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There’s a legend in the city of Musutafu. Like many superstitious rumors, it is the most popular with older children who are usually in middle and high school. It is whispered and passed around from child to child, originating from the girls and infecting the boys, but few actually spoke of it outside of their rumor circle. This is because people were torn between finding it silly to believe, and hopeful that it was true.

 

It is said that in Musutafu there is a charm that one can buy at a temple that will lead you to your destined partner. They say that if the charm works, you would be able to follow the red string of fate to the person you were meant to be with. And if the person returns your feelings, they would be able to see the string as well, proving that both were meant to be.

 

Nobody knew where the rumor had started. The rumor had multiple conflicting origins, after all, but that was only natural for a rumor. What took away from the credibility somewhat was that the rumored charm could be bought at one of the local temples. Many people who heard this discredited the rumor as being a marketing scheme. Others didn’t mind because it was all in good fun. Still others bought the charm with hearts in hands and hope in their gazes. If the charm actually worked, though, nobody could confirm for sure.

 


 

In the future, Katsuki would blame Izuku for everything. Izuku was the one who had originally told him the rumor about the charms meant to lead someone to their destined partner. He had overheard a couple of older girls talking about it on the local train his mother and him had taken, and he had thought it cool enough that he had told Katsuki. He had gotten the wrong impression about what the word “partner” meant just as Katsuki did when he had heard it. Both boys had become excited about possibly learning who their destined hero partner would be.

 

“Kacchan would be mine!” Izuku had declared, quite confidently for the meek three-year-old kid he could be.

 

Katsuki had scoffed and responded, “You need to get stronger if so!”

 

Both boys had begged their parents to take them to the shrine that year for the beginning of the new year in hopes they could find the charm. Izuku had failed to hear what shrine sold the charms, or even what they looked like. Neither child considered this or took it into account. It was by chance (or fate?) that they ended up getting the correct shrine and charm without even trying.

 

Katsuki had been the one to overhear the excited chatter of the older kids and to see the huge crowd that had formed in front of the stand that sold the charm. He had also been the one to yell loud enough to shake Izuku from his dozing in his father's arms to point and demand that he and Izuku go to the charms. It was through the combined efforts of both boys’ fussing that their parents brought them over to help them purchase a charm for each of them with their New Year’s money.

 

It wasn’t anything special. Like most charms, it had a simple cloth bag filled with some miscellaneous things and a dark red string tied decoratively on top. The back was decorated with girly hearts and an embroidered red string looping over the bag. Katsuki had been a bit disappointed when he had held his, flipping it this way and that. He had glanced around hoping to see the rumored red string, but nothing happened.

 

“Maybe it needs some time to kick in?” His dad had suggested when they had escaped the crowd and Katsuki had complained.

 

“Try wishing really hard and sleeping with it under your pillow.” His mother had joked, clearly humoring Katsuki. His parents both had looked amused at Katsuki’s desire to have something like a charm. It was unlike their son. His mother was already thinking of how she could tease the boy about it when he was older.

 

“Deku!” Katsuki had yelled when Izuku and his mother and father had joined them too. The other boy had run up to Katsuki practically vibrating with excitement as he showed off his own charm.

 

“Look, look, Kacchan!” Izuku waved the charm at him. “We finally got it!”

 

“Do you see anything?” Katsuki asked.

 

Izuku shook his head. “Not yet!”

 

“Mom says to make a wish and sleep with it under your pillow, so make sure you do that!” Katsuki pointed at him with his command. “We’ll see whose works first!”

 

Izuku had only nodded in determination with a dash of nerves. Neither boy noticed nor paid attention to the amused looks the parents all gave each other over their children’s heads.

 


 

Katsuki didn’t notice anything immediately when he first woke up. In fact, he had completely forgotten about the shrine visit and the charm. He had been in that haze that came from deep sleep and oversleeping, so he didn’t take notice of anything that was different. Instead he followed his gut to the kitchen table when he smelled breakfast and sat down to wait. It was one of the few times he was ever really quiet when he was still waking up.

 

He was in the middle of eating when he finally woke up enough to spot something bright red in the corner of his vision. He cried out in shock at the sight of a bright red string tied to the base of his pinky finger. The string seemed to float off and disappear through the walls of his house, unimpeded by anything in its way. It would float like a feather and lighter than air when Katsuki whipped his hand back and forth. The string was thinner than yarn, but thicker than thread. Katsuki couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw it.

 

“What are you yelling about?” His mother asked a little grumpily. She wasn’t much of a morning person either.

 

“Look! The string! It worked!” Katsuki yelled, pointing and waving his hand around to watch the string. He wondered if he pulled hard enough that his fated partner would feel it.

 

His mother had only looked at where he was pointing with raised eyebrows. “You can see the red string because of the charm?” She asked.

 

“Yeah! Can’t you see it?”

 

“Nope.” His mother wasn’t one to lie to him, so Katsuki knew she really couldn’t. He pouted, a little put out, before he puffed up as he had a thought.

 

“Well obviously! Because it’s my charm! Only me and my partner can see the string!”

 

His mother rolled her eyes, but did give him an indulgent smile. “Guess that means you’ll be able to find your soulmate, huh?”

 

Katsuki only frowned. “What’s that?”

 

“The person you’re destined to be with.”

 

A grin broke out on Katsuki’s face. “Hell yeah!”

 


 

As soon as he could, he got dressed and burst from his house to follow the string. He wasn’t a stupid kid, so he knew that there was a strong possibility he wouldn’t find the other person at the end of the string that day. His partner might not even be in Musutafu, or lived too far away for Katsuki to go to. He didn’t want to have to wait, but he knew better than to just follow the string to wherever it might end up going. Nevertheless, he chased after the red thread as far as he was willing to bravely go.

 

He didn’t need to go far.

 

“Deku!!” Katsuki called, banging on the door to Izuku’s apartment door. He was staring at the string that was going straight through the door to whoever was on the other side. He highly doubted it was Auntie or Uncle that was his soulmate.

 

Auntie was the one to open the door with a greeting and surprised to be seeing Katsuki so soon. Katsuki only greeted her briefly before pushing past her to follow the string further in. He only briefly acknowledged Auntie’s call that Izuku wasn’t awake yet before Katsuki burst into the other boy’s bedroom. As he had suspected, the string ended on Izuku’s own pinky. Just like Katsuki’s, it was tied there by some force. Unlike Katsuki’s it was on the boy’s left hand instead of his right.

 

“Deku!” Katsuki yelled again and startled the other boy awake as he jumped onto Izuku’s bed. Izuku yelped as he was shaken awake even as Auntie scolded Katsuki for waking him. “Deku! Look at your pinky!”

 

“Wha-? Kacchan…?”

 

“Look already, stupid!” Katsuki grabbed Izuku’s hand and held it before the boy’s face. “Can you see it?”

 

Izuku blinked a couple of times and then really looked at his pinky finger. His eyes widened with surprise as he let out a little noise, ripping his hand from Katsuki to stare. “There’s a string!” He cried.

 

Katsuki’s grin only broadened. Izuku could see the string too! That meant they really were fated to be partners! “Look at mine too!” He called, holding up his own hand to show Izuku. Izuku looked from Katsuki’s pinky to his own and the dots connected. His smile was possibly the brightest thing Katsuki had ever seen in his life. Katsuki could only return it.

 


 

Katsuki and Izuku discovered a number of things about their new bond and the string that now tied them together. The first was that nobody could see it but them. It kind of took the wind from Katsuki’s sails a bit. It meant that even though he could brag a ton about discovering and knowing his soulmate, he couldn’t actually prove it. The other kids in their class had been fascinated at first, but then grew bored after a while because they couldn't see the string. Katsuki thought they were pretty big losers anyway, so it didn’t matter.

 

The string was intangible. It would go through anything that came into contact with it, including both Izuku and Katsuki. Neither boy could feel it even if they tried. They didn’t even notice it tied around their fingers and sometimes forgot about it. The only thing that reminded them was the floating red string that seemed to dance in the air with their combined movements. They could move the string around all they wanted, but they couldn’t actually touch it. They could even join together to loop it around other stuff, but as soon as they pulled it taut it would just go straight through the item. Izuku had laughed a couple of times seeing the string go through someone’s head. The string would also lengthen and shorten at random depending on how close the boys were to each other.

