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Little Victories

Chapter Text

Intro

“This seems… excessive.” Todoroki observed politely from his spot at the counter.

Izuku sighed wearily, hand still wedged partway into the cabinet. “I just wanted to put an extra barrier around the tools in my workshop.”

“This is the kitchen.”

“It is,” he agreed.

“Did the bagels also require extra security?”

Another sigh. “The woman at the hardware store was very convincing.”

With a final pained wince, Izuku managed to wedge his index finger against the child lock, allowing the cabinet door to finally open. He pulled down the colorful box he's been aiming for, then let the door swing gently against the frame, making sure the lock didn't catch again.

Todoroki watched him pour three bowls of cereal from the brightly patterned box, All Might's winning smile shining up at them. He accepted one of the bowls with a curious expression.

“On second thought, maybe it's best to keep something this sugary out of everyone's reach.”

“Ha ha,” Izuku enunciated dryly. “It's just a precaution. Kids are too curious for their own good, sometimes. And the locks aren't that bad.”

Todoroki leveled his neutral gaze in Izuku's direction. “I'll pay for dinner if you can open a single cabinet in this room on the first try.”

Izuku’s eyes darted down and to the left, guilty.

Todoroki's eyebrows lifted. “Should I pay for dinner anyway? You've basically rendered your kitchen useless.”

“It's fine.” Izuku repeated, taking his own defiant mouthful. “…I'm planning to remove them this weekend.”

“Mm.”

Their chewing was the only noise for a long moment, until the sound of slippered feet came from the hall. An upright cocoon of blankets shuffled into the room, a tuft of light curls peeking out the top.

“No blanket at the table,” Izuku said, watching the bundle worm its way onto the barstool next to Todoroki. 

“Counter,” a tired voice replied.

“No blanket at the counter,” he amended easily, and watched with a fond smile as the blankets shifted enough to reveal a small pout.

“It's cold, Deku-san,” the young boy said with a whine.

“I can help with that,” Todoroki offered, pressing his right hand into the bundle of blankets. A second later the body inside shot off the stool with a startled yelp.

Cold! ” Katsuma shrieked, darting around the counter and behind Izkuku's legs.

Todoroki gave a rare grin, looking quite proud of his successful teasing. Izuku shook his head fondly at the two. Given Katsuma's original nervous awe at meeting the hero several months back, Izuku actually preferred this more easy dynamic between the two. Even if it made his ears ring a little.

“Todoroki-kun, say you're sorry to Katsuma-kun,” Izuku said with an exaggerated finger wag.

“I apologize, Katsuma-kun,” he said, bowing his head.

“Katsuma-kun, tell Todoroki-kun he's an ass.”

Todoroki looked suitably offended, and Katsuma giggled at the rare use of profanity. “I don't want to call him that,” he admitted, laying his chin on Izuku's hip to look up at him.

“That's because you're a good boy. Unlike some other people in this kitchen.”

“Onee-san says I'm good with children.”

“Your sister is very generous,” Izuku said, and ignored the sour look his friend sent him. He bumped Katsuma with the leg he was clinging to, pushing him back towards his seat. “I know breakfast isn't much, but we're going to have a brunch with some of my friends today. Does that sound alright?”

Izuku tried to hide his nerves as he watched Katsuma return to his seat and start shoving cereal around in the bowl. The boy got along well with Todoroki – after the initial star struck shyness had worn off - but Katsuma hadn't met any of Izuku's other hero acquaintances outside of brief introductions. In the three months Katsuma had been living with him, this would be their first big outing as a family. 

“Will Hatsume-san be there?” Katsuma asked.

“Not this time. We’re celebrating something not work related, that's why Todoroki-kun's in town for the weekend. But do you remember my friends Uraraka and Iida, Uravity and Ingenium?”

Katsuma perked up, nodding, his hands coming together to play excitedly with the beaded bracelet on his wrist. “Will there be other heroes too?” he asked.

“Maybe,” Izuku said, relieved at the enthusiasm.

Katsuma continued nodding, but his face had taken on a familiar fanatic glaze. “Will Edgeshot be there?”

“Well, no, but All Might will be! You like All Might, remember.”

“If you have to remind him-" Izuku waved a hand in Todoroki's face to cut him off.

“Everyone in this house loves All Might, it's a family rule.”

“Like no blankets at the table!” Katsuma added, and Izuku gave an approving wave of his spoon.

“Exactly.”

They finished their simple breakfast soon after, and Izuku quickly found himself falling into the newly established routine of getting everyone ready. He changed his own outfit before checking on Katsuma, adding a warm coat to his already wintery ensemble. Todoroki, who only had his suitcase to choose from but tended to dress more trendily than either Midoriya, was looking fashionably cozy as well by the time Izuku herded Katsuma into the genkan and then out the door. 

The train ride into the city was shorter than Izuku's typical commute to work, but he found himself growing restless in his seat. Katsuma was nearby, using his grip on one of the standing rails to spin in careful circles.

“He looks happy,” Todoroki said from his seat to Izuku's right. He'd been kicking out a low-grade heat since they left the house, an unconscious gesture against the cool winter air. 

“You think? I don't want him to get overwhelmed.  We haven't done any big outings yet. What if he doesn't like the restaurant? What if he doesn't like Iida and Uraraka? What if he doesn't like All Might?

“You'll have to return him, then.” Todoroki made a displeased face almost instantly. “That was a joke.”

Izuku bumped his friend's shoulder. “I know. And I would never, by the way.”

“I know,” he echoed, and Izuku felt a bit of extra warmth, this time from the center of his own chest.

Adopting Katsuma had been a hard fought battle, mostly on the front end. Izuku was a well-paid, well-known support engineer with a flexible schedule and a decently sized apartment, but he was also young and single and, quite unavoidably, quirkless.

It'd been frustrating to find out that would be a limitation, but Izuku had argued vehemently that he could handle a child even with a strong quirk. After all, it wasn't unheard of for children to develop different abilities from their parents. Izuku knows the statistics well; he'd written an extensive essay on the matter for his case worker to review.

Still, it'd taken half a year and a reference letter from All Might himself to get an interview set up. Waiting on an appropriate candidate, had been the official line he was fed. Given the outcome, Izuku had a hard time staying bitter about it.

Katsuma, he had decided minutes after meeting the boy, had been well worth the wait.

The child in question suddenly collided with Izuku's knees, giving a wide smile as he wobbled slightly on his feet. 

“Will Ingenium be in his hero outfit?” he asked, and Izuku let himself fall into the lull of Katsuma's endless questions. The boy had been hesitant with them at first, but Izuku's own enthusiasm for heroes and quirks had quickly won him over. Todoroki had on more than one occasion said that it must run in the family, and the comment, though joking, had warmed Izuku's heart.

Family. It was a pleasant thought.

They reached the restaurant just before their reservation was set, and a man waiting at the door checked their IDs before bringing them inside. If Katsuma noticed the unusual security measure, or that the establishment was mostly empty, he made no comment, instead zeroing in on one of the few occupants.

“Ojiisan!” he called out excitedly, sprinting forward.

“Young Katsuma!” Yagi Toshinori boomed back, his voice hardly faltering even in his slighter form. He stood to his full height, only to crouch to Katsuma's level and receive an enthusiastic hug. “How are you, my boy?”

“We took the train!” Katsuma said by way of an answer, then proceeded to tell Yagi loudly about the ride over.

“Volume,” Izuku reminded as he approached the table, though his gaze was for both of them.

Yagi stood back up, Katsuma still held in his thin arms. Izuku hovered nervously for a second but his grip seemed steady. He must not have used his quirk much that day, then.

“Apologies, young Midoriya,” he said in his typical media cadence, and then dropped to a more bashful tone. “I got excited to see you both.”

The part of Izuku that was eternally four years old and obsessed with the man in front of him was quietly screaming. All Might approves!

(The other, more mature part of him was similarly enthused.)

“It's good to see you too A- ah, Yagi-sama.”

Yagi gave him a Look.

“Yagi-sensei?” he tried again.

The Look developed an Air Of Disapproval.

Izuku blushed, well aware of the other people watching them. “Please stop, it's weird enough not calling you – you know.”

“Call him what?” Katsuma asked, perfectly at eye level while being held.

“Uh.” Izuku floundered.

“Dad,” Todoroki supplied.

“Yeah, D— would you stop that.

Todoroki simply shrugged and sat at the one occupied table in the entire dining area. The other guests were looking at them with unmistakable fondness.

“You three are so cute, I can't handle it,” Uraraka said, squishing her own face in excitement.

“Such an easy display of familial bonds,” Iida added, a large hand placed over his heart, “I can't express how happy I am to see you like this, Midoriya-kun!”

Izuku's blush had reached DEFCON 1, and was seemingly spreading to Yagi's tanned complexion as well. “You guys, stop, come on.”

He was saved from further teasing by a waiter hesitantly approaching. Izuku knew the reservation was under his own name, but that three of the four heroes present were easily recognizable. Doubtlessly the kitchen staff were already speculating as to the nature of the meeting – if they hadn't already after the whole restaurant had been booked for a single small party.

“Um, menus?” the waiter offered nervously, holding out some laminated cards. Izuku accepted them gratefully and took his own seat, Yagi doing the same and settling Katsuma between them.

“We've been here before, actually,” Izuku said. “We'll be doing the hot pot, but can we start with a round of sake and water for the table? And a soda, please, if you have any.”

Katsuma sat up beside him. It was a day of rare treats for him, sugary breakfast and drinks. Izuku waited for him to catch onto the special treatment, but he seemed game to just accept it as it came.

The waiter bowed and then blushed, nodding his head a little more casually but still nervous, and then scampered into the back.

“I think he's a fan,” Uraraka teased, lightly elbowing Iida.

Iida bashfully adjusted his glasses. “Please, I'm hardly recognizable outside of the armor. I'm sure it's you and Todoroki-kun he was excited to see.”

The conversation went back and forth until their food arrived, Uraraka going as far as to ask the poor waiter who his favorite hero was. When he stammered out ‘All Might' the whole table exchanged knowing looks, but then let the subject drop.

At the name, though, Katsuma seemed to finally notice the missing member of their party. “Where’s All Might?” he asked, looking around at all the empty tables.

Izuku exchanged four separate but equally encouraging looks before answering. “Well, about that. You know how I said this lunch was to celebrate? We’re celebrating the three month probationary period the agency put on your adoption. Do you remember what that is?”

Katsuma nodded. “If I’m good for three months, I get to stay.”

Iida choked on his water and Izuku was quick to correct. “No! Um, no, it’s more if I’m good for three months, at - uh, at being a, um, legal guardian that is, then the adoption gets finalized. Um, becomes permanent, I mean.”

Katsuma stared unblinkingly through the bumbled explanation. “And today is three months?”

“Well, yesterday actually. The agency sent me a copy of the finalized papers last night. So - celebrating! And, um, I had a surprise, too. I wanted to wait until - well, it’s just easier to tell you now, I guess.”

Katsuma seemed stuck between grinning widely and looking confusedly around the room. “Is… All Might the surprise? But you already told me he was gonna be here.”

To Katsuma’s other side, Yagi cleared his throat, standing up once more. He looked nervous, even with his permanent smile in place, before squaring his shoulders and planting his hands on his hips.

“I,” he said, and Izuku felt a little thrill of excitement go through him as the other man's form suddenly ballooned up and out, filling his previously baggy suit to its limits, “ —am right here.

Izuku darted his eyes between the two, waiting eagerly for Katsuma's reaction – which was currently a kind of slack jawed confusion.

“But... what about Ojiisan?” Katsuma asked.

All Might gave a booming laugh, dropping back into his seat and leaning down towards Katsuma, one elbow placed jauntily on the table.

Ah ha ha, young Katsuma, don't you see? He and I are one and the same! It's a long story, but young Midoriya felt it was best to tell you sooner rather than-"

Katsuma burst into tears.

Izuku flailed, quickly grabbed his napkin and then tossed it down again, opting instead to scoop Katsuma into his arms. Uraraka and Iida were making similarly frantic displays, while Todoroki hovered awkwardly halfway to standing. All Might's smile started to falter.

“Ah ha… ha… um. Sorry, am I missing something?”

Bring him back, ” Katsuma sobbed against Izuku's shoulder. “I want Ojiisan, not All Might! I want Ojiisan back, now! Please! I - I want my grandpa and big sister!

Izuku sat, stunned, the sobbing toddler in his arms continuing to cling tightly. After a horribly long pause he managed to pull Katsuma away enough to look at his blotchy face.

“Katsuma,” he said carefully. “You have a sister?”

---

“Two,” Katsuki said, voice stern.

“Three,” Mahoro insisted, just as stubborn.

“Okay, one.”

“What!” Mahoro dropped her hands from where they’d been planted on her hips, an unconscious mimic of Katsuki’s own posture. Hers, now balled into fists, beat rapidly against his leg. “Dummy, that’s not a compromise, that’s worse!”

“I offered two, you didn’t want it. Lesson for next time.”

“Um,” said the man behind the counter. “S-so will that be two single scoop cones then?”

“One single,” Katsuki said. “Make the other a triple.”

Ugh.” Mahoro stopped her ineffective punches and slumped against his side instead. “You’re the worst and I hate you.”

“I’m the best,” Katsuki corrected. “And no hitting, brat.”

“Sorry,” Mahoro mumbled half-heartedly. After a beat she tacked on, “I don’t hate you, either. Most of the time.”

Katsuki accepted the two ice cream cones from the cashier, handing over an excess wad of bills in return. He waved away the change and then handed the taller cone to Mahoro. “They messed up the order and gave us three scoops of your flavor. Call it your lucky day.”

Mahoro’s frown turned to an eager grin as she accepted the treat. “You’re a bad liar,” she said as she took a large bite. A brain freeze set in instantly, along with regret. “We got the same flavor.”

“Nah, mine tastes better.”

“Does not .”

“Oh yeah? Let me try yours then.” She quickly darted away from his reaching hand, squealing as she ran out the door of the convenience store.

“Dammit, kid!” Katsuki called after her as he followed. “What did I say about running around without looking first? You coulda brained someone coming through the door.”

“I didn’t, though.”

Coulda.”

Didn’t.

Katsuki felt an instinctual ‘die’ bubbling up, but managed to beat it down. He’d let some of his harsher catchphrases loose only a couple of times around the kid before deciding her hurt expression was just about the most annoying thing he’d ever seen. Or something.

“So, where to next?” she asked, taking daintier licks of ice cream as she started marching down the sidewalk.

“Home,” he said. “And don’t give me that look, you know the deal. Ice cream only when patrol’s over, and no patrol after ice cream. That’s called ‘work-life balance’.”

Mahoro still gave him a disgruntled pout, letting her stride slow until they were walking side-by-side. Katsuki shivered as a passing breeze crawled down his collar, and eyed the treat in his hand with distaste. “We might need a new routine, actually. Getting too damn cold for this.”

“Ice cream’s always yummy, you’re just weak.”

“I’m what -” His phone buzzed in his pocket, cutting him off. It then buzzed again. And again.

Thinking it must be ringing he pulled it out and checked the screen. Instead of a call, he had several texts from a number labeled simply ‘Don’t Answer’. Half of his contacts had similar names, however, so he checked the messages anyway.

How do I make Midoriya stop crying?

Midoriya Izuku, that is.

How do I make him stop?

Is there a trick? He doesn’t want any food.

Proper capitalization and punctuation. Typical fucking IcyHot.

Not everyone eats their feelings, dumbass, he texted back, then quickly added, Stop texting me.

Just as he shoved the phone back into his pocket, it started to ring for real.

“Who is it?” Mahoro asked.

“Nobody,” he said, thumbing away the call. He opened his messages again.

Don’t call me either, he texted. The reply was instantaneous.

I’m worried he’ll get dehydrated. He’s been going for a while.

“Ugh,” Katsuki muttered under his breath, biting into the ice cream still held in his left hand as he texted with his right. The brain freeze was instant and untenable. He dropped the rest of the cone into the next trashcan they passed.

Mahoro gasped in horror.

“Can it, or I’ll throw you in too.” Another text buzzed into his inbox before he’d had a chance to finish replying.

You two are friends again, right?

Ugh,” Katsuki repeated.

We talk, he typed, then couldn’t think of anything else to add so he just sent that.

You’ve known him longer than I have, was Todoroki’s response.

Hating each other for over a decade doesn’t mean I know what to do when he blubbers about a sad commercial or some shit.

You don’t hate him, Todoroki said instantly. You’re friends.

Katsuki may have been exaggerating about his hate of Midoriya Izuku, but Todoroki Shouto was quickly climbing up his shit list.

Just tell him to knock it off. If he’s not dying then he’s fine. Just let it run its course.

There was no response for the next several blocks, and by the time Mahoro had finished her own ice cream, fingers red and shivering, Katsuki had decided there probably wouldn’t be. His conversations with Todoroki tended to go like that - quick and bitchy. Rinse, repeat.

“Are we doing the same neighborhood tomorrow?” Mahoro asked as they approached the train station. They had a long ride ahead of them, almost an hour back to the city, and then another twenty minute ride to his house.

“Nah, got a lead last week I wanna check out. North this time.”

“Last week ? Why didn’t you tell me!”

“Because it doesn’t matter, you’ll be at school anyway.”

Mahoro made an incoherent groan of anguish, surely dying from the injustice in Katsuki’s words. He watched on, unmoved.

“School’s important. You go learn shit, I’ll check this place out after my shift.”

“Do it first,” she insisted. “This is hero work, too, you know.”

“I know.” His voice dropped into the closest register he had to soothing, which was just a quieter version of his usual growl. Still, Mahoro calmed down and leaned against his leg, cold fingers wiggling into his coat pocket and against his palm. At no point in the last five months had she shown any wariness of his hands. That was… something.

Feeling generous, he took his phone back out of his other pocket, scrolling through his short list of text conversations until he found one he hadn’t replied to in a while. To an outward observer the recipient was labeled by their given name only, an intimate gesture. Katsuki knew better.

Oi, Deku, he sent, ignoring the long list of messages he’d left on read. Since he’d taken on the responsibility of raising Mahoro he had - in his own opinion - become far too busy to entertain nerds who sent entire paragraphs.

IcyHot said you were losing your shit over something. Your mom okay?

Katsuki expected a longer pause than he got, but the phone buzzed only a minute later - two texts in rapid succession.

She’s fine!!!!!!

Thank you for asking that’s so sweet Kacchan!!!!

Katsuki tucked the phone away, deciding Deku wouldn’t lie about his mom, and that Todoroki probably would have mentioned if the nerd was on his deathbed.

“You’ll tell me if you find anything, right?” Mahoro suddenly piped up, still slouched against his side. Her own voice had softened, taking on the sad tone which had grated on his nerves until he’d finally come up with the hair-brained plan they were currently enacting.

“Obviously,” Katsuki said. “When I find your brother, you’ll be the first to know.”

Chapter Text

With three bedrooms on the main floor, and an entire loft he’d converted into a workshop and design studio, Izuku's apartment was more space than he ever thought he’d need. Costing all of his first signing bonus plus most of the savings he’d put together while interning with David Shield in America, it was the definition of a big ticket item. 

But Izuku had always been a sucker for a good sales pitch, and the realtor had painted a mental picture of the apartment filled with Izuku’s friends and family, all of his people coming together under one roof. They were magic words, essentially, and Izuku had moved in later that same week.

Until Katsuma, though, it’d just been him in the apartment. His mother visited, but more often than not Izuku would take the train out to his childhood home instead of making her come to him. And while Todoroki stayed in the guest room whenever he was in town for work, he was never around enough to be considered a true roommate.

In short, Izuku had gotten lonely, dreaming of the day his home would be bursting with life other than his own. 

Today, he had the opposite problem.

“Water?” Todoroki offered for the fifth time in as many minutes.

From his perch sprawled on the couch, Izuku looked through swollen eyes at the drink. He was thirsty, actually, but he was also a terrible person, and terrible people deserved to die of dehydration.

“You’re not a bad person,” Todoroki said, patting Izuku’s feet where they rested near his end of the couch. 

“Did I say that out loud?”

“You’ve been muttering for a while.” Todoroki set the water down, next to a skyline of other untouched offerings. Izuku noticed there were no coasters resting under any of the glasses. Good. He deserved rings on his furniture.

Todoroki sighed.

Ugh , sorry.” Izuku finally managed to sit up a little, choosing the nearest water glass and downing it in one go. His throat was parched from his earlier crying, and he was a little worried it’d start up again once he rehydrated. “Did Kacchan text back?”

Todoroki picked up Izuku’s phone from where it rested by his hip, checking for notifications. “No, sorry. Did you tell him what happened?”

“God no,” Izuku said. “Kacchan hates kids. Did even when we were kids. When I told him I was considering adopting he said it was a waste of time, and I’d regret giving up my prime to raise ‘some little rugrat’.”

“That seems harsh, even for Bakugou.”

Izuku shrugged awkwardly from his resumed sprawl. “It was one of the last conversations he responded to. I wasn’t even planning to tell him about Katsuma until the probationary period was over. And now? He’d just say he told me so and rub it in my face.”

“You know he’s gotten better.” Todoroki’s voice held a certain defensiveness, and Izuku was reminded that despite Kacchan’s constant denials, Todoroki was quite adamant the two were friends. Must be nice , he thought.

“Whatever,” he eventually muttered into the couch cushion. “Kacchan being right about everything is the least of my problems. Is All Might still on the phone?”

“Last I saw, yes. He’s in my room currently; I think he wanted some privacy to yell at your case worker.”

Izuku’s eyes widened. He’d never heard All Might raise his voice in anything other than boisterous encouragement. Izuku couldn’t even stomach the hero’s rare quiet disappointment, he couldn’t imagine being yelled at by him.

“Why didn’t he go up to the shop?”

“We couldn’t get the door open.” A pointed look.

It was Izuku’s turn to sigh, running a hand over his face and up into his curls. “I really need to get rid of those damn child locks.”

“Language, please, Midoriya-kun,” Iida said as he entered the room. Uraraka walked in behind him, her face just as solemn.

“Katsuma’s finally asleep. It took a while but Iida started reciting Safety Commission Regulations from memory and that seemed to do the trick.”

“Thank you,” Izuku said, moving over so she could sit next to him. Iida stayed standing, his posture stiff as ever.

“I think he would have liked it if you’d said goodnight,” Uraraka said gently, giving his arm a squeeze, pinky carefully held aloft.

“I… can’t even think about facing him right now,” Izuku admitted. “I mean what do I say? ‘Sorry I took you away from your last remaining family on Earth?’ I’m a monster .”

“You are no such thing,” Iida objected. “And besides, we don’t even know the details of Katsuma’s situation. It’s possible his sister is significantly older - she may have never even been in the system to begin with.”

“That’s worse ,” Izuku groaned. “That means she probably has no idea where he’s been all this time. And it’ll make it even harder to find her. What do I do ?”

“Wait for All Might to finish his call, for starters.” Uraraka gave his arm another squeeze, this time adding a light shake. “And in the meantime tell us about this adoption agency - did they really never mention any of this?”

No. I wouldn’t have - I mean I would have offered to take them both on, you know? But I didn’t - oh god maybe that’s why.” Izuku let his head fall back into his hands. “The agency only cleared me to take on someone with a ‘suitably low key’ quirk. Katsuma’s cell activation isn’t dangerous so there’s not a lot of extra work that’d go into taking care of him. But maybe his sister’s power is different? If she has a strength quirk or something they might not have thought I’d be able to handle her.”

“That’s… how is that legal , isn’t this some kind of discrimination?” Iida’s tone was as sharp as the gestures he cut the air with. “Plenty of children develop quirks that deviate from their relatives.”

“Oh trust me, I know,” Izuku said. “But apparently the law allows agencies like this to take quirks - or the lack thereof - into account when finding guardians for minors. And I guess… I understand the reasoning but - to separate siblings because of it, I just-” The tears had started up again, and he felt Uraraka start rubbing comforting circles into his back.

“We’ll figure this out,” she said determinedly. Iida and Todoroki made noises of agreement. “All Might will use his connections to get this sorted and then, who knows, maybe soon you’ll be turning the guest room into a second bedroom.”

“That’s my room, though,” Todoroki said, and Izuku heard the thud of an elbow meeting something much softer than an elbow.

“You can start staying at hotels like the rest of us,” she said.

“What if they don’t let me keep either?” Izuku said, the realization dawning on him like a terrible sunrise. “What if this really was a mistake and they want to keep them together - I couldn’t force them to give me Katsuma, to take him away from his sister again.”

Uraraka frowned, but kept up her gentle petting. Izuku eventually found the energy to break the long silence.

"He's been through so much, already. Apparently his parents died when he was really young and then he - or they, I guess, were raised by neighbors. Katsuma's from a small island way off the coast, so it wasn't until the hero there retired and was replaced that the situation was reported to CPS."

"That must have been hard," Uraraka said. "Growing up alone, then moving so far from home."

Izuku slumped further into his seat. "And I've just made it worse."

"Actually," Todoroki interjected, "you probably made it better. You gave him a welcoming home and stability. And now that you know about his sister you seem driven to do something about it."

"It's highly admirable," Iida agreed. "I'm sure once this issue is resolved, the agency will be more than happy to let you adopt Katsuma's sister as well."

“About that,” All Might said, entering the room with far less panache than usual. He slumped into an unoccupied armchair, his long legs splaying out before him. His hair was pushed back in an apparent after affect of having run his hands through it, a frustrated gesture he quickly repeated. “So, good news and bad news.”

“Great.” Izuku said sarcastically.

“The good news is that my reputation precedes me - once I confirmed my identity with the agency they were more than happy to give me the details for Katsuma’s case, as well as the information available on his sister.”

“And?” Iida prompted. “Do they know where she is?”

“That’s the bad news,” All Might said. “Her adoption file is sealed; completely anonymized.”

“Then have them unseal it,” Todoroki said simply. “If your influence isn’t enough, then I’ll get my father involved. I’m not above using him for this.”

“I’m afraid it’s not a matter of influence, my boy. When I say ‘completely anonymized’ I mean completely . It’s a rare practice, reserved for cases where public record of the adoption could put the child or their new family at risk. The case is approved by a judge, and then the records are destroyed once the adoption is complete. The agency doesn’t even have record of the girl’s name, though I was told they’d ask the on-site staff for anything they might remember about her.”

“What does this mean then,” Izuku asked, “is she in some kind of witness protection? Why only her?”

“Again, the agency has no details - these kinds of cases are done through third party organizations - but they did tell me that some professions did warrant this level of identity protection. Namely, heroes.”

“So Katsuma’s sister is either hidden away in a bunker somewhere, or she was adopted by someone with one of the most prolific professions in Japan.”

All Might winced, but nodded. “I’m sorry, young Midoriya. I’ll keep pressing the agency for additional details, but at the moment this is all we have to go on. At the very least we can assume whoever adopted young Katsuma’s sister is high profile, likely formally ranked. That still leaves us with a large pool, but hundreds are better than tens of thousands, no?”

Izuku sat up straight, head bowed towards the ground. His thoughts were still swimming with guilt and a lingering headache from the crying. But he was being faced with a problem, and if there’s one thing Izuku might consider his natural talent, it was problem solving.

“So what, we just ask every hero we know if they've adopted a little girl recently?" Uraraka shook her head, discouraged. "That seems like a long shot, All Might."

"I've seen worse odds," Izuku said, and met his mentor's gaze. They'd both come a long way from that rooftop in Musutafu, and Izuku knew All Might would support him if he decided to pursue this - not because of blind faith and circumstance, but because he'd trust Izuku to do it right.

"Let's start looking."

---

The lead Katsuki was investigating, as much as it could be called that, had been provided by Kaminari and then promptly ignored. It wasn't bad intel, per say, but Katsuki had taken one look at the location and promptly put it at the bottom of his priority list. He was already low on options, though, so it didn't take long for the idiot's idea to rise back to the surface.

"Oh, oh , if I help find the kid do I get to name him?" Kaminari had asked at the end of their patrol that day.

"It's not a lost dog," Kirishima had answered for him. "He's already got a name. Probably. Uh, right?"

Katsuki looked up from his locker, leveled the two with his most scathing glare, and then remembered they were too stupid to have a proper prey response and run away. " Yes , he has a name, obviously . It's Katsuma."

" Adorable ," a voice sighed from the other side of the lockers.

" Mina! " Kaminari shrieked, jumping behind Kirishima, who turned as red as his hair.

"What the hell, Ashido, you can't be in here!"

"I'm listening, not watching, keep your panties on. Oooh, unless you already took them off?" 

Katsuki growled and tossed his can of deodorant over the top of the locker, satisfied by the thud and squeal that followed.

" Oooow , that hurt, what the heck?"

"Get out," Katsuki said simply. 

"Oh come on, Kyouka wouldn't help me eavesdrop and you never talk about the kid when I'm around."

" Jirou's in here? " Kaminari hissed, looking around Kirishima's body and staring panickedly into every corner.

"Dammit, Pinky, I don't tell you about the brat because you always threaten to lose her at the mall and shit."

"I offer to babysit ," she corrected. Then, "Ugh, can I just come over there, I feel ridiculous talking to a locker."

Kirishima, who was about as shirtless as he would have been in uniform anyway, lept behind Katsuki. Kaminari followed, and Katsuki tried not to contemplate how he'd become part of a three stooges routine.

It'd taken a bit more shouting and Sero's eventual intervention to get them all out of the locker room (now fully dressed) but eventually Katsuki found himself on the elevator down to the main floor of their agency, most of the goon squad still back in the office to transition into the afternoon shift.

Most of them.

"You know what you're doing is kinda illegal, right?" Kirishima said.

"No, shitty hair, I hadn't noticed, and I forgot since the last time you pointed it out."

"Man, come on, I'm being serious. That legal firm you used for the adoption is no joke. The anonymous thing is supposed to go both ways - if they find out you're snooping you could get in trouble." When this garnered no response Kirishima leaned in closer, voice firm. "It might be grounds for taking Mahoro away."

Katsuki growled through gritted teeth. The firm in question had stonewalled his initial inquiry (read: tirade), citing the contract he'd signed. He'd been told not even All Might himself would have been allowed to break the confidentiality clause. Katsuki had briefly considered calling that bluff, but he'd take his own quirk to the face before he asked the old man for help, especially after the stunt Katsuki had pulled a few months ago.

"First of all," he said, "those bastards don't deserve privacy if they're pulling this kind of shady shit. And second, like hell are they taking my damn kid."

The elevator doors opening onto the lobby prevented Kirishima from replying. He and the rest of the team had sworn to keep Mahoro's adoption on the down low until Katsuki decided she was settled enough to go public. By his estimation, he'd be ready to let the press know sometime after hell froze over.

"Later." Katsuki started walking quickly toward the front doors, scanning his ID on the way out. Kirishima, the overgrown bastard, kept easy pace with his own long strides.

"Hey, unrelated to anything about - uh, anything. But have you talked to that support engineer friend of yours? The one who works for the biggest support company in the country? The one everyone loves and who has a massive contact network? That guy ?"

Another growl as they stepped out onto the street. Their agency was well away from downtown, but there were still plenty of people around, likely part of the midday lunch rush. Katsuki made sure to keep his voice modulated when he answered.

"Deku's - not an option right now."

"Why not?"

"Because I fucking said so, alright?"

"Come on, man, I know you're allergic to asking for help or whatever, but haven't you known him since you were kids? And he's tight with Todoroki and Iida, so he must be an okay guy. I'm sure he'd be willing to look into this."

"He's the reason I'm in this mess in the first place," Katsuki muttered, kicking a loose piece of cement into a side alley.

