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While You Were Sleeping

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PART V. IN WHICH TODOROKI SHOUTO WAKES UP

Two weeks after Todoroki Shouto fell into a coma, he woke up for the first time.

His waking took time and he drifted in and out of consciousness. Each time, different faces swam before his vision.

On the third day, he finally managed to be awake long enough to accept a group of visitors. He was pleasantly surprised to find Yaoyorozu, Jirou, Iida, Uraraka, Asui, Bakugou, Kirishima and Ashido before him. All Might was even present. It was more than gratifying as he felt like it had been a long time since he last saw them.

There was a green-haired boy that he couldn’t recognize among the sea of faces. He’d seen him time and again with every waking, but didn’t know who he was. Finally, now that he could find his voice again, he asked.

“Who are you?”

The green-haired man’s smile froze, and he went pale. 

It was Bakugou, of all people, who spoke next. His eyes were narrowed and his voice was tight. "That's Midoriya Izuku. You should know him."

Shouto could only look blankly at the foreign face. He felt vaguely familiar, but nothing more. He looked for an explanation from the rest of his classmates, who looked a combination of frozen, horrified or aghast. 

"My god." Iida let out. "You really don't know him, do you?"

That caused the green-haired man to flinch and shrink back into himself. Next to him, Yaoyorozu stepped to support his arm, while All Might himself placed a steadying hand on his other shoulder.

Across them, there was an unreadable expression on Bakugou's face as he stared at him, his fingers twitching as if he was holding himself back.

Beside him, Kirishima gasped, his eyes wider than he’d ever seen.

“My god, Todoroki's got amnesia.”

 


 

“You must be kidding.” Shinso repeated on the phone.

“What part of that story made you think I was making it up?” Izuku moaned back as he locked the single bathroom door behind him. “They think he has amnesia, but of course he wouldn’t know me because we’ve never actually met face to face, and I am freaking the hell out.”

“Didn’t Yaoyorozu say that she was going to take care of everything when the Ice Prince wakes up? It’s been three days.”

Izuku sighed as he looked at the dark circles under his eyes in the mirror. “I spoke to her, and the plan was to try to tell Shouto-kun everything once we get him alone. At this point, he’s still drifting in and out, and we’re not sure if we could spring something so big on him yet. She wants to give it a day or two. We didn’t expect Shouto to call me out so soon though.”

“Hah, what did she think about the amnesia nonsense? What did the doctors say?”

Izuku sighed, “Selective amnesia apparently happens often enough in traumatic brain injuries to be plausible. Shouto is still fuzzy on his latest weeks anyway, and the timeline for our supposed love story fits that. Can you believe it? This ridiculous fake engagement actually stands up to it.”

“So, the laws of biology and physics will actually let you get away with your story if you wanted to. You and Yaoyorozu couldn’t have planned a better fake engagement if you wanted to. Nice.”

Izuku sighed as he laid his back on the wall. “Not really.” He placed a hand on his face. “Shinso-kun, I was so ready for it to end. I was so sure that everyone would figure it out, and I’d be turned away as soon as they did.” He resisted the urge to cry. “I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.”

“Hey, now is not the time for self-pity, kid. They should be thanking you, more than anything. You’ve done more than enough to keep the Ice Prince safe, and a fake engagement should be the least of his concerns. Besides, didn’t Yaoyorozu and All Might say that they will help take care of things? You are not alone in this.”

Izuku nodded to himself and took a long, drawn out breath.

“How are you otherwise, kid? How are things with Bakugou?”

Izuku actually felt sudden tears stinging his eyes at the mention of the name, and he shook his head. “I don’t really know anymore… I thought we were actually getting somewhere…” He let out a wet laugh, thinking about his meltdown before the man that night, But I was wrong, and I just made things worse.”

He didn’t know why Kacchan’s words had hurt that much more this time. He was only watching out for Shouto, and he hadn’t been wrong when he thought that their engagement was too good to be true. Izuku had even come clean to him about the worst of his suspicions.

So why did Izuku’s heart feel like breaking?

“I think,” he said softly, “that I lost Round Two of Deku versus Kacchan.” 

There was silence down the line. “Well then he’s a bigger idiot than I realized. I was pretty sure he was onto something as well. Kaminari said he’d never seen him act like that before.”

Izuku shook his head with a small laugh despite himself, willing himself to be distracted. “What’s that supposed to mean? Oh, and how did the rest of your surprise date go?”

“As well as it could,” Shinso drawled, which to Izuku translated to ‘I took him home, Merlin liked him, so he got to stay the whole night’ and he nodded, “…if you include having to make up an explanation for why you dragged Bakugou out of the party.”

