Izuku should have known. He totally should’ve.
He should’ve remembered Aizawa-sensei’s unimpressed face during these gatherings and especially his way of napping to escape everyone, which, in retrospect, seems like a brilliant idea.
‘you trouble child’, an eerily familiar voice whispers in Izuku’s ear somewhere from his memories.
(it’s so deserved right now. i’m so sorry i let you down, sensei)
Izuku should’ve listened and known and watched out for this so he wouldn’t be here, in this position.
But he is, and everything is awful.
“Do you look as good out of your suit as you look in it? It is a fascinating design,” a syrupy voice drawls straight into his ear canal, and Izuku tries to shift away from the person who is currently sitting next to him.
More importantly, the person being a journalist from the Daily Capes.
More importantly, a journalist who specializes in the relationships between heroes and absolutely lives for the drama, scandals and rumours.
More importantly, a journalist who has decided Izuku is the best prey in the whole gala for Pros to mingle and network and gather sponsors, and who hasn’t left his side for half an hour.
(which is why aizawa-sensei is right and everyone else is wrong. izuku sees that now, and he’s so sorry he’s ever doubted his faithful teacher.)
If he were Katsuki, he would just tell her to ‘fuck off, you extra’, but he isn’t, and she is a journalist, and he figured he should just play nice and be polite.
Too bad he played right into her trap.
Half an hour. (small-talk, flattering, fake smiles, knowing some startling trivia about his time at u.a., which is...kind of disturbing.)
Rookie. I’m a total, rotten rookie, Izuku thinks miserably and wrings his hands in his lap, half-tempted to just shrink back and go home.
Instead, he says awkwardly:
“Uh, that’s - that’s very kind of you.” His cheeks turning red hot under her hungry, sharp gaze. He feels like fish bait. “I’m sorry, I’m not really - “
“You are such a treasure, a refreshing treat in these circles,” the journalist, Natsuki Abe, flashes a wide smile at him. It looks practised and fake, plastic under the pink neon lights. She rummages through her bag and fishes out a recorder. Izuku decides that this is time for panic. “Would you mind giving me your opinion on couple of things? Unofficially of course, but I do love your voice so...”
“Now, w - wait a minute, Abe-san, I didn’t - “
“ - and what is especially interesting is your relationship status, which many of our readers have requested a very special article,” Natsuki Abe continues casually, her glossy nail pressing on the play button, and yep, Izuku is totally panicking right now.
“Now, this isn’t - I’m not - “
Her eyes flash, impossibly dark under her thick lashes. “Really?” she asks softly, the corner of her mouth twitching. “Because I, for one, adore green.”
Izuku’s brain jolts into overdrive. Okay, no, this isn’t good -
“I have a boyfriend!” he squeaks before his own stunned brain catches up.
Natsuki Abe stills, her eyes narrowing. “Excuse me?”
Izuku’s own answer sinks into him, hits him with full force.
No time to back out, oooh my god, I’ve done it now, he thinks in utter horror.
“I - uh, I’m taken. Already. Definitely.”
“Really?” Natsuki Abe drawls, but this time, she sounds suspicious. “And who might that lucky person be?”
‘Who’, indeed, what a fitting question. Oh god, oh god, oh god, what have I done? Izuku wails inwardly, because really, dating implies another person - another person that doesn’t even exist.
Izuku glances the dimly lit ballroom, painfully aware of Natsuki Abe’s attention on him. It feels like oil on his skin. And then Izuku spots him.
Katsuki stands near the wall, shadowed by the lights, his gaze tracking the crowd in a way that Izuku recognizes; Kacchan’s bored out of his skull, his eyebrow twitching with irritation.
At that point Izuku says - or squeaks, as it happens to be his tone during this whole horrible exchange - “He’s there!”
And without waiting her response, Izuku jumps on his feet and swims through the crowd to Katsuki.
“Kacchan! Kacchan!” he hisses, and Katsuki raises an eyebrow at him.
“Yo. What’s your deal, Deku?” he drawls in response, taking in Izuku’s dishevelled appearance. “Ditched your fangirls, huh?”
“Don’t even joke about that, Kacchan, this is awful and I think I’m having an aneurysm, she won’t leave me alone!” Izuku hisses and starts wringing his hands in anxiety and distress.
“What, she gettin’ handsy or something?”
Izuku glares at him under his green curls and puffs his cheeks in annoyance. “Kacchan, seriously, I’m not kidding, Abe-san’s not leaving me alone - and no, stop, look, I - I need your help.”
