“You’re late.” Katsuki eyed Izuku up and down. “Go wash your hands so that we can eat.”
“Okay.” Izuku craned his neck, trying to peek into the kitchen to see what tonight’s meal would be. It smelled fantastic, whatever it was.
“Okay, okay!” He hurried off to the bedroom to change into a t shirt and sweatpants, then dutifully washed his hands before returning.
Dinner turned out to be spinach lasagna and baked chicken, a rarity that Izuku remembered enthusiastically complimenting before. So, Kacchan was still soft on him, making special food four days after a battle that briefly landed him in intensive care. It was one of those battles that the public couldn’t know about, either. He sighed as he looked down at his bare arms, still red with marks he knew matched the ones circling around his throat like a vice, darker thumbprints pressing at the side of his Adam’s apple. They looked nasty, but weren’t fatal. The healers at the hospital ignored them in favor of putting everything back inside of his ribcage where it belonged, and then fusing said rib cage back together. The rest of this mess would heal on its own, in its own time. There was no need to overburden his body’s healing capabilities more than they already had.
He hadn’t counted on having to give interviews from the hospital, but, well, that was what he did, what he was expected to do. It was good press for the hospital’s childrens’ charity, too, so how could he say no?
“Stop mumbling and talk.” Kacchan scolded, taking another bite of chicken.
“I was just thinking of that interview I had to do. I probably looked terrible all beat up like this. I hope it didn’t disappoint any kids.”
“You didn’t have to do anything. They should have had the decency to leave you alone in a goddamn hospital. You’re a pushover.” he grumbled. There were still dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep, making Izuku feel guilty. Still-
“You could be more receptive to interviews.” Izuku countered. “It would help your ranking.” he added, knowing that would be a prod in the right direction.
“I do plenty of them.”
“Yes, the ones where they catch you as you’ve just finished a fight. And you’re always a bit short with them. You really should do some of the sit down ones to show that you’re, well. Not always so mean and grumpy.” Izuku grinned despite himself as Kacchan’s upper lip curled into a familiar snarl.
“What? I am a fucking delight. I answer all of their stupid, obvious questions.” he huffed.
Izuku chuckled, but the sound was cut short as Katsuki’s eyes narrowed as he focused on Izuku’s fingers absently tracing the bruises on his arm, trailing his gaze up to the purpling chokehold on his throat. A tense silence followed as realization set in, and he prayed that Kacchan wouldn’t say anything.
“They think that it was me that did that to you. That’s what this is about, hah?”
“Kacchan-” This wasn’t the way that he wanted to have this conversation. He sighed.
“Mina keeps telling me about it, you know. There’s all sorts of bullshit rumors ever since we got together.”
“Yeah.” He’d read about it himself, though he tried his best to not dwell on internet gossip. Everyone was on intimate terms with them online, apparently. ‘There’s a lot of history between those two. A lot of bad blood.’ Despite the number of so called intimate sources, no one could come to an agreement on if they were even really together. Izuku would be happy to tell the press all about it, but Kacchan was... private.
“It’s just... if you were more accessible, then they wouldn’t have to make things up about you.” he finished, lamely.
“Anything I say would just make it worse. Besides, I have better things to do with my time.” he stood, and began to gather the dishes.
Izuku let it rest.
Izuku set down his phone as Katsuki crawled into bed, still warm from the bath and smelling like his shampoo. Most days he’d go to bed much later, but when he was in recovery mode, he made it a point to join his boyfriend at his unnaturally early bedtime. Maybe I should more often, though, he mused, as Katsuki pulled him against his chest. This is really nice. He sighed in content as fingers toyed with his curls, sending pleasant tingles across his scalp. He really ought to spend more time in bed like this, when they both lived such dangerous lives. He didn’t like to think about that more than he had to, but maybe he ought to, so that he paid attention, and remembered every second of this while he still had it. He had a gut feeling that he’d be the one to die first, and when it happened, he knew that he could and would give Kacchan everything. They’d shared blood. They’d technically shared other fluids after that so... well... maybe it wasn’t all that bad that some of what they had remained private. He grinned, leaning back against the solid wall of muscle that was Ground Zero at rest.
