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The Ballad of Love and Hate

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Katsuki ran his fingers lazily over the dragon scale earing in Shouto’s left ear. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be used to seeing it there, to seeing how well it fit and how strange it was all at once. Looking at Shouto was always like that. Katsuki hadn’t realized what was missing in his life until Shouto had appeared there, silent, steady, beautiful like snow over the mountain. Or perhaps a volcano.

All the ways he had changed only underscored the ways he hadn’t. He’d cut his hair and pierced his ear and consented to have his arm tattooed and he was still just Shouto. Just Princess.

Katsuki’s whole body ached just looking at him. Or maybe it was Izuku at his back. Or what they’d done last night. All of them together. Katsuki felt his cheeks heat just thinking about it. He’d done worse with Izuku-- not for a long time, of course, and he’d spent too, too long missing Izuku to even come close to parsing out all his feelings about just getting to touch him again-- but Shouto. Shouto was something different.

Katsuki was no stranger to sex. He had his lovers and his husbands and wife, and their lovers. He’d had casual encounters with people whose names he couldn’t remember now, and he’d had moments that meant so much more, but he’d still never had anyone quite like Shouto.

Every touch had meaning, was so hard-fought it left Katsuki breathless, weak in the knees even though he’d never show it. And Katsuki had never really hoped to see him like that, to watch him share himself with someone else. He’d hoped that maybe one day-- maybe Shouto might care enough for Kiri, or find some carefree whim that would draw him toward Denki, but...

He had never expected Shouto to feel that way about Izuku. He’d seen it, a little. Shouto was a hard man to read, but Katsuki saw that he was softer around Izuku, less guarded. That he had been from the start.

It had hurt. Everything with Izuku did. He’d thought maybe it was just attraction-- because any body with eyes had to be attracted to Izuku-- but seeing how Shouto was with Kiri and Denki, how different he was when Katsuki knew he was attracted to them too (where Shouto stood with women in general and Mina in particular still remained to be seen) only underscored that there was more than just attraction with Izuku. And more than just friendship.

Katsuki still felt light headed, short of breath, when he thought of it. Nothing had ever hurt so much or felt so obvious and right. That Shouto loved Izuku. That Katsuki was keeping them apart. That Katsuki couldn’t do that. Not to Shouto. He missed Izuku too much every day to ever keep him from someone who loved him.

Shouto smiled, cat-like, and lifted his chin a little so Katsuki had better access. He put his hand over Katsuki’s for one short moment, and then pulled away, muttered that he needed to use the toilet, and he’d be right back.

Katsuki watched him climb out of bed, long limbed and lithe, smeared with blue and white and black wedding paint in swirls and streaks across his naked back and ass and thighs. Katsuki could see fingerprints in some of the darker lines, places where his hands, or Izuku’s, had rubbed Shouto’s skin clean before the paints had dried and stained.

Katsuki heard Izuku’s breath hitch as they watched Shouto push his tangled hair behind his shoulders. He absently shook the ties from his hair and ran his fingers through it, brushing out the remnants of his destroyed braids. A thin sheet fell over his left ear, soft and silky and crimped a little.

The servants had left robes for both of them when this room was prepared-- a sinfully soft wool one for Shouto, and the silk flatlander robe Shouto had gifted Katsuki beside it. With an almost mischievous smirk, Shouto took the silk one, flinging it out over his naked shoulders and cinching it in the front with such an unaffected air, Katsuki knew Shouto had no idea how good he looked like that. He smiled at them once before he left, a short, almost absent little look that would have been cold on any other man, but was, on Shouto’s face, the utmost expression of affection.

Everything with Shouto was like that. It had taken Katsuki so long to understand the nuance in his voice and his expression. Everything he said sounded flat, every expression deadpan and unamused, maybe even heartless, if you didn’t know him.

He made Katsuki’s heart ache. Katsuki had spent so long coloring his every word in a veneer of anger, so no one could ever guess what was really going on in his head. He knew why Shouto was the way he was, knew that his cold, callous affectation was armor, that it kept him safe. Safe from men like his father.

