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Izuku has always believed in learning from experts.

True, this isn't something he ever really expected to need to learn about! But, well, he never expected... basically anything else about his life right now, either. He can't ignore this just because it's a surprise to him, or because it's weird and confusing. Learning about something is the best way to make it less weird and confusing. Information is important.

He is prepared. Well, prepared to become more prepared. He has a new notebook, blank and ready, in a different color from his hero notebooks so he can't confuse them. (It's purple.) He has a hiding place in mind for it, once it's less blank (under his mattress). He has two pens so that even if one breaks he doesn't have to interrupt himself and then gather up his courage for this conversation again. He has a plan.

He also has an opportunity here and he's not going to waste it. It's a bright, beautiful afternoon, school letting out after the day's last class, and his target is two feet ahead of him and whistling absentmindedly, as approachable as she ever gets.

“Mid – Midnight-sensei?”

“Oh, hey kid!” She grins. “What's up?”

“Um.” She's in her full hero costume, as she always is; they're all pretty used to it by now, except suddenly Izuku doesn't feel used to it at all. It's just – it's a very specific theme to go for, and it's not like he's ever seen anyone else wear anything like that, and it's hard to imagine... really most people besides Midnight wearing it?

Well. Opportunity! Taking it!

“I had, um, some questions,” he says. “About, um, well – your costume theme? Kind of? And... related topics?”

“Oh?” She folds her arms, eyebrows raised. “What kind of questions? Why're you asking?”

Oh, God, does he sound like Mineta or someone? Oh, God. “Um. Well. I kind of...” His entire face is burning. “I don't, um, I don't...” He swallows. “I-think-I-need-some-advice-because-I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing-and-I-don't-know-who-else-to-ask-so-please?!” His voice cracks, but at least he says it.

Midnight's eyes go very, very wide.


It started... well, it kind of started with the fight that he and Kacchan had at Ground Beta, the one after the provisional license exam. Call that the test run, the, well, the beta version of it all. But it started for real a while after that, after a day of hero basic when neither he nor Kacchan was any use at all.

(It wasn't their fault. It was water rescues, that day, with the lights dimmed at the ISJ and the ship sinking. “There will be times,” Aizawa said flatly, arms folded as he watched the dummies and their temperature sensors bobbing in the water, “when your quirk is of very little use, but you're the person who's on hand. For many of you, today's exercise will be about what you do in that situation. Go.”

Izuku looked at Kacchan then, couldn't help it, and saw the flinch that he'd expected, almost hidden in Kacchan's usual scowl. Kacchan saw him looking, glared right back, and then they both got moving. Izuku dove, again and again, but strength only does so much in swimming, and One for All is no help whatsoever when it comes to seeing underwater. Kacchan made signal flares, mostly, and lit up the water for Tsuyu and Ojiro and Sero.)

On the way out of class, Kacchan knocked into Izuku's shoulder and said, “Meet me in sparring room 2C. Twenty minutes.”

“Uh, what?”

Kacchan cracked his knuckles, glowering. “'S what you said to do last time, isn't it? Get a sparring room? Means no quirks, but we won't get stuck behind again either.” Izuku blinked, and Kacchan's glare got sharper, louder. “Do you want to beat me or not, Deku?”

“I do!”

“Fine, then show up!” Kacchan snapped, and stomped off towards the school, which was the end of that conversation. And, well – Izuku did want to beat him, would have shown up anyway, but. Even then, Izuku could remember that the last time was Kacchan's way of asking for help.

He was at sparring room 2C in seventeen minutes.

It was easier, that time. No crying, no revelations. Izuku lost – forced out of bounds – but he gave Kacchan a black eye that took a week to fade, and almost had him pinned to the mat before Kacchan kneed him in the mouth. And, afterwards, Kacchan shook his arms out like he'd worked for the win, something loose in the line of his shoulders that hadn't been there after class, and said, “Guess you'll have to try again, huh, loser?” Which was almost encouraging, for Kacchan, and he said it almost smiling. It warmed Izuku from the bones on out, a job well done even in the loss.

Izuku was okay with it turning into kind of a regular thing after that.

It was the fifth sparring match – sixth counting Ground Beta – where Izuku finally beat him. It took work, kick after roundhouse kick slammed to the same satisfying spot on Kacchan's ribs, and Izuku had to eat three glancing blows and a classic right hook square to the jaw in order to do it. But finally he landed hard enough on the hammered bruise that Kacchan doubled over, and Izuku could hook his foot behind Kacchan's knee and send him crashing to the mats, and follow him to keep him down.

Fuck,” Kacchan growled, as Izuku slammed one arm across his throat – not hard enough to choke him yet, but hard enough to threaten it. Hard enough that his voice was kind of a rasp. “Fuck.” He tried to shove himself back up and couldn't get the leverage with Izuku's weight on his chest; Izuku leaned a little more on his windpipe just to be sure. Kacchan was grinning up at him, so bright and fierce it was almost a snarl. It didn't waver even as he finally went still.

“Don't get used to it, nerd,” he panted. Izuku could feel him say it, feel the buzz of Kacchan's throat against his own forearm. “I'm gonna kill you next time.”

It wasn't really until then that Izuku realized he'd actually won, and it hit him harder than half the blows he'd taken; it was a giddy, wild, full-body thing.

“The hell are you grinning at?” Kacchan grunted, and Izuku laughed, slacking off the pressure enough for him to breathe. Only that; he kept Kacchan down a little longer, where he could feel the fragile shape of Kacchan's windpipe under his weight.

“I won,” he said, wondering, and then quickly: “I'm not looking down on you, Kacchan, really I'm not. You're really hard to beat, that's why I'm happy. That's all.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Kacchan grumbled, still hoarse, and he didn't quite meet Izuku's eyes as he said it. Which, okay, on some people might be a bad sign, but – it was never annoyance or anger that Kacchan hid, not once in his life, and Izuku was bone-deep sure that he'd been right to say what he did. Especially when he could still feel the shiver in Kacchan's next indrawn breath. “What, are you getting comfortable up there? Get off me.”

Well, still Kacchan. He didn't let Izuku help him stand, either, but he ignored Izuku's hand instead of smacking it away, which wasn't nearly enough to stop Izuku grinning ear to ear.

In retrospect, that might be where it started to get kind of weird. But Izuku didn't think about it then, or the next time, or the time after. Not when he saw Kacchan snarl his way through a whole morning, hunched over and palms giving off smoke, and said, “Hey, sparring later?” Not later that afternoon either, when he watched Kacchan leave 2C upright and back to a mild simmer. It felt almost as good as winning, knowing he'd wrung the anger out of him: as once-impossible as green lightning in his limbs, and somehow almost as powerful a feeling.

A couple fights after that was when Kacchan pinned Izuku to the mat, then rolled off him and snapped to the ceiling, “I can't explain the fucking quadratic shit well enough for Shitty Hair to get it, okay?”

“Uh,” said Izuku, who hadn't asked.