Nggh. Izuku groaned.

“I’m scared to ask how that went.”

“Well I wanted to have a little fun, so I told everyone that it was ‘just a misunderstanding’. Of course, that morphed on its own to everything you can think of, from some unresolved sexual tension, to weird roleplay, to a staggering love hexagon. They’re all slightly more plausible than the truth anyway.”

Izuku resisted the urge to hit his head on the wall. “…How was Yo-kun?”

“Shindo will live another day to finally have closure with you – don’t worry about it. Focus on getting things sorted out there first; the rest can wait.”

Izuku stared at the bathroom door, dreading having to return. “Everyone’s just so tense. I can’t help feeling they’d all be happier and better off if I hadn’t been in the picture.” His voice went small. “I don’t even know what to do about Shouto-kun.”

There was a hum down the line, “Well, in your own way, you did know Todoroki before all of this happened, right?”

Izuku paused.

“Then why don’t you just talk to him like you did before?”

 


 

Shouto was awake again, and Iida, Kirishima and Ashido and Hagakure were doing their best to keep him entertained. From the doorway, Izuku took a deep breath.

“Hi guys. Um, do you mind if I talk to Shouto-kun alone for a bit? It won’t be for too long.”

The others were kind enough to give them the space that they needed. Iida had also placed a reassuring hand on Shouto’s arm before stepping out.

“Um, sorry for kicking everyone out for a bit.” Izuku smiled apologetically as he slowly approached the bed. “I just wanted to say hi… Shouto-kun.”

Shouto stared at him, before bowing politely and saying. “Hello… Midoriya Izuku, is that right?”

Izuku nodded, seeing the hesitation in the other’s gaze. “Look, I know you don’t really…remember me." Or know me, really. "But I was hoping you wouldn’t mind doing something for me?”

Shouto watched him for a few seconds before nodding slowly.

“Would you mind closing your eyes?”

Izuku grabbed a seat next to his bed, making sure to let Shouto see how close he was before the other closed his eyes.

And then, he began again, near him, just like he used to do.

“Hi Shouto-kun, how are we doing today?”

Hi Shouto-kun. Welcome back to the Operation. It’s Agent Deku here. 

"Welcome back... It's me." 

From the bed, Shouto jolted at his voice, then slowly relaxed. Izuku bit his lip as he waited for his next words.

“Your voice.”

Izuku closed his eyes and held still.

“I…I think I know you. I remember this.”

Izuku let out a deep breath, the immense relief filling his eyes with tears. “Of course, you do.”

Of course, you do. I tend to ramble, I’m pushy, and I can’t mind my own business, remember? But I have never let you down, and you’re glad I’m somewhere out there, existing.

"It's me, Shouto-kun." 

It’s me. I am here; I exist. 

"Agent Deku," Todoroki breathed out wondrously, and Izuku felt himself tremble at the name, this small part of being remembered.

He dared to touch Shouto’s hand, and the other surprisingly let him.

I wanted to let you know, ever since that day. “You were kind to me, and you’re so much more than you realize too. You are not alone. I’ll always be here if you need me.”

Shouto took a deep breath, calming, his eyes still closed.

“Don’t worry.” Izuku pushed on with a watery smile. “We’ll explain everything. You’re okay now, and I’ll do all that I can to keep you safe.” He promised.

“I’m really, really sorry about everything that’s happened, and I promise that you’ll have your life back soon enough.”

 


 

Through the doorway, Katsuki saw them both as they spoke softly amongst themselves, their eyes closed.

He swallowed as he saw the reflection of Deku’s face from the mirror: the broken smile on his face, the tears waiting to fall under his lashes.

It was a look that had haunted Katsuki since Todoroki woke up; now unleashed in full in the supposed privacy of their conversation, in the wake of the latter’s unbelievable memory loss.

He’s waiting for all this to end.

And Katsuki couldn’t bear it.

He’d never had this feeling before; it’s a new emotion in his chest, screaming to be heard… this inconsolate feeling of frustration on behalf of someone else. This heavy guilt; this wanting someone else to be happy instead; this devastation that wasn’t his.

Because at that moment Katsuki finally knew what he was feeling. He could no longer deny this anymore, even though he realized too late.

He had set out upon this journey, trying to do right by these people in his life in the first place. He wanted to make sure Todoroki was safe and that he knew what he was doing. He also wanted to get to the bottom of his own issues with Deku as well, if it came to it. (If it came to it, he thought to himself, finding the irony laughable)

And now, he had found some answers, but at what cost?

