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It started with Mina saying “We should have a party!”

A lot of Katsuki’s deepest regrets started with that phrase because it was usually followed up by Eijiro’s enthusiastic reply of “Hell yes, we should have a party!” Then everything went to shit for weeks until it happened and Katsuki usually only survived by the skin of his teeth and with just a bit less of his dignity intact than the time before.

He had a chance of refusing one of them; an infinitesimal chance, but it existed. Turning both of them down was impossible because Katsuki was whipped and had given up any pretense he’d ever had of not being weak against their slightest whims. His life was better for their company in terms of net gain, but sometimes it sucked.

This happened while they were in the middle of cleaning out Eijiro’s dorm room. It was the day after Graduation and technically they were supposed to be out already. Katsuki had gotten his shit squared away days ago because he knew what was coming. Mina had waited until the last minute, but hadn’t needed (much) help. Eijiro meanwhile…

“Hey, I wondered where this had gotten off to!” He pulled a magazine out from underneath his bed and flipped it open to browse the interior.

“Oh no you don’t , asshole.” Katsuki grabbed it and put it in a box with all the other magazines they’d found that way although not before smacking him with it. “Get back to work.”

“Aw, you’re mean to me, bro.” Eijiro sulked and it was pretty effective even though he was a bad ass close combat fighter who could stop speeding cars with his bare hands. He also had the worst case of puppy dog eyes Katsuki had seen since Deku. 

To be honest, the memory of Deku’s big sad crocodile tears still edged Eijiro out in terms of lethal cuteness because he didn’t have the crocodile teeth to go with them.

Katsuki cut that train of thought off before it had a chance to get dark on him. He closed his eyes and spent a couple of seconds picturing himself playing a jazz ostinato in his head until it was easier to focus on something else and he felt more normal.

“He wouldn’t have to be mean if you’d gotten this done sooner.” Mina chirped from inside the closet like an enormous hypocrite. She’d been cleaning and packing right up until the night before and Katsuki had ended up doing her laundry for her so she could finish breaking down her furniture.

“Glass houses, Pinky.” Katsuki growled because he was probably going to die fighting somebody for Eijiro’s right to make stupid choices. Mina might as well be the one to take him out. 

She leaned out to blow him a kiss and laughed when he grumbled about it. “Oh man, I cannot wait to move into our new place!”

“Don’t know why. Our new place ain’t got shit in it.” Katsuki couldn’t help being a buzzkill even though he was excited too. They’d basically landed a unicorn; a 3DK in a shady private neighborhood that -between the three of them- they could afford and still be able to eat. It even had air conditioning. “You excited to eat off boxes and sleep on the floor?”

“We have a bed though.” Eijiro corrected him absently as he wormed himself under his dorm bed looking for more discarded magazines and empty bread wrappers. 

“One bed.” Katsuki insisted, looking away, because he knew what was coming. “One.”

Mina sidled up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. It’d be comfortable except for her boobs pressing into his shoulder blades. She was in a sports bra too so it was extra awkward especially considering she was dating the guy rooting around under the bed. 

Granted, Eijiro did not seem to care when it was Katsuki she was rubbing on and Mina did the repressed not-gonna-cry lip-wobble thing if he made her quit, which was worse than just enduring the cuddle he kinda liked anyway.

“It’s big enough so no one has to sleep on the floor before we can afford furniture! Stop being grumpy. You know we don’t snore.” She squeezed him again. “I’d rather eat off a box with you guys than with anybody anywhere else.”

“You say that now…” Katsuki hung in her embrace like a resigned cat, which was how Eijiro found them when he emerged from under the bed with a handful of stray trash. He looked up at them with that dawning smile Katsuki never quite knew what to do with.

“Heeeey, you guys having fun without me?” He caught one of Katsuki’s pants legs in his grasp and gently tugged. 

“Oh yeah, a total blast. It’s a real party.” Katsuki deadpanned before getting them both by the back of the shirt. “Ok, losers. Back to work! I am not listening to Aizawa bitch because you’re still cleaning when it’s time to turn in keys!”

It’d be more effective if they weren’t both laughing at him. He actually didn’t mind it all that much, which wasn’t something he’d ever expected from his future. If pressed, he’d even admit he liked it. From them. 

They actually made some decent progress before Mina finished in the closet. Eijiro’s room wasn’t that messy. He just didn’t do deep cleaning so they were dealing with two and a half years of backlog. She was looking around, searching for something else to do, when the idea hit. Katsuki could see it land like a missle. He scrolled back through their recent conversations in his head, looking for the horrible seeds of an idea that had just chosen to sprout. Her eyes grew wide and began to sparkle. She turned slowly towards him and at once he knew what was coming.

“No.” He pointed and repeated himself. “No!”

“We should have a party!” Mina gasped.

Eijiro dropped what he was doing in total, unadulterated delight. “Hell yes , we should have a party!”

“Everyone’s gonna be moving away or getting busy soon.” Mina turned those deadly eyes on him and fuck, he was already done. “We’ve all been really good too! We should get to be regular kids for a little bit before we all gotta be heroes, right?”

“Betcha we can get people to pitch in for a good venue.” Eijiro was already texting the Heroics Department group chat. Katsuki felt his phone buzz and then keep buzzing even after Eijiro stopped texting. Odds were it was Four Eyes complaining about non-school related business in the group chat again, but his gut said it was all the assholes they’d spent three years locked in a building with picking up the idea and gleefully running with it.

 Mina tackle-glomped him again. “This is gonna be so much fun!” She squealed and even Katsuki couldn’t rain on her parade.

“Yeah.” He sighed. “So much fun.”

They did make the cut off for turning in Eijiro’s key, but just barely. The boxes went in the back of a van along with Mina’s stuff. She’d borrowed it from a relative who knew her and her boyfriend well enough to just drop it off in the visitor parking lot overnight. The plan was that they’d come back later and drive it over to the new apartment. They’d all meet up there to unload, but they actually had a bit before the agreed-upon time.

In the meantime, they all had dinner to worry about. Lunch Rush had shut down the Great Mess Hall after the graduation ceremony so they were on their own for food. Fortunately they all had some money; either advances from their agencies or in Katsuki’s case seed money from his parents. 

He flipped idly through his phone as he followed Mina and Eijiro on their way to a little okonomiyaki place they all liked. They were busy hashing out details about the party, but it was coming together in record time. They’d even found a venue; some club downtown. Enough people had enthusiastically RSVPed that Yaomomo had stepped in to book the location and said everyone could cash app their shares to her later. Katsuki was pretty sure that the room wouldn’t have been available if anyone else had asked, but he could respect her for using her Rich Girl powers for good. 

Anyway, something more interesting was going on in the 1-A group chat.

Shinsou: Guys, I think I just met Bakugo from 20 years in the future after a major redemption arc.

Uraraka: LOL! What’s he like?

He suppressed the urge to smile. Of all his classmates who weren’t Mina or Eijiro, he liked Eyebags and Chubby Cheeks the best. Shinsou wasn’t afraid to be a bitch and he didn’t take shit personally. Meanwhile Uraraka was always ready to throw down and that made them automatically something like friends. 

Bakugo: I will fucking end you, Eyebags. Who needs a redemption arc?

Uraraka: Aww, look who’s up before noon!

Bakugo : You wanna go , Round Face?

Uraraka: You want another dirt nap that bad? Sure.

Ha. Nice.

Uraraka: Shinsou, where’d you meet a time traveller?

Shinsou: Job interview. Watchtower out in Jedha.

Woah. Eyebags had balls. There weren’t many areas in Musutafu where you legit had to worry about getting stabbed. Jedha was the worst of the worst. Not even villains hung out there if they had other options. 

Uraraka: I don’t see them on the job board. I guess you got it?

Probably. Eyebags was a pretty good catch. The only reason he didn’t already have a job was because he wasn’t a showy type, but he’d look good on an application.  

Shinsou: It wasn’t advertised on the board. Red Tower said he’d be recruiting for patrollers soon though. Why, are you still looking? 

That got Katsuki’s attention.

Red Tower was a reformed vigilante. Katsuki didn’t follow the careers of many heroes outside the JP Top 25, but he made an exception for Red Tower. Aldera hadn’t always been the nice suburb he grew up in. His parents had been dirt poor when they started out and the only reason they could have bought a house when they did was because the property values there had hit rock bottom. The district couldn’t afford to incentivize any heroes to found an agency in Aldera so the neighborhood had been dirty and dangerous until Red Tower established his hunting grounds there. 

One hero made all the difference; especially when it was a good one who worked for free. Suddenly the district could complete a public works project without half their materials going missing or it getting blown up halfway. The drug dealers and panderers who haunted the darkened shopping arcades showed up in a pile in front of the police station so actual merchants could move back in.   

He was a crusty guy, sure, but he got shit done and had had a meteoric rise from the bottom as soon as he entered the Pro league. He’d done it without shilling for tennis shoes or hawking merch either. His eventual partner, Watchman, was pretty badass too although you heard less about him. 

Katsuki had gone into UA wanting to be the next All Might. His ideals hadn’t changed, but after everything he’d been through he was equally wary of becoming the next Endeavor. Todoroki’s old man had just barely turned his reputation around and it had only taken nearly getting killed and total personality transplant.

His therapist hadn’t said so in so many words, but had implied it was something he wanted to be on guard against. Hound Dog didn’t often give unsolicited advice like that. That wasn’t how therapy worked. So when he chose to speak Katsuki had learned to listen. 

Bakugo: Jedha is a slum. Watchtower just made the municipal top 50. The fuck are they doing out there?

Shinsou: Fighting crime, one presumes.

“Yeah, no shit dumbass.” Katsuki muttered. More like wasting their time putting out a tire fire.

“You say something, bro?” Eijiro turned back with a quizzical look.

“Eyebags is talking shit in chat.” Katsuki replied dismissively.

Uraraka : Yeah, I had that one offer, but it turns out they wanted me to have a permanent escort. On account of I’m so *~ delicate~* . I wouldn’t have minded just doing rescue and excavation work, but Sero got an offer from the same agency and I found out mine was like 20% under his and I got less vacation. So now I’m hunting again.

Shinsou: Idiots.

Agreed. Katsuki had thought she was wasting her time too with RedCrossed when she’d announced that she’d gotten a job offer from them and was gonna accept it, but it hadn’t been his business. Kinda sucked that he’d been right though. Round Face was a solid hero and deserved better than being lowballed like that. Good on her for not taking that lying down. 

Uraraka: It’s whatever, but real talk: are they gonna advertise soon? Watchtower?

Shinsou: I can give Red Tower your number. If you can get along with Bakugo, you’ll like him.

Bakugo: All right, where the fuck are you. I’m going to beat your ass.

Shinsou: The building is still in reno so if you go and think you got lost, you didn’t.

Bakugo: Oi!

Uraraka: Thanks, you’re the best! Are you coming tonight?

Shinsou: Yeah, I got talked into it.

Bakugo: Do not ignore me, assholes

“Eyebags is coming.” Katsuki said as they made it to the restaurant.

Eijiro held the door open for both Katsuki and Mina. He looked over Katsuki’s shoulder at the chat as they found a table.

“Oh hey, Watchtower’s that agency you follow.” He elbowed Katsuki and grinned. “Gonna go for it?”

“I already got a job.” 

It was with Best Jeanist, who he hadn’t really expected to get a recruitment offer from. They’d only worked together once; just enough for him to admit he respected Best Jeanist as a hero, but the rest of the agency was not his people. A lot had happened since then, but Jeanist’s had the most prestige and the best healthcare package of all the offers he’d gotten. 

Implant maintenance was no fucking joke and very few insurance packages covered the kind of ongoing mental healthcare he apparently needed to not be a complete tool. If he ended up on public insurance he’d be doubly fucked because they didn’t cover it at all. So it was Jeanist or nothing.

“Yeah, but I still don’t like how he controls your image.” Mina pouted. She had been very clear on that point and done up an entire budget trying to prove they could, between them, handle it out of pocket if they had to. Personal expression was a big fucking deal for Mina. She’d presented it to him intervention-style with Eijiro standing behind her nodding with his Super Serious face on every few words until Katsuki’d had to break it to them that her math was wrong.

Uraraka: Oooooo! Was it the mysterious boyfriend?

Uraraka: DO WE FINALLY GET TO MEET HIM?

Shinsou : Ugh, yes .

Uraraka: I was already excited, but now I’m pumped!

Katsuki whistled. “Looks like Eyebags is bringing company too.”

Mina and Eijiro both turned at once. Like everybody in their class, they were obsessed with The Boyfriend. He was like a cryptid and nearly everybody in their department had tried tailing Shinsou off campus at least once to try and spot the poor damn kid. Heroes, especially student Heroes, didn’t really understand boundaries.

At first Katsuki thought that The Boyfriend didn’t exist, but if Shinsou was faking it then he’d put unrealistic amounts of effort into his prank.

“Is it The Boyfriend?” Mina clenched her little fists in excitement and then tugged on his sleeve so he’d show her his screen. “Oh my gosh it is! This is great. I’m leaving school with no regrets at all. Do you think he’s cute? I can’t tell if Shinsou would go for cute or hot. He’s got all those band posters in his room with the untouchably attractive singers, but then he goes nuts over kittens. I can’t make up my mind.”

Katsuki’s money was on ‘cute.’ Shinsou seemed like the type. Katsuki knew because he could recognize his own species. 

Fortunately the server showed up then so he didn’t have to say so.


Finding Watchtower’s building turned out to not be all that hard. It was right across from the Jedha train station; front and center, no fucks given. The sign was covered up, but the crime ticker wrapping around the whole building was kind of a giveaway. 

“Well that’s a statement.” Katsuki murmured to himself. 

There were some punks out on the street who were eying him up. He probably shouldn’t have worn his good jacket, but he’d wanted to make a good impression if he ran into anybody and his dad had made it just for him. Assuming it survived that long, Katsuki planned on being buried in it.

He gave them the sort of crazy-ass grin that made actual villains reconsider their life choices and, wouldn’t you know it, suddenly they had something better to do in the opposite direction. Must have been real urgent. Some of them were almost running. Ha!  

“Nice, kid.” Someone said from behind him.

Katsuki turned and nearly had a heart attack as he realized the guy sleeping on an open row of seats on the other end of the car hadn’t been some random hobo. All he’d seen of the guy was a pair of sturdy boots poking out into the aisle.

The guy was taller than him with a squashed nose and a lantern jaw. He wore a bandana mask and part of a very familiar costume under his camo jacket.

“Red Tower?” Katsuki asked.

Shit, that was lame. 

“Yeah.” The hero stepped around him and looked him over. “Who’s asking?”

“Ground Zero.” Katsuki was in the enviable position of having his civilian identity already outed so he didn’t need to bother with covering up what he was doing. Mina and Eijiro were also planning on letting their civilian identities become public. Mina already had a ton of modelling gigs lined up and you had to maintain a certain level of transparency when you worked with the cops as much as Fatgum’s agency did. “Heard you were looking for patrollers.”

“Ground Zero, huh?” Red Tower didn’t sound skeptical. He sounded interested. “I’ve heard of you. Yeah, we’re recruiting. Why don’t we go have a chat?”

The inside of Watchtower looked like the 15-minute mark of a speed renovation show. “Psyren wasn’t kidding.” He muttered, but accidentally said it loud enough for Red Tower to hear.

“So that’s how you heard of us.” He nodded. “You’re both in the same class, yeah? I think I remember you two having a match in the Sports Festival last year. Kind of surprised Psyren didn’t get you. Boy’s good at punching people’s buttons.”

“I took out my hearing aids before the match and switched them with earplugs.” There were places to hide the fact that he had hearing loss related to his quirk, but this wasn’t one of them. “Between that and the crowd all I saw was his mouth moving and no sound coming out. He was pissed afterwards. It was hilarious.”

Red Tower barked out a laugh that put all ten million of his disturbing teeth on display. “Bet he was! Next question; don’t you got a job already? This place is kind of slumming it for someone who graduated in the UA Top Five and never interned with anyone ranked below 4th nationally.”

That was a disturbing amount of information for someone to just have about him, casually, without even having to think about it. Deku could do it. He’d retained information like a thirsty sponge and his mom had it too, a bit. So did Katsuki, but it had taken him years to figure out that normal people (extras, his fucked up brain still insisted sometime) had to write that stuff down or look it up.

“I got an offer from Jeanist’s agency, but… I may not be his kind of people.” Katsuki hated having to admit to weakness, but he’d learned it was better than trying to force himself into the wrong kind of mold just to avoid backing off on a bad choice. There was stuff about himself he wanted to work on, but the more he thought on it the more he realized that Jeanist’s way wasn’t the direction he wanted to take himself in. 

He tried to pretend it didn’t have anything to do with the fact that Mina and Eiji absolutely fucking hated the idea of him working there and was only mostly successful. 

“He’s about ‘rehabilitating’ unmarketable heroes and I’m not real interested in being Best Jeanist 10.0.”

“Shit, he’s still on that?” Red Tower sighed and rolled his eyes. “Tsunagu’s a nice guy and all, but you ain’t wrong. You stick with him? You’re gonna end up a mini-me like all his other sidekicks. That works for some. We don’t got an aesthetic here. You can wear whatever so long as it works and I don’t have to hear about it on the internet. Seriously though, kid.” He sobered and gave Katsuki an evaluating look. “What are you looking for here? Considering I’ve watched the news more than once in the past few months, I know what you can bring to the table. What are you looking to find here? Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Jehda ward is pretty much the armpit of Musutafu right now.”

‘Armpit’ was kind of generous, actually. Katsuki would have chosen a different orifice for that analogy.

“I got some personal stuff I wanna work on.” Katsuki considered his words. “This seems like a good place to do it, but it’ll depend on what your benefits look like. I got two implants that need regular maintenance and a therapist to monitor me.”

This was his big gambit. He knew he was a hot commodity and most of the places he’d been scouted by were big enough names that just offering him a job right out of school was a huge concession. Last night, though, as he lay in his bed at home for the last time it had occurred to him that he would have more negotiating power with a smaller agency.

The big agencies didn’t need to offer benefits. Their heroes were independently wealthy within a few years and could cover whatever they wanted out of pocket. The thing was, Katsuki couldn’t go a few years without implant maintenance. His hearing aids and inner ear shielding alone were crucial to his work. Mina and Eijiro had said that they’d be happy covering living expenses for him, but Katsuki knew he’d hate every minute of that. He already felt like a fifth wheel around them although he was never gonna be strong enough to leave until they made him.

He was ready to acknowledge the fact that Watchtower was the kind of place where he wanted to be and doing what he wanted to be doing. Preteen Katsuki had been all about the prestige, but UA had knocked a lot of that thirst for fame out of him. For one thing, he’d realized he hated attention. It was okay if people were cheering his name at a distance, but he absolutely could not handle fans up close. He got tense and when he got tense he got angry. If he got angry then there was a chance he’d explode. The regulator was a useful tool, but it didn’t work miracles.

“Shit.” Red Tower scowled. “Of course I’m gonna get this question when Watchman’s off duty. Damn it. Wait a second. I got the papers here somewhere.” He vanished into the unlit corridor behind the reception desk and reappeared a short while later with a stack of folders and a hunted expression. “Okay, they cover implants. Watchman bitched until we went whole hog on that; internal and external prosthetics, neurochemical nannies, that shit. If it falls off then you get a new one. What kind of therapy are we talkin’ here?”

Sweat sprang up along Katsuki’s spine as he fought to stay cool. He’d just hit the motherfucking lottery.

“Psychotherapy, mostly. I got an impulse control disorder. They think it’s quirk induced. The symptoms showed up around the same time. That’s what the regulator’s for. Keeps me from getting pissed off for no reason and helps me calm down faster.” It also alleviated some of his face-blindness, which no one had realized was even a problem until Hound Dog asked why he kept calling people he didn’t know very well ‘extras’. The second implant filled in the last of that gap. He still had to use other clues to identify people he didn’t know real well for the most part, but it wasn’t near as bad as it had been when he was a kid and everyone who wasn’t part of his immediate circle looked like cardboard cutouts. “Therapy’s for the rest and some other shit.” Katsuki wet his lips. He was already prepared to jump. Jeanist’s agency had only covered the therapy. He would have been on his own for maintenance. “Behavior repatterning, cognitive training. PTSD management. That stuff.”

Red Tower stilled and Katsuki thought he saw understanding --no, empathy in Red Tower’s expression. “Yeah, we cover that too. I can tell you right off.” His mouth quirked wryly. “You got a therapist you like already?”

Katsuki shook his head. He didn’t want a new therapist, but he didn’t really have a choice. “He’s the school counselor at UA. I gotta find somebody new. He’s booked solid with students.”

“I’ll get you my guy’s number. He’s been dealing with my ornery ass for years, I’m sure you’ll come as a welcome break.” Red Tower found what he was looking for; a little staple-bound booklet. “There, that’s the overview of what we cover. Watchman and I are going heavy on medical and mental upkeep for a smaller stable of heroes. You’ll work more, but we’ll take care of you.”

They sure fucking were, Katsuki realized as he skimmed the booklet. According to it, there were no out of pocket expenses not even for his fancy neurochemistry implant specialist. Watchtower could pay him in pocket lint and he’d probably still come out ahead of what he’d make with Jeanist as a sidekick.

Play it cool, he reminded himself.

“You guys know how you’re gonna handle merch and PR?” He asked instead of saying ‘give me a contract and a fucking pen.’

“Not a damn clue.” Red Tower sighed. “Once we got heroes then we’re gonna start interviewing managers and public relations firms. I didn’t want them influencing the composition of our team. Watchman can do all the due diligence we need vis-à-vis background checks and that crap. We never needed it before. I don’t care and Watchman doesn’t want his face public.”

“He’s underground?” Katsuki had a hard time believing it. Watchman had a small, but very dedicated fanbase online that he even interacted with periodically --mostly because he seemed to enjoy watching the fandom shriek as they all scrambled to hide their terrible fanart or whatever. They didn’t seem to realize he probably was around all the time and only broke out his verified account when he wanted to fuck with them.

Granted, Katsuki was totally going to do the same thing when he had his own fandom so he wasn’t really in a position to judge. 

“Nah, but he’s an investigator and does undercover work periodically.” Red Tower replied absently. He checked his phone and apparently texted someone. “Tell you what, I got someone on their way in. The basement gym is shit, but it’s good enough for a skills test.”

‘Skills test’ was an overstatement. Katsuki was dripping sweat and sore when he dragged himself into the apartment, but feeling like he’d captured the sun in his own chest. Chubby Cheeks had shown up about halfway through Red Tower handing him his own ass. She’d jumped into the ring and it had been… fun.

Katsuki had done some team drills with Best Jeanist’s people so far and ‘fun’ had not been on the menu. The senior sidekicks critiqued everyone’s style over their effectiveness. It didn’t matter to them if you won if you didn’t look good doing it. They drilled on how to talk to the press. They workshopped team victory poses and it was all just nauseating.

