you’re going to be bitching in the morning about how you have a headache and a hangover because of your terrible life choices.”

Izuku is quiet for a moment. He takes the glass and sips at it gently, holding the cup with two hands. When he speaks, his voice is small. “Thanks, Kacchan. You didn’t have to do this.”

On instinct, Katsuki flinches. “What do you mean. Of course I don’t have—

“You’re always taking care of me,” Izuku continues. The words sound far away, as if Izuku’s talking to himself in the haze of his vodka-fueled reverie. “Even when you don’t want to admit it. Sometimes I wonder why.”

“I don’t want you to keel over on the job, dipshit,” Katsuki mutters. “Did you forget that we work together? I can’t be carrying your dead weight all the time.”

As if he didn't hear him, Izuku continues, “You’re nicer to me now. You’ve been nicer to me since we graduated. It’s nice. It almost makes me forget that you used to bully the ever shit out of me and trigger my anxiety attacks and all that.”

That makes Katsuki clench his jaw shut, fists balled up at his sides as the memory and the guilt settle cold into his stomach. An apology, hard and garbled, feels caught in his throat and he coughs to clear it. “I’m not being nice, what the fuck.”

“See,” Izuku murmurs. He puts the glass of water down on the coffee table. Katsuki is made excruciatingly aware of their closeness standing above him when Izuku sways forward from his seat on the couch and rests his head on Katsuki’s thigh, propping him up. “You never want to admit it. We don’t ever talk about it.”

“Talk about what,” Katsuki grits out, the weight of Izuku’s head heavy up against his leg. He stays as still as he possibly can, and still his muscles tremble a little.

“Everything. Anything. That’s okay. I don’t know how to talk about it either.” Izuku presses his forehead flush against Katsuki’s thigh. “It’s all so complicated. Sit down next to me.”

“You have to stop leaning on me then, dumbass,” Katsuki says tightly. Still, he pushes Izuku’s shoulder so that he falls back against the couch and off of his thigh, and sits down right next to Izuku, tense.

Immediately, Izuku’s head comes to rest on Katsuki’s shoulder, the mess of his curls tickling against the bare skin of Katsuki’s neck. “I know you don’t hate me anymore. Sometimes I remember that you did, though.”

Katsuki never knows what to say to that. This isn’t the first time they’ve had this conversation, with Izuku inebriated and unarmed and Katsuki with all of the guilt he carries from a younger, stupider self. It doesn’t happen very often — only twice before — but Izuku is usually so drunk that he forgets about it all the next morning and Katsuki pretends that nothing happened. It’s better that way, and everything goes back to normal, no vulnerabilities and confessions of wrongdoing left out on the table. Katsuki hopes this time too will be forgotten in the drunken late daze of two a.m, because he doesn’t really know how to handle this otherwise.

He settles on, “I never hated you,” because it’s the truth, even though the words feel hard and unforgiving in his mouth.

“Are we friends?”

Katsuki exhales. “No.”

Izuku’s voice is sad when he replies, “Yeah, I don’t think so either.”

Katsuki wants to say something to that. Katsuki wants to say something like, we’re not friends because how can you look at our entire twenty years of knowing each other and just chalk all of it up to just friendship. Or something like I don’t think about you the way I think about Kirishima or Kaminari or Sero or Ashido. I think about you with a blind kind of fury that scares me. Or something like it’s complicated, Deku, don’t you know that too? Don’t you feel it too?

But he mutters, “Hey,” as if that is enough, and Izuku’s pulling away with a weird expression on his face. Katsuki stares at him. Izuku’s eyes don’t look back at him. They’re looking at his lips.

“Sorry, Kacchan,” Izuku says gently. “Please don’t get mad.”

And Izuku leans over and kisses Katsuki softly on the mouth. It’s for only the briefest of moments, a dry, gentle press of lips that feels vulnerable and light and completely unlike anything Katsuki is usually used to. It feels like an unkept secret.

Katsuki stares at him when he pulls away. Izuku is laughing. It doesn’t sound happy. “I’m going to regret this, I think.”

“You’ll forget about it when you wake up,” Katsuki says, bitter.

“Hopefully,” Izuku says. His head returns to Katsuki’s shoulder where it rests like it fits there. When he speaks again, Izuku’s voice is heavy with drowsiness. “Sorry. I’m tired. I just really wanted to kiss you. It didn’t mean anything. You can forget about it.”

