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A personal trainer’s day started early, and usually the alarm went off around five and had Katsuki groaning until he could rummage through the crap on the bedside table and turn it off. Get up, shovel food into your face, go to the gym, work, shower, go home, eat, sleep, repeat.

That was his schedule six days a week, so it was only human to let him have one day off to sleep in. Sunday was the day of rest, or whatever. Not that he was religious.

What he was on this particular Sunday was beyond pissed to be jolted from his pleasant and well-deserved slumber by the sound of his phone, only having gotten thirty extra minutes of sleep. Seeing Kirishima’s number onscreen caused an actual physical growl to rumble out of his throat, and he jammed the ‘accept call’ button with fury just shy of cracking the screen.

“This had better be fucking g—“

“BAKUGO. BAKUGO WAKE THE FUCK UP. NOW. YOU NEED TO BE HERE LIKE TEN MINUTES AGO DUDE, YOU NEED TO—“ Kirishima, a fellow trainer, was an excitable guy on the best of days, and on the worst, he was so fucking annoying Katsuki wanted to put him face-first through Nutribullet in the gym’s cafe. Right now? He was thinking about putting him feet-first, just to watch him suffer.

“Kirishima, it is fucking Sunday and that means you have exactly three seconds to tell me why I shouldn’t turn you into a pile of guts and stupid fucking hair the next time I see you.” He snarled, cutting Kirishima’s insane chatter off with his lowest, most hateful tone, the one reserved for when someone had sincerely pissed him off. Because seriously, five-fucking-thirty in the morning.

“All Might is here.”

Just like that, Kirishima was rescued from the jaws of certain doom via smoothie maker. Katsuki’s feet hit the floor and he dove for his closet, thanking whatever universal being was stupid enough to put up with him for the fact that he’d done his laundry two days ago, and thus had a clean workout shirt with the gym’s logo emblazoned across the front and a pair of shorts to go with it.

The phone went between his sleep-puffed face and his shoulder as he hopped around trying to pull on socks, ears not even registering Kirishima’s resumed babble. “—Wait. He’s actually there, in person, in our gym? You’d better not be shitting me. I’ll fucking end you.”

“Yes, dude. Ochako just checked him in, and he spent a few minutes talking to Aizawa, but now he’s in the locker rooms. Get here, like, now.”

Katsuki didn’t even bother with goodbyes as he hung up the phone and jammed it in the pocket of his shorts, struggling into a sweatshirt, and grabbing his duffel bag and water bottle to head out the door. Kirishima would get it, and he didn’t give a flying fuck about offending him anyhow. Bastard’s fucking hair was an offense to public decency, so he deserved it.

The door slammed behind him and Katsuki debated whether or not to run down the quiet, predawn street to get to the bus stop faster, and settled on a light jog.

All Might was there, in the gym, and he was missing it.

Plus Ultra gyms weren’t just your average iron jungles where meatheads pumped iron and ran on shitty, outdated treadmills—nor was it one of those twenty four hour joints where businessmen and yummy mummies alike panted their way through Zumba and mediocre yoga. No, the motto of Plus Ultra was ‘go beyond’, and every staff member knew that meant going beyond simple fitness into working with people on improving their bodies, their health, and ultimately, their lifestyles. They boasted the best personal training programs on the entire coast, extensive facilities that included a ballet and yoga studio, a boxing gym, a pilates studio with state of the art equipment, saunas, sports massage, physical therapy, and nutrition coaching, and it all started with the dream of one man: the wrestler-turned-fitness-legend Toshinori Yagi.

Better known to his fans (and his staff) as All Might.

All Might had been a pro wrestler with a huge and adoring fan base for many years, winning title after title with his impressive moves and his crowd-pleasing antics as a showy, patriotic ‘superhero’ of the ring. Katsuki couldn’t help but feel a tingle of warmth in his chest as he remembered cramming onto the ratty sofa in the living area of his childhood home, wedged between his mother and father, begging them to turn to the wrestling channel and chanting All Might’s name as the theme music began to play. He’d always seemed big and strong, larger than life as he pounded the pre-selected roster of wrestling ‘villains’ into the ground.

The matches tended to be pretty similar in setup—the villain would come out, growling and antagonizing the crowd, who would boo and hiss until the lights dimmed and focused on the runway where All Might strutted out, star-spangled uniform gleaming under the spotlights, raising his arms to the crowd and shouting ‘Don’t worry—it’ll be okay because I’m here now!’. Then he’d proceed to make mincemeat of the villain with a Missouri Smash or Texas Smash or other, strangely America-themed move that sent the loser staggering off while the fans went wild.

Yeah, okay, All Might had been his childhood hero.

Then he got cancer.

The former glory of the ring’s Number One Hero had been drained from him so fast it was like someone had deflated a balloon inside him, his once imposing stature whittling down to almost nothing at all. He’d survived, but only barely; Toshinori Yagi lived, but All Might had to hang up his cape for good. Most would have laid down and taken the end of their glory with silence, or maybe a few half-hearted attempts at a comeback, but not him—no, Toshinori had a different idea.

Everyone who worked at Plus Ultra had heard the story: he’d been standing in front of the mirror, looking at the body that had just fought it out with the ravages of the disease and the rounds of chemotherapy needed to cure it, nearly a hundred pounds lighter than when he’d started, almost all of his muscle mass gone. The body that had been his pride and joy was a shadow of its former self, and yet Toshinori found, at the bottom of the well of depression over his loss, a gratitude. The cancer had gone into remission and he was still there. Still standing. He had his body, and therefore he had a hope of being healthy once again, and that suddenly meant more to him than the shelves of trophies and wrestling belts he’d won.

So he’d founded Plus Ultra as a way of sharing his new ideal that anyone, no matter what condition they were in, deserved and could achieve health. No matter what that looked like for them. Plus Ultra had been a massive success, with branches popping up in major cities around the globe, and by the time Katsuki finished his undergrad degree he knew he wanted nothing more than to work there.

Even if it meant he had to get up at the fucking ass-crack of dawn to see his hero.

The bus pulled into the stop just as Katsuki had begun muttering curses against it under his breath, bouncing from leg to leg in an attempt to warm up against the morning chill. Would have been better if he’d not been wearing shorts, but it wasn’t like he had a lot of time to give his wardrobe choices thought. He leapt onto the bus and tapped his card against the reader, scowling at a blank-eyed businessman who cringed into the corner and let him have the aisle seat.

Good. At least his legs wouldn’t be tired before he got to meet All Might.

At the gym, everything was….controlled chaos was likely the best word for it. Ochako Uraraka was manning the desk, but her usually warm and friendly smile had been replaced with something strained and bordering on manic. (Not that he was going to tell anyone that he thought she was warm or friendly. He addressed her only as ‘Round Face’, and wasn’t ready to admit that she didn’t get wholly on his nerves.) Out on the main gym floor, Denki Kaminari was furiously rearranging cold-towels that were already in perfect rolls inside the fridge by the weight racks, his spiked hair somehow managing to be in more disarray than usual, and Mina Ashido’s equally stunning pink locks were just visible from where she appeared to be cleaning the underside of one of the weight benches.