He and Uraraka both had soft job offers with a firm one on the way once Watchman gave Red Tower his budget for sidekicks. It was pretty clear to Katsuki that his soon-to-be boss had his own boss. That was fine. It was reassuring even to understand the agency hierarchy right off.

 Katsuki hadn’t told Tower that he was signing whatever they put in front of him, but he hoped Uraraka would negotiate harder than she had with RedCrossed.

Eijiro was sitting on the floor in front of a TV box, trying to assemble what was probably going to be a couch.

“Since when can we afford furniture?” Katsuki asked, ditching his bag and going to rescue Eijiro from the allen wrench. 

“Since my mom went to Ikea this morning and bought a living room set without telling us.” He didn’t look upset even though his mom was prone to controlling shit like that sometimes. “It’s all black and white so Mina can hang her paintings without it clashing. I figure this means we can splurge on your fancy kitchen stuff sooner.”

Neither Mina nor Eijiro cooked. Katsuki had picked it up as a kid because there’d been large swaths of time when his parents were either preparing for a fashion show, at a show, or recovering from a show so life was easier if he could fend for himself. 

“Might be able to do more than that.” Katsuki said carefully. 

Eijiro could read volumes of meaning out of anyone’s tone, but he seemed triply fluent in the slightest nuances of Katsuki’s. He put down the upside down assembly instructions he’d been trying to read and turned to stare at Katsuki. “Bro. Bro, that is your good news voice.”

Katsuki hadn’t realized he had a ‘good news’ voice at all, but let it pass for the moment. He held up the benefits pamphlet Tower had let him bring home without saying anything. Ejiro took it and read it with escalating excitement. “Bro!” He wheezed. “Wherever this is you gotta do it. We can work anything else out.”

He made a noise like a very excited teakettle when Katsuki said, “It’s Watchtower.” 

Mina walked in while Eijiro was still swinging him around, arms pinned to his sides and face frozen, in the world’s most enthusiastic hug.


The party… happened.

Katsuki regretted his decision to power down his regulator implant almost immediately. He didn’t often need to turn it off; mostly for firmware updates and reloading the implant’s internal apothecary.

He was tense and irritable even before he showed up and found out the whole place was blacklit, which made him more tense and even more irritable. Eijiro and Mina were having fun though and if he left then they’d try to leave too, so he was going to have to stick it out.  

His day had gotten off to a shit start when he went to go see his parents to let them know he’d found a new job. Only, Auntie Inko was visiting.

Most of the time Auntie was great to hang around. Katsuki’s mom was too much like him for them to get along easily without shouting and his dad always seemed to fade into the background. Auntie though radiated warmth and comfort like a mom-shaped sunbeam --unless she was missing Deku.

It happened a few times a year; on family centric holidays or the beginning of the school year. No one liked leaving her on her own when it happened so she’d come stay with Katsuki’s parents for a few days until she wasn’t so quiet or pale.

She never said so, but Katsuki wasn’t stupid. He knew seeing him when she was low like that just made it worse so he’d had to find an excuse to leave fast without telling his parents the good news. In retrospect that made it an even worse day to do something stupid. 

If you’d asked preteen Katsuki if there was any possibility that he’d ever miss Deku if the stupid nerd just dropped off the face of the planet one day then the answer would have been an instant ‘hell no.’

The thing was, Katsuki and Izuku had been foundational fixtures in each other’s life. They’d literally slept in the same cradle. Until Deku disappeared, they’d never gone more than a long weekend without at least laying eyes on each other. By the end of middle school, Deku was one of the few people left in his life from before Katsuki’s quirk came in. He’d never had to struggle to recognize the other boy and maybe that’s why Katsuki had never been able to forgive Deku for even the smallest perceived slight. Deku’d been real when very few people were so anything he did or said had a bigger impact.

It turned out though that as much bad feeling Katsuki had built up for Deku nothing could compare to the hole he’d left behind. He could distract himself for long periods of time, but the longer Deku stayed gone the worse Katsuki felt about it because he’d been through the top heroics program in the world.

He knew that the chances of a homeless teenager, much less a quirkless homeless teenager still being alive at this point were slim to none.

That cloud loomed over his family and Auntie Inko at every holiday. No one had been brave enough to say it yet and it sure wasn’t going to be Katsuki, but it meant that he struggled for a few days whenever the subject came up. Those were the days when he had to be the most careful. He had to stay away from his known triggers. He had to take extra care with his own peace of mind. He had to keep his fucking regulator on.

Katsuki knew all that and turned it off anyway because this was going to be the last time he saw his classmates all in one place ever again. People drank at events like that. They did toasts. 

Just once, he didn’t want to be the guy who killed the mood.

So he found a corner by the drink vendor and prepared to stick it out until his two headaches wore themselves out.

Of course, that’s where it happened.

A guy in black with UV face paint on showed up at the vendor to order drinks. He was just one dude in a constant stream of people, but their eyes met through sheer happenstance. 

Katsuki didn’t even recognize Deku at first. He’d grown a lot; taller, broader, more defined in the face. He was just different. It wasn’t until Deku clearly recognized him that Katsuki recognized that look.

For better or for worse, Katsuki was real familiar with Deku’s ‘I’m in trouble’ face. He hadn’t been into self reflection in those days so it never occurred to him that if someone was consistently scared of him then they might not be the problem. Even if it did occur to him then it might have gotten drowned out in the echo chamber that was his pre-high school education experience.

Seeing it as a licensed hero made the bottom fall out of his stomach, while at the same time he suddenly felt like he could breathe after being forced to hold his breath for years. 

Deku was alive.

...and at his graduation party for some reason.

They stared at each other for what could have been hours or seconds before Deku turned and booked it into the loose crowd of Katsuki’s classmates.

That is when things went south.

Katsuki had never felt out of control during a fit until he started therapy and realized his temper was basically a car with brakes that failed around a certain speed. He was fine as long as he didn’t get himself worked up, but once he did he was locked inside the cabin and couldn’t slow down until he coasted to a stop.

He found Deku over by the Class B assholes. The Quirk-thief extra was the only person he had regular contact with aside from Big Hands because that dick liked to mess with Mina and Eijiro. Someone had to run him off.

Eyebags was sitting with them and jumped over the back of the couch they’d been sitting on to interpose himself between Katsuki and Deku. 

Katsuki had no fucking idea what to make of that and was doing everything he could just to catch hold of his own reins. It didn’t go well. 

He said… stuff.

For once though, Deku talked right back at him. 

“Go away, Kacchan. We don’t have anything to talk about.”

That and the sound of a nickname he hadn’t heard in years wound him right back up. Relief at knowing the guy was alive got swept aside by outrage on Auntie Inko’s behalf. Deku apparently could have gone home any time he wanted, but he just hadn’t. “Bullshit, we don’t. You think you can just do whatever the hell you want? Your mom is...”

Eyebags regularly channelled Eraserhead on a good day, but when he dropped his chin and got ready to fight the resemblance took on a whole new level. “Back off, asshole. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” He snarled.

Bakugo rocked back on one heel. “Huh.” He looked Eyebags over, trying to understand what he was seeing. Then his eyes landed on Deku’s hand clinging to Eyebags’ sleeve. “Not a stranger, then. Man, Deku, you got even more pathetic than I thought.” Shut up. “Couldn’t be a hero so you just found somebody new to follow around; that it?” 

Shut up. Shut up.

“That’s really funny coming from the guy picking a fight with a civilian.” Monoma drawled. “I mean, we already knew you were a brute and a bully. Good on you though; you found a brand new low!”

That knocked some of the wind out of Katsuki. He was fucking up again. 

Eijiro’s budget knockoff added,  “You do remember this is a party your squad spent a lot of effort putting together, right? You wanna explain to Kirishima and Ashido that you were the one who got everyone kicked out because you had to start a fight?”

Whatever furious momentum he had left was shut down cold at the mention of Mina and Eijiro. They were right. The party meant a bunch to his… to them. Not even to settle his history with Deku was he going to wreck their event.

“Whatever, assholes. You don’t even know what you’re in the middle of.” He felt like he’d just surfaced after diving down far too deep.

“Neither do you, Kacchan.” Deku urged his meat shield to one side. He’d stopped shaking and seemed anchored in a way Katsuki had never seen from him. Where’d he been? What had he been doing to change that much? “What happened between Mom and I is between us. I don’t know what you overheard eavesdropping on your mom’s phone calls, but it’s not your business.”

That blow hit hard. The truth was that neither his mom nor Auntie Inko had really talked to him about what happened with Deku. His dad speculated some, but the old hag was Auntie’s confidant and she didn’t share what they discussed. He had some pieces that he, yes, had overheard them talking about. 

Honestly, he’d never understood why Deku took off. He and Auntie were basically a family of two and had been close up until they suddenly weren’t. 

“She’s worried about you, you dick.” He snapped, trying one more time to make Deku understand.

“My phone number hasn’t changed. She knows how to reach me.” Deku teared up, but for once he didn’t turn on the waterworks. “Why do you care? You made it clear what you thought of me in middle school. You don’t get to come back years later and pretend any part of my life concerns you. We aren’t friends and you made it very clear that we never were.”

It might have hurt less if Deku had just hit him because he was right. Katsuki didn’t have any right to be taking him to task and his mouth refused to form words as vulnerable as ‘please come back, everybody misses you.’

Katsuki had been writing an apology in his head for about a year and a half. It got longer or shorter depending on his mood or most recent therapy session. Eijiro had listened to it once or twice on Deku’s behalf when Katsuki got really low and needed to know he was sorry for the right things. 

He’d always pictured himself saying it in a closed room with maybe their parents around or, at worst, to a gravestone. 

He never thought he’d rob himself of the chance to say it to Deku’s face.

Through sheer force of will alone, Katsuki got himself out of there and back to his corner. 

He’d have stayed there for the rest of his life except somebody fucking snitched to Eijiro on him. 

“What happened? Aoyama said you went off on someone.”

If possible, Katsuki felt even more ashamed than before when confronted with Eijiro’s concerned face. “Deku’s here.”

“Deku?” He blinked and went through at least five distinct phases of amazement. Eijiro had been KAtsuki’s partner in denial when it came to Deku’s probable fate. “Deku Deku?” He hissed. “Are you serious? Are you okay?”

“I’m fucking fine.” Bakugo snapped.

“So that would be a no.” Eijiro saw right through him and Katsuki scowled. “Don’t pout, Bro. It’s not manly. Was he, uh, did he look okay?”

“Yeah.” He admitted at length. That was something. “Doesn’t look like he’s been sleeping rough or not eating.”

“Okay, good. That’s two worries we can take off the list.” Eijiro clapped him on the shoulders. “So… how did it go? I mean, I can kinda guess. Can you give me the details though?”

“He got the drop on me.” Bakugo muttered, almost inaudible. “I was getting a soda, looked up, and there he was. We just fuckin’ stared at each other and I was gonna… you know, but he rabbited. It pissed me off and then we had a scene. Eyebags was there. That Copycat Fucker was shooting off his mouth too and Deku said…” He paused and then muttered, “...anyway, I didn’t do it. I fucked up and said a bunch of other shit instead. Can we not do this?” 

“Aw, Bro.” Eijiro leaned over so he could meet Katsuki’s gaze. “I’m sorry. I know that’s not how you wanted it to go.”

“It’s whatever.”

“Hey, man, don’t…” Eijiro stopped and tried again. “This isn’t meant to be mean, but do you have your regulator on?”

Katsuki shut his eyes and turned away, unable to admit what he’d done. He couldn’t stay quiet forever though.

“I thought there was gonna be drinking. So I shut it off before I came.”

“Bro, we picked this place specifically so there wouldn’t be drinking.” 

“Well, I didn’t fuckin’ know that!” Katsuki snapped, feeling cornered. Not once had that come up in conversation when Mina or Eijiro had been talking about their potential venues. If he’d known they’d all get tagged at the entrance then his evening would have been very different.

For a second he thought he might have finally pushed Eijiro too far, but Katsuki watched him step back from that edge. Eijiro dragged a hand through his hair and blew out his breath. “Okay, that’s on me. I should have said. You can’t read my mind. Sorry, bro.”

“Don’t fucking apologize.”

“Ok, first order of business: turn the regulator back on and get that rage juice back under control.” Eijiro pointed at the wrist piece Katsuki had been worrying at. “You’re going to feel bad enough already.”

He was right. Katsuki acknowledged that he should have turned it back on as soon as he’d arrived, but he hated the vulnerable feeling he got when it started to pump out all the supplemental biochemicals his brain didn’t produce efficiently on its own. “...ugh, I’m gonna be a zombie for the next half hour.” He complained as he engaged the regulator’s emergency cooldown protocol.

Eijiro elbowed him. “That’s why you’re gonna stick with me until you even out. The party just got started. You still have plenty of time to have fun. Okay, Bro?”

“This fucking sucks.” The one thing he’d wanted was to not keep either Mina or Eijiro stuck watching him.

“I know it does.” Eijiro told him. “We can’t help the messed up stuff our brains do.” He paused. “So, you said Shinsou was with Deku?”

The conversational seque threw him. “Yeah, what about it?”

“Was he a little guy in black with kitty facepaint?”

He was still too on edge to handle that level of ignorance, not even from Eijiro. Ragdoll had been taken by the League of Villains at the same time they’d snatched him. She hadn’t made it out with her quirk intact. They still talked sometimes around the anniversary of the Kamino Ward incident.Eijiro knew that. “That’s Ragdoll paint, you degenerate!” Katsuki stopped. He took a minute and then tried again. “I mean, yeah?”

“Holy shit, Bro.” Eijiro pumped his fists. “You went off on the Boyfriend.”

“The…” The what? No. Hell no . “Deku? No fuckin way.”

“No man, really. Shinsou introduced us when they got here.” Eijiro insisted, eyes sparkling. “How can you get mad at that face? He painted his freckles like kitty whiskers!”

“I said it’s not … ugh, could you not press my buttons right now, asshole?” The cooldown started to hit right then and Katsuki felt a little bit like Eijiro’s voice was filtered through deep water for a couple of seconds.

“Sorry, Bro.” He pouted. “So, this is good though. If he’s with Shinsou then we can find him later. Then you can try again. Shinsou can set up a meeting.”

Ha. That wasn’t going to happen. 

“Don’t hold your breath.” Katsuki grumbled. “Eyebags wouldn’t even tell you his name . You think he’s gonna set up a meet? Hell no.”

Shinsou was legendarily possessive, protective, and secretive when it came to his mystery SO. That was the single solitary silver lining about the whole shit show of an evening. If Deku was dating Shinsou then he had someone looking after him. That was something at least.

“Well… ugh, and I can’t believe I’m about to say this…” Eijiro pulled his hair back. “... but maybe using your words isn’t the best plan. Just this once. You already said a lot, but you’re more of an action kinda guy. Maybe lean into that?”

“What?” Katsuki shook his head, feeling like he was two steps behind in the conversation.

Fortunately, Eyebags put in an appearance right then. 

Normally they got along okay. Shinsou wasn’t a touchy feely sort and appreciated when someone didn’t try to force a connection on him --like the majority of their classroom who’d taken his self introduction of ‘I’m not here to make friends’ like a personal fucking challenge.

Eyebags looked at them like he’d gladly show Katsuki his own heart in the two seconds where their eyes met before Eijiro interposed himself between them. 

“I’m just getting drinks. I’m not here for round two.” Eyebags gave them the cut direct in favor of the drink dispenser and Katsuki had to wonder if he’d just fucked that friendship up permanently.

“No, bro, I am serious. You gotta show him you’re sorry. You know, make it up to him.” Eijiro waited until once Shinsou was safely gone. “Stuff like this shouldn’t be easy. Yeah, he’s going to tell you to get lost the first few times. I’m not going to let you give up on this. It can be fixed and we’re gonna fix it.”

At his heart, Eijiro was a better hero than Katsuki and he was pretty much the only person Katsuki had or might ever let himself be saved by.

“All right.” His voice felt like it was being dragged out of him. “Just… okay.”

The emergency cooldown function of his neuroregulator was really only for emergencies and calming himself down in a public place really wasn’t one, but he didn’t use it too often anymore so he could handle one frivolous deployment. It turned him into a really distractible zombie, but Eijiro stayed true to his word and kept Katsuki on a tight, tight leash. Even so, Katsuki wasn’t so out of it that he couldn’t tell Eijiro was walking them around the party room with a purpose. He didn’t realize what that purpose was until Eijiro snuck the world’s least subtle pic of Deku (tucked comfortably under Eyebags’ arm and yeah, okay, he could see it now) in front of God and everybody.

“Eiji, what the fuck?” He hissed.

“Don’t worry!” Eijiro grinned uncannily like Baby Shark if Baby Shark was up to something. “I’ve got a plan!”

“God help us.” Katsuki groaned and turned to look for Mina, only to draw up short by Eijiro’s hand on his wrist. He looked back. “What?”

Eijiro’s face was doing something. Katsuki didn’t even know what. “Eiji?” He asked.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit.

It had slipped out. ‘Eiji’ was Mina’s nickname for Eijiro. Katsuki had inadvertently locked himself into stuff like ‘Shitty Hair’ and ‘Shark Teeth’ early on and knew damn well it’d look weird if he suddenly stopped.

“Don’t call me on shit right now.” Katsuki considered pulling his hand away, but Eijiro hardly ever touched him. It was all manly shoulder pats and the very rare bro-hug between them. Katsuki had spent most of his life touch-averse until two smiley hug freaks rolled into his life and made him realize that, yeah, there were some people in the world he wanted attention from. 

“I’m not…” Eijiro winced as he acknowledged that he totally had. “... I meant to say that sounds good when you say it.” He started to turn red. “You should call me that more often.”

Katsuki didn’t need a lot of convincing. If his best friend was going to give him a hand out from the corner he’d painted himself into at the age of fifteen then he’d take it.

Mina picked that moment to take a break from the dance floor and plowed into Katsuki’s side. She looped an arm around Eijiro’s waist and pulled him in too so she had one of them on each side. “I am so wired, guys. I think I need a break.” She wheezed. 

“You look wired, babe. Let me get you some water.” Eijiro kissed the top of her head and whispered low, “We had to use the chill pill. Can you stay with him until I get back?”

She turned her face to Katsuki and cupped his face between her palms to ask him, very seriously. “Do I need to beat somebody up?”

“Nah.” Katsuki couldn’t pull away from her any more than he could Eijiro… Eiji. “It was just me again.”

“Agree to disagree.” The guy in question muttered before heading off to get the promised drink. 

Mina bullied Katsuki over to a couch and then made sure he couldn’t sneak off by sitting in his lap. “Ok, so you wanna tell me what happened?” She asked. “Cause I can go fight somebody while Eiji’s not here to stop me.”

Katsuki shook his head. “I got a bad surprise, is all.” That felt kind of like lying so he added. “I was a dipshit and shut off my regulator so I couldn’t handle it.”

“Negative self talk.” Mina said. “Hound Dog would have something to say about that.”

“He’d have a lot to say about tonight.” Katsuki looked around and, finding no one was listening, told her the news. “Deku is here.”

Mina stilled. “Where?” She hissed, looking around. “Does Eiji know?”

“Yeah. Turns out he’s Eyebags’ boyfriend.”

“Oh my gosh. He was under our noses the whole time. ” She tugged on the front of his shirt. “Have you talked to him? Oh wait.” She pursed her lips. “No regulator. That’s what happened. Oh honey. Is he still around? I bet you I could get his number. We could use it to track his GPS.”

“That’s not a…” Katsuki stopped as something occurred to him. 

Deku had said ‘she knows how to reach me’ and ‘my number hasn’t changed.’ 

Auntie Inko had hired people to look for Deku. Katsuki was pretty sure his mom had hired people to look for Deku. How the everloving fuck had they missed that?

Deku would have had to take over his phone line. The phone companies would do that sometimes although Katsuki had never heard of them doing it for a teenager. Auntie wouldn’t have had so much anxiety over whether or not her son was alive if she could see the numbers he called on her bill.

Something else was going on. Katsuki felt certainty coil up in the pit of his stomach. There was even more to the split between Deku and Auntie Inko than he’d realized and Katsuki reluctantly acknowledged that he needed to butt out until he understood that situation better.

Besides, he had his own bridges to mend with Deku. Patching him up with his mom sounded nice, but if Katsuki examined his own motivations then he couldn’t deny that he wasn’t doing it for either of them. He’d be doing it for himself. 

Mina slid off his lap once Eiji came back and wedged herself in between them. By that point everyone in their peer group was so used to her brand of skinship that no one even blinked. They stayed there until Katsuki was able to convince them that he’d really and truly evened out. After that they did go back to dancing, but would come back periodically to check on him. 

The blacklight and close quarters were so much more bearable with the regulator on, it was ridiculous. Katsuki had a good view of the dance floor so he could watch his former classmates have a good time and that was amusing enough that he didn’t feel bored. Almost none of them could dance. Some of his other class buddies swung by to chat; Denki, Sero, and fucking Grapenuts for some reason.

The fact that Mineta had made it all the way through UA’s heroics program was a personal insult to Katsuki. Seeing Deku again only made it worse somehow because he was painfully aware of how much that kid had wanted to be a hero in order to do good. Meanwhile Mineta did it because he had a good quirk and thought being a pro hero meant that someday he’d get to touch a boob.

Katsuki kinda always wanted to go back in time and kick his younger self in the balls; not just because of Deku. There were a lot of cringey memories in his past he’d like to live down; his relationship with his ma, for one. Deku was just one of the bigger examples.

Weedy, anxious fourteen-year-old Deku had already been three times the hero Mineta was. Quirks were great and all, but most of being a hero was plain physical conditioning, situational training, and…

Katsuki blinked as an idea occurred to him.


The first sign that Katsuki’s idea was a bad one was the fact that Eiji loved it.

He waited until the next morning. It was his habit in the dorms to get up early to make breakfast. Over time he’d started making breakfast for Mina and Eijiro too because neither of them were even slightly morning people so he was used to having coffee going and some yogurt cups on the counter for when they stumbled, sad and sore from the night before. Neither of them had drank anything other than water, but they partied hard. Katsuki wasn’t looking forward to when they could get real hangovers.

“My knight in shining armor.” Mina warbled as she emerged from the dark bedroom wrapped in a neon green and violet zebra striped dressing gown and orange kitten-heeled marabou slippers. “Are you making egg toast? Can I have some?”

“It’s for you two anyway.” Katsuki grunted, still feeling tender about his behavior the night before. “I ate before my run.”

Mina hummed happily as she poured herself a coffee and doctored it with her weird birds eye chili and pink chocolate infused creamer. She stood next to him, hip hitched on the counter, and watched him cook until Eiji realized he was alone in bed and stumbled, zombie-like towards the sound of voices. 

