It’s a beautiful day. The sun’s shining, the birds are singing, and Katsuki regrets a lot of decisions in his life.
He can’t even really blame anyone else for this one. This was a mistake he made himself after several nights scrolling through Reddit against his better judgement. He should have known not to look at the post-Sports Festival comments. It was stupid. It was weak.
It was pride. Vanity, if he’s being honest. The lure of a dedicated fanbase that wouldn’t dare all gang up on him like he’s some kind of murderous junior villain. It was the fanart that did it. A poorly-photoshopped picture of All Might trying to pin a medal to a shrieking Pomeranian, titled ‘lol he do be lookin kinda blasty doe’.
Deku flinches. A small part of Katsuki revels in the knowledge that he can still put the fear of god into him, but a larger part just wants to throw today away. It’s too late for that now, though. Aizawa’s already bringing their internship forms to the staff room and Katsuki isn’t about to go chasing after him demanding a blank one. “Just wanted to ask who you picked,” Deku says. Katsuki grunts and shifts so he’s not talking over his shoulder.
Deku blinks. Katsuki imagines a filing cabinet in his mind, neurons rapidly flicking through sheafs of hero trivia until they land on the right document. “The snake lady? I wouldn’t have guessed. I thought for sure you’d intern with Best Jeanist.”
Katsuki’s hackles go up. “Something wrong with Uwabami?”
“No! Of course not,” Deku says, hiding behind his chemistry folder. There are bags under those dewy green eyes. Leftovers from his last visit to Recovery Girl, probably. “She does have a pretty amazing arrest record. And she’s saved a lot of people from earthquakes. I read she can hear someone’s heartbeat from up to a hundred meters away. Is that why you picked her?”
“Obviously,” says Katsuki because there is no force on earth that’ll make him admit he was swayed by Uwabami’s celebrity status and legions of fans. Nobody makes fun of her online, he’s willing to bet. “She’s good.”
“Yaoyorozu’s interning with her too,” says Deku. “And another girl from 1-B, I think.”
“Stop talking to me.”
“Okay,” Deku says instead of squeaking and clamming up the way he used to. “I think it’ll be fun, Kacchan! Good luck. I’m, uhm. I know you’ll do well.”
Of course he will. Katsuki’s never half-assed anything in his life, and he’s not about to start now even if he’d second-guessed the decision as soon as he’d made it. But it’s done, now. He’s accepted her offer and he doesn’t go back on his word.
“Morning,” says Present Mic, opening the door. “Did all of you remember to do your assignments? Because it’s very possible I forgot to mark the last one I gave you.”
Katsuki unearths his (completed) assignment. Next week he starts his first week of formal training. It’s going to be spectacular, because he’s spectacular, and he won’t let himself regret a second of it.
He was wrong. He regrets it.
“So,” says Katsuki.
“So,” says Uwabami.
Katsuki considers, very carefully, how much trouble he’s willing to get into today. Fighting a pro hero will probably get him expelled. Fighting the hair and makeup lady will probably also get him expelled. He might be able to get away with breaking a camera. That’ll save him a couple of hours of torture, maybe, until Yaoyorozu inevitably offers to make a new one.
A flash goes off. The makeup lady slaps some lip gloss on him and gamely ignores his sincere attempt to kill her with his eyes. “Maybe we should put him in the back,” says Uwabami. “Unless you can edit his expression a little, I guess. Do we have the budget for that?”
“Pardon my asking,” says the girl next to Katsuki. Kendall, he thinks her name was. Carol. Whatever. “Why exactly are we doing this, ma’am?”
“Well, the shampoo’s whole selling point is that you can use it every day, right? So the idea is to pick spokespeople with active lifestyles-”
“No, I know that,” says Kenpo. “I mean, what does this have to do with hero work?”
“Nothing!” says Uwabami cheerfully. “I picked you three because you were cute.”
Katsuki breathes in very deeply through his nose. He should have gone with Jeanist. He knew he should have gone with Jeanist when he got the list of internships, but he was blinded. Now he’s being punished for his vanity. Punished in the most poetic of ways, because Deku is off kicking ass and Katsuki has to do a hair commercial. For a fucking drug store.
“I thought we’d be doing fieldwork,” says Yaoyorozu, wincing at the tweezers attacking her eyebrows. “Not that this isn’t, uhm, exciting, but I was looking forward to doing practical training.”
“Or paperwork, even,” says Ken-doll. “Something, you know. Heroic.”
“Oh, sure,” says Uwabami. “As soon as the shoot’s over. Sometime this weekend, how about that?”
“This weekend?” Katsuki says, remembering at the last minute to keep his voice down. “It’s just a stupid commercial, how is it gonna last a week? How many times do I have to sit through this primping?”
“It’s a series of commercials, and it’ll last just until they’re happy with the recordings. It’s going to take longer if you keep making that face, Bakugou.”
“That’s just how my face is.”
“It’s true,” says Candle. “He always looks like that. You sort of get used to it.”
“I resign,” Katsuki says. The makeup lady takes one look at his expression and loudly announces she’s taking her lunch break. “I signed up to do hero work, not whatever nonsense this is.”
“Bakugou,” Yaoyorozu hisses.
“What,” Katsuki hisses back.
“How about this,” Uwabami says. “We’re scheduled to shoot from 9AM to 3PM every day until Friday. After we’re done here, I’ll take you guys out on evening patrols around the city centre.”
Katsuki narrows his eyes. “Every day?”
He considers this. Best Jeanist would take him on if he asked, probably, but it also might not bode well if Aizawa found out Katsuki quit his first internship after one day. And he’ll have to explain it to Deku and the others, which means he’ll have to admit he made a mistake.
He’s not going to do that. He doesn’t make mistakes. “Fine. But if we catch anyone I wanna slap the cuffs on them.”
She laughs. Someone shines a light on Katsuki’s face, and he grimaces at the hairspray coming for his follicles. “Alright. Try to cheer up, though, will you? I think you’ll find this whole modelling gig’s kind of fun!”
It’s not fun. It’s terrible, and Katsuki decides at 3.01 PM on Monday that he’d literally rather die than have to do this full-time.
The patrols are the one blessing over this hell-week. At least he’s being useful, even if nothing really happens while they’re out. He does get to yell at someone for littering, though. And Yaoyorozu gets a cat out of a tree. It climbs back up there the second they have their backs turns but it doesn’t point a camera at them and demand they smile.
Against all odds, he survives without committing murder or grievous bodily harm. Against all odds, Katsuki has fun.
And then he abruptly stops having fun when a villain attacks and Katsuki gets knocked the fuck out.
Uwabami’s the devil, he thinks as he lies face-up on a crowded suburban pavement. That’s the only explanation. She’s the devil come to punish Katsuki for daring to want to be popular and for scorning Best Jeanist’s offer to train him. That’s why she’s fine and Katsuki’s staring at the sun, trying hard not to throw up.
A ginger head pops into his field of vision. It seems concerned, and its hair tickles Katsuki’s chin. “Oh, good, you’re awake,” Cameron says. “Are you hurt? Should I call an ambulance?”
“Hngkl,” says Katsuki, astutely. His ears feel like they’re full of water. She tries to give him a hand but he bats it away and wobbles upright himself, doggedly ignoring the vertigo. “Whuh happened?”
“He happened,” says Karen, pointing to her left. Some guy in a hoodie’s handcuffed to a lamppost. Uwabami’s interrogating him, one heeled foot digging into his knee, and his hands glow a faint, sickly purple. “He tried to grab Uwabami-san but you and Bakugou intercepted him. You passed out a second later.”
Katsuki remembers it, vaguely; they’d gone out for patrol and immediately gotten mobbed by Uwabami’s rabid fans. Some guy asked for a hug. He had most of his face covered, and he wouldn’t let go even though Uwabami kept telling him to stop. Yaoyorozu had seen it and Katsuki had stepped in, yanking him off Uwabami but the guy grabbed him instead and-
“Wait,” he says as his brain catches up with his ears. “What?”
“He tried to attack Uwabami,” says Kestrel patiently. “But you and Bakugou got in the way and-”
“Me and Bakugou?” says Katsuki, digging his ears. “I’m Bakugou.”
Cornell blinks. “Come again?”
Katsuki ears pop like he’s in an airplane that’s just touched down. He works his jaw. “You hit your head or something? What’re you- what’s wrong with my voice?”
“You want a lozenge?”
“No I don’t want a fucking lozenge.” He looks down at his chest. His very soft, very voluptuous chest. He’s wearing a red swimsuit and not much else. “Hey, what the fuck? When did I get tits?”
“Puberty, I imagine,” says Cowbell. “Yaoyorozu, what’s wrong?”
“I’m Bakugou,” Katsuki says, pawing at himself. Weird proportions. Long hair. No gauntlets or grenades or mask on his face. “What the fuck is going on? Why do I look like this? Where’s my body?”
“He’s- you’re still knocked out,” says Carouselle. Katsuki cranes his neck to see around her. His body - his real body, the blond one he’s supposed to live in- lies sprawled on the sidewalk. “Uwabami-san, Yaoyorozu thinks she’s Bakugou.”
“I don’t think I am, I just am,” Katsuki says, voice cracking. “Uwabami, what the fuck?”
Uwabami digs her heel in harder. The creep crumples to the ground, mask knocked askew and hair messy from where she must have ripped his hat off his head. “What did you do?” she says, the snakes on her head wiggling disconcertingly. “You tried to use your quirk on me, didn’t you? What did you do to my interns?”
He squirms free. Tries to, anyway, until Uwabami moves her foot and threatens to crush his privates. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry, this wasn’t supposed to happen!”
“What was supposed to happen, fucker?” Katsuki bellows. Krampus and Uwabami both wince. “You decided to put me in someone else’s body for shits and giggles?”
“No! No, I was gonna switch Uwabami with my girlfriend,” he says, sunglasses slipping down his nose. “She’s a huge fan of yours, Uwabami-san, she just wanted to be you for a little while. That’s my quirk. I can swap two minds between bodies. It’s not gonna hurt them. I wasn’t gonna hurt you.”
“Switch them back,” says Uwabami.
“I can’t. It’s not- ow, stop stepping on me. It’s not permanent, but I can’t make you turn back any faster. You’ll be stuck like that, in each other’s bodies, until the quirk wears off on its own.”
“I dunno, like a week –ow! A month! Last time it was a month and three days! It gets longer every time I use it. Please don’t kill me, I’m sorry.”
“Heroes don’t kill,” says Cobalt.
“Speak for yourself,” says Katsuki.
“You’re under arrest,” Uwabami says, pinching the bridge of her nose. “God, the things I have to deal with.”
“You? I’m the one who got turned into a chick,” Katsuki says. Yaoyorozu’s manicured nails are digging into his palm. “You couldn’t have done this before I had to do that stupid ad thing? I’m gonna beat the shit out of you.”
“I was just doing it for my girlfriend!”
“Well your girlfriend fucking left you here, didn’t she?”
“Yaoyorozu. I mean, Bakugou,” says Uwabami, holding him back with one hand. “I know you’re angry. We will let the police handle him, and then we’ll figure out what to do.”
“Fine,” Katsuki says, seething. “But I wanna put the cuffs on him. That was the deal.”
“You know what? Sure,” Uwabami says and unhooks them from the belt on her hip. “There. Knock yourself out.”
Whatever’s left of the onlookers disperses when the police cars show up. The creep’s lead away still whining, hands cuffed behind his back in the most uncomfortable position Katsuki could think of. Katsuki’s palms itch. His body’s still asleep. Kicking himself awake seems wrong on a fundamental level, though, so he settles for nudging himself in the ribs with his foot. “Hey, you. Wake up.”
Red eyes blink slowly open. Yaoyorozu looks up at him, bleary, face scrunching up in confusion when she registers what she sees. “What?”
“Surprise,” says Katsuki flatly. “I’m you now. We got duped.”
Condor offers her a (regular-sized) hand. Yaoyorozu winces and sits up. It’s profoundly annoying to see such abject confusion on his own face, so Katsuki folds his arms and watches the police cars drive away. “Shit. You explain it to her.”
“Quirk accident,” says Cornrow, tugging Yaoyorozu to her feet. “That weirdo who grabbed Uwabami was a villain. He tried to switch her with his girlfriend so they’d swap bodies, but you two got in the way and got swapped instead. Right now Bakugou’s mind is in your body and yours is in his.”
Yaoyorozu looks from herself to Katsuki. “I’m him?”
“Yeah,” says Katsuki gruffly. “That was his quirk. Switching. The guy says he can’t swap us back, but – no. No, don’t you dare. Don’t fucking cry.”
“Oh my god,” Yaoyorozu says, one hand over her mouth. “Oh, no, what do we do? How are we going to be heroes? What do I tell my family?”
Katsuki has never felt such raw desire to punch himself in the face. “It’s not permanent, you big baby. He says it’ll go on a month, maybe more. Eventually this shit will wear off and we’ll be back to our normal selves.”
“Are you sure? How do you know he’s telling the truth?”
“If he isn’t, we find him and kill him.”
“Will that change us back?”
“No, but it’ll make me feel better.”
“I’m so sorry this happened,” Compost says, rubbing Yaoyorozu’s back. Katsuki’s back. Katsuki’s back on Katsuki’s body, which Yaoyorozu is currently occupying. Katsuki thinks he feels a blood vessel pop. “Uwabami-san? Is there something we could do? Do you think Eraserhead would be able to fix this?”
“Possibly,” says Uwabami. She slips her phone back into her purse, heels clicking on asphalt as she comes closer to examine Yaoyorozu’s panicked face. “You’re not hurt, are you, honey?”
“No,” says Yaoyorozu, patting herself down gingerly. Her movements are awkward with the gauntlets in the way. “I’m alright, I think. Just a bit dizzy.”
“You’re fine,” says Katsuki. “I’m tougher than that.”
Uwabami ignores him. “We’ll figure out a way to change you back, alright? I’ll contact your teachers. Aizawa will help. Don’t you worry about a thing.”
“I can’t help,” says Aizawa. “Sorry. You’re on your own.”
Momo counts to ten. Then she counts to ten again, because she’s never in her life experienced this kind of rage and if she moves too fast she might actually pass out. Her palms itch with the desire to do… something. Something destructive, probably, which she should maybe examine at some point. Also, Bakugou’s gauntlets are annoying. She has to stand with her arms out like she’s waiting to get patted down at the airport.
The fluorescent lights turn the police station washed-out and sterile, casting odd shadows on Aizawa’s face that make him seem older than he is. The criminal is carted away by a bored police officer sobbing about how his girlfriend’s definitely going to pay his bail. “So what now?” Momo says, voice carefully level. Aizawa roots around in his pockets for eye drops.
“Now I call your parents and explain what happened,” he says, blinking away artificial tears. “And you go home for the rest of the weekend. I can’t let you continue your internships like this.”
Bakugou scowls. The expression looks bizarre on Momo’s face. Her face looks kind of off in general, actually, although maybe that’s just because she’s never seen herself outside of a mirror. “What, you’re benching me?” he says. “This wasn’t even my fault. I saw someone was in trouble and I stepped in.”
“Yes, you did,” says Uwabami gently. “And thank you for taking that hit for me, both of you. But would you really be of much help in a fight right now? You’re not used to the bodies you’re in, or their quirks. Going out in the field like this would be unwise.”
“What about our internships?” says Momo.
“Well, you could stay and do some modelling work with me,” says Uwabami. “That’s safe, right?”
“No,” says Bakugou. “I’d rather just die in a fight.”
“Nobody’s going to die,” says Aizawa. “Look. Your internship was going to end tomorrow anyway. It’s not worth the risk of you two getting hurt for one extra day of training. You can make it up some other time. You have more important things to worry about right now, like the fact that you’re stuck in each other’s bodies for a month, if not more.”
Ah. That’s going to be a problem, isn’t it. “I don’t know how to use Bakugou’s quirk,” Momo says, looking at her hands.
Aizawa frowns. “You’ll have to learn. You’re going to have trouble with practical training once classes start, especially with group exercises. You’ll need to get used to new team dynamics. However, your classmates will understand that you’re working with a handicap.”
“Absolutely not,” says Bakugou abruptly. “No, we’re not telling them. This is mortifying.”
“Accidents happen,” says Uwabami. “They’re not going to judge you.”
“I don’t care what they think. I’m not telling anyone I got turned into a chick and skipped out on my internship, okay? I don’t want their pity.”
“I don’t want to tell them either,” Momo says hesitantly. “Please, sir. I realise it’s impractical, but I don’t want our classmates to have to pick up my slack. I’d rather they held me to the same standards as they normally do.”
“They’re your team,” says Aizawa. “You’re supposed to tell your team about potential liabilities.”
“I don’t want to be a liability,” says Momo. “My performance at the Sports Festival was subpar. If I couldn’t overcome that challenge, then I’d like to try overcoming this one.”