“Fuck you, Deku,” Katsuki says tightly. Something seizes in his chest. “Fuck you.”

But Izuku’s already asleep, breathing light and steady, and Katsuki clenches his fists on his lap, feeling a little bit tattered at the edges.

The kiss felt nice. It wasn’t their first.

 

-

 

They don’t talk about it, of course. Izuku wakes up the next morning to find his quilt draped over him and a bottle of Advil on the coffee table. With a pitiful groan, Izuku bitches, “I am never drinking again,” and Katsuki snorts because it’s a blatant lie. Izuku’s best friends are concerningly fond of drinking, and Katsuki knows that Izuku loves a good night out as well, even if it means waking up at eleven in the morning with a piercing headache and a crackly voice.

“Thank you for the painkillers, Kacchan,” Izuku says after downing two glasses of water.

Do you remember anything from last night? “Fuck off.”

“Did I wake you up? I don’t know when I came back.”

Katsuki is in the middle of salt and peppering two portions of soft scrambled eggs when he scowls and tries not to throw the shakers across the room. “You’re fucking noisy. Of course you woke me up. You knocked over a whole bunch of shit at two in the morning.”

“Ah.” The wince in Izuku’s voice is audible. “Sorry, Kacchan.”

“Shut the fuck up. Can you stop fucking drinking so much? You’re such a fucking nusiance. Alcohol is terrible for you too. You’re going to get both of us killed on the field because you’re so fucking dehydrated and sluggish.” Also, you keep on touching and kissing me and forgetting about it and it is so fucking frustruating that if it happens again I am going to crash at Kirishima’s the next time you drink.

A pause. Katsuki slides the eggs out of the pan and into two plates. When he hands a plate over to Izuku, he doesn’t look up at Katsuki. Izuku takes the food and says quietly, “If it really bothers you, I’ll stop.”

Of course it bothers me, you dimwit, Katsuki wants to say. But instead, he grumbles, “Do whatever the fuck you want. I don’t give a shit.”

“Okay,” Izuku says, before tucking into his eggs.

Katsuki wants to scream. He doesn’t, though, which is miraculous on his part, and he wolfs down his breakfast because the taste of food in his mouth is just enough to distract from the queasy feeling in his chest born out of the strange tension between the two of them.

When they were kids, there was no such thing as tense silences. It was always just shouts and cries and their voices filling up the space between them. Now, the distance across the dining room table feels like a stretch of uncrossable desert, insurmountable in its reach. Katsuki won't extend a hand and neither will Izuku. Not anymore, at least.

The thought makes Katsuki recoil just a bit. Izuku's care used to be unconditional. In a way, it still is, but it's stifled. Buried under the weight of their history.

They don’t talk about it. They don’t talk about anything, actually, and their breakfast is spent awkwardly at the dinner table as Izuku eats his eggs gingerly before a shrill ringtone cuts through the silence.

Izuku places down his fork and answers the phone. “Hawks.”

The Pro Hero’s voice is loud through Izuku’s speaker. “Come to Shuto Expressway Seven. Preferably like, yesterday.”

Katsuki’s already shucking off his clothes and stepping into his gear, buckling his boots and pulling on his gauntlets. Izuku is the same, rushing over to shake out of yesterday’s clothes and stepping into his suit, the fabric skintight and slick against his skin. “Details?”

“Quirk seems to be psychological. Something about taking the form of the target’s worst nightmare. Uses a sword of sorts. You need to disarm him if you want to engage in close combat.”

“Got it,” Izuku affirms, before hanging up.

Katsuki is already half-way out the door, geared up and ready to blast off towards the direction of the highway. When Izuku follows behind, the two of them jump off west, Katsuki propelled in the air by the force of his gauntlets and Izuku leaping towards the sky with the sheer power of One for All’s strength. The two of them have gotten used to this dance and rhythm — the prospect of a mission unites both of their headstrong determinations on a singular focus point. All Might once said that their strength lies in Katsuki’s desire to win and Izuku’s desire to save, and overtime they have intertwined those two desires into a sense of victory through saving lives and saving lives as a form of victory. Say what you will about their personal relationship, but Katsuki knows that their partnership is one that’s worthy of the media’s praise. They hop from building to building, using rooftops as their stepping stones. This way of getting around the city is the fastest, and Katsuki had always liked how flashy it was, parkouring from skyscraper to skyscraper.