“Babe, my head hurts so much.” He buried his face in Mina’s curls as he whined. 

“Painkillers are on the counter by your mug.” Katsuki pointed at the bottle of acetamenophine sitting next to Eiji’s vintage Crimson Riot mug.

“Bro, you are the best.” Eiji gave Mina’s creamer bottle wide berth and only added some sugar to his. He took a pill and a long pull from his mug and sighed. “I feel better already.

“I know right?” She elbowed Katsuki. “I’ve decided. I’m gonna marry this big lug. He is the best wife. Sorry Eiji, you’re my side chick now.”

Eiji snorted, wholly unbothered, and replied without heat. “Too late, I already planned the wedding; matching red tuxedos at City Hall. You’re the girlfriend of honor.”

“Best girlfriend, you mean.” Mina sniffed. “Denki can be your Bro of Honor.”

“Oh, no, you’re right. That sounds way better.” He beamed as Katsuki handed over mismatched plates of toast with a crispy fried egg on top. Then he looked around and wilted. “We need a kitchen table.” He realized aloud.

“The hag would cut your face. Dad would help.” Red tuxedos, his ass. He was still getting shit from his old man for wearing that vest trimmed in rose figured brocade Eiji had loaned him once. “Use the table in front of the TV.” Katsuki pointed with his spatula to where he’d already laid down floor cushions. He was not expecting Mina to haul him along. “I gotta clean.” He pointed out.

“New House Rule. If you cooked then you don’t clean.” She announced and looked to Eiji for confirmation.

He nodded. “I like it. Majority agrees. New house rule accepted.”

“You’re both idiots.” Katsuki grumbled, but let Mina position him as she liked. He didn’t actually want to clean the kitchen if he didn’t have to.

“Your idiots.” She teased and he tried to hide how much he liked the sound of that. “Sooo… we gonna talk about the Code D last night?”

“I got a picture.” Eiji perked up. “Fatgum lets us use the agency’s tracking software on at-risk family members and stuff --you know, as long as you can prove to him you’re not stalking your ex or something. The cops can’t do that, but it turns out heroes have a little more leeway.”

Mina looked unconvinced. “That’s a little Surveillance Police State for my comfort.” She grimaced. “Also, what are the odds Shinsou will get notified if one of us orders a trace on his boyfriend? I don’t want him mad at me. I saw what happened to Mineta when he tried to make the Boy… I mean, gosh, Deku the butt of a gay joke.”

They all shuddered. Mineta spent the next hour barking like a dog and crawling around on all fours. Aizawa, when he found out what happened, didn’t make Shinsou release him. Instead he recorded it on his phone and played the video on the overhead projector whenever Mineta acted out in class for an entire week.  

Up until that point Katsuki thought that Eraserhead had been apathetic to all of Grapenuts’ bullshit or he had the stupidass idea of using him to harden the girls against the level of casual sexual harassment attractive female heroes could expect from the public. Instead they found out that the reason his shitty behavior was forcibly being given a pass was because Mineta’s dad served on the school district’s board of trustees. It came to light after Eraserhead had to stand up in front of the class to deliver what became the least sincere and most intensely menacing apology Katsuki had ever had the pleasure of witnessing. 

“Hey, Bro.” Eiji had his phone out and was squinting at the screen. “I thought you said he was a skinny little nerd guy.” He handed his phone over for Katsuki to look at.

It turned out Eiji had gotten more than one photo. Katsuki flicked through pics of Deku dancing, of Deku having a very animated debate with Chubby Cheeks, and several of him dancing with Shinsou and also the Copycat extra for some reason. There was no accounting for taste, but Monoma had been instantly willing to throw down on Deku’s behalf so maybe he had more capacity for decency than Katsuki would have predicted. 

Still, the pictures confirmed something that Katsuki had kind of noticed when they ran into each other again, but had lost sight of in the emotional maelstrom that followed.

Deku was ripped. There were varying levels of physical conditioning that a person could aspire to. Civilians tended to go for aesthetics. Deku looked like he could pick up a couple washing machines by himself without appreciable effort. His calves alone looked like he’d had cement blocks implanted in them. He still wasn’t a big guy, but he had become solid to the point where Katsuki would think twice about trying to arm wrestle him.

“Look at those biceps.” Mina leaned over and wolf-whistled. “I bet even Aizawa couldn’t find anything to complain about.”

“No bet.” Katsuki handed the phone back. “Fucker’d make something up.”

The idea he’d had the night before was looking less and less impossible, though. The physical conditioning necessary to success as a hero was a major investment that Deku had apparently already made. He could probably fight a bit too. Katsuki had become uncomfortably familiar with the casual violence most young quirkless people were likely to face at least once in their lives. Even if he couldn’t, it wouldn’t take a lot to teach him. That little fucker absorbed knowledge like a thirsty sponge and despite his thin frame, he had good physicality. 

“Hey…” He could barely believe it was his own voice he was hearing. “...you think it’s possible to become a hero without going through school?”

All at once he had Eiji’s full attention. “Bro?” He asked.

Mina just nodded. “Oh, I know for sure it is.” She said and explained. “There’s this lady at our agency who used to be a vigilante. Uwabami is rebranding her, but I think she used to be Rook. She’s only a year or so older than us and I don’t think she even went to high school, but she’s got her provisional license and she’s the only one Uwabami doesn’t get after to do promotional stuff. She’s gonna go Underground as soon as she finishes her apprenticeship.”

Rook had been a hot item on the news cycle for a minute when she debuted in Ryloth district by exposing a ring of child traffickers and organ thieves. She was so good on camera that it actually took the police a while to realize she wasn’t a licensed hero and afterwards they only put half-hearted effort into catching her at best. She’d continued to work the case until she delivered the last cog in what turned out to be a massive international machine of misery to the police and found all the children they’d taken. 

Then she disappeared. 

Most people thought Rook was dead; killed by a villain or goon she’d missed. It was how most ‘good’ vigilantes ended if they didn’t retire on their own or go down the slippery slope of villainy; dead in a back alley with just some burnt out cops to mourn them. 

Katsuki, though, believed Rook came out for one, very specific mission. The way she’d gone after the organ thieves was personal. Ryloth was sick with crime, almost as bad as Jedha except they had the municipal budget to put a prettier face on it, but she’d only ever targeted the one group. He’d have thought she would have gone back to her original life once she was done with them, but Uwabami must have given her another option. He couldn’t blame her if so. Turned out she was real fucking good at the work.

“Woah, really?” Eiji had eyes like saucers. He adored the gritty antihero types. Then he turned to Katsuki all but sparkling. “Bro, are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?”

“He still doesn’t have a quirk.” Katsuki didn’t know how they’d get past that. He knew better than most that a quirk wasn’t worth shit if you didn’t have the guts necessary to go into a fight without one. He still woke up sometimes to the memory of a bunch of heroes standing by watching him drown on dry land. There was no Deku in those nightmares just the nauseating ache of slow suffocation. 

Eiji though did not blink. “Hatsumei.” 

“Oh fuck, no, not her.” Katsuki groaned even though he could not think of a single alternative. Anyone else would require a budget they could not provide.

“Quirks don’t matter if he’s got a jetpack and laser boots.” Mina smiled. “You two are getting ahead of yourselves though. He has to want to work with you first and right now he probably doesn’t. Your mouth can get pretty bad when you’re on rage-autopilot.”

“It’s okay, bro.” Eiji reassured him. “You just need to grovel --like a lot.”

Oh good. Katsuki was so terrible at that.

Unfortunately, Mina wasn’t done with him. His first warning was the way she leaned into his side and looked up at him with big, innocent eyes. “Ne, Katsuki...” She sounded so harmless. He knew at once it was a trap. “Where have you been sleeping?”

He froze and managed to grind out the words, “In the bedroom. I went to bed after you guys.” with great difficulty.

She poked him. “I wake up in the middle of the night.” She said. “Try again.”

Shit. She was onto him.

“I passed out on the couch, okay?”

“Both nights?” She asked sweetly.

“Bro, no!” Eiji looked at the thin, hard cushions of their very cheap couch in alarm. “You’re gonna mess up your back!” That was not a small problem for heroes. Anything that put you in a brace could be career threatening.

Katsuki’s entire head got hot as the fight drained out of him. “It felt awkward.” He admitted, quietly. “What if you guys wanted to… you know?”

Mina’s responding blush was a shade of burgundy that bordered on violet when she realized he meant sex. 

Eiji and Mina had been sexually active for about half a year even though they’d been dating on and off for longer. They’d been planning to wait until after graduation to ward off even the slightest possibility of an unplanned pregnancy before they got their full licenses, but the stress of third year midterms got them in the end. 

He wasn’t present for the event, but he was the one Mina came to when the pharmacist wouldn’t sell her a morning-after pill and needed to be menaced by someone with a dick. Eiji had lurked uncharacteristically on the fringes of his presence for days afterwards until he finally asked if they were okay and Katsuki, who didn’t understand why they wouldn’t be, said ‘sure.’

Come to think about it, that was around the time Mina started hanging off him and Eiji at the same time like a human ‘get-along’ shirt.

Katsuki didn’t have a sense of how often people who were interested in sex liked to have it, but he thought that Eiji and Mina were on the low side of the curve. Then again, the dorm walls were made of tissue paper and wishful thinking because Cementoss built them over the course of a weekend so that could change.

“Oh, um…” She snuck a look at Eiji. “...that’s something we should probably work out, huh?”

Eiji turned the same shade as his hair. “Babe, I love you, but I got so many nerves about starting work in a few days that my libido is in the toilet right now. So, it’s...uh, not going to be an issue for a bit?”

“Oh thank god, me too.” Mina sagged. “I’m gonna start patrols tomorrow and I know I’ve done it before, but I’m so anxious! I’m going to be a total cuddle slut for the foreseeable future though, fair warning.”

“When are you not?” Katsuki wanted to know and Eiji nodded along like it was a problem and not his favorite thing ever.

“Well, I warned you.” She sighed and then poked Katsuki again. “Anyway, the coast is clear. Stop sleeping on the couch. We all love and adore Eiji’s mom for getting it, but it’s not for sleeping on.”

This was going to be such a bad idea.

“Yeah, okay.” Katsuki sighed.


Fortunately, he didn’t need to approach the idea of ‘groveling’ or ‘how do you do it’ right away. He had bigger fish to fry.

...like his last therapy session with Hound Dog. It was a school break so he had some time for people who weren’t students anymore. They met up at a cafe because Katsuki didn’t have clearance to be on campus anymore ...or at least, that’s what he’d thought.

He stared at the business card on the table in front of him. It was plain and white with block lettering and read ‘Inui Ryo, MD, LPC Alias: Hound Dog’ with a phone number Katsuki didn’t recognize and an address that sure as shit was not UA. 

“I am opening up a personal practice.” Hound Dog explained. “My contract at UA is up this year and I’ve decided not to renew it. I would be happy to continue as your therapist and implant specialist if you would like to keep working with me.”

“Fuck yes.” Katsuki’s mouth said without his permission. “I mean… yeah. That’s… good. I got full coverage for my implants through work.” He paused to soak in Hound Dog’s surprise at that. “Finding someone who does what you do is a fucking nightmare.”

“It’s a small field.” Hound Dog agreed. “Out of curiosity, where are you working? Last I heard you were hiring on with Best Jeanist.”

“I got a better offer in the works from Watchtower.” As if summoned, his phone beeped with his Serious Business email account noise. Out of curiosity he checked and found an offer letter in it. It was… it was good. It was better than good. They’d be able to buy furniture and food this month. After that they’d be permanently in the green. Their initial budget had counted on a far smaller contribution from Katsuki so he could save against his eventual medical bills. “Never mind, I got a firm offer from Watchtower.”

“May I?” Hound Dog asked. “As your former teacher, not a therapist.”

Put like that, Katsuki handed it over and Hound Dog read over the offer letter. He nodded at points and barked (literally) a laugh at some of the phrasing, which only a crusty bastard like Red Tower would think was appropriate in a formal letter. “Counter with at least a 10% increase. 15% would be better.” Hound Dog advised him. “That offer is a little low even accounting for the benefits package. From what I know about Red Tower he’ll be open to negotiation.” 

Katsuki was afraid of screwing up what was the best offer he could have expected short of a one way ticket to the JP #1 slot, but if Hound Dog said so… he was willing to try. Every penny in his pocket was one he could put towards more stability and comfort at home. His inner fifteen year old self was disgusted, but he found his immediate goals were very different from what he’d thought they would be.

Mina and Eiji had been ready to support him, but little did those fuckers know he’d be the one spoiling them.

They split up not long after that. If he was going to keep Hound Dog as his therapist then he sure as shit wasn’t having a session in a Starbucks. Even so, Hound Dog stuck around long enough to proofread the counteroffer Katsuki wrote on his phone and then laugh at Red Tower’s response of ‘Sure, fine, whatever. Sign the attachment and get your ass in here.’ 

Mina was the only one watching her phone when he texted their group chat with the good news.

Pinky: Go get em! 

Pinky: Also, you need to report on Watchman if you see him without his mask on.

Pinky: The girls here are all sure he’s hot under that mask, but like… HOW hot?

Katsuki hadn’t realized Uwabami had worked with Watchtower before, but in retrospect that was stupid. Her quirk was classified as forensic. Watchman was an investigator. It’d be weirder if they didn’t know each other professionally.

Zero: How the fuck do you figure? His costume looks like he escaped from the set of Gun Frontier. 

Zero: Tochiro. Not Harlock.

Zero: After a total body steampunk cybernetic overhaul.

Pinky: It takes confidence to pull off a costume that ugly. That means he’s hot under there.

Pinky: You gotta

Pinky: I have money riding on this.

Zero: Fucking fine.

Zero: Don’t hold your breath. If I hafta sign a secrecy clause you’re on your own.

Pinky: <3 <3 <3 <3


Chubby Cheeks was there already when he showed up with his costume case and, recalling the RedCrossed bullshit, he handed his phone over with his offer letter on it without saying a word.

“Hah.” She smiled. “I got him to agree to 5% more than you.”

“Yeah?” He decided he was in a good mood and if they were going to work together then it wasn’t going to be a complete nightmare if she saw him smile once. “Fuckin’ sweet. I got more sick time though.”

“Well, yeah, obviously.” She elbowed him and did not explicitly call him out on the fact that he’d need it. “I would have called you about the benefits if you hadn’t beat me here.”

It took a sec before Tower came downstairs to meet them and when he did he looked fucking hunted.

“What happened?” Chubby Cheeks asked in alarm.

“Nothing!” Tower hustled them inside. His tone said it was absolutely something and probably also his fault.

It was a pretty decent meeting. He and Chubby Cheeks were able to get their gear stored, their paperwork signed, and entered into the building’s security database. They were even able to get Icyhot consideration for the third patroller spot. He considered for a moment asking Eiji if he was interested. Cleaning up a place like Jedha was exactly his thing, but on second thought he realized Fatgum would hate it. They’d bonded hard during their internship years. He’d all but brought Eiji in as a full partner and probably would as soon as he could get away with it.

Todoroki meanwhile hadn’t asked for help, but he was still without a permanent gig. He’d get promising offers that turned out to be cushy nepotism gigs. If he had to pick someone aside from Chubby Cheeks to work with then it’d probably be Icyhot since Eyebags was probably still pissed off at him. 

They didn’t get to meet up with Watchman, which was a disappointment, but got to avoid seeing Eyebags, which was not.

There was no official work to do until the agency building was done, but Tower promised them some team building missions as soon as he was out of the doghouse with Watchman. He turned them loose with orders to be back the next day with Todoroki.

“I’ll bring him in.” Chubby Cheeks volunteered, which was probably for the best. Class A had split into squads early on, but that was when Todoroki was in the middle of his ‘nyeh I’m not here to make friends nyeh’ phase that Eyebags had so spectacularly failed to learn a single thing from. The nerds got him eventually (sort of) because Yaomomo hung out with them and he inevitably followed where she led. The only reason he hadn’t followed her professionally was probably because they’d finally figured out they like -liked each other and working at the same place was a bad idea if you were only just starting to date. 

Granted, Todoroki didn’t talk to the nerds or anything much. He just followed their group around like a very chill ghost if Yaomomo was busy so Chubby Cheeks had the best chance of luring him in. 

Mina was swaddled up on the couch in her poofy lime green ‘I’m not upset’ blanket when he got home, watching reruns of ClassicaLoid with lavender smudges under her puffy eyes. Part of him started planning a murder in the back of his head. He didn’t know who he was killing yet, but they were dead. The rest of him got to work.

The only blessing about the situation was the fact that he knew how to take care of Mina when she was upset. She wasn’t shy about telling people what she wanted and it was always the same stuff so he always had it on hand. 

“Curry katsu night?” He asked as he dropped his stuff just inside the door where their day bags tended to pile up. 

Mina sniffed wetly. “Oh man, this is such a curry katsu night. Do we have the stuff for sweet curry?” She asked that last part in a tiny voice Katsuki hated to hear.

“Yeah, we do.” There was an emergency Bad Feels box that used to live underneath the sink in Katsuki’s dorm room and had graduated to the tallest shelf in their shoebox sized pantry and it held the shelf-stable components for both Eiji and Mina’s critical-mass level comfort foods. 

Mina’s Bad Day Curry was an abomination by anyone’s standards; half massaman curry, half mild Golden Curry made with coconut milk, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots served over chicken katsu. It had been invented by accident when Katsuki had run low on groceries one day and had tried to combine the last bits of a bunch of leftover stuff rather than give in and ask his ma for more money that month. 

He hadn’t been able to choke down more than a few spoonfuls, but Mina swapped him a spicy ramen kit for it. He’d thought it was out of pity until she came back to the dorms from her first failed rescue and quietly asked if he could make it for her again. That was when he’d added the katsu because, fuck training diets, sad people deserved fried food. It wasn’t all that sweet even though she called it that thanks to Katsuki’s private pepper stash from his dad’s garden. 

Normally those were for family only, but last year he’d put up some extra aji dulces just for Mina; peppers you couldn't even but in Japan. It an act which Katsuki had yet to sort out his very confused feeling. He was glad his old man thought of Mina, but his parents hadn’t even met Mina or Eiji yet.

Eiji got home the latest of all and stopped cold in the doorway when he both smelled cinnamon oil in the air and recognized all the same warning signs of DEFCON Level One Sad Mina that Katsuki had. 

Mina was in Eiji’s lap, blanket and all, with a mug of hibiscus tea when Katsuki served them both dinner. Eiji and Katsuki’s portions were hotter and redder because the recipe had come a long way from its inedible beginnings, but it was still intended for Mina’s nonstandard taste buds.

“We found some kids walled into a basement today.” She admitted, still quiet, once they were putting the dishes away. “Still alive. They’d been down there for years. This creep could make holes in any solid material so he used it to make his own private prison under his house. Someone with thermal vision moved in next door and reported it. I got called in to melt a hole so the rescue team could get them out.” She took a shuddering breath. “The oldest one was eleven and was scared the guy was going to kill them because they were getting ‘too old.’ We won’t even get to see him stand trial because he managed to kill himself in custody.”

Child predators had horrifying, lingering ‘accidents’ in prison while the guards were all mysteriously on the other side of the building with the cameras turned off so Katsuki wasn’t surprised.

“They’re out now.” Eiji leaned over to kiss her temple. “...and they know he can never come after them again.”

Katsuki started the next ClassicaLoid episode and hoped that was enough.


Turned out Todoroki either didn’t need a lot of convincing or Chubby Cheeks had done too good a job at persuading him to come slum with them in Jedha. He showed up the next morning with his costume and signed the first offer letter Tower gave him without even reading it.

Tower sighed from deep within his chest, looked to the sky as though asking for strength, shredded the signed contract into teeny tiny pieces with his bare hands, wrote a new one, and made him read it out loud before he’d give Todoroki the pen back. Only then did the costume vault receive its final addition.

“Fucking fetuses…” Katsuki heard Tower seethe to himself as he started moodily texting again. “All right, everybody into the least shitty conference room.” There were three, at least one which would probably get turned into a holding cell. “We’re gonna talk teamwork today because it makes the fuckin’ dream work.”

The least shitty conference room had a table, some chairs, an old school whiteboard, no markers, and hanging wires in the ceiling where an overhead projector used to be. The other two didn’t even have flooring yet.

It was a pretty standard teambuilding meeting. They all got up and did a piece about their quirks mostly for Tower’s benefit. Tower then talked about his (laser breath, super strength, no he wasn’t talking about how they counted as the same quirk.) He talked a bit about the recon team for form’s sake, but only covered Eyebags.

“Um, sir?” Chubby Cheeks interjected as he was about to move on to the subject of the neighborhoods of Jedha and how they ranked in terms of ‘How Likely You Are To Get Stabbed’ on a scale from 1 to 10. “You didn’t say anything about Watchman’s quirk, just his flashbangs and stuff.”

“It ain’t relevant.” Tower sighed. “He don’t use it and might as well not have one.”

Katsuki became suddenly very aware of the conversation. He’d been listening sure, but they’d stumbled onto a line of questioning he had vested interest in. “That’d make it hard to do the work.”

“Yeah, you’d think.” Tower itched at the back of his head looking unimpressed. “Thing is, there’s something called Quirk Fixation. Dunno if they talk about it at your fancy school. Lotta heroes these days won’t engage with situations where their quirk doesn’t apply. They don’t always remember there’s non-quirk solutions. The idea is when people have a hammer then they go looking for a nail. If they find a screw then they don’t know what to do with it. Lotta modern heroes fail to adapt to situations outside their own specialized wheelhouse.” 

For a second Katsuki was fourteen again, drowning in gelatinous stinking sludge that was laughing at him, while fucking Kamui Wood whined ‘I’m not good with fire…’

“Most villains you run into are gonna be somebody with an extra limb or too many eyes and you don’t need a flashy quirk to deal with that.” Tower continued. “It’s only once you start getting into the top twenty or so that you’re dealing with the supervillains. As big a stink as the news likes to make about it when one shows up, there aren’t that many. We’re here for purse snatchers, drug dealers, pimps, and muggers. Manage your expectations.”

“The Hero Commission woulda had something to say about it though.” Katsuki put his hands under the table. He didn’t think they were shaking. He didn’t want to find out.

“They care about results.” Tower only looked shifty when he said that. The Commission probably had had something to say about it. Shit, that’d make his dumbass idea even more difficult… but if he could point to a successful hero like Watchman then maybe they’d be able to make an argument on Deku’s behalf. “Watchman has proven he can cut it.”

From there Tower hustled them along to the subject of a series of missions named ‘Project Osouji’ that they’d be getting into prior to the agency’s official opening, which sounded pretty boring at first until Tower revealed it was a very different sort of end-of-year cleaning.

