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Katsuki’s agent is the most important person in his life bar a few old classmates he’s finally sort of admitted to liking. Those classmates do him the service of pretending they don’t know incriminating details about him, and he does them the service of agency team-ups, occasional catch-up drinks, and warning them in advance of the—now much less frequent—media blowups surrounding him.

If you ask him, his reputation as a troublemaker is undeserved. Half-and-Half is the worse media disaster, but the public let him get away with it because he doesn’t shout while delivering his sass. Katsuki can’t get away with shit compared to that two-tone tragedy.

Katsuki knows this, and he does his best to keep rumours from being true—so when he hasn’t set a foot wrong in the recent past and his agent sends him a video marked ‘don’t talk to anyone before we discuss this’, he expects Half-and-Half has finally fallen from his pedestal. It’s the only likely explanation. Half-and-Half has shit the bed, has come out and said something really unsayable, has sent even adjacent agents into a panic—

Katsuki can’t wait to see; he presses play.

“Welcome to the latest episode of Hero Cribs!” says a grinning Pinky, her face pressed close to a camera filming in selfie mode. A more normal beige cheek squishes against her bright pink one, and there’s some jostling before the reach of the camera lengthens to show Spark-for-Brains beside her. The pair are in an anonymous city park, windblown and interesting in the foreground.

“You know the drill, you love the drill—but in case you’re new here, we’ll let you in on the secret,” Sparks-for-Brains says. “Every few months, we choose a victim…”

“Volunteer!” Pinky objects, and Sparks laughs.

“Right, right, they volunteered by going to school with us…”

“...and we show you, the viewers, how our top heroes live!”

Sparks turns to Pinky. “Don’t you think it’s kinda much, saying top heroes? We’ve never Cribbed a top three. It’s false advertising.”

“Hm,” says Pinky. “You know what? You’re right. I guess it’s time, huh?”

Sparks grins at the camera. “You know who we mean, don’t you? Mr. Edged-His-Way-Into-The-Top-Three-Last-January.”

“Edged? More like blasted!”

Huh, Katsuki thinks. He does know who they mean—but it’s Deku, not Half-and-Half. Almost against his will, Katsuki feels a tiny flutter of anxiety. Deku isn’t the kind of person who loses it on camera. He’s confirmed weird, sure, but that’s part of his shtick. The public love his overenthusiasm, sensing him as one of their own—a true fanboy.

Did he step on a lego during live filming and cuss someone out? Katsuki would pay to see that, but it doesn’t seem comment-worthy. He leans forward on the couch, the breakfast he prepared forgotten.

“We can’t show you the way to his place, cause of stuff,” Pinky says, “but if you promise to join us for part two of our livestream in half an hour, we’ll be back! No one tell him we’re coming, please. He had a late shift last night, and we want to know: are the rumours true?”

Does the top three hero sleep in All Might merchandise?”

“Check back in half an hour!”

The screen of Katsuki’s phone goes black, text announcing that the rest of the video takes place half an hour later. There’s rustling and the sound of a doorbell, though a hand is being held over the camera’s lens.

After a long moment, a door opens offscreen.

“Mina? Denki?” comes Deku’s voice, rough with sleep. The camera emerges to show a sleep-rumpled Deku standing in an entryway, his hair messy and the T-shirt he’s wearing rucked up on one side. Overlarge pajama pants pool around his legs in yellow and blue All Might patterns. Katsuki finds himself staring at the visible bit of belly and the bare, scarred-up arms.

It’s spring. He hasn’t seen Deku in short sleeves since… well, last summer. Before he made top three.

“Guys?” Deku says, glancing between the camera and his friends, beginning to sound alarmed—but he’s too late. The disaster pair have barged in, and sickening camera movements ensue as they announce their show to Deku.

“It’s a mess! You can’t look!” Deku says desperately.

“That’s exactly what we want!” Pinky says. “Authenticity! A glimpse behind the veil!”

“You said your favourite episode was when we caught Eijirou by surprise,” Sparks adds.

“It’s different! He’d been asking you for months!”

Sparks is undeterred. “Come on, your place looked fine last fondue night.”

Deku protests a little more before folding, just like Katsuki had expected. By contrast, Katsuki would have blasted them out of his apartment—which is one of the reasons he needs a good agent, and has one. With a professional in his corner he doesn’t have to pretend to be all goody-goody like a certain someone.

Pinky and Sparks-for-Brains storm into the apartment like a small tornado, taking turns presenting the various exhibits. Limited edition shoes and slippers in the entry—even though Deku only ever wears the red shoes out—posters from different eras of different heroes, a glass case filled with figurines… Katsuki swallows mild jealousy at the sight of an adjustable All Might figure he missed preorders on, and almost forgets this is meant to have something to do with him or with Deku’s fall from grace.

It’s odd that his agent sent this. Pinky and Sparks are just being themselves, and Deku’s apartment is disgustingly Deku-ish. There’s nothing to see there. Katsuki almost fast-forwards, but the glimpses of Deku keep him watching it at normal speed.

Deku doesn’t look like he’s on the edge of a breakdown. He’s obviously working to tame his hair minute to minute, and he’s pulled his shirt down over the exposed skin from earlier. His frantic explanation about how difficult it was to get a coveted Uravity action figure that hovers and spins on a platform is typically sweaty and typically him. There’s nothing to suggest he’s wasting away. In fact, he seems to have put on muscle since Katsuki last saw him, and while the pajama pants pool around his legs a back view of Deku shows they aren’t loose everywhere.

So it’s not a Deku fall from grace. What then? Did Deku leave something embarrassing out and blame Katsuki? Katsuki didn’t make it to fondue night; he knows for a fact he didn’t leave anything—

“Ah, no no no no no! That’s private!”

The camera shows Deku pulling Sparks away from a door, and as Deku contends with Sparks camerawoman Pinky dives past the two of them into Deku’s bedroom.

“I said glimpse behind the veil and I’ll provide a glimpse behind the veil!” Pinky yells. When the filming steadies to the sound of Deku’s pained whine, Katsuki covers his mouth.

His own face stares up out of the covers on Deku’s bed. Not actually his face, of course—he’s never been in Deku’s shitty bed—but a likeness. His likeness on a body pillow, to be exact.

He knows for a fact his agency does not sell officially licensed body pillows.

Pinky lets out something between a screech and a laugh. “Did I miss a sale? Deku! Where?” She scrambles to uncover the body pillow, and the pillow is revealed in full. Katsuki’s plush double is in partial undress, most of his clothes still on but a large section of stomach exposed to reveal abs. Pinky’s screeching increases in decibel as she films up and down Katsuki’s body.

“Stop screaming, people are going to stop watching!” Sparks says from behind the camera, followed by footsteps—and then he’s yelling too. His questions contain a lot of sounds, and a lot of laughter, but no discernable words.

It takes a long time for them to calm down.

“It’s not what it looks like,” Deku says into the eventual, gasp-laughter framed silence.

Katsuki is still trying to figure out what it looks like. He’d take any explanation and thank it for manifesting. There are no thoughts in his mind—not a one.

“I saw it at a street market in Taiwan while I was on a mission,” Deku says. “They just—the artist really nailed his glare, right? Doesn’t it look exactly like him? I had to have it. And then it seemed silly to have it and not use it.”

The camera moves to film a sheepish Deku, who finally looks awake. He’s scratching at the back of his head, the movement pulling his shirt tight across his pecs and biceps.

Impressive, hero-style muscles—which he’d been using to cuddle a Katsuki body pillow until the intrusion, apparently.

The weird sensation in Katsuki’s belly doesn’t fade as the tour goes on, punctuated by a lot more unprompted host giggles than before. Katsuki is embarrassed—but he’s not going to murder Deku over this or anything. He’s sure his agent was overcautious sending him the video. That’s what he pays her for, but he could have done without the early morning heart attack, thinking something terrible was about to happen to Deku’s reputation before he could beat him in the rankings fair and square. Katsuki leans back against the couch, blowing out a breath.

That’s when there’s a sound of something dropping against carpet—papers, or a magazine. There’s another flurry of activity from the host duo.

“Doujinshi, huh?” Sparks says knowledgeably, camera panning the front page of the first stack of papers he picks up—before yelling and dropping it. “Shit, dude, I’m sorry!”

Katsuki rewinds with some effort. Pauses on the thing Sparks had dropped with such alarm.

Ground Zero x Deku, the front states, with a suggestive image of Katsuki and Deku in torn uniforms, and a circle in the corner stating R18.

Holy. Shit.

Katsuki sets down his phone before he can explode it by accident. He clutches his head, grabbing at his hair. The body pillow: quirky, in character.

Fan magazines exploring Deku’s sexual relationship with a fellow pro hero? With Katsuki, of all people?