 

It felt good to hold hands with Izuku now. Before it was something that Katsuki sometimes needed to do whenever they needed partners in class. Sometimes Izuku had grabbed Katsuki’s hand to lead him from one place to another, but Katsuki had always ripped his hand back because he didn’t need to be led around. Now he liked holding hands with Izuku. If they held the hand that had the string tied to it, it would warm both of the boys. Katsuki couldn’t quite explain the sensation because it wasn’t heat like during the summer or something. The closest thing he would be able to compare it to is the feeling of heat right as your hands finished defrosting under the heater after a day outside in the cold. But inside his chest and body. It wasn’t something he could feel on his skin. And it was only really noticeable once he and Izuku had released each other’s hands. It was a sensation he didn’t realize he was missing until it was gone.

 

Katsuki would strut around proudly with Izuku’s hand in his. After all, he was great for having found his soulmate when nobody else could. He and Izuku were destined to be hero partners together. They were going to be together forever. He would be the number one hero, and Izuku would always be his number two right there beside him at the top. Katsuki could allow a little wiggle room on his pedestal for Izuku to stand with him. That’s what partners were for, after all. He couldn’t wait to find out what amazing quirks they both would get.

 


 

Katsuki got the coolest quirk in the world. He could make small explosions in his hands from the sweat he secreted. He knew that this would definitely make him the best hero in the world. He could already imagine what kind of things he could do with this quirk once he could make the explosions stronger. At the moment they were more like tiny fireworks.

 

He always smelled sweeter now, which Izuku liked. His quirk made it harder to hold Izuku’s hand because he couldn’t control his sweat yet. The explosions sometimes went off without his control. His parents told him they could hold hands when it was cold outside, but not when it was warm. Not until Katsuki could control his quirk.

 

Izuku didn’t get a quirk.

 

“You’ll get one later.” Katsuki told him when Izuku after he had turned four and no quirk manifested. “You have to so we can be hero partners.” He held up their combined hands. He was being extremely careful. The string floated around them both. It was absurdly long at the moment despite them holding hands. It sometimes did that. “After all, the charms don’t lie!”

 

Izuku sniffed again and wiped at his wet eyes, nodding with a reassured smile. “Yeah! You’re right Kacchan!”

 


 

Izuku never developed a quirk. He had an extra toe joint which was biological proof that he couldn’t develop a quirk.

 

Katsuki realized that the red string had to be wrong. He couldn’t be partners with someone who was Quirkless. Quirkless people couldn’t become heroes. Izuku was lesser than Katsuki. Katsuki was superior to everyone and Izuku couldn’t keep up. They couldn’t be partners.

 


 

 

There was a tension in the string now that hadn’t been there in the beginning. Katsuki didn’t want to acknowledge the string anymore because it was wrong. He and Izuku must have been tied together because they both had done the same thing with the charms. Or maybe because they had bought them at the same time. Something was clearly wrong. Katsuki just didn’t know what. But the string was wrong.

 

Katsuki stopped choosing to hang around with Izuku. He developed a different group of friends. Ones that had quirks and admired him as much as Katsuki deserved to be admired. After all, Katsuki was amazing and was the best at everything. He was the top kid in the class, had the best quirk, and everyone thought he was cool. He would ignore the string that tied him to Izuku.

 

There was a tension to the string that only continued to worsen. Instead of the feathery, lightweight movements the string used to hold, now it seemed more taut. It didn’t flow as easily as a spiderweb in the wind. Katsuki still couldn’t feel the string, but he could still sense this tension. He ignored that as well.

 

Izuku would still follow him everywhere. Even if Katsuki wasn’t really considering the boy his friend anymore, Izuku would still trail after them no matter what. Katsuki shoving him or telling him to go away wouldn’t stop the boy. It was like the red string dragged him along, always following on Katsuki’s heels. It irritated Katsuki to no end. Katsuki didn’t need him.

 


 

Katsuki led his group into a secret part of the local park to explore. He was the leader and was sure to show it off while waving his hands about and he set the stage for what game they would play. They walked over wild grass and through bushes. They scrambled over fallen trees and onto one that spanned the length of a small ravine. There was a shallow river that cut through it below them, which only made the path more exciting.

 

Katsuki slipped and fell.

 

It was a short drop, more surprising than dangerous. Katsuki only hurt his bottom a little and scraped his leg on the trunk on his way down. His friends had all called out to him in worry, but had laughed with Katsuki when he showed them that he was fine. He could easily get up and climb back out on his own. His clothes would dry in the warmth of the summer day before he even got home.

 

The string on his finger shortened suddenly, and Katsuki glanced over to see Izuku wading into the water after him. His eyes were filled with worry as he held his hand out to Katsuki. The string tied to his finger swirled around them both. Katsuki felt the familiar urge to grab his hand and to feel that warmth again. “Are you okay? Can you get up? If you hit your head it would be bad.”

 

The smile fell away from Katsuki’s face.

 


 

One day, Izuku turned on Katsuki. Despite his quirklessness, despite his shaking, and despite his tears, he stood in front of the kid that Katsuki and his friends were bullying. He stood as the barrier between them, and Katsuki was pissed off because of it. Did Izuku really think he stood a chance against Katsuki? Katsuki showed him he was wrong. He didn’t hesitate to beat Izuku up instead.

 

Auntie brought Izuku over later to the house while Izuku was crying. Katsuki had only glared at his feet while his father scolded him and told him to apologize. He refused to apologize. He had no reason to. Izuku thought he was better than Katsuki? Katsuki only put him in his place. He was nothing but a pebble on the ground anyway. If he wanted to get in Katsuki’s way, then Katsuki would step on him. The fact that he was told to apologize only pissed Katsuki off more.

 

“Why, Kacchan?” Izuku asked while hiccuping. Katsuki lifted his eyes to meet the tear-stained ones in front of him. He had bandages on his face from Auntie patching him up. He smelled of the burn cream their parents used on them because of Katsuki's quirk. “We...we’re supposed to be partners! What about the string?” He held out a shaky hand to Katsuki, palm up. The string between them barely moved.

 

Katsuki scowled. “There is no string!” He yelled, finally breaking his furious silence. “We’re not partners, Deku!”

 

Katsuki felt something crack in his chest. It forced the breath from his chest and he automatically clutched at his shirt in shock. It was a ghost of a feeling and didn’t feel like his own. The pain in Izuku’s eyes made him think that maybe it was Izuku’s heart instead. Izuku’s stance mirrored his, clutching his own shirt. The tears ran rivets down his cheeks. It was the first time Katsuki had verbally denied their bond.

 

Izuku stopped hanging out with him after that.

 


 

The tension in the string only tightened as the years went by. Their relationship strained with it until the string was pulled taut at all times. Katsuki had only grown angry to see it and know who was on the other end. He didn’t want to see it anymore. He didn’t like the thoughts that came with seeing the string slowly but surely lose its ability to float. It was practically a stick with how strained it was. He didn’t want to think about what that could mean or what the crack in his chest was.

 

He took the charm out from under his pillow and tossed it into a drawer in his desk. It became buried under organized clutter. He wanted to forget about its existence and hope that the stupid string would fade with it. The charm started all of this, so it could take it away too. It was wrong in the first place. He didn’t want to be tied to fucking Deku anymore.

 

When middle school came, Katsuki learned what the true meaning of “soulmates” were. He heard the stupid girls whispering and the rumor came out in full. Katsuki, for the first time, finally heard the actual rumor that Izuku had told him about years ago. They had both been wrong about the word “partners”. It had never been that type of partner.

 

Katsuki had gone home that day and destroyed his charm with an explosion. But the string didn’t disappear. It only seemed to fray.

 


 

Katsuki took his frustrations out on Izuku. Unlike the first time he had beaten Izuku up, he didn’t go crying to his mother. Katsuki threatened him and made sure to keep him in his place. He didn’t want Izuku maintaining any ideas that he was even worth Katsuki’s time. He didn’t care if there was a string tying them together. He would destroy it if he had to. If he had the choice, he would take scissors to it and snip it right away. He wanted it gone anyway.

