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“You got eye bags, Kacchan.”

“That’s cause I didn’t sleep good.”

“Why?”

“’Cause I had a weird dream. There were monsters and a tornado. And a tornado monster.”

Deku frowns deeply. Katsuki doesn’t hold with sympathy, usually, but Deku puts a hand on his shoulder with such solemnity that Katsuki doesn’t try to complain. “That sounds scary. Do you wanna talk about it?”

Aunty Inko stifles a laugh. She’s sitting on the couch watching them play. Katsuki doesn’t ask what’s so funny. Instead he sniffs and puffs his chest out, trying hard not to remember any details of his nightmare. “I wasn’t scared.”

“Really? You didn’t need your mom and dad?”

“No,” Katsuki says, and then backtracks. “Well, I knocked on their door but it was locked. They made me wait five minutes before they came out. Mom’s hair was real messy. But I went back to sleep in my own bed.”

Aunty Inko chokes on her tea. Deku and Katsuki swivel in her direction. “What’s wrong, Mama?”

“Nothing!” Aunty Inko says cheerfully. “Just a little cough, that’s all.”

Katsuki shrugs and goes back to his Legos. They’re building a skyscraper. Aunty Inko’s keeping a close eye on them, because the last time she’d let them play with the Lego set Katsuki had built a city. With an infrastructure and everything. He’d declared himself prime minister and convinced Deku to put a pack of gummy bears in the national treasury.

Deku rolls around on the living room carpet and kicks his feet in the air. He’s got these dumb cat socks that Katsuki kind of wants. “Once I dreamed I was All Might’s sidekick.”

“You can’t be a sidekick, dummy. You’re five.”

“You’re five too.”

“You don’t have a quirk.”

Deku huffs. “Neither do you. And my Uncle Daichi says maybe I’m just a late boomer.”

Katsuki tosses a Lego at him. “You mean bloomer. When I get older I can be All Might’s sidekick.”

“I will too.”

“Nuh-uh.”

“Yuh-huh. Do you think you’ll be like your dad when you’re big?”

Katsuki considers this. “Nah. He’s too nice. And skinny. Like a teddy bear, but with less stuffing. I’ll probably be like my mom.”

Aunty Inko giggles. They turn to look at her again, so she smiles back. “You do look very much like your mother, Katsuki. You’re lucky! She’s very pretty.”

“You’re pretty too, Mama!”

“Thank you, sweetie.”

“And so’s Kacchan,” Deku adds as an afterthought. Katsuki preens.

Katsuki’s not entirely sure why he’s at Deku’s apartment today. His parents have some work thing going on, probably, but he doesn’t remember them actually asking Aunty Inko to babysit. Not that she seems to mind, really. She’d just looked mildly surprised when they’d showed up at the apartment and Katsuki had barrelled in without saying hello. They’d brought lunch, though, so it’s probably okay. And Katsuki’s having fun. He’s never had a best friend before, even if he’ll never admit how cool he thinks Deku is. And even if Deku does cry at the drop of a hat and had laughed at Katsuki that one time when he’d tried to pet a really big dog and it jumped on him and knocked him over and got slobber all down the front of his overalls.

“Mama.” Deku’s somehow shimmied out of one sock. “Can we get Happy Meals?”

“Aunty Mitsuki’s already made lunch for us, honey.”

Katsuki scowls. Adults always smile at him when he does that, which isn’t really the intended effect. “Mom’s food is boring.”

“Aw, don’t say that. Cooking is hard work, you know.”

“Is it spicy?” asks Deku.

“It’s always spicy,” says Katsuki.

“Tell you what,” says Aunty Inko, putting down her teacup and getting off the couch. “It’s twelve thirty. Let’s eat what Aunt Mitsuki brought us, and then we can go get some ice cream if you’re good.”

Support for this decision is unanimous. Katsuki and Deku scramble to pick up their toys while Aunty Inko potters around in the kitchen. The Legos go in their box and the crayons are herded into a manageable pile. Deku grabs Katsuki’s wrist and pulls him close.

“Kacchan,” he says, voice low so his mother doesn’t hear. “What if we’re not late boomers?”

Katsuki allows his arm to be clung to. “What are you talking about?”

“What if, you know,” Deku says, eyebrows turned up. “What if we don’t get our quirks? What if our quirks never come for our whole lives?”

Katsuki doesn’t know. The possibility’s not lost on him; he’s not stupid, he knows why his parents keep taking him to doctors and asking them to take x-rays of his feet. They tell him not to worry about the future, but he knows why his mom’s so protective and why his dad keeps asking if everything’s okay with the other kids at kindergarten. He doesn’t want to think about it. Life seems kind of pointless without a cool quirk. Empty. Like he’s missing a part of him that makes him a person.

“It doesn’t matter,” he says decisively because Deku’s lower lip is starting to wobble. Firmly, he puts a hand on Deku’s and squeezes. “Worrying about that stuff is dumb. We’ll still get to meet All Might and do hero stuff. I bet we just have to work harder and we’ll catch up with everyone else just fine.”

“Really?” Deku says although he’s already sagging with relief. He believes anything Katsuki tells him. That makes him feel important, but also makes him feel like he has to look out for Deku somehow. “So we can still be his sidekicks?”

“Of course,” Katsuki tells him. “I’m cool and I can do anything. And you’re pretty smart so you can probably keep up with me. We’ll be okay.”

Deku beams. Aunty Inko calls them into the kitchen for lunch. Later they’ll get ice cream and fall asleep watching cartoons, but for now Katsuki stays obligingly still and lets Deku wrap his arms around his neck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The quirks never do come, in the end.

Katsuki supposes that’s alright. He’s always been bigger than the other kids, and he’s got his mother’s sharp tongue and volcanic temper. Nobody messes with him. Nobody messes with Deku either, because everyone knows that Deku and he are attached at the hip. They have to be. They’re the only two quirkless kids in the neighbourhood, and sometimes people act like that’s a disease. He knows what their classmates say about them. Deku and Katsuki, the mutant wonders. Both missing an integral part of themselves. Splice them together and maybe you’ll get a whole functioning human.

The adults are worse. They’re all so sympathetic. Pitying, really, when they say it’s a shame Katsuki couldn’t have more of a future. Maybe he could have been a hero, his grandparents said. Not now, though. Now he’s vulnerable and soft. He can’t protect anyone, and neither can Deku.

Katsuki tries to ignore it. He and Deku are coping with life just fine.

“Hey, Kacchan,” says Deku from Katsuki’s bed. Katsuki knows why he’s here. His tenth birthday’s coming up and Aunty Inko wants him out of the house so she can plan a surprise party like she does every year. Katsuki doesn’t know why she bothers. The only ones who ever come to their birthdays are them. “Do you think All Might could punch the sun?”

Katsuki considers this. He’s in the middle of reading a comic book even though they have homework due tomorrow. “Maybe. But I think he would burn himself pretty bad.”

“What if he brought a fire extinguisher?”

“Don’t be dumb. Bet Endeavour could do it, though, if he made it through space.”

“Yeah, I guess he doesn’t get burned. But he’s basically made of fire, right? What if the sun absorbed him?”

“Sun’s not made of fire, doofus. It’s, like, hydrogen or something.”

Deku grins. “Imagine him as the sun, though. Like if you step out of the house one day and he yells at you from space for not wearing sunscreen.”

Katsuki snorts. “I don’t think he would care if you wore sunscreen.”

“Heroes are supposed to care about everyone.”

“Like your mom?”

“My mom would be an cool hero,” Deku says thoughtfully. “I don’t think she’d want to fight anyone, though. And she might cry if she saw someone get hurt.”

“Sounds like you.”

“I’m tough,” says Deku seriously. “I watched Bambi again last week and I didn’t even cry this time.”

“Make that your hero name. Deku-man: Crybaby.”

“I’m not adding that to the list.”

“Your list has fifty-seven names on it. Nobody needs fifty-seven names.”

Deku blows a raspberry. “I’ll know which one to pick once we start hero training. Bet I’ll make up a whole persona and everything. And it’ll be better than King Carnage.”

“It will not.”

“It’s too scary. Nobody will ask you to kiss their babies if you call yourself that.”

Katsuki blows a raspberry back. Deku rolls onto his back and clutches one of Katsuki’s All Might plushies to his chest. “Are we really gonna do it?”

“Do what? Kiss babies?”

“Become heroes,” Deku says, unsmiling. Katsuki doesn’t like when Deku gets so solemn. It doesn’t suit him. “Get into hero school.”

“Of course we are. You backing out on me, punk?”

“I want to be a hero more than anything in the world,” Deku says and sits up. All Might’s almost as big as he is. “But we don’t have quirks. And all the other kids think we’re nuts.”

“Who gives a shit what the other kids say?” Katsuki says, trying to sound flippant. His mother yells at him from downstairs not to use bad words because for some reason she has bat hearing. “They don’t get to decide.”

“A long time ago,” Deku says and looks down. “When I was little, and the doctor said I had no quirk, I asked my mom if I could still be a hero. And she cried. She said she was sorry. I don’t think she thinks we can do it either.”

“Your mom doesn’t know anything,” Katsuki says and raises a hand to stop Deku’s predictable protest. “No, listen. She’s not a hero. She doesn’t understand what goes into it. But we’ve done our research. Which reminds me of what I saw on the news yesterday, I wanted to tell you. Did you know there’s a hero called Eraserhead?”

“No. What’s he do?”

“He’s underground, apparently, so I don’t think we’ll get to hear about him much. But he has a quirk that erases other people’s quirks. Now imagine you had a really strong quirk and you met Eraserhead and he got rid of it. What would you do?”

“I wouldn’t know what to do,” Deku says thoughtfully. “That’s a pretty huge handicap, isn’t it?”

“Exactly. But imagine if you had that handicap your whole life.”

“Then Eraserhead wouldn’t be able to do anything,” Deku says, perking up. “I’d be used to fighting without a quirk so it wouldn’t even matter.”

Katsuki leans back in his desk chair. “So who wins?”

“We win!” Deku says, bouncing on the mattress. “But that’s a pretty specific scenario, Kacchan. I don’t think there are a lot of Eraserheads.”

“Well, we’ll sure as hell figure something out. That’s why we’re training, right?”

“My Tae Kwon Do teacher says I can try for a green belt next year. I wish you’d join me.”

“Muai Tai is more fun.”

“So we’re gonna be heroes?” Deku says abruptly. “Try for hero school and compete with all the other quirk-users?”

“The hell else are we gonna do?” Katsuki asks. Deku still seems kind of sad, so he stands up and goes to join him on the bed. Deku’s big green eyes follow him all the way. “This is our goal, right? You can’t give up on your goals before you even try.”

“I guess,” Deku says and flops sideways onto Katsuki’s shoulder. “I know it’s bad, but I’m secretly kind of glad.”

“About what?”

“That I’m not the only one without a quirk,” Deku mumbles. “I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been on my own.”

“Been bullied a lot, probably,” Katsuki says and slings an arm around him. “But don’t worry about it. Mom says there’s no sense thinking about what-ifs. You got me and I got you, end of story.”

“Yeah,” Deku says, voice faraway and sort of wistful. “I don’t know. All the same, I’m just glad it’s you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They decide to try for UA. Shoot for the top, says Katsuki’s mother. Don’t bother doing something if you’re not going to give it your all.

They sit next to each other during the intro session. Deku’s vibrating with excitement. Katsuki just feels sick, looking around at a room full of hopefuls with fantastical tricks up their sleeves. There’s a boy with six arms. Someone’s got a bird for a head. One of the girls is completely pink, and Katsuki’s immediately annoyed when she catches his eye and smiles.

None of them matter. He’s going to get in with pure skill and drive, and he’s going to bring Deku with him.

They’re dismissed an hour before the actual testing begins. There’s an obstacle course of sorts, some post-apocalyptic cityscape with giant robots skulking the streets waiting to be crushed under super-powered fists. And Bakugou’s. He’s spent the last year training himself half to death. Deku’s stepped up his game too. They barely see each other outside of school nowadays, each too busy with preparations and trying to keep up with their studies on top of that.

There’s a locker room for them to get changed. Deku shoulders Katsuki while he’s in the middle of wrapping his knuckles, chewing his lower lip like he’s not sure if he wants to run. “Kacchan. I have something to tell you.”

“Make it quick,” Katsuki says. Adrenaline’s already making its merry way through his bloodstream and making him want to start punching. “Help me do my warm up-stretches while you’re at it.”

“I have a quirk,” Deku says with no fanfare.

Katsuki stares at him. Deku doesn’t smile, doesn’t go all red around the ears like he always does when he’s trying to pull a fast one. “What the fuck?”

“My quirk came yesterday,” Deku tells him. “While I was training. It’s strength augmentation. It’s still new, so I’m not very good at using it.”