“Watchman and Psyren will identify crime hotspots in Jedha for us; illegal brothels, sweatshops, and that stuff. Once they’ve done the due diligence then we …” he  paused to smile wide “...go clean house.”

Chubby Cheeks bounced in her seat and Katsuki couldn’t hold back his own low, pleased “Hell yeah.” Even Todoroki nodded in sedate approval.

Tower’s phone alarm chirped then and he sighed at it. “All right brats. I got some shit to do. You can either throw each other around the gym if you want or take off for the evening.”

“I’ll take off. My parents are in town helping me find an apartment.” Chubby Cheeks popped out of her seat, eager to go. She hardly ever got to see them since starting highschool so Katsuki wasn’t about to get in her way.

“Shit, reminds me.” Tower looked them all over. “Anybody need advances? You’re all straight out of highschool. Do not rent some piece of shit place just because you can’t afford better right now. Wherever you are is where you’re gonna be for a while and I don’t want to hear about you getting mugged on your front step when you’re wiped out at the end of the night. I can give you a two month advance recouped over the year for key money and deposits.”

“That would help… a lot.” Chubby Cheeks cupped her burning cheeks. “My parents can’t help me a lot and sending me to UA wiped out most of what they had saved even with my aid package.”

Todoroki shook his head. “No, thank you. I have a trust fund.” Of course he did. “I’m provided for. If that makes it possible to give Uraraka-san more assistance then please do so.”

It was tempting to say yes. They needed a lot of stuff at the apartment, but he’d trade that for bigger paychecks later. He almost managed to convince himself it wasn’t because it turned out he liked sharing a bedroom with Eiji and Mina even if he ended up squashed between the wall and Mina’s octopus arms. He’d woken up that morning with Mina’s nose in his hair and Eiji’s hand on his hip. He wasn’t ready to give that up yet. “I’m settled in with roommates already.”

“All right, then you two can get lost.” Tower waved Katsuki and Todoroki off like bugs. “Chako-chan, I’ll start a transfer for you.”

Turned out that Katsuki extra did not need the money because Eiji texted him in all caps just as he was leaving the agency.

Riot: BRO

Riot: BRO BRO BRO

Zero: Fucking WHAT

Riot: I GOT ROYALTIES

Katsuki squinted at his phone until his memory coughed up part of a conversation they’d had a few weeks back about Fatgum brokering a tshirt deal for some of his sidekicks and favorite intern. They’d gone on sale at HeroCon. The profits were supposed to go Fatgum’s agency because Eiji couldn’t afford to kick in for material costs or to pay the illustrator. The only thing Eiji had gotten out of it was a couple of the shirts, which he’d turned around and gifted to Mina and Katsuki.

Zero: Yeah? The shirts, right? I thought that was just brand building stuff. You said you weren’t getting money from them.

Riot: ME TOO

Riot: A BUYER FROM UNIQLO SAW THEM AND ORDERED ANOTHER RUN WITH TANK TOPS AND HOODIES. I GOT THE BIGGEST CHECK TODAY.

Riot: WE CAN AFFORD A TABLE NOW.

Riot: NO MORE EATING IN FRONT OF THE TV!

Katsuki hid his smile with one hand, but Todoroki saw it.

“Good news?” He asked.

“Shitty Hair got a good merch deal.” The old nickname tasted sour on his tongue; more like an insult. He’d stopped using it for a whole day and he already hated it. “He’s pretty stoked.”

“I’m glad for him. He has a very marketable brand.” Todoroki sounded like they were talking about the weather.

Zero: Fuckin sweet.

Zero: I’m out early today. You want something good for dinner?

Riot: Lemme change trains. I’ll meet you at the Jedha station. We can go together.

“I gotta go meet him at the station.” Katsuki stowed his phone. “You good?”

“Yes.” Todoroki nodded to the front entrance where a black car with tinted windows was idling. “I was warned today would be short so my ride decided to wait.”

Katsuki considered and discarded several replies before settling on, “Fucker’s asking to get carjacked.”

All Todoroki said was, “They could try. Good evening.” Then he bowed and left.

As the car pulled away, Katsuki got a look at the guy behind the wheel. He was not Endeavor, but he was kind of Endeavor shaped with white hair and a look that said ‘fuck with me at your peril.’ Katsuki suddenly remembered that Todoroki had a bunch of older siblings. One of them had decided to keep an eye on him during his first day of work.

“Fuckin’ adorable.” He said to himself.

Fatgum’s agency wasn’t too far from Watchtower, although in a much nicer neighborhood, so Katsuki didn’t have to wait long for Eiji to reach him. He held up a picture on his phone as soon as Katsuki was in range. It was a long oval shaped dining table with a subtle black marble topped and padded black chairs that looked like they had lumbar support.

“Mina sent me this.” He said, which explained why Eiji suddenly had opinions about furniture other than ‘I found this on the curb’ and ‘the smell can’t last forever.’ Mina was the only one of them with anything approaching an aesthetic outside of work so they both tended to defer to her. 

Katsuki didn’t know anything about interior design, but so far all their stuff was black and the stone looked easy enough to clean. That was all he cared about. “They’d better deliver.” He was not going to be the one trying to get that on the train.

“There’s a showroom in Chandrila. Mina says it’s a good brand but sometimes their stuff looks worse in person. If it looks good we can order one.” Eiji said as he hauled Katsuki back onto the train.  

It was a quick errand. Eiji and Katsuki agreed that yeah, it was a table and not an ugly one so Eiji ordered one delivered to the apartment along with the matching chairs and sideboard because, even artistically challenged as they both were, Mina had once painted this long psychedelic landscape thing that they agreed would look awesome hanging over it.

Dinner shopping happened in a fancier sort of open air arcade full of specialty shops and cafes rather than the corner grocery they usually went to. Eiji wanted hamburg steak for his celebration meal, which came as no surprise, and they split up to get the ingredients. 

He was almost done when a disturbance in front of this fancy cat cafe and artisanal coffee shop got his attention.

Some guy had a teenager by the arm and was shouting half in annoyance half in desperation. “Look, you didn’t give me any notice. I need you to come back just for a few days just to train a replacement.”

“You already owe me three weeks of wages!” The teen… no, fuck. That was Deku; looking cranky and as close to punching a bitch as Katsuki had ever seen him. “The answer is no!”

“I’ll pay what I owe you!” The guy insisted and not even Katsuki believed him. “Please, you’re the only one who can work the receipt printer! 

“The instructions are literally printed on the inside of the case!” Deku hauled on his arm, but the guy wouldn’t let go. 

Katsuki had a split second to decide if he should intervene or start filming before Eiji loomed up out of the crowd behind them.

“He said no.” Eiji picked the guy, a sweaty middle aged person in the white-shirt-and-slacks uniform of middle management, up by the back of the shirt. “You’re going to let him go now and then you’re going to leave him alone. Understand?” 

The dude started to bluster except Eiji leaned in, smiling with all his teeth, and said something quiet that made him change his mind. When Eiji put him down he took off running.

“Gross.” Eiji turned to Deku. “You okay?”

“Yeah, thanks.” He squinted at Eiji. “Are you… Kirishima?” 

Katsuki could see the moment when the penny dropped and Eiji realized who he’d just saved. “Ah! Yes! You’re… um…” He slowly turned the same shade of red as his hair. “...I don’t actually know your name. It’s probably not ‘Deku’ is it?”

Deku cracked a laugh. “It’s Midoriya Izuku. Deku is an alternate way to read the kanji in Izuku.” He shook his head. “Thanks for getting rid of Kanamori-san. I got a new job and had to quit without notice. He didn’t take it too well.” He looked back towards the cat cafe. “Hey, so I’ve got to get back inside…”

“Oh, sure!” Eiji yelped as Deku started to leave. “...hey, this might be a dumb question, but…”

Deku paused. “Yeah?”

Eiji’s flush intensified. “Were you and Bakugo ever… you know?” He swallowed hard. “Together?”

The look on Deku’s face mirrored Katsuki’s instinctual reaction uncannily well. 

“No, no way.” He shook his head. “We were both in middle school the last time we spent any time around each other. I didn’t really start being attracted to people until I met Toshi and Kacchan’s Kacchan, you know?”

What did that mean?

Eiji chuckled, sounding relieved for some reason. “Yeah, I do know.”

What did THAT mean?

“Oh man, I have more questions…” Eiji sighed.

“Look, I gotta go.” Deku hooked a thumb over his shoulder… in Katsuki’s direction. Shit. He’d spotted some cover in the form of a vertical street-level billboard and had accidentally wandered too close. He was between Deku and the cat cafe. “I’ll give you my number if you want. I’ll answer within reason.”

Katsuki turned his back towards the wall, pretending to be on his phone, once Eiji and Deku had gotten through shooting each other texts. Even so he spotted Deku out of the corner of his eye just as he went back into the cafe.

Their eyes met.

Deku’s mouth quirked in an almost smile and then he winked before vanishing inside.

Through the window he saw Eyebags sitting with his face down on a table. It didn’t look like he’d moved in a while. There was a kitten slung over the back of his neck deeply asleep. So he hadn’t seen whatever the fuck that was just then. 

His phone lit up just then with a real text from Eiji asking to meet up at the butcher because he couldn’t remember what the numbers by the different types of ground beef meant. 

It took a supreme effort of will not to ask Eiji what he wanted with Deku’s number. He probably just wanted to make friends, but Katsuki couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to it. 

Without meaning to, he got his answer later that night while Eiji was in the shower. 

They didn’t make a habit of reading each other’s texts, but it was a common habit among Katsuki, Mina, and Eiji to take a look at each other’s lock screens if one of them left their phone out and it lit up with a text. Both Uwabami and Fatgum used group texts to update their sidekicks on mission developments or emergencies that were worth getting out of the shower for.

Katsuki was watching TV alone on the couch. Eiji’s phone buzzed on the coffee table and when he glanced at the screen it was a text from Deku followed by a whole string of conversation.

MI: Sorry, didn’t see this until now

MI: Pretty sure Kacchan wouldn’t appreciate me talking about the first thing so I’m not. Sorry.

MI: The second thing I can answer.

MI: You should know that our middle school was really toxic

MI: Like REALLY toxic

MI: It wasn’t great for me, but lately I’ve started to think it wasn’t good for Kacchan either.

MI: No one was obviously a quirk bigot except our homeroom teacher, but the rest were concern trolls at best.

MI: Kacchan and I stopped being friends in grade school, but he didn’t start bothering me too often until middle school even then it didn’t get bad until halfway through second year. 

MI: Aldera is one of those schools where you have the same homeroom teacher until you graduate and Fuse-sensei REALLY did not like having me in his class. He tried to get me moved a couple times in first year, but it didn’t work because we were split up according to academics and my test scores were good.

MI: He had this thing about ‘less evolved’ people not being as smart as modern people.

Katsuki felt his knuckles creak and realized he’d clenched his fists. 

MI: He was really personable so the class liked him. It was really informal in homeroom so if something funny happened you could laugh about it without getting in trouble, but he’d ignore other things too.

MI: When Kacchan was younger his buttons were really easy to push and I think sometimes Fuse-sensei would do it on purpose. He’d say something he knew would get Kacchan upset and then he’d leave the room. Our classmates weren’t better. They’d laugh and cheer sometimes.

MI: It didn’t help that I was the one who got in trouble if a teacher saw anything happening. 

MI: Kacchan is responsible for his own actions, but that was a lot for a kid to work against. 

The thing was… Katsuki remembered that. He hadn’t made that same connection though. Their homeroom teacher had been as much of an extra as the other kids in his class and, between his face blindness and undiagnosed megalomania, they’d been one bare step above a laugh track.

One incident really stood out to him; around the beginning of first year they’d had to hand in their highschool choice sheets so the school office could write up recommendations for them. They were the top class in the school so the teachers were going to rubberstamp anything they’d put down. Katsuki remembered going off to the class about his ambitions and being the only student who was going to get into UA and… yeah. 

That had happened.

He’d mentioned in a sort of bored tone that Deku was applying to UA too. Then he took off for no reason. Class wasn’t over. He should have stuck around for announcements and stuff.

Why had he left?

Katsuki had moved himself and his confused whirling thoughts to bed by the time Eiji left the shower and checked his phone. 

He knew he’d been caught when Eiji followed him into the bedroom without turning the lights on and sat down on the edge of the bed facing away. “Wanna talk about it?”

“Sorry for reading your phone.” Katsuki turned his face into the pillow.

“Bro, you know I don’t care about that.” Eiji snorted and then sighed, softer and sadder. “I’m sorry for talking to De… Midoriya behind your back.”

“I saw him give you his phone number. I’d have said something if I cared.” He waited a second and then growled. “The shit I did is on me. The teachers didn’t fucking weaponize me.”

“It’s not that crazy.” Eiji countered. “That kind of crazy whole-class level of bullying can’t happen unless the teachers aren’t at least passively complicit, bro.”

“Don’t make fucking excuses for what I did.” Katsuki snapped, rolling onto his back so he could glare.

“I’m not.” Eiji wasn’t intimidated by him. “I know you, bro, and I know that if a teacher had told you to knock it off then you’d have knocked it off. You called Best Jeanist a fashion obsessed space cadet when you first started there, but you still let him give you a salaryman combover and dress you in skinny jeans that had his face on both buttcheeks. I feel like that’s a hill further than leaving an annoying nerd alone.”

...Katsuki had managed to forget that part about the special Best Jeanist brand pocket appliques.

“I’m just saying.” Eiji tugged on his pants leg. “Come watch HNN with me?”

It was better than staying in the bedroom with his now confusing childhood memories so he went. He didn’t know how to explain that he didn’t do any of that stuff to Deku because his teachers gave him tacit permission or trained him like Pavlov’s fucking dog. 

It was because Deku, one of the four ‘real’ people in his life at the time, was the only person in the world who had the power to make Katsuki doubt himself.


Katsuki’s bad night looked up briefly when Tower called to give him the rundown of their first Osouji mission; a warehouse four blocks away from the agency that some dipshits had turned into a weed house. It went straight to hell when Katsuki happened to pick up the sound of low crying coming up from the floor in one of the rear rooms.

He flashed back to Mina telling him about that underground prison full of traumatized kids.

Tower didn’t fight him on it. They looked, but couldn’t find an entrance so Shoto froze the floor nearest to the crying to make it brittle. Uravity used her quirk to remove gravity from the concrete slab so the shards all floated upwards when Katsuki broke it up with a series of targeted explosions.

Underneath the floor was five or six terrified adults all huddled together in a rough sort of dormitory space. They were dressed in plain, cheap, filthy clothes with no shoes. With them was another better dressed guy who was clearly not a hostage; he was big, red-faced, and holding a remote in one hand with a taser in the other. 

Shoto reacted first, freezing the hand holding the taser. It turned out to be the wrong choice because all the hidden firebombs they’d missed when infiltrating the warehouse detonated when the asshole pressed his big red button.

They were lucky. The bombs weren’t the ‘boom’ variety. They’d been set to torch the plants and ignite the walls. It was an evidence blitz not a murder-suicide contingency plan. If the asshole had actually been smart he’d have torched the place before they got into the basement level. 

Shoto made an ice tunnel on Tower’s orders. Katsuki and Uravity evacuated the hostages, not one of whom could speak Japanese, while Tower pulled up the rear dragging all the guards and the bomb guy by their collars. 

The police had been on standby so nobody needed to call them when the warehouse went up in flames. The bad news was that their primary police liaison arrived on scene while Uravity and Shoto were getting the hostages settled on the most comfortable bit of curb they could find where none of them had to look at where Tower had their captors zip tied in a pile. 

“Fffffuck.” Tower hissed as a tall narrow-boned woman in a pale gray pant suit and long black trench coat draped over her shoulders stalked towards them with an expression that could have made hardened felons shit themselves. “Brace for impact, kids. That’s Detective Ito Hitomi and she hates my ass. The hell is she doing here?”

“If it isn’t my own personal recurring nightmare. Where the hell is Watchman?” Was the first thing she had to say to them, but held up a hand to forestall Tower’s irritable reply. “Nevermind, I don’t care. Take them away.” She pointed at Katsuki, Uravity, and Shoto and flicked her fingers. “We’ll interview the hostages.”

Tower bared his teeth at her indifferent back before turning to the patrollers. “Come on. I want everyone to get checked by the EMTs. I’ve messaged Watchman and Psyren to escort us back. Nobody’s going home by themselves after a violent mission.” He sighed.

Everyone got a clean bill of health once the EMTs were done with the hostages. Shoto’s ice tunnel had prevented anyone from getting burned or inhaling too much smoke. Honestly, hanging out by the burning building while the firefighters put it out was worse than having been in the warehouse.

By that point Detective Ito remembered they existed and bore down on Tower like a pissed off thunderstorm. “Want to explain to me how an easy building clearing operation ended up with half the block burning down?”

“It’s a quarter of the block tops.” Tower peeled his lips back in a grotesque parody of a smile. “There was a hidden basement. One of my patrollers heard a hostage crying. They were being corralled by one of the unidentified hostiles. He was holding a weapon and a remote detonator. My team had the opportunity to neutralize one and it ended up being the weapon. He set off a series of firebombs throughout the warehouse.”

“Figures. ” Ito sneered. “So, who are the new kids? You finally run Watchman off?”

“No, fuck you, I did not.  He’s got his own team now. These are my new patrollers for Watchtower agency.” Tower pointed at them in turn as he introduced them. “Ground Zero, Uravity, and Shoto.”

“God help us, someone let you have sidekicks.” Ito glanced over them, looking deeply unimpressed. Apparently Watchman had never counted as a sidekick, which Katsuki could not argue with. “It’s not enough for you to be a complete blight on civilization. You’re breaking in a whole crop of new disaster ducklings to burn the city down with you?”

Her gaze wandered towards Uravity and Shoto and Katsuki felt something in his already stressed self-control snap as she opened her mouth to lay into them. He got as far as “Look here, bitch!” before Uravity flew over Tower’s lap to tackle him and get a hand over his mouth.

“Nope, nope, nope!” She hissed into his ear. “Happy thoughts! Come on, Ground Zero. Happy thoughts!”

Shoto leaned to one side to look around Ito and said, “Incoming.”

They all turned just in time to see a familiar pattern of violet light illuminate a particularly thick billow of tar-like smoke a few seconds before two costumed figures stepped into view like they were in the first five minutes of a big budget action flick.

Katsuki recognized the cyberpunk ninja as Eyebags… or Psyren, rather. The other guy was someone Katsuki had only seen in shakey cellphone footage. 

His earlier attestation to Mina that Watchman looked like a Gun Frontier cyborg was right on the money. He wore a bulky leather coat with tattered edges and a high layered collar, a stocking mask, and a mouthpiece that Katsuki was really fucking jealous of right at that moment. It should have looked ridiculous, but instead came off as retro and kinda creepy where the stocking mask made it look like his coat was filled with living darkness. 

Ito squared her shoulders as she got a good look at them and clenched her jaw like she was about to go to war before stomping off to intercept their pick up.

In that moment Katsuki realized there might have been another reason why Watchman was conspicuously absent during the entire hiring process. He was really fucking intimidating. 

“Oh no, other boss is cool.” Uravity moaned. “I freeze up in front of the cool guys!”

Tower made a strangled noise that sounded suspiciously like a smothered laugh. They all watched the detective talk with Watchmen and Psyren with a lot less hectoring than they’d gotten.

“Wanna tell me again how the showers are a lower priority than the reception desk?” Watchman asked Tower with unconcealed amusement once Ito had bugged off to harass somebody else. His voice was on the low end, but had a synthetic edge to it that suggested he was using a modulator to disguise it.

“Shut up. You can see reception from the street.” Tower shot back. “What did the harpy want?”

“For us not to burn down anymore buildings. I would like that too, if possible.” Watchman looked over the assembled patrollers. “Barring that, I would like to get everyone back to base and cleaned up. I think dinner is on the agency tonight. Think about what you want while I call a car.”

That… that was it?

They’d burned down a building their first night out, gotten their asses chewed by the cops, and his response was to fucking order takeout?

“W…” His mouth started moving without his direct input. “Why aren’t you yelling at us? There’s a burning building. That fucking detective just tore us all new assholes over it!”

Watchman cocked his head and it was really annoying not to be able to see what his eyes were doing. “Do I need to? Seems like you’re already aware of the ways things could have gone better.” Watchman turned slightly as he did something on his phone. “Detective Ito is going to be angry whenever you see her. Don’t take it to heart. Our insurance will cover the damages, assuming there is anyone to pay damages to. A lot of these buildings are abandoned or condemned. You saved the captives. You bagged the villains. Take the win, Ground Zero.”

Katsuki just kept staring at Watchman, clenching and unclenching his fists as all his visualization and centering techniques failed on him. “This ain’t a win.” He gritted out once he felt back in control of his mouth.

Watchman put his phone away and went over to stand face-to-face with him. “You’ll do better next time.” He said quietly. He sounded like he believed it; like it wasn’t even a question. “I have faith in you all. This was your first time out and the mission escalated without warning. Eventually you’ll understand how well you did. Property doesn’t matter as much as people do and tonight there are eight frightened civilians who are very glad you chose their safety over a crappy warehouse.”

A tense thing uncoiled in the pit of Katsuki’s stomach like it had just been waiting for permission. He still felt weird and unsettled all through the car ride back to the agency while the driver low-key flirted with Watchman the whole way. A shower helped although it wasn’t as thorough as he’d have liked. Todoroki was waiting on him to get out, there was no shampoo, and they all had to share the tail end of Tower’s weirdass Old Spice Steel Courage Wolfthorn bullshit body wash because no one had thought to bring toiletries to leave in their lockers. He still kind of smelled like weed afterwards so, you know, of course Watchman swung by the locker room to give them their next orders and pick up Eyebags.

Katsuki didn’t intend to go chasing after him when he left, but he’d been seized by the sudden conviction that Watchman would get it. If the accidental arson was okay then maybe he was flexible enough to understand what Katsuki was trying to do for Deku. 

He’d know how to help at the very least because Katsuki was struggling. Uwabami had refused to admit to Mina what she was doing with the former Rook and did so emphatically enough that they’d all realized whatever she’d done to get Rook her provisional license wasn’t strictly aboveboard.

He was sure Tower would help. He just wasn’t sure Tower could help. 

“Hey!” 

“I need to schedule a meeting with you… sir.” It took physical effort to add the honorific, but not the same level he’d have needed for just about anyone else. “When you got time.”

“Not tonight.” Watchman just looked at him for a minute or so and Katsuki felt his entire head turn hot. “I can make some time on Wednesday. Come see me in the morning and we can talk.”

Katsuki nodded slowly. “Thank you. Sir.” It was easier the second time.

