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we've made every mistake (only you know the way that i break)

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It starts with a question.

“Come on, Midoriya, can’t you just take a leap of faith?” Kaminari’s eyes sparkle, golden irises lighting up with amusement.

But Izuku is far past remembering what they were talking about, too lost in his own memories to do anything more than open his mouth.

“I-I don’t—” he starts, but his throat is tightening and he can’t breathe.

“Midoriya?”

He can hear the worry in Kirishima’s voice and he can see the way Kaminari’s grin falls away, replaced by a concerned frown, but his lungs are constricting in his chest and he can’t find a way to get the oxygen he’s craving.

A strangled noise passes his lips and gets the attention of everyone else in the common room.

If you really want a quirk that badly, there’s one way to do it. Take a leap of faith off the roof and pray you’ll be born with a quirk in your next life.

The words cycle over and over again in his head, reminding him of cruel taunts and bitter tears. His nails dig into his palms as he squeezes his eyes shut and presses his lips together, trying to hold in the desperate sobs threatening to escape.

He feels someone come up behind him, just close enough to brush against his shaking shoulders, and he knows it’s Katsuki without looking—the radiating warmth a clear indicator. He forces his eyes open to see most of the class gathered around them, staring at him with a combination of worry and wariness.

“What the fuck did you do to him, Dunce Face?”

“Nothing! We just wanted him to come skating with us, but he said he’d never been. So I told him to take a leap of faith. But that’s it! I swear,” Kaminari protests, holding his hands up innocently.

He knows that Katsuki is remembering the same thing he is—can tell by the way the blond stiffens immediately.

“Idiots,” Katsuki says, then pauses. “I’ll take care of it. Just leave him alone.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Todoroki breaks in, heterochromatic eyes narrowed in distrust. “He’s clearly having a panic attack and you yelling at him is the last thing he needs.”

Katsuki scoffs. “Fine, IcyHot. You want to deal with him? Take him.”

But Izuku doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want to be interrogated. He just wants everything to go away. So he reaches out with trembling fingers and grabs Katsuki’s sleeve, turning a pleading expression in his direction. He still can’t form words and only manages a weak sound that makes Katsuki’s livid features soften.

“Midoriya?” Todoroki asks, brow furrowing in confusion.

He shakes his head, turning his face into Katsuki’s chest and inhaling the familiar scent of nitroglycerine. It makes it easier to breathe for reasons that he doesn’t have the energy to determine.

“You’re alright, Deku,” Katsuki whispers lowly, too quiet for anyone but Izuku to hear. “Just focus on me, okay? Give me a second and I’ll get you out of here.”

Nodding, he closes his eyes again and tries to ignore everything except the smell of burnt sugar and the warmth from Katsuki’s palm where it rests against the back of his neck.

“Does it look like I’m yelling at him, asshole? I’ve got this.” Katsuki’s voice is firm, leaving no room for arguments. “I’ve got him.”

“Okay,” Todoroki says after a long moment.

His heart is still pounding in his chest, slamming against his ribcage furiously. He clutches Katsuki’s shirt as his knees nearly give out, his head spinning from the emotions threatening to overwhelm him.

Strong arms wind around his waist, holding him up and keeping him steady.

“Can you get on my back?” Katsuki asks softly.

He nods and lets the other pull away, then carefully climbs onto his back, wrapping his legs around Katsuki’s hips. His arms are weak as he drapes them around his friend’s shoulders, but he can’t find it in himself to care. He buries his face in the side of Katsuki’s neck, hot tears slipping down his cheeks.

It’s been ages since he’s had a panic attack and he’s furious with himself, angry beyond belief that he lost control like that. Especially in front of everyone.

He should be stronger. Maybe All Might was wrong. Maybe he isn’t good enough to be the Symbol of Peace. Maybe he isn’t good enough to be anything except quirkless.

Maybe Kacchan was right, he thinks, something cold settling in his chest.

“I wasn’t,” Katsuki says, interrupting his inner turmoil.

He freezes and lifts his head, vaguely recognizing that they’re in the elevator. “What?” he manages to choke out through the haze surrounding him.

“You were muttering.”

“Oh.”

Katsuki squeezes his thighs to get his attention. “I wasn’t right. I was stupid and angry and I should never have said it.”