Katsuki knew that. That was why it meant so much that Shouto had let himself be seen like he had. And not just by Katsuki. By Izuku too. That he’d let himself be touched and kissed and held and spoken to so gently…

Katsuki understood. He understood what that meant.

The door closed behind Shouto, and Katsuki felt Izuku breathe out, slow and careful.

“He has no idea he looks like that,” Izuku said quietly.

Katsuki sat up, back to Izuku, and said, “No.”

He felt it happen all at once. Felt the air in the room get tight and tense. He knew Shouto had been keeping him level, had been keeping him focused on how good and familiar Izuku’s skin felt against his own but now he was gone-- and-- they were alone.

Izuku felt it too. Of course he did. The bastard had always been good at reading a room. At reading Katsuki.

He put his hand on Katsuki’s shoulder. “Kacchan…”

“Don’t,” Katsuki said softly. Izku withdrew his hand. “I need.” Katsuki took a breath, wet his lips, and tried again, squeezing his eyes shut so he wouldn't have to think about anything but getting these words out. “I have to say something and I-- can’t. If you’re looking at me. So just. Sit there and shut the fuck up and let me talk.”

Izuku was quiet, and he moved away so they weren’t touching. That was good. Katsuki couldn’t-- he couldn’t think too hard about this. He kept his eyes shut and conjured all the things he’d sworn he’d say if he ever got the chance, every word, every plea, every apology he’d screamed in his head at night when he couldn’t sleep for remembering.

Katsuki said, “I’m sorry.” That was hard. Not as hard as he thought it might be, but. Still hard. It always was. Katsuki had always been too proud, too arrogant, too foolish to be able to apologize gracefully. Or at all. And he knew this feeble attempt wasn’t enough. He’d never be able to say it enough. Not after everything he’d put Izuku through. “You. Stayed. Longer. Longer than you should have.”

Izuku still didn’t talk, and Katsuki could tell he wanted to. But he didn’t. He waited.

“I. The way I treated you.” He heard Izuku suck in a quiet breath and he plowed on before Izuku could stop him. “I hated you. I did. I hated how much I…”

It was always easier in his head. In his head he was so much stronger than this. In his head he threw himself at Izuku’s feet and begged forgiveness and he was strong for it.

“I thought you made me weak. How. How much I needed you. I was so stupid.” Izuku moved; Katsuki felt the bed shift and he expected to feel Izuku’s hand on his shoulder. But the touch never came. “I was… you ruined me. I swear to fuck, Izuku, the only reason I didn’t lose my fucking mind was Kiri. He.” Katsuki swallowed. “I sorta. Had to figure out how to keep going. For him.”

They were both quiet, the long, drawn out silence of it all too thick and close and stifling. Katsuki thought of the worst conversation he’d ever had to have with someone. When he tried to explain to Kiri that Izuku was gone and he wasn’t coming back. Katsuki hadn’t really believed it. He’d said it, but he’d still expected, every day after, to watch Izuku walk back through his door. For months after. Years even. It had taken so long to sink in that Izuku was gone. “I couldn’t lose him too.”

Silence fell again. Katsuki tried to order his thoughts and wondered when Shouto was coming back. Soon now, he’d guess. He hadn’t said much, but it had taken a very long time to say it.

“I guess that’s why… If I could chase you away. Of. All people. They’d…”

He sniffed and felt his cheeks start to burn and his throat get tight, felt tears stinging his eyes and he hated this, fuck, he hated this, he hated having to say this and he hated knowing it needed to be said. That Izuku deserved more than an I’m sorry, I’ll try harder next time. He deserved more than that. He deserved to know that Katsuki knew he’d done nothing worthy of winning Izuku back. He’d been jealous and petty and mean all over again when he should have been trying to prove to Izuku that he could be different.

But he’d thought there was no point. No way Izuku could ever, ever forgive him. Being how he’d been before… it had just been easier.

He felt stupid for thinking that too, stupid for thinking Izuku didn’t want him just as badly when he knew Izuku had promised, had promised he’d always love Katsuki and always want him and as long as Katsuki had known him, Izuku had never broken a promise.

