There was a burn on Katsuki’s side in the shape of a hand. Thin fingers stretching over his hip to brush over his stomach, thumb curving up his torso, narrow palm pressed into his skin. He stared at it in the mirror, holding up his shirt and pushing down his school trousers so the entire thing was on display. Burnt red blisters in his flesh. A mark. A signature. He ran his thumb over the burn and snorted under his breath at the dull pain that shivered through him.
The pain felt good. It actually helped him to get to sleep the past couple of nights. Usually he’d need to jerk himself off two times and bite into his hand to get his brain to shut down, but the burn was a blessing. He spent the last night with one hand around his cock and the other fucking himself open, digging his teeth into his lip and rubbing the burn mark against his sheets. Writhing beneath the blankets, feeling the blisters on his skin, remembering how it had felt when Dabi had held him down and fucked him roughly on the floor and pricked him with fire. Until he came with a shudder and strangled moan, jizz dribbling into his hands and blood beading on the inside of his lip. And he slumped into the pillow with the burn pressing into the mattress, his eyes sliding closed and his brain a distant grey hum. One of the best night’s sleeps he’d had in that bedroom for a while.
But it had been annoying that day when he’d woken up. Always itching and needing attention, distracting Katsuki when he didn’t fucking need to be distracted. Like during his supplementary classes that morning. He’d been practicing his hand-to-hand combat with some extra whose name he’d already forgotten (a challenge to test their skills without their quirks) and his damn costume had irritated the burn. It was his belt: it was chunky metal and sat high up his hips, and the harsh edge had dug right into the burn as he’d twisted to avoid a punch. It had made him pause and hiss in pain for just a moment, letting them get through his defences and land a blow right to the side of his skull. It had caught Katsuki completely off guard and sent him tumbling onto the ground. He’d split his lip. Flipped over so that a thin arc of blood droplets flew through the air and pattered on the floor.
The good news was that he’d managed to push himself right back up and landed a kick to the fucker’s ribs that sent them crashing to the floor. Katsuki had spat out a gobbet of blood, scratched the burn on his side, and turned to look for another sparring partner.
And later, in class at UA, his blazer had sat oddly on the burn as well so it was always itching. Not enough to actually be painful, just enough to constantly distract him and have him shifting a little in his chair. Maybe Dabi had purposefully marked him in a spot he knew would be irritated. It was just at the curve of his waist where the skin would fold over itself whenever he bent or shifted from side to side, causing him to wince slightly if he overextended himself or bent down. And each brush of his shirt or blazer just irritated him, reminding him that there were blisters on his sides from a villain. But he’d grit his teeth and gotten through it. Listened to the lessons, written his notes, ignored the pain in his side. And excused himself to the bathroom before Heroics Training.
Now there he was, standing in the bathroom in between classes holding his shirt up and glaring at the handprint on his side. He rolled his hips a little, watching the way the skin stretched and moved over the burn. Pressed a finger to it and felt the spike of pain through his abdomen. Dug his thumb into the blisters, pushing into the touch, relishing the sensation of fire shocking through him and making hair prick at the back of his neck. Remembering how it had felt to be burnt like that, with his face pressed to the carpet and Dabi’s hips slamming into him. Katsuki chewed his lip. Took a low breath. But then someone else entered the bathroom behind him and Katsuki dropped his shirt back down over his stomach.
He grabbed his Hero Costume up from where it was sitting on the floor, then headed out of the bathroom and down to the locker rooms to change for training. Because he’d spent those few minutes looking at his burn in the mirror, by the time he got down to the lockers the rest of the class were already getting changed. Katsuki pushed through the room and thumped his costume down on a bench next to Kirishima.
Kirishima tilted his head and grinned, flashing his overly-pointed teeth at him. “Hey Bakugou,” he said, fastening his belt with the shiny R-shaped buckle. “We were starting to wonder where you’d gone.”
“We thought you’d drowned in the toilet,” Sero said over Kirishima’s shoulder. He was already changed and was leaning against the locker, tossing his helmet up into the air and catching it again.
Katsuki ignored them and just shrugged off his blazer. He stuffed his clothes into the locker, not bothering to fold them neatly or whatever. A few wrinkles didn’t really matter so long as he kicked ass. His costume still had a few scuffs and dirt splatters across it from the supplementary lessons that morning. Katsuki held up his shirt, looking at the spray of white dust on the side from where he’d hit the ground. And he glanced out of the corner of his eye at Todoroki who was getting changed further down the bench. He had a tiny burn mark on the side of his costume, alongside a sweep of ash. Katsuki let his eyes fall back down to his shirt. He sighed and dropped it down onto the bench, then went to the buttons of his shirt, popping them open. Next to him, Kirishima was talking to Sero about something. Katsuki listened for a little, eavesdropping on their discussion of some inane bullshit Ojirou had said in class. Something about a store in town that he’d been to or whatever. It quickly faded to a buzz of static as Katsuki retreated into his own head.