When they arrive at the scene, the highway has mostly been cleared of people, leaving only a heap of totaled cars and other deserted vehicles by the side of the road. In the midst of the clearing there’s a single man, lanky and tall, with a blade against Hawk’s neck.

“Oh, look, your backup arrived,” the villain says with a wide grin. He’s dressed in all black, austere and unassuming, but his steady grip of the sword at another Pro Hero’s neck belies a sinister cunning that makes Katsuki’s neck prickle. “Good. The more the merrier.”

“Hawks,” Izuku says tersely.

Hawks says nothing in response. Instead, he trembles ever so slightly, made wordless by the steel. Katsuki stares — it’s not like Hawks to be silent, even in the face of death.

Then he realizes. “Deku, his quirk. He probably can’t use it on more than one person at once.”

“Wow, smart.” The villain whistles. “You’re sharper than people say, Dynamight.”

Katsuki snarls at the backhanded insult, but he says nothing in reply, willing himself to stay cool in the midst of danger.

Apparently, though, the villain wanted a response, because he frowns and says, “I thought you were mouthier than that,” and slashes the blade across Hawk’s torso.

As if broken out of his reverie, Hawks screams and jolts, recoiling in pain as the sword cuts him open. Next to Katsuki, Izuku has taken off in a flash, barely visible as he darts over to the villain and brutally knees the villain in the stomach to incapacitate him. The villain coughs before Izuku uses a hand to shove the villain into the ground, pinning him down before shouting, “Kacchan—”

Katsuki is already there, a cocked gauntlet ready to fire. It’s a threat more than anything; Heroes aren’t supposed to use lethal force unless deemed necessary, and with Izuku’s quick work, Katsuki’s power acts as reinforcement to the existing restraints of Izuku’s strength. “You’re under arrest,” he snaps, letting the rage raise his voice into a loud yell.

But the villain just laughs. Katsuki frowns.

Behind them, Hawks shrieks, “Watch out—”

Izuku suddenly collapses, falling to his side on the ground and writhing. “Kacchan,” he gasps. “Kacchan. Katsuki.

The sound feels like ice running down his back, freezing. Katsuki stares, fear and apprehension and rage swirling in his stomach all at once as he looks down at Izuku, crumpled and rasping out his name. “Deku—”

Hawk’s voice. “It’s his quirk, it’s activated by touch—”

Kacchan!” Izuku’s screaming now, shrieking. “Don’t leave, don’t leave—”

Katsuki doesn’t need any more. He fires a grenade straight at the villain’s head.

It hits its target, vaporizing the head clean off the villain’s body. The torso and limbs of the villain fall to the ground, the corpse landing right next to where Izuku has curled up, shaking with fear. Katsuki wants to go over to him, hold him, touch him, tell him that everything’s going to be okay, that he’s not going to leave, he’ll never leave.

But he doesn't. Doesn't know how to say those things, and so he takes a step forward. Stumbles. Reaches a hand out to Izuku, who’s still balled up on the ground, before Hawks shouts out behind him, “Fuck, he’s going to be fine, get a fucking medic—”

That’s right. Hawk is bleeding out on the road. A little humiliated, Katsuki digs out his phone and speed dials the hospital, rapidly reporting their coordinates and their location to the responder on the other line.

Izuku is still on the ground. Katsuki forces himself to walk over and crouch down next to him, every step forward heavy like lead. When he places a hand on Izuku's shoulder, the muscle underneath quivers. With a gulp, Katsuki rolls Izuku over on his back. He shakes him gently.

Izuku's eyes are still squeezed shut. Katsuki swallows before muttering, "Hey. It's fine. I'm here."

"Fuck," Izuku hisses lowly, under his breath. Slowly, his eyes flutter open, and upon making eye contact with Katsuki, Izuku flinches like he's been shot. "Kacchan."

"The villain is dead. You touched him and he used his quirk on you," Katsuki explains, almost robotically. Then, because the words are already spilling over and he can’t stop them, he blurts out, “You were screaming my name.”