"What do you mean?"

Another grumbled reply. "He's the one who turned me onto the adoption idea, alright? But I was an ass about it at the time so he never brought it up again. He'd probably call me a hypocrite if I told him about all this."

His words were entirely true, but they weren't the entire truth. When Deku had started texting him out of the blue the year before, Katsuki had been… hesitant. They'd seen each other in person since middle school, mostly through professional events, and once, notably, during the UA sports festival in Katsuki's 3rd year. In all cases Deku had attended as All Might's protégé - the mysterious, quirkless support prodigy that everyone wanted to know everything about. Katsuki's curiosity about the nerd wasn't anything special.

Deku's reciprocated interest, on the other hand...

"Oh. Jeez, okay. Shame you can't like, apologize or something."

Katsuki reached out and blasted Kirishima's bare arm. The other hero brushed the ash off himself casually, letting his quirk dissipate once it seemed there'd be no secondary assault.

Once he'd let the annoyance peter out for a couple blocks, Katsuki finally let his tense posture drop. "Listen, I'm only gonna explain this to you once. Deku and I have history - most of it shitty, most of it my fault. If he hadn't become All Might's pet project or whatever I probably never woulda seen the guy again. I can't just use him for personal shit when I haven't even finished making up for being an ass recently , much less our entire childhoods."

Kirishima nodded slowly along with the explanation, contemplative. "You've got a really strong moral code, huh? Pretty manly, Bakugou."

"I just don't like owing people shit."

"Oh I'm well aware of that. I found that money you put in my bag last week, by the way. I told you I didn't mind paying for lunch."

"Whatever. Use it to take Ashido out next time if you're so hell bent on being generous."

Kirishima let the matter drop, thankfully. Katsuki didn't really want to talk about his falling out with Deku, especially given he hadn't let himself examine it too closely yet. It'd been a dumb disagreement anyway. Deku wanted a kid. Deku wanted to settle down and start a family and maybe pull back a little from work, the one consistent point of contact Katsuki had with him. It was a stupid idea, Katsuki had been convinced. So stupid, he'd done it himself only a month later. 

Yeah. Only an idiot would do any of that.

They were finally approaching the train station where they typically would have parted ways, Kirishima taking a bus the rest of the way to his apartment, and Katsuki boarding a train to his house in the suburbs. That day, though, Katsuki followed Kirishima across the street to the entrance for the northbound line.

"Detour?" Kirishima asked.

"I got a thing to check on. Kaminari found a chick with some decent hacking skills. Not a quirk, apparently, so her record's all misdemeanors."

Kirishima startled at that. "You're meeting a villain ?"

" No , I'm meeting a tech consultant. Kaminari just knows about her because she's in the system. Don't make a big deal out of it."

Kirishima shook his head as he came to a stop at the entrance to the station. "You'll ask for help from a villain but not your childhood friend, got it." He tilted his head, smiling fondly. "Mahoro must be something special."

"Of course," Katsuki said, starting down the stairs. "She's my damn kid, remember? And that means she's the best. Naturally ."

---

Despite his confident words as he'd parted way with Kirishima, Katsuki quickly lost all enthusiasm for his current task when he got off the train and was met with two obnoxiously wide smiles.

"Oh em geeee, I knew you were coming to visit us." Camie bumped her hip against Inasa's. "I totally told you so."

"Bakugou!" Inasa shouted, though Katsuki knew well that this was his normal speaking volume. "It's incredible to see you!"

"Die," he said, and made his way to the nearest exit. The two caught up with him at the turnstiles.

"How long are you in town for?" Camie asked. "We can, like, get dinner and stuff."

"I got shit to do," Katsuki replied gruffly. "Now and later. So buzz off."

"Nah," she said, linking her arm with his. She'd ditched the heels her uniform had included back in high school, but Katsuki realized she was still slightly taller. He didn't bother checking the difference with Inasa, the man was as mountainous as ever.

"How did you idiots find me, anyway. I swear if you and Racoon Eyes are in cahoots-"

Camie waved a dismissive hand. "Do you, like, not track yourself on soc med? You're totally viral right now. On WeChat and Twitter. Congrats on a million mentions, by the way."

"The hell are you talking about?"

It was Inasa who held out his phone, the device looking ludicrous in his oversized gauntlets. "Look at this, Camie sent it to me! There's a picture of you hugging a young fan at a train station."

"Everyone thinks you look totes adorable. And now all your fans want to see if they can get a hug, too. You've basically been getting ID'd everytime you step outside."

Katsuki looked at the photo with dread. Sure enough, there he was, one hand patting Mahoro's head as she clung to his leg at the station yesterday.

"Shit," he said, and quickly raised his jacket hood.

"Cute," Camie said. "And pointless. You're like, really easy to spot. Hey, can I do something with tour hair while you're here?"

"Touch my hair and die. Also get off me, you two are gonna make it impossible to blend in."

"Why do you need to blend in?" Inasa asked.

"Because I got an appointment I don't want anyone snooping on. You idiots included."

"Of course, understood!" A toothy smile, then: "What's the appointment for?"

"Are you - dammit, Lips, get off me!" Camie had shifted her hold to put Katsuki slightly in front of her, and when he turned he saw she had her own phone raised to capture them all in a selfie. He watched as his scowl was saved to her camera roll.

"Delete that," he growled.

"Relax, I won't post it until peak hours."

" Do not put me on your stupid twister or whatever."

"Ugh, fine, grandpa ."

"Great, now, if you don't mind ." Without further ado Katsuki put some distance between them and then shot into the air, his quirk startling the pedestrians around them.

It wasn't a full minute later that Inasa caught up to him, body held aloft by a strong cyclone of air, and Camie reclined his his arms like she was sitting on a chaise lounge. 

"You're acting, like, super sus right now!" she called out.

" ARGH !" Katsuki used the next blast to kill his momentum and dropped onto the rooftop below them. Inasa landed easily next to him and set Camie back on her feet.

"Okay, listen, both of you. The kid in that picture? Not a fan; she's my kid. And I'm trying to keep her privacy private , so don't go screwing that up, got it?"

"Oooooh," Camie said, a finger coming up to tap her bottom lip. "That makes so much more sense. I thought you were turning, like, nice or something."

"Bakugou! Congratulations! I didn't even know you were married!"

"I'm not," Katsuki ground out.

"Yikes," Camie said, widening her eyes. "Totes awk. Who's the baby mama?"

"Shut up, there isn't one. She's adopted."

" Bakugou! " If Inasa shouted his name one more time Katsuki was gonna drop kick him off the roof. "That's even more amazing! And you being so passionate about your daughter's safety - I admire your dedication so much !"

"You're both lunatics," Katsuki said. "Look, just keep this quiet, okay? If anyone asks why I was in town, tell them it's work related. If they ask about the picture, act like you don't know anything. If you get the urge to ask me more about this - don't. "

"Don't even sweat it, boo, our lips are sealed ." Camie mimed locking her mouth and throwing away the key, then immediately opened it again. "So like, when can we meet her? What's her name? Does she have a fun quirk?"

"Never, none of your business, and - a-also none of your business."

Camie's eyes narrowed at the stumble, and Katsuki feared the stopped clock in front of him had just happened upon the correct time. "What's her quirk, Bakubabe? Or does she not have one?"

Katsuki narrowed his eyes. "So what if she didn't? Leave it."

"It's totally something fun, isn't it. I bet she can like, breathe fire, or something. Oh , is it air like Inasa's, you'd never admit to that. Oh em gee, what if she could make illusions too?"

Katsuki made a quick about-face and promptly jumped off the side of the building. Let the idiots try and catch him after he'd built up a good stress sweat.

 

---

 

His departure from the city was far less exciting than his arrival. Katsuki had kept an eye out for cameras pointed in his direction, but had only noticed a single group of school kids eyeing him curiously. He'd managed to make it to his meeting, get in and get out, all within the hour. Plenty of time to get home before Mahoro returned from school.

A call came through when he got off the train back in his own neighborhood, Ashido's face smiling sunnily up from the screen.

"What," he answered briskly.

" Heeeeey, Blasty! Just wanted to let you know All Might called earlier, said he wants you to call him back. "

Katsuki had avoided talking to All Might for as long as he'd been avoiding Deku's texts, and he wasn't in the mood to break his streak. He very much did not want to hear his favorite hero playing mediator like he and Deku were grade-school rivals.

"Whatever, I'll call him when I have time." He hung up before she could get another word in. If there was anything else important, she could tell him at work.

Also more pressingly, as he rounded the corner to his own street a lumbering something came out of the bushes, mangy fur and snarling teeth dripping with blood.

"That the best you got, kid?"

The beast snarled, but its form wobbled, like a projector on the fritz. A moment later Mahoro stepped onto the side-walk in its place. Her hair was still in the pigtails he'd put it in that morning, and her half-zipped backpack was letting her school jacket dangle precariously.

"That was super scary, though! I saw it on TV last night, and everyone was screaming when they saw it!"

"When the hell were you watching scary movies yesterday?"

Mahoro tapped her chin, looking to the side shiftily. "I meant at school?"

"You're changing schools if that's the kind of garbage they're showing you."

Mahoro's expression paled, and Katsuki quickly added changing social groups to the list of things not to joke about. "Not serious, brat. Now come on. It's too cold for you to be running around in the street."

Katsuki herded Mahoro back home, making sure to enter their yard from the back gate. The photo of them online was still making him paranoid.

"Okay, now tell me everything ," Mahoro said as soon as they were inside. She jumped onto the couch, backpack and shoes abandoned by the back door. Katsuki wordlessly picked them up and dropped them on her head as he passed.

"Put your junk away. Then dinner. Then mission debrief."

Mahoro sighed all the way out of the room, the sound fading out and then back in as she returned from her room. She was dressed in a pair of Edgeshot pajamas, a choice he'd question when she'd asked for them the last time they'd gone shopping. In a rare show of shyness, she'd refused to answer.

Dinner was butter chicken curry, and Katsuki was careful to keep track of which bowl he added extra chili oil to. He'd made their meals the same way once early on, and wouldn't be making that mistake again. When their food was finished and dishes put away, he let Mahoro drag him back into the living room. She pushed him onto the couch and then clambered onto his favorite recliner, pulling a notebook and pen from the side table.

"Okay, you can start now."

"What are you, my shrink?" Katsuki threw a pillow at her.

"Stop it, this is serious business. Or are you not professional enough to handle this case, Mr. Number Eight Hero?"

"You know I got bumped up to seventh in the last rankings. I know you know that."

"Listen, Number Nine, we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way."

"The hell kind of shows you been watchin', kid?" All the same, he settled back into the couch cushions and told her what he'd been up to, leaving pauses so she could take her notes. His lips twitched slightly as he watched her scribble across the pages, tongue poking out slightly. He snapped a quick picture, then stared at it on his phone.

I should show Deku, he thought. He put his phone away without opening his texts.

"Okay, so this La Brava lady says she can get past Empire Legal's security or whatever. I thought the whole point was that they deleted all my info when you took me in?"

"According to her, data never really goes away. She thinks they'll have backups, just in case. It's worth looking into at the very least."

"Hmph. I still don't see why we can't just go to the place I was staying at with Katsuma and ask them where he is."

"Oh yeah, and what's that place's address?"

Mahoro fidgeted with her pen.

"You remember the city?"

Still no answer.

"How about the train they took you on to meet me? Do you even remember the date of the last time you saw him?"

"Ugh, shut up! I know I'm a terrible sister, you don't have to rub it in!" Mahoro brought an arm up to her face and started wiping furiously at her frustrated tears. The bracelet on her wrist left red marks where she pressed it against her face.

"Oi, cut that out, hey ." Great, fantastic. Forget the number one hero spot, he was obviously gunning for father of the year with this one.

"I'm... sorry, okay?" He kneeled in front of her chair, gently prying down her arms. Her eyes were red and still brimming with tears, lips pursed in a scowl.

"I'm not a baby, stop it." He didn't let her pull her hands away, instead keeping a gentle grip on her arms.

"Yeah, you're not, but I still shouldn't have said that. I - keep messing up, with what I say around you. Most people I deal with, they're used to it, or they're extras whose opinions I don't care about. You're neither of those so - yeah, I need to think. Before I, you know."

" Talk ?" Mahoro filled in snidely.

"Oi, I'm apologizing here."

"Yeah, well you suck at it. Go get me ice cream if you wanna be nice or whatever."

Katsuki put a lid on his sigh of relief. He may have been joking about therapists earlier, but his real one had pointed out on several occasions that he was better with actions than words. Even if he was currently being manipulated for treats, he was admittedly glad the kid seemed to be of a similar opinion regarding apologies. 

"Yeah, alright. Go clean your face first, though, you'll get snot in your dessert otherwise."

Mahoro pouted, then used the hand still holding hers to wipe her dribbling nose of his sleeve. She then darted out of the room with a laugh.

"Damn brat," he muttered, going into the kitchen.

Your damn brat. Yeah, whatever.

Getting down a couple of bowls and spoons, Katsuki let his thoughts wander. After a minute of quietly arguing with himself, he pulled his phone back out and stared at the picture of Mahoro.

"Nah, not yet." He instead opened his contacts, and called one of the recent numbers before he lost his nerve.

He was a man of action. And he had a nerd to make amends with.

Chapter Text

A full 24 hours after the revelation about Katsuma’s sister, and Izuku had finally started to fatigue. He’d spent the whole of Monday going through his rolodex of contacts, asking if anyone knew of any heroes who'd recently taken in a 10 year old girl. The answer had universally been no, followed by the obvious question of why he was asking. 

The excuse Izuku had fallen back on was a half truth - he was helping with a case involving siblings separated by the system. Putting his own involvement out there felt like he was asking for trouble, though. Izuku wasn’t a pro hero, but he was involved enough in the hero industry to be familiar with the media circus surrounding it. He’d made some notable appearances on tabloid covers himself, first as the rumoured secret love child of the nation’s number one hero, and later as the once-more-rumoured secret paramour of America’s engineering darling, Melissa Shield. Both instances had been mortifying, and he’d rather keep Katsuma well away from such drama.

Speaking of which.

“Deku-san?” A soft knock on the door followed the quiet voice. “Are you still in there?”

Izuku caught his own frazzled reflection in one of the loft windows. He’d barely slept the night before, opting instead to strategize with Iida and Uraraka before they’d had to return to their respective agencies. Todoroki had offered to stay an extra night but Izuku had shooed him off, insisting he’d be fine coordinating by phone. At no point did he admit he was terrified of his next conversation with Katsuma without someone else to act as a buffer.

“Um, just a second!” He tried to fluff his hair into something a little less mad-scientist as he walked to the door. He’d made good on his promise of removing the child lock from the doorknob, but had left the regular lock in place.

He opened the door a sliver, peaking out at where Katsuma stood at the top of the stairway. He was once more wrapped in the comforter from his bed, bare feet shuffling nervously on the landing.

“What are you still doing up?” Izuku asked. “All Might said you’d gone to sleep before he left.”

“I um. I pretended to fall asleep.”

“And… why did you do that?”

Katsuma took a small step forward, his head tilting all the way back to look at Izuku, his big brown eyes shining in the lights from the workshop. “Deku-san, are you mad at me?”

Izuku had always been a sympathetic crier, and seeing Katsuma’s teary eyes instantly set off his own water works, a tear rolling easily down his cheek.

“H-hey, no, I’m not mad.” He opened the door all the way, crouching down to pick Katsuma up, blankets and all. “I’m so sorry, Katsuma, I didn’t mean to make you think that.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t like your surprise,” the boy said, staring down at his hands.

“My - what?”

“You said All Might was a surprise, but I didn’t act happy, even though I know he’s your favorite.”

“Oh my god, Katsuma, that’s not - okay, hang on.” Izuku quickly walked them over to his desk chair, settling Katsuma in his lap as he sat down. “This had nothing to do with that. I still want to have a talk with you about All Might but that can wait. Right now I’m just sad because I didn’t know you had a sister you’d been missing this whole time. If I had known - “ Izuku didn’t finish the sentence, unsure how to.

Kastuma’s entire body fell forward against his chest, his own head of curls tucking under Izuku’s chin. “I’m sorry. I know you can’t bring Onee-chan back. I shouldn’t have asked.”

“Katsuma, you have every right to miss your sister. I’m just sorry I didn’t know sooner. But now that I do… I’ve been calling a lot of my friends today, to see if anyone can help us find her. Do you remember those questions All Might asked you earlier? About what your sister looks like, how old she is? That’s all going to help us find her. You’ve been so helpful already Katsuma, I hope you know that.”

Izuku had started petting through Katsuma’s hair at some point, letting the soft strands slide through his scarred fingers. Izuku was average sized, more broad than tall, but holding Katsuma’s whole body against his chest made him feel like a giant.

“Katsuma… can you tell me about your sister?”

The boy shifted a little, but didn’t raise his head. “Like what I told All Might?”

Izuku smiled. “You can still call him Ojiisan, if you want. I think he’d prefer it actually.” Katsuma hummed his reply, a pleased noise. “And sure, you can tell me those kinds of things if you want. But also just… tell me about her. What she’s like.”

A beat of silence. Then Katsuma’s sweet voice, slow with sleepiness. “Mahoro-chan is the best.”

Izuku smiled. “Oh yeah? What’s she the best at.”

Everything. She’s really smart, and her quirk makes her really good at make believe. She always came up with the funnest games to play.”

“Oh? Like what?”

Izuku just let Katsuma talk, throwing in occasional fillers to let the boy know he was still listening. Eventually his voice trailed off in the middle of a story about Mahoro using her quirk to herd neighborhood cats. Izuku peaked down at Katsuma’s face, moving some hair out of the way to see his peaceful expression.

I can’t imagine losing this, he thought, and felt a deep empathy for Mahoro in that moment. Wherever she was, he was sure she was missing her brother like mad.

Quietly, his phone started to buzz on his desk.

Izuku moved to swipe the call away, not wanting to wake Katsuma, but stopped when he saw the caller ID.

“Kacchan?” he said aloud, then quickly answered the call and repeated the name into his phone. “Kacchan, is everything alright?”

Hah? Yeah, I’m fine, why wouldn't I be?” It’d been almost half a year since Izuku had heard that voice on anything other than a TV screen. While the audio quality was about the same, it was an unexpected relief to hear that rough cadence and know it was directed at him specifically.

“Nothing, I just - didn’t expect you to call.” Izuku spoke softly, and tucked the comforter up around Katsuma’s ears, just in case.

Yeah, well, here I am.

“Ha, yeah. Um. What - did you need something, Kacchan? It’s a little late…”

It’s not even eight, what kind of dumbass hours have you been working?” There was a pause on the other end of the line, filled with the sounds on utensils clinking against dishes.

“Are you eating?” Izuku hedged.

Mn. Ice cream.

Izuku smiled at the unexpected answer. “I don’t remember you having a sweet tooth.”

It’s sugar free," he muttered. "Don’t tell anyone.

“Who would care if I did?” 

Another pause, this one without background noises. Then, “You still considering the whole kid thing?

Izuku’s soft smile fell at the words. The last time he’d broached the subject with Kacchan had also been the first time he’d admitted the desire out loud. Sure the paperwork was filed and he’d been put on a waiting list, but he hadn’t even told his mother before then. In fact, it was Kacchan’s vehement doubt in his plan that had spurred Izuku into getting All Might involved. 

Funny, how Kacchan continued to push him forward, even when he tore him down. Some things never changed, it seemed.

“Maybe,” was his eventual answer. “Why, did you think of another reason I’d be a bad parent?” He unconsciously held Katsuma a little closer.

I never - ! I didn’t say that,” Izuku heard what sounded like a deep breath before Kacchan continued. “And… I actually wanted to say, if you’re still looking into that, there’s this… service, you should avoid. It’s a legal firm, they do closed adoptions for heroes and shit. But they’re kinda shady it turns out. I figured, you know, if you were gonna do this, you’d want to do it right."

“Kacchan, are you… giving me advice?”

“...Maybe. No. Shut up.

“Uh huh.” The smile was back, a little excited this time. “That’s… unexpectedly sweet of you.”

Unexpected - what’s that supposed to mean?

“You’re kind of an ass,” Izuku said, gently patting Katsuma’s back when he grumbled in his sleep.

The hell’d you just call me, shitty Deku? Alright then, see if I send you the notes I have left over from - whatever, see if I share any of this shit with you. And what’s that noise, you got a cat now or something?

Izuku froze, looking down at Katsuma. Now would probably be a good time to admit he’d already gone through with ‘the whole kid thing’. And that he was currently facing some unforeseen hiccups. Unforeseen by anyone but Kacchan.

Before he could answer there was a muffled sound from Kacchan’s end, the hero’s voice sounding farther away for a second. “-eat it so fast, you’ll throw up again, damn-

“Cat?” Izuku asked.

Hah? ” Kacchan’s voice returned. “No, it’s a small monkey, actually.”

Izuku chuckled. “Must have been an interesting trip to the pet store.”

“Yeah, it’s turned into a real adventure. Hey, hang on a second.” Kacchan covered the mic once more, returning a moment later. “You still there?

“Mhmm,” Izuku hummed, leaning his head back against the chair. If he didn’t put the two of them to bed soon, they’d both wake up with cricks in their necks.

You sure? Sounds like you’re about to pass out.

“Long day,” he admitted.

Still crying?” It took Izuku a moment to remember their short exchange from the day before, and he blushed at remembering Todoroki had told Kacchan about his crying jag.

“No, no, I’m fine now. It was… not nothing, but I’m working on it. Oh, actually before you say your thing - did you get All Might’s call earlier?”

All Might had offered to let him be the one to call Kacchan’s agency, but Izuku had chickened out as the phone was ringing, quickly shoving the handset towards All Might before anyone could answer.

Yeah...” Kacchan said slowly. “I uh, had to call him back. But I did. That.

Missing the lie, Izuku hummed his acknowledgement. So Kacchan hadn’t had any information on Mahoro, then. All Might would have told Izuku if he had. “Oh, alright. Well thanks anyway,” He’d said the phrase so much that day as he’d called all his hero contacts, that it rolled off his tongue by habit.

Uh, sure. Hey, before you pass out on me, let me say something first.

“Okay, Kacchan,” he said around a yawn.

...When’s the next time you’re planning to be in town?

“That’s a question.”

Sure is. Now answer it.”

“Um… not anytime soon? Sorry, Kacchan, but I have some… commitments, I need to stay close to home for. Did you need something? If it’s gear, we can work out something remotely.”

Nah, not gear. Wanted you to meet someone.

“Your pet monkey?”

What - Dammit, Deku, I wasn’t serious.

“I know, I know. Kacchan tells good jokes.” Another jaw-cracking yawn. “Maybe we can do something around the holidays? If you and your monkey don’t already have plans, that is.”

That’s not for another - no, yeah, okay, that’s fine. If something comes up and you find yourself in the area sooner, though... let me know.”

Izuku smiled with his eyes closed. “Does Kacchan miss me?”

Like a hole in my head. Now go the fuck to sleep.

“Mm. Hey, Kacchan?"

"What, Deku?"

"That place you mentioned earlier… you said they handle hero adoptions?"

"Yeah. I know you're… not a pro, but I figured a big shot support engineer might be considering something like that. Privacy and all."

"You think I'm a big shot?"

"I think you're annoying. Go to bed, dammit. "

Izuku held down a laugh, but his smile was unstoppable. “G’night, Kacchan,” he murmured.

Whatever.” Izuku expected the line to go dead, but Kacchan’s breathing continued long after he would have normally hung up. Eventually Izuku pulled the phone from his ear, reluctantly ending the call. He really did need to get Katsuma to bed.

---

Katsuki stared at his phone after the call had ended. The bowl of ice cream he’d brought into the office was half melted, the spoon threatening to slip off the edge. His attention was still on those last moments of the call, though. Deku’s teasing voice in his ear, soft with sleep, had settled over him like a comfortable blanket. His shoulders were relaxed, and he could feel his own expression easing out of it’s default frown as he’d lingered on the sound of Deku’s breathing.

Did Kacchan miss me?

Like a hole in my head.

Like a hole in my -

Oh, he thought. Well damn.

---

--

-

Todoroki Shouto was a popular guy. In high school he’d been revered for his strength and, for whatever reason, his looks. As a pro hero he was lauded for his service record and charmingly oblivious soundbites during interviews. (And his looks.) Within his friend groups he was appreciated for his steady presence and willingness to lend a hand.

And.

Your butt looked supes cute in that fight this morning, was the latest message in the group chat between himself, Camie, Inasa, and Bakugou. (Though the latter had almost definitely muted the chat by then.)

Thank you, he sent back.

She responded with a series of winky face emojis, and then, Did you read the article?

Curious, he scrolled further up in the chat. He’d spent the last few days fully invested in helping Midoriya and had left his personal phone mostly untouched. As a result, he had several missed calls and texts, one of which was an article link Camie had sent them over the weekend. The thumbnail preview showed a crowd at what appeared to be a train station.

The headline read, Pro Hero Ground Zero Captured In Touching Moment With Young Fan.

Shouto clicked the headline and read the short article, most of which seemed to be a long-winded recounting of a single fan’s WeChat post, claiming to have seen Bakugou acting sweetly with a fan while on a public outing. At the end of the article was a slightly blurry cell phone picture, the one he’d previewed earlier.

In it, Bakugou was barely visible across the crowded platform, his hand resting on top of a young girl’s head. Shouto wasn’t great at judging ages, but with his new experience around Katsuma he’d put this child’s age at around ten or so. Her face was hidden against Bakugou’s leg, but twin blonde pigtails peaked out under a knit cap. A puffy winter coat wrapped her from neck to knee, with tall pink rain boots on her feet. The photo was likely recent then, as the winter weather had only just started up.

He paged back into the chat. Cute, he said, and meant it.

Bakugou really had changed a lot since their time in school. Shouto quickly went back up and saved the picture, intending on sending it to Midoriya as evidence that he shouldn’t be worried to tell their friend about Katsuma.

Bzzt. Just as he was opening his and Midoriya’s message history, a new text arrived.

Good morning Todoroki-kun!! Thank you again for your help before!!

Shouto smiled at the screen, leaning back in his desk chair.

You’re welcome. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to find anything helpful yet.

No worries!!! Sunday was really stressful and we only just started looking. Actually I have something you could look into? If you have time!!

Tell me, he agreed easily. He’d spent the morning on patrol and gotten into the aforementioned villain fight. After an interview with the first news crew on the scene, he’d gone back to his agency’s office to write up the incident and fill out the appropriate insurance paperwork. He eyed at the stack of forms on his desk and moved them aside with a single finger.

I’m not busy.

Oh good!!  

Midoriya’s reply was immediate, and Shouto imagined him pacing around his own office space at home. Shouto saw his friend infrequently in person, but was well familiar with the man’s many nervous habits.

So, there’s this legal firm that offers ‘private adoption services’ for heroes and celebrities and i think that might be similar to the program used for Katsuma’s sister!! Actually Kacchan was the one to tell me about them, he called last night and said they were kind of shady so i shouldn’t use them to adopt, but obviously i don’t need that anymore because -

Shouto set his phone on the desk in front of him and patiently waited for the next three paragraphs to come through. When there were no more ellipses indicating Midoriya might have more to add, he went back and read through the texts. Bakugou had called, obviously extending an olive branch in the form of adoption advice, and unknowingly giving them a lead in the search for Shimano Mahoro.

Name? Todoroki sent back.

A pause before the dots were back.

OH MY GOD TODOROKI-KUN I’M SO SORRY!! I didn’t even tell you the name of the company!! TnT

Shouto waited a moment.

Which is? he eventually texted back.

Several more crying kaomoji, then a URL. When Shouto opened the link he was brought to a landing page for a company called Empire Legal. The specific page was titled ‘Confidential Adoption Services’ and detailed the firm’s process for approving and facilitating adoptions for individuals wanting to keep the process away from the public sphere. As Midoriya had mentioned, it was mostly geared towards heroes and idols, with a few testimonials from familiar politicians. Most of the examples listed on the page were anonymized, though, for obvious reasons.

This looks promising, he finally replied. Tell Bakugou thank you from me.

I will!! I hope you don’t mind me asking you to check them out, their headquarters is in your district so if they need you to confirm your identity in person i figured that’d be easier………

Of course. I’ll let you know if anything comes of it. He paused before sending another text.

Was that all you and Bakugou discussed?

The ellipses popped up and then went away. Then again. And again.

Shouto waited.

He was checking on me i think.

A short reply. Shouto waited some more.

Because you told him i was crying the other day? I think he was worried.
Or not worried but curious maybe
But he could tell i was tired and told me to go to bed a bunch so maybe he was a little worried??

Bakugou is a good friend, Shouto replied.

He is!!! I think i might tell him about Katsuma soon. Since he went as far as to look into services i could use. I wouldn’t want him to waste his time when i don’t really need that kind of advice anymore. That would be rude of me.

I think he’d like to meet your son. Shouto purposefully ignored the over-thinking in the second half of the message.

You think???

Yes. Katsuma is very charming. And he likes heroes who beat up bad guys. I’m sure he and Bakugou can bond over that last sentiment.

Midoriya responded with another series of crying faces, though these were interspersed with hearts, so Shouto took that to mean he’d said the right thing.

I’ll call their main office before they close, he offered. And tell you if I find anything.

Thank you!!!!  

Midoriya ended their exchange by sending him a picture of Katsuma in his school smock, rain hat sat atop his head and matching blue rain boots on his feet. The picture must have been taken in the mirror hung in their genkan, Midoriya’s own legs visible in the picture. Katsuma was leaning into Midoriya’s side, a common pose for the two.

Cute, he replied, and then dove into his research.

Chapter Text

It turned out when Kacchan said Empire Legal was “shady”, what he’d really meant was “obnoxiously obstinate and self-important.” At least, that was Izuku’s opinion on the matter.

“Still no progress?” Yagi asked from his spot on the living room floor. Katsuma was bringing increasingly heavier objects for him to lift one-handed. Izuku had wanted to object, before realizing Katsuma’s own limits would dictate how far the game went, and so had reluctantly left them to it. At the moment Yagi had four cans of coconut milk precariously balanced on two outstretched fingers, with Katsuma reaching on his tiptoes to add the fifth.

“They won’t even take my calls anymore,” Izuku complained. He was in a similar position as earlier that week, laid out on the couch with his cheek pillowed against his own arm. He was still in his work clothes, though he’d ditched the oily coveralls upstairs. He’d go change into more casual clothing soon. Any minute now.

“Should I try my hand at it? That worked the last time.”

“Ugh, no, I think that’d make it worse.”

“How so?” The fifth can finally slotted into place, and Katsuma jumped excitedly before running back toward the kitchen.

Izuku rolled on his back, staring up at the high ceiling. “Todoroki spent a few hours getting passed around on the phone before a legal representative told him that, basically, the firm’s confidentiality agreements were airtight and backed by the Hero Public Safety Commission themselves. I’ve gotten the same answer every time I call them myself. It’s so frustrating .”

“It’s a law firm, isn’t it? Aren’t all their employees legal representation?”

“Apparently lawyers have lawyers. Super lawyers, who get annoyed when you ask them the same question over and over again.”

“Your inquiries have been reasonable, young Midoriya, and your concerns regarding their practices are legitimate.”

“Reasonable and legitimate or not , Empire Legal is basically a dead end at this point. What if all the other programs that offer similar services are this unhelpful? It could be months before-” He cut off the pessimistic tirade as Katsume re-entered the room, more non-perishables cradled in his arms.