He says it quietly. Nobody overhears them, each preoccupied with their own pre-exam jitters. Katsuki turns around to face him properly. “What in the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“Exactly what it sounds like.”

“You’re fourteen,” Katsuki says, perhaps too loudly. A boy with glasses tells them off. Katsuki ignores him. “Quirks don’t fucking manifest at fourteen. You just got stronger because you’ve been training more.”

“This isn’t natural. I’m stronger than humanly possible, Kacchan. I almost broke my arm trying to use it. It’s like pure energy going through my limbs.” He reaches forward to touch Katsuki’s shoulder, perhaps to stop him from backing away. “I’ve never felt anything like this before. It’s a quirk. I’m absolutely certain.”

“No,” Katsuki says quietly.

“Kacchan—”

No,” he says again, louder. “You’re a goddamn terrible liar.”

“I’m not lying.”

“Prove it.”

“I can’t,” Deku says, almost desperate. “I’ll hurt myself so I need to use it sparingly, but maybe during the entrance exam I’ll be able to show you— why are you so angry?”

“Because you’re fucking quirkless,” Katsuki snaps, punching Deku in the chest. Not hard, not enough to hurt him. Just enough to tell him to stop being such an idiot. “We both are. We’re supposed to be in this together, asshole. Now you’re fucking telling me you had a quirk all along and you just kept it a secret?”

No, Kacchan. I’m telling the truth. It just came yesterday.”

“That’s bullshit,” says Katsuki. “This is bullshit. Quirks don’t just fucking show up at fourteen right before you need them for an exam.”

“I know how it sounds,” Deku says, wringing his hands in frustration. “I know it sounds super convenient, Kacchan, but you have to believe me.”

“I have to believe you,” Katsuki echoes flatly. “How ‘bout this, Deku. You take your brand new quirk and shove it up your ass.”

“Kacchan!”

“Don’t Kacchan me, you fucking— you fucking traitor,” Katsuki says, forcing the angry tears back down. “You think I’m stupid? You think I’m just gonna believe this thing magically happened at exactly the right time? You’re a bastard. What the hell did you lie to me all this time for, huh? Did you think it’d be funny? Was this a ten-year joke?”

“Of course not,” Deku says, having the audacity to sound wounded. Katsuki tries to shove him, but Deku catches him by the wrists and just keeps him there, standing in each other’s space. People are really starting to stare at them now. “Will you listen to yourself? Do you think I decided, as a four year old, to play a long-haul prank on you? Even if I could, why would I? Why would I want to hurt you?”

He’s right, of course. Deku couldn’t hurt a fly, not even if his life depended on it. “I don’t need your pity.” He doesn’t know what kind of expression he’s making, but it makes Deku’s face crumple. “I didn’t need you to pretend to be like me. I didn’t need saving. I didn’t need some dickwad hiding his quirk from me so I wouldn’t fucking feel bad about myself or whatever. Did you think I’d be jealous of you? Or that I was some pathetic lonely kid who needed you to swoop in and pretend to be my friend so the other kids at school wouldn’t pick on me?”

“I wasn’t pretending! Kacchan, we’re friends. You’re my best friend, I’d do anything for you.”

Friends don’t lie to each other,” Katsuki hisses. “And friends sure as hell don’t lie for ten years. God, a strength augmentation quirk. No wonder you wanted to be a hero so bad. You knew you could do it. All that talk about handicaps and having to be tougher and smarter than everyone else. You just meant me. I have the handicap. You have fucking super strength.”

Deku reels back like he’s been slapped. “I don’t— Kacchan, it’s not like that. We’re in this together. We’re going to get into UA together, right?”

“The hell we are,” Katsuki says and wrenches his hands free. “You go smash those robots to bits like everyone else. I’m doing this shit on my own.”

“Kacchan—”

Don’t touch me,” Katsuki says. Deku’s hand falters just before reaching Katsuki’s wrist. His ribs are too tight in his chest, squeezing around his heart and making blood rush through his ears. “I was an idiot for trusting you. Leave me alone. I hope you break your skull open out there.”

Deku looks like he wants to cry. Katsuki’s never made him cry before. Out of frustration, maybe, when they have one of their million arguments, but never out of genuine grief. “Kacchan.”

Katsuki picks up his things and moves away. The rest of the locker room tries to pretend very hard that they hadn’t been listening in. He doesn’t care. They can think whatever they want. He may be an idiot, the one quirkless kid who thought he could compete with everyone else, but he’s going to get in. And he’s going to do it without help.

He thinks he hears Deku sniffle behind him. He doesn’t turn around to check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He doesn’t get in.

That’s… not as surprising as it should be.

All Might tells him his results on Katsuki’s laptop. His parents had quietly handed him the CD after dinner and let him run back to his room to check. His heart had been racing all the way up the stairs. Now he just feels numb.

“I’m sorry we’re not able to see you in UA next year!” says All Might’s recording. “You’ve shown great courage, kid. Not everyone makes it even to the entrance exam. You’re already special for having applied. Remember, as long as you have the spirit of a hero, you can still achieve anything!”

Katsuki stares at the screen. He should turn it off, probably. He doesn’t need to hear platitudes and condolences. He lost. He’s a nobody. Everyone who’s ever told him he was worthless was right.

All Might’s wide grin falters for just a second. His face looks strange without it, all stern and intimidating with none of the good cheer to soften it. “Young Bakugou,” he says, voice oddly sombre. “I understand that you don’t have a quirk. I just want you to know that it was brave of you to try.”

“Don’t patronise me,” Katsuki says. He can’t bring himself to shut the video off, though. His heart’s still fluttering from having heard his name in All Might’s voice.

 “You scored just below the cut-off point. You did that on your own, without any special powers to help you. You outperformed many other applicants with incredible quirks, and I really do wish UA could take you on. You’re special. You have wit and skill, which are the hardest things a hero has to master.” He pauses, looks off-screen as one of the crew says something indistinguishable. “Alright, I’ll wrap up. Listen, young Bakugou. You have the makings of greatness in you. You’re not going to need a quirk with drive like yours. I just need you to promise me that you’ll never give up. Maybe UA isn’t for you. Maybe you’ll end up not pursuing the hero’s path, but wherever life takes you, I want to see your name in the papers someday. I’m rooting for you. I know you won’t let me down.”

The image stills. All Might’s smile is frozen but genuine. It’s like he’s looking right at Katsuki through the screen. It goes blurry; hot, fat tears splash down his cheeks and leave little wet spots on his sweatpants. The desk chair almost falls over when he gets up. He goes to his parents’ room almost on autopilot, opening the door without knocking and wandering in on shaky legs.

His dad’s sitting on the edge of the bed. Katsuki makes a beeline for him and collapses into his arms. His mother sighs, then presses a kiss to the back of his head and quietly leaves the room so they can be alone.

“Bad news, huh?” his dad says as Katsuki sobs into his ugly polo shirt. His arms are thin but comforting, one hand stroking Katsuki’s hair like he’s a small child. “I’m sorry, Katsuki. They’re missing out, not accepting you.”

“I was so close,” Katsuki cries. “I just missed it. If I wasn’t quirkless I’d be so good, I’d be a hero.”

“You don’t know that for sure.”

“They don’t want me. I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough because I’m weak and soft and I can’t run fast or hit stuff or – there was a guy with six fucking arms and I can’t compete, I can’t turn invisible or— I’m useless. Fucking broken.

“Hey,” Masaru says quietly. Everything he does is quiet. He’s an unassuming background presence to Katsuki and Mitsuki’s chaos, and Katsuki intensely wants to climb into his lap and hide. “There is nothing about you that’s broken. Maybe you’re different, but never broken. Never useless.”

“I can’t be a hero,” Katsuki says. “I can’t be anyone.”

“You’re my son,” his father says, gently forcing Katsuki’s chin up so they can look at each other. Katsuki must be all red and blotchy and gross. “You’re smart. You’re talented. You have a temper, but you’re just like your mother, whom I love to death. I love you too, you know. And I have never worried about you, not once. You’re not useless.”

“But I’ll never be like All Might.”

“Maybe,” Masaru sighs. Fresh tears make their way down Katsuki’s face. “But that’s not your fault, Katsuki. You picked the top hero school in the country. Their standards are incredibly stringent. Just because you didn’t make their cut this time doesn’t mean you’re not still good at what you do. The number of people they accept every year is microscopic.”

Katsuki allows his face to be wiped with a thumb. “I had a hero name picked out and everything. I drew my costume.”

“I know. Maybe next year you can apply somewhere else?”

“I wanted UA,” Katsuki says miserably. “All Might’s there. And that’s where he went when he was a kid. I wanted to be like him.”

“Oh, Katsuki,” his father sighs again. “I’m sorry. I really am. Do you know how Izuku did? Do you want to call him and ask?”

That starts the waterworks again. Masaru looks vaguely panicked, folding Katsuki tightly into his arms once more. “Deku lied to me.”

“What do you mean?”

“He has a quirk,” Katsuki forces out through gritted teeth. “He had a quirk all this time and he didn’t even tell me. He has a strengthening quirk. He tried to make me believe it just showed up the day before the exam. Like magic. Just in fucking time, because he thinks I’m an idiot. All this time he was pretending to be my friend and he made me think he was like me but he— he just—”

“Shh. It’s okay, you’re okay.” The large hand stroking up and down his back is hypnotic. Katsuki should be protesting, should be pulling away and saying he’s not a little kid, but he just melts helplessly onto his dad’s chest. “Deep breaths, Katsuki. You’re sure he’s not telling the truth?”

“Of course not! Who gets a quirk at fourteen?”

“I suppose you’re right. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, honey, that was a terrible thing to do. He shouldn’t have lied to you. No wonder you’re so upset.”

“I bet he got in,” Katsuki sniffles. “I bet he and Aunty Inko are celebrating and laughing at me.”

“They are not,” says Masaru. “I’m pretty certain Izuku’s looking at his phone and wondering whether or not to give you a call.”

“I don’t wanna talk to him. I don’t wanna see him ever again.”

“Understandable,” Masaru says. His heartbeat’s slow and steady under Katsuki’s ear. “I know you’ve been through a lot. I can’t imagine how you must feel every day, trying so hard to make people accept you for who you are.”

“It’s not fair. I just want to be normal. I wanna be like everyone else. I just wanna be good enough without… without knowing, all the time, that there’s a big part of me missing. And it’s not even my fucking fault.”

“I know. It’s cruel, that some people find it so easy to go down the path they want to, but sometimes that happens. Sometimes things just go wrong and there’s nothing you can do but get back up and pick up the pieces. Did you know that I wanted to be a rock star when I was young?”

Katsuki wipes his nose on his sleeve. “Why didn’t you?”

“I just wasn’t built for it. I was devastated. I tried to get into music, I really did. But I was always just… almost. Almost talented, almost good-looking, almost popular. I wanted it so badly, it felt like there was this hole in my heart sucking everything in so all that was left was this image of myself I wanted to reach. But it never got any closer. And eventually, I gave up.”

“Why?” Katsuki asks. His voice cracks.

“Because one day I figured out there were other things I loved. Design, for one. Your mother. Cats. Spaghetti. You. There are a lot of wonderful things in the world, I guess. It just seemed like a shame to ignore them all just because there was a dream I couldn’t reach.”

“This was my only dream.”

“You’re a kid,” says Masaru. His voice reverberates in his chest so Katsuki feels more than hears it. He feels small. “And I don’t mean that in a bad way. Everything seems like the end of the world when you’re young. But there’s so much left to experience, Katsuki. I know you’re shattered right now. You have every right to be. But think of how many years you have ahead of you, how many opportunities are going to come your way. You have so much time to fall in love with life. And I know you. You’re a dynamo. Nothing is going to stand in your way. You’re destined for something great, even if it’s not in the field you thought it would be.”

You have the makings of greatness in you. “What if I never become anything?”

“You will. But even if you don’t become a hero, even if you’re a grocery store clerk or a kindergarten teacher or a firefighter and you never end up with a fan club of your own, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed.” Fingers rub Katsuki’s neck at the base of his skull. It feels like a knot comes loose. Katsuki tilts his head forward and lets his father dote. “Now that I’m older, I think about how my life would have been if I’d become a singer like I wanted. I would never have met your mother. I would never have had you. And that’s a terrible thought. I don’t care about fame or fortune anymore. I like being here with you. I’ve achieved something. I’m happy. That’s all I need.”

His vision’s a little clearer. No tears decide to come knocking, although maybe he’s just cried himself out for the day. “So what now?”

“Now you mope all you want and eat your feelings away. But tomorrow, you wake up and you go enjoy the rest of your summer vacation. Go outside. Or stay in your room and play video games all day. And just be a kid. You’ve worked so hard for so long, Katsuki. You tried your best and this time it didn’t work out. There’ll be other chances. There’ll be other dreams.”

“Okay,” Katsuki says, voice whisper-quiet. Masaru gives him a squeeze, and then stands.