Watchman nodded to dismiss him around the time Tower leaned out in the hall to holler, “ZERO! GIT YOUR ASS IN HERE!!”

He wasn’t mad, but the food had shown up and everyone was waiting on Katsuki.

They ate ravenously in the conference room. Tower passed on apologies from Watchman for having missed the basement. It hadn’t been on the building blueprints and Katsuki remembered again that asshole Mina had helped bag. “Sir, one of my roommates had an encounter with a villain who can make big spaces in solid material. He’d made a basement under his house. He might have made more for hire. Fucker killed himself in custody so there’s no chance to question him.”

“The walls did look kind of weird; like it wasn’t a professional excavation, but they didn’t do it by hand either.” Chubby Cheeks recalled. “What was that guy doing when he got caught?”

“Pedophile.” Katsuki bit out and everyone grimaced as one. “We just figured he didn’t want to die in jail.”

“...but maybe he didn’t want to be forced to narc on his clients.” Tower finished. “I’ll shoot Ito a message. He’s probably got associates she can chase down. Good intel, Zero. All right, anybody else have anything they want to kick around the circle?”

Silence reigned for a minute until Todoroki said quietly, “I should have frozen the detonator.”

“Wrong.” Tower made a noise and then laughed when Todoroki’s eyes snapped up. “Ask your old man next time you see him how many times someone’s tried to psyche him out with a fake bomb or whatever. Bombs cost money. People don’t usually turn to crime if they can afford to pay for C4. The taser was real and we were too far for him to use it on one of us. No one had a visual on an incendiary device. The hostages were in range of the hostile. You chose correctly. Don’t second guess yourself. It’ll make you hesitate. Even if it was real, freezing might have made it go off anyway. We’ll workshop a teamplay for future incidents.” He looked around. “Anyone else? No? Okay, then I’m calling rides for all of you.”

“My brother is coming to pick me up.” Todoroki turned to Chubby Cheeks. “He asked if you’d like a ride since we’re in the same direction.”

“Oh, um, Iida was actually going to pick me up tonight.” She turned pink and Katsuki made sure to make mental notes to share with Mina and Eiji later. They had been arguing for years about whether those two were ever going to get together. She paused, sniffed her hair, and grimaced. “Maybe I should tell him not to.”

“Ingenium, right?” Tower snorted. “If he gives you shit then tell him his day is coming. All right, Zero, you need a car?”

Katsuki’s unsettled feeling was in the process of transmuting into nausea so he nodded. Tower came over, peeled one of his eyelids back, and whistled. “Yeah, you’re not going home by yourself. Pupils’re like dinner plates. I’ll ride with you.”

What?

Fucking hell. Katsuki realized there was probably a reason he’d been only just hanging onto his temper by the tail. He’d been having mood swings too; not as extreme as he was used to yet undeniably present when he thought about it. Marijuana was a usually downer, but biochemical quirks made it hard to predict how a person would react to medication. In retrospect, he should have said something about that to the EMTs. They’d have loaned him a mask.

“Okay, you two get lost.” Tower waved Todoroki and Chubby Cheeks out. Once they were gone he asked, “Did you find a new doctor? You got a hotline you can call?”

He had Hound Dog’s cellphone number for emergencies. Inhaling a bunch of THC was probably an emergency.

Hound Dog answered within a few rings. “Bakugo, Present Mic is texting me about a fire in Jedha. Should we be concerned?”

“S’contained.” Katsuki winced as he heard his voice start to slur. “It was a grow house. All the product went up in smoke.”

“Hrmmmm.” Hound Dog made a thoughtful, but bestial noise. “How long were you exposed?”

“About fifteen minutes while we waited for the cops to secure the scene.”

“What are your symptoms?”

Katsuki thought about it. “Impared impulse control. Irritability. Mood swings a bit. Started to get nauseous a few minutes ago.”

“I’ve pulled a report from your neuroregulator. It looks like it took the brunt of your symptoms, but I’d like you to spend some time on an oxygen tank tonight until your symptoms abate. It’s going to be the usual; no driving, no travelling alone, no…”

“...operating heavy machinery, no quirk use.” Katsuki finished.

“Call me in the morning with an update.” Hound Dog continued, unconcerned by the interruption. “Go to the ER if your heart starts racing or if you start getting alerts on the monitor. Do you have a tank at home?”

“Yeah.” He and Mina had a dedicated toolbox of the kind of first aid specific to them. 

“Good, go home and take the night easy. Tell your boss you’re on light duty tomorrow.”

Tower could evidently hear because he paused in the process of putting a coat on over his costume to give Katsuki a thumb’s up.

“Got it. Thanks.”

“It’s what I’m here for. Get some rest. Eat some carbs.”


The apartment was empty when he got home, thank fuck. Tower mooched around until Katsuki got the oxygen tank out to prove he had one. He did end up putting the mask on, watching TV with it on for a while, and did end up feeling better to the point where he didn’t have to drag himself through the motions of following the rest of Hound Dog’s instructions.

Katsuki loved his quirk, but sometimes even he had to admit dealing with it was bullshit. Oxygen therapy shouldn’t have done anything for what was basically intoxication, but it worked on him.

He took a break from the tank to make a snack because his appetite was out of control and took it back to the couch to eat while he watched the Hero Report. Sure enough, the Jedha fire was on the news. They’d filmed it from a distance over the rooftops from a neighboring ward though. Tower hadn’t been kidding about the media being afraid to come to their district.

Katsuki had thought he’d have time to do another round with the tank before the others started to get home, so of course Mina got back while he was indulging in a nap. The tank had a loud timer on it so he wasn’t in any danger of wearing it too long.

What woke him up instead was the sound of Mina’s bag hitting the ground and her touching his shoulder. “Katsuki? Katsuki, babe.” She wrinkled her nose as she got a whiff of him. “What happened?”

“Burned down a grow house and a fuck ton of weed.” Katsuki realized he’d forgotten to shower again and was stinking up the apartment probably. “Lemme turn this off. I’ll clean up.”

“Noooo you don’t!” She covered the tank’s valve with her hand so he couldn’t get at it. “You can shower when the timer goes off. Did you talk to Hound Dog?” She blew out her breath in relief when he nodded. “Ok, good. That’s good.” She bit her lip, full of nervous energy. “You need a blanket. I’m going to get a blanket.”

He caught her by the back of the shirt and pulled her back. “I’m fine.” He said. “I don’t need a blanket, Mina.” It would just get smelly.

She sagged with an unhappy expression. “No fair pulling out the big gun!” She complained and stomped over to wedge herself onto the couch next to him, curled up with her freezing feet tucked under his thigh in retaliation for whatever it was he’d done. That was the first he’d heard of having a ‘big gun’ without a dick joke being involved somehow.

He expected her to turn on one of her animes, but she switched it to his cooking competition show and watched quietly instead of hectoring the chefs like she usually did. He kinda missed it. She almost always said what he was thinking.

Eiji came home right before his timer went off. He reacted much like Mina had, but was willing to let Katsuki finally shower. 

He felt better once he was properly clean and didn’t smell like ‘wolfthorn’ and marijuana anymore. 

Eiji and Mina were cozied up on the couch, looking at her phone with the tv paused when he left the bedroom.

“No, that’s the one we use at the agency.” Eiji was insisting. “It’s got a P100 filter.”

“He doesn’t need a P100. A 95 is just fine and that one is a half-face respirator. He needs a whole one. The point is to limit chemical exposure. It’s just as bad if it gets in his eyes.” She flicked the screen. “This one rolls up and can go in his costume pockets.”

“What are you two doing now?” Katsuki groused and started to take back his corner on the couch, but Eiji intercepted him and stuck him in the middle so he was bracketed on both sides by clingy roommates. “Are you shopping for a face mask?”

“It’s my money, I can spend it on what I want!” Mina puffed her cheeks at him. Then she grabbed the remote and resumed the show.

“Pinky, I’m fine.” Katsuki insisted. “Spend your money on yourself.”

“I don’t need to. I don’t work for a startup. Uwabami already has hazard gear.” She pouted and Eiji reached around Katsuki’s back to rub the back of her neck.

“Let her do it, Bro.” Eiji murmured in his ear. “She’ll feel better. We’ll all feel better if you’ve got a mask next time you go out.”

“I heard that!” Mina cried. “Don’t humor me!”

“Don’t fuss when you’re gettin’ your way, Pinky.” Katsuki didn’t say anything else about the mask. He should have gotten one years ago, really. His quirk threw up a lot of fine debris anyway. 

He spent the evening watching weird vegetarian cooks try to deal with specialty cured meats while soaking in the feeling of two shoulders pressed against him on either side.

Katsuki had a weird dream that night; one of the ones where you dream that you woke up and are somehow aware you’re dreaming. In his dream he woke up in the dead of night to find he’d migrated to the middle of the mattress somehow. That wasn’t possible because he slept next to the wall. Mina slept in the middle and Eiji had the open side of the bed because he got up for the bathroom ten million times a night. He was on his side with Eiji spooned behind him and the back of Mina’s head tucked under his chin. 

When he woke up for real he was alone in bed on his back with a lime green post-it note on his forehead from Mina saying Tower had called to give him the day off so they’d turned off his alarm. 

Katsuki didn’t really need a dream analysis to tell him that he needed to buy himself his own bed ASAP. Payday could not come soon enough. Maybe he should have taken that advance after all.

Hound Dog gave him the all clear later that morning when he called for his check in, but approved of Katsuki taking the day off. 

He spent the morning slouching around the apartment in his boxers and going through the elaborate laundry ritual required to keep his clothes minimally flammable. He finally got dressed around noon and was immediately glad he’d done so because both Mina and Eijiro mysteriously got off early that day. 

They both stuck close enough that Katsuki had to admit to himself  that he’d scared them both and he quietly apologized after dinner that night, which just made it worse for some reason.

He was glad to get back to work the next day even though it meant helping with the building renovation.


The meeting day came too soon. Tower set him and Chubby Cheeks to laying the flooring in the lobby as soon as they got in. It was only supposed to take an hour or so except they were immediately at each other’s throats. Uraraka came from construction people so she wanted to do it the way her parents did and not the way that would actually look good.  

About 95% of their relationship was play fighting, but that last 5% could shake the windows. Icyhot evacuated to the outside where he pretended he knew how to sweep. 

Katsuki didn’t realize Uraraka had vengeance on the brain or who she’d been texting during her sullen water break until Eyebags came downstairs to call him into Watchman’s office a little early. 

The thing was; he’d had a goddamn plan.

Laying the floors was hot, sweaty work. Sweat laced with nitroglycerin was more than dangerous, it also smelled like a chemical fire in a bakery. Katsuki showered three times a day at minimum, much less when he was about to shut himself into a small room with someone he wanted a favor from. 

“Mother fucker!” He swore and charged into the locker room chased by the sound of Chubby Cheeks cackling.

He emerged again after the fastest shower of his whole life only for her to lose it on him all over again.

“Is that cologne?” She bent over, slapping her thigh.

“I’ve been working, asshole!” He hissed. Just because she’d gone nose dead around him didn’t mean anyone else had. “I smell!”

“Now you smell like sweat and Bvlgari Pour Homme!” She wheezed. “Good job!”

He was stressed so the first thing that came out of his mouth was “It’s Guerlain, Hamster Cheeks!” like she would know Bvlgari made him smell like a tire fire. 

Shinsou looked up at the ceiling and didn’t say anything, which Katsuki appreciated. They still weren’t back to where they’d been before the club incident, but Shinsou had started acknowledging him again when they met in the mornings instead of staying silent and looking like he was thinking of creative ways to dispose of Katsuki’s mangled body.

Watchman was in costume for some reason when Eyebags let Katsuki into the office, which was a slight disappointment but not really a surprise. 

“Have a seat.” He nodded at a brand new leather chair and Katsuki was so fuckin’ glad he’d washed before coming up. “What was it you wanted to discuss?”

The senior hero was even more unnerving now that they were alone. Given his issues, Katsuki had thought he’d be more comfortable around someone with a face he didn’t have to look at. That was not the case. Not even a little bit.

Everything Katsuki had planned to say suddenly sounded stupid in his head when he was faced with the blank space where Watchman’s eyes should have been. 

Shit. He was going to have to push through.

“I want to help someone become a hero.” He said quietly, gruffly. “He wasn’t a viable candidate for the highschool vocational programs. I heard there are other ways to get licensed.”

He heard leather creak and realized it was Watchman’s gloves. 

“There are.” Watchman’s voice was unreadable. “What do you think he can bring to the field?”

Oh god. 

“He’s smart.” Katsuki ground out. “...and good. He ain’t a gloryhound like some. He’d do the job right. He deserves a chance. He didn’t get it before… and it’s my fault he didn’t.”

“You said he wasn’t a viable applicant for the vocational programs. What is his problem?”

Katsuki blew his breath out, glad for a momentary reprieve. Watchman hadn’t asked him to elaborate on the various ways he’d fucked Deku over, but he didn’t think that would be the case forever. “He doesn’t have a quirk.”

Watchman stilled and Katsuki rushed to fill the silence. 

“He could do it.” He insisted. “He’s got the drive…”

“Ground Zero.” Watchman interjected sadly and Katsuki hated his tone of pity. It was the precursor to a ‘no.’

“He’s already got the physical conditioning.” Katsuki charged ahead. If he could make his argument before Watchman shot him down then there was still a chance. “My best friend and I can train him. We could have him up to speed in a year. The little shit learns so fast it’s offensive. I just need to know that it’s possible to get him a license.”

“Bakugo.” Watchman stood. He didn’t sound angry so he was still listening. He had to be listening.

“Tower said you don’t use your quirk.” Katsuki hated playing that card. “So it’s possible. Quirkless people need heroes too.”

“Kacchan!”

“I ain’t asking you to take any risks.” He kept going. “Red Riot, Pinky, and I are willing to take it on. We just need to know what to…” 

Wait.

Katsuki’s ears started to ring as they caught up with his mouth.

“...what did you just call me?” 

Watchman stood and took off his hat. He set it down on the desk between them and reached for his mask.

No.

He had a stocking cap on underneath it with a hole for his nose and mouth. With the breather out of the way Katsuki could see the area covering his eyes had a different texture; smoother and stiffer. Pin pricks of light appeared on the inside of it when Watchman pulled it off to reveal Deku’s pale face.

His hair was flattened by cap and hat, but some frizzy curls immediately sprang up like determined spring grass.

The chair underneath Katsuki’s ass went flying as he lurched upright riding the leading edge of a wave of molten hot fury, humiliation, and the unhappy wail of his watch as his regulator flooded it with alarms.

The alert brought him briefly back to sanity and he groped for the little blue button on the side of his watch. It was under a cover so he couldn’t trigger it accidentally, but if ever he’d needed the ‘chill pill’ it was now. Hound Dog would blow up his phone as soon as he did it, but they’d agreed that it would be okay if Katsuki didn’t answer right away.

“Kacchan?” Deku started towards him, ready to help just like they were fucking grade schoolers again. “Are you…?”

“No!” Katsuki ground out even though his voice felt like broken glass. “Stay back. I need…” He wheezed as the first icy wave of sedative hit him hard enough to hurt. “...ten minutes or I’m gonna lose my shit. Please.” The last word burned, but Deku had already backed off.

“Okay.” He said. “Whatever you need.”

Katsuki let himself out of the office. Eyebags and Tower were crowding the door like nervous babysitters and if they’d already known what Katsuki had just learned then maybe it was fucking justified. 

There’d been a moment in there where every scrap of self control and progress he’d made over the past two years had evaporated like he’d never even tried. No one had ever been able to affect him like Deku could. Katsuki had known that, but he still hadn’t been ready for it when faced with the reality of his instinctual reaction to the other man’s face. 

Katsuki found a corner to crouch in and prayed that Round Face wouldn’t come upstairs. Her shit was the last thing he needed at the moment. 

Hound Dog texted him to check in and Katsuki got his shit close enough to together that he could text back and say he’d had a surprise encounter and needed to deploy the cooldown feature on the neuroregulator.

Tower was hovering nearby looking guilty as shit, but for once Katsuki couldn’t find it in himself to be mad. The man had apparently been raising a quirkless hero and committing fraud with the Hero Commission in order to do it. No wonder he was nervous. Katsuki had the power to strip them both of their licenses if he wanted to --even if he’d been ready to do the exact same thing.

Holy shit, Deku was a Pro Hero .

How the fuck had he pulled that off? He had a ranked agency at nineteen.

The one silver lining to the situation that he could see was that he’d been totally fuckin’ justified with his crazy ass scheme. He now had incontrovertible proof that Deku could hack it as a hero. Too bad he already fucking was.

Katsuki made himself get up as the tidal wave of irrational fury abandoned him. He had a million fucking questions, but the answers were all waiting in Watchman… no, in Deku’s office. 

He passed Eyebags on the way in and was briefly amused by the memory of him shielding Deku in the club. It had been brave at the time, but the joke was on both of them. Watchman was the last person in the world who needed protection in a situation like that. Katsuki could take him in a face-to-fight quirk fight, but in a crowded club full of flammable civilians and the two idiots he was hopelessly in love with? Katsuki would have gotten his ass kicked.

Deku had ditched the rest of his costume while Katsuki had been in his self imposed timeout. He was wearing an obnoxious All M hoodie with All Might’s big dumb face plastered across it at an angle over a pair of ripped and paint splattered cargo shorts and a familiar, but newer pair of red hightops.

It was weird. The sight of him in his normal nerd gear and a nervous smile soothed the last dregs of Katsuki’s rage. A puzzle piece he hadn’t realized was missing from his life slotted back into place and Katsuki had the staggering realization that he’d missed Deku’s stupid face. 

When he’d been a kid that would have sent him into a tantrum spiral, but current day Katsuki had the tools necessary to set that emotional puzzle aside for when he could be bothered to deal with it. In the moment, Katsuki just appreciated the fact that he had a clear space to say the thing that he had been waiting years to say.

“I’m sorry.” He said before anything else. “I was a dick.”

It wasn’t the speech he’d practiced with Eijiro, but it was the heart of the apology distilled down to the two critical elements so of course it flew right over Deku’s head. 

“It’s okay. It was a big surprise.” Deku waved his hands. “I should have told you as soon as you came in.”

Fucking…

“No!” Katsuki clenched and unclenched his hands. “When we were kids. Middle school. That’s when.”

“O-oh.” Deku turned pink and started to twiddle his fingers. He looked so much like Uraraka then that Katsuki suddenly had to re-examine all the reasons he considered her his best friend after Eijiro. “Thanks. I’m not… I’m not mad. Even if I was I wouldn’t be after…” He went from pink to red. “...it meant a lot hearing you say that you believe in me.”

Katsuki had been in Watchman’s fucking fandom for two years, but he was going to take that gem to his grave now, thanks.

He went to pick up the chair he’d knocked over instead. “I don’t back lost causes.” He said.

Deku’s answering laugh was a soft self-deprecating huff. “I guess not.” He shook himself. “Kacchan, it’s not your fault I couldn’t get into a vocational hero program.”

Katsuki cocked an eyebrow at him. Bullshit it wasn’t. “I beat the shit out of you and threatened to do worse if you applied to UA.”

That got an eye roll out of Deku. “You puffed smoke in my face, singed my shirt, and threw my notebook out of a window.” He corrected Katsuki. “Was that a terrible thing to do? Yes. Was it scary at the time? Kinda. Was it beating the shit out of me? No.”

That conveniently left out all the times he absolutely had.

“I told you to kill yourself.” Katsuki looked down and away.

“Yeah.” Deku’s voice was subdued. “That was… that was hard to deal with and if you ever do it again -to me or to anyone- we’re going to have a real problem, but I’m ready to move past it if you are. In any event, that still didn’t stop me.”

Katsuki squinted up at him. “What?”

“I applied for exam tickets from UA, Shiketsu, Ketsubusu, Seiai, Isamu, and Seijin.” Deku hitched his hip up on the edge of his desk as he casually listed every single highschool in the region with a heroics program. “They all sent back a form letter saying that I did not meet the minimum qualifications for admission to any programs they offered.”

That… what?

“Deku, you were ranked fifth in our entire middle school.” Katsuki knew because he’d been ranked fourth and had always felt Deku nipping at his heels during every exam. It had driven him bonkers, but also towards excellence. Their middle school hadn’t been much to talk about, but they’d both been in the ‘A’ class for academically gifted students. Katsuki’s ranking in the entrance exam had been mostly based on the heroics portion of the exam, but he would have gotten into the general education program easily just on the written portion. He was ranked 9th academically in the entrance exam, even counting the other programs including the crazy ass support savants. If he could have gotten in then Deku would have gotten in. “You would have gotten into the UA gen ed program at least.”

“I contested it, but never heard back.” Deku shook his head. “Then I started applying anywhere I could just so I’d be in highschool and could try for a transfer slot. The same thing happened. Every school I applied to except the creepy inner city schools turned me away. I ended up enrolling in Ryloth Highschool, but when I showed up for the first day of school they said I wasn’t on record as a student there. A teacher threw me out on my ear. It had nothing to do with you, Kacchan.”

Anger bubbled back up inside Katsuki’s chest. It wasn’t his old enemy, but actual real outrage. There was no way that could have been legal. He didn’t think to question the story though. Deku had never lied to him even when it would have saved him a beating. “That is bullshit.”

Deku just nodded. “I thought so too.” He agreed. “It took me seven months to find the evidence and I was staying with Hideo by then.” He rubbed the back of his head and looked downcast.

“Wait, is that why you fucking ran away?” Katsuki tried to connect the dots in his head. Deku had vanished around the beginning of his first year of high school.

That earned him a flinch. “I didn’t run away.” He said quietly. “It’s more complicated than that. Mom kicked me out. You’re right. That story is complete crap and there’s no way it should be true, but it was. She found some research notes of mine about ways to become a Pro Hero without going through the highschool escalator and thought I’d lied to her about not getting into any highschool. We had a big fight. She told me to get out and so I did. I was on the streets for a few nights before Hideo found me. I ended up apprenticing with him and now here I am.”

That fit with the brittle shell Auntie Inko had become a little too well. If Deku had run off she’d have dragged him back by his ear by now. She’d have been bawling the entire time, but she’d have done it. It would have been different if she’d been the one to make him go. He couldn’t see her feeling like she’d have the right to ask him to come back. 

Deku and Auntie Inko didn’t have any extended family. Auntie had been given up for adoption as a child and from Katsuki understood Deku’s piece of shit sperm donor had taken off for good around the time she got pregnant. He hadn’t even started paying child support until Deku was something like seven or eight.

They had been as close as close could be, but maybe the drawback of being such a small close knit family was that there was no one to step in when they both had their heads up their asses.

