Blood trickled from the corner of Katsuki’s thumb, but he bit at it anyways. The thin veil of pain was the only thing keeping him grounded, his anxiety making pictures out of the shadows cast by the dim light of the hallway. He cleared his throat, squeezed his eyes shut and knocked his head back against the door. Opening his eyes, he saw the number 423 written in a fancy, golden cursive.
Ashido wasn’t back from the luau yet, and he didn’t know when she would be. She was the only person on this island who he could talk to, the only one to understand what was happening to him. He needed her; he needed to talk to someone.
He wondered what Izuku was doing, how he was coping with Katsuki leaving again. Katsuki knew it hurt him, knew the consequences of running off, but it was the only thing that made sense. How could he be there for Izuku, give him the life that Touya couldn’t give him, if he ran the risk of hurting him? If there was a possibility that Katsuki really was bad, and the man Toga had said he was, he couldn’t be with him.
His parents believed it; people who’d just met Katsuki could read the anger and aggression on him, so where was the jump in expecting him to hurt someone?
There wasn’t one.
His palms felt sweaty. He clamped his teeth against his thumbnail and found himself at a nub. There wasn’t anything left to bite, to focus on. He looked down that hallway and watched the flowers in the wallpaper bleed together. Water lilies and hibiscus fused, pinks and reds mixing and dancing in his tired, red eyes. He clenched his teeth, pinching his lip between, and squeezed his eyes closed. He felt his eyelashes brush the top of his cheek, and large tears fall down to the sharp edge of his jaw. The pain inside his heart was visceral, hurt like his head cracking against the curb of the gutters where he spent his early adulthood. It hurt worse than the first needle he stuck between his index and forefinger, or the pain of waking up from the euphoria it brought him.
“Fuck,” he hissed, dropping his head in his hands and digging his palms into his eyes. It burnt, but it felt right. He couldn’t see the world that way, and somehow that made him feel better.
He needed Izuku.
He’d always needed him, but he needed him most right now. And what killed him is that he would be here if Katsuki hadn’t fucked everything up--if he hadn’t walked out, or sent the first punch to Touya’s nose. It would have been better if Izuku didn’t leave to get a fucking drink was the thought that echoed in the back of his mind.
He knew that was wrong, an intrusive thought he didn’t want. But he’d already thought it, though, and it was funny how the single echo of the word ‘drink’ made him crumble. Suddenly, there was a gnawing at his throat, a phantom taste on his tongue. If he had tequila right now, he’d be happy. If he downed a bottle of fireball he’d be the life of the party until someone said something foul and he’d sink into a concoction of depression and fury.
Somehow, that, and the swollen knuckles that accompanied it, sounded better than mourning Izuku, the sunshine smile that made his living horror show worthwhile. Another pang shot through his heart, but this one traveled up to his mind with a vibration that sounded a lot like ‘drink something’, and he was hurting.
There was a bar downstairs. There was nothing saying he couldn’t head down there, order five shots, and gulp them all down on his own.
It was so easy, but his hands had developed minds of their own that came in handy when his head went off the deep end. Every time he craved the bitter taste of liquor, his hands went to his pocket, his fingers wrapped around his phone, and he pulled it out and scrolled through his contacts. His index finger would make the decision of pressing the ‘call’ button, and he’d listen to the dial tone before Aizawa’s voice hit his eardrum.
“H-hey,” Katsuki hissed over the receiver, his voice as ghostly quiet as the dripping of the faucets in the bathrooms where he spent his withdrawals.
“Katsuki? What’s going on?”
He bit down on his lip and stared at the carpet threads between his legs. “I… I got in a fight-” His exhale was heavy, trembling. “And I left Izuku. There’s a bar downstairs, and- and I-”
“Where are you?” There was the clinking of something in the background, and Aizawa’s tense concern at the forefront. “Do you have someone with you?”
“N-no. Aizawa, I-” His lip quivered. He watched as a tear fell onto the carpet and turned the maroon carpet blood-red. “I let go of the best thing I ever had.”
“ Why would you do that? I thought you guys figured that shit out?”
“Me too, but- but, fuck, his ex was there! He called Deku sloppy seconds, said he was the kind of guy who kept your cock warm, but you don’t fuck them for anything other than that, and I- goddamnit, I hit him!”