“Come on,” he says, smile small and assured. Like he knows everything’s going to be alright with the world. “Let’s go watch TV. Your mom bought that ridiculous ice cream you like. The stuff with the melty chocolate bits in it.”

“Can I eat the whole thing?”

“Knock yourself out. But I want a bite.”

“Just one.”

“Just one,” Masaru says and reaches out to help him up.

Katsuki dries his tears. Heart no longer seeming quite so heavy, he takes his father’s hand and goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deku tries to call. Six times, but Katsuki never does pick up.

Instead he follows his father’s advice and relaxes. It’s paradoxically pretty hard, considering he’s never had a day off in his life. Sitting around doing nothing makes him feel kind of useless. But now he has no goal to work towards, so he hangs around the mall and gets in his mother’s hair and tries his hand at making dinner some nights. It’s something to do. He has to go get a high school uniform too, since he’ll be going to his back-up option. It’s just a regular place near his house. No hero course, no crazy extra-curricular, no exorbitant funding from the government. It’s got a good academic track record, though. Katsuki supposes that’s something, at least.

Deku texts a lot too. Katsuki doesn’t reply to that either. He doesn’t care to find out if Deku’s going to UA (he is) or if Deku’s busy (he is) or if he wants to see Katsuki again (he does). He even drops by once or twice. Katsuki’s mom answers the door both times. She’s heard the story second-hand from  Masaru, so she politely but firmly tells Deku that Katsuki is unavailable for the day. Yes, she’ll tell him Deku said hello. Yes, she’ll ask him to text when he’s free.

From his bedroom window, Katsuki watches Deku meander down the street. He seems dejected. Katsuki doesn’t bother getting his attention, though. Their paths have separated. This is just how things are going to be.

The new school year starts. Cherry blossoms float softly onto the ground as Katsuki walks to school for the first time. Half the student body is already there. One kid is huge and another looks like he’s made of jell-o. Their homeroom teacher is a nice middle-aged lady. She makes them all take turns introducing themselves. Nobody talks about quirks. Nobody talks about heroes. They just tell each other about their families and hobbies and favourite foods. It’s overwhelmingly normal. It’s boring.

Deku’s texts slow down. He’s busy with training, most likely. He’s probably got hundreds of friends and a hero costume and All Might’s autograph. His last message comes halfway through the school year. I’m sorry, Kacchan. I miss you. You’re still my best friend.

Kaatsuki never does end up making any friends himself. He hears whispers about how mysterious the other kids think he is because he’s aloof. Wait til they find out about his condition, though. Then his self-imposed solitude will start making more sense.

“You’ve been moping for months,” says his mother on a Saturday in winter. “You’re a mess. Get a hobby or something, for god’s sake.”

“I have a hobby,” Katsuki says, lying upside down on the couch. Monster trucks squash each other on TV. “I go to the gym.”

“That’s not a hobby. Buy some video games. Go on a date. Lock yourself in your room and watch porn or whatever it is teenage boys do.”

“You’re disgusting.”

“You’re depressing.” His bare feet are removed from the back of the couch as his mother attempts to fold him into a pretzel. He goes boneless. “Make yourself useful and help me work, at least. Earn your keep.”

“You’re legally obliged to provide for me since you spawned me.”

“Get off your ass.”

“No,” Katsuki says but follows her down to the basement regardless. It always looks like a bomb went off in here. Clothes and measuring tape and bits of thread lie draped all over the furniture. He wouldn’t be surprised if he stepped on a needle. “You gonna let me design something?”

“I don’t want your tacky little gremlin hands near my art,” she says, rummaging through the hundreds of outfits hung up in rows all along the side of the room. She unearths what looks like half a tank top. “I have a client about your size. Put this on over your shirt so I can do a mock-up, will you?”

Katsuki does as he’s told. His mother fusses and pins things and makes notes in scratchy writing that only she understands. “What’re you even making?”

“Winter uniform.”

“For who?”

“Whom. Also, that’s confidential.”

Katsuki scoffs. “Bet I’ll recognise the costume once you make it anyway.”

“Then I’ll just have to hide it from you, won’t I? Stop squirming, you’re throwing off my measurements.”

He stays still until she finally takes a step back. Her protoype outfit has a high collar and no sleeves, but it’s in a mish-mash of fabrics so Katsuki can’t tell whose it could be. “Does this guy only get cold on his chest or something?”

“Be quiet for once in your life,” his mother says mildly, picking up her phone. The flash goes off.

“Excuse me? Did I say you could take a photo?”

“Relax, I didn’t get your face. Huh. This actually looks pretty good on you. Alright, stay there, you’re gonna model a couple more things for me.”

She makes him wear stupid fake outfits and take photos all afternoon despite his increasingly vocal protests. He tries to escape while her back is turned but she chases him, and by the time his father comes home from running errands, Katsuki’s caught in a headlock and is trying to suplex his mother onto the carpet. “Hello, you two. Have a good day?”

“Release me,” Katsuki bellows as his dad hangs his coat on the rack by the door. “Your woman’s gone mad with power! She’s violating child labour laws!”

“My work is what keeps you wearing designer sunglasses, brat. The least you could do is take a few photos to ease your poor mother’s burden.”

“Oh, did you ask him to model? That’s a good idea,” says Masaru. “You’re athletically built, Katsuki. I think a lot of our merchandise would look great on you.”

“I am you son. You’re supposed to be protecting me.

Gently, Masaru cups Katsuki’s face in his hands to take a good look at him. “You really do take after your mom, buddy. Do you think you’d be up for doing some advertising? It would be a big help.”

Katsuki deflates. “Don’t you have professionals for that?”

“They cost money,” says Mitsuki. “You come free.”

“I think it would be nice to get you involved,” says Masaru. “It is a family business. It won’t be difficult or anything. Normally we source people to model some of our favourite designs and then send the catalogues out to hero agencies. You won’t have to do everything yourself, of course. There’ll be lots of other folks in there too to account for different body types and whatnot.”

“It’s not like you’re doing anything with your life anyway,” Mitsuki chimes in. “Unless you want to start doing all the chores around here.”

“You have seemed a little listless lately, son. I think it would be nice to take on a side project. Nothing strenuous, nothing that’s going to impact your school work. Just something productive to pass some time.”

“I’m gonna look like a dumbass,” Katsuki says a little plaintively. “You want me to prance around in spandex and pout at the camera like some kind of prissy asshole?”

“Very few people are going to see it, if that makes you feel any better. Our clientele is pretty specific,” Masaru says soothingly. “Nobody will know it’s you.”

“You sure?” says Katsuki. His mother’s grip around his neck finally loosens. He headbutts her sternum as a matter of course. “Fuck. Fine, I guess. You promise nobody will see?”

 “Of course, Katsuki. Thank you.”

“You get rewarded with free food and board for the next three years,” says Mitsuki.

Katsuki makes a face at her. “I’m picking dinner for a month.”

Masaru ruffles his hair. “That sounds fair. It’s a deal.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It backfires, obviously.

Nothing in Katsuki’s life goes right. There’s a divine entity laughing down at him with its camera pointed earthward for posterity. That’s the only reason some girl comes up to him in the middle of lunch with a gaggle of extras behind her. “Hi, Bakugou,” she says shyly. “My name’s Sakura. Can I ask you a question?”

He grunts. The lunch lady’s reaching the end of her vat of curry. Katsuki may need to fight some folks if he wants to not eat instant noodles today. “What.”

“My cousin’s a hero,” Sakura says. Bakugou’s ears prick on autopilot. “Uhm, he’s pretty new still so you probably don’t know him. Is it true that your parents are designers?”

“Yeah.”

“And you’re a model?”

Katsuki whips around so fast he feels his neck crack. “Who the fuck told you that?”

Sakura takes a startled step back. “Uhm. I looked through your brochure thing and recognised you. I think you were wearing a lot of the stuff my cousin wants.”

“Oh,” Katsuki says. His brain might have blown a fuse. The irony of a quirkless kid being in a hero gear catalogue isn’t lost on him. That’s why this girl and her posse are here. The social torture’s started all over again, and this time Deku isn’t here to back him up.

Sakura takes his silence as permission to continue. She smiles at him, small and tentative, and fiddles with the hem of her short skirt. “You take really good photos.”

“I. What?”

“You do!” chimes in one of the girls behind her. “She showed us the pictures. You look really handsome in combat gear!”

Sakura shushes her. The other two start giggling and Katsuki just stands there, completely at a loss for how to escape. “Uh.”

“We didn’t want to bother you,” Sakura says. Her face steadily grows more pink. “Just wanted to, uhm, confirm. Bye, Bakugou! Enjoy your break!”

They scamper off. Katsuki stares after them for a good few minutes before remembering he has to eat. The lunch lady’s run out of curry, go figure. She hands him some cup noodles and tells him to be quick if he wants to be on time for lessons. He slurps it down, still boiling, and sprints back to class, hoping he never has to deal with that awkwardness again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He does. The news spreads within a week. God does hate him, after all.

People keep asking him about it, but that’s not the issue. The issue here is he thinks he might now accidentally be popular.

Popular. Him. The quirkless kid with a temper and no friends.

People say good morning to him every day. Girls smile at him when he accidentally catches their eye. Teachers praise him as usual for being one of the top students in their year, but that doesn’t make him a nerd. It makes him smart. Because that’s a thing now. Stuff he would have gotten made fun of for is suddenly cool. Not talking makes him mysterious. Scowling makes him brooding and artsy. Having an Iron Man notebook makes him fun. Refusing offers to hang out means he has more important things to do than socialising and wasting time. He has a career. He’s a go getter. He’s a good example.

It’s insane. It’s bananas, is what it is. Katsuki comes home after a week of this and slams the front door shut behind him, heart thumping out of his ribcage because someone has wished him good luck for their finals. Like, sincerely. Because they thought he deserved it.

“What happened to you?” asks his mother. She’s hanging out in the living room, magazine in one hand and coffee in the other.

Katsuki points at her. “This is your fault,” he says and scrambles away to his room to freak out.

It keeps going. He can never really shake the feeling that he’s being made fun of so he keeps his distance, but nobody tries to shove him into a locker or prank him like they used to. Some guys aren’t fans of his, he finds out. They think he’s stuck up and doesn’t deserve to have friends. Which is true, in all honesty, but the word quirkless never comes up. Like it isn’t even an issue. It’s not a secret, though, it can’t be. Once a boy from second year even comes up to him in the library and asks if it’s true he tried to get into UA.

“Yeah,” Katsuki says because he isn’t a liar. His defences go up, but the other kid just nods.

“Me too. Didn’t make it, obviously. It was cool of you to try with no quirk, though. Ballsy. Good on you.”

He claps him on the shoulder and leaves. Katsuki sits there like an idiot, because he hasn’t had physical contact with someone his age since Deku fucked off to hero school. He forgets about his biology homework. Some girl waves at him from across the room, and he mechanically packs his things and goes home.

So he goes to classes and does his finals and acts like a good student until the year ends. They’re dismissed for vacation. He’s invited to the year-end class party but doesn’t go. They still send him photos, though. His number is public knowledge, it turns out, because he gave it to someone for a stupid group project and for some reason they decided to pass it around.

Dude you free next weekend? someone texts him out of the blue. It’s cool if you aren’t but me and the boys wanna go to the beach for a night. My big bro says he’ll drive. You can help us pick up chicks while we’re there :^)

It’s one of the guys on the baseball team, Katsuki thinks. He stares at the message and picks it apart in his head, trying to figure out the catch, sitting alone in his room. Cicadas make a racket outside the window. A glass of iced water sits on his desk, dripping steady condensation that’s no doubt going to leave stains on the wood.

His father knocks on his door and asks if he can come in. “You busy? Your mom and I are getting this season’s catalogue ready. I know you probably want to enjoy your holiday, but I figured I’d ask if you wanted to help out again.”

Katsuki puts down his phone. The screen stays lit for a minute before winking out, message left to be puzzled over tomorrow. His dad opens the door the rest of the way. The TV’s on in the living room, some reality show about tiny houses and how people build them from scratch. “More pictures?”

“If you’re up for it,” says Masaru, pushing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose. “There’s some cool workout gear you might like to try on. Made it with you in mind, actually. We can get started tonight if you’re free.”

Katsuki finishes his water and gets off his chair. “Yeah, okay,” he says, and goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

“Do feel free to come home on weekends,” says Masaru. “Actually, weekdays are good too. You may need to call ahead just to make sure we’re in the country but aside from that it should be fine. You have your pots and pans and things packed, right? Do you need any groceries?”

“All he eats is avocado and raw chicken,” says Mitsuki. “When the salmonella hits be sure to tell the doctors we get everything in your will.”

“The hell you do,” says Katsuki. “Sorry to break it to you, but I was adopted.”

Mitsuki snorts. “What, you think we’d willingly pick you?”

