Over the past two years, Katsuki had gotten significantly better at handling his crush on Kirishima. Now, that didn’t mean he was good at dealing with it, but he was better, and he felt that that deserved some acknowledgement.
“Kinda funny that the only thing you’re willing to not be the best at is processing your emotions,” Deku said from his seat at the kitchen table, after Katsuki had finished explaining this to him.
“Fuck you,” Katsuki replied reflexively.
His relationship with Deku was also something that had improved a lot. They weren’t friends, not in the way Katsuki was friends with Kirishima and the Kirishimettes, but they weren’t enemies, either.
Their interactions were based primarily in grudging respect and mutual, consensual snarking, which was what they had eventually found worked best for them.
“He’s got a point,” Uraraka, who was sitting beside Deku at the table, said. She punctuated this with a pointed sip from her smoothie, which Katsuki fucking made for her. Ungrateful bastard. “Pining is still pining, even if you’re hiding it better.”
“You don’t get to judge me for pining, Round Face,” Katsuki snapped. Fuck, he missed the days when everyone was still too afraid of him to give him shit.
She shrugged, seemingly unaffected. “Yeah, maybe not. Doesn’t mean I’m wong, though.”
Kastuki turned away from the stove, fully intending to give her the verbal evisceration she so deserved, when Kirishima appeared in the kitchen doorway.
He was sweaty and out of breath, clearly fresh from a run or sparring or something. He was also shirtless (which Katsuki was well used to after three years, but still), and, of more concern, wearing fucking leggings.
“What the fuck are those?” Katsuki demanded, a few seconds too late to be natural. His voice came out much more strangled than he’d intended.
“Huh? Oh!” Kirishima laughed and scratched at the back of his neck, embarrassed. “Mina and I were just sparring, and I activated my quirk by mistake, so…” he made a ripping noise.
“So what, you borrowed Pinky’s pants?”
“Yeah? I mean, she offered, and it was that or walk back in my boxers.”
“I’m not fucking feeding you until you’re wearing real clothes,” Katsuki declared, turning back to the stove before Kirishima (or the two idiots, who’d been watching the conversation like a boxing match) could notice how red his face had gotten.
Uraraka made a sound of protest. “Leggings are real clothes!”
“Not in my fucking kitchen they aren’t,” Katsuki snarled, stirring his fried mushrooms with renewed vigour.
The universe was punishing him for something. There was no other explanation.
“Whatever you say, man,” Kirishima said. Katsuki knew he was shrugging, even though he couldn’t see him. Friendship had been a mistake. “Be back in a few!”
Katsuki waited until he could no longer hear the sounds of Kirishima’s retreating footsteps, then took a deep breath and turned to face the firing squad.
Deku seemed tempted to whip out his notebook, because he was a freak like that. He probably knew more about Katsuki’s crush on Kirishima than Katsuki did. He’d certainly figured it out first.
Uraraka took a long, judgemental sip of her smoothie.
“So are you going to tell him that you want him to crush your head with his thighs, or…”
Deku made a sound that was somewhere between a squeak and a snort.
“Shut the fuck up,” Katsuki snarled. He was never making her food again, threats and endless whining be damned.
“I think we’re going to leave you to it, Kacchan,” Deku said, full of faux-casualness, standing and waiting for a second for Uraraka to do the same, before hurrying out of the kitchen. Katsuki could hear them laughing in the other room.
“Shitty observant goddamn motherfucker,” Katsuki muttered, angrily ladling rice into Kirishima’s bowl.
The vegetables were still a work in progress, so he stirred and seasoned them with enraged fervor while he waited for Kirishima to get back.
Katsuki heard Kirishima’s approach a good ten seconds before he arrived in the kitchen, because he was 250 pounds of solid muscle and he moved like it.
“You’re going to dent the fucking floor if you keep stomping around like that!” Katsuki yelled, right as Kirishima came sliding into the kitchen.
“I’m not!” Kirishima said defensively.