“I’ll figure out how to be Creati,” says Katsuki. “She won’t be the best me, but she’ll do. Nobody has to know. We’ll switch back eventually and then everything will be fine. Right?”
Aizawa runs a tired hand through his hair. Momo waits, jaw set, until the man nods. “Fine. Whatever. If they suspect something’s off I’m not lying for you. I’m going to need to tell Principal Nedzu, still.”
“Yes, sir,” she says. Bakugou lets out a breath. “We’ll do our best.”
“I suppose you should consider yourselves lucky,” says Aizawa. “As far as workplace accidents go, things could be a lot worse.”
Her parents don’t fuss as much as she expects. Momo’s father doesn’t seem to know whether it’s appropriate to hug her at the moment, but her mother jumps at the chance to pick her out some men’s clothes. By Sunday things start to feel less like a horrible fever dream and more like an embarrassing medical condition, and Momo goes back school feeling like they’ll survive the month yet.
Campus is deserted. Momo sits in the common room and enjoys the mid-afternoon quiet until the front door slams open. Bakugou stand on the other side of it, drowning in a black t-shirt three sizes too big.
“Boobs suck,” he says as soon as he sees her. He seems ragged even though they just saw each other last night. “They wobble all over the place and get in the way. Plus my back hurts and I can’t lie on your stomach.”
“Sorry,” says Momo, watching him struggle with his duffel bag. “I didn’t think it would be much of a problem for you.”
“Why the hell not?”
“I don’t think our cup sizes are that different,” she says pensively. “I mean, for a boy your chest-to-waist ratio is pretty-”
“Do not finish that thought. Also why are you always hungry?”
“That’s my quirk. You’ll need about six meals a day on average, but it’s a good idea to keep snacks on hand all the same.”
Bakugou makes a noise she didn’t think her throat was capable of. “This shouldn’t be as heavy as it is. You’re so weak.”
“Stop trying to drag it like that,” Momo sighs. “Your proportions are different now. You have more muscles in your hips and legs. Try to use them.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“Do you want me to help you?”
“Shut up,” Bakugou says, managing to drop his bag in front of the stairs. He turns around and gives her a once-over, hands on his hips and hair falling into his eyes. “Hey. What the hell is that outfit?”
Momo looks down at herself. “It’s my father’s. Why, what’s wrong with it?”
“Are you going to a fucking business meeting?”
“It’s a casual suit.”
“A casual- okay,” he says, kicking his bag aside and coming over to loom over her. “You realise you’re in my body, right? You’re making me look ridiculous.”
“You don’t like Prada?”
“I don’t care about the fucking brand. The point is I don’t dress like that. I look like a thirty-year-old about to do a networking brunch.”
“Well you didn’t do a very good job either,” she says, looking at the giant t-shirt he’d thrown on. It says Pantera, which she assumes is some kind of musical. Like Cats, maybe. “Why do I look lumpy?”
“I’m wearing your hero outfit underneath.”
“How the hell was I supposed to get undressed?”
“How did you take a shower?”
“I haven’t yet.”
“I shut my eyes.”
“Oh,” says Momo, somewhat puzzled. “Are you worried about immodesty? You really don’t have to be. Just do what you’d normally do.”
Bakugou’s jaw goes slack. “Are you- have you seen me naked?”
“Yes?” she says and tilts her head. “How else was I supposed to get clean?”
He grits his teeth. Momo can’t imagine why – sitting down to use the toilet is a lot easier than having to aim, so really she should be the one complaining here. “Fucking hell. Fine. Just keep your mitts to yourself. No funny business.”
“This is already hard enough, Bakugou. There’s no sense worrying about propriety while we’re at it,” Momo says, trying to sound reasonable. “Do whatever you have to. You’re not untrustworthy. I imagine my body’s in pretty good hands.”
“Good hands,” Katuski mutters, scrubbing himself raw. “Bullshit. This whole situation is bullshit. First dick she sees has to be mine? Unbelievable. I’ll kick her ass. I’ll kick that body-swapper’s ass. I’ll kick my own fucking ass while I’m at it. Nobody takes my dick and gets away with it.”
He reaches out blindly, wincing when he knocks over his shower gel. He’s showering with the lights off. And with one of those loofah things on a stick so he doesn’t have to touch anything that isn’t his. This body’s weird and jiggly and his back hurts. At least Yaoyorozu’s not one of the midgets, he supposes. He could have ended up in Frogger. Or Uraraka, although maybe that wouldn’t have been so bad. She’s built like Deku. Tiny but muscular. A damn sight more useful than Yaoyorozu’s dumb Barbie arms.
There’s probably still soap on him by the time he gets dressed. Shivering, he stomps up the stairs, not bothering to knock before yanking open the door. It’s the first time he’s ever been in a girl’s room. His mother wouldn’t approve.
Yaoyorozu pauses in sorting through her gigantic wardrobe. “Oh, hello. Come take a look. School clothes go here, and sports gear is in this drawer. Everything else gets more formal the further right you go.”
“Fine,” he says, shouldering the door shut behind him. He should have dried his hair. There’s a lot of it now and it’s heavy. “Anything else?”
“Underwear,” she says, sliding open the lowermost drawer. There’s a lot of lace. “You know how the bottoms work, I assume, but here are the bras. The pretty ones aren’t all that comfy. These ones are sports bras,” she says and holds one up that looks like half a tank top. “You’ll want these if you’re going to the gym. My hero outfit has supportive padding, though, so you won’t need them then.”
She hands him a not-sports one. It’s soft and blue. Katsuki stares at it, wanting to die. “How do you put this on?”
Yaoyorozu sighs. “Take your top off.”
“It’s my body,” she says, eyebrows raised. “Look, it hooks at the back here, see? You’re going to have to deal with this for a month so you may as well let me make this as painless as possible.”
Katsuki grumbles and tugs off his top. He raises his arms as instructed, red-faced and eyes squeezed firmly shut, while Yaoyorozu manoeuvres him into his new underwear and fastens up the back. There’s no conceivable reason he should be embarrassed. She has every right to deal with her own underwear, but that doesn’t stop Katsuki from squawking when she unceremoniously sticks her hand in one cup to adjust his – her – breast. “Oi, what the fuck?”
“That’s going to bother you all day if you don’t wear it correctly.”
“Warn a guy next time, for god’s sake,” Katsuki says, arms folded across his torso self-consciously. Yaoyorozu has the actual gall to roll her eyes at him. “Give me my shirt back.”
“There’s probably not much else to do that you don’t already do,” Yaoyorozu says, disappearing briefly when Katsuki pulls his top over his head. “My deodorant and perfume are in the little basket here. Makeup too, but I doubt you’ll want that. There are some panty liners here too if you need.”
“Also, my period’s due in four weeks. We’ll figure out the tampon situation later if we haven’t switched back by then.”
“Christ,” Katsuki says and scrubs a hand over his face. A soft hand, he notes irritably. “I need another nap.”
“The girls like to come here sometimes for spa nights. They will invite you to shower together more than once,” she says turning to look at him. “Do not say yes.”
“Do I look like some kind of horny degenerate to you?”
“I suppose not, but still. You’re a boy.”
A gay boy, in fact, but she doesn’t need to know that. “The guys have a habit of walking around half-dressed in the boys’ dorms,” he says instead. “And the locker rooms. And a lot of places, actually, so heads up because I guarantee you don’t want to see that.”
“Oh.” Yaoyorozu wrinkles her nose. It’s unbearably cute and looks terrible on his face.
“With your face,” Katsuki says, pushing a stray lock of hair out of his eyes. “You act like a girl.”
“I am a girl.”
“Not right now, you’re not. If you make me look like an idiot when the others get back then I’ll kill you. I don’t care if you’re in my body. I’ll assume your identity and become number one and I won’t say shit at your funeral.”
“What happens when the quirk wears off, then? You’d get swapped back into a corpse.”
She folds her arms. She’s taken her blazer off, but her dad’s shirt is too big and makes his body look scrawny. “Maybe this was a bad idea. I don’t know how to copy you.”
“Well, learn. You can start with your face.”
“I already have your face.”
“No, I mean you keep doing that,” Katsuki does a vague hand gesture. “That stupid soft thing. Your eyebrows slant up, that’s not right. And you pout.”
“I don’t pout.”
“You’re doing it right now,” Katsuki says, turning around to sit, uninvited, on Yaoyorozu’s impractically large bed. “Try to look more serious. I frown a lot. Make your face- now what are you doing?”
“I’m imagining eating a lemon.”
“Are you making fun of me?”
“Well, what about you?” she says, exasperated. “You’re not acting like me either. You walk like a vagabond and you sit like your legs are trying to go to two different places. You could try smiling. That’s something I do sometimes.”
“That’s more a grimace, but good try.”
Katsuki flops backwards. “God, you can’t even lie down without jiggling. I hate this.”
“We’re going to get found out immediately.”
“No we’re not. We’re going to do a good fucking job. Your life depends on it, don’t forget.”
“I guess,” she says quietly. The mattress dips as she sits next to him, frowning at a spot on the hardwood floor. It’s the most Katsuki-like expression he’s seen on her so far. “Do you really think they’ll believe us? I don’t know if we’re very convincing.”
“I guess so,” she says, curling her knees up to her chest. “I just… I don’t want to be a burden. I messed up at the Sports Festival. I don’t even know any more if I deserve to be here. And the second we tell them what happened, they’re going to be so…understanding. Like this justifies me falling behind. And I’m going to feel even worse about myself, I think.”
Katsuki rolls his eyes. “I don’t want to hear your life story.”
Her expression crumples. “Sorry.”
Guilt comes like a punch in the gut and Katsuki actually has to blink back the beginnings of tears. “Wow. You physically cannot be mean, can you?”
“I- I don’t know. I don’t see how you can.”
“Christ.” Breathing out, Katsuki rolls over and forces himself through the instinctive remorse. “Fine. I’m sorry. Just, I don’t know. Stop it with the self-loathing shit. You got in on recommendation, didn’t you? Nedzu’s not an idiot. He knew you were worth picking.”
“Obviously. And right now you’re in my body. I’m not letting you fall behind, not when that means me falling behind too. Our performance in class depends on each other and I’ll whip your ass into shape if I have to.”
“Thanks.” She gives him a crooked half-smile. “That helps. Knowing I’m not alone. I guess we’re a team for now, huh?”
“Yeah, sure,” Katsuki says, gently kicking her leg. “We just have to last a month. We’ll figure it out.”
They order ramen. Katsuki discovers, to his dismay, that Yaoyorozu’s taste buds can’t handle what he usually eats, so they end up switching while Katsuki sits cross-legged and sulks. He’d gone and ordered two portions. He suffers through the extra bowl of spicy miso, nose running before he’s even halfway through. “Say fuck.”
“F- fu- I can’t.”
Katsuki snorts. “Fine. Who are your friends?”
“Your friends, dummy. The people I’m going to have to hang out with while I’m pretending to be you.”
“Oh. Mainly the girls, especially Kyouka and Tsuyu. Tokoyami, too, and Ojiro and Aoyama. And, uhm, Todoroki. Look out for Mineta.” She eats in a pattern, Katsuki notes. Noodles, then pork, then one of the toppings, then soup. “Your best friend is Kirishima, yes? Sero, Ashido, Kaminari, Midoriya-”
“Deku and I aren’t friends.”
“But you’re together all the time.”
“That’s just because he follows me around,” Katsuki says with his mouth full. Yaoyorozu makes a face at him. “He’s gonna hover around you asking questions, by the way. He’ll want to know about the internship.”
“What do I say?”
“Tell him,” Katsuki says, chewing thoughtfully. He rarely entertains Deku’s curiosity, if he’s being honest. “Just tell him to fuck off and Uwabami was fine.”
“Yeah. It’s not like he and I ever sit down and chat about this shit. Anyway, he knows you interned with me, so he’ll probably come ask me next. I’ll handle it.”
“You know you have to be nice to him, right? In fact, you’re going to have to be nice to everyone.”
“Fuck off, I’m plenty nice.”
She raises one eyebrow at him. It’s fantastically condescending. Katsuki wonders if that’s what Deku’s used to seeing every day. “I don’t swear.”
“Fu- fine. I’ll be a goody two-shoes, but you don’t embarrass me either.”
“I know,” she says, infuriatingly calm. “I can’t mess this up or you’ll kill us both.”
“I’ll kill everyone,” Katsuki says, choking down a slice of chili. “I’ll take this whole goddamn school down with me.”
Speaking of which. There are noises coming from outside the front door. A voice; just one, actually, badly singing some overplayed pop song that Katsuki’s sure is in six different movies. He knows that voice. He’s been subjected to it all his life, whenever the culprit thinks he’s alone because he can’t go two minutes without making some kind of noise to fill the empty space between his ears. Katsuki should really run upstairs, actually, at least before that knob finishes turning.
Too late. “Kacchan!” says Deku the moment he pops his head in. “You’re here early, long time no see. Hi, Yaoyorozu!”
Katsuki tenses on instinct. Then he realises Deku’s heading for Yaoyorozu, smile wide and freckles stark against his skin. He leaves his suitcase by the sofa. He’s in a shirt that says pants, which immediately makes Katsuki want to hit him. Yaoyorozu tries and fails to look disaffected. “Mi- Deku. What do you want?”
“Just saying hi,” Deku says, bouncing on his heels. “Wow, you guys got delivery together? Where’s Lunch Rush?”
“Probably only coming back tomorrow,” Katsuki says. Deku smiles at him. Sweet, unguarded the way he normally isn’t when talking to Katsuki. “How, uh. How are you?”
“I’m great! I trained with Gran Torino, d’you know him? He did this crazy thing where he pretended to be dead when I got there but it turned out he was just lying on the ground covered in jam and he wanted to spook me but after that he trained me just like he used to train All Might and that was really neat also I almost died because of that Stain guy. How was your week?”
“Uwabami was fine,” says Yaoyorozu mechanically. “F… buzz off.”
Deku does an odd thing with his face. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” says Yaoyorozu, haphazardly cleaning up her used plastic cutlery. “Uh. I have stuff to unpack.”
“Okay,” Deku says, stepping aside obligingly. Yaoyorozu throws her junk away and gets halfway across the lobby before Deku’s clearing his throat. “Kacchan?”
“You’re heading the wrong way.”
“Oh,” says Yaoyorozu. “Right. I will go back to my room now, which is over in the boys’ dorms. With the boys.”
“Bye,” says Deku, mystified. Behind him, Katsuki pinches the bridge of his nose. “Huh. So, uhm, how was Uwabami?”
“Fine,” Katsuki says. Deku’s still looking at him, clearly waiting for elaboration. “She, uh. She was busy doing an ad, so we didn’t get to do much fieldwork.”
“Oh, yeah, she’s kind of a celebrity, huh? Did you guys get to be in the ad too?”
“Yeah, kind of.” There are more voices outside. They’re too far away for him to recognise, but the idea of dealing with a bunch of halfwits alone is unappealing in a way Katsuki can’t describe. Mouth burning, Katsuki chugs the rest of his soup and awkwardly gathers his trash, mentally willing his nose not to run all over his upper lip. “Okay well this was cool but I have studying to do see you later bye De- Midoriya.”
“Okay,” Deku says, tilting his head. “See you later, I guess.”
“That you will,” Katsuki says, and very manfully sprints away to hide.
Momo blinks awake in the middle of the night.
The last dregs of a dream disappear into the recesses of her mind. Something about green, she thinks. And lace. Green lace? Bakugou’s pillow smells good. Like ginger shampoo.
She stretches and rolls over, wincing when she realises her pyjamas are tighter than she remembers. Groggy, she fights her way out of the blankets and turns on the bedside lamp.
And stops. She stares at the tent in her pants. It stands there and stares back.
“Oh no,” she whispers.
It twitches. Her hand hovers over the waistband of her borrowed sweats, dread warring with morbid curiosity as she thinks very carefully whether she wants this to be her life. She’s seen it before, technically. Briefly, in the shower, although that hadn’t been a big deal. A body’s a body. It was natural, just like this is natural, a combo of youth and hormones that she has to deal with because Bakugou’s not here.
Right. It’s normal. Nothing to be ashamed of, even though her face burns and her pants feel like a prison. Her heart must be confused. It probably can’t tell whether to send blood north or south and Momo might be on the verge of a stroke.
She calls Bakugou. He answers on the fifth ring, voice hoarse and only barely awake. “Wuh?”
“Bakugou,” she whines. “Help, wake up, it’s important.”
“What? Why the fuck are you calling me? It’s,” a pause. “It’s three in the god damned morning.”
“Your penis. It’s hard and it won’t go away and I don’t want to touch it.”
“Oh my god. Just wait for it to go down or something, the fuck?”
