It was a mission of course. That’s how it always starts, and it’s not uncommon to come away with injuries. Katsuki walked away with a couple of fractured ribs and a couple of lacerations that will become permanent scars. The physical pains will pass with time, and even if they don’t, Katsuki knows he can live with them. It’s the other kind of pain that he doesn’t know how to bear.
Izuku’s chance of waking decreases with every passing day. Even as the wounds heal and that bandages fade away, he shows no sign of stirring. The rhythmic beeping of the monitors is the only comfort Katsuki has. The sound is the only thread of hope he can hold onto in this storm of fear and guilt and anger.
Katsuki forces himself to keep working during the days. The city lost one of its top heroes, so there’s no room to be slacking off, but his heart isn’t in the fight like it usually is. He goes back to the hospital every evening. Sometimes he doesn’t bother to change out of his hero costume. Sometimes he does.
Technically, there are set visiting hours, but he’s terrified the staff into letting him in even when they’re not supposed to. Every time, he walks in hoping that Izuku will be awake. Every time he’s met with nothing but the soft sound of breathing and the neon lines that trace their way across the monitor. Katsuki never visits for long–just spends enough time to check that he’s still alive and then leaves before the feeling in the room suffocates him.
Since he visits at odd hours, it takes two weeks for him to run into any of Izuku’s friends. Out of the three of them that visit, it’s Uraraka who yells at him for being careless. Iida puts a hand on her shoulder to hold her back, but Todoroki just turns to face the other way. Katsuki doesn’t argue with her. She has every right to blame him.
The other villains had been dealt with, so he could have left the civilians behind. He could have told Izuku to wait for reinforcements–or forced him to. By the time he’d delivered the civilians to the police and hurried back, Izuku had already sustained heavy injuries. But even that would have been alright, if Izuku hadn’t insisted on trying to save him again. Damn him and his stupid savior complex. (He knows, though, that if the situation were turned around, he would have done the same damn thing).
“I’m sorry,” he says.
Uraraka stares at him for a minute. As the uncomfortable silence grows longer, he realizes it’s probably the first time she’s ever heard him apologize. After knowing each other for three years of high school and several years of working as a pro hero, it’s still new.
“Apologizing to us doesn’t do any good,” she replies. “He’d tell you it’s not your fault. He chose to push you out of the way.”
He glances at Izuku. “I know.”
When he looks down at his hands, sometimes he can still see the red of Izuku’s blood. He could have pulled Izuku out of the way. Or ripped the villain’s head off before anything happened. Or maybe he couldn’t have, but at the very least, he could have tried. Katsuki clasps his hands in his lap. The blood has long been washed off, but they don’t feel clean. Izuku has saved his ass more times than he likes to think about, and he knows he’s never once returned the favor in any way that counts.
“There are other things I should apologize for, too,” he mutters.
“You really do care about him, don’t you?” Uraraka asks.
He gives a noncommittal grunt. He thought he was good at keeping it a secret. Showing up at Izuku’s hospital room every day probably gave it away.
“He cares about you, too,” Iida says.
Katsuki looks at him for a moment then shakes his head. “It’s different.”
“I’m not sure.” Uraraka bites her lip after speaking.
His eyes snap to her face. She looks determined, honest. In some ways, she reminds him too damn much of Izuku. She returns his glare without wavering.
“You didn’t see him after you were taken by villains in first-year or in second-year when you half bled to death before we got you to the hospital or any of those other hundreds of times you’ve gone missing or gotten injured,” she adds.
Katsuki swallows. He remembers the incidents, of course, but he’d never really thought about the emotional impact. If he switches their roles in his head,–well, he doesn’t have to guess. Staring at Izuku’s unconscious form makes him want to tear his heart out of his chest. Feeling nothing would be better than feeling whatever the fuck he’s feeling now. At 15, he wonders if he could have handled it. At 23, he’s not doing a very good job.
“It’s not the same,” he mutters.
She doesn’t try to contradict him again, but by the thin line she presses her mouth into, he can tell she still disagrees.
Some of the days go by slowly. Some of them pass before he even notice they’re starting. But every time he goes to the hospital room, it feels like time stops for a bit. The walls are a nondescript shade of pale gray, and the sunlight makes different shapes on the wall depending on the time of day and angle of the curtains. But other than the change in the cards that pile up on the windowsill or the difference in the shadows on the wall, it’s the same every day.
A month passes in what feels like no time at all. With the same agony weighing on his shoulders, every morning, afternoon, and night, he doesn’t notice as one day blends into the next. His wounds have all become scars. The pale pink lines are the only things that makes him acknowledge how much time has passed.
Izuku’s physical wounds have healed, too. He has watched the thick layers of white bandages disappear one by one until only the one that wraps around his forehead is left. Eventually that one is removed, too. And Izuku shows no signs of waking. He talks the doctors. They say there’s only a small chance that he will wake up. It depends on him, they say. Katsuki can’t think of anyone who is more determined.
The hospital room becomes almost as familiar to him as his own. He leaves to fulfill his duties as a pro hero, but he always rushes back. Sometimes the nurses try to protest when he walks in covered in dust and ash from a fight. Sometimes they try to kick him out when the hour is late and the nightshift comes in.