“Your arm isn’t even shaking! Ojiisan really is strong.” 

Yagi sat up straighter, lifting his other arm is a skinny flex. Izuku couldn’t help but grin at the display, heartened by the renewed affection between the two. He’d been worried Katsuma’s reaction during the initial All Might reveal would put a damper on the relationship.

“This is nothing, kid. Give me a couple hours to rest up and I’ll go lift one of the cars out on the street.”

Izuku rolled his eyes good-naturedly as Katsuma cheered, then suddenly snapped his gaze back to the tower Yagi was still keeping aloft.

“Katsuma-kun,” he said, “where did you get all those?”

“The pantry,” Katsuma answered.

“The pantry with the child lock on the door?”

Katsuma tilted his head curiously. “Is that what the thing you have to squeeze to open is?”

Izuku sighed in defeat and rolled over once more, burying his face in the cushions as Yagi laughed uproariously.

It was later, as Izuku was making lunch for the three of them, that his phone rang and his good mood was interrupted.

No name came up on the caller ID screen, but he’d dialed the number often enough over the past few days to recognize it immediately.

“Hello?” he asked hesitantly upon answering.

Good afternoon! ” a cheerful voice responded. “ This is Kawamoto Masahiko with Empire Legal’s public outreach group. Am I speaking to Mr. Midoriya Izuku?

“Um, yes? I-is this about my previous calls?”

It is! ” Kawamoto said in the same cheerful manner, one Izuku had not been met with by any other Empire employee. “ I’ve been told you were inquiring about our premium adoption service, designed to pair individuals looking to expand their families with gifted children looking for an enriching environment!”

That was… certainly one way to put it.

“Uh, yeah, yes, I was. Specifically I had a question about-”

Fantastic! ” he interjected. “ I would like to first apologize for any lack-luster interactions you may have had during your previous inquiries. I’ve listened to the recordings - secured for quality assurance purposes, of course - and I must say I’m astonished at how your case was handled. I assure you the employees in questions have been duly reprimanded.

Izuku perked up at that. Could this have just been a matter of poor customer service? Perhaps he was finally about to get some answers.

“That’s… thank you, I appreciate your willingness to follow up on the situation, Kawamoto-san.”

Of course! I recognized your name as soon as I heard it and knew I needed to get back to you as soon as possible! Midoriya-san, you are exactly the kind of candidate our program was made for. Our firm specializes in high-profile clientele - and not just for child procurement! Rest assured, we would be more than happy to assist you in finding the perfect child to add to your family. There is a stringent interview process, of course, but I’m sure we can expedite that process for someone of your standing. After all, any family of All Might can surely be trusted to-

Izuku’s eye twitched. The previously cheerful voice now registered as unbearable saccharine, and the way Kawamoto referred to the company’s program as “child procurement” set Izuku’s teeth on edge.

“Kawamoto-san, I think there’s been a mistake.”

Oh? ” A pause, then, “ Are you not interested in adoption, Midoriya-san?

“I have a son,” Izuku said. “The problem is that my son has a sister, one I believe was adopted out using a service similar to your own. I would like someone on your end to check your records for any information regarding her.”

I see, ” Kawamoto said, his voice taking on a new tone of exaggerated concern. “ I’m terribly sorry for the confusion. May I forward you to the appropriate department? It’ll only take a moment to get this sorted.

Without waiting for a reply, Izuku found himself listening to hold music, the melody a rather cacophonous overlay of disparate vocals. Izuku quickly put his phone on speaker and marched into the living room.

“Food ready?” Yagi asked. He was sitting on the couch, Katsuma seemingly somewhere else in the apartment. He frowned when Izuku moved close enough for him to hear the music. “What is that?”

“I’m on hold,” Izuku said tersely. He threw the phone down on the couch, the sounds becoming muffled against the fabric. “Empire Legal called back and tried to sell me a kid.”

Sell ?” Yagi repeated incredulously.

“Well not literally, but close enough! This guy Kawa - um. Kawasumi? No that’s not - oh whatever, basically they made it sound like a matchmaking service for rich families to find… how did he put it?”

Izuku rubbed his temple, trying to remember what the man on the phone had said. As he wracked his brain, a voice came from his phone. He startled.

Name, please, ” the person on the other side asked. Izuku thought it might be different than who he was speaking to previously. 

He picked up the phone, leaving it on speaker so Yagi could hear.

“I’m - sorry, what was that?”

Your name, please, sir, ” the voice repeated. In the background, the hold music continued to play, blending in and around the caller’s own words.

“Um, Midoriya Izuku.”

Midoriya Izuku ,” they repeated. “ Please repeat after me-

Yagi grabbed the phone from his hand, quickly ending the call.

“What - hey!” Izuku moved to take his phone back but found his vision was off, missing Yagi’s hand completely.

“What’s my name?” Yagi said quickly.

“All Might? Or, uh, Yagi Toshinori.”

Yagi nodded, but didn’t hand the phone back. “And your son’s name.”

“Katsuma,” he answered, his head starting to clear a little from a fog he hadn’t noticed settling in.

“And who was just on the phone?”

“That was - um. I don’t remember their name. But they were with… they were… Empire…?”

Izuku almost couldn’t remember. After a couple seconds, that realization finally registered as concerning.

“That was a quirk, wasn’t it?” he asked softly.

“Yes.” Yagi gripped the phone tightly, the case creaking in distress. “Young Midoriya, I believe your earlier assessment may have been a little generous.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “No shit.”

“No shit, indeed. I also believe we can stop looking into other programs for now. Call your friends, tell them to focus their efforts into investigating this company. I’ll call Tsukauchi and get his opinion as well.”

Izuku nodded, still rubbing at his temples. The clearer his head became, the more his analytical side began taking over. The company that lauded guaranteed anonymity had a memory-erasing quick at their disposal. Something audio based, likely having to do with the song he’d been made to listen to. Maybe even the fact he was asked to say his own name had something to do with it. He itched to start taking notes, though a larger part of himself also felt like marching all the way to Ishikawa prefecture and giving someone (perhaps multiple someones) a piece of his mind.

“This is serious,” he said with dawning realization, and Yagi nodded solemnly in agreement.

“Very. I think perhaps you should contact Bakugou again. I still haven’t had a chance to speak with him on the original matter, but he obviously had some reason to be suspect of this agency’s operations. Perhaps he can shed some light.”

Izuku came fully out of his daze at those words. “What do you mean, I thought he called you back?”

Yagi shook his head. “I spoke briefly to Ms. Ashido but never heard anything from Bakugou himself. I assumed you told him what was going on when you two spoke…?”

Izuku stared blankly for a second, then shook his own head. “I think… I need to make a few phone calls.”

---

Katsuki sat patiently through his agency’s early Friday morning internal meeting, and then the midday external meeting, and then the last-minute-couldn’t-be-rescheduled afternoon meeting with a neighboring agency. When the final agenda items had been addressed and Kirishima began shaking hands with the other heroes and sidekicks in attendance, Katsuki took that as his cue and stood up as well. Subtly, he turned the hearing aid in his left ear back on, returning the room to full volume.

“We appreciate your cooperation on this,” the other hero in charge was saying. “Seriously, your agency’s reputation is unparalleled. It’ll be an honor to work with you and Ground Zero-san.”

“Yeah, of course!” Kirishima said. “It should be no problem. Just let me or Zero here know when you’ve got your people’s patrol schedules figured out. Do you have the numbers for our direct lines yet?”

The other hero, younger than them by a few years, shook his head with an excited look. What a fanboy , Katsuki thought. When he was handed a notepad to write his number on he scrawled down Kaminari’s from memory.

“Thanks again!” With that the meeting room quickly cleared out, their visitors leaving and his own sidekicks returning to their regular work.

“What’d we just agree to?” he asked casually as he and Kirishima left as well. Kirishima sighed, but handed him his own notepad.

“You were such a good student in school,” he said as Katsuki started glancing over the day’s meeting notes. “What happened.”

“I got the option to stop listening. Hey, hair for brains, why isn’t there anything about the new districting in here?”

“You - you literally just said you weren’t paying attention.”

“I caught the gist.” Katsuki pointed to his own moving lips. “Just didn’t want to hear that guy’s voice any longer.”

Kirishima rolled his eyes and the two continued discussing work as they returned to the main office space. Katsuki split off to collect his things from his office, not paying attention to the calls of his name. It took Ashido barging into the room for him to finally tune in.

Please tell me you haven’t checked your phone yet.”

Katsuki immediately pulled his phone from his pocket, thumbing in the pass key.

“Nope!” Ashido skipped trying to grab it and instead shot a spray of acid in his direction, melting the screen instantly while leaving his own resistant flesh unharmed.

“The fuck, Ashido! You wanna die? ” Katsuki shook the now useless hunk of plastic in his hand.

“One, I know you have that thing backed up like a good little overachiever. Second, you seriously need me to prep you before you go outside.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Over Ashido’s shoulder he could see Kaminari moving quickly in their direction, a frantic look on his already dumb face.

“Has he seen it?” he asked, skidding to a stop in the open doorway.

“Not yet,” she said.

Seen what? Hey, idiot, gimme your phone.”

Kaminari looked nervously at Ashido, then carefully handed her his own cellphone. “It’s already open. I’ll be… out here.” With that, he left.

“Okay, so you know how you’ve been snooping around the people who helped you adopt junior?” Ashido started.

“Obviously.”

“And you know that girl Kaminari said could get you into their systems?”

Yes, get on with it .

“Okay, okay, keep your voice down. Our visitors aren’t out of the building yet.”

“Ugh.” Katsuki fell back into his office chair, crossing his arms over his chest. “Sounds like I’ll be pissed no matter how you phrase it, so just tell me , dammit. Is the kid alright?”

“Mahoro’s fine, I sent Sero to walk her home just in case. But, um. There’s this article? It’s from a total gossip rag so most people won’t pay it any mind, but it’s also like, obviously retaliation for you snooping around these lawyer weirdos.”

Katsuki narrowed his eyes. “Show me.”

Ashido finally handed over Kaminari’s phone, which as promised was open to the tabloid website. The extra large headline at the top was enough to make the vein in Katsuki’s temple throb, and the photo beneath nearly had him destroying this phone himself.

Ground Zero and Mirage’s Secret Lovechild - Childhood Sweethearts Reunited At Last!

Below that egregious title was a poor photoshop mashup. The main image was of him and Camie, arms linked. He realized it must have been taken during their impromptu meetup at the beginning of the week - Inasa had been strategically cropped out. Between their heads was a hastily added stock photo of a smiling infant.

“I’ll spare you the gory details,” Ashido said, fiddling nervously with one of her horns. “Basically the article claims you two had some kind of torrid love affair while you were in that remedial course together. ‘Star crossed lovers’ they said, I guess because you went to rival schools? Whatever, the point is they never mention Mahoro by name, and there’s no pictures of her, but there’s a quote from an ‘inside source’ that talks about her quirk. Who else knows her power is similar to Camie’s except us?” At the word ‘us’ she gestured back into the main space, where he could see Kaminari and Kirishima peaking obviously into his office windows.

No one ,” he said through gritted teeth. “Only you and those two and Sero. I didn’t even tell Camie when I saw her the other day.”

“Exactly! But who else would have information on her quirk, huh? Maybe… the people you’ve been pissing off for the last four months?”

Katsuki threw the phone down violently, ignoring Kaminari’s distant sound of distress. “You said this had to do with the hacker. Explain.”

“She called us directly earlier - no idea how she got into our private comm network, but whatever . La Brava said she managed to get into their networks, and while there wasn’t anything about Mahoro specifically , there were a ton of weird files about other kids. That’s also when she found this article, which they’d sent out to a bunch of different websites at the same time. She gave us enough warning so I could tell our publicist, but we couldn’t get all the papers to stop the story in time.”

Katsuki was seething. Katsuki was raging . Katsuki was... really fucking worried.

“You’re sure Mahoro’s alright?”

“Yeah, like I said, she’s never mentioned by name. Sero called while you were in that meeting to confirm he’d met up with her at school. They’ll be at the house by the time you get there.”

“And why the fuck didn’t you tell me about this? I could’ve done something!”

“Like what, storm into the crowd of reporters outside and start smashing cameras? Nice try, but I’m not new, Blasty. You’re good in a crisis unless the crisis involves you . And it’s not just your reputation we have to be worried about here, okay? The cat’s out of the bag! They’ll find out the reality of Mahoro’s situation soon enough. You really wanna make her public debut include you having a tantrum on camera?”

Katsuki ground his teeth, seething. Ashido was right.

She was…

She was so right.

Without a word he stood up, grabbed his bag, and started leaving the office.

“Did you turn your ear off? Bakugou, you can’t go out there yet! I called a car to pick you up around back - what, are you gonna fly home?”

“No, I’m going to give a statement.”

“Bad idea,” Kaminari said as Katsuki exited his office and stormed towards the stairwell. “Really bad idea. Probably the worst idea.”

“Yeah, man," Kirishima said, "you should really wait until the PR people draft a script for you. I mean that’s why we hired them in the first place, right?”

“Don’t care.” He shoved open the door and, checking he had enough clearance, hopped the railing and started the descent downward.

You idiot! ” Ashido called from above him, but he was already rapidly approaching the ground floor. His explosions were amplified in the echoing space, and he was once more appreciative for the sound dampening feature in his hearing aid, though it didn’t do anything to muffle the ringing in his right ear.

Outside the building was the exact mob he’d been warned about.

Good . He cracked his knuckles. The more the merrier.

---

--

-

It took 20min and Inasa finally taking the phone from a whining Camie for Shouto to finally understand what the conversation was about.

Do I really look like I could be a mom ? ” Camie’s voice continued to ask from the background of the call.

“My apologies, Todoroki!” Inasa’s loud voice had a harried edge to it. “I assume Camie showed you that ridiculous story?”

Souto nodded, still staring confusedly at his computer screen. “This is… not true, I assume.”

“Of course not! Camie has always had an incredible passion for hero work! She wouldn’t have had time to raise a child. Not to mention she lives in fear of stretch marks.”

“Okay,” Shouto said. “Do you want me to do something about this? I was also in the remedial course, I can attest to Bakugou and Camie’s lack of intimate relationship.”

“No, no, we have that handled. Camie’s figure is… well documented, starting around that time. She has very obviously never been pregnant. But! I need you to get ahold of Bakugou, he’s not answering any of our calls.”

“That’s not surprising. But I assume he also already knows the headline is a lie.”

“But it’s so close to the truth! Look, I know Bakugou isn’t best friends with us like he is with you, but we still worry about his well-being! And by extension we’re concerned for his daughter as well.”

Shouto was so charmed by the idea that someone would think him and Bakugou best friends, that he failed to realize the ridiculousness of the rest of the statement for a long moment.

“Inasa,” he said slowly. “Do you know that the story isn’t true?”

“What? Yes, of course! But Bakugou’s daughter-”

“Doesn’t exist. It’s some strange media grab for attention. You understand that, don’t you?”

“Do you not understand that-” Inasa cut off suddenly.

...Oh wow ,” Camie said in the background. “ He like, totally doesn’t know, huh?

Shouto was on the verge of asking what exactly he didn’t know, when the strategic part of his brain suddenly knocked and let itself in.

Oh. Oh.

The picture of Bakugou at the train station, a young girl held comfortably at his side. The seemingly serendipitous sharing of Empire Legal’s adoption program. Bakugou’s sudden targeting in a media smear campaign.

Whoa whoa whoa. ” There was a muffled struggle over the phone, and then Camie’s voice. “ Uh, hey, babe, mind turning on the news real quick?

“Which channel?” he asked, already opening a new browser window.

Like, legit any of them. Oh wow. Wow.”

Shouto went to a local news site, clicking on the live feed link. He watched the video clip being aired on repeat. He rolled back the stream and watched it again.

Wow, indeed.

Chapter Text

Katsuki was sat in his favorite armchair, Mohoro perched on his knee. The TV was on, with the volume set low. If it weren’t for his own fierce visage staring out of the screen every few minutes, and Sero puttering around in the kitchen, it might have just been a typical evening for the two of them.

“Do you think he’s seen it?” Mahoro broke the silence.

“Who knows.” Katsuki put a large palm against her back and took her weight as she leaned into it. “Guess we’ll know soon enough.”

“Assuming the phone line isn’t full, idiot!” Sero called through the doorway.

Oi, no yelling in my kitchen!”

“You’re yelling, too!”

“We’re in the living room!” Mohoro piped up.

Sero’s laugh was drowned out by the same Breaking News sound effect that had been playing on repeat. Mahoro quickly grabbed the remote and upped the volume.

“If you’re just joining us-” Katsuki mocked along with the news anchor. Mahoro smacked at his arm a few times, shushing him.

After a brief lead in by the evening news desk, his face was once more on the screen.

“Again?” Sero said, finally returning. He placed a tray with three steaming mugs on the table, but kept his eyes trained on the television. “Aren’t they getting tired of your face, yet?”

“The more they play it the better,” Katsuki said, and was shushed once more.

Listen up, extras,” the him from several hours ago growled into the first microphone he saw. “That article is bullshit. The dumbass from Shiketsu has nothing to do with my kid. End of story. But I got something to say.” A sudden flurry of activity filled the bottom of the screen with reaching hands, each holding their own mic. “The assholes who wrote it are with a law firm called Empire Legal. If you do business with them, stop. If you have done business with them, call my agency. And if your name is Shimano Katsuma, you call and ask for me directly.

He’d stormed off after that, launching into the air with only a brief warning to the crowd around him. The station switched back to their commentators, who regurgitated the same speculation from the previous news cycle. Was Ground Zero or Mirage the main target of this falsified scandal? Who was the elusive Empire Legal Group? And who oh who might Shimano Katsuma be?

“I bet Mina’s about ready to rip her horns out,” Sero said, finally sitting down. “You couldn’t have been more specific? ‘Call my agency!’ Do you know how many messages we’re probably getting right now? Ah man, it’ll take an age to sort through them all.”

“I can help!” Mahoro volunteered.

“You can help by getting ready for bed.” Katsuki used the hand on her back to push her from his lap. “No arguing. Or else I won’t wake you up if there’s news tonight.”

When,” she corrected.

If. Go.”

Mahoro huffed and stood her ground. Sero chuckled nervously, but leaned over to get her attention,

“Hey, think of it like Christmas. The sooner you sleep, the sooner you’ll wake up, and the sooner there’ll be good news!”

Mahoro considered that argument for a moment, and then turned on her heel towards her bedroom. “I’ll leave you on guard duty,” she said over her shoulder, pouty glare trained on Sero. “Don’t let him screen the calls - he does that a lot.”

“Really.” Sero sounded the opposite of surprised.

“Some idiots got my phone number somehow,” Katsuki muttered, plucking up the phone in question. After Ashido’s little trick back at the office he’d been forced to use his backup. It had all his imported contacts, but only his teammates had the number. Hopefully it’d keep down on the call traffic.

“Damn, Zero, you sure know how to make a statement, huh?”

Katsuki sent Sero an unimpressed look. “It worked, didn’t it? Those bastards don’t get to skate by under the radar, and I get a free APB sent into every living room in the country. Win-win.”

“And what if Katsuma’s new parents don’t let him watch the news? Or if they decide they don’t want to call the scary man from the TV?”

“Then I’m back where I started,” he said with a shrug. “Quit harping about it, would you? What was I supposed to do, wait for the kid to get dropped on my doorstep?”

At that moment, the doorbell rang.

“No way,” Sero said. “No freaking way. I’ll eat my hat. I’ll buy a hat and eat it if that has anything to do with this.”

Katsuki was already on his feet. “Well I didn’t order a damn pizza, did you?”

Sero was quickly on his heels, and then another set of footsteps came thundering down the hall. Before Katsuki could stop her, Mahoro clambered onto the step stool by the door, pressing the intercom button for the front gate.

“Who is it!” she shouted.

“Hey!” Katsuki yelled, grabbing her by the back of her pajamas.

Bakugou,” came the unmistakable drawl of one Todoroki Shouto, “open the door.”

“I refuse ...” Sero was still muttering. He reached passed the wrestling duo and peered into the monitor. Sure enough, Todoroki was shown standing outside, his mismatched eyes staring into the camera. 

“H-hey, Todoroki,” Sero said. “Bakugou’s busy right now. What’s up, man?”

“The hell’re you doing here, IcyHot? How do you even have my address?” 

In lieu of answering, Todoroki raised one hand to the camera, showing his phone screen. Sero squinted, but was able to make out the image of a little boy in a simple kindergarten uniform. Mahoro squeaked behind him, apparently able to see just fine from her spot wrangled under Katsuki’s arm.

Todoroki leaned around his phone to look at the camera again, his scared eyebrow raised as if to ask, is this your card. “I have your address,” he said, “because you’re my friend, and I’m here because you’re an idiot.”

Katsuki pointed with his free hand at Sero, breathing heavily. “Open the goddamn door.”

---

Izuku had been having an overall pleasant day with his son and occasional father-figure, when his phone rang. Pleasantly surprised to see a call from his good friend Todoroki, he’d answered, having intended to call the man anyway. That good friend Todoroki calmly asked him to turn on the news and then to hand the phone to All Might. He had done so, then watched the first news story that came up. He watched it again. And again.

Next to him, Katsuma looked very confused.

“Why does Ground Zero know my name?” he asked after several viewings of the same clip. “Is he one of your friends?”

Yagi was muffling some colorful expletives somewhere behind them, apparently still talking to Todoroki. “Why did I not know about this?” he was saying.

“Katsuma-kun,” Izuku said, and hauled the boy into his arms, squeezing him until he started to squirm. “I think I’ve been very dumb, recently.”

“Deku-san’s smart,” Katsuma countered. “You make all those cool gadgets for heroes!”

“I sure do,” he said, a hysterical little giggle working its way into his voice. “Did you know I made the gauntlets Kacchan’s wearing in that video? He couldn’t even grab things when wearing the old pair.”

Katsuma craned his neck to see the TV again. Sure enough, Kacchan’s gauntlets were on clear display as he grabbed a reporter’s microphone and started growling into the camera. His blonde hair was pushed back by his mask, and his red eyes were glaring furiously outward, surrounded by smudged eyeblack.

Izuku had forgotten just how incredible Kacchan looked when he was angry.

“Can he grab things now?” Katsuma asked.

“Yup,” Izuku said.

“Oh. Is he your friend, too? Like Todoroki and Uravity and Ingenium?”

Izuku slowly leaned his head back against the couch. “Right now I think Kacchan is also a little bit dumb.”

Katsuma frowned. “You shouldn’t call your friends that.”

“Yeah. Probably not.”

Yagi walked back into the room, a hand rubbing roughly at his sunken eyes. “Young Midoriya,” he said tiredly, “I’ll be the first to admit to a lack of emotional vulnerability. But please tell me, what do you and young Bakugou actually talk about.”

Izuku was beyond blushing at that point. “Katsuma-kun says its rude to call your friends dumb.”

Yagi dropped a large hand over Izuku’s face, giving his head a shake. “You’re a pain in this old man’s neck, is what you are. Now go pack a bag. We’re going to Nagoya.”

Izuku looked through the fingers gently holding his face, back at the television screen. Nagoya was nearly an hour's train ride to the northeast, assuming they managed to board a train as soon as they arrived at the station. It’d make more sense to leave in the morning, when they could plan the trip better.

But Kacchan lived in Nagoya. And he was now willing to bet that’s where he’d find Shimano Mahoro as well.

---

Katsuki had chosen his home in the suburbs specifically because it was low key compared to his friends’ high rise apartments and warehouse lofts in the city. He could bus in for work, do his job, and then blend back in with the rest of the nine to fivers at the end of the day.

He had not, at the time, been considering defensible strongholds and points of egress. Sure, the place had a high fence with no nearby trees, and the front gate kept a convenient barrier between his nosy neighbors and his front door. But as he listened to Todoroki speak, he became retroactively thankful for the extra security measures.

“This is too wild,” Sero said. “I mean we knew these law guys were assholes for not helping Zero, but to try and erase Midoriya’s memories? And for what, calling too much?”

“I thought perhaps they’d connected the dots between your and Midoriya’s investigations,” Todoroki said, pacing across the room like the detective at the end of whodunnit. “But All Might claims they first offered Midoriya the same service they provided you. And why target you the way they did, with a story that paints Mahoro as the result of an affair? For that matter, why not simply erase yours and Mahoro’s memories of their involvement, as they so obviously are capable of doing?”

“That doesn’t even include the files Bakugou’s contact dug up,” Sero added. “I haven’t seen them myself yet, but Ashido made it sound like some real X-Men nonsense. Like, purposefully choosing kids with strong quirks to adopt out to top heroes - how do they even maintain that kind of supply and demand?”

Ugh , what does it matter?” Mahoro was pulling on her hair in frustration, obviously done with the endless back and forth. “We know where Katsuma is, so let’s just go get him! Who cares about those jerks, let’s go, Bakugou!” 

Katsuki crouched down to Mahoro’s level, gently freeing her hair from her own vice grip. He held her face firmly, making her look at him. 

“Katsuma’s on his way here, right now. Remember what we’ve talked about, how when you’re lost you should stay where you are and wait for help?”

Mahoro tried to shake her head, and Katsuki squished her face to hold her still. “That’s not the same! I’m the big sister! I’m supposed to find Katsuma, not the other way around!”

Mahoro’s first words to him had carried a similar sentiment. When they’d been brought together at an arranged meeting in a fancy hotel downtown she’d been quick to tell him to buzz off, that she needed to get back to where she’d come from. She had a brother waiting for her, a younger one who cried easy and was scared of monsters, so Mahoro had made herself good at making bigger and scarier things to ward off whatever might be lurking outside Katsuma’s window.

But Mahoro couldn’t remember where she’d last seen her brother. Or even how long ago it’d been. Katsuki had put it down to her young age and stress from being in the system, but now he was starting to suspect something more nefarious at play.

I just want to find him, she had said, ending her tantrum rather anticlimactically. Katsuki hadn’t been sure what to expect from the meeting, but it certainly wasn’t that. All the same, he’d made a quiet offer to Mahoro. 

I’ll help you, then.  

Katsuki looked at her now with no small amount of regret. He understood her desire to bolt - had felt it himself on countless occasions. He hated waiting for help, and had based his whole persona around being the guy who ran towards the enemy. It was one of the instincts he hadn’t quite figured out how to repress in himself, much less the child in front of him.

“You’re so close,” he said quietly, keeping his gaze steady. “I know it feels wrong, but just this once. Wait.”

Mahoro’s frustrated tears welled up against his fingers, but he held her steady. Eventually he felt a single nod, her chin resting more heavily against his palm. He let her go and didn’t try to stop her when she ran to her room.

There was a heavy sigh behind him, and then Sero’s long fingered hand was gripping his shoulder. “If you want,” he said quietly, “Todoroki and I can stay with her. You can meet your guy at the station.”

“Deku’s not my guy,” he said stubbornly, finally standing up. “But Morhoro’s my kid, and I gotta lead by example, or whatever. So I’m staying.”

“Well then I hope you don’t mind the company, because like hell am I missing this reunion.”

Katsuki scowled. “I better not see those two on some feel good news segment, got it, Tape?”

“Hey, relax, man. I’ll only send pictures to Mina.”

No. Tell Pinky and the rest of those idiots to stay out of this. This circus has enough clowns as it is.”

“Eloquent,” Todoroki said dryly.

“You want I can kick you out too, Half-and-Half. Supposed to snow tonight, you might get lucky and meet another snowman out there.”

Sero shook his head, tutting in disappointment. “Snowman, really? And not a single curse. Fatherhood’s made you soft, Bakugou.”

“I think it’s been good for him.” Todoroki said. “He looks happy.”

He is standing in the same room. Quit it with the third person shit.”

Todoroki put his hands up in surrender, and Sero snickered all the way back to the couch. Their teas from earlier had cooled, but Todoroki obligingly extended his left hand and heated Sero’s drink when he offered it. Katsuki, feeling restless again, resumed his earlier pacing.

Wild,” Sero repeated, taking a long sip. “This Midoriya guy really only found out about the whole sibling thing earlier this week? Zero’s been chasing leads for months.”

“I was being methodical ,” Katsuki defended. “Knowing Deku he probably threw himself straight into things. Let me guess, he called around and asked random heroes if they’d seen a little girl with freckles for something, right?”

Todoroki shrugged. “What was the harm in asking? As far as we knew at the time it was a genuine mistake on the system’s part.”

“The harm isn’t the point. You lot were operating under too many assumptions. You weren’t even looking for needles in haystacks, you were looking for needles in stacks of other needles. Too many damn unknowns.”

Another shrug. “He was right in the end, wasn’t he? Mahoro was adopted by a hero using an anonymous service. And luckily for us, that hero was you.”

Katsuki huffed, turning around to start another circuit of the room. His temple was throbbing a little, but not enough to distract from all the thoughts swirling in his head. They were coming up on the finish line, but for some reason he got the feeling there were more hurdles on the way.

A few minutes later they heard a faint buzzing. It lasted only a few seconds before stopping.

“Not mine,” Sero said instantly. Katsuki dove for his own phone on the table, but the screen was dark - no missed calls. The two turned to look at Todoroki.

“I can’t… did it drop down the couch?” Katsuki shoved Todoroki out of his seat and started pulling cushions up, but the search turned up nothing except one of Mahoro's hair ties.

Shit!” Katsuki hissed. He ran his hands through his hair, the longer strands on top standing up even taller than usual. “Where the fuck did you put it, IcyHot?”

“Didn’t you have a jacket?” Sero asked suddenly. Katsuki looked around the room, finally zeroing in on the black peacoat hung up by the door, definitely not one of his own.

“Keep better track of your shit,” he growled as he stalked over and jammed his hand into one of the pockets.

And clear through the other side of the jacket.

“Hah?” He pulled his hand back, watching dumbfounded as it passed cleanly through the fabric, without any additional sensation. It looked perfectly solid, perfectly real. But it very much wasn’t there. Like an illusion.

Like a hologram.

“Oh hell no.” And then Katsuki was sprinting down the hallway, a confused Todoroki and Sero close behind.

The three of them crushed into each other in the open doorway of Mahoro’s bedroom. Todoroki’s coat - the real one - was laying on the floor - next to it, his abandoned cellphone. The window on the other side of the room was wide open, curtain fluttering like a scene from a movie. Just outside, fat white snowflakes had started to fall.

Katsuki’s palms sparked unconsciously at his sides, his breaths turning quick and panicked.

His damn kid.

Chapter Text

Izuku had long abandoned the idea that All Might was perfect, but he’d be an old man himself before he stopped thinking the man endlessly impressive in his influence. Especially as they'd boarded the last train of the day from Hyogo Prefecture, which had been delayed for them specifically. 

Katsuma had been bundled up on the seat across from Izuku the entire trip, staring tiredly out the window but refusing to fall asleep. It wasn’t until the bus ride from the station that his head began to droop, and Izuku was quick to pull him to his side, worried the boy would topple into the aisle once exhaustion inevitably won out.

Kacchan’s address open on his phone, the GPS dot indicated their steady movement closer. Izuku watched as snowflakes swirled beneath street lamps and in the headlights of passing cars, wondering if he should have thrown a thicker sweater into the overnight bag he’d hastily packed on the way out the door. He’d included an extra coat for Katsuma, but didn’t think he’d grabbed his own. 

Hopefully the walk from the bus stop isn’t too far, he thought, pulling his collar closer around his neck.

“Service should have picked back up,” Yagi said eventually, pointedly. He glanced at the phone being played with in Izuku’s hands.

