The cherry blossoms are early this year.
Katsuki watches petals float onto the quad, certificate in hand as students stand around in cliques prolonging their goodbyes. Some girl bursts into tears and starts off her whole friend group. Katsuki rolls his eyes. Almost everyone’s going to the same high school so there wasn’t any point having this whole stuffy ceremony. Graduating from a shithole like Aldera isn’t much of an achievement, anyway. He’d told his parents not to show up.
Nobody comes up to him to say goodbye. He’d be hurt by that, maybe, if he weren’t already thinking of UA. The only student from Mustafu to get into the hero course, his principal had said. That doesn’t surprise him. As far as he’s concerned his own success is just a fact of life. Bakugou Katsuki wins. It’s just the way things are.
“Kacchan,” says someone behind him. He turns. He’s already halfway out the school gates, one hand in his pocket digging around for his earphones. “You’re going home so soon?”
There’s a flower petal in Deku’s hair. Katsuki considers reaching out to brush it off. “It’s just the after party left.”
“Oh.” Aunty Inko’s pottering around near the stage taking photos of something or other. She’s in a light blue dress. She seems happy, although that might just be the general air of pleasantness that follows the Midoriyas like a cloud. “Yeah. I’m not going either.”
Hadn’t been invited, probably. Katsuki grunts and turns around fully. He gets his earphones free. “What d’you want?”
Deku twiddles his thumbs. He’s nervous. He’s always nervous, to be fair. He’s the personification of a full-body jitter. “Nothing. Just, uhm. Good luck in UA. Not that you need it. I know you’ll do great.”
“I guess we won’t see each other very often anymore.”
“No.” Deku’s thumb-twiddling slows, blunt nails catching against his own skin. Katsuki vaguely wants to smack his knuckles to make him stop. He’s so twitchy. “You said all that shit about getting into UA last year. I’d have thought you’d be in the general course, at least, even if you couldn’t hack it as a hero.”
“There just wasn’t any point,” Deku says, mouth twisting. Sort of a smile but not really. “I finally got some sense talked into me, I guess.”
Katsuki could rub it in. Has before, but lately Deku’s been so quiet it hasn’t been any fun. “So what now?” he says instead.
Deku makes a vague gesture with his hands. “I don’t know. I’m thinking I might go to art school someday. Maybe I can make a manga or something. About heroes.”
“Of course that’s what you’d choose. You’re so predictable.”
“I guess I am,” Deku says softly, more to himself than to Katsuki. “Maybe, uhm. Maybe I’ll see you around on the weekends or something?”
“Unlikely. I’m moving to Tokyo. My folks got me a place closer to UA so I don’t have to waste time on the commute.”
“What, really?” The twitching stops. Deku finally makes eye contact, skinny shoulders drooping slowly and making him look even smaller. “Oh. Wow. Gosh. So we really won’t see each other again.”
Katsuki fiddles with a knot in his wires. Deku shuffles his feet. His freckles have been getting steadily darker over the year, scattered over his nose like someone splattered him with a paintbrush. He watches Katsuki’s hands for a long while. Bites the inside of his cheek like he’s mulling something over, clutching the straps of his big yellow backpack. “Well. I’ll, uhm. I’ll miss you.”
Katsuki frowns. “Why?”
Deku laughs. “How could I not, Kacchan? I’ve always gravitated to you.”
A camera goes off somewhere behind them. Someone cheers, and someone else bursts into laughter. The crushed petal in Deku’s hair finally floats off somewhere in the breeze. “Well. See you around or whatever.”
“I guess this is goodbye.” He chews his lip for a second, and then steps on tiptoes and presses a kiss against Katsuki’s cheek. Katsuki freezes. When Deku pulls away his face is red, his fingers tangling themselves in the hem of his gakuran nervously. He’s smiling, though. “I wish you well,” he says and slips something into Katsuki’s hand. It’s a button. His button, although Katsuki doesn’t get to see which one because Deku’s already running away.
Katsuki stares after him. Deku scampers back to his mother, throwing her arms around her and burying her face in her hair. That was probably a confession. A cowardly one, even if Katsuki’s too shell-shocked to really be angry about it just yet. His cheek tingles where Deku kissed him. Kissed him. With his mouth. It’d been soft and warm and desperately in need of a Chapstick. It’s the first time anyone’s done that besides his parents. Katsuki feels himself blush.
The button sits squarely in his palm. It’s copper-coloured and shiny, still warm from being in Deku’s hand and maybe nestled over his heart. It feels heavy. Katsuki wants to chase him and grab him by the shoulders, spin him around and see the empty space for himself. Second or third. Katsuki can’t for the life of him remember – he’d been trying to untangle his fucking earphones. They sit there in the other hand stupidly, still knotted and dangling half out of his pocket. Deku leads his mother back into school. He just leaves Katsuki there. Red-faced, standing by himself like an idiot, wondering what the hell could be going on in that fluffy green head.
He could have done this sooner. Could have told Katsuki to begin with, seen if they could have – he doesn’t know. He has no idea how he would have reacted, honestly. He barely knows what to think now.
But they’re going their separate ways. Katsuki’s going to be a hero, and Deku’s… not.
It’s how they both knew this would turn out. With Katsuki exploding into the limelight someday and Deku fading into the background. He must have figured there wouldn’t be any point. That whatever feelings he had were just daydreams and that he and Katsuki would likely never meet again.
He disappears with his mother through the front door. To show her around, probably, and he doesn’t turn to look at Katsuki once. He’s starting the rest of his life just like Katsuki will start his. There’s no sense worrying about the what-ifs.
