A week into this godforsaken reality show, Katsuki had doubts he’d meet his soulmate or win the million dollar prize. Honestly, he couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the soulmate. Or the cash really, but at least he could spend that on a nice, new motorcycle. What he would like is for the challenges to stop having private dates with ‘whoever you want’ as a prize, because Katsuki keeps winning and he didn’t really want to spend private time with anyone on this show.
When he got back to Musutafu, he would flay Denki alive for signing him up as a contestant.
“So, Katsuki, as our winner, you get to pick one of these lucky ladies as your date to a candlelit beach dinner tonight! Who’ll it be?” Katsuki had won a challenge by diving into the estate’s pool, picking up coconuts with names of the female contestants, and matching them with fun facts the girls had mentioned about themselves at some point in the past week. Like it was hard?
Katsuki looked down the line. He didn’t really like any of them. Ochako, with her lobster-shade sunburn, looked like fried strawberry mochi. Yaomomo was too timid, Tsuyu had this weird thing about frogs. He got along well with Cami, but Cami was a lesbian—well, the producers might not know that; But one fruit to another, Katsuki could tell.
“Fuck it, I’m taking that one,” He nodded to the guy next to him, a short but built man with curly hair and a galaxy of freckles on his face and arms. The guy choked on his saliva. The show’s host dropped his jaw.
“What?” Katsuki smirked. “Am I not allowed to pick a dude? Sounds kind of homophobic…”
“Oh! Oh, no, no, no!” The host squealed, trying to quickly steer the show away from a scandal. “That’s perfectly fine! We- Yeah, um, that’s it then! Congratulations, Katsuki, tonight you and Izuku dine in paradise.”
Katsuki pulled Izuku’s chair out for him. Izuku turned a bright shade of red, cleared his throat and took a seat. Katsuki pushed him in, then took a seat across the white linen table. Violin music played in the background, and paper lanterns formed a circle around their table. Shitty tv show or not, they had some good taste in decor.
Katsuki played with his utensils, bored and silent. He looked at the ocean, pretty under a painted twilight sky.
“WHY’D YOU PICK ME?”
Katsuki flinched in his seat, jerked back toward Izuku and saw his face was purple. Was the dude even breathing? He looked so shy, so embarrassed. It was kind of cute how frazzled he got. Katsuki smirked, “Does it bother you that bad?”
“No!” Izuku’s eyes widened, and he turned his gaze down to his plate. “No, it’s just. This is silly. We’re supposed to find our soulmates. Why would you pick me?”
Katsuki shrugged and held up three fingers. “Well, first, I don’t like any of the girls on this show. Two, it was fucking hilarious watching the host squirm, and three, how do you know my soulmate’s not a guy?”
Izuku pursed his lips. “But there’s an even number of men and women.”
“Maybe there’s a lesbian couple here, too. Maybe they threw a secret wrench into the show since last year’s competitors won the game too easily, and they want us to figure out our ‘soulmate isn’t what we expected’.”
That got Izuku looking up at him. “You think?” He leaned into the table, and Katsuki got the funny feeling that conspiracies and strategies were something this guy found fun.
What a nerd.
“Could be,” Katsuki said as a server brought them drinks. “So, what do you think? Could I be your soulmate?” The underlying meaning was clear.
Izuku choked on his straw and said, “You mean am I- erm, I mean, ugh. Yes. Yeah, you could be…”
Then they talked. Izuku was from Shizuoka. He had a mother, an absent father, and his Shiba Inu named Torino. Izuku worked as a nurse practitioner at the Shizuoka Prefectural Children’s hospital in Hamamatsu. He liked sweet drinks, comic books, and running on the beach. When he laughed, he snorted like a pig. When he blushed, it started at the tip of his nose and worked its way back to his nape. He bit his fingernails. He couldn’t stand the sound of EDM, and when he was older, he wanted to have a family: Two kids—a boy and a girl—a loving spouse, and a pack of the biggest, ugliest, sweetest dogs he could find.
He was fucking perfect.