“That so, huh, Deku?”
Katsuki has the audacity to sound amused. His mouth twists into a wry smirk that would usually make Izuku’s heart skip a beat, but now, he’s near hyperventilation, so he’s slightly preoccupied.
“I need you to pretend to be my boyfriend,” he blurts without too much finesse.
Katsuki’s jaw drops, and he gawks at Izuku, red eyes wide and incredulous.
Okay, understandable, also very predictable, but Izuku is on the clock.
“I know, I know, it’s awful and I shouldn’t have said anything to Abe-san, but she wouldn’t leave me, I know you absolutely don’t want to do this, but help me out, please, Kacchan, just this once, okay - I - I’ll owe you!”
Katsuki scowls; the lights paint sharp shadows between his brows.
“No way, find someone else,” he grunts, his voice a low growl, and pleasant shivers crawl in Izuku’s insides.
“Kacchan - “
“I said no, nerd, open your fucking ears. Deal with your own mess, don’t drag me into your bullshit.”
Okay, that stings.
Just a bit.
Izuku hates hot shame that blossoms in his gut, hates feeling hurt just for a split-second - how dare he be hurt, when it’s Katsuki’s right to refuse? When Izuku’s the one who just blurts out things to journalists like a total idiot?
“Oh. Okay, um - thanks anyway,” he murmurs and laughs, embarrassed. “Thanks for listening me, Kacchan, I - “
Suddenly Katsuki tenses and he stares over Izuku’s head into the crowd.
“Oi, that her?” he grunts, and Izuku follows his line of sight -
And it’s Natsuki Abe wading through the crowd with surprising grace like she’s done it all her life, and the hungry, shameless curiosity on her features is definitely frightening.
“Yes, oh god, she’s ready to go for the jugular,” Izuku says miserably.
“From the Daily Capes, huh?”
“Uh, yeah... she’s been hounding me all evening.”
Sparkling pink, blue, purple neon lights pass over them, and in that breathless moment, Izuku and Katsuki stare at each other; Izuku wants to drown in Katsuki’s red eyes, they are steady, dependable -
- which is one of the many reasons why Izuku -
Then, Katsuki clenches his jaw, curses under his breath, and that’s when Natsuki Abe materializes beside them.
“Good evening, gentlemen,” she purrs, her finger already on the recorder’s play-button. “My, my, what a lovely pair you make.”
Izuku’s heart pounds painfully in his chest, one-two-three, and his mouth is dry, full of wool, and no words come out, no explanations or excuses -
- and Katsuki slings his arm casually on Izuku’s shoulder, pulls him closer.
“Yeah, we’re the best, who the hell are you?” he asks gruffly.
His mind whirrs hundred miles per hour, hot blood pounds in his ears, he can’t believe this is happening - he can feel Katsuki’s masculine warmth seeping through his clothes into his skin, it’s so safe and familiar, too bad this is just for the show -
Surprise flickers over Natsuki Abe’s face, but then it smoothens into a honeyed smile.
“Well, now. I’m Natsuki Abe, a journalist from the Daily Capes - “
“Yeah, yeah, get in line, we’ve got a bunch hounding our asses. You had something to say to my boyfriend, huh?”
His boyfriend. Izuku’s heart rate picks up, the fire roars in his ears, and it spreads through his body like a high wave, sweet and warm, and oh god, I need to calm down.
“ - long have you dated?”
“That ain’t none of your damn business. Look, we don’t have time for this shit, I gotta take this space cadet out, he’s ready to pass out. C’mon, nerd, if you black out, I’m not carryin’ your ass back.”
“Sorry,” Izuku slurs and allows Katsuki to drag himself from Natsuki Abe to the nearest balcony.
It’s calm outside; the faraway thumping of the music sucks into drowsy static, and Izuku breathes the cool air inside his lungs.
“Oi, you with me?”
“Yeah. I’m sorry, Kacchan - no, I mean, thank you, that was - that was amazing.”
“...she was seriously pissing me off, like she knows any shit about us. Fucking vultures,” Katsuki grumbles and leans against the railing.
Izuku’s breathing hitches in his throat. In the pale, yellow light glowing from the city below reflects on Katsuki, on his sun kissed skin, on the bright red of his eyes, the sharp angles of his face.
The calm in his gaze, the embers of his annoyance still glowing under the red.