He stared down at his nails. They were chipped and picked down to the quick. Katsuki had had a habit of biting them when he was younger which he’d only half grown out of. He didn’t bite them any more — not to the extent he had to as a kid — but he still absentmindedly found himself picking at them in class. Digging the nails of his other hand under the lunula and breaking it. Peeling away the little white half-moons to leave behind ragged edges. Katuki stared at his thumb: serrated and harsh from an absent-minded daydream at lunch. He ran the pad of his index finer over the top of his nail, feeling the bumps and tiny nicks catching in his skin. There were callouses on his fingers and palms, rough skin built up from the years of using his quirk. A scar on the back of his knuckle, and more going up his wrist and arm. Square-shaped palm and short fingers. He clenched his hand into a fist.
His hands were so different to Dabi’s. It was weird. The skin on that guy’s hands was surprisingly soft when it wasn’t burnt to the texture of leather. And his nails were neat little half-moons, smooth and polished. He also had those long fingers that could wrap easily around Katsuki’s waist, hold him close as he breathed into his ear that he was so narrow and could be snapped like a twig and laughing in that low tone that had the back of Katsuki’s ears burning and his stomach twisting.
He huffed in annoyance, shaking his head to forget that image. And with a sigh, Katsuki tugged his shirt over his head and pulled on the top for his hero costume instead. The tight fabric pressed up against the burn on his side, not enough to hurt but enough to always remind him it was there. And when he adjusted his collar, the little crescent-shaped bitemark on his shoulder was hidden from view as well.
That particular mark had blossomed into a neat purple smudge over the past few days. It’d be easy enough to pass it off as a bruise from training, but Katsuki didn’t want to risk any unnecessary questions if someone noticed it. He already had his hag of a mother asking him if he was dating anyone, he didn’t need rumours or anything spreading around the school.
He pulled off his trousers to stuff them into the locker and tugged on the rest of his uniform. The metal belt was a familiar feeling on his waist and he clicked the buckle shut. It dug into the burn again, making his lip twitch. But he stretched and rolled his shoulders, forcing his body to get used to it. Then adjusted the kneecaps and straps before sitting down to tug his boots on. The laces were always a pain, sitting underneath a cover that was supposed to protect them from getting caught on shrapnel and tripping him up but only really succeeded in making it an entire ordeal to actually get the stupid things on. Katsuki began his usual habit of swearing at the boots as he pulled them on and started going through the rigamarole of tightening them, his fingers grabbing the laces and pulling them through the eyelets. Got a little lost in the routine. Felt the laces digging into his fingers and rubbing over his ragged nails. Felt the twinge of pain as his bent-over position drove the burn harder into the metal corner of his belt.
He glanced up absentmindedly as he finished tying one boot and pulled the strap closed at the top. Let his eyes flicker over the rest of the class, before landing on a familiar face. Deku was standing on the other side of the room, talking to the guy with the bird head and laughing at something he’d said. Katsuki’s fingers tightened on the laces of his boots as he watched Deku. The way he was laughing, the curl of his lip, the crinkle at the side of his eyes. And the flex of his own stubby fingers as he pulled on his stupid gloves, so long and chunky and a completely different colour from the rest of his uniform. Katsuki couldn’t believe he was actually wearing a uniform his dang mother had designed for him.
He couldn’t believe All Might had chosen Deku to pass on his power to.
Something caught at the back of Katsuki's throat. He grit his teeth and leaned over to tug on the laces of his other boot as tight as they could go. His nails dug into the material, and his teeth ground together. His shoulders tensed and his eyes narrowed. He did not want to think about that shit. About that night when he’d pulverised Deku and pushed him into the concrete and been hugged by All Might and found out the truth about everything that had happened. The truth about what had happened to All Might. His end.
He hadn’t been able to sleep that night. Every time he tried, he had felt All Might’s skinny arms around him again as he’d been given that pitying hug, an attempt to comfort him as though he was a toddler. He’d seen Deku so weak and pathetic, with clumsy moves that were slow and unpolished but still somehow able to push Katsuki to the edge and land blows on his skin so that he was aching and left bruised. But even that pain hadn’t been enough to shut his brain off that night. He’d pressed a hand to his face, willed himself not to cry, felt the tears leaking out of his eyes despite his best efforts. Because he was weak and pathetic and a child and even that asshole Deku was outpacing him!