But despite the intense swirl of nervous activity from his colleagues, All Might was nowhere to be seen. Katsuki could only shake his head as Kaminari moved on from the towels to refilling the hand sanitizers, despite the fact that the night janitor already did that. Jesus, these people were insane. Katsuki made a direct line for the men’s lockers, intent on finding Kirishima and working out where the hell All Might actually was, when he rounded the corner and almost collided into an unfamiliar body.

The ‘watch where the fuck you’re going, shithead’ was on the tip of his tongue before he remembered he was at work, and the fact that he’d never seen this guy in his life meant that he was probably a new member of the gym. Aizawa—gym manager and membership coordinator— had almost fired him, or potentially murdered him, or potentially both, because he’d once spoken too harshly to a new member and they ended up cancelling their membership.

That had been years ago, and Katsuki had learned not to direct his short fuse at the clients, even when they clearly could not use the eyes set in their own goddamn face. Which were green, in this stranger’s case. The brilliance of the jungle-green color contrasted in a striking way with the soft porcelain-pale of his skin, and was probably the one and only particularly startling thing about him. The rest seemed utterly plain and unassuming. Average height, baggy clothes, dark hair, a face that was neither particularly handsome nor notably ugly. He was the kind of guy you forgot about as soon as you looked away from him, which is exactly what Katsuki did as he muttered an apology and hurried past into the lockers.

Kirishima was leaning back against one of the lockers, a clipboard in his hand and a weirdly blissful expression on his face that Katsuki really, really didn’t want to think of other contexts for.

“Hey—hey, Hair Horror, look fucking alive for a second. Where’s All Might?” He snapped his fingers in front of Kirishima’s face for emphasis, but that didn’t even seem to faze the other trainer as he aimed a dopey smile in Katsuki’s direction.

“Bro, he touched my shoulder.”

“What?”

“He called me ‘young Kirishima’ and put his hand on my shoulder and said it looked like we were ‘running a tight ship’ around here. I think that’s the best thing anyone’s ever said to me. I’m never washing my shoulder again. Is this heaven?” Kirishima brought the clipboard up to his chest and crossed his arms over it, the way a love-struck teenage girl might clutch schoolbooks to her chest in a shitty high school rom-com. Not that Katsuki had ever seen any of those, but fuck you, he’s aware of tropes.

Katsuki quashed the urge to slap sense into his best friend, not the least because that slap would have been laced with more than a little jealousy. “I don’t give a ripe goddamn. Where is he now?”

Kirishima gestured to the door at the opposite end of the row of lockers, which opened into the spa and physical therapy rooms. “He wanted to drop in on Iida, apparently. Says he knows his older brother from wrestling days, which is cool as fuck. I didn’t even know Iida had a brother, much less that it was Igenium.”

Just like the four-eyed fucker to keep something like that to himself. Not that he and Katsuki talked that often, but still. How could someone as lame as the freaking massage therapist be related to another famous pro wrestler? Some people had all the goddamn luck. Katsuki strode off towards the spa, waving a noncommittal hand in Kirishima’s direction. For his part, Kirishima still seemed to be in his haze of hero-worship, and didn’t notice a thing. Idiot.

The inside of the spa was always dimly lit, and soft harp music played over the sound of water running over stones from speakers hidden somewhere in the walls. Combined with the warmth and cloying scent of almond oil and neroli, Katsuki always felt like he was stepping into some sort of shamanic ritual tent when he came back here. Probably explained why he didn’t do it that often.

“Hello, Bakugo. Nice to see you in here. I don’t suppose you’ve come by for a treatment at this hour, have you?” The deep voice from just over his left shoulder almost had Bakugo lashing out with a fist, and he put two and two together to stop himself before he broke Iida’s glasses. And his nose.

Instead he whirled on the physical therapist and fixed the bastard with a glare that could peel paint. “You never told me your brother was Ingenium.”

“I don’t suppose you ever asked. About anything, at all. You’re usually too busy telling me to clear my schedule because you have a cramp.” Iida raised an eyebrow, arms folded calmly over his chest. Why the hell did a massage therapist have to be so goddamn brawny, anyway? Maybe the whole wrestling thing ran in the family.

“Still would’ve been nice to know that there’s something interesting about you,” Katsuki fired back, standing his ground, determined not to let Iida’s bizarrely calming presence influence him in the slightest.

“Charming as always, Bakugo. I’ll reiterate—why are you in my spa? At six in the morning?” Iida didn’t flinch under the glare aimed his way, but then again, Katsuki was pretty sure he’d seen the guy drop a 42 kilo kettlebell on his own foot once and not flinch. Some sort of weird zen massage bullshit or whatever.

“Kirishima said All Might was in here. I’m going to meet him.”

“Well, you’re too late for that. He already headed out to the gym floor. Something about testing out the machines. He was, however, very complimentary on my organic essential oil blends.” Iida was quickly gaining a glazed, dreamy look in his eyes that appeared to be a more restrained version of Kirishima’s, and Katsuki was instantly done with the whole interaction.

“Like I give a shit. Later, Four-Eyes.” With that, he made a quick spin on his heel and headed out the other door of the spa, the one that led back onto the main gym floor.

And just like that, there he was.

It was a strange feeling, to see one’s hero in person. Katsuki had seen the image of Toshinori Yagi countless times over the years; after he’d grown past watching him on T.V., there had still been a poster on his wall, then the author photograph on the back of the book he’d written on the link between exercise and disease prevention that Katsuki had nearly worn to tatters re-reading during his studies. Even in Plus Ultra, there was a framed photograph of the founder near the door, over a plaque that stated the gym’s motto and founding principles.

Most of the time, people liked to depict the old All Might, the one with a megawatt smile and a jaw like steel, shoulders so big he looked like some legendary Atlas. It had been a persona he’d worn for so long, people enjoyed remembering it, rather than facing the truth of what had become of him. That he’d done what all humans do, that he’d aged and changed and had things happen to him that were beyond his control. The image of the dauntless hero was better, safer, more reassuring to look at.

But the man standing before him now didn’t cause Katsuki a single twinge of disappointment. He was smaller than he’d been as All Might by a landslide, and a person could be forgiven for not recognizing him at first, but there was still something about him that commanded attention. An aura, if you believed in that sort of hippie bullshit, that made every eye in the room flick towards him automatically. He might have been skinnier, he may have aged, but Toshinori Yagi was still much larger than life.

Contrary to even his own expectations, Katsuki didn’t hurtle directly at him, bowling people and equipment out of the way in a rush to meet the man who had indirectly influenced some of the most important changes in his life. Toshinori was standing beside the new supported squat machine they’d gotten in, reading over the label even though the piece itself wasn’t exactly revolutionary. Hell, it still had Katsuki’s weight set on it from the day before—he’d meant to reset the machine, but he’d had more important things to do. Katsuki felt strangely at peace just watching him, just knowing this man really existed in his vicinity. Pride, and something that could have been described as hope flared in his chest, but all he did was go to lean by the water fountain and watch.