“It doesn’t look like it wants to. It’s starting to hurt, Bakugou, what do I do?”
There’s a rustle of sheets. “Fucking- I don’t know, think of something gross.”
“I have a lot of dislikes, just pick one.”
“Dislikes,” Momo says, putting her face in her hands. “Okay, uhm, you don’t like Midoriya-”
“Do not think of Deku-”
“Oh my god it’s getting worse-”
He hangs up. Momo doesn’t try to call back, because she’s too busy trying to smother herself with a ginger pillow.
It doesn’t work, unfortunately, and the next morning she gives Bakugou the stink eye when she sees him in the common room. It’s six thirty. She knows she’ll run into him, because he has her stomach and this is always the time it starts grumbling for food.
“You do like Midoriya,” is the first thing she says when he’s within earshot.
He turns his back on her. The collar of his school blazer’s wonky. They’re the only two people here, thankfully, else he probably would have punted her out the window the second she opened her mouth. “Shut the hell up. No I don’t.”
“You’re attracted to him, at least. I can’t believe that happened just because you saw him for the first time in a week,” she insists. “Also I’m going to need to get your bedsheets laundered.”
Bakugou breathes out. “Do not say a word to him.”
“I promise! But you really should have warned me I was going to go through that.”
“It’s not like it’s a common occurrence,” Bakugou says, brandishing a packet of instant oatmeal at her. “Dicks are weird, okay? This has nothing to do with Deku specifically. It’s just a thing that happens sometimes, don’t worry about it.”
“I don’t believe you. You have vivid dreams and half of them were just about him wearing –”
“Shut up shut up-”
“- and if this is going to happen every time he comes near me then how am I going to –”
“- I don’t want to talk about this why are you still talking about this-”
“-frankly I don’t understand how you get anything done when you’re constantly battling your own-”
“Hi,” says Todoroki quietly. “The kettle’s done boiling.”
Momo forces down a scream. Todoroki’s managed to sidle right into the kitchenette with them, school blazer draped over one arm. He has a black eye. It’s the one without the scar, so he looks kind of like a racoon. Bakugou barely manages to stop himself throwing a spoon at him. “Where the fu- heck did you come from?”
“I thought you didn’t like oatmeal.”
“It’s… not mine.”
Todoroki glances at Momo. “You made him breakfast?”
“Are those bandages?” Momo says while Bakugou flounders. There are patches of white gauze peeking out from the collar of Todoroki’s shirt, and some under his right sleeve. “Did you get hurt?”
“Oh. Yes. I almost died.”
He looks at Bakugou expectantly. Bakugou’s still stirring his oatmeal. “Good for you,” he says.
Todoroki blinks. “It was Stain. The hero killer. They arrested him, though. He attacked Iida’s brother and Iida went after him for revenge.”
“And we fought him.”
“I’m a hand-crusher.”
Bakugou takes a bite of his oatmeal and makes a face. Sighing, he slides it across the counter to Momo and makes himself coffee and toast instead. Todoroki passes him the sugar.
Midoriya comes downstairs with a sleepy good morning. Momo, full of feelings she didn’t want and doesn’t know what to do with, inhales her oatmeal and runs back upstairs.
School is… difficult. It’s made even more difficult when it’s time for practical training and Momo discovers in the locker room that the muscles weren’t just a figment of Bakugou’s lust-addled REM cycle. She also discovers the Bakugou has a type. Smiley boys with nice eyes and broad shoulders. Which is a problem, obviously, because that describes, like, six different people.
The training exercise is a disaster. Momo barely registers it; a hostage simulation, probably, except she can’t use Bakugou’s quirk and keeps accidentally clocking people with his gauntlets. At one point she’s so frazzled she takes a robot hit to the face. Midoriya catches her. He’s all freckles and green-eyed concern, and Momo briefly thinks Bakugou must have willpower of steel if this is what he has to deal with every day.
They lose the hostage. Aizawa is unimpressed but doesn’t comment. Bakugou drags her away before the others can start asking questions, seething because you’re making me look bad, you inept Ground Zero knockoff.
“Your costume’s ridiculous!” Momo whispers back frantically. The bell rings. Todoroki wanders over but Bakugou promptly tells him to go away. “These grenade things are heavy. Every time I move I feel like I’m going to overbalance.”
“Use them as counterweights, moron. They balance each other out.”
“I’m the moron? I saw you trip over your own feet on your turn.”
“Yeah, well, I have two giant fucking melons strapped to my chest!”
“So do you!”
“I heard melons,” says Mineta from somewhere behind them.
“Shut up,” Bakguou hollers. Most of the class has already left the training area, chatting amongst themselves while Aizawa shoos away the stragglers. “Alright. Obviously we need to work on using each other’s quirks and whatever.”
“That would be wise.”
“Okay,” Bakugou says and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Get changed and meet me in the quad. I’m going to teach your clumsy ass how to fight.”
“It’s not doing anything,” says Momo, frustrated.
“It’s like using a muscle, not turning on a tap.”
“That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“Flex your fingers,” Bakugou says, opening a packet of chips. The sun’s going down. They’re in the quad sitting next to a hedge, because it’s the only place with nobody around to watch them struggle. “Sparks come easier on the right hand. Start with that.”
Nothing happens. Momo frowns at her palm, mouth set in a straight line. “Explain to me again how it works.”
Bakugou jabs her in the stomach. She yelps and her fists spark on instinct, startling her half-off their cramped bench. “Like that.”
“It worked, didn’t it?” Bakugou says, eating another chip. “I told you, it’s like a muscle. Muscles have reflexes. Remember how that felt and try to do it on purpose next time.”
Momo is indignant, but sits back down. This time she manages to make some smoke on her own, curling up in wisps from her palms and disappearing into the air. “I guess that’s an improvement.”
“You’ll get there eventually. How do I work yours?”
“It needs concentration. Let’s start with something simple. Do you know the chemical composition of water?”
Bakugou rolls his eyes. “I’m not an idiot. Don’t you do solid objects all the time?”
“Alright,” she says. “Well, matryoshka dolls are my default item. The exact base varies depending on the species of wood you like to use, but in general you need three main components.”
“You need 41-43% cellulose, 20% hemicellulose, and 23% lignin. Unless you prefer coniferous wood over deciduous wood, in which case you’re looking at 30% hemicellulose and 21% lignin. Cellulose is a crystalline polymer derived from glucose. Its formula is (C6H10O5)n where n is the degree of polymerization and represents the number of glucose groups. That’s easy. The hemicellulose is more complex, partly because there are so many different kinds, but mostly because their structure tends to be random and amorphous. Their chains are shorter but they may be branched, unlike cellulose, and you need to look out for that because the pentoses are linked irregularly- oh, a pentose is a five-carbon sugar- and there’s direct covalent linkage between them and the lignin-”
Bakugou slowly puts down his chips. “Okay. Maybe let’s do the water first.”
“My quirk is very… deliberate. Like knitting. You have to build it up stitch by stitch,” she says. “But don’t worry. It’s pretty simple once you get the hang of it.”
It isn’t simple. It’s hard and alien and Bakugou’s hackles go up every time Momo says the word phospholipid, but Momo is patient as she walks him through using her quirk in short (but evidently still difficult) steps. She actually claps when he manages a light sheen of water on his hands. Neither of them mentions that it’s probably just sweat.
The dinner bell rings. Bakugou’s stomach grumbles so they decide to go back to the dorms. The others are watching a movie, by the looks of it. Midoriya’s poking around the trays of food that Lunch Rush left on the dining table, plate in one hand as he deliberates between potatoes or more potatoes. “Oh, hey! Where have you guys been?”
“Out,” says Bakugou.
“Just…chatting,” says Momo. “About, you know. Stuff.”
“Oh,” says Midoriya, glancing between them. “Huh. Well, uhm, do you guys want plates?”
“Yes, please,” says Yaoyorozu without thinking.
Bakugou stomps on her foot. She chokes, barely stopping herself from yelling out loud. “Oops!” says Bakugou in a ridiculous falsetto. “Goodness, I am so very clumsy.”
“Why,” whispers Momo.
“I don’t say please,” Bakugou whispers back.
Midoriya stares at them, serving spoon halfway to his plate but unfortunately forgotten. A roast potato tumbles onto the tablecloth. “Kacchan? Are you okay?”
“Peachy!” Momo says with some effort. “You… dumb clothes hanger.”
“You know,” says Bakugou while Deku mouths out the words clothes hanger. “I think I still have that textbook of yours. From when we were interning. Why don’t you come with me and I will go get it for you.”
Momo doesn’t get the chance to answer before Bakugou’s dragging her off to the stairwell leading to the girls’ dorm. It’s quiet here because all the girls are already downstairs. “Stop it, my arm doesn’t bend that way!”
“Can you stop embarrassing me? Do you want to get found out? Huh?”
“I can’t help it,” Momo says. Whines, almost. “He makes me nervous and when I’m nervous I keep forgetting I’m supposed to act like you.”
“Why the hell would Deku make you nervous?”
“You get butterflies around him. You have sex dreams about him.”
He makes a face at her like he’s not the one being wilfully obtuse. “I do not get butterflies.”
“That would be more convincing if I didn’t have to keep feeling them fluttering around in my stomach on your behalf.”
“I don’t care! Digest them!”
“Is this why you’re so mean to him?” she says. Bakugou lets go of her arm. “You have a crush on him and you don’t want him to know so you make fun of him and hope he doesn’t notice?”
“What are you, my therapist?”
“I’m the person who’s stuck being you in a relationship that makes no sense.” She sighs, running her hand through her hair. She isn’t sure if that’s one of her ticks or his. “Look, I know it’s none of my business. I’m just, I don’t know. Rattled. He does something to you and it’s not like I can really get away from him.”
“Why do you think I try to avoid him?” Bakugou grumbles.
“He seeks you out. Maybe he doesn’t want you to avoid him.”
“If you interfere,” Bakugou says slowly. “If you say anything to him, I will make your life hell.”
“I’m not going to,” she says, hands held up in surrender. “I wouldn’t do that to you. I just- sorry. Fine. I’ll try harder to act like you. But cut me some slack, okay? It’s not like I’m used to dealing with whatever this is.”
“Fine,” Bakugou says, crossing his arms. His stomach grumbles some more. “Just watch yourself. He does this stupid doe-eyed thing with his face. Don’t fall for it.”
Momo snorts in a way that’s unfortunately very much like Bakugou. “You know, I think it’s a bit late for that.”
“I got you tea,” says someone in Katsuki’s ear.
Katsuki’s heart leaps right into his throat. “Will you stop sneaking up on me? Also, what?”
“Tea,” says Todoroki patiently. He’s holding a pretty wooden box with a gold label on the front. Formosa Red, it says among other things. “It’s supposed to be sweet. Like honey. It’s from Taiwan.”
Katsuki takes it. It’s heavier than it looks. “Why?”
“You like tea.”
“How much did this cost?”
Todoroki shrugs. “I used my father’s credit card. It’s fine.”
He blinks. Katsuki, curled up next to the window with a book stolen from Yaoyorozu’s library, glances around. “You need something?”
Someone shouts distantly outside. All the noisier members of 1-A outside playing baseball, which is the only reason Katsuki deemed it safe to come downstairs. Evidently he was wrong. Todoroki hovers awkwardly, black eye from a few days ago having faded to yellow so he looks more jaundiced than injured. “Okay.”
It’s like being stared at by a sad, stupid stray puppy. Katsuki shuts his book and sighs. “Right. What is it you want, then? Peanut butter? Slippers? A walk?”
No answer. Todoroki continues to stand there heterochromatically. Katsuki gives up and unlocks his phone.
Text message sent: My Little Ponytail
how do I get rid of todoroki
Text message received: My Little Ponytail
Is he doing the silent hovering thing?
Text message sent: My Little Ponytail
Text message sent: My Little Ponytail
he gave me a tea thing and won’t leave
Text message received: My Little Ponytail
Oh. He wants you to drink it with him. Just give him attention for a bit and he’ll leave you alone.
Text message sent: My Little Ponytail
No I hate him
Text message received: My Little Ponytail
Be nice to him, Bakugou. I’ll be down in a second.
Katsuki sighs and gets up. Todoroki brightens immediately when he sees the little porcelain teapot being taken out of its cupboard, obediently sitting at the table as directed until Katsuki’s done boiling water. He’s slightly less annoying than Deku, Katsuki supposes as he fishes two mugs out of the dishwasher. At least Todoroki doesn’t try to make conversation.
They sit there in silence while Katsuki reads his book and drinks his (surprisingly good) fancy tea. Todoroki stares off into the distance. Once or twice he does blink, long and slow like a cat or some sort of weird lizard.
The door opens. Half the class comes tumbling in, talking over each other and covered in dirt. Katsuki considers going back upstairs but the look Todoroki gives him is so pathetic that Katsuki relents before he’s even left his seat. “Hey, guys!” cries Deku, bounding over. His shirt’s sticking to his torso with sweat and grass stains. “You should have come out to play with us. Do you like baseball? Iida suggested soccer next time if you like that better.”
“Not really,” Katsuki says, cursing the fact that Todoroki is one of Deku’s close friends. He pulls up a chair and sits down, barely noticing how Katsuki pointedly avoids his eye.
“I haven’t played in a really long time,” Deku says, making grabby hands for Todoroki’s drink. “I think the last time was in, what, elementary school? You know, back when we had to do this kind of stuff for gym class. Except one time I got hit in the face with a baseball and it didn’t hurt that much but it bled a ton and my mom freaked out and wrote a note to the teacher saying I wasn’t allowed to do team sports anymore so I’d just sit on the bleachers and come to think of it it might have been Kacchan who aimed that baseball at me actually-”
“It was not,” says Katsuki, offended. “It was that kid with the wings. And he didn’t aim at you, you just got in the way.”
Deku pauses. Katsuki’s brain screeches to a halt. “What- how do you know that?”
“Bakugou told me,” Katsuki says, kicking himself. “In passing. During the internship.”
“You talked about me?” says Deku.
“You talked?” says Todoroki.
Katsuki drinks his tea and hopes that they’ll forget the question by the time he swallows. They don’t. He is, however, saved by the clomping of feet coming down the boys’ stairs. “Hey,” says Yaoyorozu, bouncing off the last step in a way that makes Katsuki grimace. “Oh, back already? How was the game?”
“Fine,” says Deku, going pink. “Kacchan, do you remember – uhm. Never mind, I guess it doesn’t matter.”
Yaoyorozu stops behind Deku’s chair and does a double take. Katsuki knows why; Deku’s rumpled and windswept and unfortunately looks fucking delightful. “Huh. You’re, uhm. Sweaty.”
“Oh!” Deku says, scooting his seat back. It makes a horrible noise on the hardwood. “I’m so sorry! I must smell terrible, I’ll go take a shower or something-”
“You smell fine,” Yaoyorozu says hurriedly. “Like grass. And sunshine.”
“Sunshine?” Deku tries to disappear into his collar. “Kacchan, I don’t think that’s a real smell.”
“Of course it isn’t! But if it was!”
“I don’t- are you making fun of me?”
“Why would I be making fun of you, Midoriya?”
Deku immediately bursts into tears. “Oh my god, are you mad at me? What did I do?”
“Nothing!” Yaoyorozu says. “What’s wrong, why are you crying?”
“I’m sorry,” Deku hiccups, wobbling to his feet. “I’m gonna need some ice cream. Excuse me, guys.”
He runs off. Yaoyorozu follows, wringing her hands. Across the room, a group of people stops chatting for a second to watch Deku kick the door open with more strength than should logically be present in a five-foot-five young man.
Todoroki sips his tea. “Are they okay?”
“Well the thing about that is,” Katsuki says, and then gets up and goes back upstairs for a nap.
“Will you stop touching my dick?”
“I’m adjusting it. Gosh, and you said I jiggled.”
“There’s other kinds of underwear,” Katsuki says, squeezing his eyes shut. “More supportive. I’ll show you later. Just don’t fucking do that, especially not in front of anyone else.”
“Children, please,” says Aizawa, sounding terribly put-upon. He’d stopped them after class at the end of their first week and for some reason offered them sweets. Katsuki supposes even he must have some sympathy hidden under that scarf, along with the bon-bons. “Have you made any progress with your quirks?”
Yaoyorozu manages a few tiny eruptions in her hands. They’re bright but harmless, like those sparklers Katsuki and Deku used to play with every New Year. “I can make them bigger, but I don’t have all that much control over them yet.”
“It’s better than nothing. You, Bakugou?”
“Kind of,” Katsuki grumbles. Jirou waves at him as she walks past. “I mean, I right now solid stuff just comes out like mush and space dust, but studying helps a lot. I have a pretty good idea where to go.”
“Sounds disgusting,” says Aizawa mildly. “But good. Do try to keep up with the rest of the class.”