Affection swells between Izuku’s ribs, pure and raw. In that moment, he’s dizzyingly grateful that Katsuki allows Izuku to see him like this.
That they are friends.
Even though Izuku’s completely -
“Still, thank you. For going with it,” Izuku says with a soft smile.
Katsuki snorts and pokes Izuku on the nose. “What the hell was with that shitty plan, anyway, oi, nerd?”
“I told you, she kept drilling me and I panicked! And I - “
“Cracked under the pressure, huh?” Katsuki sounds wryly amused.
“No! Well, okay, yeah, I guess that’s kinda how it went...”
“She really got under your skin...your filter needs fixin’, Deku, stop spilling useless shit like that to them.”
A pause. “But your shitty plan got her to fuck off, so I guess it wasn’t that shitty.”
Izuku laughs, breathless and stupidly pleased. Maybe it’s adrenaline, slowly burning out from his system.
Katsuki sees it and with a scoff, he captures Izuku’s nose between his index finger and middle finger and tweaks him firmly.
“You still owe me, Deku, don’t forget that.”
Izuku gives him thumbs-up, and then: “’eggoo al’eady...”
Katsuki lets go, but not before squinting at him with flat, fond exasperation.
All in all, the rest of the evening goes pretty smoothly - no explosions, but Todoroki and Kirishima show their party trick with crème brûlée and Iida has to interfere, although the audience loves it - and Izuku nearly forgets the whole thing with the Daily Capes.
He should’ve known.
The next morning Izuku’s passed out on his bed and is practically dead to the whole world -
- until his phone screeches at 8.00 a.m. Sharp blaring pierces through his ears. Disoriented and dizzy, Izuku fumbles at his phone, his vision blurry and unfocused.
“Y - yeah, hello?” he says sleepily and moves to sit up, blankets wrapped around him.
“Izuku-kun, I’m extremely disappointed in you.”
Izuku’s suddenly wide awake. It’s their publicist, Kumiko Sasaki, and her voice is tight with utter fury. It’s enough to make Izuku swallow.
“Uh, I’m sorry?” he says hesitantly. He can hear her breathe harshly on the other end of the line.
“Have you seen the Daily Capes today?”
The Daily - ?
Izuku’s heart stops. Oh no. Oh, no, no, no.
His voice sounds nervous, even to his own ears.
“No? Because they published an article - a page long with some trivia - about you and Katsuki-kun’s romance, starting from U.A to working as partners. Lovely pictures as well, of you two on the balcony last night.”
Izuku closes his eyes.
“ I do not normally give credence to such rubbish that SHE publishes, but this - THIS - is it false or is it true, I need to know, Izuku-kun.”
“Kumiko-san,” Izuku says, now getting jittery. “I - it was just - “
“Are you and Katsuki-kun dating?”
Izuku is not prepared to hear it so bluntly. He chokes and wracking coughs explode from his lungs.
Kumiko listens to his wheezing and gurgling patiently, and then mutters: “Apparently no, then. Am I wrong?”
“N - no, we’re not, it was just - I tried to get her to back off, but she wouldn’t, and then we pretended - “
She sighs. It’s one of those sighs that Izuku and rest of the class 1-A know pretty well; Aizawa used to sigh at them the same way, disgruntled and so done. Like he needed a raise or two.
(kumiko-san definitely deserves a raise or two for dealing with their shenanigans, that’s for sure.)
“Of course you did. Well, now we do have a bit of a problem in our hands, so I suggest you get up, get dressed and get back to the office. I’m going to call Katsuki-kun next.”
Oh no. Kacchan. Clammy cold sweat starts to bead on Izuku’s forehead. He can only imagine how he’ll react to this, this being Izuku’s stupid plan which has apparently failed so magnificently and probably destroyed their reputation -
Oh god, he’s gonna hate me.
“Good luck, Kumiko-san,” he says, defeated.
“Thank you,” Kumiko replies primly. “And if you don’t mind getting the coffee on your way here, we are out.”
They are probably not, but Izuku gets the hint and nods. “Yeah, I’ll do that. Thank you again, Kumiko-san, and I’m...I’m so sorry, I didn’t think. I - I panicked.”
There’s a pause, and then, Kumiko says, her tone a little softer now: “Nothing is really ruined, we will figure out a solution, mark my words.”
“Thank you. See you soon.”
Izuku hangs up, drops his phone on the sheets and just curls into a ball of shame and guilt.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.