“It pisses me off,” Kacchan growled. “If I can do it, I should be able to explain it, but he won't get it into his head. And he's not a lazy shit, he'd be doing it if he could. So – whatever.”

“Oh.” Izuku frowned, brushing dust out of his hair. “Well, um. All Might actually, uh, he had a really hard time explaining how he used One for All when I first got it? It's why my first internship changed so much for me, because Gran Torino saw everything differently, and so he explained some things in a way that made sense to me? It had just – All Might always got it really easily, I guess, so he had trouble seeing what I was getting stuck on. So.”

“Huh.” Kacchan stretched out his hand above him, curling his fingers in and out. “Well.” He shoved himself to his feet, and then, steadfastly refusing to make eye contact, lowered his hand for Izuku to pull himself up. “What're you doing looking at me like that?”

“Like what?” Izuku asked, taking Kacchan's hand to haul himself up. Kacchan's hand was warm, unexpectedly soft, just like it had always been. Izuku could maybe guess, actually, what kind of look on was on his face, because he was suddenly so fond of Kacchan that he could barely stand to let go of his hand, the feeling hot and almost possessive under his ribs.

The week after that, Kacchan stomped up to Izuku at lunch and demanded a fight, despite being pretty Kacchan-calm all morning. Izuku agreed, because of course. Thirty seconds in, Kacchan landed a punch to Izuku's mouth, and then took two steps back and said, “Okay, now we're talking.”

“What do you mean?” Izuku asked, circling to the side. Kacchan circled with him, fists up and feet light.

“You've got that stupid look back on your face again,” Kacchan said, and tried a lightning-quick jab that Izuku had to duck back to dodge. “Goddamn infuriating. Like you're not staying down no matter how many times I hit you.”

“I'm not going to,” Izuku said, throwing himself forward feet-first. Kacchan dodged, as he'd expected, and Izuku turned the kick into a pivot and lunged again.

“Ugh, no kidding,” Kacchan snapped, and slammed a fist into his stomach. Izuku grabbed his wrist and threw him sideways, and Kacchan damn near did a backflip to keep himself from hitting the ground.

Izuku maybe had been quiet all day. He'd let it go too long without calling his mom, and when he talked to her that morning, she was worried, fretful. A little hurt. Enough to leave him guilty and off-center.

He slammed his foot into the side of Kacchan's knee and felt something almost confident settle back under his skin again.

That one really should have been a sign, in retrospect.

Also maybe a sign: the time a little after that, when it was clearly Kacchan who needed the fight, and Izuku said, “Kacchan... you know we could just talk, right?”

Kacchan paused in the middle of taking off his jacket. “Huh?”

“I mean, if you want to talk about something...” Izuku trailed off, because he was getting an unproductive kind of glare out of Kacchan by that point.

“Shut up and fight,” Kacchan snapped. “Or leave, no one's making you.”

“I'm not leaving,” Izuku said, and started stripping down to his undershirt, chalking it up as a bad job.

Except that afterwards, both of them gasping for breath on the rubber, Kacchan said, “It's easier to think.”

“Hm?” Izuku asked, since Kacchan said it more or less out of nowhere and they'd had a whole fight since the first half of the conversation.

“This.” Kacchan waved vaguely at the beige of the room, still scowling. It was the sort of scowl that usually meant he was trying to explain something he didn't like to talk about; Izuku was getting a sense for it. “Makes it easier to think. So.” He glanced sideways. “Stop looking at me.”

Izuku closed his eyes. “Okay.”

“You making fun of me?”

Izuku almost blinked, which would have ruined the point of closing his eyes. The answer didn't seem to fit in his head right at first, but: “Um,” he said. “Only teasing a little?”

“Yeah, well, shut the fuck up,” Kacchan said, punching him in the shoulder. Compared to the earlier fight it was barely an impact at all.

“I didn't say anything,” Izuku said peacefully, “I just did what you told me to.”

“When did you turn into such a little shit?” Kacchan grumbled.

“This year, I think,” Izuku said. Kacchan made a quiet, under-his-breath kind of noise that could have been annoyance or amusement or agreement or extremely performative disgust; it didn't really matter, since Izuku's response was the same to any of them. “Anyway, that makes sense, I guess.”

“Whatever,” Kacchan said, in the way someone who wasn't Kacchan would probably say, Yeah, pretty much. There was a little bit of relief in it, not quite hidden under the gruffness. It felt like a gift, or, no, a prize.

Yeah, kind of a hint in retrospect.

When Izuku finally figured out that he was in over his head, it was a rainy afternoon when he'd won the fight again. He was winning about two fights out of five by that point, all of them raw and satisfying and hard as all hell. It was a pin – both of them won more often that way, both of them good at standing their ground – with his whole weight planted over Kacchan's ribs and all his natural strength thrown into his grip on Kacchan's arms. It was quirkless sparring, always, but he still pinned Kacchan's wrists close enough together that he couldn't use his quirk without blasting his own arms.

Gotcha,” Izuku said; Kacchan was testing his grip still, but they both knew it wouldn't work. It was usually over by the time one of them got a solid hold on the other; they didn't break loose easily.

“Hope you're proud of yourself, nerd,” Kacchan growled at last, his arms going slack in Izuku's grip. “Ugh.”

“I am,” Izuku said, and couldn't quite tell whether it was to let Kacchan know this mattered, or because he wasn't quite nice enough not to be smug. Kacchan rolled his eyes, adrenaline-grin not quite gone from his face, and it just – hit Izuku, all at once. “I'm proud of both of us.”

Kacchan jerked under him; Izuku resettled his grip on his wrists, all instinct. “What the hell, Deku?” he asked. “I lost.”

“Yeah, I know,” Izuku said, and barely stopped himself from saying That's why. That would definitely just upset Kacchan, and Izuku couldn't really blame him; he barely knew what he meant himself. It's not like he'd ever want Kacchan to be okay with losing, not like he'd ever want to dim that stubborn light. But it didn't break Kacchan to lose anymore; he got back up like it was nothing, now. On to the next fight.

“I just,” he said, since he had to say something. “We've come a really long way, you know, Kacchan? It's...” He shrugged. “It's – this might sound bad, but I really don't mean it that way, I promise. I just, I think we both got stronger, in a lot of different ways, and you're. Well. Kind of a better person, now, and I just –” His voice had gone a little scratchy by then, heavy and hoarse. “I'm proud of you.”

He was maybe expecting offense, even though he'd tried to smooth the edges off. Annoyance, like Kacchan gets sometimes when he's not sure what else to say. What he wasn't expecting was for Kacchan to shudder under him, whole-body. Izuku could feel it against his own thighs, then under his hands a moment later like thunder arriving after lightning; could even hear Kacchan's breath hitch, almost inaudible. His eyelashes fluttered against his cheek, pale, oddly delicate against his furious strength.

“Shut the hell up, Deku,” Kacchan said, but it was almost a whisper, breathy and low. Izuku had never heard Kacchan sound like that, but it didn't shock him like it would have done a year ago.

