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I am short of breath, standing next to you

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Izuku wasn’t really sure what made him tag along with his two best friends on their engagement honeymoon (because Tenya is that whipped and Ochako has the best puppy eyes out of the three of them and somehow he’d found himself booking tickets for all three of them), but a week with the two lovebirds is enough to remind him that every day on their holiday, he’d gone back to his lonely hotel room, sighing at the empty space next to him on the queen bed the hotel room had accidentally booked for him.

He loves Tenya and Ochako, he does, and their trip to Penang, a little island on the coast of Malaysia was nothing short of amazing, but he kinda just wants to be back in his apartment, even if he’s still going to be as lonely there as he was during the whole vacation.

At least he’s free to mope about there without having to resort to expensive room service.

They’re currently in an unmoving queue to get on the plane to go back home, and Izuku chuckles as Tenya looks incredibly close to combusting when some of the people from the first few rows of the waiting area had cut into the queue instead of lining up properly, “like actual mannered people, it’s common courtesy and the plane won’t leave you behind if you’re already here.”

“Tenya, honey, your sunburn is making your flush look really bad,” Ochako says, rubbing her fiancé’s shoulder soothingly. She looks back at Izuku, smiling as Tenya merely sighs, wide shoulders drooping in defeat. “What are our seats again, Izuku?”

He obligingly takes out their tickets from his bag, the only one that’s marginally empty compared to the other two, because Ochako is scarily good at maximizing their cabin luggage allowance and Tenya, as previously stated, caters to her every whim.

“I’m 23B, Tenya’s 23C and you’re—oh, you’re in the seat in front, 22C, Ochako,” he informs, and both of his friends frown.

“Huh, they must have mixed up the seats,” Ochako replies, pouting a little as she glances at Tenya. “I mean—I don’t really mind it, it’s not like we’re that far away from one another…”

Tenya’s eyebrows furrow, and he says seriously, “We were going to watch Incredibles 2 together, though.”

Izuku looks between the two of them, dejected expressions evident on their faces and shakes his head in amusement, wondering if it’s the love pheromones or whatever it is that’s causing them to not be able to see the obvious solution as they pout sadly at each other before him.

“Or I can switch with Ochako and the two of you can sit together,” he finally says, gesturing for them to step forward as the line starts moving again.

They turn to him as they continue walking, eyes sparkling in gratitude and Izuku can’t help but be a little blinded by their giant grins.

“Really?! Oh, but, you don’t like sitting next to strangers…” Ochako trails off, and she’s right, he doesn’t, but he’d rather not spend eight hours next to a moping Tenya. The man has a tendency to grit his teeth and monologue about the old case stories he had to study for his bar exam when he’s anxious or uncomfortable or when he’s just plain missing his fiancée.

He’d been studying for the past year. Izuku know he hasn’t heard all of them yet, but that doesn’t mean he has any desire to hear any more than he already has.

“It’s fine, I have the aisle seat so it’s not as bad,” he says, smiling to hide the discomfort of the thought of having to share an armrest with a complete stranger, and resorts to just lean to his left throughout the entire flight. “If the attendants ask we can just let them know, but I don’t think it’ll be a big deal,” he adds.

“Well, maybe you’ll sit next to someone interesting!” Ochako grins, and Tenya nods seriously. “And then you’ll hit it off, and who knows, maybe you’ll get a use out of that plus one for our wedding!”

“If they really are so interesting, I doubt they’ll want to talk to me,” Izuku shrugs, which makes Ochako’s eyes narrow.

“Tell that to us when you find yourself sitting next to your, I don’t know, soulmate or wha—Izuku, don’t laugh at me!”

“Babe, Izuku is capable of meeting people without us meddling in his affairs.”

“Thanks, Tenya.”

“That said, capable isn’t the same as successful, so I’ll be joining my fiancée in her needless infatuation to see you ride off into the sunset with a strapping young gentleman or lady.”

“… I’m this close to firing myself as your sole best man, guys.”

Izuku is bombarded by two twin pouts and he breaks, giggling at them as the queue finally picks up pace. “All I can hope for at this point is someone who isn’t adverse to deodorant and is polite. I’m not sure how I’ll survive the eight-hour flight otherwise,” he sighs, thinking woefully about the fact that he’s already given up on his arm rest.