On their way back to the mansion, Katsuki walked with his hands in his pockets, picking at his nails because, weirdly enough, he kinda felt like reaching out and grabbing Izuku’s hand.
Izuku talked animatedly. He’d let go of his nerves and was trying to tell Katsuki about something Shouto, another contestant had done, and how the girls reacted. Izuku seemed to get along with everyone. He was a good guy.
“So, I gotta ask, how skeptical are you?”
Katsuki quirked a brow. “About what?”
They were coming up to the patio now. Izuku said, “Well, y’know, of the soulmates thing. Honestly… I’m kinda hoping it’s true. I’m not very good at the whole dating thing, usually, so this makes it easier.”
They were at the back door. Izuku turned around to face Katsuki completely, and Katsuki reached forward to tuck a stray curl behind his ear. “That sounds hard to believe.” He said it with just enough intonation that Izuku seemed lost on whether it was truth or sarcasm.
It was the truth, by the way.
“Well, what about you?”
“I don’t really care about that stuff,” Katsuki shrugged. “To be honest, I’m only here to win the money.”
Izuku’s face fell. Apparently, Katsuki hadn’t answered correctly, and somehow, Katsuki felt guilty about that.
“Well, I mean,” Katsuki started. “The only reason I’m here is because my friends are jackasses and signed me up, so I figured I’d use it to earn some cash. But, I mean, if I find someone I click with, don’t know why I wouldn’t fucking take that opportunity, too.”
A little light came back to Izuku’s eyes.
He smiled sheepishly, and said, “Well, I hope you find them.”
“Yeah, me too.”
Izuku won the next two challenges. On the first one, the prize was a zip lining date with another contestant. Strangely, Katsuki’s heart skipped a beat at the thought of them going together. He held his breath, wondering if maybe Izuku would pick him.
Then he picked Ochako, and Katsuki was in a bad mood the rest of the week.
The second challenge Izuku won gave him a couple’s massage. That one, Katsuki expected to go to Ochako, too. But then Izuku stared sheepishly at the ground and muttered Katsuki’s name, which, of course, was followed by a lot of excited whispers. Katsuki’s chest swelled with smug pride. While the film crew and the other contestants glanced over at him, Katsuki found Izuku’s downcast eyes and gave him a wink. Apparently, he’d made his mark.
Later, when they prepped for the massage, Izuku was too shy to change in front of Katsuki. He went and got under his covers first, burying his head in the face rest.
“You don’t have to be afraid, you know.”
“It’s just- It’s weird, okay?” Izuku’s voice was muffled and Katsuki couldn’t see his face, but the tips of Izuku’s ears were a deep shade of red. Katsuki smirked to himself and got on the table beside Izuku’s.
“It ain’t weird. Besides, it felt pretty damn good when you picked me.” It was truthful, shockingly. Katsuki didn’t want to betray too much of what he felt, but Izuku seemed to struggle. And Katsuki was actually enjoying his company more than he had expected. If Katsuki made him too uncomfortable right now, Izuku might choose to avoid him for the rest of their isolation on this goddamn reality show set.
Izuku pulled his head out of the face rest, wide eyes and parted lips turned towards Katsuki. “Really?”
The masseuses entered the room and dimmed the lights. As spa music played in the background and the masseuse rubbed firmly at Katsuki’s tense shoulders, his mind faded. He suddenly felt desperate for sleep. Eyes closed, the sounds getting fainter, he was just about asleep when Izuku mumbled, “Remember when you said they could be messing with us? That maybe our soulmates could be men?”
Izuku released a shaky breath somewhere in the distance. “I think you’re right; I- I, um, couldn’t stop thinking about our date… I- Katsuki, I really think you could be my soulmate.”
Katsuki spent most of his time with Izuku in the following days. Down at the beach, soaking up the sun, in the den, watching the foreign hero films Izuku couldn’t get enough of, and, just once, kissing outside Izuku’s room. His lips tasted of sea salt and raspberries. His mouth was cool, sweet, and touching tongues sent a desperate need through Katsuki.