He stalks off in the direction of the staff room, and Katsuki adjusts his grip on his Maths binder. “He said he wouldn’t go easy on us. Liar.”
“He’s nicer than he looks, I think,” Yaoyorozu says. “At least, I hope so. He looks kind of mean.”
Ojiro comes out of the classroom, tail wagging idly behind him as he talks to Satou. He smiles when he sees them, pausing to clap Yaoyorozu on the back in greeting. “Hey, Shouji brought his Switch from home. Wanna play Smash Bros with us?”
“If Shouji loses he has to play against himself,” says Satou. “With all four controllers.”
“Okay,” Yaoyorozu says. “I’ll be there in a second.”
“Okay. Bye, Yaoyorozu,” says Ojiro in passing. “Dude, Satou, you wanna go get some snacks?”
Katsuki waits until their backs are turned before scowling at her. “Since when were you friends with them?”
“I don’t know,” says Yaoyorozu, nonplussed. “They keep inviting me to do things. I assumed it was normal.”
“You’re supposed to turn them down, dummy.”
Katsuki pauses. “Because.”
“You don’t know why,” says Yaoyorozu. “It’s just habit for you, isn’t it?”
“Shut up,” says Katsuki emphatically. “Go play your dumb games. See if I care.”
Yaoyorozu has the nerve to smile at him. “There’s nothing wrong with having friends. People like you, you know, even if you act like a charlatan.”
No, they like you in my body, Katsuki doesn’t say. “Get lost.”
“Okay,” she says, patting his shoulder. Katsuki genuinely considers biting her hand.
He watches her go. The hallway’s mostly empty now, following the daily mad dash for freedom, and now he has the rest of the day free. Something touches his arm. Katsuki turns to find Deku, yellow backpack on and one hand raised in a meek little wave. “Uhm, hi, Yaoyorozu. Are you busy? I had a question.”
Katsuki forces down the instinctive rejection. Deku shuffles around awkwardly, although to be fair his very state of being is awkward. He’s like the personification of a blush. “What is it?”
“Did something happen to Kacchan?”
Internally, Katsuki curses. He keeps his fake-Yaoyorozu smile where it is, though. “Is this because he called you Midoriya?”
“Uhm, partly, but that’s not all. It just feels like he’s different. Not bad, or anything, just odd,” Deku says, pursing his lips. A flyaway curls falls over his eyebrow. “I didn’t think he’d want to tell me himself, so I thought I’d ask you. The change happened after your internship together. I figured you’d know what’s up.”
“Oh,” Katsuki says. “I hadn’t noticed something was up.”
“Really? He’s so, I don’t know. Cheerful. For him, anyway.”
“That doesn’t sound like a bad thing.”
“No, but it’s surprising. I mean, I know what Kacchan’s good moods are like. Usually he’s just himself but, like, louder. Generally if he’s in a bad mood he sits by himself and broods, but when he’s happy he makes a lot of noise and teases people and rants about mundane stuff for no reason. He doesn’t actually smile, not like other people usually do.”
Katsuki feels exposed and he hates it. “Right.”
“But lately it’s been different. He says please and thank you sometimes,” Deku says, glancing off to the side. He’s got this wobbly little half-smile on his face, the same kind Katsuki’s dad makes when he’s playing with the neighbour’s new kitten. “He hasn’t said anything mean to me in a while. And I guess it’s not that big of a deal but a while ago Kaminari said something funny and Kacchan actually laughed and it was really nice? It’s all very… you know.”
Weird, Katsuki thinks. Suspicious. In fact he’s acting like you, Yaoyorozu.
“Endearing,” Deku says instead.
Katsuki’s brain pauses, then warms up and reboots. “Endearing.”
“Yeah.” Deku’s ears go red. Katsuki’s torn between punching him and pinching his cheek. “He’d kill me if he ever heard me say it, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.”
“No,” says Katsuki slowly. “I don’t.”
“Really? You’re around him a lot, though,” Deku points out. “You study and spar together, I’ve seen you. In fact, he kind of gravitates towards you nowadays. Which is also unusual, actually. When did you guys get so close?”
Katsuki opens his mouth.
And then inspiration comes knocking, because this whole conversation may be the one thing Katsuki didn’t want to deal with but he is resourceful, obstacles be damned. “Oh, you know. When he asked me out.”
Deku’s jaw drops. Actually, physically drops, lips parting in shock as he parses this. Katsuki almost feels proud. He doesn’t think he’s ever managed to make Deku shut up before, even back when he used to shove him into lockers. “He- he asked you out. On a date?”
“Yup,” Katsuki says, popping the ‘p’. “I said yes. We’ve been together since then.”
“Oh,” says Deku with obvious difficulty. “Wow. Okay.”
Katsuki tilts his head innocently. “Is that so weird?”
“N- no! I just, I thought for sure Kacchan was g- uhm. Never mind.” Deku grips the strap of his backpack, other hand scratching the back of his neck. “Congratulations! This is great news! You, uhm, make a really good-looking couple! Oh. That’s kind of a weird thing to say, sorry, I swear I’m not trying to be creepy I’m just kind of fluster – surprised! And happy for you. Both of you. Uhm. Congratulations.”
“You already said that,” Katsuki says. “But thank you. We’re very happy. Being together.”
“I bet you are!” Deku says a little shrilly. Katsuki inwardly gloats, because he’s derailed the line of questioning and explained away his and Yaoyorozu’s co-dependency in one fell swoop. Fuck Yaoyorozu’s consistently perfect test scores, Katsuki’s the real genius here. “Well! Thanks for clearing that up I guess! Congratulations again!”
He scampers off. Katsuki’s reminded of a fuzzy woodland animal, maybe a squirrel scrambling up the branch of a tree. That makes Katsuki the hunter, he supposes. Or some kind of deadly bird of prey.
Nobody’s around. Free from the threat of blowing his cover, Katsuki stands in the corridor and cackles.
“Why?” says Yaoyorozu, trying to wrestle open a bottle of hot sauce. “Why would you tell them that? Does that not sound more suspicious?”
“No, it’s a great excuse,” Katsuki says as though he’d actually thought this all out and it hadn’t come to him in a flash of panicked necessity. It’s dinner, and they’re huddled together in the boys’ stairwell, sitting on the bottom step away from eavesdroppers and prying eyes. “Look, it’s not like we ever used to fuckin’ hang out before. This makes sense. We can sneak off to train or deal with our quirks and nobody’s gonna bat an eye. And I get to wear some of my own clothes again, thank god.”
“Because girls wear their boyfriends’ shit all the time?”
“No, I mean,” Yaoyorozu says, lowering her voice. “I mean, I thought you were gay.”
So did Katsuki, to be honest, but a couple of days ago he’d forgotten to turn the lights off before taking a shower and now he’s not so sure. Is it narcissistic to be attracted to a body you’re in? Probably, but self-reflection has never been a habit of Katsuki’s and he’s not about to start now. Either way nowadays the lights stay on. “It’s fine. Only a couple people know. Kirishima and the others.”
“Was it meant to be a secret?”
Katsuki’s eyes narrow. “Why? Did you blab?”
“No, no. I was just wondering if that makes you uncomfortable. The fact that I know, I mean,” she says, frowning. “Because it’s not like you chose to tell me. I’m sorry. I suppose this counts as getting outed.”
Oh. That’s… really nice, actually. “Don’t worry about it. It’s not like I’m ashamed of it. Anyway, it’s not like you could help it.”
“Right,” she says, popping a dumpling into her mouth. She chews pensively, looking at a spot on the carpet without really seeing it. “What about Midoriya?”
“What about him?”
“You’ve effectively ruined your chances with him, haven’t you? He thinks you’re taken.”
She raises one eyebrow at him. Katsuki absently thinks she’s getting really good at making his faces. “You’re attracted to him. I’m not convinced it’s one-sided.”
“The hell does that mean?”
“You know he’s attached to you,” Yaoyorozu says. “He knows everything about you. He keeps trying to talk to you even though you’re not friendly towards him in the least. I called him Midoriya and he cried.”
“He cries about everything. Also, you’re doing a really bad job of being mean. That’s what got him suspicious in the first place.”
“You’re one to talk. You know what Ashido told me the other day? Yaomomo called Mineta a scrotum-shaped incel, it was hilarious.”
“He was ogling me. Other than that I’ve been nothing but nice.”
“Our standards of ‘nice’ are different, I think.” Vaguely annoyed, Katsuki steals some broccoli off her plate. She allows it. “So, what? Now we just have to pretend to be a couple? Dating seems kind of out of character for you. Especially with someone like me.”
“Who would be in character for me, then?”
“Midori- ouch,” she says mildly. Katsuki removes his heel from her foot. Experimentally, she reaches out and takes Katsuki’s hand.
Katsuki frowns at her. “I’m trying to eat.”
“Oh. Right. You’re right-handed,” she says. Almost as an afterthought, she holds a dumpling up to his face. “There.”
He opens his mouth. She pushes her chopsticks slightly too far in, making Katsuki slowly recoil like a seal retracting its face into blubber. Dumpling’s still warm, at least. “I see you don’t have much of a gag reflex,” he says with his mouth full.
“Is that bad?”
“Don’t mention it in front of the boys.”
“Just trust me.”
“Yaoyorozu,” says someone behind them. Katsuki would answer, except he now has pork lodged in his windpipe.
“Todoroki!” says Yaoyorozu while Katsuki hacks up a lung. "Sorry, are we in the way?"
Todoroki stands at the top of the stairs, eyes wide and slowly going from one to the other. He’s wearing pyjamas. Must have just woken up and remembered about dinner. "Midoriya told me you started dating," he says. "I didn't think it was true."
"Why not?" Katsuki coughs. "God. I'm gonna put a bell on you, mark my words."
"I just,” Todoroki frowns. “I didn’t think he was your type. He’s… like that.”
“Like what?” Katsuki says, eyes watering. “He’s fine. Anyway, it’s none of your business who I date.”
“It’s alright,” Yaoyorozu says, scooting aside. “It doesn’t matter. Todoroki, were you trying to get through?”
Todoroki doesn’t move. He’s more interested in staring at his own toes like they’ll tell him something about the universe. His expression is blank save for the slight jut to his lower lip, which Katsuki supposes is his version of a full-body tantrum.
Experimentally, Katsuki reaches out and puts a hand on Yaoyorozu’s knee. Todoroki frowns harder.
Katsuki, being vindictive, smiles.
“It’s true,” he says, hand slowly travelling up Yaoyorozu’s leg. She moves her plate off her lap, confused. “We’re dating. Have been for a while.”
Todoroki’s eyebrow twitches. “Is that so.”
“Oh, yeah,” says Katsuki cheerfully. He squeezes her thigh. It’s pleasantly soft – slightly too soft, actually, he should step up his leg days once they switch back – under the material of her stolen jeans. “By the way, honey, you look really good in these. They really show off your best …assets.”
“Thanks,” says Yaoyorozu, bewildered. “Todoroki, you look kind of queasy.”
“I’m fine,” Todoroki says, stumbling past. Katsuki pulls his hand away just long enough to let him through. “I have to go right now immediately at once. Goodbye.”
“Bye,” Yaoyorozu says, watching him go. “Is he okay?”
“Probably. Ah, shit, we should have held hands.”
She makes a face, which Katsuki would be offended by if he weren’t currently consumed by horrible glee. “You know your hands are sweaty, right?”
“I can’t help that.”
“Fine, but what was all that about?”
“You remember back during the Sports Festival when Todoroki fought Deku and used his fire on him but then wouldn’t do the same to me even though I told him to treat me like a real opponent and he never gave me a rematch?”
“Yes. What does that have to do us?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Katsuki chirrups. “But suddenly I feel like telling the world what a wonderful boyfriend you are.”
He tells everyone they’re together.
Momo doesn’t mind, she supposes, except Mina screams a lot and keeps coming up with questions to ask every ten minutes. Momo’s saved from answering most of them. Bakugou seems to enjoy coming up with nonsense about their dating life, and anyway all Momo has to do to shut the conversation down is scowl. Having Bakugou’s face is pretty convenient even if the posturing does feel a bit silly.
They get through the first week of fake-dating without casualties (actually, no, that’s a lie. Todoroki sets himself on fire the first couple of times Bakugou clings to her arm. Maybe Momo should check in on him at some point). It turns out that Bakugou was right. People just assume they’re going to spend time together now, so barely anyone cares anymore when Bakugou drags Momo into some corner every night to have dinner in solitude. “A precaution,” he says once, as always with his mouth full. “The more time you spend around me, the less time you spend around them, and the less chance you have of tipping them off that’s something’s weird.”
“Sure,” Momo says, sliding over the extra portion of fried rice she’d picked up because Bakugou still underestimates how much food he can put away. “And the less chance you have of blowing my cover too.”
“Shut up, I’m doing a good job.”
“How many siblings do I have?”
“I’m an only child.”
She laughs into her drink. It’s not bad, she supposes, avoiding the rest of their class like this. Maybe it’s because he’s in her body, but Bakugou’s not as prickly as she’d expected. And being around one person at a time is nice. This body seeks out solitude after dealing with twenty other people all day. Bakugou seems to expect this. A lot of the time they just sit next to each other and don’t talk, which should be a lot more boring than it is.
Sometimes they even leave campus. Not for long, just to walk around or sit in a café so nobody will overhear them exchanging information. “Deku’s the problem,” Bakugou says, skirt swishing around his legs. “You can bullshit the rest of them but he’s the only one who actually knows details. And he remembers everything, little freckly bastard. You could ask him what my favourite colour was when we were eight and he’d probably know.”
“What was it?”
“Okay,” Momo says, hands deep in her pockets. Men’s jeans are nice. There’s so much room. “Tell me, then. Everything about you so he won’t catch me out.”
“Yeah, fine, but I’m gonna need a cheeseburger. Let’s go to McDonalds.”
“I’ve never been to McDonalds.”
“Of course you haven’t,” he says and rolls his eyes. “Come on, Princess. You’re gonna learn all about the joys of fries dipped in ice cream.”
It becomes routine. They go to lessons and hang out after and muddle through being each other. Practical training is still awful and the gauntlets keep tipping Momo over, but Aizawa never really chews her out. Once Bakugou manages to make a fighting staff. It’s brittle and falls apart the second he swings it, but it’s progress.
Every other Wednesdays are martial arts classes. Momo remembers this when she’s in the locker rooms, face pressed against the wall so she can change without having to see any non-consensual male nudity. Not that they’re making it easy. Kaminari has a death wish, she thinks, because he’s patted her on the butt more than once. She’ll take it, though. It’s a fair trade for being able to exist in the same room as Mineta without constantly having to defend her honour.
Speaking of which, Mineta makes a beeline for Bakugou the second they’re let into the gym. “Hey, let’s practice judo! I can show you my grapple,” he says with false cheer. Bakugou plants a foot in his face and tells him to go to hell.
“Yaoyorozu,” says Aizawa, not sounding all that concerned. “You are not allowed to beat your classmates up until after the whistle. Everyone else pair up and take a mat. You’re just sparring today. Use whatever style you prefer.”
“Is that a no?” says Mineta, muffled.
Bakugou shoves him aside and tugs Momo along by the wrist. They take a little corner of the gym that’s easy to ignore, weaving their way between classmates and following along with Aizawa’s warmup. “Don’t embarrass me this time,” Bakugou says, stretching his arms over his head. “Loser’s buying ice cream. I want a sundae.”
“I thought you didn’t like unhealthy food.”
“I’m in your body, I’m allowed.”
“Alright,” Momo says amicably. “I have to warn you that martial arts aren’t really my strong suit.”
“Lucky for you everything is my strong suit,” Bakugou says, and immediately proves himself wrong.
They’re abysmal. Bakugou falls over twice and Momo misjudges her reach and awkwardly rolls her wrist. “Stop aiming for my face,” she says, jerking away from a punch. “Are you trying to break your own nose?”
“You weak noodle arms couldn’t break my nose if you tried,” Bakugou says and swipes again. “God, you really need to work out more.”
“Okay, stop,” Momo sighs, straightening up. “Stop leading with your arms. Use your legs.”
“No, use your legs first. I told you, you have different muscle distribution. I know you’re used to using your legs as an anchor from your quirk’s recoil, but that’s not something you have to worry about now.”
“You don’t know what I do with my legs,” he says mulishly.
She ignores him. “Your bottom half is stronger,” she says, coming around to adjust his posture. One hand goes onto his lower back and the other on his shoulder, gently tipping him backwards. Sort of like ballroom dancing, but violent. “Use your right leg as a pivot. Lift the other one. Why are you tense?”
“How am I supposed to balance like this?” asks Bakugou.
“You’re carrying most of your weight below the waist. You won’t fall over. Arms up- no, too wide. Like this,” she says, sidling behind him so his back is pressed to her front. His hair tickles her ear. “There, see?” she says, quietly so she doesn’t accidentally deafen him. “My body wants to move a certain way. Just let it happen.”