 

This was how things went for their middle school career. Katsuki had big dreams to be the only student to make it into U.A. High School. Izuku, however, had similar dreams. Despite his quirklessness, he still aspired to be a hero. No matter how much Katsuki put him down, he never seemed to stop. It pissed Katsuki off to no end.

 

He threw Izuku to the ground one day and the boy’s backpack flew open to scatter his stuff everywhere. Katsuki grinned while his friends behind him laughed. One kicked Izuku’s bag away when the boy tried to grab it. Something skittered across the ground that had Izuku yelping and leaping for it. Katsuki’s classmate got it first.

 

“Ho-o-oly shit!” The boy grinned and laughed as he held up a familiar charm. Katsuki’s smile dropped. “Check it out! Deku’s got one of those ‘soulmate’ charms!”

 

“Give it back!” Izuku cried, louder than he had ever argued with them before. He lunged for the charm, but he was shoved back by his other classmate. Izuku’s body was trembling as he watched them with wide eyes.

 

“You actually believe in this stupid stuff? What are you, a girl?” The other boy mocked. “Can you see a red string at all, Deku?”

 

Izuku didn’t respond. His eyes darted to Katsuki and away.

 

“Hand it here.” Katsuki commanded. The boy tossed it over to Katsuki. Izuku’s fear only worsened.

 

“Don’t.” He pleaded, his voice so quiet that Katsuki wasn’t even sure if he heard him or if he had imagined it. The string between them was pulled taut. The middle of it was fraying. It trembled where it was connected between their two hands.

 

Katsuki glanced down at the charm in his hand. The material was older now from the years. The corners of it were tearing just a little bit, and the ends of the string looked to be fraying as well. It was clear it was well taken care of, though. How long had Izuku been carrying it with him rather than keeping it under his pillow? Why did he bother?

 

Katsuki sneered. “I can’t believe you still believe this crap. It doesn’t even work!”

 

Izuku flinched. “It…” Whatever he was going to say, he abandoned it. His eyes flashed with that familiar spark of determination, but it was snuffed out by the laughter of their classmates. “Just...Just give it back, already. Please!”

 

Maybe this was why the string wasn’t gone. Maybe it was because Izuku’s charm still existed. It was what bound the two of them together. Katsuki’s was long gone and nothing but ash, but Izuku’s still existed. It was hateful to look at.

 

A cruel smile twisted on Katsuki’s face. He saw the very moment Izuku understood what he was going to do.

 

“KACCHAN, NO-!” He yelled just as an explosion lit up the charm. The thing instantly ignited leaving nothing but scraps behind. Another crack ripped through Katsuki’s chest just like all those years ago, stealing his breath again. Izuku fell to his knees in horror, clutching his chest. The string frayed even more. Katsuki dumped the ashes and bits and pieces on the ground.

 

“Grow up already, Deku.” He told him, his voice unreasonably weak. Izuku said nothing while Katsuki and his classmates left him alone with only the sounds of mocking laughter.

 


 

Katsuki found himself staring at his hand that night. The string was still attached to his finger no matter how hard he tried. He frowned at it and ran his finger over the end tied around his pinky. Just like normal, he felt nothing. He followed the string with his eyes until it went through his wall and disappeared. His chest hurt and he couldn’t understand it.

 

Why was the string still there? He had done everything to prove it wrong. He had destroyed the two stupid charms that had started it all. Why was it still lingering? Why could he still see it? He didn’t agree to this. He didn’t have feelings for Izuku. There was no reciprocation there. They weren’t soulmates. They weren’t partners. They weren’t friends. They weren’t anything.

 

But still the string lingered. It was battered to all hell and looked like a piece of yarn with all of its frayed ends, but it still stayed. Katsuki felt like with one firm yank, the entire thing would snap. And yet when he did just that, it only followed his hand without any kind of pull. Just as it always had.

 

Obviously his actions had impacted it. If he kept it up, maybe it would disappear entirely. Katsuki didn’t like the idea of being tethered to Izuku his entire life. He wanted to break this curse. He wanted this pain in his chest to end.

 


 

It was a normal day to Katsuki like any other. His teacher had them all turn in the forms with the schools they planned to apply for in the winter. He had thrown Izuku around when the idiot dared to say he still wanted to go to U.A. like Katsuki. And Katsuki was heading home with his friends. They were discussing about what had happened in class when a feeling Katsuki couldn’t describe ripped through him.

 

It was like someone had taken a vacuum to his insides and had begun to suck them out. A feeling of unbearable cold replaced the void it created and it was growing by the minute. It caused Katsuki to stumble to a stop in shock as he automatically grabbed at his chest.

 

“You okay, Bakugou?” One of his classmates asked, but it was far away. A ringing had overtaken Katsuki’s ears. He felt like he couldn’t breathe even as air expanded his lungs and pushed out in a huff that hurt. There was no satisfaction from the breathing.

 

What was this feeling? Was he going to pass out? He didn’t understand what was happening.

 

“Bakugou.” His friends tried again. He could feel hands on him. His eyes darted down to the grip on his arms before red caught his eye. The string was fading. Katsuki blinked a couple of times wondering if his vision was just fading before he realized that no, he could still see just fine.

 

The string was disappearing.

 

Katsuki wasn’t happy about it at all, though. He felt something terribly wrong. This wasn’t the usual pain that came with the fraying of the string. This wasn’t pain at all. This was emptiness. Something wasn’t right.

 

Deku. He thought.

 

Kac...chan. He thought he heard in response, but it felt like a memory. He'd never heard Izuku say his name like that before, though.

 

His feet were off and running before he could even think. A desperation filled his throat and lungs. He knew he was breathing as he ran, but he felt like he was choking. He wanted to cough and clear what was clogging his throat, but he couldn't. His mind could only repeat Deku as he followed the fading string attached to him before it would fully disappear. He had to cut around buildings and dodge traffic. He could tell he was headed back towards the school.

 

And then all at once, the feeling disappeared. Katsuki’s mad rush and the pounding and ringing in his ears slowed to a halt until he was left standing there huffing. He stared at the string, now completely solid again as if nothing had occurred at all. A cold sweat coated Katsuki’s skin. Small explosions ripped in his hands without his will as his cracked heart filled his throat. Everything was back to normal, but he could feel a trembling in his form. He didn’t understand what had happened.

 

Was that just what happened when the string disappeared? What had happened to cause it? Why now of all times? Was it because of Izuku? Had something happened to him? Why did it make Katsuki feel like he had been drowning? He continued to gulp air like he was breathing for the first time. He couldn’t stop staring at the string. He wanted to wrap his hand around it and yank it. Force Izuku to come to him. He didn’t like feeling so weak.

 

He felt the urge to continue. To follow the string further and find Izuku. He wanted to see for himself what had just happened. He wanted to find the boy and shake him and have him tell him what he had done.

 

But most of all Katsuki wanted to forget the feeling of that void that had tried to take over his chest. It was like his very soul had been almost sucked from his body. He had lost everything to that moment. Even the cracks in his heart had disappeared. Katsuki wanted to cling to the string like it was a lifeline rather than the noose it had been for the past ten years.

 

He turned and walked home instead. A small part of him wondered if he would still feel that warmth if he held Izuku’s hand anymore. Would it be strong enough to combat the void? Katsuki couldn’t remember how that warmth felt anymore.

 


 

The next day, the string was no longer floating. It was not pulled taut either. It laid on the ground and dragged itself after Katsuki. It gave Katsuki goosebumps to look at. He kneeled by it and made a wave to see if it would flutter like it used to. It flopped and fell to the ground like a chain. Gravity had hold over it all of the sudden. It looked dead and lifeless. Even the bright red that it usually sported seemed less saturated in color. It looked closer to grey than red.

 

It was unnerving. Was this the result of whatever had happened yesterday? Katsuki hadn’t paid too much attention to the string after he had gotten home because he had been forced to go out to dinner, so he didn’t remember. He knew it had to do with Izuku somehow.

 

He watched Izuku for the rest of the school day. The other boy kept his head lowered and said nothing in class. The few times Katsuki could glance back at him, Izuku barely even moved his pencil. Usually he was scribbling away and muttering like a maniac. Katsuki thought he looked just as lifeless as the string. But could their emotions affect the string like that? What had happened to Izuku yesterday?