Katsuki didn’t dignify that with a response, because he was fairly fucking certain the dip in the common room floor that everyone tripped over hadn’t gotten there by itself, just finished divvying up their food before joining Kirishima at the table.
Kirishima grinned at him, waited just long enough to yell out a “thank you!” then dug in.
The next few minutes passed in silence, except for the sound of Kirishima devouring enough food for a small army. It wasn’t like Katsuki didn’t eat—heroing was hungry work—but he at least had something resembling table manners. Kirishima ate a lot, and he ate fast, like he was afraid his food was going to get stolen if he didn’t finish it right away.
He finished before Katsuki was halfway through his meal, and immediately launched into a rambling story about how, exactly, he’d managed to tear his pants while training with Ashido.
“-and like, she’s fucking scary when she wants to be, y’know? So she was coming at me super fast and I just reacted on instinct and, well. Yeah. I tore my shirt too, which sucks, ‘cuz it was that first gen Suneater one I bought and they don’t make them anymore.”
“That’s your own damn fault. There’s a reason you never train in a shirt,” Katsuki pointed out.
Kirishima groaned dramatically. “I know, okay? It was supposed to be a quirkless fight, I thought it’d be fine.”
“How bad was the damage?” Katsuki asked. “I think Sparkles can sew, you can ask him to repair it.”
“It’s wrecked, dude. Like you can barely tell it used to be a shirt.” Kirishima stared sadly into his now-empty bowl, face screwed up in an exaggerated pout.
Katsuki resigned himself to the fact that he would have to spend a few weeks scouring the internet for a first gen Suneater shirt in Kirishima’s size, because seeing Kirishima sad apparently turned him into a moron.
“Now you know for next time,” he said eventually, taking his final bite of food and shoving his dishes at Kirishima so he could go wash them.
“Idiot,” he added belatedly.
Kirishima didn’t seem to notice, thank his rock-hard skull.
A small, horrible part of Katsuki was kind of glad that Kirishima’s people skills seemed to somehow completely exclude romance. Or, well, romance as it pertained to him. He could clock their classmates’ crushes on each other in seconds, but that Gen. Ed kid mooning over him for an entire month before making a move? Clueless up until halfway through their confession. It was almost impressive.
“-on Saturday. Do you want to come?”
“Movie night with the squad,” Kirishima repeated patiently. “Mina wants to do a Barbie movie marathon.”
“Yeah, sure,” Katsuki replied without really thinking about it. He’d stopped putting up a fight when it came to being forced to socialize a long time ago. Besides, movie nights were low maintenance. He just had to show up and accept that people were going to lie on top of him.
“Awesome!” Kirishima grinned. “Hey, can you come to my room and help me with the history research project when I’m done dishes?”
“It’s due in two days!”
“I know!” Kirishima said quickly. “I’m nearly done, I swear. I just need help editing and formatting my bibliography.”
“Fine,” Katsuki said, appeased. “Twenty minutes?”
Katsuki grunted and stalked up to his room to wait.
They only really became a problem when Katsuki walked into Sero’s dorm room on Saturday and was faced with the fact that the leggings were not, apparently, going to be a one-time thing.
Because Kirishima was sprawled out on the floor, on top of the stupid camo comforter he’d brought from his room, wearing an entirely different pair of leggings.
“What is this?” Katsuki asked, gesturing vaguely at Kirishima and fighting down the urge to scream. Or blow up Kirishima’s legs so he’d stop staring at them.
Ashido and Kaminari, who were on the bed, and Sero, lounging in the hammock, all gave Katsuki identical judgemental looks. Assholes.
“A sweatshirt?” Kirishima replied uncertainly, like he was trying to figure out if it was a trick question.
“On your legs, Shitty Hair.”
“Oh, yeah!” Kirishima said excitedly. “I bought some after Mina made me give her hers back.”
“Why?” Katsuki was sure his voice wasn’t usually that high.
“They are insanely comfy. And stretchy!” Kirishima stuck one of his legs up to demonstrate, and Katsuki was filled with the sudden need to be literally anywhere else.
