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i'm falling to pieces, but i need this

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“Nothing lasts forever, brat.” His mom had told him once. “So cherish that shit while you got it.”

That kinda thing stuck with a person. Forgive him his transgressions if he couldn’t remember the names of half the sidekicks employed at the agency, or whatever idiot pegged in at third in the top hero ranking that month. No, Katsuki remembered the important shit, okay, like all the garbage he learned at anger management and therapy. Training room schedules. His friend’s birthdays. (But he’d deny that when asked, so fuck you.) Anniversaries he’d sooner forget. How to keep himself moving when his body actively fought against it. Shitty-hair’s extra as hell coffee order. (Because, listen. You haven’t seen simmering rage until you’ve seen Kirishima take one sip of his quad venti double cupped blonde half sweet whole milk light foam extra caramel 177 degree caramel macchiato and realize something’s wrong with it. Katsuki called him a prissy bitch once, and Kirishima sent him through the wall of the training room. Watching that sunny personality dissolve over milk and coffee was hilarious. Sometimes he ordered it wrong on purpose just to mess with him.) So, yeah, he remembered the important shit. To his chagrin, it just always seemed to include that piece of sage advice from his mom.

That old hag was right, though, even if he’d deny it ’til the day he kicked the bucket: nothing lasted forever.

Not that reckless invincibility he wore like a second skin as a child, as loathe as he was to admit that even he had human limitations. Ripped that one off like a bandaid the first time a villain nearly put him on his death bed.

Not All Might’s spot at the top. Satan himself could pop right out of hell to tell Katsuki All Might’s end wasn’t his fault; it wouldn’t rid him of the tiny pang of guilt that still slithered in on his darkest days.

Not even Midoriya Izuku’s—formerly—unwavering, unshakable attachment to him. And for that, there was no one to blame but himself.

 


 

They sort of fell into it. Being ‘proper rivals’ tended to land them in each other’s orbit often, and arguably more than strictly necessary. Katsuki lived to instigate whatever, wherever, and Izuku’s impulse control was exactly zero point zero zero when it came to the blond. Everyone knew it, could probably spot it from space. Katsuki lit that spark of competition in Izuku’s eyes, and for that, people moved out of the way.

Extended sparring sessions turned to reluctant-merged-group-homework-time where very little homework actually seemed to get done amidst all the yelling. Group studies turned to meal prep, or lack thereof, in Izuku’s case. Joint cooking time slash nutrition lessons turned to evening documentaries in the common area, generally All Might themed. Complaints of hogging the TV turned to seemingly random appearances at each other’s doors.

And through it all, Katsuki mellowed.

His anger tempered, forged by his own hands into something that would not raze forests from a single flare. Three years stuck in a dorm with the same group of aspiring heroes would do that to a guy. That attitude never budged, though; class A wasn’t out here finessing miracles.

Summer of first year, Katsuki floored Izuku straight into catatonic shock when the nerd beat one of his long-standing records, and the only thing to come out of his mouth in response was ‘…hah, nice.’

Some time during early second year found Katsuki a week of house arrest when he went too far against a villain that stabbed Izuku in the shoulder on an internship patrol. Even now, the only explanation he’d ever given was that the fucker deserved it.

Shortly following that, the-incident-which-shall-not-be-named. Or, as not a soul would dare to repeat aloud after Katsuki put the fear of god into them, that one time Mineta spiked the punch at the Christmas party and the only thing that came from it was 2-A collectively finding one Midoriya Izuku and one Bakugou Katsuki sprawled out on the common area couch the next morning, the former using the latter as a full body pillow and the latter drooling in the former’s hair. No evidence of that night remained intact after the famous Bakugou Rampage™. Some students were starting to doubt it actually happened in the first place.

Neither here nor there, but that year was also the first time Katsuki didn’t fervently deny Kirishima when the redhead referred to him as his best friend. Kirishima cried. Katsuki told him he was trading him in for a new model. Kirishima cried some more.

Third year debuted this monster, via study session à la Katsuki’s room:

“Um…! So, I was, ah, asked on a… a date, earlier. What... do you think? A-about that, I mean? Uh... I guess it’s kinda weird to ask you, right, out of the blue, since—”

Katsuki clicked his tongue to cut through Izuku’s godforsaken tangent before it began to spiral, scribbling something else into his notebook. “No.”

“No?” Izuku echoed, sitting up from where he’d been lounging on the bed. “No what? No, it’s not weird? No, you don’t have an opinion? No—”

No, you’re not going on that date.”

“Oh.” Katsuki angled his neck just enough to get a view of Izuku’s gaze on him, curious, searching, before his mouth twitched into a small, secretive smile. “Heh, right. You’re right, Kacchan. Anyway, um… what’d you get for number six? I think I skipped a step…”

Hah?! Deku, holy shit, it’s not that hard

Graduation was an unholy nightmare, to no one’s surprise.

Katsuki’s haughty graduation speech aptly ended in what could have been considered an invitation extended to his entire graduating class to bring it, if not for his spectacularly shit choice of wording. “And just remember that none of you extras are gonna top me, especially not you, Deku, you’re always gonna be under me, you fuckin’

He might have kept going, too, if Kaminari hadn’t nearly cracked his skull taking a header out of his chair in manic glee. Kirishima’s howling laughter practically drowning out his voice might have done it otherwise. Uraraka dissolved into a fit of giggles, Iida rapidly failed all attempts at trying to keep the entire class in order, and even Todoroki cracked an amused smile. Izuku was lit up like a Christmas tree: green hair, red face, and looking for all the world like he wanted the ground to swallow him whole. To this day he hadn’t been able to live that shit down.

They moved on to different agencies post-grad, but never left each other’s orbit. Any major attack was an excuse to one-up the other and get the villain into custody first; any disaster a reason to push harder, farther, keep the most people out of harm’s way. The underlying current of dangerously competitive electricity flowing between them extended farther than the general public cared to delve into, but they were hard-pressed not to notice something going on between them after a particular incident. A villain duo with touch-based Quirk nullification and a strength Quirk found Deku locked into an unbreakable headlock that cut off his air supply and threatened to snap his neck like a twig, and Ground Zero all but surrendered on the spot.

Afterwards, the only footage available was grainy and smoked-out and dubious at best due to the explosion hero’s not-so-subtle attempt at privacy by blowing up rubble until the dust covered them like a shroud. Fanatics had blown up and enhanced the several-second shot to determine Ground Zero on his knees, hugging Deku tightly to his chest while the other clutched the back of his rival’s uniform, breathing ragged and desperate.

Neither of them acknowledged the incident; not publicly, and definitely not privately.

Fans speculated. Theories surfaced and swirled. Neither of the heroes could get through an interview without being prodded about their love lives. (Izuku’s answer usually rolled along the tracks of ‘I’m married to my work!’ while Katsuki’s answer, more or less, was a resounding ‘Fuck off.’)

It took two years for the tension between them to come to a head.

Apparently all it took for Katsuki to lose his chill entirely was an overly-clingy civilian who seemed to believe that Izuku’s polite attitude and natural charm were an open invitation.

Admittedly, looking up at the newly-emerging Symbol of Peace while he carried you bridal-style from the flaming remains of your office building might set anyone’s heart aflutter. Katsuki had been the last person out, tasked with accounting for all civilians, so by the time he’d made it to the impromptu medic station, things were already descending into uncomfortable.

“Ma’am, it’s in your best interest to be checked out by the medical team… You could be suffering from smoke inhalation. I understand you’re frightened, but if I could just put you down

“No!” The woman shouted hysterically, fingers curling into the front of Izuku’s hero outfit. “No, please, you’re my favourite hero, I-I don’t want them to touch me, I don’t trust them! Y-you saved me, so I want to stay with you!”

“Yes, but I’m not certified to evaluate you.” One hand had come up to curl around hers, trying to gently pry her fingers from the fabric of his suit, the other arm still curled under her knees. “They’re good people, you can trust them, s-so

“No, look!” She cut him off once again. “I’m okay, I can breathe, see? Could I be talking like this if I couldn’t? So don’t leave, please, let me just!” The woman had to pause, clearly needing to suck in a desperate breath despite her protests. If Katsuki had to guess, he’d say she was experiencing a confusing mixture of shock, oxygen deprivation, and starstruck desperation. “You—you can’t leave me, please, something bad’s going to happen!”

“Hey.” Izuku’s grip tightened comfortingly, no longer attempting to pry her off, voice like silk. “I won’t disappear, but I’m worried for your health. Let me hand you off to the doctors, so they can make sure you’re okay. I’ll sit with you through the evaluation.”

They held each other’s gaze for a moment. Katsuki watched, amused, as the spark of dawning understanding lit in the woman’s eyes, and she dropped her line of sight to Izuku’s chest to attempt to hide her rapidly heating face. His amusement faded rapidly the moment she peeked up through her bangs, leaning forward in her misunderstanding. Izuku’s eyes widened, panicked, as the woman clutched at his clothes tighter to pull herself forward, eyelids fluttered closed as she went in for a kiss that he couldn’t escape.

Her lips connectedto the sweaty, gloved palm of Ground Zero, who’d practically shoved his entire arm between them in his haste.

“I think the fuck not!” He seethed, eyes like molten lava. “He’s mine, so you better back the hell off, lady!”

A thick silence followed.

The woman clambered out of Izuku’s arms, embarrassment overriding shock, wobbling over to the nearest medic. Izuku’s mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water. His eyes slid slowly between his childhood friend and the woman to who he’d made a promise, clearly conflicted. It was a blessed out for Katsuki, who sort of wanted to dig a deep hole in the building’s rubble and collapse it on top of himself. Izuku wasn’t the type to toss a promise out the window. “Gotta… give my statement.” He forced his tone to sound even, if not clipped, and backed out of the tent as if he hadn’t just spilled his guts to the object of his affections plus some extras.

Luckily, the to-do list was never empty for a pro hero. A welcome distraction, he lost the gauntlets and threw himself into assisting Uraraka with clean up.

It wasn’t until an hour and a half later (but who was counting, really, he sure wasn’t) that Izuku wandered over. His face shield and gloves were left behind, the sleeves of his jumpsuit pushed up to his biceps. Katsuki ground his teeth in frustration. That idiot was so painfully unaware of his own appeal that he was pretty sure he once heard Izuku say ‘um, thanks?’ when some fan yelled that they wanted him to “dick them down.”

Would it be incriminating for him to rocket off into the distance and claim he hadn’t seen him when Izuku asked?

“Kacchan…” Izuku started, tentatively.

“Don’t wanna hear it.” A support beam exploded into chunks under his palm, controlled. “I said what I said. Don’t bust my balls about it, Deku.”

“I’m not gonna… do that. Jeez. Who do you take me for?”

“A guy who’d have some killer blackmail material if you weren’t so damn nice all the time.”

“Nice?” He echoed, clipped. Clearly been hanging around his childhood friend too much for that tone of voice to roll off his tongue so naturally. “Kacchan, are you stupid?

“HAH?!” Katsuki whirled around, palms crackling dangerously.

“… Are you really gonna stand here and tell me you don’t know that I’ve been painfully in love with you since middle school?”

The explosions stopped. Katsuki’s indignation dropped straight into the floor. The tips of his ears started to burn uncomfortably hot, stunned into silence for one of the few times in his life. Izuku’s expression was an unimpressed mixture of disbelief and dry amusement. Katsuki had never simultaneously wished to be struck by lightning and spontaneously combust before, but there was a first for everything.

“Kacchan?” Izuku prompted, suddenly nervous. “Katsuki, seriously? What have we been doing if not flirting for the past 4 years? … Oh no. You didn’t mean it that way, did you? You were just trying to protect me from an unwanted advance. Oh. And now I outed myself! Oh my god. Would you believe me if I said I was just kidding? No, you wouldn’t, I know you wouldn’t. This is not happening. Oh my god. This is not—”

“Would you shut up, Deku?!” He barked, irritation colouring his tone, drowning out the apprehension that had been creeping in. “Use that brain of yours, for once, damn you!”

And then he was pulling Izuku into a bruising kiss, a lot of teeth and bumping noses and entirely worth feeling like he’d just been throat punched with anxiety when Izuku squeaked, only to sigh softly into Katsuki’s mouth and curl his fingers into the fabric of his costume.

“Fuckin' Deku.” Katsuki mumbled against his lips, an arm winding tightly around the shorter man’s waist. “Don’t be an idiot. I’m done with shitty flirting.”

“Huh?” He sounded dazed. Katsuki’s ego inflated immediately. “D-done?”

“Yeah, done. So go out with me so I’ve got an actual reason to yell at people putting the moves on you.” Izuku’s face exploded into a canvas of colour, shoving his forehead under Katsuku’s chin to avoid eye contact. He didn’t have to see Izuku’s reaction to feel the frantic nodding against his chest.

They never did anything in the typical fashion anyway; dating shouldn’t be any exception.

At 20 years old, Bakugou Katsuki gets into a relationship with the man he’d been reluctantly pining for since first year.

At 21, both members of the media-dubbed Wonder Duo break into the Top 10.

At 22, he’s holding the world in his hands with Deku by his side.

And at 23, it all slips through his fingers.

 


 

So there he was: 24, prime of his career, ass on his uncomfortable-and-expensive-why-the-hell-did-I-buy-this-again leather couch, distracted by trash TV and cook-offs.

