Izuku was midway through his waffles when his phone vibrated on the living room table. Uraraka’s sunny smile lit up the screen. His cheeks were packed full like a chipmunk’s but it didn’t deter him from picking up the phone. “Herro?”
“Izu!” Ochako squealed on the other side of the line. “How’ve your two days of freedom been? Anything exciting happen?”
“Not rearry.” He glanced up at Katsuki across the table, who was looking back with his eyebrow quirked. He gulped down the bits of waffle in his mouth. “We had fun though! Went sightseeing and stuff.”
“That’s fun!” Then, in a mere whisper. “ Did you do anything fun with Bakugou?”
Izuku’s ears tinged red, averting his eyes to the tiled floor. “Ocha, that’s not really an appropriate conversation.”
He remembered yesterday morning, waking up and getting an immediate eye-full. Having to relieve himself in the locked bathroom to the image of his best friend grinding down on him. No, he thought. They did not do anything fun together.
“Well, there’s still time and--yes, Tenya, I’m asking him now-- are you guys ready to rejoin the wedding party? Today, we’re supposed to go ziplining and horseback riding at Kualoa Ranch. Tenya says we need you two to come or else we have to invite Himiko and The Todoroki Embarrassment to come with us.”
“Himiko and Touya aren’t coming?” Izuku glanced over at Katsuki, who peeked up from his spam at the statement.
“God, no! Tenya bought them a 24 hour pass for free drinks down at the TIki Hut on the beach to keep them from wanting to come.”
“Oh, okay.” Izuku put his hand over the speaker and moved it away from his mouth. “Kacchan, do you wanna go horseback riding and ziplining? They need us to go or else they have to take Himiko and Touya to fill up the appointment.”
“They ain’t coming?”
Izuku shook his head.
“Yeah, why the fuck not.”
Izuku removed his hand from the speaker. “Yeah, Ochako, we’re gonna come. When do we need to be in the Lobby?”
“Perfect!” She grinned into the phone. “Thank you so much! We need you guys to be down in the Lobby in twenty minutes. See you soon!”
Uraraka disconnected the line and Izuku sat it back onto the glass tabletop. He looked over at Katsuki and offered him a soft smile. “So, uh, you know how to ride a horse?”
Bakugou snorted. “Obviously. You?”
“Alright, Mr. Midoriya.” The instructor called Izuku up to the mounting stool. He had a wince on his face and apprehension in his step as he approached the cream colored mare that the instructor held the reins to. “This here is Buttercup. She’s a sweetheart, so she’ll go easy on you since it’s your first time.”
“Please don’t say it like that…”
The instructor ignored him. “Alright, so I want you to get up on the stool, and stick your left foot in the stirrup. Then-”
“Not too much at once!” Izuku was nervous. Unbelievably so. Asking a city boy, who never had the money to pay for the equestrian club or polo or any other horse-based club that the wealthy schools he attended had offered. Honestly, why would anyone want to climb atop a ginormous animal with the power to kill you and ride it like you were its bitch.
Horses can’t be trusted.
He situated his foot in the stirrup and looked back at the Instructor. “Now what?”
“Okay, place all your weight on the foot in the stirrup, jump up, and swing your right leg over to the other side of the saddle.”
“Can you please just do it, sir?” he asked, brows furrowed in frustration. “I have other people to attend to.” Izuku bit his lip and huffed, squeezing his eyes shut and swinging his right leg over the horse. His butt hit the saddle and he cracked one eye open to find himself situated on top of the horse. “Alright, sir, now you’re just gonna tense your thighs and lock your legs and you’ll be ready to go!”
The instructor tugged the horse’s reins and led it over to the line on already-mounted horses. Uraraka and Iida were up front, followed by a random order of bridesmaids and groomsmen mixed about. Katsuki was up near Todoroki, his horse a massive chestnut stallion with bulking muscles. The two were conversing idly.
“Hey, Midoriya!” Ashido twisted on the pinto in front of him. “How’s your jellyfish sting doing?”
“I’m okay,” he assured her with a weak smile. “Just some purple bruising and a few weird spasms, but I’m almost back to normal.”
“It was so weird, and we were so worried! I called Cherry after you guys got back to the apartment, but he said you were asleep.”