The button glints in the sun. Quietly, Katsuki slips it into his pocket and goes home alone.
UA is hard.
Katsuki excels. He wins because he always does, but the very first week of training has him exhausted and sore. He comes home to his empty one-bedroom apartment every day with stinging palms and a throbbing headache, still bristling at his classmates’ audacity to tease him for being the way he is. Fuck all of them. Fuck them and fuck Aizawa for not being impressed at Katsuki’s firepower, and also fuck UA as a whole for already being the most difficult hurdle he’s ever had to cross.
He collapses on the couch still in his uniform. The blank screen of the TV reflects his face mashed into the cushions, hiding the rapidly yellowing bruise he got from that chick with the ponytail. Dad would already have something going in the slow cooker by now. Mom would be interrogating him about school, one hand holding her coffee and the other gently scratching his scalp. He pats his own hair half-heartedly. It’s not all that comforting. His joints ache and he wants curry but can barely muster up the energy to fill up a kettle, and his parents haven’t called since he moved in because he’d stupidly told them he’d be too busy. The corners of his eyes start to prickle. He squeezes them shut and takes a deep breath, allows himself five minutes of sadness before getting up to start on the laundry.
He goes to school and kicks ass and gets his ass kicked in return.
He doesn’t say yes when the pink girl invites him to lunch with the others.
He comes home to a silent apartment and wonders how he never noticed he’d gotten used to having background noise in his life.
On a Wednesday he sits alone in the stark-white living room, cross legged-on the floor with a bowl of bland, nutritionally perfect dinner cooling on the coffee table. His shoes are in a disordered pile by the door. He’s been messy lately. Partly because he’s usually tired, but mostly because the sterile apartment is starting to grate on him. It’s so quiet he can hear the clock ticking. He scrolls mindlessly through photos on his phone. Most of them are of his teachers snuck from under his desk. His thumb hovers over a blurry picture of All Might. He’s in his silver age costume, looking larger than life and radiating energy and good cheer.
He pulls up an old chat without really thinking about it. There’s one person he knows who’d appreciate it so he sends the shot with no context as he picks at his eggs. He’s not even sure why he has Deku’s number. The only thing in the conversation is an unanswered text from Deku around Katsuki’s birthday.
The reply’s almost instant. Deku texts with a lot of exclamation marks and dumb typos, it turns out, bombarding him with questions without waiting for answers. Katsuki watches his phone vibrate across the coffee table. He unlocks the screen more out of curiosity than any real desire to reply, chewing with his mouth open just because his mother’s not here to yell at him.
ALL MIGHT! Omg his sliver age costume! Does he teach your class??
I heard UA has lots of pros that kust be so exiting omg you’re so lucky do yuo get to sit right at the front?
You should get their autograps!!
Oh my gohs he’s so big up close and he looks so good in a cape, I wsh he’d kept it
Sorry, Kacchan. I don’t mean to annoy you.
Thank you for the photo.
Katsuki doesn’t respond. He does feel a little better, though. At least Deku hasn’t changed.
He keeps up the texting. It’s sporadic and the conversations never last long, but over time Katsuki’s phone becomes something of a comfort. Deku’s always happy to hear about UA. Mundane details excite him. He keeps being enthusiastic even after the novelty wears off for Katsuki, bombards him with questions about everything under the sun. Once or twice he even initiates things. He sends Katsuki photos of merchandise and hero sightings in Mustafu, tells him silly things that happen in school. It’s a surprisingly prestigious one in downtown Tokyo. A private one famous for its art programme or something.
Slowly, it gets easier. Katsuki still doesn’t really have friends but the red kid and his cronies have made it a habit to involve him in their classroom discussions. He eats lunch with them because he can’t be bothered arguing otherwise, but they’re noisy in a way that reminds him of being home in Mustafu. His apartment’s still quiet and empty and suffocating. On some days the silence is so heavy it almost makes his ears pop. Those are the days he talks to Deku the longest.
He never suggests they meet. They’re not far from each other, studying in the same city, but Katsuki can barely keep up a text conversation and the thought of being alone with Deku for a few hours is daunting. His own words seem stilted and awkward. Sad attempts to keep a chat alive after he accidentally shuts it down because he’s just not used to treating Deku like he’s a person. Like he’s a friend, although he’d never dare suggest as much. Deku’d stop speaking to him entirely. Then he’d have nobody to talk to but the red kid and his friends (who still tease him, the assholes) and sometimes his parents. His old gang from Aldera still haven’t contacted him. Katsuki doesn’t try to reach out. They were never important, anyway. Just background characters to the action movie that’s going to be his life.
This is okay. Deku’s chatty enough for the both of them. Katsuki imagines him in his new school, making friends and talking their ears off and scribbling in his notebooks while they have lunch in the grass. Or not, he realises abrutly. Deku’s still quirkless. The other kids may not be very nice about that.
The days sort of bleed together. His apartment’s dusty and his temper’s frayed and he gets back every day with a new minor injury. Dad keeps asking if he wants to just come home. Katsuki always says no. He can take care of himself. He has to. This was his decision and he’s going to see it through.
He misses it, though. The sizzle of something cooking downstairs as his mother watches stupid reality TV. The faulty roller in his balcony door that squeaks every time he wrestles it open. The scratch of a pen on cheap paper and the constant mumbling from Deku in his periphery. He misses home. He misses Deku. He had everything and he just gave it away.