Someone honks at them for slowing down at an intersection. Katsuki and his mother flip them off in tandem. Masaru turns a corner and sighs. “It’s going to be lonely, not having you around.”

“Can’t mooch off you guys forever,” Katsuki says and glances out the window. There’s a billboard on the highway with his face on it. The Armani one from last year, by the looks of it, the one for cologne that smells like leather and cough syrup. “And I don’t want to be around your wife any longer than I have to.”

Mitsuki cheerfully tells him to go fuck himself. “Did your agent end up hiring the body guards?”

“I don’t need body guards,” Katsuki scoffs at her. “What am I, the president? My stalkers are NEETs and teenage girls. I’ll be fine.”

“You’ll be safe in the apartment, anyway,” says his dad. “At least, I hope so. Your rent is exorbitant. I would imagine at least some of that must go to security. Probably. Actually, it’s not too late to move back in with us.”

“So you guys can get broken into again? No thanks.”

“I don’t want to get involved if a murderer comes looking for him,” Mitsuki tells Masaru. “Let him get locked up in a basement on his own.”

Katsuki kicks the back of her seat. “If I die I’m coming back to haunt you.”

“I dealt with you as a teenager. You think you as a poltergeist will scare me?”

“I think I see the place,” says Masaru. A single apartment block looms in the distance, all modern edges and glass and polished steel. Outside is a private park with a playground and café. Electric fencing surrounds it with guard posts every hundred meters. The cameras are innocuous but constantly vigilant, hidden neatly behind foliage and tasteful exterior décor. Katsuki can’t tell how many there are. For all he knows there are cameras in every room in his apartment, maybe in between tiles and under salt shakers and lining the headboard of his impractically large bed.

The guards at the gate ask for Masaru’s driver’s license and take photos of the car before they’re allowed in. “It’s like a high-class prison,” Mitsuki whistles as they’re is escorted into the guest parking lot. “Bet they won’t let you out in public without a chaperone.”

“It takes care of the stalker problem,” says Masaru. They park the car and start unloading Katsuki’s things from the boot. There’s not a lot of it, thankfully. “Will they let us visit you, do you think?”

“They’d better,” says Mitsuki, picking up a box. A doorman swoops in and offers to take it for her. “Huh. I’ve changed my mind, I like your prison. Important people live here, right? Why don’t you introduce me to a handsome bachelor?”

“I’m a handsome bachelor,” says Masaru.

“You’re married,” says Mitsuki.

More doormen materialise to help them move in. Katsuki ends up just carrying a backpack and a potted plant, and they’re shepherded politely into the lift to the twenty-fourth floor. The hallway is well-lit and spotless. Katsuki’s unit has three locks, a thumb scanner and access card. It’s going to be a pain in the ass to come home every day, but at least here he’s probably safe.

It’s already furnished so moving in only takes an hour. When they’re done Katsuki treats his parents to dinner; they have Italian food at a fancy little bistro around the corner. His mother was right about this being a celebrity hotspot. Katsuki recognises a fair few faces and some of them do a double take when they see him, but nobody comes to bother them or ask for an autograph. It’s kind of refreshing. Everyone in this neighbourhood is some kind of important, so nobody gives a shit about a grumpy twenty-something who makes a living modelling suits and designer underwear.

They drop him off home. It’s a nice night. It’s a nice apartment, too, even if it’s a little bare at the moment. The guards escort his parents back to their car so Katsuki wanders out onto the balcony alone, thin button down offering hardly any protection against the early autumn chill.

It’s not a bad life, he decides. Not what he expected, not by a long shot, but this is probably what it means to be content.

Someone steps out onto the balcony next to his. It’s a man, probably young, definitely well-muscled and tall. He has hair cropped short at the sides and longer on top, and he’s in a tight t-shirt and sweatpants that have most likely seen better days.

Huh. Cute, Katsuki thinks absently. Probably someone worth getting to know.

The man turns. Katsuki wonders if he should switch on the charm, maybe undo a few buttons and see where this goes.

He doesn’t get to, though. His brain cells give up hope and make a break for the exit, because this is his life now. God hates him.

“Kacchan?” says Deku, and Katsuki bolts.

 

 

 

 

Okay. Alright. Maybe fleeing indoors and hiding in the kitchen was not the most dignified thing to do.

Katsuki thinks he can be forgiven just this once. Deku’s face had lit up the moment they’d recognised each other in the dim evening light, like a sunflower perking up in the morning. God, his face. His stupid annoying face that looks like it finally grew a strong jawline but kept all the innocence and freckles. Katsuki’s never had a thing for Deku, let that be known to the metaphorical court. But he does have a functioning libido. And that libido tends to favour attractive men. Deku, unfortunately, fits the bill.

Someone knocks on his door. Katsuki considers throwing himself off the balcony for two seconds before remembering he’s already paid rent, so if he wants to get his money’s worth he should probably try to die at the end of the month. The visitor knocks again. It’s starting to sound kind of frantic, so Katsuki takes a deep breath and gets off the floor, and then puts on his PR face and goes.

Deku’s windswept and oddly out of breath. “Kacchan, oh my god. It is you. I haven’t seen you in years!”

“Deku,” says Katsuki stiffly. Deku’s taller than him now, god help him. “Small world.”

“Yeah! Yeah, oh gosh, I wasn’t expecting to see you since most of the people who live here are heroes because the security’s so tight and we rarely ever run into civilians so I didn’t— oh, but you’re a celebrity now, aren’t you! I bet you get paparazzi all the time and stuff, no wonder you moved here. You did just move in, right?”

“Uhm,” says Katsuki, because celebrity sounds like it should be an insult but Deku’s physically incapable of being snide. “Yeah.”

“That’s amazing,” Deku says and softens. “You’ve done so well for yourself. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since it’s you.”

What’s that supposed to mean, Katsuki wants to say. Having a conversation with Deku isn’t ranking very high on his list of things he’d like to do, though, so he tightens his hand on the knob and glances away. “Right. Yeah. I, uh. Have to unpack.”

“What? Oh, right. Do you, uhm. Do you need help?”

“No,” says Katsuki, because he never has. “See you around. Goodnight.”

The door snaps shut with wooden finality. Katsuki doesn’t bother unpacking. Instead he turns off the lights and flops straight into bed, immensely grateful for the bedsheets his mother had insisted he put on before they went out.

He puts his face in his pillow and screams. “Fuck,” he says very emphatically, and lies there in agony before passing out for the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoiding Deku is hard. Harder than it should be, considering Katsuki’s truly impressive resting bitch face and predilection for staying in his room.

The thing is, he has to work out. Can’t afford to mess up his regime, because he’s a model and unfortunately does need to stay in shape. And the closest gym is the one in the building. He tries to go at odd hours and for the most part gets his time alone, but once or twice he catches Deku on the treadmill and has to do a hasty 180 before anyone sees.

The on-site convenience store is worse. Deku never sleeps, which is a stupid habit he’s had since their youth, so there’s a pretty high chance of running into each other no matter what time Katsuki goes to pick up milk and eggs. Sometimes he manages to escape without conversation. Sometimes he gets stuck in line and Deku follows him all the way back upstairs, chatting all the way and wilfully ignoring Katsuki’s one-word answers.

The whole neighbour situation, though. That part’s torture. Deku knows where he lives. Deku also has no qualms about paying impromptu visits when he knows that Katsuki’s home.

“Hi there!” Deku says as Katsuki’s unlocking his front door, popping up out of nowhere and scaring the bejeezus out of him. Katsuki drops his key card. Deku catches it mid-air and hands it back in one smooth movement. “What are you doing this weekend?”

“Uh,” says Katsuki, because he’s spent the last four hours in a meeting with his agent and his brain’s disintegrated into slush. “I… don’t know.”

“Great! Some friends and I want to try this new Szechuan place downtown. I thought you might like to join us. Apparently their hotpot’s so spicy the waiters have to wear gas masks.”

That sounds fake. “Who’s ‘us’?”

“Old schoolmates of mine. Some of them live here too, actually. It might be nice to get to know your other neighbours.”

“Old schoolmates,” says Katsuki, expression hardening. “From UA.”

“Uh-huh. You may not have heard of them yet, since we’re all relatively new heroes, but they’re nice people, and I think you’ll like Uraraka and—”

“No thank you,” says Katsuki, getting the locks open and turning away. “Not interested.”

Deku tries to say something but gets a door slammed in his face. Katsuki peels off his coat and drops it onto the back of the couch, shoulders tight and teeth trying to grind themselves to stumps. Of course. Heroes. Because that’s what Deku is. That’s what Katsuki isn’t, because he’s quirkless and frail and nowhere near good enough.

And this is just like old times, isn’t it? Bad luck throws them together and Deku takes the opportunity to rub his successes in Katsuki’s face. He’s a rising star, Katsuki’s heard second hand. As much as he tries to avoid any mention of Deku, the idiot’s in the news every week for doing something dumb and heroic. Successor to All Might, they call him. New beacon of hope. The rookie with a heart of gold.

He’s just Deku. A crybaby loser who pretended to be quirkless for his first fifteen years. A bad liar and a worse friend, and now living Katsuki’s dream life, protégé to the greatest hero who ever lived.

He puts his face in his hands and sighs. Deku’s not a bad liar. That part’s not true. He had Katsuki fooled quite perfectly.

A week goes by without him leaving the apartment. A couple of times he sees shadows in the gap under his front door, standing still like Deku’s waiting there and wondering whether or not to knock. He never does. Katsuki never bothers going to check. He’s pretty happy by himself, thanks, even if all he does is watch TV and do sit-ups in the living room.

On Monday his agent sends his fan mail. Most of it is PR, which he ignores on principle. The first fan letter he throws away without reading because he knows it’s from the guy who keeps mailing him doll heads. The others are decidedly less creepy; a few people (mostly girls) have sent him toy animals and sweets. He has to throw the sweets away because it’s a bad idea to eat anything unsolicited, but he puts the toys next to his TV where they can keep an eye on the place. A few others have sincere questions about his career. Those he replies to as best as he can. A three-year-old, for some reason, has sent him a drawing of a giraffe.

He sticks it on the fridge and imagines that it came from someone he rescued. That instead of love notes, he got thank-yous for all his hard work. That the photos of him in magazines aren’t of him without a shirt, but of him in full uniform rescuing civilians from burning buildings. Kids would write to him to say they want to be like him some day. Old ladies would tell him he’s made the world a better place.

It’s a nice thought. He keeps the letters he likes and tosses the rest in recycling. The sun shines through the window. He lies on the couch and thinks about saving children from a bank robber. It’s not even 8 p.m. when he finally falls asleep, but he does have nice dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

His doorbell rings in the middle of the afternoon. Katsuki sincerely hopes it’s the delivery guy, but it’s just stupid Deku. Lame.

“Hey!” he says brightly. Katsuki wants to punch him. He’s in workout gear from Katsuki’s parents’ brand, and it looks infuriatingly good on him. “I haven’t seen you all week. Are you doing okay?”

“I’m fine,” Katsuki says. Grumbles, really. Unfortunately, Deku doesn’t look convinced. “Busy.”

“Oh, right. I can hear you go out sometimes. You work a lot of nights, huh?”

No, he doesn’t. He’s just trying to avoid running into Deku. “Do you need something?”

“Well, I wondered if you wanted to come over for dinner tonight. I made way too much lasagne and I have no space in the fridge.”

Katsuki tried Deku’s cooking once a long time ago. It had put him off pancakes for years. “I don’t feel like getting my stomach pumped.”

Deku just laughs. “I’ve improved, I swear.”

“I’ve got dinner already.”

“What about tomorrow?” Deku says, undeterred. “I promise I won’t try to cook for you.”

“I thought you said you’d improved,” Katsuki says, leaning against the doorframe. “What do you want?”

“Maybe Thai? I’m partial to tom sap myself—”

“What do you want from me, moron. We barely know each other.”

Deku tilts his head like a puppy. “What do you mean? We’ve known each other since we were babies.”

“We also haven’t spoken in years.”

“Well, I guess, but that doesn’t mean—”

“Deku,” says Katsuki, shutting him up. Deku chews his lip. He hasn’t forgotten that they parted on such bad terms, Katsuki’s sure. He’s just trying to ignore it, hoping that they can both plaster on smiles and pretend everything’s hunky-dory. That Deku hadn’t fucked up big time and made Katsuki hate him for good. “We are not friends. We haven’t been friends for a long time.”

Deku deflates. Katsuki watches him warily, waiting for him to burst into tears like he has a hundred times before. “I want to be.”

“I don’t.”

It’s uncomfortably silent. Katsuki’s buzzer rings, probably to tell him his takeout is finally here. “Look, I’m gonna go. Have fun punching bad guys or whatever it is you do.”

He slips out the door and goes to the elevator, deciding he’ll just get his food from the entrance instead of waiting for the delivery guy to convince the guards he’s not a serial killer. “Kacchan,” says Deku, voice surprisingly steady.