Any asshole that thought Shuzenji Chiyo eased up on pro heroes for getting hurt as an occupational hazard could kiss his ass. A few minor injuries and he was on medical suspension for an entire week. (Minor, as in, several laser shots directly through his sternum and shoulder and nearly passing out from blood loss. That kind of minor.) She’d also specifically instructed that any kind of intensive workout was strictly prohibited. “Don’t think I won’t find out.” She’d warned. Threatened, maybe. “I’ve got eyes everywhere.” Chewing on the inside of his cheek in annoyance, Katsuki flipped back to the news, seemingly done with Chopped once he realized contestant number who-gives-a-shit was planning on using the ice cream machine.

They were replaying footage from… over two hours ago, he realized, upon checking his phone. Shaky camerawork zoomed into a villain in the centre of a decimated shopping district. He was surrounded by dark, translucent bubbles of various sizes, yelling angrily at the task force that had him surrounded from a sizeable distance. Katsuki almost immediately zeroed in on a familiar shock of red hair that was face-down in the cracked pavement behind the villain. Red Riot’s skin was still hardened, so he hadn’t been knocked out—Katsuki’s confusion dissipated as it zoomed out to one of the reporters, explaining the villain’s Quirk. It was called Vacuum Manipulation, and he could remove or alter anything non-organic that was trapped inside his bubbles, including the effects of gravity and oxygen, to various degrees.

That would explain his best friend’s impromptu nap session in the middle of a fight. He had half a mind to pick up the phone and bust Kirishima’s chops about it, but something else caught his attention.

A green crackle of energy flashed behind the woman talking into the camera. Katsuki sat up at the same time the cameraman swung his focus back onto the battle, catching the scene moments before Deku came rocketing out of seemingly nowhere, dropping all his weight directly on top of the villain to mimic Red Riot’s face plant. He must have been using a low percentage in an attempt to not break the villain’s back; there was no other feasible explanation for how the villain managed to push himself into a fighting stance moments later to go shot for shot with the Symbol of Peace. Small bubbles kept forming around their limbs. Katsuki’s mind whirled with thoughts of Quirk analysis: he hadn’t spent 3 years with Deku not to pick up on his annoying habits.

Because he was intimately familiar with what Deku’s Quirk could do, Katsuki could only speculate that the reason this guy wasn’t knocked out with one swift kick or punch was that the bubbles surrounding Deku’s limbs were slowing down his momentum enough to lower his power output, while likely speeding up his own to do more damage. Unfortunately for the villain, momentum had no bearing on Deku’s brute strength: Katsuki could almost see the dawning realization come over the man before Deku snapped his left arm like a twig.

The differences between them were clear: the villain was not used to fighting while injured, whereas whatever injuries Deku had sustained hadn’t slowed him down in the slightest. Every bubble around him seemingly disappeared, including the one surrounding Red Riot, to allow for a massive bubble to surround Deku’s entire body. He began to float upwards at a rapid speed, higher into the air until the bubble stopped. Katsuki felt himself go rigid, free hand fisting into his sweatpants. It hung there for a single, tense moment, before it hurtled downwards towards one of the nearby buildings that was left standing. A wide shot showed Red Riot’s hardened arms curling tightly around the villain’s neck, putting him to sleep. The moment the villain drifted from consciousness, Deku’s bubble popped; the momentum remained, plummeting him directly through six stories of metal and concrete.

Debris exploded over the screen, fuzzing up the picture as if the resolution dropped to shit tier. The only thing he could clearly make out were the sirens flashing as they moved to secure both the villain and their hero.

The headline scrolling across the bottom of the screen read ‘Dangerous villain apprehended thanks to Hero Deku and Hero Red Riot. Hero Deku sent to hospital in unknown condition. Hero Red Riot’s injuries reported to be minor.’

Nauseating fumes tainted the air, the plastic cover of the remote in his hand starting to melt. That dumbass villain with a bullshit Quirk put Deku into the hospital? His jaw was beginning to throb; he’d been grinding it unknowingly the whole time. What had changed? Nothing. He was still the same reckless idiot from first year, throwing himself into danger in a desperate attempt to help—at his own expense, too. Always at his own expense.

The first notes of his phone ringing trilled out loudly through his apartment, startling Katsuki into action. His thumb slammed down on the ‘off’ button just before the remote was launched sideways into the air, taking out a potted plant from his mom sitting innocently in the corner of the room.

“For fucks sake.” Katsuki hissed, snatching the offending device off the coffee table. The plant could be dealt with later; the old hag was going to chew him out over destroying it whether it was cleaned now or whenever.

It was nearly midnight. The number wasn’t recognizable, but that didn’t shock him—anyone that knew him and had an ounce of sense knew not to call past 9 p.m. unless it was work related. He deliberated just letting the phone ring, but turning the TV back on seemed even less appealing, considering the content.

“Hello. Is this Bakugou Katsuki?” A man’s voice came through the receiver before he even had time to bark his displeasure. His annoyance spiked to peak levels.

“Who the hell is this?” Knee jerk reactions were Katsuki’s bread and butter, after all.

The clipped, no nonsense tone that followed raised the hair on the back of his neck. “I need confirmation that I’m talking to Bakugou Katsuki, please.”

He eyed the half empty cup of coffee sitting on the table in apprehension; he’d side eye the phone, but it might as well be glued to his ear. Uncharacteristically, a rare pang in his chest that told him to curb his attitude rose. Even more rare, he listened. “... Yeah.”

“Thank you. This is Midoriya Izuku’s physician, from Musutafu General. Are you in a position to talk for a few moments?”

Katsuki’s thoughts whirled, stalled, kicked back in at 11. “Uh,” He said smartly, and that seemed good enough for the man holding the tight silence on the other side of the line.

“My apologies for bothering you so late. Before I get into it, Midoriya-san is awake and responsive, so please don’t worry about this being that kind of call. That being said… the injuries sustained from his most recent battle are extensive. Recovery Girl just finished up with him. We do need some paperwork to be signed, so if you’re able to come to the hospital, we’d appreciate it. I can fill you in with greater detail at that time.”

Static crackled in the silence between them. Katsuki was several steps behind the conversation, still attempting to process why exactly he was on the receiving end of an emergency contact call. Izuku fought a villain: check. He went to the hospital: check. The hospital called his ex just to update him on the situation: check, apparently? Actually, he seemed to recall the old hag talking about taking a trip with Auntie, so they likely couldn’t get ahold of her. He wasn’t the logical second option, though, was he? In the eyes of the public, and Izuku himself, the Symbol of Peace was no longer his responsibility. He still is, a voice argued. Stop pretending like you wouldn’t break your back just to keep him safe. The longer he sat here and pondered, the longer Izuku had to sit in that antiseptic hell. The sooner he addressed the source of the problem, the sooner he might get some answers.

Right. Keep pretending you’re not doing it for an excuse to see Deku.

Fucking traitor brain piece of sh

“Er, sir?” The doctor hedged, clearly unsure if Katsuki had dropped off the Earth or not.

Heaving a breath, he hauled himself off the couch. “… Gimme twenty minutes.”

 


 

Seeing Deku laid out on a hospital bed would never make Katsuki’s top 10 list of desirable shit to do on a Sunday, which generally included heart-pounding activities such as doing his rank-ass laundry and meal prep, but nothing felt quite like a simultaneous punch to the gut and kick in the balls as the moment Izuku cracked an eye and mumbled, “Kacchan.

He’d long since been demoted to Ground Zero, after all, and his name rarely graced Izuku’s lips these days. He didn’t even hold his breath anymore, because while Izuku wasn’t immune to the occasional slip, Ground Zero was highly preferable than to hear himself addressed as Bakugou by someone who used to sing his praises with Kacchan, Kacchan, Kacchan. The nickname sent an involuntary chill up his spine, which the attending either didn’t notice or wisely chose not to comment on. “…Deku, holy shit. You look like you got run over by a bus.”

And he did. His costume was barely hanging on, glove missing from the arm that housed an IV. His hair was greasy with the sheen of blood. Gauze and bandages littered his body, likely covering injuries that Recovery Girl didn’t deem worth wasting Izuku’s energy. Somehow, the remnants of dirt and blood smudged across his cheekbones couldn’t erase the constellations painted across them. Something about Katsuki’s dickish comment seemed to please the other hero, wrinkling the freckles dotted on his nose and cheekbones when Izuku smiled. Oh, god. When was the last time that look was directed at him? A flush prickled at his skin, which Katsuki resolutely ignored. Now was really not the time to get into it and have a deep introspection over his feelings or some shit. Izuku’s eyes slid shut again, tension draining as he sunk back into the shitty hospital bed. Before he could do something stupid like panic, the doctor spoke up.

“Don’t worry, he’s asleep. Like I mentioned on the phone, we’ve cleared him for a concussion. However, head trauma can present in any number of ways and not in any set timeline, so he definitely needs to be monitored. A week of rest, at least, and then we’ll reassess. Recovery Girl was luckily in the area when he was brought in, so he was attended to fairly quickly. She healed two broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, several fractures, and a punctured lung. As I’m sure you’re aware, he’s going to be incredibly tired. However, he requested we administer no pain medication beyond the basics, so he is lucid.”

“What?” Katsuki couldn’t help but cut in. “What an idiot. You seriously listened to that shit?”

“We gave him the basic pain medication and agreed to revisit his pain after the tests were run. At that time he was coping well, so we listened to his wishes. Midorya-san’s pain tolerance is incredibly high.”

Katsuki huffed. He knew that fact all too well. “Yeah? So why am I here, then?”

“We can’t release him without supervision. I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to head injuries. He’s been awake for around two hours, in and out. It’s difficult to see any possible symptoms when someone’s so tired, especially if they’re minor. Our apologies it took so long to contact you, we did have to run some cognitive tests before anything else. He’d been asking for his boyfriend the entire time; we felt a bit bad about it.”

A pin drop in the room would have sounded like a bomb went off. Katsuki sucked a rapid breath in through his nose, anger flaring bright and explosive. Several small blasts began to crackle against his palms, the scent of smoke curling heavily into the air. Hands fisted immediately, barely ashamed that it had been a long time since his baser instincts took over so rapidly, and that the word ‘boyfriend’ made in reference to someone who was not himself was the sole reason. He hadn’t gone so zero to one hundred with pure rage since first year, probably. It took his entire arsenal of self control to contain the snarl threatening to escape. Boyfriend, what the fuck. Since when? There’d been no scandals on the news, no pictures in the tabloids, no speculations on the internet. What were those paparazzi vultures even good for if they couldn’t be assed to do their only job? The doctor might as well have walked up and slapped Katsuki across the face for all the balls he had to say something like that so nonchalantlyto his face, no less.

“Thenthen fucking! Why don’t you call him, you shithead, what the hell’d you call me for? Are you kidding?! You just

“S-sir.” The physician interrupted him quickly, clearly sensing the rising tension in the room, palms held up in a placating gesture. “I apologize… if we’ve assumed something incorrectly. Midoriya-san kept repeating to ‘call his boyfriend’ and when we asked, he directed us to his emergency contacts. The only people listed were his mother and yourself. If we’ve made an error, I apologize

“What the f—" The sheer amount of information being forced in through his admittedly thick skull in such a short period of time was giving him a severe case of whiplash. “No. Shit. It doesn’t matter. Justnever mind.” As if it were an easy task to forget the face of pro hero Ground Zero directing all of his rage towards your person, unprompted. “Anything else?”

“… No, just the release paper work. Just to be explicitly clear, he shouldn’t be left alone for more than a couple hours at a time until a physician gives the all clear. If you sign it, I’m legally turning him over to your care for the time being. I can call his mother, if you’d prefer?”

“I said never mind!” Katsuki snapped. “I’ll sign the fucking papers!” And then, slightly calmer as he reigned in his temper, “… She’s out of town, anyway.”

“Ah. Understood. I’ll be back with the documents shortly.”

Just like that, it was him and Izuku, accompanied only by the metronomic beep of the machines in the background. Several robotic steps landed him directly beside Izuku’s hospital bed, watching warily.

Katsuki almost launched himself backwards when Izuku stirred, peeking up at him through the brightness of the fluorescent lights. Damn, he was jumpy today. Keeping himself firmly planted was an act from a higher power. “… Hi.” He managed, cursing how stupid he sounded.

“Hi.” Izuku returned, shakily raising his hand. Katsuki’s gaze zeroed in like someone had just pulled a gun on him, watching the familiar scarred hand until it disappeared past his peripherals. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but it wasn’t for Izuku to curl his palm around the back of Katsuki’s neck and into the strands there, and it definitely wasn’t for Izuku to tug him down harshly so his lips smashed uncomfortably against Izuku’s chapped ones. The force didn’t seem to bother him.

Six seconds. Six pathetic seconds of Katsuki losing every ounce of chill he’d ever accumulated in his 24 years of life.

He’d hadn’t even made a move to kiss back, but Izuku seemed too out of it to notice, or care. The green-haired male hummed happily, releasing his freakishly strong grip on the back of Katsuki’s neck and sinking back into the pillow. “Missed you.” He mumbled, voice thick from drugs and sleep and getting his shit kicked in for the greater good. “Thanks. For coming.”

“Yeah. Right. Yeah. Good. Cool.” He was already backing up, unable to keep his thoughts from racing.

“Kacchan?” Izuku slurred as Katsuki ducked towards the door, clearly confused.

“Be back, Deku. Just… gotta make a phone call.” The gods intervening to give him not one coherent sentence, but two. He should start making regular offerings.

“—Mmkay.” Izuku sounded semi-conscious, at best.

The moment the door clicked shut behind him, he smashed Kirishima’s speed dial, legging it away from Izuku’s room. For privacy, he told himself. Not anything to do with the steel cage constricting around his heart. It took four agonizing rings for Kirishima to pick up. He’d probably been sleeping, Katsuki realized. “Bakubro?”