“Fucking hell,” he says to himself, lying in bed waiting for a text back. His voice feels wrong in the still air of his bedroom. Too loud and out of place. “I’m a god damned moron.”
His phone buzzes. It’s from Deku – a Kacchan sugoi! at a photo of Katsuki’s new hero outfit. He imagines Deku saying it out loud. With that silly starry-eyed face, all breathy excitement and hands clutching the straps of his backpack. Genuine, even if Katsuki never properly believed him.
He thinks about their last sleepover. Five years old, just the two of them, before any of this quirk bullshit turned into an issue. He’d built Deku a pillow fort. They’d tried to stay up all night watching cartoons but passed out around midnight tangled up in the blankets. Mom has a photo somewhere. He’d told her to throw it away but she’d just ignored him.
He takes a deep breath. He saves Deku’s message and put his phone away for the night. In the morning he gets up and goes to school and does well because that’s just who he is.
On Saturday he stops by a bakery to pick up some sweets.
On Sunday he catches a train back to Mustafu.
“Kacchan?” says Deku, messy head half-poked out the door. He still looks the same. Small, like a gangly green fawn, wearing a tacky All Might hoodie as he slips outside to talk. “What are you doing here?”
“I,” Katsuki says, stomach twisting. He should have called. He knows he should have waited for an opportune moment, but he’d seen what needed to be done and came to do it the second he had a chance. “Can I come in?”
Deku’s bedroom’s about the same as Katsuki imagined it. He perches on the edge of the absurdly soft bed, trying not to think about Aunty Inko staring at him like he had two heads. Deku slowly sits on the desk chair. Kastuki’s peace offering of creampuffs sits forlorn on the table. “Why’d you come, Kacchan? Is everything okay?”
“I’m sorry,” Katsuki says without preamble. Just like he rehearsed on the way over here. “I’ve been an asshole for most of our lives and you didn’t deserve that. Quirk or not you’re a decent guy. You would have been a good friend if I’d just let you.”
Deku blinks. He glances off to the side like he doesn’t quite understand what he’d heard, lips parted and hands still clasped in his lap. “I, uhm –”
“You’re way too fucking sweet for your own good. You should have kicked me out instead of letting me in your room. You shouldn’t have –” kissed me, he doesn’t say. “Been nice to me after I was a jerk. I shouldn’t have been a jerk. I never even noticed how much I liked having you around until I left.”
“You liked having me around?” Deku asks, expression going soft. Katsuki rubs his sweaty hands on his jeans. Slowly, Deku scoots forward in his chair until their knees almost touch. “Is that why you started talking to me again, Kacchan? I wondered if maybe you were just bored but I thought – I’d hoped maybe you finally wanted to be friends.”
Katsuki’s chest clenches. “I did. I do.”
“I’ve missed you. Even though you used to push me around.”
“Yeah. I miss your nonsense mumbling and bigass eyes watching me do shit,” Katsuki says, looking somewhere to the left of Deku’s ear. “Listen. You study in Tokyo. The commute must be hell, right? I have a futon free in my apartment. No rent. I’m a good cook and it’s pretty close to a train station. You can have the living room, it’s got a TV.”
Deku’s face crumples. He looks like he’s about to cry, fingers clenched around the hem of his hoodie. “Are you asking me to come live with you?”
“Damn it, yes. You don’t have to. I know I’m a dick sometimes so if you’re not interested I’ll leave –”
He clutches Katsuki’s knee. “Yes. Kacchan, yes. I’d love to.”
The fan whirs. Deku’s boring blue curtains flutter in the afternoon breeze. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” Deku says quietly. “I told you Kacchan. I’ve always gravitated to you.”
He moves in on a rainy Sunday in June.
Katsuki buys way too much food and some new games for the Xbox so Deku’ll consider hanging around on the weekends too. He doesn’t tell his parents Deku’s coming. He doesn’t think they’ll say no but he’s already pleaded his case with Aunty Inko and would rather not have to say being alone sucks and I miss Deku out loud again if he can help it. He carries Deku’s suitcase through the door for him. They set up the living room with the spare futon and Katsuki foregoes his diet just this once because Deku says he wants katsudon.
It’s… weird, honestly. Seeing Deku face-to-face just makes Katsuki think of tossing his shit in the fish pond. It feels like Deku chatters just to fill up the silence, asking questions about school without really waiting for an answer. Katsuki fries pork cutlets and wracks his brain for something interesting to talk about. Training, maybe. Movies. Taxes. Anything to stave off the creeping awkwardness before Deku realises he’s made a mistake and asks to be taken back home. “D’you remember that sleepover?” he asks apropos nothing. Deku stops rearranging his futon and looks up. Katsuki’s mouth continues moving without him really knowing what he’s going to say. “We watched cartoons and stuff. Built you a fort.”
Deku stares at him. Katsuki tries to ignore the feel of his own ears going red. “Kacchan. I built that fort.”
“Wh- no you didn’t?”
“I did. You tried to make a huge one and it toppled over. I rebuilt it so it was actually functional.”
“I’m not lying!” Deku’s smile is so wide his eyes disappear. “You had grand plans but no concept of structural integrity.”
“And you did?”
“I learnt from my mom, duh.”
“Bullshit,” Katsuki says and turns off the stove. Deku’s laughing. Laughing, because of something Katsuki said. “Move over, I’ll show you structural integrity. I’ll make your ass the best fort you’ve ever seen.”