“Kacchan’s phone went straight to voicemail when I called earlier.”

“Young Todoroki, then. He should have been with Bakugou for a few hours now.”

Izuku chewed his lip, hesitantly bringing up his contacts. Yagi was right, of course - Todoroki had been most of the way to Kacchan’s place when he’d called. By now he would have explained the situation to Kacchan and Mahoro, and the three would be waiting for them. Excitedly waiting? Angrily? He honestly didn’t know what to expect from the impending reunion.

Hitting call before he could lose his nerve, Izuku held the phone to his ear, angling away from Yagi for a semblance of privacy. If Kacchan was there when Todoroki answered… colorful probably didn't even begin to describe what this old friend might have to say to him.

There were three long dial tones before the call picked up, an unfamiliar voice answering. 

Katsuma-kun?

Izuku’s heart made a bid for freedom, finding itself quite suddenly in the back of his throat. There was no need to ask who was on the other end of the line, but the name came eagerly to his lips anyway, pushed forward by his still pounding heart.

“Mohoro-chan? Is this - Hi! You’re Mahoro-chan, right?”

She was quiet when she answered, almost whispering. “Where is he? IcyHot said you’re coming to the house but it’s been hours.

Izuku almost burst out laughing at the obviously mimicked nickname, but stayed aware of the sleeping boy against his side. “I’m so sorry, we live out near Kobe. Do you know where that is? West of Osaka?”

Okay, but where are you now?”

Izuku looked out the window, but couldn’t make out any cross streets. “I’m not sure exactly, but we’re on a local bus now, our stop should be in a few minutes. I think it’s across the street from a park? The map showed a lake and-”

I know where that is!” she cut him off excitedly.

Izuku smiled, glad to hear some cheer in her voice. “Yeah! We’ll be there really soon, I-”

She hung up.

“Oh.” He looked at the phone in his hand, and then up at Yagi, who wasn’t even trying to hide his eavesdropping.

“Young Katsuma’s sister, I assume?”

“Yeah… It was weird, she answered the phone instead of Todoroki, and then hung up really suddenly.”

“She’s excited, no doubt. This will be the end of a very stressful period for her - for both of them. Best not to read too deeply into it.”

“What do you mean, read too deeply?”

Yagi tilted his head in a look Izuku was familiar with mostly from the beginning of their relationship - the look said ‘the muscles may be gone in this form but the brain’s still there.’

“I know how that head of yours works, kid. You think about one bad outcome and suddenly it’s the only outcome. What’s about to happen is a good thing. Let it happen. Enjoy it.”

“A happy end doesn’t justify tragic means, All Might.”

“Yeah, and a watched pot never boils. You wanna trade idioms? I got ‘em in two languages, kid.”

Izuku rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help smiling. Yagi grinned back at him, settling back in his seat for the last few minutes of the trip. When they finally arrived at their stop Yagi was quick to shoulder both of their bags, picking up Katsuma as well. He didn’t try for his muscle form, but they’d been sitting down long enough that Izuku knew he’d be able to last the trip to Kacchan’s house.

Kacchan’s house. Where they were heading now. To reunite Izuku’s son with Kacchan’s daughter. Oh god. 

“See that look on your face? That’s why you’re not carrying the kid.”

“I think I’m panicking,” Izuku said, following Yagi numbly off the bus.

“Nah. You’re excited too.” Yagi smiled, his narrow face peaking up above his scarf and high collared coat. He looked so little like the hero Izuku grew up admiring, but there was something in that smile which would probably always put his worries at ease.

“You’re just happy because you think you’re getting another grandkid.”

Yagi’s face, already flushing from the cold, turned an even deeper red. “Says the soon-to-be father of two.”

Izuku felt his own face fill with heat. He hadn’t even thought that far - that Mahoro may be coming home with him at the end of all this. He remembered Uraraka’s words from only a few days prior, and imagined himself redecorating the guest room to Mahoro’s preferences. What was her favorite color? Did she like heroes too? Or would she want a different theme from Katsuma's and - admittedly - Izuku’s rooms? The possibilities were endless.

And, according to the map, only a ten minute walk away.

---

Katsuki was going to kill Mahoro when he found her. Not literally, of course. And naturally he’d make sure she was unharmed first - he was a hero after all, and there was an order to how you ran a search and rescue. First you searched, then you rescued, and then you yelled at whatever idiot had gotten themselves into that mess in the first place.

Katsuki really wanted a chance to yell at her right now.

Oi!” he called out into the night, stomping uselessly along the sidewalk because it was too damn cold to use his quirk. He’d tried jumping up and down on a corner to build up a sweat but almost ended up on his ass when he slipped on some ice.

No voice answered back.

“Damn brat,” he muttered, and continued trudging along. Todoroki was several blocks south, heading to the other bus stop near Katsuki’s home. Sero was somewhere on the perimeter of the neighborhood, in case Mahoro had gone off in a direction other than towards her brother.

As if.

He knew she only had a few minutes’ head start, but every time a car whizzed past and sent up a flurry of flakes he thought about how he’d last seen her - teary eyed and in simple pajamas, nothing on her feet but a pair of slippers. He almost hoped Todoroki was the one to find her, so he could lend some heat before they returned to the house.

Just as he thought that, rounding a corner of the local park, he saw her.

She was hard to miss - bright orange shirt reflecting the light which had in turn bounced off the quickly accumulating snow. Her blonde hair was down and collecting snowflakes, while her slippered feet marched with echoing slaps every time they hit the pavement.

Katsuki grit his teeth, ready to run the couple of block between them and scoop her straight off her dumb, underdressed feet. He was already grinning as he took a slippery step forward, feeling the same adrenaline rush he got when going up against a particularly cocky villain.

Katsuma-kun!” her voice suddenly rang out, and the distance between them grew rapidly as she took off at a sprint. He squinted past the falling snow to see two figures on the other side of the street, cresting the hill from the direction of the bus stop. One was uncommonly tall, laden down with baggage and another bundle in their arms. The second was much shorter, but broader, their knit cap doing a poor job of covering the riotous nest of curls underneath.

He hadn’t seen Deku in what felt like ages, and he didn’t really see him now, too focused on the little girl running headlong into the middle of the street. Just as a set of headlights crested the hill behind the duo, illuminating the scene in nauseating clarity.

How many times was he going to have to tell his damn kid not to run off without looking where she was going? He was suddenly desperate for there to be at least once more.

Hands extended behind him without thinking, the angle exactly what would be needed to launch him upwards, straight towards the body moving in slow motion into the street. He timed his breathing with the spark of his palms.

But a spark was all he got.

Because it was too damn cold for him to use his stupid useless quirk.

Mahoro was in the street, silhouetted in the approaching headlights, and while Katsuki had never seen a trainwreck, he now knew the inability to look away.

Mahoro was in the street. And then suddenly she was flying back towards the sidewalk she’d jumped down from, her body cushioned from the fall by someone else’s. The car blared its horn, skidding in the snow as the driver slammed their brakes.

Silence followed the car’s slow skid across the pavement, as it came to rest only a few paces from where Katsuki stood. A snowflake landed on his cheek, melting quickly and running down his face.

Without another thought, his body moved, and he was sprinting up the street towards his daughter.

---

Izuku’s vision wavered as he dashed in front of the approaching car, the air around the girl seeming to shiver and warp. He refused to lose sight of her though, and grabbed under either arm even as he was running past her, using all the strength in his legs to send them flying back the way she’d come. By some miracle his shoes found enough purchase to get the job done, and between one blink and the next he was on his back on the sidewalk, a line of fire burning up his right arm. His jacket had done little to soften his fall. Not that he was the concern at the moment.

Sitting up quickly, Izuku pulled the child heaving into his chest out to arms’ length, looking her over frantically. She’d lost a slipper in the fall but otherwise looked unscathed. She was shivering in his grip, and he quickly pulled her back into a hug.

“Oh my god,” he huffed, watching his frantic breaths turn to steam in the air, adding to the still lingering miasma of something that hung around them. A distant part of his brain realized it might be her quirk.

Oh my god,” he said again, and then watched dumbfounded as a panicking All Might materialized at his side, muscles nearly bursting through a coat donned by a much smaller man. Katsuma was now wide awake, staring at them with large teary eyes, obviously having seen enough to realize what almost happened.

“Young Izuku!” All Might said, putting a hand on Izuku’s back as he continued to cradle Katsuma with the other. “Are you alright? Christ, kid, I thought I was going to have to scrape you off the road.”

In his arms, the girl started crying.

“L-let me go,” he sobbed out, pushing at his chest. “I’m fine, let me go!

“Onee-chan?” Katsuma said, and the obvious conclusion finally slogged its way to the front of Izuku’s adrenaline rattled brain. 

“Katsuma-kun, come here right now!” Mahoro gave up on pushing out of Izuku’s much stronger arms and instead held hers out towards her brother. Katsuma, looking on the verge of panic, was lowered gently into Izuku’s lap by a grimacing All Might.

Mohoro hardly waited for All Might to let go before she wrapped her skinny arms around Katsuma’s neck, crying into his hair as he did the same. 

Around them, snow continued to fall. For a moment Izuku completely forgot his own aches and wrapped the two children into a tight hug, letting All Might rub soothingly at his heaving back. 

HEY!” The voice was loud and sudden and about two inches from Izuku’s ear, because Bakugou Katsuki had just slipped unceremoniously onto the empty patch of sidewalk next to him. 

“Does one of you damn crybabies wanna tell me what the fuck just happened?

---

Kacchan's home was warm when they finally arrived, and not just in comparison to the frigid weather outside. The walls were all painted in natural tones, with dark wood furniture and soft rugs to cover the floors. 

Izuku took in the spacious living room with it's modest entertainment system and many, many bookshelves. They appeared to contain mostly novels, but Izuku spotted a row of chemistry textbooks along a bottom shelf, and a familiar series of colorful All Might comics lined up on another.

The focal point of the room was a large leather sectional, the kind that looked very easy to fall asleep on, and which was far too tempting for Izuku's flagging stamina, so he'd stayed standing in the entryway even as Katsuki carried a squirming Mohoro into the room.

Izuku's original assessment that she was unharmed had stayed blessedly accurate, but Kacchan still practically shoved the girl in front of Todoroki when the other hero returned shortly after them, insisting he check as well. Obligingly Todoroki had pulled a medkit from one of his pockets and started checking Mahoro's eyes and fingers and toes, looking for concussions and frostbite, presumably.

When a final clean bill of health was delivered, Kacchan picked her up once more and dropped her on an oversized armchair to the side of the couch, then unceremoniously dumped a blanket on her head.

"You, stay here and warm up," he said, then pointed at All Might, also standing awkwardly in the entrance. "You watch her and the other one. If she even looks like she's gonna get up, you have my permission to Detroit Smash her into next week."

All Might rolled his eyes in a rather unheroic fashion, but moved past Kacchan to place Katsuma in the open spot next to his sister. The two immediately cuddled up under the blanket, talking quietly to each other.

"Your turn," Kacchan said, and then Izuku found himself being manhandled into the kitchen and examined by Todoroki as well.

His arm had taken the brunt of the fall, and his hoodie’s sleeve had torn almost completely off. The skin underneath was quite literally roadrashed, but only bled in a few spots. Todoroki was careful as he picked debris from the inflamed skin, alternating his quirks to soothe the red skin or warm his frigid fingers. Sometime during the examination one of Kacchan’s coworkers arrived, apparently having been part of the search for Mahoro. Sero introduced himself with an awkward but charming smile.

Through all of this Kacchan alternated hovering angrily over Izuku's shoulder and hovering angrily in the doorway to the living room. From Izuku's spot at the table he could just see All Might sitting by the kids’ armchair, Mahoro watching curiously as he gradually shrunk back down to his regular form.

"I'm not sure anyone's thanked you yet," Todoroki said, gently laying gauze over the worst of Izuku's arm. "So, thank you."

"Didn't really do much," Izuku said with a one-armed shrug. "Not consciously anyway. My body just kind of… moved."

"Happens," Kacchan said quietly from his spot still facing the living room, apparently listening. 

"Yeah, so I've heard." Izuku thought back to their childhood, and the villain attack in middle school which had begun the strange limbo of a friendship they'd developed. Kacchan hadn’t thanked him then and he didn’t expect thanks now.

Todoroki finished bandaging his arm, thus ending the last buffer Izuku had between himself and what was sure to be a frightfully awkward conversation. Oddly enough, it was Sero who started them off.

“Hey are you alright, man? The kids look exhausted, but I doubt you’ve had much more sleep than they have.”

“Oh, no, I’m fine. I mean I’m tried but, I’m fine.”

I’m fine,” Kacchan mocked from behind him, still not turning around. Izuku shot him a glare.

“Kacchan, just sit down, we really need to talk about this. Or did you forget about the shady corporation who tried to erase my memories when I asked too many questions?”

“Shouldn’t have asked too many questions then,” Kacchan muttered, then reached up and rubbed at his temple.

Izuku narrowed his eyes at the gesture. “Kacchan,” he said, “what do you think when I say the words ‘Empire Legal’?”

“Fucking annoying,” he answered, but he kept rubbing at his head.

“And how many times have you contacted them yourself about this issue?”

“I don’t know, shitty Deku, I didn’t keep count. Kid told me about her brother the first day we met, made it seem like they’d been apart for a while. I didn’t ask the lawyers about it until the paperwork was filed, figured I’d get more information as her legal guardian. They never gave an inch, though, always talking about the stupid ‘airtight’ confidentiality agreement.”

“Do you remember signing the agreement?”

“Yes,” he answered immediately, then frowned. “I read all the paperwork,” he tried again, but didn’t seem satisfied with that either. “Fuckin’ hate paperwork, but I’ve got a good memory. Don’t know why I don’t remember anything specific about the anonymous shit.”

“Kacchan,” Izuku said slowly, suspicions rising, “Did they ever have you say your own name?”

That got his attention, red eyes snapping up to meet green. “Yeah,” he said after a moment. “They did. Thought it was part of the legal hoops you gotta jump through, like swearing on bibles and crap. Wasn’t paying too much attention, honestly. Had my ear off at that point.”

“Ear… off?”

Sero sighed, shaking his head. He then tapped at his left ear, and Izuku looked back at Kacchan, who had a stark black hearing aid tucked into that side of his own head. “The jerk turns it off during meetings all the time. Or when Kaminari’s telling us about his weekends.”

Kacchan shrugged, unrepentant.

“So you only heard them with one ear…” Izuku brought a hand to his chin, the pose thoughtful. Kacchan snorted as soon as he noticed.

“Well go on then, detective, tell us you cracked the case.”

“I don’t know how much Todoroki filled you in on, but the quirk I experienced was audio based. They made me listen to a recording for a minute, then said my own name back to me. Just that was enough to erase some stuff, but All Might ended the call before they finished I guess. The details have been coming back the more I think about it.”

Kacchan nodded, looking serious now. “So if that mind freak bastard was there when I adopted Mahoro, they probably tried to whammy me too - but I still remember most of the meeting, and the company involved.”

“But you get headaches when you think about it right? And there’s things you don’t recall perfectly, like the anonymity agreement, and I’d bet their names are hazy too.”

Kacchan was silent while he thought, then finally shook his head. He pulled on his earlobe, wiggling the little black device. “So because I didn’t hear them well, the quirk only half worked.”

“I think so, yeah.”

“Whoa,” Sero said. “That’s… really creepy. And lucky.”

“What about Katsuma and Mahoro,” Todoroki asked. “You said Mahoro told you about her brother right away. And Katsuma took a while to talk to us but he still remembered Mahoro. Did they not try to erase them?”

Kacchan looked over his shoulder and Izuku followed his gaze. Katsuma was sleepily watching his sister make small birds fly around and land in Yagi's hair. Izuku caught Kacchan’s meaning immediately.

“Her quirk,” he said.

“Her quirk,” Kacchan agreed.

“Uh, her quirk?” Sero asked.

“Her records have it listed as ‘hologram’,” Kacchan supplied. “She can create illusions.”

“Like Camie?” Todoroki asked. “That was mentioned in the article about you two.”

Kacchan scowled at the mention of his supposed scandal. “It’s not the same. Lips’ illusions are like mirages, they’re distorted air. Mahoro’s quirk affects people’s minds. Her case worker mentioned if she trained, she’d probably be able to create illusions on a person-to-person basis.”

“Like hallucinations,” Izuku summarized. “That’s its own form of mind control. And since most people have an immunity to their own quirks…”

“...she wouldn’t have been as affected by the memory erasure,” Kacchan finished. “As far as I can tell all she lost was the name of the orphanage she’d been staying at, and maybe some of the timeline from the last few months got scrambled. She sure as hell didn’t forget her brother, though.”

“And Katsuma?” Todoroki asked, looking between them. “His quirk is nothing like hers.”

“But he’s been around it his whole life,” Izuku answered. “Mahoro’s quirk would have manifested before he was born, and they used it to play games all the time. He’s probably built up a resistance of his own. Not as strong as hers, granted, but the emotional reaction when he thought he’d lost his ojiisan may have broken through an already thin mental barrier.”

Todoroki leaned back in his chair, taking in all the information they’d just laid out.

“Who the hell’s his grandpa?” Kacchan asked, face twisting in confusion at the detail. “Your old man back in the picture or something?”

Izuku flushed, eyes darting towards the living room. “Um.”

Kacchan looked over his shoulder, at Yagi playing with the kids, then whipped back around. “You’ve gotta be shitting me. What happened to ‘he’s just my mentor’?”

“He is!” Izuku flustered. “But we’re friends, too! It’s like if Katsuma called Todoroki 'uncle'.”

“No it’s not,” Todoroki said, and Izuku smacked his arm without looking.

“This is like a bad drama,” Sero said, eyes rocketing between the three of them. “Or a good one. I’m definitely invested.”

“Get out,” Kacchan said without hesitation.

Kacchan,” Izuku scolded.

“And what’s with the cutesy pet name?” Sero asked. “I thought you two were old rivals or something.”

Izuku felt the urge to wrap his arms around his face, but given his injury had to settle with thunking his head on the table.

---

Katsuki wanted to scold the nerd for smacking himself against the furniture, but honestly he’d have preferred a concussion himself at that point. Stupid friends and their stupid questions.

Speaking of stupid.

Todoroki was looking curiously at Izuku’s hunched over form, then back up at Katsuki in the doorway. His mismatched eyes had that unsettlingly neutral appearance until they widened fractionally, and Katsuki could practically see the light turning on upstairs.

“Sero,” Todoroki said, turning abruptly to the other hero, “may I stay with you tonight? I didn’t have time to make arrangements before I got to town.”

Sero looked surprised by the request. “Uh, sure, man, but wouldn’t you rather stay here?”

“I didn’t offer,” Katsuki said.

“He didn’t offer,” Todoroki agreed, nodding.

Deku finally looked up at that. “Oh god, I need to call a hotel before it gets much later. Todoroki-kun, should I book you a room as well? That way you don’t have to bother Cellophane-san.”

Todoroki’s scarred eye twitched a little, shooting Katsuki a look.

“Like hell,” he said, glaring slightly to the left of Izuku’s curious gaze. “Mahoro’d throw another fit if you tried to leave with Katsuma, and your kid’d probably freak out too if you left on your own. I’ve got a guest room, just bunk up here for the night.”

“What about All Might?”

Katsuki shrugged. “He can take the couch. It’s long enough.”

What -  Kacchan, no, All Might can’t sleep on your couch! Give him the guest room. I’m used to sleeping on the couch in my workshop anyway.”

Katsuki narrowed his eyes at the admission. At the table, Todoroki shifted.

“Presumably Bakugou’s room has a bed-”

Sero threw out an elbow, nearly smacking Todoroki in the face before his tape did. He quickly hauled the two of them to their feet, pushing Todoroki towards the door.

“You know what I just realized?” he said on the way out. “I don’t actually want to be here for this. I’m not Mina, I can’t handle this kind of stuff.”

Todoroki voiced a muffled objection, and Sero obligingly grabbed his coat for him from the back of the couch. Todoroki nodded his thanks.

“You’re leaving?” Deku said, trying to follow the two but getting blocked by Katsuki’s bulk still standing in the doorway. He hadn’t noticed the hero move aside to let the other two pass.

Todoroki looked back over his shoulder, then peeled the tape off his mouth enough to speak. “I’ll visit tomorrow to check on your arm.” He then reapplied the tape, and let himself be herded out of the house.

“Good riddance,” Kastuki muttered when the two were gone. He noticed All Might watching them curiously and quickly grabbed Deku’s uninjured arm, pulling him back into the kitchen.

“Didn’t that seem weird to you?” Deku asked.

“Sero’s usually better than the rest of the idiot squad, but he’s still one of them. And IcyHot’s always been a freak.”

Deku rolled his eyes, but finally stopped fighting Katsuki’s tugging. Katsuki switched his grip to the man’s other wrist, gently twisting the arm this way and that to inspect the damage. The scrape spanned most of his upper arm, and looked like it’d be turning some interesting colors before things were all said and done.

“You’re still a reckless idiot,” he observed, pressing his thumb against the inside of Deku’s wrist, and the thick surgical scars that crossed there.

Deku avoided his gaze. “I’m guessing you wouldn’t have liked the alternative either.”

Katsuki just frowned, unable to disagree.

“I guess there’s a lot to talk about, huh?” Deku eventually said, taking a step back. Katsuki tightened his grip, giving him a firm shake.

“We’re not talking about this shit when you’re dead on your feet. The brats need to rest too. If yours is anything like mine, they’ll be terrors in the morning without enough sleep.”

Deku smiled at that, not fighting the continued hold on his arm, or the sustained pressure over his steadily beating pulse. “Katsuma’s really not a morning person. I have to bribe him out of bed with breakfast most days.”

Katsuki shook his head. “Pushover. You gotta get them out of bed, then feed them. You’re just playing into his hands.”

“They’re so small and cute, though,” Deku said, grinning teasingly. Katsuki fought to keep his scowl.

“Like I said. Pushover.”

Deku laughed, the sound so much deeper than Katsuki remembered. It’d been ten years since graduation, but Katsuki still needed time to recalibrate whenever he and Deku met up. The pipsqueak in his memories was still his default when thinking about the nerd, and seeing him all grown up and filled out was always a trip.

“You need a haircut,” Katsuki said without thinking, his eyes having wandered in that direction.

“Oh, ha, yeah. I was doing it by myself for a while. The sides at least.” He ran his fingers through the thick green curls. “Kind of missed the long look.”

“You look twelve.” He didn’t.

“You know a lot of twelve year olds with stubble?”

“Your stubble’s dumb, too.” It wasn’t.

Deku adopted an offended expression. “Too, huh? Wow Kacchan, and here I’d hoped fatherhood would soften you up some.”

“Sure it did,” Katsuki said dryly, lifting Deku’s hand with his grip around the wrist, making sure to show off his extended middle finger. “See, I’m even holding your hand.”

Deku laughed again, blushing like he did when they were kids, and jerked his arm away. Katsuki let him go this time, letting his smile drop into his more typical smirk.

“I wasn’t joking about you looking half dead, though. Go wash up and I’ll get the beds ready.”

Deku nodded. “I guess it’s fitting. I was almost roadkill after all.”

Katsuki froze, his happy mood evaporating. “Don’t joke about that shit,” he growled.

Startling, Deku then lowered his head in apology. “Sorry, sorry. Kacchan’s right, that was in bad taste.”

He reached out and gave Deku’s good shoulder a shove, moving him back towards the front of the house. “Way to ruin the reunion, idiot.”

“I don’t think the kids heard me,” Deku defended.

Right. Their reunion.

Katsuki and Deku reentered the room to find the kids still curled around each other on Katsuki’s armchair, having finally fallen asleep after an eventful evening. Deku quietly explained the sleeping arrangements to All Might, waving away the hero’s insistence that he take the couch, and sending him off to the guest room. 

When it finally came time to untangle the sleeping duo, Deku stopped him before Katsuki would wake them up. Instead he shifted the blanket, picking up Katsuma and settling the boy easily against his shoulder, making sure not to jostle him too much.

Rolling his eyes, Katsuki scooped Mahoro up one handed, her back cradled against his bicep and shoulder. He held her weight easy, and used the other hand to pluck her hair away from her snoring mouth.

When he looked up Deku had a hand over his mouth, big dumb eyes getting watery. 

So cute,” he whispered.

Katsuki mimed dropping Mahoro on the floor.

Deku swatted his arm with surprising strength, and the two bickered quietly all the way down the hall, stopping only briefly to settle the kids into Mahoro’s bed. As soon as the blankets were settled over them, they curled back towards each other like a matched set.

Katsuki held the door for Deku on the way out, and as he passed, Katsuki’s body naturally turned to follow.

Chapter Text

Kacchan’s couch was just as comfortable as it had looked, the soft leather forming easily to Izuku’s shape as he’d laid down to sleep that night, a few thick blankets helping to cocoon him in warmth. Izuku managed to stay awake long enough to watch Kacchan turn the lights off across the room, sending a little wave towards his shadowed figure.

He slept well, and deep. It wasn’t until a small but insistent pressure began batting against the side of his face that he was woken the next morning.

Onee-chan,” Katsuma whined, somewhere past Izuku’s closed eyelids, “stop, that’s mean.”

“I’m not hurting him,” Mahoro retorted, the prodding turning to a prolonged poke into his cheekbone.

Izuku hazily opened his eyes, squinting up at the kids standing beside the couch.

“Good morning, Deku-san,” Katsuma said, smiling widely. He was in pajamas he’d borrowed from Mahoro the night before, adorned with Edgeshot’s colors and a large logo across the chest.

“Get up,” Mahoro said, far less kindly. “Bakugou says he won’t start cooking until everyone’s at the table.”

Get them up, then feed them.

“Urgh,” he groaned, rolling into the back of the couch, away from Mahoro’s prodding. “Tell Kacchan I’ll be up in a minute.”

“Tell him yourself,” Mahoro harrumphed, ripping the blankets away.

“Oi, leave him alone,” the man in question said from elsewhere in the room.

“He won’t get up, though."

“Then he won’t get pancakes.”

Mahoro hmph’d and her footsteps retreated towards the kitchen, while Izuku hid his amused smile against the couch cushions.

“Deku-san?” Katsuma asked. His hand rested much more gently against Izuku’s shoulder than his sister’s had. “Come on. Mahoro-chan says Bakugou-san is a really good cook.” A pause. “I’m not supposed to tell him she thinks that, though.”

Izuku laughed then, rolling over quickly and grabbing Katsuma off his feet as he got to his own. He hid the wince from his right arm’s sudden twinge, focusing on Katsuma’s laughing eep! as the two entered the kitchen.

Kacchan was at the stove, flipping perfectly round and fluffy pancakes onto plates to his left. He looked up as Izuku came into the room, giving him a short nod. 

“Did you sleep alright?” Yagi asked from his seat at the table. Mahoro had put a purposeful seat between them, and Izuku lowered Katsuma onto it.

“Yeah, the couch was fine actually. Did you buy that used, Kacchan?”

“Nah, pretty sure Shitty Hair and the others have just worn a groove into it at this point.”

“That’s Red Riot,” Mahoro told Katsuma. “He’s weird, but he’s also really tall, so you can see over Bakugou’s head when he picks you up.”

“Red Riot!” Katsuma said excitedly.

Yagi smiled at the two. “Are you a hero fan as well, Mahoro-chan?”

Mahoro rolled her eyes, and Kacchan snorted. “Heroes are fine, I guess,” she said, glancing at Katsuma. “Katsuma likes them more, though. Edgeshot’s his favorite.”

Kacchan looked over at that. “Is that why you always ask for Edgeshot shit when we’re at the store?”

Katsuma looked excitedly at his sister. “Onee-chan has Edgeshot toys?”

“Uh huh!” She sat up with a proud little smile on her face.

“You can show him after you eat,” Kacchan said, bringing over the first plates of food. He put a tall stack in front of All Might, then two short stacks in front of the kids. He offered a bowl of blueberries to the older hero. “I know the kid doesn’t like them but didn’t know about you. They’re better fresh on top, anyway.”

Katsuma watched Yagi sprinkle a handful of berries over his plate, then turned to Izuku. “Deku-san, do I like blueberries?”

Izuku smiled and picked a few of the largest berries from the bowl, putting them on the side of his plate. ”Try them like this first.” He watched the boy pop the first one in and frown over the taste, before quickly eating the rest.

As Mahoro made betrayed objections over her brother’s preferences, Izuku moved towards the kettle he’d spotted at the counter. “You still take your tea black, right?” he asked Kacchan, beginning to fill the basin.

“Yeah. I’ve only got a couple flavors right now. Cabinet above your head.”

Izuku opened the indicated spot, nearly crying with relief when the door opened easily. He couldn’t wait to free his own kitchen from his over the top child proofing.

He chose an interesting looking green tea, and filled up the infuser he found on the same shelf. As the water heated he watched Kacchan pour more batter into the pan on the stove, his movements obviously practiced.

“You do this a lot?” he asked. “Breakfast for a crowd, I mean.”

Kacchan shrugged. “Used to do it more when I lived in the dorms at UA. Figured out after first year most of those extras couldn’t fend for themselves if Lunch Rush wasn’t serving that day. Spent a lot of weekends trying to teach Red and Sparky how to make a half decent meal.”

“Well they’ve survived this long, so presumably Kacchan taught them enough,” Izuku teased.

He smirked. “Guess so. But yeah, not a lot of people here nowadays. The team used to insist on movie nights and stuff, but they’ve left me alone since I got the kid. Giving me space, and all that.” He sounded purposefully neutral about the distance he’d been granted.

“I can understand that,” Izuku said, glancing at the table where the other three were chatting over their food. “I took a lot of time off in the beginning. Katsuma’s old enough for school, but I wanted to help him adjust, you know? And I’m glad I did, considering… well, he doesn’t take too well to being left alone.”

“What about IcyHot?” Another perfectly round pancake came out of the pan,and Kacchan slid the plate towards Izuku.

“Todoroki stays with me whenever he’s in town, so Katsuma knows him pretty well by now. Uraraka and Iida’s agencies are closer, but I’ve been introducing Katsuma to people slowly. Maybe when things settle down I can try having them over more. I know Iida in particular is excited to be a ‘cool uncle’.”

Kacchan snorted. “Glasses, cool?”

Izuku shoved at his arm. “Ingenium’s a super cool hero. He’s got higher popularity ratings than you, at least.”

That earned him a raised eyebrow. “You keep track of my ranking?”

Izuku nodded, unashamed. “I follow your whole graduating class, actually! Kacchan has such amazing friends, they’re all very impressive.”

“Yeah, whatever. Bunch of corny losers.”

“Your bunch of corny losers.”

Kacchan gave him a long look, shifting his gaze over to the table as well. Finally he turned off the stove, grabbing his own plate from the counter. “Let’s eat,” he said, ushering Izuku back towards the others.

---

The kids finished eating first, Katsuma having consumed more blueberries than actual pancakes in the end. Mahoro was quick to drag him down the hall to her room, presumably to show off the aforementioned toy collection. Yagi, who was still drinking the tea Deku had made for him, was looking out one of the kitchen windows to the street below.

“Young Bakugou,” he said, “do you happen to own a snow shovel? I see some of your neighbors are out clearing the sidewalks already, and thought I might lend a hand.”

Katsuki raised a skeptical brow from behind his own mug. “You sure you’re up for that, old man?”

“All Might can maintain his muscle form for up to three hours at a time,” Deku recited dutifully. “And aside from briefly yesterday he hasn’t pushed himself lately. He should be fine to help out.”

“I’m also not that old,” Yagi added dryly.