One morning, he wakes stiff from sleeping in a crappy hospital chair. His senses alert him to the presence of someone else in the room, and he sits up straight. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees green hair. For a moment, a thrill of hope runs through his chest, even though he knows it’s almost impossible. Once he blinks his eyes, reality sets in again.
Inko offers him a small smile. She looks older than she is. It’s the result of the stress of having a son that manages to be at the center of every battle. Katsuki stands up quickly to let her have the chair. Even though he’s made amends with Izuku, he’s hardly talked to her. He remembers her more from long, long ago when they were children running around in the neighborhood park.
Katsuki excuses himself intending to let Inko have time alone with her son. She stops him before he reaches the door.
“You don’t have to leave.”
He turns to look at her, the question he wants to ask evident in his face. She has green eyes that are so like Izuku’s, that he almost flinches.
“He would be happy to see you here,” she says.
Some part of him already knew that, but hearing it aloud makes it real. That realisation cleaves its way through his chest. It’s one thing to vaguely realize that Izuku didn’t hate him. This is another thing entirely. He turns away rapidly so she doesn’t see the tears pooling in the corners of his eyes. He hasn’t cried in front of anyone since his first year of high school. He doesn’t intend to start again now.
“I’ll tell them to let you stay however long you want. I hear they’ve been giving you a bit of trouble.” Her voice is soft.
It’s comforting and almost soothing to listen to. Maybe because he can hear Izuku in her voice, even if just a little. She’s giving him more than he deserves, and he is grateful, but his thankfulness is tinged with guilt. She must be at least a little aware of the number he has made Izuku cry.
“Thank you,” he says.
These words so rarely grace his lips that they come out sounding awkward, and he leaves quickly after saying them.
The time he spends outside of the hospital starts to feel monotonous. He fulfills his role as a pro hero, but none of the villains he faces are worth noting. Once he has finished patrolling and visiting the hospital, he goes home to an empty apartment, if he goes home at all. On the nights that he doesn’t want to face the rooms full of blank space at home, he stays in Izuku’s room, falling asleep to the quiet sound of his breathing.
Sometimes, when he’s outside of the hospital, he forgets that Izuku isn’t there. Or maybe it’s less forgets and more wants . It gets worse, the longer Izuku has been in a coma. Occasionally, when he’s out on patrol, he turns to talk to someone who isn’t walking next to him or catches himself thinking about telling Izuku that he saw new All Might merchandise in a store window. Every time he has to remind himself of what happened. Every time it hurts a little more to let go of the fantasy.
Spring comes around. It’s the season for new life and growth, but there still isn’t any change in Izuku’s condition. He lies unresponsive, and Katsuki has heard the doctors talk enough to know the chances are not high.
On a day a little after the cherry blossoms have bloomed, Katsuki happens to visit at the same time as Uraraka and Iida again. They visit once or twice every two weeks, so it’s not unusual for him to see them. Uraraka brings a bouquet of newly-in-bloom flowers and sets them down on the windowsill.
“Bakugou,” she says, turning to him. “Have you thought about the possibility that he won’t–”
“Don’t,” he cuts her off loudly. “He will wake up. You know how stupidly stubborn he is. There’s no way he would just… like this…” His words fail him as he tries to retort. “He will wake up.”
Uraraka looks down. “I know that,” she says quietly. “But if, if he doesn’t?”
Her voice sounds choked. If Katsuki were listening more closely, he would realize that she’s asking this question as much for herself as she is for him. Iida puts a hand on her shoulder. Katsuki turns away from them to look at Izuku.
“Then I’ll spend the rest of my goddamn life in this hospital room, waiting for him.”
The silence that follows his statement is heavy. Once the words are out of his mouth, he regrets saying them aloud, and the ache in his chest feels stronger than it usually does. When he faces Izuku’s two friends again, he sees a hint of the tears he refuses to shed in Uraraka’s eyes.
“He would want you to be happy.”
Katsuki glares at Iida. “He doesn’t get to fucking tell me what to do, and besides–” Besides, being happy or not isn’t a choice he gets to make.
They depart shortly afterwards, leaving Katsuki alone with Izuku once again. He tries to clear his mind of Uraraka’s question, but he finds himself coming back to it. As he stares at Izuku’s unmoving form, he feels worlds away. If he never hears him speak again, if he never sees his eyes shine with determination, if he never–
Katsuki reaches a hand out tentatively and places it over Izuku’s. To this point, all he has done is watch, but that makes him feel too far away. The slight warmth of Izuku’s hand is a small comfort. If he focuses he can feel the pulse of a heartbeat under his fingertips, which is undeniable proof that Izuku is alive. He puts both of his hands around Izuku’s. The lack of response feels wrong, and Izuku’s hand is deadweight in his.
“Please wake up,” he murmurs.
He has never been one to beg, but it’s something he hasn’t tried. For Izuku, he’ll do it. If he wakes up, almost anything would be worth it.
“Please,” he repeats.
No response. It’s not like he expected one, but it feels like there’s less oxygen in the air. He sits back in the chair, still holding Izuku’s hand in his.