And Katsuki couldn’t get enough of it.
Izuku sneezed in sets of threes, wiggled his nose when he was annoyed. He could make killer brownies, but that was as far as his culinary skills went. Izuku liked to sit on the counter and kick his legs out at Katsuki every time he walked by with spices, spatulas, and bowls of chocolate batter. Izuku laughed at all of his jokes, smacked him on the ones he thought were too mean, and, once or twice, curled up against his side and slept while some French film played in the background.
When Shouto found out their soulmates could be men, he picked Izuku for a date. Katsuki had thought he might’ve lost his chance, then. He nearly got in a fight over it. But Izuku came back to him when the night was over, wrapped his arms around Katsuki’s middle, and buried his head in Katsuki’s large chest. “Don’t worry, Katsuki. I don’t want him.”
Katsuki bit his lip. He didn’t dare let Izuku know how much he wanted to hear that. He put his hand on Izuku’s head and rubbed at his scalp. Izuku shivered, and rather than respond to Izuku with mutual comfort, Katsuki—the dumbass—said, “Prove it.”
After a lot of pressure and promises exerted by one adamant Katsuki Bakugou, the rest of the contestants voted him and Izuku to go to the Truth Booth that night. When they stood up, prepared to bite the bullet and find out for sure if he and Izuku were soulmates, Katsuki’s hands were sweaty. Izuku grabbed one anyway, squeezing it hard, and that was as good a signal of love as any.
It was quiet when they left the main house, quiet on the way to the small, thatched hut hidden behind a grove of bamboo trees and paving stones. With every step, Katsuki’s heartbeat quickened. He felt sick; the closer they were to discovering if they were soulmates, the more Katsuki realized he didn’t want to do it. What if they weren’t a perfect match and Izuku left him for some other asshole? What if they were soulmates, and Katsuki’s just made a huge fucking mistake by broadcasting that shit? What if he was stuck with Izuku forever?
The hut was shockingly futuristic inside, white and pristine. There was a beam of green light coming from the camera just below a flat screen with his and Izuku’s picture on it. Izuku clutched Katsuki’s arm and held on to him tight as they watched the screen, let the green light scan over them. Katsuki held his breath as a steady beeping sound slowed.
NOT A MATCH! flashed across the screen, and Katsuki couldn’t comprehend the words at first.
The fuck did they mean, not a match? This was bullshit. The thoughts of ‘what if we’re soulmates? What if I’m stuck with Izuku?’ completely left him. All Katsuki could think about was how fake this show was, how stupid the supposed scientists who determined their soulmates were.
Because this wasn’t right.
Izuku wanted him.
He wanted Izuku.
Oh god, Izuku.
Katsuki glanced toward him, Izuku white as a sheet. “Izuku?” He asked, but Izuku was slowly detangling himself from Katsuki, shaking his head.
“So- so we’re not-” Izuku glanced up at Katsuki, tears in his eyes.
“-I- I got to go.” Izuku ran from the hut, head in his hands. Katsuki almost went after him.
He couldn’t get his legs to move. He couldn’t make them fucking work. Something told him it was better this way, that Izuku wanted someone who could be his soulmate to comfort him, not whatever the fuck Katsuki was.
But it hurt.
It hurt so fucking bad.
Katsuki sank to the floor, put his head in his hands, and cried.
Izuku avoided him.
Katsuki gave himself one day to mourn, and another to be really, really fucking angry. And Katsuki was lucky that when he was angry, he often caught himself doing stupid, impulsive things. Katsuki didn’t even remember what that day’s challenge was, fury clouding his judgement, but he won it anyway.
And when the host asked who he’d be taking on a romantic boat ride, he combed the crowd with a glare. Izuku stared at the ground with hunched shoulders, eyes rimmed in red, and Katsuki didn’t like that. He didn’t like that Izuku was sad, that he himself felt cheated by this stupid fucking show. He hated that Izuku couldn’t be with him because they weren’t soulmates, and-
And Katsuki froze. Suddenly, he remembered that, coming into this show, he didn’t even believe in soulmates. He still didn’t, really. All this pain came from the stupid propaganda this show and its contestants perpetuated. It didn’t matter if Izuku wasn’t Katsuki’s one true love; he doubted any of the other contestants were, either. None of that mattered if Izuku was still the only one he wanted.