Katsuki didn’t share his first thought, which was along the lines of ‘your funeral’, but instead shrugged and nodded towards the back door, leading out to the patio. “Down the stairs to the left, the basement door should be unlocked. Shovel’s somewhere by the workbench.”

Yagi nodded his thanks, grabbing his coat from the genkan before going outside and leaving the two more or less alone.

“Workbench?” Deku parroted.

“Don’t get too excited. I just keep some tools for maintaining my gear.”

Deku narrowed his eyes. “Only maintenance?”

"Yes, jeez, I haven’t changed your stupid design any.”

“You mean the design that put you over into the top 20?”

“My new ultimate move did that.”

“An ultimate move you couldn’t manage in your old gear.”

Katsuki narrowed his eyes at the nerd’s smug expression. “I liked you better when you didn’t talk back.”

“I always talked back,” Deku corrected. “That’s why you never liked me.”

Turning his glare to the side, Katsuki didn’t respond. He knew himself well enough to understand he’d never really hated Deku, but he also knew his actions had spoken loudly to the contrary.

“You were fine,” he said eventually, and didn’t elaborate.

Deku smiled, Katsuki catching the expression out of the corner of his eye. “It’s pretty wild, huh?” he said after a minute. “That of everyone, it was us who ended up in this situation.”

“Yeah, real fucking lucky.”

“I’m serious, Kacchan. If Mahoro had ended up with just some normal family, they wouldn't have gotten my attention the way your, uh, press statement did.”

“She wouldn’t have ended up with some extras, regardless.”

“What do you mean?”

Katsuki met his eyes again. “I was thinking about it last night. Pretty sure I know what those shitty lawyers are up to.”

Deku sat up straight at that, looking at him with big curious eyes. “Wow, really? Okay, let’s hear it.”

Katsuki left the room briefly to get his laptop, then rejoined Deku at the table. He put their chairs close together, letting Deku lean over his shoulder as he paged through the confidential files Ashido had forwarded him.

“Where on Earth did you get these?” Deku muttered, eyes darting across all the displayed information.

“I hired a… tech expert. She went into their system looking for information on the kid, but found all this instead.”

Deku reached for the trackpad and started clicking between windows. “These remind me of my old quirk analysis notes. Definitely nothing like Katsuma’s adoption records.”

Katsuki agreed. The files they were looking at were set up like adoption paperwork, listing basic information about dozens of children aged four and up - names, blood types, allergies, the usual. But each file mostly consisted of notes about each kid’s quirk, including basic summaries of current power sets, abilities of known family members, and most interestingly - projected quirk development. Those sections were filled with suggested training regimens to improve individual quirks, as well as predictions for how their powers might evolve over time.

“Those goons never showed me Mahoro’s file, but they definitely talked about this stuff.”

Deku nodded. “You mentioned that yesterday. This is really extensive stuff. It definitely looks like they were interested in these kids for their powers.”

Katsuki nodded, watching the cogs turn behind Deku’s analytical gaze as he came to the same conclusions Katsuki had.

“They’re farming the system for powerful quirks,” Kastuki summarized.

“And then adopting out the kids to pro heroes. Or, I guess, anyone who’d be able to facilitate their training. It’s borderline eugenics.”

“Fucking creepy, is what it is.”

Deku nodded, his face serious. He finally pulled his gaze from the computer screen to look determinedly up at Katsuki. “You need to send this information to the police. All Might has a contact you should be able to trust - a detective.”

“Tsukauchi,”  Kastuki said, nodding. “We’ve met. Good idea.”

Deku preened a little at the praise and Katsuki smirked. He really was too easy to please.

Deku-san!” Katsuma came running into the room, his sister following more sedately behind him. Katsuki quickly closed his laptop, hiding away the incriminating files.

The boy clambered onto the chair next to Deku, excitedly showing off a couple of action figures. One was Edgeshot, naturally, but the other had the familiar bulk and bright colors of the hero currently shoveling snow just outside.

“Look what Onee-chan gave me! She said I can give you this one too, since she doesn’t play with them.” He handed the All Might to Deku, and Katsuki could already feel a blush building as Deku examined the toy.

“Isn’t this-” he started to say, then cut his eyes to Katsuki. “Kacchan! I remember this, we went to the comic shop to get these on release day. Yours had a bad paint job on the face so you made us switch.” 

Katsuki huffed, frowning down at the All Might figure as it smiled up at them. “I found it again at my parents’ place. Figured the kid would get more use out of it now.”

“No you didn’t,” Mahoro said instantly. “You had that in your office and then gave it to me when I started asking for Edgeshot stuff.”

“The hell were you doing in my office?” he growled.

“The door’s never locked, why wouldn’t I go in there?”

“Deku-san puts locks on his work stuff,” Katsuma said. “The pantry too. He hates them, though.” 

“What’s with that, by the way,” Katsuki asked. “You calling him Deku, I mean." He looked at the man in question. "Figured you hated that name.”

“But it’s his name?” Katsuma said, tilting his head in confusion.

Deku rubbed at his hair bashfully. “He read it on some paperwork before we met in person. Assumed it was pronounced ‘Deku’ instead of ‘Izuku’.”

“Huh." Katsuki gave Katsuma an approving nod - a rare gesture for even a fellow hero. "Smart kid.”

Rolling his eyes, Deku went back to asking Katsuma about his new toy, listening closely as the boy went on about all the little details. Mahoro looked bored, but nodded along as well whenever Katsuma turned his excited gaze to her.

Katsuki watched the three of them, then thought about the files still open on his computer. He thought about what might have happened if the kids had gotten a normal adoption, allowed to stay together instead of being separated on the basis of quirks. He imagined Deku raising the two in his apartment in the city, talking heroes with Katsuma and maybe teaching Mahoro about his engineering work. She’d shown little interest in Katsuki’s day job, but got curious whenever he brought his gauntlets home to tinker with. Deku probably had some even more interesting gear that he could show her.

That led Katsuki to thinking about how Deku had shown up with All Might as though their mentor’s involvement was a given. He’d heard Katsuma call the man ‘grandpa’ so obviously he was taking a personal interest in the boy’s care - would he get along as well with Mahoro, as well? What about Todoroki? He and Deku had become inexplicably close after meeting back in high school - he’d probably also make an effort to welcome Mahoro into their little unit.

All Might, Todoroki, Uraraka and Iida too, not to mention his more immediate coworkers… Deku had a pretty sizable social circle, something that hadn’t been present when they were kids. Katsuki imagined the others’ apartment must be bustling with activity most days, people coming and going, making for a lively environment that a friendly kid like Katsuma would surely flourish in. Even Mahoro, with her more standoffish nature, would probably enjoy that kind of attention.

Katsuki was reminded of his conversation with Deku all those months ago, the one which had started them down this wild spiral. Deku’s enthusiasm as he’d talked about all the preparations he’d made for bringing a child into his home, all the people who would be involved - it had made Katsuki unexpectedly jealous. 

Much like when they were younger, Deku was seemingly making the most of his life without a quirk or the dream career he’d been denied, something Katsuki couldn’t fathom. He couldn’t imagine his life without his quirk or his job, had built his entire life around being a hero - around being the best. And there Deku had been, ready to put his life on hold to raise some little stranger, perfectly content with the decision. Excited even.

Katsuki thought he’d wanted that. The surety. The ability to stay him even as the circumstances around him changed. It had taken him a while to recognized maybe what he’d really wanted, was to be one of the things in Deku’s life that could stay constant.

Maybe this situation - despite all the drama and frustration it had caused - was fate’s way of ensuring just that.

“I’m going to send that email,” he said suddenly, cutting off Deku’s rambling about the detailing on the All Might figure he still held. “Afterward we can go into the yard. You can show these two how to make an alternator out of snow or something.”

Deku gave him a bemused smile. “That’d just be a cube.”

“Fine, some other gadget, then.”

The kids cheered their approval, and ran off to change into warmer clothes. Deku was smiling excitedly himself, collecting the mugs left on the table and moving them to the sink. He looked back at Katsuki as he started rinsing them.

“Are you… Is there anything else you wanted to talk about? You got really quiet for a minute there.”

Katsuki shook his head, purposefully moving closer and standing at Deku’s side. “Just thought they could use a snow day after all the shit from last night. Plus if they don’t hurry All Might’ll probably clear the whole block before they get a chance to play in the stuff.”

Deku laughed, glancing out the kitchen window. All Might had made good on his promise to help Katsuki’s neighbors - the whole street outside had been cleared already, along with the sidewalks and a few driveways. They could see the man working further down the road, surrounded by a small crowd of excited neighbors.

“I’ll help the kids get ready, then,” Deku said, putting the last mug off to the side to dry. “When you send Tsukauchi that message, be sure to tell him about the mind erasure quirk too. Maybe mention Katsuma and Mahoro’s immunity. And your own experience with the quirk, for that matter. Probably-”

Katsuki reached up, very obviously turning down the volume of the device in his left ear.

Deku rolled his eyes, then leaned forward, speaking so his breath puffed warmly against Katsuki’s right side. “Kacchan’s mean,” he said, then walked past him to go check on the kids.

Standing alone in the kitchen, Katsuki let out a long slow breath.

Okay. Maybe a little more than just a constant, then.

---

Izuku didn’t end up making a snow particle reactor or whatever it was Kacchan thought he spent his days working with. Instead he helped Katsuma and Mahoro roll the parts for a towering snowman, which he shamelessly adorned with tall branches on its head, and a wide grin constructed of gravel from the edge of the yard. Mahoro tried to make bulging snow arms but couldn’t get the snow to stay at such a precarious angle. In the end she summoned a second snowman into existence next to the first - a flawless replica of All Might depicted in ice and twigs.

Kacchan snorted from his spot on the stairs, having stood around for only a few minutes before going back inside to get a blanket and some more tea.

Mahoro noticed the noise and stuck her tongue out, changing her conjured illusion to resemble a scowling Ground Zero, large snowy gauntlets raised over its head in a threatening display.

Katsuma laughed and bounced a little in his borrowed boots, continuing to work on their original creation. He used a over-sized gloved finger to carve out All Might’s logo on the snowman’s chest.

Izuku made a mental note to get Katsuma some snow gear of his own - he didn’t know how long they’d be staying at Kacchan’s house, and Mahoro’s clothing was only slightly oversized, but it’d probably be a good idea to get him things that fit sooner rather than later.

As they put the finishing touches on the Snow Might, Yagi himself walked into the yard, having apparently finished freeing all of Katsuki’s neighbors from the blanket of snow which had fallen overnight. 

“Ojiisan!” Katsuma called out. “Look, it’s you!”

Yag grinned, coming to stand next to his double. Kacchan made his way over then, trudging grumpily through some untouched snow. He took the shovel from All Might’s hands, then took a few steps back at Mahoro’s prompting so he could take a picture of them all next to the lumpy likeness.

Izuku looked on fondly, watching Katsuki show the picture to the kids for their approval, then yell a little when Mahoro insisted he take another. He ended up picking the girl up and dropping her into a snow drift by the fence, Katsuma bouncing frantically after them. Yagi let out a booming laugh, following as well to help Mahoro dust herself of snow.

As the four of them joked around on the other side of the yard, Izuku’s smile slowly fell away, leaving behind a contemplative look. He watched Katsuma trip a little in his large boots, Kacchan catching him easily, then bending down to tighten the laces for him. Mahoro watched the process closely, before moving to work on the other shoe, Kacchan correcting her knot work until he was satisfied with the results.

He was good with them. Both of them. Like with everything, Kacchan seemed to have a natural talent for fatherhood.

Soon-to-be father of two, Yagi had called him, but Izuku thought perhaps he’d gotten a little ahead of himself.

I can’t separate them again, he realized, though it was an obvious conclusion. The kids had been apart for only a few months, but now they seemed hesitant to even leave each others’ sights. Izuku didn’t know how he thought this would go - shared custody? Visitations? None of those options seemed fair to Mahoro and Katsuma, and Izuku would sooner skin his arm again than make them relive the stress of their separation.

So they’d stay together, simple as that. Except… Kacchan obviously loved Mahoro. Even in his own hard-to-read way, the affection between the two was obvious. Plus Kacchan had put in so much effort to find Katsuma, much more than Izuku’s barely week-long effort. His intensity during the impromptu press conference had spoken to the man’s dedication. Kacchan was hardly a subtle person - when he wanted something, he put in the work to get it. 

Izuku looked back at the house, with its copious space and warm interior. He thought of Kacchan’s coworkers, people he’d only met in passing but knew by reputation to be a friendly and caring group of heroes. Kacchan’s words earlier had implied they were giving him and Mahoro time to acclimate, but he was sure they’d all lend their help as soon as they were given the go ahead.

Truly, Kacchan had a good thing going. A home the kids would fit well into.

Both of them. With Kacchan. And without Izuku.

There was a familiar resignation settling in Izuku’s chest, one he’d felt a lot during the period before Katsuma’s adoption, when his quirklessness seemed like it’d be a barrier to this life goal as it had been to so many others. But he’d overcome that supposed limitation before - had thrived even. He’d thought he could do it again.

But as ever, Kacchan was the best at everything. His quirk, his schooling, his job - it was no wonder he’d landed on Empire Legal’s radar as a suitable caretaker for someone as amazing at Mahoro. The only mistake there was how they'd thought Katsuma was any less incredible than his sister. Izuku knew better. Katsuma was amazing too - charming and enthusiastic and kind. He wanted to be a hero just like Izuku had at his age, but had never managed. Not like Kacchan, who could surely do a better job of helping Katsuma towards that goal.

And that was the real nail in the coffin of Izuku’s resolve. Beyond keeping the kids together, beyond honoring Kacchan’s obvious efforts of the last few months - it was the idea of giving Katsuma a life that would put him on the path to achieving his dreams that put a sad little smile on Izuku’s face.

He’d always wanted to be a hero who saved people with a smile. So he forced that smile a little wider, held down the tears in his eyes, and let himself enjoy the happy moments around himself while he was still a part of them.

Chapter Text

Time moved too quickly for Izuku’s liking once his decision was made. The first day at Kacchan’s house had been mostly spent waiting on Tsukauchi’s response to their forwarded intel, then negotiating next steps with the police. Kacchan’s initial suggestion of being ‘let loose on those scummy bastards’ had been shot down, of course, though Izuku thought Tsukauchi sounded genuinely apologetic about that. In fact, it seemed everyone involved on the detective's end was just as eager to get to the bottom of things.

Sometime after building snowmen and between phone calls, Todoroki had returned to the house, intent on checking Izuku’s arm before he left town. Katsuma, who had been significantly less distracted than the night before, had taken one look at the damage under Izuku’s bandages and burst into tears. His outburst had set Mahoro off, and the two only calmed down once Katsuma was allowed to use his quirk on Izuku’s arm. Even days later, with not even scabs left, Izuku was sure he could still feel the buzz of Katsuma’s quirk across his skin. The boy had really put his all into it.

Additional drama from the investigation aside, Izuku and Kacchan had done their best to keep the kids relatively isolated from everything. All Might had confirmed the news was still abuzz with Kacchan’s 'interview', as well as the implications of his warnings regarding Empire Legal. While the firm had denied comment so far, Ashido had informed them that a defamation claim had already been filed against Kacchan through their agency’s own legal team.

“What did your people have to say about it?” Izuku had asked.

“They look forward to roasting the bastards over open coals,” he'd answered, grin indicating it was only a slight exaggeration.

So, with TV not an option and outings a risk, they’d spent the next two days holed up at the house, Mahoro showing Katsuma every corner of the place, and then repeating the process for All Might, who she had taken an unexpected shine to. Or rather, she liked Yagi, no doubt deferring to her brothers’ own bias.

But before too long All Might was packing his own bag to return home. He offered to go by Izuku’s place and grab more things for him and Katsuma, but had been quickly waved off by Kacchan.

“There’s a department store not too far from here,” he’d said. “Roads are clear now, I can drive so we won’t be seen on public transit. I’ll get the nerds enough shit to tide them over.”

Izuku had objected, not wanting Kacchan to pay for things he already had back at the apartment, but had also been told to drop it. He finally gave in when Kacchan pointed out the detour would be sending All Might in the opposite direction of his own home near UA.

So they’d seen All Might off at the train station, Katsuma giving him a small teary hug and Izuku giving him a big teary one. Kacchan had rolled his eyes and made a gagging sound until Mahoro punched his hip and stomped determinedly up to All Might herself.

“Thank you for looking after my little brother,” she’d said with a very serious look on her little face. She’d then clapped her hands to her sides, bowing low. 

Yagi’s smile had softened in the way it usually only did for Katsuma (and, admittedly, Izuku himself.) He returned the bow, giving Mahoro an approving thumbs up as he’d straightened. “You’re a good sister, young Mahoro. Young Katsuma is lucky to have someone as loyal and determined as you looking out for him.” He’d then leaned in and whispered conspiratorially, pointing in Izuku’s direction. Mahoro shot him a wary look, before nodding at Yagi and finally stepping back towards the others.

The train had left soon after, taking Yagi with it, and the rest of them had gone on Kacchan’s proposed shopping trip. Mahoro was a terror to keep track of, constantly darting down aisles and disappearing soon after, only to return in the next breath with some random gadget held triumphantly above her head. Kacchan would wordlessly pluck it from her grip and throw it back onto a random shelf. Izuku noticed him retrieve a few of them though, like a soft throw blanket and a pair of slippers almost the same shade of orange as his hero costume.

As for Izuku, he’d kept busy holding clothes up to Katsuma to judge their measurements, still getting used to the boy’s sizes in different garments. Katsuma stood obediently still, seemingly unbothered by the more chaotic half of their party.

“This one looks like Onee-chan’s,” he said at one point, holding up a knit cap. It was white, with a blue ribbon woven through just above the brim. Mahoro was indeed wearing an identical one in white and pink, probably bought from the same store at some point. Izuku was so charmed by the idea of them walking around in matching outfits that he quickly went through the clothing aisles and picked out a coat and boots in a similar style as well.

Kacchan gave him a pointed look as he deposited their haul into the cart. “Change your mind about ‘taking advantage of my hospitality’?”

He flushed. “Kacchan, don’t tease me! I’ll think you want me to put this back.”

“Nah, just that ugly parka. Little big for the squirt anyway, isn’t it?”

Izuku pouted. “That one’s for me.”

Kacchan looked like Izuku had just dumped a dead animal into his cart, quickly pulling out the coat and flinging it aside like one of Mahoro’s attempted purchases. Izuku sighed, going to retrieve the coat and hang it up while Kacchan looked for one that didn’t offend his apparently delicate sensibilities.

Izuku got so wrapped up in the trip that it took him until the car ride back to Kacchan’s home to remember that it was a temporary peace. The clock on his time with Katsuma, and by extension Mahoro and Kacchan, was running down quickly. Soon, with the help of Kacchan’s agency and the police, Empire Legal’s actions would be made public, and Izuku would have little reason to stick around once things started going back to normal.

The old normal, that is. Normal before Katsuma.

Grinding his teeth against his own damnable waterworks, Izuku had quietly stared out the window the whole drive back, only coming out of his daze to help bring their bags inside.

“So I was thinking,” Kacchan said as he sorted the regular groceries in the kitchen, “you already told me your work gave you time off until this gets sorted, and I’m pretty sure Pinky would melt me if I went back to the office in the middle of the PR nightmare I started. Since you won’t be busy, I thought I’d let you help me with some hero work here, then.”

Izuku almost dropped the cabbage he was holding. “What - seriously?”

“Sure,” Kacchan said, shrugging like he hadn’t just offered to make Izuku’s childhood dream come true. Something in his expression set off Izuku’s suspicions, though, and he raised an accusatory finger.

“You just want someone to do your paperwork for you, don’t you. Hero Pinky probably has you on desk duty as payback.”

“She doesn’t call the shots,” he growled. Then, more grumpily: “I offered to do the team’s contractor paperwork for the month. They would have probably messed it up anyway.”

“How chivalrous,” Izuku noted sarcastically. “You have fun with that.”

“It’s equipment requisition forms,” Kacchan said quickly when Izuku had moved to leave the room, cabbage still in hand.

That caused him to pause. He looked over his shoulder, eyes still narrowed suspiciously as he searched Kacchan’s expression. His face gave nothing away, though there was a pink tinge to his ears - probably lingering from being outside earlier. 

Izuku lifted the vegetable one-handed, gesturing at Kacchan once more. “To clarify - you want my help filling out support item requests for one of the top pro hero agencies in the country?”

“No, I want you to be my secretary and fill out all the boring paperwork.”

Deal.” Izuku would have taken the original offer too, probably, but now he was excited.

Kacchan huffed, not quite able to hide his smile before turning around. The red on his ears had spread to his cheeks, and Izuku lamented not getting him a scarf while they’d been out. Kacchan had always been sensitive to the cold.

---

Katsuki was, admittedly, a bit of a braggart. As a kid he’d flaunted his quirk and his grades, and then as a pro he’d always been the first to sing his own praises. Humble was for people who had nothing to brag about, and Bakugou Katsuki was amazing. He knew, because Deku had told him so.

All the same, he’d felt an unusual moment of doubt as All Might had left them earlier that day. The man was a nuisance, sure, and an overbearing pain when he got into a paternal mood, but he was also one of Katsuki and Deku’s favorite people on Earth, and his presence had lent an easy peace to the last few days of cohabitation.

With him gone, though, Katsuki feared his old habits would rear their ugly heads, and he’d say something to set Deku off more than the general banter they typically engaged in. Sure he’d known the guy since diapers, but it’d been ages since they saw each other regularly. What if he’d forgotten some pet peeve and Deku got genuinely mad at him? Katsuki hadn’t had roommates since the UA dorms, and certainly never ones he cared so much about the opinions of.

Ugh, really? Now I’m worried he won’t like me? What am I, five?

Katsuki crushed his worry beneath a false bravado as he invited Deku to work with him that day, dangling the promise of (technical) hero work as a means of getting the nerd to spend more time with him. Sure, they were living under the same roof for the time being, but that didn’t mean Deku was a prisoner there. He could go out for a walk in the still snowy neighborhood, maybe visit the park he’d almost been run over in front of, or leave back for his house hours away where Katsuki had no reason to visit.

Well, there was the kid reason, but he was hoping his own solution to that problem would be more to both of their liking.

“Wow…” Deku was saying reverently for the nth time. He held up a schematic of Kaminari’s pointer-shooter, running his eyes over the technical notes in the margins. “I knew Hatsume made some impressive gear as a student, but this design is incredible! It hasn’t changed since your UA days?”

Katsuki shrugged, his cheek propped up on a fist on the other side of his desk. “Dunce Face probably wouldn’t know innovation if it brained him with a baseball bat. If you see anything you want to change just write it in the notes section.”

Deku looked shyly over the paperwork, covering part of his face so only his big dumb eyes peaked up at Katsuki hopefully. “Anything?” he said.

Katsuki shrugged, doubling down. “Anything.” He could deal with Kaminari’s bitching if it came to that. Not that it would - Katsuki’s own gear had received an overhaul courtesy of Deku a few years back. If the work was good enough for him, it was good enough for the static wonder.

Wow,” Deku said again, and instantly started taking notes for renovations to the supposedly already ‘incredible’ design.

Katsuki smiled. Deku’s ability to throw himself wholeheartedly into things had always been the trait to grab and hold Katsuki’s attention. Plus, the nerd was kinda cute when he got into the zone.

Figuring that thought was a sign he should move things along, Katsuki handed over the next stack of papers. They included his own gauntlet design, as well as his smaller grenades and combat-grade hearing devices. Izuku looked at the latter with interest, making notes on a piece of scrap paper. 

He’d worked up a good mutter when the door to the office suddenly flung open, banging loudly against the wall. Katsuma stood on the other side, looking mortified. Mahoro, next to him, looked less so.

“There’s some weirdos standing around outside,” she said.

Katsuki was on his feet instantly, marching towards the front of the house. He heard Deku asking questions behind him, but was more focused on the security monitor by the front door. He checked the camera and sure enough saw two people in suits standing at the front gate. As he watched, one of them looked up into the camera, then down at his watch. Neither moved to ring the doorbell.

“How long have they been there,” he asked over his shoulder. Mahoro shrugged.

“I saw them out the window. Aren’t those the people from the adoption service?”

Katsuki looked again, but couldn’t seem to remember either of them. He stared closely at the one man’s face, forcing his brain to recognize the slicked hair or small chin, but all he got was a slight headache.

Rubbing his temple, he met Deku’s gaze. That was answer enough for both of them.

“Don’t talk to them,” Deku said instantly. “That one person’s quirk works over speakers.”

Katsuma leaned heavily against Deku’s leg, an apparent nervous habit. “Has Onee-chan passed the three months like I did, Deku-san?”

“What - you mean the probationary period? I’m not sure she had one…” He looked to Katsuki, who shook his head.

“It was a one and done deal,” he answered the unasked question. “I’m her full legal guardian as of five months ago.”

Deku startled at that, but Katsuki had already turned back to the monitor. He pressed the record button to the right of the screen, a security feature which would send the current image to the nearest police station and his own email. The police should be calling to check-in any minute.

But first.

Reaching up, Katsuki completely removed the hearing aid from his left ear, then angled his right away from the monitor. He pressed the talk button, but kept his finger on record.

“Who the hell're you?” he growled. He could just barely hear Deku’s hissed objections.

The man who’d checked his watch looked back at the camera, seemingly unbothered by the wait. “Apologies, Ground Zero-san,” he said, Katsuki reading his lips. “We were waiting for our last associate before requesting your attention.

“That’s a hell of a name,” Katsuki said. The man smiled.

Ah ha, yes, my apologies. I am a public relations representative with the Empire Legal Group. My associate here is one of our on staff social workers. We’d like to talk to you about comments made recently about our company.

The other person, who was still facing away from the camera, must have said something Katsuki missed, their companion nodding at him agreeably.

Yes, yes,” he said, “and we’d also like to see how young miss Shimano Mahoro is settling in.

As though summoned by her name, Mahoro was suddenly on her tiptoes beside him, smashing her hand against the talk button.

“My name is Bakugou Mahoro, and you creeps can buzz off!”

Katsuki hissed, taking his hand off the screen to pull her away from it. As he struggled with her usual flailing, he heard the second person finally speak, their voice coming across with startling clarity.

Bakugou Mahoro,” they said, and the girl went limp in Katsuki’s hold. “Do forget about all this nonsense, won’t you?”

Katsuki freed one hand long enough to blast the security monitor clean off the wall, but not before the voice had rung clearly in his good ear. He looked frantically down at Mahoro, who was still holding very still against his side.

“Oh god.” Deku was beside him then, crouched down to look into Mahoro’s eyes. She was staring a little blankly, torso slumped over Katsuki’s forearm, arms dangling. Her eyes blinked slowly up at Deku as he got close to her face, his expression panicked.

“Onee-chan?” Katsuma asked, standing hesitantly off to the side. Her eyes tracked slowly over to him, and all at once came back into the focus.

“H-hey…” she said quietly, voice shaky. Then louder, “Hey!” She turned a furious glare at the destroyed screen and the door next to it, before flinging out her hand. Katsuki saw only a shimmer in the air around her palm before there was a deafening roar through the wall that even he could hear. It was followed by a faint sound Katsuki thought may have been a terrified scream.

“What - what’d she do?” Deku asked, still fluttering worriedly around Mahoro’s seething form.

“I scared them good,” she said, still staring at the door. “Made him extra big and ugly too. Bet they’re peeing their pants out there!”

Katsuki grabbed her face between his hands, tilting her head up to look at him. He met her glare with his own. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“Bakugou Mahoro,” she said, pouting and refusing to hesitate over the self-editorializing.

“And your brother’s name?”

“Midoriya Katsuma. We’re from Nabu island. I’m 10 years old and live in the room down the hall with the big window. I didn’t forget anything, jeez.”

Katsuki continued to stare down at her, then finally gave her cheeks a hard pinch before letting go.

“Brat’s fine,” he reported gruffly, the relief poorly hidden in his voice.

Deku, still kneeling, kept looking towards the front entrance. “Should we call the police? They definitely shouldn’t have shown up like that, right?”

Katsuki nodded, already making his way back towards his office where he’d left his phone. Sure enough it was ringing repeatedly, nearly vibrating off the desk.

He started talking as soon as he answered. “Send a squad car to this address. There’s a couple creeps in suits being chased around by a-” He glanced at Mahoro, raising a questioning eyebrow.

She stood in the doorway with Deku and her brother, and raised her hand once more. Inside Katsuki’s office there was suddenly another him, twice as tall and with a set of snarling wolf’s teeth, the gauntlets on his arms melding grotesquely into large, clawed hands.

Katsuki gave a low whistle. The kid was getting good. He turned back to the phone.

“There’s a big handsome bastard running after them. It’s not real. But one of the goons has a memory-erasing quirk, vocally based. I’d advise caution.”

The dispatcher on the other end gave a stuttering confirmation of details, asking a few questions before letting Katsuki hang up. He looked back at the others in the doorway. Mahoro had dropped the illusion and was now leaning against Deku’s leg, Katsuma occupying the other side.

Fuck, he thought. 

“Fuck,” he said aloud. “That was too damn close.”

Deku nodded, looking pale. “This isn’t over yet.”

“No shit. Hey, that thing still after them?” He addressed the second part to Mahoro.

She nodded, and Katsuki did the same, reaching under his desk to pull out a medium-sized metal briefcase. The fluorescent numbering on the side had mostly worn off over the years, but it still served as decent backup storage.

Clicking open the lid, he started pulling on a pair of familiar gloves, then pressed the release for his gauntlets, letting the metal unfold across his waiting arms.

“You - you keep those in your office? Kacchan there isn’t even a lock on the door!”

He rolled his eyes, continuing to pull on gear over his house clothes. The sweatpants and sweater wouldn’t be as efficient at keeping his body insulated as his winter uniform, but it was better than the spare summer singlet resting in the case. “I’m only going out there to make sure they don’t get away.”

“That’s what the police are for!”

“It’s also what heroes are for, Deku.”

There was an obvious objection in Deku’s gaze, as well as no small amount of anger. Katsuki gave brief consideration to staying and explaining but the hero side of him was practically frothing at the mouth, needing to run out and make sure those pieces of shit didn’t escape and upend any more little kids’ lives.

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t just his hero side talking.

“I’ll be right back. You watch the kids.”

Katsuki moved to walk past them, catching Deku’s wide eyed look in his periphery but refusing to meet it. That was a mistake for multiple reasons, though mostly because it gave Deku a blind spot to step into, grabbing his gauntleted arm and practically flipping him onto his ass right there in the hallway. The pin he found himself in was basic, but effective, and took specific advantage of his lack of grip provided by the older gauntlets.

Bastard," he hissed. "What the hell?” 

“What’s your plan here, Kacchan!” Deku growled right back at him. “Mahoro’s quirk is already keeping them occupied, the police are on the way, and their apparent targets are already right here! I get you’re the kind of hero who wins every fight but right now the winning plan does not involve leaving these two guarded by a quirkless support engineer who doesn’t even know where you keep the rest of your apparently easily accessible weaponry!”

Katsuki grit his teeth and kicked out his right leg, catching Deku in the back of the knee and sending him easily to the ground. He wrenched his arm out of the now loosened grip, glaring over at the other as he tried valiantly to keep the brimming violence out of his voice.

“I don’t need you telling me how to do my job-”

A sharp smack against his hip surprised him, and he glared down to see Katsuma pulling ineffectively at him. 

“Stop it!” he shouted, voice unmistakably frightened. 