“I mean it,” Izuku said, fingers tightening on Kacchan's wrists like that would, somehow, underline his point. “I really do, Kacchan. I just...” He was blushing, not that he totally realized it at the time. “I always thought you could be an amazing hero, and...” He swallowed, hard. “Some people get to be top heroes without being good people,” he said, knowing he might as well say Endeavor. “But that's not going to be you, and – I'm just proud, is all.”

Kacchan squeezed his eyes shut; his breath was ragged still, just as much as it had been in the middle of the fight. He shook his head, just slightly, not like it was meant for Izuku to see but like he didn't even know he was doing it. Izuku wanted, sudden and sharp, to hold him here, to keep him here, to keep him safe from anyone else who might see him like this. Or at least, from anyone who Kacchan hadn't chosen to let see. A strange pattern in his life, this dizzy ferocious need to protect the strongest people he knew.

“Kacchan?” he asked, just in case he'd said something wrong.

“Fuck,” Kacchan whispered, and that strange possessive-protective feeling crashed over Izuku like a wave again. “Fuck, you're leaving goddamn fingerprints –”

“What?”

Kacchan's wrists flexed under his hands, and Izuku realized all at once how hard his grip had gotten, how deep his fingers were sinking into flesh. Kacchan's pulse was a wild jackhammer beat against his fingertips, and it was first satisfaction and then guilt that bowled Izuku over.

“Sorry!” he yelped, letting go like any halfway decent person should, even though it was way harder to do than it should be. Kacchan was right, too; there were five marks printed on each arm, bright lurid red. For a dizzy moment Izuku wanted to grab right back on to him. “Sorry, sorry!”

“I didn't mean –” Kacchan shoved himself up on one arm, glare jury-rigged back into place. “I didn't mean I couldn't take it! I can take anything you throw at me.”

“Of – of course, Kacchan,” Izuku said, blinking. “Of course, I didn't, I just – the fight's over, and you said, so –”

“Shut up,” Kacchan hissed, and scrubbed his hand over his face. He looked – it had to be a trick of the light, right? His eyes weren't wet. No way. “Get off me. Just – ugh.”

“Okay,” Izuku said, slowly rolling over to the side. Kacchan dragged himself to his feet like it took he could barely remember how to move. “Okay. Did I – did I say something wrong?”

“Who the fuck asked you anyway,” Kacchan said, not at all an answer, and grabbed for his jacket. “I – whatever. I'm going to kick your ass next time, just you wait.”

“Okay, Kacchan.” It came out too soft, too gentle, exactly the kind of thing Kacchan would take as an insult, but – he didn't. He just slung his jacket over his shoulder and slammed himself out the door.


“He says it kind of clears his head,” Izuku explains, stammering a little. He and Midnight are on a slow meander around the UA building; he's been keeping Kacchan's name out of it, but he kind of feels like it's possible to figure it out. Midnight's been letting him talk; at least she hasn't seemed unsettled by anything he's said. “And I... I think he likes it when I hurt him, at least a little, and I – I mean, I know it's not the same, we're not, um, we're not – together, or anything, or doing anything like that?” although he's fairly sure Kacchan likes guys at least some of the time, but – not the point!

“Oh, nonsexual play is a thing,” Midnight interrupts that train of thought. “People do it all the time, when they want to focus differently or they're just not into each other like that. Totally normal.”

“Uh.” Izuku blinks. “Nonsexual... play?” It's the English word she's using, like in roleplay or cosplay, and that's about the end of what Izuku understands about the sentence.

“Yeah, for sure.” She flips her hair over her shoulder. “It's part of why I picked this theme, after my old costume got banned – I was trying to start a conversation, you know, what's considered sexual, what isn't, what's considered taboo for the same reasons even if sex isn't actually involved. That kind of thing. Didn't really work, but hey, I look great.”

“Oh.” Izuku blinks. “So... when you say play...”

“It's just the word for doing this kind of stuff,” she says. “It's a good way to look at it, I think – like it's a role you're playing, a game that you're both playing together. Some people take it really seriously, but honestly, it's just another way to feel good and have fun. It's as big a deal as you need it to be.”

“Um, okay, but what do you mean by this kind of stuff exactly, because like – I don't even own a corset?”

Midnight covers her mouth with her hand. (It doesn't at all hide that she's laughing, but he appreciates the effort). “Good news, you don't need a corset,” she says. “Nah, just – any kind of giving up power to someone else, giving and following orders because you like to, both agreeing on some kind of pain because it feels good – whatever your kind of kink is. And, yeah, what you're describing does sound pretty close to just being play already. That's why you came to me, right?”

“I... guess?” He rubs the back of his head. “I didn't... I never thought of myself as someone who... I mean... I always wanted to help people.” It comes out very small. “Like All Might.”

“Well, I don't know what he does on his own time,” Midnight says, “but that's a point on its own, isn't it? What you do in private doesn't have to have anything to do with your hero career if you don't want it to. It can, obviously –” she gestures at herself, “– but you get to make that choice.”

“I just.” He's hunching over a little, he can feel it. “I mean.”

“Do you like it?” she asks him seriously, slowing to a halt. “Because if this is something you're only doing to make him happy, that's going to be a problem sooner or later.”

“It's not like that.” He shakes his head, shoving his hand into his pockets. “It's... I'm not that nice, I don't think. I wouldn't do this if I didn't, um, kind of enjoy it.”

“Hey.” She squeezes his shoulder. “Kid. Listen to me. It doesn't make you a bad person, okay?”

He blinks. “Um, but –”

“You just told me he says it helps him, right?” she continues over him. “He asks you for it. As long as you're both coming away from it feeling better than you started, neither of you is doing anything wrong. If you enjoy it, if you get something out of it, that's better for both of you. Doesn't mean you'll hurt anyone who doesn't like it. And it doesn't make you any less of a hero.”

“Oh.” His eyes well up, hair-trigger as ever; he swipes at them with the back of his hand. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” Her hand is still on his shoulder; she gives him another squeeze, reassuringly steady, and lets go. “There's a difference between wanting to hurt someone like rough them up and wanting to hurt someone like make their life worse. There's nothing wrong with enjoying the first, as long as you're making sure not to do the second. For that matter, what you actually do matters a whole lot more than what you want. Don't worry about it.”

“I just –” It spills out of Izuku's mouth like a pipe unblocked. “It was kind of really bad between us for a while and it isn't anymore and it's a lot better now and I didn't think I was still mad and I don't want to be still mad because I care about him and I always have and he cares about me too and I hurt him more than I knew even if it wasn't really my fault I don't think and I was so afraid it was some kind of messed-up revenge thing and I don't want it to be that, I really don't, that's not who I want to be, I just – I just –”

“Izuku,” she cuts him off, gentle and steady. “Tell me again why you came to talk to me.”

“Because after last time he seemed upset –” Izuku stops. “Oh.”

“And you didn't like that he was upset so you came to do something about it,” she continues. “And that was unusual, right? That's not usually how it ends up?”