It topples, obviously. Deku snorts and Katsuki smothers him with a pillow, and they argue for forty-five minutes about how to rebuild it until they can get it to stay upright. It’s cramped and hideous. They huddle under it with lukewarm katsudon and a careful space between them, surfing through channels while Deku spills rice and Katsuki tries not to sweat under the mess of blankets. They stay up way past Katsuki’s normal bedtime. He already knows he’ll go to school exhausted but doesn’t complain when Deku suggests they get midnight konbini ice cream.
He gets Katsuki an orange popsicle without asking. Katsuki holds it, watching Deku unwrap his chocolate fudge diabetes-bomb. “Oh,” Deku says suddenly. “I’m sorry. I should have asked what you wanted. I just remembered those used to be your favourite so –”
“Are those,” Deku says, scratching his ear. “Do you still like them?”
Katsuki turns, waiting for Deku to follow. “Yeah. I do.”
The apartment gets busier.
Katsuki isn’t sure how to deal with it at first. He’s used to silence and this space being his, no manoeuvring around another body, no constant awareness that there’s someone else just on the other side of the door. Deku’s just always there. He’s not loud the way Mom is but he does seem to always be making some kind of noise in the background. Muttering, usually. Humming, always off-key, or some loud video on his phone. Impossible to ignore because the apartment’s a shoebox and Deku has no bedroom to hide in.
It puts Katsuki on edge. He’s not hostile, not exactly, but having someone living in his pockets makes his blood thrum the way it does when he uses his quirk, makes him hyper-aware of his living space and of his own behaviour. It’s hard, sometimes, not to fall into old habits. Having Deku so close by is overwhelming. It takes willpower not to snap when Deku’s questions probe too deep, not to shut him out and spend days in his room not talking. Deku’s just as uncertain as he is. It’s his first time away from home too.
It’s all kind of stressful. Katsuki thought he was being messy but Deku leaves dirty clothes all over the living room. He does a stupid wiggly dance while waiting for the microwave. He insists on watching romcoms and cries when the main characters get together every single time.
Still. It’s not bad. He’s there when Katsuki comes home on rough days, ready to fill the apartment with amusing chatter while Katsuki decompresses on the couch. He buys silly trinkets he thinks Katsuki might like. He leaves messages in the bathroom mirror for Katsuki to find after a hot shower. It’s uncomfortable but it’s nice. Katsuki could get used to this. He wants to, even if Deku puts liquid detergent in the dishwasher so the whole thing bubbles up and they have to spend an hour cleaning foam off the floor.
“You’re a disaster,” Katsuki tells him firmly. “You have no living skills. You should have helped your mother around the house more.”
“Sorry, Kacchan,” Deku says sweetly. “You’re stuck with me now, though. What a shame.”
Katsuki scowls, all wet and covered in lather. “Dumbass. No, it’s not.”
They settle into a routine. Katsuki gets home from school after Deku, makes them dinner, and watches TV on the couch while Deku does the dishes. Sometimes they take baths together. It’s awkward squeezing into the tub with another person but it seems to make Deku happy so Katsuki usually agrees. He goes to bed while Deku noodles around outside on his laptop. In the morning he wakes Deku up with the smell of breakfast, sipping coffee while Deku rushes to get ready because he always sleeps through his alarm.
It becomes the new normal. Now Katsuki actually looks forward to being in his apartment every day.
Deku, obviously, has other plans, and one day starts a small fire when Katsuki gets home.
It’s a pretty wimpy one, all things considered. Katsuki reacts before even thinking about it. He’s tossing a wet tea towel on it before he even gets both his shoes off, hand pointed behind him to grab Deku and blast them both out of here. Deku squeaks like a scared baby bird. He’s clutching a ladle like it’s going to protect him, flinching when Katsuki spins around to yell at him. “Deku! What in god’s name just happened? Were you trying to get yourself killed?”
“Sorry, sorry! It was just a napkin. I shouldn’t have left it so close to the stove,” Deku says and runs past him to turn the hob off. Katsuki wrinkles his nose at the smell of gas as the thing sputters and dies. He’s still got one shoe on. He’d run inside without bothering to get rid of his things. “I’ll be more careful next time, promise.”
“What were you even doing?”
“Uhm.” Deku glances at the little dining table. It’s covered in serving dishes. He’s wearing Katsuki’s apron and there’s flour dusted in his hair. “You always do the cooking but you seem so tired after your extra-curricular stuff. I just thought it’d be nice to take over for once.”
Katsuki drops his bag and kicks his remaining shoe off. It lands in the mess of the living room somewhere. “You know I have a meal plan.”
“It’s all healthy!” Deku says quickly. “Like, actually healthy. I did some research. You know Miruko? She posts her weekly food routine sometimes on her Instagram. It’s all high protein stuff. I made sure to follow the recipes exactly.”
Well. Miruko does have the physique Katsuki’s planning to achieve. “Huh. Okay. I guess that’ll work.”
“I made lots of stuff. I wasn’t sure how spicy you wanted it so I cut back a little but next time I can adjust it,” Deku says, rummaging through the kitchen clutter to unearth a plate of… something. He spears a morsel on the end of a chopstick and holds it up to Katsuki’s face. “Here, try it!”
It’s burnt. Deku was clearly trying to cut back on oil and didn’t lubricate the pan at all. Gingerly, Katsuki opens his mouth and lets Deku push his chopstick slightly too far in. “Wow. That’s, uh. Something.”
Deku’s face falls. “Do you not like it?”
“No,” Katsuki says, still chewing reluctantly. It might be an eggplant. It’s crispy on the outside but still firm and raw on the inside. “No, I do not. Have you ever cooked before?”