“Katsuma-kun…” Mahoro took a hesitant step forward, and Katsuki had the sudden realization that the hesitance might be from being near him.

“I didn’t-” He looked back at Deku, still sitting on the floor. “I didn't fucking hurt you… did I?”

“No,” Deku admitted. “It was a very controlled take-down. Uraraka’s shown me something similar during our sparring lessons.”

“I’m - sorry,” he said, awkward and rushed. He took a step forward to offer a hand, but then remembered the awkward gauntlet in the way. He let his arm drop, feeling a little helpless, and a lot ridiculous. Standing in the middle of his hallway, half-dressed in his hero gear, two panicked kids and a stunned looking Deku who reminded him far too much of their middle school days. What a fucking mess.

“Oh no,” Mahoro suddenly muttered, having finally pulled Katsuma away. She looked down the hall like she could see the street outside through the walls. “I… I dropped my quirk. I didn’t mean to-”

“It’s alright,” Deku said, voice soothing. He rolled to his knees and put comforting hands on either of their backs. “Hear that? Sirens outside. The police will get those two sorted. You did a really good job, Mahoro-chan.”

Katsuki fumbled the hearing aid back into his ear, securing the loop and letting the volume auto-adjust. Sure enough, he could now make out the sound of police sirens drawing closer, and then stopping somewhere right outside. He carefully removed his gauntlets, leaving them propped along the wall, before taking a knee in front of the other three.

He waited until Mahoro met his gaze, then held out a still gloved hand like he would to a wary stray. She’d never shied away from his hands before - one of the few people who didn’t - and he was a little worried he was about to see the first.

Instead she reached out and laid her hand over his open palm, eyes flicking away but eventually coming back.

“I’m going to put this stuff away while Deku talks to the police,” he said slowly. “After they tell us what to do next, we’ll all talk in the living room about what just happened, and decide if we need to take you to a doctor.”

She opened her mouth to object, but Katsuki squeezed her hand in warning. “If,” he said with purposeful emphasis, “it seems like you’re fine, we’ll call it a night.”

Mahoro waited to see if there was anything else, then said, “We’re supposed to have ice cream after patrol.”

“Not on patrol,” he pointed out, but she just glared at him. “Alright, alright, doctor and then ice cream.”

Maybe doctor. Definitely ice cream.”

Katsuki repositioned their hands and gave her a business-like handshake. “Deal.”

He then turned his gaze to Katsuma, who still looks freaked out by the whole situation, clinging close to Deku. Katsuki sighed.

You’re better with actions than words, he’d been told, but Katsuki was nothing if not a studious learner.

“Katsuma,” he said slowly, lowering his head a little to catch the boy’s eyes. “I’m… sorry that I scared you. I shouldn’t have yelled, or done that to Deku. I’m - yeah, sorry.”

Katsuma looked at him for another long moment, then nodded his acceptance. Katsuki finally turned to Deku to repeat the sentiment to him directly, but was met with watery green eyes and a wavering smile.

“Kacchan never says sorry,” he said softly.

“Must have meant it then,” Katsuki said, looking away.

“Must have.” Deku was the first to get to his feet then, hesitating briefly before offering Katsuki his hand.

He still hadn’t apologized, Katsuki realized, but his attention was caught on that outstretched palm, thin scars crossing over the knuckles. 

Deku had always been too forgiving, in Katsuki’s opinion, but maybe it was just that he hadn’t given Deku enough credit. Words and actions . The nerd certainly seemed to prefer the former, but he’d always been a pretty decent student himself.

Baby steps, Katsuki thought, taking Deku’s hand. He could learn to appreciate these little victories, as well.

Chapter Text

Izuku was in the process of answering the police’s questions (again) when a car came screeching onto the street, bright pink and horn blaring. It swung to a sudden stop at the police line, and out climbed what must have been an uncomfortable number of occupants for the little two-door sports car.

The police officer Izuku had been speaking to startled, then began waving the passengers forward, having recognized them the same way Izuku had.

“Red Riot, Pinky!” the man called out. “And - is that Chargebolt and Cellophane?”

Red Riot nodded bashfully, gesturing to the two heroes still by the car - one of them emptying his stomach into some bushes. “Heh, sorry about that, officer. Chargebolt gets carsick easily.”

“No!” the blonde objected, pointing at them accusingly. “She just doesn’t know how to drive!”

The ‘she’ in question was Pinky, who seemed entirely unbothered by the accusation. Wearing a bright green leotard and furred combat boots, she winked one of her large golden eyes at the crowd around them.

“You boys won’t give me a ticket this time, though, right?”

The officer flustered, and Red Riot rolled his eyes subtly at the theatrics. He skimmed the scene, glancing over Izuku before suddenly doubling back. 

“Hey, I know you,” he said, then paused. “How do I know you?”

“Oh! Hi, yeah, we’ve - met.” Izuku had to tilt his head back to look the man in the eye - while Pinky was short and lean, Red Riot was towering and muscled. The gears on either shoulder looked like they must have weighed a ton, but the man managed to emote with this whole body like they weren’t even there. “Um, back at UA? I wasn’t a student, but I visited sometimes. I know All Might and, um, Ground Zero?”

“That’s the guy, ” Sero called from where he was still playing nurse to Chargebolt over on the sidewalk.

“Oh shit, you’re the guy?” Pinky said excitedly, grabbing his hand up into a rapid handshake. “Oh you’re kinda cute, didn’t Zero tell us he was a nerd? Where’s his glasses?”

“My, uh, my eyes are fine actually. But I wear goggles sometimes?”

“Cute!” she repeated, using her other hand to pinch his cheek. She reminded him of a mix of Uraraka at her most affectionate and Hatsume at her most deranged.

“Mina, cut it out, you’re gonna make him think Bkaugou’s got weird friends!” Red Riot managed to free Izuku’s hand, transitioning them into their own brief handshake before letting Izuku go completely. Izuku looked down at his hands. I’m never washing them again , he thought, and then swore to take that particularly fannish thought to the grave.

“Kacchan - um, Ground Zero, I mean. He didn’t say you were coming.”

“His house’s security system links back to our agency,” Red Riot explained. “We got a ping with a glitchy video, but we saw the file was sent to the police too, so we figured we should check it out.”

“Glitchy?” Izuku asked. 

“Yeah. Like the file was corrupted or something.”

Looking towards the other side of the cordoned off street, Izuku saw a squad car with the two people from earlier sitting in the back seat. The one with the voice quirk was wearing a muzzle, but the other hadn’t answered the police’s questions about his quirk, so they’d but him in full quirk suppressing gear.

“Officer,” Izuku said, pointing. “You should try taking a picture of them and see what you manage to capture - I think the man may have a quirk that messes with surveillance. Perhaps a more general tech-jamming power.”

“Who’re they?” Red Riot asked, following the direction of Izuku's finger. “And where’s Zero? Sero told us you were staying with him and the kids.”

“They're with Empire, and one tried to use their quirk on Mahoro and Kacchan. He’s still with the kids right now.” Izuku gestured vaguely at the house. “I was just wrapping up with the police…?” Izuku sent the officer a questioning (and hopeful) look.

“We’re still canvassing the area for the third compatriot they mentioned, but you should be fine to go back inside. Thank you for your time, Midoriya-san.”

“Of course. Thank you for your efforts.” The police started backing off, still giving the heroes curious glances. It was then that Chargebolt and Sero approached, the shorter of the two still looking pale, but grinning none-the-less.

“Hey,” he said. “I’m Kaminari. Nice to meet you. Can we go inside please? I want to brush my teeth.”

“If that’ll help forget Mina’s driving I think I better do that too,” Sero joked, and Pinky shoved his arm. 

“Oh man,” Red Riot suddenly said, “I totally forgot to introduce myself. Though you said we’d already met? No, no, sorry, okay. Hi, I’m Kirishima, and this is Ashido. You met Sero already, right? We work with Bakugou.”

“It’s nice to meet you all,” Izuku said in what he thought was an admirable impression of a human being, and not what he actually was - a vibrating pile of fanboy excitement wrapped in a dumb t-shirt.

Oi!"  They all turned to the house’s front gate, which was propped open by Kacchan’s shoulder. “I can hear you idiots from inside! Just get over here already.”

Ashido grabbed Izuku’s hand and started practically skipping to the front door. “Oh wow, we finally get to meet his kiddo. His kiddos? Or, your kiddos, I guess. Yours and Zero’s. Your kid and Zero’s-”

“Mina, please, I’m begging,” Kirishima said tiredly from behind them.

“I’m excited, and there’s nothing you can do about it!” she said with a grin, and finally pulled Izuku through the open front gate, and then through the house’s entrance.

“Bakubabe, we’re here! Where’d my niece?”

“I changed my mind, get out,” Kacchan said from the couch. Katsuma and Mahoro were nowhere in sight. Izuku shot him a curious look, and Kacchan nodded back towards the bedrooms.

“You look cute,” Ashido said, continuing to drag a reluctant Izuku along. The other three heroes piled into the genkan, seemingly more hesitant than their boisterous coworker.

“I’m off duty, I can wear what I want.”

“I meant the hair.”

Swearing, Kacchan ran a hand through his hair, pulling out a sparkly barrette and flinging it onto the coffee table. “The damn kids were playing with my hair while we waited. Must have missed one.”

“Someone pinch me,” Kaminari said in a disbelieving whisper. 

“I’ll beat you if you don’t shut up.” Kacchan’s arms were crossed back against his chest, posture slumped down into the couch. Izuku got the distinct impression Kacchan was uncomfortable with this much attention - or maybe this kind of attention. He’d mentioned his coworkers hadn’t been over to meet Mahoro yet - so this was likely to be the first time they’d see him in his role as a father. Izuku remembered his own nerves at introducing Katsuma to his friends, and suddenly the wide empty spaces to either side of Kacchan were too much to bear. Extracting himself from Ashido’s hold, Izuku moved over to sit next to his friend.

“They got a copy of your security alert,” Izuku explained as he sat down. “Apparently the file was corrupted, so I told the police to check that guy for some kind of tech quirk.”

Kacchan grunted his agreement. “They gonna haul those guys off?”

“For unauthorized quirk use, yeah. Not sure how long they can hold them, though.”

“Especially if they really are with Empire,” Kirishima said, finally making his way into the room. He sat on the far end of the couch, looking much more hesitant than Izuku would expect from a man his size.

“Yeah, lawyers are serious business,” Sero added. 

“These ones in particular,” Izuku agreed. “Kacchan said you already looked at the files his consultant dug up?”

“‘Consultant’.” Kaminari muttered. “Yeah, we saw them. Seriously creepy stuff.”

“Did you notice?” Ashido asked. “Most of those kids didn’t even have case numbers yet - they were all still registered through their original orphanages. Some were even being fostered by family members already.”

Izuku shuffled uncomfortably, glancing at Kacchan. “About that… earlier you mentioned Mahoro had been with you for five months. Is that rounded up, or…?”

Kacchan shrugged. “Five and some change, I guess.”

“Right.” Izuku swallowed nervously, not sure how Kacchan would handle the little revelation he’d just made. “Katsuma got put into the system at the end of last year, and he’s only been with me for the last three months. Last weekend was the anniversary of his adoption, actually.”

Kacchan frowned. “So?”

“Well, it seems like Empire has been keeping a record of children in the system with powerful quirks, but because they’re a third party agency they don’t have custody over any of the children until a request is put in through their service. Essentially-”

“Mahoro would have stayed with her brother,” Kacchan cut in. “If I hadn’t put in an application with their adoption team.”

Silence from the rest of the room, but Izuku kept his gaze. “They already had her information,” he said softly. “It was only a matter of time before-”

Kacchan interrupted him this time by standing and leaving the room without a word. Izuku stood to follow but Kirishima was already moving into the hallway.

“I’ve got him,” he said, and Izuku sat back down, not quite sure what to do now.

“Um, hey, don’t feel bad. Bakugou’s a bit of a tough customer on a good day, you’ll get used to him.” Kaminari sat down in Kacchan’s spot, giving Izuku an encouraging shoulder pat.

“Idiot, they’ve known each other since they were kids, remember?” Sero said.

“Oh, right. Hey, that means you should be telling us how to deal with him, right? Come on, Deku, what’s the scoop on the big guy?”

“It’s um, Izuku, actually. Deku’s just a nickname.”

“Really batting a thousand,” Ashido said amusedly. Kaminari lowered his head in defeat.

“How’re the kids doing?” Sero eventually asked. “Todoroki said things were less tense when he visited the other day.”

“They’re happy to be back together,” Izuku said carefully. He didn’t want to discuss the impending custody arrangements with these three, especially given he hadn’t even broached the topic with Kacchan yet. “Kacchan and I got Katsuma some clothes earlier. It’s snowed a couple times here, and I didn’t have a chance to pack any of his heavier clothes.”

“Oh, oh! Does he have one of those coats where he can’t put his arms down? Oh that’d be so cute.” Ashido kept looking towards the hallway, no doubt wanting to go looking for the kids.

Hoping he wasn’t about to overstep, Izuku said, “Would… you like to meet him?”

Ashido made a noise only understandable by dogs, and Kaminari wasn’t too much better. Sero rolled his eyes and nodded in thanks at Izuku. “Maybe warn them they’re about to meet these two knuckleheads. They can be a bit much without context.”

As Ashido and Kaminari made objections in defense of their character, Izuku slipped quietly out of the room and towards Mahoro’s. Kacchan’s gauntlets had been cleared out of the hallway, and his office door was shut. Izuku resisted the urge to press his ear against it, and instead knocked on Mahoro’s door.

It opened instantly, Mahoro opening her mouth excitedly, then turning more timid when she saw who it was. “Oh. Hi. Bakugou said we had to stay in here until he told us to come out.”

“I think he wanted to talk to his friends first. Some of his coworkers showed up - they want to meet you and Katsuma. What do you say?”

Katsuma came to stand excitedly behind his sister, Edgeshot figurine clutched in his hand. “There’s heroes?” he asked breathlessly.

Izuku smiled, nodding. “Red Riot is talking to Kacchan right now, but Pinky and Chargebolt are in the living room. Cellophane’s there too - do you remember him from… the other night?”

Neither child seemed bothered by the mention of the night of their dramatic reunion, simply nodding up at him. “He wasn’t so bad,” Mahoro admitted. “But Bakugou says his coworkers are all loud idiots.”

“They are certainly… vocal,” Izuku hedged.

Mahoro turned to her brother. “That means noisy.”

“It means enthusiastic . They’re nice though. I think you’d like them.”

Mahoro gave him a calculating look, then huffed as she grabbed one of her brother’s hands and one of Izuku’s. She led them down the hall with her chin raised. Upon entering the living room she stopped, giving the occupants a once over.

“So,” she said, her hand tightening in Izuku’s. He squeezed back gently. “Bakugou says you’re all top heroes. If that’s the case, then why did it take you almost an hour to get here after the security system activated? Even the regular police were here within a few minutes.”

The three of them stood blinking in surprise, not expecting to be interrogated during their first meeting.

“Hey,” Kaminari finally said, “cut us some slack, kid, we were all the way in the city. This neighborhood isn’t even our jurisdiction.”

“Bakugou says if I called him from the house while he’s at work that he could be here in twenty minutes easy.

“Mahoro-chan,” Izuku scolded softly, but he was smiling a little. “These three were really worried about you and your brother. Kacchan, too. Shouldn’t you say thank you?”

“Hmph. What’s there to thank them for, I’m the one who caught the bad guys, aren’t I?”

“You did?” Ashido said, surprised.

“Oh man, she’s a prodigy. A tiny Bakugou,” Kaminari despaired.

“She used her quirk to scare them off,” Izuku explained, making sure to give Mahoro a proud smile. Instead of huffing at him like he expected, she preened a little instead.

“Totally a prodigy,” Kaminari continued to whine. “Two of them. Great.

“Three, technically,” Sero said, nodding at Katsuma, who was half hidden behind his sister.

“Oh, hey, there,” Ashido said, having redirected her attention to the youngest of the two. She moved around the couch so she could kneel in front of them. “You must be our missing person. You know, your sister has been looking everywhere for you. She and Bakugou have been all over the place trying to track you down.”

Katsuma smiled up at Mahoro. “Yeah, they told me. Um,” he turned back to the vibrantly colored hero. “You’re Pinky, right? You, um, have an acid quirk.”

Ashido looked like she was about to vibrate out of her overly furry jacket. “Yep, that’s me, the acid crusader! Are you a hero fan, Katsuma? Because we went to UA, it’s totally the best hero school in the country. We know all the top pros.”

“Hey, hey,” Kaminari said, sensing Ashido was making gains where he’d only fallen flat with Mahoro. “Don’t bore the kid with those guys, he probably wants to hear about the real heroes. Like - Edgeshot, maybe?” Kaminari gave a smug grin and a wiggling hand gesture - taa daa .

Katsuma gasped. “You know Edgeshot?” He held the action figure in his hand up, though Kaminari had obviously already seen it.

“Sure do,” the blonde bragged shamelessly. “I did an internship with him in my third year. I've even worked a few joint missions with him since. You could say we’re pretty close.”

“Could, but no one would ,” Sero said.

While Kaminari tried to defend his supposed friendship with the number three hero, Ashido distracted the kids with some of the gear on her belt, including vials for storing her acid and preserving different pH’s. That finally managed to get Mahoro’s attention, and Izuku herded the whole gang back over towards the couch and chairs. 

He took a step back, just letting the kids ask questions and the heroes answer. He’d been worried if they didn’t get along that he’d have to go explain his failure to Kacchan. The other man still hadn’t returned from his office, nor had Kirishima. Izuku continued to look worriedly in that direction, feeling helpless for not having anything to say to comfort Kacchan.

Assuming he needed comfort. It could be he was angry. And Izuku had always been better at riling Kacchan up than calming him down.

That’s not fair , he reminded himself. Kacchan had demonstrated some impressive personal growth over the last several days. Months, really, if the stories about his adventures with Mahoro were any indication.

In all honesty, Kacchan hadn’t been like that since middle school. Sure, he’d blown up a little (figuratively and literally) when he found out All Might was mentoring quirkless little Deku, but he’d also been quick to explain his frustration. Their fight then had been short lived and largely one-sided, but ever since Izuku felt there was a kind of implicit honesty between them. 

Kacchan, who never lied but excelled at keeping his feelings under wraps, had made a habit of dumping his more private frustrations on Izuku, as well as his moments of genuine pride. Meanwhile Izuku had made efforts to not make assumptions about Kacchan. He knew his old friend well - better than most - but he recognized his habit of planning too many steps ahead. Sometimes he’d assume Kacchan’s reactions to certain things and end up making decisions for the both of them. It was something he’d taken a while to get better at, but he’d tried for the sake of returning Kacchan’s own efforts.

So no, Kacchan probably wouldn’t react violently to Izuku’s intervention here. His actions earlier had been instinctual, and immediately followed by an apology. To be honest, what Izuku worried about most was that he was helping along Katsuma’s transition into Kacchan’s life. He was living at Kacchan’s house, wearing the clothes Kacchan bought him, and now meeting Kacchan’s friends. It would be so easy for him to fall into the comfort of being there. To get attached, and want to stay.

‘Him’ being Katsuma, of course. 

Izuku knew better than to let himself get too used to all this.

Obviously.

---

“I swear, Shitty Hair, if you pace an actual hole in the floor I’ll bury you in it.”

“Dude,” Kirishima said, continuing to move around the office as though he hadn’t heard the threat. “This is big. I mean you basically just told me-”

“I know what I told you,” Katsuki growled. “Don’t make it weird.”

Weird! ” Kirishima repeated. “This is inherently weird! I thought I was gonna have to talk you out of some guilt spiral about separating those kids, but now you’re angsting because you think it - what, ruined your chance at a date ?”

“Don’t fucking say it like that. Of course I feel awful - I’m apparently the whole damn reason any of us are in this mess.” Katsuki sank down in his office chair, legs splayed petulantly outward. “But I also know how that nerd’s head works. He thinks heroes are infallible, that everyone needs to be like All Might - saving people and winning every fight. Does getting a little girl’s memory erased because I was lonely sound fucking heroic to you?”

“Hey, man, calm down. Midoriya looked worried for you when he pointed all that stuff out. He obviously doesn’t blame you - and neither will anyone else. You’re as much a victim here as those kids are. No one’ll look at this and think less of you or whatever,”

Katsuki growled, turning his face away. Quietly, he admitted, “I fucked up, Red. I’m supposed to be the best. But if I can mess up this bad, how is he supposed to trust me in the future?"

Kirshima sighed, sounding sympathetic and exhausted all at once. It was a familiar noise between them. “Look. I get it. In this line of work, even little hiccups can make you question your worth as a hero. And I admit, this is more than a hiccup, but it’s also so far out of your control it’s almost ridiculous. I mean, would you put this level of scrutiny on anyone else if they were in your shoes? Don’t answer that," he tacked on quickly, knowing his friend too well.

Katsuki snorted. “Maybe if I didn’t know the kid. But I do. And she’s - dammit she didn’t deserve this. Neither of them did. Deku either.”

“You didn’t deserve it either, man.”

A moment of quiet passed between them while Kirishima let him collect his thoughts. Finally, Katsuki sat up a little, leaning his arms against the desk.

"You know I used to make his life hell, right?"

Kirishima nodded, finally coming over to sit down across from him. "To be honest neither of us were exactly sober when you told me about your guys' childhood, but I remember most of it. Sounded pretty in line with how you were when we first got to UA."

"Yeah, well, that was how I was our whole lives. Then that sludge villain bastard got me just before we went to different schools and Deku… well he took a pretty big risk for me. Even got All Might's attention in the process. Everything since then has been better, but not…"

"Good enough to ask him to raise a family together?"

"Ugh, shut up. "

"Sorry," Kirishima said, grinning apologetically. "Sero told Ashido about you two and she's been going off ever since. She wants to walk you down the aisle, by the way."

"Better than the hag, honestly."

Kirishima tilted his head curiously, seeming intrigued by the returned joke. "You really like this guy, huh?"

"Maybe."

" Maybe? "

"Fuck, fine, yes, whatever! But it's Deku , alright, my brain just doesn't… I have a lot of bad habits around him. I need to show both of us that I'm better before I do anything."

"But you want to try?"

"I said do,  Shitty Hair. I don't half ass things. I'm gonna woo that bastard straight to hell."

Kirishima bounced a little in his seat, giving Katsuki a sharp toothed grin. "Hell yeah, you will! Super manly, Bakugou, way to commit! You read to go back out there now?"

Katsuki slunk lower in his chair.

"Dude, seriously? You know I can just pick you up."

"Try it and die."

"Fine, then I’ll go hang out with your nice, successful childhood friend. Maybe set him up to meet some other heroes. He's into heroes, right?"

" I'll kill you, " Katsuki hissed, but got to his feet and followed Kirishima back out of the office. 

There was a lot of noise coming from the living room, which shouldn't have been surprising given his team was present, but he hadn't expected to hear Mahoro and Katsuma's high laughter mixed into the others'.

"Didn't I tell you to stay in your room?" Katsuki said when he rounded the corner, forcing a scowl onto his still blushing face.

Mahoro looked up from her spot perched on the back of the armchair, feet resting on Deku's shoulders. Katsuma sat wedged against Deku's side, playing with some of Sero's tape, seemingly fascinated.

"Deku said we could come out."

Katsuki shot Deku a raised brow, noting his guilty expression. He'd been dreading the first meeting of these two halves of his life, preferring to stay away from big emotional gatherings. Seeing everyone had already transitioned into an easier atmosphere, he felt a little grateful to Deku for handling it, giving him a short nod as he and Kirishima joined Ashido on the couch.

"Don't call him that," he said to Mahoro as an afterthought. 

"You and Katsuma call him 'Deku', though."

"Katsuma doesn't mean it the same way."

At the mention of his name the boy looked up curiously. "How do you mean it?"

Kirishima dug a hard (and unnecessary) elbow into Katsuki's side. 

"...It's just what I call him. Nevermind, do what you want."

"Can I call him Deku?" Kaminari asked, splayed out on the rug, arms effectively tied behind his back with more tape.

"No," Katsuki growled.

"Aw, alright. Can I call you Kacchan?"

Katsuki's raging was quickly drowned out by the group's laughter, and after Kirishima freed the hog-tied and lightly-singed Kaminari, things started winding down. His three visitors were still technically on call back at their agency (and Ashido's car was still parked like a set piece out on the street) so they started saying their goodbyes soon after.

Kirishima gave Deku a tight hug on his way out, easily dwarfing the other man and leaving Deku's face redder than Kirishima's hair. There was a quiet exchange between them that ended in a second hug and Kirishima declaring Deku "the nicest, manliest dude he'd met." Afterward the hero came to stand to the side with Katsuki while Ashido tried tearfully to get Mahoro to hug her goodbye too.

"He said we should visit more, because we're your friends and you miss us," he whispered, and Katsuki grunted.

"You idiot are the ones who assumed me and the kid needed space. Come over whenever, I don't care."

Another smile, and a sideways hug too quick to fight off. "Goodluck, man," he said, holding out a closed fist. Katsuki rolled his eyes but bumped his own knuckles against his friend's, setting off another round of complaints that he didn't do secret handshakes with any of the others.

"Thanks for having us!" Sero called back to Katsuki when they all eventually left.

Katsuki gave a polite wave from the front door. "Lose my number."

Closing the gate and the front door on their booing, he finally allowed his shoulders to relax. It'd been a while since he'd spent time with any of them outside of work. He'd admittedly kind of missed the drained feeling he got from just hanging out with them.

"They're nice," Deku said quietly behind him.

Turning around, Katsuki looked the other man over, looking for any signs that Deku was lying, and had actually hated Katsuki's friends. But no, he was smiling fondly, standing casually in the small genkan, barefooted and comfortable looking. Katsuki thought he fit in pretty well.

"They're a pain, but… yeah. They're good people."

Deku smiled wider. "I'm glad you've kept in touch with so many of your school friends. Or did they keep in touch with you?"

"They were like limpets. Or leaches. Whichever one has sharper teeth. Couldn't shake them if I tried."

"Sounds nice," he said.

"I guess." Katsuki shifted his feet, growing more and more aware of the small entryway. He could kick Deku's shin from where he was standing. Or reach out and tuck a curl behind his ear.

Deku suddenly laughed. "They certainly had some nice stories about you."

A kick it is, then. Deku squeaked as Katsuki started stalking forward, retreating into the living room where the kids were at. Mahoro was trying to pat down Katsuma's staticy hair, while the boy laughed delightedly, the sound increasing when he saw the two adults juking childishly around the couch.

"Can we have ice cream now?" Mahoro said, not quite whining but definitely pouting. "You promised."

"Yeah, alright," Katsuki said, giving up his chase and letting the cheering children pull him into the kitchen, one on either hand. Deku followed slowly behind, looking contemplative. His smile from earlier had faded a little.

Like hell , Katsuki thought, and used the lack of a sofa barrier to swing Katsuma into Deku's side.

"Oi, look alive, nerd. Work's done for the day. Turn that brain off for once, yeah?"

Deku startled at the impact, moving to steady an apologetic but giggling Katsuma. He met Katsuki's eyes from under his own fringe, smiling softly.

"Yeah, okay. For a little while."

Chapter Text

Almost a week at Kacchan’s house shouldn’t be enough time to develop a routine, especially given how chaotic every day had seemed to become, but Izuku found himself falling into one all the same.

With All Might no longer staying with them, the guest room had been freed up for Izuku’s use. He spent his nights sleeping peacefully until about 7am, when Katsuma would come into the room and speak quietly at his bedside until he woke up. On one occasion Mahoro had decided her brother’s tactics were too subtle, and had set the giant snarling Kacchan from earlier that week loose in his room. Not recognizing it for what it was at first, Izuku had sleepily asked the beast for “just five more minutes.”

After his occasionally rude awakening, he’d follow the kids into the dining room to help set the table. Without fail Kacchan would already be up and dressed, making breakfast for the lot of them. And without fail Izuku would offer to help and be summarily glared back to the table.

“Any word from Tsukauchi?” Izuku asked that morning, setting down tea for him and Kacchan and juice for the kids. He knew Kacchan checked his emails first thing in the morning.

“He’s setting up a doctor’s appointment for the four of us. Wants to assess any lingering effects from that quirk.”

Mahoro pouted into her rice. “You said no doctor the other day.”

“No doctor right away,” Kacchan corrected. “The police need to make sure we’re all cleared as part of the investigation. You wanna help take these bastards down, right?”

“Hell yeah,” she said.

“Hell yeah,” Kacchan echoed.

“She… shouldn’t be saying that,” Izuku said.

“Brat, what’s the rule?”

“Don’t do as you say or as you do.” 

“Good kid.”

Izuku pointed between them. “She does both of those and you know it.”

Kacchan shrugged. “Kids are sponges, or whatever.”

Katsuma, who was attempting to grab the shaker of furikake from the center of the table, said, “I won’t swear, Deku-san, I promise.”

“Thank you, Katsuma-kun, you’re a good boy.” Mahoro pinched her face in objection and turned back to her meal, eating with quiet and polite bites until she was finished.

“The hell…” Kacchan muttered. “I tell the brat off and she just yells at me.”

“I’m immune to tantrums,” Izuku answered with a pointed look.

“Lots of practice?” Kacchan asked innocently.

“Less so recently,” he admitted, and enjoyed the pleased little smile he got in return.

After breakfast came clean up - Izuku’s job - and getting the kids dressed for the day - a shared effort. While they had been staying mostly in the house, Kacchan ran a tight ship, and refused to let anyone lounge around in their pajamas all day. As a result, Izuku got the surely rare privilege of watching Kacchan settle Mahoro on his knee and dutifully comb the tangles out of her hair, separating the strands into two symmetrical pigtails. She sat quietly through the whole process, seemingly soothed by the gentle tug of the brush across her head.

Katsuma required a little less upkeep, his hair falling into the same curly disarray as Izuku’s. Usually Izuku would towel it dry for him after showers, but didn’t bother with the products he put into his own hair - Katsuma’s curls still too fine to need much assistance. Instead Izuku spent the spare time helping Katsuma and Mahoro choose their outfits. Kacchan had been deemed too picky for the task, and Izuku’s own penchant for compliments resulted in short fashion shows in the morning.

“Just pick a damn shirt,” Kacchan growled, peaking in on them after 20min of supposedly getting ready.

Mahoro was holding up a dress from her closet, contemplating the large bow on the front. She stuck her tongue out at the sudden intruder. “Don’t buy us so much junk if you don’t want us to wear it.”

“Don’t call your shit junk,” Kacchan said, but left them alone after that.

After helping Mahoro choose a pair of warm legging to go with her dress, Izuku helped Katsuma secure a large Edgeshot pin to the strap of his overalls. The boy looked admittedly adorable, and Izuku snapped a quick picture of the two to send to his friends. Making a quick decision, he also sent the image to Kacchan.

A minute later he got a one-word reply: Cute.

It took another minute to realize the text had not come from Todoroki, but instead the man in the living room.

Izuku made a flustered noise and quickly waved off Katsuma’s concern, instead declaring them ready to take on the day. Mahoro pointed out Izuku was still in his pajamas, so he went down the hall and changed his own clothes.

Returning to the living room, Izuku found the three sitting around the TV. The device had been rarely used during their stay, mostly to avoid any sensationalized news, but also because Kacchan seemed to have a long-running feud with Mahoro over her TV habits.

“What are we watching?” Izuku asked, sitting right next to Kacchan on the large couch. Katsuma immediately jumped down from his spot on the armchair and sat on Izuku’s other side.