He’s flushed. From the exercise, probably, although he doesn’t falter when Momo lets go to get back into position. “Fine. Now what?”
Momo braces herself and waits. “Now you strike.”
He kicks. It gets her right in the sternum, and she actually gets knocked clean off her feet. Slowly, Bakugou lowers his leg. “Holy shit. You’re like a fucking mule.”
Sero pauses to ask if she’s okay. Wincing, Momo waves him off and sits up, rubbing the sore spot on her chest. “Told you. Maybe go easy next time?”
“Hell no,” says Bakugou, experimentally kicking the air. “Jesus. What style do you use?”
“Mostly Taekwondo and N’golo, but recently I’ve been picking up Muay Thai. Oh, and Silambam, for weapon-based combat, but Shaolin’s nice too.”
“I thought you said martial arts weren’t your strong point. Fucking liar.”
“Two minute break. Switch partners,” Aizawa calls, and then glances at them. “Or stick with the same ones, if you prefer.”
They go a few more rounds, clumsy and cautious compared to the flurry of activity around them. Bakugou seems like he’s getting the hang of swinging his weight around. He hits hard, and Momo’s sure she’s going to have unfortunate bruises tomorrow. “Seriously, why do you always aim for the face?”
“Stop over-thinking,” he says, swatting away a jab. “Go offense. You’re not gonna win if you stay curled up like that. And I can see where you’re looking. You’re telegraphing where you’re gonna move.”
“How else am I supposed to look for an opening?”
“The longer you spend thinking the more time I have to hit you.”
“It doesn’t normally take this long,” Momo grumbles. She’s not angry, exactly, but she is achy and frustrated. “It’s just that ever since we switched my thought process has been kind of – uhm.”
“You can say it,” Bakugou sighs. “You miss having your own brain. This thing’s a fucking supercomputer. Do you know how weird it is to remember every single thing you read? Of course you know, it’s your brain. Freak.”
“I didn’t think it was weird, but I see now how it must be,” she says, blocking a blow to the hip. “It’s fascinating, really. I never understood what it must have been like for other people, you know? To be cognitively slowed down enough that you have to use a calculator for logarithms of all things-”
He kicks her again. This time there’s a blur and flurry of limbs, and when Momo blinks Bakugou’s gone.
“Oh,” she says, putting her hands to her mouth. “Oh my god, I am so sorry.”
He wheezes. He’s three feet away, flat on his back and upside down. “What the fuck?”
Several heads turn. Ochako gasps. Midoriya takes half a step forward, hands up like he wants to help. He pauses, though, eyes darting between Bakugou and Momo, head slowly tilting to one side.
Bakugou, for some reason, starts laughing. Cackling, really, but Momo figures that isn’t important. “Jesus Christ. Did you actually just fucking judo throw me over your shoulder?”
“I didn’t mean to! You surprised me and it just happened!”
“I told you you didn’t have to overthink it,” Katsuki says, rolling over. Momo offers him a hand but he waves it off. He stands to dust himself off, and slowly the rest of the class gets back to work. “God, my reflexes are good.”
“Are you hurt?” Momo says, wringing her hands. “Why are you laughing?”
“Because you have too much serotonin in you, apparently,” Bakugou says, pushing hair out of his face. “Alright, fine. I’ll buy the ice cream. But first you’re gonna show me how to kick your ass.”
They kick each other’s asses, for the most part. Momo wakes up the next day with a foot-shaped bruise on her torso, and she’s torn between being annoyed and impressed at the strength of her own legs.
Midoriya sees it. Momo shouldn’t be surprised, since Midoriya sees everything, but she does still tense up when he approaches her in the locker room after training.
“Kacchan,” he says, frowning at her chest. Momo instinctively holds her school shirt in front of herself even though she technically has no bosom to hide. “Was that from sparring?”
Momo falters. The Bakugou thing to do would be to shove him aside, probably, except Midoriya’s not wearing a shirt and pushing him would mean touching bare skin. “Yeah. So?”
“It looks painful,” he says, instead of are you alright. Freckles go down his shoulders and across his chest. Momo decides to look up because at least the ceiling isn’t threatening to send blood down south. “Yaoyorozu really packs a punch, huh? Or a kick, I guess.”
“Mhm,” says Momo, back pressed against a locker. Someone calls out a goodbye as the rest of the boys filter out, chatting among themselves about whether to watch TV or play games. “She, uh. Ain’t half bad.”
“Of course,” Midoriya says with an odd little half-smile. “You wouldn’t accept anything less. I, uhm. I always wondered.”
“Just, you know,” he says, idly slipping his arms through his shirt sleeves. The movement makes his abdominals flex. Dear god, why’s he so chiselled under his clothes? “What kind of person you would go for. Since you’ve never been in a relationship before- unless you have? Sorry, I don’t mean to assume.”
She knows this one. Bakugou had told her over breakfast one morning. “No. She’s, uh. She’s my first.”
“Gosh. Even with all those admirers in middle school?”
“I was never really interested before.” That’s a lie. Bakugou’s never said as much, but his hormones are to be believed then his interest has just been specific to one person. “People in our school weren’t anything special.”
“Is she?” Midoriya says slowly, like he’s choosing his words. Momo tries not to stare at the way he’s biting his lip. “Special. I mean, she must be, since you’re dating her, of course. But, uhm. Why?”
“What do you like about her?” Midoriya says. “Not that I’m surprised that you do! I think Yaoyorozu’s great, it’s just, you know. I was wondering what made you guys decide to start dating. You don’t have to answer, though, I’m just curious.”
Confident, Momo’s brain informs her. Driven. Brash, but unstoppable. Sets high standards but always reaches them, no matter how much pressure there is to succeed. Frank. Caustic in a funny way. Not afraid of anything on earth.
Well. That’s not right. She’s describing Bakugou, not herself. “She’s…cool.”
“Oh,” says Midoriya, eyebrows furrowing. He does up his buttons without really looking, scars dark and just visible under the thin cotton of his sleeves. “I see.”
“Clever, too,” Momo says hurriedly. “And, uh, I like that she’s pretty tough. Not as tough as me, obviously, but she’ll do.”
He nods. Deflates a little bit, eyes drifting off to the side. The locker room’s empty. Momo’s acutely aware of the beat of her own heart, thumping from the proximity and from having to come up with answers she’s never considered before. “Okay.”
“You value strength,” Midoriya says, scratching the back of his neck. “That makes sense. She got in on recommendation. And, well. She’s pretty. Really pretty. And super smart, too.”
Momo’s heart flutters. “Thanks?”
“Why are you thanking me?”
“For… acknowledging my impeccable taste.”
He shrugs. “I know you have good taste, Kacchan. You’d want to be with someone on your level. I see why nobody in middle school interested you. Even if some people did like you a lot.”
Midoriya smiles. “It doesn’t matter. You’re out of their league anyway.”
It feels like he’s saying something else. Something she could reach out and grasp, if she knew, if she had any of Bakugou’s memories from when they grew up. But she doesn’t. All she has now are feelings that came from nowhere and dewy green eyes. “Are you okay?”
“Of course!” he says, patting his hair down. He smiles wider but abruptly spins around. “I was just being nosy, you know how I am. Sorry I kept you. I’ll get out of your hair.”
He bustles off. Momo watches him fiddle with his tie before giving up and stuffing it in his bag. He tosses his blazer over his arm and pats his pockets for his things, looking busy and harried and keeping his face turned away.
“You know,” Momo says slowly. Midoriya looks up. “I said earlier that nobody in middle school was special. That wasn’t quite true.”
“Wasn’t it?” he says, tilting his head. “There wasn’t really anyone interesting I remember.”
“There was,” Momo says, palms sweating. “I remember. There was you.”
Midoriya says nothing. His lips part, ever so slightly, hair sweat-damp and sticking up at odd angles. His ears go red. It spreads across his cheeks and nose like a sunburn, creeping down his face and into the collar of his shirt. Momo follows it. Wonders how far down it goes, absently wishing he was still only half-dressed.
Ah. That’s dangerous. Especially so because Bakugou’s libido has been threatening her for the past twenty minutes, and Momo’s handled a lot of things so far but that’s one line she doesn’t want to cross. “Okay!” she says instead, pulling her shirt on over her head. Only half the buttons are done. “I have stuff to do, so I’ll see you around sometime. Probably tonight, actually, since we all live in the same dorm.”
“Sure,” Midoriya says faintly, still clutching his blazer to his chest. “Okay. Bye.”
“Yeah,” Momo says, backing out the door. “Cool. Okay. Bye.”
Women’s clothes are fun, Katsuki comes to realise. Partly because he’s now got two wardrobes to choose from, but especially because Todoroki pops a fuse every time Katsuki wanders downstairs in that one Punisher t-shirt. Katsuki half-hopes to run into him when he goes to the lobby after class. He’s in one of his own shirts, knotted up in the middle to show off his midriff, and he looks good as all hell.
Todoroki’s not there, unfortunately. There’s just Katsuki’s usual gaggle of idiots. They’re crowded in front of the TV playing Smash Bros. Deku’s there too, and he spares Katsuki a smile in between watching the chaos happening on the screen.
Yaoyorozu’s studying English on the smaller couch. Katsuki sashays over to sling an arm around her shoulders. “Did you know,” he says in her ear, “that if you wear a miniskirt and a big hoodie, it looks like you have no bottoms on?”
“I’m aware,” Yaoyorozu says, flipping a page of her textbook. She’s got an iced coffee on the floor next to her. Katsuki swipes it. “Why?”
“Because I’m gonna need my camo hoodie later. It’s on the bottom shelf.”
She glances at his flowery shorts. They reach mid-thigh and swish pleasantly around his legs when he moves. “I see you’re getting daring with your outfits.”
“I figured you won’t mind, seeing as you prance around half-naked anyway.”
She snorts. “My costume’s practical. It’s not like I dress like that for fun.”
“You should. You could probably get half these loser boys wrapped around your finger if you tried.”
“Why would I do that?”
“You lack ambition,” Katsuki says, flopping bonelessly onto the couch. He kicks off his flip flops and worms his toes under Yaoyorozu’s thigh, slurping her coffee. It’s way too bitter but he soldiers on. “You may as well get something out of it if you’re gonna go through the trouble of shaving your legs. Which sucks, by the way. It grows back itchy as hell.”
“Don’t get lazy. If you stop shaving my legs I’m going to start wearing mascara to class.”
He makes a face. “Ugh, don’t. Relax, I promise I’ll keep Princess looking pretty for you.”
“Then why do I feel stubble?” she says, running a hand up his shin. Admittedly, it’s prickly and uneven. “You know you can just switch to wax strips, right? Those last longer.”
“That shit looks like it hurts.”
“You can’t handle pain?”
“Obviously I can, I’m just not about to put myself through it for no reason –”
“Dude, holy shit,” Sero says from where he’s perched on one of the ottomans. Kaminari whistles. “Get a room.”
“Hey, I’m not complaining,” Kaminari says. “Although I’m pretty sure you don’t want Iida catching you getting handsy in public.”
Deku’s staring at them, wide-eyed and back tense. Yaoyorozu lets go of Katsuki’s knee like she’s been burned. “Oh! Oh, I, uhm, it’s not what it looks like.”
“I think Bakugou’s a bad influence on her,” Kirishima says. “Try not to let him rub off on you too much, Yaoyorozu.”
Mina twists around like a mischievous pink meerkat. “It’s kind of sexy, though. Like, pretty rich girl and delinquent bad boy, you know? I can see why they went for each other.”
“I can’t,” says Sero. “She’s too good for him. I win this round, by the way.”
“She- I am not too good for him,” Katsuki says, automatically offended. “Look at him. He’s a catch.”
“He’s only teasing,” Deku says, scratching the back of his neck. He’s pointedly not looking at Katsuki’s legs. “Don’t worry about it, we’re not judging.”
“I’m judging,” Kaminari grins. “If you like blonds, I don’t mind being a side chick.”
Deku nudges him. “Come on, that’s not nice.”
“Why not? She has low standards, she probably won’t mind me too much.”
Katsuki extracts his feet from Yaoyorozu’s lap and sits up. “I don’t have low standards. Bakugou’s the best boyfriend a girl could ask for. He’s driven and smart and strong and confident. If anything he has the low standards.”
Yaoyorozu raises both eyebrows at him. “Excuse me?”
“Relax, honey,” he says flippantly. “I’m clumsy and kind of ditsy, and I’ve never done an arm workout in my life.”
“Uh-huh,” Yaoyorozu says, smiling crookedly. “Let’s not forget I’m not perfect either. My inter-personal skills are questionable at best, and Deku reminded me the other day that I believed in Santa until I was-”
Katsuki slaps a hand over her mouth. Yaoyorozu licks his palm. “Yes, I get it- ew, what’s wrong with you, you degenerate?”
“You started it, darling.” He tries to wipe his hand on her face, but Yaoyorozu gamely fends him off. “And you’re dating the degenerate, so I’m not the one who’s losing here.”
Katsuki considers licking her back. Mina coos, hands on her cheeks and controller forgotten on the floor. “You guys really like each other, huh? I can’t believe I never noticed you getting so close.”
“Look at him smile. That’s so cute,” says Kaminari. “And gross. I rescind my offer of being a side chick.”
“I didn’t think Katsuki was into chicks at all,” says Kirishima.
“I didn’t think chicks would be into him,” says Sero.
“Don’t be mean,” says Deku, frowning. “There’s lots about Kacchan to like.”
Sero ruffles his hair. “Yeah? Like what?”
“Lots of things!”
“Name one thing.”
“Look, there’s a reason people flock to him,” Deku says like it’s obvious. “Even if he is rough around the edges. It’s not just because of all that stuff Yaoyorozu mentioned.”
“Is it because he’s hot?” says Kaminari.
“You think he’s hot?” says Kirishima.
Kaminari snorts. “I have eyes, yeah. Unfortunately, I also have ears and a brain.”
“Debatable,” says Mina.
“What I’m saying is no amount of hotness offsets a garbage personality,” says Kaminari, ignoring her. “Although, I guess Katsuki’s not garbage, exactly. High-quality garbage, maybe. Like, recycling.”
“He’s not garbage and he’s not recycling,” Deku says before Katsuki can come to his own defence. “It’s nice being around him. Kacchan tries. He’s good at everything because he works harder than anyone I know. He used to be arrogant and mean but a while ago he learnt that other people are important too, and he treated that flaw just like he treats everything else. He saw it was wrong and he decided to fix it. You can’t make excuses for yourself when you’re around someone like that. You look at all the problems in your life and think well, Kacchan wouldn’t give up, so neither will I. You feel stronger just being near him. It’s empowering. And when someone makes you feel empowered like that it’s easy to see how you could fall in lo– fall into his orbit.”
He seems completely serious, as though nothing he’s saying is new. It’s empowering, echoes in Katsuki’s head. As if he didn’t spend ten years of their lives pretending Deku was weak.
“Wow,” says Kaminari after a second. “You sure you’re not dating him, dude?”
Deku goes scarlet. “What? No, it’s- you asked, and I’m known him a long time so I just-“
“Just said something super sweet and totally lacking in subtext?” says Sero.
“Cut it out,” says Yaoyorozu.
“Do you like boys, Deku?” says Mina. “To be honest, when we started school I thought Katsuki was your ex.”
“Of course he isn’t,” says Deku. His voice cracks. “We’ve never- why would you even think that?”
“No, I see it. It’s ’cause they’re lowkey obsessed with each other, right?” says Kaminari. “Maybe it was never a rivalry, more like an old ro-”
“Shut the fuck up,” Yaoyorozu barks. “All of you drop it. Just leave him alone.”
Deku looks like he wants to crawl into an air vent. Kirishima glances from him to Yaoyorozu and slowly puts down his controller. The title screen music plays in the background, jarringly cheerful in the awkwardness of the room. “Hey. Dude. We weren’t trying to be mean, yeah? You know we’re just kidding.”
“Sure,” he says, covering his face with both hands. “Absolutely. I, too, was also kidding.”
“No, what you said was really nice,” says Mina. “Just ignore us, we’re stupid.”
“It’s true,” says Kaminari. “We’re very stupid. Ask Bakugou.”
Deku doesn’t. Instead he hops off the couch and does his best impression of an overripe strawberry. “Well! That was fun. I’ve just remembered my cactuses need walking so I’ll see you guys around or maybe never again.”
“Sure, dude,” says Sero, patting his arm. “Come hang out whenever. Sorry all we ever do is talk nonsense.”
Deku goes. He makes it halfway across the room before Yaoyorozu clears her throat. “Deku.”
He freezes. Does this weird little half-turn, like he can’t tell if he wants to talk or run away. “Yes?”