“You’re an asshole, you know,” he says, even though he knows Izuku won’t respond to this either.
Or he thinks he knows. A moment later, Izuku’s hand twitches.
“Are you fucking kidding me–That’s what you respond to?”
He feels movement again. Katsuki squeezes his hands a little more tightly around Izuku’s.
“You absolute piece of shit,” he hisses. “If you’re just messing with me…” He doesn’t finish the threat.
Inko walks in while he’s still clutching Izuku’s hand. He flushes and lets go.
“I, uh–” He clears his throat. “He moved…a little.”
He watches Inko’s expression change. He doesn’t want to give her false hope, but she deserves to know.
“Did you– when did it happen?” she asks. After I told him he was an asshole.
“I was talking to him.”
“Katsuki,” she says, and something in her tone makes him sit up straighter. “If he would wake up for anyone, it would be for you.”
The weight of her gaze is heavy. It’s the weight of her hope being placed on his shoulders, and he doesn’t think he deserves it.
“Because he loves you, too.”
Katsuki’s mind goes blank for a moment, too many different emotions flooding him to feel any single one of them properly. First he is confused. How would Inko know that Izuku loves him? How would she know that he loves Izuku? He is annoyed at himself for being easy to read, and he feels vulnerable. Like the walls of iron he puts up to protect his deeper emotions are really just made of glass.
Katsuki spends longer in the hospital after that. Talking, yelling, and crying once or twice, too. Izuku’s reactions are unpredictable. Sometimes there’s nothing for hours or days. Sometimes Katsuki thinks he’s about to wake up. During the night, Katsuki takes to falling asleep with his hand over Izuku’s, so that he’ll know if anything happens.
A few times, he wakes up in the blue light of early morning. But every time, even if he speaks or even begs and pleads, there’s hardly more than the slight twitch of a muscle. The interrupted night’s sleep always leaves him exhausted in the morning, but he insists on being there almost every night.
The perpetual lack of sleep means that if his eyes close, he’ll knock out. A couple of times he wakes when other visitors arrive. And then there’s a time when he wakes with no apparent reason for doing so. As he reagusts his position in the chair, he notices that his hand feels heavy in a way it usually doesn’t. When he looks down, he sees Izuku’s fingers intertwined with his, which is not something he thinks he would do in his sleep. He stares for a good couple of minutes before he does anything else.
“Hey, shithead, did you do this?” He asks, squeezing his hand a little tighter.
There is a squeeze back. A faint one, but it’s still definite. Katsuki can feel his heart race. It’s progress.
“Can you hear me?”
He braces his free hand on the hospital bed and leans forward to see if there’s any change in Izuku’s face. It still looks calm.
“If you can hear me, squeeze my hand again.”
He waits with bated breath. The only sound he can hear is his his heartbeat thudding in his chest. Please. Dammit, please. When Izuku’s grip tighten, he feels like he can breathe again. Relief washes through him with such force that he has to sit down.
It takes another three days for Izuku to properly wake up. The doctors tell them what to expect–the disorientation and the readjustment to consciousness beforehand. They also talk about the possibilities of long term consequences and the cases of personalities changing and the cases where memories were lost.
Both his mother and Katsuki are both there when Izuku opens his eyes. Inko cries copiously even as the medical staff come into the room to assess his condition and try to ease confusion. Through it all, Katsuki lets his hand rest in Izuku’s, too overwhelmed to say much of anything.
While Izuku doesn’t speak, he is clearly alert. When he notices that their hands are connected, he gives Katsuki a questioning look.
“If you want to let go, I won’t stop you.”
Izuku shakes his head. I don’t want to let go. Once the doctors and the nurses clear out, Katsuki tightens his grip on Izuku’s hand.
“You are one hell of an idiot,” he says loudly.
Izuku shrinks back slightly, and Katsuki can feel his hand start to pull away. He clamps down on it with his other hand.
“I’m only mad at you, because, unfortunately, I give a shit, and you have no fucking sense of self preservation.”
Inko puts a hand on his shoulder, so he stops yelling. Izuku looks up at him with an expression on his face that is both startled and confused.
“I’ll leave you two alone for a bit,” she says, and then turns to Katsuki. “There have been times when I wasn’t sure how I felt having you in Izuku’s life, but after these past months, you have my blessing.”
She sniffles a few more times as she heads for the door, and Katsuki watches her go. He knows that he has made mistakes, especially where Izuku is concerned. He has yet to properly apologize to Izuku, but having Inko’s forgiveness feels like a start.
When the door swings shut, he turns to look at Izuku again. His face is paler than usual, but there’s a hint of color in his cheeks. He still has the confused expression on his face, like there’s something he wants to ask.
“Why is it so hard to understand that I don’t actually want you to die?” Katsuki says.
Izuku blinks twice before he starts crying. When Katsuki tries to ask what the problem is, Izuku shakes his head and buries his face in the hand that’s not still connected to Katsuki’s. They sit in silence, save for the sound of Izuku’s sobbing. Katsuki feels a few tears sting his eyes, but he wipes them away quickly before anyone notices. And when Izuku squeezes his hand again, he squeezes back.