Katsuki turns. “What?”

“I’m sorry,” says Deku. “For the way we parted.”

“Not for lying, though.”

“I didn’t lie.”

Katsuki rolls his eyes. “And I can shoot fireworks out of my hands. Leave it alone, Deku.”

Deku’s gaze slowly lowers. “Okay. If that’s what you want.”

“It is,” says Katsuki. The lift doors open. He steps inside and jams the ground floor button. The doors slide shut. Jazz music filters in through hidden speakers. Katsuki leans his head on the wall and tries not to think about Deku standing in the corridor by himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katsuki has a Calvin Klein shoot in December. That means standing around in his underwear while it’s zero degrees outside, drinking watered-down coffee while stylists yell at him and interns follow him around for autographs. It’s a horrible month. At least he’s getting a hefty paycheque out of it, and Deku doesn’t get the chance to bother him because he spends almost no time at home.

The last day of the shoot comes as a huge relief. Katsuki takes a cab back to his apartment and trudges up to his unit, eyes half-shut because it’s nearing 3 a.m. and he’s been on his feet for a week. He almost falls asleep in the lift. Almost, because it smells like rust and that’s rather unpleasant.

His eyes pop open when he gets to his floor. There are red droplets all over the floor. They make a clear trail all the way down the corridor. Horrified and slightly repulsed, he follows.

It leads to the unit next to his own. Deku’s. Katsuki’s hand comes up on autopilot, but he stops just before he can knock. He’d told Deku to leave him alone, in no uncertain terms. He shouldn’t be dropping by for a visit at the asscrack of dawn. That was before Deku tracked blood all over the hallway, though. Katsuki’s probably justified in seeing if he’s gone and died. And if he’s still alive, Katsuki can at least yell at him for making a mess.

So he knocks. There’s shuffling for a good couple minutes before the door finally swings open. Deku’s wearing a lot of bandages and no shirt. “Kacchan. Hello.”

“The hell happened to you?” Katsuki says, because Deku looks like he’s been run over by a pickup truck twice. “Why’re you leaking all over the floor?”

“Oh. Sorry about that. I’ll get it cleaned up tomorrow. Thanks for telling me, Kacchan. Goodnight.”

Katsuki put his foot in the door before Deku can shut it. Deku looks at his foot, and then at him. “Seriously. What happened?”

“Villain with a needle quirk,” Deku shrugs as if to say what can you do. “Some of them were very big. More like knives than needles, actually.”

Katsuki frowns. “Shouldn’t you go to a hospital?”

“Emergency services is a little tied up with civilians who got caught in the crossfire. I’ll be okay.”

“The hell you will,” says Katsuki. “You missed a great big hole in your side right there. Look, it’s bleeding.”

“Where?” Deku says, twisting around to see because of course his ridiculous pecs are in the way. Of course. “Oh. Huh. Right, I’ll get to that.”

Katsuki’s sleep deprived. That’s the official story, anyway, although he really doesn’t have to justify shoving his way into Deku’s apartment because he’s a grown man who can make his own decisions even if some of them are bad. “Why is your place smaller than mine?”

“What? I don’t know. Kacchan, what are you doing?”

“Saving your ass. Where’s your first aid kit?”

“On the coffee table. Uhm. You don’t have to do this.”

“Be quiet.”

“Really, Kacchan, this is normal for me. I fix myself up all the time, it’s not really a big deal so—”

“That’s why the stitches on your hip are all crooked, right?”

Deku has the self awareness to look sheepish. Katsuki rolls his eyes and lets himself into the kitchen to wash his hands. “Just sit down, Deku. The more you argue the longer we’ll be here.”

Slowly, Deku does as he’s told, silently turning around so Katsuki can get to the scratches all over his back. The scars here are numerous and badly-healed, an obvious sign that Deku tends to ignore the wounds he can’t tend to himself. “Thanks, Kacchan.”

“It won’t kill you to seek medical attention,” Katsuki huffs. “In fact I’m pretty sure it would do the opposite. You can’t just leave wounds open like that, dumbass. What are you gonna do if they get infected? Or reopened?”

“That’s happened,” Deku admits. “I’d just rather not give the EMTs any more work. They’re always so swamped with everyone else.”

“You’re no use if you’re dead,” Katsuki says tartly. He sprays disinfectant on the long gash along Deku’s spine. Deku hisses. “Good. Suffer.”

“You’re so mean.”

“That’s what you get.”

“Do you even know what you’re doing?”

“Do I even know what I’m doing,” Katsuki mocks. “What, you think just ‘cause I’m a model I’m some kind of idiot?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You implied it. For your information, I know my way around a first aid kit. I still do martial arts. I still get knocked around sometimes.”

“So much more than a pretty face.”

Katsuki pinches him in a particularly tender spot. Deku makes a strangled sound, like a distressed moose. “Watch it. I can walk out, you know.”

“Why don’t you?” Deku asks. It’s not a challenge. He sounds genuinely curious, peeking over his shoulder to see Katsuki’s face. “You don’t have to be here. You don’t like me.”

“I also don’t like the idea of being woken up tomorrow by the smell of a rotting corpse.”

“I don’t think I would decompose that quickly.”

“Yeah, I’m not convinced. You’re like Frankenstein’s monster back here.”

“Sorry. Part of the job scope.”

Katsuki studies him to see if he’s missed any spots. It’s kind of shocking how much Deku’s grown, back broad and muscled and unyielding. He’s different from Katsuki. Katsuki’s finely sculpted because he goes to the gym. Deku’s big because he’s built this body for work. He may not have Katsuki’s washboard abs, but he has shoulders and biceps that are probably powerful enough to pick Katsuki up and toss him into the air. “So this is what you do every day? Go out and get yourself shredded up?”

“It’s not as much fun as I thought it would be,” Deku sighs. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I don’t regret doing it. But it is pretty gruelling. I see why everyone retires so young.”

He’s pointedly avoiding the word hero, Katsuki notices. “They must have warned you when you were training.”

“They did. I don’t think any of us really got it.”

Of course they didn’t. Being a kid with big dreams makes you feel invincible, especially once you’ve passed the first milestone of the path you’ve been wanting to walk since you were four. “Turn. Let me get the one on your side.”

Deku obeys. This one’s deep but fortunately quite narrow. “It gets a little overwhelming sometimes. Being with the others helps, I guess, but it still gets kind of lonely. I, uhm. I missed you.”

Katsuki frowns. “Yeah, well. That’s your own damned fault.”

“I didn’t lie,” Deku says. He’s staring at Katsuki now, voice kind of sad. “I’ve never lied to you. Although I can see why you think I did.”

“Drop it,” Katsuki says. He’s not cruel enough to leave an injured person half-tended to, no matter how much he dislikes them. That’s the only reason he doesn’t walk away from the conversation right now, even though it’s so much harder to talk when Deku’s back isn’t turned. “This’ll sting.”

Deku hisses at the first spray of disinfectant. That shouldn’t sound so satisfying, but hey. Katsuki’s not cruel, but he’s not nice either. “Where have you been all month, Kacchan?”

“Work.”

“Oh. You’ve been working a lot.”

“That’s how it is. Long breaks and then a month of chaos.”

“Is it much fun?”

“It’s whatever. Pays the bills.”

“I was really surprised when I saw you the first time,” Deku says. His gaze is forward now, on the stupid model Captain America shield hung on the wall . “I mean, I knew about you being in your parents’ ads, that made sense. But I was watching a Nike one and you were in it. I, uhm. I bought the shoes.”

“Why?”

“Dunno,” Deku mumbles. “Proud of you, I guess.”

Katsuki frowns as he secures the final bandage. “There. You’re fixed. Try not to kill yourself for a while, for god’s sake.”

“Thanks, Kacchan,” Deku says. Katsuki stands and Deku follows with a wince. He opens his mouth as if to say something, but thinks the better of it when met with Katsuki’s dead-eyed stare. “It’s late. You should get to bed.”

“I’m sleeping for a week,” Katsuki says and turns on his heel. Deku opens the front door for him and he steps out into the corridor, not bothering to look back or say goodbye. The air in his apartment is stale. He opens the balcony window and flops into bed, not bothering to do much beyond shed his clothes.

Proud of him. Yeah, right. Like looking pretty for a camera is anything to be proud of when you spent your life yearning to be someone else.

The first dawn chorus of birds begins. Throwing his arm over his eyes to block out the world, Katsuki rolls over and goes to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When he wakes, there are roses on his pillow.

Katsuki stares at them for a good few seconds before he realises what they are. And then swears, throws on some clothes, and punishes his teeth with a brush before storming out to pound on Deku’s door.

It takes a few minutes before he answers. He’s rumpled and yawning, but his bandages are all still in one piece. “Kacchan? What’s the matter?”

“What the hell is this,” Katsuki hisses, thrusting the flowers in Deku’s face. He goes cross-eyed trying to look at them, so Katsuki tosses them to the floor. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Deku?”

Deku stares at them, mystified. “They’re roses. What did I do?”

“You came into my apartment and left them in my bed.”

“What? No I didn’t. Are you sure you didn’t buy those yourself?”

“Well if you didn’t then who the fuck did?” Katsuki says, and then stops. He’d left his balcony door ajar all night. He’d gone to bed unsuspecting and vulnerable and open. “Oh.”

“Kacchan,” Deku says, a lot more awake because of whatever he sees on Katsuki’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“Fuck,” says Katsuki quietly. His stomach’s fallen into ice water. “Never mind. Sorry. I know what happened.”

Deku catches his wrist before he can go. He’s gone all serious, now, stepping out into the corridor in his dumb pyjama pants with elephants on them. “Explain.”

“I left my balcony door open last night.”

“And?”

“And I’ve been broken into before,” Katsuki says, heart thumping far too fast. “It’s why I moved out of my parents’ place. I have… overzealous fans. One of them might have followed me here.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“About a year.”

“Has anyone ever hurt or threatened you?”

“No. When I go to events there’s always security. If someone tries to cop a feel or get creepy then they’re escorted out.”

“So a possible stalker,” Deku mutters to himself, letting go of Katsuki’s arm and lifting a hand to his chin. “And they broke in just to give you flowers. Have you left your balcony open before?”

“No. I thought it would be fine.” He got careless, that’s what happened. “I’ll handle it. I’ll move somewhere else or something. Don’t worry about it.”

“Hang on, Kacchan. Let’s figure this out.”

“There’s nothing to figure out,” Katsuki says. His anger’s fizzled out. Now he just feels anxious. “It’s my problem. I’ll deal with it.”

“You’re a civilian. You shouldn’t have to.”

“I know you’re a professional hero or whatever,” Katsuki says, making a vague gesture with his hand. “But I told you, you don’t have to worry about it. Models and whatever deal with it all the time. It comes with the territory. It’s not that weird.”

“Yes, it is. You have every right to be alarmed. This place is supposed to be safe,” Deku says, frowning. “Which is means this now involves the whole building. If someone snuck without triggering the alarms then we aren’t as secure as we thought. That, plus this person is very capable. And dangerous.”

Katsuki knows. That’s why he’s trying so hard not to look at the roses on the floor. Breaking into an unguarded bungalow in the suburbs is one thing, but a high-security apartment on the twenty-fourth floor is another. “Police couldn’t do anything the last time. Couldn’t figure out who it was.”

“Let me help.”

“I don’t need your help, I just have to—”

“Kacchan,Deku says. Doesn’t shout, but Katsuki’s mouth snaps shut, spine straightening on autopilot as Deku stares him down. He barely even realises he’s doing it. Deku’s big, all battle-scarred and serious. His expression says he knows exactly how to protect someone. His tone says he’s not going to let Katsuki argue.

Katsuki blinks. Right. Okay. So Deku and puberty went together very well.

Deku takes his silence as acquiescence and tells him to come inside. “Do you have any idea who this stalker could be?”

“What?”

“Your stalker. Any info?”

“Oh.” Deku strides to the kitchen to put some coffee on. Katsuki stands in the living room awkwardly. “No. I mean, maybe. I have an idea. There’s this one guy in particular who sends a lot of nasty stuff.”

“Like what?” Deku asks. His hair’s sticking up at the back. Katsuki feels slightly bad for having woken him up.

“Letters, first. Normal stuff. No return address, which I didn’t think much of until it started getting creepy. Fancy underwear. Doll heads.” An impressive array of sex toys, too, but Katsuki’s not going to mention that. “I don’t actually see any of it because all my mail is screened, but they keep the worrying stuff on file. Nowadays once or twice the letters make it through, I don’t know how.”

“You said something about a break-in earlier? Also, milk and sugar?”

“No, black. It was last year, when I was still living with my folks. Someone smashed a window in and came into my room while we were out. Thought it was a burglar, at first, but only stuff that went missing was mine. Nothing valuable. Just little useless things like my toothbrush. Left me a gift. More fuckin’ underwear, go figure.”