“I’ve got a fucking problem!”

“Say no more, bro, I’ve got you. Starbucks got your order wrong problem or dick caught in a zipper problem?”

“This is serious, Eijirou.” Starbucks, he should have expected that.

“Seriwhoa, you first-named me. What’s going on? First contact? Ronald McDonald found dead in Miami? Timmy fell down the well?”

“You better shut the fuck up before my foot goes treasure hunting in your ass.”

“Gross, dude. What does that even mean? Is that a booty joke—okay, chill, I can feel your rage through the phone. What is it?”

“… It’s Deku.” He could hear Kirishima’s noisy exhale, and they’d been friends long enough for him to know that was the go ahead. “You were there, you saw that shit. Doc cleared him for a concussion but said there could be ‘underlying symptoms’ from the head trauma and I think I found one.”

“… As much as I want to hear wherever this is going, I need you to back up and tell me exactly why you’re at the hospital with Midoriya in the first place, since… y’know…”

“You think I’ve got an answer? Apparently I’m his emergency contact! Fuck!”

Silence. And then, “Let’s… let’s put that on the shelf and come back to it. You already see symptoms?”

He wanted to slam his head into the wall. He wanted to throw himself directly out of the window and take off running. He wanted to march back into that room and kiss Izuku hard enough to pretend the last year never happened. “He… forgot. He doesn’t fucking remember!” Bile rose in his throat, hot and acidic. “He forgot we broke up!”

Oh.” Kirishima choked out. Of all the people privy to the more intimate details of Katsuki’s life, Kirishima was the only one who knew how deep his self-loathing ran when it came to his and Izuku’s less-than-amicable split.

“He looked so happy to see me. He kissed me. I don’t—”

“Okay, wait, before you start freaking out—more than you already have, I mean,” Kirishima amended, at Katsuki’s quiet snort. “Just look at this from an outsider’s perspective. He’s gonna remember at some point, and maybe if you help him out, you guys won’t have to be so awkward around each other from now on. You wanna be friends again, right?”

“Obviously.” He could hear the hesitance in his voice, and he knew Kirishima could, too.

“I know it’s not the ideal, but…” Kirishima trailed off, trusting Katsuki to understand exactly what he meant. “It’s not gonna be easy, dude. Not with, you know, your feelings n’ stuff. Not to sound cheesy… but don’t you think that makes you a good choice to look after him right now?”

A non-committal grunt was about as good as he could do, in lieu of actual words.

“Alright. You good, bro? I got patrol in the morning so I should go. Oh, make sure you tell the doc about the symptoms, though. He said anything weird, right? This obviously qualifies.”

“… Right. Yeah. Bye.”

Not a moment after he hung up, the doctor’s voice rang out from down the hall behind him. “There you are, Bakugou-san. One of the nurses is removing Midoriya-san’s IV and getting him ready to go. I have the paperwork here, if everything’s in order and you’re ready.”

Everything was not exactly in order, no. Tell the doctor, Kirishima had said.

Tell the doctor.

Tell him.

“… Yeah,” Katsuki turned, shoulders set. “Yeah, I’m ready.”

Chapter Text

It was past 1 a.m. by the time Katsuki had signed the release paperwork and finished getting the rundown from the doctor. (The fact that he was still willing to deal with the abrasive explosion hero despite his admittedly shitty attitude over the whole situation gained him an exorbitant amount of respect, in Katsuki’s book.) Instructions for Izuku’s care were explicitly clear: make sure he’s well rested, no strenuous activity, report any changes in mood or behaviour immediately.

“Here’s my card, please call me directly with any concerns.”

Katsuki flipped the card in his hand, calculating. Should’ve known they wouldn’t play games when it came to the Symbol of Peace’s mental state. He tucked it into his pocket. “What happens if he shows symptoms after all? Will they go away?”

“It certainly depends on what the actual issue is, but most symptoms we’d be expecting to see are minor and improve with time. Confusion, forgetfulness, dizziness… things of that nature. Generally they’d only be cause for concern after a prolonged period of time. I’m more concerned with if his breathing is off, slurred speech, blurry vision, muscle weakness, or seizures. All unlikely, but not impossible.”

The glint of the fluorescent hospital lights off his glasses immediately brought Four Eyes to mind. Katsuki snorted softly at the idea of him zooming into the hospital and chopping him to a metaphorical death for not immediately setting the record straight with Izuku. He sobered upon realizing the doctor’s eyebrows had hiked into his hair, likely trying to decipher if Katsuki found Izuku’s situation amusing in some way. “Yeah, alright. I’ll keep an eye out.”

“Anything else? If you’re satisfied, Midoriya-san’s IV should be removed by now, so he’ll be ready to go.”

“Nah. Thanks, doc.” Edging down the hallway and away from the vaguely clinical gaze of the doctor was less of a relief than he’d anticipated. Every step was one step closer to Izuku—an Izuku who put his faith in Katsuki, trusted him, loved him. It was a breath of fresh air as much as it was a dagger to the heart; his Izuku had seen the worst of him… and finally come to his senses, too. Their past had to catch up sooner or later, and Katsuki supposed three years was sooner, in the grand scheme. Scrubbing his hands over his eyes in frustration, he stalled. Izuku was practically a walking zombie at this point; trying to pinpoint how much he remembered—or didn’t remember—would be a useless venture for the next few hours, at least. That his memory loss seemed to fall in line with the whole set of ‘head injury issues’ was only a minor reassurance. Regardless of the circumstances, the current reality remained unchanged, and Katsuki had to deal with it as best he knew how.

What that entailed, exactly? He’d figure that out on the fly.

A new set of issues was rapidly arising: Izuku had to go somewhere, and he had to go with supervision. Dropping the reckless idiot at his apartment and fucking off wasn’t an option, and Katsuki wasn’t delusional enough to think he could stomach a night in a place that he could no longer call his home. Izuku did some real stupid shit, like rattle his brain in his skull like a baby toy, but two things his ex could never be called were unobservant or unintelligent. It frustrated Katsuki to no end that his only option was to walk Izuku into an apartment where not a trace of him or the (former) relationship between them existed.

He’d purged every inch of it in a fit of rage and despair, only to spill hot, self-loathing tears over the last vestiges of proof of their relationship: a charred picture of them slow-dancing at Todoroki and Yaoyorozu’s wedding.

The looming expanse of hallway left in front of him felt like something directly out of a horror movie. If he made it to the end, would he make it out alive? Maybe whatever was behind that door would grant him some small mercy in the form of an early grave.

Maybe he wanted it to.

Katsuki was not a man to back down, never a man to step away from his challenges—but he’d grown, and maturity brought him knowledge enough to know that his real weakness came in the form of one Midoriya Izuku. This whole situation was a direct test of his will.

Perhaps that was the reason he was willing to face it the same way he faced anything else that lay in his path: head on, full power.

With steeled resolve, Katsuki’s shoes clicked ominously against the tile as he tread forward, towards his past—towards his future, if things had gone differently. The door was already ajar, prompting Katsuki to suck in a deep breath and shoulder his way into the room, eyes only finding the other man upon the assured safety of privacy.

In a moment that shouldn’t have been surprising, the door clicking shut behind him resonated through the room like a gunshot. Realization hit hard and fast: Izuku and himself, alone in a room for the first time in an entire year. The warm sweat pooling in the divots between fingers contrasted wildly with the cold sweat chilling the back of his neck. Izuku was seated upright on his hospital bed, feet planted firmly on the floor and hands curling tightly into the mattress in what was probably an effort to keep himself upright. The whole scene screamed classic Deku; a real yeah-I-sat-up-on-my-own-even-though-the-nurse-said-to-wait-for-help-hey-why-are-you-getting-mad situation that summed up his childhood friend’s entire 24 years. Typical. Some distant part of his brain catalogued that Izuku’s response time to realize someone else had joined him in the room was pathetically slow. Any villain could have taken out the incapacitated Symbol of Peace six ways to Sunday in half that time. Turns out he needed supervision for more reasons than one.

The tattered remains of Izuku’s hero suit had clearly been discarded in favour of some drab hospital pyjama-like pants and the ugliest, boxiest beige piece of shit that apparently was supposed to resemble a shirt. Izuku was too out of it to be offended at having a glorified paper bag shoved onto his body, but that was fine. Katsuki could be offended for both of them. The moment Izuku’s eyes shifted from the ground to meet his own, Katsuki could’ve sworn he felt his heartbeat turn erratic, all thoughts of his outfit flying out the window. Had he been the one hooked up to the monitor, the doctors would likely be running a crash cart in by now, or whatever the hell they did when your heart went too fast for its own good. The full force of Izuku’s smile directed at him like this was too much—as if it were a drug, and his tolerance had decreased to practically nothing in the time they’d been apart.

His ribcage felt too tight to breathe.

“Deku, what the fuck.” The double-meaning would be lost on Izuku, but it was better that way. “I’m not the head injury police but I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to take it easy.”

“Sorry, Kacchan. Kept falling asleep. Also,” A small smile overtook Izuku’s tired features, big eyes sparkling with amusement up at Katsuki from underneath his bangs. “They have those. They’re called doctors.”

“Sh— … shut up.” God, was he stuttering? Like four and a half minutes in and his brain was already turning to mush. Hey, Google, how do you play it cool in front of the man you used to date but still kinda love and now sorta-kinda loves you back but only due to the cruel cogs of fate and also for a Limited Time Only™?

Oh, no results? Peachy.

Izuku’s whole body wobbled dangerously, betraying the effort to stay sitting upright on his own. Three large strides had Katsuki at his side, in his space, reaching out to place a stabilizing hand at his elbow. “You’re so damn stubborn.”

“Kacchan?” Izuku mumbled, reaching out to fist his scarred hand into Katsuki’s shirt and decidedly ignoring the comment. “I’m sleepy. Are we going home?”

The full-body shiver that overtook him was visceral. Home. Everything from Izuku’s mouth felt so right in the same way that it felt so wrong. No matter what he’d give to be able to get to the point to do things over between them, this Izuku wasn’t his Izuku. Not really.

“Yeah, nerd. Can you walk?”

“Mhm.” He hummed, fingers wrapping tightly around Katsuki’s bicep as he hefted himself to his feet with significantly more effort than normal. “… Just don’t leave me behind, okay?”

“I’m not gonna leave you behind, Deku.” Couldn’t if I wanted to.

Not if the last year was any indication.

Sliding an arm loosely around Izuku’s waist as a safety net, Katsuki urged him gently towards the door. “Okay. Let’s go the fuck home.”




Oversight number one: because old habits died very hard, the rush of worry and panic that had taken Katsuki over immediately nixed any realistic transportation options and left him to explode his way to the hospital.

Fingertips tapped a steady staccato beat against his thigh as Katsuki phoned for a taxi: a leftover habit from his younger years, rarely seen, and for good reason. ‘Nervous’ was not a word most people would attribute to Ground Zero, not when he was a man well-known for snarking belligerently in the faces of villains who struck fear into the mass populous. Nerves didn’t have a place in his life as a hero. No, it was a feeling specifically reserved for his personal life, with Izuku as the recipient more often than he’d like to admit.

Not that the green-haired nerd was really privy to that information, either.

Shifting forward to rest elbows against his knees, Katsuki confirmed their location once more with the operator, blowing out a noisy exhale as the other party clicked off. Having to call a dedicated company that catered to heroes and the like was generally more of a pain in the ass than it was worth, but he’d sucked it up for once in favour of keeping their business out of the Sunday gossip mill. It would do exactly fuck all to help with his current list of problems to see ‘Symbol of Peace and #2 Hero Ground Zero Caught Sneaking Off Together at 2 a.m.!’ blasted over his newsfeed when he woke up. A cursory glance at the aforementioned showed mostly speculation on Deku’s injuries, a relieving lack of himself to be found anywhere in the equation. Settled on a bench outside the hospital’s entrance, Katsuki could at least be thankful that it was early enough in the morning to be lacking in the sheer number of curious gazes they would have attracted during the day.

A clack to his left brought Katsuki promptly back to the present, swinging a gaze towards the man beside him. “What the hell was tha—” Oh. It was Izuku’s teeth literally chattering, an attempt at generating some body heat from what little energy he had left.

Oversight number two: a tired Izuku was a cold Izuku.

“Why didn’t you say something, idiot?!” Katsuki bit off, more annoyed that he hadn’t thought to bring a sweater, or a blanket, or a portable fucking heater in the first place. He was awfully out of practice at this whole… boyfriend business.

As if you were ever really good at it in the first place, his mind supplied helpfully. Pretend boyfriend. Make believe. Fake. Fake. Fake.

“I-I-I d-didn’t wa-a-nt t-t—”

“Cut the shit, Deku. You ain’t gonna let any shitty villain kill you, but hypothermia damn well might.” He was already shrugging out of his leather jacket as the words left his mouth, leaning over to slide the sleeve gingerly up the arm with the formerly dislocated shoulder. The other arm followed, Izuku’s cheeks tinting slightly as the warmed leather settled against his frigid skin. “… There. Now you don’t look like a walking potato sack.”

“Kacchan!” Izuku protested, burying his nose into the collar as much as possible. “I don’t look… like…” His voice trailed off, mouth splitting into a yawn.

He snorted. Light from the hospital and the street illuminated Izuku’s face at odd angles, a stark contrast between the soft glow of his eyes and the purple bruises littering his skin. The man was no stranger to a beating, but it would be a blatant lie to admit that Katsuki ever got used to it. “Don’t argue. You only get to argue when you don’t get your ass put in the hospital.”