Under Katsuki’s hand, Izuku freezes up, the muscles in his shoulder tensing. When Izuku speaks, his voice is hard and cold. “It’s none of your business.”

Katsuki jerks back, the iciness in Izuku's voice foreign and hostile. “What do you mean it’s none of my business,” he hisses, trying not to sound wounded, “you were screaming out my name.

“Yeah, and I’m saying it’s none of your fucking business,” Izuku retorts. He pushes Katsuki’s hand off his shoulder, and Katsuki pulls back like he's been burned. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Around them, medics and clean-up crew have arrived onto the scene, bustling and tending to the injuries of Hawks and the civilians nearby. Katsuki barely even registers their presence, because next thing he knows, he’s seeing red, snapping, “You never want to talk about fucking anything, Deku!”

"Oh, so now you want to talk?" Izuku says, derisive in the way that he barks out a laugh. "That's rich. Just pretend like it never happened, okay? You don't need to know what I just saw."

"Yeah," Katsuki snaps, standing to his feet. His fists have balled up at his sides, clenching so hard that his nails are digging into his palms. "I don't fucking need to know shit."

Izuku doesn't say anything in response. He just looks elsewhere, avoiding Katsuki's eyes, and Katsuki walks away, stomach in knots. Leaves Izuku on the ground by himself, the distance between them growing wider with each and every step. What else is there to say.

 

-

 

"Dude," Eijirou says, opening his door to find a disgruntled Katsuki at his doorstep. "Give me warning next time."

"I texted you," Katsuki grumbles. Still, Eijirou steps to the side, inviting him in, and Katsuki shucks off his boots and nearly stomps straight to his friend's living room.

"Yeah, two minutes ago," Eijirou sighs, but closes the door behind him and follows Katsuki to the couch, where he has already plopped down. "And you just blasted your way here in those two minutes?"

"Yeah."

Eijirou rolls his eyes. "Okay. Do you want some water?"

Katsuki grunts in response. Eijirou leaves to the kitchen before returning with two cans of beer. He cracks both of them open and hands one to Katsuki, who accepts it and immediately takes a huge swig.

"Heard the news about the fight at Shuto Seven," Eijirou says, taking a seat next to Katsuki. "You killed him?"

"Had to. He sliced up Hawks and used his freakish quirk on Deku. Didn't want to risk anything."

Eijirou hums in response. "Okay. You good?"

Katsuki exhales. The easy answer is to yell, of course I'm fucking good, asshole, why wouldn't I be, but Eijirou knows him better than that and Eijirou knows that if Katsuki was good he wouldn't show up at his friend's apartment practically unannounced right after a mission. "Quirk was something psychological, reveals a person's worst nightmare. Deku got hit with it and then started screaming out my name."

Eijirou whistles. "And?"

"And he told me to fuck off and forget about it!" Katsuki seethes. "Like he always does!"

Eijirou frowns, pausing in between sips. "What do you mean, like he always does?"

Katsuki stills. He hasn't told Eijirou about Izuku's drunken kisses. Why would he, really — those aren't something that he's really keen on telling other people, nor is it something he's really taken the time to sort out himself. He's just sort of shoved them away in a hidden crevice in his mind, locked away, because if he thinks about it too hard he doesn't know what he'll do. Still, though, Eijirou's looking at him with keen clear eyes and a concern that prods and Katsuki just grits his teeth and says, "It's complicated."

"No shit."

"He gets drunk sometimes. And he kisses me."

Eijirou stares at him. "Wow."

"Not often. Third time was last night."

"And you don't talk about it."

"What the fuck is there to say, shithead," Katsuki mutters, before taking another swig of his drink. "He doesn't ever remember it. I'm sure as hell not going to bring it up."

"Why not?" Eijirou asks kindly. "That's pretty fucking gay, dude. Drunk actions are sober thoughts or whatever. You've had feelings for him for what, how long? Since UA?"

Katsuki doesn't correct him. He doesn't say that he doesn't know when the bitterness softened into tenderness, or that maybe he's had this gentle, furious ache for Izuku since the very beginning, since they were kids in a forest with scrapes on their knees and elbows and the world in their hands. He doesn't know how to explain it, so Katsuki just says, "I don't have feelings for him."

"Dude."