Katsuki hadn’t realized his own family’s dysfunctions until Hound Dog had been seeing him long enough to float the idea of family counselling. Katsuki had shot that idea down in flames and hadn’t considered it again until he realized that Eiji would avoid him for two or three days after every extended break. It took even longer to get him to admit he was doing it until finally…

“Yeah, man, okay.” Eiji had admitted. It was in the early days of their friendship before he’d gotten comfortable telling Katsuki when he was crossing the line. “It’s just… you’re always intense, but when you’ve been home too long you turn back into the guy who blew Sero through a brick wall in our first heroics exercise. You calm down once you’ve been back a little.”

His parents weren’t any more amenable to family counseling than Katsuki had been at first, but Hound Dog had been less gentle with them about going.

You wouldn’t think anybody needed to be told ‘the more you hit your son the worse he acts out to prove it doesn’t matter’ or ‘you’re hurting your mother when you call her a stupid ugly bitch’ or ‘make space for your father/husband to be heard, he can’t get a word in edgewise.’ Apparently they had. His family was closer and kinder than it had been. Nobody avoided him when he’d been home anymore. 

Deku and Auntie hadn’t had a Hound Dog to intervene for them.

“She’d have let you come home.” He said instead of all that.

Deku shrugged. “I was messed up about it for a long time.” He shrugged one moody shoulder. “I couldn’t even talk to Hitoshi about it until recently. I was confused… and mad too, I think. I’ve never lied to her. Not once. Then she didn’t believe in me when it mattered most.” He drew a shuddering breath. “She had reasons, it turns out, but I didn’t know that then. I guess I still felt betrayed even after I found out about it. I didn’t want to be the first one to reach out because I hadn’t done anything wrong. I’d have come home if she asked.” He shrugged again, looking dejected. “She never did.”

Katsuki finally had all the pieces and took in the awful picture they created. Deku was waiting for Auntie Inko to call him home. She didn’t know she could still reach him so they’d spent three years in limbo. 

“I don’t get the admissions thing.” Katsuki was still stuck on that point. “UA has quirkless alumnae.”

“I’m not sure they knew I was quirkless.” Deku admitted. “There was this huge admissions filtration scheme and our middle school was involved. Someone in the office was tagging exam applications before sending them out; ‘good’ quirks and ‘bad’ quirks. It was that squinty guy who answered phones for the principal.” Katsuki actually remembered the person in question. He stood too close when he talked to you and made everyone uncomfortable. “The news found out about it and discovered the same thing going on at a bunch of other schools. The story broke during your first month or so of your first year. UA wasn’t implicated because Nedzu caught the mole in their admissions office before then and fired him out of a canon.”

That might have been hyperbole, but with Nedzu involved you could never really tell.

“Who the fuck was it?” Katsuki couldn’t remember any staff members going missing under mysterious circumstances, which was the only fate he could imagine possible for someone who exposed Nedzu’s precious school to litigation.

Deku had to think about it. “Some guy named Kurosawa Hiro.” 

...oh.

“Oh, that asshole.” Katsuki pinched the bridge of his nose and wondered why he hadn’t immediately guessed. No one ever proved it, but rumor had it that he’d been instrumental in covering up Mineta’s perverted reign of terror during first year. Plenty of girls made complaints, but all records of those complaints mysteriously vanished leaving them with a ‘he said/she said’ situation. Even once Kurosawa was gone the girls were more reluctant to report Grapenut’s bullcrap because they’d already seen how it was handled by the school. UA administration had taken a huge blow to their credibility with the student that year and never quite recovered from it.

So starting second year, after it had become clear they couldn’t just wait for the teachers to deal it it, Iida called the male students of 2-A together and more or less implied that he would become mysteriously deaf and blind if, the next time he made a grab for anyone’s tits, someone just happened to trip and break both of Mineta’s arms.

Mineta had a lot of accidents that year before he really absorbed the lesson, but by the time midterms came around none of the girls on campus had to watch out for little wandering hands anymore and the difference in the classroom mood was like night and fucking day. 

Deku blinked and frowned. “What?”

So Katsuki had to explain and watched a little of Deku’s faith in humanity die.

“That’s… something.” He rubbed his eyes and paused to give Katsuki a measuring look. “Do you still want to work here? I understand if working for me isn’t something you want to do. We have a complicated history, but Tower would be really sad to see you go. Can I convince you to stay?”

Deku had really underestimated what Katsuki was willing to put up with in exchange for healthcare. Leaving hadn’t even occurred to him.

“I’ll stay.” Katsuki blew out his breath and felt the fight drain out of him. The sedatives were starting to kick his ass, but left him mellow enough to acknowledge that being able to easily keep one eye on Deku wasn’t an unappealing proposition. Even if he understood what happened and had tangible evidence that Deku could look after himself just fine, thanks, it had been three long years of radio silence. “Nothing’s changed and I don’t need no special treatment.”

“Thanks.” Deku looked him over. “Are you okay? You look like you’re drooping.”

“S’the fuckin’ regulator.” Deku nodded like he knew what that meant. Then again, Deku had seemed to understand what was going on when he’d triggered the chill pill. Tower probably would have disclosed it while hiring him. He kinda of wondered what Deku had thought about it or if he understood even a little bit how hard Katsuki had been trying and for how long. “I calmed down, but the sedatives are still working.”

“Okay, in that case I’m going to call your emergency contact to come pick you up.” Deku got his phone out and started dialling. “While we wait for them you’re going to explain what kind of security that implant has installed because now I’m having nightmares about someone hacking that thing.”

“What did I just say about special fuckin’ treatment?” Katsuki groused, but Deku just gave him a bitchy sideways look.

“How nervous would you be if Ura had a medically necessary implant that someone could potentially use to tranq her in the middle of a fight?” He asked. “Or use it to make her randomly feel awful for no reason.”

Katsuki wasn’t in total control of his responses so he snarled at the mere thought without meaning to.

“Exactly.” Deku said primly. “So don’t get made if anyone worries about the same thing happening to you.”

“Gimme the phone.” Katsuki snapped his fingers when he heard it ringing. “Eiji’s my emergency contact. He’ll recognize your voice.”

“Not your mom?” 

“Thank your fucking lucky stars I won’t let you talk to my ma. She’d reach through the phone to beat your ass.” Katsuki snarked, but  went quiet as the call connected.

“Kirishima.” Eiji said cautiously.

“Eiji, I need a pick up.” Katsuki sighed. Maybe talking to Eiji had been a bad idea. Just the sound of his voice made Katsuki want to be home already.

“No problem. Are you ok? Do I need to get a car?”

“Nah, just deployed the Chill Pill and now I’m too far down.” 

“I’m on my way. Wanna tell me what happened?”

“I’ll tell you later.” Katsuki had no idea what he was allowed to share with Eijiro so he stalled. “This is Watchman’s phone. He wants it back.”

“Ok, I’ll text you when I’m downstairs.”

Deku made good on his threat to grill Katsuki about the security on the regulator and he only got away by throwing Hound Dog under the bus. He’d forgotten how that nerd got when he was chasing a problem. Eventually he pretended to get a text from Eijiro and escaped to wait downstairs.

Eyebags followed him down and stood with him outside to wait. Katsuki gave him a suspicious side eye. 

“The fuck do you want?” He asked.

Shinsou eyed him right back. “I will stop giving you shit if you sign this.” He held out…

It wasn’t the same notebook he’d wrecked all those years ago, but it was near identical except it hadn’t been labelled quite so bravely; just the number 18 in one corner of the cheap blue cardstock cover. Looking at it made Katsuki feel sick to his stomach.

Katsuki frowned. “Does he know you have that?” His voice was gruffer than he intended. “If he cries because you messed with it then I’m gonna break your fuckin’ legs.”

He was kind of surprised to realize he felt that way, but Shinsou didn’t seem offended or threatened --which meant he was going to have to put his back into the eventual shovel-talk he owed the guy. If he didn’t do it then eventually his Ma would and Katsuki liked to think he had the softer touch.

“That’s not a fair standard to hold anyone to. He cries at pictures of baby animals.” Shinsou opened the notebook to a page towards the end. It had Uravity and Shoto’s signatures scrawled across the page opposite Psyren’s, which took up a whole sheet. “Just complete the set, dickhead.”

He jerked the notebook away from Shinsou, flipped over to an entire page and after steeling himself signed his first autograph as a pro hero. 

Maybe it was appropriate that it was for Deku.

“Whatever.” Shinsou sighed as he noted that Katsuki had taken up a whole page for himself. “It counts. Oh hey, Kirishima’s here.” He nodded towards the train station where Eiji was waving at them with both arms. “I’ll head inside. Thanks.”

“Aw, Shinsou left.” Eiji pouted a bit once he caught up. “You doing ok, bro?”

“Yeah, just sluggish.”

“So, um, I’m guessing Midoriya visited Shinsou at work?” Eiji started nudging Katsuki off towards the station.

Katsuki nodded because that was as good a lie as any. “We got a chance to talk.” He said, mostly to get out of elaborating. “Found out why he left home. Had to put myself in the corner for a minute.”

“Yeah?” Eiji did a horrible job of hiding his curiosity. “What happened?”

“Some bullshit is what happened.” Katsuki sighed. “Not really his fault, I guess. You ever hear of some big admissions scandal? He says it was on the news, but during first and second year so I wouldn’ta been watching much TV.”

Neither of them needed to bring up that one time he got kidnapped. It had been a while before he could watch TV without his face showing up at some point. Neither could his ma or his dad so they wouldn’t remember either. If the news wasn’t casting him as an innocent victim of UA’s neglect they made him out to be a dangerous lunatic. Eventually he’d gotten his reputation back in order, but he was pretty sure his dad sued somebody for slander before it was all over and just didn’t mention it.

“Kinda?” Eiji scrunched up his face in thought. “My mom was super ticked off about it. She’s pretty sure one of my cousins got caught up in that. She’s got these spike things that go off sometimes without her meaning to. No highschools would let her sit the entrance exam until one of my uncles submitted a direct application pretending she was homeschooled. She had to take an extra placement exam, but that one got her through the roadblock. Did that happen to Midoriya too?” He frowned. “That’s not fair! We kinda understood about Eimi-chan. She didn’t mean to be dangerous, but what’s a quirkless kid going to do to anybody?”

“Bring down average their test scores.” Katsuki muttered, suddenly reminded of stuff he’d overheard teachers saying when he was growing up. “Get people sick because they don’t have as good an immune system. Look bad in the news if any of their bigoted friends find out.”

“That’s all crap, bro.” Eiji huffed.

“I know it is. People believe that.” Katsuki never really had. ‘Quirkless’ was just a word to him as a kid; one of Deku’s soft spots and an easy button to mash when he needed to.

“Well, I think there’s a lawsuit.” Eiji said as the train arrived. He had his phone out and Google open. They stopped talking for a sec in order to find good seats on the empty train. “No criminal charges that I see though, which sucks. There had to be something illegal about that. Mostly it looks like the schools implicated got crucified in the news. A couple of them closed or their board members were forced to resign. There’s an academic watchdog agency now put together by the Japanese Board of Education so I guess something good came of it.”

They rode for a while without speaking, Katsuki wasn’t up to making conversation and was occupied by his thoughts, before Eiji took a sharp breath and asked. “Bro, do you have feelings for Midoriya?”

Katsuki scowled and leaned away from Eiji in case the stupid was contagious. “Hell no!” He said. Why did people keep thinking that?

Eiji wet his lips. “Bro, I think you do.” He insisted. “You’ve used the Chill Pill three times in the past two years. Twice was because of him. Just bringing him up in conversation messes you up like nothing else I’ve ever seen. I’m not… I’m not trying to make a big deal about it, but I think you need to acknowledge it and maybe talk to Hound Dog about it. I mean, that’s why little kids pick on each other, right? Because they’ve got crushes and don’t know how to handle it.”

That was rich.

“I never had a crush on Deku, dumbass.” He explained, trying very hard to moderate his tone. If there was ever a conversation he needed to be on drugs for then this was it. “I know who my first crush was and it didn’t happen until highschool. It was a totally different feeling. Our mothers both had to work and my parents were usually out of town at the same time because they’re in the same industry. So more often than not we ended up sleeping in the same crib. We went to the same daycare, elementary, and middle schools. They all but co-parented us. If anything, that nerd is my estranged brother.” Katsuki clenched his hands in his pockets and scraped together a little more courage. “In our last year of middle school I told him to kill himself.”

He couldn’t really look at Eiji right then, but absolutely did not miss his stricken hiss.

He’d never confessed that to Mina or Eiji nor had he ever told them what happened afterwards.

“I thought it was fuckin’ hilarious at the time.” Katsuki continued. “Then, that afternoon I got jumped by a villain. It was this… slime guy. He could use his quirk to possess people by getting into their bodies through the mouth and nose. Maybe he piloted their corpses. I don’t know, but he was doing his best to suffocate me. The two shitheads I hung out with ran off and left me by myself. I fought as hard as I could and some heroes came, but they couldn’t do anything because I’d set a bunch of stuff on fire trying to get him off me and they didn’t want to get close. There were people filming, but nobody was helping. I got tired and then I got scared. For a second I really thought I was going to die. Then Deku showed up. I saw him in the crowd watching and scared shitless like everyone else until our eyes met. Then he was still scared, but he was scared and running in to help.” Katsuki shuddered. At the time he was convinced Deku was just going to die too and they were going to end up in the same grave unable to escape each other even in death. “He hit the villain with his giant ass backpack. He’d been watching and figured out the guy’s only solid parts were his eyes. He dug my face free and I could breathe long enough for All Might to show up and Detroit Smash the asshole off of us.”

Eiji had a hand over his mouth and was staring at the floor without saying anything.

“It was a shit show afterwards. Some D-lister in a chicken costume tried to recruit me as a sidekick while the other heroes who’d been standing there with their thumbs up their asses ganged up on him to tell him how bad he’d messed up when he’d the only one aside from All Might who’d done jack. I never did get it together enough to thank him. The one time I tried I totally lost the plot and afterwards decided the only thing I could do was leave him the fuck alone.” He swallowed. “Then we graduated and I never saw him again until your party.” 

He turned his face so he wouldn’t run the risk of seeing disgust on Eiji’s face.

“I know I get fucked up around him. It’s not because I’ve harboring some secret crush.” Katsuki really didn’t want to keep going, but part of him still believed that Deku had gone too easy on him. “I still have nightmares about that slime villain every so often.” It was less now that he lived with Eiji and Mina. He didn’t feel so isolated with two snoring goobers in the bed at night and that was the thing that triggered his nightmare worst. “Only there’s no Deku in that dream. Just a bunch of people watching me die and wondering if maybe they should do something about it. That’s why I never forgot about him. Half the reason I was such a shit in first year was because I was only sleeping every other night or so and I kept thinking I could smell that slime guy following me around. He had this smell, like old garbage and blood…”

Eiji’s hand closed hard over Katsuki’s right then. “Bro.” He tugged until Katsuki looked at him. He was pale and unhappy, but grabbed Katsuki’s shoulder with his free hand in his version of a subtle bro-hug. “You can stop now. It’s okay. Please, stop. I get it.”

He probably didn’t, really, but he was upset and Katsuki didn’t want to make it worse. Eiji didn’t let go of his hand either, which provided an additional distraction. 

“Thank you for telling me.” Eiji said after a while. “I’m sorry I pushed, but... I’m glad I know. I was ready to help you swipe him out from under Shinsou if I was right.”

Katsuki snorted. “Why the hell would I want that? Anyway, trying to steal Eyebags’ man sounds like a good way to end up trapped on a roof convinced you’re a goat.” 

Eiji barked a laugh and dabbed at his eyes with the cuff of his sleeve. “Oh man. It’s true.” He favored Katsuki with a damp looking smile that did things to him. “I’d risk worse.” 

By mutual agreement, Katsuki ended up on the coach under the weighted blanket he only broke out for the real bad PTSD nights and Eiji intercepted Mina at the door to share what Katsuki had told him without Katsuki having to go through it twice. He was willing but Eiji wasn’t having it.

“You’re trying to punish yourself using us.” Eiji said right to his face when Katsuki tried to insist. “I’m not having it. We can talk about it again when you aren’t artificially depressed and self sabotaging.”

After hearing it put like that, Katsuki parked himself on the couch as ordered.

He was starting to feel like less of a sad sack when Mina joined him on the couch. She had her own blanket and tucked herself in next to him without a word. She didn’t say anything, but read her phone with great intensity.

Eiji caught his eye from across the room and mouthed, ‘I don’t know!’

Katsuki chose to let her be, but the more she read the more she started to radiate intense unhappiness. Eventually she threw her phone at the other end of the couch and tucked her face into the side of Katsuki’s arm. He snapped to get Eiji’s attention and pointed at her. Mina chose that moment to lift Katsuki’s arm and made him wrap it around her back.

Eiji hit the floor in front of her in a sideways slide that almost overshot her. “Mina, baby, what’s the matter?”

He took a moment to make plans to do something, fuckin’ anything, good for Eiji. Everyone was dumping emotions on him that night and no one deserved to have to always be the supportive one.

Mina didn’t answer right away. She kinda wiggled her jaw and eventually said, “I had a friend in middle school. We weren’t super close, but we’d hang during lunch sometimes. She was kinda high strung and didn’t have a lot of spare time. Cram school, you know? She was really smart and her family didn’t have a lot of money so she knew she had to do really well in school to make up for it. She put a lot of pressure on herself and worked hard all the time. If her grades slipped then it really affected her.”

Shit. Katsuki knew where this was going.

“She killed herself a few years ago.” Mina’s voice cracked. “For some reason she didn’t get into any of the good schools she applied to even though she had these really, really stellar grades and was great at test taking. She ended up going to this terrible school where everyone was awful to her all the time. There was nobody to help her prepare for university and they made fun of her for even trying. Her parents couldn’t justify spending anything else on prep schools. One day she just…” Mina swallowed. “... got on a train and no one ever saw her again. Some hikers found her in Aokigahara later.”

Eiji and Katsuki both hissed. Aokigahara, the Sea of Trees at the base of Mount Fuji, was known for one thing only; dead people. There were Rescue Heroes who patrolled the area nowadays, but they couldn’t catch everyone in time.  

“I never understood what happened with her admissions, but… she had to talk using JSL or text or write notes because her voice gave people headaches. It wasn’t loud like Present Mic. It had something to do with the frequency. The news was stressing me out during school so I stopped watching it so I didn’t…” Her lip wobbled. “I didn’t know! I got so caught up in my own stuff that I-I stopped replying to Kaede’s texts. She was always so sad and I was struggling already to keep up with the classes. Now I find out she was the victim of this whole gross conspiracy and all her parents get for justice is a crummy class action lawsuit!?”

Eiji squashed her up between him and Katsuki, which usually never failed to cheer her up. This time it just intensified her sadness and they had to hold her while she cried it out. Katsuki stayed put and quiet. Hound Dog had beaten it into his head a long time ago that sometimes people just had to be sad until they weren’t sad anymore. He could never quite remember that for his own sake, but it was easier when he was staying patient for Mina’s sake.

Eventually she cried herself out and it looked like she’d cried herself all the way to sleep. Eiji quietly slipped off the couch and started getting his coat and shoes together. There was something about the set of his jaw and a deep cleft between his brows like he was this close to activating his quirk.

Katsuki didn’t like that and Mina drowsily said, “Stop him. He’s gonna do something dumb.”

He didn’t need telling twice. 

“No.” He told Eiji as he blocked the door.

Eiji didn’t pretend like he didn’t know what Katsuki was saying ‘no’ to. “I won’t take long, bro. I found some names in the articles. I’m just gonna go arrest ‘em… and like maybe accidentally on purpose break their arms.”

“They haven’t been charged with anything. Unless they’re breaking the law in front of you or someone’s in danger then you can’t do jack about it. This was years ago. If no one arrested them then, it won’t work now.” Katsuki felt gears turning in the back of his head though.

“Mina.” Eiji bit out. “Is. Crying. You were crying.”

“You know what’d make her cry worse?” Katsuki pointed out ignoring the second, highly inaccurate part of that accusation. “You losing your license and going to jail for making a false arrest. You know what you’re going to do instead?”

Eiji wilted and Jatsuki knew he’d won. “Hit stuff in the gym?” He replied without enthusiasm and looked defeated.

“Nah, tomorrow you’re gonna go in and put on your sad face somewhere Fatgum can see it.” Katsuki corrected him. A light came back on in Eiji’s eyes. “When he asks what’s wrong, you tell him what happened tonight. You show him the articles. You work the word ‘injustice’ in there somewhere. You point out that all three of us know someone who was affected and what that means in terms of how many victims there must have been. Then we all step back and watch some fireworks.”

“Bro.” He squeezed Katsuki’s arms. “That just might work.”

“If it doesn’t, then we tell Watchman and Tower.” Katsuki was 99% sure Deku wouldn’t go so far as to try and get those assholes convicted of murder or manslaughter if Fatgum couldn’t, but he’d probably frame them for something else equally life ruining. If that was all the justice they could get then Katsuki would take it. 

“Excuse me!” Mina popped her face over the back of the couch. “I require my boys.” She announced, understanding it was the time to distract Eiji. 


Auntie Inko didn’t pick up on the first ring. It rang long enough that he thought she might not answer. It was pretty late at night, but he’d been occupied with comforting Mina and making sure Eiji didn’t take off for some frontier justice. It wasn’t too late, just after dark.

“Katsuki-kun?” She asked, sounding sleepy. “Is something the matter? It’s not like you to call.”

Ouch. He probably deserved that. “I saw Deku today.”

Her sharp intake of breath hurt to hear. “O-oh. I see.” She was quiet. “Is he all right?”

“Yeah.” Katsuki made the effort to start out light. “He’s doing ok. Got a good job. He’s seeing somebody. Seems pretty serious.”

“That’s… that’s very good to hear.” She sounded like she was tearing up. “Katsuki, I don’t suppose…”

“He says his phone number is still the same.” Katsuki scowled. That sounded dickish. “He’s kept it all this time. I think… he’s been waiting for you to call.”

“He did?” She sounded shocked. “I… I thought he’d disconnected it. I did try a few times after he left, but it went straight to voicemail and I wasn’t brave enough to leave one. Then the number was taken off my account and I was afraid to try again ….and hear a stranger’s voice answer. Oh, Katsuki-kun, are you sure?”

“A buddy of mine has been texting with him. It’s the same number.” He’d been sort of halfway planning to confront her about kicking Deku out, but he’d realized it wasn’t really his business. Making this call was already toeing the line of what he had the right to interfere with. 

“Oh, I… I need… Katsuki, I’m sorry…”

“Oh ahead and call ma.” He knew she’d need to work up to calling Deku, but the Hag was good at psyching Auntie up and getting her to move. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight and… thank you, sweetheart.” 

Mina was watching him from the kitchen, cradling a mug of mango lemongrass tea going by the color and smell. She came over to sit on the arm of the sofa next to him and mussed his hair. “That was a good thing you just did.” She said with a soft smile still tinged with a bit of sadness.