“There was a villain attack this morning!” Katsuma chirped. “Edgeshot was there!”

“Back near UA,” Kacchan added more sedately. “Couple of interns were present, they’re gonna be in an interview later, I guess.”

“That must be exciting for them,” Izuku said.

Kacchan huffed. “Maybe. That young, media’s a fucking mine field. There’s a reason they start teaching interview etiquette in first year.”

“Did you skip that class, or-”

“Shut it.” Kacchan bumped his shoulder lightly, not quite jostling him into Katsuma. “I never skipped class, you know that.”

“Mm, Kacchan was a good student. Still, I doubt ‘grab a microphone and start threatening’ was part of the curriculum.”

He shrugged. “Everyone’s got their own approach. I’m not looking to land an ad deal, so I don’t have to give a damn what people think about me.”

“I think you looked really cool in that interview, Bakugou-san,” Katsuma offered shyly. Kacchan looked at him with a raised brow, then shifted his gaze to Izuku.

“I’ll trade you,” he offered, jerking a thumb in Mahoro’s direction.

“Hey!”  She flew off the armchair and onto the couch as well, whacking Kacchan with a pillow until he put her in a headlock and forced her to settle against his side. They were both smiling by the end of it.

Izuku couldn’t manage to do the same.

Hoping to avoid a continuation of that conversation even in jest, Izuku quickly grabbed up the remote and upped the volume, turning on the subtitles for Kacchan’s sake. The four of them sat watching the news rerun footage from the earlier fight, Kacchan commenting occasionally on what he would have done differently. He even grumbled his approval of one of the interns, noting the kid’s name for his own roster in the coming year.

“Do you have any interns currently?” Izuku asked.

“Nah, but Red and Sero have one each. They’re pretty good teachers, when you get past them being way too into it.”

Izuku laughed. “How can you be too into teaching?”

“You ever have to sit through a lesson with All Might?”

Izuku hadn’t, not formally anyway, but he could see the point.

Mahoro chose that moment to speak up again. “Since we found Katsuma-kun, does that mean no more missions?”

Kacchan hummed thoughtfully. “Maybe if you keep getting good grades, I’ll let you visit my agency.”

“Can I come too!” Katsuma asked excitedly, then turned timid again. “Um, except I don’t have a lot of school work yet. But I can try some of Onee-chan’s?”

“Nah, you can visit whenever.”

Ugh,” Mahoro said. “You’re so mean. I’ll go visit Deku’s work then. He’ll show me all the cool hero gear and you won’t get to use any of it!”

“Okay,” Kacchan agreed easily, picking her up and dropping her into Izuku’s lap. Izuku was getting used to Kacchan’s habit of roughhousing Mahoro, and the girl’s seeming enthusiasm for it. Katsuma too had stopped panicking every time he noticed his sister being thrown around, and instead reached out a hand and patted her knee comfortingly.

Izuku gathered the kids close, leaning companionably into Kacchan’s side. Turn your brain off for once , Kacchan had told him, and he was still using those instructions to guard against the inevitable end to these little moments.

The rest of the morning was spent skimming shows and lazing about on the couch, until Kacchan declared it ‘work time’ and dragged Izuku back down the hall to his office. They’d finished with the support gear paperwork the day before, and Kacchan didn’t hand him anything new, so Izuku took the initiative to start checking his own work emails, keeping Kacchan company all the while.

At some point Kacchan stopped typing, and Izuku didn’t notice until the hairs on his neck stood up, suddenly aware of eyes on him. Looking up, Izuku met the other’s intense red gaze. “Um. Hi, Kacchan.”

“Hey.” There was no followup, just a continued examination by that familiar gaze.

“Are you… done working?”

“Nah, just taking a break from emails. Hey, when do you need to be back to work?”

The subject shift would seem sudden if there hadn’t been such a lack of sensible conversation beforehand. Tilting his head, Izuku frowned thoughtfully. “My work is mostly remote these days, unless I need to do an in-person consultation or use something in the machine shop. So I should be alright for a little while longer.”

Kacchan nodded, eyes flickering to his computer screen and back again. “And you’re okay on clothes and shit? We can go shopping again.”

“Oh! No, that’s alright. I’ve got an entire apartment worth of things, no need to buy me a whole new wardrobe.”

“Hm. And the kid?”

“Which one?” Izuku hedged, wary of the continued line of questioning.

“Don’t be a smart ass.”

Izuku shrugged, finally breaking the long staring contest. “Katsuma likes the clothes you bought him. He’s grateful, I’m sure.”

Another acknowledging hum. “Good. That’s… yeah, good. So you’re both comfortable?”

“Uh huh.”

“Alright. Well let me know if you need anything. I… might have to return to work soon. Short shifts, mostly patrols. I can take meetings by phone - anyone who has a problem with me not being there in person can take a hike.”

Izuku nodded. “Alright. I supposed Mahoro has a school to return to as well?”

“They can buzz off too. The kid deserves some time to hang out with her brother. Unless - does Katsuma have school?”

“Preschool. He goes four days a week. I usually take Fridays off to spend the whole day with him.”

“Right, right…” Kacchan trailed off, finally looking away. “So you can stay a little longer, then. That’s....”

“Good?”

Kacchan snorted. “Yeah, it’s great. You actually working over there or can we take a break?”

Izuku turned off his phone and set it aside. “I was just checking emails. Should we make lunch? Katsuma usually gets hungry around now.”

“Those two really are siblings, huh. I’m surprised the brat isn’t knocking the door down whining about starving or something.”

As if on queue, a long drawn out “Bakugouuuuu” came drifting through the open door. Mahoro did, indeed, sound like she was suffering some great neglect.

“Like fuckin’ clockwork,” Kacchan muttered, standing. “I’ve got some soup in the fridge. Think you can heat that up without burning the place down?”

Izuku put a hand over his heart in feigned dismay. “Kacchan’s letting me use his kitchen?”

He held up a single finger. “One pot. One burner. One try.”

Nodding solemnly, Izuku also stood up. “I’ll just have to make Kacchan proud, then.”

---

Proud was one word for how Katsuki felt, standing guard in the kitchen as he watched Deku move easily about the room. As the nerd gathered supplies for lunch without needing to ask where they were, that pride shifted towards a greedy kind of pleased. When the kids shuffled into the room and clambered into ‘their’ seats at the table, leaving obvious spots for Katsuki and Deku, that feeling shifted further into full blown smugness.

Katsuki had sworn to woo Deku clear off his red-sneakered feet, and with how things were going even he was impressed by the progress he’d made in just a week. Watching Deku move easily around the space, even dodging around Kastuki’s carelessly leaning form, it was a wonder he hadn’t tried to get the nerd to stay with him sooner.

I used to dread him following me around everywhere, he thought. I also used to be a bit of an idiot.

They spent the rest of the day alternating between the office and whatever part of the house the kids had set up in. Eventually Katsuki had to make an inevitable call to Tsukauchi, and left Deku to lead another attempt at snow construction in the backyard. All Might’s previous work to rid the neighborhood of snow had long been undone, and there was fresh powder waiting for the three of them once they stepped outside.

Meanwhile, sitting stiffly at his desk, Katsuki finally started the call he’d been dreading all day.

“Tell it to me straight,” he said as soon as the detective picked up.

“Hello, Ground Zero-san,” Tsukauchi said politely back. “I thought you would have called sooner.”

Katsuki shifted uncomfortably. He knew the man’s quirk worked through the phone, and while he wasn’t a typically dishonest person, Katsuki had to fight down an instinctual denial that he’d been avoiding the conversation.

“I was doing other stuff,” he said vaguely. “Now tell me more about what you mentioned in the email.”

Tsukauchi made a neutral noise, not acting like he was currently privy to information that could make or break Katsuki in that moment. “As I mentioned,” the detective began, “the internal review board has decided there’s sufficient evidence that you were not knowingly involved with Empire Legal’s more nefarious practices. However, the case still stands that Mahoro’s adoption was not handled in a manner that prioritized her above all else. She’ll be allowed to stay with you, but the board would like an independent social worker to review your situation and confirm your suitability.”

“I’m plenty fucking suitable,” Katsuki snapped, offended at the mere implication.

“I have no doubt,” Tsukauchi said, and Katsuki realized he either hadn’t been lying or was confident enough in himself that the detective’s quirk hadn’t detected any falsehood. “But all that’s going to happen is the standard certification that should have happened before you adopted her in the first place. Legally speaking, she’s still fully your ward, and no one on my end wants to change that. This is just a case of dotting I’s and crossing T’s. Assuming you don’t have any grenades mixed in with her toy box, you should be fine.”

Katsuki thought quickly about where he’s left his utility belt, and then silently cursed Deku and his maybe good point about the stupid baby locks. “Got it,” he muttered, slightly appeased.

There was a pause before the detective spoke again. “Can I say something not entirely professional, Bakugou-san?”

Katsuki stared at the phone like Tsukauchi would be able to feel his wary look down the line. Eventually he grunted his assent. 

“I’ve known you since you were a student at UA, and I’ve followed your career since. You’re a competent hero, obviously loyal to your team, and possess an unwavering moral compass. You’ve always reminded me quite a lot of All Might. Except for one thing.”

Katsuki sat up straighter. “And what’s that?” he asked, with hesitant anticipation.

There was fondness in the man’s voice when he answered. “You’ve never lied to me.”

Silence for a moment while Katsuki processed that. When he spoke again it was calmly, and with a rarely used seriousness. “I’m going to raise her right, detective. I’ll be the best damn dad that kid could hope for.”

“I have no doubt,” Tsukauchi repeated. Then, “That’s all for now, Ground Zero-san. I’ll let you know when I have more details about the case review. Have a pleasant evening.”

Katsuki grumbled an approximation of a goodbye himself before hanging up, letting the phone teeter in his fingers for a moment before dropping it to the desk.

The kid would stay with him for now; all he had to do was pass a review. Deku, who had presumably already gone through a more traditional adoption process, had shared no objections with Katsuki’s current setup (aside from the damn locks). Deku had seemed to like Katsuki’s place quite a lot actually. Katsuma too. They’d both settled in nicely.

And now there were essentially no more hurdles in the way of him asking them to settle in that last little bit. 

Maybe even stay a while.

---

There was a strange energy to dinner that night, but when Izuku had asked Kacchan about his phone call the other man had simply shrugged. He’d also smiled, which was not entirely unexpected, but the expression had been softer than normal. Almost a little excited.

The mystery continued throughout their bedtime ritual of getting the kids changed once more into sleep clothes, then tucked snuggly into Mahoro’s bed. Izuku wondered briefly if they’d transform the guest room into a second bedroom once he was gone, or if the siblings would prefer to room together for a while longer. Either way, Izuku found himself consolidating his meager possessions that night. It was only a matter of time, anyway.

After he’d wished the kids a good night, and extended the sentiment to Kacchan as well, he’d crawled gratefully into bed, expecting to fall asleep quickly. Hours later, though, Izuku found himself staring at the same patch of ceiling. 

Sighing, he rolled over and grabbed his phone off the charger, checking the time. Not quite 2am, It was far too early to start breakfast, and Kacchan would be long asleep by then. He considered calling one of his friends, but couldn’t remember which, if any, were working night shifts that week. Staring unseeingly at the screen for several long minutes, he startled when a message popped up, his notification sound nearly unbearable in the otherwise silent room.

Quickly turning off the ringer, Izuku opened the message.

Are you awake? Todoroki had sent. There’s a green dot by your name. I believe that means your phone is in use.

Sorry, Izuku replied out of habit. I can’t sleep. Are you working?

I’m at the office, Todoroki half-answered, and Izuku smiled. Kacchan wasn’t the only one who avoided paperwork.

Can I call you? Izuku asked without really thinking about it, and stared unsurprised at the call that came in only a few seconds later.

“I’m sorry if I’m interrupting anything,” he whispered upon answering.

I’m not busy,” Todoroki reassured, the sound of papers shuffling coming across clearly. “Why are you whispering?

“I’m still at Kacchan’s house. Everyone else is sleeping right now.”

A pause before Todoroki replied. “How long are you planning to stay there?

Sighing and rolling over, Izuku stared once more at the ceiling. “That’s the thing, I think I might be going home soon.”

Mn. You sound upset about that.

Izuku wiped at his cheek, feeling a wetness already gathering at his lash line. 

“I don’t think Katsuma will be coming with me,” he admittedly quietly.

“What?” Todoroki’s raised voice was startling in his ear, and Izuku gave a surprised eep, pulling the phone away.

“What do you mean 'what'?”

I mean why would your son not return home with you? Is there an issue with the investigation? If someone is trying to separate Katsuma and Mahoro from you, I can-”

“No, no!” Izuku hissed. “I - look, you saw how they were together that first night. They’ve been like that ever since, practically joined at the hip. I’d be a monster if I tried to separate them.”

“...So you’re planning to leave Katsuma in Bakugou’s care? ” Todoroki guessed.

“Yeah,” Izuku confirmed, and felt another tear move down his cheek.

“You… are very dumb.

Izuku pulled the phone away once more, staring at Todoroki’s caller ID image. “Excuse me?” he said.

Sorry. You’re actually one of the smartest people I know. Bakugou as well. You two are a well matched set.

Thrown by the sudden tone shift, Izuku continued to look bemusedly at his phone screen. “Um, thank you?”

"You’re welcome. Now, all that being said, you can both be very… oblivious. Or rather, presumptuous.

“I think I should take back my thanks,” Izuku mutter, offended.

Sorry. Again. What I’m trying to say is - Bakugou is a good man. He would never ask for something like that from you.

“I know, that’s the problem. Kacchan’s amazing! And I know he would be so good to Mahoro and Katsuma. So I’m… planning to offer an arrangement, where he can adopt Katsuma in my stead. The kids will get to stay together in a loving home with a competent caretaker. There’s really no better outcome than that.”

Other than two caretakers,” Todoroki pointed out.

Izuku rolled his eyes, hoping his friend would sense his exasperation. “Yeah, and how would that conversation go? ‘Hi, Kacchan, I think you’re great, please raise these children with me’?”

That’s a good start, Bakugou appreciates concise honesty.

“Wha - I am not saying that!

Todoroki sighed and Izuku felt the urge to shake his friend. Todoroki had his own bad habits, one of which included getting ludicrous ideas in his head and then holding onto them relentlessly. There was a reason that article had been written about him and All Might potentially being related - Todoroki had a big imagination and, sometimes publicly, a rather big mouth.

Okay,” Todoroki said after a long pause, his voice even more carefully neutral than usual. “I think, if you really believe this is how things should go, that you should speak to Bakugou about it immediately.

Izuku frowned. “So you think he’d agree? To take Katsuma on as well?”

...I believe Bakugou likes Katsuma, as much as he likes his sister. And I think he would be… interested, to hear this idea of yours. Sooner, rather than later.”

Izuku shuffled further under the covers, grumbling unhappily into the phone. “O-oh, alright then. I’ll… talk to him about it tomorrow.”

Or now,” Todoroki suggested. “Now works, too.

“You act like you didn’t live with him for three years. Even I know waking Kacchan up before he’s ready is a death sentence.”

Ugh,” Todoroki groaned very uncharacteristically. “Alright, I suppose. Please call me after you two speak. I imagine you’ll have a lot to say.

Izuku continued frowning even as they said their quiet goodbyes. Hanging up and dropping the phone beside his pillow, Izuku tried valiantly to get some sleep, but rest still eluded him. Eventually he huffed, swinging out of bed in one frustrated move, and quickly exited his room. Standing barefoot in the hallway, Izuku wondered what exactly he planned to do. He looked towards Katsuki’s doorway across from his, but quickly dismissed the thought. Instead he went towards the kitchen, checking in on the kids as he passed their room.

Still sleeping peacefully, he noted. At least somebody was.

Stepping through the doorway, Izuku threw on the overhead lights, hissing at the sudden brightness, and then almost screaming in surprise when he noticed the figure in front of him.

Fuck, Deku, turn the lights off!” Kacchan was standing at the kitchen counter, seemingly having been eating a bowl of ice cream at 2:30 in the morning.

Flicking off the light again, Izuku took a second to blink the spots from his vision. Eventually he fumbled his way to the counter, leaning against it, elbow just brushing Kacchan’s.

“I didn’t think anyone else was awake,” he finally said.

Kacchan gestured with his spoon. “Well congratulations, you’ve discovered my secret.”

Despite himself, Izuku smiled. “Is this another routine? Ice cream after patrol, and just before dawn?”

“Fuck off,” Kacchan mumbled around another shameless mouthful. Izuku eyed the bowl, then reached into a nearby drawer for a second spoon.

“Can I have some?” he asked. “We can be co-conspirators.”

Kacchan moved the bowl closer, so it rested within both their reaches. “You can ask like a normal person, y’know.”

Izuku smiled again, taking a grateful bite.

They ate in silence for a long while, easily sharing the treat between themselves, eventually cutting the last mouthful into infinite halves. Kacchan finally scooped the remainder onto his spoon and held it out in Izuku’s direction. When he didn’t move, Kacchan scowled. 

“What?” he said. “You want me to make airplane noises?” 

Izuku snorted a quiet laugh, finally leaning forward to eat the last bit. Kacchan allowed the spoon to move with him as he pulled away, then finally moved his hand back, staring intently at Izuku all the while.

“So, um. What kept you up?” Izuku’s eyes kept darting up to Kacchan’s and away again.

“Talked to Tsukauchi,” he said softly. “While you and the kids were outside earlier. He gave me an update about whether Thing One would be allowed to stay with me.”

Izuku sputtered. “You - Kacchan, you never said that might be an issue!”

Kacchan shrugged. “I didn’t think it’d be, until he sent me an email saying her case was under review again. I guess being adopted out by a bunch of quirk-obsessed weirdos doesn’t make the police believe her best interests had been in mind.”

“Kacchan that’s - I’m so sorry.”

“The hell? Don’t be, everything’s gonna be fine. Tsukauchi all but said this was a formality anyway. They’ll probably do a walk through of the place, interview the kid, maybe give me one of those probationary periods you talked about.” He sounded incredibly unbothered by the whole situation, and Izuku shook his head in disbelief.

“If I were you I’d be panicking so hard right now.”

“Of course you would. You’re a nerd and a worrywart.”

Izuku shoved his shoulder, and Kacchan shoved right back. The air between them was light and easy, Kacchan’s calm seeping into him where their shoulders touched. Izuku almost didn’t say what he did next, but knew it was a conversation that needed to happen sooner rather than later - about that, Todoroki had been absolutely right.

“Hey, Kacchan?” he said.

“Mm, what?”

“You… you’re a really great dad. To Mahoro, obviously - it’s clear that she adores you, and you seem to really understand each other. But you’re also… really good with Katsuma. He’s usually shy around new people, but I think - well you’re his favorite kind of hero. Brave and strong and always in the thick of things. You - you’re kind of perfect. For them, I mean.”

Having looked away at the beginning of his little speech, Izuku finally glanced back up, just in time to see Kacchan’s flabbergasted expression. Whatever he’d expected Izuku to say in the sleepy quiet of the darkened kitchen, that had obviously not been it.

“You… think all that about me?”

Izuku nodded, leaning more heavily into his shoulder. “I know it. Kacchan’s amazing. At this, just like everything else.”

He continued to stare in apparent disbelief, then finally snapped himself out of it with a quick shake of his head.

“Fuck,” he said quietly under his breath, and then again, louder. “Fuck, okay. So we’re - yeah, to hell with it. Let’s do this.” Turning fully to face him, Kacchan lowered his head a little to meet Izuku’s gaze head on. “Deku,” he said seriously, “I’ve got something to say to you too.”

Here we go, Izuku thought, and forced a smile onto his face. Beginning of the end.

“I’m all ears.”

Breathing deeply, Kacchan straightened back up. “You… shit, I didn’t have time to - no, fuck, okay. The kids, they’re - happy, right?”

Izuku nodded, aiming for encouragement when he spoke. “Yeah, Kacchan, they both seem to really love it here.”

“And - and the house? You like the house? I know there aren’t enough damn locks but, aside from that, it's - good?”

“Y-yeah, it’s great! Really spacious. And I, uh, like how you’ve decorated. It feels… comfortable, here.”

“Okay. Good. Great.” Kacchan was drumming his fingers against the counter now, an undeniable nervous energy exuding from him. “So - kids happy, house is good. And you’ve liked staying here?”

“Yes…?”

“Great!” Kacchan’s voice was getting steadily louder, and at the shout he quickly flinched, glancing at the hallway. No sound of tiny feet on the hardwood followed, so they both relaxed.

“Okay,” Kacchan said again, voice quieter this time. “I know shit’s been moving way too fast lately - I mean you didn’t even know any of this was happening until a couple weeks ago. But - and I know, I don’t really deserve to ask for this given that I used to make your life hell, but-” 

At that Izuku finally cut him off. He'd hoped his earlier words would assuage any worry Kacchan might have about Izuku's feelings on the matter - would let him know that Izuku trusted him completely to raise Katsuma in his stead. “Kacchan,” he said gently, waiting until those red eyes met his own. “I forgave you for all that a long time ago, you know that, don’t you? You’ve gotten better - I’ve seen that. You’ve shown me.”

Kacchan shook his head a little, giving a soft laugh and a small happy smile. He reached out and shook Izuku gently by the shoulders.

“Yeah, that right fucking there. I used to get pissed at you for how easy you forgave me for shit, so I tried to earn it. I - dammit, Deku, I’ve been trying my fuckin' heart out for you. And I’m gonna keep trying to make amends, but maybe, if I’ve done enough for you to forgive all that, then maybe I’ve done enough for you to say yes to one more thing?”

Izuku couldn’t manage to speak, his throat having closed up. Of course he'd noticed Kacchan's efforts over the last couple weeks. The man had welcomed Katsuma into his home like it was a natural next step, and his generosity had extended almost thoughtlessly to Izuku as well. He was dreading having to return to his own home, where there wouldn't be breakfast waiting for him every morning or comfortable banter to engage in every other moment of the day. Wordlessly, he nodded.

Taking that as encouragement, Kacchan continued, speaking more at once than Izuku had heard from him in months. “You know I’m always aiming to be the best, and I’ve always had a pretty solid idea of what that looks like. But you’re constantly flying in the face of that - and it challenges me and I fucking hated it, but it’s also one of the reasons I’ve gotten this far. So when I think about how I wanna raise those kids, I keep thinking about how you’d do it, and if you’d agree or disagree and maybe it’d be easier just to ask and - okay, christ." Having seemingly run out of steam, Kacchan let his head thump against Izuku's, their hair tangling between their foreheads. "Can you just... read my mind like you always do, and put me out of my misery here?”

Read my mind, he asked, but all Izuku had to do was read his expression - open and desperate in a way Kacchan so rarely was. The question there came across loud and clear - Let me keep this family. Swallowing thickly, Izuku forced his words out. “My answer is yes, if that’s what you’re looking for.”

“Yes? As in, you’re agreeing?”

“Y-yeah. I, um, give you my blessing.”

He nodded distractedly, hands tightening on Izuku’s arms. “Your blessing? Alright, you damn nerd, I can work with that. So - you really wanna fucking do this? Actually think about it, because I plan to go all in on this.”

Izuku tried to take a step back but the hold on him was almost bruising. He settled for lowering his gaze, muttering out a half-hearted, “Whatever Kacchan wants.”

Grinning madly, Kacchan gave him another shake, but seemed to finally notice Izuku’s own expression. Lowering his head to try and catch the other's eyes again, he said, “Hey. No offense, Deku, but would it kill you to at least smile?”

The mournful static in Izuku's brain suddenly lifted. Raising his head slowly, he met the blonde's searching look with an incredulous glare of his own.

“Excuse me," he said slowly, "for not being more enthusiastic."

Kacchan froze at the words, and the tearful look they were delivered with. His smile slowly morphed into confusion, then a more familiar scowl.

“Well, shit, Deku, don’t go doing me any favors.”

“This isn’t about you,” Izuku huffed - the last thing he wanted to deal with right now was Kacchan's snide attitude. Pulling his face back, he tried also pulling out of the other man's grip. “I’m doing this for the kids.”

Kacchan refused to let go. “This isn’t the damn Parent Trap, Deku! You don’t have to date me just because there’s kids involved. We can work out something else if that’s what you want - hell, we can move them into your apartment today. I’ll bring the couch and post up in the driveway if that’s what it takes.”

Izuku stared at Kacchan for a long, dumbfounded minute. He’d stopped trying to pull away. In his mind, a loop of very obvious moments from the last few weeks (years even) replayed themselves for his belated entertainment. When he spoke, his voice was soft and squeaky, like he was being squeezed around the chest instead of his arms.

“You… Kacchan wants to date me?”

He might as well have asked what his own name was, the expression on Kacchan's face was so thrown. One of his eyes twitched in a familiar show of quickly waning patience. “Yes, you dumb bastard, what the fuck did you think that confession was about?”

Kacchan confessed?”

That seemed to be the final straw, Kacchan finally letting go so he could gesture wildly about. He stalked a full circle before coming back and leaning angrily into Izuku’s space.

“Deku. You obviously misunderstood me just now. So you’re going to tell me exactly what kind of bullshit that big brain of yours somehow managed to come up with.”

“Um,” Izuku said eloquently. The matinee of memories in his head had finally caught up to the last five minutes, and his series of blundering assumptions therein. “No thank you?”

Those hands were on him again, this time squishing his face like Izuku had seen him do with Mahoro countless times. Now, though, Kacchan leaned in with a genuinely furious expression.

Answer me,” he said. “And don’t fucking lie. Not you. Not to me.”

Gulping, Izuku quietly admitted, “I thought you wanted to adopt Katsuma.”

Of course I do, that kid fucking rules. What else?”

He tried to look away, but the grip on his face tightened until he brought his eyes back up. From that close Izuku could see the streetlights from outside reflecting in Kacchan’s narrowed eyes. He was unfairly pretty from this close, and this angry.

“I thought you wanted Katsuma... and not me.”

Kacchan narrowed his eyes even further, his voice dangerous as he spoke from only scant inches away. "We aren't kids, anymore, Deku. You don't have to give me your things just because I want them too." Kacchan stared into his eyes as he spoke, never once letting go of Izuku’s face. Starting to squirm, Izuku pulled at the other man's wrist.

“Kacchan, let me go,” he whined, his mounting embarrassment surely burning Kacchan’s fingers the same way it burned his face. He needed a second to process. Maybe an hour. Maybe a year.

“...No,” Kacchan said instead, and then pressed his determined frown to Izuku’s lips.

---

Fuck Deku, he thought to himself. Fuck Deku’s big stupid brain and his big stupid heart.

Katsuki continued to kiss the little idiot, even as he internally cursed him.

Somewhere along the way Deku started to kiss back, and Katsuki stopped thinking altogether. He used his grip on Deku's face to tilt their heads to a more comfortable angle, his nose no longer pressed into Deku's flushed cheek. There were little sounds of surprise bubbling between their lips, and Katsuki swallowed each of them greedily - he was always greedy where Deku was concerned, and by some miracle or horror, the nerd never seemed inclined to stop him.

“So will you go on a fucking date with me or what?” Katsuki grumbled against Deku’s mouth after a minute. He bit at the other man's bottom lip, pulling harder than was likely comfortable, but still seething with lingering frustration.

That’s what you’re concerned about?” he asked, starting to pull away. Katsuki quickly transitioned his grip from Deku’s face to his hair, pulling him back in and pressing another hard kiss square across his mouth.

“I’m not kidnapping your son,” he pointed out the apparently not obvious fact, then pecked him roughly on the cheek. “End of story.” Another kiss, higher up, onto each of his dark freckles. “So yeah, this is next on my list of things to talk about.”

“You’re insufferable,” Deku panted into his ear, as though only just realizing.

“Answer my question before I kill you.”

“I guess, Kacchan, oh my god.” Deku's face was beat red, from embarrassment or the kisses - either way, it was a good look.

“Great,” Katsuki said, grinning like he’d just bested One for All himself. “So it’s settled. We raise the brats into a couple of badasses, and you get to keep kissing the country’s number one hero.”

Deku just kept shaking his head, his own hands coming up to grip weakly at Katsuki’s shirt front. Katsuki let him catch his breath, having suddenly developed the patience of a saint along with the smug satisfaction of the most obnoxious devil.

“You’re ranked seventh,” Deku finally got out, because of course that’s what he’d focus on. No doubt the nerd had the entire top hundred memorized, along with individual stats and power sets. He was one of the few people who could match Katsuki's knowledge and enthusiasm for heroes. Always had been.

“I like you so fucking much,” Katsuki said out loud, not entirely intentionally.

Apparently.”

Still grinning, Katsuki continued to press sloppy kisses all across Deku’s dumb red face, paying special attention to his freckles and the parts of his forehead usually covered by wayward curls. Thinking to hell with it, Katsuki kissed his hair a few times as well.

“Kacchan you know this is - stop, I’m being serious here. This is a lot - it hasn't even been a month! What would your parents say?”

“The hag’s gonna laugh her fucking ass off. We’ll never hear the end of it. Kids are gonna think this is a riot too.”

“Oh my god the kids. Kacchan, stop, they could see us!

“If they’re out of bed right now I’ll kick their asses.”

“They’re children.”

“Yeah,” Katsuki said happily, pressing a long kiss to Deku’s helplessly responsive mouth. “Our children.”

Deku was crying again, because of course he was, and Katsuki tried to ignore the emotions welling in the back of his own throat. Deku had scared the hell out of him for a moment there, but the sudden relief was making him giddy, and allowed him to push everything else aside for a second.

Forget the scumbag lawyers, and the probably less scummy police-assigned social workers. Forget the police and heroes and goddamn paperwork. For that moment anyway, with Deku’s soft mouth opening so sweetly under his own, all the small triumphs of the last few days - all the little victories he’d been hoarding and holding close… he let those grow as big as mountains in his mind, and blot out all the rest.

They kissed until they were breathless, and then some. “I like Kacchan, too,” was passed from one tongue to another, followed by a dreamy sigh that made Katsuki snicker.

“'Course you do,” he said, still grinning. “I’m amazing. And I never settle for anything but the best.”

The big house was quiet after that, and for the rest of the night, everyone inside was very happy.

Chapter Text

“This seems… excessive,” Todoroki observed rudely from his spot standing uselessly in the doorway.

“Shut your trap, IcyHot,” Katsuki growled, continuing to muscle the long steel work bench against the wall. As it finally slotted into place beside its (equally heavy) twin, Katsuki took a moment to wipe the sweat from his forehead, looking over the gradually transformed basement of his home.

The benches he’d spent the last half hour arranging took up the entire east wall, the new track lighting he’d installed overhead allowing for complete illumination of the work surface. Nearly four feet deep, there was ample space for the smaller equipment he’d ordered, as well as the adjustable shelving units that awaited construction on the other side of the room.

The northern wall held several tall storage shelves - all that remained of the old basement. Where before there had been boxes of junk from Katsuki’s school days and previous apartments that had never gotten unpacked, there were now empty plastic bins, blank labels adorning the front of each and waiting to be filled with whatever spare parts nerds liked to keep on hand.

Finally, next to the unopened boxes of shelf parts, were several pieces of large machinery which Katsuki only half-understood the purposes of. He’d emailed the pink freak from Deku’s support agency, asking about what kind of things an engineer would need in an at-home workshop. Her list had been long but thorough, including power and ventilation requirements.  Katsuki was almost certain some of the items were just wishlist things, not actual necessities (the twenty cup coffee pot chief among them) but he’d ordered it all anyway. After all, the biggest hit his bank account ever took was the downpayment on the house several years back, so he could more than afford to splurge on the high tech equipment.