“That’s mean, Kacchan. It’s not like I did it on purpose.”

Despite Izuku’s tone only conveying exhaustion and the smallest hint of amusement, Katsuki still felt goosebumps erupt over his arms, skin prickling uncomfortably. It was as if all of his nerve endings had been exposed at the same time, leaving him slightly numb from overstimulation.

“It’s not like I put myself into danger on purpose, Katsuki!”

The words hit too close to memories left buried. The faintly smouldering scent of his own stress reached his nose. Izuku looked very much like he wanted to question the sudden mood shift, but some higher power must have felt a touch of pity. The familiar paint job of the hero-licensed taxi pulling up beside them had Katsuki off the bench as fast possible, using the welcome distraction to wipe his clammy hands off against the front of his pants. The action brought back a flood of memories from high school: trying every antiperspirant available on the market, countless hours of research on ‘more hand sweat, less everywhere-else sweat,’ constant jeers from his so-called friends about his inability to keep a shirt dry and that one time Izuku had laughed and said he thought it was kinda cute. So he was a sweaty, dumbass teenager once, sue him—now he was a sweaty, dumbass man who’s post-puberty body seemed to have forgotten the memo.

Hopefully Izuku still found it endearing.

Pushing through the hesitation rising in his gut, Katsuki reached back to offer his slightly-less-sweaty hand in assistance. Either Izuku misunderstood his intentions or didn’t particularly care, because scarred fingers laced between his own and held on with the monstrous show of strength that the Symbol of Peace was well known for. The man forgot his own raw power more than should strictly be acceptable for a hero of his caliber, but suffice it to say, Katsuki kinda missed getting accidentally manhandled by him—and he’d take that to the grave, thank you very much.

The taxi ride was tense, admittedly—he wasn’t so stupid not to notice the few curious looks that had been cast in their direction by the driver, but Katsuki trusted he knew the force of the wrath that would come down on his head if any word left this car.

What he really took issue with was Izuku, curling into his side, hand in his own, smiling away like there was no place he’d rather be. Even worse, considering their predicament, it may have been the truth. If one good thing came out of this, it was Izuku’s absolute lack of awareness—Katsuki wasn’t sure he’d ever been so tense in his life, and he spent 15 years living in his mom’s house.

“Are you even comfortable like that? Your back’s all twisted and shit.” Katsuki chanced a hushed query, noting that Izuku’s eyelids were firmly shut, and remained that way.

“Noooo,” He slurred, voiced low and inviting, but barely conscious. “Kacchan, you’ve always been comfy.”

Well, shit.





Oversight number three: Everything. All of it. If you needed a license to use a brain, Katsuki would be one braindead motherfucker.

Upon walking Izuku into the apartment, he realized a few crucial things. First, Izuku had none of his own clothes here, so he’d have to a) explain that away or b) give him some of his own clothes or c) do both, which was just the worst. Second, and it was really hilarious that the thought hadn’t so much as crossed his mind before right now, but there was only one bed.

It’s like he was living in a shitty romcom, minus the rom, all the comedy was just at the expense of his life and also, this was the bad end.

Izuku didn’t so much as wait for a word to come out of Katsuki’s mouth before he was stumbling out of his shoes and beelining towards the bedroom. He followed, the scene that greeted him more or less exactly the expected outcome: leather jacket and the sad excuse for a shirt thrown haphazardly onto the ground, and Izuku attempting to bury himself beneath the covers.

Piercing crimson eyes watched him for a long moment, cycling through scenes of Izuku passed out in his bed while he waited for Katsuki to get home from a late shift, Izuku wrapping himself up in twelves blankets in the winter and shedding them all an hour later, Izuku starfished across the mattress and shamelessly taking up both sides, Izuku sprawled out underneath him—

Katsuki tore his gaze away immediately, not willing to dive into that rabbit hole and make the situation worse than it needed to be. Retrieving the jacket from the floor instead—that poor excuse for a shirt was going directly into the garbage—he made to hang it in the closet, tugging a pillow down from storage for good measure.

Staying in here was not an option.

As he moved back towards the door, Katsuki hesitated. Casting a gaze towards Izuku again, where he was bathed in the soft light from the street, he could almost pretend they walked down a different path together.

No pretty scene could erase his guilt. Quietly, he intoned, “… Goodnight.”

To his chagrin, a piercing green gaze landed on him, shifted to the pillow and back again, curiosity and confusion seemingly weaved into the seams of Izuku’s being. “Where are you going?”

“… Couch.”

“Why?” Izuku prodded, and any answer he might have come up with suffocated and died under the questioning gaze of his ex.

The truth was always an option, but what was the protocol for dropping a bomb like ‘we broke the fuck up, like, a year ago’ to a guy who’d been slingshot through a building like he was being used for target practice and was really damn sure that he was in a healthy, loving relationship?

Well, word vomiting it across the room at ass o’clock in the morning was probably a no go.

Before he could go and do something stupid like open his mouth and say words, Izuku continued his own train of thought. “Kacchan, if you’re worried about punching me in my sleep or something, you know I’m not made of glass. I’ll just punch you back.”

Katsuki sucked in a breath and released it in a heavy sigh, pushing bangs out of his vision just to give his itching fingers something to do. Leaving Izuku to sleep in the bed alone was the most logical option, considering the circumstances, but he was at a loss for what excuse to toss out that would make enough sense to get Izuku off his back. Katsuki was loud, but he sure as hell wasn’t stupid—potentially scarring news was better suited for the light of day, and not hours after a beat down when the receiving party could barely keep their eyes open.

“… Tch, should’a known. Try to do somethin’ nice and you shoot me down immediately.” The 3 metres spread like a minefield in front of him; he willed his feet to take the first step forward, or turn and leave. Anything was better than standing in the doorway like he didn’t belong. Izuku was clearly only moments away from sleep, blinking at him blearily. If he let himself drift, Katsuki could escape to the living room without fielding any questions he couldn’t answer. He’d have to buy Recovery Girl a melon or something, for inadvertently helping him by draining Izuku of nearly all his energy. When those big, green eyes seemed content to stay shut, Katsuki took it as his cue to go.

Izuku’s stubborn streak hadn’t died in their separation, it seemed.

As he turned to make a hasty retreat, the bed rustled, just a bit—and he made the mistake of turning to look, because of course he did. Izuku had reached out, hand resting on the bed palm up, one eye cracked open just enough to catch his own gaze and hold it like it was Izuku’s to keep forever. “Kacchan,” He mumbled, fingers flexing slightly. “Please?”

Fuck. Whatever resolve he’d built shattered in an instant. His feet were already carrying him to the bed when he made the decision to stay, a rare loss of self-control. It didn’t surprise him as much as it infuriated him, but that was a problem for tomorrow-Katsuki.

The pillow thumped gently against Izuku’s head, a signal left over from their U.A. days to shove over and make some room. Unsurprisingly, he complied immediately, rolling over to allow Katsuki space.

It was the near-immediate retraction of said space that had the explosion hero tensing up when Izuku wound his arm around Katsuki’s and commandeered him as a personal pillow. The Symbol of Peace was already drooling onto his shoulder, blissfully unaware of the rest of the world.

Double fuck.

If he managed to fall asleep that fast, he’d definitely be tired come morning.




Tired was the understatement of the century. Izuku, the Patron Saint of going to bed at 2 a.m. and waking up at 5:30, did what Katsuki never thought he would see in his lifetime: slept in past noon.

And then past 1.

And 1:30.

At 1:52 p.m., with a warped groan, Izuku finally emerged from the bedroom, just as Katsuki was starting to wonder if he’d oscillated into a parallel dimension sometime between yesterday and right now.

And Katsuki, he barely slept—in fact, he couldn’t say with any level of certainty that he did sleep. It was 50/50 as to whether he spent the night dreaming or having weird, vivid hallucinations in the dark. He’d started cooking to calm his nerves and distract his thoughts several hours before, when laying still in bed began to feel suffocating. It worked a little too well, because Izuku snapping him out of his daze clued him into the fact that he was now surrounded by more meal prep than would realistically fit into his fridge AND freezer. “… Shit.”

Breaking the silence seemed to jostle Izuku out of his slow wake up, head on a swivel until he found Katsuki in the kitchen.

Their eyes locked.

Neither said a word, Izuku’s face impassive. He felt like prey. Confused prey. Confused prey in an apron with a flipper in his hand, caught red-handed as if it was a weird occurrence to cook his own food in his own damn kitchen. As stupidly cheesy as it sounded, keeping a realistic sense of time around Izuku was as near-impossible as it always had been. Time spent with him used to feel much too short, while moments like this spread far too long. Izuku seemed to be scrutinizing him, looking for something. The silence felt too much like what he was used to. “De—”

“Morning,” Izuku interrupted suddenly, his gaze softening dramatically and voice raspy from sleep. “Kacchan.”

Several thoughts run through his head rapidly: Morning, Deku. It feels like I’m dreaming about you standing in front of me right now. I dreamed about this a lot, you know? I want to go back, let me go back, let me make it right, I didn’t mean it. How can I be Kacchan when Deku won’t even look me in the eye? Are you really Deku if you don’t know the shit that I did? Do you love me? Could you love me again?

Instead, he says: “It’s the afternoon, but nice try.”

“It’s the what?” Izuku repeated, confusion colouring his tone. The microwave confirmed that, yes, it was indeed nearing the middle of the day. “… Oh. Wow.”

“Yeah, wow. You hungry? I’ve got…” He gestured vaguely to the ridiculous amount of containers cooling on the counter. “Food.”

“Starving.” Izuku admitted, sliding into his usual place at the table like he’d never left. Katsuki’s heart twisted. “Do you s—st—” His words stuttered and halted on his tongue, face twisting into an expression Katsuki immediately pinned as frustration. His Dekureader was still perfectly functional, thanks; one measly year apart couldn’t destroy nearly a lifetime of their weird penchant to read the other when no one else could. “Sorry,” Izuku mumbled, eyes locked squarely on a particularly interesting section of the table. Katsuki mentally scribbled stuttering into the number two spot on his Izuku Symptoms List, right smack beneath am-fucking-nesia. “What I was gonna say was, whatever has the least spice, please.”

Ah, right.

He’d stopped turning all his dishes into the unholy nightmares of all white people when Izuku started eating his food more frequently, adding spice in after the fact and seasoning Izuku’s to whatever stupid specification he could muster. Never broke the habit after that; every dish spread out on the counter was mild as fuck and just as boring.

Gaze turned on the makeshift buffet, Katsuki smacked his lips. “None of them have spice yet, so pick whatever you want.” From the corner of his eye, Katsuki noticed Izuku perk up, eyes bright and focused. “Actually, hold up. I made katsudon, it’s just buried somewhere in this mess.” He would not admit he knew exactly where it is, and that he actually made the dish three separate times so it could be conveniently hot whenever Izuku happened to roll out of bed. It was only upon “finding” and setting the dish down in front of the green-haired man did Katsuki clue in to what he was wearing: a black, loose shirt and black, freakishly tight sweatpants that definitely didn’t belong to him.

“—Are those mine?” He blurted thoughtlessly, like he wasn’t completely aware of the damn answer.

Izuku halted his chopsticks directly above the bowl, shifting to peer up at him from under his messy bangs. It was like the little shit knew how disarming it was and weaponized it under duress. “Y-yeah… Why?”

Why indeed. A normal boyfriend wouldn’t be chapped over it, and past him wouldn’t have been either. Present him was a little miffed, though. “… Because you didn’t shower yet, genius.” Pretty good save, considering.

Izuku hummed in sudden understanding. Oh, nice, Katsuki. Way to get your ex unnecessarily naked in your apartment. The sarcasm in his head sat heavier than he could ever express out loud.

“Oh. Right. Um… To be honest, I forgot. Sorry, Kacchan.” Izuku had the decency to look sheepish about it, at least.

“Oi, s’fine, nerd. Just eat. You can take one after or whatever.” The chair rattled, screeching slightly across the floor from the full weight of a body thrown into it.

The other man didn’t need to be told twice, returning to the bowl with a murmur of ‘itadakimasu!’ and devouring the damn thing in record speed. Katsuki would have been impressed, had his thoughts not been preoccupied with more pressing matters. Silence stretched between them—Katsuki, not willing to fill it and Izuku, unable to.

It was messed up, the situation. No longer the kid who insisted he was right til the bitter end, Katsuki could admit his faults. In the end, the blood of their break up had fallen on his hands. He was mature enough to admit it, and smart enough to accept it—but one thing he could never own up to was wanting it. There was no shame in admitting that Izuku had been his world, even after they went their separate ways.

This wasn’t real, it wasn’t anything, but it might as well have been for all the amount that it was eating him up inside.

Him, breaking up with Izuku? What a cosmic fucking joke.

Izuku excused himself quietly to shower, only receiving a grunt of acknowledgment from the blond. His expression must have been severe, because the other man didn’t press, and Katsuki only lingered at the table for several more minutes until he swept back into the kitchen like a hurricane. All this time alone with his thoughts was a slow form of torture—something, anything to focus on instead was a blessing. First, dishes scrubbed clean with all the violent fury Ground Zero was known for. Next, a rousing game of fridge tetris on hard mode, which Katsuki had to bitterly admit defeat to after 15 minutes of reorganizing.

Fuck anything at the back of his fridge for the next two weeks. He had to fight through the war zone at the front first.

His squad of losers would just have to take whatever was left off his hands.

With nothing logical left to do, it was the decision to alphabetize the cabinets that sealed his demise. “Um, Kacchan?” Izuku hadn’t damaged his ability to sneak up on someone, it seemed. Katsuki jerked his head upwards in surprise, catching it on the underside of a shelf in the process.