This was the Kacchan he wished the world would see, the one who took care of him and kept his world stable and steady, the polar opposite of the aggressive, volatile Ground Zero. He loved that Kacchan, too, but... he clasped his hand over the fingers that pressed against his torso, lightly enough to not aggravate the healing tissue.
“I’d be insulted if people thought the number five hero couldn’t take care of himself.” Kacchan grumbled, pressing his lips to the edge of the bruise at the side of his throat. “It’s just stupid.”
Izuku didn’t like the way that he sounded like he was trying to convince himself. “Number four.” he corrected, to deflect his lover’s downward spiral of thought.
“Shut the fuck up.” Katsuki’s growl was dangerous.
“No, really! I beat you this week!” Izuku yelped, as Katsuki tugged him closer, posessively.
“Don’t get used to it, shitty Deku! It’s just a sympathy vote because you almost fucking died.”
“Nah. I’ll be number one soon! You said that I can have whatever I want when I’m number one, so that means that you have to marry me and give long, romantic interviews. Maybe we’ll go on a talk show.”
“As if! When I’m number one, we’re getting hitched at City Hall and everyone else can mind their own damn business!”
Izuku turned in his arms, and pressed a kiss to his forehead as he fought back the last of his laughter. “‘Night, Kacchan.”
“‘Night.” Kacchan grumbed, pulling the covers up to their chins.
Katsuki tried to tell himself that it was good that the extras were making shit up about him. It proved that he was worth talking about. No one gave a shit about a hero until they broke the top ten unless they were unnaturally charismatic or scandalous. Katsuki was neither, he knew, so a small part of him gloated once he broke that barrier and started to hear the gossip through Mina, who texted him inane garbage at least ten times a day. He just didn’t realize how bad it would get.
People were always coming up to him like they fucking knew him and bothering him in his regular clothes now. At first it was for photos and autographs, which he hated but put up with because the agency told him that he had to. He hated taking orders like that, but it was for his ranking, so he did, and well, maybe Deku was nagging him about it, too. A lot of it was negative, though. People saying that he was an asshole to someone in public, which he often was, so he didn’t even bother to read those. Anyone he was rude to deserved it, so whatever.
Then Mina started linking him to things he didn’t like at all, things that had to do with Deku. People speculating about their history and their current relationship; and cropped photos of Deku’s scars and bruises, even some fake ones that were Photoshopped on and accompanied by veiled accusations against him. A candid shot of him yanking Deku by the elbow, a completely out of context frame from a recorded battle where he was hitting the nerd for his own good (don’t ask). If he’d have known what it would all lead up to, he’d probably never have started dating Deku at all. It was bad for them both. It made him look like a villain and Deku look like a total wuss! He’d ignore it, but Deku’s comment about his ranking from the other day kept bouncing around in his head. Neither of them looked like number one material with these rumors. The number one hero was above all that. That’s why Katsuki never said anything about his life, the less they have to pick apart, the better off you are. No one needs to know anything but his stats, or so he thought. He wondered if it would help Deku, at least. People liked him.
Today had been bullshit, to top it off. He’d gotten into a fight before even reaching work, and Deku had taken off early without telling him, leaving him sitting alone with two bentos, like an asshole, and all of the paperwork to fill out by himself. Then that little shit texted him about wanting to go out to eat tonight! Katsuki was in no mood for that, and he’d said so. He wanted to be home, away from prying eyes. Deku would just have to eat his fucking cooking, and he’d better not complain. Katsuki added the last of the ingredients to his basket and made his way to the end of the line with a snarl that turned into a sigh.
That’s when he saw it: a glossy kids’ magazine cover with Deku’s wide eyed baby face splayed in a huge grin, and the text: My Hero, Ground Zero. What the fuck. Katsuki shoved the magazine into his cart, and glared at the clerk as she looked between his face and the magazine, a spark of recognition in her eyes. Say it and you’re fucking dead, bitch. I’m just trying to buy my goddamn groceries in peace. The feeling building in him was unfamiliar and disarming. It wasn’t irritation as much as it was embarrassment. He glared at the clerk as she grinned at him, sliding the magazine into its own smaller paper bag. Katsuki paid without a word.