“I can make a mean cup of ramen.”
Katuski can’t help it. He starts laughing, mouth still full of food that threatens to spray unattractively. Poor Deku deflates like a popped balloon. He just looks so sad standing there with a dirty apron and food in his hair. “Ramen? Ramen? Is that your idea of gourmet?”
“I tried my best!”
“Your best is terrible,” Katsuki says and manages to choke down his weird burnt-raw eggplant. “You’re like a puppy who doesn’t understand dog treats don’t go in human food. I leave you alone with the stove and you set fire to a napkin. There’s ashes on the floor.”
Deku is indignant, face red and mouth set in a fussy line. “Fine. Laugh at me if you want. See if I ever try to do anything nice for you again.”
“I’m giving you cooking classes.” His hair’s soft under Katsuki’s fingers. Katsuki ruffles it, sending a puff of flour in the air like a grainy cloud. Deku pouts harder. He probably thinks he’s scowling. “You’re hopeless. Come help me set the table.”
“What?” Deku says, trying to shrink into the collar of his sweatshirt. “Kacchan, no, you said it was bad.”
“So throw it away! We can just get delivery.”
“Deku,” says Katsuki like Deku’s being purposefully obtuse. “You made this for me. It’s mine. I’m gonna eat it.”
“And it’d be a waste to throw it out, anyway,” Katsuki continues like he can’t see Deku trying to hide a dish of watery curry. “You made enough for an army.”
“Well, with leftovers we wouldn’t have to cook as often,” Deku says, taking a bite of something weird and grey. He makes a face at his chopstick. “Ew. Maybe I’ll get delivery.”
Katsuki snorts. “You’ll do no such thing. You’re suffering through your terrible cooking with me. Now hurry up and get the cutlery so I can eat your slop. Tomorrow I’m teaching your pampered ass how to cook.”
Deku huffs but takes the salad bowl Katsuki gives him. “Kacchan?”
“Will you pet my hair again?”
Katsuki stares at him. Deku, already bright pink, does his best impression of an overripe strawberry. “Pet your hair.”
“It’s just – never mind,” Deku says, voice small. “It’s something my mom used to do and I miss her so it felt really nice but if you don’t want to it’s okay –”
Katsuki reaches out. Deku goes still immediately, sighing when Katsuki scratches his fingers across his scalp. He melts into the touch. Stands there, letting Katsuki thread his fingers through errant flyaway curls, saying nothing when Katsuki’s hand drifts to rest against his cheek. It’s soft and warm and splotched with soy sauce. Katsuki carefully brushes some off with his thumb. His hands must be uncomfortably rough but Deku doesn’t complain.
His eyes flutter half-shut. “Thanks, Kacchan,” he says dreamily. He looks silly, wearing a stained apron and clearly half-asleep.
Katsuki picks up a plate. His fingers twitch with the urge to put his hand back in Deku’s hair. “Whatever,” he says faintly. “Come on, nerd. Let’s go eat.”
Deku decides they’ll watch movies every other Saturday. Katsuki’s complaints are half-hearted. Movie nights mean Deku won’t go to Mustafu for the weekend, so he agrees to stay up past midnight and make popcorn for them both. He puts his foot down when Deku picks a tragedy. “I’m not wiping your snot while you cry in the bathroom again,” he warns, arranging a blanket. “Go get us some soda. I’m picking the movie.”
He settles on some B-grade horror movie with actors he can’t name. It’s subpar. It’s not creepy so much as it is a compilation of jump-scares but the characters do die in some creative ways. Deku flinches every time the killer does his thing. He watches between his fingers while Katsuki tries and fails to toss popcorn perfectly into his own mouth, drifting slowly across the couch until he’s pressed up against Katsuki’s side. He’s clutching Katsuki’s bicep so hard it’s painful. Katsuki tries and fails to free himself three times.
Deku insists on turning on all the lights after. He peers over the back of the couch as Katsuki cleans up, nervous eyes barely visible over the cushions. It’s past midnight. Katsuki puts the dishes in the sink and yawns, already yearning for the blissful embrace of sleep.
He sighs and stops at his door. “Why are you following me?”
Deku clutches his pillow. “Stay up with me a little longer.”
“That movie wasn’t even that scary. Go away, I’m going to bed.”
Deku whines. “I’m right next to the front door. If a murderer comes in he’ll get to me first.”
“Nobody’s breaking into my apartment without me kicking their ass.”
“If I die I’ll become a ghost and haunt you forever!”
Katsuki pinches the bridge of his nose. A fatigue headache throbs mildly in the back of his skull. He feels like a young mother dealing with an overgrown toddler. “Go get your futon.”
“Yes really. Hurry up before I change my mind.”
Deku scampers off. He seems to forget his fear the instant he’s dragged his bedding through the door, chattering about everything and nothing until Katsuki tells him to shut up and sleep. Unbelievable, Katsuki thinks as he stares at the ceiling. Deku’s curled up on his floor. If his middle school self could see him he’d probably throw him off a bridge.
He wakes up to fluff tickling his nose. Deku clings to his front like a koala, head tucked securely under Katsuki’s chin. Sunlight streams into the window and turns his hair yellow-green. He’s kicked the blanket off both of them. “Deku. Why are you in my bed?”
Deku snuffles. Katsuki shakes him until he stirs. “Huh? Wh’happen?”
“I asked what you were doing in my bed,” Katsuki says, voice raspy from sleep. Deku tries to burrow closer. “Hey. Stop that. You have a futon.”