“Well, it’s not the ideal circumstance, but-”
“-Toga told Deku I’m crazy, and he apologized on my behalf. We went back to the hotel, but I- he said I put his job at risk, and that I can’t just hit people, and-” He barked out a hysterical laugh and knocked his head back against the door. “And I fucking realize I am the person Toga said I was. I’ll hurt him, just like I hurt her, and-”
“ -Katsuki! ” Aizawa’s voice was stern, like he wasn’t going to keep listening if this was how Katsuki was going to talk. And the fear of losing him, one of the few people he felt safe to talk to, made him shut his mouth. He’d just let go of one; he didn’t want to lose another. “You did not hurt Toga! I mean, do you really think you did? After three years?”
Katsuki laughed, wet and scared. He sniffled into the receiver and shook his head. “I- I don’t know! How can I be sure? How can you be so sure? Even my parents don’t believe I’m innocent. They think I’m trash! My own mother never wanted me!”
“I don’t give a shit what your mother wanted, Katsuki,” Aizawa snapped. “ Listen to me very clearly. There is a world of people who love you, who trusts you, and want you in their life: myself, Ashido, Kirishima, Kaminari, and Sero. Hizashi’s been asking about you, too. He wants to know when you’ll come to dinner with us again. And then- what about Izuku?”
Katsuki bit his lip. “What about him?
“Well, do you really feel good letting him go? Is that what you want? What he agreed to?”
“No... but it’s what’s best for him! If he’s not with me, then- then I won’t hurt him, and-” Katsuki rubbed his cheek and sighed. “I can’t live with hurting him, Aizawa. Not again.”
“ So, what do you call this?”
Katsuki’s held his breath, blinking once and feeling fresh tears trail down his cheek. What did he call this? Security? Thinking ahead?
Protecting the person who mattered most to him?
“Maybe your parents never saw it, but you’re important to so many people. You’ve got a family who wants you to succeed, so do you really want to break that? To go down to that bar and wallow in a drink that’s just going to feel good as long as you stay buzzed?”
“Can’t stop feeling good if I don’t stop drinking.”
Katsuki sniffed and brushed the back of his hand against his eyes. “No,” he muttered.
“Listen, Katsuki,” Aizawa said. “ I’m not the one who can tell you what to do with your life. I’m just supposed to keep you from relapsing, but I need you to understand that Izuku? He doesn’t want you to let go; do you? Do you really want to give that up?”
A pregnant silence filled the speaker, and all Katsuki could hear was the rush of blood in his ears and his own heavy breathing. He knotted his fingers in his hair and pulled, before shaking his head. “It doesn’t matter, does it? He might believe in me, but I don’t. I- I can’t. How do I believe in myself when all the people who were supposed to believe in me think I’m trash? They say the only person you need is you, but it’s easier to get shit done with a stadium of supporters screaming your name than just you shouting at yourself in the mirror.”
A huff echoed on the speaker. “ That’s some analogy, isn’t it? You come up with that by yourself?”
“ Well, the short answer is that I don’t know. The only thing I’m certain of, though, is that you need to make peace with the past. Five years ago, ‘Zashi watched paramedics stab me with Narcan in a gas station bathroom, and now I’m helping him put up a godawful Christmas tree in our living room.
“The point is you can’t change who you were in the past, but if you ask yourself right now: Would I hurt Izuku if given the chance, and your answer is no--and if you’re disgusted by the thought of it--then I think you have a pretty good idea of what kind of person you are.”
Silence rippled in Katsuki’s ears; it consumed him. He felt the beat of his heart--steady like a drum--but so soft, so broken. He looked down at his free hand, the calloused and scarred palm, and the idea of striking Izuku with it made him want to throw up. Right now, he knew he wouldn’t touch Izuku save for brushing his fingers against his jaw, lightly guiding him into a kiss. He’d caress him, hold him securely in his arms, but not hit him.
But what about in the future?
It was an intrusive thought Katsuki couldn’t shake, because right now, he was sober; sober Katsuki wouldn’t do something like that, but a wasted, high off his ass Katsuki was different. He was brutal, argumentative. Katsuki remembers only fighting people that attacked him first, and not hurting people he cared about.