She doesn’t smile. He blinks, and then his posture loosens, just a bit. “Oh,” he says almost to himself. “You’re welcome, Kacchan.”
Katsuki breathes out. Kaminari looks like he wants to talk, but Kirishima discreetly shakes his head. Someone loads a game and the chatter starts up again, albeit this time slightly subdued.
She keeps watching the stairs. Gently, Katsuki knocks their knees together to get her attention. “He’ll be fine,” he says half in her ear. “He embarrasses himself all the time. He’ll get over it soon.”
“That’s not really the issue,” she mutters. “Not allowed to go hug him, am I?”
“Absolutely not,” Katsuki says, even though he kind of wants to as well. “Anyway, I thought you didn’t swear.”
“You just did.”
“That was you,” she says. Primly, she crosses her legs, flipping to the next page in her book. “But I’ll tell you what, Princess.”
Yaoyorozu hums. “It felt pretty god damned good.”
The next day Yaoyorozu blows him off in favour of Deku.
Well. That’s not quite fair. Deku had ambushed her and asked if she wanted to have lunch together and she’d said yes. She wasn’t supposed to say yes. Katsuki never does, hasn’t in about ten years.
He’s not jealous. He’s not. There’s nothing to be jealous of, anyway. Deku thinks he’s spending time with Katsuki so it’s not like Yaoyorozu’s stealing him away. And it’s not like Deku’s stealing Yaoyorozu away. Which is a weird thing to think, Katsuki’s aware.
He sits at a separate table, watching Deku and Yaoyorozu talk about something mundane. Yaoyorozu’s expression is all soft. It’s disgusting. Katsuki better not look like that when he’s talking to Deku or he’s blowing his own face off the second they switch. He’ll wear a mask or something to cover the gaping hole in his skull. Or just keep his hand over his face like a discount Shigaraki.
“You seem aggravated,” Todoroki says. He’d invited himself over and snuck a macaron onto Katsuki’s lunch tray somehow.
“I’m not aggravated,” Katsuki says. The macaron is lemon-flavoured. It’s pretty good, actually, not too sweet. “It’s just fucking weird, that’s all.”
Todoroki stares at him. It feels like an accusation, which is fascinating considering his expression doesn’t actually change. “You swore.”
“Oops,” Katsuki says belatedly.
“Bakugou’s not a good influence on you,” Todoroki says, managing to sound both placid and mildly offended. “Although I suppose he is fairly appealing.”
“You think he’s appealing?”
“He’s handsome. When he’s not making those awful expressions or shouting. He could use a haircut.”
Katsuki tries to decide whether to be flattered and annoyed. “What’s wrong with his hair?”
“It’s a bit,” Todoroki says, making a vague hand gesture. “Kind of like an angry dandelion, you know?”
That startles a laugh out of Katsuki. “Wow, okay, rude.”
“He has a nice face. He doesn’t know how to use it.”
“How do you use your face, then?”
Todoroki shrugs. “I don’t. I’m not particularly attractive. It’s not the same thing.”
Katsuki eyeballs him. He doesn’t seem to be kidding, although to be fair it’s not like Katsuki could realistically tell. “You own a mirror, right?”
“Never mind,” Katsuki says, patting him on the face. Todoroki allows it without complaint. “You’ve got hidden depths, Shortcake. Or hidden emptiness, I guess.”
“Shortcake,” says Todoroki, blinking slowly. “You’re teasing me.”
For some reason, he smiles. “Alright. But still, why are you upset?”
“I just said I wasn’t. It’s just weird that they’re being all buddy-buddy, that’s all.”
“They’re childhood friends.”
“They’re not friends.”
“They look like they’re friends,” Todoroki says, giving him another macaron. He seems to have a box of them in his pocket. “They look like they like each other quite a lot.”
Katsuki crunches it savagely between his teeth. “It’s unnatural.”
“Midoriya gives,” Todoroki says slowly. “It’s good to see him get something in return for once.”
He’s not angry, exactly. Katsuki knows angry. Knows how to deal with it, knows how to put it aside. But this body has too many feelings. The cocktail of emotions he’s currently getting is confusing and hard to pin down. He ignores it, of course, because that’s the only thing he can really do. He’ll be rid of this in a few weeks anyway.
By Wednesday he’s itching to move. Fight, or run around, or whatever it takes to work off the nervous energy that’s been building since he woke up. It’s the day of the week they have martial arts training, so he goes to Yaoyorozu the second Aizawa opens up the gym.
“Nope,” says Aizawa over his shoulder. “You two go pick someone else.”
Katsuki grinds his teeth. "Why?"
"You partnered last time. You're not going to learn much fighting the same person over and over."
"Yes sir", Yaoyorozu says, and then lowers her voice so only Katsuki can hear. "Well, at least we’ve had a chance to practice. We’ll probably be okay."
"Partner up with Kaminari," says Katsuki after a second. "Kirishima will notice you're not at a hundred percent."
She nods at him and leaves. Katsuki frowns at the rest of the stragglers, trying to pick the least annoying person to fight.
He doesn't have to. Deku skips up to him, adjusting the zipper on his jersey. He's light on his feet nowadays. Katsuki wonders when that happened, considering the guy used to shuffle around like a shy Neanderthal. "Hi, Yaoyorozu! Want to spar with me?"
"Sure," says Katsuki, because he'll never turn down a chance to kick Deku's ass.
They start slow, Deku mostly staying on the defensive while Katsuki makes experimental jabs. His pulse thrums. The gym mat squeaks under Katsuki's bare feet, barely drowned out by Deku's quiet grunt when Katsuki gets him in the shoulder. He drops and tries to sweep his ankle, but Katsuki hops over it and pivots to slam his heel into the back of Deku's exposed thigh.
Deku rolls away. "I thought so!" he says, popping back up. Katsuki, both fists still raised, tries to jab him again. "Our fighting styles are pretty similar, huh?"
Katsuki rather doubts that, considering his fighting style lately has been do something violent and hope this body likes the idea. "Are they?"
Deku dodges a kick. "Yeah! Like that, see? A left feint, then turn and kick. I do that all the time."
"You - what?"
"Can't believe I never noticed before," Deku says, aiming for the stomach. Katsuki barely remembers to block. "I only really just started focusing on using my legs, though, because my quirk was messing up my arms. But I was watching you and Kacchan, and I noticed you and I kind of fight the same way!"
Oh god, he thinks, taking a hit to the shoulder. Of course. Of course he fights like Deku. Katsuki doesn’t know the first thing about Muay Thai or N’golo. He didn't accidentally tap into Yaoyorozu's skill set. He’s just been copying stuff he’s seen, and everything he’s seen came from Deku.
Because Deku's the only person Katsuki knows who leads with his legs. Because Katsuki watches Deku all the time.
And Deku. Deku had noticed, because Deku notices everything.
Their classmates keep going. Deku lowers his guard, eyebrows going up in concern. “Are you okay?” he asks, tilting his head. “You seem a bit out of sorts.”
“I’m not copying you,” Katsuki says thickly. “That’s not- I’ve never.”
“I didn’t think you were,” Deku says sympathetically. Patronisingly. “I was just saying we’re more alike than I thought.”
Katsuki kicks him.
It’s a cheap shot. But it lands, and Deku goes down hard, flat on his back and rapidly blinking like he's seeing stars. “We’re not alike,” Katsuki says, putting a foot on Deku’s chest. Not hard enough to hurt, just to show who's in charge. "Huh. Would you look at that, Deku. I won."
Deku stares up at him. His eyes are wide and his mouth's slightly open, red slowly creeping up his neck to his face. Katsuki thinks he can feel his heartbeat under his foot. Bump-bump-bump, fast and hard. On impulse, he presses his heel in harder, digging into a pectoral like he's trying to test Deku's ribs.
"T-time out," Deku gasps, scrambling out from under him and turning around. The back of his neck is so red it looks like it’s been scalded. Katsuki doesn't get the chance to look any closer, though, because Deku's sprinting for the door before he can blink. "Excuse me Ya-Y-Yo-Yaoyo- bye!"
It swings shut after him. Aizawa turns to look at Katsuki, one eyebrow raised so high it’s approaching his hairline. “Why was he limping?”
Katsuki shrugs. There are murmurs but the rest of the class gets back to work, and nobody bothers to see if Deku’s okay. He’ll be fine, Katsuki’s certain. It was just a kick. He didn’t get him that hard.
He still kind of wants to kick someone’s ass, though. He’s just missing a partner. A small purple head pops up near his elbow, and Katsuki’s skin suddenly crawls.
“Hey, Yaoyorozu,” Mineta says, eyes gleaming. “You want to go a few rounds?”
“You know what?” Katsuki says, smiling horribly. “Sure. I can make do.”
Is it weird to be jealous of yourself? It’s probably weird.
Deku’s avoiding him. Katsuki didn’t think he’d miss the constant stream of mumbling in his periphery but the quiet is jarring. It was bad enough when he was just getting used to misdirected Kacchans. Now Deku seems fine with Yaoyorozu but scampers off the second Katsuki enters a room, stuttering some half-assed excuse that he has to be anywhere other than here.
It’s just like middle school. Katsuki’s stomach sinks at the thought that he’s managed to make Deku afraid of him all over again, and this time without even meaning to. Yaoyorozu’s going to kill him. He gave her all that shit for being unconvincing and here he is turning her into Deku’s next bully.
He’ll have to apologise. Explain everything and take whatever payback she decides to give, even if the idea of her being mad at him kind of stings. Whatever. It doesn’t matter what some girl thinks, not at all, not even if the past month has been more intimate than Katsuki ever really wanted.
His phone buzzes. He half-considers just ignoring it, but messages keep coming through. Frowning, he picks it up and unlocks the screen, mattress creaking as he sits up to read.
Text messaged received: My Little Ponytail
Bakugou, come downstairs.
Text messaged received: My Little Ponytail
Outside the common room. Behind building
Text messaged received: My Little Ponytail
Text messaged received: My Little Ponytail
Please. I don’t know what to do
He gets up. Call it hero instinct, or whatever, but he’s down the stairs and running outside without express permission from his brain. He doesn’t see Yaoyorozu anywhere. He can hear voices, though, and one of them sounds like it could be his own.
Text message sent: My Little Ponytail
Here. Where are you?
Text messaged received: My Little Ponytail
Bench under apple tree. Don’t come stop and listen
Katsuki goes closer. He stops right before the corner, ears straining to catch snippets of conversation over the distant sound of chatter coming from the quad. The sunshine makes him squint. Apple blossom petals float in the breeze, which he would enjoy if he weren’t more concerned with the stirrings of worry.
The other voice is Deku’s, he realises. “Kacchan, are you listening?”
“Yeah, sorry. My mom texted. I’ll tell her I’m busy.” There’s a creak, like one of them’s shifting on the bench, and then a deep sigh. “Okay. Now say all that again.”
“I just want to know you’re okay,” Deku says. “And that this is, I don’t know, real.”
“Why wouldn’t my relationship with Yaoyorozu be real?”
“It’s just- I thought for certain you were gay, Kacchan.”
Oh. So that’s what this is about. Yaoyorozu hums, probably choosing her words. “Did I ever tell you as much?”
“No,” Deku admits. “But we’ve known each other a long time. I know we never really talk about this stuff but even when we were kids you always seemed to prefer boys. Remember Tanjiro? In elementary school you had the biggest crush on him and you didn’t know how to handle it so you told him to die and he cried and you felt so bad you ended up giving him your dessert for a week-”
“Sorry, sorry.” Unseen, Katsuki puts his face in his hands. He’s going to have to assassinate Yaoyorozu once they switch back. “My point is I thought you didn’t like girls at all. I thought you didn’t like anyone. I asked you what you liked about Yaoyorozu and it felt like you couldn’t really tell me.”
“So? Maybe I just think she’s hot.”
“Maybe,” says Deku. “But you’ve just been acting so odd lately. And that made me wonder if this relationship was something you really wanted.”
There’s a pause. “You think she’s forcing me?”
“No! No, I know she wouldn’t, she’s a good person and if you really do like her than that’s great. But, Kirishima told me something a while ago. He said that before his moms got together, one of them was pretty deep in the closet. She dated some guy for a long time because she didn’t want anyone to know she liked girls, and it made her miserable,” he says. “Thinking of that made me wonder if you were going through the same thing. If maybe your parents were giving you a hard time, or something, and you asked Yaoyorozu to date you so they’d leave you alone.”
“That’s… not really any of your business, Deku.”
“I know. I’m probably being really presumptuous. And super insulting to Yaoyorozu, even though I really don’t mean to be. Like I said, if you genuinely like each other then that’s great and I’m sorry for butting in. I’m probably completely wrong. But heroes like to stick their noses where they don’t belong,” he says. Katsuki can just imagine him chewing his lip, both hands curled up in his lap. Stupidly earnest even though he’s afraid. “If there was even a small chance you weren’t okay, I had to do something. I just want you to be happy, Kacchan. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. Even if you don’t think of me as a friend.”
Yaoyorozu says nothing, letting the silence stretch into something heavy and important. Katsuki takes a deep breath. Deku hums, probably, all green-eyed sincerity and concern. “I thought maybe we were getting closer,” Deku says quietly. “I thought maybe you were starting to like me. A- as a friend, I mean. Enough to let me in, just a little.”
“Deku,” says Yaoyorozu, sounding soft and sad. “I do… we are friends.”
No. That’s not for her to decide, not when she’s living his life and taking away Katsuki’s control. Taking a deep breath, he plasters on a smile and comes around the corner. Deku sees him first, flushing in a way that isn’t discreet in the least.
“Yaoyorozu,” he says, straightening up. “How long have you been standing there?”
“Hm? I just got here,” Katsuki says, going closer. “Someone said they saw you hanging out so I thought I’d say hi.”
“Oh,” says Deku, wearing his guilt on his face. “Right. Okay. Hi.”
“And hello to you,” he says to Yaoyorozu, hoping he sounds at least somewhat sincere. Make this look convincing, he tries to tell her with his eyes. Gently, he tilts her face up, and heart hammering, presses his mouth to hers.
She gasps. Katsuki takes the opportunity to deepen the kiss, not missing Deku’s quiet squeak. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s never kissed anyone, much less with tongue, but if there’s one thing he’s good at it’s baseless bravado. He tilts his head to try out a new angle. Yaoyorozu seems to get the message and kisses him back, clumsy but enthusiastic as she sucks on his tongue and puts a hand in his hair to press her face closer.
Oh, Katsuki thinks, head underwater. Okay. Kissing’s nice.
Her skin’s warm to the touch. Katsuki finds out why a second later; when he pulls away he’s greeted with his own red face, lips shiny and expression wonderfully dazed. “Narcissist,” he says under his breath. “Uhm. I mean, hey.”
“Hey,” she says, trying and failing not to sound breathless. Beside them, Deku clears his throat.
He’s beet red. And clearly uncomfortable, eyes shiny and hands fidgeting in place. “I- I should go. Kacchan, I’m so sorry. Just forget everything I said, I just- I’m sorry.”
He runs off. Actually sprints, green lightning zipping around his feet as he goes back to the dorms faster than humanly possible. Yaoyorozu’s still cradling Katsuki’s head. She lets go almost as an afterthought. “Uhm. What was that for?”
“He asked if it was real,” Katsuki says, looking at the empty spot on the bench. “He wanted proof, so I showed him.”
“Right,” Yaoyorozu says, leaning away. “I think it worked. He probably won’t ask again.”
“Guess not,” Katsuki says under his breath, trying not to feel like he’s made a mistake.
Midoriya doesn’t really look at them after that.
He’s not rude. Far from it, actually; he’s chirpy and polite, always remembering to say good morning when they run into each other at breakfast. But that’s all they do, lately. Run into each other. He doesn’t seek her out like they used to, and when he sees Bakugou sometimes he leaves the room altogether.
Momo supposes she has no right to be missing him. They were never that close before, anyway, and he’s only been spending time with her because he thinks she’s Bakugou. She shouldn’t interfere. It’s not her life. It’s not her place to run after him even though that’s what every bone in this body wants to do.
He gravitates towards Todoroki, for some reason, voice quiet and smile brittle as they talk. Todoroki keeps giving her this look. Like he’s judging her on criteria that she can’t see, putting together pieces in his head. She always turns away. It’s unlike Bakugou to turn away from a challenge, but maybe she can be forgiven for not being him just this once.
Life goes on. They go to class and train and study and Bakugou still leans against her when he’s cold. They go out to dinner and study and train and sit in comfortable silence, just them.
They don’t talk about Midoriya.
It’s precarious. A tightrope walk above a pit of difficult conversations and truths nobody wants to admit. Momo takes step after careful step, eyes squeezed tight shut and dreading the fall. There’s no safety net, here, just her and some rope. There’s no getting back up if she slips.