“No.”

“Not a revenge thing,” she concludes, smiling. “Or if it is, it doesn't sound like a terrible way to work through it.”

“I – okay.” He scuffs his feet in the falling leaves. “Okay. So...” He looks up at her. “What do I do now?”

“Huh.” She sets off again, ambling idly through the loose patches of sunlight. “Well. How about we start with the basic safety rundown?”

“Yes!” He's already digging into his pocket for his notebook again. “Yes, that sounds perfect.”

“Cool. So, the bad news is you probably need to have an actual conversation with him.”

“I try,” Izuku says, somewhere between indignant and weary. “It's, um, it's a work in progress.”

“Fair enough.” Midnight shrugs. “But you should talk about what you're doing, and you should talk about your limits – what you're okay with, what you're not, what's a maybe, that kind of thing. And you should set up a safeword.”

“Safeword,” Izuku echoes, already scribbling. “What's that mean?”

“It's like a code word, kind of. Something you say that means you're not having fun anymore so the game's over. A lot of people do a red, yellow, green thing – red for stop everything right now, green for fine, and yellow for getting kind of too much. And that way it's easy to just stop and ask for a color, if you want to check.”

“Got it.” Izuku bites the end of his pen. “I worry about whether he'd tell me,” he admits quietly. “If he didn't like something. I – he's really proud.”

“That's a problem,” she answers, unhelpfully firm. “That's not fair to either of you. So – I'm sorry, the best advice I have is that if you can't trust him for that, don't play with him.”

“But...” He sighs. “I'll try talking to him. I mean, we can at least still spar, right?”

“Jeez, kid.” She scratches the back of her head. “I mean, I guess if you've already set rules for sparring so no one gets hurt, and the rest of the limits are 'not sparring,' it's probably safe enough. Don't know if I'd recommend it, though.”

“I'll try,” he repeats. “What else do I need to know?”

“Hm – oh, aftercare!” She snaps her fingers. “Aftercare is a huge thing. It's what it sounds like, taking care of each other after you're done. Otherwise it can leave you feeling pretty gross after you come down from the endorphin high. Shaky, or off-balance, or even like you're coming down with something. Drop, it's called. People talk about it more with subs, but it's a thing for both halves.”

“Um.” Izuku flips to a new notebook page. “With whats?”

“Submissives,” she answers. Izuku tries to imagine attaching the word submissive to Kacchan and immediately imagines losing his eyebrows. Except – I can take anything you throw at me. Huh. “It just means people who like letting someone else take control. Dominant is someone who likes being in control, like you've been doing, and then switches do both.”

“So it's just what it sounds like, I guess,” Izuku says, but he's jotting it down anyway. “So, the aftercare thing. How do I do it?”

“Physical contact's a big one,” she explains. “Cuddling, basically.”

Um. Also a difficult mental image, but – even sweaty after a fight, Kacchan kind of smells like green apple shampoo and what's probably nitroglycerin but smells like sugar, and he gives off a lot of heat, and... what if he pinned Kacchan down and then really did get comfortable after all? Just stayed on top of him and didn't let him up and maybe played with his hair? That's probably not being done with the game, though, that sounds like still playing...

“That would probably still be part of a scene, yeah,” Midnight interrupts, which is how Izuku works out that he's speaking out loud. “A scene just means a session of play.”

“There's a lot of vocabulary for this,” Izuku observes, adding that to the list. She covers her mouth with her hand again.

“Yeah, you're not wrong,” she observes, audibly almost laughing.

“I'll get it.” He sets his jaw, determined. “So, what else besides, um, cuddling?”

“Food or a glass of water, sometimes,” she says. “Juice, whatever. Just something to get your blood sugar back up. Sometimes people shower together, especially if you're messy anyway. I like to chat for a while – not about anything in particular, the point is just getting back in your usual rhythm. Um.” She stops. “Pretend I said some people, there, I'm trying to give you enough information to be safe without – I mean, it's part of my fight banter and all, always has been, but I do have some boundaries.”

“Conversations in general, got it,” Izuku agrees. “What else?”

“That's the biggest safety stuff, I think,” she says. “Negotiation, safewords, aftercare... hm. Hey, give me your notebook, I can point you to some websites. Let me know if the school internet blocks them, I'll talk to Principal Nezu – they're safety resources, it's important.”

“Got it.” He hands her a fresh page, and bounces a little bit on his toes as she scrawls in a few URLs. “Thank you, Midnight-sensei.”

“Of course,” she answers; the seriousness in it rocks him back. “I could get into whether or not you're too young for this, but it didn't stop me when I was your age and it's never stopped anyone in your class with sex or anything else. The more you know, the safer you'll be.”

“Right.” He nods, clutching the notebook to his chest. “I – it feels really big? Really important. And I... I want to do it right.”

“You're a good kid,” she says, so gentle and warm he almost starts crying again. “You're going to take good care of him, I can tell. Oh!” She raises her hand. “While I'm talking safety: make sure you can fit at least a finger under any bonds so that they won't cut off circulation, keep scissors on hand if you're using rope so you can get him loose in a hurry, clean all your stuff between uses, don't hit anyone over the spine or the kidneys especially if you're using a tool to do it, just stick to the shoulderblades, buttocks, and thighs, and never put anything up a butt that doesn't have a flared base.”

“...flared... base...” Izuku mutters, writing as fast as he can. “Um. Do I need to get... stuff like that?”

“You don't need to do anything except the parts I already went over,” she answers, surprisingly serious again. “Talk to each other, take care of each other, and don't do anything unless you both want to. But usually people like having toys eventually.” She shrugs. “People improvise too. Make sure you know what something's made of before you put it in a body, not everything's safe.”

“Research,” he agrees, nodding frantically. “I can do that. And – really, thank you.”

On balance, Izuku decides, the best way to do this is after the next sparring match. This definitely can't continue without some kind of conversation, he sort of knew that even before Midnight told him, but this will be easier when Kacchan's calmer, and it'll make it sound less like Izuku's trying to... well, call it off.

He won't let it get heavy, is all. Just a sparring match. No pinning Kacchan down and talking to him, or teasing him, or enjoying the fight too much.

The problem with this becomes apparent when Kacchan slams him out of bounds and says, “What the hell are you doing? Quit holding back!”

“Okay, okay!” Izuku says, wiping sweat off his forehead. “I'm not holding back, I'm just – distracted?” Honesty is probably going to be important here – well, definitely going to be important here, and might as well start now. He licks his lips. “I, um, I wanted to talk to you about something, actually, I just wanted to do this first. But I guess it's throwing me off.”

“Hmph.” Kacchan snorts and stomps over to the edge of the ring, dropping to sit with his back against the wall. He glares up, hands draped over his knees. “So, talk, idiot.”

“Okay, um.” Izuku drops to the ground next to him; their knees brush. He has plans for this and he can't, right now, remember any of them. “So. I... talked to Midnight yesterday?” he starts. “About, um, this. And – how you said it makes it easier to think. And, um, liking to hurt people.”