“Yikes,” Deku says, emerging from the kitchen bearing two mugs of coffee. He hands one over. “So definitely a stalker, and possibly the same one who keeps mailing you. You called the police right away?”

“Yeah. We have CCTVs but the guy had his face covered.”

“CCTV,” Deku nods along. “Good point. The cameras here might have picked something up. We’ll go to management once the office opens and get them to show us the tapes.”

“How?”

“I’m technically law enforcement. They’ll listen.”

“Right.” The coffee’s near boiling but Katsuki’s grateful to have something warm and comforting in his hands. He takes a tentative sip. Deku’s not nearly as freaked out by this as he would have imagined, but maybe that’s not such a surprise. Hero work must have its fair share of horrors. This is probably a mild day. “So what now? Wait?”

Deku takes a seat on the couch. “Yes. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be on your own.”

“So where’m I supposed to go?”

“Stay here. I have an extra room.”

 “Hell no.”

“Kacchan,” says Deku patiently. “I know it’s uncomfortable for you but you’re clearly the target here. What are you going to do if he shows up again when you’re home?”

“I do know martial arts.”

“The guy bypassed security and came through a window on the twenty-fourth floor.”

Katsuki makes a face. Deku sighs and runs a hand through his hair. “Look. You don’t like me, I get it. But this person has it in for you and he doesn’t sound like your average lovesick fan. You don’t even know if he’s working alone. Can you fight off two people? Three? Or someone with a combat-based quirk?”

“…no.”

“Right. So you need a guard. And I’m the most practical choice at the moment. I’m right next door, so you don’t need to go far, and it’s a lot faster than contacting a security agency right now.”

Katsuki sits down. Flounces, really, bouncing a bit because Deku’s sofa is stupidly cushy. “Fuck.”

“I know. I’m sorry. But it’s the best option I can think of right now.”

“Fine,” Katsuki grumbles, staring into the depths of his half-drunk coffee. “God damn it. I’ll go get my shit.”

Deku accompanies him while he packs, checking over his apartment for other clues. There’s a shoeprint on the balcony railing. Some trinkets have been rearranged. A dirty shirt’s gone missing, too, but aside from that nothing really seems amiss. “Well, he’s cleaner than the last time he paid you a visit.”

“Woo fuckin’ hoo,” Katsuki mumbles, tossing clothes into a suitcase. “Get out of my bookshelf, Deku.”

“Clues.”

“You’re just nosy.”

Deku smiles. A tiny part of Katsuki is glad that Deku’s here and so he doesn’t have to deal with all this on his own. “Guess you still know me pretty well.”

“Yeah. Like I could forget.”

They go to the management at 9am sharp. The head of security is a middle aged lady with antlers who doesn’t seem to believe Katsuki until Deku flashes his license and politely threatens her with a warrant. “I’m going to need access to your surveillance. You can show it to me now, or I can come back with the police and lock you out of your own office.”

They’re let in. Sped-up footage from last night reveals nothing until about five a.m., a little after Katsuki went to bed. “Look,” says Katsuki. “Look, there’s a hand coming up over the balcony.”

“Probably male, about a hundred and eighty centimetres,” Deku muses. “Any way we can get a clearer image?”

Honda, the security lady, frowns. “We can clean the video, but it’ll take a few hours.”

“He’s got the same thing on as when he broke into my parents’ place,” says Katsuki. “That dumbass pair of glasses with the nose and moustache attached. And the snapback. Special summer edition I did two years ago.”

“We’ll review all of the footage surrounding your unit since you moved in,” says Honda. “I apologise for this, Mr Bakugou. We’ll have this matter dealt with immediately.”

“Why aren’t they calling the police?” Katsuki asks when they’re walking back to Deku’s place. “Are they not taking me seriously?”

“They are. I imagine they’re trying to handle this as quietly as possible,” Deku says. “They’ll lose half their tenants if word of this gets out.”

“They should. The whole reason I came here was because of the high-tech security they keep bragging about. I moved cities. What a humungous fucking waste of time.”

“I don’t think it was a waste of time.”

“If that stalker was gonna come after me anyway I could have bought a beach house or something. I could have suffered in opulence.”

“I know,” Deku says, almost to himself.  “But it wasn’t a waste.”

“Why?”

He just smiles. “You’re probably exhausted. We have a few hours to kill. Go back to bed.”

Katsuki frowns. Deku never does answer his question. Katsuki’s curious, but he doesn’t press. He’s not sure he wants to hear the answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A plank of wood,” says Katsuki, bordering on hysterical. “A sentient Lego. A fucking building block.”

Deku pats him sympathetically on the back. “It explains why the cameras couldn’t pick anything up. He has no distinguishing facial features.”

“He doesn’t have any facial features,” Katsuki says into his hands. “He doesn’t even fucking look real.”

“This gives us no indication as to the nature of his quirk,” says Honda, smoothing down the lapels of her designer power suit. The enhanced security footage displays, paused, on the huge monitor. Katsuki decides he hates the control room. It looks like a reused set from the Matrix movies. “However, now we know who to look for. His build stands out.”

“Unless he decides to hide in a pile of bricks,” says Katsuki.  “Do you think you’d be able to pick him out as a real-life human being?”

Deku shushes him. “How long has he been hanging around here?”

“He arrived the day Mr Bakugou did, from what we can tell. Unfortunately, Mr Bakugou’s right. It’s very hard to distinguish this man from the foliage. Our sightings of him on-site have been sparse.”

“But he must have come here a lot,” Deku mutters. “He knew when you’d left your balcony open. He must have been watching you for a while, looking for an opportunity.”

“God, don’t remind me,” says Katsuki. He’s walked around the apartment in his underwear. He’s walked around naked because nobody in their right minds should be spying on someone twenty-four hours a day. He desperately wants to take a shower and scrub all his skin off. “This is bullshit. We can’t find my stalker because he’s a walking stick of chalk. That’s his quirk. Being chalk. And I’m the anomaly? Just because I don’t have a fucking quirk? This is a goddamn insult, is what this is.”

The corner of Deku’s mouth lifts. “So the cameras won’t be much help. If we increase security, though, that might scare this guy off.”

“That is something that can be done,” says Honda.

“I hear he’s persistent,” says Deku. “It isn’t sustainable or practical to surround Kac— Mr Bakugou with guards all the time. Eventually we’ll let our guard down and the stalker will likely come back.”

Mr Bakugou. Deku can’t even say that with a straight face. Katsuki elbows him. “Keeping him away isn’t enough. Blockhead needs to be arrested.”

“Of course, Mr Bakugou,” says Honda. “You won’t feel safe if he’s still out there.”

“Forget me,” says Katsuki. “I can take care of myself. But if he’s not going after me, he’s gonna start harassing someone else. If he fixates on someone who can’t protect themselves he’s gonna seriously fuck them up. I’m not letting this guy go after one of my coworkers.”

Deku’s eyebrows go up for a second. “I… that’s right. You’re right. We should put a stop to this.”

“We just have to figure out how,” says Katsuki. “Your cameras are no help. But if I run to the cops that’s probably gonna scare him off, like you said.”

“I do deeply regret this, Mr Bakugou,” says Honda. “Our company prides itself on security. It is a failing on our part that you’ve been targeted.”

“We’ll handle it,” says Deku, clapping one large hand on Katsuki’s back. It’s unfortunately very reassuring. “We’ll catch this guy, I promise. You’ll be safe. Don’t you worry about a thing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katsuki, obviously, worries.

Not so much about the stalker thing. Like, he is concerned, because he has some sense of self-preservation, but Blockhead is an evil he’s sadly familiar with. The more pressing thing right now is Deku. Living with him for the foreseeable future, especially because Deku’s got it into his head that Katsuki needs to be protected and can’t be left alone for twenty minutes.

It’s giving him a stress ulcer. He’s been sucker-punched back by ten years. Deku hasn’t changed much, still emotional and geeky and endlessly optimistic. He still can’t cook. Katsuki takes over that because it’s the least he could do. Deku’s eternally grateful, which Katsuki regrets because Deku eats like a starving horse.

He wants to push Deku away. He wants to hide in the guest room and methodically set up his defences, act prickly and disinterested so Deku can’t forget that they’re not friends. But Katsuki can’t. He can’t bring himself to be a dick to the person who’s trying to help him. Deku’s so invested in him, that’s the thing. He cares so much about Katsuki’s safety and seems to want nothing in return.

He wonders if this is a business thing, at first. Katsuki’s got a public presence and it would probably look good for Deku if they were friends. But that doesn’t seem to be it. Deku’s happy to hang out on the couch and wheedle Katsuki into joining him. Like he doesn’t mind if nobody ever sees them. Like he’s happy for them to just be.

So Katsuki deals with it. He’s not friendly, not exactly, but he doesn’t put up a fight. Deku’s doing a lot for seemingly no reward. Katsuki refuses to owe him more than he has to so he acts like a good houseguest, allowing Deku to draw him into conversation and indulging him when he wants to play video games. Sometimes Deku talks about UA. It still stings to hear about the life Katsuki couldn’t lead, but he’ll never not want to know everything he can about All Might.

“It took me so long to get over how quiet he is,” Deku says one evening while they’re waiting for the rice to cook. Katsuki’s made grilled chicken. “Like, All Might’s loud. The hero. The persona, I mean. He used to burst in the door shouting I am here and scare the heck out of us every day. But once he retired, when he stopped keeping up appearances, he got quiet. Not in a bad way, I think. Just peaceful.”

Katsuki tries to imagine it. He’d been as shocked as everyone else when All Might had showed the world who he was - a tired, gaunt man with a sad smile and eyes that had seen far too much. But that had made him seem real, in a way. No longer like an untouchable ideal. Just a person with a big heart who could have been someone’s dad. “He deserves a break.”

“You can say that again. I think he likes what he does now, though. Teaching. And he works with the police too sometimes. His mind’s still crazy sharp even if he can’t do the dirty work.”

“Good for him,” Katsuki says. He leans back on the couch and tries to picture what it would have been like to sit right at the front of the class, with living legends helping him shape his future. “Man. What a life.”

Deku watches him. He’s waiting for Katsuki to yell, perhaps, already aware that they’re on touchy territory. “You would have loved it.”

The rice cooker beeps. The chicken’s probably done resting, so Katsuki can whip up a salad to go with it. The couch springs creak as he stands up to tend to dinner, sounds of the city barely audible through the open window. He takes a deep breath. “Yeah. I would.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hi,” says the visitor.

Katsuki stares at him. Then he turns around to stare at Deku, because when he’d gotten up to answer the door he hadn’t been expecting a spiky red man with no shirt. “What.”

Deku beams. “Kirishima! Thanks for coming on such short notice.”

Kirishima bounds into the living room. Everything about him is angular and tough, which should be intimidating but just makes him look like a big happy porcupine. Katsuki shuts the door. “No worries. Are you Bakugou? Nice to meet you!”

“That’s me,” Katsuki says. Deku looks inordinately pleased with himself, which makes Katsuki understandably suspicious. “What’s going on?”

“I have a plan I want to try out,” Deku says, getting off the couch to put his arm around Kirishima’s shoulders. Kirishima’s very broad, muscular shoulders. Okay, so Katsuki has a type. “I was thinking of using Kirishima as a decoy. Have you ever heard of Red Riot? This is him.”

“Hardening quirk,” Katsuki says. Kirishima nods enthusiastically. “Alright. What are you thinking?”

“Kirishima has very kindly agreed to help us out,” says Deku. “You can’t be in your apartment because it’s not safe, but we can station Kirishima there instead. We sneak him in, maybe at some odd hour of the night so Blockhead doesn’t notice. Kirishima lays low and waits. If Blockhead tries to come back, Kirishima will be waiting for him.”

“Why him?”

Deku ruffles Kirishima’s hair. “Well, we don’t know what Blockhead has up his sleeve—”

“Lego arms.”

“—so Kirishima’s a good bet. His quirk is a great defence. That makes him the least likely to get hurt, even if Blockhead’s armed. In the meantime, I stay here and protect you.”

“So you’re going to put a stranger in my apartment,” Katsuki says, folding his arms across his chest and ignoring the idea that he might need protecting. “Can I trust him?”

“You have great biceps!” Kirishima says.

“Kirishima’s trustworthy,” Deku says, slapping the guy’s shoulder like he’s a used car salesman trying to show off a sedan. “It’ll be fine.”

“How do we know this is gonna work?” Katsuki demands. “Like, no offence, Kirishima, but I don’t know you. What if you secretly turn out to be, like, a burglar?”

“A burglar?” Kirishima calls upon the spirit of an orphaned puppy, or something, and fixes Katsuki with the most forlorn expression he’s ever seen on a grown man. “You think I look like a bad guy?”

“Uh,” says Katsuki, because he was pretty certain that being around Deku desensitized him to sad eyes ages ago but he is not prepared for the way Kirishima’s whole being deflates. “That’s not what I meant.”