“I can be better for you. I know I can. But you have to-- you have to tell me if you’re not happy, you have to, because I can’t-- I can’t be good all the time, I don’t know how, but if you tell me, I can-- learn--”

“Kacchan.”

Katsuki wiped the back of his wrists over his eyes. “Don’t, I’m not-- done yet, lemme talk.”

Katsuki thought Izuku might have been holding his breath, he was so quiet.

“It was so hard without you.” Katsuki broke when he said it, and then he couldn’t stop, couldn’t stop all the feeling welling up to fill the cracks. “All of this was so much harder, I get it, I get it now, why Toshinori picked you, I get it, you’re just-- you just know what to do, you’re just-- you just know, and I can’t-- I’m not like that, I have to-- He was right. He was right the whole time, you were always meant to be chief, not me and I-- Fuck, I’m just-- I’m so sorry, I love you so much, I love you--”

“Enough.” Katsuki buried his face against his knees, and Izuku said quietly. “Just stop. Can I touch you now?”

Katsuki felt something warm and strange trickle down his spine. Izuku wouldn’t have asked him that before. He just would have done it, just pulled Katsuki to him and held him whether Katsuki wanted him to or not.

“Yes. Please.”

Izuku pulled Katsuki against his chest. He was so much bigger now than he’d been the last time Katsuki had really gotten to feel him like this. Katsuki hated it, hated how the scent of his skin made Katsuki weep. He tried not to hate it. Mina told him he should cry sometimes, that it was good for him and he’d feel better after instead of bottling everything up and screaming at the people he loved but he still hated it. Hated the sensation of tears on his face and the ugly, awful scrunched up expression he knew he was wearing and the way he just wanted to yell to unlock the tightness in his chest. Or. Blow something up maybe.

Izuku was crying. Because of course he was.

“You think it’s easy for me? After-- you think it’s easy for me to follow in Toshi’s footsteps?”

“You’re so good at it.”

“Because he’s there, Katsuki! When I’m not sure, I can ask him. You’ve been doing this alone. You don’t let anyone help you. I’ve got Ochako and Tsu and my mother and Toshi, and Shouta, and Chiyo, and-- everyone. And I still think at least once a day that Toshi should have chosen you.”

Katsuki put his wet face against Izuku’s neck, felt how warm he was. How incredible he smelled.

“I’m different too,” Izuku said very quietly, after the only sound had been both of them sniffling, trying not to sob into each other’s hair like Katsuki knew they both wanted to do. “You-- when I left. It was. Hard. It was so hard and I thought no one else would ever--”

Izuku paused and swallowed and Katsuki’s heart clenched so tightly it took his breath away.

Because Katsuki knew that was his fault. Knew that if Izuku left convinced no one else could ever want him, it was only because Katsuki had said as much. He’d been so twisted up back then. So afraid of how much he needed Izuku and so convinced that Izuku didn’t need him back. So convinced that Izuku thought he was better than Katsuki and terrified that one day he’d realize he really was. Sure that when Izuku figured that out, he would leave. Completely bewildered at the fact that he hadn’t yet.

“And then you never-- I really did think you’d come after me and we could. It was stupid but I didn’t know what else to do.”

“I know. I know, I’m so sorry.”

“See,” Izuku said with a weak laugh. “That’s how I know you’re different. You never apologized about anything. Never. I just-- it’s been a long time. We’re both different now.”

“Doesn’t feel like it,” Katsuki said. “Feels like you just left. Always feels like you just left.”

“I know,” Izuku said quietly. “Seeing you come screaming out of those woods was like…”

“Fuck,” Katsuki practically whimpered. “I just--” He almost stopped himself. Almost stopped himself from speaking this, but-- “Wanted you to hold me.” Katsuki twisted a little, so he could wipe his hand over his face and almost started sobbing again. “I thought Kiri was dead, I knew, if you could have seen the way he fell--”

“I know,” Izuku said quietly. “I missed you, Kacchan.”

Katsuki kissed him. It was wet and imperfect and desperate. Katsuki didn’t have room left to hate himself for it, for how much he needed to feel Izuku however he possibly could.