He's tried to be ready for this to go south, but even so, he's not expecting Kacchan to jerk away like he's been burned. “Fuck you, Deku,” he bites out; his voice cracks. “What the hell was all that last time if you didn't mean it? No one asked – fuck off, you piece of –” He shoves himself upwards, moving like his whole body has tripled in weight, and Izuku realizes what just happened.

“Kacchan, I – no, Kacchan, that's not what I meant, no, hang on,” he blurts in a frantic rush, grabbing at Kacchan's arm. “I didn't realize how that would sound, I didn't mean it like that, I'm sorry.”

Kacchan slows, settles back against the wall and glares. “Fine,” he growls, still hurt-rough. “What the hell did you mean, then?”

“I. Um. I.” He can't figure out what to say, how to say it. They're still learning how to put everything they feel about each other into words, aren't they? Kacchan's wrist is still in his hands, Kacchan's eyes on his going warier than Izuku ever wants to see, and Izuku's fingerprints are still on Kacchan's skin in purple-yellow bruises.

He sets his thumb over one of the bruises and presses carefully, deliberately down. Not too hard, but hard enough. Kacchan's breath catches, almost a hiss, and Izuku pulls his hand closer and rubs a circle over the mark. He keeps his head bowed over Kacchan's hand.

“Holy shit,” Kacchan says, and his voice is completely different from a moment ago. Blank shock, none of the bitterness. “You get off on this.”

“I!” Izuku squeaks, jerking up; Kacchan's eyes are huge and dark on his. “I mean, it's not – sex doesn't have to be part of this, Midnight said, people do that –”

“What, am I not good enough for you?”

It's somehow very loud even in the sound-muffled space of the sparring room. Izuku is dimly aware that his jaw is hanging open. In the space between one blink and the next, Kacchan turns a brilliant, luminous red.

“I –” he growls, jerking away, and this is why they need to talk, because it doesn't even occur to Izuku to let go. Also, apparently, a whole lot of other reasons they need to talk, because –

“Kacchan,” Izuku blurts. “Can I kiss you?”

Kacchan hunches his shoulders, avoiding Izuku's eyes. “Can't stop you if you pin me,” he mutters.

“Um,” Izuku says. “You could, though. I mean – just tell me not to, and I'll stop. I will.”

“Didn't fuckin' say to stop, did I?” Kacchan demands, glowering at Izuku over his knees, and – well, that's an answer, clear as day.

“Okay,” Izuku says, and moves in a burst of green lightning.

“What the hell –”

Izuku has Kacchan's wrists pinned to the wall, the force of his weight enough to shove Kacchan's knees down for him to straddle. He's taller than Kacchan like this, Kacchan tilting his face up to Izuku. His eyelashes are so long, from this angle.

His mouth is sweat-salty and softer than any of his words.

Izuku's kissed people before, but only during dorm games of Spin the Bottle; this is something else, something he wants to grab hold of and keep. He's clamping down hard on Kacchan's wrists again, and he doesn't want to stop. Kacchan's mouth opens under his, hesitant in a way Kacchan never lets himself be, and – of course. Of course Kacchan would rather be forced than uncertain.

Izuku pulls back with some difficulty.

“If that's something you want,” he pants – which, hm, that wasn't supposed to happen. “I didn't, I didn't think it would be, but – if that's something you want.”

“I – fuck.” Kacchan tilts his head back, scowling at the ceiling. Or not, actually; his eyes are closed. “Since when do I half-ass shit.”

“Okay,” Izuku says softly. “Okay.” He pries his fingers off Kacchan's wrists. “But we do need to talk about it.”

Kacchan swallows; his throat bobs with it. “Fine, then talk.”

“Um.” Back into all his planned scripts he can't remember. “Is it about pain, for you? Um, causing it, I mean? It's not – I don't – I mean, it's um, I like it, so. It's fine.”

“No.” Kacchan's jaw is tight. “No, it's not – it was never about that.” Even this close, Izuku can barely hear him.

You always stuck to me no matter how I beat you up. Always following me around, looking down on me... Yeah, Izuku can believe it was never really about any physical kind of pain. They've wasted a lot of years, he and Kacchan, and carried a whole lot of hurt that neither of them ever needed to bear. Izuku did the best he knew how to do, through it all, and Kacchan, well, didn't, but – still. He can ache for both of them, for all that wasted time.

“Okay, Kacchan,” he says, very soft. “But it's about being hurt, isn't it?”

“Yeah.” Kacchan swallows. “You tell anyone –”

“Kacchan.” Izuku's fingers are in Kacchan's hair, somehow. “I'm on your side.”

“Bastard.” It's low, breathless; it's just a Kacchan noise, filling space so he can think. He blinks his eyes open. “Fine. Yeah. I like when it hurts.”

“You like when I hold you down,” Izuku continues, because that's obvious by now. “You like...” Some of that same sure heat from a really good fight is starting to settle into his bones now. “You like it when I don't let you get away from... from anything that you feel bad about wanting. Anything you like too much. Because you worry it makes you weak.” It's a slow realization, twelve years of history all adding up at last.

“Fuck.” Kacchan finds space between them to throw his arm over his face, turning into the crook of his elbow. “I hate you.”

“I don't believe you anymore, Kacchan,” Izuku says gently, and wraps his fingers around Kacchan's hand. “I'll never think you're weak, you know. No matter what happens. I already know how strong you are. I always have. Nothing's gonna change that.”

He can feel Kacchan's next breath shake as it leaves him. “Fine,” Kacchan grunts at last. “Fine. Yeah. Whatever. Now we talked about it.”

“We started,” Izuku corrects. “I need you – I need you to tell me what you don't like, and I need a way to know if you really want me to stop.”

Predictably, Kacchan glowers up and says, “I can take whatever you throw at me, Deku.” Izuku sighs.

“Yeah, I know you can, but...” He's remembering some of his planned speech by now, at least. “It's like – Midnight called it a game, almost. Something we do together for fun. If something's not fun for you, that's not about being weak or being strong, it's just... what it is. And I won't have fun if I'm worrying about whether you're having fun. So – please? Just... tell me the truth about this? About what you're okay with?”

The hush of the room is very loud, suddenly. Kacchan's hand is still between their faces; he's still not meeting Izuku's eyes. He shifts just a little under him, readjusting.

“...Don't fuck me up enough that it'll slow me down in training,” he says at last, lowering his arm. “And, uh. Don't tie my hands in front of me.”

“Okay,” Izuku says. “I can do that. Is tying your hands somewhere else okay?”

“More than.” He hunches his shoulders. “Just – whatever.”

“It's fine,” Izuku says. He can kind of guess what that's about, which leads him to wonder: “Um, what if I touch the back of your neck?”

“Don't know, it's not like people go around doing that. Weirdo.” Kacchan shrugs. “Try it.”