He hadn’t slept. Had been sluggish all the next day as he’d felt the aches inside his body and tried to get through the chores and clean the apartment without talking to Deku about what had happened. He was going to outstrip Deku. Leave him in the dust. No matter what it took. But he’d been so tired, so exhausted, needed sleep. And that had been the first night he’d responded to Dabi’s texts. The first night he’d sneaked back out to that bar, climbed those stairs, found Dabi waiting for him, gotten fucked until he came with a shudder and fell asleep in those cold arms.
Katsuki snorted and pulled the strap of his other boot tight then picked up his gloves. Leaning up against the lockers, he glared at the back of Deku’s back again as he tugged them on. He’d been at his internship the day before, hadn’t he? Katsuki wondered what he’d been doing. Was he stuck doing inane busywork at the office? Tagging along with Pros to watch what they were doing, notebook in his hand and muttering under his breath in that annoying way he always did? Or had he actually helped attack some damn villains?
Katsuki swallowed back another strange lump in his throat at the image of Deku’s face in a newspaper under a headline saying that he had managed to save a hundred people. He remembered their internships, where he’d been stuck with Best Jeanist who had humiliated him and wasted his time, whilst Deku had actually learned shit and improved. Dammit. Every goddamn step of the way, that prick was rubbing it in Katsuki’s face just how much he was improving. He had gotten into the same UA course despite being beneath him in middle school, gotten the better internship, gotten his license first, gotten the attention of Katsuki’s idol.
He growled and tugged on the other glove, positioning it up on his bicep. Clenched his hands into fists. That shit didn’t matter. It would be Katsuki’s face on the newspaper next time: a full spread after he brought down the League of Villains. All Might told him he needed to save to win? Well, Katsuki would save everyone. And he’d do it without even using his quirk. Just his brain and his body. He pressed his hand to the burn, feeling the pain spark through his body. Then he strapped on his grenade gauntlets and muttered that he was going to wait outside, leaving Krisihima and Sero in the middle of their stupid conversation to stomp out of the locker room.
They were heading to Ground Lambda, a location designed to replicate natural waters and tropical climates. It was a mixed bag for Katsuki in that climate. The heat made him sweat more, but the humidity nullified his quirk a little bit. He snorted quietly and rubbed a hand against the ridged metal of his gauntlet. It was fine. He’d do well and show Deku just who was the superior of the two of them.
“You’re going to be split into pairs,” Aizawa said when the class had all gathered by the side of the synthetic ocean. “And you’re going to race each other to that buoy and back. You can use your quirks however you want, you just have to touch the buoy and come back to the starting position. But there are also going to be obstacles for you to avoid, and objects for you to retrieve.” He held up two rings in his hand, one red and the other green. “Red rings get you one point, green get you five. And you get points for how fast you are compared to your partner.”
“So if you get enough of the rings, it doesn’t matter if you’re slower,” Kaminari said to Katsuki’s left, stating the obvious like only he could. Katsuki rolled his eyes and waited for Aizawa to assign pairs. He glanced over at Deku, wondering who he’d get paired with.
When the pairs were assigned, Katsuki was put against the girl with the ponytail who’d gotten the highest score in the provisional license exam. He scowled at her out of the corner of his eye, then back over at Deku. He’d been paired up with the class rep. Katsuki wondered how that guy would even manage to do any of this shit in a goddamn suit of armour. But whatever, it wasn’t his problem. If these guys wanted to wear stupid and impractical costumes then that was their decision.
“Urgh, this isn’t good,” Kirishima moaned, leaning against Katsuki’s side and scratching under his chin. “My quirk’s terrible in water.”
“Same,” Kaminari muttered. Katsuki clicked his tongue, but gave a little sympathetic grunt. Kirishima could turn into a damn rock, he was good for defence and for support but anything to do with a water-based emergency and he was pretty useless. And it was probably just cruelty to put Kaminari near water. Once he tried to use the dorm bathrooms when he had a cold and everyone else got static shocks each time he sneezed. This was really the frog girl’s domain. Or Icy Hot if he was sensible and froze whatever part of the water he was on.
And maybe Deku.
Deku had been in that top three when they’d done those races at the pool before the training camp, and they’d never been able to have a rematch to see who was the stronger swimmer. Katsuki adjusted his gauntlets as he glared at Deku. The little fuck was standing off to the side, staring into space and stretching his arms across his chest halfheartedly. Katsuki saw the way his fingers were clenched. And the stretch of his back muscles through his stupid green costume.