(“And I’m not ready for that, Kacchan. I’m not ready for all of this to end yet.”)

When it ends, Deku had said, they could all go back to their lives, and he could go back where he belonged.

Out of sight, save for an absent whisper in the ear.

Like he was never there at all.

He saw the quiver in Deku’s lips as he tried to smile, silently wiping his tears with his free hand, as if to make sure that Todoroki wouldn’t see before he opened his eyes.

He stared at them from the doorway, feeling the pain in his chest; unable to deny the burning behind his eyes.

Katsuki knew what he had to do; he only wished that he could survive this newfound feeling in his heart.

 


 

The next time Izuku had the chance to speak with Shouto, he was more prepared.

It was days later. Momo had taken it upon herself to explain the situation to him: how Izuku had rescued him, how he was mistaken as Shouto’s fiancé; how they kept the ruse because it helped to keep his father’s influence on his medical decisions at bay.

It made it easier for Izuku to give his side of the story, and to present his way of fixing things.

“We can say we’ve broken up, because it was better that way with your 'amnesia' and the accident – but that might make things a bit harder for you, from your friends. No one likes the idea of giving up just like that.” Izuku offered on the one hand; he lifted his other hand.

“Or we can just say the truth: that I had pretended to be your fiancé to keep your safe. That will take the pressure away from you, because it was me who chose to go along with the deception in the first place. It’s probably easier that way; I’m the extra here and it’s easier for me to be out of the picture afterwards.”

Shouto, who had remained silent the whole time, just gave him a careful look with those piercing bicolored eyes. “It sounds like you’ve thought about this a lot.”

Izuku gave him a strained smile as he shrugged.

I wanted to make things easier for you.

“I’m curious,” Shouto continued, “about why you assumed that we had to end our engagement. You’ve not considered the other alternative?”

Izuku’s mouth dropped. Did he mean to go ahead with it?  Where did that come from?

“B-because it’s not fair to you. You don’t really know me, Shouto-kun.” Izuku started, before giving him a melancholy smile. “You know more than anyone how hard it is to be forced into something you didn’t choose.”

Shouto paused. “But you do know me… or at least, enough to do all this for me. And I did know you, or at least parts of you, when we worked together last time,” there was almost an open look on his face as he looked back at him.

“And this time, I would like to know you more.”

Izuku almost smiled at that; this kindness from Shouto.

“Yes,” he said, and here, he gave an honest, self-deprecating smile, “but do you truly think that’s the same as wanting to marry me?”

His candidness seemed to startle Shouto, who just gave him an even look. A small smile began to break out as he shook his head.

“My friends would like me to marry you though. I feel like they would marry you themselves if given the chance.”

Izuku laughed at that despite himself, “That’s— that’s something… but I don’t think that ‘my friends love you; I might as well love you’ is how things are supposed to work, do you?”

He shook his head at the irony.

“To be honest, Shouto-kun, I think our ideal chance might have been taken away by your coma,” he joked.

Shouto gave him a curious look, and Izuku took a deep breath, “It made me fall in love with the idea of being with you first, and it made your friends fall in love with the idea of us together, before you even had the chance to decide for yourself. The idea got too far ahead of us. And you and I both know how hard it is to live up to one.”

Shouto stared back at him.

“Now I know what he was talking about.”

Izuku jolted. Eh? “Who?”

“Bakugou came in here this morning to talk to me about you.”

Kacchan. Izuku flinched.

He looked away, waiting for the final blow. “What did he say?”

“He said that you..." Shouto began, "that you are one of a kind, and that I would be monumentally stupid to let you go. That you are just as much, or even more, of a hero than anyone he knows. That I could only be so lucky to deserve you. In his words, even our dumbest friends could see it.”

Izuku unfroze.

Kacchan said that?

“He also said that even if I don't remember you, if I could see even a small part of what everyone else took only seconds to see in you, then I should marry you now, regardless of everything else.” He gave Izuku a meaningful look.

“High praise from someone as hard to please as Bakugou.”

Izuku was shocked to feel sudden tears falling from his eyes as he shook his head. He instantly covered his face. He did that for me?

“I—I had no idea.”

Shouto seemed to have made a decision then, and he lifted a hand to Izuku’s; he moved the other to wipe the errant tears from his face.

“Midoriya, I know that you’re trying to do the right thing. But maybe it doesn’t have to be ‘all or nothing’? Maybe we can go back? To before I fell on the tracks and any of this happened?”

Maybe we can start again.

Izuku wiped the rest of his tears.

I would like that.