But he wasn’t in his right mind then. There were nights he couldn’t remember, nights he didn’t want to remember. So who was to say he’d never hurt Toga? He couldn’t trust his own memory, after all.
And what if he did it again?
“But-” Bright floral prints flashed in Katsuki’s periphery and he jerked his head to observe the end of the hall. Ashido had a heavy stride, her shoulders slumped. She seemed tired, but the smile on her face looked like she’d enjoyed her night. That is, until her cheerful expression dropped at the sight of Katsuki.
Her steps quickened.
“Ashido is back,” Katsuki hissed into the receiver. “I’ll call you back later.”
“ No drinking. Okay?”
“Okay.” Katsuki pressed the ‘end call’ button and sat his phone on the carpet beside him. He looked up the instant Ashido bent into a squat beside him. Her pink curls had fallen in her eyes--clearly she hadn’t used enough hairspray--and her eyeshadow was smeared. The smile she fixed on Katsuki was considerate, as was her touch when she brushed her thumb against Katsuki’s tears.
He leaned into it. It wasn’t as warm as Izuku’s, but it still belonged to someone who loved him. In a sense, he needed her just as much as him. “What happened?”
Katsuki’s lip quivered, as his glossy eyes looked at her like she was an angel. Slowly, he pushed off the chair and dropped his head against her chest. His hands snaked around her middle, and he gripped her tighter. “I left him.”
He felt her tense, but that was okay. It was a shock; she was allowed to tense up, and the hand that fell on the back of his head to massage his scalp told him he wasn’t in trouble. “Why?”
“If I stayed, I’d end up hurting him.”
“You know that’s not true.”
“Do I?” Katsuki laughed. Ashido was so warm, so comforting. He thought he could fall asleep then and there, if his heart didn’t ache so bad for the love of his life. “I don’t actually remember half of what happened when I was high or wasted. I could’ve actually hurt her, and I didn’t even love her. I love Izuku, and I couldn’t live with myself if I ended up hurting him.”
He felt Ashido bury her face in his hair, and the hot exhale against his scalp. He held her firmly in his arms and let his tears fall against her flesh. She didn’t stop him, just sighed and let her lips vibrate against him. “Let’s go to bed, okay? We can talk in the morning.”
Morning came; morning went. The sheets were too soft, the comforter too warm, and Katsuki’s eyelids were too heavy to open. He heard Ashido roam around the room for hours, leave, come back, and Katsuki still couldn’t find the energy to wake up. Maybe the pain had worn him down to the bone, or maybe sleep was as good a deterrent as any from finding the nearest local drug dealer, or raiding the mini fridge for the travel size vodka bottles.
His fingers bunched in the sheets, and searched for Ashido--for human warmth. Ashido, Kirishima, Kaminari and Sero had always been his source of comfort and human affection when he’d get too close to breaking, too close to relapse. He’d curl up with one of them in private. They’d thread their fingers through his hair and let him cry. A teenage Katsuki would hate him for the weakness of needing another, but adult Katsuki depended on their loving reassurances to stay sane.
He was so afraid of being alone.
Of being a monster.
Of being unwanted.
Ashido wasn’t there--not at first. Then he felt a dip in the bed and the warm brush of fingers against his ear, tucking his hair away. Katsuki grumbled at the touch, grumbled at how it woke him, but chased the feeling when it dissolved.
Slowly, he pried his eyes open to the dim light of the hotel room, the natural yellows and oranges of the sun shining through the open windows, and landed on the unruly brown hair and bulky glasses of the man sitting on the bed’s edge.
Katsuki shot up in bed, pushed himself to the farthest edge and scowled. Wavering fists felt sore at his sides, and his face felt heavy, his eyes swollen from tears. “The fuck are you doing here?”
The smile that had occupied Masaru’s face dropped quickly. Then he was just sitting there, awkward, trying to find an in into a conversation with his son. He kept opening his mouth like he was going to say something, but then shut it quickly and squeezed his eyes shut. Katsuki watched him hesitantly, furious that he’d even come find him. Why was he there? Why did he care?
“I called him.”
Katsuki whipped his gaze to the left, to the girl sitting at a vanity and pushing bulky gold hoops into her ears. She wasn’t looking at him, her eyes on her mirror, but Katsuki could see the reflection of her face and the ferocity in her gaze. “You need to talk to him.”
“The hell I do!”