AH, FFF—! SHIT, GODDAMN IT—” Another string of muffled curses followed before the blond extracted himself. “Deku! What the hell?! Announce your presence, asshole!”

“That was me announcing my presence.” He sounded smug.

“Tch.” At least he managed to stand and orient himself without causing any further embarrassment. Upon inspection, Izuku had pulled his still-damp hair into a small, messy ponytail. He was wearing a new pair of clothes. Katsuki’s, naturally.

A different pair then earlier. His bitchass mind felt the need to remind. It looked good, but he’d just tuck that opinion in his back pocket and try not to dwell. “Whatever, Deku, go sit on the couch or somethin’. I’m gonna make some tea.”

“I’ll help!” He clearly meant well, but if Katsuki didn’t get a wall between himself and Izuku in the next 60 seconds, he was going to spontaneously combust—and not in the fun, explodey way.

“Hell no. I just organized this shit. Go chill out for a minute and maybe I’ll make you peach honey bullshit that you like.”

Izuku blinked. “You have my favourite?”

Funnily enough, Izuku was in the right to be surprised—the only reason the pastel coloured box graced his tea stash at all was pure muscle memory. He’d made it all the way through the tea aisle, the cashier, the walk home, and unpacking half the groceries before the realization smacked him in the face. It was pure dumb luck, but past him would have had it, so instead he simply quipped, “Obviously.

The smile he received was soft, gentle, and absolutely deadly.

Katsuki’s grip on the counter tightened uncomfortably, only just managing to stop himself from slamming his forehead into the nearest hard surface. His thoughts raced, nearing levels that only Izuku would really understand. For as far as his explode first, ask questions later persona reached to the public, his friends and coworkers understood his analytical nature. It was all about the balance between information, instinct, and action.

What he wouldn’t give to be able to use Kirishima as a 50/50 punching bag and therapist in that very moment. He excelled at both.

He heated the kettle and prepared the cups on autopilot, too focused on the sounds of Izuku shuffling around a wall away to keep his attention grounded. Katsuki watched his own gaze stare back at him from the darkened liquid, expression steely.

Some things were asking too much, even for heroes.

“Hey, Kacchan?” Izuku’s voice carried from the other room. “Why’s your plant all over the floor?”

Katsuki stiffened. Honestly, it’d slipped his mind entirely, clearly not high on the list of priorities. He wasn’t particularly itching to explain to the other man how he’d javelined the remote through it out of surprise. Instead of coming up with a reasonable excuse, the blond exited the kitchen with two steaming mugs, casting a withering look at the shattered pot as he did so. “‘Cause I broke it.”

“Um, I can see that. I meant why did you break it?”

The mugs thudded heavily onto the coffee table. “It owed me money. What do you want me to say? It’s just broken. Here. Tea.

Like he was trying to piece together a puzzle, green eyes stayed trained on the remnants of the flowerpot. It was T-10 until the mumbling started, Katsuki could feel it in his bones. “Deku, stop staring at the damn dirt on the floor! Come here before this shit gets cold.”

“Sorry! It’s just… do you know that your remote’s buried in here? Did you plant your remote?”

“Are you trying to piss me off?!”

Izuku’s answer was a cheeky grin. “No, but I seem to do a pretty good job anyway.” The food had clearly given him some energy, but Katsuki could see it in the way he moved—Izuku was bone-tired, and trying not to let it get to him. The remote he retrieved thunked against the wood of the table—if Izuku noticed the burnt imprints of Katsuki’s fingertips, he didn’t comment on it. He sunk into the cushion, finally, reaching for the cup like it would solve all his problems. “Thank you for the tea. My throat’s pretty sore. I think I inhaled a bunch of dust.”

“Mm.” His answering hum was not one made from conscious effort. The realization was slowly dawning on him that this was the culmination of their last 12 hours together, and his time to play make believe was swiftly coming to a close. The back of his neck prickled uncomfortably. Before he could stop it, words were spilling from his lips, deliberately avoiding the lone responsibility he’d been saddled with. “You better not have used all the hot water. I’m taking a shower.”

The mug paused halfway to his lips, Izuku seemingly content to let it warm his hands for the time being. “Weren’t you just getting on my case about letting my tea get cold?”

“Hey, fuck you, I like cold chai.”

“You don’t!”

Had him by the balls there. “Maybe I also forgot to shower. Ever thought of that, asshole?”

“That’s unlike you, Kacchan.” Izuku teased, hiding his grin behind the rim of the mug.

“Yeah, well, shit changes,” The rumble under his breath was enough for Izuku to fix him with a curious gaze. Katsuki ignored it. “Whatever. I’m gonna shower, I’ll be back.” He was just pushing back the inevitable, he knew that, but it felt too soon.

But it was always going to feel that way, wasn’t it?

Without another word exchanged between them, Katsuki stalked away. Wrestling his clothes off along the way to the bathroom, he flung them violently into his laundry bin in an attempt to take out the frustration simmering just under his skin.

Upon entering, he had to immediately curb the thoughts that surfaced about Izuku being naked in here only a short time before. He needed some boner-killing thoughts, like, yesterday.

Mild salsa.

Cheetah print.

Kirishima’s crocs.

Kaminari’s drooly face.

Todoroki. Just, like, in general.

A weird, freaky mashup of all of ‘em. Yeah, that would work. Katsuki pushed his forehead into the cool tile, willing himself to get a damn grip and stop acting like he was a horny 18 year old with a massive crush. The heat of the shower curled the heavy scent of his Quirk into the air and flooded the room. The humidity was oppressive. It felt difficult to get a full breath in, but Katsuki wouldn’t put any money on that being from the rising steam.

By the time he stepped out, his skin was turning a pale shade of pink, looking as raw as he felt. Even taking his sweet time to dry his hair and get dressed rubbed him the wrong way, a sense of finality settling with every movement he made towards getting back out there and offering Izuku the truth.

Even Katsuki could only put off the inevitable for so long.

When he emerged, he found Izuku scribbling away on a notepad.

“What’s that, nerd?”

Izuku reflexively slapped his hand over the notepad in alarm, relaxing only slightly when he realized who was speaking. “N-nothing!”

Katsuki eyed him curiously, brows furrowing to their usual level of discontent. He’d always been secretive about his notes, even the ones about a certain explosion hero—especially the ones about a certain explosion hero. Katsuki had a small suspicion, unconfirmed of course, that they hadn’t been just Quirk analysis notes.

He briefly wondered if Izuku kept them.

Who was he kidding? Of course he did. The nerd was nothing if not meticulous. He likely still updated them too, but it certainly wasn’t out of some kind of misplaced sentimentality, as much as Katsuki would like to believe so.

He probably thought Katsuki was gonna yell at him for taking notes on the villain that kicked his ass, or something. “Yeah, whatever. I’ve known you long enough to not fall for that sorry excuse for a lie, but I’ll leave it alone.” Izuku looked relieved. Katsuki collapsed into the couch next to him, a fair distance separating the pair. “Alright, look. I gotta talk to you about something.”

Izuku fell into silence, in the way that he often did when he was giving Katsuki the space to work through his thoughts. The man had always had a disproportionate amount of patience reserved specifically for his childhood friend. Katsuki was simultaneously grateful for the space, and piqued by the silence, especially being punctuated by Izuku’s rapt attention.

Having those eyes on him was not good for his heart.

“Look, you remember the villain from yesterday, right?” Upon Izuku’s nod, Katsuki continued. “And all that stuff’s clear? You remember getting your ass beat?”

The scowl settled deeply on the green-haired man’s features. “I didn’t get my ass beat. I got Kirishima up! And broke the villain’s arm!”

“And then got pelted into a building, yeah.”

“I don’t remember much of the hospital, and the ambulance ride is hazy.” He redirected the conversation immediately, clearly not pleased with the current direction it was headed in.

“That it?”

“… What else is there?” The Symbol of Peace immediately paled. “Did I do something embarrassing? Kacchan, tell me I didn’t do anything embarrassing!”

Does forgetting our break up count? ‘Cause if not, then no, you’re fine. “Nothing stupid like that.” Not necessarily, but in actuality, it all came down to how embarrassing Izuku thought it would be to act like he had any feelings for the guy that had no problem trampling on his own. Katsuki was just going to pretend that thought didn’t sting. Okay, out with it already.

“… Look. Izuku, you—”

Soft lips pressed to his own cut the thought short, effectively ceasing all attempts to spill the truth. Izuku was soft and pliable, where Katsuki was hard planes and tense lines; he willed himself to calm, feeling his control snapping piece by delicate piece. The shorter man hummed against him and pressed just a little harder, inviting. The dam in Katsuki’s mind practically shattered, lips molding against the intimately familiar pair. Without another thought spared to all the reasons he shouldn’t, Katsuki focused on the one reason he should: he damn well wanted to.

Katsuki supposed he fit into the ‘pining ex’ category. The movements were unpracticed, almost awkward. His hands were still planted firmly against the back of the couch and in his lap, respectively. It sounded so stupid to say, especially since Ground Zero was nearing the top of the eligible bachelor list put out by trashy magazines every year, but he was rusty with this whole intimacy thing. Since the break up, the thought of finding someone else never crossed his mind. For him, there never was anyone else.

When they pulled apart from the kiss, he already knew it was game over.

“Sorry, Kacchan.” Izuku mumbled, pressing his cheek firmly against Katsuki’s before pulling back. “I know you were trying to say something—It’s just…” He worried his bottom lip, finishing in a small voice. “I couldn’t help myself.”

“I just... I was—I am... worried, alright?” He finished lamely, already ready to kick his own ass for taking the easy way out. The words were sincere, but just another statement veiled with a half-truth in the end.

“Really?” Izuku asked, like it shouldn’t have been obvious. His head tilted into Katsuki’s palm, ever a symbol of trust between them.

“Of course, idiot!” Katsuki snapped, annoyed. Whether he was annoyed at Izuku, himself, the situation, all of it—he couldn’t say. He wanted to be angry that Izuku would assume he no longer cared just because they broke up, but that wasn’t what was happening here, and Katsuki knew it. “Don’t seem so surprised. This is why people think I’m an asshole.”

“… I’m not sure that’s why people think you’re—”

“Shut up."

“Mm.” Izuku murmured, clearly not giving a fuck as he invaded Katsuki’s personal space, head settling on his chest. Katsuki’s hands hovered dumbly for several seconds before he settled one in Izuku’s hair and the other on his back. “I would never want to worry you on purpose, but it makes me happy that you do anyway.” Izuku’s stifled a yawn with the back of his hand, letting his eyes fall closed. “Kacchan, can we watch a movie?”

“You’re not gonna last five minutes.”

“Wanna bet?” Izuku challenged, despite how heavy his voice sounded. “I won’t fall asleep.”

“Uh huh.” Katsuki angled his body to pluck the remote from the table, dropping it into the other’s hands. “I can smell your bullshit from a mile away, but fine. Pick something.”

Unsurprisingly, Izuku headed right for the documentaries. Katsuki watched, if only because there were things he’d rather focus on but shouldn’t, gaze narrowing as Izuku stalled at the ‘watch it again’ section. He peeled his big eyes away from the screen, scrutinizing the blond. “… ‘The Swan Princess’?” He was clearly trying not to laugh.

“I didn’t watch that!” Katsuki protested. “Shitty Hair uses my profile even though he’s got his own damn account!”

“Right.”

“Fuck you, Deku. Don’t gimme that shit.”

Izuku giggled in turn, continuing down the list. The hero documentaries category was extensive, but he filtered through them like he knew the order by heart. When he settled, it was on a fairly old documentary about the recently graduated group of gifted heroes—former class 1-A. Their class. Familiar scenarios flitted across the screen, memories that Katsuki hadn’t thought of in years. The two of them settled, and his body relaxed. As much as possible, anyway.

To Izuku’s credit, he lasted ten minutes.

Katsuki didn’t know if that meant he lost the bet or not, but he’d take it either way—some space to think without Izuku’s stifling presence. Sort of.

A vibration in his pocket had him digging out the phone carefully, an attempt to not wake the man sleeping on his chest. Several texts from Kirishima lit up the screen.

 

Shitty Hair

 

hey bro!
how’s midoriya?
heard from the agency that he’s out for awhile

yeah. a week at least
he’s fine
fell asleep watching a movie
btw stop fucking with my netflix asshole, i’ll change the password
you can pay for your own, freeloader

i have no knowledge of what you’re referring to :)

big words for you
do i look like the kinda guy who watches the swan princess?

do you want me to answer that?

do you want me to kick your ass?

so anyway!
bunch of us are gonna hang tomorrow
laser tag or something!
wanna go?

recovery girl will have my ass on a platter if i do “strenuous physical activity” or whatever
think that counts
also the lights won’t be good for deku’s head
we’ll pass

…um, midoriya wants to come?
not that he can’t!
it’s just
figured things might be awkward between you two?

can’t leave him alone, shitty hair
doc’s orders

oh shoot!
i totally forgot
my bad man
it’s okay!
we’ll pick something else so we can all go out and have fun
midoriya’s gonna go stir crazy sitting around for a week
pick you guys up at 11!


Crimson eyes looked over the last few messages with fluctuating amounts of surprise. It ranged from the dull realization that he should have seen his best friend’s reaction coming in the first place, to the fact that he’d conveniently forgotten Kirishima assumed that Katsuki wasn’t a complete asshole and was the kind of man who’d tell Izuku the truth outright to save them both the pain later.