Shit! What the fuck! What was Deku thinking? Why hadn’t he thrown Pinky and Sparks out, if he has these kinds of things hidden? And why does he have these things in the first place?

His hands shake as he presses play.

“Shit, dude, I’m sorry!” Sparks yells again, and this time the terrible video doesn’t get paused, so Katsuki isn’t spared from the rest—where Pinky picks up something else and goggles and exclaims and says, “I had no idea you felt this way!” like she doesn’t realise a camera is even there. Maybe she’s actually forgotten; Sparks is the one filming, and he seems to have thrust the device against some part of himself.

“Oh, what…” Deku starts, and then there’s a weird sound, and the video ends. There’s no part three where Sparks and Pinky explain that this was all a joke and actually they set the whole thing up, and information under the video says it was deleted immediately after the stream—but others have reuploaded it.

Katsuki never looks at comment sections, because they’re a fast way to end up wanting to explode the whole world, but he looks now:

OMG, are Ground Zero and Deku dating? says one comment, which has been upvoted and commented on with lots of conjecture and a harrowing amount of gifs. Katsuki agrees with all the people who say most couples don’t buy body pillows and porn of their partners.

Definitely a set-up, someone else says, and passels of people agree and disagree, giving different factors—and sometimes the same factors—as evidence.

Ground Zero is gonna kill him when he sees, a commenter with a skull head icon says. I can’t wait to see him bust Deku’s ass.

A joker has replied to this last comment: Can you elaborate on ‘bust his ass’? ;)

Katsuki throws his phone across the room. It bangs into the wall and drops like a brick, but doesn’t break. Katsuki clenches his teeth and screams through them, completely overwhelmed—completely unsure of how the fuck to deal with this.

All he knows is this:

He is really fucking glad he has an agent.

 


 

The news burst about Deku’s little… stash… frames the story in a positive light. A man’s random embarrassing collection—which may include any number of things he was curious about that involve himself—has been shown to the public, and the reason the stream was cut and deleted was because there had been no content warnings.

Ground Zero has been unavailable for comment. Ground Zero, in fact, wanted to call in sick. This wasn’t permitted by his agent, and he had to go out and patrol and avoid anyone with a camera. He falls back on a stock phrase whenever people won’t leave him alone.

The internet fills with ‘I’ll kill you’ memes, collected over a single day of Katsuki’s patrols post-Deku-episode. His agent has told him to be angry—but he has to be generically angry. Unconcerned with rumours, but annoyed to be bothered.

He wishes for many things. He wishes that livestream had been pre-recorded instead so those idiots could decide not to upload it. He wishes Deku had laughed before the end of the video and said something like—oh, who knows. ‘That old thing? Haha! I was curious!’

Anything that makes it seem less severe. The body pillow could be explained away. The magazines…

Katsuki isn’t sure how he’s meant to feel, but when he’s not filled with rage he’s filled with a weird prickling sensation all over his skin. His hands ache to grab at Deku and demand explanations, but he avoids his phone even when it’s classmates calling and messaging, because he’s been told not to talk to anyone. He fucking listens to that advice. Because in this one specific situation, he has no clue what to do, and he’s happy to give up control to someone else who knows better.

He’s closer to thirty than twenty, just. He’s learned what he’s good at, and interpersonal shit isn’t it. Being a media darling isn’t it.

Apparently, as messages pile up in his phone during a highly stressful, yet uneventful day of work, dealing with emotions isn’t one of those things either.

Well, he’d known that. But maybe not the degree. Words are splashed across his mind at all times in bold font, decorated with torn uniforms:

Ground Zero x Deku.

What the fuck? He enters his apartment with an angry bang of the door at the end of his patrol, and waits for his only unmuted contact to contact him. And waits.

And then he can’t take it anymore, and he goes online. Like some kind of idiot.

Top Three Hero Deku Laughs Off Porn Collection, an article states, accompanied by a picture of Deku looking flushed as he throws his head back in laughter. It’s not a recent picture; Katsuki knows that because he recognises the interview it’s from. It was about All Might, not porn. Deku had been flustered but happy as he geeked out.

Katsuki stares at Deku’s image, teeth clenched. He wants to pin him and demand answers. Nothing gentle. He wants it to be how it used to be, when he was rough and angry and couldn’t keep that red-hot anger down even if it was going to cost him sponsorships. He wants to straddle Deku and put a nitroglycerin-weeping hand to his throat, threaten Deku into answers. He doesn’t want to be reasonable.

He doesn’t want to be friends.

It’s too late not to be friends. He and Deku—well, they get along. Ish. They understand each other, more to the point. Deku is an annoyance, but he’s fucking good at shit, and Katsuki respects that. He wants to pass Deku in the rankings. He’s working towards a future where he’s better than Deku in measurable ways. Where there’s no doubt or ambiguity, and certainly no sense of anyone playing favourites or letting someone else win.

He thinks of torn uniforms, and wants to explode.

 


 

Izuku is not having a good day.

He is, in fact, having a bad day. And yesterday was a bad day. And the day before that was a bad day. Before that—well, that was a perfectly good and normal day. In fact, it was the day before the world found out he’s a deviant who collects fanworks about himself and a childhood friend slash colleague he’s meant to have normal companionly feelings for.

It’s not that he’s gross about Kacchan. He just likes…

His thoughts stall out. Even in his own mind, he can’t justify it. Not now the secret’s out. Fame makes you curious about how you’re perceived, sure, but there’s a reason he collects stuff of him and Kacchan that has nothing to do with public image.

“It’s not as bad as it seems,” Uraraka says, sitting on his couch next to him, and he appreciates her, he really does, but she’s lying.

“Okay, fine,” she says. “It’s bad. But—you’re weird! That’s what you’re meant to be. People love you for it. Just keep saying you’ve collected all the other fan-stuff too and you appreciate every one. No matter who you’re paired with.”

“I said that,” Izuku says. “No one is gonna believe it.”

 Everyone believes it. It’s part of your image. I’m sure all the people who draw that stuff are super excited. You’re one of their own! A pro hero is supporting their pro hero hobby.”

Izuku leans forward, wishing his nails weren’t bitten to the quick so he could bite them down some more. He’s in a blanket cocoon on the couch next to Uraraka, which was comforting up until a moment ago, but now nerves warm him until he’s burning up.

“It doesn’t matter what everyone thinks if…” He can’t complete the sentence. Kacchan has been… uncommunicative. He isn’t answering Izuku’s calls or messages. In fact, he isn’t answering anyone’s anything.

“Bakugou is fine. It would take something much worse than this for him to not be fine.”

Izuku hides his face in his arms, curling up. “It was just a guilty pleasure! It was never meant to…”

“To get back to him?”

Izuku nods miserably. No one gets to choose what does it for them. He’s known for a while now that Kacchan’s violence and his raspy voice just… clicks. In that way. For him. He wanted to see what people thought about it. He likes to think about it himself. But he’d never… he wasn’t ever planning on…

“He thinks I’m disgusting,” Izuku says. “We were over all of that and I’ve put us right back in it.”

“He thinks having half an emotion is disgusting,” Uraraka says, sounding very reasonable. Then her voice gentles: “Don’t worry too much.”

Izuku surfaces to level her with a look; she shrugs.

“Are you going to keep hiding like a guilty person?” she asks.

Again he bemoans his lack of disposable nails. He wants to chew at them, but he wraps around himself instead. “Yes.”

There’s a phone ding, and Uraraka stops calmly gazing at him to check it. She smiles at the little screen.

“What?” he asks.

“Shouto admitted to collecting ‘something he wouldn’t want publicised either’. He’s pulling the attention away from you. Everyone’s trying to guess what he collects.”

It makes Izuku feel a little better—but he still can’t accept it. “He works at our agency. He’s meant to do that.”

“Everyone knows Shouto only does and says what he wants to do and say. You’re being ridiculous. Compare and contrast: Tenya, also at our agency, pretty much shouted down a reporter when asked about your stash and then ran away. Literally!”

Izuku laughs woodenly. Tenya was… not very good in that interview. Izuku looks at Uraraka gratefully, remembering her own response. She’d laughed and laughed, despite all the people asking what she thought of her past boyfriend collecting gay porn of himself. When she stopped laughing, she simply said Deku was Deku. That he was a collector ofeverything.

She’s a hero in a way that has nothing to do with quirks, and he loves her with the fire of at least three suns.

“He won’t hate you for this, you know,” she says. She says it kindly, sympathetically. Her hand presses against Izuku’s wrist in a reassuring gesture.

“I don’t know that at all.”

 


 

Katsuki hates Deku.

In a way, he’s always hated Deku. There has always been… something. Something not quite right. Something that got under Katsuki’s skin. For a long time Katsuki thought it was Deku’s intrinsic goodness—that certain something that made Deku a good person and Katsuki the opposite, someone people wanted to avoid. Now Katsuki knows differently.