The instructor shouted back at the line when they were ready to start the tour. Ashido went silent, looking forward to make sure she was steering her horse in the right direction. Izuku tried, too, to maneuver his horse, but it seemed that he didn’t have to. Buttercup whinnied every time he slapped the reins, voicing her disapproval. Turns out, she knew exactly what she was doing and didn’t feel like having an amateur bossing her around. She followed the horse in front of her, leaving Midoriya to take in the landscape they tracked through.
It was lush, green. High stone cliffs touched the sky with long grasses. Lush, technicolored flowers peeked out from cracks in its formation. The ground on which the horses trotted through was rich with dark green foliage and pink and yellow wildflowers. Large trees set them an isolated backdrop and the dirt road down which they trudged was sandwiched between the forests and the cliffs. The sky above was bright, beautiful, and dotted with cotton-candy clouds.
“Can you believe this place?” Ashido asked, tugging on her pinto’s reins to slow their stride. She waited until Buttercup had trotted up along her own mare so she and Izuku could ride together. “I don’t think the me two years back would have even dreamed of leaving Japan, let alone going to a place like this!”
“Yeah, it’s gorgeous.” Izuku craned his neck to look up at the cliffs.
“So, did Cherry take care of you these past couple days?” Izuku whipped his head to look at the girl, whose eyebrows furrowed in worry. “If he didn’t, I’ll beat his ass for you! I swear, I’ll do it for you.”
“No, no, no,” Izuku assured her. “He was great! He did more than I could have even asked for!”
Ashido’s worried expression quickly shifted to curiosity. “Oh, yeah? Like what?”
Izuku gulped, averting his gaze to the leather reins tightly gripped in his palms. “Uh, well, he made me dinner and breakfast, cleaned up the things I broke when my muscles spasmed--it was because of the bite--and, uh, he took me sight-seeing.”
Izuku nodded. “We went to Iolani palace! He-” Izuku’s ears turned red and he grunted to clear the cotton in his throat.
“What did he say?”
“Well, uh, nevermind. It was nothing. Just a stupid joke.”
Izuku looked back at Ashido pleadingly. It was embarrassing, just a weird joke that Katsuki had tried to make in the spur of the moment. It meant nothing. Still, Ashido wouldn’t budge, and Izuku sighed and looked back at the group in front of them. “He said I was, um-” Izuku cleared his throat. “He said I was attractive enough to be royalty.”
He waited for Ashido’s reply for a good few moments, staring at the passing flowers as he waited. She never did answer, so he looked back over at her. Scrunched nose and the tip of her tongue wedged between closed lips, she was thinking hard.
“What?” Izuku asked, curious.
She shook her head. “Nothing, just surprised. He’s not one to really compliment people, y’know? Not as long as I’ve known him, at least.”
“How long have you known each other?”
She looked up at the sky. “About,” she started, elongating the vowels. “A little over two years? Kirishima, Kaminari, and Sero have known him longer though. They were there when he started working at the club three years ago.”
“Oh, alright,” Izuku nodded. That was new news. So, Katsuki had been working as a stripper for three years. In the back of his mind, Izuku remembered his best friend also saying he hadn’t had a drink for three years. He wondered if those two events were connected. “Um, Ashido?”
“Yeah?” She smiled. “Whatcha need?”
“Um, do you know what Kacchan did before he came to work at the club?”
Ashido pursed her lips and looked forward at the group, connecting her eyes to Katsuki’s rippling back muscles. She sighed. “I do.”
“What was it?”
She looked back at Izuku and smiled, sympathetic and apologetic. “Mido, I’d love to help you out, but I can’t do that. It’s not my place to fill you in on his life; it’s his.”
“I can’t break his trust, Midoriya,” she explained. “But I won’t break yours either. I won’t tell him you asked, and you can wait for him to tell you himself.”
Izuku huffed, dejected but understanding. He slumped on his saddle and looked down at his reins. “I don’t think he’ll ever end up telling me.”
“He will.” Ashido said it like it was a given. “It took me a little over a year to earn his trust. It took others at the club a helluva lot more. The only one he was upfront with was Kirishima. The thing is, though, that it still took Kirishima about six months for Cherry to even consider him a friend. He’s opening up to you quicker than he did with any of us. So, don’t worry. Just wait until he’s ready.”
“Hey, Deku!” Izuku turned to see Katsuki holding a helmet out to him. Found you a medium!”