Izuku opens his mouth to respond, but can’t find the words.

Yes, he can confidently call Katsuki a friend again, but they’ve never talked about their past. They’ve tucked it away, avoiding the topic completely and skirting around any questions about their history.

Instead of saying anything, he rests his chin on Katsuki’s shoulder and tightens his arms around his neck.

He’s unsurprised to find the elevator doors opening to the fifth floor instead of the second. Katsuki may have spent years claiming they weren’t friends, but he still knows Izuku better than anyone.

Izuku smiles as Katsuki carries him down the hallway. Even though his chest is still tight with anxiety, he can feel some of his panic receding as they walk in a comfortable silence.

It’s not the first time he’s been in the other’s room, but it still feels special, like he’s being allowed into Katsuki’s world without restraint.

“Down, nerd,” Katsuki says, crouching beside the bed.

He reluctantly slides off, missing the warmth immediately as he falls back on the mattress. “Thanks,” he mumbles, hugging his knees to his chest and wrapping his arms around them.

Katsuki stares at him, then lets out a deep sigh and drops down next to him, calloused fingers covering his own trembling ones. “Hey.”

“Hi,” he replies quietly.

“Do you want to talk about what happened?”

Izuku recoils. “I—”

If you really want a quirk that badly, there’s one way to do it. Take a leap of faith off the roof and pray you’ll be born with a quirk in your next life.

His breath catches in his throat and it feels like he’s being strangled—like someone is cutting off his air supply and squeezing his lungs until they burst.

“Oi, none of that. Come on, Deku, look at me.”

“What if I had done it?” he blurts out, emerald eyes locking onto crimson.

Katsuki’s face hardens, but he doesn’t ask for clarification. “I would have never made it to Yuuei. I would have given up on being a hero. If we’re being honest, I don’t know where I would have ended up.”

Izuku’s heart skips a beat. “Kacchan—”

“I don’t mean that in a sacrificial kind of way. It wouldn’t be because it was the honorable thing to do or whatever noble crap you’re thinking. It’s just the truth. If you had taken what I said—if you had done it, I never would have been able to get past that. I would have killed you and, well, heroes don’t kill people.”

He bites his lip, ducking his head at Katsuki’s words.

“Izuku.”

The use of his first name shocks him into meeting the other’s eyes.

“I shouldn’t have said it.”

“Why did you?”

Katsuki exhales heavily, hands still resting over Izuku’s. “I thought I was protecting you. You had wanted to be a hero since we were kids and I knew that you wouldn’t give up, not even when your quirk didn’t come in. But you were so small and fragile and I was terrified that you were going to end up dead. So I thought if I could make you feel weak, you would stop trying. You would give up on Yuuei and stay home where you would be safe.”

“You hurt me,” Izuku says, unable to keep the accusing note out of his tone.

Flinching back, Katsuki nods. “Yeah. I did. And it doesn’t matter that I thought I was doing the right thing. I was wrong. I wanted to protect you, but I just made everything worse. I know it doesn’t change anything and I know it probably won’t make a difference, but I’m sorry.”

He’s not surprised to feel tears gathering in the corner of his eyes, sliding down his cheeks and dripping onto the comforter. “Kacchan, it does make a difference. You saying that means everything to me.”

Katsuki’s lips twitch upwards as he reaches up to wipe at the moisture staining Izuku’s cheeks. “Alright, crybaby. Don’t get worked up about it. I should have said it a long time ago.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I thought you wouldn’t want to hear it. You should hate me, Deku. You shouldn’t be letting me near you after everything I did to you. But no matter how cruel I was, no matter how many times I hurt you, you would always come back with that stupid grin of yours and try to be my friend.”

“You are my friend,” he protests, turning his face into Katsuki’s palm.

Katsuki huffs a laugh and traces his thumb along the freckles dotting Izuku’s skin. “Yeah. I know that now. You’re fuckin’ impossible to get rid of, nerd.”

Izuku closes his eyes and focuses on the gentle touch.

“Still, my point stands. You said it yourself, Deku. I hurt you. You shouldn’t be trying to help me. You shouldn’t be reaching out to me when you’re scared. And you sure as hell shouldn’t be letting me touch you like this. If anything, you should be running in the other direction.”

Blinking, Izuku frowns. “Is this the part where you tell me you’re leaving me for my own good?”