It’s Deku’s hapless idiocy that does it. His willingness to be stepped on where necessary—the fact that he hadn’t thrown their friends out when they knocked on his door with a camera. He should have known. He should have…

“You’re doing very well,” Nonaka tells Katsuki through the phone. His agent’s voice is clipped yet soothing. “This will go away. My research suggests you shouldn’t respond officially.”

“You don’t want a response because you think I’ll be shit at it,” Katsuki bites off. He’s tired after another patrol; today he nearly lost a high-speed chase because he was thinking about stupid shit. His agent is soothing, but he can’t be soothed.

“Not really,” she says. “There seems to be an even split between people who want you to respond maturely and people who want you to explode—pardon the pun. In the absence of a favourite, ignoring it all is best. It keeps people interested to see what you really think.”

Katsuki hates this. He hates being analysed, and knowing there’s a right answer that might not align with what he wants to do. He’s learned patience, but it doesn’t come to him naturally. His hands ache for Deku’s collar; his throat is filled with angry questions.

“Can I go and talk to him?” he asks.

There’s a long silence on the line. “Can you promise me it won’t end in an extremely public fight?”

“Yes,” Katsuki says. He isn’t fifteen anymore—unlike some people who collect dirty mags and just leave them about their bedrooms—

“Then you can,” Nonaka says. “If it goes well, maybe you can talk to him about being seen in public together.”

“What?”

“Some harmless gossip can do wonders for a brand. You might see a boost in merchandise sales.”

“I don’t want a boost in merchandise sa—”

“The charitable arm of our agency can always use the extra funding.”

Katsuki loves his agent. He loves her—but he hates her too. He suspects that means she’s good at her job. She’s good at forcing him to do whatever needs to be done to be the best. That was one of the questions he asked her in the interview, whether she was prepared for that. She hasn’t backed off for a single second since she said yes and accepted his immediate offer.

He owes her his best attempt too.

“I’ll see if it comes up,” he says, and cuts the call.

 


 

Izuku’s stomach drops when he opens the door and sees Kacchan outside instead of the hero pizza delivery guy. Kacchan is holding the scheduled pizza box on one lifted hand, like he’s the delivery man, but he’s not had a sudden career change. A disappearing uniformed blur on the street points to the person who was meant to bring the box having been dealt with and sent away.

Delivery-snatching Kacchan is in one of his off-day black shirts paired with slim-fit chinos. It’s a departure from his previous cargo pants look, which was retired two years ago when a prominent magazine named Shouto ‘the hero world’s best-dressed babe’, even though Shouto pays even less attention to fashion than most of them do. Kacchan’s ever-so-slightly more mature look is a concession to fashion without being a concession to his resented mentor, Best Jeanist.

Izuku doesn’t know what expression Kacchan is wearing to go with the T-shirt and trousers, because he can’t meet Kacchan’s eyes. He stares at Kacchan’s chest and feels his cheeks flush painfully.

“I wasn’t—ah—expecting you…”

Kacchan pushes him back against a wall with the fingers of one hand, and moves past him. Izuku is being kept—quite literally—at arm’s length as Kacchan enters. Izuku’s body is strong as a tank, but he feels it weaken pathetically; his stomach is a roiling mess.

Ochako was wrong. Kacchan definitely hates him now.

“You shouldn’t be having pizza at all, but pizza for lunch is an even worse idea,” Kacchan says. He steps out of his shoes and into the house, letting go of Izuku. The points where his fingers pressed scorch with afterburn on Izuku’s chest.

Izuku rubs at the burn before following Kacchan. “I’ve been on night shifts all this week. Technically this is breakfast.”

“Night shifts—convenient. You don’t have to show your face in public after that idiotic stunt.”

A wave of embarrassed heat travels through Izuku. So Kacchan has seen the video. He hasn’t been living under a rock devoid of WiFi, like Izuku had secretly hoped when no one could contact him over the phone. Izuku watches Kacchan place the pizza on the table, his mouth resisting words. Maybe it knows he’ll babble.

“Why haven’t you told reporters just what you think?” Izuku asks once he can wrangle himself into coherent speech. Kacchan turns to face him, arms crossed. “It’s not like you to hold back.”

“Do you want me to call you a creep on TV?”

The embarrassed heat makes way for mortified cold, like ice water in Izuku’s veins. “I expected something along those lines, yes.”

“I haven’t talked about it because I don’t know what the fuck to say about it. Or what to think. What the fuck, Deku?”

“I know it looks pretty damning.” Sweat pricks Izuku’s skin. It doesn’t look damning; it is damning. He has a weird crush on his childhood friend slash bully slash coworker, and he lives in a world where people make merchandise that allows him to see himself have a relationship with the object of his affections—not to mention the body pillow. That reallywas an impulse buy, and he doesn’t regret it even if it makes the whole thing look worse.

 Do you just collect dirty shit of yourself? Any dirty shit?”

“No! I was just—curious.”

“You’ve always been a fucking weirdo. I can live with that. But why the fuck didn’t you throw those idiots out when they arrived at your doorstep?”

The incessant pace of Izuku’s heart stutters in confusion for just a moment. “Huh? That’s your problem?”

“You made it my problem by having that shit! Everyone’s got secrets, Deku! Not everyone just lets two idiots root through them for all the world to see!”

“I thought it would make me look guilty,” Izuku says, twisting his hands together.

“Yeah, because you look squeaky-clean now.”

Izuku can’t bear Kacchan’s stare. He feels every square centimetre of his comic collection weigh against his conscience, with Kacchan looking at him and knowing. Kacchan hasn’t ripped Izuku’s head off—but his hands are tied. He can’t exactly murder a fellow hero.

Kacchan’s arms drop out of their tense hold, and he sighs. “Why am I even angry? Knowing your fans, they’ll probably just like you even more for this. So what do you want me to tell people? My agent wants me to stay quiet on the subject.”

“I don’t want you to say anything!” Izuku says. What does it matter what Kacchan says to the public? What matters is that he doesn’t hate Deku to the point of utter disgust now. “I mean, you can say whatever you want. I can take it.”

“Okay. Then let’s go out to eat somewhere healthy.” Kacchan indicates the pizza with a grimace. “Don’t eat this shit. You’re meant to care about your body.”

“Uh?”

“You heard me. It’s bad for you.”

Izuku didn’t mean the thing about pizza, but—well, this works for him. He mentally promises the pizza he’ll eat it later and goes to his bedroom to change. His bookcase is like a furnace of guilt, red hot against one side of his body as he picks out an outfit composed—like most of his outfits—entirely of fan merchandise: wrapped Jet-Black Hero combat pants, fitted at the calves, and a limited edition Red Riot shirt that goes well with his shoes and terribly with his hair. Maybe the reminder that they have too many mutual friends to kill each other will help his case.

He’d expected Kacchan to leave and wait outside, not wanting to stay in Izuku’s midden of deviancy for a second longer, but Kacchan is still waiting in his living room when Izuku steps out.

Kacchan’s eyes scan him up and down. He doesn’t comment on the clothing picks, just shifts his weight and looks for a moment longer—then back up to his face. His jaw is tight.

“Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

That fucker is going to eat the pizza for dinner later when Katsuki is gone, Katsuki thinks angrily as he leads Deku to his favourite food place in Deku’s city. ‘Big Protein’ sounds like a burger joint, but it caters to health buffs—many of whom are heroes. There’s meat, sure, but there are seeds and sprouts and greens and a variety of legumes, plus some carbohydrate fillers for immediate energy. They all come with delicious sauces of equivalent nutritional value, many of which are spicy enough to please Katsuki. He’s talked to the owner about expanding the franchise into a chain, wanting a Big Protein in his city, but so far he’s had no luck.

The day is warm, perhaps the first day this year that short sleeves outside have been appropriate. Flowers decorate the city streets, drenching everything in bright colour and sweet smells. People aren’t letting the day go to waste; Katsuki spots a lizard quirk family blissed out on a bench as they bake in the sun, and some children too young for school are playing in a park they pass.

Deku says nothing on their walk to the city centre. He doesn’t even complain when he realises where Katsuki is taking him. Last time he complained; he’d said ‘you’re allowed to enjoy life, Kacchan’ in this amused voice when he saw Big Protein—a voice that had immediately gotten under Katsuki’s skin. Katsuki had chewed him out for it.

There’s no chewing out today. They walk into the establishment, habitually ignoring people taking pictures on their phones, and take the empty booth the waitress offers. It’s by a window, which will suit Katsuki’s agent just fine. Lots of people will see them having a meal together.

Katsuki still isn’t sure how it suits him.