 

Katsuki scowled to himself and forced his glare at his own paper. He didn’t know why he was worrying so much about this. He didn’t even care for Izuku. He didn’t care if the kid was upset because he probably fucking deserved it for being so damn full of himself! Katsuki still hadn’t forgiven him for thinking he could ever go to U.A. High. The dumbass was probably just finally realizing his dreams were unrealistic.

 

Class was letting out for the day when Katsuki heard a timid voice call, “Kacchan?”

 

Katsuki froze and turned to face Izuku. The boy had his usual wobbly, nervous smile on his face. His eyes seemed darker and his hair unwashed. He glanced up at Katsuki and away quickly, hunching in a little on himself. He looked pathetic.

 

“What the fuck do you want?” Katsuki demanded, irritated. His friends would be looking for him soon. Most of their classmates had filed out already when the bell rang. Katsuki threw his bag over his shoulder.

 

“I just...I wanted to tell you that I...figured out a way to get rid of the string.” Katsuki immediately opened his mouth to protest that he didn’t see a string, but Izuku brazenly continued on, “I, uh, I...I know you said you can’t see it anymore. But. I...I also know you want it gone. So I’m...I’m going to get rid of it.” Izuku lifted his head and smiled shakily. His eyes were watering a bit, so he quickly wiped them. “You don’t need to worry about being my partner anymore, Kacchan.”

 

“I wasn’t worried about it.” Katsuki told him. “Still can’t believe you believe that shit. That stupid charm fucking lied from the beginning. No way would I be connected to a Quirkless loser like you!”

 

“I know.” Izuku responded softly. “I think you’ll be the best hero, Kacchan.”

 

“Of course I will.” Katsuki shouldered past Izuku with a scoff. “Do whatever you want, idiot. I don’t care!” He grabbed the sliding door ready to slam it behind him. He only heard Izuku’s quiet, “Goodbye, Kacchan” before he did.

 

The cracks in Katsuki’s heart felt like jagged stone. If Katsuki didn’t know better, he would think there was an actual rock in his chest digging its hardened and jagged edges into his lungs because he felt like he couldn’t breathe. For the first time in Katsuki’s life, the cord around his finger felt like it was dragging on the ground. It felt thick as a rope and just as heavy. He didn’t understand these sensations.

 

He was forced to remember the cold of yesterday and the emptiness inside. He didn’t ever want to experience that again. He had never felt more terrified in his life than at that moment. What did Izuku discover yesterday that would break the bond? If it involved that feeling again, he didn’t want it. There had to be other ways to go about it.

 

But if he went back right then, he would be admitting to actually still seeing the string. That was almost as good as a confession, and Katsuki didn’t want any of that either. He didn’t even know why he was still seeing the string in the first place. Would that feeling be worth it if it meant he wasn’t connected to Izuku anymore?

 

He debated this with himself until he was already partway home before he came to a decision and turned around. As frustrating as it was, Katsuki would rather fess up to still seeing the stupid string (after all, Izuku had admitted to still seeing it as well) than go through that vacuum sensation again. He wouldn’t tell anyone, but he was terrified of what would happen if everything had been sucked out of him. He had felt like he was dying. He would just go an see what Izuku had planned.

 

Katsuki considered changing his course to head towards Izuku’s house, but noticed the string had been dragging along behind him back towards the school. Katsuki knew the best way to find the nerd was to just follow the cord, so he did. He was surprised when it led him straight back into the school. Izuku hadn’t left yet? Was the idiot still in the classroom?

 

But no, the cord continued past the classroom and further up. Katsuki felt the pain in his chest increasing as he became aware of how fast his heart was beating. He didn’t know where this anxiety was coming from. He didn’t like that he didn’t know where the cord was leading him. It looked like it was completely grey now rather than red. He hoped it was because of the lighting in the school. But he also knew that lighting had never affected it before.

 

When the cord went through the door to the roof of the school, Katsuki’s blood ran cold. Izuku never went on the school roof. Every student knew the lock was broken by some of the school hooligans, but few people ever actually came up there because it was closed to students. Izuku had no reason to be on the roof.

 

Dots connected quickly in Katsuki’s head. He had always been smarter and faster than the other kids in his class. He could put two and two together to make four. All the strangeness he had been seeing today. Izuku’s words about how to get rid of the string. The feeling of dying yesterday. The lifelessness of the string. That final goodbye-

 

“DEKU!!” Katsuki screamed as he burst through the door, slamming it open hard enough to have it ricochet off of the wall and back at him again. He dodged out of the way of it and spotted Izuku as the boy jumped in shock at the loud noise and spun around. He was by the back edge of the roof on the side nobody would be able to see. Katsuki felt like he couldn’t breathe.

 

“Kacchan!” Izuku gasped, horrified. His hands gripped the railing of the roof tightly. He hadn’t yet hauled himself over to the dangerous side of the roof. His face was shiny with tear tracks down his cheeks. Even from the distance Katsuki was at, he could see the boy’s eyes were red. “H...How did you-?”

 

What the fuck do you think you’re doing?!” Katsuki snarled, stomping closer. His heart was beating loud enough to make his ears ring. He didn’t know how to process the weight and the pain and the tearing in his chest, so he got angry instead. He could do angry.

 

“How did you find me? Why are you here?” Izuku asked, curling in a little on himself. His back was pressed to the railing. His eyes darted around nervously, as if searching for an escape route. Katsuki continued prowling closer.

 

“You think you can just get away with this shit?!” Katsuki grappled the front of Izuku’s gakuran the moment he was close enough and threw the boy away from him and back towards the door. Away from the edge of the roof. Fear clouded his throat and lungs like a heavy smog. Izuku fell hard to the ground with a yelp of pain. Katsuki could barely hear it over the ringing in his ears. “I knew you were an idiot, but this is a new fucking low, Deku!!”

 

“I wasn’t going to jump!” Izuku cried quickly. He was trembling as Katsuki towered over him like a volcano spewing magma of rage. “I-I know it looked like that...But…!”

 

“That’s not going to be the way to get rid of this fucking string!” Katsuki interrupted him. He didn’t want to hear any excuses. The red string lied about things, but the pain in his chest he felt couldn’t be completely his own. He had learned to recognize Izuku’s pain. He had been feeling it for years, after all. This was a new kind of pain he’d never felt before. A hopelessness that seemed to drain the energy from Katsuki’s own body. He felt like he had been exhausted all day even though he wasn’t. “What did you think you were thinking?!”

 

“I DON’T KNOW!!” Izuku finally screamed back. It was loud enough to startle Katsuki into falling silent. Izuku’s fists curled against the rooftop as he squeezed his eyes and screamed, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING, KACCHAN, BUT I CAN’T ANYMORE!! I CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS!!”

 

“Deal with what?!” Katsuki snarled.

 

“Not knowing what to do!!” Izuku wailed. He buried his hands into his hair and tugged on it. “I don’t know what to do anymore! All my dreams are pointless! I’m Quirkless! Everyone in class thinks I’m just one big idiot! My fucking soulmate hates my guts! My mom doesn’t believe I can be a hero! You don’t believe I can be a hero! Even All Might told me I can’t be a hero!”

 

“All Might?” Katsuki asked, confused.

 

Izuku continued as if he hadn’t interrupted. Tears streamed down his face as great hiccuping sobs interrupted his words, “What’s the-the point of anything anymore?! There’s no point in even dreaming if All Might says I can’t be a hero because I’m fucking Quirkless! What am I supposed to do now?!”

 

“Not die like a weak bitch!” Katsuki yelled back.

 

“I don’t want to die!!” Izuku shouted, finally opening his eyes to stare desperately at Katsuki. “But what other options do I have?!”

 

Katsuki let out a frustrated yell and paced back and then forth once. He didn’t know how to deal with this. He didn’t like the overwhelming feelings in his chest. He didn’t like that he could feel what Izuku was feeling. He didn’t understand what the fuck happened to cause Izuku to feel like this. But he loathed the guilt threatening to boil up from his stomach to his throat. He didn’t want to be on the roof anymore. He couldn’t get the image of Izuku actually following his cruel words and taking a fucking swan dive off of the roof out of his head. He couldn’t trust Izuku or himself to think rationally at the moment.