Deku had All Might’s quirk… It was basic, a power-up, but that meant it could be adjusted to pretty much anything he needed. Rescue missions, fighting, defence, and even swimming. But Katsuki glared at him and chewed the inside of his cheek. Deku had a useful quirk, but he was still a weakling still figuring out how to use it. He was clumsy and unpolished. He might even forget how to use it in the middle of the exercise and just sink to the bottom of the pool then need to be fished out by Aizawa and sent to Recovery Girl to cough up lungfuls of water.
Katsuki folded his arms and hung back behind the rest of the group to watch as first few pairs raced through the water and collected their rings. He analysed their movements, trying to catch their weaknesses and analyse their strengths. Picking up details for when it would be his turn to go. And when his name was called up with Ponytail’s, Katsuki had a solid plan in place already.
“I won’t go easy on you,” the class rep said as they stepped up to the pool. She was stretching her arms and rolling her head in circles.
Katsuki glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes and snorted. “Good. I won’t go easy on you either.”
And when Aizawa blew his whistle, Katsuki blasted off from the side of the pool with such force that he left a pile of rubble behind him. He didn’t even bother to focus on what his opponent was doing, just propelled himself through the air by settling off as many explosions as he could. He soared upwards, eyes scanning the lake to pick out the rings. He’d done the maths: the green rings’ points weren’t worth the amount of time it took for most people to scout them out and grab them, but he wasn’t most fucking people. And he spotted two rings stashed between a crack on a synthetic cliff. Katsuki growled and shot towards them, raising his fist and blasting the cliffside to rubble. He emerged from the dust clutching two rings. Below him, he spotted ponytail on a motorboat she’d made, standing on the prow and skipping through the water. She’d placed a net down into the ocean and was scooping up rings as she passed. Katsuki narrowed his eyes and felt power spark at his fists. He pushed off from the cliff, jumping through the air and firing projectiles to propel himself forward. Ponytail glanced over her shoulder. Her eyes widened as she saw what Katsuki was about to do. And she opened her mouth in a yell, her body already starting to produce something new. But Katsuki didn’t give her time to fight back.
He exploded her boat. And as the shrapnel and scraps of went flying, he grabbed up the net full of hoops, hopping to the buoy before heading back to the shore. When he touched down, he dumped the rings on the ground.
Aizawa looked down at the rings, then at him. “I guess stealing wasn’t against the rules.”
“I know it wasn’t,” Katsuki said with a grin. Behind him he heard the sounds of the class rep swimming towards them, helped with the whir of some new engine she’d created. And he pushed past Aizawa to the back of the group again, glancing at Deku as he passed. Had he seen that? Katsuki wanted to see just what All Might’s apparent favourite would pull out to top it.
And a spark of annoyance flared in his gut when he saw that Deku was standing off to the side again, a hand to his face and his brow furrowed, not even paying attention to the race.
Katsuki stared at him. What was the little fuck doing? Did he not think this class was worth his time? What, just because All Might apparently thought he was hot shit and had given him his stupid quirk, he didn’t need to pay attention or plan a strategy? Katsuki ground his teeth and clenched his hands at his sides. He hoped Deku would fucking drown. And he hoped All Might would realise what a mistake it had been to choose him as a successor.
His body churned with the image of All Might and he bit the inside of his cheek. The burn on his side smarted.
“Is it really fair to blow up Yaomomo’s boat?” Kaminari asked when Katsuki passed him.
“The fuck do I care,” Katsuki muttered. “If this was the real thing, I wouldn’t have stopped at blowing up her boat.”
That had Kaminari laughing and patting Katsuki on the shoulder. “You’re really hotblooded, man.”
Katsuki shrugged him off. And he folded his arms across his chest as he watched the rest of the class, eyeing Deku the entire time and waiting for his turn.
By the time Deku and the other class rep were called to the water’s edge, Katsuki had dug his hands into his palms so hard they were beginning to bruise through his gloves. He’d pulled of his gauntlets and put them on the ground by his feet, but now he shook his hands out as well to give his palms a break. Instead he started worrying the edges of his glove, pulling it away from his bicep and letting the material snap back onto his skin. And he narrowed his eyes at Deku as he stepped up to the water’s edge and got into position ready to push off.