He sighed, breath released, when he looked back at Shouto again.

“My name is Midoriya Izuku, 24 years old. I am quirkless. I have a cat called Small Might Junior, a best friend who can’t feed himself, and another who’s a genius. I have some embarrassing videos that I hope you never find online. I love studying quirks and playing with technology. I work in Intelligence as Agent Deku. I once got you to use your fire side in a mission, and I think you didn’t like that very much.” He offered a smile. “You can call me Izuku or Deku.”

Shouto furrowed his brows, probably staggered by the information in that statement, but then his face transformed with a small, beautiful smile.

“It’s great to finally meet you again, Izuku-kun.” He shook the hand already held in his. “Tell me about your cat.”

                                                                                         


 

That night, Katsuki found himself before Deku's door once more, holding onto a real but barely-tangible resolution, and a letter.

He held his breath as he waited.

When Deku opened his door with those wide eyes and an uncertain look on his face, he couldn’t blame him.

“We need to talk. Can I come in?”

Once they were inside, Katsuki handed him the envelope that he had been carrying around the whole day. “Here.”

Deku looked confused. “What is it?”

Katsuki tried to quirk a grin. “Consider that my wedding gift, before the others come rushing in.”

Deku stumbled over that, “But… that’s not… Really, there’s no need to—”

But Katsuki just shook his head. “Just. Open it… please. It's for you.”

Deku gave him a look before doing so. Katsuki watched his eyes widen as he drew out the paper inside and read its contents.

“This… This is a confirmation letter for the final Professional Hero Licensing Exam—”

“With your name on it, yes. There’s a date in there for a month from now. You can change it if you want, but you’re registered now. Don’t back out, or it would be a waste of my money. Better yet, make sure to ace it like you did the last one.”

The nerd slowly looked up at him. “Kacchan.”

Katsuki took a deep breath at the whispered name, the first time he heard it since their argument. “Deku.” 

“It doesn’t have to end. You damn idiot.”

At the sharp inhale from the nerd, Katsuki found his nerve, and he continued before Deku could retreat. “I’m only going to say this once, so listen up.” He looked him in the eye.

“You don’t have to be scared of failing, or thinking that this dream of yours is not something you deserve, not after you’ve fought so fucking hard for it. You…” he inhaled.

“You should know,” he exhaled, “That anyone who has ever told you that you shouldn’t do something, or go somewhere, or be who you want to be, is fucking wrong. Including me. Especially me.”

Deku jolted at his words, and Katsuki smiled ruefully.

“I started questioning you because I was watching out for Todoroki, but I realize now that I’ve been doing everything the wrong way.” He gave a self-deprecating grin. “That maybe, all this time, I’d been using your engagement as an excuse to try to catch you out, so that I could make sense of you for myself.”

He gave a husky laugh. “Of course, the more I got to know you, the harder it was, because despite the fact that you were the one who was quirkless, who was weaker and supposed to be beneath me, the truth was that there had never been anything wrong with you from the start.”

He closed his eyes as the truth came out of him, “In fact, you were better than anything I ever expected.” He let out a deep, low breath. “Each time, Deku.” 

“Kacchan,” Deku whispered softly, his voice catching.

Katsuki knew he had to say this now, “If anything, I was the one who held you back, because seeing you try so hard made me feel like I wasn’t good enough; like I had a lot more to prove each damn time... and I never should have taken it out on you.”

He took a deep breath and opened his eyes.

“And I am sorry.”

I am sorry I ever made you feel that you didn’t deserve more.

Deku looked like he had been struck by those simple words, and Katsuki shook his head at the thought.

“Seeing you these past few weeks, I’ve seen just a glimpse of how much more you are capable of, and it pisses me off that you need to keep hiding that from the world.” He rasps the last out harshly, “But it tears me up inside even more, knowing that I was one of the reasons you felt that way – that no one else was willing to see you... and I’m fucking sorry.”

He clenched his fist. “And it’s such a waste, because you’re missing out, Deku—the world is missing out on you. You’re not meant to be hidden behind other heroes, you idiot, not for a single second longer.”

He shook his head as he saw the wideness of Deku’s misty eyes, and he choked back against the growing knot at the back of his throat.

“And I am sorry I made you feel that way.”

I am sorry I ever made you feel that you should be anything other than yourself.

It had been the hardest thing, getting to the point where he could apologize to Deku, but once he had started, he couldn’t fucking stop.

He knew it might still not be enough.

“You’ve said that you felt invisible; well, I’d never seen anyone so fucking bright, that it hurts.” He began gruffly. “I’m still trying, and I still have a lot to prove… but you,” his breath hitched.