She twisted her body and slammed her hand on the back of her chair. “Do you think I didn’t hear you talking to Aizawa last night?” she snapped. She rose up onto her feet, looking much taller with heels five inches long. Her furious smile didn’t match her soft pink dress, her tea-cup skirt looking too playful and kiddish to belong. “You don’t think you can do it on your own! Despite the fact that me and the boys are rooting you on--the fact that we believe in you--you still can’t believe you’re not a bad person, or that the people who hate you are wrong!
“Katsuki, I saw Izuku talking to your dad; I met him. And going in, I thought I’d have to knock some teeth out if he insulted you, but the guy cared. He thanked me for taking care of you! He- I don’t think he’s the person you’ve convinced yourself he is.”
Katsuki’s lip curled, and he climbed quickly to his feet. He stomped towards her, squeezed her wrist and looked anxiously into her eyes. Sweat built in his palms, glistened on his back, and made his forehead shiny. Suddenly, the room was fuzzy, and he didn’t know if it was from anxiety or exhaustion. “Mina, I- I can’t just-”
“-Katsuki, I only came to apologize.”
Six words he didn’t want to hear, because they sounded too much like a fairytale. His throat burned; his mind raced. Katsuki didn’t want to respond, because he didn’t know how. Slowly, shaking, he looked up at his father standing uncomfortably by the bed, twiddling his thumbs. “I- I love you so much , but I wasn’t a good father to you.”
“Yeah- yeah, that’s right.”
“I- It’s funny.” Masaru’s nervous smile twitched at the corner, and he bowed his head. “I met with Izuku to try and figure out how I’d apologize, but I’m starting to realize that no matter how much practice I put into it, I- I don’t know how to face you.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t.”
“Or maybe you should,” Ashido hissed in his ear. “You’re so afraid of being the person you’ve been gaslighted into believing you are. This is your chance to ask if that’s true!”
“It’s not true.”
Katsuki clenched his jaw and watched Masaru step closer. His lips pressed thin and his eyebrows quirked up like he was still hoping he could reach a man long gone.
How could he be so hopeful?
“Katsuki, I wasn’t the father you needed--the father you deserved. You needed me, and I didn’t help you.”
Why were there tears in his eyes again? Why did it feel like something, or someone, was squeezing his heart? When someone said something so sincere to him so desperately, he didn’t know what to believe. How could he argue? How could he know what he really was?
“Does- does it matter? I’m exactly the person you and mom thought I was. I’m a monster. I’ve hurt people!”
“You haven’t hurt anyone!” Ashido yanked herself free of Katsuki’s grip and rounded on him, grabbing him by his cheeks and holding him firmly. His sad gaze dropped down to her. “Cherry, listen to me, okay? No one thinks you’re a monster. No one thinks you did anything to ever hurt anyone except yourself. Whatever happened between you and that bitch was self-defense. I don’t think you’d hurt anyone, your friends and your father don’t think you would, and neither does Izuku, so-”
The tinny tune of a synthetic pop song echoed through the room, and Ashido turned her gaze to the phone sitting on her messy vanity. “Shit,” she hissed, running towards it. She picked it up, typed a response to whoever called with clicking acrylics, and then shoved the phone into her purse. She put the strap on her shoulder and stomped back to Katsuki. “I have to go to the wedding rehearsal, okay? I’ll be back after dinner, and we can talk more about this. For now, though, please try talking to your dad. For me?”
She looked up at him with shining, hopeful eyes, and shit she’d done so much for him. He hated the thought of speaking to him, trying to rekindle something with his dear old dad, but he didn’t want to disappoint one of the few people who believed in him, and end up driving them away. Slowly, almost to the point he didn’t realize he was doing it, he nodded his acceptance.
Ashido smiled, patted him on the cheek, and whispered in his ear. “I believe in you. If he’s an asshole, you already know you can live without him, and you know you have a family. This is your chance to say everything that’s been on your mind and your chance for closure.”
With that said, she spun on her heels, her big skirt twirling with her body. The door shut behind her, and the hotel room was filled with the most uncomfortable silence Katsuki had ever experienced. Slowly, hesitantly, he lifted his eyes to his father, who shuffled in place and held his hands in front of him. “Um, I’m not exactly sure where to start.”