And so when they finally get on the plane, he takes the seat in front of them after placing his bag in the overhead compartment, a woman seated next to the window in his row, pink-haired and tinkering with her tablet with a—is that a screwdriver?

She glances up to see him staring and he startles, ready to apologise but she merely winks and places a finger on her lip and, yeah, Izuku doesn’t think he needs to know any more than what he’d just witnessed.

He turns away, and he’s about to lean around to ask Ochako if she’d managed to smuggle any snacks on board, when someone clears his throat next to him.

He glances up, and promptly chokes as he looks at a face he hasn’t seen for close to fifteen years.


The man frowns, and then,” Deku? What the fuck?”

An attendant comes up to them just then, asking if there was anything wrong, and Deku realises that Kacchan—oh god, he’s almost forgotten his real name, Katsuki—is sort of holding up the queue and there’s not enough leg space for Kacchan to just slip in, so he stammers a, “No, uh, everything’s fine,” and he gets up to let Kacchan through before gingerly settling back into his seat.

He can feel Tenya and Ochako’s eyes boring into his back but he resolutely ignores them, stares at the man next to him instead, who looks—

The same, and not. His blond hair stands up in fifty-odd spikes, just as it used to when he was an obnoxious eight-year-old and the source of Izuku’s childhood torment. There are slight lines around his crimson eyes, and, shit, he’s ripped as all hell, arms defined in the loose tank top he’s got on, his jeans baggy and artfully ripped, not hiding his strong thighs.

“Done eye-fucking me?” Kacchan suddenly says, staring ahead, and Izuku meeps.

Actually meeps.

To his surprise, Kacchan snorts, and he turns to him, stares at him from top to bottom and it leaves Izuku feeling incredibly vulnerable. “When the hell did you get jacked?”


Kacchan rolls his eyes, the frown so familiar in Izuku’s memories. “Last I saw you, you were a fucking stick. Didn’t stop you from trying to imitate all the pro wrestlers back then, though.”

“Last we saw each other, you weren’t all muscles too, Kacchan,” Izuku retorts and oh god, that was a mistake, there was a reason nobody back in their neighbourhood messed with Kacchan, fuck, he might have gotten stronger but Kacchan could kick his ass with one look—

“Still managed to beat off bigger assholes than me, though,” he simply replies, and Izuku doesn’t understand how his childhood friend had managed to mellow out so much, if he’s able to take Izuku’s teasing in stride. “Seriously, though. You into sports or whatever, now?”

Izuku blinks, and manages to answer, “Ah—I mean, sort of? I had a health obsession when I was in my teens, and um, somehow ended up being a fitness trainer,” and Kacchan’s eyebrows are raised, but Izuku doesn’t back down. He’s—he’s proud of what he does, even though he doesn’t really look like the typical trainer, aside from the muscles, but he’s had numerous success stories, and all his clients have walked away healthier, happier.

Kacchan eventually nods, and Izuku musters up the courage to ask, “What, uh, what about you? You’re still competing in the boxing circuit, right?”

At that Kacchan turns to him, eyes narrowed and a smirk on his lips. “Have you been keeping tabs on me, Deku?”

“No!” Izuku flushes, says it louder than he probably should have, and he knows there’s a terrible blush on his cheeks as Kacchan cackles next to him. And then the announcement for the flight comes on, and their conversation gets tabled for the time being as the safety video plays, which Izuku commits to memory as best as he can because who knows what could happen, even if he hopes to God it doesn’t, touch wood, and the plane starts moving onto the runway, readying to fly them back.

Finally, the plane ascends after a few minutes, and Izuku swallows whatever saliva he has, just to get rid of the way his eardrums feel, and glances to see Kacchan scowling as he rubs at his own ears.

“I was, um,” Izuku begins, even though he has no idea if this familiar stranger beside him even wants to continue their conversation from before, “I follow Kirishima’s Instagram, since he does a lot of those videos on health tips, and I know you guys train together, so, um, that’s how I know,” he finishes lamely.