Normally Deku fills in their silences. Katsuki had noticed that before now, but it hadn’t felt relevant. Now that Deku sits across from him staring holes into a menu, he realises he doesn’t know what the fuck they talk about.

Think . They talk about… work. Training. Food. Mutual friends. Memories. Sales. How Toshinori is doing.

They order, and the silence continues.

“Is it true?” Katsuki asks, foregoing all the usual, totally acceptable topics.

Deku startles. “Huh?”

“That it’s not just… stuff of me and you.”

Is Katsuki really fucking asking this? His mouth keeps forming the words, so he must be. “In your collection. Is it you and me fucking, or you and everyone, or some other combination?”

Deku won’t meet his eyes, staring stalwartly out the window. “That’s private.”

Katsuki beats down a tsunami wave of rage. How can it be private when he’s involved? He fights the indignation, trying for the reasonable approach Nonaka wants him to employ as much as possible.

“Yeah, and that’s why I’m asking,” he bites out. “That’s what people do when they want to know something. They ask, and the person can choose to answer or not answer based on how they feel.”

Until the person asking loses his patience, and crushes the person not answering against a wall—

“Does it matter?” Deku asks.

Katsuki scowls. “Of course it fucking matters!”

“Why?”

“Because—” words run away from Katsuki. Why does it matter? Because magazines of just him and Deku mean something, and magazines of Deku and everyone else mean very little.

Katsuki has sensed, deeply unwilling, which answer he wants to hear. And it’s Deku’s fault for putting the thought in his head.

“It’s fucking weird,” Katsuki mumbles, which Deku will probably interpret the wrong way, because it’s a stupid way of saying it. The fact that it matters is the thing that’s weird. Katsuki is sitting across from this guy he’s known forever, and they’re friends, and that guy has… thought about him. Like that. At least read about him like that. It’s suddenly impossible to consider Deku in the completely nonsexual way he’s used to.

Case in point: those hands. Blocky, scarred, strong. Those hands leafing through a porn doujinshi featuring Katsuki of all people, that stupid overthinking Deku-head thinking about him, and then—maybe—one of those strong hands moving below the waistline of limited-edition sweatpants to wrap around—

Fuck! This is impossible. Katsuki shouldn’t have invited Deku out, but he’d wanted this weird shit over with. He scrubs a hand through his hair and breathes deeply, trying to calm himself.

All he needs to do is make it through this lunch. He just needs to not think about Deku’s shoulders, or his mouth, or his hands, or those innocent freckles hiding the mind of a deviant. That’s all.

He can do this.

“I’m sorry,” Deku says. “Have I said that yet? I’m sorry you saw that, and I’m sorry it’s splashing back on you, and I’m sorry that it’s weird.”

He sounds like he means it. Better yet, he doesn’t say it in that self-deprecating, crawl-up-your-ass way he used to use when he was in trouble, where you could sense he’d say anything just to get the fight over with faster.

“It’s fine,” Katsuki says, finding that it is and it isn’t. The way it’s not fine has nothing to do with mistakes Deku has made.

Deku is right; this shit is private.

Katsuki’s anger leaves him like a cloud of tension evaporating. He’s slightly chilled when it’s gone, until Deku meets his eyes—for the first time in what feels like forever.

Deku goes red. Katsuki feels red.

“I was preparing to lecture you,” Deku says.

“You were?”

“Mm. About respecting boundaries.”

Katsuki stares. “ You , who owns a sexy body pillow of me, were going to lecture me on boundaries?”

“What a person has in their own bed is no one’s business! Even when Mina and Denki make it everyone’s business…”

“You’re not even going to offer to get rid of that stupid pillow?”

“Do you want him? I thought about giving him to you, but then I thought you wouldn’t properly appreciate him—”

“He’s an it ! And I don’t want it!”

“I’ll only get rid of him to a good home.”

Katsuki slams his clenched fists on the table. “Why are you so fucking weird?!”

Deku opens his mouth to reply, sending Katsuki’s blood pressure sky-rocketing—and then their food arrives, and the table escapes explosion by a hair. Kacchan looks down at his bowl and lets the sight of a perfectly balanced meal calm him as much as any sight can.

They eat in silence for a while, and then Deku starts talking about something Toshinori said on a call last night that has nothing to do with the stupid home invasion, and Katsuki realizes Toshinori will have… seen. Or heard. He waits for Deku to finish the story before asking:

“Did Toshinori see?”

“Hm? The villain? No, he ran away—”

“The video of your room,” Katsuki clarifies.

“Oh!” Deku colours again. “I mean, I imagine he did, or at least saw the news. But he won’t be surprised by it.”

“He expects this from his chosen successor?”

Deku laughs self-consciously. “Kind of? We do know each other. He’d probably just pat me on the shoulder and call me Midoriya-shounen … and he'd give some cobbled-together speech about hero life he just thought of to make me feel better. And make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Katsuki can imagine it vividly. He’s received a good amount of All Might shoulder pats and speeches in his day—and he tries not to be jealous of the easy understanding Toshinori and Deku have.

“That’s kind of what happened during buttgate,” Deku adds. Katsuki chokes on a bite of pickled seaweed. “I don’t know if you remember that? Four years ago, when they’d made those adjustments to my uniform around the thighs—and then one seam just pops, and—”

“I remember,” Katsuki says, past what feels like a wad of dry sesame seeds lodged in his throat. He coughs to dislodge them. Deku’s right buttcheek and a good amount of hip and thigh had made the news for a week straight. Katsuki had found the media spotlight disrespectful; their class group chat had found it hilarious. Deku in imagined sexy costumes had made the rounds online, with everyone chipping in to design their own take. Katsuki had angrily ignored most of the links everyone was sending while Deku laughed everything off.

He still remembers the one Todoroki had captioned with ‘tasteful and functional—maybe something to consider?’, tricking Katsuki into clicking the link—which contained a photoshopped image of Deku in a mankini and thigh high boots. Fucker.

“Anyway, he said no one cares in the long run,” Deku continues. “Which was a funny thing to say to me, when I can list every All Might wardrobe malfunction and the date it happened, but he probably means most people don’t remember.”

“Glad you realize you’re a freak,” Katsuki says. He can list the dates of All Might’s best fights; he doesn’t need to know when a nip slip occurred.

Deku doesn’t even comment on this. “He does say the media around heroes has gotten more intrusive since he was at the top of his game. I guess that’s true, when you think of how much of the news cycle is dedicated to stupid stuff happening to us.”

“People don’t want to think about the real problems,” Katsuki says, thinking of quirks that make children dangerous to themselves and their parents, and the evolution of mankind into something less and less human. A lot of his assignments these days don’t even deal with villains; they deal with quirk chaos. The lack of malicious intent doesn’t ensure anyone’s safety.

Some parents elect to use quirk-blockers on their children, but they carry their own risk for the child. Katsuki doesn’t know what he’d do if his hypothetical kid could cause entire houses to explode by accident.

Katsuki pokes the bottom of the bowl with his chopsticks and realizes the food is finished. He looks down in slight consternation. His belly is full, now that he thinks of it, but once the meal is over then…

Then what? Back to his own city to see Deku once every few months? Plotting his rise to the top while managing the agency he and Eijirou built from the ground up?

He should have accepted Eijirou's calls the past few days. His forced isolation is making him feel unmoored, and there's a sinkhole at the pit of his stomach as he watches Deku take the last bite of his meal.

The nice day continues on outside. Katsuki looks out at people enjoying themselves and a few people trying to look like they're enjoying themselves while actually filming the pro hero pair eating together. Nonaka will be happy.

"What now?" Deku asks, echoing Katsuki's thoughts.

"I don't know. This is as far as I got."

"How do you mean?"

"My agent told me to be seen in public with you, and not to give any official statements, and now I've done that. I guess everything blows over now."

" That's what this was about?"

Katsuki folds his arms. "What, you object to using publicity?"

Deku lets out a breath. "I thought you did."

"She said merchandise sales could help the charitable arm of the agency," Katsuki mutters.

For some reason, Deku laughs. "That's great, Kacchan! But maybe you should reinvest some of your earnings into merch redesigns? Action figures and clothing are good, but you're not using your full potential; I've always thought so. You and Eijirou are a dream team, but if you don't give your designers permission to make more stuff, all the money goes to the people who will design all that. There's a market."

"Are you talking about body pillows?"

Deku flushes. "I bought a Deku pillow cover at that market too, and got my people to contact the artist for licensing so we could make it official."

"You have a Deku one too?"

"Yeah! I don't have a pillow for him though. The one I used for Kacchanmakura came from an All Might pillow I'd worn the cover to bits on. You buy the pillow bit separately, see."

Katsuki shakes his head to clear it of the ins and outs of body pillow ownership. What he registers is that he's taken All Might's place on a pillow, and All Might is a mentor figure for Deku and not a romantic interest, and that means… something.