“That’s him—oh my god, are you going to say hi? You should totally say hi, bro. He’s so cool.” The calm was instantly shattered into a million tiny fragments by Kaminari’s voice at his shoulder. What the fuck was with people and sneaking up on him today? He hadn’t even had any coffee yet, which was a goddamn war crime if ever he heard of one.

“Shut up. I just—I’m waiting for the right moment or whatever the fuck. I don’t wanna scare the old man, he might have a heart attack and I’m sure as fuck not having All Might’s death on my hands, okay dumbass?” While he was snarling at Kaminari, movement out of the corner of his eye attracted his attention and he turned back towards Toshinori.

It was the kid from before. The young guy with the green eyes. He just strolled up to the biggest legend the pro wrestling ring had ever seen, placed a hand on his shoulder like they were old buddies, and started chatting with him.

Katsuki both felt and saw the red bleed around the corners of his vision. Who in the fuck did this kid think he was? Just walking up to talk to someone like that, without a proper greeting or anything? Some fucking fanboy trying to act all buddy-buddy with All Might? He took a step forward, ready to go and intervene, to apologize to Toshinori for this newbie fanboy trying to talk to him and probably bother him for an autograph, when—

Toshinori smiled back and gestured to the squat machine. The kid eyed it for a second, then shrugged and stepped under the bar, unhooking it and dropping into perfect squat form. It wasn’t Katsuki’s record, but it was pretty damn high for a squat, and yet the kid’s legs bulged through his track pants as he began a set of clean, even reps.

It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that Katsuki stared, or perhaps even gawked open-mouthed, as the green-eyed stranger did fifteen reps, re-racked the weight, and strolled around to talk to Toshinori again. The older man gestured towards the plates hanging from either side of the machine, and the kid obediently added another five kilos to either end and started again. He strained a little this time, pale face starting to flush red with the effort, but he still made it cleanly through the fifteen reps before re-racking the weight.

Only the feeling of Kaminari’s hands gripping his shoulder kept Katsuki from lunging across the gym and decking Pond Scum into the rowing machines. “Fucking let go of me, I’m going to kill that little shitstain, he’s going to be a bloody little smear on the tile by the time I’m done with him.”

Kaminari, damn him, was also impressively strong despite his lean build, and hung onto Katsuki with the grim tenacity of a bulldog. “Dude, you can’t! Chill with your anger issues, man! Besides, I don’t think All Might would like it very much if you went over there and murdered his son!”

Katsuki rounded on Kaminari, eyes screaming murder even when his mouth was suddenly, eerily silent. “His. What.” Each word was enunciated with such venom that it brooked no questions or hesitations.

“His son. Y’know, the kid he adopted a few years back? Izuku Yagi? The guy over there with the green hair?” Kaminari pointed, like Katsuki was too stupid to figure out who he was talking about. Katsuki actually closed his eyes, and took deep breaths while counting backwards from ten, the way the therapist taught him, because otherwise he was going to smack the everliving shit out of his second best friend. That was no way to act and he knew it, but right now, a mixture of anger and jealousy and torn passions was warring so hard in his chest that he felt like he wanted to scream with the sensation of it. The breaths rasped in the back of his throat, but slowly and surely, the tightness in his chest eased and he opened his eyes to look at Kaminari again, who was now regarding him with less fear and more seriousness.

“Bro, you’re seriously scary at this hour of the morning. If you need to take five, take five. I don’t think he’s going to disappear into thin air.” Kaminari slowly released his hold on Katsuki, and Katsuki just rolled his shoulder and glared down at the grey floor tiles. He knew that Kaminari was talking sense, and that right now, he needed to listen to his reason rather than his rage. It was one of those things he’d worked so hard on getting under control in his early twenties, and he wasn’t about to let himself pop off in front of his hero. Didn’t stop him from scowling, though.

“Fuck you. I’m fine, get off my goddamn back. I just—didn’t know he had a brat, that’s all.” Honestly, it wasn’t as though he was the same kind of fan of Toshinori that he’d been as a kid. He didn’t hunt down details on the man’s life, or read about every little article published in gossip rags about what he did with his time. In fact, Toshinori was more of a quiet idol in his life. A goal to aspire to, a person he wanted to be like, but not someone whose life he wanted to copy. That wasn’t Katsuki’s style, and so he’d kept Toshinori on the horizon, a solid point in a turbulent life. But it wasn’t surprising that even something as big as him adopting a son had escaped his notice.

Before he had much time to rein himself in, though, Kaminari’s gaze had gone bug-eyed and he urgently but ineffectively flapped his hand in Katsuki’s direction. “Dude—oh man, get your shit together! He’s coming this way!” Katsuki’s heart lept in his throat; finally, he’d be getting the chance to meet Toshinori, his number one hero, the reason he was the person he was right now.

Then he turned, and got an eyeful of dark green hair and shining green eyes, and his temper flared up again with such violence that his fists clenched at his sides. Seemingly oblivious, the kid used the towel around his neck to wipe at some sweat on the side of his face, and offered up a wave to the two trainers. “Hi there, it’s great to meet you. I’m Izuku Yagi. Guess I’ll be training here with you guys from now on!”

It was a friendly, casual greeting, and everything about it made Katsuki hate this Izuku with his entire being. Fuck him, fuck his big puppy-dog eyes, fuck his perfect squat form, and fuck all of this. He was out.

“You should reset your weights when you’re done with the machine,” was all he said before he turned on his heel and walked away, leaving the green fucker and Kaminari wondering what had just happened. There needed to be so, so much more coffee before he could deal with today.

Chapter Text

“And the fucking cherry on top of that entire shit sundae was that I didn’t even get to meet All Might,” Katsuki finishes, thumping his back against the wall of the gym’s small kitchen and taking a long slurp of his protein shake.

It had taken a lot of work to figure out a shake blend that was not only not sugary, but actively spicy. Kaminari still said that the very thought made him want to blow chunks, but Katsuki just called him a weak bitch and that was that.

“We know,” a soft croaking noise broke through the middle of Tsuyu’s sentence, but she hardly seemed to notice, “This is the third time you’ve brought it up in the past few days.” Again, a muffled ribbit seemed to punctuate her statement, and she drew her phone out of her back pocket to answer the text messages that the alert apparently signified, the wide-eyed ‘Keroppi’ character on the case waving blithely at Katsuki. 

A shadow appeared from around the corner of one of the large refrigerators that housed all the various milks and vegetables that went into the smoothies, slunk past the row of blenders, and practically hid in the corner. “It’s true,” came a low voice, accented in a melodic but unplaceable way, “You’ve mentioned it several times by this point. It seems to be the central axis for the darkest shades of your heart’s ferocity.”