He could see the rest of the idiots struggling not to laugh at him, because they were all terrible friends, and he mustered up the fiercest glare he could manage, which only seemed to make them laugh harder.
“They’re also fucking hideous. Now put your leg down before you pull a muscle!” he snapped, and Kirishima obeyed with a quiet “Yeesh, fine.”
Katsuki settled on the floor as far away from Kirishima as humanly possible. He knew it wouldn’t last, because Kirishima was a cuddly bastard at the best of times, and movie nights were a complete fucking free-for-all, but it would at least give Katsuki time to calm down a little.
Behind him, Ashido and Kaminari were arguing about where to start, and playing keep-away with the remote.
“Island Princess is a cinematic masterpiece, Mina!”
“I’m not disagreeing! I’m saying that’s why we should save it for later. We start with lower tier, Swan Princess, and we work our way up,” Ashido argued, lifting the remote over her head and effectively thwarting Kaminaris’s attempts to grab it from her.
“You know how quickly I fall asleep during these!” Kaminari said, jabbing an accusatory finger at her and making another pass at the remote.
“That’s not my fault!”
Sero snatched the remote out of Mina’s hand with his tape and pressed play on the first movie on the list, which wasn’t either of the ones they’d been bickering about. They shut up fairly quickly.
As predicted, Kirishima started inching his way over not even twenty minutes into the movie, and by the half hour mark he had his head in Katsuki’s lap. Given that Katsuki was also serving as a footrest for Sero and Ashido was absently messing with his hair, this shouldn’t have mattered, but it did.
It always fucking did, but the stupid fucking leggings had made Katsuki aware of Kirishima’s body, something he was very careful to avoid at all costs, except in the most practical, clinical contexts.
Kirishima’s-Muscles-During-Hero-Training were guarding Katsuki’s back, lifting debris, and punching villains. They were, in essence, Red Riot’s muscles, and those were fine. Katsuki had had three years to get used to those, and he could keep them pretty much separate from Kirishima during downtime.
Unfortunately, Kirishima during downtime was still incredibly fucking jacked, and between the tight-ass leggings (which were tiger print, and hideous, and somehow still destroying Katsuki’s life) and the muscle tee he was wearing, this fact was very, very obvious. Katsuki was significantly worse at dealing with Kirishima’s-Muscles-During-Downtime, because they were wholly Kirishima’s.
The movie was a pretty paltry distraction from Katsuki’s raging internal crisis, because while the story was decent for a kids movie, the animation was janky as fuck, and every time he pointed it out, all it got him a chorus of loud protests and mild physical abuse.
Eventually he stopped trying and resigned himself to being hyperaware of Kirishima breathing and laughing and shifting around and being warmer than a person had any right to be until everyone passed out and he could make his escape.
His brilliant plan was foiled when he fell asleep ten minutes into the fourth movie of the night, and only woke up the next morning when bed-headed Kirishima shook him awake to ask him to make everyone pancakes.
Katsuki ended up doing it, but only because bed-headed Kirishima was a menace to Katsuki’s continued health and it gave him an excuse to go to the kitchen and avoid him. He complained the entire time, even though he knew damn well that none of them believed it, because if he couldn’t keep up appearances in his own head, then he was going to have to work overtime to maintain them in public.
“Don’t tell me you’re going to make them part of your hero costume too,” Katsuki said when Kirishima walked into the gym, lest he say something he’d regret later.
The leggings were a sleek, practical black, which Katsuki had managed to take in in the few seconds he’d allowed himself to look, and infinitely nicer-looking than the tiger print monstrosities Kirishima had worn to movie night. This meant that Kirishima owned more than one pair. Katsuki didn’t dare speculate beyond that.
“Why shouldn’t I?”
So many reasons, all of them related to Katsuki’s capacity to pursue a career in heroics.
“These ones are fucking boring. For you, anyway.”
“Hey, I thought you hated the other ones!” Kirishima protested.
“I do,” Katsuki replied, because he had a reputation to uphold, goddamnit, “but these are worse.”