The heat inside Katsuki twists and turns, wanting an outlet. He's not good at any of these things, and he may have matured since high school, but the thought of letting Deku reject him makes acid in his stomach burn the lining away to nothing.

He looks at Deku's mouth and imagines biting the bottom lip enough to make it bleed. He thinks of the noises Deku might make, how his number three hero body would push back against Katsuki's number eight one.

Katsuki wants to read those stupid doujinshis and then explode them so Deku is just as lost as he is, without any resources to imagine them together. It would serve him right.

"Dessert?" Deku asks into what has become an uncomfortable silence. "Does this place do dessert?"

Katsuki veers back into the present. "Big Protein does everything," he says, and he must be very close to how he felt at fifteen now, because some part of him wants to add: stupid Deku.

And it's all Deku's fault—stupid Deku.

 




Stupid Deku pays for the meal, which seems appropriate in Katsuki’s complex calculation of owing and treating and differences in their paygrade versus expenditures. Of course, income spent on meals can be subtracted from income tax as a business expenditure, so the reasonable prices at Big Protein become even more reasonable with this consideration.

God damn, Katsuki wants a Big Protein in his city. Should he move?

“Are you taking the train back?” Deku asks as they leave the restaurant. Cold washes across Katsuki at the reminder despite the balmy spring air. He doesn’t belong here; he’s meant to go back.

“Hold on,” Katsuki says. “Stay here—find somewhere to sit, or do squats, or something.”

Deku doesn’t find somewhere to sit, but he does stay motionless gazing in confusion, and with one more gesture for him to stay put Katsuki walks away.

He turns off the complex Do Not Disturb setting he’s engaged since the house incident, and checks on Eijirou. Messages have piled up, mostly asking him if he’s okay, then accusing him of using DND again and how Eijirou is going to show up at Katsuki’s house if he doesn’t answer soon. Katsuki calls, hoping to spare Eijirou a trip.

“Dude!” Eijirou says when he picks up.

“Hey.”

“You had us all worried sick! Nonaka told me you were fine, but I thought you might be really offended or something. I was going to come over today when I saw the articles about you visiting Deku pop up.”

“Everything’s fine.”

“Obviously! But I was so worried! I know you’re weird about sex, so maybe this—”

“Shut up.”

“Case and point. You need to talk to someone! Unless you’re talking to Deku about it?”

“Why would I talk to Deku about—” Katsuki cuts himself off, realizing the question makes it seem like he agrees with Eijirou’s statement, which he doesn’t. “I’m not weird about anything.”

“You make abstinent monks look like hedonists. C’mon.”

There’s a part of Katsuki that wishes he’d taken up Eijirou’s offers to talk years ago; then he might know what to do with the things he’s been thinking for the past few days, and the way he can’t look at Deku without the thoughts turning sordid. There’s a heat inside of him that has nothing to do with his quirk.

"Everyone else is weird about sex," Katsuki says, hoping the sentence carries a note of finality.

"Well, that's true. So what's up? Are you coming back? I could meet you at the station."

Katsuki pauses. He and Eijirou don't have to work on a set schedule, but days off don't make for a rise in the rankings.

"Could you make do without me for a bit?" Katsuki asks, the words strange in his mouth.

Eijirou is silent for too long. Katsuki can hear his gasp when he remembers, after a long moment, to breathe. Then: "Sure! Sure, of course."

"What was that?" Katsuki asks.

"What was what?"

"What did you just think?"

"Nothing! I didn't—okay, fine. Are you staying with Deku? Are you two—"

" No! I'm just—taking a break. I'll find a hotel room or something. Maybe if I eat at Big Protein again tomorrow the owner will agree to expand."

Eijirou lets out a longing sigh. "I was so jealous when I saw you went there…"

"It's unreasonable for it to stay in just one city."

"Tell me about it!" Eijirou says. He means it, too; he owns one of the restaurant t-shirts that says 'Big Protein' in bold letters. Deku doesn't know how good he has it, living here.

"Talk to you later," Katsuki says.

"Bye!"

They cut the call, and Katsuki heads back to where he left Deku. A small group of admirers is watching Deku from afar, but Deku is reading something on his phone. Katsuki takes advantage of his inattention, looking his fill.

Deku never got truly tall, but he did grow a little—and then he grew a lot in non-vertical directions. Every bit of that body is honed to a fine point, deadly to all who cross it. The gift from All Might that slumbers inside has a vessel worthy of it, wrapped in fan merchandise that fits a little too well.

And Deku's face? It's plain. Should be plain, anyway, when you take all the features put together, but there's always something about it—something extra. In this moment of inattention his lowered eyes give him a faraway look, eyelashes long. His plain bone structure at rest seems elegant. The hardness of his jaw—easy to miss when he's smiling—is pronounced. The innocent freckles seem a sick joke, given all Katsuki knows, but somehow that's what makes them perfect.

Deku looks up and jumps. "Kacchan! You're done?"

"Yeah. I'm staying here for a bit."

"Huh?"

"I need a break. I’ll stay in that place I stayed last time—"

“—and eat all your meals at Big Protein?” Deku asks. His smile gets under Katsuki’s skin. “Why don’t you stay with me?”

Something stupid catches fire inside of Katsuki. “That’d be weird.”

“You could make sure I don’t eat that pizza.”

Katsuki’s mouth sets. “I knew you were planning on that.”

And I could lend you All Might pajamas.”

“I’ll set your house on fire.”

“Is that a yes?”

Katsuki isn’t used to fear, or nerves. He’s used to blasting through them—but they tickle under his skin now, electricity jumping from pore to pore. “It’s a yes,” he manages.

 




Izuku doesn’t know what’s happening. Shouto is in his messages insisting this is a booty call, but Kacchan is strange and quiet and doesn’t seem interested in… well, booty. He seems like he might be burned out, if Izuku is honest. Should Izuku call Eijirou and see if anything else is up? Is their agency doing okay—or is this the usual pressure Kacchan places on himself?

They understand each other, him and Kacchan. Maybe that’s why Kacchan came here for one thing and ended up staying once the thing was resolved; he has a habit of quietly stewing on things. His explosive anger used to carry him through to resolutions.

Is that anger still in there?

“Home sweet home,” Izuku says, pushing the door open. His house is transformed with all the sunlight, and the sight of it makes him realise he should probably come off full night shift for a while. Life has been something of a blur for the past month, and he’s felt like his house is a midden rather than a place he likes to spend time.

It’s a nice house. It has a ridiculous amount of protection from villain attacks, but all of that is invisible to the human eye. Best of all, it’s filled with all his favourite stuff.

He glances at Kacchan, wondering what he’s thinking. Kacchan is frowning, but that could mean anything.

“Want something to drink?” Izuku asks.

“I know where the kitchen is. Do you want anything?”

A laugh escapes Izuku at the combative tone. What is Kacchan trying to prove? “Are you going to make me a signature cocktail if I ask for one?”

Kacchan harrumphs. As the designated fun police who nonetheless likes showing off, Kacchan had swiftly found his niche once their friend group began drinking in their late teens. He’d promoted himself to bartender and taken it weirdly seriously; he can juggle stuff and use his explosions to set a variety of drinks on fire, which just never gets old—especially since Kacchan glares the whole time, like he isn’t the one who decided to start doing it.

Izuku sighs a little with longing, though he tries to keep it quiet and unnoticeable. He just… really loves Kacchan. He wonders what it’s like to fall for someone who likes you back in some really simple, straightforward way.

He’s not sure Kacchan has ever liked anyone straightforwardly. Eijirou probably comes closest.

“I thought this was your morning,” Kacchan says. “You drink in the morning?”

“It’s afternoon by now.” Maybe a stiff drink will help Izuku understand what kind of situation he’s in—but Kacchan glares.

“I’ll make you a virgin one if you really want it.”

“So strict,” Izuku says, laughing a little. Maybe it’s better that his fantasies are just fantasies; dating Kacchan would probably be like dating your personal fitness trainer—and Izuku is no slouch in the first place. “Surprise me?”

Izuku seats himself at the kitchen bar as Kacchan rattles about his kitchen, looking displeased with everything he finds.

“All your citrus is rotten,” he informs Izuku, throwing two lemons and a lime onto a counter without removing his head from the fridge. “No mint…”

The mumbled diatribe continues, and Izuku watches Kacchan toss stuff about. He could watch forever, looking at the way Kacchan’s muscles move under the black T-shirt as he rifles through refrigerator drawers—but he’s destined not to when his phone goes. His thumb moves automatically to ignore the call, but stays there hovering as he sees the number. It’s his recalcitrant inside contact on a long-running case.

Damn it . He has to take this.

“I’ll be back in a bit,” Izuku says, holding up his phone for Kacchan to see. “Work stuff.”