“Oh, thank you!”
“You ziplined before?” Katsuki asked him, nodding his head towards the first platform where Todoroki Shouto was connecting his gliding device to the nylon rope. He planted a kiss on Yaoyorozu’s cheek and kicked off the wooden ledge, disappearing over a canopy of trees far below.
Izuku looked back at Katsuki. “Uh, yeah. Senior year’s class trip. We all went ziplining over the Arashiyama forests in Kyoto.”
Katsuki quirked a brow. “I don’t fucking remember that.”
“I know,” Izuku snorted. “You skipped it ‘cause you were hungover from the weekend. I brought you back a keychain.”
“Oh.” Izuku felt Katsuki’s demeanor change, though the neutral grimace on his face remained the same. His shoulders tensed and he averted his eyes to the side.
“WHO’S NEXT?” the zipline moderator shouted over the happy chatter of the large group. Katsuki jerked his eyes over to him and raised his hand. He looked tense, his jaw clenched. Izuku worried he’d seriously upset him.
“Guess I’ll fuckin’ go.” He shoved his hands into his pockets and stomped off with a scowl. It was a whirlwind of actions that left Izuku wondering just when he’d been left on his own. He looked down at the helmet, flipped it in his hands and lifted it to set it upon his crown.
He clicked the buckle and paced towards the platform.
Halfway there, Uraraka and Iida appeared on either side of him, looping their arms in his. “Hey there, Man of Honor!”
“How are you doing today, Midoriya? Better, I presume?”
Izuku’s eyes glanced between them before offering a small smile. “I’m fine. The sting is just purple now. I’m not really getting spasms either.”
“Excellent!” Iida cheered, shaking Izuku’s arm with his. “I am glad to see you are in better health!”
“Yes, well, I’m more concerned about how you and Bakugou are doing, Izu,” Uraraka admitted, tugging him closer to the platform. “Have you been bonding?”
“Uh, yeah.” Izuku let go of their arms when they reached the platform. Uraraka climbed atop it, handing the sliding gear to the moderator.
“I need more details, please.”
Izuku shrugged. “I don’t know! We’re just… hanging out more? Talking more?”
Uraraka hummed, an inquisitive look on her face. The moderator asked if she was ready, and the woman nodded. She pushed off the platform while waving goodbye to her friend and fiancé. The second she was gone, the moderator looked back at him and Iida. “Who’s next?”
Izuku looked up at Iida, who waved and gestured for his friend to go first. “Please, it is only polite that I allow you to go ahead. Besides, I’m sure Ochako will be waiting over there to continue your conversation.”
“Thanks, Iida.” Izuku smiled at him, then hopped atop the platform and handed the gear to the moderator.
The man hooked the gear onto the rope the moment it became idle--no longer thrumming from Uraraka gliding across the nylon strings. “Alright, keep your legs extended and your hands on the gear that attaches your harness to the connecting rope. Understood?”
Izuku nodded and the moderator lined him at the ledge before letting him push off. The next thing he knew, Izuku was soaring through the sky like a bird. The sun beat down bright on his face, bathing the world in a brilliant, beautiful light. The breeze kept it cool, though, and the world below him looked like a dream. Green, lush. He saw the treetops sway in the wind far below him.
In the distance, the light blue of the sea and the white of pure sand created a unique contrast in the island’s natural beauty. He laughed to himself, his smile as bright as the sun above him as he flew through the air. He was free, happy. Up here, he could see the beauty he often forgot in his day-to-day back in Tokyo. There, it was nothing but work, relationships, and saving face.
Here, it was joy and adventure that clouded his mind. He loved it.
His feet hit the platform on the cliff parallel the one he’d just came from. A manager stood there, greeting and untying him from the rope. He gestured for Izuku to step down from the platform, which he did, and met Uraraka at the base.
“So,” she began, beckoning for Izuku to follow him down the hill. Under a blanket of tall trees, they followed the path to the next zipline platform “You two have been talking?”
“Well, about what?”
Izuku shrugged. “Just, everything. About learning to trust each other again, about when we were kids, and…” He trailed off, not sure he wanted to bring up topics he was still uncomfortable and unsure of.
“And what, Izu?” she asked, her eyebrows furrowed in worry as they approached the next platform. “Please, I’m worried about you. I want to make sure he’s not making you uncomfortable.” She stepped up onto the platform and handed her gear to the instructor.