They were. For wildly different reasons, but they were.
“Well, you don’t have to worry. They tear when I use my quirk.”
Katsuki nearly pointed out that he could probably make a pair out of the material he used for his winter sleeves, but stopped himself because the situation was dire enough as it was, and being right was not worth having to suffer every time Kirishima wore his hero costume.
“So, you ready to go?” Kirishima asked, grinning and oblivious to the havoc his goddamn thighs were wreaking on Katsuki’s ability to function like a normal human being.
“I was fucking born ready,” he said, trying to summon his angry, oblivious first year self from the void he was usually buried in so he’d make it through their workout/sparring session alive and in one piece.
It worked, but only barely.
Not all the time, thank god, but often enough and unpredictably enough that Katsuki’s first instinct when Kirishima walked into a room was now to look at his legs, which was bad for two different but similarly terrible reasons.
Number one was that, even though Uraraka and Deku swore up and down that they hadn’t talked about it to anyone, everyone in the class seemed to have picked up on Katsuki’s… situation.
Number two, which was worse, oh so much worse, was that Kirishima noticed.
Katsuki wasn’t sure if he had, at first, because he would just ask Katsuki’s opinion on the pattern, Katsuki would say something snarky, and they would move on with their lives.
Then Kirishima ran out of new leggings, and Katsuki kept staring, and Kirishima kept noticing.
He never mentioned it, because he was Kirishima, but Katsuki knew he noticed, and they just weren’t talking about it.
Katsuki would’ve been happy Not Talking About It forever, actually, but the rest of the class had other plans.
“Dude,” Sero said one day, two weeks after the first incident, “You’ve gotta tell him.”
Kaminari, who had appeared at Katsuki’s other side while he was distracted, effectively boxing him in, nodded solemnly in agreement. “It’s getting painful to watch.”
“Yeah,” Ashido agreed. “The pining was at least cute, but the thirsting? Getting excessive, Bakubabe.”
“I agree with them!” Uraraka called from the other room.
“Seriously Kacchan,” Deku added, “she does. She’s been threatening to lock you two in a closet together!”
“Ochako, why wasn’t I in on this?” Ashido demanded.
“Sorry, Mina! I’ll send the game plan to the group chat!”
“NO ONE IS LOCKING US IN A FUCKING CLOSET!” Katsuki roared, and the assembled party finally shut up.
“Okay, sure, no closet locking,” Sero said. “But seriously, dude. Even if you don’t confess, you should probably figure out a way to stop the staring? I think he’s starting to get a bit freaked.”
“Yeah, okay,” Katsuki grumbled, scrubbing a hand roughly over his face. “I’ll figure something out.”
Kaminari clapped him heartily on the shoulder, and the three of them stood up to go.
“That’s all we ask, buddy.”
The best way to avoid staring at Kirishima? Avoid Kirishima.
Not completely, of course, that was impossible. He still talked to Kirishima in class, while he was either in uniform or in costume, but outside of class, he limited interaction to the bare minimum required by living in the same building.
Was it stupid and immature? Definitely, but it was a temporary measure while Katsuki wrangled his feelings and got himself back to a manageable level of hopeless pining.
By the time he hit day three of his grand plan, he felt like he’d basically gotten his act together, and he was confident that by the next day, he could start easing his way back into talking to Kirishima outside of class beyond terse greetings when they ran into each other in the hallways.
Of course, right as he was thinking this was when there was a tentative knock at his door, followed by a tentative Kirishima when Katsuki yelled for him to come in.
He looked ready for bed, with his hair down around his face, in an oversized t-shirt and (thankfully) sweats.
Cute, Katsuki thought desperately, before he realized what was happening and forced the thought back into the deep recesses of his brain.
“What’s up?” he asked.
“You’ve been avoiding me,” Kirishima said without preamble, like he was afraid he wouldn’t follow through if he didn’t get the words out immediately. “Why?”