 

He reached down and grabbed the front of the other boy’s shirt and hauled him to his feet. “Come with me!” He commanded. He didn’t give Izuku a chance to protest as he dragged him along behind him. They needed away from this place.

 


 

They end up going to a ramen place. Katsuki felt like he couldn’t eat, but he needed something in his stomach to chase away the feelings there. Plus Izuku calmed down if they were in a public area, and Katsuki couldn’t handle seeing the other boy breaking down. He hated the dull, grey rope that dragged behind them both. It was still too difficult to breathe properly.

 

Neither boy talked until their bowls of ramen were placed in front of them. Katsuki took the chance to add even more spice to his already-spicy miso ramen. Izuku quietly broke his chopsticks and stirred his ramen a bit, not attempting to eat yet.

 

Katsuki scowled at him. “Don’t waste my fucking money and eat.”

 

“I’ll pay for it myself, then.” Izuku mumbled back.

 

“Eat!” Katsuki commanded with a kick to the boy’s stool. Izuku yelped and glared at him a little before reluctantly slurping a couple of noodles. Katsuki bit off a chunk of the pork he had ordered as extra. He didn’t even know where he wanted to begin with this, but they needed to talk. He wanted this feeling to go away. “Explain to me what the fuck you were talking about on the roof.”

 

Izuku didn’t respond.

 

Katsuki gritted his teeth. “WELL?!”

 

“What does it matter?” Izuku asked quietly. His nose sounded clogged as he sniffed. He grabbed a napkin to blow his nose and then another to wipe his face off. Katsuki wanted to give the boy’s face a good scrub like he did when they had been children. Izuku had always been such a fucking crybaby. “Why do you even care?”

 

“Because I refuse to be one of the reasons you die, you fucking moron!”

 

“...I told you I wasn’t going to jump.”

 

Katsuki glanced at the grey rope between their fingers and back to Izuku. The boy had yet to look at him. “Yeah right.” Katsuki muttered back.

 

Izuku was silent for a bit. Katsuki forced himself to slurp some noodles. The heat of the spice and broth helped to chase away some of the smoke in his chest, but he still felt like he was swallowing against a rock. The broth was nothing but an ocean crashing against a pillar of stone. It was unmoveable. He felt like his lungs were shredding against the jagged shards in his chest.

 

Finally Izuku began to speak and explain everything. Katsuki said nothing as he listened to the boy’s tale of what had happened yesterday. Katsuki’s chopsticks ended up hovering above his bowl as he listened to how Izuku had almost been killed by a villain (drowning. Drowning in the sludge of a villain that had attempted to steal his body. That’s why the string had been fading. Izuku had been dying. Katsuki would’ve been too late-) and how All Might himself had rescued him (Katsuki wouldn’t admit that he was pretty jealous of that fact, even if he wasn’t as obsessed with All Might as he used to be). How he had clung to All Might and had spoken to the man. How All Might had told him he couldn’t be a hero because he was Quirkless. How Izuku became lost with the knowledge that not even his hero believed he could be a hero.

 

He was crying again by the end of his rant. Katsuki could hear the frustration and hurt in Izuku’s voice as it had cracked and crumbled but continued on anyway. He could feel it in the echo of his own heart as Izuku’s pain bounced from his chest to Katsuki’s following the grey rope that bound them together like tin can telephones. Katsuki latched onto the frustration he could hear. Because if Izuku was angry, that meant he wasn’t completely without hope. It meant that he still wanted to fight.


That was why Katsuki scoffed when the boy finished. Izuku had only looked at him with horror and shock before it crumpled into hurt. “Seriously?” Izuku whimpered with a huff of disbelief. “You’re still going to make fun of me even after hearing all of that?”

 

“I’m not making fun of you!” Katsuki snapped back at him. “I just can’t believe the amount of self-pity bullshit you’re giving off!”

 

What?

 

Katsuki sighed and spun in his seat to point angrily at Izuku. “You wanna know what fucking pissed me off the most about your dream to be a hero when you’re just a Quirkless loser?” Izuku made a face at him but didn’t stop him from continuing, “Because you are a loser! You claim you want to be a hero, but where’s your fucking training? You don’t even fight back against goddamn bullies! You just sit there and take it! How will anyone take you seriously if you’re just going to be a fucking pushover your entire goddamn life?!” Katsuki shoved Izuku’s shoulder and the boy yelped before straightening himself. Katsuki grabbed his forearm and squeezed, making Izuku wince. “You don’t have any muscles on you, you don’t do any kind of training, and all you do is write in your stupid hero notebooks all of the time! You want to be a hero? Stop fucking cowering and do something about it!”

 

Izuku wiped at his eyes and frowned. Katsuki could see the cogs moving in the boy’s head and wanted to sigh in exasperation. Honestly, how the fuck hadn’t Izuku thought of this before? He was more of an idiot than Katsuki had thought he was. What a goddamn loser. It was when the muttering started up that Katsuki got annoyed with him and kicked his chair again to snap him out of it. “But...I don’t even know where to start.” Izuku finally confessed.

 

“Start by actually working out. You can’t take down villains if you’re a wimp.” Katsuki turned back to his food to continue eating. He didn’t like having to spell this out, but the pain in his chest was lessening. Even as he watched, color began to seep back into the rope. He could see some of familiar bright red. He couldn’t explain the relief he felt at the sight and kind of loathed himself for feeling it.

 

“...Does this mean you think I can still become a hero, Kacchan?” Izuku asked quietly.

 

“No.”

 

“Oh.” Izuku blinked, staring at his ramen. After a moment’s thought, he turned to Katsuki and glared with determination. Katsuki felt his heart skip a beat. He frowned at the reaction. “I’ll just prove you wrong then!”

 

Katsuki grinned. “We’ll fucking see about that.”

 


 

They didn’t walk home together even though they lived in the same direction. Buying the other boy dinner was annoying enough.

 

“Deku!” He called as Izuku took a separate route to head home. Izuku paused and turned around. The string between them was still tense and strained, but it was floating again and once again red. It wasn’t fully saturated in its normal color, but it was closer to being normal. Katsuki no longer felt like he was choking for air. He pointed at the other boy. “I’d better not ever see that damn color on the string ever again, you hear me? I’ll kill you if I do!”

 

He turned to walk away and shoved his headphones into his ears before he could hear Izuku’s response to that.

 


 

Somehow the two of them started working out together. Izuku caught Katsuki while he was doing laps around the neighborhood and dropped everything to join him on the run. No matter how much Katsuki yelled at him, he wouldn’t leave him alone. It took the other boy running out of breath and slowing to a stop before Katsuki was left alone again.

 

Izuku repeated it the next time he saw Katsuki running as well. The boy attempted to ask him questions, but that only wore him out more. Katsuki felt like pounding his face in, but barely resisted. The color still wasn’t bright red, and Katsuki wouldn’t feel at ease until then. There was no point in bullying Izuku anymore anyway. All Might had already successfully destroyed any kind of hopes he'd had. This was a pointless endeavor, but at least Izuku was doing something to achieve his dream rather than just fucking daydreaming all of the time. Katsuki would give him some credit for that by laying off just a bit.

 

He found Izuku doing his own exercises as well. In class he muttered more and more as he scribbled in that damn book. His hands were covered with blisters from whatever he was doing, and over time it was obvious he was bulking up. He even changed his eating habits.

 

Katsuki got used to Izuku joining him on his runs, but it took time before the boy could keep up with him. Sometimes it turned into a race that had both of them glaring at each other and breaking out into flat sprints. More than once Katsuki collapsed on the ground panting for air with Izuku next to him. The string floated between them, lighter than it had been in years.

 


 

“I’m not going to go to U.A.” Izuku announced one day, standing in Katsuki’s doorway.

 

“Haa?” Katsuki demanded, still holding the door wide open. This wasn’t the greeting he was expecting when he'd learned that Izuku was on the other side of the door. Izuku hadn’t been to his house since the day Katsuki had first beaten him up. Seeing the determination in the boy’s green eyes stirred something in Katsuki he couldn’t explain.

 

“I’m not going to go to U.A.” He repeated. His fists were clenched by his sides.