“That’s because it’s seriously fucked! I mean, who does that guy think he is?” Katsuki fired back, scowling when Fumikage turned his back and began to chop up a carrot. “And what the fuck is my ‘heart’s ferocity’, anyway?” Not that he expected an answer for that; a gentle hum and the sound of methodical cutting was his only response. 

“He means—“ ribbit, ribbit, “—that you’re spending a lot of time thinking about All Might’s son. You only spoke to him for a minute, right?” Ribbit.

Aizawa had once asked Tsuyu to not text at work, or at least to put her phone on silent while she was on shift, but she had only stared at him implacably with her huge, flat eyes. Usually, a red-rimmed glare from the shift manager was enough to take the fire out of anyone’s fight, but Tsuyu had just met him head on with that unnerving gaze, and eventually he’d simply walked away without saying anything else.

It wasn’t just that she wore green constantly, or had the cartoon image of Keroppi printed on the majority of her belongings down to her socks and tissue packets, but there was something about Tsuyu that gave the strong impression of conversing with an actual frog. Katsuki had never cared enough to put his finger on it, but even diplomatic Iida had agreed there was something particularly amphibious about her. 

“I’m only thinking about him because he’s a giant fuckwad who just waltzed in here like he owns the goddamn place,” Katsuki growled, taking another pull of his smoothie and relishing the sizzle of habanero on the back of his tongue. At least one thing hadn’t turned against him.

There was a pause, and Tsuyu typed something furiously into her phone. “In the eyes of the ancient laws of man and blood, it could be argued this place is his birthright,” said Fumikage from the corner, dumping the carrot pieces into a blender and starting on an apple.

“No, fuck that. Fuck that backwards with a chainsaw. He doesn’t fucking own this place, and he can’t just walk around like he does!” Katsuki finished his smoothie and slammed the cup into the recycling bin, resisting the urge to kick it onto the ground and send the contents spilling all over the floor. He’d only done that once, and Fumikage had banned him from the cafe for an entire week, threatening that his ‘untimely return would cause his most painful demise at the hands of the wicked demon of the dark shadow’.

God, goths were really fucking weird sometimes.

A normal, non-croaking ping signaled a text alert on his phone, and he automatically pulled it out, then cursed when he saw the message.

 

[Aizawa]: Come to my office. You have a new personal training client assignment.

 

[Aizawa]: Now. Quit hiding in the cafe.

 

He was not hiding from anything, fuck you very much. Grinding his teeth, he jammed the phone back in the pocket of his gym shorts and crammed his hand in behind it. “Gotta go,” he growled at Fumikage and Tsuyu, both of whom waved him off without actually looking in his direction.

 Whatever, he had things he needed to do, and at least he’d managed to finish his smoothie before being summoned by the world’s most sleep deprived stick-up-his-ass.

Aizawa‘s office looked out onto the gym floor, the front wall composed entirely of glass which gave him unrestricted access to monitor every coming and going with his uncanny gaze. Despite the air of constant exhaustion and near boredom that seemed to roll off him in waves, he was a shockingly astute man with a keen eye for organization and finance, and it had been said more than once that All Might may have started the gym but it was Aizawa that kept it running. 

Katsuki entered with a short greeting and flopped himself into one of the reliably modernist chairs that flanked the near side of the desk, sliding down in vain hope of making it approach comfort. It did not, and he squirmed in irritation, waiting for his boss to speak.

It was a long moment before that happened, Aizawa being the kind of man who enjoyed subtly reminding others of his power over them by requiring their patience in everything. His blunt, grayish fingers skittered over the keyboard of his high-end computer, the dark circles under his eyes prominent as ever as the light from the monitor flickered dimly across it. “You have a new client, effective immediately,” he finally said, at least giving Katsuki the dignity of pausing in his work and looking directly at him as he spoke. 

“Izuku Yagi has decided to join the gym, and has purchased a personal training session-block. His preliminary assessment is scheduled for eight in the morning on Tuesday; don’t say you’ll be busy because I already checked your calendar and I know you don’t have anyone in then.” The words came out as neither suggestion nor order, but more statement of absolute fact. 

Of course, Katsuki was willing to damn facts straight to hell if he wanted, and would rail at god for making the sky blue if he felt like it. “What? Fuck no, I’m not training that little prick. Get someone else to do it—give him to Kirishima. I’m not touching that shit with a ten foot pole,” he snarled, hands finding the slim poles of the chair’s armrests and clenching around them unsatisfactorily. Would it fucking kill Aizawa to get actual furniture?

“I didn’t ask for your opinion on him, or whether or not you want to train him. I told you to do the goddamn job you were hired for, and that means training people whether or not you personally enjoy their company.” Aizawa leveled him with one of those soul-withering looks he was famous for, the whites of his eyes a glassy grey that contrasted with the fire that seemed to burn across his irises. “Kirishima can’t do it because all of his slots are already full, and you’re the only other trainer with Tier Five qualifications at this location. So shut up, and be ready with the assessment gear at eight on Tuesday. Dismissed.”

Katsuki blustered and swore, but Aizawa merely held a hand up and pointed towards the door. Not for the first time, Katsuki considered ripping off his lanyard and throwing it at the old bastard, telling him to stick it where the sun didn’t shine and quitting this job.

But he wouldn’t. 

Whether he liked it or not, being a trainer at Plus Ultra was the best job he’d ever had, and the only one he really wanted. It wasn’t even that Toshinori Yagi owned this gym; Katsuki always wanted the best, wanted to be the best, so why would he settle for working anywhere other than the best gym in the country? The fact that his childhood hero had founded it was just how he measured the quality, and knew it was right for him. There wasn’t going to be another option, at least not for a very long time.

So at eight on Tuesday he’d assembled the equipment he needed, made sure he would have use of the cardio room for at least forty-five minutes, and tried to let professionalism overwhelm his instant dislike of his client. 

It didn’t work very well.

Izuku walked in with a smile on his face, and god, who the fuck was that chipper at this hour of the morning? Fuck, Katsuki couldn’t manage that level of cheer even with three cups of coffee in him. It was inhuman.

“Hi, I’m—“ 

“Izuku Yagi, I know. You introduced yourself already, remember?” Katsuki cut him off, looking down at the printed copy of the form Izuku had been asked to fill out prior to the session, trying not to be impressed with the weight and BMI listed. Even if BMI was a shitty way to calculate health, it seemed that Izuku was in a high muscle and low fat category for his height range. Then again, being the son of a former pro-wrestler who founded an entire gym probably leant itself to having a healthy lifestyle pretty easily. 

“Right, yeah. I forgot about that….?” Izuku trailed off, blinking up at Katsuki with clear expectation painted on his face. For a second Katsuki had the urge to just leave him hanging, but then if Izuku decided to snitch to Aizawa, it would mean another stupid lecture in that uncomfortable-ass armchair. Hell no.