Katsuki had no fucking clue what was going on with that guy, he was caught in a daze even more than usual. Normally when Deku was daydreaming he started muttering about stuff under his breath and his fingers would twitch for his notebook to scribble down whatever thoughts were rattling around in his skull, but his thoughts that day had been pretty quiet. Hell, even in class Katsuki had kept looking up from his work to find Deku staring out the window with a frown, fingers tapping on his chin and teeth chewing his lower lip. Sometimes he didn’t even write down what their teachers were saying, his pen just hovering an inch above the page. It pissed Katsuki off. He’d kicked the back of Deku’s chair when he saw him doing that, annoyed at him and trying to jerk him back into the real world. If he was really so goddamn special then he should pay attention in class. But now here he was in Heroics Training with that far-off look still in his eye and his brow still crinkled and his head still not in it. And Katsuki was getting really fucking mad.
He drummed his fingers on his bicep. Clicked his tongue. Muttered, “What’s up with him?”
“Huh?” Kirishima looked round. His hair was slightly wilted from swimming but still sticking halfway up from all the heavy-duty hairspray he put in it every morning. “What’s up with who?”
“Deku,” Katsuki said, jerking his chin at where the bastard was waiting by the water. “He’s not even listening to what’s happening in class, its like he doesn’t care.”
“Hm…” Kirishima gave an awkward expression, a little pinched. “He might be… Thinking of other things.”
“What other things?” Katsuki snapped. What could possibly be more important than training to become the best Heroes they could be?
Kirishima looked at him. He shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe something at his internship? I can’t really say anything about it, but there have been a couple things happening. His mind might be on that.”
Katsuki’s eyes widened and he whipped his head round to watch Deku again. So his internship was getting heavy, huh? Enough to distract him from class, huh? Katsuki ground his teeth together and dug his hands into his arms again, narrowed his eyes and leaned forward to watch Deku. Come on then, nerd, if things are really that intense at your internship then you must be learning things. Katsuki wanted to see him put what he was learning into practice. Wanted to see him prove that he was worthy of being All Might’s successor.
But when Aizawa blew his whistle, Deku stumbled. He wasn’t paying attention again, and he missed his start by a good second so that the class rep could race ahead. The guy was running so fast he didn’t break water tension and skated along the top of the ocean. Katsuki growled. But then Deku recovered and his body crackled with energy as he pushed off, leaving a large footprint in the concrete. And he leapt into the water, swimming as best he could. But his movements. They were awkward and slow, splashing water as he tried to swim. Katsuki’s eyes widened as he watched Deku flounder, falling behind the class rep and not even managing to get a single ring. He was faltering. Failing. Not giving it his all! Katsuki grit his teeth and let his arms fall to his sides, hands clenching to fists tight enough that he felt his bones might snap.
Put some fucking effort in, Deku! Katsuki wanted to yell at him from the crowd. He was itching to just pull him out of the water by the neck and shake him and scream at him that someone who’d caught All Might’s attention needed to put some fucking effort in! He was failing! He was making a goddamn disgrace of himself! Didn’t he want to honour All Might’s memory? Was this what All Might had given his career up for?
But Katsuki held his tongue clenched his teeth, feeling that lump in his throat again. And he just watched in silence as Deku finished his race with a pitiful time, climbing out of the water and coughing as his friends surrounded him and asked him if he was alright, with Aizawa standing over him and chiding him for the lacklustre performance. And as Katsuki glared at Deku, watching the way the water was running down his cheeks and soaking through his hair so it clung to his skull, the fucker never once looked round at him and met his eye. He just smiled and nodded at the people who were telling him his performance sucked. Actually smiled! As if he wasn’t letting people down.
Katsuki’s lip twitched. He glared down at the water pooling at Deku’s feet. The rings he hadn’t collected. The gulf of time between him and his opponent. He was pathetic. Slow. Faltering. Clumsy. And he was still the one who All Might had chosen.
Katsuki pressed a hand to the burn on his side, breathing hard at the feeling of pain that spiked through him. He didn’t listen to what Kirishima was telling him, or the jokes Mina was cracking on his other side. He only half-registered what Aizawa was saying about what that exercise had taught them and how they could all improve. He didn’t pay any attention to Deku, or the way that fuck kept staring into space and not listening, as if he was so much better than this because he had been picked by the symbol of hope and been handed a quirk on a silver platter and landed an internship that was apparently so much more important than classwork if it was keeping him this occupied. Katsuki fought back the lump in his throat. Pressed his hand into the burn. Breathed steadily.
And that night, after he had stared at the ceiling for hours unable to get the image of Deku dripping wet and snidely smirking out of his mind, he picked up his phone and texted Dabi.
Are you free?
He stared at the screen until his eyes watered.
Finally, it buzzed with a response.
always free for you
see you at the same place