 

“What made you change your mind, huh? Finally decide you’re not gonna be a hero after all?”

 

“No matter how hard I try, I won’t be able to pass the hero exam at the level I’m at now. I still can’t even keep up with your regimen yet. The most I can make it into is the Gen Ed course and…” He shrugged with a sad smile. “I don’t think I can handle seeing you and all of the other kids in that heroes course without being part of it.” Katsuki could see that. He was pretty pleased too. That meant his own desire to be the only one in their grade in their school to go to U.A. was still achievable without Izuku trying to ruin it. It was good that he knew this.

 

He crossed his arms and leaned against his door frame. “So where are you gonna go then? The local high school?”

 

Izuku shook his head. “I’m thinking of Shiketsu High. They have a strong Gen Ed course and more connections for those students than at U.A. anyway.”

 

Katsuki felt a little annoyed at that. “You realize there’s still a fucking heroes course there too, right?”

 

“It’s different.” Izuku said. I won’t have to watch you achieve your dreams without me there was left unsaid, but Katsuki felt it resonate through their bond just as clear as any thoughts Katsuki might have in his own head. There was a tinge of sadness with it that coated the roof of his mouth. He licked his lips and swallowed to clear it away.

 

“So what, you’re aiming for something other than Pro Hero work?”

 

“Something like that?” Izuku gave a sheepish smile and another shrug. “I don’t really know what my other options are. I’ll probably find something along the way.”

 

“Be a cop like All Might suggested.”

 

“It’s a possibility.” He didn’t look too happy about it. “I’m still going to do the U.A. exam though. Just to see what I would score.”

 

Katsuki grinned. That sounded more like it. “You’ll always be chasing my dust, Deku.”

 

Izuku just smiled. “I’ll catch up to you eventually. Just wait for me.” He turned to leave and called back over his shoulder, “See you then, Kacchan!”

 

Katsuki said nothing and watched him go. His eyes flickered towards the string that floated around behind Izuku on one side and circled to his other to connect to Katsuki’s hand. It was looking a little lighter each day. It was back to being bright red. His eyes followed it towards Izuku’s hand and he frowned. He wondered if he would feel that warmth again if he held Izuku’s hand now.

 


 

Obviously Katsuki succeeded in getting into the U.A. Heroes Course. He was too amazing not to, and Izuku made sure to voice his own amazement when Katsuki told him. Izuku also succeeded in getting into the General Education course of Shiketsu and was actually excited to see where this path would lead him. Katsuki kind of didn’t like the feeling he got realizing he would no longer see Izuku every day. He had become used to the boy’s presence in his life no matter how much he had loathed it for years. They had been going to the same schools ever since they had been in preschool together.

 

Somehow, some way, he and Izuku had become something like friends again. Katsuki wasn’t exactly sure what had changed, though. If he had to take a guess, it was him reevaluating Izuku and how the boy acted. Katsuki had thought he was full of himself for someone who was Quirkless and had tried to break that spirit. The day the string turned grey, he realized that he had succeeded in his attempt. And Izuku had been worse for it. Katsuki had earned that pain that he had felt through the bond and had understood that Izuku’s pain was significantly worse. If Katsuki had been gasping for air, then Izuku had been drowning. Katsuki didn’t want either of them to ever experience that again.

 

He still couldn’t get the thought that he would’ve been too late to save Izuku out of his mind. Izuku had almost died twice. The second one would’ve been no better than Katsuki pushing Izuku off the roof himself. Even if Izuku still denied that he was going to do it, Katsuki knew better. The string did not lie about that.

 

Katsuki wondered if he would ever feel alive again if Izuku ever did die on him.

 


 

High school started for both boys and they stopped seeing each other as often as they used to. Their training became separated as Katsuki adjusted his home regimen to match or substitute for what he did or didn’t do in his own classes. Izuku continued and improved upon the regimen he and Katsuki had developed for him. The boy had bulked up significantly and could now hold his own decently in a hand-to-hand fight with Katsuki. They had yet to start practicing with Katsuki’s quirk against him.

 

Katsuki unfortunately began to develop relationships with his classmates. He was truly tested against people who had legitimately strong quirks. He was finally feeling challenged in his classes in comparison to his previous classmates. He was being trained by Pro Heroes and even All Might himself. It was kind of humbling for him, although he didn’t show it in ways that people expected. Katsuki was finally happy to go to school.

 

Izuku had been jealous to hear Katsuki was being trained by All Might and always demanded stories about what he did in his classes. He would beg for autographs and maybe a picture or two. If Katsuki occasionally obliged him, Izuku didn’t call him out on it and nobody in class knew. Besides, he had reluctantly grown to like the way Izuku would smile so brightly at him. Katsuki had forgotten how Izuku looked when he smiled like that. He hadn’t seen it since their childhood.

 

Izuku had made a couple of friends in his own classes as well. Sometimes the boys got together to work on their homework (even if they went to different schools, math and English and Japanese and history were always the same) and Katsuki would sit by and listen as Izuku went on and on about his own school. Most of the time Katsuki would get fed up with the rambling, but more and more he found himself just listening. Izuku barely cared if Katsuki zoned out during it, which the boy did often. He would catch the important bits at least.

 

Once in a while it would occur to Katsuki just how different both of their lives had become. Middle school and the way they had acted towards each other seemed so far away and petty in comparison to the lives they held now. He still got irritated with Izuku and wanted to punch him sometimes, but now it was because Izuku had developed a habit of standing up for himself and sassing him sometimes rather than because he was a weak piece of shit. Without Katsuki and his old friends constantly knocking him around and pushing him into the ground, he had managed to grow into his own. He hardly resembled the boy Katsuki had seen on the roof that day.

 

When these thoughts occurred, sometimes Katsuki would smile to himself.

 


 

“Kacchan! Over here!” Katsuki glanced up from his phone and checking the time when he heard Izuku’s voice calling him. His eyes automatically trailed along the bright red string through the crowd to where he could tell Izuku was at. The bond spun and waved and danced with Izuku’s moving hand as he attempted to get Katsuki’s attention. Katsuki just huffed and shoved his phone into his pants pocket before standing and waiting. Soon enough Izuku joined him along with another boy.

 

He was taller than Katsuki by a bit, which meant he was a decent height taller than Izuku. His purple hair made him seem even taller even next to Izuku’s crazy mop of curls, which was impressive. The boy looked permanently tired and just as done as Katsuki felt on a daily basis as the both of them joined Katsuki in front of the fountain. He only gave a short one-handed wave when they were close enough.

 

“Who the fuck are you?” Katsuki demanded with a scowl. It was just supposed to be him and Izuku that day. Katsuki had enough dealing with people all day at school, and now he had to deal with kids his age on the weekends as well? This was his last chance to spend some time with Izuku before internships would start and Katsuki would be busy. He wasn’t going to let the nerd watch this movie without him.

 

“Kacchan!” Izuku cried in reprimand.

 

“Shinsou Hitoshi is who the fuck I am.” The zombie kid - Shinsou apparently - responded in a deadpan tone.

 

“Shinsou-kun…” Izuku whined.

 

Katsuki knew who this kid was. He was Izuku’s closest friend at Shiketsu. Izuku mentioned him all of time in his various stories about what was happening at his school. He was also in the Gen Ed course just like Izuku was, but whether or not he was Quirkless Katsuki didn’t know. He’d never asked because he didn’t care. Most of the time he tuned out Izuku’s rambles about whatever shit he was doing with his other friends.

 

“You’re obviously the famous ‘Kacchan’.” Shinsou continued, ignoring Izuku. “Saw your debut at the U.A. Sports Festival on tv.”

 

“Yeah? So?” Katsuki demanded.

 

“Just stating a fact.” Shinsou looked amused. “No need to be so on guard. You’re just as testy as I expected.”

 

“Hey, fuck you dude!” Katsuki scowled and flicked him off.

 

“No thanks. You can save that for-” Whatever he was about to say, Izuku cut him off by slapping a hand quickly over his mouth.

 

“SHINSOU-KUN!!” He cried. His eyes darted back and forth between Katsuki and Shinsou with pink cheeks that Katsuki could tell wasn’t from the heat. “Don’t make Kacchan angry!”