Katsuki cleared his throat, but didn’t bother extending his hand. “Katsuki Bakugo. Let’s get this show on the road.” Without letting Izuku hold his gaze for another second, Katsuki turned and gestured to the equipment he’d laid out on the floor. “We’re going to start with some diagnostics exercises. See where you are, what you can do, and then I’ll build a training programme with your goals in mind around that.” A standard spiel, but Izuku at least seemed familiar with it, and was content to nod silently along.

Then his eyes caught on something at the bottom of the page—an injury. It wasn’t specific at all, just a check-box, but it caused an unexpected bubble of curiosity that Katsuki instantly quashed. “—Says here that you’ve got a prior injury. Anything I should know about?” 

That finally seemed to break the smoothly cheerful demeanor that Izuku practically radiated, an almost imperceptible flinch tightening his shoulders and a shadow passing in front of his eyes. “I...yeah. I got injured on the job about a year back, and sustained multiple compound and hairline fractures in both arms and hands. I was in physical therapy for that for a while, but the doctors have cleared me to go back to regular exercise now, so it shouldn’t be a big problem! I’ll let you know if we do anything that pushes too hard.” 

Something in his tone and the way he skated so delicately past all the details of it said that this injury was the last thing in the world Izuku wanted to talk about, and Katsuki might have loathed his green ass, but he wasn’t actually a sadist. Some things you didn’t press about, and this was clearly one of those things. Besides, if a doctor had cleared it, then it should be fine. As long as Izuku didn’t try to hide when something was hurting him; Katsuki would just have to keep an eye out for it and make sure he didn’t do anything too high-impact with his arms. Boxing was out, then. 

“Seems to me like you’re mostly wanting to regain strength and flexibility then, huh?” He wrote this down in the notes section on his chart, and looked up in time to see Izuku nod vigorously. God, did nothing kill this guy’s vibe? It was goddamn intolerable. Why on earth couldn’t they have stuck him with Kirishima, or even Kaminari—he could picture either one of those pairs giggling their way through Romanian deadlifts and weighted split-squats, and it was a disgusting mental image that he banished immediately from his brain. Fuck all of that noise.

It didn’t matter, though. If wishes were fishes, everyone would cast nets. Katsuki resigned himself to the fact that he didn’t have a choice, and steeled himself to look up again from his chart at those wide, enthusiastic eyes. “Alright. First, I want to work on your range of mobility and raising your flexibility level, but we have to maintain strength training in order to prevent further injuries. Showing off on the squat machine probably won’t kill you, but if I see you trying to bench press anything, you’re dead meat. Got it?” 

Izuku nodded again, his face set in a painfully earnest expression, like Katsuki had just tasked him with some epic hero’s-journey quest. Bastard probably idolized hobbits or something stupid like that. “Yes, sir! I’ll keep my showing off on the squat machine to a bare minimum!”

His face was so serious when he said that, it took Katsuki a minute to realize he’d been joking. Joking. If it hadn’t been for the mischievous glint in his eyes, Katsuki would have missed it entirely, and the fact that he was so sly about it is….goddamn it, it’s actually funny. Not that Katsuki would ever admit that, even on pain of death. He let a scowl overtake his face instead, and made a little waving motion with one hand as they exited the cardio room and headed out onto the main gym floor.

Most people were slightly unnerved when they went out on the gym floor for the first time. Even those who had experience with training at a gym often balked; the weights were loud, the music pounded, everything was gleaming and half the people looked as though they could break you in two with their thighs. He’d expected Izuku to be cowed and to finally quiet down, but—when he looked over his shoulder, Izuku was practically bouncing on his toes with excitement. Further proof that he was a demon from some other realm, sent to torment them all.

Ten minutes in, Katsuki realized he would have to revise all previous assessments of Izuku Yagi. He’d thought he hated the man to start with, but the reality was so, so much worse.

For one thing, Izuku took to the workouts like a fish to water. It wasn’t just that he was accustomed to training, he actually seemed to be comfortable with it, grinning even as sweat began to roll down his temple and a flush took up residence on his cheeks, emphasizing the scattering of freckles that flecked a band over the bridge of his nose. Even when something proved difficult, even when his muscles were visibly shaking, he just kept pushing himself to the point that Katsuki had to tell him to back off. He caught Kirishima looking over on more than one occasion, and Izuku actually had the audacity to pause in the middle of a weighted bird-dog and wave back. 

If that wasn’t bad enough, the second thing that made Katsuki want to throttle him was the fact that he never shut up. Ever. There just wasn’t a fucking off-switch on his mouth, and with their client-trainer relationship, Katsuki couldn’t very well tell him to shut his goddamn trap or have it shut for him. In the remaining forty-five minutes of their session, he learned that Izuku was allergic to peanuts and therefore couldn’t drink most protein shakes, adored katsudon with extra spice—the one thing he’d said so far that Katsuki could begrudgingly begin to respect—and often went to a tiny, authentic restaurant two blocks away from his home to be served a piping hot bowl by the little old man who’d been working behind the counter since before he’d been born. He had a pet rabbit named Small Might of all fucking things, which had apparently been given to him in high school by one of his closest friends, and whom he’d taken the trouble to cart off to college and back. By the time his watch beeped to signal the start of their cool-down, Katsuki was ready to drill a hole into his head and let his brain drip out just so he wouldn’t have to listen to the yammering anymore.

Unfortunately, tuning out to the point that he wasn’t paying attention to anything but the way Izuku moved had its downsides too. The first was that he noticed a powerful ripple of muscle across his shoulder blades and down his spine when he stretched into a downward dog, which—no. Katsuki stomped on that thought so hard he was pretty sure he could hear it shattering. The second was that he apparently had signed himself up for something without even realizing that he was agreeing to anything.

“Okay, so nine tomorrow morning? Todoroki’s ashtanga class? I’ll see you there!” Izuku was saying as he pulled his hoodie back on, and Katsuki blinked as he came out of the haze of trying his damndest not to listen and realized that he’d unintentionally been saying “uh huh” to everything for the past fifteen minutes.

Izuku was already waving and walking off for the showers by the time it registered in his brain that he had, without even hearing himself, agreed to attend his least favorite class taught by his least favorite extra with his new least favorite person. If it was possible to effectively punch himself in the face, he would have.

Of course, the obvious solution was to just not go. It was nowhere in his job contract that said he had to accompany his clients in classes handled by other instructors, and they didn’t have a session booked for tomorrow. He could just walk away and not show up, and Izuku wouldn’t be able to complain to Aizawa or anyone else.

Except that Katsuki had already agreed, and Izuku had practically challenged him with that ‘ I’ll see you there’ bullshit. What, did he think Katsuki couldn’t handle a few inverted bullfrogs or whatever dumb stretching crap they did? It was rolling around on a soft mat for an hour, how hard could it be? Besides, the chance to wipe the smug look off Shouto Todoroki’s face once and for all was a golden opportunity he wasn’t willing to pass up so easily. He’d be there to watch Izuku fall on his ass, and to prove that a bunch of soccer moms weren’t about to out-stretch him, not by a mile. Before he could think better of it, he reached in his pocket and took out his phone, opening the gym’s app and tapping “book” on the class to secure his spot.