It’s Todoroki, of all people, who snips at the first thread.
“I don’t like you,” he says to Momo one evening.
It’s a nice sunset. Trees rustle in the breeze and their classmates chatter inside while Momo sits in the grass with her cocoa. It’s unsweetened. She hasn’t actually touched it yet, but it is nice and warm in her hands. “What?”
“I don’t like you,” Todoroki says again. He sits next to her, knees awkwardly pulled to his chest. “Personally I think you’re the worst.”
“Oh.” That’s directed at Bakugou, probably. Still, hearing it kind of stings. “Why?”
“You’re rude. You’re arrogant. You’re unpleasant and volatile. And yet, people still seem to enjoy your presence.”
Momo parses this. The wind ruffles Todoroki’s hair but his bangs settle perfectly back into place. “Is there a reason you’re saying this?”
“You’re dating Yaoyorozu.”
“She likes you. She smiles when she looks at you. She’s around you all the time.”
That’s mostly out of necessity, although there probably isn’t a way to say that without sounding suspicious. Anyway, it’s not true. Bakugou never smiles. “She doesn’t.”
“She does,” Todoroki says, pulling up grass. “Of course you wouldn’t even notice.”
He mutters the last part. It’s hard to see in this light but it looks like he’s threatening to pout. Momo stretches out her legs and balances her cup on her lap. “Why does that make you dislike me?”
“She’s too good for you.”
“She’s perfect,” Todoroki says, matter-of-fact. “She’s smart and strong and beautiful. She’s kind and humble and you don’t deserve her at all.”
Momo’s stomach wobbles. Glad for the dark, she sips her drink, hoping Todoroki doesn’t notice her go red. “You think very highly of her.”
“Of course. We’ve known each other since we were children. Like you and Midoriya, I suppose, although she and I are actually friends. At least, I think we are. She asked me to arm wrestle a couple of days ago. I said no and she called me a peppermint pansy. I think that means she’s opening up to me, right?”
Momo just manages not to choke on her cocoa. “By that definition I think Deku and I are fine.”
“No. He’s sad,” Todoroki says flatly. “He won’t tell me why but I’m sure it’s your fault.
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Maybe you should have. He also likes you, you know. I can’t believe two whole people do.”
The birds start their evening racket. Momo stares at the last dregs of red as the sun disappears beyond the skyline, heart sinking with it for reasons she’d rather not talk about right now. “Do you have feelings for Yaoyorozu?”
“You’re nice,” Momo says, smiling crookedly. “Honestly, she should have just asked you out ages ago. Then none of us would be in this mess.”
Todoroki stares. His shirt’s just a little transparent, showing the silhouette of his torso in the dim light. “Did she want to ask me out?”
“Ask her yourself sometime,” Momo says, standing up. “Excuse me. I’ve got something to do.”
Bakugou picks up on the third ring.
“What?” he drawls with his mouth full. Probably snacking in her bed again even though she’s repeatedly told him not to. “I’m busy doing a face mask.”
“Come downstairs,” Momo says, sitting down on the bench. It’s the one behind the dorms, the same one where she and Midoriya last spoke. “Near the apple tree. Can we talk?”
There’s a pause. “Yeah,” Bakugou says, sounding apprehensive. “Hang on. Be right there.”
Her cocoa’s gone cold. Bakugou comes downstairs in jeans and his own hoodie, too big across the shoulders and covering most of his hands. The bench creaks when he sits. He doesn’t say anything, just crosses his legs and waits for Momo to explain.
“You like him,” Momo says, looking into her cup. “Midoriya. You’ve liked him a long time.”
She can almost hear him roll his eyes. “Not this again.”
“We upset him. He’s been sad ever since that day.” When you kissed me in front of him, she doesn’t say.
He slouches against the backrest. “I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I upset Deku all the time.”
“Not like this. He’s sad, Bakugou. You can’t be okay with that.”
“He’s fond you. Loves you, maybe.”
“No, he doesn’t. Just drop it.”
“Why do you make things difficult for yourself?”
“I said drop it.”
She touches his arm. He shrugs her off almost reflexively, but when she looks up he looks more frustrated than angry. “I’m not trying to be mean,” she says putting her hand back in her lap. “It’s just… isn’t this exhausting? Pushing him away for no reason? I feel what you feel, Bakugou. It’s almost painful. Wanting so badly to smile at him or hug him and having to stop myself every time.”
“It’s not for no reason.”
“Because,” Bakugou grumbles. “He doesn’t actually like me. He acts like he does because he’s fucking forgiving, but he doesn’t like me.”
Yaoyorozu tilts her head at him. “Forgiving? Of what?”
“You think I’m bad now,” says Katsuki, taking a deep breath. “You should have seen me two years ago. Hell, you should have seen me in kindergarten. I was a bully. I’m the one who started calling him Deku. I called him fucking useless because back then he didn’t have a quirk. The other kids got in on it. I made things hard for him because I’m an asshole and I never- I never hurt him but I’m pretty sure this comes close.”
“Oh,” she says faintly. “I knew you had history, but I didn’t know it was like that.”
“Of course not. Like I said, he’s forgiving.” A cat meows. Something happens inside that makes everyone laugh, but it sounds tinny and somehow faraway. “Not forgiving enough for this, though. I mean, if the guy who used to pick on me had the nerve to ask me out after, I’d fucking deck him.”
“Did you ever apologise?”
“Maybe you should.”
Katsuki snorts. “I know I was a dick, okay? You don’t have to lecture me.”
“I’m not. I just- I think you’re selling yourself short. He does like you. You heard everything he said about you, right? In the common room when Kaminari was teasing us?”
Bakugou sets his jaw. “That’s you, you fucking idiot. He likes you.”
“You’re in my body,” Bakugou says, turning around to face her. Momo’s fingers tighten around her mug. “Yeah, Deku thinks he’s spending time with me, but you’re the one being nice to him. You’re the reason he said all that shit about me turning over a new leaf or whatever.”
“That’s not true.”
“Yes it is. You did in a month what I didn’t fucking do in ten years. He thinks I’ve changed and become a better person because all this time he’s been hanging around you.”
Momo curls her legs up in front of her. “Well. It won’t be like that for long.”
“We’re going to change back,” she says. “But he doesn’t know that. You’re going to come back to your body and as far as he knows, he’ll still be your friend. You have two options. Either you push him away again and break his heart, or you take advantage of the fact that you’re friends now and you try to make up the way you obviously want to. I know you’re not stupid. Take the opportunity when you have it.”
Bakugou purses his lips. He wants to argue, she can tell, but he’s thinking about it. “There’s no opportunity. He’s been avoiding both of us.”
“Break up with me,” she says simply.
“I’m fairly certain he’s only avoiding us because he’s awkward about having feelings for someone who’s taken. Once we switch back, tell him you and I aren’t together. I can even do it for you if you like.”
“I don’t need you to run my fucking love life.”
“I did in a month what you didn’t do in ten years.”
He scowls at her. Kicks her ankle, too, but only gently. “I’m not you. I’m gonna be myself and fuck it up again and make him hate me.”
“He said something else. That you see flaws and you fix them because you know you have to. You can prove him right,” Momo says, reaching up to run a hand through Katsuki’s hair. He leans into the touch. “You can fix it. He wants to love you. You just have to let him.”
He sighs. Bumps his head against her shoulder, lashes casting spindly shadows on his cheeks. “You have a lot of faith in me, Princess.”
“You’ve never let yourself down before.”
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
“You know Todoroki has the world’s stupidest crush on you.”
She bites back a smile. “He might have hinted at it, yeah.”
“Do you like him back?”
“I’d be lying if I said I’d never thought about it,” she says. It’s true. The idea of holding Todoroki’s hand makes her feel warm and shy, although that might partly be Bakugou’s gay hormones talking. “Who knows? I wouldn’t say no if he asked.”
He looks up. His cheek is soft against his shoulder, face so close she could nuzzle his nose if she just leaned down. So close she could kiss him, in fact. “Thanks.”
She doesn’t. Instead she leans her head against his, breathing in coconut shampoo. “Yeah,” she says, shutting her eyes. “Of course. Any time.”
At 6.30 AM on Friday, Momo wakes up in her own bed.
At 6.31, she rolls over, puts her face in her hands, and cries.
Having his own body back is surreal.
Not bad. Never bad. Katsuki sets off a few explosions just because he can. It feels right- his palms burn in the most satisfying way, like callouses forming after hours of hard work. Like scorching-hot monkey bars at the playground when you’re showing off in front of your best friend.
He smiles, all alone in his bedroom. And then his alarm rings and he gets up to get ready for school.
He’s in a good mood. Not that that really surprises anyone anymore, since Yaoyorozu’s shit at keeping up his grumpy façade. Mineta waves at him. Katsuki relishes being able to tell him to fuck off, tugging Ashido’s horns and ruffling Kaminari’s hair for the hell of it.
Deku says good morning. Katsuki, for once in his life, says it back.
Class is fine. A little harder than normal, which he’ll never admit is because he’d gotten used to having Yaoyorozu’s computer brain. He smashes practical training. He shows off so much Aizawa calls him a peacock, but it’s worth it for the way Kirishima claps him on the back and tells him how fucking cool that just was.
He finds Yaoyorozu in the common room. Grabs her around the waist and spins her in a circle, deciding just this once to put off his homework ‘til later. “Hey, Princess.”
She clutches his chest. Her hair’s still damp from the shower, shirt sticking attractively to her skin. “What are you doing?”
“What do you mean, what am I doing?” Bakugou snorts. “We’re back. Aren’t you glad?”
“Yes, of course,” she says, lowering her voice. She looks around, but nobody’s paying them any attention. “But you and I broke up.”
“So you can go ask Midoriya out, remember? It won’t be very convincing if you go around hugging me.”
He blinks. Takes his hand off her back, stomach wobbling in unpleasant surprise. “Oh. Right.”
“Go talk to him,” she says, gently pushing him away. “Just say it was mutual and you’re not upset. Oh, but give it a few weeks before you tell him how you feel. He doesn’t know it wasn’t real, so try to make it look like you’re still getting over me.”
Katsuki takes a step back. She mistakes whatever she sees in his face for nerves, smiling in a way that’s clearly meant to be comforting. It would be, Katsuki supposes, except he’s too busy feeling like he’s been doused in cold water. “I promise it’ll be fine. Just talk to him and see where it goes.”
“Yeah,” he says, clearing his throat. “Yeah, sure. I’ll see you around, I guess.”
He spins on his heel. “Good luck!” she calls to his retreating back. “Tell me about it later, okay?”
He doesn’t. He doesn’t do anything, in fact, except go back to his room and stare at the ceiling for an hour.
He’s got a nice room, he thinks absently. Could use more books, though. And maybe a bigger bed. And less of the sudden and all-encompassing feeling of hollowness, although maybe that’s not so much because of the interior design.
Someone calls him down to dinner. Katsuki eats his tonkatsu without paying attention, mechanically spooning rice into his mouth and staring at Yaoyorozu across the room. She’s surrounded by her friends. The girls and Aoyama. People that Katsuki’s gotten to know over the past month through no wish of his own, although he supposes they’re not bad to hang around.
“You sick or something?” Kirishima nudges him. “First time in a while I haven’t seen you drown your food in chili flakes.”
Katsuki looks at his bowl. Oh. Yeah. He’d gotten used to her taste buds, hadn’t he. “Didn’t feel like it.”
“Okay. You seem kind of spacey.”
The girls gasp about something. Mina throws her arms around Yaoyorozu, and Tsuyu caresses her back. “Yeah,” Katsuki says without inflection. “Don’t worry about it. I’m fine.”
He is fine.
He’s not torn up or spending every night crying. The world hasn’t ended. He has no urge to throw himself off a cliff. It’s just… weird. Like a disrupted routine. Like waking up your first night in a new place and forgetting you’re not at home anymore. He still gravitates towards her sometimes before he remembers they’re not supposed to be close.
It doesn’t hurt, exactly, but Katsuki catches himself waiting for her to turn around so he can drag her off campus and make her buy him junk food. His palms itch. He’d gotten too used to touching, he thinks. That was only to piss off Todoroki. Katsuki shouldn’t have let it become habit.
That’s all it was. A habit.
Habits can’t be that hard to break.
Deku stops him after training one day. They’re in the locker rooms, both tired and sweaty, and the rest of the boys are slowly filtering out. Deku fiddles with his buttons. Somehow this feels like déjà vu, although Katsuki would be hard-pressed to say why.
“I heard about you and Yaoyorozu,” Deku says abruptly. “That you broke up. Uraraka told me.”
Katsuki’s heart does a weird wobble thing. Heartburn, maybe. He did kind of overcompensate with the chilli oil yesterday. “Yeah. We did.”
“I’m sorry. What happened? If you don’t mind my asking, I mean.”
“It’s,” Katsuki says, and then pauses. “It wasn’t anything in particular. We just figured it wasn’t working. It was, uh. Mutual. No hard feelings or whatever.”
Deku nods. “That’s good. That there are no hard feelings, I mean. You guys seemed really close.”
Yeah. They were. “We’re staying friends.”
“Good. Uhm, I wanted to apologise,” Deku says, scratching the back of his neck. He’s not wearing a shirt. The movement makes his bicep flex, and Katsuki would be lying if he said he hadn’t missed the boys’ locker room for precisely this reason. “For asking you about, well. You know. It was super invasive. I had no right to assume anything about your relationship, much less something like that.”
“I’m not mad at you,” Katsuki says. Surprisingly, it’s the truth. “You weren’t wrong, anyway. I’m definitely not straight. It just turns out some girls are cool too.”
“How are you? You seem a little,” he chews his lip. “Down.”
Compared to Yaoyorozu, maybe. “Do I?”
“I think so. Which is understandable, I guess, but if you ever want to talk about it I’m happy to listen.”
Katsuki should probably apologise to Yaoyorozu for her having had to deal with this awful fuzzy feeling every day. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” Deku says and smiles, soft and sincere. Katsuki studies him. Notes the increase in freckles now that summer’s coming to a close, and the new tiny scars he’s been building ever since they started school. “I’m here whenever you want me, Kacchan. You just have to say the word.”
Take the opportunity, Yaoyorozu had said. This time, Katsuki decides to listen.
“Dumbass,” he says without any venom. “Stay still for a second. I want to try something.”
Deku hums. He stays obligingly in place when Katsuki takes a step forward, only stiffening in surprise when he’s enveloped in a loose, lazy hug. “Wh- Kacchan,” he squeaks into Katsuki’s shoulder. “What’s happening? Are you dying?”
“Obviously not,” Katsuki huffs. It feels kind of amazing. Deku’s small but solid in his arms, warm and comfy even if he does smell like sweat. His hair’s coarser than it looks, it turns out. Satisfyingly fluffy to play with, though.
Hesitantly, Deku squeezes him back. “Are you- you want to test out hugging?”
“Sort of.” Yeah. It’s amazing, but something’s still missing. Coconut shampoo and soft skin and silky hair. Someone who doesn’t bat an eye at affection anymore, as much as Deku’s nervous mumbling is endearing.
He draws back. Deku’s red-faced and starry-eyed, thrumming with energy even though they’ve just finished hours of physical exercise. “Kacchan?”
“I’ll see you around,” Katsuki says and squeezes his arm. “I’ve got a something to take care of, I think.”
It’s like walking a tightrope, he supposes. A question of balance. Hovering above ground with nothing to catch you, just a pit of uncertainty and hard questions.
A series of choices. Fall one way and see what’s on this side of the rope, and never know what was waiting on the other.
Well, fuck that. He’s not afraid of heights.
There’s a tightrope above a long drop, and Katsuki brought scissors.
Someone knocks on Momo’s door.
She hopes it’s Ochako. Ochako always has magazines to share, and lately Momo doesn’t know what to do with herself. She used to spend all her free time either with Bakugou or Midoriya. She should check in on Todoroki, she thinks as she gets up from her desk to answer. She’s missed tea with him.
The door squeaks as it opens. It’s not Ochako. It’s Bakugou. “Oh,” she says, hand still on the doorknob. “Hello. Can I help you?”
He kisses her. Leans forward and presses his mouth flush against hers, hand winding itself through her hair. It’s electric. Her heart flutters as he pulls her close, one strong arm around her waist to pin her to his broad, muscled chest. He tips her backward. Sweeps her right off her feet, like a princess in a romance novel, like she’s something dainty and precious and wanted. His lips are so soft. So insistent, trying to imprint himself on her, biting her lower lip when he finally pulls back.
He looks deep into her eyes. His skin’s flawless, even up close, brow furrowed and expression serious and handsome.
Momo smacks him.
“Ow,” says Bakugou.
“What are you doing?” Momo hisses, dragging him in by the collar and slamming her door shut behind her. “Are you insane? What if someone saw? We’d get in so much trouble, and are you trying to ruin your chances with Midoriya?”