“Plan Zero to Hero is still on though, right?” She asked and Katsuki realized there was something else he needed to deal with.  

“Nope, it’s scrapped.” Katsuki dug his heels in at the sight of her outraged pout. “I can’t talk about it, but he said no.”

“Awww, okay.” Mina turned and called to Eiji, who was in the kitchen trying to make cocoa and really only succeeding at making a mess. “We need to cancel that appointment with Mei-chan!”

“What, really?” He stuck his head out of the bedroom; a portrait of dismay. He adored Hatsume for some reason. “Why?”

Katsuki was saved, for once in his life, by his parents calling.

“Katsuki, son, I’m overhearing a conversation I thought I never would.” His dad said as soon as he picked up. “Where did you find him?”

“He’s been dating a guy I work with.” Katsuki answered slowly. There was something about his dad’s tone he didn’t like. 

“You didn’t arrest him?” His dad exhaled in a gust of relief. Katsuki heard a chair squeak in the background like his dad had collapsed into it. “Oh, thank goodness. We were all so worried he’d taken after his father.”

What?

“What?” Katsuki snapped. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Hmm, you don’t remember?” His dad made a shifty sort of noise. “If you don’t then I probably shouldn’t tell you.”

“Old man, I will make your life not worth living.” Katsuki threatened, sotto voce. “Spit it out.”

His dad sighed and this time it was more annoyed than anything else. “Midoriya Hisashi is a convicted villain. Inko-san hid it from Izuku. He… he put your aunt through a lot before she got pregnant. She had to hide at our house a few times. Hisashi never knew we were friends. He ran off rather than be a father and we never heard from him again until he was unmasked on live television. You and Izu were watching when it happened.”

Katsuki wracked his brain for any memories he had of watching television with Deku. They’d had separate households even though they saw each other nearly every day and limited screen time so neither of them wanted to sacrifice their own shows. After a second he realized he did know what his dad was talking about. There’d been one time when Deku had been spending the afternoon with them because Auntie was on a work trip. They’d been watching the news because his mom had it on and there was a big international villain fight happening that was interesting enough to keep them distracted --until Katsuki’s mom came flying in from the other room to block the screen with her body and announce it was bathtime RIGHT THIS SECOND DON’T ARGUE WITH ME BRAT.

In retrospect she’d pulled that stunt because she knew they’d immediately start screaming about it and forget that the TV even existed.

“You mean Dragon?” Katsuki hissed as quietly as he could. Mina and Eiji could never, ever know. If they knew they’d run their mouth. They wouldn’t mean to, but it would happen and all hell would descend on Musutafu. Auntie would have to change her identity. The Japanese public fucking loathed Dragon. He’d been a racist caricature of a terrorist that made life for Japanese people abroad fucking unbearable. 

“Yes.” His dad was just as quiet. “Son, no one can know.”

“Yeah, no shit.” Katsuki pulled on his hair. “I can tell you for sure the villain gene skipped a generation.”

The sneaky, detailed planning gene that had made Dragon such a terrible threat hadn’t, but Deku had evidently chosen to listen to better angels than his father.

“Well, thank heaven for that. Your mother has been so worried.” He confessed. “She hired a private detective once and he got a little video of Izuku before losing him. He was beating someone up in a park.”

...probably with Tower not too far off watching like a proud dad while filming it on his phone. He’d probably used it as his lock screen. Izuku had told him more about who he’d been living with while he’d been on his own. It honestly made a lot of sense. Who else would happily let a fourteen year old take over their thinking for them?

“We hid it from his mother. It would have broken Inko’s heart.”

“You’d be surprised.” Katsuki muttered and said, “Nothing!” when his dad asked him to repeat that. 

“I need to talk to your mother. She’s off the phone with your aunt.” His dad apologized. “I’ll call again tomorrow. We can talk more. I want to know how you and your friends are doing at your new jobs.”

“Okay. Sounds good.” Katsuki was so ready to be done with this conversation. His phone was making email noises from his work account anyway. There was probably another Osouji mission in the works. It wasn’t like Jedha lacked opportunities. “Good night.”

Fortunately Mina and Eiji were still occupied in the kitchen so Katsuki had a minute to read his email.

To his vast surprise, it wasn’t a mission call. It was a paystub.

For a minute he thought it was his salary, but the stub didn’t list any hours. It listed something else instead. 

“Holy shit.” He said it loud enough to attract his roommates, who were still in helicopter mode a bit.

“What’s up, bro?” Eiji came over and Katsuki showed him his bank balance and Eiji whistled. “Holy shit is right! They’re paying you already?”

“Nah, I forgot about the bounty sharing.” Katsuki skimmed his stub. He was getting a share of the weed house and some other stuff that Watchman had apparently uncovered during his drone sweep of Jedha; people with outstanding warrants, and stuff like that. Knowing Deku he probably hadn’t turned in everything he found so Katsuki didn’t feel weird about taking the money. 

“Bounty sharing?” Mina asked, looking over his shoulder. “Oh wow! I thought that stuff went to the agency.”

“Most of it is gonna fund the reno and eventually some community outreach stuff Tower wants to get into. The rest is split evenly between the entire agency. There’s like six of us so it doesn’t get split too many times. It won’t be as good later when there’s support staff. They’ll get cuts too.” He didn’t mind that. Every agency had some kind of bonus system in place to attract and retain staff. Watchtower had just chosen to be more upfront about where the money was coming from.

“I like your new bosses.” Mina petted his hair. “They’re good people.”

“You’re missing the point, Pinky.” He leaned back to grin up at her. “We can finish furnishing the apartment now.”

Her smile faltered before snapping back into place. “That’s right!” She snaked one arm around Katsuki’s neck and reeled Eiji in by the hips with the other. 

Katsuki wasn’t sure what he thought about the forced cheer on her face, but he was distracted by a text message right then.

Tower: Heard you’re staying on. 

Tower: Glad you’re sticking with us. I got an order for you tho. 

Tower: Don’t talk to the others about what you found out today.

Tower: Just during the morning. WM is going to unmask for Chako-chan and Todoroki tomorrow.

Tower: Let him decide what to tell them.

Ground Zero: Understood.


The next afternoon found Katsuki standing next to Tower holding up the back wall of the least crappy conference room, which was almost not crappy at all after Chubby Cheeks had spent some time in there replacing tiles in the drop ceiling and laying down new floor boards. It was still kinda dirty with drywall crap everywhere and mismatched chairs, but progress was progress.

Deku stood at the front with his mask off while Chubby Cheeks went through several elaborate stages of betrayal before ultimately getting excited that she had a new friend at work who she didn’t go to school with and Icyhot squinted at him like he was trying to place a face.

The story they god was somewhat lighter on details than what Deku had shared with Katsuki. He let them think he’d always known Tower was his paternal fucking uncle . That one was news to Katsuki, but it was just one more piece of evidence that Dragon was an obnoxious aberration in that family tree and made the way the older hero took a teenager in off the street slightly less creepy so it was a net gain, he guessed.

Deku put up with their questions with about as much grace as you could expect when Chubby Cheeks was out for answers and had caught the scent of a good drama. 

Dragon did not come up in conversation, thank fuck. Chubby Cheeks and Icyhot were slightly better at keeping their traps shut than Mina and Eiji, but that bar was so very low. 

The bright side was that Deku wouldn’t be wandering around in his creepy steampunk cyborg costume or hiding in his office all the time anymore. 

Tower and Deku eventually left them to talk amongst themselves and Icyhot immediately announced, “That’s the kid that punched me.”

What.

Even Chubby Cheeks had to think for a minute and she hung out with him regularly. “Wait, the one who talked you into using your fire?”

Katsuki had been about to leave and do something, anything else than engage in nerd gossip. He changed his mind, turned around and went over to cross his arms in front of them. “Spill.”

“You don’t know?” Chubby Cheeks squinted at him. “I thought you were childhood friends or something.”

“We ain’t been talking much.” Katsuki wasn’t about to read Uraraka or Todoroki into his private business. Deku hadn’t told them about his family drama so Katsuki sure as shit wasn’t about to get into it. “I didn’t know he’d gotten into heroics. Now spill.”

Icyhot had started out school pretending he only had an ice quirk. It wasn’t until Endeavor threw an enormous tantrum about it on national television during the Sports Festival that anyone found out his quirk covered the whole range of thermodynamics. Now, having met Icyhot’s shitty old man Katsuki could absolutely respect his decision to dig his heels in and only use his ice, but at some point someone had gotten through to him and it had such a transformative effect on the uptight kid that it’d been hard to believe he was the same person they’d started high school with.

“I was paired with him during our ridealong experiences first year.” Todoroki explained. “Momo was concerned for Iida after his brother was attacked and I didn’t have any preferences about who I worked with so I chose to intern with Manual’s agency.”

They all knew how that had turned out.

“Manual had another intern too; this kid with a green jumpsuit who hadn’t picked out a name yet. He was paired with me and Manual kept Iida close to him. He seemed worried about him too. Iida wasn’t acting like himself.” Icyhot continued. “We got an alert partway through the night and had to go collect Iida when he got separated from Manual. This was during the Hosu attack and we had to defend ourselves.” Icyhot made a face like he was leaving a lot of shit out of that story. “It came out that I had fire abilities and… I said some things to Watchman. I told him about my father and ...how I got my scar. I told him how I’d resolved to become #1 using only my ice.” He grimaced. “Watchman called me an idiot.”

Todoroki had treated Katsuki to the same story during the Sports Festival and had thought pretty much the same thing.

“That wasn’t nice.” Chubby Cheeks fretted. 

“He was correct.” Todoroki shrugged. “He told me that Endeavor already wanted me to be #1 and if I got there then he wouldn’t be retroactively picky about how I did it. He said that not using my fire was just me hurting myself and that I was squandering half my potential.”

Yeah, Deku wouldn’t have had a lot of sympathy for someone boo-hooing in his face about how their OP quirk made them so sad.

“Zat when he punched you?” Katsuki wanted details about that. Ideally he wanted a picture, but he doubted anyone would have thought to take one. Iida would have been the only witness and Katsuki could only picture him yelling at them in the background doing his robot arm chop thing.

“Yes.” Todoroki sighed. “I called him a naive busybody. That is when he punched me. Are you satisfied?”

“Abso-fuckin-lutely.” 

“Then he told me I was doing it wrong anyway and if I really wanted to piss Endeavor off then I should make some friends.” Todoroki added. “To combat his influence on me.”

“Well, yeah. Isolation’s a fucking classic abuser tactic.” Katsuki squinted at Todoroki. “Where the hell were you in psych class?”

“Not applying our lessons to my own situation.” Todoroki admitted. “I shouldn’t be surprised you two know each other. You make the same faces.”

Katsuki was going to pretend he hadn’t heard that. 

His phone chimed then. It was apartment group chat noise so he took himself off to go read it because he didn’t want Chubby Cheeks butting in with her opinions if Mina was sharing ideas for what kind of bedframes to put in the other rooms ---and was immediately so glad that he had. 

Pinky: SO I was thinking!

Riot: Take cover

Pinky: I know where you sleep, Eiji

Pinky: SO I was THINKING

Pinky: Why do we need to put beds in the other rooms?

Pinky: We’re all grownups and if we want to sleep with each other then why can’t we?

Pinky: I mean, my parents have figured out we’re all together and if they figured it out then I know Eiji’s have

The bottom dropped out of his stomach as Katsuki read, re-read, and read that text over again to make sure he hadn’t misunderstood.

Pinky: Anyway I don’t know why we’re hiding it. I guess it made sense in school but we graduated. We don’t have to worry about Eraserhead being a jerk about it.

Red Riot: Oh that’s true

Pinky: And if we don’t use the other rooms as bedrooms then we can have a place for workout gear and maybe soundproof the other one so Katsuki can bring his drum set over from his parents’. Or we could put a computer desk in there. Or I could paint there. IDK

Pinky: Anyway, call me crazy, but I like having my boys in bed with me at night.

Pinky: What do you think?

Katsuki almost reached for the Chill Pill before realizing he’d used it too many times already for the month. His heart was lodged somewhere in the vicinity of his throat and his brain had gone totally offline. 

He needed a calm person.

Usually the one he went to in situations like this was Eiji. If Eiji was the problem then he went to Mina. Only this time it was both of them and he was left with nowhere else to turn.

Chubby Cheeks would help eventually once she got done laughing at him and making him give her the backstory that he wasn’t sure he understood himself right then, but the clock was ticking. If he didn’t reply then that was a reply all on its own.

Todoroki wouldn’t be any help and he could just imagine Tower’s idea of ‘helping.’

Suddenly, Katsuki realized he did have somewhere to go. 

Going upstairs felt like an out of body experience. So did knocking on Deku’s office door.

“Come in!” Deku looked up with a faint smile that morphed into sharp concern when he took in whatever the hell it was Katsuki’s face was doing at that moment. “Kacchan, what’s wrong?”

Katsuki held out his phone, not trusting himself to speak.

Deku took it and read through the most recent messages. He frowned. “What’s the problem?”

“I didn’t…!” Katsuki couldn’t finish the sentence. “I didn’t know we were…!”

Neither of them acted like that around him. Yeah, Mina hung off him and Eiji in equal measure and would play with his hair. They didn’t kiss him though or touch him like they touched each other. 

“You didn’t know you were together?” Deku finished for him and KAtsuki nodded once, woodenly. “Okay.” He looked thoughtful. “Do you want to be with them?”

No question about that. He wanted that more than anything. He just hadn’t realized it was on offer. 

“Yes.” Katsuki started pacing. “They don’t treat me like that though! The hugging and… sex stuff.”

“Kacchan, you can’t even handle kissy noises on TV.” Deku replied almost absently as he focused on the phone. “No one who cares about you or who’s been paying attention is going to touch you like that without your express invitation.”

All the air evacuated Katsuki’s lungs. He felt inexplicably like he’d been punched and put under a microscope at the same time; like his most subtle wrongness had been exposed.

“How did you…” He couldn’t finish, but tried again. “How the fuck did you know about me?”

Deku gave him a look, like he was being really dim. “Kacchan. How many confessions did you get in middle school?”

“None?” Katsuki could barely remember his classmates faces, but he thought he’d remember that.

“Six.” Deku corrected him. “Maybe seven. I only started counting because I wanted to see how many times it took before you figured out what was happening, but there’s a few I only knew about through the rumor mill and people couldn’t agree on the details so those ones are a little suspect.”

“Fucking WHEN?”

“Do you remember some girls coming in from other classes to talk to you?” Deku propped his chin up on the heel of his hand, looking like he was enjoying himself. Fucker probably was, but Katsuki was just so glad someone had answers he was willing to put up with just about anything in order to get some.

“Maybe?” He vaguely recalled one or two with real bad attitudes talking down to him like they wanted a fight or something. He didn’t fight girls in middle school so he’d ignored them until they went away.  

“They were hitting on you.” Deku explained. “You were really popular with the mean alpha-type girls.” He looked back at the phone. “Okay, I think you can get away with yes and no answers for a bit.” He handed it over and Katsuki realized he’d been talking in the chat.

Ground Zero: We need a spare for guests or if you two are doing it.

That was… pretty much the answer he’d have given if Mina hadn’t sent him into a tailspin.

Pinky: Oh right. I forgot.

Pinky: Sorry babe <3

A warm shiver shot through his entire body. He could get used to that.

Red Riot: Hey, are we talking about this?

Red Riot: For real for real talking about it?

Looks like he wasn’t the only one Mina broadsided. Katsuki felt better for like half a second until the next messages came through.

Red Riot: So I know sexy times are a hard no, but what is your stance on non-sloppy makeouts?

Red Riot: Because, bro, I would really like to kiss you

Katsuki sat down hard on a couch that had appeared in Deku’s office over the weekend with a painful wheeze.

Eyebags and his spectacular timing decided to show up right then. 

“What’s his problem?” He asked hanging halfway into the room from the common area.

“You mind if I share, Kacchan?” Deku asked and Katsuki waved a hand at him. He was too busy processing the idea of physical affection from Eiji… or Mina… or, God help him, both at the same time. “He just found out Ashido-san and Kirishima-san consider him part of their triad.” 

Shinsou made a vaguely interested noise. “I guess I can see it.” He laughed when Katsuki glared. “Bakugo, everyone and their dog knows those two are in love with you.”

Not him! Katsuki hated the strangled noise he made. “Since fucking when?”

Eyebags made a show of thinking about it. “I wasn’t there for it, but scuttlebutt says Kirishima started getting goofy for you when you beat up a lizard guy sneaking up on him during the USJ incident. I dunno about Ashido, but it was during second year. Is this really such a surprise? Ashido puts her boobs on you all the time.”

“She’s tactile!” He couldn’t argue that she didn’t. “Cause she knows I won’t be a creep about it!”

“...or she’s letting you know you have permission to touch them.” Deku interjected and the fight drained out of him. That was another explanation.

“You know what?” Eyebags looked thoughtful. “I can actually picture how this happened. No offense, Bakugo, but you’re a lot. ” No arguments there. “I can see how they’d have been careful and wanted to take things slowly --dare I say too slowly? Now you all live together in a happy polycule and no one’s actually had a frank conversation about it.”

“Are they home today?” Deku smiled at him then when he nodded. The sort of look people gave stupid dogs they still liked anyway; affectionate, but with an air of disbelief. “Good. Go home. Get your people straightened out. Tell Ura and Todoroki they can have the rest of the day too while you’re on your way out.”

Katsuki wanted nothing more to take off, but his work ethic nagged at him. It sounded annoyingly like Iida. “I said no special treatment, nerd.” He growled. “You can’t keep sending me home early.”

“Can’t I?” Deku blinked his big doe-like eyes. “Last I checked I can do whatever I want. Kacchan, we aren’t even open yet and even if we were this is not an office. You don’t have a certain number of hours you need to be on the clock. All you need to do is show up in the morning, do your patrols when we open, don’t act like an idiot in front of a camera, and kick asses when I point at them. That’s it. Now go home.”

Eyebags followed him out into the common room. “Go ahead and take off.” He said. “I’ll tell Ura and Todoroki. Have a good night.”

The train ride home was the worst thing ever. It seemed like every stop took twice as long. Even the walk to his apartment from the station seemed like he was on a treadmill going just slightly too fast for him to get ahead.

There were raised voices in the apartment when he finally, finally got to the front door.

“...at work, Eiji.” Mina was saying.

“I’m just gonna go wait at the station. I’m not gonna bug him!” Eiji insisted. “Lemme have my coat.”

“No. You’re going to stay home and be here with me when he replies because he’s not ghosting anybody. They probably got a call and he’ll say something once he’s free.” 

Katsuki realized he’d left Eiji hanging on a very important question. Fuck.

“Mina, what if I messed it up?” Eiji sounded a million years younger and so unsure. “What if he doesn’t?”

“What if I don’t what?” Katsuki said as he let himself in.

Mina and Eiji jumped a mile. 

“Bro, you’re home!” Eiji swallowed hard. “So, about that text…” He trailed off as Katsuki bore down on him and made a really good sound as Katsuki cupped the back of his head, tipped him back, and pressed their lips together. 

“Kissin’s okay.” His voice was rough when they separated.

Mina ‘eeped’ as he turned in her direction, but bounced happily with her arms extended when he closed in to kiss her too. 

They ended up back on the couch trading lazy kisses and holding one another. Katsuki wasn’t quite ready to contemplate moving things to the bed. He definitely wanted more touching, but there were places on him where he didn’t want even Mina or Eiji putting their hands.

In typical fashion, Eiji was the one to start that conversation.

“Bro, I kinda want to do some other stuff.” Eiji had mostly been limiting his touches to Katsuki’s face and shoulders. “Where’s okay to touch?”

“Leave my junk out of it.” Katsuki felt his face go hot. “Other than that you can touch where you want. I dunno if anything else is a problem.”

Mina cocked her head, understandably confused because she was half in his lap and half in Eiji’s and definitely in contact with his groin. “Do I need to move?”

“This is fine.” Katsuki thought about it. It wasn’t that he never had those feelings or had tried to do...stuff. It felt good for the first minute or so, but then the sensations got way too intense to the point where the line between pleasure and pain blurred. It stopped being fun real fast. That was just him by himself. The mere idea of getting another person involved was deeply unappealing. “Just…”

“...no grinding?” She guessed and kissed his cheek. “Ok. Oh, if we’re talking no-fly zones then my horns are off limits.” She grimaced. “They have nerves somehow and it doesn’t hurt really, but it’s the least sexy feeling ever.”

“Um, my teeth too.” Eiji wet his lips. “They’re sharper than they look. Mina knows this one. I’ve never hurt anyone, but I get nervous if anyone gets too close to them and it’s an instant mood killer.”

He pressed a kiss against the column of Katsuki’s throat. “You guys want to take this to the room?”


Katsuki did end up bowing out of things when the past few months of celibacy finally caught up to Mina and Eiji, but he didn’t feel excluded while hanging out in the kitchen making a very late lunch in his pajama bottoms with several strategically located hickies littering his chest. 

Mina and Eiji were Japanese enough to want immediate showers after and Mina’s quirk meant they couldn’t do it together. So she came out of the room first wearing one of Katsuki’s shirts and Eiji’s boxers. He decided he liked that look on her. She plowed into his side in a mute demand for post-coital snuggles.

“Ne, Katsuki, what is your stance on butts?” She asked. “Do butts count as junk?”

“If you’re askin’ if you can grab my ass…” Katsuki replied, totally at peace with the universe and the idea of Mina feeling at liberty to feel him up in particular. “...the answer’s yes.”

“Yaaay.” She purred and reached down to cup his backside. Then he felt her go still, squeeze a little, and then rotate around so she was between him and the counter so she could use both hands. “Oh my god.” She murmured to herself. “Eiji!” She shouted.

Katsuki was mostly immune to people shouting in his ear. One of the first thing he’d done after getting his implants was train his aids to react by lowering the volume whenever someone started to holler. 

Still, this was not going how he’d expected.

“What?” Eiji poked his head out of the bedroom. His hair was dry so he hadn’t gotten in the shower yet. He was just wearing a towel and for once Katsuki had permission to look so he did. Eiji meanwhile zeroed in on what Mina’s hands were doing. “Oh wow.”

“You’ve been holding out on me!” Mina accused him. “How could you keep this ass a secret? I know Katsuki likes his pants loose, but I thought we had something special!”

“W… oh.” He blinked. “Babe, we all had swim classes together. Everyone looked at least once. How did you not notice?”

What.

“It must be nice to spend a class focusing on the lesson and not staying on constant guard against Mineta’s wandering hands.” She huffed and nuzzled into Katsuki’s chest. Then she froze. “Wait, does this still count as grabbing?”

“More of an extended fondle.” He ran a soothing hand down her back. “Still okay.”