“It’s the teeth, isn’t it?” says Kirishima ruefully. “Sometimes babies freak out when I smile at them. It makes me really sad.”

“You see that?” says Deku, sighing. “Good going, Kacchan. You made him sad.”

“Alright, fine,” Katsuki says. “Fine, we’ll try it. Just stop looking at me like that, god.”

They let Kirishima into Katsuki’s apartment at three in the morning. It’s the best chance they have, Deku says, because they only times they haven’t seen Blockhead on the surveillance tapes are between two and five am. That may just be because he blends in so well, though. When he stays still it’s literally impossible to tell him apart from a tree.

“Stay away from the windows,” Deku reminds him. “And don’t turn on any of the lights. Remember, the goal is to make the place look deserted.”

“There’s snacks in the fridge,” says Katsuki. “I’ll bring you your meals. Don’t touch any of my other shit.”

“I got it,” Kirishima tells them. He’s got a backpack full of things slung over one shoulder. “Relax. We’ll catch this guy, no problem.”

“Is this gonna work?” Katsuki asks when they’re back in Deku’s apartment and Kirishima’s settled in. It’s not as nervewracking as he thought it’d be. Kirishima’s helping, after all, and if any stranger’s gonna sleep in Katsuki’s bed, he supposes it might as well be him.

“It’s a long shot,” Deku says. “But we can hope. All we can do for now is wait.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No noise comes from Katsuki’s apartment for the next few days. As bumbling a puppy-like as Kirishima seems, he obviously knows how to do a stakeout.

Katsuki frets. He doesn’t know if he likes living in Deku’s pockets and it’s making him antsy. Even exercising doesn’t help. Going to the gym means going to the gym with Deku, which means having the world’s best spotter at the cost of having to watch Deku lift a hundred kilos without breaking a sweat. Katsuki asks once if Deku’s using his quirk. Deku just laughs and says no.

So Katsuki sticks to the treadmill and tries not to fall into a vortex of inadequacy and lust. It doesn’t help that stupid Deku keeps taking his shirt off. Katsuki’s used to attractive people. He is attractive people, if the media is to be believed. The problem here lies specifically with Deku, with his battle scars and nice smile and that one time he picked up the entire weight rack to help some lady find her earring. With the weights attached. It had cracked the floor when he let go of it too fast.

“Are you alright?” Deku asks, pausing in the middle of his three hundredth one-handed push up.

 Katsuki realises he’s been holding his water bottle to his mouth for two minutes without actually taking a sip. “I… am going to take a shower.” A cold one, preferably.

They have lunch after. Katsuki insists they go out. He’s the one paying for meals in place of rent, so he usually gets to pick. That and because Deku will eat anything that isn’t moving. Katsuki’s had to yell at him more than once. Mayo and pineapple to not belong on a pizza together, Deku, god.

They sit across from each other in a little American-style diner and chat. Katsuki keeps his eyes on his plate. Deku keeps trying to steal his fries. Katsuki doesn’t care if heroes need the calories. It’s his cheat day, he’s not giving his junk food up. “What I’m saying is that all rodents basically look the same. He’s a rat or a hamster. If he were anything else, you’d know.”

“But he could be a dog! Or a bear, even, look at his ears!”

“His name is Nezu.”

Deku slurps his milkshake emphatically. “We have this debate every year, all the alumni. Even the teachers don’t know. Even Mr Nezu doesn’t know. He might even be a unique species, maybe he’s not a real animal at all.”

Katsuki tries to stab Deku’s wandering, food-grabbing hand with a fork. “Y’all should have got Eraserhead to turn him into a human for a bit. I bet that would have helped.”

“His quirk doesn’t erase mutations. We’ve tried. We begged him to make Hagakure visible just because we were dying to know what she looked like.”

“Just put make up on her or something. Or dunk her in a vat of paint, you’ll at least get a silhouette.”

“Oh! I never thought of that. Although I feel like she kind of likes being mysterious. Did you know she and Tailman are going out?”

“Called it. Also does she like the comics or was the name a coincidence?”

Deku holds up a fry. He’s snuck it off Katsuki’s side somehow. Bastard. “She’s never seen or read the Fantastic Four. I asked her the same thing. I showed her an issue, though. She thinks the Torch is handsome.”

“Anything beats Richards,” Katsuki snorts. “Wife-beating, rubber band-looking bitch.”

“They write him a little better nowadays,” Deku says, putting his chin in his hand. “I missed this. Nobody else ever knew what I was talking about, back in high school. They were nice, but they never really understood my nerd rambling.”

The squeeze in Katsuki’s chest is easy to ignore this time. He swirls his Pepsi in its glass. “Try hanging out in a room full of stylists. They’re all talking about Gvasalia’s revolutionary new iteration of the C-line silhouette for Balenciaga, and you’re like, I really wanna go home and watch cartoons.”

“Oh? You mean to tell me you’re not a fashion icon now?”

“Listen. I like clothes as much as the next guy. I like a designer brand. But when you throw a phrase at me like creative fashion intelligence, my fucking brain’s gonna shut down. I’ll go feral.”

Deku laughs at him. He’s got the same laugh still, the one that scrunches up his face like a walnut. “I should probably feel bad for you, but I’m just glad I’m not the only one who feels like a geek all the time.”

“You think my suffering’s funny, asshat?”

“No. It’s just reassuring. I’m not the only one who felt like I was missing a part of me up til now.”

Katsuki’s eyebrows go up. Deku’s brain catches up to his mouth and he flounders, ears reddening at the tips. “Uhm. Forget I said that. Do you wanna get the bill?”

“Okay,” says Katsuki slowly. “Yeah. Let’s go.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They make it to the end of the week. Katsuki doesn’t fantasize about murdering Deku. They don’t even argue, which is shocking considering Katsuki’s admittedly horrible personality.

Nobody breaks in. Kirishima reports to them at 9 a.m. on Monday with nothing to show. He’s got bags around his eyes. Deku thanks him profusely and Katsuki promises to return the favour somehow. Kirishima’s just sorry he couldn’t be of more help.

They send him home to rest. Now they’re back to square one. Deku apologises and Katsuki’s stomach churns, insides knotting themselves in dread at the thought that this is just going to be his life. He’s caught the attention of a psychopath. Maybe this is all he amounts to. Being helpless and trapped.

Deku touches his shoulder. “Are you okay?”

“Better me than someone else,” Katsuki says quietly. “Fuck. I’m exhausted.”

Deku chews his lip. He’s quiet for a long time but then he takes a deep breath, clapping his hands together like he’s come to a decision. Katsuki watches him. “What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Being stalked, apparently.”

“Do you have work?”

“No. Do you?”

“I’m technically working right now,” Deku says. “Will you take a trip with me?”

“Where?”

“That’s a surprise. But I think you’ll have fun.”

He won’t tell them what they’re doing even as he buys train tickets online. It’s winter break so everything’s crowded but Deku says they’ll be fine, and the next morning they go to the train station and Deku skilfully dodges all questions about their destination.

They end up in the countryside. It’s not that far out of the city, not geographically, but it’s quiet and the air feels clean and new. It’s cold, too. Katsuki tightens his scarf and waits for Deku to call a cab.

He takes them to a cottage. Knocks on the door while Katsuki peers over his shoulder, and throws out his arms when someone answers.

It’s All Might. Katsuki actually gasps.

Deku greets him like an old friend. All Might’s huge up close, tall and spindly with big hands and a sharp face. He looks down and Katsuki freezes, can’t even bring himself to be annoyed by the big dopey grin on Deku’s face.

“You must be young Bakugou,” says All Might. His voice is deep. “I remember you.”

Slowly, Katsuki nods. “You remember me?”

“Of course. Not many people apply to UA without a quirk. Come inside,” All Might says, stepping aside. His cottage is tiny but warm and lovely. “Take a seat. I’ll make some tea.”

Katsuki sits stiffly on the loveseat, vibrating in place. Deku nudges him. “You okay?”

“It’s All Might,” Katsuki whispers back. “You brought me to All Might’s house.”

“It’s his holiday home. I felt the same way the first time I saw him,” Deku grins. “I made him sign my textbooks every year.”

All Might’s kind and asks a lot of questions. He remembers details, sipping tea from a mug that looks small in his hand and nibbling a biscuit. “Did you get to design anything yourself? Or was combat gear not your major interest?”

“I dabbled,” Katsuki says, back ramrod straight while Deku quietly laughs at him. “Found out I was better at wearing it. I, uhm. I’m interested in the theory of design but I don’t plan to pursue it. I’m actually an engineer.”

“Oh? What kind? Where did you study?”

“Tokyo University. Chemical engineering. But I kept up the modelling part time.”

“You never told me that,” says Deku, sounding offended. “I never knew you liked engineering, what the heck.”

All Might smiles. He’s all careful movements in a body too big for him, slow but with an odd kind of grace. “Well, then. Perhaps it’s time you got to know each other again.”

They hang out until just before dinner. All Might gives Deku a hug at the door, then slowly shakes Katsuki’s hand. “I will never not mean what I said in your tape,” he says, looking him in the eye. Katsuki feels vulnerable and small. “I’m proud of you for making something of yourself, young man. You’ve done well. I knew you would.”

They go home. Katsuki barely pays attention to the scenery rushing past through the window. He’s still star-struck. All Might had touched his hand.

Deku nudges him. “He’s great, right?”

“Yeah,” Katsuki says, forcing himself to sound normal. “Fuck. I forgot to get an autograph.”

“Maybe next time,” Deku says. Katsuki’s stomach swoops at the thought of seeing All Might again. “Say, Kacchan?”

“Huh?”

Deku chews his lip. “It hurt me, back then. When you said you didn’t want to see me again. I missed you. Like, a lot.”

Katsuki blinks. Deku’s watching him closely, the light outside casting funny shadows on his face. “Yeah, well. Your fault. You lied.”

“That’s the thing,” Deku says quietly. “I didn’t.”

“Deku—”

“No, listen,” Deku says, coming close to murmur directly into Katsuki’s ear. The proximity makes his spine tingle but he forces himself to stay still. “I couldn’t tell you. I promised I wouldn’t. But I did get my quirk before the exam. All Might gave it to me.”

Katsuki frowns. He can’t turn completely because Deku’s in the way but he does tilt his head, angling his ear closer to make sure he heard right. “What do you mean he gave it to you?”

“It’s the same. Our quirks are the same,” Deku says. “You would have figured it out if you’d seen me in UA. I… I met All Might by accident. In middle school. In the middle of final year, and I asked him if we could still be heroes. Without quirks. He said yes.”

“You didn’t tell me.”

“No. God, I wanted to. But I promised I wouldn’t. All Might took a liking to me, I still don’t know why. He passed his quirk on to me, just like someone passed it to him. I don’t think I can go into the details, but that’s what happened. He made me train. And I thought,” Deku says, and then pauses. Takes a deep breath. “I thought everything was going to perfect. We’d both get into UA. You because you’re so smart and strong and me with All Might’s help. I thought we’d graduate together and become heroes. And one day I’d be able to tell you everything and you’d understand why I had to keep it a secret. I didn’t know you would leave. I should’ve. I’ve been kicking myself for years about that. Of course you’d think I was lying. I’d have thought the same, if it’d been me.”

Katsuki stares at the back of the seat before his. The train passes through a tunnel and momentarily everything goes pitch black. Deku’s a warm, solid presence right next to him. “He picked you. You’re not just his protégé, he picked you.”

“He did.” Deku stares at his hands. They’re big and scarred. One of his fingers looks crooked. “I wish I could have shared this quirk with you. Still do. We could have done it together.

Katsuki feels hollow. It wasn’t Deku’s fault. He didn’t lie. He’d just been picked. Been selected, seemingly by fate itself, and Katsuki hadn’t. Because only one of them needed to fulfil their dream. “Why are you telling me this?”

“I shouldn’t be,” Deku huffs a laugh. “I’m technically still under oath. But I can’t stand the thought of you thinking I’m a liar. I’m not capable of hurting you like that, Kacchan. Not intentionally. It killed me that you thought I was this horrible person and I just wanted you to be there with me. And I guess you just deserve to know. Why it looked like I abandoned you. I don’t like keeping secrets from you. It sucks.”

The train shudders. A leaf hits the window and flutters off. Katsuki swallows hard. Deku’s looking at him imploringly. His ears don’t turn red like they do whenever he lies. “I… fine. I believe you.”

Deku sags against his side. “Thank god. I don’t know what I would’ve done if you’d left me again.”

Katsuki doesn’t know either. Being alone, not talking to anyone but his parents, seems kind of empty after being around Deku again. “Cried, probably.”

“Probably,” Deku says. “I know it’s bad, but I’m kind of happy. That this happened. Blockhead, I mean. Seeing you has been, uhm. Really nice. Do you think we could be friends again?”