Izuku looked at her oddly, disbelieving that she was worried now and not when she had invited his long lost friend on a trip when Izuku was still unsure of where he fit in anyone's life, let alone someone he thought was forever gone from his life. “Wait, wait, wait. Now you’re worried? What about before? When you started all of this?”
Uraraka’s eyes widened, her mouth gaped, and she held up a finger as though she was about to make a point. Izuku waited patiently for her to make her argument, but she instead pushed off the platform and disappeared.
Izuku stood there, momentarily frozen, as he realized Uraraka had bailed on giving him an answer. Then, he stomped up onto the platform and shoved the gear into the instructor’s hand. The man set him up and Izuku pushed off the ledge as soon as the man had taken his hand off the mechanism, zooming through the air as the trees zoomed by beneath him. This time, he was less concerned with the scenery as he was with getting his answer from Uraraka.
When he got to the next platform, he found her standing there idly, twiddling her thumbs as she offered him a puppy-dog pout. Izuku huffed. “No, you don’t get to do that! Why are you worried?”
She shrugged, gesturing him to follow as they continued down the forest path to the next zipline. “I just… he’s so good to you. And you get along so well! I’m worried you’ll get scared, or you’ll think you don’t deserve it, and run off!”
Izuku stopped dead in his tracks. “You… you think I’ll do that?”
She sighed, looking back at him. Her eyes teemed with love, with concern and affection for her dearest friend. “I just… I don’t want you to lose something good. I want you to realize that you deserve to be treated the way Bakugou’s treating you, but I know you get uncomfortable with it sometimes. You don’t always think you deserve it.”
They reached the next zipline and Uraraka looked back at him as the instructor hooked her up to the line. “I don’t want you to run off because you think that the attention your old friend is giving you isn’t something you deserve.”
“Why would I think that?” Izuku pressed, stepping up onto the platform.
Uraraka furrowed her brows at him, her lip quivering. “Because Touya never let you learn you deserved happiness.”
She pushed off the ledge and left Izuku to ponder her words.
They went along like that for the rest of the zipline course, Uraraka explaining her concerns and Izuku thinking hard on them with the backdrop scenery of Kualoa Ranch. Honestly, the beautiful landscape gave Izuku a positive outlook.
He knew Uraraka may have a point. He knew that being with Touya, being under the shadow of someone he was learning had never truly held love and concern for him, had made it hard for him to understand the difference between the good and the bad. For years, he’d thought underhanded compliments were a symbol of love, and that people offering him help or gifts for nothing in return were, in fact, bad. He hadn’t known the difference.
Even now, he was still struggling to understand that when Katsuki made him breakfast, or offered to carry his things, he wasn’t doing it because he wanted something out of it. Friends, family: healthy relationships don’t exploit you and offer demeaning comments in return.
He was trying, though. Christ, was he trying. He still had such an immense urge to forgive the man who’d hurt him. Touya had been with him for six years. It only seemed right that they’d just hit a bump, and that they could fix their relationship. Of course, Izuku knew that wasn’t true.
But it was slow going.
When Izuku hit the final zipline platform, he hadn’t expected to knock into something tall and firm. It startled him, his body going tense as he gathered his balance and looked for the source of the impact.
Katsuki smiled down at him--if the twitch at the corner of his lips could be considered a smile. His eyes were calm though, not filled with the storm that had previously resided in their depths. His firm chest rose and fell with every deep breath. His firm, coarse hands held Izuku’s shoulders steadfast. “Hey, nerd.”
The taller cleared his throat. “I, um- fuck, I shouldn’t have ditched you back there… It’s just- well, I- fuck!”
Izuku inhaled a calming breath and pulled himself out of Katsuki’s grip, not wanting to disturb him more than he already had. He grabbed his muscular forearm and smiled up at him. “It’s fine, Kacchan. I know you’re working through things. So am I. We just- I guess we learn to give each other time to figure it all out.”
Katsuki’s expression was unreadable, constant. His features were taut, but he nodded his head in a gentle understanding. “Thanks, Deku. I’m… I’m sorry.”
Izuku simply shrugged, side stepping Katsuki to get off the platform. “Nothing to be sorry about. Now, let’s go. I hear they got fresh pineapple for sale back at the main entrance.”