“You already are the Hero that you want to be.” He swallowed as he watched Deku's mouth quiver. “And that’s not just with how you’ve saved Todoroki – it’s in everything you do without question for everyone around you. It hardly ever matters that you’re quirkless.”

He saw Deku desperately blinking back tears, and he exhaled, knowing there was one more thing he had to say – should have said, from the very beginning.

“The truth is that you’re fucking extraordinary, Deku, and Todoroki… he is the luckiest bastard in the world, because he has you.”

He has you. He exhaled at those words, recognizing the heaviness in his heart and the unfamiliar sting in his eyes, but not caring in the least, if that’s what it took to remove that broken, defeated look that he had put on Deku’s face.

“Kacchan,” Deku whispered, his voice cracking. “I… I don’t know what to say.”

Tell me this makes you happy.

“I hope he makes you happy.” It was suddenly hard to breathe.

He'd said what he needed to say. Katsuki knew that he had to stop and walk away now, but Deku halted him with a hand on his arm.

“Kacchan—I…”

“What?” Katsuki tried to look the damn nerd in the eyes, trying to hold in the rest of what he still felt. 

Deku’s words died when their eyes met. Instead, he swallowed. “What would you do?” He asked, voice suddenly small, “What would you do if you were in my place?”

Don’t fucking ask me this now.

Katsuki clenched his jaw. “I’d ace the damn test.” He looked away. “And I… I’d marry Todoroki.”

Much better than someone else who took decades to get his act together and see you for all that you are.

Deku fell still against him, “Is that all?” He asked softly.

There was so much left unsaid with that question, and Katsuki felt that new and unfamiliar roaring of his heart against his chest, traitorous and overwhelming.

He closed his eyes. “You know, I owe Todoroki so much. Wasn’t a big fan of him at school, but he was a big part of what made me a better hero… a better person, really. IcyHot, along with those other 3-A idiots you met… they taught me the importance of being honest with myself, of humility and respect. They taught me that other things mattered aside from being the best. And I’m still trying.”

He then opened his eyes, feeling something in him unfold. “If I’m being honest though. I hate him, too.”

Deku gave him a startled look, and Katsuki offered a self-deprecating grin. “It’s only natural that I’d envy the bastard every now and then. He has fucking fire and ice, and he never used half of that quirk, which is a damn waste. But more than that, he was good at seeing the most important things...”

I had all of my life before that to make it up to you, and yet he ended up seeing you first.

“He met you and in no time at all, he decided he’d marry you. And now he’ll get to spend the rest of his life with you and those damn cats."  He forced a laugh. "Actually, no, I don’t envy that at all. I won’t envy the fact that you’ll probably destroy his precious supercar, or that you’ll drag him to those stupid gear tests and frankly embarrassing dance fights. I’m also not jealous of the fact that he has to live with that damn mumbling of yours every day for the rest of his life.”

I wasn’t sure how to make it up to you, so I waited for the right time to come to me instead. You were under our noses this whole time. How fucking stupid was I?

“He’ll be stuck with you and your ridiculously awkward lack of shame, your annoying need to try everything at least once, and your stupid bleeding heart.”

He has you. Fucking ridiculous nerd.

He tried to mask the burning in his eyes with a laugh, “All of that, and the damn bastard doesn’t even remember proposing to you? He probably would have you let you walk away, if I hadn’t knocked some sense into him. What a fucking joke.”

How the hell did I ever convince myself—convince you—that I didn’t want you? That nobody would want you?

Deku shook his head, tears openly falling from his eyes this time, “Kacchan, that really was you, wasn’t it?”

Even though Katsuki had taken a gamble by speaking to Todoroki about Deku that morning, he still hadn’t been sure about the outcome of his words, until he saw the two of them speaking in Todoroki’s hospital room later, their heads close, a stupid smile between them.

This, Katsuki had forced himself to accept, this should be more than enough for them both. For me.

Katsuki looked away from Deku’s open face, the tracks on his skin, and chose not to answer.

“None of that matters, at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter what I think, or how others will react, or even that he doesn't remember. Because you…” he inhaled, feeling the burn in his lungs, this quiet devastation threatening to explode.

“You love Todoroki, right? This was the guy you chose to marry. Not a bad choice too; much as I’d hate to admit it, he really is one of the best people I know, and you…” he rubbed a hand onto his face, “…you deserve the best. And I,” he took a deep breath.

If I was Todoroki, I would marry you again and again. I’d never let you feel that no one was on your side again.