He’d show everyone that he wasn’t afraid of a dumb green gnome.

Chapter Text

Anyone who said yoga was a relaxing, stress-busting form of exercise was a fucking liar. Katsuki was willing to go on the record as having said that, now and forever.

Nine in the morning wasn’t that bad; he’d had a deceptively good start to his day, getting up and making himself a hearty breakfast, going for a jog around six thirty while all the office workers were just shuffling out of bed, and squeezing in a hot shower before getting dressed for the gym. The routine was pleasantly reassuring, and put him in a good mood as he thought about all the ways he’d prove to Izuku that he wasn’t afraid of some wimpy stretching on soft pads.

It wasn’t like it could be that hard , he thought as he laced on his trainers and slung his duffel bag across his shoulder before heading out the door. He’d never done yoga before, but it was often recommended as an activity for rest days, to gently stimulate the muscles and getting them to relax in between days of heavy lifting and cardio routines. Sure, he’d heard of specialized yoga studios that offered things like heated rooms and fancy aerial equipment to make things more intense, but Plus Ultra didn’t have anything like that, and even the complicated pretzel-like poses he saw on his Instagram feed seemed more designed to show off new workout clothes than to be part of an actual exercise practice. Besides, most of the people he saw going into these classes were middle-aged men and women, and a couple slender young model-types who wouldn’t touch carbs or any weight over 6 kilos for fear of gaining unseemly muscle mass. It couldn’t be anything a reasonably fit person wouldn’t be able to handle with ease, much less an actual personal fitness trainer.

His confident good-mood lasted until he crossed the threshold into the yoga and barre room. He’d only been inside this room a handful of times during his tenure at Plus Ultra, and while nothing obvious had changed about the layout of the space, something seemed different about it this morning. The room itself was exquisitely designed; they’d taken advantage of the fact that Plus Ultra was actually located on the top floor of their building to add massive ribbon windows along the two nearer walls, so that anyone who stood at the barre would have a fabulous view of the city’s skyline while they worked. The far wall also had a window in the center, framed on either side by cubbies full of mats, extra pads, cork blocks, straps, light weights, pillows, and some sort of oddly egg-shaped ball whose purpose he could only guess at. Meanwhile, the front of the space was dedicated to an entirely mirrored wall, the kind one would find in a real ballet studio, and off to the side was a low bench with storage for client’s shoes and socks. As Katsuki stepped into the studio, the sun came out from behind a cloud and created a dramatic rising glow in the room, long sunbeams creeping over the hardwood floors and illuminating the faces of the chatting yogis.

Then he got it.

Instead of the usual fare of yummy mummies and bored housewives, most of this class seemed to be made up of people who looked like they could and would bench press each other for fun. He recognized two of Kirishima’s usual personal training clients, who gave him casual waves in return, and a number of other regular users of the weightlifting floor besides. Towels abounded. At least half of them had their own mats, and one woman was already warming up by doing a deep backbend on her knees that seemed liable to snap her in two. The energy in the room was amped, excited, the sort of feeling he’d expect from a boxing class about to get started. Not namby-pamby yoga.

Well, whatever. Bring it the fuck on.

He scanned the space for a telltale head of green hair, scowling when he didn’t find it right away; if Izuku was going to make him show up to a shitty yoga class at nine in the morning and then pull a no-show, they were going to have an issue. But before he could grab up his things and go, the door swung open and Izuku half tumbled into the room, all excitement and rush like a puppy that hadn’t figured out all its limbs yet. He caught sight of Katsuki and waved frenetically, then almost jumped a foot in the air when a hand landed on his shoulder.

The finely-boned hand in question belonged to Shouto Todoroki, and Katsuki didn’t bother to keep the distaste off his face at the sight of him. Todoroki was the main yoga instructor at Plus Ultra, but aside from that Katsuki didn’t know very much about him, due to the fact that he couldn’t stand any part of the man. In addition to the fact that he apparently had some form of genetic, full-body heterochromia or partial albinism that left him with white hair on one side of his head and brilliant red on the other, he was just fucking intolerable to be around. There was an air of quiet superiority he always carried, a subtle but carefully curated dignity that gave the impression without words that he was just better than you. It made Katsuki want to knock his teeth in, and thus the two of them had never had much in the way of conversation. Or interaction, at all, ever.

“Why don’t you put your mat down over there?” He spoke in a low, smooth voice, and gestured to the final remaining spot right in front of where Katsuki had unrolled his own mat. Izuku nodded cheerfully and trotted over, unfurling his mat with a snap and dropping into a cross-legged seat, turning over his shoulder to wave at Katsuki.

“Good morning, everyone. I hope you’re all well,” Shouto began, and everyone began to unfold from their various twists and complicated poses to pay attention. “I’d like everyone to come to a seat at the front of the mat, just taking a comfortable position with a straight back. We’re going to do some breathing exercises to wake up the prana energy, or the life energy, within our bodies and then we’ll begin.”

It was a good thing that deep breathing exercises were naturally relaxing, because Katsuki could feel the irritation building within him as he listened to Todoroki drone on about ‘feeling the breath inside himself’ and ‘extending his inhale deeper into his stomach’. Whatever the hell that even meant. He cracked an eye open and watched Izuku’s shoulders rise and fall, his back tall and even though Katsuki could only see part of his face from this angle, he could tell the nerd was already smiling. He had a dimple on this side, curving in under the softly freckled skin, and Katsuki restrained the urge to poke it. Fucking weird as hell thought.

Before he could concern himself with that any longer, Todoroki encouraged them all to come to standing at the top of their mats, and began the session officially. They started off relatively slowly, bending forward to touch their toes, then rising partway, then stepping back into a plank. Then it got a little more difficult. Casting his gaze to one side, Katsuki watched as a dark-haired woman with one of those matchy-matchy yoga kits dropped into a pushup position, pulled herself forwards and straightened her arms, and then used her abdominals to send her hips back and up into a Downward Dog posture.

“Take three breaths here, and realign yourself. Stretch out the back of the calves and hamstrings, pedal the feet if that feels appropriate. Remember, ashtanga practice is with the breath, so our next two asanas will be in your own time.” Todoroki stalked around the studio, neatly mincing among the mats, and found his way to stand next to Katsuki. “Roll your shoulders back, and make sure your elbows face forwards,” he murmured in a low voice, and as much as Katsuki wanted to curse him, when he did as Todoroki instructed he found the pose got a hundred times more comfortable.

“Now, look to your hands, and step or hop the feet between them—with control! Don’t go flying off.” A series of thumps echoed around the class as students leapt forward, most of them managing the movement with ease, and continuing to hang forward from the waist. “Then inhale and lift your back until it’s flat, keeping your gaze on the floor and placing your hands on your knees. Bend forward again as you exhale, and when you inhale, reach your arms up to the sky and come to standing.”