“Fucking fantastic.” Katsuki breathed, shoving the phone violently back into his pocket, thoughts of keeping Izuku asleep temporarily forgotten. The documentary played softly in the background, cycling through facts that he had already heard a thousand times—lived a thousand times. His head thumped heavily against the back of the couch. Kirishima had long since stopped listening to his friend’s excuses—he’d show up regardless of whether Katsuki protested or not. His poorly crafted house of cards was already crumbling to pieces.

The hand that had been absentmindedly rubbing circles against the small of Izuku’s back curled gently into his shirt. The green-haired man looked so peaceful with his cheek squished against Katsuki’s chest.

As his own eyelids began to fall, the only thought running through Katsuki’s mind was let this last a little longer. Please let this last just a little longer.

Chapter Text

The funny thing about being single for a year was that waking up next to someone—situational necessity be damned—sent his body into full panic mode the moment consciousness unclouded his brain.

Katsuki sat up like a rocket, fighting the last dredges of sleep, his instinct to explode on principle, and Izuku’s sleepy iron grip. His eyes traced the edges of the room, searching for some reason to explain away the trepidation coursing through his veins. Nothing presented itself, of course, as was the way of the world—never on his side, evidently.

“Kacchan? What’s wrong?” Izuku slurred slightly, his face still buried into a pillow.

The previous night fast forwarded like a movie reel behind Katsuki’s eyes. Lounging on the couch, a sleepy dinner of leftovers spent side by side. Real domestic shit that launched his heartbeat into mile-a-minute territory. At the very least, a merciful god was looking down from somewhere; Katsuki was sure he’d combust on the spot if Izuku mentioned sex or anything adjacent.

It was like he was eighteen again and losing all of his shit trying not to pop a boner anytime they hit the showers after hero training. Knock on wood.

Not that kinda wood.

“Ugh. Nothin’.” He dropped his face into his palm. “Think I was having a nightmare.” Izuku’s eyes didn’t open, but his eyebrows did fold downwards in concern.

“S’okay.” Sunlight filtered through the window and bounced off every surface, a perfect excuse for Katsuki to pretend he was blinded by anything other than the weight of his own feelings. “I wouldn’t let anything happen t’you, Kacchan.”

Something he couldn’t quite name rose to the surface, a well of emotion trying not to overflow. His throat tightened uncomfortably. Reaching cross-body, he tugged the green-haired man none too gently into his embrace. Under the scent of Katsuki’s clothes and sheets and body wash, Izuku’s own still lingered.

It had taken ages to stop finding things that smelled like Izuku after he left.

“Mmh?” The man on top of him rumbled, in lieu of forming an actual question. His free hand prodded at Katsuki’s arm in short, abortive taps that were probably supposed to be a request for his release. As soon as the blond’s grip loosened, Izuku slid sideways out of his grasp and turned immediately away from the stripe of sun that Katsuki’s side of the bed was caught in.

The two syllables groaned into the bedding were a sound Katsuki admittedly missed hearing. One foot touched down off the bed, and then the other, thundering a whole lot of responsibilities and expectations to the forefront of Katsuki’s mind as managed the monumental task of getting vertical.

“Alright, nerd. Let’s get some coffee.” Silence answered, and when Katsuki swivelled back to look, Izuku was drooling into the pillow once again.

Well, he could probably stand to take a shower first anyway.

Letting the water reach a high enough temperature to colour his skin pink was the most convenient distraction. Without Izuku in the immediate vicinity clouding his thoughts, Katsuki weighed his options: he had several.

One, he could text Kirishima and tell him to piss off so he and Izuku could have the actual conversation he’d been putting off for two days now.

Two, he could try to fake his way through the day and hope nobody said anything stupid. (Ha, ha.)

Three, he could enlist Kirishima’s help. Red Riot might take him on a trip to Asskickville, population Bakugou Katsuki, but an outside perspective would be incredibly helpful right about now.

No, Katsuki mused, roughly scrubbing shampoo from his hair. Secret option four. Change my name, fake my death, and fuck off to America.

As if the universe felt a personal vendetta against his shitty decisions, shampoo dripped off the strands hanging down from his forehead and directly into his eyes. “—Fuck!

Accidental semi-blinding aside, Katsuki survived the shower. Izuku would probably want to get washed up before they left as well; he liked to shower in the morning on days off. The thought paused the blond from vigorously scrubbing the water from his hair; Izuku’s routine was so deeply ingrained that it flooded back in perfect clarity with only the slightest prompting. He was hovering, but Katsuki couldn’t make up his damn mind on how to wake him—or if he even should.

Coffee. The thought cut through everything else. Coffee first, deal with this after.

Begrudgingly, the rest of him had to agree.

The drip of the brewer held his attention, absorbing his anxiety and effectively shutting down the loudest part of his brain. It was easier, he supposed, to keep himself distracted. Izuku was always the one to overthink between the two of them. Katsuki generally let worries fester until they blew up in his face or someone else’s.

Purely by habit, he realized only his own mug had been plucked from the cabinet. He reached up to grab another, but a better idea sprang to mind. It required some digging and nearly knocking a mug off the shelf, but eventually he found it, tucked away and unused for the last year: Izuku’s favourite.

Making their coffee was purely muscle memory, thoughts elsewhere as they had been the last few days. The text notification buzzed in his pocket, snapping him from his musings. He fished it out as soon as Izuku’s coffee was deposited on the table, just to confirm.

 

Shitty Hair

on my way bro!!

i'm overflowing with excitement

i'm gonna pretend you're not being sarcastic


“Kacchan?” Izuku’s tired voice carried from the bedroom.

Bring a pen with you, Kirishima, Katsuki thought bitterly. Gonna need something to sign my death certificate with. “In here.”

A faded and chipped All Might mug sat innocuously on the table, stark against the dark grain of the wood. It was one of the older pieces of merch he owned, signed by All Might on the bottom and by far Izuku’s favourite thing to drink liquid out of—coffee, water, juice, vodka, whatever. He’d readily admit (to anyone who was not Izuku) that the mug had stayed in his cabinets out of spite. Izuku’s favourite, yes, but it was his, even if Katsuki wasn’t sure that his own lips had ever touched the ceramic. The nerd had probably wanted to take it after their break up, but even then, Izuku was just too damn nice.

Katsuki would have let him take it, had Izuku asked, but he chose to ignore that thread and move past it.

Once upon a time, he may have been jealous of the way Izuku’s face lit up in pure glee at the mere sight of coffee, but it was a reaction long since curbed. Caffeine was Izuku’s first love since their debut as pros, Katsuki coming in at second; he’d made his peace with that.

“Is that for me?” Not necessary, since they both knew the answer: Katsuki’s coffee only came blacker than black.

He answered anyway. “Obviously.”

Izuku hummed in delight and took his seat. Crimson eyes tracked the entire movement of the cup from the table to his lips, flicking away moments before Izuku’s eyes opened. “Kacchan! It’s so good!”

“You say that every single time I make you coffee.” He used to.

“It just tastes better when someone else makes it for you!” Izuku challenged.

The edges of Katsuki’s lips twitched, the beginnings of a smirk. “That, too. Ever gonna get any new material?”

“No. You like my material the way it is.” Izuku’s own smile was short-lived, slipping into something more pensive. “Um,” he started, then paused. Katsuki’s head tilted just so; an acknowledgement. “Well, I was wondering—”

A forceful knock silenced the both of them. Katsuki’s lips thinned to a perturbed line, gaze sliding towards the entrance. Izuku cocked his head in curiosity, dropping his last thought for the hope of an explanation. “Expecting someone, Kacchan?”

“Unfortunately.”

“Bakubro! Midoriya!” The door muffled Kirishima’s voice somewhat, but his mirth was clear. “Quit fighting and open up!”

Izuku’s eyebrows shot up. “Is that Kirishima-kun? Are you two hanging out today?”

Katsuki tapped an incongruous beat onto the porcelain of his coffee mug. “No. Well, yeah. We all are.” His volume pitched up as he added, “Quit screaming outside my door, Shitty Hair! I’m gonna get a noise complaint!”

“Lemme in then, Explodey!” the redhead shot back.

“We?” Izuku echoed. “We as in me too?” A single nod from the blond morphed his expression into one of pure consternation. His eyes reminded Katsuki of the old days: they looked very much like they used to whenever Izuku wanted to tell him off for doing something stupid. “K-Kacchan! Why didn’t you warn me?! I haven’t even showered!” The table rattled violently as Izuku shoved himself away, coffee sloshing out onto the wood. “Tell Kirishima-kun I’m sorry!”

Katsuki’s gaze wandered between Izuku’s form hastily retreating into the bathroom and slamming the door, the coffee dripping a pattern onto the floor, and Kirishima’s incessantly annoying whistling from the hallway.

Heaving a sigh as he pushed himself off the counter, Katsuki rolled and set his shoulders. Ready or not, time to ante up.

Yanking the door open nearly got the explosion hero a face full of Kirishima’s first, poised to knock once again.

“Whew.” Kirishima’s low whistle echoed down the hall as he dropped his hand. “Gonna be real with you, Katsuki… you look like shit.”

“Feel like it, too.” he groused. If Kirishima seemed surprised at the lack of a clap back, he didn’t show it. “Get the hell in here. I need to talk to you and you need to shut up and listen ‘cause I gotta talk fast.”

“Morning to you too, I guess—WAH!” Katsuki wasted no time in yanking Kirishima through the doorway by his shirt collar. The guy was more or less manhandled into a chair, but Katsuki didn’t have time to feel remorseful over it.

Not that he would have anyway.

Katsuki busied himself with cleaning the dripping mess Izuku had left behind, attempting to file his thoughts into order. Kirishima watched, unusually silent, until Katsuki couldn’t take it anymore.

“Okay—ugh—why is this so! I don’t know where to even start with this shit.” He came to rest behind the chair across from his friend, about one level of stress away from burning his fingerprints into the back of it.

“Do what you normally do and spit it out in the most blunt way possible?” Kirishima’s advice was usually poor, hence Katsuki’s reflexive reaction to want to punch him—but, no, that could actually work.

“Fine.” He acquiesced, which was damn near as a good as him getting up on the table and waving a red flag back and forth. Kirishima’s eyebrows hiked up. “I didn’t tell Deku anything, he doesn’t know he forgot anything and still thinks we’re dating.”

The air was thick with surprise; Kirishima looked dumbstruck. It was quiet for a few moments, save for the water running in the bathroom. Then: “You WHAT?!”

Katsuki’s hand flew at his face so forcefully that Kirishima reeled back in his chair and nearly acquainted his skull with the kitchen floor.

“Shut up, shut the fuck up! Could you be any louder?!” The shower was still running, but Izuku’s ability to pick up information at the most inconvenient of times was too good to test his own luck.

All four chair legs returned to the ground, Kirishima’s palms flattening against the table to steady himself. His eyes were wide with panic and disappointment and stress. “Katsuki! Are you serious?!”

“It’s not like I haven’t tried! I don’t have some nefarious plot to do weird shit to him or make him forget my mistakes. Every time I try and tell him we just get… distracted by something else.”

Dude.” Kirishima had gone frighteningly pale. “If you’re trying to discreetly say that you had sex with your amnesiac ex-boyfriend I’m going to launch you out the window, nine years of friendship be damned.”

Years of insults, taunts, and having to hear that he came off a lot more like a villain than a hero had hardened his self-image into something nearly untouchable—but as thick as Katsuki’s skin had become, the insinuation that he’d take advantage of Izuku’s trust nearly knocked all the air from his lungs. Eyes flicked away from his friend’s face, to the counter, and then the floor. He felt shame—then rage.

“You know I wouldn’t do that shit, Eijirou!” Katsuki snapped, his teeth grinding together on impact. “What the fuck is wrong with you?!”

A heavy feeling began to drape over him like a blanket, but Kirishima broke it with a sigh and an apologetic wave. “You’re right, I’m sorry! I guess I should’ve thought this through more… He probably wouldn’t have been in the mood to go out if you’d even told him in the first place. Jeez… you should’ve said something!”

“When has that ever worked for me before?” Katsuki griped, settling into the chair opposite. “You always just show up anyway and this is a little much to casually drop over text.”

“Okay, noted and acknowledged.” His fingers drummed over the chipping wood absentmindedly. “So… is this really a good idea then? Someone might, like… y’know, blow your cover. What does he even remember? Did he lose other memories too? I could just say I was dropping by to say hey.”

It was at that moment Katsuki realized that he could no longer hear the sounds of running water throughout the apartment. He was rapidly running out of time to explain, or plan, or… anything, really. “Alright, first, don’t say it like I’m on some top secret government infiltration mission, you dumbass. He said he remembered the fight when I asked, but I didn’t get any more out of him. I don’t know how much he actually forgot. I already told him we’re going out. So just… I don’t know, run interference if someone runs their mouth.”

His friend’s knowing stare was burning; a creeping feeling that traced the length of his bones and dipped in and out of his bloodstream. It felt like he was being prodded, searched, turned inside out and examined without permission. He allowed it, because he could trust Kirishima not to mince words if he was out of line.

Finally, Kirishima let his body untense with a sigh. “I won’t lie to you, this is kinda fucked up—” Katsuki grunted in loose acknowledgement. “But I’ll play along because I know your heart’s in the right place. Before we go, though… better be prepared for whatever shit’s gonna fly over lunch.”  

“Don’t say that like I can’t handle whatever you idiots throw at me.” Confidence was Katsuki’s forte, and he owned it even when the feeling was suspiciously absent. Though controlling himself was proving to be slightly more difficult than usual, he did have a handle on it. The others, though… “Which losers are we meeting?”