‘To be honest, I'm pretty sure that when he editors approached me with an offer to write an informal piece for the Everyday Heroes issue, they were expecting a touching tribute to All Might, as I've done in the past- many, many times. I’m sorry if that is what you were expecting! While All Might is the hero I’ve always looked up to the most, I paused when I considered that the topic at hand was everyday heroes. That’s the sort of person who never gets the credit they deserve: our parents, teachers,and public service workers- among many others- who make a hundred small sacrifices a day that no one ever really notices for the good of other people. The sort of person who not only inspires you, but keeps you going; keeps all of society going in some small way, just by existing and doing their job. They may not be as flashy and famous as the legendary All Might, but their importance cannot be overstated. Perhaps you have someone like this in your life? I know that I am lucky enough to have several, but one person in particular stands out. Ground Zero, ‘Kacchan’ to me,’-
What the fuck. Katsuki tore his eyes from the page and back again, but the same words remained printed on the page. I’ll fucking kill you, Deku!
-‘Is someone I’ve admired since we were both kids, even before I looked up to All Might. Even before he manifested his quirk, he was always a leader, tough, brave, and strong. He always got the best grades, too. He was just good at everything he set his mind to, and I wanted to be just like him, until one day I didn’t. Instead, I wanted to be someone who complimented him, someone who was able to stand by his side as an equal. That wish didn’t come true for a long time.’-
Go on, tell them. Tell them all the shit I’ve done to you, the hell I put you through as a kid. I gave you plenty of bruises, said shit that should’ve landed you in therapy. They all believe it anyway, and I guess they’re not wrong. I broke your nose that one summer, and you went and lied about it so that I wouldn’t get in trouble with my mom! That’s some real victim shit right there. I might not be hurting you now, but I guess karma’s a bitch. Just get it over with so that I can deal with the fallout. He was seething, but his rage wasn’t on Deku, not fully, anyway. It was glowering inside of his own gut, eating him alive, making him want to claw the skin from his own arms.
‘But today, that dream has come true. Ground Zero and I work at the same hero agency, and there’s no one that I depend on more. We’re opposites in a lot of ways. While I tend to be cautious before entering a conflict, Kacchan is the first on the scene, taking on the villain before anyone else can get hurt. While I worry about saving everyone, Kacchan just saves people without thinking: by never letting a villain get away. Even though our fighting styles and approaches to solving problems are different, there’s no other hero that I trust to read my moves and support me in the way that he does. When I face a villain with him by my side, I know that I’m going to be okay, and that the heroes will save the day again. But more than anything, I have him to thank for teaching me the importance of winning. When I feel defeated in life, as well as in battle; when I feel like I’m going to lose, when I’m too tired, hurt, or overwhelmed to go on, I remember that Kacchan wouldn’t give up. He’d get up and win. So I push myself to win, and that alone has saved my life and many others’ lives more times than I can count.’
Katsuki felt his eyes burning, and growled at himself for getting teary over a cheap, garish kid’s magazine about pro heroes while crouched on a park bench. He roughly shoved the magazine into his grocery bag and headed home.
“Kacchan!” Deku’s voice greeted him, as he shrugged off his jacket and shoes. “I got some curry for us since you didn’t feel like going out-”
“I told you I was gonna cook.” he grumbled.
“I wanted to give you a nice meal...” Deku sat on the sofa with the bags of take out before him, an anxious smile on his face. He was practically trembling with excitement. Katsuki sighed, feeling a headache coming on.
“Curry’s fine. Let me put this away.” He brought the food to the kitchen, scowling at the magazine that was crushed into the bag with it. He brought it back with him, and threw it down on the tabe next to the curry. “What the fuck, Deku?”
Deku’s eyes widened. “Did you read it yet?”
“What the fuck, Deku?”
“Because I wanted you to have time to read it, so that you’d have seen it by the time that we went out to dinner, but well even if we didn’t go out tonight I still wanted to have a nice meal where you didn’t have to cook anything-”
“Okay. First. You wanted me to read this?”
“Why the hell would you assume that I’d read a kid’s rag called “Heroes Weekly” that’s just blurbs about people I gotta work with?”