"I don't. They're not feelings. They're—"

All-consuming. They feel like fire. They feel like they're etched into every fiber of my body, like they're apart of who I am, like every single muscle wants to hold him and be next to him and fight for him. Like I don't know a world where these hands of mine don't want to reach for him, the boy who's always a step ahead of me yet still turns around and reaches for me too.

"It's complicated," Katsuki repeats.

Eijirou just sighs and places his beer on his coffee table. "He probably feels the same way about you, you know. Do you really think he forgets everything when he drinks? He doesn't seem like the type who would blackout. It's probably just liquid courage. Helping him quell his nerves to do something he would still want to do otherwise."

Katsuki stares at the carpet. It's an ugly ass brown color. Eijirou is probably right. He's never going to admit it. "He always talks about how he never remembers anything the next morning."

"Probably because he wants you to bring it up."

"I'm not a fucking mind-reader, the fuck? And I don't want to talk about it either!"

"It's been years, Bakugou," Eijirou sighs, tired in the way his shoulder slump in defeat. "You two need to just talk to each other and communicate."

It's all Katsuki can do to grit out, "Don't talk like you know what's going on," and try to clamp down the boiling frustration and fear and desperation, threatening to spill over in the way Katsuki's voice trembles with rage.

See, it's never been about miscommunication. The problem was never that Katsuki and Izuku couldn't talk to and understand each other. It's just that neither of them knows how to acknowledge the totality of their twenty year history. With all the time that has passed, everything between them has gnarled into an ugly secret, a forbidden vow that no one understands but the two of them. Izuku's kindness is like a knife. If Katsuki touches it he'll bleed. And at the same time Izuku's hatred is like a warm hope in winter. And so they hurt and they fight and they touch and they kiss and all of it in the end feels like an outstretched hand. A summer day in a river. A stolen look across the room. Izuku's fist against Katsuki's cheek, and Katsuki's hand around Izuku's neck, and two boys who don't know how to let each other go.

Twenty years. Katsuki doesn’t know a world where Izuku isn’t an arm’s length away from him. When they were kids, it was Izuku’s arm reaching out towards Katsuki’s back. Teenagers, Katsuki’s arm. Now, at twenty-four, they are side-by-side, and still it’s not close enough, because how do you go two decades knowing someone better than yourself and still leave him at a distance. And because to have Izuku any closer is to pry himself open, naked and bare at the mercy of a beautiful boy with a beautiful heart who has a blade at his neck. The two of them only know destruction as a means for devotion. Brutality as a vehicle for tenderness. Their hands only know how to build each other up after breaking the other down. At this point, it’s muscle memory now.

“You’re right,” Eijirou says eventually. “I don’t know what’s going on. You never tell me what’s going on. I might be your best friend—” he’s smiling now, but it’s faint, and Katsuki hates that it looks weary— “but I have always had to wrestle your feelings out of you. And I don’t know you like Midoriya does. You two are kindred.”

“Like we’re family?” Katsuki hisses, offended at the implication.

“Like your souls know each other. Like you don’t know how to be without the other. Like you need each other.”

That shuts him up. He stares at Eijirou, who just seems to be amused now.

“Talk to him,” his friend continues, patting Katsuki on the shoulder, “so help me God. Before you two actually kill each other.”

Katsuki grunts, because the only other thing he has to say is would that really be so bad? To die by the hand of this soft boy, with a heart strong as steel and a mouth soft as dreams.

But Eijirou continues. "You have something good with him. Complicated, but good. Of course it's complicated. You bullied the shit out him."

Katsuki doesn't need the reminder. "I fucking know that."

"And you don't anymore. You're roommates and partners and you love him."

Katsuki closes his eyes and doesn't say anything. But that's as good as admitting it, and Eijirou clasps a hand on his shoulder knowingly.

Still. "If this is a fucking disaster, I am blaming you and moving in. Rent free."

Eijirou's laugh is bright. "You're always welcome here, bro."

"I fucking better be," Katsuki mutters. But he tries not to smile into his drink, and lets the frustration melt away, even for just a second.

 

-

 

When Katsuki comes home, Izuku is lying on the ground, sprawled out like a depressed starfish. The sight is so pathetic that Katsuki can't help but stare.

"Ah, hell," Izuku curses, sitting up panickedly at the sound of Katsuki's entrance. Then, with a plastered smile on his face, Izuku says chipperly, "Welcome home! I didn't think you would be back so soon!"