 

“No, what the fuck was he gonna say? Let’s hear it, douchedick! See how long that mouth of yours can move when my fist is in it!” Katsuki shouted. Shinsou ducked away from Izuku’s hand and opened his mouth to speak, and then thought better of it by closing it with a smirk. Katsuki gritted his teeth. This guy was getting on his nerves fast. “Why the hell are you even here? Nobody invited your zombie ass!”

 

“Zombie. That’s one I haven’t heard before.” The other boy drawled, although if he was serious or not Katsuki couldn’t tell.

 

“Shinsou-kun asked me if he could come when I mentioned what movie we were going to see and I said yes. So I invited him, Kacchan.” Izuku said. Katsuki clenched his fists and shoved them angrily into his pockets. He felt on edge with someone else there. It was just supposed to be him and Izuku that day. He didn’t want to have to share.

 

“Yeah, sorry to crash your date. Wanted to finally meet the guy Midoriya goes on about all the time.”

 

“It’s not a date!” Izuku denied, his voice pitching high with embarrassment as he waved his hands and shook his head fast enough that Katsuki thought it might fly off. Katsuki wanted to take the string and wrap it around both Izuku’s and Shinsou’s necks and pull it to shut both of them up. He was close to just quitting and leaving, but he didn’t want to leave Shinsou to go to the movie alone with Izuku either. He was stuck in a shitty situation either way.

 

“Whatever! Let’s fucking get this over with!” Katsuki grabbed the collar of Izuku’s shirt and hauled him along until he was walking with him. He glared back at Shinsou over his shoulder and called, “You’re buying your own damn ticket, third wheel!”

 


 

“Gotta say, I wasn’t expecting you to act like this even in front of your soulmate.” Shinsou suddenly said as the two stood waiting for Izuku to finish going to the bathroom after the movie. Katsuki had been determined not to say a single word to Shinsou because he had decided he really didn’t like the fucker. Now he couldn’t not say something in response to that.

 

What? ” He demanded.

 

“You know,” Shinsou waved his hand around, “all the cursing and insults and shit you spew. I saw you losing your shit when you won the U.A. Sports Festival and thought 'no way is he always like that'. Thought you would be nicer in person. At least to Midoriya, anyway. Guess you’re just always this angry, huh?”

 

“I don’t give a flying fuck about that. What the hell did you say about soulmates, you zombie fuck?” Katsuki pushed off of the wall to face him. Shinsou did the opposite and relaxed more against the wall, far more at ease than he should be with his hands in his pockets. His eyes didn’t lose their tired, assessing look.

 

“Oh, are you surprised I knew? Was it a secret?”

 

“Fucking Deku!” Katsuki cursed. “How the hell do you know that? Does he just go spouting that shit off to all of his stupid friends?”

 

“Yes and no. The class in general knows he believes in soulmates and that rumor about those charms, but I’m the only one he’s told the full story about you guys to.” Shinsou smirked, looking a little too smug for Katsuki’s rapidly-depleting patience for his bullshit. “He’s really not that great at truth or dare, y’know?”

 

Katsuki didn’t respond and just glared away from him. He didn’t have anything to say.

 

Shinsou apparently wasn’t finished yet though as he continued, “Do you really see a red string as well?”

 

“It’s none of your goddamn business!” Katsuki snapped at him.

 

“Actually, it is. Just a little bit.” Katsuki’s head snapped to face him and narrowed his eyes. Any amusement had left Shinsou’s face. His tired eyes took on a sharpness to them that surprised Katsuki some. “Midoriya’s told me all about you two and the kind of relationship you have. And when I heard you were meeting up today, I figured I would take it upon myself to come along and meet you so we could have a talk.”

 

“Holy shit.” Katsuki huffed a disbelieving laugh. “Are you about to give me the fucking shovel talk about Deku?”

 

“Absolutely.” Shinsou responded with all seriousness. It sucked Katsuki’s amusement right out of him and he sneered.

 

“Stay the fuck out of our relationship!”

 

“From the sound of it, you’re treating him a lot better than before. So I won’t say anything now. I just want to let you know that if you come anywhere close to hurting him like you used to again, I can and will make sure you ruin all of your credibility before you can use your ‘amazing’ quirk to do any kind of hero work.”

 

“What the fuck does that mean? Is that a goddamn threat?!”

 

“You’re not gonna be a great hero if you can’t even recognize a legitimate threat.”

 

Katsuki grappled the front of his shirt with both fists and hauled him close with a growl. Shinsou didn’t look the least bit threatened. Only the fact that they were within the public eye stopped Katsuki from slamming the asshole against the wall. “You can’t do anything to me, you piece of shit.” Katsuki hissed. “I’ll kill you before you do.”

 

Shinsou glared at him. He grabbed Katsuki’s hands and pried them off of his shirt before stepping backwards. “I’m only giving you this one warning and that’s it. Soulmate or not, I won’t allow your bad attitude to hurt Midoriya again.”

 

“You’ve got some fucking nerve-!”

 

“I’m back!” Izuku called, hurrying up to join them. The string spun and pooled around his feet, looping a number of times before shrinking as the distance between him and Katsuki shortened. Katsuki felt the urge to grab his hand and pull him far away from Shinsou. “Sorry I’m late. There was actually a line forming from so many people. I didn’t think the movie would be that popular!” He paused as he noticed the tension between both Katsuki and Shinsou. He glanced back and forth between them. “Did...something happen?”

 

Katsuki didn’t respond and stormed off instead to get something to eat and cool off. He didn’t want to be in Shinsou’s presence any longer.

 


 

They were standing around in Izuku’s kitchen taking a well-deserved break from their studying for their upcoming exams. Katsuki had a raging headache going on in his skull that he was tempting to call a percussion section while Izuku was cooking some tea for them both. Katsuki was tapping his pain pills on the counter and contemplating just shoving his head under the faucet to gulp some water when Izuku spoke.

 

“Kacchan?”

 

Katsuki grunted. He decided it would be more mature to just get a mug. It wasn’t like he wasn’t going to use it for the tea soon. He proceeded to grab his mug and fill it with tap water before drinking some.

 

“Have you always been able to see the string?”

 

Katsuki coughed as he choked a little on his water. He brought the crook of his arm to his mouth as he hacked into it, glaring at Izuku for instigating this with that type of question all of the sudden. Izuku wasn’t looking at him, though. He was instead watching the way the string was dancing in the air as it followed the movements Katsuki was making. It was lighter than a spiderweb floating in a breeze. It no longer looked frayed like it had in the past. It resembled the bond when it had been fresh, only now it was thicker and stronger. It didn’t look like it should be able to float like it did.

 

“Why…” Katsuki coughed still. Izuku moved to pat him on the back, but thought better of it when Katsuki’s glare sharpened in warning, “Why the hell...are you bringing that up now?”

 

“I was thinking about it.” Izuku admitted. He had a bit of a faraway look in his eyes, which meant he had been thinking these kinds of questions for a while. Naturally his little airhead would jump onto a different subject as soon as they were away from their textbooks.

 

Katsuki chugged the rest of his water and downed his pills, which helped to both give him a moment to think and to clear the itch in his throat from his lungs insisting there was still water in them. He should’ve expected this subject to come up eventually, but he hadn’t. The two of them hadn’t brought up the bond with each other since the day they had gone to eat ramen. It had become so part of their lives that there wasn’t much reason to discuss it. Neither ever commented either when they would catch each other watching the string or attempting to touch the ties around their fingers.

 

When Katsuki didn’t answer soon enough, Izuku continued in an effort to encourage him to respond, “You...denied it when we were kids,” the jagged crack in Katsuki’s chest pulsed with the reminder, echoing Izuku’s, “so I thought...I thought you had lost the ability to see it...because…” he trailed off for a moment, staring at the palm of his hand. The string looped and curled between his fingers before stretching over to where Katsuki was standing, “because you didn’t reciprocate my feelings anymore.” He finally finished.

 

Katsuki inhaled quickly and released it sharply. He stared at Izuku with his arms crossed. Izuku’s eyes lifted to meet his with some hesitancy. He no longer held that fear in his gaze that he used to hold. He had become more confident at his new school and with new friends. He had once again become comfortable in Katsuki’s presence. Katsuki soaked it in and attempted to push back the dark thoughts of what he had done in the past. He had spent far too many nights already absolutely furious with himself while he had been coming to terms with his own feelings.