“You used to read it.” Deku pouted.
“When we were like twelve! I mean you don’t still read it... oh god. You still read it.” Katsuki realised. The second bedroom of their apartment was designated to their hero memorabilia and merch, but most of it was Deku’s. It bordered on hoarding, so he wouldn’t have noticed the magazines among the other junk.
“You read it.” Deku pointed out, smugly.
“Yeah, because it’s got your dumb face on it! And my name!”
Deku stood, and took his hands. “And?”
Katsuki frowned. “You should’ve been honest. Little kids might buy it but no one else will.”
“I was honest. And if you’re worried, well. You just said that no grown ups would read it anyway.” Deku teased. His eyes were growing serious, though, even as he smirked.
Katsuki sighed, and looked down at their hands. “It was... nice, I guess. Thanks.” He couldn’t say how it really made him feel. The words refused to leave his mouth, sitting awkwardly in his throat.
“I meant it.” Deku’s voice was quiet now. He had that same determined look in his eyes that he had when he was on a mission, when a plan was unfurling in his brain. “Kacchan... I wanted you to read that because I wasn’t sure if I could say it the right way. And I wanted everyone else to know, too...”
“Wait, is everyone reading this kiddy mag?”
“Kacchan.” Deku squeezed his fingers. “I wanted to talk to you about something important.”
“Yeah?” Katsuki returned the gentle squeeze. “If it’s about the rumors... you didn't have to do that for me. I mean, I don’t care what some extras think-”
Deku took a deep, determined breath. “I need to ask you something really, really important, the most important thing I’ve ever asked you, and I don’t want to mess it up like that time that I joked that we should get married and you went along with it-”
Katsuki didn’t hear anything else after that, just the drumming of his own heartbeat in his ears as a chill filled him, followed by heat spreading from his cheeks across the rest of his body. Confusion, anger... humiliation. “That was a joke?” he managed, his voice thick. “You fucking... joked about that?” He could feel tears brimming in his eyes, but they were tears of anger. He could feel himself shaking, even as a voice in his head told him that he deserved it. He pulled his hands away as he felt them begin to spark.
“No! Kacchan... I want to marry you! I love you! I just... I chickened out.” Deku looked down, a sullen pout on his lips. “So I... I kind of joked about it. T-to see if you’d get angry. But then you just agreed that we should get married and I lost my chance to ask you properly. So I wanted to do this right.”
Katsuki took a shaking breath, willing his anger to recede.
“Kacchan... I wrote that article because I didn’t want to mess up asking you, in case I got nervous again, because it’s the most important thing I’m ever going to ask. And I think that I’ve made my case. So what I want to know is. Um. Will you be a hero duo with me?”
“Hah?” Katsuki pushed his chin up. “You think that’s more important than the marriage question? Fucking nerd!”
“Well... yeah. Because with this , I’m not sure if you’re gonna say yes.” Deku looked slightly to the side then, avoiding his eyes. “I know how much you want to be number one. And I know that you hate losing to me. So I don’t know if you’d want to share that spot, you know. But I think that together, we could be unstoppable. I think we’d be number one in six months. I think that it’s meant to be. I don’t think that I can really fulfill my role as All Might’s successor alone, because you need to be there, too...I... I really want this, Kacchan...”
Katsuki stared at him, blankly. Did he want to share the spotlight? Maybe he wanted it to himself once, but this suggestion felt right. Maybe what he really wanted had somehow changed over time, and he’d just been acting out of habit. It was a sobering thought.
“It’s fine if it’s you.” he finally managed. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he felt relief, as though something invisible had clicked into place. It really was going to be fine.
“Kacchan!” Suddenly he had his arms full of Deku and an overly eager kiss making him stagger back against the wall. He tightened his grip, possessively, returning the kiss as fiercely as it was given.
“Your curry’s getting cold.” Deku managed, wiping his eyes. “I can heat it up-”
“I’m cooking some real food.” Katsuki decided. “We’re not celebrating shit with reheated takeout. And you’re going to eat more protein now that we’re a team.” he added, gruffly. “You’re not holding us back, Deku!”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Deku replied, following him to the kitchen with a quiet laugh.