Izuku pulled away, and looked at him. His eyes were overfull, but he had that inexplicable steeliness in his gaze that Izuku always had when he had something important to say.

“I’ll tell you if I’m unhappy,” he said quietly. “But it’s more than that. No more names. No more insults.” His jaw slid and he looked down when he added, “No more leaving in the middle of a fight.”

Katsuki blinked in surprise.

Izuku’s lips curled up. “Ochako says. She won’t let me do that anymore. Says it’s not fair.”

Katsuki nodded slowly. He had always hated when Izuku did that.

“And, uh, she also says me trying to take all the blame isn't productive and it's more about getting her to deny it than actually fixing the problem. Um. Says it's. Manipulative.”

Katsuki smiled in spite of himself. From the moment he'd met her, Ochako hadn't put up with any of Katsuki's bluster. It made sense she wouldn't tolerate Izuku’s either.

“We have to talk,” Izuku said firmly. “Like really talk.”

Katsuki nodded, sniffled a little and tried not to be embarrassed about it. He pulled himself up on his knees, put his arms around Izuku’s neck, settled over his lap, and inhaled again. Slid his hands into Izuku’s hair. Izuku had his arms around Katsuki’s waist, holding him in place, and Katsuki turned his head, kissed Izuku’s neck.

Everything about him felt so familiar and so foreign all at once, Katsuki wasn’t sure he could stand it. He still smelled like Izuku, still sounded like him, and his hair was still just as soft and his skin just as warm, but he was broader now, with thicker arms, and wider shoulders, and there was just something about the way he carried himself. Something firmer, something more self assured.

Izuku slid one hand down, and cupped Katsuki’s left asscheek. Katsuki jumped and tensed and groaned all at once and a flood of sensation and warm, fuzzy memory came flooding through his head. He was… sore.

He sagged against Izuku’s chest.

“You really didn’t let anyone else…”

Katsuki shook his head. “Couldn’t.”

“Why not?”

Katsuki shrugged one shoulder. And then he realized he was doing it again. Not talking. So he said, “Kiri doesn’t like to hurt. Denki only likes to be roughed up. And Mina likes different things.” Mina prefered her tingling potions and blindfolds and feathers and fur, maybe warm wax, or even ice, but nothing that left a mark and nothing that hurt. “And Shouto…”

Izuku smiled and hummed-- Katsuki didn’t see it, but he could hear it in his voice. Katsuki shivered a little. Izuku mumbled, “Give him some time.” It was more taunt than admonishment. “He loved watching you squirm.”

Katsuki breathed out all in a rush and pressed his face a little more fiercely to Izuku’s neck.

Izuku said, “I could teach him some things.”

“Fuck you,” Katsuki answered, already hopelessly turned on and amazed at how easily Izuku could do that. Even now. He knew Katsuki so well. Always knew just what to say. Just what to do.

Izuku smiled against Katsuki’s skin.

“It was more than that anyway,” Katsuki mumbled. “They. They want me to be strong for them, and I just… it feels strange letting one of them… see me like that. You were the only one who ever-- who I felt like… understood.”

“You don’t give them enough credit,” Izuku said gently. “Kiri’s been with us before when we…”

“I can’t explain it,” Katsuki said all in rush. “I know it doesn’t make sense.”

“Do you think,” Izuku said very slowly, “Maybe you’re punishing yourself. Since I wasn’t here to do it for you.”

Katsuki felt his eyes well up again, the lump in his throat choking him. He didn’t know if Izuku had meant that lightly, if he’d been teasing or even trying to be sexy, or-- Katsuki didn’t know how to take it either. He just knew feeling suddenly swamped him and all he could do was cling to Izuku’s neck and try to fight it back.

Everything crystalized in that moment and he had an answer. “I missed you too much. I couldn’t let anyone else-- without thinking of you.”

Izuku sighed against Katsuki’s shoulder and stroked his hand over the back of Katsuki’s head and said, “Love you, Kacchan.”

Katsuki squeezed him tighter and basked, in the feel of his skin and the smell of his hair and the warmth of his breath. Katsuki felt like something profound had been returned to him, like he’d been broken into pieces and stuck back together again with one very important part still missing. And it was back now.