Kacchan waves, head still in the fridge, and Izuku gets down from the stool. He picks up a half-full notebook and a pen before wandering outside through the glass doors at the back.

“Hello?” he says.

The contact begins to talk, and Izuku sits in a patio chair to take notes.

It takes longer than Izuku wants it to. He wants to go back and watch Kacchan angrily dissect his kitchen; there are few sights more endearing than a disgruntled Kacchan doing a domestic chore he’s pretending not to enjoy.

Alas, this contact's report is important, and then Izuku has to call Shouto to relay the important details.

"Is Bakugou still there?" Shouto asks when they’re done discussing the case.

"Yeah. I went outside to make calls."

"That's brave."

"Huh?"

"You trust him in your house alone with your things? He's got to be curious."

Izuku laughs uncomfortably. "He wouldn't go through my things, even if he wanted to. Our Kacchan has a strict moral code!"

"And years of good behaviour to make up for."

"This is not a booty call, and he is not going through my things right now."

There's a smile in Shouto's voice, familiar as breathing. "We'll see. I don't mind winning money from Tenya."

" You bet on it?! "

"I suggested it. I think Tenya bet against me to defend your honour. There was a lot of spluttering."

Izuku laughs, wondering how someone as purely good as Tenya ended up mixed with them. Izuku’s a deviant, Shouto is a soft-spoken agent of chaos, and Ochako schemes like a pro.

"I should go back inside," Izuku says.

"Mm. I'll let you know what I find tonight."

They hang up, and Izuku walks back inside. "Kacchan?"

"Still here."

All Izuku's spices are out on the kitchen counter, and one of his cupboards is open and bare. Izuku wonders if this mystery drink will require an entire kitchen remodel, thoroughly amused and thoroughly fond. Shouto was wrong, and Izuku was right; it makes Izuku glow. He has known Kacchan longest; it stands to reason.

Kacchan is holding a container of dried onions Izuku doesn't remember buying, turned away from the back doors. Izuku approaches—then stops, still in the living room rather than the kitchen. There's something off about the way Kacchan is standing. He's too tense, his brows too furrowed. It should look natural, but it doesn't.

Does Shouto know Kacchan better after all? Did he snoop?

Izuku sidles so he can see Kacchan’s face better. Something is definitely wrong. Kacchan’s eyes are unfocused, his grip on the plastic container bending it.

“Kacchan?” Izuku asks.

"I threw something in the paper recycling," Kacchan says. "Are you trying to be caught out? Testing me? What?"

The tremor in his angry voice is new—or rather, very old. Izuku freezes where he stands, old instincts prevailing until he remembers the last ten years. He's not a child anymore.

It still takes him a long moment to understand the problem. He traces the steps: Kacchan threw something in the recycling, and then…

And then he saw the bit of Izuku’s doujinshi collection Izuku had shamefully thrown there during a particularly bad moment of conscience.

Izuku chokes. He still hasn't decided if he's actually going to throw it out—but what had Kacchan just said about it? Are you testing me?

Izuku may be under some embarrassment-inducing curse this week, but the absurdity of that accusation makes any mortification fall away.

"Yes, Kacchan. My life revolves around you. I put that there hoping you'd see it and take me where I stand. I definitely didn't put it there because I was embarrassed about the whole thing and thought I ought to get rid of it."

Sweet-smelling nitroglycerin drips from the container Kacchan holds. There's a sparking, but no explosion yet.

Then Kacchan throws the plastic jar, and Izuku lunges for it before it can come apart and cover his living room with onions. He catches it and sets it down next to an All Might figurine on a shelf.

"Should I give you a minute?" he asks. He turns back to face Kacchan, no longer amused—which is when Kacchan vaults the kitchen bar and storms him.

Chapter Text

Katsuki hasn't felt enraged confusion like this in a good long while. As his hand reaches out for Deku's throat, his leap carrying him clear across the living room, he finds that he's missed it.

Not the feeling itself, but the acting on it. His blood steams inside of him, and then they're tumbling down onto the floor together, Deku deflecting the hand that had reached to choke him. They roll into a set of shelves, which begin to wobble. For a moment Deku is distracted, whipping out a hand to steady it from toppling.

Katsuki doesn't like that. He wants Deku's full attention. He goes for the throat again, and this time he manages to grip it.

It's thick with muscle, and Katsuki's rage-sweat makes the soft skin slick. He'll have to move fast—

Deku punches him in the gut, and uses his flinch to roll them. Deku doesn't attempt to remove Katsuki’s hand from his neck, which is stupid because Katsuki could fucking explode his head off from here. Instead he pins Katsuki, setting a forearm to his throat in return and pushing.

"Get off," Katsuki wheezes. He strains under Deku, but Deku is like a slab of marble on top of him.

"Do you promise not to attack me again?" Deku asks, breathing hard.

"No."

The pushing on Katsuki's neck gets harder. He grits his teeth, trying to get a foot under him for leverage. It feels good to be fighting, but it would feel better in an open field, no holds barred; he hates everything except the pain right now. He hates that he looked when he saw something colourful under an opened envelope in the neat little box of papers Deku keeps under the sink. He hates that Deku bought weird shit of them, and now he hates that Deku wants to get rid of it.

He thrusts his hips up into Deku's ungiving hold, and Deku lets out a strangled noise of surprise. Some of the iron goes out of his grapple, and Katsuki pulls his hands back to blast an explosion against Deku's chest.

Deku jumps up and back, away from the fire. Katsuki flips into a stance. He charges forward before Deku can gather himself, crashing Deku into a wall and pinning him.

"You want to do all that stuff to me?" Katsuki rasps. "You think I'd ever let you?"

Deku blinks across at him. "It's fictional. Of course you wouldn't let me. Do you think I think—"

"Shut up! Show me who else you've got. Uravity? Shouto? Who do I share this honour with, Deku?"

Deku pushes him back.

"Tell me why," Katsuki commands. Deku has never even hinted at an interest. He… there was some weird tension, in school. Moments when Katsuki felt like he was missing some vital piece of information. A pull in his stomach, a flickering under his skin—and then graduation. Learning to be a pro hero, their whole class scattered across the country, and the times they had together slowly became shared memory.

There was never any… none of the stuff people are told to look for. There were catch-ups, and good conversations, and mutual support, but no…

Fuck. Katsuki isn't even sure what the two of them beginning to date would have looked like. They know each other too well; it's a hopeless endeavour.

He feels hopeless.

"Ask me or don't, Kacchan. Not why . Ask me if I'm into you."

"Are you into me?" Katsuki asks. His hands ache with heat.

"Yes. Now can you either decide you're fine with that or—"

Katsuki doesn't give Deku a chance to finish his sentence. He lunges, but this time not to choke or hurt. He mashes their mouths together in the worst kiss of the century. For a moment he tastes lingering sweetness from the dessert they shared at lunch as Deku gasps—and then the copper tang of blood.

Shit. Whose lip got bitten? His or Deku's? He pulls back to examine Deku's mouth, touching a finger to it, and is relieved when an absent swipe of his tongue against the inside of his mouth gives him the metal flavour again. His own lip—good. He didn't bite Deku.

Deku lets out an uneven breath. "What…?"

Katsuki can't answer that. "You want it, right?"

A long stare. Deku doesn’t smile, but after a long moment he reaches up to cup Katsuki's face, and Katsuki’s skin catches fire. Deku keeps on staring, and Katsuki clenches his fists so his hands won't tremble as Deku leans in, still watching, and kisses him.

Deku is good at kissing. He doesn't just thrust his mouth in a direction; he maneuvers them both so it's soft and hard at the same time. 

It feels good. Too much for Katsuki, but good. The rush inside of him is almost painful, like a thunderstorm against his nerves.

The sweep of Deku's tongue startles him. For a moment he’s surprised, filled with liquid heat—and then he surges forward bodily, wanting to respond, but there's only a flash of contact before Deku pulls back.

"Really?" Deku asks, green eyes scanning his. Katsuki is sure he looks like an idiot, his breath going fast and his face flushed; he only remembers to close his mouth after a long moment.

"Really," Katsuki says. The word seems to be dredged up from his toes, pulled up through his whole body to scrape out of his throat.

He doesn't want to think or doubt. He just wants this, for now, whatever bullshit it brings in the future.

Deku's hands are still holding his face, the strength in them obvious even when he's not gripping hard. Katsuki isn't prepared for him to drop them and step away, but that's exactly what Deku does.

"What are you doing?" Katsuki asks. Deku ignores him; he looks around the room, pats himself down, then takes Katsuki's shoulders.

"What did you tell me when I scraped my knee at the zoo when we were eight?" Deku asks with utmost seriousness.

Katsuki wants to attack again. "How am I supposed to remember that?"