He started at the look on Deku's face, even as his own vision turned blurry. He didn’t understand why it was the damn nerd who was crying.

"And I..."

How does one say: I love you, you are loved? Katsuki did not know.

“I’m not going to be the one who stands in the way of your happiness this time.”

Deku hands fell on Katsuki's arms, and Katsuki couldn't help pulling him close despite himself, a bittersweet imitation of that other night, when he held him in a dance in the dark.

In the depths of his chest, something soared, new and tender yet hurt and mourning at the same time. He forced himself to speak and answer Deku's question, even as he tried to wipe the evidence from his eyes. “What would I do if I were in your place? It’s simple, you nerd."

"You should do what makes you happy, and be with the person you love.”

Even if it’s not me.

 


 

“Really, Bakugou did all that?”

Izuku rubbed his eyes and nodded wordlessly at Mei on his phone screen before burying himself under the blankets on his couch. Next to him, Small Might Junior meowed and butted his head on his hip. Scratch was buried with him under the blanket.

On the other side of the couch, Shinso looked at the Professional Hero Licensing Exam form on the coffee table with interest. “It looks like he did.”

On the screen, Mei seemed to be getting ready to leave her workshop. “But that’s a good thing, right? Especially after what he said at the party last week.”

Izuku sighed as he nodded, and Shinso raised a brow at him.

“Right, and things are going well with Todoroki-kun, right?”

Izuku gave a hesitant nod. Considering everything else, it went better than expected. “He really is an amazing person.”

It probably also helped that Kacchan apparently spoke to Shouto on his behalf.

“Exactly, and even though you were so convinced that he would break things off that you even planned your exit scenarios, you two actually have that date at the hospital tomorrow, right?”

Izuku groaned. “Don’t call it a date… please.”

“Right, the ‘it’s a date if you want it to be’ lunch thing, because you don’t want to pressure him… but it seems like you’re the one who’s hesitating here. Am I wrong?” She shuffled into an elevator. “Hang on, I’m coming down.”

There were a few seconds of static as they lost the connection.

“She’s right, you know.” Shinso drawled as he helped himself to some wine, “And I think I know where this is headed.”

Izuku stuttered just as the connection with Mei resumed with her dashing towards the waiting car outside. “Okay, I’m on my way to yours, and I am bringing ice cream and more wine. Where were we?”

“You were talking about his non-date with Todoroki.”

“Right, so here’s what I think Izu… I think things are going well, all things considered. You couldn’t have planned things better if this was one of your ops: Todoroki knows the truth and wants to start over with you. Bakugou has come around and he’s now fully supportive of you both.”

“Yes.”

“So why do you look so miserable?”

Izuku looked at them both, his eyes stinging again. As if he hadn’t cried enough in the past 24 hours.

“I really don’t know.”

Shinso sighed and knocked him on the head. “Of course, you do.”  

He looked a Mei through the camera and lifted Kacchan’s present.

“It’s him.”

The exam confirmation paper with Izuku’s name in Kacchan’s firm, bold handwriting was hard to look away from.

“Oh.” Mei’s eyes widened through the screen. “Oh, Izuku. So it’s really happened, then.”

Izuku looked at both of them, “What? What is it?”

“So it wasn’t just my imagination, how you and Bakugou seem to just—forget everything else when you’re in the same room? It’s even worse when it’s you two with gear.”

“I told you, that’s battle-flirting for them.”

Izuku’s “What?” came out as a horrified shriek.

“You didn’t see him at The Floor. Bakugou was frowning the whole time, but his eyes were glued to you…  and when you did your epic ass shake move, he looked incoherent, like he even forgot his own name!”

Izuku dropped the blankets around him. “What.”

Shinso swirled his wine glass, “You were no help either, kid. Don’t think I didn’t see you two slow dancing by that bar. You may not have realized it, but you were deploying those big eyes of yours on him. I told you, you should use those in moderation.”

From the screen, Mei shook her finger at him, “You really can’t be this clueless, Izu. I wasn’t at Tatami-san’s party last week, but even I have heard of your infamous underlying sexual tension with your ‘boy and friend’ Ground Zero.”

“People are saying that?”

Shinso gave him a careful look over the rim of his glass. “But you aren’t that oblivious though, are you? When you chose him out of other perfectly good candidates to help with the Invisibler, even I could tell that there was something different, judging from the look on his face the moment you ended it.”

Mei hummed under her breath from the screen, “And even with his questions last week… it’s almost as if Bakugou wasn’t just trying to find out the story behind your engagement with Todoroki-kun… in a strange roundabout way, it’s like he was looking for any excuse for you to not be with Todoroki instead. Does that make sense?”