If a soulmate meant perfect cohesion, a happy relationship without a single worry or fight, Katsuki would prefer to argue with Izuku every damn day of his life.
“Well, Katsuki, have you decided?”
Katsuki pursed his lips. “Yeah, I have.”
“-I pick Izuku.”
No one said anything. The camera crew halted, the sound guy even dropping the mic. The host smiled awkwardly, laughed, then eyed the producer somewhere in the distance. “Katsuki, that’s-”
“He’s not your soulmate, Bakugou,” Shouto said from the lineup.
Ochako nodded along. “You’re gonna cost us a million bucks if you do that! Search for your actual soulmate!”
“What do you mean ‘no’?”
Katsuki ignored their arguments. He turned toward the host, said, “I pick Izuku. I’m not going to change my mind,” and walked off. He bumped shoulders with Izuku as he walked by, said, “I’ll see you later,” and made his way back to the house, unconcerned with the commotion he left behind him.
The moon was gone, hidden by the earth’s shadow, and the only light left on the pier was from the tiki torches lining the path from the house down to the beach. Katsuki watched from the boat’s side as Izuku walked across the sand and onto the pier.
“Hey, love,” Katsuki grinned, ignoring the violent thumps of Izuku’s feet on wooden boards.
“WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?”
“Excuse me?” Katsuki quirked a brow and the corner of his mouth in a mischievous grin. Izuku came up on Katsuki, shoving a finger at his chest.
“Are you trying to get everyone angry? You’re ruining everyone’s chances at a perfect match and a million dollars!”
Izuku choked. “ So?”
“So, I don’t care about finding my goddamn soulmate. I didn’t when I got here, I did when I thought it was you, and now I don’t because I know it’s not you.”
Izuku’s scowl went slack, the weight of those words bearing down on his chest. He sucked in a breath, and Katsuki stepped forward. He grabbed Izuku’s hand and squeezed it tight. Izuku breathed, “That’s not fair.”
“Isn’t it? Izuku, who up there do you think is your soulmate? Because for me? None of them are as perfect as you. You’re the weirdest little nerd I’ve ever met, and I love it. I want you, Izuku, not any of them.” Katsuki nodded to the house up on the hill. “ So fuck the money. Fuck the soulmates thing, ‘cause it doesn’t exist, anyway.
“But you and me? We exist, and you can’t tell me you don’t feel that.”
Izuku gulped, turning his head to the left, staring out at the sea. Katsuki’s heartbeat hammered in his ears. Izuku was frowning, and Katsuki thought he might have blown it. Izuku would leave before Katsuki even had the chance to beg.
And fuck it, Katsuki would beg if he had to.
“How do I know that it’ll even work? A dozen professionals determined who our soulmates were, and you think you know better?”
Katsuki lifted Izuku’s hand to his chest; He squeezed it. “I know that I know better.”
Izuku turned his gaze back on Katsuki, a wavering hope in his eyes. Izuku said, “What about when the show is over? How do I know you’re not just going to ditch me?”
“Because I came here for a million dollars, and now I’m giving it up for you,” Katsuki laughed. Pulling him closer. That seemed a fatal blow, because Izuku fell apart in his arms, a pout on his lips.
“Don’t ruin this, Katsuki. Please don’t ruin this.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Alone on the pier, surrounded by torch light, Katsuki dipped in and pressed a deep kiss to Izuku’s parted lips, savoring the little moan that escaped them. And slowly, surely, Izuku lifted his hands up to Katsuki’s shirt and scrunched his fingers in the fabric, pulling him closer. And Katsuki felt good, felt thrilled. He didn’t care about the other contestants who would hate him after this, his friends back home who would tease him once the show aired, or the million dollars he’d never see.
Because Izuku? He was way better than any of that.