Katsuki could be cruel. He could say no and decide here and now that their relationship is nothing more than business. He could pay Deku for his trouble and never speak to him again, avoid him even though they live right next to each other and live the rest of his life on his own.

He doesn’t want to. “Yeah,” he says, voice croaky. “Yeah, okay.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

It gets… weird.

Not bad, necessarily. Just odd. Katsuki wakes up the next day with his chest heavy, full of misplaced guilt and leftover warmth and envy that might never go away for as long as he lives. He wanders out of the guest room for coffee. Captain America’s shield glints on the wall. Katsuki tries to imagine what it must be like to be chosen by forces greater than himself, by someone wise who’d look at him and see enough potential to take away all the things holding him back.

He never will, probably. He takes a deep breath and goes into the kitchen to set about making breakfast for them both.

Deku wakes up a little after. Katsuki hands him a plate of scrambled eggs with four slices of toast and some bacon. “We’re being too soft. We need to engage Blockhead directly.”

Deku takes it. “Thanks. What d’you propose?”

“Use me,” Katsuki says, matter-of-fact. “Blockhead’s not interested in Kirishima. He wants me. Use me as bait and draw him out. Force him to stop hiding so we can deal with this shit head-on.”

“He’s skittish. He might not take the bait.”

“Not if you’re there, no. I have to be alone. He broke in because he knew nobody else was around, right?”

“Kacchan, no,” Deku says, frowning. “That’s crazy. You can’t be alone with this guy.”

“What else am I gonna do? Let him stalk me forever? Or wait until he gets bored of me and goes after somebody else?”

“There has to be a way,” Deku says, chewing his toast. “I mean, you’re right. He only wants you. But even if I watch you from afar, I won’t make it to you in time if you need me. But I can’t leave you there, that’s too risky. You could get hurt.”

“Let me,” says Katsuki. “I can handle it. He can’t see anyone else around or he won’t come.”

“Oh,” Deku says and puts down his breakfast to root around the mess on the coffee table. “That’s perfect. Kacchan, you’re a genius!”

“Why?”

Deku smiles wide, unearthing his phone. “Because Blockhead can’t see anyone with you, but that doesn’t mean nobody can be there. I’m calling Hagakure.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Invisible Girl at your service!” says a floating  jacket and tights.

Katsuki considers her. “Who’s your designer?”

“Bakugou,” says Hagakure. “My outfits’s super high-tech. Basically there are little cameras all over my clothes that take pictures of what’s in front of and behind me. Makes me completely see-through. Cool, right?”

“I’m familiar. The Bakugous are my parents. I remember seeing your schematics.”

She bounces. “No way. Okay, you know what, this is totally me repaying a favour. I used to have to go around naked. Your parents basically saved me.

“What idiot told you to fight naked? Were they trying to get you killed?”

“I know, right? You’d think with UA’s budget they’d be able to figure something out, but they’re like, nah, we got nothing, you’ll be fine. You know how cold I used to get? And that’s not even when I had to, like, do stuff. Imagine running around with two melons strapped to your chest and no support. And then I’d have to take a week every month off because how the heck am I supposed to work when I’ve basically got a floating tampon stuck up my—”

“Thanks for coming,” Deku says loudly. His face is very red. “You know the plan, right?”

“Oh, yeah, totally. Ready when you are, my guys.”

They wait til night falls. Katsuki and Hagakure walk to a park two blocks away while Deku stays in the apartment, keeping in touch through his earpiece. The park’s closed, since it’s past 9pm. Katsuki scales the gate and sits on a secluded bench. Hagakure’s gone silent, but it’s reassuring to know she’s (probably) around. There’s barely any light out here. Katsuki shivers and waits.

He’s wearing a scarf that Blockhead mailed him, one of the few things he can stand to touch. He’d asked his agent to send it over just for this. He hopes it’s worthwhile. Once this is over he needs to scrub his face and neck raw.

Time passes. He’s not sure how much, since he doesn’t dare check his phone. Every rustle of leaves seems like it’s going to end in him being killed.

But he wants this thing done. “Are you out there?”

Nobody answers. Very slowly, something emerges from behind a bush.

Katsuki’s heart stops. Blockhead had been right there and Katsuki hadn’t even seen him. “Hello, Katsuki.”

He swallows. “Hey.”

“You’re wearing the scarf I picked for you,” Blockhead says. Katsuki wonders where the voice is coming from, since it’s not like the guy has a mouth. “I’m glad. I really hoped you’d like it.”

“Sure do,” Katsuki says, voice deliberately calm. “I got the flowers you left me. That was sneaky.”

“Sorry,” says Blockhead. He’s standing pretty far away. Katsuki desperately hopes that Hagakure’s still here. “I wasn’t sure how else to give them to you.”

“How did you get in?”

“It took some work,” Blockhead says. A twig snaps under his foot as he comes closer. “I’m nervous. I’ve always thought about meeting you. You’re quite beautiful up-close.”

“Thanks,” Katsuki croaks. “Come sit with me.”

“Are you sure? I think you’re afraid of me. You don’t have to be, you know. I know you moved to that new apartment because people were bothering you. But I won’t let them hurt you,” Blockhead says sweetly. “I can keep you safe.”

“I’m sure you can,” Katsuki says. Blockhead keeps coming closer until he’s right in front of Katsuki, towering over him, stock-still. “You seem like a good guy.”

“I am,” Blockhead says, reaching out to touch his face. Katsuki forces himself to keep still, to betray no hint of fear, trying to look convincingly inviting. “God. What I’d love to do to you.”

“Nope,” says Hagakure, shimmering into view. Blockhead’s too slow; she has him cuffed and tackled to the ground before Katsuki can say a word, some crazy thing with her thighs that keeps Blockhead folded like a pretzel and struggling. “Deku, I’ve got him!”

Katsuki scrambles off the bench. Blockhead screeches something horrible. “Shut up,” Katsuki says. “You’re a creep. I hope you go to jail for life. I’m getting a restraining order.”

They don’t have to wait long. Deku bounds in seemingly from the sky, green lightning flashing around his limbs as he picks Blockhead up with one hand. “You’re under arrest,” he says, hair floating around him. “Hagakure. Call the police.”

“You won’t take Katsuki from me,” Blockhead snarls and tries to kick him. “Who even are you?”

Deku knocks him out. “I’m Deku, and he’s mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katsuki shivers. Police sirens fade as Blockhead is hauled to the station, leaving Deku and Katsuki in the park. He’ll have to give them an official statement tomorrow. Hagakure’s gone with the police. She’d taken one look at them and volunteered to give them time alone. She may have been laughing. Katsuki can’t tell for sure, but he suspects.

He’d ripped off Blockhead’s stupid scarf and thrown it away the second he had the chance. Now he’s freezing. Deku still looks kind of pissed, which is something Katsuki’d never thought he’d live to see. “What now?”

“We go home, I guess,” Deku sighs. “You did really well, Kacchan. That must have been horrifying, pretending to like him back.”

Katsuki shrugged. “It’s over now. Let’s get out of here, it’s fucking cold.”

Deku scoops him up without so much as an excuse me. Katsuki squawks and then clings; Deku leaps skyward like gravity doesn’t apply, bounding from rooftop to rooftop and sparking with green energy. Katsuki’s stomach swoops. He curls up in Deku’s arms and gapes at the city rushing past. This is probably the closest he’ll ever get to flying.

They land on Deku’s balcony. Deku steps inside and the lightning fizzles out. Katsuki, windswept and slightly nauseous, swallows. “So. I might not be great with heights.”

“Sorry,” says Deku sheepishly. “I should have asked.”

“It’s fine. Saves on cab fare,” Katsuki says. “So. I’m yours, huh.”

Deku winces. “Uhm. Sorry. That just sort of slipped out.”

“No, it’s cool,” Katsuki says. “Really. I mean, say whatever you want. You did kind of just save my ass.”

“You did a lot of that yourself,” says Deku. “I. I should probably put you down.”

Katsuki deliberates. Deku’s big and warm and blushing at him. “You could, like. Not.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” Katsuki says. He’s pretty sure his hair’s sticking up like a porcupine. Also he’s all red. Because of the cold. Not because of Deku tossing him around like a caveman. Yeah. “Or put me down. In, uh. Bed.”

Deku turns redder. “Your bed?”

“Up to you. Just, like. Join me, I guess.”

“Oh,” says Deku. He might explode. Katsuki wonders how far down the blush goes. “I didn’t know you, uhm.”

“I have a type,” Katsuki says, because it suddenly seems important that Deku knows that. “Which you fit. Pretty perfectly. All Might probably had a hand in awakening that, actually.”

“Oh my god.”

“Not anymore, don’t worry,” Katsuki says and pats Deku’s face. “So. Bed.”

“Bed,” Deku says, not moving. Katsuki, on impulse, leans forward and bites his ear.

That gets a reaction. Deku sprints off to his bedroom and skids to a stop at the door. It’s full of nerdy superhero merch, obviously. Katsuki loves it. “Put me down.”

“Okay.” Deku puts him down.

“On the bed.”

“Oh. Okay.” Deku picks him back up and puts him down on the bed as instructed.

Katsuki pulls Deku onto him. He’s heavy and comfortable, pinning Katsuki to the mattress. Honestly, he’s kind of glad he wasn’t around to witness the growth spurt. He isn’t sure he would have been able to handle it. “Kacchan, are you sure about this?”

“Do I look like I’m not sure?”

“Uhm,” says Deku, because he can definitely feel Katsuki’s boner right now. “You don’t even like me.”

“Look,” says Katsuki, propping himself on one elbow. Deku scoots back a little to look at him properly. “I don’t hate you. I was mad at you for a really long time, yeah. But you told me the truth. And I was still kinda mad. But I would have done the same. If All Might had given me a quirk and told me not to tell, I would have listened.” He touches Deku’s face, very gently. “And you’ve done a lot for me. There’s no way I could not like you after all that.”

“If this is you thanking me—”

“This is not me thanking you. This is me being horny and repressed after a month of watching you flex like you’re Hercules. Thanking you will come later. I take good photos, for your information. You might want a few for, like, private use.”

Deku makes a strangled noise. “You’re killing me. You’re genuinely trying to cause my death.”

“Sure am,” Katsuki says, and kisses him.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

“You’re dating a model?” screeches the noisy pink one.

Deku shushes her. Kirishima laughs and Chargebolt elbows him aside to take a closer look, studying Katsuki’s face like he’s looking for something important. “He’s beautiful,” he announces. “Definitely out of your league.”

“Please don’t yell,” Deku says plaintively. “Neither of us has made this public yet.”

“You didn’t tell us your Kacchan was a model,” the pink one demands.

“I’m also an engineer,” Katsuki says helpfully. Deku’s friends clamour even louder.

“It’s great to finally meet you,” says Uravity. Uraraka, he thinks was her name. “Deku kept talking about you all through high school. It almost feels like I know you already.”

“He seemed to admire you very much,” says Ingenium. “He called you his biggest source of inspiration. He picked his hero name in honour of you.”

“He also informed us how cool and talented you are,” says Chargebolt. “Multiple times. Half of us thought you weren’t even real.”

Deku hides his face in his hands. Kirishima pats him on the back sympathetically. Katsuki just grins. “Did he also tell you I kicked his ass at martial arts until we were fourteen?”

“He’s perfect,” says Pinky. “Deku, marry him. Right now.”

“He cooks too,” says Kirishima. “And I’ve seen his apartment. He’s loaded.”

“Are you into blonds?” says Chargebolt. “I don’t mind being a side chick. Seriously, I’m available right now.”

“I’m Deku’s,” Katsuki says with faux disappointment. “He made that very clear when we started going out.”

Deku whines. “It was the heat of the moment!”

“So I’m not yours?”

“You— you’re yours,” Deku says. There’s the blush Katsuki loves. “Stop bullying me. This isn’t fair.”

The waitress comes by to give them their coffees. The café’s crowded but they’re cosy in their little booth, Katsuki half on Deku’s lap so all seven of them can fit. Hagakure’s coming by in an hour. It more people than Katsuki’s used to hanging out with, but he supposes he doesn’t mind.

“I’m happy for you guys,” says Uraraka decisively. “Deku told us that you fell out of contact for a while. He was really sad about it, too. You’ve got lots of lost time to make up for, Bakugou.”

“Don’t worry. I don’t have a choice. I’m beholden to him now,” Katsuki says, bumping his shoulder against Deku’s. “After he went and caught a stalker for me so I’d let him in my pants.”

“I did not.

“Really? You didn’t try to get all close to me so you could pretend not to watch me do yoga every morning?”

“Kacchan, oh my god,” Deku laughs. “Stop slandering me. I didn’t just help you because I like you. I stepped in because you were in danger. Any hero would have done the same.”

“I know,” Katsuki says and squeezes his boyfriend’s hand. “All the same. I’m just glad it was you.”