He felt reckless and raw when he whispered, “I’m gonna be so good to you.”

Izuku kissed his shoulder.

“Treat you like a fucking prince. Like--”

“Where is he?” Izuku said suddenly, looking around.

Katsuki sat back reflexively, and then laughed. “Princess!”

Izuku furrowed his brows, but then Shouto opened the door, giving them both a look that hovered somewhere between sheepish and deadpan.

“I wasn’t listening,” he said defensively. “I was trying not to interrupt.”

Katsuki rolled his eyes at Izuku and said, “Sure you were, you nasty little voyeur.”

Shouto looked at Katsuki like he’d just said something very terrible and said, “I thought you probably wanted to talk. Alone,” he added. He gave Katsuki a truly withering stare and said, “Not everything is about sex, Katsuki.”

Izuku shook his head and said pointedly, “Thank you. We. Did.”

Shouto nodded and stood on the rim of the bed, looking a little unsure of himself. After a beat, he sat down on the floor, feet in the furs and arms crossed over his chest. “I can. Leave again. If you need. I don’t mind.”

Katsuki rolled his eyes and pulled Shouto into bed by one foot, crawled up over him while he protested and spluttered; Katsuki buried his face in Shouto’s neck. He had bruises. Katsuki didn’t remember putting them there; maybe Izuku did.

“No. You stay,” Katsuki told him. Having Shouto back helped Katsuki start to balance out again, helped him pull back some of the raging under his skin. Shouto was strong and fierce and steady and that was all the more reason that Katsuki should treat him gently. Somebody had to. Not delicately-- Shouto would never stand for that, or need it. But. He deserved soft words and kind touches. Katsuki knew Shouto had had so few of those in his life.

Shouto rubbed his hand over his face and laughed once, a short, breathless, restrained sound that he clearly couldn’t conceal. Then he dropped his long, slender fingers to Katsuki’s skin and traced his nails over Katsuki’s shoulder. Katsuki shivered, certain that Shouto had no idea how wonderful that felt and annoyed at how much worse that made it. Katsuki set his teeth against Shouto’s shoulder just so he wouldn’t moan like an awful, desperate whore.

“We should clean up,” Shouto sighed, turning his head so his hair fell over his forehead. Katsuki lifted up enough that he could see Shouto staring at Izuku. “This paint is never going to come off. And my arm is very uncomfortable,” he added petulantly.

Katsuki jerked up and away. “Fuck, you should have said something.”

Shouto sat up and blinked at him. “I just did.”

Katsuki heard Izuku say, “Let me see.” He found the jar of ointment for their new tattoos and when he turned back around, Shouto was leaning his back against Izuku’s chest while Izuku studied his upturned forearm. When Katsuki came close he saw that Shouto’s arm looked tight and swollen.

“Delicate princess,” he teased. Shouto glared at him. Katsuki let him glare and applied the ointment. He’d have to have Mina look at Shouto’s arm before Fumikage finished the tattoo. It looked angrier than Katsuki’s did, and Katsuki worried Shouto might be having some kind of reaction to the ink.

But his skin calmed under the ointment, and he leaned his head back against Izuku’s shoulder while Katsuki pampered him. It wasn’t a spelled ointment, so it could only do so much, but it seemed to be helping already.

Izuku caught Katsuki’s hands before he could pull away, and he turned them both palm up.

Katsuki’s heart was suddenly lodged in his throat and he looked away, but didn’t drop his hands. He knew what Izuku was looking for.

On Katsuki’s right hand were three scars and one cut. They were thin things, sliced across the fleshy part of his palm, under his thumb. A healing ritual involving irritating the cuts and rubbing them with ash and ground stone made the scars more prominent, more raised than they would normally be. Ensured it would be hard for time to fade them.

He had one more on his left hand. In the same place, but very thin, and very faint. They’d never actually gone through with it. So the healing ritual, the second cut bisecting the first, had never happened.

Katsuki didn’t bother looking at Izuku’s palms. He knew the only scars he had were from Ochako’s proposal, and their joining. Katsuki hadn’t left any marks of his own.