“You don’t have to bribe him, you know,” Todoroki was still saying. He was dressed in slacks and a casual button up, but he looked miles above Katsuki in his worn out jeans and sweat-soaked singlet. The contrast would usually put Katsuki’s teeth on edge, but he had bigger things to worry about today than the pretty-boy hovering unhelpfully over his shoulder.

“I know that, asshole,” he growled back. “But the nerd says he needs the equipment back at his agency to wrap up current work orders. He wants to buff up his portfolio before he tries to shop around for a new job.”

“Midoriya is an accomplished support engineer,” Todoroki countered. “I’m sure his current client list and gear catalog would impress any support company. He should just send in his resume as is.”

“I know that, you asshole ,” Katsuki repeated impatiently. “But he’s a damn perfectionist, so he won’t start interviewing if he has a backlog hanging over his head.” He dropped petulantly to the floor, starting to roughly pull open the boxes holding the shelving units. He set the instructions open next to his knee, and started sorting out the various parts.

“So you’ve recreated his workshop here. That still sounds like a bribe.”

Tch, whatever. Call it what you want, I’m just giving the guy options. Figured you’d be all for this, anyway.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because, his place is nearly four hours from your district. Mine is half that.”

Todoroki seemed to consider that for a moment, then rolled up his sleeves and stepped forward. “How can I help?”

Katsuki rolled his eyes, but gestured with a screwdriver towards two standing tool chests. “Move those apart a little,” he said. “I wanna put one of the smaller benches in between so he has a place to set shit down.”

Todoroki did as he was told, shuffling the towering sets of drawers apart until Katsuki grumbled his approval. Securing the casters so they wouldn’t shift around, Todoroki then pulled curiously at one of the drawers. It came out only an inch before catching on something. Looking closer, he found a piece of plastic securing the top lip of the metal shelf to the rest of the frame. Pressing down firmly on it, the simple child lock released, and let the drawer roll the rest of the way open.

“Bakugou,” Todoroki said seriously, turning to look at his friend. “Midoriya is going to love this place.”

Katsuki huffed as though he couldn’t care less, but the burning in his ears felt like an dead giveaway. Let’s fuckin’ hope so, he thought, continuing to piece together the jumble of metal in front of him.

Now with a second set of admittedly helpful hands at his disposal, Katsuki managed to get the last of the workshop put together before noon, the two of them taking a quick break before cleaning up all the packaging. Todoroki was helping him throw away the extra styrofoam and cardboard just as a car pulled into the driveway, headlights flashing at them in greeting. Letting the recycling bin fall closed on Todoroki’s hand, Katsuki stepped forward, arms already spreading out as the back passenger door flew open.

A swarm of impossibly colorful birds came pouring out of the car, but Katsuki ignored them. In the midst of the incorporeal flock, he felt two much more solid somethings jump into his arms, trying their best to tackle him to the ground.

“Why do you smell like marshmallows?” Mahoro asked, even as she continued to clamber across his shoulders. Katsuma was wrapped around his leg, both of his small feet standing on top of Katsuki’s boot.

“I’ve been working all morning,” he said, holding her up easily. “I’m all sweaty.”

Ew!” both children chorused, and Katsuki pressed his gloved hands to their faces. Katsuma, already close to the ground, ran squealing back to the car. Mahoro was unable to escape Katsuki’s hold, and in their grapple lost control of her illusion, finally returning their portion of the street to it’s previously bird-less state.

“Kacchan, don’t drop her,” Deku called from the trunk of the car, making no attempt to actually free the girl.

“Frost Fire, save me!” she shouted, and Todoroki moved as though to intervene. 

“The hell?” Katsuki growled. “You going to that candy cane bastard for help, now?”

“Heroes save little kids in danger,” she said snidely.

“That’s true,” Todoroki agreed. Katsuki flipped him off with one hand while he tucked Mahoro to his side with the other.

“Well you’re in luck then, Prince Charming over here’s gonna be watching your ungrateful ass all afternoon. Let’s see how helpful he is getting you past the parental controls on the TV.”

Nooooo,” Mahoro wailed mournfully. “I thought you were joking about that!”

“I was. Then I caught you watching horror movies past your bedtime again.”

She huffed and went limp, no longer helping keep herself up. Cursing, Katsuki quickly readjusted his grip, not wanting to get yelled at for actually dropping the damn kid on her head.

“Do one of you big strong heroes wanna help me for a change?” Deku asked. He had several duffel bags thrown over his shoulders, and despite his words was holding them with little trouble. He started limping towards the front gate, Katsuma having attached himself to one of Deku’s legs instead.

“Doors’re open,” Katsuki called out, following after him while Todoroki brought up the rear of their party.

As Deku unloaded his bags into the entryway, Katsuki set Mahoro down and started peeling off his gloves. He went into the kitchen to carefully deposit them into the special flammables bin by the back door. Deku may be an overzealous nerd, but he had made some admittedly good safety improvements to Katsuki’s house in the last two months.

“How was the trip?” Todoroki was asking as he and Deku entered the kitchen. 

“Long,” Deku admitted, slumping into a chair. “Faster with the car, though. Thanks for leaving that at the station for us, Kacchan.”

“Sure,” he said, standing as casually as he could against the counter. He raised an eyebrow at Todoroki, who raised his own back. 

“Hey, IcyHot, maybe you should have the kids show you where everything’s at.”

Another uncomprehending look. “I’ve been to your house before, Bakugou.”

Deku snorted a laugh against the table, his head resting tiredly on the surface. “Kacchan doesn’t like PDA, Todoroki-kun. Can you give us a minute?”

“Oh, of course.” He started backing out of the room. “You could have just said that.”

“I hate you both,” Katsuki said, face flaming once more. “Get out of my house.”

Deku rolled his head so he could look up at him, smiling sweetly. “Our house,” he said.

Katsuki’s ears burned even hotter. “Hate you.”

“Love me.”

“Gross.” Katsuki turned as though to leave as well, but Deku caught up to him in the doorway, laughing as he wrapped strong arms around Katsuki’s chest.

“Caught-a-Kacchan,” he said, sounding unreasonably happy. Katsuki patted one of the hands on his chest, not bothering to pull away when Deku linked their fingers.

“Figured you’d be all nervous,” he grumbled.

“I am,” Deku admitted between his shoulder blades. “I was up all night rewatching trial footage. The prosecution’s case seems airtight, but the defendants are literally a professional law firm. The verdict could go either way.”

“No way those scumbags walk free,” Katsuki said confidently. 

“You don’t think the case has been rushed?”

“Aside from team ups with hero agencies, the police are basically full-time investigators. Trust me, they’ve had enough time to put together good evidence. Not to mention the shit that La Brava chick dug up when she went back into their systems.”

“You mean the ‘anonymous information dump from an inside party’?” Izuku asked.

“Yeah, that.” Turning around, Katsuki tilted Deku’s face up. “Now are we gonna repeat the same conversation for the hundredth time or are you gonna ask me how my day was?”

“How was Kacchan’s playdate with Todoroki-kun?”

The explosion that followed was entirely verbal, but still brought the other three occupants of the house running. Katsuki decided he’d tell Deku about the workshop when the nerd had earned the surprise.

But first - they had a sentencing to get to.

---

Izuku was grateful to Todoroki for watching the kids while Kacchan and himself attended the end of the Empire Legal trial, but he was also rather envious that he couldn't have the distraction of caring for a couple grade-schoolers just then. Even Kacchan’s earlier reassurances had worn off, and he was left feeling raw and anxious.

They could get away with it, he kept thinking, watching the judge take her seat at the front of the courtroom. The defendants in the case were the entirety of Empire’s board of directors, along with some high ranking admins and, of course, the two suits who had shown up on Kacchan’s doorstep. Those two were currently seated on the right side of the courtroom, quirk suppressing cuffs ensuring the proceedings could be captured in perfect clarity by everyone there, along with the cameras at each corner of the room. 

Also in attendance at the same table was the mysterious third party from that day - a plain looking man with dark hair that fell over one eye. Izuku had seen him more in case files than in person - he’d only come up in La Brava’s second search of Empire’s databases, an apparent contractor to the firm, specializing in early childhood psychology and quirk physiology. He’d been credited by the prosecution as having penned the files for each child Empire had adopted out, along with the ones who had yet to be homed but were still on their radar.

He was, Izuku had been disturbed to learn, entirely quirkless. The parallels were daunting, but Kacchan had refused to acknowledge them.

“You care about more than just Mahoro’s quirk or my hero ranking,” he’d pointed out. “End of story.”

Watching the three from his spot in the stands, Izuku was heartened Kacchan had refuted any resemblance.

The judge called for order, and the room quieted. Not even an hour later the verdict was in. Kacchan, sitting to Izuku’s left, looked incredibly smug.

Full sentences for all parties, with charges of intentional quirk trafficking and unauthorized quirk use with criminal intent. A complete (formal) audit of Empire’s archives. A secondary investigation into the firm’s supposed endorsement by the Heroes Public Safety Commission. It was all a relief to hear.

“A full review of all past adoptions facilitated by the Empire Legal Group,” the judge then intoned. “To be carried out by a Court-approved team, with no ties to the defendant or the Commission, and with the purpose of ensuring suitable placement of all minor parties.”

Izuku glanced over at Kacchan again. He looked less smug, but still determined and sure. It was a familiar expression on him, the kind he wore into a fight he was sure he wouldn’t just win, but win with style.

“Let’s see those extras try and criticize our place,” he muttered. “Got enough of those damn baby locks to build a Jenga tower.”

That caught Izuku’s attention. “When did you install childproofing?”

“This morning,” he answered, voice slightly drowned by the muttering of the court as the sentencing came to an end. “In your workshop.”

“In my what?

“Ground Zero-san?” a voice interrupted, before Izuku had a chance to question Kacchan further. They turned around to see one of the courthouse assistants standing behind them, a woman with towering horns and a pleasant smile. She gestured towards the judge's chambers at the front of the room. “Judge Maizono would like to speak with you please. And a Midoriya Izuku-san, if he is also in attendance.”

Kacchan shoved Izuku forward. “Nerd’s right here.”

“Oh! My apologies, Midoriya-san. I was expecting you to look more like your father.”

“My-? Oh god.”

Kacchan laughed obnoxiously despite the still-crowded courtroom. Izuku made a hasty farewell to the assistant and started herding the still chucking hero toward the front of the room. A guard up front stopped them briefly, looking them over with three yellow eyes before letting them pass. As the two made their way past the defendant’s table, Izuku made unintentional eye-contact with the quirkless man. He had an unsettling intensity to his eyes up close, and Izuku broke the stare quickly.

“Ignore him,” Kacchan said quietly, apparently having noticed the brief exchange. “I told you, you and that emo looking punk are night and day.”

Now being herded himself, Izuku was unceremoniously shoved through the door behind the judge’s stand. On the other side was what at first glance looked like an old-school library, with tall square shelves piled with stacks of books and even a few intricate scrolls. The furniture was mostly antique and expensive looking, aside from the desk the judge sat at, which was new and expensive looking. She was organizing papers as they entered, and lifted her gaze only long enough to wave them forward. Kacchan, once more taking the lead , brought them to sit in two overstuffed armchairs in front of her desk.

“Thank you for meeting with me so soon after the trial,” she said, finally setting aside what must have been her case notes. She smiled neutrally at them. “I wanted to speak to you specifically, regarding the verdict.”

“The case reviews,” Kacchan guessed, cutting to the point. “Tsukauchi mentioned something similar a while back. Send your people in whenever - I’ve got nothing to hide.”

“Yes, your honest reputation precedes you, Ground Zero-san,” she said, “and I can certainly expedite your review process if you’d like. However, it is your relation to Midoriya-san’s own case that I would like to discuss.”

“My case?” Izuku parroted.

“As in your charge, Shimano Katsuma. Younger brother to Ground Zero’s own daughter, correct?”

“Oh, um, yes. Katsuma is - my charge.”

“His son,” Kacchan corrected absently. “What about him? Deku didn’t use Empire to adopt Katsuma.”

“That’s correct, but his case is inextricably tied to his sister’s. Ideally, the Court does not approve the separation of siblings in foster or adoption situations. Aside from the extraordinary circumstances of young miss Shimano’s adoption, her removal from her brother’s company would have already been a reason for intervention.”

“Oh.” Izuku looked worriedly at Kacchan, who was scowling at the blue-haired woman before them. “Is that… what does that mean for us, exactly?”

“Well, that depends on you two. Rather miraculously, the children have ended up with parties who are already acquainted. I have also been informed by Detective Tsukauchi that you have both been cooperative in his team’s investigation. I take this all to be good signs that, with my mediation, we can come to an agreement regarding the custody of the Shimano siblings.”

“Way ahead of you,” Kacchan said, his voice toeing the line of insubordination. “Deku and I have an arrangement already. The b - kids, have spent the last few weekends at his place so he can get work done at his support agency. But he’ll be moving in with me soon, so we’ll all be at the same address.”

Judge Maizono raised an eyebrow at the two of them. “Should I take that to mean the two of you are platonically or romantically involved?”

Izuku tried to remember if there was anyone in his contact list with a quirk that could open a convenient Deku-sized hole under his feet. Shindo, maybe?

Romantically,” Kacchan said with a smarmy smile, and the audacity to grab Izuku’s hand.

This is because I called his male-bonding with Todoroki a ‘playdate’, isn’t it? This is what revenge looks like.

“Well that certainly makes things easier,” Judge Maizono said, tapping her chin. Izuku’s frazzled mind noted that she had a bit of an accent. Italian, maybe? That would be interesting, if he’d had the brain capacity to care. “In that case, I can arrange for your cases to be combined. By what date do you expect to be fully cohabitating?”

At that Kacchan’s grip on his hand turned a little clammy, the sweet smell of nitroglycerin teasing Izuku’s nose. He could see the evasive answer the other man was formulating in his posture alone. 

“We’ve yet to discuss that specifically,” Izuku finally managed to say. “But we will be. Discussing it, that is. With the kids, too. Um, if that’s alright?”

“Of course,” she said. “Communication is key, after all.”

A light squeeze of his fingers. “No shit,” Kacchan muttered.

“We’ll, um, let you know? Soon. We promise.”

Probably sensing how flustered the two were becoming, the judge made a placating gesture with her hand. “A representative from my office will be in touch to arrange next steps. I simply wanted to assure you two in person that we would try to accommodate both of you, to the best of our abilities.”

“That’s… very kind of you. Thank you so much.” Izuku gave a little bow in his seat. “But um, why? If you don’t mind me asking.”

Judge Miazono shrugged, the gesture surprisingly casual. “I, like most people, was quite touched by Ground Zero-san’s actions after the full context of the situation came to light. Finding out there was such dedication on both sides of the Shimanos’ case… it’s reassuring to know such people exist even outside the profession of heroes.”

Izuku would have wrapped his arm around his face if it wasn’t for Kacchan’s continued grip on his hand. He settled for another bow, which Kacchan accompanied with a nod of his own head. 

Gripping the hand in his tightly, Izuku asked the question which was always in some back corner of his mind. “Excuse me, your honor, I know you said accommodations would be made… but do you foresee any issues with my involvement?”

She tilted her head curiously. “You mean because of your relationship to All Might?”

Damn Todoroki, he thought, and shook his head. “N-no. I meant - well, when I first applied for adoption, I was told my being quirkless would be a problem. Will that also be the case here?”

Izuku’s fingers were practically being crushed, but Kacchan managed to stay silent, waiting for the judge’s answer. She leveled Izuku with a serious look. “Midoriya-san, while I can’t fully empathize with your situation, I can at least understand the treatment you must be used to. My own quirk is rather insubstantial - I can manipulate my perception of the visible light spectrum. Induced color-blindness, essentially. Not applicable to much, and not apparent to anyone outside myself.

“I assure you, you are not the only person in the world whose life is not significantly altered by the presence of a quirk. Unfortunately, your quirkless status sets you apart from people like myself - unfairly, I should emphasize. What I’m saying is, I do not perceive Ground Zero-san as any more suitable a guardian to these children than you, simply by the merit of quirks. Nor will my staff, or anyone included in the vetting process.

“I assure you, Midoriya-san, so long as you are as good and caring a person as you appear, there should not be any barriers keeping you from your son.”

“He is,” Kacchan said into the following silence. “That good, I mean.”

Izuku couldn’t hide the tears that ran down his cheeks, and was quietly handed a box of tissues. Sniffling embarrassedly, he thanked Judge Maizono for her kind words, then again for her assurances about his and Kacchan’s arrangements. Kacchan even joined him in his final bows to her, his face showing the relaxed neutrality he saved for people he genuinely liked.

After passing along both their personal numbers to the judge, they exited the office back into the empty courtroom. Kacchan’s hand was still wrapped securely around his own.

“So about that ‘discussion’...” Izuku started. “I still have some work to finish up in Kobe, but I think if I go back tonight and stay through the week, I can finish up everything that requires the machine-shop. I’ll have to work some serious overtime, but I used to do that all the time so I should be fine.”

“You’ll miss us.” It wasn’t a question.

“Well yeah, of course. But the sooner I finish my work, the sooner I can stay… right?”

Kacchan pulled him to a stop just before they entered the main courthouse lobby, then crowded him against one of the stone walls.

“Forming press,” he said, seemingly randomly.

“What?”

“High-temp metal alloy forming press,” he elaborated. “Drills, mills, and Swiss-type lathes. All with CNC controls and state of the art auto-correcting functions.”

“Kacchan, what are you talking about?”

I don’t fucking know. But that’s all the shit your telescope-eyed weirdo of a coworker said you’d need in an at-home shop. Also a coffee pot bigger than my head, which I better never see you using.”

Is he talking about Hatsume? Izuku wondered, then comprehended the rest of the little speech.

“Kacchan, I told you, I don’t have any of that stuff at my apartment.”

“Yes, Deku, I’m well aware, but that’s all the shit currently sitting in my house’s basement. Or your workshop, rather. Assuming you wouldn’t prefer to work triple shifts at your place until you finish padding your already ludicrous portfolio.”

He stood there, mouth hanging open. Next to him, Kacchan looked incredibly pleased with his reaction.

“Oh my god,” Izuku said, coming to a sudden realization. “Kacchan, are you in love with me?”

“...Yours will be be the first murder trial to occur entirely within a courthouse - crime and all.”

Kacchan!” Izuku ignored the blonde’s (probably) empty threat and threw his arms around his neck. “Ask me to move in with you!”

“No,” he said.

“That’s okay, I can read your mind. Deku, I bought you random engineering equipment because my love language is acts of service, so please stay by my side and raise those damn brats with me.

“If my voice actually sounds like that then I want you to kill me.

Kacchaaaaan-” he whined until a hand clamped over his mouth. The other, Kacchan used to push him back and then point into his face. Izuku wondered if he could feel the grin against his palm.

“I will ask this one more time, and if your answer is no then I will march back into that judge’s office and tell her to give you full custody, because I’ll be too busy being pissed off to raise anything except my own damn blood pressure.”

His threats are so creative, Izuku thought admiringly. My Kacchan is so eloquent.

Uncovering his mouth, Kacchan gave a warning look. Izuku remained silent, waiting.

“Deku,” he said slowly.

Izuku nodded. That’s me!

“Will you…”

Another enthusiastic nod. 

“...ugh, nevermind, this is lame. You have a key already, do what you want.”

With that he left Izuku standing in the hallway.

I love him, he thought, then ran after Kacchan, intent on telling him just that.

---

The drive back to the house had been filled with Deku’s questions and Katsuki’s attempted answers. He had about 50 wikipedia tabs open on the computer back in his office, all of them relating to what exactly it was support engineers did and the machines they used to do it. He’d made it through approximately none of them.

“You don’t think it’ll be too loud, do you?” Deku asked worriedly as they approached the front gate. “Some of the motors can get really noisy, what if Katsuma’s napping and I wake him up? Or if Mahoro can’t focus on her homework?”

“I put soundproofing down ages ago. I’ve tested my gauntlets in there before - trust me, you’ll be fine.”

“Oh good. I was worried about the laser etch, the whine can get a little annoying.”

Katsuki stopped with the key in the front door. “One of those things is a laser?”

The door opened then, taking the key with it. Todoroki stood in the doorway, a pink headband holding his two-toned hair back. An Edgeshot sticker sat high on one cheekbone. “Welcome home,” he said, smiling fondly. Katsuki instantly got the creeps.

“Quit it with the face. And get that thing off your head - if you stretch it out I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Todoroki stepped aside to let them in, still smiling like a weirdo.

“Were the kids alright?” Deku asked. “Not too much trouble, I hope?”

Todoroki shook his head, shaking loose what looked like glitter. “My brother’s children all have claws and a penchant for climbing things. Mahoro and Katsuma were both very well behaved in comparison. I think there’s some glue in the rug, however. I can pay to have it replaced.”

“Never heard of soap?” Katsuki asked, toeing off his shoes. “Or do you just throw away everything as soon as it gets a stain on it?”

“I burn them, actually.” He stared expectantly at the two of them. “That was a joke.”

Deku, the traitor, actually laughed, but his eyes kept darting towards the back of the house. Todoroki noticed.

“I assume Bakugou told you about the space we set up downstairs?”

We - hey, you bastard, don’t go taking credit!”

“It looks very nice,” he added, ignoring Katsuki’s outburst.

“I’m sure it does,” Deku enthused, moving past them both. Katsuki followed, purposefully running Todoroki into the doorway as he did. 

“Don’t walk in front of me,” he growled.

“I was beside you.”

“Don’t do that either.”

“Bakugou-san!” Katsuma greeted him, running into his legs, and Katsuki made sure to drop his glare. The boy also had one of his sister’s headbands on, and about fifty more stickers plastered across his body. “Todoroki-san brought us hero coloring books and Onee-chan let me have hers! Do you want to see the page I did of you and Red Riot?”

Katsuki, who usually hated seeing his own hero merch with a passion, nodded in affirmation. “Better have made me look cool.”

“The coolest!” Running off again, Katsuki finally took stock of his living room. There were the remnants of a fort strung between the armchair and the couch, but nothing major had been shifted around, and his bookshelves seemed untouched. The TV, he noticed, had been left on the parental lock screen, a timer in the corner indicating another five minutes until the user could attempt another login.

“She’ll never guess it,” he said.

“We tried both their birthdays, and Midoriya’s.”

“Like I said, never guess it.” 

“Hm. Is it my birthday?”

Dammit . “No.”

“Are you sure? That would certainly be most peoples’ last guess.”

“Sure would. Hey, where’s the other one?” Katsuki said, looking around exaggeratedly for his half of the terrible twosome.

“She was trying to get into the basement, last I checked.”

WHAT.

Todoroki blinked at the sudden volume. “She won’t get in. You put a lock on the door, didn’t you?”

Did you see me put a lock on the fucking door, IcyHot?

“...No.”

“Useless fucking babysitter,” he growled as he moved quickly through the house. Katsuki dodged around Katsuma in the hallway, shouting a nonsense explanation back at him and barreling out the kitchen door and onto the patio. Using his quirk to skip the stairs entirely, he whipped around one of the deck posts and right back into the house via the open door to Deku’s workshop.

Mahoro!” he boomed as he skidded into the room.

“Hi?” she said, looking up at him in surprise. She was leaning over the drafting table he’d positioned in the middle of the room, Deku standing behind her seat and looking equally startled by his entrance.

“Don’t ‘hi’ me, you little brat. Why the hell are you down here?”

“Kacchan, relax, she was waiting by the back door when I came down.”

“What - Todoroki said she was trying to get in here!”

“I heard you tell him there were nerd toys down here earlier,” she explained, then frowned around the room. “This is work stuff, though. I saw the warning labels so I didn’t touch any of it and went back outside.”

“Which was very smart of you,” Deku was quick to praise, patting her head. “Mahoro-chan is a good girl.”

The brat preened under Deku’s attention, and Katsuki felt the vein in his forehead throbbing.

“Deku said he’d show me what all the equipment does.” She smiled serenely.

“Tomorrow, though,” the nerd in question said. “I need to go through everything first, see what I can move in from my own place. But I’ll probably be working in here a lot this week, so we can set up a spot for you to watch me from.”

“Cool!” she said, and hopped off the stool. She took a step towards the door, then ran back and hugged Deku’s waist. Before he could react she left for real, giving Bakugou’s own side a light punch as she passed.

“She does this shit on purpose,” Katsuki said, staring after her. 

“Kacchan,” Deku said.

“It’s a good thing she doesn’t want to be a hero, she’d force Aizawa into an early retirement.”

Kacchan.”

“Half the UA staff, actually. God, could you imagine her and Present Mic in the same room? I’d lose the other ear just from pure, concentrated annoyance-”

“Bakugou Katsuki, let me thank you for this present or so help me, I will flood this room with tears alone.” Looking up in shock at his own name, Katsuki thought Deku looked close to doing that anyway, tears brimming in his big green eyes.

“...Was that physically painful for you to say?”

“Yes. Now get over here, please.” Obligingly, Katsuki stepped forward and let the nerd crush him into a hug. Short as he may be, Deku really had spent the last decade training with both All Might and Uravity, and the evidence was in the arm muscles currently trying to pop Katsuki like a grape.

“You’re the sweetest, most thoughtful person I’ve ever met,” he sobbed into Katsuki’s shirt, like a big muscular baby.

“No I’m not,” Katsuki said.

“No you’re not,” Deku agreed. “But you’re definitely my favorite person right now, even if you are an asshole sometimes.”

“I take the tears to mean you like the place?”

I love the place.

“Good.”

There’s child locks on the toolboxes.”

“IcyHot said you’d like those.”

I love them. Please remove them immediately.

Sputtering, Katsuki stared down at the head of green curls trying valiantly to burrow into his ribcage. “What the fuck? I thought you were all about safety and shit?”

“Kacchan, they’re such a pain.” He sounded like he was confessing to liking Endeavor more than All Might, voice full of self-disappointment. “I think I have more scars on my fingers from childproofing than surgery. I’ll never get anything done if I have to deal with them in here. Let’s just put a deadbolt on the door and call it a day.”

Katsuki took a deep breath, counting down from ten, and then twenty just to be sure. When he spoke, his voice was calm, almost conversational. “I will remove the locks,” he said.

Thank you.”

“And you will never complain about where I store my gear ever again.”

“...Only if we put the kids through flammables training.”

“Add in workshop hazards to that and you’ve got yourself a deal.” 

Finally looking up, Deku smiled at him with his still blotchy face. “We’re really good at this talking thing, huh?”

“Fuckin’ champs. Now wipe your nose - not on my shirt - and come upstairs. Katsuma has a coloring book he wants to show us.”

Gasping like he’d left the stove on, Izuku quickly pulled away and wiped his face. “Kacchan, I got some All Might magnets at the store the last time I was here. We can hang up his drawings on the fridge!”

What a sap, he thought. Then, Takes one to know one.

“Only the drawings of me, though,” he added as they left the basement, shutting the door firmly behind themselves.

“Kacchan,” Deku scolded.

“Yeah, alright. We’ll put up the All Might ones, too.”

He nodded approvingly. “Thank you.”

Up on the patio, they found Todoroki sitting with the kids huddled against his left side, their breaths puffing in the cold air. Katsuma had his coloring book at the ready, an excited smile on his face.

“Welcome home, by the way,” Mahoro said. “How was court?”

“Court was fine,” Katsuki answered, picking her up so she could sit on his bent arm. He held her slippered feet in one hand, giving them a jostle. “The judge said we have to keep you though.”

She flicked his ear. “Nah, I bet you begged them to have me stay.”

“Yeah, you got me.”

Not expecting the honest answer, Mahoro’s snear turned quickly to bashfulness. She always looked most like her brother when she got shy; a resemblance she quickly hid in his shoulder, thin arms squeezing his neck.

“Don’t tease me,” she mumbled.

“Not teasing,” he teased. “Mahoro-chan is my favorite~

She whined and held him tighter, the sudden prick of tears on his neck catching him by surprise. Patting her back gently, he met Deku’s eyes with mild panic. The nerd was also crying again, looking at the two with undeniable fondness.

“If you set off Katsuma...” Katsuki hissed, not finishing the threat. He looked at the emotional young boy still sitting next to Todoroki. Blessedly, they were only two for five on the waterworks.

“Deku-san?” Katsuma asked worriedly, and held up his arms. Grabbing him up easily, Deku took a step closer and alternated soothing the two siblings, cooing softly into Katsuma’s hair as he also rubbed at Mahoro’s back.

“Katsuma-kun, you know how I let you decorate your room back at the apartment?”

The boy nodded, head bumping against Deku’s chin.

“Well, you’ll get to do that again here. Kacchan says we can turn the guest room into your room.”

“No more staying with Onee-chan?”

“You two can sleep wherever you want,” Deku assured, still an absolute pushover. Katsuki didn’t make any objections. “But you’ll get your own bed, and your own desk, and places for all your own toys.”

Looking more enthusiastic now, Katsuma turned towards Katsuki. “Bakugou-san, can I have hero posters on my walls like at Deku-san’s apartment?”

“You can use the same ones,” he answered. “Whatever nerd stuff you want to bring with you.”

“Okay! But… what will I play with when we’re at your house, Deku-san?”

“Um, well, you know how we’ve been going back and forth a lot lately? That’s because I needed to be close to work - but Kacchan was really nice and got me everything I need right downstairs. Now we can stay here all the time.”

Katsuma looked between the two of them, wide brown eyes looking hesitantly excited. “All of us?” he asked.

“Uh huh. You and me, and Kacchan and Mahoro.”

“What about Todoroki-san?”

“No more guest bedroom,” Katsuki said, shaking his head helplessly. “No more visitors, I guess.”

“Your couch is quite comfortable,” Todoroki said.

“We’re selling the couch,” he countered.

“I go where that couch goes,” Deku said loyally, and Mahoro started giggling, still buried in Katsuki's neck. Deku, hearing the noise, started beaming, and reached up to tug one of her pigtails.

“Mahoro-chan sounds happy,” he said softly.

“I am,” she admitted, still refusing to come out of her hiding spot against Katsuki’s shoulder. He pet her head, appreciating the brief show of sincerity for what it was. He felt a smile crossing his face, small and soft, and just for them.

Somewhere off to the side, a camera shutter sounded.

“Delete it,” Katsuki croaked.

“I’m just sending it to Camie and Inasa.”

Extra delete it.

“I’ll just send a copy to you then.”

A pause. “...Yeah, whatever.” The photos on his phone always inevitably ended up on Shitty Hair’s as well, meaning the picture would be passed around the office by the end of the week.  Maybe he’d even end up with a copy for the fridge.

“Let’s go inside,” Deku said softly, face still pressed into Katsuma’s curls, and only a few inches away from Katsuki’s own. Giving into temptation, he dropped a kiss on Deku's brow.

“Alright.” 

He held the door open for Todoroki and Deku, letting them go back into the warm interior of the house first. Then, keeping Mahoro balanced snuggly against his chest, Katsuki followed close behind.

---

That night, having made the train journey home, Todoroki Shouto opened his phone and brought up the picture he’d taken earlier. Hesitating only briefly, he sent it to the group chat between himself, Camie, Inasa and - in theory - Bakugou. Knowing the latter had replaced his phone recently, Shouto was certain this particular chat would not have survived the transition.

Cute, was the first reply, which he agreed with wholeheartedly. He set the phone down and went about unpacking.

It took a long time for him to realize the text was from Bakugou himself.

Chapter Text

Intro

 

Christmas Card