“Okay.” Carefully, Izuku reaches out. His palm almost spans the nape of Kacchan's neck on its own; he hadn't realized his hands were that large. Kacchan is tense as suspension-bridge wire; the strands of hair back here are fine and soft. Izuku runs his thumb along Kacchan's hairline, steady and slow. Kacchan bows his head, gives him more room to reach. It feels nothing at all like One for All sparking to life under Izuku's skin, far more quiet and satisfied and slow, but it feels more like his quirk than like anything else.

“Don't surprise me with it,” Kacchan says at last, low. “Otherwise it's fine. Whatever.” His eyes are closed.

“Okay.” Izuku lets go with some regret. “Um. What else are you not okay with?”

“I don't know what weird shit you're gonna come up with,” Kacchan says. He doesn't lift his head. “Can't think of any other nos.”

“Okay.” Izuku chews on his lip, looking again at the pattern of bruises on Kacchan's wrist. “Um, how do you feel about... marks?”

“What, scars and shit? Sure.”

Izuku's jaw drops open. “Scars? I – Kacchan, what, I just meant like – hickies! I – would you really –”

“Fine, then don't!” Kacchan snaps.

“That's not what I meant! I just... that's a lot, Kacchan.” Izuku brushes Kacchan's hair out of his face before he can think about it, but Kacchan lets him, still not looking up. “I mean, that would last – years, maybe forever, are you sure...”

Kacchan shrugs. “Whatever.” His voice is low; in an even lower mumble, so quiet Izuku can barely make it out, he says, “Not like that's new.”

Kacchan.” The name is a pressure-vent on some feeling too vast to hold. Izuku catches his chin, tilts his face up with gentle insistence, and kisses him. It's just as good the second time; hungrier, more searching.

“So,” Izuku says. “If you're okay with scars, I'm assuming, um, bruises are okay?”

“Yeah, whatever.” Kacchan's eyes are closed again. Izuku's okay with it. “'Less I'm going home, then don't leave 'em where I can't cover 'em.”

“Oh, that's smart. Um, same for me, I guess.” Is this going to be a secret is another question for the list, but Izuku nudges it towards the end; there's a lot of space between keeping a secret and talking to your mom with a giant hickey on your neck. “Uh. If we're – there's stuff we shouldn't do in the sparring room, probably. But we can't fight in our rooms, not even as much as we do here, and, um –” He bites his lip. “I know you like winning, but I think the – this part, the, uh, the kinky part, I guess – I think you like that better when I win. So... if we don't have to fight it out every time...”

“Deku, what the hell are you talking about?” Kacchan interrupts.

“Can we do this without having a whole fistfight first?” Izuku asks. “I mean, we should still spar, obviously, but when it's just – when it's to calm down, like this, when it's for – when it's more for fun than practice.”

Kacchan grunts, staring at the floor between them. “Yeah,” he says at last. “But I'm not just bending over 'cause you say so.”

That's an image. But: “I get it, I think,” Izuku says. “You want me to earn it. To fight you into it.” He's rubbing his thumb along Kacchan's knuckles; he's not entirely sure when he started that. Kacchan's nod is a tiny, strained jerk of his head, his eyes closed.

“So,” Izuku says. “I guess I'll, um – I'll warn you before I try anything brand new, I guess? Or, like, I won't surprise you with it. So... if you know it won't be fun, you can just say.”

“Don't gotta warn me for everything.” Kacchan's voice is starting to go husky, now; his face tilts sideways, towards where Izuku's strong his hand. “I know how hard you can hit, so just do it.”

“Even if I'm, um, hitting you with something?” Izuku asks. “Or, uh – hitting you anywhere? On your body, not, like, in the cafeteria.”

“Obviously not in the cafeteria, idiot,” Kacchan says, rolling his eyes. “And yeah, those too. I already said not to mess me up for training, so.”

“Oh, that makes sense, actually, because there's still, like, a clear set of boundaries...” And they know, better than most of the world, how much a body can take without slowing down. How much force will bruise instead of break.

“Of course it makes sense, that's why I said it,” Kacchan grumbles. “Are you gonna do something yet, or are we gonna keep talking?”

“Couple more things first,” Izuku says. “Um – so, just, say red if you want me to stop what we're doing? And yellow if it's just, like, slow it back a bit. And then I might ask you for a color sometimes, and if everything's fine, just say green? And, um, if you want me to stop but something's blocking your mouth, just like – tap me three times, like in a fight.” That was in one of the websites Midnight pointed him at, the idea for the silent signal.

“Fine. What else?”

“Don't run off when we're done?” Izuku asks. “We should, um, we should hang out for a while afterward, maybe go eat something or something like that. It can, um, it can get weird with your head otherwise, I read? Like, endorphins and stuff.”

“Sure, whatever.” Kacchan squirms under him, wrists twisting in Izuku's grip. He could fight harder, Izuku knows, and he might still have trouble getting away. The knowledge feels like he imagines liquor tastes. “What else?”

“Um, is there anything you think I should know, I guess?”

Kacchan starts to scoff and then stops in the middle, which makes Izuku bite back a laugh. “Uh. My hands.”

“...okay, what about them?”

“My quirk is what,” Kacchan snaps, flushing. “So don't ask me to –” He gestures as well as he can with his wrist pinned to the wall, which isn't particularly well, but the curled fingers and slight back-and-forth are pretty clear. “Or. Whatever.”

“Doesn't your sweat have vasoconstrictors in it too?” Izuku asks, and Kacchan's mouth drops open.

“What the hell.”

“You told me!” Izuku protests. “Well, you told me some of it and then I kept asking you questions and then your mom told both of us the details. I mean, she didn't say vasoconstrictor, but that's what it is, right? Because it counteracts what nitroglycerin does to blood pressure?” He falters, because Kacchan is still staring at him. “Do you – do you not remember?”

“I guess,” Kacchan says, eyes going unfocused like he's trying to think back. “Kind of. My hands still fucking explode, though – why the hell did you remember that all this time?”

“It was interesting!” Izuku protests. “It was – it was cool.”

“You're so damn weird.” But Kacchan slumps forward as he says it, leans his face against Izuku's shoulder. “Damn nerd.”

“I like you, Kacchan,” Izuku says, turning until he can press his lips to Kacchan's cheek. “I always have, even when I kind of hated you too.”

“Shut up.”

“But I like talking to you,” Izuku says, and it's such an almost-ordinary thing to say, but he feels wild, unleashed. He can say whatever he likes to Kacchan, right now. Do whatever he likes. Which sounds very villainous, oops, but – they're just playing. It's a game. And anyway, it's not cruelty he wants to force on Kacchan right now. Cruelty, anger, has never been the thing that Kacchan throws away.

“I like you,” he repeats, and slowly realigns his grip until his fingertips are sitting exactly over the bruises he left the other day. It only takes the slightest shift to set his fingernails to the center of each bruise, and then dig. “A lot.”

Fuck,” Kacchan hisses, jerking under him.

“Did you like that?”