“You’re both dorks.” Eiji said as he retreated into the bedroom. He sounded very pleased about it.

Katsuki waited until he heard the water start before he gave Mina a look. “So when did you realize?”

She didn’t play dumb. “I knew the whole time.” She confessed, tucking her face down against his chest. “Eiji was pretty sure you guys were dating when we all started to get feelings. I could tell you had no idea even though you clearly wanted to. None of us were being really subtle about how we felt and I guess I fooled myself for a while into thinking we were all on the same page without talking about it. Especially once we decided to move in together, but it didn’t last. I could see how bad you and Eiji wanted to touch each other, but clearly didn’t feel like you were allowed. I was gonna start the conversation so many times, but in the end I wussed out and sent that text. I was afraid that we’d miss our chance forever if you got your own room.” She looked up at him. “Are you mad at me?”

“Nah. You did something. More than I managed.” He tilted his face into her shoulder. “How’d you know about me? I barely knew about me.”

“What, that you’re asexual?” Mina giggled. “The elaborate gross out noises you make when you see anything too sexy was a little clue.”

“No.” Katuski liked the shape she made in his arms and tried to picture holding Eiji the same way. It was pretty appealing too. “That I was in love with you two. I never said anything”

“Katsuki.” Mina sounded confused. “You tell me all the time.”

He did? “When?”

She pulled away and went to the pantry and got down his stash box. “Katsuki, what’s this?”

“That’s my stash.” Katsuki felt himself bristle, feeling exposed all of a sudden. “Put it back!”

“Okay, but what in here is for you?” She insisted. “This is all the ingredients for my curry that you don’t even like and Eiji’s special imported salt-flavored gummy candy. You make two different pots of coffee in the morning so we can have the kind we like and you can have your death by caffeine. You watch my anime with me even though you get migraines from the super saturated colors and got Eiji to pass math even though it meant tutoring sessions every single night and weekend. Why would you do any of that if you didn’t love us?”

“Not that I was eavesdropping…” Eiji called from the bedroom. “...but just so you know, the walls in the apartment are like paper, just in case I’m not supposed to be hearing this.”

“Okay fine, I admit it! I started a game of relationship chicken!” Mina huffed and went to put Katsuki’s stash back up on the tall shelf.

“Um, if we’re confessing things.” Eiji came out of the bedroom. “I didn’t actually need that much help all the time. I just liked going to the cafe with you guys and I didn’t think you’d go if it wasn’t for a study group.”

It would be kind of a shame if it turned out they’d spent their highschool years trying to date each other without the others realizing they were dating. Although, Eiji was delusional if he thought he’d have been able to keep up with his course work without Mina and Katsuki standing over his shoulder making sure he didn’t procrastinate on his homework until the last minute. 

Then again, if they weren’t splitting into separate bedrooms then they didn’t really need that much more furniture. If they didn’t need more stuff then maybe they didn’t have to have such a pathetic dating history. “You guys wanna go out for dinner?” He asked. “Somewhere nice. Since we’re only getting a foldout couch or a daybed or whatever instead of two more bedroom sets.”

“Oh, it needs to be a bed.” Mina put her foot down. “I’m not banging on a fold out couch. We did it once at my parents house and never again.”

“I was gonna sleep in the spare.” Katsuki backed up at the look she gave him.

“No, I didn’t like running you out of the bedroom. Eiji didn’t either. It felt wrong.” She looked to him for confirmation and he nodded, turning red.

“New rule, bro, the bedroom is for sleeping.” He said. “We’ll get a special sex bed. It’ll be great!”

“You two are ridiculous.” He sighed. “You’re gonna make Dunce Face and Soy Sauce sleep in your sex bed whenever they stay over?” 

“We’ll flip the mattress.” Eiji said with a straight face. “They don’t need to know.”


Katsuki didn’t get his date until he worked up the balls to ask them both out using the word ‘date’ in the sentence, which was probably a relationship lesson he should have learned before he was nearly twenty. 

It was after he’d managed to maneuver himself into being on site for seeing Deku and Auntie finally patch things up. It wasn’t entirely curiosity. His mom had called him that morning to give him strongly worded orders and 50,000 yen as a bribe to make sure she didn’t chicken out at the last second.

He didn’t need the bribe, but took it anyway because he wanted to spend some money on his significant others now that he was allowed to do it without being a creep.

They had some errands to run before dinner and Katsuki was in a pretty good headspace as he hung out on the sidewalk waiting for Mina and Eiji to be done in the bookstore. He got all his stuff digitally, but they both liked print media.

“Hey man, spare some change?”

For a second Katsuki started to check his pockets on reflex before he realized he knew that voice.

Deku grinned up at him from where he’d been crouched on the ground pretending to be a panhandler when Katsuki glared at him.

“Does Eyebags know you’re out by yourself?” He asked. Far be it from him to tell an intelligence hero how to do their job, but he’d have drawn the line at pretending to be a hobo. Sherlock Holmes could pull that shit off, but he didn’t have the whole internet and a drone fleet.

“I’m not working.” Deku got up and patted himself free of dust. He was wearing dark wash jeans, a heavy black hoodie, and dark burgundy colored boots. It was kinda weird not seeing him in his red hightops, but they were kinda distinctive. “I came out to find you.”

“What for?” Katsuki leaned away. 

“To tell you we’re good.” He said. “You don’t have to keep trying to make it up to me. I appreciate you engineering a reconciliation between me and mom. That meant everything to me, but please. Kacchan, it’s okay. We’re okay.”

“Didn’t do it just for you.” Katsuki grunted. “My ma and the old man missed you too. You think Auntie was the only one whose life you vanished out of? That nobody thought you were dead in a ditch and we’d never know where?”

Deku looked away. “That’s fair.” He said quietly. “I’m sorry.”

“Didn’t ask you to apologize. Just don’t fuckin’ do it again.” Katsuki crossed his arms over his chest. 

“Hitoshi would murder me.” Deku snorted and leaned over to look in the bookstore. “They’re almost done in there. I better go. Kirishima does a pretty good job of covering up the fact that he doesn’t like me, but I don’t think he’d like to see me out here with you.”

“He likes you fine.”  Katsuki’s ears went hot. “He just thought we were starcrossed exes or some shit and got jealous.”

They both shuddered as one at the mere idea.

“Why do people keep thinking that?” Deku complained. “Tetsutetsu and Kendo asked me the same thing! Hitoshi was worried too.”

“Who fuckin’ knows?”

He actually knew the answer. People liked to insert sexual connotations into just about everything. You noticed it more if you were sex averse. It was part of every conversation, story, and advertisement; the background radiation of his entire life.

The doorbell on the bookstore dinged to announce Mina and Eiji’s impending arrival. Deku turned smoothly to start walking in the opposite direction. 

“Good night, Kacchan.” He said softly as he passed. “Enjoy your date.” 

Katsuki rolled his eyes and made a mental note to crash one of Deku’s dates one day just to even the score, but  his vague annoyance morphed slowly into unease. When you’d trained as a hero you got a sense for when people were moving around behind you. The skin between his shoulders started to crawl and he walked faster towards Mina and Eiji to hustle them back inside.

It happened between one blink and the next. He reached the others right as Eiji’s head came up and he cast a pinched expression over Katsuki’s shoulder. 

“Now.” Someone said.

Then the world went dark for just a second. The lights came back on and they were in a dead end alley. Katsuki turned just in time to get blindsided by a wave of something acrid-smelling that seized around his legs and arms. It felt like a coarse sort of plaster, but way tougher. Try as he might, Katsuki couldn’t pull free.

“Good job.” The same person who’d said ‘now’ was still talking. It was a tall heavy set dude with a mouth that extended from ear to ear with little lizard teeth. There was another guy behind him with these fleshy canon things in his forearms. He was rubbing his wrists and looking pleased with himself.

Lizard Mouth leaned around Katsuki to get a good look at Mina and Eiji behind him. “There she is.” He sneered. “Been looking forward to this, bitch.”

Beyond Canon Arms, something moved. Katsuki saw a hooded silhouette and… that was Deku. Lizard Face must have been the teleporter, but if Deku got caught in it then that meant his quirk worked in a radius. If he’d been focused on Katsuki, Mina, and Eiji then maybe he wasn’t paying attention to whether or not anyone had been standing behind him.

“Who the heck are you?” Mina’s arms were pinned like Katsuki’s were. She couldn’t use her quirk without getting him or Eiji into the splash zone. Katsuki was in the same boat. If he blew his restraints off then Mina and Eiji were going to get hit by shrapnel. 

Lizard Mouth jerked back, offended. “You helped murder my brother and you don’t even know who I am?” He spat. “Real typical.”

Deku slowly reached into his back pocket and pulled out a pair of reinforced gloves. He turned his face enough enough that Katsuki could see the pissed tic twitching underneath his visible eye. He’d pulled a gaiter up around his mouth at some point and Katsuki realized this was probably Watchman’s real work costume. The other one was for when he had to make an official appearance. Sneaky little shit.      

“Who’s your fucking brother and why the hell should we care?” If there was one thing Katsuki excelled at it was pissing villains off. Deku needed some room to work and that asshole needed to not be running his mouth at Mina. “Was he a loser like you?”

Deku came up behind Canon Arms and got an arm around his throat in a sleeper hold. His free hand clamped down over the villain’s mouth. Canon Arms thrashed silently for a few seconds while Lizard Mouth kept talking. Who cared about what. Katsuki was only pretending to pay attention. 

Canon Arms’ quirk either had one hell of a cool down or he’d panicked too hard to use it when someone hit him from behind.  Deku apparently knew what he was doing. Katsuki had counted to six by the time Canon Arms went limp.

“...thinks she can interfere with me and get away with it?” Lizard Face was still monologuing. “I’m gonna send you and you three back to her in a garbage bag. She can figure out which parts belong to who.”

Canon Arms was hogtied with zip ties by that point and Deku turned his very unamused attention on Lizard Mouth. He crept up behind and tapped Lizard Mouth on one shoulder, ducking around to stay behind him when he turned.

“What the fu…!?” Lizard Mouth didn’t get far before Deku grabbed him by the back of his shirt and the waist of his pants, lifted him up an inch or so and slammed his face into the nearby brick wall of the alley. His face was bloody and his nose was crunched up when Deku pulled back to slam him again.

“Oh snap, that’s a good opener.” Eiji muttered just loud enough to be overheard over Mina outraged cry of, “Hit him again!”

Lizard Mouth got his hands up in time to keep Deku from reintroducing him to the wall. Deku spun him around instead, still using his grip on Lizard Mouth’s clothes to steer him, and threw him into one of the nasty puddles that had collected in the alley. He followed it up by stomping Lizard Mouth right in the groin before he could do more than groan and realize what it was he was laying in. Lizard Mouth folded like a hinge. 

“Hey, the goop is crumbling!” Eiji activated his quirk and tore one foot free. He’d been partially shielded by Katsuki’s body so only his legs had been pinned. “Hang on. I’ll tear you guys loose.”

Ah. Canon Arms had to concentrate on the goop to keep it hard. That was why he hadn’t nailed Deku with it and why he’d been maintaining such creepy, intense eye contact with their feet.

Katsuki could feel the goop start to give around his arms so he softened it up a bit with a few very low power detonations. The vibrations travelled through the entire mass and cracked Mina’s prison enough that she got her own hands free. Eiji tore the big slabs around their legs off with his bare hands. 

Deku was kneeling on Lizard Mouth’s back when they got themselves sorted, having hogtied him too. Lizard Mouth was in no danger of suffocating because he was still talking -- only in the nasally tone of someone who for sure had a broken nose.

“...gonna show you all!” He snarled and focused on Mina with an intense look of loathing. “You especially, bi..!”

Deku reached over and casually slammed his face into the pavement.

Oh no.

Katsuki felt all the jumbled, confused feelings he’d been harboring over his former childhood friend coalesce into something warm; kind of like approval and gratitude.  

Weedy nervous middle school Deku wasn’t someone Katsuki had anything in common with aside from a carefully curated All Might memorabilia collection. Sanguine, adult, face-busting Deku on the other hand was someone he wouldn’t mind hanging out with once in a while.

“Did he say what his beef was?” Katsuki asked Mina once he’d reassured himself that she and Eiji were both okay and not traumatized. They were both fine. Katsuki’s hindbrain had instantly categorized both villains as ‘small fry’ as soon as Lizard Mouth started yapping. Apparently they had too and were only just put out that they were going to miss their dinner reservations. “I stopped listening as soon as he started running his mouth.”

“He’s the older brother of that pedophile from earlier in the month.” She made a face. “The one who made a creepy harem prison under his house and killed himself before anyone could make him let the kids out.”

“THAT’S A FUCKING LIE!” Lizard Mouth shouted and caterpillar lurched towards Mina. “You fucking heroes slandered him after you murdered him to cover it all up!”

“I wasn’t even there before he died.” Mina snapped, totally unwilling to be cowed. “The police only called me in to melt a hole in the floor of his basement to free his victims.”

“Bitch, I’ll KI…!” He was cut off when Deku slammed his face into the ground again.

Katsuki blinked when Deku snapped to get his attention and then started to sign once he had it. Call dispatch. Tell them a little bird is asking for a pick up. They’ll be able to track us using your cell signal.  

“Oh, he’s deaf.” Mina realized out loud. 

Deku tapped on his ear and gave Mina a thumbs up.

“Oh, sorry, are you mute?” She corrected herself and got another thumbs up. She pointed at Katsuki “Ok, great. Katsuki has the best JSL, but Eiji and I can fingerspell if you need us.”

Deku nodded with respect and Katsuki picked that moment to notice the big X over the mouth of his gaiter. So that was how he was getting around not having his voice changer. 

Dispatch promised him a police pick up within a few minutes from his very own heroic liaison. Katsuki said ‘thanks’ with great difficulty and started doing serenity exercises in his head in advance of Detective Ito getting within twenty miles of his boyfriend and girlfriend. 

Ito appeared in a cavalcade of vehicles with flashing lights and a smile that set off every warning bell in Katsuki’s head. She ignored him and went straight for Deku, signing as she went.

Long time time no see! She said, grinning like a lunatic. I was starting to think you got out. Which one is the teleporter and which one needs the stoppers?

“The one with this big forearms needs the stoppers.” Katsuki answered for the benefit of the two uniformed officers who were holding the quirk restraints and looking confused. “That guy is the teleporter. Dunno what his quirk factor is, but he takes everything within a certain radius with him whether he knows about it or not so you might wanna check inside the buildings in case anyone else got taken for a ride.”

“Ground Zero.” Ito said somewhat cooler as she recognized him. “I’m surprised you and Birdy know each other.”

Birdy?

“It was a coincedence.” Eiji jumped in. “The goopy canon guy got the drop on us and he stepped in.”

Ground Zero kept the Teleporter’s attention occupied while I dealt with the emitter. Deku explained. They seemed most interested in revenge on Uwabami and Pinky.

“Is that so?” Ito nodded, still in an alarmingly good mood. “Pinky-san, would you mind giving one of my men a report? I’m afraid no one will be getting credit for this takedown. Normally it would go to Birdy, but...”

Deku brightened then and reached into his pocket. He came out with… a Hero License.

Ito received it like a trophy or the Holy Grail. “You little fucker!” She rubbed the top of his head like she was ruffling his hair. “You went legit on me! Best news I’ve had all day. All right, credit is split between Birdy and Ground Zero. I’ll report it to your agency, Zero.”

“...why aren’t you yelling?” Katsuki broke, leaning away from the pod person pretending to be Detective Ito.

She huffed a rueful smile at him. “That wasn’t my best first impression, I’ll admit. I was expecting Tower’s sidekicks to be a bunch of mini-mes. I can admit when I’m wrong.” She got to her feet and blew her bangs out of her face. “It wouldn’t have been the end of the world even if you were. Tower and I just got locked into a weird dynamic early on. He’s a good hero and I like what I’ve seen of you so far. You didn’t get pissed until you thought I was going to start something with your teammates.” She looked him over. “You do seem calmer though this time; you don’t have the crazy eyes so bad.”

Crazy…? Oh right.

“I got a biochemical quirk. The THC in the smoke was fucking with me.” He sounded gruff even to him. “Picked up an emergency mask. Won’t be a problem in the future.”

“Glad you’re feeling better.” Ito frowned. “Next time tell the EMTs so they can give you a breather.”

No fucking joke. Katsuki limited himself to a nod. 

They all ended up giving reports and signing off on the arrest. By then it was so late the restaurants were probably all closed.

“Birdy, do you mind escorting these three home?” Ito asked right before cutting them loose. “I don’t have the overtime to send an officer to walk them back.”

Deku gave them another thumbs up.

The walk home was intensely weird. Eiji and Mina were in full laser-eyed ‘we’re gonna make a new friend’ mode around ‘Birdy’. Deku refused to use his words so Katsuki had to translate everything Deku said.

“So you hunt around Chandrila?” Eiji guessed since that was where they’d been aout to eat out. 

I move around. Deku replied. He was careful not to lie. I go where the work is.

“Oh man, so cool!” Eiji bounced on his toes. “The only underground hero I ever met was Eraserhead and he’d sooner bite my face off than talk about what it’s like. That was so cool! Why were you using the walls and stuff? It’dve been more direct to punch him, right?”

Mina chopped him lightly on the back of his head. “Ignore him, Birdy.” She drawled. “He forgets not everyone can turn their skin into stabbity armor. Some of us have to worry about breaking the little bones in our hands.”

Katsuki did not point out that she’d learned that lesson the hard way by breaking two fingers on Aoyama’s face during their first Sports Festival even though he could have. 

We got lucky. Alleys are a good place to fight. Deku explained. Lots of things to throw people into or at. Bathrooms are great too; all those hard surfaces.

“I’m totally going to order us a pizza.” Eiji announced as they made it to the apartment. “Birdy, do you wanna stay? I think a meal is the least we owe you.”

Katsuki turned, ready to translate again only to go still. There was something about the way he was holding himself…

“Thank you, but no.” He’d pulled down his gaiter to reveal his face. Deku’s voice was pitched a little lower and Katsuki switched into ‘work’ mode without really meaning to. “Zero.”

“Sir!” He stood up straight and immediately wanted to kick himself in the ass.

Mina and Eiji froze. They stared at Katsuki with an expression he never wanted to see again; shock mingled with incredulity.

“Report tonight’s events to Tower when you get a chance.” Watchman instructed him. “Ito will call, but there’s a good chance they’ll start fighting before she gets halfway through. It’d be best if he hears it from you.”

“Yes sir.” His mouth said. Fuck his life.

“I’m sorry to have intruded on your evening.” Deku bowed lightly and said “Have a good night” before letting himself out.

“Is that why we’re cancelling Zero to Hero?” Eiji asked into the stunned silence Deku left in his wake.

“Ok, you know what?” Mina tugged on Eiji’s sleeve. “I’ve changed my mind. Let’s poach him from Shinsou. That was totally the coolest thing ever.”

Katsuki frowned as he connected some more dots in his head. “Wait, you wanted to add Deku to us?” He asked, feeling a little incredulous himself. “That’s what you were talking about on the train?”

“Well, yeah.” Eiji rubbed the back of his head, looking sheepish. “I’m greedy, bro. I’m not about to give either you or Mina up.”

“Eyebags would cut your dick clean off.” Katsuki told him, setting aside the obvious answer of Hell No to dating Deku. He was so much fucking drama. Maybe Eyebags lived for that crap, but Katsuki liked going more than a few days between emergencies “And mine. Deku would probably watch and make a scrapbook about it.” 

“That’s what I told him!” Mina said. 

“That was before you said he was like your brother!” Eiji insisted. “I’m not going to make you date your brother!”

“Oh, future brother in law works too.” Mina went over to hug Katsuki and beckoned Eiji over to join. “You guys are all I need… and pizza.” She added, very serious. “Someone please feed me.”


Deku’s number mysteriously appeared in Katsuki’s phone the next day. His contact page was labelled ‘an excellent bro’ so it wasn’t all that mysterious. Still, it was an opportunity.

Katsuki: Why the hell do you have two hero names?

He didn’t get an answer until that evening.

Deku: Watchman is my main. Birdy is my alt.

Deku: Sometimes I see trouble when I’m out. That’s what Birdy is for. He’s more of a classic street hero than Watchman. 

Deku: I let Ito think I was a vigilante. There’s a long tradition of working with vigilantes in Aldera so I wasn’t in danger of getting arrested.

Katsuki: Speaking of, what the hell is her beef with Tower?

Deku: No beef

Deku: She was going through this really bad divorce when they met. Her ex was trying to get custody and thought if he could convince the judge she was having an affair then he’d get it.

Deku: He wouldn’t have, btw. He was a lunatic and anybody who talked to him could tell.

Deku: Anyway, there was a PI following her around trying to make a case that she was sleeping with a vigilante. So they’d make a big show of not getting along, but they got too into it and kept it up even after the divorce was finalized. 

Deku: They’re like butthead siblings now. They’ll do ANYTHING to get a rise out of each other. 

Deku: Tower doesn’t yell back, but he’ll play really elaborate pranks on her.

Mina popped over his shoulder, looking hunted. “Is that Izu?” She asked. “Tell him to answer my texts. I need to know if my outfit will work!”

“I said it was fine, Mina.” Katsuki griped, but passed on the message. 

“You don’t care about fashion. Why would I listen to you?” Mina had been on edge ever since Katsuki’s parents had invited everyone over for dinner and he had made the mistake of dropping his mom’s professional name when Eiji asked what they did. “I lured super model Xiaxia’s son into polyamorous relationship. She led the Dior show at Milan this year! I cannot afford to look even slightly trashy.”

“She’s so fucking happy anybody’s willing to put up with my shit that you could show up in a clown wig and a burlap sack and she’d still offer to let you use her wedding dress.” Katsuki read Deku’s reply. “Deku says ‘wear whatever you want, but show them your lookbook. She and Masaru-san love seeing other people’s work.’ Yeah, sounds about right.”

Eiji popped into the living room. “The car is here, guys.”

Katsuki had caught him hiding on the balcony with Deku on speakerphone the night before asking, “I know they’re nice, but bro, what are they like?”

“Masaru-san is pretty mild mannered.” Deku said, clearly thinking out loud. “He can get along with anyone who’ll let him talk. Aunt Mitsuki is…. well, she’s Kacchan. Only taller. With boobs.”

So that was going well.

“Oh my god.” Mina whimpered. “Okay, I guess I’m stuck in what I’ve got on.”

Considering how many panicked and aggressive text messages Katsuki had been feilding from his parents about Eiji and Mina’s dietary preferences, he knew his parents did not give a single solitary fuck about what anyone was wearing. 

He stowed his phone and pressed a kiss against her temple. “They’re going to love you.” He said softly. “Let’s go.”

-The End