Okay, not bad. Nothing special, but a solid bodyweight exercise, and it would probably provide a decent warm-up for the rest of the day. Maybe he could do some weightlifting later, work on his arms before attending to his afternoon clients.

“Excellent. While I would like to remind everyone that it is perfectly acceptable to return to child’s pose or to take extra time in a specific asana if that feels necessary, ashtanga is about motion with the breath. So keep that in mind as we swan-dive forward and begin again—inhale, move, exhale, move!” Todoroki demonstrated a sudden hinge forward at the hips, his arms spread at either side of his shoulder like a diving swimmer, and the class sprang into motion along with him. By the time Katsuki had made it to his chaturanga, the man beside him was already in Downward Dog, and as he stretched into Upward Dog, Izuku was grinning at him through his spread legs, face flushed as he hung upside down.

Katsuki had no idea if it was actually possible to get whiplash in your own brain, but he definitely had it right now. Because Izuku was wearing a literal pair of skintight Lycra yoga pants that gripped his broad thighs and ended just above the knee, showing off the sculpted muscles of his calves as he strained to touch his heels to the floor. Then that megawatt grin, and the trickle of sweat that ran down the side of one flushed cheekbone, his enjoyment of his own body as they flipped through this exercise—it should be illegal. There really, really oughta be a law. Katsuki huffed and forced himself back into Downward Dog, glaring at the floor like he hoped to burn a hole directly through his mat.

He was not attracted to All Might’s son.

It was just that he had a perfect body, and honestly, Katsuki should be more than used to it by now. He spent his days sweating, twisting, lifting, and jumping with some of the most athletic people one could imagine, and he’d seen more than his share of bulging muscles and perfected physiques. Hell, a good third of their clientele was probably made up of models, male and female alike. Izuku wasn’t even that good-looking in comparison; his face was sweet and unassuming, not statuesque or artistically defined to the media-airbrushed standard of beauty like so many of the people Katsuki saw day in and day out. Even Todoroki was more likely to end up on a magazine cover, and the thought of being attracted to him put a grimace on Katsuki’s face.

Coming up to standing, he aimed his angry stare at the back of that green mop of hair, which ignored him thoroughly. Whatever. Probably just a temporary moment. Taking a deep breath, Katsuki resolved firmly to concentrate only on himself, and to forget all about idiots in too-tight pants.

Until they dropped into Chair Pose, which was not unlike a wall-sit without the wall, and Todoroki circled around Izuku’s mat and casually placed his hand in the small of the man’s back, inches away from openly groping him. Adjustments were one thing, but Todoroki practically had his hand on Izuku’s ass. No one in the class flinched, but Katsuki was fairly certain he could actually see red. They were a high-class establishment, well-respected throughout all manner of circles, and Todoroki was taking advantage of his position as an instructor to feel up their clients. It took everything he had not to stride off his mat and deck the smug bastard directly in the mouth, then drag him to Aizawa’s office by his dumb mismatched hair.

“—Tuck your tailbone under, that’s it. It takes the strain off your lower back and puts it on your quads. Well done,” he was saying to Izuku, and got a quick nod in response. What. The. Fuck. Was Izuku accepting this? Was he—flirting back?

Katsuki didn’t have time to think about it as they all dipped into a forward fold again, moved through a chaturanga, and Todoroki instructed them all to place their right foot at the top of the mat and come up into a wide lunge he called Warrior One. It burned through Katsuki’s hamstrings but he gritted his teeth and bore it, watching with a mild degree of awe as a few of the students curled backward elegantly, resting nearly all of their weight on their back leg, then stretching left and right as though this were still part of the warm-up.

“Take two more breaths in this posture, and then another chaturanga, coming up with the left leg forward this time,” Todoroki called from somewhere at the back of the class, and Katsuki watched in mute horror as the next series left Izuku with his shirt riding up over his waist. A strip of tan skin as wide as two fingers showed through the fabric, the barest peek, but it felt like far too much for this hour of the morning.

Goddamn it. It was all this jumping around, it had to be. Getting his heart rate up was probably encouraging his body, and it had been a while since he’d seen any...anything. From anyone. Spending eight to twelve hours per day in a gym didn’t leave much time for outside socialization, much less dating, and Katsuki was aware that he wasn’t exactly an ideal boyfriend. Mostly because other people couldn’t keep up with the pace of his life, but still. These were all the compounding reasons that he was fighting to keep his eyes off the nubile body in front of him as Izuku stuck his hips out in a half-raise, the fabric of his yoga pants leaving not a single thing to the imagination. Was he even wearing underwear?

Katsuki felt a wave of disgust at himself, and buried all his thoughts by stretching into his backbend until his thighs screamed and he actually watched his own legs tremble, nearly touching them with his nose. Fortunately, the next poses required placing one leg behind him, foot at a forty-five degree angle as Todoroki specified, keeping both straight as he turned his torso to the side and extended his arm above his shoulders and reached to grab his ankle with the other. Staring up at the ceiling, he concentrated on the way he could already feel sweat pouring down his back, forcing his mind to clear and make room for the sensations of his body.

“Imagine that you’re standing between two glass walls, held in place. Everything in your body should on one long line, hand to shoulder to knee to foot,” Todoroki was saying, and again, Katsuki wanted to hit him. Above him, his arm was actually starting to tremble as he kept it raised while they moved from one pose to the next, muscles straining as he tried to maintain his form. Who the fuck did this for relaxation?

The next ten minutes were mostly him trying not to fall on his ass as they stretched, bent, and twirled their way through what felt like a dozen ridiculous poses. There was even one where they stood on one leg and grabbed the raised foot with one hand, then bent it up towards their nose—and people actually did it. A lithe young man with coppery hair wobbled, fell out, grinned and tried again to the right of Izuku. The woman with the perfectly matching outfit managed it with ease, and then they dropped the standing leg to stick out at ninety degrees, and pulled it back across their hips, and Katsuki lost his grip. Both feet hit the floor and he cursed under his breath, but no one seemed to notice or care.

Huh.

Todoroki didn’t comment, even when he took a second to swipe his towel from the floor and rub it over his face because god, when did it get so hot in here? Taking the pause to glance around, he noticed a few people had modified the posture to what they could handle, and some weren’t even attempting it at all, instead moving through another chaturanga or laying on their mats in what must be Child’s Pose, hips resting on their ankles and hands spread out in front of them.

Except for Izuku, of course. Because the powers that be just weren’t feeling like being kind to him today. The class met up in Chair Pose again, then another Warrior One, and turned to the side with their arms held up level to their shoulders for Warrior Two. Calmly, Todoroki again moved through the mats and came up to the redhead who had fallen out of his posture earlier, using one of his feet to silently encourage the man to widen his stance, and a hand on his stomach to realign him. It still seemed fucking bizarre that Todoroki was manhandling his students like this, but the redhead seemed utterly passive about the entire interaction, even slightly relieved. Maybe this was...normal? All around him, nobody batted an eyelash, and Todoroki even went to a few other students to correct their stances as well. Katsuki’s urge to murder him ebbed, if only minutely. A lot of things did happen in gyms that would be entirely inappropriate in other contexts, and they all had to go through sensitivity training and were carefully vetted to make sure that their behavior was strictly professional, at all times.