Katsuki stares even harder. Izuku's slapping a bandaid over the issue like he always does, even if the issue is profusely bleeding out on the ground and spilling awkward tension all over the floor of his apartment. Pretending like everything is fine and praying that Katsuki plays along.

Katsuki is tired of playing along.

And so because actions speak louder than words, Katsuki marches over to Izuku, hauls him up by the collar of his shirt, and kisses him right on the mouth.

Izuku isn't expecting the kiss, so it's open-mouthed and kind of terrible and a fumble of teeth and a strangled yelp from Izuku's throat but Katsuki keeps on kissing him, a determined press of the lips that says a I don't want to forget this that he prays that Izuku can feel and hear. With a few seconds, Izuku relaxes, the kiss softening into something gentle, intentional. Like a declaration of sorts, or a truce, or a surrender.

When Katsuki breaks away, he says, "That's not the first time."

Izuku swallows. "I know."

"You've remembered the others."

"Yeah."

"Why did you pretend like you didn't?" Katsuki presses, trying not to sound hurt and angry and coming off defeated instead.

Izuku's laugh sounds broken, too. "I thought you were just letting me be stupid. I was taking what I could get."

"What you thought you could get," Katsuki corrects.

"Yeah."

A silence falls between them, but it's full of things: things being recognized, things been seen and felt and acknowledged for the first time. This awful, tense, consuming thing between then that's pulled and pushed them together for years.

Katsuki lets out a shaky sigh. "What did you see, today? With the quirk."

"It was a lot of different visions," Izuku whispers. The words are raw, vulnerable like he's revealing his deepest secret. "You, dead on the ground. You, leaving me behind. You, pushing my hand away."

"All me," Katsuki murmurs.

"All you," Izuku agrees.

Katsuki closes his eyes and swallows. Wonders what he would've seen if he was the one touched by the nightmare instead. He thinks that he would have seen the same thing — Izuku's back, running farther and farther away. Never looking behind him to see Katsuki there, always chasing him but never being able to reach. The thought closes around his throat like a fist, threatening to strangle him.

He says, "Kirishima thinks I love you."

Izuku stiffens at that, and when he looks up at Katsuki, his face is torn, like he's waiting for a reckoning. "Do you?"

"I don't know," Katsuki admits. Then, "I think it's probably a lot more than love."

Izuku stares at him as he's searching for something. Katsuki stands there, letting himself be investigated, his thoughts finally stripped down naked after all this time. It's freeing, almost, yet stifling all at the same time, being laid so bare. Letting himself talk about it.

"Me too," Izuku replies eventually. "But love seems like the best way to describe it."

This is it, then: the I love you. It's not those three words, but it very well may be. Katsuki lets it wash over him, and it feels almost like a baptism, as if the declaration rinses the sins of his boyhood away, all the anger and jealousy and bitterness clean from the hands that he's hurt this boy with too many times. It's not an I love you, but it feels like one, and Katsuki feels himself shake and crumble and break apart. Lets himself feel forgiven.

"I don't know how to talk about it," Katsuki says finally.

"Do we have to?" Izuku asks gently. "Is this not enough?"

And Katsuki thinks of this home that they have made, the two of them living and breathing and eating and sharing this space and the two of them, side by side on mission as the Heroes they always dreamt to be as kids, and the way Izuku looks up at him as if he's a miracle. The way Izuku has always looked up at him as if he's a miracle, even when they were just two boys in a river. He thinks about the kisses in the dark, Izuku's lips that taste like gin and reverence and the way Katsuki knows exactly how Izuku likes his eggs in the morning.

So Katsuki swallows and says, "Yeah, it's enough," and leans in for another kiss.

Izuku's arms wrap around Katsuki's waist like he's something to be held gently and with love. Katsuki holds him back, this new touch something that his muscles are already rewiring into it's memory. Something here to stay.

And so Katsuki kisses him again. And again. And again.

 

-

 

19:08 From: Shitty Hair

so should I be expecting a new roommate or?

 

21:35 To: Shitty Hair

Fuck off, I don't need your hospitality

21:38 To: Shitty Hair

...Thanks, by the way.

 

21:40 From: Shitty Hair

ATTABOY!!!!!!!!!