Katsuki was saved the pleasure of the answer by Izuku skidding back into the room in one of Katsuki’s oversized prototype Ground Zero hoodies and a pair of baggy black shorts. “Sorry! Did I take too long? Are we gonna be late?”

Why, out of every embarrassing human on this bitch on an earth, was this the one that stuttered Katsuki’s heart into an arrhythmia?

“No sweat, Midoriya! We’ll be right on time. You guys eat yet?” Kirishima rose from his seat with a surprising amount of grace and slung an arm over Izuku’s shoulders. Katsuki couldn’t help but think that he fell into the lie alarmingly easily.

“Actually, I didn’t even get to finish my coffee thanks to someone.” The look Izuku shot back towards the explosion hero was nothing short of fond. Katsuki was going to resolutely pretend his cheeks weren’t pinking at the gesture.

A grin stretched the redhead’s face from ear to ear. “Don’t worry! We’re headed somewhere I think you’re gonna like.”



Turns out the
where didn’t matter as much as the who. Kirishima was practically vibrating with excitement the entire way, even when Izuku kept his attention with old Crimson Riot theories.

Actually, it probably just added fuel to the fire, and if Katsuki was a smart man he would have shut it down immediately.

(He was not.)

When the vehicle rolled to a stop, Katsuki recognized the building immediately: an old izakaya they used to frequent when they were fresh out of high school and still dealing with the intricacies of being a new hero. He hadn’t been through the door in years.

The trio hadn’t even made it to the entrance before a familiar shriek of laughter pealed from inside.

Should’ve fucking known.

The chef called a welcome from behind the counter as they entered.

Katsuki’s eyes narrowed at the suspicious number of chairs parked around their reserved table, three of them already filled. Ashido threw her hands into the air as they arrived, cheering in unison with Kaminari. Sero waved, because he was the only guy Katsuki knew who apparently knew how to act like a regular goddamn human being. “Shitty Hair, who’s dick did you suck to get overlapping time off?”

Izuku slid into a chair with a soft greeting to the group. Katsuki thanked every higher power out there that the idiots he called friends knew better than to comment on the absurdity of Izuku’s presence.

“Bro! It just worked out that way.” Kirishima’s hand moved to hover over his heart dramatically.

Oh? And you chucklekfucks just happened to get the same day off? All four of you?”

Kirishima opened his mouth immediately, likely with some pre-prepared retort that was supposed to convince Katsuki that four highly-ranked heroes—who also happened to be his friends—just coincidentally were off-duty at the same time. During Katsuki’s medical leave, and the day after Izuku was released from the hospital, no less? These assholes had a collective IQ of 37 if they thought that excuse was gonna fly.

A higher-pitched tone interrupted them before Kirishima could spew any more bullshit in his general direction. “Izuku-kun!”

“You’ve gotta be shitting me right now.”

“Ochako-chan!” Izuku wobbled out of his chair, beelining towards his best friend. They caught each other in what looked like a painfully tight hug, as if they hadn’t seen the other hero in over a decade and not likely sometime last week during debrief.

“Oi!” Katsuki hollered, directing his glare towards the blubbering pair. “Lay off, Round Cheeks! He’s still healing!”

Uraraka’s cooling stare settled on him, and Katsuki was not ashamed to admit he felt the air chill in the immediate vicinity—but perhaps it had something to do with Todoroki strolling up casually behind her, his hand coming down to squeeze Izuku’s shoulder reassuringly.

Fucking…” The urge to scream was overpowering—but easily curbed by engaging the ever-present annoyance that was his best friend. “A group of eight pro heroes is definitely a real big coincidence, Kirishima. Sure you don’t wanna explain that one?”

“Uraraka and Todoroki really did happen to be off-duty today, okay?” Kirishima’s tone had taken on that of a kicked puppy, and his expression shifted to match. “I planned for the five of us to hang out because we never get time off together and I missed the squad!”

“We’re twenty four, don’t say squad.”

“You said it last week, man.”

“Kiss my ass!” Katsuki snapped, before he was tugged down and to the side by an arm slung around his neck.

“Then present.” Kaminari’s overly enthusiastic voice chimed in.

If this were high school, Katsuki would have sent him flying through a window—but it was not high school, and they were in public, so he’d settle for giving the shorter blond a purple nurple. “That’s really fuckin’ gay, Sparky.”

“Bakugou—oh my god—” The unholy wheeze that fell from Kaminari’s lips was curbed by Sero reaching out and hauling him by his collar back into a chair.

Just in time for Ashido to come crashing into him at mach speed.

“Pot, kettle! Bakugou, we missed you!” she practically yelled into his chest before being tugged back by a sheepish Kirishima. All his friends were completely insane.

“You’re all acting like I died and rose from the grave. Shut up, my ears are bleeding.”

Ashido wrestled herself out of the redhead’s grip, dark eyes darting to where Izuku was chatting happily with Uraraka and Todoroki and back. “So… what’s the deal, Bakubabe? Dare I ask?”

“Holy shit, have you ever heard of something called subtlety?” the explosion hero ground out from between a clenched jaw.

“No!” Ashido chirped.

“Look, don’t ask him any questions about him and me, or whatever, and be nice to him. Just talk about work or training or Shitty Hair’s fat head.”

“Hey!”

An exhale, and then, quieter: “And don’t fucking mention the break up if you don’t want me to break your kneecaps.”

“That’s cryptic,” Sero chimed, hands steepled in front of his face. The five of them stood and/or sat in silence, sizing up the situation like they’d just walked into a mafia turf war. Eventually, Sero let his arms smack onto the table in a gesture of resignation. “Whatever, I’m not gonna bite—I wanna pass go and collect two hundred dollars. Denki, he’s talking about you, by the way.” An indignant gasp from the blond followed, but predictably, no argument.

“Let’s eat then!” Ashido cheered, pumping her fist into the air. “I wanna get fat!”

“Excuse me, I worked hard for these abs, I will not be getting fat for you or anyone else.” Kaminari leaned across the table towards where Ashido sat herself, pointing accusingly.

“You’re no fun. Sorry you’re years behind. Even I had abs before you!” She flopped back forcefully in her chair, high-fiving her boyfriend.

Katsuki slid in beside Kirishima, leaving a spot beside him for Izuku. “Yeah. You had noodle arms until we were like twenty.”

Sero had decided that was a good time to chime in, though his defence left a little something to be desired— but let no one say he didn’t make an attempt. “I like noodles?”

“What is this, pick-on-Denki day?! Fuck you guys, I’m gonna go hang out with Midoriya and Uraraka.”

Izuku chose the perfect time to take his place next to Katsuki, Uraraka sitting across from him and Todoroki across from the blond. “I didn’t think you had noodle arms, Kaminari-kun.”

“Finally!” Kaminari wailed, making a big show of reaching towards the green-haired man despite their positions at opposite ends of the table. “Midoriya, you’re an angel. If I could marry anyone at this table, I’d marry you. Platonically! Not that you’re not fine, dude. I just don’t think we should smash. …Ha, smash. That’s funny.”

Sero could not have managed a more deadpan, defeated expression if he tried. “Why are you like this? Bakugou’s gonna rip your arms off.”

Said man’s glare was burning a hole directly through Kaminari’s forehead.

“Wow! This is exactly like high school all over again.” Uraraka clapped her hands together, pinkies out. Katsuki eyed her cautiously. Her and Half n’ Half showing up had really thrown a wrench into his already shitty plan. “It’s been a long time since so many of us could get together casually.” The sickeningly sweet look that landed on him was one Katsuki had seen several times before—if you read between the lines, it promised pain if Uraraka didn’t get what she wanted. Katsuki would be stupid to assume what she wanted was anything other than answers.

“I don’t think I’ve seen this group all together since my wedding.” Todoroki’s gaze shifted across the table and locked onto Katsuki’s before sliding away once again. Everybody was just aiming their disdain at him today. He purposefully chose to ignore that fact that he probably deserved it.

“How’s Yaomomo?” Ashido questioned. The nickname had stuck, despite her current status as a Todoroki.

Todoroki pressed two fingers against his forehead, clearly exasperated. “Frustrated. She’s being presented with a lot of modelling opportunities despite the fact that she’s a highly ranked pro.”

With that, the table dissolved into a haphazard back-and-forth of several different conversations. Katsuki could have cried in relief that none of the idiots he had the misfortune of calling his friends had fucked him over yet. Todoroki played by his own unique set of rules, so there was at least a 50% chance the situation could swing in his favour. It was only luck and the pretence that she cared about her friend’s wellbeing that kept him from Uraraka’s wrath.

Temporarily, of course.

“Kacchan.” And there was Izuku, bumping their shoulders together and leaning forward to point at a particularly mouth-watering looking item on the menu. “You’re gonna get this, right? With the spicy sauce? I forgot how good the katsudon here looks…”

Of course Izuku could remember his usual from an eating establishment they used to frequent, but not their own break up.

Izuku’s attention was, luckily, on the menu, because the rest of the table had zeroed in on their proximity almost immediately. Todoroki’s face remained as impassive as always, but Katsuki could read him well enough now that he could see the curiosity lurking just beneath the surface. Uraraka’s eyebrows had hiked so far up her forehead they were in danger of floating away, as if she’d thought them walking in together was perhaps just a trick of the light, or a very amusing mirage. She looked like she had a hundred different questions to ask, so Katsuki levelled her with a look that he hoped read “one word and you’ll be sorry.” She shot one right back, twice as lethal. The rest of his friends were exchanging looks between each other, but remained blissfully silent on the matter.

“…So, Midoriya,” Kaminari began. He knew it, he spoke too soon, the universe was punishing him for his lacklustre attempts to lay out the situation clearly and in an appropriate amount of time. “That villain, huh? Kinda crazy. How’s your, uh, head?”

Uraraka’s expression smoothed out just as Izuku looked up from the menu. “Oh!” He blinked, seemingly considering something before his expression dropped. “Oh my god. Kirishima-kun, I didn’t even ask how you’re doing—I completely forgot, I just—I wasn’t even thinking—”

“Whoa, dude, it’s cool! You really took the brunt of the hits, y’know?” Kirishima waved his hand from where it was resting across the back of Ashido’s chair, though Izuku probably couldn’t see it. “Plus, you went down hard. I’d be surprised if you didn’t end up with some symptoms, so no worries!” His expression read as relaxed, but Katsuki narrowed his eyes at the comment.

Izuku still looked positively forlorn. “Still… That’s so rude of me. I’m sorry.”

“Enough of that kicked puppy look, Deku. That guy didn’t manage to suck all the air out of his head so he’s obviously fine.” Izuku looked like he wanted to argue, so Katsuki tacked on exactly what he knew would close the argument. Kirishima hadn’t told him as such, but he would’ve heard if it was anything otherwise. “Docs gave him the all clear, which you didn’t get, so let him worry about you instead of the other way around.”

Green eyes blinked owlishly up at him, likely considering any other way he could protest the situation, but ultimately folded. Katsuki took the opportunity to snap his gaze to somewhere else, like the menu, which could neither melt his heart with mushy feelings or melt directly through his skin with the glare he knew he was receiving from across the table.

“Well, it turned out okay! Plus, wasn’t it interesting how he could manipulate the bubbles so quickly? And he could use them to slow down my momentum, too! I think he was increasing gravity, or maybe making the air more dense? It felt like I was punching through slime. But I heard later that you put him to sleep, Kirishima-kun, that was smart.”

“I dunno if I’d say interesting,” Kirishima admitted with a chuckle. “Having my face ground into the dirt was more annoying than anything.”

Ashido was leaned back in her chair with her hand up to signal that they were ready, but she managed to pat Kirishima’s shoulder reassuringly anyway.

Katsuki let his chin fall to rest in his palm, the sound of Izuku’s back and forth with Kirishima falling to background noise. Izuku’s cheeks were flushed in excitement, hands gesturing in big motions to demonstrate his point.

The sight was familiar, calming—or it would have been, if Katsuki knew that Uraraka’s gaze wasn’t dissecting him into tiny pieces from across the table. Izuku was going to notice sooner or later, and Katsuki couldn’t decide if trying to bullshit his way out of it would be better or worse than actually getting a chance to explain.

“Um, does anyone know where the bathroom is?”

Uh oh.

Sero twisted around in his chair to get a better view. They’d long since changed the decor from the last time the group had been in. “Uhhh… think it’s back there.”

“Thanks, Sero-kun. I’ll be right back.” Katsuki watched his fate being sealed with every step the green-haired man took towards the bathroom door. Every single one of them tracked his movements, and the door clicking shut behind him might as well have been the final nail in his coffin.

Six pairs of eyes swivelled to land on him the second Izuku disappeared, expressions ranging from pity to pure murderous intent.

“Bakugou!” Uraraka hissed, at least having the decency to keep her voice down. “What the hell is going on?!” She looked ready to pop out of her chair and fracture his nose, but Todoroki’s hand settled in front of her—an attempt at placating her, for the moment.

“At least let him explain before you float him out of the atmosphere.” Wow, Half n’ Half on his side for once—he should buy a lottery ticket.

“Yeah, uh, hello?!” Kaminari’s conspiratorial whisper-yelling just served to amp Katsuki’s anger up to the nth degree. “You said not to talk to him about it but are we gonna get some info or what?”

“Maybe if you shut up and lemme talk,” Katsuki quipped back, venom in his tone. Kaminari flopped back dramatically in his chair, waving a hand as if granting Katsuki permission to continue. It only served to make him furious.

He hadn’t taken years of anger management for nothing. Katsuki pushed a sustained breath out through his nose and counted to five. “Alright, don’t interrupt me, I gotta get through this fast.”