Izuku lifted Katsuki’s left palm to his lips and kissed it.

Shouto said softly, “You savages would save each other a lot of trouble if you exchanged rings and handkerchiefs like civilized people.”

Izuku slipped his other hand up around Shouto’s neck, quick and wicked and put his lips against Shouto’s ear when he said, “Wanna see savage?”

Katsuki watched Shouto’s throat bob, watched his eyes flutter closed and his breath hitch. Katsuki paused, grinning at Izuku, holding his other hand without meaning to, and waiting for Shouto to say something dry and deadpan, or else something casual and unaffected.

Instead, he opened his eyes and peered down his nose at Katsuki when he said quietly, gruffly, “Show me.”

***

It happened after Kiri came to see them.

Shouto finally got fed up enough with the wedding paints all over his body that he insisted he needed a bath; Izuku agreed to come too. They both opened the door to leave, Katsuki not far behind them, and came face to face with Ochako, who was leaning against the far wall with a book in her hand as if she’d been standing here for a while.

“Darling?” Izuku said, drawing up short and actually sounding just the slightest bit panicked.

Ochako gave him a warm look and a smile and for some reason Katsuki felt the strangest urge to move away from her.

“Hey, love,” she said very cheerfully. “Prince Shouto.”

Katsuki shifted from one foot to the other as Ochako looked between Shouto and Izuku and very pointedly not at Katsuki.

“Is everything alright?” Izuku prodded.

Ochako waved her book. “Fine. Just needed to borrow Katsuki for a few minutes.”

“Borrow--” Katsuki and Izuku both said at once.

Ochako finally looked Katsuki’s way and he almost shrunk away from her. She held up her book. “I’m working on a spell and I need your help. It can’t wait, but it won’t take long.”

“Oh,” Izuku said brightly. “What spell?” Shouto craned his head to try to read the cover of Ochako’s book.

“Just a little protection magic,” she said with a warm, wide smile that she once again did not level Katsuki’s way. “Go on ahead, he’ll catch up.”

“Hey, the fuck you think--”

“He’ll catch up,” she said again, still smiling.

Katsuki swallowed. Shouto shrugged and breezed down the hallway without a word, and after he kissed Ochako and then Katsuki on the cheek, Izuku followed him. Ochako and Katsuki watched them go, ‘Chako still just smiling and Katsuki becoming more and more unnerved with every passing second.

The moment Izuku and Shouto where out of sight and out of earshot, Katsuki said, “What the fuck do you ne--”

Ochako whirled, put her hand flat on Katsuki’s chest, and shoved him back through the open door. Katsuki fell back through the door and wheeled his arms to catch himself, but then his feet slid out from under him and he just--

“What the fuck, Ochako!” Katsuki spat. He didn’t hit the ground. He just hung in the air, twisting and turning like a dandelion seed; he had to let off a few tiny blasts to get himself right side up so he could look at her.

The expression on her face was positively terrifying. “Be quiet.”

“Fuck you--”

“Katsuki.” Katsuki felt his mouth fall open at the way she was speaking to him, shock and fury making him stupid, and then she barked, “Be quiet.”

Katsuki glowered at her, heart beating far more quickly than he thought it had any right to.

Ochako stared at him for a long, tense moment, and then narrowed her eyes before she looked down at her book. She flipped it open again, held out her hand, and Katsuki watched white magic gather at the tips of her fingertips.

Katsuki tried not to gap at her. She wasn’t using her staff. She was a sorcerer for fuck’s sake, sorcerer’s needed staffs. Or wands, or talismans-- some kind of focusing tool. But Ochako was just-- conjuring shit out of thin air?

“What are you--”

Ochako lifted her eyes and glared him into submission again. When she looked back down, she took one deep, slow breath, and the light gathering at her fingertips suddenly shot toward Katsuki’s chest in a brilliant beam. He didn’t actually feel anything, but watching the light cluster around his body and shimmer there while Ochako was staring at him like that was… intimidating to say the least.