Katsuki tried very hard to come up with an explanation that wasn’t “I discovered I have a Thing for your legs and I didn’t want to make an already kind of awkward crush creepy by thirsting over you every time we we’re in the same room, now fuck off so I can pack to move to Iceland with a new identity,” and came up empty.
Kirishima was still staring him down, determined and stubborn, but Katsuki could see the undercurrent of worry in his expression, old insecurities threatening to seep out.
“Leggings,” he finally said, which was both true and staggeringly unhelpful for explaining the situation.
“Leggings,” Kirishima repeated skeptically. “You stopped talking to me because I started wearing leggings?”
“Yes. No. Kind of? Just-” Katsuki growled and slammed his hands down on the table, working up the courage to just fucking end this.
He hadn’t been planning on confessing to Kirishima, really. It seemed like a pointless exercise, something that would just add unnecessary strain to their relationship. But on the rare occasions where he had considered it, it hadn’t gone like this, at 9:34 PM while Kirishima was in his pyjamas, with Katsuki only going through with it because he’d been ruined by six pairs of ¥1500 Walmart leggings.
Apparently, however, that was how it was going to go.
“Do you have any idea how goddamn muscular your thighs are?” Katsuki said, and it came out sounding like an accusation.
Kirishima looked confused, which was fair, and opened his mouth, probably to address the weird non-sequitur, but Katsuki wasn’t done.
“Rhetorical question, Shitty Hair. You have chiseled fucking legs, and it’s bad enough that I have to live my life knowing that, but then, then you had to go and make it worse by fucking showing it.”
Kirishima looked… not less confused, but a different kind of confused, more surprised and dazed than questioning.
“I have been living in hell for the past month because of your stupid Adonis-body and those goddamn leggings,” Katsuki snarled.
“You’re attracted to me?” Kirishima squeaked, and that would not do.
“Attracted to you? Motherfucker, I have been in love with you since first year.”
Kirishima stared at him, slack jawed.
“Yeah,” Katsuki said, quieter now that he wasn’t as riled up. He wasn’t going to say he was nervous, because nerves were for cowards, but this meant a lot to him, and Katsuki wanted things that mattered to him to go well.
“Awesome,” Kirishima said, breaking out into a wide, overjoyed grin.
“Awesome?” Katsuki repeated dumbly.
“I mean, yeah? First-year Eijirou is absolutely losing his shit right now,” Kirishima said. “I mean, so is third year Eijirou, but I like to think I’m being more chill about it.”
“So you-” Katsuki started.
Kirishima cut him off with a nod. “Yeah. Even though this is, like, the least romantic way this could’ve happened.”
“Trust me, I am very, very aware of that,” Katsuki said darkly, earning a laugh from Kirishima.
“Just. The leggings? That’s what broke you?”
“Apparently,” Katsuki replied, refusing to meet Kirishima’s eyes.
Kirishima’s grin turned more teasing. “So. The tiger print of the rainbow stripes?”
“Fucking neither, all the patterned ones are awful,” Katsuki answered, then immediately regretted it.
“So the black ones. Noted,” Kirishima said with a raise of his eyebrows, taking a few steps towards Katsuki.
“I hate you,” Katsuki said, but it lacked bite.
“No you don’t!” Kirishima sing-songed, continuing to walk forward until he was chest to chest with Katsuki, and laced their fingers together. “You looooooove me.”
“I changed my mind.”
“No take backs,” Kirishima declared. “You’re stuck with me forever now.”
Before he could overthink it, Katsuki leaned in and kissed him. He tried to tell himself it was just to shut Kirishima up, but he’d spent the past three years intermittently lying to himself and suppressing his feelings, so he quickly decided it wasn’t worth it.
When they finally broke apart, Kirishima was smiling softly at him, and it made something warm and glowy settle in Katsuki’s chest.
“I’m burning all the leggings,” he said, then made a break for the door.
Kirishima gave chase with a shout and managed to tackle him in the hallway, which led to their second, third, and fourth kisses, and, eventually, an hour long lecture from Iida about appropriate behaviour in a shared living space.
Katsuki couldn’t bring himself to be mad about it.