“Fuck, fuck you,” Kacchan says, muffled into his shoulder. “Fuck. Green or whatever. Fuck.” Izuku can feel his blush against Izuku's own neck.

“You're really cute like this,” he says, nosing at Kacchan's ear, and digs his fingers in again. Kacchan groans, and it's not an upset-sounding groan, not at all. It's impossible by the laws of physics for Izuku to hear it with his whole body, but it sure feels that way.

As long as you're both coming away from it feeling better than when you started, you're not doing anything wrong.

“It – it feels really good, Kacchan,” he whispers. “Hurting you like this.” He's not sure what he's expecting – maybe, in spite of everything, anger – but what he gets, instead, is Kacchan lifting his head just enough to gasp out a single quiet word.

“Good.”

Izuku's only ever felt like this at the beginning of a fight, before: this wild charging urge to move, the certainty he should give into it, the sharp-toothed joy that feels like let's find out what I can do. He loves it. He always has. He's never felt it without fear before.

His body knows what to do here, too. It knows what he wants; it's strong enough for this. He moves Kacchan's wrists until he can hold them one-handed, grabs Kacchan by the hair, and pulls his head back. Kacchan's eyes glaze over for a second.

Izuku needs more hands for this, or to be able to tie Kacchan's wrists to something. (Definitely the second one, actually.) In the meantime he says, “Look at me, Kacchan.”

Kacchan's lips curl back from his teeth. “I'm lookin'.”

I know how hard you can hit, so –

Izuku slaps him open-palmed across the face. He doesn't put all his strength behind it, even leaving out One for All, but it's loud enough to echo like a whip-crack. This could bring someone to the ground, if they're not a fighter; not by pain alone, but by the naked brutality of it.

Bakugo rolls his head back like he's grinding his vertebrae back into place and grins. “That all you got, Deku?”

“No,” Izuku says, and backhands him across the other cheek. The sound is different, duller, deeper, but it settles beneath his skin the same way. He smiles, a sharp narrow toothy thing that feels nothing at all like his ordinary grin. But it's not new, not to Kacchan – he's seen it before, this last year. “No, I've got plenty.”

This time, he lands the slap and then grabs Kacchan's chin and twists him back into place for the backhand. Kacchan curses, low and incoherent, and Izuku does it again. And again, until there's a raw-stung flush in Kacchan's cheeks, until he runs his thumb along the cheekbone and finds the skin hot with the layered impacts.

“You look good like this,” he repeats. “You're really tough, Kacchan.”

“'S not that hard,” Kacchan mutters, and Izuku lands another sharp crack across his cheekbone without even thinking about it. “Fuck, okay, fine, fine, fuck.”

“Fine what?” Izuku asks, catching his chin again. It feels good; dramatic, almost villainous, but – playing indeed. There's a very faint whisper of stubble at one point, as he rubs his fingers along Kacchan's jaw. There's no reason for that to leave Izuku dizzy with his own luck, but it does.

Fine, you hit hard enough,” Kacchan says; he's breathless still, not hiding it. “It stings.”

“I know,” Izuku says, and leans in to kiss his cheek, right over the impact-flush. It's as warm against his mouth as on his fingers, and Izuku has never felt so savage and so tender in his life. “I know it does. But I know you can take it, too. You – you're doing really well.” He realizes what he's about to say just before he says it, and almost chokes, but: no. They're doing this; he'll go for it. “Good boy, Kacchan.”

Kacchan flinches more from that than he did from any blow; his forehead drops against Izuku's shoulder again like he's trying to hide, like he can't hold his head up anymore. He makes a faint, high-pitched whining sound high in his throat. “Fuck – fuck you.”

“Uh-uh, Kacchan.” Izuku catches him by the hair again, pulls back – not a sharp yank, but inexorable, digging his fingers deep into the fine strands. His left hand is still pinning Kacchan's wrists; Kacchan isn't even trying to pull away anymore. “Look at me.” He stops, because Kacchan's eyes are wet. “Hey, Kacchan, color.”

“What – I.” Kacchan closes his eyes, takes three quick deep breaths, and opens them again. Still wet, but steadier. “Green.”

“Okay.” Izuku kisses him again, as gentle as the blows are vicious. Soft, slow. Kacchan opens up for him so easily now.

“Good,” he says again into Kacchan's mouth. “Perfect.” He can feel Kacchan's breath shake, this time, and he wants simultaneously to sink his teeth into him and to keep him safe forever, from everyone, from anything. Not that Kacchan needs protecting, but – it's not about that.

He pulls again at Kacchan's hair, until his throat is bare to the training-room light, and bites down with every intent to leave toothmarks. Kacchan arches under him, wrists twisting against the wall; Izuku smells smoke. He doesn't let go.

Izuku's never actually done this before, but he has a decent grasp of the theory, he's pretty sure. (Denki talks a lot. Izuku wouldn't necessarily call Denki a trustworthy source, but Mina also corrects him a lot, and she definitely is.) Also biting too hard by accident is – really not a concern, which helps. He wants this to hurt.

Kacchan doesn't taste like much besides salt, but he moans under Izuku's mouth, deep and full-throated and not held back at all. It's as loud as any of his shouting, and it might be Izuku's new favorite sound in the world. He's got his teeth well and truly sunk into Kacchan's throat, and he barely slacks off at all when he starts to suck as hard as he can. It feels animal, somehow, some ancient leftover urge. Kacchan's sounds go muffled after the first, but it's still nowhere near quiet.

Izuku sinks into it like there's nothing else in the world but this; it's only breathlessness that makes him lift his head at last. The mark is smaller than he'd thought, but it's a red so dark it's nearly purple, neatly framed by the crescent indents of his teeth. Kacchan is biting his lip as hard as Izuku bit his throat.

“How're you doing, Kacchan?” Izuku asks, letting go of his hair long enough to thumb at his mouth. Kacchan exhales like he's been holding his breath, leaning into Izuku's hand.

“Fine,” he says; he sounds dazed. “Fuckin' fantastic.”

The warmth of that is sweeter, though no less edged. “Good,” Izuku says again, and kisses the slick bruise of his mouth. “Good.” And with that, he grabs Kacchan's face by the jaw and leans in to bite him again. Just below his ear, first, sucking hard and slow. Then right on the spot where his neck meets his shoulder, just above his collarbone; then the underside of his jaw.

It's all good, but he likes the bare line of Kacchan's throat best, right over the vein. He goes for the other side, biting down as hard as he can with only the strength of his own body, and then settles in to draw every sound out of Kacchan that his mouth can manage. Half of class 1-A could walk through the room behind him and he wouldn't notice; his whole world, right now, is skin and warmth, and the truth of Kacchan under his mouth.

Kacchan's moans are getting higher-pitched, still muffled; he's pulling a little where Izuku has him pinned, not like he's trying to get free but like he can't help but squirm. Higher and higher his voice goes, as Izuku doesn't lift his head, and then suddenly he's gasping, “Fuck, fuck, Deku, fuck, yellow.”