Katsuki sucked on his teeth and nodded, looking back to the ground. He didn’t want to cry again. Apparently, no matter how old he got, Katsuki hated the concept of crying more than necessary--especially in front of those who didn’t deserve to see it.
His father didn’t deserve to see him cry. Someone who let him hurt, who never supported him, or made him feel like he wasn’t secure in his own family didn’t deserve to see him break. A spark of anger flourished in his stomach, and Katsuki realized that Ashido was right. “Then-” he started, stopped and took a great breath. “Then let me start.”
Masaru nodded enthusiastically, like an ox who didn’t know he was being led to the slaughter.
Katsuki’s shoulders ached from the tension. His knuckles throbbed, and it felt so hard to simply stand. Eyes planted on the carpet, he gritted his teeth and exhaled. “I needed you. I needed a parent who actually cared , not one who thought they were playing a game of chess, and I was just a pawn.”
“I- I didn’t realize I was doing that until it was too late, Katsuki. I’m sorry.”
Katsuki jerked his gaze back towards his father, his brows knitted in fury. “You can’t say ‘sorry’ now, okay? It won’t fucking change the fact that I was alone! Maybe- maybe I wouldn’t have turned out rotten if I’d been shown some fucking love! Maybe I wouldn’t have turned to drugs and drinking if mom hadn’t egged me on and made me think I needed to get some goddamn praise! Maybe I wouldn’t have run away if I hadn’t been forced into an arranged marriage when you knew that I’d give anything to be with Deku! Maybe- maybe I wouldn’t have hurt my wife if I’d just been- been-”
“Katsuki, you didn’t hurt her!” It came off sterner, harsher than Katsuki had ever heard his father speak. Katsuki curled his lip and scowled at the ground, cursing himself for starting this fight and cursing his father for having the gall to yell at him when he was part of the problem. “Katsuki,” Masaru continued, but his voice was softer this time, more worried. “You’re not that kind of person, okay? You’re right that your mother made you a drinker, and that we drove you to running away. That was all on us.”
Katsuki’s scowl softened, his ears finely tuning to the sound of an apology he never thought he would hear. He looked up at his father, the soft expression on his face. Masaru took a step forward, and Katsuki wanted to retreat.
His legs felt stiff, his body numb. He felt like he would topple from a mild gust of wind. Like his soul, his body, was crumbling.
“Why- why are you-”
“-But you were never an abuser, Kastuki,” Masaru smiled softly. “You’ve always been too good at that. When- when we went to see you, you were too out of it to remember, and your mother was furious. She wouldn’t leave the door, but when I saw you on the couch, in and out of it, there were-” Masaru’s lip quivered, his smile faltered, and the wetness of his eyes became apparent. “You had these cigarette burns on your hands, and Toga said you’d done them to yourself. I- I didn’t know what to believe back then--I had trouble wrapping my head around that, so when she said you hurt her- no, I didn’t think you could do it.”
He pinched his nose and his shoulder shook. “God, I’m sorry, Katsuki. I- I didn’t do right by you.”
Katsuki’s legs buckled. He didn’t have much energy stored anymore, too drained from anger, dread, and anxiety--too tired to stand, to think, or feel. He wanted to curl in on himself, forget the world around him. He heard the bed shift, and saw his father’s shoes enter his line of sig ht.
What had his father seen of him? What had he looked like?
His father was a soft man, but he’d never seen him cry.
Not like this.
Suddenly, he was sitting in front of him. Hands the same size as Katsuki’s, the same shape but much less damaged, grabbed onto his and squeezed them firmly. Not knowing why the urge was so strong, he looked up to Masaru and found tears in his eyes. “Katsuki, you’re not an abuser. You never were.
“But you’re angry, and you don’t know what to believe. You’ve convinced yourself that Toga is right, and that Izuku’s just too in love to see what you can be, but I know-” He pulled his and Katsuki’s hand to his heart, hit it once for emphasis. “I know that you could never hurt someone you loved. I might have done horribly at it, but I raised you, and I know you’re not capable of it.”
Katsuki’s lip trembled, and his spotted vision turned opaque, like looking through distorted glass. He blinked and streams rippled down his face. Submitting, terrified and confused, Katsuki looked back down into his lap and shook his head. “I love him so much. I don’t want him to be in pain because of me. I- I don’t know what I’m fucking doing.”