(Hey nerd. What was it about Todoroki, then? What made you acknowledge him first?)

Shinso tapped his cheek. “At some point, this vendetta you had against your Kacchan turned into something else, didn’t it?”

(The truth is that you’re fucking extraordinary, and Todoroki is the luckiest bastard in the world, because he has you.)

Izuku looked back at them and suddenly found his throat dry.

Shinso suddenly turned to Mei on the screen, “Are you near?”

Mei looked worried. “Two minutes away, coming up soon.”

 


 

By the time Mei burst through the door, Izuku was already in tears.

“How?” Izuku found himself unable to hold back from yelling, “How could I get fake-engaged to the man of my dreams, and then fall in love with this nightmare of a jerk? They have doctors for this sort of thing!”

Shinso let Mei take the other side of the blanket-and-cat fort, and they exchanged looks.

Mei began, her tone practical and non-judgmental as always, “Well, there’s nothing wrong with Todoroki-kun, but maybe it’s because what you liked about him was mostly from afar, but you actually got to spend all that time with Bakugou in real life?”

Shinso shrugged, less diplomatic, “You were probably idealizing things with the Ice Prince, but it didn't have the chance to go anywhere. It was the reverse with Lord Explosion Murder – each time, you were expecting the worst. And each time...” He again eyed the license exam paper. 

“I must admit, Bakugou continues to defy expectations.”

Izuku nodded, shocked to realize that what they were saying was nothing new to him. He should know this already – he felt it, each time he was with Kacchan. He knew each pang of fondness and each wave of admiration because those were not new; despite everything, he’d always admired Kacchan since they were kids.

But the mock offense at being teased, the tension each time he parried back; the electricity when they sometimes looked at each other; the unfolding in his heart when Kacchan acknowledged him; and this unbearable pain in his chest when the other looked anything less than himself? All those, despite seeing not just the best, but the worst in each other? Those—those were new; and they were real.

“But…” he scrabbled at his other doubts, his thoughts scattering, “he bullied me when we were kids, and he kept coming after me, even now… I can’t be that much of a masochist! I already had one relationship that failed like that.”

I can’t be in love with him.

Shinso snorted, ready to play Devil’s Advocate. “Are you really, though? Yes, he was a brat, but you’re much tougher than that, and you gave as good as you got. I know what a merciless little shit you can be as well, and you handed his ass back to him well.” He smirked as he shook his head.

“If there’s anything I’ve noticed from the way you two keep butting heads, it’s that he knows you’re his equal. I’ve seen how Bakugo behaves with other people, and trust me, it may not look it, but you have his respect.”

Mei nudged him with her leg. “Also, not to be a merciless little shit, myself, but thinking about Shindo… well, he was amazing to you at the start, and not-so-amazing in the end, right?” She shrugged.

“Bakugou… he was horrible at the start, yes, but this?" She gestured at Izuku and the exam confirmation form. "I get the sense that with this guy, it’s the actions that count more than the words. He’s pushy and he says things in the worst way sometimes, but it looks to me like he’s really trying make up for everything, Izu. That this time, he wants you to be happy.”

Izuku placed a hand on his face. Kacchan’s apology.

“You didn’t see the look on his face when he spoke to me… I can’t…” he struggled to breathe.

(He exhaled, "There had never been anything wrong with you from the start. In fact, you were better than anything I ever expected. Each time, Deku.")

His eyes fell onto the exam confirmation form on the table.

(His red eyes on him, unyielding, as if there were no tears forming in the corners of his eyes. "I’m still trying, and I still have a lot to prove…but you already are the Hero that you want to be.")

“Oh my god. I love him.”

I love Kacchan.

He loved every single explosive, arrogant, awkward and rude bone in Kacchan’s body. He loved his perfectionist streak, his boneheaded obsession with winning, how ridiculously pissed off he looked whenever Izuku shut him down and how he was almost physically incapable of dealing with compliments. He loved how he was rude, but never untruthful in everything he said. How he always watched out for his loved ones — how he insulted Izuku into believing in himself. He loved how Kacchan demanded the best from others, but delivered more when it came to himself. He loved how the idiot never stopped trying to be a better person, even though it meant that he was a clumsy asshole at times.

Izuku had already been on his way after just two weeks in his presence, but his actions over the last twenty-four hours had made him helpless to any resistance.

Kacchan had known him, had feared him and hurt him, and had overcome his own weaknesses to acknowledge Izuku and apologize to him; now he’d even made sure to pave the way for Izuku so that he could be happy – as a Hero, and with Todoroki-kun, because he thought Izuku loved Shouto.