Which was why when they came to the floor and finished a series of complicated folds over their knees that made Katsuki feel like a piece of folded laundry, he wanted to smack himself. He needed to revisit that training, hell, he needed to revisit church, because one of the poses went from laying on the ground to bringing one straightened  leg up by the shoulder, spreading the body wide. Which Izuku did, without strain. He was bent literally in half, and for a moment he dropped his head back and smiled at Katsuki again. Again. While holding himself open for the world to see, undoubtedly providing a view from the front that certain perverts would pay top dollar for. And also possibly Katsuki because, fuck. Fuck fuck and double-fuck. He was going to change the flexibility ranking on Izuku’s chart, because that clearly didn’t apply to the lower half of his body. There were pornstars who wanted what he had, face bright red now, eyes gleaming like he was enjoying every second.

It was unfair, and should be legislated against. Public indecency, it was definitely a case of public indecency. He was almost glad when Shouto asked them to start moving again, until Izuku climbed into his shoulder stand quickly and the baggy shirt he was wearing dropped up to his chest, revealing a toned stomach and the hard planes of his abs.

Katsuki threw himself into his own shoulder stand so fast he almost snapped his neck, and earned a raised eyebrow from Todoroki when he came over to steady his legs. “It’s important to take the poses slowly, Bakugou. There’s no point in pushing yourself.”

“Get….bent,” he managed, even though the weight of his chest was making it difficult to speak. Funny, because bending was what they were doing right now. He was a comic genius, which Todoroki clearly didn’t appreciate, because he let go and walked away without a word. Katsuki was still damn glad he couldn’t see whether or not Izuku managed the plow pose, casting his legs over his head and touching them to the floor the way the other students did. His heart and soul didn’t need that kind of torment right now.

The class ended a few minutes later, after a few more forward folds and stretches to get the tightness out of their backs, though a handful of students actually pulled off impressive headstands before floating primly back to the floor. They ended with their legs crossed under them and their hands at prayer, a murmured ‘namaste’ echoing through the room before everyone came alive again and began to gather up their mats.

Katsuki quickly added his to the growing pile in the corner of used mats to be cleaned off, and made a beeline for the door. Unfortunately,  he was still not fast enough, because he heard bounding footsteps behind him and a cheerful voice just over his shoulder.

“Hey, hey Katsuki, wait up!” Izuku was hopping on one foot as he tried to cram the other back into an oversized, garishly red trainer, and Katsuki didn’t bother to hide his irritation. “What did you think of the class?”

He thought it made him need to go confession, or at least to the locker room for the coldest shower he could get. Perhaps both. “It was okay, I guess. If you like a bunch of sissy jumping around and playing on mats. Probably good for your flexibility, though.”

Izuku looked as though someone had just told him he’d won the lottery and inherited an entire puppy shelter all at once. There was cheerful, and then there was—whatever this was. How could one person be so fucking happy? It wasn’t even mania or that false chipperness he’d seen people put on as a joke or to do work before, it was just...like Izuku was legitimately delighted with his response. And he had no clue what to do with that, period. “I’m glad you liked it! I thought it might be a little outside of both our comfort zones, and so why not give it a shot, right? Dad always says the key to fitness is not falling into routines that your body gets too used to, even though it’s important to be consistent.”

“Thanks for the TEDtalk,” he muttered, intending for it to come out as sarcastic, because duh. He was a personal trainer, he didn’t need anyone to tell him about fitness. But Izuku just barreled along, hot on his heels as they headed for the locker room.

“Todoroki was such an amazing teacher too, don’t you think? He’s such a cool guy, and he made it all look so easy, even though I thought I was gonna sweat my ass off!” The double incongruity of someone calling Todoroki cool and Izuku actually cussing made Katsuki stop, squinting at him suspiciously.

Then he shook his head, and grabbed one of the towels out of the cubby. They were now standing in the locker room, and Katsuki was all too aware that he was supposed to be stripping down for a shower. So was Izuku. Everyone got naked in the locker rooms, it was just part of going to a gym—there was no point in trying to be overly private. Except Izuku was still there, happily chattering away, not even bothering to avert his eyes as his hands went to the edge of his sweat-drenched shirt and he began to peel it up and off. “Fuck that guy,” Katsuki snarled, focusing his attention to the tiny inside of his locker like it held a portal to Narnia. Actually, that would be perfect; a way out of this hellish situation.

“Oh, do you not like Todoroki?” Izuku asked from somewhere to his left, and there was the sound of first his shirt, and then those damnable yoga pants hitting the floor. Katsuki stared at the back of his locker until he thought the wood was going to start smoldering. He wouldn’t look. He wouldn’t.

“He’s just a smug fucker,” Katsuki growled, and yanked off his own shirt, stuffing it into the locker. “He thinks he’s better than everyone else because yoga makes you spiritually enlightened or what-the-fuck-ever. Newsflash, learning a couple words in Sanskrit and being able to do a headstand doesn’t make you the goddamn Dalai Lama.”

He hadn’t meant for the words to be funny, but the melodious sound of Izuku’s laughter floated over from the other side of the locker door, and Katsuki wished the entire world would just implode and end him right now. If some angry country was going to nuke them out of existence, now would be the ideal goddamn second. “I think it has something to do with the granola—fiber intake is next to godliness,” Izuku said, and Katsuki swallowed the urge to snort. He’d seen Todoroki eating granola more times than he could count, along with what was probably homemade yoghurt. Fucking hippie.

“I’m gonna take a shower, Kacchan,” came next. It took Katsuki’s brain a second of spinning its wheels to even process what had been said, and then he slammed the locker shut full-force.

What did you just call me?” He needed to get his ears cleaned out, because he could swear that Izuku just fucking nicknamed him.

“Kacchan. It’s a nickname; your name is Katsuki, but it sounds much nicer as Kacchan, doesn’t it? More personal, because we’re gym buddies. I’m gonna call you that from now on.” He grinned, and was blessedly wearing a towel wrapped around his lower extremities, but his shoulders were spattered with a hundred little freckles like tiny constellations and Katsuki’s tongue wanted to explore them before his brain reined it in hard.

Anger bubbled in his veins instead, because that was the stupidest goddamn thing he’d heard all day long. All month, even, and he worked with Denki Kaminari, who was in competition with sea slugs for average number of brain cells. “The fuck you will.”

Instead of being cowed by the harshness of his tone, the way every single sensible creature on this good green earth would have been, Izuku’s eyes simply sparkled with mischief. No exaggeration, they actually glittered and it was mischievous. “The fuck I won’t.” Then he shrugged his shoulders and turned away, leaving Katsuki standing there.

He stared, open-mouthed, at Izuku’s broad and freckled shoulders as he sauntered off in the direction of the showers. What in the hell had just happened to him?