Izuku snaps his head up so fast it almost makes him dizzy. “Okay, okay. Okay, that's fine. Not fun?”

“Not – goddamn.” Kacchan shakes his hair out of his eyes, still panting for breath. “Yellow when we're in the goddamn training room, I fuckin' – I did laundry yesterday.”

“I – okay?” Izuku says, confused, and then awareness of his body breaks over him again and he recognizes the pressure against his thigh. He looks down anyway, and – oh. Yeah. Kacchan's hard.

So's Izuku. (Now that he's paying attention to his body again, there's also a raw overused ache in his jaw, a similar one building in his knees, soft twinges in his fingers where he's still holding Kacchan's wrists. He's never been so happy not to care.)

“Wow,” Izuku says softly. “You – wow.”

“Shut up,” Kacchan grumbles, thin as tissue paper. Izuku swats him in the face, ridiculously light after before. “What the hell was that?” His voice is shaking.

“Be nice,” Izuku scolds, but there's no more real heat behind it than Kacchan has put behind his own complaints. He reaches back to tug Kacchan's hair. “You look so good. Beautiful. Hey, no, don't close your eyes.” Another tug, punctuation to the reprimand. “Look at me, okay?”

Kacchan blinks his eyes open like he's been in the dark for days, all wide-blown pupils. And tears, again or still, gathering at the corners of his eyes.

“Good boy,” Izuku says seriously, meeting his gaze dead-on. Kacchan's eyelashes flutter like it's taking all his scanty self-control to follow Izuku's order. “You were perfect, Kacchan. Thank you for being so good for me.”

The noise Kacchan makes is undeniably a whimper, and Izuku leans in to catch it with his mouth. He takes his time with it, still sweet, and lets go of Kacchan's wrists while he's doing it. “There,” he murmurs against Kacchan's lips at last. “There. We're done for now, okay? Just for now.”

“Mmm.” Kacchan slumps forward, hiding his face once again in Izuku's chest. He likes that, apparently. To Izuku's surprise, Kacchan moves his arms away from the wall slowly, like he's forgotten how; lets them drop into his lap, and then grabs Izuku's shirt.

“I've got you,” Izuku says. Cuddling is apparently an option after all, although – maybe in a way that involves putting his own weight anywhere other than his knees, actually. “Here, c'mere, okay? C'mon.”

Somehow he manages to slide the two of them down the wall and roll himself over, until he's on his back with Kacchan's head nestled on his chest. He pets at Kacchan's hair, soothing and slow like petting a cat, and lets his own breathing return to normal. He feels good, flushed-through like a runner's high. He's not sure how much time passes, or has passed.

“How're you doing?” he asks finally.

“Fine.” Kacchan shifts enough to look up; his glare is less transparent, more ordinary now. “Thought yellow was supposed to be pause, not stop.”

“It is,” Izuku promises. “I would've just let go of you right then, if you said red. It's not – I just realized there that we'd been doing this for a while, and, um, also that we're still in the training room.” He flushes. “And, I mean, I've never done this before either? So. But I didn't just stop cause you said, I didn't – it means pause, yeah.”

“Hmph. Alright.” Kacchan shifts again, rests his cheek against Izuku's chest so all Izuku can see is the top of his head.

“Hey, Kacchan?” Izuku says. He hasn't stopped petting his hair. “Thanks for saying it. For telling me.”

“Whatever.” Kacchan shrugs, and then undermines it completely by burrowing closer into Izuku's side, leaning into Izuku's hand. Izuku smiles, digging a little more into his scalp. He stays there for a while longer, letting their breathing settle into time.

“We should maybe go eat something,” he says at last. “Blood sugar, and stuff.”

“I know what eating is for, dipshit.” Kacchan levers himself up, slow enough to read a lot like reluctance. He holds out his hand again for Izuku, who takes it, muffling a giggle that he can't begin to explain. Daring still, he slips his fingers between Kacchan's and squeezes before he lets go.

Their phones, like their shoes, are left by the door. Izuku has a message from Uraraka: hey deku where are u tsuchan says did you move her leftovers? Under that, a full forty-five minutes later: nvm found them! He and Kacchan have been in here more than two hours, between the fight and the talk and – everything else. More than long enough for people to ask what he's been up to.

“Hey, Kacchan?” he asks. “Is this a secret? I mean, not that I'm going to go around talking about details or anything, of course not, but –”

Kacchan glances up from, apparently, checking his face in his phone camera, because he jabs a finger at his chin. “You left a hickey on my goddamn face, nerd, it's a little late for that.”

“Oh.” Izuku definitely did do that. “Oops? You could, um, you could probably put a band-aid on it.”

“Yeah, that just leaves the entire rest of my neck,” Kacchan says, rolling his eyes. Izuku is tempted to point out that Kacchan could try buttoning his shirt right for once, but at least two of the marks will show anyway. Yeah, oops.

“Sorry!” Izuku protests. “You said it was okay, so – was it not?”

“I'm not complaining,” Kacchan says, in exactly the way a normal person would complain, but, well, it's Kacchan. He rubs at the side of his neck again, thumb pressing into the bruise. “I'm just saying you're shit at keeping a secret.” He rolls his eyes; the corner of his mouth twitches like he's trying, hard, not to smile. “What else is new.”

“Hey!” Izuku protests. “You're the only one I told. I didn't even tell my mom.

Kacchan pauses in checking his bruises. “Seriously? Huh.”

“It's a secret!” Izuku protests. “And she'd worry. And – I wanted to tell you that I didn't lie to you. I wouldn't.”

Kacchan looks away, rubbing his neck. “Yeah, I know that now.” He coughs. “Thanks, or whatever.” There's no possessive tint to Izuku's fondness, this time, but it's still deep enough to drown in.

“So what do we want tell people?” he asks. Are they dating now? That's kind of a leap from mostly seeing each other in class and to talk about One for All and to fight, but, well, he wants to do this again. A lot. In private. And it's not like he'd ever not want to spend time with Kacchan, if Kacchan wanted to spend time with him. And –

“The hell are you asking me?” Kacchan asks, scowling at the wall past Izuku's head. “This was your idea in the first place, nerd.” It's all bluster, all bravado again, and – hm.

“You know what,” Izuku says slowly, “it's getting kind of late. Let's go get dinner, okay? And then we can maybe head back to the dorm and watch a movie or something?”

Kacchan's first glance at him is wary, doubting; slowly, he relaxes. His ears are pink; it's really cute. “I'm picking the movie,” he says.

“Sure, sounds great.” Izuku pushes the door open and, very deliberately, reaches out and takes Kacchan's hand. “Come on.”

“Tch.” But Kacchan comes. His hand shifts in Izuku's grip, and Izuku's heart sinks for a moment, but Kacchan doesn't pull away. He just laces his fingers between Izuku's, head straight ahead like nothing of the kind is happening, like he hasn't even noticed. It doesn't fool Izuku for any more than that one heartbeat.

He meant it, back at the tipping point of all of this. They've come a long way, he and Kacchan, and he's proud.