(“I’m not going to be the one who stands in the way of your happiness this time.” Kacchan held him so tightly after that, before letting go.)

He’d done all of that for Izuku.

How can I not love him?

And it wasn't a hero-worshiping love, or a love that was grateful because someone that he never thought would see him gave him their attention. It was a love that made even the smallest things about himself feel special, that exposed the worst of him but made him fearless at the same time, that made him feel real and not an imposter, scarred but strong at the same time. It was a love that made him forgive, not just Kacchan, but himself too.

It was a love that made him happy to be proven wrong this whole time, and look forward to beginning again.

I am in love with Kacchan. The revelation had him gasping out loud.

What do I do now?

When he emerged from his thoughts, his friends were there for him. Mei was rubbing his shoulder and Shinso had a hand on the back of his head.

“Back with us now? Happy to get that out of your system?” Mei gave him a patient smile.

“Are you sure you’re not about to walk off and go through a river or whatever it was you did last time?” Shinso seemed confident enough to joke this time.

I am in love with Kacchan.

“What do I do now?” Izuku shook his head. “This is such a mess, and it can’t ever work.”

At their questioning looks, he went further, “Because Kacchan still doesn’t know the truth about Todoroki-kun. He still thinks that we were actually engaged.” He heaved a deep breath. “And if he finds out that I lied to him…” he felt the familiar thump of panic in his heart.

“Will he understand,” Shinso completed for him, “or will he be angry you lied?”

Izuku nodded at the irony. He had always intended to come clean with the truth for Shouto’s sake, yet...

“There’s no way out of this without anyone being hurt.”

“No." Mei agreed after a moment. "But then you deal with it like you always do: one step at a time.”

Shinso nodded, “The most important question remains though, because this is where it has to start, and there's no coming back from it.”

“What is it that you want?”

 


 

The next day, Izuku met Shouto-kun, armed with flowers, pictures of Scratch and a newfound resolution.

One step at a time.

He only wished he’d be strong enough to go through with it until the end.

 


 

Katsuki couldn’t say that he was too surprised when Todoroki and Deku had called for dinner with their whole class (or at least those who could make it or who weren’t on active duty). He just hadn’t expected it to happen so soon.

They are probably going to officially announce their engagement.

And while it might well be too soon in theory, it really wasn’t, given the speed at which Todoroki hitched everything onto Deku the first time.

Katsuki wondered if he would be able to bear seeing them together, now that Todoroki was awake, and seemingly back on track with his fiancé.

Deku himself had not communicated much, not that it was entirely his fault. His one message of “Thank you Kacchan, you’ve made me happier than you realize” had been left un-responded to in Katsuki’s inbox.

He sat himself next to Ashido and Kirishima on the long cafeteria table. Across them, Kaminari gave him a thumbs up. “Hey Bakugou, I haven’t seen you since that interesting housewarming party. How are you doing?”

Katsuki wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that. Thankfully, he didn’t have to, as the hospital cafeteria doors opened and more of their former classmates came through. Iida, Uraraka, Asui, Hagakure and Jirou joined them, followed finally by Yaoyorozu All Might, Todoroki and Deku.

Katsuki swallowed and looked away.

Even the way they entered felt like a damn wedding march.

They were all invited to grab their food before Todoroki stood, and Katsuki had to steel himself.

“Thanks again for coming today. We asked you to come because you’ve all been here with me throughout this whole ordeal. I…” he looked down briefly, “I know I haven’t always been around, or as forthcoming as I should be. And there are no words for me to say how much I appreciate your support.”

He bowed before them. “I will try my best not to let you down from now on.”

Katsuki nodded. Damn right, you shouldn’t. He would try his best to make sure that they were never again left in the position where they knew too little about each other to help.

“Todoroki-kun,” Iida placed a hand on his chest, moved by the rare public display from their normally-reserved friend. “We will always be here for you.”

There were various rounds of support offered through the table before Todoroki continued. “We also wanted to talk to you specifically today about an announcement that Izuku and I wanted to share.” He nodded at the sudden hush among the table, “And I’ll let him start as promised.”

Here it comes.

Katsuki closed his eyes and looked away.

“Thanks again, everyone, for coming today.” Deku’s voice wafted over him. “We wanted to speak to you because we think you deserve the truth about the relationship between me and Shouto-kun, especially now that he’s awake. And we’d like to start with this…”

Katsuki took a deep breath, waiting for the hammer to fall.

“Shouto-kun and I are not really engaged.”

Katsuki’s eyes shot open.