“Tch.” Izuku looks at him, and Kacchan has his trademark scowl. “Kirishima should focus less on his fucking smoothies and more on his goddamn punches.”

It startles a laugh out of Izuku.

“I think he does just fine,” he comments, and stifles a giggle to see Kacchan rolling his eyes. “I actually follow quite a few of his recipes.”

It’s how their conversation evolves into Izuku defending Kirishima’s nutritional smoothies to Kacchan, who tells him they “taste like grass shit, Deku, fucking masochist” and into their own workout routines and Izuku almost takes out his notebook to compare notes but he doesn’t know if Kacchan would appreciate that, and a comment about an identical workout move between the both of them leads to the two to talking about their favourite heavyweight boxer, All Might, who was coming out of retirement for an upcoming legendary match.

Izuku doesn’t realise that nearly three hours have passed, until the announcement for lunch comes on.

Both he and Kacchan had pre-booked their lunches, and he holds back a sigh at the sorry sight of his own meal. He doesn’t really like airplane food very much.

Kacchan doesn’t help, as he makes disgusted noises beside him. “That broccoli bit is limp as fuck, Deku. How did they manage to make fucking broccoli limp?”

Izuku spears his fork into it to lift it up, and doesn’t even attempt to hold back a whine when he sees the watery sauce clinging on the broccoli dripping back on his rice. He glances at Kacchan’s lunch, wondering if he had gotten a less pathetic-looking dish, and snorts when he sees him poking at his dry as hell steak.

“Kacchan, your meal isn’t any better. You could choke on how dry that beef is!”

“Fuck you, I’ve never choked on any fucking meat in my mouth,” he replies proudly, taking a savage bite of the thing and Izuku nearly dies on the spot as the words registered in his brain.  

Their meal continues in relative peace, and after a while Kacchan takes out his phone. Their flight has WiFi, but Izuku didn’t pay for it since he’d had a book that he wanted to start reading anyway.

(He hasn’t taken the book out since Kacchan first appeared next to him on the plane.)

Just then, the man himself whistles lowly, and says, “God, All Might doesn’t look like he’s fucking aged,” and Izuku’s eyes light up at the mention of the boxer.

“Wait, what? Lemme see!”

And suddenly their shoulders are brushing as their heads are huddled above Kacchan’s phone, watching All Might doing impossible-looking weight lifts, and then Izuku says, “Oh, did you see the video of him beating that punching bag to shreds,” and it’s five videos afterwards that Izuku realises the last time he’d had this much fun with Kacchan was when they were four, maybe five years old, before preschool was a thing, and Kacchan hadn’t figured out yet that Izuku was weak and cried way too much.

The blond had moved away when they were ten, right before middle school began, and this Kacchan is so, so different from the one who had taunted him about his childhood fantasies of being a pro wrestler and “All Might is a boxer, idiot, they’re two different things, you’re such a Deku” and Izuku is a little mad that he wasn’t able to see Kacchan’s transformation into this—

Still scowling, even more foul-mouthed, but infinitely a less angry and derisive version compared to his child counterpart.

“Kacchan?” Izuku asks suddenly as he pulls away to sit back, and the man in question merely grunts, eyes still glued to his phone.

“Why were you in Penang of all places?” It’s not a particularly well-known vacation spot, and as much as Izuku loved the cultural museums, street art, and the gigantic jungle playground right at the edge of the island, it’s not really anyone’s first destination when thinking about taking a vacation to the country.

At his question, Kacchan frowns at him, but not in a derisive way—more like he’s thinking about what to say to Izuku.

Finally, he shrugs, and merely replies with, “Had a fucking meeting with some higher-up shits in the sport. You?”

Izuku grins sheepishly and points behind him with a thumb. “I was on holiday with my friends, but it was kind of like their engagement honeymoon? And I was the chaperone?”

Kacchan snorts at that and graces him with a, “Nerd.”

The conversation peters off from there when Kacchan announces that he’s got a couple of YouTube videos he’d wanted to check out and Izuku finally takes the book he’d been intending to read out from his backpack, but somehow the words start blurring together after the first chapter and he falls into a light doze for the last couple of hours of the flight.