 

“That’s because I thought the string lied.” He told him, for once being open about this. He would rather just get it out now and then never talk about this again. He had been waiting for an opportunity like this, and Katsuki wasn’t the type to not capitalize on something to his advantage. “And I hated that I was connected to you.”

 

“I know.” Izuku murmured, looking sad.

 

“Ugh.” Katsuki growled once and then turned. “Wait here.” He commanded before leaving to head back to Izuku’s room. He heard the boy move to watch him curiously as Katsuki reentered Izuku’s bedroom and grabbed his backpack. He dug inside of it and grabbed what he was looking for before shoving them into his pocket and leaving to rejoin the other boy. Izuku’s gaze had lost that sadness to be replaced with his curiosity when he didn’t see anything in Katsuki’s hands. Katsuki steeled his nerves, already feeling some heat in his cheeks from how embarrassing this was, before he pulled out two charms from his pocket and held it out to Izuku. The other boy gasped at the sight. “Here.”

 

“You...you bought another set of charms?” Izuku asked quietly, stunned. He hesitated, and then took one of the charms for himself. Katsuki didn’t think there was anything really special about them anymore. Whatever kind of magic or miracle made them work the first time was already still in effect. These ones wouldn’t be able to do anything more for them. But that wasn’t the reason why Katsuki had searched for way-too-fucking-long for them, and Izuku knew it.

 

“I was an asshole, okay?” Katsuki grumbled, irritated with both having to spell this out and just how much he was exposing himself here. He was taking a risk, but it was about time he decided to take the damage instead of forcing it on Izuku. “I still think you’re a nerd and a loser, but I...I don’t think you’ll be a bad partner. So-”

 

Katsuki cut himself off though as he felt a touch to his hand. He jolted in surprise and watched Izuku’s face as the boy’s eyes danced over him to read his expression. When he wasn’t immediately shoved away, he boldly stepped closer still and slid their hands together, linking their fingers.

 

The two of them shared the same breath as they both inhaled at once. Katsuki felt like he was breathing again for the first time. All this time he had been deep underwater without air and he hadn’t even realized. He had been under for so long that he had forgotten how it felt for his lungs to expand with precious air. His body filled with heat that sang like starlight and the feeling of coming home. He was getting a fix he had been craving desperately but hadn’t indulged in for far too long. He couldn’t stop himself from squeezing Izuku’s hand if he had wanted to.

 

“Kacchan…” Izuku murmured, looking just as starstruck and as lost to the moment as Katsuki felt. A villain could come in and destroy the apartment around them and Katsuki wasn’t sure he would be able to come back to himself long enough to do something about it. The only thing Katsuki was aware of next was the shaky, warm exhale against his lips before Izuku was kissing him.

 

Katsuki’s free hand found the other boy’s jaw as his eyes fell closed. Firecrackers went off in the press of their lips and behind Katsuki’s eyelids as his eyes fell shut. Izuku’s arm wrapped around behind his waist and pulled them both closer. They separated only enough to catch a quick breath before rejoining in a hotter embrace. Izuku’s back hit the refrigerator as Katsuki could practically see the both of them glowing. The heat and warmth he had forgotten about since childhood suffused them both so completely that Katsuki was certain it was illuminating them. He felt like Izuku’s image was burned into his eyelids and his body. He couldn’t tell if he was shaking or if it was the resonation between the both of them.

 

Oh. Katsuki found himself thinking, far away and both part of him and separate from himself. It must be Izuku, then. This is what I’ve been missing.

 

Shut up. Katsuki thought as he coaxed Izuku’s lips to part and let him explore deeper. Izuku’s hand tightened around his own, pressing their charms harder to their skin as his other hand gripped the back of Katsuki’s shirt. A jolt went through them both when one of his fingers brushed bare skin. The soft whimper that was heard could’ve been either or both of them. Katsuki wanted to move the stupid charms out of the way and find another use for his hand, but he couldn’t bring himself to let go yet.

 

Kacchan. Kacchan. Kacchan. His mind echoed with Izuku’s words. Katsuki nearly groaned because of course Izuku wouldn’t even shut up for this. But he didn’t mind it as much if it meant his name was the only thing on the other boy’s mind.

 

Izuku.

 

His heart -heavy and burdened with the terrible cracks and damage caused by Katsuki’s own cruelty- trembled and made itself forefront in Katsuki’s mind. For once he couldn’t feel the rough edges pressing against his lungs. A pain that he had become accustomed to -but never comfortable with- lightened up. The damage wasn’t gone, but the edges had become smoother and worn with time. Katsuki could feel the beginnings of the sandpaper that would wear down the harsher parts and maybe smooth the damage. One day he might be able to carefully press the pieces back together and glue back the damage he had caused. It wouldn’t be as perfect as it once had been, but he and Izuku would no longer have to be in pain. It was an ideal.

 

They separated again for air. Their eyes opening and the sight of the other caused similar jolts of surprise in them. Katsuki had lost himself completely in the moment, trapped in the combination of them both rather than as two separate beings. He swallowed against the taste of Izuku in his mouth.

 

“I’ve been wanting to do that for so long.” Izuku said, bringing his hand up to stroke at Katsuki’s cheek and jaw. His eyes were sparkling with his marvel. The heat in and between them was intoxicating. Katsuki could feel and taste the potential of so much. He felt like he had countless possibilities presented before him and too many things he wanted to do. He was also in no rush to do anything quite yet but to savor the feeling of breathing for the first time in years.

 

Even when I hurt you? Katsuki thought, but couldn’t bring himself to voice it. He glanced down between them then. The string had looped its way over and over again around their wrists, binding them together. Katsuki knew if the string was tangible he would have no way of ever untangling or cutting it away from their wrists.

 

“Even then.” Izuku confirmed. He brushed aside all of Katsuki’s dark and self-loathing thoughts effortlessly as his lips brushed against Katsuki’s cheek and the corner of his mouth. He was a gale in Katsuki’s mind, clearing the fields of the thoughts and damage before they could latch onto Katsuki’s conscious thought. Katsuki felt a twinge of nervousness at the new power that they both had seemed to find over the other, but it didn’t last long. They had time to think on it later.

 

He ignored the burn in his cheeks as he forced himself to pry his hand away from Izuku’s and let their charms fall to the floor. The heat didn’t fade right away, so neither of them had time to miss it before Katsuki lifted their arms and linked their fingers again, pressing their combined hands next to Izuku’s head on the fridge door. Katsuki half-leaned on his elbow as he used his other hand to pin Izuku’s hip as well. Izuku only beamed at him, his eyes a bit glazed with the liquid sugar intoxicating them both.

 

“You’re an idiot.” Katsuki murmured, eyes darting to Izuku’s lips as the boy licked them.

 

“You’ll have to forgive yourself one day.” He countered breathlessly, lips brushing Katsuki’s. Katsuki didn’t bother to use his mouth to respond feeling instead it would be much more prudent to stop talking with their mouths. He would take advantage of the new ways now so he could lose himself in the delicious firecrackers that lit up between their lips and on their tongues.

 

Maybe when you forgive me.

 

Izuku huffed out a laugh, smiling against Katsuki’s mouth. His arm came up to wrap around his neck and to bury itself in his hair. Katsuki took advantage to taste him again. He didn't hear an immediate response from Izuku before suddenly an echo came through, I can’t promise when that will happen, but I can promise that it will happen if you continue to cherish me like you’ve been doing.

 

Mortification echoed through them both with the realization that neither of them had meant the other to hear or expose themselves like that. Izuku let out a little noise of horror and Katsuki felt him pulling back, but he growled and pushed through to kiss him harder.

 

Shutupshutupshut up, you IDIOT!

 

“I’m trying.” Izuku muttered out loud. Just end me.

 

Use your mouth for something more than spewing cheesy bullshit.

 

To be fair, I didn’t say it out loud. God help him, but Katsuki couldn’t stop the feeling of falling just a little bit more in love as Izuku giggled a little dizzily with his thought.

 

(He hoped that particular thought didn’t pass. He wanted to say it out loud first.)