The light died. Katsuki patted his chest, trying to see if anything had changed, and then looked furiously back at Ochako.

“What did you do?” he demanded, voice low even though he wanted to scream at her-- it was just-- she’d told him to be quiet--

“I told you,” she said, expression smug and… threatening. “A protection spell.”

“I don’t need you to--”

“It’s not for you.”

Katsuki stopped struggling against whatever magic was holding him up in the air and all his fury, all his frustration and indignance evaporated in a blink.

Ochako watched him realize why she was here, and then she said, “You didn’t have to put him back together again, Katsuki.”

Katsuki bit his tongue so hard it hurt and then looked away with a half hearted scoff.

“You didn’t have to see him pining after you for the better part of a decade. You didn’t have to see how broken he was when he came back to me.”

Katsuki stared very staunchly at the wall and Ochako let the silence hang until it was uncomfortable.

Then she took two wide steps forward and laid her hand on Katsuki’s chest; he dropped to floor hard, landing painfully on his very sore backside, and before he could so much as finish wincing, Ochako was pressing her foot to a very sensitive place that made Katsuki look up at her and start wordlessly raging while he waved his hands, too shocked and now far too compromised to even scramble away.

“Hurt my husband, I hurt you, Katsuki,” Ochako said fiercely, bending at the waist and brandishing her finger in his face. “Got it?”

It took everything in Katsuki’s power not to blast her in the face out of sheer mortification, but he somehow thought maiming his wife wasn’t the best way to keep in Izuku’s good graces.

Also-- and he was loath to admit this even to himself-- but Ochako was…

She was glaring at him, and her eyes were sparking with threat and confidence and capability, and her foot--

Katsuki swallowed very hard because those were very bad thoughts and very inappropriate for the current situation.

He dropped his eyes, “Yeah, alright.”

“What was that?” she demanded.

“I said I got it, ‘Chako, fuck.”

“I mean it, Katsuki! We’ve spent eight years fixing the damage you two did to each other and if I have to--”

“I won’t.” He hated how quiet his voice was, how incapable he was of looking her in the eye, how much his chest suddenly ached. “I won’t. He’s.” Katsuki swallowed, eyes darting around the floor, and slid back a little so Ochako wasn’t leaning on him quite so heavily. “Promise. Won’t-- I’ll.” Katsuki cleared his throat. “Try.”

Ochako was silent and when Katsuki finally chanced to look up at her she was just staring at him, stone faced. Katsuki looked away again, and Ochako finally pulled her foot away.

“Better do more than try,” she said.

Katsuki wanted to tell her he would. He wanted to promise and swear he’d be better. Wanted to be angry at her for worrying.

Wanted to be and couldn’t.

Ochako extended her hand, and it was very hard for Katsuki to do the mature thing and accept it. When he did, she pulled him up, and then squeezed his palm a little before she let it go. “Don’t make me hurt you, Katsuki.”

“What did you do?” he demanded, thinking of the swirl of white light that had surrounded him.

Ochako crossed her arms over her chest. “I told you. A protection spell. Let’s just say if you fuck this up, my foot is going to be the least of your problems.”

Katsuki tried for brash and flippant when he said, “Yeah? Fuck do I gotta do to make it the most of my problems?” and realized he had completely missed the mark the second the words left his mouth. He looked at her reflexively, shock and embarrassment flooding his chest.

Ochako didn’t miss a beat when she said, “Learn how to take orders the first time.”

And then she turned and left the room without another word.

Katsuki spent one shocked, dazed moment trying to collect himself before he rushed off to the bathhouse.

When he came through the door, Shouto was in Izuku’s lap, knees on the bench. They were kissing sweetly, slowly, while little swirls of blue and white paint dissolved in the water that brushed their skin.

They both looked at him when he came through the door and Katsuki felt all the air leave his lungs. The relief he felt every time he saw them was so overwhelming it made him want to cry again. He hated that. He really did.

“What did ‘Chako need?” Izuku asked. Shouto watched Katsuki while he pressed his lips over Izuku’s cheek and jaw and temple.

“Protection spell,” Katsuki said gruffly and slid into the warm, swirling water.