“Sorry,” says Deku, not sounding sorry at all. “Room’s dark. Got spooked.”
“So you came to invade my personal space?”
“I,” Katsuki says, and then gives up. Deku’s pleasantly warm. He’s also got a deceptively strong grip and doesn’t seem like he wants to let go of Katsuki’s shirt. Sighing, Katsuki rolls over, squashing Deku under him and making him squeak.
Deku sneaks in again the next night. And the next, and the night after that. Katsuki realises with mild terror that he’s come to expect waking up to Deku drooling on his chest.
He may as well bite the bullet. “Just move into my room,” he says after a week. Deku, halfway through trying to sneak in, hugs his pillow and lights up.
“Really, Kacchan? You don’t mind?”
“Oh, I mind,” Katsuki says, scooting over to make room. “But you don’t like to listen and I doubt I’m getting rid of you any time soon.”
Deku dives into bed gleefully. “Sleepover! Yay!”
“The past three months have been a sleepover, Deku. That’s kind of what being roommates entails.”
“This is better,” Deku says and wiggles closer. “Now I get to be with you all the time.”
Katsuki allows himself to be cuddled. “Yeah,” he says. “Lucky you.”
“Kacchan,” says Deku on a sunny Thursday in August. Katsuki’s come home with another black eye, scratches up and down his arms from facing off against Kirishima at training. “Why didn’t you go see Recovery Girl?”
Katsuki grunts. They chose him to officiate the sports festival. He’d write a speech if he had anything to say beyond watch me win. “Tired. Woulda fallen asleep.”
“Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.” Deku pats the couch cushion next to him. Katsuki doesn’t bother hanging up his blazer, just flops onto the couch and squirms closer to rest his head on Deku’s stomach. “You need rest, Kacchan. You work so hard. You train basically every day.”
“Gotta win the sports festival.”
“You don’t gotta do anything,” Deku hums. His hands are firm on Katsuki’s shoulders, kneading away knots in his muscles until Katsuki feels wobbly and loose. “I know you’re a chronic perfectionist but you’ll still be a great hero even if you come in second place sometimes.”
“Don’t nuh me.”
“Shut up and rub my back,” Katsuki orders without any real heat. Deku obediently gets to work on his spine. “I have to win. I just … I have to. I have to be the best.”
“I think you’re already the best.” Deku sounds like he’s smiling. Katsuki shuts his eyes and savours the feel of Deku’s stolen sweater against his cheek. “Well. I always did, to be fair. Maybe that means my opinion isn’t worth much.”
That’s untrue. Not that Katsuki would ever admit it, obviously, but over the years Deku’s made him pathetic. He knew UA’d be hard. He’d expected as much but hadn’t known what to do when the expectations skyrocketed, when the endless praise dried up because suddenly he wasn’t all that special. He knows he’s good, obviously, because he works himself to the bone. It’s just… nice. Comforting, coming home and having someone be impressed with him still. “You’re just biased.”
“But you’re also right. Because I’m the best.”
Deku’s fingernails gently scratch his scalp. Katsuki wonders, idly, what life would have been like if he’d indulged Deku’s pathological need to cuddle sooner. “I’d rather you didn’t work yourself into an early grave, though.”
“You saying I can’t handle it?”
“No,” Deku says mildly. Katsuki rolls over and opens one eye to glare at him. Deku’s smile’s gone crooked and soft, face upside-down and for some reason fond. “You’d be more threatening if you weren’t lying in my lap asking for scritches.”
“Like a Pomeranian.”
“I can’t say I mind,” Deku says half to himself. “I never thought… this time last year you would have beat me up for daring to touch you.”
Katsuki swallows. Thinking about middle school makes his stomach wobble unpleasantly. He ignores the past as best as he can but here Deku is, having walked right back into Katsuki’s arms without a second thought. “I’m sorry.”
“I didn’t mean it in a bad way.”
“Still.” Slowly, Katsuki sits up. “I’ve told you you’re too nice to me, haven’t I?”
“You shouldn’t be. I was awful.”
But he’s here anyway. Katsuki thinks of that shy little kiss on the day they graduated. They’d never brought it up. Acted like it just never happened, patched over it and kept going with their lives. “How long have you had a crush on me?”
Deku goes pink. He doesn’t deny it but he does drop his gaze to stare at a damp patch on the wall. Katsuki watches him, more curious than surprised. “I don’t think I can answer that.”
“Since the beginning, then.”
“Are you angry?”
He isn’t. He’s always known, on some level, because Deku’s always looked at him like he hung the stars. Katsuki has the personality of a shard of metal. Unfriendly, sharp around the edges. Not someone you’d stay near without a good reason, and Deku’s really not hard to read. “No. I’m upset.”
Because he’d held something soft and fragile in his hands and crushed it. Because Deku had come back again and again when they both really should have known better. He should have made Katsuki grovel. Should have made Katsuki hurt the second he noticed the awkward, bumbling attempt at friendship. Should have wedged his fingers into the little gash in Katsuki’s spirit and let all the loneliness pour in. It would have been fair. It’s what Katsuki would have done, probably, but Deku’s always been better at being a person.
There’s no way he can think of to verbalise it. Instead he leans his head on Deku’s shoulder, slumped over like a puppet with its strings cut. “Shoulda been nicer,” he mumbles indistinctly. “Sorta knew you liked me. That was just mean.”
“Yeah,” says Deku softly. Hesitantly, fingers find their way back into Katsuki’s hair to massage the base of his skull. “Well. It’s not as though I didn’t know you could be.”