When he comes to, he realises that, one, his neck is hella sore, and two, his face is mushed up against something, which turns out to be Kacchan’s bare shoulder, his tank top having ridden up close to his neck.

Izuku hurriedly whips his head away and he’s about to apologise, only to stop short at the sight of Kacchan sleeping as well, face peaceful and frown nowhere in sight, his bottom lip jutting out a bit as he leans towards his right, like he was giving Izuku space.

(He looks identical to his four-year-old self, when they’d had play dates at each other’s houses and took naps together, just like this.)

Just then, the announcement for the descent comes on, along with the seatbelt sign, and Kacchan’s eyes flutter open, just in time for Izuku to look away and put away his book, his cheeks still flushed.

The plane starts to make its descent, and Izuku looks up to glance at the window, clouds a gorgeous yellow and orange, wishing he was close enough to press his face against the glass and see the way Japan would come closer as they land.

It must have been obvious on his face, because Kacchan doesn’t miss the opportunity to tease him. “Fucking dork. You’re one of those nerds who get all sappy when the plane lands, don’t you?”

“The view is amazing, Kacchan,” Izuku defends himself, rolling his eyes. And then, without giving himself time to hesitate, he leans forward just to get a better look at the view, completely aware that he’s right up in his childhood friend’s personal space, but Kacchan does nothing, and only shoves his face away when they touch down.

And then it’s a whirlwind, getting off the plane, and yet Kacchan walks beside him as they make their way through immigration, grumbling about the crowd, and then customs, and they’re waiting for their luggage together, Ochako and Tenya not too far away from them.

Izuku is surprised when Kacchan gets his suitcase first, and then waits for Izuku to get his stuff.

 He spies Ochako and Tenya waiting for him as well, but then Kacchan says, “Deku, you shitnerd, I can see that stupid All Might charm a fucking mile away,” and Izuku reddens, again, as he spies his suitcase making its way towards them.

“It was limited edition!”

“It was fucking overpriced, is what it was.”

And somehow it doesn’t surprise Izuku that Kacchan knows exactly how much it costs, and it makes him smile through his own embarrassment, even though he doesn’t call the other man out for it.

Suitcases in hand, they make their way together towards the departure hall, but then Kacchan stops walking and Izuku pauses in his steps to look back at him confusedly. “What’s wrong? Did you forget something?”

He doesn’t answer Izuku’s questions, hands in his pockets as he stares at him. Finally, he asks, “Are you gonna watch All Might’s match?”

“Huh?” Izuku blinks, and then says in a rush, “Ah—um—tickets haven’t gone on sale yet, have they? But, um, yeah, I hope so, there’s a whole lot of expectation on All Might despite how long he’s been out of the competitive circuit and there’s definitely—”

“Fuck, I only wanted to know if you were planning on going or not, Deku,” Kacchan cuts him off, scowling, and Izuku instantly shuts up.

“Uh, sorry, I—yeah, um, I was gonna go, yeah.”

“Tch. Wanna go together?”

And Izuku is left blindsided for the umpteenth time that day as he agrees, shell-shocked, and then they’re exchanging numbers and Izuku really doesn’t know if it’s a joke on Kacchan’s end or not, until Kacchan reaches up a hand to ruffle his hair for a couple of seconds—

—and Izuku freezes, because this is the first gentle touch he’s received from his childhood friend for over a decade—

And it ends with Kacchan shoving his face away, stalking off as Izuku tries his best to regain his footing.

He’s about to call out his name, until something catches his eye and he can’t help but grin, as he stares at the red tips of Kacchan’s ears. Izuku glances down at his phone, and his smile widens when Kacchan had put his name down as that, and not his actual name, just how Izuku had put down ‘Deku’ as his contact on Kacchan’s phone, and he’s not—

Ochako was wrong, Kacchan isn’t his soulmate or anything, but—

Kacchan has always been interesting, as a kid. Adult Kacchan is too, but a new interesting that Izuku can’t wait to discover, and he supposes he owes the engaged couple more than just a good best man’s speech for what had transpired throughout the entire flight, and more to come, he thinks, glancing back down at Kacchan’s contact number with a smile.