Katsuki shakes his head and leans forward until their forehead are pressed together. “I really should since you’re obviously not going to do it, but fuck if I’m not selfish enough to stick around anyway.”

He tilts his chin up stubbornly, fingertips trailing over Katsuki’s collarbone. “It’s not selfish if I want you to stay.”

“Sure, Deku. Whatever you say.”

“Thanks for helping me back there,” he says after a beat of silence.

Katsuki falls back against the mattress until he’s lying down, taking Izuku with him and tucking the smaller boy under his chin. “It was the least I could do. It’s my fault you froze up after all.”

He curls closer, tangling their legs together. But when he opens his mouth to speak, Katsuki is already talking again.

“I didn’t know it still bothered you,” Katsuki says quietly.

“It usually doesn’t. I’ve just been more stressed than usual lately and it’s making me overthink a lot of things.”

Knocking his knuckles lightly against Izuku’s skull, Katsuki brushes his thumb across his forehead. “You’ve gotta stop doin’ that, nerd.”

“There’s just—there’s so much pressure and I know that All Might isn’t doing it on purpose, but I don’t want to be him. I want to find my own way of doing things without worrying about following his footsteps exactly.”

“You have, Deku. You were born to be a hero and you don’t need anyone to tell you that. There is no one else good enough to inherit All Might’s power. You took his quirk and you made it your own. You don’t need to worry about being All Might. You just need to be yourself. I’m proud of you, Izuku.”

Izuku’s eyes widen at the firm sincerity in Katsuki’s tone. “Kacchan...”

Katsuki shakes his head. “Don’t break yourself trying to fit someone else’s mold. You’re fine just the way you are. And if anyone has anything to say about it, I’ll kick their asses.”

He buries a smile in Katsuki’s chest and squeezes him a little bit tighter. “Thank you.”

“There’s nothing to thank me for.”

++

Izuku swallows down the lump in his throat and tries to ignore the pressure behind his eyes. It’s easy with Katsuki pressed against him, warm and solid. The feel of calloused fingers tracing up and down his spine is soothing enough to distract him from everything he knows is waiting for him outside of the room.

He knows that he’ll have to get up eventually and face the rest of his classmates—that he’ll have to give some sort of explanation for what happened. But, for now, he just closes his eyes and focuses on Katsuki’s touch.

“What are you thinking about down there, nerd?” Katsuki asks, voice roughened by tiredness and contentment.

“You know I’m a little bit in love with you, right?” he says eventually, Katsuki’s heartbeat steady under his ear.

He knows that it could ruin everything, but he’s never been good at keeping secrets from Katsuki, so he figures it’s better to get it out in the open now.

“Yeah? Well, that’s good since I’m a little bit in love with you too.”

Izuku laughs, his chest filling with warmth and affection and relief. “You should have told me. It could have saved us a lot of trouble.”

Katsuki leans down to press a kiss to Izuku’s temple, then pulls away enough to look at him seriously. “We don’t have to do this. Not if you don’t want to. I understand if you can’t trust me, or forgive me. I’ve done horrible things.”

“Kacchan,” he starts softly, sitting up. “Do you regret it?”

“More than anything.”

Izuku smiles. “That’s all that matters to me. I forgave you a long time ago. I may not have understood your motives, but I knew you weren’t a bad person. I’ve never thought of you as anything but a hero.”

“Fuckin’ nerd, you can’t just say shit like that.” Katsuki’s face is pink with embarrassment, but he still reaches for Izuku, hands sliding around his hips to tug him forward until their lips finally touch.

He melts into the kiss, fireworks exploding in his mind as he grins against Katsuki’s mouth. Sinking against Katsuki, he tangles his fingers in blond hair, dragging his nails lightly through the strands.

When they break apart, they’re both breathless and flushed, but Izuku just smiles and drops another kiss against Katsuki’s nose.

Katsuki rolls his eyes, but it’s in fondness instead of irritation. “C’mere.”

Izuku doesn’t hesitate to oblige, curling into Katsuki’s arms easily. “Love you.”

“Love you too.” Katsuki presses his hand to the back of Izuku’s head, keeping him close. “I’ll take care of you this time,” he whispers. “I promise.”

And the tightness that’s been in Izuku’s chest for years fades away.