Bakugou rubs his face sullenly. “You didn’t have to hit me.”
“I’m going to hit you again,” Momo tells him. “Explain what’s going on!”
He flops onto her bed. His hair’s damp, probably fresh from the shower, and his mouth had tasted like toothpaste and mints. Premeditated then, Momo thinks, willing herself not to blush. “I wanna date you.”
“No you don’t,” Momo says, crossing her arms. Her lips still feel tingly and warm. “We talked about this not two weeks ago. You like Midoriya.”
“So?” Bakugou says, putting his hands in his pockets. “I like you both.”
“Are you gay or aren’t you?”
“Apparently I swing both ways. I mean, I dunno if you’ve noticed, but you’re pretty hot. I’ve seen you naked.”
Momo pinches the bridge of her nose. “What are you on about, Bakugou?”
“Look,” he says, taking a deep breath. “Yaoyorozu. Momo. I’m being serious. I like Deku. Hell, I like him a lot, and maybe you were right. Maybe he likes me back. He doesn’t hate me, anyway, which is at least partly thanks to you.”
“But,” he says, chewing the inside of his cheek. One of her habits, she thinks, carried over. “I miss the hell out of you, alright? You’re cool. I know I complained all the time but I liked spending time with you. You’re smart. And nice but matter-of-fact, and I like that. I like you.”
Momo frowns. Slowly, she sits on the mattress next to him, shuffling around so they’re more or less face-to-face. “What do you want me to do, Bakugou? I’m not getting in the way of you and Midoriya.”
“I’m not asking you to. I came here to ask if there was a chance you felt the same way. About me and Deku.”
“I don’t like Midoriya. All those feelings disappeared when we switched back.”
He touches her face. Cups it in both hands and tilts it up so she’s looking him in the eye. “Don’t get all self-sacrificing on me, that’s not what I want. Tell me the truth. Do you have feelings for Deku?”
She shuts her eyes. “He’s not hard to love.”
“No, he’s not,” says Bakugou quietly. “And do you have feelings for me?”
She doesn’t answer. He lets go of her, and she lets her head fall forward onto his shoulder. It’s easier than looking at him, fingers fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. “I think I’m a bad person.”
“I’m confused,” she says, voice small. “I like Todoroki. I’m sure I always did. He’s comforting, and when he sees me he lights up and then I light up because I like seeing him happy. I like being around him. I thought maybe I’d date him one day. But then there was you, and Midoriya, and I thought maybe the feelings were just hormones and my brain being confused in your body but then we switched back and nothing’s changed. I still like Midoriya the way you liked him. And I still want you to take me out to McDonalds and cuddle with me on the couch. I don’t – I don’t understand how I can have feelings like that for three people at the same time. It’s not normal.”
“None of us are normal, Princess. We’re in a high school for superheroes,” Bakugou says, running a hand through her hair. Gently, he digs his fingers into the spot at the base of her skull. It feels nice. “I don’t understand this shit either. But the fact is I feel the same. I think you’re making this more complicated than it has to be.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, who gives a shit how many boyfriends you have as long as everyone’s okay with it? We should all just date each other. I don’t see why we have to choose.”
“That sounds insane.”
“We switched bodies for a month. What’s a little more insanity?”
Momo looks up. Bakugou doesn’t smile, but he does tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “What if they say no?” she murmurs. “What if they think we’re freaks and they hate us?”
“Then we date each other and eat our weight in ice cream and commiserate,” Bakugou says simply. “But we’ll have tried. I’m not giving them up without trying.”
“What do we do?”
“We talk to them,” he says, pressing a kiss to the corner of her mouth. “And we get our fucking happily ever after.”
“Okay,” Momo says and lets him kiss her again. “Yeah. Okay.”
Katsuki takes out the easy target first.
“You,” he says after dinner one evening.
Todoroki pauses in tying his shoelaces. “Me.”
Katsuki takes a step forward. And another, and another, until he’s crowding Todoroki against the wall of the dorm. It’s right before Todoroki’s nightly jog, which Momo said he does every day at nine on the dot. “Listen.”
He’s not intimidated in the least, Katsuki notes with some annoyance. “You have the hots for my girlfriend.”
Todoroki blinks. He has the decency to look sheepish, mismatched eyes promptly focusing somewhere to the left of Katsuki’s ear. “You broke up.”
“We got back together. Do you have a crush on her or not?”
“Are you going to hit me?”
“No, stupid,” Katsuki says, putting a hand on the wall behind Todoroki’s head and boxing him in. “I have an offer for you. I’m going to let you date her.”
Todoroki frowns. “Excuse me?”
“You like her,” Katsuki says flatly. “And she thinks you’re cute, for some reason. I don’t really understand the appeal, but she likes what she likes and I don’t see the point in leaving you out.”
“She thinks I’m cute,” Todoroki says slowly. “And you’re breaking up with her so she can be with me?”
“Hell no. Do I look like I’d give up shit for you? I’m saying she wants more boyfriends. I’m down, but the condition is that this whole thing’s gonna be equal exchange. You’re dating me as well as her. Nobody’s getting left out.”
“You want me to join you in a three-way relationship.”
“Four-way,” Katsuki says, refusing to feel self-conscious. “Deku’s in on it too. Or he will be, anyway. We haven’t asked him.”
“And this is consensual? Yaoyorozu’s really fine with it?”
“Obviously. Ask her yourself. Only reason she’s not here is because she’s shy for some reason.”
“So you do like Midoriya.”
“Yeah, yeah, I swing both ways, woo-fuckin-hoo. Are you in or not, Shortcake?”
“Shortcake,” Todoroki says, appearing to consider this. “Well. I suppose you’re not ugly.”
“Oh, I know,” Katsuki says. “You think I have a nice face. Princess told me all about it.”
“I also said you didn’t know how to use it.”
“Teach me, then,” Katsuki says, leaning in. On impulse, he bites Todoroki’s ear. He relishes the little intake of breath he gets in return, drawing away and sticking both hands in his pockets, insufferably smug. “Hit me up tomorrow or something. Me and Momo’ll take you out.”
Todoroki clutches his ear, eyes wide. “I’ll be there.”
“I know,” Katsuki says over his shoulder. “See you tomorrow. It’s a date.”
“Should I talk to him?” Momo had asked shyly before class. “You spoke to Todoroki, after all. It would only be fair.”
Katsuki had playfully kicked her ankle. “I’ll do it,” he’d said, both hands in his pockets. “There’s something I need to tell him first.”
She’d agreed, of course. Now Katsuki’s waiting outside the dorms after dinner, craving a glass of fancy iced tea. The stuff’s grown on him, although he’ll never tell Todoroki as much. He’s done enough for the bastard anyway. Just a second ago he’d seen him taking a stroll with Momo, stars in his stupid two-toned eyes.
The front door opens. Deku pops his head out, wearing a t-shirt that says pants. Katsuki wants to hit him. Or make him take it off, which might become a realistic prospect soon. “There you are. Kirishima said you wanted to talk to me.”
“Hey, you dumb coat hanger,” Katsuki says, more confident than he feels. “Take a walk with me?”
Deku purses his lips like he’s trying to decide whether to be amused or annoyed. The door swings shut behind him, cutting off the usual common room noise. “Your insults for me have been really weird lately, Kacchan.”
“Never mind that. I have a question. Two questions, actually,” he amends. “Do you not like Momo?”
Deku’s face scrunches up. “What? What makes you think that?”
“You’ve been avoiding her. She walks into a room and you find an excuse to leave.”
“Oh,” Deku says, falling into step beside him. Katsuki doesn’t really have a destination in mind, just wants to enjoy the summer air while it lasts. “I’m sorry. I guess I have.”
“I’m just- I’m embarrassed,” Deku mumbles. “After I basically accused her of bullying you into being her boyfriend. I’m mortified. I don’t know how to tell her I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to be. Your heart was in the right place, even if you overthink fucking everything. She’s not mad at you.”
Deku twiddles his thumbs. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” Katsuki says, gently bumping their shoulders. “Now how about you tell me the truth?”
“You put your foot in your mouth, yeah, but you started avoiding her before that. Right after you sparred with her that one time.”
Deku goes rigid. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Yes you are. You told me- you told her she fought like you. She beat you. You ran off and you haven’t been the same since.” He glances at Deku out of the corner of his eye, keeping his voice calm. “You scared of her or something? Aizawa said you were limping. Did she hurt you?”
“Really? Because you’re doing it again,” Katsuki says, leaning closer. Deku hides his face with his forearms like a spooked puppy. “Look. You’re getting all flustered and weird. What did she do?”
“Nothing!” cries Deku. “Oh my god, drop it.”
Katsuki takes a good, long look at him. “Holy shit. You’re blushing.”
“You’re not scared, you’re embarrassed. Are you fucking hot for her?”
“You are,” Katsuki crows. “She was mean to you and you liked it. You’re a little masochist, aren’t you?”
Deku whines. “Kacchan, leave me alone.”
“Hell, it’s not like I can blame you,” Katsuki snorts. “That leg thing she does is pretty sexy.”
“Did you bring me out here just to make fun of me?”
Katsuki pauses. “I brought you out here to make sure you didn’t feel like anyone was picking on you. Which is rich coming from me, I know. But I just wanted to, I don’t know. Say sorry. I’ve been kind of a dick to you in the past. Fuck. I was a dick to you two months ago.”
Deku stops walking. His eyes are wide and dewy, head tilted up to study Katsuki’s face. Katsuki puts his hands in his pockets to hide his suddenly sweaty palms. “Kacchan?”
“You said you liked when I fixed my mistakes,” Katsuki says, sounding less affected than he feels. “And it – it was a mistake. Thinking you weren’t worth much. Thinking I had any right to treat you the way I did. I’ve been sitting on it for ages like a loser but I may as well stop being a coward and come out with it.”
“Oh, Kacchan,” Deku says, going all soft and wobbly. “Thank you. You’ve seemed so different lately, you haven’t pushed me away, and I – I just want to be friends with you again.”
“Yeah, about that,” Katsuki says, stepping closer. He takes a deep breath. “That brings me to my second question. How do you feel about me, Deku?”
He falters. “I don’t understand.”
“Momo says you have… feelings for me. I’m starting to learn she’s right about most stuff.”
“I,” Deku says quietly. He kind of looks like he wants to cry.
Well. That’s not happening if Katsuki can help it. “Okay, never mind, that wasn’t fair. Let me rephrase. I have fucking feelings. For you. Uhm. Romantically, I dunno. I think you’re cute. I think you’re gonna be a good hero and your weird mumbling is actually interesting when you fucking enunciate and you’re tougher than you look and you’re sort of cool when you fight and I like that you have no fashion sense and can’t see a stray animal without touching it and Jesus Christ Deku stop me before I embarrass myself any more –”
Deku hugs him. It’s like being squeezed like a warm and very strong koala, and Katsuki thinks he hears a sniffle. “Kacchan.”
“I’m not done,” Katsuki says, hugging him back. “I’m dating Momo. We got back together.”
Deku deflates. “Oh.”
“She likes you too.”
“I might have had a hand in that,” Katsuki says, vaguely embarrassed. “She, uh, kind of picked up what I liked about you and it spread to her.”
Deku makes a face. “Why are you talking about me like I’m the common cold?”
“Can you fucking focus,” Katsuki says, pushing Deku away by the forehead. “Listen. I’m asking you if you wanna try dating us. Both of us, me and Momo.”
“What, seriously? All three of us? At the same time?”
“Todoroki might be part of the package,” Katsuki says. “But you can ignore him, he’s not worth much.”
Deku blinks. “He’s okay with it?”
“Didn’t take much convincing. You know he follows her around like a puppy anyway. He does whatever she asks.”
“Is apprehensive, but I told her I’m not fucking choosing between you. I like her and I like you so I wanna date you both,” Katsuki says. “And Todoroki, I guess, but that’s whatever.”
Deku fiddles with a loose thread on his shirt. They’re standing very close together, alone under harsh fluorescent lights. “I don’t want you to think you’re an afterthought or something,” Katsuki says, daring to touch Deku’s hand. “I’ve liked you a long time, De- Izuku. Only reason Momo and I got so close in the first place was because she noticed and kept pushing me to tell you the truth. She broke up with me, in fact. It wasn’t mutual. She just wanted me to apologise to you and ask you out because she knew I was so gone for you.”
“But you asked her to get back together.”
“I’m greedy, I guess. I’m not asking you out for no reason, Deku. I wouldn’t date anyone unless I really, really fucking liked them.”
Deku smiles. It’s watery and small but it’s there, and he scrubs both hands across his face like he’s physically rubbing life back into himself. He straightens his posture. Takes a deep breath and lets it go, stands upright and steady so they’re almost eye-to-eye. “Okay,” he says, lights giving him a halo of green. “To answer your question, yes. Yes, Kacchan, I like you a lot.”
“Cool,” Katsuki says, winding their fingers together. “In that case I’m gonna kiss you.”
“Asking permission?” Deku says coyly. “I didn’t think you’d be so polite.”
“I planted one on Momo without warning and she slapped me.”
Deku laughs. “Alright, Kacchan. I promise I won’t slap you.”
“Yes, Kacchan,” Deku says, pulling him closer. “You have permission to kiss me whenever you want.”
It’s a beautiful day. The sun’s shining, the birds are singing, and Katsuki’s life is honestly pretty nice.
He stretches his legs out. It’s a Saturday. Tomorrow they’re all going on a date to McDonalds, because Momo’s discovered she likes nuggets and Deku wants one of the Happy Meal toys. Katsuki suspects Todoroki said yes out of spite for his father somehow, but that’s a can of worms Katsuki’s not gonna open anytime soon.
For now he drinks his coffee and enjoys the sun. His homework’s done and he’s ahead on his studying for next week, so maybe he’ll have time to start reading up on Muay Thai. Maybe he should join a class or something. Then again, he does have two free teachers to make use of.
“What, damn it?”
Todoroki stares at him. Which is nothing new, to be fair, although maybe this time it’s because Katsuki’s sitting on him and won’t move. He’s got his legs draped over Deku’s and Momo’s laps too. “You’re heavy,” Todoroki says flatly.
Katsuki blows him an obnoxious kiss. “Maybe you’re just weak.”
“This is not why I decided to date you,” Momo sighs. “I don’t understand why you have to stretch out on all of us like a giant house cat. There’s another couch right there.”
“I like this one and you were all sitting on it,” Katsuki says. “Anyway, you caught feelings for me because I’m hot and good at everything.”
Deku bats away a wayward foot. “You know you’re the one who confessed all three times, right? I don’t think it was us going around catching feelings.”
Katsuki opens his mouth, and then shuts it. “Oh.”
“I never caught feelings,” Todoroki says helpfully. “I don’t even like him. I’m just here for Momo.”
Katsuki puts his cold coffee in Todoroki’s face. “Shut the hell up. You want her you, have to deal with me and Deku. That was the deal.”
“I hate you,” Todoroki says mildly, trying to disappear into the back of the couch like a turtle going back into its shell. “I liked you better three months ago when you were nice.”
“Momo was a little mean, though,” says Deku. “I heard her call you a discount Harvey Dent once. And Scarface. And there was that time she talked to a thermos and pretended it was you.”
Momo discreetly pinches Katsuki’s shin. “I’m sorry, Shouto. I didn’t mean it, I promise.”
“That’s okay,” Todoroki says, muffled. “It was a weird month. You acted like each other. I wondered if you’d switched bodies after your internship and had assumed each other’s identities until you could switch back.”
Deku bursts out laughing. “What? Shouto, that’s ridiculous.”
Katsuki glances at Momo, who keeps her expression carefully neutral. “Absolute nonsense. Dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Todoroki shrugs, condensation dripping down his face. “Well, you’re stuck with me. No takebacks.”
“Sucks to be you, Kacchan,” Deku says, tickling his bare foot. Katsuki kicks him. “You just had to be greedy.”
Momo kisses Deku’s cheek, and he promptly goes pink. “His life would probably be simpler if he’d stuck to one partner, but I think this is nice too.”
Katsuki considers it. It’s true. He could be in his room right now, spending time alone like always. Watching the others from afar, squashing whatever affection tries to worm its way into his brain. It would have been fine, he thinks. Quiet, maybe, and a little bit dull, but it would have been easy. Safe.
But instead he’s here. With three other people who have managed to see past his bullshit and somehow found something worth keeping underneath, who should be messy and complex and too much because they’re all so different. A tightrope walk, maybe, tense and uncomfortable as they try to keep balance. No safety net underneath.
He doesn’t need one. So far, this is okay. So far everything’s working just fine. Maybe it won’t be forever, but they’ve got time to figure it out.
“You’re right,” Katsuki says and sips his drink. “I don’t regret a god damned thing.”