“Did that make you like me less?”
“A little. But that’s not saying much. I already liked you a lot.”
Katsuki sighs. Deku’s fingers squeezing his neck are hypnotic. He’d fall asleep if they were talking about anything else. “Those friends of yours. Yobun and Fuyou. They’re nice to you?”
“And your class?”
“Yeah. You know who’s the nicest, though?”
“This guy I live with. He lets me sleep in his bed and makes me dinner and watches movies with me when I ask even though I always cry at the sad parts.”
Katsuki huffs against Deku’s shoulder. “Yeah?”
“Uh-huh. I was a little nervous to move in with him at first but… I’m happy. I like being here. This is good.”
He smells like laundry detergent and the stupid lemon All Might soap that Katsuki secretly loves to steal. Katsuki shuts his eyes and breathes in deep, glad Deku can’t see the silly little smile forcing its way onto his face.
The TV drones on in the background. Whatever Deku’s making bubbles in the slow cooker. It’ll probably be awful but Katsuki already knows he’s going to dutifully eat it, just like he drinks the watery coffee Deku makes him on the rare days he gets up early. A cat yowls outside. His sore muscles soak up Deku’s body heat and slowly unwind.
“So,” he says into Deku’s sleeve. Deku’s answering hum is soft and sleepy. “You’re gay. You asking me to bathe with you makes a lot more sense now, huh?”
Deku hits him with a throw pillow. Katsuki, eyes still squeezed shut, clings to him and laughs.
“How’d you know you liked Mom?”
Dad’s chews thoughtfully. He’s got one of those cheesecake slices he keeps sneaking into the house even though Mom nags him about impending diabetes. It’s spring break and Katsuki’s home for the week, mainly since he’s got nothing better to do. He’d asked Deku to hang out in Tokyo with him but the idiot’s gone with Aunty Inko to visit his grandparents. “Why do you ask?”
“Simple curiosity,” Katsuki says. He’s lying on the couch fiddling with one of Deku’s pyjama shirts. It’s got a hole in the side. He’d found it while packing and figured he may as well stitch the ratty thing up. “You weren’t dating long before you got married.”
“Well, she decided she liked me long before I ever really thought about it.”
“It wasn’t hard to catch up, though. I realised I didn’t mind the idea of her having feelings for me. It was just flattering at first but later I thought – wow. I can’t believe I caught the attention of someone like that.”
Dad smiles around his fork. “Someone so special. Someone whose strengths made up for all my flaws.”
Right. Sharp edges for all Dad’s soft ones. Spice to balance out sweet. “Being happy someone likes you doesn’t equate to liking them back.”
“Well, do you want to kiss this person?”
“I – we’re not talking about me.”
“Of course not,” Dad says cheerfully. Katsuki wrinkles his nose. “It’s not a simple thing to figure out, especially when you’re young. I guess the crux of it is: do they make you happy? Do you like who you are when you’re with them? Do you want to make them happy in return?”
Katsuki stares at Deku’s ugly shirt in his hand. He’s half-picked his stitching apart because he didn’t do it right the first time. “Yeah.”
“Then perhaps it’s worth exploring that in earnest,” Dad says and reaches across the table to pat his knee. “You don’t have to make any big decisions right away. I think it’s fine to just… want someone to be in your life, even if you don’t know yet what role they should play.”
“Okay,” Katsuki says mostly to himself. “Yeah. We’re not going anywhere. We’ve got time.”
It’s a weird week. He finds himself automatically reaching for the fire extinguisher when Dad makes dinner. He nags his parents not to stay up too late watching movies before he can stop himself. Mom throws popcorn at him and boos. Katsuki, red-faced, escapes upstairs for the night and kicks himself for letting Deku make him go soft. Sleeping’s hard. He keeps expecting to wake up to a shock of green on his chest. He tries clutching a pillow. It’s too small and doesn’t snore enough, but it helps.
When he gets back on Sunday it feels like slipping into an old pair of shoes. The air’s still but he’s buzzing. A nameless flutter of excitement, an inexplicable giddiness so he has to pop off tiny explosions in his hands. He puts on a movie sits on the couch, waiting patiently for Deku to come home.
He comes in weighed down with Tupperware. Katsuki watches him kick his shoes off at the door, backlit with late summer sunlight and voice breaking the sleepy quiet of the apartment. He’d missed him, Katsuki realises distantly. He’d been lonely. Not alone but somehow almost as bad.
Deku beams when their eyes meet. Katsuki gives him a smile back without meaning to, standing to lock up behind him while Deku sidles past to dump his things on the coffee table. “Hi Kacchan! Mom got a new Roomba.”
Katsuki turns the latch. “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah! It’s so cute, it keeps bumping into tables and mom swears its favourite food is Oreos but I think Roombert likes rice because he’s Japanese, you know, sometimes you just can’t beat the traditional stuff, which reminds me I brought back some onigiri she made with all sorts of stuffing and some of it isn’t traditional but it’s really good, not the ones in the blue Tupperware though those have eel and I know you don’t like eel – oh, here!”
He holds out his hand. He’s dug a little blue ball out of his jacket. Katsuki looks at it, standing over him with his hands in his pockets. “You named the thing Roombert?”
“Not the point. Take it,” Deku says, pressing prize against Katsuki’s leg. “I won it at Gachapon!”
Katsuki sits and cracks the plastic egg open. Out falls a little All Might keychain with a bobble head and ridiculous wink. It lights up when he presses its belly, shouting I am here! in a crackly voice. “Huh.”