Katsuki recounted the phone call, the hospital sans the kiss, taking him back to his apartment, Izuku sleeping through most of the day yesterday. The six others listened quietly. “I’m trying to find the best time to tell him without sending him into cardiac arrest, alright? So can you all just keep your mouths shut and pretend for the next few hours?”

“So,” Uraraka finally spoke. “You want us to lie to Izuku-kun? So you can relive your relationship out of guilt or something?”

“No!” Katsuki denied immediately, hand curling into a fist on the table. First instincts told him to defend himself, but the reality was that he was asking them to lie on his behalf—the explanation wasn’t worth much, but it was all he had. He couldn’t even blame Uraraka for jumping to Izuku’s defence unprompted. He didn’t have to be present to know that she probably shouldered a lot of Izuku’s grief after their break up. “I’m not trying to do that. I just want to be the one to tell him the truth, okay? The whole situation’s shitty enough as it is.”

Her eyes roamed over his face, searching for something. The rest of the table could’ve been in a separate dimension for all they were concerned. The tension was forcefully uncoiled just slightly when the food was delivered, and a bit more when Izuku made his way back to the table.

His eyes darted between his friends, sensing the mood shift immediately. “What’s everyone so tense for?” Izuku pressed, settling back into his chair. “Kacchan, what’d you do?”

“Hah?”

“Oh, Blasty’s just mad because he wanted to take you on a date today but I made you guys come out with us instead,” Kirishima piped up.

Bastard. Friendship licence revoked.

Izuku smiled to himself, just a little. He picked up his chopsticks.

“Izuku-kun?” His eyes drifted up to Uraraka, while Katsuki’s snapped to attention. She could seal his fate in two words, if she really wanted. The blond hero would resolutely deny to anyone ever that his heart was beating a hundred miles a minute. She smiled. “Do you want to try some of mine? You looked curious about it!”

“Yes, please!”

Todoroki paused the bite of his own meal to glance at Katsuki, offering him the smallest of nods before he went back to his food.

He could have slid out of his chair in relief. Had hero-ing for six years racked him up enough good karma to keep this from completely backfiring? Maybe he just saved a lot of puppies in a previous life.

The table fell into a balance between a comfortable silence with the lull of stuffing their faces and several soft conversations. Kaminari seemed determined to keep his voice above a regular human decibel, debating with Sero and Ashido about his chances of breaking into the top 50 with the next popularity poll.

Izuku had to slap a hand over his mouth to keep himself from spitting his lunch onto the table between choked gasps of laughter. Uraraka looked pleased; even Todoroki chuckled at her joke.

Katsuki tore his gaze away when he realized he’d been staring, locking eyes with a grinning Kirishima who was leaning conspicuously onto the table. His cheeks warmed despite willing them not to. A year was a long time to go without hearing the laugh of the person you loved.

“Bro,” Kirishima singsonged. “That’s adorable.”

“Can you shut up?” Katsuki grumbled, shoving some noodles into Kirishima’s mouth in retaliation. His friend gasped, scrambling for his drink before the burn could get out of control. The perks of eating ridiculously spicy food all the time was that he could weaponize it at will.

Weirdly enough, even as Uraraka was probably plotting ways to make his life difficult and the rest of his friends were judging his choices, the rest of lunch felt normal—like they were back in UA, worrying about exams rather than patrols, and life was a lot more simple.

At some point, Sero’s phone chimed. “Ah, I’m on call now.”

Kaminari folded his arms. “What, already?” He reached for his own phone. “Whoa, we’ve been sitting here for like two hours!”

“C’mon, let’s pay and go. You have paperwork to do and if I get saddled with your share one more time I’m going to tape you to the ceiling and leave you there. Midoriya, glad you’re feeling better!”

“Noooo,” Kaminari whined, hauling himself out of the chair despite the protest. “This sucks. Isn’t that just part of, like, boyfriend duty?”

“You never do my paperwork.”

“Touché. Squad, until next time.” It got a laugh out of Ashido, and an annoyed groan from Katsuki. “And, yeah, don’t scare us like that, Mr. Symbol of Peace!”

Izuku laughed and rubbed his neck. “Sorry, Kaminari-kun. No promises.”

Todoroki was the next to excuse himself, citing that Momo was likely waiting for him to get home as their rest days didn’t coincide much.

Katsuki went to pay for himself and Izuku—and, fuck it, Uraraka too, for not ratting him out immediately. Kirishima trailed behind him. “I think that went pretty well, y’know?”

“Shockingly.” Katsuki slapped some yen down. “…Thanks, Kirishima.”

His friend titled his head with a soft smile, punching Katsuki’s shoulder gently. “No problem. Anything for love!”

“Ugh. I take it back.”

“No, it’s too late! I got that one on lock.” They headed back to their group together, signalling that they were good to go.

Uraraka reached for her purse, realizing she’d gotten caught up with taking to Izuku, but Katsuki waved her off. “Got yours, Round Cheeks.”

She smiled at him, and Katsuki was almost sure that it was genuine. “Thanks, Bakugou.”

“So,” Kirishima grinned, cheeky. “Anyone wanna come with me to Starbucks?”

“No.”

“Nope.”

“Absolutely the fuck not.”




The keys clattered quietly as Katsuki tossed them into their bowl. Izuku looked like he could use a nap. They hadn’t done much in the way of exhilarating activities, but subject anyone to enough social interaction in a short amount of time and they were bound to be get tired.

Especially where their friends were concerned.

Katsuki clicked his tongue, heading directly to the kitchen to run the water. “Deku, can you bring me the mugs from the table? Gonna wash ‘em.” He needed to collect his thoughts. Even Uraraka and Todoroki were trusting him to take care of Izuku despite the defensive wall that had been erected between them and himself over the past year.

But no matter what he did, no matter what he said—any way he came out of this was going to be painful. Katsuki was no stranger to pain, with a job to take the beating so everyone else didn’t have to, and somehow he still couldn’t bring himself to bite the bullet.

The rest of the apartment was silent, mocking.

“Oi. Deku?” He called, shutting the water off.

“Kacchan.”

“What, nerd?” Katsuki leaned around the doorframe to find the green-haired hero barely past the entrance.

“Where, um…” His nerves were clearly frayed, hands wringing to give his mind a focusable point. Katsuki angled his body towards him, an indication to Izuku that he had his full attention.  “Where’s all my stuff?”

Oh, fuck. Katsuki felt his muscles tense up, hair rising on his arms and the back of his neck. He should have been thanking Izuku, really—this was the workup to the truth he’d been attempting for days, laid out cooly in front of him. Instead, all he felt was bitter disappointment at the prospect of returning to the most base interactions, as if they’d always been nothing more than strangers.

“It’s…”

The universe made the decision for him: it was time to own up.

Why did it feel like the hardest thing he’d ever had to do?

The answer had always been there, hovering just under his skin: it was ultimately his fault they had broken up, but the things he had said came from a place of fear and desperation. He loved Izuku, then and now, from the deepest part of his heart, and in the best way he knew how. If he could go back and tell himself one thing? No matter how much you love someone, no matter how much you want it, some obstacles are insurmountable.

“Kacchan?”

“We got in a big fight, Deku.”

The green-haired man’s mouth thinned to a wobbly, unsure expression. His attention zeroed in on Katsuki, similar to the way he looked at briefings: unwilling to miss whatever explanation was going to follow. His eyes looked dark, hurt—volatile and stormy like the clouds over the ocean.

It was like ripping a bandaid off—for both of them. He just had to do it quickly. “We got into a fight, you took all your shit and left. Do you remember that?”

Izuku sunk onto the couch. Eyebrows furrowed, gaze to the floor, he looked like he was sifting through a heap of information. Finally, quietly, he muttered, “No.”

“When you got tossed through the building, and knocked your brain around a bit, Doc said there could be symptoms. Uh… like amnesia. But you probably figured that out.” He gestured awkwardly, but Izuku’s eyes were firmly trained on a spot on the ground between his feet. This was quickly descending into uncomfortable.

“So we fought.” The Symbol of Peace’s voice was subdued, sad. “We’ve fought before. How was this any different?”

Katsuki pursed his lips. He couldn’t sit; he was restless, the itch to explode something rippling through the skin of his palms. He didn’t want to relive the particulars: the issue itself still set him on edge, for more reason than one. His fingers curled into fists to trap the sweat that felt ready to ignite—out of nervous anticipation, for once. “I lost my shit.”

Those dangerously green eyes whipped upwards to catch Katsuki’s own. He looked concerned, and there was no blaming him there. ‘Losing his shit’ could mean a thousand different things when it came to Bakugou Katsuki. “You what?”

“Lost my shit. On you. We were on edge, I said some things, you said some things. Probably would’ve been fine if one of us left to blow off some steam.” A sentiment he’d told himself over and over since. Not that it mattered. “Obviously that didn’t happen, ‘cause we’re stubborn.”

Izuku cracked the smallest of smiles, but it disappeared just as quickly.

“I just lost my head. S’not an excuse, but it’s what happened. I was scared and frustrated and angry, and what I said to you wasn’t—it was cruel. I don’t wanna repeat it, because it was fucked up to say it in the first place. But if you need to hear it, I’ll tell you.”

It took a moment to realize he’d been pacing, and was no longer facing Izuku. Katsuki stopped, turned, let his hands fall flat against his sides.

“I’m the reason you left.” Katsuki met Izuku’s gaze from where he stood at his full height, face carefully neutral but unbearably honest. And Katsuki had come a long way since middle school, where he terrorized the man sitting in front of him. Since first year, where he refused to acknowledge Izuku’s strength and growth. Even since third year, where his idiot self couldn’t work up the courage to just ask the freckled nightmare out and did shit like forbid him from going on a date with someone else, in not so many words. (He’s still shocked Izuku hadn’t knocked his teeth in for that. He’d like to go back and do it to himself.) Katsuki learned when to put his pride second, learned where to admit fault where it was necessary. He even learned to believe it, where Izuku was involved. “The whole thing, Izuku… it was my fault.”

“Kacchan—”

“Wait. Let me finish… please.” He paused, only momentarily, to swallow the lump in his throat. “It was my fault, and that’s why—”

Izuku managing to full-body tackle him onto his back ended his thought in a wheeze. Arms came around to stabilize the other man, though he had half a mind to squeeze him into unconsciousness instead. “What the hell?! Be careful! Are you trying to injure yourself more?!”

Katsuki felt Izuku’s nails digging into his skin even through the fabric of his shirt. That’s why we broke up. The words hung on the tip of his tongue, taunting him with the knowledge that he’d never be willing to say those words out loud, forever wishing he had no need to say them in the first place. “Why—” He tried to continue, but Izuku interrupted, misinterpreting.  

“I don’t want to see that look on your face anymore, Kacchan.” His voice was starting to waver, a dead give away that he was trying valiantly not to break down into tears. Maybe he wasn’t as neutral as he’d hoped. Katsuki grimaced. He absolutely hated making Izuku cry.

“It h-hurts. I don’t want to be the reason you look like that, like you’re in pain… like I hurt you. You came to the hospital. And you’ve taken care of me. I don’t need to hear it. I-I don’t… know if I apologized, b-but—I’m s—I’m sorry. I’m just…” He paused to take a shuddering breath, face pressed firmly into Katsuki’s chest. It was silent for a few moments. Katsuki could practically see him collecting his thoughts. “Th...thank you for coming for me. I’m h-happy we made up.”

On some level, he’d been expecting Izuku to just start swinging once his back hit the floor, or maybe a good old-fashioned grappling match. Something physical, to punish him for holding out on this information. Their year apart had clearly done some damage to his insight.

Izuku, apologizing? Not even a blip on his radar.

Katsuki floundered for something to say.

Every time he was given the perfect opportunity, only to have it snatched away from him at the most critical time. Bakugou Katsuki was a lot of things—deafeningly loud, a perfectionist, kind of an asshole, a damn good pro hero, and absolutely weak to the feeling of one green-haired long-term annoyance invading every inch of his space.

“I’m…” He was going to Purgatory, or Hell, or the molten centre of the Earth and coming out the other side a charred, sad little man. “Yeah. Me too, Deku.”

With Herculean effort, Katsuki pulled himself into a sitting position on the floor, hooking Izuku’s legs over his hips so they sat chest to chest. He pushed a hand into Izuku’s curls, letting it linger there. Somehow, despite Katsuki’s swirling whirlpool of guilt, the quiet between them was comfortable. He’d never had a chance to properly apologize, or take responsibility for their fight, but he felt so much lighter. This was the least ideal situation to ask for forgiveness, and tempered slightly by Izuku’s own (unnecessary, in Katsuki’s own opinion) apology over a fight he couldn’t remember.

Somehow, he could still breathe easier than he had in the past year.

Izuku hadn’t moved from Katsuki’s shoulder, but he shifted just slightly to be closer to his ear. “Kacchan?” Izuku’s grip tightened against the back of Katsuki’s shirt.

“What?”

“I love you.” Even if Katsuki couldn’t see his face, the conviction that those three words were spoken with was loud and clear.

He wanted to catch this feeling and keep it forever—but it broke his heart just as much as it mended it. Part of him had grasped firmly onto the logical side that insisted he’d never hear those words from Izuku again; the other part reached for hope, held onto it like a lifeline.

It still hurt. Of course it hurt.

—But the words that came in reply were nearly automatic, and he wasn’t sure he could’ve stopped them if he wanted to.

“…Y-yeah.” He swallowed, not even ashamed at the way his voice cracked and dropped to a whisper, and he wondered whether it was here on the floor in his living room if his life was falling apart or coming together. “—Me too, Izuku.