“I know you don’t,” the older man nodded. “But he’s probably in a lot of pain now. He’s really in love with you, you know? Seeing him like that, so scared for your safety- I was wrong to tell you not to pursue him when you were younger. I was wrong to not be on your side.”
If he was expecting Katsuki to respond, Katsuki wasn’t biting. He was tired, worn to the bone. He need rest.
“I’ll support you now,” Masaru said. Katsuki looked up at him quickly, his lips parting but no words coming forth. Masaru smiled softly at the expression and continued. “Whatever your mother says is on her, but I won’t make excuses for her anymore. If you want Izuku, then you go after him. You love him, and you marry him. If you still want to strip, then you strip. I can’t tell you how to live your life, but I can give you the support I didn’t give you when you were younger.” His right hand left Katsuki’s to grab him by the nape and pull him forward. He knocked his forehead against Katsuki’s and smiled warmly. “You’re my son, Katsuki. I’m sorry for ever making you feel like you’re anything but.”
Katsuki didn’t know how long he’d been silent, how long he’d held back his breath, or his tears, but he let it all out in a strangled sob. He lurched forward and grabbed his father violently by the shoulder, hugging him firmly, aggressively.
Strong arms wrapped around his back, and for once, he felt like maybe he did have a parent who loved him. Maybe it wasn’t all worthless. Masaru snorted shortly, and patted Katsuki’s back. “Who knew I’d get a hug? You weren’t like this as a child.”
“I- I’ve changed a little,” Katsuki said. “Going sober, getting a therapist, having friends that love and support me, and- and I wanted to be the man Deku deserves.” He smiled softly to himself, then remembered the pain that he’d experienced ripping himself away from Izuku--the pain he’d caused Izuku in return. He pulled away from his father, his frown reappearing on his face.
Masaru blinked at him and tilted his head. “Katsuki?”
“I still can’t have him, dad,” Katsuki said. “We said things to each other we can’t take back. I- I told him I can’t keep fighting his problems for him, and he said he couldn’t do it for me, and I-” Katsuki shook his head. Every knife scar, cigarette burn, and claw mark Himiko etched into his skin ached in that moment. Her vicious smile flashed before his eyes, and then the savage, young blond morphed into his mother, and Katsuki shook his head hard. “I- I’m not ready. I can’t face them yet. I don’t know how.”
“Katsuki, it’s okay.” Masaru’s hand slipped to Katsuki’s face, guiding him by his chin to look up at him. “You don’t have to do this on your own, and you don’t have to do it now. Because right now, you need to rest.”
Masaru shook his head and smiled. “But nothing. I have to get Mitsuki and go to the rehearsal dinner, but this isn’t over, okay? You and me are going to figure it out together, so rest for now. There’s still time.”
Masaru climbed up to his feet and bent down to place a kiss atop Katsuki’s head. Katsuki shivered with the unfamiliarity of a parent’s affection. He watched with unblinking eyes as Masaru made his way slowly to the door and gave him a soft wave, before clicking it shut behind him.
In the following silence, all Katsuki could do was watch the door and wonder how long it would be until someone came back. Eventually, his exhaustion overcame him, and he felt more comfortable lying on the hard, carpeted floor and watching the door than trying to sleep in a vacant bed. His heavy, swollen eyelids drifted shut, and he curled into the fetal position as sleep overtook him.
The room was dark when the door slammed shut and Katsuki jumped up from the ground, heart pounding and eyes darting for the source. It brought him back to his and Toga’s apartment, unsure of whether the slam was from a happy, intoxicated Toga, or a hysterical, violent one.
The light flickered on, and he was met with the sight of Ashido in total disarray. It looked like she’d been thrown into a pool, her curls caked to her cheek and mascara running down her face. Her pink dress was stained red with what he hoped was red wine and not the unfortunate alternative.
Her chest heaved, her eyes blown wide as she gasped and lurched for Katsuki. She grabbed him by the wrist, and pulled him close, the smile on her face almost manic. “Pinky?” he asked her, inhaling the distinct smell of alcohol. She’d definitely been doused in wine.
But she laughed and grabbed him by the cheek, brushing his jaw. “Holy shit, Cherry,” she snorted. “You’re not gonna fucking believe what just happened.”