Deku claps his hands like a toddler. “It’s cute, right? I thought you’d like it!”
He doesn’t. Katsuki’s taste in merchandise has always leant towards lifelike action figures and cool posters. This is a gift for a five-year-old. Deku’s smile is heartbreakingly genuine, though. Katsuki’s chest clenches for no reason at all.
He leans forward without thinking about it. The skin of Deku’s cheek is smooth and still warm from the sun, unresisting as Katsuki plants the softest of kisses against the corner of his mouth. Deku goes deathly still. Katsuki counts six freckles spread across his nose as he pulls a hair’s breadth away.
Deku’s shaky breath ghosts across his cheek. “Kacchan,” he whispers. “Why?”
“Dunno,” Katsuki admits. He should probably be more embarrassed right now but he sort of just feels weird and melty. “I, uh. Think my body moved on its own there.”
“Oh my god.” Deku’s eyes are like saucers. “Does this mean…?”
Katsuki kisses him again. It’s so easy. Of course it is, because it’s Deku. His Deku. In the same way that he’s Deku’s Kacchan, always was even when he didn’t deserve to be. He should have known he was going to end up here. Him and Deku. Simple. Just as natural as breathing.
Deku sobs against his mouth. Katsuki stops kissing him to wipe a stray tear from his cheek, cupping Deku’s face as carefully as he can manage with his calloused hands. “Kacchan,” he says, eyebrows slanted up. “Are you – do you like me? Do you really like me back?”
“Guess so.” Maybe like isn’t the right word. There’s a messy tangle of emotions in Katsuki’s chest, knotted tight with threads he’ll spend the rest of his life teasing apart. Warmth is one of them. Affection. Safety. Repentance. A desire to protect Deku’s dumb, well-meaning innocence and awe that that kindness could ever be directed at him. “I know I missed you a hell of a lot.”
Deku sniffles. “That’s not the same thing.”
“No. Really wanna kiss you more, though.”
“Oh.” He’s turning fetchingly pink, blush creeping up his neck and across his nose like a sunburn. “Can you say it?”
“That you like me.”
“I like you.” Somehow that doesn’t quite seem accurate. Katsuki reworks the sentence in his head. “I dunno much about romance but you’re my favourite fucking person in the universe and I’d really hate being without you. Which you probably already know. Because I lasted all of two months before asking you to come live with me, like a wuss.”
“You’re not a wuss.” Deku presses his cheek against Katsuki’s palm, smile tiny but true. “I missed you too. You just decided to do something about it. I’m – I’m so happy, Kacchan. I’ve had a crush on you for so long.”
“I know,” Katsuki says, pressing their foreheads together. “Don’t you worry. I’ll catch up.”
“I see a hickey!” Ashido tries to scream during homeroom. Katsuki, whose reflexes are impeccable, smothers her before the sentence can properly leave her mouth. Several people turn but nobody bothers listening in. “Who’s it from ow ow my neck doesn’t bend that way quit it!”
Kaminari looks wounded. “You didn’t tell us you had a girlfriend.”
“Could be a boyfriend,” says Sero.
“Leave him alone, guys,” says Kirishima. “You know he likes his privacy.”
Katsuki releases Ashido, who takes a dramatic gasp for air. “You tried to kill me,” she says. “I ask about your love life and you kill me.”
“Can we see your house?” asks Sero.
“No.” Home is his sanctuary. His little oasis of peace and quiet and he’ll die before he lets this troupe of chittering baboons into his space. He resolutely does not fix his collar or allow himself to blush. “I don’t have a house. I sleep under a bridge. Leave me alone.”
“Can we at least meet your girlfriend? Is she cute?” asks Kaminari.
Katsuki wants to say no. A large part of him wants to guard Deku with the jealousy of a testy dragon, but Deku unfortunately loves making friends and would be interested to see these guys’ quirks in action. He supposes he can find it in himself to suffer through one noisy lunch date. “Maybe. And yes, he is adorable.”
Ashido screams before Katsuki can silence her. Iida bustles over, hands on his hips, to tell them all off. “Really, people are trying to study,” he says, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Also, Bakugou, you’re violating dress code. That button is entirely the wrong size.”
Four heads swivel to look where he’s pointing. The top button on Katsuki’s blazer is gold, part of the official UA uniform. The second one’s a small cheap copper. Katsuki covers it irritably. “It fell off and I couldn’t find a match, alright?”
Sero squints at it. “Did that come from a middle school gakuran?”
Iida frowns. “Inappropriate. You can’t just mix and match uniforms from entirely different schools.”
“I needed a second button so I used a second button,” Katsuki snaps. “Let me live.”
“Please be sure to fix it.”
“I will.” He won’t. The day he parts with it is the day he dies. Besides, his actual button is with someone else. “Go on, get out of here. We’re having a private discussion.”
Iida huffs and zooms off. Katsuki fiddles with his blazer, daring the others to comment. Kaminari claps his hands. “So what’s he like? Your little boyfriend.”
Katsuki sniffs. “He’s great.”
“Yeah, but what’s he like?” asks Sero. “What do we expect when we meet him?”
“He’s,” Katsuki says and then pauses. “He’s special. Sweet. The kind of person you end up gravitating towards.”
Kirishima smiles. Leaning over, he gives Katsuki a friendly pat on the arm. “He sounds great, Bakugou. We’re gonna love him, I’m sure.”
Katsuki snorts. “Oh, believe me, I know. That’s gonna happen whether you like it or not.”