"You were trying to get me to stop crying. What would you have said?"

Katsuki isn't prepared for a pop quiz. He wants to be touching Deku again, but Deku is looking at him like this shit is important as hell.

"I don't know!" Then, an extremely vague memory surfacing: "Was it right after All Might's big Utapau Dam fight?"

Deku's eyes light up as he nods.

Katsuki sighs. "It was probably some shit about how All Might got hurt much worse and didn't cry at all. Am I right? Why the fuck does it matter?"

"Have you had any villain encounters lately? Or just weird encounters in general, that didn't seem right?"

"This encounter is getting worse and worse. What the fuck, Deku?"

"You're not under some weird quirk's influence?"

Katsuki stares.

"Kacchan," Deku says softly. "Can you answer the question, please?"

"I didn't accost you because of some fucking quirk, okay? What is it you want to hear?"

Deku shakes his head. “There’s no way you’re this timid.”

" Timid?! "

Deku doesn't explain, but his green eyes seem to strip Katsuki bare. You know what I mean , they say, and they're right. He does know. Why bury those feelings, and then leap at this random chance?

All Might chose Deku. The kind one, the one who cared the most about saving people. All Might had said both their views on hero work at age sixteen were necessary to succeed—but he'd chosen Deku.

"Everyone gets older," Katsuki hedges. "Who the fuck knows when anything changes?"

"I hope you're not changing yourself for anyone else's sake."

"I'm doing it to pass you in the rankings." After a moment, Katsuki adds: "Fucker."

“Even for rankings, you can't have changed that much. You wouldn't want something and then not try to get it. Unless this is… I don't know, a passing fancy? Thought you'd try it out? We'd better not if—"

"Shut up. You think too much. You're a fucking freak who thinks too much."

"What does that mean? That this is a one-time thing we’re not meant to think through?"

"Fuck you.” Katsuki looks away. A one-time thing? No—emphatically no. But he has no idea how to make Deku understand what this is for him. He doesn’t understand, not yet. “It means there are things I don't know how to want." Things I don't want to admit to wanting.

Deku’s face is too serious; Katsuki wants to punch it. Or to kiss it again, but his kisses are terrible.

“Why is it on me?” Katsuki asks eventually, his voice smaller than he wants it to be. “If you wanted, then—then why didn’t you...”

Deku looks away, like he’s too chickenshit to answer. The answer is clear, anyway. There’s something wrong with Katsuki that made it easier to buy weird shit than ask him on a fucking date. I know you’re weird about sex , he hears Eijirou say again.

Fuck .

“I thought you’d hate me for it,” Deku says. “Watching interviewers try to flirt with you before they learned not to was like watching… I don’t even know what it was like. Terrible. You obviously thought love and sex were disgusting.”

“Fuck you,” Katsuki repeats, without heat. Those things are disgusting. Being wanted is disgusting, and wanting is disgusting too—but if it’s Deku, it’s okay. Somehow it’s okay.

“Kiss me again,” Katsuki commands. He glares until Deku obeys. This time Deku doesn’t hold his face. Instead he sets his hands on Katsuki’s waist and pulls him in so they’re chest to chest, their similar heights no barrier—Katsuki is only a little bit taller now. Very slowly, Deku kisses him. It’s just as good as the time before, and maybe better. Katsuki can feel how Deku’s chest rises and falls too fast, his breathing uneven as he moves their mouths together. Katsuki grips the front of Deku’s shirt to keep him from pulling back, the sweet scent of his own sweat a familiar annoyance.

Deku's mouth working his open isn't disgusting. It tastes good, and it makes Katsuki feel this hunger that seems natural instead of vulgar. He never wants to stop.

They pause after a long while, foreheads pressing together as they breathe hard. “Kacchan,” Deku says. "This makes no sense."

"I explained it," Katsuki says. He can't discuss it again. He'll explode his own face off rather than jump through that series of hoops a second time. He just wants Deku to take charge and… do whatever it is that people do now. It doesn’t seem like a ridiculous expectation; Deku outranks him, and he’s presumably done these things before.

"Tell me you haven't changed enough to let me do something you don't like," Deku says.

"I like it," Katsuki says. He hates having to spell it out. "Just do it."

Deku sputters. "You're not some… some virgin sacrifice! I don't need anything from you that you don't—"

Katsuki loses patience. He grips Deku's Red Riot shirt—a little singed from earlier—and yanks it up. Up, up, up, over Deku's arms, which Deku lifts for him. Katsuki's breath leaves him in a rush at the sight of Deku's bare chest—the tracework patterns of scars over hard muscle, the pink nipples begging to be worked over. He drops the shirt in favour of putting his hands on Deku.

Deku keeps his head ducked; he seems to be muttering. He moves his hips away from Katsuki’s, trying not to face him head-on, and Katsuki grabs those hips and pushes his own into them. The reason Deku was trying to face away becomes abundantly clear.

Deku is hard. Not getting hard—he’s there, aching and ready. The change in Katsuki is instant—like fire catching. Yes . If he’d known at age thirteen that another guy’s dick hard against him would make him feel like this he’d have jumped off a bridge. If he’d known then that the guy would be Deku he’d have dragged Deku off the bridge with him.

There are no bridges today. All Katsuki wants is to keep going. Deku’s gasping breaths are fuel to the fire, and the sense of holding all the power is heady. 

Katsuki doesn’t hold the power, of course. He has no fucking clue what to do, and he doesn’t want to do this with anyone else, whereas Deku—well, whatever. Deku can probably do whatever and whoever he likes, but Katsuki won’t let him. 

“Stop trying to get away,” Katsuki grates out at Deku’s third attempt to get some distance between them. “I know you’re hard, fucker. Just admit it.”

“I don’t want to—” Deku gasps, splashing cold water over Katsuki’s libido for a moment—and then he continues: “I don’t want to make you… think less of me…”

“Why the fuck would I think less of you?!” Katsuki asks. His everything is hard—his dick, his nipples, his heartbeat. He licks a stripe against Deku’s chest and fumbles for Deku’s zipper, wanting to make a point. Somehow he undoes the button, the top of the zip, and sticks a hand down the front of Deku’s pants before Deku can gasp anything else ridiculous.

Katsuki’s hand slides by coarse hair, rough on his knuckles—and then his hand is wrapping around Deku’s cock, and it’s nothing like touching himself. Katsuki palms the shaft of it, knowing he’s coating it with his own scent but not caring. The dimensions are startling: thick, and heavy when Katsuki lifts it to feel along its length better. Deku lurches, head hitting Katsuki’s shoulder—and then Deku sort of arm-slaps him so his grip falters, and before Katsuki can regrip Deku is bending to lift him.

Deku carries him to the bedroom.

Katsuki doesn’t make it easy, because Deku has One for All and can carry a building one-handed; he can fucking work for it. Unsurprisingly—or unsurprisingly if Katsuki had realised years ago what he was capable of feeling—the strong thing is a turn-on. Fuck it’s a turn-on. 

“Hold still,” Deku breathes, setting a knee on the bed. Katsuki grips Deku’s face and attempts to kiss like Deku kisses. It’s too open-mouthed, too much tongue, but Deku doesn’t seem to mind. The noises he makes are helpless ones of approval, not censure.

Not that Katsuki expects Deku to be a prude when he has all that ridiculous merchandise—but it’s still nice to feel him responding. To know this is a thing Deku wants from him, with him.

“I love you,” Deku says, shuffling forward on his knees. “Kacchan, I love you, I love you—”

“Shut up!” Katsuki says. His stomach twists with discomfort. “You don’t mean that.”

“Don’t I?” Deku asks, laying Katsuki down with utmost care. The gentleness is intimidating for a moment—and then Deku is pulling Katsuki’s shirt off, and somehow that's reassuring.

Deku lowers his head to press a kiss to Katsuki’s bare shoulder.

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe me,” Deku says. His mouth moves—trails kisses down diagonally. “You don’t have to love me back.”

What the fuck does that mean? Katsuki would have a clearer head to think it over if Deku's mouth wasn't on him. A sudden sucking on Katsuki's nipple makes him gasp, arousal lancing through him like there's a line straight from his nipple to his dick. Deku takes his time evening him out before moving on; soft, wet kisses cover Katsuki's skin, and Katsuki isn't sure how a kiss to his rib can feel sweet and lingering, but Deku manages it.

“What are you talking about…” Katsuki starts to say, but the second half cuts off into a mumble as Deku descends lower, kissing Katsuki’s belly over and over. He kisses a circle around Katsuki's navel, and Katsuki thinks he might die.

Deku is a pro at this; another way he's surpassed Katsuki. Fucking hell. Katsuki will have to catch up fast, but it's hard to focus on what Deku's doing for pointers when it's all Katsuki can do to keep his hips down. He has to resist the violent urge to rock up; the last thing he wants is to crush Deku's windpipe with his hard-on.

It's a good thing Katsuki has some scrap of self-control left, because Deku lacks the least bit of self-preservation. Deku lets his body brush up against Katsuki's cock—and then, fuck, he's moving down Katsuki's body to mouth exactly where Katsuki wants it.

Exactly where it's too much to bear.

"What!" Katsuki yells. What is Deku doing? This… this…

People do this , he reminds himself. Isn't it disgusting, though? Katsuki doesn't mind jerking himself off with his hand when he needs to let off steam, but Deku's mouth is on him—through two layers of clothes, sure, but there.

"Kacchan, can I?" Deku asks. His eyes are heavy-lidded when he raises them to look at Katsuki. The way his attention falls back to Katsuki's cock straining in his pants almost immediately has Katsuki dry-mouthed and writhing. Deku is just… gazing at his stupid gross dick like it's a fucking prize, and Katsuki is going to go insane.

"Yeah," Katsuki rumbles, not trusting his voice above a low groan.

Deku gives no verbal acknowledgement before undoing Katsuki's belt and trousers. He pulls, and Katsuki is stuck between trying to help and trying to hide himself. No one's ever… he hasn't been like this in front of…

Katsuki's naked skin is on display for a hot second before Deku dives down, taking the head of Katsuki's cock into his mouth. Katsuki startles, feeling like he ought to… god, whatever. Shrink away, or something. For Deku's sake. Deku is obviously in the grip of temporary insanity, wanting Katsuki's cock in his mouth to the point of moaning around it, and they're friends now so Katsuki should—

Deku pulls off, and the sight of his mouth glistening wetly over his cock has Katsuki choking.

"You don't have to," he says quickly, strained. "You can just…"

"Want to," Deku sighs. He licks along the shaft—one side, then the other. His blissed out expression leaves no room for doubt. "I've wanted to."

Katsuki wheezes his exasperation before swallowing it, figuring Deku deserves to choke on his dick if he has this little care for himself. Deku seems intent on doing just that, more or less worshipping the fucking thing. Acting like it's delicious instead of disgusting. The sight is…

Katsuki reaches for the habitual disgust. He reaches far —and he can't find it. It's just not there; all he wants is for Deku to take him in, to choke him down. Deku obliges, moaning, and that would do it on its own—but one of Deku's hands is massaging Katsuki's glute, and the other is in Deku's own pants, and the sight of that is like kryptonite. The pressure inside Katsuki builds to a breaking point in seconds, and then he's spilling down Deku's throat without even a word of warning, making inhuman, suffering sounds he can't do shit to hold back.

Deku lurches over him. For a second Katsuki thinks his gag reflex acted up, and looks down in concern—only to see the jerking of Deku's hips into his hand. He's fucking… come, from this. From Katsuki on his tongue.

"Deku—fuck—what…" Katsuki's hips are still stuttering. He tries to push at Deku's shoulders, get him off, but Deku is marble once again. Greedy, wanting marble.

Eventually Deku draws back. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, bites his lip with some quiet brand of joy—then looks up at Katsuki like he forgot who was there. His face goes cherry-red.

"Um," he says.

"I sense you're about to say something idiotic," Katsuki says, rising up on his elbows. He can feel the warmth in his own face echoing Deku's sudden embarrassment.

"Probably," Deku says. He laughs a little, obviously nervous. "Um…"

"Spit it out."

"Was that okay?"

Okay is not the word Katsuki would use. His body still feels like something inside it is glowing, pulsing, and he's not sure what he's going to do with the rest of his life now he knows what it's like to come with Deku's mouth wrapped around him.

"Date me," he says, rather than answer that ridiculous question. "Exclusively."

"I—" Deku blinks several times, rather comically. He crawls up Katsuki's body. "Do you mean that?"

Katsuki nods jerkily. He doesn't give a shit how much of a pervert Deku is—he wants in on it. He can't be made to forget now.

Deku's smile is like a sunrise. "Yes," he says. "Of course, Kacchan."

"Don't look so smug."

"I can't help it. Are you sure you didn't mean to say 'die, peasant'? Did I mishear? Am I dreaming?"

"Yes, you're dreaming. That's why your mouth is full of my cum."

Deku chokes a laugh. "I swallowed ages ago!"

"Disgusting. Spit next time."

Deku doesn't agree to do so, but he does smile. "Not a bad dream if it was," he says.

"Hm." 

The afterglow sensation pulls Katsuki into the bed. His eyelids flutter—and then he feels a hand on the side of his face, and looks up at Deku. An unwilling smile pulls at his mouth; he can't stop it.

"Hey," Deku says.

It’s hard for Katsuki’s eyes to stay open, but he tries. Deku is glowing, and that’s worth the effort. "Hey," Katsuki says.

"You meant the dating thing?"

"Mm."

"You know I have a body pillow of you and a doujinshi collection?"

"It's come up."

"And poseable figures?"

Katsuki's eyes stop falling closed. "What?! God damn it, Deku."

Deku is still smiling, but he actually looks a little worried.

"Yes. That's… fine. Or whatever." Katsuki lets his head fall back down.

A long, hazy silence, and then: "Are you falling asleep?" 

The question seems to come from very far away. It's Deku asking, and it's very nice to hear Deku as he falls asleep—because yes, he is falling. "Mm," he manages.

Deku puts him under the covers. Katsuki is warm, and he's never felt this relaxed in his life. Never fucking ever.

"Don't eat the pizza," he tells Deku, or tries to—and then he's gone.

It feels amazing to be gone.

 





A doorbell wakes Katsuki from the sleep of a lifetime. He's mostly naked, clad in just his boxers, and his skin is deliciously bed-warm.

He opens his eyes to Deku watching him. It gives him a jolt of surprise—and then he puts a hand over Deku's face.

"Stop staring. I'll get that."

"You don't have to! I'll get it, I was just—"

"Being creepy, yeah. I saw." Katsuki pushes himself back and rolls out of bed. His body still aches faintly with pleasure. He walks up to the door display to check on the people outside.

Sparks and Pinky stand there, no camera in sight. Katsuki looks down at himself—mostly naked in Deku's entryway.

The doorbell goes again, and Katsuki wrenches the door open. The surprise will serve them right.

"Yes?" he says.

"B-Bakugou?!" Sparks yells.

"Yeah. Talk fast. Door closing in five… four… three…"

Pinky's alien eyes are sparkling. "We were just checking on Izuku! But I guess he's fine!"

"I'm fine!" Deku confirms from inside the house. Katsuki feels a shiver at the sound of his voice—how happy he sounds. Katsuki feels happy too.

"Great!" Pinky says. She grabs Sparks's arm. "We'll go then. Bye-bye!"

"We'll—?" Sparks asks as he's pulled away, but he gets no time to say more as Katsuki slams the door. “We have to know more!” he yells from outside, but his voice fades into the distance alongside the sounds of a struggle, and silence descends once again.

Katsuki steps back, rubbing at the smile he can't quite keep from his face.

That was… fun. He's not sure why. Maybe he wants to stake a claim on Deku. Actually—yeah. He wants their old classmates at least to know. And now they probably will, within minutes.

His smile turns to a grin. That's why he doesn't turn to face Deku; he doesn't want to look like a giddy child. Deku solves this problem by coming up behind Katsuki and putting his arms around him, and calloused palms roam Katsuki's chest. Katsuki allows himself to press back into the embrace.

"Shouto offered to cover my shift," Deku says into his neck. "What should I tell him?"

The breath against Katsuki's sensitive skin is making his arms break out in goosebumps. He suppresses a pleasant shiver. "I'm not your boss."

"Yeah. What should I tell him?"

Katsuki imagines a day with Deku, talking through all the weird shit they've experienced, both together and apart. He hates discussing feelings—but just now it doesn't sound so bad. He'd like to hear Deku's side of the story, at least. And he'd like… other things. Liquid heat pools in his belly.

"Tell him yes," Katsuki says. He needs to find his phone so he can enable Do Not Disturb—a Do Not Disturb that, for once, includes his precious agent.

Deku's grip tightens. He kisses along Katsuki's neck, and there's a smile in his voice when he speaks. "I'll let him know."

Katsuki grins. Not only does he get to spend the night with Deku, he also gets to inconvenience Half-and-Half. A perfect day—and then Deku speaks up.

“Would you like to see more of the collection? I can let you dress my poseable figures if you like.”

Deku is teasing—hopefully. But Katsuki elbows him in the stomach nonetheless, and laughs when Deku pretends to be injured. “I’ll kill you,” Katsuki says, untangling from Deku’s embrace. His grin probably doesn’t lend credence to his threat.

Deku’s returning smile is bright. “I look forward to seeing you try.”